Chapter XXII.

“Happy New-Year!”

THE streets had been cleared of the snow for New-Year’s day, by a thaw, and a hard shower in the night. The sun rose bright and clear; and, as usual, early in the morning, that is to say morning in its fashionable sense, the greater part of the male population of the town were in motion, hurrying in all directions towards the houses of their female friends and relatives. It appeared as if the women had suddenly deserted the city, and the men were running about, half-distracted, in pursuit of them. After the markets and churches were closed, few indeed were the females to be seen in the streets; while, on the contrary, troops of men of all ages, were hurrying over the side-walks of Broadway, usually enlivened by the gay dresses and bright faces of the ladies. There were young men running a race against time, carrying lists in their hands with an impossible number of visits to be paid during the day; there were boys taking their first steps in this yearly course of gallantry; there were elderly men walking more leisurely from one favoured house to another. All, but a few grumblers here and there, looked smiling and good-humoured. As the black- coated troop hastened hither and thither, they jostled one another, now nodding, now shaking hands; here, old friends passing without seeing each other; there, a couple of strangers salute one another in the warmest manner. The doors of the houses seemed to open of themselves; men were going in, men were coming out. The negroes looked more lustrous and light-hearted than ever; the Paddies, cleaner and more bothered; the regular Knickerbockers, to the manner born, were, of course, in their element.

{“visits” = for men to make short calls at as many homes as possible on New Year’s Day was an old New York City custom; “Paddies” = Irish; “Knickerbockers” = traditional term for native New Yorkers}

We have heard nice calculations as to the precise number of calls, that an able-bodied, well-trained New-Year’s visiter can accomplish between midnight and midnight; allowing, of course, a couple of hours for the toilette, and a moment to snatch a mouthful at breakfast and dinner: it is affirmed, however, that as great generals have passed days of battle without food, so your chivalrous Knickerbocker should be willing to forego, on such an occasion, even a sight of the roast turkey and cranberries. Allowing the individual, however, something to sustain nature, that he may be the better enabled to perform his duties, it is supposed that a beau, in good visiting condition, should pay his court in not more than three hundred, nor less than fifty drawing-rooms. But, then, to do this, a man must have method; he must draw up his plan of action before-hand; he must portion out his districts, as they lie on each side of that longest of streets, Broadway; he must not only study the map of the city closely, but he must possess an accurate knowledge of the localities; he must remember that some houses have stoops of twelve steps, that some drawing-rooms are not on the first floor. He must NOT allow himself to be enticed into any flirtation whatever, beyond a glance or a smile; he must NOT indulge the hope of calling twice upon the sweet creature he most admires; he must NOT be tempted to sink, even for a moment, upon the most comfortable of ottomans or divans; he must NOT return home to re-adjust his locks, to change either boots, gloves, or handkerchief. We have heard it asserted, that owing to some unfortunate weakness of this kind, many a promising youth, unaccustomed, probably, to the hardships of such visiting, has been distanced in the gallant race of the day, by more methodical men — by men who were actually encumbered with over-shoes and greatcoats!

It is amusing to watch the hurried steps of some experienced visiter without doors; the decision of his movements, the correctness of his calculation in passing out of one house into another; and one is sure to know a raw recruit, by his anxious, perplexed manner and expression.

The scene within doors is quite as amusing as it is without. Everything wears a holiday look; it is evidently no common morning reception; the ladies’ dresses look gayer and fresher, their smiles brighter than usual; the house, the furniture, and the inmates, all wear their most agreeable aspect. The salver of refreshments speaks at once the occasion; for there, in the midst of richer cakes, stands the basket of homely “New-Years’ cookies,” bequeathed to their descendants by the worthy vrows of New-Amsterdam. The visiters appear, first singly, then in parties. Here comes a favourite partner of the young ladies, there a mere bowing acquaintance of the master of the house. This is an old family friend, that a neighbour who has never been in the house before; here is a near relative, there a passing stranger. The grey- haired old gentleman who has the arm-chair wheeled out for him, announces his fiftieth visiting anniversary; the buckish youth, his grandson, has already made his bow, and off again; so {sic} finish his gallant duties. Now we have a five minutes visit from a declared lover; and who follows him? One who advances slowly and steadily, with a half-inquiring look; the lady of the house sees him, gives a glance of surprise, is gratified, accepts the offered hand immediately. That is a reconciliation; old friendship broken off, now renewed, a misunderstanding forgotten — that is one of the pleasantest visits of the day. All come, bow, look, and speak their friendly good-wishes, and are off again to make room for others.

{“New Years’ cookies” = the Dutch in New York had special recipes for cakes and “cookies” for each major holiday, such as New Year’s Day; vrows” = wives, in old Dutch New York}

Long may this pleasant, cheerful, good-natured, lively custom be perpetuated among us! As long as the side-walks of Manhattan and the canals of Amsterdam last, so long may Santa Claus bring his Christmas gifts to the little folk; and so long may the gallant Knickerbockers pay to their female friends the homage of a personalvisit at New-Year’s. Cards on every other day in the year, if necessary; but, on New-Year’s, carry your good wishes in person. Should not, indeed, a custom so pleasant spread throughout the whole country, like crackers, waffles, Dutch blood, and many other good things brought originally from Holland?

On the particular New-Year’s day at which we have arrived in our narrative, an individual of the reader’s acquaintance, instead of joining the busy throng of visiters, was seen turning his steps through a bye- street, towards the Battery. He walked slowly through Greenwich- Street, apparently busy with thoughts of his own, and entering the Battery-Gate he continued for some time pacing the paved walk near the water.

“There is a fellow who seems to have nothing to do to-day,” said a young man to his companion, as they were hurrying across the Battery from one end of State-Street to the other. “I should like to hire him as proxy, to show himself in a score or two of houses in my place. I should hand him over half my list at once, if I thought the ladies would submit to the exchange; he looks like a presentable chap, too.”

“Why, it is actually Harry Hazlehurst! What can he be doing, moping about in that fashion?”

“Hazlehurst, is it? Oh, ho! — you have heard the hubbub they have had at the Graham’s, I suppose?”

“Not I — What is it?”

“There was quite a scene there, yesterday; my sister had the news from Adeline Taylor, a great friend of her’s; so it comes very straight.”

“I thought all was going on there as smoothly as possible. I expected an invitation to the wedding before long.”

“To be sure; so did everybody. But it seems the beauty has ideas of her own. In the first place she refused Hazlehurst, rather to the astonishment of himself and all his friends, I believe.”

“Refused Hazlehurst! — You don’t say so!”

“And that is only half the story. She took the same opportunity, while weeping and trembling, to confide to her mamma that her heart had been for some time, how long I cannot tell you precisely, the property of Tall. Taylor.”

“What, Tallman Taylor? That is news, indeed — I never should have dreamt of such a thing.”

“Miss Adeline Taylor is the authority. It seems the affair has been going on, no one knows how long, and Miss Taylor has had the management of it. These girls are sly minxes; they are not to be trusted, half of them.”

“And what says Taylor to all this?”

“What does he say? Why he is in a sort of ecstasy of despair, I suppose; for the Grahams won’t hear of the match. It was no news to him; they have been engaged, I tell you, for months,”

At that moment the two young men entered the door of a house in State-Street. Although their story was, upon the whole, correct; yet, we happen to be still better informed on the subject, and shall proceed to account, in our own way, for Hazlehurst’s solitary walk.

When Miss Adeline and her party had returned from sleighing, Harry went to Mrs. Graham’s, and finding Jane alone, he immediately seized the moment to explain himself, beginning by a lover-like remonstrance upon her having joined the Taylors, instead of going with him as she had already promised to do. Jane was excessively embarrassed. As Harry proceeded, she became more and more agitated. Her manner was so confused, that it was some time before Hazlehurst could understand that she wished to refuse him. Had she not actually wept, and looked frightened and distressed, he might have given a very different interpretation to her embarrassment. At length, in answer to a decided question of his, she confessed her attachment to another person; and, never was lover more surprised by such an acknowledgement. Pained, and mortified, and astonished as Harry was, the name of “Hubert de Vaux!” passed his lips before he was aware he had spoken.

“Oh, no; no;” said Jane. “I never cared at all for Mr. de Vaux.”

Harry’s astonishment increased. He could scarcely believe that he had heard her correctly. To whom could she possibly be attached?

“Oh, I wish I had some one here to advise me! Adeline may say what she pleases, I cannot conceal it any longer.”

Harry listened in amazement.

“Is it possible,” he said, at length, “that there is some difficulty, some embarrassment, that prevents your acting as you would wish? My dear Jane, confide in me. You cannot doubt that I love you, that I have long loved you;” and Harry then ran over a variation of his first declaration. But Jane’s trouble seemed only to increase.

“Oh, stop, Harry; don’t talk in that way,” she said; “I ought to have told you before. I wished to tell you when you first came on to New York, but Adeline said we should risk everything by it.”

“What can you possibly risk? What is it you wish to tell me?”

“I was very sorry when you broke with Elinor — I never can have any other feeling for you than I have always had: I have been for some time, almost — — — engaged — to — to — Mr. Taylor — ”

“You — — -engaged to Mr. Taylor!”

“No — — -not engaged — — -only I have not refused him — We know father and mother dislike Mr. Taylor’s family so much — ”

It was but natural that Harry should feel indignant at having been deceived by the under-current of plotting that had been going on; that he should feel mortified, ashamed of himself, and disappointed, at the same time; vexed with Jane, and almost furious against the meddling, officious Adeline, and her presuming brother. From a long acquaintance with Jane’s character, it flashed upon his mind in a moment, that she must have been misguided, and gradually led on by others. But the mischief was done; it was evident that at present, at least, she cared no more for him than she had always done; while, on the contrary, young Taylor had insinuated himself into her affections. He could not endure to think, that while Jane was indifferent to himself, his successful rival should be one whom he so much disliked. Yet, such was the fact. It was infatuation on the part of Jane, no doubt; and yet how often these deceptions have all the bad effects of realities! He had been silent for some minutes, while the tears were streaming freely from Jane’s beautiful eyes.

“Oh, if I had not been so afraid that father would never give his consent, I should not have waited so long. If I only knew what to do now?”

Harry came to a magnanimous resolution. “I forgive you, Jane,” he said, “the pain you have caused, since I cannot but think that it is not the fruit of your own suggestions. You could not deliberately have trifled with me in this way; I owe it, no doubt, to the goodness of Miss Taylor,” he added, bitterly. Jane made no answer, but continued to weep. Harry felt some compassion for her, in spite of her unjustifiable conduct towards himself. In the course of half an hour, she had fallen very much in his estimation; but he determined to return good for evil, by urging her to take the only step now in her power — the only one proper under the circumstances. He begged her, as she valued her future peace, to reveal everything to her mother; and to be guided in future by Mrs. Graham. But Jane seemed terrified at the idea.

“Oh,” said she, “father will be so angry! And we expect him every day: Mother, too, I know, will think I have behaved very badly to you.”

It is probable she might not have had the courage to follow his advice, had not Mrs. Graham accidentally entered the room at the moment. Her attention was immediately attracted to the unusual expression of Harry’s face, and the tearful, woe-begone look of her daughter, which she could in no way account for. Harry, merely answering her inquiries by a bow, arose and left the room, leaving the mother and daughter together.

Poor Mrs. Graham was little aware of what awaited her. She could not be called a woman of very high principles, but she had more feeling, and, of course, more experience than Jane. When she discovered the true state of things, she was very much shocked. She had never had the least idea of what had been going on around her; far from it, indeed, she had never for a moment doubted that, before long, her daughter would become the wife of young Hazlehurst.

Little by little she gathered the whole truth from the weeping Jane. It appeared that the two or three meetings which had taken place between Jane and young Taylor, just before he sailed, had been sufficient for him to fancy himself in love with her. He made a confidante of his sister Adeline, who, as one of the older class in her boarding-school, considered all love-affairs as belonging to her prerogative. Her friend, Miss Hunter, was a regular graduate of the Court of Love, according to the code — not of Toulouse — but of a certain class of school-girls in New-York. This young lady had gone through the proper training from her cradle, having been teased and plagued about beaux and lovers, before she could walk alone. She had had several love-affairs of her own before she was fifteen. “All for love,” was her motto; and it was a love which included general flirtation as the spice of unmarried life, and matrimony with any individual whatever, possessing a three-story house in Broadway, as the one great object of existence. Adeline had, of course, profited by such companionship; and, at the time her brother confessed himself in love with Miss Graham, after having met once on board a steamboat, and once at an evening party, she was fully equal to take the management of the whole affair into her own hands. It is true, young Taylor had entered into a boyish engagement at college; but that was thought no obstacle whatever. She delighted in passing her brother’s compliments over to Jane; in reporting to him her friend’s blushes and smiles. With this state of things, young Taylor sailed for Europe; but Adeline gloried too much in her capacity of confidante, to allow the matter to drop: not a letter was written but contained some allusion to the important subject. In the course of the year she had talked Jane into quite a favourable state of feeling towards her brother; he would probably himself have forgotten the affair, had not Miss Graham arrived in Paris at the moment she did.

They saw each other, of course, and the feelings which Adeline had been encouraging during the last year, and which otherwise would have amounted to nothing at all, now took a serious turn. Young Taylor was very handsome, and astonishingly improved in appearance and manners. Jane, herself, was in the height of her beauty, and the young man had soon fallen really in love with her. Unfortunately, just at the moment that he became attentive to her, Mrs. Robert Hazlehurst, who was confined to the house that winter, had confided Jane to the care of Mrs. Howard, the lady who had brought her from America. Young Taylor soon found out that he was rather disliked by Mr. and Mrs. Hazlehurst, and preferred securing Jane’s favour, if possible, without attracting the attention of her friends. Adeline, on her part, had discovered that her own family were no favourites with Mr. and Mrs. Graham; of course she recommended the proper degree of mystery, under the name of prudence. Young Taylor left Paris for England, about the time that Harry returned from his eastern journey; but before parting from Jane, he explained himself; and if he had not been accepted, he had certainly not been refused. Thus matters stood when the whole party returned home. Mr. Graham was known to be a violent, passionate man, and as he had taken no pains to conceal his dislike to Tallman Taylor’s father, the young people had every reason to believe that he would refuse his consent. The idea of a clandestine marriage had once occurred to Adeline, but never with any serious intention of proposing it. Had she done so, she would not have been listened to. Jane had not lived so much with Miss Wyllys and Elinor, without deriving some good from such association; besides, she did not think the step necessary. She believed that Mr. Graham would give his consent after a while; and young Taylor was obliged to submit for the present. As for his college engagement, he had paid it no more attention than if it had never taken place; it had been long since forgotten, on his part.

Little by little, Mrs. Graham gathered most of these facts from her daughter, whose weeping eyes and pale face would have delighted Adeline, as being just what was proper in a heroine of romance, on such an important occasion. But Adeline could not enjoy the sight of all the misery which was the fruit of her two years’ labours, for Mrs. Graham insisted that Jane should see none of the family until her father had arrived; and knew the state of things.

Harry Hazlehurst, although not quite as well informed as the reader, knew essentially how matters stood. He knew at least, that Jane and young Taylor were all but pledged to each other; he knew what had been Adeline’s conduct — what had been his own treatment; and as he walked slowly from one end of the Battery to the other, his reflections were anything but flattering to himself, or to any of the parties concerned. He blamed Mrs. Graham for her want of maternal caution and foresight; he blamed his brother, and sister-in-law, for their blindness in Paris; Jane, for her weakness, and want of sincerity to himself; Adeline, for such unjustifiable management and manœuvring; and young Taylor, for what he called his “presumption and puppyism.” And to think that he, Harry Hazlehurst, who prided himself upon being clear-sighted, had been so completely deceived by others, and what was worse, by himself! He was obliged to remember how sure he had felt himself of Jane; it was humiliating to think what a silly part he had been playing. Then came a twinge or two, from the consciousness that he had deserved it all, from his conduct to Elinor. He tried to persuade himself that regret that Jane should fall into hands he fancied so unworthy of her — that she should be sacrificed to a mere second-rate sort of dandy, like young Taylor, was his strongest feeling at the time. But he was mistaken: there was a good deal of the lover in his recollection of Jane’s transcendant {sic} beauty. He hoped that she would yet be saved from the worst — from becoming the wife of Tallman Taylor. He felt convinced that Mr. Graham would refuse his consent to the marriage.

The next day, Harry returned to Philadelphia. The astonishment of all those interested in himself and Jane, at this rupture, was very great. If Mrs. Stanley had been grieved at Harry’s difficulties, Mrs. Robert Hazlehurst was made quite unhappy by her sister’s conduct. She reproached herself severely for her blindness; for not having taken as much care of Jane as she ought to have done under the circumstances. Like all her family, she disliked young Taylor; who, in fact, had nothing to recommend him but his handsome face, and his father’s money. Miss Wyllys, too, was much pained by the conduct of one who had been so often under her care — one, in whose welfare she was so warmly interested. She received the news in a note from Mrs. Hazlehurst, who preferred giving it in that form; and as Miss Wyllys was alone with Elinor, she immediately handed the billet to her niece.

It must be confessed that Elinor’s heart gave one bound at this unexpected news. She was more moved by it than any one; more astonished that Jane should have refused Harry; that she should have preferred to him that silly Tallman Taylor; more shocked at the double- dealing that had been going on; and more pained that Jane, who had been to her as a sister, should have been so easily misled. Another thought intruded, too — Harry would be free again! But the idea had hardly suggested itself, before she repelled it. She soon felt convinced that Mr. Graham would break off the engagement between his daughter and Mr. Taylor, and that after a while her cousin’s eyes would he opened to Harry’s merits, which were numberless in her eyes. Miss Agnes strongly encouraged this opinion; and Elinor fully determined that her aunt’s counsels, her mother’s letter, and her own experience, should not be thrown away; she would watch more carefully than ever against every fancy that would be likely to endanger anew the tranquillity she had in some measure regained.