Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief
James Fenimore Coopoer

Part 2 out of 3

You will inquire for le Colonel Silky, when you call."

{Aide de Camp de Service = duty officer of the French royal court}

"Le Colonel Silky!" repeated Desiree with a look of admiration, a little
mingled with contempt.

"De la garde nationale Americaine," answered Mr. Silky, smiling. He
then gave the woman his new address, and appointed an hour to see

{De la garde nationale Americaine = of the American national guard--
Cooper is here satirizing the pretensions and gaudy uniforms of civilians
holding nominal commissions as "Colonels" of American state militias}

Desiree was punctual to a minute. The porter, the garcons, the
bourgeois, all knew le Colonel Silky, who was now a great man, wore
moustaches, and went to court--as the court was. In a minute the
commissionaire was in the colonel's ante-chamber. This distinguished
officer had a method in his madness. He was not accustomed to
keeping a body servant, and, as his aim was to make a fortune, will ye
nill ye, he managed, even now, in his hours of pride and self-indulgence,
to get along without one. It was not many moments, therefore, before
he came out and ushered Desiree himself into his salon; a room of ten
feet by fourteen, with a carpet that covered just eight feet by six, in its
centre. Now that they were alone, in this snuggery, which seemed
barely large enough to contain so great a man's moustaches, the parties
understood each other without unnecessary phrases, and I was, at
once, produced.

{as the court was = the Royal Court of King Louis Philippe prided itself
on its simplicity and informality; garcons, bourgeois = waiters,
neighbors; salon = living room}

Colonel Silky was evidently struck with my appearance. An officer of
his readiness and practice saw at once that I might be made to diminish
no small part of the ways and means of his present campaign, and
precisely in proportion as he admired me, he began to look cold and
indifferent. This management could not deceive me, my clairvoyance
defying any such artifices; but it had a sensible effect on Desiree, who,
happening very much to want money for a particular object just at that
moment, determined, on the spot, to abate no less than fifty francs from
the price she had intended to ask. This was deducting five francs more
than poor Adrienne got for the money she had expended for her
beautiful lace, and for all her toil, sleepless nights, and tears; a proof of
the commissionaire's scale of doing business. The bargain was now
commenced in earnest, offering an instructive scene of French
protestations, assertions, contradictions and volubility on one side, and
of cold, seemingly phlegmatic, but wily Yankee calculation, on the
other. Desiree had set her price at one hundred and fifty francs, after
abating the fifty mentioned, and Colonel Silky had early made up his
mind to give only one hundred. After making suitable allowances for my
true value before I was embellished, the cost of the lace and of the
work, Desiree was not far from the mark; but the Colonel saw that she
wanted money, and he knew that two napoleons and a half, with his
management, would carry him from Paris to Havre. It is true he had
spent the difference that morning on an eye-glass that he never used, or
when he did it was only to obscure his vision; but the money was not
lost, as it aided in persuading the world he was a colonel and was
afflicted with that genteel defect, an imperfect vision. These extremes of
extravagance and meanness were not unusual in his practice. The one,
in truth, being a consequence of the other.

{management = in Cooper's time, a word suggesting conniving or
unscrupulous manipulation; Havre = le Havre, an important French

"You forget the duty, Desiree," observed the military trader; "this
compromise law is a thousand times worse than any law we have ever
had in America."

{compromise law = the American Tariff Act of 1832, which reduced
tariffs on some items, but retained the high customs duties on the import
of textile products}

"The duty!" repeated the woman, with an incredulous smile; "monsieur,
you are not so young as to pay any duty on a pocket-handkerchief! Ma
foi, I will bring twenty--oui, a thousand from England itself, and the
douaniers shall not stop one."

{douaniers = customs officials}

"Ay, but we don't smuggle in America," returned the colonel, with an
aplomb that might have done credit to Vidocq himself; "in our
republican country the laws are all in all."

{Vidocq = Francois Vidocq (1775-1857), a senior French police
official who was secretly a burglar, and who "investigated" his own
crimes for a long time before being exposed}

"Why do so many of your good republicans dress so that the rue de
Clery don't know them, and then go to the chateau?" demanded the
commissionaire, very innocently, as to appearance at least.

{chateau = palace}

"Bah! there are the five napoleons--if you want them, take them--if not,
I care little about it, my invoice being all closed."

Desiree never accepted money more reluctantly. Instead of making one
hundred and fifty-five francs out of the toil and privations, and self-
denial of poor Adrienne, she found her own advantages unexpectedly
lessened to fifty-five; or, only a trifle more than one hundred per cent.
But the colonel was firm, and, for once, her cupidity was compelled to
succumb. The money was paid, and I became the vassal of Colonel
Silky; a titular soldier, but a traveling trader, who never lost sight of the
main chance either in his campaigns, his journeys, or his pleasures.

To own the truth, Colonel Silky was delighted with me. No girl could be
a better judge of the ARTICLE, and all his cultivated taste ran into the
admiration of GOODS. I was examined with the closest scrutiny; my
merits were inwardly applauded, and my demerits pronounced to be
absolutely none. In short, I was flattered; for, it must be confessed, the
commendation of even a fool is grateful. So far from placing me in a
trunk, or a drawer, the colonel actually put me in his pocket, though
duly enveloped and with great care, and for some time I trembled in
every delicate fibre, lest, in a moment of forgetfulness, he might use me.
But my new master had no such intention. His object in taking me out
was to consult a sort of court commissionaire, with whom he had
established certain relations, and that, too, at some little cost, on the
propriety of using me himself that evening at the chateau of the King of
the French. Fortunately, his monitress, though by no means of the purest
water, knew better than to suffer her eleve to commit so gross a
blunder, and I escaped the calamity of making my first appearance at
court under the auspices of such a patron.

{eleve = pupil}

There was a moment, too, when the colonel thought of presenting me to
Madame de Dolomien, by the way of assuring his favor in the royal
circle, but when he came to count up the money he should lose in the
way of profits, this idea became painful, and it was abandoned. As
often happened with this gentleman, he reasoned so long in all his acts
of liberality, that he supposed a sufficient sacrifice had been made in the
mental discussions, and he never got beyond what surgeons call the
"first intention" of his moral cures. The evening he went to court,
therefore, I was carefully consigned to a carton in the colonel's trunk,
whence I did not again issue until my arrival in America. Of the voyage,
therefore, I have little to say, not having had a sight of the ocean at all. I
cannot affirm that I was absolutely sea-sick, but, on the other hand, I
cannot add that I was perfectly well during any part of the passage. The
pent air of the state-room, and a certain heaviness about the brain, quite
incapacitated me from enjoying any thing that passed, and that was a
happy moment when our trunk was taken on deck to be examined. The
custom-house officers at New York were not men likely to pick out a
pocket-handkerchief from a gentleman's--I beg pardon, from a
colonel's--wardrobe, and I passed unnoticed among sundry other of my
employer's speculations. I call the colonel my EMPLOYER, though this
was not strictly true; for, Heaven be praised! he never did employ me;
but ever since my arrival in America, my gorge has so risen against the
word "master," that I cannot make up my mind to write it. I know there
is an ingenious substitute, as the following little dialogue will show, but
my early education under the astronomer and the delicate minded
Adrienne, has rendered me averse to false taste, and I find the substitute
as disagreeable as the original. The conversation to which I allude,
occurred between me and a very respectable looking shirt, that I
happened to be hanging next to on a line, a few days after my arrival;
the colonel having judged it prudent to get me washed and properly
ironed, before he carried me into the "market."

"Who is your BOSS, pocket-handkerchief?" demanded the shirt, a
perfect stranger to me, by the way, for I had never seen him before the
accidents of the wash-tub brought us in collision; "who is your boss,
pocket-handkerchief, I say?--you are so very fine, I should like to
know something of your history."

>From all I had heard and read, I was satisfied my neighbor was a
Yankee shirt, both from his curiosity and from his abrupt manner of
asking questions; still I was at a loss to know the meaning of the word
BOSS, my clairvoyance being totally at fault. It belongs to no language
known to the savans or academicians.

{savans = scholars}

"I am not certain, sir," I answered, "that I understand your meaning.
What is a BOSS?"

{boss = Cooper was annoyed by American euphemisms, such as using
the Dutch word "boss" in place of "master"--a custom he blamed largely
on New England "Yankees"}

"Oh! that's only a republican word for 'master.' Now, Judge Latitat is
MY boss, and a very good one he is, with the exception of his sitting so
late at night at his infernal circuits, by the light of miserable tallow
candles. But all the judges are alike for that, keeping a poor shirt up
sometimes until midnight, listening to cursed dull lawyers, and prosy,
caviling witnesses."

{circuits = American "circuit judges" travelled from town to town,
holding court in each and sleeping at local inns and taverns}

"I beg you to recollect, sir, that I am a female pocket-handkerchief, and
persons of your sex are bound to use temperate and proper language in
the presence of ladies.

"Yes, I see you are feminine, by your ornaments--still, you might tell a
fellow who is your boss?"

"I belong, at present, to Colonel Silky, if that is what you mean; but I
presume some fair lady will soon do me the honor of transferring me to
her own wardrobe. No doubt my future employer--is not that the
word?--will be one of the most beautiful and distinguished ladies of
New York."

"No question of that, as money makes both beauty and distinction in this
part of the world, and it's not a dollar that will buy you. COLONEL
Silky? I don't remember the name--which of OUR editors is he?"

{Cooper is ridiculing the habit of newspaper editors of seeking
popularity by serving in the militia and thus receiving the title of

"I don't think he is an editor at all. At least, I never heard he was
employed about any publication, and, to own the truth, he does not
appear to me to be particularly qualified for such a duty, either by native
capacity, or, its substitute, education."

"Oh! that makes no great difference--half the corps is exactly in the
same predicament. I'fegs! if we waited for colonels, or editors either, in
this country, until we got such as were qualified, we should get no news,
and be altogether without politics, and the militia would soon be in an
awful state."

{I'fegs! = an obsolete, essentially meaningless exclamation, like "I
swear!", deriving from "In faith!"}

"This is very extraordinary! So you do not wait, but take them as they
come. And what state is your militia actually in?"

"Awful! It is what my boss, the judge, sometimes calls a 'statu quo.'"

{'statu quo' = in the same state as always (Latin)}

"And the newspapers--and the news--and the politics?"

"Why, they are NOT in 'statu quo'--but in a 'semper eadem'--I beg
pardon, do you understand Latin?"

"No, sir--ladies do not often study the dead languages."

"If they did they would soon bring 'em to life! 'Semper eadem' is Latin
for 'worse and worse.' The militia is drilling into a 'statu quo,' and the
press is enlightening mankind with a 'semper eadem.' "

{'Semper eadem' = the usual meaning is "ever the same" (Latin)--
presumably Cooper's talking shirt is being ironical, suggesting that that
"worse and worse" is the constant condition of the press}

After properly thanking my neighbor for these useful explanations, we
naturally fell into discourse about matters and things in general, the
weather in America being uniformly too fine to admit of discussion.

"Pray, sir," said I, trembling lest my BOSS might be a colonel of the
editorial corps, after all--"pray, sir," said I, "is it expected in this country
that the wardrobe should entertain the political sentiments of its boss?"

"I rather think not, unless it might be in high party times; or, in the case
of editors, and such extreme patriots. I have several relatives that
belong to the corps, and they all tell me that while their bosses very
frequently change their coats, they are by no means so particular about
changing their shirts. But you are of foreign birth, ma'am, I should think
by your dress and appearance?"

{change their coats.... = i.e., editors frequently change political sides,
but they are not very careful about their personal hygiene}

"Yes, sir, I came quite recently from France; though, my employer being
American, I suppose I am entitled to the rights of citizenship. Are you
European, also?"

"No, ma'am; I am native and to the 'MANOR born,' as the modern
Shakspeare has it. Is Louis Philippe likely to maintain the throne, in

{'manor born' = from "to the manner born" Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act
I, Scene 4, line 2--frequently misquoted in popular speech as "to the
manor born"}

"That is not so certain, sir, by what I learn, as that the throne is likely to
maintain Louis Philippe. To own the truth to you, I am a Carlist, as all
genteel articles are, and I enter but little into the subject of Louis
Philippe's reign."

{Carlist = supporter of King Charles X of France, who was deposed in
1830 by King Louis Philippe}

This remark made me melancholy, by reviving the recollection of
Adrienne, and the conversation ceased. An hour or two later, I was
removed from the line, properly ironed, and returned to my boss. The
same day I was placed in a shop in Broadway, belonging to a firm of
which I now understood the colonel was a sleeping partner. A suitable
entry was made against me, in a private memorandum book, which, as I
once had an opportunity of seeing it, I will give here.

Super-extraordinary Pocket-Handkerchief, French cambric, trimmed
and worked, in account with Bobbinet & Gull.

To money paid first cost--francs 100, at 5.25, -- $19.04
To interest on same for -- 00.00
To portion of passage money, -- 00.04
To porterage, -- 00.00 1/4
To washing and making up, -- 00.25
(Mem.--See if a deduction cannot be made from this charge.)

By cash, for allowing Miss Thimble to copy pattern--not to be worked
until our article is sold, -- $1. 00
By cash for sale, &c. --

{in account with.... = this and subsequent "accounts" are presented by
Cooper in tabular form, generally without decimal points in the figures;
we have inserted decimals and omitted zeros to make them more

Thus the account stood the day I was first offered to the admiration of
the fair of New York. Mr. Bobbinet, however, was in no hurry to
exhibit me, having several articles of less beauty, that he was anxious to
get off first. For my part, I was as desirous of being produced, as ever a
young lady was to come out; and then my companions in the drawer
were not of the most agreeable character. We were all pocket-
handkerchiefs, together, and all of French birth. Of the whole party, I
was the only one that had been worked by a real lady, and
consequently my education was manifestly superior to those of my
companions. THEY could scarcely be called comme il faut, at all;
though, to own the truth, I am afraid there is tant soit peu de vulgarity
about all WORKED pocket-handkerchiefs. I remember that, one day,
when Madame de la Rocheaimard and Adrienne were discussing the
expediency of buying our whole piece, with a view of offering us to their
benefactress, the former, who had a fine tact in matters of this sort,
expressed a doubt whether the dauphine would be pleased with such an

{comme il faut = proper; tant soit peu de = ever so little of; {worked =

"Her Royal Highness, like all cultivated minds, looks for fitness in her
ornaments and tastes. What fitness is there, ma chere, in converting an
article of real use, and which should not be paraded to one's associates,
into an article of senseless luxury. I know there are two doctrines on this
important point--"

{ma chere = my dear}

But, as I shall have occasion, soon, to go into the whole philosophy of
this matter, when I come to relate the manner of my next purchase, I
will not stop here to relate all that Madame de la Rocheaimard said. It is
sufficient that she, a woman of tact in such matters at least, had strong
doubts concerning the TASTE and propriety of using worked pocket-
handkerchiefs, at all.

My principal objection to my companions in the drawer was their
incessant senseless repinings about France, and their abuse of the
country in which they were to pass their lives. I could see enough in
America to find fault with, through the creaks of the drawer, and if an
American, I might have indulged a little in the same way myself, for I am
not one of those who think fault-finding belongs properly to the
stranger, and not to the native. It is the proper office of the latter, as it is
his duty to amend these faults; the traveler being bound in justice to look
at the good as well as the evil. But, according to my companions, there
was NOTHING good in America--the climate, the people, the food,
the morals, the laws, the dress, the manners, and the tastes, were all
infinitely worse than those they had been accustomed to. Even the
physical proportions of the population were condemned, without mercy.
I confess I was surprised at hearing the SIZE of the Americans sneered
at by POCKET-HANDKERCHIEFS, as I remember to have read that
the NOSES of the New Yorkers, in particular, were materially larger
than common. When the supercilious and vapid point out faults, they
ever run into contradictions and folly; it is only under the lash of the
discerning and the experienced, that we betray by our writhings the
power of the blow we receive.

{creaks = probably a typographical error--Cooper's manuscript read


I might have been a fortnight in the shop, when I heard a voice as gentle
and lady-like as that of Adrienne, inquiring for pocket-handkerchiefs.
My heart fairly beat for joy; for, to own the truth, I was getting to be
wearied to death with the garrulous folly of my companions. They had
so much of the couturieres about them! not one of the whole party ever
having been a regular employee in genteel life. Their niaisiries were
endless, and there was just as much of the low bred anticipation as to
their future purchases, as one sees at the balls of the Champs Elysee on
the subject of partners. The word "pocket-handkerchief," and that so
sweetly pronounced, drew open our drawer, as it might be, instinctively.
Two or three dozen of us, all of exquisite fineness, were laid upon the
counter, myself and two or three more of the better class being kept a
little in the back ground, as a skillful general holds his best troops in

{couturieres = dress makers; niaisiries = should read niaiseries, French
for silliness}

The customers were sisters; that was visible at a glance. Both were
pretty, almost beautiful--and there was an air of simplicity about their
dress, a quiet and unobtrusive dignity in their manners, which at once
announced them to be real ladies. Even the tones of their voices were
polished, a circumstance that I think one is a little apt to notice in New
York. I discovered, in the course of the conversation, that they were the
daughters of a gentleman of very large estate, and belonged to the true
elite of the country. The manner in which the clerks received them,
indeed, proclaimed this; for, though their other claims might not have so
promptly extracted this homage, their known wealth would.

Mr. Bobbinet attended these customers in person. Practiced in all that
portion of human knowledge which appertains to a salesman, he let the
sweet girls select two or three dozen handkerchiefs of great beauty, but
totally without ornament, and even pay for them, before he said a word
on the subject of the claims of his reserved corps. When he thought the
proper moment had arrived, however, one of the least decorated of our
party was offered to the consideration of the young ladies. The sisters
were named Anne and Maria, and I could see by the pleasure that
beamed in the soft blue eyes of the former, that she was quite enchanted
with the beauty of the article laid before her so unexpectedly. I believe it
is in FEMALE "human nature" to admire every thing that is graceful and
handsome, and especially when it takes the form of needle-work. The
sweet girls praised handkerchief after handkerchief, until I was laid
before them, when their pleasure extracted exclamations of delight. All
was done so quietly, however, and in so lady-like a manner, that the
attention of no person in the shop was drawn to them by this natural
indulgence of surprise. Still I observed that neither of the young lades
inquired the PRICES, these being considerations that had no influence
on the intrinsic value, in their eyes; while the circumstance caused my
heart to sink within me, as it clearly proved they did not intend to
purchase, and I longed to become the property of the gentle, serene-
eyed Anne. After thanking Mr. Bobbinet for the trouble he had taken,
they ordered their purchases sent home, and were about to quit the

"Can't I persuade you to take THIS?" demanded Bobbinet, as they
were turning away. There is not its equal in America. Indeed, one of the
house, our Colonel Silky, who has just returned from Paris, says it was
worked expressly for the dauphine, who was prevented from getting it
by the late revolution."

"It IS a pity so much lace and such exquisite work should be put on a
pocket-handkerchief," said Anne, almost involuntarily. "I fear if they
were on something more suitable, I might buy them."

A smile, a slight blush, and curtsy, concluded the interview; and the
young ladies hastily left the shop. Mr. Bobbinet was disappointed, as,
indeed, was Col. Silky, who was present, en amateur; but the matter
could not be helped, as these were customers who acted and thought
for themselves, and all the oily persuasion of shop-eloquence could not
influence them.

{en amateur = in the guise of a connoisseur}

"It is quite surprising, colonel," observed Mr. Bobbinet, when his
customers were properly out of hearing, "that THESE young ladies
should let such an article slip through their fingers. Their father is one of
the richest men we have; and yet they never even asked the price."

"I fancy it was not so much the PRICE that held 'em back," observed
the colonel, in his elegant way, as something else. There are a sort of
customers that don't buy promiscuously; they do every thing by rule.
They don't believe that a nightcap is intended for a bed-quilt."

Bobbinet & Co. did not exactly understand his more sophisticated
partner; but before he had time to ask an explanation, the appearance
of another customer caused his face to brighten, and changed the
current of his thoughts. The person who now entered was an
exceedingly brilliant looking girl of twenty, dressed in the height of
fashion, and extremely well, though a severe critic might have thought
she was OVER dressed for the streets, still she had alighted from a
carriage. Her face was decidedly handsome, and her person exquisitely
proportioned. As a whole, I had scarcely ever seen a young creature
that could lay claim to more of the loveliness of her sex. Both the young
ladies who had just left us were pleasing and pretty; and to own the
truth, there was an air of modest refinement about them, that was not so
apparent in this new visiter; but the dazzling appearance of the latter, at
first, blinded me to her faults, and I saw nothing but her perfection. The
interest manifested by the master--I beg his pardon, the boss of the
store--and the agitation among the clerks, very plainly proved that much
was expected from the visit of this young lady, who was addressed,
with a certain air of shop-familiarity, as Miss Halfacre--a familiarity that
showed she was an habituee of the place, and considered a good

Luckily for the views of Bobbinet & Co., we were all still lying on the
counter. This is deemed a fortunate circumstance in the contingencies of
this species of trade, since it enables the dealer to offer his uncalled-for
wares in the least suspicious and most natural manner. It was fortunate,
also, that I lay at the bottom of the little pile--a climax being quite as
essential in sustaining an extortionate price, as in terminating with due
effect, a poem, a tragedy, or a romance.

"Good morning, Miss Halfacre," said Mr. Bobbinet, bowing and
smiling; if his face had been half as honest as it professed to be, it would
have GRINNED. "I am glad you have come in at this moment, as we
are about to put on sale some of the rarest articles, in the way of
pocket-handkerchiefs, that have ever come to this market. The Misses
Burton have just seen them, and THEY pronounce them the most
beautiful articles of the sort they have ever seen; and I believe they have
been over half the world."

"And did they take any, Mr. Bobbinet? The Miss Burtons are thought
to have taste."

"They have not exactly PURCHASED, but I believe each of them has a
particular article in her eye. Here is one, ma'am, that is rather prettier
than any you have yet seen in New York. The price is SIXTY dollars."

The word SIXTY was emphasized in a way to show the importance
that was attached to PRICE--that being a test of more than common
importance with the present customer. I sighed when I remembered that
poor Adrienne had received but about ten dollars for ME--an article
worth so much more than that there exhibited.

"It is really very pretty, Mr. Bobbinet, very pretty, but Miss Monson
bought one not quite as pretty, at Lace's; and SHE payed SIXTY-
FIVE, if I am not mistaken."

"I dare say; we have them at much higher prices. I showed YOU this
only that you might see that OUR SIXTIES are as handsome as MR.
LACE'S sixty-FIVES. What do you think of THIS?"

"That IS a jewel! What IS the price, Mr. Bobbinet?"

"Why, we will let YOU have it for seventy, though I do think it ought to
bring five more."

"Surely you do not abate on pocket-handkerchiefs! One doesn't like to
have such a thing TOO low."

"Ah, I may as well come to the point at once with such a customer as
yourself, Miss Halfacre; here is the article on which I pride myself.
THAT article never WAS equalled in this market, and never WILL be."

I cannot repeat half the exclamations of delight which escaped the fair
Eudosia, when I first burst on her entranced eye. She turned me over
and over, examined me with palpitating bosom, and once I thought she
was about to kiss me; then, in a trembling voice, she demanded the

"ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, ma'am;" answered Bobbinet,
solemnly. "Not a cent more, on my honor."

"No, surely!" exclaimed Eudosia, with delight instead of alarm. "Not a

"ONE HUNDRED, Miss Eudosia, to the last cent; then we scarcely
make a living profit."

"Why, Mr. Bobbinet, this is the highest priced handkerchief that was
ever sold in New York." This was said with a sort of rapture, the fair
creature feeling all the advantage of having so good an opportunity of
purchasing so dear an article.

"In America, ma'am. It is the highest priced handkerchief, by twenty
dollars, that ever crossed the Atlantic. The celebrated Miss Jewel's, of
Boston, only cost seventy-nine."

"Only! Oh, Mr. Bobbinet, I MUST have it. It is a perfect treasure!"

"Shall I send it, Miss Eudosia; or don't you like to trust it out of your

"Not yet, sir. To own the truth, I have not so much money. I only came
out to buy a few trifles, and brought but fifty dollars with me; and Pa
insists on having no bills. I never knew any body as particular as Pa; but
I will go instantly home and show him the importance of this purchase.
You will not let the handkerchief be seen for ONE hour--only ONE
hour--and then you shall hear from me."

To this Bobbinet assented. The young lady tripped into her carriage,
and was instantly whirled from the door. In precisely forty-three
minutes, a maid entered, half out of breath, and laid a note on the
counter. The latter contained Mr. Halfacre's check for one hundred
dollars, and a request from the fair Eudosia that I might be delivered to
her messenger. Every thing was done as she had desired, and, in five
minutes, I was going up Broadway as fast as Honor O'Flagherty's (for
such was the name of the messenger) little dumpy legs could carry me.


Mr. Henry Half acre was a speculator in town-lots--a profession that
was, just then, in high repute in the city of New York. For farms, and all
the more vulgar aspects of real estate, he had a sovereign contempt; but
offer him a bit of land that could be measured by feet and inches, and he
was your man. Mr. Halfacre inherited nothing; but he was a man of
what are called energy and enterprise. In other words, he had a spirit
for running in debt, and never shrunk from jeoparding property that, in
truth, belonged to his creditors. The very morning that his eldest child,
Eudosia, made her valuable acquisition, in my person, Henry Halfacre,
Esq., was the owner of several hundred lots on the island of Manhattan;
of one hundred and twenty-three in the city of Brooklyn; of nearly as
many in Williamsburg; of large undivided interests in Milwaukie,
Chicago, Rock River, Moonville, and other similar places; besides
owning a considerable part of a place called Coney Island. In a word,
the landed estate of Henry Halfacre, Esq., "inventoried," as he
expressed it, just two millions, six hundred and twelve thousand dollars;
a handsome sum, it must be confessed, for a man who, when he began
his beneficent and energetic career in this branch of business, was just
twenty-three thousand, four hundred and seventeen dollars worse than
nothing. It is true, that there was some drawback on all this prosperity;
Mr. Halfacre's bonds, notes, mortgages, and other liabilities, making a
sum total that amounted to the odd six hundred thousand dollars; this
still left him, however, a handsome paper balance of two millions.

Notwithstanding the amount of his "bills payable," Mr. Halfacre
considered himself a very prudent man: first, because he insisted on
having no book debts; second, because he always took another man's
paper for a larger amount than he had given of his own, for any specific
lot or lots; thirdly, and lastly, because he was careful to "extend himself,"
at the risk of other persons. There is no question, had all his lots been
sold as he had inventoried them; had his debts been paid; and had he
not spent his money a little faster than it was bona fide made, that Henry
Halfacre, Esq. would have been a very rich man. As he managed,
however, by means of getting portions of the paper he received
discounted, to maintain a fine figure account in the bank, and to pay all
current demands, he began to be known as the RICH Mr. Halfacre.
But one of his children, the fair Eudosia, was out; and as she had some
distance to make in the better society of the town, ere she could pass
for aristocratic, it was wisely determined that a golden bridge should be
thrown across the dividing chasm. A hundred-dollar pocket-
handkerchief, it was hoped, would serve for the key-stone, and then all
the ends of life would be attained. As to a husband, a pretty girl like
Eudosia, and the daughter of a man of "four figure" lots, might get one
any day.

{was out = was a debutante, had been presented to society}

Honor O'Flagherty was both short-legged and short-breathed. She felt
the full importance of her mission; and having an extensive acquaintance
among the other Milesians of the town, and of her class, she stopped no
less than eleven times to communicate the magnitude of Miss Dosie's
purchase. To two particular favorites she actually showed me, under
solemn promise of secrecy; and to four others she promised a peep
some day, after her bossee had fairly worn me. In this manner my
arrival was circulated prematurely in certain coteries, the pretty mouths
and fine voices that spoke of my marvels, being quite unconscious that
they were circulating news that had reached their ears via Honor
O'Flagherty, Biddy Noon, and Kathleen Brady.

{Milesians = slang for Irish (from Milesius, a mythical Spanish
conqueror of Ireland); Miss Dosie = Miss Eudosia; bossee = humorous
for a female boss; coteries = social sets}

Mr. Halfacre occupied a very GENTEEL residence in Broadway,
where he and his enjoyed the full benefit of all the dust, noise, and
commotion of that great thoroughfare. This house had been purchased
and mortgaged, generally simultaneous operations with this great
operator, as soon as he had "inventoried" half a million. It was a sort of
patent of nobility to live in Broadway; and the acquisition of such a
residence was like the purchase of a marquiseta in Italy. When Eudosia
was fairly in possession of a hundred-dollar pocket-handkerchief, the
great seal might be said to be attached to the document that was to
elevate the Halfacres throughout all future time.

{marquiseta = presumably the residence or palace of a Marquis}

Now the beautiful Eudosia--for beautiful, and even lovely, this glorious-
looking creature was, in spite of a very badly modulated voice, certain
inroads upon the fitness of things in the way of expression, and a want
of a knowledge of the finesse of fine life--now the beautiful Eudosia had
an intimate friend named Clara Caverly, who was as unlike her as
possible, in character, education, habits, and appearance; and yet who
was firmly her friend. The attachment was one of childhood and
accident--the two girls having been neighbors and school-fellows until
they had got to like each other, after the manner in which young people
form such friendships, to wear away under the friction of the world, and
the pressure of time. Mr. Caverly was a lawyer of good practice, fair
reputation, and respectable family. His wife happened to be a lady from
her cradle; and the daughter had experienced the advantage of as great
a blessing. Still Mr. Caverly was what the world of New York, in 1832,
called poor; that is to say, he had no known bank-stock, did not own a
lot on the island, was director of neither bank nor insurance company,
and lived in a modest two-story house, in White street. It is true his
practice supported his family, and enabled him to invest in bonds and
mortgages two or three thousand a-year; and he owned the fee of some
fifteen or eighteen farms in Orange county, that were falling in from
three-lives leases, and which had been in his family ever since the
seventeenth century. But, at a period of prosperity like that which
prevailed in 1832, 3, 4, 5, and 6, the hereditary dollar was not worth
more than twelve and a half cents, as compared with the "inventoried"
dollar. As there is something, after all, in a historical name, and the
Caverleys [sic] still had the best of it, in the way of society, Eudosia was
permitted to continue the visits in White street, even after her own family
were in full possession in Broadway, and Henry Halfacre, Esq., had got
to be enumerated among the Manhattan nabobs. Clara Caverly was in
Broadway when Honor O'Flagherty arrived with me, out of breath, in
consequence of the shortness of her legs, and the necessity of making
up for lost time.

{owned the fee...falling in from three-life leases = i.e., Mr. Caverly
owned farms in Orange County that had been leased out for long
periods (the lives of three persons named at the moment the lease was
granted) but which were now about to revert to him--such long-term
leases, in the Hudson Valley, led to the so-called anti-rent war that was
breaking out at the time Cooper wrote this book; twelve and a half
cents = an English shilling, still often used in conversation in America;
nabobs = rich men (usually businessmen of recent affluence)}

"There, Miss Dosie," cried the exulting housemaid, for such was
Honor's domestic rank, though preferred to so honorable and
confidential a mission--"There, Miss Dosie, there it is, and it's a jewel."

{preferred = promoted}

"What has Honor brought you NOW?" asked Clara Caverly in her
quiet way, for she saw by the brilliant eyes and flushed cheeks of her
friend that it was something the other would have pleasure in conversing
about. "You make so many purchases, dear Eudosia, that I should think
you would weary of them."

"What, weary of beautiful dresses? Never, Clara, never! That might do
for White street, but in Broadway one is never tired of such things--
see," laying me out at full length in her lap, "this is a pocket-
handkerchief--I wish your opinion of it."

Clara examined me very closely, and, in spite of something like a frown,
and an expression of dissatisfaction that gathered about her pretty face-
-for Clara was pretty, too--I could detect some of the latent feelings of
the sex, as she gazed at my exquisite lace, perfect ornamental work,
and unequaled fineness. Still, her education and habits triumphed, and
she would not commend what she regarded as ingenuity misspent, and
tasteless, because senseless, luxury.

"This handkerchief cost ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, Clara," said
Eudosia, deliberately and with emphasis, imitating, as near as possible,
the tone of Bobbinet & Co.

"Is it possible, Eudosia! What a sum to pay for so useless a thing!"

"Useless! Do you call a pocket-handkerchief useless?"

"Quite so, when it is made in a way to render it out of the question to
put it to the uses for which it was designed. I should as soon think of
trimming gum shoes with satin, as to trim a handkerchief in that style."

"Style? Yes, I flatter myself it IS style to have a handkerchief that cost a
hundred dollars. Why, Clara Caverly, the highest priced thing of this
sort that was ever before sold in New York only came to seventy-nine
dollars. Mine is superior to all, by twenty-one dollars!"

Clara Caverly sighed. It was not with regret, or envy, or any unworthy
feeling, however; it was a fair, honest, moral sigh, that had its birth in the
thought of how much good a hundred dollars might have done, properly
applied. It was under the influence of this feeling, too, that she said,
somewhat inopportunely it must be confessed, though quite innocently--

"Well, Eudosia, I am glad you can afford such a luxury, at all events.
Now is a good time to get your subscription to the Widows' and
Orphans' Society. Mrs. Thoughtful has desired me to ask for it half a
dozen times; I dare say it has escaped you that you are quite a
twelvemonth in arrear."

"NOW a good time to ask for three dollars! What, just when I've paid
a hundred dollars for a pocket-handkerchief? That was not said with
your usual good sense, my dear. People must be MADE of money to
pay out so much at one time."

"When may I tell Mrs. Thoughtful, then, that you will send it to her?"

"I am sure that is more than I can say. Pa will be in no hurry to give me
more money soon, and I want, at this moment, near a hundred dollars'
worth of articles of dress to make a decent appearance. The Society
can be in no such hurry for its subscriptions; they must amount to a
good deal."

"Not if never paid. Shall I lend you the money--my mother gave me ten
dollars this morning, to make a few purchases, which I can very well do
without until you can pay me."

"DO, dear girl--you are always one of the best creatures in the world.
How much is it? three dollars I believe."

"Six, if you pay the past and present year. I will pay Mrs. Thoughtful
before I go home. But, dear Eudosia, I wish you had not bought that
foolish pocket-handkerchief."

"Foolish! Do you call a handkerchief with such lace, and all this
magnificent work on it, and which cost a HUNDRED DOLLARS,
foolish? Is it foolish to have money, or to be thought rich?"

"Certainly not the first, though it may be better not to be thought rich. I
wish to see you always dressed with propriety, for you do credit to
your dress; but this handkerchief is out of place."

"Out of place! Now, hear me, Clara, though it is to be a great secret.
What do you think Pa is worth?"

"Bless me, these are things I never think of. I do not even know how
much my own father is worth. Mother tells me how much I may spend,
and I can want to learn no more."

"Well, Mr. Murray dined with Pa last week, and they sat over their
wine until near ten. I overheard them talking, and got into this room to
listen, for I thought I should get something new. At first they said nothing
but 'lots--lots--up town--down town--twenty-five feet front--dollar,
dollar, dollar.' La! child, you never heard such stuff in your life!"

"One gets used to these things, notwithstanding," observed Clara, drily.

"Yes, one DOES hear a great deal of it. I shall be glad when the
gentlemen learn to talk of something else. But the best is to come. At
last, Pa asked Mr. Murray if he had inventoried lately."

"Did he?"

"Yes, he did. Of course you know what that means?"

"It meant to FILL, as they call it, does it not?"

"So I thought at first, but it means no such thing. It means to count up,
and set down how much one is worth. Mr. Murray said he did THAT
every month, and of course he knew very well what HE was worth. I
forget how much it was, for I didn't care, you know George Murray is
not as old as I am, and so I listened to what Pa had inventoried. Now,
how much do you guess?"

"Really, my dear, I haven't the least idea," answered Clara, slightly
gaping--"a thousand dollars, perhaps."

"A thousand dollars! What, for a gentleman who keeps his coach--lives
in Broadway--dresses his daughter as I dress, and gives her hundred-
dollar handkerchiefs. Two hundred million, my dear; two hundred

Eudosia had interpolated the word "hundred," quite innocently, for, as
usually happens with those to whom money is new, her imagination ran
ahead of her arithmetic. "Yes," she added, "two hundred millions;
besides sixty millions of odd money!"

"That sounds like a great deal," observed Clara quietly; for, besides
caring very little for these millions, she had not a profound respect for
her friend's accuracy on such subjects.

"It IS a great deal. Ma says there are not ten richer men than Pa in the
state. Now, does not this alter the matter about the pocket-
handkerchief? It would be mean in me not to have a hundred-dollar
handkerchief, when I could get one."

"It may alter the matter as to the extravagance; but it does not alter it as
to the fitness. Of what USE is a pocket-handkerchief like this? A
pocket-handkerchief is made for USE, my dear, not for show."

"You would not have a young lady use her pocket-handkerchief like a
snuffy old nurse, Clara?"

"I would have her use it like a young lady, and in no other way. But it
always strikes me as a proof of ignorance and a want of refinement
when the uses of things are confounded. A pocket-handkerchief, at the
best, is but a menial appliance, and it is bad taste to make it an object of
attraction. FINE, it may be, for that conveys an idea of delicacy in its
owner; but ornamented beyond reason, never. Look what a tawdry and
vulgar thing an embroidered slipper is on a woman's foot."

"Yes, I grant you that, but everybody cannot have hundred-dollar
handkerchiefs, though they may have embroidered slippers. I shall wear
my purchase at Miss Trotter's ball to-night."

To this Clara made no objection, though she still looked disapprobation
of her purchase. Now, the lovely Eudosia had not a bad heart; she had
only received a bad education. Her parents had given her a smattering
of the usual accomplishments, but here her superior instruction ended.
Unable to discriminate themselves, for the want of this very education,
they had been obliged to trust their daughter to the care of mercenaries,
who fancied their duties discharged when they had taught their pupil to
repeat like a parrot. All she acquired had been for effect, and not for
the purpose of every-day use; in which her instruction and her pocket-
handkerchief might be said to be of a piece.


And here I will digress a moment to make a single remark on a subject
of which popular feeling, in America, under the influence of popular
habits, is apt to take an exparte view. Accomplishments are derided as
useless, in comparison with what is considered household virtues. The
accomplishment of a cook is to make good dishes; of a seamstress to
sew well, and of a lady to possess refined tastes, a cultivated mind, and
agreeable and intellectual habits. The real VIRTUES of all are the same,
though subject to laws peculiar to their station; but it is a very different
thing when we come to the mere accomplishments. To deride all the
refined attainments of human skill denotes ignorance of the means of
human happiness, nor is it any evidence of acquaintance with the
intricate machinery of social greatness and a lofty civilization. These
gradations in attainments are inseparable from civilized society, and if
the skill of the ingenious and laborious is indispensable to a solid
foundation, without the tastes and habits of the refined and cultivated, it
never can be graceful or pleasing.

{exparte = should be "ex parte"--one-sided (Latin)}

Eudosia had some indistinct glimmerings of this fact, though it was not
often that she came to sound and discriminating decisions even in
matters less complicated. In the present instance she saw this truth only
by halves, and that, too, in its most commonplace aspect, as will appear
by the remark she made on the occasion.

"Then, Clara, as to the PRICE I have paid for this handkerchief," she
said, "you ought to remember what the laws of political economy lay
down on such subjects. I suppose your Pa makes you study political
economy, my dear?"

"Indeed he does not. I hardly know what it means."

"Well, that is singular; for Pa says, in this age of the world, it is the only
way to be rich. Now, it is by means of a trade in lots, and political
economy, generally, that he has succeeded so wonderfully; for, to own
the truth to you, Clara, Pa hasn't always been rich."

"No?" answered Clara, with a half-suppressed smile, she knowing the
fact already perfectly well.

"Oh, no--far from it--but we don't speak of this publicly, it being a sort
of disgrace in New York, you know, not to be thought worth at least
half a million. I dare say your Pa is worth as much as that?"

"I have not the least idea he is worth a fourth of it, though I do not
pretend to know. To me half a million of dollars seems a great deal of
money, and I know my father considers himself poor--poor, at least, for
one of his station. But what were you about to say of political
economy? I am curious to hear how THAT can have any thing to do
with your handkerchief."

"Why, my dear, in this manner. You know a distribution of labor is the
source of all civilization--that trade is an exchange of equivalents--that
custom-houses fetter these equivalents--that nothing which is fettered is

"My dear Eudosia, what IS your tongue running on?"

"You will not deny, Clara, that any thing which is fettered is not free?
And that freedom is the greatest blessing of this happy country; and that
trade ought to be as free as any thing else?"

All this was gibberish to Clara Caverly, who understood the phrases,
notwithstanding, quite as well as the friend who was using them. Political
economy is especially a science of terms; and free trade, as a branch of
it is called, is just the portion of it which is indebted to them the most.
But Clara had not patience to hear any more of the unintelligible jargon
which has got possession of the world to-day, much as Mr. Pitt's
celebrated sinking-fund scheme for paying off the national debt of Great
Britain did, half a century since, and under very much the same
influences; and she desired her friend to come at once to the point, as
connected with the pocket-handkerchief.

{Mr. Pitt's celebrated sinking-fund = Sir William Pitt "the younger"
(1759-1806), when he became Prime Minister in 1784, sought to raise
taxes in order to pay off the British national debt}

"Well, then," resumed Eudosia, "it is connected in this way. The luxuries
of the rich give employment to the poor, and cause money to circulate.
Now this handkerchief of mine, no doubt, has given employment to
some poor French girl for four or five months, and, of course, food and
raiment. She has earned, no doubt, fifty of the hundred dollars I have
paid. Then the custom-house--ah, Clara, if it were not for that vile
custom-house, I might have had the handkerchief for at least five-and-
twenty dollars lower----!"

"In which case you would have prized it five-and-twenty times less,"
answered Clara, smiling archly.

"THAT is true; yes, free trade, after all, does NOT apply to pocket-

"And yet," interrupted Clara, laughing, "if one can believe what one
reads, it applies to hackney-coaches, ferry-boats, doctors, lawyers, and
even the clergy. My father says it is----"

"What? I am curious to know, Clara, what as plain speaking a man as
Mr. Caverly calls it."

"He is plain speaking enough to call it a ----- HUMBUG," said the
daughter, endeavoring to mouth the word in a theatrical manner. "But,
as Othello says, the handkerchief."

{Othello says... = "Fetch me the handkerchief," Shakespeare, "Othello,"
Act III, Scene 4, line 98}

"Oh! Fifty dollars go to the poor girl who does the work, twenty-five
more to the odious custom-house, some fifteen to rent, fuel, lights, and
ten, perhaps, to Mr. Bobbinet, as profits. Now all this is very good, and
very useful to society, as you must own."

Alas, poor Adrienne! Thou didst not receive for me as many francs as
this fair calculation gave thee dollars; and richer wouldst thou have
been, and, oh, how much happier, hadst thou kept the money paid for
me, sold the lace even at a loss, and spared thyself so many, many
hours of painful and anxious toil! But it is thus with human calculations,
The propositions seem plausible, and the reasoning fair, while stern truth
lies behind all to level the pride of understanding, and prove the fallacy
of the wisdom of men. The reader may wish to see how closely
Eudosia's account of profit and loss came to the fact, and I shall,
consequently, make up the statement from the private books of the firm
that had the honor of once owning me, viz.:

Super-extraordinary Pocket-handkerchief, &c., in account with
Bobbinet & Co.

To money paid, first cost, francs 100, at 5.25, -- $19.04
To interest on same for ninety days, at 7 per cent., -- 00.33
To portion of passage money, -- 00.04
To porterage, -- 00.00 1/4
To washing and making up, -- 00.25
$19 66 1/4

By cash paid by Miss Thimble, -- $1.00
By cash paid for article, -- 100.00
By washerwoman's deduction, -- 00.05
By profit, -- $81.39 3/4

As Clara Caverly had yet to see Mrs. Thoughtful, and pay Eudosia's
subscription, the former now took her leave. I was thus left alone with
my new employer, for the first time, and had an opportunity of learning
something of her true character, without the interposition of third
persons; for, let a friend have what hold he or she may on your heart, it
has a few secrets that are strictly its own. If admiration of myself could
win my favor, I had every reason to be satisfied with the hands into
which fortune had now thrown me. There were many things to admire in
Eudosia--a defective education being the great evil with which she had
to contend. Owing to this education, if it really deserved such a name,
she had superficial accomplishments, superficially acquired--principles
that scarce extended beyond the retenue and morals of her sex--tastes
that had been imbibed from questionable models--and hopes that
proceeded from a false estimate of the very false position into which she
had been accidentally and suddenly thrown. Still Eudosia had a heart.
She could scarcely be a woman, and escape the influence of this portion
of the female frame. By means of the mesmeritic power of a pocket-
handkerchief, I soon discovered that there was a certain Morgan
Morely in New York, to whom she longed to exhibit my perfection, as
second to the wish to exhibit her own.

{retenue = discretion}

I scarcely know whether to felicitate myself or not, on the circumstance
that I was brought out the very first evening I passed in the possession
of Eudosia Halfacre. The beautiful girl was dressed and ready for Mrs.
Trotter's ball by eight; and her admiring mother thought it impossible for
the heart of Morgan Morely, a reputed six figure fortune, to hold out
any longer. By some accident or other, Mr. Halfacre did not appear--
he had not dined at home; and the two females had all the joys of
anticipation to themselves.

"I wonder what has become of your father," said Mrs. Halfacre, after
inquiring for her husband for the tenth time. "It is SO like him to forget
an engagement to a ball. I believe he thinks of nothing but his lots. It is
really a great trial, Dosie, to be so rich. I sometimes wish we weren't
worth more than a million, for, after all, I suspect true happiness is to be
found in these little fortunes. Heigho! It's ten o'clock, and we must go, if
we mean to be there at all; for Mrs. Caverly once said, in my presence,
that she thought it as vulgar to be too late, as too early."

The carriage was ordered, and we all three got in, leaving a message for
Mr. Halfacre to follow us. As the rumor that a "three-figure" pocket-
handkerchief was to be at the ball, had preceded my appearance, a
general buzz announced my arrival in the salle a manger-salons. I have
no intention of describing fashionable society in the GREAT
EMPORIUM of the WESTERN WORLD. Every body understands
that it is on the best possible footing--grace, ease, high breeding and
common sense being so blended together, that it is exceedingly difficult
to analyze them, or, indeed, to tell which is which. It is this moral fusion
that renders the whole perfect, as the harmony of fine coloring throws a
glow of glory on the pictures of Claude, or, for that matter, on those of
Cole, too. Still, as envious and evil disposed persons have dared to call
in question the elegance, and more especially the retenue of a
Manhattanese rout, I feel myself impelled, if not by that high sentiment,
patriotism, at least by a feeling of gratitude for the great consideration
that is attached to pocket-handkerchiefs, just to declare that it is all
scandal. If I have any fault to find with New York society, it is on
account of its formal and almost priggish quiet--the female voice being
usually quite lost in it--thus leaving a void in the ear, not to say the heart,
that is painful to endure. Could a few young ladies, too, be persuaded
to become a little more prominent, and quit their mother's apron-strings,
it would add vastly to the grouping, and relieve the stiffness of the "shin-
pieces" of formal rows of dark-looking men, and of the flounces of
pretty women. These two slight faults repaired, New York society
might rival that of Paris; especially in the Chausse d'Autin. More than
this I do not wish to say, and less than this I cannot in honor write, for I
have made some of the warmest and truest-hearted friends in New
York that it ever fell to the lot of a pocket-handkerchief to enjoy.

{salle a manger-salons = dining rooms-parlor; GREAT EMPORIUM
[capitals in original] = New York City; Claude = Claude Lorrain
(1600-1682), French landscape painter; Cole = Thomas Cole (1801-
1848), American landscape painter; rout = evening party; Chausse
d'Autin = Chaussee d'Antin, a fashionable Parisian street and

It has been said that my arrival produced a general buzz. In less than a
minute Eudosia had made her curtsy, and was surrounded, in a corner,
by a bevy of young friends, all silent together, and all dying to see me.
To deny the deep gratification I felt at the encomiums I received, would
be hypocrisy. They went from my borders to my centre--from the lace
to the hem--and from the hem to the minutest fibre of my exquisite
texture. In a word, I was the first hundred-dollar pocket-handkerchief
that had then appeared in their circles; and had I been a Polish count,
with two sets of moustaches, I could not have been more flattered and
"entertained." My fame soon spread through the rooms, as two little
apartments, with a door between them that made each an alcove of the
other, were called; and even the men, the young ones in particular,
began to take an interest in me. This latter interest, it is true, did not
descend to the minutiae of trimmings and work, or even of fineness, but
the "three figure" had a surprising effect. An elderly lady sent to borrow
me for a moment. It was a queer thing to borrow a pocket-
handkerchief, some will think; but I was lent to twenty people that night;
and while in her hands, I overheard the following little aside, between
two young fashionables, who were quite unconscious of the acuteness
of the senses of our family.

"This must be a rich old chap, this Halfacre, to be able to give his
daughter a hundred-dollar pocket-handkerchief, Tom; one might do
well to get introduced."

"If you'll take my advice, Ned, you'll keep where you are," was the
answer. "You've been to the surrogate's office, and have seen the will of
old Simonds, and KNOW that he has left his daughter seventy-eight
thousand dollars; and, after all, this pocket-handkerchief may be only a
sign. I always distrust people who throw out such lures."

"Oh, rely on it, there is no sham here; Charley Pray told me of this girl
last week, when no one had ever heard of her pocket-handkerchief."

"Why don't Charley, then, take her himself? I'm sure, if I had HIS
imperial, I could pick and choose among all the second-class heiresses
in town."

{imperial = wealth (from a Russian gold coin)}

"Ay, there's the rub, Tom; one is obliged in our business to put up with
the SECOND class. Why can't we aim higher at once, and get such
girls as the Burtons, for instance?"

"The Burtons have, or have had, a mother."

"And haven't all girls mothers? Who ever heard of a man or a woman
without a mother!"

"True, physically; but I mean morally. Now this very Eudosia Halfacre
has no more mother, in the last sense, than you have a wet-nurse. She
has an old woman to help her make a fool of herself; but, in the way of
a mother, she would be better off with a pair of good gum-shoes. A
creature that is just to tell a girl not to wet her feet, and when to cloak
and uncloak, and to help tear the check-book out of money, is no more
of a mother than old Simonds was of a Solomon, when he made that
will which every one of us knows by heart quite as well as he knows the

Here a buzz in the room drew the two young men a little aside, and for
a minute I heard nothing but indistinct phrases, in which "removal of
deposites," "panic," "General Jackson," and "revolution," were the only
words I could fairly understand. Presently, however, the young men
dropped back into their former position, and the dialogue proceeded.

{General Jackson... = President Andrew Jackson in 1833 withdrew the
federal government deposits from the Bank of the United States, leading
to a major financial panic}

"There!" exclaimed Ned, in a voice louder than was prudent, "THAT is
what I call an escape! That cursed handkerchief was very near taking
me in. I call it swindling to make such false pretensions."

"It might be very awkward with one who was not properly on his guard;
but with the right sort there is very little danger."

Here the two elegants led out a couple of heiresses to dance; and I
heard no more of them or of their escapes. Lest the reader, however,
should be misled, I wish to add, that these two worthies are not to be
taken as specimens of New York morality at all--no place on earth
being more free from fortune-hunters, or of a higher tone of social
morals in this delicate particular. As I am writing for American readers,
I wish to say, that all they are told of the vices of OLD countries, on the
other side of the Atlantic, is strictly true; while all that is said, directly, or
by implication, of the vices and faults of this happy young country, is just
so much calumny. The many excellent friends I have made, since my
arrival in this hemisphere, has bound my heart to them to all eternity;
and I will now proceed with my philosophical and profound
disquisitions on what I have seen, with a perfect confidence that I shall
receive credit, and an independence of opinion that is much too dear to
me to consent to place it in question. But to return to facts.

{elegants = dandies}

I was restored to Eudosia, with a cold, reserved look, by a lady into
whose hands I had passed, that struck me as singular, as shown to the
owner of such an article. It was not long, however, before I discovered,
to use a homely phrase, that something had happened; and I was not
altogether without curiosity to know what that something was. It was
apparent enough, that Eudosia was the subject of general observation,
and of general conversation, though, so long as she held me in her hand,
it exceeded all my acuteness of hearing to learn what was said. The
poor girl fancied her pocket-handkerchief was the common theme; and
in this she was not far from right, though it was in a way she little
suspected. At length Clara Caverly drew near, and borrowed me of her
friend, under a pretext of showing me to her mother, who was in the
room, though, in fact, it was merely to get me out of sight; for Clara was
much too well-bred to render any part of another's dress the subject of
her discussions in general society. As if impatient to get me out of sight,
I was thrown on a sofa, among a little pile of consoeurs, (if there is such
a word,) for a gathering had been made, while our pretty hostesses
were dancing, in order to compare our beauty. There we lay quite an
hour, a congress of pocket-handkerchiefs, making our comments on the
company, and gossiping in our own fashion. It was only the next day
that I discovered the reason we were thus neglected; for, to own the
truth, something had occurred which suddenly brought "three-figure,"
and even "two-figure" people of our class into temporary disrepute. I
shall explain that reason at the proper moment.

{consoeurs = fellow sisters}

The conversation among the handkerchiefs on the sofa, ran principally
on the subject of our comparative market value. I soon discovered that
there was a good deal of envy against me, on account of my "three
figures," although, I confess, I thought I cut a "poor figure," lying as I
did, neglected in a corner, on the very first evening of my appearance in
the fashionable world. But some of the opinions uttered on this
occasion--always in the mesmeritic manner, be it remembered--will be
seen in the following dialogue.

"Well!" exclaimed $25, "this is the first ball I have been at that I was not
thought good enough to have a place in the quadrille. You see all the
canaille are in the hands of their owners, while we, the elite of pocket-
handkerchiefs, are left here in a corner, like so many cloaks."

{canaille = riff-raff}

"There must be a reason for this, certainly," answered $45, "though
YOU have been flourished about these two winters, in a way that ought
to satisfy one of YOUR pretensions."

An animated reply was about to set us all in commotion, when $80,
who, next to myself, had the highest claims of any in the party, changed
the current of feeling, by remarking--

"It is no secret that we are out of favor for a night or two, in
consequence of three figures having been paid for one of us, this very
day, by a bossess, whose father stopped payment within three hours
after he signed the cheque that was to pay the importer. I overheard the
whole story, half an hour since, and thus, you see, every one is afraid to
be seen with an aristocratic handkerchief, just at this moment. But--
bless you! in a day or two all will be forgotten, and we shall come more
into favor than ever. All is always forgotten in New York in a week."

Such was, indeed, the truth. One General Jackson had "removed the
deposits," as I afterwards learned, though I never could understand
exactly what that meant; but, it suddenly made money scarce, more
especially with those who had none; and every body that was
"extended" began to quake in their shoes. Mr. Halfacre happened to be
in this awkward predicament, and he broke down in the effort to sustain
himself. His energy had over-reached itself, like the tumbler who breaks
his neck in throwing seventeen hundred somersets backwards.


Every one is more apt to hear an unpleasant rumor than those whom it
immediately affects. Thus Eudosia and her mother were the only
persons at Mrs. Trotter's ball who were ignorant of what had
happened; one whispering the news to another, though no one could
presume to communicate the fact to the parties most interested. In a
commercial town, like New York, the failure of a reputed millionaire,
could not long remain a secret, and every body stared at the wife and
daughter, and me; first, as if they had never seen the wives and
daughters of bankrupts before; and second, as if they had never seen
them surrounded by the evidences of their extravagance.

But the crisis was at hand, and the truth could not long be concealed.
Eudosia was permitted to cloak and get into the carriage unaided by
any beau, a thing that had not happened to her since speculation had
brought her father into notice. The circumstance, more than any other,
attracted her attention; and the carriage no sooner started than the poor
girl gave vent to her feelings.

"What CAN be the matter, Ma?" Eudosia said, "that every person in
Mrs. Trotter's rooms should stare so at me, this evening? I am sure my
dress is as well made and proper as that of any other young lady in the
rooms, and as for the handkerchiefS, I could see envy in fifty eyes,
when their owners heard the price."

"That is all, dear--they DID envy you, and no wonder they stared--
nothing makes people stare like envy. I thought this handkerchief would
make a commotion. Oh! I used to stare myself when envious."

"Still it was odd that Morgan Morely did not ask me to dance--he
knows how fond I am of dancing, and for the credit of so beautiful a
handkerchief, he ought to have been more than usually attentive to-

Mrs. Halfacre gaped, and declared that she was both tired and sleepy,
which put an end to conversation until the carriage reached her own

Both Mrs. Halfacre and Eudosia were surprised to find the husband and
father still up. He was pacing the drawing-room, by the light of a single
tallow candle, obviously in great mental distress.

"Bless me!" exclaimed the wife--"YOU up at this hour?--what CAN
have happened? what HAS come to our door?"

"Nothing but beggary," answered the man, smiling with a bitterness
which showed he felt an inhuman joy, at that fierce moment, in making
others as miserable as himself. "Yes, Mrs. Henry Halfacre--yes, Miss
Eudosia Halfacre, you are both beggars--I hope that, at least, will
satisfy you."

"You mean, Henry, that you have failed?" For that was a word too
familiar in New York not to be understood even by the ladies. "Tell me
the worst at once--is it true, HAVE you failed?"

"It IS true--I HAVE failed. My notes have been this day protested for
ninety-five thousand dollars, and I have not ninety-five dollars in bank.
To-morrow, twenty-three thousand more will fall due, and this month
will bring round quite a hundred and thirty thousand more. That
accursed removal of the deposits, and that tiger, Jackson, have done it

To own the truth, both the ladies were a little confounded. They wept,
and for some few minutes there was a dead silence, but curiosity soon
caused them both to ask questions.

"This is very dreadful, and with our large family!" commenced the
mother--"and so the general has it all to answer for--why did you let
him give so many notes for you?"

"No--no--it is not that--I gave the notes myself; but he removed the
deposits, I tell you."

"It's just like him, the old wretch! To think of his removing your
deposits, just as you wanted them so much yourself! But why did the
clerks at the bank let him have them--they ought to have known that
you had all this money to pay, and people cannot well pay debts
without money."

"You are telling that, my dear, to one who knows it by experience. That
is the very reason why I have failed. I have a great many debts, and I
have no money."

"But you have hundreds of lots--give them lots, Henry, and that will
settle all your difficulties. You must remember how all our friends have
envied us our lots."

"Ay, no fear, but they'll get the lots, my dear--unless, indeed," added
the speculator, "I take good care to prevent it. Thank God! I'm not a
DECLARED bankrupt. I can yet make my own assignee."

"Well, then, I wouldn't say a word about it--declare nothing, and let 'em
find out that you have failed, in the best manner they can. Why tell
people your distresses, so that they may pity you. I hate pity, above all
things--and especially the pity of my own friends."

"Oh, that will be dreadful!" put in Eudosia. "For Heaven's sake, Pa,
don't let any body pity us."

"Very little fear of that, I fancy," muttered the father; "people who shoot
up like rockets, in two or three years, seldom lay the foundations of
much pity in readiness for their fall."

"Well, I declare, Dosie, this is TOO bad in the old general, after all. I'm
sure it MUST be unconstitutional for a president to remove your father's
deposits. If I were in your place, Mr. Halfacre, I wouldn't fail just to
spite them. You know you always said that a man of energy can do any
thing in this country; and I have heard Mr. Munny say that he didn't
know a man of greater energy than yourself."

The grin with which the ruined speculator turned on his wife was nearly

"Your men of energy are the very fellows TO fail," he said; "however,
they shall find if I have had extraordinary energy in running into debt,
that I have extraordinary energy, too, in getting out of it. Mrs. Halfacre,
we must quit this house this very week, and all this fine furniture must be
brought to the hammer. I mean to preserve my character, at least."

This was said loftily, and with the most approved accents.

"Surely it isn't necessary to move to do that, my dear! Other people fail,
and keep their houses, and furniture, and carriages, and such other
things. Let us not make ourselves the subjects of unpleasant remarks."

"I intend that as little as you do yourself. We must quit this house and
bring the furniture under the hammer, or part with all those lots you so
much esteem and prize."

"Oh! If the house and furniture will pay the notes I'm content, especially
if you can contrive to keep the lots. Dosie will part with her
handkerchief, too, I dare say, if that will do any good."

"By George! that will be a capital idea--yes, the handkerchief must be
sent back to-morrow morning; THAT will make a famous talk. I only
bought it because Munny was present, and I wanted to get fifty
thousand dollars out of him, to meet this crisis. The thing didn't succeed;
but, no matter, the handkerchief will tell in settling up. That
handkerchief, Dosie, may be made to cover a hundred lots."

In what manner I was to open so much, like the tent of the Arabian
Nights, was a profound mystery to me then, as well as it was to the
ladies; but the handsome Eudosia placed me in her father's hand with a
frank liberality that proved she was not altogether without good
qualities. As I afterwards discovered, indeed, these two females had
most of the excellences of a devoted wife and daughter, their frivolities
being the result of vicious educations or of no educations at all, rather
than of depraved hearts. When Mr. Halfacre went into liquidation, as it
is called, and compromised with his creditors, reserving to himself a
pretty little capital of some eighty or a hundred thousand dollars, by
means of judicious payments to confidential creditors, his wife and
daughter saw all THEY most prized taken away, and the town was
filled with the magnitude of their sacrifices, and with the handsome
manner in which both submitted to make them. By this ingenious device,
the insolvent not only preserved his character, by no means an unusual
circumstance in New York, however, but he preserved about half of his
bona fide estate also; his creditors, as was customary, doing the

It is unnecessary to dwell on the remainder of this dialogue, my own
adventures so soon carrying me into an entirely different sphere. The
following morning, however, as soon as he had breakfasted, Mr.
Halfacre put me in his pocket, and walked down street, with the port of
an afflicted and stricken, but thoroughly honest man. When he reached
the shop-door of Bobbinet & Co., he walked boldly in, and laid me on
the counter with a flourish so meek, that even the clerks, a very matter-
of-fact caste in general, afterwards commented on it.

"Circumstances of an unpleasant nature, on which I presume it is
unnecessary to dwell, compel me to offer you this handkerchief, back
again, gentlemen," he said, raising his hand to his eyes in a very affecting
manner. "As a bargain is a bargain, I feel great reluctance to disturb its
sacred obligations, but I CANNOT suffer a child of mine to retain such
a luxury, while a single individual can justly say that I owe him a dollar."

"What fine sentiments!" said Silky, who was lounging in a corner of the
shop--"wonderful sentiments, and such as becomes a man of honesty."

Those around the colonel approved of his opinion, and Mr. Halfacre
raised his head like one who was not afraid to look his creditors in the

"I approve of your motives, Mr. Halfacre," returned Bobbinet, "but you
know the character of the times, and the dearness of rents. That article
has been seen in private hands, doubtless, and can no longer be
considered fresh--we shall be forced to make a considerable
abatement, if we consent to comply."

"Name your own terms, sir; so they leave me a single dollar for my
creditors, I shall be happy."

"Wonderful sentiments!" repeated the colonel--"we must send that man
to the national councils!"

After a short negotiation, it was settled that Mr. Halfacre was to receive
$50, and Bobbinet & Co. were to replace me in their drawer. The next
morning an article appeared in a daily paper of pre-eminent honesty and
truth, and talents, in the following words:--

"WORTHY OF IMITATION.--A distinguished gentleman of this city,
H------ H------, Esquire, having been compelled to SUSPEND, in
consequence of the late robbery of the Bank of the United States by the
cold-blooded miscreant whose hoary head disgraces the White House,
felt himself bound to return an article of dress, purchased as recently as
yesterday by his lovely daughter, and who, in every respect, was
entitled to wear it, as she would have adorned it, receiving back the
price, with a view to put it in the fund he is already collecting to meet the
demands of his creditors. It is due to the very respectable firm of
Bobbinet & Co. to add, that it refunded the money with the greatest
liberality, at the first demand. We can recommend this house to our
readers as one of the most liberal in OUR city, (by the way the editor
who wrote this article didn't own a foot of the town, or of any thing
else,) and as possessing a very large and well selected assortment of the
choicest goods."

The following words--"we take this occasion to thank Messrs.
Bobbinet & Co. for a specimen of most beautiful gloves sent us," had a
line run through in the manuscript; a little reflection, telling the learned
editor that it might be indiscreet to publish the fact at that precise
moment. The American will know how to appreciate the importance of
this opinion, in relation to the house in question, when he is told that it
was written by one of those inspired moralists, and profound
constitutional lawyers, and ingenious political economists, who daily
teach their fellow creatures how to give practical illustrations of the
mandates of the Bible, how to discriminate in vexed questions arising
from the national compact, and how to manage their private affairs in
such a way as to escape the quicksands that have wrecked their own.

As some of my readers may feel an interest in the fate of poor Eudosia,
I will take occasion to say, before I proceed with the account of my
own fortunes, that it was not half as bad as might have been supposed.
Mr. Halfacre commenced his compromises under favorable auspices.
The reputation of the affair of the pocket-handkerchief was of great
service, and creditors relented as they thought of the hardship of
depriving a pretty girl of so valuable an appliance. Long before the
public had ceased to talk about the removal of the deposits, Mr.
Halfacre had arranged every thing to his own satisfaction. The lots were
particularly useful, one of them paying off a debt that had been
contracted for half a dozen. Now and then he met an obstinate fellow
who insisted on his money, and who talked of suits in chancery. Such
men were paid off in full, litigation being the speculator's aversion. As
for the fifty dollars received for me, it answered to go to market with
until other funds were found. This diversion of the sum from its destined
object, however, was apparent rather than real, since food was
indispensable to enable the excellent but unfortunate man to work for
the benefit of his creditors. In short, every thing was settled in the most
satisfactory manner, Mr. Halfacre paying a hundred cents in the dollar,
in lots, however, but in such a manner as balanced his books beautifully.

"Now, thank God! I owe no man a sixpence," said Mr. to Mrs.
Halfacre, the day all was concluded, "and only one small mistake has
been made by me, in going through so many complicated accounts, and
for such large sums."

"I had hoped ALL was settled," answered the good woman in alarm. "It
is that unreasonable man, John Downright, who gives you the trouble, I
dare say."

"He--oh! he is paid in full. I offered him, at first, twenty-five cents in the
dollar, but THAT he wouldn't hear to. Then I found a small error, and
offered forty. It wouldn't do, and I had to pay the scamp a hundred. I
can look that fellow in the face with a perfectly clear conscience."

"Who else can it be, then?"

"Only your brother, Myers, my dear; somehow or other, we made a
mistake in our figures, which made out a demand in his favor of
$100,000. I paid it in property, but when we came to look over the
figures it was discovered that a cypher too much had been thrown in,
and Myers paid back the difference like a man, as he is."

"And to whom will that difference belong?"

"To whom--oh!--why, of course, to the right owner."


When I found myself once more in the possession of Bobbinet & Co.,
I fancied that I might anticipate a long residence in their drawers, my
freshness, as an article, having been somewhat tarnished by the
appearance at Mrs. Trotter's ball. In this I was mistaken, the next day
bringing about a release, and a restoration to my proper place in

The very morning after I was again in the drawer, a female voice was
heard asking for "worked French pocket-handkerchiefs." As I clearly
came within this category--alas, poor Adrienne!--in half a minute I
found myself, along with fifty fellows or fellowesses, lying on the
counter. The instant I heard the voice, I knew that the speaker was not
"mamma," but "my child," and I now saw that she was fair. Julia
Monson was not as brilliantly handsome as my late owner, but she had
more feeling and refinement in the expression of her countenance. Still
there was an uneasy worldly glancing of the eye, that denoted how
much she lived out of herself, in the less favorable understanding of the
term; an expression of countenance that I have had occasion to remark
in most of those who think a very expensive handkerchief necessary to
their happiness. It is, in fact, the natural indication that the mind dwells
more on show than on substantial things, and a proof that the possessor
of this quality is not content to rely altogether on the higher moral
feelings and attainments for her claims to deference. In a word, it is
some such trait as that which distinguishes the beautiful plumage of the
peacock, from the motive that incites the bird to display his feathers.

In company with Miss Monson was another young lady of about her
own age, and of a very similar appearance as to dress and station. Still,
a first glance discovered an essential difference in character. This
companion, who was addressed as Mary, and whose family name was
Warren, had none of the uneasiness of demeanor that belonged to her
friend, and obviously cared less what others thought of every thing she
said or did. When the handkerchiefs were laid on the counter, Julia
Monson seized on one with avidity, while Mary Warren regarded us all
with a look of cold indifference, if not one of downright displeasure.

"What beauties!" exclaimed the first, the clerk at that moment quitting
them to hand some gloves to another customer--"What delightful
needle-work! Mary, do YOU purchase one to keep me in
countenance, and I will purchase another. I know your mother gave you
the money this very morning."

"Not for that object, Julia. My dear mother little thinks I shall do any
such thing."

"And why not? A rich pocket-handkerchief is a stylish thing!"

"I question if style, as you call it, is just the thing for a young woman,
under any circumstances; but, to confess the truth, I think a pocket-
handkerchief that is to be LOOKED at and which is not to be USED,

"Not in Sir Walter Scott's signification, my dear," answered Julia
laughing, "for it is not so very COMMON. Every body cannot have a
worked French pocket-handkerchief."

{Sir Walter Scott = British novelist and poet (1771-1832), often
compared with Cooper--I have not located his definition of "vulgar"}

"Sir Walter Scott's definition of what is vulgar is open to criticism, I
fancy. The word comes from the common mind, or common practices,
beyond a question, but it now means what is common as opposed to
what is cultivated and refined. It is an absurdity, too, to make a thing
respectable because it is common. A fib is one of the commonest things
in the world, and yet it is scarcely respectable."

"Oh! Every one says you are a philosopherESS, Mary, and I ought to
have expected some such answer. But a handkerchief I am determined
to have, and it shall be the very handsomest I can find."

"And the DEAREST? Well, you will have a very lady-like wardrobe
with one pocket-handkerchief in it! I wonder you do not purchase a
single shoe."

"Because I have TWO feet," replied Julia with spirit, though she laughed
good-naturedly--"but here is the clerk, and he must not hear our
quarrels. Have the goodness, sir, to show me the handsomest pocket-
handkerchief in your shop."

I was drawn from beneath the pile and laid before the bright black eyes
of Julia, with an air of solemn dignity, by the young dealer in finery.

"That, ma'am," he said, "is the very finest and most elegant article not
only that WE have, but which is to be found in America. It was brought
out by 'our Mr. Silky,' the last voyage; HE said PARIS cannot produce
its equal."

"This IS beautiful, sir, one must admit! What is the price?"

"Why, ma'am, we OUGHT in justice to ourselves to have $120 for that
article; but, to our regular customers I believe Mr. Bobbinet has
determined to ask ONLY $100."

This sounded exceedingly liberal--to ask ONLY $100 for that for
which there was a sort of moral obligation to ask $120!--and Julia
having come out with the intent to throw away a hundred-dollar note
that her mother had given her that morning, the bargain was concluded.
I was wrapped up carefully in paper, put into Miss Monson's muff, and
once more took my departure from the empire of Col. Silky. I no longer
occupied a false position.

"Now, I hope you are happy, Julia," quietly observed Mary Warren, as
the two girls took their seats side by side in Mrs. Monson's chariot.
"The surprise to me is, that you forgot to purchase this ne plus ultra of
elegance while in Paris last summer."

{chariot = a light, four-wheeled carriage with only back seats; ne plus
ultra = peak, ultimate}

"My father said he could not afford it; we spent a great deal of money,
as you may suppose, in running about, seeing sights, and laying in
curiosities, and when I hinted the matter to my mother, she said we must
wait until another half year's rents had come round. After all, Mary,
there is ONE person at home to whom I shall be ashamed to show this

"At home!--is there, indeed? Had you merely said 'in town' I could have
understood you. Your father and mother approving of what you have
done, I do not see who there is AT HOME to alarm you."

Julia blushed when her friend said "in town," and her conscious feelings
immediately conjured up the image of a certain Betts Shoreham, as the
person in her companion's mind's eye. I detected it all easily enough,
being actually within six inches of her throbbing heart at that very
moment, though concealed in the muff.

"It is not what you suppose, Mary, nor WHOM you suppose,"
answered my mistress; "I mean Mademoiselle Hennequin--I confess I
DO dread the glance of her reproving eye."

"It is odd enough that you should dread reproval from the governess of
your sisters when you do not dread it from your own mother! But
Mademoiselle Hennequin has nothing to do with you. You were
educated and out before she entered your family, and it is singular that a
person not older than yourself, who was engaged in Paris so recently,
should have obtained so much influence over the mind of one who never
was her pupil."

"I am not afraid of her in most things," rejoined Julia, "but I confess I am
in all that relates to taste; particularly in what relates to extravagance."

"I have greatly misunderstood the character of Mademoiselle Hennequin
if she ventured to interfere with you in either! A governess ought not to
push her control beyond her proper duties."

"Nor has Mademoiselle Hennequin," answered Julia honestly. "Still I
cannot but hear the lessons she gives my sisters, and--yes--to own the
truth, I dread the glance she cannot avoid throwing on my purchase. It
will say, 'of what use are all my excellent lessons in taste and prudence,
if an elder sister's example is to counteract them?' It is THAT I dread."

Mary was silent for fully a minute; then she smiled archly, as girls will
smile when certain thoughts cross their playful imaginations, and
continued the discourse.

"And Betts Shoreham has nothing to do with all this dread?"

"What is Betts Shoreham to me, or what am I to Betts Shoreham? I am
sure the circumstances that we happened to come from Europe in the
same packet, and that he continues to visit us now we are at home, do
not entitle him to have a veto, as they call it, on my wardrobe."

"Not YET, certainly, my dear. Still they may entitle him to have this
VETO, in petto."

{in petto = in private (Italian)}

I thought a shade passed over the features of the pretty Julia Monson as
she answered her friend, with a seriousness to show that she was now
in earnest, and with a propriety that proved she had great good sense at
bottom, as well as strong womanly feeling.

"If I have learned nothing else by visiting Europe," she said, "I have
learned to see how inconsiderate we girls are in America, in talking so
much, openly, of this sort of thing. A woman's delicacy is like that of a
tender flower, and it must suffer by having her name coupled with that
of any man, except him that she is to marry."

"Julia, dear, I will never speak of Mr. Shoreham again. I should not
have done it now had I not thought his attentions were acceptable to
you, as I am sure they are to your parents. Certainly, they are VERY
marked--at least, so others think as well as myself."

"I know it SEEMS so to the WORLD," answered Julia in a subdued,
thoughtful tone, "but it scarcely seems so to ME. Betts Shoreham is
very agreeable, every way a suitable connection for any of us, and that
is the reason people are so ready to fancy him in earnest."

"In earnest! If Mr. Shoreham pays attentions that are pointed, and is not
in earnest, he is a very different person from what I took him to be."

Julia's voice grew still more gentle, and it was easy enough to see that
her feelings were enlisted in the subject.

"It is no more than justice to Betts Shoreham," she continued, "to say
that he has NOT been pointed in his attentions to ME. We females are
said to be quick in discovering such matters, and I am not more blind
than the rest of our sex. He is a young man of good family, and has
some fortune, and that makes him welcome in most houses in town,
while he is agreeable, well-looking, and thoroughly amiable. He met us
abroad, and it is natural for him to keep up an intimacy that recalls
pleasant recollections. You will remember, Mary, that before he can be
accused of trifling, he must trifle. I think him far more attentive to my
mother, my father--nay, to my two little sisters--than he is to ME. Even
Mademoiselle Hennequin is quite as much if not more of a favorite than
I am!"

As Mary Warren saw that her friend was serious she changed the
subject; soon after, we were set down at Mr. Monson's door. Here the
friends parted, Mary Warren preferring to walk home, while Julia and I
entered the house together.

"Well, mother," cried Julia, as she entered Mrs. Monson's room, "I have
found the most beautiful thing you ever beheld, and have bought it. Here
it is; what do you think of my choice?"

Mrs. Monson was a kind-hearted, easy, indulgent parent, who had
brought her husband a good fortune, and who had married rich in the
bargain. Accustomed all her life to a free use of money, and of her own
money, too, (for this is a country in which very many persons cast the
substance of OTHERS right and left,) and when her eldest daughter
expressed a wish to possess an elaborate specimen of our race, she had
consented from a pure disinclination to deny her child any gratification
that might be deemed innocent. Still, she knew that prudence was a
virtue, and that Julia had thrown away money that might have been
much better employed.

"This is certainly a very beautiful handkerchief," observed the mother,
after examining me carefully, and with somewhat of the manner of a
connoisseur, "surprisingly beautiful; and yet I almost wish, my child, you
had not purchased it. A hundred dollars sounds frightfully en prince for
us poor simple people, who live in nutshells of houses, five and twenty
feet front, and fifty-six deep, to pay for a pocket-handkerchief. The
jewel-box of a young lady who has such handkerchiefs ought to cost
thousands, to be in keeping."

{en prince = princely; nutshells of houses = Cooper was frequently
critical of New York City's cramped townhouses}

"But, mother, I have only ONE, you will remember, and so my jewels
may be limited to hundreds."

"ONE pocket-handkerchief has a mean, sound, too. Even one hat is not
very superfluous."

"That is SO like Mary Warren, mother. If you did not wish me to make
the purchase, you had only to say it; I am sure your wish would have
been my law."

"I know it, love; and I am afraid it is your dutiful behavior that has made
me careless, in this instance. Your happiness and interests are ever
uppermost in my mind, and sometimes they seem to conflict. What
young man will dare to choose a wife from among young ladies who
expend so much money on their pocket-handkerchiefs?"

This was said smilingly, but there was a touch of tenderness and natural
concern in the voice and manner of the speaker that made an
impression on the daughter.

"I am afraid now, mother, you are thinking of Betts Shoreham," said
Julia, blushing, though she struggled powerfully to appear unconcerned.
"I do not know WHY it is, but both you and Mary Warren appear to
be always thinking of Mr. Shoreham."

The mother smiled; and she was not quite ingenuous when she said in
answer to the remark,

"Shoreham was not in my mouth; and you ought not to suppose he was
in my mind. Nevertheless, I do not believe he would admire you, or any
one else, the more for being the owner of so expensive an article of
dress. He is wealthy, but very prudent in his opinions and habits."

"Betts Shoreham was born to an estate, and his father before him," said
Julia firmly; "and such men know how to distinguish between the cant of
economy, and those elegancies of life that become people of

"No one can better understand the difference between cant in economy
as well as cant in some other things, and true taste as well as true
morals, than young Shoreham; but there are indulgences that become
persons in no class."

"After all, mother, we are making a trifle a very serious matter. It is but
a pocket-handkerchief."

"Very true, my love; and it cost ONLY one hundred dollars, and so
we'll say no more about it; bien entendu, that you are not to purchase
six dozen at the same price."

{bien entendu = it being understood}

This terminated the dialogue, Julia retiring to her own room, carrying me
with her. I was thrown upon the bed, and soon after my mistress
opened a door, and summoned her two younger sisters, who were
studying on the same floor, to join her. I shall not repeat all the delightful
exclamations, and other signs of approbation, that so naturally escaped
the two pretty little creatures, to whom I may be said to have now been
introduced, when my beauty came under examination. I do not thus
speak of myself out of any weakness, for pocket-handkerchiefs are
wholly without vanity, but simply because I am impelled to utter nothing
but truth. Julia had too much consideration to let her young sisters into
the secret of my price--for this would have been teaching a premature
lesson in extravagance; but, having permitted them to gratify their
curiosity, she exacted of them both promises not to speak of me to their

"But why not, Julia?" asked the inquisitive little Jane, "Mademoiselle
Hennequin is SO good and SO kind, that she would be glad to hear of
your good fortune."

Julia had an indistinct view of her own motive, but she could not avow it
to any one, not even to herself. Jealousy would be too strong, perhaps
too indelicate a word, but she alone had detected Betts Shoreham's
admiration of the governess; and it was painful to her to permit one who
stood in this relation to her own weakness in favor of the young man, to
be a witness of an act of extravagance to which she had only half
consented in committing it, and of which she already more than half
repented. From the first, therefore, she determined that Mademoiselle
Hennequin should never see me.


And now comes an exhibition of my mesmeritic powers, always
"handkerchiefly speaking," that may surprise those who have not
attended to the modern science of invisible fluids. It is by this means,
however, that I am enabled to perceive a great deal of that which
passes under the roof where I may happen to be, without absolutely
seeing it. Much escapes me, of course--for even a pocket-handkerchief
cannot hear or see every thing; but enough is learned to enable me to
furnish a very clear outline of that which occurs near me; more
especially if it happen to be within walls of brick. In wooden edifices I
find my powers much diminished--the fluids, doubtless, escaping
through the pores of the material.

That evening, then, at the usual hour, and while I lay snugly ensconced
in a most fragrant and convenient drawer, among various other beings
of my species, though not of my family, alas! the inmates of the house
assembled in the front drawing-room to take a few cups of tea. Mr. and
Mrs. Monson, with their only son, John Monson, their three daughters,
the governess, and Betts Shoreham, were all present; the latter having
dropped in with a new novel for the ladies.

"I do really wish one could see a little advance in the way of real
refinement and true elegance among all the vast improvements we are
making in frippery and follies," cried Mr. Monson, throwing down an
evening paper in a pettish manner, that sufficiently denoted discontent.
"We are always puffing our own progress in America, without exactly
knowing whether a good deal of the road is not to be traveled over
again, by way of undoing much that we have done. Here, now, is a
specimen of our march in folly, in an advertisement of Bobbinett's, who
has pocket-handkerchiefs at $75."

"By the dozen, or by the gross, sir?" demanded Betts Shoreham,

"Oh, singly--seventy-five dollars each."

"Nay, that MUST be a mistake, sir! who, even in this extravagant and
reckless country, could be found to pay such a price? One can fancy
such a thing in a princess, with hundreds of thousands of income, but
scarcely of any one else. How could such a thing be USED, for

"Oh," cried John Monson, "to hide the blushes of the simpleton who had
thrown away her money on it. I heard a story this very afternoon, of
some person of the name of Halfacre's having failed yesterday, and
whose daughter purchased even a higher priced handkerchief than that
the very same day."

"His failure is not surprising, then," put in Betts Shoreham. "For myself, I
do not think that I----"

"Well, WHAT do you think, Mr. Shoreham?" asked Mrs. Monson,
smiling, for she saw that Julia was too much mortified to speak, and
who assumed more than half the blame of her own daughter's
extravagance. "You were about to favor us with some magnificent

"I was about to utter an impertinence, I confess, ma'am, but recollected
in time, that young men's protestations of what THEY would do by way
of reforming the world, is not of half the importance to others that they
so often fancy; so I shall spare you the infliction. Seventy-five dollars,
Mademoiselle Hennequin, would be a high price for such a thing, even
in Paris, I fancy."

The answer was given in imperfect English, a circumstance that
rendered the sweet round tones of the speaker very agreeable to the
ear, and lent the charm of piquancy to what she said. I could not
distinguish countenances from the drawer, but I fancied young
Shoreham to be a handsome youth, the governess to be pale and
slightly ugly, though very agreeable in manner, and Julia excessively
embarrassed, but determined to defend her purchase, should it become

"Seventy-five dollars sound like a high price, monsieur," answered
Mademoiselle Hennequin; "but the ladies of Paris do not grudge their
gold for ornaments to decorate their persons."

"Ay," put in John Monson, "but they are consistent. Now I'll engage this
Mrs. Hundredacres, or Halfacre, or whatever her name may be,
overlooked her own household work, kept no housekeeper, higgled
about flour and butter, and lived half her time in her basement. Think of
such a woman's giving her daughter a hundred-dollar pocket-

Now Mrs. Monson DID keep a housekeeper; she was NOT a mere
upper-servant in her own family, and Julia was gratified that, in this
instance, her fastidious brother could not reproach HER at least.

"Well, Jack, that is a queer reason of yours;" cried the father, "for not
indulging in a luxury; because the good woman is careful in some things,
she is not to be a little extravagant in others. What do YOU say to such
logic, Mr. Shoreham?"

"To own the truth, sir, I am much of Monson's way of thinking. It is as
necessary to begin at the bottom in constructing a scheme of domestic
refinement, as in building a house. Fitness is entitled to a place in every
thing that relates to taste, at all events; and as a laced and embroidered
pocket-handkerchief is altogether for appearance, it becomes necessary
that other things should be in keeping. If the ladies will excuse me, I will
say that I never yet saw a woman in America, in a sufficiently high dress
to justify such an appendage as that which Monson has just mentioned.
The handkerchief ought not to cost more than the rest of the toilette."

"It is true, Mr. Shoreham," put in Julia, with vivacity, if not with spirit,
"that our women do not dress as women of rank sometimes dress in
Europe; but, on the whole, I do not know that we are so much behind
them in appearance."

"Very far from it, my dear Miss Monson--as far as possible--I am the
last man to decry my beautiful countrywomen, who are second to no
others in appearance, certainly; if they do not dress as richly, it is
because they do not need it. Mademoiselle Hennequin has no reason to
deprecate comparisons--and--but--"

"Certainly," answered the governess, when she found the young man
hesitated about proceeding, "certainly; I am not so bigoted, or so blind,
as to wish to deny that the American ladies are very handsome--
handsomer, as a whole, than those of my own country. It would be idle
to deny it--so are those of England and Italy."

"This is being very liberal, Mademoiselle Hennequin, and more than you
are required to admit," observed Mrs. Monson, in the kindest possible
tone of voice, and I make no manner of doubt with a most benevolent
smile, though I could not see her. "Some of the most brilliantly beautiful
women I have ever seen, have been French--perhaps the MOST
brilliantly beautiful."

"That is true, also, madame; but such is not the rule, I think. Both the
English and Americans seem to me handsomer, as a whole, than my
own countrywomen." Now, nothing could be sweeter, or softer, or
gentler, than the voice that made this great concession--for great it
certainly was, as coming from a woman. It appeared to me that the
admission, too, was more than commonly generous, from the
circumstance that the governess was not particularly pretty in her own
person. It is true, I had not yet seen her, but my mesmeritic impulses
induced me to fancy as much.


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