James Fenimore Cooper.

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relief in killing as many as possible, even if
they came to life again hereafter.

" You have been in France, Mr. Truck, be
yond question ?" said Lucius Junius Brutus, in
the way one puts a question.

" France ! I was in France before I was ten



years old. I know every foot of it, from Havre
de Grace to Marseilles."

" Will you have the goodness to explain to
us whether the soul of Chat - to - bri - ong is
more expanded than his reason, or his reason
more expanded than his soul ?"

Captain Truck had a very tolerable notion
of Baron Munchausen, and of his particular
merits, but Chateaubriand was a writer of
whom he knew nothing. After pausing a mo
ment, and feeling persuaded that a confession
of ignorance might undo him, for the old man
began to be influenced by the atmosphere of
the place, he answered coolly :

" Oh ! Chat - to - bri - ong is it you mean !
As whole soul a fellow as I know. All soul,
sir, and lots of reason besides."

" How simple and unaffected !"

" Crack !" exclaimed Florio.

" A thorough Jacobin !" grpwled Captain
Kant, who was always offended when any one
but himself took liberties with the truth.

Here the four wags in the corner observed
that head went to head in the crowd, and that


the rear rank of the company began to disap
pear, while Mrs. Legend was in evident dis
tress. In a few minutes all the Romans were
off; Florio soon after vanished, grating his
teeth in a poetical frenzy, and even Captain
Kant, albeit roused to look truth in the face,
beat a retreat. The alphabet followed, and
even the Annual and the Mouthly retired,
with leave-takings so solemn and precise, that
poor Mrs. Legend was in total despair.

Eve, foreseeing something unpleasant, had
gone away first, and in a few minutes Mr.
Dodge, who had been very active in the crowd,
whispering and gesticulating, made his bow
also. The envy of this man had, in fact, be
come so intolerable, that he had let the cat out
of the bag. No one now remained but the
party entrenched behind the smoke and the
mistress of the house. Pindar solemnly pro
posed to the captain that they should go and
enjoy an oyster supper in company, and the
proposal being cordially accepted, they rose in
a body to take leave.

" A most delightful evening, Mrs. Legend,"

K 2


said Pindar with perfect truth ; " much the
pleasantest I ever passed in a house where one
passes so many that are pleasant."

" I cannot properly express my thanks for
the obligation you have conferred by making
me acquainted with Mr. Truck," added Gray.
" I shall cultivate his society as far as in
my power, for a more capital fellow never

" Really, Mrs. Legend, this has been a
charming night !" observed Pith as he made his
bow ; " I shall long remember it, and I think
it deserves to be sung in verse."

Fun endeavoured to look sympathetic and
sentimental, though the spirit within could
scarcely refrain from grinning in Mrs. Legend's
face. He stammered out a few compliments,
however, and disappeared.

" Well, good night, marm," said Captain
Truck, offering his hand cordially. " This has
been a pleasant evening altogether, though it
was warm work at first. If you like ships, I
should be glad to show you the Montauk's
cabin when we get back; and if you ever think


of Europe, let me recommend the London line
as none of the worst. We'll try and make you
comfortable, and trust to me to choose a state
room; a thing I'm experienced in."

Not one of the wags laughed, until fairly
confronted with the oysters ; then, indeed,
they burst out into a general and long fit of
exuberant merriment, returning to it, between
the courses from the kitchen, like the refrain
of a song. Captain Truck, who was uncom
monly well satisfied with himself, did not un
derstand the meaning of all this boyishness ; but
he has often declared since, that a heartier or
funnier set of fellows he never fell in with than
his four last companions proved to be that

As for the literary soiree, the most profound
silence has been maintained concerning it, nei
ther of the wits there assembled having seen
fit to celebrate it in rhyme, and Florio having
actually torn up an impromptu for the occa
sion, that he had been all the previous day



There is history in all men's lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceas'd ;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life.

King Henry IV,

THE following morning the baronet break
fasted in State-street. While at table little
was said concerning the events of the past
night, though sundry smiles were exchanged,
as eye met eye, and the recollection of the mys
tification returned. Grace alone looked grave,
for she had been accustomed to consider Mrs.
Legend a very discriminating person, and she
had even hoped that most of those who usually
figured in her rooms were really the clever
persons they laid claim to be.

The morning was devoted to looking at the


parts of the town which are appropriated to
business, a party having been made for that ex
press purpose under the auspices of John Effing-
ham. As the weather was very cold, the car
riages were ordered, although the distances
were not great, and they all set off about noon.

Grace had ceased to expect a look of admi
ration from Eve in favour of any of the lions
of New York, her cousin having found it ne
cessary to tell her that, in a comparative sense
at least, little was to be said in behalf of these
provincial wonders. Even Mademoiselle Vief-
ville, now that the freshness of her feelings
was abated, had dropped quietly down into a
natural way of speaking of things ; and Grace,
who was quick-witted, soon discovered that,
when she did make any allusions to similar ob
jects in Europe, it was always to those that
existed in some country town. A silent con
vention existed, therefore, to speak no more on
such subjects, or if anything was said, it arose
incidentally, and as though it were inseparable
from the regular thread of the discourse.

When in Wall-street, the carriages stopped


and the gentlemen alighted. The severity of
the weather kept the ladies in the chariot,
where Grace endeavoured to explain things as
well as she could to her companions.

" What are all the people running after so
intently ?" inquired Mademoiselle Viefville.
(The conversation was in French, but we shall
render it freely into English, for the sake of the
general reader.)

" Dollars, I believe, Mademoiselle. Am I
right, Grace ?"

" I believe you are," returned Grace laugh
ing, " though I know little more of this part of
the town than yourself."

" Quellefoule ! Is that building filled with
dollars, into which the gentlemen are now en
tering? Its steps are crowded !"

" That is the Bourse, Mademoiselle, and it
ought to be well lined, by the manner in which
some who frequent it live. Cousin Jack and
Sir George are going into the crowd,- 1 see."

We will leave the ladies in their seats a few
minutes, to accompany the gentlemen in their
way into the Exchange.


" I shall soon show you, Sir George Temple-
more," said John Effingham, " what is pecu
liar to this country, and what, if properly im
proved, it is truly worth a journey across the
ocean to see. You have been at the Royal
Exchange in London, and at the Bourse of
Paris, but you have never witnessed a scene
like that to which I am about to introduce you.
In Paris, you have beheld the unpleasant spec
tacle of women gambling publicly in the funds,
but it was in driblets, compared to what you
will see here."

While speaking, John Effingham led the
way up stairs into the office of one of the most
considerable auctioneers. The walls were lined
with maps, some representing houses, some lots,
some streets, some entire towns.

" This is the focus of what Mr. Aristobulus
Bragg calls the town trade," said John Effing
ham, when fairly confronted with all these
wonders. " Here, then, you may suit yourself
with any species of real estate that heart can
desire. If a ville is wanted, there are a dozen.
Of farms, a hundred are in market ; that is



merely half a dozen streets, and here are towns,
of dimensions and value, to suit purchasers."
" Explain this; it exceeds comprehension."
" It is simply what it professes to be. Mr,
Hammer, do me the favour to step this way.
Are you selling to-day ?"

" Not much, sir. Only a hundred or two
lots on this island, and some six or eight farms,
with one smallish western village."

" Can you tell us the history of this particu
lar piece of property, Mr. Hammer ?"

" With great pleasure, Mr. Effingham ; we
know you to have means, and hope you
may be induced to purchase. This was the
farm of old Volkert Van Brunt, five years
since, off of which he and his family had made
a livelihood for more than a century by selling
milk. Two years since the son sold it to Peter
Feeler for a hundred an acre, or for the total
sum of five thousand dollars. The next spring
Mr. Feeler sold it to John Search, as keen a
one as we have, for twenty-five thousand; Search
sold it, at private sale, to Nathan Rise, for fifty
thousand, the next week ; and Rise had parted


with it to a company, before the purchase, for
a hundred and twelve thousand cash. The map
ought to be taken down, for it is now eight
months since we sold it out in lots, at auction,
for the gross sum of three hundred thousand
dollars. As we have received our commission,
we look upon that land as out of the market for
a time."

" Have you any other property, sir, that
affords the same wonderful history of a rapid
advance in value ?" asked the baronet.

" These walls are covered with maps of
estates in the same predicament. Some have
risen two or three thousand per cent within
five years, and some only a few hundred.
There is no calculation in the matter, for it is
all fancy."

" And on what is this enormous increase in
value founded ? Does the town extend to these

" It goes much farther, sir; that is to say, on
paper. In the way of houses, it is still some
miles short of them. A good deal depends on
what you call a thing ; in this market, now, if


old Yolkert Van Brunt's property had been still
called a farm, it would have brought a farm
price, but, as soon as it was surveyed into lots,
and mapped "

" Mapped !"

" Yes, sir ; brought into visible lines, with
feet and inches, instead of acres. As soon as it
was properly mapped, it rose to its just value.
We have a good deal of the bottom of the sea
that brings fair prices, in consequence of its
being well mapped.*"

Here the gentlemen expressed their sense of
the auctioneer's politeness and retired.

" We will now go into the sale-room," said
John Effingham, " where you shall judge of the
spirit, or energy, as it is termed, which at this
moment actuates this great nation."

Descending they entered a crowd, where
scores were eagerly bidding against each
other, in the fearful delusion of growing rich
by pushing a fancied value to a still higher
point. One was purchasing ragged rocks, an
other the bottom of rivers, a third a bog,
and all on the credit of maps. Our two ob-


servers remained some time silent spectators of
the scene.

" When I first entered that room," said John
Effingham, as they left the place, u it appear
ed to me to be filled with maniacs. Now, that
I have been in it several times, the impression
is not much altered."

" And all these persons are hazarding their
means of subsistence on the imaginary estimate
mentioned by the auctioneer ?"

" They are gambling as recklessly as he
who places his substance on the cast of the die.
So completely has the mania seized every one,
that the obvious truth, a truth which is as ap
parent as any other law of nature, that nothing
can be sustained without a foundation, is com
pletely overlooked, and he who should now pro
claim in this building principles that bitter
experience will cause every man to feel within
the next few years, would be happy if he escap
ed being stoned. I have witnessed many simi
lar excesses in the way of speculations, but
never an instance so gross, so widely spread,
and so alarming as this."


" You apprehend serious consequences, then,
from the reaction ?"

" In that particular we are better off than
older nations, the youth and real stamina of the
country averting much of the danger; but I
anticipate a terrible blow, and that the day is
not remote when this town will awake to a sense
of its illusion. What you see here is but a
small part of the extravagance that exists, for
it pervades the whole community in one shape
or another. Extravagant issues of paper money,
inconsiderate credits, that commence in Europe
and extend throughout the land, and false no
tions as to the value of their possessions, in
men who five years since had nothing, have com
pletely destroyed the usual balance of things,
and money has become so completely the end
of life, that they cease to think of it as a means.
The history of the world, probably, cannot fur
nish a parallel instance, of an extensive coun
try that is so absolutely under this malign in
fluence, as is the fact with our own at this pre
sent instant. All principles are swallowed up
in the absorbing desire for gain, and national
power, permanent security, the ordinary rules


of society, law, the constitution, and everything
that is usually so dear to men, are forgotten, or
are perverted, in order to sustain this unnatu
ral condition of things."

" This is not only extraordinary, but it is
fearful !"

" It is both. The entire community is in
the situation of a man who is in the incipient
stages of an exciting intoxication, and who
keeps pouring down glass after glass, in the
idle notion that he is merely sustaining na
ture in her ordinary functions. This wide
spread infatuation extends from the coast
to the extremest frontiers of the west, for,
while there is a justifiable foundation for a
good deal of this fancied prosperity, the true
is so interwoven with the false, that none but
the most observant can draw the distinction,
and, as usual, the false predominates."

4C By your account, sir, the tulip mania of
Holland was trifling compared to this ?"

" That was the same in principle as our own,
but insignificant in extent. Could I lead you
through these streets, and let you into the
secret of the interests, hopes, infatuation, and


follies that prevail in the human breast, you,
as a calm spectator, would be astonished at the
manner in which your own species can be de
luded. But let us move, and something may
still occur to offer an example."

" Mr. Effingham I beg pardon, Mr. Effing-
ham," said a very gentlemanly looking mer
chant, who was walking about the hall of the
Exchange, u what do you think now of our
French quarrel ?"

46 I have told you, Mr. Bale, all I have to
say on that subject. When in France, I wrote
you that it was not the intention of the French
government to comply with the treaty; you
have since seen this opinion justified in the re
sult ; you have the declaration of the French
minister of state, that, without an apology from
this government, the money will not be paid ;
and I have given it as my opinion, that the
vane on yonder steeple will not turn more
readily than all this policy will be abandoned
should anything occur in Europe to render it
necessary, or could the French ministry be
lieve it possible for this country to fight for a


principle. These are my opinions, and you
may compare them with facts, and judge for

" It is all General Jackson, sir all that
monster's doings ! But for his message, Mr.
Effingham, we should have had the money long

" But for his message, or some equally de
cided step, Mr. Bale, you would never have it
at all."

" Ah, my dear sir, I know your intentions
are good, but I fear you are prejudiced against
that excellent man, the King of France ! Pre
judice, Mr. Effingham, is a sad innovator on

Here Mr. Bale shook his head, laughed, and
disappeared in the crowd, perfectly satisfied
that John Effingham was a prejudiced man,
and that he himself was only liberal and just.

" Now, that is a man who wants for neither
abilities nor honesty, and yet he permits his
interests and the influence of this very spe
culating mania to overshadow all his sense
of right, facts plain as noon-day, and the


only principles that can rule a country in

"He apprehends war, and has no desire to
believe even facts, so long as *:hey serve to in
crease the danger."

66 Precisely so ; for even p * idence becomes
a perverted quality, when men ire living under
an infatuation like that which now exists.
These men live like the fool who says 6 there is
no death !' "

Here the gentlemen rejoined the ladies, and
the carriages drove through a succession of
narrow and crooked streets, that were lined
with warehouses filled with the products of the
civilized word.

" Very much of all this is a part of the
same lamentable delusion/' said John Effing-
ham, as the carriages made their way slowly
through the encumbered streets. " The man
who sells his inland lots at a profit, secured by
credit, fancies himself enriched, and he extends
his manner of living in proportion ; the boy
from the country becomes a merchant, or what
is here called a merchant, and obtains a credit in


Europe a hundred times exceeding his means, and
thus caters to these fancied wants. In this man
ner is every avenue of society thronged with ad
venturers, the ephemera of the same wide-spread
spirit of reckless folly. Millions in value pass
out of these streets, that go to feed the vanity
of those who fancy themselves wealthy because
they hold some ideal pledges for the payment
of advance in price, like those mentioned by the
auctioneer, and who have some such security
for the eventual payment as one can find in
calling a thing that is really worth a dollar,
worth a hundred."

" Are the effects of this state of things ap
parent in your ordinary associations ?"

" In everything. The desire to grow sud
denly rich has seized on all classes. Even wo
men and clergymen are infected, and we exist
under the active control of the most corrupt
ing of all influences, ' the love of money/ I
should despair of the country altogether,
did I not feel certain that the disease is too
violent to last, and entertain a hope that the
season of calm reflection and of repentance,


that is to follow, will be in proportion to its

After taking this view of the town, the party
returned to State-street, where the baronet
dined, it being his intention to go to Washing
ton on the following day. The leave-taking in
the evening was kind and friendly. Mr. Effing-
ham, who had a sincere regard for his late fel
low traveller, cordially invited him to visit the
mountains in June, the time he had fixed on for
his own return to his proper home.

As Sir George took his leave, the bells began
to ring for a fire. In New York one gets so ac
customed to these alarms, that near an hour
had passed before any of the Effingham family
began to reflect on the long continuance of the
cries. A servant was then sent out to ascer
tain the reason, and his report made the matter
rather more serious than usual.

We believe that in the frequency of these
calamities, the question lies between Constanti
nople and New York. It is a common occur
rence for twenty or thirty buildings to be burnt
down in the latter place, and for the residents


of the same ward to remain in ignorance of the
circumstance until enlightened on the fact by
the daily prints ; the constant repetition of the
alarms hardening the ear and the feelings
against the appeal. A fire of greater extent
than common had occurred a night or two pre
viously to this, and a rumour now prevailed
that the severity of the weather, and the condi
tion of the hoses and engines, rendered the pre
sent danger double. On hearing this intelli
gence, the Messrs. Effingham wrapped them
selves up in their overcoats, and went together
into the street.

" This seems something more than usual,
Ned," said John Effingham, glancing his eye
upward at the lurid vault, athwart which
gleams of fiery light began to shine. " The
danger is not distant, and it seems serious."

Following the direction of the current, they
soon found the scene of conflagration, which
was in the very heart of those masses of ware
houses, or stores, that John Effingham had com
mented on so lately. A short narrow street of
high buildings was already completely in flames,


and the danger of approaching the furnace,
added to the frozen condition of the appara
tus, the exhaustion of the firemen from their
previous efforts, and the intense coldness of the
night, conspired to make the aspect of things
in the highest degree alarming.

The firemen of New York have that superi
ority over those of other places, that the vete
ran soldier obtains over the recruit. But the
best troops can be appalled, and, on this me
morable occasion, the celebrated firemen, from
a variety of causes, became, for a time, little
more than passive spectators of the terrible

There was an hour or two during which all
attempts at checking the conflagration seemed
really hopeless, and even the boldest and most
persevering scarcely knew which way to turn to
be useful. A failure of water, the numerous
points that required assistance, the conflagration
extending in all directions from a common cen
tre, by means of numberless irregular and nar
row streets, and the impossibility of withstand
ing the intense heat in the choked passages,


soon added despair to the horrors of the

They who stood near the fiery masses, were
freezing on one side with the Greenland cold
of the night, while their bodies were almost
blistered with the fierce flames on the other.
There was something frightful in this contest
of the elements, nature appearing to condense
the heat within the narrowest possible limits, as
if purposely to increase its fierceness. The
effects were awful, for entire buildings would
seem to dissolve at the touch, as the forked
flames enveloped them in sheets of fire.

Every one being a-foot within the sound of
the alarm, though all the more vulgar cries had
. ceased, as men would deem it mockery to cry
murder in a battle, Sir George Templemore
met his friends on the margin of this sea of fire.
It was now drawing towards morning; the
conflagration was at its height, having already
laid waste a nucleus of blocks^ and it was ex
tending by many lines in every possible direc

" Here is a fearful admonition for those who


set their hearts on riches," observed Sir George
Templemore, recalling the conversation of the
previous day. " What, indeed, are the designs
of man as compared with the will of Provi
dence !"

" I foresee that this is le commencement de
lafin? returned John Effingham. " The de
struction is already so great as to threaten to
bring down with it the usual safe-guards against
such losses, insurance, and one pin knocked
over of so frail and delicate a fabric, the whole
will become loose, and fall to pieces."

" Will nothing be done to arrest the flames ?"

" As men recover from the panic, their plans
will improve and their energies will revive. The
wider streets are already reducing the fire with
in more certain limits, and they speak of a fa
vourable change of wind. It is thought five
hundred buildings have already been consum
ed, in scarcely half a dozen hours."

That Exchange, which had so lately resem
bled a bustling temple of mammon, was already
a dark and heated ruin, its marble walls being
cracked, defaced, in a tottering condition, or


having fallen down. It was situated on the
confines of the ruin, and our party were
enabled to take their position near it, to ob
serve the scene. All in their immediate vi
cinity was assuming the stillness of deso
lation, while the flashes of fierce light in the
distance still marked the progress of the con

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperEve Effingham : or, Home → online text (page 9 of 13)