University of Virginia Library


Page 147


Leaving our good companions to make a night of it,
let us follow the footsteps of the party from which we
turned to pursue the more devious progress of the pair
with whom we have so long loitered. We have seen that
the ladies were well attended in their departure from
the race-course. On this ride, our two gallants necessarily
did their utmost to make themselves agreeable.
Without being in anywise remarkable for his talent,
Miles Henderson was a very pleasing and amiable gentleman.
He could converse rationally and gracefully,
but without ever rising into those subjects, or those portions
of a subject, upon which, to converse well, most
persons must first have learned to think independently
for themselves. But, in the ordinary language of commonplace
and society, Henderson could always be respectable;
and, being an observing man, he had gathered
a sufficient supply of material for chitchat to enable
him, usually, to prove interesting to ordinary companions.
We have seen him taking that side of the
carriage upon which sat Mrs. Foster. This lady was
comparatively young. She had succeeded to the arms
and name of Mr. Foster at early womanhood, and when
he needed a nurse rather than a wife. She had survived
him, without altogether surviving her youth. A good
natural constitution, vulgar health, a lively temper, and
an exquisite feeling of satisfaction with herself, had
served to keep her in good bodily condition. She was,
in other words, a buxom widow, fair, fat, and forty;
who did not wholly forget herself in taking care of the
fortunes of her step-daughter. She was vain and giddy;


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and, though satisfied that the devotion of Miles Henderson,
not less than that of Randall Hammond, was wholly
given to Geraldine, she was not the less satisfied with the
external homage which she incidentally received in consequence.
Sometimes, indeed, she seemed to forget the
claims of her step-daughter wholly, and exhibited a degree
of satisfaction at these attentions of the suitors, and an
anxiety to monopolize them, which frequently occasioned
a smile among these parties. It was one of her causes
of dissatisfaction with Hammond, that he never suffered
her to misconstrue his attentions. Approaching her
always with profound civility, his address and style of
conversation, when directed to her, were never of a kind
to suffer her to be in any degree forgetful of the fact
that she had a daughter as well as Jephthah; and the
way to have won the heart of such a woman was to have
shared with her, in some degree, a portion of that devotion
which most women value beyond all other possessions,
even where they do not design to secure or keep
the worshipper. Hammond, perfectly aware of her
character, knew exactly what she wanted. But he was
too proud a person to make any sacrifices to her vulgarity
or vanity. He was one of those men who feel that the
course of true love not only does not usually, but that it
cannot, in the nature of things, often run smoothly; and
felt sure that a portion of his triumph must ensue from
the capacity of his future wife to rise, through affection,
superior to the discouragements of prejudice and domestic
opposition. He was, perhaps, not unwilling to be known
to Geraldine through the medium of doubts which nothing
but real affection would attempt to overcome; and
some knowledge of her character persuaded him, indeed,
that this was really the most politic course for the attainment
of his object. Accordingly, we have seen him
betraying what would seem a degree of indifference to
the game, which he did not feel. He showed no anxiety
to take or keep possession of the field; no feverish
desire to hold his ground in the presence of rivals; but,
on the contrary, a calm and courteous readiness to share


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all his opportunities with others; and, indeed, to forego
them wholly on occasion, giving way to the advances
of those who were notoriously his rivals. Mrs. Foster
was greatly at a loss, for a while, to understand the policy
of this seeming indifference; but her instincts enabled
her to discover the truth, which her reasoning faculties
never could have attained; the more particularly as she
found that Geraldine Foster, flattered by the constant
devotion of her suitors, was somewhat piqued by the
dignified refusal of Hammond to engage in the common
struggle. With a vulgar policy, the mother's object
now was to impress upon our heroine an idea of the
arrogance of Hammond; his pride, which refused the
ordinary civilities which all lovers are prepared to bestow;
and an insolent consciousness of superiority, which
made him always anxious to deny the service which gallantry,
and a sincere affection, would be only too happy
to perform. His refusal to run his horse at Hillabee,
as we have seen, was one of the instances which she
found to produce the desired impression upon the mind
of her protégé. To a certain extent she had succeeded
in producing this impression. The proud and haughty
spirit of Geraldine Foster, conscious of her charms, and
accustomed to the devotion of the other sex, and the
envy of her own, was mortified at the little seeming
power which she possessed over almost the only man
whom she had ever really desired to subdue. She felt
his strength, his superiority. Her attention, when he
spoke, acknowledged it; her anxiety for his coming declared
it, even to herself; and the growing feeling of
her dependence upon him made his apparent indifference
only the more offensive to her vanity and painful to her
heart. The step-mother had worked, not unsuccessfully,
upon these feelings; but Geraldine was so much a creature
of impulse that the work of months might be undone
in a moment. A happy accident might bring the lovers
together in explanation, and mutual sympathies, suddenly
rendered active, and seeing under the influence of
favoring circumstances, might render the determined


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will of Geraldine such an ally of her heart as to defeat
forever the subtle designs of the hostile mother. It was
the game of the latter, therefore, to provoke disgust in
the mind of the girl, to annoy her pride into resentment;
and, seizing upon some particular moment of mortification,
to force her into engagements which should be fatal
to the hopes of Hammond. Her labors to this point
had produced pique only, and not disgust in the
bosom of Geraldine; and this feeling, Mrs. Foster
had the sense to understand, was rather favorable than
otherwise to the hopes of the lover. It declared his possession
of a power, already, in the heart of the capricious
beauty, which felt his neglect rather as a loss and
a denial, than as provocation of scorn; and the step-mother
trembled as she saw that it was far easier for
Geraldine to feel the alleged neglect and indifference of
Hammond than to defy or to resent it.

If he was not altogether conscious of the sort of game
Mrs. Foster was disposed to play and was playing, his
own was one that tended greatly to overcome and baffle
it. His plan of operations has been already sufficiently
described. It consisted simply in the maintenance of
the most dignified civilities, and in foregoing no courtesies,
in performing them with a grace as perfect as possible,
and in studying how to interest the object of his
attentions, without seeming to be engaged in any such
study, or to possess any such interest. If the plan was
wisely conceived, it was as dextrously carried out.
Randall Hammond was no ordinary man. He was a
person, emphatically, of character; with a strong will
and fiery passions; but a stern, methodical, and well-ordered
judgment, which enabled him to subdue himself
at the required moment, and reject from his eyes all
the disguises of prejudice, and from his tongue all the
impetuous resolves of passion. He was never more fortunate
in his game than when escorting the ladies from
Hillabee. We have seen with what temper both of them
left the ground. Mrs. Foster, quite dissatisfied with the
results of the racing—as they not only left her favorite


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beaten, but proved the correct judgment of Hammond
in an exercise in which he did not himself indulge; and
Geraldine, piqued and offended at the perverted language
reported of Hammond, so conclusively confirming
the representations of Mrs. Foster, and so disrespectful,
seemingly, to Geraldine herself. Hammond soon discovered
that something was wrong, and having sufficient
clues to the character of Mrs. Foster, and perfectly
aware of her feeling for himself, he readily understood
that the mischief was in her. But there was no way
to make a direct issue, and he was not one of that
feverish race who refuse to leave anything to time.
He was content to pursue his own game as if nothing
had happened, and to make himself agreeable in spite
of his enemy. His resources were all accordingly put
in exercise, and even Henderson wondered at the exhibition
of conversational powers which he never dreamed
that his friend possessed. But friends are generally the
last to appreciate the powers of one another, since they
seldom recognize those feelings of mutual provocation by
which alone they can be made to develop themselves.
Gradually, Geraldine forgot her pique and disquiet, in the
delight which she experienced at the racy remark, the
keen point, the pleasant anecdote, contained in the conversation
of her companion; and it was with feelings of
vexation, at beholding a progress that she could not
prevent, that Mrs. Foster threw herself back in the
carriage, and surrendered herself to a protracted spell
of silence and bad humor, answering Henderson only
in monosyllables, and compelled, in spite of herself, to
listen to the dialogue which seemed equally to show the
indifference of both the parties to all her intrigues.

The cavalcade reached the residence of Mrs. Foster
in this manner: Geraldine, if not perfectly reconciled
to Hammond, forgetting for the moment all her causes
of complaint; Miles Henderson a little dulled by what
he saw of the success of his friend, but reconciled to
his own apparent decline of fortune by the conviction
that his fortunate rival was indeed his friend; while


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Mrs. Foster brooded over other schemes for fomenting
anew the displeasure of her step-daughter.

“Foster Lodge” was a place of considerable beauty.
The immediate approach to it was through a broad
avenue, nearly a mile in length, guarded and overshadowed
from each side by the stateliest elms and oaks.
The dwelling stood upon a gentle eminence, with a broad
and sweetly-sloping lawn of green on each side of the
avenue, extending nearly to the public road. The
house was half shaded by great trees, a modest dwelling
of two stories, with a piazza fronting the avenue,
the roof of which, concealed by a parapet, was sustained
by six great columns, that rose up majestically from the
basement to the upper story.

Dinner was in waiting when the parties arrived.
Ham and turkey smoked upon the board, and there
were birds and fowl, eggs and milk, and the usual variety
of vegetables, so certain to be found in all good
farmsteads. Mrs. Foster was an economist. She was
a farmer's daughter; a poor one too; and had been
early taught in lessons of thrift and painstaking. These
she had not forgotten in her improved fortunes. Indeed,
they were her virtues. Her estates thrived in
her hands; and, if not a good tutor for the daughter,
she was a very good nurse of her property. This was
ample, if not large. It was the misfortune of Mrs.
Foster that she did not esteem it ample. This was one
of her reasons for preferring Jones Barry to either of
her present guests. The fact of his greater wealth, and
that feebler character which made him subservient to
Mrs. Foster's humors, were the chief sources of that
favor which he had found in the good lady's sight.

Dinner passed off pleasantly. Hammond continued
in the same humor which had accompanied him from
the race-course. Even Mrs. Foster, herself, was sometimes
compelled to smile at his sallies; and when she
did not, it was only from the annoying conviction that
they were rapidly undoing all her work. It was night
before the party rose from table, and a short interval


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was afforded for promenading in the piazza before tea
was set. This was followed by music. Geraldine sang
and played like an angel; this, at least, was the open-mouthed
declaration of Jones Barry, in her own hearing;
and both Henderson and Hammond were endowed with
rich and tolerably well-trained voices. They accompanied
the lady; while, at intervals, they resumed the
conversation, either with herself or the step-mother.
It was eleven o'clock before any of the party seemed
to suspect the flight of Time, and then they were only
apprised of the fact by Hammond rising to take his

“But why not stay all night?” was the frank demand
of Geraldine. Mrs. Foster addressed the same
inquiry to Henderson. The latter looked to Hammond
entreatingly; but, true to his policy, he declared the
necessity for being at home early in the morning; and
he had promised his mother, who would sit up and expect
him, to return that night. He had five miles to

“But you, Miles,” said he to his friend, “you need
not ride. You can stay.”

This speech again worried both mother and daughter.
It seemed strange that one who really loved a lady
should encourage a rival to keep possession of her ear,
and should give him opportunities. But Henderson
felt ashamed of the weakness which prompted him to
take advantage of the permission; and, somewhat desperately,
declared his purpose to ride also. He had engagements
also which required his early rising; and, in
short, the gentlemen soon took their departure together;
the ladies, one of them at least, sinking down upon the
sofa with an air of sullen disappointment.

“A cold, haughty upstart!” was the exclamation of
Mrs. Foster.

“Who, mother! of whom do you speak?”

“Of whom? Why Hammond. He is not capable
of any feeling but pride. He is pride and ambition all
over. He love! He has no more heart than a mill-stone,


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and seems to look upon women only as so many
creatures made to wait upon man, and minister to his
wants and pleasures.”

“Well! I wonder how it is you can see things in this
light. Now, really, Mr. Hammond seems to me to be
equally a man of feeling and sense. He speaks like
one. He doesn't throw about him his sentiments, and
he wastes no professions on the air; but he gives to
every subject the proper sympathy that it seems to require;
and it can't be denied that he can discuss the
greatest variety of subjects, and in the most interesting

“Oh! he has subtlety, and wit, and cunning!”—

“Cunning! Well, that is the very last word which
I should ever have used in speaking of Mr. Hammond.
I see no proof of it. He is too frank, too bold a man,
to be cunning; and is particularly free from it, I'm
sure, in dealing with ladies. Who ever hears him compliment
one's singing or playing, except, perhaps, by
his attention?”

“That's his cunning!”

“Well, I confess, I like it better than that silly artlessness
which, whether you play well or ill, rewards
you with the same undiscriminating flattery. But he
goes further. He has told me plainly, on more than
one occasion, where I made a false note, or sung with
false emphasis, or blundered in any respect; for his ear
is quite as good as his opinion is honest.”

“That's his cunning again! He sees that you dislike
the common talk, and he changes it to suit you.”

“Something more than that, mother. What did he
say to both of us last week about gentlemen proffering
themselves, as a matter of gallantry, to pick up a lady's
glove, or handkerchief, running across the floor to do
so, when it lies at her own feet, and she might pick it
up herself?”

“Well, and he is only a cub for his opinions.”

“On the contrary, mother, I think he is quite
right. I quite agree with him, that it is enfeebling,


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and so enslaving, women, to do for them those things
which it is proper for them, and easy, to do for themselves;
that it makes us improperly dependent upon
men, when we expect them to serve us in any besides
substantial and weighty labors, which it is inconsistent
with the nature of our sex to undertake; that it
impairs the dignity of the man, and, while putting
woman into a false position, renders him capricious,
and makes her, in the end, the victim of a tyranny.”

“All an artful notion to excuse his own cubbishness
and want of gallantry.”

“Well, now, mother, you certainly can reproach him
for no want of courtesy and civility throughout the
day. He has been with us, the only gentleman who
never left us during all the racing.”

“That's his policy. He stuck to you, as a matter
of course.”

“Yet, in the same breath, you describe him as lacking
in the usual devotion — as being too proud and
haughty, and—”

“I see, Miss Geraldine Foster, that your heart's set
upon this match. I see that you'll throw yourself into
his arms whether he will or no—”

“What you say, mother, let me tell you, is not likely
to prevent me. But there's no danger of that. I confess,
I think him a very superior man to any of my
other suitors. You can't deny his superiority.”

“By no means; he's a wit, and a colonel of militia,
and they talk of sending him to the legislature or Congress;
and, I suppose a young lady can't do better than
to fling herself headlong into the arms of so promising
a person. But I can tell you this, Miss Foster, that,
when I was of your age, the man who swore that he
knew no woman for whom he would run his horse, and
that, too, when the young lady he was courting was entreating
him to do so, would be courtesied out with a
`No, sir, I'm obliged to you, but beg to be excused.'”

“I don't know that Mr. Hammond is seeking me,
mother, and it's very certain he is not courting me; but


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this I can tell you, that, if ever he should do so, he shall
be made to swallow that speech. He certainly, before
he gets this hand, shall run a race for it—he shall!”

“Will you stick to that?” demanded the mother,

“Will I not! It's a vow; change it who can.” And
the elevated form, the flashing eye, and extended hand,
lifted upward as she uttered this rash resolution, to
which the keen cunning of the mother had goaded her
impulsive spirit, presented a fine subject for the dramatic

“Only stick to that, Geraldine, and you'll test his
passion! You'll see which he thinks of most; this lady
of his love, or his iron gray. I tell you, his soul is full
of mule-pride; he's as obstinate in what he says as if
the whole world was bound to give way to him.”

“I sha'n't give way to him! He'll find me as firm
and proud as himself. He shall run his horse; he shall
race whether he likes it or not, if he has any hope of
me. But he does not think of me, mother. I'm sure
you're mistaken.”

This was said with an air of despondency, as the
maiden threw herself upon the sofa and covered her
face with her hands.

“And what if he does not?” responded the mother;
“you surely are not so badly off for beaux that you
need care whether he cares or not. I don't think he
cares much for anybody but himself. I tell you, he's
too proud for love of any woman, as you may suppose,
when he openly declares that he will not run his horse
for all the favors of the sex. Only you stick to your
vow, and you'll see what his love will come to.”

“He shall do it, if he seeks heart or hand of mine.
He shall do it, he shall!” We may add that the excellent
mother did not suffer her to forget the vow.