Elinor Wyllys

Elinor Wyllys


"My dear sir," said Harry, laughing, "how could I help it! I must defend myself from any desire to be disappointed, I assure you.

On the contrary, I wish very sincerely that everything in my native country were as good as possible in its way; that the architecture of the public buildings were of the noblest kind; the private houses the most pleasant and convenient; the streets the best paved, and best lighted in the world. But I don't conceive that the way to bring this about is to maintain le pistolet a la gorge, that perfection has already been attained in all these particulars. To speak frankly, it strikes me as the height of puerility to wish to deceive oneself upon such subjects. On the contrary, I think it is the duty of every man, so far as he has the opportunity, to aim at correct notions on everything within his reach."

{"le pistolet a la gorge" = the pistol to the throat (French)}

"Well," remarked the doctor, "you only confirm me in my opinion.

I shall be more unwilling than ever to let Ben go; since even you, Harry Hazlehurst, who are a good deal better than most young men, confess the harm travelling has done you."

"But, my dear sir, I confess no such thing. I'm conscious that travelling has been a great benefit to me in many ways. I shall be a happier and better man for what I have seen, all my life, I trust, since many of my opinions are built on a better foundation than they were before."

"If I were you, I would not let him say so, Miss Elinor. His friends won't like to hear it; and I, for one, am very sorry that you are not as good an American as I took you for."

"It is quite a new idea to me, doctor," said Hazlehurst, "that mental blindness and vanity are necessary parts of the American character. We, who claim to be so enlightened! I should be sorry to be convinced that your view is correct. I have always believed that true patriotism consisted in serving one's country, not in serving oneself by flattering one's countrymen. I must give my testimony on these subjects, when called for, as well as on any other, honestly, and to the best of my ability."

"Do you know, doctor," said Elinor, "poor Harry has had to fight several battles on this subject already. Mrs. Bernard attacked him the other evening, because he said the mountains in Switzerland were higher than the White Mountains. Now we have only to look in a geography to see that they are so."

"But one don't like to hear such things, Miss Elinor."

"Mrs. Bernard asked him if he had seen anything finer than the White Mountains; what could he say! It seems to me just as possible for a man to love his country, and see faults in it, as it does for him to love his wife and children, without believing them to be the most perfect specimens of the human family, in body and mind, that ever existed. You will allow that a man may be a very good and kind husband and father, without maintaining everywhere that his wife and daughters surpass all their sex, in every possible particular?"

"You will not, surely, deny, doctor," said Hazlehurst, "that it is reasonable to suppose that Europe possesses some advantages of an advanced state of civilization, that we have not yet attained to? We have done much for a young people, but we have the means of doing much more; and it will be our own fault if we don't improve."

"We shall improve, I dare say."

"Do you expect us to go beyond perfection, then?"

"I can't see the use of talking about disagreeable subjects."

"But even the most disagreeable truths have their uses."

"That may be; and yet I believe you would have been happier if you had staid at home. While he was away from you, Miss Elinor, I am afraid he learned some of those disagreeable truths which it would have been better for him not to have discovered."

Harry stooped to pick up a glove, and remained silent for a moment.

Shortly after, supper was announced; and, although the coachman was not quite as much at home in the pantry as in the stable, yet everything was very successfully managed.

"It is really mortifying to hear a man like Dr. Van Horne, fancy it patriotic to foster conceited ignorance and childish vanity, on all national subjects," exclaimed Harry, as he took his seat in the carriage, after handing the ladies in. "And that is not the worst of it; for, of course, if respectable, independent men talk in that tone, there will be no end to the fulsome, nauseating, vulgar flatteries that will be poured upon us by those whose interest it is to flatter!"

"I heard part of your conversation, and, I must confess, the doctor did not show his usual good sense," observed Miss Agnes.

"You are really quite indignant against the doctor," said Elinor.

"Not only against him, but against all who are willing, like him, to encourage such a miserable perversion of truth. Believe them, and you make patriotism anything, and everything, but a virtue."