Chapter XV.

“the reward  

Is in the race we run, not in the prize.” ROGERS.

{Samuel Rogers (English poet, 1763-1855), Italy:“A Character” lines 39-40}

MISS PATSEY had never, in her life, been to a regular ball, before this house-warming of Uncle Josie’s; but not even the novelty of a ball could keep her in bed an hour later than usual. Charlie and herself had returned home some time after midnight, with the Wyllyses; but the next morning she rose with the chickens, and before the October sun, to pursue, as usual, her daily labours. It was truly surprising how much Patsey Hubbard found time to do in a single day, and that without being one of your fussy, utilitarian busy-bodies, whose activity is all physical, and who look upon half an hour passed in quiet thought, or innocent recreation, as so much time thrown away. Our friend Patsey’s career, from childhood, had been one of humble industry, self-forgetfulness, and active charity; her time in the gay hours of youth, as well as in the calmer years of mature experience, had been devoted to the welfare and happiness of her parents, her brothers and sisters. From a long habit of considering the wants and pleasures of others first, she always seemed to think of herself last, as a matter of course. She had had many laborious, anxious hours, many cares; but it is far from being those who have the most trouble in this world, who complain the loudest; no one had fewer wants, fewer vanities, fewer idle hours than Miss Patsey, and, consequently, no one could be more generally cheerful and contented. There is nothing so conducive to true, healthful cheerfulness, as the consciousness of time well-spent: there is no better cure for the dull spirit of French ennui, or the gloom of English blues, than regular, useful occupation, followed by harmless recreation.

Any one who had followed Patsey Hubbard through the varied duties of a single day, would have acknowledged that there is no spectacle in this world more pleasant, than that of a human being, discharging with untiring fidelity, and singleness of heart, duties, however humble. The simple piety of her first morning prayer, the plain good sense of her domestic arrangements, and thorough performance of all her household tasks, her respectful, considerate kindness to her step- mother, and even a shade of undue indulgence of Charlie. . . all spoke her character. . . all was consistent.

Happy was Patsey’s little flock of scholars. Every morning, at nine o’clock, they assembled; the Taylor children usually appeared in Leghorn gipsies, and silk aprons; the rest of the troop in gingham “sun-bonnets,” and large aprons of the same material. There were several little boys just out of petticoats, and half-a-dozen little girls, , ,enough to fill two benches. The instruction Patsey gave her little people was of the simplest kind; reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic, learning a few simple verses, with sewing and marking for the girls, made up the amount of it. Most people, in these days of enlightenment, would have been very much dissatisfied with her plan, for it actually excluded all the sciences, and all the accomplishments. Patsey had two reasons for confining herself to the plainest branches of education only; in the first place, she did not think herself capable of teaching anything else; and, secondly, she doubted whether her scholars were capable of learning anything better or more useful for themselves. Mr. Taylor thought she had very low views of infant education; and yet, you could not have found anywhere a set of children, between three and ten, who were more thoroughly taught what their instructor professed to teach. Happy would it be for these little creatures, if they never acquired any worse knowledge than they gained under Patsey’s care! She had an eye to their tempers, their morals, and their manners; she trained the little girls to be modest and gentle. . . the little boys to be respectful and obliging; while she endeavoured to make all alike honest, open, cheerful, and sincere. Were not these lessons quite as important to most children, between the ages of three and ten, as chemistry, astronomy, and natural philosophy?

{“Leghorn gipsies” = fashionable hats (named after Leghorn, Italy) with large side flaps; “marking” = embroidering identifying names or initials onlinen}

The day following Uncle Josie’s house-warming, Miss Patsey released her little flock an hour earlier than usual; they were allowed to pass the time playing in an adjoining meadow, until sent f their parents. There was to be a tea-party at the “old gray house” that evening . . . a very unusual event; ten invitations had been sent out. The fact is, Miss Patsey had received a basket of noble peaches, the day before, from one of her neighbours; and Uncle Josie had already, early in the morning, sent over a wagon-load of good things to replenish his niece’s larder. . . the remains of the last night’s supper; among other delicacies there was a bit of boned turkey, for Mrs. Hubbard’s especial benefit. Patsey scarcely knew what to do with so many luxuries. She sent a basket of fruits and jellies to a couple of sick neighbours, by Charlie; still, there was more than her mother, Charlie, and herself, could possibly do justice to in a week. She determined to give a little tea-party; it was eighteen months since she had had one, and that had been only for the Wyllyses. Dr. and Mrs. Van Horne, the Taylors, the Wyllyses, and the Clapps were accordingly invited; and Patsey proceeded to burn some coffee, and make short-cake. The little parlour was more carefully swept and dusted than ever, five additional chairs were brought in, and a fire was made, on account of Mrs. Hubbard. Then, about four o’clock, the ladies made their toilette; Mrs. Hubbard was dressed in a smart new calico, with a cap, made by Elinor, and was then seated in the best rocking-chair. As for Patsey, herself, she could not think of wearing the elegant new dress, Uncle Josie’s present, , ,that was much too fine; she preferred what had now become her second-best, , ,a black silk, which looked somewhat rusty and well-worn. To tell the truth, this gown had seen good service; it had been not only turned, but returned, , ,having twice gone through the operation of ripping and sponging; and doubtful as the fact may appear to the reader, yet we have Miss Patsey’s word for it, that a good silk will bear twice turning, but then it must be a silk of a first- rate quality, like her own. It had been, indeed, the standing opinion of the family for the last five years, that this particular dress was still “as good as new.” As for the changes in fashion that this black silk had outlived, who shall tell them? It was purchased in the days of short waists and belts, ” gig-ohs,” and ” pal-reens,” as they were called by the country damsel, whose scissors first shaped the glossy ” gro de nap.” Waists, long, longer, longest, succeeded; sleeves, full, fuller, fullest, followed; belts were discarded, boddices { sic} began to appear; still Miss Patsey’s silk kept up with the changes, or rather, did not entirely lose sight of them. If you had seen her at a little tea-party at Wyllys- Roof, wearing this silk, “nearly as good as new,” with a neat and pretty collar of Elinor’s work, you would have been obliged to confess that her dress answered a rule given by a celebrated philosopher. . . you would not have remarked it. Had you chanced to meet her of a Sunday, in Mr. Wyllys’s carriage. . . the Wyllyses always stopped on their way to St. John’s Church, at Longbridge, to offer a couple of seats to the Hubbards, who were set down at the door of their father’s old Meeting-house. . . had you seen her of a Sunday, with a neat straw hat, and the black silk gown, you would have been obliged to acknowledge that her dress had the double merit, by no means common, of according with her circumstances, and the sacred duties she was going to fulfil; the devotion of her neighbours would not be disturbed by admiration of her toilette.

{“burn some coffee” = roast some coffee; ” gig-oh“ = a puffed “gigot” or “leg of mutton” sleeve; ” pal-reen“ = “pelerine”, a cape or mantle; ” gro de nap“ = “gros de Naples”, a weave of silk with a corded effect (French)}

At five o’clock, Miss Patsey’s company began to assemble; the Wyllyses were the first to appear; then came Mrs. Taylor, Mrs. Van Horne, and Mrs. Clapp; Adeline excused herself, she thought it a bore, Charlie was not worth flirting with. The doctor, Mr. Taylor, and Mr. Clapp, were expected after tea. And a pleasant, good-natured evening it proved to be. Miss Patsey’s coffee was excellent; the little black girl, engaged for the occasion, performed her duties to admiration. Mrs. Taylor thought that she had scarcely passed such a quiet, pleasant afternoon, since the halcyon days before her husband was a rich man; she was much interested in discussing with Miss Patsey, and Miss Wyllys, and Mrs. Van Horne, various recipes for making bread, hoe- cake, and other good things. As for Elinor, she told Charlie she had left her work at home, on purpose that she might have time enough to look over all his sketches. . . everything he had to show, old and new. The drawings, and several oil-paintings were accordingly produced, and looked over by the young people, and Mr. Wyllys, who had taken a chair by the table, and joined them. Elinor knew nothing of drawing, but her general taste was good; she asked many questions about the details of the art, and was amused and interested by Charlie’s remarks.

{“left her work at home” = the knitting or similar hand-work engaged in by ladies while they conversed}

“Show us everything, Charlie,” said Mr. Wyllys. “I befriended your genius, you know, in the days of the slate and compound interest; and, of course, I shall think it due to my own discernment to admire all your works.”

“Of course, you are not afraid of my criticisms,” said Elinor; “I don’t know enough to be severe.”

“People who know little, my child, generally make very severe critics,” said Mr. Wyllys.

“When they know little, grandpapa; but mine is honest, humble ignorance. I know nothing at all on the subject.”

“Do you remember, Miss Elinor, that Hogarth said anybody possessing common sense was a better judge of a picture than a connoisseur?”

{“Hogarth” = William Hogarth (1697-1764), English artist and printmaker.}

“Did Hogarth say so? I shall begin to feel qualified to find fault. That is a very pretty group of children, grandpapa.”

“Very pretty; some of Miss Patsey’s little people. And here is another, quite natural and graceful, Charlie.”

“I never see my sister’s little scholars but I am tempted to sketch them. Children are such a charming study; but I am never satisfied with what I do; a picture of children that is not thoroughly childlike is detestable. Those are mere scratches.”

“What are these faint outlines of figures, with dashes of colouring here and there?” asked Elinor.

“Oh, those are mere fancies, made entirely for amusement. They are rude sketches of my own ideas of celebrated pictures that I have never seen, of course; only as exercises for idle moments. . . one way of practising attitudes of figures, and composition. I keep them more as a lesson of humility than anything else, for me to remember my own poor conceits when I see the originals, if that happy day ever come.”

“I thought you gave yourself up entirely to landscapes, Charlie. . . do you think seriously of pursuing both branches?” asked Mr. Wyllys.

“No, sir; I give the preference to landscapes; I find, at least, that field quite wide enough. It seems scarcely possible to unite both, they are so different in character and detail, and require such a different course of study.”

“That is the great point with you, my boy; you must not waste too much time upon the ideal portion of the art; you must remember that the most beautiful ideas in the world will be lost, if the execution is not in some measure worthy of them.”

“I am so well aware of that, sir, that I have done nothing but study the practical part of my trade for the last three months, and I feel that it has been of service to me.”

“There is water in all your sketches, I believe,” said Elinor. “You must be very partial to it.”

“I am, indeed. . . it is a most delightful study. . . I should be afraid to tell you all the pleasure I have in painting water. . . you would laugh at me, if I once set off upon my hobby.”

“Not at all; you have made me an honest admirer of every variety of lakes and rivers, since I have seen your pictures.”

“When did you first take to water, Charlie?” asked Mr. Wyllys.

“Oh, long ago, sir, when I was a little bit of a shaver. Have you never when a child, Miss Elinor, received great pleasure, perhaps a lasting impression, from some natural object that you still remember distinctly?”

“Yes, I know what you mean. . . I recollect perfectly several things of the kind. I believe children have more observation, and feeling for what is beautiful, than is generally supposed.”

“It is very probable that most children have similar sensations. I am glad that you do not laugh at me; there are few persons to whom I confess my violent partiality for water; most people would think it ridiculous.”

“You are right, Charlie; one can talk to the world in action only; it never believes the truth in any shape, until forced to acknowledge it. You are pursuing the right course, however; you have spoken quite clearly in your view from Nahant. . . your friends have every reason to urge you to persevere. But does not Mr. ------ tell you to pay more attention to your foliage and buildings? you rather neglect them for the water.”

“Yes, sir; I am well aware of my defects in that respect, and next summer I hope to devote a great deal of time to foliage.”

The conversation was here interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Van Horne and Mr. Taylor, followed shortly after by Mr. Clapp.

“You are late, William,” said pretty little Mrs. Clapp to her husband. “Did you leave the children all safe? Did the baby cry for me?”

“Perfectly safe. . . all sound asleep,” replied Mr. Clapp, passing his fingers through his curls. But his wife, who knew every expression of the face she thought so handsome, fancied William looked pale and uneasy; some business had gone wrong, perhaps.

“Quite a select circle,” observed Mr. Taylor, sitting down by Miss Wyllys, leaning his chair back, and rolling his thumbs, one over the other.

“I have not had a pleasanter evening in a great while,” said Mrs. Taylor. “It puts me in mind, husband, of old fashioned tea-parties, when we lived altogether in the country. We used to go at two o’clock, and stay until sunset. I think such sociable parties are much pleasanter than late, crowded balls.”

“Ha! ha! — that may be your opinion, Mrs. Taylor; a quiet party does very well where one is intimate, no doubt; but I conclude that younger ladies, Adeline, and her friends Miss Graham and Miss Wyllys, would give a different verdict.”

“Miss Taylor seems quite partial to large parties,” said Elinor, quietly, for the remark was addressed to her.

“Yes, Adeline and her ‘chum’ both like plenty of balls and beaux, I reckon.”

“What has become of your patient, doctor?” inquired Miss Patsey. “The poor man at the tavern. . . do you think he will get well?”

“I have no doubt the fellow will outlive half-a-dozen such fits. I left him last night under guard of two men, to keep him from hanging himself; and this morning, when I went to look after him, he was off. He was so much better, that he had been persuaded by some messmate to ship for a cruize. . . only a three years’ whaling voyage. Regular Jack-tar fashion. . . a frolic one day, a fit the next, and off for the end of the world the third.”

“He has left Longbridge, has he?” said Mr. Wyllys. “I was just going to inquire after him, for they have a story going about, that he used very threatening language in speaking of myself and Hazlehurst. Did you happen to hear him, doctor?”

“He did use some wild, incoherent expressions, sir, to that effect, when I was with him; but the threats of a raving man are not of much consequence.”

“Certainly not. But I have no idea who the man can be; I don’t know a single common seaman by sight or name , , , at least, the only one I ever knew is long since dead. It is singular that this fellow should have known my name even; they say he was a stranger at Longbridge.”

“Entirely so, I believe.”

“What was his name?”

“William Thompson, they told me.”

“If he is a sailor, he probably has a dozen aliases,” interposed Mr. Clapp, who had been listening very attentively.

“By-the-bye, Clapp, they say he included you in his kind wishes.”

“Yes, sir, so I understand.”

“William, you never mentioned it to me!” said his wife.

“No, my dear; I did not attach any importance to the story,” replied the lawyer, pulling out his handkerchief with one hand, and running the other through his hair. . . looking a little nervous and uneasy, notwithstanding.

“He did not exactly threaten you, Mr. Clapp, while I was with him,” said the doctor; “he seemed rather to depend upon you as an ally.”

“Still more singular,” said Mr. Clapp, with a glance at Mr. Wyllys.

“That was very strange!” exclaimed his wife, , ,“what could the man mean?”

“It is by no means easy to explain the meaning of a drunken man, my dear. It is just possible he may have heard my name as a man of business. I have had several sailors for clients, and one quite recently, staying at the same tavern.”

“I dare say, if explained, it would prove to be Much ado about Nothing,” said Mr. Wyllys. “Since the fellow was drunk at the time, and went off as soon as he grew sober, the danger does not seem very imminent.”

{“Much ado about Nothing” = an allusion to Shakespeare’s play of that name}

“Precisely my opinion, sir,” said Mr. Clapp.

“Grandpapa, do you remember the sailor who was found near our house, one night, about two years ago? It was my birth-day, and we had a little party — have you forgotten?”

“True, my child; I have never thought of the fellow since; but now you speak of him, I remember the fact.”

“Do you not think it is probably the same person?. . . you know Harry had him locked up: perhaps he owes you both a grudge for the treatment he received at Wyllys-Roof, upon that occasion.”

“That accounts for the whole affair, Miss Elinor. . . you have cleared up the mystery entirely,” said Mr. Clapp, looking much relieved. He not only appeared grateful to Elinor for the explanation given, but seemed to extend the obligation to all the family; for he was particularly attentive to Mr. Wyllys, and Miss Agnes, during the whole evening. . . and the next morning, early, drove out to Wyllys-Roof, expressly to carry some brook-trout, for Mr. Wyllys’s breakfast. The lawyer informed several persons, who alluded to the story, of this simple explanation, which seemed to satisfy all who heard it. The whole affair was soon forgotten, for a time, at least.