Chapter VI. {XXIX}

“The foam upon the waters, not so light.” COWPER.

{William Cowper (English poet, 1731-1800), “Truth” line 43}

As usual at Saratoga, early the next morning groups of people were seen moving from the different hotels, towards the Congress Spring. It was a pleasant day, and great numbers appeared disposed to drink the water at the fountain-head, instead of having it brought to their rooms. The Hazlehursts were not the only party of our acquaintances who had arrived the night before. The Wyllyses found Miss Emma Taylor already on the ground, chattering in a high key with a tall, whiskered youth. The moment she saw Elinor, she sprang forward to meet her.

{“Congress Spring” = principal mineral water source at Saratoga Springs}

“How do you do, Miss Wyllys? Are you not surprised to see me here?”

“One can hardly be surprised at meeting anybody in such a crowd,” said Elinor. “When did you arrive?”

“Last night, at eleven o’clock. We made a forced march from Schenectady, where we were to have slept; but I persuaded Adeline and Mr. St. Leger to come on. You can’t think how delighted I am to be here, at last,” said the pretty little creature, actually skipping about with joy.

“And where is Mrs. St. Leger?”

“Oh, she will he here in a moment. She has gone to Jane’s room. I left her there just now.”

The platform round the spring was quite crowded. In one party, Elinor remarked Mrs. Hilson and Miss Emmeline Hubbard, escorted by Monsieur Bonnet and another Frenchman. They were soon followed by a set more interesting to Elinor, the Hazlehursts, Mrs. Creighton, and her brother.

“I hope none of your party from Wyllys-Roof are here from necessity,” said Harry, after wishing Elinor good-morning.

“Not exactly from necessity; but the physicians recommended to Aunt Agnes to pass a fortnight here, this summer. You may have heard that she was quite ill, a year ago?”

“Yes; Robert, of course, wrote me word of her illness. But Miss Wyllys looks quite like herself, I think. As for Mr. Wyllys, he really appears uncommonly well.”

“Thank you; grandpapa is very well, indeed; and Aunt Agnes has quite recovered her health, I trust.”

“Miss Wyllys,” said Mr. Stryker, offering a glass of the water to Elinor, “can’t I persuade you to take a sympathetic cup, this morning?”

“I believe not,” replied Elinor, shaking her head.

“Do you never drink it”’ asked Mrs. Creighton.

“No; I really dislike it very much.”

“Pray, give it to me, Mr. Stryker,” continued Mrs. Creighton. “Thank you: I am condemned to drink three glasses every morning, and it will be three hours, at this rate, before I get them.”

“Did you ever hear a better shriek than that, Miss Wyllys?” said Mr. Stryker, lowering his voice, and pointing to Emma Taylor, who was standing on the opposite side of the spring, engaged in a noisy, rattling flirtation. After drinking half the glass that had been given to her, she had handed it to the young man to whom she was talking, bidding him drink it without making a face. Of course, the youth immediately exerted himself to make a grimace.

“Oh, you naughty boy!” screamed Miss Taylor, seizing another half- empty glass, and throwing a handful of water in his face; “this is the way I shall punish you!”

There were two gentlemen, European travellers, standing immediately behind Elinor at this moment, and the colour rose in her cheeks as she heard the very unfavourable observations they made upon Miss Taylor, judging from her noisy manner in a public place. Elinor, who understood very well the language in which they spoke, was so shut in by the crowd that she could not move, and was compelled to hear part of a conversation that deeply mortified her, as these travellers, apparently gentlemanly men themselves, exchanged opinions upon the manners of certain young ladies they had recently met. They began to compare notes, and related several little anecdotes, anything but flattering in their nature, to the delicacy of the ladies alluded to; actually naming the individuals as they proceeded. More than one of these young girls was well known to Elinor, and from her acquaintance with their usual tone of manner and conversation, she had little doubt as to the truth of the stories these travellers had recorded for the amusement of themselves and their friends; at the same time, she felt perfectly convinced that the interpretation put upon these giddy, thoughtless actions, was cruelly unjust. Could these young ladies have heard the observations to which they had laid themselves open by their own folly, they would have been sobered at once; self-respect would have put them more on their guard, especially in their intercourse with foreigners.It is, no doubt, delightful to see young persons free from every suspicion; no one would wish to impose a single restraint beyond what is necessary; but, surely, a young girl should not only be sans peur, but also sans reproche — the faintest imputation on her native modesty is not to be endured: and, yet, who has not seen pretty, delicate creatures, scarcely arrived at womanhood, actually assuming a noisy, forward pertness, foreign to their nature, merely to qualify them for the envied title of belles? There is something wrong, certainly, wherever such a painful picture is exhibited; and it may be presumed that in most cases the fault lies rather with the parents than the daughters. Happily, the giddy, rattling school to which Miss Emma Taylor belonged, is much less in favour now, than it was some ten or fifteen years ago, at the date of our story.

{” sans peur, but also sans reproche“ = without fear, but also without reproach (French); the French national hero Bayard (1476-1524), is traditionally called ” Le Chevalier sans peur et sans reproche“}

“How little do Emma Taylor, and girls like her, imagine the cruel remarks to which they expose themselves by their foolish manners!” thought Elinor, as she succeeded at length, with the assistance of Mr. Ellsworth, in extricating herself from the crowd.

As the Wyllys party moved away from the spring, to walk in the pretty wood adjoining, they saw a young man coming towards them at a very rapid pace.

“Who is it — any one you know, Miss Wyllys?” asked Mr. Ellsworth.

“He is in pursuit of some other party, I fancy,” replied Elinor.

“It is Charlie Hubbard coming to join us; did we forget to mention that he came up the river with us?” said Harry, who was following Elinor, with Mrs. Creighton and Mr. Stryker.

The young painter soon reached them, as they immediately stopped to welcome him; he was very kindly received by his old friends.

“Well, Charlie, my boy,” said Mr. Wyllys, “if Harry had not been here to vouch for your identity, I am not sure but I should have taken you for an exiled Italian bandit. Have you shown those moustaches at Longbridge?”

“Yes, sir;” replied Charlie, laughing. “I surprised my mother and sister by a sight of them, some ten days since; it required all their good-nature, I believe, to excuse them.”

“I dare say they would have been glad to see you, if you had come back looking like a Turk,” said Elinor.

“I am determined not to shave for some months, out of principle; just to show my friends that I am the same Charlie Hubbard with moustaches that I was three years ago without them.”

“I suppose you consider it part of your profession to look as picturesque as our stiff-cut broadcloth will permit,” said Mr. Wyllys.

“If you really suspect me of dandyism, sir,” said Charlie, “I shall have to reform at once.”

“I am afraid, Mr. Hubbard, that you have forgotten me,” observed Mr. Ellsworth; “though I passed a very pleasant morning at your rooms in New York, some years since.”

Charlie remembered him, however; and also made his bow to Mrs. Creighton and Mr. Stryker.

“And how did you leave the Mediterranean, sir?” asked Mr. Stryker, in a dry tone. “Was the sea in good looks?”

“As blue as ever. I am only afraid my friends in this country will not believe the colour I have given it in my sketches.”

“We are bound to believe all your representations of water,” remarked Mr. Wyllys.

“I hope you have brought back a great deal for us to see; have you anything with you here?” asked Elinor.

“Only my sketch-book. I would not bring anything else; for I must get rid of my recollections of Italy. I must accustom my eye again to American nature; I have a great deal to do with Lake George, this summer.”

“But you must have something in New York,” said Miss Wyllys.

“Yes; I have brought home with me samples of water, from some of the most celebrated lakes and rivers in Europe.”

“That is delightful,” said Elinor; “and when can we see them?”

“As soon as they are unpacked, I shall be very happy to show them to my friends. They will probably interest you on account of the localities; and I have endeavoured to be as faithful to nature as I could, in every instance. You will find several views familiar to you, among the number,” added Charlie, addressing Hazlehurst.

“I have no doubt that you have done them justice.”

“They are far from being as good as I could wish; but I did my best. You will find some improvement, sir, I hope,” added Charlie, turning to Mr. Wyllys, “since my first attempt at Chewattan Lake, in the days of Compound Interest.”

“You have not forgotten your old enemy, the Arithmetic,” said Mr. Wyllys, smiling. “I am afraid Fortune will never smile upon you for having deserted from the ranks of trade.”

“I am not sure of that, sir; she is capricious, you know.”

“I should think you would do well, Charlie, to try your luck just now, by an exhibition of your pictures.”

“My uncle has already proposed an exhibition; but I doubt its success; our people don’t often run after good pictures,” he added, smiling. “If I had brought with me some trash from Paris or Leghorn, I might have made a mint of money.”

A general conversation continued until the party returned towards the hotels. They were met, as they approached Congress Hall, by several persons, two of whom proved to be Mrs. Hilson, and Miss Emmeline Hubbard. Charlie had already seen his cousins in New York, and he merely bowed in passing. Miss Emmeline was leaning on the arm of M. Bonnet, Mrs. Hilson on that of another Frenchman, whose name, as the “Baron Adolphe de Montbrun,” had been constantly on her lips during the last few weeks, or in other words, ever since she had made his acquaintance. Charlie kept his eye fixed on this individual, with a singular expression of surprise and vexation, until he had passed. He thought he could not be mistaken, that his cousin’s companion was no other than a man of very bad character, who had been in Rome at the same time with himself, and having married the widow of an Italian artist, a sister of one of Hubbard’s friends, had obtained possession of her little property, and then deserted her. The whole affair had taken place while Charlie was in Rome; and it will readily be imagined that he felt no little indignation, when he met a person whom he strongly suspected of being this very chevalier d’industrie, flourishing at Saratoga, by the side of his uncle Joseph’s daughter.

{” chevalier d’industrie“ = con man; swindler; man who lives by his wits (French)}

Charlie had no sooner left the Wyllyses on the piazza at Congress Hall, than he proceeded to make some inquiry about this Frenchman. He found his name down in the books of the hotel, as the Baron Adolphe de Montbrun, which with the exception of Alphonsefor the first name, was the appellation of the very man who had behaved so badly at Rome. He went to Mrs. Hilson, and told her his suspicions; but they had not the least effect on the “city lady;” she would not believe them. Charlie had no positive proof of what he asserted; he could not be confident beyond a doubt as to the identity of this person and the Montbrun of the Roman story, for he had only seen that individual once in Italy. Still, he was convinced himself, and he entreated his cousin to be on her guard; the effect of his representations may be appreciated from the fact, that Mrs. Hilson became more amiable than ever with the Baron, while she was pouting and sulky with Charlie, scarcely condescending to notice him at all. Hubbard only remained twenty-four hours at Saratoga, for he was on his way to Lake George; before he left the Springs, however, he hinted to Mr. Wyllys his suspicions of this Montbrun, in order to prevent that individual’s intruding upon the ladies of the Wyllys party; for Mrs. Hilson delighted in introducing him right and left. As for her other companion, M. Bonnet, he was known to be a respectable merchant in New York.

Several days passed, during which our friends at Saratoga, like the rest of the world there, walked, and rode, and drank the waters, and seemed to pass their time very pleasantly; although the ladies did not either dress or flirt as much as many of their companions, who seemed to look upon these two occupations as the peculiar business of the place. Jane’s spirits improved very much; there was much curiosity to see her, on account of her reputation as a beauty; but, like the rest of her party, she was only occasionally in the public rooms.

“Have you seen the beautiful Mrs. Taylor?” — “I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Taylor, the great beauty, this morning — “What, the beautiful Jane Graham that was? is she as lovely as ever?” — were remarks that were frequently heard in the crowd.

Elinor also came in for her share of the public notice, and the attention she attracted was, of course, of a directly opposite character. There happened to be staying at Congress Hall, just then, a very pretty young lady, from Savannah, who was also considered a great fortune; she was known as the “lovely heiress,” while Elinor, in contradistinction, was spoken of as the “ugly heiress.”

“Do you know,” said a young lady, standing on the piazza one evening, “I have not yet seen the ugly heiress. I should like to get a peep at her; is she really so very ugly?” she continued, addressing a young man at her side.

“Miss Wyllys, you mean; a perfect fright — ugly as sin,” replied the gentleman.

Elinor, at the very moment, was standing immediately behind the speakers, and Mr. Ellsworth, who was talking to her, was much afraid she had heard the remark. To cut short the conversation, he immediately addressed her himself, raising his voice a little, and calling her by name.

The young lady was quite frightened, when she found the “ugly heiress” was her near neighbour, and even the dandy was abashed; but Elinor herself was rather amused with the circumstance, and she smiled at the evident mortification of the speakers. Never was there a woman more free from personal vanity than Elinor Wyllys; and she was indifferent to remarks of this kind, to a degree that would seem scarcely credible to that class of young ladies, who think no sound so delightful as that of a compliment. On the evening in question, the piazzas were crowded with the inmates of the hotels; those who had feeling for the beauties of nature, and those who had not, came out alike, to admire an unusual effect of moonlight upon a fine mass of clouds. Elinor was soon aware that she was in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Hilson and her sister, by the silly conversation they were keeping up with their companions. These Longbridge ladies generally kept with their own party, which was a large one. The Wyllyses were not sorry that they seldom met; for, little as they liked the sisters, they wished always to treat them civilly, on account of their father. The English art of “cutting” is, indeed, little practised in America; except in extreme cases; all classes are too social in their feelings and habits to adopt it. It is, indeed, an honourable characteristic of those who occupy the highest social position in America — those who have received, in every respect, the best education in the country — that, as a class, they are free from the little, selfish, ungenerous feeling of mere exclusiveism.

“Oh, here you are, Miss Wyllys!” exclaimed Emmeline Hubbard to Elinor, who was talking to Mrs. Creighton. “I have been wishing to see you all the afternoon — I owe you an apology.”

“An apology to me, Miss Hubbard? — I was not at all aware of it.”

“Is it possible? I was afraid you would think me very rude this morning, when I spoke to you in the drawing-room, for there was a gentleman with you at the time. Of course I ought not to have joined you at such a moment, but I was anxious to give you the Longbridge news.”

“Certainly; I was very glad to hear it: the conversation you interrupted was a very trifling one.”

“Oh, I did not wish to insinuate that you were conversing on a particularlyinteresting subject. But, of course, I am too well acquainted with the etiquette of polished circles, not to know that it is wrong for one young lady to intrude upon another while conversing with a gentleman.

“If there be such a point of etiquette, I must have often broken it very innocently, myself. I have never practised it, I assure you.”

“Ah, that is very imprudent, Miss Wyllys!” said the fair Emmeline, shaking her fan at Elinor. “Who knows how much mischief one may do, in that way? You might actually prevent a declaration. And then a young lady is, of course, always too agreeably occupied in entertaining a beau, to wish to leave him for a female friend. It is not everybody who would be as good-natured as yourself at such an interruption.”

“I have no merit whatever in the matter, I assure you; for I was very glad to find that — ”

Just at that moment one of Miss Hubbard’s admirers approached her, and without waiting to hear the conclusion of Elinor’s remark, she turned abruptly from the lady, to meet the gentleman, with a striking increase of grace, and the expression of the greatest interest in her whole manner.

Elinor smiled, as the thought occurred to her, that this last act of rudeness was really trying to her good-nature, while she had never dreamed of resenting the interruption of the morning. But Miss Hubbard was only following the code of etiquette, tacitly adopted by the class of young ladies she belonged to, who never scrupled to make their manner to men, much more attentive and flattering than towards one of themselves, or even towards an older person of their own sex.

Elinor, however, had seen such manœuvres before, and she would scarcely have noticed it at the moment, had it not been for Miss Emmeline’s previous apology.

Mrs. Hilson soon approached her. “Has Emmeline been communicating our Longbridge intelligence, Miss Wyllys? Do you think it a good match?”

“I hope it will prove so; we were very glad to hear of it. Mary Van Horne is a great favourite of my aunt’s, and Mr. Roberts, I hear, is highly spoken of.”

“Yes; and he is very rich too; she has nothing at all herself, I believe.”

“Do you know whether they are to live in New York? I hope they will not go very far from us.”

“I suppose they will live in the city, as he is so wealthy; Mary will have an opportunity of tasting the fascinations of high life. I shall introduce her to a clique of great refinement at once. Don’t you think Saratoga the most delightful place in the world, Miss Wyllys? I am never so happy as when here. I delight so much in the gay world; it appears to me that I breathe more freely in a crowd — solitude oppresses me; do you like it?”

“I have never tried it very long. If you like a crowd, you must be perfectly satisfied, just now.”

“And so I am, Miss Wyllys, perfectly happy in these fashionable scenes. Do you know, it is a fact, that I lose my appetite unless I can sit down to table with at least thirty or forty fashionably dressed people about me; and I never sleep sounder than on board a steamboat, where the floor is covered with mattresses. I am not made for retirement, certainly. Ah, Monsieur Bonnet, here you are again, I see; what have you done with the Baron? — is not the Baron with you?”

“No, Madame; he has not finish his cigar. And where is Mlle. Emmeline? — I hope she has not abandonnéme!” said M. Bonnet, who, to do him justice, was a sufficiently respectable man, a French merchant in New York, and no way connected with the Baron.

“Oh, no; she is here; we were waiting for the Baron and you to escort us to the drawing-room; but we will remain until the Baron comes. I have heard something that will put you in good-humour, another of those marriages you admire so much — one of the parties rolling in wealth and luxury, the other poor as Job’s turkey.”

Ah, vraiment;that is indeed delightful; cela est fort touchant; that show so much sensibilité, to appreciate le mérite, though suffering from poverty. A marriage like that must be beau comme un rêve d’Amour!

{” vraiment“ = truly; ” cela est fort touchant“ = that is very touching; ” beau comme un rêve d’Amour“ = as beautiful as a dream of Love (French)}

“You are quite romantic on the subject; but don’t people make such matches in France?”

Ah, non, Madame; le froid calculdominates there at such times. I honour the beautiful practice that is common in votre jeune Amérique; cela rappelle le siècle d’or. Can there be a tableaumore délicieuxthan a couple unisunder such circonstances?The happy époux, a young man perhaps, of forty, and la femmea créature angélique;“ here M. Bonnet cast a glance at Miss Emmeline; ” une crèature angelique{ sic}, who knows that he adores her, and who says to him, ‘ mon ami je t’aime, je veux faire ton bonheur,’ and who bestows on him her whole heart, and her whole fortune; while he, of course, oppressed with gratitude, labours only to increase that fortune, that he may have it in his power to make the life of his bien aiméebeautiful comme un jour de fête!

{” froid calcul“ = cold calculation; ” votre jeune ... “ = your young America; it reminds one of the golden age; ” tableaumore délicieuxthan a couple unisunder such circonstances“ = a prettier picture than a couple united under such circumstances; “époux” = husband. ” la femmea créature angélique“ = the wife an angelic creature; ” mon ami, je t’aime, je veux faire ton bonheur“ = my friend, I love you, I wish to make you happy; ” bien aiméebeautiful comme un jour de fête“ = beloved as beautiful as a day of festival (mixed French and English)}

“You are eloquent, Mr. Bonnet.”

N’est ce pas un sujet, Madame, to toucher le cœur de l’hommein a most delicate point; a man who could be insensible to such delicacy, to such aimable tendresse, would be no better than one of your sauvages, one of your Mohicans!

{” N’est ce pas un sujet, Madame, to toucher le coeur de l’homme ... “ = Is this not a subject, Madame, which touches the heart of man ... ; “to such aimable tendresse“ = to such pleasant affection (mixed French and English)}

“Well, I don’t think so much of it, because it is very common here; such matches happen every day.”

“And who are the happy couple you refer to at présent?

“’Tis a young gentleman of New York city, Mr. Roberts, who is going to marry a young lady, whose father is a neighbour of pa’s.”

“And what is the sum the young lady has bestowed upon her grateful adorateur?

“Oh, the lady has not anything to bestow in this case; it is the gentleman, who is very wealthy, and doing a very handsome business in New York.”

“Ah,” said M. Bonnet, taking a pinch of snuff; “that is not so interesting I think, as when the mariis the favoured party. The heart of man is more susceptible of lasting gratitude for un tel bienfait.”

{” mari“ = husband; ” un tel bienfait“ = such a favor (French)}

“The gentleman has all the money, this time; I don’t think Mary Van Horne will have a cent; do you, Miss Wyllys?”

But Elinor was gone. As the Baron appeared, however, Mrs. Hilson did not regret it.

“Ah, Baron, I thought you were never coming. You ought to be much obliged to me, for I had just told Monsieur Bonnet, we must not move till the Baron comes; the Baron will not know where to find us.”