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

sailor had borne a much better examination than either of her
friends had expected; he had made no glaring mistake, and he had
answered their questions on some points, with an accuracy and
readiness that was quite startling. He evidently knew a great
deal about the Stanley family, their house, and the
neighbourhood; whoever he was, there could he no doubt that he
had known Mr. Stanley himself, and was very familiar with the
part of the country in which he had resided. Altogether, the
personal resemblance, the handwriting, the fact of his being a
sailor, the papers he had shown, the plausible statement he had
given, as to his past movements, and his intimate knowledge of so
many facts, which a stranger could scarcely have known, made up a
combination of circumstances, quite incomprehensible to the
friends at Wyllys-Roof. Still, in spite of so much that appeared
in his favour, Mr. Wyllys declared, that so far as his own
opinion went, he had too many doubts as to this man's character,
to receive him as the son of his friend, upon the evidence he had
thus far laid before them. The circumstances under which he
appeared, were so very suspicious in every point of view, that
the strongest possible evidences of his identity would be
required, to counteract them. The length of time that had passed
since the wreck of the Jefferson, the long period during which
his father's property had been left in the hands of others, and
the doubtful character of the channel through which the claim was
at length brought forward--all these facts united, furnished good
grounds for suspecting something wrong. There were other points
too, upon which Mr. Wyllys had his doubts; although the general
resemblance of this individual to William Stanley, was sufficient
to pass with most people, allowing for the natural changes
produced by time, yet there were some minor personal traits,
which did not correspond with his recollection of Mr. Stanley's
son: the voice appeared to him different in tone; he was also
disposed to believe the claimant shorter and fuller than William
Stanley, in the formation of his body and limbs; as to this man's
gait, which was entirely different from that of William Stanley,
as a boy, nearer observation had increased Mr. Wyllys's first
impression on that subject. On these particular points, Mrs.
Stanley and Hazlehurst were no judges; for the first had scarcely
seen her step-son, the last had only a child's recollection of
him. Nor could Miss Agnes's opinion have much weight, since she
had seldom seen the boy, during the last years he passed on
shore; for, at that time, she had been much detained at home, by
the ill health of her mother. Hazlehurst had watched the claimant
closely, and the interview had silenced his first misgivings, for
he had been much struck with two things: he had always heard,
whenever the subject of William Stanley's character had been
alluded to before him, that this unfortunate young man was sullen
in temper, and dull in mind. Now, the sailor's whole expression
and manner, in his opinion, had shown too much cleverness for
William Stanley; he had appeared decidedly quick-witted, and his
countenance was certainly rather good-natured than otherwise. Mr.
Wyllys admitted that Harry's views were just; he was struck with
both these observations; he thought them correct and important.
Then Hazlehurst thought he had seen some signs of intelligence
between Clapp and the sailor once or twice, a mere glance; he
could not be positive, however, since it might have been his own
suspicions. As to the volume of the Spectator, he had felt at
first morally certain that he had read that very volume at
Greatwood, only four years ago, but he had since remembered that
his brother had the same edition, and he might have read the book
in Philadelphia; in the mean time he would try to recall the
circumstances more clearly to his mind; for so long as he had a
doubt, he could not swear to the fact. He knew it was not the
octavo edition, at Greatwood, that he had been reading, for he
distinctly remembered the portrait of Steele in the frontispiece,
and Addison's papers on the Paradise Lost, which he had been
reading; that very portrait, and those papers, were contained in
the volume handed to him by Clapp. Both Mr. Wyllys and Hazlehurst
were gratified to find, that Mrs. Stanley differed from them less
than they had feared. She confessed, that at one moment her heart
had misgiven her, but on looking closely at the sailor, she
thought him less like her husband than she had expected; and she
had been particularly struck by his embarrassment, when she had
asked him to describe the furniture of the drawing-room at
Greatwood, the very last summer he had been there, for he ought
certainly under such circumstances, to have remembered it as well
as herself; he had looked puzzled, and had glanced at Mr. Clapp,
and the lawyer had immediately broken off the examination. Such
were the opinions of the friends at this stage of the
proceedings. Still it was an alarming truth, that if there were
improbabilities, minor facts, and shades of manner, to strengthen
their doubts, there was, on the other side, a show of evidence,
which might very possibly prove enough to convince a jury.
Hazlehurst had a thousand things to attend to, but he had decided
to wait at Wyllys-Roof until the arrival of Mr. Ellsworth.

{"Addison's papers on the Paradise Lost" = in fact, Addison's
essays on Paradise Lost are contained in volumes four and five of
the Spectator}

Leaving those most interested in this vexatious affair to hold
long consultations together in Mr. Wyllys's study, we must now
proceed to record a visit which Miss Agnes received from one of
our Longbridge acquaintances, and we shall therefore join the

"I am sorry, my dear, that the house is not so quiet as we could
wish, just now," said Miss Agnes to Jane, one morning, as she and
Elinor were sitting together in the young widow's room.

"Thank you, Aunt; but it does not disturb me, and I know it is
not to be avoided just now," said Jane, languidly.

"No, it cannot be helped, with this troublesome business going
on; and we shall have Mrs. Creighton and Mr. Ellsworth here

"Pray, do not change your plans on my account. I need not see any
of your friends; I shall scarcely know they are here," said Jane,
with a deep sigh.

"If it were possible to defer their visit, I should do so; but
situated as we are with Mr. Ellsworth--" added Miss Wyllys.

"Certainly; do not let me interfere with his coming. I feel
perfectly indifferent as to who comes or goes; I can never take
any more pleasure in society!"

"Here is my aunt Wyllys driving up to the door," said Elinor, who
was sitting near a window. "Do you feel equal to seeing her?"

"Oh, no, not to-day, dear," said Jane in an imploring voice; and
Elinor accordingly remained with her cousin, while Miss Agnes
went down to meet Mrs. George Wyllys. This lady was still living
at Longbridge, although every few months she talked of leaving
the place. Her oldest boy had just received a midshipman's
warrant, to which he was certainly justly entitled--his father
having lost his life in the public service. The rest of her
children were at home; and rather spoilt and troublesome little
people they were.

"How is Jane?" asked Mrs. Wyllys, as she entered the house.

"Very sad and feeble; but I hope the air here will strengthen
her, after a time."

"Poor thing!--no wonder she is sad, indeed! So young, and such an
affliction! How is the child?"

"Much better; she is quite playful, and disturbs Jane very much
by asking after her father. What a warm drive you must have had,
Harriet; you had better throw off your hat, and stay with us
until evening."

"Thank you; I must go home for dinner, and shall not be able to
stay more than half an hour. Is your father in? I wished to see
him, as well as yourself, on business."

"No, he is not at home; he has gone off some miles, to look at
some workmen who are putting up a new farm-house."

"I am sorry he is not at home, for I want to ask his opinion. And
yet he must have his hands full just now, with that vexatious
Stanley case. I must say, I think Clapp deserves to be sent to
the tread-mill!"

"Perhaps he does," replied Miss Wyllys. "It is to be hoped at
least, that he will receive what he deserves, and nothing more."

"I hope he will, with all my heart! But as I have not much time
to spare, I must proceed to lay my affairs before you. Now I
really and honestly want your advice, Agnes."

"You have had it often before," replied Miss Wyllys, smiling. "I
am quite at your service now," she added, seeing her
sister-in-law look a little uneasy. Mrs. Wyllys was silent for a

"I scarcely know where to begin," she then said; "for here I am,
come to consult you on a subject which you may think beneath your
notice; you are superior to such trifling matters," she said,
smiling--and then added: "But seriously, I have too much
confidence in your judgment and good sense, to wish to act
without your approbation."

"What is the point upon which I am to decide?--for you have not
yet told me anything."

"It is a subject upon which I have been thinking for some
time--several months. What should you say to my marrying again?"
asked Mrs. Wyllys stoutly.

Miss Agnes was amazed. She had known her sister-in-law, when some
years younger, refuse more than one good offer; and had never for
a moment doubted her intention to remain a widow for life.

"You surprise me, Harriet," she said; "I had no idea you thought
of marrying again."

"Certainly, I never thought of taking such a step until quite

"And who is the gentleman?" asked Miss Agnes, in some anxiety.

"I know you will at least agree with me, in thinking that I have
made a prudent choice. The welfare of my children is indeed my
chief consideration. I find, Agnes, that they require a stronger
hand than mine to manage them. Long before Evert went to sea, he
was completely his own master; there were only two persons who
had any influence over him, one is his grandfather, the other, a
gentleman who will, I suppose, before long, become nearly
connected with him. I frankly acknowledge that I have no control
over him myself; it is a mortifying fact to confess, but my
system of education, though an excellent one in theory, has not
succeeded in practice."

'Because,' thought Miss Agnes, 'there is too much theory, my good
sister.' "But you have not yet named the gentleman," she added,

"Oh, I have no doubt of your approving my choice! He is a most
worthy, excellent man--of course, at my time of life, I shall not
make a love-match. Can't you guess the individual--one of my
Longbridge neighbours?"

"From Longbridge," said Miss Wyllys, not a little surprised.
"Edward Tibbs, perhaps," she added, smiling. He was an unmarried
man, and one of the Longbridge beaux.

"Oh, no; how can you think me so silly, Agnes! I am ashamed of
you! It is a very different person; the family are great
favourites of your's." 

"One of the Van Hornes?" Mrs. Wyllys shook her head.

"One of the Hubbards?--Is it John Hubbard, the principal of the
new Academy?" inquired Miss Agnes, faintly.

"Do you suppose I would marry a man of two-or-three-and-twenty!"
exclaimed Mrs. Wyllys with indignation. "It is his uncle; a man
against whom there can be no possible objection--Mr. James

'Uncle Dozie, of all men!' thought Miss Agnes. 'Silent, sober,
sleepy Uncle Dozie. Well, we must be thankful that it is no

"Mr. Hubbard is certainly a respectable man, a man of
principles," she observed aloud. "But everybody looked upon him
as a confirmed old bachelor; I did not suspect either of you of
having any thoughts of marrying," continued Miss Agnes, smiling.

"I am sometimes surprised that we should have come to that
conclusion, myself. But it is chiefly for the sake of my children
that I marry; you must know me well enough, Agnes, to be
convinced that I sacrifice myself for them!"

"I wish, indeed, that it may be for their good, Harriet!"

"Thank you; I have no doubt of it. I feel perfect confidence in
Mr. Hubbard; he is a man so much older than myself, and so much
more experienced, that I shall be entirely guided in future by
his counsel and advice."

Miss Agnes had some difficulty in repressing a smile and a sigh.

"Of course, I am well aware that many people will think I am
taking a foolish step," continued Mrs. Wyllys. Hubbard's
connexions, are generally not thought agreeable, perhaps; he has
very little property, and no profession. I am not blinded, you
see; but I am very indifferent as to the opinion of the world in
general; I am very independent of all but my immediate friends,
as you well know, Agnes."

Miss Wyllys was silent.

"In fact, my attention was first fixed upon Mr. Hubbard, by
finding how little he was appreciated and understood by others; I
regretted that I had at first allowed myself to be guided by
general opinion. Now I think it very possible that, although Mr.
Hubbard has been your neighbour for years, even you, Agnes, may
have a very mistaken opinion of him; you may have underrated his
talents, his strong affections, and energetic character. I was
surprised myself to find, what a very agreeable companion he is!"

"I have always believed Mr. James Hubbard a man of kind feelings,
as you observe, and a man of good principles; two important
points, certainly."

"I am glad you do him justice. But you are not aware perhaps,
what a very pleasant companion he is, where he feels at his ease,
and knows that he is understood."

'That is to say, where he can doze, while another person thinks
and talks for him,' thought Miss Agnes.

"The time is fixed I suppose for the wedding, Harriet?" she
inquired aloud, with a smile.

"Nearly so, I believe. I told Mr. Hubbard that I should be just
as ready to marry him next week, as next year; we agreed that
when two persons of our ages had come to an understanding, they
might as well settle the matter at once. We shall be married, I
fancy, in the morning, in church, with only two or three friends
present. I hope, Agnes, that your father and yourself will be
with me. You know that I should never have taken this step, if
you had not agreed with me in thinking it for the good of my

"Thank you, Harriet; of course we shall be present, if you wish

"Certainly I wish it. I shall always look upon you as my best
friends and advisers."

"Next to Mr. Hubbard, in future," replied Miss Agnes, smiling.

"When you know him better, you will confess that he deserves a
high place in my confidence. You have no idea how much his
brother and nieces think of him; but that is no wonder, for they
know his good sense, and his companionable qualities. He is
really a very agreeable companion, Agnes, for a rational woman;
quite a cultivated mind, too."

Visions of cabbages and turnips rose in Miss Agnes's mind, as the
only cultivation ever connected, till now, with Uncle Dozie's

"We passed last evening charmingly; I read the Lay of the Last

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: