University of Virginia Library


It was about seven o'clock of a hot evening when Van Pelt's
exhausted horses toiled out from the Pine Forest, and stood, fetlock
deep in sand, on the brow of the small hill overlooking the
mushroom village of Saratoga. One or two straggling horsemen
were returning late from their afternoon ride, and looked at us,
as they passed on their fresher hacks, with the curiosity which
attaches to new-comers in a watering-place; here and there a
genuine invalid, who had come to the waters for life, not for
pleasure, took advantage of the coolness of the hour and crept
down the footpath to the Spring; and as Horace encouraged his
flagging cattle into a trot to bring up gallantly at the door of
“Congress Hall,” the great bell of that vast caravanserai
resounded through the dusty air, and by the shuffling of a thousand
feet, audible as we approached, we knew that the fashionable
world of Saratoga were rushing down, en masse,to tea.

Having driven through a sand-cloud for the preceding three


Page 21
hours, and, to say nothing of myself, Van Pelt being a man,
who, in his character as the most considerable beau of the
University, calculated his first impression, it was not thought
advisable to encounter, uncleansed, the tide of fashion at that
moment streaming through the hall. We drove round to the
side-door, and gained our pigeon-hole quarters under cover of the

The bachelors' wing of Congress Hall is a long, unsightly,
wooden barrack, divided into chambers six feet by four, and of
an airiness of partition which enables the occupant to converse
with his neighbor three rooms off, with the ease of clerks calling
out entries to the leger across the desks of a counting-house.
The clatter of knives and plates came up to our ears in a confused
murmur, and Van Pelt having refused to dine at the only
inn upon the route, for some reason best known to himself, I
commenced the progress of a long toilet with an appetite not
rendered patient by the sounds of cheer below.

I had washed the dust out of my eyes and mouth, and overcome
with heat and hunger, I knotted a cool cravat loosely round
my neck, and sat down in the one chair.

“Van Pelt!” I shouted.

“Well, Phil?”

“Are you dressed?”

“Dressed! I am as pinguid as a pate foie gras—greased to the
eyelids in cold cream!”

I took up the sixpenny glass and looked at my own newly-washed
physiognomy. From the temples to the chin it was one
unmitigated red—burned to a blister with the sun! I had been
obliged to deluge my head like a mop to get out the dust, and not
naturally remarkable for my good looks, I could, much worse


Page 22
than Van Pelt, afford these startling additions to my disadvantages.
Hunger is a subtle excuse-finder, however, and, remembering
there were five hundred people in this formidable crowd,
and all busy with satisfying their hunger, I trusted to escape
observation, and determined to “go down to tea.” With the
just-named number of guests, it will easily be understood why it
is impossible to obtain a meal at Congress Hall out of the stated
time and place.

In a white roundabout, a checked cravat, my hair plastered
over my eyes a la Mawworm, and a face like the sign of the
“Rising Sun,” I stopped at Van Pelt's door.

“The most hideous figure my eyes ever looked upon!” was his
first consolatory observation.

“Handsome or hideous,” I answered, “I'll not starve! So
here goes for some bread and butter!” and leaving him to his
“appliances,” I descended to the immense hall which serves the
comers to Saratoga, for dining, dancing and breakfasting, and in
wet weather, between meals, for shuttlecock and promenading.

Two interminable tables extended down the hall, filled by all
the beauty and fashion of the United States. Luckily, I thought,
for me, there are distinctions in this republic of dissipation, and
the upper end is reserved for those who have servants to turn
down the chairs and stand over them. The end of the tables
nearest the door, consequently, is occupied by those whose
opinion of my appearance is not without appeal, if they trouble
their heads about it at all, and I may glide in in my white roundabout
(permitted in this sultry weather), and retrieve exhausted
nature in obscurity.

An empty chair stood between an old gentleman and a very
plain young lady, and seeing no remembered faces opposite, I


Page 23
glided to the place, and was soon lost to apprehension in the
abysm of a cold pie. The table was covered with meats, berries,
bottles of chalybeate water, tea appurtenances, jams, jellies, and
radishes, and, but for the absence of the roast, you might have
doubted whether the meal was breakfast or dinner, lunch or
supper. Happy country! in which any one of the four meals
may serve a hungry man for all.

The pigeon-pie stood, at last, well quarried before me, the
debris of the excavation heaped upon my plate; and, appetite
appeased, and made bold by my half hour's obscurity, I leaned
forward and perused with curious attention the long line of faces
on the opposite side of the table, to some of whom, doubtless, I
was to be indebted for the pleasures of the coming fortnight.

My eyes were fixed on the features of a talkative woman, just
above, and I had quite forgotten the fact of my dishabille of complexion
and dress, when two persons entered who made considerable
stir among the servants, and eventually were seated directly
opposite me.

“We loitered too long at Barhydt's,” said one of the most beautiful
women I had ever seen, as she pulled her chair nearer to the
table and looked around her with a glance of disapproval.

In following her eyes to see who was so happy as to sympathize
with such a divine creature even in the loss of a place at table, I
met the fixed and astonished gaze of my most intimate friend at
the University.



Overjoyed at meeting him, I stretched both hands across the
narrow table, and had shaken his arms nearly off his shoulders, and
asked him a dozen questions, before I became conscious that a pair


Page 24
of large wondering eyes were coldly taking an inventory of my
person and features. Van Pelt's unflattering exclamation upon
my appearance at his door, flashed across my mind like a thunderstroke,
and coloring through my burned skin to the temples, I
bowed and stammered I know not what, as Ellerton introduced
me to his sister!

To enter fully into my distress, you should be apprized that a
correspondence arising from my long and constant intimacy with
Tom Ellerton, had been carried on for a year between me and his
sister, and that, being constantly in the habit of yielding to me in
matters of taste, he had, I well knew, so exaggerated to her my
personal qualities, dress, and manners, that she could not in any
case fail to be disappointed in seeing me. Believing her to be at
that moment two thousand miles off in Alabama, and never having
hoped for the pleasure of seeing her at all, I had foolishly suffered
this good-natured exaggeration to go on, pleased with seeing
the reflex of his praises in her letters, and Heaven knows, little
anticipating the disastrous interview upon which my accursed star
would precipitate me! As I went over, mentally, the particulars
of my unbecomingness, and saw Miss Ellerton's eyes resting inquisitively
and furtively on the mountain of pigeon bones lifting
their well picked pyramid to my chin, I wished myself an ink-fish
at the bottom of the sea.

Three minutes after, I burst into Van Pelt's room, tearing my
hair and abusing Tom Ellerton's good nature, and my friend's
headless drosky, in alternate breaths. Without disturbing the
subsiding blood in his own face by entering into my violence, Horace
coolly asked me what the devil was the matter?

I told him.

“Lie down here!” said Van Pelt, who was a small Napoleon


Page 25
in such trying extremities; “lie down on the bed, and anoint your
phiz with this unguent. I see good luck for you in this accident,
and you have only to follow my instructions. Phil Slingsby, sunburnt,
in a white roundabout, and Phil Slingsby, pale and well
dressed, are as different as this potted cream and a dancing cow.
You shall see what a little drama I'll work out for you!”

I laid down on my back, and Horace kindly anointed me from
the trachea to the forelock, and from ear to ear.

“Egad,” said he, warming with his study of his proposed plot,
as he slid his fore-fingers over the bridge of my nose, “every circumstance
tells for us. Tall man as you are, you are as short-
bodied as a monkey (no offence, Phil!); and when you sit at
table, you are rather an under-sized gentleman. I have been astonished
every day these three years, at seeing you rise after dinner
in Commons' Hall. A thousand to one, Fanny Ellerton thinks
you a stumpy man.”

“And then, Phil,” he continued, with a patronizing tone, “you
have studied minute philosophy to little purpose if you do not
know that the first step in winning a woman to whom you have
been overpraised, is to disenchant her at all hazards, on your first
interview. You will never rise above the ideal she has formed,
and to sink below it gradually, or to remain stationary, is not to
thrive in your wooing.”

Leaving me this precocious wisdom to digest, Horace descended
to the foot of the garden to take a warm bath, and overcome
with fatigue, and the recumbent posture, I soon fell asleep and
dreamed of the great blue eyes of Fanny Ellerton.


Page 26


The soaring of the octave flute in “Hail Columbia,” with which
the band was patriotically opening the ball, woke me from the
midst of a long apologetic letter to my friend's sister, and I found
Van Pelt's black boy Juba waiting patiently at the bed-side with
curling-tongs and Cologne-water, ordered to superintend my toilet
by his master, who had gone early to the drawing-room to pay
his respects to Miss Ellerton. With the cold cream disappeared
entirely from my face the uncomfortable redness to which I had
been a martyr, and, thanks to my ebony coiffeur, my straight and
plastered locks soon grew as different to their “umquhile guise”
as Hyperion's to a satyr's. Having appeared to the eyes of the
lady, in whose favor I hoped to prosper, in red and white (red phiz
and white jacket), I trusted that in white and black (black suit
and pale viznomy), I should look quite another person. Juba
was pleased to show his ivory in a complimentary smile at my
transformation, and I descended to the drawing-room, on the best
terms with the coxcomb in my bosom.

Horace met me at the door.

Proteus redivivus!” was his exclamation. “Your new name
is Wrongham. You are a gentle senior, instead of a bedeviled
sophomore, and your cue is to be poetical. She will never think
again of the monster in the white jacket, and I have prepared her
for the acquaintance of a new friend, whom I have just described
to you.

I took his arm, and with the courage of a man in a mask, went
through another presentation to Miss Ellerton. Her brother had
been let into the secret by Van Pelt, and received me with great


Page 27
ceremony as his college superior; and, as there was no other person
at the Springs who knew Mr. Slingsby, Mr. Wrongham was
likely to have an undisturbed reign of it. Miss Ellerton looked
hard at me for a moment, but the gravity with which I was presented
and received, dissipated a doubt if one had arisen in her
mind, and she took my arm to go to the ball-room, with an undisturbed
belief in my assumed name and character.

I commenced the acquaintance of the fair Alabamian with great
advantages. Received as a perfect stranger, I possessed, from
long correspondence with her, the most minute knowledge of the
springs of her character, and of her favorite reading and pursuits,
and, with the little knowledge of the world which she had gained
on a plantation, she was not likely to penetrate my game from my
playing it too freely. Her confidence was immediately won by the
readiness with which I entered into her enthusiasm and anticipated
her thoughts; and before the first quadrille was well over, she had
evidently made up her mind that she had never in her life met one
who so well “understood her.” Oh! how much women include
in that apparently indefinite expression, “He understands me!

The colonnade of Congress Hall is a long promenade laced in
with vines and columns, on the same level with the vast ball-room
and drawing-room, and (the light of heaven not being taxed at
Saratoga) opening at every three steps by a long window into the
carpeted floors. When the rooms within are lit in a summer's
night, that cool and airy colonnade is thronged by truants from
the dance, and collectively by all who have anything to express
that is meant for one ear only. The mineral waters of Saratoga
are no less celebrated as a soporific for chaperons than as a tonic
for the dyspeptic, and while the female Argus dozes in the drawing-room,
the fair Io and her Jupiter (represented in this case, we


Page 28
will say, by Miss Ellerton and myself) range at liberty in the fertile
fields of flirtation.

I had easily put Miss Ellerton in surprised good humor with
herself and me during the first quadrille, and with a freedom based
partly upon my certainty of pleasing her, partly on the peculiar
manners of the place, I coolly requested that she would continue
to dance with me for the rest of the evening.

“One unhappy quadrille excepted,” she replied, with a look
meant to be mournful.

“May I ask with whom?”

“Oh, he has not asked me yet; but my brother has bound me
over to be civil to him—a spectre, Mr. Wrongham! a positive

“How denominated?” I inquired, with a forced indifference,
for I had a presentiment I should hear my own name.

“Slingsby—Mr. Philip Slingsby—Tom's fidus Achates, and a
proposed lover of my own. But you don't seem surprised.”

“Surprised! E-hem! I know the gentleman!”

“Then did you ever see such a monster! Tom told me he
was another Hyperion. He half admitted it himself, indeed; for
to tell you a secret, I have corresponded with him a year!”

“Giddy Miss Fanny Ellerton!—and never saw him!”

“Never till to-night! He sat at supper in a white jacket and
red face, with a pile of bones upon his plate like an Indian tumulus.”

“And your brother introduced you?”

“Ah, you were at table! Well, did you ever see in your travels,
a man so unpleasantly hideous?”

“Fanny!” said her brother, coming up at the moment, “Slingsby


Page 29
presents his apologies to you for not joining your cordon to-night—but
he's gone to bed with a head-ache.”

“Indigestion, I dare say,” said the young lady. “Never mind,
Tom, I'll break my heart when I have leisure. And now, Mr.
Wrongham, since the spectre walks not forth to-night, I am yours
for a cool hour on the colonnade.”

Vegetation is rapid in Alabama, and love is a weed that thrives
in the soil of the tropics. We discoursed of the lost Pleiad and
the Berlin bracelets, of the five hundred people about us, and the
feasibility of boiling a pot on five hundred a year—the unmatrimonial
sum total of my paternal allowance. She had as many
negroes as I had dollars, I well knew, but it was my cue to seem

“And where do you mean to live, when you marry, Mr.
Wrongham?” asked Miss Ellerton, at the two hundredth turn on
the colonnade.

“Would you like to live in Italy?” I asked again, as if I had
not heard her.

“Do you mean that as a sequitur to my question, Mr. Wrongham?”
said she, half stopping in her walk; and though the sentence
was commenced playfully, dropping her voice at the last
word, with something, I thought, very like emotion.

I drew her off the colonnade to the small garden between the
house and the spring, and in a giddy dream of fear and surprise
at my own rashness and success, I made, and won from her a
frank avowal of preference.

Matches have been made more suddenly.


Page 30


Miss Ellerton sat in the music-room the next morning after
breakfast, preventing pauses in a rather interesting conversation,
by a running accompaniment upon the guitar. A single gold
thread formed a fillet about her temples, and from beneath it, in
clouds of silken ringlets, floated the softest raven hair that ever
grew enamored of an ivory shoulder. Hers was a skin that seemed
woven of the lily-white, but opaque fibre of the magnolia, yet of
that side of its cup turned toward the fading sunset. There is no
term in painting, because there is no touch of pencil or color that
could express the vanishing and impalpable breath that assured
the healthiness of so pale a cheek. She was slight, as all southern
women are in America, and of a flexible and luxurious gracefulness
equalled by nothing but the movings of a smoke-curl. Without
the elastic nerve remarkable in the motions of Taglioni, she appeared,
like her, to be born with a lighter specific gravity than her fellow-creatures.
If she had floated away upon some chance breeze
you would only have been surprised upon reflection.

“I am afraid you are too fond of society,” said Miss Ellerton,
as Juba came in hesitatingly and delivered her a note in the handwriting
of an old correspondent. She turned pale on seeing the
superscription, and crushed the note up in her hand, unread. I
was not sorry to defer the denouement of my little drama, and taking
up the remark which she seemed disposed to forget, I referred
her to a scrap-book of Van Pelt's, which she had brought home
with her, containing some verses of my own, copied (by good luck)
in that sentimental sophomore's own hand.

“Are these yours, really and really?” she asked, looking pryingly


Page 31
into my face, and showing me my own verses, against which
she had already run a pencil line of approbation.

Peccavi!” I answered. “But will you make me in love
with my offspring by reading them in your own voice.”

They were some lines written in a balcony at daybreak, while
a ball was still going on within, and contained an allusion (which
I had quite overlooked) to some one of my ever-changing admirations.
As well as I remember they ran thus:—

Morn in the east! How coldly fair
It breaks upon my fevered eye!
How chides the calm and dewy air!
How chides the pure and pearly sky!
The stars melt in a brighter fire,
The dew in sunshine leaves the flowers;
They from their watch, in light retire,
While we in sadness pass from ours!
I turn from the rebuking morn,
The cold gray sky and fading star,
And listen to the harp and horn,
And see the waltzers near and far:
The lamps and flowers are bright as yet,
And lips beneath more bright than they—
How can a scene so fair beget
The mournful thoughts we bear away.
'Tis something that thou art not here
Sweet lover of my lightest word!
'Tis something that my mother's tear
By these forgetful hours is stirred!
But I have long a loiterer been
In haunts where Joy is said to be,
And though with Peace I enter in,
The nymph comes never forth with me'


Page 32

“And who was this `sweet lover,' Mr Wrongham? I should
know, I think, before I go farther with so expeditious a gentleman.”

“As Shelley says of his ideal mistress—

`I loved—oh, no! I mean not one of ye,
Or any earthly one—though ye are fair!'
It was but an apostrophe to the presentiment of that which I have
found, dear Miss Ellerton! But will you read that ill-treated
billet-doux, and remember that Juba stands with the patience of
an ebon statue waiting for an answer?”

I knew the contents of the letter, and I watched the expression
of her face, as she read it, with no little interest. Her temples
flushed, and her delicate lips gradually curled into an expression
of anger and scorn, and having finished the perusal of it, she put
it into my hand, and asked me if so impertinent a production deserved
an answer.

I began to fear that the eclaircissement would not leave me on
the sunny side of the lady's favor, and felt the need of the moment's
reflection given me while running my eye over the letter.

“Mr. Slingsby,” said I, with the deliberation of an attorney,
“has been some time in correspondence with you?”


“And, from his letters and your brother's commendations, you
had formed a high opinion of his character, and had expressed as
much in your letters?”

“Yes—perhaps I did.”

“And from this paper intimacy he conceives himself sufficiently
acquainted with you to request leave to pay his addresses?”

A dignified bow put a stop to my catechism.


Page 33

“Dear Miss Ellerton!” I said, “this is scarcely a question
upon which I ought to speak, but by putting this letter into my
hand, you seemed to ask my opinion.”

“I did—I do,” said the lovely girl, taking my hand, and looking
appealingly into my face; “answer it for me! I have done
wrong in encouraging that foolish correspondence, and I owe perhaps
to this forward man a kinder reply than my first feeling
would have dictated. Decide for me—write for me—relieve me
from the first burden that has lain on my heart since—”

She burst into tears, and my dread of an explanation increased.

“Will you follow my advice implicitly?” I asked.

“Yes—oh, yes!”

“You promise?”

“Indeed, indeed!”

“Well, then, listen to me! However painful the task, I must
tell you that the encouragement you have given Mr. Slingsby, the
admiration you have expressed in your letters of his talents and
acquirements, and the confidence you have reposed in him respecting
yourself, warrant him in claiming as a right, a fair trial
of his attractions. You have known and approved Mr. Slingsby's
mind for years—you know me but for a few hours. You saw
him under the most unfavorable auspices (for I know him intimately),
and I feel bound in justice to assure you that you will like
him much better upon acquaintance.”

Miss Ellerton had gradually drawn herself up during this splendid
speech, and sat at last as erect and as cold as Agrippina upon
her marble chair.

“Will you allow me to send Mr. Slingsby to you,” I continued,
rising—“and suffer him to plead his own cause?”


Page 34

“If you will call my brother, Mr. Wrongham, I shall feel
obliged to you,” said Miss Ellerton.

I left the room, and hurrying to my chamber, dipped my head
into a basin of water, and plastered my long locks over my eyes,
slipped on a white roundabout, and tied around my neck the identical
checked cravat in which I had made such an unfavorable
impression on the first day of my arrival. Tom Ellerton was
soon found, and easily agreed to go before and announce me by
my proper name to his sister; and treading closely on his heels,
I followed to the door of the music-room.

“Ah, Ellen!” said he, without giving her time for a scene, “I
was looking for you. Slingsby is better, and will pay his respects
to you presently. And, I say—you will treat him well, Ellen,
and—and, don't flirt with Wrongham the way you did last night!
Slingsby's a devilish sight better fellow. Oh, here he is!”

As I stepped over the threshold, Miss Ellerton gave me just
enough of a look to assure herself that it was the identical monster
she had seen at the tea-table, and not deigning me another glance,
immediately commenced talking violently to her brother on the
state of the weather. Tom bore it for a moment or two with
remarkable gravity, but at my first attempt to join in the conversation,
my voice was lost in an explosion of laughter which would
have been the death of a gentleman with a full habit.

Indignant and astonished, Miss Ellerton rose to her full height
and slowly turned to me.

Peccavi!” said I, crossing my hands on my bosom, and looking
up penitently to her face.

She ran to me, and seized my hand, but recovered herself instantly,
and the next moment was gone from the room.

Whether from wounded pride at having been the subject of a


Page 35
mystification, or whether from that female caprice by which most
men suffer at one period or other of their bachelor lives, I know
not—but I never could bring Miss Ellerton again to the same interesting
crisis with which she ended her intimacy with Mr. Wrongham.
She proffered to forgive me, and talked laughingly enough
of our old correspondence; but whenever I grew tender, she referred
me to the “sweet lover,” mentioned in my verses in the
balcony, and looked around for Van Pelt. That accomplished
beau, on observing my discomfiture, began to find out Miss Ellerton's
graces without the aid of his quizzing-glass, and I soon found
it necessary to yield the pas altogether. She has since become
Mrs. Van Pelt, and when I last heard from her was “as well as
could be expected.”