Part 2 out of 8
A girl of about sixteen, of decidedly pleasing appearance, and one who
bore a sufficient resemblance to old Mrs. Wetmore to be recognised,
advanced a step out of the group, a little eagerly, and then as suddenly
checked herself, with the timidity of her years and sex, as if afraid of
going too far.
"I am Kitty," she said, changing colour once or twice; now flushing and
now growing pale--"Is any thing the matter, sir--has grandmother sent
"Nothing is the matter, unless you can call _good news_ something the
matter. We have just left your grandmother's on business, having been up
to 'Squire Van Tassel's on her affairs; rather than let us go on foot, she
lent us her chaise, on condition that we should stop on our return and
bring you home with us. The chaise is the evidence that we act
In most countries, such a proposition would have excited distrust; in
America, and in that day, more especially among girls of the class of
Kitty Huguenin, it produced none. Then, I flatter myself, I was not a very
frightful object to a girl of that age, and that my countenance was not of
such a cast as absolutely to alarm her. Kitty, accordingly, wished her
companions hasty adieus, and in a minute she was placed between Marble and
myself, the old vehicle being sufficiently spacious to accommodate three.
I made my bows and away we trotted, or _ambled_ would be a better word.
For a brief space there was silence in the chaise, though I could detect
Marble stealing side-long glances at his pretty little niece. His eyes
were moist, and he hemmed violently once, and actually blew his nose,
taking occasion, at the same time, to pass his handkerchief over his
forehead, no less than three times in as many minutes. The furtive manner
in which he indulged in these feelings, provoked me to say--
"You appear to have a bad cold this evening, Mr. Wetmore," for I thought
the opportunity might also be improved, in the way of breaking ground with
"Ay, you know how it is in these matters, Miles--somehow, I scarce know
why myself, but somehow I feel bloody womanish this evening."
I felt little Kitty pressing closer to my side, as if she had certain
misgivings touching her other neighbour.
"I suppose you are surprised, Miss Kitty," I resumed, "at finding two
strangers in your grandmother's chaise?"
"I did not expect it--but--you said you had been to Mr. Van Tassel's, and
that there was good news for me--does 'Squire Van Tassel allow that
grandfather paid him the money?"
"Not that exactly, but you have friends who will see that no wrong shall
be done you. I suppose you have been afraid your grandmother and yourself
might be turned away from the old place?"
"'Squire Van Tassel's daughters have boasted as much,"--answered Kitty, in
a very subdued tone--a voice, indeed, that grew lower and more tremulous
as she proceeded--"but I don't much mind _them_, for they think their
father is to own the whole country one of these days." This was uttered
with spirit. "But the old house was built by grandmother's grandfather,
they say, and grandmother was born in it, and mother was born in it, and
so was I. It is hard to leave a place like that, sir, and for a debt, too,
that grandmother says she is sure has once been paid."
"Ay, bloody hard!" growled Marble.
Kitty again pressed nearer to me, or, to speak more properly, farther from
the mate, whose countenance was particularity grim just at that moment.
"All that you say is very true, Kitty," I replied; "but Providence has
sent you friends to take care that no wrong shall be done your
grandmother, or yourself."
"You're right enough in that, Miles," put in the mate. "God bless the old
lady; she shall never sleep out of the house, with my consent, unless it
is when she sails down the river to go to the theatre, and the museum, the
ten or fifteen Dutch churches there are in town, and all them 'ere sort o'
Kitty gazed at her left-hand neighbour with surprise, but I could feel
that maiden bashfulness induced her to press less closely to my side than
she had done the minute before.
"I don't understand you," Kitty answered, after a short pause, during
which she was doubtless endeavouring to comprehend what she had heard.
"Grandmother has no wish to go to town; she only wants to pass the rest of
her days, quietly, at the old place, and one church is enough
Had the little girl lived a few years later, she would have ascertained
that some persons require half-a-dozen.
"And you, Kitty, do you suppose your grandmother has no thought for you,
when she shall be called away herself?
"Oh! yes--I know she thinks a good deal of _that_, but I try to set her
heart at ease, poor, dear, old grandmother, for it's of no use to be
distressing herself about _me_! I can take care of myself well enough, and
have plenty of friends who will never see me want. Father's sisters say
they'll take care of _me_."
"You have one friend, Kitty, of whom you little think, just now, and he
will provide for you."
"I don't know whom you mean, sir--unless--and yet you can't suppose I
never think of God, sir?"
"I mean a friend on earth--have you no friend on earth, whom you have not
"I am not sure--perhaps--you do not mean Horace Bright, do you, sir?"
This was said with a bright blush, and a look in which the dawning
consciousness of maiden shame was so singuarly blended with almost
childish innocence, as both to delight me, and yet cause me to smile.
"And who is Horace Bright?" I asked, assuming as grave an air as possible.
"Oh! Horace is nobody--only the son of one of our neighbours. There, don't
you see the old stone house that stands among the apple and cherry trees,
on the banks of the river, just here in a line with this barn?"
"Quite plainly; and a very pretty place it is. We were admiring it as we
drove up the road."
"Well, that is Horace Bright's father's; and one of the best farms in the
neighbourhood. But you mustn't mind what _he_ says, grandmother always
tells me; boys love to talk grandly, and all the folks about here feel for
us, though most of them are afraid of 'Squire Van Tassel, too."
"I place no reliance at all on Horace's talk--not I. It is just as your
grandmother tells you; boys are fond of making a parade, and often utter
things they don't mean."
"Well, I don't think that is Horace's way, in the least; though I wouldn't
have you suppose I ever think, the least in the world, about what Horace
says concerning my never being left to want. My own aunts will take care
"And should they fail you, my dear," cried Marble, with strong feeling,
"your own _uncle_ would step into their places, without waiting to have
his memory jogged."
Again Kitty looked surprised, a very little startled, and again she
pressed to my side.
"I have no uncle," she answered, timidly. "Father never had a brother, and
grandmother's son is dead."
"No, Kitty," I said, giving a look at Marble to keep him quiet; "in the
last you are mistaken. This is the good news of which we spoke. Your
grandmother's son is not dead, but living, and in good health. He is
found, acknowledged, has passed the afternoon with your grandmother, has
money more than enough to satisfy even the unjust demand of the miserly
Van Tassel, and will be a father to _you_."
"Oh! dear me--can this be true!" exclaimed Kitty, pressing still closer
than ever to my side. "And are _you_ uncle after all, and will it all come
out as you say? Poor, poor grandmother, and I not at home to hear it all,
and to help her under such a great trial!"
"Your grandmother was a little distressed of course, at first, but she
bore it all remarkably well, and is as happy at this moment, as you
yourself could wish her to be. You are under a mistake, however, in
supposing I am your uncle--do I look old enough to be your
"Dear me, no--I might have seen that, hadn't I been so silly--can it be
this other gentleman?"
Here Marble took his hint from nature, and clasping the pretty young
creature in his arms, he kissed her with an affection and warmth that were
truly paternal. Poor Kitty was frightened at first, and I dare say, like
her grandmother in a slight degree disappointed; but there was so much
heartiness in the mate's manner, that it reassured her in degree.
"I'm a bloody poor uncle, I know, Kitty, for a young woman like you to
own," Marble got out, though sorely tempted to blubber; "but there's worse
in the world, as you'll discover, no doubt, in time. Such as I am, you
must take me, and, from this time henceforth, do not care a strap for old
Van Tassel, or any other griping vagabond like him in York state."
"Uncle is a sailor!" Kitty answered, after being fairly released from the
mate's rough embrace. "Grandmother heard once that he was a soldier."
"Ay, that comes of lying. I don't think they could have made a soldier of
me, had two wicked nurses run away with me, and had they placed me on
fifty tombstones, by way of commencing life. My natur' would revolt at
carrying a musket, for sartain, while the seas have always been a sort of
home to me."
Kitty made no answer to this, being a little in doubt, I believe, as to
the manner in which she was to regard this new acquisition of an uncle.
"Your grand-parents did suppose your uncle a soldier," I remarked, "but,
after the man was seen the mistake was discovered, and now the truth has
come out in a way that will admit of no dispute."
"How is uncle named?" demanded the niece, in a low voice, and a hesitating
manner. "Mother's brother was christened Oloff, I have heard
"Very true, dear; we've been all over that, the old lady and I. They tell
me, too, I was christened by the name of Moses--I suppose you know who
Moses was, child?"
"To be sure, uncle!" said Kitty, with a little laugh of surprise. "He was
the great law-maker of the Jews."
"Ha, Miles, is that so?"
I nodded assent.
"And do you know about his being found in the bulrushes, and the story of
the king of Ethiopia's daughter?"
"The king of Egypt, you mean, do you not, uncle Oloff?" cried Kitty, with
another little laugh.
"Well, Ethiopia or Egypt; it's all pretty much the same--this girl has
been wonderfully edicated, Miles, and will turn out famous company for me,
in the long winter evenings, some twenty years hence, or when I've worked
my way up into the latitude of the dear, good, old soul under the
A slight exclamation from Kitty was followed by a blush, and a change of
expression, that showed she was thinking, just at that moment, of anything
but uncle Oloff. I asked an explanation.
"It's _only_ Horace Bright, out yonder in the orchard, looking at us. He
will be puzzled to know who is with me, here, in the old chaise. Horace
thinks he can drive a horse better than any one about here, so you must be
careful how you hold the reins, or use the whip.--Horace!"
This boded no good to Marble's plans for passing the evenings of his old
age with Kitty to amuse him; but, as we were now on the brow of the hill,
with the cottage in sight, Horace Bright was soon lost to view. To do the
girl justice, she appeared now to think only of her grandmother, and of
the effects the recent discovery of her son would be likely to produce on
one of her years and infirmities. As for myself, I was surprised to see
Mr. Hardinge in earnest conversation with old Mrs. Wetmore, both seated on
the stoop of the cottage, in the mild summer's evening, and Lucy walking,
to and fro, on the short grass of the willow bottom, with an impatience
and restlessness of manner it was very unusual for her to exhibit. No
sooner was Kitty alighted, than she ran to her grandmother, Marble
following, while I hastened to the point where was to be found the great
object of my interest. Lucy's face was full of feeling and concern, and
she received me with an extended hand that, gracious as was the act
itself, and most grateful as it would have proved to me under other
circumstances, I now feared boded no good.
"Miles, you have been absent an age!" Lucy commenced. "I should be
disposed to reproach you, had not the extraordinary story of this good old
woman explained it all. I feel the want of air and exercise; give me your
arm, and we will walk a short distance up the road. My dear father will
not be inclined to quit that happy family, so long as any light is left."
I gave Lucy my arm, and we did walk up the road together, actually
ascending the hill I had just descended; but all this did not induce me to
overlook the fact that Lucy's manner was hurried and excited. The whole
seemed so inexplicable, that I thought I would wait her own pleasure in
"Your friend, Marble," she continued--"I do not know why I ought not to
say _our_ friend, Marble, must be a very happy man at having, at length,
discovered who his parents are, and to have discovered them to be so
respectable and worthy of his affection."
"As yet, he seems to be more bewildered than happy, as, indeed, does the
whole family. The thing has come on them so unexpectedly, that there has
not been time to bring their feelings in harmony with the facts."
"Family affection is a blessed thing, Miles," Lucy resumed, after a short
pause, speaking in her thoughtful manner; "there is little in this world
that can compensate for its loss. It must have been sad, sad, to the poor
fellow to have lived so long without father, mother, sister, brother or
any other known relative."
"I believe Marble found it so; yet, I think, he felt the supposed disgrace
of his birth more than his solitary condition. The man has warm
affections at the bottom, though he has a most uncouth manner of making
"I am surprised one so circumstanced never thought of marrying; he might,
at least, have lived in the bosom of his own family, though he never knew
that of a father."
"These are the suggestions of a tender and devoted female heart, dear
Lucy; but, what has a sailor to do with a wife? I have heard it said Sir
John Jervis--the present Lord St. Vincent--always declared a married
seaman, a seaman spoiled; and I believe Marble loves a ship so well he
would hardly know how to love a woman."
Lucy made no answer to this indiscreet and foolish speech. Why it was
made, I scarce knew myself; but the heart has its bitter moods, when it
prompts sentiments and declarations that are very little in accordance
with its real impulses. I was so much ashamed of what I had just said,
and, in truth, so much frightened, that, instead of attempting to laugh it
off, as a silly, unmeaning opinion, or endeavouring to explain that this
was not my own way of thinking, I walked on some distance in silence,
myself, and suffered my companion to imitate me in this particular. I have
since had reason to think that Lucy was not pleased at my manner of
treating the subject, though, blessed creature! she had another matter to
communicate, that lay too heavy on her heart, to allow one of her
generous, disinterested nature to think much of anything else.
"Miles," Lucy, at length, broke the silence, by saying--"I wish, I _do_
wish we had not met that other sloop this morning."
I stopped short in the highway, dropped my beautiful companion's arm, and
stood gazing intently in her face, as if I would read her most inmost
thoughts through those windows of the soul, her serene, mild, tender, blue
eyes. I saw that the face was colourless, and that the beautiful lips, out
of which the words that had alarmed me more by their accents than their
direct signification, were quivering in a way that their lovely mistress
could not control. Tears, as large as heavy drops of rain, too, were
trembling on the long silken eye-lashes, while the very attitude of the
precious girl denoted hopelessness and grief!
"This relates to Grace!" I exclaimed, though my throat was so parched, as
almost to choke my utterance.
"Whom, or what else, can now occupy our minds, Miles; I can scarce think
of anything but Grace; when I do, it is to remember that my own brother
has killed her!"
What answer could I have made to such a speech, had my mind been
sufficiently at ease as respects my sister to think of anything else? As
it was, I did not even attempt the vain office of saying anything in the
way of alleviating my companion's keen sense of the misconduct of Rupert.
"Grace is then worse in consequence of this unhappy rencontre?" I
observed, rather than asked.
"Oh! Miles; what a conversation I have had with her, this afternoon! She
speaks, already, more like a being that belongs to the regions of the
blessed, than like one of earth! There is no longer any secret between us.
She would gladly have avoided telling me her precise situation with
Rupert, but we had already gone so far, I would know more. I thought it
might relieve her mind; and there was the chance, however slight, of its
enabling us to suggest some expedient to produce still further good. I
think it has had some of the first effect, for she is now sleeping."
"Did Grace say anything of your communicating the miserable tale to me?"
"It is, indeed, a miserable tale! Miles, they were engaged from the time
Grace was fifteen! Engaged distinctly, and in terms, I mean; not by any of
the implied understandings, by which those who were so intimate,
generally, might believe themselves bound to each other."
"And in what manner did so early and long-continued an engagement cease?"
"It came from Rupert, who should have died first, before he was so untrue
to himself, to my poor father, to me, to all of us, Miles, as well as to
his own manhood. It has been as we supposed; he has been deluded by the
eclat that attaches to these Mertons in our provincial society; and Emily
is rather a showy girl, you know,--at least for those who are accustomed
only to our simple habits."
Alas! little did Lucy _then_ know--she has learned better since--that
"showy" girls belong much more to our "simple" state of society, than to
the state of those which are commonly conceived to be more advanced. But
Emily Merton was, in a slight degree, more artificial in manner, than it
was usual for a Manhattanese female of that day, to be, and this was what
Lucy meant; Lucy, who always thought so humbly of herself, and was ever so
ready to concede to her rivals all that could plausibly be asked in
"I am well aware how much importance the leading set among ourselves
attaches to English connection, and English rank," I answered; "but, it
does not strike me Emily Merton is of a class so elevated, that Rupert
Hardinge need break his faith, in order to reap the advantage of belonging
to her, or her family."
"It cannot be altogether that, Miles," Lucy added, in an appealing, but
touchingly confidential manner, "you and I have known each other from
children, and, whatever may be the weaknesses of one who is so dear to me,
and who, I hope, has not altogether lost his hold on your own affections,
_we_ can still rely on each other. I shall speak to you with the utmost
dependence on your friendship, and a reliance on your heart that is not
second to that which I place on my dear father's; for this is a subject on
which there ought to be no concealment between _us_. It is impossible that
one as manly, as upright, as honest I will say, as yourself, can have
lived so long in close intimacy with Rupert, and not be aware that he has
marked defects of character."
"I have long known that he is capricious," I answered, unwilling to be
severe on the faults of Lucy's brother, to Lucy's own ear; "perhaps I
might add, that I have known he pays too much attention to fashion, and
the opinions of fashionable people."
"Nay, as _we_ cannot deceive ourselves, let us not attempt the ungrateful
task of endeavouring to deceive each other," that true-hearted girl
replied, though she said this with so great an effort, that I was
compelled to listen attentively to catch all she uttered. "Rupert has
failings worse than these. He is mercenary; nor is he always a man of
truth. Heaven knows, how I have wept over these defects of character, and
the pain they have given me from childhood! But, my dear, dear father
overlooks them all--or, rather, seeing them, he hopes all things; it is
hard for a parent to believe a child irreclaimable."
I was unwilling to let Lucy say any more on this subject, for her voice,
her countenance, I might almost say her whole figure showed how much it
cost her to say even this much of Rupert. I had long known that Lucy did
not respect her brother as much as she could wish; but this was never
before betrayed to me in words, nor in any other manner, indeed, that
would not have eluded the observation of one who knew the parties less
thoroughly than myself. I could perceive that she felt the awful
consequences she foresaw from her brother's conduct gave me a claim on her
sincerity, and that she was suffering martyrdom, in order to do all that
lay in her own power to lessen the force of the blow that unworthy
relative had inflicted. It would have been ungenerous in me to suffer such
a sacrifice to continue a moment longer than was necessary.
"Spare yourself, and me, dearest Lucy," I eagerly said, "all explanations
but those which are necessary to let me know the exact state of my
sister's case. I confess, I could wish to understand, however, the manner
in which Rupert has contrived to explain away an engagement that has
lasted four years, and which must have been the source of so much innocent
confidence between Grace and himself."
"I was coming to that, Miles; and when you know it, you will know all.
Grace has felt his attentions to Emily Merton, for a long time; but there
never was a verbal explanation between them until just before she left
town. Then she felt it due to herself to know the truth; and, after a
conversation which was not very particular, your sister offered to release
Rupert from his engagement, did he in the least desire it."
"And what answer did he make to a proposal that was as generous as it was
"I must do Grace the justice to say, Miles, that, in all she said, she
used the utmost tenderness towards my brother. Still, I could not but
gather the substance of what passed. Rupert, at first, affected to believe
that Grace, herself, wished to break the engagement; but, in this, you
well know, her ingenuous simplicity would not permit him to succeed. She
did not attempt to conceal how deeply she should feel the change in her
situation, and how much it might influence her future happiness."
"Ay, that was like both of them--like Rupert, and like Grace," I muttered,
Lucy continued silent an instant, apparently to allow me to regain my
self-command; then she continued--
"When Rupert found that the responsibility of the rupture must rest on
him, he spoke more sincerely. He owned to Grace that his views had
changed; said they were both too young to contract themselves when they
did, and that he had made an engagement to marry, at a time when he was
unfit to bind himself to so solemn a contract--said something about
minors, and concluded by speaking of his poverty and total inability to
support a wife, now that Mrs. Bradfort had left me the whole of her
"And this is the man who wishes to make the world believe that he is the
true heir!--nay, who told me, himself, that he considers you as only a
sort of trustee, to hold half, or two-thirds of the estate, until he has
had leisure to sow his wild oats!"
"I know he has encouraged such notions, Miles," Lucy answered, in a low
voice; "how gladly would I realize his hopes, if things could be placed
where we once thought they were! Every dollar of Mrs. Bradfort's fortune
would I relinquish with joy, to see Grace happy, or Rupert honest."
"I am afraid we shall never see the first, Lucy, in this evil world at
"I have never wished for this engagement, since I have been old enough to
judge of my brother's true character. He would ever have been too fickle,
and of principles too light, to satisfy Grace's heart, or her judgment.
There may have been some truth in his plea that the engagement was too
early and inconsiderately made. Persons so young can hardly know what
will, or what will not be necessary to their own characters, a few years
later. As it is, even Grace would now refuse to marry Rupert. She owned to
me, that the heaviest part of the blow was being undeceived in relation to
his character. I spoke to her with greater freedom than a sister ought to
have used, perhaps, but I wished to arouse her pride, as the means of
saving her. Alas! Grace is all affections, and those once withered, I
fear, Miles, the rest of her being will go with them."
I made no answer to this prophetic remark, Lucy's visit to the shore, her
manner, and all that she had said, convincing me that she had, in a great
degree, taken leave of hope. We conversed some time longer, returning
toward the cottage; but there was nothing further to communicate, that it
is necessary to record. Neither of us thought of self, and I would as soon
have attempted to desecrate a church, as attempt to obtain any influence
over Lucy, in my own behalf, at such a moment. All my feelings reverted to
my poor sister again, and I was dying with impatience to return to the
sloop, whither, indeed, it was time to repair, the sun having some time
before disappeared, while even the twilight was drawing to a close.
"The serpent of the field, by art
And spells, is won from harming,
But that which coils around the heart,
Oh! who hath power of charming?"
It was not easy to make Mr. Hardinge a sharer in my impatience. He had
taken a fancy to Marble, and was as much rejoiced at this accidental
discovery of the mate's parentage, as if he had been one of the family
himself. With such feelings, therefore, I had a good deal of difficulty in
getting him away. I asked Marble to go off with me, it being understood
that he was to be landed again, in order to pass the first night of his
recognition under his mother's roof. To this scheme, however, he raised an
objection, as soon as told it was my intention to go down the river as far
as New York, in quest of further medical advice, insisting on accompanying
me, in order to obtain the thousand dollars with which to face 'Squire Van
Tassel, or, at least, his mortgage sale. Accordingly, there were
leave-takings, and about eight we were all on board the sloop.
I did not see, nor did I ask to see, my sister again, that night. I had
not seen her, indeed, since the moment Rupert was discovered in company
with the Mertons; and, to own the truth, I felt afraid to see her,
knowing, as I did, how much her frame was apt to be affected by her mind.
It appeared to me there remained but the single duty to perform, that of
getting below as fast as possible, in order to obtain the needed medical
aid. It is true, we possessed Post's written instructions, and knew his
opinion that the chief thing was to divert Grace's thoughts from dwelling
on the great cause of her malady; but, now he had left us, it seemed as if
I should neglect a most sacred duty, did I delay obtaining some other
The tide turned at nine, and we got immediately under way, with a light
south-west wind. As for Marble, ignorant as Mr. Hardinge himself of the
true condition of my sister, he determined to celebrate his recent
discoveries by a supper. I was about to object to the project, on account
of Grace, but Lucy begged me to let him have his way; such _convives_ as
my late guardian and my own mate were not likely to be very boisterous;
and she fancied that the conversation, or such parts of it as should be
heard through the bulk-head, might serve to divert the invalid's mind from
dwelling too intently on the accidental rencontre of the morning. The
scheme was consequently carried out; and, in the course of an hour, the
cabins of the Wallingford presented a singular spectacle. In her berth was
Grace, patiently and sweetly lending herself to her friend's wish to seem
to listen to her own account of the reason of the mate's _festa_, and to
be amused by his sallies; Lucy, all care and attention for her patient, as
I could discover through the open door of the after-cabin, while she
endeavoured to appear to enter into the business that was going on at the
table, actually taking wine with the mate, and drinking to the happiness
of his newly-found relatives; Mr. Hardinge, over-flowing with
philanthropy, and so much engrossed with his companion's good fortune as
not to think of aught else at the moment; Marble, himself, becoming
gradually more under the influence of his new situation, as his feelings
had time to gather force and take their natural direction; while I was
compelled to wear the semblance of joining in his festivities, at an
instant when my whole soul was engrossed with anxiety on behalf of Grace.
"This milk is just the richest and best that ever came on board a vessel!"
exclaimed the mate, as he was about to wind up his own share of the repast
with a cup of coffee--"and as for butter, I can say I never tasted the
article before. Little Kitty brought both down to the boat with her own
hands, and that makes them so much the sweeter, too, for, if anything can
add to the excellence of eatables, it is to have them pass through the
hands of one's own relations. I dare say, Mr. Hardinge, now, you have
verified this, time and again, in your own experience?"
"In feeling, my friend; in feeling, often, though little in practice, in
the sense that you mean. My family has been my congregation, unless,
indeed, Miles here, and his beloved sister, can be added to my own
children in fact, as they certainly are in affection. But, I can
understand how butter made by the hands of one's own mother, or by those
of such a pretty niece as your Kitty, would taste all the sweeter."
"It's such a providential thing, as you call it, to find _such_ a mother
in the bargain! Now I might have discovered a slattern, or a scold, or a
woman of bad character; or one that never went to church; or even one that
swore and drank; for, begging your pardon, Miss Lucy, just such creatur's
are to be met with; whereas, instead of any of these disagreeable
recommendations, I've fallen in with an A. No. 1. mother; ay, and such an
old lady as the king of England, himself, need not be ashamed to own.[A] I
felt a strong desire, Mr. Hardinge, to get down on my knees, and to ask
the dear, good old soul, just to say, 'God bless you, my dear son, Moses,
Van Duzer, or Oloff, whatever your name may be.'"
[Footnote 2: In that day, all allusions to royalty were confined to the
Majesty of Great Britain; it being no uncommon thing, at the
commencement of this century, to hear "_The_ King" toasted at many of
the best tables of the country.]
"And if you had, Mr. Marble, you would not have been any the worse for it.
Such feelings do you honour, and no man need be ashamed of desiring to
receive a parent's blessing."
"I suppose now, my dear sir," added Marble, innocently, "that is what is
called having a religious turn? I've often foreseen, that religion would
fetch me up, in the long run; and now that I am altogether relieved from
bitterness of heart on the subject of belonging to none, and no one's
belonging to me, my sentiments have undergone a great alteration, and I
feel a wish to be at peace with the whole human family--no, not with the
_whole_; I except that rascally old Van Tassel."
"You must except no one--we are told to 'love those that hate us, to bless
those that curse us, and to pray for those that despitefully use us.'"
Marble stared at Mr. Hardinge; for, to own the truth, it would have been
difficult, in a Christian land, to meet with one of his years who had less
religious instruction than himself. It is quite probable that these
familiar mandates had never been heard by him before; but I could see that
he was a little struck with the profound morality that pervaded them; a
morality to which no human heart appears to be so insensible as not in
secret to acknowledge its sublimity. Still he doubted.
"Where are we told to do this, my dear sir?" demanded Marble, after
looking intently at the rector for a moment.
"Where? why, where we get all our divine precept and inspired morality,
the bible. You must come to wish this Mr. Van Tassel good, instead of
evil; try to love, instead of hating him."
"Is that religion?" demanded the mate, in his most dogmatical and
"It is Christianity--its spirit, its very essence; without which the heart
cannot be right, let the tongue proclaim what delusion it may."
Marble had imbibed a sincere respect for my late guardian, equally from
what he had heard me say in his favour and what he had seen himself, of
his benevolent feelings kind-hearted morality, and excellent sense.
Nevertheless, it was not an easy matter to teach a being like Marble the
lesson that he was to do good to those who used him despitefully; and just
at that moment he was in a frame of mind to do almost anything else,
sooner than pardon Van Tassel. All this I could see, understanding the man
so well and, in order to prevent a useless discussion that might disturb
my sister, I managed to change the discourse before it was too late; I say
too late, because it is not easy to shake off two moralists who sustain
their doctrines as strongly as Mr. Hardinge and my mate.
"I am glad the name of this Mr. Van Tassel has been mentioned," I
observed, "as it may be well to have your advice, sir, concerning our best
mode of proceeding in his affair."
I then related to Mr. Hardinge the history of the mortgage, and the
necessity there was for promptitude, inasmuch as the sale was advertised
for the ensuing week. My late guardian was better acquainted with the
country, up the river, than I was myself; and it was fortunate the subject
was broached, as he soon convinced me the only course to be pursued was to
put Marble ashore at Hudson, where, if too late for the regular stage, he
might obtain some other conveyance, and proceed to town by land. This
would barely leave him time to transact all the necessary business, and to
be back in season to prevent the title to the Willow Cove from passing
into the usurer's grasp. As was usual with Mr. Hardinge, he entered into
this, as into every good work, heart and hand, and immediately set about
writing directions for Marble's government when he got ashore. This put in
end to the banquet, and glad was I to see the table removed, and the other
signs of a tranquil night reappear.
It was twelve before the sloop was as low as Hudson, and I saw by our rate
of sailing, that, indeed, there was little prospect of her reaching New
York in time for Marble's necessities. He was landed, therefore, and Mr.
Hardinge and myself accompanied him to the stage-house, where we
ascertained that the next morning after breakfast he would be enabled to
get into the stage, which would reach town in the evening of the
succeeding day. But this was altogether too slow for Marble's impatience.
He insisted on procuring a private conveyance, and we saw him drive out of
the long street that then composed most of the city of Hudson, at a
slapping pace, about one o'clock in the morning. This important duty
discharged, Mr. Hardinge and I returned to the sloop in which Neb had been
standing off and on, in waiting for us, and again made sail down the
river. When I turned in, the Wallingford was getting along at the rate of
about five miles the hour; the wind having freshened, and come out at the
westward, a quarter that just enabled her to lay her course.
The reader will easily imagine I did not oversleep myself the following
morning. My uneasiness was so great, indeed, that I dreamed of the
dreadful accident which had produced my father's death, and then fancied
that I saw him, my mother, and Grace, all interred at the same time, and
in the same grave. Fortunately, the wind stood at the west, and the sloop
was already within twenty miles of the creek at Clawbonny, when I got on
deck. All was quiet in the after-cabin; and, Mr. Hardinge still continuing
in his berth, I went out to breathe the fresh morning air, without
speaking to any below. There was no one on the quarter-deck but the pilot,
who was at the helm; though I saw a pair of legs beneath the boom, close
in with the mast, that I knew to be Neb's, and a neat, dark petticoat that
I felt certain must belong to Chloe. I approached the spot, in tending to
question the former on the subject of the weather during his watch; but,
just as about to hail him, I heard the young lady say, in a more animated
tone than was discreet for the character of the conversation--
"No, _nebber_, sah--_nebber_, widout de apperbation of my modder and de
whole famerly. Mattermony a berry differ t'ing, Neb, from what you
surposes. Now, many a young nigger gentleman imagine dat he has only to
coax his gal to say 'yes,' and den dey goes to de clergy and stands up for
de blessin', and imagines all right for de futur', and for de present
time, all which is just a derlusion and a derception. No, sah; mattermony
a berry differ t'ing from _dat,_ as any old lady can tell you. De fuss
t'ing in mattermony, is to hab a _consent_."
"Well, Chloe, and hab'n't I had dis berry consent from you, now for most
"Ay, dat not de consent I surposes. You wouldn't t'ink, Neb, ongrateful
feller, to get marry, widout first askin' do consent of Masser Mile, I
_do_ surpose! You, who has been his own waiter so long, and has gone to
sea wid him so often; and has saved his life; and has helped kill so many
hateful saverges; and has been on a desert conternent wid him."
"I nebber told you dat, Chloe--I said on an island."
"Well, what's the differ? You cannot tell me anyt'ing of edercation, Neb;
for I hab hear Miss Grace and Miss Lucy say deir lesson so often, dat I
sometime surposes I can say 'em all, one by one, almost as well as my
young lady, 'emselves. No, Neb; on _dat_ subjeck better be silent. You
been much too busy, ebber to be edercated; and, if I _do_ marry you,
remember I now tell you, I shall not enter into mattermony wid you on
account of any edercation you hab."
"All Clawbonny say dat we can make as good a couple, Chloe, as ebber stood
"All Clawbonny don't know much of mattermony, Neb. People talks
inderskrimernaterly, and doesn't know what dey says, too often. In de fuss
place my modder, my own born modder, upposes our uner, and dat is a great
differculty to begin wid. When a born modder upposes, a darter ought to
t'ink sebberal time."
"Let me speak to Masser Mile; he'll fetch up her objeckshun wid a round
"What dat, Neb?"
"It mean Masser will _order_ her to consent."
"Dat nebber saterfy my conscience, Neb. We be nigger dat true; but no
Clawbonny master ebber tell a Clawbonny slabe to get marry, or not to get
marry, as he choose. Dat would be intollabull, and not to be supported!
No; mattermony is religion; and religion free. No colour' young lady hab
vergin affeckshun, to t'row 'em away on just whom her masser say. But,
Neb, dere one odder differculty to our uner dat I don't know--sometime, I
feel awful about it!"
As Chloe now spoke naturally, for the first time. Neb was evidently
startled; and I had sufficient amusement, and sufficient curiosity, to
remain stationary in order to hear what this new obstacle might be. The
voice of the negress was music itself; almost as sweet as Lucy's; and I
was struck with a slight tremor that pervaded it, as she so suddenly put
an end to all her own affectation of sentiment, and nipped her airs and
graces, as it might be, in the bud.
"Nebber talk to me of mattermony, Neb," Chloe continued, almost sobbing as
she spoke, "while Miss Grace be in dis berry bad way! It hard enough to
see her look so pale and melercholy, widout t'inking of becomin' a wife."
"Miss Grace will grow better, now Masser Mile carry her on de water. If he
only take her to sea, she get so fat and hearty, no libbin' wid her!"
Chloe did not acquiesce in this opinion; she rather insisted that "Miss
Grace" was altogether too delicate and refined a person to live in a ship.
But the circumstance that struck me with the greatest force, in this
characteristic dialogue, was the fact that Chloe betrayed to me the
consciousness of the cause of my sister's indisposition; while true to her
sex's instincts, and faithful to her duty, the girl completely concealed
it from her lover. I was also oppressively struck with the melancholy
forebodings that appeared in Chloe's manner, rather than in her words, and
which made it apparent that she doubted of her young mistress's recovery.
She concluded the conversation by saying--
"No, no, Neb--don't talk to me of mattermony while Miss Grace so ill; and
if any t'ing _should_ happen, you need nebber talk to me of it, at _all_.
I could nebber t'ink of any uner (union) should anyt'ing happen to Miss
Grace. Lub (love) will die forebber in de family, when Miss Grace die!"
I turned away, at this speech, the tears starting to my eyes, and saw Lucy
standing in the companion-way. She was waiting to speak to me, and no
sooner caught my eye, than beckoning me to her side, she let me know that
my sister desired to see me. Erasing every sign of emotion as soon as
possible, I descended with Lucy, and was soon at the side of my
Grace received me with an angelic smile; but, I almost gasped for breath
as I noticed the prodigious change that had come over her in so brief a
space. She now looked more like a being of another world than ever; and
this, too, immediately after coming from the refreshment of a night's
rest. I kissed her forehead, which had an unnatural chill on it, I
thought; and I felt the feeble pressure of an arm that was thrown
affectionately round my neck. I then sat down on the transom, still
holding my sister's hand. Grace looked anxiously at me for half a minute,
ere she spoke, as if to ascertain how far I was conscious of her
"Lucy tells me, brother," she at length said, "that you think of carrying
me down the river, as far as town, in order to get further advice. I hope
this is a mistake of our dear Lucy's, however?"
"It is not, Grace. If the wind stand here at the westward, I hope to have
you in Lucy's own house in Wall street, by to-morrow evening. I know she
will receive you hospitably, and have ventured to form the plan without
consulting you on the subject."
"Better that I should be at Clawbonny--if anything can now do me good,
brother, it will be native air, and pure country air. Hearken to my
request, and stop at the creek."
"Your serious request, Grace, will be a law to me, if made on due
reflection. This growing feebleness, however, alarms me; and I cannot
justify it to myself not to send for advice."
"Remember, Miles, it is not yet twenty-four hours since one of the ablest
men of the country saw me. We have his written instructions; and, all that
man can do for me, they will do for me. No, brother; listen to my
entreaties, and go into the creek. I pine, I pine to be again at dear
Clawbonny, where alone I can enjoy anything like peace of body or mind.
This vessel is unsuited to me; I cannot think of a future, or pray in it.
Brother, _dearest_ brother, carry me home, if you love me!"
There was no resisting such an appeal. I went on deck with a heavy heart,
and gave the necessary orders to the pilot; and, in about eight-and-forty
hours after we emerged into the Hudson, we left that noble stream again,
to shoot beneath the shaded, leafy banks of our own inlet. Grace was so
feeble as to be carried to the chaise, in which she was supported by Lucy,
during the short drive to the house. When I reached my own dwelling, I
found Mr. Hardinge pacing the little portico, or piazza, waiting for my
arrival, with an uneasiness of manner that at once proclaimed his anxiety
to see me. He had driven the horse of the chaise, and had imbibed a first
impression of Grace's danger.
"Miles, my dear boy--my second son"--the simple-hearted, excellent old
man commenced; "Miles, my dear boy, the hand of God has been laid heavily
on us--your beloved sister, my own precious Grace, is far more ill than I
had any idea of, before this morning."
"She is in the hands of her merciful Creator," I said, struggling to
command myself, "who, I greatly fear, is about to call her from a world
that is not good enough for one so innocent and pure, to take her to
himself. I have foreseen this from the hour I first met her, after my
return; though a single ray of hope dawned on me, when Post advised the
change of scene. So far from producing good, this excursion has produced
evil; and she is much worse than when we left home."
"Such short-sighted mortals are we!--But what can we do, my boy?--I
confess my judgment, my faculties themselves, are nearly annihilated by
the suddenness of this shock. I had supposed her illness some trifling
complaint that youth and care would certainly remove; and here we stand,
as it might be, at the call of the trumpet's blast, almost around
"I am most anxious to lean on your wisdom and experience, my dear sir, at
this critical moment; if you will advise, I shall be happy to follow your
"We must lean on God, Miles," answered my worthy guardian, still pacing
the piazza, the tears running down his cheeks in streams, and speaking so
huskily as barely to be intelligible; "yes, we will have the prayers of
the congregation next Sunday morning; and most devout and heartfelt
prayers they will be; for her own sainted mother was not more deservedly
loved! To be called away so young--to die in the first bloom of youth and
loveliness, as it were--but, it is to go to her God! We must endeavour to
think of her gain--to rejoice over, rather than mourn her loss."
"I grieve to perceive that you regard my sister's case as so entirely
"Hopeless!--It is full of the brightest promise; and when I come to look
calmly at it, my reason tells me I ought not to grieve. Still, Miles, the
loss of Lucy, herself, would scarce be a more severe blow to me. I have
loved her from childhood, cared for her as for one of my own, and feel
the same love for her that I should feel for a second daughter. Your
parents were dear to me, and their children have always appeared to me to
belong to my own blood. Had I not been your guardian, boy, and you and
Grace been comparatively so rich, while I and mine were so poor, it would
have been the first wish of my heart to have seen Rupert and Grace, you
and Lucy, united, which would have made you all my beloved children alike.
I often thought of this, until I found it necessary to repress the hope,
lest I should prove unfaithful to my trust. Now, indeed, Mrs. Bradfort's
bequest might have smoothed over every difficulty; but it came too late!
It was not to be; Providence had ordered otherwise."
"You had an ardent supporter of your scheme in one of your children, at
"So you have given me to understand, Miles, and I regret that I was
informed of the fact so late, or I might have contrived to keep off other
young men while you were at sea, or until an opportunity offered to enable
you to secure my daughter's affections. That done, neither time nor
distance could have displaced you; the needle not being more true than
Lucy, or the laws of nature more certain."
"The knowledge of these sterling qualities, sir, only makes me regret my
having come too late, so much the more."
"It was not to be;--at one time, I _did_ think Rupert and Grace had a
preference for each other; but I must have been deceived. God had ordered
it otherwise, and wisely no doubt; as his omniscience foresaw the early
drooping of this lovely flower. I suppose their having been educated
together, so much like brother and sister, has been the reason there was
so much indifference to each other's merits. You have been an exception on
account of your long absences, Miles, and you must look to those absences
for the consolation and relief you will doubtless require. Alas! alas!
that I could not now fold Grace to my heart, as a daughter and a bride,
instead of standing over her grave! Nothing but Rupert's diffidence of his
own claims, during our days of poverty, could have prevented him from
submitting himself to so much loveliness and virtue. I acquit the ad of
insensibility; for nothing but the sense of poverty and the pride of a
poor gentleman, added perhaps to the brotherly regard he has always felt
for Grace, could have kept him from seeking her hand. Grace, properly
enough, would have requited his affection."
Such is a specimen of the delusion under which we live, daily. Here was my
sister dying of blighted affections, under my own roof; and the upright,
conscientious father of the wretch who had produced this withering evil,
utterly unconscious of the wrong that had been done; still regarding his
son with the partiality and indulgence of a fond parent. To me, it seemed
incredible at the time, that unsuspecting integrity could carry its
simplicity so far; but I have since lived long enough to know that
mistakes like these are constantly occurring around us; effects being
hourly attributed to causes with which they have no connection; and causes
being followed down to effects, that are as imaginary as human sagacity is
faulty. As for myself, I can safely say, that in scarce a circumstance of
my life, that has brought me the least under the cognizance of the public,
have I ever been judged justly. In various instances have I been praised
for acts that were either totally without any merit, or, at least, the
particular merit imputed to them; while I have been even persecuted for
deeds that deserved praise. An instance or two of the latter of these
cases of the false judgment of the world will be laid before the reader as
Mr. Hardinge continued for some time to expatiate on the loveliness of
Grace's character, and to betray the weight of the blow he had received,
in gaining this sudden knowledge of her danger. He seemed to pass all at
once from a state of inconsiderate security to one of total hopelessness,
and found the shock so much harder to endure. At length he sent for Lucy,
with whom he continued closeted for near an hour. I ascertained,
afterwards, that he questioned the dear girl closely on the subject of my
sister's malady; even desiring to know if her affections were any way
connected with this extraordinary sinking of the vital powers; but not in
the slightest degree inclining to the distrust of Rupert's being in any
manner implicated in the affair. Lucy, truthful and frank as she was, felt
the uselessness, nay, the danger, of enlightening her father, and managed
to evade all his more delicate inquiries, without involving herself in
falsehoods. She well knew, if he were apprised of the real state of the
case, that Rupert would have been sent for; and every reparation it was in
his power to make would have been insisted on, as an act of justice; a
hopeless and distressing attempt to restore the confidence of unbounded
love, and the esteem which, once lost, is gone forever. Perhaps the
keenest of all Grace's sufferings proceeded from the consciousness of the
total want of merit in the man she had so effectually enshrined in her
heart, that he could only be ejected by breaking in pieces and utterly
destroying the tenement that had so long contained him. With ordinary
notions, this change of opinion might have sufficed for the purposes of an
effectual cure; but my poor sister was differently constituted. She had
ever been different from most of her sex, in intensity of feeling; and had
come near dying, while still a child, on the occasion of the direful
catastrophe of my father's loss; and the decease of even our mother,
though long expected, had come near to extinguish the flame of life in the
daughter. As I have already said more than once, a being so sensitive and
so pure, ever seemed better fitted for the regions of bliss, than for the
collisions and sorrows of the world.
Now we were at Clawbonny again, I scarce knew how to employ myself. Grace
I could not see; Lucy, who took the entire management of the invalid,
requiring for her rest and quiet. In this she did but follow the
directions of reason, as well as those left by Post; and I was fain to
yield, knowing that my sister could not possibly have a more judicious or
a more tender nurse.
The different persons belonging to the mill and the farm came to me for
directions, which I was compelled to give with thoughts engrossed with the
state of my sister. More than once I endeavoured to arouse myself; and,
for a few minutes, _seemed_ to enter, if I did not truly enter, with
interest into the affairs presented to my consideration; but these little
rallies were merely so many attempts at self-delusion, and I finally
referred everything to the respective persons entrusted with the different
branches of the duty bidding them act as they had been accustomed to do
in my absence.
"Why, yes, Masser Mile," answered the old negro who was the head man in
the field, "dis berry well, if he can do it. Remember I alway hab Masser
Hardinge to talk to me about 'e crop, and sich t'ing, and dat a won'erful
help to a poor nigger when he in a nonplush."
"Surely, Hiram, you are a better husbandman than Mr. Hardinge and myself
put together, and cannot want the advice of either to tell you how to
raise corn, or to get in hay!"
"Dat berry true, sah--so true, I wont deny him. But, you know how it be,
Masser Mile; a nigger _do_ lub to talk, and it help along work
won'erfully, to get a good dispute, afore he begin."
As respects the blacks, this was strictly true. Though as respectful as
slavery and habit could make them, they were so opinionated and
dogmatical, each in his or her sphere, that nothing short of a downright
assertion of authority could produce submission to any notions but their
own. They loved to argue the different points connected with their several
duties, but they did not like to be convinced. Mr. Hardinge would discuss
with them, from a sense of duty, and he would invariably yield, unless in
cases that involved moral principles. On all such points, and they were
not of unfrequent occurrence in a family of so many blacks, he was as
inflexible as the laws of the Medes and Persians; but, as respected the
wheat, the potatoes, the orchards, the mill, or the sloop, he usually
submitted to the experience of those more familiar with the business,
after having discussed the matters in council. This rendered him
exceedingly popular at Clawbonny, the persuaded usually having the same
sort of success in the world as a good listener. As for the rector
himself, after so many long discussions, he began to think he had actually
influenced the different steps adopted; the cause of one of the illusions
I have already pourtrayed.
Old Hiram did not quit me when he came for instructions alias a "dispute,"
without a word of inquiry touching Grace I could see that the alarm had
passed among the slaves, and it was quite touching to note the effect it
produced on their simple minds. It would have been sufficient for them to
love her, that Grace was their young mistress; but such a mistress as she
had ever been, and one so winning in manner and person, they might be said
almost to worship her.
"I berry sorry to hear Miss Grace be onwell, sah," said old Hiram, looking
at me sorrowfully. "It go hard wid us all, if anyt'ing happen _dere_! I
alway s'pose, Masser Mile, dat Miss Grace and Masser Rupert come togeder,
some time; as we all expects you and Miss Lucy will. Dem are happy days,
sah, at Clawbonny, for den we all know our new masser and new missus from
de cradle. No, no--we can nebber spare Miss Grace, sah; even I should miss
her in 'e field!"
The very blacks had observed the state of things which had deluded my poor
sister; and the slave had penetrated his master's secret. I turned away
abruptly from the negro, lest he should also detect the evidence of the
weakness extorted by his speech, from the eyes of manhood.
--"Like the lily
That once was mistress of the field, and flourished,
I'll hang my head, and perish."
I saw little of Lucy that night. She met us at evening prayers, and tears
were in her eyes as she arose from her knees. Without speaking, she kissed
her father for good night, more affectionately than ever, I thought, and
then turned to me. Her hand was extended, (we had seldom met or parted for
eighteen years, without observing this little act of kindness), but she
did not--nay, _could not_, speak. I pressed the little hand fervently in
my own, and relinquished it again, in the same eloquent silence. She was
seen no more by us until next day.
The breakfast had ever been a happy meal at Clawbonny. My father, though
merely a ship-master, was one of the better class; and he had imbibed many
notions, in the course of his different voyages, that placed him much in
advance of the ordinary habits of his day and country. Then an _American_
ship-master is usually superior to those of other countries. This arises
from some of the peculiarities of our institutions, as well as from the
circumstance that the navy is so small. Among other improvements, my
father had broken in upon the venerable American custom of swallowing a
meal as soon as out of bed. The breakfast at Clawbonny, from my earliest
infancy, or as long as I can remember, had been eaten regularly at nine
o'clock, a happy medium between the laziness of dissipation and the hurry
of ill-formed habits. At that hour the whole family used to meet, still
fresh from a night's repose, and yet enlivened and gay by an hour or two
of exercise in the open air, instead of coming to the family board half
asleep, with a sort of drowsy sulkiness, as, if the meal were a duty, and
not a pleasure. We ate as leisurely as keen appetites would permit;
laughed, chatted, related the events of the morning, conversed of our
plans for the day, and indulged our several tastes and humours, like
people who had been up and stirring, and not like so many drowsy drones
swallowing our food for form's sake. The American breakfast has been
celebrated by several modern writers, and it deserves to be, though
certainly not to be compared to that of France. Still it might be far
better than it is, did our people understand the _mood_ in which it ought
to be enjoyed.
While on this subject, the reader will excuse an old man's prolixity, if I
say a word on the state of the science of the table in general, as it is
put in practice in this great republic. A writer of this country, one Mr.
Cooper, has somewhere said that the Americans are the grossest feeders in
the civilized world, and warns his countrymen to remember that a national
character may be formed in the kitchen. This remark is commented on by
Captain Marryatt, who calls it both unjust and ill-natured. As for the
ill-nature I shall say nothing, unless it be to remark that I do not well
see how that which is undeniably true ought to be thought so very
ill-natured. That it is true, every American who has seen much of other
lands must know. Captain-Marryatt's allegation that the tables are good in
the large towns, has nothing to do with the merits of this question. The
larger American towns are among the best eating and drinking portions of
the world. But what are they as compared to the whole country? What are
the public tables, or the tables of the refined, as compared to the tables
of the mass, even in these very towns? All things are to be judged of by
the rules, and not by the exceptions. Because a small portion of the
American population understand what good cookery is, it by no means
follows that _all_ do. Who would think of saying that the people of
England live on white bait and venison, because the nobility and gentry
(the aldermen inclusive) can enjoy both, in the seasons, _ad libitum?_ I
suspect this Mr. Cooper knows quite as well what he is about, when writing
of America, as any European. If pork fried in grease, and grease pervading
half the other dishes, vegetables cooked without any art, and meats done
to rags, make a good table, then is this Mr. Cooper wrong, and Captain
Marryatt right, and _vice versa_. As yet, while nature has done so much in
America, art has done but little. Much compared with numbers and time,
certainly, but little as compared with what numbers and time have done
elsewhere. Nevertheless, I would make an exception in favour of America,
as respects the table of one country, though not so much in connection
with the coarseness of the feeding as in the poverty of the food. I
consider the higher parts of Germany to be the portions of the Christian
world where eating and drinking are in the most primitive condition; and
that part of this great republic, which Mr. Alison Would probably call the
_State_ of New England, to come next. In abundance and excellence of food
in the native form, America is particularly favoured; Baltimore being at
the very nucleus of all that is exquisite in the great business of
mastication. Nevertheless, the substitution of cooks from the interior of
New England, for the present glistening tenants of her kitchens, would
turn even that paradise of the epicure into a sort of oleaginous waste.
Enough of cookery.
Lucy did not appear at prayers next morning! I felt her absence as one
feels the certainty of some dreadful evil. Breakfast was announced; still
Lucy did not appear. The table was smoking and hissing; and Romeo
Clawbonny, who acted as the everyday house-servant, or footman, had
several times intimated that it might be well to commence operations, as a
cold breakfast was very cold comfort.
"Miles, my dear boy," observed Mr. Hardinge, after opening the door to
look for the absentee half a dozen times, "we will wait no longer. My
daughter, no doubt, intends to breakfast with Grace, to keep the poor dear
girl company; for it _is_ dull work to breakfast by oneself. You and I
miss Lucy sadly, at this very moment, though we have each other's company
to console us."
We had just taken our seats, when the door slowly opened, and Lucy entered
"Good morning, dearest father," said the sweet girl, passing an arm round
Mr. Hardinge's neck, with more than her usual tenderness of manner, and
imprinting a long kiss on his bald head. "Good morning, Miles," stretching
towards me a hand, but averting her face, as afraid it might reveal too
much, when exposed fully to my anxious and inquiring gaze. "Grace passed a
pretty quiet night, and is, I think, a little less disturbed this morning
than she was yesterday."
Neither of us answered or questioned the dear nurse. What a breakfast was
that, compared to so many hundreds in which I had shared at that very
table, and in that same room! Three of the accustomed faces were there, it
is true; all the appliances were familiar, some dating as far back as the
time of the first Miles; Romeo, now a grey-headed and wrinkled negro, was
in his usual place; but Chloe, who was accustomed to pass often between
her young mistress and a certain closet, at that meal, which never seemed
to have all we wanted arranged on the table at first, was absent, as was
that precious "young mistress" herself. "Gracious Providence!" I mentally
ejaculated, "is it thy will it should _ever_ be thus? Am I _never_ again
to see those dove-like eyes turned on me in sisterly affection from the
head of my table, as I have so often seen them, on hundreds and hundreds
of occasions?" Lucy's spirits had sometimes caused her to laugh merrily;
and her musical voice once used to mingle with Rupert's and my own more
manly and deeper notes, in something like audible mirth; not that Lucy was
ever boisterous or loud; but, in early girlhood, she had been gay and
animated, to a degree that often blended with the noisier clamour of us
boys. With Grace, this had never happened. She seldom spoke, except in
moments when the rest were still; and her laugh was rarely audible, though
so often heartfelt and joyous. It may seem strange to those who have never
suffered the pang of feeling that such a customary circle was broken up
forever; but, that morning, the first in which I keenly felt that my
sister was lost to me, I actually missed her graceful, eloquent, silence!
"Miles," said Lucy, as she rose from the table, tears trembling on her
eyelids as she spoke, "half an hour hence come to the family room. Grace
wishes to see you _there_ this morning, and I have not been able to deny
her request. She is weak, but thinks the visit will do her good. Do not
fail to be punctual, as waiting might distress her. Good morning, dearest
papa; when I want _you_, I will send for you."
Lucy left us with these ominous notices, and I felt the necessity of going
on the lawn for air. I walked my half-hour out, and returned to the house
in time to be punctual to the appointment. Chloe met me at the door, and
led the way in silence towards the family room. Her hand was no sooner
laid on the latch than Lucy appeared, beckoning me to enter. I found Grace
reclining on that small settee, or _causeuse_, on which we had held our
first interview, looking pallid and uneasy, but still looking lovely and
as ethereal as ever. She held out a hand affectionately, and then I saw
her glance towards Lucy, as if asking to be left with me alone. As for
myself, I could not speak. Taking my old place, I drew my sister's head on
my bosom, and sat holding it in silence for many painful minutes. In that
position I could conceal the tears which forced themselves from my eyes,
it exceeding all my powers to repress these evidences of human grief. As I
took my place, the figure of Lucy disappeared, and the door closed.
I never knew how long a time Grace and I continued in that tender
attitude. I was not in a state of mind to note such a fact, and have since
striven hard to forget most that occurred in that solemn interview. After
a lapse of so many years, however, I find memory painfully accurate on all
the leading circumstances, though it was impossible to recall a point of
which I took no heed at the moment. Such things only as made an impression
is it in my power to relate.
When Grace gently, and I might add faintly, raised herself from my bosom,
she turned on me eyes that were filled with a kind anxiety on my account
rather than on her own.
"Brother," she said, earnestly, "the will of God must be submitted to--I
am very, _very_ ill--broken in pieces--I grow weaker every hour. It is not
right to conceal such a truth from ourselves, or from each other."
I made no reply, although she evidently paused to give me an opportunity
to speak. I could not have uttered a syllable to have saved my life. The
pause was impressive, rather than long.
"I have sent for you, dearest Miles," my sister continued, "not that I
think it probable I shall be called away soon or suddenly--God will spare
me for a little while, I humbly trust, in order to temper the blow to
those I love; but he is about to call me to him, and we must all be
prepared for it; you, and dear, dear Lucy, and my beloved guardian, as
well as myself. I have not sent for you even to tell you this; for Lucy
gives me reason to believe you expect the separation; but I wish to speak
to you on a subject that is very near my heart, while I have strength and
fortitude to speak on it at all. Promise me, dearest, to be calm, and to
"Your slightest wish will be a law to me, beloved, most precious sister; I
shall listen as if we were in our days of childish confidence and
happiness--though I fear those days are never to return!"
"Feel not thus, Miles, my noble-hearted, manly brother. Heaven will not
desert you, unless you desert your God; it does not desert me, but angels
beckon me to its bliss! Were it not for you and Lucy, and my dear, dear
guardian, the hour of my departure would be a moment of pure felicity. But
we will not talk of this now. You must prepare yourself, Miles, to hear me
patiently, and to be indulgent to my last wishes, even should they seem
unreasonable to your mind at first."
"I have told you, Grace, that a request of your's will be a law to me;
have no hesitation, therefore, in letting me know any, or all
"Let us, then, speak of worldly things; for the last time, I trust, my
brother. Sincerely do I hope that this will be the last occasion on which
I shall ever be called to allude to them. This duty discharged, all that
will remain to me on earth will be the love I bear my friends. This Heaven
itself will excuse, as I shall strive not to let it lessen that I bear
Grace paused, and I sat wondering what was to follow, though touched to
the heart by her beautiful resignation to a fate that to most so young
would seem hard to be borne.
"Miles, my brother," she continued, looking at me anxiously, "we have not
spoken much of your success in your last voyage, though I have understood
that you have materially increased your means."
"It has quite equalled my expectations; and, rich in my ship and ready
money, I am content, to say nothing of Clawbonny. Do what you will with
your own, therefore, my sister; not a wish of mine shall ever grudge a
dollar; I would rather not be enriched by your loss. Make your bequests
freely, and I shall look on each and all of them as so many memorials of
your affectionate heart and many virtues."
Grace's cheeks flushed, and I could see that she was extremely gratified,
though still tremblingly anxious.
"You doubtless remember that by our father's will, Miles, my property
becomes your's, if I die without children before I reach the age of
twenty-one; while your's would have been mine under the same
circumstances. As I am barely twenty, it is out of my power to make a
"It is in your power to make one that shall be equally binding, Grace. I
will go this instant for pen, ink, and paper; and, as you dictate, will I
write a will that shall be even more binding than one that might come
within the rules of the law."
"Nay, brother, that is unnecessary; all I wish I have already said in a
letter addressed to yourself; and which, should you now approve of it,
will be found among my papers as a memorandum. But there should be no
misapprehension between you and me, dearest Miles. I do not wish you even
fully to consent to my wishes, now; take time to consider, and let your
judgment have as much influence on your decision as your own
"I am as ready to decide at this moment as I shall be a year hence. It is
enough for me that you wish the thing done, to have it done, sister."
"Bless you--bless you--brother"--said Grace, affectionately pressing my
hand to her heart--"not so much that you consent to do as I wish, as for
the spirit and manner in which you comply. Still, as I ask no trifle, it
is proper that I release you from all pledges here given, and allow you
time for reflection. Then, it is also proper you should know the full
extent of what you promise."
"It is enough for me that it will be in my power to perform what you
desire; further than that I make no stipulation."
I could see that Grace was profoundly struck with this proof of my
attachment; but her own sense of right was too just and active to suffer
the matter to rest there.
"I must explain further," she added. "Mr. Hardinge has been a most
faithful steward; and, by means of economy, during my long minority, the
little cost that has attended my manner of living, and some fortunate
investments that have been made of interest-money, I find myself a good
deal richer than I had supposed. In relinquishing my property, Miles, you
will relinquish rather more than two-and-twenty thousand dollars; or quite
twelve hundred a year. There ought to be no misapprehensions on this
subject, between us; least of all at such a moment."
"I wish it were more, my sister, since it gives you pleasure to bestow it.
If it will render you any happier to perfect any of your plans, take ten
thousand of my own, and add to the sum which is now your's. I would
increase, rather than lessen your means of doing good."
"Miles--Miles"--said Grace, dreadfully agitated--"talk not thus--it almost
shakes my purpose! But no; listen now to my wishes, for I feel this will
be the last time I shall ever dare to speak on the subject. In the first
place, I wish you to purchase some appropriate ornament, of the value of
five hundred dollars, and present it to Lucy as a memorial of her friend.
Give also one thousand dollars in money to Mr. Hardinge, to be
distributed in charity. A letter to him on the subject, and one to Lucy,
will also be found among my papers. There will still remain enough to make
suitable presents to the slaves, and leave the sum of twenty thousand
dollars entire and untouched."
"And what shall I do with these twenty thousand dollars, sister?" I asked,
Grace hesitating to proceed.
"That sum, dearest Miles, I wish to go to Rupert. You know that he is
totally without fortune, with the habits of a man of estate. The little I
can leave him will not make him rich, but it may be the means of making
him happy and respectable. I trust Lucy will add to it, when she comes of
age, and the future will be happier for them all than the past."
My sister spoke quick, and was compelled to pause for breath. As for
myself, the reader can better imagine than I can describe my sensations,
which were of a character almost to overwhelm me. The circumstance that I
felt precluded from making any serious objections, added to the intensity
of my suffering, left me in a state of grief, regret, indignation, wonder,
pity and tenderness, that it is wholly out of my power to delineate. Here,
then, was the tenderness of the woman enduring to the last; caring for the
heartless wretch who had destroyed the very springs of life in her
physical being, while it crushed the moral like a worm beneath the foot;
yet bequeathing, with her dying breath, as it might be, all the worldly
goods in her possession, to administer to his selfishness and vanity!
"I know you must think this strange, brother;" resumed Grace, who
doubtless saw how utterly unable I was to reply; "but, I shall not die at
peace with myself without it. Unless he possess some marked assurance of
my forgiveness, my death will render Rupert miserable; with such a marked
assurance, he will be confident of possessing my pardon and my prayers.
Then, both he and Emily are pennyless, I fear, and their lives may be
rendered blanks for the want of the little money it is in my power to
bestow. At the proper time, Lucy, I feel confident, will add her part; and
you, who remain behind me, can all look on my grave, and bless its
"Angel!" I murmured--"this is too much! Can you suppose Rupert will
accept this money?"
Ill as I thought of Rupert Hardinge, I could not bring my mind to believe
he was so base as to receive money coming from such a source, and with
such a motive. Grace, however, viewed the matter differently; not that she
attached anything discreditable to Rupert's compliance, for her own
womanly tenderness, long and deeply rooted attachment, made it appear to
her eyes more as an act of compliance with her own last behest, than as
the act of degrading meanness it would unquestionably appear to be, to all
the rest of the world.
"How can he refuse this to me, coming to him, as the request will, from my
grave?" rejoined the lovely enthusiast. "He will owe it to me; he will owe
it to our former affection--for he once loved me, Miles; nay, he loved me
even more than you ever did, or could, dearest--much as I know you
"By heavens, Grace," I exclaimed, unable to control myself any longer,
"that is a fearful mistake. Rupert Hardinge is incapable of loving
anything but himself; he has never been worthy of occupying the most idle
moment of a heart true and faithful as your's."
These words escaped me under an impulse I found entirely impossible to
control. Scarcely were they uttered, ere I deeply regretted the
indiscretion. Grace looked at me imploringly, turned as pale as death, and
trembled all over, as if on the verge of dissolution. I took her in my
arms, I implored her pardon, I promised to command myself in future, and I
repeated the most solemn assurances of complying with her wishes to the
very letter. I am not certain I could have found it in my heart not to
have recalled my promise, but for the advantage my sister obtained over
me, by means of this act of weakness. There was something so exceedingly
revolting to me in the whole affair, that even Grace's holy weakness
failed to sanctify the act in my eyes; at least so far as Rupert was
concerned. I owe it to myself to add that not a selfish thought mingled
with my reluctance, which proceeded purely from the distaste I felt to
seeing Lucy's brother, and a man for whom I had once entertained a boyish
regard, making himself so thoroughly an object of contempt. As I
entertained serious doubts of even Rupert's sinking so low, I felt the
necessity of speaking to my sister on the subject of such a contingency.
"One might hesitate about accepting your money, after all, dearest
sister," I said; "and it is proper you give me directions what I am to do,
in the event of Rupert's declining the gift."
"I think that is little probable, Miles," answered Grace, who lived and
died under a species of hallucination on the subject of her early lover's
real character--"Rupert may not have been able to command his affections,
but he cannot cease to feel a sincere friendship for me; to remember our
ancient confidence and intimacy. He will receive the bequest, as you would
take one from dear Lucy," added my sister, a painful-looking smile
illuminating that angelic expression of countenance to which I have so
often alluded; "or, as that of a sister. _You_ would not refuse such a
thing to Lucy's dying request, and why should Rupert to mine?"
Poor Grace! Little did she see the immense difference there was in my
relation to Lucy and that which Rupert bore to her. I could not explain
this difference, however, but merely assented to her wishes, renewing, for
the fourth or fifth time, my pledges of performing with fidelity all she
asked at my hands. Grace then put into my hands an unsealed letter
addressed to Rupert, which she desired me to read when alone, and which I
was to have delivered with the legacy or donation of money.
"Let me rest once more on your bosom, Miles," said Grace, reclining her
head in my arms, quite exhausted under the reaction of the excitement she
had felt while urging her request. "I feel happier, at this moment, than I
have been for a long time; yet, my increasing weakness admonishes me it
cannot last long. Miles, darling, you must remember all our sainted mother
taught you in childhood, and you will not mourn over my loss. Could I
leave you united to one who understood and appreciated your worth, I
should die contented. But you will be left alone, poor Miles; for a time,
at least, you will mourn for me."
"Forever--long as life lasts, beloved Grace," I murmured, almost in her
Exhaustion kept my sister quiet for a quarter of an hour, though I felt
an occasional pressure of her hands, both of which held one of mine; and I
could hear words asking blessings and consolation for me, whispered, from
time to time, in heartfelt petitions to heaven. As she gained strength by
repose, my sister felt the desire to continue the discourse revive. I
begged her not to incur the risk of further fatigue but she answered,
smiling affectionately in my face--
"Rest!--There will be no permanent rest for me, until laid by the side of
my parents. Miles, do your thoughts ever recur to that picture of the
future that is so precious to the believer, and which leads us to hope, if
not absolutely to confide in it as a matter of faith, that we may
recognise each other in the next state of being, and that in a communion
still sweeter than any of this life, since it will be a communion free
from all sin, and governed by holiness?"
"We sailors give little heed to these matters, Grace; but I feel that, in
future, the idea you have just mentioned will be full of consolation
"Remember, my best-beloved brother, it is only the blessed that can enjoy
such a recognition--to the accursed it must add an additional weight to
the burthen of their woe."
"Felix trembled!" The thought that even this chance of again meeting my
sister, and of communing with her in the form in which I had ever seen and
loved her might be lost, came in aid of other good resolutions that the
state of the family had quickened in my heart. I thought, however, it
might be well not to let Grace lead the conversation to such subjects,
after all that had just passed, repose becoming necessary to her again. I
therefore proposed calling Lucy, in order that she might be carried to her
own room. I say carried; for, by a remark that fell from Chloe, I had
ascertained that this was the mode in which she had been brought to the
place of meeting. Grace acquiesced; but while we waited for Chloe to
answer the bell, she continued to converse.
"I have not exacted of you, Miles," my sister continued, "any promise to
keep my bequest a secret from the world; your own sense of delicacy would
do that; but, I will make it a condition that you do not speak of it to
either Mr. Hardinge or Lucy. They may possibly raise weak objections,
particularly the last, who has, and ever has had, some exaggerated
opinions about receiving money. Even in heydays of poverty, and poor as
she was, you know, notwithstanding our true love for each other, and close
intimacy, I never could induce Lucy to receive a cent. Nay, so scrupulous
has she been that the little presents which friends constantly give and
receive, she would decline, because she had not the means of offering them
I remembered the gold the dear girl had forced on me, when I first went to
sea, and could have kneeled at her feet and called her "blessed."
"And this did not make you love and respect Lucy the less, my sister? But
do not answer; so much conversing must distress you."
"Not at all, Miles. I speak without suffering, nor does the little talking
I do enfeeble me in the least. When I appear exhausted, it is from the
feelings which accompany our discourse. I talk much, very much, with dear
Lucy, who hears me with more patience than yourself, brother!"
I knew that this remark applied to Grace's wish to dwell on the unknown
future, and did not receive it as a reproach in any other sense. As she
seemed calm, however, I was willing to indulge her wish to converse with
me, so long as she dwelt on subjects that did not agitate her. Speaking of
her hopes of heaven had a contrary effect, and I made no further
"Lucy's hesitation to be under the obligations you mention did not lessen
her in your esteem?" I repeated.
"You know it could not, Miles. Lucy is a dear, good girl; and the more
intimately one knows her, the more certain is one to esteem her. I have
every reason to bless and pray for Lucy; still, I desire you not to make
either her or her father acquainted with my bequest."
"Rupert would hardly conceal such a thing from so near and dear friends."
"Let Rupert judge of the propriety of that for himself. Kiss me, brother;
do not ask to see me again to-day, for I have much to arrange with Lucy;
to-morrow I shall expect a long visit. God bless you, my own, dear,--my
_only_ brother, and ever have you in his holy keeping!"
I left the room as Chloe entered; and, in threading the long passage that
led to the apartment which was appropriated to my own particular purposes,
as an office, cabinet, or study, I met Lucy near the door of the latter. I
could see she had been weeping, and she followed me into the room.
"What do you think of her, Miles?" the dear girl asked, uttering the words
in a tone so low and plaintive as to say all that she anticipated herself.
"We shall lose her, Lucy; yes, 'tis God's pleasure to call her to
Had worlds depended on the effort, I could not have got out another
syllable. The feelings which had been so long pent up in Grace's presence
broke out, and I am not ashamed to say that I wept and sobbed like
How kind, how woman-like, how affectionate did Lucy show herself at that
bitter moment. She said but little, though I think I overheard her
murmuring "poor Miles!"--"poor, _dear_ Miles!"--"what a blow it must be
to a brother!"--"God will temper this loss to him!" and other similar
expressions. She took one of my hands and pressed it warmly between both
her own; held it there for two or three minutes; hovered round me, as the
mother keeps near its slumbering infant when illness renders rest
necessary; and seemed more like a spirit sympathizing with my grief than a
mere observer of its violence. In reflecting on what then passed months
afterwards, it appeared to me that Lucy had entirely forgotten herself,
her own causes of sorrow, her own feelings as respected Grace, in the
single wish to solace me. But this was ever her character; this was her
very nature; to live out of herself, as it might be, and in the existences
of those whom she esteemed or loved. During this scene, Lucy lost most of
the restraints which womanhood and more matured habits had placed on her
deportment; and she behaved towards me with the innocent familiarity that
marked our intercourse down to the time I sailed in the Crisis. It is
true, I was too dreadfully agitated at first to take heed of all that
passed; but, I well remember, that, before leaving me in obedience to a
summons from Grace, she laid her head affectionately on mine, and kissed
the curls with which nature had so profusely covered the last. I thought,
at the time, notwithstanding, that the salute would have been on the
forehead, or cheek, three years before, or previously to her acquaintance
I was a long time in regaining entire self-command; but, when I did, I
opened my sister's letter to Rupert, agreeably to her request, and perused
it thrice without a pause, even to reflect. It was conceived in
"My Dearest Rupert--
"God, in his infinite and inscrutable wisdom, when you read this letter,
will have seen fit to call me to himself. Let not this seeming loss, in
any manner, afflict you, my friend; for I feel the humble assurance that
I shall reap the full benefit of the Saviour's great sacrifice. I could
not have been happy in this life, Rupert; and it is a mercy that I am
taken, thus early, to a better. It grieves me to part from your
excellent father, from yourself, from our precious and rightfully
beloved Lucy, and from dear, dear Miles. This is the last tribute I pay
to nature, and I hope it will be pardoned for its character. There is a
strong hope within me, that my death will be sanctified to the benefit
of my friends. With this view, and this view only, beloved Rupert, I
wish you to remember it. In all other respects let it be forgotten. You
have found it impossible to command your affections, and worlds would
not have tempted me to become your wife without possessing all your
heart. I pray daily, almost hourly"--tears had evidently blotted this
portion of the letter--"for you and Emily. Live together, and make each
other happy. She is a sweet girl; has enjoyed advantages that Clawbonny
could not bestow, and which will contribute to your gratification. In
order that you may sometimes think of me"--poor Grace was not aware of
this contradiction in her requests--"Miles will send you a legacy that I
leave you. Accept it as a little fortune with Emily. I wish sincerely,
it were much larger; but you will not overlook the intention, and forget
the insufficiency of the sum. Small as it is, I trust it will enable you
to marry at once, and Lucy's heart may be confided in for the rest.
"Farewell, Rupert--I do not say, farewell Emily; for I think this
letter, as well as its object, had better remain a secret between you
and me, and my brother--but I wish your future wife all earthly
happiness, and an end as full of hope as that which attends the
death-bed of your affectionate
Oh! woman, woman, what are ye not, when duly protected and left to the
almost divine impulses of your generous natures! What may ye not become,
when rendered mercenary and envious by too close a contact with those
worldly interests which are never admitted to an ascendancy without
destroying all your moral beauty!
"And the beautiful, whose record
Is the verse that cannot die,
They too are gone, with their glorious bloom,
From the love of human eye."
I cannot dwell minutely on the events of the week that succeeded. Grace
sunk daily, hourly; and the medical advice that was obtained, more as a
duty than with any hope of its benefiting the patient, failed of assisting
her. Mr. Hardinge saw the invalid often, and I was admitted to her room
each day, where she would lie, reclining on my bosom for hours at a time,
seemingly fond of this innocent indulgence of her affections, on the eve
of her final departure. As it was out of the question that my sister
should again visit the family room, the _causeuse_ was brought into her
chamber, where it was made to perform the office to which it had been
several times devoted in its proper apartment since my return from sea.
That venerable chair still exists, and I often pass thoughtful hours in it
in my old age, musing on the past, and recalling the different scenes and
conversations of which it could tell, did it possess consciousness and the
faculty of speech.
Mr. Hardinge officiated in his own church, agreeably to his intention, on
the succeeding Sunday. Lucy remained with her friend; and I make no doubt
their spirits devoutly communed with ours the while; for I mastered
sufficient fortitude to be present at St. Michael's. I could observe an
earnest sympathy in every member of the little congregation; and tears
fell from nearly every eye when the prayer for the sick was read. Mr.
Hardinge remained at the rectory for the further duties of the day; but I
rode home immediately after morning service, too uneasy to remain absent
from the house longer than was necessary, at such a moment. As my horse
trotted slowly homeward, he overtook Neb, who was walking towards
Clawbonny, with an air so different from his customary manner, I could not
help remarking it. Neb was a muscular, active black, and usually walked as
if his legs were all springs; but he moved along now so heavily, that I
could not but see some weight upon the spirits had produced this influence
on the body. The change was, naturally enough, attributed to the state of
affairs with Chloe; and I felt disposed to say a word to my faithful
slave, who had been unavoidably overlooked in the pressure of sorrow that
had weighed me down for the last ten days. I spoke to the poor fellow as
cheerfully as I could, as I came up, and endeavoured to touch on such
subjects as I thought might interest without troubling him.
"This is a famous windfall that has crossed Mr. Marble's track, Neb," I
said, pulling up, in order to go a short distance at an even pace with my
brother-tar. "As nice an old woman for a mother, as pretty a little girl
for a niece, and as snug a haven to moor in, at the end of the voyage, as
any old worn-out sea-dog could or ought to wish."
"Yes, sir, Masser Mile," Neb answered, as I fancied, in the manner of one
who was thinking of something different from what he said; "yes, sir, Mr.
Marble a reg'lar sea-dog."
"And as such not the less entitled to have a good old mother, a pretty
niece, and a snug home."
"No, sir; none de wuss for bin' sea-dog, all must allow. Nebberdeless,
Masser Mile, I sometime wish you and I nebber hab see salt water."
"That is almost as much as wishing we never looked down the Hudson from
the hills and banks of Clawbonny boy; the river itself being salt not far
below us. You are thinking of Chloe, and fancying, that had you stayed at
home, your chance of getting into her good graces would have been better."
"No, Masser Mile; no, _sir_. Nobody at Clawbonny t'ink, just now, of
anyt'ing but deat'."
I started in surprise. Mr. Hardinge kept everything like exaggeration and
those physical excitements which it is so much the habit of certain sects
to mistake for religious impulses, even from the negroes of the Clawbonny
property. Neb's speech sounded more like an innovation of this nature than
I had ever heard among my people; and I looked hard at the fellow for an
instant, before I answered.
"I am afraid I understand you, Neb," was my reply, after a meaning pause.
"It is a relief to me to find that my people retain all their affections
for the children of their old master and mistress."
"We hard-hearted indeed, sir, if we don't. Ah! _Masser_ Mile, you and I
see many dreadful t'ing togeder, but we nebber see any t'ing like dis!"
Neb's dark cheek was glistening with tears as he spoke, and I spurred my
horse, lest my own manhood might give way, there in the road, and in the
presence of those who were fast approaching. Why Neb had expressed sorrow
for having ever gone to sea, I could not account for in any other manner
than by supposing that he imagined Grace was, in some manner, a sufferer
by my absence from home.
When I reached the house, not a soul was visible. The men had all gone to
church, and were to be seen in the distance, coming, along the road,
singly and in a melancholy manner, not a sign of the customary,
thoughtless merriment of a negro escaping a single individual among them;
but it was usual for some of the black Venuses to be seen sunning
themselves at that season, exhibiting their summer finery to each other
and their admirers. Not one was now visible. All the front of the house,
the lawn, the kitchens, of which there were no less than three, and the
kitchen yards; in short, every familiar haunt of the dwelling was deserted
and empty. This boded evil; and, throwing the bridle over a post, I walked
hurriedly towards the part of the building, or _buildings_, would be a
better word, inhabited by Grace.
As I entered the passage which communicated with my sisters own room, the
departure from ordinary appearances was explained. Six or seven of the
negresses were kneeling near the door, and I could hear the low, solemn,
earnest voice of Lucy, reading some of the collects and other prayers
suited to the sick-chamber and to the wants of a parting soul. Lucy's
voice was music itself, but never before had it sounded so plaintively
sweet. The lowest intonation was distinctly audible, as if the dear,
devout creature felt that the Being she addressed was not to be approached
in any other manner, while the trembling earnestness of the tones betrayed
the depth of feeling with which each syllable escaped from the heart. Talk
of liturgies impairing the fervour of prayer! This may be the fact with
those who are immersed in themselves while communing with God, and cannot
consent even to pray without placing their own thoughts and language,
however ill-digested and crude, uppermost in the business of the moment.
Do not such persons know that, as respects united worship, their own
prayers are, to all intents and purposes, a formulary to their listeners,
with the disadvantage of being received without preparation or direction
to the mind?--nay, too often substituting a critical and prurient
curiosity for humble and intelligent prayer? In these later times, when
Christianity is re-assuming the character of the quarrels of sects, and,
as an old man who has lived, and hopes to die, in communion with the
Anglo-American church, I do not wish to exculpate my own particular branch
of the Catholic body from blame; but, in these later times, when
Christianity is returning to its truculency, forgetful of the chiefest of
virtues, Charity, I have often recalled the scene of that solemn
noon-tide, and asked myself the question, "if any man could have heard
Lucy, as I did, on that occasion, concluding with the petition which
Christ himself gave to his disciples as a comprehensive rule, if not
absolutely as a formulary, and imagine the heart could not fully accompany
words that had been previously prescribed?"
No sooner had Lucy's solemn tones ceased than I passed through the crowd
of weeping and still kneeling blacks, and entered my sister's room. Grace
was reclining in an easy chair; her eyes closed, her hands clasped
together, but lying on her knees, and her whole attitude and air
proclaiming a momentary but total abstraction of the spirit. I do not
think she heard my footstep at all, and I stood at her side an instant,
uncertain whether to let her know of my presence, or not. At this instant
I caught the eye of Lucy, who seemed intent on the wish to speak to me.
Grace had three or four small rooms that communicated with each other, in
her part of the dwelling; and into one of these, which served as a sort of
_boudoir_, though the name was then unknown in America, I followed the
dear girl, whose speaking but sad look had bidden me do so.
"Is my father near at hand?" Lucy asked, with an interest I did not
understand, since she must have known he intended to remain at his own
residence, in readiness for the afternoon service.
"He is not. You forget he has to attend to evening prayers."
"I have sent for him--Miles," taking one of my hands in both her own, with
the tenderness a mother would manifest to a very dear child, "_dear_
Miles, you must summon all your fortitude."
"Is my sister worse?" I demanded, huskily; for, prepared as I was for the
result, I was not expecting it by any means so soon.
"I cannot call it worse, Miles, to be about to be called away to God in
such a frame of mind. But it is proper I should tell you all. Rather less
than an hour since, Grace told me that the hour was at hand. She has the
knowledge of her approaching end, though she would not let me send for
you. She said you would have ample time to witness it all. For my father,
however, I have sent, and he must soon be here."
"Almighty Providence! Lucy, do you really think we shall lose Grace so
"As it is the will of God to take her from us, Miles, I can scarce repine
that her end should be so easy, and, in all respects, so tranquil."
So long as memory is granted to me, will the picture that Lucy presented
at that moment remain vividly impressed on my mind. She loved Grace as a
most dear sister; loved her as an affectionate, generous-minded, devoted
woman alone can love; and yet, so keenly was she alive to the nature of
the communication it was her duty to make, that concern for me alone
reigned in her saddened and anxious eye. Her mind had schooled itself to
bear its own grief; and meek, believing, and disposed to foresee all that
her profound faith taught her to hope, I do believe she considered my
sister a subject of envy rather than of regret, though her solicitude on
my account was so absorbing. This generous self-denial touched my feelings
in more ways than one, enabling me to command myself to a degree that
might otherwise have been out of my power, during the few succeeding
hours. I felt ashamed to manifest all I endured in the presence of so much
meek but pious fortitude, and that exhibited by one whose heart I so well
knew to be the very seat of the best human affections. The sad smile that
momentarily illuminated Lucy's countenance, as she gazed anxiously in my
face when speaking, was full of submissive hope and Christian faith.
"God's will be done," I rather whispered than uttered aloud. "Heaven is a
place more suited to such a spirit than the abodes of men."
Lucy pressed my hand, and appeared relieved from a load of intense anxiety
by this seeming fortitude. She bade me remain where I was, until she had
herself apprized Grace of my return from church. I could see through the
open door that the negresses had been directed to retire, and presently I
heard the footstep of Mr. Hardinge approaching the room adjoining that in
which I then was, and which answered the purpose of a sort of ante-chamber
for those who came to the sick-room from the more public side of the
house. I met my excellent old guardian in that apartment, and Lucy was at
my side at the next instant. One word from the last sufficed to keep us in
this room while she returned to that of Grace.
"God have mercy on us, my dear boy"--the divine ejaculated, as much in
prayer as in grief--"and I say on _us_, as well as on _you_, for Grace has
ever been dear to me as a child of my own. I knew the blow must come, and
have prayed the Lord to prepare us all for it, and to sanctify it to us,
old and young; but, notwithstanding, death has come 'literally' when no
man knoweth. I must have materials for writing, Miles, and you will choose
an express for me out of your people; let the man be ready to mount in
half an hour; for I shall not require half that time to prepare
"Medical advice is useless, I am afraid, dear sir," I answered. "We have
Post's directions, and very respectable attendance from our own family
physician, Dr. Wurtz, who gave me to understand several days since that he
saw no other means of averting the evil we dread than those already
adopted. Still, sir, I shall be easier, if we can persuade Dr. Bard to
cross the river, and have already thought of sending Neb once more on
"Do so," returned Mr. Hardinge, drawing towards him a little table on
which Dr. Wurtz had written a few prescriptions that were used more for
form, I believe, than any expectation of the good they could do; and
beginning to write, even while talking--"Do so"--he added--"and Neb can
put this letter in the post-office on the eastern bank of the river, which
will be the quickest mode of causing it to reach Rupert"
"Rupert!" I exclaimed, on a key that I instantly regretted.
"Certainly; we can do no less than send for Rupert, Miles. He has ever
been like a brother to Grace, and the poor fellow would feel the neglect
keenly, did we overlook him on an occasion like this. You seem astonished
at my thinking of summoning him to Clawbonny."
"Rupert is at the springs, sir--happy in the society of Miss Merton--would
it not be better to leave him where he is?"
"What would you think, Miles, were Lucy on her death-bed, and we should
fail to let you know it?"
I gazed so wildly at the good old man, I believe, that even his simplicity
could not avoid seeing the immense difference between the real and the
"Very true, poor Miles; very true," Mr. Hardinge added, in an apologetic
manner; "I see the weakness of my comparison, though I was beginning to
hope you were already regarding Lucy, once more, with the eyes of a
brother. But Rupert must not be forgotten neither; and here is my letter
"It will be too late, sir," I got out, hoarsely--"my sister cannot survive
I perceived that Mr. Hardinge was not prepared for this, his cheek grew
pale, and his hand trembled as he sealed the epistle. Still he sent it, as
I afterwards discovered.
"God's will be done!" the excellent divine murmured. "If such should
really be his holy will, we ought not to mourn that another humble
Christian spirit is called away to the presence of its great Creator!
Rupert can, at least, attend, to do honour to all that we can honour of
the saint we lose."
There was no resisting or contending with so much simplicity and goodness
of heart; and, had it been in my power, a summons to the room of Grace
called all my thoughts to her. My sister's eyes were now open. I
shuddered, felt a sinking of the heart like that produced by despair, as I
caught their unearthly or rather their supernatural expression. It was not
that anything which indicated death in its more shocking aspects met my
look, but simply that I could trace the illumination of a spirit that
already felt itself on the eve of a new state of being, and one that must
at least separate all that remained behind from any further communication
with itself. I am not certain that I felt no pang at the thought my sister
could be entirely happy without any participation on my part in her bliss.
We are all so selfish that it is hard to say how far even our most
innocent longings are free from the taint of this feature of our nature.
But Grace, herself, could not entirely shake off the ties of kindred and
human love so long as her spirit continued in its earthly tenement. So far
from this, every glance she cast on one or all of us denoted the
fathomless tenderness of her nature, and was filled with its undying
affection. She was weak, frightfully so I fancied; for death appeared to
hasten in order to release her as swiftly and easily as possible; yet did
her interest in me and in Lucy sustain her sufficiently to enable her to
impart much that she wished to say. In obedience to a sign from her, I
knelt at her side, and received her head on my bosom, as near as possible
in that attitude in which we had already passed hours since her illness.
Mr. Hardinge hovered over us, like a ministering spirit, uttering in a
suppressed and yet distinct voice, some of the sublimest of those passages
from scripture that are the most replete with consolation to the parting
spirit. As for Lucy, to me she seemed to be precisely in that spot where
she was most wanted; and often did Grace's eyes turn towards her with
gleamings of gratitude and love.
"The hour is near, brother," Grace whispered, as she lay on my bosom.
"Remember, I die asking forgiveness as much for those who may have done me
wrong, as for myself. Forget nothing that you have promised me; _do_
nothing to cause Lucy and her father sorrow."
"I understand you, sister"--was my low answer. "Depend on all I have
_said_--all you can _wish_."
A gentle pressure of the hand was the token of contentment with which this
assurance was received.
From that moment it seemed to me that Grace was less than usual attached
to the things of the world. Nevertheless, her interest in those she loved,
and who loved her, continued to the last.
"Let all the slaves that wish to see me, enter," Grace said, rousing
herself to perform a trying but necessary duty. "I never can repay them
for all they have done for me; but I trust them to you, Miles, with
Lucy glided from the room, and in a few minutes the long train of dark
faces was seen approaching the door. The grief of these untutored beings,
like their mirth, is usually loud and vociferous; but Lucy, dear,
considerate, energetic Lucy--energetic even in the midst of a sorrow that
nearly crushed her to the earth--had foreseen all this, and the blacks
were admitted only on the condition of their preserving a command over
themselves in the interview.
Grace spoke to every one of the females, taking leave of each calmly and
with some useful and impressive admonition, while all the older men were
also noticed personally.
"Go, and rejoice that I am so soon released from the cares of this world,"
she said, when the sad ceremony was over. "Pray for me, and for
yourselves. My brother knows my wishes in your behalf, and will see them
executed. God bless you, my friends, and have you in his holy keeping."
So great was the ascendency Lucy had obtained over these poor simple
creatures during the short time they had been under her mild but
consistent rule, that each and all left the room as quiet as children,
awe-struck by the solemnity of the scene. Still, the oldest and most
wrinkled of their cheeks were wet with tears, and it was only by the most
extraordinary efforts that they were enabled to repress the customary
outbreakings of sorrow. I had gone to a window to conceal my own feelings
after this leave-taking, when a rustling in the bushes beneath it caught
my ear. Looking out, there lay Neb, flat on his face, his Herculean frame
extended at full length, his hands actually gripping the earth under the
mental agony he endured, and yet the faithful fellow would not even utter
a groan, lest it might reach his young mistress's ears, and disquiet her
last moments. I afterwards ascertained he had taken that post in order
that he might learn from time to time, by means of signs from Chloe, how
things proceeded in the chamber above. Lucy soon recalled me to my old
post, Grace having expressed a wish to that effect.
"It will be but an hour, and we shall all be together again," Grace said,
startling us all by the clearness and distinctness of her enunciation.
"The near approach of death places us on a height whence we can see the
entire world and its vanities at a single view."
I pressed the dying girl closer to my heart, a species of involuntary
declaration of the difficulty I experienced in regarding her loss with the
religious philosophy she was inculcating.
"Mourn not for me, Miles"--she continued--"yet I know you will mourn. But
God will temper the blow, and in his mercy may cause it to profit you
I did not, could not answer. I saw Grace endeavouring to get a look at my
countenance, as if to observe the effect of the scene. By my assistance
she was so placed as to obtain her wish. The sight, I believe, aroused
feelings that had begun to yield to the influence of the last great
change; for, when my sister spoke next, it was with a tenderness of accent
that proved how hard it for those who are deeply affectionate to lose
"Poor Miles! I almost wish we could go together! You have been a dear,
good brother to me"--(What a sweet consolation I afterwards found in these
words)--"It grieves me to leave you so nearly alone in the world. But you
will have Mr. Hardinge, and our Lucy--"
The pause, and the look that succeeded, caused a slight tremour to pass
over my frame. Grace's eyes turned anxiously from me to the form of the
kneeling and weeping Lucy. I fancied that she was about to express a wish,
or some regret, in connection with us two, that even at such a moment I
could not have heard without betraying the concern it would give me. She
did not speak, however, though her look was too eloquent to be mistaken. I
ascribed the forbearance to the conviction that it would be too late,
Lucy's affections belonging to Andrew Drewett. At that instant I had a
bitter remembrance of Neb's words of "I sometime wish, Masser Mile, you
and I nebber had see salt water." But that was not the moment to permit
such feelings to get the mastery; and Grace, herself, felt too clearly
that her minutes were numbered to allow her mind to dwell on the subject.
"An Almighty Providence will direct everything for the best, in this as in
other things," she murmured; though it was still some little time, I
thought, before her mind reverted to her own situation. The welfare of two
as much beloved as Lucy and myself, could not be a matter of indifference
to one of Grace's disposition, even in the hour of death.
Mr. Hardinge now knelt, and the next quarter of an hour passed in prayer.
When the divine rose from his knees, Grace, her countenance beaming with
an angelic serenity, gave him her hand, and in a clear, distinct voice,
she uttered a prayer for blessings, connecting her petitions with the
gratitude due him, for his care of us orphans. I never saw the old man so
much touched before. This unexpected benediction, for it had that