Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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defender of the absent, " that Miss Clare Lee fully deserves
her character; the comparison of that lovely girl, ladies, to
Cordelia Cordelia, the sweetest of all Shakespeare s char
acters seems to me nothing more than justice."

The gentlemen greet this with enthusiastic applause, for our
little, long-lost-sight of heroine had subdued all hearts.

" As regards Mr. Effingham," adds Clare s knight, " I shall
be pardoned for not saying anything, since he is not present."

" Then I will say something," here interposes a small gentle
man, with a waistcoat reaching to his knees and profusely


laced, like all the rest of his clothes, indeed, the richness
of his costume was distressing, "but I will say, sir, that
Mr. Effingham s treatment of that divine creature, Miss Clare
Lee, is shameful."

" How ? " ask the ladies, agitating their fans and scenting a
delicious bit of scandal.

" Why," says the gentleman in the long waistcoat, squaring
himself, so to speak, and greatly delighted at the sudden acces
sion to his importance the general opinion being that he was
somewhat insignificant, " why, ladies, he has been running after
that little jade, Miss Hallam ! "

"Miss Hallam!" cry the ladies, in virtuous ignorance, though
nothing was more notorious than the goings-on of our friend
Mr. Effingham, " Miss Hallam ! "

" Precisely, ladies."

" The actress ? "

" Yes."

" A playing girl ! " exclaims a lady, of say thirty, and cover
ing her face as she spoke.

" Falling in love with her ! "

" Possible ? "

" Have n t you heard all about it ? "

This home question causes a flutter and a silence.

" I 11 tell you, then," continues the gentleman in the long
waistcoat, " I 11 tell you all about the doings of * Dion, the
thunderbolt of war, and prince of modern wits. He, the thun
derbolt of war ? preposterous ! ffe, the prince of wits ?
ludicrous ! He may be the king of coxcombs, the coryphaeus
of dandies but that is all."

The gentlemen standing around listen to these words with
some amusement and more disgust. It is plain that some secret
spite actuates the gentleman in the long waistcoat.

" Well, let us hear Mr. Effingham s crimes," says Laura.


" By all means," adds Isadora.

" Of course," says Myrtilla.

" He has been making himself ridiculous about that actress,"
continues the chronicler, " and, I have even heard, designs to
marry her."

The ladies make a movement to express surprise and indig
nation but, after a moment s reflection, suppress this somewhat
ambiguous exhibition of their feelings.

" He s been at the Raleigh Tavern, making love to her for
a month," continues the narrator.

" At the tavern ? "

" Yes, in town here."

" Did anyone ever ! " says the lady of uncertain age.

" Never ! never ! " chime in the virtuous little damsels, shak
ing their heads solemnly.

" He has left his family," the gentleman in the long waistcoat
goes on, indignantly, " and they are dying of grief."

" Oh, can it be ! "

" Certainly, madam. Why are they not here to-night ? "

" Very true."

" Why is Clare Lee, the victim of his insincerity, away,
pray tell me! They are not here they are not coming,

At the same moment, the usher announces the squire,
Miss Alethea, and Miss Clare Lee Master Willie and Kate
being too small to be seen, which the squire had warned them
of. The squire is as bluff as ever, and makes his salutation to
his Excellency with great cordiality Clare is pale and absent,
presenting thus a singular contrast to Henrietta, who enters
a moment afterwards, brilliant, imposing, and smiling, like a
queen receiving the homage of the nobility around her throne.
She sweeps on, leaning on the arm of honest Jack Hamilton,
and the party are swallowed in the crowd.


Let us return to the group, whose conversation the new
arrivals had interrupted.

" Well, I was mistaken," says the gentleman in the long
waistcoat, " but anyone may see that Clare Lee is dying
slowly ! "

At which affecting observation the young ladies sigh and
shake their heads.

" And just think what that man has thrown this divine crea
ture away for," continues the censor morum \ " for a common
actress ! an ordinary playing girl, tolerably pretty she may
be, but vastly overrated a mere thing of stage paint and
pearl powder, strutting through her parts and ranting like an
Amazon ! "

" I think her quite pretty," says Laura, " but it is too bad."

" Dreadful ! "

" Awful ! "

" Horrible ! "

" Shocking ! "

These are some of the comments on Mr. Effingham s con
duct, from the elegant little dames.

" He is ashamed to show himself anywhere," continues the
gentleman in the long waistcoat, " and only yesterday met me
on the street and, in passing, turned away his head, plainly
afraid that I would not speak in return had he addressed

At which words the gentlemen are observed to smile
knowing as they do something of Mr. Champ Effingham s
personal character and habits.

" He actually was afraid to look at me," says the censor,
" and I am told keeps his room all day or passes his time
in the society of that Circe, yes, that siren who is only too
fond of him, I am afraid and I predict will make him marry
her at last."


The ladies sigh and agitate their fans with diamond-sparkling
hands. They feel themselves very far above this shameless
creature attempting to catch as we now say Mr. Effingham.
They pity her, for such a thing never has occurred to them
no gentleman has ever been attractive enough for them to have
designs upon his heart. And so they pity and despise Beatrice
for wishing to run away with her admirer.

" He is heartily ashamed of his infatuation, and I saw
him last night in the theater, positively afraid to look at the
audience but staring all the time at her," continues the
small gentleman.

" But that is easy to understand, as he is in love," says
Myrtilla, with a strong inclination to take the part of the
reprobate against his enemy.

" No, no, madam," exclaims the censor, " he was really
ashamed to look at the people, and took not the least notice
of their frowns : he does not visit anywhere ; he knows he
would not be received he is afraid to show his face."

It seemed that the gentleman in the long waistcoat was
doomed to have all his prophecies falsified ; for at that moment,
the usher announced in a loud voice, which attracted the atten
tion of the whole company :

" Mr. Effingham and Miss Hallam ! "

Mr. Effingham entered under the full light of the central
chandelier, with Beatrice on his arm. He carried his head
proudly erect, his eye was clear and steady, his lip calm and
only slightly sarcastic ; his whole carriage displayed perfect and
unaffected self-possession. The thousand eyes bent on him
vainly sought in his eyes, or lips, anything going to show that
he felt conscious of the dreadful, the awful, social enormity
which he was committing.

Mr. Effingham was dressed with extraordinary richness. He
was always elegant in his costume ; on that night he was


splendid. His coat of rich cut velvet was covered with em
broidery and sparkled with a myriad of chased-gold buttons ;
his lace ruffles at breast and wrist were point-de-Venise, his
fingers were brilliant with rings, and his powdered hair waved
from his clear, pale temples like a stream of silver dust He
looked like a courtier of the days of Louis XIV, dressed for
a royal reception.

And how did Beatrice compare with this brilliant star of
fashion this thunderbolt of war and prince of modern wits,
as the muse in powdered hair and ruffles had characterized
him ? Poor Beatrice was quite eclipsed by her cavalier. Her
simple, unassuming dress of pearl color, looped back with plain
ribbon and without a single flower or any ornament whatever,
looked strangely out of place thrown in contrast with the bril
liant silks and velvets and gold buttons and diamonds of her
companion ; her modest, tender face and drooping head, with
its unpretending coiffure, looked quite insignificant beside the
bold, defiant countenance of Mr. Effingham, which returned
look for look and gaze for gaze, with an insulting nonchalance
and easy hauteur. We know how reluctantly Beatrice had come
thither rather how bitter a trial it was to her and we may
understand why she looked pale and troubled and spite of the
fact that she had just encountered the gaze of a curious and
laughing audience without any emotion now felt her spirit
die within her. It was not because she shrunk from comment
half so much as from the fact that each moment she expected
to see opposite to her the cold, pale face and sick, reproachful
eyes of Clare Lee of Clare, who had thrown aside the preju
dices of class, even forgot the jealousy of a wronged and
wretched rival, to press in her arms the rival who had made
all her woe, and that rival a common actress. It was the dread
of her eye which made poor Beatrice tremble this alone
made her lip quiver and her brow droop.


His excellency Governor Fauquier came forward to welcome
his guests, but started at the sight of Beatrice, and almost
uttered an exclamation. For a moment he was staggered
and said nothing. This soon passed, however, and by the time
Mr. Effingham had accomplished his easy bow, the Governor was
himself again and, like the elegant gentleman he was, made
a low inclination before Beatrice. Then he made a pleasant
allusion to the weather that much-abused subject, which has
extricated so many perishing conversations and so, smiling
agreeably, passed on.

Mr. Effingham advanced through the opening, on each side
of which extended a row of brilliant forms, sparkling with lace
and jewels, without any apparent consciousness that he and his
companion were the observed of all observers without being
conscious, one would have said, of those murmured comments
which greeted on every side the strange and novel scene. His
manner to Beatrice, as he bent down to speak to her, was full
of respectful and chivalric feeling ; his eye was soft, his lip
smiling; the highest lady of the land might well have felt an
emotion of pleasure in so elegant and noble an exhibition of
regard. And this was not affected by Mr. Effingham. By no
means. We have failed to convey a truthful impression of this
young gentleman s character if the reader has not, before this
time, perceived that with all his woeful faults and failings
Mr. Champ Effingham had much in his character of the bold gen
tleman the ancient knight. With those thousand satirical or
scornful eyes bent on her, Beatrice was dearer to him than she
had ever been before. Those elegant ladies and gallant gentle
men were saying with disdain, " a common actress I " Well, he
would espouse the cause of that girl they scorned against them
all and treat her like a queen ! Never had she had more com
plete possession of his heart ; never had his heart thrilled so
deliciously at the contact of her hand, resting upon his arm.


As we have said, all drew back from the newcomers, and
they entered through an open space, like a king leading in his
queen. Mr. Effingham looked round with a cool and easy
smile, and led the young girl to a seat near some elderly
dowagers in turbans and diamonds, who had enthroned them
selves in state to watch their daughters and see that those
inexperienced creatures did not give too much encouragement
to ineligible personages. As Beatrice sank into one of the red
damask chairs, the surrounding chairs suddenly retreated on
their rollers, and the turbans agitated themselves indignantly.
Mr. Effingham smiled, with his easy, mocking expression, and
observing that one of the diamond-decorated dowagers had
dropped her fan, picked it up and presented it to her with a
bow. The indignant lady turned away her head with a frown.

" Ah," said Mr. Effingham, politely, " I was mistaken."

And fanning himself for a moment negligently, he placed the
richly feathered instrument in the hand of Beatrice.

" My fan, if you please, sir," said the owner, suddenly
flushing with indignant fire.

" Your fan, madam ? " asked Mr. Effingham, with polite

" Yes, sir ! you picked it up, sir ! "

" A thousand pardons ! " returned the young gentleman,
with a courteous smile ; " did I ? "

" Yes, sir ! that is it, sir ! In the hands of that ."

" Oh, I understand," returned Mr. Effingham ; and with
a low inclination to Beatrice, he said, holding out his hand,
" Will you permit me ? "

The fan was restored by the young girl, just as she had
taken it unconsciously, and the dowager received it with
the tips of her fingers, as if it had been contaminated. At the
same moment the band struck up a minuet, and two couples
began to dance. . . .


" Come ! " said he to Beatrice ; and taking her hand, he
raised her, and led her forward.

" Not so fast," he said, with a gesture of his hand, to the
musicians ; " I cannot dance a minuet to a gavotte tune."

And he entered into the broad, open space with Beatrice the
mark of a thousand eyes. . . .

The entrance of Mr. Effingham into the open space, to
dance the second minuet of the evening, had caused an awful
sensation. As he glided through the stately dance to the slow-
rolling music, bowing profoundly, with his tender, lordly smile,
touching the young girl s hand with chivalric respect, pressing
his cocked hat to his heart at each inclination of his handsome
and brilliant head, all eyes had been bent upon him, all tongues
busy with him. And these eyes and tongues had taken equal
note of Beatrice. The young girl moved through the old stately
dance with that exquisite grace and ease with which she per
formed every evolution, and her tender, agitated face, as we
have seen, tempered the wrath of many an indignant damsel.
After the first burst of surprise and anger, the gentlemen too
began to take the part as ^Virginia ^entlemen, always have
done and always will do of the lonely girl environed by so
many hostile eyes and slighting comments. They forgot the
prepossessions of rank, the prejudices of class no longer
remembered thaFThe young actress occupied "upon the floor
a position to which she was not entitled ; they only saw a
woman who had all the rest against her, and their sym
pathy was nearly powerful enough to make them lose sight
of Mr. Efnngham s defiance.

A murmur rose as the music stopped, and he led her to a
seat ; and then a species of undulation in the crowd, near the
entrance into the next room, attracted attention. Mr. Effingham
had his back turned, however, and did not observe this incident.
He was talking to Beatrice in a low tone.


" You see," he said, with his calm, nonchalant voice " you
see, Beatrice, that this superb society, which you fancied you
would find yourself so much out of place in, is not so very
extraordinary after all. I think that I hazard nothing in saying
that the second minuet was better than the first ; you are, in
deed, far more beautiful than that little dame whose ancestors,
I believe, came over with the conqueror Captain Smith."

And his cynical smile grew soft as he gazed on the tender,
anxious face.

"It was not so dreadful an ordeal," he added, " though I
must say we were the subject of much curiosity. I observed
a group criticizing me, which pleased me. There was a fiery
young gentleman in a long waistcoat, whom I offended by not
returning his bow some months since and I believe he was
the orator of the occasion."

With which words, Mr. Effingham s lip curled.

" See ! the very same group everybody, in fact, is gazing
at us. Let them ! you are lovelier than them all."

And Mr. Effingham raised his head proudly and looked
around like an emperor. But Beatrice felt her heart die within
her. That minuet had exhausted her strength ; each moment
she expected to see the pale cold face of Clare looking at her.
Mr. Effingham observed how faint she was, and leaning over
took a smelling bottle from the hand of the old dowager who
had dropped the fan bowing and smiling.

He presented it to Beatrice, but she put it away with the
back of her hand, whereupon Mr. Effingham, with a second
bow, restored it to the dowager, who, aghast at his impudence,
beaten by his superior coolness, and overwhelmed with rage,
took it without knowing what she did. Mr. Effingham there
upon turned, smiling, to Beatrice again :

" There seems to be something going on yonder," he said,
leaning on her chair, and directing the young girl s attention


to the flashing waves of the crowd, which moved to and fro
like foaming billows, in the light of the brilliant chandeliers.
Beatrice felt an indefinable and vague fear take possession of
her heart. At the same moment, Master Willie came pushing
and elbowing through the crowd.

" Cousin Clare is sick I " he said ; " you d better go and see
her, brother Champ. She liked to fainted just now ! "

Beatrice understood all.

" Oh, sir ! let me go ! " she cried, " go out with me ! I shall
die here ! oh, I cannot that dance nearly killed me and
now ! Oh, sir, have pity, give me your arm ! "

And rising with a hurried movement, she placed her hand on
Mr. Effingham s arm. That gentleman smiled bitterly.

" Yes," he said, " this is the tragedy after the comedy ! I
understand this fainting."

" Oh, sir, have pity I must go ! " cried Beatrice, " I will
go alone ! "

Mr. Effingham held her back and hesitated. At last he said,

" Well, madam as you please I have had a pleasant
minuet I will go."

And with the same cold, defiant ease, he led the young girl
across the room and issued forth into the open air.

[When Effingham is subsequently rejected most positively by
Beatrice Hallam, he becomes desperate and tries to kidnap her.
While he is carrying her away in a sailboat down the James
River, Charles Waters rescues her, and she eventually becomes
his wife. 1 ]

1 Since Book II of "The Virginia Comedians" carries on virtually an inde
pendent story, it has not been deemed necessary to extend the summary to
include these further incidents.



[Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was born in Augusta, Georgia, in
1790. He graduated at Yale in 1813 and practiced law in Georgia,
becoming a district judge in 1822. In addition to the practice of
law, he did editorial work in Augusta, where he established the
Sentinel. In 1838 he became a Methodist minister, and was there
after largely connected with educational institutions, being in turn
president of Emory College, Georgia, of Centenary College, Louisiana,
of the University of Mississippi, and of South Carolina College.
He died in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1870. His fame as a writer rests
upon a single book, " Georgia Scenes," consisting of realistic
sketches of Georgia country life, written originally as contributions
to newspapers and later gathered into book form.]


During the session of the Supreme Court, in the village of
, about three weeks ago, when a number of people were

collected in the principal street of the village, I observed a
young man riding up and down the street, as I supposed, in a
violent passion. He galloped this way, then that, and then the
other; spurred his horse to one group of citizens, then to
another; then dashed off at half speed, as if fleeing from
danger; and, suddenly checking his horse, returned first in a
pace, then in a trot, and then in a canter. While he was per
forming these various evolutions, he cursed, swore, whooped,
screamed, and tossed himself in every attitude which man could
assume on horseback. In short, he cavorted most magnanimously


(a term which, in our tongue, expresses all that I have described,
and a little more), and seemed to be setting all creation at
defiance. As I like to see all that is passing, I determined to
take a position a little nearer to him, and to ascertain, if possible,
what it was that affected him so sensibly. Accordingly, I
approached a crowd before which he had stopped for a moment,

Reproduction of one of the original illustrations of " Georgia Scenes "

and examined it with the strictest scrutiny. But I could see
nothing in it that seemed to have anything to do with the
cavorter. Every man appeared to be in good humor, and all
minding their own business. Not one so much as noticed the
principal figure. Still he went on. After a semicolon pause,
which my appearance seemed to produce (for he eyed me
closely as I approached), he fetched a whoop and swore that he


could outswap any live man, woman, or child that ever walked
these hills, or that ever straddled horseflesh since the days of
old daddy Adam. " Stranger," said he to me, " did you ever
see the Yallow Blossom from Jasper ? "

" No," said I, " but I have often heard of him." .

" I m the boy," continued he ; " perhaps a leetle, jist a leetle,
of the best man at a horse swap that ever trod shoe leather."

I began to feel my situation a little awkward, w r hen I was
relieved by a man somewhat advanced in years, who stepped
up and began to survey the Yallow Blossom s horse with much
apparent interest. This drew the rider s attention, and he
turned the conversation from me to the stranger.

" Well, my old coon," said he, " do you want to swap
hosses ? "

"Why, I don t know," replied the stranger; " I believe I ve
got a beast I d trade with you for that one, if you like him."

" Well, fetch up your nag, my old cock ; you re jist, the lark
I wanted to get hold of. I am perhaps a leetle, jist a leetle, of
the best man at a horse swap that ever stole cracklins out of his
mammy s fat gourd. Where s your hoss ? "

" I 11 bring him presently, but I want to examine your horse
a little."

" Oh ! look at him," said the Blossom, alighting and hitting
him a cut; "look at him. He s the best piece of Siossftesh in
the thirteen united univarsal worlds. There s no sort o mistake
in little Bullet. He can pick up miles on his feet and fling em
behind him as fast as the next man s hoss, I don t care where
he comes from. And he can keep at it as long as the sun can
shine without resting."

During this harangue little Bullet looked as if he understood
it all, believed it, and was ready at any moment to verify it. He
was a horse of goodly countenance, rather expressive of vigi
lance than fire, though an unnatural appearance of fierceness


was thrown into it by the loss of his ears, which had been
cropped pretty close to his head. Nature had done but little
for Bullet s head and neck, but he managed, in a great measure,
to hide their defects by bowing perpetually. He had obviously
suffered severely for corn, but if his ribs and hip bones had not
disclosed the fact, he never would have done it, for he was in
all respects as cheerful and happy as if he commanded all the
corn cribs and fodder stacks in Georgia. His height was about
twelve hands, but as his shape partook somewhat of that of
the giraffe, his haunches stood much lower. They were short,
straight, peaked, and concave. Bullet s tail, however, made
amends for all his defects. All that the artist could do to
beautify it had been done, and all that horse could do to com
pliment the artist, Bullet did. His tail was nicked in superior
style and exhibited the line of beauty in so many directions
that it could not fail to hit the most fastidious taste in some of
them. From the root it drooped into a graceful festoon, then
rose in a handsome curve, then resumed its first direction, and
then mounted suddenly upward like a cypress knee to a per
pendicular of about two and a half inches. The whole had a
careless and bewitching inclination to the right. Bullet obviously
knew where his beauty lay and took all occasions to display it
to the best advantage. If a stick cracked, or if anyone moved
suddenly about him, or coughed, or hawked, or spoke a little
louder than common, up went Bullet s tail like lightning, and if
the going up did not please, the coming down must of necessity,
for it was as different from the other movement as was its
direction. The first was a bold and rapid flight upward, usually
to an angle of forty-five degrees. In this position he kept his
interesting appendage until he satisfied himself that nothing in
particular was to be done, when he commenced dropping it by

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 12 of 35)