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IMAGINATION (chapter6)

2006-09-08 21:16

    CHAPTER VI.

    THE following day our travellers were on the road before the sun, and busily pursued their route through the delightful valley of the Mohawk. It was now that Julia, in some measure accustomed to her proximity to her hero, began to enjoy the beauties of the scenery; her eye dwelt with rapture on each opening glimpse that they caught of the river, and took in its gaze meadows of never-failing verdure, which were beautifully interspersed with elms that seemed coeval with the country itself. Occasionally she would draw the attention of her aunt to some view of particular interest; and if her eager voice caught the attention of Antonio, and he turned to gaze, to ponder, and to admire——then Julia felt happy indeed, for then it was that she felt the indescribable bliss of sharing our pleasures with those we love. What heart of sensibility has stood and coldly gazed on a scene over which the eye, that it loves to admire, is roving with delight? Who is there that has yet to learn, that if the strongest bond to love is propinquity, so is its tenderest tie, sympathy? In this manner did our lovely heroine pass a day of hitherto untasted bliss. Antonio would frequently stop his horses on the summit of a hill, and Julia understood the motive; turning her looks in the direction in which she saw the eye of her lover bent, she would sit in silent and secret communion with his feelings. In vain Charles endeavoured to catch her attention——his remarks were unnoticed, and his simple efforts to please disregarded. At length, as they advanced towards the close of their day's ride, Charles, observing a mountain obtruding itself directly across their path, and meeting the river, which swept with great velocity around its base, cried aloud with a laugh-

    "Anthony, I wish you would remove your nose!"

    "Charles!" exclaimed Julia, shocked at his rude familiarities with a man of Antonio's elevated character.

    "Poh!" said the young man, in an under tone, conceiving her surprise to be occasioned by his lowering himself to joke with an inferior, "he is a good, honest fellow, and don't mind a joke at all, I assure you."

    Charles was right, for Antonio, moving his face, with a laugh cried in his turn——"There, sir, my nose is moved, but you can't see no better, after all."

    Julia was amused with his condescension, which she thought augured perfect good-nature and affability. After all, thought Julia, if noble and commanding qualities are necessary to excite admiration or to command respect, familiar virtues induce us to love more tenderly, and good temper is absolutely necessary to contribute to our comfort. On the whole, she was rather pleased than otherwise, that Antonio could receive and return what was evidently intended for a witticism, although as yet she did not comprehend it. But Charles did not leave her long in doubt. On the north side of the Mohawk, and at about fifty miles from its mouth, is a mountain which, as we have already said, juts, in a nearly perpendicular promontory, into the bed of the river; its inclination is sufficient to admit of its receiving the name of a nose. Without the least intention of alluding to our hero, the early settlers had affixed the name of St. Anthony, who appears to have been a kind of Dutch deity in this state, and to have monopolized all the natural noses within her boundaries to himself. The vulgar idiom made the pronunciation an-TONY's nose——and all this Charles briefly explained to Miss Emmerson and her niece by way of giving point to his own wit. He had hardly made them comprehend the full brilliancy and beauty of his application of the mountain to their driver, when they reached the pass itself. The road was barely sufficient to suffer two carriages to move by each other without touching, being from necessity dug out of the base of the mountain; a precipice of many feet led to the river, which was high and turbulent at the time; there was no railing nor any protection on the side next the water——and in endeavouring to avoid the unprotected side of the road, two wagons had met a short time before, and one of them lost a wheel in the encounter——its owner had gone to a distance for assistance, leaving the vehicle where it had fallen. The horses of Antonio, unaccustomed to such a sight, were with some difficulty driven by the loaded wagon, and when nearly past the object, took a sudden fright at its top, which was flapping in the wind. All the skill and exertions of Antonio to prevent their backing was useless, and carriage and horses would inevitably have gone off the bank together, had not Charles, with admirable presence of mind, opened a door, and springing out, placed a billet of wood, which had been used as a base for a lever in lifting the broken wagon, under one of the wheels. This checked the horses until Antonio had time to rally them, and, by using the whip with energy, bring them into the road again. He certainly showed great dexterity as a coachman. But, unhappily, the movement of Charles had been misunderstood by Julia, and, throwing open the door, with the blindness of fear, she sprang from the carriage also: it was on the side next the water, and her first leap was over the bank; the hill was not perpendicular, but too steep for Julia to recover her balance——and partly running, and partly falling, the unfortunate girl was plunged into the rapid river. Charles heard the screams of Miss Emmerson, and caught a glimpse of the dress of Julia as she sprang from the carriage. He ran to the bank just in time to see her fall into the water.

    {St. Anthony's Nose = this incident probably occurred at a place on the Mohawk River called today The Noses, between Fonda and Palatine Bridge; there is another St. Anthony's Nose on the Hudson River}

    "Oh, God!" he cried, "Julia!——my Julia!"——and, without seeming to touch the earth, he flew down the bank, and threw himself headlong into the stream. His great exertions and nervous arms soon brought him alongside of Julia, and, happily for them both, an eddy in the waters drew them to the land. With some difficulty Charles was enabled to reach the shore with his burthen.

    Julia was not insensible, nor in the least injured. Her aunt was soon by her side, and folding her in her arms, poured out her feelings in a torrent of tears. Charles would not, however, suffer any delay, or expressions of gratitude——but, forcing both aunt and niece into the carriage, bid Anthony drive rapidly to a tavern known to be at no great distance.-

    On their arrival, both Julia and Charles immediately clad themselves in dry clothes——when Miss Emmerson commanded the presence of the young man in her own room. On entering, Charles found Julia sitting by a fire, a thousand times handsomer, if possible, than ever. Her eyes were beaming with gratitude, and her countenance was glowing with the excitement produced by the danger that she had encountered.

    "Ah! Charles, my dear cousin," cried Julia, rising and meeting him with both hands extended, "I owe my life to your bravery and presence of mind."

    "And mine too, Charles." said Miss Emmerson; "but for you, we should have all gone off the hill together."

    "Yes, if Anthony had not managed the horses admirably, you might have gone indeed," said Charles, with a modest wish to get rid of their praise. But this was an unlucky speech for Charles: he had, unconsciously presented the image of a rival, at the moment that he hoped he filled all the thoughts of Julia.

    "Ah, Antonio!" she cried, "poor Antonio!——and where is he?——Why do you not send for him, dear aunt?" "What, my love, into my bed-chamber!" said Miss Emmerson, in surprise; "fear has made the girl crazy!——But, Charles, where is Anthony?"

    "In the stable, with the horses, I believe," said the youth——"no, here he is, under the window, leading them to the pump."

    "Give him this money," said Miss Emmerson, "and tell him it is for his admirable skill in saving my life."

    Julia saw the danger of an exposure if she interfered, yet she had the curiosity to go to the window, and see how Antonio would conduct in the mortifying dilemma.

    "Here, Anthony," said Charles, "Miss Emmerson has sent you ten dollars, for driving so well, and saving the carriage."

    "Ah! sir, it is no matter——I can ask nothing for that, I'm sure."

    But Charles, accustomed to the backwardness of the common Americans to receive more than the price stipulated, still extended his hand towards the man. Julia saw his embarrassment, and knowing of no other expedient by which to relieve him, said, in a voice of persuasion-

    "Take it for my sake, Antonio——if it be unworthy of you, still, take it, to oblige me."

    The man no longer hesitated, but took the money, and gave Julia a look and a bow that sunk deep into the tablet of her memory——while Charles thought him extremely well paid for what he had done, but made due allowances for the excited state of his cousin's feelings.

    "You perceive," said Miss Emmerson, with a smile, as Julia withdrew from the window, "if Charles be a little afraid of lightning, he has no dread of the water."

    "Ah! I retract my error," cried Julia; "Charles must be brave, or he never could have acted so coolly, and so well."

    "Very true, my love," said Miss Emmerson, excessively gratified to hear her niece praise the youth; "it is the surest test of courage when men behave with presence of mind in novel situations. Those accustomed to particular dangers easily discharge their duties, because they know, as it were instinctively, what is to be done. Thus with Tony——he did well, but, I doubt not, he was horribly frightened——and for the world he could not have done what Charles did." "Not Antonio!" echoed Julia, thrown a little off her guard——"I would pledge my life, aunt, that Antonio would have done as much, if not more, than Charles!"

    "Why did he not, then?——It was his place to stop the carriage——why did he not?"

    "It was his place," said Julia, "to manage the horses, and you acknowledge that he did it well. Duties incurred, no matter how unworthy of us, must be discharged; and although we may be conscious that our merit or our birth entitles us to a different station from the one we fill, yet a noble mind will not cease to perform its duty, even in poverty and disgrace."

    Miss Emmerson listened in surprise; but as her niece often talked in a manner that she did not comprehend, she attributed it to the improvements in education, and was satisfied. But Julia had furnished herself with a clue to what had occasioned her some uneasiness. At one time she thought Antonio ought to have left carriage, horses, every thing, and flown to her rescue, as Charles had done; but now she saw that the probity of his soul forbade it. He had, doubtless, by secret means, induced the owner of the horses to entrust them to his keeping——and could he, a soldier, one used to trust and responsibility, forget his duty in the moment of need? Sooner would the sentinel quit his post unrelieved——sooner the gallant soldier turn his back on his enemy——or sooner would Antonio forget his Julia!

    With this view of the propriety of his conduct, Julia was filled with the desire to let him know that she approved of what he had done. Surely, if any thing can be mortifying to a lover, thought our heroine, it must be to see a rival save the life of his mistress, while imperious duty chains him to another task.

    Young as Julia was, she had already learnt, that it is not enough for our happiness that we have the consciousness of doing right, but it is necessary that others should think we have done so too.

    Accordingly, early the following morning she arose, and wandered around the house, in hopes that chance would throw her lover in her way, and give her an opportunity of relieving his mind from the load of mortification under which she knew he must be labouring. It was seldom that our heroine had been in the public bar-room of a tavern——but, in gliding by the door, she caught a glimpse of Antonio in the bar; and, impelled by her feelings, she was near him before she had time to collect her scattered senses. To be with Antonio, and alone, Julia felt was dangerous; for his passion might bring on a declaration, and betray them both to the public and vulgar notice.——Anxious, therefore, to effect her object at once, she gently laid her hand on his arm——Antonio started and turned, while the glass in his hands fell, with its contents, untasted, on the floor.

    "Rest easy, Antonio," said Julia, in the gentlest possible tones; "to me your conduct is satisfactory, and your secret will never be exposed." So saying, she turned quickly, and glided from the room.

    "As I hope to be saved," said Antonio, "I meant nothing wrong——but should have paid the landlord the moment he came in"——but Julia heard him not. Her errand was happily executed, and she was already by the side of her aunt. On entering the carriage, Julia noticed the eye of Antonio fixed on her with peculiar meaning, and she felt that her conduct had been appreciated.——From this time until the day of their arrival at the house of Mr. Miller, nothing material occurred. Antonio rose every hour in the estimation of Julia, and the young lady noticed a marked difference in her lover's conduct towards her. A few miles before they reached the dwelling, Miss Emmerson observed

    "To-morrow will be the twentieth of September; when I am to know who will be my companion for the winter, Miss Miller or Katherine."

    "Ah! aunt, you may know that now, if I am to decide," said Julia, "it will be Anna, my Anna, surely."

    Her manner was enthusiastic, and her voice a little louder than usual. Antonio turned his head, and their eyes met. Julia read in that glance the approbation of her generous friendship. Miss Emmerson was a good deal hurt at this decision of her niece, who, she thought, knowing her sentiments, would be induced to have been satisfied with the visit to Anna, and taken Katherine for the winter. It was with reluctance that the aunt abandoned this wish, and, after a pause, she continued-

    "Remember, Julia, that you have not my permission to ask your friend until the twentieth——we can stay but one night at Mr. Miller's, but if Anna is to spend the winter in Park Place, we will return this way from the Falls, and take her with us to the city."

    "Thank you, dear aunt," cried Julia, kissing her with an affection that almost reconciled Miss Emmerson to the choice——while Charles Weston whistled "Hail, Columbia! happy land!"

    Julia saw that Antonio pitied her impatience——for the moment he arrived in sight of Mr. Miller's house, he put his horses to their speed, and dashed into the court-yard in the space of a few minutes. For a little while all was confusion and joy. Anna seemed delighted to see her friend, and Julia was in raptures——they flew into each other's arms——and if their parting embrace was embalmed in tears, their meeting was enlivened with smiles. With arms interlocked, they went about the house, the very pictures of joy.——Even Antonio, at the moment, was forgotten, and all devoted to friendship. Nay, as if sensible of the impropriety of his appearance at that critical instant, he withdrew himself from observation——and his delicacy was not lost on Julia. Happy are they who can act in consonance with their own delicate sentiments, and rest satisfied with the knowledge that their motives are understood by those whom it is their greatest desire to please!——Such, too fortunate Antonio, was thy lot——for no emotion of thy sensitive mind, no act of thy scrupulously honourable life, passed unheeded by thy Julia!——so thought the maiden.

    It has been already mentioned that the family of Mr. Miller was large; and amid the tumult and confusion of receiving their guests, no opportunity was afforded to the friends for conversation in private. The evening passed swiftly, and the hour for bed arrived without any other communication between Julia and Anna than whisperings and pressures of the hands, together with a thousand glances of peculiar meaning with the eyes. But Julia did not regret this so much as if Antonio had been unknown——she had been in his company for four days, and knew, or thought she knew, already, as much of his history as Anna herself.——But one thought distressed her, and that was, that his residence might be far from the house of her aunt. This reflection gave the tender-hearted girl real pain, and her principal wish to converse with Anna in private was to ascertain her future lot on this distressing point. No opportunity, however, offered that night, and Julia saw that in the morning her time would be limited, for Miss Emmerson desired Mr. Miller to order her carriage to be in readiness to start so soon as they had breakfasted.

    "When, dear aunt, am I to give Anna the invitation," said Julia, when they were left alone, "if you start so early in the morning?"

    "The proper time will be, my child, immediately before we get into the carriage," said Miss Emmerson, with a sigh of regret at the determination of her niece; "it will then be more pointed, and call for an immediate answer."

    This satisfied Julia, who knew that it would be accepted by her friend, and she soon fell asleep, to dream a little of Anna, and a great deal of Antonio.

    The following morning Julia arose with the sun, and her first employment was to seek her friend. Anna had also risen, and was waiting impatiently for the other's appearance, in the vacant parlour.

    "Ah! dear Julia," said she, catching her arm and dragging her to a window, "I thought you would never come.——Well, are we to spend the winter together——have you spoken to your dear, dear aunt, about it?"

    "You shall know in good time, my Anna," said Julia, mindful of the wishes of her aunt, and speaking with a smile that gave Anna an assurance of her success.

    "Oh! what a delightful winter we will have!" cried Anna, in rapture.

    "I am tongue-tied at present," said Julia, laughing; "but not on every subject," she continued, blushing to the eyes; "do tell me of St. Albans——of Regulus—— who is he?"

    "Who is he?" echoed Anna——"why, nobody!——one must have something to write about, you know, to a friend."

    Julia felt sick and faint——her colour left her cheeks as she forced a smile, and uttered, in a low voice—— "But Antonio——Stanley?"

    "A man of straw," cried Anna, with unfeeling levity; "no such creature in the world, I do assure you!"

    Julia made a mighty effort to conquer her emotion, and wildly seizing Anna by the arm, she pointed to her aunt's coachman, who was at work on his carriage at no great distance, and uttered——"For God's sake, who is HE?"

    "He!" cried Anna, in surprise, "why, your driver——and an ugly wretch he is!——don't you know your own driver yet?"

    Julia burst from her treacherous friend——rushed into the room of her aunt-and throwing herself into the arms of Miss Emmerson, wept for an hour as if her heart would break. Miss Emmerson saw that something had hurt her feelings excessively, and that it was something she would not reveal. Believing that it was a quarrel with her friend, and hoping at all events that it would interrupt their intercourse, Miss Emmerson, instead of trying to discover her niece's secret, employed herself in persuading her to appear before the family with composure, and to take leave of them with decency and respect. In this she succeeded, and the happy moment arrived. Anna in vain pressed near her friend to receive the invitation——and her mother more than once hinted at the thousand pities it was to separate two that loved one another so fondly. No invitation was given——and although Anna spent half a day in searching for a letter, that she insisted must be left in some romantic place, none was ever found, nor did any ever arrive.

    While resting with her foot on the step of the carriage, about to enter it, Julia, whose looks were depressed from shame, saw a fluid that was discoloured with tobacco fall on her shoe and soil her stocking. Raising her eyes with disgust, she perceived that the wind had wafted it from the mouth of Antonio, as he held open the door——and the same blast throwing aside his screen of silk, discovered a face that was deformed with disease, and wanting of an eye!

    Our travellers returned to the city by the way of Montreal and Lake Champlain; nor was it until Julia had been the happy wife of Charles Weston for more than a year, that she could summon resolution to own that she had once been in love, like thousands of her sex, "with a man of straw!"

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