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The master's house

a tale of Southern life



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There is not a more charming town in New England, than
Malden, so celebrated, and so widely known for its intelligent
population, its interesting traditions, and its most excellent
seat of learning.

Until recently, Malden retained quite a rural appearance,
and presented a charming mixture of tasteful cottages,
ornamented with choice shrubbery, and a few grand
old mansions, half hidden away among elms more than a
century old.

The students who find a temporary home at Malden,
bear patiently with many imaginary grievances of college
life, rather than abandon its beautiful streets, its picturesque
highways and hospitable inhabitants.

Near the centre of one of the principal thoroughfares
is an old, yet noble looking house, which attracts attention


Page 14
from the most superficial observer. It seems to stand out
from among the more pretentious residences by which it is
surrounded, as would John Hancock in his rich but quaint
costume, if suddenly thrust into a group of modern gentlemen.

There is a width of front, and massiveness of stonework
about this grand old house, a ludicrous largeness
about the knocker, and a mysterious symbolization about
the coat of arms wrought among the mouldings over the
door-way, that tells a tale of men and sentiments which
have for ever passed away, yet there is left behind a mark,
well calculated to command profound respect.

The inhabitants of this old mansion were descendants of
a family whose members were famous among our Puritan
fathers, yet there was little left to them but the traditional
greatness of the past. They retained of a once splendid
fortune, a simple competency, but with decreasing
wealth came increasing pride. They lived almost in the
seclusion of ascetics, and, complacent themselves, they had
apparently no desire to conciliate the good will of the less
pretentious people about them, and thereby were almost
forgotten, or unobserved by the inhabitants of Malden.

On summer days they could be seen moving to church
with a stately manner, that shed a kind of chilling influence
about them, and having arrived at the “house of prayer,”
they took their seats “for worship,” with a grim smile of
satisfaction, which would have done honor to the sternest
spirits of the “Protectorate.”

Upon week days they were rarely seen in the streets,
and then guarded from intimacy by a careful attention to


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dress, which seemed to render them incapable of performing
a hearty salutation, or indulging a genial smile, without
deranging a personal appearance of so much importance to
be preserved, that it must be done, even at the sacrifice of
the symbolic language of courtesy and friendship.

The “unsociability of the Hastings family,” as hinted,
made little impression upon the town; it was kept before
the inhabitants more by the noble looking old mansion,
than by any thing else, and perhaps it would not have been
observed at all, but for the fact, that Annie Hastings, the
only young person in this family, had, imperceptibly to her
staid guardians and to the community, grown into an attractive,
laughing, hearty girl; but as she made acquaintances
with her schoolmates of her own age, and was beloved
by all whom she met, she shed over the previous dreary associations
of her household, a genial sunshine, so natural
to youth, and so contagious in spite of one's self.

Annie, although naturally of an enthusiastic temperament,
had, insensibly to herself, adopted a quiet manner,
the natural result of the education she had received, and
the examples set before her; yet she was a great favorite
with the few students who were occasionally indebted to
the inmates of the Hastings House for a kind of formal
hospitality, given more because having company was a traditionary
peculiarity, than a present necessity. She was
also an object of interest, because it was thought by many
a visionary youth, that Annie must be very miserable, immured,
as they imagined, a sort of prisoner, among the
solemn people within the heavy walls of the “old Hastings


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Among all the students of Malden, Graham Mildmay
was the only one who maintained the position of a constant
visitor at the home of Annie Hastings. He was a
“Southern student,” known to be the heir of a large estate,
possessed a tall and manly personal appearance, pleasing
manners, and what is not uncommon to youth from his
section of country, but yet not characteristic, was of
rather a serious temperament.

It might be supposed that the constant visits of a generous
hearted and noble looking young stranger, would
have created a sentiment in Annie's heart that would soon
ripen into love; but Graham Mildmay was so courteous, so
deferential in manner, that the fact of his being the most
distinguished student of his college, gratified Annie's pride,
called into action her intellectual faculties, but excited no
deeper emotions.

But this was not all. Annie Hastings was still very
young, and she was so educated to look upon herself; she
also had that proper appreciation of her own merits and
position, that she never thought admirers would be difficult
to obtain. But there was a difference of sentiment existing
between Mildmay and herself, that had been the subject
of a thousand conversations, and yet had never been
reconciled, and this disagreement involved a high principle,
that was in Annie's feelings only to be overcome by an intensity
of love, still foreign to her heart.

Mildmay was cordially accepted among the young
men of the college from his section of the Union, as “one
of their own set,” yet he never entered heartily into their
dissipations, or became seriously involved in any way, with


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their reckless amusements. He was popular with all who
knew him for his manliness, and seemed to happily combine
industrious habits with the cultivated manners and easy
bearing, so peculiar to the youth of the South. There was
a sense of innate worth, and pecuniary ability about Mildmay,
that so frequently distinguishes the highly educated
planter from the mere business man, which, joined with his
acknowledged moral worth, made him a universal favorite.
His manners atoned for many thoughtless breaches of discipline,
on the part of his fellow Southerners, and he was
every where spoken of, as one destined to a high position
in the councils of his country, and assigned a leading place
as a future statesman of the South.

With two or three of his intimate friends, Mildmay
sauntered down the principal street of Malden; he was in
fine spirits, for he had carried off the “honors of his
class,” and as “valedictorian,” was the hero of the hour.

No one felt envious that he wore the scholastic crown.
Through four long years of study he had been uniformly
at the head of his classes, had never maliciously broken a
college rule, had originated no difficulty with his fellow
students, had always been generous to prodigality; and all
the while, seemingly, the least ambitious student in the institution.

The group of young gentlemen as they pursued their
way, as if attracted by some magnetic influence, passed the
old and aristocratic mansion of the Hastings family. Annie
was only partially visible at the window, for an ambitious
vine covered with gay flowers, crept luxuriantly over
the casement, concealing a full view of her fair face, while


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her hand, on which she leaned, was involved in her flaxen
curls. Somewhat to her own astonishment, she was sad,
and felt it was because she was thinking of the change that
would take place in her circumscribed world, by the breaking
up of the Senior Class of the Halls of Malden.

“I see,” said Singleton Minor, looking archly at Mildmay,
“that you have brought us on a pilgrimage to your
own shrine, and will give us a chance at a respectful distance,
to worship my lady of a thousand graces.”

“Very natural indeed,” quoth Reynolds Calhoun.
“Graham wishes us to see how pretty northern sentiments
can be done up in angelic forms. I think my faith would
be staggered, if pretty Annie Hastings would condescend
to give me a lecture on the enormous sin of our `peculiar

“And a poor preacher indeed would she be,” said
Adolph Marigny, heartily laughing, “for she would carry
into slavery an honest Christian youth of our own land,
and one nearly as fair as herself. I think,” continued Marigny,
seemingly very earnest indeed, “I think universal
emancipation must prevail, unless we can make out a special
case in favor of a particular individual;” and the gay Louisianian
looked knowingly at the victim of all this badinage.

At this instant Annie looked up, and she was greeted
by respectful salutations, that would have been gracefully
conspicuous at the tournaments of old.

“I think,” said Mildmay, as the party passed on, “that
you are all quite merry with your tongues, but I see that
you are also very envious in your hearts, as you have cause
to be.”


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“We are envious of course,” said Marigny, “for
we have made our calculations, what a cozy time you
will have of it, with that fine old yellow brick mansion,
shining out from among the magnolias; it will be quite refreshing
in a new country to see a little heraldry, with the
legitimate excuse, that you inherited it, for I doubt if Miss
Hastings would ever leave Malden, unless she could take
the old house away with her.”

“You will of course improve it with a wine-cellar and
a billiard-room,” suggested Calhoun; “for these are things
that would in this Jericho pull down the walls: but I
think,” he continued, “that they would stand unharmed,
by such necessary associations, amid the free airs of the
Mississippi valley.”

“And, besides, we might have expected this,” said Singleton
Minor; “for you remember, boys, how very eloquent
Mildmay got, in the Society rooms, about the Goths coming
down upon the fair fields of Italy! He seems to have
a taste for these incursions into foreign lands. If I could
afford to sacrifice my inclinations to patriotism, I do not
know but that some of these fair descendants of the
`roundheads' might capture the last of a race of cavaliers.
I must confess I have had my traditional prejudices terribly

“The way was prepared for this somewhat,” said Calhoun,
turning to Singleton, “by your romantic affection
for the daughter of either old General Fairfax, or Oliver
Cromwell,—I forget which; you can turn to Carlyle at
your leisure, and learn the particulars.”

“And if you will leave the unintelligible author you


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have named, and read more English history,” continued
Calhoun, “you will find that this same staid daughter
of Fairfax was, in time, the wildest duchess at the gay
court of the dissipated Charles; and this fact is what redeems
this puritanical human nature. The women are
always more intelligent, more facile, and more patriotic
than the men.”

“Gentlemen!” said Mildmay finally, with some feeling;
“your jests have the merit of wit, and perhaps of
compliment; yet they trench somewhat on personal
ground, because suggested by, though not necessarily
alluding to, a particular lady. I am sorry, however, to
perceive,” he continued, “that in spite of your long residence
here, you still make mental distinctions between the
people of this great republic. I am for myself determined
to know nothing of the kind, and, above all, will I never
allow prejudices to control me, which originated with the
British nation centuries before we were born.”

“Patriotism is not wholly dead, in spite of what disappointed
politicians say,” said Marigny, looking with real
admiration at Mildmay; “but it is after all,” he continued,
“the beautiful and good girls of this same sterile
New England, who make us feel our homes are the same,
whether North or South, and I say, may Heaven bless
them all!”

“Treason is rife,—the South is in danger,—the Amazons
of the North conquer,—they rush upon our defenceless
cohorts, and capture husbands with a precision that
finds but a dim parallel in the red man lariating the wild
horse on the prairie,” returned Calhoun, at the same time


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taking the arm of Minor, and gracefully bowing, he turned
into an obscure street, leaving Marigny and Mildmay

Mildmay was annoyed; there was something in the
half-concealed sneers of the reckless Calhoun, that caused
a dark cloud to pass over his face: his companion noticed
it, and with some concern inquired,

“Has any thing happened to offend you?”

“Nothing,” said Mildmay, “that is personal to myself;
yet, nevertheless, I feel the deepest chagrin and
mortification that Calhoun, gifted as he is, represents so
many of our Southern youth; possessed of abilities beyond
the ordinary standard of young men, he has passed through
his college course without finding it necessary to ever
seriously arouse from his natural indolence. He will when
he goes home give no useful tone to his community. He
sees all the salient points of these New Englanders, and
remembers for a contrast, all the superficially magnificent
qualities of his native State; but there ends his philosophy.”