Chapter X.

“Fashion, leader of a chattering train.” COWPER.

{William Cowper (English poet, 1731-1800), “Conversation” line 457}

MISS PATSEY’S mother was more unwell than usual; and after breakfast the following morning, Elinor prepared a little basket of particularly fine peaches, which she proposed carrying to Mrs. Hubbard, herself. Harry offered to accompany her, and Jane was persuaded to join them; although in general, she disliked every kind of motion except dancing.

The travellers had already seen Miss Patsey and her youngest sister, and they were now so fortunate as to find Charlie at home. He had come from New York, the evening before, and, of course, was much pleased to see his young friends; indeed, he showed so much emotion at the meeting, as to change colour when he first saw the three cousins enter the little gate.

“Why, Charlie, you have grown in inches as well as in dignity, since we parted,” said Hazlehurst, shaking him warmly by the hand.

“I shall never arrive at any great elevation either way,” replied the youth, after shaking hands also with Jane.

“I don’t know that; you have grown half a foot since I saw you, and you have done wonders I hear, as a painter. Mr. Wyllys, and Elinor, are both great admirers of your pictures.”

“Wonders are comparative, you know; I believe I have accomplished more, for instance, than my mother anticipated, for she thought I was going to devote myself to signs and window-blinds.”

{“window-blinds” = window shades were at this time frequently decorated with hand painted pictures}

“That is your account of the matter. But don’t suppose I have not learned that Mr. Charles Hubbard is looked upon as one of our most promising young artists, and that several of his pictures are thought the best of their kind that have been painted this side the Atlantic.”

“You are very much improved in flattery by a visit to Paris,” said Charlie, smiling.

“Only sober truth, as you must well know, Mr. Charles Hubbard. I hope you have something here for us to look at; I am really very impatient to see some of your pictures. I wish you could have enjoyed half the fine works of art that I have seen in the last two years.”

Hubbard replied that he had strong hopes of going abroad himself before long, thanks to the liberality of his uncle, and the promise of several orders from different gentlemen. Harry congratulated him warmly, though he regretted that Charlie should think of leaving home just as he himself returned.

The young ladies paid their visit to Mrs. Hubbard in her bed-room, while Harry and Charlie talked over a hundred different things together; and after engaging Charles to dine at Wyllys-Roof, they walked home again.

“Miss Patsey’s parlour really looks neater and smaller than ever,” observed Harry. “And I don’t think I have seen such an honest, good- natured, pleasant face as her’s, since I left Longbridge. She seems satisfied now, with the idea of Charlie’s being an artist.”

“She is resigned to it, rather,” said Elinor, “now that the matter is entirely settled.”

“Charlie looks pale,” observed Harry; “he has grown though, and he is no longer so very slight as he used to be.”

“He seems to be well,” replied Elinor; “but at times his spirits are not good. He has been much interested in your movements — quite anxious about your return.”

“Charlie is a right good fellow,” said Harry; “I was in hopes to see a great deal of him, this winter.” At this moment Jane dropped a glove; of course Harry picked it up, and he continued silent after doing so.

“There, you see, is Mr. Taylor’s new house,” observed Elinor, as an opening in a grove of young trees allowed a full view of a house of some size, and very great pretensions.

Jane looked at the home of her friend Adeline with interest — Harry exclaimed, “What architecture!”

“Don’t abuse it,” said Elinor, “for I assure you ‘Mr. Taylor’s splendid mansion’ — ’Mr. Taylor’s magnificent seat’ is very much admired.”

Just as the party reached the piazza of Wyllys-Roof, Mr. Taylor’s barouche drove up to the door, and in an instant Miss Adeline Taylor had thrown herself, and her fashionable morning-dress, into Jane’s arms.

“I was so glad to find you were staying here!” she exclaimed. “Pa and I only arrived from Saratoga last night; I did not expect you for a month to come.”

“We had a very short passage for the season,” said Jane, returning the embrace quite cordially.

“We seem to have taken all our friends rather by surprise, Miss Taylor,” said Harry.

“Well, if I had been in your place, I should have staid in Paris till the last minute; — though, I dare say, youwere in a hurry to get back to Longbridge, Mr. Hazlehurst; no doubt you wanted to see mevery much. Put I wonder that Jane did not contrive to stay there.”

Harry looked a little embarrassed, and Jane, too, coloured a little; though there seemed to be no very good reason that either should do so.

“Did you find Saratoga pleasant, this summer, Miss Taylor?” asked Elinor, drawing a chair near the bench where the two friends were sitting, hand in hand.

“Oh, delightful! — Every house full, from the cellar to the garret. How often I wished for you, Jane! if it was only earlier in the season I would make pa take us there again, just for the pleasure of showing off your new French fashions — you would be the greatest belle of the season.”

“We need not inquire who was the belle,” said Elinor; “such important news reaches even sober, home-staying people like us.”

“Oh, we had half a dozen belles — all lively, pretty girls. There was a young gentleman, from Savannah, at Congress Hall, who wrote some verses about us, and called us the ‘Chime of Bells;’ it was a sort of imitation of ‘Those Evening Bells,’ and was published in the Saratoga papers. But if Jane had been there, I don’t think we should have stood much chance.”

{“Those Evening Bells,” popular song by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852), arranged by Sir John Stevenson (1761-1833)}

“You think the poet would have rung a bob-major, for Jane?”

“Certainly; with her trunks full of things from Paris, she would have carried all before her.”

“I don’t think Jane has brought a very large share of finery with her,” said Elinor.

“No, indeed,” said Harry; “only five trunks and three boxes, which I had the honour of getting through the Custom-House.”

“But part of it was for her friends,” said Elinor.

“You would have needed a large supply, I can tell you, Jane,” said Miss Adeline, “if you had wanted to out-dash us; for we determined this season, some half-dozen of us, to out-do the young ladies who were there last year.”

“Did you succeed?” said Hazlehurst.

“To be sure we did. We made a firm resolve not only to change our dress six times every day, but never to wear the same dress twice. We drove several families away by that manœuvre; but you have no idea what fun it was to us, who entered into the spirit of the thing. For two days, though, we were in great trepidation. There were a couple of Baltimore girls there, great dashers, who would not enter into our agreement; and the spiteful things actually changed their dress seven times, the two first days.”

“Seven changes!” said Elinor; “how did they manage that?”

“Why, they came down to breakfast in a white dress; after breakfast they would drive in another, of course; then they would show themselves in the drawing-room, after driving, in a pink muslin, perhaps; at dinner, they wore another; then after dinner, they would change again; in the evening they wore party-dresses, of course; and after they went up stairs, they would visit each other in what they called dress night-wrappers. Now, wasn’t it mean in them?”

“Very,” said Harry, laughing.

“To be sure it was. Changing six times was no more than was necessary; all we ‘evening bells’ did, was never to wear the same dress twice. Would you believe it, after putting such a bold face on the matter, the third day they disappeared suddenly! We had a good crow, I can tell you. There was a poor little innocent there, at the same time, from Boston, who tried to beat us on another tack, as Lieut. Johnson said; they called her the blue-bell. Well, she never changed her dress, morning, noon, or night — and just to spite us. But, dear me, we only laughed — we didn’t care a fig for her; though she was very pretty, she couldn’t get a man to speak to her, excepting one old fossil professor, who wore spectacles, and walked up and down with her on the piazza all the time.”

{“Lieut. Johnson” = not identified}

“She was no worthy rival for the Chime of Bells!” said Harry.

“Certainly not. But I can tell you, that after we had been there a week, two of the Chime were in great danger, and one of them no less a person than your humble servant; the other was Anne Hunter — Jane, you remember Anne Hunter, who was at Mrs. G — — — — -’s with us? Well, Anne and I were in great trouble, one day. Now, Mr. Hazlehurst, I hope you can keep a secret.”

“A lady’s secret? — Can you doubt me, Miss Taylor?”

“Well, mind now, you never mention it; but, Anne and I got down to our last dozen dresses, and we were pledged to stay a week longer. This was Monday, and on Thursday there was to be a pic-nic, given expressly to the Chime of Bells. At first, I thought I was the only one in such a deplorable state; but, happily, I discovered that Anne, whose room was next to mine, was no better off. And now, how do you suppose we managed?”

“Pray, what did you do?” said Elinor, laughing.

“To tell the truth, I sat down and cried; for I am high-spirited, and I could not bear the thoughts of such a mortification. But Anne is an excellent manager, you know, Jane — ”

“Yes, I remember her.”

“Anne had a plan that carried all off triumphantly. She proposed to me, to persuade the other three ‘evening bells,’ that to do honour to the pic-nic, we should be dressed alike, in a sort of uniform. Well, of course, the others agreed; but then, how to find the five dresses alike! Of course, we couldn’t wear anything made in Saratoga. The poet had entreated us, in a sonnet, to be all dressed in white; so we fixed upon white batiste — but, how to get them, was the question.”

“I am all curiosity — ” said Elinor.

“Oh! it was beautifully done, — Anne proposed we should all write an advertisement for a trusty escort to New York, and post it up on the curtains of the ladies’ drawing-room. What fun we had, while we were writing the advertisements! We took an opportunity, when we and our beaux had the drawing-room to ourselves, to vote the gentlemen out of it. After a while, they went; but, what do you suppose the wretches did, Mr. Hazlehurst?”

“Nothing ungallant, I trust.”

“Yes; to spite us, they crowded to the windows on the piazza, till we dropped the blinds. Well, for a time, we thought we were safe; but suddenly Anne Hunter shouted out, and there comfortably seated in a tree close to the end window, where the blind was broken, we saw one of the young gentlemen with a note-book in his hand! We vowed we wouldn’t be defeated, so we pinned up our pocket-handkerchiefs together, and, fortunately, they covered the peep-hole; and so we shut him out, at last.”

“Your perseverance, under such obstacles, was truly surprising, Miss Taylor;” said Hazlehurst.

“Was it not? We soon wrote our advertisements. Mine was very short: ‘Wanted, an agreeable youth, as escort between this and New York, apply this evening, at five o’clock.’ Some were very long and ridiculous; one was in verse. Well, after we had written them, we opened the doors and windows, and the young gentlemen flocked in again. Then we went in procession, and pinned them up on the curtains. Such a time as we had — talking and giggling — we were in such a gale, that, at last, some of the married ladies came out to see what was the matter. But, the best fun of all, was choosing our escorts; a great many offered, and then we examined them.”

“I hope they had suitable qualifications for the office.”

“Oh, yes. — I took Mr. Hunter, Anne’s brother. Well, sure enough, we all set out together, the next morning; staid one day in the city; and, Thursday morning, we re-appeared with the dresses. Of course, Anne and I had taken the opportunity to get a fresh supply, besides the white batiste. We had a most delightful pic-nic. I forgot to say, that Anne’s escort, the Marquis Foletti, was missing; she had to do without him — she gave him up for lost, or absconded, and we allowed her to choose another beau — when suddenly, just as we were mourning over the Marquis, he appeared on the ground, and threw himself on his knees, and made us laugh more than ever. Anne had chosen him, because he had the handsomest moustaches at Saratoga; but he could not speak English very well, and had got on board the wrong boat. What times we had! Jane, I wish you had been there!”

“Your faithful esquires were rewarded, no doubt, by the gallantry of the deed itself, Miss Taylor,” said Harry.

“Of course; but we nevertheless gave them, besides, full permission to say and do just what they pleased, all that day — and you can’t think how much nonsense we talked. Each gentleman took the advertisement of the lady he had escorted, and pinned it over his heart. There were several foreigners there, and you can’t think how they enjoyed it; they had never had such a frolic with young ladies before, and they thought it delightful; though, to be sure, they got at last to be rather too free; and then we had to put a stop to it.”

Elinor looked at Jane, to see if she seemed to sympathize in Adeline’s story; but her cousin’s beautiful face was still bright with the glow of pleasure from meeting her friend; no other thought or feeling was to be traced there.

“I don’t believe they have any such fun in Paris, Mr. Hazlehurst.”

“Not exactly. — They have a pleasantry of their own, however, which is quite agreeable.”

“I don’t think I should like it. They say, a young lady dares not speak to gentlemen, nor walk with them, nor have the least bit of a flirtation. How stupid it must be!”

“But the French girls do talk to gentlemen, I assure you,” replied Jane, “only they are not intimate with everybody. The young men are very attentive, too; they treat young girls with much more respect, Louisa says, than in America.”

“Who cares for respect! I want to laugh and amuse myself, and have my own way,” exclaimed Adeline.

“It is growing quite warm here — you will find it pleasanter in the drawing-room, Miss Taylor;” said Elinor, not caring to listen any longer to Jane’s giddy friend.

“Well, if you please, I’ll run up to Jane’s room, and look at the fashions — I am dying to see some of her capes and collars. By-the-bye, I had forgotten two very important things. Here is a note for your aunt, Miss Elinor; some private communication from Ma; the coachman will take the answer. And then, I came over to ask you all to drink tea with us, this evening, very sociably; nobody but your own family and three or four friends!”

The invitation was accepted, as a matter of course.

“Good morning, Mr. Hazlehurst; I expect to be shut up with Jane, for three hours to come; I have really talked myself out of breath; but that is always the way, with me, as you know, of old.” And the two girls, hand-in-hand, ran lightly up stairs, where Elinor, making an excuse of Mrs. Taylor’s note, left them to a confidential tête-à-tête.