Chapter XIII.

“Why, how now, count? Wherefore are you so sad?” SHAKSPEARE.  {sic — this is the Cooper family’s usual spelling of the name}

{William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, II.i.289}

“WELL, Jenny, you are going to leave us to-day, it seems,” said Mr. Wyllys, the next morning, at breakfast. “I am sorry for it; but, I suppose your mother has a better right to you than we have.”

“I promised mamma I would not stay after to-day, sir. Aunt Agnes is to carry me over to Longbridge, before dinner.”

“You must come back again, as often as you can, child. It always seems to me, that Harry and you belong here, as much as you do anywhere else. How long do you suppose your mother will stay at Longbridge?”

“We are going to New York next week. Father wishes to be in Charleston early in October.”

“I can’t bear to think of your going so soon. If you are once in Carolina, I suppose, we shan’t see you again until next June; but, mind, you are to pass all next summer with us,” said Elinor.

“That is to say, Nelly, if she has no more important engagement,” added Mr. Wyllys, smiling.

“Even a very important engagement need not interfere,” said Miss Agnes. “We shall be very happy, Jane, to see any Charleston friend you may see fit to bring with you.”

“I don’t think there is the least danger that any Charleston friend will come with me;” said Jane, blushing a little.

“Have you selected a friend from some other place, Jenny?” asked her uncle.

“Oh, no, sir!” was the answer; but her colour continued to rise, and she appeared a little uneasy. As for Harry, he had taken no part in the conversation, but seemed very busy with his knife and fork.

“Pray remember, Jane,” said Elinor, “I am to have timely notice of a wedding, in my capacity of bridesmaid.”

“Who knows, Nelly, but you may call upon Jane first. You have fixed upon your friend, I take it; eh, Harry?”

“I hope so;” Hazlehurst replied, in a low voice, and he drank off a cup of hot coffee with such rapidity, that Miss Wyllys looked at him with astonishment.

Elinor made no answer, for she was already at the other end of the room, talking gaily to her birds.

As Harry rose from table and walked into the next room, he tried to feel very glad that Jane was to leave them that day; he sat down, and took up a paper; but, instead of reading it, silently followed a train of thought by no means agreeable.

In the course of the morning, according to the arrangement which had been made, Harry drove the ladies to Longbridge. He thought he had never passed a more unpleasant morning in his life. He felt relieved when Elinor, instead of taking a seat with him, chose one inside, with her aunt and Jane; though his heart smote him whenever her sweet, cheerful voice fell upon his ear. He tried to believe, however, that it was in spite of himself he had been captivated by Jane’s beauty. Was he not, at that very moment, carrying her, at full speed, towards her father’s, and doing his best to hope that they should meet but once or twice again, for months to come? Under such circumstances, was not a man in love to be pitied? For some weeks, Hazlehurst had not been able to conceal from himself, that if he occupied the position of the lover of Elinor, he felt like the lover of Jane.

As he drove on, in moody silence, the party in the carriage at length remarked, that he had not joined in their conversation at all.

“Harry does not talk so much as he used to;” observed Miss Wyllys; “don’t you think he has grown silent, Jane?”

“Perhaps he has,” she replied; “but it never struck me, before.”

“Do you hear, Harry?” said Elinor; “Aunt Agnes thinks the air of Paris has made you silent. It ought surely to have had a very different effect.”

“This detestable road requires all a man’s attention to keep out of the ruts;” he replied. “I wish we had gone the other way.”

“If Aunt Agnes has no objection, we can come back by the river road,” said Elinor. “But your coachmanship is so good, you have carried us along very smoothly; if the road is bad, we have not felt it.”

Harry muttered something about holes and ruts, which was not heard very distinctly.

“Out of humour, too; very unusual!” thought Miss Agnes. There was a something unnatural in his manner, which began to give her a little uneasiness; for she saw no good way of accounting for it.

The ladies were driven to the door of the Bellevue Hotel, where the Grahams had rooms. They found several visiters with Mrs. Graham, among whom, the most conspicuous, and the least agreeable, were Mrs. Hilson and her sister, both redolent of Broadway, elegant and fashionable in the extreme; looking, it is true, very pretty, but talking, as usual, very absurdly.

Mrs. Graham had scarcely kissed her daughter, before Mrs. Hilson gave Elinor an important piece of information.

“I am so delighted, Miss Wyllys, to hear this good news — ”

“My cousins’ return, do you mean? Did you not know they had arrived?”

“Oh, yes; we heard that, of course, last week; but I allude to this morning’s good news, which I have just heard from this fascinating little creature;” added the lady, catching one of Mrs. Graham’s younger children, as it slipped past her.

Elinor looked surprised, when Mrs. Hilson condescended to explain.

“Mrs. Graham is to pass the winter in New York, I hear.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Elinor, turning with joyful eagerness towards Mrs. Graham. “Are you really going to stay so near us?”

Mrs. Graham was thus obliged to inform her friends of the change in her plans; she would, of course, have preferred waiting until alone with Miss Agnes and Elinor, to do so; but, Mrs. Hilson’s officiousness obliged her to say something immediately. One, of her children, a little boy, had been suffering with some disease of the spine, during the last year, and a consultation of physicians, held the day before, in New York, had decided that a sea-voyage, or a long journey, was more than the poor little fellow could bear, in the present state of his health, as he had been much worse, during the last three months, since the Grahams had been at Longbridge. It was therefore settled that Mrs. Graham, Jane, and the younger children, were to remain in New York, while the boy was under the care of Dr. S — — — — -, in whom his parents had great confidence. Mr. Graham and his oldest boy were to pass part of the winter on their plantation, and then return to his family.

Miss Wyllys and Elinor, though regretting the cause, were, of course, much pleased with this arrangement; Jane, too, appeared perfectly satisfied.

“I should not be surprised, Miss Graham,” continued Mrs. Hilson, “if some of your New York admirers had bribed Dr. S — — — — -; I’m sure, we are very much obliged to him for having detained you. I hope you will be somewhere near us, in the city. Emmeline is to pass part of the winter with me; and, I dare say, you will be very intimate. I wish, Mrs. Graham we could persuade you to come to our boarding-house. Mrs. Stone is really a fascinating lady, herself; and she always manages to have a charming clique at her house. — Quite exclusive, I assure you.”

“I hope to find more private lodgings — I have too many little people for a boarding-house.”

“Not at all. Mrs. Stone could give you an excellent nursery. She has several lovely little darlings, herself. Her little Algernon would make a very good beau for your youngest little Miss. What do you say, my dear,” catching the child again; “won’t you set your cap for Algernon?”

The little girl opened her large, dark eyes without answering. Mrs. Hilson, and her sister now rose to take leave of Mrs. Graham, repeating, however, before they went, the invitation they had already given, to a ball for the next week. It was to be a house-warming, and a grand affair. The ladies then flitted away on tip-toe.

The door had scarcely closed behind them, before Mrs. George Wyllys, who had been sitting as far from them as possible, began to exclaim upon the absurdity of the whole Hubbard family.

“They are really intolerable, Agnes;” she said to her sister-in-law. “They attack me upon all occasions. They brought Mrs. Bibbs and Mrs. Tibbs to see me, and joined me in the street, yesterday: they are almost enough to drive me away from Longbridge. I can’t imagine what makes them so attentive to me — plain, sober body, as I am — what can they aim at?”

“They aim at universal fascination, I suppose;” said Elinor, laughing.

“And must we really go to this house-warming?” asked Mrs. Wyllys.

“Elinor and I have already accepted the invitation;” said Miss Agnes. “My father wished us to go, for he really has a great respect for Mr. Hubbard.”

“Well, I can’t say that the gentlemen strike me as so much superior to the ladies of the family. ‘Uncle Josie’ seems to admire his daughter’s nonsense; and ‘Uncle Dozie’ never opens his lips.”

“There is not a shade of fascination about them, however,” said Elinor.

“I grant you that,” said Mrs. Wyllys, smiling. “I shall decline the invitation, though, I think.”

“That you can do very easily;” said Miss Agnes.

The ladies then followed Mrs. Graham to an adjoining room, to see the little invalid, and talk over the new arrangement for the winter.

It was fortunate for Harry, that they had left the drawing-room before he entered it; for he no sooner appeared at the door, than the same little chatter-box, who had betrayed the change in her mother’s plans to Mrs. Hilson, ran up to him to tell the great news that they were not going back to Charleston, but were to stay in New York all winter, ‘mamma, and Jane, and all of them, except papa and Edward.’ The varying expression of surprise, pleasure, and distress, that passed over Hazlehurst’s face, as he received the intelligence, would have astonished and perplexed Miss Agnes, had she seen it. He had depended upon Jane’s absence to lighten the course which he felt it was his duty to pursue; and now she was to be in New York! Of course, she would be half her time with Elinor, as usual. And, if he had already found it so difficult, since they had all been together, to conceal the true state of his feelings, how should he succeed in persevering in the same task for months?

He determined, at least, to leave Longbridge, for a time, and remain in Philadelphia, until the Grahams were settled in New York.

The same evening, as the family at Wyllys-Roof, and himself, were sitting together, he announced his intention.

“Can I do anything for you, in Philadelphia, Elinor?” he asked; “I shall have to go to town, to-morrow, and may be detained a week or ten days.”

“Are you really going to town? — I did not know you were thinking of it. I wish I had known it this morning, for I am very much in want of worsteds for the chair-pattern Jane brought me; but, unfortunately, I left it at Aunt Wyllys’s. Did you say you were going to-morrow?”

“Yes, I must be off in the morning.”

“Then I must give up my pattern, for the present.”

“Is there nothing else I can do for you?”

“Nothing, thank you — unless you bring some new books; which, we will leave to your taste, to choose.”

“Is not this rather a sudden move, Harry?” said Mr. Wyllys, who had just finished a game of chess with Miss Agnes. “I haven’t heard you mention it before?”

“I intended to put it off; sir; but, on thinking the matter over, I find I had better go at once.”

“I wish you would look about you a little, for lodgings for us; it is time we secured them. I suppose, you will want us to go to town early, this winter, Nelly, won’t you? It will not do for Master Harry to be wasting half his time here, after he has once taken seriously to law; you know he will have two mistresses to wait upon, this winter.”

“It is to be hoped they will not interfere with each other,” said Miss Agnes, smiling.

“That is what they generally do, my dear. By-the-bye, Nelly, I suppose Louisa will have Jane in Philadelphia, with her, part of the winter.”

“Yes, sir, after Christmas; it is already settled, much to my joy.”

“So much the better!” said her grandfather.

“So much the worse!” thought Hazlehurst.

“Your Paris party will be all together again, Harry?” continued Mr. Wyllys.

“Yes, sir;” was Hazlehurst’s laconic reply. ‘I wish I could forget it,’ thought he. So much had he been annoyed, throughout the day, that he soon after took up a candle, and, wishing the family good-night, went to his own room.

“I am afraid Harry is not well,” said Miss Wyllys, after he had left them. “He seems out of spirits.”

Elinor looked up from her work.

“Now you speak of it,” replied Mr. Wyllys, “I think he does seem rather out of sorts.”

Nothing more was said on the subject; but some unpleasant thoughts suggested themselves to Miss Wyllys; for, during the last day or two, Hazlehurst’s manner had repeatedly struck her as unnatural, and she feared that something weighed upon his mind. As for Elinor, her nature was as far as possible from being suspicious; and, least of all, would she have mistrusted Harry; she merely reproached herself for having laughed once or twice, during the day, at his expense, when he had been very absent. She remembered he seemed a little annoyed, at the time, though he never used to mind such things — ’I am afraid he thought it unkind, if he was not well,’ she said to herself, and determined to make amends, the next morning, by presiding at his early breakfast, before he set out.