James Fenimore Cooper.

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her, could have a common interest with them

" I left home the day before yesterday,"
Aristobulus now deigned to reply.

" It is so long since I saw our beautiful
mountains, and I was then so young, that
I feel great impatience to re -visit them,
though the pleasure must be deferred until

" I conclude they are the handsomest
mountains in the known world, Miss Effing,

" That is much more than I shall venture
to claim for them : but, according to my im
perfect recollection, and, what I esteem of far
more importance, according to the united tes
timony of Mr. John Effingham and my father,
I think they must be very beautiful."

Aristobulus looked up as if he had a fa
cetious thing to say, and he even ventured on
a smile while he made his answer :

VOL. i. c


" I hope Mr. John Effingham has prepared
you for a great change in the house ?"

" We know that it has been repaired and
altered under his directions. That was done
at my father's request."

" We consider it denationalized. Miss Ef
fingham, there being nothing like it west of
Albany, at least."

" I should be sorry to find that my cousin
has subjected us to this imputation," said Eve
smiling, perhaps a little equivocally, " the
architecture of America being generally so
simple and pure. Mr. Effingham laughs at
his own improvements, however; in which, he
says, he has only carried out the plans of the
original artiste, who worked very much in
what, I believe, was called the Composite

" You allude to Mr. Hiram Dolittle, a gen
tleman I never saw ; though I hear he has left
behind him many traces of his progress in the
new states. Ex pede Herculem, as we say
in the classics, Miss Effingham. I believe it
is the general sentiment that Mr. Dolittle's


designs have been improved on, though most
people think that the Grecian or Roman ar
chitecture, which is so much in use in Ame
rica, would be more republican. But every
body knows that Mr. John Effingham is not
much of a republican."

Eve did not choose to discuss her kinsman's
opinions with Mr. Aristobulus Bragg, and
she quietly remarked that she " did not know
that the imitations of the ancient architecture,
of which there are so many in the country,
were owing to attachment to republicanism. 1 '

" To what else can they be owing. Miss
Eve ?"

" Sure enough, 1 * said Grace Van Courtlandt,
" these imitations are unsuited to the materials,
the climate, and the uses; and some very power
ful motive, like that mentioned by Mr. Bragg,
could alone overcome all these obstacles."

Aristobulus started from his seat, and mak
ing sundry apologies, declared his previous
unconsciousness that Miss Van Courtlandt was
present ; all of which was true enough, as he
had been so much occupied mentally with her



cousin, as not to have observed her, seated as
she was behind a skreen. Grace received the
excuses favourably, and the conversation was

" I am sorry that my cousin should offend
the taste of the country," said Eve ; " but as
we are to live in the house, the punishment
will fall heaviest on the offenders."

66 Do not mistake me, Miss Eve," returned
Aristobulus in a little alarm, for he too well
understood the influence and wealth of John
Effingham not to wish to be on good terms
with him " do not mistake me ; / admire the
house, and know it to be a perfect specimen
of a pure architecture in its way ; but then
public opinion is not yet quite up to it. / see
all its beauties, I would wish you to know ;
but there are many, a majority, perhaps,
who do not ; and these persons think they
ought to be consulted about such matters."

" I believe Mr. John Effingham thinks less
of his own work than you seem to think
of it, sir; for I have frequently heard him


laugh at it as a mere enlargement of the pe
culiar features of the Composite order. He
calls it a caprice rather than a taste. Nor do
I see what concern a majority, as you term
them, can have with a house that does, not be
long to them."

Aristobulus was surprised any one could
disregard a majority, for, in this respect, he
a good deal resembled Mr. Dodge, though
running a somewhat different career ; and the
look of surprise that he gave was natural and

" I do not mean that the public has a legal
right to control the tastes of the citizens," he
said ; " but in a republican government, you
undoubtedly understand, Miss Eve, it will rule
in all things."

" I can understand that a person might wish
to see his neighbour display good taste, as it
helps to embellish a country ; but a man who
should consult the whole neighbourhood be
fore he built, would be very likely to erect
a complicated house, if he paid much respect


to the different opinions he received; or,
what is quite as probable, have no house at
all I"

" I think you are mistaken, Miss Effing-
ham ; for the public sentiment j ust now runs
almost exclusively and popularly into the
Grecian school. We build little besides tem
ples for our churches, our banks, our ta
verns, our court-houses, and our dwellings : a
friend of mine has just built a brewery on the
model of the Temple of the Winds."

" Had it been a mill, one might understand
the conceit," said Eve ; who now began to per
ceive that her visiter had some latent humour,
though he produced it in such a manner as to
induce one to think him anything but a droll.
" The mountains must be doubly beautiful if
they are decorated in the way you mention. I
sincerely hope, Grace, that I shall find the
hills as pleasant as they now exist in my re
collection !"

" Should they not prove to be quite as
lovely as you imagine, Miss Effingham," re
turned Aristobulus, who saw no impropriety


in answering a remark made to Miss Van
Courtlandt, or any one else, " I hope you will
have the kindness to conceal the 'fact from the

" I am afraid that would exceed my power ;
my disappointment would be so strong. But
may I ask why you desire that I should keep
so cruel a mortification to myself ?"

" Why, Miss Eve," said Aristobulus, look
ing grave, " I am afraid that our people would
hardly bear the expression of such an opinion
from you"

" From me I And why not from me in
particular ?"

" Perhaps it is because they think you have
travelled, and have seen other countries."

" And is it only those who have not tra
velled, and who have no means of knowing the
value of what they see, that are privileged to
criticise ?"

u I cannot exactly explain my own meaning,
perhaps ; but I think Miss Grace will under
stand me. Do you not agree with me, Miss
Van Courtlandt, in thinking it would be safer


for one who never saw any other mountains
to complain of the tameness and monotony of
our own, than for one who had passed a whole
life among the Andes and the Alps ?"

Eve smiled, for she saw that Mr. Bragg
was capable of detecting and laughing at
provincial feeling, even while he was so much
under its influence ; and Grace coloured, for
she had the consciousness of having already
betrayed some of this very silly sensitiveness
in her intercourse with her cousin in connec
tion with other subjects. A reply was un
necessary, however, as the door just then
opened, and John Effingham made his ap
pearance. The meeting between the two gen
tlemen, for we suppose that Aristobulus
must be included in this category, by cour
tesy, if not of right, was more cordial
than Eve had expected, for each really en
tertained a respect for the other, in reference
to a merit of a particular sort ; Mr. Bragg
esteeming Mr. John Effingham as a wealthy
and caustic cynic ; and Mr. John Effingham
regarding Mr. Bragg much as the owner of


a dwelling regards a valuable house-dog.
After a few moments of conversation, the two
withdrew together; and just as the ladies
were about to descend to the drawing-room
previously to dining, Pierre announced to
them that a plate had been ordered for the

c 5



" I know that Deformed ; he has been a vile thief this
seven year ; he goes up and down like a gentleman."

Much Ado About Nothing.

EVE and her cousin found Sir George Tem-
plemore and Captain Truck in the drawing-
room, the former having lingered in New
York with a desire to be near his friends, and
the latter being on the point of sailing for
Europe in his regular turn. To these must
be added Mr. Bragg, and the ordinary inmates
of the house, when the reader will have a view
of the whole party.

Aristobulus had never before sat down to
so brilliant a table, and for the first time in
his life he saw candles lighted at dinner ;
but he was not a man to be disconcerted at a
novelty. Had he been a European of the


same origin and habits, he would have been
betrayed by awkwardness fifty times before the
dessert made its appearance; but being the man
he was, an observer, overlooking a certain pru
rient politeness that rather illustrated his de
portment, might very well have permitted him
to pass among the nameless crowd of the
world, had it not been for a certain remarkable
management in his way of providing for him
self at the table. It is true, that he invited
those near him to eat of everything he could
reach, but he used his knife as a coalheaver
uses a shovel ; the company he was in, how
ever, though fastidious in its own deport
ment, was altogether above silver forkisms ;
and this portion of his demeanour, if it did
not escape undetected, passed away unnoticed.
Not so, however, the peculiarity already al
luded to, which, being characteristic of the
man, deserves to be mentioned a little more in

The dinner at Mr. Effingham's table was
served in the quiet and complete manner that
distinguishes a French dinner. Every dish


was removed, carved by the domestics, and
handed in turn to each guest. But the
delay and dignity of this arrangement suited
neither Aristobulus's go-ahead-ism, nor his
organs of acquisitiveness. Instead of wait
ing, therefore, for the more graduated move
ments of the domestics, he began to take care
of himself, an office that he performed with a
certain dexterity acquired by frequenting or
dinaries, a school, by the way, in which he
had obtained most of his notions of the pro
prieties of the table. One or two slices were
obtained in the usual manner, by means of
the regular service ; and then, like one who
had laid the foundations of a fortune by some
lucky windfall in the commencement of his
career, he began to make accessions, right and
left, as opportunity offered. Sundry entremets,
or light dishes, that had a peculiarly tempting
appearance, came first under his grasp : all
these he soon accumulated within his reach, by
means of taxing his neighbours ; after which
he ventured to send his plate, here and there,


wherever he saw a dish that promised to re
ward his trouble. By such means, which
were resorted to, however, with a quiet and
unobtrusive assiduity that escaped much ob
servation, Mr. Bragg contrived to make his
own plate an epitome of the first course.
It contained in the centre, fish, beef, and ham,
and around these staple articles he had ar
ranged croquettes, rognons, ragouts, vegetables,
and other light things, until not only was the
plate completely covered, but it was actually
covered in double and triple layers ; mustard,
cold butter, salt, and even pepper, garnishing
its edges. These different accumulations were
the work of time and address, and most of
the company had repeatedly changed their
plates before Aristobulus had eaten a mouth
ful, the soup excepted. The happy moment
when his ingenuity was to be rewarded had
now arrived, and the land agent was about to
commence the process of mastication, or of de
glutition rather, for he troubled himself very
little with the first operation, when the report


of a cork drew his attention towards the cham
pagne. To Aristobulus this wine never came
amiss, for, relishing its piquancy, he had never
gone far enough into the science of the table
to learn which were the proper moments for
using it. As respected the rest of the company,
this moment had in truth arrived ; though,
as respected himself, he was no nearer to it,
according to a regulated taste, than when he
first took his seat. Perceiving that Pierre was
serving it, however, he presented his glass,
and enjoyed a delicious instant as he swallowed
a beverage that much surpassed anything that
he had ever known to issue out of the waxed
and leaded nozzles, that garnished sundry vil
lage bars of his acquaintance, pointed like so
many enemies' batteries, loaded with headaches
and disordered stomachs.

Aristobulus finished his glass at a draught,
and when he took breath he fairly smacked
his lips. That was an unlucky instant, his
plate, burthened with all its treasures, being
removed at this unguarded moment ; the man
who performed the unkind office fancying that


a dislike to the dishes could alone have given
rise to an omnium gatherum which he had never
before witnessed.

It was necessary to commence de novo ; but
this could no longer be done with the nrst
course, which had been removed ; and Aristo-
bulus set to with zeal forthwith on the game.
Necessity now compelled him to eat as the dif
ferent dishes were offered ; and exercising his
ordinary assiduity with his knife and fork,
at the end of the second remove, he had
actually disposed of more food than any other
person at table. He now began to converse,
and we shall open the conversation at the pre
cise point in the dinner when it was in the
power of Aristobulus to become one of the in

Unlike Mr. Dodge, he had betrayed no pecu
liar interest in a baronet, being a man too shrewd
and worldly to set his heart on trifles of any
sort, and Mr. Bragg no more hesitated about
replying to Sir George Templemore or Mr.
Effingham, than he would have hesitated about
replying to one of his nearest associates.


With him age and experience formed no par
ticular claims to be heard ; and, as to rank,
it is true he had some vague ideas about
such a thing in the militia, but to un-
salaried rank he attached no great import
ance. Sir George Templemore was inquir
ing concerning the recording of deeds, a
regulation that had recently attracted atten
tion in England, and one of Mr. Effingham's
replies contained some immaterial inaccuracy
which Aristobulus took occasion to correct, as
his coup d'essai in the general discourse.

" I ask pardon, sir," he concluded his expla
nations by saying, " but I ought to know
these little niceties, having served a short part
of a term as a county clerk, to fill a vacancy
occasioned by death."

i( You mean, Mr. Bragg, that you were
employed to write in a county clerk's office,"
observed John Effingham, who so much dis
liked untruth that he did not hesitate to
rebuke what was untrue, or what he fancied to
be so, without much ceremony.

" As county clerk, sir. Major Pippin died


a year before his time was out, and I got the
appointment. As regular a county clerk, sir,
as there is in the fifty-six counties of New

" When I had the honour to engage you as
Mr. Effingham's agent, sir," returned the other
a little sternly, for he felt his own character
for veracity involved in that of the subject of
his selection, " I believe, indeed, that you were
writing in the office, but I did not understand
you were he clerk."

Very true, Mr. John," returned Aristo-
bulus, without discovering the least concern;
44 I was then engaged by my successor as a
clerk ; but a few months earlier I filled the
office of county clerk."

" Had you gone on in the regular line of
promotion, my dear sir, to what preferment
would you have risen by this time V pithily
inquired Captain Truck.

44 I believe I understand you, gentlemen,"
returned the unmoved Aristobulus, who per
ceived a general smile. 44 I know that some
people are particular about keeping pretty


much on the same level as to office ; but I hold
to no such doctrine. If one good thing cannot
be had, I do not see that it is a reason for
rejecting another. I ran that year for sheriff,
and finding I was not strong enough to
carry the county, I accepted my successor's
offer to write in the office until something
better might turn up. 11

" You practised all this time, I believe, Mr.
Bragg," observed John Effingham.

" I did a little in that way, too, sir ; or as
much as I could. Law is flat with us of late,
and many of the attorneys are turning their
attention to other callings."

" And pray, sir," asked Sir George, " what
is the favourite pursuit of most of them just
now ?"

" Some our way have gone into the horse
line; but much the greater portion are just
now dealing in western cities."

" In western cities !" exclaimed the baronet,
looking as if he suspected a mystification.

" In such articles, and in mill-seats, and rail
road lines, and other expectations."


" Mr. Bragg means that they are buying
and selling lands on which it is hoped all these
conveniencies may exist a century hence," ex
plained John Effingham.

" The hope is for next year, or next week,
even, Mr. John," returned Aristobulus with a
sly look ; " though you may be very right as
to the reality. Great fortunes have been made
on a capital of hopes lately, in this country."

" And you have been able yourself to resist
these temptations?" asked Mr. Effingham: " I
feel doubly indebted to you, sir, that you
should have continued to devote your time to
my interests, while so many better things pre
sented themselves. 1 '

" It was my duty, sir," bowing so much
the lower from the consciousness that he had
actually deserted his post for some months to
embark in the western speculations which then
were so active in the country, " not to say my
pleasure. There are many profitable occupa
tions in this country, Sir George, that have
been overlooked in the eagerness to embark in
the town trade."


" Town trade !"

" Mr. Bragg does not mean trade in town,
but trade in towns," explained John Effing-

" Yes, sir, the traffic in cities. I never
come this way without casting an eye about
me, in order to see if there is anything to be
done that is useful, and I confess that several
available opportunities have offered, if one had
capital. Milk is a good business."

" Le lait /" exclaimed Mademoiselle Vief-
ville involuntarily.

" Yes, ma'am, for ladies as well as gentle
men. Sweet potatoes I have heard well spoken
of; and peaches are really making some rich
men's fortunes."

" All of which are honester and better occu
pations than the traffic in cities that you have
mentioned," quietly observed Mr. Effingham.

Aristobulus looked up in a little surprise,
for with him everything was eligible that re
turned a good profit, and all things honest
that the laws did not actually prohibit. Per
ceiving, however, that the company was dis-


posed to listen, and having by this time reco
vered his lost ground in the way of food, he
cheerfully resumed his theme.

" Many families have left Otsego this and
the last summer, Mr. Effingham, as emigrants
for the west. The fever has spread far and

" The fever ! Is old Otsego," for so its
inhabitants love to call a county of half a cen
tury's existence, which is venerable by com
parison, "is old Otsego losing its well-estab
lished character for salubrity ?"

" I do not allude to an animal fever, but to
the western fever."

" Ce pays de V Quest, est il bien malsain ?"
whispered Mademoiselle Viefvjlle.

" Apparemment, mademoiselle, sur plusieurs

" The western fever has seized old and
young; and it has carried off many entire
families from our part of the world," continued
Aristobulus, who did not understand the little
aszWejust mentioned, and who, of course, did
not heed it ; " most of the counties adjoining


our own have lost a considerable portion of
their population also."

" And they who have gone ; do they belong
to the permanent families, or are they merely
the floating inhabitants ?" inquired Mr. Effing-

" Most of them belong to the regular

" Movers !" again exclaimed Sir George ;
" is there any material part of your population
who actually deserve this name ?"

" As much so as the man who shoes a horse
ought to be called a smith, or the man who
frames a house a carpenter," answered John

" To be sure," continued Mr. Bragg, " we
have a pretty considerable leaven of them in
our political dough, as well as in our active
business. I believe, Sir George, that in Eng
land men are tolerably stationary."

" We love to continue for generations on
the same spot. We love the tree that our
forefathers planted, the roof that they built,
the fire-side by which they sat, the sods that
cover their remains."


" Very poetical ; and I dare say there are
situations in life in which such feelings come
in without much effort. It must be a great
check to business operations, however, in your
part of the world, sir."

" Business operations ! What is business,
as you term it, sir, to the affections, to the
feelings of ancestry, and to the solemn ties
connected with history and traditions ?"

" Why, sir, in the way of history one meets
with but few incumbrances in this country ;
but one may do very much as interest dictates,
so far as that is concerned, at least. A nation
is much to be pitied that is weighed down by
the past in this manner, since its industry and
enterprise are constantly impeded by obstacles
that grow out of its recollections. America
may, indeed, be termed a happy and a free
country, Mr. John Effingham, in this as well
as in all other things."

Sir George Templemore was too well bred to
utter all that he felt at that moment, as it would
unavoidably have wounded the feelings of his
hosts ; but he was rewarded for his forbearance


by intelligent smiles from Eve and Grace ; the
latter of whom the young baronet fancied, just
at that moment, was quite as beautiful as her
cousin, and if less finished in manners, had the
most interesting na'ivete.

66 I have been told that most old nations
have to struggle with difficulties that we es
cape," returned John Effingham ; " though I
confess this is a superiority on our part that
never before presented itself to my mind."

" The political economist," observed Mr.
Bragg, " and even the geographers, have over
looked it ; but practical men see and feel its
advantages every hour in the day. I have
been told, Sir George Templemore, that in
England there are difficulties in running high
ways and streets through homesteads and
dwellings, and that even a rail-road, or a
canal, is obliged to make a curve to avoid
a churchyard, or a tombstone ?"

" I confess the sin, sir."

" Our friend Mr. Bragg," interposed John
Effingham, " considers life as all means and
no end"


" An end cannot be got at without the
means, Mr. John Effingham, as I trust you
will yourself admit. I am for the end of the
road, at least, and must say that I rejoice in
being a native of a country in which as few
impediments as possible exist to onward im
pulses. The man who should resist an im
provement, in our part of the country, on
account of his forefathers, would fare badly
among his contemporaries."

" Will you permit me to ask, Mr. Bragg,
if you feel no local attachment yourself?" in
quired the baronet, throwing as much delicacy
into the tones of his voice as a question that
he felt ought to be an insult to a man's heart
would allow ; " if one tree is not more plea
sant than another ; the house you were born
in more beautiful in your eyes than a house
into which you never entered ; or the altar at
which you have long worshipped, more sacred
than another at which you never knelt ?"

" Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than
to answer the questions of gentlemen that
travel through our country," returned Aristo-



bulus ; " for I think that in making nations
acquainted with each other, we encourage
trade, and render business more secure. To
reply to your inquiry, then, a human being is
not a cat, to love a locality rather than its own

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperEve Effingham : or, Home → online text (page 2 of 13)