List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

you," said Elinor, frankly offering her hand to Harry.

"Have you no sympathies for this new sailor cousin of yours, Miss
Wyllys?--I must say I have a very poor opinion of him myself,"
said Mrs. Creighton.

"Whoever he be, I hope he will only receive what is justly his
due," replied Elinor.

"I am happy, Miss Wyllys, that you seem favourably inclined
towards Hazlehurst," said Mr. Ellsworth. "On the present occasion
I consider him not only as a friend but as a client, and that is
the dearest tie we lawyers are supposed to feel."

"One would naturally incline rather more to a client of yours ex
officio, Mr. Ellsworth, than to one of Mr. Clapp's, that very
disagreeable brother-in-law of Miss Patsey Hubbard's," said Mary
Van Alstyne, smiling.

It was soon decided that the party should break up the next day.
The Wyllyses, with Mrs. Stanley and Mary Van Alstyne, were to
return to Longbridge. Mrs. Creighton and Mr. Ellsworth were
obliged to pay their long deferred visit to Nahant, the gentleman
having some business of importance in the neighbourhood; but it
was expected that they also should join the family at Wyllys-Roof
as early as possible. Jane was to return to New York with her
sister-in-law, Mrs. St. Leger, leaving Miss Emma Taylor flirting
at Saratoga, under the charge of a fashionable chaperon; while
Mr. Hopkins was still fishing at Lake George.


"'Whence this delay?--Along the crowded street
A funeral comes, and with unusual pomp.'"

{Samuel Rogers (English poet, 1763-1855), "Italy: A Funeral"
lines 1-2}

IT is a common remark, that important events seldom occur singly;
and they seem indeed often to follow each other with startling
rapidity, like the sharpest flashes of lightning and the loudest
peals of thunder from the dark clouds of a summer shower. On
arriving in New York, the Wyllyses found that Tallman Taylor had
been taken suddenly and dangerously ill, during the previous
night, the consequence of a stroke of the sun; having exposed
himself imprudently, by crossing the bay to Staten-Island for a
dinner party, in an open boat, when the thermometer stood at 95
{degrees} in the shade. He was believed in imminent danger, and
was too ill to recognize his wife when she arrived. Miss Wyllys
and Elinor remained in town, at the urgent request of Jane, who
was in great distress; while Mr. Wyllys returned home with Mrs.
Stanley and Mary Van Alstyne.

{Susan's father, James Fenimore Cooper, twice suffered from
sunstroke, in 1823 and 1825, while sailing a small boat near New
York City, and she later wrote of the attacks of delirium that

After twenty-four hours of high delirium, the physicians
succeeded in subduing the worst symptoms; but the attack took the
character of a bilious fever, and the patient's recovery was
thought very doubtful from the first. Poor Jane sat listlessly in
the sick-room, looking on and weeping, unheeded by her husband,
who would allow no one but his mother to come near him, not even
his wife or his sisters; he would not, indeed, permit his mother
to leave his sight for a moment, his eyes following every
movement of her's with the feverish restlessness of disease, and
the helpless dependence of a child. Jane mourned and wept;
Adeline had at least the merit of activity, and made herself
useful as an assistant nurse, in preparing whatever was needed by
her brother. These two young women, who had been so often
together in brilliant scenes of gaiety, were now, for the first
time, united under a roof of sorrow and suffering.

"That lovely young creature is a perfect picture of helpless
grief!" thought one of the physicians, as he looked at Jane.

For a week, Tallman Taylor continued in the same state.
Occasionally, as he talked with the wild incoherency of delirium,
he uttered sentences painful to hear, as they recalled deeds of
folly and vice; words passed his lips which were distressing to
all present, but which sunk deep into the heart of the sick man's
mother. At length he fell into a stupor, and after lingering for
a day or two in that state, he expired, without having fully
recovered his consciousness for a moment. The handsome, reckless,
dashing son of the rich merchant lay on his bier; a career of
selfish enjoyment and guilty folly was suddenly closed by the

Miss Agnes's heart sunk within her as she stood, silent, beside
the coffin of Jane's husband, remembering how lately she had seen
the young man, full of life and vigour, thoughtlessly devoting
the best energies of body and soul to culpable self-indulgence.
It is melancholy indeed, to record such a close to such a life;
and yet it is an event repeated in the gay world with every year
that passes. It is to be feared there were companions of Tallman
Taylor's, pursuing the same course of wicked folly, which had
been so suddenly interrupted before their eyes, who yet never
gave one serious thought to the subject: if they paused, it was
only for a moment, while they followed their friend to the grave;
from thence hurrying again to the same ungrateful, reckless abuse
of life, and its highest blessings.

Jane was doubly afflicted at this moment; her baby sickened soon
after its return to town, and died only a few days after her
husband; the young father and his infant boy were laid in the
same grave.

Jane herself was ill for a time, and when she partially
recovered, was very anxious to accompany Miss Agnes and Elinor to
Wyllys-Roof--a spot where she had passed so many peaceful hours,
that she longed again to seek shelter there. She had loved her
husband, as far as it was in her nature to love; but her
attachments were never very strong or very tender, and Tallman
Taylor's neglect and unkindness during the past year, had in some
measure chilled her first feelings for him. She now, however,
looked upon herself as the most afflicted of human beings; the
death of her baby had indeed touched the keenest chord in her
bosom--she wept over it bitterly.

Adeline thought more seriously at the time of her brother's death
than she had ever done before: and even Emma Taylor's spirits
were sobered for a moment. Mr. Taylor, the father, no doubt felt
the loss of his eldest son, though far less than many parents
would have done; he was not so much overwhelmed by grief, but
what he could order a very handsome funeral, and project an
expensive marble monument--a FASHIONABLE TOMB-STONE of Italian
marble. He was soon able to resume all his usual pursuits, and
even the tenor of his thoughts seemed little changed, for his
mind was as much occupied as usual with Wall-Street affairs,
carrying out old plans, or laying new schemes of profit. He had
now been a rich man for several years, yet he was in fact less
happy than when he began his career, and had everything to look
forward to. Still he continued the pursuits of business, for
without the exciting fears and hopes of loss and gain, life would
have appeared a monotonous scene to him; leisure could only prove
a burthen, for it would be merely idleness, since he had no
tastes to make it either pleasant or useful. His schemes of late
had not been so brilliantly successful as at the commencement of
his course of speculation; fortune seemed coquetting with her old
favourite; he had recently made several investments which had
proved but indifferent in their results. Not that he had met with
serious losses; on the contrary, he was still a gainer at the
game of speculation; but the amount was very trifling. He had
rapidly advanced to a certain distance on the road to wealth, but
it now seemed as if he could not pass that point; the brilliant
dreams in which he had indulged were only half realized. There
seemed no good way of accounting for this pause in his career,
but such was the fact; he was just as shrewd and calculating,
just as enterprising now as he had been ten years before, but
certainly he was not so successful.

On commencing an examination of his son's affairs, he found that
Tallman Taylor's extravagance and folly had left his widow and
child worse than penniless, for he had died heavily in debt.
Returning one afternoon from Wall-Street, Mr. Taylor talked over
this matter with his wife. Of all Tallman Taylor's surviving
friends, his mother was the one who most deeply felt his death;
she was heart-stricken, and shed bitter tears over the young man.

"There is nothing left, Hester, for the child or her mother,"
said the merchant, sitting down in a rocking-chair in his wife's
room. "All gone; all wasted; five times the capital I had to
begin with. I have just made an investment, of which I shall give
the profits to Tallman's lady; four lots that were offered to me
last week; if that turns out well, I shall go on, and it may
perhaps make up a pretty property for the child, in time."

"Oh, husband, don't talk to me about such things now; I can't
think of anything but my poor boy's death!"

"It was an unexpected calamity, Hester," said the father, with
one natural look of sorrow; "but we cannot always escape trouble
in this world."

"I feel as if we had not done our duty by him!" said the poor

"Why not?-he was very handsomely set up in business,"
remonstrated Mt. Taylor.

"I was not thinking of money," replied his wife, shaking her
head. "But it seems as if we only took him away from my
brother's, in the country, just to throw him in the way of
temptation as he was growing up, and let him run wild, and do
everything he took a fancy to."

"We did no more than other parents, in taking him home with us,
to give him a better education than he could have got at your

"Husband, husband!--it is but a poor education that don't teach a
child to do what is right! I feel as if we had never taught him
what we ought to. I did not know he had got so many bad ways
until lately; and now that I do know it, my heart is broken!"

"Tallman was not so bad as you make him out. He was no worse than
a dozen other young gentlemen I could name at this very minute."

"Oh; I would give everything we are worth to bring him back!--but
it is too late--too late!"

"No use in talking now, Hester."

"We ought to have taken more pains with him. He didn't know the
danger he was in, and we did, or we ought to have known it.
Taking a young man of a sudden, from a quiet, minister's family
in the country, like my brother's, and giving him all the money
he wanted, and turning him out into temptation.--Oh, it's

"All the pains in the world, Hester, won't help a young man,
unless he chooses himself. What could I do, or you either? Didn't
we send him to school and to college?--didn't we give him an
opportunity of beginning life with a fine property, and married
to one of the handsomest girls in the country, daughter of one of
the best families, too? What more can you do for a young man? He
must do the rest himself; you can't expect to keep him tied to
your apron-string all his life."

"Oh, no; but husband, while he was young we ought to have taken
more pains to teach him not to think so much about the ways of
the world. There are other things besides getting money and
spending money, to do; it seems to me now as if money had only
helped my poor boy to his ruin!"

"Your notions are too gloomy, Mrs. Taylor. Such calamities will
happen, and we should not let them weigh us down too much."

"If I was to live a hundred years longer, I never could feel as I
did before our son's death. Oh, to think what a beautiful,
innocent child he was twenty years ago, this time!"

"You shouldn't let your mind run so much on him that's gone. It's
unjust to the living."

The poor woman made no answer, but wept bitterly for some time.

"It's my only comfort now," she said, at length, "to think that
we have learned wisdom by what's passed. As long as I live, day
and night, I shall labour to teach our younger children not to
set their hearts upon the world; not to think so much about

"Well, I must say, Hester, if you think all poor people are
saints, I calculate you make a mistake."

"I don't say that, husband; but it seems to me that we have never
yet thought enough of the temptations of riches, more especially
to young people, to young men--above all, when it comes so sudden
as it did to our poor boy. What good did money ever do him?--it
only brought him into trouble!"

"Because Tallman didn't make the most of his opportunities, that
is no reason why another should not. If I had wasted money as he
did, before I could afford it, I never should have made a fortune
either. The other boys will do better, I reckon; they will look
more to business than he did, and turn out rich men themselves."

"It isn't the money!--it isn't the money I am thinking of!"
exclaimed the poor mother, almost in despair at her husband's
blindness to her feelings.

"What is it then you take so much to heart?"

"It's remembering that we never warned our poor child; we put him
in the way of temptation, where he only learned to think
everything of the world and its ways; we didn't take pains enough
to do our duty, as parents, by him!"

"Well, Hester, I must say you are a very unreasonable lady!"
exclaimed Mr. Taylor, who was getting impatient under his wife's
observations. "One would think it was all my fault; do you mean
to say it was wrong in me to grow rich?"

"I am afraid it would have been better for us, and for our
children, if you hadn't made so much money," replied the wife.
"The happiest time of our life was the first ten years after we
were married, when we had enough to be comfortable, and we didn't
care so much about show. I am sure money hasn't made me happy; I
don't believe it can make anybody happy!"

Mr. Taylor listened in amazement; but his straightforward, quiet
wife, had been for several years gradually coming to the opinion
she had just expressed, and the death of her eldest son had
affected her deeply. The merchant, finding that he was not very
good at consolation, soon changed the conversation; giving up the
hope of lessening the mother's grief, or of bringing her to what
he considered more rational views of the all-importance of

As soon as Jane felt equal to the exertion, she accompanied Miss
Agnes and Elinor to Wyllys-Roof. During the three years of her
married life she had never been there, having passed most of the
time either at Charleston or New Orleans. Many changes had
occurred in that short period; changes of outward circumstances,
and of secret feeling. Her last visit to Wyllys-Roof had taken
place just after her return from France, when she was tacitly
engaged to young Taylor; at a moment when she had been more gay,
more brilliantly handsome than at any other period of her life.
Now, she returned there, a weeping, mourning widow, wretchedly
depressed in spirits, and feeble in health. She was still very
lovely, however; the elevated style of her beauty was such, that
it appeared finer under the shadow of grief, than in the sunshine
of gaiety; and it is only beauty of the very highest order which
will bear this test. Her deep mourning dress was in harmony with

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: