Chapter VIII. {XXXI}


You shall not go

a lady’s verily is  

As potent as a lord’s.

Will you go yet?” Winter’s Tale.

{William Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale, I.ii.50-51}

MRS. STANLEY had joined the Wyllyses at Saratoga, a few days after they arrived, and the meeting between Hazlehurst and herself had been very cordial. She had always felt a warm interest in Harry, looking upon him as her husband’s chosen representative, and all but an adopted son; the intercourse between them had invariably been of the most friendly and intimate nature.

Mr. Stanley’s will had placed the entire control of his large estate in the hands of his widow, and his old friend, Mr. Wyllys. Mrs. Stanley, herself, was to retain one half of the property, for life; at her death it was to be divided in different legacies, to relatives of her own, and to charitable institutions, according to her own discretion. The other half was also to be kept in the hands of the executors until his own son returned, and had reached the age of five-and-twenty; or, in case the report of William Stanley’s death, which had just reached his family, were to be confirmed, then Harry Hazlehurst was to take his place, and receive his son’s portion, on condition that his, Hazlehurst’s, second son should take the name of Stanley. Hazlehurst was a nephew by marriage; that is to say, his father, after the death of a first wife, Harry’s mother, had married Mr. Stanley’s only sister: this lady died before her brother, leaving no children. At the time this will was made, Mr. Stanley had given up all, but the faintest, hope of his son’s being alive; still, he left letters for him, containing his last blessing, and forgiveness, in case the young man were to return. He also expressed a wish that an easy allowance, according to Mrs. Stanley’s discretion, should be given, after the age of one-and-twenty, to his son, or to Harry, whichever were to prove his heir; on condition that the recipient should pursue some regular profession or occupation, of a respectable character. Hazlehurst was to receive a legacy of thirty thousand dollars, in case of William Stanley’s return.

Such was Mr. Stanley’s will; and circumstances having soon showed that the report of his son’s death was scarcely to be doubted, Hazlehurst had been for years considered as his heir. As Harry grew up, and his character became formed, his principles proving, in every respect, such as his friends could wish, Mrs. Stanley had made very ample provision for him. The allowance he had received for his education was very liberal, and during his visit to Europe it had been increased. At different times considerable sums had been advanced, to enable him to make desirable purchases: upon one occasion, a portion of the property upon which his ancestors had first settled, as colonists, was offered for sale by a distant relative, and Harry wished to obtain possession of it; twenty thousand dollars were advanced for this purpose. Then, Hazlehurst was very desirous of collecting a respectable library, and, as different opportunities offered, he had been enabled, while in Europe, to make valuable acquisitions of this kind, thanks to Mrs. Stanley’s liberality. As every collector has a favourite branch of his own, Harry’s tastes had led him to look for botanical works, in which he was particularly interested; and he had often paid large sums for rare or expensive volumes connected with this science. Since he had reached the age of five-and-twenty, or, during the last two years, he had been in full possession of the entire half of Mr. Stanley’s property, amounting, it was generally supposed, to some ten thousand a year. According to a codicil of the will, Hazlehurst was also to take possession of Greatwood, at his marriage: this was a pleasant country-house, surrounded by a place in fine order; but Mrs. Stanley, who preferred living in town, had already given him possession.

“I wish, Harry, we could keep you at home, now,” said Mrs. Stanley to her young friend, one morning, as he was sitting with herself, Mary Van Alstyne, and Elinor, in her rooms at Congress Hall. “I think Mr. Henley could spare you better than we can. Is it quite decided that you go to Russia?”

“You are very kind to express so much interest in my movements. But you must permit me to remind you of a piece of advice I have often received, as a youngster, from your own lips, dear Mrs. Stanley; and that is, never to abandon merely from caprice, the path of life I might choose.”

“Certainly; but I think you might find very good reasons for staying at home, now; your affairs would go on all the better for some personal attention; I should be sorry to have you a rover all your life, Harry.”

“I have no, intention, Ma’am, I assure you, of being a vagrant all my days. And if there is nothing else to keep me at home, it is highly probable that I shall be thrown on the shelf before long by Uncle Sam. When a man has served his apprenticeship, and is fully qualified to fill his office creditably, he may prepare to be turned out; and, very likely, some raw backwoodsman, who knows nothing of the world in general, or of diplomacy in particular, will be put in his place. That is often the way things are managed among us, you know.

{Susan Fenimore Cooper is reflecting the views of her father, based on his experience with American diplomacy in Europe from 1826-33. The United States Foreign Service did not become a fully professional, career organization until 1946}

“For that very reason, I would not have anything to do with public life, if I were a young man!” exclaimed Mrs. Stanley, earnestly. “So many men who are ill-qualified for either public or private confidence, get into office, that I should think no man of high principles and honourable views, would care to belong to the body of public servants.”

“There is all the more need, then, that every honest man, who has an opportunity of serving his country, should do so,” observed Harry. “I do not believe, however, that as regards principles, the public men among us are any worse than the public men elsewhere,” he added.

“Where all are chosen, they ought to be better,” said Mary Van Alstyne.

“That I grant,” said Hazlehurst; “the choice by election, appointment, might often be more creditable; whenever it is bad, it is disgraceful to the community.”

“Look at A — — — — — — , B — — — — — — , and C — — — — — — , whom you and I happen to know!” exclaimed Mrs. Stanley.

“No doubt they are little fit for the offices they hold,” replied Harry.

“The worst of it is this, Harry: that the very qualities which ought to recommend you, will probably keep you back in the career you have chosen,” said Mrs. Stanley. “Your principles are too firm for public life.”

“I shall try the experiment, at least,” said Harry. “Mr. Henley urges me to persevere, and with his example before me, I ought not to be discouraged; he is a proof that a public man is not necessarily required to be a sycophant, and a time-server; that he is not always neglected because he is an upright man, and a gentleman. I shall follow his example; and I am convinced the experiment would succeed much oftener, provided it were fairly tried.”

“Mrs. Stanley shook her head. She was a woman of rather a peculiar character, though very warm in her feelings, and firm in her principles. She had become disgusted with the world, from seeing much that was evil and disgraceful going on about her; forgetting to observe the good as well as the bad. Of late years, she had withdrawn entirely within a narrow circle of old friends, among whom the Wyllyses and Hazlehursts held a conspicuous place. She was disposed to mistrust republican institutions, merely because she attributed every evil of the society about her, to this one cause: her opinions on this subject were, however, of no value whatever; for she knew nothing of other countries, their evils and abuses. If warmly attached to her friends, she was certainly too indifferent to the community in which she lived. She was very decided in all her actions and opinions: thus, for instance, she would never allow a newspaper, of any character whatever, to appear in her house — she held every sheet alike, to be loose in principles, and vulgar in tone; because, unfortunately, there are many to be found which answer such a description. An office-holder, and a speculator, she would never trust, and avoided every individual of either class as much as possible. Her friends would have wished her more discriminating in her opinions, but she never obtruded these upon others. Personally, no woman could be more respected by her intimates; there was nothing low or trivial in her character and turn of mind — no shadow of vacillation in her principles or her feelings. Mrs. Stanley and her young friend Hazlehurst, much as they esteemed and respected each other, disagreed on many subjects. Harry made a point of looking at both sides of a question; he was loyal to his country, and willing to serve it to the best of his ability — not at all inclined to be an idler, and play the drone in the bee-hive, whether social or political. Mrs. Stanley had much regretted his being in any way connected with public life, but she seldom attempted to influence him.

“What do you say, young ladies?” asked Harry, at length, turning towards Elinor and Mary Van Alstyne, who had hitherto thought the conversation of too personal a nature, to speak much themselves. “Do you think I had better stay at home, and look after the stock at Greatwood, or go to St. Petersburg, and set up my droschky?”

{“droschky” = a four-wheeled open carriage used in Russia}

“I should never have the least fancy for going to Russia,” replied Mary; “and, therefore, I am not much disposed to admire your constancy in adhering to Mr. Henley.”

“Oh, go, by all means,” said Elinor; “you will see so much! And be sure you go to the Crimea before you come home.”

“The Crimea is certainly a temptation,” observed Harry. “I beg, ladies, you will honour me with your commands for St. Petersburg, some time during the next three months. I refer you to Mrs. Creighton for a certificate of good taste; her saya y mantois perfect in its way, I am told.”

“Perhaps I ought to have engaged Mrs. Creighton on my side, before I tried to coax you into staying at home,” said Mrs. Stanley, smiling.

We are obliged to confess that Harry coloured at this remark, in spite of a determination not to do so; and a great misdemeanour it was in a diplomatist, to be guilty of blushing; it clearly proved that Hazlehurst was still in his noviciate. Happily, however, if the Department of State, at Washington, be sometimes more particular in investigating the party politics of its agents in foreign countries, than other qualifications, it is also certain, on the other hand, that they do not require by any means, as much bronze of countenance as most European cabinets.

{“bronze of countenance” = unblushingness, brazen lying}

“Oh, Mrs. Creighton strongly recommends me to persevere in diplomacy,” said Harry.

Just at that moment, a note was brought in from this very lady.

“With Mrs. Creighton’s compliments,” said the man who brought it.

Harry’s colour rose again, and for a second he looked a little embarrassed. Mrs. Stanley smiled, and so did the young ladies, just a little.

“I will look for the book immediately,” was Harry’s reply; and turning to the ladies, he communicated the fact, that Mrs. Creighton had asked for the volume of engravings which he had shown to Mr. Wyllys, two or three evenings before. The book was in Miss Wyllys’s room, and Elinor went for it.

“Will you dine with us to-day, Harry, or at the other house?” asked Mrs. Stanley.

{“other house” = i.e., other hotel, Congress Hall and the United States being the two fashionable hotels in Saratoga Springs}

“Thank you, ma’am; I am engaged to dine with Mr. Henley, who is only here for the day, and wishes to have a little business-talk with me. We are to eat a bachelor’s dinner together, in his room.”

Elinor returned with the book, and Harry made his bow.

As he left the room, Mary Van Alstyne observed that Mr. Hazlehurst seemed quite attentive to his friend’s sister. “He admires the pretty widow, I fancy,” she said.

“No wonder,” said Elinor; “Mrs. Creighton is so very pretty, and very charming.”

“Yes; she is very pretty, with those spirited brown eyes, and beautiful teeth. She is an adept in the art of dressing, too, and makes the most of every advantage. But though she is so pretty, and so clever, and so agreeable, yet I do not like her.”

“People seem to lovesometimes, men especially, where they do not like,” said Mrs. Stanley. “I should not be surprised, at any time, to hear that Harry and Mrs. Creighton are engaged. I wish he may marry soon.”

“The lady is, at least, well-disposed for conquest, I think,” said Mary Van Alstyne.

“She will probably succeed,” replied Elinor, in a quiet, natural voice.

Miss Agnes, who had just entered the room, heard the remark, and was gratified by the easy tone in which Elinor had spoken. Since Hazlehurst’s return, Elinor’s manner towards him had been just what her aunt thought proper under the circumstances; it was quite unembarrassed and natural, though, of course, there was more reserve than during the years they had lived so much together, almost as brother and sister. We are obliged to leave the ladies for the present, and follow Hazlehurst to his tete-a-tete dinner with Mr. Henley.

We pass over the meal itself, which was very good in its way; nor shall we dare to raise the curtain, and reveal certain communications relating to affairs of state, political and diplomatic, which were discussed by the minister and his secretary. Harry heard some Rio Janeiro news too, which seemed to amuse him, but would scarcely have any interest for the reader. At length, as Mr. Henley and Harry were picking their nuts, the minister happened to enquire the day of the month.

“It is the twentieth, I believe, sir; and by the same token, to-morrow will be my birth-day,”

“Your birth-day, will it? — How old may you be?”

“Twenty-seven, if I remember right.”

“I had thought you two or three years younger. Well, I wish you a long life and a happy!”

“Thank you, sir; I am much obliged to you for the interest you have always shown me.”

“No need of thanks, Harry; it is only what your father’s son had a right to expect from me.”

A silence of a moment ensued, when Mr. Henley again spoke.

“You are seven-and-twenty, you say, Hazlehurst? — let me give you a piece of advice — don’t let the next ten years pass without marrying.”

“I was just about making up my mind, at Rio, to be a gay bachelor, my dear sir,” said Harry.

“Yes; I remember to have heard you say something of the kind; but take my advice, and marry, unless you have some very good reason for not doing so.”

Hazlehurst made no answer, but helped himself to another supply of nuts. “More easily said than done, perhaps,” he observed.

“Nonsense! — There are many amiable young women who would suit you; and it would be strange if you could not meet with one that would have you. Some pretty, lady-like girl. I dare say you know twenty such, in Philadelphia, or even here, at Saratoga.”

“Five hundred, no doubt,” replied Harry; “but suppose the very woman I should fancy, would not fancy me.” Whether he was thinking of his past experience with Jane, or not, we cannot say.

“I don’t see that a woman can find any reasonable fault with you — you do well enough, my good fellow, as the world goes; and I am sure there are, as you say, five hundred young women to choose from. In that point a man has the best of it; young girls of a certain class, if not angels, are at least generally unexceptionable; but there are many men, unhappily, whose moral reputations are, and should be obstacles in a woman’s eyes.”

’A regular old bachelor’s notion, a mere marriage of convenience,’ thought Harry, who rather resented the idea of the five hundred congenial spirits, in the shape of suitable young ladies.

“You are surprised, perhaps, to hear this from me,” continued Mr. Henley.

“No, sir: for I once before heard you express much the same opinion.”

“Did you? — I don’t often think or speak on such matters; but I remember to have heard you talk about a single life occasionally, at Rio; and I always intended to give this piece of advice to my nephews, and to you, Harry. If I were to live my life over again, I should marry myself; for of late years I have felt the want of a home, and one can’t have a pleasant home without the women.”

“There I agree with you, sir, entirely.”

“That is more than some gay, rattling young fellows would admit. Since you think so,” continued Mr. Henley, smiling, “perhaps you have also fixed upon some amiable young girl, who would be a pleasant companion for you.”

Hazlehurst was silent.

“I dare say you have, and I might have spared you the advice. If that is the case, you must make the most of the next three months; persuade her to marry you, and we can take her to Russia, to do the honours for us.”

“Things have not gone quite so far as that, yet,” said Harry, just a little embarrassed.

“Well, my good fellow, settle the matter your own way; I have at least satisfied my conscience, by telling you not to follow my own bad example,” said the minister, as he rose from table.

It seemed that Mr. Henley, like most old bachelors, regretted not having married; though he thought that his habits had all become too confirmed, to make it worth while to attempt a change. As a general rule, it will be found that your decidedly old maid is contented with her lot, while your very old bachelor is dissatisfied with his. The peculiar evils of a single life — for every life must have its own — are most felt by women early in the day; by men, in old age. The world begins very soon to laugh at the old maid, and continues to laugh, until shamed out of the habit by her good nature, and her respectable life. The bachelor, on the contrary, for a long time finds an ally in the world; he goes on enjoying the pleasures it offers, until old age makes him weary of them — and then, as his head grows grey, when he finds himself going out of favour, he begins to feel the want of something better — a home to retreat to. He looks about him, and he finds that his female contemporary has outlived her peculiar annoyances; “the world forgetting, by the world forgot;” she has long since found some collateral home; or, in her right as a woman, has made a home for herself, where she lives as pleasantly as her neighbours. Perhaps he sets about imitating her example; but, poor fellow, he finds it an awkward task; he can never succeed in making his household gods smile with a good will, on a home where no female voice is heard at the fire-side.

{“the world forgetting. ... ” = Alexander Pope (English poet, 1688- 1744), Eloisa to Abelard, I.207-208: “How happy is the blameless Vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot.”}

So thought Mr. Henley, and he had been intending to recommend to Harry to look out for a wife, for some time past. The minister’s ideas on the subject of love and matrimony were, to be sure, rather matter of fact, and statesmanlike; he would have been quite satisfied if Hazlehurst had married the first young girl, of a respectable family, that he met with; the hundredth part of Mrs. Creighton’s attractions he would have thought sufficient. Harry forgave him, however, for the sake of the kindness intended by the advice he had given; and the minister had the satisfaction of seeing his secretary, that evening, at a concert, quite gallant and attentive to a party of ladies, several of whom were young and pretty, although one was young and ugly.

“Who is that?” he asked of a friend; “that lady to whom Hazlehurst is talking? Half the young people here have grown up, since I was last at home.”

“That is Mrs. Creighton.”

“No; not Mrs. Creighton; I know her — a charming woman; the lady on the right.”

“That is Miss Van Alstyne. Mrs. St. Leger is next to her; the young girl before her is Miss Emma Taylor.”

“A pretty girl — but noisy, it seems.”

“On the next bench, with Ellsworth, are Mrs. Tallman Taylor, the great beauty, and Miss Wyllys, the heiress.”

“Yes, I know the family very well; but I never saw Mr. Wyllys’s granddaughter before.”

“She is quite plain,” observed one gentleman.

“Very plain,” replied the other, turning away.

The evening proved very sultry, and after accompanying the ladies home from the concert, Mr. Ellsworth proposed to Harry a stroll in the open air. The friends set out together, taking the direction of the spring; and, being alone, their conversation gradually became of a confidential nature. They touched upon politics, Mr. Henley’s character and views, and various other topics, concluding with their own personal affairs. At length, when they had been out some little time, Mr. Ellsworth, after a moment’s silence, turned to Harry and said:

“Hazlehurst, I have a confession to make; but I dare say you will not give me much credit for frankness — you have very probably guessed already what I have to tell.”

“I certainly have had some suspicions of my own for the last few days; but I may be mistaken; I am not very good at guessing.”

“I can have no motive,” continued Mr. Ellsworth, “in concealing from you my regard for Miss Wyllys, and I hope you will wish me success.”

“Certainly,” replied Harry; who was evidently somewhat prepared for the disclosure.

“It is now some time since I have been attached to her, but it is only lately that I have been able to urge my suit as I could wish. The better I know Elinor Wyllys, the more anxious I am for success. I never met with a woman of a more lovely character.”

“You only do her justice.”

“There is something about her that is peculiar; different from the common-place set of young ladies one meets with every day; and yet she is perfectly feminine and womanly.”

And Mr. Ellsworth here ran over various good qualities of Elinor’s. It is impossible to say, whether Harry smiled or not, at this lover-like warmth: if he did, it was too dark for his friend to observe it.

“In a situation like mine, with a daughter to educate, the choice of a wife is particularly important. Of course I feel much anxiety as to the decision of a woman like Miss Wyllys, one whose good opinion is worth the wooing: and yet, if I do not deceive myself, her manner is not discouraging.”

“Is she aware of your feelings?” asked Harry.

“Yes; I have only proposed in form quite lately, however, a day or two after you arrived. Miss Wyllys scarcely seemed prepared for my declaration, although I thought I had spoken sufficiently distinctly to be understood, some time since. She wished for time to consider: I was willing to wait as long as she pleased, with the hope of eventually succeeding. Her friends are quite well disposed towards me, I think. Mr. Wyllys’s manner to me has always been gratifying, and I hope her aunt is in my favour. To speak frankly, there have been times when I have felt much encouraged as regards Miss Wyllys herself. You will not think me a coxcomb, Hazlehurst, for opening my heart to you in this way.”

“Certainly not; you honour me by your confidence.”

“I should like to have your honest opinion as to my future prospects; for, of course, one can never feel sure until everything is settled. Josephine is hardly a fair judge — she is very sanguine; but like myself she is interested in the affair.”

“Mrs. Creighton has so much discernment, that I should think she could not be easily deceived. If my kinswoman knows your views, I should say that you have reason to be encouraged by her manner. There is nothing like coquetry about her; I am convinced she thinks highly of you.”

“Thank you; it gives me great pleasure to hear you say so. The question must now be decided before long. I was only prevented from explaining myself earlier, by the fear of speaking too soon. For though I have known Miss Wyllys some time, yet we have seldom met. I dare say you are surprised that I did not declare myself sooner; I am inclined to think you would have managed an affair of the kind more expeditiously; for you are more rapid in most of your movements than myself. But although I might imagine love at first sight, I never could fancy a declaration worth hearing, the first day.”

“Do you insinuate that such is the practice of your humble servant?” asked Hazlehurst, smiling.

“Oh, no; but I was afraid you might disapprove of my deliberation. My chief hope rests upon Miss Wyllys’s good sense and the wishes of her friends, who, I think, are evidently favourable to me. She has no silly, high-flown notions; she is now of an age — three or four-and-twenty I think — to take a reasonable view of the world; and I hope she will find the sincere affection of a respectable man, whose habits and position resemble her own, sufficient for her.”

“You wish, I suppose, to hear me repeat, that such will undoubtedly be the result,” said Harry, smiling again.

“Perhaps I do,” replied Mr. Ellsworth, in the same tone. “I suppose you are discerning enough to be aware that I have a rival in Mr. Stryker.”

“Stryker attentive to Elinor? It has not struck me; I had fancied him rather an admirer of Mrs. Creighton’s.”

“Of Josephine? Oh, no; she can’t endure him, they are quarrelling half the time when together. No, it is very evident that Stryker is courting Miss Wyllys’s favour. But I confess I feel encouraged by her conduct towards him; there is a quiet civility in it, which speaks anything but very decided approbation.”

“I know Elinor too well, not to feel assured she must despise a man of Stryker’s character,” said Harry, with some indignation. “He can’t appreciate her; it can be nothing more, on his part, than downright fortune-hunting.”

“No doubt; there you mention another motive I have, for not being too hasty in my declaration to Miss Wyllys. I could wish to convince her that my attachment is sincere.”

“Certainly. I forget twenty times a day that she is now a fortune, until I see some fellow, like William Hunter, or Stryker, paying their court to her. I have never been accustomed to consider her in that light, of old. In fact I had no idea of her reputation as an heiress, until I found it so well established when I arrived here. But Saratoga is just the place to make such discoveries. I was quite behind the age in every respect, it seems; for although it did not require much penetration to find out your secret, Ellsworth, yet I was taken entirely by surprise. You never made any allusion to anything of the kind, in your letters to me.”

“It was so seldom that I met Miss Wyllys, that for a time my mind was undecided. But, of course, I should have written you word, if anything had been finally settled; even if you had not come to look after me in propria personâ.”

{“propria personâ” = in person (Latin)}

Having reached their hotel, the gentlemen parted. Mr. Ellsworth would, in all probability, have been less communicative with his friend Hazlehurst, on the subject of their recent conversation, had he been aware of the state of things which formerly existed between Elinor and himself. He had only heard some vague stories of an engagement between them, but had always supposed it mere gossip, from having seen Harry’s attention to Jane, when they were all in Paris together; while he knew, on the other hand, that Hazlehurst had always been on the most intimate terms with the Wyllyses, as a family connexion. He was aware that Harry had been very much in love with Miss Graham, for he had remarked it himself; and he supposed that if there had ever been any foundation for the report of an engagement with Elinor, it had probably been a mere childish caprice, soon broken, and which had left no lasting impression on either party.