TO SIR HENRY MADISON, Chief Justice of Madras, this book is inscribed by an affectionate old friend.
London, September 7, 1859.
TO SIR HENRY MADISON, Chief Justice of Madras, this book is inscribed by an affectionate old friend.
London, September 7, 1859.
On the library wall of one of the most famous writers of America, there hang two crossed swords, which his relatives wore in the great War of Independence. The one sword was gallantly drawn in the service of the king, the other was the weapon of a brave and honoured republican soldier. The possessor of the harmless trophy has earned for himself a name alike honoured in his ancestors' country and his own, where genius such as his has always a peaceful welcome.
The ensuing history reminds me of yonder swords in the historian's study at Boston. In the Revolutionary War, the subjects of this story, natives of America, and children of the Old Dominion, found themselves engaged on different sides in the quarrel, coming together peaceably at its conclusion, as brethren should, their love ever having materially diminished, however angrily the contest divided them. The colonel in scarlet, and the general in blue and buff, hang side by side in the wainscoted parlour of the Warringtons, in England, where a descendant of one of the brothers has shown their portraits to me, with many of the letters which they wrote, and the books and papers which belonged to them. In the Warrington family, and to distinguish them from other personages of that respectable race, these effigies have always gone by the name of "The Virginians"; by which name their memoirs are christened.
They both of them passed much time in Europe. They lived just on the verge of that Old World from which we are drifting away so swiftly. They were familiar with many varieties of men and fortune. Their lot brought them into contact with personages of whom we read only in books, who seem alive, as I read in the Virginians' letters regarding them, whose voices I almost fancy I hear, as I read the yellow pages written scores of years since, blotted with the boyish tears of disappointed passion, dutifully despatched after famous balls and ceremonies of the grand Old World, scribbled by camp-fires, or out of prison; nay, there is one that has a bullet through it, and of which a greater portion of the text is blotted out with the blood of the bearer.
These letters had probably never been preserved, but for the affectionate thrift of one person, to whom they never failed in their dutiful correspondence. Their mother kept all her sons' letters, from the very first, in which Henry, the younger of the twins, sends his love to his brother, then ill of a sprain at his grandfather's house of Castlewood, in Virginia, and thanks his grandpapa for a horse which he rides with his tutor, down to the last, "from my beloved son," which reached her but a few hours before her death. The venerable lady never visited Europe, save once with her parents in the reign of George the Second; took refuge in Richmond when the house of Castlewood was burned down during the war; and was called Madam Esmond ever after that event; never caring much for the name or family of Warrington, which she held in very slight estimation as compared to her own.
The letters of the Virginians, as the reader will presently see, from specimens to be shown to him, are by no means full. They are hints rather than descriptions—indications and outlines chiefly: it may be, that the present writer has mistaken the forms, and filled in the colour wrongly: but, poring over the documents, I have tried to imagine the situation of the writer, where he was, and by what persons surrounded. I have drawn the figures as I fancied they were; set down conversations as I think I might have heard them; and so, to the best of my ability, endeavoured to revivify the bygone times and people. With what success the task has been accomplished, with what profit or amusement to himself, the kind reader will please to determine.
One summer morning in the year 1756, and in the reign of his Majesty King George the Second, the Young Rachel, Virginian ship, Edward Franks master, came up the Avon river on her happy return from her annual voyage to the Potomac. She proceeded to Bristol with the tide, and moored in the stream as near as possible to Trail's wharf, to which she was consigned. Mr. Trail, her part owner, who could survey his ship from his counting-house windows, straightway took boat and came up her side. The owner of the Young Rachel, a large grave man in his own hair, and of a demure aspect, gave the hand of welcome to Captain Franks, who stood on his deck, and congratulated the captain upon the speedy and fortunate voyage which he had made. And, remarking that we ought to be thankful to Heaven for its mercies, he proceeded presently to business by asking particulars relative to cargo and passengers.
Franks was a pleasant man, who loved a joke. "We have," says he, "but yonder ugly negro boy, who is fetching the trunks, and a passenger who has the state cabin to himself."
Mr. Trail looked as if he would have preferred more mercies from Heaven. "Confound you, Franks, and your luck! The Duke William, which came in last week, brought fourteen, and she is not half of our tonnage."
"And this passenger, who has the whole cabin, don't pay nothin'," continued the Captain. "Swear now, it will do you good, Mr. Trail, indeed it will. I have tried the medicine."
"A passenger take the whole cabin and not pay? Gracious mercy, are you a fool, Captain Franks?"
"Ask the passenger himself, for here he comes." And, as the master spoke, a young man of some nineteen years of age came up the hatchway. He had a cloak and a sword under his arm, and was dressed in deep mourning, and called out, "Gumbo, you idiot, why don't you fetch the baggage out of the cabin? Well, shipmate, our journey is ended. You will see all the little folks to-night whom you have been talking about. Give my love to Polly, and Betty, and Little Tommy; not forgetting my duty to Mrs. Franks. I thought, yesterday, the voyage would never be done, and now I am almost sorry it is over. That little berth in my cabin looks very comfortable now I am going to leave it."
Mr. Trail scowled at the young passenger who had paid no money for his passage. He scarcely nodded his head to the stranger, when Captain Franks said, "This here gentleman is Mr. Trail, sir, whose name you have a-heerd of."
"It's pretty well known in Bristol, sir," says Mr. Trail, majestically.
"And this is Mr. Warrington, Madam Esmond Warrington's son, of Castlewood," continued the Captain.
The British merchant's hat was instantly off his head, and the owner of the beaver was making a prodigious number of bows as if a crown prince were before him.
"Gracious powers, Mr. Warrington! This is a delight, indeed! What a crowning mercy that your voyage should have been so prosperous! You must have my boat to go on shore. Let me cordially and respectfully welcome you to England: let me shake your hand as the son of my benefactress and patroness, Mrs. Esmond Warrington, whose name is known and honoured on Bristol 'Change, I warrant you. Isn't it, Franks?"
"There's no sweeter tobacco comes from Virginia, and no better brand than the Three Castles," says Mr. Franks, drawing a great brass tobacco-box from his pocket, and thrusting a quid into his jolly mouth. "You don't know what a comfort it is, sir! you'll take to it, bless you, as you grow older. Won't he, Mr. Trail? I wish you had ten shiploads of it instead of one. You might have ten shiploads: I've told Madam Esmond so; I've rode over her plantation; she treats me like a lord when I go to the house; she don't grudge me the best of wine, or keep me cooling my heels in the counting-room as some folks does" (with a look at Mr. Trail). "She is a real born lady, she is; and might have a thousand hogsheads as easy as her hundreds, if there were but hands enough."
"I have lately engaged in the Guinea trade, and could supply her ladyship with any number of healthy young negroes before next fall," said Mr. Trail, obsequiously.
"We are averse to the purchase of negroes from Africa," said the young gentleman, coldly. "My grandfather and my mother have always objected to it, and I do not like to think of selling or buying the poor wretches."
"It is for their good, my dear young sir! for their temporal and their spiritual good!" cried Mr. Trail. "And we purchase the poor creatures only for their benefit; let me talk this matter over with you at my own house. I can introduce you to a happy home, a Christian family, and a British merchant's honest fare. Can't I, Captain Franks?"
"Can't say," growled the Captain. "Never asked me to take bite or sup at your table. Asked me to psalm-singing once, and to hear Mr. Ward preach: don't care for them sort of entertainments."
Not choosing to take any notice of this remark, Mr. Trail continued in his low tone: "Business is business, my dear young sir, and I know, 'tis only my duty, the duty of all of us, to cultivate the fruits of the earth in their season. As the heir of Lady Esmond's estate—for I speak, I believe, to the heir of that great property?—"
The young gentleman made a bow.
"—I would urge upon you, at the very earliest moment, the propriety, the duty of increasing the ample means with which Heaven has blessed you. As an honest factor, I could not do otherwise; as a prudent man, should I scruple to speak of what will tend to your profit and mine? No, my dear Mr. George."
"My name is not George; my name is Henry," said the young man as he turned his head away, and his eyes filled with tears.
"Gracious powers! what do you mean, sir? Did you not say you were my lady's heir? and is not George Esmond Warrington, Esq.——"
"Hold your tongue, you fool!" cried Mr. Franks, striking the merchant a tough blow on his sleek sides, as the young lad turned away. "Don't you see the young gentleman a-swabbing his eyes, and note his black clothes?"
"What do you mean, Captain Franks, by laying your hand on your owners? Mr. George is the heir; I know the Colonel's will well enough."
"Mr. George is there," said the Captain, pointing with his thumb to the deck.
"Where?" cries the factor.
"Mr. George is there!" reiterated the Captain, again lifting up his finger towards the topmast, or the sky beyond. "He is dead a year, sir, come next 9th of July. He would go out with General Braddock on that dreadful business to the Belle Riviere. He and a thousand more never came back again. Every man of them was murdered as he fell. You know the Indian way, Mr. Trail?" And here the Captain passed his hand rapidly round his head. "Horrible! ain't it, sir? horrible! He was a fine young man, the very picture of this one; only his hair was black, which is now hanging in a bloody Indian wigwam. He was often and often on board of the Young Rachel, and would have his chests of books broke open on deck before they was landed. He was a shy and silent young gent: not like this one, which was the merriest, wildest young fellow, full of his songs and fun. He took on dreadful at the news; went to his bed, had that fever which lays so many of 'em by the heels along that swampy Potomac, but he's got better on the voyage: the voyage makes every one better; and, in course, the young gentleman can't be for ever a-crying after a brother who dies and leaves him a great fortune. Ever since we sighted Ireland he has been quite gay and happy, only he would go off at times, when he was most merry, saying, 'I wish my dearest Georgy could enjoy this here sight along with me, and when you mentioned the t'other's name, you see, he couldn't stand it.'" And the honest Captain's own eyes filled with tears, as he turned and looked towards the object of his compassion.
Mr. Trail assumed a lugubrious countenance befitting the tragic compliment with which he prepared to greet the young Virginian; but the latter answered him very curtly, declined his offers of hospitality, and only stayed in Mr. Trail's house long enough to drink a glass of wine and to take up a sum of money of which he stood in need. But he and Captain Franks parted on the very warmest terms, and all the little crew of the Young Rachel cheered from the ship's side as their passenger left it.
Again and again Harry Warrington and his brother had pored over the English map, and determined upon the course which they should take upon arriving at Home. All Americans who love the old country—and what gently-nurtured man or woman of Anglo-Saxon race does not?—have ere this rehearsed their English travels, and visited in fancy the spots with which their hopes, their parents' fond stories, their friends' descriptions, have rendered them familiar. There are few things to me more affecting in the history of the quarrel which divided the two great nations than the recurrence of that word Home, as used by the younger towards the elder country. Harry Warrington had his chart laid out. Before London, and its glorious temples of St. Paul's and St. Peter's; its grim Tower, where the brave and loyal had shed their blood, from Wallace down to Balmerino and Kilmarnock, pitied by gentle hearts; before the awful window of Whitehall, whence the martyr Charles had issued, to kneel once more, and then ascend to Heaven;—before Playhouses, Parks, and Palaces, wondrous resorts of wit, pleasure, and splendour;—before Shakspeare's Resting-place under the tall spire which rises by Avon, amidst the sweet Warwickshire pastures;—before Derby, and Falkirk, and Culloden, where the cause of honour and loyalty had fallen, it might be to rise no more:—before all these points of their pilgrimage there was one which the young Virginian brothers held even more sacred, and that was the home of their family,—that old Castlewood in Hampshire, about which their parents had talked so fondly. From Bristol to Bath, from Bath to Salisbury, to Winchester, to Hexton, to Home; they knew the way, and had mapped the journey many and many a time.
We must fancy our American traveller to be a handsome young fellow, whose suit of sables only made him look the more interesting. The plump landlady from her bar, surrounded by her china and punch-bowls, and stout gilded bottles of strong waters, and glittering rows of silver flagons, looked kindly after the young gentleman as he passed through the inn-hall from his post-chaise, and the obsequious chamberlain bowed him upstairs to the Rose or the Dolphin. The trim chambermaid dropped her best curtsey for his fee, and Gumbo, in the inn-kitchen, where the townsfolk drank their mug of ale by the great fire, bragged of his young master's splendid house in Virginia, and of the immense wealth to which he was heir. The postchaise whirled the traveller through the most delightful home-scenery his eyes had ever lighted on. If English landscape is pleasant to the American of the present day, who must needs contrast the rich woods and glowing pastures, and picturesque ancient villages of the old country with the rough aspect of his own, how much pleasanter must Harry Warrington's course have been, whose journeys had lain through swamps and forest solitudes from one Virginian ordinary to another log-house at the end of the day's route, and who now lighted suddenly upon the busy, happy, splendid scene of English summer? And the highroad, a hundred years ago, was not that grass-grown desert of the present time. It was alive with constant travel and traffic: the country towns and inns swarmed with life and gaiety. The ponderous waggon, with its bells and plodding team; the light post-coach that achieved the journey from the White Hart, Salisbury, to the Swan with Two Necks, London, in two days; the strings of packhorses that had not yet left the road; my lord's gilt postchaise-and-six, with the outriders galloping on ahead; the country squire's great coach and heavy Flanders mares; the farmers trotting to market, or the parson jolting to the cathedral town on Dumpling, his wife behind on the pillion—all these crowding sights and brisk people greeted the young traveller on his summer journey. Hodge, the farmer's boy, took off his hat, and Polly, the milkmaid, bobbed a curtsey, as the chaise whirled over the pleasant village-green, and the white-headed children lifted their chubby faces and cheered. The church-spires glistened with gold, the cottage-gables glared in sunshine, the great elms murmured in summer, or cast purple shadows over the grass. Young Warrington never had such a glorious day, or witnessed a scene so delightful. To be nineteen years of age, with high health, high spirits, and a full purse, to be making your first journey, and rolling through the country in a postchaise at nine miles an hour—O happy youth! almost it makes one young to think of him! But Harry was too eager to give more than a passing glance at the Abbey at Bath, or gaze with more than a moment's wonder at the mighty Minster at Salisbury. Until he beheld Home it seemed to him he had no eyes for any other place.
At last the young gentleman's postchaise drew up at the rustic inn on Castlewood Green, of which his grandsire had many a time talked to him, and which bears as its ensign, swinging from an elm near the inn porch, the Three Castles of the Esmond family. They had a sign, too, over the gateway of Castlewood House, bearing the same cognisance. This was the hatchment of Francis, Lord Castlewood, who now lay in the chapel hard by, his son reigning in his stead.
Harry Warrington had often heard of Francis, Lord Castlewood. It was for Frank's sake, and for his great love towards the boy, that Colonel Esmond determined to forgo his claim to the English estates and rank of his family, and retired to Virginia. The young man had led a wild youth; he had fought with distinction under Marlborough; he had married a foreign lady, and most lamentably adopted her religion. At one time he had been a Jacobite (for loyalty to the sovereign was ever hereditary in the Esmond family), but had received some slight or injury from the Prince, which had caused him to rally to King George's side. He had, on his second marriage, renounced the errors of Popery which he had temporarily embraced, and returned to the Established Church again. He had, from his constant support of the King and the Minister of the time being, been rewarded by his Majesty George II., and died an English peer. An earl's coronet now figured on the hatchment which hung over Castlewood gate—and there was an end of the jolly gentleman. Between Colonel Esmond, who had become his stepfather, and his lordship there had ever been a brief but affectionate correspondence—on the Colonel's part especially, who loved his stepson, and had a hundred stories to tell about him to his grandchildren. Madam Esmond, however, said she could see nothing in her half-brother. He was dull, except when he drank too much wine, and that, to be sure, was every day at dinner. Then he was boisterous, and his conversation not pleasant. He was good-looking—yes—a fine tall stout animal; she had rather her boys should follow a different model. In spite of the grandfather's encomium of the late lord, the boys had no very great respect for their kinsman's memory. The lads and their mother were staunch Jacobites, though having every respect for his present Majesty; but right was right, and nothing could make their hearts swerve from their allegiance to the descendants of the martyr Charles.
With a beating heart Harry Warrington walked from the inn towards the house where his grandsire's youth had been passed. The little village-green of Castlewood slopes down towards the river, which is spanned by an old bridge of a single broad arch, and from this the ground rises gradually towards the house, grey with many gables and buttresses, and backed by a darkling wood. An old man sate at the wicket on a stone bench in front of the great arched entrance to the house, over which the earl's hatchment was hanging. An old dog was crouched at the man's feet. Immediately above the ancient sentry at the gate was an open casement with some homely flowers in the window, from behind which good-humoured girls' faces were peeping. They were watching the young traveller dressed in black as he walked up gazing towards the castle, and the ebony attendant who followed the gentleman's steps also accoutred in mourning. So was he at the gate in mourning, and the girls when they came out had black ribbons.
To Harry's surprise, the old man accosted him by his name. "You have had a nice ride to Hexton, Master Harry, and the sorrel carried you well."
"I think you must be Lockwood," said Harry, with rather a tremulous voice, holding out his hand to the old man. His grandfather had often told him of Lockwood, and how he had accompanied the Colonel and the young Viscount in Marlborough's wars forty years ago. The veteran seemed puzzled by the mark of affection which Harry extended to him. The old dog gazed at the new-comer, and then went and put his head between his knees. "I have heard of you often. How did you know my name?"
"They say I forget most things," says the old man, with a smile; "but I ain't so bad as that quite. Only this mornin', when you went out, my darter says, 'Father, do you know why you have a black coat on?' 'In course I know why I have a black coat,' says I. 'My lord is dead. They say 'twas a foul blow, and Master Frank is my lord now, and Master Harry'—why, what have you done since you've went out this morning? Why, you have a-grow'd taller and changed your hair—though I know—I know you."
One of the young women had tripped out by this time from the porter's lodge, and dropped the stranger a pretty curtsey. "Grandfather sometimes does not recollect very well," she said, pointing to her head. "Your honour seems to have heard of Lockwood?"
"And you, have you never heard of Colonel Francis Esmond?"
"He was Captain and Major in Webb's Foot, and I was with him in two campaigns, sure enough," cries Lockwood. "Wasn't I, Ponto?"
"The Colonel as married Viscountess Rachel, my late lord's mother? and went to live amongst the Indians? We have heard of him. Sure we have his picture in our gallery, and hisself painted it."
"Went to live in Virginia, and died there seven years ago, and I am his grandson."
"Lord, your honour! Why, your honour's skin's as white as mine," cries Molly. "Grandfather, do you hear this? His honour is Colonel Esmond's grandson that used to send you tobacco, and his honour have come all the way from Virginia."
"To see you, Lockwood," says the young man, "and the family. I only set foot on English ground yesterday, and my first visit is for home. I may see the house, though the family are from home?" Molly dared to say Mrs. Barker would let his honour see the house, and Harry Warrington made his way across the court, seeming to know the place as well as if he had been born there, Miss Molly thought, who followed, accompanied by Mr. Gumbo making her a profusion of polite bows and speeches.
Colonel Esmond's grandson rang for a while at his ancestors' house of Castlewood, before any one within seemed inclined to notice his summons. The servant, who at length issued from the door, seemed to be very little affected by the announcement that the visitor was a relation of the family. The family was away, and in their absence John cared very little for their relatives, but was eager to get back to his game at cards with Thomas in the window-seat. The housekeeper was busy getting ready for my lord and my lady, who were expected that evening. Only by strong entreaties could Harry gain leave to see my lady's sitting-room and the picture-room, where, sure enough, was a portrait of his grandfather in periwig and breastplate, the counterpart of their picture in Virginia, and a likeness of his grandmother, as Lady Castlewood, in a yet earlier habit of Charles II.'s time; her neck bare, her fair golden hair waving over her shoulders in ringlets which he remembered to have seen snowy white. From the contemplation of these sights the sulky housekeeper drove him. Her family was about to arrive. There was my lady the Countess, and my lord and his brother, and the young ladies, and the Baroness, who was to have the state bedroom. Who was the Baroness? The Baroness Bernstein, the young ladies' aunt. Harry wrote down his name on a paper from his own pocket-book, and laid it on a table in the hall. "Henry Esmond Warrington, of Castlewood, in Virginia, arrived in England yesterday— staying at the Three Castles in the village." The lackeys rose up from their cards to open the door to him, in order to get their "wails," and Gumbo quitted the bench at the gate, where he had been talking with old Lockwood, the porter, who took Harry's guinea, hardly knowing the meaning of the gift. During the visit to the home of his fathers, Harry had only seen little Polly's countenance that was the least unselfish or kindly: he walked away, not caring to own how disappointed he was, and what a damp had been struck upon him by the aspect of the place. They ought to have known him. Had any of them ridden up to his house in Virginia, whether the master were present or absent, the guests would have been made welcome, and, in sight of his ancestors' hall, he had to go and ask for a dish of bacon and eggs at a country alehouse!
After his dinner, he went to the bridge and sate on it, looking towards the old house, behind which the sun was descending as the rooks came cawing home to their nests in the elms. His young fancy pictured to itself many of the ancestors of whom his mother and grandsire had told him. He fancied knights and huntsmen crossing the ford;—cavaliers of King Charles's days; my Lord Castlewood, his grandmother's first husband, riding out with hawk and hound. The recollection of his dearest lost brother came back to him as he indulged in these reveries, and smote him with a pang of exceeding tenderness and longing, insomuch that the young man hung his head and felt his sorrow renewed for the dear friend and companion with whom, until of late, all his pleasures and griefs had been shared. As he sate plunged in his own thoughts, which were mingled up with the mechanical clinking of the blacksmith's forge hard by, the noises of the evening, the talk of the rooks, and the calling of the birds round about—a couple of young men on horseback dashed over the bridge. One of them, with an oath, called him a fool, and told him to keep out of the way—the other, who fancied he might have jostled the foot-passenger, and possibly might have sent him over the parapet, pushed on more quickly when he reached the other side of the water, calling likewise to Tom to come on; and the pair of young gentlemen were up the hill on their way to the house before Harry had recovered himself from his surprise at their appearance, and wrath at their behaviour. In a minute or two, this advanced guard was followed by two livery servants on horseback, who scowled at the young traveller on the bridge a true British welcome of Curse you, who are you? After these, in a minute or two, came a coach-and-six, a ponderous vehicle having need of the horses which drew it, and containing three ladies, a couple of maids, and an armed man on a seat behind the carriage. Three handsome pale faces looked out at Harry Warrington as the carriage passed over the bridge, and did not return the salute which, recognising the family arms, he gave it. The gentleman behind the carriage glared at him haughtily. Harry felt terribly alone. He thought he would go back to Captain Franks. The Rachel and her little tossing cabin seemed a cheery spot in comparison to that on which he stood. The inn-folks did not know his name of Warrington. They told him that was my lady in the coach, with her stepdaughter, my Lady Maria, and her daughter, my Lady Fanny; and the young gentleman in the grey frock was Mr. William, and he with powder on the chestnut was my lord. It was the latter had sworn the loudest, and called him a fool; and it was the grey frock which had nearly galloped Harry into the ditch.
The landlord of the Three Castles had shown Harry a bedchamber, but he had refused to have his portmanteaux unpacked, thinking that, for a certainty, the folks of the great house would invite him to theirs. One, two, three hours passed, and there came no invitation. Harry was fain to have his trunks open at last, and to call for his slippers and gown. Just before dark, about two hours after the arrival of the first carriage, a second chariot with four horses had passed over the bridge, and a stout, high-coloured lady, with a very dark pair of eyes, had looked hard at Mr. Warrington. That was the Baroness Bernstein, the landlady said, my lord's aunt, and Harry remembered the first Lady Castlewood had come of a German family. Earl, and Countess, and Baroness, and postillions, and gentlemen, and horses, had all disappeared behind the castle gate, and Harry was fain to go to bed at last, in the most melancholy mood and with a cruel sense of neglect and loneliness in his young heart. He could not sleep, and, besides, ere long, heard a prodigious noise, and cursing, and giggling, and screaming from my landlady's bar, which would have served to keep him awake.
Then Gumbo's voice was heard without, remonstrating, "You cannot go in, sar—my master asleep, sar!" but a shrill voice, with many oaths, which Harry Warrington recognised, cursed Gumbo for a stupid, negro woolly-pate, and he was pushed aside, giving entrance to a flood of oaths into the room, and a young gentleman behind them.
"Beg your pardon, Cousin Warrington," cried the young blasphemer, "are you asleep? Beg your pardon for riding you over on the bridge. Didn't know you—course shouldn't have done it—thought it was a lawyer with a writ—dressed in black, you know. Gad! thought it was Nathan come to nab me." And Mr. William laughed incoherently. It was evident that he was excited with liquor.
"You did me great honour to mistake me for a sheriff's-officer, cousin," says Harry, with great gravity, sitting up in his tall nightcap.
"Gad! I thought it was Nathan, and was going to send you souse into the river. But I ask your pardon. You see I had been drinking at the Bell at Hexton, and the punch is good at the Bell at Hexton. Hullo! you, Davis! a bowl of punch; d'you hear?"
"I have had my share for to-night, cousin, and I should think you have," Harry continues, always in the dignified style.
"You want me to go, Cousin What's-your-name, I see," Mr. William said, with gravity. "You want me to go, and they want me to come, and I didn't want to come. I said, I'd see him hanged first,—that's what I said. Why should I trouble myself to come down all alone of an evening, and look after a fellow I don't care a pin for? Zackly what I said. Zackly what Castlewood said. Why the devil should he go down? Castlewood says, and so said my lady, but the Baroness would have you. It's all the Baroness's doing, and if she says a thing, it must be done; so you must just get up and come." Mr. Esmond delivered these words with the most amiable rapidity and indistinctness, running them into one another, and tacking about the room as he spoke. But the young Virginian was in great wrath. "I tell you what, cousin," he cried, "I won't move for the Countess, or for the Baroness, or for all the cousins in Castlewood." And when the landlord entered the chamber with the bowl of punch, which Mr. Esmond had ordered, the young gentleman in bed called out fiercely to the host, to turn that sot out of the room.
"Sot, you little tobacconist! Sot, you Cherokee!" screams out Mr. William. "Jump out of bed, and I'll drive my sword through your body. Why didn't I do it to-day when I took you for a bailiff—a confounded pettifogging bum-bailiff!" And he went on screeching more oaths and incoherencies, until the landlord, the drawer, the hostler, and all the folks of the kitchen were brought to lead him away. After which Harry Warrington closed his tent round him in sulky wrath, and, no doubt, finally went fast to sleep.
My landlord was very much more obsequious on the next morning when he met his young guest, having now fully learned his name and quality. Other messengers had come from the castle on the previous night to bring both the young gentlemen home, and poor Mr. William, it appeared, had returned in a wheelbarrow, being not altogether unaccustomed to that mode of conveyance. "He never remembers nothin' about it the next day. He is of a real kind nature, Mr. William," the landlord vowed, "and the men get crowns and half-crowns from him by saying that he beat them overnight when he was in liquor. He's the devil when he's tipsy, Mr. William, but when he is sober he is the very kindest of young gentlemen."
As nothing is unknown to writers of biographies of the present kind, it may be as well to state what had occurred within the walls of Castlewood House, whilst Harry Warrington was without, awaiting some token of recognition from his kinsmen. On their arrival at home the family had found the paper on which the lad's name was inscribed, and his appearance occasioned a little domestic council. My Lord Castlewood supposed that must have been the young gentleman whom they had seen on the bridge, and as they had not drowned him they must invite him. Let a man go down with the proper messages, let a servant carry a note. Lady Fanny thought it would be more civil if one of the brothers would go to their kinsman, especially considering the original greeting which they had given. Lord Castlewood had not the slightest objection to his brother William going— yes, William should go. Upon this Mr. William said (with a yet stronger expression) that he would be hanged if he would go. Lady Maria thought the young gentleman whom they had remarked at the bridge was a pretty fellow enough. Castlewood is dreadfully dull, I am sure neither of my brothers do anything to make it amusing. He may be vulgar—no doubt, he is vulgar—but let us see the American. Such was Lady Maria's opinion. Lady Castlewood was neither for inviting nor for refusing him, but for delaying. "Wait till your aunt comes, children; perhaps the Baroness won't like to see the young man; at least, let us consult her before we ask him." And so the hospitality to be offered by his nearest kinsfolk to poor Harry Warrington remained yet in abeyance.
At length the equipage of the Baroness Bernstein made its appearance, and whatever doubt there might be as to the reception of the Virginian stranger, there was no lack of enthusiasm in this generous family regarding their wealthy and powerful kinswoman. The state-chamber had already been prepared for her. The cook had arrived the previous day with instructions to get ready a supper for her such as her ladyship liked. The table sparkled with old plate, and was set in the oak dining-room with the pictures of the family round the walls. There was the late Viscount, his father, his mother, his sister—these two lovely pictures. There was his predecessor by Vandyck, and his Viscountess. There was Colonel Esmond, their relative in Virginia, about whose grandson the ladies and gentlemen of the Esmond family showed such a very moderate degree of sympathy.
The feast set before their aunt, the Baroness, was a very good one, and her ladyship enjoyed it. The supper occupied an hour or two, during which the whole Castlewood family were most attentive to their guest. The Countess pressed all the good dishes upon her, of which she freely partook: the butler no sooner saw her glass empty than he filled it with champagne: the young folks and their mother kept up the conversation, not so much by talking, as by listening appropriately to their friend. She was full of spirits and humour. She seemed to know everybody in Europe, and about those everybodies the wickedest stories. The Countess of Castlewood, ordinarily a very demure, severe woman, and a stickler for the proprieties, smiled at the very worst of these anecdotes; the girls looked at one another and laughed at the maternal signal; the boys giggled and roared with especial delight at their sisters' confusion. They also partook freely of the wine which the butler handed round, nor did they, or their guest, disdain the bowl of smoking punch, which was laid on the table after the supper. Many and many a night, the Baroness said, she had drunk at that table by her father's side. "That was his place," she pointed to the place where the Countess now sat. She saw none of the old plate. That was all melted to pay his gambling debts. She hoped, "Young gentlemen, that you don't play."
"Never, on my word," says Castlewood.
"Never, 'pon honour," says Will—winking at his brother.
The Baroness was very glad to hear they were such good boys. Her face grew redder with the punch; and she became voluble, might have been thought coarse, but that times were different, and those critics were inclined to be especially favourable.
She talked to the boys about their father, their grandfather—other men and women of the house. "The only man of the family was that," she said, pointing (with an arm that was yet beautifully round and white) towards the picture of the military gentleman in the red coat and cuirass, and great black periwig.
"The Virginian? What is he good for? I always thought he was good for nothing but to cultivate tobacco and my grandmother," says my lord, laughing.
She struck her hand upon the table with an energy that made the glasses dance. "I say he was the best of you all. There never was one of the male Esmonds that had more brains than a goose, except him. He was not fit for this wicked, selfish old world of ours, and he was right to go and live out of it. Where would your father have been, young people, but for him?"
"Was he particularly kind to our papa?" says Lady Maria.
"Old stories, my dear Maria!" cries the Countess. "I am sure my dear Earl was very kind to him in giving him that great estate in Virginia."
"Since his brother's death, the lad who has been here to-day is heir to that. Mr. Draper told me so! Peste! I don't know why my father gave up such a property."
"Who has been here to-day?" asked the Baroness, highly excited.
"Harry Esmond Warrington, of Virginia," my lord answered: "a lad whom Will nearly pitched into the river, and whom I pressed my lady the Countess to invite to stay here."
"You mean that one of the Virginian boys has been to Castlewood, and has not been asked to stay here?"
"There is but one of them, my dear creature," interposes the Earl. "The other, you know, has just been——"
"For shame, for shame!"
"Oh! it ain't pleasant, I confess, to be se——"
"Do you mean that a grandson of Henry Esmond, the master of this house, has been here, and none of you have offered him hospitality?"
"Since we didn't know it, and he is staying at the Castles?" interposes Will.
"That he is staying at the Inn, and you are sitting there!" cries the old lady. "This is too bad—call somebody to me. Get me my hood—I'll go to the boy myself. Come with me this instant, my Lord Castlewood."
The young man rose up, evidently in wrath. "Madame the Baroness of Bernstein," he said, "your ladyship is welcome to go; but as for me, I don't choose to have such words as 'shameful' applied to my conduct. I won't go and fetch the young gentleman from Virginia, and I propose to sit here and finish this bowl of punch. Eugene! Don't Eugene me, madam. I know her ladyship has a great deal of money, which you are desirous should remain in our amiable family. You want it more than I do. Cringe for it—I won't." And he sank back in his chair.
The Baroness looked at the family, who held their heads down, and then at my lord, but this time without any dislike. She leaned over to him and said rapidly in German, "I had unright when I said the Colonel was the only man of the family. Thou canst, if thou willest, Eugene." To which remark my lord only bowed.
"If you do not wish an old woman to go out at this hour of the night, let William, at least, go and fetch his cousin," said the Baroness.
"The very thing I proposed to him."
"And so did we—and so did we!" cried the daughters in a breath.
"I am sure, I only wanted the dear Baroness's consent!" said their mother, "and shall be charmed for my part to welcome our young relative."
"Will! Put on thy pattens and get a lantern, and go fetch the Virginian," said my lord.
"And we will have another bowl of punch when he comes," says William, who by this time had already had too much. And he went forth—how we have seen; and how he had more punch; and how ill he succeeded in his embassy.
The worthy lady of Castlewood, as she caught sight of young Harry Warrington by the river-side, must have seen a very handsome and interesting youth, and very likely had reasons of her own for not desiring his presence in her family. All mothers are not eager to encourage the visits of interesting youths of nineteen in families where there are virgins of twenty. If Harry's acres had been in Norfolk or Devon, in place of Virginia, no doubt the good Countess would have been rather more eager in her welcome. Had she wanted him she would have given him her hand readily enough. If our people of ton are selfish, at any rate they show they are selfish; and, being cold-hearted, at least have no hypocrisy of affection.
Why should Lady Castlewood put herself out of the way to welcome the young stranger? Because he was friendless? Only a simpleton could ever imagine such a reason as that. People of fashion, like her ladyship, are friendly to those who have plenty of friends. A poor lad, alone, from a distant country, with only very moderate means, and those not as yet in his own power, with uncouth manners very likely, and coarse provincial habits; was a great lady called upon to put herself out of the way for such a youth? Allons donc! He was quite as well at the alehouse as at the castle.
This, no doubt, was her ladyship's opinion, which her kinswoman, the Baroness Bernstein, who knew her perfectly well, entirely understood. The Baroness, too, was a woman of the world, and, possibly, on occasion, could be as selfish as any other person of fashion. She fully understood the cause of the deference which all the Castlewood family showed to her —mother, and daughter, and sons,—and being a woman of great humour, played upon the dispositions of the various members of this family, amused herself with their greedinesses, their humiliations, their artless respect for her money-box, and clinging attachment to her purse. They were not very rich; Lady Castlewood's own money was settled on her children. The two elder had inherited nothing but flaxen heads from their German mother, and a pedigree of prodigious distinction. But those who had money, and those who had none, were alike eager for the Baroness's; in this matter the rich are surely quite as greedy as the poor.
So if Madam Bernstein struck her hand on the table, and caused the glasses and the persons round it to tremble at her wrath, it was because she was excited with plenty of punch and champagne, which her ladyship was in the habit of taking freely, and because she may have had a generous impulse when generous wine warmed her blood, and felt indignant as she thought of the poor lad yonder, sitting friendless and lonely on the outside of his ancestors' door; not because she was specially angry with her relatives, who she knew would act precisely as they had done.
The exhibition of their selfishness and humiliation alike amused her, as did Castlewood's act of revolt. He was as selfish as the rest of the family, but not so mean; and, as he candidly stated, he could afford the luxury of a little independence, having tolerable estate to fall back upon.
Madam Bernstein was an early woman, restless, resolute, extraordinarily active for her age. She was up long before the languid Castlewood ladies (just home from their London routs and balls) had quitted their feather-beds, or jolly Will had slept off his various potations of punch. She was up, and pacing the green terraces that sparkled with the sweet morning dew, which lay twinkling, also, on a flowery wilderness of trim parterres, and on the crisp walls of the dark box hedges, under which marble fauns and dryads were cooling themselves, whilst a thousand birds sang, the fountains plashed and glittered in the rosy morning sunshine, and the rooks cawed from the great wood.
Had the well-remembered scene (for she had visited it often in childhood) a freshness and charm for her? Did it recall days of innocence and happiness, and did its calm beauty soothe or please, or awaken remorse in her heart? Her manner was more than ordinarily affectionate and gentle, when, presently, after pacing the walks for a half-hour, the person for whom she was waiting came to her. This was our young Virginian, to whom she had despatched an early billet by one of the Lockwoods. The note was signed B. Bernstein, and informed Mr. Esmond Warrington that his relatives at Castlewood, and among them a dear friend of his grandfather, were most anxious that he should come to "Colonel Esmond's house in England." And now, accordingly, the lad made his appearance, passing under the old Gothic doorway, tripping down the steps from one garden terrace to another, hat in hand, his fair hair blowing from his flushed cheeks, his slim figure clad in mourning. The handsome and modest looks, the comely face and person, of the young lad pleased the lady. He made her a low bow which would have done credit to Versailles. She held out a little hand to him, and, as his own palm closed over it, she laid the other hand softly on his ruffle. She looked very kindly and affectionately in the honest blushing face.
"I knew your grandfather very well, Harry," she said. "So you came yesterday to see his picture, and they turned you away, though you know the house was his of right?"
Harry blushed very red. "The servants did not know me. A young gentleman came to me last night," he said, "when I was peevish, and he, I fear, was tipsy. I spoke rudely to my cousin, and would ask his pardon. Your ladyship knows that in Virginia our manners towards strangers are different. I own I had expected another kind of welcome. Was it you, madam, who sent my cousin to me last night?"
"I sent him; but you will find your cousins most friendly to you to-day. You must stay here. Lord Castlewood would have been with you this morning, only I was so eager to see you. There will be breakfast in an hour; and meantime you must talk to me. We will send to the Three Castles for your servant and your baggage. Give me your arm. Stop, I dropped my cane when you came. You shall be my cane."
"My grandfather used to call us his crutches," said Harry.
"You are like him, though you are fair."
"You should have seen—you should have seen George," said the boy, and his honest eyes welled with tears. The recollection of his brother, the bitter pain of yesterday's humiliation, the affectionateness of the present greeting—all, perhaps, contributed to soften the lad's heart. He felt very tenderly and gratefully towards the lady who had received him so warmly. He was utterly alone and miserable a minute since, and here was a home and a kind hand held out to him. No wonder he clung to it. In the hour during which they talked together, the young fellow had poured out a great deal of his honest heart to the kind new-found friend; when the dial told breakfast-time, he wondered to think how much he had told her. She took him to the breakfast-room; she presented him to his aunt, the Countess, and bade him embrace his cousins. Lord Castlewood was frank and gracious enough. Honest Will had a headache, but was utterly unconscious of the proceedings of the past night. The ladies were very pleasant and polite, as ladies of their fashion know how to be. How should Harry Warrington, a simple truth-telling lad from a distant colony, who had only yesterday put his foot upon English shore, know that my ladies, so smiling and easy in demeanour, were furious against him, and aghast at the favour with which Madam Bernstein seemed to regard him?
She was folle of him, talked of no one else, scarce noticed the Castlewood young people, trotted with him over the house, and told him all its story, showed him the little room in the courtyard where his grandfather used to sleep, and a cunning cupboard over the fireplace which had been made in the time of the Catholic persecutions; drove out with him in the neighbouring country, and pointed out to him the most remarkable sites and houses, and had in return the whole of the young man's story.
This brief biography the kind reader will please to accept, not in the precise words in which Mr. Harry Warrington delivered it to Madam Bernstein, but in the form in which it has been cast in the Chapters next ensuing.
Henry Esmond, Esq., an office who had served with the rank of Colonel during the wars of Queen Anne's reign, found himself, at its close, compromised in certain attempts for the restoration of the Queen's family to the throne of these realms. Happily for itself, the nation preferred another dynasty; but some of the few opponents of the house of Hanover took refuge out of the three kingdoms, and amongst others, Colonel Esmond was counselled by his friends to go abroad. As Mr. Esmond sincerely regretted the part which he had taken, and as the august Prince who came to rule over England was the most pacable of sovereigns, in a very little time the Colonel's friends found means to make his peace.
Mr. Esmond, it has been said, belonged to the noble English family which takes its title from Castlewood, in the county of Hants; and it was pretty generally known that King James II. and his son had offered the title of Marquis to Colonel Esmond and his father, and that the former might have assumed the (Irish) peerage hereditary in his family, but for an informality which he did not choose to set right. Tired of the political struggles in which he had been engaged, and annoyed by family circumstances in Europe, he preferred to establish himself in Virginia, where he took possession of a large estate conferred by King Charles I. upon his ancestor. Here Mr. Esmond's daughter and grandsons were born, and his wife died. This lady, when she married him, was the widow of the Colonel's kinsman, the unlucky Viscount Castlewood, killed in a duel by Lord Mohun, at the close of King William's reign.
Mr. Esmond called his American house Castlewood, from the patrimonial home in the old country. The whole usages of Virginia, indeed, were fondly modelled after the English customs. It was a loyal colony. The Virginians boasted that King Charles II. had been king in Virginia before he had been king in England. English king and English church were alike faithfully honoured there. The resident gentry were allied to good English families. They held their heads above the Dutch traders of New York, and the money-getting Roundheads of Pennsylvania and New England. Never were people less republican than those of the great province which was soon to be foremost in the memorable revolt against the British Crown.
The gentry of Virginia dwelt on their great lands after a fashion almost patriarchal. For its rough cultivation, each estate had a multitude of hands—of purchased and assigned servants—who were subject to the command of the master. The land yielded their food, live stock, and game. The great rivers swarmed with fish for the taking. From their banks the passage home was clear. Their ships took the tobacco off their private wharves on the banks of the Potomac or the James river, and carried it to London or Bristol,—bringing back English goods and articles of home manufacture in return for the only produce which the Virginian gentry chose to cultivate. Their hospitality was boundless. No stranger was ever sent away from their gates. The gentry received one another, and travelled to each other's houses, in a state almost feudal. The question of Slavery was not born at the time of which we write. To be the proprietor of black servants shocked the feelings of no Virginian gentleman; nor, in truth, was the despotism exercised over the negro race generally a savage one. The food was plenty; the poor black people lazy and not unhappy. You might have preached negro emancipation to Madam Esmond of Castlewood as you might have told her to let the horses run loose out of her stables; she had no doubt but that the whip and the corn-bag were good for both.
Her father may have thought otherwise, being of a sceptical turn on very many points, but his doubts did not break forth in active denial, and he was rather disaffected than rebellious. At one period, this gentleman had taken a part in active life at home, and possibly might have been eager to share its rewards; but in latter days he did not seem to care for them. A something had occurred in his life, which had cast a tinge of melancholy over all his existence. He was not unhappy—to those about him most kind—most affectionate, obsequious even to the women of his family, whom be scarce ever contradicted; but there had been some bankruptcy of his heart, which his spirit never recovered. He submitted to life, rather than enjoyed it, and never was in better spirits than in his last hours when he was going to lay it down.
Having lost his wife, his daughter took the management of the Colonel and his affairs; and he gave them up to her charge with an entire acquiescence. So that he had his books and his quiet, he cared for no more. When company came to Castlewood, he entertained them handsomely, and was of a very pleasant, sarcastical turn. He was not in the least sorry when they went away.
"My love, I shall not be sorry to go myself," he said to his daughter, "and you, though the most affectionate of daughters, will console yourself after a while. Why should I, who am so old, be romantic? You may, who are still a young creature." This he said, not meaning all he said, for the lady whom he addressed was a matter-of-fact little person, with very little romance in her nature.
After fifteen years' residence upon his great Virginian estate, affairs prospered so well with the worthy proprietor, that he acquiesced in his daughter's plans for the building of a mansion much grander and more durable than the plain wooden edifice in which he had been content to live, so that his heirs might have a habitation worthy of their noble name. Several of Madam Warrington's neighbours had built handsome houses for themselves; perhaps it was her ambition to take rank in the country, which inspired this desire for improved quarters. Colonel Esmond, of Castlewood, neither cared for quarters nor for quarterings. But his daughter had a very high opinion of the merit and antiquity of her lineage; and her sire, growing exquisitely calm and good-natured in his serene, declining years, humoured his child's peculiarities in an easy, bantering way,—nay, helped her with his antiquarian learning, which was not inconsiderable, and with his skill in the art of painting, of which he was a proficient. A knowledge of heraldry, a hundred years ago, formed part of the education of most noble ladies and gentlemen: during her visit to Europe, Miss Esmond had eagerly studied the family history and pedigrees, and returned thence to Virginia with a store of documents relative to her family on which she relied with implicit gravity and credence, and with the most edifying volumes then published in France and England, respecting the noble science. These works proved, to her perfect satisfaction, not only that the Esmonds were descended from noble Norman warriors, who came into England along with their victorious chief, but from native English of royal dignity: and two magnificent heraldic trees, cunningly painted by the hand of the Colonel, represented the family springing from the Emperor Charlemagne on the one hand, who was drawn in plate-armour, with his imperial mantle and diadem, and on the other from Queen Boadicea, whom the Colonel insisted upon painting in the light costume of an ancient British queen, with a prodigious gilded crown, a trifling mantle of furs, and a lovely symmetrical person, tastefully tattooed with figures of a brilliant blue tint. From these two illustrious stocks the family-tree rose until it united in the thirteenth century somewhere in the person of the fortunate Esmond who claimed to spring from both.
Of the Warrington family, into which she married, good Madam Rachel thought but little. She wrote herself Esmond Warrington, but was universally called Madam Esmond of Castlewood, when after her father's decease she came to rule over that domain. It is even to be feared that quarrels for precedence in the colonial society occasionally disturbed her temper; for though her father had had a marquis's patent from King James, which he had burned and disowned, she would frequently act as if that document existed and was in full force. She considered the English Esmonds of an inferior dignity to her own branch; and as for the colonial aristocracy, she made no scruple of asserting her superiority over the whole body of them. Hence quarrels and angry words, and even a scuffle or two, as we gather from her notes, at the Governor's assemblies at Jamestown. Wherefore recall the memory of these squabbles? Are not the persons who engaged in them beyond the reach of quarrels now, and has not the republic put an end to these social inequalities? Ere the establishment of Independence, there was no more aristocratic country in the world than Virginia; so the Virginians, whose history we have to narrate, were bred to have the fullest respect for the institutions of home, and the rightful king had not two more faithful little subjects than the young twins of Castlewood.
When the boys' grandfather died, their mother, in great state, proclaimed her eldest son George her successor and heir of the estate; and Harry, George's younger brother by half an hour, was always enjoined to respect his senior. All the household was equally instructed to pay him honour; the negroes, of whom there was a large and happy family, and the assigned servants from Europe, whose lot was made as bearable as it might be under the government of the lady of Castlewood. In the whole family there scarcely was a rebel save Mrs. Esmond's faithful friend and companion, Madam Mountain, and Harry's foster-mother, a faithful negro woman, who never could be made to understand why her child should not be first, who was handsomer, and stronger, and cleverer than his brother, as she vowed; though, in truth, there was scarcely any difference in the beauty, strength, or stature of the twins. In disposition, they were in many points exceedingly unlike; but in feature they resembled each other so closely, that but for the colour of their hair it had been difficult to distinguish them. In their beds, and when their heads were covered with those vast ribboned nightcaps which our great and little ancestors wore, it was scarcely possible for any but a nurse or mother to tell the one from the other child.
Howbeit alike in form, we have said that they differed in temper. The elder was peaceful, studious, and silent; the younger was warlike and noisy. He was quick at learning when he began, but very slow at beginning. No threats of the ferule would provoke Harry to learn in an idle fit, or would prevent George from helping his brother in his lesson. Harry was of a strong military turn, drilled the little negroes on the estate and caned them like a corporal, having many good boxing-matches with them, and never bearing malice if he was worsted;—whereas George was sparing of blows and gentle with all about him. As the custom in all families was, each of the boys had a special little servant assigned him; and it was a known fact that George, finding his little wretch of a blackamoor asleep on his master's bed, sat down beside it and brushed the flies off the child with a feather fan, to the horror of old Gumbo, the child's father, who found his young master so engaged, and to the indignation of Madam Esmond, who ordered the young negro off to the proper officer for a whipping. In vain George implored and entreated— burst into passionate tears, and besought a remission of the sentence. His mother was inflexible regarding the young rebel's punishment, and the little negro went off beseeching his young master not to cry.
A fierce quarrel between mother and son ensued out of this event. Her son would not be pacified. He said the punishment was a shame—a shame; that he was the master of the boy, and no one—no, not his mother,—had a right to touch him; that she might order him to be corrected, and that he would suffer the punishment, as he and Harry often had, but no one should lay a hand on his boy. Trembling with passionate rebellion against what he conceived the injustice of procedure, he vowed—actually shrieking out an oath, which shocked his fond mother and governor, who never before heard such language from the usually gentle child—that on the day he came of age he would set young Gumbo free—went to visit the child in the slaves' quarters, and gave him one of his own toys.
The young black martyr was an impudent, lazy, saucy little personage, who would be none the worse for a whipping, as the Colonel no doubt thought; for he acquiesced in the child's punishment when Madam Esmond insisted upon it, and only laughed in his good-natured way when his indignant grandson called out,
"You let mamma rule you in everything, grandpapa."
"Why, so I do," says grandpapa. "Rachel, my love, the way in which I am petticoat-ridden is so evident that even this baby has found it out."
"Then why don't you stand up like a man?" says little Harry', who always was ready to abet his brother.
Grandpapa looked queerly.
"Because I like sitting down best, my dear," he said. "I am an old gentleman, and standing fatigues me."
On account of a certain apish drollery and humour which exhibited itself in the lad, and a liking for some of the old man's pursuits, the first of the twins was the grandfather's favourite and companion, and would laugh and talk out all his infantine heart to the old gentleman, to whom the younger had seldom a word to say. George was a demure studious boy, and his senses seemed to brighten up in the library, where his brother was so gloomy. He knew the books before he could well-nigh carry them, and read in them long before he could understand them. Harry, on the other hand, was all alive in the stables or in the wood, eager for all parties of hunting and fishing, and promised to be a good sportsman from a very early age. Their grandfather's ship was sailing for Europe once when the boys were children, and they were asked, what present Captain Franks should bring them back? George was divided between books and a fiddle; Harry instantly declared for a little gun: and Madam Warrington (as she then was called) was hurt that her elder boy should have low tastes, and applauded the younger's choice as more worthy of his name and lineage. "Books, papa, I can fancy to be a good choice," she replied to her father, who tried to convince her that George had a right to his opinion, "though I am sure you must have pretty nigh all the books in the world already. But I never can desire—I may be wrong, but I never can desire— that my son, and the grandson of the Marquis of Esmond, should be a fiddler."
"Should be a fiddlestick, my dear," the old Colonel answered.
"Remember that Heaven's ways are not ours, and that each creature born has a little kingdom of thought of his own, which it is a sin in us to invade. Suppose George loves music? You can no more stop him than you can order a rose not to smell sweet, or a bird not to sing."
"A bird! A bird sings from nature; George did not come into the world with a fiddle in his hand," says Mrs. Warrington, with a toss of her head. "I am sure I hated the harpsichord when a chit at Kensington School, and only learned it to please my mamma. Say what you will, dear sir, I can not believe that this fiddling is work for persons of fashion."
"And King David who played the harp, my dear?"
"I wish my papa would read him more, and not speak about him in that way," said Mrs. Warrington.
"Nay, my dear, it was but by way of illustration," the father replied gently. It was Colonel Esmond's nature, as he has owned in his own biography, always to be led by a woman; and, his wife dead, he coaxed and dandled and spoiled his daughter; laughing at her caprices, but humouring them; making a joke of her prejudices, but letting them have their way; indulging, and perhaps increasing, her natural imperiousness of character, though it was his maxim that we can't change dispositions by meddling, and only make hypocrites of our children by commanding them over-much.
At length the time came when Mr. Esmond was to have done with the affairs of this life, and he laid them down as if glad to be rid of their burthen. We must not ring in an opening history with tolling bells, or preface it with a funeral sermon. All who read and heard that discourse, wondered where Parson Broadbent of Jamestown found the eloquence and the Latin which adorned it. Perhaps Mr. Dempster knew, the boys' Scotch tutor, who corrected the proofs of the oration, which was printed, by desire of his Excellency and many persons of honour, at Mr. Franklin's press in Philadelphia. No such sumptuous funeral had ever been seen in the country as that which Madam Esmond Warrington ordained for her father, who would have been the first to smile at that pompous grief. The little lads of Castlewood, almost smothered in black trains and hatbands, headed the procession, and were followed by my Lord Fairfax from Greenway Court, by his Excellency the Governor of Virginia (with his coach), by the Randolphs, the Careys, the Harrisons, the Washingtons, and many others, for the whole county esteemed the departed gentleman, whose goodness, whose high talents, whose benevolence and unobtrusive urbanity had earned for him the just respect of his neighbours. When informed of the event, the family of Colonel Esmond's stepson, the Lord Castlewood of Hampshire in England, asked to be at the charges of the marble slab which recorded the names and virtues of his lordship's mother and her husband; and after due time of preparation, the monument was set up, exhibiting the arms and coronet of the Esmonds, supported by a little chubby group of weeping cherubs, and reciting an epitaph which for once did not tell any falsehoods.
Kind friends, neighbours hospitable, cordial, even respectful,—an ancient name, a large estate and a sufficient fortune, a comfortable home, supplied with all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life, and a troop of servants, black and white, eager to do your bidding; good health, affectionate children, and, let us humbly add, a good cook, cellar, and library—ought not a person in the possession of all these benefits to be considered very decently happy? Madam Esmond Warrington possessed all these causes for happiness; she reminded herself of them daily in her morning and evening prayers. She was scrupulous in her devotions, good to the poor, never knowingly did anybody a wrong. Yonder I fancy her enthroned in her principality of Castlewood, the country gentlefolks paying her court, the sons dutiful to her, the domestics tumbling over each other's black heels to do her bidding, the poor whites grateful for her bounty and implicitly taking her doses when they were ill, the smaller gentry always acquiescing in her remarks, and for ever letting her win at backgammon—well, with all these benefits, which are more sure than fate allots to most mortals, I don't think the little Princess Pocahontas, as she was called, was to be envied in the midst of her dominions. The Princess's husband, who was cut off in early life, was as well perhaps out of the way. Had he survived his marriage by many years, they would have quarrelled fiercely, or, he would infallibly have been a henpecked husband, of which sort there were a few specimens still extant a hundred years ago. The truth is, little Madam Esmond never came near man or woman, but she tried to domineer over them. If people obeyed, she was their very good friend; if they resisted, she fought and fought until she or they gave in. We are all miserable sinners that's a fact we acknowledge in public every Sunday—no one announced it in a more clear resolute voice than the little lady. As a mortal, she may have been in the wrong, of course; only she very seldom acknowledged the circumstance to herself, and to others never. Her father, in his old age, used to watch her freaks of despotism, haughtiness, and stubbornness, and amuse himself with them. She felt that his eye was upon her; his humour, of which quality she possessed little herself, subdued and bewildered her. But, the Colonel gone, there was nobody else whom she was disposed to obey,—and so I am rather glad for my part that I did not live a hundred years ago at Castlewood in Westmorland County in Virginia. I fancy, one would not have been too happy there. Happy, who is happy? Was not there a serpent in Paradise itself? and if Eve had been perfectly happy beforehand, would she have listened to him?
The management of the house of Castlewood had been in the hands of the active little lady long before the Colonel slept the sleep of the just. She now exercised a rigid supervision over the estate; dismissed Colonel Esmond's English factor and employed a new one; built, improved, planted, grew tobacco, appointed a new overseer, and imported a new tutor. Much as she loved her father, there were some of his maxims by which she was not inclined to abide. Had she not obeyed her papa and mamma during all their lives, as a dutiful daughter should? So ought all children to obey their parents, that their days might be long in the land. The little Queen domineered over her little dominion, and the Princes her sons were only her first subjects. Ere long she discontinued her husband's name of Warrington and went by the name of Madam Esmond in the country. Her family pretensions were known there. She had no objection to talk of the Marquis's title which King James had given to her father and grandfather. Her papa's enormous magnanimity might induce him to give up his titles and rank to the younger branch of the family, and to her half-brother, my Lord Castlewood and his children; but she and her sons were of the elder branch of the Esmonds, and she expected that they should be treated accordingly. Lord Fairfax was the only gentleman in the colony of Virginia to whom she would allow precedence over her. She insisted on the pas before all Lieutenant-Governors' and Judges' ladies; before the wife of the Governor of a colony she would, of course, yield as to the representative of the Sovereign. Accounts are extant, in the family papers and letters, of one or two tremendous battles which Madam fought with the wives of colonial dignitaries upon these questions of etiquette. As for her husband's family of Warrington, they were as naught in her eyes. She married an English baronet's younger son out of Norfolk to please her parents, whom she was always bound to obey. At the early age at which she married—a chit out of a boarding-school—she would have jumped overboard if her papa had ordered. "And that is always the way with the Esmonds," she said.
The English Warringtons were not over-much flattered by the little American Princess's behaviour to them, and her manner of speaking about them. Once a year a solemn letter used to be addressed to the Warrington family, and to her noble kinsmen the Hampshire Esmonds; but a Judge's lady with whom Madam Esmond had quarrelled returning to England out of Virginia chanced to meet Lady Warrington, who was in London with Sir Miles attending Parliament, and this person repeated some of the speeches which the Princess Pocahontas was in the habit of making regarding her own and her husband's English relatives, and my Lady Warrington, I suppose, carried the story to my Lady Castlewood; after which the letters from Virginia were not answered, to the surprise and wrath of Madam Esmond, who speedily left off writing also.
So this good woman fell out with her neighbours, with her relatives, and, as it must be owned, with her sons also.
A very early difference which occurred between the Queen and Crown Prince arose out of the dismissal of Mr. Dempster, the lad's tutor and the late Colonel's secretary. In her father's life Madam Esmond bore him with difficulty, or it should be rather said Mr. Dempster could scarce put up with her. She was jealous of books somehow, and thought your bookworms dangerous folks, insinuating bad principles. She had heard that Dempster was a Jesuit in disguise, and the poor fellow was obliged to go build himself a cabin in a clearing, and teach school and practise medicine where he could find customers among the sparse inhabitants of the province. Master George vowed he never would forsake his old tutor, and kept his promise. Harry had always loved fishing and sporting better than books, and he and the poor Dominie had never been on terms of close intimacy. Another cause of dispute presently ensued.
By the death of an aunt, and at his father's demise, the heir of Mr. George Warrington became entitled to a sum of six thousand pounds, of which their mother was one of the trustees. She never could be made to understand that she was not the proprietor, and not merely the trustee of this money; and was furious with the London lawyer, the other trustee, who refused to send it over at her order. "Is not all I have my sons'?" she cried, "and would I not cut myself into little pieces to serve them? With the six thousand pounds I would have bought Mr. Boulter's estate and negroes, which would have given us a good thousand pounds a year, and made a handsome provision for my Harry." Her young friend and neighbour, Mr. Washington of Mount Vernon, could not convince her that the London agent was right, and must not give up his trust except to those for whom he held it. Madam Esmond gave the London lawyer a piece of her mind, and, I am sorry to say, informed Mr. Draper that he was an insolent pettifogger, and deserved to be punished for doubting the honour of a mother and an Esmond. It must be owned that the Virginian Princess had a temper of her own.
George Esmond, her firstborn, when this little matter was referred to him, and his mother vehemently insisted that he should declare himself, was of the opinion of Mr. Washington, and Mr. Draper, the London lawyer. The boy said he could not help himself. He did not want the money: he would be very glad to think otherwise, and to give the money to his mother, if he had the power. But Madam Esmond would not hear any of these reasons. Feelings were her reasons. Here was a chance of making Harry's fortune—dear Harry, who was left with such a slender younger brother's; pittance—and the wretches in London would not help him; his own brother, who inherited all her papa's estate, would not help him. To think of a child of hers being so mean at fourteen year of age! etc. etc. Add tears, scorn, frequent innuendo, long estrangement, bitter outbreak, passionate appeals to Heaven, and the like, and we may fancy the widow's state of mind. Are there not beloved beings of the gentler sex who argue in the same way nowadays? The book of female logic is blotted all over with tears, and Justice in their courts is for ever in a passion.
This occurrence set the widow resolutely saving for her younger son, for whom, as in duty bound, she was eager to make a portion. The fine buildings were stopped which the Colonel had commenced at Castlewood, who had freighted ships from New York with Dutch bricks, and imported, at great charges, mantelpieces, carved cornice-work, sashes and glass, carpets and costly upholstery from home. No more books were bought. The agent had orders to discontinue sending wine. Madam Esmond deeply regretted the expense of a fine carriage which she had had from England, and only rode in it to church groaning in spirit, and crying to the sons opposite her, "Harry, Harry! I wish I had put by the money for thee, my poor portionless child—three hundred and eighty guineas of ready money to Messieurs Hatchett!"
"You will give me plenty while you live, and George will give me plenty when you die," says Harry, gaily.
"Not unless he changes in spirit, my dear," says the lady, with a grim glance at her elder boy. "Not unless Heaven softens his heart and teaches him charity, for which I pray day and night; as Mountain knows; do you not, Mountain?"
Mrs. Mountain, Ensign Mountain's widow, Madam Esmond's companion and manager, who took the fourth seat in the family coach on these Sundays, said, "Humph! I know you are always disturbing yourself and crying out about this legacy, and I don't see that there is any need."
"Oh no! no need!" cries the widow, rustling in her silks; "of course I have no need to be disturbed, because my eldest born is a disobedient son and an unkind brother—because he has an estate, and my poor Harry, bless him, but a mess of pottage."
George looked despairingly at his mother until he could see her no more for eyes welled up with tears. "I wish you would bless me, too, O my mother!" he said, and burst into a passionate fit of weeping. Harry's arms were in a moment round his brother's neck, and he kissed George a score of times.
"Never mind, George. I know whether you are a good brother or not. Don't mind what she says. She don't mean it."
"I do mean it, child," cries the mother. Would to Heaven——"
"HOLD YOUR TONGUE, I SAY" roars out Harry. "It's a shame to speak so to him, ma'am."
"And so it is, Harry," says Mrs. Mountain, shaking his hand. "You never said a truer word in your life."
"Mrs. Mountain, do you dare to set my children against me?" cries the widow. "From this very day, madam——"
"Turn me and my child into the street? Do," says Mrs. Mountain. "That will be a fine revenge because the English lawyer won't give you the boy's money. Find another companion who will tell you black is white, and flatter you: it is not my way, madam. When shall I go? I shan't be long a-packing. I did not bring much into Castlewood House, and I shall not take much out."
"Hush! the bells are ringing for church, Mountain. Let us try, if you please, and compose ourselves," said the widow, and she looked with eyes of extreme affection, certainly at one—perhap at both—of her children. George kept his head down, and Harry, who was near, got quite close to him during the sermon, and sat with his arm round his brother's neck.
Harry had proceeded in his narrative after his own fashion, interspersing it with many youthful ejaculations, and answering a number of incidental questions asked by his listener. The old lady seemed never tired of hearing him. Her amiable hostess and her daughters came more than once, to ask if she would ride, or walk, or take a dish of tea, or play a game at cards; but all these amusements Madam Bernstein declined, saying that she found infinite amusement in Harry's conversation. Especially when any of the Castlewood family were present, she redoubled her caresses, insisted upon the lad speaking close to her ear, and would call out to the others, "Hush, my dears! I can't hear our cousin speak." And they would quit the room, striving still to look pleased.
"Are you my cousin, too?" asked the honest boy. "You see kinder than my other cousins."
Their talk took place in the wainscoted parlour, where the family had taken their meals in ordinary for at least two centuries past, and which, as we have said, was hung with portraits of the race. Over Madam Bernstein's great chair was a Kneller, one of the most brilliant pictures of the gallery, representing a young lady of three or four and twenty, in the easy flowing dress and loose robes of Queen Anne's time—a hand on a cushion near her, a quantity of auburn hair parted off a fair forehead, and flowing over pearly shoulders and a lovely neck. Under this sprightly picture the lady sate with her knitting-needles.
When Harry asked, "Are you my cousin, too?" she said, "That picture is by Sir Godfrey, who thought himself the greatest painter in the world. But he was not so good as Lely, who painted your grandmother—my—my Lady Castlewood, Colonel Esmond's wife; nor he so good as Sir Anthony Van Dyck, who painted your great-grandfather, yonder—and who looks, Harry, a much finer gentleman than he was. Some of us are painted blacker than we are. Did you recognise your grandmother in that picture? She had the loveliest fair hair and shape of any woman of her time."
"I fancied I knew the portrait from instinct, perhaps, and a certain likeness to my mother."
"Did Mrs. Warrington—I beg her pardon, I think she calls herself Madam or my Lady Esmond now——?"
"They call my mother so in our province," said the boy.
"Did she never tell you of another daughter her mother had in England, before she married your grandfather?"
"She never spoke of one."
"Nor your grandfather?"
"Never. But in his picture-books, which he constantly made for us children, he used to draw a head very like that above your ladyship. That, and Viscount Francis, and King James III., he drew a score of times, I am sure."
"And the picture over me reminds you of no one, Harry?"
"Ah! Here is a sermon!" says the lady, with a sigh. "Harry, that was my face once—yes, it was—and then I was called Beatrix Esmond. And your mother is my half-sister, child, and she has never even mentioned my name!"
As Harry Warrington related to his new-found relative the simple story of his adventures at home, no doubt Madam Bernstein, who possessed a great sense of humour and a remarkable knowledge of the world, formed her judgment respecting the persons and events described; and if her opinion was not in all respects favourable, what can be said but that men and women are imperfect, and human life not entirely pleasant or profitable? The court and city-bred lady recoiled at the mere thought of her American sister's countrified existence. Such a life would be rather wearisome to most city-bred ladies. But little Madam Warrington knew no better, and was satisfied with her life, as indeed she was with herself in general. Because you and I are epicures or dainty feeders, it does not follow that Hodge is miserable with his homely meal of bread and bacon. Madam Warrington had a life of duties and employments which might be humdrum, but at any rate were pleasant to her. She was a brisk little woman of business, and all the affairs of her large estate came under her cognisance. No pie was baked at Castlewood but her little finger was in it. She set the maids to their spinning, she saw the kitchen wenches at their work, she trotted afield on her pony, and oversaw the overseers and the negro hands as they worked in the tobacco-and corn-fields. If a slave was ill, she would go to his quarters in any weather, and doctor him with great resolution. She had a book full of receipts after the old fashion, and a closet where she distilled waters and compounded elixirs, and a medicine-chest which was the terror of her neighbours. They trembled to be ill, lest the little lady should be upon them with her decoctions and her pills.
A hundred years back there were scarce any towns in Virginia; the establishments of the gentry were little villages in which they and their vassals dwelt. Rachel Esmond ruled like a little queen in Castlewood; the princes, her neighbours, governed their estates round about. Many of these were rather needy potentates, living plentifully but in the roughest fashion, having numerous domestics whose liveries were often ragged; keeping open houses, and turning away no stranger from their gates; proud, idle, fond of all sorts of field sports as became gentlemen of good lineage. The widow of Castlewood was as hospitable as her neighbours, and a better economist than most of them. More than one, no doubt, would have had no objection to share her life-interest in the estate, and supply the place of papa to her boys. But where was the man good enough for a person of her ladyship's exalted birth? There was a talk of making the Duke of Cumberland viceroy, or even king, over America. Madam Warrington's gossips laughed, and said she was waiting for him. She remarked, with much gravity and dignity, that persons of as high birth as his Royal Highness had made offers of alliance to the Esmond family.
She had, as lieutenant under her, an officer's widow who has been before named, and who had been Madam Esmond's companion at school, as her late husband had been the regimental friend of the late Mr. Warrington. When the English girls at the Kensington Academy, where Rachel Esmond had her education, teased and tortured the little American stranger, and laughed at the princified airs which she gave herself from a very early age, Fanny Parker defended and befriended her. They both married ensigns in Kingsley's. They became tenderly attached to each other. It was "my Fanny" and "my Rachel" in the letters of the young ladies. Then, my Fanny's husband died in sad out-at-elbowed circumstances, leaving no provision for his widow and her infant; and, in one of his annual voyages, Captain Franks brought over Mrs. Mountain, in the Young Rachel, to Virginia.
There was plenty of room in Castlewood House, and Mrs. Mountain served to enliven the place. She played cards with the mistress: she had some knowledge of music, and could help the eldest boy in that way: she laughed and was pleased with the guests: she saw to the strangers' chambers, and presided over the presses and the linen. She was a kind, brisk, jolly-looking widow, and more than one unmarried gentleman of the colony asked her to change her name for his own. But she chose to keep that of Mountain, though, and perhaps because, it had brought her no good fortune. One marriage was enough for her, she said. Mr. Mountain had amiably spent her little fortune and his own. Her last trinkets went to pay his funeral; and, as long as Madam Warrington would keep her at Castlewood, she preferred a home without a husband to any which as yet had been offered to her in Virginia. The two ladies quarrelled plentifully; but they loved each other: they made up their differences: they fell out again, to be reconciled presently. When either of the boys was ill, each lady vied with the other in maternal tenderness and care. In his last days and illness, Mrs. Mountain's cheerfulness and kindness had been greatly appreciated by the Colonel, whose memory Madam Warrington regarded more than that of any living person. So that, year after year, when Captain Franks would ask Mrs. Mountain, in his pleasant way, whether she was going back with him that voyage? she would decline, and say that she proposed to stay a year more.
And when suitors came to Madam Warrington, as come they would, she would receive their compliments and attentions kindly enough, and asked more than one of these lovers whether it was Mrs. Mountain he came after? She would use her best offices with Mountain. Fanny was the best creature, was of a good English family, and would make any gentleman happy. Did the Squire declare it was to her and not her dependant that he paid his addresses; she would make him her gravest curtsey, say that she really had been utterly mistaken as to his views, and let him know that the daughter of the Marquis of Esmond lived for her people and her sons, and did not propose to change her condition. Have we not read how Queen Elizabeth was a perfectly sensible woman of business, and was pleased to inspire not only terror and awe, but love in the bosoms of her subjects? So the little Virginian princess had her favourites, and accepted their flatteries, and grew tired of them, and was cruel or kind to them as suited her wayward imperial humour. There was no amount of compliment which she would not graciously receive and take as her due. Her little foible was so well known that the wags used to practise upon it. Rattling Jack Firebrace of Henrico county had free quarters for months at Castlewood, and was a prime favourite with the lady there, because he addressed verses to her which he stole out of the pocket-books. Tom Humbold of Spotsylvania wagered fifty hogsheads against five that he would make her institute an order of knighthood, and won his wager.
The elder boy saw these freaks and oddities of his good mother's disposition, and chafed and raged at them privately. From very early days he revolted when flatteries and compliments were paid to the little lady, and strove to expose them with his juvenile satire; so that his mother would say gravely, "The Esmonds were always of a jealous disposition, and my poor boy takes after my father and mother in this." George hated Jack Firebrace and Tom Humbold, and all their like; whereas Harry went out sporting with them, and fowling, and fishing, and cock-fighting, and enjoyed all the fun of the country.
One winter, after their first tutor had been dismissed, Madam Esmond took them to Williamsburg, for such education as the schools and college there afforded, and there it was the fortune of the family to listen to the preaching of the famous Mr. Whitfield, who had come into Virginia, where the habits and preaching of the established clergy were not very edifying. Unlike many of the neighbouring provinces, Virginia was a Church of England colony: the clergymen were paid by the State and had glebes allotted to them; and, there being no Church of England bishop as yet in America, the colonists were obliged to import their divines from the mother-country. Such as came were not, naturally, of the very best or most eloquent kind of pastors. Noblemen's hangers-on, insolvent parsons who had quarrelled with justice or the bailiff, brought their stained cassocks into the colony in the hopes of finding a living there. No wonder that Whitfield's great voice stirred those whom harmless Mr. Broadbent, the Williamsburg chaplain, never could awaken. At first the boys were as much excited as their mother by Mr. Whitfield: they sang hymns, and listened to him with fervour, and, could he have remained long enough among them, Harry and George had both worn black coats probably instead of epaulettes. The simple boys communicated their experiences to one another, and were on the daily and nightly look-out for the sacred "call," in the hope or the possession of which such a vast multitude of Protestant England was thrilling at the time.
But Mr. Whitfield could not stay always with the little congregation of Williamsburg. His mission was to enlighten the whole benighted people of the Church, and from the East to the West to trumpet the truth and bid slumbering sinners awaken. However, he comforted the widow with precious letters, and promised to send her a tutor for her sons who should be capable of teaching them not only profane learning, but of strengthening and confirming them in science much more precious.
In due course, a chosen vessel arrived from England. Young Mr. Ward had a voice as loud as Mr. Whitfield's, and could talk almost as readily and for as long a time. Night and evening the hall sounded with his exhortations. The domestic negroes crept to the doors to listen to him. Other servants darkened the porch windows with their crisp heads to hear him discourse. It was over the black sheep of the Castlewood flock that Mr. Ward somehow had the most influence. These woolly lamblings were immensely affected by his exhortations, and, when he gave out the hymn, there was such a negro chorus about the house as might be heard across the Potomac—such a chorus as would never have been heard in the Colonel's time—for that worthy gentleman had a suspicion of all cassocks, and said he would never have any controversy with a clergyman but upon backgammon. Where money was wanted for charitable purposes no man was more ready, and the good, easy Virginian clergyman, who loved backgammon heartily, too, said that the worthy Colonel's charity must cover his other shortcomings.
Ward was a handsome young man. His preaching pleased Madam Esmond from the first, and, I daresay, satisfied her as much as Mr. Whitfield's. Of course it cannot be the case at the present day when they are so finely educated, but women, a hundred years ago, were credulous, eager to admire and believe, and apt to imagine all sorts of excellences in the object of their admiration. For weeks, nay, months, Madam Esmond was never tired of hearing Mr. Ward's great glib voice and voluble commonplaces: and, according to her wont, she insisted that her neighbours should come and listen to him, and ordered them to be converted. Her young favourite, Mr. Washington, she was especially anxious to influence; and again and again pressed him to come and stay at Castlewood and benefit by the spiritual advantages there to be obtained. But that young gentleman found he had particular business which called him home or away from home, and always ordered his horse of evenings when the time was coming for Mr. Ward's exercises. And—what boys are just towards their pedagogue?—the twins grew speedily tired and even rebellious under their new teacher.
They found him a bad scholar, a dull fellow, and ill-bred to boot. George knew much more Latin and Greek than his master, and caught him in perpetual blunders and false quantities. Harry, who could take much greater liberties than were allowed to his elder brother, mimicked Ward's manner of eating and talking, so that Mrs. Mountain and even Madam Esmond were forced to laugh, and little Fanny Mountain would crow with delight. Madam Esmond would have found the fellow out for a vulgar quack but for her sons' opposition, which she, on her part, opposed with her own indomitable will. "What matters whether he has more or less of profane learning?" she asked; "in that which is most precious, Mr. W. is able to be a teacher to all of us. What if his manners are a little rough? Heaven does not choose its elect from among the great and wealthy. I wish you knew one book, children, as well as Mr. Ward does. It is your wicked pride—the pride of all the Esmonds—which prevents you from listening to him. Go down on your knees in your chamber and pray to be corrected of that dreadful fault." Ward's discourse that evening was about Naaman the Syrian, and the pride he had in his native rivers of Abana and Pharpar, which he vainly imagined to be superior to the healing waters of Jordan— the moral being, that he, Ward, was the keeper and guardian of the undoubted waters of Jordan, and that the unhappy, conceited boys must go to perdition unless they came to him.
George now began to give way to a wicked sarcastic method, which, perhaps, he had inherited from his grandfather, and with which, when a quiet, skilful young person chooses to employ it, he can make a whole family uncomfortable. He took up Ward's pompous remarks and made jokes of them, so that that young divine chafed and almost choked over his great meals. He made Madam Esmond angry, and doubly so when he sent off Harry into fits of laughter. Her authority was defied, her officer scorned and insulted, her youngest child perverted, by the obstinate elder brother. She made a desperate and unhappy attempt to maintain her power.
The boys were fourteen years of age, Harry being taller and much more advanced than his brother, who was delicate, and as yet almost childlike in stature and appearance. The baculine method was a quite common mode of argument in those days. Sergeants, schoolmasters, slave-overseers, used the cane freely. Our little boys had been horsed many a day by Mr. Dempster, their Scotch tutor, in their grandfather's time; and Harry, especially, had got to be quite accustomed to the practice, and made very light of it. But, in the interregnum after Colonel Esmond's death, the cane had been laid aside, and the young gentlemen of Castlewood had been allowed to have their own way. Her own and her lieutenant's authority being now spurned by the youthful rebels, the unfortunate mother thought of restoring it by means of coercion. She took counsel of Mr. Ward. That athletic young pedagogue could easily find chapter and verse to warrant the course which he wished to pursue—in fact, there was no doubt about the wholesomeness of the practice in those clays. He had begun by flattering the boys, finding a good berth and snug quarters at Castlewood, and hoping to remain there.
But they laughed at his flattery, they scorned his bad manners, they yawned soon at his sermons; the more their mother favoured him, the more they disliked him; and so the tutor and the pupils cordially hated each other. Mrs. Mountain, who was the boys' friend, especially George's friend, whom she thought unjustly treated by his mother, warned the lads to be prudent, and that some conspiracy was hatching against them. "Ward is more obsequious than ever to your mamma. It turns my stomach, it does, to hear him flatter, and to see him gobble—the odious wretch! You must be on your guard, my poor boys—you must learn your lessons, and not anger your tutor. A mischief will come, I know it will. Your mamma was talking about you to Mr. Washington the other day, when I came into the room. I don't like that Major Washington, you know I don't. Don't say—O Mounty! Master Harry. You always stand up for your friends, you do. The Major is very handsome and tall, and he may be very good, but he is much too old a young man for me. Bless you, my dears, the quantity of wild oats your father sowed and my own poor Mountain when they were ensigns in Kingsley's, would fill sacks full! Show me Mr. Washington's wild oats, I say—not a grain! Well, I happened to step in last Tuesday, when he was here with your mamma; and I am sure they were talking about you, for he said, 'Discipline is discipline, and must be preserved. There can be but one command in a house, ma'am, and you must be the mistress of yours.'"
"The very words he used to me," cries Harry. "He told me that he did not like to meddle with other folks' affairs, but that our mother was very angry, dangerously angry, he said, and he begged me to obey Mr. Ward, and specially to press George to do so."
"Let him manage his own house, not mine," says George, very haughtily. And the caution, far from benefiting him, only rendered the lad more supercilious and refractory.
On the next day the storm broke, and vengeance fell on the little rebel's head. Words passed between George and Mr. Ward during the morning study. The boy was quite insubordinate and unjust: even his faithful brother cried out, and owned that he was in the wrong. Mr. Ward kept his temper— to compress, bottle up, cork down, and prevent your anger from present furious explosion, is called keeping your temper—and said he should speak upon this business to Madam Esmond. When the family met at dinner, Mr. Ward requested her ladyship to stay, and, temperately enough, laid the subject of dispute before her.
He asked Master Harry to confirm what he had said: and poor Harry was obliged to admit all the dominie's statements.
George, standing under his grandfather's portrait by the chimney, said haughtily that what Mr. Ward had said was perfectly correct.
"To be a tutor to such a pupil is absurd," said Mr. Ward, making a long speech, interspersed with many of his usual Scripture phrases, at each of which, as they occurred, that wicked young George smiled, and pished scornfully, and at length Ward ended by asking her honour's leave to retire.
"Not before you have punished this wicked and disobedient child," said Madam Esmond, who had been gathering anger during Ward's harangue, and especially at her son's behaviour.
"Punish!" says George.
"Yes, sir, punish! If means of love and entreaty fail, as they have with your proud heart, other means must be found to bring you to obedience. I punish you now, rebellious boy, to guard you from greater punishment hereafter. The discipline of this family must be maintained. There can be but one command in a house, and I must be the mistress of mine. You will punish this refractory boy, Mr. Ward, as we have agreed that you should do, and if there is the least resistance on his part, my overseer and servants will lend you aid."
In some such words the widow no doubt must have spoken, but with many vehement Scriptural allusions, which it does not become this chronicler to copy. To be for ever applying to the Sacred Oracles, and accommodating their sentences to your purpose—to be for ever taking Heaven into your confidence about your private affairs, and passionately calling for its interference in your family quarrels and difficulties—to be so familiar with its designs and schemes as to be able to threaten your neighbour with its thunders, and to know precisely its intentions regarding him and others who differ from your infallible opinion—this was the schooling which our simple widow had received from her impetuous young spiritual guide, and I doubt whether it brought her much comfort.
In the midst of his mother's harangue, in spite of it, perhaps, George Esmond felt he had been wrong. "There can be but one command in the house, and you must be mistress—I know who said those words before you," George said, slowly, and looking very white—"and—and I know, mother, that I have acted wrongly to Mr. Ward."
"He owns it! He asks pardon!" cries Harry. "That's right, George! That's enough: isn't it?"
"No, it is not enough!" cried the little woman. "The disobedient boy must pay the penalty of his disobedience. When I was headstrong, as I sometimes was as a child before my spirit was changed and humbled, my mamma punished me, and I submitted. So must George. I desire you will do your duty, Mr. Ward."
"Stop, mother!—you don't quite know what you are doing," George said, exceedingly agitated.
"I know that he who spares the rod spoils the child, ungrateful boy!" says Madam Esmond, with more references of the same nature, which George heard, looking very pale and desperate.
Upon the mantelpiece, under the Colonel's portrait, stood a china cup, by which the widow set great store, as her father had always been accustomed to drink from it. George suddenly took it, and a strange smile passed over his pale face.
"Stay one minute. Don't go away yet," he cried to his mother, who was leaving the room. "You—you are very fond of this cup, mother?"—and Harry looked at him, wondering. "If I broke it, it could never be mended, could it? All the tinkers' rivets would not make it a whole cup again. My dear old grandpapa's cup! I have been wrong. Mr. Ward, I ask pardon. I will try and amend."
The widow looked at her son indignantly, almost scornfully. "I thought," she said, "I thought an Esmond had been more of a man than to be afraid, and—" here she gave a little scream as Harry uttered an exclamation, and dashed forward with his hands stretched out towards his brother.
George, after looking at the cup, raised it, opened his hand, and let it fall on the marble slab below him. Harry had tried in vain to catch it.
"It is too late, Hal," George said. "You will never mend that again— never. Now, mother, I am ready, as it is your wish. Will you come and see whether I am afraid? Mr. Ward, I am your servant. Your servant? Your slave! And the next time I meet Mr. Washington, madam, I will thank him for the advice which he gave you."
"I say, do your duty, sir!" cried Mrs. Esmond, stamping her little foot. And George, making a low bow to Mr. Ward, begged him to go first out of the room to the study.
"Stop! For God's sake, mother, stop!" cried poor Hal. But passion was boiling in the little woman's heart, and she would not hear the boy's petition. "You only abet him, sir!" she cried.—"If I had to do it myself, it should be done!" And Harry, with sadness and wrath in his countenance, left the room by the door through which Mr. Ward and his brother had just issued.
The widow sank down on a great chair near it, and sat a while vacantly looking at the fragments of the broken cup. Then she inclined her head towards the door—one of half a dozen of carved mahogany which the Colonel had brought from Europe. For a while there was silence: then a loud outcry, which made the poor mother start.
In another minute Mr. Ward came out bleeding, from a great wound on his head, and behind him Harry, with flaring eyes, and brandishing a little couteau-de-chasse of his grandfather, which hung, with others of the Colonel's weapons, on the library wall.
"I don't care. I did it," says Harry. "I couldn't see this fellow strike my brother; and, as he lifted his hand, I flung the great ruler at him. I couldn't help it. I won't bear it; and, if one lifts a hand to me or my brother, I'll have his life," shouts Harry, brandishing the hanger.
The widow gave a great gasp and a sigh as she looked at the young champion and his victim. She must have suffered terribly during the few minutes of the boys' absence; and the stripes which she imagined had been inflicted on the elder had smitten her own heart. She longed to take both boys to it. She was not angry now. Very likely she was delighted with the thought of the younger's prowess and generosity. "You are a very naughty disobedient child," she said, in an exceedingly peaceable voice. "My poor Mr. Ward! What a rebel, to strike you! Papa's great ebony ruler, was it? Lay down that hanger, child. 'Twas General Webb gave it to my papa after the siege of Lille. Let me bathe your wound, my good Mr. Ward, and thank Heaven it was no worse. Mountain! Go fetch me some court-plaster out of the middle drawer in the japan cabinet. Here comes George. Put on your coat and waistcoat, child! You were going to take your punishment, sir, and that is sufficient. Ask pardon, Harry, of good Mr. Ward, for your wicked rebellious spirit,—I do, with all my heart, I am sure. And guard against your passionate nature, child—and pray to be forgiven. My son, O my son!" Here, with a burst of tears which she could no longer control, the little woman threw herself on the neck of her eldest-born; whilst Harry, laying the hanger down, went up very feebly to Mr. Ward, and said, "Indeed, I ask your pardon, sir. I couldn't help it; on my honour I couldn't; nor bear to see my brother struck."
The widow was scared, as after her embrace she looked up at George's pale face. In reply to her eager caresses, he coldly kissed her on the forehead, and separated from her. "You meant for the best, mother," he said, "and I was in the wrong. But the cup is broken; and all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot mend it. There—put the fair side outwards on the mantelpiece, and the wound will not show."
Again Madam Esmond looked at the lad, as he placed the fragments of the poor cup on the ledge where it had always been used to stand. Her power over him was gone. He had dominated her. She was not sorry for the defeat; for women like not only to conquer, but to be conquered; and from that day the young gentleman was master at Castlewood. His mother admired him as he went up to Harry, graciously and condescendingly gave Hal his hand, and said, "Thank you, brother!" as if he were a prince, and Harry a general who had helped him in a great battle.
Then George went up to Mr. Ward, who was still piteously bathing his eye and forehead in the water. "I ask pardon for Hal's violence, sir," George said, in great state. "You see, though we are very young, we are gentlemen, and cannot brook an insult from strangers. I should have submitted, as it was mamma's desire; but I am glad she no longer entertains it."
"And pray, sir, who is to compensate me?" says Mr. Ward; "who is to repair the insult done to me?"
"We are very young," says George, with another of his old-fashioned bows. "We shall be fifteen soon. Any compensation that is usual amongst gentlemen"
"This, sir, to a minister of the Word!" bawls out Ward, starting up, and who knew perfectly well the lads' skill in fence, having a score of times been foiled by the pair of them.
"You are not a clergyman yet. We thought you might like to be considered as a gentleman. We did not know."
"A gentleman! I am a Christian, sir!" says Ward, glaring furiously, and clenching his great fists.
"Well, well, if you won't fight, why don't you forgive?" says Harry. "If you don't forgive, why don't you fight? That's what I call the horns of a dilemma;" and he laughed his frank, jolly laugh.
But this was nothing to the laugh a few days afterwards, when, the quarrel having been patched up, along with poor Mr. Ward's eye, the unlucky tutor was holding forth according to his custom. He tried to preach the boys into respect for him, to reawaken the enthusiasm which the congregation had felt for him; he wrestled with their manifest indifference, he implored Heaven to warm their cold hearts again, and to lift up those who were falling back. All was in vain. The widow wept no more at his harangues, was no longer excited by his loudest tropes and similes, nor appeared to be much frightened by the very hottest menaces with which he peppered his discourse. Nay, she pleaded headache, and would absent herself of an evening, on which occasion the remainder of the little congregation was very cold indeed. One day, then, Ward, still making desperate efforts to get back his despised authority, was preaching on the beauty of subordination, the present lax spirit of the age, and the necessity of obeying our spiritual and temporal rulers. "For why, my dear friends," he nobly asked (he was in the habit of asking immensely dull questions, and straightway answering them with corresponding platitudes), "why are governors appointed, but that we should be governed? Why are tutors engaged, but that children should be taught?" (here a look at the boys). "Why are rulers——" Here he paused, looking with a sad, puzzled face at the young gentlemen. He saw in their countenances the double meaning of the unlucky word he had uttered, and stammered, and thumped the table with his fist. "Why, I say, are rulers——"
"Rulers," says George, looking at Harry.
"Rulers!" says Hal, putting his hand to his eye, where the poor tutor still bore marks of the late scuffle. Rulers, o-ho! It was too much. The boys burst out in an explosion of laughter. Mrs. Mountain, who was full of fun, could not help joining in the chorus; and little Fanny, who had always behaved very demurely and silently at these ceremonies, crowed again, and clapped her little hands at the others laughing, not in the least knowing the reason why.
This could not be borne. Ward shut down the book before him; in a few angry, but eloquent and manly words, said he would speak no more in that place; and left Castlewood not in the least regretted by Madam Esmond, who had doted on him three months before.
After the departure of her unfortunate spiritual adviser and chaplain, Madam Esmond and her son seemed to be quite reconciled: but although George never spoke of the quarrel with his mother, it must have weighed upon the boy's mind very painfully, for he had a fever soon after the last recounted domestic occurrences, during which illness his brain once or twice wandered, when he shrieked out, "Broken! Broken! It never, never can be mended!" to the silent terror of his mother, who sate watching the poor child as he tossed wakeful upon his midnight bed. His malady defied her skill, and increased in spite of all the nostrums which the good widow kept in her closet and administered so freely to her people. She had to undergo another humiliation, and one day little Mr. Dempster beheld her at his door on horseback. She had ridden through the snow on her pony, to implore him to give his aid to her poor boy. "I shall bury my resentment, madam," said he, "as your ladyship buried your pride. Please God, I maybe time enough to help my dear young pupil!" So he put up his lancet, and his little provision of medicaments; called his only negro-boy after him, shut up his lonely hut, and once more returned to Castlewood. That night and for some days afterwards it seemed very likely that poor Harry would become heir of Castlewood; but by Mr. Dempster's skill the fever was got over, the intermittent attacks diminished in intensity, and George was restored almost to health again. A change of air, a voyage even to England, was recommended, but the widow had quarrelled with her children's relatives there, and owned with contrition that she had been too hasty. A journey to the north and east was determined on, and the two young gentlemen, with Mr. Dempster as their tutor, and a couple of servants to attend them, took a voyage to New York, and thence up the beautiful Hudson river to Albany, where they were received by the first gentry of the province, and thence into the French provinces, where they had the best recommendations, and were hospitably entertained by the French gentry. Harry camped with the Indians, and took furs and shot bears. George, who never cared for field-sports, and whose health was still delicate, was a special favourite with the French ladies, who were accustomed to see very few young English gentlemen speaking the French language so readily as our young gentlemen. George especially perfected his accent so as to be able to pass for a Frenchman. He had the bel air completely, every person allowed. He danced the minuet elegantly. He learned the latest imported French catches and songs, and played them beautifully on his violin, and would have sung them too but that his voice broke at this time, and changed from treble to bass; and, to the envy of poor Harry, who was absent on a bear-hunt, he even had an affair of honour with a young ensign of the regiment of Auvergne, the Chevalier de la Jabotiere, whom he pinked in the shoulder, and with whom he afterwards swore an eternal friendship. Madame de Mouchy, the superintendent's lady, said the mother was blest who had such a son, and wrote a complimentary letter to Madam Esmond upon Mr. George's behaviour. I fear, Mr. Whitfield would not have been over-pleased with the widow's elation on hearing of her son's prowess.
When the lads returned home at the end of ten delightful months, their mother was surprised at their growth and improvement. George especially was so grown as to come up to his younger-born brother. The boys could hardly be distinguished one from another, especially when their hair was powdered; but that ceremony being too cumbrous for country life, each of the gentlemen commonly wore his own hair, George his raven black, and Harry his light locks tied with a ribbon.
The reader who has been so kind as to look over the first pages of the lad's simple biography, must have observed that Mr. George Esmond was of a jealous and suspicious disposition, most generous and gentle and incapable of an untruth, and though too magnanimous to revenge, almost incapable of forgiving any injury. George left home with no goodwill towards an honourable gentleman, whose name afterwards became one of the most famous in the world; and he returned from his journey not in the least altered in his opinion of his mother's and grandfather's friend. Mr. Washington, though then but just of age, looked and felt much older. He always exhibited an extraordinary simplicity and gravity; he had managed his mother's and his family's affairs from a very early age, and was trusted by all his friends and the gentry of his county more than persons twice his senior.
Mrs. Mountain, Madam Esmond's friend and companion, who dearly loved the two boys and her patroness, in spite of many quarrels with the latter, and daily threats of parting, was a most amusing, droll letter-writer, and used to write to the two boys on their travels. Now, Mrs. Mountain was of a jealous turn likewise; especially she had a great turn for match-making, and fancied that everybody had a design to marry everybody else. There scarce came an unmarried man to Castlewood but Mountain imagined the gentleman had an eye towards the mistress of the mansion. She was positive that odious Mr. Ward intended to make love to the widow, and pretty sure the latter liked him. She knew that Mr. Washington wanted to be married, was certain that such a shrewd young gentleman would look out for a rich wife, and, as for the differences of ages, what matter that the Major (major was his rank in the militia) was fifteen years younger than Madam Esmond? They were used to such marriages in the family; my lady her mother was how many years older than the Colonel when she married him?—When she married him and was so jealous that she never would let the poor Colonel out of her sight. The poor Colonel! after his wife, he had been henpecked by his little daughter. And she would take after her mother, and marry again, be sure of that. Madam was a little chit of a woman, not five feet in her highest headdress and shoes, and Mr. Washington a great tall man of six feet two. Great tall men always married little chits of women: therefore, Mr. W. must be looking after the widow. What could be more clear than the deduction?
She communicated these sage opinions to her boy, as she called George, who begged her, for Heaven's sake, to hold her tongue. This she said she could do, but she could not keep her eyes always shut; and she narrated a hundred circumstances which had occurred in the young gentleman's absence, and which tended, as she thought, to confirm her notions. Had Mountain imparted these pretty suspicions to his brother? George asked sternly. No. George was her boy; Harry was his mother's boy. "She likes him best, and I like you best, George," cries Mountain. "Besides, if I were to speak to him, he would tell your mother in a minute. Poor Harry can keep nothing quiet, and then there would be a pretty quarrel between Madam and me!"
"I beg you to keep this quiet, Mountain," said Mr. George, with great dignity, "or you and I shall quarrel too. Neither to me nor to any one else in the world must you mention such an absurd suspicion."
Absurd! Why absurd? Mr. Washington was constantly with the widow. His name was forever in her mouth. She was never tired of pointing out his virtues and examples to her sons. She consulted him on every question respecting her estate and its management. She never bought a horse or sold a barrel of tobacco without his opinion. There was a room at Castlewood regularly called Mr. Washington's room. "He actually leaves his clothes here and his portmanteau when he goes away. Ah! George, George! One day will come when he won't go away," groaned Mountain, who, of course, always returned to the subject of which she was forbidden to speak. Meanwhile Mr. George adopted towards his mother's favourite a frigid courtesy, at which the honest gentleman chafed but did not care to remonstrate, or a stinging sarcasm, which he would break through as he would burst through so many brambles on those hunting excursions in which he and Harry Warrington rode so constantly together; whilst George, retreating to his tents, read mathematics, and French, and Latin, and sulked in his book-room more and more lonely.
Harry was away from home with some other sporting friends (it is to be feared the young gentleman's acquaintances were not all as eligible as Mr. Washington), when the latter came to pay a visit at Castlewood. He was so peculiarly tender and kind to the mistress there, and received by her with such special cordiality, that George Warrington's jealousy had well-nigh broken out in open rupture. But the visit was one of adieu, as it appeared.
Major Washington was going on a long and dangerous journey, quite to the western Virginia frontier and beyond it. The French had been for some time past making inroads into our territory. The government at home, as well as those of Virginia and Pennsylvania, were alarmed at this aggressive spirit of the Lords of Canada and Louisiana. Some of our settlers had already been driven from their holdings by Frenchmen in arms, and the governors of the British provinces were desirous to stop their incursions, or at any rate to protest against their invasion.
We chose to hold our American colonies by a law that was at least convenient for its framers. The maxim was, that whoever possessed the coast had a right to all the territory inland as far as the Pacific; so that the British charters only laid down the limits of the colonies from north to south, leaving them quite free from east to west. The French, meanwhile, had their colonies to the north and south, and aimed at connecting them by the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence and the great intermediate lakes and waters lying to the westward of the British possessions. In the year 1748, though peace was signed between the two European kingdoms, the colonial question remained unsettled, to be opened again when either party should be strong enough to urge it. In the year 1753, it came to an issue, on the Ohio river, where the British and French settlers met. To be sure, there existed other people besides French and British, who thought they had a title to the territory about which the children of their White Fathers were battling, namely, the native Indians and proprietors of the soil. But the logicians of St. James's and Versailles wisely chose to consider the matter in dispute as a European and not a Red-man's question, eliminating him from the argument, but employing his tomahawk as it might serve the turn of either litigant.
A company, called the Ohio Company, having grants from the Virginia government of lands along that river, found themselves invaded in their settlements by French military detachments, who roughly ejected the Britons from their holdings. These latter applied for protection to Mr. Dinwiddie, Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, who determined upon sending an ambassador to the French commanding officer on the Ohio, demanding that the French should desist from their inroads upon the territories of his Majesty King George.
Young Mr. Washington jumped eagerly at the chance of distinction which this service afforded him, and volunteered to leave his home and his rural and professional pursuits in Virginia, to carry the governor's message to the French officer. Taking a guide, an interpreter, and a few attendants, and following the Indian tracks, in the fall of the year 1753, the intrepid young envoy made his way from Williamsburg almost to the shores of Lake Erie, and found the French commander at Fort le Boeuf. That officer's reply was brief: his orders were to hold the place and drive all the English from it. The French avowed their intention of taking possession of the Ohio. And with this rough answer the messenger from Virginia had to return through danger and difficulty, across lonely forest and frozen river, shaping his course by the compass, and camping at night in the snow by the forest fires.
Harry Warrington cursed his ill-fortune that he had been absent from home on a cock-fight, when he might have had chance of sport so much nobler; and on his return from his expedition, which he had conducted with an heroic energy and simplicity, Major Washington was a greater favourite than ever with the lady of Castlewood. She pointed him out as a model to both her sons. "Ah, Harry!" she would say, "think of you, with your cock-fighting and your racing-matches, and the Major away there in the wilderness, watching the French, and battling with the frozen rivers! Ah, George! learning may be a very good thing, but I wish my eldest son were doing something in the service of his country!"
"I desire no better than to go home and seek for employment, ma'am," says George. "You surely will not have me serve under Mr. Washington, in his new regiment, or ask a commission from Mr. Dinwiddie?"
"An Esmond can only serve with the king's commission," says Madam, "and as for asking a favour from Mr. Lieutenant-Governor Dinwiddie, I would rather beg my bread."
Mr. Washington was at this time raising such a regiment as, with the scanty pay and patronage of the Virginian government, he could get together, and proposed, with the help of these men-of-war, to put a more peremptory veto upon the French invaders than the solitary ambassador had been enabled to lay. A small force under another officer, Colonel Trent, had been already despatched to the west, with orders to fortify themselves so as to be able to resist any attack of the enemy. The French troops, greatly outnumbering ours, came up with the English outposts, who were fortifying themselves at a place on the confines of Pennsylvania where the great city of Pittsburg now stands. A Virginian officer with but forty men was in no condition to resist twenty times that number of Canadians, who appeared before his incomplete works. He was suffered to draw back without molestation; and the French, taking possession of his fort, strengthened it, and christened it by the name of the Canadian governor, Du Quesne. Up to this time no actual blow of war had been struck. The troops representing the hostile nations were in presence—the guns were loaded, but no one as yet had cried "Fire." It was strange, that in a savage forest of Pennsylvania, a young Virginian officer should fire a shot, and waken up a war which was to last for sixty years, which was to cover his own country and pass into Europe, to cost France her American colonies, to sever ours from us, and create the great Western republic; to rage over the Old World when extinguished in the New; and, of all the myriads engaged in the vast contest, to leave the prize of the greatest fame with him who struck the first blow!
He little knew of the fate in store for him. A simple gentleman, anxious to serve his king and do his duty, he volunteered for the first service, and executed it with admirable fidelity. In the ensuing year he took the command of the small body of provincial troops with which he marched to repel the Frenchmen. He came up with their advanced guard and fired upon them, killing their leader. After this he had himself to fall back with his troops, and was compelled to capitulate to the superior French force. On the 4th of July, 1754, the Colonel marched out with his troops from the little fort where he had hastily entrenched himself (and which they called Fort Necessity), gave up the place to the conqueror, and took his way home.
His command was over: his regiment disbanded after the fruitless, inglorious march and defeat. Saddened and humbled in spirit, the young officer presented himself after a while to his old friends at Castlewood. He was very young: before he set forth on his first campaign he may have indulged in exaggerated hopes of success, and uttered them. "I was angry when I parted from you," he said to George Warrington, holding out his hand, which the other eagerly took. "You seemed to scorn me and my regiment, George. I thought you laughed at us, and your ridicule made me angry. I boasted too much of what we would do."
"Nay, you have done your best, George," says the other, who quite forgot his previous jealousy in his old comrade's misfortune. "Everybody knows that a hundred and fifty starving men, with scarce a round of ammunition left, could not face five times their number perfectly armed, and everybody who knows Mr. Washington knows that he would do his duty. Harry and I saw the French in Canada last year. They obey but one will: in our provinces each governor has his own. They were royal troops the French sent against you … "
"Oh, but that some of ours were here!" cries Madam Esmond, tossing her head up. "I promise you a few good English regiments would make the white-coats run."
"You think nothing of the provincials: and I must say nothing now we have been so unlucky," said the Colonel, gloomily. "You made much of me when I was here before. Don't you remember what victories you prophesied for me —how much I boasted myself very likely over your good wine? All those fine dreams are over now. 'Tis kind of your ladyship to receive a poor beaten fellow as you do:" and the young soldier hung down his head.
George Warrington, with his extreme acute sensibility, was touched at the other's emotion and simple testimony of sorrow under defeat. He was about to say something friendly to Mr. Washington, had not his mother, to whom the Colonel had been speaking, replied herself: "Kind of us to receive you, Colonel Washington!" said the widow. "I never heard that when men were unhappy, our sex were less their friends."
And she made the Colonel a very fine curtsey, which straightway caused her son to be more jealous of him than ever.
Surely no man can have better claims to sympathy than bravery, youth, good looks, and misfortune. Madam Esmond might have had twenty sons, and yet had a right to admire her young soldier. Mr. Washington's room was more than ever Mr. Washington's room now. She raved about him and praised him in all companies. She more than ever pointed out his excellences to her sons, contrasting his sterling qualities with Harry's love of pleasure (the wild boy!) and George's listless musings over his books. George was not disposed to like Mr. Washington any better for his mother's extravagant praises. He coaxed the jealous demon within him until he must have become a perfect pest to himself and all the friends round about him. He uttered jokes so deep that his simple mother did not know their meaning, but sate bewildered at his sarcasms, and powerless what to think of his moody, saturnine humour.
Meanwhile, public events were occurring which were to influence the fortunes of all our homely family. The quarrel between the French and English North Americans, from being a provincial, had grown to be a national, quarrel. Reinforcements from France had already arrived in Canada; and English troops were expected in Virginia. "Alas! my dear friend!" wrote Madame la Presidente de Mouchy, from Quebec, to her young friend George Warrington. "How contrary is the destiny to us! I see you quitting the embrace of an adored mother to precipitate yourself in the arms of Bellona. I see you pass wounded after combats. I hesitate almost to wish victory to our lilies when I behold you ranged under the banners of the Leopard. There are enmities which the heart does not recognise— ours assuredly are at peace among the tumults. All here love and salute you, as well as Monsieur the Bear-hunter, your brother (that cold Hippolyte who preferred the chase to the soft conversation of our ladies!) Your friend, your enemy, the Chevalier de la Jabotiere, burns to meet on the field of Mars his generous rival. M. Du Quesne spoke of you last night at supper. M. Du Quesne, my husband, send affectuous remembrances to their young friend, with which are ever joined those of your sincere Presidente de Mouchy."
"The banner of the Leopard," of which George's fair correspondent wrote, was, indeed, flung out to the winds, and a number of the king's soldiers were rallied round it. It was resolved to wrest from the French all the conquests they had made upon British dominion. A couple of regiments were raised and paid by the king in America, and a fleet with a couple more was despatched from home under an experienced commander. In February, 1755, Commodore Keppel, in the famous ship Centurion, in which Anson had made his voyage round the world, anchored in Hampton Roads with two ships of war under his command, and having on board General Braddock, his staff, and a part of his troops. Mr. Braddock was appointed by the Duke. A hundred years ago the Duke of Cumberland was called The Duke par excellence in England—as another famous warrior has since been called. Not so great a Duke certainly was that first-named Prince as his party esteemed him, and surely not so bad a one as his enemies have painted him. A fleet of transports speedily followed Prince William's general, bringing stores, and men, and money in plenty.
The great man landed his troops at Alexandria on the Potomac river, and repaired to Annapolis in Maryland, where he ordered the governors of the different colonies to meet him in council, urging them each to call upon their respective provinces to help the common cause in this strait.
The arrival of the General and his little army caused a mighty excitement all through the provinces, and nowhere greater than at Castlewood. Harry was off forthwith to see the troops under canvas at Alexandria. The sight of their lines delighted him, and the inspiring music of their fifes and drums. He speedily made acquaintance with the officers of both regiments; he longed to join in the expedition upon which they were bound, and was a welcome guest at their mess.
Madam Esmond was pleased that her sons should have an opportunity of enjoying the society of gentlemen of good fashion from England. She had no doubt their company was improving, that the English gentlemen were very different from the horse-racing, cock-fighting Virginian squires, with whom Master Harry would associate, and the lawyers, and pettifoggers, and toad-eaters at the lieutenant-governor's table. Madam Esmond had a very keen eye for detecting flatterers in other folks' houses. Against the little knot of official people at Williamsburg she was especially satirical, and had no patience with their etiquettes and squabbles for precedence.
As for the company of the king's officers, Mr. Harry and his elder brother both smiled at their mamma's compliments to the elegance and propriety of the gentlemen of the camp. If the good lady had but known all, if she could but have heard their jokes and the songs which they sang over their wine and punch, if she could have seen the condition of many of them as they were carried away to their lodgings, she would scarce have been so ready to recommend their company to her sons. Men and officers swaggered the country round, and frightened the peaceful farm and village folk with their riot: the General raved and stormed against his troops for their disorder; against the provincials for their traitorous niggardliness; the soldiers took possession almost as of a conquered country, they scorned the provincials, they insulted the wives even of their Indian allies, who had come to join the English warriors, upon their arrival in America, and to march with them against the French. The General was compelled to forbid the Indian women his camp. Amazed and outraged their husbands retired, and but a few months afterwards their services were lost to him, when their aid would have been most precious.
Some stories against the gentlemen of the camp, Madam Esmond might have heard, but she would have none of them. Soldiers would be soldiers, that everybody knew; those officers who came over to Castlewood on her son's invitation were most polite gentlemen, and such indeed was the case. The widow received them most graciously, and gave them the best sport the country afforded. Presently, the General himself sent polite messages to the mistress of Castlewood. His father had served with hers under the glorious Marlborough, and Colonel Esmond's name was still known and respected in England. With her ladyship's permission, General Braddock would have the honour of waiting upon her at Castlewood, and paying his respects to the daughter of so meritorious an officer.
If she had known the cause of Mr. Braddock's politeness, perhaps his compliments would not have charmed Madam Esmond so much. The Commander-in-Chief held levees at Alexandria, and among the gentry of the country, who paid him their respects, were our twins of Castlewood, who mounted their best nags, took with them their last London suits, and, with their two negro-boys, in smart liveries behind them, rode in state to wait upon the great man. He was sulky and angry with the provincial gentry, and scarce took any notice of the young gentlemen, only asking, casually, of his aide-de-camp at dinner, who the young Squire Gawkeys were in blue and gold and red waistcoats?
Mr. Dinwiddie, the Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, the Agent from Pennsylvania, and a few more gentlemen, happened to be dining with his Excellency. "Oh!" says Mr. Dinwiddie, "those are the sons of the Princess Pocahontas;" on which, with a tremendous oath, the General asked, "Who the deuce was she?"
Dinwiddie, who did not love her, having indeed undergone a hundred pertnesses from the imperious little lady, now gave a disrespectful and ridiculous account of Madam Esmond, made merry with her pomposity and immense pretensions, and entertained General Braddock with anecdotes regarding her, until his Excellency fell asleep.
When he awoke, Dinwiddie was gone, but the Philadelphia gentleman was still at table, deep in conversation with the officers there present. The General took up the talk where it had been left when he fell asleep, and spoke of Madam Esmond in curt, disrespectful terms, such as soldiers were in the habit of using in those days, and asking, again, what was the name of the old fool about whom Dinwiddie had been talking? He then broke into expressions of contempt and wrath against the gentry, and the country in general.
Mr. Franklin of Philadelphia repeated the widow's name, took quite a different view of her character from that Mr. Dinwiddie had given, seemed to know a good deal about her, her father, and her estate; as, indeed, he did about every man or subject which came under discussion; explained to the General that Madam Esmond had beeves, and horses, and stores in plenty, which might be very useful at the present juncture, and recommended him to conciliate her by all means. The General had already made up his mind that Mr. Franklin was a very shrewd, intelligent person, and graciously ordered an aide-de-camp to invite the two young men to the next day's dinner. When they appeared he was very pleasant and good-natured; the gentlemen of the General's family made much of them. They behaved, as became persons of their name, with modesty and good-breeding; they returned home delighted with their entertainment, nor was their mother less pleased at the civilities which his Excellency had shown to her boys. In reply to Braddock's message, Madam Esmond penned a billet in her best style, acknowledging his politeness, and begging his Excellency to fix the time when she might have the honour to receive him at Castlewood.
We may be sure that the arrival of the army and the approaching campaign formed the subject of continued conversation in the Castlewood family. To make the campaign was the dearest wish of Harry's life. He dreamed only of war and battle; he was for ever with the officers at Williamsburg; he scoured and cleaned and polished all the guns and swords in the house; he renewed the amusements of his childhood, and had the negroes under arms. His mother, who had a gallant spirit, knew that the time was come when one of her boys must leave her and serve the king. She scarce dared to think on whom the lot should fall. She admired and respected the elder, but she felt that she loved the younger boy with all the passion of her heart.
Eager as Harry was to be a soldier, and with all his thoughts bent on that glorious scheme, he too scarcely dared to touch on the subject nearest his heart. Once or twice when he ventured on it with George, the latter's countenance wore an ominous look. Harry had a feudal attachment for his elder brother, worshipped him with an extravagant regard, and in all things gave way to him as the chief. So Harry saw, to his infinite terror, how George, too, in his grave way, was occupied with military matters. George had the wars of Eugene and Marlborough down from his bookshelves, all the military books of his grandfather, and the most warlike of Plutarch's lives. He and Dempster were practising with the foils again. The old Scotchman was an adept in the military art, though somewhat shy of saying where he learned it.
Madam Esmond made her two boys the bearers of the letter in reply to his Excellency's message, accompanying her note with such large and handsome presents for the General's staff and the officers of the two Royal Regiments, as caused the General more than once to thank Mr. Franklin for having been the means of bringing this welcome ally into the camp. "Would not one of the young gentlemen like to see the campaign?" the General asked. "A friend of theirs, who often spoke of them—Mr. Washington, who had been unlucky in the affair of last year—had already promised to join him as aide-de-camp, and his Excellency would gladly take another young Virginian gentleman into his family." Harry's eyes brightened and his face flushed at this offer. "He would like with all his heart to go!" he cried out. George said, looking hard at his younger brother, that one of them would be proud to attend his Excellency, whilst it would be the other's duty to take care of their mother at home. Harry allowed his senior to speak. His will was even still obedient to George's. However much he desired to go, he would not pronounce until George had declared himself. He longed so for the campaign, that the actual wish made him timid. He dared not speak on the matter as he went home with George. They rode for miles in silence, or strove to talk upon indifferent subjects; each knowing what was passing in the other's mind, and afraid to bring the awful question to an issue.
On their arrival at home the boys told their mother of General Braddock's offer. "I knew it must happen," she said; "at such a crisis in the country our family must come forward. Have you—have you settled yet which of you is to leave me?" and she looked anxiously from one to another, dreading to hear either name.
"The youngest ought to go, mother; of course I ought to go!" cries Harry, turning very red.
"Of course he ought," said Mrs. Mountain, who was present at their talk.
"There! Mountain says so! I told you so!" again cries Harry, with a sidelong look at George.
"The head of the family ought to go, mother," says George, sadly.
"No! no! you are ill, and have never recovered your fever. Ought he to go, Mountain?"
"You would make the best soldier, I know that, dearest Hal. You and George Washington are great friends, and could travel well together, and he does not care for me, nor I for him, however much he is admired in the family. But, you see, 'tis the law of Honour, my Harry." (He here spoke to his brother with a voice of extraordinary kindness and tenderness.) "The grief I have had in this matter has been that I must refuse thee. I must go. Had Fate given you the benefit of that extra half-hour of life which I have had before you, it would have been your lot, and you would have claimed your right to go first, you know you would."
"Yes, George," said poor Harry, "I own I should."
"You will stay at home, and take care of Castlewood and our mother. If anything happens to me, you are here to fill my place. I would like to give way, my dear, as you, I know, would lay down your life to serve me. But each of us must do his duty. What would our grandfather say if he were here?"
The mother looked proudly at her two sons. "My papa would say that his boys were gentlemen," faltered Madam Esmond, and left the young men, not choosing, perhaps, to show the emotion which was filling her heart. It was speedily known amongst the servants that Mr. George was going on the campaign. Dinah, George's foster-mother, was loud in her lamentations at losing him; Phillis, Harry's old nurse, was as noisy because Master George, as usual, was preferred over Master Harry. Sady, George's servant, made preparations to follow his master, bragging incessantly of the deeds which he would do, while Gumbo, Harry's boy, pretended to whimper at being left behind, though, at home, Gumbo was anything but a fire-eater.
But, of all in the house, Mrs. Mountain was the most angry at George's determination to go on the campaign. She had no patience with him. He did not know what he was doing by leaving home. She begged, implored, insisted that he should alter his determination; and vowed that nothing but mischief would come from his departure.
George was surprised at the pertinacity of the good lady's opposition. "I know, Mountain," said he, "that Harry would be the better soldier; but, after all, to go is my duty."
"To stay is your duty!" says Mountain, with a stamp of her foot.
"Why did not my mother own it when we talked of the matter just now?"
"Your mother!" says Mrs. Mountain, with a most gloomy, sardonic laugh; "your mother, my poor child!"
"What is the meaning of that mournful countenance, Mountain?"
"It may be that your mother wishes you away, George!" Mrs. Mountain continued, wagging her head. "It may be, my poor deluded boy, that you will find a father-in-law when you come back."
"What in heaven do you mean?" cried George, the blood rushing into his face.
"Do you suppose I have no eyes, and cannot see what is going on? I tell you, child, that Colonel Washington wants a rich wife. When you are gone, he will ask your mother to marry him, and you will find him master here when you come back. That is why you ought not to go away, you poor, unhappy, simple boy! Don't you see how fond she is of him? how much she makes of him? how she is always holding him up to you, to Harry, to everybody who comes here?"
"But he is going on the campaign, too," cried George.
"He is going on the marrying campaign, child!" insisted the widow.
"Nay; General Braddock himself told me that Mr. Washington had accepted the appointment of aide-de-camp."
"An artifice! an artifice to blind you, my poor child!" cries Mountain. "He will be wounded and come back—you will see if he does not. I have proofs of what I say to you—proofs under his own hand—look here!" And she took from her pocket a piece of paper in Mr. Washington's well-known handwriting.
"How came you by this paper?" asked George, turning ghastly pale.
"I—I found it in the Major's chamber!" says Mrs. Mountain, with a shamefaced look.
"You read the private letters of a guest staying in our house?" cried George. "For shame! I will not look at the paper!" And he flung it from him on to the fire before him.
"I could not help it, George; 'twas by chance, I give you my word, by the merest chance. You know Governor Dinwiddie is to have the Major's room, and the state-room is got ready for Mr. Braddock, and we are expecting ever so much company, and I had to take the things which the Major leaves here—he treats the house just as if it was his own already—into his new room, and this half-sheet of paper fell out of his writing-book, and I just gave one look at it by the merest chance, and when I saw what it was it was my duty to read it."
"Oh, you are a martyr to duty, Mountain!" George said grimly. "I dare say Mrs. Bluebeard thought it was her duty to look through the keyhole."
"I never did look through the keyhole, George. It's a shame you should say so! I, who have watched, and tended, and nursed you, like a mother; who have sate up whole weeks with you in fevers, and carried you from your bed to the sofa in these arms. There, sir, I don't want you there now. My dear Mountain, indeed! Don't tell me! You fly into a passion, and, call names, and wound my feelings, who have loved you like your mother—like your mother?—I only hope she may love you half as well. I say you are all ungrateful. My Mr. Mountain was a wretch, and every one of you is as bad."
There was but a smouldering log or two in the fireplace, and no doubt Mountain saw that the paper was in no danger as it lay amongst the ashes, or she would have seized it at the risk of burning her own fingers, and ere she uttered the above passionate defence of her conduct. Perhaps George was absorbed in his dismal thoughts; perhaps his jealousy overpowered him, for he did not resist any further when she stooped down and picked up the paper.
"You should thank your stars, child, that I saved the letter," cried she. "See! here are his own words, in his great big handwriting like a clerk. It was not my fault that he wrote them, or that I found them. Read for yourself, I say, George Warrington, and be thankful that your poor dear old Mounty is watching over you!"
Every word and letter upon the unlucky paper was perfectly clear. George's eyes could not help taking in the contents of the document before him. "Not a word of this, Mountain," he said, giving her a frightful look. "I—I will return this paper to Mr. Washington."
Mountain was scared at his face, at the idea of what she had done, and what might ensue. When his mother, with alarm in her countenance, asked him at dinner what ailed him that he looked so pale? "Do you suppose, madam," says he, filling himself a great bumper of wine, "that to leave such a tender mother as you does not cause me cruel grief?"
The good lady could not understand his words, his strange, fierce looks, and stranger laughter. He bantered all at the table; called to the servants and laughed at them, and drank more and more. Each time the door was opened, he turned towards it; and so did Mountain, with a guilty notion that Mr. Washington would step in.
On the day appointed for Madam Esmond's entertainment to the General, the house of Castlewood was set out with the greatest splendour; and Madam Esmond arrayed herself in a much more magnificent dress than she was accustomed to wear. Indeed, she wished to do every honour to her guest, and to make the entertainment—which, in reality, was a sad one to her— as pleasant as might be for her company. The General's new aide-de-camp was the first to arrive. The widow received him in the covered gallery before the house. He dismounted at the steps, and his servants led away his horses to the well-known quarters. No young gentleman in the colony was better mounted or a better horseman than Mr. Washington.
For a while ere the Major retired to divest himself of his riding-boots, he and his hostess paced the gallery in talk. She had much to say to him; she had to hear from him a confirmation of his own appointment as aide-de-camp to General Braddock, and to speak of her son's approaching departure. The negro servants bearing the dishes for the approaching feast were passing perpetually as they talked. They descended the steps down to the rough lawn in front of the house, and paced a while in the shade. Mr. Washington announced his Excellency's speedy approach, with Mr. Franklin of Pennsylvania in his coach.
This Mr. Franklin had been a common printer's boy, Mrs. Esmond had heard; a pretty pass things were coming to when such persons rode in the coach of the Commander-in-Chief! Mr. Washington said, a more shrewd and sensible gentleman never rode in coach or walked on foot. Mrs. Esmond thought the Major was too liberally disposed towards this gentleman; but Mr. Washington stoutly maintained against the widow that the printer was a most ingenious, useful, and meritorious man.
"I am glad, at least, that, as my boy is going to make the campaign, he will not be with tradesmen, but with gentlemen, with gentlemen of honour and fashion," says Madam Esmond, in her most stately manner.
Mr. Washington had seen the gentlemen of honour and fashion over their cups, and perhaps thought that all their sayings and doings were not precisely such as would tend to instruct or edify a young man on his entrance into life; but he wisely chose to tell no tales out of school, and said that Harry and George, now they were coming into the world, must take their share of good and bad, and hear what both sorts had to say.
"To be with a veteran officer of the finest army in the world," faltered the widow; "with gentlemen who have been bred in the midst of the Court; with friends of his Royal Highness, the Duke——"
The widow's friend only inclined his head. He did not choose to allow his countenance to depart from its usual handsome gravity.
"And with you, dear Colonel Washington, by whom my father always set such store. You don't know how much he trusted in you. You will take care of my boy, sir, will not you? You are but five years older, yet I trust to you more than to his seniors; my father always told the children, I alway bade them, to look up to Mr. Washington."
"You know I would have done anything to win Colonel Esmond's favour. Madam, how much would I not venture to merit his daughter's?"
The gentleman bowed with not too ill a grace. The lady blushed, and dropped one of the lowest curtsies. (Madam Esmond's curtsey was considered unrivalled over the whole province.) "Mr. Washington," she said, "will be always sure of a mother's affection, whilst he gives so much of his to her children." And so saying she gave him her hand, which he kissed with profound politeness. The little lady presently re-entered her mansion, leaning upon the tall young officer's arm. Here they were joined by George, who came to them, accurately powdered and richly attired, saluting his parent and his friend alike with low and respectful bows. Nowadays, a young man walks into his mother's room with hobnailed high-lows, and a wideawake on his head; and instead of making her a bow, puffs a cigar into her face.
But George, though he made the lowest possible bow to Mr. Washington and his mother, was by no means in good-humour with either of them. A polite smile played round the lower part of his countenance, whilst watchfulness and wrath glared out from the two upper windows. What had been said or done? Nothing that might not have been performed or uttered before the most decent, polite, or pious company. Why then should Madam Esmond continue to blush, and the brave Colonel to look somewhat red, as he shook his young friend's hand?
The Colonel asked Mr. George if he had had good sport? "No," says George, curtly. "Have you?" And then he looked at the picture of his father, which hung in the parlour.
The Colonel, not a talkative man ordinarily, straightway entered into a long description of his sport, and described where he had been in the morning, and what woods he had hunted with the king's officers; how many birds they had shot, and what game they had brought down. Though not a jocular man ordinarily, the Colonel made a long description of Mr. Braddock's heavy person and great boots, as he floundered through the Virginian woods, hunting, as they called it, with a pack of dogs gathered from various houses, with a pack of negroes barking as loud as the dogs, and actually shooting the deer when they came in sight of him. "Great God, sir!" says Mr. Braddock, puffing and blowing, "what would Sir Robert have said in Norfolk, to see a man hunting with a fowling-piece in his hand, and a pack of dogs actually laid on to a turkey!"
"Indeed, Colonel, you are vastly comical this afternoon!" cries Madam Esmond, with a neat little laugh, whilst her son listened to the story, looking more glum than ever. "What Sir Robert is there at Norfolk? Is he one of the newly arrived army-gentlemen?"
"The General meant Norfolk at home, madam, not Norfolk in Virginia," said Colonel Washington. "Mr. Braddock had been talking of a visit to Sir Robert Walpole, who lived in that county, and of the great hunts the old Minister kept there, and of his grand palace, and his pictures at Houghton. I should like to see a good field and a good fox-chase at home better than any sight in the world," the honest sportsman added with a sigh.
"Nevertheless, there is good sport here, as I was saying," said young Esmond, with a sneer.
"What sport?" cries the other, looking at him.
"Why, sure you know, without looking at me so fiercely, and stamping your foot, as if you were going to charge me with the foils. Are you not the best sportsman of the country-side? Are there not all the fish of the field, and the beasts of the trees, and the fowls of the sea—no—the fish of the trees, and the beasts of the sea—and the—bah! You know what I mean. I mean shad, and salmon, and rock-fish, and roe-deer, and hogs, and buffaloes, and bisons, and elephants, for what I know. I'm no sportsman."
"No, indeed," said Mr. Washington, with a look of scarcely repressed scorn.
"Yes, I understand you. I am a milksop. I have been bred at my mamma's knee. Look at these pretty apron-strings, Colonel! Who would not like to be tied to them? See of what a charming colour they are! I remember when they were black—that was for my grandfather."
"And who would not mourn for such a gentleman?" said the Colonel, as the widow, surprised, looked at her son.
"And, indeed, I wish my grandfather were here, and would resurge, as he promises to do on his tombstone; and would bring my father, the Ensign, with him."
"Ah, Harry!" cries Mrs. Esmond, bursting into tears, as at this juncture her second son entered the room—in just such another suit, gold-corded frock, braided waistcoat, silver-hilted sword, and solitaire, as that which his elder brother wore. "Oh, Harry, Harry!" cries Madam Esmond, and flies to her younger son.
"What is it, mother?" asks Harry, taking her in his arms. "What is the matter, Colonel?"
"Upon my life, it would puzzle me to say," answered the Colonel, biting his lips.
"A mere question, Hal, about pink ribbons, which I think vastly becoming to our mother; as, no doubt, the Colonel does."
"Sir, will you please to speak for yourself?" cried the Colonel, bustling up, and then sinking his voice again.
"He speaks too much for himself," wept the widow.
"I protest I don't any more know the source of these tears, than the source of the Nile," said George, "and if the picture of my father were to begin to cry, I should almost as much wonder at the paternal tears. What have I uttered? An allusion to ribbons! Is there some poisoned pin in them, which has been struck into my mother's heart by a guilty fiend of a London mantua-maker? I professed to wish to be led in these lovely reins all my life long," and he turned a pirouette on his scarlet heels.
"George Warrington! what devil's dance are you dancing now?" asked Harry, who loved his mother, who loved Mr. Washington, but who, of all creatures, loved and admired his brother George.
"My dear child, you do not understand dancing—you care not for the politer arts—you can get no more music out of a spinet than by pulling a dead hog by the ear. By nature you were made for a man—a man of war—I do not mean a seventy-four, Colonel George, like that hulk which brought the hulking Mr. Braddock into our river. His Excellency, too, is a man of warlike turn, a follower of the sports of the field. I am a milksop, as I have had the honour to say."
"You never showed it yet. You beat that great Maryland man was twice your size," breaks out Harry.
"Under compulsion, Harry. 'Tis tuptu, my lad, or else 'tis tuptomai, as thy breech well knew when we followed school. But I am of a quiet turn, and would never lift my hand to pull a trigger, no, nor a nose, nor anything but a rose," and here he took and handled one of Madam Esmond's bright pink apron ribbons. "I hate sporting, which you and the Colonel love, and I want to shoot nothing alive, not a turkey, nor a titmouse, nor an ox, nor an ass, nor anything that has ears. Those curls of Mr. Washington's are prettily powdered."
The militia colonel, who had been offended by the first part of the talk, and very much puzzled by the last, had taken a modest draught from the great china bowl of apple-toddy which stood to welcome the guests in this as in all Virginian houses, and was further cooling himself by pacing the balcony in a very stately manner.
Again almost reconciled with the elder, the appeased mother stood giving a hand to each of her sons. George put his disengaged hand on Harry's shoulder. "I say one thing, George," says he with a flushing face.
"Say twenty things, Don Enrico," cries the other.
"If you are not fond of sporting and that, and don't care for killing game and hunting, being cleverer than me, why shouldst thou not stop at home and be quiet, and let me go out with Colonel George and Mr. Braddock?—that's what I say," says Harry, delivering himself of his speech.
The widow looked eagerly from the dark-haired to the fair-haired boy. She knew not from which she would like to part.
"One of our family must go because honneur oblige, and my name being number one, number one must go first," says George.
"Told you so," said poor Harry.
"One must stay, or who is to look after mother at home? We cannot afford to be both scalped by Indians or fricasseed by French."
"Fricasseed by French!" cries Harry; "the best troops of the world! Englishmen! I should like to see them fricasseed by the French!—What a mortal thrashing you will give them!" and the brave lad sighed to think he should not be present at the battue.
George sate down to the harpsichord and played and sang "Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre, Mironton, mironton, mirontaine," at the sound of which music the gentleman from the balcony entered. "I am playing 'God save the King,' Colonel, in compliment to the new expedition."
"I never know whether thou art laughing or in earnest," said the simple gentleman, "but surely methinks that is not the air."
George performed ever so many trills and quavers upon his harpsichord, and their guest watched him, wondering, perhaps, that a gentleman of George's condition could set himself to such an effeminate business. Then the Colonel took out his watch, saying that his Excellency's coach would be here almost immediately, and asking leave to retire to his apartment, and put himself in a fit condition to appear before her ladyship's company.
"Colonel Washington knows the way to his room pretty well," said George, from the harpsichord, looking over his shoulder, but never offering to stir."
"Let me show the Colonel to his chamber," cried the widow, in great wrath, and sailed out of the apartment, followed by the enraged and bewildered Colonel, as George continued crashing among the keys. Her high-spirited guest felt himself insulted, he could hardly say how; he was outraged and he could not speak; he was almost stifling with anger.
Harry Warrington remarked their friend's condition. "For heaven's sake, George, what does this all mean?" he asked his brother. "Why shouldn't he kiss her hand?" (George had just before fetched out his brother from their library, to watch this harmless salute.) "I tell you it is nothing but common kindness."
"Nothing but common kindness!" shrieked out George. "Look at that, Hal! Is that common kindness?" and he showed his junior the unlucky paper over which he had been brooding for some time. It was but a fragment, though the meaning was indeed clear without the preceding text.
The paper commenced: "… is older than myself, but I, again, am older than my years; and you know, dear brother, have ever been considered a sober person. All children are better for a father's superintendence, and her two, I trust, will find in me a tender friend and guardian."
"Friend and guardian! Curse him!" shrieked out George, clenching his fists—and his brother read on:
"… The flattering offer which General Braddock hath made me, will, of course, oblige me to postpone this matter until after the campaign. When we have given the French a sufficient drubbing, I shall return to repose under my own vine and fig-tree."
"He means Castlewood. These are his vines," George cries again, shaking his fist at the creepers sunning themselves on the wall.
"… Under my own vine and fig-tree; where I hope soon to present my dear brother to his new sister-in-law. She has a pretty Scripture name, which is … "—and here the document ended.
"Which is Rachel," George went on bitterly. "Rachel is by no means weeping for her children, and has every desire to be comforted. Now, Harry! Let us upstairs at once, kneel down as becomes us, and say, 'Dear papa, welcome to your house of Castlewood.'"
His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief set forth to pay his visit to Madam Esmond in such a state and splendour as became the first personage in all his Majesty's colonies, plantations, and possessions of North America. His guard of dragoons preceded him out of Williamsburg in the midst of an immense shouting and yelling of a loyal, and principally negro, population. The General rode in his own coach. Captain Talmadge, his Excellency's Master of the Horse, attended him at the door of the ponderous emblazoned vehicle, and riding by the side of the carriage during the journey from Williamsburg to Madam Esmond's house. Major Danvers, aide-de-camp, sate in the front of the carriage with the little postmaster from Philadelphia, Mr. Franklin, who, printer's boy as he had been, was a wonderful shrewd person, as his Excellency and the gentlemen of his family were fain to acknowledge, having a quantity of the most curious information respecting the colony, and regarding England too, where Mr. Franklin had been more than once. "'Twas extraordinary how a person of such humble origin should have acquired such a variety of learning and such a politeness of breeding too, Mr. Franklin!" his Excellency was pleased to observe, touching his hat graciously to the postmaster.
The postmaster bowed, said it had been his occasional good fortune to fall into the company of gentlemen like his Excellency, and that he had taken advantage of his opportunity to study their honours' manners, and adapt himself to them as far as he might. As for education, he could not boast much of that—his father being but in straitened circumstances, and the advantages small in his native country of New England: but he had done to the utmost of his power, and gathered what he could—he knew nothing like what they had in England.
Mr. Braddock burst out laughing, and said, "As for education, there were gentlemen of the army, by George, who didn't know whether they should spell bull with two b's or one. He had heard the Duke of Marlborough was no special good penman. He had not the honour of serving under that noble commander—his Grace was before his time—but he thrashed the French soundly, although he was no scholar."
Mr. Franklin said he was aware of both those facts.
"Nor is my Duke a scholar," went on Mr. Braddock—"aha, Mr. Postmaster, you have heard that, too—I see by the wink in your eye."
Mr. Franklin instantly withdrew the obnoxious or satirical wink in his eye, and looked in the General's jolly round face with a pair of orbs as innocent as a baby's. "He's no scholar, but he is a match for any French general that ever swallowed the English for fricassee de crapaud. He saved the crown for the best of kings, his royal father, his Most Gracious Majesty King George."
Off went Mr. Franklin's hat, and from his large buckled wig escaped a great halo of powder.
"He is the soldier's best friend, and has been the uncompromising enemy of all beggarly red-shanked Scotch rebels and intriguing Romish Jesuits who would take our liberty from us, and our religion, by George. His Royal Highness, my gracious master, is not a scholar neither, but he is one of the finest gentlemen in the world."
"I have seen his Royal Highness on horseback, at a review of the Guards, in Hyde Park," says Mr. Franklin. "The Duke is indeed a very fine gentleman on horseback."
"You shall drink his health to-day, Postmaster. He is the best of masters, the best of friends, the best of sons to his royal old father; the best of gentlemen that ever wore an epaulet."
"Epaulets are quite out of my way, sir," says Mr. Franklin, laughing. "You know I live in a Quaker City."
"Of course they are out of your way, my good friend. Every man to his business. You, and gentlemen of your class, to your books, and welcome. We don't forbid you; we encourage you. We, to fight the enemy and govern the country. Hey, gentlemen? Lord! what roads you have in this colony, and how this confounded coach plunges! Who have we here, with the two negro boys in livery? He rides a good gelding."
"It is Mr. Washington," says the aide-de-camp.
"I would like him for a corporal of the Horse Grenadiers," said the General. "He has a good figure on a horse. He knows the country too, Mr. Franklin."
"And is a monstrous genteel young man, considering the opportunities he has had. I should have thought he had the polish of Europe, by George I should."
"He does his best," says Mr. Franklin, looking innocently at the stout chief, the exemplar of English elegance, who sat swagging from one side to the other of the carriage, his face as scarlet as his coat—swearing at every other word; ignorant on every point off parade, except the merits of a bottle and the looks of a woman; not of high birth, yet absurdly proud of his no-ancestry; brave as a bulldog; savage, lustful, prodigal, generous; gentle in soft moods; easy of love and laughter; dull of wit; utterly unread; believing his country the first in the world, and he as good a gentleman as any in it. "Yes, he is mighty well for a provincial, upon my word. He was beat at Fort What-d'ye-call-um last year, down by the Thingamy river. What's the name on't, Talmadge?"
"The Lord knows, sir," says Talmadge; "and I dare say the Postmaster, too, who is laughing at us both."
"Was caught in a regular trap. He had only militia and Indians with him. Good day, Mr. Washington. A pretty nag, sir. That was your first affair, last year?"
"That at Fort Necessity? Yes, sir," said the gentleman, gravely saluting, as he rode up, followed by a couple of natty negro grooms, in smart livery-coats and velvet hunting-caps. "I began ill, sir, never having been in action until that unlucky day."
"You were all raw levies, my good fellow. You should have seen our militia run from the Scotch, and be cursed to them. You should have had some troops with you."
"Your Excellency knows 'tis my passionate desire to see and serve with them," said Mr. Washington.
"By George, we shall try and gratify you, sir," said the General, with one of his usual huge oaths; and on the heavy carriage rolled towards Castlewood; Mr. Washington asking leave to gallop on ahead, in order to announce his Excellency's speedy arrival to the lady there.
The progress of the Commander-in-Chief was so slow, that several humbler persons who were invited to meet his Excellency came up with his carriage, and, not liking to pass the great man on the road, formed quite a procession in the dusty wake of his chariot-wheels. First came Mr. Dinwiddie, the Lieutenant-Governor of his Majesty's province, attended by his negro servants, and in company of Parson Broadbent, the jolly Williamsburg chaplain. These were presently joined by little Mr. Dempster, the young gentlemen's schoolmaster, in his great Ramillies wig, which he kept for occasions of state. Anon appeared Mr. Laws, the judge of the court, with Madam Laws on a pillion behind him, and their negro man carrying a box containing her ladyship's cap, and bestriding a mule. The procession looked so ludicrous, that Major Danvers and Mr. Franklin espying it, laughed outright, though not so loud as to disturb his Excellency, who was asleep by this time, bade the whole of this queer rearguard move on, and leave the Commander-in-Chief and his escort of dragoons to follow at their leisure. There was room for all at Castlewood when they came. There was meat, drink, and the best tobacco for his Majesty's soldiers; and laughing and jollity for the negroes; and a plenteous welcome for their masters.
The honest General required to be helped to most dishes at the table, and more than once, and was for ever holding out his glass for drink; Nathan's sangaree he pronounced to be excellent, and had drunk largely of it on arriving before dinner. There was cider, ale, brandy, and plenty of good Bordeaux wine, some which Colonel Esmond himself had brought home with him to the colony, and which was fit for ponteeficis coenis, said little Mr. Dempster, with a wink to Mr. Broadbent, the clergyman of the adjoining parish. Mr. Broadbent returned the wink and nod, and drank the wine without caring about the Latin, as why should he, never having hitherto troubled himself about the language? Mr. Broadbent was a gambling, guzzling, cock-fighting divine, who had passed much time in the Fleet Prison, at Newmarket, at Hockley-in-the-Hole; and having gone of all sorts of errands for his friend, Lord Cingbars, Lord Ringwood's son (my Lady Cingbars's waiting-woman being Mr. B.'s mother—I dare say the modern reader had best not be too particular regarding Mr. Broadbent's father's pedigree), had been of late sent out to a church-living in Virginia. He and young George had fought many a match of cocks together, taken many a roe in company, hauled in countless quantities of shad and salmon, slain wild geese and wild swans, pigeons and plovers, and destroyed myriads of canvas-backed ducks. It was said by the envious that Broadbent was the midnight poacher on whom Mr. Washington set his dogs, and whom he caned by the river-side at Mount Vernon. The fellow got away from his captor's grip, and scrambled to his boat in the dark; but Broadbent was laid up for two Sundays afterwards, and when he came abroad again had the evident remains of a black eye and a new collar to his coat. All the games at the cards had George Esmond and Parson Broadbent played together, besides hunting all the birds in the air, the beasts in the forest, and the fish of the sea. Indeed, when the boys rode together to get their reading with Mr. Dempster, I suspect that Harry stayed behind and took lessons from the other professor of European learning and accomplishments,—George going his own way, reading his own books, and, of course, telling no tales of his younger brother.
All the birds of the Virginia air, and all the fish of the sea in season were here laid on Madam Esmond's board to feed his Excellency and the rest of the English and American gentlemen. The gumbo was declared to be perfection (young Mr. George's black servant was named after this dish, being discovered behind the door with his head in a bowl of this delicious hotch-potch, by the late Colonel, and grimly christened on the spot), the shad were rich and fresh, the stewed terrapins were worthy of London aldermen (before George, he would like the Duke himself to taste them, his Excellency deigned to say), and indeed, stewed terrapins are worthy of any duke or even emperor. The negro-women have a genius for cookery, and in Castlewood kitchens there were adepts in the art brought up under the keen eye of the late and the present Madam Esmond. Certain of the dishes, especially the sweets and flan, Madam Esmond prepared herself with great neatness and dexterity; carving several of the principal pieces, as the kindly cumbrous fashion of the day was, putting up the laced lappets of her sleeves, and showing the prettiest round arms and small hands and wrists as she performed this ancient rite of a hospitality not so languid as ours. The old law of the table was that the mistress was to press her guests with a decent eagerness, to watch and see whom she could encourage to further enjoyment, to know culinary anatomic secrets, and execute carving operations upon fowls, fish, game, joints of meat, and so forth; to cheer her guests to fresh efforts, to whisper her neighbour, Mr. Braddock "I have kept for your Excellency the jowl of this salmon.—I will take no denial! Mr. Franklin, you drink only water, sir, though our cellar has wholesome wine which gives no headaches.—Mr. Justice, you love woodcock pie?"
"Because I know who makes the pastry," says Mr. Laws, the judge, with a profound bow. "I wish, madam, we had such a happy knack of pastry at home as you have at Castlewood. I often say to my wife, 'My dear, I wish you had Madam Esmond's hand.'"
"It is a very pretty hand; I am sure others would like it too," says Mr. Postmaster of Boston, at which remark Mr. Esmond looks but half-pleased at the little gentleman.
"Such a hand for a light pie-crust," continues the Judge, "and my service to you, madam." And he thinks the widow cannot but be propitiated by this compliment. She says simply that she had lessons when she was at home in England for her education, and that there were certain dishes which her mother taught her to make, and which her father and sons both liked. She was very glad if they pleased her company. More such remarks follow: more dishes; ten times as much meat as is needful for the company. Mr. Washington does not embark in the general conversation much, but he and Mr. Talmadge, and Major Danvers, and the Postmaster, are deep in talk about roads, rivers, conveyances, sumpter-horses and artillery train; and the provincial militia Colonel has bits of bread laid at intervals on the table before him, and stations marked out, on which he has his finger, and regarding which he is talking to his brother aides-de-camp, till a negro servant, changing the courses, brushes off the Potomac with a napkin, and sweeps up the Ohio in a spoon.
At the end of dinner, Mr. Broadbent leaves his place and walks up behind the Lieutenant-Governor's chair, where he says grace, returning to his seat and resuming his knife and fork when this work of devotion is over. And now the sweets and puddings are come, of which I can give you a list, if you like; but what young lady cares for the puddings of to-day, much more for those which were eaten a hundred years ago, and which Madam Esmond had prepared for her guests with so much neatness and skill? Then, the table being cleared, Nathan, her chief manager, lays a glass to every person, and fills his mistress's. Bowing to the company, she says she drinks but one toast, but knows how heartily all the gentlemen present will join her. Then she calls, "His Majesty," bowing to Mr. Braddock, who with his aides-de-camp and the colonial gentlemen all loyally repeat the name of their beloved and gracious Sovereign. And hereupon, having drunk her glass of wine and saluted all the company, the widow retires between a row of negro servants, performing one of her very handsomest curtsies at the door.
The kind Mistress of Castlewood bore her part in the entertainment with admirable spirit, and looked so gay and handsome, and spoke with such cheerfulness and courage to all her company, that the few ladies who were present at the dinner could not but congratulate Madam Esmond upon the elegance of the feast, and especially upon her manner of presiding at it. But they were scarcely got to her drawing-room when her artificial courage failed her, and she burst into tears on the sofa by Mrs. Laws' side, just in the midst of a compliment from that lady. "Ah, madam!" she said, "it may be an honour, as you say, to have the King's representative in my house, and our family has received greater personages than Mr. Braddock. But he comes to take one of my sons away from me. Who knows whether my boy will return, or how? I dreamed of him last night as wounded, and quite white, with blood streaming from his side. I would not be so ill-mannered as to let my grief be visible before the gentlemen; but, my good Mrs. Justice, who has parted with children, and who has a mother's heart of her own, would like me none the better, if mine were very easy this evening."
The ladies administered such consolations as seemed proper or palatable to their hostess, who tried not to give way further to her melancholy, and remembered that she had other duties to perform, before yielding to her own sad mood. "It will be time enough, madam, to be sorry when they are gone," she said to the Justice's wife, her good neighbour. "My boy must not see me following him with a wistful face, and have our parting made more dismal by my weakness. It is good that gentlemen of his rank and station should show themselves where their country calls them. That has always been the way of the Esmonds, and the same Power which graciously preserved my dear father through twenty great battles in the Queen's time, I trust and pray, will watch over my son now his turn is come to do his duty." And, now, instead of lamenting her fate, or further alluding to it, I dare say the resolute lady sate down with her female friends to a pool of cards and a dish of coffee, whilst the gentlemen remained in the neighbouring parlour, still calling their toasts and drinking their wine. When one lady objected that these latter were sitting rather long, Madam Esmond said: "It would improve and amuse the boys to be with the English gentlemen. Such society was very rarely to be had in their distant province, and though their conversation sometimes was free, she was sure that gentleman and men of fashion would have regard to the youth of her sons, and say nothing before them which young people should not hear."
It was evident that the English gentlemen relished the good cheer provided for them. Whilst the ladies were yet at their cards, Nathan came in and whispered Mrs. Mountain, who at first cried out—"No! she would give no more—the common Bordeaux they might have, and welcome, if they still wanted more—but she would not give any more of the Colonel's." It appeared that the dozen bottles of particular claret had been already drunk up by the gentlemen, "besides ale, cider, Burgundy, Lisbon, and Madeira," says Mrs. Mountain, enumerating the supplies.
But Madam Esmond was for having no stint in the hospitality of the night. Mrs. Mountain was fain to bustle away with her keys to the sacred vault where the Colonel's particular Bordeaux lay, surviving its master, who, too, had long passed underground. As they went on their journey, Mrs. Mountain asked whether any of the gentlemen had had too much? Nathan thought Mister Broadbent was tipsy—he always tipsy; be then thought the General gentleman was tipsy; and he thought Master George was a lilly drunk.
"Master George!" cries Mrs. Mountain: "why, he will sit for days without touching a drop."
Nevertheless, Nathan persisted in his notion that Master George was a lilly drunk. He was always filling his glass, he had talked, he had sung, he had cut jokes, especially against Mr. Washington, which made Mr. Washington quite red and angry, Nathan said. "Well, well!" Mrs. Mountain cried eagerly; "it was right a gentleman should make himself merry in good company, and pass the bottle along with his friends." And she trotted to the particular Bordeaux cellar with only the more alacrity.
The tone of freedom and almost impertinence which young George Esmond had adopted of late days towards Mr. Washington had very deeply vexed and annoyed that gentleman. There was scarce half a dozen years' difference of age between him and the Castlewood twins;—but Mr. Washington had always been remarked for a discretion and sobriety much beyond his time of life, whilst the boys of Castlewood seemed younger than theirs. They had always been till now under their mother's anxious tutelage, and had looked up to their neighbour of Mount Vernon as their guide, director, friend—as, indeed, almost everybody seemed to do who came in contact with the simple and upright young man. Himself of the most scrupulous gravity and good breeding, in his communication with other folks he appeared to exact, or, at any rate, to occasion, the same behaviour. His nature was above levity and jokes: they seemed out of place when addressed to him. He was slow of comprehending them: and they slunk as it were abashed out of his society. "He always seemed great to me," says Harry Warrington, in one of his letters many years after the date of which we are writing; "and I never thought of him otherwise than of a hero. When he came over to Castlewood and taught us boys surveying, to see him riding to hounds was as if he was charging an army. If he fired a shot, I thought the bird must come down, and if be flung a net, the largest fish in the river were sure to be in it. His words were always few, but they were always wise; they were not idle, as our words are, they were grave, sober, and strong, and ready on occasion to do their duty. In spite of his antipathy to him, my brother respected and admired the General as much as I did—that is to say, more than any mortal man."
Mr. Washington was the first to leave the jovial party which were doing so much honour to Madam Esmond's hospitality. Young George Esmond, who had taken his mother's place when she left it, had been free with the glass and with the tongue. He had said a score of things to his guest which wounded and chafed the latter, and to which Mr. Washington could give no reply. Angry beyond all endurance, he left the table at length, and walked away through the open windows into the broad verandah or porch which belonged to Castlewood as to all Virginian houses.
Here Madam Esmond caught sight of her friend's tall frame as it strode up and down before the windows; and, the evening being warm, or her game over, she gave up her cards to one of the other ladies, and joined her good neighbour out of doors. He tried to compose his countenance as well as he could: it was impossible that he should explain to his hostess why and with whom he was angry.
"The gentlemen are long over their wine," she said; "gentlemen of the army are always fond of it."
"If drinking makes good soldiers, some yonder are distinguishing themselves greatly, madam," said Mr. Washington.
"And I dare say the General is at the head of his troops?"
"No doubt, no doubt," answered the Colonel, who always received this lady's remarks, playful or serious, with a peculiar softness and kindness. "But the General is the General, and it is not for me to make remarks on his Excellency's doings at table or elsewhere. I think very likely that military gentlemen born and bred at home are different from us of the colonies. We have such a hot sun, that we need not wine to fire our blood as they do. And drinking toasts seems a point of honour with them. Talmadge hiccupped to me—I should say, whispered to me just now, that an officer could no more refuse a toast than a challenge, and he said that it was after the greatest difficulty and dislike at first that he learned to drink. He has certainly overcome his difficulty with uncommon resolution."
"What, I wonder, can you talk of for so many hours?" asked the lady.
"I don't think I can tell you all we talk of, madam, and I must not tell tales out of school. We talked about the war, and of the force Mr. Contrecoeur has, and how we are to get at him. The General is for making the campaign in his coach, and makes light of it and the enemy. That we shall beat them, if we meet them, I trust there is no doubt."
"How can there be?" says the lady, whose father had served under Marlborough.
"Mr. Franklin, though he is only from New England," continued the gentleman, "spoke great good sense, and would have spoken more if the English gentlemen would let him; but they reply invariably that we are only raw provincials, and don't know what disciplined British troops can do. Had they not best hasten forwards and make turnpike roads and have comfortable inns ready for his Excellency at the end of the day's march? —'There's some sort of inns, I suppose,' says Mr. Danvers, 'not so comfortable as we have in England: we can't expect that.'—'No, you can't expect that,' says Mr. Franklin, who seems a very shrewd and facetious person. He drinks his water, and seems to laugh at the Englishmen, though I doubt whether it is fair for a water-drinker to sit by and spy out the weaknesses of gentlemen over their wine."
"And my boys? I hope they are prudent?" said the widow, laying her hand on her guest's arm. "Harry promised me, and when he gives his word, I can trust him for anything. George is always moderate. Why do you look so grave?"
"Indeed, to be frank with you, I do not know what has come over George in these last days," says Mr. Washington. "He has some grievance against me which I do not understand, and of which I don't care to ask the reason. He spoke to me before the gentlemen in a way which scarcely became him. We are going the campaign together, and 'tis a pity we begin such ill friends."
"He has been ill. He is always wild and wayward, and hard to understand. But he has the most affectionate heart in the world. You will bear with him, you will protect him—promise me you will."
"Dear lady, I will do so with my life," Mr. Washington said with great fervour. "You know I would lay it down cheerfully for you or any you love."
"And my father's blessing and mine go with you, dear friend!" cried the widow, full of thanks and affection.
As they pursued their conversation, they had quitted the porch under which they had first began to talk, and where they could hear the laughter and toasts of the gentlemen over their wine, and were pacing a walk on the rough lawn before the house. Young George Warrington, from his place at the head of the table in the dining-room, could see the pair as they passed to and fro, and had listened for some time past, and replied in a very distracted manner to the remarks of the gentlemen round about him, who were too much engaged with their own talk and jokes, and drinking, to pay much attention to their young host's behaviour. Mr. Braddock loved a song after dinner, and Mr. Danvers, his aide-de-camp, who had a fine tenor voice, was delighting his General with the latest ditty from Marybone Gardens, when George Warrington, jumping up, ran towards the window, and then returned and pulled his brother Harry by the sleeve, who sate with his back towards the window.
"What is it?" says Harry, who, for his part, was charmed, too, with the song and chorus.
"Come," cried George, with a stamp of his foot, and the younger followed obediently.
"What is it?" continued George, with a bitter oath. "Don't you see what it is? They were billing and cooing this morning; they are billing and cooing now before going to roost. Had we not better both go into the garden, and pay our duty to our mamma and papa?" and he pointed to Mr. Washington, who was taking the widow's hand very tenderly in his.