Pink and White Tyranny by Harriet Beecher Stowe. - HTML preview
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[Illustration: "It _is_ a very sweet face."]
"I can't imagine," said John, "what ever made her like me. You know she has refused half the fel ows in the country. I hadn't the remotest idea that she would have any thing to say to me; but you see there's no accounting for tastes;" and John plumed himself, as young gentlemen do who have carried off prizes.
"You see," he added, "it's odd, but she took a fancy to me the first time she saw me. Now, you know, Gracie, I never found it easy to get along with ladies at first; but Lillie has the most extraordinary way of putting a fel ow at his ease. Why, she made me feel like an old friend the first hour."
"Look here," said John, triumphantly drawing out his pocket-book, and producing thence a knot of rose-colored satin ribbon. "Did you ever see such a lovely color as this? It's so exquisite, you see! Wel , she always is wearing just such knots of ribbon, the most lovely shades.
Why, there isn't one woman in a thousand could wear the things she does. Every thing becomes her. Sometimes it's rose color, or lilac, or pale blue,--just the most trying things to others are what she can wear."
"Dear John, I hope you looked for something deeper than the complexion in a wife," said Grace, driven to moral reflections in spite of herself.
"Oh, of course!" said John: "she has such soft, gentle, winning ways; she is so sympathetic; she's just the wife to make home happy, to be a bond of union to us al . Now, in a wife, what we want is just that.
Lillie's mind, for instance, hasn't been cultivated as yours and Letitia's. She isn't at al that sort of girl. She's just a dear, gentle, little confiding creature, that you'll delight in. You'll form her mind, and she'll look up to you. You know she's young yet."
"Young, John! Why, she's seven and twenty," said Grace, with astonishment.
"Oh, no, my dear Gracie! that is all a mistake. She told me herself she's only twenty. You see, the trouble is, she went into company injudiciously early, a mere baby, in fact; and that causes her to have the name of being older than she is. But, I do assure you, she's only twenty. She told me so herself."
"Oh, indeed!" said Grace, prudently choking back the contradiction which she longed to utter. "I know it seems a good many summers since I heard of her as a belle at Newport."
"Ah, yes, exactly! You see she went into company, as a young lady, when she was only thirteen. She told me all about it. Her parents were very injudicious, and they pushed her forward. She regrets it now. She knows that it wasn't the thing at al . She's very sensitive to the defects in her early education; but I made her understand that it was the _heart_ more than the head that I cared for. I dare say, Gracie, she'll fal into all our little ways without real y knowing; and you, in point of fact, will be mistress of the house as much as you ever were. Lillie is delicate, and never has had any care, and will be only too happy to depend on you. She's one of the gentle, dependent sort, you know."
To this statement, Grace did not reply. She only began nervously sweeping together the _debris_ of leaves and flowers which encumbered the table, on which the newly arranged flower-vases were standing.
Then she arranged the vases with great precision on the mantel-shelf.
As she was doing it, so many memories rushed over her of that room and her mother, and the happy, peaceful family life that had hitherto been led there, that she quite broke down; and, sitting down in the chair, she covered her face, and went off in a good, hearty crying spell.
Poor John was inexpressibly shocked. He loved and revered his sister beyond any thing in the world; and it occurred to him, in a dim wise, that to be suddenly dispossessed and shut out in the cold, when one has hitherto been the first object of affection, is, to make the best of it, a real and sore trial.
But Grace soon recovered herself, and rose up smiling through her tears. "What a fool I am making of myself!" she said. "The fact is, John, I am only a little nervous. You mustn't mind it. You know," she said, laughing, "we old maids are like cats,--we find it hard to be put out of our old routine. I dare say we shall al of us be happier in the end for this, and I shall try to do al I can to make it so.
Perhaps, John, I'd better take that little house of mine on Elm Street, and set up my tent in it, and take al the old furniture and old pictures, and old-time things. You'll be wanting to modernize and make over this house, you know, to suit a young wife."
"Nonsense, Gracie; no such thing!" said John. "Do you suppose I want to leave all the past associations of my life, and strip my home bare of al pleasant memorials, because I bring a little wife here? Why, the very idea of a wife is somebody to sympathize in your tastes; and Lillie will love and appreciate all these dear old things as you and I do. She has such a sympathetic heart! If you want to make me happy, Gracie, stay here, and let us live, as near as may be, as before."
"So we will, John," said Grace, so cheerfully that John considered the whole matter as settled, and rushed upstairs to write his daily letter to Lillie.
_PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE_.
Miss Lillie El is was sitting upstairs in her virgin bower, which was now converted into a tumultuous, seething caldron of millinery and mantua-making, such as usual y precedes a wedding. To be sure, orders had been forthwith despatched to Paris for the bridal regimentals, and for a good part of the _trousseau_; but that did not seem in the least to stand in the way of the time-honored confusion of sewing preparations at home, which is supposed to waste the strength and exhaust the health of every bride elect.
Whether young women, while disengaged, do not have proper under-clothing, or whether they contemplate marriage as an awful gulf which swal ows up al future possibilities of replenishing a wardrobe,--certain it is that no sooner is a girl engaged to be married than there is a blind and distracting rush and pressure and haste to make up for her immediately a stock of articles, which, up to that hour, she has managed to live very comfortably and respectably without. It is astonishing to behold the number of inexpressible things with French names which unmarried young ladies never think of wanting, but which there is a desperate push to supply, and have ranged in order, the moment the matrimonial state is in contemplation.
Therefore it was that the virgin bower of Lillie was knee-deep in a tangled mass of stuffs of various hues and description; that the sharp sound of tearing off breadths resounded there; that Miss Clippins and Miss Snippings and Miss Nippins were sewing there day and night; that a sewing-machine was busily rattling in mamma's room; and that there were all sorts of pinking and quilling, and braiding and hemming, and whipping and ruffling, and over-sewing and cat-stitching and hem-stitching, and other female mysteries, going on.
As for Lillie, she lay in a loose _neglige_ on the bed, ready every five minutes to be called up to have something measured, or tried on, or fitted; and to be consulted whether there should be fifteen or sixteen tucks and then an insertion, or sixteen tucks and a series of puffs. Her labors wore upon her; and it was smilingly observed by Miss Clippins across to Miss Nippins, that Miss Lillie was beginning to show her "engagement bones." In the midst of these preoccupations, a letter was handed to her by the giggling chambermaid. It was a thick letter, directed in a bold honest hand. Miss Lillie took it with a languid little yawn, finished the last sentences in a chapter of the novel she was reading, and then leisurely broke the seal and glanced it over. It was the one that the enraptured John had spent his morning in writing.
"Miss Ellis, now, if you'll try on this jacket--oh! I beg your pardon," said Miss Clippins, observing the letter, "we can wait, _of course_;" and then al three laughed as if something very pleasant was in their minds.
"No," said Lillie, giving the letter a toss; "it'll _keep_;" and she stood up to have a jaunty little blue jacket, with its pluffy bordering of swan's down, fitted upon her.
"It's too bad, now, to take you from your letter," said Miss Clippins, with a sly nod.
"I'm sure you take it philosophical y," said Miss Nippins, with a giggle.
"Why shouldn't I?" said the divine Lillie. "I get one every day; and it's all the old story. I've heard it ever since I was born."
"Well, now, to be sure you have. Let's see," said Miss Clippins, "this is the seventy-fourth or seventy-fifth offer, was it?"
"Oh, you must ask mamma! she keeps the lists: I'm sure I don't trouble my head," said the little beauty; and she looked so natty and jaunty when she said it, just arching her queenly white neck, and making soft, downy dimples in her cheeks as she gave her fresh little childlike laugh; turning round and round before the looking-glass, and issuing her orders for the fitting of the jacket with a precision and real interest which showed that there _were_ things in the world which didn't become old stories, even if one had been used to them ever since one was born.
Lillie never was caught napping when the point in question was the fit of her clothes.
When released from the little blue jacket, there was a rose-colored morning-dress to be tried on, and a grave discussion as to whether the honiton lace was to be set on plain or frilled.
So important was this case, that mamma was summoned from the sewing-machine to give her opinion. Mrs. Ellis was a fat, fair, rosy matron of most undisturbed conscience and digestion, whose main business in life had always been to see to her children's clothes. She had brought up Lillie with faithful and religious zeal; that is to say, she had always ruffled her underclothes with her own hands, and darned her stockings, sick or wel ; and also, as before intimated, kept a list of her offers, which she was ready in confidential moments to tell off to any of her acquaintance. The question of ruffled or plain honiton was of such vital importance, that the whole four took some time in considering it in its various points of view.
"Sarah Selfridge had hers ruffled," said Lillie.
"And the effect was perfectly sweet," said Miss Clippins.
"Perhaps, Lillie, you had better have it ruffled," said mamma.
"But three rows laid on plain has such a lovely effect," said Miss Nippins.
"Perhaps, then, she had better have three rows laid on plain," said mamma.
"Or she might have one row ruffled on the edge, with three rows laid on plain, with a satin fold," said Miss Clippins. "That's the way I fixed Miss Elliott's."
"That would be a nice way," said mamma. "Perhaps, Lillie, you'd better have it so."
"Oh! come now, al of you, just hush," said Lillie. "I know just how I want it done."
The words may sound a little rude and dictatorial; but Lillie had the advantage of always looking so pretty, and saying dictatorial things in such a sweet voice, that everybody was delighted with them; and she took the matter of arranging the trimming in hand with a clearness of head which showed that it was a subject to which she had given mature consideration. Mrs. El is shook her fat sides with a comfortable motherly chuckle.
"Lillie always did know exactly what she wanted: she's a smart little thing."
And, when al the trying on and arranging of folds and frills and pinks and bows was over, Lillie threw herself comfortably upon the bed, to finish her letter.
Shrewd Miss Clippins detected the yawn with which she laid down the missive.
[Illustration: "Shrewd Miss Clippins detected the yawn."]
"Seems to me your letters don't meet a very warm reception," she said.
"Well! every day, and such long ones!" Lillie answered, turning over the pages. "See there," she went on, opening a drawer, "What a heap of them! I can't see, for my part, what any one can want to write a letter every day to anybody for. John is such a goose about me."
"He'll get over it after he's been married six months," said Miss Clippins, nodding her head with the air of a woman that has seen life.
"I'm sure I shan't care," said Lillie, with a toss of her pretty head.
"It's _borous_ any way."
Our readers may perhaps imagine, from the story thus far, that our little Lillie is by no means the person, in reality, that John supposes her to be, when he sits thinking of her with such devotion, and writing her such long, "borous" letters.
She is not. John is in love not with the actual Lillie Ellis, but with that ideal personage who looks like his mother's picture, and is the embodiment of al his mother's virtues. The feeling, as it exists in John's mind, is not only a most respectable, but in fact a truly divine one, and one that no mortal man ought to be ashamed of. The love that quickens al the nature, that makes a man twice manly, and makes him aspire to all that is high, pure, sweet, and religious,--is a feeling so sacred, that no unworthiness in its object can make it any less beautiful. More often than not it is spent on an utter vacancy. Men and women both pass through this divine initiation,--this sacred inspiration of our nature,--and find, when they have come into the innermost shrine, where the divinity ought to be, that there is no god or goddess there; nothing but the cold black ashes of commonplace vulgarity and selfishness. Both of them, when the grand discovery has been made, do well to fold their robes decently about them, and make the best of the matter. If they cannot love, they can at least be friendly. They can tolerate, as philosophers; pity, as Christians; and, finding just where and how the burden of an ill-assorted union gal s the least, can then and there strap it on their backs, and walk on, not only without complaint, but sometimes in a cheerful and hilarious spirit.
Not a word of all this thinks our friend John, as he sits longing, aspiring, and pouring out his heart, day after day, in letters that interrupt Lillie in the all-important responsibility of getting her wardrobe fitted.
Shal we think this smooth little fair-skinned Lillie is a cold-hearted monster, because her heart does not beat faster at these letters which she does not understand, and which strike her as unnecessarily prolix and prosy? Why should John insist on telling her his feelings and opinions on a vast variety of subjects that she does not care a button for? She doesn't know any thing about ritualism and anti-ritualism; and, what's more, she doesn't care. She hates to hear so much about religion. She thinks it's pokey. John may go to any church he pleases, for al her. As to al that about his favorite poems, she don't like poetry,--never could,--don't see any sense in it; and John _will_ be quoting ever so much in his letters. Then, as to the love parts,--it may be all quite new and exciting to John; but she has, as she said, heard that story over and over again, till it strikes her as quite a matter of course. Without doubt the whole world is a desert where she is not: the thing has been asserted, over and over, by so many gentlemen of credible character for truth and veracity, that she is forced to believe it; and she cannot see why John is particularly to be pitied on this account. He is in no more desperate state about her than the rest of them; and secretly Lillie has as little pity for lovers' pangs as a nice little white cat has for mice. They amuse her; they are her appropriate recreation; and she pats and plays with each mouse in succession, without any comprehension that it may be a serious thing for him.
When Lillie was a little girl, eight years old, she used to sel her kisses through the slats of the fence for papers of candy, and thus early acquired the idea that her charms were a capital to be employed in trading for the good things of life. She had the misfortune--and a great one it is--to have been singularly beautiful from the cradle, and so was praised and exclaimed over and caressed as she walked through the streets. She was sent for, far and near; borrowed to be looked at; her picture taken by photographers. If one reflects how many foolish and inconsiderate people there are in the world, who have no scruple in making a pet and plaything of a pretty child, one will see how this one unlucky lot of being beautiful in childhood spoiled Lillie's chances of an average share of good sense and goodness. The only hope for such a case lies in the chance of possessing judicious parents. Lillie had not these. Her father was a shrewd grocer, and nothing more; and her mother was a competent cook and seamstress.
While he traded in sugar and salt, and she made pickles and embroidered under-linen, the pretty Lillie was educated as pleased Heaven.
Pretty girls, unless they have wise mothers, are more educated by the opposite sex than by their own. Put them where you will, there is always some _man_ busying himself in their instruction; and the burden of masculine teaching is general y about the same, and might be stereotyped as follows: "You don't need to be or do any thing. Your business in life is to look pretty, and amuse us. You don't need to study: you know al by nature that a woman need to know. You are, by virtue of being a pretty woman, superior to any thing we can teach you; and we wouldn't, for the world, have you any thing but what you are." When Lillie went to school, this was what her masters whispered in her ear as they did her sums for her, and helped her through her lessons and exercises, and looked into her eyes. This was what her young gentlemen friends, themselves delving in Latin and Greek and mathematics, told her, when they came to recreate from their severer studies in her smile. Men are held to account for talking sense.
Pretty women are told that lively nonsense is their best sense. Now and then, an admirer bolder than the rest ventured to take Lillie's education more earnestly in hand, and recommended to her just a little reading,--enough to enable her to carry on conversation, and appear to know something of the ordinary topics discussed in society,--but informed her, by the by, that there was no sort of need of being either profound or accurate in these matters, as the mistakes of a pretty woman had a grace of their own.
At seventeen, Lillie graduated from Dr. Sibthorpe's school with a
"finished education." She had, somehow or other, picked her way through various "ologies" and exercises supposed to be necessary for a wel -informed young lady. She wrote a pretty hand, spoke French with a good accent, and could turn a sentimental note neatly; "and that, my dear," said Dr. Sibthorpe to his wife, "is al that a woman needs, who so evidently is intended for wife and mother as our little Lillie."
Dr. Sibthorpe, in fact, had amused himself with a semi-paternal flirtation with his pupil during the whole course of her school exercises, and parted from her with tears in his eyes, greatly to her amusement; for Lillie, after al , estimated his devotion at just about what it was worth. It amused her to see him make a fool of himself.
Of course, the next thing was--to be married; and Lillie's life now became a round of dressing, dancing, going to watering-places, travel ing, and in other ways seeking the fulfilment of her destiny.
She had precisely the accessible, easy softness of manner that leads every man to believe that he may prove a favorite, and her run of offers became quite a source of amusement. Her arrival at watering-places was noted in initials in the papers; her dress on every public occasion was described; and, as acknowledged queen of love and beauty, she had everywhere her little court of men and women flatterers. The women flatterers around a belle are as much a part of the _cortege_ as the men. They repeat the compliments they hear, and burn incense in the virgin's bower at hours when the profaner sex may not enter.
The life of a petted creature consists essential y in being deferred to, for being pretty and useless. A petted child runs a great risk, if it is ever to outgrow childhood; but a pet woman is a perpetual child.
The pet woman of society is everybody's toy. Everybody looks at her, admires her, praises and flatters her, stirs her up to play off her little airs and graces for their entertainment; and passes on. Men of profound sense encourage her to chatter nonsense for their amusement, just as we delight in the tottering steps and stammering mispronunciations of a golden-haired child. When Lillie has been in Washington, she has had judges of the supreme court and secretaries of state delighted to have her give her opinions in their respective departments. Scholars and literary men flocked around her, to the neglect of many a more instructed woman, satisfied that she knew enough to blunder agreeably on every subject.
Nor is there any thing in the Christian civilization of our present century that condemns the kind of life we are describing, as in any respect unwomanly or unbecoming. Something very like it is in a measure considered as the appointed rule of attractive young girls till they are married.
Lillie had numbered among her admirers many lights of the Church. She had flirted with bishops, priests, and deacons,--who, none of them, would, for the world, have been so ungallant as to quote to her such dreadful professional passages as, "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth."
In fact, the clergy, when off duty, are no safer guides of attractive young women than other mortal men; and Lillie had so often seen their spiritual attentions degenerate into downright, temporal love-making, that she held them in as smal reverence as the rest of their sex.
Only one dreadful John the Baptist of her acquaintance, one of the camel's-hair-girdle and locust-and-wild-honey species, once encountering Lillie at Saratoga, and observing the ways and manners of the court which she kept there, took it upon him to give her a spiritual admonition.
"Miss Lillie," he said, "I see no chance for the salvation of your soul, unless it should please God to send the smal -pox upon you. I think I shal pray for that."
"Oh, horrors! don't! I'd rather never be saved," Lillie answered with a fervent sincerity.
The story was repeated afterwards as an amusing _bon mot_, and a specimen of the barbarity to which religious fanaticism may lead; and yet we question whether John the Baptist had not the right of it.
For it must at once appear, that, had the smal -pox made the above-mentioned change in Lillie's complexion at sixteen, the entire course of her life would have taken another turn. The whole world then would have united in letting her know that she must live to some useful purpose, or be nobody and nothing. Schoolmasters would have scolded her if she idled over her lessons; and her breaking down in arithmetic, and mistakes in history, would no longer have been regarded as interesting. Clergymen, consulted on her spiritual state, would have told her freely that she was a miserable sinner, who, except she repented, must likewise perish. In short, all those bitter and wholesome truths, which strengthen and invigorate the virtues of plain people, might possibly have led her a long way on towards saintship.
As it was, little Lillie was confessedly no saint; and yet, if much of a sinner, society has as much to answer for as she. She was the daughter and flower of the Christian civilization of the nineteenth century, and the land of woman, that, on the whole, men of quite distinguished sense have been fond of choosing for wives, and will go on seeking to the end of the chapter.
Did she love John? Wel , she was quite pleased to be loved by him, and she liked the prospect of being his wife. She was sure he would always let her have her own way, and that he had a plenty of worldly means to do it with.
Lillie, if not very clever in a literary or scientific point of view, was no fool. She had, in fact, under al her softness of manner, a great deal of that real hard grit which shrewd, worldly people cal common sense. She saw through al the illusions of fancy and feeling, right to the tough material core of things. However soft and tender and sentimental her habits of speech and action were in her professional capacity of a charming woman, still the fair Lillie, had she been a man, would have been respected in the business world, as one that had cut her eye-teeth, and knew on which side her bread was buttered.
A husband, she knew very wel , was the man who undertook to be responsible for his wife's bills: he was the giver, bringer, and maintainer of al sorts of solid and appreciable comforts.
Lillie's bills had hitherto been sore places in the domestic history of her family. The career of a fashionable bel e is not to be supported without something of an outlay; and that innocence of arithmetical combinations, over which she was wont to laugh bewitchingly among her adorers, sometimes led to results quite astounding to the prosaic, hard-working papa, who stood financial y responsible for al her finery.
Mamma had often been cal ed in to calm the tumult of his feelings on such semi-annual developments; and she did it by pointing out to him that this heavy present expense was an investment by which Lillie was, in the end, to make her own fortune and that of her family.
When Lillie contemplated the marriage-service with a view to going through it with John, there was one clause that stood out in consoling distinctness,--"_With all my worldly goods I thee endow_."
As to the other clause, which contains the dreadful word "OBEY," about which our modern women have such fearful apprehensions, Lillie was ready to swal ow it without even a grimace.
"Obey John!" Her face wore a pretty air of drol assurance at the thought. It was too funny.
"My dear," said Bel e Trevors, who was one of Lillie's incense-burners and a bridesmaid elect, "_have_ you the least idea how rich he is?"
"He is well enough off to do about any thing I want," said Lillie.
"Well, you know he owns the whole village of Spindlewood, with al those great factories, besides law business," said Belle. "But then they live in a dreadful y slow, pokey way down there in Springdale.
They haven't the remotest idea how to use money."
"I can show him how to use it," said Lillie.
"He and his sister keep a nice sort of old-fashioned place there, and jog about in an old countrified carriage, picking up poor children and visiting schools. She is a _very_ superior woman, that sister."
"I don't like superior women," said Lillie.
"But you must like her, you know. John is perfectly devoted to her, and I suppose she is to be a fixture in the establishment."
"We shall see about that," said Lillie. "One thing at a time. I don't mean he shall live at Springdale. It's horridly pokey to live in those little country towns. He must have a house in New York."
"And a place at Newport for the summer," said Belle Trevors.
"Yes," said Lillie, "a cottage in Newport does very wel in the season; and then a country place wel fitted up to invite company to in the other months of summer."
"Delightful," said Belle, "_if_ you can make him do it."
"See if I don't," said Lillie.
"You dear, funny creature, you,--how you do always ride on the top of the wave!" said Bel e.
"It's what I was born for," said Lillie. "By the by, Belle, I got a letter from Harry last night."
"Poor fel ow, had he heard"--
"Why, of course not. I didn't want he should till it's al over. It's best, you know."
"He is such a good fellow, and so devoted,--it does seem a pity."
"Devoted! wel , I should rather think he was," said Lillie. "I believe he would cut off his right hand for me, any day. But I never gave him any encouragement. I've always told him I could be to him only as a sister, you know."
"You ought not to write to him," said Belle.
"What can I do? He is perfectly desperate if I don't, and still persists that he means to marry me some day, spite of my screams."
"Well, he'll have to stop making love to you after you're married."
"Oh, pshaw! I don't believe that old-fashioned talk. Lovers make a variety in life. I don't see why a married woman is to give up all the fun of having admirers. Of course, one isn't going to do any thing wrong, you know; but one doesn't want to settle down into Darby and Joan at once. Why, some of the young married women, the most stunning bel es at Newport last year, got a great deal more attention after they were married than they did before. You see the fel ows like it, because they are so sure not to be drawn in."
"I think it's too bad on us girls, though," said Belle. "You ought to leave us our turn."
"Oh! I'll turn over any of them to you, Bel e," said Lillie. "There's Harry, to begin with. What do you say to him?"
"Thank you, I don't think I shal take up with second-hand articles,"
said Belle, with some spirit.
But here the entrance of the chamber-maid, with a fresh dress from the dressmaker's, resolved the conversation into a discussion so very minute and technical that it cannot be recorded in our pages.
_WEDDING, AND WEDDING-TRIP_.
Well, and so they were married, with all the newest modern forms, ceremonies, and accessories.
Every possible thing was done to reflect lustre on the occasion. There were eight bridesmaids, and every one of them fair as the moon; and eight groomsmen, with white-satin ribbons and white rosebuds in their button-holes; and there was a bishop, assisted by a priest, to give the solemn benedictions of the church; and there was a marriage-bell of tuberoses and lilies, of enormous size, swinging over the heads of the pair at the altar; and there were voluntaries on the organ, and chantings, and what not, al solemn and impressive as possible. In the midst of all this, the fair Lillie promised, "forsaking al others, to keep only unto him, so long as they both should live,"--"to love, honor, and obey, until death did them part."
During the whole agitating scene, Lillie kept up her presence of mind, and was perfectly aware of what she was about; so that a very fresh, original, and crisp style of trimming, that had been invented in Paris specially for her wedding toilet, received no detriment from the least unguarded movement. We much regret that it is contrary to our literary principles to write half, or one third, in French; because the wedding-dress, by far the most important object on this occasion, and certainly one that most engrossed the thoughts of the bride, was one entirely indescribable in English. Just as there is no word in the Hottentot vocabulary for "holiness," or "purity," so there are no words in our savage English to describe a lady's dress; and, therefore, our fair friends must be recommended, on this point, to exercise their imagination in connection with the study of the finest French plates, and they may get some idea of Lillie in her wedding robe and train.
Then there was the wedding banquet, where everybody ate quantities of the most fashionable, indigestible horrors, with praiseworthy courage and enthusiasm; for what is to become of "_pate de fois gras_" if we don't eat it? What is to become of us if we do is entirely a secondary question.
On the whole, there was not one jot nor tittle of the most exorbitant requirements of fashion that was not fulfilled on this occasion. The house was a crush of wilting flowers, and smelt of tuberoses enough to give one a vertigo for a month. A band of music brayed and clashed every minute of the time; and a jam of people, in elegant dresses, shrieked to each other above the din, and several of Lillie's former admirers got tipsy in the supper-room. In short, nothing could be finer; and it was agreed, on all hands, that it was "stunning."
Accounts of it, and of all the bride's dresses, presents, and even wardrobe, went into the daily papers; and thus was the charming Lillie El is made into Mrs. John Seymour.
Then followed the approved wedding journey, the programme of which had been drawn up by Lillie herself, with _carte blanche_ from John, and included every place where a bride's new toilets could be seen in the most select fashionable circles. They went to Niagara and Trenton, they went to Newport and Saratoga, to the White Mountains and Montreal; and Mrs. John Seymour was a meteor of fashionable wonder and delight at al these places. Her dresses and her diamonds, her hats and her bonnets, were al wonderful to behold. The stir and excitement that she had created as simple Miss Ellis was nothing to the stir and excitement about Mrs. John Seymour. It was the mere grub compared with the ful -blown butterfly,--the bud compared with the rose. Wherever she appeared, her old admirers flocked in her train. The unmarried girls were, so to speak, nowhere. Marriage was a new lease of power and splendor, and she revel ed in it like a humming-bird in the sunshine.
And was John equal y happy? Well, to say the truth, John's head was a little turned by the possession of this curious and manifold creature, that fluttered and flapped her wings about the eyes and ears of his understanding, and appeared before him every day in some new device of the toilet, fair and fresh; smiling and bewitching, kissing and coaxing, laughing and crying, and in al ways bewildering him, the once sober-minded John, till he scarce knew whether he stood on his head or his heels. He knew that this sort of rattling, scatter-brained life must come to an end some time. He knew there was a sober, serious life-work for him; something that must try his mind and soul and strength, and that would, by and by, leave him neither time nor strength to be the mere wandering _attache_ of a gay bird, whose string he held in hand, and who now seemed to pull him hither and thither at her will.
John thought of al these things at intervals; and then, when he thought of the quiet, sober, respectable life at Springdale, of the good old staple families, with their steady ways,--of the girls in his neighborhood with their reading societies, their sewing-circles for the poor, their book-clubs and art-unions for practice in various accomplishments,--he thought, with apprehension, that there appeared not a spark of interest in his charmer's mind for any thing in this direction. She never had read any thing,--knew nothing on al those subjects about which the women and young girls in his circle were interested; while, in Springdale, there were none of the excitements which made her interested in life. He could not help perceiving that Lillie's five hundred particular friends were mostly of the other sex, and wondering whether he alone, when the matter should be reduced to that, could make up to her for al her retinue of slaves.
Like most good boys who grow into good men, John had unlimited faith in women. Whatever little defects and flaws they might have, still at heart he supposed they were al of the same substratum as his mother and sister. The moment a woman was married, he imagined that al the lovely domestic graces would spring up in her, no matter what might have been her previous disadvantages, merely because she was a woman.
He had no doubt of the usual orthodox oak-and-ivy theory in relation to man and woman; and that his wife, when he got one, would be the clinging ivy that would bend her flexible tendrils in the way his strong will and wisdom directed. He had never, perhaps, seen, in southern regions, a fine tree completely smothered and killed in the embraces of a gay, flaunting parasite; and so received no warning from vegetable analogies.
Somehow or other, he was persuaded, he should gradual y bring his wife to al his own ways of thinking, and all his schemes and plans and opinions. This might, he thought, be difficult, were she one of the pronounced, strong-minded sort, accustomed to thinking and judging for herself. Such a one, he could easily imagine, there might be a risk in encountering in the close intimacy of domestic life. Even in his dealings with his sister, he was made aware of a force of character and a vigor of intel ect that sometimes made the carrying of his own way over hers a matter of some difficulty. Were it not that Grace was the best of women, and her ways always the very best of ways, John was not so sure but that she might prove a little too masterful for him.
But this lovely bit of pink and white; this downy, gauzy, airy little elf; this creature, so slim and slender and unsubstantial,--surely he need have no fear that he could not mould and control and manage her?
Oh, no! He imagined her melting, like a moon-beam, into all manner of sweet compliances, becoming an image and reflection of his own better self; and repeated to himself the lines of Wordsworth,--
"I saw her, on a nearer view,
A spirit, yet a woman too,--
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty.
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food,
For transient pleasures, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles."
John fancied he saw his little Lillie subdued into a pattern wife, weaned from fashionable fol ies, eagerly seeking mental improvement under his guidance, and joining him and Grace in al sorts of edifying works and ways.
The reader may see, from the conversations we have detailed, that nothing was farther from Lillie's intentions than any such conformity.
The intentions of the married pair, in fact, ran exactly contrary to one another. John meant to bring Lillie to a sober, rational, useful family life; and Lillie meant to run a career of fashionable display, and make John pay for it.
Neither, at present, stated their purposes precisely to the other, because they were "honey-mooning." John, as yet, was the enraptured lover; and Lillie was his pink and white sultana,--his absolute mistress, her word was law, and his will was hers. How the case was ever to be reversed, so as to suit the terms of the marriage service, John did not precisely inquire.
But, when husband and wife start in life with exactly opposing intentions, which, think you, is likely to conquer,--the man, or the woman? That is a very nice question, and deserves further consideration.
_HONEY-MOON, AND AFTER_.
We left Mr. and Mrs. John Seymour honey-mooning. The honey-moon, dear ladies, is supposed to be the period of male subjection. The young queen is enthroned; and the first of her slaves walks obediently in her train, carries her fan, her parasol, runs of her errands, packs her trunk, writes her letters, buys her any thing she cries for, and is ready to do the impossible for her, on every suitable occasion.
A great strong man sometimes feels awkwardly, when thus led captive; but the greatest, strongest, and most boastful, often go most obediently under woman-rule; for which, see Shakspeare, concerning Cleopatra and Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
But then al kingdoms, and al sway, and al authority must come to an end. Nothing lasts, you see. The plain prose of life must have its turn, after the poetry and honey-moons--stretch them out to their utmost limit--have their terminus.
So, at the end of six weeks, John and Lillie, somewhat dusty and travel-worn, were received by Grace into the old family-mansion at Springdale.
Grace had read her Bible and Fenelon to such purpose, that she had accepted her cross with open arms.
Dear reader, Grace was not a severe, angular, old-maid sister, ready to snarl at the advent of a young beauty; but an elegant and accomplished woman, with a wide culture, a trained and disciplined mind, a charming taste, and polished manners; and, above al , a thorough self-understanding and discipline. Though past thirty, she still had admirers and lovers; yet, till now, her brother, insensibly to herself, had blocked up the doorway of her heart; and the perfectness of the fraternal friendship had prevented the wish and the longing by which some fortunate man might have found and given happiness.
Grace had resolved she would love her new sister; that she would look upon al her past faults and errors with eyes of indulgence; that she would put out of her head every story she ever had heard against her, and unite with her brother to make her lot a happy one.
"John is so good a man," she said to Miss Letitia Ferguson, "that I am sure Lillie cannot but become a good woman."
So Grace adorned the wedding with her presence, in an elegant Parisian dress, ordered for the occasion, and presented the young bride with a set of pearl and amethyst that were perfectly bewitching, and kisses and notes of affection had been exchanged between them; and during various intervals, and for weeks past, Grace had been pleasantly employed in preparing the family-mansion to receive the new mistress.
John's bachelor apartments had been new furnished, and furbished, and made into a perfect bower of roses.
The rest of the house, after the usual household process of purification, had been rearranged, as John and his sister had always kept it since their mother's death in the way that she loved to see it. There was something quaint and sweet and antique about it, that suited Grace. Its unfashionable difference from the smart, flippant, stereotyped rooms of to-day had a charm in her eyes.
Lillie, however, surveyed the scene, the first night that she took possession, with a quiet determination to re-modernize on the very earliest opportunity. What would Mrs. Frippit and Mrs. Nippit say to such rooms, she thought. But then there was time enough to attend to that. Not a shade of these internal reflections was visible in her manner. She said, "Oh, how sweet! How perfectly charming! How splendid!" in al proper places; and John was delighted.
She also fel into the arms of Grace, and kissed her with effusion; and John saw the sisterly union, which he had anticipated, auspiciously commencing.
The only trouble in Grace's mind was from a terrible sort of clairvoyance that seems to beset very sincere people, and makes them sensitive to the presence of any thing unreal or untrue. Fair and soft and caressing as the new sister was, and determined as Grace was to believe in her, and trust her, and like her,--she found an invisible, chilly barrier between her heart and Lillie. She scolded herself, and, in the effort to confide, became unnatural y demonstrative, and said and did more than was her wont to show affection; and yet, to her own mortification, she found herself, after all, seeming to herself to be hypocritical, and professing more than she felt.
As to the fair Lillie, who, as we have remarked, was no fool, she took the measure of her new sister with that instinctive knowledge of character which is the essence of womanhood. Lillie was not in love with John, because that was an experience she was not capable of.
But she had married him, and now considered him as her property, her subject,--_hers_, with an intensity of ownership that should shut out all former proprietors.
We have heard much talk, of late, concerning the husband's ownership of the wife. But, dear ladies, is that any more pronounced a fact than every wife's ownership of her husband?--an ownership so intense and pervading that it may be said to be the controlling nerve of womanhood. Let any one touch your right to the first place in your husband's regard, and see!
Well, then, Lillie saw at a glance just what Grace was, and what her influence with her brother must be; and also that, in order to live the life she meditated, John must act under her sway, and not under his sister's; and so the resolve had gone forth, in her mind, that Grace's dominion in the family should come to an end, and that she would, as sole empress, reconstruct the state. But, of course, she was too wise to say a word about it.
"Dear me!" she said, the next morning, when Grace proposed showing her through the house and delivering up the keys, "I'm sure I don't see why you want to show things to me. I'm nothing of a housekeeper, you know: all I know is what I want, and I've always had what I wanted, you know; but, you see, I haven't the least idea how it's to be done.
Why, at home I've been everybody's baby. Mamma laughs at the idea of my knowing any thing. So, Grace dear, you must just be prime minister; and I'll be the good-for-nothing Queen, and just sign the papers, and all that, you know."
Grace found, the first week, that to be housekeeper to a young duchess, in an American village and with American servants, was no sinecure.
The young mistress, the next week, tumbled into the wash an amount of muslin and lace and French puffing and fluting sufficient to employ two artists for two or three days, and by which honest Bridget, as she stood at her family wash-tub, was sorely perplexed.
But, in America, no woman ever dies for want of speaking her mind; and the lower orders have their turn in teaching the catechism to their superiors, which they do with an effectiveness that does credit to democracy.
"And would ye be plased to step here, Miss Saymour," said Bridget to Grace, in a voice of suppressed emotion, and pointing oratorical y, with her soapy right arm, to a snow-wreath of French finery and puffing on the floor. "What _I_ asks, Miss Grace, is, _Who_ is to do all this? I'm sure it would take me and Katy a week, workin' day and night, let alone the cookin' and the silver and the beds, and all them. It's a pity, now, somebody shouldn't spake to that young crather; fur she's nothin' but a baby, and likely don't know any thing, as ladies mostly don't, about what's right and proper."
Bridget's Christian charity and condescension in this last sentence was some mitigation of the crisis; but still Grace was appalled. We all of us, my dear sisters, have stood appal ed at the tribunal of good Bridgets rising in their majesty and declaring their ultimatum.
[Illustration: "_Who_ is to do all this?"]
Bridget was a treasure in the town of Springdale, where servants were scarce and poor; and, what was more, she was a treasure that knew her own worth. Grace knew very wel how she had been beset with applications and offers of higher wages to draw her to various hotels and boarding-houses in the vicinity, but had preferred the comparative dignity and tranquillity of a private gentleman's family.
But the family had been smal , orderly, and systematic, and Grace the most considerate of housekeepers. Still it was not to be denied, that, though an indulgent and considerate mistress, Bridget was, in fact, mistress of the Seymour mansion, and that her mind and will concerning the washing must be made known to the young queen.
It was a sore trial to speak to Lillie; but it would be sorer to be left at once desolate in the kitchen department, and exposed to the marauding inroads of unskilled Hibernians.
In the most delicate way, Grace made Lillie acquainted with the domestic crisis; as, in old times, a prime minister might have carried to one of the Charleses the remonstrance and protest of the House of Commons.
"Oh! I'm sure I don't know how it's to be done," said Lillie, gayly.
"Mamma always got my things done _somehow_. They always _were_ done, and always must be: you just tel her so. I think it's always best to be decided with servants. Face 'em down in the beginning."
"But you see, Lillie dear, it's almost impossible to _get_ servants at al in Springdale; and such servants as ours everybody says are an exception. If we talk to Bridget in that way, she'll just go off and leave us; and then what shall we do?"
"What in the world does John want to live in such a place for?" said Lillie, peevishly. "There are plenty of servants to be got in New York; and that's the only place fit to live in. Well, it's no affair of mine! Tell John he married me, and must take care of me. He must settle it some way: I shan't trouble my head about it."
The idea of living in New York, and uprooting the old time-honored establishment in Springdale, struck Grace as a sort of sacrilege; yet she could not help feeling, with a kind of fear, that the young mistress had power to do it.
"Don't, darling, talk so, for pity's sake," she said. "I will go to John, and we will arrange it somehow."
A long consultation with faithful John, in the evening, revealed to him the perplexing nature of the material processes necessary to get up his fair puff of thistledown in al that wonderful whiteness and fancifulness of costume which had so entranced him.
Lillie cried, and said she never had any trouble before about "getting her things done." She was sure mamma or Trixie or somebody did them, or got them done,--she never knew how or when. With many tears and sobs, she protested her ardent desire to realize the Scriptural idea of the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field, which were fed and clothed, "like Solomon in al his glory," without ever giving a moment's care to the matter.
John kissed and, embraced, and wiped away her tears, and declared she should have every thing just as she desired it, if it took the half of his kingdom.
After consoling his fair one, he burst into Grace's room in the evening, just at the hour when they used to have their old brotherly and sisterly confidential talks.
"You see, Grace,--poor Lillie, dear little thing,--you don't know how distressed she is; and, Grace, we must find somebody to do up al her fol-de-rols and fizgigs for her, you know. You see, she's been _used_
to this kind of thing; can't do without it."
"Well, I'll try to-morrow, John," said Grace, patiently. "There is Mrs. Atkins,--she is a very nice woman."
"Oh, exactly! just the thing," said John. "Yes, we'll get her to take all Lillie's things every week; That settles it."
"Do you know, John, at the prices that Mrs. Atkins asks, you will have to pay more than for al your family service together? What we have this week would be twenty dollars, at the least computation; and it is worth it too,--the work of getting up is so elaborate."
John opened his eyes, and looked grave. Like al stable New-England families, the Seymours, while they practised the broadest liberality, had instincts of great sobriety in expense. Needless profusion shocked them as out of taste; and a quiet and decent reticence in matters of self-indulgence was habitual with them.
Such a price for the fine linen of his little angel rather staggered him; but he gulped it down.
"Well, wel , Oracle," he said, "cost what it may, she must have it as she likes it. The little creature, you see, has never been accustomed to calculate or reflect in these matters; and it is trial enough to come down to our stupid way of living,--so different, you know, from the gay life she has been leading."
Miss Seymour's saintship was somewhat rudely tested by this remark.
That anybody should think it a sacrifice to be John's wife, and a trial to accept the homestead at Springdale, with al its tranquillity and comforts,--that John, under her influence, should speak of the Springdale life as _stupid_,--was a little drop too much in her cup. A bright streak appeared in either cheek, as she said,--
"Well, John, I never knew you found Springdale stupid before. I'm sure, we _have_ been happy here,"--and her voice quavered.
"Pshaw, Gracie! you know what I mean. I don't mean that _I_ find it stupid. I don't like the kind of rattle-brained life we've been leading this six weeks. But, then, it just suits Lillie; and it's so sweet and patient of her to come here and give it all up, and say not a word of regret; and then, you see, I shall be just up to my ears in business now, and can't give up all my time to her, as I have. There's ever so much law business coming on, and al the factory matters at Spindlewood; and I can see that Lillie will have rather a hard time of it. You must devote yourself to her, Gracie, like a dear, good soul, as you always were, and try to get her interested in our kind of life.
Of course, all our set will call, and that will be something; and then--there will be some invitations out."
"Oh, yes, John! we'll manage it," said Grace, who had by this time swal owed her anger, and shouldered her cross once more with a womanly perseverance. "Oh, yes! the Fergusons, and the Wilcoxes, and the Lennoxes, will al cal ; and we shall have picnics, and lawn teas, and musicals, and parties."
"Yes, yes, I see," said John. "Gracie, _isn't_ she a dear little thing? Didn't she look cunning in that white wrapper this morning? How do women do those things, I wonder?" said John. "Don't you think her manners are lovely?"
"They are very sweet, and she is charmingly pretty," said Grace; "and I love her dearly."
"And so affectionate! Don't you think so?" continued John. "She's a person that you can do any thing with through her heart. She's al heart, and very little head. I ought not to say that, either. I think she has fair natural abilities, had they ever been cultivated."
"My dear John," said Grace, "you forget what time it is. Good-night!"
_WILL SHE LIKE IT_?
"John," said Grace, "when are you going out again to our Sunday school at Spindlewood? They are all asking after you. Do you know it is now two months since they have seen you?"
"I know it," said John. "I am going to-morrow. You see, Gracie, I couldn't well before."
"Oh! I have told them al about it, and I have kept things up; but then there are so many who want to see _you_, and so many things that you alone could settle and manage."
"Oh, yes! I'll go to-morrow," said John. "And, after this, I shal be steady at it. I wonder if we could get Lillie to go," said he, doubtfully.
Grace did not answer. Lillie was a subject on which it was always embarrassing to her to be appealed to. She was so afraid of appearing jealous or unappreciative; and her opinions were so different from those of her brother, that it was rather difficult to say any thing.
"Do you think she would like it, Grace?"
"Indeed, John, you must know better than I. If anybody could make her take an interest in it, it would be you."
Before his marriage, John had always had the idea that pretty, affectionate little women were religious and self-denying at heart, as matters of course. No matter through what labyrinths of fashionable fol ies and dissipation they had been wandering, still a talent for saintship was lying dormant in their natures, which it needed only the touch of love to develop. The wings of the angel were always concealed under the fashionable attire of the belle, and would unfold themselves when the hour came. A nearer acquaintance with Lillie, he was forced to confess, had not, so far, confirmed this idea. Though hers was a face so fair and pure that, when he first knew her, it suggested ideas of prayer, and communion with angels, yet he could not disguise from himself that, in all near acquaintance with her, she had proved to be most remarkably "of the earth, earthy." She was alive and fervent about fashionable gossip,--of who is who, and what does what; she was alive to equipages, to dress, to sightseeing, to dancing, to any thing of which the whole stimulus and excitement was earthly and physical.
At times, too, he remembered that she had talked a sort of pensive sentimentalism, of a slightly religious nature; but the least idea of a moral purpose in life--of self-denial, and devotion to something higher than immediate self-gratification--seemed never to have entered her head. What is more, John had found his attempts to introduce such topics with her always unsuccessful. Lillie either gaped in his face, and asked him what time it was; or playful y pul ed his whiskers, and asked him why he didn't take to the ministry; or adroitly turned the conversation with kissing and compliments.
Sunday morning came, shining down gloriously through the dewy elm-arches of Springdale. The green turf on either side of the wide streets was mottled and flecked with vivid flashes and glimmers of emerald, like the sheen of a changeable silk, as here and there long arrows of sunlight darted down through the leaves and touched the ground.
The gardens between the great shady houses that flanked the street were ful of tall white and crimson phloxes in all the majesty of their summer bloom, and the air was filled with fragrance; and Lillie, after a two hours' toilet, came forth from her chamber fresh and lovely as the bride in the Canticles. "Thou art al fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." She was killingly dressed in the rural-simplicity style. Al her robes and sashes were of purest white; and a knot of field-daisies and grasses, with French dew-drops on them, twinkled in an infinitesimal bonnet on her little head, and her hair was al _creped_ into a filmy golden aureole round her face. In short, dear reader, she was a perfectly got-up angel, and wanted only some tul e clouds and an opening heaven to have gone up at once, as similar angels do from the Parisian stage.
"You like me, don't you?" she said, as she saw the delight in John's eyes.
John was tempted to lay hold of his plaything.
"Don't, now,--you'll crumple me," she said, fighting him off with a dainty parasol. "Positively you shan't touch me till after church."
John laid the little white hand on his arm with pride, and looked down at her over his shoulder al the way to church. He felt proud of her.
They would look at her, and see how pretty she was, he thought. And so they did. Lillie had been used to admiration in church. It was one of her fields of triumph. She had received compliments on her toilet even from young clergymen, who, in the course of their preaching and praying, found leisure to observe the beauties of nature and grace in their congregation. She had been quite used to knowing of young men who got good seats in church simply for the purpose of seeing her; consequently, going to church had not the moral advantages for her that it has for people who go simply to pray and be instructed. John saw the turning of heads, and the little movements and whispers of admiration; and his heart was glad within him. The thought of her mingled with prayer and hymn; even when he closed his eyes, and bowed his head, she was there.
Perhaps this was not exactly as it should be; yet let us hope the angels look tenderly down on the sins of too much love. John felt as if he would be glad of a chance to die for her; and, when he thought of her in his prayers, it was because he loved her better than himself.
As to Lillie, there was an extraordinary sympathy of sentiment between them at that moment. John was thinking only of her; and she was thinking only of herself, as was her usual habit,--herself, the one object of her life, the one idol of her love.
Not that she knew, in so many words, that she, the little, frail bit of dust and ashes that she was, was her own idol, and that she appeared before her Maker, in those solemn walls, to draw to herself the homage and the attention that was due to God alone; but yet it was true that, for years and years, Lillie's unconfessed yet only motive for appearing in church had been the display of herself, and the winning of admiration.
But is she so much worse than others?--than the clergyman who uses the pulpit and the sacred office to show off his talents?--than the singers who sing God's praises to show their voices,--who intone the agonies of their Redeemer, or the glories of the _Te Deum_, confident on the comments of the newspaper press on their performance the next week? No: Lillie may be a little sinner, but not above others in this matter.
"Lillie," said John to her after dinner, assuming a careless, matter-of-course air, "would you like to drive with me over to Spindlewood, and see my Sunday school?"
"_Your_ Sunday school, John? Why, bless me! do _you_ teach Sunday school?"
"Certainly I do. Grace and I have a school of two hundred children and young people belonging to our factories. I am superintendent."
"I never did hear of any thing so odd!" said Lillie. "What in the world can you want to take all that trouble for,--go basking over there in the hot sun, and be shut up with a room ful of those ill-smel ing factory-people? Why, I'm sure it can't be your duty! I wouldn't do it for the world. Nothing would tempt me. Why, gracious, John, you might catch smal -pox or something!"
"Pooh! Lillie, child, you don't know any thing about them. They are just as cleanly and respectable as anybody."
"Oh, wel ! they may be. But these Irish and Germans and Swedes and Danes, and al that low class, do smell so,--you needn't tell me, now!--that working-class smel is a thing that can't be disguised."
"But, Lillie, these are our people. They are the laborers from whose toils our wealth comes; and we owe them something."
"Well! you pay them something, don't you?"