Chapter I. [XXIV]

 {would be Chapter XXIV, if numbered from beginning of Vol. I}

“But there is matter for another rhyme;  And I to this would add another tale.” WORDSWORTH.

“And how do Miss and Madam do;  The little boy, and all?  All tight and well? and how do you,  Good Mr. What-do-you-call?” COWPER.

{William Wordsworth (English poet, 1770-1850), Poems of the Imagination:“Hart-Leap Well” lines 95-96. William Cowper (English poet, 1731-1800), “The Yearly Distress, or, Tithing Time at Stock in Essex” lines 33-36}

It is to be feared the reader will find fault with this chapter. But there is no remedy; he must submit quietly to a break of three years in the narrative: having to choose between the unities and the probabilities, we greatly preferred holding to the last. The fault, indeed, of this hiatus, rests entirely with the young folk of Longbridge, whose fortunes we have undertaken to follow; had they remained together, we should, of course, have been faithful to our duty as a chronicler; but our task was not so easy. In the present state of the world, people will move about — especially American people; and making no claim to ubiquity, we were obliged to wait patiently until time brought the wanderers back again, to the neighbourhood where we first made their acquaintance. Shortly after Jane’s marriage, the whole party broke up; Jane and her husband went to New-Orleans, where Tallman Taylor was established as partner in a commercial house connected with his father. Hazlehurst passed several years in Mexico and South-America: an old friend of his father’s, a distinguished political man, received the appointment of Envoy to Mexico, and offered Harry the post of Secretary of Legation. Hazlehurst had long felt a strong desire to see the southern countries of the continent, and was very glad of so pleasant an arrangement; he left his friend Ellsworth to practise law alone, and accompanied Mr. Henley, the Minister, to Mexico; and from thence removed, after a time, to Brazil. Charlie had been studying his profession in France and Italy, during the same period. Even Elinor was absent from home much more than usual; Miss Wyllys had been out of health for the last year or two; and, on her account, they passed their summers in travelling, and a winter in the West-Indies. At length, however, the party met again on the old ground; and we shall take up the thread of our narrative, during the summer in which the circle was re-united. It is to be hoped that this break in the movement of our tale will be forgiven, when we declare, that the plot is about to thicken; perplexities, troubles, and misfortunes are gathering about our Longbridge friends; a piece of intelligence which will probably cheer the reader’s spirits. We have it on the authority of a philosopher, that there is something gratifying to human nature in the calamities of our friends; an axiom which seems true, at least, of all acquaintances made on paper.

“{Minister” = a diplomatic rank below that of Ambassador — a Minister heads a Legation, an Ambassador an Embassy; prior to the Civil War, the United States was not considered an important enough country to send or receive Ambassadors. “Secretary of Legation” = a diplomat serving under a Minister. “A philosopher” = François, Duc de la Rochefoucauld (1618-1680), French author famous for his maxims or epigraphs: “Dans l’adversité de nos meilleurs amis, nous trouvons quelque chose qui ne nous déplait pas” = In the misfortune of our best friends, we find something which is not displeasing to us. Maxim No. 99, later suppressed. By the 1840s, a well known expression}

We hear daily that life is short; and, surely, Time flies with fearful rapidity if we measure his course by years: three-score-and-ten, the allotted span of man, are soon numbered. But events, thoughts, feelings, hopes, cares, are better marks for the dial of life, than hours and minutes. In this view, the path of life is a long road, full of meaning and of movement at every step; and in this sense only is time justly appreciated; each day loses its insignificance, and every yearly revolution of the earth becomes a point in eternity.

The occurrences of the three years during which we have lost sight of the Longbridge circle will speak for themselves, as our tale is gradually unfolded. It is evident, however, at the first glance, on returning to the old ground, that the village itself has undergone some alterations. Though belonging to a part of the country occasionally accused of being “unenterprising,” it had not proved insensible to the general movement felt throughout the republic, in those halcyon days of brilliant speculation, which commenced with the promise of good fortune to all, and ended by bringing poverty to many, and disgrace to others. A rail-road now runs through the principal street, and the new dépôt, a large, uncouth building, stands conspicuous at its termination, looking commercial prosperity, and internal improvement. Several new stores have been opened, half-a-dozen “tasty mansions” — chiefly imitations of Mr. Hubbard’s — have been built, another large tavern has been commenced, and two additional steamboats may be seen lying at the wharf. The value of property in the village itself, is said to have doubled, at least; new streets are laid out, and branch rail-roads are talked of; and many people flatter themselves that Longbridge will figure in the next census as a flourishing city, with the full honours of a Corporation, Mayor, and Aldermen. In the population, corresponding changes are also perceptible; many new faces are seen in the streets, new names are observed on the signs; others again are missed from their old haunts, for there is scarcely a family in the place, which has not sent its representation westward.

{“those halcyon days” = i.e., before the economic Panic of 1837, and the seven-year depression that followed}

Most of our old acquaintances, however, still remain on the spot, this pleasant afternoon in June, 183-. There stands Mr. Joseph Hubbard, talking to Judge Bernard. That is Dr. Van Horne, driving off in his professional sulkey. There are Mrs. Tibbs and Mrs. Bibbs, side-by-side, as of old. Mrs. George Wyllys has moved, it seems; her children are evidently at home in a door-yard on the opposite side of the street, adjoining the Hubbard “Park.” On the door of that bright-coloured, spruce-looking brick house, you will see the name of W. C. Clapp; and there are a pair of boots resting on the window-sill of an adjoining office, which probably belong to the person of the lawyer, himself. Now, we may observe Mrs. Hilson and Miss Emmeline Hubbard flitting across the street, “fascinating and aristocratic” as ever.

{“sulkey” = light two-wheeled carriage, seated for one person; usually spelled “sulky”}

Let us leave the village, however, for the more immediate neighbourhood of Wyllys-Roof; in which, it is hoped, the reader will feel more particularly interested. There stands the little cottage of the Hubbards, looking just as it did three years since; it is possible that one or two of the bull’s-eye panes of glass may have been broken, and changed, and the grey shingles are a little more moss-grown; but its general aspect is precisely what it was when we were last there. The snow-ball and the sweet-briar are in their old places, each side of the humble porch; the white blossoms have fallen from the scraggy branches of the snow-ball, this first week in June; the fresh pink buds are opening on the fragrant young shoots of the sweet-briar. There is our friend, Miss Patsey, wearing a sun-bonnet, at work in the garden; and if you look through the open door of the house, you will see beyond the passage into the neat little kitchen, where we catch a glimpse of Mrs. Hubbard’s white cap over the back of her rocking- chair. It is possible that you may also see the merry, shining, black face of a little handmaiden, whom Miss Patsey has lately taken into the family; and, as the tea-kettle is boiling, and the day’s work chiefly over, the little thing is often seen at this hour, playing about the corners of the house, with the old cat. Ah, there is the little minx! — her sharp ears have heard the sound of wheels, and she is already at the open gate, to see what passes. A wagon stops; whom have we here? Little Judy is frightened half out of her wits: a young man she does not know, with his face covered with beard, after a fashion she had never yet seen, springs from the wagon. Miss Patsey turns to look.

“Charlie!” — she exclaims; and in another moment the youth has received the joyful, tearful, agitated embrace of his mother and sister. The darling of their hearts is at home again; three years since, he left them, a boy, to meet dangers exaggerated tenfold by their anxious hearts; he returns, a man, who has faced temptations undreamed of by their simple minds. The wanderer is once more beneath their humble roof; their partial eyes rest again on that young face, changed, yet still the same.

Charlie finds the three last years have passed lightly over his mother and his sister; theirs are the same kindly faces, the same well-known voices, the best loved, the most trusted from childhood. After the first eager moments of greeting are over, and the first hurried questions have been answered, he looks about him. Has not the dear old cottage shrunk to a very nut-shell? He opens the door of the school-room; there are its two benches, and its humble official desk, as of old; he looks into the little parlour, and smiles to think of the respect he felt in his childish days for Miss Patsey’s drawing-room: many a gilded gallery, many a brilliant saloon has he since entered as a sight-seer, with a more careless step. He goes out on the porch; is it possible that is the garden? — why it is no larger than a table-cloth! — he should have thought the beds he had so often weeded could not be so small: and the door-yard, one can shake hands across it! And there is Wyllys- Roof, half hid by trees — he used to admire it as a most venerable pile; in reality it is only a plain, respectable country-house: as the home of the Wyllyses, however, it must always be an honoured spot to him. Colonnade Manor too — he laughs! There are some buildings that seem, at first sight, to excite to irresistible merriment; they belong to what may he called the “ridiculous order” of architecture, and consist generally of caricatures on noble Greek models; Mr. Taylor’s elegant mansion had, undeniably, a claim to a conspicuous place among the number. Charlie looks with a painter’s eye at the country; the scenery is of the simplest kind, yet beautiful, as inanimate nature, sinless nature, must ever be under all her varieties: he casts a glance upward at the sky, bright and blue as that of Italy; how often has he studied the heavens from that very spot! The trees are rich in their summer verdure, the meadows are fragrant with clover, and through Mr. Wyllys’s woods there is a glimpse of the broad river, gilded by the evening sun. It is a pleasing scene, a happy moment; it is the first landscape he ever painted, and it is home.

Then Charlie returns to his mother; he sits by her side, she takes his hand in her withered fingers, she rests her feeble sight on his bright face; while Miss Patsey is preparing all the dainties in the house for supper.

“Well, little one, what is your name?” said Charlie, as the black child passed him with a load of good things.

“Judy, sir,” said the little girl, with a curtsey, and a half-frightened look at Charlie’s face, for the young artist had chosen to return with moustaches; whether he thought it professional or becoming, we cannot say.

“We shall be good friends I hope, Judy; if you mind my sister better than you ever did anybody else in your life, perhaps I shall find some sugar-plums for you,” said Charlie, pleased to see a black face again.

Mrs. Hubbard remarked that, upon the whole, Judy was a pretty good girl; and the child grinned, until two deep dimples were to be seen in her shining dark cheeks, and the dozen little non-descript braids which projected from her head in different directions, seemed to stand on end with delight.

“And so Mr. Wyllys and the ladies are not at home. I wish I had known of their being in New-York; I might at least have seen them for a moment, yesterday.”

“I wonder Mrs. Hilson did not mention their being in town.”

“Julianna never knows what she is talking about. But I am glad to hear good accounts of them all.”

“Yes; Miss Wyllys has come home from the West-Indies, much better.”

“Is it really true that Miss Elinor is going to be married shortly?”

“Well, I can’t say whether the story is true or not. She seems to have many admirers now she has become an heiress.”

“But I don’t understand how she comes to be such a fortune.”

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

“I don’t understand it myself; Mr. Clapp can tell you all about it. You know most people are a great deal richer now than they were a few years ago. I heard some one say the other day, that my old pupil’s property in Longbridge, is worth three times as much now, as it was a short time since.”

“Is it possible Longbridge has improved so much?”

“And then your old play-fellow has had two legacies from relations of her mother’s; everybody in the neighbourhood is talking of her good- luck, and saying what a fortune she will turn out. I only hope she will be happy, and not be thrown away upon some one unworthy of her, like her poor cousin; for it seems young Mr. Taylor is very dissipated.”

Charlie probably sympathized with this remark, though he made no reply.

“Mr. and Mrs. Tallman Taylor are in New-York now, I hear, just come from New-Orleans. The family from Wyllys-Roof have gone over to see them,” added Miss Patsey.

“Yes, so I understand. They will be here before long, I suppose.”

“Not immediately; for they are all going to Saratoga together. Dr. Van Horne thought Miss Wyllys had better pass two or three weeks at the Springs.”

“That is fortunate for me — I shall see them the sooner; for I must be at Lake George before the first of July. I have an order for three views of the Lake, which I have promised to send to England early in the fall.”

Here Charlie entered into some details of his affairs, very interesting to his mother and sister; and they seemed to be in a very satisfactory condition, according to his own modest views. After a while the conversation again returned to their Longbridge friends.

“Did you know that Mr. Hazlehurst is coming home too, this summer?” asked Miss Patsey.

“Yes; he wrote me word he hoped we should meet before long. How did that affair with Mrs. Creighton turn out?”

“We did bear they were engaged; but it could not have been true, for the lady has been in Philadelphia, and he in Brazil, for some time, you know. I used to ask about such matters once in a while, on purpose to write you word. But I had no great opportunity of hearing much about Mr. Hazlehurst; for after that unhappy business at Wyllys-Roof, there was, of course, a great coolness; for some time I never heard his name mentioned there, and Mr. Wyllys seldom speaks of him now.”

“Are they not reconciled, then?”

“Not entirely, I am afraid; but you know they have not met for three years.”

“I shall hardly know myself at Wyllys-Roof, without seeing Mr. Hazlehurst and Miss Graham there.”

“You will find a great change in that respect. Mrs. Taylor has not been here since her marriage; Miss Van Alstyne seems to have taken her place; she is a very pleasant young lady. When the family is at home now, there seems often to be some strange gentleman with them.”

“Fortune-hunters, I suppose,” said Charlie, with some indignation. “Well, the course of true love never has, and never will run quite as it ought, I suppose. And how do all the Longbridge people come on? — How is Uncle Josie?”

“Very well, indeed; just as good as ever to us. You must go to see him to-morrow.”

“Certainly; — and what is Uncle Dozie about?”

“At work in the vegetable-garden, as usual. He sent me a fine basket of salad, and radishes, and onions, this morning.”

“Clapp has got into a new house I see.”

“Yes; he is in very good business, I believe; you saw Catherine, you say?”

“Yes, for a minute only. I ran in to kiss Kate and the children, while they were harnessing a horse for me at the tavern. Kate looks very well herself. The children didn’t remember much of Uncle Charlie; but they are pretty, healthy little things, nevertheless.”

The grandmother assented to the commendation of her daughter’s family; she thought them remarkably fine children. “Catherine was a very fortunate woman,” she said; “Mr. Clapp was a very superior man, so very clever that he must do well; and the children were all healthy — they had gone through the measles wonderfully, that spring.”

Charlie had not quite as elevated an opinion of his brother-in-law as the females of the family; he allowed his mother’s remark to pass unnoticed, however.

“And so Mr. Taylor has given up Colonnade Manor,” he continued.

“Yes; he has just sold it to Mr. de Vaux, a friend of Mr. Wyllys,” replied Miss Patsey.

“Why did he sell it, pray?”

“Well, the young ladies liked better to live about at hotels and boarding-houses in the summer, I believe; they thought it was too dull at Longbridge. Mr. Taylor didn’t care much for the place: you know there are some people, who, as soon as they have built a house, and got everything in nice order, want to sell; it seems as if they did not care to be comfortable; but I suppose it is only because they are so fond of change.”

We may as well observe, by way of parenthesis, that this fancy of getting rid of a place as soon as it is in fine order, would probably never occur to any man but an American, and an American of the particular variety to which Mr. Taylor belonged.

“I don’t wonder at his wanting to get rid of the house; but the situation and the neighbourhood might have satisfied him, I think,” said Charlie, as he accepted Miss Patsey’s invitation to eat the nice supper she had prepared for him.

As he took his seat at the table, Mrs. Hubbard observed, that he probably had not seen such short-cake as Patsey made, in Rome — to which Charlie assented warmly. He had wished one evening, in Florence, he said, for some of his sister’s short-cake, and a good cup of tea of her making; and the same night he dreamed that the Venus de Medicis had made him some. He was ashamed of himself for having had such a dream; but it could not be helped, such was the fact.

{“Venus de Medicis” = Famous nude statue of the Goddess Venus — a 1ˢᵗ Century BC copy of a lost Greek statue by Cleomenes of Athens — in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence}

Mrs. Hubbard thought no woman, Venus or not, ought to be ashamed of making good short-cake; if they were bad, that would be a different matter.

“Well, Charlie, now you have seen all those paintings and figures you used to talk so much about, what do you think of them? — are they really so handsome as you expected?” asked his sister.

“They are wonderful!” exclaimed Charlie, with animation; putting down a short-cake he had just buttered. “Wonderful! — There is no other word to describe them.”

Mrs. Hubbard observed, that she had some notion of a painting, from the minister’s portrait in the parlour — Charlie took up his short-cake — she thought a person might have satisfaction in a painting; such a picture as that portrait; but as for those stone figures he used to wish to see, she could not understand what was the beauty of such idol-like things.

“They are not at all like idols, mother; they are the most noble conceptions of the human form.”

How could they look human? He himself had told her they were made out of marble; just such marble, she supposed, as was used for tomb- stones.

“I only wish you could see some of the statues in Italy; the Laocoon, Niobe, and others I have seen. I think you would feel then what I felt — what I never can describe in words.”

{“Laocoon” = A famous Greek statue, in the Vatican at Rome, of a Trojan priest and his two sons being crushed by serpents. “Niobe” = a famous statue, in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (a Roman copy of a lost Greek original attributed to Scopas), of Niobe — in Greek mythology the daughter of Tantalus whose children were slaughtered by Zeus and who was transformed into a weeping image of stone}

Mrs. Hubbard said the names sounded very heathen-like to her ears; she had never seen a statue, of any description whatever; she didn’t think she could have any satisfaction in looking at one. If they had any colour to them, and were dressed up in uniforms, and handsome clothes, like the wax-figures of General Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Lord Nelson, she had once seen, they would be worth looking at, perhaps.

Miss Patsey wished to know, if among the statues he had seen, there were any supposed to be likenesses of the great men that we read about in history?

“There are many statues and busts in Italy, that are undeniably portraits of some of the greatest men of antiquity,” he replied.

“Do you suppose they are really like those old Romans? I don’t mean such likenesses as the portrait of our dear father; but still pretty good for those old times?”

“Far better than anything of the kind you ever saw,” replied Charlie, drinking off a cup of tea.

Miss Patsey thought those might be worth seeing. A conversation followed upon the delight Charlie had felt in beholding celebrated places, the scenes of great events in past ages; a delight that an American can never know in his own country, and which, on that very account, he enjoys with a far keener zest than a European. Miss Patsey seemed to enter a little into this pleasure; but, upon the whole, it was quite evident that all the imagination of the family had fallen to Charlie’s share. The young man thought little of this, however: when Judy had carried away the remains of the supper, he returned to his mother’s side, and the evening passed away in that pleasant family chat, so interesting to those who feel alike. Sympathy of the heart is a tie ten-fold stronger than sympathy of the head; people may think alike, and hate each other; while those who feel together, are often led to adopt the same opinions.

When Charlie had read the usual evening chapter in the Bible, and had received his mother’s kiss and blessing, he laid himself down with a thankful heart, in the little garret-room, as in his childish years. The young artist’s dreams that night, were a mingled crowd of fancies; the memories of his boyhood reviving in their old haunts, accompanied by more recent images brought from beyond the Ocean, and linked with half-formed plans and ideas for the future. Among these visions of the night, were two more distinct than the rest; one was a determination to commence, the very next morning, a copy of his honoured father’s portrait, in which the artist’s object was unusual; for it was his chief aim to make it as little like the original before him, as possible. Shall we reveal the fact that another image, wearing a gentler aspect than the stern, rigid features of the minister’s portrait, seemed to flit before the young painter’s fancy, coming unbidden, and mingling more especially with recollections of the past? As a ray of moonlight stole into the low dormer-window, the young man turned on his humble bed, a sigh burst from his lips, followed by the words, “No, no!”

We shall keep the secret.