Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

“Was it a lady?” I asked. “Yes

she loved him so much that she braved the long journey, and all the difficulties she had to encounter, alone, for his sake."

“Why, Mrs. Herbert !” I cried, “I do believe it must have been his wife.

“ Yes, it was his wife.”
“Then why did you say a friend ?”

“ His wife went,” she continued, without noticing the question, “to a city within a short distance of his home; and in a short time, through a fortunate circumstance, and by the help of some one whom she partially entrusted with her secret, got admission into his family - lived in the house under an assumed name — learned to love them dearly, and was loved by them in return · found out at last that the absent son was still cherished in his mother's memory, and then —”

“Stop," said my grandmother, leaning forward in her chair and laying a trembling hand on Mrs. Herbert's arm. “ Come nearer nearer to me yet, and let me look in your face. What story is this you are telling?"

Mrs. Herbert knelt at her feet and clasped her arms about her; and in an instant, before she answered, I had divined the truth.

Mother,” she said softly, “ the story is a sequel to yours. I am Philip's wife."

We feared, at first, that the secret had been too suddenly revealed, in spite of Mrs. Herbert's precaution in preparing her for it. She was a strong and stately woman, calm and brave in adversity, but under the shock of this great joy she became as weak and powerless for a time as a little child. She could not be brought to realise it at first, it was so wonderful, so unexpected. Little by little, as Mrs. Herbert went over the particulars she had already related, dwelling on the minutest circumstances so as to impress her more fully with their reality, she was brought to comprehend that the story was true, and that her long-lost son would soon be restored to her arms.

Not many days after, a bronzed, bearded man, looking some years older than he really was, was in our midst, having safely accomplished a stormy and perilous voyage across the Atlantic, and another as hazardous from New York, amid the violent gale whose influence had been felt even along our peaceful coast.

Now I could understand why it was that Phil had always been the pet, for I think he must have been almost the exact counterpart of what Uncle Philip was as a boy.

“Suppose Grandma had never written to ask about you, but gone on teaching us herself,” I said to "our governess” one day, amid the thousand and one questions and remarks elicited by the subject, to which we were never weary of recurring. “What would you have done then ?

“I should have found out some way of accomplishing my plan," she replied. “But Providence arranged it for me, don't you see?”

And so there was no Mr. Herbert after all.

F. M. P, DEAS.

A MORNING AT SUNNYSIDE WITH WASHINGTON

IRVING.

THI

[ocr errors]

HE Crayon Miscellany begins with the sentence: "I sit down

to perform my promise of giving you an account of a visit made many years since to Abbotsford ” — and the words may be used as a sort of preface to the following brief paper, in which I shall try to record, if my memory permits, a few reminiscences of a short visit made to “Sunnyside " during the last year of Mr. Irving's life. I am conscious that the subject may appear to many persons devoid of novelty, as this excellent and famous man was frequently visited in his bright little home by those far abler to describe him and his surroundings than myself, and who did publish such descriptions. But every new detail, however trivial in appearance, which relates to so good and great a man, is valuable; and perhaps the fact that at the time of my visit I was young, and a perfect stranger, from another part of the country, may have induced me to view things in a different light from that in which they were viewed by Mr. Willis and other friends, familiar with the locality and the author. I am not aware that I have any details of great interest to give ; but the memory of the few hours spent at Sunnyside on that bright summer day is so vivid and delightful that, if I can convey a tolerably correct impression of my own feelings during the visit, I shall be able, I hope, to interest the reader.

A very few words will appropriately introduce my brief sketch. I looked forward to this interview, which I had long desired, very much with the feeling, I suppose, of any other young person of the “rising generation "- that is to say, with a natural respect for the oldest and most distinguished American author then living, and with some curiosity to see face to face a person whose great literary reputation, both in this country and in Europe, had been firmly established before I was born. But with this natural sentiment, other feelings mingled. I was at that time venturing forth a youthful novice on the wide ocean of literature - a fact which made me desirous of meeting with one who had made so many long and prosperous voyages ; and in addition to this, I had what I may almost call a private and personal affection for Washington Irving as an individual, which was the result of having pored over his books in my childhood. It would be difficult to convey to the reader an idea of the degree to which they had fixed themselves in my imagination, and I may add, shaped my earliest literary tastes. I spent my childhood in an old country-house in Virginia, far away from the bustle and noise of cities, and nothing occurred to distract my attention from the first books which fell in my way, after the ordinary “story books” of children. It thus happened that I opened the “Sketch Book," the “Tales of a Traveller," and the “History of New York,” with my mind a tabula

rasa, ready to take any new impression - and the impression made by Irving was like that of a magician. I can look back now, more than thirty years, and remember as though it were yesterday, the happy and excited hours spent in reading about the Devil and Tom Walker, the Adventure of the Mysterious Picture, the Adventure of the Mysterious Stranger, and the Wife, and Christmas Sketches in the Sketch Book. The Mysterious Picture and Tom Walker were my earliest favorites, and haunted me; but as I grew a little older the humor and pathos of the Sketch Book and Knickerbocker's New York made them my chief treasure ; Mr. Knickerbocker having completely " taken me in” by his grave and serious beginning of his history, which made the sudden discovery of the burlesque design one of those revelations which a reader is not apt to forget.

These trivial details of my first acquaintance with the works of Washington Irving may perhaps seem uninteresting, but I go back in memory with real delight to that early period of my life, and congratulate myself upon having been introduced into the great domain of story-telling by a writer so pure and sweet in his feelings, and so natural and healthy in his style and treatment. I am old-fashioned enough, indeed, to prefer still the writings of Irving to those of any other author in moments of healthful leisure, when the mind is open to pictures of gentle humor and pathos. It may be that other writers are more "exciting," and are able by their rapid and startling scenes

“ and incidents to produce a more intense and feverish interest for the moment; but the effect left on the mind by the pages of good “Geoffrey Crayon” is far deeper and more healthful, and may be compared, without intending any reflection on other authors, to the effect of old and mellow wine as contrasted with that of new and fiery spirit.

I have been anxious to show with what feelings and from what “point of view " I looked forward to a personal interview with this good magician" of my childhood at his own home. I will add that but for peculiar circumstances I should not have ventured to intrude upon Mr. Irving's privacy. These circumstances were his friendly intimacy with some relations of my own in Virginia and Maryland, and more particularly the fact that I would be accompanied by a friend of his own from New York, one who had enjoyed with him a long and affectionate intimacy. This gentleman, to whom I was indebted at that time and afterwards for many pleasant hours and a thousand kindnesses, was Mr. E. A. D-, of the city of New York, and I cannot forbear from alluding here to his friendly attentions. From the moment of my arrival, an almost perfect stranger in. the great city, I had owed everything to the kindness of Mr. D-and his friends. They seemed never to be weary in the work of making my visit delightful, and showed me day after day the places and persons of interest, the beautiful environs from Staten Island to High Bridge, the picture galleries both public and private, the great libraries, the Century Club with its noted authors and artists, among whom were Mr. Durand, Mr. Church, Mr. Leutze, Mr. Kensett and others, and from this most kind and assiduous attention it resulted that one day my friend said to me with a smile :

[ocr errors]

a

6

"You have now seen everything and everybody worth seeing in New York."

“I have not seen Washington Irving," I replied, " and I cannot go back to Virginia without seeing him, especially as he is so old that I suppose if I lose this opportunity I shall never have another."

I und nat was entirely unnecessary to urge further reasons for my visit to Sunnyside, as my friend Mr. D— caught at it with ardor. I have no doubt that it gratified his own feelings to make the visit - I have alluded to the intimacy existing between himself and Mr. Irving and on the morning after this conversation we took the railroad for Irvington, where we got out and walked toward Sunnyside, which was but a short distance from the station.

It was a pleasant summer day, and as we walked along the bank of the Hudson, which is here very broad and beautiful, my friend gave me a humorous account of the extent to which Mr. Irving was trespassed upon by visitors personally unknown to him and wholly unintroduced, whose visits were prompted by no other sentiment than idle curiosity, and the desire perhaps to say afterwards that they had seen Washington Irving at Sunnyside.

“My brother was in a bookstore one day,” said Mr. D—,"and a stranger was turning over the leaves of the new books, and came to one of the works of Irving. “This is a very great writer,' the stranger said to my brother, 'a very great writer indeed, an honor to his country, and I look upon him as public property, so that as I was near Sunnyside lately I called on Mr. Irving to get my dividends !!

I had some apprehension upon hearing this anecdote that Mr. Irving might look upon me in the same light, as one who had called upon him to get my dividends, and my friend's further anecdotes did not remove this uneasiness.

“All sorts of persons come without ceremony to Sunnyside," continued Mr. D—, "and Mr. Irving told me one day, with a resigned smile, that the very hackmen at Tarrytown would assault strangers who got out of the cars with, ‘Hack to Sunnyside, Sir ? Residence of the celebrated Washington Irving ! Take you cheap, Sir!'

' Perfect strangers come,” my friend went on, "and Mr. Irving is very much embarrassed by such visits. He said to me once, “When I am at work in my study I am told that Mr. Smith, of Texas, has called to pay his respects to me, and I must see him. The worst part of it is that Mr. Smith, of Texas, expects that I should say something brilliant, and when I am unable to do so, he goes away with a feeling that I have defrauded him out of his just dues.”

I. do not know whether I said as much to my friendly introducer, but I began to have some apprehensions that I might be regarded as another Mr. Smith, of Texas. Fortifying myself, however, with the reflection that I should be able to give Mr. Irving “home news” of some persons in Virginia for whom I knew he had a great affection, I walked in with my friend, and we soon found ourselves inside the magic domain of the author of Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollowa verdurous little paradise, lost like a bird's nest in foliage, and looking down upon the Hudson.

I had never before seen a house at all similar to this, and a single

66

glance at it seemed to take me back to the epoch of the Dutch Governors of New Amsterdam, when the characters of the original settlers of the island were reflected in their mansions. All about the building was queer and original. There were gables and odd roofs, and a quaint old weathercock which, I afterwards heard, had been brought from Albany, where it had surmounted the Vanderhayden mansion; and all around this small Dutch paradise of a farm-house were green slopes, flowers, verdurous trees, gravel walks winding in and out, and seats beneath the trees from which you caught a glimpse through a well-arranged vista of the “ Tappan Zee” with its snowy sails. I think you could see from the grounds, or even from the cozy piazza where the amiable proprietor of this little domain dozed in the summer afternoons, the far faint line of the Catskills, where Rip Van Winkle played at ten-pins with the “old men of the mountain," and plays still in every thunderstorm; and only a step beyond the limits of the grounds was the famous Sleepy Hollow, where Ichabod Crane courted the heiress of the Van Tassells, and Brom Bones hurled the spectral pumpkin at his rival as he fled. It was strange to me, and deeply interesting too, thus to visit the very scenes of these famous stories, so dear to me from my early childhood; and I could scarcely realise the fact that I was now to see, in the actual flesh, the magician who had created all these wonders by a wave of his pen.

We walked up the little slope toward the house, and were speedily in presence of the magician, without having had recourse to the commonplace and prosaic proceeding of ringing a bell or knocking which, I think, would have broken the charm. I saw standing on a knoll to the left of the house, a gentleman of low stature, clad in black; and at the moment when my attention was called to him, he had his back turned and was gazing toward the Hudson, entirely unaware, it seemed, of our presence. It will soon be seen that this was not the fact — that the long-suffering master of Sunnyside had promptly discovered our approach, and was lamenting internally the impending interview, which he vainly sought to avoid by looking in an opposite direction. I am glad to say that this indisposition to receive us disappeared in a moment, when he had recognised my friend.

“How do you do, tir. Irving?”
" Why, Mr. D—! I am very glad to see you !

With these words, uttered in the most cordial and relieved tone, the small gentleman in black shook my friend's hand warmly,— met me in the same friendly manner, as I was introduced to him — and displayed real pleasure at thus finding that an old friend had appeared, instead of a mere lion-hunting stranger.

“I saw you,” he said laughing, “but I thought you were some of those people from New York. So many of them come up.'

“I brought my friend Mr. to see you, Mr. Irving, as he is about to return to Virginia, and was anxious to pay you a visit. He is a brother of and is his uncle."

The two persons whose names are replaced here by blanks were both well known to and cordially regarded - I might say beloved - by Mr. Irving. It was plain, from the quick cordiality of his smile, that

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »