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That night the attorney arrived from town with the title-deeds all
properly executed (they had been some time in preparation for Lord
Pledge), and the following morning early the tenants were served with
the usual notices, with a handsomely expressed sentiment on my part in
favor of "a stake in society." About noon Lord Pledge walked over the
course, as it is expressed at Newmarket and Doncaster. After dinner we
separated, my noble friend returning to town, while I pursued my way to
the rectory.

Anna never appeared more fresh, more serene, more elevated above
mortality, than when we met, a week after I had quitted Householder, in
the breakfast-parlor of her father's abode.

"You are beginning to look like yourself again, Jack," she said,
extending her hand with the simple cordiality of an Englishwoman; "and I
hope we shall find you more rational."

"Ah, Anna, if I could only presume to throw myself at your feet, and
tell you how much and what I feel, I should be the happiest fellow in
all England."

"As it is you are the most miserable!" the laughing girl answered
as, crimsoned to the temples, she drew away the hand I was foolishly
pressing against my heart. "Let us go to breakfast, Mr. Goldencalf - my
father has ridden across the country to visit Dr. Liturgy."

"Anna," I said, after seating myself and taking a cup of tea from
fingers that were rosy as the morn, "I fear you are the greatest enemy
that I have on earth."

"John Goldencalf!" exclaimed the startled girl, turning pale and then
flushing violently. "Pray explain yourself."

"I love you to my heart's core - could marry you, and then, I fear,
worship you, as man never before worshipped woman."

Anna laughed faintly.

"And you feel in danger of the sin of idolatry?" she at length succeeded
in saying.

"No, I am in danger of narrowing my sympathies - of losing a broad and
safe hold of life - of losing my proper stake in society - of - in short,
of becoming as useless to my fellows as my poor, poor father, and of
making an end as miserable. Oh! Anna, could you have witnessed the
hopelessness of that death-bed, you could never wish me a fate like
his!"

My pen is unequal to convey an adequate idea of the expression with
which Anna regarded me. Wonder, doubt, apprehension, affection, and
anguish were all beaming in her eyes; but the unnatural brightness of
these conflicting sentiments was tempered by a softness that resembled
the pearly lustre of an Italian sky.

"If I yield to my fondness, Anna, in what will my condition differ from
that of my miserable father's? He concentrated his feelings in the love
of money, and I - yes, I feel it here, I know it is here - I should love
you so intensely as to shut out every generous sentiment in favor of
others. I have a fearful responsibility on my shoulders - wealth, gold;
gold beyond limits; and to save my very soul I must extend not narrow my
interest in my fellow-creatures. Were there a hundred such Annas I might
press you all to my heart - but, one! - no - no - 'twould be misery - 'twould
be perdition! The very excess of such a passion would render me a
heartless miser, unworthy of the confidence of my fellow-men!"

The radiant and yet serene eyes of Anna seemed to read my soul; and when
I had done speaking she arose, stole timidly to my side of the table, as
woman approaches when she feels most, placed her velvet-like hand on
my burning forehead, pressed its throbbing pulses gently to her heart,
burst into tears, and fled.

We dined alone, nor did we meet again until the dinner hour. The manner
of Anna was soothing, gentle, even affectionate; but she carefully
avoided the subject of the morning. As for myself, I was constantly
brooding over the danger of concentrating interests, and of the
excellence of the social-stake system. "Your spirits will be better,
Jack, in a day or two," said Anna, when we had taken wine after the
soup. "Country air and old friends will restore your freshness and
color."

"If there were a thousand Annas I could be happy as man was never happy
before! But I must not, dare not, lessen my hold on society."

"All of which proves my insufficiency to render you happy. But here
comes Francis with yesterday morning's paper - let us see what society is
about in London."

After a few moments of intense occupation with the journal, an
exclamation of pleasure and surprise escaped the sweet girl. On raising
my eyes I saw her gazing (as I fancied) fondly at myself.

"Read what you have that seems to give you so much pleasure."

She complied, reading with an eager and tremulous voice the following
paragraph:

"His majesty has been most graciously pleased to raise John Goldencalf
of Householder Hall, in the county of Dorset, and of Cheapside, Esquire,
to the dignity of a baronet of the united kingdoms of Great Britain and
Ireland."

"Sir John Goldencalf, I have the honor to drink to your health and
happiness!" cried the delighted girl, brightening like the dawn, and
wetting her pouting lip with liquor less ruby than itself. "Here,
Francis, fill a bumper and drink to the new baronet."

The gray-headed butler did as ordered with a very good grace, and then
hurried into the servants' hall to communicate the news.

"Here at least, Jack, is a new hold that society has on you, whatever
hold you may have on society."

I was pleased because she was pleased, and because it showed that Lord
Pledge had some sense of gratitude (although he afterward took occasion
to intimate that I owed the favor chiefly to HOPE), and I believe my
eyes never expressed more fondness.

"Lady Goldencalf would not have an awkward sound after all, dearest
Anna."

"As applied to one, Sir John, it might possibly do; but not as applied
to a hundred." Anna laughed, blushed, burst into tears once more, and
again fled.

What right have I to trifle with the feelings of this single-hearted
and excellent girl, said I to myself; it is evident that the subject
distresses her - she is unequal to its discussion, and it is unmanly
and improper in me to treat it in this manner. I must be true to
my character as a gentleman and a man - aye, and, under present
circumstances, as a baronet; and - I will never speak of it again as long
as I live.

The following day I took leave of Dr. Etherington and his daughter, with
the avowed intention of travelling for a year or two. The good
rector gave me much friendly advice, flattered me with expressions
of confidence in my discretion, and, squeezing me warmly by the hand,
begged me to recollect that I had always a home at the rectory. When
I had made my adieus to the father, I went, with a sorrowful
heart, in quest of the daughter. She was still in the little
breakfast-parlor - that parlor so loved! I found her pale, timid,
sensitive, bland, but serene. Little could ever disturb that heavenly
quality in the dear girl; if she laughed, it was with a restrained and
moderated joy; if she wept, it was like rain falling from a sky that
still shone with the lustre of the sun. It was only when feeling and
nature were unutterably big within her, that some irresistible impulse
of her sex betrayed her into emotions like those I had twice witnessed
so lately.

"You are about to leave us, Jack," she said, holding out her hand kindly
and without the affectation of an indifference she did not feel; "you
will see many strange faces, but you will see none who - "

I waited for the completion of the sentence, but, although she struggled
hard for self-possession, it was never finished.

"At my age, Anna, and with my means, it would be unbecoming to remain
at home, when, if I may so express it, 'human nature is abroad.' I go
to quicken my sympathies, to open my heart to my kind, and to avoid the
cruel regrets that tortured the death-bed of my father."

"Well - well," interrupted the sobbing girl, "we will talk of it no more.
It is best that you should travel; and so adieu, with a thousand - nay,
millions of good wishes for your happiness and safe return. You will
come back to us, Jack, when tired of other scenes."

This was said with gentle earnestness and a sincerity so winning that it
came near upsetting all my philosophy; but I could not marry the whole
sex, and to bind down my affections in one would have been giving the
death-blow to the development of that sublime principle on which I
was bent, and which I had already decided was to make me worthy of my
fortune and the ornament of my species. Had I been offered a kingdom,
however, I could not speak. I took the unresisting girl in my arms,
folded her to my heart, pressed a burning kiss on her cheek, and
withdrew.

"You will come back to us, Jack?" she half whispered, as her hand was
reluctantly drawn through my own.

Oh! Anna, it was indeed painful to abandon thy frank and gentle
confidence, thy radiant beauty, thy serene affections, and all thy
womanly virtues, in order to practise my newly-discovered theory! Long
did thy presence haunt me - nay, never did it entirely desert me - putting
my constancy to a severe proof, and threatening at each remove to
contract the lengthening chain that still bound me to thee, thy
fireside, and thy altars! But I triumphed, and went abroad upon the
earth with a heart expanding towards all the creatures of God, though
thy image was still enshrined in its inmost core, shining in womanly
glory, pure, radiant, and without spot, like the floating prism that
forms the lustre of the diamond.




CHAPTER VI. A THEORY OF PALPABLE SUBLIMITY - SOME PRACTICAL IDEAS, AND
THE COMMENCEMENT OF ADVENTURES.


The recollection of the intense feelings of that important period of my
life has, in some measure, disturbed the connection of the narrative,
and may possibly have left some little obscurity in the mind of the
reader on the subject of the new sources of happiness that had broken on
my own intelligence. A word here in the way of elucidation, therefore,
may not be misapplied, although it is my purpose to refer more to my
acts, and to the wonderful incidents it will shortly be my duty to lay
before the world, for a just understanding of my views, than to mere
verbal explanations.

Happiness - happiness, here and hereafter, was my goal. I aimed at a life
of useful and active benevolence, a deathbed of hope and joy, and an
eternity of fruition. With such an object before me, my thoughts, from
the moment that I witnessed the dying regrets of my father, had been
intensely brooding over the means of attainment. Surprising as, no
doubt, it will appear to vulgar minds, I obtained the clew to this
sublime mystery at the late election for the borough of Householder, and
from the lips of my Lord Pledge. Like other important discoveries, it is
very simple when understood, being easily rendered intelligible to the
dullest capacities, as, indeed, in equity, ought to be the case with
every principle that is so intimately connected with the well-being of
man.

It is a universally admitted truth that happiness is the only legitimate
object of all human associations. The ruled concede a certain portion
of their natural rights for the benefits of peace, security, and order,
with the understanding that they are to enjoy the remainder as their
own proper indefeasible estate. It is true that there exist in different
nations some material differences of opinion on the subject of the
quantities to be bestowed and retained; but these aberrations from a
just medium are no more than so many caprices of the human judgment,
and in no manner do they affect the principle. I found also that all the
wisest and best of the species, or what is much the same thing, the most
responsible, uniformly maintain that he who has the largest stake in
society is, in the nature of things, the most qualified to administer
its affairs. By a stake in society is meant, agreeable to universal
convention, a multiplication of those interests which occupy us in our
daily concerns - or what is vulgarly called property. This principle
works by exciting us to do right through those heavy investments of our
own which would inevitably suffer were we to do wrong. The proposition
is now clear, nor can the premises readily be mistaken. Happiness is the
aim of society; and property, or a vested interest in that society,
is the best pledge of our disinterestedness and justice, and the
best qualification for its proper control. It follows as a legitimate
corollary that a multiplication of those interests will increase the
stake, and render us more and more worthy of the trust by elevating us
as near as may be to the pure and ethereal condition of the angels. One
of those happy accidents which sometimes make men emperors and kings,
had made me, perhaps, the richest subject of Europe. With this polar
star of theory shining before my eyes, and with practical means so
ample, it would have been clearly my own fault had I not steered my bark
into the right haven. If he who had the heaviest investments was the
most likely to love his fellows, there could be no great difficulty for
one in my situation to take the lead in philanthropy. It is true that
with superficial observers the instance of my own immediate ancestor
might be supposed to form an exception, or rather an objection, to the
theory. So far from this being the case, however, it proves the
very reverse. My father in a great measure had concentrated all his
investments in the national debt! Now, beyond all cavil, he loved the
funds intensely; grew violent when they were assailed; cried out for
bayonets when the mass declaimed against taxation; eulogized the gallows
when there were menaces of revolt, and in a hundred other ways prove
that "where the treasure is, there will the heart be also." The instance
of my father, therefore, like all exceptions, only went to prove
the excellence of the rule. He had merely fallen into the error of
contraction, when the only safe course was that of expansion. I resolved
to expand; to do that which probably no political economist had ever
yet thought of doing - in short, to carry out the principle of the
social stake in such a way as should cause me to love all things, and
consequently to become worthy of being intrusted with the care of all
things.

On reaching town my earliest visit was one of thanks to my Lord Pledge.
At first I had felt some doubts whether the baronetcy would or would not
aid the system of philanthropy; for by raising me above a large portion
of my kind, it was in so much at least a removal from philanthropical
sympathies; but by the time the patent was received and the fees were
paid, I found that it might fairly be considered a pecuniary investment,
and that it was consequently brought within the rule I had prescribed
for my own government.

The next thing was to employ suitable agents to aid in making the
purchases that were necessary to attach me to mankind. A month was
diligently occupied in this way. As ready money was not wanting, and
I was not very particular on the subject of prices, at the end of that
time I began to have certain incipient sentiments which went to prove
the triumphant success of the experiment. In other words I owned much,
and was beginning to take a lively interest in all I owned.

I made purchases of estates in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.
This division of real property was meant to equalize my sentiments
justly between the different portions of my native country. Not
satisfied with this, however, I extended the system to the colonies.
I had East India shares, a running ship, Canada land, a plantation in
Jamaica, sheep at the Cape and at New South Wales, an indigo concern at
Bengal, an establishment for the collection of antiques in the Ionian
Isles, and a connection with a shipping house for the general supply
of our various dependencies with beer, bacon, cheese, broadcloths, and
ironmongery. From the British empire my interests were soon extended
into other countries. On the Garonne and Xeres I bought vineyards. In
Germany I took some shares in different salt and coal mines; the same
in South America in the precious metals; in Russia I dipped deeply into
tallow; in Switzerland I set up an extensive manufactory of watches, and
bought all the horses for a voiturier on a large scale. I had silkworms
in Lombardy, olives and hats in Tuscany, a bath in Lucca, and a
maccaroni establishment at Naples. To Sicily I sent funds for the
purchase of wheat, and at Rome I kept a connoisseur to conduct a general
agency in the supply of British articles, such as mustard, porter,
pickles, and corned beef, as well as for the forwarding of pictures and
statues to the lovers of the arts and of VIRTU.

By the time all this was effected I found my hands full of business.
Method, suitable agents, and a resolution to succeed smoothed the way,
however, and I began to look about me and to take breath. By way of
relaxation I now descended into details; and for a few days I frequented
the meetings of those who are called "the Saints," in order to see if
something might be done towards the attainment of my object through
their instrumentality. I cannot say that this experiment met with
all the success I had anticipated. I heard a great deal of subtle
discussion, found that manner was of more account than matter, and
had unreasonable and ceaseless appeals to my pocket. So near a view of
charity had a tendency to expose its blemishes, as the brilliancy of the
sun is known to exhibit defects on the face of beauty, which escape the
eye when seen through the medium of that artificial light for which
they are best adapted; and I soon contented myself with sending my
contributions at proper intervals, keeping aloof in person. This
experiment gave me occasion to perceive that human virtues, like little
candles, shine best in the dark, and that their radiance is chiefly
owing to the atmosphere of a "naughty world." From speculating I
returned to facts.

The question of slavery had agitated the benevolent for some years, and
finding a singular apathy in ray own bosom on this important subject, I
bought five hundred of each sex to stimulate my sympathies. This led me
nearer to the United States of America, a country that I had endeavored
to blot out of my recollection; for while thus encouraging a love for
the species, I had scarcely thought it necessary to go so far from home.
As no rule exists without an exception, I confess I was a good deal
disposed to believe that a Yankee might very fairly be an omission in
an Englishman's philanthropy. But "in for a penny in for a pound." The
negroes led me to the banks of the Mississippi, where I was soon the
owner of both a sugar and a cotton plantation. In addition to these
purchases I took shares in divers South-Seamen, owned a coral and
pearl fishery of my own, and sent an agent with a proposition to King
Tamamamaah to create a monopoly of sandalwood in our joint behalf.

The earth and all it contained assumed new glories in my eyes. I had
fulfilled the essential condition of the political economists, the
jurists, the constitution-mongers, and all the "talents and decency,"
and had stakes in half the societies of the world. I was fit to govern,
I was fit to advise, to dictate to most of the people of Christendom;
for I had taken a direct interest in their welfares by making them my
own. Twenty times was I about to jump into a post-chaise, and to
gallop down to the rectory in order to lay my newborn alliance with the
species, and all its attendant felicity, at the feet of Anna, but
the terrible thought of monogamy, and of its sympathy-withering
consequences, as often stayed my course. I wrote to her weekly, however,
making her the participator of a portion of my happiness, though I never
had the satisfaction of receiving a single line in reply.

Fairly emancipated from selfishness, and pledged to the species, I now
quitted England on a tour of philanthropical inspection. I shall not
weary the reader with an account of my journeys over the beaten tracks
of the continent, but transport him and myself at once to Paris, in
which city I arrived on the 17th of May, Anno Domini 1819. I had seen
much, fancied myself improved, and, by constant dwelling on my system,
saw its excellences as plainly as Napoleon saw the celebrated star which
defied the duller vision of his uncle the cardinal. At the same time,
as usually happens with those who direct all their energies to a given
point, the opinions originally formed of certain portions of my theory
began to undergo mutations, as nearer and more practical views pointed
out inconsistencies and exposed defects. As regards Anna in particular,
the quiet, gentle, unobtrusive, and yet distinct picture of womanly
loveliness that was rarely absent from my mind, had for the past
twelvemonth haunted me with a constancy of argument that might have
unsettled the Newtonian scheme of philosophy itself. I already more than
questioned whether the benefit to be derived from the support of one so
affectionate and true would not fully counterbalance the disadvantage
of a concentration of interest, so far as the sex was concerned. This
growing opinion was fast getting to be conviction, when I encountered on
the boulevards one day an old country neighbor of the rector's, who
gave me the best account of the family, adding, after descanting on
the beauty and excellence of Anna herself, that the dear girl had
quite lately actually refused a peer of the realm, who enjoyed all the
acknowledged advantages of youth, riches, birth, rank, and a good name,
and who had selected her from a deep conviction of her worth, and of
her ability to make any sensible man happy. As to my own power over
the heart of Anna I never entertained a doubt. She had betrayed it in a
thousand ways and on a hundred occasions; nor had I been at all backward
in letting her understand how highly I valued her dear self, although I
had never yet screwed up my resolution so high as distinctly to propose
for her hand. But all my unsettled purposes became concentrated on
hearing this welcome intelligence; and, taking an abrupt leave of my old
acquaintance, I hurried home and wrote the following letter:

Dear - very dear, nay - dearest ANNA:

"I met your old neighbor - this morning on the boulevards, and during an
interview of an hour we did little else but talk of thee. Although it
has been my most ardent and most predominant wish to open my heart to
the whole species, yet, Anna, I fear I have loved thee alone! Absence,
so far from expanding, appears to contract my affections, too many
of which centre in thy sweet form and excellent virtues. The remedy I
proposed is insufficient, and I begin to think that matrimony alone can
leave me master of sufficient freedom of thought and action to turn the
attention I ought to the rest of the human race. Thou hast been with me
in idea in the four corners of the earth, by sea and by land, in dangers
and in safety, in all seasons, regions, and situations, and there is no
sufficient reason why those who are ever present in the spirit should be
materially separated. Thou hast only to say a word, to whisper a hope,
to breathe a wish, and I will throw myself a repentant truant at thy
feet and implore thy pity. When united, however, we will not lose
ourselves in the sordid and narrow paths of selfishness, but come forth
again in company to acquire a new and still more powerful hold on this
beautiful creation, of which, by this act, I acknowledge thee to be the
most divine portion.

"Dearest, dearest Anna, thine and the species',

"Forever,

"JOHN GOLDENCALF.

"TO MISS ETHERINGTON."

If there was ever a happy fellow on earth it was myself when this letter
was written, sealed, and fairly despatched. The die was cast, and I
walked into the air a regenerated and an elastic being! Let what might
happen, I was sure of Anna. Her gentleness would calm my irritability;
her prudence temper my energies; her bland but enduring affections
soothe my soul. I felt at peace with all around me, myself included, and
I found a sweet assurance of the wisdom of the step I had just taken
in the expanding sentiment. If such were my sensations now that every
thought centred in Anna, what would they not become when these personal
transports were cooled by habit, and nature was left to the action of
the ordinary impulses! I began to doubt of the infallibility of that
part of my system which had given me so much pain, and to incline to the
new doctrine that by concentration on particular parts we come most to
love the whole. On examination there was reason to question whether
it was not on this principle even that, as an especial landholder, I



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 6 of 34)