Part 8 out of 9
times since Pet come to live with me. He looked sideways and kind o'
sheepish at the house as he passed. I've a notion that he was a lover of
"He's the man, or boy, for us!" cried Tiffles. "Is in the bill-posting
business, and knows the town better than I do, if anything. A shrewd
fellow, judging from his looks; and, if he's in love with Miss Minford,
then he's sure never to tire of hunting her up. He must disguise
himself, and find young Van Quintem, and follow him day and night, till
he brings up at Miss Minford. That's the shortest road. When Miss
Minford has been found, then we will consider what is to be done next."
Mrs. Crull and Overtop at once approved of this plan, and no time was
lost in putting it into execution.
BOG'S OPEN SESAME.
Bog was easily found, and gladly consented to do the work allotted to
him. It was agreed that he should conduct the search alone, and in his
own way; but that, after he had succeeded in tracing Miss Minford to her
place of concealment, he should send word, without delay, to Mrs. Crull,
and also to old Van Quintem, whose advice upon the subject had been
obtained. It was thought that the reasoning and entreaties of the two
together would win back the poor girl from the path of danger which she
was unconsciously treading.
Bog disguised himself by putting on his old, discarded working clothes;
and, as he looked at his reflection in the glass, thought how much truth
there was in the maxim, that "fine feathers make fine birds."
"Go, my good boy," old Van Quintem had said to him, in faltering
accents; "go among the gambling houses, and other dens of infamy, and
you will surely hear of my son."
Acting on this advice--which confirmed his own opinion--Bog proceeded to
visit the gambling houses on Broadway. Child of the city as he was, he
knew the locations of them all. His constant travels about town, day and
night, had made him a master of all this knowledge, and much more of the
sort, which is only useful when, as in the case of this poor orphan
boy, it serves to show where evil must be avoided, not sought. Thus the
pilot, taking his vessel through Hellgate, profits by his knowledge of
the rocks and the shallows, to steer clear of all dangers, and come
safely into port.
Bog, before leaving his shop, had been provided with this decoy note,
written by the ingenious Wesley Tiffles in cunning imitation of Miss
Minford's handwriting. The long, elegant curves, and all the delicate
peculiarities of her chirography, taught by Miss Pillbody, had been
copied from the sample furnished by her note to Mrs. Crull. It ran
MR. VAN QUINTEM:
DEAR SIR: Come to me at once, for I am in trouble.
The plan (Bog's contrivance all this) was to inquire at the gambling
houses where Mr. Van Quintem, jr., was most likely to be, and, when he
was found, to send this note in to him by a servant. Bog, having
delivered the note, was to withdraw to the sidewalk, lie in ambush, till
young Van Quintem came out, and then follow him to Miss Minford's
retreat. There he was to wait, and send a swift messenger to Mrs. Crull
and old Van Quintem. It was not known that young Van Quintem had ever
seen Miss Minford's handwriting; but, to make the game sure, the note
had been written with a skill worthy of a counterfeiter, or that most
dexterous of penmen, young Van Quintem himself.
Bog commenced operations about three o'clock in the afternoon--the hour
when the gambler and debauchee, who have been up all the previous night,
are ready to begin their feverish life again.
He first visited a snug establishment near the lower end of Broadway. It
was situated in the second story, over a nominal exchange office, and
was the favorite resort of down-town brokers, who, having gambled on
Wall street till the close of business hours, dropped in to flirt with
Fortune an hour or two before going home to dinner. Sometimes their
hour or two was protracted to six o'clock next morning, when they
staggered home to breakfast and a curtain lecture together. This Temple
of Faro was never impertinently molested by the police; and it was a
subject of remark, among people who thought they had been robbed there,
that there was never a policeman within sight of the door.
In the hallway of the second story occupied by this gambling saloon,
were a number of doors, which the experienced eye of the boy at once
decided to be blinds, or, in other words, no doors at all, but only
imitations. The appearance of the second story was that of a suite of
unoccupied offices. Whoever rapped at these blind doors, could obtain no
At the end of the hallway, Bog came upon a long window, which was
painted white on the inside. He saw, by a glance at the grooves of the
lower sash, that it was often raised. There was a boot-worn hollow on
the floor beneath the window. The unusual length of the lower sash, and
the nearness of the sill to the floor, would permit persons to step into
the room easily when the window was raised.
Bog rapped thrice at this window. He had a vague idea--derived from
reading, perhaps--that three raps were an open sesame to mysterious
rooms the world over. The last rap had not ceased to vibrate on the pane
of glass, when the window was suddenly shoved up, as if by somebody
waiting on the other side.
A negro of intense blackness stood revealed. He took a hasty inventory
of Bog's old clothes, and then said, "Clare out, now!" He commenced to
close the window.
"I was told to give you a half dollar," said Bog, bethinking himself of
a powerful expedient, "if you would find out whether Mr. Van Quintem was
here, and hand him a letter."
The negro's eyes dilated, and his thick lips wreathed into a grin.
"Mr. Fan Squintem--a little feller with a big black mustache? I knows
him. Dunno wether he's in, 'L see fur ye." The negro paused. The
interrogatory, "Where's your half dollar?" could be plainly seen in his
"Here it is," said Bog.
The negro grinned his satisfaction, pocketed the coin, disappeared
through another door from which there exhaled an odor of cigars and mint
juleps, and returned, in a minute, with the intelligence, "He a'n't in,
Mister. P'a'ps you want to leave some word for him?"
Bog had no time to lose. He said, "Nothing partickler," and hurried off,
leaving the negro to puzzle over his half dollar.
At the next gambling saloon, near the junction of Broadway and Park Row,
Bog simplified his method of operations. Before making any inquiry of
the servant who answered his triple rap, he thrust a half dollar at him,
and then put his question. This plan saved surly looks and explanations.
Mr. Van Quintem was a well-known patron of the establishment, but had
not been there for a week: which was rather strange, the man
Bog continued his search, walking as fast as he could. In second
stories, in third stories, in fourth stories, in the rear of ground
floors, in one or two basements, among all the more fashionable gambling
dens, which, at that period, lay between Fulton and Tenth streets, he
picked his way. His new system had drawn heavily upon his stock of loose
silver, and he had but two half dollars left. The question now was, how
to spend them?--for Bog knew of no more resorts of gamblers on Broadway;
and there were none on any of the side streets which a man of young Van
Quintem's style would be likely to frequent. It was the edge of evening.
The boy walked up and down between Tenth and Fourteenth streets,
thinking what it would be best to do next. He kept a sharp lookout at
the passers by, hoping to see the object of his search. He paused to
rest himself a few minutes in the doorway of a photographic gallery;
and, while there, observed two young men, with sickly complexions and
bloodshot eyes, coming up the street. He recognized them as young men
whom he had often seen issuing from gambling places in the small hours
of the morning. They were talking briskly, and Bog pricked up his ears.
"The very d----l's in the cards lately," said the whitest-faced of the
"Luck must have a turn," said the other. "By ----" (with a horrid oath),
"suppose we try Van's?"
"Van's? Where's that?"
"Why, the concern just opened on the corner above. The biggest kind of
suppers there, they say."
"All right," said the other, wearily. "We'll try Van's."
Van is a common prefix of names in New York; but Bog needed no further
assurance that this Van belonged to Quintem. The opening of a new
gambling saloon under his name (with some wealthy backer furnishing the
capital, as is usually the case) would explain why young Van Quintem had
not been seen at any of his old haunts on Broadway for a fortnight past.
Bog followed his guides at a short distance. After proceeding two
squares, they stopped in front of a stylish old mansion, and, after a
furtive look up and down and across the street, ascended the steps, and
opened the door. As they did so, Bog swiftly passed the house, and saw
that a muscular servant stood within the entry, for the obvious purpose
of preventing the intrusion of persons not wanted there. The large
diamond breastpins and depraved faces of the two young men were their
passports, and were _vised_ without hesitation by the diplomatic
Bog took a half dollar in his hand, advanced to the door, which was now
closed, and boldly opened it.
The athletic guardian of the place, being confronted with this audacious
youth in old clothes, put on a commanding look, and said:
"Well, sir, and what the d----l do you want here?"
"Only to give you half a dollar, as I was told to," said Bog, "and to
ask if Mr. Van Quintem was in. Note from a lady, sir; that's all."
The servant smiled, and took the coin.
"He's in," was the reply.
"Then please hand this to him, and say as how it's 'mportant. No arnser
The servant received the note, and sententiously remarked, "Consider it
done;" whereon the boy Bog hurriedly retreated, and hid himself in a
doorway nearly opposite. He had hardly done this, before the door of the
house opened again, and disclosed the man whom he longed to see. The
letter was crumpled in his hand, and his pale face betrayed agitation.
He cast wary looks in all directions, and then descended to the
sidewalk, and walked fast down Broadway. Bog emerged from his seclusion,
and followed him at a distance, always keeping somebody between him and
the object of his pursuit.
At the corner of Astor Place, young Van Quintem stopped; and Bog came to
a halt also, half a block behind.
The next minute, the Eighth-street stage, going up, approached the
corner at a rapid rate, as if the driver were hurrying home to his
supper. There were but few persons in the stage.
Young Van Quintem hailed the conveyance, jumped in before it could stop,
and the driver whipped up his horses to an increased speed. Bog was
tired, and he knew not how far he might have to follow the stage at a
full trot. He resolved upon his course instantly. Turning the corner of
Clinton Place, he ran up that side of the triangular block, and met the
stage. He pulled his old cap farther over his eyes, to prevent the
possibility of recognition by young Van Quintem, and, gliding swiftly
behind the stage, when he was sure that the driver was not looking,
hooked on to the step behind, just as he had done a thousand times when
he was a smaller boy.
Young Van Quintem sat at the farther end of the stage, absorbed in his
own thoughts. His thin lips moved restlessly at times, as if he were
arguing to himself. In his hand he still held the crumpled note. Twice
he unfolded it, and read the contents carefully; then crushed it in his
hand again. Bog watched him through the window of the stage door--not
looking straight at him, but with that side vision with which we trace
the outline of faint comets. He was aware that young Van Quintem looked
at him twice suspiciously, and then settled back into his own
meditations. Bog felt safe in his disguise--or rather his original and
When the stage stopped to take in or let out passengers, Bog slipped
from his perch, and hid himself from the driver's sight. Long experience
had taught him how to render himself invisible to that vindictive
The stage rolled on to the Greenpoint ferry, dropping all its passengers
by the way, excepting the pursued and the pursuer. It was now evident
that young Van Quintem was going to Greenpoint.
The ferry boat was not in, and would not be in, and ready to leave
again, for ten minutes. Bog, having seen his game enter the ferry house,
thereby conclusively proving his intention to cross the river, slipped
into a boiler yard near the ferry. There, against a post, he scrawled
with a stump of pencil, on the back of two playbills (which he had
brought with him for stationery), two notes, as follows:
Tuesday Evening, about 8 o'clock.
Please come to the ferry house on the Greenpoint side, and
wait there till I send for you. BOG.
These notes he addressed to Mr. Van Quintem, sen., and Mrs. Crull, at
their residences. The next step was to find a boy to deliver them. Bog
did not have to wait long for that. Boys of the ragged and city-wise
variety may be picked up at any corner of New York at any hour of the
day or night.
Another Eighth-street stage, which came rattling toward the ferry,
brought a fine specimen of the juvenile vagrant and dare-devil, seated
on the step. Bog looked out of the boiler yard, and hailed him with a
shrill whistle, formed by thrusting two fingers in the mouth, and
blowing fiercely. The boy recognized the signal of his ragged tribe,
slid off the seat, and came running to where Bog was standing. As he
drew near, Bog recognized him as a trusty lad whom he had employed as
file leader in a walking advertisement procession, several weeks before.
"Wot yer want, hey?" asked this youth.
"Know me?" asked Bog.
"Know ye? No. Yer a'n't one of our fellers."
"Look again." Bog raised his ragged cap, and smoothed his hair back.
"Why, it's Mr. Bogert. Cuss me if it a'n't!"
"Just so, Bill. I'm trying to catch a chap that owes me something, you
see. He's in the ferry house there, waiting for the boat. I'm going to
follow him to Greenpoint, and find out where he lives. Then I'll have
him arrested. Now, there are two people I would like to have as
witnesses, when I track him to his house. The names are written here;
and what I want of you is, to deliver these notes to them as soon as you
can, and tell them to come right away. Will you do it, Bill?"
"Won't I, Mr. Bogert? Jest tell me the names, streets, and numbers, cos
I can't read handwritin' very well, yer know."
Bog read the addresses, and, at the same time, produced a quarter from
his fast-diminishing stock of silver. "Take that," said he.
"No yer don't!" said the eccentric youth. "You've done some good turns
to me. Bill Fish don't forget his friends, I can tell yer. Here
Bill Fish snatched the notes from Bog's hand, and ran down the street
after a stage which had just left the ferry house on its down trip. Bog
saw him seat himself on the step, with his head well hid from the
driver, and sent a parting whistle after him, to which Bill Fish
responded with an enormous grin and a jerk of thumb over shoulder at his
natural enemy on the box.
"I'll give Bill Fish a good job, some day," mused Bog. "Now for the
The boat had come in. Bog watched from his hiding place until he saw
young Van Quintem step on board, and disappear in the ladies' cabin.
Then he hastened to the ferry house, paid his fare, and entered. To
avoid being seen by young Van Quintem, he took a seat in that repository
of stale tobacco-smoke called the "Gentlemen's Cabin."
At the Greenpoint landing, Bog watched young Van Quintem's departure
from the boat, and stole out, taking the opposite side of the street. It
was then quite dark, and, with reasonable precaution, there was no fear
that the pursued would see him.
The young profligate walked up the street several blocks, and turned
into a side street, occupied by residences, with small shops and
groceries at the corners, and occasionally at intervals between them.
Suddenly, Bog observed him looking around, as if to be sure that he was
not watched. Bog slipped behind a large tree. Having apparently come to
the conclusion that nobody was observing him, young Van Quintem strode
on rapidly a few rods farther, and then made a sharp turn into a neat
little millinery shop, which stood quite remote from all other places
When the young man's form had disappeared, Bog ran at the top of his
speed to a point opposite the shop, where he could readily see what was
going on within.
The door was open and a strong light from the interior shone across the
street. There was no tree or awning post, or other object, on the
sidewalk, behind which he could conceal himself. Exactly opposite to the
shop, and in the full blaze of its light, was a high door shutting on a
small alley way. Bog tried the latch, and found the door locked. With
instant decision, he caught the top of the door, and vaulted over it,
trusting to fortune not to be caught on the inside. Applying his eye to
the keyhole, he observed the following condition of things:
The shop was a milliner's, beyond all question. It was filled with
articles of ladies' wear, whose names and uses were all unknown to Bog;
while outside, in the air, dangled various patterns of skirts which had
just then come into fashion; and the public and obtrusive exhibition of
which is one of the singularities of our rapid civilization.
Behind the counter stood one of those thin ladies who have dedicated
themselves to the millinery and a single life. At that distance, she
looked to Bog like a perfectly respectable woman, with a sharp eye to
business. Farther on, toward the end of the same counter, was the angel
of his heart, Patty Minford. Her appearance, pale, and therefore more
touchingly beautiful than ever, threw his senses into that sweet flutter
which is the proof and mystery of love. He repeated the vow which he had
made to himself, and dreamed of fulfilling a thousand times, to save her
from harm at the risk of his life. She was folding up articles on the
counter, and packing them into little boxes, and did not look toward
young Van Quintem. Bog thought this a good sign.
The young man leaned over the counter, and addressed some words to her,
to which her lips moved as if in reply, while her eyes were still
downcast on her work. He then smoothed out the crumpled note which he
had carried in his hand, and placed it before her. She started in
amazement, as she remarked the close imitation of her handwriting; and,
having read it, shook her head with a wondering air. Young Van Quintem's
inexpressive face assumed a look of astonishment, and he instantly
walked to the door, and peered up and down the street, and opposite.
Then he nodded to Miss Minford, as if to excuse himself for a moment,
and, darting out of the shop, walked rapidly to the street below, and
then to the one above, passing Bog's hiding place on that side of the
street, and causing that youth to remove his eye from the keyhole for
fear of detection. When he had made this reconnoissance, and satisfied
himself that there was no spy about, he returned to the shop. In the
mean time, some pantomime had been going on between Miss Minford and the
shopwoman, which Bog interpreted to mean that Miss Minford appealed to
her for protection, and that the shopwoman promised it. This was
followed by the retiring of the young lady through a door in the rear of
the shop, and the locking of the door by her female friend, who put the
key in her pocket.
Young Van Quintem came in, and was surprised not to see Patty. The
shopwoman explained, with a gesture, that she had gone up stairs,
whereon he consulted his watch, and then sat down in an armchair in
front of the counter, as if with the determination of waiting for her.
Bog judged, from all the circumstances, that Miss Minford would not
again show herself for some time; that young Van Quintem would wait, in
the hope of seeing her; and that the shopwoman could be depended on as
her friend to the last. He therefore concluded that he might safely
spend time to go to the ferry house, and procure the company of old Van
Quintem and Mrs. Crull, who had probably reached the rendezvous.
Watching for an opportunity when the young man's back was turned, Bog
lightly vaulted from his hiding place, and noiselessly ran down
FOUND AND LOST.
When he arrived at the ferry house, the boat was coming in, with his
venerable accomplices on board. Upon receiving her cue from the
faithful Bill Fish, Mrs. Crull entered her carriage (which had been in
readiness for her since Bog started out on his search), and was driven
to Mr. Van Quintem's. The old gentleman, who was sitting in his study,
with his light overcoat and hat on, prepared for any journey, took the
spare seat in the carriage, and, in less than twenty-five minutes, by
fast driving and the timely cooperation of the ferry boat, they were at
the appointed spot.
"Have you found her, you dear Bog?" asked Mrs. Crull, breathless.
Bog answered "Yes," and that Mrs. Crull should see her in five minutes.
That lady then assisted him into the carriage, and kissed him on the
forehead in a motherly way, which would have astonished the sedate
family coachman, if he had not been entirely used to Mrs. Crull's
"My good boy," said old Van Quintem, in a trembling voice, "are you sure
we are not too late--quite sure?"
"Sure!" said Bog.
"Thank God! thank God!" murmured the old gentleman. Then he looked with
a strange interest upon the honest and intelligent face of the lad. He
was contrasting the history of the poor boy, which he had learned from
Mrs. Crull, with that of his abandoned son.
The carriage was stopped, by the order of Bog (who calmly took charge of
the whole proceedings), at the corner of the street below the shop; and
the party (excepting the driver) walked slowly toward the scene of
interest. Old Van Quintem's increasing infirmities compelled him to lean
for support on the arm of Mrs. Crull, and also with greater and more
confiding weight, on that of Bog.
As the party entered the shop, young Van Quintem was sitting with his
head turned toward the door by which Miss Minford had vanished, savagely
biting his finger nails. He wheeled in his chair, and confronted the
"What the ---- are you doing here?" he cried to his father.
"We are here to save a young girl from ruin, and you from another
crime," said the old gentleman, greatly agitated, and leaning with his
whole weight, now, on Bog's arm.
"The ---- you are! And you have brought along an old woman, and a boy
that looks like a pickpocket, to help you."
The phrase "old woman" stirred up Mrs. Crull. She left the old
gentleman's side, and advanced to within a yard of the profligate. "Old
as I am," said she, "I'm strong enough to spank such a white-livered,
broken-down puppy as you are. But I'll leave you to the hands of the
law. It's a long lane that hasn't any turning, remember; and you'll pull
up at the gallows at last. That's some comfort!"
Mrs. Crull here became conscious that it was highly impolite to lose her
temper, and she fell back to the support of her old friend. Young Van
Quintem laughed at her, showing his white teeth unpleasantly.
"Ah, I recognize you now," he continued, looking maliciously at the boy
Bog. "You are the young thief that tracked me here, are you? I'll settle
with you now."
He sprang from his chair, and strode toward the lad. He was met halfway
by Bog, whom the insulting epithet had stung to the quick.
A foe met halfway is half vanquished. A single glance at Bog's clear,
courageous eye, and his sinewy proportions, assured young Van Quintem
that he had more than his match.
"This--this is no place for a row," he faltered. "I'll attend to you,
some time, in the street."
"I shall always be ready for you," said Bog, smiling at this
pusillanimous postponement--which is a mild way of making a
Here the attention of all was called off by the appearance of Miss
Minford. The quick ear of the milliner had caught her footstep on the
stairs, coming down. She unlocked the door, and the beautiful object of
their search stood before them. She was very pale, and tears dimmed her
eyes. Mrs. Crull flew toward her, and the poor girl fell on her breast,
and cried as if her heart would break.
Good Mrs. Crull helped her to a sofa, and sat down, and strained her
young friend closely to her bosom, "Be calm," said she, "dear child!"
Old Van Quintem and Bog looked on with sad interest. The young villain
stood in a corner, gnawing his finger nails, and revolving schemes of
vengeance. All waited for Miss Minford to become calm before any
explanation was sought.
Under the soothing caresses of Mrs. Crull, the young girl soon became
comparatively tranquil. With her head still pillowed on the broad bosom
of her protectress, she made a broken statement to the following effect,
in response to the tender questionings of that lady:
She said that she had no thought of leaving the house of her dear
friend, until he had told her how much better it would be to earn her
own living at some easy and pleasant trade, than to be dependent on one
who was not a relative. He had also told her that, one day, when he was
passing the house, he heard Mr. Crull scolding because Mrs. Crull had
brought a girl home to be her companion.
At this point, Mrs. Crull turned furiously toward the pale offender.
"You miserable wretch!" said she. "I only wish my dear old man was here,
to thrash you soundly. Why, he loved this little darling almost as much
as I did. Besides, I'm the mistress of our house; and he never meddles
with my affairs. Go on, dear Pet."
Pet then stated that he (she never called him by his name) had promised
to get a place for her, and that she, supposing he was a true friend,
had accepted the offer of his aid. One day, when they had met by
appointment (which was very wrong, she admitted, with a fresh torrent of
tears), he told her that he had found a nice situation for her in a
milliner's shop in Greenpoint, and that she must come right away, or she
would lose the chance. She went home, and packed up her few things in a
handkerchief, and came with him here in a carriage. She came directly
here, and had not been out of Mrs. Wopping's sight since then. Mrs.
Wopping had treated her very, very kindly.
Mrs. Wopping, who had been lying in wait for her opportunity, here spoke
up. She was a respectable woman, she said, thank God! and had been in
the business for fifteen years, in New York. They could inquire about
her in Canal street, where she had served her apprenticeship; in
Division street, where she had been a forewoman; and in Grand street,
where she had kept a shop. In an evil hour, she had been persuaded to
start a millinery establishment in Greenpoint; and a very bad time she
had had of it. All she knew about this unfortunate affair, was this: The
young man, there, had called on her, a few days ago, and said that he
wanted to do a favor for an orphan girl, who was a distant relative of
his. She was poor, he said, but proud--no strange thing, Mrs. Wopping
believed--and would not accept anything directly from him.
"Therefore," said Mrs. Wopping, "he wanted to arrange with me to give
her some easy work to do, enough to make her think she was earning her
own living, and he would pay me her board, and give me twenty shillings
a week to hand to her as her wages. By this plan, I could get a boarder
at a fair price, and the services of a young lady to wait on the shop
for nothing. Very imprudently, I consented, but not before I had made
the young man there swear to Heaven that his intentions were honorable.
This he did in the most solemn manner. I loved the dear girl at first
sight, and determined to watch over her, and keep her from harm. I had a
little sister once--long since dead--that much resembled her. I should
add, that, though Miss Minford seemed to think very well of the young
man there, when he brought her here, she became quite suspicious of him
yesterday--he was here all yesterday afternoon--and refused to ride out
with him, though he had brought a handsome carriage for her. I advised
her not to go."
"Thank you, good Mrs. Wopping!" said Mrs. Crull, shaking that lady by
the hand, "you have been a true friend to our dear child; and I'll
order my bonnets from you for the futer. Virtue shouldn't always be its
"You see, now, my darling," continued Mrs. Crull, "what a scoundrel you
have escaped from. Will you be my adopted child forever? Speak, my
Poor Pet threw her soft white arms around the thick neck of her
protectress, and cried for joy. "Dear, dear mother!" she murmured.
There was a pause, daring which everybody but young Van Quintem had
occasion to wipe their eyes. He paced up and down, his brow wrinkled,
and inextinguishable hate flashing from his eyes.
"Well, sir," said his father, calmly, "what atonement have you to make
for this outrage?"
"You're a ---- old fool, and that's all I've got to say."
"Heaven be praised that his poor mother was not spared for this sorrow!"
was the tranquil reply.
"Curse you--and the old woman's memory. You're always making a fuss
The benignant expression of old Van Quintem's face vanished instantly,
and a just rage gleamed on every feature. "Unnatural son! monster!
fiend!" he cried, raising his hands aloft; "at last you have gone too
far. Leave my presence, sir, and never--never--let me see your face
again. I say to you, and before these witnesses, that I disown and
disinherit you forever--forever--forever!"
The coward son could not endure that terrible visitation of parental
wrath, and fled, without another word, from the shop.
Old Van Quintem fell exhausted upon the strong shoulder of the boy Bog.
"Henceforth," said he, "you--you--shall be my son."
[Illustration: FATHER AND SON.]
SPECULATIONS--PECUNIARY AND MATRIMONIAL.
THE "COSMOPOLITAN WINDOW FASTENER."
The "Cosmopolitan Window Fastener" was a veritable success. For the
first time in his life, Mr. Wesley Tiffles's theories had been
demonstrated by results. Had the "Cosmopolitan Window Fastener" been his
own invention, and disposed of for his own behoof, he would have
abandoned it long before its merits had been fairly tested, and tried
some other of the myriad schemes that floated through his brain. But the
profits of the "Cosmopolitan Window Fastener" went to another; and this
was the secret of Wesley Tiffles's persistent (and therefore successful)
This was his plan of operations: In the first place, from the funds
supplied by Marcus Wilkeson, he procured a patent for the invention. In
the second place, he put an advertisement a column long in every daily
paper--six insertions paid in advance--and handed a highly polished
brass model of the invention to the editor, with a request to notice, if
perfectly agreeable. The just and logical result followed. Instead of
the ten-line paragraph with which patent churns and washing machines
are ordinarily turned loose on society, the "Cosmopolitan Window
Fastener" received notices so long and ornate, that it was quite
impossible to derive from them a correct idea of the matchless
simplicity of the invention.
Having thus roused public curiosity, Tiffles, in the third place, took
an office on Broadway, and put up a large sign inscribed in gilt
capitals, "The Cosmopolitan Window Fastener Manufacturing Co." From this
_pou sto_, Archimedes-like, he commenced to move the world of house
owners. This he accomplished by the following manoeuvre: He caused
double-leaded advertisements, under the head of special notices, to be
inserted in all the papers, informing the public that it would be
utterly impossible to supply the demand for the "Cosmopolitan Window
Fastener," and that, therefore, it would be useless to send in orders.
The Company were employing all the resources of two large manufacturing
establishments; but it was evident that these would fail to meet the
extraordinary and totally unexpected demand for this indispensable
protection against burglars--this moral safeguard, as it might not
inappropriately be called, of civilized homes. The Company had made
every effort, but without success, to secure a force of skilled workmen
equal to the emergency. Justice to their customers in all parts of the
country, compelled the Company to announce that no orders received after
that date could be filled under two months. Under these remarkable--they
might say, in some respects, disagreeable--circumstances, they begged
leave to throw themselves on the indulgence of a generous public.
These notices were put forth not only in the form of newspaper
advertisements, but as placards and handbills, which were stuck all over
the city, and thrown into all the stages, falling like autumn leaves
into the laps of passengers. This was the cooeperative work of the boy
Bog, who, though adopted by old Van Quintem as his son and heir, had not
yet given up the bill-sticking business, but, on the contrary, had
increased it, and now had a practical monopoly of it in the city, with
branches in the suburbs. Bog would not eat the bread of idleness--and so
he had modestly told Mr. Van Quintem--and that fine old gentleman had
patted him on the back, and told him that there was genuine Dutch
blood in him.
Bogert & Co. now employed a hundred lads; and Bog's department of labor
was the general planning of operations, and the receiving and
disbursement of the money--and a very nice and agreeable department it
was. It enabled Bog to dress neatly, and keep his hands clean--two
points upon which he was now extremely fastidious. Bog was growing tall,
manly, and handsome. He was also showing a great improvement in his
grammar and pronunciation--the fruit of diligent attendance at the
The public, being thus continually informed that orders for the
"Cosmopolitan Window Fastener" could not possibly be filled under two
months, very naturally began to send in orders for the invaluable
invention, to be filled after that period. Every mail brought hundreds
of them from all parts of the country. The Company--that is, Wesley
Tiffles--sat at their desk in the Broadway office from, nine to three
o'clock, exhibiting the window fastener to hundreds of visitors, and
receiving orders rather as a matter of favor to the customer than to
At the end of a month, when orders to the amount of nearly seventy-five
thousand dollars had been received--every Northern and Western State
being extensively represented on the books--the Company issued another
advertisement, to the effect that, owing to the overwhelming pressure of
business, they were willing to dispose of patent rights for two of
There was a rush of applicants, to all of whom the Company could
truthfully exhibit large and genuine orders from all the States. The
rights for two States were readily sold, and the Company then found that
they could spare one more for a fair compensation; and so on, until
every State in the Union had been disposed of, and the Company had not
an inch of United States territory left. Not only this, but liberal
purchasers were found for Cuba, Canada, South America, England, France,
Germany, Russia, and all the countries of the Continent.
In three months, the Company had disposed of their entire interest, and
realized about one hundred thousand dollars cash. This sum Tiffles had
faithfully paid over, as fast as received, to Fayette Overtop, who not
only represented Marcus Wilkeson (unknown to Pet), but was Pet's own
attorney and agent. By Fayette Overtop it was placed in bank, credited
to Miss Patty Minford, and subject to her order alone.
Thus it happened that the poor inventor had not toiled in vain for the
child that he loved.
Tiffles--with that strange unselfishness sometimes found in men of his
class--had not thought of or desired any compensation for his services,
other than the payment of all the bills incurred in the operation. The
pleasure which he took in manipulating the public, and seeing his labors
crowned with success, was the only reward that he wished for.
Marcus Wilkeson, however, as soon as he saw that Tiffles was actually
about to perform the amazing feat of raising money, determined, as an
act of common justice, to insist upon his receiving twenty per cent. of
the total. Tiffles flatly refused, at first, saying (which was true)
that he could work a great deal better if he had no personal interest in
the scheme; but yielded, at length, to the earnest solicitations of
Marcus, backed by the emphatic declaration of Miss Minford (through her
attorney), that she would not touch a penny of the money unless he
consented. So, when the affairs of the Company were wound up, Tiffles
found himself the possessor of twenty thousand dollars--a sum whose
existence in a concrete form he had always secretly disbelieved. And
Tiffles's first act was to settle up all his outstanding debts.
The unexpected acquisition of this immense sum imparted a charm to every
object in life except Miss Philomela Wilkeson.
Poor Miss Wilkeson was quick to discern the change in Tiffles's manner
toward her. His calls were as frequent as ever, but were exclusively on
her half-brother, and had no side bearing in her direction. He no longer
lingered in the entry to converse with her; and flatly refused her
invitation to take a glass of wine in the dining room. Most ominous of
signs, he did not press her hand in the least, when he took it in his
own. His voice was no longer winning, but harsh and neglectful.
Indifference brooded in the heart of the monster. The worst of it was,
that he had been so cautious and noncommittal in his declarations, that
she could not upbraid him for his perfidy. With a cold calculation
worthy of a demon, he had made love in the pantomimic way, and eschewed
written or verbal communications of an erotic nature. No jury could have
muleted him one cent for damages in a breach-of-promise case, and
he knew it.
While Wesley Tiffles slipped off Miss Wilkeson like a loose glove, she
might as well have tried to divest herself of her natural cuticle as to
banish all thoughts of him. Miss Wilkeson was accustomed to allude
mysteriously to certain sentimental affairs of her youth. In
confidential moments, her friends had been favored with shadowy
reminiscences of a romantic past. But truth compels us to state that
Miss Wilkeson had never been the recipient of that delicate and awkward
thing known as a proposal, and that she had never been kissed by man or
boy since she wore long dresses. Hence the magnified importance which
she attached to that kiss which, in a moment of reckless but cheap
gallantry, Wesley Tiffles, on one fatal evening, had impressed upon her
withered hand. She loved the destroyer of her peace with the pent-up
energies of forty years.
Being in ignorance of Tiffles's sudden fortune, she was at a loss how to
explain his defection. She conjectured all things, and finally settled
down to the conclusion that he was a coy young man, and had not been
sufficiently encouraged by her. She remembered instances where he had
exhibited signs of ardor--in one case so far as beginning to slip a hand
around her waist--and she had repelled him. He was evidently waiting for
some marked encouragement. How foolishly prudish she had been!
One evening, as Wesley Tiffles was passing through the hall to the door,
after a rattling hour with the three bachelors, he was confronted by
Miss Wilkeson, who chanced to leave the front parlor on a journey up
stairs at that moment. She was dressed in a light silk, and her hair was
carefully braided, and her face had a pink color in some parts, which
contrasted well with the pallor in other parts; and her glass had told
her that she was looking uncommonly youthful and charming. She had
carefully studied her part, which was to be a bold one, throwing off
"Good evening, Mr. Tiffles," said she, promptly offering her hand.
He took it with unsqueezing indifference. She had expected that.
"Mr. Tiffles," said she, with an air of youthful raillery, "you are a
naughty man, and I had an idea of not speaking to you again."
"Naughty!" said Tiffles, astonished. "How?"
"Why, you have hardly been civil to me, of late. I do believe you
wouldn't speak, or shake hands with me, if I didn't always set the
example." This in a half-complaining, half-laughing way.
It suddenly flashed upon Tiffles that he had been, for some time,
rather neglectful of the lady. It also forcibly occurred to him that it
was wise policy to be on good terms, at all times, with the mistress of
the house; and such was Miss Wilkeson's present position. He therefore
clutched her hand again, gave it a faint squeeze, and said that he
apologized a million times for his rudeness; but the fact was, he had so
much business on hand, that he had been turned into a perfect bear, he
supposed. He playfully challenged Miss Wilkeson to step into the parlor
and take a glass of wine, and he would show her that he was not the
brute she fancied.
Miss Wilkeson laughingly accepted the challenge. "But I do believe," she
added, "that it is only the glass of wine you care for. Now tell me, Mr.
Tiffles, aren't you a woman hater?"
"When a man is asked that question, categorically, by a woman, his most
effective answer is to make love to her out of hand. Tiffles was not
prepared to do this in the present case, but he was willing to pay
compliments to any extent.
"Ah, Miss Wilkeson, there you do me great injustice," said he, with his
pleasantest of laughs. "I drink this glass of wine to 'lovely woman,'"
with a nod at Miss Wilkeson.
Miss Wilkeson giggled, and took a fly's sip from the brim of her glass.
Tiffles heaved a sigh. "We bachelors are poor, unhappy fellows, really
to be pitied."
"You are horrid creatures--you know you are--and deserve no pity from
us!" Miss Wilkeson played her frisky, juvenile part admirably.
"So charming, and yet so cruel!" said Tiffles, uttering the first
preposterous compliment that he thought of.
"You flatterer!" said Miss Wilkeson, beating a breeze toward him with
Tiffles, observing that matters were coming to a crisis, paused. Miss
Wilkeson interpreted his silence as another attack of timidity. Time was
valuable to her, and this kind of conversation might be kept up all
night, and amount to nothing. She resolved upon her final _coup_.
"Oh! oh! Mr. Tiffles, what--what is the matter?" She looked wildly about
"The matter! What matter?" exclaimed that gentleman, little suspecting
what was to happen.
"The wine--the warm weather--something--oh! oh!"
"With these inexplicable remarks, Miss Wilkeson dropped her fan, uttered
a slight but sharp scream, and fell back in her chair, like a withered
flower on a broken stalk.
"By thunder, she has fainted!" said the excited Tiffles. He had never
been in a similar dilemma, and did not know what to do. He had heard
tickling of the feet highly recommended in such cases; but that was
obviously impracticable. A dash of cold water in the face was also said
to afford instant relief; but there was no water at hand. "I must call
for help," said he.
This remark appeared to arouse Miss Wilkeson. "Support me," she
murmured. "I shall be better soon."
Tiffles, all accommodation, clasped her fragile waist with an arm, and
gently inclined her head upon his shoulder. She heaved a sigh, and gave
other tokens of returning animation. Tiffles here noticed that her face
had not the prevailing paleness which always accompanies fainting. He
instantly suspected the true nature of Miss Wilkeson's complaint.
The noise of quick footsteps resounded in the entry. Marcus, Overtop,
and Maltboy had heard the sharp scream, and were rushing to the rescue.
"Good heavens! what will they say?" exclaimed Tiffles. "Don't be silly,
Miss Wilkeson, at your time of life." This cutting remark was wrung from
him by the annoyance and confusion of the moment.
It served as a wonderful anodyne; for Miss Wilkeson Jerked herself into
an erect position, and said, "You're a fool!"
At this juncture, before Tiffles had quite uncoiled his serpentine arms
from her, and while she was looking fiery indignation at him, the door
was pushed open, and the three bachelors rushed in.
"I really beg pardon," said Marcus. "No occasion for my services, I
"Heard a scream--thought it was here--no intention to intrude," added
The tableau reminded Maltboy of his own innumerable little affairs, and
he laughed. "It's a lovers' quarrel," said he, "and not to be
interrupted, of course."
The three bachelors hastily evacuated the room, and their merry laughs
rang in the entry.
"Miss Wilkeson," said Times, consulting his watch--he carried a gold
one, with an enormous gold chain--"you must really excuse me. Important
business engagement at nine. Good evening." So saying, Tiffles
precipitately retired, with the determination not to enter the house
again until he knew that Miss Wilkeson was out of it.
A week from that memorable day, Tiffles met Marcus Wilkeson on Broadway.
"Why haven't you been to see us?" said Marcus.
"Not been very smart, of late," explained Tiffles.
"Fainting fits, perhaps. Maybe they are catching, eh?"
Tiffles smiled, for he saw that Marcus knew the truth. "How is Miss
Wilkeson?" he asked, respectfully.
"She has gone into the country for her health, and will probably stay
away a number of years. In short, I have engaged for her the position of
first preceptress of a female seminary in the middle of the State. She
said she was quite sick of the hollow and heartless life of New York."
Marcus spoke truly. Miss Wilkeson had retired to the country with a
thorough feeling of disgust for town existence. She has taught for
several years, and is still teaching in the ---- Young Ladies' Seminary,
with eminent success, though her fair pupils complain, with much pretty
pouting, of her savage restrictions upon all walks and talks with the
eligible young beaux of the village. They say that she hates the men;
and they call her a cross old maid, and a great number of other
But, sometimes, a tear is observed in the corner of her eye, which she
hastily wipes away. That tear is an oblation upon the memory of a lost
love. That lost love was, and is, and always will be, Wesley Tiffles.
SLAPMAN _vs_. SLAPMAN.
The case of Slapman _vs_. Slapman occupied the attention of the referee,
Samuel Goldfinch, Esq., over two months. That gentleman was corpulent,
fond of good dinners, and had a highly cultivated taste for scandal. It
had been his custom to give this interesting case a hearing one or two
hours every afternoon, daily, after court. It was a relief from the
heavy business of the day; for Goldfinch had heavy business, which came
to him because he was a fat and pleasant fellow, with a large head, and
a great circle of miscellaneous acquaintance. The real work of the
office was done by a modest, unappreciated man named Mixer. On the
occasion of these antimatrimonial audiences, Mixer sat in the back room,
grubbing among his dusty papers; while Samuel Goldfinch, Esq., in the
front room, with shut doors, leaned back in his easy chair and
surrendered himself to enjoyment.
In the case of Slapman _vs_. Slapman, a great number of witnesses had
been examined on each side. Affidavits, amounting to hundreds of pages,
had been obtained in distant States--some as far away as California. The
lawyers had spared neither their own time nor the money of their clients
in raking together testimony which would bear in the slightest degree
upon the interests which they represented. All the relatives of Mr.
Slapman had testified that he was a gentleman uniformly kind and
courteous, possessing a singular placidity of temper, and indulgent to
his wife to a degree where indulgence became a fault. Those relatives,
and they were numerous--particularly in the country branch--who had
passed anniversary weeks at Mr. Slapman's house, were very severe on
Mrs. Slapman. She was a proud, disagreeable woman. She was continually
snubbing her husband before people. She had a great many male friends,
whose acquaintance she had retained in defiance of his wishes. She was
known to have received letters from men, and when her husband had
desired to peruse them, had laughed at him. It is true that she
pretended to be a patroness of literature, science, and the arts; but
anybody could see that those things were only the cover of the grossest
improprieties. She had been heard to listen without remonstrance, to
declarations of love from several young men. It turned out, upon
cross-examination, that these irregularities took place in charades and
plays, of which Mr. Slapman's relatives had been shocked spectators.
With regard to Mr. Overtop's transactions in the family, they could say
nothing; for they had long since ceased to visit Mrs. Slapman, on
account of her disgraceful conduct--and also (they might have added, but
they did not add) because Mrs. Slapman latterly had her house full of
Jigbees, and put her husband's relatives into obscure rooms in the third
story, and quite forgot their existence afterward.
_Per contra_, all the Jigbees--and they were a prolific race--swore that
their distinguished relative was a pattern of artlessness and innocence.
That she was remarkable from early childhood for a charming frankness
and transparent candor. That when this bright ornament of the Jigbee
stock was sought in marriage by the defendant, the whole family, with
one mind and voice, opposed the match. They had felt that a being of her
exalted intellectual tastes was too good for a sordid money-getting
creature like Slapman. But that man, by his ingenious artifices, had
succeeded in winning the hand of their gifted kinswoman, and married her
against their unanimous protests. There was but one consolation for this
family misfortune. Mr. Slapman was reported to be wealthy, and could
afford to indulge his wife in the exercise of her noble longings for
TRUTH. They were willing to say that Mr. Slapman had not been illiberal,
so far as vulgar money was concerned. He had given to his wife the house
and lot which she occupied, and had never stinted her in respect of
allowances. But what was money to a woman of Mrs. Slapman's soul, when
her husband withheld from her his confidence and trust, regarded her
innocent labors in behalf of Art, Literature, and the Drama, with a
cold, unsympathizing eye, and finally descended so low as to feel a
brutal jealousy of those gentlemen of talent, of whom she was the
"Money" (we are quoting here from the remarks of Mrs. Slapman's eminent
counsel) "is very desirable in its way, but is it not the vilest dross,
your Honor, when compared with the pure gold of connubial trust and
sympathy?" Mr. Goldfinch nodded his head, as if to say that he rather
thought it was.
The testimony of two servant girls established the fact that Mr. Slapman
had several times been overheard to tell his wife that she would regret
it; and that the time was fast coming when forbearance would cease to be
a virtue; also that the worm, when trodden on repeatedly, might at last
turn and sting, and many other enigmatical sayings of that character.
The very vagueness of these threats, implying unknown horrors, had
inspired his wife with a mortal dread of him. She did not know at what
moment this jealous and revengeful man might strike her dead. She had
been living in the fear of her life for six years, and, during all this
time, had never complained, or expressed that fear to one of her
relatives or friends.
"Such is the noble, uncomplaining nature," said the eminent counsel, in
reference to this fact, "of the woman that Fate has thrown into the arms
of a fiend."
But the most striking proof of Mr. Slapman's murderous designs upon his
wife, was his conduct at the last dramatic _soiree_. Twenty witnesses
swore that it was his evident intention to spring on her and strangle
her, and that he was only thwarted in this horrid purpose by the noble
courage of Fayette Overtop, Esq. Mr. Overtop briefly and modestly
testified to this effect also; and, furthermore, narrated all the
particulars of his acquaintance with Mrs. Slapman, holding before her a
shield, from which the arrows of calumny, aimed by her husband,
Mr. Slapman had not shown himself in the referee's office since the
investigation began. He had become convinced that he had lost the case
into which his mad jealousy and his lawyer's advice had plunged him.
Mrs. Slapman, according to the testimony of the two servants and several
others, was immured in her house, and brooding over this saddest episode
in her unhappy history.
"Nothing but that instinct of self-preservation," said the eminent
counsel, "which bids the dove to fly from the hawk, and the rabbit to
evade the pursuing hounds, could have induced that delicate, shrinking
lady to lay bare the horrors of her prison house to the world, and to
ask, in the name of common humanity, a release from the tyrant, and a
The eminent counsel repeated this flight of fancy in the ear of Mrs.
Slapman, at the opera that evening, whither she was accompanied by a few
of the Jigbees, and she smiled, and said that it was really beautiful.
The protracted case--of which we have given a mere sketch--was decided
by Samuel Goldfinch, Esq., in favor of the lady, a separation was
decreed, and alimony fixed at six thousand dollars a year, that being
only a wife's fair proportion of Mr. Slapman's income. Mrs. Slapman,
with a well-assumed appearance of levity, gave a _grande soiree musicale
et dramatique_ at her house, in honor of the event, at which Overtop was
a favored guest. Mr. Slapman went direct to Slapmanville, and raised the
rent on all his tenants, turned a superannuated non-paying couple into
the street, and took a general account of his property, to see how much
he could sell out for, preparatory to leaving for Europe, and so dodging
the payment of the alimony.
The illustrated papers published two portraits--one of an angel, the
other of a demon. The angel was Mrs. Slapman: the demon was her husband.
The comic papers served him up in puns, conundrums, and acrostics, of
the most satirical import. The daily papers, always on the look out for
subjects to write about, improved the occasion to overhaul the question
of divorce, in its statistical, moral, social, and religious bearings.
Two editors, in pursuance of a previous agreement, continued to discuss
the question with great warmth in their respective journals, until they
had written about two hundred octavo pages, when the debate was
published in book form, with paper covers, and sold for their
HOW OVERTOP SEALED A CONTRACT IN A WAY UNKNOWN TO CHITTY.
The notoriety which Fayette Overtop had derived from his questionable
connection with the Slapman Divorce case, had (as has been already
stated) materially contributed to his professional income. By the time
the case was decided, the firm of Overtop & Maltboy ranked among the
most successful of the Junior Bar.
Now that Overtop had his hands full of business, his thoughts reverted
to matrimony more strongly than ever. It is a singular fact, that
business men find more time to think of marriage, than men of leisure.
Thoughts of matrimony invariably brought Miss Pillbody into Overtop's
head. He would project mental photographs of her at the top of a table,
beaming sweetly upon him, opposite, with her dim, lovely eyes, and
pouring out the tea from a small silver pot. Overtop never could explain
it; but this imaginary picture realized all his desires of domestic
Overtop not only thought of Miss Pillbody, but, what was more to the
purpose, he visited her. For this, pretexts were not wanting. They never
are. At first, he professed to have been requested, by a friend in the
country, to find a suitable private school for two young daughters. This
justified several visits, until Miss Pillbody could decide positively
that it would be impossible for her to take them--an announcement which
greatly relieved Overtop, though it temporarily put an end to his calls.
Then he hit upon the expedient of pretending to write an essay on
Popular Education, for a monthly magazine, and desired to obtain hints
from her upon the subject. Miss Pillbody, not displeased with the
compliment, though declaring that she had not an idea to give him, gave
him a great many good ideas, to which he appeared to listen, while he
was contemplating her trim figure, and the animated expression of her
face, and thinking how very well she would look at the head of that
poetical table behind that phantom teapot. At last the topic of Popular
Education ran out; and Overtop felt that this kind of imposition could
not be practised much longer.
One day, while Overtop sat at his desk, with a mass of law papers before
him, thinking not of them but of his dilemma with respect of Miss
Pillbody, a small boy brought him a beautifully written little note from
that lady, asking him to call that evening on business. Overtop sent a
reply, written with extraordinary care (this is a sign of love), saying
that he would be happy to call, as requested. At the same time, he felt
a pang of apprehension that she had found places in her school for the
two young daughters of his supposititious country friend.
Overtop dressed with unusual care that evening, and presented himself at
Miss Pillbody's house, punctually at the appointed hour. The young
teacher was hard at work in the back parlor, setting copy for the
illiterate wife of a rich city contractor to try her brawny fist on next
day. Miss Pillbody's bewitching eyeglasses bestrided her nose; and the
narrow collar, wristbands, and dainty apron with the red-bound pockets,
looked whiter than ever.
The teacher blushed slightly as Overtop entered, and put away the copy
book on a high shelf, thereby intimating that she should not work more
that night, and Overtop could stay as long as he would. Thus, at least,
that sagacious student of men, women, and things, interpreted it.
Without a particle of those preliminary commonplaces for which Overtop
had a cherished aversion, Miss Pillbody broke into business at once.
She said that a Mrs. Cudgeon, the wife of a citizen who had made a large
fortune in butter and eggs, had been taking lessons in all the English
branches, and French (here Miss Pillbody smiled), for six months, but
had postponed payment on one pretext and another, and had finally
withdrawn from the school, leaving unpaid tuition to the amount of one
hundred and fifty dollars. Miss Pillbody had written several dunning
letters to Mrs. Cudgeon, and received no answer. The soft grass of
epistolary entreaty having failed, Miss P. now proposed to try what
virtue there was in the hard stones of the law. She had sent to Mr.
Overtop for advice.
Overtop listened to the statement of the case with professional
attentiveness. He was sub-thinking, all the time, what an extremely
sensible woman Miss Pillbody was, not to allow herself to be cheated,
but to go to law in defence of her rights. He assured his interesting
client that she could count on his best services, and that she might
consider the one hundred and fifty dollars as good as recovered. From
this point the conversation glided off into a wilderness of general
topics. Overtop had a habit (a bad one, it must be confessed) of
sounding people's mental depths. He found that Miss Pillbody was no
shallow thinker. He left the house at eleven o'clock, supposing it was
ten, and had a delightful vision, that night, of the little round table
and the teapot, and the presiding angel.
Next day, Overtop wrote the following letter:
MR. J. CUDGEON:
SIR: Enclosed is a bill of items, amounting to one hundred
and fifty dollars, for your wife's tuition at Miss
Pillbody's private school. Be good enough to look it over,
and inform me, to-morrow, what you will do about it. I will
tell you candidly, that it is for our interest, as a young
law firm, to sue you for the debt; but my client will not
consent to this, until all other efforts fail, out of regard
to the feelings of Mrs. C.
Your obedient servant,
OVERTOP & MALTBOY,
No ------ Building,
J. CUDGEON, Esq.
Overtop remembered that one J. Cudgeon had run for the Assembly at the
previous fall election, and he surmised that, being a politician and a
public character, J. Cudgeon would not like to see the bill of items in
print. Overtop reasoned correctly; for, at ten A.M. the following day,
that gentleman called at the office and paid the one hundred and fifty
dollars, and said that he was very much obliged to Overtop & Maltboy for
their gentlemanly conduct in the affair. Mr. Gudgeon had not been aware
of his wife's pupilage at Miss Pillbody's private school, though he had
observed (he added, confidentially), for some months past, a slight
improvement in her grammar. "I am not ashamed to say that we were poor
once," said Mr. Gudgeon, with a glow of pride.
"When Overtop placed the one hundred and fifty dollars in the white hand
of the schoolmistress, she looked at him with gratitude and admiration,
which more than repaid him. Not only this, but she asked him, with not a
particle of hesitation, how much his fee was.
"Fee!" exclaimed Overtop, a little nettled at the implied insult. (Young
lawyers are apt to be.) "Nothing, Miss Pillbody; decidedly nothing."
"But I prefer to pay you, Mr. Overtop. Why should you work for me for
nothing, when I am not willing to do the same thing for Mrs. Gudgeon?
'The laborer is worthy of his hire,'" she added, laughing. "I set that
adage in a copy book to-night."
"But I won't take anything," said Overtop, no longer nettled, but
charmed to perceive this exhibition of sound good sense in a young lady.
"But I insist that you shall," continued Miss Pillbody, pleasantly.
"Tell me, now, how much it is."
Overtop was standing within two feet of the schoolmistress, and her
soft, dim eyes were beaming right into his. We leave psychologists to
settle the phenomenon as they will; but the fact was, that each saw love
in the eyes of the other. Overtop, in his bachelor musings, had thought
over a hundred odd methods of putting _the_ question. At this critical
moment in the history of two hearts, a new form of the proposition
occurred to him, so original and eccentric, that he determined to
propound it at once.
He took Miss Pillbody's hand in his, before she knew it. She blushed,
and would have withdrawn it; but he retained the hand with a
"My dear Miss Pillbody," said Overtop, "I will take five dollars from
you on one condition, and no other. Will you grant it?"
The schoolmistress, not knowing what she was saying, said "Yes."
"The condition is, that I shall buy an engagement ring, and put it on
this dear hand."
Miss Pillbody blushed, and cast down her gentle eyes. The sagacious
young lawyer, interpreting these signs as a full consent, stole his arm
around her waist, and sealed the contract in a way all unknown
A RETURNED CALIFORNIAN.
At last, Matthew Maltboy was engaged. He had, since twenty, been
dallying on the edge of a betrothal. Now he had taken the momentous step
into that anomalous region which lies between celibacy and married
life, where a man is not exactly a bachelor, nor yet, by any means, a
husband. It is the land in which the dim enchantments of romance begin
to assume the plain outlines of reality. It is the land in which the
pledge of undying affection, breathed, at some rapturous moment, into a
delicate, inclining ear, becomes invested with awful meaning, and has a
value in the legal market like a bond and mortgage. It is the land where
the excitement of pursuit is over, and the game is securely cornered,
but not yet in hand. It is the spot where the ardent huntsman of Love
pauses to look back, and ceases to bend his longing gaze into the
How it came to pass that the unreliable Matthew Maltboy had become the
affianced one of the pleasant widow Frump, it is not the purpose of this
history to record. Let it suffice to say, that the mutual aversion which
they felt, some months before, at Mr. Whedell's house, on New Year's
day, was the starting point in their course of true love. Such an
aversion, subsequently smoothed away, is often the most promising
beginning of a courtship.
Mrs. Frump had frequently met Matthew on the street, and been gratified
with his deferential bow. His bulk, to which, as a rotund lady, she had
taken an antipathy, seemed to dwindle down as it was looked at. Matthew,
whose ideal was a delicate woman with observable shoulder blades, had
also, by repeated sights of Mrs. Frump, become reconciled to her ample
proportions. Meantime, they had heard much, incidentally, of each other
through Marcus Wilkeson. Matthew had come to esteem Mrs. Frump for her
affectionate devotion to old Van Quintem; and Mrs. Frump had secretly
admired the powerful though silent legal ability displayed by Mr.
Maltboy in the inquisition before Coroner Bullfast.
One night, Matthew, accompanied Marcus to his old friend's house; and,
on the second night following, this couple were engaged--a happy event,
which was brought about no less by the widow's experience, and
conviction that there was no time to lose, than by Matthew's
He had been engaged ten days; and so entirely had he talked out the time
to the widow, that it seemed six months.
"Why is it," thought Matthew, stretching himself in his chair, and
looking critically at the widow, who was knitting crotchet work, "why is
it that I no longer adore her? She is just as pretty, just as amiable,
just as affectionate as ever. Now, why don't I care a button for her at
this moment?" Matthew was not a transcendental philosopher; and the true
answers to these questions did not come to him.
Old Van Quintem, pale and beautiful in his declining years, sat by the
window that opened on the green leaves of the back yard, calmly smoking
his pipe, and thinking, with a holy sadness, of his dead wife and his
worse-than-dead son. The old gentleman, and the two quiet affianced
ones, who sat near him, made up a well-dressed and handsome group; the
pictorial effect of which was suddenly marred by the apparition of a
stranger in the doorway.
He was tall, muscular, and what little could be seen of his face through
a heavy growth of whiskers was mild and prepossessing, in spite of two
large scars just visible below the broad brim of a rough hat. His dress
was faded and dirty.
The stranger stood in the doorway, and surveyed the occupants of the
Old Van Quintem looked at the intruder a moment, and then said, as if
remembering something, "Are you the man sent by Crumley to mend my
There was the least hesitation in the man's voice, as he answered, "Yes,
sir. I'm here to do that job." His voice was a deep growl, as of a
grizzly bear half tamed.
"Where are your tools?" asked old Van Quintem.
The stranger communed with himself, and then replied, in the most
natural manner, "I s'pose I only want a saw, a hammer, and a few nails.
You have 'em, haven't yer?"
"You're a funny sort of carpenter, to travel without your tools. Do you
know, now, that you look more like a California miner than a carpenter?"
"That's not very 'markable," returned the stranger, in profound guttural
accents, "considerin' as how I come from California this week."
"You have brought home tons of gold, I dare say," said old Van Quintem,
"A little," growled the stranger. "The diggins was poor in Calaveras
County when I fust went there, but latterly they improved."
At the mention of Calaveras County, the widow suddenly fixed her eyes
upon the stranger, and then dropped them on her crotchet work.
Matthew Maltboy here conceived a happy thought, namely, to ask this
stranger if he ever knew Amos Frump (the deceased husband of Mrs.
Frump), who was killed in that very county in an affray growing out of a
disputed claim, five years before. Mrs. Frump, after her engagement to
Matthew, had furnished him with slips from three California papers,
giving full particulars of the sanguinary affair. Before he was engaged,
he had never felt the slightest curiosity to know the history of his
predecessor; but, since then, he had entertained a strong secret desire
to learn more of him, and especially of the reasons which induced him to
abandon a young and lovely wife, and make a Californian exile of
himself. Upon this subject the widow had never volunteered any
satisfactory information, and he had been politely reluctant to ask
her about it.
Old Van Quintem, who was too sleepy at that time to talk much, procured
the necessary tools from a cupboard in the kitchen, and showed the
stranger what work was to be done. The old gentleman then returned to
his easy chair by the window, threw a handkerchief over his head, and
settled himself for a nap.
Before the carpenter had struck the first blow, Matthew Maltboy rose,
remarked to the widow that he wanted to stretch himself a little, and
walked out upon the piazza.
The carpenter stood near the door, with the saw in one hand and the
hammer in the other, very much in the attitude of listening. At
Matthew's approach, he commenced feeling the teeth of the saw, as if to
test their sharpness.
"I would like to speak a word with you, sir," said Matthew, in a low
voice, motioning the carpenter to accompany him to a corner of the
piazza, out of the widow's possible hearing.
Having attained that safe position, Matthew opened the great subject.
"You remarked that you had dug gold in Calaveras County," said he. "Did
you ever happen to know a man by the name of Frump--Amos Frump--who was
a miner there?"
"Frump!" replied the carpenter. "He was an intimate friend of mine."
"Now that's lucky," said Matthew, "for I want to find out something
about the man."
"Then you've come to the right shop," answered the carpenter; "for his
own brother--if he ever had one--couldn't tell you more about him
"I am indeed fortunate. In the first place, then this man Frump is
The carpenter pulled his rough hat farther over his forehead, and
"As dead as two big splits in the skull could make him. But 'xcuse me,
sir; he was my bosom friend, and I can't bear to talk of his death."
"He _is_ dead, then, and no mistake," said Matthew, soliloquizing. "Yet
I am not exactly glad to know it."
The carpenter's face expressed surprise at this remark.
"I beg your pardon," said Matthew. "Of course I am not glad to hear of
your friend's death. But, to tell the truth," he continued (inventing an
excuse), "I had always heard that this Frump was a wild fellow; that he
didn't treat his wife decently, and at last ran away from her. You see I
am acquainted with the family. In fact, I know Mrs. Frump quite well."
"And did she tell you all this about her dead husband?" asked the
"Oh, no!" returned Matthew, who began to fear that he had gone too far.
"She never says anything about his personal character. I only spoke from
"Then common report is a common liar; for I know there never was a
steadier chap than this same Amos Frump; and his wife can't say that he
ever struck her, or said a cross word to her. Amos told me all about
himself; and I'd believe him through thick and thin." The carpenter
spoke in his dismal chest voice, without the least indication of
"Then why did he leave his wife? and why did she never hear of him until
the time of his death? You will confess that _that_ was odd."
"I give you the reasons," answered the carpenter, "as Amos give 'em to
me. It seems that _he_ was a poor, uneducated feller. _She_ had a few
thousand dollars from her grandfather's property, and was sent by her
parents to the best o' schools. Though he and she were so much unlike,
they got up a kind o' fondness for each other from the time when Amos
saved her from bein' run over by a horse. They used to meet each other
secretly, because, you see, her folks didn't like Amos. They thought
that a girl with three or four thousand dollars in her own name, ought
to set her eyes rather above a feller like him. Well, arter no end o'
trouble, they was married. Her folks pretended to treat Amos all right,
but was allers talkin' agin him; and finally they pizened her mind with
the idee that he had married her only for her money, and that all the
while he loved another gal. She began to treat him very cold like, and,
one day, when she was in a little bit of temper--"
"Has Mrs. Frump any temper?" asked Matthew, anxiously. "I never saw it."
"But you a'n't her husband," replied the carpenter. "Amos told me that
she did show a leetle temper now and then. However, he allers said she
was a pooty good gal in the main. Well, one day, when her dander was up
about somethin', she told him that she b'lieved he married her for her
money, and she'd die before he should have a cent. Amos was a proud
feller, if he _was_ poor; and, when he heerd this, he left the house
right off, walked to New York, and shipped as a sailor to San Francisco.
I met him when he fust come to the mines, and, as he was a spry, tough
chap, I let him work a claim with me on shares. We ate and slept
together, and many a time, in the dark night, has he spoke to me about
his wife, and how much he thought of her; but he said he never should go
back till he had money enough to buy out her and her hull family. We was
very unlucky, and Amos got downhearted, and took to drink. By and by he
moved off to another claim, and worked on his own hook. He did better
there; but all the gold he dug out he used to spend in gamblin' and rum;
and at last a drunken quarrel put an end to Amos Frump."
"Poor fellow!" said Matthew. "And do you think the widow ever grieved
"No, I guess not; for Amos allers said that she was not a very lovin',
affectionate woman; though, if he had been as rich as her, or if her
family had let her alone, she would have made him a tol'able wife."
"Not loving! Not affectionate!" thought Matthew. "And I am about to
marry her!" A cold shudder crept over him.
Hiding his emotions with an effort, he again interrogated the affable
"And do you really think that Mr. Frump would have returned, and lived
again with his wife, if he had become rich?"
"To be sure he would. He couldn't marry anybody else, yer know, without
committin' bigamy. He allers said he didn't care much whether his wife
loved him, so long as she treated him civilly."
"Mr. Frump had practical views of married life," suggested Matthew.
"Amos was sensible in some things," said the carpenter. "But he was a
queer feller, too. He allers had a notion of comin' home kind o'
disguised, so that his wife shouldn't know him. I used to tell him that
a few more years in Californy would make him so thin, yaller, and
grizzly, that he wouldn't need no disguise."
REVELATIONS OF A LAUGH.
The carpenter here burst out with an extraordinary peal of laughter. It
was so very peculiar, that, once heard, it would always be identified
with the person making it. This singular laugh consisted of a brilliant
stacatto passage on a high key, interrupted by occasional snorts, and
terminating with a slur which covered the whole descending octave. It
was also very loud and very long.
It had the effect of bringing Mrs. Frump to the door. She thrust out her
head, unseen by either the carpenter or Matthew, and looked at the
former with a wondering air.
"It was an odd idea," said Matthew, laughing slightly out of compliment
to the carpenter, though he could not understand what there was to
"And now," continued he, when the carpenter's cachinations had subsided,
"I will explain to you my motive in asking all these questions. I am
engaged to Mrs. Frump, and she is now--"
The carpenter immediately broke into another of his remarkable laughs,
louder and longer than before.
"Well, sir," said Matthew, sarcastically, "when you get through, perhaps
you will be good enough to tell me what you are laughing about?"
"The idee--ha! ha!--of your--ha! ha!--marrying Mrs.--ha! ha! ha!" and
the remainder of the sentence was lost in that monstrous laugh.
Matthew, irritated by this most aggravating species of ridicule, took
the carpenter's measure for a kick--but judiciously refrained from
fitting him with one.
The second of the carpenter's laughs had made the widow (still
stealthily looking out of the door) turn pale. The third had inspired
her with a painful curiosity, which she had determined to gratify, at
any risk. Before the last laugh, she had, therefore, crept up,
unobserved, near where Matthew and the carpenter were standing, with
their backs toward her. Coming around suddenly in front of them, she saw
the carpenter's mouth wide open, still in the act of laughing, and
observed that one of his front teeth was out. The widow screamed, and
fell--into Matthew's arms, nearly flooring him.
"Hold on to her," said the carpenter. "She will come to in a minute."
"Who, sir--who on earth _are_ you?" shouted Matthew, struggling under
the burdensome widow and a sense of mental bewilderment.
"I am Amos Frump," he replied, in a voice which had suddenly risen five
"The widow's husband! The dead come to life!" exclaimed Matthew,
starting back, and nearly dropping the inanimate form.
Astounded as he was, he did not forget the marital rights of the man
before him; and he said, with a trembling voice, politely, "I beg your
pardon; but, as you are this lady's husband, perhaps you had better
"She appears to be doing very well where she is," replied the singularly
calm Amos Frump. "A moment more, and she will be out of her fainting
spell. I've seed her very often this way before."
Mr. Frump's prediction was verified; for his lips had scarcely closed on
the words, when Mrs. Frump opened her eyes, and feebly said, "Is it
"No, Gusty," replied the composed Amos; "it is a husband come back from
Californy, with fifty thousand dollars."
"It is--it is my own 'husband's voice!" cried Mrs. Frump, throwing
herself impulsively out of Matthew's arms upon the patched and faded
coat of her restored consort.
"I thought you would know the voice," said Amos, "and that's the reason
I changed it into a growl. This 'ere old Californy suit was a pooty good
disguise, too. But my confounded laugh betrayed me. I didn't think to
The third laugh had roused old Van Quintem from a nice nap, and he came
out on the piazza.
"Hallo, Mr. Carpenter! what are you doing there?" said he,
A few words from the supposed carpenter defined his position, and threw
old Van Quintem into the appropriate state of amazement. Looking at the
shaggy face by a variety of lights, he soon came to recognize it as that
of his niece's husband, whom he had seen a few times on his yearly
visits to the country, before his farming brother, Nicholas Van Quintem,
father of Mrs. Frump, had died.
"From the way Gusty hangs to you, I judge you are no ghost," said old
Van Quintem, when he had partly recovered his senses.
"No more than I am a carpenter," was the dry response.
"But how does it happen that you are no ghost?" asked old Van Quintem,
with fearful interest.
This was what everybody wanted to know; and so Mr. Frump, supporting his
wife by the waist, while she, apparently half stupefied, reposed her
head on his shoulder, explained the mystery of his appearance. He had
been severely injured in a drunken quarrel about a claim--he would not
deny _that_; and, taking off his broad-brimmed hat, he showed the two
deep scars extending from his eyebrows to the roots of his hair. He was
left on the ground for dead, and his assailants ran away. The
enterprising correspondent of three San Francisco papers saw him when he
was first found, and, learning that he would undoubtedly die, the
enterprising correspondent regarded him as already sufficiently dead for
newspaper purposes, and sent three thrilling accounts of his butchery,
written up with ingenious variations, to the three journals of which he
was the indefatigable "special." In a few days, the nearly murdered man
was out of danger. On learning that the news of his death had already
been sent to the papers, the singular idea came into his mind to let the
report go uncontradicted, change his name, give up drinking, move away
to some place where he was not known, and begin his miner's life over
again. The special correspondent, on being consulted by him, assured Mr.
Frump that he could depend on his (the correspondent's) silence, since
it was his invariable practice never to take back or qualify any
statement made by him--such a course being obviously fatal to his
hard-earned reputation for accuracy. The correspondent also very
obligingly supplied him with copies of the papers containing the
circumstantial accounts of his death, which he directed in a disguised
hand, and sent through the mail to his wife. He had then assumed another
name, gone into Benicia County, was successful in gold digging, and,
after making about two thousand dollars, had taken up his residence in
the nearest village (undesignated), and had invested his money in
speculations (kind not particularized). Fortune followed him, but he
found it convenient, for certain reasons (not given), to move away to
another village, in a few months. In fact, he had, within four years,
made the entire circuit of California, never staying in one place more
than a quarter of a year.
"I don't want to brag," said Mr. Frump, "but it is well enough to have
it understood that I made my pile."
Mr. Frump nodded his head quietly, as one who does not lie.
Old Van Quintem had hitherto hesitated to congratulate Mrs. Frump upon
the reacquisition of her husband. He now advanced, and shook her warmly
by the hand.
"I wish you joy," said he. "And you too, Mr. Frump. I never had the
pleasure of meeting you often, though I had frequently heard of you.
With regard to those unpleasant family difficulties in which you became
involved, they are now at an end; for Gusty's parents are both dead, and
the old house and farm are sold. Let bygones be bygones."
"So say I, Mr. Van Quintem," said Mr. Frump, grasping the extended hand.
"As for my wife's relatives, I'm sure I allers forgave 'em. As for the
old house and farm, if you like, Gusty, we'll buy it back agin."
Mrs. Frump, still resting on her husband's shoulder, sobbed a little,
and clung closer about him.
"Here is one friend of the family," continued Amos, in his pleasantest
manner, pointing to Matthew, "whom I don't know by name, though we've
scraped an off-hand 'quaintance."
"Mr. Frump--Matthew Maltboy, Esq.," said old Van Quintem.
Matthew, like Mrs. Frump, had fully appreciated the awkwardness of his
situation, and had kept a rigid silence since the returned Californian
resumed possession of his wife. The minute after Mr. Frump's identity
had been established, Matthew could have hugged him with ecstasy. But,
having lost the widow, his fickle mind straightway began to discover in
her a great many excellencies that he had never seen before. Therefore,
when he submitted his hand to the grip of Mr. Frump, his face expressed
a strangely mingled joy and regret.
"I like you," said Mr. Frump, "and, as soon as wifey and I commence
housekeepin' agin, I'll expect lots o' visits from you. Whenever I'm not
at home, wifey'll make everything comfortable. Won't you, dear?"
"If you wish it," replied Mrs. Frump, looking up into his face, which
was not a repulsive one, "for your word shall always be my law."
"I must say," said Matthew, his face exhibiting unqualified admiration
for Mr. Frump, "that you are the most generous man I ever met. And, if
Mrs. Frump will promise to introduce me to some nice young woman, that
she could recommend for a wife, perhaps I'll accept your invitation."
"I'll get you a wife in less than a week," said Mrs. F., who was
rejoiced that the interview between her recovered husband and late
suitor had ended peacefully.
"But one thing you haven't yet explained, Amos," said old Van Quintem.
"How did you get into Crumley's employment?"
"Bless your innocent heart, I am not! I arrived this mornin', in the
steamer----, straight from Aspinwall, with this old scarecrow suit on,
jest as you see me now. I was intendin' to take the railroad for Tioga
County, and play off a leetle surprise on Gusty, and her relations up
there. But, before goin', it 'curred to me to call on a Mr. Lambkin, who
was raised in Tioga, and keeps a grocery store in the lower part of
Washington street. I found Mr. Lambkin in, and he told me as how,
accordin' to last accounts, Gusty was stayin' with her uncle Van
Quintem. I knowed your address, and come up here short metre. I was
goin' to pretend that I was a man in search of work, and trust to luck
to get a sight of Gusty. I found your front door open, and walked
through the entry to the back parlor, where you fust see me standin'.
Afore I could ask you for any work, you wanted to know if I hadn't been
sent to mend your piazza railing. It was easy to say 'Yes,' and I
"And very well you carried out the joke, Amos," said old Van Quintem.
"You wouldn't make a bad actor."
"Rather better actor than carpenter, I guess," said Mr. Frump.
"Perhaps so," said old Van Quintem; "but a financier of your talent
needn't act, or mend railings, for a living. I should like to know, now,
how you made your money in California. Nine out of ten who go there,
come back poorer than they went."
"'Tisn't best to ask too many questions of a returned Californian,"
answered Amos, in perfect good humor.
"Nor of anybody else, about business matters. You are right," added old
"I say to wifey, and to all my friends, 'Let bygones be bygones. Take
me as you find me, and I'll take you as I find you; and we'll ax no
questions on either side.'"
"Dear Amos, you are the best of husbands!" said Mrs. Frump, looking
fondly in his face. Mr. Frump improved as he was looked at.
"Let bygones be bygones' is a very good rule," said old Van Quintem.
"Mr. Frump," said Matthew, unable longer to repress the compliment, "you
have a wonderful amount of good sense!"
"I told you," was the laughing reply, "that 'Amos was sensible in some
THE STRANGE LADY.
A STORY OF THE PAST.
Another year slipped away, and wrought many changes among the
inhabitants of the block. Some of them had passed from stately mansions
to those narrow houses which are appointed for all the living. Others
had wedded, and moved to other blocks which were to be their future
homes--till the 1st of the following May. Some of them had grown rich by
quick speculations, and got into the choicest society by the simple
manoeuvre of taking a four-story brownstone front in the avenue which
formed the eastern boundary of the block. Others had attained to poverty
by the same process, and had migrated to cheaper lodgings in blocks
remote, expecting that a lucky turn of Fortune's wheel would bring them
back to fashionable life next year, as it most likely would. The
principal personages of this history had been radically affected by this
lapse of time--as will hereafter be shown--with the single exception of
For one year, life had passed tranquilly, uneventfully. He had sought,
and found, in his dear books, a panacea for that sickness of the heart
which sometimes attacked him in his lonelier hours. At such, times, he
would repeat to himself these expressive lines of an old poet:
This books can do; nor this alone; they give
New views of life, and teach us how to live;
The grieved they soothe, the stubborn they chastise;
Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise.
Their aid they yield to all; they never shun
The man of sorrow, or the wretch undone.
Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd,
Nor tell to various people various things,
But show to subjects what they show to kings.
The end of the quiet, sad (but not unpleasantly sad) twelve months found
Marcus, on a bright morning in the month of August, sitting at his
window, with a favorite book on his knees, looking--where he should not
have looked so much--at that window in the old house where the only
tragedy of his life had been wrought. As he gazed, like one fascinated
by a spell, his features lengthened, and the habitually melancholy
expression of his face became deepened and confirmed.
So wrapt was he in these unhappy self-communings, that he did not hear a
vigorous "rat-tat-tat" on the door of the little back parlor. A
repetition of the performance aroused him, and to his call, "Come in,"
Mash, the cook, presented herself.
"A woman at the door wishes to speak to you, sir, on important business,
she says. Shall I show her in, sir?" Mash laid stress on the word
"woman," in retaliation for the somewhat peremptory way in which the
person in question had accosted her at the door. The "Buttery and the
Boudoir--a Tale of Real Life," afforded her a precedent on this point.
"Show in the lady," said Marcus, wondering who she could be.
A tall, shapely person, dressed in deep black, and wearing a thick veil,
was ushered into the room. She bowed slightly, and took a seat which
Marcus offered her, near the window, and then looked significantly at
Mash, who lingered in an uncertain way about the door.
"You may shut the door, Mash," said Marcus; and Mash did so with a
little slam, intended to pierce the heart of the mysterious woman in
black, for whom that domestic had, in one minute, conceived a
The strange woman drew back her veil, and revealed a thin, pale face,
which might have been handsome twenty years back. "Do you remember
having seen me before?"
Marcus looked into the thin face with polite scrutiny. "Yes, madam,"
said he, at length. "I think I saw you on a railway train in New Jersey,
over a year ago; and also in the town of--, in that State, on the
evening of a certain unfortunate exhibition. But you are changed, in
some respects, since then."
"You would say that I am paler and thinner; and I am here to tell you
why I am, and also to make all the atonement in my power for a crime
that I have committed."
Marcus Wilkeson's first thought was of the unfathomed murder. His
startled face expressed what was passing through his mind.
The strange woman read his thoughts. "The crime to which I refer is not
the murder of Mr. Minford; of which, I may here say, I believed, from
the first, that you were entirely innocent. Crimes--of that character,
at least--have never been known in your family."
"All that you say, taken in connection with some curious circumstances
which occurred on that railway ride, and that memorable night in New
Jersey," said Marcus, "make me intensely anxious to hear what you have
to tell. Please impart the information at once, and fully. I call Heaven
to witness, that your name, your history, the secret which you are to
reveal, shall pass with me to the grave, if you desire it."
"I accept your offer," said she, with emotion, "though my crime is so
flagrant that no publicity, no punishment would be too great for it.
Still, as full justice can be done, and reparation made, without this
public disgrace, I prefer that my identity should be unknown except to
you. I think that I have but few months to live." The woman expelled a
"My story must be short," said she, "and suited to my strength and this
cough. You probably remember Lucy Anserhoff, who was a little playmate
of yours in your native village? I see, by your nod, that you do. I
am--she. You may well look surprised, for there is little in my haggard
face and wasted form to recall that once innocent girl. You remember, I
presume, my engagement to your brother Aurelius--excuse my faltering,
sir, for, even at this distance of time, I cannot speak of your dead
brother without emotion. It is not necessary to recall to your memory
the details of your brother's conduct to me, and how he afterward
married--another--and moved to this city. This early portion of my
unfortunate career is well known to you, as it was to all the people of
our little village."
Here the strange visitor paused, and coughed. The cough was dry and
She continued: "I think I may say that I was amiable and good enough, as
a child. But your brother's desertion changed my whole nature. I dwelt
upon one thought--revenge. I shudder as I confess it, but, for months, I
meditated taking the life of the man who had wronged me. I came to this
city twice, and lay in wait for him; but my heart faltered, and, thank
God! I did not commit that crime. Soon, Heaven interposed--so it seemed
to me at that wicked time--to help on my work of vengeance. Your
brother's wife died, giving birth to a female child. I used to ride into
the city twice a week regularly after this, and watch for him near his
place of business, that I might gloat on his pale, unhappy face. I see
the look of horror with which you receive this part of my confession;
but you will bear in mind, sir, that I am hero to tell the truth,
concealing nothing. You remember, sir, the old lines about a woman
scorned? I, sir, can bear witness to their awful truth."
Another fit of coughing here interrupted her. At length she resumed, in
a feebler voice: "I must hasten while I can talk at all. One day, while
I was watching near your brother's house for his appearance, the door
opened, and a servant appeared, with a child in her arms--his child. The
servant walked down the street, and I followed her, unobserved, until
she came to Washington Parade Ground. She entered the park, and took a
seat near the fountain. I sat down on a bench near her. It was not long
before I made the girl's acquaintance, and had the child in my arms,
caressing it with well-counterfeited kindness. Suddenly, the girl
recollected that she had left the street door of the house unlocked, and
was afraid that the house, having not a soul in it, would be robbed
during her absence. She was so much troubled about it, that she asked me
to hold the child--then about a year old--until she could go and lock up
the house, and return. A horrible suggestion came into my mind, and I
took the child in my arms. The servant was no sooner out of my sight,
than I rose, and, clasping the child tightly, walked rapidly in the
opposite direction. When I had got out of the park, among the side
streets near North River, I ran until I was tired, turning at every
corner, to avoid pursuit. My plan was clear from the moment that the
child was left in my charge. It was, to give her into the keeping of
some stranger, and so rob the widowed father of his only child. It was a
scheme worthy of the lost and wretched woman that I then was."
A fit of coughing here set in, interrupting the narrative for several
minutes. Marcus offered his strange guest a glass of water. She sipped
it, until her cough was checked.
"I wished to make a full and minute statement, sir; but this cough again
warns me to be very brief. In a word, then, I had not gone far, before I
saw a German woman--a neat, elderly person--sitting on the stoop of her
house. An impulse moved me to leave the child with her. I accosted her,
but she answered me in German, saying that she could not speak English.
Hardly knowing what I did, I mounted the steps, and placed the child in
her arms, first kissing it. Then I tossed my pocket book, containing
about twenty dollars, into her lap, and, without another word or act,
ran off again. As I drew near the next corner, I turned, and saw the
German woman still sitting on the stoop, looking at the child, and then
at the money, and then at my flying form, in perfect amazement.
"Well, I returned to my country home in safety. Next day, I saw in the
New York papers a reward of five hundred dollars for the recovery of the
child, and the same amount for the arrest of the woman who stole it. My
person was described, according to the recollection of the servant, but
so imperfectly that I could not be identified. In two weeks I visited
the city again, found the house where I had left the child--for I had
remembered, even in my haste, the street and the number. The poor little
thing was well, and had learned to love its new mother, who, in turn,
seemed to love it as well as her own two children. I kissed the child,
left more money with the German woman, and fled again to my home. These
visits I repeated from week to week for six months, without detection.
The German woman supposed that I was the mother of the child, but knew
there was a secret, and did not seek to disturb it. At the end of the
six months, your--your--brother died." (There was here a slight quaver
in her voice, almost instantly passing away.) "Soon after this, my
mother died, and the last of our family estate was spent on her burial."
(Another tremor in the voice, but brief. The woman seemed to have
perfect control of her feelings.)
"Fortunately, I was qualified to earn my living as a seamstress. I went
to the city, advertised for such a place, and obtained it. I visited the
child secretly, sometimes, and left money for its support and clothing.
But the idea of detection and exposure troubled me greatly. One day, I
read an advertisement from a married couple who had no children,
offering to adopt a girl under two years of age. I answered the
advertisement, and thus became acquainted with--"
"I anticipate the disclosure," said Marcus. "Mr. Minford! And the poor,
dear child is my niece. Heaven be praised, she is found at last!"
"You have guessed rightly. Miss Minford is your niece. The proofs will
be found in this packet. They are articles of clothing, taken from the
child as fast as new ones were supplied, to prevent its identification,
bearing the initials of Helen Wilkeson. I preserved them, with the vague
idea of benefiting her by them, some day. I have seen the child by
stealth a few times since I gave her to Mr. and Mrs. Minford, but never
called at their house. It was agreed between us that I should never make
myself known as the child's mother, and that they should never seek to
learn my name and history. I acted as seamstress in several families in
this city, until, about five years ago, I obtained an engagement in a
family in New Jersey, living in the very town where that unlucky
panorama was exhibited. It happened, as you know, that you and I rode in
the same car from New York, where I had been on a shopping excursion. I
recognized and was profoundly impressed with your resemblance to your
brother. Learning that you were connected with the panorama, I attended
the exhibition, that I might observe you more closely. There you were
arrested on the charge of murdering Mr. Minford--of which, I again say,
I always believed that you were totally innocent. You may remember that
a woman fainted away. I was she. The sudden recollection of those two
names--Wilkeson and Minford--in such a connection, was too much even for
my nerves. I read the trial with fearful interest, and rejoiced in your
release from the accusation. Providence at last seemed to point out the
way to make all the reparation for my crime. I should have done it
immediately after your acquittal, had I not seen by the papers that a
wealthy lady--Mrs. Crull--had given your niece a home in her family. I
postponed this act of justice from one week to another, until my failing
health warned me that it could not be put off with safety longer. I
thank Heaven that I have had strength and resolution to do it at last."
"This act of atonement, madam," said Marcus, "entitles you to my respect
and sympathy. If you ever need a friend, I trust you will do me the
favor of calling on me."
"I thank you," she replied; "but I have means enough to support me for