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“L'Esprit est un faux monnayeur, qui change continuellement les gros sous
en louis d'or, et qui souvent fait de ses louis d'or des gros sous.”

There were five hundred guardian angels (and of course as
many evil spirits), in and about the merry premises of Congress
Hall. Each gay guest had his pair; but though each pair had
their special ministry (and there were here and there a guest who
would not have objected to transform his, for the time being, into
a pair of trotting ponies), the attention of the cherubic troop, it
may fairly be presumed, was directed mainly to the momentous
flirtations of Miss C. Sophy Onthank, the dread disposer of the
destinies of eighty thousand innocent little dollars.

Miss Chittaline Sophy (though this is blabbing, for that mysterious
“C.” was generally condemned to travel in domino)—Miss
Chittaline Sophy, besides her good and evil spirit already referred
to, was under the additional watch and ward of a pair of bombazine
aunts, Miss Charity Onthank and Miss Sophy the same, of
which she was the united namesake. “Chittaline” being the
embellished diminutive of “Charity.” These Hesperian dragons
of old maids were cut after the common pattern of such utensils,
and of course would not dignify a description; though this disparaging
remark (we must stop long enough to say) is not at all


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to the prejudice of that occasional love-of-an-old-maid that one
does sometimes see—that four-leaved clover of virginity—that
star apart in the spilled milk of the Via Lactea:—
“For now and then you find one who could rally
At forty, and go back to twenty-three—
A handsome, plump, affectionate `Aunt Sally,'
With no rage for cats, flannel, and Bohea.”
But the two elderly Misses Outhank were not of this category.

By the absence of that Junonic assurance, common to those
ladies who are born and bred heiresses, Miss C. Sophy's autograph
had not long been an object of interest at the bank. She
had all the air of having been “brought up at the trough,” as
the French phrase it,

“Round as a cipher, simple as good day,”

and her belle-ship was still a surprise to her. Like the red-haired
and freckled who find, when they get to Italy, that their flaming
peculiarities are considered as captivating signs of a skin too delicate
for exposure, she received with a slight incredulity the homage
to her unseen charms—homage not the less welcome for exacting
from the giver an exercise of faith and imagination. The
same faith and imagination, she was free to suppose, might find a
Venus within her girdle, as the sculptor sees one in the goodly
block of marble, lacking only the removal of its clumsy covering
by chisel and sand-paper. With no visible waist, she was as tall
as a pump, and riotously rosy like a flowering rhododendron. Hair
brown and plenty of it. Teeth white and all at home. And her
voice, with but one semitone higher, would have been an approved

Having thus compressed into a couple of paragraphs what


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would have served a novelist for his first ten chapters, permit us,
without the bother of intermediate mortar or moralizing (though
this is rather a mixed figure), to lay on the next brick in the shape
of a hint at the character of Miss Onthank's two prominent

Mr. Greville Seville was a New York beau. He had all the
refinement that could possibly be imported. He had seen those
who had seen all that is visible in the fashionable man of London
and Paris, and he was well versed in the conduits through
which their several peculiarities found their way across the
Atlantic. Faultlessly booted, pantalooned, waistcoated, and
shirted, he could afford to trust his coat and scarf to Providence,
and his hat to Warnock or Leary. He wore a slightly restrained
whisker, and a faint smut of an imperial, and his gloves fitted
him inexorably. His figure was a matter of course. He was
brought up in New York, and was one of the four hundred thousand
results (more or less) of its drastic waters—washy and short.
And he had as good a heart as is compatible with the above
personal advantages.

It would very much have surprised the “company” at Congress
Hall to have seen Mr. Chesterfield Potts put down as No. 2,
in the emulous contest for the two hands of Miss Onthank. The
count (he was commonly called “Count Potts,” a compliment to
good manners not unusual in America), was, by his own label, a
man of “thirty and upward”—by the parish register possibly
sixty-two. He was an upright, well preserved, stylish-looking
man, with an expensive wig, fine teeth (commonly supposed not
to be indigenous), and a lavish outlay of cotton batting, covering
the retreat of such of his muscular forces as were inclined to retire
from the field. What his native qualities might be was a


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branch of knowledge long since lost to the world. His politeness
had superseded the necessity of any particular inquiry into the
matter; indeed, we are inclined to believe his politeness had superseded
his character altogether. He was as incapable of the
impolite virtues (of which there are several) as of the impolite vices.
Like cricketing, punning, political speech-making, and other mechanical
arts, complimenting may be brought to a high degree of
dexterity, and Count Potts, after a practice of many years, could,
over most kinds of female platitude, spread a flattering unction
humbugative to the most suspicious incredulity. As he told no
stories, made no puns, volunteered but little conversation, and
had the air of a modest man wishing to avoid notice, the
blockheads and the very young girls stoutly denied his fascination.
But in the memory of riper belles, as they went to sleep night
after night, lay snugly lodged and carefully treasured, some timely
compliment, some soothing word, and though credited to “old
Potts,” the smile with which it was gracefully re-acknowledged the
next morning at breakfast, would have been warm enough for
young Ascanius. “Nice old Potts!” was the faint murmur of
many a bright lip turning downward to the pillow in the “last

And now, dear reader, you have an idea of the forces in the
field, and you probably know how “the war is carried on” at Saratoga.
Two aunts and a guardian angel versus an evil spirit and
two lovers—Miss Onthank's hand, the (well-covered) bone of
contention. Whether the citadel would speedily yield, and which
of these two rival knights would bear away the palm of victory,
were questions upon which the majority of lookers-on were doomed
to make erroneous predictions. The reader, of course, is in the
sagacious minority.


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Mr. Potts' income was a net answer to his morning prayer. It
provided his “daily bread” but no provender for a horse. He
probably coveted Miss Onthank as much for her accompanying
oats as for her personal avoirdupois, since the only complaint with
which he ever troubled his acquaintances, was one touching his
inability to keep an equipage. Man is instinctively a centaur, he
used to say, and when you cut him off from his horse and reduce
him to his simple trunk (and a trunk was all the count's worldly
furniture), he is but a mutilated remainder, robbed of his natural

It was not authenticated in Wall-street that Mr. Greville Seville
was reasonably entitled to horse-flesh and caparison; but he
had a trotting wagon and two delicious cropped sorrels; and those
who drove in his company were obliged to down with the dust” (a
bon mot of Count Potts'). Science explains many of the enigmas
of common life, however, and the secret of Mr. Seville's equipment
and other means of going on swimmingly, lay in his unusually
large organ of hope. He was simply anticipating the arrival
of 1840, a year in which he had reason to believe that there
would be paid in to the credit of the present Miss Onthank, a
sufficient sum to cover his loosest expenditure. The intermediate
transfer to himself of her rights to the same, was a mere filling
up of an outline, his mind being entirely made up as to the
conditional incumbrance of the lady's person. He was now paying
her some attentions in advance, and he felt justified in charging
his expenses on the estate. She herself would wish it, doubtless,
if she could look into the future with his eyes.

By all the common data of matrimonial skirmishing, a lover
with horses easily outstrips a lover with none. Miss C. Sophy,
besides, was particularly fond of driving, and Seville was an accomplished


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whip. There was no lack of the “golden opportunity”
of téte à téte, for, with a deaf aunt and somebody else on
the back seat, he had Miss Onthank to himself on the driving
box, and could talk to his horses in the embarrassing pauses. It
looked a clear case to most observers; and as to Seville, he had
studied out a livery for his future footman and tiger, and would
not have taken an insurance at a quarter per cent.

But Potts—ah! Potts had traced back the wires of woman's
weaknesses. The heiress had no conversation (why should she
have it and money too?), and the part of her daily drive which
she remembered with most pleasure, was the flourish of starting
and returning—managed by Potts with a pomp and circumstance
that would have done honor to the goings and comings of Queen
Victoria. Once away from the portico, it was a monotonous drag
through the dust for two or three hours, and as most ladies know,
it takes a great deal of chit-chat to butter so large a slice of time;
for there was no making love, parbleu! Miss Chittaline Onthank
was of a stratum of human nature susceptible of no sentiment
less substantial than a kiss, and when the news, and the weather,
and the virtues of the sorrel ponies, were exhausted, the talk
came to a stand-still. The heiress began to remember with alarm
that her education had been neglected, and that it was a relief
to get back to old Potts and the portico.

Fresh from his nap and warm bath, the perfumed count stepped
out from the group he had purposely collected, gave her his
hand with a deferential inquiry, spread the loungers to the right
and left like an “usher of the black rod,” and with some well-studied
impromptu compliment, waited on her to her chamber
door. He received her again after her toilet, and for the remainder
of the day devoted his utmost powers to her aggrandizement.


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If talking alone with her, it was to provoke her to some passage
of school-girl autobiography, and listen like a charmed stone to
the harp of Orpheus. If others were near, it was to catch her
stupidities half uttered and twist them into sense before they
came to the ground. His own clevernesses were prefaced with
“As you remarked yesterday, Miss Onthank,” or, “As you were
about to say when I interrupted you.” If he touched her foot, it
was “so small he didn't see it.” If she uttered an irredeemable
and immitigable absurdity, he covered its retreat with some sudden
exclamation. He called her pensive, when she was sleepy
and vacant. He called her romantic, when he couldn't understand
her. In short, her vanity was embodied—turned into a
magician and slave—and in the shape of Count Chesterfield Potts
ministered to her indefatigably.

But the summer solstice began to wane. A week more was
all that was allotted to Saratoga by that great American commander,
General Consent.

Count Potts came to breakfast, in a shawl cravat!

“Off, Potts?”

“Are you flitting, my dear count?”

“What—going away, dear Mr. Potts?”

“Gracious me! don't go, Mr. Potts!”

The last exclamation was sent across the table in a tone of
alarm by Miss C. Sophy, and responded to only by a bow of obsequious

Breakfast was over, and Potts arose. His baggage was at the
door. He sought no interview with Miss Onthank. He did not
even honor the two bombazinities with a farewell. He stepped
up to the group of belles, airing their demi-toilets on the portico,
said “Ladies! au revoir!” took the heiress's hand and put it


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gallantly toward his lips, and walked off with his umbrella,
requesting the driver to pick him up at the spring.

“He has been refused!” said one.

“He has given Seville a clear field in despair!” said another.
And this was the general opinion.

The day crept on. But there was an emptiness without Potts.
Seville had the field to himself, and as there was no fear of a new
squatter, he thought he might dispense with tillage. They had a
very dull drive and a very dull dinner, and in the evening, as
there was no ball, Seville went off to play billiards. Miss Onthank
was surrounded, as usual, by the belles and beaux, but she
was down flat—unmagnetized, ungalvanized. The magician was
gone. Her stupid things “stayed put.” She was like a glass
bead lost from a kaleidoscope.

That weary week was spent in lamentations over Potts. Everybody
praised him. Everybody complimented Miss Onthank on
her exclusive power of monopoly over such porcelain ware. The
two aunts were his main glorifiers; for, as Potts knew, they
were of that leathery toughness that only shines on you with
rough usage.

We have said little, as yet, of Miss Onthank's capabilities in
the love line. We doubt, indeed, whether she rightly understood
the difference between loving and being born again. As to giving
away her heart, she believed she could do what her mother did
before her, but she would rather it would be one of her back
teeth, if that would do as well. She liked Mr. Potts because he
never made any difficulty about such things.

Seville considered himself accepted, though he had made no
direct proposition. He had asked whether she preferred to live
in country or town—she said “town.” He had asked if she


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would leave the choice and management of horses and equipages
to him—she said “be sure!” He had asked if she had any
objection to his giving bachelor dinners occasionally—she said
“la! no!” As he understood it, the whole thing was most comfortably
arranged, and he lent money to several of his friends on
the strength of it—giving his note, this is to say.

On a certain morning, some ten days after the departure of the
count from Saratoga, Miss Onthank and her two aunts sat up in
state in their parlor at the City Hotel. They always went to the
City Hotel because Willard remembered their names, and asked
after their uncle the Major. Mr. Seville's ponies and wagon
were at the door, and Mr. Seville's father, mother, seven sisters,
and two small brothers, were in the progress of a betrothal visit—
calling on the future Mrs. Greville Seville.

All of a sudden the door was thrown open, and enter Count

Up jumped the enchanted Chittaline Sophy.

“How do you do, Mr. Potts?”

“Good morning, Mr. Potts!” said the aunts in a breath.

“D'ye-do, Potts!” said Seville, giving him his fore-finger,
with the air of a man rising from winning at cards.

Potts made his compliments all round. He was about sailing
for Carolina, he said, and had come to ask permission of Miss
Onthank to leave her sweet society for a few years of exile. But
as this was the last of his days of pleasure, at least till he saw
Miss Onthank again, he wished to be graced with the honor of
her arm for a promenade in Broadway. The ladies and Mr. Seville
doubtless would excuse her if she put on her bonnet without
further ceremony.

Now Potts's politenesses had such an air of irresistible authority


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that people fell into their track like cars after a locomotive.
While Miss Onthank was bonneting and shawling, the count entertained
the entire party most gayly, though the Sevilles
thought it rather unceremonious in the affianced miss to leave
them in the midst of a first visit, and Mr. Greville Seville had
arranged to send his mother home on foot, and drive Miss Onthank
out to Harlem.

“I'll keep my horses here till you come back!” he shouted
after them, as she tripped gayly down stairs on the count's arm.

And so he did. Though it was two hours before she appeared
again, the impatient youth kept the old aunts company, and would
have stayed till night, sorrels and all—for in that drive he meant
to “name the day,” and put his creditors at ease.

“I wouldn't even go up stairs, my dear!” said the count,
handing her to the wagon, and sending up the groom for his master,
“it's but an hour to dine, and you'll like the air after your
fatigue. Ah, Seville, I've brought her back! Take good care
of her for my sake, my good fellow!”

“What the devil has his sake to do with it, I wonder?” said
Seville, letting his horses off like two rockets in harness.

And away they went toward Harlem; and in about an hour,
very much to the surprise of the old aunts, who were looking out
of the parlor window, the young lady dismounted from an omnibus!
Count Potts had come to dine with them, and he tripped
down to meet her with uncommon agility.

“Why, do you know, aunties!” she exclaimed, as she came up
stairs out of breath, “do you know that Mr. Seville, when I told
him I was married already to Mr. Potts, stopped his wagon, and
p-p-put me into an omnibus!”

“Married to Mr. Potts!” screamed Aunt Charity.


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“Married to Mr. Potts!” screamed Aunt Sophy.

Why—yes, aunties; he said he must go south, if I didn't!'
drawled out the bride, with only a very little blush indeed. “Tell
aunties all about it, Mr. Potts!”

And Mr. Potts, with the same smile of infallible propriety,
which seemed a warrant for everything he said or did, gave a very
sketchy account of his morning's work, which, like all he undertook,
had been exceedingly well done—properly witnessed, certified,
&c., &c., &c. All of which shows the very sound policy of
first making yourself indispensable to people you wish to manage.
Or, put it receipt-wise:—

To marry a flat:—First, raise her up till she is giddy. Second,
go away, and let her down. Third, come back, and offer
to support her, if she will give you her hand.

Simple comme bonjour!” as Balsac says.