Part 3 out of 5
himself softly,--no matter what; but he felt the pang of knowing again
what he had known so often of late, that his Lillie's word was not
golden. What she said would not bear close examination. Therefore, why
"Evidently, she is determined that this thing shall not go on," said
John. "Well, I shall never try again; it's of no use;" and John went
up to his sister's, and threw himself down upon the old chintz sofa as
if it had been his mother's bosom. His sister sat there, sewing. The
sun came twinkling through a rustic frame-work of ivy which it had
been the pride of her heart to arrange the week before. All the old
family pictures and heirlooms, and sketches and pencillings, were
arranged in the most charming way, so that her rooms seemed a
reproduction of the old home.
"Hang it all!" said John, with a great flounce as he turned over on
the sofa. "I'm not up to par this morning."
Now, Grace had that perfect intuitive knowledge of just what the
matter was with her brother, that women always have who have grown up
in intimacy with a man. These fine female eyes see farther between
the rough cracks and ridges of the oak bark of manhood than men
themselves. Nothing would have been easier, had Grace been a jealous
_exigeante_ woman, than to have passed a fine probe of sisterly
inquiry into the weak places where the ties between John and Lillie
were growing slack, and untied and loosened them more and more.
She could have done it so tenderly, so conscientiously, so
pityingly,--encouraging John to talk and to complain, and taking part
with him,--till there should come to be two parties in the family, the
brother and sister against the wife.
How strong the temptation was, those may feel who reflect that this
one subject caused an almost total eclipse of the life-long habit of
confidence which had existed between Grace and her brother, and that
her brother was her life and her world.
But Grace was one of those women formed under the kindly severe
discipline of Puritan New England, to act not from blind impulse or
instinct, but from high principle. The habit of self-examination and
self-inspection, for which the religious teaching of New England has
been peculiar, produced a race of women who rose superior to those
mere feminine caprices and impulses which often hurry very generous
and kindly-natured persons into ungenerous and dishonorable conduct.
Grace had been trained, by a father and mother whose marriage union
was an ideal of mutual love, honor, and respect, to feel that marriage
was the holiest and most awful of obligations. To her, the idea of
a husband or a wife betraying each other's weaknesses or faults by
complaints to a third party seemed something sacrilegious; and she
used all her womanly tact and skill to prevent any conversation that
might lead to such a result.
"Lillie is entirely knocked up by the affair yesterday; she had a
terrible headache this morning," said John.
"Poor child! She is a delicate little thing," said Grace.
"She couldn't have had any labor," continued John, "for I saw to every
thing and provided every thing myself; and Bridget and Rosa and all
the girls entered into it with real spirit, and Lillie did the best
she could, poor girl! but I could see all the time she was worrying
about her new fizgigs and folderols in the house. Hang it! I wish they
were all in the Red Sea!" burst out John, glad to find something to
vent himself upon. "If I had known that making the house over was
going to be such a restraint on a fellow, I would never have done it."
"Oh, well! never mind that now," said Grace. "Your house will get
rubbed down by and by, and the new gloss taken off; and so will
your wife, and you will all be cosey and easy as an old shoe. Young
mistresses, you see, have nerves all over their house at first. They
tremble at every dent in their furniture, and wink when you come near
it, as if you were going to hit it a blow; but that wears off in time,
and they learn to take it easy."
John looked relieved; but after a minute broke out again:--
"I say, Gracie, Lillie has gone and invited the Simpkinses and the
Follingsbees here this fall. Just think of it!"
"Well, I suppose you expect your wife to have the right of inviting
her company," said Grace.
"But, you know, Gracie, they are not at all our sort of folks," said
John. "None of our set would ever think of visiting them, and it'll
seem so odd to see them here. Follingsbee is a vulgar sharper, who has
made his money out of our country by dishonest contracts during the
war. I don't know much about his wife. Lillie says she is her intimate
"Oh, well, John! we must get over it in the quietest way possible. It
wouldn't be handsome not to make the agreeable to your wife's company;
and if you don't like the quality of it, why, you are a good deal
nearer to her than any one else can be,--you can gradually detach her
"Then you think I ought to put a good face on their coming?" said
John, with a sigh of relief.
"Oh, certainly! of course. What else can you do? It's one of the
things to be expected with a young wife."
"And do you think the Wilcoxes and the Fergusons and the rest of our
set will be civil?"
"Why, of course they will," said Grace. "Rose and Letitia will,
certainly; and the others will follow suit. After all, John, perhaps
we old families, as we call ourselves, are a little bit pharisaical
and self-righteous, and too apt to thank God that we are not as other
men are. It'll do us good to be obliged to come a little out of our
"It isn't any old family feeling about Follingsbee," said John. "But
I feel that that man deserves to be in State's prison much more than
many a poor dog that is there now."
"And that may be true of many another, even in the selectest circles
of good society," said Grace; "but we are not called on to play
Providence, nor pronounce judgments. The common courtesies of life do
not commit us one way or the other. The Lord himself does not express
his opinion of the wicked, but allows all an equal share in his
"Well, Gracie, you are right; and I'll constrain myself to do the
thing handsomely," said John.
"The thing with you men," said Grace, "is, that you want your wives to
see with your eyes, all in a minute, what has got to come with years
and intimacy, and the gradual growing closer and closer together.
The husband and wife, of themselves, drop many friendships and
associations that at first were mutually distasteful, simply because
their tastes have grown insensibly to be the same."
John hoped it would be so with himself and Lillie; for he was still
very much in love with her; and it comforted him to have Grace speak
so cheerfully, as if it were possible.
"You think Lillie will grow into our ways by and by?"--he said
"Well, if we have patience, and give her time. You know, John, that
you knew when you took her that she had not been brought up in our
ways of living and thinking. Lillie comes from an entirely different
set of people from any we are accustomed to; but a man must face all
the consequences of his marriage honestly and honorably."
"I know it," said John, with a sigh. "I say, Gracie, do you think the
Fergusons like Lillie? I want her to be intimate with them."
"Well, I think they admire her," said Grace, evasively, "and feel
disposed to be as intimate as she will let them."
"Because," said John, "Rose Ferguson is such a splendid girl; she is
so strong, and so generous, and so perfectly true and reliable,--it
would be the joy of my heart if Lillie would choose her for a friend."
"Then, pray don't tell her so," said Grace, earnestly; "and don't
praise her to Lillie,--and, above all things, never hold her up as a
pattern, unless you want your wife to hate her."
John opened his eyes very wide.
"So!" said he, slowly, "I never thought of that. You think she would
be jealous?" and John smiled, as men do at the idea that their wives
may be jealous, not disliking it on the whole.
"I know _I_ shouldn't be in much charity with a woman my husband
proposed to me as a model; that is to say, supposing I had one," said
"That reminds me," said John, suddenly rising up from the sofa.
"Do you know, Gracie, that Colonel Sydenham has come back from his
"I had heard of it," said Grace, quietly. "Now, John, don't interrupt
me. I'm just going to turn this corner, and must count,--'one, two,
three, four, five, six,'"--
John looked at his sister. "How handsome she looks when her cheeks
have that color!" he thought. "I wonder if there ever was any thing in
that affair between them."
_A GREAT MORAL CONFLICT_.
"Now, John dear, I have something very particular that I want you to
promise me," said Mrs. Lillie, a day or two after the scenes last
recorded. Our Lillie had recovered her spirits, and got over her
headache, and had come down and done her best to be delightful; and
when a very pretty woman, who has all her life studied the art of
pleasing, does that, she generally succeeds.
John thought to himself he "didn't care _what_ she was, he loved her;"
and that she certainly was the prettiest, most bewitching little
creature on earth. He flung his sighs and his doubts and fears to the
wind, and suffered himself to be coaxed, and cajoled, and led captive,
in the most amiable manner possible.
His fair one had a point to carry,--a point that instinct told her was
to be managed with great adroitness.
"Well," said John, over his newspaper, "what is this something so very
"First, sir, put down that paper, and listen to me," said Mrs. Lillie,
coming up and seating herself on his knee, and sweeping down the
offending paper with an air of authority.
"Yes'm," said John, submissively. "Let's see,--how was that in the
marriage service? I promised to obey, didn't I?"
"Of course you did; that service is always interpreted by
contraries,--ever since Eve made Adam mind her in the beginning," said
Mrs. Lillie, laughing.
"And got things into a pretty mess in that way," said John; "but come,
now, what is it?"
"Well, John, you know the Follingsbees are coming next week?"
"I know it," said John, looking amiable and conciliatory.
"Well, dear, there are some things about our establishment that are
not just as I should feel pleased to receive them to."
"Ah!" said John; "why, Lillie, I thought we were fine as a fiddle,
from the top of the house to the bottom."
'"Oh! it's not the house; the house is splendid. I shouldn't be in
the least ashamed to show it to anybody; but about the table
"Now, really, Lillie, what can one have more than real old china and
heavy silver plate? I rather pique myself on that; I think it has
quite a good, rich, solid old air."
"Well, John, to say the truth, why do we never have any wine? I don't
care for it,--I never drink it; but the decanters, and the different
colored glasses, and all the apparatus, are such an adornment; and
then the Follingsbees are such judges of wine. He imports his own from
John's face had been hardening down into a firm, decided look, while
Lillie, stroking his whiskers and playing with his collar, went on
with this address.
At last he said, "Lillie, I have done almost every thing you ever
asked; but this one thing I cannot do,--it is a matter of principle. I
never drink wine, never have it on my table, never give it, because I
have pledged myself not to do it."
"Now, John, here is some more of your Quixotism, isn't it?"
"Well, Lillie, I suppose you will call it so," said John; "but listen
to me patiently. My father and I labored for a long time to root out
drinking from our village at Spindlewood. It seemed, for the time, as
if it would be the destruction of every thing there. The fact was,
there was rum in every family; the parents took it daily, the children
learned to love and long after it, by seeing the parents, and drinking
little sweetened remains at the bottoms of tumblers. There were, every
year, families broken up and destroyed, and fine fellows going to
the very devil, with this thing; and so we made a movement to form a
temperance society. I paid lecturers, and finally lectured myself. At
last they said to me: 'It's all very well for you rich people, that
have twice as fine houses and twice as many pleasures as we poor
folks, to pick on us for having a little something comfortable to
drink in our houses. If we could afford your fine nice wines, and all
that, we wouldn't drink whiskey. You must all have your wine on the
table; whiskey is the poor man's wine.'"
"I think," said Lillie, "they were abominably impertinent to talk so
to you. I should have told them so."
"Perhaps they thought I was impertinent in talking to them about their
private affairs," said John; "but I will tell you what I said to them.
I said, 'My good fellows, I will clear my house and table of wine, if
you will clear yours of rum.' On this agreement I formed a temperance
society; my father and I put our names at the head of the list, and we
got every man and boy in Spindlewood. It was a complete victory; and,
since then, there hasn't been a more temperate, thrifty set of people
in these United States."
"Didn't your mother object?"
"My mother! no, indeed; I wish you could have known my mother. It was
no small sacrifice to her and father. Not that they cared a penny for
the wine itself; but the poetry and hospitality of the thing, the fine
old cheery associations connected with it, were a real sacrifice. But
when we told my mother how it was, she never hesitated a moment. All
our cellar of fine old wines was sent round as presents to hospitals,
except a little that we keep for sickness."
"Well, really!" said Lillie, in a dry, cool tone, "I suppose it was
very good of you, perfectly saint-like and all that; but it does seem
a great pity. Why couldn't these people take care of themselves? I
don't see why you should go on denying yourself, just to keep them in
the ways of virtue."
"Oh, it's no self-denial now! I'm quite used to it," said John,
cheerily. "I am young and strong, and just as well as I can be, and
don't need wine; in fact, I never think of it. The Fergusons, who are
with us in the Spindlewood business, took just the same view of it,
and did just as we did; and the Wilcoxes joined us; in fact, all the
good old families of our set came into it."
"Well, couldn't you, just while the Follingsbees are here, do
"No, Lillie; there's my pledge, you see. No; it's really impossible."
Lillie frowned and looked disconsolate.
"John, I really do think you are selfish; you don't seem to have any
consideration for me at all. It's going to make it so disagreeable and
uncomfortable for me. The Follingsbees are accustomed to wine every
day. I'm perfectly ashamed not to give it to them."
"Do 'em good to fast awhile, then," said John, laughing like a
hard-hearted monster. "You'll see they won't suffer materially.
Bridget makes splendid coffee."
"It's a shame to laugh at what troubles me, John. The Follingsbees are
my friends, and of course I want to treat them handsomely."
"We will treat them just as handsomely as we treat ourselves," said
John, "and mortal man or woman ought not to ask more."
"I don't care," said Lillie, after a pause. "I hate all these moral
movements and society questions. They are always in the way of
people's having a good time; and I believe the world would wag just as
well as it does, if nobody had ever thought of them. People will call
you a real muff, John."
"How very terrible!" said John, laughing. "What shall I do if I am
called a muff? and what a jolly little Mrs. Muff you will be!" he
said, pinching her cheek.
"You needn't laugh, John," said Lillie, pouting. "You don't know how
things look in fashionable circles. The Follingsbees are in the very
highest circle. They have lived in Paris, and been invited by the
"I haven't much opinion of Americans who live in Paris and are invited
by the Emperor," said John. "But, be that as it may, I shall do the
best I can for them, and Mr. Young says, 'angels could no more;' so,
good-by, puss: I must go to my office; and don't let's talk about this
And John put on his cap and squared his broad shoulders, and, marching
off with a resolute stride, went to his office, and had a most
uncomfortable morning of it. You see, my dear friends, that though
Nature has set the seal of sovereignty on man, in broad shoulders and
bushy beard; though he fortify and incase himself in rough overcoats
and heavy boots, and walk with a dashing air, and whistle like a
freeman, we all know it is not an easy thing to wage a warfare with
a pretty little creature in lace cap and tiny slippers, who has a
faculty of looking very pensive and grieved, and making up a sad
little mouth, as if her heart were breaking.
John never doubted that he was right, and in the way of duty; and yet,
though he braved it out so stoutly with Lillie, and though he marched
out from her presence victoriously, as it were, with drums beating and
colors flying, yet there was a dismal sinking of heart under it.
"I'm right; I know I am. Of course I can't give up here; it's a matter
of principle, of honor," he said over and over to himself. "Perhaps if
Lillie had been here I never should have taken such a pledge; but as I
have, there's no help for it."
Then he thought of what Lillie had suggested about it's looking
niggardly in hospitality, and was angry with himself for feeling
uncomfortable. "What do I care what Dick Follingsbee thinks?" said he
to himself: "a man that I despise; a cheat, and a swindler,--a man of
no principle. Lillie doesn't know the sacrifice it is to me to have
such people in my house at all. Hang it all! I wish Lillie was a
little more like the women I've been used to,--like Grace and Rose and
my mother. But, poor thing, I oughtn't to blame her, after all, for
her unfortunate bringing up. But it's so nice to be with women that
can understand the grounds you go on. A man never wants to fight a
woman. I'd rather give up, hook and line, and let Lillie have her
own way in every thing. But then it won't do; a fellow must stop
somewhere. Well, I'll make it up in being a model of civility to these
confounded people that I wish were in the Red Sea. Let's see, I'll ask
Lillie if she don't want to give a party for them when they come. By
George! she shall have every thing her own way there,--send to New
York for the supper, turn the house topsy-turvy, illuminate the
grounds, and do any thing else she can think of. Yes, yes, she shall
have _carte blanche_ for every thing!"
All which John told Mrs. Lillie when he returned to dinner and found
her enacting the depressed wife in a most becoming lace cap and
wrapper that made her look like a suffering angel; and the treaty was
sealed with many kisses.
"You shall have _carte blanche_, dearest," he said, "for every thing
but what we were speaking of; and that will content you, won't it?"
And Lillie, with lingering pensiveness, very graciously acknowledged
that it would; and seemed so touchingly resigned, and made such a
merit of her resignation, that John told her she was an angel; in
fact, he had a sort of indistinct remorseful feeling that he was a
sort of cruel monster to deny her any thing. Lillie had sense enough
to see when she could do a thing, and when she couldn't. She had given
up the case when John went out in the morning, and so accepted the
treaty of peace with a good degree of cheerfulness; and she was soon
busy discussing the matter. "You see, we've been invited everywhere,
and haven't given any thing," she said; "and this will do up our
social obligations to everybody here. And then we can show off our
rooms; they really are made to give parties in."
"Yes, so they are," said John, delighted to see her smile again; "they
seem adapted to that, and I don't doubt you'll make a brilliant affair
of it, Lillie."
"Trust me for that, John," said Lillie. "I'll show the Follingsbees
that something can be done here in Springdale as well as in New York."
And so the great question was settled.
_THE FOLLINGSBEES ARRIVE_.
Next week the Follingsbees alighted, so to speak, from a cloud of
glory. They came in their own carriage, and with their own horses;
all in silk and silver, purple and fine linen, "with rings on their
fingers and bells on their toes," as the old song has it. We pause
to caution our readers that this last clause is to be interpreted
[Illustration: THE FOLLINGSBEES.]
Springdale stood astonished. The quiet, respectable old town had not
seen any thing like it for many a long day; the ostlers at the hotel
talked of it; the boys followed the carriage, and hung on the slats of
the fence to see the party alight, and said to one another in their
artless vocabulary, "Golly! ain't it bully?"
There was Mr. Dick Follingsbee, with a pair of waxed, tow-colored
moustaches like the French emperor's, and ever so much longer. He was
a little, thin, light-colored man, with a yellow complexion and sandy
hair; who, with the appendages aforesaid, looked like some kind
of large insect, with very long _antennae_. There was Mrs.
Follingsbee,--a tall, handsome, dark-eyed, dark-haired, dashing woman,
French dressed from the tip of her lace parasol to the toe of
her boot. There was Mademoiselle Therese, the French maid, an
inexpressibly fine lady; and there was _la petite_ Marie, Mrs.
Follingsbee's three-year-old hopeful, a lean, bright-eyed little
thing, with a great scarlet bow on her back that made her look like
a walking butterfly. On the whole, the tableau of arrival was so
impressive, that Bridget and Annie, Rosa and all the kitchen cabinet,
were in a breathless state of excitement.
"How do I find you, _ma chere_?" said Mrs. Follingsbee, folding Lillie
rapturously to her breast. "I've been just dying to see you! How
lovely every thing looks! Oh, _ciel_! how like dear Paris!" she said,
as she was conducted into the parlor, and sunk upon the sofa.
"Pretty well done, too, for America!" said Mr. Follingsbee, gazing
round, and settling his collar. Mr. Follingsbee was one of the class
of returned travellers who always speak condescendingly of any
thing American; as, "so-so," or "tolerable," or "pretty fair,"--a
considerateness which goes a long way towards keeping up the spirits
of the country.
"I say, Dick," said his lady, "have you seen to the bags and wraps?"
"All right, madam."
"And my basket of medicines and the books?"
"O.K.," replied Dick, sententiously.
"Oh! how often must I tell you not to use those odious slang terms?"
said his wife, reprovingly.
"Oh! Mrs. John Seymour knows _me_ of old," said Mr. Follingsbee,
winking facetiously at Lillie. "We've had many a jolly lark together;
haven't we, Lill?"
"Certainly we have," said Lillie, affably. "But come, darling," she
added to Mrs. Follingsbee, "don't you want to be shown your room?"
"Go it, then, my dearie; and I'll toddle up with the fol-de-rols and
what-you-may-calls," said the incorrigible Dick. "There, wife, Mrs.
John Seymour shall go first, so that you shan't be jealous of her
and me. You know we came pretty near being in interesting relations
ourselves at one time; didn't we, now?" he said with another wink.
It is said that a thorough-paced naturalist can reconstruct a whole
animal from one specimen bone. In like manner, we imagine that, from
these few words of dialogue, our expert readers can reconstruct Mr.
and Mrs. Follingsbee: he, vulgar, shallow, sharp, keen at a bargain,
and utterly without scruples; with a sort of hilarious, animal good
nature that was in a state of constant ebullition. He was, as Richard
Baxter said of a better man, "always in that state of hilarity that
another would be in when he hath taken a cup too much."
Dick Follingsbee began life as a peddler. He was now reputed to be
master of untold wealth, kept a yacht and race-horses, ran his own
theatre, and patronized the whole world and creation in general with a
jocular freedom. Mrs. Follingsbee had been a country girl, with small
early advantages, but considerable ambition. She had married Dick
Follingsbee, and helped him up in the world, as a clever, ambitious
woman may. The last few years she had been spending in Paris,
improving her mind and manners in reading Dumas' and Madame George
Sand's novels, and availing herself of such outskirt advantages of the
court of the Tuileries as industrious, pains-taking Americans, not
embarrassed by self-respect, may command.
Mrs. Follingsbee, like many another of our republicans who besieged
the purlieus of the late empire, felt that a residence near the court,
at a time when every thing good and decent in France was hiding in
obscure corners, and every thing _parvenu_ was wide awake and active,
entitled her to speak as one having authority concerning French
character, French manners and customs. This lady assumed the
sentimental literary _role_. She was always cultivating herself in her
own way; that is to say, she was assiduous in what she called keeping
up her French.
In the opinion of many of her class of thinkers, French is the key of
the kingdom of heaven; and, of course, it is worth one's while to sell
all that one has to be possessed of it. Mrs. Follingsbee had not been
in the least backward to do this; but, as to getting the golden
key, she had not succeeded. She had formed the acquaintance of many
disreputable people; she had read French novels and French plays such
as no well-bred French woman would suffer in her family; she had lost
such innocence and purity of mind as she had to lose, and, after all,
had _not_ got the French language.
However, there are losses that do not trouble the subject of them,
because they bring insensibility. Just as Mrs. Follingsbee's ear was
not delicate enough to perceive that her rapid and confident French
was not Parisian, so also her conscience and moral sense were not
delicate enough to know that she had spent her labor for "that which
was not bread." She had only succeeded in acquiring such an air
that, on a careless survey, she might have been taken for one of
the _demi-monde_ of Paris; while secretly she imagined herself the
fascinating heroine of a French romance.
The friendship between Mrs. Follingsbee and Lillie was of the most
impassioned nature; though, as both of them were women of a good solid
perception in regard to their own material interests, there were
excellent reasons on both sides for this enthusiasm.
Notwithstanding the immense wealth of the Follingsbees, there were
circles to which Mrs. Follingsbee found it difficult to be admitted.
With the usual human perversity, these, of course, became exactly the
ones, and the only ones, she particularly cared for. Her ambition was
to pass beyond the ranks of the "shoddy" aristocracy to those of the
old-established families. Now, the Seymours, the Fergusons, and the
Wilcoxes were families of this sort; and none of them had ever
cared to conceal the fact, that they did not intend to know the
Follingsbees. The marriage of Lillie into the Seymour family was the
opening of a door; and Mrs. Follingsbee had been at Lillie's feet
during her Newport campaign. On the other hand, Lillie, having taken
the sense of the situation at Springdale, had cast her thoughts
forward like a discreet young woman, and perceived in advance of her a
very dull domestic winter, enlivened only by reading-circles and such
slow tea-parties as unsophisticated Springdale found agreeable. The
idea of a long visit to the New-York alhambra of the Follingsbees in
the winter, with balls, parties, unlimited opera-boxes, was not a
thing to be disregarded; and so, when Mrs. Follingsbee "_ma chered_"
Lillie, Lillie "my deared" Mrs. Follingsbee: and the pair are to be
seen at this blessed moment sitting with their arms tenderly
round each other's waists on a _causeuse_ in Mrs. Follingsbee's
"You don't know, _mignonne_," said Mrs. Follingsbee, "how perfectly
_ravissante_ these apartments are! I'm so glad poor Charlie did them
so well for you. I laid my commands on him, poor fellow!"
"Pray, how does your affair with him get on?" said Lillie.
"O dearest! you've no conception what a trial it is to me to keep him
in the bounds of reason. He has such struggles of mind about that
stupid wife of his. Think of it, my dear! a man like Charlie Ferrola,
all poetry, romance, ideality, tied to a woman who thinks of nothing
but her children's teeth and bowels, and turns the whole house into a
nursery! Oh, I've no patience with such people."
"Well, poor fellow! it's a pity he ever got married," said Lillie.
"Well, it would be all well enough if this sort of woman ever would
be reasonable; but they won't. They don't in the least comprehend the
necessities of genius. They want to yoke Pegasus to a cart, you see.
Now, I understand Charlie perfectly. I could give him that which he
needs. I appreciate him. I make a bower of peace and enjoyment for
him, where his artistic nature finds the repose it craves."
"And she pitches into him about you," said Lillie, not slow to
perceive the true literal rendering of all this.
"Of course, _ma chere_,--tears him, rends him, lacerates his soul;
sometimes he comes to me in the most dreadful states. Really, dear, I
have apprehended something quite awful! I shouldn't in the least be
surprised if he should blow his brains out!"
And Mrs. Follingsbee sighed deeply, gave a glance at herself in an
opposite mirror, and smoothed down a bow pensively, as the prima donna
at the grand opera generally does when her lover is getting ready to
"Oh! I don't think he's going to kill himself," said Mrs. Lillie, who,
it must be understood, was secretly somewhat sceptical about the power
of her friend's charms, and looked on this little French romance with
the eye of an outsider: "never you believe that, dearest. These men
make dreadful tearings, and shocking eyes and mouths; but they take
pretty good care to keep in the world, after all. You see, if a man's
dead, there's an end of all things; and I fancy they think of that
before they quite come to any thing decisive."
"_Chere etourdie_," said Mrs. Follingsbee, regarding Lillie with a
pensive smile: "you are just your old self, I see; you are now at the
height of your power,--'_jeune Madame, un mari qui vous adore_,' ready
to put all things under your feet. How can you feel for a worn, lonely
heart like mine, that sighs for congeniality?"
"Bless me, now," said Lillie, briskly; "you don't tell me that you're
going to be so silly as to get in love with Charlie yourself! It's all
well enough to keep these fellows on the tragic high ropes; but, if
a woman falls in love herself, there's an end of her power. And,
darling, just think of it: you wouldn't have married that creature if
you could; he's poor as a rat, and always will be; these desperately
interesting fellows always are. Now you have money without end; and of
course you have position; and your husband is a man you can get any
thing in the world out of."
"Oh! as to that, I don't complain of Dick," said Mrs. Follingsbee:
"he's coarse and vulgar, to be sure, but he never stands in my way,
and I never stand in his; and, as you say, he's free about money. But
still, darling, sometimes it seems to me such a weary thing to live
without sympathy of soul! A marriage without congeniality, _mon Dieu_,
what is it? And then the harsh, cold laws of human society prevent any
relief. They forbid natures that are made for each other from being to
each other what they can be."
"You mean that people will talk about you," said Lillie. "Well, I
assure you, dearest, they _will_ talk awfully, if you are not very
careful. I say this to you frankly, as your friend, you know."
"Ah, _ma petite_! you don't need to tell me that. I _am_ careful,"
said Mrs. Follingsbee. "I am always lecturing Charlie, and showing him
that we must keep up _les convenances_; but is it not hard on us poor
women to lead always this repressed, secretive life?"
"What made you marry Mr. Follingsbee?" said Lillie, with apparent
"Darling, I was but a child. I was ignorant of the mysteries of my own
nature, of my capabilities. As Charlie said to me the other day, we
never learn what we are till some congenial soul unlocks the secret
door of our hearts. The fact is, dearest, that American society, with
its strait-laced, puritanical notions, bears terribly hard on woman's
heart. Poor Charlie! he is no less one of the victims of society."
"Oh, nonsense!" said Lillie. "You take it too much to heart. You
mustn't mind all these men say. They are always being desperate and
tragic. Charlie has talked just so to me, time and time again. I
understand it all. He talked exactly so to me when he came to Newport
last summer. You must take matters easy, my dear,--you, with your
beauty, and your style, and your money. Why, you can lead all New
York captive! Forty fellows like Charlie are not worth spoiling one's
dinner for. Come, cheer up; positively I shan't let you be blue,
_ma reine_. Let me ring for your maid to dress you for dinner. _Au
The fact was, that Mrs. Lillie, having formerly set down this lovely
Charlie on the list of her own adorers, had small sympathy with the
sentimental romance of her friend.
"What a fool she makes of herself!" she thought, as she contemplated
her own sylph-like figure and wonderful freshness of complexion in the
glass. "Don't I know Charlie Ferrola? he wants her to get him into
fashionable life, and knows the way to do it. To think of that stout,
middle-aged party imagining that Charlie Ferrola's going to die for
her charms! it's too funny! How stout the dear old thing does get, to
[Illustration: MR. CHARLIE FERROLA.]
It will be observed here that our dear Lillie did not want for
perspicacity. There is nothing so absolutely clear-sighted, in certain
directions, as selfishness. Entire want of sympathy with others clears
up one's vision astonishingly, and enables us to see all the weak
points and ridiculous places of our neighbors in the most accurate
As to Mr. Charlie Ferrola, our Lillie was certainly in the right in
respect to him. He was one of those blossoms of male humanity that
seem as expressly designed by nature for the ornamentation of ladies'
boudoirs, as an Italian greyhound: he had precisely the same graceful,
shivery adaptation to live by petting and caresses. His tastes were
all so exquisite that it was the most difficult thing in the world to
keep him out of misery a moment. He was in a chronic state of disgust
with something or other in our lower world from morning till night.
His profession was nominally that of architecture and landscape
gardening; but, in point of fact, consisted in telling certain rich,
_blase_, stupid, fashionable people how they could quickest get rid of
their money. He ruled despotically in the Follingsbee halls: he bought
and rejected pictures and jewelry, ordered and sent off furniture,
with the air of an absolute master; amusing himself meanwhile
with running a French romance with the handsome mistress of the
establishment. As a consequence, he had not only opportunities for
much quiet feathering of his own nest, but the _eclat_ of always
having the use of the Follingsbees' carriages, horses, and
opera-boxes, and being the acknowledged and supreme head of
fashionable dictation. Ladies sometimes pull caps for such charming
individuals, as we have seen in the case of Mrs. Follingsbee and
For it is not to be supposed that Mrs. Follingsbee, though she had
assumed the gushing style with her young friend, wanted spirit or
perception on her part. Her darling Lillie had left a nettle in her
bosom which rankled there.
"The vanity of these thin, light, watery blondes!" she said
to herself, as she looked into her own great dark eyes in the
mirror,--"thinking Charlie Ferrola cares for her! I know just what he
thinks of _her_, thank heaven! Poor thing! Don't you think Mrs. John
Seymour has gone off astonishingly since her marriage?" she said to
"_Mon Dieu, madame, q'oui_," said the obedient tire-woman, scraping
the very back of her throat in her zeal. "Madame Seymour has the real
American _maigreur_. These thin women, madame, they have no substance;
there is noting to them. For young girl, they are charming; but, as
woman, they are just noting at all. Now, you will see, madame, what I
tell you. In a year or two, people shall ask, 'Was she ever handsome?'
But _you_, madame, you come to your prime like great rose! Oh, dere is
no comparison of you to Mrs. John Seymour!"
And Therese found her words highly acceptable, after the manner of all
her tribe, who prophesy smooth things unto their mistresses.
It may be imagined that the entertaining of Dick Follingsbee was no
small strain on the conjugal endurance of our faithful John; but he
was on duty, and endured without flinching that gentleman's free and
easy jokes and patronizing civilities.
"I do wish, darling, you'd teach that creature not to call you
'Lillie' in that abominably free manner," he said to his wife, the
first day, after dinner.
"Mercy on us, John! what can I do? All the world knows that Dick
Follingsbee's an oddity; and everybody agrees to take what he says for
what it's worth. If I should go to putting on any airs, he'd behave
ten times worse than he does: the only way is, to pass it over
quietly, and not to seem to notice any thing he says or does. My way
is, to smile, and look gracious, and act as if I hadn't heard any
thing but what is perfectly proper."
"It's a tremendous infliction, Lillie!"
"Poor man! is it?" said Lillie, putting her arm round his neck, and
stroking his whiskers. "Well, now, he's a good man to bear it so well,
so he is; and they shan't plague him long. But, John, you must confess
Mrs. Follingsbee is nice: poor woman! she is mortified with the way
Dick will go on; but she can't do any thing with him."
"Yes, I can get on with her," said John. In fact, John was one of the
men so loyal to women that his path of virtue in regard to them always
ran down hill. Mrs. Follingsbee was handsome, and had a gift in
language, and some considerable tact in adapting herself to her
society; and, as she put forth all her powers to win his admiration,
Grace had done her part to assist John in his hospitable intents, by
securing the prompt co-operation of the Fergusons. The very first
evening after their arrival, old Mrs. Ferguson, with Letitia and Rose,
called, not formally but socially, as had always been the custom
of the two families. Dick Follingsbee was out, enjoying an evening
cigar,--a circumstance on which John secretly congratulated himself
as a favorable feature in the case. He felt instinctively a sort of
uneasy responsibility for his guests; and, judging the Fergusons
by himself, felt that their call was in some sort an act of
self-abnegation on his account; and he was anxious to make it as easy
as possible. Mrs. Follingsbee was presentable, so he thought; but he
dreaded the irrepressible Dick, and had much the same feeling about
him that one has on presenting a pet spaniel or pointer in a lady's
parlor,--there was no answering for what he might say or do.
The Fergusons were disposed to make themselves most amiable to Mrs.
Follingsbee; and, with this intent. Miss Letitia started the subject
of her Parisian experiences, as being probably one where she would
feel herself especially at home. Mrs. Follingsbee of course expanded
in rapturous description, and was quite clever and interesting.
"You must feel quite a difference between that country and this, in
regard to facilities of living," said Miss Letitia.
"Ah, indeed! do I not?" said Mrs. Follingsbee, casting up her eyes.
"Life here in America is in a state of perfect disorganization."
"We are a young people here, madam," said John. "We haven't had time
to organize the smaller conveniences of life."
"Yes, that's what I mean," said Mrs. Follingsbee. "Now, you men don't
feel it so very much; but it bears hard on us poor women. Life here in
America is perfect slavery to women,--a perfect dead grind. You see
there's no career at all for a married woman in this country, as there
is in France. Marriage there opens a brilliant prospect before a girl:
it introduces her to the world; it gives her wings. In America, it
is clipping her wings, chaining her down, shutting her up,--no more
gayety, no more admiration; nothing but cradles and cribs, and bibs
and tuckers, little narrowing, wearing, domestic cares, hard, vulgar
domestic slaveries: and so our women lose their bloom and health and
freshness, and are moped to death."
"I can't see the thing in that light, Mrs. Follingsbee," said old Mrs.
Ferguson. "I don't understand this modern talk. I am sure, for one, I
can say I have had all the career I wanted ever since I married. You
know, dear, when one begins to have children, one's heart goes into
them: we find nothing hard that we do for the dear little things. I've
heard that the Parisian ladies never nurse their own babies. From my
very heart, I pity them."
"Oh, my dear madam!" said Mrs. Follingsbee, "why insist upon it that a
cultivated, intelligent woman shall waste some of the most beautiful
years of her life in a mere animal function, that, after all, any
healthy peasant can perform better than she? The French are a
philosophical nation; and, in Paris, you see, this thing is all
systematic: it's altogether better for the child. It's taken to the
country, and put to nurse with a good strong woman, who makes that her
only business. She just lives to be a good animal, you see, and so is
a better one than a more intellectual being can be; thus she gives the
child a strong constitution, which is the main thing."
"Yes," said Miss Letitia; "I was told, when in Paris, that this system
is universal. The dressmaker, who works at so much a day, sends her
child out to nurse as certainly as the woman of rank and fashion.
There are no babies, as a rule, in French households."
"And you see how good this is for the mother," said Mrs. Follingsbee.
"The first year or two of a child's life it is nothing but a little
animal; and one person can do for it about as well as another: and all
this time, while it is growing physically, the mother has for art, for
self-cultivation, for society, and for literature. Of course she keeps
her eye on her child, and visits it often enough to know that all goes
right with it."
"Yes," said Miss Letitia; "and the same philosophical spirit regulates
the education of the child throughout. An American gentleman, who
wished to live in Paris, told me that, having searched all over it, he
could not accommodate his family, including himself and wife and two
children, without taking _two_ of the suites that are usually let to
one family. The reason, he inferred, was the perfection of the system
which keeps the French family reduced in numbers. The babies are out
at nurse, sometimes till two, and sometimes till three years of age;
and, at seven or eight, the girl goes into a pension, and the boy
into a college, till they are ready to be taken out,--the girl to be
married, and the boy to enter a profession: so the leisure of parents
for literature, art, and society is preserved."
"It seems to me the most perfectly dreary, dreadful way of living I
ever heard of," said Mrs. Ferguson, with unwonted energy. "How I pity
people who know so little of real happiness!"
"Yet the French are dotingly fond of children," said Mrs. Follingsbee.
"It's a national peculiarity; you can see it in all their literature.
Don't you remember Victor Hugo's exquisite description of a mother's
feelings for a little child in 'Notre Dame de Paris'? I never read any
thing more affecting; it's perfectly subduing."
"They can't love their children as I did mine," said Mrs. Ferguson:
"it's impossible; and, if that's what's called organizing society, I
hope our society in America never will be organized. It can't be that
children are well taken care of on that system. I always attended to
every thing for my babies _myself_; because I felt God had put them
into my hands perfectly helpless; and, if there is any thing difficult
or disagreeable in the case, how can I expect to _hire_ a woman for
money to be faithful in what I cannot do for love?"
"But don't you think, dear madam, that this system of personal
devotion to children may be carried too far?" said Mrs. Follingsbee.
"Perhaps in France they may go to an extreme; but don't our American
women, as a rule, sacrifice themselves too much to their families?"
"_Sacrifice_"! said Mrs. Ferguson. "How can we? Our children are our
new life. We live in them a thousand times more than we could in
ourselves. No, I think a mother that doesn't take care of her own baby
misses the greatest happiness a woman can know. A baby isn't a mere
animal; and it is a great and solemn thing to see the coming of an
immortal soul into it from day to day. My very happiest hours have
been spent with my babies in my arms."
"There may be women constituted so as to enjoy it," said Mrs.
Follingsbee; "but you must allow that there is a vast difference among
"There certainly is," said Mrs. Ferguson, as she rose with a frigid
courtesy, and shortened the call. "My dear girls," said the old lady
to her daughters, when they returned home, "I disapprove of that
woman. I am very sorry that pretty little Mrs. Seymour has so bad a
friend and adviser. Why, the woman talks like a Fejee Islander! Baby a
mere animal, to be sure! it puts me out of temper to hear such talk.
The woman talks as if she had never heard of such a thing as love in
her life, and don't know what it means."
"Oh, well, mamma!" said Rose, "you know we are old-fashioned folks,
and not up to modern improvements."
"Well," said Miss Letitia, "I should think that that poor little weird
child of Mrs. Follingsbee's, with the great red bow on her back, had
been brought up on this system. Yesterday afternoon I saw her in the
garden, with that maid of hers, apparently enjoying a free fight. They
looked like a pair of goblins,--an old and a young one. I never saw
any thing like it."
"What a pity!" said Rose; "for she's a smart, bright little thing; and
it's cunning to hear her talk French."
"Well," said Mrs. Ferguson, straightening her back, and sitting up
with a grand air: "I am one of eight children that my mother nursed
herself at her own breast, and lived to a good honorable old age after
it. People called her a handsome woman at sixty: she could ride and
walk and dance with the best; and nobody kept up a keener interest in
reading or general literature. Her conversation was sought by the most
eminent men of the day as something remarkable. She was always with
her children: we always knew we had her to run to at any moment; and
we were the first thing with her. She lived a happy, loving, useful
life; and her children rose up and called her blessed."
"As we do you, dear mamma," said Rose, kissing her: "so don't be
oratorical, darling mammy; because we are all of your mind here."
_MRS. JOHN SEYMOUR'S PARTY, AND WHAT CAME OF IT_.
Mrs. John Seymour's party marked an era in the annals of Springdale.
Of this, you may be sure, my dear reader, when you consider that it
was projected and arranged by Mrs. Lillie, in strict counsel with her
friend Mrs. Follingsbee, who had lived in Paris, and been to balls at
the Tuileries. Of course, it was a tip-top New-York-Paris party, with
all the new, fashionable, unspeakable crinkles and wrinkles, all the
high, divine, spick and span new ways of doing things; which,
however, like the Eleusinian mysteries, being in their very nature
incommunicable except to the elect, must be left to the imagination.
A French _artiste_, whom Mrs. Follingsbee patronized as "my
confectioner," came in state to Springdale, with a retinue of
appendages and servants sufficient for a circus; took formal
possession of the Seymour mansion, and became, for the time being,
absolute dictator, as was customary in the old Roman Republic in times
Mr. Follingsbee was forward, fussy, and advisory, in his own peculiar
free-and-easy fashion; and Mrs. Follingsbee was instructive and
patronizing to the very last degree. Lillie had bewailed in her
sympathizing bosom John's unaccountable and most singular moral
Quixotism in regard to the wine question, and been comforted by her
appreciative discourse. Mrs. Follingsbee had a sort of indefinite
faith in French phrases for mending all the broken places in life. A
thing said partly in French became at once in her view elucidated,
even though the words meant no more than the same in English; so she
consoled Lillie as follows:--
"Oh, _ma chere_! I understand perfectly: your husband may be '_un peu
borne_' as they say in Paris, but still '_un homme tres respectable_'
(Mrs. Follingsbee here scraped her throat emphatically, just as her
French maid did),--a sublime example of the virtues; and let me tell
you, darling, you are very fortunate to get such a man. It is not
often that a woman can get an establishment like yours, and a good man
into the bargain; so, if the goodness is a little _ennuyeuse_, one
must put up with it. Then, again, people of old established standing
may do about what they like socially: their position is made. People
only say, 'Well, that is their way; the Seymours will do so and so.'
Now, we have to do twice as much of every thing to make our position,
as certain other people do. We might flood our place with champagne
and Burgundy, and get all the young fellows drunk, as we generally
do; and yet people will call our parties '_bourgeois_' and yours
'_recherche_', if you give them nothing but tea and biscuit. Now,
there's my Dick: he respects your husband; you can see he does. In
his odious slang way, he says he's 'some,' and 'a brick;' and he's
a little anxious to please him, though he professes not to care for
anybody. Now, Dick has pretty sharp sense, after all, or he'd never
have been just where he is."
Our friend John, during these days preceding the party, the party
itself, and the clearing up after it, enacted submissively that part
of unconditional surrender which the master of the house, if well
trained, generally acts on such occasions. He resembled the prize ox,
which is led forth adorned with garlands, ribbons, and docility, to
grace a triumphal procession. He went where he was told, did as he
was bid, marched to the right, marched to the left, put on gloves and
cravat, and took them off, entirely submissive to the word of his
little general; and exhibited, in short, an edifying spectacle of that
pleasant domestic animal, a tame husband. He had to make atonement for
being a reformer, and for endeavoring to live like a Christian, by
conceding to his wife all this latitude of indulgence; and he meant to
go through it like a man and a philosopher. To be sure, in his eyes,
it was all so much unutterable bosh and nonsense; and bosh and
nonsense for which he was eventually to settle the bills: but he armed
himself with the patient reflection that all things have their end in
time,--that fireworks and Chinese lanterns, bands of music and kid
gloves, ruffs and puffs, and pinkings and quillings, and all sorts of
unspeakable eatables with French names, would ere long float down the
stream of time, and leave their record only in a few bad colds and
days of indigestion, which also time would mercifully cure.
So John steadied his soul with a view of that comfortable future, when
all this fuss should be over, and the coast cleared for something
better. Moreover, John found this good result of his patience: that he
learned a little something in a Christian way by it. Men of elevated
principle and moral honesty often treat themselves to such large
slices of contempt and indignation, in regard to the rogues of
society, as to forget a common brotherhood of pity. It is sometimes
wholesome for such men to be obliged to tolerate a scamp to the extent
of exchanging with him the ordinary benevolences of social life.
John, in discharging the duty of a host to Dick Follingsbee, found
himself, after a while, looking on him with pity, as a poor creature,
like the rich fool in the Gospels, without faith, or love, or prayer;
spending life as a moth does,--in vain attempts to burn himself up in
the candle, and knowing nothing better. In fact, after a while, the
stiff, tow-colored moustache, smart stride, and flippant air of this
poor little man struck him somewhere in the region between a smile and
a tear; and his enforced hospitality began to wear a tincture of
real kindness. There is no less pathos in moral than in physical
It is an observable social phenomenon that, when any family in a
community makes an advance very greatly ahead of its neighbors in
style of living or splendor of entertainments, the fact causes great
searchings of spirit in all the region round about, and abundance of
talk, wherein the thoughts of many hearts are revealed.
Springdale was a country town, containing a choice knot of the old,
respectable, true-blue, Boston-aristocracy families. Two or three
of them had winter houses in Beacon Street, and went there, after
Christmas, to enjoy the lectures, concerts, and select gayeties of
the modern Athens; others, like the Fergusons and Seymours, were in
intimate relationship with the same circle.
Now, it is well known that the real old true-blue, Simon-pure, Boston
family is one whose claims to be considered "the thing," and the only
thing, are somewhat like the claim of apostolic succession in ancient
churches. It is easy to see why certain affluent, cultivated, and
eminently well-conducted people should be considered "the thing" in
their day and generation; but why they should be considered as the
"only thing" is the point insoluble to human reason, and to be
received by faith alone; also, why certain other people, equally
affluent, cultivated, and well-conducted are _not_ "the thing" is one
of the divine mysteries, about which whoso observes Boston society
will do well not too curiously to exercise his reason.
These "true-blue" families, however, have claims to respectability;
which make them, on the whole, quite a venerable and pleasurable
feature of society in our young, topsy-turvy, American community. Some
of them have family records extending clearly back to the settlement
of Massachusetts Bay; and the family estate is still on grounds first
cleared up by aboriginal settlers. Being of a Puritan nobility, they
have an ancestral record, affording more legitimate subject of family
self-esteem than most other nobility. Their history runs back to
an ancestry of unworldly faith and prayer and self-denial, of
incorruptible public virtue, sturdy resistance of evil, and pursuit of
There is also a literary aroma pervading their circles. Dim
suggestions of "The North American Review," of "The Dial," of
Cambridge,--a sort of vague "_miel-fleur_" of authorship and
poetry,--is supposed to float in the air around them; and it
is generally understood that in their homes exist tastes and
appreciations denied to less favored regions. Almost every one of them
has its great man,--its father, grandfather, cousin, or great uncle,
who wrote a book, or edited a review, or was a president of the United
States, or minister to England, whose opinions are referred to by the
family in any discussion, as good Christians quote the Bible.
It is true that, in some few instances, the _pleroma_ of aristocratic
dignity undergoes a sort of acetic fermentation, and comes out in
ungenial qualities. Now and then, at a public watering-place, a man or
woman appears no otherwise distinguished than by a remarkable talent
for being disagreeable; and it is amusing to find, on inquiry, that
this repulsiveness of demeanor is entirely on account of belonging to
an ancient family.
Such is the tendency of democracy to a general mingling of elements,
that this frigidity is deemed necessary by these good souls to prevent
the commonalty from being attracted by them, and sticking to them,
as straws and bits of paper do to amber. But more generally the
"true-blue" old families are simple and urbane in their manners;
and their pretensions are, as Miss Edgeworth says, presented rather
_intaglio_ than in cameo. Of course, they most thoroughly believe in
themselves, but in a bland and genial way. "_Noblesse oblige_" is with
them a secret spring of gentle address and social suavity. They prefer
their own set and their own ways, and are comfortably sure that what
they do not know is not worth knowing, and what they have not been in
the habit of doing is not worth doing; but still they are indulgent of
the existence of human nature outside of their own circle.
The Seymours and the Fergusons belonged to this sort of people; and,
of course, Mr. John Seymour's marriage afforded them opportunity
for some wholesome moral discipline. The Ferguson girls were frank,
social, magnanimous young women; of that class, to whom the saying or
doing of a rude or unhandsome thing by any human being was an utter
impossibility, and whose cheeks would flush at the mere idea of
asserting personal superiority over any one. Nevertheless, they trod
the earth firmly, as girls who felt that they were born to a certain
position. Judge Ferguson was a gentleman of the old school, devoted to
past ideas, fond of the English classics, and with small faith in any
literature later than Dr. Johnson. He confessed to a toleration for
Scott's novels, and had been detected by his children both laughing
and crying over the stories of Charles Dickens; for the amiable
weaknesses of human nature still remain in the best regulated mind.
To women and children, the judge was benignity itself, imitating the
Grand Monarque, who bowed even to a chambermaid. He believed in good,
orderly, respectable, old ways and entertainments, and had a quiet
horror of all that is loud or noisy or pretentious; which sometimes
made his social duties a trial to him, as was the case in regard to
the Seymour party.
The arrangements of the party, including the preparations for an
extensive illumination of the grounds, and fireworks, were on so
unusual a scale as to rouse the whole community of Springdale to a
fever of excitement; of course, the Wilcoxes and the Lennoxes were
astonished and disgusted. When had it been known that any of their set
had done any thing of the kind? How horribly out of taste! Just the
result of John Seymour's marrying into that class of society! Mrs.
Lennox was of opinion that she ought not to go. She was of the
determined and spicy order of human beings, and often, like a certain
French countess, felt disposed to thank Heaven that she generally
succeeded in being rude when the occasion required. Mrs. Lennox
regarded "snubbing" in the light of a moral duty devolving on people
of condition, when the foundations of things were in danger of being
removed by the inroads of the vulgar commonalty. On the present
occasion, Mrs. Lennox was of opinion that quiet, respectable people,
of good family, ought to ignore this kind of proceeding, and not think
of encouraging such things by their presence.
Mrs. Wilcox generally shaped her course by Mrs. Lennox: still she had
promised Letitia Ferguson to be gracious to the Seymours in their
exigency, and to call on the Follingsbees; so there was a confusion
all round. The young people of both families declared that _they_ were
going, just to see the fun. Bob Lennox, with the usual vivacity of
Young America, said he didn't "care a hang who set a ball rolling, if
only something was kept stirring." The subject was discussed when Mrs.
Lennox and Mrs. Wilcox were making a morning call upon the Fergusons.
"For my part," said Mrs. Lennox, "I'm principled on this subject.
Those Follingsbees are not proper people. They are of just that
vulgar, pushing class, against which I feel it my duty to set my face
like a flint; and I'm astonished that a man like John Seymour should
go into relations with them. You see it puts all his friends in a most
"Dear Mrs. Lennox," said Rose Ferguson, "indeed, it is not Mr.
Seymour's fault. These persons are invited by his wife."
"Well, what business has he to allow his wife to invite them? A man
should be master in his own house."
"But, my dear Mrs. Lennox," said Mrs. Ferguson, "such a pretty young
creature, and just married! of course it would be unhandsome not to
allow her to have her friends."
"Certainly," said Judge Ferguson, "a gentleman cannot be rude to his
wife's invited guests; for my part, I think Seymour is putting the
best face he can on it; and we must all do what we can to help him. We
shall all attend the Seymour party."
"Well," said Mrs. Wilcox, "I think we shall go. To be sure, it is not
what I should like to do. I don't approve of these Follingsbees. Mr.
Wilcox was saying, this morning, that his money was made by frauds on
the government, which ought to have put him in the State Prison."
"Now, I say," said Mrs. Lennox, "such people ought to be put
down socially: I have no patience with their airs. And that Mrs.
Follingsbee, I have heard that she was a milliner, or shop-girl, or
some such thing; and to see the airs she gives herself! One would
think it was the Empress Eugenie herself, come to queen it over us in
America. I can't help thinking we ought to take a stand. I really do."
"But, dear Mrs. Lennox, we are not obliged to cultivate further
relations with people, simply from exchanging ordinary civilities with
them on one evening," said Judge Ferguson.
"But, my dear sir, these pushing, vulgar, rich people take advantage
of every opening. Give them an inch, and they will take an ell," said
Mrs. Lennox. "Now, if I go, they will be claiming acquaintance with me
in Newport next summer. Well, I shall cut them,--dead."
"Trust you for that," said Miss Letitia, laughing; "indeed, Mrs.
Lennox, I think you may go wherever you please with perfect safety.
People will never saddle themselves on you longer than you want them;
so you might as well go to the party with the rest of us."
"And besides, you know," said Mrs. Wilcox, "all our young people will
go, whether we go or not. Your Tom was at my house yesterday; and he
is going with my girls: they are all just as wild about it as they can
be, and say that it is the greatest fun that has been heard of this
In fact, there was not a man, woman, or child, in a circle of fifteen
miles round, who could show shade or color of an invitation, who was
not out in full dress at Mrs. John Seymour's party. People in a city
may pick and choose their entertainments, and she who gives a party
there may reckon on a falling off of about one-third, for various
other attractions; but in the country, where there is nothing else
stirring, one may be sure that not one person able to stand on his
feet will be missing. A party in a good old sleepy, respectable
country place is a godsend. It is equal to an earthquake, for
suggesting materials of conversation; and in so many ways does it
awaken and vivify the community, that one may doubt whether, after
all, it is not a moral benefaction, and the giver of it one to be
ranked in the noble army of martyrs.
Everybody went. Even Mrs. Lennox, when she had sufficiently swallowed
her moral principles, sent in all haste to New York for an elegant
spick and span new dress from Madame de Tullegig's, expressly for the
occasion. Was she to be outshone by unprincipled upstarts? Perish the
thought! It was treason to the cause of virtue, and the standing order
of society. Of course, the best thing to be done is to put certain
people down, if you can; but, if you cannot do that, the next best
thing is to outshine them in their own way. It may be very naughty
for them to be so dressy and extravagant, and very absurd, improper,
immoral, unnecessary, and in bad taste; but still, if you cannot help
it, you may as well try to do the same, and do a little more of it.
Mrs. Lennox was in a feverish state till all her trappings came from
New York. The bill was something stunning; but, then, it was voted by
the young people that she had never looked so splendidly in her life;
and she comforted herself with marking out a certain sublime distance
and reserve of manner to be observed towards Mrs. Seymour and the
The young people, however, came home delighted. Tom, aged twenty-two,
instructed his mother that Follingsbee was a brick, and a real jolly
fellow; and he had accepted an invitation to go on a yachting cruise
with him the next month. Jane Lennox, moreover, began besetting her
mother to have certain details in their house rearranged, with an eye
to the Seymour glorification.
"Now, Jane dear, that's just the result of allowing you to visit in
this flash, vulgar genteel society," said the troubled mamma.
"Bless your heart, mamma, the world moves on, you know; and we must
move with it a little, or be left behind. For my part, I'm perfectly
ashamed of the way we let things go at our house. It really is not
respectable. Now, I like Mrs. Follingsbee, for my part: she's clever
and amusing. It was fun to hear all about the balls at the Tuileries,
and the opera and things in Paris. Mamma, when are we going to Paris?"
"Oh! I don't know, my dear; you must ask your father. He is very
unwilling to go abroad."
"Papa is so slow and conservative in his notions!" said the young
lady. "For my part, I cannot see what is the use of all this talk
about the Follingsbees. He is good-natured and funny; and, I am sure,
I think she's a splendid woman: and, by the way, she gave me the
address of lots of places in New York where we can get French things.
Did you notice her lace? It is superb; and she told me where lace just
like it could be bought one-third less than they sell at Stewart's."
Thus we see how the starting-out of an old, respectable family in any
new ebullition of fancy and fashion is like a dandelion going to seed.
You have not only the airy, fairy globe; but every feathery particle
thereof bears a germ which will cause similar feather bubbles all over
the country; and thus old, respectable grass-plots become, in time,
half dandelion. It is to be observed that, in all questions of life
and fashion, "the world and the flesh," to say nothing of the third
partner of that ancient firm, have us at decided advantage. It is easy
to see the flash of jewelry, the dazzle of color, the rush and glitter
of equipage, and to be dizzied by the babble and gayety of fashionable
life; while it is not easy to see justice, patience, temperance,
self-denial. These are things belonging to the invisible and the
eternal, and to be seen with other eyes than those of the body.
Then, again, there is no one thing in all the items which go to make
up fashionable extravagance, which, taken separately and by itself, is
not in some point of view a good or pretty or desirable thing; and so,
whenever the forces of invisible morality begin an encounter with the
troops of fashion and folly, the world and the flesh, as we have just
said, generally have the best of it.
It may be very shocking and dreadful to get money by cheating and
lying; but when the money thus got is put into the forms of yachts,
operas, pictures, statues, and splendid entertainments, of which you
are freely offered a share if you will only cultivate the acquaintance
of a sharper, will you not then begin to say, "Everybody is going,
why not I? As to countenancing Dives, why he is countenanced; and my
holding out does no good. What is the use of my sitting in my corner
and sulking? Nobody minds me." Thus Dives gains one after another to
follow his chariot, and make up his court.
Our friend John, simply by being a loving, indulgent husband, had
come into the position, in some measure, of demoralizing the public
conscience, of bringing in luxury and extravagance, and countenancing
people who really ought not to be countenanced. He had a sort of
uneasy perception of this fact; yet, at each particular step, he
seemed to himself to be doing no more than was right or reasonable. It
was a fact that, through all Springdale, people were beginning to be
uneasy and uncomfortable in houses that used to seem to them nice
enough, and ashamed of a style of dress and entertainment and living
that used to content them perfectly, simply because of the changes of
style and living in the John-Seymour mansion.
Of old, the Seymour family had always been a bulwark on the side of
a temperate self-restraint and reticence in worldly indulgence; of
a kind that parents find most useful to strengthen their hands when
children are urging them on to expenses beyond their means: for they
could say, "The Seymours are richer than we are, and you see they
don't change their carpets, nor get new sofas, nor give extravagant
parties; and they give simple, reasonable, quiet entertainments,
and do not go into any modern follies." So the Seymours kept up the
Fergusons, and the Fergusons the Seymours; and the Wilcoxes and the
Lennoxes encouraged each other in a style of quiet, reasonable living,
saving money for charity, and time for reading and self-cultivation,
and by moderation and simplicity keeping up the courage of less
wealthy neighbors to hold their own with them.
The John-Seymour party, therefore, was like the bursting of a great
dam, which floods a whole region. There was not a family who had not
some trouble with the inundation, even where, like Rose and Letitia
Ferguson, they swept it out merrily, and thought no more of it.
"It was all very pretty and pleasant, and I'm glad it went off so
well," said Rose Ferguson the next day; "but I have not the smallest
desire to repeat any thing of the kind. We who live in the country,
and have such a world of beautiful things around us every day, and so
many charming engagements in riding, walking, and rambling, and so
much to do, cannot afford to go into this sort of thing: we really
have not time for it."
"That pretty creature," said Mrs. Ferguson, speaking of Lillie, "is
really a charming object. I hope she will settle down now to domestic
life. She will soon find better things to care for, I trust: a baby
would be her best teacher. I am sure I hope she will have one."
"A baby is mamma's infallible recipe for strengthening the character,"
said Rose, laughing.
"Well, as the saying is, they bring love with them," said Mrs.
Ferguson; "and love always brings wisdom."
_AFTER THE BATTLE_.
"Well, Grace, the Follingsbees are gone at last, I am thankful to
say," said John, as he stretched himself out on the sofa in Grace's
parlor with a sigh of relief. "If ever I am caught in such a scrape
again, I shall know it."
"Yes, it is all well over," said Grace.
"Over! I wish you would look at the bills. Why, Gracie! I had not the
least idea, when I gave Lillie leave to get what she chose, what it
would come to, with those people at her elbow, to put things into her
head. I could not interfere, you know, after the thing was started;
and I thought I would not spoil Lillie's pleasure, especially as I had
to stand firm in not allowing wine. It was well I did; for if wine had
been given, and taken with the reckless freedom that all the rest was,
it might have ended in a general riot."
"As some of the great fashionable parties do, where young women get
merry with champagne, and young men get drunk," said Grace.
"Well," said John, "I don't exactly like the whole turn of the way
things have been going at our house lately. I don't like the influence
of it on others. It is not in the line of the life I want to lead, and
that we have all been trying to lead."
"Well," said Gracie, "things will be settled now quietly, I hope."
"I say," said John, "could not we start our little reading sociables,
that were so pleasant last year? You know we want to keep some little
pleasant thing going, and draw Lillie in with us. When a girl has been
used to lively society, she can't come down to mere nothing; and I
am afraid she will be wanting to rush off to New York, and visit the
"Well," said Grace, "Letitia and Rose were speaking the other day of
that, and wanting to begin. You know we were to read Froude together,
as soon as the evenings got a little longer."
"Oh, yes! that will be capital," said John.
"Do you think Lillie will be interested in Froude?" asked Grace.
"I really can't say," said John, with some doubting of heart; "perhaps
it would be well to begin with something a little lighter at first."
"Any thing you please, John. What shall it be?"
"But I don't want to hold you all back on my account," said John.
"Well, then again, John, there's our old study-club. The Fergusons and
Mr. Mathews were talking it over the other night, and wondering when
you would be ready to join us. We were going to take up Lecky's
'History of Morals,' and have our sessions Tuesday evenings,--one
Tuesday at their house, and the other at mine, you know."
"I should enjoy that, of all things," said John; "but I know it is of
no use to ask Lillie: it would only be the most dreadful bore to her."
"And you couldn't come without her, of course," said Grace.
"Of course not; that would be too cruel, to leave the poor little
thing at home alone."
"Lillie strikes me as being naturally clever," said Grace; "if she
only would bring her mind to enter into your tastes a little, I'm sure
you would find her capable."
"But, Gracie, you've no conception how very different her sphere of
thought is, how entirely out of the line of our ways of thinking. I'll
tell you," said John, "don't wait for me. You have your Tuesdays, and
go on with your Lecky; and I will keep a copy at home, and read up
with you. And I will bring Lillie in the evening, after the reading is
over; and we will have a little music and lively talk, and a dance or
charade, you know: then perhaps her mind will wake up by degrees."
SCENE.--_After tea in the Seymour parlor. John at a table, reading.
Lillie in a corner, embroidering_.
_Lillie_. "Look here, John, I want to ask you something."
_John_,--putting down his book, and crossing to her, "Well, dear?"
_Lillie_. "There, would you make a green leaf there, or a brown one?"
_John_,--endeavoring to look wise, "Well, a brown one."
_Lillie_. "That's just like you, John; now, don't you see that a brown
one would just spoil the effect?"
"Oh! would it?" said John, innocently. "Well, what did you ask me
"Why, you tiresome creature! I wanted you to say something. What are
you sitting moping over a book for? You don't entertain me a bit."
"Dear Lillie, I have been talking about every thing I could think of,"
said John, apologetically.
"Well, I want you to keep on talking, and put up that great heavy
book. What is it, any way?"
"Lecky's 'History of Morals,'" said John.
"How dreadful! do you really mean to read it?"
"Certainly; we are all reading it."
"Why, Gracie, and Letitia and Rose Ferguson."
"Rose Ferguson? I don't believe it. Why, Rose isn't twenty yet! She
cannot care about such stuff."
"She does care, and enjoys it too," said John, eagerly.
"It is a pity, then, you didn't get her for a wife instead of me,"
said Lillie, in a tone of pique.
Now, this sort of thing does well enough occasionally, said by a
pretty woman, perfectly sure of her ground, in the early days of the
honey-moon; but for steady domestic diet is not to be recommended.
Husbands get tired of swearing allegiance over and over; and John
returned to his book quietly, without reply. He did not like the
suggestion; and he thought that it was in very poor taste. Lillie
embroidered in silence a few minutes, and then threw down her work
"How close this room is!"
John read on.
"John, do open the door!"
John rose, opened the door, and returned to his book.
"Now, there's that draft from the hall-window. John, you'll have to
shut the door."
John shut it, and read on.
"Oh, dear me!" said Lillie, throwing herself down with a portentous
yawn. "I do think this is dreadful!"
"What is dreadful?" said John, looking up.
"It is dreadful to be buried alive here in this gloomy town of
Springdale, where there is nothing to see, and nowhere to go, and
nothing going on."
"We have always flattered ourselves that Springdale was a most
attractive place," said John. "I don't know of any place where there
are more beautiful walks and rambles."
"But I detest walking in the country. What is there to see? And you
get your shoes muddy, and burrs on your clothes, and don't meet a
creature! I got so tired the other day when Grace and Rose Ferguson
would drag me off to what they call 'the glen.' They kept oh-ing and
ah-ing and exclaiming to each other about some stupid thing every step
of the way,--old pokey nutgalls, bare twigs of trees, and red and
yellow leaves, and ferns! I do wish you could have seen the armful of
trash that those two girls carried into their respective houses. I
would not have such stuff in mine for any thing. I am tired of all
this talk about Nature. I am free to confess that I don't like Nature,
and do like art; and I wish we only lived in New York, where there is
something to amuse one."
[Illustration: "But I detest walking in the country."]
"Well, Lillie dear, I am sorry; but we don't live in New York, and are
not likely to," said John.
"Why can't we? Mrs. Follingsbee said that a man in your profession,
and with your talents, could command a fortune in New York."
"If it would give me the mines of Golconda, I would not go there,"
"How stupid of you! You know you would, though."
"No, Lillie; I would not leave Springdale for any money."
"That is because you think of nobody but yourself," said Lillie. "Men
are always selfish."
"On the contrary, it is because I have so many here depending on me,
of whom I am bound to think more than myself," said John.
"That dreadful mission-work of yours, I suppose," said Lillie; "that
always stands in the way of having a good time."
"Lillie," said John, shutting his book, and looking at her, "what is
your ideal of a good time?"
"Why, having something amusing going on all the time,--something
bright and lively, to keep one in good spirits," said Lillie.
"I thought that you would have enough of that with your party and
all," said John.
"Well, now it's all over, and duller than ever," said Lillie. "I think
a little spirt of gayety makes it seem duller by contrast."
"Yet, Lillie," said John, "you see there are women, who live right
here in Springdale, who are all the time busy, interested, and happy,
with only such sources of enjoyment as are to be found here. Their
time does not hang heavy on their hands; in fact, it is too short for
all they wish to do."
"They are different from me," said Lillie.
"Then, since you must live here," said John, "could you not learn to
be like them? could you not acquire some of these tastes that make
simple country life agreeable?"
"No, I can't; I never could," said Lillie, pettishly.
"Then," said John, "I don't see that anybody can help your being
unhappy." And, opening his book, he sat down, and began to read.
Lillie pouted awhile, and then drew from under the sofa-pillow a copy
of "Indiana;" and, establishing her feet on the fender, she began to
Lillie had acquired at school the doubtful talent of reading French
with facility, and was soon deep in the fascinating pages, whose theme
is the usual one of French novels,--a young wife, tired of domestic
monotony, with an unappreciative husband, solacing herself with the
devotion of a lover. Lillie felt a sort of pique with her husband. He
was evidently unappreciative: he was thinking of all sorts of things
more than of her, and growing stupid, as husbands in French romances
generally do. She thought of her handsome Cousin Harry, the only man
that she ever came anywhere near being in love with; and the image of
his dark, handsome eyes and glossy curls gave a sort of piquancy to
John got deeply interested in his book; and, looking up from time to
time, was relieved to find that Lillie had something to employ her.
"I may as well make a beginning," he said to himself. "I must have my
time for reading; and she must learn to amuse herself."
After a while, however, he peeped over her shoulder.
"Why, darling!" he said, "where did you get that?"
"It is Mrs. Follingsbee's," said Lillie.
"Dear, it is a bad book," said John. "Don't read it."
"It amuses me, and helps pass away time," said Lillie; "and I don't
think it is bad: it is beautiful. Besides, you read what amuses you;
and it is a pity if I can't read what amuses me."
"I am glad to see you like to read French," continued John; "and I can
get you some delightful French stories, which are not only pretty and
witty, but have nothing in them that tend to pull down one's moral
principles. Edmond About's 'Mariages de Paris' and 'Tolla' are
charming French things; and, as he says, they might be read aloud by a
man between his mother and his sister, without a shade of offence."
"Thank you, sir," said Mrs. Lillie. "You had better go to Rose
Ferguson, and get her to give you a list of the kinds of books she
"Lillie!" said John, severely, "your remarks about Rose are in bad
taste. I must beg you to discontinue them. There are subjects that
never ought to be jested about."
"Thank you, sir, for your moral lessons," said Lillie, turning her
back on him defiantly, putting her feet on the fender, and going on
with her reading.
John seated himself, and went on with his book in silence.
Now, this mode of passing a domestic evening is certainly not
agreeable to either party; but we sustain the thesis that in this sort
of interior warfare the woman has generally the best of it. When it
comes to the science of annoyance, commend us to the lovely sex! Their
methods have a _finesse_, a suppleness, a universal adaptability, that
does them infinite credit; and man, with all his strength, and all his
majesty, and his commanding talent, is about as well off as a buffalo
or a bison against a tiny, rainbow-winged gnat or mosquito, who bites,
sings, and stings everywhere at once, with an infinite grace and
A woman without magnanimity, without generosity, who has no love, and
whom a man loves, is a terrible antagonist. To give up or to fight
often seems equally impossible.
How is a man going to make a woman have a good time, who is determined
not to have it? Lillie had sense enough to see, that, if she settled
down into enjoyment of the little agreeablenesses and domesticities of
the winter society in Springdale, she should lose her battle, and
John would keep her there for life. The only way was to keep him as
uncomfortable as possible without really breaking her power over him.
In the long-run, in these encounters of will, the woman has every
advantage. The constant dropping that wears away the stone has passed
into a proverb.
Lillie meant to go to New York, and have a long campaign at the
Follingsbees. The thing had been all promised and arranged between
them; and it was necessary that she should appear sufficiently
miserable, and that John should be made sufficiently uncomfortable, to
consent with effusion, at last, when her intentions were announced.
These purposes were not distinctly stated to herself; for, as we have
before intimated, uncultivated natures, who have never thought for
a serious moment on self-education, or the way their character is
forming, act purely from a sort of instinct, and do not even in their
own minds fairly and squarely face their own motives and purposes; if
they only did, their good angel would wear a less dejected look than
he generally must.
Lillie had power enough, in that small circle, to stop and interrupt
almost all its comfortable literary culture. The reading of Froude was
given up. John could not go to the study club; and, after an evening
or two of trying to read up at home, he used to stay an hour later at
his office. Lillie would go with him on Tuesday evening, after the
readings were over; and then it was understood that all parties were
to devote themselves to making the evening pass agreeable to her.
She was to be put forward, kept in the foreground, and every thing
arranged to make her appear the queen of the _fete_. They had
tableaux, where Rose made Lillie into marvellous pictures, which all
admired and praised. They had little dances, which Lillie thought
rather stupid and humdrum, because they were not _en grande toilette_;
yet Lillie always made a great merit of putting up with her life
at Springdale. A pleasant English writer has a lively paper on the
advantages of being a "cantankerous fool," in which he goes to show
that men or women of inferior moral parts, little self-control, and
great selfishness, often acquire an absolute dominion over the circle
in which they move, merely by the exercise of these traits. Every one
being anxious to please and pacify them, and keep the peace with them,
there is a constant succession of anxious compliances and compromises
going on around them; by all of which they are benefited in getting
their own will and way.
The one person who will not give up, and cannot be expected to be
considerate or accommodating, comes at last to rule the whole circle.
He is counted on like the fixed facts of nature; everybody else must
turn out for him. So Lillie reigned in Springdale. In every little
social gathering where she appeared, the one uneasy question was,
would she have a good time, and anxious provision made to that
end. Lillie had declared that reading aloud was a bore, which was
definitive against reading-parties. She liked to play and sing; so
that was always a part of the programme. Lillie sang well, but needed
a great deal of urging. Her throat was apt to be sore; and she took
pains to say that the harsh winter weather in Springdale was ruining
her voice. A good part of an evening was often spent in supplications
before she could be induced to make the endeavor.
Lillie had taken up the whim of being jealous of Rose. Jealousy is
said to be a sign of love. We hold another theory, and consider it
more properly a sign of selfishness. Look at noble-hearted, unselfish
women, and ask if they are easily made jealous. Look, again, at a
woman who in her whole life shows no disposition to deny herself for
her husband, or to enter into his tastes and views and feelings: are
not such as she the most frequently jealous?
Her husband, in her view, is a piece of her property; every look,
word, and thought which he gives to any body or thing else is a part
of her private possessions, unjustly withheld from her.
Independently of that, Lillie felt the instinctive jealousy which a
_passee_ queen of beauty sometimes has for a young rival.
She had eyes to see that Rose was daily growing more and more
beautiful; and not all that young girl's considerateness, her
self-forgetfulness, her persistent endeavors to put Lillie forward,
and make her the queen of the hour, could disguise this fact. Lillie
was a keen-sighted little body, and saw, at a glance, that, once
launched into society together, Rose would carry the day; all the more
that no thought of any day to be carried was in her head.
Rose Ferguson had one source of attraction which is as great a natural
gift as beauty, and which, when it is found with beauty, makes it
perfectly irresistible; to wit, perfect unconsciousness of self. This
is a wholly different trait from unselfishness: it is not a moral
virtue, attained by voluntary effort, but a constitutional
gift, and a very great one. Fenelon praises it as a Christian grace,
under the name of simplicity; but we incline to consider it only as an
advantage of natural organization. There are many excellent Christians
who are haunted by themselves, and in some form or other are always
busy with themselves; either conscientiously pondering the right and
wrong of their actions, or approbatively sensitive to the opinions of
others, or aesthetically comparing their appearance and manners with
an interior standard; while there are others who have received the
gift, beyond the artist's eye or the musician's ear, of perfect
self-forgetfulness. Their religion lacks the element of conflict, and
comes to them by simple impulse.
"Glad souls, without reproach or blot,
Who do His will, and know it not."
Rose had a frank, open joyousness of nature, that shed around her a
healthy charm, like fine, breezy weather, or a bright morning; making
every one feel as if to be good were the most natural thing in the
world. She seemed to be thinking always and directly of matters in
hand, of things to be done, and subjects under discussion, as much as
if she were an impersonal being.
She had been educated with every solid advantage which old Boston can
give to her nicest girls; and that is saying a good deal. Returning to
a country home at an early age, she had been made the companion of
her father; entering into all his literary tastes, and receiving
constantly, from association with him, that manly influence which a
woman's mind needs to develop its completeness. Living the whole
year in the country, the Fergusons developed within themselves a
multiplicity of resources. They read and studied, and discussed
subjects with their father; for, as we all know, the discussion of
moral and social questions has been from the first, and always will
be, a prime source of amusement in New-England families; and many of
them keep up, with great spirit, a family debating society, in which
whoever hath a psalm, a doctrine, or an interpretation, has free
Rose had never been into fashionable life, technically so called. She
had not been brought out: there never had been a mile-stone set up to
mark the place where "her education was finished;" and so she had gone
on unconsciously,--studying, reading, drawing, and cultivating
herself from year to year, with her head and hands always so full of
pleasurable schemes and plans, that there really seemed to be no room
for any thing else. We have seen with what interest she co-operated
with Grace in the various good works of the factory village in which
her father held shares, where her activity found abundant scope, and
her beauty and grace of manner made her a sort of idol.
Rose had once or twice in her life been awakened to
self-consciousness, by applicants rapping at the front door of her
heart; but she answered with such a kind, frank, earnest, "No, I thank
you, sir," as made friends of her lovers; and she entered at once into
pleasant relations with them. Her nature was so healthy, and free from
all morbid suggestion; her yes and no so perfectly frank and positive,
that there seemed no possibility of any tragedy caused by her.
Why did not John fall in love with Rose? Why did not he, O most
sapient senate of womanhood? why did not your brother fall in love
with that nice girl you know of, who grew up with you all at his very
elbow, and was, as everybody else could see, just the proper person
Well, why didn't he? There is the doctrine of election. "The election
hath obtained it; and the rest were blinded." John was some six years
older than Rose. He had romped with her as a little girl, drawn her on
his sled, picked up her hair-pins, and worn her tippet, when they had
skated together as girl and boy. They had made each other Christmas
and New Year's presents all their lives; and, to say the truth, loved
each other honestly and truly: nevertheless, John fell in love with
Lillie, and married her. Did you ever know a case like it?
_A BRICK TURNS UP_.
The snow had been all night falling silently over the long elm avenues
It was one of those soft, moist, dreamy snow-falls, which come down
in great loose feathers, resting in magical frost-work on every tree,
shrub, and plant, and seeming to bring down with it the purity and
peace of upper worlds.
Grace's little cottage on Elm Street was imbosomed, as New-England
cottages are apt to be, in a tangle of shrubbery, evergreens,
syringas, and lilacs; which, on such occasions, become bowers of
enchantment when the morning sun looks through them.
Grace came into her parlor, which was cheery with the dazzling
sunshine, and, running to the window, began to examine anxiously the
state of her various greeneries, pausing from time to time to look out
admiringly at the wonderful snow-landscape, with its many tremulous
tints of rose, lilac, and amethyst.
The only thing wanting was some one to speak to about it; and, with a
half sigh, she thought of the good old times when John would come to
her chamber-door in the morning, to get her out to look on scenes like
"Positively," she said to herself, "I must invite some one to visit
me. One wants a friend to help one enjoy solitude." The stock of
social life in Springdale, in fact, was running low. The Lennoxes and
the Wilcoxes had gone to their Boston homes, and Rose Ferguson was
visiting in New York, and Letitia found so much to do to supply her
place to her father and mother, that she had less time than usual to
share with Grace. Then, again, the Elm-street cottage was a walk of
some considerable distance; whereas, when Grace lived at the old
homestead, the Fergusons were so near as to seem only one family, and
were dropping in at all hours of the day and evening.
"Whom can I send for?" thought Grace to herself; and she ran
over mentally, in a moment, the list of available friends and
acquaintances. Reader, perhaps you have never really estimated your
friends, till you have tried them by the question, which of them you
could ask to come and spend a week or fortnight with you, alone in a
country-house, in the depth of winter. Such an invitation supposes
great faith in your friend, in yourself, or in human nature.
Grace, at the moment, was unable to think of anybody whom she could
call from the approaching festivities of holiday life in the cities to
share her snow Patmos with her; so she opened a book for company, and
turned to where her dainty breakfast-table, with its hot coffee and
crisp rolls, stood invitingly waiting for her before the cheerful open
At this moment, she saw, what she had not noticed before, a letter
lying on her breakfast plate. Grace took it up with an exclamation of
surprise; which, however, was heard only by her canary birds and her
Years before, when Grace was in the first summer of her womanhood, she
had been very intimate with Walter Sydenham, and thoroughly esteemed
and liked him; but, as many another good girl has done, about those
days she had conceived it her duty not to think of marriage, but
to devote herself to making a home for her widowed father and her
brother. There was a certain romance of self-abnegation in this
disposition of herself which was rather pleasant to Grace, and in
which both the gentlemen concerned found great advantage. As long as
her father lived, and John was unmarried and devoted to her, she had
never regretted it.
Sydenham had gone to seek his fortune in California. He had begged to
keep up intercourse by correspondence; but Grace was not one of those
women who are willing to drain the heart of the man they refuse to
marry, by keeping up with him just that degree of intimacy which
prevents his seeking another. Grace had meant her refusal to be final,
and had sincerely hoped that he would find happiness with some other
woman; and to that intent had rigorously denied herself and him a
correspondence: yet, from time to time, she had heard of him through
an occasional letter to John, or by a chance Californian newspaper.
Since John's marriage had so altered her course of life, Grace had
thought of him more frequently, and with some questionings as to the
wisdom of her course.
This letter was from him; and we shall give our readers the benefit of
"DEAR GRACE,--You must pardon me this beginning,--in the old style of
other days; for though many years have passed, in which I have been
trying to walk in your ways, and keep all your commandments, I have
never yet been able to do as you directed, and forget you: and here
I am, beginning 'Dear Grace,'--just where I left off on a certain
evening long, long ago. I wonder if you remember it as plainly as
I do. I am just the same fellow that I was then and there. If you
remember, you admitted that, were it not for other duties, you might
have considered my humble supplication. I gathered that it would not
have been impossible _per se_, as metaphysicians say, to look with
favor on your humble servant.
"Gracie, I have been living, I trust, not unworthily of you. Your
photograph has been with me round the world,--in the miner's tent,
on shipboard, among scenes where barbarous men do congregate; and
everywhere it has been a presence, 'to warn, to comfort, to command;'
and if I have come out of many trials firmer, better, more established
in right than before; if I am more believing in religion, and in every
way grounded and settled in the way you would have me,--it has been
your spiritual presence and your power over me that has done it.
Besides that, I may as well tell you, I have never given up the hope
that by and by you would see all this, and in some hour give me a
"When, therefore, I learned of your father's death, and afterwards of
John's marriage, I thought it was time for me to return again. I have
come to New York, and, if you do not forbid, shall come to Springdale.
"Will you be a little glad to see me, Gracie? Why not? We are both
alone now. Let us take hands, and walk the same path together. Shall
"Yours till death, and after,
Would she? To say the truth, the question as asked now had a very
different air from the question as asked years before, when, full of
life and hope and enthusiasm, she had devoted herself to making
an ideal home for her father and brother. What other sympathy or
communion, she had asked herself then, should she ever need than these
friends, so very dear: and, if she needed more, there, in the future,
was John's ideal wife, who, somehow, always came before her in the
likeness of Rose Ferguson, and John's ideal children, whom she was
sure she should love and pet as if they were her own.
And now here she was, in a house all by herself, coming down to her
meals, one after another, without the excitement of a cheerful face
opposite to her, and with all possibility of confidential intercourse
with her brother entirely cut off. Lillie, in this matter, acted, with
much grace and spirit, the part of the dog in the manger; and, while
she resolutely refused to enter into any of John's literary or
intellectual tastes, seemed to consider her wifely rights infringed
upon by any other woman who would. She would absolutely refuse to go
up with her husband and spend an evening with Grace, alleging it was
"pokey and stupid," and that they always got talking about things that
she didn't care any thing about. If, then, John went without her to
spend the evening, he was sure to be received, on his return, with
a dead and gloomy silence, more fearful, sometimes, than the most
violent of objurgations. That look of patient, heart-broken woe, those
long-drawn sighs, were a reception that he dreaded, to say the truth,
a great deal more than a direct attack, or any fault-finding to which
he could have replied; and so, on the whole, John made up his mind
that the best thing he could do was to stay at home and rock the
cradle of this fretful baby, whose wisdom-teeth were so hard to cut,
and so long in coming. It was a pretty baby; and when made the sole
and undivided object of attention, when every thing possible was
done for it by everybody in the house, condescended often to be very
graceful and winning and playful, and had numberless charming little
ways and tricks. The difference between Lillie in good humor and
Lillie in bad humor was a thing which John soon learned to appreciate
as one of the most powerful forces in his life. If you knew, my
dear reader, that by pursuing a certain course you could bring upon
yourself a drizzling, dreary, north-east rain-storm, and by
taking heed to your ways you could secure sunshine, flowers, and
bird-singing, you would be very careful, after a while, to keep about
you the right atmospheric temperature; and, if going to see the very
best friend you had on earth was sure to bring on a fit of rheumatism
or tooth-ache, you would soon learn to be very sparing of your visits.
For this reason it was that Grace saw very little of John; that she
never now had a sisterly conversation with him; that she preferred
arranging all those little business matters, in which it would be
convenient to have a masculine appeal, solely and singly by herself.
The thing was never referred to in any conversation between them. It
was perfectly understood without words. There are friends between whom
and us has shut the coffin-lid; and there are others between whom and
us stand sacred duties, considerations never to be enough reverenced,
which forbid us to seek their society, or to ask to lean on them
either in joy or sorrow: the whole thing as regards them must be
postponed until the future life. Such had been Grace's conclusion with
regard to her brother. She well knew that any attempt to restore their
former intimacy would only diminish and destroy what little chance of
happiness yet remained to him; and it may therefore be imagined with
what changed eyes she read Walter Sydenham's letter from those of
There was a sound of stamping feet at the front door; and John came
in, all ruddy and snow-powdered, but looking, on the whole, uncommonly
"Well, Gracie," he said, "the fact is, I shall have to let Lillie go
to New York for a week or two, to see those Follingsbees. Hang them!
But what's the matter, Gracie? Have you been crying, or sitting up all
night reading, or what?"
The fact was, that Gracie had for once been indulging in a good cry,