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The Chainbearer; Or, The Littlepage Manuscripts By James Fenimore Cooper Characters: 34020

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and

She said-thou wert my daughter; and thy father

Was duke of Milan; and his only heir

A princess;-no worse issued."

-Tempest.

* * *

My uncle Ro and myself had been travelling together in the East, and had been absent from home fully five years when we reached Paris. For eighteen months neither of us had seen a line from America, when we drove through the barriers, on our way from Egypt, via Algiers, Marseilles, and Lyons. Not once, in all that time, had we crossed our own track, in a way to enable us to pick up a straggling letter; and all our previous precautions to have the epistles meet us at different bankers in Italy, Turkey, and Malta were thrown away.

My uncle was an old traveller-I might almost say, an old resident-in Europe; for he had passed no less than twenty years of his fifty-nine off the American continent. A bachelor, with nothing to do but to take care of a very ample estate, which was rapidly increasing in value by the enormous growth of the town of New York, and with tastes early formed by travelling, it was natural he should seek those regions where he most enjoyed himself. Hugh Roger Littlepage was born in 1786-the second son of my grandfather, Mordaunt Littlepage, and of Ursula Malbone, his wife. My own father, Malbone Littlepage, was the eldest child of that connection; and he would have inherited the property of Ravensnest, in virtue of his birthright, had he survived his own parents; but, dying young, I stepped into what would otherwise have been his succession, in my eighteenth year. My uncle Ro, however, had got both Satanstoe and Lilacsbush; two country-houses and farms, which, while they did not aspire to the dignity of being estates, were likely to prove more valuable, in the long run, than the broad acres which were intended for the patrimony of the elder brother. My grandfather was affluent; for not only had the fortune of the Littlepages centred in him, but so did that of the Mordaunts, the wealthier family of the two, together with some exceedingly liberal bequests from a certain Colonel Dirck Follock, or Van Valkenburgh; who, though only a very distant connection, chose to make my great-grandmother's, or Anneke Mordaunt's descendants his heirs. We all had enough; my aunts having handsome legacies, in the way of bonds and mortgages on an estate called Mooseridge, in addition to some lots in town; while my own sister, Martha, had a clear fifty thousand dollars in money. I had town lots, also, which were becoming productive; and a special minority of seven years had made an accumulation of cash that was well vested in New York State stock, and which promised well for the future. I say a "special" minority; for both my father and grandfather, in placing, the one, myself and a portion of the property, and the other, the remainder of my estate, under the guardianship and ward of my uncle, had made a provision that I was not to come into possession until I had completed my twenty-fifth year.

I left college at twenty; and my uncle Ro, for so Martha and myself always called him, and so he was always called by some twenty cousins, the offspring of our three aunts;-but my uncle Ro, when I was done with college, proposed to finish my education by travelling. As this was only too agreeable to a young man, away we went, just after the pressure of the great panic of 1836-7 was over, and our "lots" were in tolerable security, and our stocks safe. In America it requires almost as much vigilance to take care of property, as it does industry to acquire it.

Mr. Hugh Roger Littlepage-by the way, I bore the same name, though I was always called Hugh, while my uncle went by the different appellations of Roger, Ro, and Hodge, among his familiars, as circumstances had rendered the associations sentimental, affectionate, or manly-Mr. Hugh Roger Littlepage, senior, then, had a system of his own in the way of aiding the scales to fall from American eyes, by means of seeing more clearly than one does, or can, at home, let him belong where he may, and in clearing the specks of provincialism from off the diamond of republican water. He had already seen enough to ascertain that while "our country," as this blessed nation is very apt on all occasions, appropriate or not, to be called by all who belong to it, as well as by a good many who do not, could teach a great deal to the old world, there was a possibility-just a possibility, remark, is my word-that it might also learn a little. With a view, therefore, of acquiring knowledge seriatim, as it might be, he was for beginning with the hornbook, and going on regularly up to the belles-lettres and mathematics. The manner in which this was effected deserves a notice.

Most American travellers land in England, the country farthest advanced in material civilization; then proceed to Italy, and perhaps to Greece, leaving Germany, and the less attractive regions of the north, to come in at the end of the chapter. My uncle's theory was, to follow the order of time, and to begin with the ancients and end with the moderns; though, in adopting such a rule, he admitted he somewhat lessened the pleasure of the novice; since an American, fresh from the fresher fields of the western continent, might very well find delight in memorials of the past, more especially in England, which pall on his taste, and appear insignificant, after he has become familiar with the Temple of Neptune, the Parthenon, or what is left of it, and the Coliseum. I make no doubt that I lost a great deal of passing happiness in this way, by beginning at the beginning, in Italy, and travelling north.

Such was our course, however; and, landing at Leghorn, we did the peninsula effectually in a twelvemonth; thence passed through Spain up to Paris, and proceeded on to Moscow and the Baltic, reaching England from Hamburg. When we had got through with the British isles, the antiquities of which seemed flat and uninteresting to me, after having seen those that were so much more antique, we returned to Paris, in order that I might become a man of the world, if possible, by rubbing off the provincial specks that had unavoidably adhered to the American diamond while in its obscurity.

My uncle Ro was fond of Paris, and he had actually become the owner of a small hotel in the faubourg, in which he retained a handsome furnished apartment for his own use. The remainder of the house was let to permanent tenants; but the whole of the first floor, and of the entresol, remained in his hands. As a special favor, he would allow some American family to occupy even his own apartment-or rather appartement, for the words are not exactly synonymous-when he intended to be absent for a term exceeding six months, using the money thus obtained in keeping the furniture in repair, and his handsome suite of rooms, including a salon, salle à manger, antichambre cabinet, several chambres à coucher, and a boudoir-yes, a male boudoir! for so he affected to call it-in a condition to please even his fastidiousness.

On our arrival from England, we remained an entire season at Paris, all that time rubbing the specks off the diamond, when my uncle suddenly took it into his head that we ought to see the East. He had never been further than Greece, himself; and he now took a fancy to be my companion in such an excursion. We were gone two years and a half, visiting Greece, Constantinople, Asia Minor, the Holy Land, Petra, the Red Sea, Egypt quite to the second cataracts, and nearly the whole of Barbary. The latter region we threw in, by way of seeing something out of the common track. But so many hats and travelling-caps are to be met with, nowadays, among the turbans, that a well-mannered Christian may get along almost anywhere without being spit upon. This is a great inducement for travelling generally, and ought to be so especially to an American, who, on the whole, incurs rather more risk now of suffering this humiliation at home, than he would even in Algiers. But the animus is everything in morals.

We had, then, been absent two years and a half from Paris and had not seen a paper or received a letter from America in eighteen months, when we drove through the barrier. Even the letters and papers received or seen previously to this last term, were of a private nature, and contained nothing of a general character. The "twenty millions"-it was only the other day they were called the "twelve millions"-but, the "twenty millions," we knew, had been looking up amazingly after the temporary depression of the moneyed crisis it had gone through; and the bankers had paid our drafts with confidence, and without extra charges, during the whole time we had been absent. It is true, uncle Ro, as an experienced traveller, went well fortified in the way of credit-a precaution by no means unnecessary with America, after the cry that had been raised against us in the old world.

And here I wish to say one thing plainly, before I write another line. As for falling into the narrow, self-adulatory, provincial feeling of the American who has never left his mother's apron-string, and which causes him to swallow, open-mouthed, all the nonsense that is uttered to the world in the columns of newspapers, or in the pages of your yearling travellers, who go on "excursions" before they are half instructed in the social usages and the distinctive features of their own country, I hope I shall be just as far removed from such a weakness, in any passing remark that may flow from my pen, as from the crime of confounding principles, and denying facts, in a way to do discredit to the land of my birth and that of my ancestors. I have lived long enough in the "world," not meaning thereby the southeast corner of the northwest township of Connecticut, to understand that we are a vast way behind older nations, in thought as well as deed, in many things; while, on the opposite hand, they are a vast way behind us in others. I see no patriotism in concealing a wholesome truth; and least of all shall I be influenced by the puerility of a desire to hide anything of this nature, because I cannot communicate it to my countrymen, without communicating it to the rest of the world. If England or France had acted on this narrow principle, where would have been their Shakespeares, their Sheridans, their Beaumonts and Fletchers, and their Molieres! No, no! great national truths are not to be treated as the gossiping surmises of village crones. He who reads what I write, therefore, must expect to find what I think of matters and things, and not exactly what he may happen to think on the same subject. Any one is at liberty to compare opinions with me; but I ask the privilege of possessing some small liberty of conscience in what is, far and near, proclaimed to be the only free country on the earth. By "far and near," I mean from the St. Croix to the Rio Grande, and from Cape Cod to the entrance of St. Juan de Fuca, and a pretty farm it makes, the "interval" that lies between these limits! One may call it "far and near" without the imputation of obscurity, or that of vanity.

Our tour was completed, in spite of all annoyances; and here we were again, within the walls of magnificent Paris! The postilions had been told to drive to the hotel, in the Rue St. Dominique; and we sat down to dinner, an hour after our arrival, under our own roof. My uncle's tenant had left the apartment a month before, according to agreement; and the porter and his wife had engaged a cook, set the rooms in order, and prepared everything for our arrival.

"It must be owned, Hugh," said my uncle, as he finished his soup that day, "one may live quite comfortably in Paris, if he possess the savoir vivre. Nevertheless, I have a strong desire to get a taste of native air. One may say and think what he pleases about the Paris pleasures, and the Paris cuisine, and all that sort of thing: but 'home is home, be it ever so homely.' A 'd'Inde aux truffes' is capital eating; so is a turkey with cranberry sauce. I sometimes think I could fancy even a pumpkin pie, though there is not a fragment of the rock of Plymouth in the granite of my frame."

"I have always told you, sir, that America is a capital eating and drinking country, let it want civilization in other matters, as much as it may."

"Capital for eating and drinking, Hugh, if you can keep clear of the grease, in the first place, and find a real cook, in the second. There is as much difference between the cookery of New England, for instance, and that of the Middle States, barring the Dutch, as there is between that of England and Germany. The cookery of the Middle States, and of the Southern States, too, though that savors a little of the West Indies-but the cookery of the Middle States is English, in its best sense; meaning the hearty, substantial, savory dishes of the English in their true domestic life, with their roast-beef underdone, their beefsteaks done to a turn, their chops full of gravy, their mutton-broth, legs-of-mutton, et id omne genus. We have some capital things of our own, too; such as canvas-backs, reedbirds, sheepshead, shad, and blackfish. The difference between New England and the Middle States is still quite observable, though in my younger days it was patent. I suppose the cause has been the more provincial origin, and the more provincial habits of our neighbors. By George! Hugh, one could fancy clam-soup just now, eh!"

"Clam-soup, sir, well made, is one of the most delicious soups in the world. If the cooks of Paris could get hold of the dish, it would set them up for a whole season."

"What is 'crême de Bavière,' and all such nicknacks, boy, to a good plateful of clam-soup? Well made, as you say,-made as a cook of Jennings's used to make it, thirty years since. Did I ever mention that fellow's soup to you before, Hugh?"

"Often, sir. I have tasted very excellent clam-soup, however, that he never saw. Of course, you mean soup just flavored by the little hard-clam-none of your vulgar potage à la soft-clam?"

"Soft-clams be hanged! they are not made for gentlemen to eat. Of course I mean the hard-clam, and the small clam,

"Here's your fine clams,

As white as snow;

On Rockaway

These clams do grow."

The cries of New York are quite going out, like everything else at home that is twenty years old. Shall I send you some of this eternal poulet à la Marengo? I wish it were honest American boiled fowl, with a delicate bit of shoat-pork alongside of it. I feel amazingly homeish this evening, Hugh!"

"It is quite natural, my dear uncle Ro; and I own to the 'soft impeachment' myself. Here have we both been absent from our native land five years, and half that time almost without hearing from it. We know that Jacob"-this was a free negro who served my uncle, a relic of the old domestic system of the colonies, whose name would have been Jaaf, or Yop, thirty years before-"has gone to our banker's for letters and papers; and that naturally draws our thoughts to the other side of the Atlantic. I dare say we shall both feel relieved at breakfast to-morrow, when we shall have read our respective dispatches."

"Come, let us take a glass of wine together, in the good old York fashion, Hugh. Your father and I, when boys, never thought of wetting our lips with the half-glass of Madeira that fell to our share, without saying, 'Good health, Mall!' 'Good health, Hodge!'"

"With all my heart, uncle Ro. The custom was getting to be a little obsolete even before I left home; but it is almost an American custom, by sticking to us longer than to most people."

"Henri!"

This was my uncle's ma?tre d' hotel, whom he had kept at board-wages the whole time of our absence, in order to make sure of his ease, quiet, taste, skill, and honesty, on his return.

"Monsieur!"

"I dare say"-my uncle spoke French exceedingly well for a foreigner; but it is better to translate what he said as we go-"I dare say this glass of vin de Bourgogne is very good; it looks good, and it came from a wine-merchant on whom I can rely; but Monsieur Hugh and I are going to drink together, à l'Américaine, and I dare say you will let us have a glass of Madeira, though it is somewhat late in the dinner to take it."

"Très volontiers, Messieurs-it is my happiness to oblige you."

Uncle Ro and I took the Madeira together; but I cannot say much in favor of its quality.

"What a capital thing is a good Newtown pippin!" exclaimed my uncle, after eating a while in silence. "They talk a great deal about their poire beurrée, here at Paris; but, to my fancy, it will not compare with the Newtowners we grow at Satanstoe, where, by the way, the fruit is rather better, I think, than that one finds across the river, at Newtown itself."

"They are capital apples, sir; and your orchard at Satanstoe is one of the best I know, or rather what is left of it; for I believe a portion

of your trees are in what is now a suburb of Dibbletonborough?"

"Yes, blast that place! I wish I had never parted with a foot of the old neck, though I did rather make money by the sale. But money is no compensation for the affections."

"Rather make money, my dear sir! Pray, may I ask what Satanstoe was valued at, when you got it from my grandfather?"

"Pretty well up, Hugh; for it was, and indeed is, a first-rate farm. Including sedges and salt-meadows, you will remember that there are quite five hundred acres of it, altogether."

"Which you inherited in 1829?"

"Of course; that was the year of my father's death. Why, the place was thought to be worth about thirty thousand dollars at that time; but land was rather low in Westchester in 1829."

"And you sold two hundred acres, including the point, the harbor, and a good deal of the sedges, for the moderate modicum of one hundred and ten thousand, cash. A tolerable sale, sir!"

"No, not cash. I got only eighty thousand down, while thirty thousand were secured by mortgage."

"Which mortgage you hold yet, I dare say, if the truth were told, covering the whole city of Dibbletonborough. A city ought to be good security for thirty thousand dollars?"

"It is not, nevertheless, in this case. The speculators who bought of me in 1835 laid out their town, built a hotel, a wharf, and a warehouse, and then had an auction. They sold four hundred lots, each twenty-five feet by a hundred, regulation size, you see, at an average of two hundred and fifty dollars, receiving one-half, or fifty thousand dollars down, and leaving the balance on mortgage. Soon after this, the bubble burst, and the best lot at Dibbletonborough would not bring, under the hammer, twenty dollars. The hotel and the warehouse stand alone in their glory, and will thus stand until they fall, which will not be a thousand years hence, I rather think."

"And what is the condition of the town-plot?"

"Bad enough. The landmarks are disappearing, and it would cost any man who should attempt it, the value of his lot, to hire a surveyor to find his twenty-five by a hundred."

"But your mortgage is good?"

"Ay, good in one sense; but it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to foreclose it. Why, the equitable interests in that town-plot people the place of themselves. I ordered my agent to commence buying up the rights, as the shortest process of getting rid of them; and he told me in the very last letter I received, that he had succeeded in purchasing the titles to three hundred and seventeen of the lots, at an average price of ten dollars. The remainder, I suppose, will have to be absorbed."

"Absorbed! That is a process I never heard of, as applied to land."

"There is a good deal of it done, notwithstanding, in America. It is merely including within your own possession, adjacent land for which no claimant appears. What can I do? No owners are to be found; and then my mortgage is always a title. A possession of twenty years under a mortgage is as good as a deed in fee-simple, with full covenants of warranty, barring minors and femes covert."

"You did better by Lilacsbush?"

"Ah, that was a clean transaction, and has left no drawbacks. Lilacsbush being on the island of Manhattan, one is sure there will be a town there, some day or other. It is true, the property lies quite eight miles from City Hall; nevertheless, it has a value, and can always be sold at something near it. Then the plan of New York is made and recorded, and one can find his lots. Nor can any man say when the town will not reach Kingsbridge."

"You got a round price for the bush, too, I have heard, sir?"

"I got three hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, in hard cash. I would give no credit, and have every dollar of the money, at this moment, in good six per cent. stock of the States of New York and Ohio."

"Which some persons in this part of the world would fancy to be no very secure investment."

"More fools they. America is a glorious country, after all, Hugh; and it is a pride and a satisfaction to belong to it. Look back at it, as I can remember it, a nation spit upon by all the rest of Christendom--"

"You must at least own, my dear sir," I put in, somewhat pertly, perhaps, "the example might tempt other people; for, if ever there was a nation that is assiduously spitting on itself, it is our own beloved land."

"True, it has that nasty custom in excess, and it grows worse instead of better, as the influence of the better mannered and better educated diminishes; but this is a spot on the sun-a mere flaw in the diamond, that friction will take out. But what a country-what a glorious country, in truth, it is! You have now done the civilized parts of the old world pretty thoroughly, my dear boy, and must be persuaded, yourself, of the superiority of your native land."

"I remember you have always used this language, uncle Ro; yet have you passed nearly one-half of your time out of that glorious country, since you have reached man's estate."

"The mere consequence of accidents and tastes. I do not mean that America is a country for a bachelor to begin with; the means of amusement for those who have no domestic hearths, are too limited for the bachelor. Nor do I mean that society in America, in its ordinary meaning, is in any way as well-ordered, as tasteful, as well-mannered, as agreeable, or as instructive and useful, as society in almost any European country I know. I have never supposed that the man of leisure, apart from the affections, could ever enjoy himself half as much at home, as he may enjoy himself in this part of the world; and I am willing to admit that, intellectually, most gentlemen in a great European capital live as much in one day, as they would live in a week in such places as New York, and Philadelphia, and Baltimore."

"You do not include Boston, I perceive, sir."

"Of Boston I say nothing. They take the mind hard there, and we had better let such a state of things alone. But as respects a man or woman of leisure, a man or woman of taste, or man or woman of refinement generally, I am willing enough to admit that, c?teris paribus, each can find far more enjoyment in Europe than in America. But the philosopher, the philanthropist, the political economist-in a word, the patriot, may well exult in such elements of profound national superiority as may be found in America."

"I hope these elements are not so profound but they can be dug up at need, uncle Ro?"

"There will be little difficulty in doing that, my boy. Look at the equality of the laws, to begin with. They are made on the principles of natural justice, and are intended for the benefit of society-for the poor as well as the rich."

"Are they also intended for the rich as well as the poor?"

"Well, I will grant you, a slight blemish is beginning to appear, in that particular. It is a failing incidental to humanity, and we must not expect perfection. There is certainly a slight disposition to legislate for numbers, in order to obtain support at the polls, which has made the relation of debtor and creditor a little insecure, possibly; but prudence can easily get along with that. It is erring on the right side, is it not, to favor the poor instead of the rich, if either is to be preferred?"

"Justice would favor neither, but treat all alike. I have always heard that the tyranny of numbers was the worst tyranny in the world."

"Perhaps it is, where there is actually tyranny, and for a very obvious reason. One tyrant is sooner satisfied than a million, and has even a greater sense of responsibility. I can easily conceive that the Czar himself, if disposed to be a tyrant, which I am far from thinking to be the case with Nicholas, might hesitate about doing that, under his undivided responsibility, which one of our majorities would do, without even being conscious of the oppression it exercised, or caring at all about it. But, on the whole, we do little of the last, and not in the least enough to counterbalance the immense advantages of the system."

"I have heard very discreet men say that the worst symptom of our system is the gradual decay of justice among us. The judges have lost most of their influence, and the jurors are getting to be law-makers, as well as law-breakers."

"There is a good deal of truth in that, I will acknowledge, also; and you hear it asked constantly, in a case of any interest, not which party is in the right, but who is on the jury. But I contend for no perfection; all I say is, that the country is a glorious country, and that you and I have every reason to be proud that old Hugh Roger, our predecessor and namesake, saw fit to transplant himself into it, a century and a half since."

"I dare say now, uncle Ro, it would strike most Europeans as singular that a man should be proud of having been born an American-Manhattanese, as you and I both were."

"All that may be true, for there have been calculated attempts to bring us into discredit of late, by harping on the failure of certain States to pay the interest on their debts. But all that is easily answered, and more so by you and me as New Yorkers. There is not a nation in Europe that would pay its interest, if those who are taxed to do so had the control of these taxes, and the power to say whether they were to be levied or not."

"I do not see how that mends the matter. These countries tell us that such is the effect of your system there, while we are too honest to allow such a system to exist in this part of the world."

"Pooh! all gammon, that. They prevent the existence of our system for very different reasons, and they coerce the payment of the interest on their debts that they may borrow more. This business of repudiation, as it is called, however, has been miserably misrepresented; and there is no answering a falsehood by an argument. No American State has repudiated its debt, that I know of, though several have been unable to meet their engagements as they have fallen due."

"Unable, uncle Ro?"

"Yes, unable-that is the precise word. Take Pennsylvania, for instance; that is one of the richest communities in the civilized world; its coal and iron alone would make any country affluent, and a portion of its agricultural population is one of the most affluent I know of. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania, owing to a concurrence of events, could not pay the interest on her debt for two years and a half, though she is doing it now, and will doubtless continue to do it. The sudden breaking down of that colossal moneyed institution, the soi-disant Bank of the United States, after it ceased to be in reality a bank of the government, brought about such a state of the circulation as rendered payment, by any of the ordinary means known to government, impossible. I know what I say, and repeat impossible. It is well known that many persons, accustomed to affluence, had to carry their plate to the mint, in order to obtain money to go to market. Then something may be attributed to the institutions, without disparaging a people's honesty. Our institutions are popular, just as those of France are the reverse; and the people, they who were on the spot-the home creditor, with his account unpaid, and with his friends and relatives in the legislature, and present to aid him, contended for his own money, before any should be sent abroad."

"Was that exactly right, sir?"

"Certainly not; it was exactly wrong, but very particularly natural. Do you suppose the king of France would not take the money for his civil list, if circumstances should compel the country to suspend on the debt for a year or two, or the ministers their salaries? My word for it, each and all of them would prefer themselves as creditors, and act accordingly. Every one of these countries has suspended in some form or other, and in many instances balanced the account with the sponge. Their clamor against us is altogether calculated with a view to political effect."

"Still, I wish Pennsylvania, for instance, had continued to pay, at every hazard."

"It is well enough to wish, Hugh: but it is wishing for an impossibility. Then you and I, as New Yorkers, have nothing to do with the debt of Pennsylvania, no more than London would have to do with the debt of Dublin or Quebec. We have always paid our interest, and, what is more, paid it more honestly, if honesty be the point, than even England has paid hers. When our banks suspended, the State paid its interest in as much paper as would buy the specie in open market; whereas England made paper legal tender, and paid the interest on her debt in it for something like five-and-twenty years, and that, too, when her paper was at a large discount. I knew of one American who held near a million of dollars in the English debt, on which he had to take unconvertible paper for the interest for a long series of years. No, no! this is all gammon, Hugh, and is not to be regarded as making us a whit worse than our neighbors. The equality of our laws is the fact in which I glory!"

"If the rich stood as fair a chance as the poor, Uncle Ro."

"There is a screw loose there, I must confess; but it amounts to no great matter."

"Then the late bankrupt law?"

"Ay, that was an infernal procedure-that much I will acknowledge, too. It was special legislation enacted to pay particular debts, and the law was repealed as soon as it had done its duty. That is a much darker spot in our history than what is called repudiation, though perfectly honest men voted for it."

"Did you ever hear of a farce they got up about it at New York, just after we sailed?"

"Never; what was it, Hugh? though American plays are pretty much all farces."

"This was a little better than common, and, on the whole, really clever. It is the old story of Faust, in which a young spendthrift sells himself, soul and body, to the devil. On a certain evening, as he is making merry with a set of wild companions, his creditor arrives, and, insisting on seeing the master, is admitted by the servant. He comes on, club-footed and behorned, as usual, and betailed, too, I believe; but Tom is not to be scared by trifles. He insists on his guest being seated, on his taking a glass of wine, and then on Dick's finishing his song. But, though the rest of the company had signed no bonds to Satan, they had certain outstanding book-debts, which made them excessively uncomfortable; and the odor of brimstone being rather strong, Tom arose, approached his guest, and desired to know the nature of the particular business he had mentioned to his servant. 'This bond, sir,' said Satan, significantly. 'This bond? what of it, pray? It seems all right.' 'Is not that your signature?' 'I admit it.' 'Signed in your blood?' 'A conceit of your own; I told you at the time that ink was just as good in law.' 'It is past due, seven minutes and fourteen seconds.' 'So it is, I declare! but what of that?' 'I demand payment.' 'Nonsense! no one thinks of paying nowadays. Why, even Pennsylvania and Maryland don't pay.' 'I insist on payment' 'Oh! you do, do you?' Tom draws a paper from his pocket, and adds, magnificently, 'There, then, if you're so urgent-there is a discharge under the new bankrupt law, signed Smith Thompson.' This knocked the devil into a cocked-hat at once."

My uncle laughed heartily at my story; but, instead of taking the matter as I had fancied he might, it made him think better of the country than ever.

"Well, Hugh, we have wit among us, it must be confessed," he cried, with the tears running down his cheeks, "if we have some rascally laws, and some rascals to administer them. But here comes Jacob with his letters and papers-I declare, the fellow has a large basketful."

Jacob, a highly respectable black, and the great-grandson of an old negro named Jaaf, or Yop, who was then living on my own estate at Ravensnest, had just then entered, with the porter and himself lugging in the basket in question. There were several hundred newspapers, and quite a hundred letters. The sight brought home and America clearly and vividly before us; and having nearly finished the dessert, we rose to look at the packages. It was no small task to sort our mail, there being so many letters and packages to be divided.

"Here are some newspapers I never saw before," said my uncle, as he tumbled over the pile; "The Guardian of the Soil-that must have something to do with Oregon."

"I dare say it has, sir. Here are at least a dozen letters from my sister."

"Ay, your sister is single, and can still think of her brother; but mine are married, and one letter a year would be a great deal. This is my dear old mother's hand, however; that is something. Ursula Malbone would never forget her child. Well, bon soir, Hugh. Each of us has enough to do for one evening."

"Au revoir, sir. We shall meet at ten to-morrow, when we can compare our news, and exchange gossip."

* * *

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