صور الصفحة
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

B1RoN MooDIE was one of those unfortunate young gentlemen whose education had been wofully neglected. Left at an early age an orphan, with a splendid estate in Delaware, he fell into the hands of certain sporting gentlemen, and addicted himself so exclusively to shooting, fishing, fencing and other pursuits of a similar description, that at the age of nineteen he was still so utterly uninstructed in the “humanities,” as to be what is called in common parlance a “cub.” He was very unfortunate in another respect. Some one of his associates, in an evil hour, had told him that it was a fine manly thing to be a woman-hater; and so the boy, who was entirely dependent on the kindness of his aged grandmother for every remnant of comfort, neatness or respectability which still clung to the old mansion-house, and who would have been as unmitigated a sloven in dress as he was a rowdy in principle but for the sedulous attention of the same worthy personage to his wardrobe, was heard holding forth every day to companions still more ignorant than himself, against the whole female sex, declaring that he hated and despised them, and only regretted that they had not been wholly omitted in the original economy of the creation! Sensible people may consider Biron's case anomalous; but we can assure them that it is by no means so rare a one as common sense and reason, without extensive observation, would lead one to suppose. There is quite a con

VOL. xxv.11.-1

siderable number of blockheads about the country who affect to be woman-haters. Biron, however, to use the language which he would have applied to one of his own untrimmed and unbroken colts, had “good points.”. In the first place he was a perfect Antinous in form and feature; and his exercises in the field had rendered him active and strong. He was naturally goodnatured and generous, and though certainly uncourtly as well as unlettered, he was by no means addicted to low vice. Of the higher kind of intellectual cultivation, however, he was totally destitute. Among the guests whom it was his custom to entertain at the mansion-house, was a certain person styled Count Aupaussum, a native of England, who managed by means of counterfeit broken English, to pass for a Frenchman, and by a superior knowledge of the world, and a ready conformity to the sporting tastes of his companion, to fasten himself upon Biron for a whole season. It was in the company of this worthy, that Biron, on a certain pleasant summer afternoon, being on a visit to Philadelphia, was taking a ride in a gig in the environs of the city. The gig was drawn by two spirited horses, harnessed after the fashion technically called tandem, and it was the pride of Biron to show off his superior skill at the whip in their management. Having visited a place of public entertainment, a few miles from the city, 1



played a few games at ninepins, and quaffed a few glasses of wine, the young men were driving gaily into the southern suburb of the city, when, just after they had come upon the pavement in Second street, Biron interrupted a lively conversation, by exclaiming, “Count, what will you bet, now, that I can't take that fly off from the left ear of the leader with my whip?” “I vill lay you one grand basket of champagne,” replied the Count, “that you no touch his ear noting at all.” “Done!” said Biron. “Very well,” said the Count. “Now, you shall see,” said Biron; and crack went the whip, while the Count held up his eyeglass to assure himself that there was no mistake. It was a decided hit. The fly disappeared. The horse shook his ear, and the Count consoled himself for the loss of his wager by resolving to borrow the money of Biron with which the champagne was to be purchased. But the sport did not end there. The leading horse, probably supposing that the hint conveyed by the whip was intended for himself, and not for the fly, set out forth with upon a furious gallop, in which he was heartily joined by his follower. For some minutes Biron did not attempt to check them; but as they advanced into the city, the obstacles to their progress became rather formidable; and the manifest danger of doing injury to some innocent persons began to alarm the driver. He would now gladly have moderated their speed; but his first attempt to pull up, gave him convincing proof that he had lost all control over them. They ran faster than before. The wheels struck fire from the pavements; people ran in terror from the street into the neighbouring houses and alleys, or stood at their windows, staring aghast at the terrific speed of the “tandem team.” A wheelbarrow, carelessly left in the street, was dashed to atoms, nearly overturning the gig by the contact. As they approached the markethouse, they were met by a drove of pigs, and dire was the squealing of the animals and dreadful were the execrations of the drivers, as the gigborne Jehus passed through the herd. But all this was “mere cakes and gingerbread” to the scene which ensued when they came into the narrow pass, by the market-house itself. Such an overturning of vegetable baskets, such a rolling of melons and peaches, such demolition of chickens and fixtures, such screaming of market-women and smashing of light vehicles, Second street never witnessed before. Still, by dint of strict attention to their centres of gravity and Biron's steadiness of hand, the young sparks were able to keep their seats and pass quite through this dangerous defile, without being overturned or interrupted in their course, not withstanding sundry attempts of certain public-spirited butchers to catch the leader by the head. On they went full tilt, clearing the streets of

little children, pedestrious idlers and walking gentlewomen, till they reached the corner of Spruce street, when Biron, giving a desperate pull, broke the reins, and the horses turning to the left, dashed away towards the setting sun. They had not gone many hundred yards in Spruce street before they encountered a heavy wagon in the

act of passing a coal cart, which had just depo

sited its load in the street. In attempting to clear these obstacles, the near wheel of the gig came with a violent concussion against that of the wagon; the lighter vehicle was overturned; the Count was buried in the heap of coal; and Biron pitched headforemost down the area of an elegant mansion, through the basement window, and landed on the kitchen floor, with an accumulation of capital and bodily contusions which left him in a state of glorious insensibility to all worldly misfortunes and cares. + + - + * It was full three weeks after this affair, before Biron recovered his consciousness; and when at last he waked up from his “long oblivion,” he found himself lying upon a sumptuous bed in an elegant chamber, the furniture of which gave ample indications of wealth and taste in the proprietor of the mansion. Rich damask curtains attached to the bed and windows, French china, cut glass and gold upon the wash-stand and dressing table; a very dark, almost black, mahogany wardrobe, sofa, tables, and chairs, and family portraits by Kneller and Copley, representing respectable and portly gentlemen, with rufiles, wigs, broad-skirted coats, and silk stockings, attested the fact that he was in the residence of some old and wealthy family. When Biron opened his eyes upon the scene, he observed his friend Count Aupaussum and another of his city acquaintance, that elegant dandy, Captain De Kantor, seated upon a sofa on the opposite side of the room, apparently keeping watch over him, and conversing in a low tone. “This is aw mighty dull music, Aupaussum,” drawled the Captain, as he slightly changed his reclining position, and daintily pulled up the corner of his collar, “here is this aw young individual, whom aw we have aw condescended to call our friend, has been in aw state of positive aw delirium for some aw" twenty days * * “Yes,” replied the worthy Count, using, for the first time in Biron's hearing, unbroken English, “and a precious loss of time it has been too. By introducing him at our private rooms, we might have had him regularly done up by this time.” “How much is he worth, Aupaussum?” inquired the Captain. “Our register,” replied the Count, “in which all the young heirs in this neighbourhood are re

* This expletive occurring between every two words of the captain's conversation the reader's imagination will supply.


[ocr errors]

gularly booked, you know, makes his estate worth two hundred thousand; and out of all this money you have only won two thousand, and I, by dint of borrowing, have barely succeeded in obtaining a beggarly thousand. It is too bad!” and the excellent Count really sighed at the recollection of this unparalleled injustice of fortune. “You are an exceedingly ill used young individual, Aupaussum. That is an indisputable fact. That spilling of your incontestably fine person into the coal heap was perfectly atrocious. You certainly owe our soft-headed friend a pigeoning on that particular score.” “I wish,” replied the Count, irritated at this allusion,--"I wish, De Kantor, you would leave off that abominable affectation, at least while we are alone, and talk like a man of common sense.”

“Really,” replied the Captain, in the same

drawl as before, “Aupaussum, you are making yourself so excessively agreeable, that the pleasure of your company is altogether too exciting for such excessively hot weather. I will therefore bid you a good morning,” and, having thus delivered his sentiments, the exquisite Captain raised himself slowly from the sofa and left the apartment, while the Count remained behind, muttering “curses not loud but deep,” on the af. sectation of one of his particular friends, and the delirium of the other. But the delirium of Biron was already past. He had sufficiently recovered his self-possession to comprehend the whole of the recent conversation, not a word of which would have been uttered, if it had been supposed that he was awake and in his right mind. He was discreet enough to counterfeit sleep till his grandmother came into the room and relieved the Count from his watch. When Biron heard the door close after him and a soft step approaching the bedside, he ventured to open his eyes once more; and the indignation which he had felt at learning the plans of his late associates, instantly gave way to a softer feeling, as he read the varied expression of solicitude, af. fection and hope which beamed from the mild countenance of his venerable relative, as she was bending over him. “I know already,” said he, “that I have been very ill, and I see by looking at my hands and arms that I have lost flesh; but I cannot make out where I am or how I came here.” “My boy,” replied his grandmother, “you have had a narrow escape.” “Ay, thank Heaven, in more ways than one,” ejaculated Biron. “The hurts you received in falling from the gig brought on a violent fever and delirium, and you have been for three weeks very carefully attended in the house of an old friend of your father, Mrs. Danby—” “Mrs. Danby—Mrs. Danby,” said Biron. “I never heard of her before.” “I dare say not, and more's the pity. She is one of the worthiest gentlewomen I ever knew;

and if you had been her own son, she could not have shown you more affectionate care than she has through this terrible illness. I hope you will be better acquainted hereafter; and, by the way, Biron, there are many of your father's old friends and mine, who would make better associates for you than some you have had.” “Like enough,” said Biron; and with this modicum of reformed opinion the good lady was obliged to content herself. “Slowly and sadly” did the youth recover his strength. Many puzzling thoughts and halfformed resolutions wearied his mind, while his constitution was gradually recovering from the severe shock it had received. At length he was able to leave his chamber, and having made the acquaintance of his kind hostess, who had already discussed in a tone of pleasant banter his rather unceremonious introduction into her mansion, he had received an invitation to come down and dine with her and his aged relative. Having dressed himself to the best possible advantage, he was shown by a servant into the dining-room, half an hour before dinner-time, and there left to his solitary meditations. As he had little curiosity to examine the numerous richly bound volumes with which the book shelves were stored, he soon began to find the time hang heavy, and seeing that at the farther end of the room there was an open door, leading into a conservatory well filled with flowers, he was fain to stroll into it for amusement. The conservatory overlooked an extensive garden, and as Biron stepped forward to look out upon it, his attention was caught by the prospect through an open door on his left. It was such a prospect as had never chanced to bless his eyes before—a young lady of surpassing beauty, seated in her boudoir, surrounded by all the evidences of fine taste and elegant pursuits— books, flowers, writing and drawing materials, and a harp. She was seated with a half-closed volume in her hand, as if her reading had been interrupted by his approach; and she was gazing upon his pallid features, and elegant but attenuated form, with an expression of compassion and interest that went straight to his heart. Poor Biron! in the presence of Grace Danby he was a woman-hater no longer. An emotion instantly shot through his frame, which was des. tined to form a new era in his life; and, to tell the truth, the fair lady herself, who had that morning returned from a long visit in the country, and heard of the errors and misfortunes of the young gentleman, when she saw the severe penalty he was suffering, and the remarkable beauty of form and feature by which he was distinguished, had already begun to feel a touch of that peculiar kind

[ocr errors][merged small]
« السابقةمتابعة »