List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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the occasion.

"Are you ready, Catherine?" inquired Mr. Clapp of his wife,
appearing at the parlour-door, holding his hat and cane in one
hand, and running the other through his brown curls.

"Wait one minute, dear, until I have put a clean collar on

Little Willie, who had been hopping about the room, delighted
with the importance of sitting up later than his younger brothers
and sisters, was persuaded to stand still for a few seconds,
while his mother tied on the clean collar; when Mr. Clapp, his
wife, and eldest boy set out for the meeting-house, which they
found already half-filled. They were beckoned into a pew near to
one already occupied by the Van Hornes, Miss Patsey, and Charlie.
As the evening was very pleasant, men, women, and children
crowded in, until a large audience was brought together, urged,
as usual, by different motives; some came from curiosity, others
from always preferring an evening in public to an evening at
home; some, from sincere respect for the object of the meeting,
many for the sake of the speeches, and many others merely because
they were ever ready to follow the general example. Mr. Clapp had
no sooner found seats for his wife and child, than he began to
look about him; his eye wandered over the heads around,
apparently in quest of some one; at length his search seemed
successful; it rested on a man, whose whole appearance and dress
proclaimed him to be a sailor.

The meeting was opened by prayer, two different ministers
officiating on the occasion; one, a venerable-looking old man,
offered a simple, fervent, Christian prayer; the second, a much
younger person, placing one hand in his waistcoat pocket, the
other under the flaps of his coat, advanced to the front of the
staging, and commenced, what was afterwards pronounced one of the
"most eloquent prayers ever addressed to a congregation."

The speeches then followed. The first speaker, who seemed the
business-man of the evening, gave some account of the statistics
of the Society, concluding with a short address to those present,
hoping they would, upon that occasion, enrol their names as
Members of the Longbridge Temperance Society.

The principal orator of the evening, Mr. Strong, then came
forward; he made a speech of some length, and one that was very
impressive. Nothing could be more clear, more just, more true,
than the picture he drew of the manifold evils of intemperance; a
vice so deceitful in its first appearance, so treacherous in its
growth; so degrading, so brutalizing in its enjoyments; so
blasting and ruinous in its effects--ruinous to body and mind,
heart and soul--blasting all hopes for this life and for the
next, so long as it remains unconquered. He entreated his friends
to count the cost of indulgence in this vice; loss of property,
loss of health, loss of character, loss of intellect and feeling,
loss of conscience, until roused in those fearful moments of
terror and fury, the peculiar punishment of drunkenness. He
begged his hearers to look at this evil under all its aspects,
from the moment it destroys the daily peace of its miserable
victims and all connected with them, until it leaves them, in
death, without a hope, exposed to the fearful penalty of sin. As
he went on, the heart of many a wretched wife and mother
acknowledged the bitter truth of his observations; many a guilty
conscience shrunk under the probe. He then made a just and
reasonable estimate of the difficulties to be resisted in
conquering this evil; he did not attempt to deny that there were
obstacles to be overcome; he showed all the force of bad habit,
all the danger of temptation--but if there were difficulties in
the way, it was equally true that the power to subdue them was
fully within the reach of every man. He went on to represent the
happy effects of a change from evil to good; a restoration to
usefulness, peace, comfort, and respectability, which has happily
been seen in many an instance. He concluded by appealing to his
hearers as men, to shake off a debasing slavery; as Christians,
to flee from a heinous sin; and he entreated them, if they had
not done so before, to take, on that evening, the first step in
the cheering, honourable, blessed course of temperance.

Mr. Strong's speech was, in fact, excellent; all he said was
perfectly true, it was well-expressed, and his manner was easy,
natural, and dignified.

He was followed by William Cassius Clapp; the lawyer had been
very anxious to speak at this meeting. Temperance societies were
very popular at that time in Longbridge, and he was, of course,
desirous of not losing so good an opportunity of appearing before
the public on such an occasion; he thought it would help him on
in his road towards the Assembly. Running his fingers through his
curls, he took his place on the stage, and commenced. He was very
fluent by nature, and in animation, in fanatical zeal for the
cause, he far surpassed Mr. Strong: any other cause, by-the-bye,
had it been popular, would have suited him just as well. In
assertion, in denunciation, he distinguished himself
particularly; he called upon every individual present to come
forward and sign the pledge, under penalty of public disgrace; it
was the will of the community that the pledge should be signed,
public opinion demanded it, the public will required it; every
individual present who neglected to sign the pledge of total
abstinence, he pronounced to be "instigated by aristocratic
pride," and would leave that house, stigmatized as
"anti-Christian, and anti-republican;" and in conclusion he threw
in something about "liberty."

Mr. Clapp sat down amid much applause; his speech was warmly
admired by a portion of his hearers. All did not seem to agree on
the subject, however, to judge, at least, by their manner and
expression; for, during the delivery of their brother-in-law's
oration, Miss Patsey Hubbard seemed to be generally looking down
at the floor, while Charlie was looking up at the ceiling: and
there were many others present, who thought Mr. Clapp's fluency
much more striking than his common sense, or his sincerity. It is
always painful to hear a good cause injured by a bad defence, to
see truth disgraced by unworthy weapons employed in her name. It
would have been quite impossible for Mr. Clapp to prove half his
bold assertions, to justify half his sweeping denunciations.
Still, in spite of the fanatical character of some of the
advocates of Temperance, who distort her just proportions as a
virtue--lovely in her own true character--yet drunkenness is a
vice so hateful, that one would never wish to oppose any society,
however imperfectly managed, whose object is to oppose that
dangerous and common evil. Let it not be forgotten, however, that
total abstinence from spirituous liquors is not the one great
duty of man; intemperance is not the only sin to which human
nature is inclined. 

Mr. Clapp's speech was the last for the evening.

"I wish you joy, Mrs. Clapp," said Mrs. Tibbs, leaning forward
from the seat behind the lawyer's pretty little wife, and nodding
as she spoke.

"I really congratulate you; Mr. Clapp has surpassed himself; such
animation, such a flow of eloquence!" added Mrs. Bibbs.

Kate smiled, and looked much gratified; she evidently admired her
husband's speeches as much as she did his hair.

The moment for enrolling new names had now come; numbers of the
audience went forward to sign the Total Abstinence Pledge. There
was one worthy woman, a widow, sitting near Miss Patsey, whose
only son had, during the last year or two, fallen into habits of
intemperance; his attention had quite lately been attracted to
the Temperance Societies, he had read their publications, had
been struck by a short speech of Mr. Strong on a former occasion;
and his mother's joy may possibly be imagined, as she saw him
rise and add his name to the list of members engaging to abstain
from intoxicating liquors. There were several others whose hearts
were cheered, on the same occasion, by seeing those they loved
best, those over whom they had often mourned, take this step
towards reformation. Among the rest, a man dressed as a sailor
was seen approaching the table; when his turn came he put down
his name, and this was no sooner done, than Mr. Clapp advanced
and shook him warmly by the hand.

"Who is that man, Catherine, speaking to Mr. Clapp?--he looks
like a sailor," inquired Miss Patsey.

"I don't know who it is; some client I suppose; William seemed
very much pleased at his signing."

Mr. Clapp, after shaking hands with his friend, the sailor, made
his way through the crowd, until he reached the pew where his
wife and little boy were sitting. Taking Willie by the hand, he
led him to the table, placed the pen in his fingers, and left him
to write William C. Clapp, jr. as well as he could--no easy
matter, by-the-bye, for the child was not very expert in capital
letters. As Willie was the youngest individual on the list, his
signature was received by a burst of applause. The little fellow
was extremely elated by being made of so much consequence; to
tell the truth, he understood very little of what he was about.
If respect for temperance were implanted in his mind on that
evening, it was also accompanied by still more decided ideas of
the great importance of little boys, with the germ of a confused
notion as to the absolute necessity of the approbation of a
regularly organized public meeting, to foster every individual
virtue in himself, and in the human race in general. Miss Patsey
very much doubted the wisdom of making her little nephew play
such a prominent part before the public; she had old-fashioned
notions about the modesty of childhood and youth. The mother, her
sister Kate, however, was never disposed to find fault with
anything her husband did; it was all right in her eyes. Mr. Clapp
himself took the opportunity to thank the audience, in a short
but emphatic burst, for their sympathy; concluding by expressing
the hope that his boy would one day be as much disposed to
gratitude for any public favours, and as entirely submissive,
body and soul, to the public will of his own time, as he
himself--the father--was conscious of being at that
moment--within a few weeks of election.

The meeting was shortly after concluded by a temperance song, and
a good prayer by the elder minister.

As the audience crowded out of the door, Mr. Clapp nodded again
to the sailor, when passing near him.

"Who is that man, William?" asked Mrs. Clapp, as they reached the

"It is a person in whom I am warmly interested--an injured man." 

"Indeed!--one of your clients I suppose."

"Yes; I am now pledged to serve him to the best of my ability."

"He looks like a sailor."

"He is a sailor, just returned from a three years' whaling
voyage. You will be surprised, Catherine, when you hear that
man's story; but the time has come when it must be revealed to
the world."

"You quite excite my curiosity; I hope you will tell me the

"Yes; you shall hear it. But where are your sister and Charles;
are they going home with us?"

"No; I am very sorry; but they told me at the meeting they could
not stay, as they had come over in Mrs. Van Horne's carriage. It
is a pity, for I had made some ice-cream, and gathered some
raspberries, expressly for them; and we have hardly seen Charles
since he arrived. But Patsey wants us to spend the day at the
grey house, to-morrow, children and all."

Mr. Clapp assented to this arrangement; although he said he
should not be able to do more than go over himself for his family
in the evening, on account of business.

Kate had only her husband and Willie to share her excellent
ice-cream and beautiful raspberries, on that warm evening; the
trio did justice, however, to these nice refreshments; and little
Willie only wished he could sign a temperance pledge every
evening, if he could sit up later than usual, and eat an
excellent supper after it.

After the little fellow had been sent to bed, and his mother had
taken a look at her younger children, who were sleeping sweetly
in their usual places, the lawyer and his wife were left alone in
the parlour. It was a charming moon-light evening, though very
warm; and Kate having lowered the lamp, threw herself into a
rocking-chair near the window; while Mr. Clapp, who had had
rather a fatiguing day, was stretched out on the sofa.

"It is early yet, William; suppose you tell the story you
promised me, about your client, the sailor."

"I don't much like to tell it, Catherine; and yet it is time you
knew something about it, for we must proceed to action

"Oh, tell me, by all means; you have really made me quite
curious. You know very well that I can keep a secret."

"Certainly; and I request you will not mention the facts I shall
relate, to any one, for some time; not until we have taken the
necessary legal steps."

"Of course not, if you wish it; and now for the story. You said
this poor man had been injured."

"Grossly injured."

"In what manner?"

"He has been treated in the most unjustifiable manner by his
nearest relatives. His reputation has been injured, and he has
been tyrannically deprived of a very large property."

"Is it possible!--poor fellow! Can nothing be done for him?"

"That is what we shall see. Yes, I flatter myself if there is law
in the land, we shall yet be able to restore him to his rights!"

"Does he belong to this part of the country?"

"He does not himself; but those who are revelling in his wealth

"What is his name?--Do I know his family?"

"You will be distressed, Catherine, when you hear the name; you
will be astonished when you learn the whole story; but the time
for concealment has gone by now. Several years ago that poor
sailor came to me, in ragged clothing, in poverty and distress,
and first laid his complaint before me. I did not believe a word
of what he told me; I thought the man mad, and refused to have
anything to do with the cause. He became disgusted, and went to
sea again, and for some time gave up all hope of being reinstated
in his rights; the obstacles seemed too great. But at length a
very important witness in his favour was accidentally thrown in
his way: at the end of his cruise he came to me again, and I
confess I was astounded at the evidence he then laid before me.
It is conclusive, beyond a doubt, to any unprejudiced mind," said
Mr. Clapp, rousing himself from his recumbent position.

"But you have not told me the man's name."

"His name is Stanley--William Stanley."

"You said I knew him; but I never heard of him; I don't know the
family at all."

"Yes, you do; you know them only too well; you will be as much
surprised as I was myself--as I am still, whenever I allow myself
to dwell on the subject. Mr. Stanley is the cousin-german of your
friend, Miss Elinor Wyllys. Mr. Wyllys himself, Mrs. Stanley, the
step-mother, and young Hazlehurst, are the individuals who stand
between him and his rights," continued Mr. Clapp, rising, and
walking across the room, as he ran his fingers through his brown

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