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A short story by Eliza Leslie

The Album

Title:     The Album
Author: Eliza Leslie [More Titles by Leslie]

"Tis not in mortals to command success."--ADDISON.

"Ungallant!--unmilitary!" exclaimed the beautiful Orinda Melbourne, to her yet unprofessed lover, Lieutenant Sunderland, as in the decline of a summer afternoon they sat near an open window in the northwest parlour of Mr. Cozzens's house at West Point, where as yet there was no hotel. "And do you steadily persist in refusing to write in my album? Really, you deserve to be dismissed the service for unofficer-like conduct."

"I have forsworn albums," replied Sunderland, "and for at least a dozen reasons. In the first place, the gods have not made me poetical."

"Ah!" interrupted Miss Melbourne, "you remind me of the well-known story of the mayor of a French provincial town, who informed the king that the worthy burgesses had fifteen reasons for not doing themselves the honour of firing a salute on his majesty's arrival: the first reason being that they had no cannon."

"A case in point," remarked Sunderland.

"Well," resumed Orinda, "I do not expect you to surpass the glories of Byron and Moore."

"Nothing is more contemptible than mediocre poetry," observed Sunderland; "the magazines and souvenirs have surfeited the world with it."

"I do not require you to be even mediocre," persisted the young lady. "Give me something ludicrously bad, and I shall prize it almost as highly as if it were seriously good. I need not remind you of the hackneyed remarks, that extremes meet, and that there is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Look at this Ode to West Point, written in my album by a very obliging cadet, a room-mate of my brother's. It is a perfect gem. How I admire these lines--

'The steamboat up the river shoots,
While Willis on his bugle toots.'"

"Wo to the man," said Sunderland, "who subjects his poetical reputation to the ordeal of a lady's album, where all, whether gifted or ungifted, are expected to do their best."

"You are mistaken," replied Orinda; "that expectation has long since gone by. We have found, by experience, that either from negligence or perverseness, gentlemen are very apt to write their worst in our albums."

"I do not wonder at it," said Sunderland. "However, I must retrieve my character as a knight of chivalry. Appoint me any other task, and I will pledge myself to perform your bidding. Let your request 'take any shape but that, and my firm nerves shall never tremble.'"

"But why this inveterate horror of albums?" asked Orinda. "Have you had any experience in them?"

"I have, to my sorrow," replied Sunderland. "With me, I am convinced, 'the course of albums never will run smooth.' For instance, I once, by means of an album, lost the lady of my love (I presume not to say the love of my lady.)"

Orinda looked up and looked down, and "a change came o'er the spirit of her face:" which change was not unnoticed by her yet undeclared admirer, whose acquaintance with Miss Melbourne commenced on a former visit she had made to West Point, to see her brother, who was one of the cadets of the Military Academy.

Orinda Melbourne was now in her twenty-first year, at her own disposal (having lost both her parents), and mistress of considerable property, a great part of which had been left to her by an aunt. She resided in the city of New York, with Mr. and Mrs. Ledbury, two old and intimate friends of her family, and they had accompanied her to West Point. She was universally considered a very charming girl, and by none more so than by Lieutenant Sunderland. But hearing that Miss Melbourne had declined the addresses of several very unexceptionable gentlemen, our hero was trying to delay an explicit avowal of his sentiments, till he should discover some reason to hope that the disclosure would be favourably received.

Like most other men, on similar occasions, he gave a favourable interpretation to the emotion involuntarily evinced by the young lady, on hearing him allude to his former flame.

There was a pause of a few moments, till Orinda rallied, and said with affected carelessness, "You may as well tell me the whole story, as we seem to have nothing better to talk of."

"Well, then," proceeded Sunderland, "during one of my visits to the city, I met with a very pretty young lady from Brooklyn. Her name is of course unmentionable; but I soon found myself, for the first time in my life, a little in love--"

"I suspect it was not merely a little," remarked Orinda, with a penetrating glance; "it is said, that in love the first fit is always the strongest."

"No, no!" exclaimed Sunderland; "I deny the truth of that opinion. It is a popular fallacy--I know it is," fixing his eyes on Orinda.

At that minute, the young officer would have given a year's pay to be certain whether the glow that heightened Miss Melbourne's complexion, was a bona fide blush, or only the reflection of the declining sunbeams, as they streamed from under a dark cloud that was hovering over the western hills. However, after a few moments' consideration, he again interpreted favourably.

"Proceed, Mr. Sunderland," said Orinda in rather a tremulous voice; "tell me all the particulars."

"Of the album I will," replied he. "Well, then--this young lady was one of the belles of Brooklyn, and certainly very handsome."

"Of what colour were her eyes and hair?" inquired Orinda.

"Light--both very light."

Orinda, who was a brunette, caught herself on the point of saying, that she had rarely seen much expression in the countenance of a blonde; but she checked the remark, and Sunderland proceeded.

"The lady in question had a splendidly bound album, which she produced and talked about on all occasions, and seemed to regard with so much pride and admiration, that if a lover could possibly have been jealous of a book, I was, at times, very near becoming so. It was half filled with amatory verses by juvenile rhymesters, and with tasteless insipid drawings in water colours, by boarding-school misses: which drawings my Dulcinea persisted in calling paintings. She also persisted in urging me to write 'a piece of poetry' in her album, and I persevered in declaring my utter inability: as my few attempts at versification had hitherto proved entire failures. At last, I reluctantly consented, recollecting to have heard of sudden fits of inspiration, and of miraculous gifts of poetical genius, with which even milkmaids and cobblers have been unexpectedly visited. So taking the album with me, I retired to the solitude of my apartment at the City Hall, concluding with Macbeth that when a thing is to be well done, 'tis well to do it quickly. Here I manfully made my preparations 'to saddle Pegasus and ride up Parnassus'--but in vain. With me the winged steed of Apollo was as obstinate as a Spanish mule on the Sierra Morena. Not an inch would he stir. There was not even the slightest flutter in his pinions; and the mountain of the Muses looked to me as inaccessible as--as what shall I say--"

"I will help you to a simile," replied Orinda; "as inaccessible as the sublime and stupendous precipice to which you West Pointers have given the elegant and appropriate title of Butter Hill."

"Exactly," responded Sunderland. "Parnassus looked like Butter Hill. Well, then--to be brief (as every man says when he suspects himself to be tedious), I sat up till one o'clock, vainly endeavouring to manufacture something that might stand for poetry. But I had no rhymes for my ideas, and no ideas for my rhymes. I found it impossible to make both go together. I at last determined to write my verses in prose till I had arranged the sense, and afterwards to put them into measure and rhyme. I tried every sort of measure from six feet to ten, and I essayed consecutive rhymes and alternate rhymes, but all was in vain. I found that I must either sacrifice the sense to the sound, or the sound to the sense. At length, I thought of the Bouts Rimées of the French. So I wrote down, near the right hand edge of my paper, a whole column of familiar rhymes, such as mine, thine, tears, fears, light, bright, &c.; And now I congratulated myself on having accomplished one-half of my task, supposing that I should find it comparatively easy to do the filling up. But all was to no purpose. I could effect nothing that I thought even tolerable, and I was too proud to write badly and be laughed at. However, I must acknowledge that, could I have been certain that my 'piece of poetry' would be seen only by the fair damsel herself, I might easily have screwed my courage to the sticking place; for greatly as I was smitten with the beauty of my little nymph, I had a secret misgiving that she had never sacrificed to Minerva."

Our hero paused a moment to admire the radiance of the smile that now lighted up the countenance of Orinda.

"In short," continued he, "I sat up till 'night's candles were burnt out,' both literally and metaphorically, and I then retired in despair to my pillow, from whence I did not rise till ten o'clock in the morning.

"That evening I carried back the album to my fair one; but she still refused to let me off, and insisted that I should take it with me to West Point, to which place I was to return next day. I did so, hoping to catch some inspiration from the mountain air, and the mountain scenery. I ought to have recollected that few of the poets on record, either lived among mountains, or wrote while visiting them. The sons of song are too often fated to set up their household gods, and strike their lyres, in dark narrow streets and dismal alleys.

"As soon as the steamboat had cleared the city, I took out my pocket-book and pencil, and prepared for the onset. I now regarded the ever-beautiful scenery of the magnificent Hudson with a new interest. I thought the Palisades would do something for me; but my imagination remained as sterile and as impenetrable as their eternal rocks. The broad expanse of the Tappan Sea lay like a resplendent mirror around me, but it reflected no image that I could transfer to my tablets. We came into the Highlands, but the old Dundeberg rumbled nothing in my fancy's ears, Anthony's Nose looked coldly down upon me, and the Sugar Loaf suggested no idea of sweetness. We proceeded along, but Buttermilk Falls reminded me not of the fountain of Helicon, and Bull Hill and Breakneck Hill seemed too rugged ever to be smoothed into verse.

"That afternoon I went up to Fort Putnam, for the hundred and twentieth time in my life. I walked round the dismantled ramparts; I looked into their damp and gloomy cells. I thought (as is the duty of every one that visits these martial ruins) on the 'pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.' But they inspired nothing that I could turn to account in my lady's album; nothing that could serve to introduce the compliment always expected in the last stanza. And, in truth, this compliment was the chief stumbling-block after all. 'But for these vile compliments, I might myself have been an album-poet.'"

"Is it then so difficult to compliment a lady?" inquired Orinda.

"Not in plain prose," replied Sunderland, "and when the lady is a little _à l'imbecile, nothing in the world is more easy. But even in prose, to compliment a sensible woman as she deserves, and without danger of offending her modesty, requires both tact and talent."

"Which I suppose is the reason," said Orinda, "that sensible women obtain so few compliments from your sex, and fools so many."

"True," replied Sunderland. "But such compliments as we wish to offer to elegant and intellectual females, are as orient pearls compared to French beads."

Orinda cast down her beautiful eyes under the expressive glance of her admirer. She felt that she was now receiving a pearl.

"But to proceed," continued Sunderland. "I came down from the fort no better poet than I went up, and I had recourse again to the solitude of my own room. Grown desperate, and determined to get the album off my mind and have it over, an idea struck me which I almost blush to mention. Promise not to look at me, and I will amaze you with my candour."

Orinda pretended to hold her fan before her eyes.

"Are you sure you are not peeping between the stems of the feathers?" said Sunderland. "Well, then, now for my confession; but listen to it 'more in sorrow than in anger,' and remember that the album alone was the cause of my desperation and my dishonour. Some Mephistopheles whispered in my ear to look among the older poets for something but little known, and transfer it as mine to a page in the fatal book. I would not, of course, venture on Scott or Moore or Byron; for though I doubted whether my lady-love was better versed in them than in the bards of Queen Anne's reign, yet I thought that perhaps some of the readers of her album might be acquainted with the last and best of the minstrels. But on looking over a volume of Pope, I found his 'Song by a Person of Quality.'"

"I recollect it," said Orinda; "it is a satire on the amateur love-verses of that period,--such as were generally produced by fashionable inamoratoes. In these stanzas the author has purposely avoided every approach to sense or connexion, but has assembled together a medley of smooth and euphonous sounds. And could you risk such verses with your Dulcinea?"

"Yes," replied Sunderland; "with her I knew that I was perfectly safe, and that she would pronounce them sweet and delightful. And in short, that they would exactly suit the calibre of her understanding."

"Yet still," said Orinda, "with such an opinion of her mental qualifications, you professed to love this young lady--or rather you really loved her--no doubt you did."

"No, no," replied Sunderland, eagerly; "it was only a passing whim--only a boyish fancy--such as a man may feel a dozen times before he is five-and-twenty, and before he is seriously in love. I should have told you that at this period I had not yet arrived at years of discretion."

"I should have guessed it without your telling," said Orinda, mischievously.

The young officer smiled, and proceeded.

"I now saw my way clear. So I made a new pen, placed Pope on my desk, and sitting down to the album with a lightened spirit, I began with the first stanza of his poem:

'Fluttering spread thy purple pinions,
Gentle Cupid, o'er my heart--
I a slave in thy dominions,
Nature must give way to art.'

And I then added the second and sixth verses, substituting the name of my fair one for that of Aurelia."

"What would I not give to know that name!" thought Orinda. "But, in those verses," she remarked to Sunderland, "if I recollect aright, there is no direct compliment to the lady's beauty."

"But there is a very great one by implication," answered the lieutenant. "For instance, the line--'Hear me pay my dying vows.'--What more could I profess than to die for love of her! And a lady that is died for, must of course be superlatively charming. In short, I finished the verses, and I must say they were very handsomely transcribed. Now, do not laugh. Is it not more excusable to take some pride in writing a good hand, than to boast of scribbling a bad one? I have known persons who seemed absolutely to plume themselves on the illegibility of their scrawls; because, unfortunately, so many men of genius have indulged in a most shameful style of chirography.

"Well, I viewed my performance with much satisfaction, and then proceeded to look attentively through the album (I had as yet but glanced over it), to see if any one excelled me in calligraphy. What was my horror, when I found among a multitude of Lines to Zephyrs and Dew-drops, and Stanzas to Rose-buds and Violets, the identical verses that I had just copied from Pope! Some other poor fellow, equally hard pressed, had been beforehand with me, and committed the very same theft; which, in his case, appeared to me enormous. I pronounced it 'flat burglary,' and could have consigned him to the penitentiary 'for the whole term of his natural life.' To be compelled to commit a robbery is bad enough, but to be anticipated in the very same robbery, and to find that you have burdened your conscience, and jeoparded your self-respect for nothing, is worse still."

"There was one way," observed Orinda, "in which you could have extricated yourself from the dilemma. You might have cut out the leaf, and written something else on another."

"That was the very thing I finally determined on doing," replied Sunderland. "So after a pause of deep distress, I took my penknife, and did cut out the leaf: resolving that for my next 'writing-piece,' I would go as far back as the poets of Elizabeth's time. While pleasing myself with the idea that all was now safe, I perceived, in moving the book, that another leaf was working its way out; and I found, to my great consternation, that I had cut too deeply, and that I had loosened a page on which was faintly drawn in a lady's hand a faint Cupid shooting at a faint heart, encircled with a wreath of faint flowers. I recollected that my 'fair one with locks of gold,' had pointed out to me this performance as 'the sweetest thing in her album.'"

"By-the-bye," remarked Orinda, "when you found so much difficulty in composing verses, why did you not substitute a drawing?"

"Oh!" replied the lieutenant, "though I am at no loss in military drawing, and can finish my bastions, and counterscarps, and ravelins, with all due neatness, yet my miscellaneous sketches are very much in the style of scene-painting, and totally unfit to be classed with the smooth, delicate, half-tinted prettinesses that are peculiar to ladies' albums."

"Now," said Orinda, "I am going to see how you will bear a compliment. I know that your drawings are bold and spirited, and such as the artists consider very excellent for an amateur, and therefore I will excuse you from writing verses in my album, on condition that you make me a sketch, in your own way, of my favourite view of Fort Putnam--I mean that fine scene of the west side which bursts suddenly upon you when going thither by the back road that leads through the woods. How sublime is the effect, when you stand at the foot of the dark gray precipice, feathered as it is with masses of beautiful foliage, and when you look up to its lofty summit, where the living rock seems to blend itself with the dilapidated ramparts of the mountain fortress!"

"To attempt such a sketch for Miss Melbourne," replied Sunderland, with much animation, "I shall consider both a pleasure and an honour. But Loves and Doves, and Roses and Posies, are entirely out of my line, or rather out of the line of my pencil. Now, where was I? I believe I was telling of my confusion when I found that I had inadvertently cut out the young lady's pet Cupid."

"But did it not strike you," said Orinda, "that the easiest course, after all, was to go to your demoiselle, and make a candid confession of the whole? which she would undoubtedly have regarded in no other light than as a subject of amusement, and have been too much diverted to feel any displeasure."

"Ah! you must not judge of every one by yourself," replied Sunderland. "I thought for a moment of doing what you now suggest, but after a little consideration, I more than suspected that my candour would be thrown away upon the perverse little damsel that owned the album, and that any attempt to take a ludicrous view of the business would mortally offend her. All young ladies are not like Miss Orinda Melbourne"--(bowing as he spoke).

Orinda turned her head towards the window, and fixed her eyes intently on the top of the Crow's Nest. This time the suffusion on her cheeks was not in the least doubtful.

"Well, then," continued Sunderland, "that I might remedy the disaster as far as possible, I procured some fine paste, and was proceeding to cement the leaf to its predecessor, when, in my agitation, a drop of the paste fell on the Cupid's face. In trying to absorb it with the corner of a clean handkerchief, I 'spread the ruin widely round,' and smeared off his wings, which unfortunately grew out of the back of his neck: a very pardonable mistake, as the fair artist had probably never seen a live Cupid. I was now nearly frantic, and I enacted sundry ravings 'too tedious to mention.' The first use I made of my returning senses was to employ a distinguished artist (then on a visit to West Point) to execute on another leaf, another Cupid, with bow and arrow, heart and roses, &c.; He made a beautiful little thing, a design of his own, which alone was worth a thousand album drawings of the usual sort. I was now quite reconciled to the disaster, which had given me an opportunity of presenting the young lady with a precious specimen of taste and genius. As soon as it was finished, I obtained leave of absence for a few days, went down to the city, and, album in hand, repaired to my Brooklyn beauty. I knew that, with her, there would be no use in telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and I acknowledge, with shame, that I suppressed the fact of my copying Pope's verses. I merely said that, not being quite satisfied with my poetry, I had cut out the leaf; and I then went on to relate the remainder exactly as it happened. As I proceeded, I observed her brows beginning to contract, and her lips beginning to pout. 'Well, sir,' said she, with her eyes flashing (for I now found that even blue eyes could flash), 'I think you have been taking great liberties with my album: cutting and clipping it, and smearing it with paste, and spoiling my best Cupid, and then getting a man to put another picture into it, without asking my leave.'

"Much disconcerted, I made many apologies, all of which she received with a very ill grace. I ventured to point out to her the superiority of the drawing that had been made by the artist.

"'I see no beauty in it,' she exclaimed; 'the shading is not half so much blended as Miss Cottonwool's, and it does not look half so soft.'"

"I have observed," said Orinda, "that persons who in reality know but little of the art, always dwell greatly on what they call softness."

"I endeavoured to reconcile her to the drawing," continued Sunderland; "but she persisted in saying that it was nothing to compare to Miss Cottonwool's, which she alleged was of one delicate tint throughout, while this was very light in some places and very dark in others, and that she could actually see distinctly where most of the touches were put on, 'when in paintings that are really handsome,' said she, 'all the shading is blended together, and looks soft.'

"To conclude, she would not forgive me; and, in sober truth, I must acknowledge that the petulance and silliness she evinced on this occasion, took away much of my desire to be restored to favour. Next day, I met her walking on the Battery, in high flirtation with an old West Indian planter, who espoused her in the course of a fortnight, and carried her to Antigua."

Orinda now gave an involuntary and almost audible sigh; feeling a sensation of relief on hearing that her rival by anticipation was married and gone, and entirely hors de combat.

Mr. and Mrs. Ledbury, who had been taking a long walk, now came in; and shortly after, the bell rang for tea. And when Orinda took the offered arm of Sunderland (as he conducted her to the table), she felt a presentiment that, before many days, the important question would be asked and answered.

The evening on which our story commences, was that of the 3d of July, 1825, and tea was scarcely over at the Mess House when an orderly sergeant came round with a notice for the officers to assemble in uniform at the dock, to receive General La Fayette, who was expected in half an hour.

The guest of the nation had visited the Military Academy soon after his arrival in America. He had there been introduced to Cadet Huger, the son of that gallant Carolinian who, in conjunction with the generous and enterprising Bollman, had so nearly succeeded in the hazardous attempt of delivering him from the dungeons of Olmutz.

La Fayette was now on his return from his memorable tour throughout the United States. Major Worth,[71] who was in command at West Point during the temporary absence of Colonel Thayer, happened to be at Newburgh when the steamboat arrived there, in which La Fayette was proceeding down the river from Albany to New York; and he invited the General to stop at West Point, and remain till the next boat. The invitation was promptly accepted, and Major Worth instantly despatched a messenger with the intelligence; wishing to give the residents of the post an opportunity of making such preparations for the reception of their distinguished visiter as the shortness of the time would allow.

[Footnote 71: Afterwards General Worth.]

The officers hastily put on their full dress uniform, and repaired to the wharf, or dock, as it was called. The band (at that time the finest in America) was already there. The ladies assembled on the high bank that overlooks the river, and from thence witnessed the arrival of La Fayette.

On the heights above the landing-place, and near the spot where the hotel has been since erected, appeared an officer, and a detachment of soldiers, waiting, with a lighted match, to commence the salute; for which purpose several pieces of artillery had been conveyed thither.

The twilight of a summer evening was accelerated by a vast and heavy cloud, portentous of a thunderstorm. It had overspread the west, and loured upon the river, on whose yet unruffled waters the giant shadows of the mountains were casting a still deeper gloom. Beyond Polipel's Island was seen the coming steamboat, looking like an immense star upon a level with the horizon. There was a solemn silence all around, which was soon broken by the sound of the paddles, that were heard when the boat was as far off as Washington's Valley: and, in a few minutes, her dense shower of sparks and her wreath of red smoke were vividly defined upon the darkening sky.

The boat was soon at the wharf; and, at the moment that La Fayette stepped on shore, the officers took off their hats, the band struck up Hail Columbia, and, amid the twilight gloom and the darkness of the impending thundercloud, it was chiefly by the flashes of the guns from the heights that the scene was distinctly visible. The lightning of heaven quivered also on the water; and the mountain echoes repeated the low rolling of the distant thunder in unison with the loud roar of the cannon.

The general, accompanied by his son, and by his secretary, Levasseur, walked slowly up the hill, leaning on the arm of Major Worth, preceded by the band playing La Fayette's March, and followed by the officers and professors of the Institution. When they had ascended to the plain, they found the houses lighted up, and the camp of the cadets illuminated also. They proceeded to the Mess House, and as soon as they had entered, the musicians ranged themselves under the elms in front, and commenced Yankee Doodle; the quickstep to which La Fayette, at the head of his American division, had marched to the attack at the siege of Yorktown.

While the General was partaking of some refreshment, the officers and professors returned for the ladies, all of whom were desirous of an introduction to him. Many children were also brought and presented to the far-famed European, who had so importantly assisted in obtaining for them and for their fathers, the glorious immunities of independence.

The star has now set which shone so auspiciously for our country at that disastrous period of our revolutionary struggle--

"When hope was sinking in dismay,
And gloom obscured Columbia's day."

Mouldering into dust is that honoured hand which was clasped with such deep emotion by the assembled sons and daughters of the nation in whose cause it had first unsheathed the sword of liberty. And soon will that noble and generous heart, so replete with truth and benevolence, be reduced to "a clod of the valley." Yet, may we not hope that from the world of eternity, of which his immortal spirit is now an inhabitant, he looks down with equal interest on the land of his nativity, and on the land of his adoption: that country so bound to him by ties of everlasting gratitude; that country where all were his friends, as he was the friend of all.

Tears suffused the beautiful eyes of Orinda Melbourne, when, introduced by her lover, she took the offered hand of La Fayette, and her voice trembled as she replied to the compliment of the patriot of both hemispheres. Sunderland remarked to the son of the illustrious veteran, that it gave him much pleasure to see that the General's long and fatiguing journey had by no means impaired his healthful appearance, but that, on the contrary, he now looked better than he had done on his first arrival in America. "Ah!" replied Colonel La Fayette, "how could my father suffer from fatigue, when every day was a day of happiness!"

After Orinda had resigned her place to another lady, she said to Sunderland, who stood at the back of her chair--"What would I not give for La Fayette's autograph in my album!"

"Still harping on the album," said Sunderland, smiling.

"Excuse me this once," replied Orinda. "I begin to think as you do with respect to albums, but if nothing else can be alleged in their favour, they may, at least, be safe and convenient depositories for mementoes of those whose names are their history. All I presume to wish or to hope from La Fayette, is simply his signature. But I have not courage myself to ask such a favour. Will you convey my request to him?"

"Willingly," answered Sunderland. "But he will grant that request still more readily if it comes from your own lips. Let us wait awhile, and I will see that you have an opportunity."

In a short time, nearly all the company had departed, except those that were inmates of the house. The gentlemen having taken home the ladies, returned for the purpose of remaining with La Fayette till the boat came along in which he was to proceed to the city.

Orinda took her album; her admirer conducted her to the General, and with much confusion she proffered her request; Sunderland brought him a standish, and he wrote the name "La Fayette" in the centre of a blank page, which our heroine presented to him: it having on each side other blank leaves that Orinda determined should never be filled up. Highly gratified at becoming the possessor of so valued a signature, she could scarcely refrain, in her enthusiasm, from pressing the leaf to her lips, when she soon after retired with Mrs. Ledbury.

The officers remained with General La Fayette till the arrival of the boat, which came not till near twelve o'clock. They then accompanied him to the wharf, and took their final leave. The thunderstorm had gone round without discharging its fury on West Point, and everything had turned out propitiously for the General's visit; which was perhaps the more pleasant for having been so little expected.

The following day was the Fourth of July, and the next was the one fixed on by Mr. and Mrs. Ledbury for returning to New York. That morning, at the breakfast-table, the number of guests was increased by the presence of a Mr. Jenkins, who had come from the city in the same boat with Miss Melbourne and her friends, and after passing a few days at West Point, had gone up the river to visit some relations at Poughkeepsie, from whence he had just returned. Mr. Jenkins was a shallow, conceited, over-dressed young man, and, moreover, extremely ugly, though of this misfortune he was not in the least aware. He was of a family whose wealth had not made them genteel. He professed great politeness to the ladies, that is, if they had beauty and money; yet he always declared that he would marry nothing under a hundred thousand dollars. But he was good-natured; and that, and his utter insignificance, got him along tolerably well, for no one ever thought it worth while to be offended at his folly and self-sufficiency.

After breakfast, Mrs. Ledbury asked Orinda if she had prevailed on Mr. Sunderland to write an article in her album, adding--"I heard you urging him to that effect the other day, as I passed the front parlour."

"I found him inexorable, as to writing," replied Orinda.

"Well, really," said Mr. Jenkins, "I don't know how a gentleman can reconcile himself to refuse anything a lady asks. And he an officer too! For my part, I always hold it my bounden duty to oblige the ladies, and never on any account to treat them with hauteur, as the French call it. To be sure, I am not a marrying man--that is, I do not marry under a hundred thousand--but still, that is no reason why I should not be always polite and agreeable. Apropos, as the French say--apropos, Miss Melbourne, you know I offered the other day to write something for you in your album, and I will do it with all the pleasure in life. I am very partial to albums, and quite au-fait to them, to use a French term."

"We return to the city this afternoon," said Orinda. "You will scarcely have time to add anything to the treasures of my album."

"Oh! it won't take me long," replied Jenkins; "short and sweet is my motto. There will be quite time enough. You see I have already finished my breakfast. I am not the least of a gourmand, to borrow a word from the French."

Orinda had really some curiosity to see a specimen of Jenkins's poetry: supposing that, like the poor cadet's, it might be amusingly bad. Therefore, having sent for her album, she put it hastily into Jenkins's hand: for at that moment Lieutenant Sunderland, who had, as usual, breakfasted at the mess-table with his brother officers, came in to invite her to walk with him to Gee's Point. Orinda assented, and immediately put on her bonnet, saying to her lover as she left the house--

"You know this is one of my favourite walks--I like that fine mass of bare granite running far out into the river, and the beautiful view from its extreme point. And then the road, by which we descend to it, is so charmingly picturesque, with its deep ravine on one side, filled with trees and flowering shrubs, and the dark and lofty cliff that towers up on the other, where the thick vine wanders in festoons, and the branches of the wild rose throw their long streamers down the rock, whose utmost heights are crowned with still-lingering remnants of the grass-grown ruins of Fort Clinton."

But we question if, on this eventful morning, the beauties of Gee's Point were duly appreciated by our heroine, for long before they had reached it, her lover had made an explicit avowal of his feelings and his hopes, and had obtained from her the promise of her hand: which promise was faithfully fulfilled on that day two months.

In the afternoon, Lieutenant Sunderland accompanied Miss Melbourne and her friends on their return to the city. Previous to her departure, Orinda did not forgot to remind Mr. Jenkins of her album, now doubly valuable to her as containing the name of La Fayette, written by his own hand.

Jenkins begged a thousand pardons, alleging that the arrival of a friend from New York, had prevented him from writing in it, as he had intended. "And of course," said he, "I could not put off my friend, as he is one of the _élite of the city, to describe him in French. However, there is time enough yet. Short and sweet, you know"--

"The boat is in sight," said Sunderland.

"Oh! no matter," answered Jenkins. "I can do it in a minute, and I will send it down to the boat after you. Miss Melbourne shall have it before she quits the wharf. I would on no consideration be guilty of disappointing a lady."

And taking with him the album, he went directly to his room.

"You had best go down to the dock," said the cadet, young Melbourne, who had come to see his sister off. "There is no time to be lost. I will take care that the album reaches you in safety, should you be obliged to go without it."

They proceeded towards the river, but they had scarcely got as far as Mrs. Thomson's, when a waiter came running after them with the book, saying--"Mr. Jenkins's compliments to Miss Melbourne, and all is right."

"Really," said Sunderland, "that silly fellow must have a machine for making verses, to have turned out anything like poetry in so short a time."

They were scarcely seated on the deck of the steamboat, when Orinda opened her album to look for the inspirations of Jenkins's Muse. She found no verses. But on the very page consecrated by the hand of La Fayette, and immediately under the autograph of the hero, was written, in an awkward school-boy character, the name of Jeremiah Jenkins.

[The end]
Eliza Leslie's short story: Album