List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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Elinor was, in fact, the last person to be convinced of his
regard for her; but she had known his character and standing too
well to believe him a mere fortune-hunter; and after he had once
offered himself, could not doubt his sincerity. She mentioned to
Miss Wyllys her previous intention of remaining single.

"Make no rash decision, my love," was the reply at the time. "You
are too reasonable, for me to believe that you will do so; look
at your own position, Elinor; you will be alone in the world,
more so than most women. Your grandfather is advanced in years,
and my health warns me not to expect a long life. I do not wish
to distress you, but to place the truth plainly before you, my
Elinor. You have neither brother nor sister; Jane and Harry, your
intimate companions in childhood, will be separated from you by
ties and duties of their own. What will you do, my child? An
affectionate disposition like yours cannot be happy alone. On the
other hand, here is Mr. Ellsworth, who is certainly attached to
you; a man of excellent character, with every important quality
that can be desired. You say you wish to be reasonable; judge for
yourself what is the wisest course under these circumstances."

Elinor was silent for a moment; at length she spoke.

"It has always been one of your own lessons to me, dearest aunt,
to profit by the past, to improve the present, and leave the
future to Providence. Yet, now, you would have me think of the
future only; and you urge me to marry, while you are single, and
happy, yourself!"

"Yes, my child; but I have had your grandfather and you, to make
me happy and useful. Most single women have near relatives, to
whom they can attach themselves, whom it is a duty and a pleasure
to love and serve; but that is not your case. Elinor, your
grandfather is very anxious you should accept Mr. Ellsworth."

"I know it," said Elinor; "he has told me so himself."

"He is anxious, dear, because from what he knows of Mr. Ellsworth
and yourself, he is convinced you would eventually be happy; he
fears you hesitate from some feeling of girlish romance. Still,
we have neither of us any wish to urge you too far. Appeal to
your own good, common sense, that is all that can be desired; do
not be romantic, dear, for the first time in your life,"
continued her aunt smiling. "I know the wishes of your friends
will have some weight with you; do not let them control you,
however. Judge for yourself, but take time to reflect; accept Mr.
Ellsworth's own proposition--wait some time before you give a
final answer; that is all that your grandfather and myself can

And such had been the decision; three months being the time
appointed. Since then, both Mr. Wyllys and Miss Agnes had
carefully refrained from expressing any farther opinion--they
never even alluded to the subject, but left Elinor to her own
reflections. Such at least was their intention; but their wishes
were well known to her, and very possibly, unconsciously
influenced their conduct and manner, in many daily trifles, in a
way very evident to Elinor. In the mean time, September had come,
and the moment for final decision was at hand. Mr. Ellsworth's
conduct throughout had been very much in his favour; he had been
persevering and marked in his attentions, without annoying by his
pertinacity. Elinor had liked him, in the common sense of the
word, from the first; and the better she knew him, the more cause
she found to respect his principles, and amiable character. And
yet, if left to her own unbiassed judgment, she would probably
have refused him at first, with no other reluctance than that of
wounding for a time the feelings of a man she sincerely esteemed.

The morning that Mrs. Creighton and Mr. Ellsworth left
Wyllys-Roof, Elinor set out to take a stroll in the field, with
no other companion than her friend Bruno. The dog seemed aware
that his mistress was absent and thoughtful, more indifferent
than usual to his caresses and gambols; and, after having made
this observation, the sagacious animal seemed determined not to
annoy her, but walked soberly at her side, or occasionally
trotting on before, he would stop, turn towards her, and sit in
the path, looking at her as she slowly approached. She had left
the house, in order to avoid any intrusion on her thoughts, at a
moment which was an important one to her; for she had determined,
that after one more thorough examination of her own feelings, her
own views, and the circumstances in which she was placed, the
question should be irrevocably settled--whether she were to
became the wife of Mr. Ellsworth, or to remain single. Many
persons may fancy this a very insignificant matter to decide, and
one that required no such serious attention. But to every
individual, that is a highly important point, which must
necessarily affect the whole future course of life; the choice
which involves so intimate and indissoluble a relation, where
every interest in life is identical with one's own, is surely no
trifling concern. It may well be doubted, indeed, if even with
men it be not a matter of higher importance than is commonly
believed; observation, we think, would lead to the opinion, that
a wife's character and conduct have a deeper and more general
effect on the husband's career, for good or for evil, through his
opinions and actions, than the world is aware of. This choice
certainly appeared a much more formidable step to Elinor, when
Mr. Ellsworth was the individual to be accepted or rejected, than
it had when Harry stood in the same position. In one case she had
to reflect, and ponder, and weigh all the different
circumstances; in the other, the natural bent of her affections
had decided the question before it was asked. But Elinor had,
quite lately, settled half-a-dozen similar affairs, with very
little reflection indeed, and without a moment's anxiety or
regret; she had just refused, with polite indifference, several
proposals, from persons whom she had every reason to believe,
cared a great deal for her fortune, and very little for herself.
If thought were more active than feeling, in behalf of Mr.
Ellsworth, still, thought said a great deal in his favour. She
had always liked and respected him; she believed him attached to
her; her nearest friends were anxious she should give a
favourable answer; there could not be a doubt that he possessed
many excellent and desirable qualities. She would not be
romantic, neither would she be unjust to Mr. Ellsworth and
herself; she would not accept him, unless she could do so
frankly, and without reluctance. This, then, was the question to
be decided--could she love Mr. Ellsworth? The free, spontaneous
love, natural to early youth, she had once given to Hazlehurst;
could she now offer to Mr. Ellsworth sincere affection of another
kind, less engrossing at first, less mingled with the charms of
fancy, but often, perhaps on that account, more valuable, more
enduring? Sincere affection of any sort, is that only which
improves with age, gaining strength amid the wear and tear of
life. It was to decide this question clearly, that Elinor had
desired three months' delay. These three months had nearly
passed; when she again met Mr. Ellsworth, in what character
should she receive him?

The precise train of thought pursued by Elinor, during this
morning stroll, we shall not attempt to follow; but that she was
fully aware of the importance of the decision was evident, by the
unusual absence of manner, which seemed to have struck even her
four-footed friend Bruno. She had, indeed, made an important
discovery lately, one which was startling, and even painful to
her. She found that there are moments in life, when each
individual is called upon to think and to act alone. It is a
truth which most of us are forced to feel, as we go through this
world; though, happily, it is but seldom that such hours occur.
In general, the sympathy, the counsel of friends, is of the very
highest value; and yet, there are moments when neither can avail.
At such times, we are forced to look higher, to acknowledge that
human wisdom does not reach far enough to guide us, that our
wounds need a purer balm than any offered by human sympathy.
Until recently, Elinor had always been soothed and supported by
the affection and guidance of her aunt, but she must now depend
upon herself alone. To a young person, called upon for the first
time to take an important step, with no other guide than
individual judgment and conscience, the responsibility of action
may well be startling; even a wise and experienced man will often
pause at such moments, doubtful of the course he shall pursue. It
is an easy matter to settle a question, when passion, feeling,
interest, or prejudice gives the bias; but where these are all
silent, and cool judgment is left alone to decide, the greatest
men feel, to a painful degree, how limited are their powers; the
high responsibility which is attached to free-will rises before
them, and they shrink from the idea of trusting their own welfare
to their own short-sighted reason alone. Most men, at such times,
take refuge in a sort of fatalism; they stand inactive, until
urged in this or that direction by the press of outward
circumstances; or they rush blindly forward, under impatience of
suspense, preferring risk to inaction.

The occasion of our young friend's anxiety and thoughtfulness
was, no doubt, a trifling one to all but herself; the cause of
her hesitation, however, was honourable; the opinions, feelings,
and motives under which she eventually acted, were alike natural
and creditable.


"Are you acquainted with the difference
That holds this present question, in the court?"
Merchant of Venice.

{William Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice", IV.i.171-172}

AS the time for the trial approached, the parties collected in
Philadelphia. Harry and his friends were often seen in the
streets, looking busy and thoughtful. Mr. Reed also appeared, and
took up his quarters at one of the great hotels, in company with
Mr. Clapp and his client, who generally received the name of
William Stanley, although he had not yet established a legal
claim to it. There was much curiosity to see this individual, as
the case had immediately attracted general attention in the town,
where the families interested were so well known, and the
singular circumstances of the suit naturally excited additional

After the court opened its session, it became doubtful at one
moment, whether the cause would he tried at that term; but others
which preceded it having been disposed of, the Stanley suit was
at length called.

On one side appeared William Stanley, the plaintiff, with Messrs.
Reed and Clapp as counsel; a number of witnesses had been
summoned by them, and were now present, mingled with the
audience. On the other hand were the defendants, Mr. Wyllys,
Hazlehurst, Ellsworth, and Mr. Grant, a distinguished lawyer of
Philadelphia, appearing more particularly for Mrs. Stanley; they
were also supported by witnesses of their own.

While the preliminary steps were going on, the jury forming, and
the parties interested making their arrangements, the court-room
filled rapidly with the friends of Hazlehurst, and a crowd of
curious spectators. Among the individuals known to us, were
Robert Hazlehurst, Mr. Stryker, and Charlie Hubbard, the young
artist, who found that his want of inches interfered with his
view of the scene, and springing on a bench, he remained there,
and contrived to keep much the same station throughout the trial,
his fine, intelligent countenance following the proceedings with
the liveliest interest: Harry soon perceived him, and the young
men exchanged friendly smiles. Mr. Stryker was looking on with
cold, worldly curiosity; while Robert Hazlehurst watched over his
brother's interest with much anxiety. In one sense the audience
was unequally divided at first, for while Harry had many warm,
personal friends present, the sailor was a stranger to all; the
aspect of things partially changed, however, for among that
portion of the crowd who had no particular sympathies with the
defendants, a number soon took sides with the plaintiff. The
curiosity to see the sailor was very great; at one moment, in the
opening of the trial, all eyes were fixed on him; nor did Harry
escape his share of scrutiny.

It was immediately observed, by those who had known the late Mr.
Stanley, that the plaintiff certainly resembled his family. He
was dressed like a seaman, and appeared quite easy and confident;
seldom absent from court, speaking little, but following the
proceedings attentively. His counsel, Mr. Reed, bore a calm and
business-like aspect. Clapp was flushed, his eye was keen and
restless, though he looked sanguine and hopeful; running his hand
through his dark curls, he would lean back and make an
observation to his client, turn to the right and whisper
something in the ear of Mr. Reed, or bend over his papers,
engrossed in thought.

The defendants, on their side, were certainly three as
respectable men in their appearance, as one would wish to see;
they looked, moved, and spoke like gentlemen; in manner and
expression they were all three perfectly natural; simple, easy,
but firm; like men aware that important interests were at stake,
and prepared to make a good defence. Mr. Grant, their colleague,
was an insignificant-looking man when silent, but he never rose
to speak, without commanding the whole attention of his audience
by the force of his talent.

The judges were-well known to be respectable men, as American
magistrates of the higher grade are usually found to be. In the
appearance of the jury there was nothing remarkable; the foreman
was a shrewd-looking man, his neighbour on the left had an open,
honest countenance, two others showed decidedly stupid faces, and
one had a very obstinate expression, as if the first idea that
entered his head, on any subject whatever, was seldom allowed to
be dislodged.

Such was the appearance of things when the trial commenced.
Leaving the minutiae of the proceedings to the legal report of
Mr. Bernard, understood to be in the press, we shall confine
ourselves to a brief, and very imperfect outline of the speeches,
and the most important points of the testimony; merely
endeavouring to give the reader a general idea of the course of
things, on an occasion so important to Hazlehurst.

Mr. Clapp opened the case in a regular speech. Rising from his
seat, he ran his fingers through his hair, and commenced, much as

"We come before you on this occasion, gentlemen of the jury, to
plead a cause which it is believed is unprecedented, in its
peculiar facts, among the annals of justice in our great and
glorious country. Never, indeed, should I have believed it
possible that an American citizen could, under any circumstances
whatever, have been compelled during so long a period to forego
his just and legal rights; ay, that he could be forced to the
very verge of abandoning those rights--all but forced to forget
them. Yet, such are the facts of the case upon which you are now

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