Part 4 out of 9
"Certainly, Mr. Wilkeson, certainly. As for myself, it is forever
dismissed from my mind; and I cannot blame myself sufficiently for
having troubled you with it." Mr. Minford here proffered his hand, which
Marcus cordially shook, rejoicing to observe no trace of suspicion in
the inventor's clear gray eyes.
"Allow me to retain this letter for the present," asked Marcus. "It may
serve as a clue to the detection of the concealed scoundrel. I also beg
that you will show me any other anonymous letters of the same character
that may reach you."
Mr. Minford laughed. "The stove door is the pigeonhole where all such
nonsense ought to be filed away. But just as you please. If any more
come to hand, you shall see them. They may amuse you, as they do me.
Marcus echoed the laugh, but feebly. Then it occurred to him that Pet
would soon be home, and he felt a strange aversion to meeting her, after
what had happened. He therefore pleaded a pressing engagement at eleven
o'clock (which it then was), and took his departure from the inventor's
roof, but not without a warm and seemingly sincere invitation to
CONSOLATIONS OF HIGH ART.
Marcus walked slowly toward Broadway, musing and unhappy. To a man of
his delicate and hyper-sensitive nature, an event of this kind was a
vast disturbance. He felt that this anonymous letter was but the
forerunner of a long series of troubles. That prescience which nervous
people have of misfortunes portrayed to him a future black with
disappointments and dangers.
"Hallo, Mark! What's the matter? You look as sad as a low comedian by
daylight!" Previous to this salutation came a ringing slap on the
Marcus rather liked familiarities; but the slap, coming on him when his
nerves were unstrung, startled him. He turned sharply; but the stern
and indignant face wreathed into amiable smiles, when he saw that the
lively gentleman behind him was only Wesley Tiffles. Everybody liked
Wesley Tiffles; even those who bore the burden of his unlucky financial
schemes uniting in cheerful testimony to his charming, companionable
qualities. His presence was like a ray of sunlight to Marcus Wilkeson's
beclouded mind; and when Wesley Tiffles hooked an arm in his (as he did
to everybody on the second day of their acquaintance), Marcus felt his
perplexities passing away from him, like electricity on a
Wesley Tiffles and his single diamond (the latter from the background of
a third day's shirt) shone on him together; and Marcus laughed
merrily in reply:
"I don't look sad now," said he. "I'm glad to see you, Tiffles. What are
you driving at _now_, eh?"
This question was continually poked at Tiffles. He changed his business
"At the panorama of Africa, to be sure," said Tiffles. "It is a great
idea, and I am constant to it, although several capital schemes have
occurred to me since I first thought of it. But Africa deserves, and
shall have the precedence."
"Oh! yes--I remember. And how far have you got along with this great
"It's almost finished, thank you. Patching is the artist. You know
Patching, of course--one of the most promising painters of the modern
school. There were several Patchings very much praised by the Sunday
papers, at the last National Academy Exhibition, though the hanging
committee put them either among the dirt or the cobwebs. This conspiracy
against Patching is far-reaching. It would seem as if his rivals of the
Academy actually went about town calling upon people, and cautioning
them _not_ to buy Patchings. Indeed, to such an extent has this
outrageous attempt to put down a fellow artist been carried, that I know
of but one Patching to be publicly seen in the city. It is an attic
interior--a sweet thing, quite equal to Frere, and hangs behind a bar
near Spring street. Perhaps you would like to examine it?"
"Hem! Not to-day. Some other time," answered Marcus, who, strangely
enough, interpreted the question as an invitation to drink at his
"I did not mean to-day," said Wesley Tiffles. "Any time will do. Well, I
have engaged this brilliant but neglected creature to paint my panorama.
At first he refused--as I expected. He said that it would hurt his
reputation. I argued to him, that, the larger the picture, the more the
reputation; and said that I would put his name on the bills in type
second only to my own. But he could not bring himself to see the matter
as I did, and consented to paint it only on condition of profound
secrecy. Price, one hundred dollars. You will therefore understand
(Tiffles lowered his voice) that what I am saying to you is strictly
confidential--as, indeed, all is that I say about my panorama. Secrecy
alone gives value to these grand, original ideas."
Wesley Tiffles was always unbosoming himself to the world, and informing
each individual hearer that his disclosure was strictly confidential.
"I give you my word," said Marcus. He wondered where Tiffles raised the
money to pay the artist, but did not like to ask him.
"Now I have caught you, you must come and see how we get along. The work
is going on at my room in the Bartholomew Buildings, only a few steps
from here." (According to Tiffles, the Bartholomew Buildings were only a
few steps from anywhere, when he wanted to take anybody to them.)
"Patching will object to bringing in a stranger; but I can pass you off
as a capitalist, who thinks of taking an interest in the panorama. Good
Marcus drew back a little at the joke; but Wesley Tiffles had proved so
great a relief to his low spirits, that he determined to keep on taking
him, and expressed his ardent desire to see the panorama.
The couple, arm in arm, sauntered into Broadway, and down that
thoroughfare. Tiffles nodded to a great many acquaintances, and Wilkeson
to a very few. People whom Tiffles did not know personally, he had short
biographies of, and he entertained Marcus with an incessant string of
anecdotes and memoranda of passers by. The walk was leisurely and
uninterrupted, with two exceptions, when Wesley Tiffles broke suddenly
from his companion, rushed into the entry of a photographic
establishment, and examined numerous square feet of show portraits with
profound interest. Marcus explained these impulsive movements on the
supposition that Tiffles sought to escape from approaching duns. He
noticed that that individual, while observing people who streamed by him
on either side, kept one eye, as it were, about a block and a half
ahead. In some parts of the world, Marcus might have objected to walking
publicly with a man of such an eccentric demeanor. But he was well aware
that, in New York, a citizen's reputation is not in the least degree
affected by the company that he keeps.
They soon arrived at the Bartholomew Buildings--a rickety five-story
edifice, which had been altered from a hotel to a nest of private
offices. The basement was a restaurant, the first floor a dry goods
store, and thence to the roof there was a small Babel of trades and
professions known and unknown. No census taker had ever booked all the
businesses and all the names under that comprehensive roof.
In the upper story of this building, at the end of a long, hall, the
floor of which was hollowed in places by the feet of half a century, was
the room, or office, as he called it, of Mr. Wesley Tiffles. There was
no number, or sign, on the door, but only a card bearing the
inscription, in a bold hand, "Back in five minutes." Mr. Tiffles always
put out this standing announcement whenever he had occasion to absent
himself from his office for an indefinite period. At the top of the door
there was a swinging window, which was ever close fastened, and covered
with four thicknesses of newspapers. Though door and window were shut,
there came from this room, as if through pores of the wood and the
glass, a strong odor of tobacco smoke. A voice within could be heard
softly humming an operatic air.
Wesley Tiffles opened the door with a latch key, saying, "All right!" in
a loud voice, as he did so. Marcus entered with him into a blue cloud of
smoke heated to a sickly degree by a small coal stove with a prodigious
quantity of pipe. Even Marcus's hardened lungs found it difficult
The room was about twenty feet square. It had been a part of the laundry
when the building was a hotel. The walls, from the floor to the low
ceiling, appeared to be hung with a strange, dim tapestry. A second
glance convinced Marcus Wilkeson that this seeming tapestry was the
panorama, which was fastened on stretchers along three sides of the
room, and rolled up in a corner as fast as completed. At the farther end
of the room, barely visible through the smoke, was the figure of a man
in a torn and dirty dressing gown, and an enormous black felt hat with a
huge turn-up brim, of the kind supposed to be worn by the bandits of the
Pyrenees. The back of the man was turned to Marcus Wilkeson, and he was
making rapid dabs on the canvas with a long brush, frequently dipping
into one of a series of pails or pans which stood on the floor by his
side. He was smoking and humming the operatic air at the same time; and
he pulled his great slouched hat farther over his eyes, as a signal for
impertinent curiosity to keep its distance.
Wesley Tiffles whispered something about the eccentricities of genius,
and then said:
"Mr. Patching. Allow me. Mr. Wilkeson. A capitalist, who thinks of
taking a small interest in the panorama. Confidential, of course."
The artist turned round during these remarks, and presented the original
of a portrait which Marcus remembered to have seen--dressing gown, hat,
and all--in a small print-shop window in the Sixth Avenue. Touching the
face he might have had doubt, but there was no mistaking the pattern of
the dressing gown and the amazing hat. He also had a faint recollection
of the thin face, the Vandyke beard, and the long, tangled hair at Mrs.
Slapman's, on New Year's, but was not positive as to their identity. Mr.
Patching's individuality lay chiefly in his hat.
The artist placed a moist hand, with one long finger nail like a claw,
at the disposal of Marcus Wilkeson. The latter gentleman shook the
member feebly, and distinctly felt the sharp edge of the long finger
nail in his palm. It was an unpleasant sensation.
"Happy to meet a _confidential_ friend of Tiffles's," said Patching.
"Painting panoramas is not exactly what I have been used to. An artist's
reputation is his capital in trade, you know." He spoke slowly and
languidly, as if hope and happiness were quite dead within him, and he
had consented to live on only for the good of high Art.
"I understand," said Marcus. "The secret shall be inviolate."
"Nothing but my old friendship for Tiffles here could possibly have
induced me to undertake the job. My enemies--and I have them, ha! ha!"
(he said this bitterly)--"would like nothing better to say of Patching,
than that he had got down to the panorama line of business. It would be
a pretty piece of scandal."
"My lips are sealed, sir. But it strikes me, as a casual observer, that
there is nothing to be ashamed of in this beautiful work of art." Marcus
Wilkeson had the amiable vice of flattery.
Patching shrugged his shoulders, and made a contemptuous gesture toward
the canvas with his outstretched brush. "A mere daub," said he. "One
step higher than painting a barn or a board fence--that's all."
"Yet the true artist adorns what he touches," said Marcus.
Patching accepted the homage calmly, as one who knew that he deserved
it. "A very just and discriminating remark, sir. I have no doubt that a
person thoroughly familiar with my style would say, looking at this
panorama, 'It has the severe simplicity of a Patching.' I consented to
paint it, as Tiffles well remembers, only on condition that I should not
wholly abase myself by abandoning the style upon which I have built up
Tiffles, thus appealed to, corroborated the statement with a solemn bow.
The artist continued: "Fortunately, the subject is one peculiarly
adapted to my genius. For instance: the desert of Sahara is a dead level
of sand. It is a perfect type of severe simplicity in the highest sense.
It exhibits no common display of gorgeous colors, such as poor artists
and the ignorant crowd rejoice in. As far as the eye can see, there is a
serene stretch of yellow sand, without even a blade of grass to break
its awful immensity." (The artist, being on his favorite theme, took his
pipe out of his mouth for the first time, and spoke with warmth.) "Look
at that bit of desert, now. Does it not convey a perfect idea of
solitude and desolation?"
Marcus Wilkeson glanced at about ten feet of straight yellow paint
(which was all of the desert of Sahara not rolled up in the canvas), and
said that it did--which was perfectly true.
"There are one hundred feet more, which you don't see, just like it.
Another artist would have put in an oasis, or a stray hyena, or the
bleached bones of an unfortunate traveller. _I_ did not. Why? Another
would have worked up a sunset, or a moonrise, or a thunder storm, to
give variety to the sky. _I_ did not. Why? The sky over my desert is an
uninterrupted blue. There is not even a bird in it. There is nothing, in
short, either on the ground or in the air, to take away the mind of the
spectator, for one moment, from the sublime idea of a desert--an object
which, considered aesthetically, is one of the grandest in the universe.
This is severe simplicity. It is the highest school of Art."
"And the cheapest," observed Tiffles; "which is an important
consideration when you have an acre or two of canvas to paint. It would
cost a deal more to put in the sun and moon, travelling caravans, and
other objects of interest, here and there."
"Incidentally it may be the cheapest," said Patching. "But that is a
question for capitalists, and not for artists to determine. True Art
never thinks of the expense."
"It always seemed to me to be the easiest school of Art," said Marcus
Wilkeson. "I suppose, now, that you can dash off twenty or thirty rods
of this a day."
Patching smiled with a lofty pity. "So I can. Not because it is the
easiest, though--far from it; but because I happen to have a genius for
quick and sure touches. You, not being a professional artist, think the
execution of that scrap of desert and sky an easy matter. Perhaps you
fancy that you could do it." There was the least infusion of satire in
the artist's tone.
"Oh, no!" replied Marcus Wilkeson, who ever shrank from wounding the
self-love of a fellow creature. "I am not rash enough to suppose that I
could do it. I merely observed that it seemed--to my inexperienced
eyes--an easy matter. A few strokes of yellow paint here, for sand, and
a few strokes of blue paint there, for sky. But I am not even an
amateur, and so my opinion goes for nothing."
"I admire your frankness," said Patching. "Now let me convince you
practically. Be good enough to stand near this window with me."
Marcus moved to the spot indicated by the artist.
"Here," said Patching, "you are at about the same distance from the
desert as the front row of spectators will be. Now look at it
Marcus shaded his eyes with his left hand, cocked his head over his
right shoulder, in the true critical style, and gazed on the scene.
"Do you see the harmony--the TONE, I may say--in the desert?" asked
Patching, after a short pause.
"I think I do," responded Marcus, willing to oblige the artist.
"And the spiritual, or INNER meaning of the sky?"
"Ye-yes. It is quite perceptible."
"These are the effects of severe simplicity. But you must understand
that a single mis-stroke of the brush would have spoiled all the harmony
in the desert, or reduced the sky to a mere inexpressive field of blue
vapor. Why? Genius alone can achieve such grand results by such
apparently simple means. You comprehend?"
"Perfectly," said Marcus Wilkeson.
"Then I shall take a real pleasure in showing you more of the panorama
which is already completed and rolled up. With this idea of severe
simplicity in your mind, you will be prepared to appreciate the work,"
"I believe I have already remarked, that Mr. Wilkeson is a capitalist,
and comes here expressly to look at the panorama," said Tiffles; with a
wink at the artist.
"With every respect for him as a capitalist," returned Patching, "I see
in him only the ingenuous student of Art, whom it is a happiness
The first instalment was a continuation of the desert with which Marcus
had been already regaled. Patching begged him to observe the unfaltering
harmony of the sand, and the protracted spirituality of the sky. Then
came a jungle.
"You will note the severe simplicity here," observed Patching, "No
meretricious effects. Nothing but strokes of green paint, up and down,
representing the density of an African jungle. Yet how admirably these
seemingly careless strokes, laid on by the hand of genius, convey the
idea of DEPTH! You do not fail to notice the DEPTH, I presume?"
"I see it," said Marcus.
"_That_ is severe simplicity," replied the artist.
At this point, Marcus noticed a brown something bearing a strong
resemblance to the swamp stalk, known among boys as the cattail. "Excuse
my ignorance of African plants," said he; "but what is that?"
The artist smiled. "Another happy illustration of my theory," said he.
"It is the tail of a lion bounding through his native jungles. Why? The
effect of suggesting the lion, so to speak, is much more thrilling than
that of painting him at full length. Genius accomplishes by hints what
mere talent fails to achieve by the utmost elaboration. You will not
deny that that vague revelation of the lion's tail inspires a feeling of
mystery and terror, which would not be caused by a full-length portrait
of that king of beasts?"
Marcus Wilkeson did not deny it, but said that perhaps everybody could
not identify the object as a lion's tail.
"That has all been thought of," said Tiffles. "I shall explain the
panorama, you must understand. When I come to the lion's tail, I shall
tell the audience what it is, and go on to give a full account of the
lion, and his ferocious habits. This will gratify the women and small
boys quite as much as seeing the lion _in propria persona_."
"Precisely. Very good," was the laughing acknowledgment. "And what is
that thing, twisted like a piece of grapevine above the tall grass at
"The trunk of an elephant. Look a little farther on, as the canvas
unrolls, and you will observe the white tusk of a rhinoceros protruding
from the jungle with wonderful effect. Why? The two animals are
advancing toward each other for mortal combat."
"I shall describe their terrific struggles," interrupted Tiffles. "Have
read up Buffon for it."
"More lions' and elephants' tails, you observe," continued the artist;
"also more rhinoceroses' tusks. It is well to have enough of them, to
illustrate the teeming life of the African jungle. Also the head of a
boa constrictor. Likewise the tail of one. Here we come to a change of
scene. Mark how wonderfully a few strokes of dark-green paint, put on by
the hand of genius, impart the idea of a pestiferous swamp. That
odd-looking object, like a rock, is the head of a hippopotamus. A few
feet beyond, you notice two things like the stumps of aquatic weeds.
Those are the tails of two hippopotamuses engaged in deadly strife at
the bottom of the swamp. The heads of crocodiles are thrust up here and
there. Severe simplicity again."
The panorama, from thence nearly to the end of it--or rather the
beginning--was a repetition of jungles and deserts, varied by an
occasional swamp, all diversified with the heads and tails of indigenous
animals. The last hundred feet was the river Gambier, over which
Patching had introduced a sunrise of the most gorgeous description, at
the earnest request of Wesley Tiffles.
Patching explained: "In my opinion, such effects are tawdry, and detract
not only from the severe simplicity, but from the UNITY which should
pervade a painting of this description. Of course, I wash my hands of
all these innovations upon the province of high Art."
"And I cheerfully shoulder them," said Tiffles. "I know what the public
want. They want any quantity of sunsets, crocodiles, lions, and other
objects of interest. If we had time and money to spare, and I could
overcome Patching's scruples--do you understand?--I would put 'em in
twice as thick. Men of genius, like Patching, cannot be expected to be
The artist shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.
Tiffles then repeated his invitation to Marcus to accompany him on his
first expedition into the interior of New Jersey; but Marcus positively
declined. Tiffles said he would send him a note a day or two before the
panorama started, and hoped that Marcus would conclude to go, just for
the fun of the thing.
Marcus then shook hands with Patching--who made his long finger nail
amicably felt--and with Tiffles, and withdrew to the entry, followed by
the latter individual.
Tiffles closed the door. "By the way," said he, as if the thought
occurred to him then for the first time, "can you spare thirty-five
dollars to-day? Pay you on the--let me see--on the first of next month.
By that time the panorama will be fairly under headway, and coining
money." (Tiffles always fixed his days of payment with great
Marcus, without saying a word, produced his pocket book, and counted out
thirty-five dollars. Tiffles had already borrowed from Overtop and
Maltboy, but had generously spared the oldest of the three bachelors.
Marcus felt that his time had come, and he would not meanly avoid his
destiny. He placed the money in Tiffles's hand.
"Give you my note?" asked Tiffles.
"Oh, no!" said Marcus; "make it a matter of honor."
Tiffles pocketed the funds, placed his hand over his heart, and replied
that it should be. "But, now I think of it," he suddenly added, "I want
exactly sixty-three dollars--do you understand?--to see me through with
this panorama. Suppose you make it twenty-eight dollars more."
Marcus smiled, and said that he didn't understand; whereat Tiffles
laughed outright, to show that he took no offence at the refusal; and
creditor and debtor parted with mutual good wishes.
LOVING AFAR OFF.
The boy Bog had now become, professionally, a creature of the night. He
was abroad at the, same hours as the burglars and garroters, and other
owls and weasels of society. Fink & Co. (Bog was the Co.) had secured
the bill posting for three theatres and one negro-minstrel hall. This
they called their heavy business. Carrying the huge damp placards, had
already given to Bog's shoulders a manifest tendency to roundness, which
he was constantly trying to overcome by straightening up. Fink, who was
the veteran bill poster of the town, was as round shouldered as a hod
carrier. But Bog thought of somebody, and stood as nearly erect as
The firm also obtained rather more than their share of ordinary bill
posting, from doctors, drygoods dealers, and other people who find their
profit in continually addressing the public from the summit of a dead
wall, or the muddy level of the curbstones. This they called their light
business. As it required neither strength nor practised dexterity of
manipulation, the firm intrusted it to assistants.
There were a dozen of these, all stout, hulking young fellows nearly as
old as Bog. They took a fancy to bill posting, and worked industriously
and faithfully at it, because it was nocturnal, mysterious, romantic.
The half dollar which they each received for a night's labor, enabled
them to lounge about the streets all day in glorious indolence.
Sometimes there was a prodigious rush of business, and then the firm
were obliged to hire an extra force of boys.
Once, when a quack undertook to take the public by storm with his "New
and Sure Cure for Dyspepsia," Fink & Co. put a colored poster as large
as a dining table on every wall and high fence below Sixty-first street;
small oblong bills every ten feet along the curbstones of Broadway,
Bowery, Wall street, Fulton street, Cortlandt street, and Third, Fourth,
Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Madison, and Lexington Avenues; besides throwing
cheap circulars, folded, into the front yards of about four thousand
residences in the fashionable quarters of the town--all in a single
night. This immense job took one hundred boys.
Bog had been in this partnership since the first of January. It was now
near the close of March. The firm had been very successful. Bog had
comfortably supported himself and his aunt (whose rheumatism got worse
in steady proportion as his business improved), and had invested more
than two hundred and fifty dollars in a Wall-street savings bank.
With this money at his disposal, Bog might have thrown away the greasy
cap and old coat and trowsers, spotted with paste, in which he pursued
his occupation. But when Bog was at his business, he was not above his
business. And he felt none the less attached to his old clothes because
they were two inches too short in the legs and arms, and pinched him a
little in all directions.
But Bog had a better suit, made of neat gray cloth, which he wore upon
occasions. These occasions happened daily between three and four P.M.
During that interval, it always fell out that Bog had no work to do
which he could not postpone as well as not. And whether it rained or
shone, the occasions brought him, like an inexorable fate, through the
street where Miss Pillbody's school was situated. He would first stride
smartly up the opposite sidewalk, whistling, and cast ardent glances at
the lower windows of Miss Pillbody's school, shaded by green curtains
with gold borders.
After going two blocks in that direction, he would cross the street,
whistling yet, and march boldly up the other sidewalk, past Miss
Pillbody's school, as on an enemy. But if there had been anybody to
watch him closely--as there was not on that thronged street--that body
would have seen that Bog's cheeks began to blush, and his eyes to be
cast down, and his whistle to be fainter, as he hurried by the neat
three-story brick building with the polished doorplate and
Then he would loiter for a while in front of McFeeter's grocery, two
corners remote, and gaze from that safe distance with intrepidity upon
the abode of enchantment; after which he would screw his courage up to
the point of marching past the house back and forth again, and would
then resume his position at McFeeter's, and wait until four P.M., or
about that time, when the envied door of Miss Pillbody's establishment
would open, and an angel would dazzle upon his sight, with a music book
in her hand instead of a harp, and a jaunty little chip bonnet on her
head instead of a golden crown. If the harp and crown had suddenly taken
their proper places, and a pair of spangled wings had blossomed right
out of her shoulders, and the radiant creature, thus equipped, had
spread her pinions and soared up to heaven, the boy Bog would hardly
have been surprised. As this angel came down the happy front steps to
the blessed pavement (Bog's mind supplying these adjectives), Bog would
color up, and sneak off at his best walking pace in the opposite
direction. He felt that, if Pet ever saw him, and should ask him what he
was doing in that neighborhood, he should melt away in perspiring
confusion on the spot.
He called at Mr. Minford's twice a week, to indulge in the hollow form
of asking if he could do anything for him. There he confronted Pet, with
that trembling figure and those averted eyes which an inexperienced
thief may show before the man that he has robbed. But Pet knew not of
the adoring spy.
One afternoon, the boy Bog had made his second detour, and was
approaching the corner of the favored block, when a novel idea struck
him. The very night before, Bog had posted bills of the play, "Faint
Heart Ne'er Won Fair Lady." The gigantic lettering arose in his mind's
eye, like the cross in Constantine's. He had never seen the drama, and
he did not know to what extent Ruy Gomez pushed his audacity, and won
the Countess by it. But the name of the drama held the moral of it; and
the moral, as applied to Bog's case, was: "Stop at this corner, and take
a good view of the, house." To do this, in Bog's opinion, was the height
of boldness. But he thought of the huge parti-colored lettering, and
he did it.
He stopped at the corner, and leaned recklessly against a hydrant. He
looked at the house with a deliberation that amazed himself. At the same
time, as a matter of instinctive caution, he kept his left leg well out
toward the side street, so that he might retreat, should the door
suddenly open and disclose the seraphic vision. He consulted his large
bull's-eye silver watch (a capital timekeeper), and found that it was
half past three o'clock, and he never knew her to be out before four.
This reflection emboldened him. "Faint Heart Ne'er Won Fair Lady," he
thought again, and brought back his left leg to an easy position,
crossing it with his right one against the hydrant. Then he feasted,
with strange composure, upon the house.
Neither Bog nor a much wiser metaphysician could explain it; but the
house, and all around it, seemed to be glorified by the loved one
within. The newly painted door was bright with love; the polished
doorplate and bell handle glistened with love. The name Pillbody looked,
somehow, musical and winning, because the owner of that name was the
teacher and dear companion of Pet. The carved stone roses over the door
seemed to be truly the emblems of love. It was a silly notion; but, in
Bog's eyes, love imparted a not unpleasant expression to the grim lions'
faces that looked down from the roof. But the green window curtains with
gold borders were the most significant symbols of love, in his eyes. Bog
felt that curtains of any other color would be wholly out of place in
that house. The patch of a garden, scarcely bigger than a bathroom, in
front of the house; the single fir tree that grew up in the middle of
it; the black iron railing; the door steps, and the pavement--all took
their share of beatitude from the joy within. Bog could hear love rustle
in the boughs of the young maple, that stood in its long green case like
a fancy boot top, at the edge of the sidewalk.
As Bog was resting against the hydrant, absorbed in this delicious
revery, and totally indifferent to the consequences, he was startled by
a slight tap on the shoulder. He turned quickly, and saw--the man he
hated--the man who pretended (Bog would never admit that it was more
than a pretence) to save Pet from the falling boards.
"Well," said Bog, looking on this man as his mortal enemy, "What do you
want of me?" He spoke in the gruff, defiant manner peculiar to children
of the city.
The man's livid face and lead-colored eyes and white teeth all combined
in a reassuring smile. "Nothing," said he, "my good fellow, but to do
"I say, now, who'd you take me for, hey?" answered Bog, shaking his head
at the man, and feeling a tremendous desire to knock his shining
The man looked up and down Bog's cheap gray suit, and at his neatly
polished shoes and his clean slouching cap, and then said:
"No offence meant, my lad. But I thought you wouldn't object to earning
a quarter. You're only to deliver a letter at that house; that's all."
He pointed to Miss Pillbody's.
"Hey--what house?" asked Bog, turning pale, with a strange and jarring
combination of rage, jealousy, envy, and insulted dignity.
"The one with the bright doorplate, green curtains and gold borders. I
thought you were looking at it as I came up."
"N-no, I wasn't. And what if I was, hey?"
"It strikes me you're rather touchy, my young friend," said the man,
with his conciliatory smile. "Here's the letter, now, and a quarter.
It's only a few steps. No answer required."
As Bog caught sight of the letter, done up in the long, rakish envelope
which had just begun to come into fashion, and faintly perfumed, a lucky
thought occurred to him.
The man saw that he wavered. "Only a step," said he. "And here is the
quarter." He offered it to Bog between a thumb and finger.
"Why don't you deliver the letter yourself?" asked Bog.
"Oh! oh! for family reasons," answered the man, hesitating. "Miss
Pillbody there is my aunt, and the lady to whom this letter is addressed
is my cousin. The old woman and I have had a sort of falling out about
the young one, you see. These little difficulties will occur in the
best-regulated families. Come, take the letter. I'm in a hurry."
Bog allowed the letter to be thrust into his hand. He looked at it, and
saw, as he expected, that it was addressed to "Miss Minford, Present."
The direction was in a beautiful commercial hand, which was at once
more hateful in his eyes than the most crabbed of writing.
"All right," said he. "I'll deliver it. Poh! never mind the quarter. I
won't take it." Bog moved toward the house as he spoke.
"You're a queer fellow, but a good one. Well, you'll accept my thanks,
at any rate."
He waited at the hydrant until Bog had delivered the letter.
Bog walked straight to the house, and up the steps, although his face
was pale, and his knees trembled.
He rang the bell with a decisive pull, and, as he did so, glanced at the
strange man, who nodded approvingly at him.
He suddenly turned his back on the strange man. With a quick movement of
the fingers of his right hand, he thrust the letter up his coat sleeve:
The next instant he whipped a handkerchief out of an inside breast
pocket, and, with it, a stray copy of a new "Dentifrice" circular, which
he had been distributing the night before. This circular was folded to
about the size and shape of the letter. With the handkerchief he wiped
his face, upon which there were real drops of sweat. The circular he
slipped into his right hand, and then turned toward the strange man
again, to show that he still held the letter. This bit of legerdemain
took about three seconds.
In three seconds more, Bog heard footsteps approaching in the entry.
What if his angel should come to the door? The thought sent a horrible,
sickly sensation all over him, and the solid rock seemed to tremble
beneath his feet.
The door opened, and something quite the opposite of an angel presented
itself. It was Bridget; and her red hair was dishevelled, her face
flushed to the parboiled tint, and her dress uncommonly damp and frowsy.
A mop which she held in her hand explained everything.
"A circular, if you please," said Bog, in a quivering voice, poking the
folded paper at her.
"A succular, is it? Miss Peelbody told me not to take any succulars for
her. So 'way wid ye." Bridget put her hand on the door, and was about to
swing it to.
"It isn't for Miss Pillbody at all," said Bog, fearful lest the strange
man should see it refused, "but for your own pretty self."
Bridget smiled, for she was conscious that the compliment was deserved.
She relaxed her hand on the door. "Fat is it?" said she.
"Hush!" said Bog, in a whisper; "a circular about the rights of
servants, issued by the 'Servants' Mootual Protecting Society.'" (Bog
thought of the name on the spur of the moment.) "Please take it--quick."
Bridget snatched the circular out of his hand, and was about to look at
it, bottom side up, for she had not yet attained to the mystery of
reading, when the musical voice of Miss Pillbody was heard at the back
of the entry. "Bridget--what is wanted, Bridget?"
"Nothing ma'am, but one of these succular men. Bad luck to him! Here,
now, take it."
She made a feint of handing back the circular to Bog, but concealed it,
with the other hand, in her capacious bosom.
"Heaven bless ye!" said she, in a low voice, and then slammed the door
in his face.
Bog came down the door steps quickly, and saw the strange man make a bow
and a gesture of gratitude at him, and then disappear suddenly round the
corner. Bog's first impulse was to follow him at a distance; but his
curiosity to inspect the slender, perfumed letter, overcame it.
When Bog reached the awning in front of McFeeter's store--a sort of
haven or putting-in place for him--he pulled out the letter, and was
about to read it. Then it occurred to him that the situation was too
much exposed. The strange man might come back, and see him with the open
letter in his hand. Bog would have enjoyed a personal collision with him
on any pretext; but to be caught in the act of reading the letter, would
spoil the strategical advantage that Bog now had over him.
Bog moved on down a side street, and took his stand behind a huge
wooden column surmounted by a gilded mortar and pestle. Here he was
about to rip open the envelope, but a glance across the street
discovered a policeman looking at him. Bog felt guilty and awkward. He
coughed, and thrust the letter into his pocket, and moved on again. The
exciting events of the morning had made Bog intensely nervous. He did
not stop this time until he had gained his home.
His aunt was sitting in the front room, reading a book through a huge
pair of silver-rimmed spectacles. There was a thick fold of flannel
about her neck, and she smelt strongly of embrocation. As Bog rushed
into the room, she groaned audibly, and laid down the book, as if it
were a wicked enjoyment.
"I'm so bad to-day, Bog," said she. "Them shootin' pains'll be the death
Bog responded not a word, but dashed across the apartment, and, entering
his little sleeping room, closed the door, and bolted it.
"Unfeelin' creetur!" said his aunt. She stopped groaning, and took up
her book and read again.
Bog seated himself on his hair trunk, and drew out the letter. There was
a slight discussion within him on the abstract question of his right to
open it. After turning it over twice, the question was decided in the
affirmative. He slit the envelope with his thumb, and brought to light a
billet faultlessly written, as follows:
"Frederick Lynville begs to present his compliments to Miss Minford, and
to assure her, from the depths of his heart, that his feelings toward
her are only those of the purest admiration for the matchless charms of
her mind and person. He takes this method of explaining himself, because
he has observed with great sorrow that Miss Minford has shown a desire
to avoid him on several recent occasions, when they have accidentally
met in the street. It was Mr. Lynville's blessed privilege, under
Providence, to save Miss Minford's life; but he would not be selfish and
base enough on that account to obtrude himself on Miss Minford's notice.
Mr. Lynville would die sooner than be guilty of that discourtesy. He is
not presumptuous enough to ask an answer to this letter. His only object
in writing it, is to inform Miss Minford that he will not venture again
upon the impropriety of speaking to her first when they next meet. Miss
Minford will therefore be free to drop his acquaintance, or continue it,
as she thinks best. Whatever fate she may decide for him, her happiness
will still be his constant prayer."
* * * * *
Bog was ill versed in the art of complimentary letter writing. But the
villany here seemed to be clumsily concealed. That the letter was full
of danger to the object of his boyish idolatry, he had no doubt.
But why did Pet avoid this Frederick Lynville? Did she really dislike
him? Or----. The thought of his own shyness toward the beautiful girl
came into his mind like a flash. To avoid might be--to love.
The poor boy dropped the letter, and covered his face with his hands,
Love is not always selfish; and goodness is sometimes its own reward. In
that bitter hour of his first real misery, Bog did not regret his
kindness to the Minfords, or take credit to himself for having nobly
concealed from their knowledge those little weekly gifts of money which
he sent to them through the mail, when they were in poorer
circumstances. He was not for a moment base enough to think that Pet
would look with kinder eyes on him, if she but knew of his secret
benefactions--which, up to this time, neither she nor her father had
suspected, and which they would never learn from his lips.
MYSTERIES OF THE NIGHT.
THE UNKNOWN HAND.
Marcus Wilkeson made no effort to discover the writer of the anonymous
letter, because he knew that such an effort would be in vain. He called
on Mr. Minford once in two or three days now. The inventor always took
occasion to refer to the letter, and assured Marcus that it was not
worth remembering, or talking about. "Why, then, did he talk about it?"
Marcus asked himself. His eyes were not blind to watchful and suspicious
glances which the old man directed to him, at times, under cover of
those shaggy, overhanging eyebrows. Nor could he help noticing a strange
reserve in the bearing of Pet toward him. It was not mere modesty, or
timid gratitude, but DOUBT, as he read the signs. Marcus was convinced
that the father had put his child on guard against something, though he
might not have mentioned the existence of the anonymous letter. This
thought distressed him acutely.
But his troubles, as well as his joys, he kept to himself. The miser
puts his broken bank notes and his good gold under the same lock
One evening, early in April, Overtop and Maltboy observed a peculiar
expression of sadness on the face of their friend. He had eaten nothing
at dinner, but had drunk more than his usual allowance of sherry. He had
kept his eyes fixed on the table as in a revery, and had scarcely spoken
a word. Miss Wilkeson, in her solemn state opposite the boiled chickens,
was hardly less social.
After dinner, Marcus took to his pipe with a strange sullenness, and
smoked furiously. His two friends, closely regarding him, saw that he
was unhappy, but wisely forbore to make him more unhappy still by
obtruding their condolence on him. The day had been rainy and cold. They
knew that Marcus's spirits were barometrically sensitive to the weather,
like those of most persons who look at it through a window.
They had noticed, as they came home, that he was reading that sweetest
of elegies, the "In Memoriam" of Tennyson. And the two friends thought
that the melancholy weather and the melancholy poem together fully
accounted for the gloom on his brow.
Marcus sat for some minutes meditating. Then he heaved a sigh, which was
distinctly audible to his two friends. Then he left the room without
saying a word, and went up stairs.
Presently he was heard to come down; but, instead of returning to the
little parlor, he went into the street, and closed the door with a sharp
slam. At the same moment, the cold rain of the April night beat noisily
against the window.
"Sly old fellow!" said Maltboy.
"Up to something, depend on it," said Overtop.
Marcus walked rapidly toward the inventor's house. "My fate is decided
to-night," he muttered.
His long strides soon brought him to the house. The old building wore a
gloomy look. He did not speculate on the reason of this. It was probably
because there was no light visible in any of the front windows, and very
little light in the street lamps. The gas burned low and blue, and
flickered in the wind.
Ringing the bell, Marcus was admitted by one of the numerous children
belonging to somebody in the house (Marcus could never determine to
whom), and walked up to the inventor's room. His heart beat with strange
emotion as he rapped at the door. For a moment he was sorry that he
"Come in," said the inventor, in a voice more sepulchral than usual.
Marcus entered the apartment. The inventor received him with a feeble
shake of the hand, bearing no resemblance to the hearty one which he
used to bestow in the early days of their acquaintance. Marcus noticed
that Mr. Minford's hand was hot. He also observed that his eyes were
preternaturally lustrous, and that the circles under them were deep and
dark. His cheeks were deathly pale, saving a little red spot in the
centres. He looked like a man in a state of fearful mental exaltation
and nervous excitement.
Marcus was not in the habit of worrying people upon the subject of their
ill health; but the inventor looked so palpably bad, that Marcus could
not forbear to say, in a tone of anxiety, "You are unwell, sir."
"Oh, no! Quite well, I assure you," said the inventor, with a weary
smile. "Though I should be sick, perhaps, but for the glorious hope that
bears me up. I have not eaten, or slept, for forty-eight hours."
"But, my dear sir, this is trifling with your health."
"I acknowledge it. But we must make sacrifices, if we would master the
UNKNOWN. Newton lived on bread and water when he wrote his immortal
Principia. He condemned himself to the coarse fare of a prison, in order
that his intellect might soar untrammelled to the stars. I have improved
on Newton--I eat nothing. As for sleep, I grudge a single hour of it
which comes between me and the completion of my great work."
"But how long can you stand this dreadful strain upon your powers?"
"Till daylight to-morrow, with safety. By that time I shall have
overcome the last obstacle. Of this I am confident. Then, ho! for
unbounded wealth and undying fame. The toil has been severe, but the
reward will be glorious."
"I congratulate you," said Marcus, "on the near approach of your final
triumph. And, in order that I may not delay you a single moment, I will
bid you 'good-night.'" Marcus rose, but he hoped that the inventor would
ask him to stay.
The inventor did so. "Pray don't hurry, Mr. Wilkeson; I would like to
have a brief conversation with you. A few minutes only." He drew a chair
to the side of Marcus, and seated himself.
"Mr. Wilkeson," he said, in a deliberate voice, as if he were repeating
carefully-considered words, "it is unnecessary for me to say that I have
the highest opinion of you. Providence seems to have sent you to me at a
time when I was in the greatest need. You saved me from starving. The
world will be as much indebted to you for my grand invention, as it was
to the generous patronage of Queen Isabella for the discovery
"Pooh!" interrupted Marcus, blushing.
"The praise is none too high," continued the inventor. "It is true, I
have repaid your advances of money tenfold, by giving you an interest in
my future but certain fortune. But that does not diminish my gratitude."
Marcus knew that this flattering exordium meant something serious. It
was a favorite theory of his, that danger, or any kind of anticipated,
disagreeable thing, was best met halfway. So he said, with a feeble
attempt at a smile:
"I infer from this ominous opening that you have received another lying
anonymous letter about me. If I am right, Mr. Minford, be good enough to
let me see it at once, according to your promise."
"You have guessed correctly, Mr. Wilkeson. I have received a second
anonymous letter, which I intended showing to you after a further brief
explanation. But I can readily appreciate your anxiety to read it
without delay. Here it is." He drew forth a letter, and handed it
Marcus immediately recognized the envelope and the address as similar
to those of the first letter, which he still had in his possession.
He pulled the letter nervously from its yellow sheath, and read as
DEAR SIR,--Pardon me for intruding on you a second time. But,
as a friend of virtue, I must warn you of continued danger to
your daughter from the acquaintance of Mr. Wilkeson, your
pretended benefactor. If you are any longer in doubt as to
the vile intentions of this man, conceal yourself from
observation within sight of Miss Pillbody's school, any fair
afternoon, about half past two o'clock, and watch his
actions. If his suspicious conduct, at that time and place,
does not give a sufficient significance to my warnings, then
take the trouble to go to ----, Westchester Co., where he was
born, and search into his infamous history. Take heed--I warn
you again--lest, in your devotion to science, you forget that
you are a father.
ONE WHO WOULD SHIELD THE INNOCENT.
While reading this letter, Marcus was conscious that the eyes of the
inventor were fixed piercingly upon him. That consciousness caused his
head to bow, and his cheeks to crimson with shame. It is the curse of
this morbid sensibility, that righteous indignation at a foul slander
upon one's good name springs up only after the victim has shown all the
accepted evidences of guilt.
There was one reason why a man much less sensitive than Marcus should
have been thrown off his balance by this letter. It was a fact that
every afternoon, at half past two o'clock, rain or shine, with
bachelor-like punctuality, he passed up and down in front of Miss
Pillbody's school, and looked sentimentally at the closed blinds,
thinking unutterable things. He was also addicted to standing at the
hydrant on the corner, and gazing hard at the house, wishing that he
could see through its brick walls. Then he would cross the street, and
pace up and down on that side, taking views of the house at every
variety of angle. This was precisely what the boy Bog did daily about an
hour and a half later. Now, although Marcus felt, in his heart, that
these pedestrian exercises--absurd to everybody but a lover--were
perfectly harmless in their purpose and effect, he was aware that, to a
man like Mr. Minford, looking at them suspiciously, they would appear to
be connected with some stealthy and base design.
As to the imputations upon his former history, Marcus could freely
challenge the closest scrutiny; which is more than most men can do into
that long record of juvenile frailties and escapades which ushers in the
sober book of manhood. But here again the devil of sensitiveness
asserted his supremacy. Marcus had had a twin brother (who died years
before), a duplicate of himself in all respects but two. Marcus was
quiet, studious, honest, and frank; while Aurelius was quiet, studious,
less honest, and infinitely crafty. Marcus had, on several occasions in
his boyhood, been accused of petty offences which Aurelius had
committed, but which that cunning youth had unblushingly denied. These,
so far as Marcus supposed, were nothing more serious than robbing
orchards or melon patches. Still it was possible that some graver
wrong--more worthy of the title "infamous"--committed by his wild,
shrewd brother, might be brought to light by some deep explorer among
the traditions of his native village, and charged upon himself. This
possibility, and the difficulty of refuting a serious accusation under
such circumstances, brought a second flush of guilt to the face of
Marcus Wilkeson as he read the letter.
These harassing thoughts, which fill so much space, written out, are but
a small part of those which were suggested with electric suddenness.
Marcus's first impulse was to say: "I love your daughter, Mr. Minford,
with my whole heart and soul. It is my first and my only love, singular
though this confession may sound from the lips of a man of thirty-six
years. The proudest and happiest day of my life would be that on which I
could marry her, with her dear love and your fatherly consent. This
love, which is as pure as the angelic creature upon whom it is lavished,
fully explains my visits here, and whatever else is mysterious in my
conduct. But, before declaring myself to your daughter, or asking her
hand of you, I have desired to see whether it were possible to inspire
her with love for a man so much older than herself. For, much as I love
her, I would not seek to marry her without a return of love--not mere
respect, esteem, or gratitude. That is the problem I have been waiting
A confession to this effect was on the tip of his tongue. To have made
it, would have been like tearing open his breast and showing his heart.
But he would have made it, whatever the pain, if, on looking nervously
up from the letter, which he had now finished, he had not met the cold,
searching eyes of the inventor. He instantly shut his lips upon the
outcoming confession, and said, with as much indifference as he could
"I hope, sir, you have taken the trouble to investigate these ridiculous
charges." But Marcus inwardly hoped he had not.
"I have sir," responded the inventor, gravely. "Had the accusations been
vague, like those in the first letter from this unknown person, I should
have dismissed them from my mind with a laugh. But they were so
specific, and the truth or falsity of them was so easily ascertained,
that I thought it my duty, in justice to my daughter, yourself, and to
me, to look into them. It was a painful task, but I have done it."
"And what have you learned?" asked Marcus, making a transparent feint to
look at ease.
"I will tell you frankly; though I wish to say, in advance, that my
discoveries, though they might justify some suspicion, do not prejudice
me in the least against you. I have no doubt that you will be able to
explain everything." But so spoke not the eyes of the inventor.
"Well, then, to make a short story of this unpleasant affair, I have
watched your promenades in front of Miss Pillbody's school three
afternoons in succession. I will spare you the details, though, so
clearly are your movements back and forth imprinted on my memory, that I
could recount them all to you, if necessary. It is sufficient to say,
that I am forced to believe that my daughter is the magnet which draws
you to that neighborhood, and keeps your eyes riveted on that house.
This is all I have to say on the first point in the letter."
IN VAIN--IN VAIN.
This was Marcus Wilkeson's golden opportunity, and he manfully
determined to seize it. But, as he was on the point of blurting out the
stifled secret, that cold, pale face--which resembled marble in all but
the drops of sweat upon the brow--chilled him again. At the same moment,
the hopeless absurdity of love and marriage between a girl of seventeen
and a man of thirty-six, occurred to him in all its force. Stupidly
sensitive being that he was, he thought that this icy, intellectual Mr.
Minford would laugh at him.
"I confess, sir, that these wanderings seem 'singular,' as you term
them. But all the habits of old bachelors are regarded as singular, I
believe. Now, it has been my daily habit, since I retired from business,
to lay down my book at two o'clock, and take a little out-door exercise.
Miss Pillbody's school is not far from my house; the street is pretty
clean for New York, and the sidewalks are tolerably dry. Therefore I
select that neighborhood for my daily walk--my--my 'constitutional,' as
they call it. If, in so doing, I should occasionally cast my eyes--in
fits of absent-mindedness, I may say--on Miss Pillbody's school, that
is not strange, considering--considering the interest that I take in
your daughter's education. It strikes me, my dear sir, that this seeming
suspicion is easily cleared up." Marcus smiled to think how adroitly he
had extricated himself.
But there was no smile on the shroud-colored face of the inventor.
"The explanation is _plausible_" (Mr. Minford emphasized the word), "and
I will not attempt to set it aside. God alone knows all the motives of
human action. Now, to the second, and more serious implication of the
letter. I have visited your native village, and inquired into your early
history. Though you moved to the city over fifteen years ago, and have
returned to your birthplace but once since, so far as I could
"Allow me," said Marcus. "My absence from my old home may seem strange,
but it is occasioned by no shame or disgrace. My father, mother, and
twin brother died and were buried there. By my father's failure, shortly
before his death, the old family mansion passed out of his hands, and
was afterward torn down to make room for a railway depot. This
extinction of my family--for I am now left without a relation in the
world, excepting a half-sister--and this destruction of our old home,
have made my native village horrible to me. When I visited the scene of
desolation, ten years ago, the village seemed to me like a huge
graveyard, in every part of which some happiness of my boyhood was
entombed; and I vowed that I would never go near it again. In the matter
of family recollections, I am exquisitely sensitive."
"I respect your feelings, sir," said the inventor, "and regret that I
should be the means of reviving these painful recollections. But I have,
a duty to perform."
"And I will no longer delay you in its performance. Now be kind enough
to let me know the worst at once. I can stand it." Marcus unconsciously
sat up more erect, as if to brace himself against a shock.
"On my arrival in the village, my first act was to seek out some of the
oldest inhabitants. I found that most of them distinctly remembered you,
and your brother--Aurelius, I think, was his name. You will pardon me
for telling you the exact result of my inquiries, but I found that these
old inhabitants, without a single exception, gave you a very bad name,
and your brother a very good one."
Marcus was about to explain, that his brother and himself were images of
each other; that the former was crafty, and full of mischief, and that
he (Marcus) had been made, on fifty occasions, the innocent scapegoat of
his brother's little offences. But he forbore. He had cheerfully
received reprimands, and even chastisements, for his brother while
living; and he would not blacken his memory when dead. He merely smiled
a sad smile, and said, "Ah?"
"Many of the offences charged against you by these old gossips, were
petty and excusable. But there were others, committed by you when you
were at or near manhood, exhibiting, if true--understand, I say, _if_
true--a moral depravity for which no extenuation can be found. Some of
the charges were not sustained by adequate proofs, and those I set down
as idle rumors. But there was one of which the proof was abundant and
most positive. No less than five persons gave me circumstantial
accounts--all agreeing with each other--of your betrayal and ruin of
"Lucy Anserhoff!" echoed Marcus, in real amazement. "I have a faint
remembrance of an old lady by that name, and a pretty girl who was her
daughter. But as God is my judge, I never wronged her." Still there was
that expression of guilt, which did not escape the scrutinizing glance
of the inventor.
Marcus could have hunted up evidence to transfer the burden of the
imputed wrong to the memory of the dead Aurelius. But should he commit
this profanation of the grave--as he regarded it? The voice of brotherly
love--for he had tenderly loved his erring brother--said, "No." Would
any amount of proof satisfy the nervous, doubting man before him? He
feared not. Therefore Marcus Wilkeson did an act of awful solemnity, to
prove his innocence. And, because the doing of it thrilled his sensitive
soul, as if he had thrust himself into the terrible presence of the
Infinite, he weakly supposed that the most suspicious of men would
unhesitatingly believe him.
He stood up, turned his eyes to the ceiling, raised both hands, and
said, in a deep, trembling voice:
"May God strike me dead, if I am guilty of this offence, or any like it,
or of any thought of wrong toward your daughter."
Marc as sat down, pale, and caught his breath quickly. He was
awestricken by his own act.
"That is a solemn adjuration," said the inventor, after a short pause,
"and should not be lightly taken."
Marcus looked well at Mr. Minford. Unbelief was written in every hard
line and wrinkle of that white, deathlike face. "Do you doubt me now?"
he asked, sharply. His sensitiveness on the subject of personal honor
and veracity was painfully acute. He had never told a lie in his life.
"Oh! no," replied Mr. Minford; "I do not say that I doubt you" (in a
tone expressive of the greatest doubt). "I shall be truly glad to
receive counter proofs from you."
"You have heard my solemn appeal to God, sir. Between gentlemen of honor
that should be sufficient."
The inventor's thin lips (from which the last drops of blood had
disappeared within the last half hour) curved in a satirical smile.
Marcus interpreted it as a reiterated doubt and a sneer upon his honor.
For the moment he lost control of his temper, and was about to make a
remark that he would have regretted immediately after, when the door
yielded to a gentle pressure, and Pet entered the room.
Her face was pale. Her eyes were dull, and the lids hung droopingly,
weighed down by twenty-four hours of wakefulness by the bedside of her
sick teacher. The faint blue crescents beneath--those strange shadows
of the grave, which sometimes seem the deepest when the eyes above are
giving the brightest light--imparted a frail, delicate beauty to her
countenance. They were the last master-touches of Nature in working out
that portraiture of weaned and sleepy loveliness.
As she put her foot in the room, Mr. Minford and his guest telegraphed a
truce with their eyes, and assumed a cheerful look.
Little Pet timidly ran to her father, and kissed him, and then shook
hands with Marcus. He observed a shrinking in her touch. She averted
"Your clothes are damp, and your feet wet, my darling," said the father,
"Are they?" answered Pet, looking down at her saturated garments and
glistening shoes. "I had not noticed them. Oh! I am so happy that she is
well now. The doctor called at the house just before I left, and said
she was out of all danger. He ordered me home."
"Very sensible of the doctor. Another hour of this watching might have
killed my poor child."
"So I took a last look at my dear teacher--who was asleep--and kissed
her, and came right away through the rain."
"It was foolish to do that without an umbrella and overshoes, my child.
But, as you were always forgetful of yourself, your father will not be
forgetful of you, at any rate." The inventor glanced significantly at
Marcus. That glance, so full of distrust, entered his soul. He longed to
say something--if only a word of common civility--to the young girl;
but he felt that there was now an impassable barrier between them.
"But what is the matter, Pet?" exclaimed the father. She had dropped
into a chair, and her head fell on one side. He sprang to catch her. So
did Marcus. But the inventor reached her first, and seized her in his
arms, directing another of his speaking looks at Marcus.
Pet roused herself at the touch of her father's hands, sat erect, and
opened her large blue eyes. "I am so sleepy," she said.
"Of course you are, my blessed; and to bed you must go at once. That is
my prescription. But, first--always first--a cup of tea."
The inventor darted to the stove, snatched up the teapot, poured out a
cup of the universal restorer, scalding his forefinger in the hurry,
milked and sugared it just right, and bore it to his daughter, who was
nodding again. She drank it dutifully, like medicine.
Children do not comprehend tea. We have to grow up to it. It is the
appointed balm of fatigued and sorrowing middle age.
In its function of medicine, the strong draught revived her, giving a
twist to her pretty features, and sending a lively shudder through her
slender frame. Pet rose from her seat quite briskly.
"Now to bed. To bed at once. No delay. And mind you put on all the
blankets, and your heavy shawl a-top of them."
Marcus blushed, twirled his hat, and made a motion toward the door.
"You need not go, Mr. Wilkeson," said the inventor. "I beg that you will
not. I wish to settle up that little unfinished business with you
Marcus saw that the inventor was in earnest. He coughed, and hesitated
what to say.
But, before he could say anything, Pet had kissed her father, and said
"Good-night," in a faint voice, to the guest, and already had her hand
on the knob of the door which led to her little sleeping room.
"Remember, darling--all the blankets, and your shawl. To-morrow morning
you will wake up bright and happy, and ready to enjoy a little surprise
that I shall have for you." He jerked his thumb toward the machine.
Pet understood him, and smiled sadly. "You need bed more than I,
father," said she.
"Nonsense, child!" replied the old man, with a hollow laugh. "It is not
for the patient to prescribe to the physician. There, good-night, now."
He kissed her again with more tenderness. "Remember," said he, "there is
a little surprise in store for you to-morrow."
Pet said, "Heaven bless you, father," murmured another "Good-night," and
disappeared within her sanctuary, closing the door after her.
"Now, Mr. Wilkeson," said the inventor, "we can finish our
His voice sounded like a voice from the tomb.
THE CLASHING ORBS.
The rain had ceased, and the moon was out. The dark, massy clouds that
floated between her and the earth were doing their ghostly,
phantasmagoric work. At one moment, clear, white light, like a shroud;
at another moment, darkness, like a pall. An owl, lighting on the spire
of Grace Church in his flight over the city, might have seen the white
edge of the shroud, or the black edge of the pall, advancing in
well-defined lines over the housetops, and the parks, and the two
rivers, swiftly succeeding each other.
It was as if the mighty invisible demons of the night were capriciously
trying the effects of cerements on the sleeping city. It was as if they
were perplexed between the soft beauty of the shroud and the sombre
majesty of the pall. A woman could not have tried on two shawls more
often and more indecisively, before making up her mind to buy.
Little Pet's sleeping room, like every room that faced the south, that
night, was full of strange, spectral effects. The scrolls and the roses
on the cheap yellow curtains that hung in the windows, were changed to
hideous faces of variable size and ugliness. Their grotesque shadows on
the floor mingled with other faces--horrible as antique masks--wrought
by the magic of the moon from the gigantic flowers that adorned the
narrow strip of carpet by the bedside. Her dresses, suspended from a row
of hooks in the corner--and showing, in gentle swells and curves, the
lithe, graceful form of the little wearer, like moulds,--would have
looked to any open eye, that dreadful night, like women hanging against
the wall. This startling idea would have been helped along by two or
three shadowy bonnets depending from pegs above them. The white
somethings carelessly tossed over a chair near the head of the bed, were
no longer the garments of youth, beauty, and innocence, but
graveclothes, cold, shining, shuddering, in that deathly light. The
touch of the moon, like the presence of a sexton, suggested mortality.
The narrow, single bed, with its four black posts, looked like the fatal
trestle, or bier. The slender body which lay upon it was still as death.
The head nestled motionless in a deep indentation of the pillow. A
slanting ray of the moon, coming between one of the window curtains and
the window, fell upon the face, and showed it white and waxen; the lips,
still red, parted to the gleaming teeth; and the eyes not quite covered
by the lids. One beautiful round arm curved above her head, and some of
her soft brown hair rested in the little open palm. The other stretched
down toward the centre of the bed, as if fearlessly to invite the touch
of those weird things with which imagination peoples the solemn
night--which the wakeful eye, in the still, small hours, sees moving in
the darker corners, or passing swiftly by the bedside, or hovering in
the air, wearing the semblance of one's dead friends, or filling large
portions of the room with some formless presence of unutterable
malignity and woe.
It was only sleep to which the moon thus gave the pale polish of death.
The gentle murmur of a childish breath broke the silence. The heavy
bedclothes slowly rose and fell with the mysterious pulsations of warm
life beneath. At intervals, a shudder shook the little figure of the
sleeper, her breath came louder and quicker, and her arms moved with
sudden starts. Pet was dreaming, under the joint influences of an excess
of blankets and a cup of strong tea.
She was alone in infinite space. Above, below, on all sides, was a
leaden atmosphere. Neither sun, nor moon, nor stars illumined it, but
only some dull, phosphorescent light, which seemed to be born of the
murky, stagnant air. It was such a strange, sickly, wavering gleam as
she had seen above decaying wood, fish, and other substances. All around
was absolute stillness. Not a swallow waved his wing nor an insect
hummed in that barren immensity. Nature was hushed by some deadly spell.
Yet the dread silence portended the near approach of HORRORS. She knew
what they were, for she had been in this frightful region often before,
and was familiar with its dread phenomena. They came. They were only two
little black specks--like motes in the sunbeams--scarcely visible to her
strained vision at first. She gazed upon them with the fascination of a
charmed bird on the two small jet eyes of a serpent; but with this
difference, that she knew the terrible peril that they brought. The
moment that these two motes became visible to her in that dimly lighted
mist, they commenced revolving around each other.
They revolved slowly, and increased in size as they rolled on. The
slowness of the motion and the swelling of the motes were elements of
horror. But she could not take her eyes from those two black objects
revolving like binary stars, until her breath should cease to come and
go, and her heart to beat. As the motes enlarged, their orbits widened.
And they grew and-grew, performing greater and more awful
circuits--still slowly, still noiselessly. The eternal, unbroken silence
was another element of horror. The doomed spectatress of this solemn,
maddening whirl would fain have shrieked, or even whispered, to break
the silence, but she could not. Either her powers of articulation had
disappeared in that region of universal dumbness, or the dead atmosphere
was waveless, and could vibrate to no sound. She knew, by harrowing
experience, the scene that was to come, and she prayed inwardly to God
to strengthen her for it.
The two black objects swelled and swelled in even proportions, until
they became as large as a full moon just seen above the horizon; then to
the size of two full moons, and a dozen, and a hundred, and a thousand.
Still black, still noiseless, still revolving slowly, like a tardy but
certain doom. Then a quarter of the leaden space was filled with their
gigantic bodies, and the lurid air was darker. Then a half of the
heavens was blotted out; She grew faint and sick, as she moved her head
to the right and left, and up and down, and watched the dizzy
revolutions of those vast orbs, between which she knew that she was to
be crushed at last, as by the nether and upper millstones. Her
inarticulate cries to God were unheard. It seemed as if there were no
God for that accursed part of the universe.
Majestically, slowly, silently ever, the orbs increased. Two strips of
the sky could be seen constantly changing positions, but always opposite
to each other. These were the gaps, fast narrowing, which were to be
filled up by the swelling worlds before her destruction was
accomplished. Her long familiarity with the movements of this stupendous
enginery of death enabled her to calculate to a nicety when the crash
would come. She lay like the bound victim under the guillotine, watching
fer the axe to descend.
The blackness of darkness above and beneath and around her ... a
suffocating compression of the stagnant air ... a thrilling
consciousness of the close approach of the two cruel orbs.... a
superlative stillness ... and then a mighty attrition, in which the
mortal part of the poor girl was about to be ground to atoms, when she
She threw back the heavy blankets that oppressed her chest, as if
_they_ were the crushing danger. She looked overhead, expecting to see a
whirling globe within a foot of her face. But she saw only the ceiling,
made visible by the pallid light of the room. Then she knew that she was
in her own little room, and that this frightful adventure was only the
old, old dream, that came to her two or three times a year, as far back
as she could remember--the same always, without addition or curtailment.
A VISION OF HORRORS.
Little Pet was not the least superstitious; because her father had
taught her from infancy to pay no heed to dreams or signs; and because
he had allowed no housemaid or fussy old woman to inoculate his young
daughter with her own senseless and cowardly fears. Pet smiled at the
momentary terror which the strange old dream had caused, closed her
eyes, and addressed herself again to sleep. But, first, she drew up the
weighty blankets over her little frame, as her father had told her to
do. She had already found out by experience, that a hot application of
blankets was the best remedy for a young cold.
A low murmur, as of conversation, came from the adjoining room. Then she
remembered that Mr. Wilkeson was there when she had come to bed. She
said to herself: "It cannot be late; for he never stops after ten
o'clock." Then she began to think of some matters which had recently
perplexed and distressed her greatly. But she was so sleepy, that the
thoughts came into her little head confusedly, and, several times,
merged into dreams, and then came out again. The low murmur of the talk
outside, like the distant hum of a waterfall or a mill, was sedative.
The act of listening to it--as she did for a few moments with natural
curiosity--was provocative of sleep.
* * * * *
The conversation suddenly grew louder. The hollow voice of the inventor,
and the deep bass of Marcus Wilkeson, could be heard alternating
quickly. These words reached little Pet:
THE INVENTOR. "We have had along conversation, Mr. Wilkeson, and I will
end it by saying that it is best for us to separate, now and forever."
MARCUS (_bitterly_). "As you please, sir; but it is hard that a man's
reputation should be at the mercy of any scoundrel who knows how to
write a libel, and has not courage enough to acknowledge it."
THE INVENTOR (_pettishly_). "I have told you a dozen times, that I
despise anonymous letter writers. They are ever liars and cowards."
MARCUS. "But you respected this one enough to adopt his suggestions."
THE INVENTOR. "So the magistrate uses hints that may be furnished him by
professional thieves, for the detection of crime. But he, none the less,
loathes those who would inform upon their comrades."
MARCUS. "You believe, therefore, only what you have seen or heard for
THE INVENTOR. "Nothing further, I assure you. In all matters of proof,
it is my nature to be suspicious."
MARCUS. "But none of these accusations against me have been proved."
THE INVENTOR. "Why protract this painful conversation? It is sufficient
for me to say that we must part.--(_Excitedly_.) Good heavens, sir! am I
not the guardian of my daughter, and warranted in accepting or rejecting
acquaintances for her? Must I make long explanations to everybody that I
don't see fit to admit into my house and my daughter's society? Is not
this a free country, sir?"
MARCUS _(with deep despair in his voice_). "Perfectly free, sir. I admit
your rights. And I hereby pledge myself not to intrude upon you or
her--at least, until you are convinced of the great injustice of your
conduct toward me, and invite me again to your house. But there is one
THE INVENTOR (_impatiently_). "One thing more! will this dialogue never
end? Well, sir. What the devil is it?" Then he added, as if aware of the
coarseness and gross impropriety of that expression. "Excuse me, sir,
but it is late, and my machine is waiting."
MARCUS (_slowly and firmly_). "One moment, sir. I have sworn my
innocence before God, with the most solemn oath known to man. I may have
misconstrued your remarks, but I thought you still doubted me. It is my
misfortune to be extremely sensitive upon the point of honor. Having
relinquished your acquaintance and that of--of--your daughter, it is now
my duty to ask whether you presume to question my oath?"
THE INVENTOR (_with increased impatience_). "Why should I be bored with
this cross-examination? I have never said I doubted your oath."
MARCUS (_quickly_). "That is not an answer. Do you believe me, or
disbelieve me? Am I a liar and perjurer, or not? In one word; yes,
THE INVENTOR (_laughing nervously_). "Will you bully me in my own house,
sir? There is the door. Out of it!"
There was a noise like the opening of a door.
MARCUS (_between his teeth_). "Never, sir. Never, until you retract your
imputation upon my honor."
THE INVENTOR (_losing all control of himself_). "Curse your honor. If
you had been more careful of it in your native village--where you are
best known--it would not trouble you now. Come, there are the stairs."
MARCUS. "Once more. Do you believe my oath, or not?"
THE INVENTOR (_shouting_). "No! no! a million times, no! since you drive
me to it. I believe you to be a crafty scoundrel, who has been trying to
ruin my daughter. Out, sir, now--out!"
Then was a sound of two men clenching, and struggling toward the door.
A noise followed like that caused by the sharp closing of the door; but
the two men were still in the room, for their scuffling and their short,
quick grunts of exertion could be heard with increased distinctness. The
noise indicated that one was pushing the other toward the centre of the
room. Then followed the dull, nauseating sound of blows, apparently
struck with fists upon heads and chests, mingled with noisier but still
partly suppressed groans, and defiances.
The conversation which preceded this struggle, had come to Pet's ears
with such distinctness, and made such a terrifying impression upon her
mind, that it seemed as if she could see the combatants.
At the time when the clenching commenced, the vision was faint, as if
she were looking into a dark room. But, as the struggle proceeded, the
room seemed to be gradually lighted up for her; and every grapple, every
blow, every facial contortion of this horrible contest, were plainly
visible. And yet she was not in the room, but lying in her little bed,
bound as in the awful dream of the clashing orbs. She knew she was
there, and yet she felt that her eyes, all her faculties of observation,
had been somehow transferred to her father's room, and that she was
actually seeing and hearing the commission of a murder there.
She tried to cry aloud, but her jaws were closed. She would have risen,
entered the room, and thrown herself between the frenzied men, but
neither hand nor foot could she move. Her body was fastened to the bed
as if with adamantine chains, while her mind and soul were the voiceless
spectators of a tragedy of which she knew that she was the cause. She
could not even open her eyes. If she could have loosed but a muscle from
the rigidity of the trance, she knew that her whole frame would be
relaxed in an instant. Then she would have bounded--oh! with what
speed--into the other room, where her immortal part was helplessly
watching the conflict, and interceded at the risk of her life. Alas!
Prometheus was tied to the rock not more firmly than she to that bed
The struggle went on. The inventor, though past the prime of life, and
worn down by excessive thought, had some strength left. Its duration was
brief; but it was not to be despised while it lasted. He grasped the
tall figure of Marcus Wilkeson by the neck with one arm, and with the
other struck dozens of blows upon his face and chest. The comparative
youth and freshness of Marcus were unable to free him from the strong
hold of this vigorous old man. Pangs of terror shot through the heart of
the poor girl as she saw that her father was about to become a murderer.
Then the tide of fortune changed. Marcus, bruised and black in the face,
and panting with exertion, released himself from the inventor's clutch,
and, in turn, caught him by the throat. With his long arm he held the
furious old man at a safe distance. The unhappy girl was now agonized
with fears for her father's life.
"This is madness. Let us stop it." Thus Pet heard Marcus Wilkeson say,
in panting accents.
What demoniac spell was it that prevented her from shrieking--"Stop it.
In God's name, father, stop?"
"Never!" said the undaunted old man. "Never, till I have thrown you
headlong down stairs! Liar! Villain!"
With that, Pet saw her father hurl himself, with the ferocity of a
tiger, on Marcus Wilkeson. Such was the suddenness and impetuosity of
the movement, that Marcus was pushed back several feet toward the door,
from the centre of the room, where the most obstinate part of the
struggle had taken place.
But the old man's supremacy was short lived. The younger and stronger
man suddenly stooped, caught the inventor with both hands under the
arms, and thrust him toward the corner occupied by the mysterious
machine. The inventor would have fallen on it, and perhaps have been
instantly killed by contact with some portion of the brass or iron work,
but for the interposition of the screen. This broke his fall. He
scrambled to his feet, full of rage, and foaming at the mouth.
Marcus stepped back, and said, "Now let it cease."
Pet saw her father snatch something that looked like a club, from some
part of the machine.
"This is my answer," he said, and precipitated himself with fresh fury
The younger man had expected the attack, and braced himself for it. He
caught the inventor by the arm that held the club, or other weapon. They
wrestled for its possession--the inventor with frenzy in every feature,
Marcus with fixed determination, and silently.
The weapon was now aloft--now below--now shifted in the twinkling of an
eye to the right, and now to the left. At one time the inventor seemed
to be on the point of securing it; at another, Marcus. Suddenly Pet saw
it whirl like a shillelah above her father's head, with a strange noise
like the quick winding of a clock. Then she heard a dull sound, as of
striking a board with a brick, and--she saw her father fall to the
floor. At the same moment, the light in the room went out, and all
The pent-up agony at last found utterance. She shrieked, and, instantly,
her eyes were open, and her limbs free. She jumped out of bed, and was
about to rush into the chamber of horrors, when she saw the bright light
of the gas yet shining through the crack beneath her door. She listened.
The house was still as the grave. Not a sound from all the world
outside, except the striking of a fire alarm for the seventh district.
The deep notes vibrated upon her quickened hearing like a knell.
Then she remembered that, in the vision, the light had disappeared. Here
it was gleaming under her door as brightly as ever. "Pshaw! what a silly
girl I am!" said she. "It was a nightmare. That's all." She raised her
hands to her face. It was hot and dripping.
"Father prescribed too large a dose of blankets. No wonder I had this
But, notwithstanding the presence of the light, and the absence of all
noise, such as would be caused by the murderer in leaving the room and
going down stairs, the impression of this tragic vision upon her mind
was not to be dismissed with a "Pshaw!"
Pet would have derived much relief from opening the door and looking in,
and seeing, with her own waking eyes, that her father was alive, at his
usual seat in the corner. She placed her hand upon the latch.
But then she remembered how her father had laughed at her, two or three
times before, when she was a younger girl, and not so wise as now, and
had rushed into his room screaming with fright from a nightmare. She
prided herself on having outgrown childish fears.
She also remembered that her father had told her, two days before, that
he was engaged in the most difficult mathematical calculations, day and
night, and, kissing her, had playfully said that she must not
"He is thinking over his problems now," thought little Pet. "Dear
father! I _do_ wish he would give up that hateful machine. It will be
the death of him. But he said I must not disturb him, and I will not.
Mr. Wilkeson must have gone home a long time ago; and dear father is
thinking, as he calls it, with his hand on his forehead, in the old
corner. Let me take one little peep through the keyhole, and go to
Pet stooped, and looked through the keyhole. Within her range were the
chair where Marcus Wilkeson had sat that evening, and the nail
where--with bachelor-like precision--he always hung his hat. Neither
Marcus Wilkeson nor his hat were in their accustomed, places. "What
silly things these dreams are!" thought little Pet. The keyhole did not
command the corner of the room where the machine stood, and where the
inventor pondered and toiled; but Pet felt as certain that he was there,
coaxing thoughts out of his pale brow with that habitual caress of the
hand, as if she had seen him.
"Good night, dear father," she whispered, softly. "May Heaven watch over
your labors, and keep you from all harm."
With this pious prayer, she slid into her warm nest. But, before
adjusting her limbs for sleep, she threw off a portion of the heavy
blankets which had weighed upon her, and was soon sound asleep, and
dreaming of a garden in which all the roses were beautiful new bonnets.
Still the moon played her ghastly metamorphoses in the little chamber.
And the figures on the carpet and the figures on the curtain writhed in
horrible contortions of glee, as if they rejoiced over a calamity which
had befallen that house.
WHAT THE MORNING BROUGHT.
The child woke about seven o'clock. She knew the time by the sun's rays
upon the window curtains. In that strong, cheerful light, the phantom
faces had shrunk back to great red bunches of flowers again. She thought
of the absurd dream, or vision, as of something that had happened ages
ago, and wondered that she had been foolish enough to be frightened
There was no noise in her father's room. But that was not strange, for
he rarely retired to bed before three o'clock in the morning (even when
he did not sit up all night), and slept till eight. His sleep, though
short, was sound; and it was Pet's custom to prepare breakfast in her
father's room without waking him.
She washed her face, which looked rosy and bewitching in the little
cracked mirror, and dressed her hair in two simple bands down the
cheeks, and put on a white calico dress with small red spots, and a
white apron bound with blue. This was the dress that her father loved
the best. She looked in the glass, and examined her damaged reflection
with a charming coquetry, and said, "Pet, child, you are looking well
to-day. Now for breakfast."
Pet walked to the door, humming her last music lesson in a low voice.
She placed her hand upon the latch, and opened the door softly. As it
swung on its hinges, and she began to obtain a glimpse of the room, she
noticed the gas still burning, though the daylight filled the apartment.
This was strange. A shudder passed through her frame, and her cheeks
began to pale.
"Pooh! what nonsense!" she said. She pushed the door wide open.
Was it another mocking, maddening vision that she saw? She rubbed her
eyes in wild affright, and then raised her hands aloft with a
There, before her, lay the dead body of her father. In the centre of his
ghastly forehead was a small wound, from which the blood had trickled
over the temples, bedabbling his thin gray hairs, and forming a small
red pool by his side. Near him, on the floor, was a club with an iron
tip, which had done the dreadful deed. She recognized it at once as a
part of the machine.
The monstrous vision of the night was true! Her father was dead! Mr.
Wilkeson was his murderer! She was an orphan!
These agonizing thoughts flashed through her brain in the single
instant. She felt her head turning, and her limbs failing under her. She
had only strength to shriek, "Murder! murder! Help! help!" and then she
fell headlong and senseless upon her father's dead body.
JOURNEYINGS AGAINST FATE.
PEA-SHOOTING AS A SCIENCE.
Be it said to the credit of Wesley Tiffles, that he always paid bills
promptly when he could borrow money to do it. The funds that he had
raised from Marcus Wilkeson, and others, for the panorama, had been
faithfully applied to that great object. If he could have borrowed money
from other people to repay those loans, that act of financial justice
would also have been done; and so on without end, like a round robin.
When Tiffles bestowed the last instalment of compensation upon Patching,
that individual shrugged his shoulders, and smiled. "The paltry price of
artistic degradation," said he. "Remember, I would have done this job
only for a friend. The world must not know it is a Patching--though I
fear that even on this hasty daub I have left marks of my style which
will betray me."
"You are safe, my dear fellow," said Tiffles. "I have already ordered
the posters and bills; and the name of Andrea Ceccarini will appear
thereon as the artist. Ceccarini has an Italian look, which is an
advantage; and, you will pardon me for saying, is rather more imposing
The artist was sensitive touching his name. It had been punned upon in
some of the comic papers. He could not take offence at the innocent
remark of a friend, but he felt hurt, and vindictively rammed the large
roll of one-dollar bills into his vest pocket without counting them.
(Whenever it was practicable, Tiffles paid his debts in bills of that
denomination. He had a theory that the amount looked larger, and was
more satisfactory to the receiver.)
As Tiffles saw how lightly the artist regarded the money, not even
counting it, he felt a momentary pang at the thought that he had
The panorama of Africa had not only been finished and paid for, but it
had been exhibited to a large number of clergymen of all denominations,
at the lecture room of an up-town church. The clergymen, being debarred
from attending secular amusements, as a class, had gladly accepted the
invitation of "Professor Wesley" (Tiffles's panoramic name), and brought
with them their wives and a number of children apiece.
The panorama was rigged up at the end of the lecture room, in front of
the desk, under the personal supervision of a former assistant of
Banvard's, and worked beautifully, saving an occasional squeak in
Tiffles, in his character of Professor Wesley, told his story glibly and
with perfect coolness, interspersing the heavier details with amusing
anecdotes, which made the ministers smile, and brought out a loud titter
of laughter from the ministers' wives, and tremendous applause,
inclusive of stamping and the banging of hymn books, from the
One of the children, with the love of mischief peculiar to that division
of the human family, had provided himself with peas, and, taking
advantage of the partial darkness in which the panorama was exhibited,
shot those missiles with practised aim at Professor Wesley, and now and
then hit him in the face. The lecturer kept in good humor; and when,
after a smart volley of peas, Rev. Dr. A---- arose, and suggested that
these disturbances were disgraceful, and, although he did not wish to
meddle with the household government of his brethren, he thought that
the children who were guilty of such outrages ought to be taken home,
soundly whipped, and put to bed--when Rev. Dr. A----, moved by just
indignation, did this, the lecturer smiled, and blandly said: Oh, no; he
wasn't annoyed in the least (at the same time receiving a pea on his
left cheek). He would trust to the generosity of his young friends not
to fire their peas too hard; and he hoped that the reverend gentleman
would withdraw his suggestion.
Cries of "All right, brother!" "We'll keep the boys quiet!" "Go on! go
on!" went up from all parts of the room. Rev. Dr. A----, yielding to the
pressure, sat down, and received, at that moment, one pea on the right
eye of his gold spectacles, and another square on the end of his nose.
The two peas were fired by his second son John, who had been delivering
this invisible artillery all the evening from the other end of the
identical pew in which the Rev. Dr. was seated. He groaned in the
spirit, and muttered something to Mrs. Rev. Dr. A---- about the
degeneracy of other people's children, which made that lady chuckle low,
under cover of the night; for she knew that her second son John was the
pea-shooter, and had made vain efforts to stop him, by pinching his leg,
though the good matron could not help laughing at every fine shot
achieved by her promising boy.
Professor Wesley "went on," as requested, and so did the pea-shooting,
until John's stock of ammunition gave out.
The lecturer had ransacked the Society, Astor, and Mercantile libraries,
and stuffed himself with facts touching the interior of Africa, so far
as that mystery had been explored. Fortified with these facts, and a
lively imagination, he found no difficulty in satisfying the curiosity
of his auditors on every point; and answered questions of all sorts,
which were fired at him even thicker than the peas, without the least
When the exhibition was over, every clergyman present signed a
certificate declaring that they had been highly entertained and
instructed by the Panorama of Africa, and Mr. Wesley's able lecture;
that they considered the painting a masterpiece of moral Art, and
cordially recommended it to the patronage of an enlightened public.
Tiffles had selected, as his first field of active operations, the State
of New Jersey. His large number of relatives (the Tiffleses were
prolific on the female side) and friends, and occasional creditors,
scattered through New England and New York, effectually barred him from
all that territory. New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, then the West--those
were the great topographical features of his campaign.
For his initiatory performance, he had chosen a quiet little town less
than thirty miles from the city, on a line of railway. If his panorama
was to be a hopeless failure at the very outset, Tiffles wanted to be
within striking distance of New York. He was sanguine of success; but,
like a prudent general, he looked after his lines of retreat.
To this small town in New Jersey, with which the fate of the great
enterprise was to be indissolubly linked, Tiffles had sent a large stock
of posters and handbills. He had previously corresponded (free of
expense both ways) with that universal business man of every American
village, the postmaster, and, through him, had engaged Washington
Hall--the largest hall in the place, capable of holding six hundred
people--at five dollars for one night, with the refusal of two
The name of the hall and the night of exhibition were written in blank
spaces on the posters and handbills with red chalk, in a fine commercial
hand, by Tiffles himself; and, for a small consideration, the postmaster
had agreed to stick up the posters on every corner; also on the post
office and the three town pumps; and to distribute the handbills in
every house. These labors the P.M. did not undertake to perform
personally--though he had plenty of leisure for them, as well as for the
local defence of the National Administration, which was his peculiar and
official function--but he turned them over to a semi-idiot, who
occasionally did jobs of that kind, and who was willing to trust for his
pay to the coming of Professor Wesley.
The last letter from the postmaster ran thus:
Yure's of the 6th reseved, and contense, including for my
pussenel expenses, dooly noted, Washinton Hall has been moped
out for you and is clene as a pin, six new tin cannel sticks
have been put up in the antyrum by the propryetor, this is
lyberul, all the hanbils has been distributid, and the
posters stuck up, sum of em wrong side down, owin to the
bilposter bein a little week-minded, which will be a kind of
curosity, and an advantije to you I think. I have sent
tickets to the village pastures and their famylis, as yu
requested and they red the notises last Sunday and advised
everybuddy to go. I have gut public opinion all rite for yu
here, now cum on with yer panyrammer of Afriky.
B. PERSIMMON, p.m.
This was cheering; and Tiffles only hoped that he would be able to
secure so faithful an ally in every postmaster, for he had decided to do
this preliminary work through that variety of public functionary, until
the success of the panorama would justify hiring a special courier to go
in advance and smooth the way for him,
All these preparations having been satisfactorily made; and the
panorama, with the curtains, the lighting apparatus, and the other
properties, having been forwarded in three enormous boxes to the scene
of the impending conflict with public opinion, Tiffles made ready to
follow. And, on the eventful morning of the----- of April, 185-, he
might have been seen at the Cortlandt-street ferry, accompanied by
Patching, who had graciously consented to see how the "thing worked" on
its first public trial.
Patching pulled his enormous hat still farther over his eyes, so that he
might not be recognized. This gave him an extremely questionable aspect;
and the ticket taker at the ferry peered under the huge brim
suspiciously as Patching came in. He also attracted the attention of a
detective in citizen's clothes, and was a general object of interest to
all the people congregated in the ferry house and waiting for the boat.
"This is fame," muttered Patching, glancing at his scrutinizers from the
shadow of the far-reaching hat. "This is what people starve and die for.
It is a bore." He struck an attitude, as if unconsciously, folding his
arms, and appearing to be in a profound revery. Then, after another
cautious glance about, he turned to Tiffles, by his side, and said:
"It is useless. I am recognized. But remember your solemn promise. I had
no hand in the painting of it."
"Not a little finger, my dear fellow," cheerfully replied Tiffles, who
had given the artist similar assurances of secrecy five times
At that moment a hand touched Tiffles familiarly on the shoulder. He
turned suddenly, for he was always expecting rear attacks from
creditors. He saw Marcus Wilkeson.
"Best of friends," said Tiffles, with unfeigned joy, "I am glad to see
you. Of course you are going with us, though I hardly dared hope as much
when I sent you the invitation."
"To tell the truth, Tiffles, I had no intention of going, till this
morning, when it suddenly occurred to me that a little trip in the
country, and the fun of seeing your panorama and hearing you lecture,
would drive away the blues. I had a bad fit of them last night."
Here Patching turned, and looked Marcus in the face, without seeming to
recognize him. It was his habit (not a singular one among the human
species) to pretend not to remember people, and to wait for the first
word. Marcus indulged in the same habit to some extent, and, when he saw
Patching looking at him without a nod or a word, he also was blank and
"Don't you remember each other?" said Tiffles. "Mr. Patching. Mr. Marcus
The gentlemen shook hands, and said:
"Oh, yes! How do you do? It is a fine morning. Very."
"So much paler than when I last saw you, that I didn't know you,
positively. Little ill, sir?" asked Patching. The artist was sure to
observe and speak of any signs of illness on the faces of his friends
and acquaintances. Some people called him malevolent for it.
To be told that one looks pale, always makes one turn paler. Marcus,
extra sensitive on the point of looks, became quite pallid, and said,
"I have not been well for several days, and my rest was badly broken
Tiffles had also remarked the unusual deadly whiteness of his friend's
complexion, and the air of lassitude and unhappiness which pervaded his
face, but he would not have alluded to them for the world. He never made
impertinent observations of that sort.
"Unwell?" said Tiffles. "I had not noticed it. In the morning, all New
York looks as if it had just come out of a debauch. Wilkeson will pass,
I guess." This calumny upon the city was Tiffles's favorite bit of