Part 2 out of 9
preferred. All this gave John Effingham himself no concern, but
retiring a little from the crowd, he entered into a short
conversation with the young baronet.
"I should like to know your real opinions of this set," he said; "not
that I plead guilty to the childish sensibility that is so common in
all provincial circles to the judgments of strangers, but with a view
to aid you in forming a just estimate of the real state of the
"As I know the precise connexion between you and our host, there can
be no objection to giving a perfectly frank reply. The women strike
me as being singularly delicate and pretty; well dressed, too, I
might add; but, while there is a great air of decency, there is very
little high finish; and what strikes me as being quite odd, under
such circumstances, scarcely any downright vulgarity, or coarseness."
"A Daniel come to judgment! One who had passed a life here, would not
have come so near the truth, simply because he would not have
observed peculiarities, that require the means of comparison to be
detected. You are a little too indulgent in saying there is no
downright vulgarity; for some there is; though surprisingly little
for the circumstances. But of the coarseness that would be so
prominent elsewhere, there is hardly any. True, so great is the
equality in all things, in this country, so direct the tendency to
this respectable mediocrity, that what you now see here, to-night,
may be seen in almost every village in the land, with a few
immaterial exceptions in the way of furniture and other city
appliances, and not much even in these."
"Certainly, as a mediocrity, this is respectable though a fastidious
taste might see a multitude of faults."
"I shall not say that the taste would be merely fastidious, for much
is wanting that would add to the grace and beauty of society, while
much that is wanting would be missed only by the over-sophisticated.
Those young-men, who are sniggering over some bad joke in the corner,
for instance, are positively vulgar, as is that young lady who is
indulging in practical coquetry; but, on the whole, there is little
of this; and, even our hostess, a silly woman, devoured with the
desire of being what neither her social position, education, habits
nor notions fit her to be, is less obtrusive, bustling, and
offensive, than a similar person, elsewhere."
"I am quite of your way of thinking, and intended to ask you to
account for it."
"The Americans are an imitative people of necessity, and they are apt
at this part of imitation, in particular. Then they are less
artificial in all their practices, than older and more sophisticated
nations; and this company has got that essential part of good
breeding, simplicity, as it were _per force_. A step higher in the
social scale, you will see less of it; for greater daring and bad
models lead to blunders in matters that require to be exceedingly
well done, if done at all. The faults here would be more apparent, by
an approach near enough to get into the tone of mind, the forms of
speech, and the attempts at wit."
"Which I think we shall escape to-night, as I see the ladies are
already making their apologies and taking leave. We must defer this
investigation to another time."
"It may be indefinitely postponed, as it would scarcely reward the
trouble of an inquiry."
The gentlemen now approached Mrs. Jarvis, paid their parting
compliments, hunted up Captain Truck, whom they tore by violence from
the good-natured hospitality of the master of the house, and then saw
the ladies into their carriage. As they drove off, the worthy mariner
protested that Mr. Jarvis was one of the honestest men he had ever
met, and announced that he intended giving him a dinner on board the
Montauk, the very next day.
The dwelling of Mrs. Hawker was in Hudson Square; or in a portion of
the city that the lovers of the grandiose are endeavouring to call
St. John's Park; for it is rather an amusing peculiarity among a
certain portion of the emigrants who have flocked into the Middle
States, within the last thirty years, that they are not satisfied
with permitting any family, or thing, to possess the name it
originally enjoyed, if there exists the least opportunity to change
it. There was but a carriage or two before the door, though the
strong lights in the house showed that company had collected.
"Mrs. Hawker is the widow and the daughter of men of long established
New-York families; she is childless, affluent, and universally
respected where known, for her breeding, benevolence, good sense, and
heart," said John Effingham, while the party was driving from one
house to the other. "Were you to go into most of the sets of this
town, and mention Mrs. Hawker's name, not one person in ten would
know there is such a being in their vicinity; the _pele mele_ of a
migratory population keeping persons of her character and condition
in life, quite out of view. The very persons who will prattle by the
hour, of the establishments of Mrs. Peleg Pond, and Mrs. Jonah Twist,
and Mrs. Abiram Wattles, people who first appeared on this island
five or six years since, and, who having accumulated what to them are
relatively large fortunes, have launched out into vulgar and
uninstructed finery, would look with surprise at hearing Mrs. Hawker
mentioned as one having any claims to social distinction. Her
historical names are overshadowed in their minds by the parochial
glories of certain local prodigies in the townships whence they
emigrated; her manners would puzzle the comprehension of people whose
imitation has not gone beyond the surface, and her polished and
simple mind would find little sympathy among a class who seldom rise
above a common-place sentiment without getting upon stilts."
"Mrs. Hawker, then, is a lady," observed Sir George Templemore.
"Mrs. Hawker is a lady, in every sense of the word; by position,
education, manners, association, mind, fortune and birth. I do not
know that we ever had more of her class than exist to-day, but
certainly we once had them more prominent in society."
"I suppose, sir," said Captain Truck, "that this Mrs. Hawker is of
what is called the old school?"
"Of a very ancient school, and one that is likely to continue, though
it may not be generally attended."
"I am afraid, Mr. John Effingham, that I shall be like a fish out of
water in such a house. I can get along very well with your Mrs.
Jarvis, and with the dear young lady in the other carriage; but the
sort of woman you have described, will be apt to jam a plain mariner
like myself. What in nature should I do, now, if she should ask me to
dance a minuet?"
"Dance it agreeably to the laws of nature," returned John Effingham,
as the carriages stopped.
A respectable, quiet, and an aged black admitted the party, though
even he did not announce the visiters, while he held the door of the
drawing-room open for them, with respectful attention. Mrs. Hawker
arose, and advanced to meet Eve and her companions, and though she
kissed the cousins affectionately, her reception of Mademoiselle
Viefville was so simply polite as to convince the latter she was
valued on account of her services. John Effingham, who was ten or
fifteen years the junior of the old lady, gallantly kissed her hand,
when he presented his two male companions. After paying the proper
attention to the greatest stranger, Mrs. Hawker turned to Captain
Truck and said--
"This, then, is the gentleman to whose skill and courage you all owe
so much--_we_ all owe so much, I might better have said--the
commander of the Montauk?"
"I have the honour of commanding that vessel, ma'am," returned
Captain Truck, who was singularly awed by the dignified simplicity of
his hostess, although her quiet, natural, and yet finished manner,
which extended even to the intonation of the voice, and the smallest
movement, were as unlike what he had expected as possible; "and with
such passengers as she had last voyage I can only say, it is a pity
that she is not better off for one to take care of her."
"Your passengers give a different account of the matter, but, in
order that I may judge impartially, do me the favour to take this
chair, and let me learn a few of the particulars from yourself."
Observing that Sir George Templemore had followed Eve to the other
side of the room, Mrs. Hawker now resumed her seat, and, without
neglecting any to attend to one in particular, or attending to one in
a way to make him feel oppressed, she contrived, in a few minutes, to
make the captain forget all about the minuet, and to feel much more
at his ease than would have been the case with Mrs. Jarvis, in a
In the mean time, Eve had crossed the room to join a lady whose smile
invited her to her side. This was a young, slightly framed female, of
a pleasing countenance, but who would not have been particularly
distinguished, in such a place, for personal charms. Still, her smile
was sweet, her eyes were soft, and the expression of her face was
what might almost be called illuminated As Sir George Templemore
followed her, Eve mentioned his name to her acquaintance, whom she
addressed as Mrs. Bloomfield.
"You are bent on perpetrating further gaiety to-night," said the
latter, glancing at the ball-dresses of the two cousins; "are you in
the colours of the Houston faction, or in those of the Peabody."
"Not in pea-green, certainly," returned Eve, laughing--"as you may
see; but in simple white."
"You intend then to be 'led a measure' at Mrs. Houston's. It were
more suitable than among the other faction."
"Is fashion, then, faction, in New-York?" inquired Sir George.
"Fractions would be a better word, perhaps. But we have parties in
almost every thing, in America; in politics, religion, temperance,
speculations, and taste; why not in fashion?"
"I fear we are not quite independent enough to form parties on such a
subject," said Eve.
"Perfectly well said, Miss Effingham; one must think a little
originally, let it be ever so falsely, in order to get up a fashion.
I fear we shall have to admit our insignificance on this point. You
are a late arrival, Sir George Templemore?"
"As lately as the commencement of this month; I had the honour of
being a fellow-passenger with Mr. Effingham and his family."
"In which voyage you suffered shipwreck, captivity, and famine, if
half we hear be true."
"Report has a little magnified our risks; we encountered some serious
dangers, but nothing amounting to the sufferings you have mentioned."
"Being a married woman, and having passed the crisis in which
deception is not practised, I expect to hear truth again," said Mrs.
Bloomfield, smiling. "I trust, however, you underwent enough to
qualify you all for heroes and heroines, and shall content myself
with knowing that you are here, safe and happy--if," she added,
looking inquiringly at Eve, "one who has been educated abroad _can_
be happy at home."
"One educated abroad _may_ be happy at home, though possibly not in
the modes most practised by the world," said Eve firmly.
"Without an opera, without a court, almost without society!"
"An opera would be desirable, I confess; of courts I know nothing,
unmarried females being cyphers in Europe; and I hope better things
than to think I shall be without society."
"Unmarried females are considered cyphers too, here, provided there
be enough of them with a good respectable digit at their head. I
assure you no one quarrels with the cyphers under such circumstances.
I think, Sir George Templemore, a town like this must be something of
a paradox to you."
"Might I venture to inquire the reason for this opinion!"
"Merely because it is neither one thing nor another. Not a capital,
nor yet merely a provincial place; with something more than commerce
in its bosom, and yet with that something hidden under a bushel. A
good deal more than Liverpool, and a good deal less than London.
Better even than Edinburgh, in many respects, and worse than Wapping,
"You have been abroad, Mrs. Bloomfield?"
"Not a foot out of my own country; scarcely a foot out of my own
state. I have been at Lake George, the Falls, and the Mountain House;
and, as one does not travel in a balloon, I saw some of the
intermediate places. As for all else, I am obliged to go by report."
"It is a pity Mrs. Bloomfield was not with us, this evening, at Mrs.
Jarvis's," said Eve, laughing. "She might then have increased her
knowledge, by listening to a few cantos from the epic of Mr. Dodge."
"I have glanced at some of that author's wisdom," returned Mrs.
Bloomfield, "but I soon found it was learning backwards. There is a
never-failing rule, by which it is easy to arrive at a traveller's
worth, in a negative sense, at least."
"That is a rule which may be worth knowing," said the baronet, "as it
would save much useless wear of the eyes."
"When one betrays a profound ignorance of his own country, it is a
fair presumption that he cannot be very acute in his observation of
strangers. Mr. Dodge is one of these writers, and a single letter
fully satisfied my curiosity. I fear, Miss Effingham, very inferior
wares, in the way of manners, have been lately imported, in large
quantities, into this country, as having the Tower mark on them."
Eve laughed, but declared that Sir George Templemore was better
qualified than herself to answer such a question.
"We are said to be a people of facts, rather than a people of
theories," continued Mrs. Bloomfield, without attending to the
reference of the young lady, "and any coin that offers passes, until
another that is better, arrives. It is a singular, but a very general
mistake, I believe, of the people of this country, in supposing that
they can exist under the present regime, when others would fail,
because their opinions keep even pace with, or precede the actual
condition of society; whereas, those who have thought and observed
most on such subjects, agree in thinking the very reverse to be the
"This would be a curious condition for a government so purely
conventional," observed Sir George, with interest, "and it certainly
is entirely opposed to the state of things all over Europe."
"It is so, and yet there is no great mystery in it after all.
Accident has liberated us from trammels that still fetter you. We are
like a vehicle on the top of a hill, which, the moment it is pushed
beyond the point of resistance, rolls down of itself, without the aid
of horses. One may follow with the team, and hook on when it gets to
the bottom, but there is no such thing as keeping company with it
until it arrives there."
"You will allow, then, that there is a bottom?'
"There is a bottom to every thing--to good and bad; happiness and
misery; hope, fear, faith and charity; even to a woman's mind, which
I have sometimes fancied the most bottomless thing in nature. There
may, therefore, well be a bottom even to the institutions of
Sir George listened with the interest with which an Englishman of his
class always endeavours to catch a concession that he fancies is
about to favour his own political predilections, and he felt
encouraged to push the subject further.
"And you think the political machine is rolling downwards towards
this bottom?" he said, with an interest in the answer that, living in
the quiet and forgetfulness of his own home, he would have laughed at
himself for entertaining. But our sensibilities become quickened by
collision, and opposition is known even to create love.
Mrs. Bloomfield was quick-witted, intelligent, cultivated and shrewd.
She saw the motive at a glance, and, notwithstanding she saw and felt
all its abuses, strongly attached to the governing principle of her
country's social organization, as is almost universally the case with
the strongest minds and most generous hearts of the nation, she was
not disposed to let a stranger carry away a false impression of her
sentiments on such a point.
"Did you ever study logic, Sir George Templemore?" she asked, archly.
"A little, though not enough I fear to influence my mode of
reasoning, or even to leave me familiar with the terms."
"Oh! I am not about to assail you with _sequiturs_ and _non
sequiturs_ dialectics and all the mysteries of _Denk-Lehre,_ but
simply to remind you there is such a thing as the bottom of a
subject. When I tell you we are flying towards the bottom of our
institutions, it is in the intellectual sense, and not, as you have
erroneously imagined, in an unintellectual sense. I mean that we are
getting to understand them, which, I fear, we did not absolutely do
at the commencement of the 'experiment.'"
"But I think you will admit, that as the civilization of the country
advances, some material changes must occur; your people cannot always
remain stationary; they must either go backwards or forward."
"Up or down, if you will allow me to correct your phraseology. The
civilization of the country, in one sense at least, is retrogressive,
and the people, as they cannot go 'up,' betray a disposition to go
"You deal in enigmas, and I am afraid to think I understand you."
"I mean, merely, that gallowses are fast disappearing, and that the
people--_le peuple_ you will understand--begin to accept money. In
both particulars, I think there is a sensible change for the worse,
within my own recollection."
Mrs. Bloomfield then changed her manner, and from using that light-
hearted gaiety with which she often rendered her conversation
_piquante_, and even occasionally brilliant, she became more grave
and explicit. The subject soon turned to that of punishments, and few
men could have reasoned more sensibly, justly or forcibly, on such a
subject, than this slight and fragile-looking young woman. Without
the least pedantry, with a beauty of language that the other sex
seldom attains, and with a delicacy of discrimination, and a
sentiment that were strictly feminine, she rendered a theme
interesting, that, however important in itself, is forbidding,
veiling all its odious and revolting features in the refinement and
finesse of her own polished mind.
Eve could have listened all night, and, at every syllable that fell
from the lips of her friend, she felt a glow of triumph; for she was
proud of letting an intelligent foreigner see that America did
contain women worthy to be ranked with the best of other countries, a
circumstance that they who merely frequented what is called the
world, she thought might be reasonably justified in distrusting. In
one respect, she even fancied Mrs. Bloomfield's knowledge and
cleverness superior to those which she had so often admired in her
own sex abroad. It was untrammelled, equally by the prejudices
incident to a factitious condition of society, or by their reaction;
two circumstances that often obscured the sense and candour of those
to whom she had so often listened with pleasure in other countries.
The singularly feminine tone, too, of all that Mrs. Bloomfield said
or thought, while it lacked nothing in strength, added to the charm
of her conversation, and increased the pleasure of those that
"Is the circle large to which Mrs. Hawker and her friends belong?"
asked Sir George, as he assisted Eve and Grace to cloak, when they
had taken leave. "A town which can boast of half-a-dozen such houses
need not accuse itself of wanting society."
"Ah! there is but one Mrs. Hawker in New-York," answered Grace, "and
not many Mrs. Bloomfields in the world. It would be too much to say,
we have even half-a-dozen such houses."
"Have you not been struck with the admirable tone of this drawing-
room," half whispered Eve. "It may want a little of that lofty ease
that one sees among the better portion of the old _Princesses et
Duchesses_, which is a relic of a school that, it is to be feared, is
going out; but in its place there is a winning nature, with as much
dignity as is necessary, and a truth that gives us confidence in the
sincerity of those around us."
"Upon my word, I think Mrs. Hawker quite fit for a Duchess."
"You mean a _Duchesse_" said Eve, "and yet she is without the manner
that we understand by such a word. Mrs. Hawker is a lady, and there
can be no higher term."
"She is a delightful old woman," cried John Effingham, "and if twenty
years younger and disposed to change her condition, I should really
be afraid to enter the house."
"My dear sir," put in the captain, "I will make her Mrs. Truck to-
morrow, and say nothing of years, if she could be content to take up
with such an offer. Why, sir, she is no woman, but a saint in
petticoats! I felt the whole time as if talking to my own mother, and
as for ships, she knows more about them than I do!"
The whole party laughed at the strength of the captain's admiration,
and getting into the carriages proceeded to the last of the houses
they intended visiting that night.
"So turns she every man the wrong side out; And never gives to
truth and virtue, that Which simpleness and merit purchaseth."
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
Mrs. Houston was what is termed a fashionable woman in New-York. She,
too, was of a family of local note, though of one much less elevated
in the olden time than that of Mrs. Hawker. Still her claims were
admitted by the most fastidious on such points, for a few do remain
who think descent indisputable to gentility; and as her means were
ample, and her tastes perhaps superior to those of most around her,
she kept what was thought a house of better tone than common, even in
the highest circle. Eve had but a slight acquaintance with her; but
in Grace's eyes, Mrs. Houston's was the place of all others that she
thought might make a favourable impression on her cousin. Her wish
that this should prove to be the case was so strong, that, as they
drove towards the door, she could not forbear from making an attempt
to prepare Eve for what she was to meet.
"Although Mrs. Houston has a very large house for New-York, and lives
in a uniform style, you are not to expect ante-chambers, and vast
suites of rooms, Eve," said Grace; "such as you have been accustomed
to see abroad."
"It is not necessary, my dear cousin, to enter a house of four or
five windows in front, to see it is not a house of twenty or thirty.
I should be very unreasonable to expect an Italian palazzo, or a
Parisian hotel, in this good town."
"We are not old enough for that yet, Eve; a hundred years hence,
Mademoiselle Viefville, such things may exist here."
"_Bien sur. C'est naturel._"
"A hundred years hence, as the world tends, Grace, they are not
likely to exist any where, except as taverns, or hospitals, or
manufactories. But what have we to do, coz, with a century ahead of
us? young as we both are, we cannot hope to live that time."
Grace would have been puzzled to account satisfactorily to herself,
for the strong desire she felt that neither of her companions should
expect to see such a house as their senses so plainly told them did
not exist in the place; but her foot moved in the bottom of the
carriage, for she was not half satisfied with her cousin's answer.
"All I mean. Eve," she said, after a pause, "is, that one ought not
to expect in a town as new as this, the improvements that one sees in
an older state of society."
"And have Mademoiselle Viefville, or I, ever been so weak as to
suppose, that New-York is Paris, or Rome, or Vienna?"
Grace was still less satisfied, for, unknown to herself, she _had_
hoped that Mrs. Houston's ball might be quite equal to a ball in
either of those ancient capitals; and she was now vexed that her
cousin considered it so much a matter of course that it should not
be. But there was no time for explanations, as the carriage now
The noise, confusion, calling out, swearing, and rude clamour before
the house of Mrs. Houston, said little for the out-door part of the
arrangements. Coachmen are nowhere a particularly silent and civil
class; but the uncouth European peasants, who have been preferred to
the honours of the whip in New-York, to the usual feelings of
competition and contention, added that particular feature of humility
which is known to distinguish "the beggar on horseback." The imposing
equipages of our party, however, had that effect on most of these
rude brawlers, which a display of wealth is known to produce on the
vulgar-minded; and the ladies got into the house, through a lane of
coachmen, by yielding a little to a _chevau de frise_ of whips,
without any serious calamity.
"One hardly knows which is the most terrific," said Eve,
involuntarily, as soon as the door closed on them--"the noise within,
or the noise without!"
This was spoken rapidly, and in French, to Mademoiselle Viefville,
but Grace heard and understood it, and for the first time in her
life, she perceived that Mrs. Houston's company was not composed of
nightingales. The surprise is that the discovery should have come so
"I am delighted at having got into this house," said Sir George, who,
having thrown his cloak to his own servant, stood with the two other
gentlemen waiting the descent of the ladies from the upper room,
where the bad arrangements of the house compelled them to uncloak and
to put aside their shawls, "as I am told it is the best house in town
to see the other sex."
"To _hear them_, would be nearer the truth, perhaps," returned John
Effingham. "As for pretty women, one can hardly go amiss in New-York;
and your ears now tell you, that they do not come into the world to
be seen only."
The baronet smiled, but he was too well bred to contradict or to
assent. Mademoiselle Viefville, unconscious that she was violating
the proprieties, walked into the rooms by herself, as soon as she
descended, followed by Eve; but Grace shrank to the side of John
Effingham, whose arm she took as a step necessary even to decorum.
Mrs. Houston received her guests with ease and dignity. She was one
of those females that the American world calls gay; in other words,
she opened her own house to a very promiscuous society, ten or a
dozen times in a winter, and accepted the greater part of the
invitations she got to other people's. Still, in most other
countries, as a fashionable woman, she would have been esteemed a
model of devotion to the duties of a wife and a mother, for she paid
a personal attention to her household, and had actually taught all
her children the Lord's prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments.
She attended church twice every Sunday, and only staid at home from
the evening lectures, that the domestics might have the opportunity
of going (which, by the way, they never did) in her stead. Feminine,
well-mannered, rich, pretty, of a very positive social condition, and
naturally kind-hearted and disposed to sociability, Mrs. Houston,
supported by an indulgent husband, who so much loved to see people
with the appearance of happiness, that he was not particular as to
the means, had found no difficulty in rising to the pinnacle of
fashion, and of having her name in the mouths of all those who find
it necessary to talk of somebodies, in order that they may seem to be
somebodies themselves. All this contributed to Mrs. Houston's
happiness, or she fancied it did; and as every passion is known to
increase by indulgence, she had insensibly gone on in her much-envied
career until, as has just been said, she reached the summit.
"These rooms are very crowded," said Sir George, glancing his eyes
around two very pretty little narrow drawing-rooms, that were
beautifully, not to say richly, furnished; "one wonders that the same
contracted style of building should be so very general, in a town
that increases as rapidly as this, and where fashion has no fixed
abode, and land is so abundant."
"Mrs. Bloomfield would tell you," said Eve, "that these houses are
types of the social state of the country, in which no one is
permitted to occupy more than his share of ground."
"But there are reasonably large dwellings in the place. Mrs. Hawker
has a good house, and your father's for instance, would be thought
so, too, in London even; and yet I fancy you will agree with me in
thinking that a good room is almost unknown in New-York."
"I do agree with you, in this particular, certainly, for to meet with
a good room, one must go into the houses built thirty years ago. We
have inherited these snuggeries, however, England not having much to
boast of in the way of houses."
"In the way of town residences, I agree with you entirely, as a
whole, though we have some capital exceptions. Still, I do not think
we are quite as compact as this--do you not fancy the noise increased
in consequence of its being so confined?"
Eve laughed and shook her head quite positively.
"What would it be if fairly let out!" she said. "But we will not
waste the precious moments, but turn our eyes about us in quest of
the _belles_. Grace, you who are so much at home, must be our
cicerone, and tell us which are the idols we are to worship."
"_Dites moi premierement; que veut dire une belle a New-York?_"
demanded Mademoiselle Viefville. "_Apparemment, tout le monde est
"A _belle_, Mademoiselle," returned John Effingham, "is not
necessarily beautiful, the qualifications for the character, being
various and a little contradictory. One may be a _belle_ by means of
money, a tongue, an eye, a foot, teeth, a laugh, or any other
separate feature, or grace; though no woman was ever yet a _belle_, I
believe, by means of the head, considered collectively. But why deal
in description, when the thing itself confronts us? The young lady
standing directly before us, is a _belle_ of the most approved stamp
and silvery tone. Is it not Miss Ring, Grace?"
The answer was in the affirmative, and the eyes of the whole party
turned towards the subject of this remark. The young lady in question
was about twenty, rather tall for an American woman, not
conspicuously handsome, but like most around her of delicate features
and frame, and with such a _physique_, as, under proper training,
would have rendered her the _beau ideal_ of feminine delicacy and
gentleness. She had natural spirit, likewise, as appeared in her
clear blue eye, and moreover she had the spirit to be a _belle_.
Around this young creature were clustered no less than five young
men, dressed in the height of the fashion, all of whom seemed to be
entranced with the words that fell from her lips, and each of whom
appeared anxious to say something clever in return. They all laughed,
the lady most, and sometimes all spoke at once. Notwithstanding these
outbreakings, Miss Ring did most of the talking, and once or twice,
as a young man would gape after a most exhilarating show of
merriment, and discover an inclination to retreat, she managed to
recall him to his allegiance, by some remark particularly pertinent
to himself, or his feelings.
"_Qui est cette dame?_" asked Mademoiselle Viefville, very much as
one would put a similar question, on seeing a man enter a church
during service with his hat on.
"_Elle est demoiselle_," returned Eve.
"Nay, nay, Mademoiselle, I shall not allow you to set up France as
immaculate on this point, neither--" said John Effingham, looking at
the last speaker with an affected frown--"A young lady may have a
tongue, and she may even speak to a young gentleman, and not be
guilty of felony; although I will admit that five tongues are
unnecessary, and that five listeners are more than sufficient, for
the wisdom of twenty in petticoats."
"_C'est une horreur!_"
"I dare say Miss Ring would think it a greater horror to be obliged
to pass an evening in a row of girls, unspoken to, except to be asked
to dance, and admired only in the distance. But let us take seats on
that sofa, and then we may go beyond the pantomime, and become
partakers in the sentiment of the scene."
Grace and Eve were now led off to dance, and the others did as John
Effingham had suggested. In the eyes of the _belle_ and her admirers,
they who had passed thirty were of no account, and our listeners
succeeded in establishing themselves quietly within ear-shot--this
was almost at duelling distance, too,--without at all interrupting
the regular action of the piece. We extract a little of the dialogue,
by way of giving a more dramatic representation of the scene.
"Do you think the youngest Miss Danvers beautiful?" asked the
_belle_, while her eye wandered in quest of a sixth gentleman to
"entertain," as the phrase is. "In my opinion, she is absolutely the
prettiest female in Mrs. Houston's rooms this night."
The young men, one and all, protested against this judgment, and with
perfect truth, for Miss Ring was too original to point out charms
that every one could see.
"They say it will not be a match between her and Mr. Egbert, after
every body has supposed it settled so long. What is your opinion, Mr.
This timely question prevented Mr. Edson's retreat, for he had
actually got so far in this important evolution, as to have gaped and
turned his back. Recalled, as it were by the sound of the bugle, Mr.
Edson was compelled to say something, a sore affliction to him
"Oh! I'm quite of your way of thinking; they have certainly courted
too long to think of marrying."
"I detest long courtships; they must be perfect antidotes to love;
are they not, Mr. Moreland?"
A truant glance of Mr. Moreland's eye was rebuked by this appeal, and
instead of looking for a place of refuge, he now merely looked
sheepish. He, however, entirely agreed with the young lady, as the
surer way of getting out of the difficulty.
"Pray, Mr. Summerfield, how do you like the last Hajji--Miss Eve
Effingham? To my notion, she is prettyish, though by no means as well
as her cousin, Miss Van Cortlandt, who is really rather good-
As Eve and Grace were the two most truly lovely young women in the
rooms, this opinion, as well as the loud tone in which it was given,
startled Mademoiselle Viefville quite as much as the subjects that
the belle had selected for discussion. She would have moved, as
listening to a conversation that was not meant for their ears; but
John Effingham quietly assured her that Miss Ring seldom spoke in
company without intending as many persons as possible to hear her.
"Miss Effingham is very plainly dressed for an only daughter"
continued the young lady, "though that lace of her cousin's is real
point! I'll engage it cost every cent of ten dollars a yard! They are
both engaged to be married, I hear."
"_Ciel!_" exclaimed Mademoiselle Viefville.
"Oh! That is nothing," observed John Effingham coolly. "Wait a
moment, and you'll hear that they have been privately married these
six months, if, indeed, you hear no more."
"Of course this is but an idle tale?" said Sir George Templemore with
a concern, which, in despite of his good breeding, compelled him to
put a question that, under other circumstances, would scarcely have
"As true as the gospel. But listen to the _bell_, it is _ringing_ for
the good of the whole parish."
"The affair between Miss Effingham and Mr. Morpeth, who knew her
abroad, I understand is entirely broken off; some say the father
objected to Mr. Morpeth's want of fortune; others that the lady was
fickle, while some accuse the gentleman of the same vice. Don't you
think it shocking to jilt, in either sex, Mr. Mosely?"
The _retiring_ Mr. Mosely was drawn again within the circle, and was
obliged to confess that he thought it was very shocking, in either
sex, to jilt.
"If I were a man," continued the _belle_, "I would never think of a
young woman who had once jilted a lover. To my mind, it bespeaks a
bad heart, and a woman with a bad heart cannot make a very amiable
"What an exceedingly clever creature she is," whispered Mr. Mosely to
Mr. Moreland, and he now made up his mind to remain and be
'entertained' some time longer.
"I think poor Mr. Morpeth greatly to be pitied; for no man would be
so silly as to be attentive seriously to a lady without
encouragement. Encouragement is the _ne plus ultra_ of courtship; are
you not of my opinion, Mr. Walworth?"
Mr. Walworth was number five of the entertainees, and he did
understand Latin, of which the young lady, though fond of using
scraps, knew literally nothing. He smiled an assent, therefore, and
the _belle_ felicitated herself in having 'entertained' _him_
effectually; nor was she mistaken.
"Indeed, they say Miss Effingham had several affairs of the heart,
while in Europe, but it seems she was unfortunate in them all."
"_Mais, ceci est trop fort! Je ne peux plus ecouter._"
"My dear Mademoiselle, compose yourself. The crisis is not yet
arrived, by any means."
"I understand she still corresponds with a German Baron, and an
Italian Marquis, though both engagements are absolutely broken off.
Some people say she walks into company alone, unsupported by any
gentleman, by way of announcing a firm determination to remain single
A common exclamation from the young men proclaimed their
disapprobation; and that night three of them actually repeated the
thing, as a well established truth, and two of the three, failing of
something better to talk about, also announced that Eve was actually
engaged to be married.
"There is something excessively indelicate in a young lady's moving
about a room without having a gentleman's arm to lean on! I always
feel as if such a person was out of her place, and ought to be in the
"But, Miss Ring, what well-bred person does it?" sputtered Mr.
Moreland. "No one ever heard of such a thing in good society. 'Tis
quite shocking! Altogether unprecedented."
"It strikes me as being excessively coarse!"
"Oh! manifestly; quite rustic!" exclaimed Mr. Edson.
"What can possibly be more vulgar?" added Mr. Walworth.
"I never heard of such a thing among the right sort!" said Mr.
"A young lady who can be so brazen as to come into a room without a
gentleman's arm to lean on, is, in my judgment at least, but
indifferently educated, Hajji or no Hajji. Mr. Edson, have you ever
felt the tender passion? I know you have been desperately in love,
once, at least; do describe to me some of the symptoms, in order that
I may know when I am seriously attacked myself by the disease."
"_Mais, ceci est ridicule! L'enfant s'est sauvee du Charenton de New-
"From the nursery rather, Mademoiselle; you perceive she does not yet
know how to walk alone."
Mr. Edson now protested that he was too stupid to feel a passion as
intellectual as love, and that he was afraid he was destined by
nature to remain as insensible as a block.
"One never knows, Mr. Edson," said the young lady, encouragingly.
"Several of my acquaintances, who thought themselves quite safe, have
been seized suddenly, and, though none have actually died, more than
one has been roughly treated, I assure you."
Here the young men, one and all, protested that she was excessively
clever. Then succeeded a pause, for Miss Ring was inviting, with her
eyes, a number six to join the circle, her ambition being
dissatisfied with five entertainees, as she saw that Miss Trumpet, a
rival belle, had managed to get exactly that number, also, in the
other room. All the gentlemen availed themselves of the cessation in
wit to gape, and Mr. Edson took the occasion to remark to Mr.
Summerfield that he understood "lots had been sold in seven hundredth
street that morning, as high as two hundred dollars a lot."
The _quadrille_ now ended, and Eve returned towards her friends. As
she approached, the whole party compared her quiet, simple, feminine,
and yet dignified air, with the restless, beau-catching, and worldly
look of the belle, and wondered by what law of nature, or of fashion,
the one could possibly become the subject of the other's comments.
Eve never appeared better than that evening. Her dress had all the
accuracy and finish of a Parisian toilette, being equally removed
from exaggeration and neglect; and it was worn with the ease of one
accustomed to be elegantly attired, and yet never decked with finery.
Her step even was that of a lady, having neither the mincing tread of
a Paris grisette, a manner that sometimes ascends even to the
_bourgeoise_ the march of a cockneyess, nor the tiptoe swing of a
_belle_; but it was the natural though regulated step, of a trained
and delicate woman. Walk alone she could certainly, and always did,
except on those occasions of ceremony that demanded a partner. Her
countenance, across which an unworthy thought had never left a trace,
was an index, too, to the purity, high principles and womanly self-
respect that controlled all her acts, and, in these particulars was
the very reverse of the feverish, half-hoydenish half-affected
expression of that of Miss Ring.
"They may say what they please," muttered Captain Truck, who had been
a silent but wondering listener of all that passed; "she is worth as
many of them as could be stowed in the Montauk's lower hold."
Miss Ring perceiving Eve approach, was desirous of saying something
to her, for there was an _eclat_ about a Hajji, after all, that
rendered an acquaintance, or even an intimacy desirable, and she
smiled and curtsied. Eve returned the salutation, but as she did not
care to approach a group of six, of which no less than five were men,
she continued to move towards her own party. This reserve compelled
Miss Ring to advance a step or two, when Eve was obliged to stop
Curtsying to her partner, she thanked him for his attention,
relinquished his arm, and turned to meet the lady. At the same
instant the five 'entertainees' escaped in a body, equally rejoiced
at their release, and proud of their captivity.
"I have been dying to come and speak to you, Miss Effingham,"
commenced Miss Ring, "but these _five_ giants (she emphasized the
word we have put in italics) so beset me, that escape was quite
impossible. There ought to be a law that but one gentleman should
speak to a lady at a time."
"I thought there was such a law already;" said Eve, quietly.
"You mean in good breeding; but no one thinks of those antiquated
laws now-a-days. Are you beginning to be reconciled, a little, to
your own country?"
"It is not easy to effect a reconciliation where there has been no
misunderstanding. I hope I have never quarrelled with my country, or
my country with me."
"Oh! it is not exactly that I mean. Cannot one need a reconciliation
without a quarrel? What do you say to this, Mr. Edson?"
Miss Ring having detected some symptoms of desertion in the gentleman
addressed, had thrown in this question by way of recal; when turning
to note its effect, she perceived that all of her _clientelle_ had
escaped. A look of surprise and mortification and vexation it was not
in her power to suppress, and then came one of horror.
"How conspicuous we have made ourselves, and it is all my fault!" she
said, for the first time that evening permitting her voice to fall to
a becoming tone. 'Why, here we actually are, two ladies conversing
together, and no gentleman near us!"
"Is that being conspicuous?" asked Eve, with a simplicity that was
"I am sure, Miss Effingham, one who has seen as much of society as
you, can scarcely ask that question seriously. I do not think I have
done so improper a thing, since I was fifteen; and, dear me! dear me!
how to escape is the question. You have permitted your partner to go,
and I do not see a gentleman of my acquaintance near us, to give me
"As your distress is occasioned by my company," said Eve, "it is
fortunately in my power to relieve it." Thus saying, she quietly
walked across the room, and took her seat next to Mademoiselle
Miss Ring held up her hands in amazement, and then fortunately
perceiving one of the truants gaping at no great distance, she
beckoned him to her side.
"Have the goodness to give me your arm, Mr. Summerfield," she said,
"I am dying to get out of this unpleasantly conspicuous situation;
but you are the first gentleman that has approached me this
twelvemonth. I would not for the world do so brazen a thing as Miss
Effingham has just achieved; would you believe it, she positively
went from this spot to her seat, quite alone!"
"The Hajjis are privileged."
"They make themselves so. But every body knows how bold and unwomanly
the French females are. One could wish, notwithstanding, that our own
people would not import their audacious usages into this country."
"It is a thousand pities that Mr. Clay, in his compromise, neglected
to make an exception against that article. A tariff on impudence
would not be at all sectional."
"It might interfere with the manufacture at home, notwithstanding,"
said John Effingham; for the lungs were strong, and the rooms of Mrs.
Houston so small, that little was said that evening, which was not
heard by any who chose to listen. But Miss Ring never listened, it
being no part of the vocation of a _belle_ to perform that inferior
office, and sustained by the protecting arm of Mr. Summerfield, she
advanced more boldly into the crowd, where she soon contrived to
catch another group of even six "entertainees." As for Mr.
Summerfield, he lived a twelvemonth on the reputation of the
exceedingly clever thing he had just uttered.
"There come Ned and Aristabulus," said John Effingham, as soon as the
tones of Miss Ring's voice were lost in the din of fifty others,
pitched to the same key. "_A present, Mademoiselle, je vais nous
As John Effingham uttered this, he took Captain Truck by the arm, and
went to meet his cousin and the land agent. The latter he soon
separated from Mr. Effingham, and with this new recruit, he managed
to get so near to Miss Ring as to attract her attention. Although
fifty, John Effingham was known to be a bachelor, well connected, and
to have twenty thousand a year. In addition, he was well preserved
and singularly handsome, besides having an air that set all
pretending gentility at defiance. These were qualities that no
_belle_ despised, and ill-assorted matches were, moreover, just
coming into fashion in New-York. Miss Ring had an intuitive knowledge
that he wished to speak to her, and she was not slow in offering the
opportunity. The superior tone of John Effingham, his caustic wit and
knowledge of the world, dispersed the five _beaux_, incontinently;
these persons having a natural antipathy to every one of the
"I hope you will permit me to presume on an acquaintance that extends
back as far as your grandfather, Miss Ring," he said, "to present two
very intimate friends; Mr. Bragg and Mr. Truck; gentlemen who will
well reward the acquaintance."
The lady bowed graciously, for it was a matter of conscience with her
to receive every man with a smile. She was still too much in awe of
the master of ceremonies to open her batteries of attack, but John
Effingham soon relieved her, by affecting a desire to speak to
another lady. The _belle_ had now the two strangers to herself, and
having heard that the Effinghams had an Englishman of condition as a
companion, who was travelling under a false name, she fancied herself
very clever in detecting him at once in the person of Aristabulus;
while by the aid of a lively imagination, she thought Mr. Truck was
his travelling Mentor, and a divine of the church of England. The
incognito she was too well bred to hint at, though she wished both
the gentlemen to perceive that a _belle_ was not to be mystified in
this easy manner. Indeed, she was rather sensitive on the subject of
her readiness in recognizing a man of fashion under any
circumstances, and to let this be known was her very first object, as
soon as she was relieved from the presence of John Effingham.
"You must be struck with the unsophisticated nature and the extreme
simplicity of our society, Mr. Bragg," she said, looking at him
significantly; "we are very conscious it is not what it might be, but
do you not think it pretty well for beginners?"
Now, Mr. Bragg had an entire consciousness that he had never seen any
society that deserved the name before this very night, but he was
supported in giving his opinions by that secret sense of his
qualifications to fill any station, which formed so conspicuous a
trait in his character, and his answer was given with an _aplomb_
that would have added weight to the opinion of the veriest _elegant_
of the _Chaussee d'Antin._
"It is indeed a good deal unsophisticated," he said, "and so simple
that any body can understand it. I find but a single fault with this
entertainment, which is, in all else, the perfection of elegance in
my eyes, and that is, that there is too little room to swing the legs
"Indeed!--I did not expect that--is it not the best usage of Europe,
now, to bring a quadrille into the very minimum of space?"
"Quite the contrary, Miss. All good dancing requires evolutions. The
dancing Dervishes, for instance would occupy quite as much space as
both of these sets that are walking before us, and I believe it is
now generally admitted that all good dancing needs room for the
"We necessarily get a little behind the fashions, in this distant
country. Pray, sir, is it usual for ladies to walk alone in society?"
"Woman was not made to move through life alone, Miss," returned
Aristabulus with a sentimental glance of the eye, for he never let a
good opportunity for preferment slip through his fingers, and,
failing of Miss Effingham, or Miss Van Cortlandt, of whose estates
and connections he had some pretty accurate notions, it struck him
Miss Ring might, possibly, be a very eligible connection, as all was
grist that came to his mill; "this I believe, is an admitted truth."
"By life you mean matrimony, I suppose."
"Yes, Miss, a man always means matrimony, when he speaks to a young
This rather disconcerted Miss Ring, who picked her nosegay, for she
was not accustomed to hear gentlemen talk to ladies of matrimony, but
ladies to talk to gentlemen. Recovering her self-possession, however,
she said with a promptitude that, did the school to which she
belonged infinite credit,--
"You speak, sir, like one having experience."
"Certainly, Miss; I have been in love ever since I was ten years old;
I may say I was born in love, and hope to die in love."
This a little out-Heroded Herod, but the _belle_ was not a person to
be easily daunted on such a subject. She smiled graciously,
therefore, and continued the conversation with renewed spirit.
"You travelled gentleman get odd notions," she said, "and more
particularly on such subjects. I always feel afraid to discuss them
with foreigners, though with my own countrymen I have few reserves.
Pray, Mr. Truck, are you satisfied with America?--Do you find it the
country you expected to see?"
"Certainly, marm;" for so they pronounced this word in the river, and
the captain cherished his first impressions; "when we sailed from
Portsmouth. I expected that the first land we should make would be
the Highlands of Navesink; and, although a little disappointed, I
have had the satisfaction of laying eyes on it at last."
"Disappointment, I fear, is the usual fate of those who come from the
other side. Is this dwelling of Mrs. Houston's equal to the residence
of an English nobleman, Mr. Bragg?"
"Considerably better, Miss, especially in the way of republican
Miss Ring, like all _belles_, detested the word republican, their
vocation being clearly to exclusion, and she pouted a little
"I should distrust the quality of such comfort, sir," she said, with
point; "but, are the rooms at all comparable with the rooms in Apsley
House, for instance?"
"My dear Miss, Apsley House is a toll-gate lodge, compared to this
mansion! I doubt if there be a dwelling in all England half as
magnificent--indeed, I cannot imagine any thing more brilliant and
Aristabulus was not a man to do things by halves, and it was a point
of honour with him to know something of every thing. It is true he no
more could tell where Apsley House is, or whether it was a tavern or
a gaol, than he knew half the other things on which he delivered
oracular opinions; but when it became necessary to speak, he was not
apt to balk conversation from any ignorance, real or affected. The
opinion he had just given, it is true, had a little surpassed Miss
Ring's hopes; for the next thing, in her ambition to being a _belle_,
and of "entertaining" gentlemen, was to fancy she was running her
brilliant career in an orbit of fashion that lay parallel to that of
the "nobility and gentry" of Great Britain.
"Well, this surpasses my hopes," she said, "although I was aware we
are nearly on a level with the more improved tastes of Europe: still,
I thought we were a little inferior to that part of the world, yet."
"Inferior, Miss! That is a word that should never pass your lips; you
are inferior to nothing, whether in Europe or America, Asia or
As Miss Ring had been accustomed to do most of the flattering
herself, as behoveth a _belle_, she began to be disconcerted with the
directness of the compliments of Aristabulus, who was disposed to
'make hay while the sun shines;' and she turned, in a little
confusion, to the captain, by way of relief; we say confusion, for
the young lady, although so liable to be misunderstood, was not
actually impudent, but merely deceived in the relations of things;
or, in other words, by some confusion in usages, she had hitherto
permitted herself to do that in society, which female performers
sometimes do on the stage; enact the part of a man.
"You should tell Mr. Bragg, sir," she said, with an appealing look at
the captain, "that flattery is a dangerous vice, and one altogether
unsuited to a Christian."
"It is, indeed, marm, and one that I never indulge in. No one under
my orders, can accuse me of flattery."
By 'under orders,' Miss Ring understood curates and deacons; for she
was aware the church of England had clerical distinctions of this
sort, that are unknown in America.
"I hope, sir, you do not intend to quit this country without
favouring us with a discourse."
"Not I, marm--I am discoursing pretty much from morning till night,
when among my own people, though I own that this conversing rather
puts me out of my reckoning. Let me get my foot on the planks I love,
with an attentive audience, and a good cigar in my mouth, and I'll
hold forth with any bishop in the universe."
"A cigar!" exclaimed Miss Ring, in surprise. "Do gentlemen of your
profession use cigars when on duty!"
"Does a parson take his fees? Why, Miss, there is not a man among us,
who does not smoke from morning till night."
"Surely not on Sundays!"
"Two for one, on those days, more than on any other."
"And your people, sir, what do they do, all this time?'
"Why, marm, most of them chew; and those that don't, if they cannot
find a pipe, have a dull time of it. For my part, I shall hardly
relish the good place itself, if cigars are prohibited."
Miss Ring was surprised; but she had heard that the English clergy
were more free than our own, and then she had been accustomed to
think every thing English of the purest water. A little reflection
reconciled her to the innovation; and the next day, at a dinner
party, she was heard defending the usage as a practice that had a
precedent in the ancient incense of the altar. At the moment,
however, she was dying to impart her discoveries to others; and she
kindly proposed to the captain and Aristabulus to introduce them to
some of her acquaintances, as they must find it dull, being
strangers, to know no one. Introductions and cigars were the
captain's hobbies, and he accepted the offer with joy, Aristabulus
uniting cordially in the proposition, as, he fancied he had a right,
under the Constitution of the United States of America, to be
introduced to every human being with whom he came in contact.
It is scarcely necessary to say how much the party with whom the two
neophytes in fashion had come, enjoyed all this, though they
concealed their amusement under the calm exterior of people of the
world. From Mr. Effingham the mystification was carefully concealed
by his cousin, as the former would have felt it due to Mrs. Houston,
a well-meaning, but silly woman, to put an end to it. Eve and Grace
laughed, as merry girls would be apt to laugh, at such an occurrence,
and they danced the remainder of the evening with lighter hearts than
ever. At one, the company retired in the same informal manner, as
respects announcements and the calling of carriages, as that in which
they had entered; most to lay their drowsy heads on their pillows,
and Miss Ring to ponder over the superior manners of a polished young
Englishman, and to dream of the fragrance of a sermon that was
preserved in tobacco.
"Marry, our play is the most lamentable Comedy, and most cruel
death of Pyramus and Thisby."
Our task in the way of describing town society will soon be ended.
The gentlemen of the Effingham family had been invited to meet Sir
George Templemore at one or two dinners, to which the latter had been
invited in consequence of his letters, most of which were connected
with his pecuniary arrangements. As one of these entertainments was
like all the rest of the same character, a very brief account of it
will suffice to let the reader into the secret of the excellence of
A well-spread board, excellent viands, highly respectable cookery,
and delicious wines, were every where met. Two rows of men clad in
dark dresses, a solitary female at the head of the table, or, if
fortunate, with a supporter of the same sex near her, invariably
composed the _convives_. The exaggerations of a province were seen
ludicrously in one particular custom. The host, or perhaps it might
have been the hostess, had been told there should be a contrast
between the duller light of the reception-room, and the brilliancy of
the table, and John Effingham actually hit his legs against a stool,
in floundering through the obscurity of the first drawing-room he
entered on one of the occasions in question.
When seated at table, the first great duty of restauration performed,
the conversation turned on the prices of lots, speculations in towns,
or the currency. After this came the regular assay of wines, during
which it was easy to fancy the master of the house a dealer, for he
usually sat either sucking a syphon or flourishing a cork-screw. The
discourse would now have done credit to the annual meeting and dinner
of the German exporters, assembled at Rudesheim to bid for the
Sir George was certainly on the point of forming a very erroneous
judgment concerning the country, when Mr. Effingham extricated him
from this set, and introduced him properly into his own. Here,
indeed, while there was much to strike a European as peculiar, and
even provincial, the young baronet fared much better. He met with the
same quality of table, relieved by an intelligence that was always
respectable, and a manliness of tone which, if not unmixed, had the
great merit of a simplicity and nature that are not always found in
more sophisticated circles. The occasional incongruities struck them
all, more than the positive general faults and Sir George Templemore
did justice to the truth, by admitting frankly, the danger he had
been in of forming a too hasty opinion.
All this time, which occupied a month, the young baronet got to be
more and more intimate in Hudson Square, Eve gradually becoming more
frank and unreserved with him, as she grew sensible that he had
abandoned his hopes of success with herself, and Grace gradually more
cautious and timid, as she became conscious of his power to please,
and the interest he took in herself.
It might have been three days after the ball at Mrs. Houston's that
most of the family was engaged to look in on a Mrs. Legend, a lady of
what was called a literary turn, Sir George having been asked to make
one of their party. Aristabulus was already returned to his duty in
the country, where we shall shortly have occasion to join him, but an
invitation had been sent to Mr. Truck, under the general, erroneous
impression of his real character.
Taste, whether in the arts, literature, or any thing else, is a
natural impulse, like love. It is true both may be cultivated and
heightened by circumstances, but the impulses must be voluntary, and
the flow of feeling, or of soul, as it has become a law to style it,
is not to be forced, or commanded to come and go at will. This is the
reason that all premeditated enjoyments connected with the intellect,
are apt to baffle expectations, and why academies, literary clubs,
coteries and dinners are commonly dull. It is true that a body of
clever people may be brought together, and, if left to their own
impulses, the characters of their mind will show themselves; wit will
flash, and thought will answer thought spontaneously; but every
effort to make the stupid agreeable, by giving a direction of a
pretending intellectual nature to their efforts, is only rendering
dullness more conspicuous by exhibiting it in contrast with what it
ought to be to be clever, as a bad picture is rendered the more
conspicuous by an elaborate and gorgeous frame.
The latter was the fate of most of Mrs. Legend's literary evenings,
at which it was thought an illustration to understand even one
foreign language. But, it was known that Eve was skilled in most of
the European tongues, and, the good lady, not feeling that such
accomplishments are chiefly useful as a means, looked about her in
order to collect a set, among whom our heroine might find some one
with whom to converse in each of her dialects. Little was said about
it, it is true, but great efforts were made to cause this evening to
be memorable in the annals of _conversazioni_.
In carrying out this scheme, nearly all the wits, writers, artists
and _literati_, as the most incorrigible members of the book clubs
were styled, in New-York, were pressingly invited to be present.
Aristabulus had contrived to earn such a reputation for the captain,
on the night of the ball, that he was universally called a man of
letters, and an article had actually appeared in one of the papers,
speaking of the literary merits of the "Hon. and Rev. Mr. Truck, a
gentleman travelling in our country, from whose liberality and just
views, an account of our society was to be expected, that should, at
last, do justice to our national character." With such expectations,
then, every true American and Americaness, was expected to be at his
or her post, for the solemn occasion. It was a rally of literature,
in defence of the institutions--no, not of the institutions, for they
were left to take care of themselves--but of the social character of
Alas! it is easier to feel high aspirations on such subjects, in a
provincial town, than to succeed; for merely calling a place an
Emporium, is very far from giving it the independence, high tone,
condensed intelligence and tastes of a capital. Poor Mrs. Legend,
desirous of having all the tongues duly represented, was obliged to
invite certain dealers in gin from Holland, a German linen merchant
from Saxony, an Italian _Cavaliero_, who amused himself in selling
beads, and a Spanish master, who was born in Portugal, all of whom
had just one requisite for conversation in their respective
languages, and no more. But such assemblies were convened in Paris,
and why not in New-York?
We shall not stop to dwell on the awful sensations with which Mrs.
Legend heard the first ring at her door, on the eventful night in
question. It was the precursor of the entrance of Miss Annual, as
regular a devotee of letters as ever conned a primer. The meeting was
sentimental and affectionate. Before either had time, however, to
disburthen her mind of one half of its prepared phrases, ring upon
ring proclaimed more company, and the rooms were soon as much
sprinkled with talent, as a modern novel with jests. Among those who
came first, appeared all the foreign corps, for the refreshments
entered as something into the account with them; every blue of the
place, whose social position in the least entitled her to be seen in
such a house, Mrs. Legend belonging quite positively to good society.
The scene that succeeded was very characteristic. A professed genius
does nothing like other people, except in cases that require a
display of talents. In all minor matters he, or she, is _sui
generis_; for sentiment is in constant ebullition in their souls;
this being what is meant by the flow of that part of the human
We might here very well adopt the Homeric method, and call the roll
of heroes and heroines, in what the French would term a _catalogue
raisonnee_; but our limits compel us to be less ambitions, and to
adopt a simpler mode of communicating facts. Among the ladies who now
figured in the drawing-room of Mrs. Legend, besides Miss Annual, were
Miss Monthly, Mrs. Economy, S.R.P., Marion, Longinus, Julietta,
Herodotus, D.O.V.E., and Mrs. Demonstration; besides many others of
less note; together with at least a dozen female Hajjis, whose claims
to appear in such society were pretty much dependent on the fact,
that having seen pictures and statues abroad, they necessarily must
have the means of talking of them at home. The list of men was still
more formidable in numbers, if not in talents. At its head stood
Steadfast Dodge, Esquire, whose fame as a male Hajji had so far
swollen since Mrs Jarvis's _reunion_, that, for the first time in his
life, he now entered one of the better houses of his own country.
Then there were the authors of "Lapis Lazuli," "The Aunts," "The
Reformed," "The Conformed," "The Transformed," and "The Deformed;"
with the editors of "The Hebdomad," "The Night Cap," "The Chrysalis,"
"The Real Maggot," and "The Seek no Further;" as also, "Junius,"
"Junius Brutus," "Lucius Junius Brutus," "Captain Kant," "Florio,"
the 'Author of the History of Billy Linkum Tweedle', the celebrated
Pottawattamie Prophet, "Single Rhyme," a genius who had prudently
rested his fame in verse, on a couplet composed of one line; besides
divers _amateurs_ and _connoisseurs_, Hajjis, who _must_ be men of
talents, as they had acquired all they knew, very much as American
Eclipse gained his laurels on the turf; that is to say, by a free use
of the whip and spur.
As Mrs. Legend sailed about her rooms amid such a circle, her mind
expanded, her thoughts diffused themselves among her guests on the
principle of Animal Magnetism, and her heart was melting with the
tender sympathies of congenial tastes. She felt herself to be at the
head of American talents, and, in the secret recesses of her reason,
she determined that, did even the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah menace
her native town, as some evil disposed persons had dared to insinuate
might one day be the case, here was enough to save it from
It was just as the mistress of the mansion had come to this consoling
conclusion, that the party from Hudson Square rang. As few of her
guests came in carriages, Mrs. Legend, who heard the rolling of
wheels, felt persuaded that the lion of the night was now indeed at
hand; and with a view to a proper reception, she requested the
company to divide itself into two lines, in order that he might
enter, as it were, between lanes of genius.
It may be necessary to explain, at this point of our narrative, that
John Effingham was perfectly aware of the error which existed in
relation to the real character of Captain Truck, wherein he thought
great injustice had been done the honest seaman; and, the old man
intending to sail for London next morning, had persuaded him to
accept this invitation, in order that the public mind might be
disabused in a matter of so much importance. With a view that this
might be done naturally and without fuss, however, he did not explain
the mistake to his nautical friend, believing it most probable that
this could be better done incidentally, as it were, in the course of
the evening; and feeling certain of the force of that wholesome
apothegm, which says that "truth is powerful and must prevail" "If
this be so," added John Effingham, in his explanations to Eve, "there
can be no place where the sacred quality will be so likely to assert
itself, as in a galaxy of geniuses, whose distinctive characteristic
is 'an intuitive perception of things in their real colours."
When the door of Mrs. Legend's drawing-room opened, in the usual
noiseless manner, Mademoiselle Viefville, who led the way, was
startled at finding herself in the precise situation of one who is
condemned to run the gauntlet. Fortunately, she caught a glimpse of
Mrs. Legend, posted at the other end of the proud array, inviting
her, with smiles, to approach. The invitation had been to a
"_literary fete_," and Mademoiselle Viefville was too much of a
Frenchwoman to be totally disconcerted at a little scenic effect on
the occasion of a _fete_ of any sort. Supposing she was now a witness
of an American ceremony for the first time, for the want of
_representation_ in the country had been rather a subject of
animadversion with her, she advanced steadily towards the mistress of
the house, bestowing smile for smile, this being a part of the
_programme_ at which a _Parisienne_ was not easily outdone. Eve
followed, as usual, _sola_; Grace came next; then Sir George; then
John Effingham; the captain bringing up the rear. There had been a
friendly contest, for the precedency, between the two last, each
desiring to yield it to the other on the score of merit; but the
captain prevailed, by declaring "that he was navigating an unknown
sea, and that he could do nothing wiser than to sail in the wake of
so good a pilot as Mr. John Effingham."
As Hajjis of approved experience, the persons who led the advance in
this little procession, were subjects of a proper attention and
respect; but as the admiration of mere vulgar travelling would in
itself be vulgar, care was taken to reserve the condensed feeling of
the company for the celebrated English writer and wit, who was known
to bring up the rear. This was not a common house, in which dollars
had place, or _belles_ rioted, but the temple of genius; and every
one felt an ardent desire to manifest a proper homage to the
abilities of the established foreign writer, that should be in exact
proportion to their indifference to the twenty thousand a year of
John Effingham, and to the nearly equal amount of Eve's expectations.
The personal appearance of the honest tar was well adapted to the
character he was thus called on so unexpectedly to support. His hair
had long been getting grey, but the intense anxiety of the chase, of
the wreck, and of his other recent adventures, had rapidly, but
effectually, increased this mark of time; and his head was now nearly
as white as snow. The hale, fresh, red of his features, which was in
truth the result of exposure, might very well pass for the tint of
port, and his tread, which had always a little of the quarterdeck
swing about it, might quite easily be mistaken by a tyro, for the
human frame staggering under a load of learning. Unfortunately for
those who dislike mystifications, the captain had consulted John
Effingham on the subject of the toilette, and that kind and indulgent
friend had suggested the propriety of appearing in black small-
clothes for the occasion, a costume that he often wore himself of an
evening. Reality, in this instance, then, did not disappoint
expectation, and the burst of applause with which the captain was
received, was accompanied by a general murmur in commendation of the
admirable manner in which he "looked the character."
"What a Byronic head," whispered the author of "The Transformed" to
D.O.V.E.; "and was there ever such a curl of the lip, before, to
The truth is, the captain had thrust his tobacco into "an aside," as
a monkey is known to _empocher_ a spare nut, or a lump of sugar.
"Do you think him Byronic?--To my eye, the cast of his head is
Shaksperian, rather; though I confess there is a little of Milton
about the forehead!"
"Pray," said Miss Annual, to Lucius Junius Brutus, "which is commonly
thought to be the best of his works; that on a--a--a,--or that on e--
Now, so it happened, that not a soul in the room, but the lion
himself, had any idea what books he had written, and he knew only of
some fifteen or twenty log-books. It was generally understood, that
he was a great English writer, and this was more than sufficient.
"I believe the world generally prefers the a--a--a," said Lucius
Junius Brutus; "but the few give a decided preference to the e--e--
"Oh! out of all question preferable!" exclaimed half a dozen, in
"With what a classical modesty he pays his compliments to Mrs.
Legend," observed "S. R. P."--"One can always tell a man of real
genius, by his _tenu_!"
"He is so English!" cried Florio. "Ah! _they_ are the only people,
This Florio was one of those geniuses who sigh most for the things
that they least possess.
By this time Captain Truck had got through with listening to the
compliments of Mrs. Legend, when he, was seized upon by a circle of
rabid literati, who badgered him with questions concerning his
opinions, notions, inferences, experiences, associations, sensations,
sentiments and intentions, in a way that soon threw the old man into
a profuse perspiration. Fifty times did he wish, from the bottom of
his soul, that soul which the crowd around him fancied dwelt so nigh
in the clouds, that he was seated quietly by the side of Mrs. Hawker,
who, he mentally swore, was worth all the _literati_ in Christendom.
But fate had decreed otherwise, and we shall leave him to his
fortune, for a time, and return to our heroine and her party.
As soon as Mrs. Legend had got through with her introductory
compliments to the captain, she sought Eve and Grace, with a
consciousness that a few civilities were now their due.
"I fear, Miss Effingham, after the elaborate _soirees_ of the
literary circles in Paris, you will find our _reunions_ of the same
sort, a little dull; and yet I flatter myself with having assembled
most of the talents of New-York on this memorable occasion, to do
honour to your friend. Are you acquainted with many of the company?"
Now, Eve had never seen nor ever heard of a single being in the room,
with the exception of Mr. Dodge and her own party, before this night,
although most of them had been so laboriously employed in puffing
each other into celebrity, for many weary years; and, as for
elaborate _soirees_, she thought she had never seen one half as
elaborate as this of Mrs. Legend's. As it would not very well do,
however, to express all this in words, she civilly desired the lady
to point out to her some of the most distinguished of the company.
"With the greatest pleasure, Miss Effingham," Mrs. Legend taking
pride in dwelling on the merits of her guests.--"This heavy, grand-
looking personage, in whose air one sees refinement and modesty at a
glance, is Captain Kant, the editor of one of our most decidedly
pious newspapers. His mind is distinguished for its intuitive
perception of all that is delicate, reserved and finished in the
intellectual world, while, in opposition to this quality, which is
almost feminine, his character is just as remarkable for its
unflinching love of truth. He was never known to publish a falsehood,
and of his foreign correspondence, in particular, he is so
exceedingly careful, that he assures me he has every word of it
written under his own eye."
"On the subject of his religious scruples," added John Effingham, "he
is so fastidiously exact, that I hear he 'says grace' over every
thing that goes _from_ his press, and 'returns thanks' for every
thing that comes _to_ it."
"You know him, Mr. Effingham, by this remark? Is he not, truly, a man
of a vocation?"
"That, indeed, he is, ma'am. He may be succinctly said to have a
newspaper mind, as he reduces every thing in nature or art to news,
and commonly imparts to it so much of his own peculiar character,
that it loses all identity with the subjects to which it originally
belonged. One scarcely knows which to admire most about this man, the
atmospheric transparency of his motives, for he is so disinterested
as seldom even to think of paying for a dinner when travelling, and
yet so conscientious as always to say something obliging of the
tavern as soon as he gets home--his rigid regard to facts; or the
exquisite refinement and delicacy that he imparts to every thing he
touches. Over all this, too, he throws a beautiful halo of morality
and religion, never even prevaricating in the hottest discussion,
unless with the unction of a saint!"
"Do you happen to know Florio?" asked Mrs. Legend, a little
distrusting John Effingham's account of Captain Kant.
"If I do, it must indeed be by accident. What are his chief
"Sentiment, pathos, delicacy, and all in rhyme, too. You no doubt,
have heard of his triumph over Lord Byron, Miss Effingham?"
Eve was obliged to confess that it was new to her.
"Why, Byron wrote an ode to Greece, commencing with 'The Isles of
Greece! the Isles of Greece!' a very feeble line, as any one will
see, for it contained a useless and an unmeaning repetition."
"And you might add vulgar, too, Mrs. Legend," said John Effingham,
"since it made a palpable allusion to all those vulgar incidents that
associate themselves in the mind, with these said common-place isles.
The arts, philosophy, poetry, eloquence, and even old Homer, are
brought unpleasantly to one's recollection, by such an indiscreet
"So Florio thought, and, by way of letting the world perceive the
essential difference between the base and the pure coin, _he_ wrote
an ode on England, which commenced as such an ode _should_!"
"Do you happen to recollect any of it, ma'am?"
"Only the first line, which I greatly regret, as the rhyme is
Florio's chief merit. But this line is, of itself, sufficient to
immortalize a man."
"Do not keep us in torment, dear Mrs. Legend, but let us have it, of
"It began in this sublime strain, sir--'Beyond the wave!--Beyond the
wave!' Now, Miss Effingham, that is what _I_ call poetry!"
"And well you may, ma'am," returned the gentleman, who perceived Eve
could scarce refrain from breaking out in a very unsentimental
manner--"So much pathos."
"And so sententious and flowing!"
"Condensing a journey of three thousand miles, as it might be, into
three words, and a note of admiration. I trust it was printed with a
note of admiration, Mrs. Legend?"
"Yes, sir, with two--one behind each wave--and such waves, Mr.
"Indeed, ma'am, you may say so. One really gets a grand idea of them,
England lying beyond each."
"So much expressed in so few syllables!"
"I think I see every shoal, current, ripple, rock, island, and whale,
between Sandy Hook and the Land's End."
"He hints at an epic."
"Pray God he may execute one. Let him make haste, too, or he may get
'behind the age,' 'behind the age.'"
Here the lady was called away to receive a guest.
"Do you not sometimes fear offending?"
"Not a woman who begins with expressing her admiration of such a
sublime thing as this. You are safe with such a person, any where
short of a tweak of the nose."
"_Mais, tout ceci est bien drole!_"
"You never were more mistaken in your life, Mademoiselle; every body
here looks upon it as a matter of life and death."
The new guest was Mr. Pindar, one of those careless, unsentimental
fellows, that occasionally throw off an ode that passes through
Christendom, as dollars are known to pass from China to Norway, and
yet, who never fancied spectacles necessary to his appearance,
solemnity to his face, nor _soirees_ to his renown. After quitting
Mrs. Legend, he approached Eve, to whom he was slightly known, and
"This is the region of taste, Miss Effingham," he said, with a shrug
of the jaw, if such a member can shrug; "and I do not wonder at
finding you here."
He then chatted pleasantly a moment, with the party, and passed on,
giving an ominous gape, as he drew nearer to the _oi polloi_ of
literature. A moment after appeared Mr. Gray, a man who needed
nothing but taste in the public, and the encouragement that would
follow such a taste, to stand at, or certainty near, the head of the
poets of our own time. He, too, looked shily at the galaxy, and took
refuge in a corner. Mr. Pith followed; a man whose caustic wit needs
only a sphere for its exercise, manners to portray, and a society
with strong points about it to illustrate, in order to enrol his name
high on the catalogue of satirists. Another ring announced Mr. Fun, a
writer of exquisite humour, and of finished periods, but who, having
perpetrated a little too much sentiment, was instantly seized upon by
all the ultra ladies who were addicted to the same taste in that way,
in the room.
These persons came late, like those who had already been too often
dosed in the same way, to be impatient of repetitions. The three
first soon got together in a corner, and Eve fancied they were
laughing at the rest of the company; whereas, in fact, they were
merely laughing at a bad joke of their own; their quick perception of
the ludicrous having pointed out a hundred odd combinations and
absurdities, that would have escaped duller minds.
"Who, in the name of the twelve Caesars, has Mrs. Legend got to
lionize, yonder, with the white summit and the dark base?' asked the
writer of odes.
"Some English pamphleteer, by what I can learn," answered he of
satire; "some fellow who has achieved a pert review, or written a
Minerva Pressism, and who now flourishes like a bay tree among us. A
modern Horace, or a Juvenal on his travels."
"Fun is well badgered," observed Mr. Gray.--"Do you not see that Miss
Annual, Miss Monthly, and that young alphabet D.O.V.E., have got him
within the circle of their petticoats, where he will be martyred on a
"He casts tanging looks this way; he wishes you to go to his rescue,
"I!--Let him take his fill of sentiment! I am no homoepathist in such
matters. Large doses in quick succession will soonest work a cure.
Here comes the lion and he breaks loose from his cage, like a beast
that has been poked up with sticks."
"Good evening, gentlemen," said Captain Truck, wiping his face
intensely, and who having made his escape from a throng of admirers,
took refuge in the first port that offered. "You seem to be enjoying
yourselves here in a rational and agreeable way. Quite cool and
refreshing in this corner."
"And yet we have no doubt that both our reason and our amusement will
receive a large increase from the addition of your society, sir,"
returned Mr. Pith.--"Do us the favour to take a seat, I beg of you,
and rest yourself."
"With all my heart, gentlemen; for, to own the truth, these ladies
make warm work about a stranger. I have just got out of what I call a
"You appear to have escaped with life, sir," observed Pindar, taking
a cool survey of the other's person.
"Yes, thank God, I have done that, and it is pretty much all,"
answered the captain, wiping his face. "I served in the French war--
Truxtun's war, as we call it--and I had a touch with the English in
the privateer trade, between twelve and fifteen; and here, quite
lately, I was in an encounter with the savage Arabs down on the coast
of Africa; and I account them all as so much snow-balling, compared
with the yard-arm and yard-arm work of this very night. I wonder if
it is permitted to try a cigar at these conversation-onies,
"I believe it is, sir," returned Pindar, coolly. "Shall I help you to
"Oh! Mr. Truck!" cried Mrs. Legend, following the chafed animal to
his corner, as one would pursue any other runaway, "instinct has
brought you into this good company. You are, now, in the very focus
of American talents."
"Having just escaped from the focus of American talons," whispered
"I must be permitted to introduce you myself. Mr. Truck, Mr. Pindar--
Mr. Pith--- Mr. Gray--gentlemen, you must be so happy to be
acquainted, being, as it were, engaged in the same pursuits!"
The captain rose and shook each of the gentlemen cordially by the
hand, for he had, at least, the consolation of a great many
introductions that night. Mrs. Legend disappeared to say something to
some other prodigy.
"Happy to meet you, gentlemen," said the captain "In what trade do
"By whatever name we may call it," answered Mr. Pindar--"we can
scarcely be said to go before the wind."
"Not in the Injee business, then, or the monsoons would keep the
stun'sails set, at least."
"No, sir.--But yonder is Mr. Moccasin, who has lately set up,
_secundum artem_, in the Indian business, having written two novels
in that way already, and begun a third."
"Are you all regularly employed, gentlemen?"
"As regularly as inspiration points," said Mr. Pith. "Men of our
occupation must make fair weather of it, or we had better be doing
"So I often tell my owners, but 'go ahead' is the order. When I was a
youngster, a ship remained in port for a fair wind; but, now, she
goes to work and makes one. The world seems to get young, as I get
"This is a _rum litterateur_," Gray whispered to Pindar.
"It is an obvious mystification," was the answer; "poor Mrs. Legend
has picked up some straggling porpoise, and converted him, by a touch
of her magical wand, into a Boanerges of literature. The thing is as
clear as day, for the worthy fellow smells of tar and cigar smoke. I
perceive that Mr. Effingham is laughing out of the corner of his
eyes, and will step across the room, and get the truth, in a minute."
The rogue was as good as his word, and was soon back again, and
contrived to let his friends understand the real state of the case. A
knowledge of the captain's true character encouraged this trio in the
benevolent purpose of aiding the honest old seaman in his wish to
smoke, and Pith managed to give him a lighted paper, without becoming
an open accessary to the plot.
"Will you take a cigar yourself, sir," said the captain, offering his
box to Mr. Pindar.
"I thank you, Mr. Truck, I never smoke, but am a profound admirer of
the flavour. Let me entreat you to begin as soon as possible."
Thus encouraged, Captain Truck drew two or three whiffs, when the
rooms were immediately filled with the fragrance of a real Havana. At
the first discovery, the whole literary pack went off on the scent.
As for Mr. Fun, he managed to profit by the agitation that followed,
in order to escape to the three wags in the corner, who were enjoying
the scene, with the gravity of so many dervishes.
"As I live," cried Lucius Junius Brutus, "there is the author of a--
a--a--actually smoking a cigar!--How excessively _piquant!_"
"Do my eyes deceive me, or is not that the writer of e--e--e--
fumigating us all!" whispered Miss Annual.
"Nay, this cannot certainly be right," put in Florio, with a
dogmatical manner. "All the periodicals agree that smoking is
ungenteel in England."
"You never were more mistaken, dear Florio," replied D.O.V.E. in a
cooing tone. "The very last novel of society has a chapter in which
the hero and heroine smoke in the declaration scene."
"Do they, indeed!--That alters the case. Really, one would not wish
to get behind so great a nation, nor yet go much before it. Pray,
Captain Kant, what do your friends in Canada say; is, or is not
smoking permitted in good society there? the Canadians must, at
least, be ahead of us."
"Not at all, sir," returned the editor in his softest tones; "it is
revolutionary and jacobinical."
But the ladies prevailed, and, by a process that is rather peculiar
to what may be called a "credulous" state of society, they carried
the day. This process was simply to make one fiction authority for
another. The fact that smoking was now carried so far in England,
that the clergy actually used cigars in the pulpits, was affirmed on
the authority of Mr. Truck himself, and, coupled with his present
occupation, the point was deemed to be settled. Even Florio yielded,
and his plastic mind soon saw a thousand beauties in the usage, that
had hitherto escaped it. All the literati drew round the captain in a
circle, to enjoy the spectacle, though the honest old mariner
contrived to throw out such volumes of vapour as to keep them at a
safe distance. His four demure-looking neighbours got behind the
barrier of smoke, where they deemed themselves entrenched against the
assaults of sentimental petticoats, for a time, at least.
"Pray, Mr. Truck," inquired S.R.P., "is it commonly thought in the
English literary circles, that Byron was a developement of
Shakspeare, or Shakspeare a shadowing forth of Byron?"
"Both, marm," said the captain, with a coolness that would have done
credit to Aristabulus, for he had been fairly badgered into
impudence, profiting by the occasion to knock the ashes off his
cigar; "all incline to the first opinion, and most to the last."
"What finesse!" murmured one. "How delicate!" whispered a second. "A
dignified reserve!" ejaculated a third. "So English!" exclaimed
"Do you think, Mr. Truck," asked D.O.V.E. "that the profane songs of
Little have more pathos than the sacred songs of Moore; or that the
sacred songs of Moore have more sentiment than the profane songs of
"A good deal of both, marm, and something to spare. I think there is
little in one, and more in the other."
"Pray, sir," said J.R.P., "do you pronounce the name of Byron's lady-
love, Guy-kee-oh-_ly_, or, Gwy-ky-o-_lee_?"
"That depends on how the wind is. If on shore, I am apt to say 'oh-
lee;' and if off shore, 'oh-lie.'"
"That's capital!" cried Florio, in an extasy of admiration. "What man
in this country could have said as crack a thing as that?"
"Indeed it is very witty," added Miss Monthly--"what does it mean?"
"Mean! More than is seen or felt by common minds. Ah! the English are
truly a great nation!--How delightfully he smokes!"
"I think he is much the most interesting man we have had out here,"
observed Miss Annual, "since the last bust of Scott!"
"Ask him, dear D.O.V.E.," whispered Julietta, who was timid, from the
circumstance of never having published, "which he thinks the most
ecstatic feeling, hope or despair?"
The question was put by the more experienced lady, according to
request, though she first said, in a hurried tone, to her youthful
sister--"you can have felt but little, child, or you would know that
it is despair, as a matter of course."
The honest captain, however, did not treat the matter so lightly, for
he improved the opportunity to light a fresh cigar, throwing the
still smoking stump into Mrs. Legend's grate, through a lane of
literati, as he afterwards boasted, as coolly as he could have thrown
it overboard, under other circumstances. Luckily for his reputation
for sentiment, he mistook "ecstatic," a word he had never heard
before, for "erratic;" and recollecting sundry roving maniacs that he
had seen, he answered promptly--
"Despair, out and out."
"I knew it," said one.
"It's in nature," added a second.
"All can feel its truth," rejoined a third.
"This point may now be set down as established," cried Florio, "and I
hope no more will be said about it."
"This is encouragement to the searchers after truth," put in Captain
"Pray, Hon. and Rev. Mr. Truck," asked Lucius Junius Brutus, at the
joint suggestion of Junius Brutus and Brutus, "does the Princess
"If she did not, sir, where would be the use in being a princess. I
suppose you know that all the tobacco seized in England, after a
deduction to informers, goes to the crown."
"I object to this usage," remarked Captain Kant, "as irreligious,
French, and tending to _sans-culotteism_. I am willing to admit of
this distinguished instance as an exception; but on all other
grounds, I shall maintain that it savours of infidelity to smoke. The
Prussian government, much the best of our times, never smokes."
"This man thinks he has a monopoly of the puffing, himself," Pindar
whispered into the captain's ear; "whiff away, my dear sir, and
you'll soon throw him into the shade."
The captain winked, drew out his box, lighted another cigar, and, by
way of reply to the envious remark, he put one in each corner of his
mouth, and soon had both in full blast, a state in which he kept them
for near a minute.
"This is the very picturesque of social enjoyment," exclaimed Florio,
holding up both hands in a glow of rapture. "It is absolutely
Homeric, in the way of usages! Ah! the English are a great nation!"
"I should like to know excessively if there was really such a person
as Baron Mun-chaw-sen?" said Julietta, gathering courage from the
success of her last question.
"There was, Miss," returned the captain, through his teeth, and
nodding his head in the affirmative. "A regular traveller, that; and
one who knew him well, swore to me that he hadn't related one half of
what befel him."
"How very delightful to learn this from the highest quarter!"
exclaimed Miss Monthly.
"Is Gatty (Goethe) really dead?" inquired Longinus, "or, is the
account we have had to that effect, merely a metaphysical apotheosis
of his mighty soul?"
"Dead, marm--stone dead--dead as a door-nail," returned the captain,
who saw a relief in killing as many as possible.
"You have been in France, Mr. Truck, beyond question?" observed
Lucius Junius Brutus, in the way one puts a question.
"France!--I was in France before I was ten years old. I know every
foot of the coast, from Havre de Grace to Marseilles."
"Will you then have the goodness to explain to us whether the soul of
Chat-_to_-bri-_ong_ is more expanded than his reason, or his reason
more expanded than his soul?"
Captain Truck had a very tolerable notion of Baron Munchausen and of
his particular merits; but Chateaubriant was a writer of whom he knew
nothing. After pondering a moment, and feeling persuaded that a
confession of ignorance might undo him; for the old man had got to be
influenced by the atmosphere of the place; he answered coolly--
"Oh! Chat-_to_-bri-_ong_, is it you mean?--As whole-souled a fellow
as I know. All soul, sir, and lots of reason, besides."
"How simple and unaffected!"
"Crack!" exclaimed Florio.
"A thorough Jacobin!" growled Captain Kant, who was always offended
when any one but himself took liberties with the truth.
Here the four wags in the corner observed that head went to head in
the crowd, and that the rear rank of the company began to disappear,
while Mrs. Legend was in evident distress. In a few minutes, all the
Romans were off; Florio soon after vanished, grating his teeth in a
poetical frenzy; and even Captain Kant, albeit so used to look truth
in the face, beat a retreat. The alphabet followed, and even the
Annual and the Monthly retired, with leave-takings so solemn and
precise, that poor Mrs. Legend was in total despair.
Eve, foreseeing something unpleasant, had gone away first, and, in a
few minutes, Mr. Dodge, who had been very active in the crowd,
whispering and gesticulating, made his bow also. The envy of this man
had, in fact, become so intolerable, that he had let the cat out of
the bag. No one now remained but the party entrenched behind the
smoke, and the mistress of the house. Pindar solemnly proposed to the
captain that they should go and enjoy an oyster-supper, in company;
and, the proposal being cordially accepted, they rose in a body, to
"A most delightful evening, Mrs. Legend," said Pindar, with perfect
truth, "much the pleasantest I ever passed in a house, where one
passes so many that are agreeable."
"I cannot properly express my thanks for the obligation you have
conferred by making me acquainted with Mr. Truck," added Gray. "I
shall cultivate it as far as in my power, for a more capital fellow
"Really, Mrs. Legend, this has been a Byronic night!" observed Pith,
as he made his bow. "I shall long remember it, and I think it
deserves to be commemorated in verse"
Fun endeavoured to look sympathetic and sentimental, though the
spirit within could scarcely refrain from grinning in Mrs. Legend's
face. He stammered out a few compliments, however, and disappeared.
"Well, good night, marm," said Captain Truck, offering his hand
cordially. "This has been a pleasant evening, altogether, though it
was warm work at first. If you like ships, I should be glad to show
you the Montauk's cabins when we get back; and if you ever think of
Europe, let me recommend the London line as none of the worst. We'll
try to make you comfortable, and trust to me to choose a state-room,
a thing I am experienced in."
Not one of the wags laughed until they were fairly confronted with
the oysters. Then, indeed, they burst out into a general and long fit
of exuberant merriment, returning to it, between the courses from the
kitchen, like the _refrain_ of a song. Captain Truck, who was
uncommonly well satisfied with himself, did not understand the
meaning of all this boyishness, but he has often declared since, that
a heartier or a funnier set of fellows he never fell in with, than
his four companions proved to be that night.
As for the literary _soiree_, the most profound silence has been
maintained concerning it, neither of the wits there assembled having
seen fit to celebrate it in rhyme, and Florio having actually torn up
an impromptu for the occasion, that he had been all the previous day
"There is a history in all men's lives, Figuring the nature of the
times deceased, The which observed, a man may prophesy With a near
aim, of the main chance of things, As yet not come to life."
KING HENRY VI
The following morning the baronet breakfasted in Hudson Square. While
at table, little was said concerning the events of the past night,
though sundry smiles were exchanged, as eye met eye, and the
recollection of the mystification returned. Grace alone looked grave,
for she had been accustomed to consider Mrs. Legend a very
discriminating person, and she had even hoped that most of those who
usually figured in her rooms, were really the clever persons they
laid claim to be.