University of Virginia Library

Search this document 




“Be thy dinner simple and sufficient,
And let thy guests be thy sauces and spices.”

Grace Herbert was in a false position in our American
Paris. Happy those who find their right one anywhere!
A creature of her rare gifts was about as well adapted to
the fashionable world of New York, as a first-rate ship
would be to the artificial lake of a pleasure-ground. In
other civilized countries, where there is a privileged class
sustained by transmitted rank, individuality of character is
fearlessly exhibited in high life, and talent is variously cultivated
and developed in the brilliant accomplishments that
enamel its society. Time-hallowed names and new-made
honor playing a part in the same scene, produce dramatic
effects; and boldness in vice, and picturesque eccentricities
sustain the interest, at least while youth lasts.

But with us whatever is noblest and most effective in
character is, for the most part, strained out of this life.
Who hopes to meet our poets, our artists, and our historians
at the “most brilliant party of the season,” or but by
some rare chance, to see there an heroic Arctic adventurer,
an eloquent advocate, or a renowned statesman; or, far below
them, on the scale, the ripe men and women who constitute
the intellectual capital of the country? No, our society is
characterized by the monotony and infinite tediousness of
mediocrity, by a vulgar and childish struggle for the


Page 160
most insipid of all celebrities, a celebrity for fine dress,
`palatial' houses, costly furniture, showy equipage, and surpassing
expense in entertainments. The inevitable consequence
is that our drawing-rooms are not, we believe, quite
the vulgar arenas they have been described, but they are for
the most part abandoned to boys and girls, whose keen appetite
for pleasure has not been dulled by even one campaign
experience; and a woman of two-and-twenty, like
Grace Herbert, if not occupied by an engrossing affection, is
in this fine world—if we may risk the ungracefulness of the
comparison—much like a locomotive off the track. If she
had been absolutely poor and friendless, she would have
found a safety-valve in employment. “The ashes of her
own fire would not have choked her soul.” If her destiny
had been cast in the country, its unmasked life and healthy
simplicity would have tended to a serene existence. She
might, it is true, have made her own life, but as yet she had
yielded to the intensity of her nature, not controlled it.
Such intensity is like fire: if the best servant, the cruelest

At this crisis of her life, she was in danger of resigning
the control of this element to another in whose hands it
would be sure to become a destructive agent. At Eleanor's
house, she escaped from the ordinary insipidity of the
winter's routine. She anticipated the dinner-hour on the
following day, and ran up to the nursery for a romp with
the children, while her Uncle Walter went to the library.
The library and drawing-room were one in Eleanor's limited
household. Little May sprang into her arms with a clamorous
welcome. “Oh, Grace!” she said, “my own Grace, to-day!
Where did you get that red rose in your hair?”

“And what if I don't tell you, May?”

“Then I shall guess.”

“No, no! no guessing, May; take this bouquet to your


Page 161
mother—tell her it is sent by our kind step-mamma—and
here is a tiny rose-bud for you from my own bouquet.”

“Oh, thank you; but Grace, why do you always call
grandmother `step-mamma' and `step-mother?' Mamma
never does.”

“Do as your mamma does, my dear, and ask me no questions.”

“Ask no questions and guess no guesses; but I shall,
though!” pursued the child, with arch pertinacity, perceiving
by a sort of mischievous intuition that she teased her aunt.
“The red rose and, I guess, the bouquet too, came from—”

Grace put her hand over the child's lips, and while she
laughed and struggled, Eleanor said, “Wherever it came
from, Grace, it becomes you; but it is a camelia, May—a
Japan rose.”

“So it is; and Mr. Copley said—have not I guessed,
Grace?—Mr. Copley said, mamma, that red camelias were
created for Aunt Grace's hair.”

Eleanor looked at Grace as if to verify Mr. Copley's
opinion. Her eye met her sister's, and Grace's eye fell.
Children are quick interpreters. May put her chubby little
arms around her aunt's neck caressingly, and said, “Now
don't be angry with me, Grace.”

“Angry, May! What on earth makes you think I am

“Why you don't look as you did when Mr. Copley said
that—then you smiled all the time.”

“Take care! you little spy,” said her mother, “or your
Aunt Grace won't let you stay with her, when Mr. Copley
is there.”

“Then I shall hate him, for he is always there,” replied
the child.

“In that case, my dear, yours will be a united family,”
said Grace.


Page 162

“Don 't chastise the parents over the child, Grace,” said
Eleanor; “depend on it, we shall never hate whom you can

Little May was perplexed, but snatching at a meaning, she
said, “Do you love Mr. Horace Copley, Grace?”

“I love you, May.” The child knowing but one quality
of love, was quite satisfied that she outrivaled Copley, and
Grace prevented further queries by asking her sister if she
expected any other guest than Mr. Lisle?

“Yes; Miss Adeline Clapp.”

“What! that intrusive, vulgar young woman from Clapville?
Why did you ask her?”

“Simply because I could not help it.” Eleanor did not
understand the severe purport of her words. She “could
not help it;” Miss Clapp had accidentally learned the preceding
evening that Archibald Lisle was to dine with Mr.
Esterly—she resolved to be of the party, and her resolve
was destiny. “She called here this morning,” continued
Eleanor; “I found her in the library, the folding-doors
open, and Bridget arranging for dinner. I told her, by way
of apology, that I had given orders to Bridget to say that I
was engaged. `The girl told me so,' she replied, `but I
knew you would not mind me—I never make myself a
stranger.' Then, after asking me a cluster of questions, and
ascertaining who was coming to dine with me, she professed
an old intimacy with Mr. Lisle, and concluded by saying,
`I have a great mind to dine with you, too, to-day—voluntarily—that
is what Uncle Medad calls being hospitable.'
You see, Grace, I could not help myself.”

“I see you did not; if people are ignorant of conventional
rules, and have no instincts, you should harden your heart in
self-defense, Eleanor. You have spoiled our dinner. If we
were a large party, this savage would not harm it, but a bad
flavor in a simple dish ruins it. Uncle Walter, whose very


Page 163
soul it grieves to decline a good dinner, will not accept an
invitation till he has a bill of fare of the company. He
dreads to meet those who will either bore him, or not understand
him. The other day, at a dinner company at home—
our step-mother is rather remarkable, you know, for ill-assorting
her guests—that old pedant Price quoted a long,
irrelevant passage from Dryden. `Dryden! Dryden! who
is Dryden?' exclaimed Uncle Walter. Afterward, in the
drawing-room, Mrs. Hall said, `How very odd, your Uncle
Walter never heard of Dryden! why, dear, he is the glorious
John, so often spoken of in the “Pirate!” '”

“Did you set her right, Grace?”

“I? No—that would have suited your milk of human
kindness; I merely shrugged my shoulders, and said, `Is
he?' and was no doubt put in the category of ignorance
with my Uncle Walter. No, Eleanor; you may as well
have guests speaking different languages, as with such wide
disparities as there are between Miss Adeline Clapp and
Archibald Lisle!”

When the sisters came down to the library, Uncle Walter
kissed Eleanor, as was his custom, and surveying her with
satisfaction said, “By George, Nelly, you are the best
dressed” (en passant, Eleanor's dress always harmonized,
like the colors of a flower) “best little model woman, wife,
and mother in the United States.”

“Happiest, Uncle Walter—say happiest, and leave out
your other epithets.”

“No, my child; but add that, it fits with the rest. One
may be good without being happy, but never happy without
being good—and that aphorism is as old as Seneca.” He
then murmured, in a low voice:

“`Give me the pliant mind, whose gentle measure
Complies, and suits with all estates.'”


Page 164
He turned his eye to Grace. She smiled and nodded, accepting
her sister's praise, and her own implied dispraise.
“But, Eleanor,” he continued, “where is May? You promised
me my cotemporaries!”

Eleanor explained that May had been sent away to give
place to an unexpected guest.

“Then, Nelly,” he said, “I am to be the only child in the

“Yes, Uncle Walter,” rejoined Grace, patting his bushy
gray head; “the only boy, and welcomed and loved because
you are a boy, and always will be!”

The flow of family satisfactions was suspended by Archibald
Lisle's entrance, his face beaming with the yet fresh joy
of his recent return. He was merely bowing to Grace, when
she cordially extended her hand. His face lighted with a
flush of surprise, which had not subsided when Miss Adeline
Clapp entered, producing a Gorgon influence on the general
vivacity, and almost paralyzing Lisle. She rustled in, overdressed
for the occasion in an over-flounced and over-trimmed
plaided silk of all colors, with flame-colored ribbons
in her hair, which harmonized with nothing but the perennial
color of her cheek. As Miss Clapp is a real person, we
are bound to exhibit her as she is daguerreotyped on our
memory. She was as tall as any of the muses, and remarkably
well made, but not in the least like the Graces, for an
ever-present self-consciousness made her stiff as a lay figure.
Her feet were small, and always en scene. Her hands were
white, and emblazoned with rings, of more sparkle than
value, for it was Miss Adeline's boast that she never made
“unproductive investments.” Her features were regular,
except the nose, which was a tower of strength, long, high,
and aquiline. For the rest she may be served in superlatives.
Her skin was very white, so were her teeth. Her
hair was very black and abundant, with a very unrelenting


Page 165
cow-lick. Her identifying peculiarity, her “mark,” was a
deep, unvarying color. No variation of feeling deepened
or paled it. Like Cæsar's wife, it was not to be suspected,
for it suffused the nose, and dyed the angle of the chin—it
was fierce!

Miss Adeline went through the prescribed greeting to the
hostess, and then turning upon poor Archibald Lisle raked
him, as a broad-side from a man-of-war might a defenceless
yacht. His two years abroad had done pretty well for his
natural shyness, but had not fortified him against such an
attack. “How pleasant to meet you again, Archy,” she
said; “you know, Dates and I always used to call you `Archy'
—and to meet, too, when I least expected it!”—the relentless
woman had been weeks plotting the meeting!—“and only
two days after you got to the city!” Lisle blushed and stammered,
said she was “very kind,” and felt as if he could bite
off his tongue for saying so; but when she proceeded to
say, in a lowered and emphatic tone, giving to her communication
the aspect of old intimacy, “Just eight years, last
Thanksgiving, since we parted!” he became confused, half
turned away, and overset a light Italian chair, which, as all
Italian chairs do, broke. Esterly came to his relief, saying,
“Go make your peace with my wife;” and then making
good his intervention, he laughed at his friend's characteristic
“bad luck.” “Mr. Lisle was a great favorite of my poor
mother,” he said, “but she had rather a dread of the peril
to lamps, inkstands, etc., when he came to see us—I am glad
to find him unchanged.”

“Unchanged! my! do you feel so? Well, to be sure I
have not seen him for eight years, and then I saw him in—
in peculiar circumstances,” again Miss Adeline lowered her
very nasal voice, and cast down her eyes mysteriously. Happily,
any further communication was prevented by the announcement
of dinner, and Esterly took good care to place


Page 166
the young lady as far as possible from her victim. Miss
Adeline was restive. “Well,” she said, “if I felt about
married gentlemen as most young ladies do, I should have a
set-to, Mr. Esterly, with you for placing me so far from the
only beau present. I hope he does not overhear,” she continued,
turning her eyes to Lisle, and taking advantage of
the momentary silence preluding the onset of knives and
forks, to make sure he did.

“Confound her,” muttered Uncle Walter, in a tone so low,
that Grace alone heard it, and she forgave it.

But the ill-sorting guest—the bad ingredient—did not, as
Grace had predicted, spoil the dinner; the other materials
were too strong and too flavorous to be so overpowered.
The genial flow was now and then interrupted by a cross
shot from Miss Clapp, who asked Lisle if he were not homesick
when abroad. To which he most distinctly replied,
“Never.” And when she answered, “Well, that's a compliment
to your friends at home,” he rejoined, “I heard
regularly from all the friends I cared to hear from,” after
which, she was miraculously silent for half an hour.

No man enjoyed a good dinner—the rite of social life always
enjoyed by men of genial quality—more thoroughly
than Uncle Walter; but when canvas-backs and delicate
birds succeeded to the first course, he said, “Come, come,
Nelly, this won't do; I called you my model woman, and
you are giving in to the excesses of the town.”

“Excesses, Uncle Walter,” said Grace, “after your dinner
yesterday in Fourteenth-street, where, you told me, each
guest was rated at twenty-five dollars a head?”

“My dear Grace, do you think I bring our little transcendental
woman's hospitalities into comparison with such a
feeding and pricing fête as that?”

“Transcendental! Uncle Walter,” said Eleanor. “Do
you mean to satirize me?”


Page 167

“No, my child. I keep my satire for Grace—who feels
it. But do not you and Esterly maintain that the luxury of
your table is to consist in your guests, and not in your
viands? I don't clearly understand the meaning of your
new-fangled words; but I supposed that was transcendental
—(the bird is delicious!) Did not you invite your charming
English friend to meet Bryant here, to dine with you upon a
single joint of meat, and a simple pudding? Is not that
spiritualizing, transcendentalizing hospitality? Give me
another bit of the `good creature,' Frank. This time Heaven
has sent the cook, as well as the meat.”

“Dear me!” exclaimed Miss Adeline, “how odd it must
seem to you, Mr. Lisle, just coming from Paris, to hear such
an ado over a pair of canvas-backs!”

“Odd!” repeated Lisle, “a `home-cut and come again'
sirloin of beef is delicious to me, after frugally feeding at
French Restorateurs, and Italian Trattorias.

“A sirloin of beef! yes, indeed,” said Mr. Herbert, “even
a beef-steak, cooked by our old Diana, is a dish for a king—
a mouthful more, Frank—the goddess has roasted them to a
turn—you don't know the goddess, Mr. Lisle. She was
born in the last century, and reared, and taught by a past
generation, in those golden days before the Celts came in.
Heaven help you who have fallen upon the latter times of
Irish cooks. The goddess would rather suffer the martyrdom
of St. Lazarus, and be broiled on one of her own gridirons,
than to see her old `misses” daughters adopt the
fashionable `à las.' I shy them too. I have a Jew's horror
of unclean beasts. I like to eat the dear familiar creature I
know (one mouthful more, Frank, and I have done); as you
say, Mr. Lisle, an honest sirloin is good enough.”

Lodare il mare e passare par la terra!” said Grace.

“What's that, Grace? Sir Toby and I, you know, never
followed the tongues.”


Page 168

“An Italian proverb you reminded me of, Uncle Walter.
I will give you a free translation: “Praise the beef-steak,
and feed on the canvas-backs.”

Mr. Herbert finished the last of his “last morsels,” and
turning to Mrs. Esterly, said, “Now, honor-bright, Nelly,
where did these ducks come from? They are the first of the
season, and, therefore, alas! not for our money.”

“They were sent to us by a friend in Baltimore.”

“Ah, Lisle, there's the secret out of our not dining on a
joint. Truly, `a friend is the medicine of life.' But, Grace,
none of your arch smiles at me. I am neither gourmand,
nor epicure, you know.”

“No, Uncle Walter, neither, but just genially on the verge
of both!”

“Well! I am not transcendental.”

There was a twinkle from Walter Herbert's eye, and a
certain movement of his lips, which, contrasting with the
massive strength and gravity of his countenance, gave an
indescribable touch of humor to what he said. He excited
laughter without indicating it. A smile went round the
table at his disclaimer of transcendentalism. This perplexed
Miss Adeline, who said in a low voice to Esterly, “I don't
feel as if it was right to laugh at the old gentleman—he's
rather broke, isn't he?”

“Broke!” echoed Esterly, in a voice that reached Grace's
quick ear. Miss Clapp saw her exchange glances with him
—she was nettled and said, “It's not so very uncommon for
old people to fail, though my grandfather, Captain Clapp,
who was in the battle of Bunker Hill, is as bright as a dollar.
You remember grandpa, Mr. Lisle?”

“N—no—. Yes, I beg your pardon, I do.”

“I thought so!” she retorted; and every one of her shining
white teeth seemed to Lisle to express a triumph. “I


Page 169
was mistrusting it might impair the memory to travel, and
see things—we, that stay at home, don't forget.”

Why these commonest of common-placeisms should torture
Lisle, the two sisters, who sat on each side of him, could
not imagine; but he actually writhed, bit his nails, and crumbled
to atoms a fragment of bread at his plate.

Grace interposed to shelter him from this teasing hailstorm
of Miss Adeline's. She plunged into the subject of
art, a terra in cognita to the pure native. In reply to some
inquiry of Miss Herbert's, Lisle said, “You can hardly
imagine my Vandal ignorance on these subjects when I went
abroad. I had been trained for practical life, and had been
delving in hard work. I hardly knew the names of the old

“You know them, by your own showing, Lisle,” interposed
Walter Herbert, “as well as one of my fine lady Fifthavenue
acquaintance, who asked me the other day to come
and see her portrait, done by one of the old masters.”

“Pardon me, not quite so bad as that either, Mr. Herbert.
I had had glances into the world of art—some intimations
of its immortalities. You may possibly remember, Miss
Herbert, an evening I passed with you, in looking over a
portfolio of fine engravings? Your comments were instructions—revelations
to me—do you remember it?”

“Yes—I think,” replied Grace, hesitatingly; “yes, I do.”
That evening had left but a faint shadowing in Grace's memory.
It was crystallized in Archibald Lisle's. “You had
spoken with enthusiasm,” he continued, “of Mrs. Jameson's
book on Legendary Art. I bought it to study on my

“A costly book for a hard-working young man!” said
Uncle Walter.

“Yes; but I would rather have starved out the price of
it than to have been without it. Mrs. Jameson was born an


Page 170
artist, she has studied art, she has lived in it, she has
the preternatural perceptions and enthusiastic love of the
true artist, with a strong nature and rectifying common
sense that preserve her from extravagances. She has
genius without its eccentricities, which we of the working-day
world, Mr. Herbert, think not its concomitants, but its

“Yes, yes, you are right, Lisle; the mortality that impairs
its divinity. But what more of this book? Miss Grace
never thought me worthy of imparting it to me!”

“Because you confessed, sir,” said Grace, “that, like Sir
Toby, you never loved the arts.”

“Never followed them, my dear—always quote Shakespeare
as you quote Scripture, verbatim. But come, Lisle,
what did Mrs. Jameson do for you?”

“Every thing that could be done for ignorance in so short
a period. She developed my love of art—for, from the
moment Miss Herbert touched the ashes, I was sure there
was some fire in my soul to be uncovered. Mrs. Jameson
directed my observation, quickened my perception, imparted
to me the laws of criticism, and instructed me in the legendary
lore of the saints, martyrs, and heroes of the Churches,
who have been the sources and subjects of the painters'
inspiration, so that when I saw their pictures, they were
not hieroglyphical, but relaters of their own painful or
glorious history. This, I am sure, was an immense extension
of the enjoyment I should have had merely from
the perfection of coloring and form; and this I owe to Mrs.
Jameson, who should be the guide of every traveler through

“As she is the delight and consolation of those who can
not travel through Italy,” said Grace.

An animated conversation ensued, in which many questions
were asked about sculptures, painting, and music, and


Page 171
musical composers, and answered with intelligence and feeling,
without a particle of pretension.

Walter Herbert took advantage of the first pause to turn
the current of conversation. “You young people will consider
me as old as a pre-Adamite,” he said, “if I tell you
that I was born before art dawned upon the new world.
Why, all you have been talking about would have been
heathen Greek to your fathers and mothers. But I have
sat at the feet of my niece, and learned; in my youth I knew
no more of the names you have just repeated so glibly,
than of the winged lions that clever man Layard is unearthing
in the East. Now, if you put me to my mettle, I can
talk with nine tenths of the young men and women, who
have wasted winters in Paris and Rome, and they shall
doubt my pretensions as little as they impose on me with
theirs. But I have been edified more by your negative
merit, Lisle, I confess, than any thing else. I perceive that
you are not one of those travelers that haunt our stupid
dinners and talk mere parrotry—palming off upon us
battered coin, from which the original impress is quite
worn out—neither are you among those, who, having
studied the classics at home become self-constituted and
most self-complacent critics, and stand before the masterpieces,
elaborating fine things to publish about them at
home. But come, my dear fellow, tell us something of the
living world—of `the million,' who, after all, saving your
presence, my dear Grace, interest me more than Michael
Angelo, or Phidias.”

Then he showered upon Lisle questions as to the actual
condition of the different nationalities of Europe, the character
of its rulers, and the grounds of hope for its people.
And Lisle, without dogmatizing, or professing to have made
discoveries, gave the results of acute observation—sharpened
by a republican education—and rare opportunities, in a manly


Page 172
tone, and with deep earnestness, showing he had been more
occupied with the destiny of the living men of the present
upheaving time, than with the art of past ages.

When Mr. Herbert's questions were answered, he said,
“You must pardon me, Lisle, for boring you; but, really,
it is refreshing to see a young man who has gone abroad for
something beside seeing the dancers, and hearing the
singers of the old world, or at best to pass their days in
galleries and museums, and their nights at operas, for the
vanity of talking about Guidos and Domenichinos, and
Rossini, and Beethoven. I allow for a light in a dark place,
for my ignorance makes your knowledge seem prodigious
to me; but still the wonder grows, how you got so deep
into the condition and character of these foreign people.”

“I fear,” modestly replied Lisle, “that I have been making
a great show with a small stock, in the fashion of the
shopmen, who display all their fine wares in their windows.
I owe my small advantage over other travelers to what they
would regard as a disqualification. I traveled in my home
character of working man, who had neither time nor money
to spend on mere pleasure.”

“And you did well, Lisle. I am, above all, glad to perceive
your generous faith in the people of Europe, and your
hope in their future. This is the true faith of a republican
by conviction, as well as birthright.”

Why was it that Grace Herbert, who had no ignorant or
fine-lady indifference to topics of such moment as these—
why was it that she felt a sensation of immense relief when
the conversation was suddenly stopped by the invasion of
little May, who had been impatiently awaiting the signal for
her admission? Why?—alas, the progress of our story will

“Here, May,” called out Uncle Walter, moving back
from the table, and planting his knee for her. The bounding


Page 173
child sprang upon it. May looked as if all good angels had
brought their gifts to her birth-day; health and strength
to her blooming cheek, and rounded and agile limbs, intelligence
to her serene brow, gladness to her eyes, and love to
her sweet lip. The “clouds of her immortality were yet
trailing” around her. Archibald entered into an aside talk
with her, to which she lent a gracious ear—children are instinctive
physiognomists. “Will you give me that rose-bud,
May?” he asked.

“Oh, no Mr. Lisle, I can't give you that. Aunt Grace
gave it to me, that's why I keep it in my bosom.” Archibald
looked at the rose-bud with “fond and foolish thought.”
He felt still the spell of the enchantress. His long absence,
his manly struggles had not yet dispelled it.

“What are you thinking about, Mr. Lisle?” asked May.

Archibald felt the color rush to his cheek, and for once he
was relieved by Miss Clapp's nasal voice—

“You will give the rose-bud to me, won't you, May?” she

“To you!—no, indeed.”

“Well, come to me a minute.”

The child shook her head decisively, and putting up her
lips to Walter Herbert's ear, and her hand before them, while
she kept her eye fixed on Miss Adeline, she asked, “What
has that lady got on her cheeks?”

Uncle Walter had the power of speaking, with scarcely a
perceptible motion of his lips: “A piratical flag, my dear,”
he answered. His reply was heard only by his next neighbors—Grace
smiled, and Lisle murmured an involuntary

“I don't know what you mean, Uncle Walter,” said the
perplexed child. Her attention was again claimed by Miss
Clapp, who took from her reticule a pretty bon-bon, and
held it up invitingly.


Page 174

“Would you go to her?” asked May of her counselor.

“If I were you, I think I should.”

“If I were I, I think I should not,” retorted May.

“There!” exclaimed Uncle Walter, “a metaphysician
would have studied a year without getting as much true
philosophy as the child has hit upon.”

The signal was now made for the ladies to withdraw.
May, not quite able to resist the temptation which Miss
Adeline still held out, followed close to her rustling flounces,
and was hardly in the entry, when she returned to Archibald
with a little bunch of shriveled flowers elaborately bound,
and tied in a love-knot with pink ribbon. “That red lady
sent you this,” she said, and skipped away.

“Blast it!” muttered Lisle, and threw it in the grate.

In half an hour the gentlemen came to the library, where
the sisters were seated at their needle-work. Stitching may
be a hard necessity to the poor, but it is a boon to the rich;
one of the compensations of lady-life. It helps to fill up the
ennuyante vacuities in conversation, and makes endurable
the infinite tediousness of egotistic visitors. Rousseau discovered
one of its uses, and found a substitute for it. He
played cup and ball in the drawing-room; for, he says,
quand tout le monde est occupè, l'on ne parle que quand
on a quelque chose à dire.

“How have you disposed of Miss Clapp, of Clappville,
Eleanor, our incubus?” asked her husband.

“She went off, lamenting an engagement to the opera.”

“Now that we are rid of the outside barbarian, Eleanor,
send for our boy, and show him to Mr. Lisle.”

“He is asleep, Frank; and if he were not, you know I
only show off my children to those who are approaching
second childhood.”

“You are right, Nelly—you always are,” said Uncle
Walter. “Some one says no man comprehends the old


Page 175
poets till he is fifty. No doubt our baby is a Shakspeare,
or Milton, not to be understood by you boys, Lisle. Poor
Grace tried to make Copley admire your boy the other day,
Esterly; but even his pliant lips refused a genuine smile.”

“Copley!” exclaimed Lisle; “Horace Copley! has he returned?”


“Is he living in town? What is he doing?”

“Professing the `dolce far niente,' his old business, Archibald.”

“He is everywhere a man of leisure,” replied Lisle, with
a slight sarcasm in his tone.

“Angels only know how to employ leisure,” said Uncle
Walter; “not mere men, certainly not an American man.
Pray, Lisle, did you meet Copley abroad?”

“Yes, repeatedly; first in Paris, where I staid but six
months, then at Rome; he came for the Carnival, just as I
was leaving it to go to Greece; and when I returned to Italy,
he was amusing the English world in Naples with his duel.”

“His duel! we never heard of it. What was the occasion?”

“Oh, a trifling quarrel; neither party was killed, or even
wounded, so it was but the gossip of a day.” Lisle was no
retailer of gossip. We give what he suppressed, as characteristic
of our fine gentlemen abroad. The duel was occasioned
by a husband finding some costly jewels in the possession
of his wife, who confessed they were given to her by
Copley. She was a silly little English “lady in her own
right,” whom her husband discreetly took home, and Copley
transferred his devotion to a handsome French woman, whose
husband would not have made a wry face, if Copley had
bought all the trinkets in Naples for her. “Copley,” continued
Lisle, “went off to Paris, and after my return from the
Pyramids, I again met him there.”


Page 176

“Pursuing his profession,” said Esterly. “`Chacun à son

“Surely,” interposed Grace, “there is enough in Paris to
employ, for any length of time, any amount of intellect or
taste. Our young men reside there for instruction in every
department of science.”

“To which of these departments was Horace Copley devoted?”
asked Esterly.

Grace did not reply—her thread tangled, and her needle
unthreaded. The gentle Eleanor came to her relief. “I
have been told,” she said, “that Mr. Copley studied music
scientifically in Paris.”

“Yes,” said Esterly, continuing the topic with, as Grace
thought, irritating pertinacity, “he has favored us with intimations
of his intimacy with Liszt, and Mendelssohn, and
other musical geniuses, and his performance at a concert
where there were royal guests!”

“Oh, Frank,” said Eleanor, “it was not Horace Copley
who told us of the concert, it was Mrs. Tallis.”

“And he is an accomplished musician, is he not?” said

“I am not a competent judge,” replied Esterly; “but
my sister can inform you; she is a particular friend of Mr.
Horace Copley.”

“Miss Herbert a particular friend of Copley!” rose to
Archibald's lips, but he restrained the words to an inarticulate
sound, which unmistakeably expressed surprise.

Grace rallied—she thought her brother-in-law's raillery
persecution. “No competent judge,” she said, coolly,
“who knows Mr. Copley, doubts his musical accomplishment;
he is not a man to stop short of excellence in any
thing he attempts.”

“A capital reason for attempting little,” rejoined Esterly.

To Grace's unspeakable relief a servant opened the


Page 177
door, and said, “Miss Herbert, Mrs. Tallis is waiting for

Lisle was escorting Grace to Mrs. Tallis's carriage, when
he encountered Copley awaiting her at the street-door. The
meeting of the young men was unexpected to both. Their
greeting was civil, not cordial. When the carriage drove
off, Copley asked Miss Herbert when Archibald Lisle returned?

“To town, two days since.”

“Archibald Lisle!” echoed Mr. Tallis, who, for a wonder,
was of the party with his wife.

“Archibald Lisle!” repeated the lady; “is he the young
man who wrote something, or did something, that was talked
of, a year or two ago.”

“Not that I ever heard of,” said Copley. “He is a mere
lawyer, and as such was rather successful.”

“Oh yes, I know to what Madam alludes,” said Tallis.
Tallis always called his wife “Madam” when he was out of
humor. “Lisle was at this opera-house on the night of a
famous riot, and behaved with gallantry—something beyond
a mere lawyer, Mr. Copley. Afterward, he appeared in
court, in his vocation, for a young man who had been drawn
into the riot. The lad was an Irishman, and after his acquittal,
his Irish heart burst bounds, and he told the court
that Lisle had volunteered to defend him, while the young
gentleman's bones were still aching with a smashing blow he
gave him, `maning no harm!' I chanced to be in court at
the time,” continued Tallis, “and I hardly knew which most
to admire, the cleverness of the defense, or the young man's
modesty, when a general observation was turned upon

“Lisle has rather a taste for that sort of thing,” said Copley.

“What sort of thing?” asked Tallis, petulantly.


Page 178

“Oh that, exactly—standing between poor devils and
their just retribution. I do not know, but I would bet that
he is a believer in mesmerism, spiritualism, homeopathy, and
hydropathy—that he is an anti-slavery, anti-tariff, anti-capital
punishment man.”

“That is altogether what they call `socialism,' is it not?”
asked Mrs. Tallis.

“Don't talk about what you do not understand, Mrs.
T—,” said her husband, with conjugal courtesy. “I will
venture to say that Mr. Lisle believes nothing that has not
a foundation of sense. He is not made of the stuff that
runs to humbug.”

Arrived at the opera-house, the party went to a private
box, so-called, but really so only as it permitted a partial
obscurity to one or two persons. We have not inherited
the English love of privacy. We are as jealous of “closed
doors” in private as in public life, and all attempts at exclusiveness
prove abortive. Our New York opera-house[1]
is a tolerable approximation to Parisian taste and gayety.
Loves and Graces are vivaciously floating on rose-colored
clouds, and in azure fields. It is brilliantly lighted, and
on this particular night it was sparkling with pretty and
elegant, and, for the most part, very young women, with the
fashionable, picturesque cloaks of the season, half covering
the bare and jeweled neck. The youngest talked the loudest.
Young men, with neckcloths of faultless tie and well-tended
moustaches, were in attendance. The house was
crowded, thanks that evening to the presence of a fashionable
prima donna; but that our musical entertainments are
usually crowded, is an unquestionable proof that our people
have an unaffected love of music, and a growing acquaintance
with its divine harmonies. Tallis was not in a happy humor,
and he rather disturbed Grace with his cynical remarks,


Page 179
“Look at Jo. Osborne, Miss Herbert,” he said, “he comes
every night to the opera, with about as much ear for music
as Bully Bottom—or I. Hear Phil. Dayton's bravoes! He
does not know a bass from a tenor.”

“Good heavens! Rupert, how disagreeable you are!” said
his wife.

“Oh, I do well enough with opera sauce—a good condiment
for a dull husband.”

Copley sat behind Mrs. Tallis, and next to Grace. He
leaned toward her and whispered, “Bad taste this! One
should not betray a consciousness of the conjugal yoke,
though it gall. Polite indifference is the proper succedaneum
to love.”

Grace did not reply, or smile. She looked at Rupert Tallis
and sighed. She knew his petulance was on the surface,
that there was sadness and disappointment, and much worth
in his heart. He had resumed his eye-glass and was reconnoitering
the house. “There is Lisle!” he exclaimed.

“Where, where, Rupert?” asked his wife.

“There in the parquet—near the Selby Smiths. Upon
my word, one's air does improve by traveling; he has grown
stouter—a nice-looking fellow.”

“Quite stylish,” said Mrs. Tallis, “well-dressed—is he not,

“I am not an observer of dress,” said Copley.

“Madam believes him!” whispered Tallis, sneeringly, to

“Who can that very pretty girl be, in half mourning, to
whom Mr. Lisle is talking?” asked Mrs. Tallis.

The eyes of the Tallis party were now turned to the
“very pretty girl.” `A child's face in simplicity, a woman's
in sadness,' thought Grace.

“Mr. Lisle seems on a very cordial footing with her,”
replied Grace to Mrs. Tallis's inquiry. “She belongs to those
old people, I think—they are moving to go away.”


Page 180

“Why,” said Mrs. Tallis, “the old man is Steinberg, you
know, Grace—the old German that keeps such nice music
in his little shop in Canal-street. Your friend Lisle is evidently
urging them to stay—quite a little pantomime.” If
Lisle had urged, he had urged in vain, for the party withdrew.
Lisle returned and resumed his place, but not to
possess it in patience or peace. Grace recognized the flashing
of Miss Adeline Clapp's silk, as, attended by an old gentleman,
whom she partly led and partly shoved, she pushed
through the black coats that filled the middle passage of the
parquet to the place vacated by Archibald's friends. “Oh,
Mr. Lisle!” she exclaimed, dropping into the seat beside
him, “was not I lucky to spy you out? Doctor Dayton
was so kind as to bring me to the opera. Dr. Dayton—Mr.
Lisle! The poor old gentleman is getting sleepy, and you
know I can't go away till I hear Salvi in the last act; and I
told the doctor you would see me home—good-night,

Poor Archibald, without the grace of a cheerful resignation,
told Miss Adeline in a tone of unaffected solemnity,
“that he had an engagement immediately after the opera,
but he would with pleasure put her into a carriage.”

Grace came to the front of her box for the last act.
Archibald's eye turned to her as a Persian's to the rising
sun. The music and Miss Herbert's presence were in harmony.
Adeline Clapp's incessant clatter was like the pestering
buzz of a musquito. Grace was rather amazed at
what seemed to her but an impertinent persecution on the
part of a vulgar rustic. She thought Lisle weakly yielded
to it, when, at the door of the opera-house, she saw him follow
Miss Clapp into a hackney-coach. Her surprise would
have been bestowed on the lady, if she had heard her say,
“Not coming with me, Archy?”

“Pardon me, Miss Clapp—I can not.”


Page 181

“You don't mean so! I shall be frightened out of my
senses to go alone with the coachman—don't shut the door
—don't—I will get out and walk home alone, if you don't
feel to go with me.” There was no alternative. Lisle
yielded to fate.


The old opera-house of Astor-place.