The Virginians, by William Makepeace Thackeray


At Home

Such an appeal as this of our mother would have softened hearts much less obdurate than ours; and we talked of a speedy visit to Virginia, and of hiring all the Young Rachel’s cabin accommodation. But our child must fall ill, for whom the voyage would be dangerous, and from whom the mother of course could not part; and the Young Rachel made her voyage without us that year. Another year there was another difficulty, in my worship’s first attack of the gout (which occupied me a good deal, and afterwards certainly cleared my wits and enlivened my spirits); and now came another much sadder cause for delay in the sad news we received from Jamaica. Some two years after our establishment at the Manor, our dear General returned from his government, a little richer in the world’s goods than when he went away, but having undergone a loss for which no wealth could console him, and after which, indeed, he did not care to remain in the West Indies. My Theo’s poor mother — the most tender and affectionate friend (save one) I have ever had — died abroad of the fever. Her last regret was that she should not be allowed to live to see our children and ourselves in prosperity.

“She sees us, though we do not see her; and she thanks you, George, for having been good to her children,” her husband said.

He, we thought, would not be long ere he joined her. His love for her had been the happiness and business of his whole life. To be away from her seemed living no more. It was pitiable to watch the good man as he sate with us. My wife, in her air and in many tones and gestures, constantly recalled her mother to the bereaved widower’s heart. What cheer we could give him in his calamity we offered; but, especially, little Hetty was now, under Heaven, his chief support and consolation. She had refused more than one advantageous match in the Island, the General told us; and on her return to England, my Lord Wrotham’s heir laid himself at her feet. But she loved best to stay with her father, Hetty said. As long as he was not tired of her she cared for no husband.

“Nay,” said we, when this last great match was proposed, “let the General stay six months with us at the Manor here, and you can have him at Oakhurst for the other six.”

But Hetty declared her father never could bear Oakhurst again now that her mother was gone; and she would marry no man for his coronet and money — not she! The General, when we talked this matter over, said gravely that the child had no desire for marrying, owing possibly to some disappointment in early life, of which she never spoke; and we, respecting her feelings, were for our parts equally silent. My brother Lambert had by this time a college living near to Winchester, and a wife of course to adorn his parsonage. We professed but a moderate degree of liking for this lady, though we made her welcome when she came to us. Her idea regarding our poor Hetty’s determined celibacy was different to that which I had. This Mrs. Jack was a chatterbox of a woman, in the habit of speaking her mind very freely, and of priding herself excessively on her skill in giving pain to her friends.

“My dear Sir George,” she was pleased to say, “I have often and often told our dear Theo that I wouldn’t have a pretty sister in my house to make tea for Jack when I was upstairs, and always to be at hand when I was wanted in the kitchen or nursery, and always to be dressed neat and in her best when I was very likely making pies or puddings or looking to the children. I have every confidence in Jack, of course. I should like to see him look at another woman, indeed! And so I have in Jemima but they don’t come together in my house when I’m upstairs — that I promise you! And so I told my sister Warrington.”

“Am I to understand,” says the General, “that you have done my Lady Warrington the favour to warn her against her sister, my daughter Miss Hester?”

“Yes, pa, of course I have. A duty is a duty, and a woman is a woman, and a man’s a man, as I know very well. Don’t tell me! He is a man. Every man is a man, with all his sanctified airs!”

“You yourself have a married sister, with whom you were staying when my son Jack first had the happiness of making your acquaintance?” remarks the General.

“Yes, of course I have a married sister; every one knows that and I have been as good as a mother to her children, that I have!”

“And am I to gather from your conversation that your attractions proved a powerful temptation for your sister’s husband?”

“Law, General! I don’t know how you can go for to say I ever said any such a thing!” cries Mrs. Jack, red and voluble.

“Don’t you perceive, my dear madam, that it is you who have insinuated as much, not only regarding yourself, but regarding my own two daughters?”

“Never, never, never, as I’m a Christian woman! And it’s most cruel of you to say so, sir. And I do say a sister is best out of the house, that I do! And as Theo’s time is coming, I warn her, that’s all.”

“Have you discovered, my good madam, whether my poor Hetty has stolen any of the spoons? When I came to breakfast this morning, my daughter was alone, and there must have been a score of pieces of silver on the table.”

“Law, sir! who ever said a word about spoons? Did I ever accuse the poor dear? If I did, may I drop down dead at this moment on this hearth-rug! And I ain’t used to be spoke to in this way. And me and Jack have both remarked it; and I’ve done my duty, that I have.” And here Mrs. Jack flounces out of the room, in tears.

“And has the woman had the impudence to tell you this, my child?” asks the General, when Theo (who is a little delicate) comes to the tea-table.

“She has told me every day since she has been here. She comes into my dressing-room to tell me. She comes to my nursery, and says, ‘Ah, I wouldn’t have a sister prowling about my nursery, that I wouldn’t.’ Ah, how pleasant it is to have amiable and well-bred relatives, say I.”

“Thy poor mother has been spared this woman,” groans the General.

“Our mother would have made her better, papa,” says Theo, kissing him.

“Yes, dear.” And I see that both of them are at their prayers.

But this must be owned, that to love one’s relatives is not always an easy task; to live with one’s neighbours is sometimes not amusing. From Jack Lambert’s demeanour next day, I could see that his wife had given him her version of the conversation. Jack was sulky, but not dignified. He was angry, but his anger did not prevent his appetite. He preached a sermon for us which was entirely stupid. And little Miles, once more in sables, sate at his grandfather’s side, his little hand placed in that of the kind old man.

Would he stay and keep house for us during our Virginian trip? The housekeeper should be put under the full domination of Hetty. The butler’s keys should be handed over to him; for Gumbo, not I thought with an over good grace, was to come with us to Virginia: having, it must be premised, united himself with Mrs. Molly in the bonds of matrimony, and peopled a cottage in my park with sundry tawny Gumbos. Under the care of our good General and his daughter we left our house, then; we travelled to London, and thence to Bristol, and our obsequious agent there had the opportunity of declaring that he should offer up prayers for our prosperity, and of vowing that children so beautiful as ours (we had an infant by this time to accompany Miles) were never seen on any ship before. We made a voyage without accident. How strange the feeling was as we landed from our boat at Richmond! A coach and a host of negroes were there in waiting to receive us; and hard by a gentleman on horseback, with negroes in our livery, too, who sprang from his horse and rushed up to embrace us. Not a little charmed were both of us to see our dearest Hal. He rode with us to our mother’s door. Yonder she stood on the steps to welcome us; and Theo knelt down to ask her blessing.

Harry rode in the coach with us as far as our mother’s house; but would not, as he said, spoil sport by entering with us. “She sees me,” he owned, “and we are pretty good friends; but Fanny and she are best apart; and there is no love lost between ’em, I can promise you. Come over to me at the Tavern, George, when thou art free. And tomorrow I shall have the honour to present her sister to Theo. ’Twas only from happening to be in town yesterday that I heard the ship was signalled, and waited to see you. I have sent a negro boy home to my wife, and she’ll be here to pay her respects to my Lady Warrington.” And Harry, after this brief greeting, jumped out of the carriage, and left us to meet our mother alone.

Since I parted from her I had seen a great deal of fine company, and Theo and I had paid our respects to the King and Queen at St. James’s; but we had seen no more stately person than this who welcomed us, and raising my wife from her knee, embraced her and led her into the house. ’Twas a plain, wood-built place, with a gallery round, as our Virginian houses are; but if it had been a palace, with a little empress inside, our reception could not have been more courteous. There was old Nathan, still the major-domo, a score of kind black faces of blacks, grinning welcome. Some whose names I remembered as children were grown out of remembrance, to be sure, to be buxom lads and lasses; and some I had left with black pates were grizzling now with snowy polls: and some who were born since my time were peering at doorways with their great eyes and little naked feet. It was, “I’m little Sip, Master George!” and “I’m Dinah, Sir George!” and “I’m Master Miles’s boy!” says a little chap in a new livery and boots of nature’s blacking. Ere the day was over the whole household had found a pretext for passing before us, and grinning and bowing and making us welcome. I don’t know how many repasts were served to us. In the evening my Lady Warrington had to receive all the gentry of the little town, which she did with perfect grace and good-humour, and I had to shake hands with a few old acquaintances — old enemies I was going to say; but I had come into a fortune and was no longer a naughty prodigal. Why, a drove of fatted calves was killed in my honour! My poor Hal was of the entertainment, but gloomy and crestfallen. His mother spoke to him, but it was as a queen to a rebellious prince, her son who was not yet forgiven. We two slipped away from the company, and went up to the rooms assigned to me: but there, as we began a free conversation, our mother, taper in hand, appeared with her pale face. Did I want anything? Was everything quite as I wished it? She had peeped in at the dearest children, who were sleeping like cherubs. How she did caress them, and delight over them! How she was charmed with Miles’s dominating airs, and the little Theo’s smiles and dimples! “Supper is just coming on the table, Sir George. If you like our cookery better than the tavern, Henry, I beg you to stay.” What a different welcome there was in the words and tone addressed to each of us! Hal hung down his head, and followed to the lower room. A clergyman begged a blessing on the meal. He touched with not a little art and eloquence upon our arrival at home, upon our safe passage across the stormy waters, upon the love and forgiveness which awaited us in the mansions of the Heavenly Parent when the storms of life were over.

Here was a new clergyman, quite unlike some whom I remembered about us in earlier days, and I praised him, but Madam Esmond shook her head. She was afraid his principles were very dangerous: she was afraid others had adopted those dangerous principles. Had I not seen the paper signed by the burgesses and merchants at Williamsburg the year before — the Lees, Randolphs, Bassets, Washingtons, and the like, and oh, my dear, that I should have to say it, our name, that is, your brother’s (by what influence I do not like to say), and this unhappy Mr. Belman’s who begged a blessing last night?

If there had been quarrels in our little colonial society when I left home, what were these to the feuds I found raging on my return? We had sent the Stamp Act to America, and been forced to repeal it. Then we must try a new set of duties on glass, paper, and what not, and repeal that Act too, with the exception of a duty on tea. From Boston to Charleston the tea was confiscated. Even my mother, loyal as she was, gave up her favourite drink; and my poor wife would have had to forgo hers, but we had brought a quantity for our private drinking on board ship, which had paid four times as much duty at home. Not that I for my part would have hesitated about paying duty. The home Government must have some means of revenue, or its pretensions to authority were idle. They say the colonies were tried and tyrannised over; I say the home Government was tried and tyrannised over. (’Tis but an affair of argument and history, now; we tried the question, and were beat; and the matter is settled as completely as the conquest of Britain by the Normans.) And all along, from conviction I trust, I own to have taken the British side of the quarrel. In that brief and unfortunate experience of war which I had had in my early life, the universal cry of the army and well-affected persons was, that Mr. Braddock’s expedition had failed, and defeat and disaster had fallen upon us in consequence of the remissness, the selfishness, and the rapacity of many of the very people for whose defence against the French arms had been taken up. The colonists were for having all done for them, and for doing nothing, They made extortionate bargains with the champions who came to defend them; they failed in contracts; they furnished niggardly supplies; they multiplied delays until the hour for beneficial action was past, and until the catastrophe came which never need have occurred but for their ill-will. What shouts of joy were there, and what ovations for the great British Minister who had devised and effected the conquest of Canada! Monsieur de Vaudreuil said justly that that conquest was the signal for the defection of the North American colonies from their allegiance to Great Britain; and my Lord Chatham, having done his best to achieve the first part of the scheme, contributed more than any man in England towards the completion of it. The colonies were insurgent, and he applauded their rebellion. What scores of thousands of waverers must he have encouraged into resistance! It was a general who says to an army in revolt, “God save the king! My men, you have a right to mutiny!” No wonder they set up his statue in this town, and his picture in t’other; whilst here and there they hanged Ministers and Governors in effigy. To our Virginian town of Williamsburg, some wiseacres must subscribe to bring over a portrait of my lord, in the habit of a Roman orator speaking in the Forum, to be sure, and pointing to the palace of Whitehall, and the special window out of which Charles I. was beheaded! Here was a neat allegory, and a pretty compliment to a British statesman! I hear, however, that my lord’s head was painted from a bust, and so was taken off without his knowledge.

Now my country is England, not America or Virginia; and I take, or rather took, the English side of the dispute. My sympathies had always been with home, where I was now a squire and a citizen: but had my lot been to plant tobacco, and live on the banks of James River or Potomac, no doubt my opinions had been altered. When, for instance, I visited my brother at his new house and plantation, I found him and his wife as staunch Americans as we were British. We had some words upon the matter in dispute — who had not in those troublesome times? — but our argument was carried on without rancour; even my new sister could not bring us to that, though she did her best when we were together, and in the curtain lectures which I have no doubt she inflicted on her spouse, like a notable housewife as she was. But we trusted in each other so entirely that even Harry’s duty towards his wife would not make him quarrel with his brother. He loved me from old times, when my word was law with him; he still protested that he and every Virginian gentleman of his side was loyal to the Crown. War was not declared as yet, and gentlemen of different opinions were courteous enough to one another. Nay, at our public dinners and festivals, the health of the King was still ostentatiously drunk; and the assembly of every colony, though preparing for Congress, though resisting all attempts at taxation on the part of the home authorities, was loud in its expressions of regard for the King our Father, and pathetic in its appeals to that paternal sovereign to put away evil counsellors from him, and listen to the voice of moderation and reason. Up to the last, our Virginian gentry were a grave, orderly, aristocratic folk, with the strongest sense of their own dignity and station. In later days, and nearer home, we have heard of fraternisation and equality. Amongst the great folks of our Old World I have never seen a gentleman standing more on his dignity and maintaining it better than Mr. Washington: no — not the King against whom he took arms. In the eyes of all the gentry of the French court, who gaily joined in the crusade against us, and so took their revenge for Canada, the great American chief always appeared as anax andron, and they allowed that his better could not be seen in Versailles itself. Though they were quarrelling with the Governor, the gentlemen of the House of Burgesses still maintained amicable relations with him, and exchanged dignified courtesies. When my Lord Bottetourt arrived, and held his court at Williamsburg in no small splendour and state, all the gentry waited upon him, Madam Esmond included. And at his death, Lord Dunmore, who succeeded him, and brought a fine family with him, was treated with the utmost respect by our gentry privately, though publicly the House of Assembly and the Governor were at war.

Their quarrels are a matter of history, and concern me personally only so far as this, that our burgesses being convened for the 1st of March in the year after my arrival in Virginia, it was agreed that we should all pay a visit to our capital, and our duty to the Governor. Since Harry’s unfortunate marriage Madam Esmond had not performed this duty, though always previously accustomed to pay it; but now that her eldest son was arrived in the colony, my mother opined that we must certainly wait upon his Excellency the Governor, nor were we sorry, perhaps, to get away from our little Richmond to enjoy the gaieties of the provincial capital. Madam engaged, and at a great price, the best house to be had at Richmond for herself and her family. Now I was rich, her generosity was curious. I had more than once to interpose (her old servants likewise wondering at her new way of life), and beg her not to be so lavish. But she gently said, in former days she had occasion to save, which now existed no more. Harry had enough, sure, with such a wife as he had taken out of the housekeeper’s room. If she chose to be a little extravagant now, why should she hesitate? She had not her dearest daughter and grandchildren with her every day (she fell in love with all three of them, and spoiled them as much as they were capable of being spoiled). Besides, in former days I could not accuse her of too much extravagance, and this I think was almost the only allusion she made to the pecuniary differences between us. So she had her people dressed in their best, and her best wines, plate, and furniture from Castlewood by sea at no small charge, and her dress in which she had been married in George II.‘s reign, and we all flattered ourselves that our coach made the greatest figure of any except his Excellency’s, and we engaged Signor Formicalo, his Excellency’s major-domo, to superintend the series of feasts that were given in my honour; and more fleshpots were set a-stewing in our kitchens in one month, our servants said, than had been known in the family since the young gentlemen went away. So great was Theo’s influence over my mother, that she actually persuaded her, that year, to receive our sister Fanny, Hal’s wife, who would have stayed upon the plantation rather than face Madam Esmond. But, trusting to Theo’s promise of amnesty, Fanny (to whose house we had paid more than one visit) came up to town, and made her curtsey to Madam Esmond, and was forgiven. And rather than be forgiven in that way, I own, for my part, that I would prefer perdition or utter persecution.

“You know these, my dear?” says Madam Esmond, pointing to her fine silver sconces. “Fanny hath often cleaned them when she was with me at Castlewood. And this dress, too, Fanny knows, I dare say? Her poor mother had the care of it. I always had the greatest confidence in her.”

Here there is wrath flashing from Fanny’s eyes, which our mother, who has forgiven her, does not perceive — not she!

“Oh, she was a treasure to me!” Madam resumes. “I never should have nursed my boys through their illnesses but for your mother’s admirable care of them. Colonel Lee, permit me to present you to my daughter, my Lady Warrington. Her ladyship is a neighbour of your relatives the Bunburys at home. Here comes his Excellency. Welcome, my lord!”

And our princess performs before his lordship one of those curtseys of which she was not a little proud; and I fancy I see some of the company venturing to smile.

“By George! madam,” says Mr. Lee, “since Count Borulawski, I have not seen a bow so elegant as your ladyship’s.”

“And pray, sir, who was Count Borulawski?” asks Madam.

“He was a nobleman high in favour with his Polish Majesty,” replies Mr. Lee. “May I ask you, madam, to present me to your distinguished son?”

“This is Sir George Warrington,” says my mother, pointing to me.

“Pardon me, madam. I meant Captain Warrington, who was by Mr. Wolfe’s side when he died. I had been contented to share his fate, so I had been near him.”

And the ardent Lee swaggers up to Harry, and takes his hand with respect, and pays him a compliment or two, which makes me, at least, pardon him for his late impertinence; for my dearest Hal walks gloomily through his mother’s rooms in his old uniform of the famous corps which he has quitted.

We had had many meetings, which the stern mother could not interrupt, and in which that instinctive love which bound us to one another, and which nothing could destroy, had opportunity to speak. Entirely unlike each other in our pursuits, our tastes, our opinions — his life being one of eager exercise, active sport, and all the amusements of the field, while mine is to dawdle over books and spend my time in languid self-contemplation — we have, nevertheless, had such a sympathy as almost passes the love of women. My poor Hal confessed as much to me, for his part, in his artless manner, when we went away without wives or womankind, except a few negroes left in the place, and passed a week at Castlewood together.

The ladies did not love each other. I know enough of my Lady Theo, to see after a very few glances whether or not she takes a liking to another of her amiable sex. All my powers of persuasion or command fail to change the stubborn creature’s opinion. Had she ever said a word against Mrs. This or Miss That? Not she! Has she been otherwise than civil? No, assuredly! My Lady Theo is polite to a beggar-woman, treats her kitchenmaids like duchesses, and murmurs a compliment to the dentist for his elegant manner of pulling her tooth out. She would black my boots, or clean the grate, if I ordained it (always looking like a duchess the while); but as soon as I say to her, “My dear creature, be fond of this lady, or t’other!” all obedience ceases; she executes the most refined curtseys; smiles and kisses even to order; but performs that mysterious undefinable freemasonic signal, which passes between women, by which each knows that the other hates her. So, with regard to Fanny, we had met at her house, and at others. I remembered her affectionately from old days, I fully credited poor Hal’s violent protests and tearful oaths, that, by George, it was our mother’s persecution which made him marry her. He couldn’t stand by and see a poor thing tortured as she was, without coming to her rescue; no, by heavens, he couldn’t! I say I believed all this; and had for my sister-inlaw a genuine compassion, as well as an early regard; and yet I had no love to give her; and, in reply to Hal’s passionate outbreaks in praise of her beauty and worth, and eager queries to me whether I did not think her a perfect paragon? I could only answer with faint compliments or vague approval, feeling all the while that I was disappointing my poor ardent fellow, and cursing inwardly that revolt against flattery and falsehood into which I sometimes frantically rush. Why should I not say, “Yes dear Hal, thy wife is a paragon; her singing is delightful, her hair and shape are beautiful;” as I might have said by a little common stretch of politeness? Why could I not cajole this or that stupid neighbour or relative, as I have heard Theo do a thousand times, finding all sorts of lively prattle to amuse them, whilst I sit before them dumb and gloomy? I say it was a sin not to have more words to say in praise of Fanny. We ought to have praised her, we ought to have liked her. My Lady Warrington certainly ought to have liked her, for she can play the hypocrite, and I cannot. And there was this young creature — pretty, graceful, shaped like a nymph, with beautiful black eyes — and we cared for them no more than for two gooseberries! At Warrington my wife and I, when we pretended to compare notes, elaborately complimented each other on our new sister’s beauty. What lovely eyes! — Oh yes! What a sweet little dimple on her chin! — Ah oui! What wonderful little feet! — Perfectly Chinese! where should we in London get slippers small enough for her? And, these compliments exhausted, we knew that we did not like Fanny the value of one penny-piece; we knew that we disliked her; we knew that we ha . . . Well, what hypocrites women are! We heard from many quarters how eagerly my brother had taken up the new anti-English opinion, and what a champion he was of so-called American rights and freedom. “It is her doing, my dear,” says I to my wife. “If I had said so much, I am sure you would have scolded me,” says my Lady Warrington, laughing: and I did straightway begin to scold her, and say it was most cruel of her to suspect our new sister; and what earthly right had we to do so? But I say again, I know Madam Theo so well, that when once she has got a prejudice against a person in her little head, not all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men will get it out again. I vow nothing would induce her to believe that Harry was not henpecked — nothing.

Well, we went to Castlewood together without the women, and stayed at the dreary, dear old place, where we had been so happy, and I, at least, so gloomy. It was winter, and duck-time, and Harry went away to the river, and shot dozens and scores and bushels of canvasbacks, whilst I remained in my grandfather’s library amongst the old mouldering books which I loved in my childhood — which I see in a dim vision still resting on a little boy’s lap, as he sits by an old white-headed gentleman’s knee. I read my books; I slept in my own bed and room — religiously kept, as my mother told me, and left as on the day when I went to Europe. Hal’s cheery voice would wake me, as of old. Like all men who love to go a-field, he was an early riser: he would come and wake me, and sit on the foot of the bed and perfume the air with his morning pipe, as the house negroes laid great logs on the fire. It was a happy time! Old Nathan had told me of cunning crypts where ancestral rum and claret were deposited. We had had cares, struggles, battles, bitter griefs, and disappointments; we were boys again as we sat there together. I am a boy now even as I think of the time.

That unlucky tea-tax, which alone of the taxes lately imposed upon the colonies, the home Government was determined to retain, was met with defiance throughout America. ’Tis true we paid a shilling in the pound at home, and asked only threepence from Boston or Charleston; but as a question of principle, the impost was refused by the provinces, which indeed ever showed a most spirited determination to pay as little as they could help. In Charleston the tea-ships were unloaded, and the cargoes stored in cellars. From New York and Philadelphia, the vessels were turned back to London. In Boston (where there was an armed force, whom the inhabitants were perpetually mobbing), certain patriots, painted and disguised as Indians, boarded the ships, and flung the obnoxious cargoes into the water. The wrath of our white Father was kindled against this city of Mohocks in masquerade. The notable Boston Port Bill was brought forward in the British House of Commons; the port was closed, and the Custom House removed to Salem. The Massachusetts Charter was annulled; and — in just apprehension that riots might ensue, in dealing with the perpetrators of which the colonial courts might be led to act partially, — Parliament decreed that persons indicted for acts of violence and armed resistance, might be sent home, or to another colony, for trial. If such acts set all America in a flame, they certainly drove all wellwisbers of our country into a fury. I might have sentenced Master Miles Warrington, at five years old, to a whipping, and he would have cried, taken down his little small-clothes and submitted: but suppose I offered (and he richly deserving it) to chastise Captain Miles of the Prince’s Dragoons? He would whirl my paternal cane out of my hand, box my hair-powder out of my ears. Lord a-mercy! I tremble at the very idea of the controversy? He would assert his independence in a word; and if, I say, I think the home Parliament had a right to levy taxes in the colonies, I own that we took means most captious, most insolent, most irritating, and, above all, most impotent, to assert our claim.

My Lord Dunmore, our Governor of Virginia, upon Lord Bottetourt’s death, received me into some intimacy soon after my arrival in the colony, being willing to live on good terms with all our gentry. My mother’s severe loyalty was no secret to him; indeed, she waved the king’s banner in all companies, and talked so loudly and resolutely, that Randolph and Patrick Henry himself were struck dumb before her. It was Madam Esmond’s celebrated reputation for loyalty (his Excellency laughingly told me) which induced him to receive her eldest son to grace.

“I have had the worst character of you from home,” his lordship said. “Little birds whisper to me, Sir George, that you are a man of the most dangerous principles. You are a friend of Mr. Wilkes and Alderman Beckford. I am not sure you have not been at Medmenham Abbey. You have lived with players, poets, and all sorts of wild people. I have been warned against you, sir, and I find you ——”

“Not so black as I have been painted,” I interrupted his lordship, with a smile.

“Faith,” says my lord, “if I tell Sir George Warrington that he seems to me a very harmless, quiet gentleman, and that ’tis a great relief to me to talk to him amidst these loud politicians; these lawyers with their perpetual noise about Greece and Rome; these Virginian squires who are for ever professing their loyalty and respect, whilst they are shaking their fists in my face — I hope nobody overhears us,” says my lord, with an arch smile, “and nobody will carry my opinions home.”

His lordship’s ill opinion having been removed by a better knowledge of me, our acquaintance daily grew more intimate; and, especially between the ladies of his family and my own, a close friendship arose — between them and my wife at least. Hal’s wife, received kindly at the little provincial court, as all ladies were, made herself by no means popular there by the hot and eager political tone which she adopted. She assailed all the Government measures with indiscriminating acrimony. Were they lenient? She said the perfidious British Government was only preparing a snare, and biding its time until it could forge heavier chains for unhappy America. Were they angry? Why did not every American citizen rise, assert his rights as a freeman, and serve every British governor, officer, soldier, as they had treated the East India Company’s tea? My mother, on the other hand, was pleased to express her opinions with equal frankness, and, indeed, to press her advice upon his Excellency with a volubility which may have fatigued that representative of the Sovereign. Call out the militia; send for fresh troops from New York, from home, from anywhere; lock up the Capitol! (this advice was followed, it must be owned) and send every one of the ringleaders amongst those wicked burgesses to prison! was Madam Esmond’s daily counsel to the Governor by word and letter. And if not only the burgesses, but the burgesses’ wives could have been led off to punishment and captivity, I think this Brutus of a woman would scarce have appealed against the sentence.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00