Chapter V. {XXVIII}

“I do beseech your grace, for charity,

 If ever any malice in your heart  

Were hid against me, now to forgive me frankly.” Henry VIII.

{William Shakespeare, Henry VIII, II.i.79-81}

ONE evening, about a week after the arrival of the Wyllyses, there was a dance at Congress Hall, where they were staying. Mrs. Creighton, with her brother, who were already engaged to meet some friends there, urged Elinor very much to join them; but she declined, not wishing to leave Jane. Mr. Ellsworth, who had been very devoted, of late, seemed particularly anxious she should go. But although Elinor’s manner betrayed some little embarrassment, if not indecision, as the gentleman urged her doing so, still she persisted in remaining with her cousin.

{“Congress Hall” = the most fashionable hotel in Saratoga Springs — built in 1811, the original building burned in 1866}

“Well, I am sorry we cannot persuade you, Miss Wyllys; though I dare say you will have a very pleasant evening in your own parlour.”

“We must put, off our game of chess until to-morrow, Mrs. Creighton,” said Mr. Wyllys.

“Yes, unfortunately for me; for I have fully determined to beat you, sir, at our next trial. Well, Frank, we cannot stay here all the evening; I dare say, our friends, the Stevensons, are looking for us in the ball- room already.”

“Mrs. Creighton is a very pretty woman,” observed Mr. Wyllys, as he seated himself at the chess-board, opposite his daughter, after the brother and sister had left the room.

“Yes, a very pretty woman; and she always looks well in her evening- dress,” replied Miss Agnes.

Elinor devoted herself to Jane’s amusement. Ever since they had been together, she had given up a great part of her time to Mrs. Taylor, whom she was very anxious to cheer and enliven, that she might persuade her to throw off the melancholy and low spirits, which her cousin seemed purposely to encourage. The sick baby was better, and Elinor was in hopes that before they parted, she should succeed in awakening Jane to a somewhat better frame of mind. She was very desirous that the time they were together should not be lost; and her kindness was so unwearied, her manner was so affectionate and soothing, and the advice she sometimes allowed herself to give, was so clear and sensible, that at last Jane seemed to feel the good effects of her cousin’s efforts.

After Mr. Ellsworth and his sister had left the room to join the dancers, Jane suddenly turned to Elinor, with tears in her eyes. “How kind you are!” she said. “I dare say you would like to go down-stairs; — but you are too good to me, Elinor!”

“Nonsense, Jenny; I can’t help it if I would. Do you think I should enjoy dancing, if I knew you were sitting alone in this dark corner, while grandpapa and Aunt Agnes are playing chess? You are looking a great deal more woe-begone than you ought to, now baby is so much better.”

“You spoil me,” said Jane, shaking her head, and smiling with more feeling than usual in her unexpressive face.

“I shall spoil you a great deal more before we get through. Next week, when Mr. Taylor comes, I intend to talk him into bringing you over to Wyllys-Roof, to pay a good long visit, like old times.”

“I had much rather think of old times, than of what is to come. There is nothing pleasant for me to look forward to!”

“How can you know that, Jane? I have learned one lesson by experience, though I am only a year older than you, dear — and it is, that if we are often deceived by hope, so we are quite as often misled by fear.”

“I believe, Elinor, you are my best friend,” said Jane, holding out her hand to her cousin.

“Oh, you have more good friends than you think for, and much good of every kind, though you will shut your eyes to the fact.”

“It may be so,” said Jane; “I will try to follow your advice, if I can.”

“Try hard, then,” said Elinor, “and all will go well. And now, shall I sing you the song Mrs. Creighton cut short?”

She began to sing “Auld Lang Syne;” but the song was interrupted before she had finished the second verse. Several persons were heard approaching their room, which was in a retired, quiet part of the house; the door soon opened, and in walked Robert Hazlehurst.

“Well, good people,” he exclaimed, “you take the world as quietly as anybody I know! We supposed, of course, you were at the ball, but Elinor’s voice betrayed you. This way, Louisa,” he said, returning to the door, after having shaken hands with Mr. Wyllys and Miss Agnes.

“How glad I am to see you!” exclaimed Elinor — “you are as good as your word; but we did not expect you for several days;” and Jane and herself went to the door to meet Mrs. Hazlehurst.

“And, pray, what reason had you to suppose that we should not keep our word?” said the latter, as she appeared.

“We thought Harry would probably detain you,” said Elinor.

“Not at all; we brought him along with us.”

“That was a good arrangement we had not thought of,” observed Miss Agnes.

Harry entered the room. He was not entirely free from embarrassment at first; but when Mr. Wyllys met him with something of the cordial manner of old times, he immediately recovered himself. He kissed the hand of Miss Agnes, as in former days, and saluted Elinor in the same way, instead of the more brotherly greetings with which he used to meet her of old.

“And here is Jane, too, Harry,” said Mrs. Hazlehurst, who had just embraced her sister. “You have been so long away, that I dare say you have forgotten half your old friends.”

“Not at all,” said Harry, crossing the room to Jane. “I think myself a very lucky fellow, at finding them all collected here together, for my especial benefit. I met Mr. Taylor for a moment in New York,” he continued, addressing Jane.

“Did he say when he was coming for me?” replied Mrs. Taylor, offering her hand to her kinsman.

“He told me that he should be at Saratoga very shortly.”

“I have a letter for you in my trunk, Jane,” said Mrs. Robert Hazlehurst.

“Don’t you think our invalid much better, already, Louisa?” asked Elinor.

“Yes; she does credit to your nursing.”

“No wonder,” said Jane; “for during the last month I have been petted all the time — first by Mrs. Taylor, then by Aunt Agnes and Elinor.”

“It’s very pleasant to be petted,” said Harry; “that’s precisely what I came home for. I give you my notice, Louisa, I expect a great deal from you in the next three months.”

“Is that the length of your holiday?” inquired Miss Agnes.

“So says my master, Mr. Henley. I understand,” he added, turning to Elinor, “that you have all the agreeable people in the country collected here.”

“There are some thousands of us, agreeable and disagreeable, altogether. They say the place has never been more crowded so early in the season.”

“So I’m told. I was warned that if I came, I should have to make my bed in the cellar, or on the roof. Are Ellsworth and Mrs. Creighton at this house, or at the other?”

“They are staying at the United States. They are here this evening, however, at the dance.”

{“United States” = the other major hotel in Saratoga Springs, less fashionable at this time than Congress Hall}

“Indeed! — I have half a mind to take Ellsworth by surprise. Will they admit a gentleman in travelling costume, do you think?”

“I dare say they will; but here are your friends, coming to look for you.”

At the same moment, Mr. Ellsworth and Mrs. Creighton joined the party.

“How d’ye do, Ellsworth? — Glad to see you, my dear fellow!” cried the young men, shaking each other violently by the hand.

“How do you do, Mr. Hazlehurst?” added the lady, “Welcome back again. But what have you done with your sister-in-law? — for I did not come to call upon you alone. Ah, here you are, Mrs. Hazlehurst. My brother observed you passing through the hall, as you arrived, and we determined that it would be much pleasanter to pass half an hour with you, than to finish the dance. We have been wishing for you every day.”

“Thank you. We should have set out before, if we had not waited for Harry. Elinor tells me half Philadelphia is here, already.”

“Yes; the houses have filled up very much since I first came; for I am ashamed to say how long I have been here.”

“Why, yes: I understood you were going to Nahant.”

“We ought to have been there long ago; but I could not move this obstinate brother of mine. He has never found Saratoga so delightful, Mrs. Hazlehurst,” added the lady, with an expressive smile, and a look towards Elinor. “I can’t say, however, that I at all regret being forced to stay, for many of our friends are here, now. Mr. Hazlehurst, I hope you have come home more agreeable than ever.”

“I hope so too, Mrs. Creighton; for it is one of our chief duties as diplomatists, ‘to tell lies for the good of our country,’ in an agreeable way. But I am afraid I have not improved my opportunities. I have been very much out of humour for the last six months, at least.”

“And why, pray?”

“Because I wanted to come home, and Mr. Henley, my boss, insisted upon proving to me it would be the most foolish thing I could do. He was so much in the right, that I resented it by being cross.”

“But now he has come himself, and brought you with him.”

“No thanks to him, though. It was all Uncle Sam’s doings, who wants to send us from the Equator to the North Pole.”

“Are you really going to Russia, Hazlehurst?” asked Mr. Ellsworth.

“Certainly; you would not have me desert, would you?”

“Oh, no; don’t think of it, Mr. Hazlehurst; it must be a very pleasant life!” exclaimed Mrs. Creighton. “I only wish, Frank, that you were enough of a politician to be sent as minister somewhere; I should delight in doing the honours for you; though I dare say you would rather have some one else in my place.”

“We will wait until I am sent as ambassador to Timbuctoo, before I answer the question.”

“You have grown half-a-dozen shades darker than you used to be as a youngster, Harry; or else this lamp deceives me,” observed Mr. Wyllys.

“I dare say I may have a fresh tinge of the olive. But I am just from sea, sir, and that may have given me an additional coat.”

“Did you suffer much from heat, on the voyage?” asked Miss Wyllys.

“Not half as much as I have since I landed. It appeared to me Philadelphia was the warmest spot I had ever breathed in; worse than Rio. I was delighted when Louisa proposed my coming to Saratoga to see my friends.”

“You will find it quite warm enough here,” said Mr. Wyllys. “The thermometer was 92º in the shade, yesterday.”

“I don’t expect to be well cooled, sir, until we get to St. Petersburgh. After a sea-voyage, I believe one always feels the cold less, and the heat more than usual. But where is Mrs. Stanley? — we hoped to find her with you. Is she not staying at this house?”

“Yes; but she left us early, this evening, not feeling very well; you will not be able to see her until to-morrow,” said Miss Agnes.

“I am sorry she is not well; how is she looking?”

“Particularly well, I think; she merely complained of a head-ache from riding in the sun.”

“Mrs. Stanley has been very anxious for your return; but she will be as agreeably surprised as the rest of us, to find you here,” said Elinor.

“Thank you. I look upon myself as particularly fortunate, to find so many old friends collected in one spot, instead of having to run about, and hunt for each in a different place, just now that I am limited for time.”

“You ought to be greatly indebted to Frank and myself, for breaking our word and staying here; instead of keeping our promise and going to Nahant, as we had engaged to do,” said Mrs. Creighton.

“Certainly; I look upon it as part of my good luck; but I should have made my appearance at Nahant, if you had actually run away from me.”

“I shall believe you; for I make it a point of always believing what is agreeable.”

“As I knew Mrs. Hazlehurst and your brother had engaged rooms here, I hoped you would join us, soon after your arrival,” said Mr. Ellsworth.

“It was much the best plan for you,” said Mr. Wyllys.

Harry looked gratified by this friendly remark.

It was already late; and Mrs. Hazlehurst, who had been conversing in a corner with Jane, complained of being fatigued by her day’s journey, which broke up the party. The Hazlehursts, like Mrs. Creighton and her brother, were staying at the United States, and they all went off together.

When Elinor, as usual, kissed Mr. Wyllys before retiring to her own room, she hesitated a moment, and then said:

“I must thank you, grandpapa, for having granted my request, and received Harry as of old. It is much better that the past should be entirely forgotten. Self-respect seems to require that we should not show resentment under the circumstances,” she added, colouring slightly.

“I cannot forget the past, Elinor. Harry does not stand with me where he once did, by the side of my beloved grandchild; but we will not think of that any longer, as you say. I hope for better things from the future. Bless you, dear!”