List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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music-master says he has no doubt but I can play well enough to
give lessons, if I go on as well as I have in the last year; I
practise regularly every day. Mother bids me say, that now she
feels sure of my education for the next three years, one of her
heaviest cares has been taken away: she says too, that although
many friends in the parish have been very good to us, since my
dear father was taken away from us, yet 'no act of kindness has
been so important to us, none so cheering to the heart of the
widow and the fatherless, as your generous goodness to her eldest
child;' these are her own words. Mother will write to you herself
to-morrow. I thank you again, dear Miss Wyllys, for myself, and I
remain, very respectfully and very gratefully,

"Your obliged servant and friend,


This last letter seemed to restore all Elinor's good humour,
acting as an antidote to the three which had preceded it. The
correspondence which we have taken the liberty of reading, will
testify more clearly than any assurance of ours, to the fact that
our friend Elinor now stands invested with the dignity of an
heiress, accompanied by the dangers, pleasures, and annoyances,
usually surrounding an unmarried woman, possessing the reputation
of a fortune. Wherever Elinor now appeared, the name of a fortune
procured her attention; the plain face which some years before
had caused her to be neglected where she was not intimately
known, was no longer an obstacle to the gallantry of the very
class who had shunned her before. Indeed, the want of beauty,
which might have been called her misfortune, was now the very
ground on which several of her suitors founded their hopes of
success; as she was pronounced so very plain, the dandies thought
it impossible she could resist the charm of their own personal
advantages. Elinor had, in short, her full share of those
persecutions which are sure to befall all heiresses. The peculiar
evils of such a position affect young women very differently,
according to their various dispositions. Had Elinor been weak and
vain, she would have fallen into the hands of a fortune-hunter.
Had she been of a gloomy temper, disgust at the coarse plots and
manoeuvres, so easily unravelled by a clear-sighted person, might
have made her a prey to suspicion, and all but misanthropic. Had
she been vulgar-minded, she would have been purse-proud; if
cold-hearted, she would have become only the more selfish. Vanity
would have made her ridiculously ostentatious and conceited; a
jealous temper would have become self-willed and domineering.

Change of position often produces an apparent change of
character; sometimes the effect is injurious, sometimes it is
advantageous. But we trust that the reader, on renewing his
acquaintance with Elinor Wyllys, will find her, while flattered
by the world as an heiress, essentially the same in character and
manner, as she was when overlooked and neglected on account of an
unusually plain face. If a shade of difference is perceptible, it
is only the natural result of four or five years of additional
experience, and she has merely exchanged the first retiring
modesty of early youth, for a greater portion of self-possession.

In the first months of her new reputation as an heiress, Elinor
had been astonished at the boldness of some attacks upon her;
then, as there was much that was ridiculous connected with these
proceedings, she had been diverted; but, at length, when she
found them rapidly increasing, she became seriously annoyed.

"What a miserable puppet these adventurers must think me--it is
cruelly mortifying to see how confident of success some of them
appear!" she exclaimed to her aunt.

"I am very sorry, my child, that you should be annoyed in this
way--but it seems you must make up your mind to these
impertinences--it is only what every woman who has property must

"It is really intolerable! But I am determined at least that they
shall not fill my head with suspicions--and I never can endure to
be perpetually on my guard against these sort of people. It will
not do to think of them; that is the only way to keep one's
temper. If I know myself, there never can be any danger to me
from men of that kind, even the most agreeable."

"Take care," said Miss Agnes, smiling, and shaking her head.

"Well, I know at least there is no danger at present; but as we
all have moments of weakness, I shall therefore very humbly beg
that if you ever see me in the least danger, you will give me
warning, dear Aunt; a very sharp warning, if you please."

"In such a case I should certainly warn you, my dear. It strikes
me that several of your most disagreeable admirers--" 

"How call you call them ADMIRERS, Aunt Agnes?"

"Well, several of your pursuers, then, are beginning to discover
that you are not a young lady easily persuaded into believing
herself an angel, and capable of fancying them the most
chivalrous and disinterested of men."

This was quite true; there was a quiet dignity, with an
occasional touch of decision in Elinor's manner, that had already
convinced several gentlemen that she had more firmness of
character than suited their views; and they had accordingly
withdrawn from the field.

"Suppose, Elinor, that I begin by giving you a warning, this
morning?" continued Miss Agnes, smiling.

"You are not serious, surely, Aunt?" replied Elinor, turning from
some music she was unpacking, to look at Miss Wyllys.

"Yes, indeed; I am serious, so far as believing that you are at
this moment exposed to the manoeuvres of a gentleman whom you do
not seem in the least to suspect, and who is decidedly

"Whom can you mean?" said Elinor, running over in her head the
names of several persons whom she had seen lately. "You surely do
not suspect--No; I am sure you have too good an opinion of him."

"I am very far from having a particularly good opinion of the
person I refer to," said Miss Agnes; "I think him at least,
nothing better than a fortune-hunter; and although it is very
possible to do many worse things than marrying for money, yet I
hope you will never become the wife of a man whose principles are
not above suspicion in every way." 

"I am disposed just at present, I can assure you, dear Aunt, to
have a particularly poor opinion of a mere fortune-hunter."

"Yes; you do not seem to feel very amiably towards the class,
just now," said Miss Agnes, smiling.

"But who is the individual who stands so low in your opinion?"

"It is your opinion, and not mine, which is the important one,"
replied Miss Agnes.

"Ah, I see you are joking, Aunt; you half frightened me at first.
As far as having no fears for myself, I am really in an alarming

"So it would seem. But have you really no suspicions of one of
our visiters of last evening?"

Elinor looked uneasy.

"Is it possible," she said, lowering her voice a little, "that
you believe Mr. Ellsworth to be a common fortune-hunter? I
thought you had a very different opinion of him."

"You are right, my child," said Miss Agnes, apparently pleased by
this allusion to their friend; "I have, indeed, a high opinion of
Mr. Ellsworth; but he was not our only visiter last evening,"

"Is it Mr. Stryker? I have half-suspected some such thing myself,
lately; I cannot take credit for so much innocence as you gave
me. But it is not worth while to trouble oneself about Mr.
Stryker; he is certainly old enough, and worldly-wise enough to
take care of himself. If he actually has any such views, his time
will be sadly thrown away. But it is much more probable that he
is really in love with Mrs. Creighton; and it would be very
ridiculous in me, to imagine that he is even pretending to care
for me, when he is attached to some one else."

"He may flirt with Mrs. Creighton, but, if I am not mistaken, he
intends to offer himself before long to Miss Wyllys; and I
thought you had not remarked his advances."

"I fancy, dear Aunt, that men like Mr. Stryker seldom commit
themselves unless they feel pretty sure of success."

The conversation was here interrupted, Elinor was engaged to ride
with Mr. Wyllys, who now returned from the reading-room for his
grand-daughter. Mrs. Creighton was also going out with her
brother, and proposed the two parties joining; an invitation
which Mr. Wyllys had very readily accepted. The horses were
ordered, Elinor was soon equipped, and on joining Mrs. Creighton
at the door, she was assisted to mount by Mr. Ellsworth. Mr.
Stryker had also been invited to ride with them by the pretty

It was a lovely morning, and they moved off gaily on one of the
roads leading to Saratoga Lake; Elinor enjoying the air and the
exercise, Mr. Ellsworth at her side, doing his best to make his
society agreeable, Mrs. Creighton engaged in making a conquest of
the two gentlemen between whom she rode. Yes, we are obliged to
confess the fact; on her part at least, there was nothing wanting
to make up a flirtation with Mr. Wyllys. The widow belonged to
that class of ladies, whose thirst for admiration really seems
insatiable, and who appear anxious to compel all who approach
them to feel the effect of their charms. Elinor would have been
frightened, had she been aware of the attack made that morning by
Mrs. Creighton, on the peace of her excellent grandfather, now in
his seventy-third year. Not that the lady neglected Mr.
Stryker--by no means; she was very capable of managing two
affairs of the kind at the same moment. All the remarks she
addressed particularly to Mr. Wyllys, were sensible and
lady-like; those she made to Mr. Stryker, were clever, worldly,
and piquant; while the general tone of her conversation was
always a well-bred medley of much fashionable levity, with some
good sense and propriety. Mr. Stryker scarcely knew whether to be
pleased, or to regret that he was obliged to ride at her side. He
had lately become particularly anxious to advance in the good
graces of Miss Elinor Wyllys, for two reasons; he had lost money,
and was very desirous of appropriating some of Elinor's to his
own use; and he had also felt himself to be in imminent danger of
falling in love with Mrs. Creighton, and he wished to put it out
of his own power to offer himself to her in a moment of weakness.
Much as he admired the beauty, the wit, and the worldly spirit of
the pretty widow, he was half-afraid of her; he judged her by
himself; he knew that she was artful, and he knew that she was
poor; for her late husband, Mr. Creighton, during a short married
life, had run through all his wife's property, as well as his
own, and his widow was now entirely dependent upon her brother.

The attention of the two gentlemen was not, however, entirely
engrossed by Mrs. Creighton. Mr. Stryker was by no means willing
to resign the field to his rival, Mr. Ellsworth; and Mr. Wyllys
was not so much charmed by the conversation of his fair
companion, but that his eye could rest with pleasure on the
couple before him, as he thought there was every probability that
Elinor would at length gratify his long-cherished wish, and
become the wife of a man he believed worthy of her. As the party
halted for a few moments on the bank of the Lake, Mr. Wyllys was
particularly struck with the expression of spirit and interest
with which Elinor was listening to Mr. Ellsworth's description of
the lakes of Killarney, which he had seen during his last visit
to Europe; and when the gentleman had added a ludicrous account
of some Paddyism of his guide, she laughed so gaily that the
sound rejoiced her grandfather's heart.

Elinor had long since regained her former cheerfulness. For a
time, Harry's desertion had made her sad, but she soon felt it a
duty to shake off every appearance of gloom, for the sake of her
grandfather and aunt, whose happiness was so deeply interwoven
with her own. Religious motives also strengthened her
determination to resist every repining feeling. The true spirit
of cheerfulness is, in fact, the fruit of two of the greatest
virtues of Christianity--steadfast faith, and unfeigned humility;
and it is akin to thankfulness, which is only the natural
consequence of a sense of our own imperfections, and of the
unmerited goodness of Providence.

"We have had a charming ride, Miss Wyllys!" said Mrs. Creighton,
as the party returned to the hotel.

"Very pleasant," said Elinor.

"Delightful!" exclaimed Mr. Ellsworth. "I hope we shall have such
another every day."

"Then I must try and find an animal, with rather better paces
than the one which has the honour of carrying me at present,"
said Mr. Stryker.

"But Mrs. Creighton has been so very agreeable, that I should
think you would have been happy to accompany her on the worst
horse in Saratoga," observed Mr. Wyllys.

"Only too agreeable," replied Mr. Stryker, as he helped the lady
to dismount, while Mr. Ellsworth performed the same service to


"I do beseech your grace, for charity,
If ever any malice in your heart
Were hid against me, now to forgive me frankly."
Henry VIII.

{William Shakespeare, "Henry VIII", II.i.79-81}

ONE evening, about a week after the arrival of the Wyllyses,
there was a dance at Congress Hall, where they were staying. Mrs.
Creighton, with her brother, who were already engaged to meet
some friends there, urged Elinor very much to join them; but she
declined, not wishing to leave Jane. Mr. Ellsworth, who had been
very devoted, of late, seemed particularly anxious she should go.
But although Elinor's manner betrayed some little embarrassment,
if not indecision, as the gentleman urged her doing so, still she
persisted in remaining with her cousin.

{"Congress Hall" = the most fashionable hotel in Saratoga Springs
-- built in 1811, the original building burned in 1866}

"Well, I am sorry we cannot persuade you, Miss Wyllys; though I
dare say you will have a very pleasant evening in your own

"We must put, off our game of chess until to-morrow, Mrs.
Creighton," said Mr. Wyllys.

"Yes, unfortunately for me; for I have fully determined to beat
you, sir, at our next trial. Well, Frank, we cannot stay here all
the evening; I dare say, our friends, the Stevensons, are looking
for us in the ball-room already." 

"Mrs. Creighton is a very pretty woman," observed Mr. Wyllys, as
he seated himself at the chess-board, opposite his daughter,
after the brother and sister had left the room.

"Yes, a very pretty woman; and she always looks well in her
evening-dress," replied Miss Agnes.

Elinor devoted herself to Jane's amusement. Ever since they had
been together, she had given up a great part of her time to Mrs.
Taylor, whom she was very anxious to cheer and enliven, that she
might persuade her to throw off the melancholy and low spirits,
which her cousin seemed purposely to encourage. The sick baby was
better, and Elinor was in hopes that before they parted, she
should succeed in awakening Jane to a somewhat better frame of
mind. She was very desirous that the time they were together
should not be lost; and her kindness was so unwearied, her manner

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