James Fenimore Cooper.

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antipathy to any one of the qualities named.

" I hope you will permit me to presume on
an acquaintance that extends back as far as
your grandfather. Miss Ring," he said, " to
present two very intimate friends, Mr. Bragg
and Mr. Truck, gentlemen who will well re
ward the acquaintance."

The lady bowed graciously, for it was a mat
ter of conscience with her to receive every man
with a smile. She was still too much in awe of
the master of ceremonies to open her batteries
of attack, but John Effingham soon relieved
her, by affecting a desire to speak to another
lady. The belle had now the two strangers to
herself, and having heard that the Effinghams
had an Englishman of condition as a compa
nion, who was travelling under a false name,
she fancied herself very clever in detecting him


at once in the person of Aristobulus; while,
by the aid of a lively imagination, she thought
Mr. Truck was his travelling Mentor, and, of
course, a divine of the church of England. The
incognito she was too well-bred to hint at,
though she wished both the gentlemen to per
ceive that a belle was not to be mystified in this
easy manner, like another person. Indeed,
she was rather sensitive on the subject of her
readiness in recognising a man of fashion
under any circumstances, and, to let this be
known was her very first object, as soon as she
was relieved from the presence of John Effing-

" You must be struck with the unsophisti
cated nature, and the extreme simplicity of our
society, Mr. Bragg," she said, looking at him
significantly ; " we are very conscious it is not
what it might be, but do you not think it pretty
well for beginners ?"

Now Mr. Bragg had an entire consciousness
that before this very night he had never seen
any society that deserved the name, but he was
supported in giving his opinions by that secret



sense of his qualifications to fill any station
which formed so conspicuous a trait in his cha
racter, and his answer was given with*an d
plomb that would have added weight to the
opinion of the veriest elegant of the chaussee

" It is indeed a good deal unsophisticated,"
he said, " and so simple that anybody can un
derstand it. I find but a single fault with this
entertainment, which is, in all else, the perfec
tion of elegance in my eyes ; and that is that
there is too little room to swing the legs in

" Indeed ! I did not expect that is it
not the best usage of Europe, now, to bring a
quadrille into the very minimum of space ?"

" Quite the contrary, Miss. All good dan
cing requires evolutions. The dancing Der
vishes, for instance, would occupy quite as
much space as both of these sets that are walk
ing before us ; and I believe it is generally ad
mitted now, that all good dancing needs room
for the legs, as a sine qua non"

" We necessarily get a little behind the


fashions in this distant country. Pray, sir, is
it usual for ladies to walk alone in society ?"

" Woman was not made to move in life
alone, Miss," returned Aristobulus, with a sen
timental glance of the eye ; for he never let a
good opportunity for preferment slip through
his fingers, and failing of Miss Effingham, or
Miss Van Courtlandt, of whose estates and con
nexions, he had some pretty accurate notions, it
struck him Miss Ring might possibly be a very
eligible connexion, as all was grist that came
to his mill : " this, I believe, is an admitted

" By life, you mean matrimony, I sup
pose ?"

" Yes, Miss ; a man always means matri
mony when he speaks to a young lady/'

This rather disconcerted Miss Ring, who
began to pick her nosegay, for she was not ac
customed to hear gentlemen talk to ladies of
matrimony, but only ladies to talk to gentle
men. Recovering her self-possession, however,
she said with a promptitude that did infinite
credit to the school to which she belonged,


" You speak, sir, like one having experience."

" Certainly, Miss, I have been in love ever
since I was ten years old ; I may say I was
born in love, and I hope to die in love."

This a little out-heroded Herod, but the
belle was not a person to be easily daunted on
such a subject: she smiled graciously, there
fore, and continued the conversation with re
newed spirit.

" You travelled gentlemen get odd notions,"
she said, " and more particularly on such sub
jects. I always feel afraid to discuss them with
foreigners, though with my own countrymen I
have few reserves. Pray, Mr. Truck, are you
satisfied with America? Do you find it the
country you expected to see ?"

" Certainly, marm," for so they pronounced
this word in the river when the captain received
his first impressions : " when we sailed from
Portsmouth, I expected the first land we should
make would be the Highlands of Navesink,
and, although I was a little disappointed, I
have had the satisfaction of laying eyes on it
at last."


" Disappointment, I fear, is the usual fate of
those who come from the other side. Is this
dwelling of Mrs. Houston's equal to the resi
dence of an English nobleman, Mr. Bragg ?"

" Considerably better, Miss ; especially in
the way of republican comfort."

Miss Ring, like all belles, detested the word
republican, their vocation being clearly to ex-
clusiveness, and she pouted a little affectedly.

"I should distrust the quality of such com
fort, sir," she said, with point : " but are the
rooms at all comparable with the rooms in
Apsley House, for instance ?"

" My dear Miss, Apsley House is a toil-
gate cabin, compared to this mansion ! I doubt
if there be a dwelling in all England half so
magnificent indeed, I cannot imagine any
thing more brilliant and rich."

Aristobulus was not a man to do things by
halves, and it was a point of honour with him
to know something of everything. It is true,
he knew no more where Apsley House was,
or whether it was a tavern, or a gaol, than
half the other things on which he deliver-


ed oracular opinions ; but when it became
necessary to speak, he was not apt to balk con
versation from any ignorance, real or affected.
The opinion he had just given, it is true, had a
little surpassed Miss Ring's hopes, for the next
thing in her ambition to being a belle, and
" entertaining" gentlemen, was to fancy she
was running her brilliant career in an orbit
of fashion that lay parallel to that of the " no
bility and gentry " of Great Britain.

" Well, this surpasses my hopes," she said ;
" although I am aware we are not much below
the level of the more improved tastes of Europe,
still, I thought we were yet a little inferior to
that part of the world."

" Inferior, Miss ! That is a word that should
never pass your lips; you are inferior to no
thing, whether in Europe or America, Africa
or Asia."

As Miss Ring had been accustomed to do
most of the flattery herself, as behoveth a belle,
she began to be disconcerted with the direct
ness of the compliments of Aristobulus, who
was disposed to " make hay while the sun


shines," and she turned, in a little confusion, to
the captain by way of relief; we say confusion,
for the young lady, though so liable to be mis
understood, was not actually impudent, but
merely deceived in the relations of things ; or,
in other words, by some confusion in usages,
she had hitherto permitted herself to do that
in society which female performers sometimes
do on the stage enact the part of a man.

" You should tell Mr. Bragg, sir," she said,
with an appealing look at the captain, " that
flattery is a dangerous vice, and one altogether
unsuited to a Christian."

" It is indeed, marm, and one I never in
dulge in. No one under my orders can ever
accuse me of flattery."

By " under orders," Miss Ring understood
curates and deacons, for she was aware that the
Church of England had clerical distinctions of
this sort that are unknown in America.

" I hope, sir, you do not intend to quit this
country without favouring us with a dis
course ?"

" Not I, marm I am discoursing pretty



much from morning till night when among my
own people, though I own that this conversa-
tionony rather puts me out of my reckoning.
Let me get my foot on the planks I love, with
an attentive audience, and a good segar in my
mouth, and I'll hold forth with any bishop in
the universe."

" A segar !" exclaimed Miss Ring, in sur
prise. " Do gentlemen of your profession use
segars when performing the offices ?"

" Does a parson take his fees ? Why, Miss,
there is not a man among us who does not
smoke from morning till night."
" Surely not on Sundays !"
" Two for one on those days, more than on
any other. 1 '

" And your people, sir, what do they do, all
this time ?"

" Why, marm, most of them chew, and
those that don't, if they cannot find a pipe,
have a dull time of it. For my part, I shall
hardly relish the good place itself, if segars are

Miss Ring was surprised, but she had heard


that the English clergy were more free than
our own, and then she had been accustomed to
think everything English of the purest water.
A little reflection reconciled her to the innova
tion, and the next day, at a dinner party, she
was heard defending the usage as a practice
that had a precedent in the ancient incense of
the altar. At the moment, however, she was
dying to impart her discoveries to others, and
she kindly proposed to the captain and Aristo-
bulus to introduce them to some of her ac
quaintances, as they might find it dull, being
strangers, not to know any one. Introductions
and segars were the captain's hobbies, and he
accepted the offer with joy; Aristobulus unit
ing cordially in the proposition, as he fancied
he had a right, under the constitution of the
United States of America, to be introduced
to every human being with whom he came in

It is scarcely necessary to say how much the
party, with whom the two neophytes in fashion
had come, enjoyed all this, though they con
cealed their amusement under the calm exte-


rior of people of the world. From Mr. Effing-
ham the mystification was carefully concealed
by his cousin, as the former would have felt it
due to Mrs. Houston, a well-meaning but silly
woman, to put an end to it. Eve and Grace
laughed, as merry girls would be apt to laugh,
at such an occurrence, and they danced the re
mainder of the evening with lighter hearts than
ever. At one, the company retired in the same
informal manner, as respects announcements
and the calling of carriages, as that in which
they had entered ; most, to lay their drowsy
heads on their pillows, and Miss Ring to ponder
over the superior manners of a polished young
Englishman, and to dream of a sermon that
was preserved in tobacco.



Marry, our play is the most lamentable comedy and
most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.

Peter Quince.

OUR task in the way of describing town so
ciety will soon be ended. The gentlemen of
the Effingham family had been invited to meet
Sir George Templemore at one or two dinners,
to which the latter had been invited in conse
quence of his letters, most of which were con
nected with his arrangements. As one of these
entertainments was like all the rest of the same
character, a very brief account of it will
suffice to let the reader into the secret of their

A well-spread board, excellent viands, highly
respectable cookery, and delicious wines, were


met with everywhere. Two rows of men clad in
dark dresses, a solitary female at the head of
the table, or, if fortunate, with a supporter of
the same sex near her, invariably composed the
convives. The exaggerations of a province
were ludicrously apparent in one particular
custom. The host, or perhaps it might have
been the hostess, had been told that there
should be a contrast between the commoner
light of the reception room and the brilliancy of
the table ; and John Effingham actually broke
his legs against a stool, in floundering through
the obscurity of the first drawing-room he en
tered on such an occasion.

When seated at table, the first great duty of
restoration performed, the conversation turned
on the prices of lots, speculations in towns, or
the currency. After this came the regular
assay of wines, during which it was easy to
fancy the master of the house a dealer, for
he was usually either sucking a syphon, or
flourishing a cork-screw. The discourse
would now have done credit to the annual
meeting and convivial dinner of the German


exporters, assembled at Rudesheim to bid for
the article.

Sir George was certainly on the point of
forming a very erroneous judgment concerning
the country when Mr. Effingham extricated
him from this set, and introduced him properly
to his own. Here, indeed, though there was
much to strike an European as peculiar, and
even provincial, the young baronet fared much
better. He met with the same fare, relieved
by an intelligence that was always respectable,
and a tone of manners which, if not unmixed,
had the great merit of simplicity and nature
that are not found in more sophisticated
circles. The occasional incongruities struck
them all more than the positive general faults,
and Sir George Templemore did justice to the
truth, by admitting frankly the danger he had
been in of forming a too hasty opinion.

During this time, which occupied a month,
the young baronet's intimacy in State Street
was increasing ; Eve gradually becoming more
frank and unreserved with him, as she grew
sensible that he had abandoned his hopes of


success with herself ; and Grace as gradually
more cautious and timid, as she became con
scious of his power to please, and of the interest
he took in herself.

It might have been three days after the ball
at Mrs. Houston's that the State Street family
was engaged to look in on a Mrs. Legend, a
lady of what was called a literary turn, Sir
George having been asked to make one of their
party. Aristobulus was already returned to his
duty in the country, where we shall shortly
have occasion to join him ; but an invitation had
been sent to Mr. Truck, under the erroneous
impression of his real character.

Taste, whether in the arts, literature, or any
thing else, is a natural impulse, like love. It is
true, both may be cultivated and heightened by
circumstances, but the impulses must be volun
tary ; and the flow of feeling, or of soul, as it
has become a law to style it, is not to be forced,
or commanded to come and go at will. This is
the reason that all premeditated enjoyments, con
nected with the intellect, are apt to disappoint
expectations ; and why academies, literary clubs,


coteries, and dinners are commonly dull. It
is true that a body of clever people may be
brought together, and if left to their own im
pulses the character of their minds will show
itself; wit will flash, and thought will answer
thought spontaneously ; but every effort to
make the stupid agreeable, by giving a direc
tion of a pretending intellectual nature to their
efforts, is only rendering dulness more con
spicuous by exhibiting it in contrast to what
it ought to be to be clever ; as a bad picture
is rendered the more conspicuous by an ela
borate and gorgeous frame. The latter was
the fate of most of Mrs. Legend's literary even
ings, at which it was thought a distinction to
understand even one foreign language. But it
was known that Eve was skilled in most of the
European tongues ; and the good lady, not feel
ing that such accomplishments are chiefly use
ful as a means, looked about her in order to col
lect a set, among whom our heroine might find
some one to converse with in each of the dia
lects with which she was familiar. Little was
said about it, it is true, but great efforts were


made to cause this evening to be memorable in
the annals of conversazioni; or, as the honest
captain called them, conversationonys.

In carrying out this scheme nearly all the
wits, writers, artists, and literati, as the most
incorrigible members of the book clubs were
styled in New York, were pressingly invited to
be present. Aristobulus had contrived to earn
such a reputation for the baronet on the night
of the ball, that he was universally called a man
of letters, and an article had actually appeared
in one of the papers, speaking of the " Hon.
and Rev. Mr. Truck, a gentleman travelling in
our country, from whose liberality and just
views an account of our society was to be ex
pected, that should, at last, do justice to the
national character." With such expectations,
then, every true American and Americaness
was expected to be at his or her post for the
solemn occasion. It was a rally of literature in
defence of the institutions no, not the institu
tions, for they were left to take care of them
selves but of the vanity of the community.

Alas ! it is easier to feel high aspirations on


such subjects, than to succeed in a provincial
town ; for merely calling a place an Emporium
is very far from giving it the independence,
high tone, condensed intelligence, and tastes of
a capital. Poor Mrs. Legend, desirous of hav
ing all the tongues duly represented, was ob
liged to invite certain dealers in gin from Hol
land, a German linen merchant from Saxony,
an Italian del cavalieri who amused himself in
selling beads, and a Spanish master, who was
born in Portugal, all of whom had just one
requisite for conversation in their respective
languages, and no more. But such assemblies
were convened in Paris, and why not in New

We shall not dwell upon the awful sensa
tions with which Mrs. Legend heard the first
ring at her door on the eventful night in ques
tion. It was the precursor of the entrance of
Miss Annual, as regular a devotee of letters as
ever conned a primer. The meeting was sen
timental and affectionate. Before either had
time, however, to disburthen her mind of one
half of its prepared phrases, ring upon ring


proclaimed more company, and the room was
soon as much sprinkled with talent as a mo
dern novel with jests. Among those who came
first appeared all the foreign corps, for the
refreshments entered as something into the ac
count with them ; and every blue of the place,
whose social position in the least entitled her to
be seen in such a house, Mrs. Legend belong
ing decidedly to good society.

The scene that succeeded was very character
istic. A professed genius does nothing like
other people, except in cases that require a par
ticular display of talent. In all minor mat
ters he or she is sui generis, for sentiment is
in constant ebullition in their souls ; this being
what is commonly meant by the flow of that
part of the human system.

We might here very well adopt the Homeric
method, and call the roll of heroes and heroines
in what the French would term a catalogue
raisonnt; but our limits compel us to be less
ambitious, and to adopt a simpler mode of com
municating facts. Among the ladies who now
figured in the drawing-room of Mrs. Legend,


in addition to Miss Annual, were Miss Mouth-
ly, Mrs. Economy, S. R. P., Marion, Lon-
ginus, Julietta, Herodotus, D. O. Y. E.,
and Mrs. Demonstration ; besides many others
of less note, together with at least a dozen
female Hajjis, whose claims to appear in suqh
society were pretty much dependent on the fact
that, having seen pictures and statues abroad,
they necessarily must have the means of talking
about them at home. The list of men was still
more formidable in numbers, if not in talent.
At its head stood Steadfast Dodge, Esquire,
whose fame as a male Hajji had so far swollen,
since Mrs. Jarvis' reunion, that, for the first
time in his life, he now entered one of the better
houses of his own country. Then there were
the authors of " Lapis Lazuli ;" " The
Aunts ;" " The Reformed ;" " The Con
formed ;" " The Transformed ;" and " The
Deformed ;" with the editors of " The Heb
domad ;" " The Night Cap ;" " The Chry
salis ;" " The Real Maggot ;" and " The Seek
no Further ;" also, " Junius ;" " Junius Bru
tus;" " Lucius Junius Brutus;" " Capt. Kant;"


66 Floriof the author of the u History of Billy
Linkum Tweedle, the celebrated Pottawattamie
Prophet ;" " Single Rhyme,"" a genius who had
prudently rested his fame in verse on a coup
let composed of one line ; with divers amateurs
and connoisseurs, Hajjis, who must be men of
talent, as they had acquired all they knew
very much as American Eclipse gained his
laurels on the turf; that is to say, by a free use
of the whip and spur.

As Mrs. Legend sailed about her rooms,
amid such a circle, her mind expanded, her
thoughts diffused themselves among her guests,
on the principle of animal magnetism, and her
heart was melting with the tender sympathies
of congenial tastes. She felt herself to be at
the head of American talent, and in the secret
recesses of her reason she determined that, did
even the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah menace
her native town, as some evil-disposed persons
had dared to insinuate might one day be the
case, here was enough to save it from destruc
tion !

It was just as the mistress of the mansion


had come to this consoling conclusion, that the
State Street party rang. As few of her guests
came in carriages, Mrs. Legend, who had heard
the rolling of wheels, felt persuaded that the
Lion of the night was now indeed at hand ;
and, with a view to a proper reception, she re
quested the company to divide itself into two
lines, in order that he might enter, as it were,
between lanes of genius.

It may be necessary to explain, at this point
of our narrative, that John Effingham was per
fectly aware of the error which existed in rela
tion to the real character of Captain Truck,
wherein he thought great injustice had been done
the honest seaman ; and, the old man intending
to sail for London next morning, he had per
suaded him to accept this invitation, in order
that the public might be disabused in a matter
of so much importance. With a view that this
might be done naturally and without fuss,
however, he did not explain the mistake to his
nautical friend, believing it most probable this
could be done better incidentally, as it were, in
the course of the evening, and feeling certain of


that wholesome apophthegm, which says that
" truth is powerful, and must prevail." " If
this be so," added John Effingham in his ex
planations to Eve, " there can be no place
where the sacred quality will be so likely to
assert itself as in a galaxy of geniuses, whose
distinctive characteristic is an intuitive percep
tion of all things in their real colours.*''

When the door of Mrs. Legend's drawing-
room opened in the usual noiseless manner,
Mademoiselle Viefville, who led the way, was
startled at finding herself in the very situation
of one who is condemned to " run the gaunt
let." Fortunately, she caught a glimpse of
Mrs. Legend, posted at the other end of the
proud array, inviting her, with smiles, to ap
proach. The invitation had been to a " lite
rary fete" and Mademoiselle Viefville was too
much of a Frenchwoman to be totally discon
certed at a little scenic effect on the occasion
of aftte of any sort. Supposing she was now
a witness of an American ceremony for the first
time, for the want of a representation in the
countrv had been rather a subject of ani-


raadversion with her, she advanced steadily to
wards the mistress of the house, bestowing
smile for smile, this being a part of the pro
gramme at which a Parisienne was not easily
outdone. Eve followed, as usual, sola ; Grace
came next ; then Sir George ; then John Ef-
fingham ; the captain bringing up the rear.
There had been a friendly contest for prece
dency between the two last, each desiring to
yield it to the other on the score of merit ; but
the captain prevailed by declaring " that he
was navigating an unknown sea, and that he
could do nothing wiser than to sail in the wake
of so good a pilot as Mr. John Effingham."

As Hajj is of approved experience, the persons
who led the advance in this little procession
were subjects of proper attention and respect ;
but as the admiration of mere vulgar travelling
would in itself be vulgar, care was taken to re

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperEve Effingham : or, Home → online text (page 7 of 13)