« EelmineJätka »
DECLARATION OF WAR. PERMIT me to use a writer's privilege, and introduce a charming lady.
She sat quietly at a window of an old mansion on the southern bank of the beautiful Mohawk, and the last
rays of an October sun fell gently upon her sweet face VOL. 1.-YEV SERIES.
and her tall graceful figure. The window looked forth upon the broad bosom of the noble river, alive and heaving from the wild dash of the glittering falls which just above the mansion, on the left, broke the quiet flow of the waters. Beneath her, at the left, sounded the busy hum of spindles and the plash of water-wheels, making discordant music to the beautiful picture of the setting sun and the bright river before her. She could appreciate the strange blending of light and shadow, and her rich brown eye detected every changing hue of the western clouds, and every glancing beam of beauty from the purple-clad oaks and yellow inantles of the maple-trees, which extended down the slope toward the water. But a strange and gloomy expression once or twice settled upon her features, and the bright sunlight and the golden clouds became, for an instant, one undefined mass of painful light to her eyes, till the flush of her own joyous nature overspread her face again, and the unwonted lines of care faded rapidly away.
But evanescent as were these painful manifestations of unpleasant thoughts, they were detected by the keen eyes of the young lady's sister, who sat close beside her, industriously occupied in cutting out work at a low and singular-looking work-table, the numberless drawers and appurtenances of which betokened unusual preciseness and neatness of the owner. Well may I say the owner of that workstand was neat. She was persistently and excruciatingly neat ; a displaced chair, or a pîn upon the carpet, was nearly as novel an event as would have been the advent of a South Sea Islander. The passion for order in the arrangement and appearance of the house was with her nearly a species of derangement. The most presumptuous spider in all that neighbourhood never for once gained access to that model dwelling; for the graceful festoons which the cunning animal is wont to form upon parlour ceilings were not appreciated by the amiable mistress of the mansion. And then, hory strange it seemed, to slovenly unbelievers in the omnipotence of soap and water, to see the little terrier most carefully wipe his tiny feet upon the doormat before he came in to his accustomed lounge upon the hall floor. And what could be more unique than the small pan and duster, with which she followed her husband's walk through the library, to gather up the accidental ashes which might fall from bis cigar. But, my gentle lady reader, I feel assured your heart will warm towards this neat mistress of the mansion, when I inform you that this dwelling was, from cellar to attic, one vast system of appropriate closets. Yes, they numbered seventeen upon one floor alone; and as the stranger passed from story to story, their appropriate places and offices seemed to multiply. I may have cause, by and bye, to detail more clearly the nice arrangement of the apartments of this model mansion; but I cannot now forbear to notice the perfect system she adopted to retain the freshness and the snowy whiteness of all the furniture, and linen, and accessories of the great room of state in which she lodged her most illustrious guests.
Tread softly, most distinguished stranger, as you pass that threshold, for each article in that apartment is doubly consecrated to the presiding spirit of the house. What could be more inviting to a weary traveller than the irreproachable whiteness of those beautifully-fine pillow.cases, with their fine lace edgings? And how luxurious seems that silken counterpane, heavy with curious needlework, and rich in graceful outlines of rare birds and fruits and flowers. Notice that dressing-table, with its elegant appointments of carved wood, brushes, and inlaid combs, chased silver bottles of Oriental perfumes, and vases laden with delicious soaps and rare pomades. The tapestry of that toilet-cover alone is a study, and you feel a secret satisfaction at the thought of being the first to plunge a pin into the immaculate bosom of the carious cushion which rests upon it. The good fortune of being the first occupant of that beautiful and luxurious apartment, and of falling back contentedly upon the raixed fruits and flowers of those elaborate chairs, brings to the features a complacent smile, and you long for that next moment to arrive when the neat mistress of this splendour shall summon you out again with her to examine the remaining rooms; and then, her vanity being gratified by the exhibition of all her elegancies and conveniences, you may shortly return to your allotted room to enjoy an elegant preparation for tea.
Reader, do you lay the flattering unction to your soul, that in that room, when night's dark mantle shrouds the face of nature, you shall revel in those silken luxuries, draw that lace covering about your throat, and bury your weary head deep in the fine linen of those pillow-cases ? Do you think the old bent pins which bind Foar garments will stand in wild confusion on that embroidered toilet cushion? Do you think the accumulated sand and cinders of travel on your hands will wear away the raised figures on that alabaster cake of perfumed soap, which lies so purely in its porcelain bed! Then, I assure you, you reckon without your hostess. When the glad moment of escape from winding stairs and endless closets has arrived, you will again be ushered into the room of state. You will find, in gratifying readiness, your travel-woru trunk placed in convenient position, and just far enough out from the wall or furniture to avoid all risk of the opening lid marring either. Beneath this leathern travelling companion of yours will be found a strip of coarse carpet, to save the velvet carpet of the room from dirt or scratch ; and you will be informed, in sweetest accents, that when it is convenient to transfer your trunk's contents to thie polished wardrobe and bureau, the servant man will put away the trunk in a cistet built expressly for that purpose. And it will be better far for you nct to resist this separation from your old trunk, on the plea that it will not be at all in For way; for it is placed in durance vile. When the amiable lady has left you in possession of the apartment, most naturally you will view your quarters once more. If you are a lady guest, I venture to remark, the room of state, the best room, will receive a careful, thorough, and satisfactory examination before the lapse of many minutes. You will then discover how Sisesti rely neat is your accomplished hostess. The bedstead and polished washsaud and carved bureau and chairs are all there; but the rich pillow-cases and Connterpane are gone, and in their places you will discover others clean and plain. The tilet-cover is replaced by a very pretty white one; and where the toilet-cushion stood is another one, none the better for wear, and riddled as full of pin-holes as its TATUE surface will permit. Beside the pin-cushion you will discover a hair-brush, da destitute of bristles as a centenarian's head is of hairs, and also a comb upon the testh of which Time's band has left a slight impression. You will discover no bassrelief upon your soap this time, for it, too, will have given place to an exceedingly Seet, white cake of soap. Those superb lace window curtains are still actual light stbloers, but you will observe that the peculiarly graceful effect of their former drooping has disappeared, and that they now are drawn rather tightly to either side of the window. This, no doubt, has been done to save you the trouble, in case more light should be necessary for your toilet ; and then perhaps also, you might care. lessly draw them aside with your hands covered with hair oil. Some people are so careless! When you will have completed your examination of your night quarters, and remarked the several alterations, if you are at all disposed to be sarcastic, you may perhaps relieve yourself of a small sneer; but if you are at all like your author, you will laugh. You will have learned, that in a truly tidy house most articles are labelled “to keep," and very few bear that more comfortable mark “to use."
But I have very unceremoniously wandered from the ladies in the drawing room, and begging their pardon, as well as yours, kind reader, permit me once again to suggest that Mrs. Neaton discovered a passing cloud upon her fair sister's brow, and said quickly,
Lou, what was that thought ?" The young girl turned her full brown eyes in surprise upon her sister, exclaiming, “Your eyes are bright, Sarah; I was thinking of Mr. Broadhead.”
“Well,” replied Mrs. Neaton," why should he occasion you unpleasant thonghts ? I'm sure be is the most devoted lover I ever saw. John never showed me such devotion, when I was a girl, and I always regarded him as a model of affection.”
“You never had such a prospect for a father-in-law, though," said Lou.
“That's very true,” replied her sister, emphatically ; “but you don't expect to live with the old man, and I can see no reason for your troubling yourself about a matter that you can always control, if you exercise ordinary tact.” "But, Sarah, the amount of the whole business is this-and I may as well tell you
I do not love, and I never can love, William Broadhead. I have been persuaded or influenced into this engagement, in some way, contrary to my judgment, and without my heart being in the least affected by his advances. He is a fine fellow, I am sure, and every one speaks of him as an excellent business man ; but I have become prejudiced against the whole family ; and moreover, Sarah, I believe I have a heart capable of loving truly and passionately. Now, don't laughI am not romantic—this is heart and truth, and not romance.
“Why did you not tell me this before ?" said Mrs. Neaton. “ William is a good match for you, and I supposed from your acceptance of him that you had some heart in the matter. John has called him a very promising young man, and with his head for business you can know that it is a good endorsement, and that William will maintain you handsomely. I have always hoped you would marry some one like him, who could keep you in my neighbourhood; but you know, my dear child, I wouldn't urge you to a match which I believed could endanger your happiness. But how can you now escape it creditably to yourself? The whole family are especting it, and I understand William has already arranged for a house."
“I don't know what to do," replied the young girl, thoughtfully, as she leaned her forehead upon the cold window glass, and peered into the darkness, which now rapidly obscured external objects. After a few minutes' silence she said, gaily, “Here is John !- I've faith in his advice--let's ask him.”
The individual whose advent had occasioned the young lady's change of tone was no ordinary man, physically or mentally. A stranger would have called him
nearly six feet high, and well proportioned. But the first glance of a casual observer would inevitably have been attracted to the expression of firmness and resolution which characterised the principal features of his countenance, and betrayed the existence in his soul of an indomitable will. You could not, in contemplating the large, hard features of his manly face, divest yourself of the idea, that you were looking upon one of nature's noblemen-one born to look well, to think well, and to act well, and who would perform his allotted part in the great drama of life thoroughly and judiciously, while health and freedom were propitious, and reason held her throne.
Mr. Neaton was a cotton manufacturer. Not one of the narrow-minded class, whose struggle is to accumulate for no one's good, and upon whose contracted souls the beautiful stars of science and humanity are never dawning; but an enlightened, educated man of trade. To his ear the clash and hum of machinery betoken, not only coming wealth and luxury, but they spoke to a human heart of regular employment for indigent men, of huge establishments where thousands would earn abandant bread for the hungry by their daily toil. He was descended from a renowned New England stock, possessed of all their virtues, and encumbered by as few of their peculiar faults and pedantries as one could ask, or hope for, from the lineal descendant of those early emigrants.
His hair was brushed back carefully from his brow, and was sprinkled with a few grey indications of the approach of his fiftieth birthday; and the same indications Fere in the small whiskers he wore. His keen, full, grey eye was ever restless, and denoted the earnest, interested, daring speculator that he was. His dress was well selected, of the best material, and well put on. He was above the ostentation of the fop and the affected slovenliness of the conceited artist. His only ornament was a single diamond stud. His walk and manners, and the fluent style of his address, tended to make him look neither more nor less than what he was—a polished, earnest, worthy cotton manufacturer.
Twenty-five years of careful and constant industry had accumulated for him afluence and influence. The world recognised his talents under the title of shrewdDes; but his honour remained unimpeached. He was associated in business with one of the most successful manufacturers of the age, who, though having an immense interest at stake in trade, placed in Mr. Neaton implicit confidence. This was the gentleman to whom the sisters turned for counsel, as to the best means of Escape from a love-trap.
As Mr. Neaton entered the drawing-room, his wife arose quickly to send for ghts, as the darkness had come suddenly upon them, and the grate, too, needed replenishing, for the October nights were growing colder, and the frost king had aready once or twice laid his hand lightly upon the lawns and shrubbery about the dwelling. Drawing a chair towards the fire, Mr. Neaton said to his sisterin-law
“What are you speculating about, pet, all alone by yourself ? Do you feel sentiTental to-night ?"
"No, brother,” replied she ; “I have been waiting for you to come, to ask your age advice upon a delicate matter.”
"Well, let's have it-make a clean breast of it."