Chapter XVIII.

Accustomed to think of marrying as his means of advancement, he somewhat reasonably supposed “refer you to my father” meant consent, so far as the young lady was concerned, and he determined to improve the precious moments. Fortunately for his ideas, Mr. Monson did not enter the room immediately, which allowed the gentleman an opportunity for a little deliberation. As usual, his thoughts took the direction of a mental soliloquy, much in the following form.

“This is getting on famously,” thought Tom. “Refer you to my father — well, that is compact and comprehensive, at the same time. I wish her dandruff had got up when I mentioned only $50,000. Seriously, that is but a small sum to make one’s way on. If I had a footing of my own, in society, $50,000 might do; but, when a fellow has to work his way by means of dinners, horses, and et ceteras, it’s a small allowance. It’s true, the Monsons will give me connections, and connections are almost — not quite — as good as money to get a chap along with — but, the d------l of the matter is, that connections eat and drink. I dare say the Monson set will cost me a good $500 a year, though they will save something in the way of the feed they must give in their turns. I wish I had tried her with a higher figure, for, after all, it may have been only modesty — some women are as modest as the d------l. But here comes old Monson, and I must strike while the iron is hot.”

{dandruff = dander — but while “dander” can mean dandruff as well as temper, the reverse is not true}

“Good morning, Mr. Thurston,” said the father, looking a little surprised at seeing such a guest at three o’clock. “What, alone with my daughter’s fine pocket-handkerchief? You must find that indifferent company.”

“Not under the circumstances, sir. Every thing is agreeable to us that belongs to an object we love.”

“Love? That is a strong term, Mr. Thurston — one that I hope you have uttered in pure gallantry.”

“Not at all, sir,” cried Tom, falling on his knees, as a school boy reads the wrong paragraph in the confusion of not having studied his lesson well — “adorable and angelic — I beg your pardon, Mr. Monson,” — rising, and again brushing his knees with some care — “my mind is in such a state of confusion, that I scarcely know what I say.”

“Really, I should think so, or you could never mistake me for a young girl of twenty. Will you have the goodness to explain this matter to me?”

“Yes, sir — I’m referred.”

“Referred? Pray, what may that mean in particular?”

“Only, sir, that I’m referred — I do not ask a dollar, sir. Her lovely mind and amiable person are all I seek, and I only regret that she is so rich. I should be the happiest fellow in the world, Mr. Monson, if the angelic Julia had not a cent.”

“The angelic Julia must be infinitely indebted to you, Mr. Thurston; but let us take up this affair in order. What am I to understand, sir, by your being referred?”

“That Miss Julia, in answer to my suit, has referred me to you, sir.”

“Then, so far as she herself is concerned, you wish me to understand that she accepts you?”

“Certainly — she accepted, some time since, with as heavenly a ‘yes’ as ever came from the ruby lips of love.”

“Indeed! This is so new to me, sir, that you must permit me to see my daughter a moment, ere I give a definite answer.”

Hereupon Mr. Monson left the room, and Tom began to think again.

“Well,” he thought, “things do go on swimmingly at last. This is the first time I could ever get at a father, though I’ve offered to six-and-twenty girls. One does something like a living business with a father. I don’t know but I rather overdid it about the dollar, though it’s according to rule to seem disinterested at first, even if you quarrel like furies, afterwards, about the stuff. Let me see — had I best begin to screw him up in this interview, or wait for the next? A few hints, properly thrown out, may be useful at once. Some of these old misers hold on to every thing till they die, fancying it a mighty pleasant matter to chaps that can’t support themselves to support their daughters by industry, as they call it. I’m as industrious as a young fellow can be, and I owe six months’ board, at this very moment. No — no — I’ll walk into him at once, and give him what Napoleon used to call a demonstration.”

The door opened, and Mr. Monson entered, his face a little flushed, and his eye a little severe. Still he was calm in tone and manner. Julia had told him all in ten words.

“Now, Mr. Thurston, I believe I understand this matter,” said the father, in a very business-like manner; “you wish to marry my daughter?”

“Exactly, sir; and she wishes to marry me — that is, as far as comports with the delicacy of the female bosom.”

“A very timely reservation. And you are referred?”

“Yes, Mr. Monson, those cheering words have solaced my ears — I am referred. The old chap,” aside, “likes a little humbug, as well as a girl.”

“And you will take her without a cent, you say?”

“Did I, sir? I believe I didn’t exactly say that — Dollar was the word I mentioned. Cents could hardly be named between you and me.”

“Dollar let it be, then. Now, sir, you have my consent on a single condition.”

“Name it, sir. Name five or six, at once, my dear Mr. Monson, and you shall see how I will comply.”

“One will answer. How much fortune do you think will be necessary to make such a couple happy, at starting in the world? Name such a sum as will comport with your own ideas.”

“How much, sir? Mr. Monson, you are a model of generosity! You mean, to keep a liberal and gentlemanly establishment, as would become your son-in-law?”

“I do — such a fortune as will make you both easy and comfortable.”

“Horses and carriages, of course? Every thing on a genteel and liberal scale?”

“On such a scale as will insure the happiness of man and wife.”

“Mutual esteem — conjugal felicity — and all that. l suppose you include dinners, sir, and a manly competition with one’s fellow citizens, in real New York form?”

“I mean all that can properly belong to the expenses of a gentleman and lady.”

“Yes, sir — exceedingly liberal — liberal as the rosy dawn. Why, sir, meeting your proposition in the spirit in which it is offered, I should say Julia and I could get along very comfortably on $100,000. Yes, we could make that do, provided the money were well invested — no fancy stocks.”

“Well, sir, I am glad we understand each other so clearly. If my daughter really wish to marry you, I will give $50,000 of this sum, as soon as you can show me that you have as much more to invest along with it.”

“Sir — Mr. Monson!”

“I mean that each party shall lay down dollar for dollar!”

“I understand what you mean, sir. Mr. Monson, that would be degrading lawful wedlock to the level of a bet — a game of cards — a mercenary, contemptible bargain. No, sir — nothing shall ever induce me to degrade this honorable estate to such pitiful conditions!”

“Dollar for dollar, Mr. Thurston!”

“Holy wedlock! It is violating the best principles of our nature.”

“Give and take!”

“Leveling the sacred condition of matrimony to that of a mere bargain for a horse or a dog!”

“Half and half!”

“My nature revolts at such profanation, sir — I will take $75,000 with Miss Julia, and say no more about it.”

“Equality is the foundation of wedded happiness, Mr. Thurston.”

“Say $50,000, Mr. Monson, and have no more words about it. Take away from the transaction the character of a bargain, and even $40,000 will do.”

“Not a cent that is not covered by a cent of your own.”

“Then, sir, I wash my hands of the whole affair. If the young lady should die, my conscience will be clear. It shall never be said Thomas Thurston was so lost to himself as to bargain for a wife.”

“We must, then, part, and the negotiation must fall through.”

Tom rose with dignity, and got as far as the door. With his hand on the latch, he added —

“Rather than blight the prospects of so pure and lovely a creature I will make every sacrifice short of honor — let it be $30,000, Mr. Monson?”

“As you please, sir — so that it be covered by $30,000 of your own.”

“My nature revolts at the proposition, and so — good morning, sir.”

Tom left the house, and Mr. Monson laughed heartily; so heartily, indeed, as to prove how much he relished the success of his scheme.

“Talk of Scylla and Charybdis!” soliloquized the discomfited Tom, as he wiped the perspiration from his face — “Where the d------l does he think I am to find the $50,000 he wants, unless he first gives them to me? I never heard of so unreasonable an old chap! Here is a young fellow that offers to marry his daughter for $30,000 — half price, as one may say — and he talks about covering every cent he lays down with one of my own. I never knew what was meant by cent. per cent. before. Let me see; I’ve just thirty-two dollars and sixty-nine cents, and had we played at a game of coppers, I couldn’t have held out half an hour. But, I flatter myself, I touched the old scamp up with morals, in a way he wasn’t used to. Well, as this thing is over, I will try old Sweet, the grocer’s daughter. If the wardrobe and whiskers fail there, I must rub up the Greek and Latin, and shift the ground to Boston. They say a chap with a little of the classics can get $30 or 40,000, there, any day in the week. I wish my parents had brought me up a schoolmaster; I would be off in the first boat. Blast it! — I thought when I came down to $30,000, he would have snapped at the bait, like a pike. He’ll never have a chance to get her off so cheap, again.”

{ cent. per cent. = one hundred percent}

This ended the passage of flirtation between Thomas Thurston and Julia Monson. As for the latter, she took such a distaste for me, that she presented me to Mademoiselle Hennequin, at the first opportunity, under the pretence that she had discovered a strong wish in the latter to possess me.

Adrienne accepted the present with some reluctance, on account of the price that had been paid for me, and yet with strong emotion. How she wept over me, the first time we were alone together! I thought her heart would break; nor am I certain it would not, but for the timely interposition of Julia, who came and set her laughing by a humorous narrative of what had occurred between her father and her lover.

That night the rout took place. It went off with éclat, but I did not make my appearance at it, Adrienne rightly judging that I was not a proper companion for one in her situation. It is true, this is not a very American notion, every thing being suitable for every body, that get them, in this land of liberty, but Adrienne had not been educated in a land of liberty, and fancied that her dress should bear some relation to her means. Little did she know that I was a sort of patent of nobility, and that by exhibiting me, she might have excited envy, even in an alderman’s daughter. My non-appearance, however, made no difference with Betts Shoreham, whose attentions throughout the evening were so marked as to raise suspicion of the truth in the mind of even Mrs. Monson.

{rout = evening party; éclat = brilliance}

The next day there was an éclaircissement. Adrienne owned who she was, gave my history, acquainted Mrs. Monson with her connection with Mr. Shoreham, and confessed the nature of his suit. I was present at this interview, and it would be unjust to say that the mother was not disappointed. Still she behaved generously, and like a high principled woman. Adrienne was advised to accept Betts, and her scruples, on the score of money, were gradually removed, by Mrs. Monson’s arguments.

{ éclaircissement = explanation}

“What a contrast do this Mr. Thurston and Adrienne present!” observed Mrs. Monson to her husband, in a tête à tête, shortly after this interview. “Here is the gentleman wanting to get our child, without a shilling to bless himself with, and the poor girl refusing to marry the man of her heart, because she is penniless.”

“So much for education. We become mercenary or self-denying, very much as we are instructed. In this country, it must be confessed, fortune-hunting has made giant strides, within the last few years, and that, too, with an audacity of pretension that is unrestrained by any of the social barriers which exist elsewhere.”

“Adrienne will marry Mr. Shoreham, I think. She loves; and when a girl loves, her scruples of this nature are not invincible.”

“Ay, he can lay down dollar for dollar — I wish his fancy had run toward Julia.”

“It has not, and we can only regret it. Adrienne has half-consented, and I shall give her a handsome wedding — for, married she must be in our house.”

All came to pass as was predicted. One month from that day, Betts Shoreham and Adrienne de la Rocheaimard became man and wife. Mrs. Monson gave a handsome entertainment, and a day or two later, the bridegroom and bride took possession of their proper home. Of course I removed with the rest of the family, and, by these means, had an opportunity of becoming a near spectator of a honey-moon. I ought, however, to say, that Betts insisted on Julia’s receiving $125 for me, accepting from Julia a handsome wedding present of equal value, but in another form. This was done simply that Adrienne might say when I was exhibited, that she had worked me herself, and that the lace with which I was embellished was an heir-loom. If there are various ways of quieting one’s conscience, in the way of marriage settlements, so are there various modes of appeasing our sense of pride.

Pocket-handkerchiefs have their revolutions, as well as states. I was now under my first restoration, and perfectly happy; but, being French, I look forward to further changes, since the temperament that has twice ejected the Bourbons from their thrones will scarce leave me in quiet possession of mine forever.

{first restoration = the Bourbon dynasty was restored to the French throne in 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, only to be deposed again in 1830}

Adrienne loves Betts more than any thing else. Still she loves me dearly. Scarce a week passes that I am not in her hands; and it is when her present happiness seems to be overflowing, that she is most fond of recalling the painful hours she experienced in making me what I am. Then her tears flow freely, and often I am held in her soft little hand, while she prays for the soul of her grandmother, or offers up praises for her own existing blessings. I am no longer thought of for balls and routs, but appear to be doomed to the closet, and those moments of tender confidence that so often occur between these lovers. I complain not. So far from it, never was an “article” of my character more highly favored; passing an existence, as it might be, in the very bosom of truth and innocence. Once only have I seen an old acquaintance, in the person of Clara Caverly, since my change of mistress — the idea of calling a de la Rocheaimard, a boss, or bossess, is out of the question. Clara is a distant relative of Betts, and soon became intimate with her new cousin. One day she saw me lying on a table, and, after an examination, she exclaimed —

“Two things surprise me greatly here, Mrs. Shoreham — that you should own one of these things“ — I confess I did not like the word — “and that you should own this particular handkerchief.”

“Why so, chère Clara?” — how prettily my mistress pronounces that name; so different from Clarry!

“It is not like you to purchase so extravagant and useless a thing — and then this looks like a handkerchief that once belonged to another person — a poor girl who has lost her means of extravagance by the change of the times. But, of course, it is only a resemblance, as you — “

“It is more, Clara — the handkerchief is the same. But that handkerchief is not an article of dress with me; it is my friend!

The reader may imagine how proud I felt! This was elevation for the species, and gave a dignity to my position, with which I am infinitely satisfied. Nevertheless, Miss Caverly manifested surprise.

“I will explain,” continued Mrs. Shoreham. “The handkerchief is my own work, and is very precious to me, on account des souvenirs.”

{ des souvenirs = of memories}

Adrienne then told the whole story, and I may say Clara Caverly became my friend also. Yes, she, who had formerly regarded me with indifference, or dislike, now kissed me, and wept over me, and in this manner have I since passed from friend to friend, among all of Adrienne’s intimates.

Not so with the world, however. My sudden disappearance from it excited quite as much sensation as my début in it. Tom Thurston’s addresses to Miss Monson had excited the envy, and, of course, the attention of all the other fortune-hunters in town, causing his sudden retreat to be noticed. Persons of this class are celebrated for covering their retreats skilfully. Tom declared that “the old chap broke down when they got as far as the fortune — that, as he liked the girl, he would have taken her with $75,000, but the highest offer he could get from him was $30,000. This, of course, no gentleman could submit to. A girl with such a pocket-handkerchief ought to bring a clear $100,000, and I was for none of your half-way doings. Old Monson is a humbug. The handkerchief has disappeared, and, now they have taken down the sign, I hope they will do business on a more reasonable scale.”

A month later, Tom got married. I heard John Monson laughing over the particulars one day in Betts Shoreham’s library, where I am usually kept, to my great delight, being exceedingly fond of books. The facts were as follows. It seems Tom had cast an eye on the daughter of a grocer of reputed wealth, who had attracted the attention of another person of his own school. To get rid of a competitor, this person pointed out to Tom a girl, whose father had been a butcher, but had just retired from business, and was building himself a fine house somewhere in Butcherland.

“That’s your girl,” said the treacherous adviser. “All butchers are rich, and they never build until their pockets are so crammed as to force them to it. They coin money, and spend nothing. Look how high beef has been of late years; and then they live on the smell of their own meats. This is your girl. Only court the old fellow, and you are sure of half a million in the long run.”

Tom was off on the instant. He did court the old fellow; got introduced to the family; was a favorite from the first; offered in a fortnight, was accepted, and got married within the month. Ten days afterward, the supplies were stopped for want of funds, and the butcher failed. It seems he, too, was only taking a hand in the great game of brag that most of the country had sat down to.

Tom was in a dilemma. He had married a butcher’s daughter. After this, every door in Broadway and Bond street was shut upon him. Instead of stepping into society on his wife’s shoulders, he was dragged out of it by the skirts, through her agency. Then there was not a dollar. His empty pockets were balanced by her empty pockets. The future offered a sad perspective. Tom consulted a lawyer about a divorce, on the ground of “false pretences.” He was even ready to make an affidavit that he had been slaughtered. But it would not do. The marriage was found to stand all the usual tests, and Tom went to Texas.