University of Virginia Library


Page 207


That night Jones Barry slept at the “Lodge.” The
excellent hostess, who but too justly suspected his condition,
having made the proper inquiries after the departure
of her guests, soon ascertained where his treacherous
friend, Nettles, had bestowed him, and had him
borne to a comfortable chamber. He himself seemed to
have been unconscious of the transition. It is the tradition,
which Nettles traced up to Abram, that the only
words spoken by him, when disturbed for removal, were
the same which he had last spoken in the ball-room:
“Back to back, Miss Polly.” The next day at a late
hour, on opening his eyes, he found Abram in waiting.
Coffee and toast were brought him in his chamber; for
his offences were readily forgiven by his indulgent hostess,
and no attentions were withheld. She gave him
every opportunity. He came forth at noon, looking
very much ashamed of himself, with only a confused
recollection of what had taken place. He said not a
syllable about the peach-brandy, but the good housekeeper
had already extorted a confession from Abram.
This she kept to herself; and, in conversing with him
about the accident, she generously threw all the blame
upon poor Polly Ewbanks.

“She's so monstrous fat, and so mighty clumsy, that
I wonder she ever shows herself among young people at
all. But how's your head now, Mr. Barry?”

“Prime! 'Twould be better, I think, if I had a little
something to settle my stomach. I ate too many sweet
things last night.”


Page 208

“Perhaps they put too much honey in your peach!”
said the widow, slyly.

“Peach, oh! I do recollect drinking a little with
Nettles. By the way, Mrs. Foster, a little of that stuff,
it's a fine old liquor, wouldn't be amiss.”

“On the principle,” retorted the widow, “so well
known among you gay young men, that the hair of the
dog is always good for the bite.”

“Ah!” said the offender, “I'm afraid you know everything,
Mrs. Foster. You're quite too knowing; yes, you

“We know enough to be indulgent, Mr. Barry.
What say you to the peach?”

His assent was not hard to obtain, and while Mrs.
Foster compounded the peach toddy with honey, she
gave him the gratuitous information that “poor dear
Mr. Foster was quite fond of his peach-dram. I made
it for him regularly twice a day, Mr. Barry; once about
this hour, and once just before he went to bed.”

“What a dutiful wife!” was the reflection of Barry,
as he heard these words, and followed the graceful movements
of the widow. He remembered the words of Nettles:
“Not a bad armful, indeed!” His further reflections
were arrested by her presentation of the spoon, as
she had administered the tea the evening before, but
now filled with a very different beverage.

“How's that to your liking?”

“It's the very thing. Ah! you know the way to a
man's heart!”

The answer to this compliment was arrested by the
sudden entrance of Geraldine.

“You here, Mr. Barry?”

“I'm never anywhere else!” said he, quite gallantly.
“How are you this morning, Miss Geraldine?”

“I should rather ask after your health!” was her
quiet but sarcastic answer. “You were in the chapter
of accidents yesterday. How's your head?”

“Much better, I thank you! If my heart were only
half so well!”


Page 209

“Your heart! bless me! what's the matter with

“Ah! the pain—”

“A pain in your heart! Does it come and go, Mr.

“No! It stays!”

“Then you ought, by all means, to consult a surgeon.
There's nothing more dangerous. You may go off in a
minute. If you will allow me to advise, I'd set out for
Savannah, without a moment's delay. Nay! I'd go to
New York, and see the celebrated Doctor Physick.”

“No! no! Miss Geraldine, no physic for me. It's
not a pain that physic can cure. You, Miss Geraldine,
you can do more for me than any doctor.”

“I! in what manner?”

Barry looked about him. Mrs. Foster had left the
room. He drew his chair a little closer.

“You got a letter from me, yesterday?”

“Last night, sir, yes!”

“Last night, yes.”

There was a moment's silence. At length Geraldine,
throwing aside the ironical manner which she had been
employing, and, without any disquiet in her air, said

“Mr. Barry, I'm very much obliged to you for the
favorable opinion which you have of me.” He bowed
and smiled. “But,” she continued, “I have made a
vow that no man shall have my hand unless he wins it.”

“Wins it?”

“Yes! Now, sir, you have a beautiful horse which
you have done me the honor to call after me. You have
said, a thousand times in my presence, that this horse
is able to beat any in the county. If this be the case,
sir, you are able to win my hand, and I put it upon the
speed of your horse to do so.”

“I did think, Miss Geraldine, that my filly could
outstretch any other horse in the county, but you yourself
saw that she was beaten by `Sorella.'”

“Yes; but you told me that she was barely beaten,


Page 210
and only in consequence of previous fatigue and your
own too great weight as a rider, in comparison with the
rider of `Sorella,' who was a mere boy. Now, I tell
you, in the same day when I was honored with your
proposals, I received those of Mr. Henderson and Mr.

“And what do they say to this?”

“They have not yet been answered. My answer
goes to each of them to-day. You will communicate
with them. You will arrange with them for the trial
of speed, and the day of the contest shall be the day of
the wedding.”

“Miss Geraldine, permit me to say that you're a
most strange young person.”

“I am afraid so, Mr. Barry, but I can't help it. I've
made this strange resolution, and I can't break it.
You're at liberty to enter the field or not, at your pleasure,
and that you may freely enjoy this freedom, I beg
leave to hand you back this letter.”

“Oh! I'll try. I'm not afraid. If Miles Henderson
has to ride `Sorella,' I'll be sure to beat him on `Geraldine.'
I don't know what sort of a horse is that of Ran.
Hammond's. They say he's a top-goer, but I'm not
afraid. I'm ready. I'll try for it.”

“Then, sir, you will see and confer with them. In
this paper, you have my conditions, which I had drawn
out to send you, not expecting to see you here. Suffer
me now to wish you good morning.”

“It's most deuced strange!” was the beginning of a
soliloquy which the entrance of Mrs. Foster arrested.
He immediately proceeded to unfold the answer which
he had received; an unnecessary labor, since the amiable
widow, from a neighboring closet, had listened to
every syllable. He was surprised to see her looking
so well pleased, and expressed his astonishment and
his apprehensions.

“Fear nothing!” was the consoling assurance of the
widow. “This requisition of Geraldine's, in fact, leaves
the game entirely in your hands.”


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“How's that? That beast of a horse `Sorella' has
already beaten `Geraldine.'”

“You'll be able to walk the course! They'll not
run! This fellow, Hammond, is as proud as Lucifer.
He will bounce outright at the proposition, as an insult;
and if he didn't, his mother wouldn't let him run, for
she's as proud as the devil's dam. Between 'em, they'll
look upon Geraldine as little better than insulting 'em;
I've managed that. In fact, I've put her upon the
whole scheme; so that, if she really had any preference
for either of these men, she might kill off her own chances
in your favor.”

“It does brighten,” said he, “but what of Henderson?”

“He'll do just as Hammond tells him—just as Hammond
does. There's no fear of him. Only you take
care to say that you will run; say so from the beginning,
and make your arrangements, and leave the rest to me.”

“But when's the day?”

“That's to be left for those to determine who enter
for the prize. The marriage is to take place on the
evening of the day when the race is decided. In other
words, you're to start from a fixed point at a certain
hour, on a certain day, the competitors all together, and
he who first comes up to the door of the “Lodge” may
claim the lady. I am to know the day, and the wedding
feast shall be prepared, and the parson shall be in

“It's a new way of doing business.”

“It's the way for you, so see to it; and don't let out
to Nettles or anybody what I tell you of my calculations,
for then they might come to other resolutions, if it was
only to balk us. If they once thought I had anything
to do with it, they'd most certainly do so; for then
they'd think that Geraldine was directed what to do by

We need not linger with these parties. If Jones
Barry was confounded by the answer received to his
proposals, what was the astonishment of Miles Henderson
and Hammond? The letter to the former was a


Page 212
simple but respectful one. It declared the resolution of
the lady, and forbore all expression of feeling or opinion.
He sallied off with it to Hammond. The latter
read it, and mentioned that he had also received an
answer to his application, the purport of which was the
same. He did not show the letter, however, and it was
with a secret pleasure that he remarked a material
difference in the style and wording of the two letters.
While that to Henderson merely declared her determination,
in simple terms, as if written without an effort,
showing the writer to be comparatively indifferent to
the feelings which she might provoke, that to himself
was distinctly apologetic in its tone. While her requisition
was precisely the same in both the letters, she
was here prepared to show something like a regret that it
had been made. “I deem it right to say,” was the
language in one place, “if only in justice to myself,
that it is rather in obedience to a resolution, perhaps
rashly made, but which I must still hold inviolate, that
I attach so singular a condition and qualification to my
assent, particularly where, as in the present instance,
the application, as I am well aware, does me so much

This may have been ironically said, but it was more
grateful to the self-esteem of Hammond to fancy otherwise:
and though vexed and wondering at the absurdity
of the requisition, it was somewhat grateful to discover
such a decided difference in the language employed in
Henderson's letter, and his own. Besides, he recollected
with feelings of satisfaction the inquiries which the
young lady had made the night previously as to the speed
of his horse. All this made it sufficiently apparent to
his vanity that she desired his success; and yet the requisition
was not the less offensive to all his ideas of

“To choose her husband according to the legs of his
horse!” said Henderson, with praiseworthy indignation.

“It is astonishing! there is some mystery about it,”
said Hammond.


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“To put us on the same footing with that silly
creature, Barry!” exclaimed the one.

“The mother is at the bottom of it,” responded the

“What is to be done?” cried Henderson. “I'll be
d—d if I'll run a race to get a wife. If it's in
the heels of my horse that she's to find my merits, I
shall be at a loss where to look for hers.”

“Very well said, Miles, and quite spirited. But, as
you say, what's to be done? that's the question. Now,
I'll tell you what I think. I propose to go and see
Miss Foster in person, and to talk the matter over with
her, showing all the absurdities of this requisition, and
the ridiculousness of the position into which it will
throw all parties. I think she may be persuaded to
hear reason, for I am disposed to think that the whole
affair originated with the step-mother. What she proposes
to effect by it, unless it be merely to astonish the
natives—a thing grateful enough to her silly vanity—
it is impossible for me to conjecture. Now, without
pressing Miss Foster on my own account, I propose
simply to argue the matter with her; to show her how it
will appear to the public; and endeavor to impress upon
her how uncertain will be the securities of domestic
happiness where the tie is based upon such conditions.
What think you, Miles? Such was my purpose before
you came.”

“Has your mother heard of it—have you told her?”

“No; and I don't mean to tell her; for I know that
she would at once require me to withdraw my proposals.
She would never forgive Geraldine for what she would
regard as an insult.”

“And so do I consider it. But, as you say, she may
be led by that woman, her step-mother, who is as mischievous
as a young puppy. I don't know but your
plan is the right one. You go to her. You can talk
with her. I'll ride over to Nettles's during the morning,
and meet you here again at dinner.”

“Very good,” was the reply, and off the parties


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posted. To Nettles, Henderson unfolded his troubles;
but that quiz could afford no consolation. The mystery
was entirely beyond his solution. He thought the
affair comical in high degree, and concluded that the
principle once adopted—that of running a race for a
wife—would completely revolutionize the concerns of

“It would certainly discourage me from the attempt
to change my condition. I prefer running rigs to running
races; and if I thought ever so much of a woman, I
shouldn't thank her for admiring the legs of my horse
more than she did my own;” and, with these words, he
extended the favorite limbs—showing a handsomely-turned
thigh, calf, and ankle—and stroked them with
the complacency of a bachelor whose frequent escapes
from the snares of the sex have sufficiently shown his

Meanwhile, the eyes of the widow Foster beheld our
hero, Randall Hammond, wheel into the avenue and
come cantering gently up to the entrance of the
“Lodge.” She hurried to the chamber of Geraldine,
whom she found already acquainted with the fact. She
did not perceive that the countenance of the latter expressed
something like trepidation. She was arraying
herself for the reception of the guest.

“Well, you'll have to see him,” were the first words
of the widow as she broke into the room; “but what
he comes for, unless to make you break your resolution,
I can't see. And now, Geraldine, show your firmness;
for no matter what man you marry, if you waver now,
you'll never be your own mistress afterwards. He'll
rule you without mercy, if you don't. I know something
of men. They're all tyrants where you let 'em;
and this man, Randall Hammond, is perhaps by nature
one of the greatest despots I ever saw. His mother's
educating has made his nature a great deal worse than
it would have been by itself. He's too proud, mark
me, to run horse or man for you. He's too proud, in
other words, to climb the tree for the fruit. It's a


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sufficient honor for him to open his mouth and let the
ripe grape fall into it. But I wouldn't be so ripe as all
that, either. Now, I know that he loves you desperately;
and only you hold out, and make no concessions,
and he'll have to come to your terms. It'll be a bitter
pill for his pride to swallow; but swallow it he will, rather
than lose his fruit. All your happiness depends on his
being made to see that you are firm. To keep from
being imposed upon, a woman has only to show that she
won't yield; and it will be as it was with Mohammed and
the mountain—if you don't give in to the man, he'll
have to give in to you. Mark what I say, my child,
and keep to your resolution. Beware of his fine arguments,
and have but the one answer: `It's a vow, Mr.
Hammond, it's a vow; and if you truly love me, you'll
run off your own legs as well as your horse's, and not
find it so difficult or so unpleasant.' Stick to that, and
I'll engage all comes out as you wish it. He'd like to
have you without any trouble, for that's what his pride
requires; but, sooner than lose you, he'll run a foot-race
into the bargain, and not stop at a `hop, skip, and

Mrs. Foster was accustomed to rabble on in this
manner. But there was a great deal that was artful
in her speech, a great deal which she did not believe
herself, but which she yet framed adroitly to impress
upon the belief of her daughter. Thus, while insisting
that it was only the pride of Hammond that would revolt
at the conditions which she stipulated, she yet took
care to insist that this pride was not sufficiently stubborn
to risk the final loss of charms which he so earnestly
desired. She had, by this time, discovered that
he was Geraldine's favorite, and she felt the danger of
suggesting that (as she herself believed) there was every
probability of his taking so much offence at the requisition
as to withdraw his application for her hand. To
stimulate her pride, therefore, without making timid
her hope, was the policy of her game; and she had just
the requisite cunning to succeed. When the servant


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announced Mr. Hammond, with the further intimation
that he called to see Miss Foster in particular, Geraldine
was armed with certain high notions of feminine
prerogative, and was prepared to give his pride a lesson
such as would make it tremble with just apprehensions
for her love. Not that she felt quite secure in her convictions,
but that she felt quite wilful. People frequently
are never more apt to be perverse than when
they feel that they reason feebly and unjustly, and,
working upon childish passions and foolish principles,
Mrs. Foster had succeeded in rousing a temper in her
protégé which made her imperious without making her
confident. She was resolute in her purpose as she descended
to the parlor, but her heart trembled with
strange chills and apprehensions all the while.

The first meeting was one of comparative awkwardness
on both sides. But manliness was the particular
characteristic of Randall Hammond. He had a duty
to perform, and he soon approached it. Having satisfied
himself of his course, there was a simple sturdy
directness of purpose in his mind that brought him at
once to its performance. Gently speaking, and tenderly
taking her hand—a proceeding which she did not resent
—he spoke in those soft, subdued accents, which are
supposed to indicate equally the presence of a warm
feeling and of a proper taste.

“My dear Miss Foster, you have proposed a singular
condition for us, as that on which your hand is to be

“I said and felt that it was so, Mr. Hammond.”

“But surely you are not serious in the requisition?
You cannot surely mean to peril your happiness on the
heels of a horse?”

“You put it in strange language, sir.”

“But in language the most appropriate, certainly.
This surely is the fact. You tell the gentlemen who
propose for your hand that there is no choice between
them. This, of itself, might well stagger the affections
of one whose self-esteem is as active as his passion.”


Page 217

“But I did not mean anything of the sort, sir.”

“Then, permit me to say, the case becomes still
more perilous for yourself, if less offensive to the suitor;
since, if you have a choice, you wilfully subject it to all
the chances of the dice by risking it unnecessarily on
the speed of an animal which may fail, of a rider who
may fall, of a will which may take offence at so unwonted
a requisition, and withdraw from the pursuit
even where his affections are most deeply interested.”

“It appears to me, Mr. Hammond, you describe a
very feeble passion when you speak of such.”

“By no means, Miss Foster. The passion may be
as warm and active as it should be—the love unquenchable
and enduring; but the sense of propriety no less
tenacious, and the wholesome laws of principle too
stubborn to give way to any impulses of the heart unless
they are found justified by virtue.”

“Is it possible, Mr. Hammond, that the affections
should be warm or devoted where the individual refuses
to peril his horse to obtain them?”

“I would peril my life for this hand, my dear Miss
Foster, should occasion require it; but have you forgotten
that most famous passage in the history of
chivalry, when the imperious beauty, conscious of her
power upon the heart of a noble knight, threw her glove
into the amphitheatre at the moment when an angry
lion was stalking over it, and motioned to the brave
cavalier to restore it?”

“And he?”

“Obeyed her, braved the lion, recovered the glove,
and restored it to the lady.”

“Well! Was it not nobly done?”

“Perhaps! In those days such follies had a significance
and merit which they do not possess now. But
there is a sequel to the story.”

“Pray tell it.”

“The knight who braved the lion for the lady, from
that moment yielded the lady to other knights. He
turned away from the reckless beauty who would peril


Page 218
the life of her lover only to exhibit her power over him;
and the world applauded the desertion, and the beauty
was abandoned by all other knights.”

The pride of the maid was touched.

“In this fable, Mr. Hammond, I am to behold a
warning, I suppose.”

“A truth—a principle—is a warning, Miss Foster,
to all mankind. In proposing for your hand, I was
prepared to let you see into my whole nature—my
feelings, opinions, and the principles by which I am
governed. I am now dealing with you with the frankness
of one who hopes to find a wife in the woman with
whom he speaks. I speak with you unaffectedly. I
would peril my life for you in the moment of necessity,
and joy to do so. I might peril it, as a proud man, at
your mere requisition, or your caprice; but it would be
also at the peril of my esteem for you. There is no
peril in bestriding a blooded horse, and engaging in the
contest you propose; but it endangers self-respect, it
offends public opinion, it degrades the suitor, as it admits
no difference—except, perhaps, as a jockey—between
him and his competitors, and—”

He paused.

“Go on, sir.”

“I almost fear, Miss Foster.”

“Nay, sir, you have spoken with little fear, thus far.
You may surely finish.”

“I will! It is only right that I should show the danger
to yourself. It puts the lady in the attitude of one
whose standard depends upon her caprice and whims,
rather than her principles.”

“You speak plainly—certainly without fear.”

“My dear Miss Foster, I have perilled all my life in
the offer I have made you of my hand. I have everything
at stake which is precious. Pardon me, if this
consideration makes me bold, where love, alone, would
only make me humble. We are both young, but you
much younger than myself. You have seen the world
only through the medium of other eyes. It is easy


Page 219
with the young to err, and seeing thus, to see falsely
even in the most important interests. I should almost
be disposed to think that, in making this requisition,
against which I beg most respectfully to protest, you
have obeyed any but your own impulses. Let me entreat
you to reverse it.”

“Really, Mr. Hammond, you attach a singular importance
to a horserace.”

“Surely, not so much as you, Miss Foster, when you
are willing to risk all your own happiness upon it.”

“It is your pride, sir.”

“It is, but I trust not an improper pride.”

“I don't know, sir; but my pride too is concerned.
You have been told that I have made a vow. I have
said, to you, that I felt it to be rash, and feared that it
was foolish, but the resolution was taken. I will not
now say whether I do or do not regret it. Enough,
that it is unchangeable.”

“Do not say this, I entreat you, Miss Foster; for my
sake! I entreat—But no! To you I may be nothing.
For your own sake, then—for your future peace, and
happiness, and hope—do not peril everything on a resolution
so utterly unmeaning and without obligation.
It needs but little effort of wisdom to show that truth,
propriety, common sense, all agree to absolve you from
such a vow. Beware how you persist! It will be fatal.”

He rose as he spoke.

“Do you threaten, Mr. Hammond?”

“Warn! Warn only.”

“I thank you for your warning, sir; but I doubt
whether it is due more to your notions of principle than
to your own feelings of pride, and—”

“My pride, Miss Foster! You do not know or understand
me. I spoke not for myself in this matter,
but for you. Not with regard to him who should be
fortunate enough to secure this hand, but in regard to
the happiness of that heart which you will permit me
to say, I believe to be more misguided than wilful. The
conditions which you couple with this hand will, I fear,


Page 220
greatly peril that heart, no matter who the suitor it
shall win. Am I to understand that you will not, in
any circumstances, modify this resolution?”

He took her hand as he spoke. His eyes were fixed
upon hers imploringly, with an expression of the deepest
interest in her reply. Hers sunk beneath them. The
struggle in her heart was great, but the whisper of the
evil genius was still in her ears.

“It is his pride that speaks, and you must humble it,
if you would not have him your master. He will not
give you up. He will yield to your terms, when once
he finds that he cannot command his own.”

She faltered forth a renewal of her resolution. Then
he rose, released her hand, and said—

“I leave you, Miss Foster; of my determination on
this subject you will permit me to write hereafter.”

He was gone, and she hurried to her chamber and
flung herself in a fit of weeping upon her bed. The
mother would have consoled her, but in vain.

“You have destroyed me!” was all she said. “He
will never come again.”

“And if he doesn't,” was the elegant response of the
mother, “there's as good fish in the river as ever came
out of it.”

A proverb that certainly fails in respect to the mackerel
fishery. We never get half so good a mackerel,
nowadays, as was common ten or fifteen years ago,
though we pay as good a price for it.