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Double Elopement by Horatio Alger, Jr.

Author: Alger, Horatio, 1832-1899.
Title: The Double Elopement.
In: Gleason's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion. Boston : F. Gleason, 1854. Vol. 6, no. 17 (April 29., 1854).
Format: p. 263 ; 38 cm.
Other Name: Russell, William D.
Horatio Alger Collection.
Other Title: Gleason's pictorial.
Location: PS1029.A3 D68 1854a (Special Collections)
Optically scanned and encoded by Mark A. Williams
Edited by Sam S. Manivong
Horatio Alger Digital Serials Project, Northern llinois University Libraries
DeKalb, IL
30-July-1999


IN a large, square, old-fashioned house,-such as our fathers used to build when solidity was more sought after than utility,- lived Philip Manson and his sister, Esther. Philip had reached the mature age of forty, and Esther was close to him. Still, each had pursued a solitary pathway through life, seeking no companionship save that of the other, till there was reason to believe that they would continue to follow the same course till in the fulness of time they were gathered into the family tomb-the receptacle of many generations of the Manson family. There was the more reason to think so, since they took care to commend an unmarried life, not only by example but by precept.

 

"No," said Philip, when assailed on this subject by a matchmaking lady;" marrying may be very good for some people, but I could not bear to have my habits broken in upon, and my whole house turned topsy-turvy by the introduction of a wife."

"But by-and-by, when you grow older, you will feel the need of a wife more than at present."

"No,"said Philip, conclusively, "I have a sister who is devoted to me, and while she lives I shall need no other."

As for Miss Esther, she often declared that she never would make a slave of herself for any man living. If other women were foolish enough to give up their independence, and tie themselves to a man, for no other earthly purposes than to burthen themselves with cares and toil from morning till night, she was sure she had no objection. For her own part she was wiser. Her brother and she had always lived together peaceably and happily, and she did not think she could make any change for the better.

Of course, it was insinuated by those whose opinions differed widely from Miss Esther's, that in adopting this opinion she was only making a virtue of necessity, and that it was best to be contented with one's lot, provided there was no chance of improving it. But Esther did not hear these remarks, and so was not disturbed by them. She continued to live in the old house with her brother. They kept no domestic, since Esther rather plumed herself upon her housekeeping qualities, and there was really but little to do. So as her brother was usually absent during the day, she was left for the most part to the companionship of her own thoughts, unless some neighbor chanced to call in-a thing, by the way, of rather rare occurrence, since most of the neighbors had large families of their own, which necessarily confined them at home.

Early one afternoon, just after Esther Manson had completed her task of clearing away the dinner dishes, and storing them away in the cupboard after a thorough washing, she was startled by a rap at the door.

Somewhat surprised by a caller at this unusual hour, she answered the summons. She was a little apprehensive that it was a neighbor who had of late proved very troublesome from her habit of borrowing articles, and owing, it is to be presumed, to an habitual forgetfulness, neglecting to return them.

"I hope," she mused, "that if it is Mrs. Bailey, she will be wanting to borrow something that I have not got."

She opened the door; but no Mrs. Bailey presented herself to her expecting gaze-a gentleman of forty-five, carefully, nay elegantly dressed, stood before her.

"I beg your pardon for intruding, madam," said he, as he noticed Esther's look of surprise; "but can you direct me to the house of the late Mr. Wellfleet? I have heard it was for sale, and from the description I have heard of it, judge it will suit me."

"It is the next house on the left, sir," answered Esther, who had had time, while the gentleman was speaking, to examine his appearance, which did not fail to impress her favorably.

"Thank you for the information. I trust you will pardon the trouble I have occasioned you," replied the gentleman, bowing.

"Not the least trouble in the world," replied Esther, a little flattered by a deference to which she had not been accustomed.

Two days afterwards, Esther heard that Mr. Wellfleet's estate had been purchased by a stranger, named Bigelow. She at once conjectured and rightly, that this was the same with her visitor. A few days elapsed, and Esther Manson received another visit from the same gentleman.

"I have a favor to ask of you, Miss Manson," he commenced (it seems he had ascertained her name). "I am aware that our slight acquaintance will hardly justify it, but I trust time will remove this objection. You must know," he added, smiling, "that I am a bachelor, dependent in many respects upon my housekeeper, who, though a good woman, in her way, I am afraid is not reliable in matters of taste. As my furniture has arrived, but has not yet been arranged, I would esteem it a real service if you would give me your opinion in some little matters respecting its proper disposition. My carriage is at the door, ready to carry you over."

"But," said Esther, a little hesitatingly, "I do not claim to have much taste. I fear I should prove no more reliable in that respect than your housekeeper."

"I have but to look around me," said Mr. Bigelow, politely, "to be fully satisfied upon that point."

Esther's cheek flushed with pleasure at this compliment, and she made preparations to comply with her new visitor's request.

It was not without a little consciousness of the singularity of her position, that Esther found herself riding by the side of a gentleman with whom she had scarcely exchanged half a dozen words in the course of her life. The distance, however, was but short, and she had little time for reflection. On arriving at her place of destination, she found the chief part of the business accomplishcd. The furniture, which, by the way, was new and handsome, had been arranged in the rooms after a fashion, but Esther was able to point out several changes for the better, with all of which Mr. Bigelow professed himself delighted; he, moreover, asked her advice as to the proper place in which to hang several fine pictures that he had picked up in the course of his European travels. This was accorded with some hesitation.

Mr. Bigelow would not be satisfied without showing his newfound acquaintance all over the house, from kitchen to garret. When all was completed, he overpowered her with protestations of gratitude for her kind service, and landed her at her own door just five minutes before her brother came in. Esther was rather glad of this, as she was a little suspicious that her brother would consider her adventure rather a Quixotic one.

To avoid comment, she did not even inform Philip that she had ever met Mr. Bigelow. He took frequent opportunities to call upon her, on some slight pretext or other, but it always chanced to be at a time when her brother was absent.

"I wonder," said Philip, carelessly, as he sat by the fire one evening, "whether Mr. Bigelow will not be looking out for a wife before long?"

"I-I don't know," said Esther, and in her embarrassment dropping half-a-dozen stitches from the stocking which she held in her hand.

"Not that I approve of marriage-at least, in my own case," said Philip, not noticing this little demonstration," but it may be different with Mr. Bigelow. He has no sister to superintend his establishment. I don't know, however, whether there is anybody likely to suit him in this village. Let me see-there is Miss Preston; she might do."

"No, I don't think she would suit him at all!" said Esther, with a spirit which considerably surprised her brother." She knows very little about housekeeping."

"Why, I thought you and Miss Preston were friends," said Philip, a little puzzled.

"Well, so we are," returned Esther, in her usual tone, " but I- I hardly think she would suit Mr. Bigelow."

"Perhaps not," he rejoined, and so the conversation ended.

From the conversation which we have recorded above, the reader will obtain some insight into the character of Esther's feelings towards Mr. Bigelow. She would hardly confess it to herself, but, as a matter of fact, her ideas of marriage had suffered a material change within a brief period.

Meanwhile the gentleman continued his visits. Oftentimes he would ask to see the bed of flowers on which Esther rather prided herself, and sometimes he would petition for seeds, being very fond of flowers, as he said, and very anxious to introduce them in his own garden.

On one of these occasions, Mr. Bigelow, after a little visible embarrassment, said, hesitatingly:

"I would like to ask your advice. Miss Esther, on rather a delicate subject, and one of great importance to myself. There is one thing I wish to secure to make my establishment complete, but I hardly know in what manner to ask for it."

"What is it you refer to?" asked Esther, unsuspiciously.

"A wife," was the significant reply.

Instantly a deep crimson flushed Esther's cheeks. She did not trust herself to speak.

"Need I say that you are the one whom of all others I would seek to place in that position?"

He took her unresisting hand and kissed it with all the gallantry of a young lover.

"But what will my brother say?" inquired Esther, when she found voice to speak.

"What should he say? You are your own mistress, surely."

"Yes, but he is always ridiculing the idea of marriage, and I couldn't venture to tell him."

"No need of it. Let's run away to New York and get married. You know," he added gaily, "we are both young and romantic, and it would be quite in character."

Esther at first objected, but when she came to consider that in this way she would be relieved of a great portion of the embarrassment which suchi a step would naturally bring with it, she consented, and that day week was appointed for the departure. She required this time to make preparations.

Meanwhile, if Esther had not been so exclusively occupied with her own affairs, she might have noticed that a change had come over Philip. He was often absent evenings, and when at home was more silent and abstracted than his wont. The former she readily attributed to the cause which he assigned, namely, a pressure of business. The latter she did not observe, her mind being pre-occupied. We, who are in the secret, may take the liberty of following him on one of his business calls. It was at a neat cottage from whose front door dangled an immense knocker, that Philip Manson knocked. The door was opened by the same Miss Preston who, some months before, he thought "might do" for Mr. Bigelow.

"Good evening, Maria," was his salutation as he entered. After a brief conversation about the weather, the crops and other standard topics, which however trivial they may seem, could hardly be dispensed with, he began to show signs of embarrassment, and finally ejaculated:

"Maria-Miss Preston-I mean Maria, what are your opinions about marriage?"

"Why," said she, "I hardly know. I-I don't think I have given much consideration to the subject."

"Because," continued Philip, "I find my opinions have suffered a great change on this point. There was a time when I thought it unwise, but now if I could get a good wife, such as you, for example, I should be inclined to try it."

"O, lor, Mr. Manson," said Miss Preston, in some perturbation, " how you talk!"

Five minutes afterwards Miss Preston had accepted the proposal of Philip, and the two were, to all intents and purposes, engaged.

"The only thing I think of," said the gentleman, after a pause, "is, that my sister Esther is a decided enemy to marriages, and I hardly dare to tell her that I am about to marry. If we only go away and have the ceremony performed it would be pleasanter."

"Suppose we go to New York," suggested the bride-elect.

"A good idea. We'll go. When can you be ready?"

"Next Monday morning."

So next Monday morning was agreed upon. It so happened that Esther was to start on Monday afternoon for the same place, with the same purpose in view-but of this coincidence neither party was aware.

The reader will please go forward a week. By this time the respective parties have reached New York, been united in the holy bonds of matrimony, and are now legally husband and wife. They were located at hotels situated on the same street, and even on the same side of the way, but were far from being aware of the propinquity. On the morning succeeding the two marriages, for by a singular chance they happened on the same day, Mr. Bigelow and Esther started out for a walk down street. It so happened that Philip and his wife were at the same moment walking up street. The natural consequence was that the two parties met.

"Good Heavens! my sister!" exclaimed Philip.

"Merciful goodness! my brother!" returned Esther.

"What brings you here with Mr. Bigelow?"

"Nay, how happens it that you are here with Miss Preston?"

"Miss Preston is now my wife!"

"And Mr. Bigelow is my husband!"

"But I thought you were opposed to matrimony."

"And I supposed you were equally so."

"My friends,"interposed Mr. Bigelow," this is a day of surprises-but I trust of such a nature that we shall all be made the happier thereby. My regret, Mr. Manson, at robbing you of your housekeeper is quite dissipated by the knowledge that you have so soon supplied her place."

The sensation excited in the village by the return of the two brides with their respective husbands may be better imagined than described. It gives us pleasure to state that neither Philip nor his sister ever had occasion to regret THE DOUBLE ELOPEMENT.