Chapter XXI.

“Merrily, merrily dance the bells;  

Swiftly glides the sleigh!” Newspaper Verses.

{source not located}

EARLY in December, a new glazed card was to be seen on most of the fashionable tables in New York. It was of the particular tint most in favour that season, whether bluish or pinkish we dare not affirm, for fear of committing a serious anachronism, which might at once destroy, with many persons, all claim to a knowledge of the arcana of fashionable life. Having no authorities at hand to consult, the point must be left to the greater research of the critical reader. This card bore the name of T. TALLMAN TAYLOR; but whether in Roman or Italic characters we dare not say, for the same reason which has just been frankly confessed. It was, however, a highly fashionable bit of pasteboard, as became the representative of a personage who returned to New York, claiming the honours of fashion himself. This was no less a person than the son of Mr. Pompey Taylor. But the T. Tallman Taylor, whose whole appearance was pronounced unexceptionable by the New York belles, from the points of his boots to the cut of his moustaches, was a very different individual from the good-looking, but awkward, ungainly youth, introduced to the reader two or three years since, at Wyllys-Roof. He had, in the mean time, learned how to stand, how to sit, how to walk, how to talk in a drawing-room. He had learned what to do with his cane and his hat, how to manage his pocket-handkerchief and his gloves; branches of knowledge which an American who sets about acquiring them, usually learns quite rapidly. He was also very much improved in riding and dancing, and was said to fence well. These, with the addition of a much better French accent, were the principal changes perceptible to the ladies, who pronounced them all for the better. Among the young men he was soon found to be an excellent judge of Château Margaux and Rudesheimer; some also thought him knowing in horse-flesh, while others doubted his qualifications in that respect. His father, moreover, soon discovered that he had become an adept in the art of spending money; among his intimates, cards, and the billiard-table, with other practices of that description, were hinted at, as the way in which he got rid of his dollars. But as these were subjects not mentioned in general society, it was as yet the initiated only, who were aware of young Taylor’s Paris habits of this kind.

{“Château Margaux and Rudesheimer” = two famous wines}

His father had, of late years, learned to set too high a value upon the world, and everything worldly, not to be much gratified by the change that had taken place in his son. As for Adeline, she gloried in his six- feet and his black moustaches, his Paris waistcoat and London boots; while his honest-hearted mother would have loved him just as much under any other metamorphosis he had chosen to assume. Such as he was, young Taylor soon became quite a favourite beau with the New Yorkers, and was invited to most houses. He proved himself quite a ladies’ man; no lazy, grumbling dandy, but a smiling, assiduous beau. He had not been in New York a month, before he was known to have sent a number of bouquets to different belles, and was supposed to have given more than one serenade to his sister’s friend, Miss Hunter.

The last day of December, all New York was set in motion by a fall of snow, sufficient to allow of pretty good sleighing for four-and-twenty hours. Like such occasions in general, it became a sort of holiday. And really, the novelty, the general movement, the bustle and gaiety, the eagerness to enjoy the pleasure while it lasts, always render such scenes very enlivening. Every vehicle with runners, and every animal bearing the name of a horse, are put in requisition for the day. The dashing sleighs crowded with gaily-dressed people, the smiling faces and flying feathers of the ladies, the rich cloths and furs, the bright colours of the equipages, and the inspiriting music of the merry bells, give to Broadway, at such times, quite a carnival look. The clear, bracing air disposes people to be cheerful; even the horses feel the spirit of the moment; they prance their heads proudly, and shake the bells about their necks, as if delighted with the ease and rapidity of their motion; sympathizing foot-passengers stop to give their friends a nod, and follow their rapid course with good-natured smiles. Young people and children are collected for a frolic, and family parties hurry off to drink coffee and mulled wine, to eat plum-cake and waffles at the neighbouring country-houses. It is altogether a gay, cheerful sight, enjoyed with all the more zest from its uncertainty.

Hazlehurst was delighted, as he went to his window, the morning in question, to find the roofs and pavements covered with snow. For several years he had had no sleighing, and he promised himself a very pleasant day. Mrs. Stanley was going to remain quietly at home. He sent to a livery-stable to secure a good horse and a pretty cutter for himself, and immediately after breakfast hurried off to Mrs. Graham’s lodgings, with the hope of obtaining Jane as a companion. “And who knows,” thought he, “what may happen before evening.”

He had just reached Mrs. Graham’s door, when a very dashing sleigh, drawn by four fine horses, drew up from the opposite direction. Young Taylor was in the coachman’s seat; Miss Hunter, Adeline, and a quiet- looking young man, whom we shall introduce as Theodore St. Leger, were in the sleigh. Miss Adeline threw off her over-cloak, and as she gave her hand to Mr. St. Leger, to jump from the sleigh, called out to Harry in her usual shrill voice, { sic}

“Good morning, Mr. Hazlehurst, you are exact at the rendez-vous, for of course you got my note. But you ought to have brought a lady with you; you mustn’t run away with Jane; she is to be of our party in the sleigh, do you hear?” continued the young lady, trying hard to look pretty and positive, at the same time. “I hope you didn’t mean to ask her to go with you.”

“Yes, I did,” replied Harry, rather stoutly. “Miss Graham told me the other day, she quite longed for sleighing, and made something very like a promise to go with me if we had any snow.”

“Oh, but not to-day; I must have her in the sleigh with me! Now, Jane, dear,” continued the young lady, tripping into the drawing-room followed by her brother and Harry, “put on your hat at once, that’s a good girl; we wouldn’t miss having you for the world.”

Harry had often been provoked with Adeline’s constant appropriation of Jane to herself, when they were together; and he determined, if he could prevent it, she should not succeed this time.

“Miss Taylor is very decided,” he said, “but so am I. And I think you must remember you were pledged to me for the first sleighing, if we were so fortunate as to have any.”

“It’s no such thing, I’m sure; — is it, Jane?”

“Pray, remember we are two to one, Miss Graham,” said young Taylor, on the other side, in an insinuating voice.

“But we can all go together,” said Jane, blushing, and scarcely knowing what to do.

“If Mrs. Graham were here,” added Harry, “I think she would certainly trust you with me. I have a very good horse, one that I have driven all along, and he is perfectly safe.”

“So are ours, all four of them,” said Adeline; “and I’m sure there must be more safety with four safe horses, than with one!”

“Perfectly safe, Miss Graham, I assure you,” added young Taylor. “Of course I should not press you unless I felt sure you would run no risk.”

“Pshaw!” said Adeline. “Why should we stand here, talking about the risk and danger, like so many old grey-beards. Put on your hat, dear, that’s a darling, without any more palaver. Anne Hunter and Mr. St. Leger are waiting for us at the door; you know we are going to Bloomingdale, to lunch, at Mrs. Hunter’s. We shall have a charming time; and Mr. Hazlehurst is going with us too. Of course you got my note,” she added, turning to Harry.

{“Bloomingdale” = a fashionable and still rural area of Manhattan Island, though a part of New York City}

“No, I did not; but I should have been obliged to decline your invitation, Miss Taylor,” said Hazlehurst, bowing a little stiffly. “I have made arrangements for going on Long Island.”

“Oh, that’s a pity; I am really sorry, for I wanted you to be of our party; only I couldn’t have you run away with my friend Jane. Silence gives consent, Jane. You didn’t answer my note, this morning.”

“Perhaps I had better not go at all,” said Jane, not a little perplexed. “Mamma is not at home, and will not know what has become of me.”

“Nonsense, child; Mrs. Graham will know you are in very good hands. You have been out with me a hundred times before, and you surely don’t think there is any more danger because Tallman is of the party.”

“I hope not,” added young Taylor, in an insinuating manner; “I’m a first-rate whip, Miss Graham.”

“Now, just tell the truth; didn’t you mean to go with me, before Mr. Hazlehurst came in?” said Adeline — “no fibbing, mind.”

“I only received your note ten minutes since,” replied Jane; “but I did think of going with you.”

“I should like to know why you hesitate, then. First come, first served. Now, the best thing you can do, Mr. Hazlehurst, is to change your mind, and ask one of the Miss Howards, and join our party, too. I really wish you would!”

“You are very good,” said Harry, coldly; “but I must beg you to excuse me.”

Jane allowed herself to be shawled and cloaked by young Taylor, and the affair was settled. But Harry thought she did not seem quite satisfied with herself, for she changed colour several times, and he even remarked that her fingers trembled as she tied the strings of her hat. This rather softened his feelings towards her; but he still felt extremely provoked with the meddling Adeline, and her officious brother. As he did not wish to play the worsted man, however, he tried to put a good face on the matter, and accompanied the party down- stairs, helped the ladies into the sleigh, wished them a pleasant drive, and went off himself, at a rapid pace, towards the Long-Island ferry.

He was exceedingly out of humour with Adeline, and reproached Jane not a little for allowing herself to be so often guided by her trifling friend. The occurrence of the morning, hastened his determination to bring matters to a conclusion. That very evening should decide the point. He must have been more than modest to have doubted the result; Jane’s manner he had long thought just what he could wish from one so little demonstrative as herself. Hubert de Vaux, it is true, had been very assiduous of late, but Jane had never given him any sign of preference, sufficient to excite Harry’s jealousy. Mr. Graham was expected every day from Charleston, to pass the remainder of the winter with his family; as he had already given one daughter to the elder Hazlehurst, and no serious objection could be raised against Harry, his prospects were very promising. Before long, the gentle, lovely Jane would be his own; his would be the enviable lot, of carrying off the beautiful prize.

Hazlehurst had time to make these reflections, and disperse his ill- humour, before he reached the wharf at Brooklyn. Here he met Charlie Hubbard, whom he had not seen for some time, not, indeed, since his rupture with the Wyllyses. Charlie’s greeting was not quite as warm as usual; he did not seem as much pleased at this unexpected meeting, and the offer of a seat in Harry’s cutter, as one might have supposed. Hazlehurst was so cordial, however, and urged the young painter so much to take a turn with him on the Island, that, after a little hesitation, Hubbard accepted.

“Come, Charlie; I am sure you haven’t any very good reason for not making the most of the snow, like the rest of us.”

“Perhaps not,” said Charlie; and he took his seat with Harry.

Hubbard gave a good account of himself and his family. He had received several orders; and his pet picture of the moment was going on finely. His youngest sister was in town, taking music lessons, to fit her for her future occupation; and he had just sent Miss Patsey a pair of globes for her school, as a New Year’s gift; the most expensive present, by-the-bye, Charlie had ever made in his life.

“I feel quite rich,” said the young man, “since I pocketed a hundred a- piece for my two views of Nahant. To be sure, I never expect to make a fortune; if I can earn enough to support my mother and sister, and paint only such pictures as I please, that is all I want of the good things of this world.”

“It’s all very well to say so now, Charlie, that you have received your two hundred; but wait till you are the great Mr. Hubbard, and expect two thousand for your last view of Coney-Island.”

“That day will never come, to me, or to any other man, perhaps, in this country,” replied young Hubbard. “I go to work with my eyes open, as you well know. My uncles have talked the matter over with me a hundred times, if they have once; they have showed me what I could do if I took to making money, and what I could not do if I took to painting. They have offered to help me on; Mr. Taylor would take me into his counting-house, to-morrow; and Hilson offers to make me an auctioneer. But I have chosen my profession, and I shall abide by it. I have no wish for wealth. I should never be tempted to sell my soul for money — no, nor my good name, or my independence: for I do not feel willing to barter even my time and tastes for riches. I can honestly say, money has no charms for me. A comfortable subsistence, in a very moderate way, is all I should ask for.”

“I know it, Hubbard, and I honour your decision,” said Hazlehurst, warmly. “It is impossible, however, but that genius like yours should make its way; and I hope you may meet with all the success you deserve, even though it bring you more money than you wish for: one of these days when there is a Mrs. Hubbard, you may want more than you require now.”

A shade of feeling passed over the young artist’s fine face, as Harry carelessly uttered these words; it seemed to spring from some painful thought. It was unobserved by Hazlehurst, however, who was not looking at his companion at the moment. Charlie was soon roused by Harry’s inquiries as to his plans for travelling in Europe. The young men then spent a pleasant hour in discussing different works of the great masters, which Hubbard, as yet, knew only from engravings and books. Surrounded by snow and ice, they talked over the atmospheres of Italy and Greece.