Page images

cipation, the Missouri question, Symmes's theory, and Greece. At length a cover was placed before Spratt, which was welcomed by the joyous exclamation from Mr. Belah Briggs, of " Ah, here come the canvass-backs!" No sooner had Miss Violet heard this interjectional remark, than her eyes glistened, and turning to her victim, she directed him to carve one of those birds for her. Poor Spratt had conveyed but little nut ment into his own system, from the everlasting appeals made to him on different subjects and for different dishes with such rapidity, that so far from being able to eat, he had not been able even to hear or think. He set himself, however, mechanically to work; and by the time he had dissected one of the ducks, the lady had despatched the contents of her first plate, and was ready to be helped. She was so much pleased with one part of this glory of the American table, that she wished to try another, and then another; and so it went on

"Another and another still succeeded,

And the last plate was welcome as the first."

At length she took breath, laid down her implements, and exclaimed, "Oh Mr. Spratt, is not this the bird, about which one of your sweet American poets has written some ecstatic lines? I think I remember one sublime passage:

'Farewell! thou'rt swallowed in the gulf immense,

No more thy wings shall glitter in the morn,
No more shall evening hues thy plumes adorn,
Nor noon-day splendour greet thy rising thence.'

By the way, I am glad to see you don't keep up the absurd practice of drinking healths, but leave every individual to follow the unshackled and unsophisticated impulses of taste, nature, and necessity." It is proper to mention that she had, from the beginning, helped herself to wine from Spratt's decanter, without ceremony and without stint.

Halfmoon, who had scarcely opened his lips before, now

took occasion, modestly lifting up his eyes, to edge in an 'Yes, madam," said he, "as the Swan of


Avon says


-It is a custom

More honoured in the breach than in the observance,

To drain our draughts of Rhenish down,

And bray the triumph of our pledge.'”

Miss Violet, upon this, gazed earnestly at the speaker, whose eyes were again cast down under her scrutiny. "Ah!" she said, "have I found a congenial spirit? (Some of the mince-pie, Mr. Spratt, if you please.) He who can quote so readily the Swan of Avon, must himself be a Swan of the Potomac. (A little cheese with it.) That pallid cheek, that interesting languor, and the veiled lightnings of those eyes, told me before that you were a nursling of the Nine. Pray may I venture to inquire your name?"

"Warren Hancock Halfmoon," stammered the blushing minstrel.

"And what favoured spot of fair and free Columbia's land claims the honour of your birth?"

"Jericho, ma'am, upon Long Island."

Here the lady drew out from the drapery which invested her exuberant chest, from among a collection of miscellanies, a small red covered note-book, in which she made a memorandum. Having done this with great expedition, and returned her tablets to their depository, she proceeded, “Dear Halfmoon, you must favour me with some of your poetry. You must indeed. Haven't you got some about you?"

The poet hemmed and hawed, in seeming confusion; but after a few "Why ma'ams," and "Oh ma'ams," he drew from his pocket a parcel of folded sheets of letter paper, which he fumbled with and overlooked. Mr. Spratt seized the favourable moment, and took French leave. The rest of the company, except the polite Monsieur Falconet, fol

lowed his example. Miss Black retired with Mrs. Cricket, who seemed to deem her services no longer necessary. Miss Violet, retaining possession of Spratt's decanter, said, "Dear Halfmoon, we lend you all our ears. Proceed."

The minstrel, after stating in an agitated manner, that he had two or three pieces, and that none of them were finished, and he did not know whether he could read them himself, finally recited the following rhapsody.

Oh! when shall come the mind's apocalypse!
What tenebrous investitures control

The shackled ethnic soul,

Bound like Prometheus to the rock of life
While high above, in airy strife,
The screamy vultures lick their horny lips!
But ah! I spy one ray

Of Pythian day,

Scattering away

The horrent clouds fuliginously hurl'd
Upon a prostrate world!

And in the great thermometer of mind,
Where long the liquid argentine has climbed,
Behold on bigotry's myoptic eyes,

The glittering metaphysic column rise,
While each dark soul shall chrysalize!
Yes! they shall mount and fly,
Like a transparent-pinioned butterfly;
Swift as a thunderbolt,

Or youthful Arab colt,

Child of the desert, lord of the plain,

Without saddle or bridle, or crupper or rein!

But 'tis only a vision! the ethnical soul
Still, magnet-like, turns to delusion's north pole;
Bound with shackles of steel, and of adamant ice,
To priestcraft, and error, and stern prejudice!

Miss Violet commended this production in very extravagant terms, and frequently interrupted the reading by exclamations. She objected however to the mode of pronouncing "prejudice," by making it rhyme to vice. The poet said, that that was the way in which it was pronounced

in the Monongahela College, and used by the most distinguished orators at the eastward. M. Falconet was profuse in his compliments. "Ah!" said he, "this is so like our Casimir Delavigne! Monsieur is one vare great poète. That simile of the leetle horse wizout no bridle, is superbe. He is so like a man wizout no préjugés. He is like that grand bull in our Racine:

Indomptable taureau! Dragon impétueux !

Sa croupe se recourbe en replis torteueux;

Ses longs mugissements font trembler le rivage.""

But as I am not writing a fashionable novel, I can report the particulars of this conversation no further. Miss Violet turned her attention to M. Falconet, and astonished him with some French quotations, which he (as well as everybody else) had never heard before. She shook the poet so tenderly and strenuously by the hand, after making him escort her to the door of her chamber, that the poor young man was fairly in the highest heaven of his invention; and the elements of the society at Mrs. Cricket's had been decidedly agitated by her introduction, to a degree as extensive as the effect was unexpected.

In the evening of that day, for the first time since he had been a boarder at the house, Mr. Spratt did not make his appearance. Mr. Briggs and Mr. Jenks, together with a mail-contractor and the poet, were present. The latter sat pensive and silent, while Miss Violet discoursed to the other gentlemen about western lands and city lots, and Mexican mining operations; doubted the solvency of the Bank of England and of the Barings; asked the price of the stock of the United States Bank, and of the three per cents., and New-York Canal stock, and Dismal Swamp shares; expressed her regret that the state of society compelled each individual to look after his own property; and inquired how Mr. Owen's settlement had succeeded. The gentlemen answered to the best of their knowledge; and, when supper


was announced, Miss Violet took the poet by the arm, and led him with her to the most sociable of domestic feasts, where his blue devils were speedily dispersed by the charms of her conversation, and whence she sent him to his slumbers and his dreams to meditate on unimaginable things.

The inferences drawn by Mr. Briggs, Mr. Jenks, and the mail-contractor, as to the wherewithals of the lady, soon became reports-very soon; because, the next day, the principal topic of conversation in all Washington was the arrival of the extraordinary, accomplished, and splendidlooking English lady, with an exorbitant fortune, who had come to the United States to make it her home. It was broadly whispered that she was Mrs. Coutts; and a fellow who came from Manchester, as he said, reconnoitred the house of Mrs. Cricket, and offered, in the bar-room of a principal hotel, to make his affidavit that it was that destined duchess incog., like the Empress Rustyfusty in the farce, disguised as a cheesemonger's widow.

This rumour fell upon the ear of a gentleman, a member of Congress, who boarded at the Indian Queen, and who was speculative as to such matters. His name and additions were, the Honourable Colonel Phocion Milton Mans. field; and he was a lawyer from the western county of a western state, who had been elected to represent his district, for one session, in consequence of the death of the eloquent and much lamented Peter Davis, who died, after introducing a Catawba Bill, highly interesting to the voters of his district, and which Colonel Phocion had pledged himself to carry through. This was not the only pledge. the colonel had made at this period. Among others, was one to Mr. Angelo Falconet, to get him employment from Congress, in erecting equestrian statues of all the heroes of the war of the revolution, and pedestrian ones of all those of the last war, as well as remuneration for his services during the time he had been waiting to get into service. Through M. Falconet, the colonel was introduced to the

« PreviousContinue »