Chapter IV. {XXVII}

“They call thee rich.” COWPER.

{William Cowper (English poet, 1731-1800), Translations of Greek Verses: “On A Miser” line 1}

WHEN the Wyllyses arrived at Saratoga, after having paid their promised visit to their friends at Poughkeepsie, the first persons they saw in the street, as they were driving to Congress Hall, were Mrs. Creighton, Mr. Ellsworth, and Mr. Stryker, who were loitering along together. It seemed the excursion to Nahant had been postponed, or given up.

The brother and sister soon discovered that the Wyllyses were among that afternoon’s arrivals, and in the course of an hour or two called at their rooms.

“Here am I, Miss Wyllys,” said Mrs. Creighton, “the best of sisters, giving up my own private plans to gratify this brother of mine, who would not let me rest unless I promised to pass another week here.”

“Josephine makes the most of her complaisance; but I don’t think she was so very much averse to giving up Nahant. I am sure at least, she did not care half so much about going, as I did about staying.”

Mr. Stryker also appeared, to make his bow to the ladies. This gentleman had indeed come to Saratoga, with the express intention of making himself particularly agreeable to Miss Elinor Wyllys. As long ago as Jane’s wedding, he had had his eye on her, but, like Mr. Ellsworth, he had seldom been able to meet her. Mr. Stryker was a man between forty and fifty, possessing some little property, a very good opinion of himself, and quite a reputation for cleverness and knowledge of the world. He was one of those men who hang loose on society; he seemed to have neither relations nor connexions; no one knew his origin: for years he had occupied the same position in the gay world of New York, with this difference, that at five-and-twenty he was known as Bob Stryker; at five-and-thirty he was Colonel Stryker, the traveller; and at five-and-forty he had returned to New York, after a second long absence, as Mr. Stryker, tout court. He prided himself upon being considered a gentleman at large, a man of the world, whose opinion on all subjects was worth hearing. Since his last return from Europe, he had announced that he was looking about for that necessary encumbrance, a wife; but he took good care not to mention what he called his future intentions, until he had actually committed himself more than once. He had several times kindly offered to rich and beautiful girls, to take charge of themselves and their fortunes, but his services had been as often politely declined. He was not discouraged, however, by these repulses; he still determined to marry, but experience had taught him greater prudence he decided that his next advances should be made with more caution. He would shun the great belles; fortune he must have, but he would adopt one of two courses; he would either look out for some very young and very silly girl, who could be persuaded into anything, or he would try to discover some rich woman, with a plain face, who would be flattered by the attentions of the agreeable Mr. Stryker. While he was making these reflections he was introduced to Elinor, and we are sorry to say it, she appeared to him to possess the desirable qualifications. She was certainly very plain; and he found that there was no mistake in the report of her having received two important legacies quite lately. Miss Elinor Wyllys, thanks to these bequests, to her expectations from her grandfather and Miss Agnes, and to the Longbridge railroad, was now generally considered a fortune. It is true, common report had added very largely to her possessions, by doubling and quadrupling their amount; for at that precise moment, people seemed to be growing ashamed of mentioning small sums; thousands were invariably counted by round fifties and hundreds. Should any gentleman be curious as to the precise amount of the fortune of Miss Elinor Wyllys, he is respectfully referred to William Cassius Clapp, Attorney at Law, Longbridge, considered excellent authority on all such subjects. Lest any one should be disposed to mistrust this story of Elinor’s newly- acquired reputation as an heiress, we shall proceed at once to prove it, by evidence of the most convincing character.

{” tout court“ = by itself; “period” (French)}

One morning, shortly after the arrival of the Wyllyses at Saratoga, Mr. Wyllys entered the room where Miss Agnes and Elinor were sitting together, with a handful of papers and letters from the mail. Several of these letters were for Elinor, and as she reads them we shall take the liberty of peeping over her shoulder their contents will speak for themselves. The first which she took up was written on very handsome paper, perfumed, and in an envelope; but neither the seal nor the handwriting was known to Elinor. It ran as follows:


“It may appear presumptuous in one unknown to you, to address you on a subject so important as that which is the theme of this epistle; but not having the honour of your acquaintance, I am compelled by dire necessity, and the ardent feelings of my heart, to pour forth on paper the expression of the strong admiration with which you have inspired me. Lovely Miss Wyllys, you are but too well known to me, although I scarcely dare to hope that your eye has rested for a moment on the features of your humble adorer. I am a European, one who has moved in the first circles of his native land, and after commencing life as a military man, was compelled by persecution to flee to the hospitable shores of America. Chequered as my life has been, happy, thrice happy shall I consider it, if you will but permit me to devote its remaining years to your service! Without your smiles, the last days of my career will be more gloomy than all that have gone before. But I cannot believe you so cruel, so hard-hearted, as to refuse to admit to your presence, one connected with several families of the nobility and gentry in the north of England, merely because the name of Horace de Vere has been sullied by appearing on the stage. Let me hope ”

Elinor read no farther: she threw the letter aside with an expression of disgust and mortification. It was but one of half-a-dozen of similar character, which she had received during the last year or two from utter strangers. She took up another, a plain, honest-looking sheet.


“If the new store, being erected on your lot in Market Street, between Fourth and Fifth, is not already leased, you will confer an obligation if you will let us know to whom we must apply for terms, &c., &c. The location and premises being suitable, we should be glad to rent. The best of references can be offered on our part.

“Begging you will excuse this application, as we are ignorant of the name of your agent in Philadelphia, we have the honour to be, Madam,

“Your most obedient servants,


“Grocers, Market, between Front and Second.”

A business letter, it appears, to be attended to accordingly. Now for the third a delicate little envelope of satin paper, blue wax, and the seal “semper eadem.”

{“semper eadem” = always the same (Latin)}


“When shall we see you at Bloomingdale? You are quite too cruel, to disappoint us so often; we really do not deserve such shabby treatment. Here is the month of June, with its roses, and strawberries, and ten thousand other sweets, and among them you must positively allow us to hope for a visit from our very dear friends at Wyllys-Roof. Should your venerable grandpapa, or my excellent friend, Miss Wyllys be unhappily detained at home, as you feared, do not let that be the means of depriving us of your visit. I need not say that William would be only too happy to drive you to Bloomingdale, at any time you might choose; but if that plan, hisplan, should frighten your propriety, I shall be proud to take charge of you myself. Anne is not only pining for your visit, but very tired of answering a dozen times a day, her brother’s questions, ‘When shall we see Miss Wyllys?’ ’Is Miss Wyllys never coming?’

“I do not think, my sweet young friend, that you can have the heart to disappoint us any longer and, therefore, I shall certainly look for one of your charming little notes, written in an amiable, complying mood.

“Anne sends her very best love; William begs to be very particularlyremembered to Miss Elinor Wyllys.

“With a thousand kind messages to your grandfather and Miss Wyllys, I remain as ever, my dear young friend,

“Yours, most devotedly and partially,


{“Bloomingdale” = a fashionable and still rural area of Manhattan Island, though technically part of New York City}

Elinor read this note with a doubtful smile, which seemed to say she was half-amused, half-provoked by it. Throwing it carelessly on the sofa, she opened the fourth letter; it was in a childish hand.


“My mother wishes me to thank you myself, for your last act of goodness to us but I can never tell you all we feel on the subject. My dear mother cried with joy all the evening, after she had received your letter. I am going to school according to your wish, as soon as mother can spare me, and I shall study very hard, which will be the best way of thanking you. The music-master says he has no doubt but I can play well enough to give lessons, if I go on as well as I have in the last year; I practise regularly every day. Mother bids me say, that now she feels sure of my education for the next three years, one of her heaviest cares has been taken away: she says too, that although many friends in the parish have been very good to us, since my dear father was taken away from us, yet ‘no act of kindness has been so important to us, none so cheering to the heart of the widow and the fatherless, as your generous goodness to her eldest child;’ these are her own words. Mother will write to you herself to-morrow. I thank you again, dear Miss Wyllys, for myself, and I remain, very respectfully and very gratefully,

“Your obliged servant and friend,


This last letter seemed to restore all Elinor’s good humour, acting as an antidote to the three which had preceded it. The correspondence which we have taken the liberty of reading, will testify more clearly than any assurance of ours, to the fact that our friend Elinor now stands invested with the dignity of an heiress, accompanied by the dangers, pleasures, and annoyances, usually surrounding an unmarried woman, possessing the reputation of a fortune. Wherever Elinor now appeared, the name of a fortune procured her attention; the plain face which some years before had caused her to be neglected where she was not intimately known, was no longer an obstacle to the gallantry of the very class who had shunned her before. Indeed, the want of beauty, which might have been called her misfortune, was now the very ground on which several of her suitors founded their hopes of success; as she was pronounced so very plain, the dandies thought it impossible she could resist the charm of their own personal advantages. Elinor had, in short, her full share of those persecutions which are sure to befall all heiresses. The peculiar evils of such a position affect young women very differently, according to their various dispositions. Had Elinor been weak and vain, she would have fallen into the hands of a fortune-hunter. Had she been of a gloomy temper, disgust at the coarse plots and manœuvres, so easily unravelled by a clear-sighted person, might have made her a prey to suspicion, and all but misanthropic. Had she been vulgar-minded, she would have been purse-proud; if cold-hearted, she would have become only the more selfish. Vanity would have made her ridiculously ostentatious and conceited; a jealous temper would have become self- willed and domineering.

Change of position often produces an apparent change of character; sometimes the effect is injurious, sometimes it is advantageous. But we trust that the reader, on renewing his acquaintance with Elinor Wyllys, will find her, while flattered by the world as an heiress, essentially the same in character and manner, as she was when overlooked and neglected on account of an unusually plain face. If a shade of difference is perceptible, it is only the natural result of four or five years of additional experience, and she has merely exchanged the first retiring modesty of early youth, for a greater portion of self- possession.

In the first months of her new reputation as an heiress, Elinor had been astonished at the boldness of some attacks upon her; then, as there was much that was ridiculous connected with these proceedings, she had been diverted; but, at length, when she found them rapidly increasing, she became seriously annoyed.

“What a miserable puppet these adventurers must think me it is cruelly mortifying to see how confident of success some of them appear!” she exclaimed to her aunt.

“I am very sorry, my child, that you should be annoyed in this way but it seems you must make up your mind to these impertinences it is only what every woman who has property must expect.”

“It is really intolerable! But I am determined at least that they shall not fill my head with suspicions and I never can endure to be perpetually on my guard against these sort of people. It will not do to think of them; that is the only way to keep one’s temper. If I know myself, there never can be any danger to me from men of that kind, even the most agreeable.”

“Take care,” said Miss Agnes, smiling, and shaking her head.

“Well, I know at least there is no danger at present; but as we all have moments of weakness, I shall therefore very humbly beg that if you ever see me in the least danger, you will give me warning, dear Aunt; a very sharp warning, if you please.”

“In such a case I should certainly warn you, my dear. It strikes me that several of your most disagreeable admirers ”

“How call you call them admirers, Aunt Agnes?”

“Well, several of your pursuers, then, are beginning to discover that you are not a young lady easily persuaded into believing herself an angel, and capable of fancying them the most chivalrous and disinterested of men.”

This was quite true; there was a quiet dignity, with an occasional touch of decision in Elinor’s manner, that had already convinced several gentlemen that she had more firmness of character than suited their views; and they had accordingly withdrawn from the field.

“Suppose, Elinor, that I begin by giving you a warning, this morning?” continued Miss Agnes, smiling.

“You are not serious, surely, Aunt?” replied Elinor, turning from some music she was unpacking, to look at Miss Wyllys.

“Yes, indeed; I am serious, so far as believing that you are at this moment exposed to the manœuvres of a gentleman whom you do not seem in the least to suspect, and who is decidedly agreeable.”

“Whom can you mean?” said Elinor, running over in her head the names of several persons whom she had seen lately. “You surely do not suspect No; I am sure you have too good an opinion of him.”

“I am very far from having a particularly good opinion of the person I refer to,” said Miss Agnes; “I think him at least, nothing better than a fortune-hunter; and although it is very possible to do many worse things than marrying for money, yet I hope you will never become the wife of a man whose principles are not above suspicion in every way.”

“I am disposed just at present, I can assure you, dear Aunt, to have a particularly poor opinion of a mere fortune-hunter.”

“Yes; you do not seem to feel very amiably towards the class, just now,” said Miss Agnes, smiling.

“But who is the individual who stands so low in your opinion?”

“It is your opinion, and not mine, which is the important one,” replied Miss Agnes.

“Ah, I see you are joking, Aunt; you half frightened me at first. As far as having no fears for myself, I am really in an alarming state.”

“So it would seem. But have you really no suspicions of one of our visiters of last evening?”

Elinor looked uneasy.

“Is it possible,” she said, lowering her voice a little, “that you believe Mr. Ellsworth to be a common fortune-hunter? I thought you had a very different opinion of him.”

“You are right, my child,” said Miss Agnes, apparently pleased by this allusion to their friend; “I have, indeed, a high opinion of Mr. Ellsworth; but he was not our only visiter last evening,”

“Is it Mr. Stryker? I have half-suspected some such thing myself, lately; I cannot take credit for so much innocence as you gave me. But it is not worth while to trouble oneself about Mr. Stryker; he is certainly old enough, and worldly-wise enough to take care of himself. If he actually has any such views, his time will be sadly thrown away. But it is much more probable that he is really in love with Mrs. Creighton; and it would be very ridiculous in me, to imagine that he is even pretending to care for me, when he is attached to some one else.”

“He may flirt with Mrs. Creighton, but, if I am not mistaken, he intends to offer himself before long to Miss Wyllys; and I thought you had not remarked his advances.”

“I fancy, dear Aunt, that men like Mr. Stryker seldom commit themselves unless they feel pretty sure of success.”

The conversation was here interrupted, Elinor was engaged to ride with Mr. Wyllys, who now returned from the reading-room for his grand-daughter. Mrs. Creighton was also going out with her brother, and proposed the two parties joining; an invitation which Mr. Wyllys had very readily accepted. The horses were ordered, Elinor was soon equipped, and on joining Mrs. Creighton at the door, she was assisted to mount by Mr. Ellsworth. Mr. Stryker had also been invited to ride with them by the pretty widow.

It was a lovely morning, and they moved off gaily on one of the roads leading to Saratoga Lake; Elinor enjoying the air and the exercise, Mr. Ellsworth at her side, doing his best to make his society agreeable, Mrs. Creighton engaged in making a conquest of the two gentlemen between whom she rode. Yes, we are obliged to confess the fact; on her part at least, there was nothing wanting to make up a flirtation with Mr. Wyllys. The widow belonged to that class of ladies, whose thirst for admiration really seems insatiable, and who appear anxious to compel all who approach them to feel the effect of their charms. Elinor would have been frightened, had she been aware of the attack made that morning by Mrs. Creighton, on the peace of her excellent grandfather, now in his seventy-third year. Not that the lady neglected Mr. Stryker by no means; she was very capable of managing two affairs of the kind at the same moment. All the remarks she addressed particularly to Mr. Wyllys, were sensible and lady-like; those she made to Mr. Stryker, were clever, worldly, and piquant; while the general tone of her conversation was always a well-bred medley of much fashionable levity, with some good sense and propriety. Mr. Stryker scarcely knew whether to be pleased, or to regret that he was obliged to ride at her side. He had lately become particularly anxious to advance in the good graces of Miss Elinor Wyllys, for two reasons; he had lost money, and was very desirous of appropriating some of Elinor’s to his own use; and he had also felt himself to be in imminent danger of falling in love with Mrs. Creighton, and he wished to put it out of his own power to offer himself to her in a moment of weakness. Much as he admired the beauty, the wit, and the worldly spirit of the pretty widow, he was half-afraid of her; he judged her by himself; he knew that she was artful, and he knew that she was poor; for her late husband, Mr. Creighton, during a short married life, had run through all his wife’s property, as well as his own, and his widow was now entirely dependent upon her brother.

The attention of the two gentlemen was not, however, entirely engrossed by Mrs. Creighton. Mr. Stryker was by no means willing to resign the field to his rival, Mr. Ellsworth; and Mr. Wyllys was not so much charmed by the conversation of his fair companion, but that his eye could rest with pleasure on the couple before him, as he thought there was every probability that Elinor would at length gratify his long- cherished wish, and become the wife of a man he believed worthy of her. As the party halted for a few moments on the bank of the Lake, Mr. Wyllys was particularly struck with the expression of spirit and interest with which Elinor was listening to Mr. Ellsworth’s description of the lakes of Killarney, which he had seen during his last visit to Europe; and when the gentleman had added a ludicrous account of some Paddyism of his guide, she laughed so gaily that the sound rejoiced her grandfather’s heart.

Elinor had long since regained her former cheerfulness. For a time, Harry’s desertion had made her sad, but she soon felt it a duty to shake off every appearance of gloom, for the sake of her grandfather and aunt, whose happiness was so deeply interwoven with her own. Religious motives also strengthened her determination to resist every repining feeling. The true spirit of cheerfulness is, in fact, the fruit of two of the greatest virtues of Christianity steadfast faith, and unfeigned humility; and it is akin to thankfulness, which is only the natural consequence of a sense of our own imperfections, and of the unmerited goodness of Providence.

“We have had a charming ride, Miss Wyllys!” said Mrs. Creighton, as the party returned to the hotel.

“Very pleasant,” said Elinor.

“Delightful!” exclaimed Mr. Ellsworth. “I hope we shall have such another every day.”

“Then I must try and find an animal, with rather better paces than the one which has the honour of carrying me at present,” said Mr. Stryker.

“But Mrs. Creighton has been so very agreeable, that I should think you would have been happy to accompany her on the worst horse in Saratoga,” observed Mr. Wyllys.

“Only too agreeable,” replied Mr. Stryker, as he helped the lady to dismount, while Mr. Ellsworth performed the same service to Elinor.