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Is Mr. Colt very intimate with Col. Harcourt?' inquired Mrs. Franks of Harriet for the exquisite looked dreadfully fatigued.
Dear me, yes!' said Miss Ashcroft. Mr. Colt told me all about him, long before it was known that he intended visiting this country. I had just been reading 'Cecil Thorne,' and was delighted to find any one who knew the author. They were introduced by the Duke of Bedford.'
The Duke is a relation of yours, is he not, Mr. Colt?' said Mrs. Franks.
'So he says,' replied Mr. Russell Colt. 'He soon found out that I was a Russell, and used to be monstrous polite; I was bored incessantly with his dinner invitations.'
'I should like to go to England,' said Miss Ashcroft, musingly. 'Should you?' said Mr. Colt, in a tone of remarkable blandness. Perhaps I may go again, some day.'
The lady made no reply; but Mr. Colt fancied that he detected a blush, which was decidedly favorable to his suit.
It was now about five years since the first appearance of Mr. Colt in the hemisphere of fashion. There is no aspect in which luminaries appear more brilliant, than when emerging from the bed of ocean; and accordingly this skilful tactician made his début in New-York society from on board a Liverpool packet-ship. His success was unprecedented, for even national pride was enlisted in his behalf. Here were American mustaches more exuberant than any of Parisian growth, and here was Pelham out-Pelhamed by an indigenous coxcomb! Although a native republican, let it not be supposed that Mr. Russell Colt was destitute of pretensions to birth. It is altogether a mistake to imagine that we have not as good blood on this side of the water as they can boast of on the other. Scions from nearly all the noble families in England have emigrated to this country-engrafting their honors upon the tree of liberty and the illustrious house of Bedford was charged with the paternity of Mr. Colt. It is true that some of the envious canaille insinuated that he had formerly been seen behind a counter in Maiden-Lane; but there are strange resemblances in this world, and the report was too improbable to gain a moment's credence. It was also hinted by the malignant, that during Mr. Colt's residence abroad, he had not been received with all the distinction which he represented; and that his knowledge of English society was limited to the inmates of boarding-houses, and the miscellaneous contents of stage-coaches. This calumny was also rejected by those who knew the gentleman, and the shafts of malice glanced harmlessly aside from the invulnerable panoply that shielded him.
Mrs. Franks was a leader of the ton, and belonged to one of those old Virginia families which look down with contempt upon the plebeian New-Englanders. And have they not abundant reason? The Pilgrims left their native land with the most selfish views for the mere purpose of securing their private welfare, and the free exercise of their religion; but the first settlers of the 'old dominion' were actuated by higher and nobler motives, for they left their country for their country's good!' Such being the lineage of Mrs. Franks, she was of course peculiarly aristocratic in her feelings and prejudices. She had accordingly
taken Mr. Russell Colt into her especial favor, and he flattered himself that he was making no inconsiderable progress in the good graces of the rich Miss Ashcroft.
We left this amiable trio standing by the window, in the full flow of interesting conversation, and we will now return to listen to it. 'Bless me!' said Mrs. Franks, looking out, 'who has Mr. Franks got with him?'
In another moment the door opened, and the aforesaid Mr. Franks appeared with his remarkable companion. Mr. Franks was a rotund little man, with great bushiness of whisker, and seemed at the present moment to be swelling with importance.
'Mrs. Franks,' said the inflated pigmy, waving his hand with a tremendous flourish, ' give me leave to introduce to you Col. Harcourt. Col. Harcourt, permit me to make you acquainted with Miss Ashcroft. It is unnecessary to name Mr. Russell Colt.'
The ladies assumed their most gracious smiles, while Mr. Colt advanced and shook the stranger's hand with the greatest appearance of cordiality. We will just whisper in the reader's ear that he had never set eyes upon him before, and that he was trembling like an aspen, for fear of an eclaircissement.
We shall now assume the privilege of story-tellers, and introduce Col. Harcourt to our readers.
This much-talked-of personage was an English officer, of high birth and distinguished bravery. He was also the author of a very fascinating novel, and the avowed object of his present tour was to collect materials for a book upon America. There was a supercilious John Bullism about him, but he was nevertheless essentially a gentleman. He was aware that he was a lion, and thought it best, therefore, to be as shaggy as possible. As he could not easily provide himself with a mane, he placed his main dependence for the support of the character upon a pea-jacket, of a very coarse texture, and the rest of his dress corresponded with this singular jerkin. While Mr. Franks was performing his introductions, the keen eyes of Col. Harcourt were detecting American peculiarities. They do not introduce gentlemen,' thought he, when Mr. Russell Colt was so familiarly passed over; merely ladies, and the men shake hands without any introduction. Strange custom! I must remember it to-night in
You could not have come to Screamy Point at a worse time, Col. Harcourt,' said Mrs. Franks, in her most honied accents. You must not form an opinion of American society, from what you see here now.'
Pardon me, my dear madam,' said Col. Harcourt, with a smile; 'I have but just arrived; yet I have already observed not a little beauty and fashion.'
Indeed, Col. Harcourt,' said Mrs. Franks, earnestly, I do assure you there is nobody here at present. At least, nobody who is at all in society.'
I saw a very pretty, well-dressed girl a few moments since,' said Col. Harcourt, who would, I am sure, to use a soldier's phrase, 'pass muster' any where.'
. Can you describe her?' said Mrs. Franks, with much anxiety. 'Not very accurately, I apprehend,' replied Col. Harcourt. All I can
recollect is, that she had most radiant dark eyes, and a very bewitching little mouth: I am confident, however, that she is perfectly presentable.' O, I dare say it was that Miss Casey!' said Mrs. Franks. father is an oil-merchant, or something of that sort. She is not visited, and I have never even spoken to the girl. Harriet, have you
ever met her?'
Never,' said Miss Ashcroft, haughtily. 'Mama is very particular about my acquaintances.'
"Pon honor! you must n't judge by her, Harcourt!' said Mr. Russell Colt, whose lips absolutely blanched with the boldness of the experiment he was making.
'Sir!' said Col. Harcourt, turning around, and fixing his eyes upon Mr. Colt, with a most intimidating sternness of expression.
'You have not seen Mr. Colt before for a long time, have you, Harcourt?' inquired the unsuspicious Mr. Franks.
'The impertinent Yankee is lecturing me because I looked down
the insolence of this puppy,' thought the Colonel.
I must not com
mit myself in such a queer country: I will bear with him.'
True, Sir,' said he, with the most amiable simplicity, it is not very long!' Only about five minutes,' growled the chafed lion, inaudibly.
Mr. Colt looked the perfect picture of amazement, and his courage rose immediately to fever heat.
Harcourt,' said he, 'how comes on your book?'
The Englishman deigned him no reply, and Mr. Colt got up and walked to a window.
Who is this Mr. Colt?' said Col. Harcourt, in a low tone to Miss Ashcroft: he seems a very odd sort of person.'
'Who is he?' said Miss Ashcroft, in astonishment. joking, Col. Harcourt:' and the young lady absolutely laughed in his face.
These American girls are excessively rude,' thought the Colonel, and their perception of the ridiculous is really somewhat annoying.' Mr. Russell Colt observed this little by-play of whispering, and approached the parties with unwonted precipitancy. All further discussion concerning his peculiarities was of course precluded.
Here is a new publication, Col. Harcourt,' said Mr. Franks, taking up a volume from the centre-table, and handing it to the traveler. The reviewers speak of it in the very highest terms, and although the author is not known, it is understood that he is a native American.'
'Ay! this reminds me,' said Col. Harcourt, 'that I must bid you a reluctant farewell, ladies. The author of that book is a Mr. Raymond, who, I learn, has been here very recently; and as I am extremely desirous to make his acquaintance, and have an engagement to meet him in Boston on Friday, I must follow him immediately. I have brought him letters from Professor Wilson and Captain Marryatt. You have reason to be proud of your countryman, Mr. Franks. His articles in Blackwood and the New Monthly are always sought for with avidity, and as he is yet very young, he will undoubtedly stand one day at the head of your national literature. I have no time to lose, and I trust, ladies, that you will be so indulgent as to excuse my abruptness.'
Col. Harcourt accordingly took his departure, strangely puzzled with
the distinctions of American society, and somewhat mystified concerning the rules of good breeding, which obtain in the fashionable circles of New-York. The English public was of course edified with the result of his observations, when his book made its appearance.
After he had gone, Miss Ashcroft had leisure for reflection. She was not destitute of discernment, and although Mr. Russell Colt had, as if by a miracle, escaped detection, she was very suspicious that he was not all that he had pretended to be. Col. Harcourt, instead of meeting him with the cordiality of friendship, had evidently regarded him with contempt. Circumstances led her to compare this crest-fallen fop with the noble being whom she had herself despised, and the parallel thus instituted was not remarkably agreeable. She was not aware of the celebrity which Edward Raymond had been acquiring, and for the first time his full worth flashed vividly upon her. Could she have lured the tassel gentle back again,' she would have deemed herself unutterably happy. She had the sense, however, to perceive that this would be impossible, and she was right in the conclusion. They have never met since that memorable visit to Screamy Point, and their paths are now diverging more and more. He is fast rising to a proud station among the sons of fame, and she is still painfully toiling for the suffrages of fools.
E. B. C.
ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE.
COLERIDGE says finely of Shelly, I think, that he lived neither in space nor time, but as if by the way.' He meant, I suppose, that he was so little affected or interested by the circumstances around him, and the times in which he seemed to exist, as not to belong to the age or the world, but was as if he had stepped aside from the track of time, while the world, forgetting its passenger, moved by him. The world used a remissness in his case with which it is seldom chargeable. What agent of what line or mode of conveyance ever used the diligence, or had the success, of the world, in decoying or hurrying, nolens volens, into its moving machine, the hesitating traveler? To turn the poet's words to our own account, all the world's a stage,* and with the capacity of an omnibus, the punctuality of a steam-car, and the inflexibility of a railroad, it chooses a direction, appoints a time, and finds a place, for all the men and women of this moving sphere. So the world goes,' is the signal. The way is cleared. All things must govern themselves according to its times and motions. It would be a wiser folly to delay for one's private convenience yon train where we behold in simultaneous motion the dwellers in an hundred homes, than to question the right of the world to go when, and where, and at what jog, it pleases. If it is a sufficient apology for hurrying business, breaking engagements, neglecting friends, that the steam-cars leave at four; how much more for all omissions, deficiences, and imperfections, that so the world goes!'
He who has travelled much, knows very well that travelling is a condition of great license. One may then indulge in habits seriously condemned at home. Actions become innocent or indifferent which in a state of rest are esteemed injurious and immoral. The stage or the steam-boat are no places in which to be prim and decorous. One must relax a little from his dignity and propriety, and fall in with the prevailing tone of feeling. It is folly to assert his personal character, or strive to exert his personal influence, with companions of a day. Example cannot be of much weight, which is to be manifested for so short a season, and before men who are not expecting to see models of excellence. Forsooth, they are travelling too, and men do not support characters when they journey. The toil of the jaunt is enough, without the restraints of propriety. And where one finds this spirit, he must be accommodating. He must sink his peculiarities, be they those of virtue, decorum, or profession, in a stage-coach. He cannot, again, be very particular in the observance of his usual and conscientious habits, while he is moving from place to place. His private duties are inconvenient. This sleeping two in a room leaves him no privacy. In fine, he must wait till he gets home, before he can renew his accustomed habits and duties, of however private and personal a nature. He must get home, before he can act aright.
The world may be said to be on one everlasting journey. It is one great, crowded stage-coach. Accommodation is here, too, the principle of action. So goes the world,' and at the signal we may fancy mankind with one universal rush, as if to the last coach, scrambling
*A 'stage,' as a stage-coach, is a new reading of Shakspeare, which is 'respectfully submitted.