Part 9 out of 9
the remainder of my days, which are numbered. The family in which I
live, little knowing my true history, are very kind to me."
The protracted conversation had not been closed too soon. A violent
cough seized upon the poor woman's frame, and shook it like a leaf. When
it had ceased, Marcus observed that her lips were streaked with blood.
He begged to send for a doctor, but she would not have one, and rose to
take her leave.
Marcus insisted, however, upon ordering a carriage for her conveyance to
the New Jersey Railroad Depot, and she at length consented to receive
that kindness from him.
To the driver he whispered words of caution, and instructed him to take
the lady to a physician, in case she was ill on the journey; and, if so,
to report, immediately thereafter, to him. He then shook her hand
frankly, and begged her again to remember that he should always be
She smiled sadly, as she replied: "Again and again I thank you, sir; but
it is useless to accept your kind offers, for we are meeting for the
The carriage was driven slowly away.
The poor woman's word's were true; and Marcus never saw her more.
UNCLE AND NIECE.
Marcus Wilkeson had seen Pet but twice since the inquest--once in Mrs.
Crull's carriage, and once afoot, on the opposite side of the street. He
was delicately conscious that she regarded him with distrust or
aversion; and, raising his hat politely to her, bowed, and passed on. He
had expressly enjoined upon Tiffles and Overtop, in the communications
which they had with her relative to the "Cosmopolitan Window Fastener,"
not to mention his name. He shrank from appearing to force himself on
The discovery of her real parentage had modified Marcus's sensitiveness
somewhat. He was now no longer in the ridiculous position of a
middle-aged, hopeless lover, but was an uncle, with a charming niece
whom he could honorably love like a father. His first impulse, after the
departure of the mysterious woman, was to hurry around to Mrs. Crull's
house, unpack his bundle of proofs, and embrace the dear child with
Upon him, glowing with this impulse, came the calm, deep Overtop, to
whom Marcus told the strange story. Overtop listened with lawyer-like
composure, and, when Marcus had finished, asked for the bundle. "The
story is likely enough," said he, "but a lawyer wants to know all
So saying, he removed from the parcel the string which bound it, and
which, with the wrapping cloth, had become yellow with age, and brought
to view a baby's long frock, and a cap made of the finest materials, and
heavily fringed with lace, and a pair of tarnished golden morocco shoes
of fairy dimensions. Upon an edge of the dress were daintily wrought, in
needle work, the initials, H.W. A separate package contained extracts
from three daily papers, giving accounts of the "Mysterious
Disappearance of a Child," and an advertisement, signed Aurelius
Wilkeson, offering five hundred dollars for the recovery of his
daughter Helen, and describing the circumstances of the abduction so far
as they were known, and the articles of dress which the infant wore
at the time.
"So far, so good," said Overtop; "but it now remains to identify the
original owner of these baby clothes with Miss Minford. We must find
some old friends or acquaintances of the late inventor, who can testify
that he adopted a child during the year 18--."
Marcus, whose memory was tenacious of names, recollected that Mr.
Minford, in his few confidential moments, had told him of several
persons whom he had known in more prosperous days.
With these memoranda to guide him, Overtop went resolutely to work, and,
in two days, found four old friends of Mr. and Mrs. Minford, who
remembered the very year when they adopted an infant child. It was the
same year that the daughter of Aurelius Wilkeson had disappeared.
Overtop, being a Notary Public, took the affidavits of these persons as
he went along.
Here Overtop would have stopped, and left Marcus to break the important
news of his new-found relationship to the young lady. But Marcus, who
had a perfect horror of scenes, begged his friend to do this troublesome
piece of diplomacy for him, but promised, when it was done, to appear at
Mrs. Crull's in his new character of uncle.
Overtop performed the difficult task with success. He found Pet not
altogether unprepared for the discovery. She recalled to mind several
conversations and significant glances between Mr. and Mrs. Minford (the
latter died in Pet's twelfth year), in which there was an evident
allusion to the mystery of her birth. She remembered how often persons
had expressed surprise that she did not resemble her supposed father or
mother in the least. She remembered that, on those occasions, Mrs.
Minford had been much disconcerted; and Mr. Minford, remarking that it
was a freak of nature, he presumed, had always seemed desirous of
changing the subject. She remembered that this strange want of
resemblance to either of her reputed parents had often been a puzzle to
her before Mrs. Minford's death.
With regard to Lucy Anserhoff, and the causes which prompted her to the
abduction of the child. Overtop said nothing; because, among other
reasons, Marcus, true to his solemn pledge, had told him nothing. He
explained that the crime had been committed by a person who had formerly
been a servant in her father's family; and that she had made full
confession to her uncle, only on condition that her name should never be
mentioned to any human being.
Mrs. Crull, who to a practical mind united a love of the romantic and
marvellous, accepted Overtop's proofs even more readily than Pet. She
said she had observed, at the inquest, a wonderful resemblance between
Mr. Wilkeson and her darling, especially in the nose and eyes. Overtop,
being appealed to to mark the likeness, took an oracular three-quarters
view of the young lady, and said that the word "niece" was written
on her face.
"He's your uncle, my dear," said Mrs. Crull. "There a'n't no doubt o'
that. But don't forget that I'm your mother, now."
Pet kissed Mrs. Crull, and placed her little hand confidingly in the
large, ineradicably red hand of her protectress.
"Now that Marcus Wilkeson stands in the relation of uncle to you," said
Overtop, "there is no harm in telling you something." He then broke to
her the secret of her uncle's important aid in the affair of the
"Cosmopolitan Window Fastener"--the sole credit of which had always been
attributed by Pet and Mrs. Crull to Wesley Tiffles and Overtop,
agreeably to the wish of Marcus.
"What a fool I've been," said Mrs. Crull, "to feel the least doubt about
this excellent man! It was very weak of me, I s'pose, Mr. Overtop; but I
don't mind tellin' you, that, after what had 'curred, I thought that Mr.
Wilkeson's quaintance with Pet had better be stopped. I take all the
'sponsibility of it. We must make it up, by thinkin' all the more
of him now."
At the suggestion of Overtop, a servant, with Mrs. Crull's carriage, was
now sent for Marcus, and soon returned with him.
When he entered the room, Pet rose, and walked toward him, half
hesitating. Her face was very pale, and her lips quivered. "My dear
uncle!" she said, and turned her sweet face up to be kissed.
Marcus, to whom the probable character of his reception had been a
distressing subject of conjecture, was delighted at this frank,
affectionate greeting, and stooped and imprinted an uncle's kiss on the
young girl's brow. It was a pleasant way out of an embarrassment.
The conflicting emotions of the hour were too much for Pet; and she
tottered to Mrs. Crull's arms, and wept for a few moments.
"You are her uncle, Mr. Wilkeson," said Mrs. Crull, extending her red
right hand, while, with her left, she smoothed Pet's thick brown hair,
"but I am her mother." Mrs. Crull seized upon this early opportunity to
give notice that her rights as adopted parent were not to be abridged.
"And happy she is in having such a mother, my dear Mrs. Crull," said
A quick ring, as of a familiar visitor, was heard at the door. The
servant ushered in Bog. He was much changed since his last presentation
to the reader. Six months of worldly polish, of private tutoring, and of
a strong desire to appear well in the eyes of one he loved, had turned
the clumsy boy into the quiet but stylish young gentleman. He had given
up the bill-posting business, not because he was sick of it, or ashamed
of it, but because old Van Quintem loved his adopted son so well, that
he could not spare him from his side. Bog passed the greater portion of
every day with him, rambling through the streets, or riding to the
suburbs in the old family carriage, or reading the dear old books to
him. Bog read well now, and had learned to love those repositories of
wit and wisdom with almost as keen a relish as the venerable
white-headed listener. This was another bond of affection between the
old gentleman and himself.
At Bog's entrance. Pet looked up, and showed the sparkling tears in her
eyes. A deep shade of anxiety passed over the young man's face, and he
looked around for an explanation.
The prompt Overtop was ready to give it; and, in a few moments, Bog was
enlightened with the great discovery.
"And Pet has been crying a little because she is so happy--that's all,"
added Mrs. Crull. "Sit down here, Bog."
Mrs. Crull made room for him on the other end of the sofa where she was
sitting--her left hand still smoothing the soft brown hair of her
Bog took the seat, and smiled across the good lady's broad figure to
Pet, who smiled back at him again.
This expressive exchange of glances was not lost on Marcus. He instantly
saw, what he had not divined before, that the devotion, the
self-sacrifice, the constant, unswerving love of the boy, had at last
sounded its echo in the bosom of the maiden. As he swiftly contrasted
the manly, athletic figure of the young man, with the delicate beauty of
his niece, he thought how well they were adapted to each other; and
wondered that he could ever have been so blind and conceited as to
suppose that a nervous old bachelor like himself could win the heart of
that fresh and youthful image of loveliness. And how thankful he then
was that he had never, by a single word, hinted at the mad love which he
once felt for her.
He had no cause to blush now!
OWNERS OF THE BEAUTIFUL.
The world and all its inhabitants had rolled round to another fragrant
spring. The buds were bursting in city parks and gardens, and birds
twittered in the dusty air. Every happy heart said to itself, "This
green, and these opening roses, this music of the birds, this shining
day, this temperate breeze, are all mine, and made for me."
There were two young persons, one sweet morning in May, who experienced
a delightful sense of that universal proprietorship of the Beautiful.
They were a couple who appeared to be expressly made for each other; for
the young man was tall and broad chested, the young woman short, and
delicately formed; his eyes were black, hers blue; he was calm,
resolute, deliberate in every movement, she quick and impulsive. There
never was a clearer case of mutual fitness by virtue of entire
Any one could see that they loved each other, and that, if they were not
married, they were engaged--for her little hand was entwined most
trustingly about his muscular arm, and she leaned toward him with that
gentle inclination which seems to be a magnetism of the heart.
"Are you happy, my own Pet?" asked the young man, looking proudly down
at the beautiful face beside him.
"Happy! dear Bog--for I _will_ always call you Bog. You know I am!" Her
blue eyes filled with tears.
If excess of happiness had not choked her voice, she would have asked
Bog if he thought she could be other than perfectly happy in the love of
her adopted mother, in the love of her dear uncle--who was at once a
father and brother in his tender solicitudes--in the love of that
darling old gentleman, Myndert Van Quintem, and in one other love, which
it was not necessary to mention.
But Bog knew that she was supremely happy, and he needed no such
elaborate answer. He also knew that he possessed the first, fresh, and
only love that she had ever cherished. All the events in connection with
her Greenpoint adventure, both before and after it, proved that she had
never loved young Van Quintem, and that her sentiments toward him were
only those of gratitude for his supposed saving of her life, and an
innocent, childlike confidence in his good intentions.
The lovers sauntered down the street slowly, as if they would protract
the walk. Not another word was said. Passing a garden full of roses, Bog
reached through the fence, and plucked a full-blown white one and handed
it to Pet. She eagerly took it, and pinned it to the bosom of her dress.
"Here we are, dearest; and I am almost ashamed to show myself to uncle,
for I am such a stranger," said Bog, breaking the silence, as they stood
at the foot of the memorable bell tower. "Hallo, Uncle Ith!" he shouted,
The old gentleman thrust his white head out of an open window at the
top, and said, "All right. Come up."
The door at the foot of the tower was open, and the young couple
proceeded to comply with the invitation. Bog led the way, and gently
dragged Pet from step to step, with much laughter on his part, and many
charming little feminine screams on her party until the trap door was
reached. Uncle Ith had combed his hair with his five fingers, retied
his old black cravat, and put on his coat, to receive them. He smiled
through the trap door, as they came in sight, and said, "Be very careful
of the young lady, Bog. Mind, now, how the young lady steps."
Bog jumped through the trap door into the cupola. Then he lowered a hand
to Pet, and Uncle Ith lent her the same assistance, and the two raised
the precious burden to a place of safety. Uncle Ith, after he had been
introduced to Pet, proudly, by his nephew, looked at her for a moment in
silent admiration. He had never seen her before, but he knew her well
from Bog's descriptions (hurriedly communicated by Bog when they had met
in the street), and said to himself that the boy had done no more than
justice to her rare beauty.
Then Uncle Ith looked at his nephew. "Ah, Bog," said he, shaking his
head at him, "what changes Time does make! It seems only a few days ago
that you was a little scrub of a chap, runnin' 'round town and pickin'
up your livin'. And a very good and honest livin' you picked up, too.
Now, here you are, a nicely dressed, tall, handsome young man, with a
snug little fortun' all of your own earnin', not to mention your bein'
the adopted son of that splendid old gentleman, Myndert Van Quintem.
And, last and best, you are goin' to be married to this dear young lady
Pet blushed; and Bog said, "That is why we are here to-day, dear uncle.
We must have you at the wedding."
Uncle Ith faltered. "Me at Mr. Van Quintem's! I should feel like a fish
out o' water." He said nothing about the antiquated blue coat with brass
buttons, the short, black trousers, and the figured satin vest, hanging
up in a closet at home; but he thought of them, and what a stiff figure
he would cut in them.
"But you must come, Uncle Ith!" said Pet, with her sweetest smile. "I
ask it as a particular favor."
"You are my only living relative, you know, uncle," added Bog.
"We should not be happy, if you were away," said Pet, placing her hand
confidingly on the old man's shoulder. Young persons always took to the
good old man in this spontaneous way.
The entreaties of the couple, and the continual iteration of that name
by which he loved to be called--"Uncle Ith"--finally overcame his
objections. He reconciled himself to the prospect of the blue coat,
short trousers, and gaudy vest, and solemnly promised to attend
This important matter having been settled, Uncle Ith pointed out to Pet
all the interesting objects to be seen from the tower, and adjusted the
spyglass for her, and gave her near views of Governor's Island, the
Palisades, and other remote objects. He also explained to her the
process of striking the bell by means of the long iron lever, and told
her that, if she would wait there long enough, she could hear how the
big chap sounded ten feet away. Pet put her hands to her ears, in
anticipation of the stunning noise, and laughingly said that she didn't
think she would wait long.
THE LAST OF A MYSTERY.
After Pet had looked at all the objects of interest visible from the
bell tower--Uncle Ith pointing them out with the pride of an owner--Bog
called Pet aside, and said, "Now, Uncle Ith, I have something to show
her that I used to think most interesting of all."
Pet rested her hand upon his arm, and gazed through the southeastern
window, in the direction indicated by Bog's forefinger.
"Right there," said he, "midway between those two tall chimneys, and a
trifle south of the line of that steeple--the last two windows in the
upper story of that old house--do you see them?"
Pet looked along his outstretched arm, to get the precise direction,
and then said, hurriedly, "It is my old home."
The sight of those familiar windows, in which the calico curtains still
hung, recalled the horrid vision of that dreadful night. Pet turned
pale, and shuddered. "Let us look elsewhere, Bog," said she.
"I beg your pardon, dearest; but I wanted to tell you how many hours I
had spent in this cupola, day and night, gazing at those two windows,
and feeling, oh, so happy! if I could but catch a glimpse of you or your
shadow. But I never told Uncle Ith about it."
Uncle Ith had not overheard this conversation, but he had followed with
his eyes the direction pointed out by Bog. As the young couple stepped
back from the window, he said:
"I see some strange sights occasionally, my children" (he was fond of
calling young people his children), "I can tell you. There are a couple
of windows, in the upper story of that old brick house, between the two
big chimneys, that used to interest me some."
"We see them," said Bog and Pet.
"About five years back, I began to notice lights burnin' in that room,
long after all other lights, except the street lamps, was put out. Of
course, this attracted my attention, and I used to feel a queer kind of
pleasure in looking into the room with my spyglass, and wonderin' what
was goin' on there. The curtains were usually drawn over the lower
sashes; but, this tower bein' fifty or sixty feet higher than the house,
I could look over the top of the curtains, and see somethin'. An old
man, tall and slim, and a young girl, 'peared to be the only folks that
lived there. Are you sick, young lady?" said he, observing that Pet
"Oh, no; I am not sick--only a little fatigued."
"What a brute I was, not to offer you a chair! Now do sit down, young
Pet did so, and Uncle Ith resumed:
"The old gentleman was a machinist, I s'pose, for I used to see his
shadow on the wall, goin' through the motions of filin', sawin', and
hammerin', though I could never guess what he was workin' on. I have
known him sometimes to be at this queer business till daylight. For
three years the strange old gentleman never missed a night at his work.
I fear you are not quite well, young lady. Take a glass of water."
Pet sipped from the proffered glass, and declared that she was much
"One night, about two years ago, I took a look into this room with my
spyglass. I generally didn't do it until three or four o'clock in the
mornin', when all the other lights in the neighborhood was out. But, on
that partickler night, about eleven o'clock, I happened to observe that
one of the window curtains which covered the lower sash was left partly
undrawn. This had never occurred before, and so I brought my glass to
bear on the room at once. A tall gentleman, whose face I had often seen
movin' in the room over the top o' the curtain, was just in the act of
takin' his departure, which he did without shakin' hands. The old man
then went to his place at the other window, and tackled to his work
again. He had been at it about twenty minutes, when a bar, or rod, which
stuck up above the curtain, and was somehow connected with his work,
fell forward with a quick motion, as if it was jerked away. The old man
stooped, picked it up, and fixed it in its place again. His face, as
well as I could see through my glass in the night time, at that
distance, showed a wonderful amount of surprise and astonishment--at the
fall of this rod or bar, I s'pose. He then seemed to be filin' on
somethin', and afterward stooped down, as if to put it into some part of
the machine, or whatever it was. Jest at that minute the Post Office
struck, and I put down my glass, and turned my head toward the sound, to
catch the district. It struck seven. I jumped to the lever, and started
the old bell for seven, too. As I was strikin' the first round, my eyes
happened to rest on the strange window again. The old man was not
standin' there. The bar, or rod, had fallen out of its place again, I
s'posed, and I expected every minute to see the old man appear at the
window, and fix it again. But he didn't show himself any more that
night--and (which is the curious part of my story) I've never seen him
since. Whether he dropped dead from heart disease, I can't guess; but
certain I am that he is dead, for--"
Poor Pet here exhibited such signs of faintness, that Bog, who had been
leaning against the edge of the window, gazing at the well-known window
with a strange fascination, sprang to her side, and instantly bathed her
brow with water from Uncle Ith's old pitcher, near at hand. This
restored her. "Be calm, dearest," said Bog.
"What--what is the matter with the young lady?" asked Uncle Ith, in
great trepidation. "Shall I run for a doctor?"
"No, Uncle Ith; no doctor. But we won't talk any more about this strange
room at present. It affects Miss Wilkeson's nerves."
"The shock is past, dear Bog," said she, "and I can bear to hear
"But you must promise to control yoursell, darling," said Bog, tenderly.
"One question, Uncle Ith," said he. "How long a time were your eyes off
the room, after the first stroke for the Seventh District?"
"Not more than three seconds."
"And you are sure that there was nobody in the room?"
"Certain; for I must have seen him enter, or go out."
"Then, Uncle Ith, you have cleared up a great mystery."
"What! What mystery?"
"The death of Mr. Minford, the inventor, my old friend, and the
protector and guardian of Miss Wilkeson. He lived in that very room! He
was at work on a perpetual-motion machine! It was operated, somehow, by
weights! It started suddenly, when you saw that rod, or lever, fall to
the floor! Mr. Minford put the rod in its place, and made some little
improvement in the works! The machine started again at a moment when
your eyes were turned away! The rod fell with greater violence, struck
the inventor on the head, and killed him! That is the whole story; and
stupid we have all been not to have guessed it before."
Nature furnished her own sweet relief to Pet's pent-up emotions. She
burst into tears. "Thank Heaven," said she, "it is all plain now!"
Pet had not whispered it to Mrs. Crull, or Bog, or her uncle, or to any
other living soul, but the mystery of that awful night had hung over her
young mind like a pall, which in vain she had tried to lift.
"What a blockhead I am," cried Uncle Ith, "not to take the papers! If I
had only taken the papers, now, I should ha' read all about that affair,
and might ha' guessed that the man who was s'posed to be murdered was
the man I had seen workin' in that room for three years. Then I should
ha' offered myself as a witness, and might ha' thrown some light on the
business. I'll 'scribe for a paper to-day, instead of trustin' to
hearsay for the news."
"And a very neglectful fellow was I," said Bog, "not to have called here
and seen you, after that sad affair. But the truth was, that Pet went to
live with her best of friends, Mrs. Crull, and I had no longer a desire
to look at the room from your bell tower. In fact," Bog added, with a
smile, "the tower has not been quite as interesting for two years past
as it used to be. If I had come up here at any time since Mr. Minford's
death, I should probably have told you of the supposed murder, and
pointed out those windows to you. But--"
"But you forgot all about your old uncle. Ha! I understand. Well, I
forgive you, seein' what there was to 'sturb your recollections." Uncle
Ith looked affectionately at Pet, who smiled and blushed through
The old man continued: "I 'member once when we met in the street, about
two years ago--"
"I used to come around this way, you must know, Uncle Ith, in order to
meet you, two or three times a week."
"I give you credit for that, Bog. You never disowned your poor old
uncle. But, as I was sayin', I 'member one time when we met, that you
told me somethin' about the murder of somebody of your 'quaintance. But
I didn't take no partickler interest in it, because I didn't know any of
the parties concerned. And, of course, I didn't dream that poor Mr.
Minford was the man I had seen workin' away there for three years. But
the main fault is mine, because I don't take the papers. I see, now,
that every man ought to take the papers--if only as a duty to his feller
man." Uncle Ith coughed, as one who utters a maxim of great moral depth.
It was then agreed, at Bog's suggestion, that Uncle Ith, accompanied by
him, should call at Overtop's office, at early business hours (when
Uncle Ith was off duty), next day, and consult upon the best course to
be adopted to make his testimony public, and set the mystery of Mr.
Minford's death forever at rest.
This having been done, Bog and Pet withdrew, and had hardly reached the
foot of the tower, when the musical thunder of the great bell announced
the constantly reiterated story of a fire in the Seventh--that most
combustible of all the city districts.
Late on a fair afternoon of May, wedding guests began to assemble at old
Van Quintem's house. The old gentleman had been out of society many
years; and he improved this happy occasion to bring together his few
surviving relatives, and friends of his former business days.
Heavy antique carriages rolled up to the door, with retired merchants
and their wives. The retired merchants were of a pattern not altogether
extinct in New York, who, at the ages of sixty years and upward, had
cleared their skirts of business, and settled down to a calm retrospect
of the past, and serene anticipations of the future. They were
evidently destined for a good old age, and had fat pocket books to help
them through. The proper place to look for this class of retired
merchants is on the tax books, and not in public assemblies, or among
the Directing Boards of benevolent institutions. They are good,
charitable souls; but, having got out of business, they desire to keep
out of it literally, leaving to a younger generation the task of
managing men and affairs.
A more stylish vehicle deposited at the door a bachelor Bank President,
who was not only the old personal friend of the host, but his trusted
adviser in business affairs. The parlor of the ---- Bank was one of the
few places that old Van Quintem still visited in the bustling haunts of
the city; and to old Van Quintem's house the bachelor Bank President
made monthly pilgrimages of friendship. He was a handsome man of fifty,
with long white hair, which matched beautifully with his yet ruddy
cheeks, and a figure portly and full of strength. Nobody but himself
knew why so eligible a man remained a bachelor.
In a humpbacked chaise drawn by an exemplary horse, there rode a fat and
pleasant old gentleman, who was uncomfortably swathed about the neck
with a white cravat. He crawled from his narrow coop with the nimbleness
of one who is on professional business. He was followed by his wife, a
little woman, who was the mother of ten children from two to twenty
years of age--just two years apart, and all strongly resembling their
father. This fat, pleasant old gentleman was the old-fashioned minister
of the old-fashioned church to which Mr. Van Quintem had belonged for
forty years. The little woman was his second wife; and there was a first
crop of children, who had been safely launched on the world for many
years, and were doing extremely well.
The sole surviving relatives of old Van Quintem were three elderly
ladies, who, by some contagious fatality, remained unmarried. After
pining romantically over their doom for some time, they had settled down
to the conviction that they were much happier single than wedded, and
that they had escaped a great many dangers and disappointments--which
was unquestionably true. It was really pleasant for them to reflect that
the snug property which their father left them had not been squandered
upon designing husbands, but had been kept, improved, and added to,
until it was one of the prettiest estates on Staten Island. These ladies
were first cousins of old Van Quintem, and had an odd habit of staying
at home. They came to New York always on important business, which could
not be transacted by any one else, four times a year; and, on those
occasions, paid state visits to old Van Quintem, who reciprocated the
civility by calling on them, in a ceremonial way, twice every summer.
Uncle Ith came on foot; and wore his old blue coat with brass buttons,
his flowered vest, and shining trousers so awkwardly, that people who
did not know him stared at him as at a strange spectacle. People--and
they were many--who did know him, stared at him with a still greater
surprise, wondering what extraordinary event in his history was about to
occur. Uncle Ith felt the additional embarrassment of fame, or
notoriety; for an affidavit, prepared by Overtop, giving the full
particulars of his observations from the bell tower, had been published
in all the city papers that morning. Before noon, Uncle Ith had been
waited on by six newspaper reporters, to whom he had furnished
particulars of his early life; and had promised to sit for his
photograph, for the use of an illustrated weekly, on the following day.
For all these reasons, added to his natural modesty, he pulled the door
bell with a feeling of profound regret, which was followed by a strange
desire to run around the corner. Before this desire could have been
gratified, the door was opened by a servant, and Uncle Ith was
The anticipated awkwardness of an introduction to old Van Quintem, was
prevented by the approach of that gentleman before his name was
"Welcome! welcome!" said he, shaking him by the hand with Dutch fervor.
"I know you from Bog's description, you see. Your statement in the
morning papers has lifted a load from several hearts, I can tell you.
Bog will be delighted to see you. He was beginning to be afraid you
would not come. Hallo, Bog!" said, the good old gentleman, shouting up
the stairs; "here is Uncle Ith."
The bridegroom bounded down the stairs with boyish impetuosity, looking
so fine that Uncle Ith hardly knew him. It was difficult to realize that
the ungainly, ignorant boy of a few years back, had become this
nice-looking, graceful young gentleman. Thus readily does the rough
diamond of a good heart and brain, under the guiding hands of Ambition
and Love, take its polish from contact with the world and with society!
"Dear Uncle Ith!" said the bridegroom.
"Happy to see you, Uncle Ith!" exclaimed Fayette Overtop, who, with
Marcus Wilkeson and Matthew Maltboy, had been drawn from the second
floor at the mention of his name.
Marcus had not before seen Uncle Ith, though he had been thinking of him
all day. The publication of the old man's affidavit was an entire
surprise to Marcus--Overtop and Maltboy having said nothing to him about
it. Other people read the document with interest, because it solved a
mystery. But to Marcus it wore the profounder, vastly greater importance
of clearing the last shadow of foul suspicion from his name. It may be
unnecessary to say, that it also gave rise to learned and interesting,
but profitless discussions, in several of the papers, upon the
possibilities of perpetual motion--which lasted until the explosion of a
steam boiler under the pavement turned every editor to the consideration
of steam boilers, their nature and habits, the rights of owners and of
the public, and the necessity of stringent legislation for the better
management of those subterranean powers of good and evil.
Upon being introduced to Uncle Ith, Marcus gave the old man's hand a
warm pressure, but said nothing. But Uncle Ith saw in his eyes an
expression of the deepest gratitude, and he knew what it meant; for he
had read the report of the inquest at Overtop's office, and there
learned, for the first time, the unhappy connection of Marcus Wilkeson
with the Minford affair.
Maltboy, who, being one of the appointed groomsmen of the day, was in
extraordinary spirits, was profuse in his congratulations to Uncle Ith,
and insisted, rather unnecessarily, upon introducing him to the retired
merchants and the bachelor Bank President. They had all read his
affidavit, and regarded him with undisguised interest.
For a man who has always been a lamb in his shyness and
self-depreciation, to find himself suddenly transformed into a lion, is
a cause of no little embarrassment. Uncle Ith was so much flustered by
all these tokens of popularity, that he could not utter an articulate
word, but only mumble, and wipe his heated brow. He wished that the
usages of society would permit him to take off his coat, as he did in
the bell tower, and be comfortable.
A few more guests arrived, mostly of the ancient order, and a little too
much of one sort to please a lover of variety. The advent of Mr. Frump,
with all his impulsive occidental peculiarities of character fresh upon
him, was a decided relief to the decorous company already assembled in
the parlors. In less than ten minutes, he was on terms of off-hand
friendship with everybody, and was telling strange stories of Western
adventure to a group of eager listeners.
Old Van Quintem received all his guests with that simple cordiality
which leaves no doubt of a sincere welcome. The common remark was, "How
well you are looking, Mr. Van Quintem!" And it was very true. Few men at
seventy could show a figure so straight, cheeks so smooth, and an eye so
bright. The unavailing sorrow which tenanted his heart two years before,
had gradually disappeared. From the hour that his son fled abashed from
his presence, he had not seen or heard of him, and had at last come to
regard him as dead--though the old gentleman could not have given a good
reason for that singular belief, except that his son had been a
constant cause of sorrow and trouble to him when alive. He preferred to
think of the lost son not as the ripened villain, but as the innocent
child prattling upon its mother's knee. This mental picture filled a
select chamber of the old man's memory. But the affection and
reverential duty of a son had been supplied by the boy Bog; and, in the
virtuous character and filial love of that young man, he saw what the
innocent child might have grown to, had all his prayers and tears
When old Van Quintem's wishes were consulted with regard to the wedding,
he had but one favor to ask; and that was, that the ceremony might take
place at his house. It was a whimsical idea, he said, but he would like
to see his old home gay once more, as it used to be years ago.
"Besides," said he, "I am rheumatic, and might not be able to attend the
wedding, if held elsewhere."
Mrs. Crull, when she first heard, from the lips of the blushing Pet,
that Bog had proposed and been accepted, immediately outlined the plan
of a wedding at her house, which should be something unprecedented in
point of magnificence. The plan took shape as she thought of it, and she
had already settled upon the number of invitations, and the other
principal arrangements, when old Van Quintem's wish was mentioned to
her. The sacrifice was a great one; and Mrs. Crull would make it only on
condition that she should superintend the preparations with the same
freedom as at her own house. Old Van Quintem consented to this, only
stipulating that he should pay all the bills; and, for over a week
before the wedding, Mrs. Crull, assisted by that most buxom and busy of
women, Mrs. Frump, had taken tyrannical possession of the dwelling, and
made such extraordinary transpositions of the carpets and pictures, and
other movable property, that old Van Quintem, on surveying the work of
renovation, hardly recognized the house as his own. The only apartment
that was not inwardly transformed by these female magicians was the
library. To that he clung, conscious that both his services and his
advice were of no value.
The house was soon filled with guests--or rather appeared to be filled,
for the whole number invited and present was only forty. But forty
people, moving about uneasily, and expecting something, look like a
hundred or more. Among them were many whose only claim to an invitation
was their friendship for the host, or Mrs. Crull, or the bride, and not
any mental, moral, or physical excellence which entitles them to mention
in this history.
There were two rooms on the second floor, upon which the interest of
loungers, male and female, was concentrated.
In one waited the bridegroom, his groomsmen Overtop and Maltboy, Marcus
Wilkeson and Wesley Tiffles. They were a happy party, and not at all
frightened at the approaching nuptials. Bog--for such his friends always
did, should, and will call him--could not have been happier--far from
it!--if he had held a sceptre in each hand. Overtop was happy in the
contemplation of his marriage with that most sensible of girls, Miss
Pillbody, which was set down for the week following. The affair would
have come off six months before, but for Miss Pillbody's illness,
happening soon after her mother's death. In consequence of this illness,
her select school had been given up--never to be revived. Poor Overtop
did not know how much he loved her, until he saw how near he came to
losing her. She had completely recovered, was ruddy and pretty with new
health, and was Pet's first bridesmaid. Overtop thought pleasantly of
her, and combed back his intractable cowlick. Matthew Maltboy was happy
because he had taken a serious fancy to Miss Trapper, the second
bridesmaid, a charming but peculiar girl, and the particular juvenile
friend of Mrs. Frump. Matthew had met this young lady two or three
times, and had suffered sweetly from her black eyes. Marcus Wilkeson was
happy in his contented bachelorhood, in the happiness of his niece and
of all around him, and in the clearing up of the "Minford enigma."
Wesley Tiffles was happy because happiness was his constitutional
disposition, under all circumstances and in all weathers. The arrival of
Uncle Ith was the only event that had drawn this good-natured party from
their retreat; and those who watched for their reappearance were
In the other room, the bride had been dressing for several hours, and
was still hard at it, under the immediate supervision of the
indefatigable Mrs. Crull, Mrs. Frump, and the two bridesmaids. Only the
favored few were admitted to this retreat of mysteries. But they were
kindly communicative. They brought back minute reports of the appearance
and condition of the bride elect, in the various stages of her
enrobement and ornamentation; and there was not a woman in the house who
did not, every ten minutes, have the image of Helen Wilkeson stamped on
her mind as accurately as the changeful phases of an eclipse on the
* * * * *
At the soft, calm, mystic, love-making, marrying twilight hour, the
bridal party took their stand near the southern end of the great double
parlor. The forty guests were grouped before them, an audience
Pet was pale, and leaned for support on Bog's arm. He stood firm, erect,
unblenching, with that instinct of physical strength which one feels
when the woman that he loves hangs confidingly on his arm. Fayette
Overtop, with his well-known dislike for conventionalism, was thinking
how tedious all that formality was, and how much more sensible to be
married by an alderman or justice of the peace, privately, in two
minutes. Miss Pillbody did not agree with her future husband on this
point, and was thinking, at that very moment, what a solemn thing
marriage was, and with what ceremonious deliberation it ought to be
entered upon. Matthew Maltboy had had great experience as a groomsman,
and he speculated with perfect composure on this important question:
Whether the gentle tremor of Miss Trapper's hand was caused altogether
by the fluttering novelty of her situation, or partly by the
love-enkindling contact of their interlocked elbows?
As the six took their chosen positions, and gazed at a particular
pattern in the carpet, selected by them at a private rehearsal in the
morning, they were the subject of mental comment by the forty guests.
The women, looking at the costly dress of the bride, pronounced her
beautiful. The men, never noticing her dress, but observing her pale
face and heavy eyes, were not vividly impressed with her loveliness. Bog
was admired by all, and envied by none to whom his history was known.
The old ladies took a mild maternal interest in him, because he was an
orphan; and the young ladies thought extremely well of him, because he
was a strong, gallant, handsome fellow. Overtop was regarded with
curiosity, as the reputed hero of the Slapman scandal. Matthew Maltboy
was universally condemned as too fat, and, with that brief criticism,
was dismissed. Miss Pillbody was pronounced "a little proud," because
she stood straight, with shoulders thrown back, which was her usual
attitude. Miss Trapper was admitted to be a very modest and diffident
creature, because she had a slight stoop in the back, which was chronic.
Old Van Quintem stood near the wedding party, and recalled, with fond
minuteness, the hour when one, about the same age as Pet, and resembling
her in the freshness of her youthful beauty, had crowned him with
happiness. Mrs. Crull was close by, and looked at the bride, whom she
had dressed, with the pride of an artist. Mrs. Frump stood next to her,
and shared in the same sentiments. Marcus Wilkeson's appointed place was
somewhere in the neighborhood of the bride; but he shrank away to the
side of Uncle Ith, who also obstinately clung to the other end of
The venerable clergyman stepped into the centre of the small open space
which had been left in front of the bridal party, and uttered a cough,
at which signal the buzz of conversation ceased.
The ceremony was very brief and simple--according to the ritual of the
Dutch Church--and people were married by it before they knew it. The
minister had received, in advance, a fee of unprecedented size, which
was, at that moment, lying at the bottom of his wife's pocket, and which
that good woman had already spent, in imagination, on a new bonnet for
herself, a new hat for the minister, dresses for the girls, books for
the boys, and playthings for the baby. If the dimensions of the fee had
any effect whatever on the mind of the excellent minister, that effect
was to hurry up the ceremony, and make the two one with the least
At last the magical, binding words were spoken; and the husband,
stooping proudly to the not-averted face of his blushing wife, gave her
the first kiss. And at the same instant a little band of musicians, with
chosen instruments, secretly stationed in the library, of which the door
was now thrown open, struck up Mendelssohn's divine Wedding March. As
its jubilant notes floated through the house, the round of
Blest Pet! What had she ever done--she thought, so far as giddy
happiness would allow her to think--to merit all these kisses (of which
her two shy uncles bestowed two), these benedictions, these tears, and,
above all, the possession of this noble heart by her side, henceforth to
be all her own? The exultant peals of the Wedding March--that highest
expression of triumphal love--but faintly interpreted her joy.
The bridegroom received his full share of the universal good wishes.
Everybody was pleased with his behavior; and the bachelor Bank
President, and other members of the old school of gentlemen, pronounced
him a glorious young fellow, a refreshing contrast to the puny,
cadaverous youth of the day, and altogether worthy to have flourished
thirty years ago. The bridesmaids and groomsmen were not neglected
either; and both Miss Pillbody and Miss Trapper thought that the next
best thing to getting married, was to assist others in the operation.
As for old Van Quintem, after kissing the bride, and calling Bog his
son, and giving both of them his blessing, he had retired from the room
to hide the tears of happiness which not even seventy years of this
hardening world could keep from his eyes.
For the second time in five minutes, Amos Frump approached Matthew
Maltboy, and shook hands with him. "Fat and jolly as ever," said he.
From the first adjective Matthew recoiled; though he tried to justify
the propriety of the second by a laugh.
"And I like you--hang me if I don't!" said Mr. Frump, with California
bluntness, "_because_ you're fat and jolly. But here's wifey, and I know
she wants to say somethin' to you."
"So I do," said Mrs. Frump. "My head was so full of business to-day,
that I had quite forgotten it. But you must step aside with me," she
added, looking significantly at Miss Trapper.
Matthew stepped aside; and she placed her lips to his ear, and
whispered, "What do you think of Miss Trapper?"
"A very pretty girl," said Matthew.
"So she is; and one of the best-hearted creatures that ever lived. A
little singular in one respect, perhaps."
"What is that?"
"Oh! she speaks out her mind--that's all. But then you always know where
to find her."
"She has not spoken any of it to me, at all events," said Matthew. "I
can't get her to talk."
"That's because she's modest. Cultivate her, and you'll find her a
splendid girl. Between you and me, I have recommended you to her, and,
depend upon it, she will meet you halfway."
"All right," whispered Matthew, gratefully.
Here the full voice of old Van Quintem announced dinner, for which the
elderly ladies had been demurely waiting for some time. Two by two the
bridal party and the guests marched to the banquet, spread in the long,
broad dining room, which was one of the best features of this sturdy,
What the bill of fare was; what tunes the band played in the library;
what kind things were said to the bride and bridegroom; what compliments
were breathed into young female ears, and not rebuked; what vows of love
were exchanged; what courteous remarks of the old school were made by
the bachelor Bank President; what ancient jokes were passed off by the
wits of the party as new; what abominable conundrums were then and there
honestly invented; what overwhelming confusion Uncle Ith experienced,
when he found himself seated next to a lady who talked loud at him, and
how he wished himself at home, one hundred feet from the ground; what
complete happiness was felt and expressed by everybody, but especially
by old Van Quintem and Marcus Wilkeson; what improbable stories were
told by Mr. Frump; what philosophical sayings uttered on the spur of the
moment by Fayette Overtop; what slightly impertinent but always amiable
remarks advanced by Wesley Tiffles;--all this might be imagined, with a
slight mental effort; but not so Matthew Maltboy's new misfortune.
Profiting by Mrs. Frump's friendly suggestion, Matthew had exhausted all
his resources of conversation in an effort to interest Miss Trapper. She
had listened, and had returned faultlessly proper replies, and had
conducted herself so much like all the other young women that Matthew
had ever met, that he was puzzled to guess in what respect her
singularity consisted. He longed to see a piece of that mind, which,
according to Mrs. Frump, she was in the habit of exhibiting to people.
He was soon gratified.
Miss Trapper had remarked, that, in a few days, she was going to visit
her friends in Chemung County, and would probably remain there three
months. It struck Matthew as the right time to make a point.
"Then I shall not see you, Miss Trapper, during all that time!" he said,
with a sigh.
Miss Trapper levelled a sharp glance at him, and said, "I suppose not."
The remark was tartly made; but Matthew had noticed that she habitually
spoke quick and short.
"Our acquaintance has thus far been very pleasant, Miss Trapper; at
least on my side," whispered Matthew. "Must it stop here?"
To which Miss Trapper replied, "I don't know."
Though the observation was not encouraging, it was, on the other hand,
not entirely forbidding.
"Since we are to be separated for three months, Miss Trapper, might I
solicit the great privilege of corresponding with you occasionally?"
Miss Trapper's thin lips expelled two words, like shot out of a gun:
"What for?" echoed the amazed Matthew. "Why--for the pleasure of
exchanging our ideas, you know."
"That would be a bore," said Miss Trapper.
"I didn't understand you," said Matthew, distrusting his ears.
"I said it would be a bore--a bore!" returned Miss Trapper, with painful
distinctness. "I hate letter writing."
"Oh! ah! Do you?" said Matthew, feebly. "Perhaps you would like some
pickled cauliflower, Miss Trapper?"
Matthew handed the pickled cauliflower to her, and held his tongue,
satisfied with what he had seen of Miss Trapper's singularity, and not
at all anxious to receive a larger piece of her mind.
"I am doomed to be a bachelor," thought Matthew, with a suppressed
groan. But Hope, which attends upon fat and lean men alike, whispered in
his mind's ear, "Why not marry a woman as fat as yourself?"
"A capital idea!" thought Matthew "and if there's no other way to find
one, I'll advertise for her."
Dinner was protracted to a length that seemed tedious to all but the
representatives of the old school. When it did come to an end, the party
adjourned to the parlors, where a reasonable time was devoted to
conversation and flirtation. At length the musicians, having taken their
wedding dinner in their apartment, and drank full bumpers (which,
somehow, never interfere with the accuracy of musical performances) to
the health of the happy pair, struck up a quadrille, which was at once
interpreted by the younger people as a signal for dancing. Two sets were
instantly formed, and rattled through with. The Lancers followed, and
was liked so much that the musicians were called upon to repeat it three
times. The sets had now increased to four, filling the two parlors, and
crowding the elderly people to the wall or the hallway. Then, luckily,
old Van Quintem bethought himself of the old-fashioned contra-dance, as
a contrivance for bringing his contemporaries on their legs. By an
extraordinary piece of good fortune, the musicians had learned it, and
played it at a silver wedding the week previous.
As the familiar notes, not heard for years, saluted the ears of the
bachelor Bank President, he showed the animation of an old war-horse at
the sound of the trumpet. "Now is our time," said he.
Moved by common impulse, the members of a past generation rose, and took
their places. Old Van Quintem, temporarily forgetting his rheumatism,
led off, escorting Mrs. Crull. The bachelor Bank President took charge
of a widow, in whose breast he had revived feelings that flourished
twenty years before. The retired merchants brought each other's wives
upon the floor. Even Uncle Ith came out from his seclusion in a corner,
where he had been listening to the sound of his own fire bell, rung by
other hands that night, and felt that here, at least, he should make no
blunders. The tall, talkative lady, from whom there seemed to be no
escape, had fastened on him as a partner. The good clergyman was the
only old or middle-aged gentleman who did not take his place in the set,
and he looked on and laughed.
The dance commenced, slow at first, then gradually faster. The younger
people, when they came to understand the simple movement, fell into the
chain couple after couple, until it extended into the hallway, and
through it into the parlors again. Everybody was drawn in now, old and
young, married and unmarried, the minister and his wife only excepted,
and they marked the measure with their heels. Round and round, and
faster and faster, went the chain, with its constantly changing links.
The musicians, playing the same strains over and over again, became
frenzied by the repetition, and doubled the time without knowing it.
Legs that had entered slow and stately upon the interminable maze,
became, without the knowledge or consent of their owners, nimble and
It was a delightful peculiarity of this wonderful dance, that couples
could withdraw without breaking up the figure. The bride and groom,
acting upon this privilege, slipped out of the flying circle, and
sought, unaccompanied, the solitude of the vine-covered piazza behind
the house, there to commune for a moment upon their new-found happiness.
* * * * *
The night was calm. A faint breeze from the south stirred up secret
odors in the hearts of dew-covered flowers, and musically sighed through
the leaves and vines. The heavens were dark, but unclouded; and, as the
lips of the lovers met in one clinging kiss, the host of stars beamed
down upon them, and proclaimed an ETERNITY OF LOVE.
Five years are an eventful space in the history of blocks, as of men.
Within that period, they may be burnt down, blown down, or torn down to
make room for grander blocks. In quick-growing American cities, the
average life of blocks is less than that of the human generation that
tenants them. First wood, then brick, then brownstone or marble--these
are the successive forms of block life, before anything like stability
is reached. Marble is the only real type of the permanent in American
architecture. Nobody pulls down marble.
But five years had made little change in the exterior of our block. It
was situated at a point in the city from which the ebb tide of Fashion
was slowly receding, and which the flood tide of Trade had not yet
touched. There was not a new house on the block, or an old one
materially altered. A little paint, and a diligent application of broom
and Croton water, had kept the block quite fresh and jaunty. On the
south side there were some slight external modifications, in the shape
of oblong black signs, fastened near basement doors, and bearing names
of doctors. Ten of these signs had been added to the south side within
five years. There were only two houses upon that side, now, to which you
could come amiss in pursuit of medical advice.
One of these was old Van Quintem's. Five years had passed over the old
house and the old man lightly (both had been made to last, and were well
taken care of), and gave to them only a mellower and riper look. The old
man's long white hair had not commenced falling out; and his cheeks
still bloomed with a ruddiness that does not belong to second childhood.
He could still read his dear old books--and carefully chosen new
ones--without spectacles; though he often preferred to hear them read in
a soft, sweet tone, by a dear girl whom he always called Pet, and who
would sit for hours at the old man's feet, giving to the noble thoughts
of poet, novelist, or philosopher, the added charm of a sympathetic
voice. At such times, a fine fellow, who was still known as Bog, would
look on and listen, with rapt attention, and the happiest smile on his
face. Sometimes these tranquil scenes would be pleasantly broken in
upon, and the meaning of the author profitably obscured, by the entrance
of a certain little Helen, whom the old man would kiss, and call
"Grandpop's sugarp'um," and "Sweety peety." Bog would then catch it up,
and toss it aloft, all whirling with curls, laces, and blue ribbons, and
would say, "Cud-je-wod-je now, cud-je-wod-je now, cud-je-wod-je now," at
each tossing; and the child, with the marvellous instinct of eighteen
months, would understand this mysterious dialect, and then would smile
through large blue eyes that looked like its mother's.
To this house, Myndert Van Quintem, jr., had never returned; and no
authentic intelligence of him had ever come. Fayette Overtop, Esq.,
while on a professional visit to St. Paul, Minnesota, to settle a large
land claim, had heard of a notorious Van Benton, who had kept a gambling
house there several years, and was finally killed by a spendthrift whom
he had cleaned out of his last cent one night. The best description
which he could get of this man, tallied precisely with that of Myndert
Van Quintem, jr. But Overtop, with that discretion which was continually
enlarging his circle of paying practice, said nothing of this to the old
gentleman. Among the reports that Overtop had heard of this Van Benton,
was one, that he had forged his father's signature to large amounts in
New York city, and had fled to the West, and there changed his name to
avoid the arrest and punishment which his father had promised him. Had
the old gentleman been informed of this circumstance, he would at once
have identified Van Benton as his son; for it was known to him alone,
that young Myndert had repeatedly forged his name (evidences of which
had been found in the desk where Marcus Wilkeson had often seen the
young man busily writing--evidences which the forger had accidentally
omitted to burn), and that he had been induced to leave the city through
fear that his father would give him up to justice at last. On the
memorable night in the milliner's shop in Greenpoint, the young
profligate had seen that his father was terribly in earnest, and had
quailed in the presence of that outraged and indignant soul.
The second house not ornamented by a doctor's sign, on the south side of
the block, was the old tenement building of which Mr. Minford had
occupied the upper story, five years before. The tenants had all been
changed two or three times; but the "Minford tragedy" was still a
current legend among them. Murders, or strange homicides, are fixtures
of houses where they occur. Nothing obliterates their memory but tearing
down the houses, and building anew--which is the course of treatment
that the proprietor was proposing to himself, in consequence of the
steady depreciation of rents. Pet never passed that house, or dared to
look at it even from a distance.
Bachelors' Hall, on the north side of the block, was still occupied by
the three original tenants; and they liked it so well, that they had
bought it, and owned it on the Tontine plan--viz., that, upon the death
of one of the owners, his share shall go to the survivors.
Five years had improved Marcus Wilkeson's relish for a good book, an
after-dinner pipe, and a chat with a friend. It was plain to all his
friends--even to those who were happiest in their wedded lives--that
Marcus was a great deal better off single than married. His was the
genial monkish nature, which thrives best in celibacy.
Every afternoon Marcus visited his white-haired neighbor opposite, and
never forgot to take along a toy, or some candy, for his grandniece
Helen. He brought these offerings in lieu of baby talk, which he could
never master. This fact pointed him out, beyond all question, as a
predestined old bachelor.
The general supervision of the house was intrusted to Mrs. Overtop; and
most sensibly did she manage it. Knowing that a bar of cast iron is more
easily bent than the set habits of men of twenty-five and upward, she
attempted no changes in the domestic regulations of the establishment.
The three friends found that they had not only all of their old freedom,
but a charming female voice to accompany them in their songs, and on the
piano or guitar, and a capital fourth hand at whist, and a beautiful
reader, and an ever-cheerful companion. "If I could find such a wife,
now!" Marcus and Maltboy would say. "But you can't," Overtop would
answer. "There's not another like her in this world." There was a
little Fayette Overtop, jr., two years old, a great pet of the
bachelors, and the far-off husband of little Helen, on the other side of
Matthew Maltboy weighed two hundred and twenty pounds. As associate
counsel of Overtop, he made an imposing show in court, which was not
fully borne out by his legal attainments. He was always talking of
matrimonial intentions--a sure sign that a man never will be married.
His last rebuff from Miss Trapper (now the wife of a wealthy tanner and
currier) had taught him to keep his flirtations within narrower limits;
but he openly professed, and probably believed, that, when he really
wanted to marry--without joking, you know--he could take his pick from
the wide and varied ranges of female society. He smoked incessantly like
a martyr, to reduce his flesh, but no adipose matter ever vanished in
that cloud of sacrifice!
Mash, the cook, bestowed her honest hand and maiden heart upon Patching,
the artist, who had first seen her at the station house, and there
contracted an artistic admiration of her face and figure. She would have
preferred a pirate; but Patching's enormous hat gave him a freebooterish
appearance, which went far to reconcile her to him. She was really a
pretty woman--much handsomer than some of the shadowy beauties Patching
was wont to put on canvas--and she made him a good and faithful
wife--and cooked better dinners for him, at a small expense, than he had
ever eaten before--and sent him out into the world clean and tidy every
morning. Patching affected to be ashamed of his wife, and snubbed her
sometimes in the presence of other people. But everybody who knew the
couple, saw that he had the best of the bargain. Mrs. Patching still
took her favorite weekly, and cried over the stories as copiously
Mrs. Crull continued to be the dearest and best friend of Pet and Mrs.
Overtop; and little Helen and little Fayette would never know the great
debt of gratitude that they owed to that excellent lady. Whenever she
called on Mrs. Overtop, she always began to be extremely circumspect in
her pronunciation and grammar, from force of habit; but soon relapsed
into those old errors which, happily, were of the head, and not of the
heart. Mrs. Crull made no mistakes in her affections. She was in
mourning for Mr. Crull, and truly vowed that she would never
Mrs. Slapman had ceased to live on the block. Mr. Slapman had basely
defeated the beneficent decree of the law, by turning his property into
ready cash, and sailing for Europe. This deprived Mrs. S. of her alimony
the second year after their separation, and compelled her to give up
housekeeping, and the pursuit of TRUTH, in New York. She is now living
among a small colony of Jigbees, in an obscure village of Connecticut,
the pride of her family, the envy of the neighbors, and the idol of two
local poets and of the professor of a High School in an adjoining town,
who has learned her history, and is now patiently waiting for Slapman to
die before offering her his hand in marriage.
Uncle Ith rang the great bell in the high tower for a number of years,
with perfect satisfaction to himself and to the firemen. He took a
paper, and he read it, and he found its political arguments so powerful,
and so interesting, that he adopted them as his own--as many another man
of greater pretensions has done--and he got into the bad habit of
talking politics in a small way. It happened, not long after, that there
was an election for mayor; and a mayor was chosen who held to a variety
of politics quite the opposite of that which was so ably inculcated in
Uncle Ith's favorite journal. About a month later, Uncle Ith turned to
the political column of his paper, and there read that he had been
turned out of office, and that one Schimmerfliming--a German politician
of the ----th Ward, who had been of great service in compassing the
election of the new mayor--had been appointed in his place. The fact
was, that Uncle Ith was highly acceptable to all parties as a no-party
man. But, when he turned politician, he made himself amenable to the
harsh laws of political warfare, and became (as his paper phrased it)
"the hoary-headed victim of the unprincipled tyrant who, with the
cunning of the serpent and the vindictive ferocity of the hyena, weaves
his spider's web of mischief in his dark corner of the City Hall." Uncle
Ith retired to private life with a snug property, patiently saved up and
thoughtfully invested. But, as Adam went on eating apples,
notwithstanding the disaster which had come to him from that species of
fruit, so Uncle Ith took his newspaper, and paid for it punctually, and
devoured it daily to the last.
While Uncle Ith fell by politics, Coroner Bullfast rose by it. A
judicious distribution of money and liquors, a notoriety for street
fights, a singular talent for profanity, and an unstinted adulation of
the basest classes of the community, won for him, in succession, some of
the best prizes of the Municipal lottery. He has his small, sunken eyes
now fixed on one of the highest offices of the State; and it will take a
strong combination to defeat a candidate backed by such powerful
agencies and interests.
Mr. and Mrs. Frump lived happily on their country property. Mr. Frump
tried experiments in blackberry raising, which proved a success, and
was, at last accounts, concentrating his talents on the development of a
new strawberry seedling. Whenever he went to town, he made a point of
carrying back Matthew Maltboy, for whom his regard was inexplicably
strong; and nothing gave him greater pleasure than to see his wife,
gracefully mounted on the spirited filly, and Matthew, heavily astride
of the sober gray, starting off for a morning's ride, while he stayed at
home to push on the seedling.
When Wesley Tiffles had spent ten thousand dollars in elegant leisure,
he arrived at the noble determination to "salt down," as he called it,
the remaining ten thousand dollars, in ten different savings banks. He
distributed it thus, in order that the failure of one of the banks might
not ruin him. The interest of this money, drawn half-yearly, furnished
him with a basis for operations of a character requiring genius, pens,
ink, and paper, rather than ready cash. Whenever Tiffles's resources ran
short, as they did occasionally, he always borrowed, and paid on the
next interest day. In this policy he was inflexible; and he flattered
himself on the sternness of his self-denial.
Among the schemes which failed to receive the cordial approbation of
capitalists, were the following: "A process for extracting green paint
from green leaves;" ditto for "making nutritious food from the direct
combination of earth, air, and water;" a plan (submitted to the
unappreciating Government of Naples) to "extinguish the volcano of
Vesuvius, by pumping water from the Bay into the crater, in
consideration of the sum of one million florins, and a monopoly of
working the extinct volcano for lava."
Wesley Tiffles, profiting, at a late day, by the lesson of the
"Cosmopolitan Window Fastener," finally invented and patented a striking
improvement in an apple-paring machine, and, at last accounts, was
clenching a good bargain for the sale of his invention.