Chapter XIX.

“Had you not lately an intent, speak truly,  

To go to Paris?” SHAKSPEARE.

{William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well, I.iii.218-219}

MISS TAYLOR paid her visit to Miss Lawrence. One morning at breakfast she informed her parents that she intended to make an excursion to Boston. “Whom was she going to see?” asked her father. “Miss Lawrence, a young lady who had passed three days at the Springs, at the hotel where they stayed, and with whom she had become very intimate.” “How long was she going to be absent?” inquired her mother. “She thought of remaining a fortnight; perhaps three weeks, if she found it very pleasant. Mr. Powell, the young gentleman who was to be her escort, had been introduced to her the evening previous at a ball, and she thought him sufficiently fashionable in his appearance, to have the honour of taking charge of herself and her baggage.” Her father observed that he would bring a supply of money for her, when he came home to dinner; her mother offered to look over her stockings. Everything thus settled, the next morning Mr. Taylor and Miss Adeline drove to the East-River wharf, where the Boston boat lay: here they met with a slight difficulty; the gentleman engaged as an escort could not be found; something had interfered with his journey. Nothing was easier than to pick up another, however. Mr. Taylor looked about him, saw a face he knew slightly, and remembered the name that belonged to it.

“Good morning, sir; are you going to Boston, Mr. Hopkins?”

Mr. Hopkins bowed, and declared that he was going to Boston.

“I have a daughter on board, sir; and the young gentleman who was to be her escort is not here; will you be so good as to look after her?”

Mr. Hopkins would be very happy to take charge of Miss Taylor. But Adeline was almost in despair when she saw him. How could one of the most dashing belles in New York, consent to sit, in view of all the passengers, side-by-side with such a fat, rusty, snuffy, little old gentleman, who more green spectacles, and had a red silk handkerchief spread on his knee? Suppose he should ask her to walk, how could she pace up and down the promenade-deck arm-in-arm with such a figure? She, Adeline Taylor, whose travelling dress was faultless, and who had expected to have a charming flirtation with Albert Powell! What could she do? The fates, and the warning bell, decided the question; it was too late to look out for some better- looking escort. Mr. Taylor had hardly time to shake hands with his daughter, and jump on the wharf, ere the whizzing of the steam had ceased, and the plashing of the wheels was heard. Adeline sank on a bench beside the rusty old gentleman for a moment, but soon fled to the ladies’ cabin for refuge.

During the whole jaunt, the fat, snuffy Mr. Hopkins was kind and good- natured to Adeline, whenever she would allow him. He thought she must be lonely, and she had been obliged to confess that she knew no one on board; so the old gentleman held it incumbent on him to be sociable. He took some pea-nuts out of his pocket, and offered her a handful; he gave her a couple of newspapers to read; asked her questions about her family, brothers and sisters, and seemed to look upon her as a school-girl. He was not the least impressed with her elegance and finery, and quite unaware of her belle-ship; he even once called her “my dear.” Then, the red silk handkerchief was always either on his knee, or in his hand! It would he difficult to say whether Adeline would have survived the mortification of such an escort, had it not been for two circumstances, which changed the current of her thoughts. There were several elegantly dressed young ladies on board, and she soon succeeded in getting up an intimacy with two of them; they exchanged cards and invitations to each other’s houses, and through the same means Adeline was introduced to a couple of beaux. Between breakfast and dinner, these new bosom-friends and herself were inseparable, but, unfortunately, they were only going half-way. The grief of separation was, however, somewhat assuaged with Miss Tayl sea-sickness, which, as every one knows, is very destructive to sentiment and sensibility. As long as they were tossing about near Point Judith, the snuffy old gentleman, who was not in the least sea- sick himself, was very faithful in his inquiries after Adeline, and proposed several remedies to her, through the stewardess. At length they reached Boston. As they drove to the door of Miss Lawrence’s father, Mr. Hopkins asked “how long she intended to remain in Boston?” “About a fortnight,” Adeline replied.

{“Point Judith” = prominent cape on the coast of Rhode Island, south of Narragansett}

“I shall be going back to New York about the same time, my dear, and if you have not got some one more to your taste, I’ll take care of you on your way home, with pleasure,” said the fat old gentleman, sprinkling a handful of snuff on Miss Taylor’s grey silk, and brandishing the red handkerchief at the same time.

Adeline’s thanks were very faintly uttered; but gratitude is not a fashionable virtue. It was fortunately so dark that the rusty old gentleman could scarcely be seen as he took leave of the elegant Miss Taylor at Mr. Lawrence’s door, and thus the young lady’s mortification was over.

At the end of the three weeks, Adeline returned home, bringing glowing accounts of the delights of Boston, and talking a great deal about several “delightful young gentlemen,” and occasionally mentioning a certain Theodore St. Leger. She had heard that the Boston people were all blue; but it must be a calumny to say so, for she had had a very lively time — plenty of fun and flirtation. Miss Lawrence returned with her, and of course a party was given in her honour; there were some eighty persons present, all free from the shackles of matrimony, apparently to give the Boston young lady an opportunity of meeting a representation of her peers, the marriageable portion only of the New York community. The evening was pronounced delightful by Miss Lawrence; but all the guests were not of the same opinion.

{“blue” = literary or learned, from “blue-stocking”}

“What an absurd custom it is, to have these young people parties,” said Harry Hazlehurst, who was on one of his frequent visits to New York at the time, and was sitting in Mrs. Graham’s drawing-room, with that lady, Jane, and Mrs. Stanley.

“I agree with you; it is a bad plan,” observed Mrs. Stanley.

“The first of the kind that I went to, after we came home, made me feel ashamed of myself; though Dr. Van Horne, I suppose, would accuse me of high-treason for saying so.”

“But most young people seem to enjoy them,” said Mrs. Graham.

“It is paying us but a poor compliment to say so. One would think the young people were afraid to laugh and talk before their fathers and mothers. I really felt the other night as if we were a party of children turned into the nursery to play, and eat sugar-plums together, and make as much noise as we pleased, without disturbing our elders. It is a custom that appears to me as unnatural as it is puerile. I hope you don’t like it,” he added, turning to Jane.

“I care very little about it.”

“I am glad, at least, you do not defend it.”

“There are a few families you know, Harry, who never give those kind of parties,” observed Mrs. Stanley.

Hazlehurst’s conscience felt a twinge, for he knew she was thinking of Elinor, whom Miss Wyllys had never allowed to give these unmarriedparties; though she went to other houses, when asked.

“Miss Taylor had collected a tribe of Europeans of all sorts, last night; half-a-dozen Englishmen, and a vulgar Frenchman,” observed Harry, by way of changing the conversation. “I was surprised when my friend Townsend told me he was invited; he did not know the Taylors, and only arrived a week since.”

“Adeline invited him on purpose; Miss Lawrence is very fond of foreigners, and you know Mr. Taylor calls on all the strangers who arrive,” said Jane.

Harry’s lip curled a little.

“How disagreeable that Captain Kockney is,” continued Jane.

“More than disagreeable,” replied Harry. “I should not have used so soft a word. I was not a little amused, by-the-bye, to see how the fellow cooled off when Townsend and Ellery came in. Your low set of English have such a thorough awe of those a few degrees above them.”

“That Mr. Kockney is so very forward and vulgar,” said Mrs. Graham, “that I wonder anybody can endure him. I was disgusted with his manner on board the steamboat from Longbridge, the other day.”

“He is beneath notice,” said Harry.

“I am not sure, either, that I like your friend, Mr. Ellery, Harry.”

“Ellery is no friend of mine; but, pray, don’t name him in the same breath with that Kockney.”

“Oh, no, Mr. Ellery is a gentleman, evidently; but I don’t like his manners, there is something affected about him.”

“Certainly, he knows how to play the coxcomb, and condescends to do so quite too often. But I hope you like Townsend; he is really a fine fellow.”

“Mr. Townsend has very different manners.”

“Yes, he has the best English manner; quite natural, and not afraid to be civil. It is only the best of the English who are quite free from nonsense. Ellery aims at effect, half the time; Townsend has too much sense to do so.”

“Well, I really wonder,” said Jane, “how Mrs. Hilson can endure that Captain Kockney.”

“The silly little soul knows no better.”

“To be sure, she is quite as ridiculous as he is.”

“She is really very silly,” said Mrs. Stanley. “It is a pity that good, worthy Mr. Hubbard should have daughters so little like himself, and so much like their mother.”

“She is very pretty, though, and dresses very well,” said Jane. “Would you believe it, mamma, the other day, when she called at Adeline’s she wore a collar precisely like the prettiest of those I brought from Paris.”

“Does she visit a great deal at Mrs. Taylor’s?” inquired her mother.

“Oh, no; Adeline can’t endure her. But she cannot get rid of her entirely, because they meet in the country. Adeline would like to drop the acquaintance altogether, but she says Mrs. Hilson won’t let her, because Mrs. Taylor’s is the only fashionable house where she visits.”

“These Taylors have really done wonders in the last few years,” said Mrs. Stanley, smiling.

“They have been quite as persevering, I dare say, as Mrs. Hilson can be. They are a very vulgar, pushing family,” observed Mrs. Graham.

Jane coloured, and Harry feared she would shed a tear or two. She was quite agitated. “Dear Jane,” he thought, “what an affectionate heart she has!” By way of consoling her, probably, and at the same time obtaining a better view of her downcast face, he took a seat beside her. He even refrained from making an observation which he had in petto, upon the volatile character and manners of Miss Taylor, reserving it for the future; determining that when they were man and wife, Jane should have the full benefit of his opinion of her friend.

{“in petto” = in mind}

Let it not be supposed that Harry was too sure of success, in thus looking forward to his marriage with Jane as no very improbable event. Since he had appeared in the family as her suitor, her manner had been encouraging. There were blushes and moments of embarrassment which looked very favourably; and had he been obliged to proclaim all his hopes, he would have confessed that the same flattering signs had been observed by him in Paris, and had contributed not a little to increase the warmth of his own feelings. There was now a rival in the field, and one by no means to be despised; but, although young de Vaux was good-looking, agreeable, and very much in love, Jane did not seem disposed to smile upon him. To do her justice, she was no coquette; she was too indolent by nature, to labour very hard to secure several conquests at the same time. Miss Graham was very much admired, however, and was generally proclaimed the beauty of the season; while Harry soon began to feel the vanity of the favoured man.

But if she were a beauty, Adeline was a belle; a pretty, and a rich belle, moreover, and Miss Taylor’s train of admirers was much larger than that of Miss Graham. So numerous indeed were her followers, that she was seldom seen alone. If she visited, it was with an attendant beau; if she were walking in Broadway, she had generally one on each side of her; and at a party she was always talking to half- a-dozen young men at a time. Miss Adeline was, undeniably, a very popular belle. But all this homage was sometimes attended with difficulties: one morning she wrote an urgent note to her friend Jane, requesting that she would come to see her, for she was unwell herself, and wanted advice in a momentous affair.

The sympathising Jane had no sooner appeared, than Adeline exclaimed, { sic}

“I am so perplexed, that I really don’t know what to do! You must decide for me.”

“How can I help you? What is the matter?” inquired Jane.

“Why you know to-night is Mrs. Thompson’s great ball, and I am going, of course; though I have a very bad cold.”

“Yes, you are really quite hoarse.”

“No wonder! I have been so pestered by serenades for the last fortnight, that I have not had one good night’s rest. I had to get up and show myself at the window, until I caught one cold after another.”

“Perhaps you had better not go to-night.”

“You may be sure I shan’t stay at home unless I have to keep my bed; I am already engaged for five dances. But just look at the centre-table.”

Jane turned her eyes towards the table, which was covered with flowers.

“How beautiful they are!” she exclaimed, going to look at them. “One, two, four, six bouquets! — Where did they all come from?”

“Don’t ask me; I am sick of the very sight of flowers!”

“This, with the variegated camellias, is beautiful!”

“Yes, it’s pretty enough; but what shall I do with it?”

“Why, take it to the party this evening, of course.”

“No, indeed; it came from Mr. Howard, and I can’t endure him.”

“Which have you chosen, then?”

“That is the very question; I don’t know how to settle it.”

“Take this one with the passion-flower.”

“No, that I shan’t; for it was sent just to spite me. Mr. Grant sent it — and I told him last night that I hated passion flowers, and everything else that is sentimental. What shall I do? — It is so provoking!”

“Suppose you put them all in water, and go without any.”

“My dear Jane, how you talk! That’s what I never did in my life. Go to a ball without a bouquet! — I can’t think of such a thing!”

“We can untie them, and make up one ourselves, taking the prettiest flowers from each.”

“That won’t do, either; for it’s only the gardeners that can do up these things decently. I wouldn’t, for the world, carry one that looked as if I had made it up myself.”

“Well,” said Jane, in despair, “I really don’t know what else to advise.”

“I do believe the young gentlemen have leagued together to provoke me! And this is not all, there are three more in water up-stairs.”

“You might take the first that came; perhaps that would be the best plan.”

“Would you have me take this ridiculous-looking thing, with only one camellia in it! No, indeed;” and for a moment the two young ladies sat down by the centre-table, looking despondingly at each other and at the flowers.

“If I could only take the one I like best, it would be the easiest thing in the world; but, you know, all the other gentlemen would be offended then.”

“Which do you like best?” asked Jane.

“Why this one, with the white camellias; it came from Theodore St. Leger; he told me he would send one with white flowers only.” Adeline’s colour rose a little as she spoke, and as that was not a common occurrence with her, it looked suspicious.

“Did Mr. St. Leger dance with you last night?”

“Why, no, child, he never dances; I didn’t see him dance, all the time we were in Boston.”

“I thought you liked him,” said Jane, with innocent surprise.

“I like him well enough, after a fashion; as well as one can like a man who never dances, and don’t talk much. He is very stupid, sometimes, and dresses very badly too.”

“Is he handsome?” asked Jane.

“No, he is as ugly as he can be; I really think he looks just a little like that old Mr. Hopkins, his uncle.”

“What in the world makes you like him then?”

“I am sure I don’t know. But don’t fancy I really care about the man. He is going back to Boston next week, and I don’t suppose I shall ever see him again; but I thought I would take his bouquet, to-night, because he was so polite to me; and he will be there. Oh, my dear Jane, talking of Boston, I have hit upon an idea!”

“Well, what is it?”

“I saw a girl at a party there — by-the-bye, it was Theodore St. Leger’s sister — who had her dress trimmed with natural flowers; that’s just the thing for me!” cried Adeline, clapping her hands. The difficulty thus happily removed, the young ladies ran up stairs, to determine more fully upon trimming a certain white crape with the eight bouquets, divided for the purpose. The white one, the offering of Mr. St. Leger, was reserved for the place of honour, in Adeline’s hand.