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Would have been withered by the touch of shame,
riddle, not o'er easy to be guessed;
I saw the criminal stand forth at trial ;
He said : 'Old man, I cannot dream like thee!'
J. K. A.
HOW MUCH MA Y
HANG UPON A HAT.
A SKETCH; BY A. C. AINSWORTH.
upon a hat.
The present may be termed the Singular Age;' one wherein mighty events flow from the smallest causes, and myriad destinies turn upon a point. If it be half impossible to fancy that the laws which
the system of the heavenly bodies were founded on principles traced in the fall of an apple, few I imagine can conceive how the earthly fate of a young gentleman about town' was made to hang
The hat was a silk hat, yet a good bat, and of an exquisite shape. You would sport such in Broadway or in Bond-street, but not at a pic-nic, nor on a trouting excursion. I know not if the hat were purchased of Gury, or Crossman, or our inimitable Gossip; but this I know, it adorned a crown full as much as Prince Albert did, with his brave · Drive on !' after the attempt of the Oxford pot-boy.
New Orleans, among other things, is celebrated for the elegance and ease of its society; and our young gentleman being fond of life, and moreover having some deposites' still unremoved, mingled much in the gay world around him. With considerable stamina of mind, he affected dandyism a little, and was well received wherever he went : among the men an oracle with the ladies a delight. He
dressed in the perfection of style. His coat was cut à la Stodham, and you would think bim born with boots on, they fitted his feet so closely. He breathed the flute as those only breathe it who possess bigh feeling; talked French, (but that 's expected here ;) quoted Tom Moore's new songs; knew the language of flowers ; pitied poor Keats, and cursed his critics, and was au fait in Kant's philosophy. In any other city than this, I would speak of his dancing. Here, of course, he waltzed, gallopaded, and mazurka'd, to the point of perfection. The 'cachucha' had n't then been introduced into American salons. You could name no novel which our young gentleman had not read. He even confessed to · Falkland,' and the · Roué,' though in principle no Leslie. His taste in music was entirely delicate, and he was at the opera three nights in the week. Could such a young man remain unnoticed ? By no means ! Whatever he did, was termed magnificent,' and wherever he went, he was pronounced ‘superb.' Half of the girls in town thought of his rènoumée, and many a married woman, as he passed the balcon where she stood, looked less fondly on her children pledges of love,' I think they call them. Our young gentleman was thereby vain : vain people possess hauteur; and Stepton Camié ('t is time he had a name,) soon disdained to notice any gentleman beyond a glance, or greet a lady with more than the shadow of an aristocratic smile.
One lovely morning in autumn saw him at the Cathedral. As usual at High Mass, it was graced by entrancing Crèoles, of all ages; from the innocent child, with sunlight imprisoned in its curling hair, to the budding maiden, with heaven in her heart, and the mother, mellow and dignified, in the ripeness of life's September. It was a sight never to be forgotten by a northern stranger, though neglected often by our young men, who may witness it whenever they like. The solemn chant of the priests, the clouds of heavy incense, and the rich tones of the organ, added to that interest so pleasantly excited by religious service, were resistless in their influence; and the heart, even if not bound by thoughts of heaven, was in danger of sweet captivity by the thralls of earth. But Camié went only to be admired. It was a passion with him to mark how many girls lost their places in the prayer-book, or forgot some form of service, as he passed along the sombre aisles. His heart throbbed with satisfaction, as he caught from under a veil the glance of some full and furtive
eye, while the taper fingers of its owner trembled among the beads of her costly rosary. It was no longer his destiny, however, to roam unscathed.' Thatinsatiate archer,' Cupid, (not Death,) was about piercing the flimsy net-work armor woven by a false pbilosophy, and gilded with a falser pride. There is a retribution in love, as in crime; and he who had wandered over the world, bruising hearts and starting tears, was soon to experience some of the pangs he had both caused and scorned.
In the farthest corner of the cathedral, near the eastern door, and directly confronting an exquisite head of the Saviour, kneeled a most fairy creature. She was robed in demi-deuil, but in the extreme of fashion, while her bending and slender form, and her hair of luxuriant black, showed her a Crèole. She was so closely veiled, that a finely-marked profile could alone be seen ; but that was beautiful:
while her round, white fingers, mated in prayer, spoke as plainly as words, of aristocratic blood. Altogether, she was one with whom such clusters of outward charms rarely dwell; and Mr. Stepton Camié glanced, then gazed at her, and finally gasped! It was an era in his life ; and as his fopling friend Mr. James Augustus very prettily remarked,' he believed that fellow-à, Step-ton, was à-struck.'
Camié strove to gain the beauty's eye, but she seemed not to know that others beside herself were in the church. Her gaze was bent, now on the Virgin, now on her book; and after wishing himself sometimes a prayer-missal, then a rosary, and finally a priest, (only for a moment,) Mr. Stepton Camié bounced out of the cathedral in a very ungentlemanly rage, and bounced into the Place d'Armes.
The Louisiana Legion,'than which no finer corps exists in America, was under review. It was the eighth of November, and a day born of brightness. The muskets and lances of soldiery gleamed, and officer's swords flashed in the sun; artillery was being fired, park after park; horses were prancing, gaily caparisoned, while Albert Stein's fountain in the centre was trying to play its jets d'eau gallantly into the air. The Place was full of garishly-dressed people, all ranged under that celebrated general, 'General Delight.' Under the influence of these changing views, the kaleidoscope of his mind presented at last a calm tableau ; and while musing a moment under the fading leaves of the elm-trees, Camié's feelings of admiration returned. Penitent-like, be sauntered back into the church ; but repentance, as often happens, came quite too late. The lady was gone. Vacancy reigned where kneeled that luxuriant beauty, though many a contrite devotee prayed in the vicinity. It seemed as if the louch of her purple cassock had sanctified the marble.
Camié noted not the many eyes which followed bis wayward movements, nor cared for the homage rising from many a female heart. For the first time in his life, he felt dependent on another, and in bis own person proved how.sharper than a serpent's tooth' is the bite of the demon Passion. Sallying out, heedless of a fine passage from 'Il Puritani' now breathing from the organ, he stole to his chambers. Not exactly in a mood for mathematics, he took up Moore; but the mellow rhapsodies once so quoted, now seemed more vapid and heartless than ever. When he read them formerly, he knew too little of love; now he knew too much. In this way, I fear, • my friend' Moore loses many adınirers. I need not pursue the description of Camié's symptoms: the reader will remember seeing them in a hundred novels. One young gentleman went so often to the cathedral, however, that people thought him a Catholic in very truth; and somebody wrote to his sister at the north of this change in his creed; at which, of course, she was much shocked, while his good old Puritan father threatened to disinberit him for the crime. But with all his devotion, mock or real, Camié failed to meet again the angel whose roseate wings had fanned his heart to flame.
Ar a party in Carondelet-street, that fashionable quartier of NewOrleans, given by a wealthy merchant, every body of any pretension to ton was found; and Stepton Camié of course. Pen may not fully portray the elegance of the rooms, the costly and antique paintings,
the rare fruits and rich vases, the blooming women in the musical saloon, or the crowd in the crush-room; how Miss Nosebeak was forced into a corner, whence she could not escape to annoy the gay world with her cancan, or how her talented brother leaned in niusing mood against the marble Napoleon, and was the admired of all. Enough is it to say, that the reunion was worthy the wealth of the host, and quite the pleasantest we bad during the winter of 183-,
Camié had affected society more than ever, after his adventure at the cathedral, hoping in some fashionable resort to meet his ' mystèrieuse :' but she seemed to liave no being save in his agitated heart. As he entered the broad door of the principal hall, on the night referred to, this thought with him was forcible : •I shall find her here. If in the city, she cannot avoid a soirée so pleasant and recherchée.' Mr. Camié was in error. She was in the city, and was not at party.
After elbowing his way from one room to another, taking a blancmange here, a cream there, and sipping a glass of tokay with Mr. James Augustus, Camié found hiraself hat in hand, ready to depart. He left without regret those ‘halls of dazzling light, as well as that brilliant waltz, · Les Bienveillantes,' which the orchestra were then playing: the gentle lurer was not there, to flash back the lustres of the one, nor foat amid the mazes of the other. He wended his way homeward alone. It was cool. The stars shone like diamonds on the blue robe of the midnight, but he heeded them not. The eyes of his heart were on a more gorgeous planet, as it glittered through the rosy atmosphere of his dreaming fancy.
Next morning Camié 'toiletted' as usual, save that he was more elaborate and precise. His valet shaved him two days below the skin ;' his hair was loosely curled; the slight odor of Mouselle was around him, and his small hands were particularly blanched with farine de noisettes. Some prescience must have told him that this day was to be marked in his calendar. His toilet closed, he lifted daintily his hat, and drawing on his cream-tinted gloves, stepped out.
That night they were to give · La Gazza Ladra,'· La Pie Voleuse,' at the French theatre, and Camié sauntered down Royal into Orleansstreet, to get his ticket at the box-office. Colin was very polite and very agreeable, and detained him pleasantly in conversation for a little time. It was not long, however, before he felt, while returning home, a severe pain in the head. The reader may suppose it natural, after a man had been to a reunion. With most people, yes — but not with Camié, who in the matter of drinking was delicate as a lady. The pain, therefore, alarmed him; and taking off his hat, he discovered for the first time a miniature likeness of Louis Phillippe in the crown. Here then, the matter was brought to a head. He had picked up some Frenchman's hat, the evening before, instead of his own, and now found it too small for him. When he got home, Gorom, his valet, went to the hatter's for another, and the chapeau volé' was laid on the shelf.'
This little circumstance was nearly forgotten, when Camié one morning encountered the following amiable notice in one of the French papers :
"The individual who, at the late party, abstracted a hat with a likeness of Louis
Phillippe in the crown, is informed that if he do not transmit it to No. — , before twelve o'clock. M. this day, his name will be exposed, and he branded as 'no gentleman,' at the - Exchange.
'LE MOTRIEXXE." Mr. Stepton Camié became something like a roaring lion, on perusing this paragraph. Inadvertently he had shown the crown-king' to some of his . dear five hundred friends, one of them an envious man, and a great tattler. He little doubted his agency in communicating his name, but chose first, for punishment, the signer of the offensive paragraph. There is only one way of arranging these little matters in New-Orleans ; and Camié, not liking the proposed conjunction in reference to his name, took steps for throwing in an interjection.
Gorom, this way!' said Stepton. Gorom came noiselessly, as a gentleman 's valet should. • How are my pistols ?' • Perfect, Sir; and entirely ready in the rose-wood case.' • And the swords ?' * Libeau pointed them anew, last week.' • Bring the pistols, Gorom, and mind, do n't jar the triggers.'
The pistols came. Camié looked at them, half with the eye of affection, half with the glance of a connoisseur.
Just at this moment Mr. James Augustus came into the room, highly perfumed, and with the airy step of a dancing-master.
I've seen a pretty Notice' this morning, said he, .and I see pistols : put that and that together! Enough said : when do you fight ?'
In less than twenty-four hours, I hope,' said Camié : 'when are you at leisure ?'
*As soon as I finish my call on Miss Blossom : she goes to Havana to-morrow, and I must see her to-day; she's rich;' and away skipped Mr. James Augustus.
Exactly at a quarter to noon that day, Mr. Camié entered the Exchange. A large crowd had gathered, for nothing love people more, than to see misery or disgrace visited upon their fellows. He soon discovered among a coterie of Frenchmen, an irrascible-looking, middle-aged gentleman, pouring forth a small Niagara of half-chewed languages, and now and then gesturing violently with a hat. This then was the Mons. · Le Motrienne,' for Camié knew his own hat at a glance. And well he might, since so much was afterward to hang upon it. By the by, reader, doubtless you have noticed how every man's head gives a form and pressure' of peculiar stamp to his own chapeau. Is there one of you could fail to tell his father's hat amid a crowd of pilgrims at the ruins of Palmyra ?
When the clock of the Exchange sounded noon, and the noise in the rotunda had a little ceased, Camié walked quietly up to the voluble · Le Motrienne,' and addressed him as follows, in a soft tone :
• Je me suis aperçu ce matiu, Mons., d'un article dans une des gazettes, que vous avez perdu un chapeau favorit.'
*Oui; c'est ça Mons.,' was the supercilious reply.