The Project Gutenberg EBook of Condensed Novels, by Bret Harte This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Condensed Novels Author: Bret Harte Posting Date: March 21, 2009 [EBook #2277] Release Date: August, 2000 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CONDENSED NOVELS *** Produced by an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer. HTML version by Al Haines.
The Dodds were dead. For twenty year they had slept under the green graves of Kittery churchyard. The townfolk still spoke of them kindly. The keeper of the alehouse, where David had smoked his pipe, regretted him regularly, and Mistress Kitty, Mrs. Dodd's maid, whose trim figure always looked well in her mistress's gowns, was inconsolable. The Hardins were in America. Raby was aristocratically gouty; Mrs. Raby, religious. Briefly, then, we have disposed of—
1. Mr. and Mrs. Dodd (dead).
2. Mr. and Mrs. Hardin (translated).
3. Raby, baron et femme. (Yet I don't know about the former; he came of a long-lived family, and the gout is an uncertain disease.)
We have active at the present writing (place aux dames)—
1. Lady Caroline Coventry, niece of Sir Frederick.
2. Faraday Huxley Little, son of Henry and Grace Little, deceased.
Sequitur to the above, A HERO AND HEROINE.
On the death of his parents, Faraday Little was taken to Raby Hall. In accepting his guardianship, Mr. Raby struggled stoutly against two prejudices: Faraday was plain-looking and sceptical.
"Handsome is as handsome does, sweetheart," pleaded Jael, interceding for the orphan with arms that were still beautiful. "Dear knows, it is not his fault if he does not look like—his father," she added with a great gulp. Jael was a woman, and vindicated her womanhood by never entirely forgiving a former rival.
"It's not that alone, madam," screamed Raby, "but, d—m it, the little rascal's a scientist,—an atheist, a radical, a scoffer! Disbelieves in the Bible, ma'am; is full of this Darwinian stuff about natural selection and descent. Descent, forsooth! In my day, madam, gentlemen were content to trace their ancestors back to gentlemen, and not to—monkeys!"
"Dear heart, the boy is clever," urged Jael.
"Clever!" roared Raby; "what does a gentleman want with cleverness?"
Young Little WAS clever. At seven he had constructed a telescope; at nine, a flying-machine. At ten he saved a valuable life.
Norwood Park was the adjacent estate,—a lordly domain dotted with red deer and black trunks, but scrupulously kept with gravelled roads as hard and blue as steel. There Little was strolling one summer morning, meditating on a new top with concealed springs. At a little distance before him he saw the flutter of lace and ribbons. A young lady, a very young lady,—say of seven summers,—tricked out in the crying abominations of the present fashion, stood beside a low bush. Her nursery-maid was not present, possibly owing to the fact that John the footman was also absent.
Suddenly Little came towards her. "Excuse me, but do you know what those berries are?" He was pointing to the low bush filled with dark clusters of shining—suspiciously shining—fruit.
"Certainly; they are blueberries."
"Pardon me; you are mistaken. They belong to quite another family."
Miss Impudence drew herself up to her full height (exactly three feet nine and a half inches), and, curling an eight of an inch of scarlet lip, said, scornfully. "YOUR family, perhaps."
Faraday Little smiled in the superiority of boyhood over girlhood.
"I allude to the classification. That plant is the belladonna, or deadly nightshade. Its alkaloid is a narcotic poison."
Sauciness turned pale. "I—have—just—eaten—some!" And began to whimper. "O dear, what shall I do?" Then did it, i. e. wrung her small fingers and cried.
"Pardon me one moment." Little passed his arm around her neck, and with his thumb opened widely the patrician-veined lids of her sweet blue eyes. "Thank Heaven, there is yet no dilation of the pupil; it is not too late!" He cast a rapid glance around. The nozzle and about three feet of garden hose lay near him.
"Open your mouth, quick!"
It was a pretty, kissable mouth. But young Little meant business. He put the nozzle down her pink throat as far as it would go.
"Now, don't move."
He wrapped his handkerchief around a hoopstick. Then he inserted both in the other end of the stiff hose. It fitted snugly. He shoved it in and then drew it back.
Nature abhors a vacuum. The young patrician was as amenable to this law as the child of the lowest peasant.
She succumbed. It was all over in a minute. Then she burst into a small fury.
"You nasty, bad—UGLY boy."
Young Little winced, but smiled.
"Stimulants," he whispered to the frightened nursery-maid who approached; "good evening." He was gone.
The breach between young Little and Mr. Raby was slowly widening. Little found objectionable features in the Hall. "This black oak ceiling and wainscoating is not as healthful as plaster; besides, it absorbs the light. The bedroom ceiling is too low; the Elizabethan architects knew nothing of ventilation. The color of that oak panelling which you admire is due to an excess of carbon and the exuvia from the pores of your skin—"
"Leave the house," bellowed Raby, "before the roof falls on your sacrilegious head!"
As Little left the house, Lady Caroline and a handsome boy of about Little's age entered. Lady Caroline recoiled, and then—blushed. Little glared; he instinctively felt the presence of a rival.
Little worked hard. He studied night and day. In five years he became a lecturer, then a professor.
He soared as high as the clouds, he dipped as low as the cellars of the London poor. He analyzed the London fog, and found it two parts smoke, one disease, one unmentionable abominations. He published a pamphlet, which was violently attacked. Then he knew he had done something.
But he had not forgotten Caroline. He was walking one day in the Zoological Gardens and he came upon a pretty picture,—flesh and blood too.
Lady Caroline feeding buns to the bears! An exquisite thrill passed through his veins. She turned her sweet face and their eyes met. They recollected their first meeting seven years before, but it was his turn to be shy and timid. Wonderful power of age and sex! She met him with perfect self-possession.
"Well meant, but indigestible I fear" (he alluded to the buns).
"A clever person like yourself can easily correct that" (she, the slyboots, was thinking of something else).
In a few moments they were chatting gayly. Little eagerly descanted upon the different animals; she listened with delicious interest. An hour glided delightfully away.
After this sunshine, clouds.
To them suddenly entered Mr. Raby and a handsome young man. The gentlemen bowed stiffly and looked vicious,—as they felt. The lady of this quartette smiled amiably, as she did not feel.
"Looking at your ancestors, I suppose," said Mr. Raby, pointing to the monkeys; "we will not disturb you. Come." And he led Caroline away.
Little was heart-sick. He dared not follow them. But an hour later he saw something which filled his heart with bliss unspeakable.
Lady Caroline, with a divine smile on her face, feeding the monkeys!
Encouraged by love, Little worked hard upon his new flying-machine. His labors were lightened by talking of the beloved one with her French maid Therese, whom he had discreetly bribed. Mademoiselle Therese was venal, like all her class, but in this instance I fear she was not bribed by British gold. Strange as it may seem to the British mind, it was British genius, British eloquence, British thought, that brought her to the feet of this young savan.
"I believe," said Lady Caroline, one day, interrupting her maid in a glowing eulogium upon the skill of "M. Leetell,"—"I believe you are in love with this Professor." A quick flush crossed the olive cheek of Therese, which Lady Caroline afterward remembered.
The eventful day of trial came. The public were gathered, impatient and scornful as the pigheaded public are apt to be. In the open area a long cylindrical balloon, in shape like a Bologna sausage, swayed above the machine, from which, like some enormous bird caught in a net, it tried to free itself. A heavy rope held it fast to the ground.
Little was waiting for the ballast, when his eye caught Lady Caroline's among the spectators. The glance was appealing. In a moment he was at her side.
"I should like so much to get into the machine," said the arch-hypocrite, demurely.
"Are you engaged to marry young Raby," said Little, bluntly.
"As you please," she said with a courtesy; "do I take this as a refusal?"
Little was a gentleman. He lifted her and her lapdog into the car.
"How nice! it won't go off?"
"No, the rope is strong, and the ballast is not yet in."
A report like a pistol, a cry from the spectators, a thousand hands stretched to grasp the parted rope, and the balloon darted upward.
Only one hand of that thousand caught the rope,—Little's! But in the same instant the horror-stricken spectators saw him whirled from his feet and borne upward, still clinging to the rope, into space.
* The right of dramatization of this and succeeding chapters is reserved by the writer.
Lady Caroline fainted. The cold watery nose of her dog on her cheek brought her to herself. She dared not look over the edge of the car; she dared not look up to the bellying monster above her, bearing her to death. She threw herself on the bottom of the car, and embraced the only living thing spared her,—the poodle. Then she cried. Then a clear voice came apparently out of the circumambient air:—
"May I trouble you to look at the barometer?"
She put her head over the car. Little was hanging at the end of a long rope. She put her head back again.
In another moment he saw her perplexed, blushing face over the edge,—blissful sight.
"O, please don't think of coming up! Stay there, do!"
Little stayed. Of course she could make nothing out of the barometer, and said so. Little smiled.
"Will you kindly send it down to me?"
But she had no string or cord. Finally she said, "Wait a moment."
Little waited. This time her face did not appear. The barometer came slowly down at the end of—a stay-lace.
The barometer showed a frightful elevation. Little looked up at the valve and said nothing. Presently he heard a sigh. Then a sob. Then, rather sharply,—
"Why don't you do something?"
Little came up the rope hand over hand. Lady Caroline crouched in the farther side of the car. Fido, the poodle, whined. "Poor thing," said Lady Caroline, "it's hungry."
"Do you wish to save the dog?" said Little.
"Give me your parasol."
She handed Little a good-sized affair of lace and silk and whalebone. (None of your "sunshades.") Little examined its ribs carefully.
"Give me the dog."
Lady Caroline hurriedly slipped a note under the dog's collar, and passed over her pet.
Little tied the dog to the handle of the parasol and launched them both into space. The next moment they were slowly, but tranquilly, sailing to the earth.
"A parasol and a parachute are distinct, but not different. Be not alarmed, he will get his dinner at some farm-house."
"Where are we now?"
"That opaque spot you see is London fog. Those twin clouds are North and South America. Jerusalem and Madagascar are those specks to the right."
Lady Caroline moved nearer; she was becoming interested. Then she recalled herself and said freezingly, "How are we going to descend?"
"By opening the valve."
"Why don't you open it then?"
"BECAUSE THE VALVE-STRING IS BROKEN!"
Lady Caroline fainted. When she revived it was dark. They were apparently cleaving their way through a solid block of black marble. She moaned and shuddered.
"I wish we had a light."
"I have no lucifers," said Little. "I observe, however, that you wear a necklace of amber. Amber under certain conditions becomes highly electrical. Permit me."
He took the amber necklace and rubbed it briskly. Then he asked her to present her knuckle to the gem. A bright spark was the result. This was repeated for some hours. The light was not brilliant, but it was enough for the purposes of propriety, and satisfied the delicately minded girl.
Suddenly there was a tearing, hissing noise and a smell of gas. Little looked up and turned pale. The balloon, at what I shall call the pointed end of the Bologna sausage, was evidently bursting from increased pressure. The gas was escaping, and already they were beginning to descend. Little was resigned but firm.
"If the silk gives way, then we are lost. Unfortunately I have no rope nor material for binding it."
The woman's instinct had arrived at the same conclusion sooner than the man's reason. But she was hesitating over a detail.
"Will you go down the rope for a moment?" she said, with a sweet smile.
Little went down. Presently she called to him. She held something in her hand,—a wonderful invention of the seventeenth century, improved and perfected in this: a pyramid of sixteen circular hoops of light yet strong steel, attached to each other by cloth bands.
With a cry of joy Little seized them, climbed to the balloon, and fitted the elastic hoops over its conical end. Then he returned to the car.
"We are saved."
Lady Caroline, blushing, gathered her slim but antique drapery against the other end of the car.
They were slowly descending. Presently Lady Caroline distinguished the outlines of Raby Hall. "I think I will get out here," she said.
Little anchored the balloon and prepared to follow her.
"Not so, my friend," she said, with an arch smile. "We must not be seen together. People might talk. Farewell."
Little sprang again into the balloon and sped away to America. He came down in California, oddly enough in front of Hardin's door, at Dutch Flat. Hardin was just examining a specimen of ore.
"You are a scientist; can you tell me if that is worth anything?" he said, handing it to Little.
Little held it to the light. "It contains ninety per cent of silver."
Hardin embraced him. "Can I do anything for you, and why are you here?"
Little told his story. Hardin asked to see the rope. Then he examined it carefully.
"Ah, this was cut, not broken!"
"With a knife?" asked Little.
"No. Observe both sides are equally indented. It was done with a SCISSORS!"
"Just Heaven!" gasped Little. "Therese!"
Little returned to London. Passing through London one day he met a dog-fancier. "Buy a nice poodle, sir?"
Something in the animal attracted his attention. "Fido!" he gasped.
The dog yelped.
Little bought him. On taking off his collar a piece of paper rustled to the floor. He knew the handwriting and kissed it. It ran:—
"TO THE HON. AUGUSTUS RABY—I cannot marry you. If I marry any one"
(sly puss) "it will be the man who has twice saved my life,—Professor
And she did.
"I remember him a little boy," said the Duchess. "His mother was a dear friend of mine; you know she was one of my bridesmaids."
"And you have never seen him since, mamma?" asked the oldest married daughter, who did not look a day older than her mother.
"Never; he was an orphan shortly after. I have often reproached myself, but it is so difficult to see boys."
This simple yet first-class conversation existed in the morning-room of Plusham, where the mistress of the palatial mansion sat involved in the sacred privacy of a circle of her married daughters. One dexterously applied golden knitting-needles to the fabrication of a purse of floss silk of the rarest texture, which none who knew the almost fabulous wealth of the Duke would believe was ever destined to hold in its silken meshes a less sum than L1,000,000; another adorned a slipper exclusively with seed pearls; a third emblazoned a page with rare pigments and the finest quality of gold leaf. Beautiful forms leaned over frames glowing with embroidery, and beautiful frames leaned over forms inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Others, more remote, occasionally burst into melody as they tried the passages of a new and exclusive air given to them in MS. by some titled and devoted friend, for the private use of the aristocracy alone, and absolutely prohibited for publication.
The Duchess, herself the superlative of beauty, wealth, and position, was married to the highest noble in the Three Kingdoms. Those who talked about such matters said that their progeny were exactly like their parents,—a peculiarity of the aristocratic and wealthy. They all looked like brothers and sisters, except their parents, who, such was their purity of blood, the perfection of their manners, and the opulence of their condition, might have been taken for their own children's elder son and daughter. The daughters, with one exception, were all married to the highest nobles in the land. That exception was the Lady Coriander, who, there being no vacancy above a marquis and a rental of L1,000,000, waited. Gathered around the refined and sacred circle of their breakfast-table, with their glittering coronets, which, in filial respect to their father's Tory instincts and their mother's Ritualistic tastes, they always wore on their regal brows, the effect was dazzling as it was refined. It was this peculiarity and their strong family resemblance which led their brother-in-law, the good-humored St. Addlegourd, to say that, "'Pon my soul, you know, the whole precious mob looked like a ghastly pack of court cards, you know." St. Addlegourd was a radical. Having a rent-roll of L15,000,000, and belonging to one of the oldest families in Britain, he could afford to be.
"Mamma, I've just dropped a pearl," said the Lady Coriander, bending over the Persian hearthrug.
"From your lips, sweet friend," said Lothaw, who came of age and entered the room at the same moment.
"No, from my work. It was a very valuable pearl, mamma; papa gave Isaacs and Sons L50,000 for the two."
"Ah, indeed," said the Duchess, languidly rising; "let us go to luncheon."
"But your Grace," interposed Lothaw, who was still quite young, and had dropped on all-fours on the carpet in search of the missing gem, "consider the value—"
"Dear friend," interposed the Duchess, with infinite tact, gently lifting him by the tails of his dress-coat, "I am waiting for your arm."
Lothaw was immensely rich. The possessor of seventeen castles, fifteen villas, nine shooting-boxes, and seven town houses, he had other estates of which he had not even heard.
Everybody at Plusham played croquet, and none badly. Next to their purity of blood and great wealth, the family were famous for this accomplishment. Yet Lothaw soon tired of the game, and after seriously damaging his aristocratically large foot in an attempt to "tight croquet" the Lady Aniseed's ball, he limped away to join the Duchess.
"I'm going to the hennery," she said.
"Let me go with you, I dearly love fowls—broiled," he added, thoughtfully.
"The Duke gave Lady Montairy some large Cochins the other day," continued the Duchess, changing the subject with delicate tact.
How do your cochins grow?"
sang Lothaw gayly.
The Duchess looked shocked. After a prolonged silence, Lothaw abruptly and gravely said:—
"If you please, ma'am, when I come into my property I should like to build some improved dwellings for the poor, and marry Lady Coriander."
"You amaze me, dear friend, and yet both your aspirations are noble and eminently proper," said the Duchess; "Coriander is but a child,—and yet," she added, looking graciously upon her companion, "for the matter of that, so are you."
Mr. Putney Giles's was Lothaw's first grand dinner-party. Yet, by carefully watching the others, he managed to acquit himself creditably, and avoided drinking out of the finger-bowl by first secretly testing its contents with a spoon. The conversation was peculiar and singularly interesting.
"Then you think that monogamy is simply a question of the thermometer?" said Mrs. Putney Giles to her companion.
"I certainly think that polygamy should be limited by isothermal lines," replied Lothaw.
"I should say it was a matter of latitude," observed a loud talkative man opposite. He was an Oxford Professor with a taste for satire, and had made himself very obnoxious to the company, during dinner, by speaking disparagingly of a former well-known Chancellor of the Exchequer,—a great statesman and brilliant novelist,—whom he feared and hated.
Suddenly there was a sensation in the room; among the females it absolutely amounted to a nervous thrill. His Eminence, the Cardinal, was announced. He entered with great suavity of manner, and, after shaking hands with everybody, asking after their relatives, and chucking the more delicate females under the chin with a high-bred grace peculiar to his profession, he sat down, saying, "And how do we all find ourselves this evening, my dears?" in several different languages, which he spoke fluently.
Lothaw's heart was touched. His deeply religious convictions were impressed. He instantly went up to this gifted being, confessed, and received absolution. "To-morrow," he said to himself, "I will partake of the communion, and endow the Church with my vast estates. For the present I'll let the improved cottages go."
As Lothaw turned to leave the Cardinal, he was struck by a beautiful face. It was that of a matron, slim but shapely as an Ionic column. Her face was Grecian, with Corinthian temples; Hellenic eyes that looked from jutting eyebrows, like dormer-windows in an Attic forehead, completed her perfect Athenian outline. She wore a black frock-coat tightly buttoned over her bloomer trousers, and a standing collar.
"Your Lordship is struck by that face," said a social parasite.
"I am; who is she?"
"Her name is Mary Ann. She is married to an American, and has lately invented a new religion."
"Ah!" said Lothaw eagerly, with difficulty restraining himself from rushing toward her.
"Yes; shall I introduce you?"
Lothaw thought of Lady Coriander's High Church proclivities, of the Cardinal, and hesitated: "No, I thank you, not now."
Lothaw was maturing. He had attended two woman's rights conventions, three Fenian meetings, had dined at White's, and had danced vis-a-vis to a prince of the blood, and eaten off of gold plates at Crecy House.
His stables were near Oxford, and occupied more ground than the University. He was driving over there one day, when he perceived some rustics and menials endeavoring to stop a pair of runaway horses attached to a carriage in which a lady and gentleman were seated. Calmly awaiting the termination of the accident, with high-bred courtesy Lothaw forbore to interfere until the carriage was overturned, the occupants thrown out, and the runaways secured by the servants, when he advanced and offered the lady the exclusive use of his Oxford stables.
Turning upon him a face whose perfect Hellenic details he remembered, she slowly dragged a gentleman from under the wheels into the light and presented him with ladylike dignity as her husband, Major-General Camperdown, an American.
"Ah," said Lothaw, carelessly, "I believe I have some land there. If I mistake not, my agent, Mr. Putney Giles, lately purchased the State of—Illinois—I think you call it."
"Exactly. As a former resident of the city of Chicago, let me introduce myself as your tenant."
Lothaw bowed graciously to the gentleman, who, except that he seemed better dressed than most Englishmen, showed no other signs of inferiority and plebeian extraction.
"We have met before," said Lothaw to the lady as she leaned on his arm, while they visited his stables, the University, and other places of interest in Oxford. "Pray tell me, what is this new religion of yours?"
"It is Woman Suffrage, Free Love, Mutual Affinity, and Communism. Embrace it and me."
Lothaw did not know exactly what to do. She however soothed and sustained his agitated frame and sealed with an embrace his speechless form. The General approached and coughed slightly with gentlemanly tact.
"My husband will be too happy to talk with you further on this subject," she said with quiet dignity, as she regained the General's side. "Come with us to Oneida. Brook Farm is a thing of the past."
As Lothaw drove toward his country-seat, "The Mural Enclosure," he observed a crowd, apparently of the working class, gathered around a singular-looking man in the picturesque garb of an Ethiopian serenader. "What does he say?" inquired Lothaw of his driver.
The man touched his hat respectfully and said, "My Mary Ann."
"'My Mary Ann!'" Lothaw's heart beat rapidly. Who was this mysterious foreigner? He had heard from Lady Coriander of a certain Popish plot; but could he connect Mr. Camperdown with it?
The spectacle of two hundred men at arms who advanced to meet him at the gates of The Mural Enclosure drove all else from the still youthful and impressible mind of Lothaw. Immediately behind them, on the steps of the baronial halls, were ranged his retainers, led by the chief cook and bottle-washer, and head crumb-remover. On either side were two companies of laundry-maids, preceded by the chief crimper and fluter, supporting a long Ancestral Line, on which depended the family linen, and under which the youthful lord of the manor passed into the halls of his fathers. Twenty-four scullions carried the massive gold and silver plate of the family on their shoulders, and deposited it at the feet of their master. The spoons were then solemnly counted by the steward, and the perfect ceremony ended.
Lothaw sighed. He sought out the gorgeously gilded "Taj," or sacred mausoleum erected to his grandfather in the second story front room, and wept over the man he did not know. He wandered alone in his magnificent park, and then, throwing himself on a grassy bank, pondered on the Great First Cause, and the necessity of religion. "I will send Mary Ann a handsome present," said Lothaw, thoughtfully.
"Each of these pearls, my Lord, is worth fifty thousand guineas," said Mr. Amethyst, the fashionable jeweler, as he lightly lifted a large shovelful from a convenient bin behind his counter.
"Indeed," said Lothaw, carelessly, "I should prefer to see some expensive ones.
"Some number sixes, I suppose," said Mr. Amethyst, taking a couple from the apex of a small pyramid that lay piled on the shelf. "These are about the size of the Duchess of Billingsgate's, but they are in finer condition. The fact is, her Grace permits her two children, the Marquis of Smithfield and the Duke of St. Giles,—two sweet pretty boys, my Lord,—to use them as marbles in their games. Pearls require some attention, and I go down there regularly twice a week to clean them. Perhaps your Lordship would like some ropes of pearls?"
"About half a cable's length," said Lothaw, shortly, "and send them to my lodgings."
Mr. Amethyst became thoughtful. "I am afraid I have not the exact number—that is—excuse me one moment. I will run over to the Tower and borrow a few from the crown jewels." And before Lothaw could prevent him, he seized his hat and left Lothaw alone.
His position certainly was embarrassing. He could not move without stepping on costly gems which had rolled from the counter; the rarest diamonds lay scattered on the shelves; untold fortunes in priceless emeralds lay within his grasp. Although such was the aristocratic purity of his blood and the strength of his religious convictions that he probably would not have pocketed a single diamond, still he could not help thinking that he might be accused of taking some. "You can search me, if you like," he said when Mr. Amethyst returned; "but I assure you, upon the honor of a gentleman, that I have taken nothing."
"Enough, my Lord," said Mr. Amethyst, with a low bow; "we never search the aristocracy."
As Lothaw left Mr. Amethyst's, he ran against General Camperdown. "How is Mary Ann?" he asked hurriedly.
"I regret to state that she is dying," said the general, with a grave voice, as he removed his cigar from his lips, and lifted his hat to Lothaw.
"Dying!" said Lothaw, incredulously.
"Alas, too true!" replied the General. "The engagements of a long lecturing season, exposure in travelling by railway during the winter, and the imperfect nourishment afforded by the refreshments along the road, have told on her delicate frame. But she wants to see you before she dies. Here is the key of my lodging. I will finish my cigar out here."
Lothaw hardly recognized those wasted Hellenic outlines as he entered the dimly lighted room of the dying woman. She was already a classic ruin,—as wrecked and yet as perfect as the Parthenon. He grasped her hand silently.
"Open-air speaking twice a week, and saleratus bread in the rural districts, have brought me to this," she said feebly; "but it is well. The cause progresses. The tyrant man succumbs."
Lothaw could only press her hand.
"Promise me one thing. Don't—whatever you do—become a Catholic."
"The Church does not recognize divorce. And now embrace me. I would prefer at this supreme moment to introduce myself to the next world through the medium of the best society in this. Good by. When I am dead, be good enough to inform my husband of the fact."
Lothaw spent the next six months on an Aryan island, in an Aryan climate, and with an Aryan race.
"This is an Aryan landscape," said his host, "and that is a Mary Ann statue." It was, in fact, a full-length figure in marble of Mrs. General Camperdown!
"If you please, I should like to become a Pagan," said Lothaw, one day, after listening to an impassioned discourse on Greek art from the lips of his host.
But that night, on consulting a well-known spiritual medium, Lothaw received a message from the late Mrs. General Camperdown, advising him to return to England. Two days later he presented himself at Plusham.
"The young ladies are in the garden," said the Duchess. "Don't you want to go and pick a rose?" she added with a gracious smile, and the nearest approach to a wink that was consistent with her patrician bearing and aquiline nose.
Lothaw went and presently returned with the blushing Coriander upon his arm.
"Bless you, my children," said the Duchess. Then, turning to Lothaw, she said: "You have simply fulfilled and accepted your inevitable destiny. It was morally impossible for you to marry out of this family. For the present, the Church of England is safe."
It was toward the close of a bright October day. The last rays of the setting sun were reflected from one of those sylvan lakes peculiar to the Sierras of California. On the right the curling smoke of an Indian village rose between the columns of the lofty pines, while to the left the log cottage of Judge Tompkins, embowered in buckeyes, completed the enchanting picture.
Although the exterior of the cottage was humble and unpretentious, and in keeping with the wildness of the landscape, its interior gave evidence of the cultivation and refinement of its inmates. An aquarium, containing goldfishes, stood on a marble centre-table at one end of the apartment, while a magnificent grand piano occupied the other. The floor was covered with a yielding tapestry carpet, and the walls were adorned with paintings from the pencils of Van Dyke, Rubens, Tintoretto, Michael Angelo, and the productions of the more modern Turner, Kensett, Church, and Bierstadt. Although Judge Tompkins had chosen the frontiers of civilization as his home, it was impossible for him to entirely forego the habits and tastes of his former life. He was seated in a luxurious arm-chair, writing at a mahogany ecritoire, while his daughter, a lovely young girl of seventeen summers, plied her crochet-needle on an ottoman beside him. A bright fire of pine logs flickered and flamed on the ample hearth.
Genevra Octavia Tompkins was Judge Tompkins's only child. Her mother had long since died on the Plains. Reared in affluence, no pains had been spared with the daughter's education. She was a graduate of one of the principal seminaries, and spoke French with a perfect Benicia accent. Peerlessly beautiful, she was dressed in a white moire antique robe trimmed with tulle. That simple rosebud with which most heroines exclusively decorate their hair, was all she wore in her raven locks.
The Judge was the first to break the silence.
"Genevra, the logs which compose yonder fire seem to have been incautiously chosen. The sibilation produced by the sap, which exudes copiously therefrom, is not conducive to composition."
"True, father, but I thought it would be preferable to the constant crepitation which is apt to attend the combustion of more seasoned ligneous fragments."
The Judge looked admiringly at the intellectual features of the graceful girl, and half forgot the slight annoyances of the green wood in the musical accents of his daughter. He was smoothing her hair tenderly, when the shadow of a tall figure, which suddenly darkened the doorway, caused him to look up.
It needed but a glance at the new-comer to detect at once the form and features of the haughty aborigine,—the untaught and untrammelled son of the forest. Over one shoulder a blanket, negligently but gracefully thrown, disclosed a bare and powerful breast, decorated with a quantity of three-cent postage-stamps which he had despoiled from an Overland Mail stage a few weeks previous. A cast-off beaver of Judge Tompkins's, adorned by a simple feather, covered his erect head, from beneath which his straight locks descended. His right hand hung lightly by his side, while his left was engaged in holding on a pair of pantaloons, which the lawless grace and freedom of his lower limbs evidently could not brook.
"Why," said the Indian, in a low sweet tone,—"why does the Pale Face still follow the track of the Red Man? Why does he pursue him, even as O-kee-chow, the wild-cat, chases Ka-ka, the skunk? Why are the feet of Sorrel-top, the white chief, among the acorns of Muck-a-muck, the mountain forest? Why," he repeated, quietly but firmly abstracting a silver spoon from the table,—"why do you seek to drive him from the wigwams of his fathers? His brothers are already gone to the happy hunting-grounds. Will the Pale Face seek him there?" And, averting his face from the Judge, he hastily slipped a silver cake-basket beneath his blanket, to conceal his emotion.
"Muck-a-Muck has spoken," said Genevra, softly. "Let him now listen. Are the acorns of the mountain sweeter than the esculent and nutritious bean of the Pale Face miner? Does my brother prize the edible qualities of the snail above that of the crisp and oleaginous bacon? Delicious are the grasshoppers that sport on the hillside,—are they better than the dried apples of the Pale Faces? Pleasant is the gurgle of the torrent, Kish-Kish, but is it better than the cluck-cluck of old Bourbon from the old stone bottle?"
"Ugh!" said the Indian,—"ugh! good. The White Rabbit is wise. Her words fall as the snow on Tootoonolo, and the rocky heart of Muck-a-Muck is hidden. What says my brother the Gray Gopher of Dutch Flat?"
"She has spoken, Muck-a-Muck," said the Judge, gazing fondly on his daughter. "It is well. Our treaty is concluded. No, thank you,—you need NOT dance the Dance of Snow Shoes, or the Moccasin Dance, the Dance of Green Corn, or the Treaty Dance. I would be alone. A strange sadness overpowers me."
"I go," said the Indian. "Tell your great chief in Washington, the Sachem Andy, that the Red Man is retiring before the footsteps of the adventurous Pioneer. Inform him, if you please, that westward the star of empire takes its way, that the chiefs of the Pi-Ute nation are for Reconstruction to a man, and that Klamath will poll a heavy Republican vote in the fall."
And folding his blanket more tightly around him, Muck-a-Muck withdrew.
Genevra Tompkins stood at the door of the log-cabin, looking after the retreating Overland Mail stage which conveyed her father to Virginia City. "He may never return again," sighed the young girl as she glanced at the frightfully rolling vehicle and wildly careering horses,—"at least, with unbroken bones. Should he meet with an accident! I mind me now a fearful legend, familiar to my childhood. Can it be that the drivers on this line are privately instructed to despatch all passengers maimed by accident, to prevent tedious litigation? No, no. But why this weight upon my heart?"
She seated herself at the piano and lightly passed her hand over the keys. Then, in a clear mezzo-soprano voice, she sang the first verse of one of the most popular Irish ballads:—
"O Arrah, ma dheelish, the distant dudheen
Lies soft in the moonlight, ma bouchal vourneen:
The springing gossoons on the heather are still,
And the caubeens and colleens are heard on the hills."
But as the ravishing notes of her sweet voice died upon the air, her hands sank listlessly to her side. Music could not chase away the mysterious shadow from her heart. Again she rose. Putting on a white crape bonnet, and carefully drawing a pair of lemon-colored gloves over her taper fingers, she seized her parasol and plunged into the depths of the pine forest.
Genevra had not proceeded many miles before a weariness seized upon her fragile limbs, and she would fain seat herself upon the trunk of a prostrate pine, which she previously dusted with her handkerchief. The sun was just sinking below the horizon, and the scene was one of gorgeous and sylvan beauty. "How beautiful is Nature!" murmured the innocent girl, as, reclining gracefully against the root of the tree, she gathered up her skirts and tied a handkerchief around her throat. But a low growl interrupted her meditation. Starting to her feet, her eyes met a sight which froze her blood with terror.
The only outlet to the forest was the narrow path, barely wide enough for a single person, hemmed in by trees and rocks, which she had just traversed. Down this path, in Indian file, came a monstrous grizzly, closely followed by a California lion, a wild-cat, and a buffalo, the rear being brought up by a wild Spanish bull. The mouths of the three first animals were distended with frightful significance; the horns of the last were lowered as ominously. As Genevra was preparing to faint, she heard a low voice behind her.
"Eternally dog-gone my skin ef this ain't the puttiest chance yet."
At the same moment, a long, shining barrel dropped lightly from behind her, and rested over her shoulder.
"Dern ye—don't move!"
Genevra became motionless.
The crack of a rifle rang through the woods. Three frightful yells were heard, and two sullen roars. Five animals bounded into the air and five lifeless bodies lay upon the plain. The well-aimed bullet had done its work. Entering the open throat of the grizzly, it had traversed his body only to enter the throat of the California lion, and in like manner the catamount, until it passed through into the respective foreheads of the bull and the buffalo, and finally fell flattened from the rocky hillside.
Genevra turned quickly. "My preserver!" she shrieked, and fell into the arms of Natty Bumpo, the celebrated Pike Ranger of Donner Lake.
The moon rose cheerfully above Donner Lake. On its placid bosom a dug-out canoe glided rapidly, containing Natty Bumpo and Genevra Tompkins.
Both were silent. The same thought possessed each, and perhaps there was sweet companionship even in the unbroken quiet. Genevra bit the handle of her parasol and blushed. Natty Bumpo took a fresh chew of tobacco. At length Genevra said, as if in half-spoken revery:—
"The soft shining of the moon and the peaceful ripple of the waves seem to say to us various things of an instructive and moral tendency."
"You may bet yer pile on that, Miss," said her companion, gravely. "It's all the preachin' and psalm-singin' I've heern since I was a boy."
"Noble being!" said Miss Tompkins to herself, glancing at the stately Pike as he bent over his paddle to conceal his emotion. "Reared in this wild seclusion, yet he has become penetrated with visible consciousness of a Great First Cause." Then, collecting herself, she said aloud: "Methinks 'twere pleasant to glide ever thus down the stream of life, hand in hand with the one being whom the soul claims as its affinity. But what am I saying?"—and the delicate-minded girl hid her face in her hands.
A long silence ensued, which was at length broken by her companion.
"Ef you mean you're on the marry," he said, thoughtfully, "I ain't in no wise partikler!"
"My husband," faltered the blushing girl; and she fell into his arms.
In ten minutes more the loving couple had landed at Judge Tompkins's.
A year has passed away. Natty Bumpo was returning from Gold Hill, where he had been to purchase provisions. On his way to Donner Lake, rumors of an Indian uprising met his ears. "Dern their pesky skins, ef they dare to touch my Jenny," he muttered between his clenched teeth.
It was dark when he reached the borders of the lake. Around a glittering fire he dimly discerned dusky figures dancing. They were in war paint. Conspicuous among them was the renowned Muck-a-Muck. But why did the fingers of Natty Bumpo tighten convulsively around his rifle?
The chief held in his hand long tufts of raven hair. The heart of the pioneer sickened as he recognized the clustering curls of Genevra. In a moment his rifle was at his shoulder, and with a sharp "ping," Muck-a-Muck leaped into the air a corpse. To knock out the brains of the remaining savages, tear the tresses from the stiffening hand of Muck-a-Muck, and dash rapidly forward to the cottage of Judge Tompkins, was the work of a moment.
He burst open the door. Why did he stand transfixed with open mouth and distended eyeballs? Was the sight too horrible to be borne? On the contrary, before him, in her peerless beauty, stood Genevra Tompkins, leaning on her father's arm.
"Ye'r not scalped, then!" gasped her lover.
"No. I have no hesitation in saying that I am not; but why this abruptness?" responded Genevra.
Bumpo could not speak, but frantically produced the silken tresses. Genevra turned her face aside.
"Why, that's her waterfall!" said the Judge.
Bumpo sank fainting to the floor.
The famous Pike chieftain never recovered from the deceit, and refused to marry Genevra, who died, twenty years afterwards, of a broken heart. Judge Tompkins lost his fortune in Wild Cat. The stage passes twice a week the deserted cottage at Donner Lake. Thus was the death of Muck-a-Muck avenged.
The little village of Pilwiddle is one of the smallest and obscurest hamlets on the western coast of Ireland. On a lofty crag, overlooking the hoarse Atlantic, stands "Denville's Shot Tower"—a corruption by the peasantry of D'Enville's Chateau, so called from my great-grandfather, Phelim St. Kemy d'Enville, who assumed the name and title of a French heiress with whom he ran away. To this fact my familiar knowledge and excellent pronunciation of the French language may be attributed, as well as many of the events which covered my after life.
The Denvilles were always passionately fond of field sports. At the age of four, I was already the boldest rider and the best shot in the country. When only eight, I won the St. Remy Cup at the Pilwiddle races,—riding my favorite bloodmare Hellfire. As I approached the stand amidst the plaudits of the assembled multitude, and cries of, "Thrue for ye, Masther Terence," and "O, but it's a Dinville!" there was a slight stir among the gentry, who surrounded the Lord Lieutenant, and other titled personages whom the race had attracted thither. "How young he is,—a mere child; and yet how noble-looking," said a sweet low voice, which thrilled my soul.
I looked up and met the full liquid orbs of the Hon. Blanche Fitzroy Sackville, youngest daughter of the Lord Lieutenant. She blushed deeply. I turned pale and almost fainted. But the cold, sneering tones of a masculine voice sent the blood back again into my youthful cheek.
"Very likely the ragged scion of one of these banditti Irish gentry, who has taken naturally to 'the road.' He should be at school—though I warrant me his knowledge of Terence will not extend beyond his own name," said Lord Henry Somerset, aid-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant.
A moment and I was perfectly calm, though cold as ice. Dismounting, and stepping to the side of the speaker, I said in a low, firm voice:—
"Had your Lordship read Terence more carefully, you would have learned that banditti are sometimes proficient in other arts beside horsemanship," and I touched his holster significantly with my hand. I had not read Terence myself, but with the skilful audacity of my race I calculated that a vague allusion, coupled with a threat, would embarrass him. It did.
"Ah—what mean you?" he said, white with rage.
"Enough, we are observed," I replied; "Father Tom will wait on you this evening; and to-morrow morning, my lord, in the glen below Pilwiddle we will meet again."
"Father Tom—glen!" ejaculated the Englishman, with genuine surprise. "What? do priests carry challenges and act as seconds in your infernal country?"
"Yes!" I answered, scornfully, "why should they not? Their services are more often necessary than those of a surgeon," I added significantly, turning away.
The party slowly rode off, with the exception of the Hon. Blanche Sackville, who lingered for a moment behind. In an instant I was at her side. Bending her blushing face over the neck of her white filly, she said hurriedly:—
"Words have passed between Lord Somerset and yourself. You are about to fight. Don't deny it—but hear me. You will meet him—I know your skill of weapons. He will be at your mercy. I entreat you to spare his life!"
I hesitated. "Never!" I cried passionately; "he has insulted a Denville!"
"Terence," she whispered, "Terence—FOR MY SAKE?"
The blood rushed to my cheeks, and her eyes sought the ground in bashful confusion.
"You love him then?" I cried, bitterly.
"No, no," she said, agitatedly, "no, you do me wrong. I—I—cannot explain myself. My father!—the Lady Dowager Sackville—the estate of Sackville—the borough—my uncle, Fitzroy Somerset. Ah! what am I saying? Forgive me. O Terence," she said, as her beautiful head sank on my shoulder, "you know not what I suffer!"
I seized her hand and covered it with passionate kisses. But the high-bred English girl, recovering something of her former hauteur, said hastily, "Leave me, leave me, but promise!"
"I promise," I replied, enthusiastically; "I WILL spare his life!"
"Thanks, Terence,—thanks!" and disengaging her hand from my lips she rode rapidly away.
The next morning, the Hon. Captain Henry Somerset and myself exchanged nineteen shots in the glen, and at each fire I shot away a button from his uniform. As my last bullet shot off the last button from his sleeve, I remarked quietly, "You seem now, my lord, to be almost as ragged as the gentry you sneered at," and rode haughtily away.
When I was nineteen years old my father sold the Chateau d'Enville and purchased my commission in the "Fifty-sixth" with the proceeds. "I say, Denville," said young McSpadden, a boy-faced ensign, who had just joined, "you'll represent the estate in the Army, if you won't in the House." Poor fellow, he paid for his meaningless joke with his life, for I shot him through the heart the next morning. "You're a good fellow, Denville," said the poor boy faintly, as I knelt beside him: "good by!" For the first time since my grandfather's death I wept. I could not help thinking that I would have been a better man if Blanche—but why proceed? Was she not now in Florence—the belle of the English Embassy?
But Napoleon had returned from Elba. Europe was in a blaze of excitement. The Allies were preparing to resist the Man of Destiny. We were ordered from Gibraltar home, and were soon again en route for Brussels. I did not regret that I was to be placed in active service. I was ambitious, and longed for an opportunity to distinguish myself. My garrison life in Gibraltar had been monotonous and dull. I had killed five men in duel, and had an affair with the colonel of my regiment, who handsomely apologized before the matter assumed a serious aspect. I had been twice in love. Yet these were but boyish freaks and follies. I wished to be a man.
The time soon came,—the morning of Waterloo. But why describe that momentous battle, on which the fate of the entire world was hanging? Twice were the Fifty-sixth surrounded by French cuirassiers, and twice did we mow them down by our fire. I had seven horses shot under me, and was mounting the eighth, when an orderly rode up hastily, touched his cap, and, handing me a despatch, galloped rapidly away.
I opened it hurriedly and read:—
"LET PICTON ADVANCE IMMEDIATELY ON THE RIGHT."
I saw it all at a glance. I had been mistaken for a general officer. But what was to be done? Picton's division was two miles away, only accessible through a heavy cross fire of artillery and musketry. But my mind was made up.
In an instant I was engaged with an entire squadron of cavalry, who endeavored to surround me. Cutting my way through them, I advanced boldly upon a battery and sabred the gunners before they could bring their pieces to bear. Looking around, I saw that I had in fact penetrated the French centre. Before I was well aware of the locality, I was hailed by a sharp voice in French,—
"Come here, sir!"
I obeyed, and advanced to the side of a little man in a cocked hat.
"Has Grouchy come?"
"Not yet, sire," I replied,—for it was the Emperor.
"Ha!" he said suddenly, bending his piercing eyes on my uniform; "a prisoner?"
"No, sire," I said, proudly.
I placed my hand upon my sword, but a gesture from the Emperor bade me forbear.
"You are a brave man," he said.
I took my snuff-box from my pocket, and, taking a pinch, replied by handing it, with a bow, to the Emperor.
His quick eye caught the cipher on the lid. "What! a D'Enville? Ha! this accounts for the purity of your accent. Any relation to Roderick d'Enville?"
"My father, sire."
"He was my school-fellow at the Ecole Polytechnique. Embrace me!" And the Emperor fell upon my neck in the presence of his entire staff. Then, recovering himself, he gently placed in my hand his own magnificent snuff-box, in exchange for mine, and hanging upon my breast the cross of the Legion of Honor which he took from his own, he bade one of his Marshals conduct me back to my regiment.
I was so intoxicated with the honor of which I had been the recipient, that on reaching our lines I uttered a shout of joy and put spurs to my horse. The intelligent animal seemed to sympathize with my feelings, and fairly flew over the ground. On a rising eminence a few yards before me stood a gray-haired officer, surrounded by his staff. I don't know what possessed me, but putting spurs to my horse, I rode at him boldly, and with one bound cleared him, horse and all. A shout of indignation arose from the assembled staff. I wheeled suddenly, with the intention of apologizing, but my mare misunderstood me, and, again dashing forward, once more vaulted over the head of the officer, this time unfortunately uncovering him by a vicious kick of her hoof. "Seize him!" roared the entire army. I was seized. As the soldiers led me away, I asked the name of the gray-haired officer. "That—why, that's the DUKE OF WELLINGTON!"
For six months I had brain-fever. During my illness ten grapeshot were extracted from my body which I had unconsciously received during the battle. When I opened my eyes I met the sweet glance of a Sister of Charity.
"Blanche!" I stammered feebly.
"The same," she replied.
"Yes, dear; but hush! It's a long story. You see, dear Terence, your grandfather married my great-aunt's sister, and your father again married my grandmother's niece, who, dying without a will, was, according to the French law—"
"But I do not comprehend," I said.
"Of course not," said Blanche, with her old sweet smile; "you've had brain-fever; so go to sleep."
I understood, however, that Blanche loved me; and I am now, dear reader, Sir Terence Sackville, K. C. B., and Lady Blanche is Lady Sackville.
The sun was setting over Sloperton Grange, and reddened the window of the lonely chamber in the western tower, supposed to be haunted by Sir Edward Sedilia, the founder of the Grange. In the dreamy distance arose the gilded mausoleum of Lady Felicia Sedilia, who haunted that portion of Sedilia Manor, known as "Stiff-uns Acre." A little to the left of the Grange might have been seen a mouldering ruin, known as "Guy's Keep," haunted by the spirit of Sir Guy Sedilia, who was found, one morning, crushed by one of the fallen battlements. Yet, as the setting sun gilded these objects, a beautiful and almost holy calm seemed diffused about the Grange.
The Lady Selina sat by an oriel window, overlooking the park. The sun sank gently in the bosom of the German Ocean, and yet the lady did not lift her beautiful head from the finely curved arm and diminutive hand which supported it. When darkness finally shrouded the landscape she started, for the sound of horse-hoofs clattered over the stones of the avenue. She had scarcely risen before an aristocratic young man fell on his knees before her.
"Edgardo! You here?"
"And—you—you—have—seen nothing?" said the lady in an agitated voice and nervous manner, turning her face aside to conceal her emotion.
"Nothing—that is nothing of any account," said Edgardo. "I passed the ghost of your aunt in the park, noticed the spectre of your uncle in the ruined keep, and observed the familiar features of the spirit of your great-grandfather at his usual post. But nothing beyond these trifles, my Selina. Nothing more, love, absolutely nothing."
The young man turned his dark liquid orbs fondly upon the ingenuous face of his betrothed.
"My own Edgardo!—and you still love me? You still would marry me in spite of this dark mystery which surrounds me? In spite of the fatal history of my race? In spite of the ominous predictions of my aged nurse?"
"I would, Selina"; and the young man passed his arm around her yielding waist. The two lovers gazed at each other's faces in unspeakable bliss. Suddenly Selina started.
"Leave me, Edgardo! leave me! A mysterious something—a fatal misgiving—a dark ambiguity—an equivocal mistrust oppresses me. I would be alone!"
The young man arose, and cast a loving glance on the lady. "Then we will be married on the seventeenth."
"The seventeenth," repeated Selina, with a mysterious shudder.
They embraced and parted. As the clatter of hoofs in the court-yard died away, the Lady Selina sank into the chair she had just quitted.
"The seventeenth," she repeated slowly, with the same fateful shudder. "Ah!—what if he should know that I have another husband living? Dare I reveal to him that I have two legitimate and three natural children? Dare I repeat to him the history of my youth? Dare I confess that at the age of seven I poisoned my sister, by putting verdigris in her cream-tarts,—that I threw my cousin from a swing at the age of twelve? That the lady's-maid who incurred the displeasure of my girlhood now lies at the bottom of the horse-pond? No! no! he is too pure,—too good,—too innocent, to hear such improper conversation!" and her whole body writhed as she rocked to and fro in a paroxysm of grief.
But she was soon calm. Rising to her feet, she opened a secret panel in the wall, and revealed a slow-match ready for lighting.
"This match," said the Lady Selina, "is connected with a mine beneath the western tower, where my three children are confined; another branch of it lies under the parish church, where the record of my first marriage is kept. I have only to light this match and the whole of my past life is swept away!" she approached the match with a lighted candle.
But a hand was laid upon her arm, and with a shriek the Lady Selina fell on her knees before the spectre of Sir Guy.
"Forbear, Selina," said the phantom in a hollow voice.
"Why should I forbear?" responded Selina haughtily, as she recovered her courage. "You know the secret of our race?"
"I do. Understand me,—I do not object to the eccentricities of your youth. I know the fearful destiny which, pursuing you, led you to poison your sister and drown your lady's-maid. I know the awful doom which I have brought upon this house! But if you make way with these children—"
"Well," said the Lady Selina, hastily.
"They will haunt you!"
"Well, I fear them not," said Selina, drawing her superb figure to its full height.
"Yes, but, my dear child, what place are they to haunt? The ruin is sacred to your uncle's spirit. Your aunt monopolizes the park, and, I must be allowed to state, not unfrequently trespasses upon the grounds of others. The horse-pond is frequented by the spirit of your maid, and your murdered sister walks these corridors. To be plain, there is no room at Sloperton Grange for another ghost. I cannot have them in my room,—for you know I don't like children. Think of this, rash girl, and forbear! Would you, Selina," said the phantom, mournfully,—"would you force your great-grandfather's spirit to take lodgings elsewhere?"
Lady Selina's hand trembled; the lighted candle fell from her nerveless fingers.
"No," she cried passionately; "never!" and fell fainting to the floor.
Edgardo galloped rapidly towards Sloperton. When the outline of the Grange had faded away in the darkness, he reined his magnificent steed beside the ruins of Guy's Keep.
"It wants but a few minutes of the hour," he said, consulting his watch by the light of the moon. "He dare not break his word. He will come." He paused, and peered anxiously into the darkness. "But come what may, she is mine," he continued, as his thoughts reverted fondly to the fair lady he had quitted. "Yet if she knew all. If she knew that I were a disgraced and ruined man,—a felon and an outcast. If she knew that at the age of fourteen I murdered my Latin tutor and forged my uncle's will. If she knew that I had three wives already, and that the fourth victim of misplaced confidence and my unfortunate peculiarity is expected to be at Sloperton by to-night's train with her baby. But no; she must not know it. Constance must not arrive. Burke the Slogger must attend to that.
"Ha! here he is! Well?"
These words were addressed to a ruffian in a slouched hat, who suddenly appeared from Guy's Keep.
"I be's here, measter," said the villain, with a disgracefully low accent and complete disregard of grammatical rules.
"It is well. Listen: I'm in possession of facts that will send you to the gallows. I know of the murder of Bill Smithers, the robbery of the tollgate-keeper, and the making away of the youngest daughter of Sir Reginald de Walton. A word from me, and the officers of justice are on your track."
Burke the Slogger trembled.
"Hark ye! serve my purpose, and I may yet save you. The 5.30 train from Clapham will be due at Sloperton at 9.25. IT MUST NOT ARRIVE!"
The villain's eyes sparkled as he nodded at Edgardo.
"Enough,—you understand; leave me!"
About half a mile from Sloperton Station the South Clapham and Medway line crossed a bridge over Sloperton-on-Trent. As the shades of evening were closing, a man in a slouched hat might have been seen carrying a saw and axe under his arm, hanging about the bridge. From time to time he disappeared in the shadow of its abutments, but the sound of a saw and axe still betrayed his vicinity. At exactly nine o'clock he reappeared, and, crossing to the Sloperton side, rested his shoulder against the abutment and gave a shove. The bridge swayed a moment, and then fell with a splash into the water, leaving a space of one hundred feet between the two banks. This done, Burke the Slogger,—for it was he,—with a fiendish chuckle seated himself on the divided railway track and awaited the coming of the train.
A shriek from the woods announced its approach. For an instant Burke the Slogger saw the glaring of a red lamp. The ground trembled. The train was going with fearful rapidity. Another second and it had reached the bank. Burke the Slogger uttered a fiendish laugh. But the next moment the train leaped across the chasm, striking the rails exactly even, and, dashing out the life of Burke the Slogger, sped away to Sloperton.
The first object that greeted Edgardo, as he rode up to the station on the arrival of the train, was the body of Burke the Slogger hanging on the cow-catcher; the second was the face of his deserted wife looking from the windows of a second-class carriage.
A nameless terror seemed to have taken possession of Clarissa, Lady Selina's maid, as she rushed into the presence of her mistress.
"O my lady, such news!"
"Explain yourself," said her mistress, rising.
"An accident has happened on the railway, and a man has been killed."
"What—not Edgardo!" almost screamed Selina.
"No, Burke the Slogger!" your ladyship.
"My first husband!" said Lady Selina, sinking on her knees. "Just Heaven, I thank thee!"
The morning of the seventeenth dawned brightly over Sloperton. "A fine day for the wedding," said the sexton to Swipes, the butler of Sloperton Grange. The aged retainer shook his head sadly. "Alas! there's no trusting in signs!" he continued. "Seventy-five years ago, on a day like this, my young mistress—" But he was cut short by the appearance of a stranger.
"I would see Sir Edgardo," said the new-comer, impatiently.
The bridegroom, who, with the rest of the wedding-train, was about stepping into the carriage to proceed to the parish church, drew the stranger aside.
"It's done!" said the stranger, in a hoarse whisper.
"Ah! and you buried her?"
"With the others!"
"Enough. No more at present. Meet me after the ceremony, and you shall have your reward."
The stranger shuffled away, and Edgardo returned to his bride. "A trifling matter of business I had forgotten, my dear Selina; let us proceed." And the young man pressed the timid hand of his blushing bride as he handed her into the carriage. The cavalcade rode out of the court-yard. At the same moment, the deep bell on Guy's Keep tolled ominously.
Scarcely had the wedding-train left the Grange, than Alice Sedilia, youngest daughter of Lady Selina, made her escape from the western tower, owing to a lack of watchfulness on the part of Clarissa. The innocent child, freed from restraint, rambled through the lonely corridors, and finally, opening a door, found herself in her mother's boudoir. For some time she amused herself by examining the various ornaments and elegant trifles with which it was filled. Then, in pursuance of a childish freak, she dressed herself in her mother's laces and ribbons. In this occupation she chanced to touch a peg which proved to be a spring that opened a secret panel in the wall. Alice uttered a cry of delight as she noticed what, to her childish fancy, appeared to be the slow-match of a fire-work. Taking a lucifer match in her hand she approached the fuse. She hesitated a moment. What would her mother and her nurse say?
Suddenly the ringing of the chimes of Sloperton parish church met her ear. Alice knew that the sound signified that the marriage party had entered the church, and that she was secure from interruption. With a childish smile upon her lips, Alice Sedilia touched off the slow-match.
At exactly two o'clock on the seventeenth, Rupert Sedilia, who had just returned from India, was thoughtfully descending the hill toward Sloperton manor. "If I can prove that my aunt Lady Selina was married before my father died, I can establish my claim to Sloperton Grange," he uttered, half aloud. He paused, for a sudden trembling of the earth beneath his feet, and a terrific explosion, as of a park of artillery, arrested his progress. At the same moment he beheld a dense cloud of smoke envelop the churchyard of Sloperton, and the western tower of the Grange seemed to be lifted bodily from its foundation. The air seemed filled with falling fragments, and two dark objects struck the earth close at his feet. Rupert picked them up. One seemed to be a heavy volume bound in brass.
A cry burst from his lips.
"The Parish Records." He opened the volume hastily. It contained the marriage of Lady Selina to "Burke the Slogger."
The second object proved to be a piece of parchment. He tore it open with trembling fingers. It was the missing will of Sir James Sedilia!
When the bells again rang on the new parish church of Sloperton it was for the marriage of Sir Rupert Sedilia and his cousin, the only remaining members of the family.
Five more ghosts were added to the supernatural population of Sloperton Grange. Perhaps this was the reason why Sir Rupert sold the property shortly afterward, and that for many years a dark shadow seemed to hang over the ruins of Sloperton Grange.
Twenty years after, the gigantic innkeeper of Provins stood looking at a cloud of dust on the highway.
This cloud of dust betokened the approach of a traveller. Travellers had been rare that season on the highway between Paris and Provins.
The heart of the innkeeper rejoiced. Turning to Dame Perigord, his wife, he said, stroking his white apron:—
"St. Denis! make haste and spread the cloth. Add a bottle of Charlevoix to the table. This traveller, who rides so fast, by his pace must be a Monseigneur."
Truly the traveller, clad in the uniform of a musketeer, as he drew up to the door of the hostelry, did not seem to have spared his horse. Throwing his reins to the landlord, he leaped lightly to the ground. He was a young man of four-and-twenty, and spoke with a slight Gascon accent.
"I am hungry, Morbleu! I wish to dine!"
The gigantic innkeeper bowed and led the way to a neat apartment, where a table stood covered with tempting viands. The musketeer at once set to work. Fowls, fish, and pates disappeared before him. Perigord sighed as he witnessed the devastations. Only once the stranger paused.
"Wine!" Perigord brought wine. The stranger drank a dozen bottles. Finally he rose to depart. Turning to the expectant landlord, he said:—
"To whom, your highness?" said Perigord, anxiously.
"To his Eminence!"
"Mazarin!" ejaculated the innkeeper.
"The same. Bring me my horse," and the musketeer, remounting his favorite animal, rode away.
The innkeeper slowly turned back into the inn. Scarcely had he reached the courtyard before the clatter of hoofs again called him to the doorway. A young musketeer of a light and graceful figure rode up.
"Parbleu, my dear Perigord, I am famishing. What have you got for dinner?"
"Venison, capons, larks, and pigeons, your excellency," replied the obsequious landlord, bowing to the ground.
"Enough!" The young musketeer dismounted and entered the inn. Seating himself at the table replenished by the careful Perigord, he speedily swept it as clean as the first comer.
"Some wine, my brave Perigord," said the graceful young musketeer, as soon as he could find utterance.
Perigord brought three dozen of Charlevoix. The young man emptied them almost at a draught.
"By-by, Perigord," he said lightly, waving his hand, as, preceding the astonished landlord, he slowly withdrew.
"But, your highness,—the bill," said the astounded Perigord.
"Ah, the bill. Charge it!"
"The same. Adieu, my good Perigord." And the graceful stranger rode away. An interval of quiet succeeded, in which the innkeeper gazed wofully at his wife. Suddenly he was startled by a clatter of hoofs, and an aristocratic figure stood in the doorway.
"Ah," said the courtier good-naturedly. "What, do my eyes deceive me? No, it is the festive and luxurious Perigord. Perigord, listen. I famish. I languish. I would dine."
The innkeeper again covered the table with viands. Again it was swept clean as the fields of Egypt before the miraculous swarm of locusts. The stranger looked up.
"Bring me another fowl, my Perigord."
"Impossible, your excellency; the larder is stripped clean."
"Another flitch of bacon, then."
"Impossible, your highness; there is no more."
"Well, then, wine!"
The landlord brought one hundred and forty-four bottles. The courtier drank them all.
"One may drink if one cannot eat," said the aristocratic stranger, good-humoredly.
The innkeeper shuddered.
The guest rose to depart. The innkeeper came slowly forward with his bill, to which he had covertly added the losses which he had suffered from the previous strangers.
"Ah, the bill. Charge it."
"Charge it! to whom?"
"To the King," said the guest.
"What! his Majesty?"
"Certainly. Farewell, Perigord."
The innkeeper groaned. Then he went out and took down his sign. Then remarked to his wife:—
"I am a plain man, and don't understand politics. It seems, however, that the country is in a troubled state. Between his Eminence the Cardinal, his Majesty the King, and her Majesty the Queen, I am a ruined man."
"Stay," said Dame Perigord, "I have an idea."
"And that is—"
"Become yourself a musketeer."
On leaving Provins the first musketeer proceeded to Nangis, where he was reinforced by thirty-three followers. The second musketeer, arriving at Nangis at the same moment, placed himself at the head of thirty-three more. The third guest of the landlord of Provins arrived at Nangis in time to assemble together thirty-three other musketeers.
The first stranger led the troops of his Eminence.
The second led the troops of the Queen.
The third led the troops of the King.
The fight commenced. It raged terribly for seven hours. The first musketeer killed thirty of the Queen's troops. The second musketeer killed thirty of the King's troops. The third musketeer killed thirty of his Eminence's troops.
By this time it will be perceived the number of musketeers had been narrowed down to four on each side.
Naturally the three principal warriors approached each other.
They simultaneously uttered a cry.
They fell into each other's arms.
"And it seems that we are fighting against each other, my children," said the Count de la Fere, mournfully.
"How singular!" exclaimed Aramis and D'Artagnan.
"Let us stop this fratricidal warfare," said Athos.
"We will!" they exclaimed together.
"But how to disband our followers?" queried D'Artagnan.
Aramis winked. They understood each other. "Let us cut 'em down!"
They cut 'em down. Aramis killed three. D'Artagnan three. Athos three.
The friends again embraced. "How like old times," said Aramis. "How touching!" exclaimed the serious and philosophic Count de la Fere.
The galloping of hoofs caused them to withdraw from each other's embraces. A gigantic figure rapidly approached.
"The innkeeper of Provins!" they cried, drawing their swords.
"Perigord, down with him!" shouted D'Artagnan.
"Stay," said Athos.
The gigantic figure was beside them. He uttered a cry.
"Athos, Aramis, D'Artagnan!"
"Porthos!" exclaimed the astonished trio.
"The same." They all fell in each other's arms.
The Count de la Fere slowly raised his hands to Heaven. "Bless you! Bless us, my children! However different our opinion may be in regard to politics, we have but one opinion in regard to our own merits. Where can you find a better man than Aramus?"
"Than Porthos?" said Aramis.
"Than D'Artagnan?" said Porthos.
"Than Athos?" said D'Artagnan.
The King descended into the garden. Proceeding cautiously along the terraced walk, he came to the wall immediately below the windows of Madame. To the left were two windows, concealed by vines. They opened into the apartments of La Valliere.
The King sighed.
"It is about nineteen feet to that window," said the King. "If I had a ladder about nineteen feet long, it would reach to that window. This is logic."
Suddenly the King stumbled over something. "St. Denis!" he exclaimed, looking down. It was a ladder, just nineteen feet long.
The King placed it against the wall. In so doing, he fixed the lower end upon the abdomen of a man who lay concealed by the wall The man did not utter a cry or wince. The King suspected nothing. He ascended the ladder.
The ladder was too short. Louis the Grand was not a tall man. He was still two feet below the window.
"Dear me!" said the King.
Suddenly the ladder was lifted two feet from below. This enabled the King to leap in the window. At the farther end of the apartment stood a young girl, with red hair and a lame leg. She was trembling with emotion.
"Ah, my God, mademoiselle."
"Ah, my God, sire."
But a low knock at the door interrupted the lovers. The King uttered a cry of rage; Louise one of despair.
The door opened and D'Artagnan entered.
"Good evening, sire," said the musketeer.
The King touched a bell. Porthos appeared in the doorway.
"Good evening, sire."
"Arrest M. D'Artagnan."
Porthos looked at D'Artagnan, and did not move.
The King almost turned purple with rage. He again touched the bell. Athos entered.
"Count, arrest Porthos and D'Artagnan."
The Count de la Fere glanced at Porthos and D'Artagnan, and smiled sweetly.
"Sacre! Where is Aramis?" said the King, violently.
"Here, sire," and Aramis entered.
"Arrest Athos, Porthos, and D'Artagnan."
Aramis bowed and folded his arms.
Aramis did not move.
The King shuddered and turned pale. "Am I not King of France?"
"Assuredly, sire, but we are also severally, Porthos, Aramis, D'Artagnan, and Athos."
"Ah!" said the King.
"What does this mean?"
"It means, your Majesty," said Aramis, stepping forward, "that your conduct as a married man is highly improper. I am an Abbe, and I object to these improprieties. My friends here, D'Artagnan, Athos, and Porthos, pure-minded young men, are also terribly shocked. Observe, sire, how they blush!"
Athos, Porthos, and D'Artagnan blushed. "Ah," said the King, thoughtfully. "You teach me a lesson. You are devoted and noble young gentlemen, but your only weakness is your excessive modesty. From this moment I make you all Marshals and Dukes, with the exception of Aramis."
"And me, sire?" said Aramis.
"You shall be an Archbishop!"
The four friends looked up and then rushed into each other's arms. The King embraced Louise de la Valliere, by way of keeping them company. A pause ensued. At last Athos spoke:—
"Swear, my children, that, next to yourselves, you will respect the King of France; and remember that 'Forty years after' we will meet again."
It was noon. Sir Edward had stepped from his brougham and was proceeding on foot down the Strand. He was dressed with his usual faultless taste, but in alighting from his vehicle his foot had slipped, and a small round disk of conglomerated soil, which instantly appeared on his high arched instep, marred the harmonious glitter of his boots. Sir Edward was fastidious. Casting his eyes around, at a little distance he perceived the stand of a youthful bootblack. Thither he sauntered, and carelessly placing his foot on the low stool, he waited the application of the polisher's art. "'Tis true," said Sir Edward to himself, yet half aloud, "the contact of the Foul and the Disgusting mars the general effect of the Shiny and the Beautiful—and, yet, why am I here? I repeat it, calmly and deliberately—why am I here? Ha! Boy!"
The Boy looked up—his dark Italian eyes glanced intelligently at the Philosopher, and as with one hand he tossed back his glossy curls, from his marble brow, and with the other he spread the equally glossy Day & Martin over the Baronet's boot, he answered in deep rich tones: "The Ideal is subjective to the Real. The exercise of apperception gives a distinctiveness to idiocracy, which is, however, subject to the limits of ME. You are an admirer of the Beautiful, sir. You wish your boots blacked. The Beautiful is attainable by means of the Coin."
"Ah," said Sir Edward thoughtfully, gazing upon the almost supernal beauty of the Child before him; "you speak well. You have read Kant."
The Boy blushed deeply. He drew a copy of Kant from his blouse, but in his confusion several other volumes dropped from his bosom on the ground. The Baronet picked them up.
"Ah!" said the Philosopher, "what's this? Cicero's De Senectute, at your age, too? Martial's Epigrams, Caesar's Commentaries. What! a classical scholar?"
"E pluribus Unum. Nux vomica. Nil desperandum. Nihil fit!" said the Boy, enthusiastically. The Philosopher gazed at the Child. A strange presence seemed to transfuse and possess him. Over the brow of the Boy glittered the pale nimbus of the Student.
"Ah, and Schiller's Robbers, too?" queried the Philosopher.
"Das ist ausgespielt," said the Boy, modestly.
"Then you have read my translation of Schiller's Ballads?" continued the Baronet, with some show of interest.
"I have, and infinitely prefer them to the original," said the Boy, with intellectual warmth. "You have shown how in Actual life we strive for a Goal we cannot reach; how in the Ideal the Goal is attainable, and there effort is victory. You have given us the Antithesis which is a key to the Remainder, and constantly balances before us the conditions of the Actual and the privileges of the Ideal."
"My very words," said the Baronet; "wonderful, wonderful!" and he gazed fondly at the Italian boy, who again resumed his menial employment. Alas! the wings of the Ideal were folded. The Student had been absorbed in the Boy.
But Sir Edward's boots were blacked, and he turned to depart. Placing his hand upon the clustering tendrils that surrounded the classic nob of the infant Italian, he said softly, like a strain of distant music:—
"Boy, you have done well. Love the Good. Protect the Innocent. Provide for The Indigent. Respect the Philosopher. . . . Stay! Can you tell we what IS The True, The Beautiful, The Innocent, The Virtuous?"
"They are things that commence with a capital letter," said the Boy, promptly.
"Enough! Respect everything that commences with a capital letter! Respect ME!" and dropping a half-penny in the hand of the boy, he departed.
The Boy gazed fixedly at the coin. A frightful and instantaneous change overspread his features. His noble brow was corrugated with baser lines of calculation. His black eye, serpent-like, glittered with suppressed passion. Dropping upon his hands and feet, he crawled to the curbstone and hissed after the retreating form of the Baronet, the single word:—
"Eleven years ago," said Sir Edward to himself, as his brougham slowly rolled him toward the Committee Room; "just eleven years ago my natural son disappeared mysteriously. I have no doubt in the world but that this little bootblack is he. His mother died in Italy. He resembles his mother very much. Perhaps I ought to provide for him. Shall I disclose myself? No! no! Better he should taste the sweets of Labor. Penury ennobles the mind and kindles the Love of the Beautiful. I will act to him, not like a Father, not like a Guardian, not like a Friend—but like a Philosopher!"
With these words, Sir Edward entered the Committee Room. His Secretary approached him. "Sir Edward, there are fears of a division in the House, and the Prime Minister has sent for you."
"I will be there," said Sir Edward, as he placed his hand on his chest and uttered a hollow cough!
No one who heard the Baronet that night, in his sarcastic and withering speech on the Drainage and Sewerage Bill, would have recognized the lover of the Ideal and the Philosopher of the Beautiful. No one who listened to his eloquence would have dreamed of the Spartan resolution this iron man had taken in regard to the Lost Boy—his own beloved Lionel. None!
"A fine speech from Sir Edward to-night," said Lord Billingsgate, as, arm-and-arm with the Premier, he entered his carriage.
"Yes! but how dreadfully he coughs!"
"Exactly. Dr. Bolus says his lungs are entirely gone; he breathes entirely by an effort of will, and altogether independent of pulmonary assistance."
"How strange!" and the carriage rolled away.
"ADON AI, appear! appear!"
And as the Seer spoke, the awful Presence glided out of Nothingness, and sat, sphinx-like, at the feet of the Alchemist.
"I am come!" said the Thing.
"You should say, 'I have come,'—it's better grammar," said the Boy-Neophyte, thoughtfully accenting the substituted expression.
"Hush, rash Boy," said the Seer, sternly. "Would you oppose your feeble knowledge to the infinite intelligence of the Unmistakable? A word, and you are lost forever."
The Boy breathed a silent prayer, and, handing a sealed package to the Seer, begged him to hand it to his father in case of his premature decease.
"You have sent for me," hissed the Presence. "Behold me, Apokatharticon,—the Unpronounceable. In me all things exist that are not already coexistent. I am the Unattainable, the Intangible, the Cause, and the Effect. In me observe the Brahma of Mr. Emerson; not only Brahma himself, but also the sacred musical composition rehearsed by the faithful Hindoo. I am the real Gyges. None others are genuine."
And the veiled Son of the Starbeam laid himself loosely about the room, and permeated Space generally.
"Unfathomable Mystery," said the Rosicrucian in a low, sweet voice. "Brave Child with the Vitreous Optic! Thou who pervadest all things and rubbest against us without abrasion of the cuticle. I command thee, speak!"
And the misty, intangible, indefinite Presence spoke.
After the events related in the last chapter, the reader will perceive that nothing was easier than to reconcile Sir Edward to his son Lionel, nor to resuscitate the beautiful Italian girl, who, it appears, was not dead, and to cause Sir Edward to marry his first and boyish love, whom he had deserted. They were married in St. George's, Hanover Square. As the bridal party stood before the altar, Sir Edward, with a sweet sad smile, said, in quite his old manner:—
"The Sublime and Beautiful are the Real; the only Ideal is the Ridiculous and Homely. Let us always remember this. Let us through life endeavor to personify the virtues, and always begin 'em with a capital letter. Let us, whenever we can find an opportunity, deliver our sentiments in the form of round-hand copies. Respect the Aged. Eschew Vulgarity. Admire Ourselves. Regard the Novelist."
Don't tell me that it wasn't a knocker. I had seen it often enough, and I ought to know. So ought the three-o'clock beer, in dirty high-lows, swinging himself over the railing, or executing a demoniacal jig upon the doorstep; so ought the butcher, although butchers as a general thing are scornful of such trifles; so ought the postman, to whom knockers of the most extravagant description were merely human weaknesses, that were to be pitied and used. And so ought, for the matter of that, etc., etc., etc.
But then it was SUCH a knocker. A wild, extravagant, and utterly incomprehensible knocker. A knocker so mysterious and suspicious that Policeman X 37, first coming upon it, felt inclined to take it instantly in custody, but compromised with his professional instincts by sharply and sternly noting it with an eye that admitted of no nonsense, but confidently expected to detect its secret yet. An ugly knocker; a knocker with a hard, human face, that was a type of the harder human face within. A human face that held between its teeth a brazen rod. So hereafter, in the mysterious future should be held, etc., etc.
But if the knocker had a fierce human aspect in the glare of day, you should have seen it at night, when it peered out of the gathering shadows and suggested an ambushed figure; when the light of the street lamps fell upon it, and wrought a play of sinister expression in its hard outlines; when it seemed to wink meaningly at a shrouded figure who, as the night fell darkly, crept up the steps and passed into the mysterious house; when the swinging door disclosed a black passage into which the figure seemed to lose itself and become a part of the mysterious gloom; when the night grew boisterous and the fierce wind made furious charges at the knocker, as if to wrench it off and carry it away in triumph. Such a night as this.
It was a wild and pitiless wind. A wind that had commenced life as a gentle country zephyr, but wandering through manufacturing towns had become demoralized, and reaching the city had plunged into extravagant dissipation and wild excesses. A roistering wind that indulged in Bacchanalian shouts on the street corners, that knocked off the hats from the heads of helpless passengers, and then fulfilled its duties by speeding away, like all young prodigals,—to sea.
He sat alone in a gloomy library listening to the wind that roared in the chimney. Around him novels and story-books were strewn thickly; in his lap he held one with its pages freshly cut, and turned the leaves wearily until his eyes rested upon a portrait in its frontispiece. And as the wind howled the more fiercely, and the darkness without fell blacker, a strange and fateful likeness to that portrait appeared above his chair and leaned upon his shoulder. The Haunted Man gazed at the portrait and sighed. The figure gazed at the portrait and sighed too.
"Here again?" said the Haunted Man.
"Here again," it repeated in a low voice.
"The old story?"
"The old story."
"I see a child," said the Haunted Man, gazing from the pages of the book into the fire,—"a most unnatural child, a model infant. It is prematurely old and philosophic. It dies in poverty to slow music. It dies surrounded by luxury to slow music. It dies with an accompaniment of golden water and rattling carts to slow music. Previous to its decease it makes a will; it repeats the Lord's Prayer, it kisses the 'boofer lady.' That child—"
"Is mine," said the phantom.
"I see a good woman, undersized. I see several charming women, but they are all undersized. They are more or less imbecile and idiotic, but always fascinating and undersized. They wear coquettish caps and aprons. I observe that feminine virtue is invariably below the medium height, and that it is always simple and infantine. These women—"
"I see a haughty, proud, and wicked lady. She is tall and queenly. I remark that all proud and wicked women are tall and queenly. That woman—"
"Is mine," said the phantom, wringing his hands.
"I see several things continually impending. I observe that whenever an accident, a murder, or death is about to happen, there is something in the furniture, in the locality, in the atmosphere, that foreshadows and suggests it years in advance. I cannot say that in real life I have noticed it,—the perception of this surprising fact belongs—"
"To me!" said the phantom. The Haunted Man continued, in a despairing tone:—
"I see the influence of this in the magazines and daily papers; I see weak imitators rise up and enfeeble the world with senseless formula. I am getting tired of it. It won't do, Charles! it won't do!" and the Haunted Man buried his head in his hands and groaned. The figure looked down upon him sternly: the portrait in the frontispiece frowned as he gazed.
"Wretched man," said the phantom, "and how have these things affected you?"
"Once I laughed and cried, but then I was younger. Now, I would forget them if I could."
"Have then your wish. And take this with you, man whom I renounce. From this day henceforth you shall live with those whom I displace. Without forgetting me, 't will be your lot to walk through life as if we had not met. But first you shall survey these scenes that henceforth must be yours. At one to-night, prepare to meet the phantom I have raised. Farewell!"
The sound of its voice seemed to fade away with the dying wind, and the Haunted Man was alone. But the firelight flickered gayly, and the light danced on the walls, making grotesque figures of the furniture.
"Ha, ha!" said the Haunted Man, rubbing his hands gleefully; "now for a whiskey punch and a cigar."
One! The stroke of the far-off bell had hardly died before the front door closed with a reverberating clang. Steps were heard along the passage; the library door swung open of itself, and the Knocker—yes, the Knocker—slowly strode into the room. The Haunted Man rubbed his eyes,—no! there could be no mistake about it,—it was the Knocker's face, mounted on a misty, almost imperceptible body. The brazen rod was transferred from its mouth to its right hand, where it was held like a ghostly truncheon.
"It's a cold evening," said the Haunted Man.
"It is," said the Goblin, in a hard, metallic voice.
"It must be pretty cold out there," said the Haunted Man, with vague politeness. "Do you ever—will you—take some hot water and brandy?"
"No," said the Goblin.
"Perhaps you'd like it cold, by way of change?" continued the Haunted Man, correcting himself, as he remembered the peculiar temperature with which the Goblin was probably familiar.
"Time flies," said the Goblin coldly. "We have no leisure for idle talk. Come!" He moved his ghostly truncheon toward the window, and laid his hand upon the other's arm. At his touch the body of the Haunted Man seemed to become as thin and incorporeal as that of the Goblin himself, and together they glided out of the window into the black and blowy night.
In the rapidity of their flight the senses of the Haunted Man seemed to leave him. At length they stopped suddenly.
"What do you see?" asked the Goblin.
"I see a battlemented mediaeval castle. Gallant men in mail ride over the drawbridge, and kiss their gauntleted fingers to fair ladies, who wave their lily hands in return. I see fight and fray and tournament. I hear roaring heralds bawling the charms of delicate women, and shamelessly proclaiming their lovers. Stay. I see a Jewess about to leap from a battlement. I see knightly deeds, violence, rapine, and a good deal of blood. I've seen pretty much the same at Astley's."
"I see purple moors, glens, masculine women, bare-legged men, priggish book-worms, more violence, physical excellence, and blood. Always blood,—and the superiority of physical attainments."
"And how do you feel now?" said the Goblin.
The Haunted Man shrugged his shoulders. "None the better for being carried back and asked to sympathize with a barbarous age."
The Goblin smiled and clutched his arm; they again sped rapidly through the black night and again halted.
"What do you see?" said the Goblin.
"I see a barrack room, with a mess table, and a group of intoxicated Celtic officers telling funny stories, and giving challenges to duel. I see a young Irish gentleman capable of performing prodigies of valor. I learn incidentally that the acme of all heroism is the cornetcy of a dragoon regiment. I hear a good deal of French! No, thank you," said the Haunted Man hurriedly, as he stayed the waving hand of the Goblin; "I would rather NOT go to the Peninsula, and don't care to have a private interview with Napoleon."
Again the Goblin flew away with the unfortunate man, and from a strange roaring below them he judged they were above the ocean. A ship hove in sight, and the Goblin stayed its flight. "Look," he said, squeezing his companion's arm.
The Haunted Man yawned. "Don't you think, Charles, you're rather running this thing into the ground? Of course it's very moral and instructive, and all that. But ain't there a little too much pantomime about it? Come now!"
"Look!" repeated the Goblin, pinching his arm malevolently. The Haunted Man groaned.
"O, of course, I see her Majesty's ship Arethusa. Of course I am familiar with her stern First Lieutenant, her eccentric Captain, her one fascinating and several mischievous midshipmen. Of course I know it's a splendid thing to see all this, and not to be seasick. O, there the young gentlemen are going to play a trick on the purser. For God's sake, let us go," and the unhappy man absolutely dragged the Goblin away with him.
When they next halted, it was at the edge of a broad and boundless prairie, in the middle of an oak opening.
"I see," said the Haunted Man, without waiting for his cue, but mechanically, and as if he were repeating a lesson which the Goblin had taught him,—"I see the Noble Savage. He is very fine to look at! But I observe under his war-paint, feathers, and picturesque blanket, dirt, disease, and an unsymmetrical contour. I observe beneath his inflated rhetoric deceit and hypocrisy; beneath his physical hardihood, cruelty, malice, and revenge. The Noble Savage is a humbug. I remarked the same to Mr. Catlin."
"Come," said the phantom.
The Haunted Man sighed, and took out his watch. "Couldn't we do the rest of this another time?"
"My hour is almost spent, irreverent being, but there is yet a chance for your reformation. Come!"
Again they sped through the night, and again halted. The sound of delicious but melancholy music fell upon their ears.
"I see," said the Haunted Man, with something of interest in his manner,—"I see an old moss-covered manse beside a sluggish, flowing river. I see weird shapes: witches, Puritans, clergymen, little children, judges, mesmerized maidens, moving to the sound of melody that thrills me with its sweetness and purity. But, although carried along its calm and evenly flowing current, the shapes are strange and frightful: an eating lichen gnaws at the heart of each. Not only the clergymen, but witch, maiden, judge, and Puritan, all wear Scarlet Letters of some kind burned upon their hearts. I am fascinated and thrilled, but I feel a morbid sensitiveness creeping over me. I—I beg your pardon." The Goblin was yawning frightfully. "Well, perhaps we had better go."
"One more, and the last," said the Goblin.
They were moving home. Streaks of red were beginning to appear in the eastern sky. Along the banks of the blackly flowing river by moorland and stagnant fens, by low houses, clustering close to the water's edge, like strange mollusks, crawled upon the beach to dry; by misty black barges, the more misty and indistinct seen through its mysterious veil, the river fog was slowly rising. So rolled away and rose from the heart of the Haunted Man, etc., etc.
They stopped before a quaint mansion of red brick. The Goblin waved his hand without speaking.
"I see," said the Haunted Man, "a gay drawing-room. I see my old friends of the club, of the college, of society, even as they lived and moved. I see the gallant and unselfish men, whom I have loved, and the snobs whom I have hated. I see strangely mingling with them, and now and then blending with their forms, our old friends Dick Steele, Addison, and Congreve. I observe, though, that these gentlemen have a habit of getting too much in the way. The royal standard of Queen Anne, not in itself a beautiful ornament, is rather too prominent in the picture. The long galleries of black oak, the formal furniture, the old portraits, are picturesque, but depressing. The house is damp. I enjoy myself better here on the lawn, where they are getting up a Vanity Fair. See, the bell rings, the curtain is rising, the puppets are brought out for a new play. Let me see."
The Haunted Man was pressing forward in his eagerness, but the hand of the Goblin stayed him, and pointing to his feet he saw, between him and the rising curtain, a new-made grave. And bending above the grave in passionate grief, the Haunted Man beheld the phantom of the previous night.
The Haunted Man started, and—woke. The bright sunshine streamed into the room. The air was sparkling with frost. He ran joyously to the window and opened it. A small boy saluted him with "Merry Christmas." The Haunted Man instantly gave him a Bank of England note. "How much like Tiny Tim, Tom, and Bobby that boy looked,—bless my soul, what a genius this Dickens has!"
A knock at the door, and Boots entered.
"Consider your salary doubled instantly. Have you read David Copperfield?"
"Your salary is quadrupled. What do you think of the Old Curiosity Shop?"
The man instantly burst into a torrent of tears, and then into a roar of laughter.
"Enough! Here are five thousand pounds. Open a porter-house, and call it, 'Our Mutual Friend.' Huzza! I feel so happy!" And the haunted Man danced about the room.
And so, bathed in the light of that blessed sun, and yet glowing with the warmth of a good action, the Haunted Man, haunted no longer, save by those shapes which make the dreams of children beautiful, reseated himself in his chair, and finished Our Mutual Friend.
My earliest impressions are of a huge, misshapen rock, against which the hoarse waves beat unceasingly. On this rock three pelicans are standing in a defiant attitude. A dark sky lowers in the background, while two sea-gulls and a gigantic cormorant eye with extreme disfavor the floating corpse of a drowned woman in the foreground. A few bracelets, coral necklaces, and other articles of jewelry, scattered around loosely, complete this remarkable picture.
It is one which, in some vague, unconscious way, symbolizes, to my fancy, the character of a man. I have never been able to explain exactly why. I think I must have seen the picture in some illustrated volume, when a baby, or my mother may have dreamed it before I was born.
As a child I was not handsome. When I consulted the triangular bit of looking-glass which I always carried with me, it showed a pale, sandy, and freckled face, shaded by locks like the color of seaweed when the sun strikes it in deep water. My eyes were said to be indistinctive; they were a faint, ashen gray; but above them rose—my only beauty—a high, massive, domelike forehead, with polished temples, like door-knobs of the purest porcelain.
Our family was a family of governesses. My mother had been one, and my sisters had the same occupation. Consequently, when, at the age of thirteen, my eldest sister handed me the advertisement of Mr. Rawjester, clipped from that day's "Times," I accepted it as my destiny. Nevertheless, a mysterious presentiment of an indefinite future haunted me in my dreams that night, as I lay upon my little snow-white bed. The next morning, with two bandboxes tied up in silk handkerchiefs, and a hair trunk, I turned my back upon Minerva Cottage forever.
Blunderbore Hall, the seat of James Rawjester, Esq., was encompassed by dark pines and funereal hemlocks on all sides. The wind sang weirdly in the turrets and moaned through the long-drawn avenues of the park. As I approached the house I saw several mysterious figures flit before the windows, and a yell of demoniac laughter answered my summons at the bell. While I strove to repress my gloomy forebodings, the housekeeper, a timid, scared-looking old woman, showed me into the library.
I entered, overcome with conflicting emotions. I was dressed in a narrow gown of dark serge, trimmed with black bugles. A thick green shawl was pinned across my breast. My hands were encased with black half-mittens worked with steel beads; on my feet were large pattens, originally the property of my deceased grandmother. I carried a blue cotton umbrella. As I passed before a mirror, I could not help glancing at it, nor could I disguise from myself the fact that I was not handsome.
Drawing a chair into a recess, I sat down with folded hands, calmly awaiting the arrival of my master. Once or twice a fearful yell rang through the house, or the rattling of chains, and curses uttered in a deep, manly voice, broke upon the oppressive stillness. I began to feel my soul rising with the emergency of the moment.
"You look alarmed, miss. You don't hear anything, my dear, do you?" asked the housekeeper nervously.
"Nothing whatever," I remarked calmly, as a terrific scream, followed by the dragging of chairs and tables in the room above, drowned for a moment my reply. "It is the silence, on the contrary, which has made me foolishly nervous."
The housekeeper looked at me approvingly, and instantly made some tea for me.
I drank seven cups; as I was beginning the eighth, I heard a crash, and the next moment a man leaped into the room through the broken window.
The crash startled me from my self-control. The housekeeper bent toward me and whispered:—
"Don't be excited. It's Mr. Rawjester,—he prefers to come in sometimes in this way. It's his playfulness, ha! ha! ha!"
"I perceive," I said calmly. "It's the unfettered impulse of a lofty soul breaking the tyrannizing bonds of custom." And I turned toward him.
He had never once looked at me. He stood with his back to the fire, which set off the herculean breadth of his shoulders. His face was dark and expressive; his under jaw squarely formed, and remarkably heavy. I was struck with his remarkable likeness to a Gorilla.
As he absently tied the poker into hard knots with his nervous fingers, I watched him with some interest. Suddenly he turned toward me:—
"Do you think I'm handsome, young woman?"
"Not classically beautiful," I returned calmly; "but you have, if I may so express myself, an abstract manliness,—a sincere and wholesome barbarity which, involving as it does the naturalness—" But I stopped, for he yawned at that moment,—an action which singularly developed the immense breadth of his lower jaw,—and I saw he had forgotten me. Presently he turned to the housekeeper:—
The old woman withdrew with a courtesy.
Mr. Rawjester deliberately turned his back upon me and remained silent for twenty minutes. I drew my shawl the more closely around my shoulders and closed my eyes.
"You are the governess?" at length he said.
"I am, sir."
"A creature who teaches geography, arithmetic, and the use of the globes—ha!—a wretched remnant of femininity,—a skimp pattern of girlhood with a premature flavor of tea-leaves and morality. Ugh!"
I bowed my head silently.
"Listen to me, girl!" he said sternly; "this child you have come to teach—my ward—is not legitimate. She is the offspring of my mistress,—a common harlot. Ah! Miss Mix, what do you think of me now?"
"I admire," I replied calmly, "your sincerity. A mawkish regard for delicacy might have kept this disclosure to yourself. I only recognize in your frankness that perfect community of thought and sentiment which should exist between original natures."
I looked up; he had already forgotten my presence, and was engaged in pulling off his boots and coat. This done, he sank down in an arm-chair before the fire, and ran the poker wearily through his hair. I could not help pitying him.
The wind howled dismally without, and the rain beat furiously against the windows. I crept toward him and seated myself on a low stool beside his chair.
Presently he turned, without seeing me, and placed his foot absently in my lap. I affected not to notice it. But he started and looked down.
"You here yet—Carrothead? Ah, I forgot. Do you speak French?"
"Taisez-vous!" he said sharply, with singular purity of accent. I complied. The wind moaned fearfully in the chimney, and the light burned dimly. I shuddered in spite of myself. "Ah, you tremble, girl!"
"It is a fearful night."
"Fearful! Call you this fearful, ha! ha! ha! Look! you wretched little atom, look!" and he dashed forward, and, leaping out of the window, stood like a statue in the pelting storm, with folded arms. He did not stay long, but in a few minutes returned by way of the hall chimney. I saw from the way that he wiped his feet on my dress that he had again forgotten my presence.
"You are a governess. What can you teach?" he asked, suddenly and fiercely thrusting his face in mine.
"Manners!" I replied, calmly.
"Ha! teach ME!"
"You mistake yourself," I said, adjusting my mittens. "Your manners require not the artificial restraint of society. You are radically polite; this impetuosity and ferociousness is simply the sincerity which is the basis of a proper deportment. Your instincts are moral; your better nature, I see, is religious. As St. Paul justly remarks—see chap. 6, 8, 9, and 10—"
He seized a heavy candlestick, and threw it at me. I dodged it submissively but firmly.
"Excuse me," he remarked, as his under jaw slowly relaxed. "Excuse me, Miss Mix—but I can't stand St. Paul! Enough—you are engaged."
I followed the housekeeper as she led the way timidly to my room. As we passed into a dark hall in the wing, I noticed that it was closed by an iron gate with a grating. Three of the doors on the corridor were likewise grated. A strange noise, as of shuffling feet and the howling of infuriated animals, rang through the hall. Bidding the housekeeper good night, and taking the candle, I entered my bedchamber.
I took off my dress, and, putting on a yellow flannel nightgown, which I could not help feeling did not agree with my complexion, I composed myself to rest by reading Blair's Rhetoric and Paley's Moral Philosophy. I had just put out the light, when I heard voices in the corridor. I listened attentively. I recognized Mr. Rawjester's stern tones.
"Have you fed No. 1?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said a gruff voice, apparently belonging to a domestic.
"How's No. 2?"
"She's a little off her feed, just now, but will pick up in a day or two!"
"And No. 3?"
"Perfectly furious, sir. Her tantrums are ungovernable."
The voices died away, and I sank into a fitful slumber.
I dreamed that I was wandering through a tropical forest. Suddenly I saw the figure of a gorilla approaching me. As it neared me, I recognized the features of Mr. Rawjester. He held his hand to his side as if in pain. I saw that he had been wounded. He recognized me and called me by name, but at the same moment the vision changed to an Ashantee village, where, around the fire, a group of negroes were dancing and participating in some wild Obi festival. I awoke with the strain still ringing in my ears.
"Hokee-pokee wokee fum!"
Good Heavens! could I be dreaming? I heard the voice distinctly on the floor below, and smelt something burning. I arose, with an indistinct presentiment of evil, and hastily putting some cotton in my ears and tying a towel about my head, I wrapped myself in a shawl and rushed down stairs. The door of Mr. Rawjester's room was open. I entered.
Mr. Rawjester lay apparently in a deep slumber, from which even the clouds of smoke that came from the burning curtains of his bed could not rouse him. Around the room a large and powerful negress, scantily attired, with her head adorned with feathers, was dancing wildly, accompanying herself with bone castanets. It looked like some terrible fetich.
I did not lose my calmness. After firmly emptying the pitcher, basin, and slop-jar on the burning bed, I proceeded cautiously to the garden, and, returning with the garden-engine, I directed a small stream at Mr. Rawjester.
At my entrance the gigantic negress fled. Mr. Rawjester yawned and woke. I explained to him, as he rose dripping from the bed, the reason of my presence. He did not seem to be excited, alarmed, or discomposed. He gazed at me curiously.
"So you risked your life to save mine, eh? you canary-colored teacher of infants."
I blushed modestly, and drew my shawl tightly over my yellow flannel nightgown.
"You love me, Mary Jane,—don't deny it! This trembling shows it!" He drew me closely toward him, and said, with his deep voice tenderly modulated:—
"How's her pooty tootens,—did she get her 'ittle tootens wet,—bess her?"
I understood his allusion to my feet. I glanced down and saw that in my hurry I had put on a pair of his old india-rubbers. My feet were not small or pretty, and the addition did not add to their beauty.
"Let me go, sir," I remarked quietly. "This is entirely improper; it sets a bad example for your child." And I firmly but gently extricated myself from his grasp. I approached the door. He seemed for a moment buried in deep thought.
"You say this was a negress?"
"Humph, No. 1, I suppose?"
"Who is Number One, sir?"
"My FIRST," he remarked, with a significant and sarcastic smile. Then, relapsing into his old manner, he threw his boots at my head, and bade me begone. I withdrew calmly.
My pupil was a bright little girl, who spoke French with a perfect accent. Her mother had been a French ballet-dancer, which probably accounted for it. Although she was only six years old, it was easy to perceive that she had been several times in love. She once said to me:—
"Miss Mix, did you ever have the grande passion? Did you ever feel a fluttering here?" and she placed her hand upon her small chest, and sighed quaintly, "a kind of distaste for bonbons and caromels, when the world seemed as tasteless and hollow as a broken cordial drop."
"Then you have felt it, Nina?" I said quietly. "O dear, yes. There was Buttons,—that was our page, you know,—I loved him dearly, but papa sent him away. Then there was Dick, the groom, but he laughed at me, and I suffered misery!" and she struck a tragic French attitude. "There is to be company here to-morrow," she added, rattling on with childish naivete, "and papa's sweetheart—Blanche Marabout—is to be here. You know they say she is to be my mamma."
What thrill was this shot through me? But I rose calmly, and, administering a slight correction to the child, left the apartment.
Blunderbore House, for the next week, was the scene of gayety and merriment. That portion of the mansion closed with a grating was walled up, and the midnight shrieks no longer troubled me.
But I felt more keenly the degradation of my situation. I was obliged to help Lady Blanche at her toilet and help her to look beautiful. For what? To captivate him? O—no, no,—but why this sudden thrill and faintness? Did he really love her? I had seen him pinch and swear at her. But I reflected that he had thrown a candlestick at my head, and my foolish heart was reassured.
It was a night of festivity, when a sudden message obliged Mr. Rawjester to leave his guests for a few hours. "Make yourselves merry, idiots," he added, under his breath, as he passed me. The door closed and he was gone.
An half-hour passed. In the midst of the dancing a shriek was heard, and out of the swaying crowd of fainting women and excited men a wild figure strode into the room. One glance showed it to be a highwayman, heavily armed, holding a pistol in each hand.
"Let no one pass out of this room!" he said, in a voice of thunder. "The house is surrounded and you cannot escape. The first one who crosses yonder threshold will be shot like a dog. Gentlemen, I'll trouble you to approach in single file, and hand me your purses and watches."
Finding resistance useless, the order was ungraciously obeyed.
"Now, ladies, please to pass up your jewelry and trinkets."
This order was still more ungraciously complied with. As Blanche handed to the bandit captain her bracelet, she endeavored to conceal a diamond necklace, the gift of Mr. Rawjester, in her bosom. But, with a demoniac grin, the powerful brute tore it from its concealment, and, administering a hearty box on the ear of the young girl, flung her aside.
It was now my turn. With a beating heart I made my way to the robber chieftain, and sank at his feet. "O sir, I am nothing but a poor governess, pray let me go."
"O ho! A governess? Give me your last month's wages, then. Give me what you have stolen from your master!" and he laughed fiendishly.
I gazed at him quietly, and said, in a low voice: "I have stolen nothing from you, Mr. Rawjester!"
"Ah, discovered! Hush! listen, girl!" he hissed, in a fiercer whisper, "utter a syllable to frustrate my plans and you die; aid me, and—" But he was gone.
In a few moments the party, with the exception of myself, were gagged and locked in the cellar. The next moment torches were applied to the rich hangings, and the house was in flames. I felt a strong hand seize me, and bear me out in the open air and place me upon the hillside, where I could overlook the burning mansion. It was Mr. Rawjester.
"Burn!" he said, as he shook his fist at the flames. Then sinking on his knees before me, he said hurriedly:—
"Mary Jane, I love you; the obstacles to our union are or will be soon removed. In yonder mansion were confined my three crazy wives. One of them, as you know, attempted to kill me! Ha! this is vengeance! But will you be mine?"
I fell, without a word, upon his neck.
"Nerei repandirostrum incurvicervicum pecus."
A dingy, swashy, splashy afternoon in October; a school-yard filled with a mob of riotous boys. A lot of us standing outside.
Suddenly came a dull, crashing sound from the school-room. At the ominous interruption I shuddered involuntarily, and called to Smithsye:—
"What's up, Smithums?"
"Guy's cleaning out the fourth form," he replied.
At the same moment George de Coverly passed me, holding his nose, from whence the bright Norman blood streamed redly. To him the plebeian Smithsye laughingly:—
"Cully! how's his nibs?"
I pushed the door of the school-room open. There are some spectacles which a man never forgets. The burning of Troy probably seemed a large-sized conflagration to the pious Aeneas, and made an impression on him which he carried away with the feeble Anchises.
In the centre of the room, lightly brandishing the piston-rod of a steam-engine, stood Guy Heavystone alone. I say alone, for the pile of small boys on the floor in the corner could hardly be called company.
I will try and sketch him for the reader. Guy Heavystone was then only fifteen. His broad, deep chest, his sinewy and quivering flank, his straight pastern, showed him to be a thoroughbred. Perhaps he was a trifle heavy in the fetlock, but he held his head haughtily erect. His eyes were glittering but pitiless. There was a sternness about the lower part of his face,—the old Heavystone look,—a sternness, heightened, perhaps, by the snaffle-bit which, in one of his strange freaks, he wore in his mouth to curb his occasional ferocity. His dress was well adapted to his square-set and herculean frame. A striped knit undershirt, close-fitting striped tights, and a few spangles set off his figure; a neat Glengarry cap adorned his head. On it was displayed the Heavystone crest, a cock regardant on a dunghill or, and the motto, "Devil a better!"
I thought of Horatius on the bridge, of Hector before the walls. I always make it a point to think of something classical at such times.
He saw me, and his sternness partly relaxed. Something like a smile struggled through his grim lineaments. It was like looking on the Jungfrau after having seen Mont Blanc,—a trifle, only a trifle less sublime and awful. Resting his hand lightly on the shoulder of the head-master, who shuddered and collapsed under his touch, he strode toward me.
His walk was peculiar. You could not call it a stride. It was like the "crest-tossing Bellerophon,"—a kind of prancing gait. Guy Heavystone pranced toward me.
"Lord Lovel he stood at the garden gate,
A-combing his milk-white steed."
It was the winter of 186- when I next met Guy Heavystone. He had left the University and had entered the 76th "Heavies." "I have exchanged the gown for the sword, you see," he said, grasping my hand, and fracturing the bones of my little finger, as he shook it.
I gazed at him with unmixed admiration. He was squarer, sterner, and in every way smarter and more remarkable than ever. I began to feel toward this man as Phalaster felt towards Phyrgino, as somebody must have felt toward Archididasculus, as Boswell felt toward Johnson.
"Come into my den," he said, and lifting me gently by the seat of my pantaloons he carried me up stairs and deposited me, before I could apologize, on the sofa. I looked around the room. It was a bachelor's apartment, characteristically furnished in the taste of the proprietor. A few claymores and battle-axes were ranged against the wall, and a culverin, captured by Sir Ralph Heavystone, occupied the corner, the other end of the room being taken up by a light battery. Foils, boxing-gloves, saddles, and fishing-poles lay around carelessly. A small pile of billets-doux lay upon a silver salver. The man was not an anchorite, nor yet a Sir Galahad.
I never could tell what Guy thought of women. "Poor little beasts," he would often say when the conversation turned on any of his fresh conquests. Then, passing his hand over his marble brow, the old look of stern fixedness of purpose and unflinching severity would straighten the lines of his mouth, and he would mutter, half to himself, "S'death!"
"Come with me to Heavystone Grange. The Exmoor Hounds throw off to-morrow. I'll give you a mount," he said, as he amused himself by rolling up a silver candlestick between his fingers. "You shall have Cleopatra. But stay," he added, thoughtfully; "now I remember, I ordered Cleopatra to be shot this morning."
"And why?" I queried.
"She threw her rider yesterday and fell on him—"
"And killed him?"
"No. That's the reason why I have ordered her to be shot. I keep no animals that are not dangerous—I should add—DEADLY!" He hissed the last sentence between his teeth, and a gloomy frown descended over his calm brow.
I affected to turn over the tradesman's bills that lay on the table, for, like all of the Heavystone race, Guy seldom paid cash, and said:—
"You remind me of the time when Leonidas—"
"O, bother Leonidas and your classical allusions. Come!"
We descended to dinner.
"He carries weight, he rides a race,
'Tis for a thousand pound."
"There is Flora Billingsgate, the greatest coquette and hardest rider in the country," said my companion, Ralph Mortmain, as we stood upon Dingleby Common before the meet.
I looked up and beheld Guy Heavystone bending haughtily over the saddle, as he addressed a beautiful brunette. She was indeed a splendidly groomed and high-spirited woman. We were near enough to overhear the following conversation, which any high-toned reader will recognize as the common and natural expression of the higher classes.
"When Diana takes the field the chase is not wholly confined to objects ferae naturae," said Guy, darting a significant glance at his companion. Flora did not shrink either from the glance or the meaning implied in the sarcasm.
"If I were looking for an Endymion, now—" she said archly, as she playfully cantered over a few hounds and leaped a five-barred gate.
Guy whispered a few words, inaudible to the rest of the party, and, curvetting slightly, cleverly cleared two of the huntsmen in a flying leap, galloped up the front steps of the mansion, and dashing at full speed through the hall leaped through the drawing-room window and rejoined me, languidly, on the lawn.
"Be careful of Flora Billingsgate," he said to me, in low stern tones, while his pitiless eye shot a baleful fire. "Gardez vous!"
"Gnothi seauton," I replied calmly, not wishing to appear to be behind him in perception or verbal felicity.
Guy started off in high spirits. He was well carried. He and the first whip, a ten-stone man, were head and head at the last fence, while the hounds were rolling over their fox a hundred yards farther in the open.
But an unexpected circumstance occurred. Coming back, his chestnut mare refused a ten-foot wall. She reared and fell backward. Again he led her up to it lightly; again she refused, falling heavily from the coping. Guy started to his feet. The old pitiless fire shone in his eyes; the old stern look settled around his mouth. Seizing the mare by the tail and mane he threw her over the wall. She landed twenty feet on the other side, erect and trembling. Lightly leaping the same obstacle himself, he remounted her. She did not refuse the wall the next time.
"He holds him by his glittering eye."
Guy was in the North of Ireland, cock-shooting. So Ralph Mortmain told me, and also that the match between Mary Brandagee and Guy had been broken off by Flora Billingsgate. "I don't like those Billingsgates," said Ralph, "they're a bad stock. Her father, Smithfield de Billingsgate, had an unpleasant way of turning up the knave from the bottom of the pack. But nous verrons; let us go and see Guy."
The next morning we started for Fin-ma-Coul's Crossing. When I reached the shooting-box, where Guy was entertaining a select company of friends, Flora Billingsgate greeted me with a saucy smile.
Guy was even squarer and sterner than ever. His gusts of passion were more frequent, and it was with difficulty that he could keep an able-bodied servant in his family. His present retainers were more or less maimed from exposure to the fury of their master. There was a strange cynicism, a cutting sarcasm in his address, piercing through his polished manner. I thought of Timon, etc., etc.
One evening, we were sitting over our Chambertin, after a hard day's work, and Guy was listlessly turning over some letters, when suddenly he uttered a cry. Did you ever hear the trumpeting of a wounded elephant? It was like that.
I looked at him with consternation. He was glancing at a letter which he held at arm's length, and snorting, as it were, at it as he gazed. The lower part of his face was stern, but not as rigid as usual. He was slowly grinding between his teeth the fragments of the glass he had just been drinking from. Suddenly he seized one of his servants, and, forcing the wretch upon his knees, exclaimed, with the roar of a tiger:—
"Dog! why was this kept from me?"
"Why, please, sir, Miss Flora said as how it was a reconciliation from Miss Brandagee, and it was to be kept from you where you would not be likely to see it,—and—and—"
"Speak, dog! and you—"
"I put it among your bills, sir!"
With a groan, like distant thunder, Guy fell swooning to the floor.
He soon recovered, for the next moment a servant came rushing into the room with the information that a number of the ingenuous peasantry of the neighborhood were about to indulge that evening in the national pastime of burning a farm-house and shooting a landlord. Guy smiled a fearful smile, without, however, altering his stern and pitiless expression.
"Let them come," he said calmly; "I feel like entertaining company."
We barricaded the doors and windows, and then chose our arms from the armory. Guy's choice was a singular one: it was a landing net with a long handle, and a sharp cavalry sabre.
We were not destined to remain long in ignorance of its use. A howl was heard from without, and a party of fifty or sixty armed men precipitated themselves against the door.
Suddenly the window opened. With the rapidity of lightning, Guy Heavystone cast the net over the head of the ringleader, ejaculated "Habet!" and with a back stroke of his cavalry sabre severed the member from its trunk, and, drawing the net back again, cast the gory head upon the floor, saying quietly:—
Again the net was cast, the steel flashed, the net was withdrawn, and an ominous "Two!" accompanied the head as it rolled on the floor.
"Do you remember what Pliny says of the gladiator?" said Guy, calmly wiping his sabre. "How graphic is that passage commencing 'Inter nos, etc.'" The sport continued until the heads of twenty desperadoes had been gathered in. The rest seemed inclined to disperse. Guy incautiously showed himself at the door; a ringing shot was heard, and he staggered back, pierced through the heart. Grasping the door-post in the last unconscious throes of his mighty frame, the whole side of the house yielded to that earthquake tremor, and we had barely time to escape before the whole building fell in ruins. I thought of Samson, the Giant Judge, etc., etc.; but all was over.
Guy Heavystone had died as he had lived,—HARD.
My father was a north-country surgeon. He had retired, a widower, from her Majesty's navy many years before, and had a small practice in his native village. When I was seven years old he employed me to carry medicines to his patients. Being of a lively disposition, I sometimes amused myself; during my daily rounds, by mixing the contents of the different phials. Although I had no reason to doubt that the general result of this practice was beneficial, yet, as the death of a consumptive curate followed the addition of a strong mercurial lotion to his expectorant, my father concluded to withdraw me from the profession and send me to school.
Grubbins, the schoolmaster, was a tyrant, and it was not long before my impetuous and self-willed nature rebelled against his authority. I soon began to form plans of revenge. In this I was assisted by Tom Snaffle,—a schoolfellow. One day Tom suggested:—
"Suppose we blow him up. I've got two pounds of powder!"
"No, that's too noisy," I replied.
Tom was silent for a minute, and again spoke:—
"You remember how you flattened out the curate, Pills! Couldn't you give Grubbins something—something to make him leathery sick—eh?"
A flash of inspiration crossed my mind. I went to the shop of the village apothecary. He knew me; I had often purchased vitriol, which I poured into Grubbins's inkstand to corrode his pens and burn up his coat-tail, on which he was in the habit of wiping them. I boldly asked for an ounce of chloroform. The young apothecary winked and handed me the bottle.
It was Grubbins's custom to throw his handkerchief over his head, recline in his chair and take a short nap during recess. Watching my opportunity, as he dozed, I managed to slip his handkerchief from his face and substitute my own, moistened with chloroform. In a few minutes he was insensible. Tom and I then quickly shaved his head, beard, and eyebrows, blackened his face with a mixture of vitriol and burnt cork, and fled. There was a row and scandal the next day. My father always excused me by asserting that Grubbins had got drunk,—but somehow found it convenient to procure me an appointment in her Majesty's navy at an early day.
An official letter, with the Admiralty seal, informed me that I was expected to join H. M. ship Belcher, Captain Boltrope, at Portsmouth, without delay. In a few days I presented myself to a tall, stern-visaged man, who was slowly pacing the leeward side of the quarter-deck. As I touched my hat he eyed me sternly:—
"So ho! Another young suckling. The service is going to the devil. Nothing but babes in the cockpit and grannies in the board. Boatswain's mate, pass the word for Mr. Cheek!"
Mr. Cheek, the steward, appeared and touched his hat. "Introduce Mr. Breezy to the young gentlemen. Stop! Where's Mr. Swizzle?"
"At the masthead, sir."
"Where's Mr. Lankey?"
"At the masthead, sir."
"Masthead, too, sir."
"And the rest of the young gentlemen?" roared the enraged officer.
"All masthead, sir."
"Ah!" said Captain Boltrope, as he smiled grimly, "under the circumstances, Mr. Breezy, you had better go to the masthead too."
At the masthead I made the acquaintance of two youngsters of about my own age, one of whom informed me that he had been there three hundred and thirty-two days out of the year.
"In rough weather, when the old cock is out of sorts, you know, we never come down," added a young gentleman of nine years, with a dirk nearly as long as himself, who had been introduced to me as Mr. Briggs. "By the way, Pills," he continued, "how did you come to omit giving the captain a naval salute?"
"Why, I touched my hat," I said, innocently.
"Yes, but that isn't enough, you know. That will do very well at other times. He expects the naval salute when you first come on board—greeny!"
I began to feel alarmed, and begged him to explain.
"Why, you see, after touching your hat, you should have touched him lightly with your forefinger in his waistcoat, so, and asked, 'How's his nibs?'—you see?"
"How's his nibs?" I repeated.
"Exactly. He would have drawn back a little, and then you should have repeated the salute remarking, 'How's his royal nibs?' asking cautiously after his wife and family, and requesting to be introduced to the gunner's daughter."
"The gunner's daughter?"
"The same; you know she takes care of us young gentlemen; now don't forget, Pillsy!"
When we were called down to the deck I thought it a good chance to profit by this instruction. I approached Captain Boltrope and repeated the salute without conscientiously omitting a single detail. He remained for a moment, livid and speechless. At length he gasped out:—
"If you please, sir," I asked, tremulously, "I should like to be introduced to the gunner's daughter!"
"O, very good, sir!" screamed Captain Boltrope, rubbing his hands and absolutely capering about the deck with rage. "O d—n you! Of course you shall! O ho! the gunner's daughter! O, h—ll! this is too much! Boatswain's mate!" Before I well knew where I was, I was seized, borne to an eight-pounder, tied upon it and flogged!
As we sat together in the cockpit, picking the weevils out of our biscuit, Briggs consoled me for my late mishap, adding that the "naval salute," as a custom, seemed just then to be honored more in the BREACH than the observance. I joined in the hilarity occasioned by the witticism, and in a few moments we were all friends. Presently Swizzle turned to me:—
"We have been just planning how to confiscate a keg of claret, which Nips, the purser, keeps under his bunk. The old nipcheese lies there drunk half the day, and there's no getting at it."
"Let's get beneath the state-room and bore through the deck, and so tap it," said Lankey.
The proposition was received with a shout of applause. A long half-inch auger and bit was procured from Chips, the carpenter's mate, and Swizzle, after a careful examination of the timbers beneath the ward-room, commenced operations. The auger at last disappeared, when suddenly there was a slight disturbance on the deck above. Swizzle withdrew the auger hurriedly; from its point a few bright red drops trickled.
"Huzza! send her up again!" cried Lankey.
The auger was again applied. This time a shriek was heard from the purser's cabin. Instantly the light was doused, and the party retreated hurriedly to the cockpit. A sound of snoring was heard as the sentry stuck his head into the door. "All right, sir," he replied in answer to the voice of the officer of the deck.
The next morning we heard that Nips was in the surgeon's hands, with a bad wound in the fleshy part of his leg, and that the auger had NOT struck claret.
"Now, Pills, you'll have a chance to smell powder," said Briggs as he entered the cockpit and buckled around his waist an enormous cutlass. "We have just sighted a French ship."
We went on deck. Captain Boltrope grinned as we touched our hats. He hated the purser. "Come, young gentlemen, if you're boring for french claret, yonder's a good quality. Mind your con, sir," he added, turning to the quartermaster, who was grinning.
The ship was already cleared for action. The men, in their eagerness, had started the coffee from the tubs and filled them with shot. Presently the Frenchman yawed, and a shot from a long thirty-two came skipping over the water. It killed the quartermaster and took off both of Lankey's legs. "Tell the purser our account is squared," said the dying boy, with a feeble smile.
The fight raged fiercely for two hours. I remember killing the French Admiral, as we boarded, but on looking around for Briggs, after the smoke had cleared away, I was intensely amused at witnessing the following novel sight:—
Briggs had pinned the French captain against the mast with his cutlass, and was now engaged, with all the hilarity of youth, in pulling the captain's coat-tails between his legs, in imitation of a dancing-jack. As the Frenchman lifted his legs and arms, at each jerk of Briggs's, I could not help participating in the general mirth.
"You young devil, what are you doing?" said a stifled voice behind me. I looked up and beheld Captain Boltrope, endeavoring to calm his stern features, but the twitching around his mouth betrayed his intense enjoyment of the scene. "Go to the masthead—up with you, sir!" he repeated sternly to Briggs.
"Very good, sir," said the boy, coolly preparing to mount the shrouds. "Good by, Johnny Crapaud. Humph!" he added, in a tone intended for my ear, "a pretty way to treat a hero. The service is going to the devil!"
I thought so too.
We were ordered to the West Indies. Although Captain Boltrope's manner toward me was still severe, and even harsh, I understood that my name had been favorably mentioned in the despatches.
Reader, were you ever at Jamaica? If so, you remember the negresses, the oranges, Port Royal Tom—the yellow fever. After being two weeks at the station, I was taken sick of the fever. In a month I was delirious. During my paroxysms, I had a wild distempered dream of a stern face bending anxiously over my pillow, a rough hand smoothing my hair, and a kind voice saying:—
"Bess his 'ittle heart! Did he have the naughty fever?" This face seemed again changed to the well-known stern features of Captain Boltrope.
When I was convalescent, a packet edged in black was put in my hand. It contained the news of my father's death, and a sealed letter which he had requested to be given to me on his decease. I opened it tremblingly. It read thus:—
"My dear Boy:—I regret to inform you that in all probability you are
not my son. Your mother, I am grieved to say, was a highly improper
person. Who your father may be, I really cannot say, but perhaps the
Honorable Henry Boltrope, Captain R. N., may be able to inform you.
Circumstances over which I have no control have deferred this important
"YOUR STRICKEN PARENT."
And so Captain Boltrope was my father. Heavens! Was it a dream? I recalled his stern manner, his observant eye, his ill-concealed uneasiness when in my presence. I longed to embrace him. Staggering to my feet, I rushed in my scanty apparel to the deck, where Captain Boltrope was just then engaged in receiving the Governor's wife and daughter. The ladies shrieked; the youngest, a beautiful girl, blushed deeply. Heeding them not, I sank at his feet, and, embracing them, cried:—
"Chuck him overboard!" roared Captain Boltrope.
"Stay," pleaded the soft voice of Clara Maitland, the Governor's daughter.
"Shave his head! he's a wretched lunatic!" continued Captain Boltrope, while his voice trembled with excitement.
"No, let me nurse and take care of him," said the lovely girl, blushing as she spoke. "Mamma, can't we take him home?"
The daughter's pleading was not without effect. In the mean time I had fainted. When I recovered my senses I found myself in Governor Maitland's mansion.
The reader will guess what followed. I fell deeply in love with Clara Maitland, to whom I confided the secret of my birth. The generous girl asserted that she had detected the superiority of my manner at once. We plighted our troth, and resolved to wait upon events.
Briggs called to see me a few days afterward. He said that the purser had insulted the whole cockpit, and all the midshipmen had called him out. But he added thoughtfully: "I don't see how we can arrange the duel. You see there are six of us to fight him."
"Very easily," I replied. "Let your fellows all stand in a row, and take his fire; that, you see, gives him six chances to one, and he must be a bad shot if he can't hit one of you; while, on the other hand, you see, he gets a volley from you six, and one of you'll be certain to fetch him."
"Exactly"; and away Briggs went, but soon returned to say that the purser had declined,—"like a d—d coward," he added.
But the news of the sudden and serious illness of Captain Boltrope put off the duel. I hastened to his bedside, but too late,—an hour previous he had given up the ghost.
I resolved to return to England. I made known the secret of my birth, and exhibited my adopted father's letter to Lady Maitland, who at once suggested my marriage with her daughter, before I returned to claim the property. We were married, and took our departure next day.
I made no delay in posting at once, in company with my wife and my friend Briggs, to my native village. Judge of my horror and surprise when my late adopted father came out of his shop to welcome me.
"Then you are not dead!" I gasped.
"No, my dear boy."
"And this letter?"
My father—as I must still call him—glanced on the paper, and pronounced it a forgery. Briggs roared with laughter. I turned to him and demanded an explanation.
"Why, don't you see, Greeny, it's all a joke,—a midshipman's joke!"
"But—" I asked.
"Don't be a fool. You've got a good wife,—be satisfied."
I turned to Clara, and was satisfied. Although Mrs. Maitland never forgave me, the jolly old Governor laughed heartily over the joke, and so well used his influence that I soon became, dear reader, Admiral Breezy, K. C. B.
"One cigar a day!" said Judge Boompointer.
"One cigar a day!" repeated John Jenkins, as with trepidation he dropped his half-consumed cigar under his work-bench.
"One cigar a day is three cents a day," remarked Judge Boompointer, gravely; "and do you know, sir, what one cigar a day, or three cents a day, amounts to in the course of four years?"
John Jenkins, in his boyhood, had attended the village school, and possessed considerable arithmetical ability. Taking up a shingle which lay upon his work-bench, and producing a piece of chalk, with a feeling of conscious pride he made an exhaustive calculation.
"Exactly forty-three dollars and eighty cents," he replied, wiping the perspiration from his heated brow, while his face flushed with honest enthusiasm.
"Well, sir, if you saved three cents a day, instead of wasting it, you would now be the possessor of a new suit of clothes, an illustrated Family Bible, a pew in the church, a complete set of Patent Office Reports, a hymn-book, and a paid subscription to Arthur's Home Magazine, which could be purchased for exactly forty-three dollars and eighty cents; and," added the Judge, with increasing sternness, "if you calculate leap-year, which you seem to have strangely omitted, you have three cents more, sir; THREE CENTS MORE! What would that buy you, sir?"
"A cigar," suggested John Jenkins; but, coloring again deeply, he hid his face.
"No, sir," said the Judge, with a sweet smile of benevolence stealing over his stern features; "properly invested, it would buy you that which passeth all price. Dropped into the missionary-box, who can tell what heathen, now idly and joyously wantoning in nakedness and sin, might be brought to a sense of his miserable condition, and made, through that three cents, to feel the torments of the wicked?"
With these words the Judge retired, leaving John Jenkins buried in profound thought. "Three cents a day," he muttered. "In forty years I might be worth four hundred and thirty-eight dollars and ten cents,—and then I might marry Mary. Ah, Mary!" The young carpenter sighed, and, drawing a twenty-five cent daguerreotype from his vest-pocket, gazed long and fervidly upon the features of a young girl in book muslin and a coral necklace. Then, with a resolute expression, he carefully locked the door of his workshop and departed.
Alas! his good resolutions were too late. We trifle with the tide of fortune which too often nips us in the bud and casts the dark shadow of misfortune over the bright lexicon of youth! That night the half-consumed fragment of John Jenkins's cigar set fire to his workshop and burned it up, together with all his tools and materials. There was no insurance.
"Then you still persist in marrying John Jenkins?" queried Judge Boompointer, as he playfully, with paternal familiarity, lifted the golden curls of the village belle, Mary Jones.
"I do," replied the fair young girl, in a low voice, that resembled rock candy in its saccharine firmness,—"I do. He has promised to reform. Since he lost all his property by fire—"
"The result of his pernicious habit, though he illogically persists in charging it to me," interrupted the Judge.
"Since then," continued the young girl, "he has endeavored to break himself of the habit. He tells me that he has substituted the stalks of the Indian ratan, the outer part of a leguminous plant called the smoking-bean, and the fragmentary and unconsumed remainder of cigars which occur at rare and uncertain intervals along the road, which, as he informs me, though deficient in quality and strength, are comparatively inexpensive." And, blushing at her own eloquence, the young girl hid her curls on the Judge's arm.
"Poor thing!" muttered Judge Boompointer. "Dare I tell her all? Yet I must."
"I shall cling to him," continued the young girl, rising with her theme, "as the young vine clings to some hoary ruin. Nay, nay, chide me not, Judge Boompointer. I will marry John Jenkins!"
The Judge was evidently affected. Seating himself at the table, he wrote a few lines hurriedly upon a piece of paper, which he folded and placed in the fingers of the destined bride of John Jenkins.
"Mary Jones," said the Judge, with impressive earnestness, "take this trifle as a wedding gift from one who respects your fidelity and truthfulness. At the altar let it be a reminder of me." And covering his face hastily with a handkerchief, the stern and iron-willed man left the room. As the door closed, Mary unfolded the paper. It was an order on the corner grocery for three yards of flannel, a paper of needles, four pounds of soap, one pound of starch, and two boxes of matches!
"Noble and thoughtful man!" was all Mary Jones could exclaim, as she hid her face in her hands and burst into a flood of tears.
The bells of Cloverdale are ringing merrily. It is a wedding. "How beautiful they look!" is the exclamation that passes from lip to lip, as Mary Jones, leaning timidly on the arm of John Jenkins, enters the church. But the bride is agitated, and the bridegroom betrays a feverish nervousness. As they stand in the vestibule, John Jenkins fumbles earnestly in his vest-pocket. Can it be the ring he is anxious about? No. He draws a small brown substance from his pocket, and biting off a piece, hastily replaces the fragment and gazes furtively around. Surely no one saw him? Alas! the eyes of two of that wedding party saw the fatal act. Judge Boompointer shook his head sternly. Mary Jones sighed and breathed a silent prayer. Her husband chewed!
"What! more bread?" said John Jenkins, gruffly. "You're always asking for money for bread. D—nation! Do you want to ruin me by your extravagance?" and as he uttered these words he drew from his pocket a bottle of whiskey, a pipe, and a paper of tobacco. Emptying the first at a draught, he threw the empty bottle at the head of his eldest boy, a youth of twelve summers. The missile struck the child full in the temple, and stretched him a lifeless corpse. Mrs. Jenkins, whom the reader will hardly recognize as the once gay and beautiful Mary Jones, raised the dead body of her son in her arms, and carefully placing the unfortunate youth beside the pump in the back yard, returned with saddened step to the house. At another time, and in brighter days, she might have wept at the occurrence. She was past tears now.
"Father, your conduct is reprehensible!" said little Harrison Jenkins, the youngest boy. "Where do you expect to go when you die?"
"Ah!" said John Jenkins, fiercely; "this comes of giving children a liberal education; this is the result of Sabbath schools. Down, viper!"
A tumbler thrown from the same parental fist laid out the youthful Harrison cold. The four other children had, in the mean time, gathered around the table with anxious expectancy. With a chuckle, the now changed and brutal John Jenkins produced four pipes, and, filling them with tobacco, handed one to each of his offspring and bade them smoke. "It's better than bread!" laughed the wretch hoarsely.
Mary Jenkins, though of a patient nature, felt it her duty now to speak. "I have borne much, John Jenkins," she said. "But I prefer that the children should not smoke. It is an unclean habit, and soils their clothes. I ask this as a special favor!"
John Jenkins hesitated,—the pangs of remorse began to seize him.
"Promise me this, John!" urged Mary upon her knees.
"I promise!" reluctantly answered John.
"And you will put the money in a savings-bank?"
"I will," repeated her husband; "and I'LL give up smoking, too."
"'Tis well, John Jenkins!" said Judge Boompointer, appearing suddenly from behind the door, where he had been concealed during this interview. "Nobly said! my man. Cheer up! I will see that the children are decently buried." The husband and wife fell into each other's arms. And Judge Boompointer, gazing upon the affecting spectacle, burst into tears.
From that day John Jenkins was an altered man.
The following advertisement appeared in the "Times" of the 17th of June, 1845:—
WANTED.—A few young men for a light genteel employment.
Address J. W., P. O.
In the same paper, of same date, in another column:—
TO LET.—That commodious and elegant family mansion, No. 27 Limehouse Road, Pultneyville, will be rented low to a respectable tenant if applied for immediately, the family being about to remove to the continent.
Under the local intelligence, in another column:—
MISSING.—An unknown elderly gentleman a week ago left his lodgings in the Kent Road, since which nothing has been heard of him. He left no trace of his identity except a portmanteau containing a couple of shirts marked "209, WARD."
To find the connection between the mysterious disappearance of the elderly gentleman and the anonymous communication, the relevancy of both these incidents to the letting of a commodious family mansion, and the dead secret involved in the three occurrences, is the task of the writer of this history.
A slim young man with spectacles, a large hat, drab gaiters, and a note-book, sat late that night with a copy of the "Times" before him, and a pencil which he rattled nervously between his teeth in the coffee-room of the "Blue Dragon."
I am upper housemaid to the family that live at No. 27 Limehouse Road, Pultneyville. I have been requested by Mr. Wilkey Collings, which I takes the liberty of here stating is a gentleman born and bred, and has some consideration for the feelings of servants, and is not above rewarding them for their trouble, which is more than you can say for some who ask questions and gets short answers enough, gracious knows, to tell what I know about them. I have been requested to tell my story in my own langwidge, though, being no schollard, mind cannot conceive. I think my master is a brute. Do not know that he has ever attempted to poison my missus,—which is too good for him, and how she ever came to marry him, heart only can tell,—but believe him to be capable of any such hatrosity. Have heard him swear dreadful because of not having his shaving-water at nine o'clock precisely. Do not know whether he ever forged a will or tried to get my missus' property, although, not having confidence in the man, should not be surprised if he had done so. Believe that there was always something mysterious in his conduct. Remember distinctly how the family left home to go abroad. Was putting up my back hair, last Saturday morning, when I heard a ring. Says cook, "That's missus' bell, and mind you hurry or the master 'ill know why." Says I, "Humbly thanking you, mem, but taking advice of them as is competent to give it, I'll take my time." Found missus dressing herself and master growling as usual. Says missus, quite calm and easy like, "Mary, we begin to pack to-day." "What for, mem?" says I, taken aback. "What's that hussy asking?" says master from the bedclothes quite savage like. "For the Continent—Italy," says missus—"Can you go Mary?" Her voice was quite gentle and saintlike, but I knew the struggle it cost, and says I, "With YOU mem, to India's torrid clime, if required, but with African Gorillas," says I, looking toward the bed, "never." "Leave the room," says master, starting up and catching of his bootjack. "Why Charles!" says missus, "how you talk!" affecting surprise. "Do go Mary," says she, slipping a half-crown into my hand. I left the room scorning to take notice of the odious wretch's conduct.
Cannot say whether my master and missus were ever legally married. What with the dreadful state of morals nowadays and them stories in the circulating libraries, innocent girls don't know into what society they might be obliged to take situations. Never saw missus' marriage certificate, though I have quite accidental-like looked in her desk when open, and would have seen it. Do not know of any lovers missus might have had. Believe she had a liking for John Thomas, footman, for she was always spiteful-like—poor lady—when we were together—though there was nothing between us, as Cook well knows, and dare not deny, and missus needn't have been jealous. Have never seen arsenic or Prussian acid in any of the private drawers—but have seen paregoric and camphor. One of my master's friends was a Count Moscow, a Russian papist—which I detested.
I am by profession a reporter, and writer for the press. I live at Pultneyville. I have always had a passion for the marvellous, and have been distinguished for my facility in tracing out mysteries, and solving enigmatical occurrences. On the night of the 17th June, 1845, I left my office and walked homeward. The night was bright and starlight. I was revolving in my mind the words of a singular item I had just read in the "Times." I had reached the darkest portion of the road, and found my self mechanically repeating: "An elderly gentleman a week ago left his lodgings on the Kent Road," when suddenly I heard a step behind me.
I turned quickly, with an expression of horror in my face, and by the light of the newly risen moon beheld an elderly gentleman, with green cotton umbrella, approaching me. His hair, which was snow white, was parted over a broad, open forehead. The expression of his face, which was slightly flushed, was that of amiability verging almost upon imbecility. There was a strange, inquiring look about the widely opened mild blue eye,—a look that might have been intensified to insanity, or modified to idiocy. As he passed me, he paused and partly turned his face, with a gesture of inquiry. I see him still, his white locks blowing in the evening breeze, his hat a little on the back of his head, and his figure painted in relief against the dark blue sky.
Suddenly he turned his mild eye full upon me. A weak smile played about his thin lips. In a voice which had something of the tremulousness of age and the self-satisfied chuckle of imbecility in it, he asked, pointing to the rising moon, "Why?—hush!"
He had dodged behind me, and appeared to be looking anxiously down the road. I could feel his aged frame shaking with terror as he laid his thin hands upon my shoulders and faced me in the direction of the supposed danger.
"Hush! did you not hear them coming?"
I listened; there was no sound but the soughing of the roadside trees in the evening wind. I endeavored to reassure him, with such success that in a few moments the old weak smile appeared on his benevolent face.
"Why?—" But the look of interrogation was succeeded by a hopeless blankness.
"Why!" I repeated with assuring accents.
"Why," he said, a gleam of intelligence flickering over his face, "is yonder moon, as she sails in the blue empyrean, casting a flood of light o'er hill and dale, like— Why," he repeated, with a feeble smile, "is yonder moon, as she sails in the blue empyrean—" He hesitated,—stammered,—and gazed at me hopelessly, with the tears dripping from his moist and widely opened eyes.
I took his hand kindly in my own. "Casting a shadow o'er hill and dale," I repeated quietly, leading him up the subject, "like— Come, now."
"Ah!" he said, pressing my hand tremulously, "you know it?"
"I do. Why is it like—the—eh—the commodious mansion on the Limehouse Road?"
A blank stare only followed. He shook his head sadly. "Like the young men wanted for a light, genteel employment?"
He wagged his feeble old head cunningly.
"Or, Mr. Ward," I said, with bold confidence, "like the mysterious disappearance from the Kent Road?"
The moment was full of suspense. He did not seem to hear me. Suddenly he turned.
I darted forward. But he had vanished in the darkness.
It was a hot midsummer evening. Limehouse Road was deserted save by dust and a few rattling butchers' carts, and the bell of the muffin and crumpet man. A commodious mansion, which stood on the right of the road as you enter Pultneyville, surrounded by stately poplars and a high fence surmounted by a chevaux de frise of broken glass, looked to the passing and footsore pedestrian like the genius of seclusion and solitude. A bill announcing in the usual terms that the house was to let, hung from the bell at the servants' entrance.
As the shades of evening closed, and the long shadows of the poplars stretched across the road, a man carrying a small kettle stopped and gazed, first at the bill and then at the house. When he had reached the corner of the fence, he again stopped and looked cautiously up and down the road. Apparently satisfied with the result of his scrutiny, he deliberately sat himself down in the dark shadow of the fence, and at once busied himself in some employment, so well concealed as to be invisible to the gaze of passers-by. At the end of an hour he retired cautiously.
But not altogether unseen. A slim young man, with spectacles and note-book, stepped from behind a tree as the retreating figure of the intruder was lost in the twilight, and transferred from the fence to his note-book the freshly stencilled inscription, "S—T—1860—X."
I am a foreigner. Observe! To be a foreigner in England is to be mysterious, suspicious, intriguing. M. Collins has requested the history of my complicity with certain occurrences. It is nothing, bah! absolutely nothing.
I write with ease and fluency. Why should I not write? Tra la la? I am what you English call corpulent. Ha, ha! I am a pupil of Macchiavelli. I find it much better to disbelieve everything, and to approach my subject and wishes circuitously, than in a direct manner. You have observed that playful animal, the cat. Call it, and it does not come to you directly, but rubs itself against all the furniture in the room, and reaches you finally—and scratches. Ah, ha, scratches! I am of the feline species. People call me a villain—bah!
I know the family, living No. 27 Limehouse Road. I respect the gentleman,—a fine, burly specimen of your Englishman,—and madame, charming, ravishing, delightful. When it became known to me that they designed to let their delightful residence, and visit foreign shores, I at once called upon them. I kissed the hand of madame. I embraced the great Englishman. Madame blushed slightly. The great Englishman shook my hand like a mastiff.
I began in that dexterous, insinuating manner, of which I am truly proud. I thought madame was ill. Ah, no. A change, then, was all that was required. I sat down at the piano and sang. In a few minutes madame retired. I was alone with my friend.
Seizing his hand, I began with every demonstration of courteous sympathy. I do not repeat my words, for my intention was conveyed more in accent, emphasis, and manner, than speech. I hinted to him that he had another wife living. I suggested that this was balanced—ha!—by his wife's lover. That, possibly, he wished to fly; hence the letting of his delightful mansion. That he regularly and systematically beat his wife in the English manner, and that she repeatedly deceived me. I talked of hope, of consolation, of remedy. I carelessly produced a bottle of strychnine and a small vial of stramonium from my pocket, and enlarged on the efficiency of drugs. His face, which had gradually become convulsed, suddenly became fixed with a frightful expression. He started to his feet, and roared: "You d—d Frenchman!"
I instantly changed my tactics, and endeavored to embrace him. He kicked me twice, violently. I begged permission to kiss madame's hand. He replied by throwing me down stairs.
I am in bed with my head bound up, and beef-steaks upon my eyes, but still confident and buoyant. I have not lost faith in Macchiavelli. Tra la la! as they sing in the opera. I kiss everybody's hands.
My name is David Diggs. I am a surgeon, living at No. 9 Tottenham Court. On the 15th of June, 1854, I was called to see an elderly gentleman lodging on the Kent Road. Found him highly excited, with strong febrile symptoms, pulse 120, increasing. Repeated incoherently what I judged to be the popular form of a conundrum. On closer examination found acute hydrocephalus and both lobes of the brain rapidly filling with water. In consultation with an eminent phrenologist, it was further discovered that all the organs were more or less obliterated, except that of Comparison. Hence the patient was enabled to only distinguish the most common points of resemblance between objects, without drawing upon other faculties, such as Ideality or Language, for assistance. Later in the day found him sinking,—being evidently unable to carry the most ordinary conundrum to a successful issue. Exhibited Tinct. Val., Ext. Opii, and Camphor, and prescribed quiet and emollients. On the 17th the patient was missing.
On the 18th of June, Mr. Wilkie Collins left a roll of manuscript with us for publication, without title or direction, since which time he has not been heard from. In spite of the care of the proof-readers, and valuable literary assistance, it is feared that the continuity of the story has been destroyed by some accidental misplacing of chapters during its progress. How and what chapters are so misplaced, the publisher leaves to an indulgent public to discover.
—Mademoiselle, I swear to you that I love you.
—You who read these pages. You who turn your burning eyes upon these words—words that I trace— Ah, Heaven! the thought maddens me.
—I will be calm. I will imitate the reserve of the festive Englishman, who wears a spotted handkerchief which he calls a Belchio, who eats biftek, and caresses a bulldog. I will subdue myself like him.
—Ha! Poto-beer! All right—Goddam!
—Or, I will conduct myself as the free-born American—the gay Brother Jonathan! I will whittle me a stick. I will whistle to myself "Yankee Doodle," and forget my passion in excessive expectoration.
—Hoho!—wake snakes and walk chalks.
The world is divided into two great divisions,—Paris and the provinces. There is but one Paris. There are several provinces, among which may be numbered England, America, Russia, and Italy.
N N. was a Parisian.
But N N. did not live in Paris. Drop a Parisian in the provinces, and you drop a part of Paris with him. Drop him in Senegambia, and in three days he will give you an omelette soufflee, or a pate de foie gras, served by the neatest of Senegambian filles, whom he will call Mademoiselle. In three weeks he will give you an opera.
N N. was not dropped in Senegambia, but in San Francisco,—quite as awkward.
They find gold in San Francisco, but they don't understand gilding.
N N. existed three years in this place. He became bald on the top of his head, as all Parisians do. Look down from your box at the Opera Comique, Mademoiselle, and count the bald crowns of the fast young men in the pit. Ah—you tremble! They show where the arrows of love have struck and glanced off.
N N. was also near-sighted, as all Parisians finally become. This is a gallant provision of Nature to spare them the mortification of observing that their lady friends grow old. After a certain age every woman is handsome to a Parisian.
One day, N N. was walking down Washington street. Suddenly he stopped.
He was standing before the door of a mantuamaker. Beside the counter, at the farther extremity of the shop, stood a young and elegantly formed woman. Her face was turned from N N. He entered. With a plausible excuse, and seeming indifference, he gracefully opened conversation with the mantuamaker as only a Parisian can. But he had to deal with a Parisian. His attempts to view the features of the fair stranger by the counter were deftly combated by the shop-woman. He was obliged to retire.
N N. went home and lost his appetite. He was haunted by the elegant basque and graceful shoulders of the fair unknown, during the whole night.
The next day he sauntered by the mantuamaker. Ah! Heavens! A thrill ran through his frame, and his fingers tingled with a delicious electricity. The fair inconnue was there! He raised his hat gracefully. He was not certain, but he thought that a slight motion of her faultless bonnet betrayed recognition. He would have wildly darted into the shop, but just then the figure of the mantuamaker appeared in the doorway.
—Did Monsieur wish anything?
Misfortune! Desperation. N N. purchased a bottle of Prussic acid, a sack of charcoal, and a quire of pink note-paper, and returned home. He wrote a letter of farewell to the closely fitting basque, and opened the bottle of Prussic acid.
Some one knocked at his door. It was a Chinaman, with his weekly linen.
These Chinese are docile, but not intelligent. They are ingenious, but not creative. They are cunning in expedients, but deficient in tact. In love they are simply barbarous. They purchase their wives openly, and not constructively by attorney. By offering small sums for their sweethearts, they degrade the value of the sex.
Nevertheless, N N. felt he was saved. He explained all to the faithful Mongolian, and exhibited the letter he had written. He implored him to deliver it.
The Mongolian assented. The race are not cleanly or sweet-savored, but N N. fell upon his neck. He embraced him with one hand, and closed his nostrils with the other. Through him, he felt he clasped the close-fitting basque.
The next day was one of agony and suspense. Evening came, but no Mercy. N N. lit the charcoal. But, to compose his nerves, he closed his door and first walked mildly up and down Montgomery Street. When he returned, he found the faithful Mongolian on the steps.
These Chinese are not accurate in their pronunciation. They avoid the r, like the English nobleman.
N N. gasped for breath. He leaned heavily against the Chinaman.
—Then you have seen her, Ching Long?
—Yes. All lity. She cum. Top side of house.
The docile barbarian pointed up the stairs, and chuckled.
—She here—impossible! Ah, Heaven! do I dream?
—Yes. All lity,—top side of house. Good by, John.
This is the familiar parting epithet of the Mongolian. It is equivalent to our au revoir.
N N. gazed with a stupefied air on the departing servant.
He placed his hand on his throbbing heart. She here,—alone beneath this roof. O Heavens, what happiness!
But how? Torn from her home. Ruthlessly dragged, perhaps, from her evening devotions, by the hands of a relentless barbarian. Could she forgive him?
He dashed frantically up the stairs. He opened the door. She was standing beside his couch with averted face.
A strange giddiness overtook him. He sank upon his knees at the threshold.
—Pardon, pardon. My angel, can you forgive me?
A terrible nausea now seemed added to the fearful giddiness. His utterance grew thick and sluggish.
—Speak, speak, enchantress. Forgiveness is all I ask. My Love, my Life!
She did not answer. He staggered to his feet. As he rose, his eyes fell on the pan of burning charcoal. A terrible suspicion flashed across his mind. This giddiness,—this nausea. The ignorance of the barbarian. This silence. O merciful heavens! she was dying!
He crawled toward her. He touched her. She fell forward with a lifeless sound upon the floor. He uttered a piercing shriek, and threw himself beside her.
A file of gendarmes, accompanied by the Chef Burke, found him the next morning lying lifeless upon the floor. They laughed brutally,—these cruel minions of the law,—and disengaged his arm from the waist of the wooden dummy which they had come to reclaim for the mantuamaker.
Emptying a few bucketfuls of water over his form, they finally succeeded in robbing him, not only of his mistress, but of that Death he had coveted without her.
Ah! we live in a strange world, Messieurs.
As long as there shall exist three paradoxes, a moral Frenchman, a
religious Atheist, and a believing sceptic; so long, in fact, as
booksellers shall wait—say twenty-five years—for a new gospel; so
long as paper shall remain cheap and ink three sous a bottle, I have no
hesitation in saying that such books as these are not utterly
To be good is to be queer. What is a good man? Bishop Myriel.
My friend, you will possibly object to this. You will say you know what a good man is. Perhaps you will say your clergyman is a good man, for instance.
Bah! you are mistaken; you are an Englishman, and an Englishman is a beast.
Englishmen think they are moral when they are only serious. These Englishmen also wear ill-shaped hats, and dress horribly!
Bah! they are canaille.
Still, Bishop Myriel was a good man,—quite as good as you. Better than you, in fact.
One day M. Myriel was in Paris. This angel used to walk about the streets like any other man. He was not proud, though fine-looking. Well, three gamins de Paris called him bad names. Says one:—
"Ah, mon Dieu! there goes a priest; look out for your eggs and chickens!"
What did this good man do? He called to them kindly.
"My children," said he, "this is clearly not your fault. I recognize in this insult and irreverence only the fault of your immediate progenitors. Let us pray for your immediate progenitors."
They knelt down and prayed for their immediate progenitors.
The effect was touching.
The Bishop looked calmly around.
"On reflection," said he, gravely, "I was mistaken; this is clearly the fault of Society. Let us pray for Society."
They knelt down and prayed for Society.
The effect was sublimer yet. What do you think of that? You, I mean.
Everybody remembers the story of the Bishop and Mother Nez Retrousse. Old Mother Nez Retrouse sold asparagus. She was poor; there's a great deal of meaning in that word, my friend. Some people say "poor but honest." I say, Bah!
Bishop Myriel bought six bunches of asparagus. This good man had one charming failing; he was fond of asparagus. He gave her a franc and received three sous change.
The sous were bad,—counterfeit. What did this good Bishop do? He said: "I should not have taken change from a poor woman."
Then afterwards, to his housekeeper: "Never take change from a poor woman."
Then he added to himself: "For the sous will probably be bad."
When a man commits a crime, society claps him in prison. A prison is one of the worst hotels imaginable. The people there are low and vulgar. The butter is bad, the coffee is green. Ah, it is horrible!
In prison, as in a bad hotel, a man soon loses, not only his morals, but what is much worse to a Frenchman, his sense of refinement and delicacy.
Jean Valjean came from prison with confused notions of society. He forgot the modern peculiarities of hospitality. So he walked off with the Bishop's candlesticks.
Let us consider: candlesticks were stolen; that was evident. Society put Jean Valjean in prison; that was evident, too. In prison, Society took away his refinement; that is evident, likewise.
Who is Society?
You and I are Society.
My friend, you and I stole those candlesticks!
The Bishop thought so, too. He meditated profoundly for six days. On the morning of the seventh he went to the Prefecture of Police.
He said: "Monsieur, have me arrested. I have stolen candlesticks."
The official was governed by the law of Society, and refused.
What did this Bishop do?
He had a charming ball and chain made, affixed to his leg, and wore it the rest of his life.
This is a fact!
Love is a mystery.
A little friend of mine down in the country, at Auvergne, said to me one day: "Victor, Love is the world,—it contains everything."
She was only sixteen, this sharp-witted little girl, and a beautiful blonde. She thought everything of me.
Fantine was one of those women who do wrong in the most virtuous and touching manner. This is a peculiarity of French grisettes.
You are an Englishman, and you don't understand. Learn, my friend, learn. Come to Paris and improve your morals.
Fantine was the soul of modesty. She always wore high-neck dresses. High-neck dresses are a sign of modesty.
Fantine loved Tholmoyes. Why? My God! What are you to do? It was the fault of her parents, and she hadn't any. How shall you teach her? You must teach the parent if you wish to educate the child. How would you become virtuous?
Teach your grandmother!
When Tholmoyes ran away from Fantine,—which was done in a charming, gentlemanly manner,—Fantine became convinced that a rigid sense of propriety might look upon her conduct as immoral. She was a creature of sensitiveness,—and her eyes were opened.
She was virtuous still, and resolved to break off the liaison at once.
So she put up her wardrobe and baby in a bundle. Child as she was, she loved them both. Then left Paris.
Fantine's native place had changed.
M. Madeline—an angel, and inventor of jet work—had been teaching the villagers how to make spurious jet.
This is a progressive age. Those Americans,—children of the West,—they make nutmegs out of wood.
I, myself, have seen hams made of pine, in the wigwams of those children of the forest.
But civilization has acquired deception too. Society is made up of deception. Even the best French society.
Still there was one sincere episode.
The French Revolution!
M. Madeline was, if anything, better than Myriel.
M. Myriel was a saint. M. Madeline a good man.
M. Myriel was dead. M. Madeline was living.
That made all the difference.
M. Madeline made virtue profitable. I have seen it written:—
"Be virtuous and you will be happy."
Where did I see this written? In the modern Bible? No. In the Koran? No. In Rousseau? No. Diderot? No. Where then?
In a copy-book.
M. Madeline was M. le Maire.
This is how it came about.
For a long time he refused the honor. One day an old woman, standing on the steps, said:—
"Bah, a good mayor is a good thing.
"You are a good thing.
"Be a good mayor."
This woman was a rhetorician. She understood inductive ratiocination.
When this good M. Madeline, whom the reader will perceive must have been a former convict, and a very bad man, gave himself up to justice as the real Jean Valjean, about this same time, Fantine was turned away from the manufactory, and met with a number of losses from society. Society attacked her, and this is what she lost:—
First her lover.
Then her child.
Then her place.
Then her hair.
Then her teeth.
Then her liberty.
Then her life.
What do you think of society after that? I tell you the present social system is a humbug.
This is necessarily the end of Fantine. There are other things that will be stated in other volumes to follow. Don't be alarmed; there are plenty of miserable people left.
Au revoir—my friend.
"If it were not for women, few of us would at present be in existence." This is the remark of a cautious and discreet writer. He was also sagacious and intelligent.
Woman! Look upon her and admire her. Gaze upon her and love her. If she wishes to embrace you, permit her. Remember she is weak and you are strong.
But don't treat her unkindly. Don't make love to another woman before her face, even if she be your wife. Don't do it. Always be polite, even should she fancy somebody better than you.
If your mother, my dear Amadis, had not fancied your father better than somebody, you might have been that somebody's son. Consider this. Always be a philosopher, even about women.
Few men understand women. Frenchmen, perhaps, better than any one else. I am a Frenchman.
She is a child—a little thing—an infant.
She has a mother and father. Let us suppose, for example, they are married. Let us be moral if we cannot be happy and free—they are married—perhaps—they love one another—who knows?
But she knows nothing of this; she is an infant—a small thing—a trifle!
She is not lovely at first. It is cruel, perhaps, but she is red, and positively ugly. She feels this keenly and cries. She weeps. Ah, my God, how she weeps! Her cries and lamentations now are really distressing.
Tears stream from her in floods. She feels deeply and copiously like M. Alphonse de Lamartine in his Confessions.
If you are her mother, Madame, you will fancy worms; you will examine her linen for pins, and what not. Ah, hypocrite! you, even YOU, misunderstand her.
Yet she has charming natural impulses. See how she tosses her dimpled arms. She looks longingly at her mother. She has a language of her own. She says, "goo goo," and "ga ga."
She demands something—this infant!
She is faint, poor thing. She famishes. She wishes to be restored. Restore her, Mother!
It is the first duty of a mother to restore her child!
She is hardly able to walk; she already totters under the weight of a doll.
It is a charming and elegant affair. It has pink cheeks and purple-black hair. She prefers brunettes, for she has already, with the quick knowledge of a French infant, perceived she is a blonde, and that her doll cannot rival her. Mon Dieu, how touching! Happy child! She spends hours in preparing its toilet. She begins to show her taste in the exquisite details of its dress. She loves it madly, devotedly. She will prefer it to bonbons. She already anticipates the wealth of love she will hereafter pour out on her lover, her mother, her father, and finally, perhaps, her husband.
This is the time the anxious parent will guide these first outpourings. She will read her extracts from Michelet's L'Amour, Rousseau's Heloise, and the Revue des deux Mondes.
She was in tears to-day.
She had stolen away from her bonne and was with some rustic infants. They had noses in the air, and large, coarse hands and feet.
They had seated themselves around a pool in the road, and were fashioning fantastic shapes in the clayey soil with their hands. Her throat swelled and her eyes sparkled with delight as, for the first time, her soft palms touched the plastic mud. She made a graceful and lovely pie. She stuffed it with stones for almonds and plums. She forgot everything. It was being baked in the solar rays, when madame came and took her away.
She weeps. It is night, and she is weeping still.
She no longer doubts her beauty. She is loved. She saw him secretly. He is vivacious and sprightly. He is famous. He has already had an affair with Finfin, the fille de chambre, and poor Finfin is desolate. He is noble. She knows he is the son of Madame la Baronne Couturiere. She adores him.
She affects not to notice him. Poor little thing! Hippolyte is distracted—annihilated—inconsolable and charming.
She admires his boots, his cravat, his little gloves his exquisite pantaloons—his coat, and cane.
She offers to run away with him. He is transported, but magnanimous. He is wearied, perhaps. She sees him the next day offering flowers to the daughter of Madame la Comtesse Blanchisseuse.
She is again in tears.
She reads Paul et Virginie. She is secretly transported. When she reads how the exemplary young woman laid down her life rather than appear en deshabille to her lover, she weeps again. Tasteful and virtuous Bernardine de St. Pierre!—the daughters of France admire you!
All this time her doll is headless in the cabinet. The mud pie is broken on the road.
She is tired of loving and she marries.
Her mother thinks it, on the whole, the best thing. As the day approaches, she is found frequently in tears. Her mother will not permit the affianced one to see her, and he makes several attempts to commit suicide.
But something happens. Perhaps it is winter, and the water is cold. Perhaps there are not enough people present to witness his heroism.
In this way her future husband is spared to her. The ways of Providence are indeed mysterious. At this time her mother will talk with her. She will offer philosophy. She will tell her she was married herself.
But what is this new and ravishing light that breaks upon her? The toilet and wedding clothes! She is in a new sphere.
She makes out her list in her own charming writing. Here it is. Let every mother heed it.*
She is married. On the day after, she meets her old lover, Hippolyte. He is again transported.
* The delicate reader will appreciate the omission of certain articles for which English synonymes are forbidden.
A Frenchwoman never grows old.
"Will you write me up?"
The scene was near Temple Bar. The speaker was the famous rebel Mary McGillup,—a young girl of fragile frame, and long, lustrous black hair. I must confess that the question was a peculiar one, and, under the circumstances, somewhat puzzling. It was true I had been kindly treated by the Northerners, and, though prejudiced against them, was to some extent under obligations to them. It was true that I knew little or nothing of American politics, history, or geography. But when did an English writer ever weigh such trifles? Turning to the speaker, I inquired with some caution the amount of pecuniary compensation offered for the work.
"Sir!" she said, drawing her fragile form to its full height, "you insult me,—you insult the South."
"But look ye here, d'ye see—the tin—the blunt—the ready—the stiff; you know. Don't ye see, we can't do without that, you know!"
"It shall be contingent on the success of the story," she answered haughtily. "In the mean time take this precious gem." And drawing a diamond ring from her finger, she placed it with a roll of MSS. in my hands and vanished.
Although unable to procure more than L1 2s. 6 d. from an intelligent pawnbroker to whom I stated the circumstances and with whom I pledged the ring, my sympathies with the cause of a downtrodden and chivalrous people were at once enlisted. I could not help wondering that in rich England, the home of the oppressed and the free, a young and lovely woman like the fair author of those pages should be obliged to thus pawn her jewels—her marriage gift—for the means to procure her bread! With the exception of the English aristocracy,—who much resemble them,—I do not know of a class of people that I so much admire as the Southern planters. May I become better acquainted with both!
Since writing the above, the news of Mr. Lincoln's assassination has reached me. It is enough for me to say that I am dissatisfied with the result. I do not attempt to excuse the assassin. Yet there will be men who will charge this act upon the chivalrous South. This leads me to repeat a remark once before made by me in this connection which has become justly celebrated. It is this:—
"It is usual, in cases of murder, to look for the criminal among those who expect to be benefited by the crime. In the death of Lincoln, his immediate successor in office alone receives the benefit of his dying."
If her Majesty Queen Victoria were assassinated, which Heaven forbid, the one most benefited by her decease would, of course, be his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, her immediate successor. It would be unnecessary to state that suspicion would at once point to the real culprit, which would of course be his Royal Highness. This is logic.
But I have done. After having thus stated my opinion in favor of the South, I would merely remark that there is One who judgeth all things,—who weigheth the cause between brother and brother,—and awardeth the perfect retribution; and whose ultimate decision I, as a British subject, have only anticipated.
G. A. S.
Every reader of Belle Boyd's narrative will remember an allusion to a "lovely, fragile-looking girl of nineteen," who rivalled Belle Boyd in devotion to the Southern cause, and who, like her, earned the enviable distinction of being a "rebel spy."
I am that "fragile" young creature. Although on friendly terms with the late Miss Boyd, now Mrs. Hardinge, candor compels me to state that nothing but our common politics prevents me from exposing the ungenerous spirit she has displayed in this allusion. To be dismissed in a single paragraph after years of— But I anticipate. To put up with this feeble and forced acknowledgment of services rendered would be a confession of a craven spirit, which, thank God, though "fragile" and only "nineteen," I do not possess. I may not have the "blood of a Howard" in my veins, as some people, whom I shall not disgrace myself by naming, claim to have, but I have yet to learn that the race of McGillup ever yet brooked slight or insult. I shall not say that attention in certain quarters seems to have turned SOME PEOPLE'S heads; nor that it would have been more delicate if certain folks had kept quiet on the subject of their courtship, and the rejection of certain offers, when it is known that their forward conduct was all that procured them a husband! Thank heaven, the South has some daughters who are above such base considerations! While nothing shall tempt me to reveal the promises to share equally the fame of certain enterprises, which were made by one who shall now be nameless, I have deemed it only just to myself to put my own adventures upon record. If they are not equal to those of another individual, it is because, though "fragile," my education has taught me to have some consideration for the truth. I am done.
I was born in Missouri. My dislike for the Northern scum was inherent. This was shown, at an early age, in the extreme distaste I exhibited for Webster's spelling-book,—the work of a well-known Eastern Abolitionist. I cannot be too grateful for the consideration shown by my chivalrous father,—a gentleman of the old school,—who resisted to the last an attempt to introduce Mitchell's Astronomy and Geography into the public school of our district. When I state that this same Mitchell became afterward a hireling helot in the Yankee Army, every intelligent reader will appreciate the prophetic discrimination of this true son of the South.
I was eight years old when I struck the first blow for Southern freedom against the Northern Tyrant. It is hardly necessary to state that in this instance the oppressor was a pale, overworked New England "schoolmarm." The principle for which I was contending, I felt, however, to be the same. Resenting an affront put upon me, I one day heaved a rock* at the head of the Vandal schoolmistress. I was seized and overpowered. My pen falters as I reach the climax. English readers will not give credit to this sickening story,—the civilized world will avert its head,—but I, Mary McGillup, was publicly SPANKED!
* NOTE, BY G. A. S.—In the Southwest, any stone larger than a pea is termed "a rock."
But the chaotic vortex of civil war approached, and fell destruction, often procrastinated, brooded in storm.* As the English people may like to know what was really the origin of the rebellion, I have no hesitation in giving them the true and only cause. Slavery had nothing to do with it, although the violation of the Declaration of Independence, in the disregard by the North of the Fugitive Slave Law,** might have provoked a less fiery people than the Southrons. At the inception of the struggle a large amount of Southern indebtedness was held by the people of the North. To force payment from the generous but insolvent debtor—to obtain liquidation from the Southern planter—was really the soulless and mercenary object of the craven Northerners. Let the common people of England look to this. Let the improvident literary hack; the starved impecunious Grub Street debtor; the newspaper frequenter of sponging-houses, remember this in their criticisms of the vile and slavish Yankee.
* I make no pretension to fine writing, but perhaps Mrs. Hardinge can lay over that. O, of course! M. McG.
** The Declaration of Independence grants to each subject "the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness." A fugitive slave may be said to personify "life, liberty, and happiness." Hence his pursuit is really legal. This is logic. G. A. S.
The roasting of an Abolitionist, by a greatly infuriated community, was my first taste of the horrors of civil war. Heavens! Why will the North persist in this fratricidal warfare? The expulsion of several Union refugees, which soon followed, now fairly plunged my beloved State in the seething vortex.
I was sitting at the piano one afternoon, singing that stirring refrain, so justly celebrated, but which a craven spirit, unworthy of England, has excluded from some of her principal restaurants, and was dwelling with some enthusiasm on the following line:—
"Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!"
when a fragment of that scum, clothed in that detestable blue uniform which is the symbol of oppression, entered the apartment. "I have the honor of addressing the celebrated rebel spy, Miss McGillup," said the Vandal officer.
In a moment I was perfectly calm. With the exception of slightly expectorating twice in the face of the minion, I did not betray my agitation. Haughtily, yet firmly, I replied:—
"You looked as if you might be," the brute replied, as he turned on his heel to leave the apartment.
In an instant I threw myself before him. "You shall not leave here thus," I shrieked, grappling him with an energy which no one, seeing my frail figure, would have believed. "I know the reputation of your hireling crew. I read your dreadful purpose in your eye. Tell me not that your designs are not sinister. You came here to insult me,—to kiss me, perhaps. You sha'n't,—you naughty man. Go away!"
The blush of conscious degradation rose to the cheek of the Lincoln hireling as he turned his face away from mine.
In an instant I drew my pistol from my belt, which, in anticipation of some such outrage, I always carried, and shot him.
"Thy forte was less to act than speak, Maryland! Thy politics were changed each week, Maryland! With Northern Vandals thou wast meek, With sympathizers thou wouldst shriek, I know thee—O, 'twas like thy cheek! Maryland! my Maryland!"
After committing the act described in the preceding chapter, which every English reader will pardon, I went up stairs, put on a clean pair of stockings, and, placing a rose in my lustrous black hair, proceeded at once to the camp of Generals Price and Mosby to put them in possession of information which would lead to the destruction of a portion of the Federal Army. During a great part of my flight I was exposed to a running fire from the Federal pickets of such coarse expressions as, "Go it, Sally Reb," "Dust it, my Confederate beauty," but I succeeded in reaching the glorious Southern camp uninjured.
In a week afterwards I was arrested, by a lettre de cachet of Mr. Stanton, and placed in the Bastile. British readers of my story will express surprise at these terms, but I assure them that not only these articles but tumbrils, guillotines, and conciergeries were in active use among the Federals. If substantiation be required, I refer to the Charleston Mercury, the only reliable organ, next to the New York Daily News, published in the country. At the Bastile I made the acquaintance of the accomplished and elegant author of Guy Livingstone,* to whom I presented a curiously carved thigh-bone of a Union officer, and from whom I received the following beautiful acknowledgment:—
"Demoiselle:—Should I ever win hame to my ain countrie, I make mine avow to enshrine in my reliquaire this elegant bijouterie and offering of La Belle Rebelle. Nay, methinks this fraction of man's anatomy were some compensation for the rib lost by the 'grand old gardener,' Adam."
* The recent conduct of Mr. Livingstone renders him unworthy of my notice. His disgusting praise of Belle Boyd, and complete ignoring of my claims, show the artfulness of some females and puppyism of some men. M. McG.
Released at last from durance vile and placed on board of an Erie canal-boat, on my way to Canada, I for a moment breathed the sweets of liberty. Perhaps the interval gave me opportunity to indulge in certain reveries which I had hitherto sternly dismissed. Henry Breckinridge Folair, a consistent copperhead, captain of the canal-boat, again and again pressed that suit I had so often rejected.
It was a lovely moonlight night. We sat on the deck of the gliding craft. The moonbeam and the lash of the driver fell softly on the flanks of the off horse, and only the surging of the tow-rope broke the silence. Folair's arm clasped my waist. I suffered it to remain. Placing in my lap a small but not ungrateful roll of checkerberry lozenges, he took the occasion to repeat softly in my ear the words of a motto he had just unwrapped—with its graceful covering of the tissue paper—from a sugar almond. The heart of the wicked little rebel, Mary McGillup, was won!
The story of Mary McGillup is done. I might have added the journal of my husband, Henry Breckinridge Folair, but as it refers chiefly to his freights, and a schedule of his passengers, I have been obliged, reluctantly, to suppress it.
It is due to my friends to say that I have been requested not to write this book. Expressions have reached my ears, the reverse of complimentary. I have been told that its publication will probably insure my banishment for life. Be it so. If the cause for which I labored have been subserved, I am content.
LONDON, May, 1865.