University of Virginia Library


Page 257


“Our profession is the chastest of all. The shadow of a fault
tarnishes our most brilliant actions. The least inadvertence may
cause us to lose that public favour which is so hard to gain.”

The quotation from a public reprimand of Washington
to a general officer, which forms the motto
to this chapter, contains the amount of his reproof
to Linwood in their first and private interview.
Even this reproof was softened by the generous
approbation his general expressed of the manliness
and respectful submission with which he had
endured the penalty of his rashness. Linwood's
heart was touched; and, obeying the impulse of
his frank nature, he communicated the circumstances
that had mitigated his captivity, and gave a
sort of dot and line sketch of his love-tale to the
awe-inspiring Washington. Oh the miracles of
love! But let not too much power be ascribed to the
blind god. Linwood's false impressions of Washington's
impenetrable sternness were effaced by
his own experience, the most satisfactory of all
evidence. He found that this great man, like Him
whom he imitated, was not strict to mark iniquity,
and was, whenever he could be so without the
sacrifice of higher duties, alive to social virtues and


Page 258

“Well, my young friend,” he said, as Linwood
concluded, “you certainly have made the most of
your season of affliction, and now we must take
care of these generous companions of your flight.
Our quarters are stinted; but Mrs. Washington
has yet a spare room, which they must occupy till
they can return with safety to the city, and choose
to do so.”

Linwood thought himself, and with good reason,
requited a thousand fold for all his trials. His
only embarrassment was relieved, and he had soon
after the happiness of presenting his sister and
Lady Anne Seton to Mrs. Washington, a most
benign and excellent woman, and of confiding
them to the hospitalities of her household. Eliot
and Linwood's gallantry, in their rencounter with
the enemy, was marked, and advanced them in the
opinion of their fellow-officers; but the signal
favour it obtained from the ladies of Morristown,
must have been in part a collateral consequence of
the immense importance, to their domestic comfort,
of those precious stores which our friends
had secured for them.

Their sympathy in the romantic adventures of the
young ladies was manifested in the usual feminine
mode, by a round of little parties: from stern necessity,
frugal entertainments, but abounding in
one luxury, so rare where all others now abound,
that it might be thought unattainable; the highest
luxury of social life—what is it?


Page 259

With the luggage of our heroines came encouraging
accounts from Mrs. Archer of Bessie Lee's
progress, assurances of Mr. Linwood's unwonted
patience, and hints that it would be most prudent
for her young friends to remain where they were till
the excitement, occasioned by their departure, had
subsided. Still Isabella was so thoroughly impressed
with the filial duty of returning without any voluntary
delay, that at her urgent request, measures
were immediately taken to effect it; but obstacle
after obstacle intervened. Sir Henry Clinton was
about taking his departure for the south, and he put
off from time to time giving an official assurance of
an act of oblivion in favour of our romantic offenders.
The rigours of that horrible winter of 1780,
still unparalleled in the annals of our hard seasons,
set in, and embarrassed all intercommunication.

It must be confessed, that Isabella bore these
trials with such gracious patience, that it hardly
seemed to be the result of difficult effort. It was
quite natural that she should participate in the overflowing
happiness of her brother and friend. And
it was natural that, being now an eyewitness of the
struggles, efforts, endurance, and entire self-sacrifice
of the great men that surrounded her, her mind,
acute in perception, and vigorous in reflection,
should be excited and gratified. There are those
who deem political subjects beyond the sphere of
a woman's, certainly of a young woman's mind.
But if our young ladies were to give a portion of


Page 260
the time and interest they expend on dress, gossip,
and light reading, to the comprehension of the constitution
of their country, and its political institutions,
would they be less interesting companions,
less qualified mothers, or less amiable women?
“But there are dangers in a woman's adventuring
beyond her customary path.” There are; and
better the chance of shipwreck on a voyage of
high purpose, than expend life in paddling hither
and thither on a shallow stream, to no purpose at

Isabella's mind was not regularly trained; and,
like that of most of her sex, the access to it was
through the medium of her feelings. Her sympathies
were not limited to the few, the “bright, the
immortal names” that are now familiar as household
words to us all. She saw the same virtues
that illustrated them conspicuous in the poor soldiers;
in that class of men that have been left out
in the world's estimate, and whose existence is
scarcely recognised in its past history. The winter
of 1780 was characterized by Washington as “the
decisive moment, the most important America had
seen!” The financial affairs of the country were
in the utmost disorder. The currency had so depreciated,
that a captain's pay would scarcely furnish
the shoes in which he marched to battle. The
soldiers were without clothes or blankets, and this
in our coldest winter. They had been but a few
days in their winter quarters before the flour and


Page 261
meat were exhausted; and yet, as Washington said
in a letter to Congress, after speaking of the patient
and uncomplaining fortitude with which the army
bore their sufferings, “though there had been frequent
desertions—not one mutiny.” Happy was it
for America that, in the beginning of her national
existence, she thus tested the virtue of the people,
and, profiting by her experience, was confirmed in
her resolution to confide her destinies to them!

Something above the ordinary standard has been
claimed for our heroine; but it must be confessed,
after all, that she was a mere woman, and that the
mainspring of her mind's movements was in her
heart. How much of Isabella's enthusiasm in the
American cause was to be attributed to her intercourse
with Eliot Lee, we leave to be determined
by her peers. That intercourse had never been
disturbed by the cross-purposes, jarring sentiments,
clashing opinions, and ever-annoying disparities,
that had so long made her life resemble a troubled
dream. Eliot's world was her world; his spirit
answered to hers. During that swift month that
had flown away at Morristown, how often had she
secretly rejoiced in the complete severance of the
chain that had so long bound her to an “alternate
slave of vanity and love!”—how she exulted in
her freedom—freedom! the voluntary service of
the heart is better than freedom.

There were no longer any barriers to Isabella
and Lady Anne's return to the city. The day was


Page 262
fixed; it came; and while they were packing their
trunks, and thinking of the partings that awaited
them, Lady Anne's eyes streaming, and Isabella's
changing cheek betraying a troubled heart, a letter
was handed to Lady Anne. She looked at the
superscription, threw it down, then resumed it,
broke the seal, and read it. Without speaking, she
mused over it for a moment, then suddenly disappeared,
leaving her affairs unarranged, and did
not return till Isabella's trunk was locked, and she
was about wrapping herself in her travelling furs.
She reproved her little friend's delay, urged haste,
suggested consolation, and offered assistance.
Lady Anne made no reply, but bent over her trunk,
where, instead of arrangement, she seemed to produce
hopeless confusion. “How strange,” she exclaimed,
“that Thérése should have sent me this
fresh white silk dress!”

“Very strange; but pray do not stay to examine
it now.”

“Bless Thérése! Here is my Brussels veil, too!”

“My dear child, are you out of your senses?
Our escort will be waiting—pray, pray make

“And pray, dear Belle, don't stand looking at
me—you fidget me so. Oh, I forgot to tell you
Captain Lee asked for you—he is in the drawing-room—go
down to him—please, dear Belle.” As
Lady Anne looked up, Isabella was struck with the
changed expression of her countenance; it was


Page 263
bright and smiling, the sadness completely gone.
But she did not stay to speculate on the change,
nor did she, it must be confessed, advert to Lady
Anne for the next fifteen minutes. Many thoughts
rushed through her mind as she descended the
stairs. She wondered, painfully wondered, if Eliot
would allude to their memorable parting at Mrs.
Archer's; “if he should repeat what he then said,
what could she say in reply?” When she reached
the drawing-room door, she was obliged to pause
to gain self-command; and when she opened it she
was as pale as marble, and her features had a stern
composure that would have betrayed her effort to
any eye but Eliot's; to his they did not.

Eliot attempted to speak the commonplaces of
such occasions, and she to answer them; but his
sentences were lame, and her replies monosyllables;
and they both soon sunk into a silence more
expressive of their mutual feelings.

“Lady Anne said he asked for me—well, it was
but to tell me the cold has abated!—and the sleighing
is fine! and he trusts I shall reach the city
without inconvenience! What a poor simpleton I
was to fancy that such sudden and romantic devotion
could be lasting. A very little reality—a little
everyday intercourse, has put the actual in the place
of the ideal!”

If Isabella had ventured to lift her eye to Eliot's
face at this moment, she would have read in the
conflict it expressed the contradiction of her false


Page 264
surmises; and if her eye had met his, the conflict
might have ceased, for it takes but a spark to explode
a magazine. But Eliot had come into her
presence resolved to resist the impulses of his
heart, however strong they might be. He thought
he should but afflict her generous nature by a second
expression of his love, and his grief at parting.
There had been moments when a glance of Isabella's
eye, a tone of her voice—a certain indescribable
something, which those alone who have heard
and seen such can conceive, had flashed athwart his
mind like a sunbeam, and visions of bliss in years
to come had passed before him; but clouds and
darkness followed, and he remembered that Miss
Linwood was unattainable to him—that if it were
possible by the devotion of years to win her, how
should he render that devotion, pledged as he was
to his country for a service of uncertain length, and
severed as he must be from her by an impassable
barrier of circumstances? As he had said to Isabella,
he had been trained in the school of self-subjection,
and never had he given such a proof of
it as in these last few moments; the last he expected
ever to enjoy or suffer with her. Both
were so absorbed in their own emotions that they
did not notice the various entrances and exits of
the servants, who were bustling in and out, and
arranging cake and wine on a sideboard, with a
deal of significance that would have amused unconcerned
spectators. A louder, more portentous


Page 265
bustle followed, the door was thrown wide open,
and both Eliot and Isabella were startled from their
reveries by the entrance of Mrs. Washington,
attended by a gentleman in clerical robes, and followed
by Linwood and Lady Anne, in the bridal
silk and veil that Thérése, with inspiration worthy
a French chambermaid, had forwarded.

“One word with you, Miss Linwood,” said Mrs.
Washington, taking Isabella apart. “This dear
little girl, it seems, was left independent of all control
by her fond father. The honourable scruples
of your family have alone prevented her surrendering
her independence into your brother's hands.
She has this morning received a letter from her
aunt, written in a transport of rage, at her son's
unexpected marriage with a Miss Ruthven. I
fancy it is a Miss Ruthven of the Virginia family
—Grenville Ruthven's eldest daughter?”

“Yes—yes—it is, madam,” replied Isabella,
with a faltering voice. The emotion passed with
the words.

“Lady Anne's aunt,” resumed Mrs. Washington,
“declares her intention of immediately returning
to England, and renounces her niece for
ever. Lady Anne and your brother have referred
their case to me; she saying, with her usual playfulness,
that she has turned rebel, and put herself
under the orders of the commander-in-chief, or
rather, he being this morning absent, under mine.
I have decided according to my best judgment


Page 266
There seems to be no sufficient reason why they
should defer their nuptials, and endure the torments
and perils of a protracted separation. So, my dear
Miss Linwood, you have nothing to do but submit
to my decision—take your place there as bride's-maid—you
see your brother has already stationed
his friend, Captain Lee, beside him as groom's-man—Colonel
Hamilton is waiting our summons
to give away the bride.”

At a signal from his mistress, a servant opened
the door to the adjoining room, and Hamilton entered,
his face glowing with the sympathies and
chivalric sentiment always ready to gush from his
heart when its social spring was touched. Isabella
had but time to whisper to Lady Anne, “Just
what I would have prayed for had I dared to hope
it,” when the clergyman opened his book and performed
his office. That over, Mrs. Washington, as
the representative of the parents, pronounced a
blessing on the bridal pair; and that no due ceremonial
should be omitted, the bridal cake was cut
and distributed according to established usage;
accompanied by a remark from Mrs. Washington,
that it must have been compounded by some good
hymeneal genius, as it was the only orthodox
plum cake that had been or was like to be seen in
Morristown, during that hard winter.

Now came partings, and tears, and last kind
words, and messages that were sure to find their
way to Mr. Linwood's heart, and a bit of wedding-cake


Page 267
for mamma, who would scarcely have believed
her son lawfully married unless she had tasted it;
and last of all, an order for a fine new suit for
Rose, in compensation for that so unceremoniously
dropped at “Smith's house.”

At last, Isabella, in a covered sleigh, escorted by
a guard, and attended by her brother and Eliot Lee
on horseback, set off for the place appointed for
her British friends to meet her, and there she was
transferred to their protection.

What Eliot endured, as he lingered for a moment
at Isabella's side, cannot be expressed. She felt
her heart rising to her eyes and cheeks, and by an
effort of that fortitude, or pride, or resolution, which
is woman's strength, by whatever name it may be
called, she firmly said, “Farewell!”

“Eliot's voice was choked. He turned away
without speaking; he impulsively returned and
withdrew the curtain that hung before Isabella.
She was in a paroxysm of grief, her head thrown
back, her hands clasped, and tears streaming from
her eyes. What a spectacle—what a blessed
spectacle for a self-distrusting, hopeless lover!

“Isabella!” he exclaimed, “we do not then part
for ever?”

“I hope not,” she replied.

The driver, unconscious of Eliot's returning
movement, cracked his whip, the horses started on
their course, and the road making a sudden turn,
the sleigh instantly disappeared, leaving Eliot feel


Page 268
ing as if he had been translated to another world—
a world of illimitable hope, immeasurable joy.

“`I hope not.”' Could Isabella have uttered a
more commonplace reply? and yet these words,
with the emotion that preceded them, were a key
to volumes—were pondered on and brooded over,
through summer and winter—ay, for years.

Ah, n'en doutons pas! à travers les temps et
les espaces, les àmes ont quelquefois des correspondances
mysterieuses. En vain le monde réel èlève
ses barrières entre deux êtres qui s'aiment; habitans
de la vie idéale, ils s'apparaissent dans l'absence,
ils s'unissent dans la mort