Pencil sketches; or, out.., p.9
Pencil Sketches; or, Outlines of Character and Manners, page 9
THE RED BOX,
SCENES AT THE GENERAL WAYNE.
----"Just of the same piece Is every flatterer's spirit."--SHAKSPEARE.
In one of the most beautiful counties of Pennsylvania, and in theimmediate vicinity of the Susquehanna, stood an old fashioned countrytavern, known by the designation of the General Wayne. Of its landlordand his family, and of some little incidents that took place within itsprecincts about forty years ago, it is our purpose to relate a fewparticulars.
The proprietor of the house and of the fine farm that surrounded it, wasby birth a New-Englander; and having served in Washington's army duringthe whole of the revolutionary war, he was still distinguished by thetitle of Colonel Brigham. When, on the return of peace, he resumed hisoriginal occupation of farming, he concluded to settle on the genialsoil of Pennsylvania, and removed thither with his wife, their littledaughter, and an adopted child named Oliver, a fine boy whom theyboasted of loving equally with their own Fanny; that he was equallyindulged admitted not of a doubt.
As Oliver advanced to manhood he took the chief charge of the farm, andMrs. Brigham with great difficulty prevailed on her husband to set up aninn; partly to give himself more occupation, and partly because hisboundless hospitality in entertaining gratuitously all strangers thatcame into the neighbourhood, had become rather too much of a tax.
Accordingly, a range of stalls for horses was erected at a shortdistance from the house, which was beautified with a new porch, runningall along the front, and furnished with green benches. A village artist(who was not only a painter, but a glazier also) was employed tocontrive a sign, which it was expected would surpass all that had everbeen seen in the country; it being neither Buck nor Fox, neither BlackHorse, Green Tree, Conestoga Wagon, or any of those every-day things.
The painter's ideas were committed to board in the shape of thelandlord's old commander, General Anthony Wayne. This effigy wasevidently designed for that of a human being, but the artist had begunthe upper part on so large a scale, that there was little or no room forthe body and limbs; the gallant general looking as if crushed down bythe weight of his hat and head. He stood upon a narrow strip ofverdigris green, with his two heels together, and his toes wonderfullyturned out. The facings of his coat, and all his under-clothes, were ofgold. He wielded in one hand an enormous sword--the other held out apistol in the act of going off--and he leaned on a cannon from whenceissued a flash of scarlet fire, and a cloud of sky-blue smoke.
It is true, that when the sign came home, the colonel made manyobjections to it, declaring that gold breeches had never been worn inthe continental army, and that no man ever stood still leaning on a gunat the moment it was discharged--neither did he think it by any means agood likeness of General Wayne. But Mrs. Brigham reminded her husbandthat there was no use in telling all this to everybody, and that itmight suit some people's ideas of General Wayne--adding, that she neversaw a sign that _was_ a good likeness, except Timothy Grimshaw's WhiteLion, which looked exactly like Timothy himself.
Oliver averred that the artist was certainly a liberal man, and hadgiven them the full worth of their money, for beside the gilding, therewas more paint on it than on any sign he had ever seen.
Their neighbour, Tempy Walters, was, however, of opinion that they hadbeen greatly overcharged, for that a man had painted her brother'scellar-door (which was considerably larger than this sign) for half themoney. "To be sure," added Tempy, "there was no gold on thecellar-door--but it must have taken twice the paint."
To be brief, the colonel dismissed the case by paying the artist rathermore than he asked--telling him, also, that he should be glad to see himat his house whenever he chose to come, and that his visits should notcost him a cent.
There never, perhaps, was a less profitable tavern than the GeneralWayne. The people of the neighbourhood were amazingly sober, and Mrs.Brigham allowed no tipplers to lounge about the bar-room or porch. Thecharges were so moderate as scarcely to cover the actual cost of thegood things which were so profusely lavished on the table, and thefamily could not relinquish the habit of treating their guests asvisiters and friends. Colonel Brigham always found some reason why suchand such articles were not worth considering at all, and why such andsuch people could not afford to pay as well as he could afford to givethem food and shelter. On soldiers, of course, he bestowed gratuitousentertainment, and was never more delighted than when he saw themcoming. Pedlers and tinmen always took it--and emigrants on their way tothe back settlements were invariably told to keep their money to helppay for their land.
But though tavern-keeping did not realize the anticipations of Mrs.Brigham in operating as a check on the hospitality of her husband,still, as she said, it kept him about the house, and prevented him fromheating and fatiguing himself in the fields, and from interfering withOliver in the management of the farm--Oliver always doing best when leftto himself. It must be understood that this youth, though virtually adependant on the bounty of the Brighams, evinced as free and determineda spirit as if he had been literally "monarch of all he surveyed." Hewas active, industrious, frank to a fault, brave and generous; and wouldhave fought at any moment in defence of any member of the family; or,indeed, for any member of any other family, if he conceived them to havebeen injured.
Between Oliver and Fanny Brigham there was as yet no demonstration ofany particular attachment. They had been brought up so much like brotherand sister that they seemed not to know when to begin to fall in love.Fanny coquetted with the smart young men in the neighbourhood, andOliver flirted with the pretty girls; not seeming to perceive that Fannywas the prettiest of all. The old people, however, had it very much atheart for a match to take place between the young people, as the bestpreventive to Oliver "going west" (a thing he sometimes talked of, incommon with the generality of young farmers), and therefore they watchedclosely, and were always fancying that they detected symptoms of real_bona fide_ love. If the young people quarrelled, it was better so thanthat they should feel nothing for each other but mutual indifference. Ifthey appeared indifferent, it was supposed that Fanny was modestlyveiling her genuine feelings, and that Oliver was disguising his to trythe strength of hers. If they talked and laughed together, they wereanimated by each other's society. If they were silent, they had thematter under serious consideration. If Fanny received with complaisancethe civilities of a rural beau, and if Oliver devoted his attention to arural belle, it was only to excite each other's jealousy. On one thing,however, the old people were agreed--which was, that it was best not tohurry matters. In this they judged from their own experience; for Mrs.Brigham had lost her first lover (a man that had come to see her everyWednesday and Saturday for five years and a half) because her fatherprematurely asked him what his intentions were. And Colonel Brigham hadbeen refused no less than nine times, in consequence of "popping thequestion" at his first interview--a way he had when he was young.
So equal, however, was their love for the two children (as they stillcontinued to call them), so anxious were they to keep Oliver always withthem, and so impossible did it seem to them to think of any other youngman as a son-in-law, that they would have sacrificed much to bring aboutso desirable a conclusion. But we have been loitering too long on thebrink of our story, and it is time we were fairly afloat.
One clear, mild autumnal evening, Colonel Brigham (who for himself neverliked benches) was occupying a few chairs in his front porch, andreading several newspapers; looking occasionally towards a cider-pressunder a large tree, round which lay a mountain of apples that a horseand a black boy were engaged in grinding. The colonel was habited instriped homespun trousers, a dark brown waistcoat with silver buttons,and no coat--but he took great pride in always wearing a clean shirt offine country-made linen. As relics of his former military capacity, hepersisted in a three-cocked hat and a black stock. He had joined thearmy in the meridian of life, and he was now a large, stout, handsomeold man, with a clear blue eye, and silver gray ha
"Can we be accommodated at this inn for a few days?" said the elderstranger, looking out at the side. Colonel Brigham replied in theaffirmative, adding that just then there were no guests in the house."So much the better," said the old gentleman; "I like the appearance ofthis part of the country, and may as well be here for a little while asany where else." And making a sign to the young ones, they all fourscrambled out of the stage with such eagerness as nearly to fall overeach other--and every one took a part in assisting him down the steps,two holding him by the hands, and two by the elbows. But as soon as hisfeet touched the ground, he shook them all off as if scattering them tothe four winds. He was a small slender old man, but of a floridcomplexion, and showed no indication of infirm health, but the excessivecare that he took of himself--being enveloped in a great coat, over it afur tippet round his neck, and his hat was tied down with a silkhandkerchief.
"Sir, you are welcome to the General Wayne," said Colonel Brigham,"though I cannot say much for the sign. That was not the way braveAnthony looked at Stony Point. May I ask the favour of your name?"
The stranger looked at first as if unaccustomed to this question, andunwilling to answer it. However, after a pause, he deigned to designatehimself as Mr. Culpepper, and slightly mentioned the four young men ashis nephews, the Mr. Lambleys. There was a family likeness throughoutthe brothers. They were all tall and slender--all had the samefawn-coloured hair, the same cheeks of a dull pink, the same smilingmouths habitually turned up at the corners, and faces that looked as ifall expression had been subdued out of them, except that theirgreenish-gray eyes had the earnest intent look, that is generally foundin those of dumb people.
Mr. Culpepper was conducted into a parlour, where (though the eveningwas far from cold) he expressed his satisfaction at finding a fire. Hedeposited on the broad mantel-piece a small red morocco box which he hadcarried under his arm, and while his nephews (who had all been to seethe baggage deposited) were engaged in disrobing him of his extrahabiliments, he addressed himself to Colonel Brigham, whom he seemed toregard with particular complaisance.
"Well, landlord," said he; "you are, perhaps, surprised at my stoppinghere?"
"Not at all," said the colonel.
"The truth is," pursued Mr. Culpepper, "I am travelling for my health,and therefore I am taking cross-roads, and stopping at out of the wayplaces. For there is no health to be got by staying in cities, andputting up at crowded hotels, and accepting invitations todinner-parties and tea-parties, or in doing anything else that is calledfashionable."
"Give me your hand, sir," said Colonel Brigham; "you are a man after myown heart!"
The four Mr. Lambleys stared at the landlord's temerity, and openedtheir eyes still wider when they saw it taken perfectly well, and thattheir uncle actually shook hands with the innkeeper. This emboldenedthem to murmur something in chorus about their all disliking fashion.
"And pray," said old Culpepper, "why should you do that? 'Tis just asnatural for young people to like folly, as it is for old people to betired of it. And I am certain you have never seen so much of fashion asto be surfeited with it already."
The nephews respectfully assented.
It had already come to the knowledge of Mrs. Brigham (who was busilyoccupied up stairs in filling with new feathers some pillow-ticks whichFanny was making) that a party of distinguished strangers had arrived."Fanny, Fanny," she exclaimed, opening the door of the adjoining room,in which Fanny was seated at her sewing, "there are great people belowstairs. Get fixed in a moment, and go down and speak to them. I am gladyour father has had sense enough to take them into the front parlour."
"But, mother," replied Fanny, "I saw them from the window when they gotout of the stage. They are all men people, and I know I shall beashamed, as they are quite strange to me, and I suppose are very greatgentlemen. Won't it suit better for you to go?"
"Don't you see how the feathers are all over me?" said Mrs. Brigham: "itwill take me an hour to get them well picked off, and myself washed anddressed. Get fixed at once, and go down and let the strangers see thatthe women of the house have proper manners. If you think you'll feelbetter with something in your hands, make some milk punch, and take itin to them."
Fanny's habitual neatness precluded any real necessity for an alterationin her dress--but still she thought it expedient to put on a new glossyblue gingham gown, and a clean muslin collar with a nicely plaited frillround it. This dress would have been very well, but that Fanny, in herdesire to appear to great advantage, added a long sash of red and greenplaid riband, and a large white satin bow deposited in the curve of hercomb. Then, having turned herself round three or four times before theglass, to ascertain the effect, she descended the stairs, and in theentry met Oliver, who had just come in at the front door, and had seenfrom the barn-yard the arrival of the guests.
"Fanny," said Oliver, "why have you put on that great white top-knot? Itmakes you look like one of the cockatoos in the Philadelphia Museum. Letme take it off."
"Oh! Oliver, Oliver!" exclaimed Fanny, putting her hands to her head,"how you have spoiled my hair!"
"And this long sash streaming out at one side," pursued Oliver, "howridiculous it looks!" And he dexterously twitched it off, saying,"There, take these fly-traps up stairs--they only disfigure you. Ithought so the other day when you wore them at Mary Shortstitch's sewingfrolic. You are much better without them."
"But I am _not_," said Fanny, angrily snatching them from his hand;"look how you've crumpled them up! Instead of finding fault with me forwishing to look respectfully to the strangers, you had best go and makeyourself fit to be seen."
"I always am fit to be seen," replied Oliver, "and you know very wellthat I always do put myself in order as soon as I have done my work. Butas for dressing up in any remarkable finery on account of four or fivestrange men, it is not in my line to do so. If, indeed, there were somesmart girls along, it would be a different thing: but it is not my wayto show too much respect to any man."
"I believe you, indeed," remarked Fanny.
"Well, well," said Oliver, "your hair is pretty enough of itself--andyou fix it so nicely that it wants no top-knot to set it off; and thisparty-coloured sash only spoils the look of your waist. I hate to seeyou make a fool of yourself."
Fanny tossed her head in affected disdain, but she smiled as she ran upstairs to put away the offending ribands. She found her mother leaningdown over the banisters, and looking very happy at Oliver's desire thatFanny should not make a fool of herself.
Fanny, having prepared the milk-punch in the best possible manner,filled half a dozen tumblers with it, grating a profusion of nutmeg overeach, and then arranged them on a small waiter. When she entered theparlour with it, Mr. Culpepper, who called himself a confirmed invalid,was engaged in giving her father a particular description of all hisailments; and the four nephews were listening with an air of intenseinterest, as if it was the first they had heard of them.
"This is my daughter, Fanny," said Colonel Brigham, and Mr. Culpepperstopped short in his narrative, and his nephews all turned their eyes tolook at her. When she handed the milk-punch the old gentleman declinedit, alleging that the state of his health did not permit him to tasteany sort of liquor. His nephews were going to follow his example, tillhe said to them peremptorily--
"Take it--there is nothing the matter with any of you. If there is, sayso."
The Mr. Lambleys all rose to receive their tumblers, their uncle havingmade them a sign to that purpose, and Fanny thought herself treated withgreat respect, and curtsied, blushingly, to every one as he set down hisglass.
"From such a Hebe it is difficult to refuse nectar," said the oldgentleman, gallantly.
"A Hebe, indeed!" echoed the nephews.
"Now, Fanny, my dear," said her father, "you may go out, and send inOliver."
"Mother," said Fanny, as she joined Mrs. Brigham in the pantry, "I likethese strangers quite well. They were very polite indeed--but theycalled me _Phebe_--I wonder why?"
When Oliver made his appearance, Colonel Brigham introduced him as "aboy he had raised, and who was just the same as a son to him." Mr.Culpepper surveyed Oliver from head to foot, saying, "Upon my word--afine-looking youth! Straight--athletic--brown and ruddy--dark hair andeyes--some meaning in his face. See, young men--there's a pattern foryou."
The four Mr. Lambleys exchanged looks, and tried in vain to concealtheir inclination to laugh.
"Behave yourselves," said the uncle, in a stern voice.
The nephews behaved.
The supper table was now set, and Mr. Culpepper had become so graciouswith his landlord, as to propose that he and his nephews should eat withthe family during their stay. "That is what my guests always do," saidColonel Brigham; "and then we can see that all is right, and that theyare well served."
When supper came in, Mr. Culpepper declined leaving the fire-side; andhaving previously had some cocoa brought from one of his travellingboxes, and prepared according to his own directions, he commenced hisrepast on a small round table or stand, that was placed beside him,declaring that his evening meal never consisted of anything more than alittle cocoa, sago, or arrow-root.
But after taking a survey of the variety of nice-looking things thatwere profusely spread on the supper-table, the old gentleman so farbroke through his rule, as to say he would try a cup of tea and a rusk.When Mrs. Brigham had poured it out, the four nephews, who at theiruncle's sign manual had just taken their seats at the table, all startedup at once to hand him his cup, though there was a black boy inattendance. The business was finally adjusted by one of the Mr. Lambleystaking the tea-cup, one the cream-jug, one the sugar-dish, and one theplate of rusk; and he of the cup was kept going all the time, first tohave more water put into it, then more tea, then more water, and thenmore tea again. The invalid next concluded to try a cup of coffee, tocounteract, as he said, any bad effects that might arise from the tea;and he ventured, also, on some well-buttered buckwheat cake and honey.He was afterwards emboldened to attempt some stewed chicken and milktoast, and finally finished with preserved peaches and cream.
All these articles were carried to him by his nephews, jumping up andrunning with an _empressement_, that excited the amazement of Mrs.Brigham, the pity of Fanny, the smiles of her father, and theindignation of Oliver.
The females retired with the supper equipage; and finding that ColonelBrigham had served in the war of independence, Mr. Culpepper engaged himin recounting some reminiscences of those eventful times; for theveteran had seen and known much that was well worth hearing.
The Mr. Lambleys, unaccustomed to feel or to affect an interest inanything that was not said or done by their uncle, looked very weary,and at last became palpably sleepy. They all sat in full view, andwithin reach of old Culpepper, who, whenever he perceived them to nod,or to show any other indication of drowsiness, poked at them with hiscane, so as effectually to rouse them for a time, causing them to startforward, and set their faces to a smile, stretching up their eyes tokeep them wide open.
At last the colonel, who was much amused by the absurdity of the scene,came to a full pause. "Go on," said Culpepper, "never mind theirnodding. I'll see that they do not go to sleep."
The colonel, out of compassion to the young men, shortened his story asmuch as possible, and finally, on Mrs. Brigham sending in the black boywith bed-candles, Mr. Culpepper looked at his watch, and rose from hischair. The nephews were all on their feet in a moment. One tied the oldman's fur tippet round his neck, to prevent his taking cold in ascendingthe staircase, another put on his hat for him, and the two otherscontended for the happiness of carrying his cloak. "What are you about?"said Mr. Culpepper; "do not you see my greatcoat there on the chair?Take that, one of you."
He bade good night, and the procession began to move, headed by Peter,the black boy, lighting them up stairs.
As soon as they were entirely out of hearing, Colonel Brigham, who hadwith difficulty restrained himself, broke out into a laugh, but Olivertraversed the room indignantly.
"I have no patience," said he, "with such fellows. To think thatfull-grown men--men that have hands to work and get their own living,should humble themselves to the dust, and submit to be treated aslacqueys by an old uncle (or, indeed, by anybody), merely because hehappens to be rich, and they expect to get his money when he sees properto die, which may not be these twenty years, for it is plain thatnothing ails him. 'I'd rather be a dog and bay the moon,' as I onceheard an actor say in the Philadelphia play-house. Now I talk ofPhiladelphia; I have engaged all our next barley to Wortley & Hopkins.They pay better than Maltman & Co. But these Lambleys, Sheepleysrather--I saw them from the barn, handing the old fellow out of thestage. I almost expected to see them lift his feet for him; I was gladhe scattered them all as soon as he had got down the steps. I dare sayif he rides on horseback, they all four run beside him and hold him onhis horse. Now I talk of horses, I've concluded to keep the two baycolts, and raise them myself. Tom Martingale shall not have them for theprice he offers. To see how these chaps fetch and carry, and rise up andsit down, just at that old fellow's beck. It would be harder work for methan following the plough from sunrise to sunset, were I obliged to doso. Now I talk of ploughing; I bought another yoke of oxen yesterday,and hired a Dutchman. I shall put the five-acre field in corn. That oldvillain! you may see by his eye that he is despising them all the time.Why should not he? ninnies as they are. I wonder where they all camefrom? I do not believe they are Americans."
"And yet," said Colonel Brigham, "they do not speak like Englishmen, andI am sure they are neither Scotch nor Irish."
"I hear them all pacing about up stairs in the old fellow's room," saidOliver; "think of four men putting one man to bed, or of any one manallowing four to do it. But 'their souls are subdued to what they workin,' as I heard another play-actor say. By-the-bye, the old rogue hasforgotten his red box, and left it on the mantel-piece. I wonder what isin it?"
"Maybe it is full of gold money," said Mrs. Brigham, who had justentered the room with Fanny; the daughter proceeding to put back thechairs, while the mother swept up the hearth.
"Bank notes rather," said Oliver.
"Jewels, I think," said Fanny.
"Deeds of property, perhaps," said the colonel.
"Well, well," said Mrs. Brigham, "'tis time for all good people to be inbed, so we'll let the strangers and their box rest till to-morrow."
"I think," observed the colonel, "the box had best be carried up tothem. Take it, Oliver."
"I just heard the young men leave their uncle's room to go to theirown," said Mrs. Brigham. "May be it won't do to disturb him, now he's inbed."
"Then let it be taken to the young men," returned the colonel. "Wherehave you put them?"
"I told Peter to show them all to the four-bedded room, at the other endof the house," answered Mrs. Brigham, "as they seemed to be alike ineverything. I supposed they always prefer sleeping in the same place.All the four beds have exactly the same blue and white coverlets."
"Well," said Oliver, "I'll take them the box as I pass their room on theway to my own. But I must go first to the stable, and see how Sorrel'sfoot is; I cannot be satisfied if I do not look at it once moreto-night."
The other members of the family now retired to their apartments, andOliver took a lantern and went to the stable, to inspect again the stateof the disabled horse.
When the four Lambleys waited on their uncle out of the parlour, theyall perceived that the old gentleman had for the first time forgotten totake the red morocco box with him, and they all exchanged glances tothis effect, being used to each other's signs. After they had gonethrough the tedious process
When they came into the parlour, where all was now dark and silent, theyset their candle on the table, and taking down the red box, one of themsaid, "At last we have an opportunity of satisfying ourselves."
"Tis the first time," said another, "that the box has ever been out ofthe old villain's possession. How strange that he should not have missedit! He must have had something in his head more than usual to-night."
"He even forgot to take his lozenges before he went to bed," said thethird.
"James," said the fourth, "did you slip the little key out of his underwaistcoat pocket, as I signed to you to do while you were folding itup?"
"To be sure I did," replied James, "here it is," (dangling it by the redribbon that was tied to it). "But do _you_ open the box, George, for Iam afraid."
"Give me the key, then," said George, "for we have no time to lose."
"What a lucky chance!" said Richard Lambley.
"Now," said William, "we shall learn what we have been longing todiscover for the last five years."
The key was turned, and the box opened. A folded parchment lay withinit, tied round with red tape. Each of the brothers simultaneously putout a hand to grasp it.
"One at a time," said the elder, taking it out and opening it; "just aswe suspected. It is the old fellow's will, regularly drawn up, signedand witnessed."
They looked over each other's shoulders in intense anxiety, while theeldest of the brothers, in a low voice, ran over the contents of theparchment. There was a unanimous exclamation of surprise that amountedalmost to horror, when, after the usual preamble, they came to someexplicit words by which the testator devoted the whole of his propertyto the endowment of a hospital for idiots. They had proceeded thus far,when they were startled by the entrance of Oliver, who saw in a momentin what manner they were all engaged. They hastily folded up the will,and replaced it in the box, of which they directly turned the key,looking very much disconcerted.
"I was coming," said Oliver, setting down his lantern, "to get that boxand take it to you, that you might keep it safe for your uncle tillmorning. I have been detained at the stable longer than I expected,doing something for a lame horse."
There was a whispering among the Lambleys.
"Very well," said one of them to Oliver, "the box can stand on themantel-piece till morning, and then when my uncle comes down he can getit for himself. He must not be disturbed with it to-night; and no doubtit will be safe enough here."
The truth was, they were all justly impressed with the persuasion, thatif Mr. Culpepper knew the box to have been all night in their room, hewould believe, as a thing of course, that they had opened it by somemeans, and examined its contents. Servility and integrity rarely gotogether.
They whispered again, and each advanced towards Oliver, holding out adollar.
"What is this for?" said Oliver, drawing back.
"We do not wish you," said one of the Lambleys, "to mention to any onethat you found us examining this box."
"Why should I mention it?" replied Oliver; "do you suppose I telleverything I see and hear? But what is that money for?"
"For you," said the Lambleys.
"What am I to do for it?"
"Keep our secret."
Oliver started back, coloured to his temples, contracted his brows, andclenching his hands, said, "I think I could beat you all four. I am sureof it. I could knock every one of you down, and keep you there, oneafter another. And I will; too, if you don't put up that money thisinstant."
The Lambleys quickly returned the dollars to their pockets, murmuring anapology; and Oliver paced the room in great agitation, saying, "I'll gowest. I'll go to the backest of the back woods; nobody there willaffront me with money."
The Lambleys hastily replaced the red box on the mantel-piece, andtaking an opportunity when Oliver, as he walked up and down, was at thefar end of the room, with his back to them, they all stole past him, andglided up stairs, to talk over the discovery of the night.
Having no longer the same motive for submitting to the iron rule oftheir uncle, they were eager to be emancipated from his tyranny, andthey spent several hours in canvassing the manner in which this was tobe effected. They had not candour enough to acknowledge that they hadinspected the will, nor courage enough to break out into open rebellion;still, knowing what they now did, they feared that it would beimpossible for them to persevere in their usual assiduities to Mr.Culpepper, for whom they could find no term that seemed sufficientlyopprobrious.
Habit is second nature. The morning found them, as usual, in theiruncle's room to assist at his toilet, with all their accustomedsubmission. The one that had purloined the key of the red box, took careto contrive an opportunity of slipping it unperceived into the pocket,as he unfolded and handed Mr. Culpepper his under waistcoat.
After he was shaved and dressed, and ready to go down stairs, the oldgentleman suddenly missed the red box, and exclaimed, "Why, where is mybox? What has gone with it? Who has taken it?"
The nephews had all turned their faces to the windows, and weresteadfastly engaged in observing the pigeons that were walking about theroof of the porch.
"Where's my red box, I say?" vociferated the old man. "Go and see if Ileft it down stairs last night. A thing impossible, though.No--stay--I'll not trust one of you. I'll go down myself."
He then actually _ran_ down stairs, and on entering the parlour wherethe breakfast table was already set, and the family all assembled, heespied the red box standing quietly on the mantel-piece.
"Ah!" he ejaculated, "there it is. I feared I had lost it." And he feltin his waistcoat pocket to ascertain if the key was safe.
To Mrs. Brigham's inquiry, of "how he had rested," Mr. Culpepper repliedin a melancholy tone, that he had not slept a wink the whole night. Onher asking if anything had disturbed him, he replied, "Nothing whatever;nothing but the usual restlessness of ill health." And he seemed almostoffended, when she suggested the possibility of being asleep withoutknowing it.
Though he assured the family, when he sat down, that he had not theslightest appetite, the bowl of sago which had been prepared by hisorders was soon pushed aside, and his breakfast became the counterpartof his supper the night before.
In taking their seats, the Lambleys, instead of their customary amicablecontention, as to which of them should sit next their uncle, now, in theawkwardness of their embarrassment, all got to the other side of thetable, and ranged themselves opposite to him in a row. Mr. Culpepperlooked surprised, and invited Fanny and Oliver to place themselvesbeside him.
The four young men were very irregular and inconsistent in theirbehaviour. As often as their uncle signified any of his numerous wants,their habitual sycophancy caused them to start forward to wait on him;but their recent disappointment with regard to the disposal of hiswealth, and their secret consciousness of the illicit means they hadmade use of to discover the tenor of his will, rendered them unable towatch his countenance, and anticipate his demands by keeping their eyeson his face as heretofore.
Their uncle saw that they were all in a strange way, and that somethingunusual was possessing them, and frequently in the midst of his talkwith Colonel Brigham, he stopped to look at them and wonder. Somethinghaving reminded him of a certain ridiculous anecdote, he related it tothe great amusement of the Brighams, who heard it for the first time.Mr. Culpepper, on looking over at his nephews, perceived that instead oflaughing in concert (as they always did at this his favourite joke),they all appeared _distrait_, and as if they had not paid the slightestattention to it. He bent forward across the table, and fixing his keeneyes upon t
The poor Lambleys all laid down their knives and forks, turned pale, andnearly fell back in their chairs.
"Don't expose yourselves farther," whispered Culpepper, leaning acrossto them, "I know you all;" and then turning to Colonel Brigham, he withmuch _sang froid_ pursued the conversation.
Oliver (who alone of the family understood what was passing) began tofeel much compassion for the poor young men. The scene became verypainful to him, and finding that his aversion to the uncle wasincreasing almost beyond concealment, he hastily finished his coffee,and quitted the room.
When breakfast was over, and they were all leaving the table, oldCulpepper said aside to his nephews: "In founding a hospital for idiots,I still give you an opportunity of benefiting by my bounty."
They reddened, and were about to quit the parlour, when their uncle,taking a chair himself, said to them: "Sit down, all of you." Theymechanically obeyed, looking as if they were about to receive sentenceof death. Fanny began to feel frightened, and glided out of the room;her mother having just followed the departure of the breakfast things.Colonel Brigham rose also to go, when Mr. Culpepper stopped him, saying:"Remain, my good friend. Stay and hear my explanation of some thingsthat must have excited your curiosity."
He then took down the red box. The nephews looked at each other, and asort of whisper ran along the line, which ended in their all jumping uptogether, and bolting out at the door.
Mr. Culpepper gazed after them awhile, and then turned towards ColonelBrigham, with a sardonic laugh on his face. "Well, well," said he, "theyare right. It is refreshing to see them for once acting naturally. Itwas, perhaps, expecting too much, even of them, to suppose they wouldsit still and listen to all I was likely to say, for they know me well.Yet, if they had not read my will, they would not have dared to quit theroom when I ordered them to remain."
He then proceeded to relate that he was a native of Quebec, where, inearly life, he had long been engaged in a very profitable commercialbusiness, and had been left a widower at the age of forty. A few yearsafterwards, he married again. His second wife was a lady of largefortune, which she made over to him, on condition that he should takeher family name of Culpepper. The Mr. Lambleys were the nephews of hiswife, being the children of her younger sister. On the death of theirparents, he was induced by her to give them a home in his house.
The four Lambleys had very little property of their own, their fatherhaving dissipated nearly all that he had acquired by his marriage. Theyhad been educated for professions, in which it was soon found that theyhad neither the ability nor the perseverance to succeed; their wholesouls seeming concentrated to one point, that of gaining the favour oftheir uncle (who lost his second wife a few years after their marriage),and with this object they vied with each other in a course ofunremitting and untiring servilities, foolishly supposing it the onlyway to accomplish their aim of eventually becoming his heirs.
All that they gained beyond the payment of their current expenses, wasMr. Culpepper's unqualified contempt. He made a secret resolution torevenge himself on their duplicity, and to disappoint their mercenaryviews by playing them a trick at the last, and he had a will drawn up,in which he devised his whole property to the establishment of ahospital. This will he always carried about with him in the red moroccobox.
He had come to the United States on a tour for the benefit of hishealth, and also to satisfy himself as to the truth of all he had heardrespecting the unparalleled improvement of the country since it hadthrown off the yoke which his fellow-subjects of Canada were stillsatisfied to wear.
"And now," continued Mr. Culpepper to his landlord, "you have not seenall that is in the red box. I know not by what presentiment I amimpelled; but, short as our acquaintance has been, I cannot resist anunaccountable inclination to speak more openly of my private affairs toyou, Colonel Brigham, than to any person I have ever met with. I feelpersuaded that I shall find no cause to regret having done so. It is along time since I have had any one near me to whom I could talkconfidentially." And he added, with a sigh: "I fear that I may say withShakspeare's Richard, 'there is no creature loves me.'"
Mr. Culpepper then opened the red box, and took out from beneath thewill and several other documents that lay under it, a folded paper,which he held in his hand for some moments in silence. He then gave itto Colonel Brigham, saying, "Do you open it; I cannot. It is more thantwenty years since I have seen it."
The Colonel unfolded the paper. It contained a small miniature of abeautiful young lady, in a rich but old-fashioned dress of blue satin,with lace cuffs and stomacher, her hair being drest very high, andornamented with a string of pearls, arranged in festoons. ColonelBrigham looked at the miniature, and exclaimed in a voice ofastonishment: "This is the likeness of Oliver's mother!"
"Oliver's mother!" ejaculated Mr. Culpepper, in equal amazement;"Oliver--what, the young man that lives with you--that you call youradopted son? This is the miniature of my daughter, Elizabeth Osborne."
"Then," replied the Colonel, "your daughter was Oliver's mother."
"Where is she?" exclaimed Culpepper, wildly. "Is she alive, afterall?--When I heard of her death I believed it.--Do you know where sheis?"
"She is dead," said Colonel Brigham, passing his hand over his eyes.--"Isaw her die;--I was at her funeral.--I can bring you proof enough thatthis is the likeness of Oliver's mother.--Shall I tell my wife of thisdiscovery?"
"You may tell it to your whole family," answered Mr. Culpepper, throwinghimself back in his chair.--"You are all concerned in it.--Why, indeed,should it be a secret?"
Colonel Brigham left the room, and shortly after returned, conductinghis wife, who was much flurried, and carried an enormously largepocket-book, worked in queen-stitch with coloured crewels. She wasfollowed by Fanny, looking very pale, and bringing with her some sewing,by way of "having something in her hands." They found Mr. Culpepper withhis face covered, and evidently in great agitation.
"See," said Mrs. Brigham, sitting down before him, and untying the redworsted strings of the pocket-book, "here's the very fellow to thatlikeness." She then took out an exact copy of the miniature. There werealso some letters that had passed between the father and mother ofOliver, previous to their marriage.
"I keep these things in my best pocket-book," continued Mrs. Brigham;"husband gave them into my keeping, and when Oliver is twenty-one (whichwill not be till next spring), they are all to go to him."
Mr. Culpepper gazed awhile at the miniature, and then turned over theletters with a trembling hand. "I see," said he, "that there is no flawin the evidence. This is, indeed, a copy of my daughter's miniature.These letters I have no desire to read, for, of course, they refer tothe plot that was in train for deceiving me. And they thought they hadwell succeeded. But their punishment soon came, in a life of privationand suffering, and in an early death to both. May such be the end of allstolen marriages!--Still, she was my daughter; my only child.--So muchthe worse; she should not have left me for a stranger."
It was painful and revolting to the kind-hearted Brighams to witness theconflict between the vindictive spirit of this unamiable old man, andthe tardy rekindling of his parental feelings. In a few moments he madean effort to speak with connexion and composure, and related thefollowing particulars. After the unsuccessful attack on Quebec, by thegallant and ill-fated Montgomery, a young American officer, who had beenseverely wounded in the conflict, was brought into the city, andreceived the most kind and careful attendance from the family of agentleman who had once been intimately acquainted with his father. Thefamily who thus extended their hospitality to a suffering enemy, werethe next-door neighbours of Mr. Culpepper, whose name was then Osborne.Captain Dalzel was a handsome and accomplished young man, and his caseexcited much interest among the ladies of Quebec, and in none more thanin Miss Osborne, who, from her intimacy in the house at which he wasstaying, had frequent opportunities of seeing him during his long
When Captain Dalzel was about to return home on being exchanged, heprevailed on Miss Osborne to consent to a secret marriage. Mr. Culpepperacknowledged that on discovering it he literally turned his daughter outof doors, and sent back unopened a letter which she wrote to him fromMontreal. From that time he never suffered her name to be mentioned inhis presence; and he was almost tempted to consign to the flames aminiature of her, that had been painted for him by an English artist,then resident in Quebec. But a revulsion of feeling so far prevailed, asto prevent him from thus destroying the resemblance of his only child;and he put away the miniature with a firm resolution never to look at itagain. Five years afterwards he heard accidentally of Captain Dalzel'shaving fallen in battle, and that Elizabeth had survived him but a fewdays.
"And how did you feel when you heard this?" asked Colonel Brigham.
"Feel," replied Culpepper, fiercely; "I felt that she deserved her fate,for having deceived her father, and taken a rebel for her husband, andan enemy's country for her dwelling-place."
Fanny shuddered at the bitter and implacable tone in which these wordswere uttered, and the Brighams were convinced that, with such a parent,Miss Osborne's home could at no time have been a happy one.
"But," continued old Culpepper, after a pause, "I will confess, thatsince I have been in your country, I have felt some 'compunctiousvisitings;' and I had determined not to leave the States without makingsome inquiry as to my daughter having left children."
"She had only Oliver," replied Colonel Brigham.
"The boy's features have no resemblance to those of his mother," saidCulpepper; "still there is something in his look that at onceprepossessed me in his favour. But tell me all that you know about hisparents?"
The colonel's narrative implied, that he had been well acquainted withCaptain Dalzel, who was of the Virginia line, and who was mortallywounded at Yorktown, where he died two days after the surrender;consigning to the care of Colonel Brigham a miniature of his wife, whichhe said was procured before his marriage from an artist whom he hadinduced to copy privately one that he was painting for the young lady'sfather.
The war being now considered as ended by the capture of Cornwallis andhis army, Colonel Brigham repaired to Philadelphia, where her husbandhad informed him that Mrs. Dalzel was living in retired lodgings. Hefound that the melancholy news of Captain Dalzel's fate had alreadyreached her; and it had caused the rupture of a blood-vessel, which washurrying her immediately to the grave. She was unable to speak, but shepointed to her child (then about four years old), who was sobbing at herpillow. The colonel, deeply moved, assured her that he would carry theboy home with him to his wife, and that while either of them lived, heshould never want a parent. A gleam of joy lighted up the languid eyesof Mrs. Dalzel, and they closed to open in this world no more.
The anguish evinced by Mr. Culpepper at this part of the narrative, wassuch as to draw tears from Mrs. Brigham and Fanny. The colonel dwelt nofurther on the death of Mrs. Dalzel, but concluded his story in as fewwords as possible, saying that he carried the child home with him; thathis wife received him gladly; and that not one of the relations ofCaptain Dalzel (and he had none that were of near affinity) ever cameforward to dispute with him the charge of the boy. Captain Dalzel, heknew, had possessed no other fortune than his commission.
When Colonel Brigham had finished his tale,----
"Well," said Mr. Culpepper, making a strong effort to recover hiscomposure, "perhaps I treated my daughter too severely, in continuing tocherish so deep a resentment against her. But why did she provoke me toit? However, the past can never be recalled. I must endeavour to makeher son behave better to me. Where is Oliver? Let me see himimmediately."
He had scarcely spoken when Oliver entered the porch, accompanied by thefour Lambleys, whom he had met strolling about lonely and uncomfortable,and he kindly offered to show them round the farm, not knowing whatbetter he could do for them. They had just completed their tour; andthough it was a beautiful farm, and in fine order, the Lambleys hadwalked over it without observing anything, being all the time engaged ininveighing bitterly to Oliver against their uncle. Oliver regarded themas so many Sinbads ridden by the Old Man of the Sea, and advised them tothrow him off forthwith.
"Come in, Oliver," said Colonel Brigham; "you are wanted here."
Oliver entered the parlour, and the Lambleys remained in the porch andlooked in at the windows, curious to know what was going on.
"Come in, all of you," said Mr. Culpepper.
They mechanically obeyed his summons, and entered the parlour.
Mr. Culpepper then took Oliver by the hand, and said to him in a voicetremulous with emotion, "Young man, in me you behold your grandfather."
Oliver changed colour, and started back, and Mr. Culpepper was deeplychagrined to see that this announcement gave him anything but pleasure.The story was briefly explained to him, and Mr. Culpepper added, "Fromthis moment you may consider yourself as belonging to me. I likeyou--and I will leave my money to you rather than to found a hospital."
"You had better leave it to these poor fellows, that have been tryingfor it so long," said Oliver, bluntly.
The nephews all regarded him with amazement.
"Hear me, Oliver," said Mr. Culpepper; "It is not merely because you aremy grandson, and as such my legal heir--unless I choose to dispose of myproperty otherwise--but I took a fancy to you the moment I saw you, whenI could not know that you were of my own blood. As to those fellows, Ihave had enough of them, and no doubt they have had enough of me. I havetowed them about with me already too long. It is time I should cut therope, and turn them adrift. No doubt they will do better when left toshift for themselves."
The Lambleys exhibited visible signs of consternation.
"Oliver," continued Mr. Culpepper, "prepare to accompany me to Canada.There you shall live with me as my acknowledged heir, taking the name ofCulpepper, and no longer feeling yourself a destitute orphan."
"I never have felt myself a destitute orphan," said Oliver, lookinggratefully at Colonel and Mrs. Brigham, both of whom looked as if theycould clasp him in their arms.
"I promise you every reasonable enjoyment that wealth can bestow,"pursued Mr. Culpepper.
"I have all sorts of reasonable enjoyments already," answered Oliver. "Afine farm to take care of; a capital gun; four excellent dogs; and suchhorses as are not to be found within fifty miles; fine fishing in theSusquehanna; plenty of newspapers to read, and some books too; frolicsto go to, all through the neighbourhood; and now and then a visit to thecity, where I take care to see all the shows."
"Nonsense," said Mr. Culpepper; "what is all this compared to anintroduction to the best society of Quebec?"
"And what better than all this is done by the best society of Quebec?"inquired Oliver.
Mr. Culpepper did not answer this question; but continued: "There isanother consideration of still more consequence: As my grandson andheir, I can insure you an opportunity of marrying a lady of family andfortune."
"I would rather marry Fanny," said Oliver.
At this spontaneous and unequivocal announcement, Colonel and Mrs.Brigham each caught one of Oliver's hands, unable to conceal their joy.A flush passed over Fanny's face, and she half rose up, and then satdown again. At last she said, with sparkling eyes, and a curl of herlip, "How do you know that Fanny will have you?" And she pursued herwork with such eagerness, that she forgot to replenish her needle, andwent on sewing without a thread.
There was a silence a few moments, and then Mr. Culpepper proceeded: "Inshort, Oliver, you must go with me to Canada, and settle there forlife."
"First listen to me," said Oliver, "for I am going to make a speech, andI intend to abide by it.--As to your being my grandfather, that is athing I cannot help. You must not expect me to be taken with a suddenaffec
The Brighams looked reproachfully at their daughter, who held down herhead and gave her sewing such a flirt, that it fell from her hand on thefloor and the Lambleys picked it up.
"Another thing," proceeded Oliver to Mr. Culpepper, "this is your will,is it not?" (putting his hand on it as it lay beside the red box). "Nowtell me if there are any legacies in it?"
"Not one;" replied Mr. Culpepper, "the whole is left to endow a hospitalfor idiots. I knew nobody that deserved a legacy."
"So much the worse," said Oliver, "it looks as if you had no friends.You had better make another will."
"I intend to do so," replied Culpepper.
"Then," said Oliver, "this is of no use; and the sooner there is an endof it the better;"--and he threw it into the fire, where it wasinstantly consumed.
The Lambleys were so frightened at this outrageous act (for so itappeared to them), that they all tried to get out of the room. Mrs.Brigham spread her hands with a sort of scream; her husband could nothelp laughing; Fanny again dropped her work, and nobody picked it up.Mr. Culpepper frowned awfully; but he was the first to speak, and said,"Young man, how have you dared to do this?"
"I can dare twice as much," replied Oliver;--"I have shot a bear face toface. One hard winter there were several found in the woods not tenmiles off. Suppose, Mr. Culpepper, you were to die suddenly (as youpossibly may in a fit or something), before you get your new will made!This would then be considered the right one, and your money after allwould go to that idiot hospital."
"You are the most original youth I have ever met with," said Culpepper;"I know not how it is; but the more you oppose me, the better I likeyou."
The nephews looked astonished.
"Still," observed Oliver, "it would never do for us to live together.For myself, I neither like opposing nor submitting; never having beenused to either."
"It is not possible," said Culpepper, "that you mean seriously to refusemy offer of protection and fortune?"
"As to protection," replied Oliver; "I can protect myself. And as tofortune, I dare say I can make one for myself. And as to that otherthing, the wife, I shall try to get one of my own sort--Fanny, orsomebody else. And as to the name of Culpepper, I'll never take it."
"And will you really not go with me to Canada?"
"No! positively I will not. I believe, though, I ought to thank you foryour offers, which I now do. No doubt they were well meant. But here Iintend to stay, with the excellent people that took me when nobody elsewould, and that have brought me up as their own child. I know how sorrythey would be were I to leave them, and yet they have had theforbearance not to say one word to persuade me to stay. So it is my firmdetermination to live and die with them."
He then shook hands with each of the old Brighams, who were deeplyaffected, and threw their arms round him. Fanny, completely overcome,entirely off her guard, flew to Oliver, hid her face on his shoulder,and burst into tears. He kissed her cheek, saying, "Now, Fanny, I hopewe understand each other;"--and Colonel Brigham put his daughter's handinto Oliver's.
"So then," said Mr. Culpepper, "I have found a grandson but to lose him.Well, I deserve it."
The nephews looked as if they thought so too.
"What shall I do now?" continued the old man dolorously.
"Take your nephews into favour again," said Oliver.
"They never were in favour," replied the uncle.
"At all events treat them like men."
"It is their own fault. Why do they not behave as such?"
The old gentleman walked about in much perturbation. At last he said tothe Lambleys, "Young men, as you took a most nefarious method ofdiscovering my intentions towards you, and as I never had a doubtrespecting the real motive of all your obsequiousness to me, there is nouse in attempting any farther disguise on either side. When masks areonly of gauze, it is not worth while to wear them. Try then if you canbe natural for a little while, till I see what can be done with you. Youwill find it best in the end. And now, I think, we will go away as soonas possible. The longer I stay here, the more difficult I shall find itto leave Oliver."
To be brief.--Mr. Culpepper and his nephews departed in about an hour,in a vehicle belonging to the General Wayne, and which was to carry themto the nearest village from whence they could proceed to New York.
At parting, Mr. Culpepper held out his hand and said, "Oliver, for oncecall me grandfather."
Oliver pressed his hand, and said, "Grandfather, we part friends." Theold gentleman held his handkerchief to his eyes, as he turned from thedoor, and his nephews looked nohow.
In about a month, Oliver received a parcel from Mr. Culpepper,containing the little red morocco box, in which was a letter and somepapers. The letter was dated from New York. The old gentleman informedhis grandson, that he had been so fortunate as to engage the affectionsand obtain the hand of a very beautiful young lady of that city (theyoungest of eight sisters, and just entering her seventeenth year), whohad convinced him, that she married only from the sincerest love.Finding no farther occasion for his nephews, he had established themall in business in New York, where no doubt they would do better than inCanada. He sent Oliver certificates for bank stock to a considerableamount, and requested him, whenever he wanted more money for theenlargement or improvement of the farm, to apply to him without scruple.
This letter arrived on the day of Oliver's marriage with Fanny; on whichday the sign of the General Wayne was taken down, and the tavern becameonce more a farm-house only; Mrs. Brigham having been much troubled bythe interruptions she sustained from customers, during her immensepreparations for the wedding, and determining that on the great occasionitself, she would not be "put out" by the arrival of any guest, exceptthose that were invited.
Colonel Brigham, never having approved of the sign, was not sorry to seeit removed; and Mrs. Brigham, thinking it a pity to have it wasted, madeit do duty in the largest bedchamber as a chimney-board.
In a few years the Colonel found sufficient employment for most of histime in playing with Fanny's children, and such was his "green old age,"that when upwards of seventy, he was still able to take thesuperintendence of the farm, while Oliver was absent at the seat of thestate government, making energetic speeches in the capacity of anassembly-man.
by Eliza Leslie / Nonfiction / Classics have rating 4.5 out of 5 / Based on18 votes