James Fenimore Cooper.

Eve Effingham : or, Home online

. (page 10 of 13)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperEve Effingham : or, Home → online text (page 10 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


flagration. Those who knew the localities now
began to speak of the natural or accidental
barriers, such as the water, the slips, and
the broader streets, as the only probable means
of arresting the impending destruction. The
cracking of the flames grew quickly distant,
and the cries of the firemen were soon scarcely
audible.

At this period in the frightful scene a party
of seamen arrived, bearing powder in readiness
to blow up various buildings in the streets that
did not possess of themselves sufficient barriers
to the advance of the flames. Led by their
officers these gallant fellows, carrying in their
arms the means of destruction, moved up steadi
ly to the verge of the torrents of fire, and
planted their kegs; laying their trains with

VOL. I. L



218 EVE EFFINGHAM.

the hardy indifference that practice can alone
create, and with an intelligence that did infinite
credit to their coolness. This deliberate cou
rage was rewarded with complete success, and
house after house, crumbled to pieces under the
explosion, happily without an accident.

From this time the flames became less ungo
vernable, though the day dawned and advan
ced, and another night succeeded, before they
could be said to have been got fairly under.
Weeks and even months passed, however, ere
the smouldering ruins ceased to send up smoke,
the fierce element continuing to burn like a
slumbering volcano, as it might be in the
bowels of the earth.

The day that succeeded this disaster was
memorable for the rebuke it gave the rapacious
longing for wealth. Men who had set their
hearts on gold, and who prided themselves on
its possession, and on that only, were made to
feel its insecurity ; and they who had walked
abroad as gods so lately, began to experience
how utterly insignificant are the merely rich
when stripped of their possessions. Eight hun-



EVE EFFINGHAM. 219

dred buildings, containing fabrics of every
kind, and the raw material in various forms,
had been destroyed, as it were, in the twinkling
of an eye.

A faint voice was heard from the pulpit, and
there was a moment when those who remem
bered a better state of things began to fancy
that principles would once more assert their
ascendancy, and that the community would, in
a measure, be purified. But this expectation
ended in disappointment, the infatuation being
too widely spread and too corrupting to be
stopped even by this check, and the rebuke was
reserved for a form that seems to depend on
a law of nature, that of causing vice to bring
with it its own means of punishment.



220 EVE EFFINGHAM.



CHAPTER VIII.

First, tell me, have you ever been at Pisa?

SHAKSPEARE.

THE conflagration alluded to, rather than de
scribed, in the preceding chapter, threw a
gloom over the gaieties of New York, if that
ever could be properly called gay which was
little more than a strife in prodigality and
parade. Eve regretted very little the interrup
tion to scenes in which she had found no
pleasure, however much she lamented the
cause, and she and Grace passed the re
mainder of the season quietly, cultivating the
friendship of such women as Mrs. Hawker and
Mrs. Bloomfield, and devoting their time at
home to the improvement of their minds and



EVE EFFINGHAM. 221

tastes, without ever again venturing within the
hallowed precincts of such rooms as those of
Mrs. Legend.

One consequence of a state of rapacious infa
tuation like that at which we have just hinted, is
the intensity of selfishness which smothers all
recollection of the past, and all just anticipa
tions of the future, by condensing life, with its
motives and engagements, into the present mo
ment. Captain Truck, therefore, was soon for
gotten, and the literati, as that worthy seaman
had termed the associates of Mrs. Legend, re
mained just as vapid, as conceited, as ignorant,
as imitative, as dependant, and as provincial
as ever.

As the season advanced, our heroine began to
look with longings towards the country. The
town life of America offers little to one accus
tomed to it in older and more permanently regu
lated communities; and Eve was already hearti
ly weary of crowded and noisy balls, (for a few
were still given,) of the struggles of an unin-
structed taste, and of entertainments in which
extravagance was seldom relieved by the ele-



222 EVE EFFINGHAM.

gances and conveniences of a condition of so
ciety wherein more attention is paid to the fit
ness of things.

The American spring is the least pleasant of
its four seasons, its character being truly that
of " winter lingering in the lap of May." Mr.
Effingham, who the reader will probably sus
pect, by this time, to be a descendant of a
family of the same name that we have had oc
casion to introduce in another work, had sent
orders to have his country residence prepared
for the reception of our party ; and it was with
a feeling of delight that Eve stepped on board
a steamboat, to escape from a town that, while
it contains so much that is worthy of any capi
tal, contains so much more that is unfit for any
place, in order to breathe the pure air, and to
enjoy the tranquil pleasure of the country. Sir
George Templemore had returned from his
southern journey, and made one of the party,
by express arrangement.

" Now, Eve," said Grace Van Courtlandt, as
the boat glided along the wharfs, " if it were
any person but you, I should feel confident of



EVE EFFINGHAM.

having something to show that would extort
admiration."

" You are safe enough in that respect, Grace,
for a more imposing object in its way than this
very vessel, eye of mine never before beheld.
It is positively the only thing that deserves the
name of magnificent I have yet seen since our
return ; unless, indeed, it may be magnificent
projects."

" I am glad, dear coz, there is this one mag
nificent object, then, to satisfy a taste so fasti
dious."

As Grace's little foot moved, and her voice
betrayed vexation, the whole party smiled, for
while the individuals who composed it felt the
justice of Eve's observation, they saw the real
feeling that was at the bottom of her cousin's re
mark. Sir George, however, though he could not
conceal from himself the truth of what had been
said by the one party, and the weakness be
trayed by the other, had too much sympathy
for the provincial patriotism of one so young
and beautiful not to come to the rescue.

" You should remember. Miss Van Court-



224< EVE EFFINGHAM.

landt," he said, " that Miss Effingham has not
yet had the advantage of seeing the Delaware,
Philadelphia, the noble bays of the South, nor
all that is to be found out of the single town of
New York."

" Very true, and I hope yet to see her a sin
cere penitent for her unpatriotic admissions
against her own country. You have seen the
Capitol, Sir George Templemore; is it not,
truly, one of the finest edifices of the world ?"

" You will except St. Peter's, surely, my
child ?" observed Mr. Effingham with a smile,
for he saw that the baronet was too embarrass
ed to give a ready answer.

" And the Cathedral at Milan ?" said Eve,
laughing.

" Et le Louvre ?" cried Mademoiselle Vief-
ville, who had some such admiration for every
thing Parisian that Grace had for everything
American.

" And, most especially, the north-east corner
of the south-west end and of the north-west
wing of Versailles ?" said John Effingham, in
his usual dry manner.



EVE EFFINGHAM.

" I see you are all against me," rejoined Grace,
" but I hope, one day, to be able to ascer
tain for myself the comparative merits of
things. As nature makes rivers, I hope the
Hudson, at least, will not be found unworthy
of your admiration, gentlemen and ladies."

" You are safe enough there, Grace," ob
served Mr. Effingham, " for few rivers per
haps no river offer so great and so pleasing a
variety, in so short a distance, as this."

It was a lovely bland morning in the last
week of May, and the earth was already tinted
with the soft hues of summer, while the atmo
sphere was assuming that hazy and solemn calm
that renders the season so quiet and soothing,
after the fiercer strife of the elements in winter.
Under such a sky the Palisadoes, in particular,
appeared to advantage, for though wanting in
the terrific grandeur of an Alpine nature, and
perhaps disproportioned to the scenery they
adorn, they were yet bold and peculiar.

The velocity of the boat added to the charm
of the passage, for there was not time for the
scene to pall on the eye; no sooner was one

L5



EVE EFFINGHAM.

object examined in its outlines than it was suc
ceeded by another.

" An extraordinary taste is afflicting this
country in the way of architecture," said Mr.
Effingham, as they stood gazing at the eastern
shore ; " nothing but a Grecian temple being
deemed a suitable residence for a man in these
classical times. Yonder is a structure, for in
stance, of beautiful proportions, and, at this
distance, apparently of a precious material, and
yet it seems better suited to heathen worship
than to domestic comfort.

" The malady has infected the whole na
tion," returned his cousin, " like the spirit
of speculation ; we are passing from one ex
treme to the other in this as in other things.
One such temple, well placed in a wood, might
be a pleasant object enough ; but to see a
river lined with them, with children trundling
hoops before their doors, beef carried into
their kitchens, and smoke issuing, moreover,
from those unclassical objects chimneys, is
too much even of a high class of taste. One
might as well live in a fever. Mr. Aristobulus



EVE EFFINGHAM. 227

Bragg, who is a wag in his way, informs me
that there is one town in the interior that has
actually a market house on the plan of the
Parthenon !'*'

" // Capo di Bove would be a more suitable
model for such a structure," said Eve smiling.
" But I think I have heard that the classical
taste of our architects is anything but rigid."

" This was the case rather than is" returned
John Effingham, " as witness all these tem
ples. The country has made a quick and a
great pas en avant in the way of the fine arts ;
and the fact shows what might be done with
so ready a people under suitable direction.
The stranger who comes among us is apt to
hold the art of the nation cheap ; but, as all
things are comparative, let him inquire into
its state ten years since, and look at it to-day.
The fault just now is perhaps to consult the
books too rigidly, and to trust too little to
invention ; for no architecture, and especially
that of a domestic character, can ever be above
serious reproach, until climate, the uses of the
edifice, and the situation are consulted as lead"



228 EVE EFFINGHAM.

ing considerations. Nothing can be uglier,
per se, than a Swiss cottage, or anything more
beautiful under its precise circumstances. As
regards these unknown temples, which are the
offspring of money merely, let them be de
dicated to whom they may, I should exactly
reverse the opinion, and say, that while no
thing can be more beautiful per se 9 nothing
can be in worse taste than to put them where
they are. 1 '

u We shall have an opportunity of seeing
what Mr. John Effingham can do in the way
of architecture," said Grace, who loved to re
venge some of her fancied wrongs by turning
the tables on her assailant; " for I understand
he has been improving on the original labours
of that notorious Palladio, Master Hiram Doo-
little ! w

The whole party laughed, and every eye
was turned on the gentleman alluded to, ex
pecting his answer.

" You will remember, good people," an
swered the accused by implication, " that my
plans were handed over to me from my great



EVE EFFINGHAM,

predecessor ; and, moreover, that they were
originally of the Composite order. If, there
fore, the house should turn out to be a little
complex and mixed, you will do me the justice
to remember the last important fact. At all
events, I have consulted comfort ; and that I
would maintain it in the face of Vitruvius him
self, is a sine qua non in domestic architec
ture."

" I took a run into Connecticut the other
day," said Sir George Templemore, " and at a
place called New Haven I saw the commence
ment of a taste that bids fair to make a most
remarkable town. It is true, you cannot ex
pect structures of much pretension in the way
of cost and magnitude in this country ; but
so far as fitness and forms are concerned, if
what I hear be true, and the next fifty years
do as much in proportion for that little city
as I understand has been done in the last five,
it will be altogether a wonder in its way.
There are some abortions, it is true, but there
are also some little^jewels."

The baronet was rewarded for this opinion



230 EVE EFFINGHAM.

by a smile from Grace, and the conversation
changed. As the boat approached the moun
tains. Eve became excited, a very American
state of the system, by the way, and Grace
was still more anxious.

" The view of that bluff is Italian," said our
heroine, pointing down the river at a noble
headland of rock, that loomed grandly in the
soft haze of the tranquil atmosphere. " One
seldom sees a finer or a softer outline on the
shores of the Mediterranean itself !"

" But the highlands, Eve !" whispered the
uneasy Grace. " We are entering the moun
tains."

The river narrowed suddenly, and the
scenery became bolder ; but neither Eve nor
her father expressed the rapture that Grace
expected.

" I must confess, Jack," said the mild,
thoughtful Mr. Effingham, " that these rocks
strike my eyes as much less imposing than
formerly. The passage is fine, beyond a ques
tion ; but it is hardly grand^scenery."

" You never uttered a juster opinion, Ned;



EVE EFF1NGHAM. 231

though, after your eye loses some of the forms
of the Swiss and Italian lakes, and of the
shores of Italy, you will think better of these.
The highlands are remarkable for the surprises
they create, rather than for their grandeur, as
we shall presently see. As to the latter, it is
an affair of feet and inches, and is capable of
arithmetical demonstration. We have often
been on lakes beneath beetling cliffs of from
three to six thousand feet in height ; whereas
here the greatest elevation is materially less
than two. But, Sir George Templemore, and
you, Miss Effingham, do me the favour to
combine your cunning, and tell me whence
this stream cometh, and whither we are to go ?"
The boat had now approached a point where
the river was narrowed to a width not much
exceeding a quarter of a mile, and in the di
rection in which it was steering the waters
seemed to become still more contracted, until
they were lost in a sort of bay that appeared
to be closed by high hills, through which,
however, there were traces of something like
a passage.



232 EVE EFFINGHAM.

" The land in that direction looks as if it
had a ravine-like entrance," said the baronet ;
" and yet it is scarcely possible that a stream
like this can flow there !"

" If the Hudson truly passes through these
mountains, 1 ' said Eve, " I will concede all in
its favour that you can ask, Grace."

" Where else can it pass ?" demanded Grace
exultingly.

" Sure enough. I see no other place."

The two strangers to the river now looked
curiously around them in every direction.
Behind them was a broad and lake-like basin,
through which they had just passed ; on their
left a barrier of precipitous hills, whose ele
vation was scarcely less than a thousand feet ;
on their right, a high but broken country,
studded with villas, farm-houses, and hamlets,
and in their front the deep but equivocal bay
mentioned.

" I see no escape,'' cried the baronet gaily ;
" unless, indeed, it be by returning."

A sudden and broad sheer of the boat caused



EVE EFFINGHAM. 233

him to turn to the left, and then they whirled
round an angle of the precipice, and found
themselves in a reach of the river, between
steep declivities, running at right angles to
their former course.

" This is one of the surprises of which I
spoke," said John Effingham, c< and which
renders the highlands so uniq ue ; for while the
Rhine is very sinuous, it has nothing like
this."

The other travellers agreed in extolling this
and many similar features of the scenery, and
Grace was delighted ; for warm-hearted, affec
tionate, and true, Grace loved her country like
a relative or a friend, and took an honest pride
in hearing its praises. The patriotism of Eve
if a word of a meaning so lofty can be ap
plied to feelings of this nature was more
discriminating, her tastes having been formed
in a higher school, and her means of com
parison being so much more ample.

The party stopped at West Point for the
night, and here everybody was in honest rap-



234 EVE EFFINGHAM.

tares ; Grace, who had often visited the place
before, being actually the least so of the whole
party.

" Now, Eve, I know that you do love your
country," she said, as she slipped her arm
affectionately through that of her cousin.
" This is feeling and speaking like an Ame
rican girl, and as Eve Effingham should !"

Eve laughed ; but she had discovered that
the provincial feeling was so strong in Grace that
a discussion would probably do no good. She
dwelt, therefore, with honest eloquence on the
beauties of the place, and for the first time
since they had met, her cousin felt as if there
was no longer any point of dissension between
them.

The following morning was the first of June,
and it was another of those drowsy, dreamy
days that so much aid a landscape. The party
embarked in the first boat that came up, and
as they entered Newburgh Bay the triumph
of the river was established. This is a spot,
in sooth, that has few equals in any region,
though Grace still insisted that the excellence



EVE EFFINGHAM. 235

of the view was in its softness rather than in
its grandeur. The country houses, or boxes
few could claim to be much more were neat,
well placed, and exceedingly numerous. The
heights around the town of Newburgh, in par
ticular, were fairly dotted with them, though
Mr. Effingham shook his head in disapproba
tion as he saw one Grecian temple appear after
another.

" As we recede from the influence of the regu
lar architects," he said, " we find imitation tak
ing the place of instruction ; many of these
buildings are obviously disproportioned, and
then, like vulgar pretension of any sort, Grecian
architecture produces less pleasure than even
Dutch."

u I am surprised at discovering how little of
a Dutch character remains in this state," said
the baronet ; " I can scarcely trace that people
in anything ; and yet, I believe, they had
the moulding of your society, having carried
the colony through its infancy."

u When you know us better, you will be
surprised at discovering how little of anything



236 EVE EFFINGHAM.

remains of a dozen years, returned John Effing-
ham. " Our towns pass away in generations
like their people, and even the names of a
place undergo periodical mutations, as well as
everything else. It is getting to be a pre
dominant feeling in the American nature, I
fear, to love change."

" But, cousin Jack, do you not overlook
causes in your censure ? That a nation, advan
cing fast as this in wealth and numbers,
should desire better structures than its fathers
had either the means or taste to build, and
that names should change with persons, are
both quite in rule."

" All very true, Miss Effingham, though
it does not account for the peculiarity I mean.
Take Templeton, for instance. This little
place has not essentially increased in numbers
within my memory, and yet fully one half of
its names is new. When he reaches his own
home, your father will not know even the
names of one half of his neighbours. Not only
will he meet with new faces, but he will find
new feelings, new opinions in the place of



EVE EFFINGHAM. 237

traditions that he may love, and an indiffer
ence to everything but the present moment.
Even those who may have better feelings, and a
wish to cherish all that belongs to the holier
sentiments, are afraid to utter them, lest they
meet with no sympathy."

*' No cats, as Mr. Bragg would say."
" Jack is one who never paints en beau"
said Mr. Effingham. " I should be very sorry
to believe that a dozen short years can have
made all these essential changes in my neigh
bourhood."

" A dozen years, Ned ! You name an age.
Speak of three or four, if you wish to find
anything in America where you left it ! The
whole country is in such a constant state of
mutation, that I can only liken it to that game
of children, which, as one quits his corner,
another runs into it, and he that finds no
corner to get into, is the laughing-stock of
the others. Fancy that dwelling the residence
of one man from childhood to old age ; let him
then quit it for a year or two ; on his return
he would find another in possession who would



238 EVE EFFINGHAM.

treat him as an impertinent intruder, because
he had been absent two years, and the other
in possession of an eternity of the same pe
riod. An American, always,' in the way of
usages, extends no further back than eighteen
months. In short, everything is condensed
into the present moment, and services, cha
racter, for evil as well as good, unhappily,
and all other things, cease to have weight,
except as they influence the interests of the
day."

" This is the colouring of a professed cynic,"
observed Mr. Effingham, smiling.

" But the law, Mr. John Effingham," eagerly
inquired the baronet, " surely the law would
not permit a stranger to intrude in this manner
on the rights of an owner ?"

" The law books would do him that friendly
office perhaps, but what is a precept in the
face of practices so ruthless? " Les absent
ont toujours tort," is a maxim of peculiar appli
cation in America.

" Property is as secure in this country as in
any other, Sir George, and you will make



EVE EFFINGHAM. 239

allowances for the humours of the present
annotator."

" Well, well, Ned, I hope you will find
everything couleur de rose, as you appear to
expect. You will get quiet possession of your
house, it is true, for I have put a Cerberus in
it that is quite equal to his task, difficult as it
may be, and who has just as much relish for a
bill of costs as any squatter can have for a
trespass; but without some such guardian of
your rights, I would not answer for it that you
would not be compelled to sleep in the highway."
" I trust Sir George Templemore knows
how to make allowances for Mr. John Effing-
ham's pictures," cried Grace, unable to refrain
from saying something any longer.

A laugh succeeded, and the beauties of the
river again attracted their attention. As the
boat continued to ascend, Mr. Effingham tri
umphantly affirmed that the appearance of
things more than equalled his expectations,
while both Eve and the baronet declared that a
succession of lovelier landscapes could hardly
be presented to the eye.



240 EVE EFFINGHAM.

" Whited sepulchres I" muttered John
Effingham, " all outside. Wait until you
get a view of the deformity within."

As the boat approached Albany, Eve ex
pressed her satisfaction in still stronger terms,
and Grace was made perfectly happy by hear
ing her and Sir George declare that the place
entirely exceeded their expectations.

" I am glad to find, Eve, that you are so
fast recovering your American feelings," said
her beautiful cousin, after one of these ex
pressions of agreeable disappointment, as they
were seated at a late dinner in an inn. " You
have at last found words to praise the exterior
of Albany, and I hope, by the time we return,
you will be disposed to see New York with
different eyes."

" I expected to see a capital in New York,
Grace, and, in this, I have been grievously
disappointed. Instead of finding the taste,
tone, convenience, architecture, streets, churches,
shops, and society of a capital, I found a huge
expansion of common-place things, a com
mercial town, and the most mixed and the least



EVE EFFINGHAM. 24*1

regulated society that I had ever met with.
Expecting so much, where so little was found,
disappointment was natural. But in Albany,
although a political capital, I know the nature
of the government too well to expect more
than a provincial town, and in this respect I
have found one much above the level of similar
places in other parts of the world. I acknow
ledge that Albany has as much exceeded my
expectations in one sense, as New York has
fallen short of them in another."

" In this simple fact, Sir George Temple-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperEve Effingham : or, Home → online text (page 10 of 13)