The Minister's Wooing
WE suppose the heroine of a novel, among other privileges and immunities, has a prescriptive right to her own private boudoir, where, as a French writer has it, “ she appears like a lovely picture in its frame.”
Well, our little Mary is not without this luxury, and to its sacred precincts we will give you this morning a ticket of admission. Know, then, that the garret of this gambrel-roofed cottage had a projecting window on the seaward side, which opened into an immensely large old apple-tree, and was a look-out as leafy and secluded as a robin’s nest.
Garrets are delicious places in any case, lor people of thoughtful, imaginative temperament. Who has not loved a garret in the twilight days of childhood, with its endless stores of quaint, cast-off, suggestive antiquity, — old worm-eaten chests,—rickety chairs,—boxes and casks full of odd comminglings, out of which, with tiny, childish hands, wo fished wonderful hoards of fairy treasure? What peep-holes, and hiding-places, and undiscoverable retreats we made to ourselves, —where we sat rejoicing in our security, and bidding defiance to the vague, distant cry which summoned us to school, or to some unsavory every-day task ! How deliciously the rain came pattering on the roof over our head, or the red twilight streamed in at the window, while we sat snugly ensconced over the delicious pages at some romance, which careful aunts had packed away at the bottom of all things, to be sure we should never read it ! If you have anything, beloved friends, which you wish your Charley or your Susie to be sure and read, pack it mysteriously away at the bottom of a trunk of stimulating rubbish, in the darkest corner of your garret;—in that case, if the book be at all readable, one that by any possible chance can make its way into a young mind, you may bo sure that it will not only be read, but remembered to the longest day they have to live.
Mrs. Katy Scudder’s garret, was not an exception to the general rule. Those quaint little people who touch with so airy a grace all the lights and shadows of great beams, bare rafters, and unplastered walls, had not failed in their work there. Was there not there a grand easychair of stamped-leather, minus two of its hinder legs, which had genealogical associations through the Wilcoxes with the Vernons and through the Vernons quite across the water with Old England ? and was there not a dusky picture, in an old tarnished frame, of a woman of whose tragic end strange stories were whispered, — one of the sufferers in the time when witches were unceremoniously helped out of the world, instead of being, as now-a days, helped to make their fortune in it by table-turning ?
Yes, there were all these things, and many more which we will not stay to recount, but bring you to the boudoir which Mary has constructed for herself around the dormer-window which looks into the whispering old apple-tree.
The inclosure was formed by blankets and bed-spreads, which, by reason of their antiquity, had been pensioned off to an undisturbed old age in the garret,—not common blankets or bed-spreads, either, —bought, as you buy yours, out of a shop, —spun or woven by machinery,—without individuality or history. Every one of these curtains had its story. The one on the right, nearest the window, and already falling into holes, is a Chinese linen, and even now displays unfaded, quaint patterns of sleepy-looking Chinamen, in conical hats, standing on the leaves of most singular herbage, and with hands forever raised in act to strike bells, which never are struck and never will be till the end of time. These, Mrs. Katy Scudder had often instructed Mary, were brought from the Indies by her greatgreat-grandfather, and were her grandmother’s wedding-curtains,— the grandmother who had blue eyes like hers and was just about her height.
The next spread was spun and woven by Mrs. Katy’s beloved Aunt Eunice,— a mythical personage, of whom Mary gathered vague accounts that she was disappointed in love, and that this very article was part of a bridal outfit, prepared in vain, against the return of one from sea, who never came back,-—and she heard of how she sat wearily and patiently at her work, this poor Aunt Eunice, month after month, starting every time she heard the gate shut, every time she heard the tramp of a horse’s hoof, every time she heard the news of a sail in sight, — her color, meanwhile, fading and fading as life and hope bled away at an inward wound,— till at last she found comfort and reunion beyond the veil.
Next to this was a bed-quilt pieced in tiny blocks, none of them bigger than a sixpence, containing, as Mrs, Katy said, pieces of the gowns of all her grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and female relatives for years back,—and mated to it was one of the blankets which had served Mrs. Scudder's uncle in his bivouac at Valley Forge, when the American soldiers went on the snows with bleeding feet, and had scarce anything for daily bread except a morning message of patriotism and hope from George Washington.
Such were the memories woven into the tapestry of our little boudoir. Within, fronting the window, stands the large spinning-wheel, one end adorned with a snowy pile of fleecy rolls,— and beside it, a reel and a basket of skeins of yarn, — and open, with its face down on the beam of the wheel, lay always a book, with which the intervals of work were beguiled.
The dusky picture of which we have spoken hung against the rough wall in one place, and in another appeared an old engraved head of one of the Madonnas of Leonardo da Vinci, a picture which to Mary had a mysterious interest, from the fact of its having been cast on shore after a furious storm, and found like a waif lying in the sea-weed; and Mrs. Marvyn, who had deciphered the signature, had not ceased exploring till she found for her, in an Encyclopædia, a life of that wonderful man, whose greatness enlarges our ideas of what is possible to humanity, —and Mary, pondering thereon, felt the seaworn picture as a constant vague inspiration.
Here our heroine spun for hours and hours,— with intervals, when, crouched on a low seat in the window, she pored over her book, and then, returning again to her work, thought of what she had read to the lulling burr of the sounding wheel.
By chance a robin had built its nest so that from her retreat she could see the five little blue eggs, whenever the patient brooding mother left them for a moment uncovered. And sometimes, as she sat in dreamy reverie, resting her small, round arms on the window-sill, she fancied that the little feathered watcher gave her familiar nods and winks of a confidential nature,— cocking the small head first to one side and then to the other, to get a better view of her gentle human neighbor.
I dare say it seems to you, reader, that we have travelled, in our story, over a long space of time, because we have talked so much and introduced so many personages and reflections ; but, in fact, it is only Wednesday week since James sailed, and the eggs which were brooded when he went are still unhatched in the nest, and the apple-tree has changed only in having now a majority ot white blossoms over the pink buds.
This one week has been a critical one to our Mary;—in it, she has made the great discovery, that site loves; and she has made her first step into the gay world ; and now she comes back to her retirement to think the whole over by herself. It seems a dream to her, that she who sits there now reeling yarn in her stuff petticoat and white short-gown is the same who took the arm of Colonel Burr amid the blaze of wax-lights and the sweep of silks and rustle of plumes. She wonders dreamily as she remembers the dark, lovely face of the foreign Madame, so brilliant under its powdered hair and flashing gems,— the sweet, foreign accents of the voice,—the tiny, jewelled fan, with its glancing pictures and sparkling tassels, whence exhaled vague and floating perfumes; then she hears again that manly voice, softened to tones so seductive, and sees those fine eyes with the tears in them, and wonders within herself that he could have kissed her hand with such veneration, as if she had been a throned queen.
But here the sound of busy, pattering footsteps is heard on the old, creaking staircase, and soon the bows of Miss Prissy’s bonnet part the folds of the boudoir drapery, and her merry, May-day face looks in.
“ Well, really, Mary, how do you do, to be sure ? You wonder to see me, don’t you ? hut I thought I must just run in, a minute, on my way up to Miss Marvyn’s. I promised her at least a half-a-day, though I didn’t see how I was to spare it,—for I tell Miss Wilcox I just run and run till it does seem as if my feet would drop off; but I thought I must just step in to say, that I, for my part, do admire, the Doctor more than ever, and I was telling your mother we mus’n’t mind too much what people say. I ’most made Miss Wilcox angry, standing up for him; but I put it right to her, and says I, ‘Miss Wilcox, you know folks must speak what’s on their mind,— in particular, ministers must; and you know, Miss Wilcox,’ I says, 'that the Doctor is a good man, and lives up to his teaching. If anybody in this world does, and gives away every dollar he can lay hands on to those poor negroes, and works over ’em and teaches ’em as if they were his brothers ’; and says I, ‘Miss Wilcox, you know I don’t spare myself, night nor day, trying to please yon and do your work to give satisfaction ; but when it comes to my conscience,’ says I, 'Miss Wilcox, you know I always must speak out, and if it was the last word I had to say on my dying bed, I'd say that I think the Doctor is right.’ Why! what things he told about the slave-ships, and packing those poor creatures so that they couldn’t move nor breathe! — why, I declare, every time I turned over and stretched in bed, I thought of it; — and says I, ‘ Miss Wilcox, I do believe that the judgments of God will come down on us, if something a’n’t done, and I shall always stand by the Doctor,’ says I; — and, if you’ll believe me, just then I turned round and saw the General; and the General, he just haw-hawed right out, and says he, ‘Good for you, Miss Prissy! that’s real grit,’ says he, 'and I like you better for it.’—Laws,” added Miss Prissy, reflectively, “I sha’n’t lose by it, for Miss Wilcox knows she never can get anybody to do the work for her that I will.”
“ Do you think,” said Mary, “ that there are a great many made angry ? ”
“ Why, bless your heart, child, haven’t you heard?—Why, there never was such a talk in all .Newport. Why, you know Mr. Simeon Brown is gone clear oft’ to Dr. Stiles; and Miss Brown, I was making up her plum-colored satin o’Monday, and you ought to ’a’ heard her talk. But, I tell you, I fought her. She used to talk to me,” said Miss Prissy, sinking her voice to a mysterious; whisper, “ ’cause I never could come to it to say that I was willin’ to be lost, if it was for the glory of God ; and she always told me folks could just bring their minds right, up to anything they knew they must; and I just got the tables turned on her, for they talked and abused the Doctor till they fairly wore me out, and says I, ‘Well, Miss Brown, I’ll give in, that you and Mr. Brown do act up to your principles ; you certainly act as if you were willing to be damned’;—and so do all those folks who will live on the blood and groans of the poor Africans, as the Doctor saiil; and I should think, by the way Newport people are making their money, that they were all pretty willing to go that way,—though, whether it's tor the glory of God, or not, I’m doubting.—But you see, Mary,” said Miss Prissy, sinking her voice again to a solemn whisper, “ I never was clear on that point; it always did seem to me a dreadful high place to come to, and it didn’t seem to be given to me; but I thought, perhaps, if it was necessary, it would be given, you know,—for the Lord always has been so good to me that I’ve faith to believe that, and so I just say, ‘ The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’”; — and Miss Prissy hastily whisked a little drop out of her blue eye with her handkerchief.
At this moment, Mrs. Scudder came into the boudoir with a face expressive of some anxiety.
“ I suppose Miss Prissy has told you,” she said, "the news about the Browns. That’ll make a great falling off in the Doctor’s salary; and I feel for him, because I know it will come hard to him not to be able to help and do, especially for these poor negroes, just when he will. But then we must put everything on the most economical scale we can, and just try, all of us, to make it up to him. I was speaking to Cousin Zebedee about it, when he was down here, on Monday, and he is all clear; — he has made out free papers for Candace and Cato and Dinah, and they couldn’t, one of ’em, be hired to leave him ; and he says, from what he’s seen already, he has no doubt but they’ll do enough more to pay for their wages.”
“ Well,” said Miss Prissy, “ I haven’t got anybody to care for but myself. I was telling sister Elizabeth, one time, (she’s married and got four children,) that I could take a storm a good deal easier than she could, ’cause I hadn’t near so many sails to pull down ; and now, you just look to me for the Doctor’s shirts, ’cause, after this, they shall all come in ready to put on, if I have to sit up till morning. And I hope, Miss Scudder, you can trust me to make them; for if I do say it myself, I a’n’t afraid to do fine stitching 'longside of anybody—and hemstitching ruffles, too; and I haven’t shown you yet that French stitch I learned of the nuns—but you just set your heart at rest about the Doctor’s shifts. I always thought,” continued Miss Prissy, laughing, “ that I should have made a famous hand about getting up that tabernacle in the wilderness, with the blue and the purple and fine-twined linen ; it’s one of my favorite passages, that is;—different things, you know, are useful to different people.”
“ Well,” said Mrs. Scudder, “ I see that it’s our call to be a remnant small and despised, but I hope we sha’n’t shrink from it. I thought, when I saw all those fashionable people go out Sunday, tossing their heads and looking so scornful, that I hoped grace would be given me to be faithful.”
"And what does the Doctor say?” said Miss Prissy.
“ He hasn’t said a word; his mind seems to be very much lifted above all these things.”
“ La, yes,” said Miss Prissy, “ that’s one comfort; he’ll never know where his shirts come from ; and besides that, Miss Scudder,” she said, sinking her voice to a whisper, “ as you know, I haven’t any children to provide for,— though I was telling Elizabeth t’other day, when I was making up frocks for her children, that I believed old maids, first and last, did more providing for children than married women; but still I do contrive to slip away a pound-note, now and then, in my little old silver teapot that was given to me when they settled old Mrs. Simpson’s property, (I nursed her all through her last sickness, and laid her out with my own hands,) and, as I was saying, if ever the Doctor should want money, you just let me know.”
“ Thank you, Miss Prissy,” said Mrs. Scudder; “ we all know where your heart is.”
“And now,” added Miss Prissy, “what do you suppose they say ? Why, they say Colonel Burr is struck dead in love with our Mary ; and you know his wife’s dead, and he’s a widower ; and they do say that he’ll get to he the next President. Sakes alive ! Well, Mary must be careful, if she don’t want to be carried off; for they do say that there can’t any woman resist him, that sees enough of him. Why, there’s that poor French woman, Madame — what do you call her, that’s staying with the Vernons? — they say she’s over head and cars in love with him.”
“ But she’s a married woman,” said Mary; “it can’t be possible ! ”
Mrs. Scudder looked reprovingly at Miss Prissy, and for a few moments there was great shaking of heads and a whispered conference between the two ladies, ending in Miss Prissy’s going off, saying, as she went down-stairs.—
“ Well, if' women will do so, I, for my part, can’t blame the men.”
In a few moments Miss Prissy rushed back as much discomposed as a clucking hen who has seen a hawk.
“ Well, Miss Scudder, what do you think? Here’s Colonel Burr come to call on the ladies ! ”
Mrs. Scudder’s first movement, in common with all middle-aged gentlewomen, was to put her hand to her head and reflect that she had not on her best cap; and Mary looked down at her dimpled hands, which were blue from the contact with mixed yarn she had just been spinning.
“ Now I’ll tell you what,” said Miss Prissy, — “wasn’t it lucky you had me here? for I first saw him coming in at the gate, and I whipped in quick as a wink and opened the best-room window-shutters, and then I was back at the door, and he bowed to me as if I’d been a queen, and says he, ‘Miss Prissy, how fresh you're looking' this morning!’ You see, I was in working at the Vernons’, but I never thought as he’d noticed me. And then he inquired in the handsomest way for the ladies and the Doctor, and so I took him into the parlor and settled him down, and then I ran into the study, and you may depend upon it I flew round lively for a few minutes, I got the Doctor’s studygown off, and got his best coat on, and put on his wig for him, and started him up kinder lively,—you know it takes me to get him down into this world,—-and so there he’s in talking with him; and so you can just slip down and dress yourselves,—easy as not.”
Meanwhile Colonel Burr was entertaining tlie simple-minded Doctor with all the grace of a young neophyte come to sit at the feet of superior truth. There are some people who receive from Nature as a gift a sort of graceful facility of sympathy, by which they incline to take on, for the time being, the sentiments and opinions of those with whom they converse, as the chameleon was fabled to change its hue with every surrounding. Such are often supposed to be wilfully acting a part, as exerting themselves to flatter and deceive, when in fact they are only framed so sensitive to the sphere of mental emanation which surrounds others that it would require an exertion not in some measure to harmonize with it. In approaching others in conversation, they are like a musician who joins a performer on an instrument, — it is impossible for them to strike a discord ; their very nature urges them to bring into play faculties according in vibration with those which another is exerting. It was as natural as possible for Burr to commence talking with the Doctor on scenes and incidents in the family of President Edwards, and his old tutor, Dr. Bellamy,— and thence to glide on to the points of difference and agreement in theology, with a suavity and deference which acted on the good man like, a June sun on a budding elm-tree. The Doctor was soon wide awake, talking with fervent animation on the topic of disinterested benevolence,— Burr the mean while studying him with the quiet interest, of an observer of natural history, who sees a new species developing before him. At all the best possible points he interposed suggestive questions, and set up objections in the quietest manner for the Doctor to knock down, smiling ever the while as a man may who truly and genuinely does not care a sou for truth on any subject not practically connected with his own schemes in life. lie therefore gently guided the Doctor to sail down the stream of his own thoughts till his bark glided out into the smooth waters of the Millennium, on which, with great simplicity, he gave his views at length.
It was just in the midst of this that Mary and her mother entered. Burr interrupted the conversation to pay them the compliments of the morning,—to inquire for their health, and hope they suffered no inconvenience from their nightride from the party; then, seeing the Doctor still looking eager to go on, he contrived with gentle dexterity to tie again the broken thread of conversation.
“ Our excellent friend,” he, said, “ was explaining to me his views of a future Millennium. I assure you, ladies, that we sometimes find ourselves in company which enables us to believe in the perfectibility of the human species. We sec family retreats, so unaffected, so charming in their simplicity, where industry and piety so go hand in hand! One has only to suppose all families such, to imagine a Millennium.”
There was no disclaiming this compliment, because so delicately worded, that, while perfectly clear to the internal sense, it was, in a manner, veiled and unspoken.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, who sat ready to begin where he left off, turned to his complaisant listener and resumed an exposition of the Apocalypse.
“ To my mind, it is certain,” he said, "as it is now three hundred years sinee the fifth vial was poured out, there is good reason to suppose that the sixth vial began to be poured out at the beginning of the last century, and has been running for a hundred years or more, so that it is run nearly out; the seventh and last vial will begin to run early in the next century.”
“ You anticipate, then, no rest for the world for some time to come ? ” said Burr.
“ Certainty not,” said the Doctor, definitively ; “ there will be no rest from overturnings till He whose right it is shall come. “ The passage,” he added, “ concerning the drying up of the river Euphrates, under the sixth vial, has a distinct reference, T think, to the account in ancient writers of the taking of Babylon, and prefigures, in like manner, that the resources of that modern Babylon, the Popish power, shall continue to be drained off, as they have now been drying up for a century or more, till, at last, there will come a sudden and final downfall of that power. And after that will come the first triumphs of truth and righteousness,— the marriage-supper of the Lamb."
“ These investigations must undoubtedly possess a deep interest for you, Sir,” said Burr; “ the hope of a future as well as the tradition of a past age of gold seems to have been one of the most cherished conceptions of the human breast.”
"In those times,” continued the Doctor, "the whole earth will be of one language.”
“ Which language, Sir, do you suppose will be considered worthy of such preeminence?” inquired his listener.
"That will probably be decided by an amicable conference of all nations,” said the Doctor; “and the one universally considered most valuable will be adopted ; and the literature of all other nations being translated into it. they will gradually drop all other tongues. Brother Stiles thinks it will be the Hebrew. I am not clear on that point. The Hebrew seems to me too inflexible, and not sufficiently copious. I do not think,” he added, after some consideration, "that it will be the Hebrew tongue.”
"I am most happy to hear it, Sir,” said Burr, gravely ; "I never felt much attracted to that language. But, ladies,” he added, starting up with animation, "I must improve this fine weather to ask you to show me the view of the sea from this little hill beyond your house, it is evidently so fine ;—I trust I am not intruding too far on your morning ? ”
“ By no means, Sir,” said Mrs. Scudder, rising ; "we will go with you in a moment.”
And soon Colonel Burr, with one on either arm, was to bo soon on the top of the hill beyond the house,— the very one from which Mary, the week before, had seen the retreating sail we all wot of. Hence, though her companion contrived, with the adroitness of a practised man of gallantry, to direct his words and looks as constantly to her as if they had been in a tête-a-tête, and although nothing could be more graceful, more delicately flattering, more engaging, still the little heart kept equal poise; for where a true love has once bolted the door, a false one serenades in vain under the window.
Some fine, instinctive perceptions of the real character of the man beside her seemed to have dawned on Mary’s mind in the conversation of the morning; — she had felt the covert and subtile irony that lurked beneath his polished smile, felt the utter want of faith or sympathy in what she and her revered friend deemed holiest, and therefore there was a calm dignity in her manner of receiving his attentions which rather piqued and stimulated his curiosity. He had been wont to boast that he could subdue any woman, if he could only see enough of her; in the first interview in the garden, he had made her color come and go and brought tears to her eyes in a manner that interested his fancy, and he could not resist the impulse to experiment again. It was a new sensation to him, to find himself quietly studied and calmly measured by those thoughtful blue eyes; he felt, with his fine, instinctive tact, that the soul within was infolded in some crystalline sphere of protection, transparent, but adamantine, so that he could not touch it. What was that secret poise, that calm, immutable centre on which she rested, that made her, in her rustic simplicity, so unapproachable and so strong ?
Burr remembered once finding in his grandfather’s study, among a mass of old letters, one in which that great man, in early youth, described his future wife, then known to him only by distant report. With his keen natural sense of everything fine and poetic, he had been struck with this passage, as so beautifully expressing an ideal womanhood, that he had in his earlier days copied it in his private recueil.
“They say,” it ran, “that there is a young lady who is beloved of that Great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with such exceeding sweet delight, that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate on him; that she expects, after a while, to be received up where lie is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven, being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you should give her all the world. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind, especially after this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go from place to place singing sweetly, and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure ; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in fields and groves, and seems to have some invisible one always conversing with her.”
A shadowy recollection of this description crossed his mind more than once, as lie looked into those calm and candid eyes. Was there, then, a truth in that inner union of chosen souls with God, of which his mother and her mother before her had borne meek witness,-—their souls shining out as sacred lamps through the alabaster walls of a temple ?
But then, again, had he not logically met and demonstrated, to his own satisfaction, the nullity of the religious dogmas on which New England faith was based ? There could be no such inner life, he said to himself,— he had demonstrated it as an absurdity. What was it, then, — this charm, so subtile and so strong, by which this fair child, his inferior in age, cultivation, and knowledge of the world, held him in a certain awe, and made him feel her spirit so unapproachable ? His curiosity was piqued, He felt stimulated to employ all his powers of pleasing. He was determined, that, sooner or later, she should feel his power.
With Mrs. Scudder his success was immediate, she was completely won over by the deferential manner with which he constantly referred himself to her matronly judgments, and, on returning to the house, she warmly pressed him to stay to dinner.
Burr accepted the invitation with a frank and almost boyish abandon, declaring that he had not seen anything, for years, that so reminded him of old times. He praised everything at table, — the smoking brown-bread, the baked beans steaming from the oven, where they had been quietly simmering during the morning walk, and the Indian pudding, with its gelatinous softness, matured by long and patient brooding in the motherly old oven. He declared that there was no stvle of living to be compared with the simple, dignified order of a true New England home, where servants were excluded, and everything came direct from the polished and cultured hand of a lady. It realized the dreams of Arcadian romance. A man, he declared, must be unworthy the name, who did not rise to lofty sentiments and heroic deeds, when even his animal wants were provided for by the ministrations of the most delicate and exalted portion of the creation.
After dinner he would be taken into all the family interests. Gentle and pliable as oil, he seemed to penetrate every joint of the menage by a subtile and seductive sympathy. He was interested in the spinning, in the weaving,— and in fact, nobody knows how it was done, but, before the afternoon shadows had turned, he was sitting in the cracked arm-chair of Mary’s garret-boudoir, gravely giving judgment on several specimens of her spinning, which Mrs. Scudder had presented to his notice.
With that ease with which he could at will glide into the character of the superior and elder brother, he had, without seeming to ask questions, drawn from Mary an account of her reading, her studies, her acquaintances.
“You read French, I presume?” he said to her, with easy negligence.
Mary colored deeply, and then, as one who recollects one’s self, answered, gravely ,—
“No, Mr. Burr, I know no language but my own.”
“ But you should learn French, my child,” said Burr, with that gentle dictatorship which he could at times so gracefully assume.
“ I should be delighted to learn,” said Mary, “ but have no opportunity.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Scudder, — " Mary has always had a taste for study, and would be glad to improve in any way.”
“ Pardon me, Madam, if I take the liberty of making a suggestion. There is a most excellent man, the Abbé Léfon, now in Newport, driven here by the political disturbances in France ; he is anxious to obtain a few scholars, and I am interested that he should succeed, for he is a most worthy man.”
“ Is he a Roman Catholic ? ”
“ He is, Madam ; but there could be no manner of danger with a person so admirably instructed as your daughter. If you please to see him, Madam, I will call with him some time.”
“ Mrs. Marvyn will, perhaps, join me,” said Mary. “ She has been studying French by herself for some time, in order to read a treatise on astronomy, which she found in that language. I will go over to-morrow and see her about it.”
Before Colonel Burr departed, the Doctor requested him to step a moment with him into his study. Burr, who had had frequent occasions during his life to experience the sort of paternal freedom which the clergy of his country took with him in right of his clerical descent, began to summon together his faculties of address for the avoidance of a kind of conversation which he was not disposed to meet. He was agreeably disappointed, however, when, taking a paper from the table, and presenting it to him, the Doctor said,—
“ I feel myself, my dear Sir, under a burden of obligation for benefits received from your family, so that I never see a member of it without casting about in my own mind how I may in some measure express my good-will towards him. You are aware that the papers of your distinguished grandfather have fallen into my hands, ami from them I have taken the liberty to make a copy of those maxims by which he guided a life which was a blessing to his country and to the world. May I ask the favor that you will read them with attention ? and if you find anything contrary to right reason or sober sense, I shall be happy to hear of it on a future occasion.”
“ Thank you, Doctor,” said Burr, bowing. “ I shall always be sensible of the kindness of the motive which lias led you to take this trouble on my account. Believe me, Sir, I am truly obliged to you for it.”
And thus the interview terminated.
That night, the Doctor, before retiring, offered fervent prayers for the grandson of his revered master and friend, praying that his father’s and mother’s God might bless him and make him a living stone in the Eternal Temple.
Meanwhile, the object of these prayers was sitting by a table in dressing-gown and slippers, thinking over the events of the day. The paper which Dr. H. had handed him contained the celebrated “ Resolutions ” by which his ancestor led a life nobler than any mere dogmas can possibly be. By its side lay a perfumed note from Madame de Frontignac,—one of those womanly notes, so beautiful, so sacred in themselves, but so mournful to a. right-minded person who sees whither they are tending. Burr opened and perused it,— laid it by,— opened the document that the Doctor had given, and thoughtfully read the first of the “ Resolutions ”
“ Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good profit and pleasure in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of time, whether now or never so many myriad ages hence.
“ Resolved, To do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.
“ Resolved, To do this, whatsoever difficulties I meet with, and how many and how great soever.”
Burr read the whole paper through attentively once or twice, and paused thoughtfully over many parts of it. He sat for some time after, lost in reflection; the paper dropped from his hand, and then followed one of those long, deep seasons of fixed reverie, when the soul thinks by pictures and goes over endless distances in moments. In him. originally, every moral faculty and sensibility was as keenly strung as in any member of that remarkable family from which he was descended, and which has, whether in good or ill, borne no common stamp. Two possible lives flashed before his mind at that moment, rapidly as when a train sweeps by with flashing lamps in the night. The life of worldly expediency, the life of eternal rectitude,—the life of seventy years, and that life eternal in which the event of death is no disturbance. Suddenly he roused himself, picked up the paper, filed and dated it carefully, and laid it by; and in that moment was renewed again that governing purpose which sealed him, with all his beautiful capabilities, as the slaveof the fleeting and the temporary, which sent him at last, a shipwrecked man, to a nameless, dishonored grave.
He took his pen and gave to a friend his own views of the events of the day.
“MY DEAR,—We are still in Newport, conjugating the verb s'ennuyer, which I, for one, have put through all the moods and tenses. Pour passer le temps, however, I have la belle Française and my sweet little Puritan. I visited there this morning. She lives with her mother, a little walk out toward the seaside, in a cottage quite prettily sequestered among blossoming apple-trees, and the great hierarch of modern theology, Dr. H., keeps guard over them. No chance here for any indiscretions, yon see.
“ By-the-by, the good Doctor astonished our monde here on Sunday last, by treating us to a solemn onslaught on slavery ami the slave-trade. He had all the chief captains and counsellors to hear him, and smote them hip and thigh, and pursued them even unto Shur.
“ He is one of those great, honest fellows, without the smallest notion of the world we live in, who think, in dealing with men, that you must go to work and prove the right or the wrong of a matter; just as if anybody eared for that! Supposing he is right,—which appears very probable to me,—what is he going to do about it? No moral argument, since the world began, ever prevailed over twentyfive per cent, profit.
“ However, he is the spiritual director of la belle Puritaine, and was a resident in my grandfather’s family, so I did the agreeable with him as well as such an uncircumcised Ishmaelite could. I discoursed theology,-—sat with the most docile air possible while he explained to me all the ins and outs in his system of the universe, past, present, and future,— heard him dilate calmly on the Millennium, and expound prophetic symbols, marching out before me his whole apocalyptic menagerie of beasts and dragons with heads and horns innumerable, to all which I gave edifying attention, taking occasion now and then to turn a compliment in favor of the ladies, — never lost, you know.
“ Really, he is a worthy old soul, and actually believes all these things with his whole heart, attaching unheard-of importance to the most abstract ideas, and embarking his whole being in bis ideal view of a grand Millennial finale to the human race. I look at him and at myself, and ask, Can human beings be made so unlike ?
" My little Mary to-day was in a mood of ‘ sweet austere composure ’ quite becoming to her style of beauty ; her naive nonchalance at times is rather stimulating. What a contrast between her and la belle Française!—all the difference that there is between a diamond and a flower. I find the little thing has a cultivated mind, enriched bv reading, and more by a still, quaint habit of thinking, which is new and charming. But a truce to this.
“ I have seen our friends at last. We have had three or four meetings, and are waiting to hear from Philadelphia,—matters are getting in train. If Messrs. T. and S. dare to repeat what they said again, let me know; they will find in me a man not to be trifled willi. I shall be with you in a week or ten days, at farthest. Meanwhile stand to your guns.
“ Ever yours, “ BURR.”
THE next morning, before the early dews bad yet dried off the grass, Mary started to go and see her friend Mrs. Marvyn. It was one of those charming, invigorating days, familiar to those of Newport experience, when the sea lies shimmering and glittering in deep blue and gold, and the sky above is firm and cloudless, and every breeze that comes landward seems to bear health and energy upon its wings.
As Mary approached the house, she heard loud sounds of discussion trout the open kitchen-door, and. looking in, saw a rather original scene acting.
Candace, armed with a long oven-shovel, stood before the open door of the oven, whence she had just been removing an army of good tilings which appeared ranged around on the dresser. Cato, in the undress of a red flannel shirt and tow-cloth trousers, was cuddled, in a consoled and protected attitude, in the corner of the wooden settle, with a mug of flip in his hand, which Candace had prepared, and, calling him in from his work, authoritatively ordered him to drink, on the showing that he had kept her awake the night before with his cough, and she was sure he was going to he sick. Of course, worse things may happen to a man than to bo vigorously taken care of by bis wife, and Cato had a salutary conviction of this fact, so that he resigned himself to his comfortable corner and his flip with edilying serenity.
Opposite to Candace stood a well-built, corpulent negro man, dressed with considerable care, and with the air of a person on excellent terms with himself. This was no other than Digo, the house-servant and factotum of Dr. Stiles, who considered himself as the guardian of his master’s estate, his title, his honor, his literary character, his professional position, and his religious creed.
Digo was ready to assert before all the world, that one and all of these were under his special protection, and that whoever had anything to say to the contrary of any of these must expect to take issue with him. Digo not only swallowed all his master’s opinions whole, but seemed to have the stomach of an ostrich in their digestion. He believed everything, no matter what, the moment he understood that the Doctor held it. He believed that Hebrew was the language of heaven,—that the ten tribes of the Jews had reappeared in the North American Indians,—that there was no sush thing as disinterested benevolence, and that the doings of the nnregenerate had some value, — that slavery was a divine ordinance, and that Dr. H. was a radical, who did more harm than good,—and, finally, that there never was so great a man as Dr. Stiles; and as Dr. Stiles belonged to him in the capacity of master, why, he, Digo, owned the greatest man in America. Of course, as Candace held precisely similar opinions in regard to Dr. H., the two never could meet without a discharge of the opposite electricities. Digo had, it is true, come ostensibly on a mere worldly errand from his mistress to Mrs. Marvyn, who had promised to send her some turkeys’ eggs, but he had inly resolved with himself that he would give Candace his opinion,—that is, what Dr. Stiles had said at dinner the day before about Doctor TI.’s Sunday’s discourse. Dr. Stiles had not heard it, but Digo had. He had felt it due to the responsibilities of his position to be present on so very important an occasion.
Therefore, after receiving his eggs, he opened hostilities by remarking, in a general way, that he had attended the Doctor's preaching on Sunday, and that there was quite a crowded house. Candace immediately began mentally to bristle her feathers like a hen who sees a hawk in the distance, and responded with decision :—
“ Den you heard sometin’, for once in your life ! ”
" I must say,” said Digo, with suavity, “dat I can’t give my ’proval to such sentiments.”
“ More, shame for you,” said Candace, grimly. “ You a man, and not stan’ by your color, and flunk under to mean white ways! Ef you was half a man, your heart would ’a’ bounded like a cannon-ball at dat ar’ sermon.”
“ Dr. Stiles and me we talked it over after church,” said Digo,—“ and de Doctor was of my ’pinion, dat Providence didn't intend ”-
“ Oh, you go ’long wid your Providence! Guess, ef white folks had let us alone, Providence wouldn't trouble us.”
“ Well,” said Digo, “ Dr. Stiles is clear dat dis yer’s a-fulfillin’ tie prophecies and bringin’ in de fulness of de Gentiles.”
“ Fulness of de fiddlesticks!” said Candace, irreverently. “ Now what a way dat ar’ is of talkin’! Go look at one o’ dem ships we come over in, — sweatin’ and groanin’,— in de dark and dirt,— eryin’ and dyin’, — howlin’ for breath till de sweat run off us,—livin’ and dead chained together,—prayin’ like de rich man in hell for a drop o’ water to cool our tongues! Call dat ar’ a-bringin’ de fulness of de Gentiles, do ye ? Ugh ! ”
And Candace ended with a guttural howl, and stood frowning and gloomy over the top of her long kitchen-shovel, like a black Bellona leaning on her spear of battle.
Digo recoiled a little, but stood too well in his own esteem to give up ; so he shifted his attack.
" Well, for my part, I must say I never was ’clined to your Doctor s 'pinions. Why, now, Dr. Stiles says, notin' couldn't be more absurd dan what he says 'bout disinterested benevolence. My Doctor says, dere a’n’t no such ting!”
“ I should tink it’s likely ! ” said Candace, drawing herself up with superb disdain. “Our Doctor knows dere is,— and why ? 'cause he’s got it IN HERE,” said she, giving her ample chest a knock which resounded like the boom from a barrel.
“ Candace,” said Cato, gently, “you’s gittin’ too hot.”
“Cato, you shut up!” said Candace, turning sharp round. “ What did I make you dat ar’ flip for, ’cept you was so hoarse you oughtn’ for to say a word ? Pootty business, you go to agitatin’ yourself wid dese yer ! Ef you wear out your poor old throat talkin’, you may get de ’sumption ; and den what ’d become o' me ? ”
Cato, thus lovingly pitched hors-decombat, sipped the sweetened cup in quietness of soul, while Candace returned to the charge.
“ Now, I tell ye what,” she said to Digo, —"jest ’cause you wear your master’s old coats and hats, you tink you must go in for all dese yer old, mean, white ’pinions. A’n’t ye ’shamed —you, a black man — to have no more pluck and make cause wid de Egyptians ? Now, ’ta’n’t what my Doctor gives me, — he never giv’ me the snip of a finger-nail,-—-but it’s what he does for mine; and when de poor critturs lands dar, tumbled out like bales on de wharves, ha’n't dey seen his great cocked hat, like a lighthouse, and his big eyes lookin’ sort o’ pitiful at ’em, as ef he felt o’ one blood wid ’em ? Why, de very looks of de man is worth everyting; and who ever thought o’ doin’ anyting for deir souls, or eared ef dey had souls, till he begun it ? ”
“ Well, at any rate,” said Digo, brightening up, “ I don’t believe his doctrine about de doings of de unregenerate,— it’s quite clear he’s wrong dar.”
“ Who cares ?” said Candace,—“generate or unregenerate, it’s all one to me. I believe a man dat acts as he does. Him as stands up for de poor,— him as pleads for de weak,— he’s my man. I'll believe straight through anyting he’s a mind to put at me.”
At this juncture, Mary's fair face appearing at the door put a stop to the discussion.
“Bress you, Miss Mary! comin' here like a fresh June rose ! it makes a body’s eves dance in deir head ! Come right in ! 1 got Cato up from de lot, ’cause he's radcr poorly dis loomin'; his cough makes me a sight o' concern; he’s allers a-pullin’ off his jacket de wrong time, or doin’ sometin’ I tell him not to,—and it just keeps him hack, hack, hackin’, all de time.”
During this speech, Cato stood meekly bowing, feeling that he was being apologized for in the best possible manner ; tor long years of instruction bad fixed the idea in bis mind, that he was an ignorant sinner, who had not the smallest notion how to conduct himself in this world, and that, if it were not for his wife’s distinguishing grace, he would long since have been in the shades of oblivion.
“ Missis is spinnin’ up in de north chamber,” said Candace ; “ but I'll run up and fetch her down.”
Candace, who was about the size of a puncheon, was fond of this familiar manner of representing her mode of ascending the stairs; but Mary, suppressing a smile, said, “ Oh, no, Candace ! don't for the world disturb her. I know just where she is.” And before. Candace could stop her, Mary’s light toot was on the top step of the staircase that led up from the kitchen.
The north room was a large chamber, overlooking a splendid reach of sea-prospect. A moving panorama of blue water and gliding sails was unrolled before its three windows, so that stepping into the room gave one an instant and breezy sense of expansion. Mrs. Marvyn was standing at the large wheel, spinning wool,— a reel and basket of spools on her side. Her large brown eyes had an eager joy in them when Mary entered ; but they seemed to calm down again, and she received her only with that placid, sincere air which was her habit. Everything about this woman showed an ardent soul, repressed by timidity ami by a certain dumbness in the faculties of outward expression ; but her eyes had, at times, that earnest, appealing language which is so pathetic in the silence of interior animals.—One sometimes sees such eyes, and wonders whether the story they intimate will ever be spoken in mortal language.
Mary began eagerly detailing to her all that had interested her since they last met;—the party,—her acquaintance with Burr,— his visit to the cottage,—his inquiries into her education and reading,— and, finally, the proposal, that they should study French together.
“My dear,” said Mrs. Marvyn, “let us begin at mice ;—such an opportunity is not to be lost. I studied a little with James, when lie was last at home.”
“ With James ?” said Mary, with an air of timid surprise.
“ Yes,—the dear boy has become, what I never expected, quite a student. He employs all his spare time now in reading and studying;—the second mate is a Frenchman, and James has got so that he can both speak and read. He is studying Spanish, too.”
Ever since the last conversation with her mother on the subject of James, .Mary bad felt a sort of guilty constraint when any one spoke of him; — instead of answering frankly, as she once did, when anything brought his name up, she fell at once into a grave, embarrassed silence.
Mrs. Marvyn was so constantly thinking of him, that it was difficult to begin on any topic that did not in some manner or other knit itself into the one ever present in her thoughts. None of the peculiar developments of the female nature have a more exquisite vitality than the sentiment of a frail, delicate, repressed, timid woman for a strong, manly, generous son. There is her ideal expressed; there is the out-speaking and out-acting of all she trembles to think, yet burns to say or do ; here is the hero that shall speak for her, the heart into which she has poured hers, and that shall give to her tremulous and hidden aspirations a strong and victorious expression. “ I have gotten a man from the Lord,” she says to herself; and each outburst of his manliness, his vigor, his self-confidence, his superb vitality, fills her with a strange, wondering pleasure, and she has a secret tenderness and pride even in his wilfulness and waywardness. “ What a creature he is ! ” she says, when lie flouts at sober argument and pitches all received Opinions hither and thither in the wild capriciousness of youthful paradox. She looks grave and reproving ; but he reads the concealed triumph in her eyes, — he knows that in her heart she is full of admiration all the time. First love of womanhood is something wonderful and invsterious,— but in this second love it rises again, idealized and refined ; she loves the father and herself united arid made one in this young heir of life tmd hope.
Such was Mrs. Marvyn’s still intense, passionate love for her son. Not a tone of his manly voice, not a flash of his dark eyes, not one of the deep, shadowy dimples that came and went as he laughed, not a ring of his glossy black hair, that was not studied, got by heart, and dwelt on in the inner shrine of her thoughts; he was the romance of her life. His strong, daring nature carried her with it beyond those narrow, daily bounds where her soul was weary of treading; and just as his voyages had given to the trite prose of her ménage a poetry of strange, foreign perfumes, of quaint objects of interest, speaking of many a faroff shore, so his mind and life were a constant channel of outreach through which her soul held converse with the active and stirring world. Mrs, Marvyn had known all the story of her son’s love, and to no other woman would she have been willing to resign him ; but her love to Mary was so deep, that she thought of his union with her more as gaining a daughter than as losing a son. She would not speak ot the subject ; she knew the feelings of Mary’s mother; and the name of James fell so otien from her lips, simply because it was so ever-present in her heart that it could not be helped.
Before Mary left, it was arranged that they should study together, and that the lessons should be given alternately at each other’s houses ; and with this understanding they parted.
[To be continued.]