The Virginians, by William Makepeace Thackeray


Under Vine and Fig-Tree

Need I describe, young folks, the delights of the meeting at home, and the mother’s happiness with all her brood once more under her fond wings? It was wrote in her face, and acknowledged on her knees. Our house was large enough for all, but Aunt Hetty would not stay in it. She said, fairly, that to resign her motherhood over the elder children, who had been hers for nearly three years, cost her too great a pang; and she could not bear for yet a while to be with them, and to submit to take only the second place. So she and her father went away to a house at Bury St. Edmunds, not far from us, where they lived, and where she spoiled her eldest nephew and niece in private. It was the year after we came home that Mr. B, the Jamaica planter, died, who left her the half of his fortune; and then I heard, for the first time, how the worthy gentleman had been greatly enamoured of her in Jamaica, and, though she had refused him, had thus shown his constancy to her. Heaven knows how much property of Aunt Hetty’s Monsieur Miles hath already devoured! the price of his commission and outfit; his gorgeous uniforms; his play-debts and little transactions in the Minories; — do you think, sirrah, I do not know what human nature is; what is the cost of Pall Mall taverns, petits soupers, play even in moderation — at the Cocoa-Tree; and that a gentleman cannot purchase all these enjoyments with the five hundred a year which I allow him? Aunt Hetty declares she has made up her mind to be an old maid. “I made a vow never to marry until I could find a man as good as my dear father,” she said; “and I never did, Sir George. No, my dearest Theo, not half as good; and Sir George may put that in his pipe and smoke it.”

And yet when the good General died (calm, and full of years, and glad to depart), I think it was my wife who shed the most tears. “I weep because I think I did not love him enough,” said the tender creature: whereas Hetty scarce departed from her calm, at least outwardly and before any of us; talks of him constantly still, as though he were alive; recalls his merry sayings, his gentle, kind ways with his children (when she brightens up and looks herself quite a girl again), and sits cheerfully looking up to the slab in church which records his name and some of his virtues, and for once tells no lies.

I had fancied, sometimes, that my brother Hal, for whom Hetty had a juvenile passion, always retained a hold of her heart; and when he came to see us, ten years ago, I told him of this childish romance of Het’s, with the hope, I own, that he would ask her to replace Mrs. Fanny, who had been gathered to her fathers, and regarding whom my wife (with her usual propensity to consider herself a miserable sinner) always reproached herself, because, forsooth, she did not regret Fanny enough. Hal, when he came to us, was plunged in grief about her loss; and vowed that the world did not contain such another woman. Our dear old General, who was still in life then, took him in and housed him, as he had done in the happy early days. The women played him the very same tunes which he had heard when a boy at Oakhurst. Everybody’s heart was very soft with old recollections, and Harry never tired of pouring out his griefs and his recitals of his wife’s virtues to Het, and anon of talking fondly about his dear Aunt Lambert, whom he loved with all his heart, and whose praises, you may be sure, were welcome to the faithful old husband, out of whose thoughts his wife’s memory was never, I believe, absent for any three waking minutes of the day.

General Hal went to Paris as an American General Officer in his blue and yellow (which Mr. Fox and other gentlemen had brought into fashion here likewise), and was made much of at Versailles, although he was presented by Monsieur le Marquis de Lafayette to the Most Christian King and Queen, who did not love Monsieur le Marquis. And I believe a Marquise took a fancy to the Virginian General, and would have married him out of hand, had he not resisted, and fled back to England and Warrington and Bury again, especially to the latter place, where the folks would listen to him as he talked about his late wife, with an endless patience and sympathy. As for us, who had known the poor paragon, we were civil, but not quite so enthusiastic regarding her, and rather puzzled sometimes to answer our children’s questions about Uncle Hal’s angel wife.

The two Generals and myself, and Captain Miles, and Parson Blake (who was knocked over at Monmouth, the year after I left America, and came home to change his coat, and take my living), used to fight the battles of the Revolution over our bottle; and the parson used to cry, “By Jupiter, General” (he compounded for Jupiter, when he laid down his military habit), “you are the Tory, and Sir George is the Whig! He is always finding fault with our leaders, and you are for ever standing up for them; and when I prayed for the King last Sunday, I heard you following me quite loud.”

“And so I do, Blake, with all my heart; I can’t forget I wore his coat,” says Hal.

“Ah, if Wolfe had been alive for twenty years more!” says Lambert.

“Ah, sir,” cries Hal, “you should hear the General talk about him!”

“What General?” says I (to vex him).

“My General,” says Hal, standing up, and filling a bumper. “His Excellency General George Washington!”

“With all my heart,” cry I, but the parson looks as if he did not like the toast or the claret.

Hal never tired in speaking of his General; and it was on some such evening of friendly converse, that he told us how he had actually been in disgrace with this General whom he loved so fondly. Their difference seems to have been about Monsieur le Marquis de Lafayette before mentioned, who played such a fine part in history of late, and who hath so suddenly disappeared out of it. His previous rank in our own service, and his acknowledged gallantry during the war, ought to have secured Colonel Warrington’s promotion in the Continental army, where a whipper-snapper like M. de Lafayette had but to arrive and straightway to be complimented by Congress with the rank of Major-General. Hal, with the freedom of an old soldier, had expressed himself somewhat contemptuously regarding some of the appointments made by Congress, with whom all sorts of miserable intrigues and cabals were set to work by unscrupulous officers who were greedy of promotion. Mr. Warrington, imitating perhaps in this the example of his now illustrious friend of Mount Vernon, affected to make the war en gentilhomme took his pay, to be sure, but spent it upon comforts and clothing for his men, and as for rank, declared it was a matter of no earthly concern to him, and that he would as soon serve as colonel as in any higher grade. No doubt he added contemptuous remarks regarding certain General Officers of Congress army, their origin, and the causes of their advancement: notably he was very angry about the sudden promotion of the young French lad just named — the Marquis, as they loved to call him — in the Republican army, and who, by the way, was a prodigious favourite of the Chief himself. There were not three officers in the whole Continental force (after poor madcap Lee was taken prisoner and disgraced) who could speak the Marquis’s language, so that Hal could judge the young Major-General more closely and familiarly than other gentlemen, including the Commander-inChief himself. Mr. Washington good-naturedly rated friend Hal for being jealous of the beardless commander of Auvergne; was himself not a little pleased by the filial regard and profound veneration which the enthusiastic young nobleman always showed for him; and had, moreover, the very best politic reasons for treating the Marquis with friendship and favour.

Meanwhile, as it afterwards turned out, the Commander-inChief was most urgently pressing Colonel Warrington’s promotion upon Congress; and, as if his difficulties before the enemy were not enough, he being at this hard time of winter entrenched at Valley Forge, commanding five or six thousand men at the most, almost without fire, blankets, food, or ammunition, in the face of Sir William Howe’s army, which was perfectly appointed, and three times as numerous as his own; as if, I say, this difficulty was not enough to try him, he had further to encounter the cowardly distrust of Congress, and insubordination and conspiracy amongst the officers in his own camp. During the awful winter of ‘77, when one blow struck by the sluggard at the head of the British forces might have ended the war, and all was doubt, confusion, despair in the opposite camp (save in one indomitable breast alone), my brother had an interview with the Chief, which he has subsequently described to me, and of which Hal could never speak without giving way to the deepest emotion. Mr. Washington had won no such triumph as that which the dare-devil courage of Arnold and the elegant imbecility of Burgoyne had procured for Gates and the northern army. Save in one or two minor encounters, which proved how daring his bravery was, and how unceasing his watchfulness, General Washington had met with defeat after defeat from an enemy in all points his superior. The Congress mistrusted him. Many an officer in his own camp hated him. Those who had been disappointed in ambition, those who had been detected in peculation, those whose selfishness or incapacity his honest eyes had spied out — were all more, or less in league against him. Gates was the chief towards whom the malcontents turned. Mr. Gates was the only genius fit to conduct the war; and with a vaingloriousness, which he afterwards generously owned, he did not refuse the homage which was paid him.

To show how dreadful were the troubles and anxieties with which General Washington had to contend, I may mention what at this time was called the “Conway Cabal.” A certain Irishman — a Chevalier of St. Louis, and an officer in the French service — arrived in America early in the year ‘77 in quest of military employment. He was speedily appointed to the rank of brigadier, and could not be contented, forsooth, without an immediate promotion to be major-general.

Mr. C. had friends at Congress, who, as the General-inChief was informed, had promised him his speedy promotion. General Washington remonstrated, representing the injustice of promoting to the highest rank the youngest brigadier in the service; and whilst the matter was pending, was put in possession of a letter from Conway to General Gates, whom he complimented, saying, that “Heaven had been determined to save America, or a weak general and bad councillors would have ruined it.” The General enclosed the note to Mr. Conway, without a word of comment; and Conway offered his resignation, which was refused by Congress, who appointed him Inspector-General of the army, with the rank of Major-General.

“And it was at this time,” says Harry (with many passionate exclamations indicating his rage with himself and his admiration of his leader), “when, by heavens, the glorious Chief was oppressed by troubles enough to drive ten thousand men mad — that I must interfere with my jealousies about the Frenchman! I had not said much, only some nonsense to Greene and Cadwalader about getting some frogs against the Frenchman came to dine with us, and having a bagful of Marquises over from Paris, as we were not able to command ourselves; — but I should have known the Chief’s troubles, and that he had a better head than mine, and might have had the grace to hold my tongue.

“For a while the General said nothing, but I could remark, by the coldness of his demeanour, that something had occurred to create a schism between him and me. Mrs. Washington, who had come to camp, also saw that something was wrong. Women have artful ways of soothing men and finding their secrets out. I am not sure that I should have ever tried to learn the cause of the General’s displeasure, for I am as proud as he is, and besides” (says Hal), “when the Chief is angry, it was not pleasant coming near him, I can promise you.” My brother was indeed subjugated by his old friend, and obeyed him and bowed before him as a boy before a schoolmaster.

“At last,” Hal resumed, “Mrs. Washington found out the mystery. ‘Speak to me after dinner, Colonel Hal,’ says she. ‘Come out to the parade-ground, before the dining-house, and I will tell you all.’ I left a half-score of general officers and brigadiers drinking round the General’s table, and found Mrs. Washington waiting for me. She then told me it was the speech I had made about the box of Marquises, with which the General was offended. ‘I should not have heeded it in another,’ he had said, ‘but I never thought Harry Warrington would have joined against me.’

“I had to wait on him for the word that night, and found him alone at his table. ‘Can your Excellency give me five minutes’ time?’ I said, with my heart in my mouth. ‘Yes, surely, sir,’ says he, pointing to the other chair. ‘Will you please to be seated?’

“‘It used not always to be Sir and Colonel Warrington, between me and your Excellency,’ I said.

“He said, calmly, ‘The times are altered.’

“‘Et nos mutamur in illis,’ says I. ‘Times and people are both changed.’

“‘You had some business with me?’ he asked.

“‘Am I speaking to the Commander-inChief or to my old friend?’ I asked.

“He looked at me gravely. ‘Well — to both, sir,’ he said. ‘Pray sit, Harry.’

“‘If to General Washington, I tell his Excellency that I, and many officers of this army, are not well pleased to see a boy of twenty made a major-general over us, because he is a Marquis, and because he can’t speak the English language. If I speak to my old friend, I have to say that he has shown me very little of trust or friendship for the last few weeks; and that I have no desire to sit at your table, and have impertinent remarks made by others there, of the way in which his Excellency turns his back on me.’

“‘Which charge shall I take first, Harry?’ he asked, turning his chair away from the table, and crossing his legs as if ready for a talk. ‘You are jealous, as I gather, about the Marquis?’

“‘Jealous, sir!’ says I. ‘An aide-de-camp of Mr. Wolfe is not jealous of a Jack-a-dandy who, five years ago, was being whipped at school!’

“‘You yourself declined higher rank than that which you hold,’ says the Chief, turning a little red.

“‘But I never bargained to have a macaroni Marquis to command me!’ I cried. ‘I will not, for one, carry the young gentleman’s orders; and since Congress and your Excellency chooses to take your generals out of the nursery, I shall humbly ask leave to resign, and retire to my plantation.’

“‘Do, Harry; that is true friendship!’ says the Chief, with a gentleness that surprised me. ‘Now that your old friend is in a difficulty, ’tis surely the best time to leave him.’

“‘Sir!’ says I.

“‘Do as so many of the rest are doing, Mr. Warrington. Et tu, Brute, as the play says. Well, well, Harry! I did not think it of you; but, at least, you are in the fashion.’

“‘You asked which charge you should take first?’ I said.

“‘Ch, the promotion of the Marquis? I recommended the appointment to Congress, no doubt; and you and other gentlemen disapprove it.’

“‘I have spoken for myself, sir,’ says I.

“‘If you take me in that tone, Colonel Warrington, I have nothing to answer!’ says the Chief, rising up very fiercely; ‘and presume that I can recommend officers for promotion without asking your previous sanction.’

“‘Being on that tone, sir,’ says I, ‘let me respectfully offer my resignation to your Excellency, founding my desire to resign upon the fact, that Congress, at your Excellency’s recommendation, offers its highest commands to boys of twenty, who are scarcely even acquainted with our language.’ And I rise up and make his Excellency a bow.

“‘Great heavens, Harry!’ he cries —(about this Marquis’s appointment he was beaten, that was the fact, and he could not reply to me), ‘can’t you believe that in this critical time of our affairs, there are reasons why special favours should be shown to the first Frenchman of distinction who comes amongst us?’

“‘No doubt, sir. If your Excellency acknowledges that Monsieur de Lafayette’s merits have nothing to do with the question.’

“‘I acknowledge or deny nothing, sir!’ says the General, with a stamp of his foot, and looking as though he could be terribly angry if he would. ‘Am I here to be catechised by you? Stay. Hark, Harry! I speak to you as a man of the world — nay, as an old friend. This appointment humiliates you and others, you say? Be it so! Must we not bear humiliation, along with the other burthens and griefs, for the sake of our country? It is no more just perhaps that the Marquis should be set over you gentlemen, than that your Prince Ferdinand or your Prince of Wales at home should have a command over veterans. But if in appointing this young nobleman we please a whole nation, and bring ourselves twenty millions of allies, will you and other gentlemen sulk because we do him honour? ’Tis easy to sneer at him (though, believe me, the Marquis has many more merits than you allow him); to my mind it were more generous, as well as more polite, of Harry Warrington to welcome this stranger for the sake of the prodigious benefit our country may draw from him — not to laugh at his peculiarities, but to aid him and help his ignorance by your experience as an old soldier: that is what I would do — that is the part I expected of thee — for it is the generous and manly one, Harry: but you choose to join my enemies, and when I am in trouble you say you will leave me. That is why I have been hurt: that is why I have been cold. I thought I might count on your friendship — and — and you can tell whether I was right or no. I relied on you as on a brother, and you come and tell me you will resign. Be it so! Being embarked in this contest, by God’s will I will see it to an end. You are not the first, Mr. Warrington, has left me on the way.’

“He spoke with so much tenderness, and as he spoke his face wore such a look of unhappiness, that an extreme remorse and pity seized me, and I called out I know not what incoherent expressions regarding old times, and vowed that if he would say the word, I never would leave him. You never loved him, George,” says my brother, turning to me, “but I did beyond all mortal men; and, though I am not clever like you, I think my instinct was in the right. He has a greatness not approached by other men”

“I don’t say no, brother,” said I, “now.”

“Greatness, pooh!” says the parson, growling over his wine.

“We walked into Mrs. Washington’s tea-room arm-inarm,” Hal resumed; “she looked up quite kind, and saw we were friends. ‘Is it all over, Colonel Harry?’ she whispered. ‘I know he has applied ever so often about your promotion ——’

“‘I never will take it,’ says I. And that is how I came to do penance,” says Harry, telling me the story, “with Lafayette the next winter.” (Hal could imitate the Frenchman very well.) “‘I will go weez heem,’ says I. ‘I know the way to Quebec, and when we are not in action with Sir Guy, I can hear his Excellency the Major-General say his lesson.’ There was no fight, you know we could get no army to act in Canada, and returned to headquarters; and what do you think disturbed the Frenchman most? The idea that people would laugh at him, because his command had come to nothing. And so they did laugh at him, and almost to his face too, and who could help it? If our Chief had any weak point it was this Marquis.

“After our little difference we became as great friends as before — if a man may be said to be friends with a Sovereign Prince, for as such I somehow could not help regarding the General: and one night, when we had sate the company out, we talked of old times, and the jolly days of sport we had together both before and after Braddock’s; and that pretty duel you were near having when we were boys. He laughed about it, and said he never saw a man look more wicked and more bent on killing than you did: ‘And to do Sir George justice, I think he has hated me ever since,’ says the Chief. ‘Ah!’ he added, ‘an open enemy I can face readily enough. ’Tis the secret foe who causes the doubt and anguish! We have sat with more than one at my table today, to whom I am obliged to show a face of civility, whose hands I must take when they are offered, though I know they are stabbing my reputation, and are eager to pull me down from my place. You spoke but lately of being humiliated because a junior was set over you in command. What humiliation is yours compared to mine, who have to play the farce of welcome to these traitors; who have to bear the neglect of Congress, and see men who have insulted me promoted in my own army? If I consulted my own feelings as a man, would I continue in this command? You know whether my temper is naturally warm or not, and whether as a private gentleman I should be likely to suffer such slights and outrages as are put upon me daily; but in the advancement of the sacred cause in which we are engaged, we have to endure not only hardship and danger, but calumny and wrong, and may God give us strength to do our duty!’ And then the General showed me the papers regarding the affair of that fellow Conway, whom Congress promoted in spite of the intrigue, and down whose black throat John Cadwalader sent the best ball he ever fired in his life.

“And it was here,” said Hal, concluding his story, “as I looked at the Chief talking at night in the silence of the camp, and remembered how lonely he was, what an awful responsibility he carried, how spies and traitors were eating out of his dish, and an enemy lay in front of him who might at any time overpower him, that I thought, ‘Sure, this is the greatest man now in the world; and what a wretch I am to think of my jealousies and annoyances, whilst he is walking serenely under his immense cares!’”

“We talked but now of Wolfe,” said I. “Here, indeed, is a greater than Wolfe. To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it; to go through intrigue spotless; and to forgo even ambition when the end is gained — who can say this is not greatness, or show the other Englishman who has achieved so much?”

“I wonder, Sir George, you did not take Mr. Washington’s side, and wear the blue and buff yourself,” grumbles Parson Blake.

“You and I thought scarlet most becoming to our complexion, Joe Blake!” says Sir George. “And my wife thinks there would not have been room for two such great men on one side.”

“Well, at any rate, you were better than that odious, swearing, crazy General Lee, who was second in command!” cries Lady Warrington. “And I am certain Mr. Washington never could write poetry and tragedies as you can! What did the General say about George’s tragedies, Harry?”

Harry burst into a roar of laughter (in which, of course, Mr. Miles must join his uncle).

“Well!” says he, “it’s a fact that Hagan read one at my house to the General and Mrs. Washington and several more, and they all fell sound asleep!”

“He never liked my husband, that is the truth!” says Theo, tossing up her head, “and ’tis all the more magnanimous of Sir George to speak so well of him.”

And then Hal told how, his battles over, his country freed, his great work of liberation complete, the General laid down his victorious sword, and met his comrades of the army in a last adieu. The last British soldier had quitted the shore of the Republic, and the Commander-inChief proposed to leave New York for Annapolis, where Congress was sitting, and there resign his commission. About noon, on the 4th December, a barge was in waiting at Whitehall Ferry to convey him across the Hudson. The chiefs of the army assembled at a tavern near the ferry, and there the General joined them. Seldom as he showed his emotion, outwardly, on this day he could not disguise it. He filled a glass of wine, and said, ‘I bid you farewell with a heart full of love and gratitude, and wish your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as those past have been glorious and honourable.’ Then he drank to them. ‘I cannot come to each of you to take my leave,’ he said, ‘but shall be obliged if you will each come and shake me by the hand.’

General Knox, who was nearest, came forward, and the Chief, with tears in his eyes, embraced him. The others came, one by one, to him, and took their leave without a word. A line of infantry was formed from the tavern to the ferry, and the General, with his officers following him, walked silently to the water. He stood up in the barge, taking off his hat, and waving a farewell. And his comrades remained bareheaded on the shore till their leader’s boat was out of view.

As Harry speaks very low, in the grey of evening, with sometimes a break in his voice, we all sit touched and silent. Hetty goes up and kisses her father.

“You tell us of others, General Harry,” she says, passing a handkerchief across her eyes, “of Marion and Sumpter, of Greene and Wayne, and Rawdon and Cornwallis, too, but you never mention Colonel Warrington!”

“My dear, he will tell you his story in private!” whispers my wife, clinging to her sister, “and you can write it for him.”

But it was not to be. My Lady Theo, and her husband too, I own, catching the infection from her, never would let Harry rest, until we had coaxed, wheedled, and ordered him to ask Hetty in marriage. He obeyed, and it was she who now declined. “She had always,” she said, “the truest regard for him from the dear old times when they had met as almost children together. But she would never leave her father. When it pleased God to take him, she hoped she would be too old to think of bearing any other name but her own. Harry should have her love always as the best of brothers; and as George and Theo have such a nurseryful of children,” adds Hester, “we must show our love to them, by saving for the young ones.” She sent him her answer in writing, leaving home on a visit to friends at a distance, as though she would have him to understand that her decision was final. As such Hal received it. He did not break his heart. Cupid’s arrows, ladies, don’t bite very deep into the tough skins of gentlemen of our age; though, to be sure, at the time of which I write, my brother was still a young man, being little more than fifty. Aunt Het is now a staid little lady with a voice of which years have touched the sweet chords, and a head which Time has powdered over with silver. There are days when she looks surprisingly young and blooming. Ah me, my dear, it seems but a little while since the hair was golden brown, and the cheeks as fresh as roses! And then came the bitter blast of love unrequited which withered them; and that long loneliness of heart which, they say, follows. Why should Theo and I have been so happy, and thou so lonely? Why should my meal be garnished with love, and spread with plenty, while yon solitary outcast shivers at my gate? I bow my head humbly before the Dispenser of pain and poverty, wealth and health; I feel sometimes as if, for the prizes which have fallen to the lot of me unworthy, I did not dare to be grateful. But I hear the voices of my children in their garden, or look up at their mother from my book, or perhaps my sick-bed, and my heart fills with instinctive gratitude towards the bountiful Heaven that has so blest me.

Since my accession to my uncle’s title and estate my intercourse with my good cousin Lord Castlewood had been very rare. I had always supposed him to be a follower of the winning side in politics, and was not a little astonished to hear of his sudden appearance in opposition. A disappointment in respect to a place at court, of which he pretended to have had some promise, was partly the occasion of his rupture with the Ministry. It is said that the most August Person in the realm had flatly refused to receive into the R-y-l Household a nobleman whose character was so notoriously bad, and whose example (so the August Objector was pleased to say) would ruin and corrupt any respectable family. I heard of the Castlewoods during our travels in Europe, and that the mania for play had again seized upon his lordship. His impaired fortunes having been retrieved by the prudence of his wife and father-inlaw, he had again begun to dissipate his income at hombre and lansquenet. There were tales of malpractices in which he had been discovered, and even of chastisement inflicted upon him by the victims of his unscrupulous arts. His wife’s beauty and freshness faded early; we met but once at Aix-la-Chapelle, where Lady Castlewood besought my wife to go and see her, and afflicted Lady Warrington’s kind heart by stories of the neglect and outrage of which her unfortunate husband was guilty. We were willing to receive these as some excuse and palliation for the unhappy lady’s own conduct. A notorious adventurer, gambler, and spadassin, calling himself the Chevalier de Barry, and said to be a relative of the mistress of the French King, but afterwards turning out to be an Irishman of low extraction, was in constant attendance upon the Earl and Countess at this time, and conspicuous for the audacity of his lies, the extravagance of his play, and somewhat mercenary gallantry towards the other sex, and a ferocious bravo courage, which, however, failed him on one or two awkward occasions, if common report said true. He subsequently married, and rendered miserable a lady of title and fortune in England. The poor little American lady’s interested union with Lord Castlewood was scarcely more happy.

I remember our little Miles’s infantile envy being excited by learning that Lord Castlewood’s second son, a child a few months younger than himself, was already an ensign on the Irish establishment, whose pay the fond parents regularly drew. This piece of preferment my lord must have got for his cadet whilst he was on good terms with the Minister, during which period of favour Will Esmond was also shifted off to New York. Whilst I was in America myself, we read in an English journal that Captain Charles Esmond had resigned his commission in his Majesty’s service, as not wishing to take up arms against the countrymen of his mother, the Countess of Castlewood. “It is the doing of the old fox, Van den Bosch,” Madam Esmond said; “he wishes to keep his Virginian property safe, whatever side should win!” I may mention, with respect to this old worthy, that he continued to reside in England for a while after the Declaration of Independence, not at all denying his sympathy with the American cause, but keeping a pretty quiet tongue, and alleging that such a very old man as himself was past the age of action or mischief, in which opinion the Government concurred, no doubt, as he was left quite unmolested. But of a sudden a warrant was out after him, when it was surprising with what agility he stirred himself, and skipped off to France, whence he presently embarked upon his return to Virginia.

The old man bore the worst reputation amongst the Loyalists of our colony; and was nicknamed “Jack the Painter” amongst them, much to his indignation, after a certain miscreant who was hung in England for burning naval stores in our ports there. He professed to have lost prodigious sums at home by the persecution of the Government, distinguished himself by the loudest patriotism and the most violent religious outcries in Virginia; where, nevertheless, he was not much more liked by the Whigs than by the party who still remained faithful to the Crown. He wondered that such an old Tory as Madam Esmond of Castlewood was suffered to go at large, and was for ever crying out against her amongst the gentlemen of the new Assembly, the Governor, and officers of the State. He and Fanny had high words in Richmond one day, when she told him he was an old swindler and traitor, and that the mother of Colonel Henry Warrington, the bosom friend of his Excellency the Commander-inChief, was not to be insulted by such a little smuggling slave-driver as him! I think it was in the year 1780 an accident happened, when the old Register Office at Williamsburg was burned down, in which there was a copy of the formal assignment of the Virginia property from Francis Lord Castlewood to my grandfather Henry Esmond, Esquire. “Oh,” says Fanny, “of course this is the work of Jack the Painter!” And Mr. Van den Bosch was for prosecuting her for libel, but that Fanny took to her bed at this juncture, and died.

Van den Bosch made contracts with the new Government, and sold them bargains, as the phrase is. He supplied horses, meat, forage, all of bad quality; but when Arnold came into Virginia (in the King’s service) and burned right and left, Van den Bosch’s stores and tobacco-houses somehow were spared. Some secret Whigs now took their revenge on the old rascal. A couple of his ships in James River, his stores, and a quantity of his cattle in their stalls were roasted amidst a hideous bellowing; and he got a note, as he was in Arnold’s company, saying that friends had served him as he served others; and containing “Tom the Glazier’s compliments to brother Jack the Painter.” Nobody pitied the old man, though he went well-nigh mad at his loss. In Arnold’s suite came the Honourable Captain William Esmond, of the New York Loyalists, as aide-de-camp to the General. When Howe occupied Philadelphia, Will was said to have made some money keeping a gambling-house with an officer of the dragoons of Anspach. I know not how he lost it. He could not have had much when he consented to become an aide-de-camp of Arnold.

Now, the King’s officers having reappeared in the province, Madam Esmond thought fit to open her house at Castlewood and invite them thither — and actually received Mr. Arnold and his suite. “It is not for me,” she said, “to refuse my welcome to a man whom my Sovereign has admitted to grace.” And she threw her house open to him, and treated him with great though frigid respect whilst he remained in the district. The General gone, and, his precious aide-de-camp with him, some of the rascals who followed in their suite remained behind in the house where they had received so much hospitality, insulted the old lady in her hall, insulted her people, and finally set fire to the old mansion in a frolic of drunken fury. Our house at Richmond was not burned, luckily, though Mr. Arnold had fired the town; and thither the undaunted old lady proceeded, surrounded by her people, and never swerving in her loyalty, in spite of her ill-usage. “The Esmonds,” she said, “were accustomed to Royal ingratitude.”

And now Mr. Van den Bosch, in the name of his grandson and my Lord Castlewood, in England, set up a claim to our property in Virginia. He said it was not my lord’s intention to disturb Madam Esmond in her enjoyment of the estate during her life, but that his father, it had always been understood, had given his kinsman a life-interest in the place, and only continued it to his daughter out of generosity. Now my lord proposed that his second son should inhabit Virginia, for which the young gentleman had always shown the warmest sympathy. The outcry against Van den Bosch was so great that he would have been tarred and feathered, had he remained in Virginia. He betook himself to Congress, represented himself as a martyr ruined in the cause of liberty, and prayed for compensation for himself and justice for his grandson.

My mother lived long in dreadful apprehension, having in truth a secret, which she did not like to disclose to any one. Her titles were burned! the deed of assignment in her own house, the copy in the Registry at Richmond, had alike been destroyed — by chance? by villainy? who could say? She did not like to confide this trouble in writing to me. She opened herself to Hal, after the surrender of York Town, and he acquainted me with the fact in a letter by a British officer returning home on his parole. Then I remembered the unlucky words I had let slip before Will Esmond at the coffee-house at New York; and a part of this iniquitous scheme broke upon me.

As for Mr. Will: there is a tablet in Castlewood Church, in Hampshire, inscribed, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, and announcing that “This marble is placed by a mourning brother, to the memory of the Honourable William Esmond, Esquire, who died in North America, in the service of his King.” But how? When, towards the end of 1781, a revolt took place in the Philadelphia Line of the Congress Army, and Sir Henry Clinton sent out agents to the mutineers, what became of them? The men took the spies prisoners, and proceeded to judge them, and my brother (whom they knew and loved, and had often followed under fire), who had been sent from camp to make terms with the troops, recognised one of the spies, just as execution was about to be done upon him — and the wretch, with horrid outcries, grovelling and kneeling at Colonel Warrington’s feet, besought him for mercy, and promised to confess all to him. To confess what? Harry turned away sick at heart. Will’s mother and sister never knew the truth. They always fancied it was in action he was killed.

As for my lord earl, whose noble son has been the intendant of an illustrious Prince, and who has enriched himself at play with his R——l master: I went to see his lordship when I heard of this astounding design against our property, and remonstrated with him on the matter. For myself, as I showed him, I was not concerned, as I had determined to cede my right to my brother. He received me with perfect courtesy; smiled when I spoke of my disinterestedness; said he was sure of my affectionate feelings towards my brother, but what must be his towards his son? He had always heard from his father: he would take his Bible oath of that: that, at my mother’s death, the property would return to the head of the family. At the story of the title which Colonel Esmond had ceded, he shrugged his shoulders, and treated it as a fable. “On ne fait pas de ces folies la!” says he, offering me snuff, “and your grandfather was a man of esprit! My little grandmother was eprise of him: and my father, the most good-natured soul alive, lent them the Virginian property to get them out of the way! C’etoit un scandale, mon cher, un joli petit scandale!” Oh, if my mother had but heard him! I might have been disposed to take a high tone: but he said, with the utmost good-nature, “My dear Knight, are you going to fight about the character of our grandmother? Allons donc! Come, I will be fair with you! We will compromise, if you like, about this Virginian property!” and his lordship named a sum greater than the actual value of the estate.

Amazed at the coolness of this worthy, I walked away to my coffee-house, where, as it happened, an old friend was to dine with me, for whom I have a sincere regard. I had felt a pang at not being able to give this gentleman my living of Warrington — on-Waveney, but I could not, as he himself confessed honestly. His life had been too loose, and his example in my village could never have been edifying: besides, he would have died of ennui there, after being accustomed to a town life; and he had a prospect finally, he told me, of settling himself most comfortably in London and the church. [He was the second Incumbent of Lady Whittlesea’s Chapel, Mayfair, and married Elizabeth, relict of Hermann Voelcker, Esq., the eminent brewer.] My guest, I need not say, was my old friend Sampson, who never failed to dine with me when I came to town, and I told him of my interview with his old patron.

I could not have lighted upon a better confidant. “Gracious powers!” says Sampson, “the man’s roguery beats all belief! When I was secretary and factotum at Castlewood, I can take my oath I saw more than once a copy of the deed of assignment by the late lord to your grandfather: ‘In consideration of the love I bear to my kinsman Henry Esmond, Esq., husband of my dear mother Rachel, Lady Viscountess Dowager of Castlewood, I, etc.’— so it ran. I know the place where ’tis kept — let us go thither as fast as horses will carry us tomorrow. There is somebody there — never mind whom, Sir George — who has an old regard for me. The papers may be there to this very day, and O Lord, O Lord, but I shall be thankful if I can in any way show my gratitude to you and your glorious brother!” His eyes filled with tears. He was an altered man. At a certain period of the port wine Sampson always alluded with compunction to his past life, and the change which had taken place in his conduct since the awful death of his friend Doctor Dodd.

Quick as we were, we did not arrive at Castlewood too soon. I was looking at the fountain in the court, and listening to that sweet sad music of its plashing, which my grandfather tells of in his memoires, and peopling the place with bygone figures, with Beatrix in her beauty; with my Lord Francis in scarlet, calling to his dogs and mounting his grey horse; with the young page of old who won the castle and the heiress — when Sampson comes running down to me with an old volume in rough calf-bound in his hand, containing drafts of letters, copies of agreements, and various writings, some by a secretary of my Lord Francis, some in the slim handwriting of his wife my grandmother, some bearing the signature of the last lord; and here was a copy of the assignment sure enough, as it had been sent to my grandfather in Virginia. “Victoria, Victoria!” cries Sampson, shaking my hand, embracing everybody. “Here is a guinea for thee, Betty. We’ll have a bowl of punch at the Three Castles to-night!” As we were talking, the wheels of postchaises were heard, and a couple of carriages drove into the court containing my lord and a friend, and their servants in the next vehicle. His lordship looked only a little paler than usual at seeing me.

“What procures me the honour of Sir George Warrington’s visit, and pray, Mr. Sampson, what do you do here?” says my lord. I think he had forgotten the existence of this book, or had never seen it; and when he offered to take his Bible oath of what he had heard from his father, had simply volunteered a perjury.

I was shaking hands with his companion, a nobleman with whom I had had the honour to serve in America. “I came,” I said, “to convince myself of a fact, about which you were mistaken yesterday; and I find the proof in your lordship’s own house. Your lordship was pleased to take your lordship’s Bible oath, that there was no agreement between your father and his mother, relative to some property which I hold. When Mr. Sampson was your lordship’s secretary, he perfectly remembered having seen a copy of such an assignment, and here it is.”

“And do you mean, Sir George Warrington, that unknown to me you have been visiting my papers?” cries my lord.

“I doubted the correctness of your statement, though backed by your lordship’s Bible oath,” I said with a bow.

“This, sir, is robbery! Give the papers back!” bawled my lord.

“Robbery is a rough word, my lord. Shall I tell the whole story to Lord Rawdon?”

“What, is it about the Marquisate? Connu, connu, my dear Sir George! We always called you the Marquis in New York. I don’t know who brought the story from Virginia.”

I never had heard this absurd nickname before, and did not care to notice it. “My Lord Castlewood,” I said, “not only doubted, but yesterday laid a claim to my property, taking his Bible oath that ——”

Castlewood gave a kind of gasp, and then said, “Great heaven! Do you mean, Sir George, that there actually is an agreement extant? Yes. Here it is — my father’s handwriting, sure enough! Then the question is clear. Upon my o —— well, upon my honour as a gentleman! I never knew of such an agreement, and must have been mistaken in what my father said. This paper clearly shows the property is yours: and not being mine — why, I wish you joy of it!” and he held out his hand with the blandest smile.

“And how thankful you will be to me, my lord, for having enabled him to establish the right,” says Sampson, with a leer on his face.

“Thankful? No, confound you. Not in the least!” says my lord. “I am a plain man; I don’t disguise from my cousin that I would rather have had the property than he. Sir George, you will stay and dine with us. A large party is coming down here shooting; we ought to have you one of us!”

“My lord,” said I, buttoning the book under my coat, “I will go and get this document copied, and then return it to your lordship. As my mother in Virginia has had her papers burned, she will be put out of much anxiety by having this assignment safely lodged.”

“What, have Madam Esmond’s papers been burned? When the deuce was that?” asks my lord.

“My lord, I wish you a very good afternoon. Come, Sampson, you and I will go and dine at the Three Castles.” And I turned on my heel, making a bow to Lord R—— — and from that day to this I have never set my foot within the halls of my ancestors.

Shall I ever see the old mother again, I wonder? She lives in Richmond, never having rebuilt her house in the country. When Hal was in England, we sent her pictures of both her sons, painted by the admirable Sir Joshua Reynolds. We sate to him, the last year Mr. Johnson was alive, I remember. And the Doctor, peering about the studio, and seeing the image of Hal in his uniform (the appearance of it caused no little excitement in those days), asked who was this? and was informed that it was the famous American General — General Warrington, Sir George’s brother. “General Who?” cries the Doctor, “General Where? Pooh! I don’t know such a service!” and he turned his back and walked out of the premises. My worship is painted in scarlet, and we have replicas of both performances at home. But the picture which Captain Miles and the girls declare to be most like is a family sketch by my ingenious neighbour, Mr. Bunbury, who has drawn me and my lady with Monsieur Gumbo following us, and written under the piece, “SIR GEORGE, MY LADY, AND THEIR MASTER.”

Here my master comes; he has poked out all the house-fires, has looked to all the bolts, has ordered the whole male and female crew to their chambers; and begins to blow my candles out, and says, “Time, Sir George, to go to bed! Twelve o’clock!”

“Bless me! So indeed it is.” And I close my book, and go to my rest, with a blessing on those now around me asleep.

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