Part 7 out of 9
the murderer; but the jury doesn't indorse my 'pinion, and I gives in."
Mrs. Crull, who had been watching Marcus narrowly, and was firmly
impressed with the conviction of his innocence, came forward with a warm
hand, and tried to think of a proverb suitable to the occasion, but
could not. Patty Minford removed the veil from her face, and looked at
her benefactor. She made a motion as if to rise and go toward him. Then
an expression of doubt stole over her features; and Marcus, who observed
her at that moment, knew that the vision of the night was still before
her, and that she could not hold him guiltless though a dozen juries had
released him. This thought touched Marcus with sadness, which all the
congratulations of his friends could not disperse.
A faint cry was heard. Old Mr. Van Quintem had fallen from his chair,
and would have dropped upon the floor, but for the strong arm of the boy
Bog. He was in the act of rising from his seat for the purpose of
offering his hand to Marcus, when the vertigo, from which he was an
occasional sufferer, seized him.
"Poor old gentleman!" said Marcus, forgetful of all else, and rushing to
the side of his venerable friend. Directing that the windows be opened,
Marcus, aided by the boy Bog, bore the senseless form to the fresh, cool
air. The grateful breeze, and a cup of cold water applied to his brow,
soon restored the wretched father to a beginning of consciousness.
As he lay there, more dead than alive, in the arms of his two friends,
the ingrate son, having lighted a cigar, looked coldly over the
shoulders of the bystanders at the senseless figure of his father, and
said, in the sweetest voice:
"Poor old fellow! He has only himself to blame for kicking up all this
row. I told him it would be too much for his nerves; but he would insist
on dragging me up here. I forgive him from the bottom of my heart."
The bystanders looked on in amazement at this speech.
The son continued: "I'm glad to see that he is in good hands. Upon my
word, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to help a little; but
I fear that, when the old man came out of it, and saw me over him, he
would go off again. So I guess I had better leave."
And young Van Quintem sauntered cheerfully out of the room, in company
with his four friends from Brown's. The coroner had been waiting at the
foot of the stairs for them; and the party adjourned to the nearest
drinking saloon, when the coroner, overjoyed at having got rid of a
tedious and embarrassing case, stood treat for one round.
But who killed the inventor?
The papers and the police, after groping for weeks in search of the
answer, turned it over to the solution of Time, with the comforting
assurance that MURDER WILL OUT.
DONE ON BOTH SIDES.
A FISHER OF MEN.
Mr. Augustus Whedell was a gentleman who had been living handsomely for
three years on his wits.
There was nothing remarkable in Mr. Whedell's personal appearance, with
the exception of his wig. It was his fond belief that this wig looked
like natural hair; but everybody knew it was a wig across the street. He
also wore a gold double eyeglass, which he handled as effectively as a
senorita her fan. Most of his loans, credits, and extensions, had been
obtained by the dexterous manipulation of that eyeglass.
Mr. Whedell twirled the dangerous instrument, and opened and shut it
with more than his usual grace, one evening toward the middle of April.
He was about to broach a disagreeable subject to his daughter, who,
blooming, and exquisitely dressed, sat by the fire and yawned.
"My dear Clementina, you are now twenty years old, and ought to be
married. Delays are dangerous. What do you think of Chiffield?"
Mr. Whedell spoke bluntly, and to the point, because he was addressing
his own daughter, and also because short speeches suited his
"He's a horrid dancer!" said that young lady.
"Granted. But when he does dance, he jingles money in his pocket."
"He's a perfect fright, pa. You won't deny that?"
"I won't deny that he is a plain, substantial gentleman. He has immense
feet, and he is a little bald. What of that?"
"Oh! nothing," replied Clementina, in a tone that signified
Her father caught the irony of the remark, and said:
"My dear child, I know the natural leaning of your sex to handsome men.
You are like your mother there. But remember, they never have any
money--as a general rule. I won't undertake to explain the curious fact.
But fact it is, you will admit that."
"Very likely. But I hate this old Chiffield."
Mr. Whedell smiled, twirled his double eyeglass a few dozen times round
his forefinger, and said:
"My darling daughter, listen, and you will appreciate the advantages of
Clementina frowned, and bit her finger nails.
"My child," continued the fond parent, "I have always concealed my
troubles from you. They can no longer be kept a secret. This house is
not mine. Most of this furniture is unpaid for. The last month's bills
at the butcher's, baker's, and grocer's are still due. I have exhausted
my credit, and don't know where to raise a dollar. That is my
'situation,' as the newspapers say."
Clementina turned pale with amazement, and could not say a word.
"You are willing to hear me? I will explain further. Three years ago, my
old friend Mr. Abernuckle failed. He owned this house, and, wishing to
save it from his creditors, he had previously made a sham sale of it to
me. I have occupied it free of rent. On the strength of this house, I
got credit for furniture, for clothes, for our bread and meat. On the
strength of this house, I have borrowed money enough to keep my
principal creditors at bay. On the strength of this house, we occupy
to-day a very fair position in society. On the strength of this house, I
propose to marry you."
His daughter still looked on with open mouth, like one stupefied.
"But, to do this, no time must be lost. My friend Abernuckle has at last
settled with his creditors at fifteen per cent., and wants possession of
the house on the 1st of May. On that day this will be our home
There was a fearless pull at the door bell. "It is a creditor," said Mr.
Whedell. "I will face him."
Mr. Whedell went to the door, and returned in a few moments. "It was the
butcher," said he. "He had called twice to-day, and, not finding me in,
takes this unusual hour to ask for a settlement. The old excuses would
not do. What do you suppose I told him this time?"
"I can't imagine. Something dreadful, I suppose," was the shuddering
"The man had to be got rid of. We must have meat. I was at my wits' end.
So I took the liberty of telling him, confidentially, that my daughter
would marry a wealthy merchant in a few days, and asked him, as a favor,
to let the bill run on to the 1st of May. On that day he should
positively be paid. The man grumbled at first, but finally said he would
give me one more trial, and then went away. Neatly arranged, wasn't
it, my dear?"
Mr. Whedell would have been delighted with one word of approval (even a
qualified one) from his daughter, but she would not, or could not
"You listen attentively, my darling. I am glad to see it. This plan
worked so well with the butcher, that I shall try it on with the
upholsterer, the baker, the grocer, the tailor, and the rest of my long
list of creditors. I shall stake all on the 1st of May. To save us from
a grand explosion, and to obtain a roof for your head and mine on the
1st of May, you must marry immediately."
Miss Clementina Whedell, like many other people, had an unsuspected
strength of character which only a great occasion could call out. "It is
perfectly atrocious," said she, at length, "and I am making a grave
sacrifice of my happiness; but I suppose I must do it. Are you sure this
Chiffield is rich?"
"Now, you are my own dear daughter!" said Mr. Whedell, tossing his
double eyeglass up and catching it, as was his custom when exulting.
"Your question is a prudent one, and worthy of you. I am happy to inform
you that Chiffield is worth one hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
Clementina smiled faintly, though she tried to look like a martyr.
"I learn this from the tax rolls. When Chiffield first began to call
here, and showed a profound interest in my conversation, I knew that he
was after you, and I thought it best to look into his resources. The tax
rolls, which are the best possible evidence, show that he has ten lots
in Harlem, with a cottage tenement on each of them, and several acres
now rented to German gardeners in the Twelfth Ward. These are rated in a
lump at seventy-five thousand dollars, which is a low estimate. So much
for the real estate. Now the personal property of Upjack, Chiffield &
Co. is valued on the same tax rolls (which always understate it) at
three hundred thousand dollars. Suppose Chiffield to own a one-fourth
interest only, and there you have the item of seventy-five thousand
dollars more. Grand total, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. A
nearer figure would probably be two hundred thousand dollars; but I will
not build castles in the air for you. Chiffield is only forty--which is,
in fact, young. He is healthy and energetic. The firm are making money.
He will yet be a millionnaire. Confess, now, that I have chosen
wisely for you."
Here another decisive pull at the door bell. Mr. Whedell answered it in
person. Returning, he merely said, giving his double eyeglass a fillip,
"The furniture man. Have fixed him for the 1st of May. So far, the plan
"But are you sure, pa," asked the discreet Clementina, "that Mr.
Chiffield will offer himself?"
"Positive; because he has always been so very attentive to me. When men
flatter, and study the hobbies of the father, they are after the
daughter in earnest. Mr. Chiffield's very figure--the cut of his jib, so
to speak--is that of a marrying man. Only you must give him some little
encouragement. Not keep him at a distance, as you have hitherto done."
"But he may not be anxious to marry before the 1st of May. Then what?"
"Poor thing! how little you understand mankind! He will marry you at
twenty-four hours' notice, if you will let him. All men are alike
impatient and unreasonable in such matters. It is the women who hold
back--after they are safely engaged."
"La, pa! how knowingly you talk!"
"I flatter myself I know something of the human species," returned Mr.
Whedell. "Ah! another ring. Too faint for a creditor. Mr.
PLAYING WITH THE LINE.
The conjecture was correct. But with Mr. Chiffield came Matthew Maltboy.
They had arrived on the door steps at the same moment, coming from
Mr. Whedell received Chiffield with his heartiest grip, and inflicted
only a mild squeeze on the hand of Maltboy, whose appearance at that
time he considered decidedly unfortunate. The father thought he had
observed in Clementina signs of preference for that corpulent young
lawyer. He was pained to see that Clementina barely extended the tips of
her fingers to Chiffield, while to Maltboy she gave her whole palm with
great cordiality. Not only this, but she encouraged Maltboy to take a
seat by her, and commenced talking with him of the opera, of balls, of
new music, of fashions, of the last novel, rattling away on these
subjects as if her whole soul were wrapped up in the discussion. It was
almost a monologue. Maltboy's part consisted of "Yes;" "I think so too;"
"We agree perfectly," and adjectives of admiration occasionally thrown
in. That musical voice! He could have listened with rapture to its
recital of the multiplication table.
Mr. Chiffield and Mr. Whedell had settled themselves on a _tete-a-tete_,
and, after some cursory observations on the weather, commenced talking
of finance--a theme of which neither of those gentlemen ever tired.
"So money is getting tighter?" said Mr. Whedell, after a pause to digest
the awful truth which Mr. Chiffield had imparted to him. "Now I
shouldn't be surprised, sir, to hear of failures before long, and in
quarters where the public least expect them."
If Mr. Whedell's double eyeglass had been astride his nose instead of
swinging in his fingers, he might have noticed a faint paleness blending
with the deep yellow of Mr. Chiffield's complexion. That gentleman
replied, a little more quickly than was his wont:
"A few small, weak houses may go down, perhaps, but the strong ones will
weather the storm easy enough. If our establishment could live through
1847, it is in no danger now."
"And such was the good fortune of Upjack, Chiffield & Co., I well
remember," said Mr. Whedell.
Mr. Chiffield bowed his gracious acknowledgment of the handsome
"How is Erie, Mr. Chiffield?"
"Sure of it?"
"A leading Wall-street man told me, this afternoon, it would advance
three per cent. this week. I have a slight interest in watching it,"
said Mr. Chiffield, smiling.
"So have I," said Mr. Whedell, smiling also.
Daring their conversation, and the remainder of their financial
dialogue, Mr. Whedell kept one ear, and occasionally one eye, inclined
toward his daughter and the favored Maltboy. If there was a hint
conveyed in those side glances at his daughter, she either did not
notice it, or did not choose to take it. Sometimes Mr. Chiffield looked
in the same direction, but casually, as it were, and without one sign of
impatience visible in the depths of his calm brown eyes. Mr. Chiffield
was not a nervous man.
Matthew Maltboy was so perfectly free from selfishness at this moment,
that he would cheerfully have spared a few words from Miss Whedell's
delightful monologue for the gratification of his late rival ("late" was
now decidedly the word, in Maltboy's opinion) over the way. In the
exercise of his large charity and compassion, he pitied that
unfortunate, sadly disappointed dealer in dry goods.
This pity, as Matthew used to say in after days, was thrown away. At the
end of a brilliant description of a new set of quadrilles which Miss
Whedell had danced at a sociable the night before, that young lady said,
"Excuse me," and crossed the room to a what-not in the corner, and
searched for something among a pile of magazines and pictures. The
thought that she was making efforts to please him, tickled Matthew's
vanity. While she was overhauling the pile, Mr. Whedell left his seat by
Chiffield, and took the one just vacated by his daughter. Matthew
received him with the diplomatic courtesy due to the parent of one's
enchantress, and made a well-meant if not novel remark on the state of
the weather. Mr. Whedell mildly disputed his proposition (whatever it
was)--for Mr. W. was always disputatious on that subject--and then
passed to the consideration of national politics. "The one topic
natually suggests the other," said Mr. Whedell, "for they are equally
variable." This was one of the father's few standard jokes; and Maltboy
always laughed at it with the heartiness of a future son-in-law. They
then grappled with the great theme in earnest.
Clementina, having found what she sought, glided to the chair which her
father had relinquished, and said, coquettishly, "Now I have come to
entertain _you_, Mr. Chiffield. You were speaking of Niagara Falls, the
other day. Here are some photographs of them, taken for me on the spot."
She handed the pictures to Mr. Chiffield. That gentleman took them with
a profound bow, glanced over them, and said, "How elegant!" "What rich
scenery!" "How tasty they are got up, a'n't they?" "This is the showiest
picture;" "Here's a neat one," &c., &c., &c. Mr. Chiffield had
contracted the use of a certain class of highly descriptive adjectives
in selling dry goods. Clementina watched him narrowly, and thought how
nicely she could manage this heavy fellow.
"How many times have you been to the Falls?" she asked, when Chiffield
had shuffled through the photographs twice.
"Three times," said Chiffield, telling a white lie; for he had seen them
at morning, noon, and evening on the same day. "And how often have you
visited them, Miss Whedell?"
"Oh! so often I can't remember. My last visit was early last autumn. Oh!
pa, did we go to Niagara Falls before or after our trip to the White
"After it, my child," replied the father, who maintained a cocked ear
toward his child. "Don't you recollect we went from the Falls to Lake
George, and stayed there till the first week in November? That was the
year we omitted Newport and Saratoga, for a wonder," he added, conveying
the idea, in a look to Mr. Chiffield, that such an omission was a marvel
in their annual experiences.
"You love the Falls, I suppose?" said Mr. Chiffield.
"Oh! not much. I think they're dreadfully overrated." Clementina was
determined not to be won too cheaply.
"So I think," said Chiffield, delighted to speak his real sentiments
this time; "though everybody is obliged to praise 'em, because that's
"But, though the Falls a'n't much, I must say the balls and hops are
delightful. The fresh air there seems to give one strength to dance all
night without a bit of fatigue. I bought these pictures because they
show the hotels and other places where I have had such delicious
Chiffield execrated dancing, because he had large feet, and legs
slightly bowed. He moved in the cotillon or waltz with a certain
elephantine ponderousness and sagacity. Therefore she tantalized him
with these reminiscences.
"You see the Clifton House, there, on the Canada side? One night I
danced eight waltzes, six polkas, four quadrilles, three fancy dances,
and wound up, at five o'clock, with the German."
"Wonderful!" observed Chiffield, not knowing what else to say.
"Perhaps you think I was tired? Oh! not a particle. Next night we had a
little hop on Table Rock. It was got up on short notice, but perfectly
charming, I assure you. There were only two fiddles, and sometimes the
noise of the Falls would almost drown the music. The fiddlers had to
scrape so hard, that they gave out about three o'clock, and we had to
give up the dancing, and go home, very much disappointed."
"Unlucky, indeed!" interjected Chiffield.
"But the next night we had two extra fiddlers. They relieved the other
two at midnight, and then we danced till daybreak. Oh! such a glorious
time. Next year, when I heard that a part of Table Rock had tumbled into
the horrid river, I could have cried."
"It was a great shame, indeed!" said Chiffield.
"Isn't this view of Suspension Bridge natural?" she asked
"Amazing!" said Chiffield; and he ventured to add that he considered
that bridge to be a great triumph of human genius.
"I dare say it is. But I didn't think of that. I was only going to tell
you how the gentlemen of our Table Rock party tried to hire the use of
the bridge one night to dance on. The owners wouldn't let it. Mean,
"Contemptible!" replied Chiffield.
"We should have had it nicely swept and lighted. The breeze coming down
the river would have been beautiful, and the awful noise of the Falls
wouldn't have been too loud for the music. But we almost made up for our
disappointment. Next night, the gentlemen hired the 'Maid of the
Mist'--the little steamboat, you know, that you see in this picture--and
we sailed round and round below the Falls all night, dancing all the
time. We went so near the Falls twice, that I got quite wet with the
nasty spray, and caught cold; but that didn't prevent me from dancing
all the next night, at the International. You have a good view of the
house in this picture."
"Tasty," said Chiffield.
Mr. Whedell and Maltboy had not lost a word of this conversation, though
they had been mutually boring each other with complex sentences about
national politics. Happily, the discussion required no mental effort,
and left them both free to hear and make mental comments on the dialogue
that buzzed across the way.
Mr. Whedell regretted that his daughter should expatiate with such
vivacity upon a subject that must be extremely disagreeable to a
gentleman of Mr. Chiffield's large figure and steady habits. To the
cultivated judgment of Maltboy, it was evident that the young lady was
trying to amuse Chiffield merely for the purpose of annoying him
(Maltboy). Experience had taught Matthew the best kind of cure for this
species of female perversity. He determined to leave the house, and
thereby show that he was not to be trifled with.
Availing himself of a pause in the dissertations on national politics,
Maltboy pulled out his watch and consulted it. "Why!" said he; "nine
o'clock! And I was to be in Fourteenth street by half past eight. Only
intended to drop in just to see how you were. You really must excuse me,
Mr. Whedell." Matthew rose as he spoke, to show that his mind was made
up, and remonstrances would be useless.
"Don't go. Put off your other call," ejaculated Mr. "Whedell, at the
same time rising, and thereby indicating a perfect acquiescence in the
departure of his guest.
"You are in a hurry," said Miss Whedell, calmly, but without objection
in voice or eye.
Mr. Chiffield looked calmly at his rival; and none but a skilled student
of physiognomy could have discovered a gleam of triumph in his dull,
Maltboy was disappointed in the calm demeanor of Miss Whedell; but,
strong in his purpose, he walked toward the door, followed by the
father. As he passed into the entry, he bowed coldly to the lady of his
heart, and drew from her a scarcely perceptible nod.
At this moment, a valuable thought occurred to the paternal Whedell.
"My dear Maltboy," said he, closing the parlor door, "excuse the
abruptness of the question; but could you lend me a couple of hundred?"
The question was indeed abrupt, but not altogether unexpected. Mr. Quigg
had apprised Maltboy of Mr. Whedell's financial weakness; but the
infatuation of the ardent young bachelor had led him to disregard that
warning. He was fully prepared to say, "Yes, with pleasure," and he
did say so.
"Thank you," said the gratified parent. "Only want it a few days." Mr.
Whedell was too great an adept in the art of borrowing, to waste words
of tedious explanation and gratitude, which only produce an impression
that the borrower does not mean to pay. He accepted Maltboy's reply as a
matter of course.
"If not too much trouble, could you give me a check to-night?" asked
Mr. Whedell. "Have a payment to make before bank hours to-morrow."
"Most readily, my dear sir," replied the amiable Matthew. "Have you pen
and paper convenient?"
"In this room, Mr. Maltboy," said his host, ushering him into a little
apartment at the end of the entry, which contained a few books, and was
passed off upon a credulous world as Mr. Whedell's library. The gas was
lighted, writing materials were produced, and, in less than three
minutes, Matthew Maltboy had put his name at the bottom of a check on
the ---- Bank, for two hundred dollars. He did so smiling, and with a
full consciousness that he had sustained a dead loss to that extent. But
he was always too good-natured to deny a friend; and, in this particular
case, he felt that he was buying a perpetual free admission to the
house, and a usufructuary interest in the fascinations of Clementina.
The idea of marriage with that young lady had never occurred to him. He
never troubled himself with problems of the future.
"All right," said Mr. Whedell, folding up the check carelessly, and
putting it in his pocket. "Shall I give you my note?"
"Oh, no!" said the willing victim, blandly. "Hand it me any time, at
"Can return it within a week," responded Mr. Whedell; "but, on some
accounts, the 1st of May will suit me best, if perfectly agreeable
"As you please."
"We will call it the 1st of May, then. I regret you are in a hurry, sir.
But remember, we are always happy to see you here."
With this pleasant remark ringing in his ears, and fully compensating
him for the loss of his two hundred dollars, Maltboy hastened home, but
did not tell his friends of his adventure; but he smoked and mused over
it agreeably, and was totally unmindful of the truth announced by Mr.
Quigg on New Year's day, when speaking of this same Whedell, that
"somehow debtors always give the cold shoulder to creditors, as if the
creditors owed the money."
Mr. Whedell, left to his own society, flattered himself that he had
turned a rejected lover to a good account, and entered his library and
sat down in the cold, that he might not, by his presence, mar the
harmonious progress of the courtship upon which so much depended, in
THE FIRST OF MAY.
Mr. Chiffield proposed, was accepted, and was married in a Broadway
church about the middle of April. The affair was simplicity
itself--bridesmaids, groomsmen, costly wedding costume, and the
subsequent conventional reception at the bride's residence being
dispensed with. The ceremony was witnessed only by the officiating
minister, the sexton, the happy father, and about two hundred of the
floating population of Broadway, including a number of pickpockets, one
of whom sounded the recesses of the coat tails appertaining unto Mr.
Whedell and his son-in-law, as they were coming out of church, and found
nothing in them.
The Siamese twins of the soul passed from the church amid the sneers,
criticisms, and suppressed laughter of the spectators--who united in
pronouncing the ceremony a shabby affair, not worth looking at--and,
entering a carriage with Mr. Whedell, were driven to the New Jersey
Railroad Depot furiously, as if they had been guilty of some crime
against society. At the depot, Mr. Whedell kissed his daughter in
public, and not without a touch of the melodrama, for which he had
cherished a fondness in his earlier days, and wrung the hand of his
son-in-law. The train bore the couple away toward the city of
Washington, where a portion of that indefinite season known as the
honeymoon was to be passed, amid every discomfort that money could
purchase. Why they should have gone to Washington in pursuit of bad
hotels, and other miseries, when they could have procured them in so
many other parts of the country for a quarter of the money, was
something which Mr. Chiffield was never able to explain to his own
He afterward bitterly regretted that he had not made the nuptial trip to
Newburg, or some place near the city, where the expenses would have been
more moderate. But we anticipate.
Mr. and Mrs. Chiffield had been absent ten days. They were expected home
on the 28th day of April; but a letter from Clementina informed her
father that she had taken a bad cold, was confined to her room, and
could not return before the 1st of May. The brief note was written in a
crabbed hand, and exhibited spots, which, if not lemon juice, were
tears. She made no allusion to her husband, but wound up by saying, "Oh,
pa! I am an unhappy girl!"
This intelligence was a thorn in the bed of Mr. Whedell's comfort. Had
he not arranged to settle with his creditors on the 1st of May? Was not
the owner of the house occupied and used by him to resume possession on
that eventful day? And was not everything--even his daily
food--dependent on the return of his children, as he fondly called them,
with their pockets full of money? What if this infernal cold should keep
them in Washington until after the 1st of May? As Mr. Whedell thought of
himself, turned adrift, and a wanderer, he invariably tore out a few of
the gray hairs which could be poorly spared from his venerable skull.
Mr. Whedell had a deep and unchanging faith in his ill luck; but, this
time, he was pleasantly disappointed. The morning train on the 1st of
May brought back his children to him. They arrived just as those
Bedouins of civilization--the New Yorkers--were beginning to indulge
their nomadic propensities. The streets were full of wagons and drays
laden with jingling stoves, rickety bedsteads, conspicuous crockery, and
other damaged Penates, on the way to new domiciles. Fortunately, the
owner of Mr. Whedell's residence had not yet come to claim possession.
Creditors are early birds; but the hour--sis and a half A.M.--was even
too early for them; and only one--Mr. Rickarts, the shoemaker--had
called. He had been disposed of in the library, by the servant, under
the pretence that Mr. Whedell was not yet up. But Mr. Whedell was up and
dressed before six o'clock, and was watching for the expected carriage,
through the window blinds of his apartment. He ran down to the door with
juvenile briskness to receive the returning ones.
Mrs. Chiffield looked pale and jaded. Her hair was carelessly arranged,
and her bonnet awry--unerring indications of fathomless female misery.
To the anxious inquiry by her parent after her health, she only replied,
"Horrid!" Mr. Chiffield wore the aspect of a man who is disappointed in
his just expectations. He gave a hearty grip to the proffered hand of
his father-in-law, but he quarrelled with the driver over the fare, and
abused him in an under tone, by way of relieving himself.
"And how did you like Washington, my child?" said the fond father, in
his tenderest voice.
"I hate it!" said Mrs. Chiffield, hurrying into the house, as if she
were running away from her husband.
"Hum. Well, I'm not surprised that she dislikes the capital. I believe
most visitors do. Clemmy seems to be a little nervous from travelling,
eh?" Mr. Whedell addressed these remarks to his son-in-law.
"Nervous? Perhaps she is just a trifle nervous, sir. All women are."
"True--true! One of the peculiarities of the sex. Well, you have had a
pleasant time, I trust?"
"Pleasant time? Oh! yes--delightful! Your daughter is a charming girl,
sir, and will make a most excellent wife." Mr. Chiffield spoke as if he
were very much in earnest, but the expression of his face was not
"She is a treasure, sir--a perfect treasure!" replied the doting parent.
"It cost me many pangs to part with her. I trust that we shall not be
separated now. Why should we be? There are but three of us--just enough
for a happy family." Mr. Whedell was hinting at a home under the future
roof of his son-in-law.
"I agree with you perfectly," said Mr. Chiffield, with unaffected
eagerness. "Let us live together always. It will suit me exactly." He
was thinking of free board and lodging at the house of his
The couple shook hands, mutually pleased at the prospect, and beamed on
A part of this conversation took place in the hall, into which the
hackman had borne the travellers' luggage. A pull was heard at the door
bell--a loud, confident pull--which Mr. Whedell knew could be inflicted
only by a creditor. It would not do to admit his son-in-law into his
budget of family secrets just yet. So he said:
"Now, Chiffield, you must need some rest. Let me not detain you, my dear
fellow. Your room is on the first floor. I'll show it to you."
Mr. Whedell snatched a carpet bag out of the hand of his son-in-law, and
hurried up stairs with him. Having turned that gentleman into the
apartment reserved for him, and shut the door, Mr. Whedell paused at the
head of the stairs, and listened for the developments below. The
servant, after waiting for two or three more jerks at the bell, so as to
be quite sure that it was the bell, went to the door, and there found
Mr. Numble, the butcher, who supplied the Whedells with meat on the
strength of the brownstone front.
Pursuant to instructions, the servant explained that Mr. Whedell was not
up, and asked him to walk into the library and wait a few minutes. Mr.
Numble growled--as if he scented deception not far off--but allowed
himself to be conducted into the library. There he discovered Mr.
Rickarts, the shoemaker, taking down the few books which graced the
shelves of the library, and evidently pricing them with an unpractised
eye. The two gentlemen knew each other, and straightway engaged in a
brisk dialogue about the weather.
DEMOLITION OF CERTAIN AIR CASTLES.
The coast being clear, Mr. Whedell hastened down stairs to the front
parlor, where his daughter had secluded herself immediately after her
entrance into the house. She was lying back on the sofa, with her bonnet
on, biting the ends of her gloves, and staring into space. She did not
appear to observe her father.
Mr. Whedell seated himself on the other end of the sofa, and reached out
his hand, as if he would have taken his daughter's caressingly within
it. If that was his intention, it was frustrated by her drawing the hand
away. Then the father heaved a sigh, and said:
"Ah, my child, I am so thankful that you have returned to-day. You will
save us from ruin."
"_I_ save you from ruin!" said Mrs. Chiffield, in a hollow voice.
"That's a good joke!"
Mr. Whedell grinned a ghastly smile, as if he did not precisely see the
point of the jest. "Joke or no joke," said he, "I must look to you for
some money to put off the infernal creditors, who have begun to flock
into the house. There's the bell. Hang me, if it isn't another one! To
come to the point, then, I wish you would loan me, say two hundred
dollars. It is a small amount, but will stave them off a week or two."
"Two hundred dollars!" Mrs. Chiffield opened her fine eyes in amazement.
"That's all. Perhaps you have saved up the amount from your pin money?
Or, if you have been a little extravagant, and spent it all, why, then,
perhaps you can get it from Mr. Chiffield this morning?"
The daughter laughed bitterly again. "I tell you, father," said she,
"that this man is the meanest creature that walks OB two legs. He has
not spent fifty dollars on both of us, during our absence. As for me, I
have never got a cent from him, though I have dropped a thousand hints
about new bonnets, dresses, and jewelry."
"Gracious heavens!" cried Mr. Whedell, turning pale "But then," he
added, with an effort to laugh, "Mr. Chiffield is a business man, and
was an old bachelor. He knows nothing of women's wants. It must be your
mission to teach him what they are."
"Pooh!" said the daughter; "I don't believe he has got any money."
"Don't talk so, my child. You put me in a cold sweat."
"Anyhow, I examined his pocket, last night, when he was asleep in the
cars, and found only five dollars there."
Mr. Whedell's jaw dropped. "Oh, no! it can't be," said he, at length.
"Mr. Chiffield must be a rich man. You remember his fine horses at
Saratoga and Newport. You remember how much his society was courted by
mammas with disposable daughters. They never patronize poor young men.
Their instinct in finding out rich ones is unerring. And furthermore,
Mr. Chiffield is a member of a firm twenty years old, who are marked 'A
No. 1' on the books of a mercantile agency, that makes it a business to
pry into other people's affairs. I paid ten dollars for the information,
only a month ago. He must be rich! He must be rich!" Mr. Whedell
repeated it twice, as if the repetition put the question of Chiffield's
opulence beyond a doubt. "Ha! there goes that dreadful bell again!"
"What you say may be true, but I don't believe a word of it, till I have
the proofs," replied the daughter, who seemed to delight in taking a
gloomy view of her case. "Why--will you believe it?--I can't get him
even to talk about engaging a house in New York. He always dodges the
subject, somehow. Upon my word, I think he expects to quarter on you for
the balance of his life. That would be rich!"
Mr. Whedell raised his eyebrows, and emitted a doleful whistle.
Reflecting, he said:
"You may misjudge him. Perhaps he doesn't like to disturb Love's young
dream, by looking into the future. That's all--I'm sure of it."
"Humbug!" ejaculated Mrs. Chiffield.
"Poor thing!" said her father, tenderly. "There--cheer up. Depend upon
it, that you have got a rich husband, who will take all our troubles off
our shoulders. Stay here, and I will go up stairs and sound him."
Mr. Whedell proceeded to the apartment where his son-in-law was shut up,
and found that individual in a deep fit of meditation.
"Thinking--and so soon after marriage?" said Mr. Whedell, with a
"Oh, yes; and I was thinking how much happier is a married man than a
"You will always think so, I am sure, with my dear Clemmy as your wife.
My dear Clemmy! How naturally that phrase comes to my lips. And you are
about to take her away. It's a foolish thought, but I hardly know how I
shall live without her." Mr. Whedell paused, for effect, and
contemplated the vermicular work in the carpet.
"A happy thought strikes me," said Chiffield. "You have a house here,
already furnished. Let us occupy it free of rent, and I will pay the
housekeeping bills of the establishment. That will be mutually
advantageous, and will especially suit your daughter, who, of course,
has a child's attachment for home. What do you say to the proposition,
Mr. Whedell did not catch at it with the alacrity that was expected of
him. "A capital plan," said he, at length; "but, unfortunately, the
house is not mine. I only lease it."
Chiffield's lips puckered up. "That's curious," thought he. "The old
fellow must have put his money into bonds and stocks. Well, they are the
Mr. Whedell proceeded to break the news of his penniless condition to
his son-in-law, gently. "Mr. Chiffield," said he, "as a wholesale
dealer in dry goods, you must have observed, perhaps at times
experienced, the fickleness of fortune."
"Can he suspect?" thought Chiffield. "And what if he does? The truth
cannot be concealed much longer. But I will pump him a little further
before disclosing all."
"Yes," said he; "our firm, like others, has had its ups and downs; but
then, business would not be interesting without some little risks,
The easy manner of his son-in-law convinced Mr. Whedell that no "little
risks" had shaken the firm of Upjack, Chiffield & Co. "Ah, yes," said
he. "Rich to-day, poor to-morrow--the history of the world. As every
person may learn this by his own sad experience, some time or other, he
ought to be lenient in judging of those who have become reduced from
wealth to poverty."
"Can he mean me?" thought the son-in-law. "Faith! it sounds very much
like it. If so, his manner of broaching the subject is truly generous
"I agree with you," said he, aloud. "Money does not make the man." It is
a safe adage, and Chiffield quoted it intrepidly.
"True--true!" replied Mr. Whedell. "Money is but a small item in the sum
of earthly happiness. Take the institution of marriage, for example.
What gives to that institution its blessedness--love, or money?"
"Love," responded the unhesitating Chiffield.
"The promptness of that reply shows that he does not expect a fortune
with Clemmy," thought Mr. Whedell.
"He must suspect--perhaps already knows--the truth," thought Chiffield.
"How kind in him to spare me the least humiliation!"
"That person is truly rich," continued Mr. Whedell, "rich beyond
expression, who brings pure love and exalted virtues into the
"Generous father-in-law!" thought Chiffield. "He knows that I am ruined.
Yet how nobly he treats me! I may cast away all reserve now."
"It would be an affectation, sir," said Chiffield, aloud, "to pretend
that I do not understand to whom you refer, my dear father-in-law."
"The glorious fellow!" thought Mr. Whedell. "He guesses what I am about
to disclose, and yet calls me a dear father-in-law."
Chiffield continued: "To save any further circumlocution, sir, and in
order that we may fully understand each other, I will say at once, that
we are completely--ruined!"
"Ha! What! Who ruined?"
"The house of Upjack, Chiffield & Co. I--I thought you knew it."
"Ruined, sir!" cried Mr. Whedell, livid with horror. He choked for
"Yes, sir," said Chiffield, who, being a fat man, was happily calm;
"You impudent scoundrel! out of this house!" shrieked Mr. Whedell,
rising from his chair, and glaring like a wildcat at his son-in-law.
"Be calm," said that phlegmatic individual. "I respect your age."
"Curse your impudence! what do you mean by my age?" (approaching
Chiffield in a threatening manner). "I'll let you know, sir, that I am
young enough to kick a swindler like you into the street."
"Pray compose yourself, sir," returned the bland Chiffield. "Your
surprise and excitement are natural, and therefore pardonable. But my
affairs are, after all, not quite as bad as they might be. I have a sure
prospective fortune, if not a present one."
"What do you mean, sir?" asked Mr. Whedell, not quite so savage as
"That I have talents, energy, a large business acquaintance," said the
"Humbug!" roared Mr. Whedell. "What is all that stuff good for, without
"Not much, I admit," was the conciliatory reply. "There fore, sir, to
come to the point at once, advance me ten thousand dollars to start in
business again, and I will make a fortune in three years. It was the
outside speculations of my partners that ruined me. Perhaps you don't
know that dry goods are going up, sir? Now's the time to buy."
"This man will drive me mad!" shrieked Mr. Whedell, combing his hair
wildly with his hands.
"Regard it in the light of a family investment," suggested the soothing
"You diabolical scoundrel!" yelled Mr. Whedell, in a partial asphyxia of
rage; "if I had a million dollars to-day, I wouldn't give you a cent.
You should starve first. But I want to tell you--and hang me if it isn't
a pleasure, too--that I am a beggar, sir--a beggar, sir--a beggar, sir!
By noon to-day I shall be turned out of this house. And, by Jove! I'm
glad of it, for then I shall get rid of you." During this _adagio_
passage, the speaker shook his fist within a few inches of
The summery Chiffield answered, with a hearty laugh: "I see," said he;
"it's a regular sell on both sides. However, neither of us is worse off
than he was, since neither of us had anything. As for me, I have gained
one point, for I have a tolerably good-looking wife."
Mr. Whedell was about to retort in a vein of unmitigated ferocity, when
Mrs. Chiffield, who had been listening in the entry, and could contain
herself no longer, rushed into the room, and, brandishing a small
clenched hand in the face of her laughing spouse, forcibly observed:
"You sneaking, swindling, cheating, lying, black-hearted, ill-looking
pauper, scoundrel, and vagabond!"
"Very prettily said," remarked the imperturbable Chiffield.
"You miserable thief!" continued his matrimonial partner, aiming a blow
at him, which he playfully parried; "why didn't you tell me you were
"Why? Because you didn't ask me. For that matter, why didn't you or
your father tell me that _you_ were beggars?"
"I sha'n't answer your insulting questions, you mean, deceiving, ugly,
ungentlemanly--" (no other epithet suggesting itself.) At this crisis,
the infuriated wife burst into tears, and wished several times that
she was dead.
"Poor, dear wifey!" said the emollient Chiffield.
"None of your 'poor dears' to my daughter, you jailbird!" screamed Mr.
"Now, don't get excited, father-in-law."
"How dare you call me father-in-law, sir!"
"Perhaps you prefer the more endearing epithet of 'poppy,' sir?"
"Monster! will you leave my house?"
"Have you any good old brandy on hand?" asked Chiffield.
"Brandy! No. If you want brandy, sir, go to the d---l for it."
"Not quite so far, thank you," retorted Chiffield the genial; "but I
don't mind walking to the next corner for a smash."
Chiffield rose, put on his hat, and stepped toward the door.
"Good-by, wifey. I sha'n't be gone long."
A growl, bisected by a sob, was the only reply.
"By-by, poppy," said Chiffield, with a flippant wave of the hand.
Mr. Whedell cast at him a look of scorn, to which justice could be done
in no known language; and Chiffield, with a bow of exceeding grace, left
father and child to their reflections.
MR. WHEDEEL'S CREDITORS IN CONVENTION ASSEMBLED.
These reflections, which were neither profitable nor interesting to the
parties immediately concerned, were interrupted by a peculiarly
rigorous pull at the door bell. Pulls of a startling description had
come so often, the previous ten minutes, that Mr. Whedell had quite
ceased to notice them. But this long and strong pull caused him to
start, and remark, "It must be Quigg."
It was Quigg, who had come to make his last appeal. He was by far the
heaviest creditor. The unfortunate servant girl, acting under her
general instructions, would fain have shown him into the parlor, where
his fellow sufferers, having overrun the library and dining room, were
already in strong force; but Quigg, having immense interests at stake,
would stand no such nonsense.
"Where is Whedell?" said he. "I can't dance attendance on him all day."
It was always remarked that Quigg put off his slow and stately method of
speech, when dealing with obstinate debtors.
The terrified Mary lost her presence of mind, and replied; "In the first
floor, front." Quigg mounted the stairs with surprising agility, and
gave a hard rap at the door of the first floor front.
Mr. Whedell said, in a voice calm with despair, "Come in." In the few
minutes that had elapsed since the retirement of Chiffield, Mr. Whedell
had privately determined to give up everything to his creditors, leaving
them to divide the spoils among themselves, and then to go out, expend
his last quarter on a dose of poison, and end his existence. This
resolution, suddenly taken, imparted preternatural composure both to his
mind and his face. He could now see his way out of all difficulties--or
out of the world, which is the same thing. Clementina, who had not yet
risen to that height of philosophy, buried her face in her hands, and
sobbed with fresh violence.
Quigg entered, and at a glance saw that he had lost. He stopped short in
the bow that he was intending to make.
"Well, Whedell," said he, roughly, "how are things to-day?" By "things,"
he always meant money.
"Not a penny," said Mr. Whedell. "I've done my best to pay you, and
"Just as I expected. Serves me right. I never was forbearing with a
debtor, that I didn't get chiselled this way. Strike me if I ever make
the mistake again. This marriage of your daughter's, which was going to
set you up in funds, has proved a fizzle, eh? Instead of taking somebody
in, you have been taken in yourself."
Quigg laughed; and then remembering that a delinquent debtor was before
him, assumed his wonted serious aspect.
At this allusion, poor Mrs. Chiffield burst into tears again. Mr.
Whedell adroitly turned the circumstance to advantage. He pointed to
her, and said, "There is my reply."
Quigg felt that he was losing ground on these side issues. "Well,
Whedell, we must have a settlement to day. You owe me one hundred and
fifty dollars. Turn over all your furniture to me, and we'll call
Mrs. Chiffield doubled her sobs anew. But Mr. Whedell said, "Very good.
Take everything, I shall want nothing where I am going."
Quigg had been accustomed to these dark hints from contumacious debtors,
and was not to be frightened. "I accept your offer," said he, "and will
At this moment, a rush, as of many feet, was heard upon the stairs. The
owners of the feet appeared to be literally tumbling up in their anxiety
to get up. By the time Quigg could open the door, a half dozen flushed
persons were ready to step in, and did so, brushing him aside. More than
a score of others followed, and all plunged pell mell into the presence
of Mr. Whedell and daughter.
"Here we are, Mr. Whedell, by appintment," said the spokesman of the
party, Rickarts, the shoemaker.
"I see you are," responded the placid Whedell. "Take seats, if you can
find them, gentlemen." This with a real smile, for he thought of the
arsenic, and the immeasurable relief that it would afford him.
"We don't want seats, Mr. Whedell; and, if we did, there isn't enough
for all of us. We want our pay, and have got tired of waitin' down
stairs for it. You put us all off to the 1st of May, you know, expecting
you said, to raise money enough by the marriage of your daughter (excuse
the remark, marm, but business is business) to pay off all of us. We
found, on comparin' notes down stairs, this mornin', that you had told
the same story to everybody. Now, sir, as your daughter is married,
accordin' to the papers, and the 1st of May has arriv', will you be good
enough to square up?"
Mr. Whedell smiled touchingly. "My good and patient friends," said he,
"nothing would give me greater pleasure--I might say, without
exaggeration, rapture--than to pay all that I owe, with compound
interest thrown in. But, unfortunately for my excellent intentions, I
have no money."
"Blast me if that isn't just what we expected! I told 'em, down stairs,
that I'd bet ten to one you couldn't or wouldn't raise any think out of
"Your name is Rickarts, I believe?" asked Mr. Whedell.
"Yes, Rickarts!" growled the owner of the appellation, "You ought to
know it by this time; for I've dunned you often enough."
"True, Mr. Rickarts, but then I have so many creditors, you see, that I
cannot be expected to know them all. I merely wanted to observe, Mr.
Rickarts, that, at least, _you_ have not been disappointed in your
expectations. Furthermore, that if you had made a bet of ten to one, it
wouldn't have been a bad speculation for you."
Cries of "Pshaw!" "Humbug!" "Swindled!" "Done for!" and kindred
expressions, arose from all sides. The spokesman said: "We ha'n't got no
time to joke, Mr. Whedell. We have only to remark, now, that the best
thing for you to do is to give up your furniture, without the trouble
and expense of a lot of lawsuits."
"You are perfectly welcome to the whole of it, my good friends," said
"The, deuce they are!" cried Quigg. "Why, you have just turned it over
"I give it to all of you, singly and collectively, severally and
jointly," responded the happy, melancholy man. "Divide it among
yourselves, and leave me."
The small creditors, under twenty dollars, took a favorable view of the
proposition. One of them immediately jumped on a bureau having a marble
top and elaborately carved legs, and expressed his willingness to take
that for his pay. Another laid violent hands on the heavy yellow window
curtains, and declared himself satisfied. A third commenced ripping up a
corner of the carpet, and notified all persons that he claimed _that_.
The original owner of the bureau, curtains, and carpet, who had
furnished the house, and held an exalted rank among the principal
creditors, objected to this summary disposition of the property. Quigg,
in very emphatic but improper English, insisted that he had the largest
and first claim, and warned everybody on their peril not to remove a
thing from the house.
Mr. Whedell reclined in his chair, positively enjoying the spectacle,
which was all the more entertaining because the common wrath was now
diverted from him. Mrs. Chiffield wept behind her handkerchief. Her
bonnet was knocked on one side, and the flowers were seriously
disarranged, indicating a real case of distress.
_Sauve qui peut_ was now the motto among all the small creditors.
Notwithstanding the energetic objections of Quigg and others, they
rushed down stairs into the parlors, where the best furniture was kept,
and commenced, taking possession. Rickarts, the shoemaker, seated
himself on the top of the piano, and said he considered that his'n. But
a second after, a man milliner, who had furnished two new bonnets to
Miss Clementina on the strength of the brownstone front, took his seat
on the other end of the piano, and gave Mr. Rickarts distinctly to
understand that he was glued to it. The man milliner was a powerful
fellow, and looked as if his proper vocation were hammering stone or
rolling iron, instead of handling flowers and feathers. Rickarts
murmured something inaudibly, at first but, on taking a second survey of
his neighbor, concluded that he would be more desirable as an ally than
as an enemy.
"All right," said he; "s'pose we go snacks on this?"
"Agreed," said the man milliner.
Other of the minor creditors, not caring to quarrel for a third or
fourth interest in the piano, attached themselves to movable pieces of
furniture, such as ottomans, whatnots, etageres, and chairs. One
succeeded in unscrewing a large chandelier which hung from the centre of
the front parlor, and the gas came pouring through the opening in
odorous volumes, while the spoliator waddled off to the door with his
prize. Others rummaged the small stock of showy books which consituted
the library, and were surprised to find that the most imposing volumes
were bound in wood, with gilt backs, and contained nothing but air,
which a funny creditor characterized as very light reading matter.
In about five minutes, a considerable amount of portable property would
have gone out of the house, but for Quigg's presence of mind. Seeing
that decisive action was required, he slipped out of the front door,
locked it, and returned in a moment with a couple of policemen, who
chanced to be strolling through the street at that hour.
On the way to the house, Mr. Quigg succeeded in persuading the policemen
that it was necessary for the peace of society that they should turn all
the other creditors out of the house, and leave Mr. Whedell's effects to
be divided among them according to the regular legal process. As the
officers marched up the steps of the house, it fell out that Matthew
Maltboy came sauntering by. Observing the two officers, headed by an
excited individual, going into Mr. Whedell's house, it occurred, to his
benevolent heart that that gentleman must be in trouble. He also felt
moved by a desire to hear of his old flame--for such she now seemed at
the remote distance of six weeks,--of whose marriage with Mr. Chiffield
he had read in the papers with the utmost complacency. Therefore,
Maltboy stepped up behind the officers, and was about to follow them
into the house. The officers would have kept him back; but Quigg
recognized his friend of New Year's day, and asked him in, hoping to get
legal advice for nothing.
"An old friend of mine, and of Mr. Whedell's," said Quigg. "Admit him,
officers. Perhaps, sir" (Quigg had forgotten his name), "you know
something about Whedell's affairs, and, as a lawyer" (with a wink), "can
tell me where he has some property snugly stowed away, that I can pounce
on. If so, I would cheerfully let the smaller creditors divide the
furniture among themselves. Any information--ahem!--will be
confidential, you know."
"I am not a shyster!" said the indignant Matthew, alluding, by that
term, to the outlaws of his profession.
Quigg was evidently surprised at this unfriendly repulse. "I only made
the suggestion for you to think on. No offence meant. Please walk
The door being opened, several of the small creditors were discovered,
grouped together, with property in their hands. They had made several
ineffectual attempts to break the lock, or pry back the bolt. The larger
creditors were forcibly remonstrating against this disposition of Mr.
Whedell's effects; and a serious row would probably have ensued, but for
the timely arrival of the police.
DEUS EX MACHINA.
One of the officers planted himself against the front door, and gave
general notice that no one would be allowed to remove any of the
furniture. The other officer stationed himself at the back door, to
carry out a similar policy at that point.
These manoeuvres caused consternation among the small creditors, and a
vivid feeling of approval among the larger ones.
"I am happy to announce," said Quigg, "that the counsel of Mr.
Whedell--one of the most distinguished ornaments of the bar--has now
arrived, and will take charge of his client's affairs. To those who know
the name of--" (Aside) "By the way, your name escapes me at
"Maltboy," said Matthew, a little flattered with this compliment.
"I repeat, that, to those who know the name of Maltboy, no assurance
need be given that Mr. Whedell's affairs will be honorably adjusted."
Quigg again winked at the young lawyer.
Matthew, having recovered from the flutter into which he was thrown, was
about to disclaim the office thus thrust upon him, when the voice of Mr.
Whedell was heard from the first landing. He had come to listen to the
disturbance, and smile at it.
"It is my dear Maltboy!" he exclaimed, catching at the straw of a hope.
"Thank Heaven! he is here. Yes, gentlemen, he is my lawyer, and I refer
you to him for the adjustment of all your claims. Come up, my
"Oh! it is dear--good--Mr. Maltboy!" added a voice, qualified by sobs.
"How kind of him--to--to come here at this time! Oh--ho!"
Maltboy never could resist Beauty in any condition; and, for Beauty in
tears, he would cheerfully lay down his life. He did not deny that he
was the counsel and confidential adviser of Mr. Whedell, but rushed up
stairs, just in time to receive the falling form of Mrs. Chiffield
in his arms.
Matthew felt that he had no moral right to clasp that burden of
loveliness; but he took it tenderly in his arms, and followed Mr.
Whedell into the room which father and daughter had just left. There he
deposited it, with the gentleness of a professional nurse, on the sofa,
when it opened its eyes, and faintly said, "Heaven bless you, our
The creditors were pouring into the apartment. "In the name of
humanity," said Mr. Whedell, "leave us for a few moments. I appeal to
you as gentlemen and Christians."
The appeal produced no effect; those to whom it was made conceiving,
perhaps, that it did not apply to them. Maltboy added the remark: "If
you will withdraw at once, I promise you that in fifteen minutes we will
proceed to business."
"That's all right," said Quigg, winking again at Matthew. "Let us go,
The proposition was accepted, as the best thing that could be done under
the circumstances, and all the creditors retired.
Mr. Whedell then locked the door, and proceeded to inform Mr. Maltboy of
the black-hearted treachery of which he and his daughter had been the
victims, in the Chiffield alliance. Clementina corroborated the paternal
statement with numerous particulars, delivered in a heart-broken voice,
showing what an abandoned wretch her husband was. Matthew listened,
nodded his head, and said, "The brute!" and the "The monster!" at
intervals, looking the while into the deep blue eyes of Mrs. Chiffield,
which sparkled with tears. "If he had but been the lucky man!" he
thought. But it suddenly occurred to Matthew that these thoughts were a
little irregular; and, besides, he had a fresh recollection of the
troubles from which Fayette Overtop had not yet emerged. He therefore
pulled out his watch, and informed Mr. Whedell that thirteen of the
fifteen minutes were consumed. The creditors were beginning to pace
heavily in the entry.
Mr. Whedell, taking the hint, came down to business. His affairs were of
a kind that were easily settled. He owned nothing except his personal
clothing, and a few small articles of furniture. Everything else had
been obtained on credit, and either not paid for, or only partly paid
for. This statement of affairs occupied one minute.
A minute remained, which Mr. Whedell put to good use. He looked
appealingly at Maltboy. So did Mrs. Chiffield.
"My dear friend," said Mr. Whedell, "I find myself, at an advanced
period of life, in this cold world, deserted, penniless. You are the
only person living that I can call by the sacred name of friend. I have
already experienced your noble bounty in a loan of two hundred
dollars." (Tramps of creditors becoming louder outside.) "In a word,
sir, can you lend me one hundred dollars more? It will at least save me
from the self-destruction which I had contemplated."
At the word "self-destruction," Mrs. Chiffield cried aloud, and threw
herself on her parent's breast, with a fresh flood of tears.
These tears swept away the last trace of Matthew's prudence. He whipped
out his pocket book, and delivered over five twenty-dollar gold pieces
to Mr. Whedell. The sight of those beautiful coins seemed to reconcile
the wretched man to life.
Mr. Whedell was about to thank his preserver most profusely, and Mrs.
Chiffield to burst into a new torrent, when Matthew, to avoid these
demonstrations, rose, opened the door, and let in the pack of hungry
Now Matthew had, in these fleeting fifteen minutes, thought up no plan
of settlement. Being taken aback by the sudden reappearance of the
creditors, he did not know what to propose.
"Everything fixed, I s'pose?" said Rickarts, the shoemaker.
When Matthew was in strong doubt what to do in any case, it was his
invariable custom to postpone. "I think," he feebly suggested, "that we
had better postpone final action, say till three P.M. It would give
"Can't come it!" "No go!" "Now, or never!" were some of the exclamations
which went up from the excited crowd.
Matthew was too good natured to quarrel with these insinuations. "My
friends," said he, "as you appear to have unlimited confidence in each
other, suppose you appoint a committee to dispose of this property,
which my client generously" (cries of "Oh! oh!") "turns over to you, and
divide the proceeds among yourselves _pro rata_"
The creditors looked at each other suspiciously. A want of that
childlike trust which, in a perfect state of society should exist
between man and man, was unhappily too apparent.
Just then, when Matthew was at his wits' end, the police man who guarded
the front door entered the room, and delivered a note to Mr. Whedell.
That gentleman perused it languidly, and passed it to Matthew.
"Good news," said he. "Mr. Abernuckle, the owner of these premises, who
was intending to move in to-day, writes that he will not be able to take
possession until noon to-morrow. Therefore, I say, let the creditors
employ an auctioneer, hang out the red flag, sell, and divide, before
that period arrives."
The large creditors were silent--Quigg veiling his dissatisfaction under
a look of complete misanthropy--but the small ones, headed by Rickarts,
the shoemaker, highly commended it.
"Besides," added a butter man, who had originally been in the
mock-auction line, "don't ye see, we can all stay at the auction, and
kind o' bid on the things. Hey?" The butter man nodded at the lesser
The idea took; only a few of the larger creditors holding out against
"My friends," again observed Matthew, drawing on his stores of legal
knowledge, "you seem to forget that, if my client chose to resist your
claims, he could retain a large amount of furniture as household
articles under the law, which exempts certain necessary things. But,
with rare magnanimity, he gives up all."
The allusion to magnanimity produced some derisive laughs, which
slightly nettled Matthew.
"Auction it off," said he, "or we throw ourselves back on our reserved
At this hint, everybody gave in; and a committee, consisting of Quigg,
Rickarts, and the butter man, was appointed to make all the arrangements
for an immediate sale.
It is not pleasant to pursue this painful theme--the decline and fall
of the Whedell household--farther. Let the historian barely record, that
the sale attracted a large crowd, and that, by the ingenious side bids
of the creditors, the furniture was run up to twice its original value
(no uncommon thing at auctions); that the creditors, large and small,
were well satisfied with the results; that Mr. Whedell and daughter
moved to Boston, and became stipendiaries upon a younger brother, who
had made a fortune in the upholstery business, and whom Mr. Whedell had
always despised; that Mr. Chiffield took to drink tenaciously in
consequence of his misfortunes, and never saw or sought after his wife
from the day when he discovered that she was dowerless; that Mrs.
Chiffield obtained a divorce from the bonds of matrimony, but had not
married again at last accounts; and that Matthew Maltboy, Esq., on
looking over the whole episode of his acquaintance with the Whedells
thanked his stars that he had got out of their entanglements on the
reasonable terms of three hundred dollars.
THE OLD HOUSE REVISITED.
In the month that followed the acquittal of Marcus Wilkeson, three real
murders, a railway collision killing thirty persons, and a steamboat
explosion almost as tragical in its results, occurred. The Minford
affair was already getting old. Public curiosity, except in the
immediate neighborhood of the house, no longer exercised itself upon the
problem which all of Coroner Bullfast's powers of analysis had failed
Marcus Wilkeson might have derived a selfish consolation from the fact
that other mysteries and calamities were causing his name, which last
month was on the tongue of the whole town, to be forgotten. But he had a
nobler and truer source of consolation in his dear books. In the
presence of the philosophers, and sages, and historians, and novelists,
and poets, and wits, the men of genius of the past, chroniclers of the
loss of empires, grave men who taught the vanity of life, and funny men
who taught the same lesson in a different way, Marcus felt his pack of
sorrows considerably lightening. His first, last, only disappointment in
love had subsided into a gentle and not disagreeable melancholy. His
trial, and the dreadful notoriety which his name had acquired, had
imparted to his mild nature a gentle tinge of cynicism, which
Marcus was sitting, one morning, in the little back parlor, idly
turning over the leaves of an old folio, and looking with a half eye
through the closed window at the houses opposite, and thinking what a
deal of trouble it was possible to extract from a single block of
buildings, when a slight rap was heard at the door. Simultaneously, the
door was pushed open, and Wesley Tiffles shot in.
He had brought all his tonical properties with him. Good nature and
cheerfulness effervesced from his face. Through the trial, and since the
acquittal, Wesley Tiffles had stuck to Marcus. Twice, often three times
a day, he called, and was always welcomed by Marcus, and not
inhospitably received by Miss Philomela Wilkeson. The interviews between
that lady and the romantic speculator usually took place, quite by
accident, in the entry, on the arrival or the departure of Mr. Tiffles;
but, as it happened, not with the cognizance of Marcus.
On one occasion--at the edge of evening--Marcus went into the entry a
few minutes after Tiffles had left the room, and saw that gentleman and
Philomela standing in the doorway. Tiffles appeared to be in the act of
raising the lady's hand to kiss it; but, if that were his intention, he
abandoned it on seeing Marcus, and shook the attenuated fingers instead.
Then he coughed, and, saying "Good-night," went down the steps, as if he
had not seen Marcus in the gloom. Miss Wilkeson coughed also (why do
people always cough?), and, turning to her approaching brother, said it
was a cool night, which was not true, as the night was agreeably warm.
Marcus had never afterward seen them together, and had forgotten this
slightly mysterious circumstance. Wesley Tiffles had, as usual,
something enlivening to tell.
"Got the funniest piece of news for you, my dear fellow!" said he.
"Anything funny is always welcome, Tiffles," said he, closing his folio,
that he might not appear to obstruct his friend's jocosity.
"I've heard from that infernal old panorama--when I say infernal, of
course I don't mean to imply that it wasn't a splendid idea, if I had
had capital enough to see it through--and what do you s'pose the
landlord and the other creditor have done with it? You couldn't guess
in a month."
"Well, what?" asked Marcus Wilkeson, laughing in anticipation.
"Ha! ha! cut it up, and sold it for window curtains. A friend of mine,
who passed through there the other day, says there's a picture of a
lion, or a palm tree, or a slice of a desert--principally desert--hung
up in every other window. And the best of it is, that they made a good
thing of it. The curtains brought at least twice what I owed them. Great
heavens! why didn't I think of it myself?"
"Why, to cut up the panorama into window curtains, when Patching had
finished it, and--ha! ha!--peddle them through the country. By Jupiter!
that speculation may be worth trying yet. But at present I have my new
patent process for----"
Marcus coughed, and opened the book. Tiffles accepted the delicate hint
in a spirit of true friendship, and let his new patent process drop.
"Marcus," said he, "I don't wish to revive an unpleasant subject; but
have you no idea what the late Mr. Minford was trying to invent?"
"Not the least. I never trouble myself about inventions, as you well
know, who are full of them. Besides, poor Mr. Minford was not
communicative on that subject. He kept the secret even from his
"You have a claim on the apparatus, whatever it is."
"Yes. Mr. Minford insisted on giving me a paper to that effect, as
security for two loans of five hundred dollars each. I took it to please
the old gentleman." Marcus felt like groaning, as he thought of the
sorrows that he had derived from his connection with the Minford family;
but he had just been reading of the consolations of philosophy, and he
stifled the rising weakness.
"I have thought, Marcus, that there might be something about that
unfinished machine that could be patented for the benefit of Miss
Minford. You know I am a good judge of patentable things."
"What do you propose, then?" asked Marcus, concealing, with an effort,
the emotions which the mention of Miss Minford always caused."
"That we go to the house together. The legal claim which you hold upon
the machine entitles you to see it, if only to ascertain that it has not
"The visit you propose is a disagreeable one; but if you think there is
a possibility of benefiting Miss Minford, I will go. Not that she is
likely to be in want, however, at present, for I understand that a
wealthy lady, Mrs. Crull, who befriended her at the inquest, you
remember, has taken her to her own house."
Without further words--for Marcus retained his old business habit of
forming his conclusions suddenly, and adhering to them--the friends
proceeded to the late residence of Mr. Minford.
Marcus had not yet philosophically conquered his dread of recognition in
the street as the man who had been suspected of a murder. He buttoned
his overcoat up to his chin, pulled his hat over his brow, and walked
fast. As he had purposely altered his style of dress since the inquest,
he was not readily identified. But he was sympathetically conscious that
several persons whom he passed, and who glanced at him, knew him, and
that he was pointed out to others when his back was turned.
Reaching the house, they hurried up stairs, hoping to run the gauntlet
of the three floors in safety. Luckily, there had been a general move
from the premises--the lodgings being less desirable since the supposed
murder. The faces which thrust themselves out of the doorways as the two
visitors passed, were strange ones.
Marcus felt his heart palpitating, and his face growing pale, as they
ascended the last flight of stairs, at the head of which were the room
and the mystery. The lodgings had not been taken. The rent had been paid
by Mr. Minford up to the 1st of May; and no person had been sufficiently
charmed with the apartments to hire them since that date.
Upon the door was a placard, announcing that the key could be obtained
by application to the floor below. Tiffles went for it, and returned
accompanied by an old woman, who looked as if she knew a great deal
which she did not care to tell. She had been requested by the landlord
to show the apartments to applicants, but not to whisper a word about
the murder; and she was almost bursting with her great secret. While the
old woman was wondering how much longer she would be able to hold in,
Marcus and Tiffles entered the front room, and quietly closed the door
in her face. The old woman grumbled at this discourtesy but, as she had
a superstitious objection to putting her foot in a room where a murder
had been committed, she leaned against the banisters of the stairs, and
waited for the visitors' reappearance.
The room looked just as it did on the day of the inquest. The faded and
worn furniture was all there; the yellow curtains still covered the
windows; the clock still hung against the wall, tickless. Marcus's eyes
glanced restlessly about the room for a moment, not daring to look at
the spot where the old man had received his death blow. But an
inevitable magnetism soon brought his eyes to it, and his heart was
lightened as he saw that the blood stains had been carefully wiped out.
The door of the adjoining room--the maiden's bedchamber--was ajar.
Marcus pushed it open with that slow motion which is a token of delicacy
and respect. The general appearance of the room was unchanged, as well
as Marcus could recollect from the occasional glimpses of it which he
had formerly stolen. The little row of dresses which hung on pegs in a
corner, and a few simple ornaments, might have been removed, but nothing
more. Marcus felt that he was intruding here, and he closed the door.
In the mean time, Wesley Tiffles had been examining the mysterious
machine, which stood undisturbed in its corner, with the protecting
screen still standing before it. Tiffles had first wiped off the dust,
and then looked into it, and through it, and over it, and under it, with
an eye that was predetermined to pry out a secret. Then he felt of every
wheel, lever, cam, ratchet, drum, and other portion within reach of his
fingers. Everything was immovable. Then he stood aloof from the machine,
folded his arms, pursed up his lips, and cocked an eye at it, as if, by
the mere force of intellect, he would compel the dumb thing to give up
As Tiffles was applying this species of exorcism in vain, Marcus came to
"What on earth can it be?" exclaimed Tiffles. "Not a new kind of steam
engine; or an electrical apparatus; or a clock; or a sewing machine; or
anything for spinning, carding, or weaving--nothing that is adapted to
any useful labor. These heavy weights, that have fallen on the floor,
would give the works a kind of jerky motion for a few seconds, while the
weights were descending. Nothing more. But the ultimate purpose of the
machine is a puzzler."
"Mr. Minford always said that it was something that would revolutionize
the world of industry--that it was a new mechanical principle of
Tiffles laughed a little. "Excuse my levity," said he, "but
inventors--and I am one of them, you know--always claim that they are
about to revolutionize the world of industry. I never knew one of them
to claim less than that for a patent flytrap or an improved sausage
stuffer. Mr. Minford was a man of genius, I dare say, but he probably
overestimated the importance of his invention. Have you any objection to
my prying the thing apart at this opening? I want to inspect some of the
works that are partly concealed. I pledge myself to put it together
again as good as new."
A POSTHUMOUS SECRET.
"Go ahead," said Marcus; and Tiffles, inserting his walking stick in a
wide gap between two cog wheels, forced the strange machine apart. A
large brass drum upon which a small chain was loosely coiled, fell to
the floor. The other portions were not disturbed. Marcus picked up the
drum; and Tiffles cast his unerring eye in among the new jumble of
wheels and connecting levers that was brought to view.
"Can't make head or tail of it," said he, at length. "Let me see that
Marcus handed it to him. Tiffles took it, like an expert, between a
thumb and finger, and tapped it with his stick. It answered back with a
"It is hollow, and contains some soft non-metallic substance. Ah! here
we have it." And Tiffles, unscrewing a nicely fitting cap from the drum,
drew out a close roll of paper. He unfolded it with trembling fingers.
The upper portion of the paper was covered with neatly drawn diagrams,
which bore some semblance to the machine. Beneath, in the fine
copperplate hand of the inventor, were these memorable words:
"_Eliphalet Minford's original plan of_ PERPETUAL MOTION, _to which he
has devoted his fortune, and twenty years of labor. Perseverantia
"_Christmas Day_, 185-."
Then followed a careful technical description of the plan, and a mention
of the fact that on two occasions the machine had moved. One occasion
was the night of April 10, 184-, when the mass of wheels started with a
sudden click, but stopped in three seconds by the clock. The other
occasion was daybreak, December 30, 185-, when the works began to move
of their own accord, and did not stop for six seconds. This record had
evidently been made by the inventor for his private reference, and
concealed in the brass drum for safe keeping.
Tiffles read with bated breath; and Marcus listened in astonishment.
"What do you think of it?" asked Marcus.
"I think," replied Tiffles, "with every respect for the memory of the
inventor, that he was insane. Perpetual motion, without an exhaustive
power--or, in other words, the eternal motion of a thing by its own
inherent properties--is a simple impossibility. To cite familiar
illustrations of its absurdity, you might as well try to lift yourself
by the straps of your boots, or pour a quart into a pint pot. I wasted
six months on perpetual motion when I was a boy, and gave it up. Every
inventive genius bothers his head with this nonsensical problem, till he
learns that he is a fool. Of course, I say this with every possible
regard for your deceased friend. He was insane on this point--_quoad
hoc_, as the lawyers have it--without question, or he would not have
thrown away twenty years on it;--or twenty-three years, I should say,
since the paper is dated, you observe, three years ago."
"But Mr. Minford says, in that document, that the machine moved twice.
He could have no object in deceiving himself."
"You are wrong there, my friend. Inventors are continually deceiving
themselves. Their judgment, their very eyesight becomes worthless in
respect to subjects upon which they have labored long and hoped
ardently. This machine has evidently been greatly altered from the
original plan in the progress of its construction. You observe that
these weights do not appear on the diagrams. They were an
afterthought--recently put on, I should judge, from the appearance of
the cords which hold them. Anybody can see, as I said before, that the
weights would move the works spasmodically, so to speak. But this motion
cannot be what he alludes to as having taken place on two occasions. Of
course, I can't explain what caused the motion on those occasions--if it
were a real motion, and not a fantasy of the inventor's brain--but I'll
bet my life that any intelligent mechanic could have fully explained it
to Mr. Minford at the time. But, mark you, Mr. Minford would never have
accepted the explanation. Inventors never take advice."
"So then you are satisfied that this machine is of no value--to Miss
Minford--except for old brass?"
"Oh! I don't say that. Mr. Minford, aside from this absurd crotchet, may
have possessed real mechanical genius. Let me see if some part of it may
not be good for something besides perpetual motion."
Wesley Tiffles peered down among the brazen and steel complexities
again. "Sure enough, here it is," said he; "a splendid window fastener."
"I don't see any window fastener," exclaimed Marcus, looking in the
direction of his friend's forefinger.
"There--that cam with a small spring and lever attached. Strength and
simplicity combined. I have studied the subject of window fasteners--in
fact, have invented three or four, which possessed the extraordinary
property of never letting the window up or down when you wanted to move
it. I recognize, in this window fastener, my ideal. Marcus, you must
patent it for Miss Minford. It will be a sure fortune to her. I'll make
the drawings and specifications."
Marcus, sadly happy in the thought of rendering any service to that
young lady, readily chimed in with Tiffles's views, and said that the
patent should be obtained as soon as might be.
It was then agreed that Tiffles should call on Mrs. Crull, on the
following day, and inform Miss Minford of the important discoveries
which had been made by him--not mentioning the name of Marcus
Wilkeson--and should also offer to remove and dispose of the neglected
furniture, as the young lady might think best.
As this conclusion was arrived at, the door opened suddenly. The old
lady, being apprehensive, from the long stay of the two visitors, that
they were ransacking the rooms and hiding portable articles about their
persons, had overcome her superstitious antipathy, and opened the door
quickly, so that she might catch them in the act. But they were only
standing in the middle of the room, earnestly talking to each other.
The old lady muttered an inaudible apology; and the two friends hastened
to take their departure.
OVERTOP FINDS A SENSIBLE WOMAN.
Next morning, Mr. Wesley Tiffles, after an inexpensive breakfast at a
cheap restaurant in Chatham street, set out on his mission of goodness.
He was reduced to his last dollar, but felt opulent in the possession of
his diamond breastpin--that tower of moral strength to the borrower. He
whistled as he walked, and thought what would be the best name for the
new patent window fastener of the future. "Union," "American,"
"Columbian," "Peoples'," "Washington," "Ne Plus Ultra," and a score
more, were turned over and rejected. Finally he settled upon the
"Cosmopolitan Window Fastener," meaning that its destined field of
usefulness was the whole civilized globe. Patents for it could be and
should be obtained in England, France, Germany, Russia, and Spain.
While Wesley Tiffles was taking this rosy view of the "Cosmopolitan
Window Fastener," he stumbled upon Fayette Overtop, Esq., who was
walking briskly toward his office, and thinking over a hard case in
which his services had been secured the day before.
The firm of Overtop & Maltboy had recently come into a small but paying
business, in this way: The release of Marcus Wilkeson was generally
supposed to have been effected, not by his innocence, but by the skilful
and professional, but unprincipled efforts of his legal advisers. Their
name was not unfavorably known among the thieves and murderers of the
city; and several individuals belonging to those classes of society
resolved to employ them when they got into their next little difficulty.
And, since the inquest, another thing had greatly contributed to the
prosperity of the firm. We allude to the case of Slapman _vs_. Slapman.
This was an action for divorce, with alimony, brought by Mrs. Grazella
Jigbee Slapman against her husband, Ferdinand P. Slapman. The ground
upon which the separation was sought, was the continual brutality of Mr.
Slapman toward his wife.
It was the law and the custom, in cases where both parties to the action
were agreed to that arrangement, to turn over this species of litigation
to a referee, who took the testimony in private, heard arguments of
counsel, and rendered a decision subject to the confirmation of the
Supreme Court. The Court had issued a standing order prohibiting all
persons from publishing (except with the consent of the parties to the
action) any further reports of the cases than a simple announcement of
the decree, as confirmed by the Court, for or against a divorce. This
order was put forth to protect the public from the contaminating example
of matrimonial infelicities; though we are not aware that the number of
divorce cases has materially decreased, or the standard of public
morality been greatly elevated in consequence thereof.
The case of Slapman _vs_. Slapman was on trial before a referee, by
mutual agreement of the parties. The newspapers did not report it; but
some of them kept hinting at it in an appetizing way. The gentleman
whose "gallantry, &c.," was the "remote cause of the action," was
described as "a rising young lawyer, who distinguished himself in a
recent inquest before Coroner ----, the thrilling particulars of which
are still fresh in the minds of our readers;" or as a "young ornament of
the legal profession, whose office was not a hundred miles from the
corner of Broadway and ---- street" (the precise location of his
office). One paper went so far as to say, that the "triumph which this
disciple of Coke had achieved in the late _cause celebre_, was only to
be equalled by his invariable success in affairs of the heart, &c., &c."
All this caused Fayette Overtop's name to be known by thousands of
people. Persons who were seeking divorces, reasoned, strangely enough,
that a man whose "gallantry, &c.," was the cause of a divorce, could
materially assist them in severing the matrimonial bonds. Therefore they
began to flock to him. He already had five female and two male clients
of this description.
When Tiffles stumbled against Fayette Overtop, he at once invited his
friend to go with him to Mrs. Crull's. His legal knowledge (of which
Tiffles, in common with the public, was beginning to have a high
opinion) might be of some service. Overtop had been told by Marcus
Wilkeson of the previous day's transactions, and of Wesley Tiffles's
intended visit to Miss Minford; and he at once consented to
On their way to Mrs. Crull's--whose residence had been ascertained from
the Directory--they passed Miss Pillbody's select school. Tiffles
suggested that it would be well to call on that young lady, and pick up
some intelligence of Miss Minford. She might still be receiving lessons
from Miss Pillbody; and might, possibly, be in the house at that moment.
Overtop also thought it would not be a bad idea to call there. He had
heard much from Marcus Wilkeson in praise of Miss Pillbody, especially
of her sensible qualities. Being still in the active pursuit of a
sensible woman, he was moved with a real curiosity to see her.
The servant showed the two callers to the speckless little front parlor;
and, a minute afterward, Miss Pillbody, looking fresh and neat, her
narrow collar white and smooth, and every hair of her heavy brown
tresses in its place, made her appearance.
Miss Pillbody entered the room in that noiseless, sliding way, which
indicates a constitutional diffidence. Her eyelids involuntarily
contracted, so that she might see her callers on a near approach to
them. Fayette Overtop, marking her modest demeanor and her
short-sightedness, immediately announced his name and that of his
companion, and the object of their visit.
At the mention of his name, Miss Pillbody started. She had heard of
Fayette Overtop, Esq., through the newspapers, as counsel for Marcus
Wilkeson; but not as the philosophic friend of Mrs. Slapman. In reply to
questions about Miss Minford, she stated that that interesting young
pupil had not taken lessons from her since the death of her father.
Miss Pillbody here indulged in a little artifice. She produced a
memorandum book, to see when Miss Minford took her last lesson; and, in
order that she might read distinctly, drew out her eyeglasses, and
adjusted them with a graceful movement of the arm and hand. Overtop
thought that she handled the eyeglasses in a most ladylike manner; and
that, when they were astride of her shapely nose, they became her face
When Miss Pillbody had referred to the little memorandum book, she gave
one short look at Fayette Overtop. That gentleman, conscious that his
face was scrutinized, looked at the wall. Miss Pillbody stole but one
glance, and then shut the eyeglasses prettily, and stuck them into an
invisible pocket of her waist. She had come to the conclusion that Mr.
Overtop was a person of dignified and intelligent appearance. And Mr.
Overtop had settled into the opinion that Miss Pillbody was a near
approach to that imagined paragon--a sensible woman.
Mr. Overtop was about to make a shrewd remark upon the great superiority
of private select schools over all public institutions for the education
of young ladies, when Miss Pillbody rose.
"Do you desire any other information, gentlemen?" said she.
"No, I thank you, Miss Pillbody," returned Overtop, who interpreted her
question to mean that a pupil was waiting for her somewhere--which was
true; for Mrs. Gipscon, a fat lady of forty-eight, was taking her
second grammar lesson in the back parlor.
The two callers seized their hats.
"Could I intrust you with a message for Miss Minford, Mr. Overtop?"
"With a thousand," said that gallant man.
"Please, then, give my love to her, and ask her to come round and see
Mr. Overtop would have said that he always found it difficult to carry a
lady's love to another without keeping some himself; but then he thought
that this might be a little bold for a stray caller. So he answered,
The two visitors bowed, and Miss Pillbody bent her head gracefully
toward Mr. Overtop.
"What do you think of the schoolmarm?" asked Tiffles, when they had got
into the street.
Overtop did not like the phrase "schoolmarm." "I think Miss Pillbody,"
said he, "is--a sensible woman."
INNOCENCE ON A SLIPPERY ROAD.
Walking with the nervous and unreasonable quickness of city men, they
soon arrived at Mrs. Grail's. The good lady was sitting at one of her
front windows, sewing. As she looked into the street, her face was seen
to have a sad and thoughtful expression. She came to the door in
response to a sharp ring by Wesley Tiffles, who was tentative of
bellpulls. Mrs. Crull kept two servants, but she could never get over
the impulse to answer the door, when she was near it.
Overtop explained that they were desirous of seeing Miss Minford on
"The poor, dear child!" exclaimed Mrs. Crull, in a broken voice. "She is
"Not here!" cried Overtop. "Where is she, then?"
"I don't know, sir; and that's what troubles me so." Here the good Mrs.
Crull began to twitch about the mouth. But she did not cry. She had too
much of the masculine element for that. Her whole life was a struggle
between the weakness of her feminine body and the strong self-control of
her manly soul, in which the latter, after an effort, always came
Mrs. Crull then proceeded to explain, a little incoherently, that she
had taken Miss Minford to her house, the day after the murder, and had
asked the poor child to live with her, to be her adopted daughter. Miss
Minford had gladly accepted the offer, and had stayed there until
yesterday. During the last two or three days, she had noticed that Miss
Minford, or Pet, as she always called her, was worried about something.
She would not tell Mrs. Crull what was the matter, but Mrs. Crull
somehow guessed that it was a love affair. She remembered the handsome,
dissipated young man at the inquest, and she had seen him standing at
the corner below her house, only two days before Miss Minford left.
"Left!" exclaimed Overtop, jumping at a conclusion. "Then that villain
has abducted and ruined her."
"It's bad enough, I fear," continued Mrs. Crull; "but perhaps not so bad
as that 'ere. Anyhow, I hopes not. I spoke to Pet about that young man,
and she looked as innocent as a spring lamb at me, though she kind o'
blushed when she denied having met him since the trial. And, to do her
justice, I don't think she had met him then, though I sort o' suspeck
she seen him from the window two or three times--she had a habit of
looking out o' the window--and that he contrived to have a talk with her
somewhere and somehow, the day before she went away. And I think he must
have had the cheek to come into this very room" (Mrs. Crull had shown
her visitors into her front parlor), "because one o' my servants says
that she heerd a strange voice in the entry, and the door shut as if
somebody had gone out. When she come into the entry to see who it was,
she saw Pet hurrying into the parlor, and heerd her humming a tune. Pet
wasn't in the habit of humming tunes; and, the servant thought that
rather 'spicious. So do I--not of any wrong, mind you. I wouldn't
believe that till it was proved. But, to make a long story short, here
is the note that poor Pet left on my dressin' table. Read it. I--I
haven't got my spectacles."
The truth was, that Mrs. Crull's eyes were filling with tears, and she
could not have read the now familiar lines on that little piece of paper
even with the powerful aid of her spectacles.
DEAR MRS. CRULL:
Please pardon me for what I have done. I knew you would not
consent to it, and so I did not tell you. I was afraid I
should become a burden to you; though you are too
good-hearted to say so. I have a nice place, and am earning
my own living honestly. Do not try to find me, but believe I
will always be good, and worthy of your love, and, some day,
will repay you for all your kindness.
With love and respect,
"A very strange note!" murmured Overtop. "Young girls are not apt to
complain of being burdens, or to take such misanthropic views of life.
There is a man's hand in this. That wretch, Van Quintem, jr., without a
doubt. Did you never warn Miss Minford against him?"
"Once," said Mrs. Crull, with a faint choke in her voice. "I had noticed
his glances toward her at the inquest, and I told her he was a bad young
man, and she must not allow him to speak to her in the street, and that,
if he should come to my house to see her, I should shut the door in
"And what did she say to that?"
"She said all she knew about him was, that he had saved her life once.
She couldn't forget that. Then I showed her how improper it was in him
to hide his own name from her, and what horrid holes these gambling
dens was which he goes to. I also p'inted out how unfeelin' his conduct
was to his poor old father."
"And what did she say to all that?"
"She nodded her head, and said, 'Yes, so it was;' but I see, now, that
all my talk didn't make no impression on her."
"The sum of it is," said Overtop, "that she loves this worthless
vagabond, and knew that you would not permit his visits to your house.
Therefore she has left you."
Mrs. Crull was a woman of firmness as well as affection. She regretted
that her opposition to this young man should have been the means of
driving Pet away. But she knew that she had done what any prudent mother
would have done for her own child.
"I'm sorry it has come to this," said she; "but I did it all for the
best, Heaven knows. Gen'lemen, we must find this child. But how?"
Tiffles, being a man of infinite expedients, and accustomed to solve
problems for himself, and everybody else, at the shortest notice,
answered at once:
"_Not_ by advertising for her, or putting the police on her track. Young
Van Quintem would take the alarm, and move her out of town. She will go
anywhere with him, if I mistake not, until she finds him out better.
Have you no clue to her whereabouts; or can you think of any one that
could give us any information?"
Mrs. Crull reflected. "Unless I am much mistaken," said she, "I saw that
tall, clean-looking boy, Bog, I believe they call him--you remember him
at the inquest--walking on t'other side o' the street, two or three