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The Virginians
by [?]

Henry Esmond, Esq., an officer who had served with the rank of Colonel during the wars of Queen Anne’s reign, found himself at its close involved in certain complications, both political and private. For this reason Mr. Esmond thought best to establish himself in Virginia, where he took possession of a large estate conferred by King Charles I. upon his ancestor. Mr. Esmond previously to this had married Rachel, widow of the late Francis Castlewood, Baronet, by whom he had one daughter, afterwards Madame Warrington, whose twin sons, George and Henry Warrington, were known as the Virginians.

Mr. Esmond called his American house Castlewood, from the family estate in England. The whole customs of Virginia, indeed, were fondly modelled after the English customs. The Virginians boasted that King Charles II. had been king in Virginia before he had been king in England. The resident gentry were connected with good English families and lived on their great lands after a fashion almost patriarchal. For its rough cultivation, each estate had a multitude of hands, who were subject to the command of the master. The land yielded their food, live stock and game. The great rivers swarmed with fish for the taking. Their ships took the tobacco off their private wharves on the banks of the Potomac or the James River, and carried it to London or Bristol, bringing back English goods and articles of home manufacture in return for the only produce which the Virginian gentry chose to cultivate. Their hospitality was boundless. No stranger was ever sent away from their gates. The question of slavery was not born at the time of which we write. To be the proprietor of black servants shocked the feelings of no Virginian gentleman; nor, in truth, was the despotism exercised over the negro race generally a savage one. The food was plenty; the poor black people lazy and not unhappy. You might have preached negro-emancipation to Madame Esmond of Castlewood as you might have told her to let the horses run loose out of the stables; she had no doubt but that the whip and the corn-bag were good for both.

Having lost his wife, his daughter took the management of the Colonel and his estate, and managed both with the spirit and determination which governed her management of every person and thing which came within her jurisdiction.

After fifteen years’ residence upon his great Virginian estate the Colonel agreed in his daughter’s desire to replace the wooden house in which they lived, with a nobler mansion which would be more fitting for his heirs to inherit. His daughter had a very high opinion indeed of her ancestry, and her father, growing exquisitely calm and good-natured in his serene declining years, humoured his child’s peculiarities and interests in an easy bantering way. Truth to tell, there were few families in England with nobler connections than the Esmonds. The Virginians, Madame Rachel Warrington’s sons, inherited the finest blood and traditions, and the rightful king of England had not two more faithful little subjects than the young twins of Castlewood.

At Colonel Esmond’s death, Madame Esmond, as she was thereafter called, proclaimed her eldest son, George, heir of the estate; and Harry, George’s younger brother by half an hour, was instructed to respect his senior. All the household was also instructed to pay him honour, and in the whole family of servants there was only one rebel, Harry’s foster-mother, a faithful negro woman who never could be made to understand why her child should not be first, who was handsomer and stronger and cleverer than his brother, as she vowed; though in truth, there was not much difference in the beauty, strength, or stature of the twins. In disposition, they were in many points exceedingly unlike; but in feature they resembled each other so closely that, but for the colour of their hair, it had been difficult to distinguish them. In their beds, and when their heads were covered with those vast ribboned nightcaps which our great and little ancestors wore, it was scarcely possible for any but a nurse or a mother to tell the one from the other child.