"I suppose you will all be off to Saratoga, in a week or two," said Uncle Joseph Garland to his three nieces, as he sat chatting with them and their mother, one hot day, about the first of July.
"We're not going to Saratoga this year," replied Emily, the eldest, with a toss of her head.
"Indeed! And why not, Emily?"
"Everybody goes to Saratoga, now."
"Who do you mean by everybody, Emily?"
"Why, I mean merchants, shop-keepers, and tradesmen, with their wives and daughters, all mixed up together, into a kind of hodge-podge. It used to be a fashionable place of resort--but people that think any thing of themselves, don't go there now."
"Bless me, child!" ejaculated old Uncle Joseph, in surprise. "This is all new to me. But you were there last year."
"I know. And that cured us all. There was not a day in which we were not crowded down to the table among the most vulgar kind of people."
"How, vulgar, Emily?"
"Why, there was Mr. Jones, the watchmaker, with his wife and two daughters. I need not explain what I mean by vulgar, when I give you that information."
"I cannot say that I have any clearer idea of what you mean, Emily."
"You talk strangely, uncle! You do not suppose that we are going to associate with the Joneses?"
"I did not say that I did. Still, I am in the dark as to what you mean by the most vulgar kind of people."
"Why, common people, brother," said Mrs. Ludlow, coming up to the aid of her daughter. "Mr. Jones is only a watchmaker, and therefore has no business to push himself and family into the company of genteel people."
"Saratoga is a place of public resort," was the quiet reply.
"Well, genteel people will have to stay away, then, that's all. I, at least, for one, am not going to be annoyed as I have been for the last two or three seasons at Saratoga, by being thrown amongst all sorts of people."
"They never troubled me any," spoke up Florence Ludlow, the youngest of the three sisters. "For my part, I liked Mary Jones very much. She was----"
"You are too much of a child to be able to judge in matters of this kind," said the mother, interrupting Florence.
Florence was fifteen; light-hearted and innocent. She had never been able, thus far in life, to appreciate the exclusive principles upon which her mother and sisters acted, and had, in consequence, frequently fallen under their censure. Purity of heart, and the genuine graces flowing from a truly feminine spirit, always attracted her, no matter what the station of the individual in whose society she happened to be thrown. The remark of her mother silenced her, for the time, for experience had taught her that no good ever resulted from a repetition of her opinions on a subject of this kind.
"And I trust she will ever remain the child she is, in these matters," said Uncle Joseph, with emphasis. "It is the duty of every one, sister, to do all that he can to set aside the false ideas of distinction prevailing in the social world, and to build up on a broader and truer foundation, a right estimate of men and things. Florence, I have observed, discriminates according to the quality of the person's mind into whose society she is thrown, and estimates accordingly. But you, and Emily, and Adeline, judge of people according to their rank in society--that is according to the position to which wealth alone has raised them. In this way, and in no other, can you be thrown so into association with 'all kinds of people,' as to be really affected by them. For, the result of my observation is, that in any circle where a mere external sign is the passport to association, 'all sorts of people,' the good, the bad, and the indifferent, are mingled. It is not a very hard thing for a bad man to get rich, sister; but for a man of evil principles to rise above them, is very hard, indeed; and is an occurrence that too rarely happens. The consequence is, that they who are rich, are not always the ones whom we should most desire to mingle with."
"I don't see that there is any use in our talking about these things, brother," replied Mrs. Ludlow. "You know that you and I never did agree in matters of this kind. As I have often told you, I think you incline to be rather low in your social views."
"How can that be a low view which regards the quality of another, and estimates him accordingly?" was the reply.
"I don't pretend to argue with you, on these subjects, brother; so you will oblige me by dropping them," said Mrs. Ludlow, coloring, and speaking in an offended tone.
"Well, well, never mind," Uncle Joseph replied, soothingly. "We will drop them."
Then turning to Emily, he continued--
"And so your minds are made up not to go to Saratoga?"
"Well, where do you intend spending the summer months?"
"I hardly know yet. But, if I have my say, we will take a trip in one of the steamers. A flying visit to London would be delightful."
"What does your father say to that?"
"Why, he won't listen to it. But I'll do my best to bring him round--and so will Adeline. As for Florence, I believe I will ask father to let her go to Saratoga with the Joneses."
"I shall have no very decided objections," was the quiet reply of Florence. A half angry and reproving glance from her mother, warned her to be more discreet in the declaration of her sentiments.
"A young lady should never attempt to influence her father," said Uncle Joseph. "She should trust to his judgment in all matters, and be willing to deny herself any pleasure to which he objected. If your father will not listen to your proposition to go to London, be sure that he has some good reason for it."
"Well, I don't know that he has such very good reasons, beyond his reluctance to go away from business," Emily replied, tossing her head.
"And should not you, as his daughter, consider this a most conclusive reason? Ought not your father's wishes and feelings be considered first?"
"You may see it so, Uncle; but I cannot say that I do."
"Emily," and Uncle Joseph spoke in an excited tone of voice, "If you hold these sentiments, you are unworthy of such a man as your father!"
"Brother, you must not speak to the girls in that way," said Mrs. Ludlow.
"I shall always speak my thoughts in your house Margaret," was the reply; "at least to you and the girls. As far as Mr. Ludlow is concerned, I have rarely occasion to differ with him."
A long silence followed, broken at last by an allusion to some other subject; when a better understanding among all parties ensued.
On that evening, Mr. Ludlow seemed graver than usual when he came in. After tea, Emily said, breaking in upon a conversation that had become somewhat interesting to Mr. Ludlow--
"I'm not going to let you have a moment's peace, Pa, until you consent to go to England with us this season."
"I'm afraid it will be a long time before I shall have any peace, then, Emily," replied the father, with an effort to smile, but evidently worried by the remark. This, Florence, who was sitting close by him, perceived instantly, and said--
"Well, I can tell you, for one, Pa, that I don't wish to go. I'd rather stay at home a hundred times."
"It's no particular difference, I presume, what you like," remarked Emily, ill-naturedly. "If you don't wish to go, I suppose no one will quarrel with you for staying at home."
"You are wrong to talk so, Emily," said Mr. Ludlow, calmly but firmly, "and I cannot permit such remarks in my presence."
Emily looked rebuked, and Mr. Ludlow proceeded.
"As to going to London, that is altogether out of the question. The reasons why it is so, are various, and I cannot now make you acquainted with all of them. One is, that I cannot leave my business so long as such a journey would require. Another is, that I do not think it altogether right for me to indulge you in such views and feelings as you and Adeline are beginning to entertain. You wish to go to London, because you don't want to go to Saratoga, or to any other of our watering places; and you don't want to go there, because certain others, whom you esteem below you in rank, can afford to enjoy themselves, and recruit their health at the same places of public resort. All this I, do not approve, and cannot encourage."
"You certainly cannot wish us to associate with every one," said Emily, in a tone less arrogant.
"Of course not, Emily," replied Mr. Ludlow; "but I do most decidedly condemn the spirit from which you are now acting. It would exclude others, many of whom, in moral character, are far superior to yourself from enjoying the pleasant, health-imparting recreation of a visit to the Springs, because it hurts your self-importance to be brought into brief contact with them."
"I can't understand what you mean by speaking of these kind of people as superior in moral character to us," Mrs. Ludlow remarked.
"I said some of them. And, in this, I mean what I say. Wealth and station in society do not give moral tone. They are altogether extraneous, and too frequently exercise a deteriorating influence upon the character. There is Thomas, the porter in my store--a plain, poor man, of limited education; yet possessing high moral qualities, that I would give much to call my own. This man's character I esteem far above that of many in society to whom no one thinks of objecting. There are hundreds and thousands of humble and unassuming persons like him, far superior in the high moral qualities of mind to the mass of self-esteeming exclusives, who think the very air around them tainted by their breath. Do you suppose that I would enjoy less the pleasures of a few weeks at Saratoga, because Thomas was there? I would, rather, be gratified to see him enjoying a brief relaxation, if his duties at the store could be remitted in my absence."
There was so much of the appearance of truth in what Mr. Ludlow said, combined with a decided tone and manner, that neither his wife or daughters ventured a reply. But they had no affection for the truth he uttered, and of course it made no salutary impression on their minds.
"What shall we do, Ma?" asked Adeline, as they sat with their mother, on the next afternoon. "We must go somewhere this summer, and Pa seems in earnest about not letting us visit London."
"I don't know, I am sure, child," was the reply.
"I can't think of going to Saratoga," said Emily, in a positive tone.
"The Emmersons are going," Adeline remarked.
"How do you know?" asked Emily, in a tone of surprise.
"Victorine told me so this morning."
"Yes. I met her at Mrs. Lemmington's and she said that they were all going next week."
"I don't understand that," said Emily, musingly.
"It was only last week that Victorine told me that they were done going to Saratoga; that the place had become too common. It had been settled, she said, that they were to go out in the next steamer."
"Mr. Emmerson, I believe, would not consent, and so, rather than not go anywhere, they concluded to visit Saratoga, especially as the Lesters, and Milfords, and Luptons are going."
"Are they all going?" asked Emily, in renewed surprise.
"So Victorine said."
"Well, I declare! there is no kind of dependence to be placed in people now-a-days. They all told me that they could not think of going to such a vulgar place as Saratoga again."
Then, after a pause, Emily resumed,
"As it will never do to stay at home, we will have to go somewhere. What do you think of the Virginia Springs, Ma?"
"I think that I am not going there, to be jolted half to death in a stage coach by the way."
"Where, then, shall we go?"
"I don't know, unless to Saratoga."
"Victorine said," remarked Adeline, "that a large number of distinguished visiters were to be there, and that it was thought the season would be the gayest spent for some time."
"I suppose we will have to go, then," said Emily.
"I am ready," responded Adeline."
"And so am I," said Florence.
That evening Mr. Ludlow was graver and more silent than usual. After tea, as he felt no inclination to join in the general conversation about the sayings and doings of distinguished and fashionable individuals, he took a newspaper, and endeavored to become interested in its contents. But he tried in vain. There was something upon his mind that absorbed his attention at the same time that it oppressed his feelings. From a deep reverie he was at length roused by Emily, who said--
"So, Pa, you are determined not to let us go out in the next steamer?"
"Don't talk to me on that subject any more, if you please," replied Mr. Ludlow, much worried at the remark.
"Well, that's all given up now," continued Emily, "and we've made up our minds to go to Saratoga. How soon will you be able to go with us?"
"Not just now," was the brief, evasive reply.
"We don't want to go until next week."
"I am not sure that I can go even then."
"O, but we must go then, Pa."
"You cannot go without me," said Mr. Ludlow, in a grave tone.
"Of course not," replied Emily and Adeline at the same moment.
"Suppose, then, I cannot leave the city next week?"
"But you can surely."
"I am afraid not. Business matters press upon me, and will, I fear, engage my exclusive attention for several weeks to come."
"O, but indeed you must lay aside business," said Mrs. Ludlow. "It will never do for us to stay at home, you knows during the season when everybody is away."
"I shall be very sorry if circumstances arise to prevent you having your regular summer recreation," was replied, in a serious, even sad tone. "But, I trust my wife and daughters will acquiesce with cheerfulness."
"Indeed, indeed, Pa! We never can stay at home," said Emily, with a distressed look. "How would it appear? What would people say if we were to remain in the city during all the summer?"
"I don't know, Emily, that you should consider that as having any relation to the matter. What have other people to do with matters which concerns us alone?"
"You talk very strangely of late, Mr. Ludlow," said his wife.
"Perhaps I have reason for so doing," he responded, a shadow flitting across his face.
An embarrassing silence ensued, which was broken, at last, by Mr. Ludlow.
"Perhaps," he began, "there may occur no better time than the present, to apprise you all of a matter that must, sooner or later, become known to you. We will have to make an effort to reduce our expenses--and it seems to me that this matter of going to the Springs, which will cost some three or four hundred dollars, might as well be dispensed with. Business is in a worse condition than I have ever known it; and I am sustaining, almost daily, losses that are becoming alarming. Within the last six weeks I have lost, beyond hope, at least twenty thousand dollars. How much more will go I am unable to say. But there are large sums due me that may follow the course of that already gone. Under these circumstances, I am driven to the necessity of prudence in all my expenditures."
"But three or four hundred are not much, Pa," Emily urged, in a husky voice, and with dimmed eyes. For the fear of not being able to go somewhere, was terrible to her. None but vulgar people staid at home during the summer season.
"It is too large a sum to throw away now. So I think you had all better conclude at once not to go from home this summer," said Mr. Ludlow.
A gush of tears from Emily and Adeline followed this annunciation, accompanied by a look of decided disapprobation from the mother. Mr. Ludlow felt deeply tried, and for some moments his resolution wavered; but reason came to his aid, and he remained firm. He was accounted a very rich merchant. In good times, he had entered into business, and prosecuted it with great energy. The consequence was, that he had accumulated money rapidly. The social elevation consequent upon this, was too much for his wife. Her good sense could not survive it. She not only became impressed with the idea, that, because she was richer, she was better than others, but that only such customs were to be tolerated in "good society," as were different from prevalent usages in the mass. Into this idea her two eldest daughters were thoroughly inducted. Mr. Ludlow, immersed in business, thought little about such matters, and suffered himself to be led into almost anything that his wife and daughters proposed. But Mrs. Ludlow's brother--Uncle Joseph, as he was called--a bachelor, and a man of strong common sense, steadily opposed his sister in her false notions, but with little good effect. Necessity at last called into proper activity the good sense of Mr. Ludlow, and he commenced the opposition that has just been noticed. After reflecting some time upon the matter, he resolved not to assent to his family leaving home at all during the summer.
All except Florence were exceedingly distressed at this. She acquiesced with gentleness and patience, although she had much desired to spend a few weeks at Saratoga. But Mrs. Ludlow, Emily, and Adeline, closed up the front part of the house, and gave directions to the servants not to answer the door bell, nor to do anything that would give the least suspicion that the family were in town. Then ensconcing themselves in the back buildings of their dwelling, they waited in gloomy indolence for the "out of the city" season to pass away; consoling themselves with the idea, that if they were not permitted to join the fashionables at the Springs, it would at lest be supposed that they had gone some where into the country, and thus they hoped to escape the terrible penalty of losing caste for not conforming to an indispensable rule of high life.
Mr. Ludlow was compelled to submit to all this, and he did so without much opposition; but it all determined him to commence a steady opposition to the false principles which prompted such absurd observances. As to Uncle Joseph, he was indignant, and failing to gain admittance by way of the front door after one or two trials, determined not to go near his sister and nieces, a promise which he kept for a few weeks, at least.
Meantime, every thing was passing off pleasantly at Saratoga. Among the distinguished and undistinguished visitors there, was Mary Jones, and her father, a man of both wealth and worth, notwithstanding he was only a watchmaker and jeweller. Mary was a girl of no ordinary character. With beauty of person far exceeding that of the Misses Ludlow, she had a well cultivated mind, and was far more really and truly accomplished than they were. Necessarily, therefore, she attracted attention at the Springs; and this had been one cause of Emily's objection to her.
A day or two after her arrival at Saratoga, she was sitting near a window of the public parlor of one of the hotels, when a young man, named Armand, whom she had seen there several times before, during the watering season, in company with Emily Ludlow, with whose family he appeared to be on intimate terms came up to her and introduced himself.
"Pardon me, Miss Jones," said he, "but not seeing any of the Miss Ludlows here, I presumed that you might be able to inform me whether they intend visiting Saratoga or not, this season, and, therefore, I have broken through all formalities in addressing you. You are well acquainted with Florence, I believe?"
"Very well, sir," Mary replied.
"Then perhaps you can answer my question?"
"I believe I can, sir. I saw Florence several times within the last week or two; and she says that they shall not visit any of the Springs this season."
"Indeed! And how comes that?"
"I believe the reason is no secret," Mary replied, utterly unconscious that any one could be ashamed of a right motive, and that an economical one. "Florence tells me that her father has met with many heavy losses in business; and that they think it best not to incur any unnecessary expenses. I admire such a course in them."
"And so do I, most sincerely," replied Mr. Armand. Then, after thinking for a moment, he added--
"I will return to the city in the next boat. All of their friends being away, they must feel exceedingly lonesome."
"It will certainly be a kind act, Mr. Armand, and one, the motive for which they cannot but highly appreciate," said Mary, with an inward glow of admiration.
It was about eleven o'clock on the next day that Mr. Armand pulled the bell at the door of Mr. Ludlow's beautiful dwelling, and then waited with a feeling of impatience for the servant to answer the summons. But he waited in vain. No servant came. He rang again, and again waited long enough for a servant to come half a dozen times. Then he looked up at the house and saw that all the shutters were closed; and down upon the marble steps, and perceived that they were covered with dust and dirt; and on the bell-handle, and noted its loss of brightness.
"Miss Jones must have been mistaken," he said to himself, as he gave the bell a third pull, and then waited, but in vain, for the hall-door to be swung open.
"Who can it be?" asked Emily, a good deal disturbed, as the bell rang violently for the third time, and in company with Adeline, went softly into the parlor to take a peep through one of the shutters.
"Mr. Armand, as I live!" she ejaculated, in a low, husky whisper, turning pale. "I would not have him know that we are in town for the world!"
And then she stole away quietly, with her heart leaping and fluttering in her bosom, lest he should instinctively perceive her presence.
Finding that admission was not to be obtained, Mr. Armand concluded that the family had gone to some other watering place, and turned away irresolute as to his future course. As he was passing down Broadway, he met Uncle Joseph.
"So the Ludlows are all out of town," he said.
"So they are not!" replied Uncle Joseph, rather crustily, for he had just been thinking over their strange conduct, and it irritated him.
"Why, I have been ringing there for a quarter of an hour, and no one came to the door; and the house is all shut up."
"Yes; and if you had ringing for a quarter of a century, it would all have been the same."
"I can't understand you," said Mr. Armand.
"Why, the truth is, Mr. Ludlow cannot go to the Springs with them this season, and they are so afraid that it will become known that they are burying themselves in the back part of the house, and denying all visiters."
"Why so? I cannot comprehend it."
"All fashionable people, you know, are expected to go to the sea-shore or the Springs; and my sister and her two eldest daughters are so silly, as to fear that they will lose caste, if it is known that they could not go this season. Do you understand now?"
"Well, that's the plain A B C of the case. But it provokes me out of all patience with them."
"It's a strange idea, certainly," said Mr. Armand, in momentary abstraction of thought; and then bidding Uncle Joseph good morning, he walked hastily along, his mind in a state of fermentation.
The truth was, Mr. Armand had become much attached to Emily Ludlow, for she was a girl of imposing appearance and winning manners. But this staggered him. If she were such a slave to fashion and observance, she was not the woman for his wife. As he reflected upon the matter, and reviewed his intercourse with her, he could remember many things in her conversation and conduct that he did not like. He could distinctly detect a degree of self-estimation consequent upon her station in society, that did not meet his approbation--because it indicated a weakness of mind that he had no wish to have in a wife. The wealth of her father he had not regarded, nor did now regard, for he was himself possessor of an independence.
Two days after, he was again at Saratoga. The brief interview that had passed between him and Mary Jones was a sufficient introduction for him; and, taking advantage of it, he threw himself in her way frequently, and the more he saw of her, the more did he admire her winning gentleness, sweet temper, and good sense. When he returned to New York, he was more than half in love with her.
"Mr. Armand has not been to see us once this fall," said Adeline, one evening in October. They were sitting in a handsomely furnished parlor in a neat dwelling, comfortable and commodious, but not so splendid as the one they had occupied a few months previous. Mr. Ludlow's affairs had become so embarrassed, that he determined, in spite of the opposition of his family, to reduce his expenses. This resolution he carried out amid tears and remonstrances--for he could not do it in any other way.
"Who could expect him to come here?" Emily replied, to the remark of her sister. "Not I, certainly."
"I don't believe that would make any difference with him," Florence ventured to say, for it was little that she could say, that did not meet with opposition.
"Why don't you?" asked Adeline.
"Because Mary Jones--"
"Mary Jones again!" ejaculated Emily. "I believe you don't think of anybody but Mary Jones. I'm surprised that Ma lets you visit that girl!"
"As good people as I am visit her," replied Florence. "I've seen those there who would be welcome here."
"What do you mean?"
"If you had waited until I had finished my sentence, you would have known before now. Mary Jones lives in a house no better than this, and Mr. Armand goes to see her."
"I don't believe it!" said Emily, with emphasis.
"Just as you like about that. Seeing is believing, they say, and as I have seen him there, I can do no less than believe he was there."
"When did you see him there?" Emily now asked with eager interest, while her face grew pale.
"I saw him there last evening--and he sat conversing with Mary in a way that showed them to be no strangers to each other."
A long, embarrassed, and painful silence followed this announcement. At last, Emily got up and went off to her chamber, where she threw herself upon her bed and burst into tears. After these ceased to flow, and her mind had become, in some degree, tranquillized, her thoughts became busy. She remembered that Mr. Armand had called, while they were hiding away in fear lest it should be known that they were not on a fashionable visit to some watering place--how he had rung and rung repeatedly, as if under the idea that they were there, and how his countenance expressed disappointment as she caught a glimpse of it through the closed shutters. With all this came, also, the idea that he might have discovered that they were at home, and have despised the principle from which they acted, in thus shutting themselves up, and denying all visiters. This thought was exceedingly painful. It was evident to her, that it was not their changed circumstances that kept him away--for had he not visited Mary Jones?
Uncle Joseph came in a few evenings afterwards, and during his visit the following conversation took place.
"Mr. Armand visits Mary Jones, I am told," Adeline remarked, as an opportunity for saying so occurred.
"He does? Well, she is a good girl--one in a thousand," replied Uncle Joseph.
"She is only a watchmaker's daughter," said Emily, with an ill-concealed sneer.
"And you are only a merchant's daughter. Pray, what is the difference?"
"Why, a good deal of difference!"
"Well state it."
"Mr. Jones is nothing but a mechanic."
"Who thinks of associating with mechanics?"
"There may be some who refuse to do so; but upon what grounds do they assume a superiority?"
"Because they are really above them."
"But in what respect?"
"They are better and more esteemed in society."
"As to their being better, that is only an assumption. But I see I must bring the matter right home. Would you be really any worse, were your father a mechanic?"
"The question is not a fair one. You suppose an impossible case."
"Not so impossible as you might imagine. You are the daughter of a mechanic."
"Brother, why will you talk so? I am out of all patience with you!" said Mrs. Ludlow, angrily.
"And yet, no one knows better than you, that I speak only the truth. No one knows better than you, that Mr. Ludlow served many years at the trade of a shoemaker. And that, consequently, these high-minded young ladies, who sneer at mechanics, are themselves a shoemaker's daughters--a fact that is just as well known abroad as anything else relating to the family. And now, Misses Emily and Adeline, I hope you will hereafter find it in your hearts to be a little more tolerant of mechanics daughters."
And thus saying, Uncle Joseph rose, and bidding them good night, left them to their own reflections, which were not of the most pleasant character, especially as the mother could not deny the allegation he had made.
During the next summer, Mr. Ludlow, whose business was no longer embarrassed, and who had become satisfied that, although he should sink a large proportion of a handsome fortune, he would still have a competence left, and that well secured--proposed to visit Saratoga, as usual. There was not a dissenting voice--no objecting on the score of meeting vulgar people there. The painful fact disclosed by Uncle Joseph, of their plebeian origin, and the marriage of Mr. Armand--whose station in society was not to be questioned--with Mary Jones, the watchmaker's daughter, had softened and subdued their tone of feeling, and caused them to set up a new standard of estimation. The old one would not do, for, judged by that, they would have to hide their diminished heads. Their conduct at the Springs was far less objectionable than it had been heretofore, partaking of the modest and retiring in deportment, rather than the assuming, the arrogant, and the self-sufficient. Mrs. Armand was there, with her sister, moving in the first circles; and Emily Ludlow and her sister Adeline felt honored rather than humiliated by an association with them. It is to be hoped they will yet make sensible women.