Harper's Round Table, June 23, 1896
|A VIRGINIA CAVALIER.|
|HOW MAGIC IS MADE.|
|THE HIDDEN TREASURE OF KING OBANI.|
|BLIND-MAN'S-BUFF AT SEA.|
|THE PUDDING STICK.|
|THE CAMERA CLUB.|
Copyright, 1896, by Harper & Brothers. All Rights Reserved.
|published weekly.||NEW YORK, TUESDAY, JUNE 23, 1896.||five cents a copy.|
|vol. xvii.—no. 869.||two dollars a year.|
A VIRGINIA CAVALIER.
BY MOLLY ELLIOT SEAWELL.
he full flood of the sun, now low in the heavens, poured through thewestern windows upon the figure of the boy standing in the doorway. Theroom was beginning to darken, and the ruddy firelight, too, fellglowingly upon him.
The Earl was instantly roused, and could scarcely persuade himself thatthe boy before him was only fifteen; seventeen, or even eighteen, wouldhave seemed nearer the mark, so tall and well-developed was he. Like allcreatures of the highest breeding, George looked handsomer the handsomerhis dress; and although his costume was really simple enough, he had thesplendid air that made him always appear to be in the highest fashion.His coat and knee-breeches were of dark blue cloth, spun, woven, anddyed at home. His waistcoat, however, was of white brocade, and was madeof his mother's wedding-gown, Madam Washington having indulged her prideso far as to lay this treasured garment aside for waistcoats for hersons, while Mistress Betty was to inherit the lace veil and the stringof pearls which had gone with the gown.
George's shoebuckles and knee-buckles were much finer than the Earl's,being of paste, and having been once worn by his father. His blond hairwas made into a club and tied with a black ribbon, while under his armhe carried a smart three-cornered hat—for the hat made a great figurein the ceremonious bows of the period. His dog; a beautiful creature,stood beside him.
Never in all his life had the Earl of Fairfax seen so noble[Pg 814] a boy. Thesight of him smote the older man's heart; it flashed through him howeasy it would be to exchange all his honors and titles for such a son.He rose and saluted him, as Madam Washington said, in a tone that hadpride in every accent,
"My lord, this is my son, Mr. Washington."
George responded with one of those graceful inclinations which, yearsafter, made the entrance of Colonel Washington at the Earl of Dunmore'slevee at Williamsburg a lesson in grace and good-breeding. Being "Mr.Washington" and the head of the house, it became his duty to speakfirst:
"I am most happy to welcome you, my lord, to our home."
"And I am most happy," said the Earl, "to meet once more my old friendMadam Washington, and the goodly sons and sweet daughter with which shehas been blessed."
"My mother has often told us of you, sir, in speaking of her life duringthe years she spent in England."
"Ah, my lord," said Madam Washington, "I perceive I am no longer young,for I love to dwell upon those times, and to tell my children of thegreat men I met in England, chiefly through your lordship's kindness."
"It was my good fortune," said the Earl, "to be a humble member of theSpectator Club, and through the ever-lasting goodness of Mr. JosephAddison I had the advantage of knowing men so great of soul and soluminous of mind that I think I can never forget them."
"I had not the honor of knowing Mr. Addison. He died before I ever sawEngland," replied Madam Washington.
"Unfortunately, yes, madam. But of those you knew, Mr. Pope, poorCaptain Steele, and even Dean Swift, with all his ferocious wit, histremendous invective, his savage thirst for place and power, respectedMr. Addison. He was a man of great dignity—not odd and misshapen, likelittle Mr. Pope, not frowsy like poor Dick Steele, nor rude andoverbearing like the fierce Dean—but ever gentle, mild, and of a mostmanly bearing. For all Mr. Addison's mildness, I think there was no manthat Dean Swift feared so much. When we would all meet at the club, andthe Dean would begin his railing at persons of quality—for he alwayschose that subject when I was present—Mr. Addison would listen with asmile to the Dean as he lolled over the table in his huge periwig androared out in his great rich voice all the sins of all the people,always beginning and ending with Sir Robert Walpole, whom he hated mostmalignantly. Once, a pause coming in the Dean's talk, Mr. Addison,calmly taking out his snuff-box and helping himself to a pinch, remarkedthat he had always thought Dean Swift's chiefest weakness, until he hadbeen assured to the contrary, was his love for people of quality. Weeach held our breath. Dick Steele quietly removed a pewter mug from theDean's elbow; Mr. Pope, who sat next Mr. Addison, turned pale andslipped out of his chair; the Dean turned red and breathed hard, glaringat Mr. Addison, who only smiled a little; and then he—the great DeanSwift, the man who could make governments tremble and Parliamentsafraid; who made duchesses weep from his rude sneers, and great ladiesalmost go down on their knees to him—sneaked out of the room at thislittle thrust from Mr. Addison. For 'twas the man, madam—the honestsoul of him—that could cow that great swashbuckler of a genius. Mr.Addison abused no one, and he was exactly what he appeared to be."
"That, indeed, is the highest praise, as it shows the highest wisdom,"answered Madam Washington.
George listened with all his mind to this. He had read the Spectator,and Mr. Addison's tragedy of Cato had been read to him by Mr. Hobby,the Scotch schoolmaster who taught him, and he loved to hear of thesegreat men. The Earl, although deep in talk with Madam Washington, was byno means unmindful of the boy, but, without seeming to notice him,watched every expression of his earnest face.
"I once saw Dean Swift," continued Madam Washington. "It was at a Londonrout, where I went with my brother's wife, Madam Joseph Ball, when wewere visiting in London. He had great dark eyes, and sat in a hugechair, and called ladies of quality 'my dear,' as if they weredairy-maids. And the ladies seemed half to like it and half to hate it.They told me that two ladies had died of broken hearts for him."
"I believe it to be true," replied the Earl. "That was the last time theDean ever saw England. He went to Ireland, and, as he said, 'commencedIrishman in earnest,' and died very miserably. He could not be boughtfor money, but he could very easily be bribed with power."
"And that poor Captain Steele?"
The Earl's grave face was suddenly illuminated with a smile.
"Dear Dick Steele—the softest-hearted, bravest, gentlestfellow—always drunk, and always repenting. There never was so great asermon preached on drunkenness as Dick Steele himself was. But for drinkhe would have been one of the happiest, as he was by nature one of thebest and truest gentlemen in the world; but he was weak, and he was inconsequence forever miserable. Drink brought him to debts and duns andprison and rags and infamy. Ah, madam, 'twould have made your heartbleed, as it made mine, to see poor Dick reeling along the street,dirty, unkempt, his sword bent, and he scarce knowing what he was doing;and next day, at home, where his wife and children were in hunger andcold and poverty, behold him, lying in agony on his wretched bed,weeping, groaning, reproaching himself, and suffering tortures for onehour's wicked indulgence! Then would he turn gentleman again, and for along time be our own dear Dick Steele—his wife smiling, his childrenhappy. I love to think on honest Dick at these times. It was then hewrote that beautiful little book, which should be in every soldier'shands, The Christian Hero. We could always tell at the club whetherDick Steele were drunk or sober by Mr. Addison's face. When Steele wasacting the beast, Mr. Addison sighed often and looked melancholy all thetime, and spent his money in taking such care as he could of the poorwife and children. Poor Dick! The end came at last in drunkenness andbeastliness; but before he died, for a little while, he was the DickSteele we loved, and shall ever love."
"And Mr. Pope—the queer little gentleman—who lived at Twickenham, andwas so kind to his old mother?"
"Mr. Pope was a very great genius, madam, and had he not been borncrooked he would have been an admirable man; but the crook in his bodyseemed to make a crook in his mind. He died but last year, outlivingmany strong men who pitied his puny frame. But let me not disparage Mr.Pope. My Lord Chesterfield, who was a very good judge of men, as well asthe first gentleman of his time, entertained a high esteem for Mr.Pope."
"I also had the honor of meeting the Earl of Chesterfield," continuedMadam Washington, with animation, "and he well sustained the reputationfor politeness that I had heard of him, for he made as much of me as ifI had been a great lady instead of a young girl from the colonies, whomchance and the kindness of a brother had brought to England, and yourlordship's goodness had introduced to many people of note. 'Tis true Isaw them but for a glimpse or two, but that was enough to make meremember them forever. I have tried to teach my son Lord Chesterfield'smanner of saluting ladies, in which he not only implied the deepestrespect for the individual, but the greatest reverence for all women."
"That is true of my Lord Chesterfield," replied the Earl, who found itenchanting to recall these friends of his youth with whom he had livedin close intimacy, "and his manners revealed the man. He had also amonstrous pretty wit. There is a great lumbering fellow of prodigiouslearning, one Samuel Johnson, with whom my Lord Chesterfield has becomemost friendly. I never saw this Johnson myself, for he is much youngerthan the men of whom we are speaking; but I hear from London that he isa wonder of learning, and although almost indigent, will not accept aidfrom his friends, but works manfully for the booksellers. He hasdescribed my Lord Chesterfield as 'a wit among lords, and a lord amongwits.' I heard something of this Dr. Johnson, in a late letter fromLondon, that I think most praiseworthy, and affording a good example tothe young. His father, it seems, was a bookseller at Lichfield, where onmarket-days he would[Pg 815] hire a stall in the market for the sale of hiswares. One market-day, when Samuel was a youth, his father, being illand unable to go himself, directed him to fit up the book-stall in themarket and attend to it during the day. The boy, who was otherwise adutiful son, refused to do this. Many years afterwards, his father beingdead, Johnson, being as he is in great repute for learning, was sopreyed upon by remorse for his undutiful conduct that he went toLichfield and stood bareheaded in the market-place, before his father'sold stall, for one whole market-day, as an evidence of his sincerepenitence. I hear that some of the thoughtless jeered at him, but thebetter class of people respected his open acknowledgment of hisfault—the more so as he was in a higher worldly position than hisfather had ever occupied, and it showed that he was not ashamed of anhonest parent because he was of a humble class. I cannot think, madam,of that great scholar, standing all day with bare, bowed head, bearingwith silent dignity the remarks of the curious, the jeers of thescoffers, without in spirit taking off my hat to him."
During this story Madam Washington fixed her eyes on George, who coloredslightly, but remarked, as the Earl paused:
"It was the act of a brave man and a gentleman. There are not many of uswho could do it."
Just then the door opened, and Uncle Jasper,