Pencil sketches; or, out.., p.3
Pencil Sketches; or, Outlines of Character and Manners, page 3
"Out spake that ancient mariner."--COLERIDGE.
We will not be particular in designating the exact site of theflourishing village of Corinth; neither would we advise any of ourreaders to take the trouble of seeking it on the map. It is sufficientto tell them that they may consider it located on one of the banks ofthe Hudson, somewhere above the city of New York, and somewhere belowthat of Albany; and that, more than twenty years ago, the Claveringfamily occupied one of the best houses at its southern extremity.
Mrs. Clavering was the widow of a storekeeper, who had always, bycourtesy, been called a merchant, according to a prevailing custom inthe provincial towns of America. Her husband had left her in affluentcircumstances, and to each of her five children he had bequeathed asufficient portion to furnish, when they came of age, an outfit for thegirls and a beginning for the boys. Added to this, they had considerableexpectations from an uncle of their mother's, a retired sea-captain, anda confirmed old bachelor, who had long been in the practice of payingthe family an annual visit on returning from his India voyages. He hadbecome so much attached to the children, that when he quitted the sea(which was soon after the death of Mr. Clavering) he had, at the requestof his niece, removed to Corinth, and taken up his residence in herfamily.
Though so far from his beloved element, the ocean, Captain Kentledgemanaged to pass his time very contentedly, taking occasional trips downthe river to New York (particularly when a new ship was to be launched),and performing, every summer, an excursion to the eastward: keepingclosely along the coast, and visiting in turn every maritime town andvillage from Newport to Portland; never omitting to diverge off toNantucket, which was his native place, and from whence, when a boy, hehad taken his first voyage in a whale ship.
Uncle Philip (for so Captain Kentledge was familiarly called by Mrs.Clavering and her children) was a square-built man, with a broadweather-beaten face, and features the reverse of classical. His head wasentirely bald, with the exception of two rough side-locks, and a longthin gray tress of hair, gathered into a queue, and secured with blackribbon. Uncle Philip was very tenacious of his queue.
Like most seamen when on shore, he was singularly neat in his dress. Hewore, all the year round, a huge blue coat, immense blue trowsers, and awhite waistcoat of ample dimensions, the whole suit being decorated withgold buttons; for, as he observed, he had, in the course of his life,worn enough of brass buttons to be heartily tired of them: gilt ones hehated, because they were shams; and gold he could very well afford, andtherefore it was his pleasure to have them. His cravat was a large blacksilk handkerchief, tied in front, with a spreading bow and long ends.His shirt frill was particularly conspicuous and amazingly broad, and itwas fastened with a large oval-shaped brooch, containing under its glassa handsome hair-coloured device of Hope leaning on an anchor. He neverwore boots, but always white stockings and well-blacked long-quarteredshoes. His hat had both a wide crown and a wide brim. Every part of hisdress was good in quality and large in quantity, denoting that he wasabove economizing in the material.
Though "every inch a sailor," it must not be supposed that CaptainKentledge was in the constant habit of interlarding his conversationwith sea-terms; a practice which, if it ever actually prevailed to theextent that has been represented in fictitious delineations of "the sonsof the wild and warring wave," has long since been discontinued in reallife, by all nautical men who have any pretensions to the title ofgentlemen. A sea-captain, whose only phraseology was that of theforecastle, and who could talk of nothing without reference to thetechnical terms of his profession, would now be considered as obsolete acharacter "as the Lieutenant Bowlings and Commodore Trunnions of thelast century."
Next to the children of his niece, the object most beloved by UnclePhilip was an enormous Newfoundland dog, the companion of his lastvoyages, and his constant attendant on land and on water, in doors andout of doors. In the faces of Neptune and his master there was anobvious resemblance, which a physiognomist would have deduced from thesimilarity of their characters; and it was remarked by one of the wagsof the village that the two animals walked exactly alike, and held outtheir paws to strangers precisely in the same manner.
Mrs. Clavering, as is generally the case with mothers of the presentday, when they consider themselves very genteel, intended one of hersons for the profession of physic, and the other for that of law. But inthe mean time, Uncle Philip had so deeply imbued Sam, the eldest, with apredilection for the sea, that the boy's sole ambition was to unitehimself to that hardy race, "whose march is o'er the mountain-waves,whose home is on the deep." And Dick, whom his mother designed for alawyer, intended himself for a carpenter: his genius pointing decidedlyto hand-work rather than to head-work. It was Uncle Philip's opinionthat boys should never be controlled in the choice of a profession. Yethe found it difficult to convince Mrs. Clavering that there was littlechance of one of her sons filling a professor's chair at a medicalcollege, or of the other arriving at the rank of chief justice; but thatas the laws of nature and the decrees of fate were not to be reversed,Dick would very probably build the ships that Sam would navigate.
About three months before the period at which our story commences, UnclePhilip had set out on his usual summer excursion, and had taken with himnot only Neptune, but Sam also, leaving Dick very much engaged in makinga new kitchen-table with a drawer at each end. After the travellers hadgone as far as the State of Maine, and were supposed to be on theirreturn, Mrs. Clavering was surprised to receive a letter from UnclePhilip, dated "Off Cape Cod, lat. 42, lon. 60, wind N.N.E." Thefollowing were the words of this epistle:--
"DEAR NIECE KITTY CLAVERING: I take this opportunity of informing you, by a fishing-boat that is just going into the harbour, that being on Long Wharf, Boston, yesterday at 7 A. M., and finding there the schooner Winthrop about to sail for Cuba, and the schooner being commanded by a son of my old ship-mate, Ben Binnacle, and thinking it quite time that Sam should begin to see the world (as he was fifteen the first of last April), and that so good an opportunity should not be lost, I concluded to let him have a taste of the sea by giving him a run down to the West Indies. Sam was naturally very glad, and so was Neptune; and Sam being under my care, I, of course, felt in duty bound to go along with him. The schooner Winthrop is as fine a sea-boat as ever swam, and young Ben Binnacle is as clever a fellow as his father. We are very well off for hands, the crew being young Ben's brother and three of his cousins (all from Marblehead, and all part owners), besides Sam and myself, and Neptune, and black Bob, the cabin-boy. So you have nothing to fear. And even if we should have a long passage, there is no danger of our starving, for most of the cargo is pork and onions, and the rest is turkeys, potatoes, flour, butter, and cheese.
"You may calculate on finding Sam greatly improved by the voyage. Going to sea will cure him of all his awkward tricks, as you call them, and give him an opportunity of showing what he really is. He went out of Boston harbour perched on the end of the foresail boom, and was at the mainmast head before we had cleared the light-house. To-morrow I shall teach him to take an observation. Young Ben Binnacle has an excellent quadrant that was his father's. We shall be back in a few weeks, and bring you pine-apples and parrots. Shall write from Havana, if I have time.
"Till then, yours,
"P. S. Neptune is very happy at finding himself at sea again. Give our love to Dick and the girls.
"N. B. We took care to have our trunk brought on board before we got under way. Though we have a stiff breeze, Sam is not yet sea-sick, having set his face against it.
"2d P. S. Don't take advantage of my absence to put the girls in corsets, as you did when I was away last summer.
"2d N. B. Remember to send old Tom Tarpaulin his weekly allowance of tobacco all the time I am gone. You know I promised
This elopement, as Mrs. Clavering called it, caused at first greatconsternation in the family, but she soon consoled herself with the ideathat 'twas well it was no worse, for if Uncle Philip had found a vesselgoing to China, commanded by an old ship-mate, or a ship-mate's son, hewould scarcely have hesitated to have acted as he had done in thisinstance. The two younger girls grieved that in all probability Sam hadgone without gingerbread, which, they had heard, was a preventive tosea-sickness; but Fanny, the elder, remarked that it was more probablehe had his pockets full, as, from Uncle Philip's account, he continuedperfectly well. "Whatever Uncle Philip may say," observed Fanny, veryjudiciously, "Sam must, of course, have known that gingerbread is a morecertain remedy for sea-sickness than merely setting one's face againstit." Dick's chief regret was, that not knowing beforehand of their tripto the West Indies, he had lost the opportunity of sending by them forsome mahogany.
In about four weeks, the Clavering family was set at ease by a letterfrom Sam himself, dated Havana. It detailed at full length the delightsof the voyage, and the various qualifications of black Bob, thecabin-boy, and it was finished by two postscripts from Uncle Philip; onecelebrating the rapid progress of Sam in nautical knowledge, and anotherstating that they should return in the schooner Winthrop.
They did return--Uncle Philip bringing with him, among other West Indiaproductions, a barrel of pine-apples for Mrs. Clavering, and threeparrots, one for each of his young nieces; to all of whom he observedthe strictest impartiality in distributing his favours. Also, a largebox for Dick, filled with numerous specimens of tropical woods.
It was evening when they arrived at Corinth, and they walked up directlyfrom the steamboat wharf to Mrs. Clavering's house; leaving theirbaggage to follow in a cart. Intending to give the family a pleasantsurprise, they stole cautiously in at the gate, and walked on the grassto avoid making a noise with their shoes on the gravel. As usual at thishour, a light shone through the Venetian shutters of theparlour-windows. But our voyagers listened in vain for the well-knownsounds of noisy mirth excited by the enjoyment of various little gamesand plays in which it was usual for the children to pass the intervalbetween tea and bed-time; a laudable custom, instituted by Uncle Philipsoon after he became one of the family.
"I hope all may be right," whispered the old captain, as he ascendedthe steps of the front porch, "I don't hear the least sound."
They sat down the three parrot-cages, which they had carried themselvesfrom the wharf, and then went up to the windows and reconnoiteredthrough the shutters. They saw the whole family seated round the table,busily employed with books and writing materials, and all perfectlysilent. Uncle Philip now hastily threw open the front door, and,followed by Sam, made his appearance in the parlour, exclaiming--
"Why, what is all this? Not hearing any noise as we came along, weconcluded there must be sickness, or death in the house."
"We are not dead yet," said Dick, starting up, "though we are learningFrench."
In an instant the books were abandoned, the table nearly overset ingetting from behind it, and the whole group hung round the voyagers,delighted at their return, and overwhelming them with questions andcaresses. In a moment there came prancing into the room the dog Neptune,who had remained behind to guard the baggage-cart, which had now arrivedat the front gate. The faithful animal was literally received with openarms by all the children, and when he had nearly demolished little Anneby the roughness of his gambols, she only exclaimed--"Oh! nevermind--never mind. I am so glad to have Neptune back again, that I don'tcare, if he _does_ tear my new pink frock all to tatters."
Mrs. Clavering made a faint attempt at reproaching Uncle Philip for thusstealing a march and carrying off her son, but the old captain turned itall into a subject of merriment, and pointed out to her Sam's ruddylooks and improved height; and his good fortune in having a brown skin,which, on being exposed to the air and sun of the ocean, only deepenedits manly tint, instead of being disfigured by freckles. On Mrs.Clavering remarking that her poor boy had learnt the true balancing gaitof a sailor, the uncle and nephew exchanged glances of congratulation;and Sam, in the course of the evening, took frequent occasions to get upand walk across the room, by way of displaying this new accomplishment.
As Mrs. Clavering understood that her uncle and son had not yet hadtheir supper, she quitted the room "on hospitable thoughts intent,"while the children were listening with breathless interest to a minutedetail of the voyage; Sam leaning over the back of his uncle's greatchair, into which Fanny had squeezed herself beside the old gentleman,who held Jane on one knee and Anne on the other; and Dick making a seatof the dog Neptune, who lay at his master's feet.
"Who are those people talking in the porch?" asked little Anne,interrupting her uncle to listen to the strange sounds that issued fromwithout.
"Oh! they are the parrots," said Sam, laughing, "I wonder they shouldhave been forgotten so long."
"Parrots!" exclaimed all the children at once, and in a moment every oneof the young people were out in the porch, and the cages were carriedinto the parlour. The parrots were duly admired, and made to go throughall their phrases, of which (being very smart parrots) they had learntan infinite variety, and Uncle Philip told the girls to draw lots forthe first choice of these new pets. Dick supplying for that purposelittle sticks of unequal lengths. After this the box of tropical woodswas opened, and Dick's happiness became too great for utterance.
Supper was now brought in, and placed by Mrs. Clavering's order on alittle table in the corner, it not being worth while, as she said, toremove the books and writing apparatus from the centre-table, as thelessons must be shortly resumed.
"What lessons are these," said Uncle Philip, "on which you seem sointent? Before I went away there was no lesson-learning of evenings.Have Mr. Fulmer and Miss Hickman adopted a new plan? I think, children,I have heard you say that your lessons were very short, and that youalways learned them in school, which was one reason, why I approved ofMr. Fulmer for the boys, and Miss Hickman for the girls. I never couldbear the idea of poor children being forced to spend their play-time inlearning lessons. The school hours are long enough in all conscience."
"Oh--we don't go to Miss Hickman now," exclaimed the girls:--"And Idon't go any longer to Mr. Fulmer," cried Dick, with something like asigh.
"And where do you go, then?" inquired Uncle Philip.
"We go to Monsieur and Madame Franchimeau's French Study," replied Dick."He teaches the boys, and she the girls--and our lessons are so longthat it takes us the whole evening to learn them, and write ourexercises. We are kept in school from eight in the morning till three inthe afternoon. And then at four we go back again, and stay till dusk,trying to read and talk French with Monsieur and Madame Ravigote, thefather and mother of Madame Franchimeau."
"What's all this?" said Uncle Philip, laying down his knife and fork.
Mrs. Clavering, after silencing Dick with a significant look, proceededto explain--
"Why, uncle," said she, "you must know that immediately after you leftus, there came to Corinth a very elegant French family, and theirpurpose was to establish an Institute, or Study, as they now call it, inwhich, according to the last new system of education, everything is tobe learnt in French. Mrs. Apesley, Mrs. Nedging, Mrs. Pinxton, Mrs.Slimbridge and myself, with others of the leading ladies of Corinth, hadlong wished for such an opportunity of having our children properlyinstructed, and we all determined to avail ourselves of it. We calledimmediately on the French ladies, who are very superior women, and weresolved at once to bring them into fashion by showing them everypossible attention. We understood, also, that before MonsieurFranchimeau and his family came to Corinth, they had been on the otherside of the river, and had visited Tusculum with a view of locatingthemselves in that village. But these polished and talent
"I thought as much," said Uncle Philip; "I knew it would come out thisway. So the Corinthians are learning French out of spite to theTusculans. And I suppose, when these Monsieurs and Madames have donemaking fools of the people of this village, they will move higher up theriver, and monkeyfy all before them between this and Albany. For, ofcourse, the Hyde Parkers will learn French to spite the New Paltzers,and the Hudsonians to spite the Athenians, and the Kinderhookers tospite the--"
"Now, uncle, do hush," said Mrs. Clavering, interrupting him; "how canyou make a jest of a thing from which we expect to derive so muchbenefit?"
"I am not jesting at all," replied Uncle Philip; "I fear it is a thingtoo serious to laugh at. But why do you say _we_? I hope, KittyClavering, _you_ are not making a fool of yourself, and turningschool-girl again?"
"I certainly do take lessons in French," replied Mrs. Clavering. "Mrs.Apesley, Mrs. Nedging, Mrs. Pinxton, Mrs. Slimbridge and myself, haveformed a class for that purpose."
"Mrs. Apesley has eleven children," said Uncle Philip.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Clavering, "but the youngest is more than two yearsold. And Mrs. Nedging has only three."
"True," observed the uncle; "one of them is an idiot boy that canneither hear, speak, nor use any of his limbs; the others are a coupleof twin babies, that were only two months old when I went away."
"But they are remarkably good babies," answered Mrs. Clavering, "and canbear very well to have their mother out of their sight."
"And Mrs. Pinxton," said Uncle Philip, "has, ever since the death of herhusband, presided over a large hotel, which, if properly attended to,ought to furnish her with employment for eighteen hours out of thetwenty-four."
"Oh! but she has an excellent barkeeper," replied Mrs. Clavering, "andshe has lately got a cook from New York, to whom she gives thirtydollars a month, and she has promoted her head-chambermaid to the rankof housekeeper. Mrs. Pinxton herself is no longer to be seen goingthrough the house as she formerly did. You would not suppose that therewas any mistress belonging to the establishment."
"So much the worse," said Uncle Philip, "both for the mistress and theestablishment. Well, and let me ask, if Mrs. Slimbridge's husband hasrecovered his health during my absence?"
"Oh! no, he is worse than ever," replied Mrs. Clavering.
"And still," resumed Uncle Philip, "with an invalid husband, whorequires her constant care and attention, Mrs. Slimbridge can find it inher heart to neglect him, and waste her time in taking lessons that shemay learn to read French (though I am told their books are all aboutnothing), and to talk French, though I cannot for my life see who she isto talk to."
"There is no telling what advantage she may not derive from it in futurelife," remarked Mrs. Clavering.
"I can tell her one thing," said Uncle Philip, "when poor Slimbridgedies, her French will never help her to a second husband. No man evermarried a woman because she had learnt French."
"Indeed, uncle," replied Mrs. Clavering, "your prejudices againsteverything foreign are so strong, that it is in vain for me to opposethem. To-night, at least, I shall not say another word on the subject."
"Well, well, Kitty," said Uncle Philip, shaking her kindly by the hand,"we'll talk no more about it to-night, and perhaps, as you say, I oughtto have more patience with foreigners, seeing that, as no man can choosehis own birth-place, it is not to be expected that everybody can be bornin America. And those that are not, are certainly objects of pity ratherthan of blame."
"Very right, uncle," exclaimed Sam; "I am sure I pity all that are notAmericans of the United States, particularly since I have been among theWest Indian Spaniards."
"Now, Kitty Clavering," said Uncle Philip, triumphantly, "you perceivethe advantages of seeing the world: who says that Sam has not profitedby his voyage?"
The family separated for the night; and next morning Sam laughed at Dickfor repeating his French verbs in his sleep. "No wonder," replied Dick,"if you knew how many verbs I have to learn every day, and how muchdifficulty I have in getting them by heart, when I am all the timethinking of other things, you would not be surprised at my dreaming ofthem; as people are apt to do of whatever is their greatest affliction."
At breakfast, the conversation of the preceding evening was renewed, byMrs. Clavering observing with much complacency,
"Monsieur Franchimeau will be very happy to find that I have a newscholar for him."
"Indeed!" said Uncle Philip; "and who else have you been pressing intothe service?"
"My son Sam, certainly," replied Mrs. Clavering. "I promised him to Mr.Franchimeau, and he of course has been expecting to have him immediatelyon his return from the West Indies. Undoubtedly, Sam must be allowed thesame advantages as his brother and sisters. Not to give him an equalopportunity of learning French would be unjust in the extreme."
"Dear mother," replied Sam, "I am quite willing to put up with that muchinjustice."
"Right, my boy," exclaimed Uncle Philip; "and when you have learnteverything else, it will then be quite time enough to begin French."
"You misunderstand entirely," said Mrs. Clavering. "The children _are_learning everything else. But Mr. Franchimeau goes upon the new system,and teaches the whole in French and out of French books. His pupils, andthose of Madame Franchimeau, learn history, geography, astronomy,botany, chemistry, mathematics, logic, criticism, composition, geology,mineralogy, conchology, and phrenology."
"Mercy on their poor heads," exclaimed Uncle Philip, interrupting her:"They'll every one grow up idiots. All the sense they have will becrushed out of them, by this unnatural business of overloading theirminds with five times as much as they can bear. And the whole of this isto be learned in a foreign tongue too. Well, what next? Are they alsotaught Latin and Greek in French? And now I speak of those twolanguages--that have caused so many aching heads and aching hearts topoor boys that never had the least occasion to turn them to anyaccount--suppose that all the lectures at the Medical Colleges weredelivered in Latin or Greek. How much, do you think, would the studentsprofit by them? Pretty doctors we should have, if they learnt theirbusiness in that way. No, no; the branches you have mentioned are allhard enough in themselves, particularly that last ology about the bumpson people's heads. To get a thorough knowledge of any one of these artsor sciences, or whatever you call them, is work enough for a man'slifetime; and now the whole of them together are to be forced upon theweak understandings of poor innocent children, and in a foreignlanguage, to boot. Shame on you--shame on you, Kitty Clavering!"
"Uncle Philip," said Mrs. Clavering, smiling at his vehemence, for onsuch occasions she had always found it more prudent to smile than tofrown, "you may say what you will now, but I foresee that you willfinally become a convert to my views of this subject. I intend to makeFrench the general language of the family, and in a short time you willsoon catch it yourself. Why, though I cannot say much for hisproficiency in his lessons, even Ric_har_ has picked up withoutintending it, a number of French phrases, that he pronounces quite wellwhen I make him go over them with me."
[Footnote 4: The French pronunciation of Richard.]
"Ric_har_!" cried Uncle Philip, "and pray who is he? Who is Richar?"
"That's me, uncle," said Dick.
"So you have Frenchified Dick's name, have you!" said the oldgentleman, "but I'm determined you shall not Frenchify Sam's."
"No," observed Sam, "I'll not be Frenchified."
"And pray, young ladies," resumed the uncle, "Fanny, Jenny, and Anny,have you too been put into French?"
"Yes, uncle," replied Jane, "we are now Fanchette, Jeanette, andAnnette."
"So much the worse," said Uncle Philip. "Listen to me, when I tell you,that all this Frenchifying will come to no good; and I foresee that youmay be sorry for it when it is too late. Of what use
"Now, uncle," said Mrs. Clavering, "you are going quite too far. If ourknowledge of French should not come into use while in our own country,who knows but some time or other we may all go to France."
"I for one," replied Uncle Philip, "_I_ know that you will not; atleast, you shall never go to France with my consent. No American womangoes to France, without coming home the worse for it in some way orother. There were the two Miss Facebys, who came up here last spring,fresh from a six months' foolery in Paris. I can see them now, amblingalong in their short petticoats, with their hands clasped on their beltbuckles, their mouths half open like idiots, and their eyes turnedupwards like dying calves."
Here Uncle Philip set the whole family to laughing, by starting from hischair and imitating the walk and manner of the Miss Facebys.
"There," said he, resuming his seat, "I know that's exactly like them.Then did not they pretend to have nearly forgotten their own language,affecting to speak English imperfectly. And what was the end of them?One ran away with a dancing-master's mate, and the other got privatelymarried to a fiddler."
"But you must allow," said Mrs. Clavering, "that the Miss Facebysimproved greatly in manner by their visit to France."
"I know not what you call _manner_" replied Uncle Philip, "but I'm surein _manners_ they did not. Manner and manners, I find, are verydifferent things. And I was told by a gentleman, who had lived manyyears in France, that the Miss Facebys looked and behaved like Frenchchambermaids, but not like French ladies. For my part, I am no judge ofFrench women; but this I know, that American girls had better be likethemselves, and not copy any foreign women whatever. And let them takecare not to unfit themselves for American husbands. If they do, they'lllose more than they'll gain."
"Well, Uncle Philip," said Mrs. Clavering, "I see it will take time tomake a convert of you."
"Don't depend on that," replied the old gentleman. "I, that for sixtyyears have stood out against all foreigners, particularly the French, amnot likely to be taken in by them now."
"We shall see," resumed Mrs. Clavering. "But are you really serious inprohibiting Sam from becoming a pupil of Mr. Franchimeau?"
"Serious, to be sure I am," replied Uncle Philip. "Of what use can it beto him, if he follows the sea, as of course he will?"
"Of great use," answered Mrs. Clavering, "if he should be in the Frenchtrade."
"I look forward to his being in the India trade," said Uncle Philip,proudly.
"But suppose, uncle," said Fanny, "he should happen to have Frenchsailors on board his ship?"
"French sailors! French!" exclaimed Uncle Philip; "for what purposeshould he ship a Frenchman as a sailor? Why, I was once all over aFrench frigate that came into New York, and she was a pretty thingenough to look at outside. But when you got on board and went betweendecks, I never saw so dirty a ship. However, I won't go too far--I won'tsay that all French frigates are like this one, or all French sailorslike those. Besides, this was many years ago, and, perhaps, they'veimproved since."
"No doubt of it," said Mrs. Clavering.
"Well," pursued Uncle Philip, "I only tell you what I saw."
"But, not knowing their language, you must have misunderstood a greatdeal that you saw," observed Mrs. Clavering.
"The first-lieutenant spoke English," said Uncle Philip, "and he showedme the ship; and, to do him justice, he was a very clever fellow, forall he was a Frenchman. There must certainly be _some_ good ones amongthem. Yes, yes--I have not a word to say against that first-lieutenant.But I wish you had seen the men that we found between decks. Some weretinkling on a sort of guitars, and some were tooting on a kind offlutes, and some were scraping on wretched fiddles. Some had littlepaint-boxes, and were drawing watch-papers, with loves and doves onthem; some were sipping lemonade, and some were eating sugar-candy; andone (whom I suspected to have been originally a barber), was combing andcurling a lapdog. It was really sickening to see sailors making suchfools of themselves. By the bye, I did not see a tolerable dog about theship. There was no fine Newfoundlander like my gallant Neptune (comehere, old fellow), but there were half a dozen short-legged,long-bodied, red-eyed, tangle-haired wretches, meant for poodles, butnot even half so good. And some of the men were petting huge cats, andsome were feeding little birds in cages."
"Well," said Mrs. Clavering, "I see no harm in all this--only anevidence that the general refinement of the French nation pervades allranks of society. Is it not better to eat sugar-candy than to chewtobacco, and to sip lemonade than to drink grog?"
"And then," continued Uncle Philip, "to hear the names by which thefellows were calling each other, for their tongues were all going thewhole time as fast as they could chatter. There were Lindor and Isidore,and Adolphe and Emile. I don't believe there was a Jack or a Tom in thewhole ship. I was so diverted with their names, that I made thefirst-lieutenant repeat them to me, and I wrote them down in mypocket-book. A very gentlemanly man was that first-lieutenant. But as tothe sailors--why, there was one fellow sprawling on a gun (I suppose Ishould say reclining), and talking to himself about his amiable Pauline,which, I suppose, is the French for Poll. When we went into thegun-room, there was the gunner sitting on a chest, and reading somelove-verses of his own writing, addressed to his belle Celestine, which,doubtless, is the French for Sall. Think of a sailor pretending to havea belle for his sweetheart! The first-lieutenant told me that the gunnerwas the best poet in the ship. I must say, I think very well of thatfirst-lieutenant. There were half a dozen boys crowding round the gunner(or forming a group, as, I suppose, you would call it), and looking upto his face with admiration; and one great fool was kneeling behind him,and holding over his head a wreath of some sort of green leaves,waiting to crown him when he had done reading his verses."
"Well," observed Mrs. Clavering, "I have no doubt the whole scene had avery pretty effect."
"Pshaw," said Uncle Philip. "When I came on deck again, there was theboatswain's mate, who was also the ship's dancing-master (for aFrenchman can turn his hand to anything, provided it's foolery), and hewas giving a lesson to two dozen dirty fellows with bare feet and redwoollen caps, and taking them by their huge tarry hands, and biddingthem _chassez_ here, and _balancez_ there, and _promenade_ here, and_pirouette_ there. I was too angry to laugh, when I saw sailors makingsuch baboons of themselves."
"Now," remarked Mrs. Clavering, "it is an established fact, that withoutsome knowledge of dancing, no one can move well, or have a graceful airand carriage. Why, then, should not sailors be allowed an opportunity ofcultivating the graces as well as other people? Why should they bedebarred from everything that savours of refinement?"
"I am glad," said Uncle Philip, laughing, "that it never fell to my lotto go to sea with a crew of refined sailors. I think, I should havetried hard to whack their refinement out of them. Why the Frenchfirst-lieutenant (who was certainly a very clever fellow), told me that,during the cruise, five or six seamen had nearly died of theirsensibility, as he called it; having jumped overboard, because theycould not bear the separation from their sweethearts."
"Poor fellows," said Fanny, "and were they drowned?"
"I asked that," replied Uncle Philip, "hoping that they were; but,unluckily for the service, they were all provided with sworn friends,who jumped heroically into the sea, and fished the lubbers out. And, nodoubt, the whole scene had a very pretty effect."
"How can you make a jest of such things?" said Mrs. Clavering,reproachfully.
"Why, I am only repeating your own words," answered the old gentleman."But, to speak seriously, this shows that French ships ought always tobe furnished with Newfoundland dogs to send in after the lovers, andspare their friends the trouble of getting a wet jacket for them:--Comehere, old Nep. Up, my fine fellow, up," patting the dog's head, whilethe enormous animal rested his fore-paws on his m
Mrs. Clavering now reminded the children that it was considerably pasttheir hour for going to school, but with one accord they petitioned fora holiday, as it was the first day of Uncle Philip's and Sam's return.
"You know the penalty," said Mrs. Clavering; "you know that if you stayaway from school, you will be put down to the bottom of the class."
The children all declared their willingness to submit to this punishmentrather than go to school that day.
"Now, Kitty Clavering," said Uncle Philip, "you see plainly that theirhearts are not in the French: and that it is all forced work with them.So I shall be regularly displeased, if you send the children to schoolto-day. They shall go with me to the cabin, and we will all spend themorning there."
The cabin was a small wooden edifice planned by Uncle Philip, anderected by his own hands with the assistance of Sam and Dick. It stoodon the verge of the river, where the bank took the form of a little capeor headland, which Uncle Philip called Point Lookout. On an eminenceimmediately above, was the house of Mrs. Clavering, from the frontgarden of which a green slope, planted with fruit-trees, descendedgradually to the water's edge.
The building (into which you went down by a flight of wooden stepsinserted in the face of the hill), was as much as possible like thecabin of a ship. The ceiling was low, with a skylight near the centre,and the floor was not exactly level, there being a very visible slant toone side. At the back of this cabin was an imitation of transoms, abovewhich was a row of small windows of four panes each, and when thesewindows were open, they were fastened up by brass hooks to the beamsthat supported the roof. In the middle of the room was a flag-staff,which went up through the centre of a table, and perforated the ceilinglike the mizen-mast of a ship, and rose to a great height above theroof. From the top of this staff an American ensign, on Sundays andholidays, displayed its stars and stripes to the breeze. There was arange of lockers all round the room, containing in their recesses aninfinite variety of marine curiosities that Uncle Philip had collectedduring his voyages, and also some very amusing specimens of Chinesepatience and ingenuity. The walls were hung with charts, and ornamentedwith four coloured drawings that Captain Kentledge showed as thelikenesses of four favourite ships, all of which he, had at differenttimes commanded. These drawings were made by a young man that hadsailed with him as mate; and to unpractised eyes all the four shipslooked exactly alike; but Uncle Philip always took care to explain thatthe Columbia was sharpest at the bows, and the American roundest at thestern; that the United States had the tallest masts, and the Union thelongest yards.
An important appendage to the furniture of this singular room was ahanging-shelf, containing Captain Kentledge's library; and the bookswere the six octavo volumes of Cook's Voyages, and also the voyages ofScoresby, Ross and Parry, the Arabian Nights, Dibdin's Songs, RobinsonCrusoe, and Cooper's Pilot, Red Rover, and Water Witch.
This cabin was the stronghold of Uncle Philip, and the place where, withSam and Neptune, he spent all his happiest hours. For here he couldsmoke his segars in peace, and chew his tobacco without being obliged towatch an opportunity of slipping it privately into his mouth. But asMrs. Clavering had particularly desired that he would not initiate Saminto the use of "the Indian weed," he had promised to refrain frominstructing him in this branch of a sailor's education; and being "anhonourable man," Uncle Philip had faithfully kept his word.
Dick (acknowledging that during his uncle's absence he had used thecabin as a workshop, and that it was now ankle-deep in chips andshavings), ran on before with a broom to sweep the litter into a corner.The whole group proceeded thither from the breakfast table, Uncle Philipwishing he had three hands that he might give one to each of the littlegirls; but as that was not the case, they drew lots to decide whichshould be contented to hold by the skirt of his coat, and the lot fellupon Fanny; the old gentleman leading Jane and Anne, while Sam andNeptune brought up the rear.
Arrived at the cabin, Uncle Philip placed himself in his arm-chair; thegirls sat round him sewing for their dolls; Sam took his slate and drewupon it all the different parts of the schooner Winthrop, of which (fromhis brother's description) Dick commenced making a minature model inwood; and Neptune mounted one of the transoms and looked out of thewindow.
Things were going on very pleasantly, and Uncle Philip was in the midstof narrating the particulars of a violent storm they had encountered inthe gulf of Florida, when Dick, casting his eyes towards the glassdoor, exclaimed, "the French are coming, the French are coming!"
Uncle Philip testified much dissatisfaction at the intrusion of theseunwelcome visitors, and Dick again fell to work with the broom. In a fewminutes Mrs. Clavering entered the cabin, bringing with her Monsieur andMadame Franchimeau, and the _vieux_ papa, and _vieille_ mama,Monsieur and Madame Ravigote.
[Footnote 5: The old papa, and the old mamma.]
Mr. Franchimeau was a clumsy, ill-made man, fierce-eyed,black-whiskered, and looking as if he might sit for the picture of"Abaellino the Great Bandit." Madame Franchimeau was a large woman, withlarge features, and a figure that was very bad in dishabille, and verygood in full dress. Her father and mother were remnants of the _ancienregime_, but the costume of the _vieux_ papa was not at all in the styleof Blissett's Frenchman. His clothes were like those of other people,and instead of a powdered toupee and pigeon-wing side-curls, with ablack silk bag behind, he wore a reddish scratch-wig that almost camedown to his eyebrows. Why do very old men, when they wear wigs,generally prefer red ones? Madame Ravigote was a little withered,witch-like woman, with a skin resembling brown leather, which was setoff by four scanty flaxen ringlets.
Soon after breakfast, Mrs. Clavering had sent a message to "the FrenchStudy," implying the arrival of Captain Kentledge, and the consequentholiday of the children; and the Gauls had concluded it expedient todismiss their school at twelve o'clock, and hasten to pay theircompliments to the rich old uncle, of whom they had heard much sincetheir residence at Corinth.
When they were presented to Captain Kentledge, he was not at allprepossessed in favor of their appearance, and would have been muchinclined to receive them coldly; but as he was now called upon to appearin the character of their host, he remembered the courtesy due to themas his guests, and he managed to do the honors of his cabin in a verycommendable manner, considering that he said to himself, "for my ownsake, I cannot be otherwise than civil to them; but I despise them,notwithstanding."
There was much chattering that amounted to nothing; and much admirationof the cabin, by which, instead of pleasing Uncle Philip, they onlyincurred his farther contempt, by admiring always in the wrong place,and evincing an ignorance of ships that he thought unpardonable inpeople that had crossed the Atlantic. On Sam being introduced to them,there were many overstrained compliments on his beauty, and what theycalled his _air distingue_. Monsieur Franchimeau thought that _le jeuneSammi_ greatly resembled Mr. Irvine Voshintone, whom he had seen inParis; but Monsieur Ravigote thought him more like the portrait of SirValter Scotch. Madame Franchimeau likened him to the head of the ApolloBelvidere, and Madame Ravigote to the Duke of Berry. But all agreed thathe had a general resemblance to La Fayette, with a slight touch of Dr.Franklin. However these various similitudes might be intended ascompliments, they afforded no gratification to Uncle Philip, whosesecret opinion was, that if Sam looked like anybody, it was undoubtedlyPaul Jones. And during this examination, Sam was not a littledisconcerted at being seized by the shoulders and twirled round, andtaken sometimes by the forehead and sometimes by the chin, that his facemight be brought into the best light for discovering all its affinities.
[Footnote 6: The young Sammy.]
There was then an attempt at general conversation, the chief part ofwhich was borne by the ladies, or rather by Madame Franchimeau, whothought in her duty to atone for the dogged taciturnity of her husband.Monsieur Franchimeau, unlike the generality of his countrymen, neithersmiled, bowed, nor complimented. Having a great contempt for the mannersof the
[Footnote 7: Old Court.]
[Footnote 8: Bluntness, roughness.]
[Footnote 9: Customs of polite society.]
[Footnote 10: A person of strong mind, superior mind.]
Uncle Philip, though he scorned to acknowledge it, was not in realitydestitute of all comprehension of the French language, having picked upsome little acquaintance with it from having, in the course of hiswanderings, been at places where nothing else was spoken; and thoughdetermined on being displeased, he was amused, in spite of himself, atsome of the tirades of Madame Franchimeau. Understanding that MonsieurPhilippe (as much to his annoyance she called him) had just returnedfrom the West Indies, she began to talk of Cape Francois, and theinsurrection of the blacks, in which, she said, she had lost her firsthusband, Monsieur Mascaron. "By this terrible blow," said she, "I was_parfaitement abime_, and I refused all consolation till it was myfelicity to inspire Monsieur Franchimeau with sentiments the mostprofound. But my heart will for ever preserve a tender recollection ofmy well-beloved Alphonse. Ah! my Alphonse--his manners were adorable.However, my regards are great for _mon ami_ Monsieur Franchimeau. Itis true, he is _un pen brusque--c'est son caractere_. But his heartis of a goodness that is really inconceivable. He performs the mostcharming actions, and with a generosity that is heroic. _Ah! monami_--you hear me speak of you--but permit me the sad consolation ofshedding yet a few tears for my respectable Alphonse."
[Footnote 11: Perfectly destroyed, plunged into an abyss of despair.]
[Footnote 12: My friend, my dear].
[Footnote 13: A little blunt--a little rough. It is his character.]
Madame Franchimeau then entered into an animated detail of the death ofher first husband, who was killed before her eyes by the negroes; andshe dwelt upon every horrid particular, till she had worked herself intoa passion of tears. Just then, Fanny Clavering (who had for that purposebeen sent up to the house by her mother) arrived with a servant carryinga waiter of pine-apples, sugar and Madeira.
Madame Franchimeau stopped in the midst of her tears, and exclaimed--"_Ah!des ananas--mon ami (to her husband)--maman--papa--voyez--voyez--desananas._ Ah! my poorest Alphonse, great was his love for these--whatyou call them--apple de pine. He was just paring his apple de pine, whenthe detestable negroes rushed in and overset the table. _Ah! quelscene--une veritable tragedie!_ _Pardonnez_, Madame Colavering, Iprefer a slice from the largest part of the fruit.--Ah! my amiableAlphonse--his blood flew all over my robe, which was of spotted Japanmuslin. I wore that day a long sash of a broad ribbon of the colour ofAurore, fringed at both of its ends. When I was running away, he graspedit so hard that it came untied, and I left it in his hand.--May I begthe favour of some more sugar?--_Mon ami_, you always prefer thepine-apple bathed in Champagne."
[Footnote 14: "Ah! pine-apples--my dear--(to herhusband)--mamma--papa--see--see--pine-apples!"]
[Footnote 15: Ah! what a scene--a real tragedy!]
"Yes," replied Franchimeau, "it does me no good, unless each slice issoaked in some wine of fine quality." But Mrs. Clavering acknowledgingthat she had no Champagne in the house, Franchimeau gruffly replied,that "he supposed Madeira might do."
Madame then continued her story and her pine-apple. "_Ah! mon bien-aimeAlphonse_," said she, "he had fourteen wounds--I will take anotherslice, if you please, Madame Colavering. There--there--a little moresugar. _Bien oblige_--a little more still. _Maman, vous ne mangezpas de bon appetit. Ah! je comprens--vous voulez de la creme avec votreanana._--Madame Colavering, will you do mamma the favour to havesome cream brought for her? and I shall not refuse some for myself.Ah! _mon Alphonse_--the object of my first grand passion! Heexhibited in dying some contortions that were hideous--_absolumenteffroyable_--they are always present before my eyes--MadameColavering, I would prefer those two under slices; they are the bestpenetrated with the sugar, and also well steeped in the _jus_."
[Footnote 16: My beloved Alphonse.]
[Footnote 17: Much obliged to you.]
[Footnote 18: Mamma, you do not eat with a good appetite. Ah! Iunderstand--you wish for some cream with your pine-apple.]
[Footnote 19: Absolutely frightful.]
[Footnote 20: Juice.]
The cream was procured, and the two Madames did it ample justice.Presently the youngest of the French ladies opened her eyes very wide,and exclaimed to her father, "_Mon cher papa, vous n' avez pas dejafini?_" "My good friend, Madame Colavering, you know, of course,that my papa cannot eat much fruit, unless it is accompanied by some_biscuit_--for instance, the cake you call sponge."
[Footnote 21: My dear papa, you have not finished already?]
"I was not aware of that," replied Mrs. Clavering.
"_Est-il possible?_" exclaimed the whole French family, looking ateach other.
[Footnote 22: Is it possible?]
Mrs. Clavering then recollecting that there was some sponge-cake in thehouse, sent one of the children for it, and when it was brought, theirFrench visiters all ate heartily of it; and she heard the _vieillemaman_ saying to the _vieux papa_, "_Eh, mon ami, ce petitcollation vient fort a-propos, comme notre dejeuner etait seulement unmauvais salade._"
[Footnote 23: Old mamma.]
[Footnote 24: Old papa.]
[Footnote 25: Eh! my dear, this little collation comes very seasonably,as our breakfast was nothing but a bad salad.]
The collation over, Mrs. Clavering, by way of giving her guests anopportunity of saying something that would please Uncle Philip, pattedold Neptune on the head, and asked them if they had ever seen a finerdog?
"I will show you a finer," replied Madame Franchimeau; "see, I havebrought with me my interesting _Bijou_"--and she called in an uglylittle pug that had been scrambling about the cabin door ever sincetheir arrival, and whose only qualification was that of painfullysitting up on his hind legs, and shaking his fore-paws in the fashionthat is called begging. His mistress, with much importunity, prevailedon him to perform this elegant feat, and she then rewarded him with asaucer-full of cream, sugar, and sponge-cake. He was waspish andsnappish, and snarled at Jane Clavering when she attempted to play withhim; upon which Neptune, with one blow of his huge forefoot, brought thepug to the ground, and then stood motionless, looking up in UnclePhilip's face, with his paw on the neck of the sprawling animal, whokicked and yelped most piteously. This interference of the oldNewfoundlander gave great offence to the French family, who allexclaimed, "_Quelle horreur! Quelle abomination! En effet c'esttrop!_"
[Footnote 26: What horror! What abomination! It is really too much!]
Uncle Philip could not help laughing; but Sam called off Neptune fromBijou, and set the fallen pug on his legs again, for which compassionateact he was complimented by the French ladies on his _bonte decoeur_, and honoured at parting, with the title of _le douxSammi_.
[Footnote 27: Goodness of heart.]
[Footnote 28: The mild Sammy--the gentle Sammy.]
"I'll never return this visit," said Uncle Philip, after the Frenchguests had taken their leave.
"Oh! but you _must_," replied Mrs. Clavering; "it was intended expresslyfor you--you _must_ return it, in common civility."
"But," persisted Uncle Philip, "I wish them to understand that I don'tintend to treat them with common civility. A pack of selfish,ridiculous, impudent fools. No, no. I am not so prejudiced as to believethat all French people are as bad as these--many of them, no doubt, ifwe could only find where they are, may be quite as clever as the firstlieutenant of that frigate; but, to their shame be it spoken, the bestof them seldom visit America, and our country is overrun with ignorant,vulgar impostors, who, unable to get their bread at home, come here fullof lies and pretensio
"Don't you think Uncle Philip always talks best when he's in a passion?"observed Dick to Sam.
After Mrs. Clavering had returned to the house, Dick informed his unclethat, a few days before, she had made a dinner for the whole Frenchfamily; and Captain Kentledge congratulated himself and Sam on their notarriving sooner from their voyage. Dick had privately told his brotherthat the behaviour of the guests, on this occasion, had not given muchsatisfaction. Mrs. Clavering, it seems, had hired, to dress the dinner,a mulatto woman that professed great knowledge of French cookery, havinglived at one of the best hotels in New York. But Monsieur Franchimeauhad sneered at all the French dishes as soon as he tasted them, andpretended not to know their names, or for what they were intended;Monsieur Ravigote had shrugged and sighed, and the ladies had declinedtouching them at all, dining entirely on what (as Dick expressed it)they called roast beef de mutton and natural potatoes.
[Footnote 29: The vulgar French think that the English term for allsorts of roasted meat is _rosbif_--thus _rosbif de mouton--rosbif deporc_. Potatoes plainly boiled, with the skins on, are called, inFrance, _pommes de terre au naturel_.]
It was not only his regard for the children that made Mrs. Clavering'sFrench mania a source of great annoyance to Uncle Philip, but he soonfound that much of the domestic comfort of the family was destroyed bythis unaccountable freak, as he considered it. Mrs. Clavering was notyoung enough to be a very apt scholar, and so much of her time wasoccupied by learning her very long lessons, and writing her very longexercises, that her household duties were neglected in consequence. Asin a provincial town it is difficult to obtain servants who can go onwell without considerable attention from the mistress, the house was notkept in as nice order as formerly; the meals were at irregular hours,and no longer well prepared; the children's comfort was forgotten,their pleasures were not thought of, and the little girls grieved thatno sweetmeats were to be made that season; their mother telling themthat she had now no time to attend to such things. The children'sstory-books were taken from them, because they were now to read nothingbut Telemaque; they were stopped short in the midst of their talk, andtold to _parlez Francais_. Even the parrots heard so much of itthat, in a short time, they prated nothing but French.
[Footnote 30: Speak French.]
Uncle Philip had put his positive veto on Sam's going to French school,and he insisted that little Anne had become pale and thin since she hadbeen a pupil of the Franchimeaus. Mrs. Clavering, to pacify him,consented to withdraw the child from school; but only on condition thatshe was every day to receive a lesson at home, from old Mr. Ravigote.
Anne Clavering was but five years old. As yet, no taste for French "haddawned upon her soul," and very little for English; her mind beingconstantly occupied with her doll, and other playthings. MonsieurRavigote, with all the excitability of his nation, was, in the main, avery good-natured man, and was really anxious for the improvement of hispupil. But all was in vain. Little Anne never knew her lessons, and hadas yet acquired no other French phrase than "_Oui, Monsieur_."
[Footnote 31: Yes, sir.]
Every morning, Mr. Ravigote came with a face dressed in smiles, andearnest hope that his pupil was going that day to give him what hecalled "one grand satisfaction;" but the result was always the same.
One morning, as Uncle Philip sat reading the newspaper, and holdinglittle Anne on his knee while she dressed her doll, Mr. Ravigote camein, bowing and smiling as usual, and after saluting Captain Kentledge,he said to the little child: "Well, my dear little friend, _ma gentilleAnnette_, I see by the look of your countenance that I shall haveone grand satisfaction with you this day. Application is painted on yourvisage, and docility also. Is there not, _ma chere_?"
[Footnote 32: My pretty Annette.]
[Footnote 33: My dear.]
"_Oui, Monsieur_," replied the little Anne.
"_J'en suis ravi._ Now, _ma chere, commencons--commencons tout desuite_."
[Footnote 34: I am delighted at it.]
[Footnote 35: Now, my dear, let us begin--let us begin immediately.]
Little Anne slowly descended from her uncle's knee, carefully put awayher doll and folded up her doll's clothes, and then made a tedioussearch for her book.
"_Eh! bien, commencons_," said Mr. Ravigote, "you move without anyrapidity."
"_Oui, Monsieur_," responded little Anne, who, after she had taken herseat in a low chair beside Mr. Ravigote, was a long time getting into acomfortable position, and at last settled herself to her satisfaction bycrossing her feet, leaning back as far as she could go, and hooking onefinger in her coral necklace, that she might pull at it all the time.
"_Eh! bien, ma chere_; we will first have the lessons without the book,"said Mr. Ravigote, commencing with the vocabulary. "Tell me the names ofall the months of the year--for instance, January."
"_Janvier_," answered the pupil, promptly.
"Ah! very well, very well, indeed, _ma chere_--for once, you know thefirst word of your lesson. Ah! to-day I have, indeed, great hope of you.Come, now, February?"
"_Fevrier_," said little Anne.
"Excellent! excellent! you know the second word too--and now, then,March?"
"Ah! no, no--but I am old; perhaps I did not rightly hear. Repeat, _machere enfant_, repeat."
[Footnote 36: My dear child.]
"Marsh," cried little Anne in a very loud voice.
"Ah! you are wrong; but I will pardon you--you have said two wordsright. _Mars, ma chere, Mars_ is the French for March the month. Comenow, April."
"Aprile! there is no such word as Aprile--_Avril_. And now tell me, whatis May?"
"Excellent! excellent! capital! _magnifique!_ you said that word_parfaitement bien_. Now let us proceed--June."
[Footnote 37: Perfectly well.]
"Ah! no, no--_Juin, ma chere, Juin_--but I will excuse you. Now, tell meJuly."
Little Anne could make no answer.
"Ah! I fear--I begin to fear you. Are you not growing bad?"
"_Oui, Monsieur_," said little Anne.
"Come then; I will tell you this once--_Juillet_ is the French for July.Now, tell me what is August?"
"Augoost! Augoost! there is no such a word. Why, you are very bad,indeed--_Aout, Aout, Aout_."
The manner in which Mr. Ravigote vociferated this rather uncouth word,roused Uncle Philip from his newspaper and his rocking-chair, andmistaking it for a howl of pain, he started up and exclaimed, "Hallo!"Mr. Ravigote turned round in amazement, and Uncle Philip continued,"Hey, what's the matter? Has anything hurt you? I thought I heard ahowl."
"Dear uncle," said little Anne, "Mr. Ravigote is not howling; he is onlysaying August in French."
Uncle Philip bit his lip and resumed his paper. Mr. Ravigote proceeded,"September?" and his pupil repeated in a breath, as if she was afraid tostop an instant lest she should forget--
"Septembre, Octobre, Novembre, Decembre."
"Ah! very well; very well, indeed," exclaimed Mr. Ravigote; "you havesaid these four words _comme il faut_; but it must be confessed theyare not much difficult."
[Footnote 38: Properly].
He then proceeded with the remainder of her vocabulary lesson; but invain--not another word did she say that had the least affinity to theright one. "Ah!" said he, "_je suis au desespoir_; I much expectedof you this day, but you have overtumbled all my hopes. _Je suisabime._"
[Footnote 39: I am in despair.]
[Footnote 40: "I am thrown in an abyss of grief," is perhaps nearest themeaning of this very French expression.]
"_Oui, Monsieur_, said little Anne.
"You are one _mauvais sujet_," pursued the teacher, beginning tolose his patience; "punishme
[Footnote 41: Bad person--bad child.]
[Footnote 42: But come, let us try again.]
Just at that moment the string of little Anne's beads (at which she hadbeen pulling during the whole lesson) broke suddenly in two, and thebeads began to shower down, a few into her lap, but most of them on thefloor.
"_Oh! quel dommage!_" exclaimed Mr. Ravigote; "_Mais n'importe,laissez-les_, and continue your lesson."
[Footnote 43: Oh! what a pity!]
[Footnote 44: But no matter--let them alone.]
But poor Mr. Ravigote found it impossible to make the little girl paythe slightest attention to him while her beads were scattered on thefloor; and his only alternative was to stoop down and help her to pickthem up. Uncle Philip raised his eyes from the paper, and said, "Nevermind the beads, my dear; finish the lesson, and I will buy you a newcoral necklace to-morrow, and a much prettier one than that."
Little Anne instantly rose from the floor, and whisking into her chair,prepared to resume her lesson with alacrity.
"_Eh! bien_," said the teacher, "now we will start off again, and readthe inside of a book. Come, here is the fable of the fox and the grapes.These are the fables that we read during the _ancien regime_; there arenone so good now."
Mr. Ravigote then proceeded to read with her, translating as he went on,and making her repeat after him--"A fox of Normandy, (some say ofGascony,) &c., &c. Now, my dear, you must try this day and make a copyof the nasal sounds as you hear them from me. It is in these sounds thatyou are always the very worst. The nasal sounds are the soul and thelife of French speaking."
The teacher bent over the book, and little Anne followed hispronunciation more closely than she had ever done before: he exclaimingat every sentence, "Very well--very well, indeed, my dear. To-day youhave the nasal sounds, _comme une ange_."
[Footnote 45: Like an angel.]
But on turning round to pat her head, he perceived that _gentilleAnnette_ was holding her nose between her thumb and finger, and that itwas in this way only she had managed to give him satisfaction with thenasal sounds. He started back aghast, exclaiming--
"_Ah! quelle friponnerie! la petite coquine! Voici un grand acte defourberie et de mechancete!_ So young and so depraved--ah! I fear, Imuch fear, she will grow up a rogue-a cheat--perhaps a thief. _Je suisglace d'horreur! Je tremble! Je frissonne!_"
[Footnote 46: Ah! what roguery--the little jade! What an instance ofimposture and wickedness!]
[Footnote 47: I am frozen with horror!--I tremble!--I shiver!]
"I'll tell you what," said Uncle Philip, laying down his newspaper, "youneed neither tremble nor frisson, nor get yourself into any horror aboutit. The child's only a girl of five years old, and I've no notion thatthe little tricks, that all children are apt to play at times, areproofs of natural wickedness, or signs that they will grow up bad menand women. But to cut the matter short, the girl is too little to learnFrench. She is not old enough either to understand it, or to rememberit, and you see it's impossible for her to give her mind to it. So fromthis time, I say, she shall learn no more French till she is grown up,and desires it herself. (_Little Anne gave a skip half way to theceiling._) You shall be paid for her quarter all the same, and I'll payyou myself on the spot. So you need never come again."
Mr. Ravigote was now from head to foot all one smile; and bowing withhis hands on his heart, he, at Uncle Philip's desire, mentioned the sumdue for a quarter's attempt at instruction. Uncle Philip immediatelytook the money out of his pocket-book, saying, "There,--there is adollar over; but you may keep it yourself: I want no change. I supposemy niece, Kitty Clavering, will not be pleased at my sending you off;but she will have to get over it, for I'll see that child tormented nolonger."
Mr. Ravigote thought in his own mind, that the torment had been muchgreater to him than to the child; but he was so full of gratitude, thathe magnanimously offered to take the blame on himself, and represent toMrs. Clavering that it was his own proposal to give up MademoiselleAnnette, as her organ of French was not yet developed.
"No, no," said Uncle Philip, "I am always fair and above-board. I wantnobody to shift the blame from my shoulders to their own. Whatever I do,I'll stand by manfully. I only hope that you'll never again attempt toteach French to babies."
Mr. Ravigote took leave with many thanks, and on turning to bid hisadieu to the little girl, he found that she had already vanished fromthe parlour, and was riding about the green on the back of old Neptune.
When Uncle Philip told Mrs. Clavering of his dismissal of Mr. Ravigote,she was so deeply vexed, that she thought it most prudent to saynothing, lest she should be induced to say too much.
A few days after this event, Madame Franchimeau sent an invitation,written in French, for Mrs. Clavering, and "Monsieur Philippe" to passthe evening at her house, and partake of a _petit souper_, bringingwith them _le doux Sammi_, and _la belle Fanchette_. This supperwas to celebrate the birthday of her niece, Mademoiselle Robertine, whohad just arrived from New York, and was to spend a few weeks at Corinth.
[Footnote 48: A little supper.]
[Footnote 49: The gentle Sammy and the lovely Fanchette.]
Uncle Philip had never yet been prevailed on to enter the French house,as he called it; and on this occasion he stoutly declared off, sayingthat he had no desire to see any more of their foolery, and that hehated the thoughts of a French supper. "My friend, Tom Logbook," saidhe, "who commands the packet Louis Quatorze, and understands French,told me of a supper to which he was invited the first time he was atHavre, and of the dishes he was expected to eat, and I shall take carenever to put myself in the way of such ridiculous trash. Why, he told methere was wooden-leg soup, and bagpipes of mutton, and rabbits inspectacles, and pullets in silk stockings, and potatoes in shirts.Answer me now, are such things fit for Christians to eat?"
[Footnote 50: _Soupe a la jambe de bois--musettes de mouton--lapins enlorgnettes--poulardes en bas de soie--pommes de terre en chemise._ SeeUde, &c.]
For a long time Mrs. Clavering tried in vain to prevail on Uncle Philipto accept of the invitation. At last Dick suggested a new persuasive."Mother," said he, "I have no doubt Uncle Philip would go to the Frenchsupper, if you will let us all have a holiday from school for a week."
"That's a good thought, Dick," exclaimed the old gentleman. "Yes, Ithink I would. Well, on these terms I will go, and eat trash. I supposeI shall live through it. But remember now, this is the first and lastand only time I will ever enter a French house."
After tea, the party set out for Monsieur Franchimeau's, and wereushered into the front parlour, which was fitted up in a manner thatexhibited a strange _melange_ of slovenliness and pretension. There wasneither carpet nor matting, and the floor was by no means in the nicestorder; but there were three very large looking-glasses, the plates beingall more or less cracked, and the frames sadly tarnished. The chairswere of two different sorts, and of very ungenteel appearance; but therewas a kind of Grecian sofa, or lounge, with a gilt frame much defaced,and a red damask cover much soiled; and, in the centre of the room,stood a _fauteuil_ covered with blue moreen, the hair poking out intufts through the slits. The windows were decorated with showy curtainsof coarse pink muslin and marvellously coarse white muslin; the draperysuspended from two gilt arrows, one of which had lost its point, and theother had parted with its feather. The hearth was filled with rubbish,such as old pens, curl-papers, and bits of rag; but the mantel-piece wasadorned with vases of artificial flowers under glass bells, and twoelegant chocolate cups of French china.
[Footnote 51: Easy chair.]
The walls were hung with a dozen bad lithographic prints, tastefullysuspended by bows of gauze ribbon. Among these specimens of the worststyle of the modern French school, was a Cupid and Psyche, with abackground that was the most prominent part of the picture, every leafof every tree on the distant mountains being distinctly defined andsmoothly finished
Another print represented a huge muscular woman, with large coarsefeatures distorted into the stare and grin of a maniac, an enormous lyrein her hand, a cloud of hair flying in one direction, and a volume ofdrapery exhibiting its streaky folds in another; while she is running tothe edge of a precipice, as if pursued by a mad bull, and plungingforward with one foot in the air, and her arms extended above her head.This was Sappho on the rock of Leucate. These two prints Mr. Franchimeau(who professed connoisseurship, and always talked when pictures were thesubject--that is, French pictures) pointed out to his visiters asmagnificent emanations of the Fine Arts. "The coarse arts, rather,"murmured Uncle Philip.
The guests were received with much suavity by the French ladies and the_vieux_ papa; and Capt. Kentledge was introduced by Madame Franchimeauto three little black-haired girls, with surprisingly yellow faces, whowere designated by the mother as "_mon aimable Lulu, ma mignonne Mimi,and ma petite ange Gogo_." Uncle Philip wondered what were the realnames of these children.
[Footnote 52: My lovely Lulu, my darling Mimi, and my little angelGogo.]
After this, Madame Franchimeau left the room for a moment, and returned,leading in a very pretty young girl, whom she introduced as her _treschere niece, Mademoiselle Robertine_, orphan daughter of a brotherof her respectable Alphonse.
[Footnote 53: Her beloved niece, Miss Robertine.]
Robertine had a neat French figure, a handsome French face, and aprofusion of hair arranged precisely in the newest style of the waxfigures that decorate the windows of the most fashionable_coiffeurs_. She was dressed in a thin white muslin, with a shortblack silk apron, embroidered at the corners with flowers in colours.Mr. Franchimeau resigned to her his chair beside Uncle Philip, to whom(while her aunt and the Ravigotes were chattering and shrugging to Mrs.Clavering) she addressed herself with considerable fluency and in goodEnglish. People who have known but little of the world, and of the besttone of society, are apt, on being introduced to new acquaintances, totalk to them at once of their profession, or in reference to it; andRobertine questioned Uncle Philip about his ships and his voyages, andtook occasion to tell him that she had always admired the character of asailor, and still more that of a captain; that she thought the browntinge given by the sea air a great improvement to a fine manlycountenance; that fair-complexioned people were her utter aversion, andthat a gentleman was never in his best looks till he had attained theage of forty, or, indeed, of forty-five.
[Footnote 54: Hair-dressers.]
"Then I am long past the age of good looks," said Uncle Philip, "for Iwas sixty-two the sixth of last June."
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Robertine. "I had no idea that CaptainKentledge could have been more than forty-three or forty-four at theutmost. But gentlemen who have good health and amiable dispositions,never seem to grow old. I have known some who were absolutely charmingeven at seventy."
"Pshaw!" said Uncle Philip, half aside.
Robertine, who had been tutored by her aunt Franchimeau, ran on with atirade of compliments and innuendos, so glaring as to defeat their ownpurpose. Sam, who sat opposite, and was a shrewd lad, saw in a momenther design, and could not forbear at times casting significant lookstowards his uncle. The old captain perfectly comprehended the meaning ofthose looks, and perceived that Mademoiselle Robertine was spreadingher net for him. Determining not to be caught, he received all hersmiles with a contracted brow; replied only in monosyllables; and, asshe proceeded, shut his teeth firmly together, closed his lips tightly,pressed his clenched hands against the sides of his chair, and sat boltupright; resolved on answering her no more.
About nine o'clock, the door of the back parlour was thrown open by thelittle mulatto girl, and Madame Franchimeau was seen seated at the headof the supper-table. Mr. Franchimeau led in Mrs. Clavering; Mr. Ravigotetook Fanny; Madame Ravigote gave her hand to Sam, and Robertine, ofcourse, fell to the lot of Uncle Philip, who touched with a very illgrace the fingers that she smilingly extended to him.
In the centre of the supper-table was a salad decorated with roses, andsurrounded by four candles. The chief dish contained _blanquettes_ ofveal; and the other viands were a _fricandeau_ of calves' ears; a_puree_ of pigs' tails; a _ragout_ of sheep's feet, and another ofchickens' pinions interspersed with claws; there was a dish of turnipswith mustard, another of cabbage with cheese, a bread omelet, a plate ofpoached eggs, a plate of sugar-plums, and a dish of hashed fish, whichMadame Franchimeau called a _farce_.
As soon as they were seated, Robertine took a rose from the salad, andwith a look of considerable sentiment, presented it to Uncle Philip, whoreceived it with a silent frown, and took an opportunity of dropping iton the floor, when Sam slyly set his foot on it and crushed it flat. Theyoung lady then mixed a glass of _eau sucre_ for the old gentleman,saying very sweet things all the time; but the beverage was as little tohis taste as the Hebe that prepared it.
[Footnote 55: Sugar and water.]
The French children were all at table, and the youngest girl lookingsomewhat unwell, and leaving her food on her plate, caused Mrs.Clavering to make a remark on her want of appetite.
"_N'importe_," said Madame Franchimeau; "she is not affamished; shedid eat very hearty at her tea; she had shesnoot for her tea."
[Footnote 56: No matter.]
"Chestnuts!" exclaimed Mrs. Clavering.
"Oh, yes; we have them at times. _N'importe_, my little Gogo; cease yoursupper, you will have the better appetite for your breakfast. You shallhave an apple for your breakfast--a large, big apple. Monsieur Philippe,permit me to help you to some of this fish; you will find it a mostexcellent _farce_: I have preserved it from corruption by a processof vinegar and salt, and some charcoal. Madame Colavering, I will showyou that mode of restoring fish when it begins to putrefy: a greatchemist taught it to my assassined Alphonse."
[Footnote 57: Farce, in French cookery, signifies chopped meat, fish,poultry, well seasoned and mixed with other ingredients.]
Uncle Philip pushed away his plate with unequivocal signs of disgust,and moved back his chair, determined not to taste another mouthful whilehe stayed in the house. Suspicious of everything, he even declinedRobertine's solicitations to take a glass of _liqueur_ which she pouredout for him, and which she assured him was genuine _parfait amour_.During supper, she had talked to him, in a low voice, of the greatsuperiority of the American nation when compared with the French; andregretted the frivolity and _inconsequence_ of the French character; butassured him that when French ladies had the honour of marrying Americangentlemen, they always lost that inconsequence, and acquired much depthand force.
[Footnote 58: Perfect love.]
After supper, Mr. Franchimeau, who, notwithstanding his taciturnity and_brusquerie_, was what Uncle Philip called a Jack of all trades, satdown to an old out-of-tune piano, that stood in one of the recesses ofthe back parlour, and played an insipid air of "Paul at the Tomb ofVirginia," singing with a hoarse stentorian voice half-a-dozennamby-pamby stanzas, lengthening out or contracting some of the words,and mispronouncing others to suit the measure and the rhyme. This song,however, seemed to produce great effect on the French part of hisaudience, who sighed, started, and exclaimed--"_Ah! quels sont touchans,ces sentimens sublimes!_"
[Footnote 59: Ah! how touching are these sublime sentiments!]
"_Ma chere amie_," continued Madame Franchimeau, pressing the hand ofMrs. Clavering, "_permettez que je pleure un peu le triste destin del'innocence et de la vertu--infortune Paul--malheureuse Virginie_;"and she really seemed to shed tears.
[Footnote 60: My dear f
Uncle Philip could no longer restrain himself, but he started from hischair and paced the room in evident discomposure at the folly andaffectation that surrounded him; his contempt for all men that played onpianos being much heightened by the absurd appearance of the hugeblack-whiskered, shock-headed Monsieur Franchimeau, with his longfrock-coat hanging down all over the music-stool. Robertine declinedplaying, alleging that she had none of her own music with her; and sheprivately told Uncle Philip that she had lost all relish for Frenchsongs, and that she was very desirous of learning some of the nationalairs of America--for instance, the Tars of Columbia. But still UnclePhilip's heart was iron-bound, and he deigned no other reply than, "Idon't believe they'll suit you."
A dance was then proposed by Madame Ravigote, and Robertine, "nothingdaunted," challenged Uncle Philip to lead off with her; but, completelyout of patience, he turned on his heel, and walked away withoutvouchsafing an answer. Robertine then applied to Sam, but with no bettersuccess, for as yet he had not learned that accomplishment, and she wasfinally obliged to dance with old Mr. Ravigote, while Madame Franchimeautook out her mother; Fanny danced with the lovely Lulu, and Mimi andGogo with each other; Mr. Franchimeau playing cotillions for them.
Uncle Philip thought in his own mind that the dancing was the best partof the evening's entertainment, and old Madame Ravigote was certainlythe best of the dancers; though none of the family were deficient in atalent which seems indigenous to the whole French nation.
The cotillions were succeeded by cream of tartar lemonade, and a plateof sugar-plums enfolded in French mottoes, from which Robertine selectedthe most amatory, and presented them to Uncle Philip, who regularly madea point of giving them all back to her in silence, determined not toretain a single one, lest she might suppose he acknowledged theapplication.
The old gentleman was very tired of the visit, and glad enough when Mrs.Clavering proposed departing. And all the way home his infatuated niecetalked to him in raptures of the elegance of French people, and the vastdifference between them and the Americans.
"There is, indeed, a difference," said Uncle Philip, too much fatiguedto argue the point that night.
Next morning, after they had adjourned to the cabin, Sam addressed theold gentleman with, "Well, Uncle Philip, I wish you joy of the conquestyou made last evening of the pretty French girl, Miss Robertine."
"A conquest of _her_," replied Uncle Philip, indignantly; "the report ofmy dollars has made the conquest. I am not yet old enough to be taken inby such barefaced manoeuvring. No, no; I am not yet in my dotage; andI heartily despise a young girl that is willing to sell herself to a manold enough to be her father."
"I am glad you do," observed Sam; "I have often heard my mother say thatsuch matches never fail to turn out badly, and to make both husband andwife miserable. We all think she talks very sensibly on this subject."
"No doubt," said Uncle Philip.
"I really wonder," pursued Sam, "that a Frenchwoman should venture tomake love to _you_."
"Love!" exclaimed Uncle Philip; "I tell you, there's no love in thecase. I am not such a fool as to believe that a pretty young girl couldfall in love with an old fellow like _me_. No, no; all she wants is,that I should die as soon as possible and leave her a rich widow: butshe will find her mistake; she shall see that all her sweet looks andsweet speeches will have no effect on me but to make me hate her. Shemight as well attempt to soften marble by dropping honey on it."
"You'll be not only marble, but granite, also, won't you, Uncle Philip?"said Sam.
"That I will, my boy," said the old gentleman; "and now let's talk ofsomething else."
After this, no persuasion could induce Uncle Philip to repeat his visitto the Franchimeaus; and when any of that family came to Mrs.Clavering's he always left the room in a few minutes, particularly ifthey were accompanied by Robertine. In short, he now almost lived in hiscabin, laying strict injunctions on Mrs. Clavering not to bring thitherany of the French.
One morning, while he was busy there with Sam, Dick, and Neptune, theboys, happening to look out, saw Robertine listlessly rambling on thebank of the river, and entirely alone. There was every appearance of ashower coming up. "I suppose," said Dick, "Miss Robertine intends goingto our house; and if she does not make haste, she will be caught in therain. There, now, she is looking up at the clouds. See, see--she iscoming this way as fast as she can."
"Confound her impudence!" said Uncle Philip; "is she going to ferret meout of my cabin? Sam, shut that door."
"Shall I place the great chest against it?" said Sam.
"Pho--no," replied the old gentleman. "With all her assurance, she'llscarcely venture to break in by force. I would not for a thousanddollars that she should get a footing here."
Presently a knock was heard at the door.
"There she is," said Dick.
"Let us take no notice," said Sam.
"After all," said Uncle Philip, "she's a woman; and a woman must not beexposed to the rain, when a man can give her a shelter. We must let herin; nothing else can be done with her."
Upon this, Sam opened the door; and Robertine, with many apologies forher intrusion, expressed her fear of being caught in the rain, andbegged permission to wait there till the shower was over.
"I was quite lost in a reverie," said she, "as I wandered on the shoreof the river. Retired walks are now best suited to my feelings. When theheart has received a deep impression, nothing is more delicious than tosigh in secret."
"Fudge!" muttered Uncle Philip between his teeth.
"Uncle Philip says fudge," whispered Dick to Sam.
"I'm glad of it," whispered Sam to Dick.
Uncle Philip handed Robertine a chair, and she received thiscommon-place civility with as much evident delight as if he hadproffered her "the plain gold ring."
"Sam," said the old gentleman, "run to the house as fast as you can, andbring an umbrella, and then see Miss Robertine home."
"That I will, uncle," said Sam, with alacrity.
Robertine then began to admire the drawings on the wall, andsaid--"Apparently, these are all ships that Captain Kentledge has takenin battle?"
"No," replied Uncle Philip, "I never took any ship in battle; I alwaysbelonged to the merchant service."
Robertine was now at fault; but soon recovering herself, shecontinued--"No doubt if you _had_ been in battle, you _would_ have takenships; for victory always crowns the brave, and my opinion is, that allAmericans are brave of course; particularly if they are gentlemen of thesea."
"And have plenty of cash," Uncle Philip could not avoid saying.
Robertine coloured to the eyes; and Uncle Philip checked himself, seeingthat he had been too severe upon her. "I must not forget that she is awoman," thought he; "while she stays, I will try to be civil to her."
But Robertine was too thoroughly resolved on carrying her point to beeasily daunted; and, in half a minute, she said with a smile--"I seethat Captain Kentledge will always have his jest. Wit is one of theattributes of his profession."
Her admiration of the ships not having produced much effect, Robertinenext betook herself to admiring the dog Neptune, who was lying at hismaster's feet, and she gracefully knelt beside him and patted his head,saying--"What a magnificent animal! The most splendid dog I ever saw!What a grand and imposing figure! How sensible and expressive is hisface!"
Dick found it difficult to suppress an involuntary giggle, for it struckhim that Robertine must have heard the remark which was very currentthrough the village, of Neptune's face having a great resemblance toUncle Philip's own.
Where is the man that, being "the fortunate possessor of a Newfoundlanddog," can hear his praises without emotion? Uncle Philip's ice began tothaw. All the blandishments that Robertine had lavished on himself,caused no other effect than disgust; but the moment she appeared to likehis dog, his granite heart began to soften, and he felt a d
To all this did Robertine "most seriously incline." She listened withbreathless interest, was startled, terrified, anxious, delighted, andalways in the right place; and when the story was finished, shepronounced Newfoundland dogs the best of all created animals, andNeptune the best of all Newfoundland dogs.
Just then Sam arrived with the umbrella.
"Sam," said Uncle Philip, "you may give _me_ the umbrella; I will seeMiss Robertine home myself. But I think she had better wait till therain is over."
This last proposal Robertine thought it most prudent to decline, fearingthat if she stayed till the rain ceased, Uncle Philip might no longerthink it necessary to escort her home. Accordingly the old gentlemangave her his arm, and walked off with her under the umbrella. As soon asthey were gone, Sam and Dick laughed out, and compared notes.
In the afternoon, after spending a considerable time at his toilet,Uncle Philip, without saying anything to the family, told one of theservants that he should not drink tea at home, and sallied off in thedirection of Franchimeau's. He did not return till ten o'clock, and thenwent straight to bed without entering the sitting-room. The truth was,that when he conveyed Robertine home in the morning, he could not resisther invitation into the house; and he sat there long enough for MadameRavigote (who, in frightful _dishabille_, was darning stockings in theparlour) to see that things wore a promising aspect. The old lady wentto the school-room door, and called out Madame Franchimeau to inform herof the favourable change in the state of affairs: and it was decidedthat _le vieux Philippe_ (as they called him behind the scenes, fornone of them, except Robertine, could say Kentledge), should be invitedto tea, that the young lady might have an immediate opportunity offollowing up the success of the morning.
[Footnote 61: Old Philip.]
Next morning, about eleven o'clock, Uncle Philip disappeared again, andwas seen no more till dinner-time. When he came in, he took his seat atthe table without saying a word, and there was something unusually queerin his look, and embarrassed in all his motions; and the childrenthought that he did not seem at all like himself. Little Anne, who satalways at his right hand, leaned back in her chair and looked behindhim, and then suddenly exclaimed--"Why, Uncle Philip has had his queuecut off!"
There was a general movement of surprise. Uncle Philip reddened,hesitated, and at last said, in a confused manner, "that he had for along time thought his queue rather troublesome, and that he had recentlybeen told that it made him look ten years older than he really was; and,therefore, he had stopped at the barber's, on his way home, and got ridof it."
Mrs. Clavering had never admired the queue; but she thought the loss ofit, just at this juncture, looked particularly ominous.
In the afternoon she received a visit from her friend, Mrs. Slimbridge,who was scarcely seated when she commenced with--"Well, Mrs. Clavering,I understand you are shortly to have a new aunt, and I have come tocongratulate you on the joyful occasion."
"A new aunt?" said Mrs. Clavering; "I am really at a loss to understandyour meaning!" looking, however, as if she understood it perfectly.
"Why, certainly," replied Mrs. Slimbridge, "it can be no news to _you_that Captain Kentledge is going to be married to Madame Franchimeau'sniece, Mademoiselle Robertine. He was seen, yesterday morning, walkingwith her under the same umbrella!"
"Well, and what of that?" interrupted Mrs. Clavering, fretfully; "does agentleman never hold an umbrella over a lady's head unless he intends tomarry her?"
"Oh, as yet they do," replied Mrs. Slimbridge, "but I know not how muchlonger even that piece of civility will be continued--gentlemen are nowso much afraid of committing themselves. But seriously, his seeing herhome in the rain is not the most important part of the story. He dranktea at Franchimeau's last evening, and paid a long visit at the housethis morning; and Emilie, their mulatto girl, told Mrs. Pinxton's Mary,and my Phillis had it direct from _her_, that she overheard MissRobertine, persuading Captain Kentledge to have his queue cut off. Thegood gentleman, it seems, held out for a long time, but at lastconsented to lose it. However, I do not vouch for the truth of that partof the statement. Old seafaring men are so partial to their hair, and itis a point on which they are so obstinate, that I scarcely think MissRobertine would have ventured so far."
"Some young girls have boldness enough for anything," said Mrs.Clavering, with a toss of her head, and knowing in her own mind that thequeue was really off.
"Well," continued Mrs. Slimbridge, "the story is all over town that itis quite a settled thing; and, as I said, I have hastened tocongratulate you."
"Congratulate me! For what?" said Mrs. Clavering; with much asperity.
"Why," returned Mrs. Slimbridge, "you know these French people are yourbosom friends, and of course you must rejoice in the prospect of anearer connexion with them. To be sure, it would be rather moregratifying if Miss Robertine was in a somewhat higher walk of life. Youknow it is whispered, that she is only a mantua-maker's girl, and thatthe dear friend whom Madame Franchimeau talks about, as having adoptedher beloved Robertine (though she takes care never to mention the nameof that dear friend), is in reality no other than the celebrated MadameGigot, in whose dressmaking establishment Mademoiselle is hired towork."
"Horrible!" was Mrs. Clavering's involuntary exclamation; but recoveringherself, she continued--"But I can assure you, Mrs. Slimbridge, that Iam perfectly convinced there is not a word of truth in the whole story.Captain Kentledge has certainly his peculiarities, but he is a man oftoo much sense to marry a young wife; and besides, his regard for mychildren is so great, that I am convinced it is his firm intention tolive single for their sakes, that he may leave them the whole of hisproperty. He thinks too much of the family to allow his money to go outof it."
"All that may be," answered Mrs. Slimbridge; "but when an old man fallsin love with a young girl, his regard for his own relations generallymelts away like snow before the fire. I think you had better speak toCaptain Kentledge on the subject. I advise you, as a friend, to do so,unless you conclude that opposition may only render him the moredetermined. Certainly one would not like to lose so much money out ofthe family, without making a little struggle to retain it. However, Imust now take my leave. As a friend, I advise you to speak to CaptainKentledge."
"I can assure you," replied Mrs. Clavering, as she accompanied her guestto the door, "this silly report gives me not the slightest uneasiness,as it is too absurd to merit one serious thought. I shall dismiss itfrom my mind with silent contempt. To mention it to Captain Kentledgewould be really too ridiculous."
As soon as she had got rid of her visitor, Mrs. Clavering hastily threwon her calash, and repaired at a brisk pace to Uncle Philip's cabin. Shefound him at his desk, busily employed in writing out for Robertine thewords of "America, Commerce, and Freedom." She made a pretext forsending away Sam, and told Uncle Philip that she wished some privateconversation with him. The old gentleman coloured, laid down his pen,and began to sit very uneasy on his chair, guessing what was to come.
Mrs. Clavering then, without further hesitation, acquainted him with allshe had heard, and asked him if it could possibly be true that he hadany intention of marrying Robertine.
"I don't know but I shall," said Uncle Philip.
"You really shock me!" exclaimed Mrs. Clavering.
"What is there so shocking," replied the old gentleman, "in my liking apretty girl--ay, and in making her my wife, too, if I think proper? Butthat's as it may be--I have not yet m
Mrs. Clavering breathed again. "Really, Uncle Philip," said she, "Ithought you had more sense, and knew more of the world. Can you not seeat once that all she wants is your money? It is impossible she couldhave any other inducement."
"I thank you for your compliment," said Uncle Philip, pulling up hisshirt collar and taking a glance at the looking-glass.
"Is the man an absolute fool?" thought Mrs. Clavering: "what can havegot into him?" Then raising her voice, she exclaimed--"Is this, then,the end of all your aversion to the French?"
"Then you should not have put the French in my way," said Uncle Philip:"it is all your own fault; and if I _should_ play the fool, you havenobody to thank but yourself. Why did you make me go to that supper?"
"Why, indeed!" replied Mrs. Clavering, with a sigh: "but knowing howmuch you dislike foreigners and all their ways, such an idea as yourfalling in love with a French girl never for a moment entered my mind.But I can tell you one thing that will effectually put all thoughts ofMiss Robertine out of your head."
"What is that?" said Uncle Philip, starting and changing colour.
"When I tell you that she is a mantua-maker," pursued Mrs. Clavering,"and in the employ of Madame Gigot of New York, you, of course, cannever again think of her as a wife."
"And why not?" said Uncle Philip, recovering himself--"why should not amantua-maker be thought of as a wife? If that's all you have to sayagainst her, it only makes me like her the better. I honour the girl forengaging in a business that procures her a decent living, and preventsher from being burdensome to her friends. Don't you know that a man canalways raise his wife to his own level? It is only a woman that sinks bymarrying beneath her; as I used to tell you when you fell in love withthe players, the first winter you spent in New York."
"I deny the players--I deny them altogether," said Mrs. Clavering, withmuch warmth: "all I admired was their spangled jackets and their capsand feathers, and I had some curiosity to see how they looked off thestage, and therefore was always glad when I met any of them in thestreet."
"Well, well," replied Uncle Philip, "let the players pass; I was onlyjoking."
"And even if it were true," resumed Mrs. Clavering, "that I hadparticularly admired one or two of the most distinguished performers, Iwas then but a mere child, and there is a great difference betweenplaying the fool at sixteen and at sixty."
"I don't see the folly," said Uncle Philip, "of marrying a pretty younggirl, who is so devotedly attached to me that she cannot possibly helpshowing it continually."
"Robertine attached to _you_!" retorted Mrs. Clavering. "And can youreally believe such an absurdity?"
"I thank you again for the compliment," replied Uncle Philip: "but Iknow that such things _have been_, strange as they may appear to you. Ibelieve I have all my life undervalued myself; and this young lady hasopened my eyes."
"Blinded them, rather," said Mrs. Clavering. "But for your own sake, letme advise you to give up this girl. No marriage, where there is so greata disparity of years, ever did or could, or ever will or can, turn outwell--and so you will find to your sorrow."
"I rather think I shall try the experiment," said Uncle Philip. "If I amconvinced that Miss Robertine has really a sincere regard for me, Ishall certainly make her Mrs. Kentledge--so I must tell you candidlythat you need not say another word to me on the subject."
He resumed his writing, and Mrs. Clavering, after pausing a few moments,saw the inutility of urging anything further, and walked slowly andsadly back to the house. The children's quarters at school had nearlyexpired, and she delighted them all with the information that, findingthey had not made as much progress in French as she had expected, andhaving reason to believe that the plan of learning everything throughthe medium of that language was not a good one, she had determined thatafter this week they should quit Monsieur and Madame Franchimeau, andreturn to Mr. Fulmer and Miss Hickman. She ceased visiting the Frenchfamily, who, conscious that they would now be unwelcome guests, did notapproach Mrs. Clavering's house. But Uncle Philip regularly spent everyevening with Robertine; and Mrs. Clavering did not presume openly tooppose what she now perceived to be his fixed intention; but sheindulged herself in frequent innuendoes against everything French, whichthe old gentleman was ashamed to controvert, knowing how very recentlyhe had been in the practice of annoying his niece by the vehementexpression of his own prejudices against that singular people; and hecould not help acknowledging to himself that though he liked Robertine,all the rest of her family were still fools. That the Franchimeaus andRavigotes were ridiculous, vulgar pretenders, Mrs. Clavering was nolonger slow in discovering; but she was so unjust as to consider themfair specimens of their nation, and to turn the tables so completely asto aver that nothing French was endurable. She even silenced the parrotswhenever they said, "_Parlons toujours Francois_."
[Footnote 62: Let us always speak French.]
One morning Uncle Philip was surprised in his cabin by the suddenappearance of a very tall, very slender young Frenchman, dressed in theextreme of dandyism; his long, thin face was of deadly whiteness, buthis cheeks were tinted with rouge; he had large black eyes, and eyebrowsarched up to a point; his immense whiskers were reddish, and met underhis chin; but his hair was black, and arranged with great skill and careaccording to the latest fashion, and filling the apartment with theperfume of attar of roses.
Immediately on entering, he strode up to Uncle Philip, and extending ahand whose fingers were decorated with half a dozen showy rings,presented to him a highly-scented rose-coloured card, which announcedhim as "Monsieur Achille Simagree de Lantiponne, of Paris."
"Well, sir," said Uncle Philip, "and I am Captain Philip Kentledge, onceof Salem, Massachusetts, and now of Corinth, New York."
"_Oui, je le sais_," replied the Frenchman, in a loud shrillvoice, and with a frown that was meant to be terrific. "_Oui,perfide--traitre--presque scelerat--tremblez! Je vous connois--tremblez,tremblez, je vous dit! Moi, c'est moi qui vous parle!_"
[Footnote 63: Yes, I know it.]
[Footnote 64: Yes, perfidious man--traitor--almost rascal--tremble. Iknow you--tremble, tremble. I tell you--I--it is I that am speaking toyou.]
"What's all this for?" said Uncle Philip, looking amazed.
"_Imbecil_," muttered Monsieur de Lantiponne; "_il ne comprend pas leFrancais._ _Eh, bien_; I will, then, address you (_roturier commevous etes_) in perfect English, and very cool. How did you dare tohave the temerity to rob from me the young miss, my _fiancee_, very soonmy bride. Next month I should have conducted her up to the front of thealtar. I had just taken four apartments in the Broadway--two for theexercise of my profession of artist in hair, and merchant of perfumesand all good smells; and two up the staircase, where MademoiselleRobertine would pursue her dresses and her bonnets. United together, weshould have made a large fortune. My father was a part of the noblesseof France, but we lost all our nobleness by the revolution. 'Virtue,though unfortunate, is always respectable;' that sentiment was inscribedabove the door of my mamma's shop in the Palais Royal."
[Footnote 65: Idiot--he does not understand French.]
[Footnote 66: Plebeian as you are.]
"Well," said Uncle Philip, "and what next?"
"What next, _coquin_?" continued the Frenchman, grinding his teeth."Listen and die. Yesterday, I received from her this letter, enfolding aring of my hair which once I had plaited for her. Now, I will overwhelmyou with shame and repentance by reading to you this fatal letter,translating it into perfect English. _Ah! comme il est difficiled'etouffer mes emotions! N'importe, il faut un grand effort._"
[Footnote 67: Knave.]
[Footnote 68: Ah! how difficult it is to stifle my emotions! No matter,I must make a great effort.]
"Take a chair," said Uncle Philip, who was curious to know how all thiswould end; "when people are in great trouble, they had better beseated."
"_Ecoutez_," said Lantiponne; "hear this lettre." He then commencedthe epis
[Footnote 69: Listen.]
MY EVER DEAR FRIEND:
Destiny has decreed the separation of two hearts that should have been disunited by death alone, and has brought me acquainted with an old man who, since the moment of our introduction, has never ceased to persecute me with the language of love. In vain did I fly from him--for ever did he present himself before me with the most audacious perseverance. My aunt (and what affectionate niece can possibly disobey the commands of her father's sister-in-law?) has ordered me to accept him; and I must now, like a mournful dove, be sacrificed on the altar of Plutus. His name is Captain Kentledge, but we generally call him Old Philip--sometimes the Triton, and sometimes Sinbad, for he is a sailor, and very rich. He is a stranger both to elegance and sentiment; of an exterior perfectly revolting; and his manners are distinguished by a species of brutality. It is impossible for me to regard him without horror. But duty is the first consideration of a niece, and, though the detestable Philip knows that my heart is devoted to my amiable Achille, he takes a savage pleasure in urging me to name the day of our marriage. Compassionate me, my ever dear Lantiponne. I know it will be long before the wounds of our faithful hearts are cicatrized.
I return you the little ring (so simple and so touching) that you made me of your hair. But I will keep for ever the gold essence-bottle and the silver toothpick, as emblems of your tenderness. I shall often bathe them with my tears.
Adieu, my dear friend--my long-beloved Lantiponne. As Philip Kentledge is very bald, I shall, when we are married, compel him to wear a wig, and I will take care that he buys it of you. Likewise, we shall get all our perfumery at your shop.
There are moments when my affliction is so great, that I think seriously of charcoal. If you find it impossible to survive the loss of your Robertine, that is the mode of death which you will undoubtedly select, as being most generally approved in Paris. For my own part, reason has triumphed, and I think it more heroic to live and to suffer.
Uncle Philip listened to this letter with all the indignation it wascalculated to excite. But Sam and Dick were so diverted that they couldnot refrain from laughing all the time; and towards the conclusion, theold gentleman caught the contagion, and laughed also.
"_Ah! scelerat--monstre--ogre!_" exclaimed Lantiponne--"do you makeyour amusement of my sorrows? Render me, on this spot, the satisfactiondue to a gentleman. It is for that I am come. Behold--here I offer youtwo pistoles--make your selection. Choose one this moment, or you die."
[Footnote 70: Ah! villain--monster--ogre.]
"Sam," said Uncle Philip, "hand me that stick."
"Which one, uncle?" exclaimed Sam--"the hickory or the maple?"
"The hickory," replied Uncle Philip.
And as soon as he got it into his hand, he advanced towards theFrenchman, who drew back, but still extended the pistols, saying--"Iwill shoot off both--instantly I will present fire!"
"Present fire if you dare," said Uncle Philip, brandishing his stick.
Monsieur Simagree de Lantiponne lowered his pistols and walked backwardtowards the door, which was suddenly thrown open from without, so asnearly to push him down, and Robertine entered, followed by MadameFranchimeau. At the sight of Lantiponne, both ladies exclaimed--"_Ah!perfide! traitre!_" and a scene of violent recrimination took place inFrench--Madame Franchimeau declaring that she had never influenced herniece to give up her first lover for "Monsieur Philippe," but that thewhole plan had originated with Robertine herself. Lantiponne, indeprecating the inconstancy of his mistress, complained bitterly of theuseless expense he had incurred in hiring four rooms, when two wouldhave sufficed, had he known in time that she intended to jilt him.Robertine reproached him with his dishonourable conduct in betraying herconfidence and showing her letter to the very person who, above allothers, ought not to have seen it; and she deeply regretted having beenfrom home with her aunt and uncle when Lantiponne came to their houseimmediately on his arrival at Corinth, and before he had sought aninterview with Captain Kentledge. He had seen only the old Ravigotes,who were so impolitic as to give him a direction to Uncle Philip'scabin, as soon as he inquired where his rival was to be found.
The altercation was so loud and so violent, that Uncle Philip finallydemanded silence in the startling and authoritative tone to which he hadaccustomed himself when issuing his orders on ship-board; putting hishands before his mouth and hallooing through them as substitutes for aspeaking trumpet. He was not so ungallant as to say that in reality thelady had made the first advances, but he addressed his audience in thefollowing words:--
"I tell you what, my friends, here's a great noise to little purpose,and much shrugging, and stamping, and flourishing of hands, that mightas well be let alone. As for me, take notice, that I am quite out of thequestion, and after this day I'll have nothing more to do with any ofyou. I'm thankful to this young fellow for having opened my eyes; thoughI can't approve of his showing me his sweetheart's letter. He has savedme from the greatest act of folly an old man can commit, that ofmarrying a young girl. I shall take care not to make a jackass of myselfanother time."
Sam and Dick exchanged looks of congratulation.
"Now," continued Uncle Philip, "if, after all this, the young barber-manis still willing to take the girl, I know not what better either of themcan do than to get married off-hand. I shall not feel quite satisfiedtill I have seen the ceremony myself, so let it take place immediately.I happen to have a hundred dollar bill in my pocket-book, so I'll giveit to them for a wedding present. Come, I'm waiting for an answer."
Madame Franchimeau and the young couple all hesitated.
"Uncle," whispered Sam, "they have just been quarrelling violently--howcan you expect them to get over it so soon, and be married directly?"
"Pho!" replied Uncle Philip, "an't they French?"
There was a pause of some moments. At last Robertine put on her bestsmile, and said in French to Lantiponne--"My estimable friend, pardonthe errors of a young and simple heart, which has never for a momentceased to love you."
"What candour!" exclaimed Lantiponne--"what adorable frankness! CharmingRobertine!"--kissing her hand--"more dear to me than ever."
The aunt, though much displeased at Robertine for missing Uncle Philip,thought it best that the affair should go off with as good a grace aspossible, and she exclaimed, while she wiped tears of vexation from hereyes--"How sweet to witness this reunion!"
"Boys," said Uncle Philip, "which of you will run for Squire VanTackemfast? To prevent all future risks, we'll have the marriage here onthe spot, and Miss Robertine shall return to New York to-day asMadame"--he had to consult the young Frenchman's card--"as MadameAchille Simagree de Lantiponne."
Both boys instantly set off for the magistrate, but as Sam ran fastest,Dick gave up the chase, and turned to the house, where he startled hismother by exclaiming--"Make haste--make haste down to the cabin--there'sto be marrying there directly."
"Shocking!" cried Mrs. Clavering, throwing away her sewing. "Is UnclePhilip really going to play the madman? Can there be no way of savinghim?"
"He _is_ saved," replied Dick; "he has just been saved by a Frenchbarber, Miss Robertine's old sweetheart; and so Uncle Philip is going tohave them married out of the way, as soon as possible. I suppose he isdetermined that Miss Robertine shall not have the least chance of makinganother dead set at him. Sam is gone for Squire Van Tackemfast."
"But the cabin is no place for a wedding," said Mrs. Clavering.
"Why," replied Dick, "Uncle Philip seems determined not to quit thecabin till all danger is over. Dear mother, make haste, or MissRobertine may yet win him back again."
Mrs. Clavering hastily changed her cap, and or
"Now," said Uncle Philip, looking at his watch and addressingLantiponne, "the steamboat will soon be along, and if you are going downto the city to-day, you will have little enough time to make yourpreparations."
The bride and groom curtsied and bowed gracefully, and departed withMadame Franchimeau, whose last words were--"What a surprise for MonsieurFranchimeau, and also for papa and mamma and my little darlings!"
When they were all fairly off, Mrs. Clavering felt as if relieved fromthe weight of a mountain; and she could not quit the cabin till she hadhad a long discussion with Uncle Philip on the recent events.
In about an hour, the steamboat passed along, going close in shore toget all the advantage of the tide; and Robertine, who stood on the deckleaning on her husband's arm, smiled and waved her handkerchief to UnclePhilip.
To conclude--it was not long before the old gentleman prevailed on Mrs.Clavering and her family to remove with him to a house of his own atSalem, a plan which had been in agitation for the last year; and in duetime the boys commenced their apprenticeships, Sam to the captain of anIndiaman, and Dick to a shipbuilder. Both succeeded well; and have sincebecome eminent in their respective professions.
Uncle Philip looks not much older than when he first allowed himself tobe smitten with Miss Robertine; but he has never since fallen into asimilar snare. He has made his will, and divided his whole propertybetween Mrs. Clavering and her children, with the exception of somelegacies to old sailors.
The Simagree de Lantiponnes have a large establishment in Broadway.
The Franchimeaus and their system soon got out of favour at Corinth, andthey have ever since been going the rounds of new villages.
by Eliza Leslie / Nonfiction / Classics have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes