Chapter VI.

{ sic}  {should be Chapter VIII}

“Her dress, and novels, visits, and success.” CRABBE.

{George Crabbe (English poet, 1754-1832), Posthumous Tales: “XV Belinda Waters” line II.31}

LONGBRIDGE was quite a pleasant village, and surrounded by a pretty country. Like most other American rural towns, it received, in the warmest months, a large accession to its population; for it seems to be a matter of course, that everybody who is able to do so, runs away from brick walls in the months of July and August, and selects some village in which to rusticate, and set the fashions, enjoy the dust and the fire-flies, fresh peaches, and home-made ice-cream. — Longbridge, in addition to the usual advantages of pure air, and brown fields, in the month of August, had something of a reputation as a place for bathing; and its three taverns, and various boarding-houses, were generally well filled with families from New York and Philadelphia, during the very warm weather.

Among others, during the season to which we allude, the Grahams were there, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Hazlehurst party from Europe; for letters had been received, informing their friends that they might be expected at any moment. The Wyllys carriage was now seen at Longbridge every day, either at the house where their relatives, the Grahams, had taken lodgings for the season, or before the door of a neat little cottage, recently purchased by Mr. Wyllys for the widow of his youngest son, Mrs. George Wyllys. This lady, to whom the reader has been already introduced, had been left, with four children, almost entirely dependent on her father-in-law. Her character was somewhat of a medley. She was a good-hearted woman, attached to her husband’s family, and always asking advice of her friends, particularly Mr. Wyllys, and Miss Agnes, for whom she had a sincere respect. She was pretty, lady-like, rather clever, and a pleasant companion to persons not particularly interested in her welfare. On indifferent topics she could converse with as much good sense as the rest of the world; but her own affairs she mismanaged terribly. All her other good qualities seemed unsettled by a certain infusion of caprice, and jealousy of influence; and yet she really meant well, and fancied herself a very prudent woman. She thought she was capable of making any sacrifice for those she loved, and therefore believed herself a model in all the relations of life. As a mother, she had a system of education, the theory of which was excellent; but there was little consistency in its practice. As regards money-matters, she talked and thought so much about economy, that she took it for granted that she practised it. After having passed the first years of her widowhood with her own family in Baltimore, she had lately become convinced that her income was not sufficient to allow her living in a large town, without running in debt. Mr. Wyllys was unfortunately too well aware that his daughter-in-law’s difficulties were not the result of Baltimore prices, but of her own mismanagement. Franklin advises his friends to “take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves:” but this rule is by no means infallible. Perhaps there is no species of extravagance more common, than that often practised by well- disposed people, which consists of being “penny-wise, pound-foolish;” they will save a hundred cents on as many different occasions, and throw away twenty dollars on one object. It happens that such persons often succeed in persuading themselves that they are models of prudence, and self-denial. Such was Mrs. George Wyllys’s plan; and, unfortunately, she not only brought trouble on herself, but was a constant source of anxiety to her father-in-law, who endeavoured, in vain, to counteract the evil; but every succeeding year brought a repetition of the difficulties of the former.

{“Franklin” = Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), but the expression is usually attributed to Lord Chesterfield (1674-1773); “penny wise, pound foolish” = phrase originated by Robert Burton (1577-1640)}

At present, Mrs. Wyllys was bent upon economy in a cottage, with new furniture, purchased at a high price, at New York auctions; and it was in vain to oppose her plan, so convinced was she, that duty alone could have induced her to leave her own family and old friends in Baltimore.

“We must make the best of it, Agnes,” said Mr. Wyllys, “it will be pleasant, at least, to have Harriet and her little people near us — and we may be of use to the children.”

Miss Agnes agreed to the first part of her father’s remark, but was far from feeling sanguine as to their being of any advantage to the children. It was a part of Mrs. Wyllys’s system, to consult her friends far more frequently than was necessary, upon the education of her family, at the same time that it also entered into her plan to follow their advice very seldom indeed.

As for Elinor, she was very well pleased with her aunt’s arrival in the neighbourhood; of course, she was too young and inexperienced to know the exact state of matters, and she was attached to Mrs. Wyllys, and fond of her little cousins.

One afternoon, Mrs. Wyllys had persuaded Miss Agnes and Elinor to drink tea with her, and not return home until the evening. The ladies were sitting together, in Mrs. Wyllys’s pleasant little parlour, engaged with their needles, while the children were playing under the windows, in the shady door-yard.

“Shall I put the bow on the right or left side, Elinor?” asked Mrs. Wyllys, who was re-trimming a hat for one of her little girls.

“It looks very well as you have it now, Aunt;” replied her niece.

“Perhaps it does; there is a stain, however, on the other side, which must be covered,” replied the lady, changing the bow. “This riband was very cheap, Agnes,” she added, showing it to her sister-in-law. “Only twenty cents a yard. I bought the whole piece, although I shall not want it until next spring.”

“Quite cheap,” said Miss Agnes, looking at the riband; “but I don’t know what you will do with so much of it.”

“Oh, I shall find some use for it; in a large family, nothing comes amiss.”

A pretty, little girl, about eight years old, ran into the room, and, skipping up to her mother, whispered, “Here comes a carriage, mamma, and some ladies.”

“Who is it, Elinor?” asked Mrs. Wyllys, of her niece, who was sitting near the window.

“The Hubbards,” she replied.

“What, Patsey Hubbard?”

“Oh, no; her cousins — very different persons. The Longbridge Hubbards, whose acquaintance you have not yet made.”

Two ladies, radiant with elegance, entered the room, and were introduced, by Miss Agnes, to her sister-in-law, as Mrs. Hilson, and Miss Emmeline Hubbard. They were both young; quite pretty; very fashionably dressed; very silly in their expressions, and much alike, in every respect.

After a few preliminary speeches, Mrs. Hilson remarked, that she was very glad Mrs. Wyllys had come to join their rustic circle.

“Thank you,” replied the lady; “Longbridge is a favourite place of mine; but I have not yet seen many traces of rusticity, here.”

“Why, no, Julianna,” observed Miss Emmeline, “I don’t think our village is at all a rustic place. We have too many advantages of communication with the city for that.”

“It is true,” said Mrs. Hilson, “Longbridge has always been a very aristocratic place. You know, Miss Wyllys,” turning to Miss Agnes, “we have our ‘West-End,’ and our ‘exclusives.’”

{“West End” = from the fashionable West End of London}

“I was not aware of it; but then I am really a rustic,” Miss Wyllys added, smiling.

“Yes, it is unfortunate, you should be so far from the village. Emmeline and I often pity you, Miss Elinor, for being so far from genteel society.”

“That is scarcely worth while, I assure you, for we have several pleasant families, within a short distance.”

“But only a very small circle, however. Now we have quite a large set of aristocratic people, in the village. Some of our inhabitants are very refined, I assure you, Mrs. Wyllys.”

The lady bowed.

“You will find your two next neighbours, Mrs. Bibbs and Mrs. Tibbs, very fascinating ladies,” observed Miss Emmeline. “Mrs. Bibbs is one of our beauties; and Mrs. Tibbs, our most elegant dresser.”

“Emmeline is going over the Court Calendar, for you, already,” said Mrs. Hilson, laughing fashionably.

{“Court Calendar” = from the section of British newspapers devoted to the schedule and appearances of the Royal Family}

“Are these ladies the wives of judges?” inquired Mrs. Wyllys.

“Oh, no; Mrs. Tibbs is the lady of our physician, and Mrs. Bibbs is a ‘marchande,’ — she is a very fascinating lady, and has a fine flow of conversation. She was a great belle, at Saratoga, a year or two since; you may, perhaps, have met her there?” inquired Mrs. Hilson.

“Not that I know of; but I have not been at Saratoga for years.”

“Is it possible? I cannot live without three weeks at Saratoga, and a fortnight at Rockaway, every year. Before I ordered my wedding- dress, I made Mr. Hilson promise I should have my own way about that. I said to him, one day, ‘Alonzo, before the settlements are drawn up, I shall require you to pledge yourself to six weeks, every year, between Saratoga and Rockaway.’”

{“settlements” = marriage settlements or pre-nuptial agreements; “Rockaway” = a fashionable sea-side resort on Long Island, near New York City}

“You are fond of a gay life, I suppose.”

“Very naturally; having lived in the world of fashion from my cradle, I do not think I could breathe any other atmosphere. It must be a great change for you, Mrs. Wyllys, from all the pleasures of a city-life to a small circle like ours.”

“A change, certainly; but a pleasant one, I hope.”

“It will be a relief to you, to find so much aristocracy among us. We have a certain clique, that, I think, must satisfy the most refined taste, and will console you, I hope, for the loss of genteel society in Baltimore.”

“Thank you. I shall scarcely miss any but my friends. I go out very little.”

“I regret to hear that. — We must try to persuade you to change your determination, and mingle more with society. I feel confident, that our West-End clique must satisfy the most refined taste. We expect to have a great deal of gaiety, this fall; but, just at present, we have a scarcity of beaux.”

“What has become of young Mr. Taylor; he was to have been home by this time. Do you hear anything of him, Miss Wyllys?” inquired Miss Emmeline.

“His family expect him soon, I believe.”

“I hope he will arrive before our summer parties are over. Mr. and Mrs. Hazlehurst, too, and Miss Graham, when shall we have the pleasure of seeing them?”

“We expect them every day.”

“I hope,” said Mrs. Hilson, “they will arrive while I am here, which will be longer than usual, this season, for they are painting our suit of apartments in the city. When I came, Alonzo told Emmeline to keep me until October, and she has promised me a round of entertainments, while I am with her; so that I feel particularly interested in the arrival of your friends.”

“Miss Graham will dash a great deal, no doubt, when she comes back,” said Miss Emmeline; “I quite long to see her. Miss Taylor must be expecting her impatiently. By-the-bye, I understand, Mr. Taylor’s new furniture is now all arrived. His villa, as well as his city-house, will be very stylish.”

“Mr. Taylor is a very tasty gentleman,” observed Mrs. Hilson. “He seems to be very talented, in every way; formed to figure in fashionable life, as well as in business. His new house is a magnificent edifice.”

“Your father tells me, he has quite finished his own house, Mrs. Hilson; you must be glad to get rid of the workmen,” remarked Miss Wyllys.

“Yes — they have been long enough about it; but Pa has old-fashioned notions about having everything substantial, and well done; he said Emmeline and I might choose the plan, and have everything as we liked; but he must have his own time to do it in. However, it is a delightful mansion, now. It has every convenience of the most fashionable houses in the city; plate-glass, and folding-doors, and marble chimneys to the garret. Just such a house as I should like in New York; though, to tell the truth, I would not keep house for the world.”

“Julianna is so delightfully situated, in her boarding-house, Mrs. Wyllys, that she has nothing to wish for.”

{“boarding-house” = at this period in American history, many respectable and reasonably well-off people and even families lived permanently in boarding-houses, rather than maintain a houseful of servants}

“Yes, we have every luxury of fashionable life, united to a very aristocratic set of boarders; and Mrs. Stone, herself, is an extremely fascinating lady. Indeed, I have been spoilt; I don’t think I could endure the drudgery of housekeeping, now; though I once told Alonzo, if he would give me a four-story house, up town, with a marble front, I would try.”

“You must find the situation of your father’s new house pleasanter than that he has left,” observed Miss Agnes.

“By no means. — That is a serious objection to our new mansion. Standing surrounded by the park, on three sides, removes us so far from the street.”

“I should have thought you would find it pleasant to be removed farther from the noise and dust. What is your cousin Charles doing? I suppose you see him often, in town.”

“I really do not know what has become of him,” said Mrs. Hilson, languidly; for she always felt rather mortified by any allusion to her unfashionable relations. “Though Charles is in the city now, studying painting, yet I never see him. He told Mr. Hilson that he called sometimes, but I have never seen his card; in a large boarding-house like ours, with a family of forty or fifty people, there is often great confusion about visits. But, Emmeline, we are making a very unfashionable call. I am quite ashamed, Mrs. Wyllys: but we will relieve you now — I see our carriage has returned.” And after an exchange of curtsies, the ladies glided out of the room. Miss Emmeline, as she passed, touched the curly head of one of the children, exclaiming as she did so, “fascinating cherub!” and then both vanished.

We have said that these two sisters were very much alike. Mrs. Hilson, however, was the most distinguished of the two, for she carried the family follies several degrees farther than Miss Emmeline. Taken altogether, she was an absurd compound. Personally, she was thoroughly American, very pretty and delicate in form and features, and thus far appeared to great advantage; but she had, also, an affected mincing manner, and drawling voice. Of course, her dress was as Parisian as possible; everything she wore was a faithful copy from “Le Courier des Dames.” Her feelings and opinions, Mrs. Hilson was proud to call English in the extreme, for she had chosen to imbibe a great love of “aristocracy,” and many other things which she did not in the least understand. She had a set of common-place phrases of this description in constant use, having borrowed them from an intimate friend, living in the same boarding-house, a Mrs. Bagman, an Englishwoman, of a very equivocal position. Then, she read nothing but English novels; these were her only source of amusement and instruction in the way of books; and as she followed the example of Mrs. Bagman, in rejecting every tale that had not its due share of lords and ladies, she called herself fastidious in the selection. She was a great talker, and not a day passed but what cockney sentiments fell from her pretty little mouth, in drawling tones, from under a fanciful Parisian coiffure. John Bull would have stared, however, if called upon to acknowledge her as a daughter; for Yankee vulgarity and English vulgarity are very different in character — the first having the most pretension, the last the most coarseness.

These ladies had scarcely driven from the door, before Mrs. Wyllys exclaimed: “Is it possible, Agnes, that these Hubbards are a good specimen of the Longbridge people!”

“No, indeed; one such family is quite enough for any place.”

“How ridiculous they are! How can you tolerate them?”

“Now, pray, Aunt Agnes,” said Elinor, “do not say one word in their favour.”

“No; as regards the ladies of the family, one can say little. They are not perhaps, by nature, as ridiculous as they have made themselves. Time may do something for them. But their father is a very worthy, respectable man; you must have seen him at our house last summer. Don’t you remember one day two uncles of Patsey Hubbard dining with us?”

“Yes, I do remember them; one Charles Hubbard called Uncle Josey { sic}, and he seemed quite a sensible man; the other fell asleep I know, the one they called Uncle Dozie.”

“The napping uncle is the old bachelor; Uncle Josie is the father of these ladies.”

“He seemed a sensible man; how came he to have such daughters?”

“They are very like their mother, who died a year or two since.”

“They are very disagreeable, certainly. How often shall we be required to encounter this desperate elegance? I almost begin to repent having fixed myself at Longbridge.”

“And between Mrs. Bibbs, and Mrs. Tibbs, too!” said Elinor, laughing. “However, for your consolation, Aunt, I can assure you these two ladies are far from being so very ‘fascinating’ as the Hubbards. Mrs. Hilson and her sister rise high above the rest of us in that respect — they are, decidedly, ‘our Corinthian capital.’”

“You will find the Van Hornes, the Bernards, and several other families, very pleasant neighbours, on farther acquaintance,” said Miss Agnes. “You have really been unfortunate in this specimen.”

“And where did these ladies contrive to pick up so much absurdity?”

“With a miserable education to begin with, no other reading than the worst novels, and the chance association of second-rate boarding- houses, that point, I think, is easily accounted for,” said Miss Agnes.

The conversation was interrupted by the hurried return of Mr. Wyllys, who held a newspaper in his hand.

“They have arrived!” cried Elinor, springing from her chair, as she saw her grandfather enter the gate.

“Good news!” said Mr. Wyllys, as he joined the ladies. “The Erie is in, and our friends with her! They must have arrived in the night, and to- morrow morning we shall have them here.”

Of course, all the family were gratified by the good news. Elinor was quite agitated, though her aunt had the pleasure of seeing her look very happy.

“Here it is,” said Mr. Wyllys, reading from the paper the arrival of “’the Packet Ship Erie, Capt. Funck, from Havre, consigned to ------ & Co.;’ that you won’t care about. But here is the list of passengers: ‘Mr. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson, and a dozen Masters and Misses Johnson, from Natchez;’strangers, you will say, but here are acquaintances: ‘Mrs. Creighton, Mr. Francis Ellsworth, and servant, of Phil.; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hazleworth, and family, of Phil.; Miss Graham, of Phil.; Madame Gigot, of Paris:’ wait a moment, Nelly, all in good time. ‘Capt. Flint, of British Army; Achille Bureau, of Paris; T. Davis, of Charleston; Dr. Brackett, of St. Louis;’ and, though last, not least in our estimation, W. Hazleworth, of Phil.; with seventy-nine in the steerage.’ Of course, for W. Hazleworth, read H. Hazlehurst; they never spell a name right. We shall have them all here to-morrow I hope, Nelly.”

If Elinor said little, she thought and felt a great deal.

They were still talking over the arrival, when Mrs. Wyllys’s little girl came skipping in, again, and said; “Here comes a gentleman, mamma.” She was followed in an instant, by a young man, who, in a hurried, eager manner, had kissed the hand of Miss Agnes, and Elinor’s cheek, before either had time to exclaim “Harry!”

It was, in fact, Hazlehurst, still in his travelling-cap. They had arrived in the night, he said, and the rest of the party was to follow him the next day.