Page images


It was then the fashion, and is too much now, to deny and to disparage the wonderful beauties, natural and moral, and, indeed, every thing which is peculiar to our country; and Emily, to my great disquiet, readily adopted the sentiment of Walton. Her reply annoyed me, and there was something in her look at Walton, while she spoke, which added to my inconvenience a little.

* None, none,' she replied, in a tone of disappointment and regret, coupled at the same time with an air of abstraction, which, however, seemed to disappear as Walton, in a whisper, concluded his remark.

Mr. Cambridge, a member of Congress, a gentleman of some pretension and appearance, interfered :

• We are not deficient, however, in the objects of moral contemplation,' he said, with an air of the schools, “though we may lack, he continued, ‘some few of the natural wonders which are here delineated. Has not . Liberty' made an effort, and are not her exhibitions in America upon a scale as magnificent as these rude rocks, and shows, and shelvings down?' Her achievements in our land, which, by-theway, I must take occasion to say, is just as well as supplied with stupendous and striking scenery as any other, I have thrown into a just obscurity the mere external and natural wonders of the old world. Our moral and political stature,'

Here I interposed. I saw what was coming, and could not forbear exclaiming, while falling, unhappily for myself, into the very error of habit I was seeking to reprove : Nay, my good Sir, let us have no more of this same ad captandum about what we are and what we may be. That would do very well for a Whig or Tammany Hall meeting, and would admirably suit and split the ears of the groundlings, but cannot very greatly enlighten or amuse the intellect of a fashionable young lady,

What does Miss Emily care whether · Liberty' prefers ours to all other countries or not ? The thing affects her in neither one way nor another. Besides, freedom is a word not known in the vocabulary of a modern fair one and fashionable. Liberty is democratic and vulgar, and rich merchants and fine ladies have nothing to do with it. The ladies have no right even to talk or dream of it, since they toil for empire, the proper

increase of authority. Their business is conquest and captives. Talk to them of bonds rather, of dungeons in the arms of love: of chains, though they be made of Howers; and servitude, though it be in the gardens of beauty, and in the cultivation of those plants which are the favourite of that worst of tyrants, love!

Tell them of bands of roses, and shackles of jessamines and honeysuckle, and prisons of moon-lighted and leaf-covered bowers: any thing but liberty. We have no liberty. Neither you, nor I, nor any of our sex. We are slaves to some despotism or other; and obtain our emancipation from one, only to run headlong and blind into another of even worse character. If we are not slaves of women, we are of men, and vice versa.

We have no liberty. We are as much in bondage as any people under the sun. In fact, there can be no freedom for the great mass. They were never intended to be free. Take from them that restraint, which, if it be not chains actually, is nevertheless so in effect, and they are the veriest brutes and savages that walk. There are some men born expressly to be slaves -- liberty would be poison and death to them, as




poison in some cases that of Mithridates of Pontus for instance is healthful and nutritious.'

• Dear me, Mr. Topic, how long you can talk on so tedious a subject. I'm sure I have not heard a single syllable of all you have been saying, except one pretty sentence about jessamines and honey. suckles. Your speech has been like a wild wilderness, into which, being a lover of steril solitude, you have, with a niggardly hand, admitted but a few flowers, and those more for the sake of contrast than for their own beauty and the relief which they might bring.'

So spake a lively little girl whom I had not before remarked, so earnestly had I been engaged in my observations.

. And you, miss,' I replied, “have been the industrious bee to ferret and find out those few flowers, without regarding the whole wilderness you speak of beside. Yet is that wilderness though it forms so trifling an object of our contemplation — spread out in all its variety and loveliness, as, at any time in our country, we may behold it, as abundantly stored with the materiel of the sublime, as this bungling and confused succession of clouds and mountains, which, for the last ten minutes, you have all been so gravely admiring.'

• Oh, how can you think so ? exclaimed the lady. “I'm sure these are so pretty.'

• What an epithet for a view like this !' whispered the painter, almost audibly in my ear. The young girl, whose admiration, like that of many fashionable people where the arts are concerned, was artificial, seemed herself conscious of her faux pas, and the malapropos phrase of which she had been guilty, and the blush that suffused her cheek was a sufficient atonement for the offence. She sidled off to an opposite corner, and I proceeded in my address to the fair Emily ; but, to my surprise, discovered, for the first time, that she was not in hearing, but at the farther end of the room,


company and close conversation with Walton. To be caught and to catch myself in a soliloquy, as had really been the case so far as she was concerned, was horrible, and I hastily advanced to apologize ; when, suddenly retreating, she left the apartment.

• Confusion worse confounded!' What could this mean? I turned for explanation to my friend Walton, who, soon enough for civility, and quite too soon for my impatience, thus satisfied all my inquiries.

My dear Topic, I owe you a thousand thanks. • For what, Bill ?' * You have done me a most gracious and friendly service.' * Ah -- how !' was my wondering reply. He proceeded. * You have proved yourself not more friendly than judicious.' My wonder kept me silent. He continued.

• I can well understand, and shall ever appreciate, your friendship. That long speech of yours was admirably put in. It gave me an opportunity of which I have been very desirous, and for which, as you may well imagine, I had been long anxious. In short, while you spoke, I spoke. While you speechified the rest, I said the difficult words to my sweet Emily in the opposite corner; and to you, my dear fellow, as my best friend, and one who has so greatly assisted me in this, I am bound to say that all is as we could wish' it. She

[ocr errors]



has consented to make me happy, and I have only time and breath to say that you must get yourself in readiness to assist me through the ceremony, which takes place on the ensuing Monday night, precisely at eight o'clock. Once more, Topic, my dear fellow, accept my thanks for that judicious and well-timed speech, and for the admirable and well-employed opportunity which it afforded me.'

I was astounded, as well I might be. Could any thing possibly have been more astounding. I felt it in my heart to knock him down. I grew wolfish as I surveyed him; and, but for the approach of the company and his own general innocence of look, I might have done some brutal and improper act on the spot. But I continued to keep my temper. What I muttered to him in reply I know not. It was something or nothing, and that, in my excited state of feeling, means every thing. I did not linger long at Mr. Postlethwaite's that evening, but hurried home to my lodgings, mortified to the soul, that, in that, as in every leading particular in my life and fortunes, I had found myself too late.

The story got abroad, and I was waited upon by a soi disant friend. He had heard it, and he came to me full of sympathy and sulphuric acid. He was a fire eater- a regular blunderbuss of valour --a man who made no more of a brace of bullets, hair triggers, and seven moderate pistols, than I did of a cucumber in cholera time. He shook my hand warmly.

I am sorry for it,' said he “it's a bad business.'
Sorry for what, Major Rocket.'

Why, is it not true that you have been bamboozled by Walton ? It's all about town.'

I explained - I told the true story.

• He's a d- d rascal. You must make him toe the mark. He has behaved shamefully, to take advantage of the confidence of a friend.'

• But I did not tell him of my intentions, major.'

• No matter. He should have known them. He was bound to know them, and I make bold to assert that he did know them, else how should the opinion be so general about town that he did, and had made use of you.' • Made use of me?' I exclaimed, furiously. Ay, made use of you

that is the phrase

none other. You must fight him - you must put a bullet through him, Mr. Topic. You must give him a leaden lesson of good manners,

which he may digest at leisure.'

• Do you think I must ?' I asked of my d-d good-natured friend. • Think -- it must be done — there is no help, unless you

would expose yourself to the laughter of the whole city. Chestnut-street, already, is all agape; and the expectation of the public that there will be a fight, shows the absolute necessity of the thing. I doubt not that the evening papers will have an on dit about it, and Walsh, in to-morrow's “National,' will more fully enforce the necessity, by quoting Cicero and the fathers on the subject - pro and con. It is inevitable, not only that you should fight, but that you should kill


him. No courteous forbearance in this. You are bound in honor to blow his brains out, if you do not desire that the impression should go abroad that you have none of your own.'

I could not exactly understand the force of his reasoning, but the absolute force of necessity was quite another thing. I was not to be driven out of the community by public opinion. Better die than that.

* Major Rocket, will you serve me? I demanded. The major was overjoyed at the requisition - he was happy to be my friend.

• You shall take my challenge to Mr. Walton.'
• I will,'
• I will at once proceed to write it.'

I did so. The challenge was peremptory. It called for redress, not explanation. Rocket was delighted.

• That's right,' said he; ‘no mincing such matters. I hate your alternatives. This mode of accounting for, and explaining -- of not meaning to do what you have done, and of regretting the commission of that which you have committed in perfect coolness, and after just deliberation - is weak and unwholesome. There is but one way in a difficulty, and that is, to fight it out. To try to untangle is only to get into new entanglements – the knot of Gordius is only to be unloosed by the sword of Alexander.'

Major Rocket had a knack of saying fine things; and before he was done talking, and before I was done talking that night, I became desperately bent upon shooting Walton through the head. Rocket was too old a stager, and loved such sports too well, not to move upon his mission with alacrity; and at the conclusion of the first bottle, he set out for the lodgings of my traitorous friend Walton.

If I had been surprised and astounded by the sudden and quite unlooked-for success of Walton with Emily, I had the satisfaction of knowing from Major Rocket that he was not less so on receiving my message. His surprise, indeed, as Rocket assured me with infinite satisfaction, was so positively unrestrainable, as to be unbecoming and discreditable. He started and trembled under his annoyance and apprehension.

• Why, what the d - 1 is the matter with Topic ?'

• Mr. Topic, if you please,' said my friend for the nonce, with an air of precision which had its object, and was not without its due effect upon the nerves of Walton.

• Well, Sir,' he said impatiently, Mr. Topic, to oblige you; though, as my most intimate friend, I hold it perfectly excusable to drop the usual prefix.

Not so, Mr. Walton, if you please.' 'Familiarity breeds contempt.' When men come to address or to speak of each other, and omit the usual terms of courtesy which convention has established, they open the door for all sorts of rudeness. All tyrannies begin moderately enough, — if they did not they never would make any headway. They take liberties by degrees, till they usurp the possession and control of all liberty. Vulgarity begins in this way in most cases ; and, to prevent vulgarity from becoming insolent, you must check it on the threshhold. Let it once get its head in, and the shoulders inevitably follow. Pardon me then, Sir, if I insist that, in speaking to VOL. vin.


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

me, Major Pertinax Rocket, or in speaking of my friend, in my presence at least, you omit none of the usual terms of civility.' This was cool and consolatory enough.

Poor Walton was dumb for several minutes, and perfectly bewildered. Rocket grew impatient.

• What answer to my friend, Sir ?' he demanded. 'I will see Mr. Topic for myself, Major Rocket.'

You cannot, Sir.' • How

cannot? No, Sir.' • And why, I pray you?'

• Because he cannot see you, in the first place; and, in the next, because I will neither suffer him to see you nor you to see him.'

Ha! Sir.' • Just so, Mr. Walton; and, let me add, that the desire which you have expressed to thrust me, his representative, aside, and go to my principal, conveys a reflection upon my honor, and a doubt of my integrity, which are personally offensive, and must be atoned for. At present, however, I defer my claim to satisfaction to that urged by my friend, to whom I beg your immediate answer.'

Rocket was a man not to be trifled with, and Walton soon discovered that. Rocket was too courteous and considerate by half to waive his own claim to honor in place of mine; but he meant honorably, and did it for the best. Walton saw that there was no alternative, and referred my second to his friend, Lieutenant Thompson, of the Piscataqua Volunteers: and Major Rocket, who lost no time in a business of so delicate a texture, immediately proceeded to wait upon

the referee.



[ocr errors]

• Well, what are the terms, major?' I demanded of my friend, as he entered my chamber the next morning.

• Glorious! grand!' were the superlative words in which he replied. · When are we to meet ?' I next asked.

On Wednesday next at Oxley's Farm. I endeavoured to get it fixed for Monday, but the d-d milksop insists, like a fool as he is, upon getting married first

a condition which will be very apt to carry off much of the courage which he has left.'

Why, do you think that will affect him ? was my inquiry. · Yes — so long as the condition is new. A year hence he might not be so reluctant to a fight — indeed, I have known such an event rather a desirable one to most husbands after such a period.'

Rocket was a decided bachelor; had been jilted once, and turned woman-hater ever after. I could readily see that his prejudices had somewhat impaired his judgment. I proceeded with my inquiries. · The distance ?

Ay — that is the fortunate hit — he insisted upon thinking to bully us, as he knew my favourite distance was seven; but he was mistaken in his man. I took him up at the word.'

• What! five paces!' I exclaimed, in horror —'why, my dear major, there is no sort of chance — we shall both be killed.'

[ocr errors]

five paces,

« PreviousContinue »