John Esten Cooke.

The Last of the Foresters Or, Humors on the Border; A story of the Old Virginia Frontier online

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a necklace of red beads, the two ends of which were brought together
by a circular gold plate. Just as the pedlar thrust these objects into
his capacious breast-pocket, the door opened, and Verty entered.

But the boy did not observe him - he quickly and cautiously closed the
chest, and began examining one of the skins on the lid.

Verty looked up from the steaks in his hand, observed the occupation
of the pedlar, and began to laugh, and talk of his hunting.

The pedlar drew a long breath, returned to his pack, and sat down.

As he did so, the old Indian woman came in, and the boy ran to her,
and kissed her hand, and placed it on his head. This was Indian

"Oh, _ma mere_!" he cried, "I've seen Redbud, and had such a fine
time, and I'm so happy! I'm hungry, too; and so is this honest fellow
with the pack. There go the steaks!"

And Verty threw them on the gridiron, and burst out laughing.

In a quarter of an hour they were placed on the rude table, and the
three persons sat down - Verty laughing, the old woman smiling at him,
the pedlar sullen and omnivorous.

After devouring everything on the table, the worthy took his departure
with his pack upon his shoulders.

"I don't like that man, but let him go," said Verty. "Now, _ma mere_,
I'm going out to hunt a bit for you."

The old woman gazed fondly on him, and this was all Verty needed. He
rose, called the dogs, and loaded his gun.

"Good-bye, _ma mere_" he said, going out; "don't let any more of these
pedlar people come here. I feel as if that one who has just gone away,
had done me some harm. Come, Longears! come, Wolf!"

And Verty took his way through the forest, still humming his low,
Indian song.



On the morning after the scenes which we have just related, Mr.
Roundjacket was seated on his tall three-legged stool, holding in
his left hand the MS. of his poem, and brandishing in his right the
favorite instrument of his eloquence, when, chancing to raise his
eyes, he saw through the window an approaching carriage, which
carriage had evidently conceived the design of drawing up at the door
of Mr. Rushton's office.

A single glance showed Mr. Roundjacket that this carriage contained a
lady; a second look told him that the lady was Miss Lavinia.

We might very rationally suppose that the great poet, absorbed in
the delights of poesy, and thus dead to the outer world, would have
continued his recitation, and permitted such real, sublunary things as
visitors to pass unheeded. But such a conclusion would not indicate a
very profound acquaintance with the character of Mr. Roundjacket - the
most chivalric and gallant of cavaliers.

Instead of going on with his poem, he hastily rolled up the
manuscript, thrust it into his desk, and hastening to a small cracked
mirror, which hung over the fire-place, there commenced arranging his
somewhat disordered locks and apparel, with scrupulous care.

As he finished this hasty toilette, the Apple Orchard carriage drew up
and stopped at the door, and Mr. Roundjacket rushed forth.

Then any body who would have taken the trouble to look, might have
seen a gentleman opening the door of a chariot with profuse bows,
and smiles, and graceful contortions; and then a lady accepting the
proffered hand with solemn courtesy; and then Mr. Roundjacket might
have been observed leading the lady elegantly into the office.

"A delightful morning - a _very_ delightful morning, madam," said Mr.

"Yes, sir," said Miss Lavinia, solemnly.

"And you look in the best of health and spirits, madam."

"Thank you, sir; I feel very well, and I am glad to think that you are
equally blest."

"Blest!" said Mr. Roundjacket; "since you came, madam, that may be
very truly said."

A ghost of a smile lit, so to speak, upon Miss Lavinia's face, and
then flew away. It was very plain that this inveterate man-hater had
not closed her ears entirely to the voice of her enemy.

Roundjacket saw the impression he had made, and followed it up by
gazing with admiring delight upon his visitor; - whose countenance, as
soon as the solemnity was forgotten, did not by any means repel.

"It is a very great happiness," said the cavalier, seating himself
on his stool, and, from habit, brandishing his ruler around Miss
Lavinia's head, - "it is a great happiness, madam, when we poor
professional slaves have the pleasure to see one of the divine
sex - one of the ladies of creation, if I may use the phrase. Lawbooks
and papers are - ahem! - very - yes, exceedingly - "

"Dull?" suggested the lady, fanning herself with a measured movement
of the hand.

"Oh! worse, worse! These objects, madam, extinguish all poetry, and
gallantry, and elevated feeling in our unhappy breasts."


"Yes, my dear madam, and after a while we become so dead to all
that is beautiful and charming in existence" - that was from Mr.
Roundjacket's poem - "that we are incapable even of appreciating the
delightful society of the fairest and most exquisite of the opposite

Miss Lavinia shook her head with a ghostly smile.

"I'm afraid you are very gallant, Mr. Roundjacket."

"I, madam? no, no; I am the coldest and most prosaic of men."

"But your poem?"

"You have heard of that?"

"Yes, indeed, sir."

"Well, madam, that is but another proof of the fact which I assert."

"How, indeed?"

"It is on the prosaic and repulsive subject of the Certiorari."

And Mr. Roundjacket smiled after such a fashion, that it was
not difficult to perceive the small amount of sincerity in this

Miss Lavinia looked puzzled, and fanned herself more solemnly than

"The Certiorari, did you say, sir?" she asked.

"Yes, madam - one of our legal proceedings; and if you are really
curious, I will read a portion of my unworthy poem to you - ahem! - "

As Mr. Roundjacket spoke, an overturned chair in the adjoining room
indicated that the occupant of the apartment had been disturbed by the
noise, and was about to oppose the invasion of his rights.

Roundjacket no sooner heard this, than he restored the poem to his
desk, with a sigh, and said:

"But you, no doubt, came on business, madam - I delay you - Mr.
Rushton - "

At the same moment the door of Mr. Rushton's room opened, and that
gentleman made his appearance, shaggy and irate - a frown upon his
brow, and a man-eating expression on his compressed lips.

The sight of Miss Lavinia slightly removed the wrathful expression,
and Mr. Rushton contented himself with bestowing a dreadful scowl on
Roundjacket, which that gentleman returned, and then counteracted by
an amiable smile.

Miss Lavinia greeted the lawyer with grave dignity, and said she had
come in, in passing, to consult him about some little matters which
she wished him to arrange for her; and trusted that she found him

This was said with so much dignity, that Mr. Rushton could not scowl,
and so he invited Miss Lavinia to enter his sanctum, politely leading
the way.

The lady sailed after him - and the door closed.

No sooner had she disappeared, than Mr. Roundjacket seized his
ruler, for a moment abandoned, and proceeded to execute innumerable
flourishes toward the adjoining room, for what precise purpose does
not very accurately appear. In the middle of this ceremony, however,
and just as his reflections were about to shape themselves into words,
the front door opened, and Verty made his appearance, joyful and

In his hand Verty carried his old battered violin; at his heels
stalked the grave and dignified Longears.

"Good morning, Mr. Roundjacket," said Verty, smiling; "how do you do

"Moderate, moderate, young man," said the gentleman addressed; "you
seem, however, to be at the summit of human felicity."


"Don't you know what _felicity_ means, you young savage?"

"No, sir."

"It means bliss."

Verty laughed.

"What is that?" he said.

Mr. Roundjacket flourished his ruler, indignantly.

"Astonishing how dull you are occasionally for such a bright fellow,"
he said; "but, after the fashion of all ignoramuses, and as you don't
know what that is, I declare you to be one after the old fashion. You
need illustration. Now, listen."

Verty sat down tuning his violin, and looking at Mr. Roundjacket, with
a smile.

"Felicity and bliss are things which spring from poetry and women;
convertible terms, you savage, but often dissevered. Suppose, now, you
wrote a great poem, and read it to the lady of your affections, and
she said it was better than the Iliad of Homer, - how would you feel,

"I don't know," Verty said.

"You would feel happiness, sir."

"I don't think I would understand her. Who was Iliad, and what was

Mr. Roundjacket flourished his ruler, despairingly.

"You'll never write a poem, and you'll never be in love!" he said,
with solemn emphasis.

"Oh, you are wrong!" said Verty, laying his violin on the desk, and
caressing Longears. "I think I'm in love now, Mr. Roundjacket!"


"I'm in love."

"With whom?"

"Redbud," said Verty.

Roundjacket looked at the young man.

"Redbud Summers?" he said.

Verty nodded.

Roundjacket's face was suddenly illuminated with a smile; and he
looked more intently still at Verty.

"Tell me all about it," he said, with the interest of a lover himself;
"have you had any moonlight, any flowers, music, and that sort of

"Oh, yes! we had the flowers!" said Verty.


"At old Scowley's."

"Who's he?" asked Mr. Roundjacket, staring.

"What!" cried Verty, "don't you know old Scowley?"


"She's Redbud's school-master - I mean school-mistress, of course; and
Mr. Jinks goes to see Miss Sallianna."

Roundjacket muttered: "Really, a very extraordinary young man."

Then he added, aloud -

"Why do you think you are in love with Redbud?"

"Because you told me all about it; and I think from what - "

Just as Verty was going on to explain, the door of Mr. Rushton's room
opened again, and Miss Lavinia came forth.

She nodded to Verty, and asked him how he was.

"I'm very well," said the young man, "and I hope you are too, Miss
Lavinia. I saw your carriage at the door, and knew you were in here.
Oh! how tight your hair is curled!" he added, laughing.

Miss Lavinia drew herself up.

"I reckon you are going to see Redbud," said Verty.

Miss Lavinia looked intently at him.

"Yes," she said.

"Give my love to her," said the young man, "and tell her I'm coming to
see her very soon - just as quick as I can get off from this dull old

Which words were accompanied by a smile, directed toward Roundjacket.
As to Miss Lavinia, she stood aghast at Verty's extraordinary
communication, and for some moments could not get words to express her

Finally she said, solemnly -

"How - have you been - "

"To see Redbud, ma'am?"


"I've been once," Verty said, "and I'm going again."

Miss Lavinia's face assumed a dignified expression of reproof, and she
gazed at the young man in silence. This look, however, was far from
daunting him, and he returned it with the most fascinating smile.

"The fact is, Miss Lavinia," he added, "Redbud wants somebody to talk
to up there. Old Scowley, you know, is'nt agreeable, at least, I
should'nt think she was; and Miss Sallianna is all the time, I reckon,
with Mr. Jinks. I did'nt see any scholars with Redbud; but there ARE
some there, because you know Redbud's pigeon had a paper round his
neck, with some words on it, all about how 'Fanny' had given him to
her; and so there's a 'Fanny' somewhere - don't you think so? But I
forgot, you don't know about the pigeon - do you?"

Miss Lavinia was completely astounded. "Old Scowley," "Mr. Jinks,"
"pigeon," "paper round his neck," and "Fanny," - all these objects
were inextricably mingled in her unfortunate brain, and she could not
disentangle them from each other, or discover the least clue to the
labyrinth. She, therefore, gazed at Verty with more overwhelming
dignity than ever, and not deigning to make any reply to his rhapsody,
sailed by with a stiff inclination of the head, toward the door. But
Verty was growing gallant under Mr. Roundjacket's teaching. He
rose with great good humor, and accompanied Miss Lavinia to her
carriage - he upon one side, the gallant head clerk on the other - and
politely assisted the lady into her chariot, all the time smiling in a
manner which was pleasant to behold.

His last words, as the door closed and the chariot drove off, were -

"Recollect, Miss Lavinia, please don't forget to give my love to

Having impressed this important point upon Miss Lavinia, Verty
returned to the office, with the sighing Roundjacket, humming one of
his old Indian airs, and caressing Longears.



The young man sat down at his desk, and began to write. But this
occupation did not seem to amuse him, and, in a few moments, he threw
away the pen he was writing with, and demanded another from Mr.

That gentleman complied, and made him a new one.

Verty wrote for five minutes with the new one; and then split it
deplorably. Mr. Roundjacket heard the noise, and protested against
such carelessness.

"Oh," sighed Verty, "this writing is a terrible thing to-day; I want a

"There's no holiday in law, sir."


"No, never."

"It's a very slavish thing, then," Verty said.

"You are not far wrong there, young man," replied his companion; "but
it also has its delights."

"I have never seen any."

"You are a savage."

"I believe I am."

"Your character is like your costume - barbarous."

"Yes - Indian," said Verty; "but I just thought, Mr. Roundjacket, of my
new suit. To-day was to be the time for getting it."

"Very true," said the clerk, laying down his pen, "and as everything
is best done in order, we will go at once."

Roundjacket opened Mr. Rushton's door, and informed him where he was
going, and for what purpose - a piece of information which was received
with a growl, and various muttered ejaculations.

Verty had already put on his fur hat.

"The fact is," said Roundjacket, as they issued forth into the street
of the town, followed by Longears, "the old fellow, yonder, is getting
dreadfully bearish."

"Is he, sir?"

"Yes; and every year it increases."

"I like him, though."

"You are right, young man - a noble-hearted man is Rushton; but
unfortunate, sir, - unfortunate."

And Mr. Roundjacket shook his head.


"That's his secret - not mine," was the reserved reply.

"Well, I won't ask it, then," Verty said; "I never care to know
anything - there's the tailor's, aint it?"

"Yes, that is the shop of the knight of the shears," replied the
clerk, with elegant paraphrase; "come, let us get on."

They soon reached the tailor's, which was not far from the office, on
the same street; and Mr. O'Brallaghan came forward, scissors in hand,
and smiling, like a great ogre, who was going to snip off people's
heads, and eat them for his breakfast - only to satisfy his hunger, not
from any malevolent feeling toward them. Mr. O'Brallaghan, as his name
intimated, was from the Emerald Isle - was six feet high - had a carotty
head, an enormous grinning mouth, and talked with the national accent.
Indeed, so marked was this accent, that, after mature consideration,
we have determined not to report any of this gentleman's
remarks - naturally distrustful as we are of our ability to represent
the tone in which they were uttered, with any degree of accuracy. We
shall not see him frequently, however, and may omit his observations
without much impropriety.

Mr. O'Brallaghan surveyed Verty's lythe and well-knit figure, clad in
its rude forest costume, with patronizing favor. But when Roundjacket
informed him, with hauteur, that "his friend, Mr. Verty," would give
him an order for three suits: - one plain, one handsome, one very
rich - the great O'Brallaghan became supple and polite; and evidently
regarded Mr. Verty as some young lord, in disguise.

He requested the young man to walk into the inner room, where his
artist would take his measure; and this Verty did at once.

Imagine his surprise at finding himself in the presence of - Mr. Jinks!

Mr. Jinks, no longer clad in elegant and martial costume, redolent
equally of the ball-room and the battle-field - no longer moving
majestically onward with wide-stretched legs, against which his
warlike sword made dreadful music - no longer decorated with rosettes,
and ruffles, and embroidery; but seated on the counter, in an old
dressing-gown, with slipper'd feet and lacklustre eyes, driving his
rapid needle through the cloth with savage and intrepid spirit.

Verty did not recognize him immediately; and Mr. Jinks did not observe
the new comers either.

An exclamation from the young man, however, attracted his attention,
and he started up.

"Mr. O'Brallaghan!" cried the knight of the needle, if we may so far
plagiarize upon Roundjacket's paraphrase - "Mr. O'Brallaghan! this is
contrary to our contract, sir. It was understood, sir, that I should
be private, sir, - and I am invaded here by a route of people, sir, in
violation of that understanding, sir!"

The emphasis with which Mr. Jinks uttered the various "sirs," in this
address, was terrible. O'Brallaghan was evidently daunted by them.

"You know I am a great artist in the cutting line, sir," said Mr.
Jinks, with dignity; "and that nobody can do your fine work but me,
sir. You know I have the right to mature my conceptions in private,
sir, - and that circumstances of another description render this
privacy desirable, sir! And yet, sir, you intrude upon me, sir, - you
intrude! How do you do, young man? - I recognize you," added Mr. Jinks,
slightly calmed by his victory over O'Brallaghan, who only muttered
his sentiments in original Gaelic, and bore the storm without further

"I will, for once, break my rule," said Mr. Jinks, magnanimously, "and
do for this gentleman, who is my friend, what I will do for no other.
Henceforth, sir, recollect that I have rights;" and Mr. Jinks frowned;
then he added to Verty, "Young man, have the goodness to stand upon
that bench."

O'Brallaghan and Roundjacket retreated to the outer room, where they
were, soon after, joined by Verty, who was laughing.

"Well," muttered the young man, "I will not tell anybody that
Mr. Jinks sews, if he don't want it to be known - especially Miss
Sallianna. I reckon he is right - women don't like to see men do
anything better than them, as Mr. Jinks says."

And Verty began to admire a plum-colored coat which was lying on the

"I like this," he said.

O'Brallaghan grew eloquent on the plum-colored coat - asserting that it
was a portion of a suit made for one of his most elegant customers,
but not sent for. He could, however, dispose of it to Mr. Verty, if he
wished to have it - there was time to make another for the aforesaid
elegant customer.

Verty tried the coat on, and O'Brallaghan declared, enthusiastically,
that it fitted him "bewchously."

Mr. Roundjacket informed Verty that it would be better to get the
suit, if it fitted, inasmuch as O'Brallaghan would probably take
double the time he promised to make his proper suit in - an observation
which O'Brallaghan repelled with indignation; and so the consequence
was, that a quarter of an hour afterwards Roundjacket and Verty issued
forth - the appearance of the latter having undergone a remarkable

Certainly no one would have recognized Verty at the first glance. He
was clad in a complete cavalier's suit - embroidered coat-ruffles and
long flapped waistcoat - with knee-breeches, stockings of the same
material, and glossy shoes with high red heels, and fluttering
rosettes; a cocked hat surmounted his curling hair, and altogether
Verty resembled a courtier, and walked like a boy on stilts.

Roundjacket laughed in his sleeve at his companion's contortions,
and on their way back stopped at the barber and surgeon's. This
professional gentleman clipped Verty's profuse curls, gathered them
together carefully behind, and tied them with a handsome bow of
scarlet ribbon. Then he powdered the boy's fine glossy hair, and held
a mirror before him.

"Oh! I'm a great deal better looking now," said Verty; "the fact is,
Mr. Roundjacket, my hair was too long."

To this Mr. Roundjacket assented, and they returned, laughing, to the

Verty looked over his shoulder, and admired himself with all the
innocence of a child or a savage. One thing only was disagreeable to
him - the high heels which Mr. O'Brallaghan had supplied him with.
Accustomed to his moccasins, the heels were not to be endured; and
Verty kicked both of them off against the stone steps with great
composure. Having accomplished this feat, he re-entered.

"I'm easier now," he said.

"About what?"

"The heels."

Mr. Roundjacket looked down.

"I could'nt walk on 'em, and knocked 'em off," Verty said.

Mr. Roundjacket uttered a suppressed chuckle; then stopping suddenly,
observed with dignity: -

"Young man, that was very wrong in you. Mr. Rushton has made you a
present of that costume, and you should not injure it; he will be
displeased, sir."

"I will be nothing of the sort," said a growling voice; and turning
round, the clerk found himself opposite to Mr. Rushton, who was
looking at Verty with a grim smile.

"Kick away just as you please, my young savage," said that gentleman,
"and don't mind this stuff from Roundjacket, who don't know civilized
from Indian character. Do just as you choose."

"May I?" said Verty.

"Am I to repeat everything?"

"Well, sir, I choose to have a holiday this morning."


"You said I might do as I wanted to, and I want to go and take a

"Well, go then - much of a lawyer you'll ever make."

Verty laughed, and turning towards Longears, called him. But Longears
hesitated - looking with the most profound astonishment at his master.

"He don't know me!" said the young man, laughing; "I don't think he'll
hunt if I wear these, sir."

But Mr. Rushton had retired, and Verty only heard a door slam.

He rose.

"I'm going to see Redbud, Mr. Roundjacket," he said, "and I think
she'll like my dress - good-bye."

Roundjacket only replied by flourishing his ruler.

Verty put on his cocked hat, admired himself for an instant in the
mirror over the fire-place, and went out humming his eternal Indian
song. Five minutes afterwards he was on his way to see Redbud,
followed dubiously by Longears, who evidently had not made up his mind
on the subject of his master's identity.

In order to explain the reception which Verty met with, it will be
necessary to precede him.



The Apple Orchard carriage, containing the solemn Miss Lavinia, very
soon arrived at the abode of old Scowley, as our friend Verty was
accustomed to call the respectable preceptress of Miss Redbud; and
Miss Lavinia descended and entered with solemn dignity.

Miss Sallianna and herself exchanged elaborate curtseys, and Miss
Lavinia sailed into the pleasant sylvan parlor and took her seat

"Our dear little girls are amusing themselves this morning," said
Miss Sallianna, inclining her head upon one shoulder, and raising her
smiling eyes toward the ceiling; "the youthful mind, my dear madam,
requires relaxation, and we do not force it."

Miss Lavinia uttered a dignified "hem," and passed her handkerchief
solemnly over her lips.

"In this abode of the graces and rural sublunaries," continued Miss
Sallianna, gently flirting her fan, "our young friends seem to lead a
very happy life."

"Yes - I suppose so."

"Indeed, madam, I may say the time passes for them in a golden cadence
of salubrious delights," said Miss Sallianna.

Her visitor inclined her head.

"If we could only exclude completely all thoughts of the opposite
sex - "

Miss Lavinia listened with some interest to this peroration. "If we
could live far from the vain world of man - "

The solemn head indicated a coincidence of opinion.

"If we could but dedicate ourselves wholly to the care of our little
flock, we should be felicitous," continued Miss Sallianna. "But, alas!
they will come to see us, madam, and we cannot exclude the dangerous
enemy. I am often obliged to send word that I am not 'at home' to the
beaux, and yet that is very cruel. But duty is my guide, and I bow to
its bequests."

With which words, Miss Sallianna fixed her eyes resignedly upon

Online LibraryJohn Esten CookeThe Last of the Foresters Or, Humors on the Border; A story of the Old Virginia Frontier → online text (page 6 of 26)