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- Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker - 6/75 -
"When Hugh Wynne and I went to school at the academy on Fourth street, south of Arch, I used to envy him his strength. At twelve he was as tall as are most lads at sixteen, but possessed of such activity and muscular power as are rarely seen, bidding fair to attain, as he did later, the height and massive build of his father. He was a great lover of risk, and not, as I have always been, fearful. When we took apples, after the fashion of all Adam's young descendants, he was as like as not to give them away. I think he went with us on these, and some wilder errands, chiefly because of his fondness for danger, a thing I could never comprehend. He still has his mother's great eyes of blue, and a fair, clear skin. God bless him! Had I never known him I might perhaps have been, as to one thing, a happier man, but I had been less deserving of such good fortune as has come to me in life. For this is one of the uses of friends: that we consider how such and such a thing we are moved to do might appear to them. And this for one of my kind, who have had--nay, who have--many weaknesses, has been why Hugh Wynne counts for so much to me.
"We, with two other smaller boys, were, at that time, the only sons of Friends at the academy, and were, thanks to the brute Dove, better grounded in the humanities than were some, although we were late in entering."
I leave this and other extracts as they were writ. A more upright gentleman than John Warder I know not, nor did ever know. What he meant by his weaknesses I cannot tell, and as to the meaning of one phrase, which he does not here explain, these pages shall perhaps discover.
Not long after our entrance at the academy, my father charged me one morning with a note to my aunt, Gainor Wynne, which I was to deliver when the morning session was over. As this would make me late, in case her absence delayed a reply, I was to remain and eat my midday meal. My father was loath always to call upon his sister. She had early returned to the creed of her ancestors, and sat on Sundays in a great square pew at Christ Church, to listen to the Rev. Robert Jennings. Hither, in September of 1763, my aunt took me, to my father's indignation, to hear the great Mr. Whitefield preach.
Neither Aunt Gainor's creed, dress, house, nor society pleased her brother. She had early made clear, in her decisive way, that I was to be her heir, and she was, I may add, a woman of large estate. I was allowed to visit her as I pleased. Indeed, I did so often. I liked no one better, always excepting my mother. Why, with my father's knowledge of her views, I was thus left free I cannot say. He was the last of men to sacrifice his beliefs to motives of gain.
When I knocked at the door of her house on Arch street, opposite the Friends' Meeting-house, a black boy, dressed as a page, let me in. He was clad in gray armozine, a sort of corded stuff, with red buttons, and he wore a red turban. As my aunt was gone to drive, on a visit to that Madam Penn who was once Miss Allen, I was in no hurry, and was glad to look about me. The parlour, a great room with three windows on the street, afforded a strange contrast to my sober home. There were Smyrna rugs on a polished floor, a thing almost unheard of. Indeed, people came to see them. The furniture was all of red walnut, and carved in shells and flower reliefs. There were so many tables, little and larger, with claw-feet or spindle-legs, that one had to be careful not to overturn their loads of Chinese dragons, ivory carvings, grotesque Delft beasts, and fans, French or Spanish or of the Orient. There was also a spinet, and a corner closet of books, of which every packet brought her a variety. Upstairs was a fair room full of volumes, big and little, as I found to my joy rather later, and these were of all kinds: some good, and some of them queer, or naughty. Over the wide, white fireplace was a portrait of herself by the elder Peale, but I prefer the one now in my library. This latter hung, at the time I speak of, between the windows. It was significant of my aunt's idea of her own importance that she should have wished to possess two portraits of herself. The latter was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds when she was in England in 1750, and represents her as a fine, large woman with features which were too big for loveliness in youth, but in after-years went well with her abundant gray hair and unusual stature; for, like the rest of us, she was tall, of vigorous and wholesome build and colour, with large, well-shaped hands, and the strength of a man--I might add, too, with the independence of a man. She went her own way, conducted the business of her estate, which was ample, with skill and ability, and asked advice from no one. Like my father, she had a liking to control those about her, was restlessly busy, and was never so pleased as when engaged in arranging other people's lives, or meddling with the making of matches.
To this ample and luxurious house came the better class of British officers, and ombre and quadrille were often, I fear, played late into the long nights of winter. Single women, after a certain or uncertain age, were given a brevet title of "Mistress." Mistress Gainor Wynne lost or won with the coolness of an old gambler, and this habit, perhaps more than aught beside, troubled my father. Sincere and consistent in his views, I can hardly think that my father was, after all, unable to resist the worldly advantages which my aunt declared should be mine. It was, in fact, difficult to keep me out of the obvious risks this house and company provided for a young person like myself. He must have trusted to the influence of my home to keep me in the ways of Friends. It is also to be remembered, as regards my father's motives, that my Aunt Gainor was my only relative, since of the Owens none were left.
My mother was a prime favourite with this masterful lady. She loved nothing better than to give her fine silk petticoats or a pearl-coloured satin gown; and if this should nowadays amaze Friends, let them but look in the "Observer," and see what manner of finery was advertised in 1778 as stole from our friend, Sarah Fisher, sometime Sarah Logan, a much respected member of Meeting. In this, as in all else, my mother had her way, and, like some of the upper class of Quakers, wore at times such raiment as fifty years later would have surely brought about a visit from a committee of overseers.
Waiting for Aunt Gainor, I fell upon an open parcel of books just come by the late spring packet. Among these turned up a new and fine edition of "Captain Gulliver's Travels," by Mr. Dean Swift. I lit first, among these famous adventures, on an extraordinary passage, so wonderful, indeed, and so amusing, that I heard not the entrance of my father, who at the door had met my aunt, and with her some fine ladies of the governor's set. There were Mrs. Ferguson, too well known in the politics of later years, but now only a beautiful and gay woman, Madam Allen, and Madam Chew, the wife of the Attorney-General.
They were eagerly discussing, and laughingly inquiring of my father, what colour of masks for the street was to be preferred. He was in no wise embarrassed by these fine dames, and never, to my thinking, was seen to better advantage than among what he called "world's people." He seemed to me more really at home than among Friends, and as he towered, tall, and gravely courteous in manner, I thought him a grand gentleman.
As I looked up, the young Miss Chew, who afterward married Colonel Eager Howard, was saying saucily, "Does not Madam Wynne wear a mask for her skin! It is worth keeping, Mr. Wynne."
"Let me recommend to you a vizard with silver buttons to hold in the mouth, or, better, a riding-mask," cried Aunt Gainor, pleased at this gentle badgering, "like this, John. See, a flat silver plate to hold between the teeth. It is the last thing."
"White silk would suit her best," cried Mrs. Ferguson, "or green, with a chin-curtain--a loo-mask. Which would you have, sir?"
"Indeed," he said quietly, "her skin is good enough. I know no way to better it."
Then they all laughed, pelting the big man with many questions, until he could not help but laugh, as he declared he was overwhelmed, and would come on his business another day. But on this the women would not stay, and took themselves and their high bonnets and many petticoats out of the room, each dropping a curtsey at the door, and he bowing low, like Mr. John Penn, as never before I had seen him do.
No sooner were they gone than he desired me to give him the note he had written to his sister, since now it was not needed, and then he inquired what book I was reading. Aunt Gainor glanced at it, and replied for me, "A book of travels, John, very improving too. Take it home, Hugh, and read it. If you find in it no improprieties, it may be recommended to your father." She loved nothing better than to tease him.
"I see not what harm there could be in travels," he returned. "Thou hast my leave. Gainor, what is this I hear? Thou wouldst have had me sell thee for a venture threescore hogsheads of tobacco from Annapolis. I like not to trade with my sister, nor that she should trade at all: and now, when I have let them go to another, I hear that it is thou who art the real buyer. I came hither to warn thee that other cargoes are to arrive. Thou wilt lose."
Aunt Gainor said nothing for a moment, but let loose the linen safeguard petticoat she wore against mud or dust when riding, and appeared in a rich brocade of gray silken stuff, and a striped under-gown. When she had put off her loose camlet over-jacket, she said, "Will you have a glass of Madeira, or shall it be Hollands, John? Ring the bell, Hugh."
"Hollands," said my father.
"What will you give me for your tobacco to-day, John?"
"Why dost thou trifle?" he returned.
"I sold it again, John. I am the better by an hundred pounds. Two tobacco-ships are wrecked on Hinlopen. An express is come. Have you not heard?"
"Farewell," he said, rising. He made no comment on her news. I had an idea that he would not have been unhappy had she lost on her venture.
Joseph Warder was her agent then and afterward. She rarely lost on her purchases. Although generous, and even lavish, she dearly loved a good bargain, and, I believe, liked the game far more than she cared for success in the playing of it.
"Come, Hugh," she said, "let us eat and drink. Take the book home, and put it away for your own reading. Here is sixpence out of my gains. I hope you will never need to trade, and, indeed, why should you, whether I live or die? How would the king's service suit you, and a pair of colours?"
I said I should like it.
"There is a pretty tale, Hugh, of the French gentlemen, who, being poor, have to make money in commerce. They leave their swords with a magistrate, and when they are become rich enough take them back again. There is some pleasing ceremony, but I forget. The Wynnes have been long enough in drab and trade. It is time we took back our swords, and quitted bow-thouing and bow-theeing."
I said I did not understand.
"Oh, you will," said Aunt Gainor, giving me a great apple-dumpling. "Take some molasses. Oh, as much as you please. I shall look away, as I do when the gentlemen take their rum."
You may be sure I obeyed her. As to much that she said, I was shocked; but
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