James Fenimore Cooper.

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for more than ordinary gaiety; for, although rough in manner, and somewhat
infirm from years, the old bachelor, who was rather addicted to the
customs in which he had indulged in his youth, and was fond of dwelling on
the scenes of former days, was universally beloved where he was intimately
known, for an unbounded though eccentric philanthropy.

The illness of the mother-in-law of Mrs. Wilson had called her to Bath the
winter preceding the spring when our history commences, and she had been
accompanied thither by her nephew and favorite niece. John and Emily,
during the month of their residence in that city, were in the practice of
making daily excursions in its environs. It was in one of these little
drives that they were of accidental service to a very young and very
beautiful woman, apparently in low health. They had taken her up in their
carriage, and conveyed her to a farm-house where she resided, during a
faintness which had come over her in a walk; and her beauty air, and
manner, altogether so different from those around her, had interested them
both to a painful degree. They had ventured to call the following day to
inquire after her welfare, and this visit led to a slight intercourse,
which continued for the fortnight they remained there.

John had given himself some trouble to ascertain who she was, but in vain.
They could merely learn that her life was blameless, that she saw no one
but themselves, and her dialect raised a suspicion that she was not
English, It was to this unknown fair Emily alluded in her playful attempt
to stop the heedless rattle of her brother, who was not always restrained
from uttering what he thought by a proper regard for the feelings of
others.


Chapter II.


The morning succeeding the day of the dinner at the Hall, Mrs. Wilson,
with all her nieces and her nephew, availed herself of the fineness of the
weather to walk to the rectory, where they were all in the habit of making
informal and friendly visits. They had just got out of the little village
of B - - , which lay in their route, when a rather handsome travelling
carriage and four passed them, and took the road which led to the Deanery.

"As I live," cried John, "there go our new neighbors the Jarvis's; yes,
yes, that must be the old merchant muffled up in the corner; I mistook him
at first for a pile of bandboxes; then the rosy-cheeked lady, with so many
feathers, must be the old lady - heaven forgive me, Mrs. Jarvis I
mean - aye, and the two others the belles."

"You are in a hurry to pronounce them belles, John," said Jane, pettishly;
"it would be well to see more of them before you speak so decidedly."

"Oh!" replied John, "I have seen _enough_ of them, and" - he was
interrupted by the whirling of a tilbury and tandem followed by a couple
of servants on horseback. All about this vehicle and its masters bore the
stamp of decided fashion; and our party had followed it with their eyes
for a short distance, when, having reached a fork in the roads, it
stopped, and evidently waited the coming up of the pedestrians, as if to
make an inquiry. A single glance of the eye was sufficient to apprise the
gentleman on the cushion (who held the reins) of the kind of people he had
to deal with, and stepping from his carriage, he met them with a graceful
bow, and after handsomely apologizing for the trouble he was giving, he
desired to know which road led to the Deanery. "The right," replied John,
returning his salutation.

"Ask them, Colonel," cried the charioteer, "whether the old gentleman went
right or not."

The Colonel, in the manner of a perfect gentleman, but with a look of
compassion for his companion's want of tact, made the desired inquiry;
which being satisfactorily answered, he again bowed and was retiring, as
one of several pointers who followed the cavalcade sprang upon Jane, and
soiled her walking dress with his dirty feet.

"Come hither, Dido," cried the Colonel, hastening to beat the dog back
from the young lady; and again he apologized in the same collected and
handsome manner, then turning to one of the servants, he said, "call in
the dog, sir," and rejoined his companion. The air of this gentleman was
peculiarly pleasant; it would not have been difficult to pronounce him a
soldier had he not been addressed as such by his younger and certainly
less polished companion. The Colonel was apparently about thirty, and of
extremely handsome face and figure, while his driving friend appeared
several years younger, and of altogether different materials.

"I wonder," said Jane, as they turned a corner which hid them from view,
"who they are?"

"Who they are?" cried the brother, "why the Jarvis's to be sure; didn't
you hear them ask the road to the Deanery?

"Oh! the one that drove, _he_ may be a Jarvis, but not the gentleman who
spoke to us - surely not, John; besides, he was called Colonel, you know."

"Yes, yes," said John, with one of his quizzing expressions, "Colonel
Jarvis, that must be the alderman; they are commonly colonels of city
volunteers: yes, that must have been the old gem'mun who spoke to us, and
I was right after all about the bandboxes."

"You forget," said Clara, smiling, "the polite inquiry concerning the old
gem'mun."

"Ah! true; who the deuce can this Colonel be then, for young Jarvis is
only a captain, I know; who do you think he is, Jane?"

"How do you think I can tell you, John? But whoever he is, he owns the
tilbury, although he did not drive it; and he is a gentleman both by birth
and manners."

"Why, Jane, if you know so much of him, you should know more; but it is
all guess with you."

"No; it is not guess - I am certain of what I say."

The aunt and sisters, who had taken little interest in the dialogue,
looked at her with some surprise, which John observing, he exclaimed,
"Poh: she knows no more than we all know."

"Indeed I do."

"Poh, poh, if you know, tell."

"Why, the arms were different."

John laughed as he said, "That _is_ a good reason, sure enough, for the
tilbury's being the colonel's property; but now for his blood; how did you
discover that, sis - by his gait and actions, as we say of horses?"

Jane colored a little, and laughed faintly. "The arms on the tilbury had
six quarterings."

Emily now laughed, and Mrs. Wilson and Clara smiled while John continued
his teazing until they reached the rectory.

While chatting with the doctor and his wife, Francis returned from his
morning ride, and told them the Jarvis family had arrived; he had
witnessed an unpleasant accident to a gig, in which were Captain Jarvis,
and a friend, a Colonel Egerton; it had been awkwardly driven in turning
into the Deanery gate, and upset: the colonel received some injury to his
ankle, nothing, however, serious he hoped, but such as to put him under
the care of the young ladies, probably, for a few days. After the
exclamations which usually follow such details, Jane ventured to inquire
who Colonel Egerton was.

"I understood at the time, from one of the servants, that he is a nephew
of Sir Edgar Egerton, and a lieutenant-colonel on half-pay, or furlough,
or some such thing."

"How did he bear his misfortune, Mr. Francis?" inquired Mrs. Wilson.

"Certainly as a gentleman, madam, if not as a Christian," replied the
young clergyman, slily smiling; "indeed, most men of gallantry would, I
believe, rejoice in an accident which drew forth so much sympathy as both
the Miss Jarvis's manifested."

"How fortunate you should all happen to be near!" said the tender-hearted
Clara.

"Are the young ladies pretty?" asked Jane, with something of hesitation in
her manner.

"Why, I rather think they are; but I took very little notice of their
appearance, as the colonel was really in evident pain."

"This, then," cried the doctor, "affords me an additional excuse for
calling on them at an early day, so I'll e'en go to-morrow."

"I trust Doctor Ives wants no apologies for performing his duty," said
Mrs. Wilson.

"He is fond of making them, though," said Mrs. Ives, peaking with a
benevolent smile, and for the first time in the little conversation.

It was then arranged that the rector should make his official visit, as
intended by himself; and on his report, the ladies would act. After
remaining at the rectory an hour, they returned to the hall, attended by
Francis.

The next day the doctor drove in, and informed them the Jarvis family were
happily settled, and the colonel in no danger, excepting from the
fascinations of the two young ladies, who took such palpable care of him
that he wanted for nothing, and they might drive over whenever they
pleased, without fear of intruding unseasonably.

Mr. Jarvis received his guests with the frankness of good feelings, if not
with the polish of high life; while his wife, who seldom thought of the
former, would have been mortally offended with the person who could have
suggested that she omitted any of the elegancies of the latter. Her
daughters were rather pretty, but wanted, both in appearance and manner,
the inexpressible air of _haut ton_ which so eminently distinguished the
easy but polished deportment of Colonel Egerton, whom they found reclining
on a sofa with his leg on a chair, amply secured in numerous bandages, but
unable to rise. Notwithstanding the awkwardness of his situation, he was
by far the least discomposed person of the party, and having pleasantly
excused himself, he appeared to think no more of the matter.

The captain, Mrs. Jarvis remarked, had gone out with his dogs to try the
grounds around them, "for he seems to live only with his horses and his
gun: young men, my lady, nowadays, appear to forget that there are any
things in the world but themselves; now I told Harry that your ladyship
and daughters would favor us with a call this morning - but no: there he
went, as if Mr. Jarvis was unable to buy us a dinner, and we should all
starve but for his quails and pheasants."

"Quails and pheasants," cried John, in consternation, "does Captain
Jarvis shoot quails and pheasants at this time of the year?"

"Mrs. Jarvis, sir," said Colonel Egerton, with a correcting smile,
"understands the allegiance due from us gentlemen to the ladies, better
than the rules of sporting; my friend, the captain, has taken his fishing
rod, I believe."

"It is all one, fish or birds," continued Mrs. Jarvis, "he is Out of the
way when he is wanted, and I believe we can buy fish as easily as birds; I
wish he would take pattern after yourself, colonel, in these matters."

Colonel Egerton laughed pleasantly, but he did not blush; and Miss Jarvis
observed, with a look, of something like admiration thrown on his
reclining figure, "that when Harry had been in the army as long as his
friend, he would know the usages of good society, she hoped, as well."

"Yes," said her mother, "the army is certainly the place to polish a young
man;" and turning to Mrs. Wilson, she abruptly added, "Your husband, I
believe, was in the army, ma'am?"

"I hope," said Emily hastily, "that we shall have the pleasure of seeing
you soon, Miss Jarvis, at the Hall," preventing by her promptitude the
necessity of a reply from her aunt. The young lady promised to make an
early visit, and the subject changed to a general and uninteresting
discourse on the neighborhood, the country, the weather, and other
ordinary topics.

"Now, John," cried Jane in triumph, as they drove from the door, "you must
acknowledge my heraldic witchcraft, as you are pleased to call it, is
right for once at least."

"Oh! no doubt, Jenny," said John, who was accustomed to use that
appellation to her as a provocation, when he wished what he called an
enlivening scene; but Mrs. Wilson put a damper on his hopes by a remark to
his mother, and the habitual respect of both the combatants kept them
silent.

Jane Moseley was endowed by nature with an excellent understanding, one at
least equal to that of her brother, but the wanted the more essential
requisites of a well governed mind. Masters had been provided by Sir
Edward for all his daughters, and if they were not acquainted with the
usual acquirements of young women in their rank of life, it was not his
fault: his system of economy had not embraced a denial of opportunity to
any of his children, and the baronet was apt to think all _was_ done, when
they were put where all _might_ be done. Feeling herself and parents
entitled to enter into all the gaieties and splendors of some of the
richer families in their vicinity, Jane, who had grown up during the
temporary eclipse of Sir Edward's fortunes, had sought that
self-consolation so common to people in her situation, which was to be
found in reviewing the former grandeur of her house, and she had thus
contracted a degree of family pride. If Clara's weaknesses were less
striking than those of Jane, it was because she had less imagination, and
because that in loving Francis Ives she had so long admired a character,
where so little was to be found that could be censured, that she might be
said to have contracted a habit of judging correctly, without being able
at all times to give a reason for her conduct or her opinions.


Chapter III.


The day fixed for one of the stated visits of Mr. Benfield had now
arrived, and John, with Emily, who was the old bachelor's favorite niece,
went in the baronet's post-chaise to the town of F - - , a distance of
twenty miles, to meet him, in order to accompany him in the remainder of
his journey to the Hall, it being a settled rule with the old man, that
his carriage horses should return to their own stables every night, where
he imagined they could alone find that comfort and care to which their age
and services gave them a claim. The day was uncommonly pleasant, and the
young people were in high spirits with the expectation of meeting their
respected relative, whose absence had been prolonged a few days by a
severe fit of the gout.

"Now, Emily," cried John, as he settled himself comfortably by the side of
his sister in the chaise, "let me know honestly how you like the Jarvis's,
and particularly how you like the handsome colonel."

"Then, John, honestly, I neither like nor dislike the Jarvis's or the
handsome colonel."

"Well, then, there is no great diversity in our sentiments, as Jane would
say."

"John!"

"Emily!"

"I do not like to hear you speak so disrespectfully of out sister, whom I
am sure you love as tenderly as I do myself."

"I acknowledge my error," said the brother, taking her hand and
affectionately kissing it, "and will endeavor to offend no more; but this
Colonel Egerton, sister, is certainly a gentleman, both by blood and in
manners, as Jane" - Emily interrupted him with a laugh, which John took
very good-naturedly, repeating his remark without alluding to their
sister.

"Yes," said Emily, "he is genteel in his deportment, if that be what you
mean; I know nothing of his family."

"Oh, I have taken a peep into Jane's Baronetage, where find him set down
as Sir Edgar's heir."


"There is something about him," said Emily, musing, "that I do not much
admire; he is too easy - there is no nature; I always feel afraid such
people will laugh at me as soon as my back is turned, and for those very
things they seem most to admire to my face. If I might be allowed to
judge, I should say his manner wants one thing, without which no one can
be truly agreeable."

"What's that?"

"Sincerity."

"Ah! that's my great recommendation; but I am afraid I shall have to take
the poacher up, with his quails and his pheasants, indeed."

"You know the colonel explained that to be a mistake."

"What they call explaining away; but unluckily I saw the gentleman
returning with his gun on his shoulder, and followed by a brace of
pointers."

"There's a specimen of the colonel's manners then," said Emily, smiling;
"it will do until the truth be known."

"And Jane, when she saw him also, praised his good nature and
consideration, in what she was pleased to call relieving the awkwardness
of my remark."

Emily finding her brother disposed to dwell on the foibles of Jane, a
thing he was rather addicted to at times, was silent. They rode some
distance before John, who was ever as ready to atone as he was to offend,
again apologized, again promised reformation, and during the remainder of
the ride only forgot himself twice more in the same way.

They reached F - - two hours before the lumbering coach of their uncle
drove into the yard of the inn, and had sufficient time to refresh their
own horses for the journey homewards.

Mr. Benfield was a bachelor of eighty, but retained the personal activity
of a man of sixty. He was strongly attached to all the fashions and
opinions of his youth, during which he had sat one term in parliament,
having been a great beau and courtier in the commencement of the reign. A
disappointment in an affair of the heart drove him into retirement; and
for the last fifty years he had dwelt exclusively at a seat he owned
within forty miles of Moseley Hall, the mistress of which was the only
child of his only brother. In figure, he was tall and spare, very erect
for his years, and he faithfully preserved in his attire, servants,
carriages, and indeed everything around him, as much of the fashions of
his youth as circumstances would allow: such then was a faint outline of
the character and appearance of the old man, who, dressed in a cocked hat,
bag wig, and sword, took the offered arm of John Moseley to alight from
his coach.

"So," cried the old gentleman, having made good his footing on the ground,
as he stopped short and stared John in the face, "you have made out to
come twenty miles to meet an old cynic, have you, sir? but I thought I bid
thee bring Emmy with thee."

John pointed to the window, where his sister stood anxiously watching her
uncle's movements. On catching her eye, he smiled kindly, and pursued his
way into the house, talking to himself.

"Aye, there she is indeed; I remember now, when I was a youngster, of
going with my kinsman, old Lord Gosford, to meet his sister, the Lady
Juliana, when she first came from school (this was the lady whose
infidelity had driven him from the world); and a beauty she was indeed,
something like Emmy there; only she was taller, and her eyes were black,
and her hair too, that was black; and she was not so fair as Emmy, and she
was fatter, and she stooped a little - very little; oh! they are
wonderfully alike though; don't you think they were, nephew?" he stopped
at the door of the room; while John, who in this description could not see
a resemblance, which existed nowhere but in the old man's affections, was
fain to say, "yes; but they were related, you know, uncle, and that
explains the likeness."

"True, boy, true," said his uncle, pleased at a reason for a thing he
wished, and which flattered his propensities. He had once before told
Emily she put him in mind of his housekeeper, a woman as old as himself,
and without a tooth in her head.

On meeting his niece, Mr. Benfield (who, like many others that feel
strongly, wore in common the affectation of indifference and displeasure)
yielded to his fondness, and folding her in his arms, kissed her
affectionately, while a tear glistened in his eye; and then pushing her
gently from him, he exclaimed, "Come, come, Emmy, don't strangle me, don't
strangle me, girl; let me live in peace the little while I have to remain
here - so," seating himself composedly in an arm chair his niece had placed
for him with a cushion, "so Anne writes me, Sir William Harris has let the
deanery."

"Oh, yes, uncle," cried John.

"I'll thank you, young gentleman," said Mr. Benfield, sternly, "not to
interrupt me when I am speaking to a lady that is, if you please, sir.
Then Sir William has let the deanery to a London merchant, a Mr. Jarvis.
Now I knew three people of that name; one was a hackney coachman, when I
was a member of the parliament of this realm, and drove me often to the
house; the other was _valet-de-chambre_ to my Lord Gosford; and the third,
I take it, is the very man who has become your neighbor. If it be the
person I mean, Emmy dear, he is like - like - aye, very like old Peter, my
steward."

John, unable to contain his mirth at this discovery of a likeness between
the prototype of Mr. Benfield himself in leanness of figure, and the jolly
rotundity of the merchant, was obliged to leave the room; Emily, though
she could not forbear smiling at the comparison, quietly said, "You will
meet him to-morrow, dear uncle, and then you will be able to judge for
yourself."

"Yes, yes," muttered the old man, "very like old Peter, my steward; as
like as two peas." The parallel was by no means as ridiculous as might be
supposed; its history being as follows:

Mr. Benfield had placed twenty thousand pounds in the hands of a broker,
with positive orders for him to pay it away immediately for government
stock, bought by the former on his account; but disregarding this
injunction, the broker had managed the transaction in such a way as to
postpone the payment, until, on his failure, he had given up that and a
much larger sum to Mr. Jarvis, to satisfy what he called an honorary debt.
In elucidating the transaction Mr. Jarvis paid Benfield Lodge a visit, and
honestly restored the bachelor his property. This act, and the high
opinion he entertained of Mrs. Wilson, with his unbounded love for Emily,
were the few things which prevented his believing some dreadful judgment
was about to visit this world, for its increasing wickedness and follies.
As his own steward was one of the honestest fellows living, he had ever
after fancied that there was a personal resemblance between him and the
conscientious merchant.

The horses being ready, the old bachelor was placed carefully between his
nephew and niece, and in that manner they rode on quietly to the Hall, the
dread of accident keeping Mr. Benfield silent most of the way. On passing,
however a stately castle, about ten miles from the termination of their
ride, he began one of his speeches with,

"Emmy, dear, does Lord Bolton come often to see you?"

"Very seldom, sir; his employment keeps him much of his time at St.
James's, and then he has an estate in Ireland."

"I knew his father well - he was distantly connected by marriage with my
friend Lord Gosford; you could not remember him, I suspect" (John rolled
his eyes at this suggestion of his sister's recollection of a man who had
been forty years dead); "he always voted with me in the parliament of this
realm; he was a thoroughly honest man; very much such a man to look at as
Peter Johnson, my steward: but I am told his son likes the good things of
the ministry; well, well, William Pitt was the only minister to my mind.
There was the Scotchman of whom they made a Marquis; I never could endure
him - always voted against him."

"Right or wrong, uncle," cried John, who loved a little mischief in his
heart.

"No, sir - right, but never wrong. Lord Gosford always voted against him
too; and do you think, jackanapes, that my friend the Earl of Gosford
and - and - myself were ever wrong? No, sir, men in my day were different
creatures from what they are now: we were never wrong, sir; we loved our
country, and had no motive for being in the wrong."

"How was it with Lord Bute, uncle?"

"Lord Bute, sir," cried the old man with great warmth, "was the minister,
sir - he was the minister; aye, he was the minister, sir, and was paid for
what he did."

"But Lord Chatham, was he not the minister too?"

Now, nothing vexed the old gentleman more than to hear William Pitt
called by his tardy honors; and yet, unwilling to give up what he thought
his political opinions, he exclaimed, with an unanswerable positiveness of
argument,

"Billy Pitt, sir, was the minister, sir; but - but - but - he was _our_
minister, sir."

Emily, unable to see her uncle agitated by such useless disputes, threw a
reproachful glance on her brother, as she observed timidly,

"That was a glorious administration, sir, I believe."

"Glorious indeed! Emmy dear," said the bachelor, softening with the sound
of her voice, and the recollections of his younger days, "we beat the
French everywhere - in America - in Germany; - we took - (counting on his
fingers) - we took Quebec - yes, Lord Gosford lost a cousin there; and we
took all the Canadas; and we took their fleets: there was a young man
killed in the battle between Hawke and Conflans, who was much attached to
Lady Juliana - poor soul! how much she regretted him when dead, though she
never could abide him when living - ah! she was a tender-hearted creature!"



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperPrecaution → online text (page 4 of 36)