Chapter II.

“We’ll measure them a measure, and begone.”

{William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, I.iv.10}

The arrival of guests again called the ladies away; they were followed by others, until the drawing-room was half-filled with the young people of the neighbourhood, and their parents. Mrs. Stanley was soon talking with Patsey Hubbard, whom she liked particularly. The tall and thin Mrs. Bernard, and her friend, the short and fat Mrs. Van Horne, were regretting with Mrs. George Wyllys, that she should think the air of Longbridge did not agree with her children; and lamenting that she should not remain at Wyllys-Roof until November, according to her first intention. Charlie was deep in a volume of fine engravings. Young Taylor was standing in a corner, looking handsome, but awkward, and out of place. Mr. Taylor, the father, was aiming at making himself ‘affable’ to everybody he knew; he liked to be called the ‘affable’ Mr. Taylor. The last of the party to arrive, were Mr. and Mrs. Clapp; a couple, who were by no means equally liked by their hosts. The husband was a Longbridge lawyer, whose views and manners were not much admired at Wyllys-Roof; and he would probably never have found his way there, had he not married one of their old friends and favourites, Kate Hubbard, a younger sister of Miss Patsey’s — one who from childhood had always been welcome among them. William Cassius Clapp had curly hair, bright black eyes, and pink cheeks — and, consequently, was generally thought an Adonis: his wife was a diminutive little creature, quite pretty, and very amiable; a sort of mixture of Miss Patsey and Charlie, without the more striking qualities of either. Some of her friends had thought her thrown away upon Clapp; but she seemed perfectly satisfied after five years’ experience, and evidently believed her husband superior in every way to the common run of men. Holding it to be gross injustice towards the individuals whom we bring before the reader, to excite a prejudice against them in the very first chapter, we shall leave all the party to speak and act for themselves; merely endeavouring to fill the part of a ‘faithful chronicler,’ ourselves.

Mr. Taylor had been looking, with a mixed expression of surprise and curiosity, at the person he had heard addressed as Miss Patsey Hubbard, when the lady remarked his manner, and, smiling quietly, she bowed to him. The bow was returned; and Mr. Taylor crossed the room, to renew an acquaintance with the woman, who, three-and- twenty years before, had refused to become his wife. Mr. Pompey Taylor had, however, risen too much in the world, since then — according to his own estimation, at least — he had become too rich and too prosperous, not to look back with great equanimity, on what he now considered as a very trifling occurrence. While he was addressing Miss Patsey in his most polished manner, just marked with an extra- touch of ‘affability,’ for her especial benefit, he could not but wonder that her countenance should still wear the same placid, contented air as of old; it seemed, indeed, as if this expression had only been confirmed by time and trials. He began to think the accounts he had occasionally heard, of his old flame, must have been incorrect; it was scarcely possible she should look so calm, and even cheerful, if her father, the Presbyterian minister, had actually left her not only penniless, but burdened with the support of a bed-ridden step-mother, and a house full of younger brothers and sisters. We leave him to satisfy his curiosity as well as he could.

When was there ever an evening too warm for young people to dance! Elinor’s friends had not been in the room half an hour, before they discovered that they were just the right number to make a quadrille agreeable. They were enough to form a double set; and, while they were dancing, the elder part of the company were sitting in groups near the windows, to catch the evening air, and talking over neighbourly matters, or looking on at their young friends.

“Don’t you think Elinor very graceful?” exclaimed Mrs. Van Horne to her friend, Mrs. Bernard. “I like to watch her, while she is dancing; her movements are all so pleasing and easy, never, in the least, exaggerated — but, it is in her very nature; she has always been the same, from a little creature.”

“Yes,” replied Mrs. Bernard; “but it is a pity her face should be so ugly; for she has rather a pretty figure — ”

“Do you think her really ugly? She does not strike me, as so very plain — there is nothing repulsive in her face. I have known girls called pretty, who had something far nearer coarseness in their features. It is true, I have been accustomed to see her from the time she was four years old; and, I know, she is always thought very plain by strangers.”

“Why, my dear Mrs. Van Horne, she has not one feature that can be called good; and her eye-brows are so heavy, and her complexion is so thick and dark, too!”

“Yes, it is true, she is very dark; and that is a pity; if she were only fairer, her features would appear to greater advantage.”

“Just look at her now,” said Mrs. Bernard, “as she is standing by her cousin, Jane Graham, who is dancing with your son. Was there ever a greater contrast?”

“But Jane is so remarkably pretty — ”

“Certainly, she is a perfect little beauty; and that is one reason, perhaps, why Elinor strikes us as so plain; she is so much with her cousin — ”

“Well,” said Mrs. Van Horne, “if you are going to quarrel so much, with my little friend’s face, we had better find something else to talk about; for she is a very great favourite of mine.”

“And justly — I dare say. — But, I am a great admirer of beauty, you know; and I cannot keep my eyes off Jane’s lovely face.”

The conversation then turned upon the Hubbards.

“Charlie, it seems, is actually going to be a painter,” observed Mrs. Bernard. “Miss Patsey tells me, he is so bent on it, that she thinks there is no use in opposing it any longer; though, Mr. Clapp says, it is a wretched plan.”

“I hope Charles may succeed; he is a fine boy; and I shall be very sorry, for Patsey’s sake, if he turns out badly. She is very anxious about him, I know.”

“They have been so fortunate, with the rest of the family, that, I hope, they will be able to keep Charlie straight. I see Miss Patsey is talking to Mrs. Taylor; they are old friends, perhaps. Do you know anything about these Taylors?”

“Nothing but what my husband told me. He is a merchant in New York, and very rich; — made his money quite lately; and the business-men think a good deal of him.”

“He seems to have a great deal to say for himself. Have you called on Mrs. Taylor?”

“We were there yesterday. She is a quiet, plain woman. The young man is good-looking, but very shy and awkward. The daughter seems very lively.”

“Yes, and she is quite pretty, too. She will be a belle, I dare say.”

“I hope Mrs. Taylor will send her younger children to Patsey’s school.”

“I wish she may; it will be a good thing for Miss Patsey, and make up her dozen. You know, she will not take more than twelve, as she keeps the largest room in the house for her mother.”

“How kind and faithful Patsey has been to her step-mother! Just as she is, though, to everybody else; and she does it all in such a quiet, consistent way. I am glad to see her here to-night — she enjoys a little society, once in a while; and yet no one can persuade her to go out, except Miss Wyllys.”

“She has come in honour of her pupil’s birthday, I suppose. You know, Elinor Wyllys was her first scholar. By-the-bye, do you know what I heard, the other day? They say, in Longbridge, that Mr. Hazlehurst is engaged to one of the young ladies here; though, to which, my informant did not say.”

“There is no truth in it, you may be sure — they are too much like brother and sister, to think of it. Besides, Mr. Hazlehurst is going abroad, shortly.”

“I did not know that. Where is he going?”

“He told my son, yesterday, that he was going to Europe, for two years, to take care of his brother, Mr. Robert Hazlehurst, who has never recovered from the fall he had last winter; and the physicians have ordered him to travel.”

At that moment the ladies were joined by Miss Agnes.

“I hear, Miss Wyllys,” said Mrs. Bernard, “that Mr. Hazlehurst is going to Europe. He will be very much missed, at Longbridge.”

“Yes, we shall miss him, here, very much,” replied Miss Wyllys; “Harry has been with us more than ever, this summer. But, his brother is not in a state to travel alone, nor fit to take care of his wife and children, who go with him; and, although the plan is a sudden one, and interferes with Harry’s law-studies, yet his friends all think a visit to Europe may be a great advantage to him.”

The ladies agreed that it was a very good arrangement, and some inquiries were made as to Mr. Robert Hazlehurst’s health; and a discussion of bruises and falls, nerves and dyspepsia, followed.

Soon after, the quadrille broke up.

“Well, Miss Jane,” cried Mrs. Bernard, as several young people drew near, “I hear that your sister, Mrs. Robert Hazlehurst, is going to Europe; if I were you, I would not be left behind.”

“I should like to go very well,” said the beauty, in a languid tone; “but, I shall be at school, in New York, next winter.”

“Oh, that is a pity! I am sure, you could learn all you want to know, much better, in Paris. Don’t you think she ought to go, Mr. Hazlehurst?”

“Certainly, ma’am; everybody should go to Paris, if they have a chance.”

“Miss Jane would be such a charming addition to your party. — Two young people together, you would enjoy yourselves more, and make it pleasanter for your friends.”

Young Hazlehurst made a civil bow to the lady; but he looked as if he had an opinion of his own on the subject, for comical expression crossed his face at the moment. Jane had turned in another direction, and was slowly lisping an answer to a very animated question of Miss Adeline Taylor’s.

“Yes; I was at Mrs. G — ’s school, last year; and, I am going there again.”

“Well, I positively think I must go there, too, for my last winter. Mrs. G — ’s school is all the fashion, now. All the young ladies she turns out, are very lively. Miss Howard, the great belle, was there, you know, before she came out. Don’t you think it would be an excellent plan, Mr. Hazlehurst, for your cousin and me to be chums? I declare, I wish you were going, too, Miss Wyllys.”

“Thank you. I have never been to school, in my life; and, it is rather late, to begin now.”

“Never been to school! What dull times you must have had at home! You don’t know what fine fun we have, at school; it is next to going into company. I wouldn’t stay at home, for the world. Why didn’t you go?”

“Well, I really don’t know why. Perhaps, I should have wished to go, if I had thought it as pleasant as you seem to do, Miss Taylor.”

“And pray, if I may ask, what made it so very pleasant?” asked Harry Hazlehurst. “I should like to be initiated into the delights of a young ladies’ boarding-school. Of course, they must be very different from the rude enjoyments of collegians.”

“I shall be most happy to listen all the evening. But, let me find you a chair, before you commence; you must be tired of standing,” said Harry, with a view to taking a seat himself.

“Me? Oh, no; I never sit down, at a party; I always stand. You lose half the fun, by sitting down.” And, having secured Harry’s attention, the half-fledged belle turned to another youth, within hailing distance. “Now, what do you think Mr. Hazlehurst has given me to do, for the next hour, Mr. Van Horne?”

“I am sure, I don’t know. Is it something very difficult? Listening to his pretty speeches, perhaps,” said the other.

“Oh dear, no! I don’t believe Mr. Hazlehurst can make a tender speech; I don’t believe he has got any heart,” said Miss Adeline, looking an attempt at archness.

“And, pray, what makes you think so, Miss Taylor? Do you judge from my savage expression?”

“Well, perhaps, you have one;” said the young lady, looking up bewitchingly. “I suspect, though, you take very good care of it,”

“But this is not fair; you are abusing me, instead of giving us the delights of your school, as you promised.”

“Oh, I had forgotten that. But, I should think, you might guess what fun we have — a set of wild girls together.”

“How should I know anything about it? Pray, be more explicit.”

“Well, in the first place, we make a point of getting up an excitement, at least once a week.”

“Like our unruly spirits at college, you break the windows, and roll cannon-balls, I suppose.”

“How you talk! No, indeed. Our last excitement was about the coat of our Professor of Mathematics. It was such a quizzical cut, we told Mrs. A., it was morally impossible for us to attend to the lesson, and study the problems, as long as the man wore it.”

“It was unpardonable, in a professor of mathematics, to wear a coat that was not cut according to rule.”

“Now wasn’t it? Well, you may be sure, we can always pitch upon something for an excitement, whenever we’re in the humour for it. And then, we have secrets to tell about our beaux — and we quiz the new scholars — and we eat candy — and we torment Mrs. A — ; but, I shan’t tell you any more, now; for I must go out on the piazza, and have a walk — it looks so sweet, out there. You shall have the rest of the story, if you’ll come.”

And away tripped the young lady, followed, of course, by the gentlemen.

Mr. Taylor, who had been moving about the room, making himself popular by a very bland smile, and, what he considered very courtly manners, still had time to keep one eye upon his son, who after an awkward fashion, seemed devoting himself to one or two of the ladies, and the other, upon his daughter. “Adeline will make herself conspicuous,” thought the gratified father.

“Liny seems to enjoy herself,” was the observation of her mother, who had been sitting quietly at her daughter’s elbow, listening to the conversation just related.

“Two conquests!” thought the young lady herself.

“A lively girl!” was the opinion of young Van Horne.

“Fair game!” said Harry to himself.

While some of the young people were flirting, others dancing, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Clapp, whose acquaintance had commenced on board a steamboat that very morning, were walking together up and down the hall, which they had pretty much to themselves. They touched on business, which was pronounced very active; and on politics, which were declared to be particularly dull, just then: Mr. Clapp, indeed, thought the people much too quiet — shamefully blind to their own interests, which always demanded what he called a state of healthful excitement — meaning an unreasonable excitement upon any subject whatever. There can be no doubt that Mr. Clapp honestly believed such a state of agitation far more conducive than quiet to his own interest; for he was quite a fluent speaker, and very ambitious of a seat in the State Assembly. He belonged to that school of republicanism, which so completely identifies the individual with the mass, that it cannot conceive of any independent opinions, tastes, or principles; and, very possibly, he persuaded himself the good of the nation, as well as his personal advantage, required a fresh brand to be thrown upon the Longbridge council-fire. Having exchanged opinions with Mr. Clapp upon politics and the market, Mr. Taylor proceeded to make some observations and inquiries about the company; he evidently felt some curiosity regarding his new neighbours, while his companion seemed well disposed to give him all the information he desired.

“Mr. Wyllys is a man of large property, I conclude,” said the merchant.

Mr. Clapp named the number of thousands usually given to their host; the amount was much lower than Mr. Taylor had supposed. He had already discovered that Mr. Wyllys was highly respected by the Longbridge community in general, and he had taken it for granted that he must be the richest man in the neighbourhood; but he now found that this was far from being the case. Mr. Wyllys, though in easy circumstances, could not command half as much money as several business men about him.

Thereis a good fortune for you,” said Mr. Clapp; “the lady on the sofa; her property does not lie here, though. The real estate is mostly in Carolina and Philadelphia. Did you see the young gentleman who has just gone out on the piazza with your daughter — Mr. Hazlehurst? At the demise of the widow, it all goes to him; but in the mean time he has only two thousand a year — it will be full twenty, altogether, if well managed,” said Mr. Clapp, running his fingers through the black locks which his wife thought so handsome.

{“fortune” = short for a woman of fortune; an heiress}

“Mrs. Stanley is the old lady’s name, is it not? The young gentleman is her grandson, I conclude.”

“Not at all; only a nephew by marriage,” replied the lawyer, pulling up his collar. “He may feel much obliged to Mr. Stanley for feathering his nest so well. But Hazlehurst is a very good fellow; I always liked him from the time he was a little shaver.”

“The testator had no children of his own to inherit, I suppose,” remarked Mr. Taylor.

“No sir; the only child of the first wife died just before his father — the lady in the other room had no family. Mr. Stanley had not a single near relation in the world; he bequeathed fifty thousand dollars to an Orphan Asylum, and left his widow a life-estate in one-half the remainder; which, at her death, goes in a lump, real estate and personals, to young Hazlehurst, who is the son of an old friend, and a nephew by marriage.”

{“personals” = personal property}

“Some four hundred thousand dollars, I think you said; that would make a fine capital for a young man to open business with!”

“But show me the young man who, with four hundred thousand to begin with, will not spend it instead of making more! No, sir; give me a man with small means and a sharp wit for his stock in trade, rather than a hundred thousand down; ten to one the first winds up the better man by a good round sum. I should not wonder at all to find myself a richer man than Harry Hazlehurst by the time I am fifty.”

“What splendid operations he might engage in, though!”

“If he wanted to, he could not touch the money now; it is all in the widow’s hands until he is five-and-twenty, excepting the allowance of two thousand a year which she gives him, now he is of age.”

After a little more conversation of the same nature — in which the Van Hornes and the Bernards came in for their share of the appraisal, Mr. Clapp concluded by the offer of an introduction.

“Shall I introduce Mrs. Stanley to you? I am very well acquainted. I was raised in the same part of the country she came from. She is a very agreeable lady in conversation.”

Mr. Taylor had not the least objection to make the acquaintance of any human being enjoying an estate of four hundred thousand dollars. He assented, and following Mr. Clapp into the drawing-room, the introduction took place without farther preface. Mrs. Stanley had been conversing with Miss Patsey and Elinor; she was rather taken by surprise when Mr. Clapp, advancing before her, said, with a flourish, “Mr. Taylor, Mrs. Stanley.” Both the gentlemen were received by her with as much quiet coolness as was consistent with civility to her friend’s guests. She had lately been often annoyed by Mr. Clapp’s officious attentions, and was at a loss to account for them, until she remembered he might be wishing to obtain a share in the management of her affairs.

Having succeeded in bringing about the introduction, Mr. Clapp turned to Elinor.

“I hear strange stories in Longbridge about you, Miss Wyllys,” said Mr. Clapp.

There was as yet no individual in the little world known to Elinor, more trying to her temper than the husband of her friend, Kate Hubbard. There was a smirking impertinence in Mr. Clapp’s manner, of which it seemed impossible for him to divest himself, for it was often most conspicuous when he wished to make himself most agreeable; and no wonder this was the case, for it was a quality natural to him. The simple feeling of genuine respect and deference, so grateful to the heart where sincerely felt, was one he had never had the happiness to know. On the present occasion Elinor was not a little provoked with him, and something of the feeling might have been traced in her expression. We have heard of brilliant black eyes, that never appeared more beautiful than when flashing with passion. Those of our friend Elinor were small and grey; indignation, therefore, may not have been so becoming to them.

“Scarcely worth remembering, I fancy,” she replied; and then made some observation about Mrs. Hubbard, to turn the conversation. The raillery and pleasantry of a man with no more tact, or true delicacy, than William Cassius Clapp, was more than even Elinor’s sweet temper could have borne.

Mr. Wyllys had taken a seat near Mrs. Taylor.

“We have not seen all your young people yet, I believe, Mrs. Taylor.”

“Oh, no, sir — I have six at home, besides the two here. Thomas and Adeline are my eldest; the rest are hardly old enough to go out to parties — though Pompey is nearly fifteen.”

“You must bring Mr. Pompey, too, next time. Your eldest son tells me he has just left Yale.”

“He graduated last month. I want him to stay at home now until winter, and then go into business. But his father has taken a nation of having him go to Europe for six months. Thomas does not care so much about it; but husband has a great opinion of a European journey — he talks some of going himself. Some young men go a whaling to see the world; but Mr. Taylor thinks Thomas had better have a chance to go to Paris.”

“He will probably find Paris the pleasantest trip of the two,” said Mr. Wyllys, smiling. “Young Hazlehurst is going abroad, too; he sails next week, with his brother. What is the name of Harry’s packet, Nelly?” asked her grandfather, taking the young girl’s hand affectionately, as she passed.

Elinor named the vessel; and, from Mrs. Taylor’s answer, it appeared, the young men were to sail in the same ship.

“I am glad to hear that your grandson is going to France, sir; it will be more sociable, for Thomas to have somebody he knows, in Paris.”

“They will probably meet there. Harry is not my grandson, however.”

“I beg your pardon; but, I understood, that the pretty young lady, with the white flower in her hair, and the young gentleman talking to my daughter Adeline, were your grandchildren.”

“Oh, no; Miss Graham is my great-niece; and, as for Harry, if I remember right, he is no relation at all; though, we call him cousin. I have a house full of little grandchildren, here, just now, from Baltimore; but they are too young to be out of the nursery, at this hour. Does Miss Taylor sing?”

“No, sir; Adeline performs on the piano; but she has not any voice for music; which, I am very sorry for, as I like to hear young people sing.”

“Perhaps, then, you would like to hear my grand-daughter; she sings me a song every evening, after tea,” said Mr. Wyllys, who, indeed, seemed to think something was wanting to an evening, in his own house, unless Elinor gave him a little music, of which he was passionately fond; though, like most American gentlemen, of his age, he had no knowledge of the art, and no other guide than a good ear, and good natural taste. Elinor’s voice was a full, sweet contralto, which had been cultivated under the best masters in Philadelphia; and, as she never attempted what she could not perform with ease and grace, her music always gave pleasure. One or two of the other ladies followed her, at the piano — Mary Van Horne, and a friend who had come with her; but their performance was very indifferent. It was rarely that one heard anything approaching to really good amateur-music, in this country, fifteen years ago, at the date of Elinor’s seventeenth birthday.

A light supper, and a Virginia reel, concluded the evening; when the party broke up.

“I hope you are jealous, Elinor,” said Harry Hazlehurst, as he returned into the house, after having attended Miss Adeline Taylor to the carriage.

“Jealous! — Of what, pray?”

“Of the heart and affections of your humble servant, to be sure. — You must have observed the snare that Miss Taylor laid for them.”

“Nonsense. — Good night!” and Elinor accompanied her aunt and cousin up stairs.