Chapter XII.

“Come, come; deal justly with me; come,  Come; nay, speak!” Hamlet.


“Madam, the guests are come, supper served up, you called, my young lady asked for, the nurse cursed in the pantry, and everything in extremity.” Romeo and Juliet.

{William Shakespeare, Hamlet, II.ii.275-276; Romeo and Juliet, I.iii.100-102}

OF course, nothing interfered with the party at Colonnade Manor. Thanks to Mrs. Taylor, the coachman and the little girl of twelve — quite a womanly, precocious, little thing, by-the-way — all went off very well. Some curious person, uninitiated in similar domestic mysteries, may wish to know how things were managed at such a trying crisis. Well, in the first place, Mrs. Taylor congratulated herself that her guests had been asked to ‘spend the evening,’ and not invited ‘to tea.’ This was a piece of good luck, which diminished her cares, and prevented the deep mortification she must have felt had the tea and coffee been cold. The coachman, of course, officiated as footman; a duty to which he was already somewhat accustomed. The little girl of twelve began the evening as ladies’-maid, appearing in the dressing-room in that capacity, helping the ladies to take off their shawls and smooth the folds of their dresses, before they made their entrance in the drawing- rooms. The company soon collected — about fifty or sixty persons, altogether — and in party dress; each having been invited quite sociably, by Miss Adeline. They were not at all surprised to see each other, however, for they had often already practised the same agreeable deception, themselves. The company once assembled, the little girl of twelve rolled up her sleeves, and took her station in the pantry, where she replenished the cake-baskets, the lemonade and sangaree-glasses handed about by her father, the coachman. A supper table was already spread in the dining-room; it had been very prettily ornamented with flowers by Adeline, and her Saratoga friends; and a plentiful supply of fruits, ices, jellies, syllabubs, creams, and other delicacies for a light supper, had been prepared, in the course of the morning, by Mrs. Taylor and her coadjutors, the coachman and the little girl of twelve. The talkative old friend had been admitted behind the scenes so far, as to learn that the mistress of the house would be obliged to make all the good things herself; and she had shown that, besides telling a long story, she could make very excellent sponge- cake; for, unfortunately, it was discovered that it would be necessary to increase the supply of that delicacy. Adeline did her share; while her Saratoga friends were taking a morning siesta, with a novel in their hands, she had made the syllabub, and prepared the fruit. These arrangements having been made, the little girl of twelve had received orders to station herself near at hand, where she could be sent of {sic} errands up and down stairs. The coachman was told to take his place by the side-table, ready to be called upon, if necessary. Mrs. Taylor herself — alas! that we should be obliged to reveal the fact, expected to slip out of the drawing-room at about half-past ten, and superintend the delicate operation of removing the jellies from their moulds; this would require ten minutes to do, and she hoped to make her exit and ingress unnoticed; a matter easily managed, in summer, when the doors and windows are all open, and couples arm-in-arm, are loitering about, in and out in all directions. This task performed, when she had returned to the public notice, some ten minutes after having seen everything in its place, the coachman was expected to appear at the drawing-room door, with composed manner, to announce that supper was ready — a fact she was prepared to hear with the expression of sublime indifference, required by etiquette. From that moment, everything would become easy; for, of course, the gentlemen would, as usual, take care of the ladies first, and then help themselves. The gallant way in which these light, standing suppers are always managed, among us, is, by-the-bye, a pleasant and sensible arrangement; nothing better could be devised, under the circumstances. The plan of operations thus sketched, we may as well say, at once, that everything succeeded to admiration.

{“sangaree” = a cold drink of flavored, diluted wine; “syllabub” = a drink of milk and wine}

The evening was pronounced very pleasant; and, as several of our friends were present, we shall follow them. There was a great deal of talking and laughing; a reasonable quantity of flirtation; and, once or twice, some romping in the corner of the room where Miss Adeline happened to be at the time. Among those who had excused themselves from accepting the invitation, were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hazlehurst, who disliked the idea of going so far, and Mr. and Mrs. Graham, the lady being detained at home by a headach {sic}, the gentleman by a particular dislike to Mr. Taylor, who, he thought, had behaved in an ungentlemanly manner about a mortgage, in which they both happened to be interested. Mr. Graham was a man of a violent temper, and unsocial habits, generally taking little pains to conceal his feelings; and accordingly, his manner to Mr. Taylor was anything but flattering, though their acquaintance, at best, was but trifling. Mrs. Graham also disliked the whole family; and yet the intimacy between Jane and Adeline was allowed to continue, as a sort of matter of course, between school companions.

Miss Wyllys accompanied her niece to the party — she generally made it a point to go with Elinor; for, she had old-fashioned notions on the subject, and thought that the presence of their elders was an advantage and a protection that well-educated young girls have a right to expect from their friends. She seldom spoke on the matter, however, but contented herself with giving, what she thought, a good example. Both Miss Agnes and Elinor were rather surprised to find that Jane’s partiality for her giddy friend Adeline, had not been in the least diminished, by her visit to Europe. Miss Wyllys disapproved of the intimacy; but, as Jane’s mother had no objections, she herself could say nothing. The two young ladies were a great deal together, in the course of the evening, as became bosom-friends after a long separation. Mrs. Taylor’s old friend, the talkative lady, was introduced to several of the elder portion of the company, and was thus happily provided with listeners. Miss Adeline’s fashionable acquaintances from Saratoga, were also supplied, each with a couple of attendant beaux, upon whom to try the effect of their charms. Everything thus happily arranged, Miss Adeline proposed a ‘march,’ which was managed as usual. Young Van Horne, who had some musical capabilities, was placed at the piano, and played Washington’s March, when the young people paired off in a line, and began to walk, moving in time up and down the two drawing-rooms, through the folding-doors — each gentleman, of course, offering his arm to a lady; chaque chacun, avec sa chacune. Adeline was not quite satisfied with her cavalier, Charlie Hubbard; she did not care much about him, at any time; and, on the present occasion, he seemed less interested in listening to her own conversation, than in watching the movements of some one else; who it was, she could not say. She reproached him with this inattention.

{” chaque chacun, avec sa chacune“ = each one with his own (French)}

“I declare, I don’t believe you hear half I say. I never saw anybody like you.”

“Charlie blushed a little, rallied, and devoted himself more exclusively to the duty of being entertained. After the second or third turn in the march, Adeline discovered Hazlehurst, who, instead of being in motion with the rest, was leaning in a door-way. As she passed him, she snapped her embroidered handkerchief in that direction, and summoned him to join the ‘promenade.’ Harry excused himself by saying, he was afraid he could not find any one to walk with him.

“How can you talk so! There is Miss Wyllys, I declare; I had not seen her before.” — And Adeline crossed the room to a window where Elinor was sitting quietly as a looker-on, having just escaped from a long conversation with the talkative old friend.

“Now, Miss Wyllys, I am sure you must wish to promenade!”

“Would you like to walk?” quietly asked Hazlehurst, who had followed Miss Taylor.

“No, indeed,” said Elinor, smiling and shaking her head good- naturedly. “I have had one long walk, already, this afternoon, and much prefer sitting still, just now.”

“You should follow Jane’s example; you see, she is promenading, and, I dare say, she took the walk with you, too,” said Adeline.

“Did you ever know Jane take a long walk, when she could help it?” asked Elinor, smiling. “I had really rather sit still, Miss Taylor.”

Adeline, finding that on this occasion she could not succeed in setting all her friends in motion, which she generally endeavoured to do, returned to the ranks; leaving Elinor to do as she chose. Hazlehurst took a seat by her, and made some inquiries about several of their old acquaintances in the room.

“Don’t you think those two young ladies both very pretty, Mr. Hazlehurst,” said Dr. Van Horne, approaching the spot where Harry was standing near Elinor, after having given up his chair to one of the Saratoga belles, when the march was finished.

“Which do you mean, sir?” asked Harry.

“Miss Taylor and Miss Graham, who are standing together near the piano.”

“Yes,” replied Hazlehurst, “Miss Taylor is even prettier than I had supposed she would be.”

“She will not compare, however, with Miss Jane. To my mind, Miss Graham answers the idea of perfect beauty. In all your travels, did you meet with a face that you thought more beautiful?”

“I believe not,” said Harry, laconically, and slowly colouring at the same time.

“Is it Jane you were speaking of, Doctor?” inquired Elinor, turning towards him. “Don’t you think she has come back twice as beautiful as she was last year? It is really a pleasure to look at a face like hers.”

“I am afraid, it will prove rather a dangerous pleasure, Miss Elinor, to some of the beaux, this winter.”

“No doubt she will be very much admired; but she takes it all very quietly. I don’t believe your great beauties as much disposed to vanity as other people.”

“Perhaps not;” replied the doctor, drawing near her. “A great deal depends on education. But what do the travellers tell you about the sights they have seen, Miss Elinor?”

“Oh, we have only gone as far as the first chapter of their travels,” she replied. “They have not half said their say yet.”

“Well, I should like to have a talk with you on the subject, Mr. Hazlehurst. I was in hopes of meeting your brother here, to-night, but he has not come, I find; I shall have to bore you with my questions, unless you want to dance this jig, or whatever it is, they are beginning.”

“Not at all, my dear sir; I shall be glad to answer any questions of yours.”

“Thank you. Suppose we improve the opportunity, Miss Elinor, and give him a sharp cross-examination; do you think he would bear it?”

“I hope so,” said Elinor, smiling quietly, as if she felt very easy on the subject.

“Don’t trust him too far. I dare say you have not been half severe enough upon him,” said Dr. Van Horne, who had a very high opinion of Harry. “But to speak seriously, Mr. Hazlehurst, I don’t at all like a notion my son Ben has of going to Europe.”

“What is your objection?”

“I doubt if it is at all an advantage to send most young men to Europe. I’ve seen so many come back conceited, and dissatisfied, and good- for-nothing, that I can’t make up my mind to spoil Ben by the same process. He tries very hard to persuade me, that now-a-days, no doctor is fit to be trusted who has not finished off in Paris; but we managed without it thirty years ago.”

“You must know much more than I do on that subject, doctor,” said Hazlehurst, taking a seat on the other side of Elinor.

“Of course, I know more about the hospitals. But as I have never been abroad myself, I don’t know what effect a sight of the Old World has on one. It seems to me it ruins a great many young fellows.”

“And it improves a great many,” said Hazlehurst.

“I am by no means so sure of that. It improves some, I grant you; but I think the chances are that it is an injury. We have happened to see a great deal, lately, of two young chaps, nephews of mine, who came home last spring. Three years ago they went abroad, sober, sensible, well-behaved lads enough, and now they have both come back, worse than good-for-nothing. There was Rockwell, he used to be a plain, straight-forward, smooth-faced fellow; and now he has come home bristling with whiskers, and beard, and moustaches, and a cut across the forehead, that he got in a duel in Berlin. Worse than all, his brain is so befogged, and mystified, that he can’t see anything straight to save his life; and yet, forsooth, my gentleman is going to set the nation to rights with some new system of his own.”

“I know nothing of the German Universities, doctor, from my own observation; but I should think it might be a dangerous thing to send a young man there unless he was well supplied with sound common sense of his own.”

“Well, there is Bill Hartley, again, who staid all the time in Paris. He has come back a regular grumbler. If you would believe him, there is not a single thing worth having, from one end of the Union to the other. He is disgusted with everything, and only last night said that our climate wants fog! Now, I think it is much better to go plodding on at home, than to travel for the sake of bringing back such enlarged views as make yourself and your friends uncomfortable for the rest of your days.”

“But it is a man’s own fault, my dear sir, if he brings back more bad than good with him. The fact is, you will generally find the good a man brings home, in proportion to the good he took abroad.”

“I’m not so sure of that. I used to think Rockwell was quite a promising young man at one time. But that is not the question. If, after all, though it does sharpen a man’s wits, it only makes him discontented for the rest of his life, I maintain that such a state of improvement is not to be desired. If things are really better and pleasanter in Europe, I don’t want to know it. It would make me dissatisfied, unless I was to be a renegade, and give up the country I was born in; would you have a man do that?”

“Never!” said Harry. “I hold that it is a sort of desertion, to give up the post where Providence has placed us, unless in extreme cases; and I believe a man can live a more useful and more honourable life there than elsewhere. But I think travelling a very great advantage, nevertheless. The very power of comparison, of which you complain, is a source of great intellectual pleasure, and must be useful if properly employed, since it helps us to reach the truth.”

The doctor shook his head. “I want you just to tell me how much of this grumbling and fault-finding is conceit, and how much is the natural consequence of travelling? Is everything really superior in Europe to what we have here?”

“Everything? No;” said Harry, laughing. But you would seem to think a man dissatisfied, doctor, if he did not, on the contrary, proclaim that everything is immeasurably better in this country than in any other on the globe. Now, confess, is not that your standard of patriotism?”

“Ah, you are shifting your ground, young gentleman. But we shall bring you to the point presently. Now tell us honestly, were you not disappointed with the looks of things when you came back?”

“If by disappointed, you mean that many things as I see them now, strike me as very inferior to objects of the same description in Europe, I do not scruple to say they do. When I landed, I said to myself,

“’The streets are narrow and the buildings mean;  Did I, or fancy, leave them broad and clean?’”

{George Crabbe (English poet, 1754-1832), Posthumous Tales:“Tale VI — The Farewell and Return”, Part II, lines 79-80}

“I feared so!” and the doctor looked much as a pious Mahometan might be supposed to do, if he were to see a Frank seize the Grand Turk by the beard. “I should have thought better of you,” he added.

{“Frank” = a European Christian; “Grand Turk” = Ottoman Emperor}

“My dear sir,” said Harry, laughing, “how could I help it! I must defend myself from any desire to be disappointed, I assure you. On the contrary, I wish very sincerely that everything in my native country were as good as possible in its way; that the architecture of the public buildings were of the noblest kind; the private houses the most pleasant and convenient; the streets the best paved, and best lighted in the world. But I don’t conceive that the way to bring this about is to maintain le pistolet à la gorge, that perfection has already been attained in all these particulars. To speak frankly, it strikes me as the height of puerility to wish to deceive oneself upon such subjects. On the contrary, I think it is the duty of every man, so far as he has the opportunity, to aim at correct notions on everything within his reach.”

{“le pistolet à la gorge” = the pistol to the throat (French)}

“Well,” remarked the doctor, “you only confirm me in my opinion. I shall be more unwilling than ever to let Ben go; since even you, Harry Hazlehurst, who are a good deal better than most young men, confess the harm travelling has done you.”

“But, my dear sir, I confess no such thing. I’m conscious that travelling has been a great benefit to me in many ways. I shall be a happier and better man for what I have seen, all my life, I trust, since many of my opinions are built on a better foundation than they were before.”

“If I were you, I would not let him say so, Miss Elinor. His friends won’t like to hear it; and I, for one, am very sorry that you are not as good an American as I took you for.”

“It is quite a new idea to me, doctor,” said Hazlehurst, “that mental blindness and vanity are necessary parts of the American character. We, who claim to be so enlightened! I should be sorry to be convinced that your view is correct. I have always believed that true patriotism consisted in serving one’s country, not in serving oneself by flattering one’s countrymen. I must give my testimony on these subjects, when called for, as well as on any other, honestly, and to the best of my ability.”

“Do you know, doctor,” said Elinor, “poor Harry has had to fight several battles on this subject already. Mrs. Bernard attacked him the other evening, because he said the mountains in Switzerland were higher than the White Mountains. Now we have only to look in a geography to see that they are so.”

“But one don’t like to hear such things, Miss Elinor.”

“Mrs. Bernard asked him if he had seen anything finer than the White Mountains; what could he say? It seems to me just as possible for a man to love his country, and see faults in it, as it does for him to love his wife and children, without believing them to be the most perfect specimens of the human family, in body and mind, that ever existed. You will allow that a man may be a very good and kind husband and father, without maintaining everywhere that his wife and daughters surpass all their sex, in every possible particular?”

“You will not, surely, deny, doctor,” said Hazlehurst, “that it is reasonable to suppose that Europe possesses some advantages of an advanced state of civilization, that we have not yet attained to? We have done much for a young people, but we have the means of doing much more; and it will be our own fault if we don’t improve.”

“We shall improve, I dare say.”

“Do you expect us to go beyond perfection, then?”

“I can’t see the use of talking about disagreeable subjects.”

“But even the most disagreeable truths have their uses.”

“That may be; and yet I believe you would have been happier if you had staid at home. While he was away from you, Miss Elinor, I am afraid he learned some of those disagreeable truths which it would have been better for him not to have discovered.”

Harry stooped to pick up a glove, and remained silent for a moment.

Shortly after, supper was announced; and, although the coachman was not quite as much at home in the pantry as in the stable, yet everything was very successfully managed.

“It is really mortifying to hear a man like Dr. Van Horne, fancy it patriotic to foster conceited ignorance and childish vanity, on all national subjects,” exclaimed Harry, as he took his seat in the carriage, after handing the ladies in. “And that is not the worst of it; for, of course, if respectable, independent men talk in that tone, there will be no end to the fulsome, nauseating, vulgar flatteries that will be poured upon us by those whose interest it is to flatter!”

“I heard part of your conversation, and, I must confess, the doctor did not show his usual good sense,” observed Miss Agnes.

“You are really quite indignant against the doctor,” said Elinor.

“Not only against him, but against all who are willing, like him, to encourage such a miserable perversion of truth. Believe them, and you make patriotism anything, and everything, but a virtue.”