Tales of Trail and Town HTML version

Two Americans
Perhaps if there was anything important in the migration of the Maynard family to
Europe it rested solely upon the singular fact that Mr. Maynard did not go there in
the expectation of marrying his daughter to a nobleman. A Charleston merchant,
whose house represented two honorable generations, had, thirty years ago, a
certain self-respect which did not require extraneous aid and foreign support, and
it is exceedingly probable that his intention of spending a few years abroad had
no ulterior motive than pleasure seeking and the observation of many things—
principally of the past—which his own country did not possess. His future and
that of his family lay in his own land, yet with practical common sense he
adjusted himself temporarily to his new surroundings. In doing so, he had much
to learn of others, and others had something to learn of him; he found that the
best people had a high simplicity equal to his own; he corrected their impressions
that a Southerner had more or less negro blood in his veins, and that, although a
slave owner, he did not necessarily represent an aristocracy. With a
distinguishing dialect of which he was not ashamed, a frank familiarity of
approach joined to an invincible courtesy of manner, which made even his
republican "Sir" equal to the ordinary address to royalty, he was always
respected and seldom misunderstood. When he was—it was unfortunate for
those who misunderstood him. His type was as distinctive and original as his
cousin's, the Englishman, whom it was not the fashion then to imitate. So that,
whether in the hotel of a capital, the Kursaal of a Spa, or the humbler pension of
a Swiss village, he was always characteristic. Less so was his wife, who, with the
chameleon quality of her transplanted countrywomen, was already Parisian in
dress; still less so his daughter, who had by this time absorbed the peculiarities
of her French, German, and Italian governesses. Yet neither had yet learned to
evade their nationality—or apologize for it.
Mr. Maynard and his family remained for three years in Europe, his stay having
been prolonged by political excitement in his own State of South Carolina.
Commerce is apt to knock the insularity out of people; distance from one's own
distinctive locality gives a wider range to the vision, and the retired merchant
foresaw ruin in his State's politics, and from the viewpoint of all Europe beheld
instead of the usual collection of individual States—his whole country. But the
excitement increasing, he was finally impelled to return in a faint hope of doing
something to allay it, taking his wife with him, but leaving his daughter at school
in Paris. At about this time, however, a single cannon shot fired at the national
flag on Fort Sumter shook the whole country, reverberated even in Europe,
sending some earnest hearts back to do battle for State or country, sending
others less earnest into inglorious exile, but, saddest of all! knocking over the
school bench of a girl at the Paris pensionnat. For that shot had also sunk
Maynard's ships at the Charleston wharves, scattered his piled Cotton bales
awaiting shipment at the quays, and drove him, a ruined man, into the "Home
Guard" against his better judgment. Helen Maynard, like a good girl, had
implored her father to let her return and share his risks. But the answer was "to