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Title: Round the Block
Author: Bouton, John Bell
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Round the Block" ***

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ROUND THE BLOCK

An American Novel

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

by

JOHN BELL BOUTON

1864



[Illustration: MRS. SLAPMAN AT HOME--(Book First, Chap. IX.)]



CONTENTS.


BOOK FIRST.

NEW YEAR'S DAY.

   I. THE BLOCK.
  II. THREE BACHELORS.
 III. PEEPS.
  IV. QUIGG.
   V. PLEASURE AS BUSINESS.
  VI. SOMETHING HIDDEN.
 VII. THE BOY BOG.
VIII. MALTBOY'S TWENTIETH AFFAIR.
  IX. MRS. SLAPMAN AT HOME.
   X. INFIRMITIES OF GENIUS.


BOOK SECOND.

POLISHING.

   I. THE ENIGMA.
  II. A DELICATE PROPOSITION.
 III. AN AUXILIARY OF MODERN CIVILIZATION.
  IV. MISS PILLBODY.
   V. A FRIEND IN NEED.
  VI. BRANCHING OUT.
 VII. THE LITTLE PUPIL.


BOOK THIRD.

TRAIL OF THE SERPENT.

   I. "ONE--TWO--THREE--FOUR."
  II. THE FALLING BOARD.
 III. SNEAKING JUSTIFIED.
  IV. UP IN THE AIR.
   V. TONGUES OF FIRE.


BOOK FOURTH.

CHILDREN OF THE WORLD.

   I. MENDERT VAN QUINTEM AND SON.
  II. BUYING GOOD BEHAVIOR.
 III. THE YOUNG MONSTER.
  IV. WESLEY TIFFINS.
   V. THE PANORAMA OF AFRICA.


BOOK FIFTH.

MANOEUVRES.

   I. STOLEN--MORE THAN A PURSE.
  II. CONSOLATIONS OF HIGH ART.
 III. LOVING AFAR OFF.
  IV. LEGERDEMAIN.


BOOK SIXTH.

MYSTERIES OF THE NIGHT.

   I. THE UNKNOWN HAND.
  II. IN VAIN--IN VAIN.
 III. THE CLASHING ORBS.
  IV. A VISION OP HORRORS.
   V. WHAT THE MORNING BROUGHT.


BOOK SEVENTH.

JOURNEYINGS AGAINST FATE.

   I. PEA-SHOOTING AS A SCIENCE.
  II. BY STEAM.
 III. PIGWORTH, J.P.
  IV. STOOP.
   V. AN AUDIENCE ANALYZED.
  VI. HUMORS OF THE MANY-HEADED.
 VII. SCENES NOT IN THE BILLS.


BOOK EIGHTH.

A DRAMATIC INTERLUDE.

   I. THE OVERTURE.
  II. CURTAIN UP.
 III. ACT SECOND.
  IV. HOW THE PLAY ENDED.


BOOK NINTH.

THE INQUEST.

   I. CORONER AND JURY.
  II. STATEMENT OF THE PRISONER.
 III. JUSTICE GOES TO DINNER.
  IV. LIGHT IN THE PRISON.
   V. THE SORROW OF WHITE HAIRS.
  VI. WHAT PAPER, TYPES, AND INK CAN DO.
 VII. PET AS A WITNESS.
VIII. THE BENEFICENCE OF FIRE BELLS.
  IX. AN OLD MAN'S OFFERING.


BOOK TENTH.

DONE ON BOTH SIDES.

   I. A FISHER OF MEN.
  II. PLAYING WITH THE LINE.
 III. PULLING IN.
  IV. THE FIRST OF MAY.
   V. DEMOLITION OF CERTAIN AIR CASTLES.
  VI. MR. WHEDELL'S CREDITORS IN CONVENTION ASSEMBLED.
 VII. DEUS EX MACHINA.


BOOK ELEVENTH.

DISCOVERIES.

   I. THE OLD HOUSE REVISITED.
  II. A POSTHUMOUS SECRET.
 III. OVERTOP FINDS A SENSIBLE WOMAN.
  IV. INNOCENCE ON A SLIPPERY ROAD.
   V. BOG'S OPEN SESAME.
  VI. TRACKED.
 VII. FOUND AND LOST.


BOOK TWELFTH.

SPECULATIONS--PECUNIARY AND MATRIMONIAL.

   I. THE "COSMOPOLITAN WINDOW FASTENER."
  II. MIDDLE-AGED CUPID.
 III. SLAPMAN _vs_. SLAPMAN.
  IV. HOW OVERTOP SEALED A CONTRACT IN A WAY UNKNOWN TO CHITTY.
   V. A RETURNED CALIFORNIAN.
  VI. REVELATIONS OF A LAUGH.


BOOK THIRTEENTH.

THE STRANGE LADY.

   I. A STORY OP THE PAST.
  II. POSSIBLE LOVE.
 III. UNCLE AND NIECE.


BOOK FOURTEENTH.

HAPPY DAYS.

   I. OWNERS OF THE BEAUTIFUL.
  II. THE LAST OF A MYSTERY.
 III. LOVE CROWNED.
  IV. FIVE YEARS.



BOOK FIRST.

NEW YEAR'S DAY



CHAPTER I.

THE BLOCK.

On the east side of the block were four brownstone houses, wide, tall,
and roomy. Seen from the street, they had the appearance of not being
inhabited. In the upper stories, all the curtains or blinds were closely
drawn. In the lower story, the heavy lace that hung in carefully
careless folds on each side of the window, seemed never to have been
disturbed since it left the upholsterer's hands. Whatever life and
motion there might have been in the basement, were sheltered from
observation by conical firs or square-clipped box borders, set out on
strictly geometrical principles in each of the four front yards. The
doors were ponderous and tight fitting, as if they were never meant to
be opened; and the vivid polish of their surfaces showed no trace of
human handling. No marks of feet could be detected on the smooth, heavy
flagstones which led up from the sidewalk, or on the great steps flanked
by massive balustrades. The four mansions, in their new, lofty, and
apparently tenantless state, looked, like the occasional residences of
people for some purpose of ceremony, rather than the dear homes of the
small, loving, domestic circles that really lived there.

Such was the outer view of the east side of the block, and it is the
only view that the reader of this book will get; for it is the author's
intention profoundly to respect the select seclusion of the occupants.

Now, the west side of the block was in all respects, exactly opposite to
the east side. The houses were built of bricks, dingy with the whirling
dust of twenty years. Two of the three stories swarmed with women and
children, always visible at all seasons; and the lower story was devoted
to some kind of cheap trade. Wholesale business is gregarious in its
ways; but it is the habit of retail business to scatter, so as to
present, in the same neighborhood, no two people in exactly the same
line. Thus it happened that, on the west side of the block, there was
only one drygoods dealer, whose shop front and awning posts were
festooned with calicoes and other fabrics, ticketed with ingeniously
deformed figures, and bearing some attractive adjective, expressing the
owners private and conscientious opinion of their excellence. There was
one boot-maker, who strung up his products in long branches, like
onions; and, although his business was not at all flourishing, solaced
himself with the reflection that he had a monopoly of it on the block.
There was one apothecary, between whose flashing red and yellow lights
and those of his nearest rival there was a desirable distance. A
solitary coffinmaker, a butcher, a baker, a newspaper vender, a barber,
a confectioner, a hardware merchant, a hatter, and a tailor, each
encroaching rather extensively on the sidewalk with the emblems of his
trade, rejoiced in their exemption from a ruinous competition. The only
people on the block whose interests appeared to clash, were the grocers,
who flanked either corner, and made a large and delusive show of boxes,
barrels, and tea chests; and it was strongly suspected that they were
identical in interests, under different names, and maintained a secret
league to catch all the custom of the vicinity.

The south side was a gradation of buildings, from the two-story brick
grocery on the west corner to the grandest of the stone mansions on the
east. With the exception of two or three houses built in the early
history of the block, and occupied by obstinate old proprietors, it
presented such a regularly ascending line of roofs, that a giant could
have walked up stairs from one end to the other. Although each house was
built upon a plan peculiar to itself, and supposed to reflect the
long-cherished views of the original owner, there were certain
resemblances among them. This was sometimes the effect of a jealous
rivalry; sometimes of imitation. In one dozen houses there was a costly
struggle for supremacy in window curtains. In another dozen, the
harmless contest pertained to Grecian urns crowned with flowers, or dry
dolphins, tritons, or naiads, rising from the bosoms of little gravel
beds in miniature front yards. In a third dozen, there was a perspective
of broad iron balconies elegantly constructed for show, and sometimes
put to hazardous use, on warm summer nights, by venturesome gentlemen
with cigars, or ladies with fans.

About the middle of the block was a colony of doctors, who had
increased, in five years, from two to ten. Their march was eastward, and
it could be calculated to a nicety how long it would be before the small
black, gilt-lettered signs of their profession would press hard upon the
great house at the corner. Why they thus congregated together, unless
with the friendly purpose of relieving each other's patients in each
other's absence, and so saving humanity from sudden suffering and death,
was a mystery to everybody but themselves.

The north side lacked variety. One part of it, comprising twenty lots,
had been built up on speculation by an enterprising landowner. The
houses were precisely alike, from coal cellar to chimney top, with front
railings of exactly the same pattern, crowned with iron pineapples from
the same mould, encompassing little plots of ground laid out in walks
similar to the fraction of a hair; the sole ornaments of which were four
little spruce trees, planted at equal distances apart.

This row of houses was very distracting even to the occupants, with whom
it was a feat of arithmetic to identify their homes in the daytime, and
much more so at night, when the landmarks were shadowy and
indistinguishable. Occasionally, well-meaning tenants found themselves
pulling at wrong doorbells; and there was one man who got tipsy every
Saturday night, and rang himself quite through the row before he tumbled
in on his own hall carpet. It was in counting the spruce trees, he said,
which had a perplexing way of doubling, that he invariably lost
the track.

In nearly every house on this block there was a piano. The piano was the
great equalizer of the block. And, though in the loftier houses the
pianos might have been larger and costlier, and unquestionably noisier,
it did not follow that they were better played or pleasanter to hear
than the humbler instruments which served to swell the tumultuous chorus
in hours of morning practice. With regard to these pianos, it may here
be observed, that a gentleman with a passion for statistics, who chanced
to be well acquainted through the block, made the remarkable discovery
that the players were usually unmarried ladies; and that, when they
acquired husbands (as they occasionally did on that block), they put
aside the piano as something quite incapable of contributing to their
new-found happiness.



CHAPTER II.

THREE BACHELOKS.

Near the centre of the north side of the block stood a house in which
three men, who have much to do in this story, were whiling away an hour
before dinner, at the edge of evening, in the month of December, 185-.
The house had strange stones let in over the windows and door, and was
broad and sturdy, and was entered by steps slightly worn, and was shaded
by a tall and old chestnut tree, and showed many signs of age. It was
because of these evidences of antiquity, although the house was in good
preservation and vastly comfortable, that it had been picked out and
rented by the three men, two weeks previously.

Yet the three men exhibited no marks of age, past or coming, upon them.
The oldest, Mr. Marcus Wilkeson, looked no more than thirty-two; but
frankly owned to thirty-six. Being six feet and two inches high, having
a slim figure, round face, smooth brow, gentle eyes, perfect teeth to
the utmost extent of his laugh, and a head of hair free from the
plague-spot of incipient baldness which haunts the young men of this
generation, his appearance, now that he was confessedly a man, was very
much like that of an overgrown boy. On the contrary, when he was really
a boy, his extraordinary height (six feet at sixteen years) had given
him the outward semblance of a premature man. Probably his long legs and
arms, which were exceedingly supple, and were always swinging about with
a certain juvenile awkwardness, contributed much to the youthfulness of
his appearance.

At the time of his introduction here, his legs were as quiet as in their
nature they could be, having been elevated, for the greater comfort of
the owner, to the top of a pianoforte, and presenting an inclination of
forty-five degrees to Mr. Wilkeson's body, reposing calmly and smoking
an antique pipe in his favorite chair below. One of his long arms was
hanging listlessly by his side, and the other made a sharp projecting
elbow, and terminated in the interior of his vest. This was the attitude
which, of all possible adjustments of the human anatomy, Mr. Wilkeson
preferred; and he always assumed it and his pipe the moment he had put
on his dressing gown and Turkey slippers. He was well aware that popular
treatises on the "Art of Behavior" and the "Code of Politeness" were
extremely hard upon this disposition of the legs. His half-sister,
Philomela Wilkeson, who was high authority, had often visited his legs
with the severest censure, when, upon suddenly entering the room where
he was seated, she found the offending members confronting her from the
top of the piano, or the table, or a chair, or sometimes from the
mantelpiece. While Marcus Wilkeson admitted the full force of her
strictures as applied to legs in general, he claimed an exception for
his legs, which were always in his own or other people's way when they
rested on the floor, or were crossed after the many fashions popular
with the short-legged part of mankind.

Marcus Wilkeson's heretical opinion concerning legs was part of a system
of independent views which he entertained of life generally. He had
given up a profitable broker's shop in Wall street, a year before,
because he had made a fortune ten times larger than he would ever spend.
Having fulfilled the object for which he started in business, and for
which he had toiled like a slave ten years, he conceived that nothing
could be more sensible than to retire from it, make room for other
deserving men, and enjoy his ample earnings in the ways which pleased
him most, before an old age of money getting had deadened his five
senses, his intellect, and his heart.

Persons who knew Marcus Wilkeson well were aware that he was a shy,
self-distrustful fellow, amiable, generous, and that the only faults
which could possibly be alleged against him were an excessive fondness
for old books, old cigars, and profitless meditations, and a catlike
affection for quiet corners. And when his half-sister Philomela--who had
no hypocritical concealment about her, thank heaven! and always told
people what she thought of them--pronounced the first of those luxuries
"trash," the second "disgusting," and the other two "idiotic," he met
her candid criticisms with a pleasant laugh, and said that, at any rate,
they hurt nobody but himself.

To which Philomela invariably retorted: "But suppose every strapping
fellow, at your time of life, should take to novel-reading, and such
fooleries, what would become of the world, I would like to know?"

And her brother, puffing out a long stream of smoke, would respond:
"Suppose, my dear sister, every woman was destined to be an old maid, as
you are, what would become of the world, _I_ would like to know?"

The conversation always terminated at this point, by Philomela declaring
that coarse personality was the refuge of weak-minded people when they
could not answer arguments, and that, for her part, she would never take
the trouble to say another plain, straightforward word for his good;
whereupon there would be a truce, lasting sometimes a whole day.

Fayette Overtop, the second of the three young men--the one looking out
of the window, drumming idly on the glass, and continually tossing back
his head to clear the long black hair from his brow, over which it hung
in an incurable cowlick--was a short, compact, nervous person,
twenty-five years old. Mr. Overtop had been educated for the law, but,
finding the profession uncomfortably crowded when he came into it, had
not yet achieved those brilliant triumphs which he once fondly imagined
within his reach. For three years he had been in regular attendance at
his office from nine A.M. to three P.M. (as per written card on the
door), except in term time, when he was a patient frequenter of the
courts. During these three years he had picked up something less than
enough to pay his half of the rent of two small, dimly lighted, but
expensive rooms on the fourth floor of a labyrinth in the lower part
of the city.

Mr. Overtop, when asked to explain this state of things, about which he
made no concealment, always attributed it to a "lack of clients."

If he had clients enough, and of the right kind, he felt confident that
he could make a figure in the profession. Having few clients, and those
in insignificant cases only, of course he had no opportunities for
distinction. He could not stand in the street and beg for clients, or
drag men forcibly into his chambers and compel them to be clients; and
he would not degrade the dignity of his calling by advertising for
clients, or taking any means whatever to get them, except by
establishing a reputation for professional learning and integrity. The
only inducement which he ever put in the way of clients, was a series of
signs, outside the street door, on the first flight of stairs, at the
head of the first landing, on the second flight of stairs, at the head
of the second landing, and so on to the fourth floor, where the firm
name of "Overtop & Maltboy" confronted the panting climber for the
eighth and last time, painted in large gold letters on black tin, nailed
to the office door.

Mr. Overtop was willing to give clients every facility for finding him,
when they had once started at the bottom of the building; and would, as
it were, lead them gently on, by successive signs; but good luck and a
good name, slowly but surely acquired, must do the rest.

A snug property, of which Mr. Overtop spent less than the income,
fortunately enabled him to indulge in these novel views, and to regard
clients, much as they were desired, as by no means indispensable to his
existence. In his unprofessional hours, Mr. Overtop was everything but a
lawyer. He was chiefly a philosopher, a discoverer, a searcher after
truth, a turner-up of undeveloped beauties in every-day things, which,
he said, were rich in instruction when intelligently examined. He could
trace out lines of beauty in a gridiron, and detect the subtle charm
that lurks in the bootjack.

As not unfrequently happens, in partnerships of business and of other
descriptions, Matthew Maltboy--the young man standing before the blazing
coal fire, and critically surveying his own person--was quite the
opposite of Fayette Overtop. Maltboy was fat and calm. Portraits were in
existence showing Maltboy as a young lad in a jacket and turn-down
collar, having a slim, graceful figure, a delicate face, and a sad but
interesting promise of early decay upon him. Other portraits, of the
same original, taken at later periods of the photographic art,
represented a gradual squaring out of the shoulders, a progressive
puffiness in the cheeks, lips, and hands, incipient folds in the chin,
and a prevalent swollen appearance over all of Matthew Maltboy that the
artist permitted the sun to copy.

Portraits of Maltboy for a series of years would have proved a valuable
contribution to human knowledge, as showing the steady and remarkable
changes through which a man who is doomed to be fat passes onward to his
destiny. But Maltboy stopped sitting for portraits when he reached the
age of twenty, deciding, as many another public character has done, to
transmit only the earlier and more ethereal representations of himself
to posterity.

By some compensating law of Nature, there were given to Maltboy a light
and cheerful heart, a tendency to laugh on the smallest provocation, and
a nice susceptibility to the beautiful. Not the beautiful in rivers,
forests, skies, and other inanimate things, but the beautiful in woman.
And as Overtop was gifted to discover charms in material objects which
were plain in other eyes, so Maltboy possessed the wonderful faculty of
seeing beauty in female faces, where other people saw, perhaps, only a
bad nose, dull eyes, and a pinched-up mouth. This mental endowment might
have been a priceless gift to a portrait painter, who was desirous of
gratifying his sitters; but it was for Matthew Maltboy a fatal
possession. It had led him to love too many women too much at first
sight, and to shift his admiration from one dear object to another with
a suddenness and rapidity destructive to a well-ordered state
of society.

Though these multiplied transfers of affection occasionally caused some
disappointment among the victims of Mr. Maltboy's inconstancy, it was
wisely ordained that he should be the principal sufferer--that every new
passion should involve him in new difficulties, and subject him to a
degree of mental distress which would have reduced the flesh of any man
not hopelessly predisposed to fatness. As Mr. Matthew Maltboy stood by
the fire, he was not taking the profitable retrospective view of his
life which he should have taken, but was glancing with an expression of
concern at the circumference of a showy vest pattern which cut off the
view of his legs.

The apartment in which the three bachelors were keeping a meditative
silence, was large, square, high, on the first floor back, commanding an
ample prospect of neglected rear yards, and all the strange things that
are usually huddled into those strictly private domains. The furniture
of the room was rich and substantial, but not too good to be used. The
chairs were none of those frail, slippery structures of horsehair and
mahogany so inhospitably cold to the touch; but they were oak, high
backed, deep, long armed, softly but stoutly cushioned with leather, and
yawned to receive nodding tenants and send them comfortably to sleep
amid the fragrant clouds of the after-dinner pipe or cigar.

At one end of the room was Marcus Wilkeson's library, consisting of
about five hundred volumes, of poems, novels, travels by land and sea,
histories, and biographies, which the owner dogmatically held to be all
the books in the world worth reading. The admission of a new book to
this select company of standard worthies, Mr. Wilkeson was vain enough
to regard as a high compliment to the author, and as a final settlement
of any disputes which might have been abroad as to its merits.

On another side of the room was a grand piano, open, and covered with
the latest music, and sometimes played on in a surprisingly graceful
manner by the fat fingers of Matthew Maltboy. On the walls hung some
pictures, that were not unpleasant to look at. There were two portraits
of danseuses, with little gauzy wings, and wands tipped with magic
stars; one large, full-faced likeness of a pet actress, taken in just
the right attitude to show the rounding shoulders, the lightly poised
head, and the heavy hair, to the best advantage; some charming French
prints, among them "Niobe and her Daughters" and "Di Vernon;" and a half
dozen pictures of the fine old English stage-coach days. Over the
fireplace were suspended several pairs of boxing gloves, garnishing the
picture of a tall fellow in fighting attitude, whose prodigious muscles
were only a little smaller than those of all the saints and angels of
all the accredited masterpieces of ancient art. A pair of foils and
masks, neatly arranged over each corner of the mantelpiece, completed
the decorations of the room.

The three bachelors had gone into housekeeping by way of experiment, as
a relief from the tedium and oppression of hotels and boarding houses,
and as an escape from female society, which was beginning to pall even
upon the huge appetite of Matthew Maltboy.

But two weeks of this self-imposed exile--with no female society but
Miss Philomela Wilkeson, and Mash, the cook--proved rather too much for
Matthew's fortitude. He yawned audibly.

"I understand you," said Marcus; "you are sick of this."

"Well--hum--it's a little prosy at times." Maltboy yawned again.

"Incorrigible monster!" cried Marcus. "What shall we do with him, Top?"

The person addressed swung back the rebellious cowlick from his
forehead, as if to clear his thinking faculties from a load while he
considered the grave question. "Do with him? Do with him? Oh! I'll tell
you." Here the speaker's eyes flashed with the light of a great
discovery. "Tether him like a horse, with a certain limited area to feed
in. D'ye see? D'ye see?"

"A horse? Can't say that I do," returned Mr. Marcus Wilkeson.

"And I can't say that _I_ do, either," added Mr. Matthew Maltboy. "A
horse! Why not say a donkey? I should see it quite as well."

"As you please," resumed the impetuous Overtop. "A donkey, then. Perhaps
the metaphor will be better. What I mean--what you two are so dull as
not to see--is to put this unreliable Maltboy on a moderate allowance of
flirtation; to keep him, for example, within the limits of this block.
D'ye see? D'ye catch the idea?"

"It begins to dawn on me," said Wilkeson.

"And I catch a ray or two of it," added Maltboy. But--"

"Excuse me," interrupted Overtop, stepping between his two companions,
and gesticulating wildly at each of them in turn, as if he would dart
conviction into them like electricity from the tips of his fingers.
"Here is a block full of people. Their houses are joined together, or
nearly so, all the way round. The inhabitants hear each other's pianos
playing and each other's babies squalling all day long. If a fire breaks
out in the block, it may be all burned down together. If the measles
makes its appearance on the block, it probably runs through it. Is there
not, therefore, a community of dangers among us; and if of dangers, why
not of pleasures? Why should not the inhabitants of a block be regarded
as a distinct settlement, or tribe, whose members owe kindness and
goodwill to each other before the rest of the world? Looking at it in
the light of humanity, is it not our duty to know our neighbors?"

"And Matt would say, To love them too--that is, the young and pretty
ones," observed "Wilkeson.

"Precisely," said Maltboy.

"Excuse me," continued Overtop, deprecating further interruption with
both hands. "That is the point I was just coming to. Since Maltboy
_must_ have female society, and cannot be kept out of it by main force,
why not give him the range of this block? Catch the idea, eh?--in its
full force and bearings?"

"Wilkeson and Maltboy implied, by nods, that they caught it.

"And--ahem--I think I'll take the same range too," added Overtop. "Not
because I care a pin about female society, but just to test my
new theory."

Cries of "Oh! oh!" from Marcus Wilkeson.

Overtop laughed. "You'll be a convert to it yet, my good fellow."

"Never," said Marcus, inflexibly, "so long as books and tobacco hold
out."

"We'll see," replied Overtop. "But let me think how we are to begin." He
rubbed his nose with a forefinger, then tossed back the cowlick, and
said, impetuously: "I have it--I have it! We know Quigg, the grocer, at
the corner below, for we are customers of his. Of course, he has an
immense number of customers on the block, and will make New Year's
calls on all of them, in the way of business. Why can't he take us in
tow? It's as plain as daylight."

"Plain enough, I admit," said Marcus Wilkeson; "but what will Quigg's
customers say?"

"Poor fellow!" returned Overtop. "How feebly you hermits reason about
society! If you had knocked round town on New Year's days, as Matt and I
have often done, you would know that visitors are valued only because
they swell the number of calls, and that it is entirely immaterial who
they are, or who introduces them. The militia general, the banker, the
judge, the D.D., the butcher, the drygoods clerk, are units of equal
value on that day, each adding one more to the score which is privately
kept behind the door. We shall be welcome; never fear for that. You must
come with us, and see for yourself."

"I thank you," said Marcus Wilkeson, laughing. "No such fooleries at my
time of life."

"Very well," said Overtop. "Matt and I will try to represent the new
firm of bachelor housekeepers creditably. Matt will look after the
pretty girls, and I after the sensible ones--that is, if there happen to
be any on this block."

"Agreed," observed Matthew Maltboy, catching a view of himself in a
glass over the fireplace, and not wholly displeased with his appearance.

"Another thought strikes me," said Overtop, explosively. "It's nearly
half an hour to sunset. I am impatient to begin my acquaintance with our
fellow citizens--our future friends, if I may so call them. Let us look
out of the windows, and see what the excellent people are doing. Perhaps
it may interest even a recluse and bookworm like you."

"Nonsense," rejoined Marcus Wilkeson. "There's no curiosity in my
composition."

And yet, when his two companions stood at the window of the little back
parlor, pressing their noses against the glass, and looking out, he
could not resist the temptation to join them, although he thought
proper to punch them in the ribs, and call them a pair of inquisitive
puppies, by way of showing how much he was superior to the great human
infirmity.



CHAPTER III.

PEEPS.

The uniform row of houses on the other side of a dead waste of snow, to
which the attention of the three friends was ardently directed,
promised, at first sight, a poor return of instruction and
entertainment. The rear view presented one dull stretch of bricks
irregularly set even in those houses which displayed imposing fronts of
brown stone. The blinds were of a faded green color, and broken. The
stoops, the doors opening on them, and the steps leading down to the
dirty, sodden snow, had a generic look of cheapness and frailty.
"Whatever the censorious critic might say of the front, he could not
charge the rear with false pretences; for there was apparent, all over
it, an utter indifference to the opinions of mankind. Perhaps because
the owners of the houses did not expect mankind to study their property
from that point of view.

"Say!" was Mr. Fayette Overtop's first remark, after a moment's
observation; "do not those rustic fences on the roofs remind you of the
sweet, fresh country in summer time?" Mr. Overtop alluded to the
barriers which are erected to keep people from getting into each other's
houses, and which are scaled not without difficulty even by cats.

Neither of his friends answering this remark except by a quiet,
incredulous smile, Overtop continued, a little pettishly:

"And you really mean to tell me that that pastoral object, happily
introduced on the roofs of houses, does not recall the green fields,
daisies, babbling brooks, and cloudless skies of early boyhood? Humbug!"
The speaker flattened his nose still more against the glass by way
of emphasis.

"You look for beauties among the chimney pots, while I search for them
in back-parlor windows," said Matthew Maltboy. "Observe where I throw
my eye now."

Mr. Maltboy threw his eye toward a house near the middle of the block.
His companions followed it, and saw a tall girl with prodigious skirts
standing at a window, and looking, as they thought, at them. The view
which she obtained was evidently not satisfactory, for with her
handkerchief she wiped off the moisture from several of the panes; and,
when the glass was clear to her liking, shook out the folds of her
dress, and peered forth again, this time more decidedly, at the window
occupied by the three friends. Her use of the handkerchief was not lost
upon Maltboy, who straightway pulled out his extensive cambric, and
polished up their window too. This improvement of the medium of vision
on both sides, enabled the three friends to form some idea of the tall
girl's personal charms. Her figure was straight; her hair was black; her
eyes were brilliant; her complexion was healthy; she exhibited jewelry
in her ears, on her neck, her bosom, her wrists, and her fingers; her
dress gave her a great deal of trouble, as she leaned forward to
look out.

"Charming, is she not?" said Maltboy.

"Hard to say, at this distance," returned Overtop, who, feeling
neglected in the matter of the rustic fence, was controversially
disposed.

"You may find it so," said Maltboy; "but as for me, the flash of her
eyes--there, now, for instance!--is convincing enough."

"Perhaps you have seen her before," remarked Marcus Wilkeson.

"Perhaps," was that gentleman's answer, implying, by his accent and
accompanying wink, that he had seen her repeatedly.

"And said nothing about her to us, you inveterate humbug," added Marcus.

Mr. Maltboy felt the compliment conveyed in the word "humbug"--as most
people do when that accusation of shrewdness and deep dissembling is
brought against them--and smiled.

"I confess," he replied, as he polished the window simultaneously with
the performance of that process across the way, "I confess I have
noticed her several times; but what was the use of mentioning it to a
pair of woman haters like you?"

His two companions laughed pleasantly, thereby expressing their
gratification at the return compliment involved in the phrase
"woman haters."

"You are such dull fellows now," continued Maltboy, "that perhaps you
will say this fair stranger is not looking at us; that she does not
desire to be seen by us--that is, by me; and that her rubbing of the
window with a handkerchief is not a signal which she expects to be
answered."

"We say nothing," replied the disputatious Overtop. "We only wait for
proof. It is easy to find out whether a signal is meant or not. Rub the
window now."

Maltboy did so, concluding the act with an unmistakable flourish of the
handkerchief. Whereupon the tall girl averted her face, pulled down the
curtain, and eclipsed herself.

Wilkeson and Overtop laughed, and, with a common impulse, punched
Maltboy triumphantly in the ribs--a friendly salute that was always
vastly amusing to that gentleman.

"Be it understood, at this stage of affairs," said Marcus, solemnly,
"that I reject the Overtop theory, and wash my hands of all
responsibility for Maltboy's misdeeds.--Hallo! There he is again."

"Who? Where?" exclaimed his two friends.

"In the house nearly opposite--the one with the grape arbor. Isn't he a
fine old fellow?"

Overtop and Maltboy looked, and there saw, sitting at a window, and
placidly gazing out of it, an old gentleman with long and thick white
hair, a ruddy face, a white neckcloth, and a large projecting shirt
frill--which were all the peculiarities of person and dress that could
be distinctly made out. He was smoking a long pipe, and placidly rocking
himself to and fro. His appearance, through the two windows, was that
of a finely preserved relic of a past generation,

"He always has a long pipe in his mouth, and looks benignantly into the
open air," said Wilkeson,

"So even _you_ are not wholly devoid of curiosity, and do take some
interest in the people on our block," remarked Matthew Maltboy,

"I have noticed the old gentleman often, when I have been reading near
the window; and own that I should like to know him. I think, too, from
certain signs, that he would not object to knowing me. Unless I am much
mistaken, he has bowed to me several times. But fearing that the
supposed bow might have been nothing more than a sleepy nod, I have
never ventured to answer it. Step back a moment, and see if he
observes me."

Maltboy and Overtop retired a few paces. A moment afterward, the old
gentleman looked over to Wilkeson, and made a bow at him about which
there could be no mistake.

"Answer him." "Answer him," said his two friends. Acting upon this
advice, Marcus Wilkeson, blushing, returned a courtly salute, which was
immediately reciprocated by a still lower bow, and a pleasant smile from
the old gentleman. Wilkeson bowed again, and added a smile. The old
gentleman did the same; and this odd exchange of civilities was
beginning to get awkward for Wilkeson, when the old gentleman's
attention was suddenly called off.

A slender young man, whose broad black mustache contrasted unpleasantly
with the sallow whiteness of his face, dressed in the jauntiest costume
of the period, and bearing in one hand a black cane with a large ivory
handle, which looked, even in the distance, like a human leg, stood by
the old gentleman's side. The old gentleman put down his pipe, seized
the young man's disengaged hand, and gazed affectionately at him (so the
three observers thought). Some conversation then took place between
them, during which the old gentleman repeatedly pressed the young man's
hand, and sometimes reached up and softly patted him on the shoulder.
The young man appeared to receive the words and caresses of the old
gentleman with a sullen indifference. Several times he pettishly drew
his hand away, and at last shook his head fiercely, folded his arms, and
seemed (though the spectators could only conjecture that) to stamp the
floor with his foot. At this, the old gentleman bowed his head in his
hands. The young man held his defiant attitude unmoved, until, glancing
out of the window, he saw for the first time that he was watched. "With
a jerk, he pulled down the curtain, and cut off a scene which the three
observers had begun to find profoundly interesting.

"Well," said Marcus Wilkeson, "though I have given up making calls as a
business, I shall certainly take the New-Year's privilege of dropping in
on the venerable unknown over the way."

"Two things are plain," said Fayette Overtop. "One is, that the pale,
rascally looking young man is the old man's son. Now, I don't suppose
either of you will dispute that?" (Overtop paused a moment to receive
and dispose of objections, but none were made.) "The other is, that the
old fellow is immensely rich--worth a million or two, maybe. Perhaps you
_would_ like to argue that point." Overtop smiled, as if nothing would
give him greater pleasure than to annihilate a few dozen opinions to
the contrary.

"To save argument, as usual, we admit everything," responded Wilkeson.
"But, pray condescend to tell us how you know this fine old boy to be
superlatively rich."

Overtop smiled upon his ignorant friends, and answered:

"Because he wears a white cravat. The man isn't a clergyman, is he? Do
clergymen smoke pipes? He isn't a Quaker, is he? Do Quakers, or those of
them who indulge in white cravats, wear their coat collars turned down?
Consult your own experience, now, and tell me whether you ever saw
anybody but a very rich man (with the exceptions already stated) wearing
a white cravat. I leave it to your candor."

Wilkeson and Maltboy nodded their heads, as if stricken dumb with
conviction.

Overtop, gratified with this ready acquiescence, modestly went on to say
that he would not undertake to explain the phenomenon; that task he left
to some more philosophical mind. He contented himself with making a
humble record of facts.

"And now that each of you have made a discovery in the row of houses,
let me try my luck." Overtop rubbed the window, looked out, and
carefully surveyed the row from end to end, and back again. "Ah, I have
it!" he said. "A real mystery, too. Look at that four-story house near
the western end of the block, the one a trifle shabbier than its
neighbors. Do you see, in the open window, a man with a pale,
intellectual face, gray hair, and arms bare to the elbows, filing away
at something held in a vise before him? Now he stops to examine a
paper--a plan, probably--which he holds in his hand. Now he wipes the
perspiration from his forehead. Can't you see him?"

"Distinctly," was the joint reply.

"What do you suppose he is doing?" asked Overtop.

"No idea," said Wilkeson. "Perhaps mending a teakettle."

"Or repairing an umbrella," suggested Maltboy.

Overtop smiled, and said:

"A person with the slightest powers of observation, would see that that
man has genius in his face; that his thin arm is not used to hard
mechanical labor; that his brain is so heated with great ideas, that he
tries to cool it by opening the window. The tinkering of an umbrella or
teakettle would not make a man sweat in midwinter. You won't deny the
force of that suggestion."

As he spoke, a young girl advanced from the back part of the room, and
stood by the pale workman's side. She wore a bonnet, and a shawl
tightly wrapped around her. Though the features of her face could not be
distinguished in the distance, it was not hard to detect a pleasant
expression in her eyes, a smile on her lips, and a high color on her
cheeks, as if she had just come in from the street. She held up a little
basket for the workman's inspection.

He paused in his labor, took the girl's head between his hands, and
kissed her fondly on the brow. Then he opened the little basket, and
drew from it a loaf of bread and a piece of cheese, which he began
eating hurriedly. He also seemed, by signs, to press the girl to eat;
but she shook her head, smiled more than before, and looked up
affectionately into his face. Having bolted a few mouthfuls, the workman
placed the remains of the repast on the bench or table before him,
kissed the young girl, and resumed his work. She watched every motion of
his hand with eager eyes. Once she moved as if to close the window, but
he shook his head, and again wiped the sweat from his brow.

He had consulted the paper, and attacked his task with fresh energy for
the third or fourth time, when his eyes happened to rest upon the window
full of scrutinizing faces. His lips moved in some sudden exclamation,
and then he shut the window with vehemence, and drew the curtain which
obscured the lower half of it.

"Not a very kind reception of your theory, so far," said Marcus.

"Prejudice--nothing more," said Overtop. "When they see that we have no
wish to pry into their private affairs, but are animated with a
neighborly regard for them, they will not repel our advances. It isn't
human nature."



CHAPTER IV.

QIGG.

During the following two weeks, up to New Year's day, the three friends
made little progress in their observations. The tall girl in the immense
skirts appeared rarely to reward Matthew Maltboy's ardent gaze, and even
then seemed to look down at the dingy snow beneath, or the clouds
overhead, or to something or somebody across the way, but never to the
fluttering Maltboy.

Nothing more was seen of the pale and grayhaired workman; for he kept
the lower curtain of his window jealously drawn. But at night his
shadow, strongly projected on the curtain, was in incessant motion; and
far into the morning hours a gigantic head and arms shifted and blended
upon it in grotesque forms. At the other window of the workman's
apartment the young girl often sat, book in hand, and moved her lips as
if she were reading aloud. Her eyes were never seen to wander to the
outer world with those longings for freedom and fresh air which are
natural to the youthful heart, but were always fixed upon the book, or
upon some object within the room. She was entirely unconscious of the
distant and imperfect scrutiny to which her form and movements were
subjected by Marcus Wilkeson, who had begun to take a strange interest
in her, and in the shadow on the curtain, since the healthy and amiable
old gentleman directly opposite had ceased to smoke his pipe and indulge
in his tranquil meditation daily.

Twice only had he shown himself, and then, after a grave bow to Marcus
Wilkeson, who returned it with more than the usual inclination of head,
the old gentleman had taken a few whiffs at his pipe, looked out of the
window with a troubled air, and vanished from the sight of his
sympathizing observer, as if the quiet old sitting place had lost its
charm for him. The young man--the disturbing element of the old
gentleman's life, as Marcus Wilkeson regarded him--was not again seen
in the room where he had made his first appearance, but was discovered,
several days after that event, sitting at a table near a window in the
second story, and writing industriously. His labors were evidently not
disagreeable; for, after an hour's engagement with his pen, he would sit
back in his chair, laugh, take a long drink from a black bottle which
stood at his elbow, and light a fresh cigar. Whatever his occupation, he
was completely absorbed in it, and did not notice the pair of keen eyes
peering at him from behind a book in the house opposite. Every
afternoon, about three o'clock, the young man sat at the table with his
bottle, cigars, and writing materials, and pursued his pleasant labors.

Marcus Wilkeson would never have pretended that it was not highly
improper to watch one's neighbors. He would have denounced it as
deserving of the severest reprobation. But he would have said, that if,
while he was sitting, according to his invariable custom, at his own
window, for the sole purpose of reading a book, people chose to bring
themselves within the range of his vision, he was not therefore under
obligations to vacate his seat. He would have insisted that any glances
which he might have directed at his neighbors, were so levelled in fits
of mental abstraction, or in the exercise of a friendly regard for them.
The Overtop theory he discarded as fallacious, and likely to get its
talented founder into trouble.

That founder and his only follower, Maltboy, were determined, however,
to put the new social system into practice on New Year's day, and had
secured the ready services of Quigg, the grocer, as originally proposed
by the sagacious Overtop. Marcus Wilkeson obstinately refused to
participate in this projected grand tour; which refusal was too bad,
said Overtop, because the fourth seat in the double sleigh that had been
hired for the occasion would be left vacant.

At last came New Year's day; and the sky was cloudless, and the sun was
bright, and the weather was just cold enough to make the blood tingle
pleasantly, and the snow was a foot deep, and well beaten down in the
side streets. The elements themselves had conspired to give the Overtop
theory every chance of success.

J.M. Quigg, grocer, was elaborately attiring himself in the snug
sleeping room behind his store, at ten o'clock on the morning of the
eventful day. He little knew the tremendous importance of the part which
he was about to perform. He looked upon Overtop and Maltboy, not as the
expounders of a new social philosophy, but as cash customers to a
considerable extent, and as partners in defraying the heavy expenses of
a large double team. Mr. Quigg exercised the virtue of prudence even in
his dissipations, and derived pleasure from the reflection that he would
make his annual round of complimentary calls in an elegant turnout at a
moderate cost.

Therefore Mr. Quigg hummed pleasantly as he dressed himself, by the aid
of a large mirror which he had taken for a bad debt, and which was the
only ornament of the plainly furnished little room. Mr. Quigg was a man
of business, and never fretted with cravats, nor made himself unhappy on
the subject of hair. Three turns and a pull adjusted the former; and a
half dozen well-directed dabs with a stiff brush regulated the latter.
Fifteen minutes after he began his toilet, he took a comprehensive view
of himself in the large mirror, and mentally expressed the conviction
that, for a man of thirty-seven, he was not bad looking.

Quigg was right; and his just opinion of himself was shared by the young
widows and unmarried ladies of his acquaintance. He was about six feet
high, with a graceful figure, and the head of a statesman. A more
intellectual face, and a broader or more massive brow, assisted,
perhaps, in its general effect, by a slight baldness, were rarely if
ever seen. A distinguished professor of phrenology had picked out
Quigg's head from among half an acre of heads at a lecture upon that
subject in the city, and had pronounced it the "model head," greatly to
the disgust of all the other large-skulled men in the hall. The
professor had also assured Quigg, upon learning who and what he was,
that it was a solemn duty he owed to society to abandon the grocery
business, and devote himself to "philosophical culture, the development
of the humanities, and the true expansion of his interior
individuality." Notwithstanding this flattering opinion, Quigg still
sanded his sugar, and reduced his whiskey, and found his delight as well
as his-profit in those gross material pursuits.

The interior Quigg, of whom the professor had spoken so hopefully, was
still undeveloped. The professor's views of Quigg's head had, however,
made a deep impression upon the owner of it, and had given to Quigg's
ordinary observations on the weather, the state of his health, and the
other familiar topics to which his remarks were principally addressed,
an oracular importance in his own opinion. Such were the deceptive
effects produced by his large, polished brow, and slow, imposing speech,
that he always seemed to be on the point of uttering vital truths. But
the listener's ear ached in vain for them.

Quigg put on his overcoat, took a small glass of bitters from a bottle
kept behind the large mirror, locked up the store, proceeded to the
nearest restaurant, hastily despatched a lean, unsatisfactory chop and a
cup of weak tea, gave a half dime to the waiter who bade him, in a loud
and significant voice, "Happy New Year, sir," and then returning found
the double sleigh punctual to appointment.

It was a swan-shaped vehicle, brightly painted, thickly covered with
buffalo robes, and drawn by two high-stepping horses, which tossed their
heads and shook their bells merrily as if they shared in the prevailing
jovialty of the day.

On the front seat, and nearly filling up the whole width of the sleigh,
sat the driver. His shoulders were broad enough for two men; his legs
and arms were of twice the common size, and he had two well-defined
chins. He seemed to be double in all his dimensions, like the sleigh.

"Hallo, Quigg!" said the driver, in a voice of double strength, snapping
his whip playfully at that gentleman as he approached.

"Hallo to _you_, Cap," returned Quigg, pleasantly. "It is a very fine
day. I guess there will be a great many calls made." Quigg uttered these
words slowly, as if they were precious, and he hated to part with them.

"Shouldn't wonder," answered Cap, which was a short name for Captain
(nobody knew of what), and added, without any apparent sequence of
ideas: "I s'pose you're goin' to take some brandy along, old fellow?
It's hardly fair for me to be sittin' into the cold outside, with
nothin' to drink, while you chaps are drinkin' your champagne punch
before a warm fire."

Mr. Quigg reflected a moment, as one who reckons up profit and loss. He
then said:

"A good idea, Cap. Brandy is not a bad thing on a cold day." He spoke
with impressive solemnity.

"Or any other day," added the driver. "Partickley 'lection day.
Leastways, such was the 'pinion of the voters into my ward, last
December, when I run for School Inspector, you know. Unfortunately, I
didn't know the ropes then; and thought, when I got the nomination, I
was sure to be 'lected. My 'ponent issued tickets for free drinks at all
the rum mills into the ward. I didn't find out his game till about two
o'clock in the afternoon, and then I tried it myself. But I was too
late. He had six hours' start of me, and beat me by five hundred
drinks--I mean votes."

Mr. Quigg nodded, and said, "Of course," as if he had often heard of
such instances, and there was nothing surprising in them. He then
abruptly cut off the Captain's political reminiscences, by unlocking the
store and entering it. After a few minutes' absence, he returned with a
half-gallon jug and a tin dipper.

"A nice, fat little feller," rapturously exclaimed Captain Tonkins,
taking the proffered jug. Placing it in the bottom of the sleigh, where
such of the public as were stirring in that vicinity could not see the
operation, he half filled the tin dipper, and, raising it suddenly to
his mouth, drank the contents with a double gulp. "Prime stuff, that,"
said the Captain, smacking his lips. "A hogshead of it would make a
school commissioner, an alderman, mebbe a major of you, Quigg."

"I dare say," said Quigg. "But what would a dull, practical fellow like
me be good for in public life?" This was Quigg's habitual way of
depreciating himself, and it always impressed the hearer with a sense of
Quigg's eminent ability.

Quigg then drew a pair of yellow gloves on his large, hairy hands,
slightly ripping the two thumbs and most of the fingers in the
operation, took a seat in the double sleigh, and proclaimed himself
ready to start.



CHAPTER V.

PLEASURE AS BUSINESS.

Captain Tonkins cracked his whip with professional sonority over the
heads of his lively horses, and they started off at a slapping pace,
which brought them to the house of the three friends before the bells
had fairly begun to jingle in unison. The door was instantly opened, and
Overtop and Maltboy presented themselves, dressed in the most elaborate
and captivating style. Marcus Wilkeson appeared just behind them, in his
dressing gown and slippers, calmly smoking his well-browned Meerschaum.

After the salutations of the day, both Overtop and Maltboy addressed a
last appeal to Marcus to give up his ridiculous prejudices, and join the
party; but he obstinately refused, saying that he should make only one
call, and that was upon the old gentleman over the way.

The arrangements for the day had already been made. The party were to
call on a few dozen of Quigg's customers (selected from a carefully
prepared list of one hundred) within range of a mile or two; also on a
few friends of Overtop and Maltboy, who could not well be slighted, and
then come back to the block.

Quigg looked upon the day as one of business, and not of pleasure, and
had methodized a system of callmaking, which was submitted to his
companions, and highly approved by them. The order of exercises was as
follows: First, a jerk at the doorbell; second, precipitate entrance,
hat in hand; third, "Happy New Year," remark on fine weather, and
introduction of friends; fourth, a second remark on fine weather, or any
other one remark which might occur to friends on inspiration of moment;
fifth, acceptance of one sip of wine, and one bite of cake, if any
offered, with compliments on excellence of both; sixth, reference to
list in hand, observation on the necessity of retiring, and regret for
the same; seventh, precipitate retreat.

The system did not work smoothly at first, in consequence of Overtop's
and Maltboy's strained, excessive efforts to make themselves agreeable.
It happened that, at the first two or three houses visited, Maltboy
discovered charming young ladies, and could not resist the temptation to
linger beyond the prescribed minutes, and talk trifles to them. It also
fell out, that Overtop found a number of those sensible women for whom
his heart ever longed, and whose starving souls, as he called them, were
not to be satisfied with the dry crust of ordinary compliment. To them,
therefore, he addressed observations on the inner or spiritual
significance of the New Year's call; on the reminiscences of childhood
suggested by sleigh bells; on the typical meaning of snow as the shroud
of death, and, at the same time, the warming garment of coming life; on
wine or lemonade (as the case might be), as an emblem of hospitality;
and on many other little things as expressive of the loftiest truths.

It was only after earnest remonstrances from Quigg, that the discursive
Overtop brought himself down to the rules of the day. In deference to
Quigg, Mr. Maltboy also steeled his too susceptible heart against the
attractions which he was perpetually encountering, and kept strictly to
the weather. He, as well as Overtop, was surprised to find that the
single stereotyped observation, "It's a fine day," was, after all, more
acceptable than a longer and more strikingly original remark for it
imposed no tax upon the conversational resources of the ladies, and left
them unfatigued to succeeding scores of visitors.

About this time, it was observed of Captain Tonkins that he began to
show signs of fatigue, rocking heavily in his seat with every
oscillation of the sleigh, and talking thick like a jaded man. These
phenomena seeming to require some explanation, the Captain stated that
he had been up late the past three nights, and could keep himself awake
only by taking occasional draughts of Quigg's brandy. The Captain then
proceeded to indulge in random recollections of his political career,
and withering denunciations of one Larry Mulcahy, his successful rival
for the office of School Inspector, whom the Captain did not hesitate to
brand as a jailbird.

When the party returned to the block where the Overtop theory was to be
tested, Mr. Quigg's services were found invaluable. He had not only been
the principal grocer in the vicinity for five years, but he had served
on Ward Committees for the relief of the poor at other people's expense,
and had participated largely in those admirable institutions for the
promotion of matrimony known as Sociables. Therefore, Quigg knew about
everybody on the block worth knowing. There were a few persons in that
old house near the corner, who sent in for herrings, cheap butter, and
pounds of flour, and whom, of course, he did not know. There was a queer
old Dutchman in that square, old-fashioned house in the middle of the
block, whom neither he nor anybody else knew.

They went through half of the south side of the block, and found only
plain and commonplace people. Overtop and Maltboy began to be weary. The
former was gradually discovering that his theory was a bore. The latter
wondered whether Quigg knew the tall girl, concerning the identity of
the front part of whose residence Maltboy was at fault, although he knew
every brick of the rear.

"In this 'ere house," said Quigg, "I shall be treated rudely, because
they owe me fifty dollars for groceries. It's a curious fact, but I have
noticed that debtors always act kind o' cold to creditors, as if it was
the creditors that owed the money."

Mr. Quigg spoke with an important air, as if he had made an original
discovery in human nature.



CHAPTER VI.

SOMETHING HIDDEN.

While this exploring party were going through the block, Mr. Marcus
Wilkeson dressed himself with more than usual care, preparatory to a
call upon the unknown old gentleman over the way, who that very morning
had appeared at his window, the first time in three days, and tendered
the compliments of the season in two low bows and a smile. Having
carefully adjusted his necktie, and smoothed the creases of his gloves,
Mr. Wilkeson grasped his old friend, a hickory cane, by its sturdy
elbow, and marched forth to make his solitary visit.

As 'he turned the corner of the street upon which the unknown old
gentleman's residence was situated, thinking of the oddity of the call
he was about to make, and half inclined to abandon it, he saw, in a
doorway a few yards in front of him, a little girl who bore a striking
resemblance to the patient creature that he had often noticed sitting at
a window in the room of the pale mechanic. A single glance at the
cracked and dirty front of the building established its connection with
the weather-stained and shaky rear premises in which the worker toiled
at his strange task from morning to night, and far into the
morning again.

The little girl was earnestly talking with a rough, hungry-looking
fellow in a greasy cap and tattered blue overalls. As Marcus approached,
he heard the following fragment of conversation:

"Yer can't fool this child again, now, I tell yer. Why don't he pay me?
_that's_ what I want to know. I _will_ go up." The man stepped forward,
as if to ascend the stairs.

"Please don't, Mr. Gilsum," said the girl, in a sweet, pleading tone,
laying a red and toilworn little hand softly on his arm. "Papa will pay
you next week. He will, believe me, sir."

"So you told me last week," growled Mr. Gilsum, "and the week before
that. It's all humbug. Why don't he pay me now? _that's_ what I want to
know." Again he put a foot forward, and was again restrained by the hand
of the little girl.

"I have tried very hard to earn money, Mr. Gilsum," said the musical and
plaintive voice, _but_ have been disappointed. Next week I am sure I
will have some for you."

"Pshaw!" ejaculated the man, pulling the greasy cap over his eyes in a
spirit of savage determination. "I can't waste time talking. I _will_
find out why he don't pay me now."

The inexorable Mr. Gilsum pushed aside the feeble hand of the little
girl, and was about to go up the stairs in good earnest, when Marcus
Wilkeson, who had lingered near the door to catch the exact purport of
the conversation, called out to him:

"Hallo, my friend! what's the row?"

Mr. Gilsum stopped, and, turning, said snappishly:

"None of yer business. Unless," he prudently added, "yer a friend of the
comical old chap up stairs, and want to pay his debts."

"I am a friend, and I will pay them," rejoined Marcus, speaking from the
impulse of the moment. Since he had become rich, and could afford the
luxury, he frequently spoke and acted upon impulse, without regard to
consequences.

Mr. Gilsum's face suddenly changed from an aspect of moroseness to one
of bewitching amiability. He stood in the doorway, and said:

"It's only a matter of ten shillings, sir, for brass and screws, and
little odds and ends from my shop--the locksmith's shop over in the next
street--you may remember it, sir. I'm sure I don't want to be hard on
the gentleman."

To cut short explanations, which he hated, Marcus paid the locksmith his
ten shillings, and suggested that he need not wait longer. The
locksmith, having received the money, thought it incumbent upon him to
apologize and explain still further, till Marcus took hold of the door,
as if to close it, when he accepted the hint, and departed, mumbling an
apology as he went.

The young girl, who had looked on in amazement, turned a pair of soft
blue eyes toward the face of the stranger, and said:

"Papa will thank you very much, sir."

Marcus now had an opportunity to observe her more closely. Her figure
was slightly formed, and undersized for her apparent age of seventeen
years. Her face would have been plain, but for one peculiarity which
made it charming, in his practised judgment. This rare excellence was
her complexion, which showed a perfect pink and white, without
roughness, spot, or blemish, under the strong light of a noonday sun,
made more dazzling by its reflection from the snow. Marcus had never
seen but one such complexion, and that was many years ago. He looked at
it in silent wonder, until the delicate bloom in the centre of her
cheeks began to invade the neighboring white, and the large blue eyes
drooped in confusion.

"Pardon me, my child," said Marcus, in a gentle, reassuring voice.

She looked up, much embarrassed, and said:

"Will you be so good as to walk up and see my poor father, sir? He will
be delighted to meet a friend, for he is very much in want of one, sir."

"I do not know him, my child; but I should be happy to make his
acquaintance."

The girl was surprised to learn that her father's benefactor was a
stranger to him, and looked doubtingly at him for a moment--but only a
moment--and then ran briskly up the stairs, asking him to follow.

The stairs were uncarpeted, and had little feet-worn hollows in the
middle of them. The banisters were rickety, and had been notched by the
knives of reckless tenants. The first and second floors were occupied by
different families (so Marcus inferred from the distinct set of baby
cries issuing from each), and the halls were dirty, and flavored with a
decided odor of washing day. But on the third story he saw a clean,
white floor, and drew breaths of pure air from an open rear window, and
heard no noise save the dull sound of filing.

The little girl paused a second at a door bearing the inscription,
"Private," asked the visitor to please wait, and opened the door just
wide enough to admit her body, and entered, nearly closing it behind
her. In the one glance which Marcus then obtained of the interior of the
room, he saw the pale mechanic hastily rise from a jumble of cog wheels
before him, and put up a screen to shelter his work from observation,
after which he stepped forward, or rather sprang, to meet his child.

Mr. Wilkeson heard a few words of hurried conversation between the
father and daughter, and then the door was thrown wide open, and the
mechanic stood in full view. He was a man of medium height, of a spare
build, and attired in faded, seedy black. His head seemed altogether too
large for his body; and his almost livid complexion, hollow cheeks, and
gleaming eyes, told a story of constant and consuming thought. The
strange, fixed glitter of his eyes was unpleasant to behold. Marcus had
noticed the same thing in insane persons.

"My name is Minford," said the mechanic, in a deep and solemn voice,
"and I thank you for saving me from the annoying visits of that
impertinent fellow. I beg, sir, that you will give me your address, and
assure you that the sum shall positively be repaid to you next week."

"Never mind the repayment," said Marcus, kindly. "The sum was a trifle
for me."

The mechanic's eyes flashed with new fire, and his lower lip curved
with pride, as he answered:

"But I shall insist on returning it, sir. We are temporarily poor, sir;
but we are not beggars yet, I trust that, some day, we shall be in a
position to confer benefits, instead of receiving them."

Marcus knew that the man was turning over in his mind the troublesome
question of "MOTIVE," with which so many people like to make themselves
unhappy; and he therefore said:

"I took the liberty of assisting you, sir, because I am a neighbor of
yours, living on the other side of the block, in a house which can be
plainly seen from your window; and I think it is the duty of neighbors
to be neighborly, on New Year's day at least. My name is Marcus
Wilkeson."

The mechanic's face assumed a pleasanter expression. "Perhaps," said he,
"you are the gentleman that I have sometimes seen sitting with a book,
in a window covered with grape vines?"

"I am," returned Marcus.

"As a scholar, then--as one who is superior to mean motives and vulgar
curiosity--you are welcome to my poor home. Pray, walk in, sir. Pet,
give the gentleman a chair."

The girl, whose face had been clouded during the first part of this
conversation, brightened up at its close, and obeyed her father with
alacrity, brushing the clean chair with her handkerchief, to make it the
more acceptable to their visitor. She also took his hat and cane, and
placed them carefully away.

The room was simply but neatly furnished, and very clean. The hand of
taste and order was everywhere visible. Snow-white curtains festooned
the two small windows, and concealed all of a turn-up bedstead but two
of its legs. A small array of white crockery shone from an open closet;
and a squat-looking stove, which made the apartment agreeably warm, was
smartly polished, and was evaporating cheerful music out of a bright
teakettle. Through a door partly ajar could be seen another room,
covered with a rag carpet, and the companion of the first in simplicity
and neatness.

Marcus had not intended to look at the mechanic's corner, which was
almost completely screened from view, being desirous to justify the high
opinion which Mr. Minford had expressed of him; but his eyes were
irresistibly attracted to the mysterious spot, and obtained a clearer
glimpse, through an open space between the two screens, of a something
composed of cogwheels, springs, bands, and levers. His host, observing
this casual glance, much to the guest's mortification, rose, and placed
the screens close together at right angles, thus shutting out a view of
the corner.

Mr. Minford opened his lips as if to offer some explanation of the act,
but did not offer it. A moment afterward, he said:

"I have not always been a poor man, Mr. Wilkeson. Six years ago I
possessed a handsome fortune, which enabled me to pursue certain
philosophical experiments, in which I had taken great interest, at
leisure. An unfortunate speculation in real estate, year before last,
nearly ruined me. I converted the remains of my property into cash, and
went on with my experiments, undiscouraged. Like all laborers in the
cause of science--which is the cause of humanity--I have met with many
obstacles. Several times, when I have been on the point of perfecting my
great invention, some small, unforeseen difficulty has occurred,
compelling me to reconstruct large portions of the machinery. Eighteen
months passed away, and I found myself penniless. I tried to borrow
money, but without success. Now, who do you suppose has supported us the
last three months?"

"Some benevolent relative, perhaps," said Mr. Wilkeson, hazarding a wild
guess.

"You are right, sir. And a near and dear relative it is--no other than
my little Pet here." Mr. Minford placed his right hand fondly on the
shining head of the young girl, who sat on a low stool by his side,
looking into his face.

She blushed deeply, and said:

"You forget the unknown good friend who sent the letters with money to
you, papa."

"No, no, I don't, Pet," continued Mr. Minford, patting her playfully on
the cheeks; "but you were the dearest and sweetest of my guardian
angels. You know you were, you rogue. Why, sir, you will hardly believe
it, but this little creature, when she knew our money was nearly gone,
taught herself the art of embroidery, with the aid of some illustrations
from an old magazine, and in less than a fortnight could work so
beautifully, that she was able to earn from three to four dollars a
week. When she first told me that she was going out to look for work, I
opposed it fiercely; but the obstinate little Pet would have her way.
She was lucky enough to get a job from a milliner, and pleased her
employer so well, that steady work was given to her, until last week,
when the kind-hearted lady died, and now little Pet has nothing to do.
Some people think, because she is young--"

"Please don't talk about me any more, papa," said Pet, who had been
blushing deeply, and looking very beautiful in the visitor's eyes. "You
forget what the postman used to bring you every Saturday."

"No, I don't, you little, troublesome, impertinent Pet. I was just about
to speak of it, when you interrupted me. You must know, Mr. Wilkeson,
that every Saturday the postman, on his first morning round, delivered
to me a letter, marked 'New York City,' containing two dollars, without
a word of writing inside, and addressed to me in large capitals, each
nearly half an inch long. The object of this singular style of address
was either to make it so plain that the postman could not mistake, or to
disguise some handwriting which otherwise I might recognize. Now, as I
have no relatives living, and no friends that I know of, who would lend
me a dollar except on the best security, I am greatly puzzled, as you
may suppose, to guess the name of my unknown benefactor. Generous man!
For aught I know, he may now be dead, or himself reduced to poverty;
for, last Saturday, the regular weekly remittance failed to come."

"Then I see that I am just in season to help you," said Marcus Wilkeson,
who, during the recital of this brief history, had decided upon his
course of action.

"I thank you most gratefully," returned Mr. Minford, "and fully
appreciate the noble motives of your conduct. Your appearance convinces
me that you are entirely disinterested. But I should feel ashamed to
take money from you, without giving some security for its repayment. I
shall therefore insist upon making over to you a certain interest in the
invention, the most valuable of modern times, which lies almost finished
behind those screens. Let me give you some idea of it, and you can then
decide how much money you will advance, merely as a matter of business.
I cannot consent to put our negotiations upon any other ground. The
invention, then, is--" The speaker looked at the corner as he spoke,
and paused.

Marcus Wilkeson knew that the inventor was about to part with his secret
unwillingly, and that he would regret it forever after. To save him from
unpleasant feelings on that score, and to maintain friendly relations
between them for the future, Marcus put a stop to the reluctant
disclosure. He said:

"Never mind it, Mr. Minford. I know nothing of mechanical matters, and
take no interest in them. Your explanation would only be wasted on me.
Besides, it is entirely uncalled for, as I am willing to take your own
opinion of the invention, and will pay you five hundred dollars for a
one-tenth interest in it, if those terms will suit." Marcus took a keen
delight in acting upon this singular impulse, and was sorry he had not
said a "thousand," when he saw the glow of happiness that irradiated the
sweet face of Pet, still sitting on the stool by her father's side.

[Illustration: THE BOY BOG]

"Heaven bless you, sir!" said Mr. Minford. "You will be the means not
only of relieving me and my dear child, but also of conferring the boon
of a great discovery upon mankind. But your terms are too liberal,
sir. I shall insist upon assigning one fifth of my right to you, which,
mark my prediction, will prove of itself a fortune. Furthermore, I feel
that I ought, if only to show my complete confidence in you, to tell you
what it is. It is--" Mr. Minford hesitated for a word.

"Now I beg, as a particular favor, that you won't tell me," said Marcus,
goodhumoredly. "If you bore me with any of those dull details,
I'll--I'll take back my offer. As to the proportion of the invention
which I am to have, I will accept one fifth, since you insist on it, not
because I want it, but that we may not say another word about
the matter."

"As you please, sir. But how shall I sufficiently thank you?"

Marcus, who was already overcome with the gratitude which shone from the
large, soft eyes of the young girl, answered, with a laugh and a blush
(he had not outgrown the habit of reddening on occasions):

"By changing the subject."

Mr. Minford was about to protest against this extraordinary method of
thanking a benefactor, when a rap was heard at the door.



CHAPTER VII.

THE BOY BOG.

In reply to the invitation, "Come in," a tall boy opened the door, and
started back on seeing a stranger.

"Do come in, Bog," said Mr. Minford. "I have good news to tell you. This
is a friend of ours, Mr. Wilkeson. What with his running of errands, and
doing little jobs for us, we really couldn't get along without him. Oh,
walk in, Bog; you're always welcome here."

"Now _do_ come in, Bog," added the little girl, in a winning tone,
rising from her stool, stepping to the door, and placing a hand on
his shoulder.

The new comer, after a few shuffles on the threshold, and an
unintelligible murmur of words, walked in with painful awkwardness, and
took a seat upon a corner of the chair which Pet offered him, as if the
whole chair were more of a favor than he could conscientiously accept;
He was a bony, strongly built stripling, with a record of anywhere from
seventeen to nineteen years written in his red, resolute, honest face.
He wore a coarse but neat suit of boy's clothes, one inch too small in
every dimension, a white turn-down collar, and a black neckerchief
fastidiously tied; and carried a slouched cloth cap in his hand, with
which he slapped his knees alternately, after he had taken a seat, and
continued to do so without cessation.

"Well, Bog," said Mr. Minford, kindly, but condescendingly, "you are
just in time to hear good news. This gentleman has taken a partnership
in my invention (Mr. Minford thought it best to state the case that
way), and, with his assistance, I shall be able to complete it and bring
it before the public immediately."

"Glad to hear it, sir," answered the boy Bog, blushing hard, lifting his
eyes from the floor long enough to glance at Mr. Minford and his
daughter, and all the while slapping his knees vigorously.

"He is in the bill-posting business," said Mr. Minford to Marcus. "You
may have seen him at the head of his company of walking advertisers.
Ha! ha!"

Marcus remembered having seen that honest face, that thick head of hair,
and that identical cap, sticking out of the top of a portable wooden
frame covered with placards, setting forth the virtues of quack
medicines, the excellencies of dry goods, or the unequalled attractions
of concert saloons. He also remembered that this wooden frame was much
taller than any of the long procession of frames which followed it, and
that, from a hole in the right side thereof, protruded a fist about the
size of the boy Bog's, clutching a broomstick, with which the inmate
kept a semblance of order among the wilful and eccentric occupants of
the frames behind him. "Oh, yes; I have seen you very often, Bog. How
do you like the business?" said Marcus, pleasantly.

"Very well, sir, thank you," replied Bog, with his eyes still on the
floor, "'cept when the boys poke fun at us; 'cos we can't run after 'em
in them boxes, and wollop 'em. 'S rather hard, that." Bog caught Miss
Minford's eye as he concluded these remarks, and blushed till he
perspired, to think that he should have dropped such a brutal
observation in presence of that young lady.

Mr. Minford noticed the confusion of his young friend, and
unintentionally added to it, by saying:

"Bog is a good boy. By his industry, he earns eight or ten dollars a
week, not only supporting himself, but his aunt."

"Not this week, nor last week neither, Mr. Minford," said Bog, mopping
the modest sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his coat. "The
adv'tisin' line a'n't as good as't used to be. I only got three jobs
with my company the last fortnight, and nary cent of pay from any of
'em. Of course, all my boys had to be paid just the same."

"And you paid them?" asked Marcus.

"Certainly," said Bog.

"Then be good enough to accept five dollars from me, as a reward for
your honesty," said Marcus, acting upon another of his impulses.

"No, thank you, sir. No, thank you," returned Bog, quickly, to prevent
Marcus from pulling the money out of his pocket. "I sha'n't take it,
sir; I won't have it anyway. I'm goin' into the reg'lar bill-postin'
business, as Jack Fink's assistant, to-morrow, and can earn all I want."
Bog blushed, but this time with honest pride, though he was flustered to
look up and see that Miss Minford nodded in approval of his
independent spirit.

Bog then slapped each knee about a dozen times with his cap, and
betrayed many symptoms of fever heat and great mental distress. After
which, he said that he had only called to see if he could do
anything for them.

"Now do you mean to tell us that it is not a regular New Year's call,"
said Mr. Minford, playfully, "and that you have not a dozen more
to make?"

Bog looked guilty of an enormous fraud, dropped his cap, in his
confusion, twice, murmured something inaudible, rose to his feet, and
backed out of the room, making one comprehensive bow to everybody, and
saying "Good-night" before it was two P.M.

As Bog shut the door, everybody laughed, but not so loud as to be heard
by the boy; and, under the cover of the general good humor, Marcus rose,
and said that he must go. He was afraid he had made his visit too long
for a first one. He would call again on the following day, if agreeable,
and complete the proposed arrangement. In conclusion, he placed his card
in Mr. Minford's hand, with the names of a few references pencilled on
the margin.

Mr. Minford was very sorry that their pleasant acquaintance should take
his leave so abruptly, and hoped that they would enjoy many visits from
him, not merely as a business partner (Mr. Minford laid emphasis on
this), but as a friend.

Pet repeated her father's regrets and hopes in the more impressive
language of her sweet eyes, and, for the twentieth time that day,
conjured up, in the memory of Marcus Wilkeson, a vague reminiscence of
the distant past.



CHAPTER VIII.

MALTBOY'S TWENTIETH AFFAIR.

The house which had elicited Quigg's last sagacious remark, was a
three-story brownstone front, and was one of the finest looking on the
south side. The heavy mahogany door was opened by a slovenly girl, who
ushered the callers into the front parlor, which was carefully darkened,
according to the custom of the day. The only objects plainly visible
were two female figures, each seated near a front window, under the
rosy shade of damask curtains artfully disposed. One of the ladies, whom
Matthew Maltboy was not slow to recognize, looked like a fountain of
pink silk, gushing out with great vehemence in high, curving jets on
every side; from which fountain a slim, graceful figure had risen, as
far as the waist, like a modern Arethusa. The gleam of a shapely neck,
of a pearl necklace and diamond cross, of diamond earrings, of an
enormous gold brooch, of golden gyves an inch broad on each wrist, as
the rose-tinted rays fell on those natural and artificial charms,
produced a dazzling effect in the shady corner. On plainer persons, this
display might have seemed, in Maltboy's eyes, a glaring instance of bad
taste. But, looking at that small, oval face, those large, flashing
black eyes, complexion of red and white, so beautifully blended that it
hardly seemed a work of nature, pouting lips, even, white teeth, and
heavily braided hair, Maltboy thought that no decorations could be-too
gaudy for a creature of such radiant loveliness.

At the same instant (as their feet passed the parlor threshold) that
Maltboy made these comprehensive observations, the quick eyes of Fayette
Overtop were scanning the lady that basked in the subdued light of the
other window. She rose from a smaller fountain of silk to a less height
than her companion. She was fat to such a degree, that the bodice of her
dress seemed ready to burst with the excessive pressure beneath,
immediately suggesting to every beholder the obvious humanity of
enlarging it, by taking only a small portion from the superfluous silk
below. She was quite pretty, and very healthy, and had a smile lurking
on her lips, and in the corners of her small blue eyes, and in the
dimples of her round, red cheeks, and in the curved crease which was
beginning to show under her apple of a chin. She wore plain colors, and
exhibited no ornaments save a large brooch with braided hair in it. The
lean Overtop immediately felt a tender inclination toward this fat
young lady.

Mr. Quigg paid the compliments of the season in his neat, settled
style, to Miss Whedell--the tall young lady--who received them with
marked coldness, and then begged leave to introduce Messrs. Overtop and
Maltboy, to whom she smiled graciously, rising slightly from her chair,
and sinking back again, without disturbing the symmetrical flow of the
silken fountain. With a wave of her jewelled right hand she performed
the ceremony of introduction between the three callers and Mrs.
Frump--the fat young lady--who also carefully raised herself about two
inches from her chair, and lowered herself again, without disarranging
a ripple.

In compliance with an invitation from Miss Whedell, the three callers
sat down. Mr. Maltboy gravitated by a natural instinct to the side of
his charmer. Mr. Overtop was drawn by an irresistible impulse into the
vicinity of Mrs. Frump, having detected in her general appearance
certain indications of what he called "a sensible woman." Mr. Quigg,
feeling that he was one too many, took a "seat equally removed from the
two ladies, and commenced playing soft tunes on his hat, and looking
vacantly about the room.

"I had begun to wonder, Mr. Maltboy," said Miss Whedell, "what makes our
friends so backward to-day. I do declare, we have not had a caller for
more than--how long is it, Gusty, since Colonel Bigford dropped in?"

Maltboy thought her voice had a sweet, metallic ring.

"About half an hour," replied Mrs. Frump, after a brief mental
calculation.

"Why, Gusty!" exclaimed Miss Whedell; "how can you sit there and tell
such stories? You know it is not five minutes."

"Just as you please, dear," said Mrs. Frump, leaving on the minds of her
hearers the impression that her estimate was the correct one.

"I never saw anything so slow," pursued Miss Whedell. "Would you believe
it, Mr. Maltboy--here are two hours gone, and we have not had more
than--how many callers have we had, Gusty? You keep account of them."

Mrs. Frump drew out a little memorandum book from one of her pockets,
and consulted. "Exactly eleven, Clemmy," said she.

"Gusty Frump," returned Miss Whedell, with some warmth, "you ought to be
ashamed of yourself! We have had fifty callers, to my certain
knowledge."

"I presume you are right," said Mrs. Frump, with a smile that irradiated
the whole of her fat face, and again imparted the idea that Miss Whedell
was wrong.

"For one," said Matthew Maltboy, improving the opportunity to put in a
word, "I should not be surprised to learn that you had a hundred."

Miss Whedell appreciated the delicate compliment, and beamed fascination
upon him.

"It has been a horrid, dreary winter, has it not, Mr. Maltboy?" said
she, in a tone that invited sympathy and confidence.

Mr. Maltboy, supposing that she alluded to the prevalent snow and ice of
the season, said that it certainly had.

"No balls, no opera--or none to speak of--no parties, no anything. You
will hardly believe it, Mr. Maltboy, but I declare I haven't been to
twenty parties this winter--have I, Gusty?"

"To only two that I know of," responded Mrs. Frump, in a winning voice.

"You provoking creature," said Miss Whedell, "to talk so, when you know
that I have been to at least eighteen parties!" Miss Whedell scowled
charmingly as she spoke, and then added, with a pleasant smile, for the
benefit of Mr. Maltboy: "She's a gay young widow; and you know what
widows are."

Mr. Maltboy's knowledge of that species of the human family was
extensive and exact. He nodded, to signify that he knew something of
them, and felt forearmed, from that moment, against the charms of
Mrs. Frump.

Mrs. Frump told Miss Whedell that she thanked her very much for the
compliment, and laughed so prettily, that Fayette Overtop determined to
apply some of his grand tests for the discovery of sensible women.

Abandoning the vein of commonplace conversation which he had worked
during the five minutes since his arrival, he remarked:

"It really makes us feel young again--does it not, Mrs. Frump?--to renew
this charming custom of receiving and making calls."

Mr. Overtop spoke in general terms, like a philosopher; whereas Mrs.
Frump made a personal application of the remark to herself, and replied,
rather coldly: "I have no doubt that it makes _old_ persons feel
younger," and then she looked at Matthew Maltboy, and seemed to be
listening to the conversation between him and Miss Whedell.

Mr. Overtop paused a moment, and tried again: "Is it not pleasant,
though sad, Mrs. Frump, to think of the friends whom we knew many, many
years ago, who no longer live to greet us on this festal day?" The
speaker alluded to mankind at large.

Mrs. Frump responded tartly, that she could not speak from experience,
of course, but she presumed that Mr. Overtop's opinion was correct. And
again she glanced at Maltboy.

Mr. Overtop briefly rested, and then remarked:

"It may be merely a poetical conceit of mine, but it seems to me that
the horses prance higher, and shake their bells more merrily on New
Year's than any other day, as if they partook in our enjoyment of the
occasion. May not the horse, by some mysterious instinct, know that it
is the beginning of the year?"

Mrs. Frump smiled, and answered: "Not being a horse, of course I can't
say. But I would suggest, whether ostlers do not give their animals an
extra quantity of oats on New Year's day, to make their action
more stylish?"

Mr. Overtop marked a quizzical expression in the widow's left eye, and
was disgusted.

For the third time she looked intently at Matthew Maltboy, who was
putting in a few words with great animation; and then turned her face
toward Mr. Quigg, who was taking his third mental inventory of the
furniture, and executing "Hail Columbia," with variations, on his hat.

"It's a finer New Year's day than the last one, is it not, Mr. Quigg?"

Mr. Quigg, who had an astonishing memory for dates and conditions of the
weather, replied, after a second's reflection:

"It is a much finer day, Mrs. Frump. It rained last New Year's. Perhaps
you may remember my leaving an umbrella at the house where you were then
stopping, in Sixteenth street, and my calling for it again, on which
occasion you said I reminded you of Paul Pry, in the play, who was
always forgetting his umbrella."

The widow laughed, and said that she distinctly remembered the
circumstances.

Mr. Quigg, thus encouraged, went on:

"New Year's days differ very much. The one before the last was very
snowy in the forenoon, with hail in the afternoon; and the one before
that was so mild, that I found an overcoat really uncomfortable. The
one before--"

"Excuse me for the interruption," said Mrs. Frump, suddenly, "but I
can't help saying how much Mr. Maltboy looks like Dr. Warts. Doesn't
he, Clemmy?"

"Like Dr. Warts!" exclaimed Miss Whedell. "Who's he?"

"Why, don't you remember, Clemmy, the doctor that you consulted about
your hair?" The widow looked the picture of guilelessness as she asked
the question.

Miss Whedell turned slightly red in parts of her face that were not red
before, and involuntarily raised her hands to two heavy braids of hair
which fronted each ear, and adjusted them. Then she said, sarcastically:

"Mr. Maltboy must feel much flattered at being compared with a notorious
quack."

Mrs. Frump, with a laugh spreading all over her gentle face, replied:

"Oh! of course you call him a quack, because he could not save your--"

"You are rude, madam," said Miss Whedell, with emotion.

"And you are silly, miss," retorted Mrs. Frump, still smiling, "to take
offence at nothing."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, madam."

Greatly to the relief of the three callers, who were seized with a
desire to laugh aloud during this short, snapping dialogue, a bell rang,
and a new figure entered upon the scene. The two ladies rose about three
inches, and greeted him as Mr. Chiffield. Mr. Chiffield bowed stiffly,
smiled mechanically, and cast a sweeping glance at the three men
present. This glance, and the looks with which it was met, called up a
singular train of associations.

Maltboy remembered the new comer as a fellow who had trod on his corns
getting into an Amity street stage. Overtop remembered him as an
eccentric individual, who always carried, without the slightest
reference to existing weather, an umbrella under his arm, with the point
rearward, and held at just the angle to pierce the eye of a person
walking incautiously after him. Overtop had frequently felt a strong
inclination to pull the umbrella out from behind, and ask the bearer to
carry it in a less threatening manner.

Mr. Chiffield, on the other hand, readily recalled Matthew Maltboy as a
suspicious person whom he had seen hanging around an up-town hotel,
about a year and a half before (when Maltboy was paying his ineffectual
addresses to a cruel Cuban beauty who passed the summer months at that
house). Mr. Chiffield had always supposed him to be a confidence man of
superior abilities.

Of Overtop, Mr. Chiffield was vaguely reminiscent. Unless he was
mistaken, that person was the one who wore an entire suit of pepper and
salt, including a felt hat, necktie, and gaiters, two summers before.

Mr. Quigg was a novelty in Mr. Chiffield's eyes; but Mr. Chiffield was
well known by sight to Mr. Quigg, who also remembered to have heard that
he was a partner in the great drygoods house of Upjack, Chiffield & Co.

Mr. Chiffield was about forty years of age, and had a bald head, a
square, heavy face, scanty whiskers, small, shrewd eyes, and a bilious
complexion. He dressed in profound black, wore his necktie negligently,
exhibited neither ring nor breastpin nor gold chain, spoke as if he were
always thinking inwardly of his private business, and never laughed.
These peculiarities indicated, beyond any doubt, that Mr. Chiffield was
a wealthy man; though it might be difficult to trace the exact processes
of reasoning by which this conclusion was reached. Any unprejudiced
stranger, seeing Mr. Chiffield, and being told that he was a partner in
a large drygoods house, would instantly think, "That drygoods house will
stand in the midst of fires, earthquakes, and financial revulsions."

With that fine instinct peculiar to lovers, Matthew Maltboy immediately
recognized in Mr. Chiffield a rival--and a dangerous one. Having seen
much of society, Maltboy was well aware that Mr. Chiffield's mature age,
his grim appearance, his sparse whiskers, and even the bald spot on the
top of his head, were eminent advantages with which youth and bloom, and
a full head of hair could not cope--unless with the aid of that
fascination which Matthew flattered himself that he possessed, and
which, he thought, he had used to some purpose during his hurried
conversation with his twentieth enslaver, Miss Whedell. The usages of
New Year's day, as well as frequent impatient nods from Quigg, and
suggestive coughs from Overtop, would not permit of his staying longer.
He therefore, rose to take his leave, his fellow pilgrims doing
likewise, when Miss Whedell remarked that they were in a great hurry,
and regretted that they could not remain a few minutes more.

The captivated Maltboy toyed, with his hat in an uncertain way, and was
half disposed to sit down again, when Quigg hastily produced his
visiting list, and said, with his best business smile:

"We Should certainly be very happy, Miss Whedell; but we have
seventy-five calls still to make, and it is now (consulting his watch)
two o'clock."'

As the three visitors withdrew (declining, at every step, a pressing
invitation to taste the refreshments which were piled in mountainous
form on a table in an adjoining alcove), Maltboy exchanged a look of
deep, sentimental meaning with Miss Whedell, who rose at least six
inches from her chair, and followed it with a slight hostile glare at
Mr. Chiffield, upon whose equable face it fell harmless. Overtop bowed
coldly to everybody, as if he were disappointed in the human species;
and Quigg gave a parting grin at the room in general, and at nobody or
nothing in particular,

"We're all right, Top," whispered Maltboy, as they descended the steps
to the sidewalk. "She smiled slightly when I mentioned having seen her
from our back parlor window. I have obtained permission to call again."

"You'll have to do it without me, my dear fellow," returned Overtop,
tossing back his head from force of habit, the offensive cowlick being
then suppressed by his hat. "Nothing on earth could induce me to speak
to that dull widow again."

"She doesn't live there," said Quigg. "She is some connection, I
believe, of the queer old Dutchman that I spoke of, and is probably only
helping Miss Whedell to receive callers. I should think, from the way
they abuse each other, that they were old and dear friends."



CHAPTER IX.

MRS. SLAPMAN AT HOME.

Full of new and pleasant thoughts, Marcus Wilkeson walked on toward the
half-antique house which contained the strange old gentleman. Just as he
was about to swing back the iron gate of the front yard, he saw, at a
distance, the two friends of his bosom and Mr. Quigg descending a flight
of steps to the sidewalk. They saw him at the same time; and both
Overtop and Maltboy violently beckoned him to approach. Mr. Quigg added
his solicitations in a calmer and more dignified manner, moving his arm
like an automaton three times from the elbow. Even the driver, Captain
Tonkins, in the spirit of invitation peculiar to his mental state,
steadied himself on the seat, poked his right arm and his long whip
toward Marcus, and said: "Hu-hullo there--come along?" Having done this,
Captain Tonkins furtively poured a gill of brandy into the tin cup, and
drank it under cover of the buffalo robe.

In compliance with this general request, Marcus forbore to open the gate
of the old gentleman's house, and joined his friends.

"How many people have you called on, you old humbug?" asked Overtop, as
Marcus drew near.

Marcus was on the point of alluding to the chance acquaintances that he
had made that morning; but a moment's reflection stopped him.

"I told you," said he, "that my only visit was to be to our odd old
neighbor. I was at his gate, when you called. And now, what do
you want?"

"I want to tell you," said Matthew Maltboy, "that Miss Whedell--the
Juno-like young lady with the handkerchief, you know--is--"

"All your fancy painted her," interrupted Marcus.

"She's lovely--she's divine," said Maltboy, rapturously finishing the
quotation. "I have made an impression. Congratulate me, old boy!"

"I do," said Marcus, laughing, "and only hope that you will find it as
easy getting out of the scrape as into it. And what have you
discovered, Top?"

"That there isn't a sensible woman or an original idea, so far, on the
block. I wouldn't budge an inch farther, but for Quigg's promise to
introduce me to a young widow who lives next door--a regular prodigy of
science and art, according to his story. I think you said she was a
widow, Quigg?"

"I suppose so," said Quigg, "as I never saw nor heard of her husband;
and she's lived on this block five years last May."

The three besieged Marcus to lay aside his scruples for once, and join
them in visiting this accomplished lady. Marcus fought them until his
patience was exhausted, and then gave in.

The door to which they climbed, bore, on a large and shining plate, the
name "Slapman." This door was opened to them by a tall negro in livery,
which, like the wearer, had a borrowed appearance. As they entered, they
saw a little wiry man, with a pale face full of wrinkles and crowsfeet,
bounding up the first flight of stairs, two steps at a time. When the
little man reached the first landing he looked back, and directed a
strange, suspicious glance at the callers.

The opening of the parlor door discovered a room full of men, who were
sipping wine, eating cold fowl and confections, talking and laughing
loudly with each other, or exchanging repartees with a lady who stood in
the centre of the apartment and shed her light upon all. This lady was
Mrs. Grazella Jigbee Slapman.

Previous to her marriage, she had been not altogether unknown to the
corners of several weekly newspapers, under the name of "Grazella." She
had also cultivated a natural talent for painting, so assiduously, that
a little cabinet piece of hers, representing a cat, a lobster, and a
plate of fruit, was considered good enough to exhibit in the window of a
Broadway print shop, in which her uncle was a silent partner, and was
approvingly paragraphed in a paper partly owned by her first cousin. To
gifts capable of producing results like these, she added a great
aptitude for music; although an incurable indolence, she gracefully
said, had always prevented her from learning the piano. While yet
sustaining the name of Jigbee, she had achieved a high reputation in
private circles as a merciless judge of music. But her conversation had
been, from earliest girlhood, her chief attraction. She possessed the
extraordinary faculty of talking with a dozen persons upon a dozen
different subjects at the same time.

Unlike many people similarly endowed, she did not exercise this
wonderful gift for the brutal purpose of putting down feebler
intellects, but only to elicit TRUTH, which she often declared to be the
sole object of her existence. When, by her alliance with Mr. Slapman, a
thrifty speculator in real estate, she was installed as mistress of a
fine house and furniture, and a few thousand a year, the lady naturally
gathered about her a still larger circle of admirers. Her researches for
TRUTH were met halfway by people that were supposed to deal in that
article, abstractly considered; such as poets, painters, sculptors,
reformers, inventors. Anybody with a new idea was sure to be understood
and encouraged by her. Her fondness for new ideas was as keen as an
entomologist's for new bugs or butterflies.

Mrs. Slapman had not made the mistake of neglecting her physical and
perishable charms in deference to her intellectual and immortal nature.
She was twenty-four years old, and had clear, sparkling eyes, a fresh
complexion, good teeth, rich, heavy hair, and a substantial figure. The
pursuit of TRUTH did not disagree with her health.

Mrs. Slapman bustled out of the little knot of persons about her, and
advanced in a frank, hearty way to meet her visitors. To Mr. Quigg she
nodded patronizingly, as to one whom she had long known to be guiltless
of new ideas; but to the strangers who sought her society, she addressed
a cordial smile.

Mr. Quigg, having performed his office, judiciously stepped aside, and
left the honors and burdens of conversation with the three friends.

Matthew Maltboy, with the rashness of youth, opened the verbal
engagement, by remarking that it was a fine day.

This wretched conventionalism was met by a "Very," so obviously
sarcastic, that Marcus Wilkeson decided not to utter a remark which was
at that moment on his lips.

At this embarrassing juncture, Fayette Overtop came to the rescue. "As
we alighted from our sleigh, Mrs. Slapman, I noticed how firmly the snow
at the edge of the street was pressed down by the feet of the hundreds
who have called on you; and I could not but think how truly that white
surface, upon which the prints of so many boots were beautifully
blended, typified the purity of the motives which brought the owners of
those boots to your door."

"A most original and charming remark!" said Mrs. Slapman. "I must repeat
it to Chickson. The author of 'A Snowflake's Lament' will appreciate
that felicitous observation. You have heard of Chickson?"

Mr. Overtop read new books, magazines, literary papers, in considerable
quantities, but did not remember to have ever met with the name.
Speaking upon impulse, and to avoid explanation, however, he said:

"Oh, yes--certainly, but have not the pleasure of his acquaintance."

"You should know each other," said Mrs. Slapman. "Excuse me a minute."
She ran with girlish haste to the other end of the parlors, and brought
back an undersized young man. When he had been introduced to Overtop,
and shaken hands with him, the enthusiastic hostess quoted, somewhat
imperfectly, the beautiful conceit which Overtop had just uttered, and
remarked that it would be a capital subject for a poem.

Mr. Chickson turned his eyes upward to the ceiling, and then downward to
the floor, as if he were committing what he had heard to memory, and
then said it was very curious, but he had thought of the same theme
before, and was intending to write a poem on it next week.

"Now, that's just like you, you provoking creature!" said Mrs. Slapman,
tapping the poet playfully with her fan. "It's really selfish of you to
keep all your poetical thoughts for your poems."

Mr. Chickson smiled pleasantly, but said nothing; and when Mrs.
Slapman's attention was momentarily attracted by a passing remark from
another person, the poet improved the opportunity to slip away and take
another glass of champagne in the corner.

"Ah! gone, is he?" said Mrs. Slapman, remarking his disappearance.
"Though one of the most promising of our young poets, he is dull enough
in conversation. It may be said of him, as of Goldsmith, 'He writes like
an angel, but talks like poor Poll.' You may have read his poem, 'Echoes
of the Empyrean,' published in the _Weekly Lotus_."

Mr. Overtop was wicked enough to say that he had read and admired it.

"It is a curious fact in the history of the poem, that the subtle
thoughts which it evolves were the topic of discussion at one of my
_conversazioni_; and on that very night Chickson told me he had
forty-five lines written on the subject. The knowledge of that trifling
circumstance lends additional interest to the poem."

"That is, if anything could lend additional interest to it," observed
Overtop.

"You are right," said Mrs. Slapman. "TRUTH, like that which animates
every line of the 'Empyrean,' needs no factitious attractions. You have
read the 'Empyrean?'"--turning to Wilkeson and Maltboy, who had stood
hard by during this conversation, calm patterns of politeness.

Mr. Wilkeson, not understanding the question (his thoughts wandering
back to the pale mechanic and his child), nodded "Yes," and was
immediately put down on Mrs. Slapman's mental tablet as a quiet
gentleman of good taste. But Matthew Maltboy, distinctly understanding
it, was candid enough to say "No," and from that moment was as nothing
in the eyes of the lady.

Overtop proceeded to deepen the favorable impression which he had made
upon this charming patroness of intellect.

"Did it ever occur to you how many subjects for the highest order of
poetry lie unnoticed all about us? Take that chandelier, for example,
the prismatic drops of which are dull in the shade, but sparkle with
all the colors of the rainbow in the gaslight. Might not those hidden
splendors be compared to that genius whose brilliancy is alone evoked by
Beauty's radiant smile?"

Marcus Wilkeson squirmed, and Matthew Maltboy felt uneasy, while their
friend was delivering this elaborate idea, and felt easier when he
reached the end in safety. Mr. Overtop himself shared in the sensation
of relief.

"Beautiful! beautiful!" cried Mrs. Slapman, in a species of rapture. "I
must repeat that delicious thought to Chickson. But not now." And she
looked inquiringly at Overtop, as if in expectation that he would utter
another new TRUTH immediately. That gentleman not happening to have one
on his tongue's end, Mrs. Slapman was kind enough to give him time for
reflection.



CHAPTER X.

INFIRMITIES OF GENIUS.

"Allow me to point out some of my friends, Mr. Overtop. Among them are
faces which you may have seen. If not, you will at least recognize
several of the names."

"But I must protest that I am monopolizing too much of your time,
madam," interposed Overtop, conscious that his neglected friends were
looking on awkwardly, and waiting for him.

"And I protest against your protesting," said Mrs. Slapman, with a merry
laugh. So saying, she motioned him to one of the front windows, and,
under the shade of heavy blue and gold curtains, commenced to point out
notable guests.

Mr. Overtop observed, first with regret and then with pride, that their
withdrawal into a corner elicited looks of surprise and curiosity, not
unmingled with envy, from the little group that hovered about the
refreshment table, and drank Mrs. Slapman's fine wines, and laughed and
joked together. He was glad to see that his two friends sauntered
through the parlors, examining the pictures and articles of taste which
caught the eye on every side; and that Mr. Quigg was engrossed in the
examination of some books on a centre table, opening them, and smoothing
their fair pages with his hand as if they were ledgers.

"You see that stout man with the double chin--the one drinking
champagne, to the left of the table? That is Mr. Scrymser, a gentleman
who has made several aeronautic excursions, and talked about a balloon
voyage to Europe last year. You may remember his portrait, and plans of
his air ship, in the illustrated papers."

"I do," said Overtop; "and also that he didn't go." "Precisely. Some
trouble about the currents, I believe. You note that small man, with the
sharp face--the one sipping a glass, to the right of the table? That is
Mr. Boskirk, inventor of the _'Submarine Summer House,'_ a species of
diving bell, which is to be owned and managed by a Joint-Stock Company.
I have promised to take a few shares in the concern."

"Excuse the digression, madam," said Overtop, "but ought not these two
gentlemen to change places in life? Is not the heavy one peculiarly
adapted to the diving bell, and the light one to the balloon?"

Mrs. Slapman smiled, and looked faintly surprised, as if the remark were
unworthy of her guest. "Probably you know that gentleman under the
picture of a landscape, talking very earnestly to another gentleman, who
seems to want to be getting away."

"The man with the long, curly, red hair? I know his face well, and,
though I have no further knowledge of him, am morally certain that he is
a social reformer."

"Why?" asked Mrs. Slapman.

"Because I never saw a man with long, curly, red hair, who was not a
social reformer. Men with red hair--the true carrot tint, I mean--have a
natural propensity for reform. Some of them repress it, but others give
rein to their inclinations, go into the reform business, and hang out
their curls as a sign to all mankind. And all mankind interpret it as
readily as they do the striped pole in front of a barber's shop."

"A striking thought, truly, and full of TRUTH," said Mrs. Slapman. "I
will mention it to Mr. Gormit. On reflection, however, I won't. I might
wound his feelings, for he is an exquisitely sensitive creature. As you
have ingeniously discovered, he _is_ a social reformer. At present he is
only known to the public as the editor of the 'Humanitarian Harbinger;'
but his select circle of friends are well aware that he is devoting his
ripened genius to the production of a work called the 'Progressional
Principia,' which will be in four volumes, and exhaust the whole subject
of social science. This immense undertaking is a favorite subject of his
ordinary conversation. He is probably, at this very moment, giving a
general outline of the book to that gentleman on his right.

"That slender young man with the Vandyke beard, cutting into a cake, you
may not need to be told, is Patching, the painter of those delicious
interiors which have been seen every year by those who had eyes to find
them, in obscure corners at the rooms of the National Academy of Design.
In short, Patching is the subject of a conspiracy in which the Hanging
Committee is implicated. But though professional envy may place his
works in the worst possible light, and for some time cast a shadow over
his prospects, an independent public taste will ultimately appreciate
his genius. Mark the melancholy that overspreads his features, as he
tastes that glass of sherry. Next to TRUTH, melancholy is the chief
characteristic of his style. In a miniature portrait which he painted of
me, last year, and which is regarded as a capital likeness, he
introduced a shade of sadness, which is, at least, not habitual
with me."

Mr. Overtop hastened to say, that of _that_ fact he needed no assurance.

"Without giving a minute account of all my guests, I may say generally,
that they include novelists, dramatists, actors, and musicians. Some
you may know by sight. The acquaintance of all you may make at a
future time."

At this strong hint, Mr. Overtop replied, that he should be only too
happy. He had by this time come to the conclusion that there never was a
more candid and delightful widow than Mrs. Slapman; and, furthermore,
that she was that rarity--a sensible woman--of which he had been so long
in search. Mr. Overtop mentally hugged himself.

"By the way, sir--you will pardon the impertinence of the question--but
to what profession do you belong?"

"I am a lawyer, madam," said he, fearful that the announcement would not
be well received. "Fayette Overtop, firm of Overtop & Maltboy."

Mrs. Slapman mused a moment, and said:

"It is a little singular, that, among my large collection--I mean
circle--of friends, there shouldn't be a single lawyer."

"As I am a _single_ lawyer, Mrs. Slapman, it is within my power to
supply that deficiency among those who are honored with your
friendship." Mr. Overtop thought, with some reason, as he finished this
remark, that he had never said a better thing in his life.

Mrs. Slapman's severe taste rejected Overtop's pun, but not himself, and
she was about to say that she should put him on the list for her next
_conversazione_, when another awkward interruption occurred, in
this wise:

Signor Mancussi was a gentleman with an Italian name and a perfect
knowledge of English, who sang bass parts in a church up town, and
enjoyed the reputation of having personated the chief Druid in Norma, at
an early period of the New York opera. M. Bartin played one of numerous
violins at the Academy of Music, and was believed to be kept down only
by a powerful combination. Three months before this New Year's day, both
of these gentlemen had volunteered their services, in company with many
other musical people, to give a grand concert in aid of a benevolent
enterprise. To M. Bartin, as a man supposed to know something of sharp
management, from his connection with the opera, was intrusted the
supreme control of the whole affair. It is due to M. Bartin to say, that
he tried to perform his laborious duties faithfully and with perfect
justice to his associates.

When, therefore, in ordering the printing of the gigantic posters which
heralded the concert, he directed his own name to be placed at the head
of the "eminent artists who had offered their services for the
occasion," and in type half as large again as any of the rest, he only
expressed a conscientious opinion of his superiority over all of them.
In this opinion his associates happened to disagree with him, each one
claiming that himself, and nobody else, was entitled to typographical
precedence.

Most keenly was the alleged injustice felt by Signer Mancussi, who stood
at the foot of the sloping list in letters less than an inch long; and
he had made a solemn vow to revenge himself on M. Bartin the first time
that they met after the concert. Their simultaneous appearance at Mrs.
Slapman's was that time. M. Bartin had been privately informed of the
Signer's intentions, and regretted that that gentleman's ridiculous
vanity should get the better of his judgment. Seeing him at Mrs.
Slapman's, M. Bartin avoided the Signer's presence, fearing they might
come into a collision disgraceful to the time and the place. The Signer,
for the same considerate reasons, kept shy of M. Bartin. After dodging
each other for a long time, they were at last brought, by accident, face
to face. M. Bartin was calm. Signor Mancussi tried to be tranquil, but
those small, lean black letters at the foot of the list rose vividly to
his mind; and, before he could check himself, he had whispered, or
hissed, between his set teeth, the word,

"SCOUNDREL!"

M. Bartin was taken unawares, but had sufficient presence of mind to
reply, "You're another," in a whisper, low, but freighted with meaning.

Whereupon the Signor responded, also under his breath, "You're no
gentleman." To this assertion, M. Bartin answered, with masterly irony,
"And you _are_ a gentleman, now, a'n't you?"

Up to this point the controversy had been pleasantly conducted in
whispers, and was unnoticed by the bystanders; but M. Bartin's last
insinuation had the strange effect of maddening the Signor still more.
He lost his self-control, and said, in an audible voice:

"You're only a scraper of catgut, anyhow."

M. Bartin, also oblivious of the proprieties, retorted, louder still:

"And what are you but an infernal screech owl?"

Cries of "Hallo!" "What's the row?" "Hush!" and "For shame!" rose from
all parts of the room, and the two musical gentlemen, conscious that
they had grossly misconducted themselves, stepped back a yard from each
other, and were immediately surrounded by several friends, and kindly
told that they were a pair of fools.

Mrs. Slapman and Overtop rushed to the spot. The latter measured the two
combatants with his eye, to see if he could safely undertake to pitch
both, or either of them, out of the room, if requested so to do by the
widow, and concluded that he could not.

Mrs. Slapman was much embarrassed by this painful outbreak. It was only
three weeks ago that M. Bartin had dedicated a new quadrille to her; and
but a fortnight since Signor Mancussi had sung four operatic airs
gratuitously at one of her musical and dramatic _soirées_. But respect
for herself and for her guests--especially for Mr. Overtop, of whose
talents she had formed an exalted opinion--pointed out her path of duty,
and she followed it. She stepped between the two disputants, and cast a
look of surprise and regret at each.

"I was hasty," said Signor Mancussi.

"And I was too impulsive," said M. Bartin.

"Then, gentlemen, if you would merit my continued friendship, please
make up your little difference, by shaking hands."

They recoiled from the proposition a moment, but, being pushed together
by their respective friends from behind, took each other's right hand,
shook it once feebly, and said distinctly, with their eyes, "We shall
meet again!"

"Very well done," said Mrs. Slapman, with the air of an empress,
tempered by a charming smile. "And let us hope that is the end of it.
Now, Mr. Overtop, allow me to offer you some refreshment."

Mrs. Slapman was in the act of handing a glass of champagne to the
favored Overtop, when an unearthly shriek was heard, which startled the
steadiest nerves. This shriek was repeated three times in quick
succession, and seemed to come from the sidewalk in front of the house.
There was a general rush to the window; but Wilkeson, Overtop, Maltboy,
and Quigg ran for the street at once, surmising the source of the cry.

There stood Captain Tonkins, in the sleigh, leaning against the
dashboard, holding in one hand an empty jug, and in the other his whip.
Around the sleigh were a dozen men and boys, who had been convoked by
the cry of "FELL' CITIZENS!" More men and more boys were seen coming in
the distance.

As the four lessees of the sleigh approached him, the Captain again
yelled, "FELL' CITIZENS!"

"For heaven's sake, stop, Captain!" cried Quigg.

A smile of contempt played upon the Captain's large lips, as, shaking
his whip defiantly at the agitated group, he shouted:

"I--I know ye. Don' think I doknowye. You're Mulcahy men, ev' moth's
sonofye; and you've come to this 'ere meet'n' to put down free-ee-dom of
speech. But yer carndoit. 'Peat it, yer ca-arn-doit. I d'fy ye. I
d'fy ye."

The Captain was a powerful man; and Quigg, as well as his companions,
singly and collectively, shrank from trying physical persuasion on him.
Besides, a crowd of people had gathered, who were greatly enjoying the
scene, and desiring its continuance for an indefinite period.

"FELL' CITIZENS!" continued the Captain, "now these vile tools o'
Mulca-a-hy silenced, warntellye I'm can'date School 'Spector in this
ward. Fuss place, I'm only reg'l can'date. Secun' place, I feel great
int'st mor'l wants of all your chi-i-ld'n, Masay they are my own
child'n, Go'bless'em. Third place, my dear FELL' CIT'Z'NS, if yer'll
jess step in ter Phil Rooney's 'fore ye vote, yer'll find some whi-i-sky
there; and that--that's bess arg'ment, after all."

Having reached the logical end of the first and last speech ever made in
public by Captain Tonkins, the Captain tumbled out of his sleigh, and
sprawled upon the snow; whereat the bystanders shouted for joy, and the
widow Slapman and two large windows full of guests shook with laughter.

"'S pla-at-form fall'n'?" asked the Captain.

"Yes," replied one of the citizens, humoring the idea; "the platform
gave way, and you tumbled to the ground."

"I--I'no' who di't," resumed the Captain. "Them Mulca'men. They saw-awed
posts." Here the Captain descried two widow Slapmans smiling on him from
a window, and gallantly kissed his hand at them.

His heavy body was tumbled into the rear of the sleigh, a buffalo robe
thrown over it, and Captain Tonkins was then unconsciously borne toward
the bosom of his family, in Minetta lane (a friend officiating as
driver), amid the cheers of his late audience.

The three bachelors were satiated with their day's experiences. They
raised their hats to Mrs. Slapman, still laughing at the window, and
walked smartly home. Mr. Quigg, deriving much comfort from the thought
that Captain Tonkins had not been paid for his sleigh, and would not be,
hastened to a neighboring stable, hired the only remaining team, and
continued his round of calls, giving one minute to each.



BOOK SECOND.

POLISHING.



CHAPTER I.

THE ENIGMA.

Marcus Wilkeson's new acquaintance throve rapidly. Mr. Minford's
dealings with the world had made him shy and suspicious, and he was at
first disposed to keep his benevolent visitor at a safe business
distance. But the heart of the thoughtful mechanic could not long resist
the kind and earnest sympathy of the man who sought to be his friend.

With a caution born of experience, however, Mr. Minford, before
admitting the new guest to his full confidence, called upon a number of
Wall street brokers and South street merchants, to whom Marcus had
referred him, and learned from them that that gentleman bore a
reputation of the rarest honor and purity of character. While giving
this united testimony, however, they all agreed in condemning Mr.
Wilkeson's eccentricity--insanity, one broker called it--in retiring
from business at the very moment when he was most successful, and had a
great fortune within easy reach. The fact that he had retired with one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, instead of mitigating his offence in
the eyes of those critics, increased it. "Why," said a noted bear, "with
that amount of capital, and Wilkeson's first-rate talents--when he chose
to use them--he might have become the king of Wall street. It's a pity
so smart a fellow should make a wreck of himself." And the bear heaved a
sigh of commiseration; which was by no means echoed by Mr. Minford, who
gathered, from all this evidence, an increased esteem for his
benefactor.

From the time when he first crossed the threshold of the house on his
mission of mercy, Pet had looked upon him with the deepest reverence.
She had read, in story books, of mysterious gentlemen who went about
doing good merely for the pleasure of it, and who always reached the
scene of distress with fairy-like certainty, when everybody and
everything would have gone to ruin without them. Such a strange,
supernatural embodiment of goodness seemed Marcus Wilkeson to her
childish fancy. When he entered the room--and he was an every-day caller
now--she looked around with great anxiety to see that all the chairs
were in their proper places; that there was no dirt or dust visible
anywhere; that everything was in a state of order and cleanliness worthy
so exalted a guest.

She would run to take his overcoat and hat and cane, and place them as
carefully in the clothes press as if they had been the robe, crown, and
sceptre of a king. Then she would sit in her little chair, and take her
sewing, or knitting, or embroidery, and pretend to be all absorbed in
it, while she was listening eagerly to every word that Marcus addressed
to her father, and occasionally looked up at the face of their guest,
and thought how noble it was, and how proud she should be to call
him uncle.

When he spoke to her, as he often did, and asked her about her work, or
her companions, or her studies (upon the latter subject he had grown
quite curious, of late), she would feel that she was blushing, and
answer, with downcast eyes, and be half glad and half sorry when he
ceased to question her, and would then sit and torment herself by
recalling what she had said, and thinking how much it might have
been improved.

A sharp-eyed observer, had such been present, accustomed to studying
the human face and weighing motives, would have been puzzled to guess
the exact nature of the feelings which Marcus entertained for the
pretty, innocent young creature who sat there, always plying her little
fingers at some useful work. The puzzle would have been a still greater
one for Mr. Wilkeson himself. He felt a profound interest in Pet; and
she it was, and not the pale mechanic or his novel machine, that led him
daily up those three flights of rickety stairs to that humble room. He
said to himself, and he would have said to anybody who was entitled to
call upon him for an explanation, that he had always loved children, and
that the beauty and goodness of this child had deeply interested him. If
there was any other motive at the bottom of his heart, he studiously
concealed it from himself, as he would have concealed it from all
the world.

During these visits, Mr. Minford pursued his work without interruption.
The screens, which were at first jealously closed, were now thrown open,
and the inventor sat there in full sight of his visitor, laboring at his
great mechanical problem. Repeatedly he had begged of Marcus the
privilege of explaining to him the principles of the machine; but that
gentleman had always resolutely declined, for the reasons before stated.
And he had always observed that, a few moments after such refusal, the
face of the inventor would brighten up, as if with joy that he had not
parted with his secret even to one who held a fifth interest in it.

Of the wonderful results which the machine was sure to accomplish, Mr.
Minford was never tired of talking, nor Mr. Wilkeson of hearing,
although, at these times, his eyes followed the flying motions of Pet's
fingers, as if they were a part of the wonder of which the inventor
discoursed so glowingly.

Precisely what the machine was to effect, when completed, Marcus
Wilkeson would never have known, if he had been the most attentive of
listeners. Mr. Minford spoke in vague, general terms, that afforded no
clue to the mystery. He talked of old philosophers and mechanicians, who
had failed to discover an unnamed secret of Nature, because they had no
faith in its existence. Complete faith in the existence of the thing to
be discovered, as well as in the ability of the searcher to find it, he
regarded as indispensable conditions of an inventor's success.

The fact that the natural law which he was trying to demonstrate had
been pronounced an impossibility by professors of science, should weigh
as nothing in the mind of any man who remembered how every great
invention of the age had in turn been stamped "impossible" by those
dogmatizers in their academical chairs, their books, and their reviews.
Latterly (Mr. Minford confessed), the scientific theorists had been more
tolerant toward other people's inventions (they never invent anything
themselves); but with regard to the one upon which he was now engaged,
they had, with complete unanimity, decided that the thing could not be
done, and charitably called every man an idiot or a lunatic who
attempted to do it.

"The world has at last fallen into this belief," Mr. Minford would say,
bitterly, "and the few people with whom I am acquainted would all agree
in echoing these scientific opinions, if they knew what I am working at.
But no one shall know--excepting you, Mr. Wilkeson, to whom I should be
most happy to explain everything, if you would only let me. This
prejudice is too deep rooted to be readily pulled up. Even when my
invention is perfected, and has entered upon its boundless career of
usefulness, I know that it will be called a humbug; that people will
look at it, and see it in operation, and still say it is a lie. Yet the
time will come when the professors of science will feel proud to
expound, by formulas, the very invention which they have shown, by
formulas, to be an absolute contradiction of all the laws of Nature. As
for the rabble who make up the world (the inventor's lips curled as he
said this), they will be glad to atone for the mad hue-and-cry with
which they will follow me at first, by giving me, at last, limitless
wealth and immortal fame."

Mr. Minford's eyes flashed; and Marcus Wilkeson, looking up at them from
Pet's volant fingers, saw in their sudden glare what he took to be the
evidence of genius; but what, in an ordinary man, he would have called a
decided symptom of insanity.



CHAPTER II.

A DELICATE PROPOSITION.

One afternoon--when Mr. Minford was in excellent humor, having made a
great discovery in the course of his experiments the previous
night--Marcus thought it a good opportunity to propose something that
had been on his mind for a week past.

"Mr. Minford," he said, "will you excuse me for meddling a little in
your household affairs?"

"Not if you offer me any more kindness," returned the inventor, smiling
gratefully at his guest. "I am too much in your debt already."

"But you forget that I hold an interest in your invention, which you
would make me take. I consider that more than payment in full."

"So you have confidence in my success?"

"You have begun to inspire me with it, I confess," replied Marcus,
indulging in a little unavoidable flattery. "But--but it was not to
_you_ that I was about to offer any kindness," he continued, emphasizing
the personal pronoun, and looking hard at Pet, who bent patiently over
her work, and began to blush in anticipation that her name would be
mentioned, Mr. Minford raised his eyes from a ratchet which he was
finishing in a vice, and glanced with curiosity at the speaker.

"Do you not think, sir, that your daughter might profitably spare a few
hours every day toward the completion of her education? You have told
me that her studies were interrupted by a change in your circumstances,
some years ago."

"Certainly she might," answered the inventor, "and I thank you for the
suggestion. This machine has so completely engaged my thoughts, that I
had quite lost sight of the dear girl's education. I should say,
however, that I have been expecting at any moment to put the finishing
touch on my invention, the very first profits of which I shall spend in
employing a dozen teachers, if need be, for my little Pet. She shall be
an educated lady, if money can make her so. Sha'n't you, Pet?"

The young girl's fingers twinkled faster at her work. "I hope so,
father," said she.

"But, Mr. Minford, it is possible--barely possible, you know--that your
invention may not be completed, nor money be realized from it, for many
months; perhaps one or two years. Suppose--only suppose, of course--your
triumph to be postponed for even one year; your daughter will then be
one year older, and less fitted to acquire the accomplishments which you
desire her to possess, than she now is. Pardon the suggestion, if it is
an obtrusive one. I plead the sincere interest which I take in you and
her as my only excuse."

"No apology is needed, my dear sir," replied the inventor "I know and
appreciate your thoughtful kindness toward us; and I consider your
advice most excellent, especially as I intend to travel in Europe, and
take out patents for my invention there. It would be desirable to have
my Pet learn French, and also to improve her knowledge of music. You
understand the English branches pretty well, I believe, my dear. Let me
see--how long is it since you left school?"

"Three years, pa."

"True! true!" said the inventor, sadly. "It was when our troubles first
began, and I found it necessary to economize. But I did very wrong to
take you from school at that time."

"You forget, pa," replied his daughter, in a sweet, chiding voice. "You
wanted me to go on with my studies, but I said that you must save the
tuition money, and let me learn to keep house. Don't you remember, pa?"

"Yes, child; I remember. And I was selfish enough to allow you to make
the sacrifice. But you shall have schooling to your heart's content now,
whether you will or not. I agree with our dear friend, that no time
should be lost in resuming your education. I shall insist upon setting
apart two hundred dollars for that purpose. Enough money will still be
left to perfect my invention; and that, too, within a month,
notwithstanding" (he added, playfully) "Mr. Wilkeson's discouraging
remarks a moment ago."

"And I shall insist upon not taking the money, pa," said Pet, laughing,
but shaking her head, and patting her feet on the floor in the most
decisive manner.

"And I shall insist on furnishing the money," said Marcus Wilkeson,
folding his arms, and looking very much in earnest. "Let us see who can
be obstinate the longest."

"Then _I_ shall insist on your taking another fifth interest in the
invention. Upon that point I am immovable." Mr. Minford folded his arms
likewise, to imply that nothing could shake his granitic determination.

"Ah, now I see some prospect of a friendly arrangement. I will pay five
hundred dollars for another fifth, and esteem it a good bargain,
provided your daughter consents to let one half of it be spent on her
education. What do you say to that, Pet?"

"That I thank you very much for your kind offer," said the young girl,
whose eyes sparkled with gratitude; "but I must not accept it. Pa will
need all the money he can get to finish his work. I know it."

Marcus and the father exchanged pleasant looks, and the former said,
with an ill-assumed sternness:

"Then I don't advance another cent to him. I have named my conditions,
and they must be accepted. You have no idea, Pet, what a tremendously
obstinate fellow I am when I'm roused."

Nobody could have gathered the idea from his intensely amiable face at
that moment.

"I see, my dear, that we must yield to this determined man," said Mr.
Minford, winking at Marcus. "We shall never have any peace with him
until we do."

"You know best, pa," returned his daughter, who shrank timidly from any
further discussion with their guest.

Marcus Wilkeson was delighted with the perfect confidence which father
and child reposed in him. "Now that this little matter is happily
settled," said he, "I must tell you that I have already taken the
liberty of selecting a school for her."

"How can we ever repay your goodness?" said Mr. Minford.

"It is situated only two blocks away," pursued Marcus.

"Capital!" cried Mr. Minford; "for then she will never be far from
home."

"And if you want me at any time, pa, you can send for me, and I can be
here in a moment," said Pet. "It will be so delightful!"

"It is a private school, and, if your daughter prefers, she can be
taught separately from the other pupils. Miss Pillbody, the teacher,
tells me that she can give her an hour and a half in the morning, before
ten o'clock, and half an hour in the afternoon, after four o'clock."

"That will suit me exactly, pa," cried Pet, clapping her hands with
glee; "because then I can get your breakfast, dinner, and supper, and do
all the housework, without any interruption in my studies."

"Miss Pillbody thought the arrangement would suit you. She is a
perfectly competent teacher of French, Italian, the English branches,
music, drawing, the dead languages, and higher mathematics--quite a
prodigy, I assure you, for a lady not yet twenty-two years old." (Marcus
was addressing the father.) "I have been particular in my inquiries, and
all who know her speak in the highest terms of her remarkable
attainments, her ability to teach others, and her goodness of heart.
Your daughter will like her, without doubt."

"I know I shall," said Pet, with enthusiasm. "There are so many things
that I will learn, pa. First, music--"

"She has a fine piano, and plays splendidly," remarked the guest. "I
heard her."

"And French and Italian, to please you, pa--that is, if I can learn
them--and everything else that the lady will teach me. I shall be so
happy, sir."

The father and the guest smiled at the zeal with which this young
beginner proposed to grapple with the difficulties of human knowledge.
It was fortunate for her that a long series of hard and injudicious
teachers had not already sickened her of learning, and that she brought
a fresh and uncorrupted taste to the work.

Pet was thinking which one of her two dresses (equally faded) she should
wear to school, and what bit of ribbon or trimming she could introduce
in her old bonnet, to improve its general effect. Marcus Wilkeson was
marvelling at the confidence which the inventor and his daughter placed
in him, and at what there was about him to inspire it. Mr. Minford was
congratulating himself on having met with a man so generous and sincere
as this Mr. Wilkeson, and so entirely disinterested, too: "For,"
reasoned the inventor, "he cannot appreciate, as I do, the enormous
value of my discovery, and does not dream that his portion of it will
compensate him for his outlay more than a hundred times over."

The silence was broken by a sound as of heavy boots trying to move
softly on the stairs, and a subsequent modest rap at the door.



CHAPTER III.

AN AUXILIARY OF MODERN CIVILIZATION.

The boy Bog rapped, and entered. He was more neatly dressed than when
Marcus saw him on the occasion of his first visit. His patched and
threadbare coat was replaced by a neat roundabout jacket; his greasy,
visorless cap, by a flat felt hat, of which the brim was symmetrically
turned up; his tattered shoes by great cowhide boots. The boy was of
that age when the human frame grows with vegetable-like rapidity; and he
seemed to hare increased a little all around within three weeks.

The boy looked distressingly awkward in his new articles of attire. Had
he stolen them, he could not have appeared more guilty in presence of
the rightful owner.

"Why, Bog!" said Mr. Minford, reproachfully; "where have you been these
three weeks? Not called to see us once!"

The boy's confusion increased at this unexpected salutation, and he hung
down his head at the threshold of the door. Mr. Minford partly reassured
his bashful visitor, by springing forward, shaking him heartily by the
hand, and saying, with earnestness, "My good lad, I am always glad to
see you." Pet was also by his side in an instant, and warmly shaking the
other hand. "You look real nice, Bog," said she. Mr. Wilkeson also came
forward, and said, "Don't you remember me, Bog?" and clasped him by the
right hand when the inventor had relinquished It.

Bog bowed and scraped and blushed, and murmured "Thank you, very well,"
several times, confusedly, and at last settled down into a chair which
was pushed under him by Pet. Having crossed his legs, he began to feel a
little more at ease.

"You've been very busy of late, haven't you, Bog?" asked Pet, charitably
anticipating an excuse for the boy's long absence.

"You'd better believe it," replied Bog, not looking at her, but studying
the pattern of his left boot. "The day after I called here last, Mr.
Fink he got a job to stick up bills for a new hair dye, all the way from
here to Dunkirk, on the Erie Railroad. Well, he couldn't go, cos he had
lots o' city posting, ye see; so he hires me to do it for ten dollars a
week and expenses. The pay was good, he said, because the work was
extry hard. The bills was to be posted on new whitewashed fences, new
houses, and places generally where there was signs up telling people not
to 'post no bills.'"

"That was a singular direction, Bog," said Mr. Minford.

"So I told Mr. Fink," replied the boy; "but he said as how them were the
hair-dye man's orders. He said the idea was to make folks look at bills
who wouldn't notice 'em if they was on a place all covered over with
adv'tisements. They was to be posted up high and strong, so that the
owner of the property couldn't tear 'em down easy. Mr. Fink thought the
idea was a good one; but he owned it was a little risky."

"Perhaps that is why he didn't care to do it himself," suggested Marcus
Wilkeson.

"Mebbe," said Bog; "but I didn't consider it no objection. I told him I
was goin' to be a bill poster, and wanted to study every branch o' the
business." At this point Bog hitched his chair nervously, uncrossed and
recrossed his legs, as if he were conscious of trespassing on the
patience of his auditors, and then went on: "Well, I hurried home, and
saw that aunt didn't want for nothin', and then I started on my travels.
I should ha' called and seen you, Mr. Minford," he added, casting a side
glance at the inventor, "but I hadn't time."

"No excuse necessary, my good Bog," returned Mr. Minford, kindly.
"Business before pleasure, you know. But I am anxious to hear how you
got along with the job."

"Well, pooty hard," said Bog, emphatically, "though I made out to go all
through the State, and stick up six thousand bills, every one on 'em on
a new house, shop, or fence. Lemme see--I was chased seven times by big
dogs that was set on me, shot at three times"

"Why, poor Bog!" interrupted Pet; "you wern't hurt, I hope?"

"No, Miss Minford; I wasn't hurt," answered Bog, looking her in the face
for the first time since he entered the house, "though I got one through
my old cap."

"I'm _so_ glad it was no worse, Bog."

These words of sympathy from the young girl flustered the poor boy for a
minute. Then he rallied:

"Besides that, I was took up four times by the perlice, and was carried
afore justices of the peace. When they asked what I had to say why I
shouldn't be fined, I told 'em the whole truth about it, and they all
laughed except one, and said it was really funny, and they hadn't no
doubt the hair dye was a very good thing to take, but could tell better
after they had tried some. I told 'em that the hair-dye man would send
'em a dozen bottles apiece. Mr. Fink had d'rected me to say this, if I
was 'rested and brought afore a justice. The justices--that is, all of
'em but one--then said they didn't want to be hard on me; and as that
was my first offence, they would let me go without any fine. And they
did, after givin' me their names, and tellin' me to be sure to have the
bottles sent on jest as soon as could be. Ye see, they were all as bald
on the top o' their heads as punkins. But the fourth justice that I was
took to, he wasn't bald, but had a crop o' hair like a picter; and when
I offered to put down his name for a dozen bottles, he swore, and fined
me five dollars for what he said was a insult to the dignity of justice,
and five dollars for postin' up bills in places where it was agin the
law. Mr. Fink had give me money from the hair-dye man to pay fines, as
well as my board; so I didn't care. But--but I am talking too much."

Bog paused, because, on taking a stealthy observation around him, he
suddenly become conscious that his three auditors were listening
attentively to his story.

"Not at all, my dear Bog," said Mr. Minford. "I, for one, am curious to
know how this ingenious plan of advertising, in defiance of the law,
succeeded." Mr. Wilkeson expressed himself curious on the same point.
Bog, thus encouraged, continued:

"When I come home, after havin' stuck up six thousand bills in the
principal towns and villages along the route, I went right to Mr. Fink.
He shook hands with me, and ses he, 'Bog, your fortun's made.' 'How's
that?' said I. 'Why, ses he, 'you're the greatest bill poster I ever
heerd of. Professor Macfuddle" (that was the hair-dye man) "ses the
money has begun to pour in to him like sixty, and he is buyin' up all
the hair dye in the market, and puttin' his labils on it to supply the
demand. He has given me ten dollars to present to you, besides the
thirty for your wages.' Mr. Fink then give me forty dollars, and ses he,
'That a'n't all; for I have so much business now, I want a pardner, and
I'll take you, and give you one third of the earnin's.' I rather guess I
snapped at the offer; and we is goin' into pardnership to-morrer."

"Success to you," said Marcus and the inventor together. They saw, in
this illustration of his bill-posting talents, only an evidence of
business shrewdness that deserved encouragement. The young girl,
however, viewed it in the light of a violation of law, and therefore
could not conscientiously approve of it. Bog noticed her silence, and
guessed the cause.

"Thank you very much," said he; "but I forgot to say I a'n't goin' to do
any more business on the Erie plan. It a'n't right. Come to think it
over, I was sorry I done it; and so I told Mr. Fink; and he sed it
wasn't exackly reg'lar either, and he shouldn't never ask me to do
it agen."

"I am glad of that," said Pet, quietly.

Bog's eyes were instantly turned toward her with an expression of pride
and gratitude.

"Oh! of course, it is always best to obey the laws," observed Mr.
Minford.

"And I wouldn't for a moment be thought to advise anything else," added
Marcus Wilkeson; "though I never could help admiring pluck and sharpness
in business affairs."

"I am going to school again, Bog," said the young girl, hastening to
change the subject of conversation.

Bog looked up, surprised and pleased.

"Mr. Wilkeson," said Mr. Minford, "has taken another small share in my
invention, and pays me in advance for it. With that, Pet will finish her
education." The inventor would have made this disclosure of his private
affairs to no other human being but Bog; for this simple boy was the
only person he had ever known (excepting Marcus Wilkeson) who had not
openly ridiculed his mysterious labors.

"I am very glad to hear of it, sir," said Bog, awkwardly, but with an
air of profound respect. "How--how is the _ma_sheen, sir?" Bog asked the
question hurriedly, as if the machine were a sick person, whose health
he had until then forgotten to inquire after.

"Getting on finely, Bog. Only two or three springs, a cog here, a
ratchet here, a band at this point, and a lever up there (Mr. Minford
touched portions of the machine rapidly), and then look out for
a noise!"

"A noise!" repeated Bog, with juvenile earnestness.

"Not an explosion, my good fellow, but tremendous public
excitement--plenty of fame, mixed with a good deal of abuse at first,
and a _little_ money, I hope." The inventor's eyes flashed with the fire
that Bog had often seen; and when he emphasized the word "little," Bog
knew that he meant to express the boundlessness of the wealth that his
labors would bring to him.

"I believe it," said Bog, with sincerity pictured in every lineament of
his honest face. "I've always believed it."

"So you have, my dear Bog; and your faith has often cheered me," replied
the inventor, patronizingly. "By the way, how's your aunt?"

"Oh, yes; how _is_ your aunt, Bog?" asked Pet. "I had quite forgotten
her."

"She's pooty well, ony them rheumatics troubles her some. They're
workin' their way from her left arm into her head, aunt says. Week afore
last they was in her feet, and they've ben clear round her and goin'
back agen since then. Queer things, them rheumatics!"

"They are very painful, Bog, you know," said Pet.

"Yes; so aunt says." Bog did not add, as he might have truly done, "A
thousand times a day."

"Give her my kind regards, Bog, and say I will call and see her,"
continued Pet.

"My respectful regards also," added Mr. Minford.

"Thank you," said the boy; "but I guess you better not call, Miss
Minford. Aunt's a good woman, but kind o' cur'us, you know. Them
rheumatics has made a great change in her." Bog here referred, but made
no verbal allusion, to a certain friendly call which Pet had once made
upon his aunt, on which occasion that elderly lady had entertained her
visitor with a monologue two hours long, giving her a complete history
of the malady, from its birth in the right great toe, three years
previous, through all its eccentric phenomena, to that stage of the
disease which made it, as the venerable sufferer observed with, some
pride, the "very wust case the doctors ever heerd of."

Upon this fruitful theme, Bog's aunt could and would have discoursed for
hours longer, but for the appearance of Bog, when she sought a new
relief from her agonies by abusing that poor fellow, charging him with
neglect and ingratitude, finding fault with the food which he brought
home for her from market, and asking him when he was going to buy that
soft armchair he had promised her so long. Bog laughed, and explained
this outburst, by saying to Pet, "It's only aunt's rheumatics;" but the
old lady rejected the explanation, and went on scolding and faultfinding
with such increased fierceness, that Pet hastily put on her bonnet and
shawl, and bade the rheumatic grumbler "good-by," saying (which was
true) that her father would be anxious about her. Since then, the young
girl had kept away from Bog's aunt.

"I've bought her a nice, soft armchair lately," continued Bog; "but it
don't do her no good. The rheumatics seem to be getting wusser all the
time; and the thing that makes them wussest of all is calls. So I guess
it's better for aunt you should keep away, Miss Minford." Bog prided
himself on his tact in putting forth the last argument.

Then the conversation turned on Pet's education; Marcus and her father
fondly discussing what it ought to be, and Bog listening, and looking
stealthily at the young girl, still busy at her work; and they all sat,
happy in thoughts of the future, far into the twilight.



CHAPTER IV.

MISS PILLBODY.

Miss Pillbody's school was unknown to the pages of the City Directory.
It was never advertised in the newspapers, with a long list of "Hons."
and bank presidents as unimpeachable references. The bright little plate
on her door exhibited only "Pillbody," in neat script, and no hint of
the existence of a school within. The school was select to such an
extent, that not more than a dozen pupils were admitted to its
privileges; and so private, that, outside of that number, its name was
not known except among its graduates; and there were reasons why they
should hesitate to spread its reputation abroad. If strictly classified
among the institutions of the city, it might be termed, "A school for
female adults in good circumstances, whose early education had been
neglected."

The idea of this school originated with Miss Pillbody; and, like many
other valuable ideas, it was hit upon quite accidentally.

Dorcas Pillbody was the only daughter of a man who had amassed a fortune
in the oyster business, and had finally retired to a four-story house in
Sixteenth street, near the Sixth Avenue, where he purposed to spend the
balance of his days in the dignified enjoyment of his hard-earned money.
To this secluded oyster dealer, as solitary and happy in the midst of
his new grandeur as a bivalve in its native bed, came a plausible
stockbroker, who, after a series of interviews, persuaded Mr. Pillbody
to make a small investment in the "Sky Blue Ridge Pure Vein Copper
Mining Company."

The small investment unfortunately turned out well. In less than sixty
days, the shares that he had bought at ten per cent, sold at
seventy-five, and ultimately advanced to par. Delighted with this
unexpected result, Mr. Pillbody determined to stake largely (he had been
a wholesale oyster dealer, and was a man of comprehensive ideas). Again
his venture prospered. Mr. Pillbody, intoxicated with success, invested
his entire means in the purchase of two new mines in a Southern State,
whose unparalleled richness was certified to by mineralogists of great
reputation.

Just as Mr. Pillbody was making arrangements to bring these mines before
the public, his stockbroking friend, through whom he had effected the
purchase, left for Europe, and it was then discovered that Mr.
Pillbody's mines, if they existed at all, were ten feet under a swamp,
on property which belonged to somebody else, the title deeds of which
had been forged by the adroit operator. Mr. Pillbody could not endure
his misfortune. He wrote notes bidding farewell to his wife and child,
and commending them to the care of their relatives, to whom he had
always been bountifully generous. Then he went to Staten Island by
ferry, there took a row boat, proceeded to a celebrated oyster bed which
was the scene of his youthful labors, and drowned himself.

The widow and daughter (the latter twenty years of age, healthy, and
finely educated) applied to the two brothers of the deceased for
assistance, and were at once kindly received into their families, and
sat upon sofas and ate from tables purchased with money (never repaid)
of the late Mr. Pillbody. The two brothers, upon application to the
proper tribunal, were appointed executors of the estate, and were not
long in discovering that it was insolvent. Mother and daughter were
shifted about with almost monthly regularity from one house to the
other; and, though they tried to make themselves useful in every
capacity except that of a servant, they could not disguise the
conviction that their departure was an event a great deal more welcome
than their coming. The widow's talent for dressmaking (she had been a
milliner's apprentice before marriage), though of a high order, and
exerted to the utmost, failed to please. Miss Pillbody's thorough
knowledge of French, and the higher branches of an elegant education, as
well as her proficiency on the piano, and her sweet, simple style of
ballad singing, were worse than useless acquirements in her
uncles' families.

Her uncles were cold, stern, ignorant men, who had an intense hatred for
the mere accomplishments of life. Each had two daughters, who, with the
natural tastes of the sex, were not averse to the graces of education,
in the abstract, but could not bear to see them displayed by their
"stuck-up, pauper cousin," as they often termed that hapless young lady
in private conversation. A kind offer, which she was imprudent enough,
to make, to teach them all she knew, had set them against her from
the first.

The widow endured the cold looks and cutting words of her husband's
relatives, and even the reproaches which they heaped upon his folly,
with a widow's patience, and seemed content to remain a poor,
broken-down, dependent creature. Miss Pillbody, on the contrary, was
quick to discern and to resent, mentally, the uncivil treatment daily
experienced by her mother and herself. Had she been alone in the world,
she would have left those inhospitable roofs when the unkind hints first
began to be dropped, and trusted to the cold charity of strangers; but
she could not bear the thought of being separated from her mother. So
she endured her wretched state of dependence as best she could, while
she quietly sought for some means of employment that would yield them
a living.

Profiting by the lessons she had learned from her uncles, she did not
apply to any person who had known her father and received favors from
him in their better days. She asked no favor from any one--only work, at
a fair price. By diligent hunting, she found several opportunities. She
could earn four dollars a week by embroidering (at which she was
skilful, and had taken premiums); or two dollars and a half for
teaching French, twice a week, in a country seminary; or her board and
washing for inducting a family of four little musical prodigies into all
the mysteries of the piano. But these tempting offers would still have
left her mother with her uncles, and she spurned them all.



CHAPTER V.

A FRIEND IN NEED.

One day, as Miss Pillbody was riding up Broadway, in tending to visit a
Teachers' Agency for the sixteenth time, she accidentally made the
acquaintance of a middle-aged lady, who talked a great deal upon the
slightest provocation, trifled sadly with grammar and pronunciation, and
was excessively friendly and amiable. The diamonds in her ears and on
her fingers, and her overdone and gaudy style of dressing, were some
indication, though not a convincing one, that she was a woman of wealth;
and Miss Pillbody made bold to ask her if she knew anybody who wanted a
private teacher in her family.

The lady said she did not, "unless," she added, laughing very loud at
the humor of the suggestion, "you come into my family, and learn me
something."

The remark was unpremeditated, but, the moment it was made, the lady
seemed to be greatly struck with its force, and immediately followed it
up with the question, "Do you s'pose you could learn grammar and
pronunciation, and how to talk French, to a grown-up woman like me?"
Miss Pillbody thought the lady with the diamonds was joking, and laughed
by way of reply. "But I am ra-ally in earnest," continued the lady,
thoughtfully, turning three heavy cluster rings on her little left
finger. "Ye see, my early eddication was rather poor, 'cos I was poor
then; but my old man made a spec' in tobacco, last year, and now I'm
pooty well off, and live in good s'ciety. I kinder feel the want of
grammar, French, and a few o' them things. I like your face and your
manners, and if you can learn me 'em, I'll give you ten dollars a week
to come to my house one hour every day, and be my private
schoolmistress. It'll be rather hard, I s'pose, to learn an old dog new
tricks; but there is no harm a-tryin'."

Notwithstanding the oddity of the proposition, Miss Pillbody saw by the
lady's face that she meant what she said. "I think I understand English
grammar, and French, and the other branches usually taught at
academies," she replied, "and should be very happy to accept
your offer."

"Then consider the bargain closed," returned the lady. "Here is my
'dress" (handing her a card), "and you may come to-morrer mornin', at
ten o'clock, if that'll suit you. I have no children, and the old man
will be out at that time, and we shall be as snug as two bugs in a
rug, ye see."

Miss Pillbody was delighted with the sudden prospect of an honest living
thus opened to her, and she only feared that she would not be able to do
enough for her money. So, after she had again thanked the lady for her
kindness, she said:

"I think I could give you lessons on the piano, madam--unless you
understand that instrument better than I do."

"Lor' bless me, child!" responded the lady, holding up her thick, red
hands, and making the diamonds flash in the sunlight; "Lor' bless me!
them fingers is too stiff to play the pianner now. I've got a splendid
pianner, though, with an oleon 'tachment, three pedals, and pearl
keys--cost eight hundred dollar; and a nice piece of furniture it is,
you may believe. I let it be out of tune all the time. That's an excuse
for not playing when anybody asks me to, ye know. I don't mind tellin'
you this, because you'll be sure to find it out." And the lady laughed
very loudly at the confession of this small deceit, which Miss Pillbody
assured her was by no means confined to herself, but had been adopted by
her ingenious sex from time immemorial.

When the middle-aged pupil and her young teacher separated, as they did
on the arrival of the stage at an up-town jeweller's, where the former
got out to make a few purchases, Miss Pillbody felt as if she had known
her patroness for years, and that, in that coarse, showy, good-hearted
woman, she had found a true friend.

And so it turned out. However dull Mrs. Crull might be as a scholar, she
was quick-witted as a friend, and was constantly bestowing unexpected
kindnesses upon Miss Pillbody. Scarcely a day passed that the young
teacher did not receive from her pupil some little present--at times
rising to the value of a bonnet or a shawl. Mrs. Crull's all-embracing
kindness would have extended to the widow Pillbody too (in whom she was
much interested from the daughter's accounts of her), but for the shrewd
objection which she entertained against intrusting any one with the
secret of her pupilage. Miss Pillbody was often and particularly
enjoined by her not to tell any one--- not even her mother--of it; and
she saw the advantages of carefully observing the request. Great pains
were taken to keep Mr. Crull, and the housemaid, cook, and coachman,
from a knowledge of the mystery.

On Miss Pillbody's arrival daily at ten A.M., she was ushered into the
drawing room, where Mrs. Crull was always anxiously awaiting her. The
servant was told to say to callers that "Mistress is out" (Mrs. Crull
bolted at this trifling deception at first, but soon got used to it),
and the lesson began.

Mrs. Crull at first thought she was competent to learn her native tongue
and French together, in a series of half-hour lessons; but she soon
found out that the latter language had some eccentric peculiarities
quite beyond her powers of articulation, and that the spelling of a word
did not afford the slightest clue to the method of pronouncing it. After
floundering about heroically but hopelessly through the introductory
chapter of the first French grammar, she gave up the polite tongue in
despair, consoling herself with the reflection, that speaking bad French
was worse than speaking no French at all.

Miss Pillbody, who did not venture to advise her pupil on her choice of
studies, but left her to consult her own fancies undisturbed, heartily
approved of Mrs. Crull's conclusion, though she acknowledged that New
York society by no means took that view of the case, but tolerated bad
French with a courtesy worthy of France itself.

Mrs. Crull's studies were thereafter confined to English spelling,
grammar, and writing. She declared that she knew enough of arithmetic to
count change correctly, and wanted to know no more; and that geography
was of no earthly use to her. Besides, she never could remember the
names of places.

It was in pronunciation that Miss Pillbody's system achieved the
greatest good. Anxious to strengthen herself on that weak point, Mrs.
Crull set a watch on her language, and gave every word a good look
before she sent it forth. The effect of this constant introspection was
most happy; but, at times, Mrs. Crull would be thrown off her guard by a
rush of ideas, and all the old blunders would come out. Toward other
persons, she became, to some extent, a free teacher, and would, in the
most obliging manner, rectify their little errors of pronunciation, when
she was sure of them, and sometimes when she was not.

Of course, Mr. Crull was taken in training by her. That gentleman,
having made the discovery, early in life, that the less a man says, the
more he is supposed to know, had acquired a habit of taciturnity which
had become a second nature to him. His conversation consisted mainly of
grunts and nods; and it was astonishing how much he could express by
them. At any rate, they had "made his fortin', and he couldn't ha' done
more'n that if he'd talked like a house a-fire"--which explanation,
often repeated, was about the longest one ever known to be uttered by
Mr. Crull. Therefore Mr. Crull did not offer a large field for the
exhibition of his wife's new acquirements; but, by drawing him into
conversation, and then lying in wait for him, she found opportunities to
exhibit them for his good.

At first, Mr. Crull only stared and grunted. Then he laughed (his laugh
and Mrs. Crull's laugh were very similar, and were their strongest bond
of union). Once he said, "Wonder what's the matter with the ole woman?"
And, on a subsequent occasion, when Mrs. Crull had convicted him of
three mistakes in five words, he ventured upon this protracted remark:
"Guess the ole gal feels rather big since she got inter wot they call
good s'ciety, eh?" This was in allusion to the recent successful
speculation in tobacco, which had enabled Mr. Crull to buy the best
house in Twenty-third street, and take the second best pew in a
fashionable church, thereby placing Mrs. Crull at once within the
charmed circle of society.

As for himself, Mr. Crull took very little interest in society, having
observed that society had taken very little interest in him until that
"lucky turn in terbacker." Mrs. Crull would smile, and confess that
society had claims upon people, and that, when one is in Rome, one must
do as the Romans do. The moral of which proverb was, that Mr. Crull
ought to improve his speech. Mr. Crull replied, by asking "wot
difference 'twould make a hunderd years from now?" Which observation,
when Mr. Crull condescended to speak at such length, was a favorite
argument with him. But he little suspected his wife's secret.



CHAPTER VI.

BRANCHING OUT.

To Miss Pillbody, this quiet little arrangement proved a fortune indeed.
In two weeks after she became acquainted with her benefactress, she was
rich enough to take lodgings for her mother and herself at a decent
boarding house. The old lady entertained singular notions about the
rights of relationship, and held that it was the duty of her husband's
brothers to give them a home for the balance of their lives, and
regarded her daughter's desire to cut loose from her uncles, and be
independent, as a romantic and absurd notion, born of novel reading, to
which Miss Pillbody was a good deal addicted.

To gratify her daughter's whim, the widow Pillbody finally consented to
move into a boarding house, though she did it in the firm belief that
the good luck which the young lady had fallen upon would be of brief
duration, and they would be glad to come back to their relatives
again--their "natteral protectors," as Mrs. P. called them.

In their new residence, Miss Pillbody was happy. The money which she
earned weekly, and which was always paid to her in advance, was
sufficient for her own and her mother's board. In addition to other
presents, Mrs. Crull had forced small sums upon her acceptance, at
different times; and Miss Pillbody began to enjoy the odd sensation of
laying up money in a savings bank. Of the future she thought but little;
first, because she had no head for plans; and second, because Mrs. Crull
had promised to set her up in a private school; and Miss Pillbody placed
a blind trust in that lady. An accident, in this wise, caused the
fulfilment of the promise much sooner than was expected.

Mr. Crull, in getting out of a stage, one day, slipped on the step, and
dislocated his left shoulder. At his age, careful treatment was
necessary for an injury of that kind; and the family doctor peremptorily
forbade him to leave the house for a month. Mr. Crull therefore stayed
at home, growling like a bear in a cage, and solacing himself with the
determination to bring a suit for damages against the stage company, the
carelessness of whose driver (in Mr. Crull's opinion) caused
the accident.

Mr. Crull, like a good husband, would have nobody to nurse him, apply
his embrocations, and put on his bandages, but his wife; and Mrs. Crull,
like a good wife, cheerfully and tenderly performed that duty. But this
rendered necessary the abandonment of the daily lessons at her house;
for she was liable to be summoned to her husband's bedside at any moment
(he sent for her at every new twinge of pain); and, furthermore, it was
his custom to crawl out of his couch every half hour, and wander
restlessly through the house, until his wife, under the stern
instructions of the family doctor, sent him back to bed again.

Mrs. Crull, though not wanting in love for her disabled consort, was
loth to abandon her lessons. Having tasted of the Pierian spring, she
desired to drink deeply.

As Miss Pillbody could not continue her course of instruction at Mrs.
Crull's residence, without being detected in the act by the invalid lord
of that mansion; and as it was clearly impracticable for Mrs. Crull to
go to Miss Pillbody's boarding house, and turn the widow Pillbody out of
the little room which mother and daughter jointly occupied, the generous
pupil hit upon the idea of renting the ground floor of a house for her
teacher, setting apart one room as a schoolroom, fitting it up for her
in comfortable style, and helping her to get wealthy adult pupils enough
to pay all the expenses of the establishment, and a handsome
income besides.

Miss Pillbody thankfully accepted the noble offer; though she feared
that she would never obtain scholars enough to repay the money which
Mrs. Crull was willing to advance, and also to defray the current
expenses of housekeeping.

Mrs. Crull entertained no such fears. She had great faith in the
efficacy of advertising. She had personally known three quacks who made
half a million apiece out of patent medicines; and one woman who had
turned a common recipe for removing superfluous hair into an eligible
establishment in Thirty-second street, and a country cottage, with
sixteen acres under good cultivation. She believed that newspaper
advertising was the shortest and surest road to fortune; and the only
standing cause of quarrel between her and her husband was the latter's
incredulous "Pooh! pooh!" at her theory upon this subject.

At her request, Miss Pillbody drew up this advertisement, and caused it
to be inserted twice in three daily papers:

"To LADIES IN GOOD SOCIETY WHO DESIRE TO IMPROVE THEIR EDUCATION.--A
young lady who has moved in wealthy and fashionable circles, and has
received the best education that New York city could afford, having met
with reverses in fortune, would be happy to accept, as private pupils, a
few ladies whose early cultivation was, for any reason, neglected.
French, Italian, Spanish, vocal music, the piano, and all the English
rudiments, taught at reasonable prices. Particular attention paid to
pronunciation, spelling, and writing. Satisfactory references given
and required.

"N.B.--Pupils taught separately, and at different hours.

"For further information, address 'Educatrix, New York Post Office.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

There were many points in this advertisement to which Miss Pillbody's
modesty took exception; but Mrs. Crull insisted upon them in a way that
permitted no refusal. The little bit of bragging was the principal
thing, she said. She had always observed that people are inclined to
believe bragging advertisements, though they openly profess that they
can't be taken in by them. As for the satisfactory references, she would
undertake to give them, if they were required--which, of course, they
would not be, as the mere offering of them invariably sufficed. If
called upon, she would say that she knew a wealthy lady, the head of a
family, who had derived the greatest possible benefit from the
instructions of "Educatrix." If asked who she was, she could answer,
that "Educatrix" would on no account allow the name to be made known, as
it was a great merit of her system that she kept the names of her pupils
a profound secret from each other, and from the rest of the world. The
good sense of this regulation would at once be appreciated by all mature
ladies who wished to repair the defects of their early education. Her
own position as the mistress of an elegant mansion in Twenty-third
street, would (Mrs. Crull reasoned) entitle her statement to
ready belief.

The plan worked capitally. "Educatrix" received fifty answers to her
advertisement, and was busy more than a week calling at the houses of
those who desired an interview with her. The ladies were all in good
circumstances, and, without an exception, were the wives of men who had
made sudden fortunes, after the manner common in the United States.
Finding themselves elevated above the necessity of cooking their own
dinners and washing their own clothes, they keenly felt the want,
hitherto unknown, of an education which would fit them, in a measure,
for that society whose portals were now thrown wide open to them. Miss
Pillbody's gentle manners and polished ways gained for her the
confidence of all; and she could have had fifty pupils daily, at two
dollars a lesson (the fixed price), of one hour each, if it had been
possible to teach that number.

Acting on the advice of Mrs. Crull, Miss Pillbody decided to accept only
twelve pupils, for twenty-four lessons each, and devote six hours daily
to them. This arrangement would give her six pupils a day; and the
twelve would complete their course in about two months. Then she could
take twelve more, and so on. It was plain, from the success of the first
experiment, that there would never be a scarcity of pupils.

Mrs. Crull then rented the first floor and basement of a suitable house
in a quiet neighborhood, furnished it nicely, hired a grand piano for
the front parlor, and turned over the premises and their contents to her
young teacher. Miss Pillbody brought her mother to their new home, a
fair share of which had been set apart and fitted up expressly for her.

The old lady admitted, with some reluctance, that the house was not
badly furnished, and that her daughter's prospects might be worse than
they were. But who was this mysterious woman, that took such an interest
in her daughter? What was her motive? she would like to know. And why
was she so anxious to avoid her (Mrs. Pillbody)? To which questions her
daughter responded, as she had done fifty times before, that her
teaching was strictly private, and that none of her pupils would visit
her, except under a pledge of the profoundest secrecy. Mrs. Pillbody
shook her head doubtingly, and said, "We shall see," adding that she
only hoped they would be as comfortable there as they were at Uncle
John's and Daniel's, that was all.

The school throve. The pupils came with great punctuality at their
different hours, and were unknown to each other and to the world. The
secret of the school would never have got abroad, but for the incaution
of a certain Mrs. Brigback (wife of a man who had been connected with
the City Government for two years on a nominal salary, and retired
rich). She was so delighted at the progress which she made in the
English rudiments, and in the French (being able to ask for bread, or
fish, or concerning a person's health, in that language), that she could
not refrain from confidentially advising another lady (the wife of a
street contractor, suddenly opulent) to take a few lessons from the same
accomplished teacher. The street contractor's wife was perfectly
indifferent to society, and had no wish to remedy the defects of her
early education. She promised secrecy, and the next day told the story,
at the expense of her friend, to a mutual female acquaintance, who
passed it on with embellishments to a third, who amused a fourth with
its narration; and so it went through a succession of confidential
people, until, one day, it became the subject of conversation in a stage
in which Marcus Wilkeson was riding. He could not avoid hearing it; and,
although the two ladies (themselves shockingly astray in their grammar)
laughed at the absurdity of the thing, Marcus Wilkeson thought it was a
capital idea. A plan which he had been idly revolving in his mind for
the education of Miss Minford, began to take shape. The inventor (he
reasoned) would not be likely to object to a strictly private school for
his daughter, if the teacher were a lady of correct principles, and
highly educated.

Upon the last point, Marcus Wilkeson determined to satisfy himself. So
he addressed a note, through the General Post Office, to "Miss Pillbody,
New York City," requesting the privilege of an interview on business, at
the residence of the lady, the exact location of which she was asked to
designate.

The letter was advertised (Miss Pillbody's address being unknown to the
carrier), and, about two weeks after it was written, an answer came back
to Mr. Wilkeson, at his house, giving information as to the whereabouts
of the lady, and appointing the time for an interview.

Mr. Wilkeson called, and in five minutes' conversation was satisfied of
Miss Pillbody's moral and intellectual qualifications as teacher, and
thought himself very fortunate in securing a vacancy among the pupils
(caused by sudden illness) for Miss Minford. With what perfect
confidence the suspicious inventor, as well as his simple-hearted
daughter, accepted the frank offer of their friend and benefactor, we
have already seen.



CHAPTER VII.

THE LITTLE PUPIL.

It was a pleasant winter's morning, when Mr. Minford and his daughter,
and their singular friend, made a formal call on Miss Pillbody, by
appointment. The inventor had overcome a difficulty in his machine, by
introducing a cam movement, and was in excellent humor. As he walked
along the streets, he said that the snow and the sky and his future all
looked bright to him now. Of the two former objects his assertion was
obviously true, and Pet enjoyed the shining scene, as youth, health, and
innocence always do, without reference to the future.

A few minutes' walk brought them to Miss Pillbody's private schoolhouse.
A pull at the bell summoned a stout, red-faced servant girl to the door.
To the question, if Miss Pillbody was in, she said, "Yaas, sir, ef yer
plaze" (Miss P. had vainly endeavored to correct her English), and
ushered her visitors into the reception parlor, or schoolroom.

A pleasant place it was, and nicely warmed with a smouldering coal
fire, the coziness and comfort of which, were fitly reflected from the
red carpet, and red curtains, and red plush covered furniture. The grand
piano, hired for use, gave the room that completely furnished appearance
that nothing but a piano can give. A book of instruction, open at a
passage which strongly resembled a rail fence through a rolling country,
showed that inexperienced hands had recently been pounding the
instrument. There was no sign of a school or any side, excepting a small
blackboard, which had been hastily thrust into a corner, and which bore,
faintly traced in chalk, a sum in simple division.

The visitors sat down in the warm red chairs, and looked around the room
but a moment, when Miss Pillbody entered by a door connecting with the
rear parlor. She bowed gracefully to Mr. Wilkeson, and was by him
introduced to his two companions. To the father she was profoundly
respectful, and to the daughter tender and affectionate, grasping her
hand closely, and smiling a welcome upon her.

Pet was instantly fascinated with her future teacher. There was
something lovable not only in her intelligent face, pale with the
protracted labors of her daily life, but in the infirmity of her eyes,
for she was shortsighted, and could see objects distinctly only by
nearly closing the lids. This peculiarity, not disagreeable in itself,
won upon Pet's compassion, and made her feel more at home in the strange
lady's presence than if she were conscious that a pair of full-sighted
orbs were looking at her, and accurately noting her defects.

Miss Pillbody's occupation, for some weeks past, had given her a new
idea of the value of time, and she proceeded at once to business,
without wasting a single word upon the weather. In less than five
minutes, she had, by artful inquiries and a winning voice, found out the
exact range and extent of Miss Minford's acquirements, and agreed with
the father that a further education in the English branches was
unnecessary at that time (with the exception, perhaps, of an occasional
exercise in reading), and that his daughter might devote twenty-four
lessons to French and the piano, with hopes of success, provided she
could study and practise several hours a day at her own home.

Mr. Minford replied, that she could study French at home to her heart's
content, but he had no piano. Whereupon Mr. Wilkeson took the liberty of
suggesting that it might be possible to borrow one, at a moderate rate,
by the month, and set it up in their front room. Miss Pillbody applauded
this idea, and it was instantly agreed to.

"For certain reasons, which I will not now mention," said Mr. Minford,
"I am anxious to hurry up her education."

"By the way, what is your first name, my dear?" asked Miss Pillbody. "It
is quite awkward to call you Miss Minford, you know."

The inventor answered for his daughter. "Her name is Patty, miss; and we
call her Pet, for short, instead of Pat, which would be hardly
appropriate."

"A pretty name," said Miss Pillbody; "and she _is_ a pet, if I mistake
not." The teacher looked archly at Mr. Minford, and then affectionately
at the daughter, through her half-shut eyes. "I promise you she shall be
a pet here, provided, always, she learns her lessons like a good girl.
We always insist on that first." The teacher waved her hand with
magisterial authority as she spoke, but accompanied the act with a
laugh, which made Pet laugh also.

During this conversation, Mr. Minford had dwelt upon his machine in an
undercurrent of thought; and an idea just then occurred to him, which he
was desirous to test immediately. He therefore rose, and said that they
would not detain Miss Pillbody any longer, and that his daughter would
call and receive the first lesson at any time which that lady
would name.

"Her hour will be from nine to ten o'clock every other morning, and from
three to four on alternate afternoons," said Miss Pillbody. "It is now
half past ten," she added, consulting a watch. "Mrs. Penfeather, my
eleven-o'clock pupil, is put of town to-day: so Miss Minford--that is.
Pet--can commence now, and I will give her until twelve o'clock. This
will save time."

"Good!" remarked the inventor. "The great point is to save time. For
certain reasons, as I said before, you have none to lose in educating my
daughter. And, that we may not detain her a moment, Mr. Wilkeson, we
will leave, if you please."

Marcus Wilkeson was glad to do this, for the conversation had already
reached its natural terminus. He therefore followed Mr. Minford's
motion, and grasped his hat and cane.

"You are not afraid to stay here, child?" said-the inventor.

"Oh, no," replied Pet, with a happy laugh. "I already feel quite at
home."

"And she shall always feel so here, I assure you, sir," added Miss
Pillbody.

Mr. Minford's new idea occurred to him again with fresh force, and he
hurriedly said: "Good-by, Pet. Be a good girl, now, and see how much you
can learn in your first lesson." Then he kissed her, jerked a bow at
Miss Pillbody, and made his exit into the hall. Marcus Wilkeson added
his best wishes for the progress of the little scholar, bade her and her
teacher a pleasant farewell, and followed Mr. Minford.

The child ran after them to the front door, and exchanged good-bys with
them until they had turned the corner of the next street, when she
entered the schoolroom, and straightway began her first lesson in the
accomplishments of life.



BOOK THIRD.

THE TRAIL OF THE SERPENT.



CHAPTER I.

"ONE--TWO--THBEE--FOUR."

Pet studied hard, and made great progress. Her father and Marcus
Wilkeson watched her developing education with equal pride, and
constantly applauded and encouraged her.

The inventor did not know one word of French beyond the colloquial
phrases with which everybody is familiar; but he would ask his daughter
to read the crisp and tinkling tongue to him for hours at a time. He
would hammer softly and file gently as she read, so that he might not
lose a word of it. He would hear no news but that which she translated
from the triweekly French paper published in the city. With correct and
careful tuition at Miss Pillbody's, these constant exercises at home,
ambition, and an excellent memory for languages, Pet was soon able not
only to satisfy her teacher, but to make herself understood, in a small
way, by a real French woman, Mdlle. Duchette, the forewoman of a candy
store on the nearest business avenue.

Pet followed every lesson on the piano at Miss Pillbody's by three hours
of daily practice at home. Marcus had hired for her a small piano,
warranted to be just the thing for beginners. In other words, the keys
and pedals were nearly worn out, and could not be much further damaged
by unpractised hands and feet. This instrument was squeezed in between
the bureau and the washstand, filling up the last spare place in the
crowded little room. Pet wanted to have it set up in the next apartment,
and practise there in the cold, alone; but neither her father nor Marcus
would listen to that proposition for a moment.

Mr. Minford's nerves were extremely sensitive to sound. They vibrated to
it, like Aeolian harp in the wind. He placed pianos, cats, fish
peddlers, and hand organs on precisely the same footing, as nuisances.
Nothing but the ruling desire to make a lady of his child, could have
steeled him to the endurance, hour after hour, of her monotonous
"One--two--three--four," and the discordant banging which accompanied
those plaintive utterances.

The permanent discords with which the piano was afflicted, or the
striking of a false note, would sometimes set his teeth on edge; but he
would only hold his jaws tightly together, beat time with his head, and
smile a hypocritical approval. Sometimes he would torture himself
playfully, and make Pet laugh, by running a musical opposition with his
three-cornered file--a small but effective instrument.

Marcus Wilkeson was equally tolerant of Pet's practice, and there was
little false pretence in the patience with which he listened. Happily,
he was not all alive to sounds. Screeches and harmonies were pretty much
the same to him. Since he was a boy, he had been trying (privately) to
sing, or whistle, "Auld Lang Syne," and had not yet mastered the first
bar of it. He watched Pet's little fingers moving up and down the piano
with mechanical repetition, and was truly interested in the sight--for
two reasons: first, the motion was graceful; and second, she was
acquiring an accomplishment which he held in the highest esteem, because
Nature had put it entirely beyond his reach.

Sometimes, but not often, Bog was a listener at these rudimental
concerts. Since Marcus had come to the relief of the family, Bog felt
that his mission was ended. He knew that it was a piece of pure
hypocrisy to call once or twice a week to see if he could be of any
service, when he was aware that Mr. Minford had hired a woman, who lived
on the floor below, to do all their household work, marketing, cooking,
and general errands. He knew that Pet, on these occasions, asked him to
go for a spool of thread, or a paper of needles, or a package of candy,
merely to gratify him with the idea that he was making himself useful.
When he came into the room tidily dressed, and highly polished as to his
boots, he blushed even redder than he used to. It was not the
acquisition of a little money by Mr. Minford that had exalted his
daughter in the-eyes of Bog, but the French and the music. These two
accomplishments seemed to lift her into an upper air of delicacy and
refinement, for which Bog felt that his miserable education and clumsy
manners quite unfitted him. After Bog had performed some little invented
errand for her, she would reward him with a short exercise, and Bog
would sit, with open mouth and crossed legs, staring at Pet's face and
hands alternately, and beating time with his large red hands on
his knees.

Bog knew the negro songs of the period, and admired them. He would have
liked to hear Pet play them, but feared she would think his musical
taste very bad if he asked her to. Her "exercises," as she called them,
he considered something perfectly wonderful, and belonging to a class of
scientific music which a poor fellow like him could not be expected to
enjoy. But, like many an older and more worldly-wise person, he
pretended to be thrown into raptures by it, and, at every pause in the
playing, would say, "Beautiful! a'n't it?" "That's prime!" or
"Splendid!" or "The best I ever heerd." Sometimes, at his earnest
entreaty, Pet would read a page of French to him; and he would listen
with awe and reverence, as to a beautiful sibyl prophesying in an
unknown tongue.

Bog always paid these visits in the afternoon. Marcus Wilkeson always
called in the evening. The two had met in the house rarely since New
Year's. When they accidentally met on the sidewalk, within a square or
two of the house, as they sometimes did, Bog colored up as if he were
guilty of something. Once Marcus Wilkeson saw Bog at a distance, turning
suddenly down a side street, as if to avoid him; and Marcus wondered
what could be the matter with the boy. By industry and tact, Bog made
money in his new partnership, and had already laid up a snug sum in the
savings bank.

Between Pet and her teacher a feeling of sisterly affection had sprung
up. Miss Pillbody turned with a feeling of relief from her dull elderly
pupils, stiff in manners, and firmly set in their habits, to this fresh,
impressible young creature. What she did conscientiously to the others
for pay, she would have done to Pet for love, had not her bills been
settled in advance. Whenever Miss Pillbody had a spare hour or two,
afforded by the indisposition of one of her older scholars (from
excessive fatigue occasioned by a dinner party or other laborious
hospitality the night before), she would send the red-headed servant to
Mr. Minford's, and notify Pet, who was only too happy to go to her
beloved teacher, and take an extra lesson.

Mrs. Crull could not be called a promising pupil. Her intentions were
excellent. Her patience and her good nature were unbounded. She was
always punctual at her lessons. Neither cold nor storm could keep her
away. While she was in the schoolroom, she would resolutely deny herself
the pleasure of indulging in more than a dozen episodes on the fashions
and bits of scandal which she picked up in her cruise through society.

With the exception of these little wanderings, she would go through her
recitations with as much correctness and docility as a sharp-witted
child of twelve years. She felt a childlike pride in gaining the
approval of her teacher. When she was under Miss Pillbody's
instructions, and knew that every mistake would be courteously but
firmly corrected on the spot (the teacher's invariable custom), she kept
such a guard upon her tongue that she sometimes read or conversed in
long sentences without making a single error. But when she was out of
Miss Pillbody's sight, there were certain blunders which she fell into
as surely as she opened her mouth.

Sometimes Mrs. Crull and Pet would meet on the doorsteps of Miss
Pillbody's house--the one going in and the other coming out--or on the
sidewalk in the neighborhood. Mrs. Crull would catch the child by both
hands, smack her heartily on the cheek (no matter how public the kiss),
and then a conversation something like this would follow:

"How bright and pretty you look this mornin', my darlin!" (Mrs. Crull
could not remember to pick up the "g's," except under Miss Pillbody's
eye, and then not always.)

"Thank you, Mrs. Crull; I am quite well. How are you, marm?"

"Oh! smart as a trap. Haven't known not a sick day these ten years."
(Mrs. Crull was weak on the double negatives.)

"How do you get along?" From motives of delicacy, Pet never added, "in
your studies."

"Well, I don't mind tellin' you, as you are my confidential little
friend." Here Mrs. Crull would look around cautiously, to be sure no one
was listening. "The other studies isn't so hard, but grammar knocks me."
(Mrs. Crull's nominatives and verbs were irreconcilable.)

Then Pet would say, telling an innocent fib:

"I don't observe anything very wrong, Mrs. Crull."

"Ha! ha! there you are flattering me, you little chick. I know, or
think, I have improved a good deal with our dear Miss Pillbody; but a
smart little scholar like you must see lots of mistakes in me."

At this point, Pet would blush, and murmur, "No--no!"

"Humbug!" Mrs. Crull would say. "I know my incurable faults, and I know
that you know 'em. But Lor' bless you, child! there is plenty of ladies
in good s'ciety" (Mrs. C. always slurred on the first syllable of that
word) "who talk as bad as me. Their husbands, just like mine, got rich
suddenly, you see. I tell you, I was 'stonished to find how many of 'em
there was. They are thicker'n blackberries. I found out something else,
too." Here Mrs. Crull would shake her head knowingly, like one who had
discovered a great truth.

Pet would know what was coming, but would ask: "Pray, what is it, Mrs.
Crull?"

"Why, I found out that, if you give good dinners and big parties, and
keep a carriage, and have a conservatory, and rent a pew up near the
altar, your little shortcomin's in grammar isn't no objection to you.
'Money makes the mare go.' However, eddication, as Miss Pillbody says,
is a good thing of itself, and I shall keep on tryin' to get it."

These conversations always ended by an invitation to Pet to visit Mrs.
Crull. "I'll have our carriage call for you," she would say, "at your
father's house. We have no children, you know, and the old man would be
very good to you; though, of course, it wouldn't do to hint about the
school. But I can trust my little friend for that. Come, now,
won't you?"

But Pet always modestly declined these kind invitations. She knew her
father's pride, and his aversion to the patronage of rich people.



CHAPTER II.

THE FALLING BOARD.

One afternoon, Pet had been taking an extra lesson from Miss Pillbody,
and had started homeward with a light heart, humming to herself a
musical exercise which she had practised for the first time that day. A
few doors from Miss Pillbody's, some workmen were repairing a wooden
awning. The framework was covered with loose boards, which the
carpenters were about to nail down. A feminine dread of danger would
have induced Pet to make a wide detour of this awning; but her mind was
so fully occupied by the musical exercise, that she walked, unheeding,
right under it.

"Look out! look out!" shrieked a chorus of voices overhead, accompanied
by a rattle of falling boards. Pet sprang forward just in time to escape
one of them, and to catch another on her shoulder. It touched her
gently, not even abrading her skin, for its fall had been stopped midway
by a young man.

"Stupid!" "Silly creature!" "The girl's a blockhead!" "Where's her eyes,
I wonder?" shouted the carpenters, after the manner of carmen and stage
drivers, when you narrowly escape being run over by _their_
carelessness, at the crossings.

"Shut up!" said the young man, savagely. "Why the d---l don't you keep
your boards where they belong, instead of tumbling them down on people's
heads?--I hope you are not hurt, miss?" (in a gentle voice).

"Oh, no; not at all. I am sure I thank you, sir, very much." Pet
blushed, and hurried away.

The young man and the carpenters then exchanged the customary abusive
epithets with each other, which might have resulted in something more
serious (though such verbal encounters rarely do), but for the desire of
the young man to overtake the young girl whom he had saved from a
bruised shoulder, or a worse accident. Shaking his fist at the four
jeering carpenters, and muttering a farewell execration between his
teeth, he rapidly followed Pet, and soon came up with her.

"You are sure you are not hurt?" said he. "Those scoundrelly workmen!
I'll thrash one of them yet."

Pet was confused by the second appearance of the young man at her side,
though she knew that he would follow her; even her brief experience
having taught her that it is not in the nature of man to do a kindness
to a woman, without exacting a full acknowledgment for it.

"No, sir; I am not hurt the least bit," she replied, looking in his face
no more than gratitude and civility required. Here she would have
stopped, but she feared (charming simplicity of girlhood) that the
young man would, some future day, get into trouble with the four
carpenters. So she added, timidly: "As for the workmen, sir, they were
not to blame. It was all my fault, running into the danger. I--I beg,
sir, that you won't say another word to them."

This was a long speech for timid Pet to make to a stranger, and she
blushed fearfully at the end of it, and wished that the young man
would go away.

"They deserve a thrashing, every one of them," said he; "but, for your
sake, I let them go." The young man spoke in a sweet voice, and his
manner was respectful. Pet had observed, in several hasty side glances,
that he was nicely dressed, and not ill-featured, in all except the
eyes. But had his eyes been large and handsome, instead of small and
forbidding, she would have desired his absence all the same.

"You say you are not hurt," he continued; "but you may be, without
knowing it. I have heard of people receiving serious injuries, and never
finding them out till they got home. Have you far to go, miss?"

"Only two blocks farther," said Pet, turning the corner.

"The very route I was going," observed the young man.

Although Pet felt that the young man's company was unnecessary and
disagreeable, she did not like to tell him so. She kept silence until
she reached her home, when she said, "I stop here, sir." She would have
added, "Good-by, sir," or "Thank you, sir," or something equivalent, but
instinct checked the expression, and she darted into the entry (the door
being accidentally ajar), and shut the door after her, before the young
man could say a word. Although the door was shut, he raised his hat
respectfully as one often does on Broadway _after_ he has passed a
female acquaintance upon whom he suddenly comes--the salute being
received and acknowledged with a stare by the next lady, or ladies,
following after. The young man then noted the number of the house,
nodded satisfactorily to himself, and strolled very leisurely along the
street, as if neither business nor pleasure had urgent demands upon him.



CHAPTER III.

SNEAKING JUSTIFIED.

Neither Pet nor the young man saw the awkward figure of an overgrown
boy, who had followed them at a distance, on the other side of the
street, keeping the trunks of trees between them and him. This clumsy
figure, upon which a suit of good clothes and a new cap looked strangely
out of place, was Bog.

The boy Bog was often seen lounging about the neighborhood of Miss
Pillbody's school; and if the policeman on that beat had not known him
to be an honest lad from childhood, he would have watched him as a
suspicious character. From whatever part of the city Bog came home after
a bill-posting expedition, he invariably made a circuit past Miss
Pillbody's school, keeping the other side of the street always, and
never looking at the house. He walked hurriedly by, but came to a sudden
stop at a grocery store halfway up the second block beyond, and there he
would stand, partly covered by an awning post, and look strangely
around, letting his eyes fall occasionally, and as if by accident, on
that house. If his object in these singular manoeuvres was to see Miss
Minford, he always failed to improve the opportunity when it offered;
for, as surely as Pet came out from the school, or turned into the
street to go toward it, so surely did the boy Bog walk off whistling in
another direction. Nobody can understand the motives of Bog's conduct,
except those who have done the same thing in their youthful days.

On this eventful afternoon (eventful as a starting point in a history of
sorrows), Bog had taken his usual circuitous route home from a
profitable professional tour on the east side of town. Reaching the
grocery store, he sheltered himself behind the friendly post, and
commenced looking up and down the street, and across the way, and into
the sky, always winding up his mysterious observations by a single
glance at Miss Pillbody's front door. When Pet came out, after her
musical exercise, the boy Bog flushed up a little, turned upon his
heels, and walked quickly away. He had not gone a dozen steps, before
the shouts of the workmen and the sound of the first falling board
reached his ears. He suddenly turned about, and saw a young man catching
the next board that fell. His first impulse was to run to Pet's
assistance; but a fatal spell chained his feet.

Poor Bog had dreamed a thousand times, by night and by day, of the
ineffable bliss of rescuing Pet from a mad dog, from a runaway horse,
from the assault of ruffians, from drowning, from a burning building. He
had his plans all laid for doing every one of these things. He would
have coveted the pleasure of whipping three times his weight of any
well-dressed, white-handed young men, who should presume to insult her.
In imagination, he had done it times without number; and had contrived a
private method to double up a number of effeminate antagonists in
succession. But, in all his reveries, he had never anticipated peril to
Miss Minford from a falling board; nor had it occurred to him that the
supreme felicity of saving her from death or injury would ever be the
lot of anybody else.

The entire novelty of the accident and rescue struck him with amazement,
and fastened him to the spot long enough to see that Pet walked away
apparently unhurt. Hardly knowing what he did, or why he did it, he
shifted his body behind the awning post so as continually to keep
himself out of Pet's sight. Then the strong conviction came upon him
that it was his duty to escort Pet home; for, although she did not seem
to be hurt, she might be. This conviction was met and almost put down by
the thought that Pet would know he had been watching for her; and he
could not bear that. While he was halting and sweating between these two
opinions, the unknown young man had finished his little colloquy with
the four carpenters, and, by walking fast, had caught up with Pet.

Then the boy Bog decided that his wisest course, under all the
circumstances, would be to follow the couple at a distance, and see that
no harm came to her from the young man.

"If the feller insults her," murmured Bog, "just because he was lucky
enough to do her a little bit of a kindness, I'll lick him till he's
blue." Besides whipping him for the insults which he might offer, Bog
felt that he could give him a few good blows for his impudence in
assuming Bog's exclusive prerogative of rescuing that particular
young girl.

Bog looked very sheepish as he sneaked from one street corner to
another, and skulked in shadows to avoid observation, though he tried to
flatter himself that he was doing something highly meritorious. Two or
three times, when the unknown young man inclined his head toward Pet, as
if to speak to her, Bog entertained a hope that she would command him to
leave her, and that he wouldn't. A single gesture from her, an impatient
shrug of the shoulders, a turning away of her head, would have been all
the hint that Bog needed to fly to her relief, and make up for his lost
opportunity by knocking his dandy rival into the gutter.

But not even Bog's sharp eyes could detect any impudent familiarity in
the young man's conduct, or any desire on the part of Pet to get rid of
him. "Everything is agin' me," said Bog, wiping the perspiration from
his forehead.

When Bog saw Pet part from the young man at Mr. Minford's door, his
first wild idea was to call on her, quite by accident, in the course of
half an hour. Perhaps she would tell him--as a piece of startling
news--about her narrow escape from the board, and what the young man
said to her. But Bog was unequal to the dissimulation involved in this
plan, and abandoned it. Then he had a notion of following the young man,
and seeing what became of him. But a sudden and very decided rising of
fresh blood to Bog's cheeks and ears told him that he had played the
part of spy long enough. So Bog determined--as many grown-up people in
graver dilemmas do--to go home to supper.

Bog found his supper all ready for him, and it was a good one. For his
aunt, although the victim of a chronic rheumatism, had contrived to
preserve a sharp appetite from the wreck of her former health, and
cooked three meals for herself and two for Bog (who was never home at
noon) daily. She was singularly punctual, too. Breakfast was always
smoking hot on the table at 6 A.M.; and supper (and dinner combined, for
Bog) was never a minute behind 5 P.M. in the winter time. Bog, who had a
truly boyish idea of feminine excellencies, considered that this knack
of cooking, and this amazing punctuality, were more than an offset for
his aunt's little infirmities of temper, and her everlasting discourse
on the rheumatics.

Though the beef hash was good, and the toast nicely browned and
buttered, and the tea strong, and the fire burning brightly through the
grates of the stove, and the curtains snugly drawn, and everything
cheerful and comfortable in Bog's humble home, the boy was unhappy, and
could not eat.

Happily, his aunt was so engrossed with her own physical troubles, that
she never noticed indications of ill health in other people. She held
that every other human ailment was unworthy of mention in the presence
of her sovereign affliction. Whenever anybody presumed to speak of their
little personal sufferings before her, she said: "You should thank
Heaven you haven't got the rheumatics," and would then proceed to give a
circumstantial history of her acquaintance with that disease. Therefore,
on this occasion, she was quite unaware that poor Bog sat opposite to
her with a pale, dejected face, playing aimlessly on his plate with his
knife and fork. She thought only, and talked only, of her malady, which
had been pranking in the oddest manner all day, and had settled, at
last, in her "limbs." Bog's aunt had no legs that she would own to.

After supper, Bog heaved a sigh, and said that he would go round to
Uncle Ith's; and asked his aunt if she had any word to send by him.

"Oh, no; nothing partickler," said she. "He don't care about me."

Uncle Ith, as everybody called him, was Bog's uncle on his mother's
side. Uncle Ith and the aunt had a standing difference touching that
rheumatism. Whenever they met--which was rarely--Uncle Ith would ask
her, with a wink, how she was; and when she candidly told him that she
was in a dreadful state, he would laugh at her, and say that half of it
was "imagination." This indignity he had repeated so often, that,
latterly, she scorned to complain in his presence, and bore her anguish
in noble silence.

"All right," said Bog, who took no part in these family differences. He
put on his cap, and left the house.



CHAPTER IV.

UP IN THE AIR.

"Uncle Ith" was one of the city bellringers, and lived at the top of a
tower a hundred feet high, which vibrated with every stroke of the great
bell hanging midway between his airy perch and the ground. He was sixty
years of age, and had white hair, but he was as strong as younger men,
and could swing the clapper against the side of the great bell with a
boom that could be heard across rivers, and far into the peaceful
country, on quiet nights. His eyes were so sharp, that, without the aid
of a glass, he could read names on the paddle boxes of steamboats, where
the unassisted vision of most persons descried nothing but a blur. He
had done duty on that tower during the six years since it was built; and
he knew the section of the city which lay spread out beneath him as a
man knows his own garden. In the daytime, he could always guess, within
a street or two, the location of any fire in his district. He knew all
the smokes from a hundred factories, foundries, distilleries, and never
confounded them with the fires which it was his business to detect. The
presence of a new and suspicious smoke among the black stretch of roofs,
caught his eye instantly; and he could tell in a moment, by its color,
its speed of ascent, and the quantity of sparks accompanying it, whether
it came from a carpenter's shop, a stable, a distillery, a camphene and
oil store, or some other kind of building. In the nighttime, he knew the
lights which mapped out the squares and the streets within his range of
observation, almost as well as the astronomer knows the other lights
that shine down upon the sleeping city from the heavens. He could fix
the position of a fire by night rather better than by day, because he
had the red reflection of the flames on well-known steeples, and high,
prominent roofs to guide him.

Such were Uncle Ith's qualifications for his place; and he was so loved
and trusted by the firemen of his district, that no mayor, however beset
by applicants for office, had ever dreamed of removing him. In all of
Uncle Ith's limited relations with the world, he was esteemed an honest
man; and his word would have possessed the literal novelty of being as
good as his note, had necessity ever required him to borrow money. But
Uncle Ith was frugal, and made his small salary suffice for himself and
a family of seven motherless children.

He had one eccentricity--a complete indifference to newspapers. He never
bought nor borrowed them. "What's the use of reading 'em?" he would say.
"Why not imagine the murders, suicides, political meetings, and other
trash that fills 'em, and save your money for terbacker?" This did Uncle
Ith, and he flattered himself that it was wisely done.

The bell tower was not far from the boy's home, and in a few minutes he
stood at the foot of it, and shouted to Uncle Ith: "Hallo, there!"

Uncle Ith, always on the alert for calls, poked his head out of the
window, which he left partly open for ventilation in the coldest nights,
and answered, rather gruffly, "Well, what's wanted?" He never allowed
his own children, nor any persons except his nephew Bog, and a few old
firemen, friends of his, to visit him in the tower at night. Uncle Ith
was conscientious. The presence of his children, with whom he loved to
converse, or that of strangers, who would stare vacantly all over the
lighted city, and ask innumerable questions, interfered with the
strictness of his watch. Uncle Ith was a little eccentric, too, in his
devotion to duty.

"It's me, uncle," said Bog, screaming upward.

"Glad to see you, Bog. You can come up," shouted the old man in return.
He slung a latch key, fastened to a string, out of the window. It slid
down the side of the tower, into Bog's hand. He unlocked the door, and
the next moment the key was jerked aloft. The boy entered the base of
the tower. He was so familiar with every crook and passage, that the
small light of a gas jet, inside, was not necessary to show him the way.
Up he ran, sometimes clearing two steps at a jump, slipping his hand
lightly along the rough wooden banister. A few spiral turns brought him
to the bell, which hung in an open framework of timber. He gave the huge
bronze a familiar tap as he passed, and wound on and upward until he
came to a trap door, which Uncle Ith held invitingly open. Then he
sprang into the little room at the top of the tower, and Uncle Ith shook
him by the hand.

"You look well, I see, Bog. And how is your aunt?" Uncle Ith was mindful
of the usages of society, and always asked after her.

"Oh, she's smart," said Bog, totally oblivious of her rheumatism, "and
sent her love to ye." Bog was a peacemaker.

"Sent her rheumatism, I guess yer mean. No doubt she wishes I had it."

Bog laughed, and his uncle laughed. And then his uncle, never forgetting
duty, took a sharp look out of the eight clearly polished windows that
commanded a view of the surrounding district. Discovering no sign of
fire, he resumed the conversation with his nephew, asking him about his
business (which he was happy to learn was prosperous), and giving him a
quantity of good advice which none but a genius could remember, or an
angel follow. During these exhortations, Uncle Ith paced to and fro in
the little room, looking out of some window at the end of every
sentence. Bog sat on a three-legged stool (the only seat except a
backless chair) by the side of a miniature stove, on whose top hissed
the kettle, from which Uncle Ith made his pot of coffee at midnight.

The night was cold; the little fire was warm; and Bog liked to hear
advice from his uncle; but his eyes would wander to a certain window, as
if, for some reason, he would derive great pleasure in opening and
looking out of it. This movement of his eyes was so frequent, that Uncle
Ith observed it, and said:

"Ah, I see! You want to stare out of that southeast window again. Now, I
think the sight is handsomer to the west, where you can see the lights
of Jersey City and Hoboken, and on the ferry boats and the shipping
anchored in North River. But that's a matter o' taste. Well, look out o'
the window, if you want to. I guess I can trust you for fires in
that quarter."

"That you may!" answered Bog, throwing open the southeast window.

The stars above twinkled crisply in the frosty air; and the sky, with
its low horizon on every side, seemed infinitely vaster than it did to
Bog in the narrow and high-walled streets of the city. But Bog, though
he used to puzzle over the wonders of the heavens when he was a few
years younger, and had picked up a little something of astronomy from
his uncle Ith (who knew something of that as of many other sciences),
did not turn his gaze to them. Nor did he give more than a sweeping
glance at the dotted line of lights below, stretching out in long
perspectives, until the two luminous points at the end seemed blended
into one. There were several parks in sight, which looked like portions
of the sky let down on the earth, in all but the mathematical regularity
of their mock stars. But Bog's eyes passed them by. To an inquisitive
mind, there was something of interest to be seen and speculated over, in
the lighted windows of houses all about him. People could be seen eating
their late suppers, rocking by the fire, playing the piano, dancing,
taking a rubber at whist or euchre, or diverting themselves with other
recreations of winter house life. In one upper chamber, a physician was
presenting a child just born to the proud father. In another, there was
a mysterious spectacle, which a closer examination might have proved to
be the preparing of a dead body for the morrow's burial. But Bog saw
none of these sights.

His eyes sought for, and found immediately, as if by instinct, one
light, which, in his opinion, was the only one worth looking at on earth
or sky. It was a single bright gas jet, burning very close to a window
about six hundred feet distant from him in an air line. Several tall
chimneys of intervening houses rose almost between him and this light,
and, perhaps, their dark, spectral shapes aided him in identifying it so
readily. The lower sash of the window through which the light shone was
curtained, but the upper part was uncovered; and an observer on the
tower, being fifty or sixty feet above the top of the curtain, could
easily look into the room. Bog rubbed his eyes, into which the cold but
not biting wind had brought the tears, and gazed anxiously into Mr.
Minford's apartment.

The pale inventor stood a few feet from the window, attentively
examining a mass of machinery before him, upon which the light shone
strongly. Only the tops of the wheels and of the more complex parts were
visible; but there was one lever, or bar, connected with it, which rose
above the whole, and could be seen by Bog to the extent of at least two
feet. This was an addition to the strange machine as Bog had last seen
it, and he contemplated it with fearful interest.

Mr. Minford stood motionless for five minutes in the presence of his
creation. He was ghostlike and frightful in that fixed attitude, and Bog
wished that he would move. He did so, nodding his head, and smiling, as
he bent down and detached some part of the machine. All but his head and
his right shoulder then disappeared from view; but Bog knew, by the
vibrating motion of his shoulder blade, that he was filing upon
something. Mr. Minford then stooped again, as if to put the part of the
machine back into its proper place. Having done this, he stood erect
once more, folded his arms, and looked intently at the Mystery for the
second time.



CHAPTER V.

TONGUES OF FIRE.

But now Bog's attention was diverted from Mr. Minford, and his heart was
made to beat more rapidly by a new sight. While he had kept both eyes
closely fixed upon the inventor, he had looked with an oblique, or
reflected vision, into the other window of the room. This window was
uncurtained, and Bog could distinctly see the chairs, bureau, and other
articles of furniture. A new light (so Bog oddly thought) was suddenly
irradiated through the darker portion of the apartment by the entrance
of Pet from the hall. She had no bonnet on; and Bog reasoned (if he
could be said to reason in his excited state) that she had been spending
a part of the evening, as was often her wont, with a poor family, rich
in children, who lived on the floor below. Her father smiled upon the
problem before him, as a new difficulty melted away under his burning
gaze. Then he turned, and smiled at Pet. She ran toward him, and he
kissed her tenderly. Bog was devouring this little episode with open
mouth and eyes, when the hoarse voice of Uncle Ith broke in upon the
enchantment:

"Hallo! there's a fire."

"What! Where?" shouted Bog, forgetting where he was.

"Why, you blind man!" said Uncle Ith; "straight afore ye. Don't ye see
it breaking out?"

Bog cast his eyes about him wildly; and, sure enough, directly in the
range of Mr. Minford's house, but four or five blocks beyond, there was
an illuminated streak of smoke curling up from a roof.

"It's in my district!" cried Uncle Ith. "So here goes." He seized the
long iron lever near him, by which the enormous clapper of the bell was
swung, and moved it like the handle of a pump. The second motion was
followed by a hoarse sound, which shook the tower to its foundations,
and started into listening attitudes a thousand firemen in their engine
or hose houses, in the streets, at the theatres, or at their own homes.

"Sha'n't I help you?" asked Bog, who always proffered his services on
these occasions.

"Pooh! no. It's baby play for me." By this time Uncle Ith had evoked the
second gruff note from the deep throat of the imprisoned monster below.
Then came a third in quicker succession, and louder, as if the bell had
warmed up to the work, and then other notes, until the district had been
struck; and then the bell, as if rejoicing in its strength to resist
blows, murmured plaintively for a repetition of them. Long before this
sad sound had died away, the deep bass of the City Hall bell, the shrill
tenor of the Post Office bell, and the intermediate pitches of the bells
all over the city, had taken up the chorus of alarm. There was a rattle
of engines, hose carriages, and hook-and-ladder trucks through the
streets. There was a frantic rush of men and boys, some with cumbrous
fire-caps on their heads, and putting on their coats as they ran. How
they knew the location of the fire, none could guess, for it had not yet
streamed out against the sky; but know it they did; and the dove goes to
its cote not more directly than they centred from all parts of the
district upon the exact spot of the fire. Meanwhile, Uncle Ith lashed
his mighty instrument into a sonorous fury; and all the other bells
played their echo, even to the far-away tinkler on Mount Morris, which,
having few fires in its own neighborhood to report, took a pleasure in
telling its little world of those which were raging down town.

For the information of his uncle, and to atone in part for his previous
neglect, Bog devoted only a half eye to the Minford family, and kept the
rest of his optics on the fire. Just after its discovery, the smoke had
loomed up dense and black, as if it were trying to suffocate the flames
beneath. Then it changed rapidly to a light blue, and was chased faster
upward by two tongues of fire. These tongues leaped aloft with a sudden
impulse, and shed a revelation of light over acres of houses, and
brought out church steeples in vivid relief against the sky, and put a
new gilding on storm-beat en vanes and weathercocks. All this Bog
described in his own way to his uncle; and his uncle, stooping at the
lever, kept on ringing with unabated zeal; and all the other bells
banged away like an orchestra of which Uncle Ith was the leader.

Then Bog saw the forms of men suddenly spring into sight, as if out of
the very roof, between the two fiery tongues. The tongues licked the air
about them with savage whirls; but the brave fellows dodged back, and
were unhurt. Then, advancing boldly again, they released their hands
from something which they had been holding, and lo! four jets of water
struck at the very roots of the flames, tripped at them, and made them
stagger, drove them twice into the roof, and caught them with deadly
accuracy as they came out again; and, in less than five minutes, changed
all their brave splendor to dull, black smoke, and set the victor's mark
upon them--the column of white steam which arises from the half-quenched
embers, and proclaims that the fire is put out of mischief at last.

"Nothing but a kind o' white smoke, now," said Bog.

Uncle Ith, who had just rung the last stroke of a round, relinquished
the lever, and looked over the shoulder of his nephew. "The fire's out,"
said he. "When you see the steam comin' up that way, you may know that
the water has whipped." The old man then seated himself in the backless
chair, produced a short black pipe from a crossbeam overhead, and
rewarded himself with a few long puffs.

When Uncle Ith had a pipe in his mouth, he became didactic, and he
therefore proceeded to renew his donations of valuable advice to his
nephew, who was still looking hard out of the southeast window.

Bog cocked his head on one side, to make a show of listening, and said
"Yes, sir," now and then, which was all that his uncle expected of him.
But his whole mind, and his heart, were in the little double-windowed
room, where Pet was now practising upon the piano. Through the
uncurtained glass, Bog could see her hands weaving music with the keys,
and almost fancy he could hear it. The inventor bent over his machine,
and plied the hammer, the chisel, and the file, on various parts of it.
Now and then he would pause, stand erect, and look proudly toward his
child, and keep time to her music with inclinations of his head. Bog,
without knowing it, would do the same thing.

While the boy was gloating over this scene, unconscious of the swift
passage of time, the clock on the nearest church struck nine. Bog
sighed, for he knew that that was Pet's hour for bed. Sure enough. Her
little hands shut up the piano, and neatly smoothed down the cloth over
it. Then she lit a candle, ran up to her father and kissed him, and in a
moment was lost from Bog's sight in her chamber. As she disappeared, the
boy's lips murmured "Good-night" with a fervor which made that simple
colloquial phrase both a prayer and a blessing.

When Pet had gone, Bog suddenly found that the night had become cold,
and that he was beginning to shiver. So he shut the southeast window,
and took a seat by the fire to warm himself before going home.



BOOK FOURTH.

CHILDREN OF THE WORLD.



CHAPTER I.

MYNDERT VAN QUINTEM AND SON.

One morning, when Marcus Wilkeson returned home from a ramble, he found
his half-sister Philomela violently dusting the furniture and books of
the snug little back parlor. The air was full of dancing motes, which
looked large and suffocating in the sunshine. Marcus had politely
requested his sister, fifty times at least, _not_ to molest that
sanctuary of meditation oftener than once a fortnight. To which she
always replied: "I suppose you great lazy fellows would like to have the
cobwebs grow on you. But you sha'n't, while I am in the house." Then,
with a few dexterous flourishes of her cloth, she would start the dust
up in a cloud.

On this morning, Marcus Wilkeson, being in the most tolerant of moods,
merely said "Whew!" and took a seat by his favorite window, the lower
sash of which he threw wide open, with the vain hope that some of the
dust would blow out. Miss Philomela smiled at this act so as to be seen
by him. But he did not appear to notice it. Then she whisked her cloth
under his very nose, as if to challenge objections. After this
aggravation had been repeated three or four times, Marcus felt compelled
to make a mild protest.

"Great deal of dust, sister," he said, stating what he presumed would
not be contradicted.

"Is there?" replied Miss Philomela, exulting in the success of her
stratagem. "_I_ didn't notice it; nor would you, if you had some
business to look after, like other people, instead of stopping in the
house all day."

Marcus had heard that argument and triumphantly put it down so often,
that he did not think it worth another word. Consequently he
said nothing.

This obstinate silence galled Miss Philomela; and, after waiting full
three minutes to see if Marcus would not answer, and meanwhile dusting
prodigiously in his neighborhood, she said:

"Well, it's some gratification to know that you do not have the
hardihood to defend yourself. You are well aware that nothing can
justify a healthy, middle-aged man--I may say, a young one--in retiring
from active life and society, and becoming a great lazy mope."

"I'm really too lazy to discuss it now," replied Marcus, smiling, and
filling his meerschaum from the tobacco pouch which hung conveniently at
the window's side.

Philomela regarded him for a moment with an expression of pity and
horror. Then she heaved a sigh, and muttered something about
misapplied talents.

"You had better say, 'Misapplied brooms and dusters,'" retorted her
half-brother. "I should be perfectly happy now, but for this
confounded dust."

"Laugh away. I know you despise my sisterly advice. But you can never
say that I have not done my duty--"

"To the furniture, most assuredly," interrupted Marcus.

Miss Philomela Wilkeson heaved another sigh in the best style of
martyrdom, and precipitately left the room, followed by her brother's
cheerful, rattling laugh.

"A good old girl enough," said Marcus to himself, "but for her
well-meaning and strictly conscientious habit of making people
miserable."

Then he lighted his meerschaum, closed the window, squared his chair in
front of it, and looked out. His face instantly flushed with pleasure at
a strange sight. The blinds of the lower parlor windows across the way,
which had been shut for several weeks, were now thrown open, and the
white-haired old gentleman, looking thin and pale, sat in his armchair
in his old place, and was gazing at him. At least so Marcus thought; but
he hesitated to bow until the old gentleman gave a distinct salutation.
Marcus returned it two or three times with emphasis, as if to express
his great pleasure at seeing his unknown neighbor and friend again. He
blushed as he did so, for he was conscious of wilful neglect and cruel
indifference, in not having called upon him on New Year's day, or since
then, during the period of the closed blinds; and worse still, in not
having thought of him a dozen times, though he had taken the trouble to
pass his door on his way to or from Mr. Minford's, and had felt relieved
to see no black crape on the bell-pull.

"But then," thought Marcus, pleading with and for himself, "my mind has
been occupied--very much occupied--- with other matters. Now, if he
beckons to me again, I will go over to him without a moment's delay. My
old friend looks very sick and unhappy."

Just then the old gentleman reached out his thin white hand, as if the
motion required an effort, and beckoned twice. Marcus answered with two
bows, and immediately rose, and laid down his pipe on the window sill,
thereby implying that he would come over at once. The old gentleman
smiled faintly, to express his delight.

In a few minutes Marcus Wilkeson stood at the antique mansion, and
pulled the bell. It vibrated feebly as if it shared with the house and
its owner the infirmities of age. The bell was answered by an old,
neatly dressed female servant. She had been told to admit the caller
instantly, and said, "Mr. Van Quintem will see you, sir."

He entered a wide hallway, and followed the noiseless step of the
servant, trying to remember, without success, where he had heard the
name of Van Quintem.

At the end of the hall the servant opened a door, and ushered him into a
room decorated at the edges of the ceiling with heavy wooden carvings,
and furnished in the style of the last century. The old gentleman partly
rose from his soft armchair, supported himself by one hand on it, and
extended the other to his visitor.

"My name is Myndert Van Quintem, sir," said he, "and I am very glad to
see you." There was a pleasant smile in the old gentleman's pale face,
and a warmth in the grasp of his thin right hand, that attested the
sincerity of his words.

"And my name is Marcus Wilkeson, sir; and I am truly happy to make your
acquaintance," responded the visitor, in his most genial manner.

The old gentleman here showed symptoms of faintness from the exertion of
standing; and Marcus, taking him by the arm, forced him gently into his
easy chair, and took a seat beside him.

"I must apologize for not having called before," said Marcus. "I--"

"Not a word, sir," interrupted the old gentleman. "It is I who must
apologize for the rudeness of nodding and beckoning to a perfect
stranger. But the fact was, I could not regard you as a stranger. Seeing
you at your window, smoking and reading, day after day, while I was
smoking and musing at mine, I gradually came to sympathize with you, and
to wish that the distance across the lots was short enough to allow us
to converse. I thought, perhaps, that on some subjects we might interest
each other. Now, be good enough to fill that pipe and smoke it, while I
tell you in few words who I am."

He pointed to a meerschaum, carved into the semblance of a Dutchman's
head, which looked not unlike his own. It was fitted to a long Turkish
stem, and hung against the wall by a silver chain, within reach of his
hand. Five other pipes of quaint design hung near it.

Marcus protested against smoking in an invalid's presence; but the old
gentleman insisted upon it, and playfully but firmly threatened to smoke
the pipe himself if his guest did not. So Marcus filled the large bowl
from a paper of old, mild tobacco, which hung in a pouch near it, and
drew a few gentle whiffs, intending to let the pipe go out. But the old
gentleman watched him.

"'Twon't do," said he. "That old pipe of mine is not used to neglect. As
a particular favor, now, I beg that you'll smoke, and puff out clouds,
as I have often seen you do across the way."

Marcus protested again, but the old gentleman stubbornly maintained his
point; and it was not till the pungent smoke began to curl upward, that
he proceeded with his personal disclosure.

"Have you ever heard my name before, Mr. Wilkeson?" said he.

Marcus bowed, and said that he had not had that pleasure.

"Of course not," returned the old gentleman, not displeased with the
answer. "I have taken infinite pains to keep out of public life since I
retired from business, twenty-five years ago. Even before that time, I
was known only to a very few persons as a silent partner in the large
iron-importing house of Sniggs, Buffet & Co. I had no relations, and few
friends, in the common acceptance of that much-abused word. My only
happiness was in my wife--that is her picture hanging over the
mantelpiece--and this house, which my father built, and which, according
to a tradition in our family, is on or near the spot where my
great-great-grandfather, the fourth Myndert Van Quintem, perished by the
hands of the Indians."

"Then," interrupted Marcus, "you belong to an old Dutch family?"

"To one of the oldest on record," replied Mr. Van Quintem. "My great
ancestor, the genuine original Myndert, came over as cook with Hendrik
Hudson. We have an iron spoon of doubtful authenticity, said to have
descended from him. Sometimes I have paid the penalty of this ancient
and distinguished origin, by receiving stupid compliments on my old
Dutch blood, as if that species of blood were better than any other.
That sort of nonsense I have always answered by informing the flatterer
that the first bearer of my venerable name was a cook; the second, a
tanner; the third--well, the least said about the third the better; and
the fourth, a barber. My grandfather, a very worthy saddler, in old
Queen's street, was the first of the series that was ever able to buy
and hold real estate. My father increased upon his purchases, and, when
the property came into my possession, I, in turn, added to its extent as
fast as I could. In forty years, this property has become valuable; and
I now find myself and my lots occupying a large space on the tax rolls.

"It is a curious fact, and illustrates the uncertainty of human events,
that my success is the result of accident, and is not in the least due
to my judgment or foresight. Every kind of business that I have engaged
in--and I have tried several kinds--has failed. Sniggs, Buffet & Co.
almost finished me; and, if I had not backed out as I did, the better
part of my estate would have been sacrificed. Among those who know me, I
pass for a very shrewd business man, who has made a fortune by his
numerous failures. This tribute to my abilities is flattering, but I
must disclaim it. But I am tiring you with these petty details of
my life."

"Not at all, really," said Marcus Wilkeson, who enjoyed the old
gentleman's frankness.

Mr. Van Quintem paused, and began to show signs of fatigue. He asked for
a cordial which stood on an old sideboard with great lion's feet, near
his visitor's chair. Having sipped of its contents, he expressed himself
relieved, and resumed his story:

"As I was saying, I found my whole happiness in my wife, and in this
house. With the exception of a few friends of my youth--now all
dead--she was my only society. Like me, she was fond of retirement and
of books. You, sir, can appreciate the quiet, satisfying pleasure which
we derived from books, for you, too, are a constant, happy reader; and
you have fine books, as I know by the size of them. You see, I have been
observing you closely," he added, with a smile. The old gentleman's
smile was sweet, but relapsed into a mild expression of sadness.

"Not more closely than I have observed you," said Marcus. "I have often
wondered what stout old quartos you were reading. To tell you the truth,
I inferred, from the dimensions of the books and your white cravat, that
you were a clergyman." Marcus might have added, that the old gentleman's
flowing white locks and benevolent features had contributed to the
illusion; but he had already discovered that Mr. Van Quintem, like
himself, was averse to compliments.

The old gentleman took the remark good-naturedly. "This is not the first
time," said he, "that my old-fashioned fancy for a white cravat has led
to that mistake. You will find very little of the body of divinity in
that library. When I recover from this illness so as to hobble about, we
will look over my little collection together."

Marcus said that nothing could give him greater delight, unless it was
to show his friend his own humble library.

"Thank you," returned Mr. Van Quintem; "and I promise to run over and
look at it when I am well enough to go out." The haste with which the
old gentleman made the last remark, and the fact that he did not invite
his visitor to examine the library then and there, led Marcus to think
that the old gentleman had some private trouble on his mind, which he
wished to diminish by imparting to another. Marcus was right.

The old gentleman heaved a sigh, and resumed:

"For ten years after my retirement, my wife and I lived on in the calm,
happy manner that I have described. We had no griefs--not even that one
which most commonly afflicts parents, the loss of children. Yet I
sometimes think, sir, that it would be far better for some children to
die in their youth and innocence, than to grow up and become bad men,
and torture and almost kill their parents with ingratitude and
unkindness." Marcus guessed what was to come.

"We had but one child--a boy--born long after I had given up all hopes
of having an heir. I need not tell you, sir, what a joy he was to us in
his infancy; for you, too, I presume, are a husband and a father."

Marcus replied confusedly, and as if it were something to be ashamed of,
that he was neither the one nor the other, though he hoped some day
(here he was exceedingly awkward) to be both.

The old gentleman was so wrapped up in his own thoughts, that he did not
seem to notice the reply. He again braced himself in the chair, as if he
would, by that act, gather strength to proceed.

"Of course, I called the child Myndert. He was the seventh of that name;
and I used to think, even when he was a toddling little baby, what plans
of education would be best suited to develop his talents. I know that a
parent's partiality is a magnifying glass of high power; but, to the
best of my belief, he was a most precocious child. I think so now, as I
look back upon the days of his prattling innocence.

"After a great deal of debating, my wife and I concluded to make a
lawyer of him. He was to be the first lawyer in our family annals; and
we fondly pictured to ourselves that he would become an eminent judge,
or that he would step from the bar into political life, and shed honor
upon his country and his family as a statesman. I know how ridiculous
these imaginings must seem to you, and I recall them only to show you
how deeply our hearts were wrapped up in that boy.

"When our little Myndert was five years old, my wife died." Here the old
gentleman clutched the arms of the chair firmly with both hands. "Our
son had been very sick for a week before, and my dear Clara had nearly
worn herself out watching over and nursing him. A severe cold, which she
caught while going to the druggist's in a rain, did the rest. She died
with one arm around me and the other around little Myndert; and her
last words were a blessing on the boy, and a request that I would always
love him for her sake." The old gentleman's eyes glistened with tears,
and his lips twitched convulsively. Marcus evinced his sympathy in the
fittest way, by keeping silence, and fixing his eyes on the floor.

"Well, sir, not to be tedious, I lavished my whole heart upon that
child. His presence seemed to be some consolation for the great loss I
had sustained. His features were so like hers, in all except the eyes,
that I seemed to see her through him; and thus, in a peculiar sense, I
loved him for her sake, indeed. He was petted and caressed from his very
cradle. Ah, there was my error; but who can blame a father for
over-loving his only son, and that one motherless!

"He early showed indications of a fierce temper and a sullen pride, in
which respects he resembled not his mother, but her father, who, with
the exception of these two faults, was a good and just man. I have heard
of cases in which strong mental traits jump over a generation, and
appear in the next one. I thought, and still think, that my son's
singular peculiarities might be explained in that way. If you will bear
with me, sir, I will give you some illustrations of his character.

"When he was nine years of age, a dear friend, now dead, advised me not
to injure so precocious an intellect by too much cultivation, but to put
the boy on a farm, where he could divide his time between healthful work
and youthful sports, and would be kept away from the contaminating
influences of the city, I agreed to make the experiment, though
reluctantly, for I could not bear the thought of parting with my child.
An old family acquaintance who owned a farm in Dutchess County, and had
no children, was willing to take my boy.

"Little Myndert liked the idea of going into the country, and for two
weeks he behaved very well; and his acting father wrote me, that if I
could spare the boy, he would like to adopt him as his own. But the next
letter, a week afterward, brought a different story. It was while
Myndert was not put to work, that he behaved so well. But when the
farmer gave him a little hoe, and asked him to grub up a few weeds in
the garden, the lad threw it down, and said to the farmer, 'I hate you.'
This was his favorite expression to those who aroused his displeasure
when a child. The good man was astonished at this insubordination, and
tried to persuade Myndert to do as he was told. But persuasion was
useless; and so were the threats with which the farmer tried to frighten
him. As for whipping the boy, he was, like me, too soft-hearted to
do that.

"So Myndert became the master there, as he had been here. His real
nature now came out. From that time until the worthy farmer sent the boy
home in despair--ten weeks later--he was the wonder and terror of the
neighborhood. Chickens, goslings, and young ducks were killed; boughs of
apple trees and other fruit trees were broken down; strawberry beds were
entered, and the plants pulled up by the roots; the windows of the
village church and schoolhouse were broken with stones; and three
fourths of these acts were traced to little Myndert. He always denied
the charges, and put on an air of innocence, which deceived
many persons.

"The cunning which he exhibited in doing these malicious acts, and
trying to divert suspicion from himself, was truly wonderful in a child
of his age. One day he was caught by a farmer in the act of killing some
young chickens; and the owner was so mad, that he whipped the boy
soundly. That very night the farmer's wood shed was set on fire from the
outside; but a heavy rain came on, and put out the flames. The traces of
the fire were plainly to be seen next morning; and the farmer found
proofs enough, I fear, to have convicted my son of a felony.

"My friend informed me of all these facts in a very sorrowful letter,
and I hastened to take my son once more under my own roof.

"Here I tried every method that a father's love could devise to reform
him. But all was useless. He seemed to have no idea of truth or honor,
of affection or duty to me. When, at times, I thought he was showing
signs of improvement, I always found, afterward, that he was only
concealing his mischievous acts more carefully. I call them mischievous,
though the word 'malicious' would perhaps describe them better; for they
were all undertaken in a spirit of evil, and not of fun." The old
gentleman here rested, and refreshed himself with a sip of the cordial.

"But it would take days to tell you of all my troubles with that boy,
and I will briefly refer to the rest of them.

"By the advice of another friend (for I have never taken any step in the
treatment of my child without first seeking for friendly advice), I sent
him, when twelve years of age, to a celebrated school in Massachusetts,
where the discipline is very strict. I had a personal interview with the
master, and requested him, as a favor, to chastise Myndert, if all other
means failed to subdue him. Though I could not bear to whip him, I was
willing that he should suffer a proper punishment, inflicted in the
right spirit, from others. At this school he conducted himself properly
for about three weeks, and was taking a high rank as a scholar, when his
natural tastes asserted themselves, in all sorts of wicked pranks on his
fellow pupils, on the teachers, and on people in the village. The master
at first expostulated, and then gave Myndert a good thrashing. That
night the master narrowly escaped being hit by a large stone thrown
through his bedroom window. Next morning my son was missing, and for
three weeks no trace of him could be found. I advertised in newspapers,
describing him, and offering large rewards for his recovery. I had the
same notice printed on bills, and stuck up all through the country. I
employed detectives to trace out the runaway. A month passed, and no
tidings. I was in despair. Toward the close of the fifth week, one of
the detectives struck a trail on Cape Cod, and, after a patient search,
found the young rascal living, under the assumed name of Carlo, with a
fisherman, in a little seaside hamlet. As the fishing season was a good
one, and men were scarce, the fisherman had gladly received my son as
an apprentice for his board. The novelty, excitement, and sometimes
danger of the pursuit pleased Myndert greatly, and the old fisherman
said that he was a good hand for a boy. When the detective found him,
however, he was beginning to be tired of his strange occupation (nothing
pleases him long), and he consented to come home on condition that I
would not scold him, and would give him plenty of pocket money. I had
been weak enough to authorize the making of these promises.

"The return of my prodigal son made me happy. As I had promised, I did
not reproach him, and gave him all the money that he wished. He was not
old enough to know how to spend money viciously. His tastes, though
costly, were comparatively innocent. From childhood he had always been
very fond of new clothes, and he indulged that passion to the utmost. At
twelve years of age, he was called the 'Young Dandy' all through this
part of the town; and I sometimes heard of his attracting attention
on Broadway.

"He was so well satisfied with my generosity, that he consented to
receive two short lessons daily from tutors at the house, and surprised
them, as he did everybody, with his wonderful aptitude for learning."



CHAPTER II.

BUYING GOOD BEHAVIOR.

"For three years I bought my son's good behavior with unlimited pocket
money, and foolishly thought that his nature had changed. Occasionally
he would do malicious acts to his tutors, or to my housekeeper or
servants; but these occurred less frequently as time rolled on, and at
last ceased. At fifteen years of age, he was sufficiently advanced in
learning to pass a college examination, and I determined to send him to
college. He was delighted at the proposal, for he had begun now to
appreciate the advantages of education. Anticipating that he would have
trouble with the Faculty, I selected a college which was distinguished
for its means of learning, and was jet very lenient in its discipline.
Myndert easily obtained admission, and at once took high rank in his
class. Knowledge came so easy to him, that he had plenty of leisure, and
I feared that his old vicious habits would break out again. Greatly did
I rejoice not to hear a single complaint of him during his first term.
But, alas! I found, when he returned home, that he had learned to drink
and gamble, and that the large sums of money I had sent him had been
squandered in carousals, and over the card table. Still he maintained
the first position in his class, and of that I was proud.

"I remonstrated against his vices. He admitted that there was some truth
in what I had heard, mixed up with a great deal of exaggeration; and
justified his conduct by saying that it was the fashion, and he could
not keep out of it if he would. His good health and naturally high
spirits did not appear to be in the least affected by dissipation, and I
gladly allowed myself to believe that many of the reports about him
were false.

"The next term was still more expensive; and I found out that the larger
portion of my heavy outlay went for liquor and gambling. Still he kept a
high grade in his class--taking the second rank instead of the first;
and the Faculty either were ignorant of his misconduct, or did not think
it worth punishing. Through his first, second, and third years at
college, these were his only vices. His constitution, though strong, was
gradually undermined; and, at the end of his junior year, he showed
unmistakable signs of bloating, became very irregular in his attendance
on recitations, and had sunk to be the fifteenth in his class. I had
hopes that he would pass through his fourth year safely, and get a
diploma. But, at the very beginning of that year, he kept drunk, and
absented himself from recitations for a fortnight, and, when called
before the Faculty for a mild reprimand, cursed them with the most
horrible oaths, defied them, and left their presence. They had no
choice but to expel him from the college; and, a week after, he was
brought home to me nearly dead with intoxication.

"A month's illness followed, which brought him almost to the grave.
Though, at the time, I prayed with all a father's love for his recovery,
I have since thought--- oh, how often!--that it would have been far
better for him to have died. But he was spared; and, having been
thoroughly frightened by his narrow escape from the effects of
drunkenness, he vowed, on his recovery, that he would never touch
another drop of liquor. This pledge he kept for some months after his
health was fully restored.

"Having decided to educate him for the law--the only profession that he
did not hold in contempt--I procured a place for him in the office of
Mulroy, Biggup & Lartimore, an excellent firm with whom I had had
some dealings.

"Myndert entered upon his study of the profession with such ardor, that
I was obliged to caution him against ruining his health. But he only
laughed, and said he wanted to make up for past follies. I had never
before seen him in a penitent mood, and I was delighted. Mr. Mulroy, who
has had a hundred pupils in his time, told me that he never had a more
promising one than Myndert. He was a regular and constant attendant at
the office, and spent all his evenings at home. The natural strength of
his constitution came to his aid, as if to encourage him in his efforts
to reform; and, notwithstanding his severe studies, he began to look in
better health than he had ever been. Thus things went on six whole
weeks, and I was happy, and busied myself in framing plans for my son's
advancement in life.

"He told me, one day, that he had joined a club of young law students,
who met every evening and discussed legal points, held mock courts, and
thus sought to familiarize themselves with the duties of their
profession; and asked me if I approved of it. He sought my approval so
rarely for anything, that I freely gave it, cautioning him again,
however, to be careful of his health. He laughed at my apprehensions.
But I was pained to see how soon my fears proved true. Within a
fortnight, the rosy color of his cheeks had disappeared, and his eyes
were palpably sunken, dull, and marked with a sickly blue beneath. He
never returned home till midnight, and sometimes was out till three
o'clock in the morning. I scolded him for devoting so much time to his
law club; but he said that the members were, like himself, enthusiastic
students, and that he was always the first to leave their fascinating
debates and mimic trials. A week later, I marked the familiar bloat in
his cheeks, and suspected the truth.

"Placing a watch upon his movements--no easy matter, for he is very
shrewd and cautious--I soon found out that the law club was a myth, and
that his nights were passed in the wildest debauchery. He had not only
resumed all his old vices, but had acquired new ones.

"When I reproved him, as I did with just indignation, he threw off the
mask of concealment, which he said he was tired of wearing, and became
the same bold, defiant, reckless boy that he always was; while I
continued to be the same weak, foolish, fond parent. I cannot recount
the tortures inflicted upon me by my son since that fatal discovery. He
has not only abandoned all his law studies (having been expelled from
the office of Mulroy, Biggup & Lartimore for grossly insulting a young
female client), and utterly ruined his own body and soul, but, by his
acts, he has brought shame upon several families.

"When this new series of outrages came to my knowledge, I threatened to
disinherit him. He laughed at me. He knew how I loved him for his
mother's sake, and, with that hold upon my affections, he defied me.

"To heartless indifference he gradually added insults, and often cursed
me, his own father, in this very room, where his mother has rocked his
cradle a thousand times while she listened to my reading of an old poem
or novel. The last of his crimes of which I have heard, was brought to
my knowledge about six weeks ago. It was a piece of treachery the most
villanous, and I told my son, in plain words, what I thought of it. I
was weak and nervous from an illness which is hereditary in my family,
and I reprimanded him with more severity than usual. I told him, that if
God, in His infinite mercy, spared him, yet he was not secure from just
punishment from the friends of those whom he had wronged, and that the
human vengeance, which had been so long postponed, would surely come. He
looked at me with malice in his small gray eyes (not his mother's eyes),
and, when I ceased speaking, raised both hands to heaven, and, with the
most horrible blasphemy, called down its curses upon me; and then he
swore, that if I crossed his path, or thwarted his plans, or refused him
money, he would kill me.

"Just before he uttered this monstrous threat, I sprang from my chair
with horror, and caught him imploringly by both hands. I would have
saved him from that dreadful act, but I was too late. I saw him wrench
away his right hand, and raise it to strike me back.... I knew no more,
until Mrs. Frump, my niece, who has had charge of my household during
the past three years, entered the room, and found me stretched
insensible on the floor."

"I saw a part of the sad scene," said Marcus Wilkeson, who had listened
with mingled indignation and compassion to this strange tale. "Your son
was standing by that window, and you were sitting near him, also within
sight of me. I distinctly saw you catch your son's hands with your own;
he wrenched the right one away, and raised it; then you fell, but he did
not strike you, or attempt to. As you dropped to the floor, he glanced
anxiously through the window, saw me watching him, and then pulled down
the curtain."

"Then he did not strike me to the floor! I never believed he did, for
there was no bruise or other mark upon my head. Thank God, my son was
spared the commission of that crime! Bad as he is, he would not strike
his own father." And the poor old gentleman's heart found meagre
comfort, for a moment, in that thought.

"A few words more, and I am done. The shock brought my disease to a
crisis. For over a month my recovery was doubtful. But my naturally
tough constitution, skilful medical attendance, and the unceasing care
of Mrs. Frump, brought me safely out of it. The devotion of that good,
light-hearted woman was truly affecting. She never left my bedside,
night or day, except for a few hours' rest; and even to-day, when, as
you see, I am well enough to sit up and talk, and, in fact, am perfectly
restored to health, it was only by almost pushing her into the street
that I could get her to go out for a day's shopping--a luxury which the
good soul had denied to herself during all my illness."

("I must tell Maltboy about this excellent woman," thought Marcus,)

"My son did not come near my sickbed, and I have not seen him since that
unhappy day. He has visited the house daily, and shut himself in his
room for several hours. How he occupies his time, I cannot imagine, but
am sure that it is only in studying or practising evil."

"Possibly I may throw some light on that mystery," said Marcus. "I have
seen him, from my convenient window, enter his room, day after day,
generally in the afternoon, sit down at his table, and write for over an
hour steadily."

"That is strange!" exclaimed the old gentleman. "He has given up the
study of law. He has no taste for literary labor. He writes a beautiful
hand, and would not waste time in trying to improve his penmanship. It
is singular, indeed."

"His work, whatever it is, does not seem to satisfy him; for I have
observed that he no sooner fills a page with writing, than he burns it
to ashes by the gas jet, which he always keeps faintly lighted above
his head."

"Some more villany, I am sure," said the old gentleman, with a deep
sigh. "We shall find it out by its terrible consequences, in due time.
He has plenty of leisure to cultivate his vices, but not a moment to
seek my forgiveness (which, God knows, I would freely grant, if he would
only ask it). He cannot even throw away a word upon Mrs. Frump, to find
out whether his own father is dead or alive."

The last thought gave acute pain to the wretched parent. Tears again
sprang to his eyes, and Marcus feared that he was about to witness that
saddest sight in nature--an old man weeping.

But, by an effort, Mr. Van Quintem stifled his emotion, and, turning
suddenly upon his visitor, cried, in a voice of despair:

"Tell me, sir, in Heaven's name, what _shall I_ do with my son?"



CHAPTER III.

THE YOUNG MONSTER.

From boyhood, it had been Marcus Wilkeson's fortune (or the reverse) to
attract confidence, and to be sought out for advice. And it had most
generally happened that he was requested to bestow the last valuable
article in cases where inexperience absolutely disqualified him from
giving it.

He had found, however, that, when people ask for advice, they expect to
receive it, although they reserve to themselves the right, and, in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, exercise the privilege, of
rejecting it.

But Marcus had gathered, from the old gentleman's story, that the error
of his dealings with the rebellious son lay in his constantly seeking
advice from everybody, and taking it, too, instead of adopting some
firm, consistent, and independent course of his own toward that unfilial
monster. Furthermore, Marcus knew that the son was already beyond the
reach of reform. For the future peace of his venerable friend, and for
the good of society, he could have conscientiously recommended
two things:

First, the immediate hanging of Myndert Van Quintem, jr. Second, his
imprisonment for life in a penitentiary warranted to be strong enough
to hold him.

Neither of these courses being practicable until that young man had
entitled himself to the benefit of one or the other of them in the
legitimate way, Marcus Wilkeson had nothing to offer, and so he told the
old gentleman.

Mr. Van Quintem was disappointed. He looked up wistfully, and said:

"Can't you suggest something?"

Thus appealed to, Marcus angled in the deep waters of his mind, and
fished up this inadequate idea:

"Let him travel a couple of years in Europe."

"I have proposed it," returned the old gentleman, "but he won't, unless
I give him five thousand dollars, and an unlimited letter of credit.
This I refused. Besides, to tell the truth, I do not wish to exile the
boy, but to reform him at home."

Marcus was too polite to say bluntly that that was impossible; so he
cast in his line again at random, and drew out this worthless
suggestion:

"Stop all his pocket money, and tell him plainly that you will
disinherit him unless he reforms."

"My dear sir," replied the old gentleman, "that might do with some sons,
but not with mine. He would obtain money by theft, or even a worse
crime, and bring disgrace upon my gray hairs. He might go even
farther--for he has threatened it, as I told you--and murder me in
revenge. Besides, he is on short allowance now. I give him only thirty
dollars a week--less than a quarter of what he used to receive from me.
Much as his conduct deserves punishment, I could not reduce him to
beggary, you know."

This useless discussion was cut short by the precipitate entrance of the
subject of it. Mr. Van Quintem was greatly surprised at the sudden
apparition, and his face exhibited signs first of astonishment, then of
indignation, then of pleasure, in quick succession. But before his
erring son Had advanced halfway toward the father's chair, the father
turned his head slightly away, as if not daring to trust himself to an
interview.

The son took one sharp survey of Marcus, and then slipped his right hand
insinuatingly in that of his father, which hung over an arm of the easy
chair. Mr. Van Quintem turned his face farther away, but Marcus observed
that his fingers closed upon the hand which lay within them.

"Are you quite well, my dear father?" asked the son, in a low, hollow
voice, not meant to be overheard by the visitor.

"I am, thanks to God, and the doctor, and my niece," said the father,
stealing a side look at his son.

"And no thanks to me, I know that. I feared, my dear father, after what
had occurred, that you could not bear the sight of me. Therefore I kept
away from your bedside."

"That is a lame excuse, Myndert," replied the father. He spoke in a
voice intended to be audible to Marcus Wilkeson.

A gleam in the son's sunken eyes, and a new pallor on his bloated
cheeks, indicated his displeasure at the turn which this conversation
was taking. He withdrew his hand, and said, in a deep whisper:

"I did not think you would quarrel with me, when I called to
congratulate you on your recovery."

Mr. Van Quintem wavered a moment. Then, looking at the calm face of
Marcus Wilkeson, as if to gather strength from it, he replied:

"My son, such language is not respectful to your father. You know, as
God knows, that I have been too indulgent with you."

The son coolly twirled the ends of his mustache--which protruded from
each side of his mouth like the antennae of a catfish--and gazed
impudently in his father's face. Then he turned about, and bestowed
another scornful, analyzing look on the tranquil Marcus.

"That is a friend of mine, Myndert, and I have no secrets from him. Mr.
Wilkeson--my son."

Marcus politely rose, and offered his hand to the young man, who
accepted it reluctantly.

"I have seen you before, I believe," said he. "Across the way, eh?"

"I dare say," was the reply. "I sometimes sit at the window, reading."

Myndert then abruptly faced his fatherland Marcus resumed his chair.

"Since you have no secrets from this gentleman," said the son, "allow me
to ask if you could conveniently spare five hundred dollars
this morning?"

The old gentleman hesitated; then reassured himself by an observation of
Marcus Wilkeson's face, and said:

"No, my son; I can no longer encourage this extravagance. Where is your
last monthly allowance?"

"Gone, of course," answered the son, in a loud and insolent tone. "Do
you expect to keep me on miserable driblets like that?"

"Thirty dollars a week, and board and lodging, are enough for any
reasonable young man, Myndert. I cannot give you more."

The son glared on his father and Marcus Wilkeson (holding the latter
chiefly responsible for the refusal) with amazement.

"Since you are obstinate, then, make it three hundred." The son had
often been able to obtain half or two thirds of what he originally
asked, as a compromise.

Again the old gentleman wavered; and it was not until he had looked
Marcus Wilkeson straight in the eye, that he answered, striking the arm
of the chair with his thin white hand:

"Not one cent!"

The tumid cheeks assumed a sicklier white, and the small, offensive eyes
sparkled with a fiercer fury, as the son replied:

"Very well, sir. Be as stingy as you please. Take the advice of your new
friend here, and cut off my beggarly monthly allowance, too. But
remember, I must have money, and I will have it!"

Had Marcus Wilkeson not been present, the father might have been brought
to terms by this vague but dreadful threat. But now he shook his head,
as an intimation that nothing could move him.

"You have taken your own course, sir," continued the son, through his
closed teeth. "I shall take mine. Don't forget my last words. As for
you, sir," turning to Marcus Wilkeson, "we shall probably meet again."

Marcus urbanely responded that nothing could give him greater pleasure.
The son, darting a last malignant look at his father, whose face was
happily averted, strode out of the room, slamming the door, and
afterward the street door, with increased emphasis.

When he had gone, the father said to his visitor, feebly:

"Have I done right?"

"Precisely. Your conduct was firm, prudent, and will have a good
effect."

"I hope so--I hope so. But don't you think, now, I was a little too
severe--to begin with, I mean? I fear that my son will be driven to
crime; and that would kill me."

"I regard his threats as only empty words," replied Marcus. He has found
them useful heretofore, and he tries them now. Having learned that they
do not longer frighten you, he will never employ them again. That is one
point gained. If he is really bad enough to commit a crime for money,
your misjudged kindness will not prevent him, but will rather encourage
his evil disposition."

"There is truth in what you say," replied the old gentleman, faintly;
"but I--I--fear."

The protracted conversation, and the suppressed agony of the past few
minutes, were too much for the old gentleman to bear on his first day of
convalescence. He suddenly turned very pale, and his head drooped.
Marcus threw open a window, and held the cordial to his lips. As Marcus
was applying this restorative, without any perceptible benefit, the door
opened, and Mrs. Frump ran in, red in the face, and quite out of breath.

"Excuse me, sir. I am Mrs. Frump, Mr. Van Quintem's niece."

"I am Mr. Wilkeson, a friend of Mr. Van Quintem," said Marcus, hastily
introducing himself; "and I am glad you are come."

"Yes, I see. Fainted away. Revive in a moment. Fresh air. Cordial, Quite
right. Now a little water on his forehead."

Mrs. Frump made her sentences short, to accommodate her breath.

As she passed a cool sponge across the patient's brow, she said:

"I knew it would be so. He has been here. I saw him round the corner.
Looking pale and mad."

"You are right, madam. He _has_ been here."

Mrs. Frump's pleasant little eyes shone with unnatural anger, and there
was a presage of wrathful words in her quivering lips. Mrs. Frump was
desperately trying to keep back certain private opinions that she had
long entertained, but proved unequal to the effort. She burst out with:

"He's an undutiful son, sir. A monster, sir. And he's killing his poor
father. He's--"

"Ah! what?" said Mr. Van Quintem, opening his eyes, and looking wildly
around, like one who wakes from a horrible dream.

"It's I. Your niece--Gusty," replied Mrs. Frump, changing her assumed
harsh tones into her natural soft ones "And I think you had better go to
bed. Please take hold, Mr. Wilkeson, and assist him to the next room."
She added, in a whisper, "Don't talk with him any more to-day."

Mr. Wilkeson nodded, raised his eyebrows to signify that he appreciated
the advice, and proceeded at once to aid Mrs. Frump in her benevolent
task. The old gentleman had considerably revived by this time.

"You are right, my dear Gusty," said he, looking fondly at his niece.
"You are always right. And you are right, too, sir," he added, turning
to Marcus. "Ah, if I had known such a good adviser years ago."

Marcus, remembering Mrs. Frump's injunction, made no answer to this
remark.

When the old gentleman had been led tottering into the adjacent parlor,
which was fitted up as his bedroom, and placed comfortably on a high
prop of pillows, Marcus drew out his watch, made an amiable pretence of
very important business down town, and bade his venerable friend
"good-by."

"I had hoped you could stay longer; for I feel that you are a true
friend, and I can confide my sorrows to you," murmured the old
gentleman, taking his guest fondly by the hand.

But Marcus, fortified by another significant look from Mrs. Frump,
declared that business was imperative, and he must go. He would call
to-morrow, without fail, and hoped to find his friend as cheerful as a
cricket. The old gentleman smiled at the absurdity of that hope, and
said he should depend on seeing him to-morrow.

So, shaking hands warmly with Mr. Van Quintem, and bowing most
respectfully to Mrs. Frump, Marcus took his departure, and meditated, as
he walked slowly home, on the strange occurrences of the day.



CHAPTER IV.

WESLEY TIFFLES.

One evening, shortly after the events narrated in the last chapter, the
three bachelors, having finished dinner, and escaped from the grim
presence of Miss Philomela Wilkeson, took their accustomed seats and
pipes in the little back parlor. The curtains were drawn, the gas was
lighted, the fire burning brightly, and, upon these outward tokens of
cheer, the three bachelors reflected contentment and happiness from
their six eyes. In his own opinion, each of the three had unlimited
cause to be happy; and not even that killjoy of the household, Miss
Wilkeson, could mar the completeness of their felicity--when she was
not present.

Fayette Overtop was blessed with the thought, that in Mrs. Slapman he
had found, at last, that rare bird for which he had patiently hunted
through the valleys and uplands of society--"a sensible woman." The
intellectual sympathy which was enkindled between them on the memorable
occasion of their first meeting, had grown warmer at each successive
interview--first at a supper party, second at a _conversazione_, and
third at a private theatrical and musical entertainment, to all of which
Mr. Overtop had been invited, with the particular compliments of the
liberal hostess.

During this pleasant acquaintance, Mr. Overtop had made the
extraordinary discovery that Mrs. Slapman was married, and that the thin
little man whom he saw dodging up the stairs on New Year's day was
her husband.

It would be difficult to explain, on behalf of Mr. Overtop, a phenomenon
which Mr. Overtop was never able to explain to the satisfaction of the
gossip-loving public, or of his best friends. We therefore content
ourselves with merely stating the fact, that Mr. Overtop's admiration
for Mrs. Slapman was purely intellectual; that he was fascinated by her
vivacious intellect, and not by her substantial person; by the charm of
her manners, and not of her face. He looked upon Mrs. Slapman as a
masculine mind and soul, of uncommon depth, made powerfully magnetic by
its enshrinement in a feminine form. Overtop once told Matthew Maltboy,
that he knew, in his own experience, the meaning of Platonic love. But
Matthew, who was a sad materialist even in his sentimental moods,
laughed at him, and winked. Overtop positively felt hurt at this unkind
reception of his confidences, and never again alluded to the state of
his feelings toward Mrs. Slapman, until subsequent occurrences made it
necessary in self-defence.

With Mr. Slapman he was not personally acquainted; but he had
ascertained privately, from a musical frequenter of the house, who
invariably brought his flute with him, and who was understood to be the
oldest friend of the family, that Mr. Slapman owned a large property in
wild land in Pennsylvania, not a hundred miles from New York; that he
was improving it, and selling it out in building lots, and had already
cleared a handsome fortune; that he was a strict business man, and
looked after his affairs in person, passing between New York and
Slapmansville (the name of the new settlement) twice a week, and
spending the larger part of his time at the latter place. Also that,
next to avarice, which was his crowning trait, his chief fault was
jealousy. It galled him to think that his wife had obtained a settlement
in bank from him before marriage, which enabled her to indulge her
tastes for society; and it enraged him still more to observe how much
she was loved and admired by others, when he had purchased her
exclusively for his private love and admiration. He it was who was to be
sometimes seen stalking through the parlors with a pale face, or running
up and down the front staircase in a state of great nervous agitation.
None of Mrs. Slapman's visitors had the pleasure of his personal
acquaintance; and it was considered a point of good breeding not to
allude to him in her presence.

For this misguided man Fayette Overtop felt a real pity. He yearned to
expostulate with him gently, as a friend. Taking Mr. Slapman's hand in
his own, he would have said:

"Your wife is a precious gift to the world. Seek not to check the
outflow of her ardent nature. Thank Heaven that you are the custodian of
such a treasure, not to be selfishly monopolized by yourself, but held
in trust for the benefit of society."

Overtop's meditations, on this particular occasion, pertained to the
style of the costume which would most become him as the lover of Mrs.
Slapman, in an original play to be enacted at her house toward the close
of the week. The question was chiefly of knee breeches. Overtop was
mentally debating whether he ought not, in justice to his thin legs, to
substitute an ampler style of integuments.

Matthew Maltboy had also been invited to this _soirée dramatique_ (as
Mrs. Slapman's large pasteboards expressed it). A fat man was a
necessity of the play. Mrs. Slapman was not cordial to Matthew,
regarding him as an excessively commonplace person, and had invited him
to her social gatherings out of courtesy to Overtop; but her artist eye
saw in him a fitness for the fat man. Matthew was delighted with the
implied compliment to those talents for the stage which every man
supposes himself to possess in some degree, and cheerfully undertook
the part.

The proprieties of costume did not in the least perplex Mr. Maltboy, as
he lay on the sofa digesting his dinner, and puffing out smoke rings by
the dozen. His thoughts were mildly fixed on that delightful Miss
Whedell. Five times he had been graciously permitted to visit the lady
at her house, and to discover a score of new charms at each interview. A
large experience in love making assured him that the object of his
idolatry was not wholly indifferent to him. The paternal Whedell had
hobbies. Matthew had studied them, like a skilful strategist, catered to
them, and felt quite sure that he had that revered individual on his
side. But, in the midst of these pleasant imaginings, there rose the
dark and baleful image of Chiffield!

Marcus Wilkeson was also pondering--pleasantly, if one might judge from
the contented smile upon his lips. The subject of his thoughts was one
which, for reasons that seemed good to him, he still kept secret from
his fellow bachelors. He had freely told them of his singular adventure
at the house of the old gentleman opposite; but not a word of the
inventor and his daughter, and of the private school at Miss Pillbody's.
Not even the minute and sometimes tedious accounts which Overtop and
Maltboy gave of their private thoughts and experiences, could induce
Marcus to reciprocate their confidence. For the first time in his life
he wore a mask before his companions, and prevaricated, and became, on a
small scale, a humbug.

The sharp ringing of the doorbell broke in upon the quiet reflections of
the three bachelors. Mash, the cook, who was at that moment reading the
fifteenth chapter of "The Buttery and the Boudoir: A Tale of Real Life,"
in her favorite weekly, threw down the paper in a passion, bounded up
stairs, and admitted John Wesley Tiffles, or Wesley Tiffles, as he
always subscribed himself on promissory notes and other worthless paper.
Mr. Tiffles chucked Mash familiarly under the chin (resented with a
scornful look by Mash, who had learned from "The Buttery and the
Boudoir" to set a proper value on herself), and then walked straight to
the parlor, like one who knew he was a welcome guest.

And he was right. For when he opened the door, and disclosed to the
three bachelors the well-known laughing eyes, hopeful face, and spare
figure of Wesley Tiffles, they hailed him with enthusiasm. He was a
walking cure for despondency, although he sometimes charged too high, in
the shape of borrowed money, for his professional services. But neither
of the three bachelors had yet sustained that pecuniary tax which Wesley
Tiffles always levied upon his friends, just before leaving them
forever. They formed a part of his reserve corps, which had latterly
been sadly thinned out in Mr. Tiffles's desperate contest with
the world.

Mr. Tiffles shook hands with Marcus Wilkeson, giving him the grip of
some unknown Order, slapped Overtop on the back, and playfully pulled
the whiskers of Maltboy. Then he filled a pipe, threw himself into a
chair, adjusted his legs in the true form of a compass, and opened his
coat ostentatiously. All this in about ten seconds, and with a geniality
that defied reproof. He was the very embodiment of cheer.

"Prepare to be astonished," said Mr. Tiffles, after his third whiff. "I
have a splendid idea." The three bachelors smiled, and nodded an
intimation that they were prepared,

"I have had some impracticable notions in my time; but this _is_ good,
and you'll say so. You know that dog, Mark, two doors below--the large
yellow one, with cropped ears, and a tail like the handle of a
shaving brush?"

Mr. Wilkeson replied that he had the pleasure of the animal's
acquaintance,

"Well, as I was passing the dog's house on my way here, I slipped in the
snow. The dog, always on the alert for victims, took a mean advantage of
my situation, and jumped after me through the open gate. I scrambled to
my feet, but not before he had fastened his teeth in my right leg----"

"Good heavens! was he mad?" cried Overtop, who had a horror of dogs, and
made wide circuits about them in the street.

"Can't say as to that," replied Wesley Tiffles, "but advise you to keep
shy of him for the future, I was about to say that he bit me through the
leg of my trowsers. And on that very instant, as if by inspiration, I
caught--not the hydrophobia, but a magnificent idea. Having got on my
pins, I kicked the dog into his front yard, and immediately worked the
idea into shape. You'll be sure to like it."

Marcus Wilkeson, speaking for self and friends, said he had no doubt of
that. Mr. Tiffles's ideas always possessed the merit of novelty.

"That means that they have no other merit!" returned Tiffles, laughing,
"Very true of most of them, I confess all my failures. But here is an
idea which even you, skeptic as you are, will grant to be not only
novel, but great. You have all observed, gentlemen, the immense
differences in dogs. There are white, black, brown, gray, yellow (like
our suggestive canine friend two doors below), tan-colored,
mouse-colored, striped, and spotted dogs. There are round dogs, square
dogs, long dogs, short dogs, tall dogs, and low dogs. There are
full-grown dogs that weigh less than a pound, and others that kick the
beam at a hundred pounds. There are dogs that are pretty much all tail,
and there are dogs that have no tail to speak of. Among all the dogs
that you meet in the street, do you ever see two exactly alike?"

Fayette Overtop, who spoke from extensive and minute observation,
unhesitatingly said "No."

"True! Nature never repeats herself in dogs. In so doing, Nature works
directly for my benefit, as I will show you. Now, in the second place,
as you are probably aware, there is an ordinance forbidding unmuzzled
dogs to run in the streets during the hot months--"

"An excellent law," interrupted Overtop.

"If caught at large without muzzles, they are taken to the public pound,
and, unless redeemed by the owners within twenty-four hours, are drowned
in a tub--"

"Serve 'em right," remarked the hydrophobiac bachelor.

"Now, I am _slightly_ acquainted with some members of the Common
Council" (he laid emphasis on the word "slightly," to imply that he was
on terms of the closest intimacy with them), "and can easily obtain from
them the privilege of catching all the stray dogs, and taking them out
of the country next summer."

"Which would be very benevolent to the dogs; and, regarded from their
point of view, your idea is a noble one," thoughtfully observed Marcus
Wilkeson. "But I don't, at this moment, exactly see how you are
benefited by it."

Mr. Tiffles smiled with the consciousness of power, and chidingly said:

"You are dull this morning, Mark--quite dull. Strike, but hear! In a
word, then, I propose to exhibit two or three hundred of these dogs, in
some country where there are _no_ dogs. I would give them strange names,
put them in cages, and call them the 'American Menagerie of Trained
Animals.' A person who had never seen dogs, would suppose each one to be
a different species from the others--just as the lion, the tiger, and
the leopard are different, though all belonging to the one cat family.
Now, there is my idea. What do you think of it? Of course, you laugh,
at first."

Roars of laughter from the three bachelors had formed the chorus of
"Wesley Tiffles's closing sentences. Marcus Wilkeson, as became his age,
was the first to recover himself.

"The idea is a splendid one. None better. But there is one slight
difficulty in the way. Where are you to find your country that has no
dogs? If there were such a happy land on the face of this earth, Overtop
would have hunted it up long ago, and moved there."

Overtop laughingly replied, "That's so." He then informed Mr. Tiffles,
while admitting the theoretical excellence of his idea, that every
nation had its dogs as well as its fleas. Those two friends of man were
impartially distributed over the terrestrial globe. Overtop referred to
the standard Cyclopaedias, and several works on Natural History, in
proof of his assertion.

"Can't be! can't be!" retorted Wesley Tiffles, who was at first disposed
to defend his brilliant idea. But brilliant ideas were a common growth
of his fertile mind, and, like all things easily produced, he held them
cheaply. The moment that evidence, or the test of practice, showed them
to be fallacious, he gave them up, and drew upon his brain for others.
So, after a second's reflection, he added:

"Perhaps you are right. Dogs are not exactly in my line, after all. But
the idea, as an idea, was magnificent."

As Wesley Tiffles spoke, he repeated the act, for the twentieth time, of
throwing back his overcoat (a little seedy), and opening his vest, as if
to draw attention to his shirt front, whose natural whiteness was toned
down by a delicate neutral tint. Immediately afterward, he placed his
hand on a small breastpin in the centre of the shirt front, and turned
it to the right and left. It sparkled for the first time in the rays of
the fire, and revealed to the experienced eyes of the three bachelors
simultaneously, that Wesley Tiffles was the wearer of a real diamond.

"Excuse me," said Marcus Wilkeson, who divined that Tiffles wished his
diamond to be remarked upon, "but that is pretty!"

"Pretty! What?" said Tiffles, looking about the room.

"That diamond."

"Oh! the diamond. Perhaps you would like to look at it?" (hands it round
for inspection). "Cost forty dollars. Rather a hard draw on my
exchequer" (that was Mr. Tiffles's word for a friend's pocket); "but I
considered it a most judicious investment for a young man just going
into business."

The novelty of this idea was not lost on Fayette Overtop. "Pray explain,
Tiffles," said he.

"Cheerfully," said Tiffles, replacing the gem in his shirt front, after
it had been duly handled and admired. "Nobody will acknowledge that he
is taken in by a diamond. He will say, 'Anybody can buy a diamond, by
saving up thirty or forty dollars; and why should I believe a man to be
rich who wears one?' Yet, in his heart of hearts, he does believe it,
unless the possessor of the diamond has the bad taste to dress flashily.
Then he passes for an impostor, and people will doubt, even against
their own senses, the genuineness of the stone. But let him dress
plainly, as I do," continued Mr. Tiffles, stroking down the left leg of
his black trowsers, shiny with wear, "and that little diamond shall
stand, in the eyes of the whole world, as the representative of a fat
bank account, a brown stone house, and a couple of corner lots."

Marcus and Matthew laughed, but Fayette Overtop, who absolutely revelled
in paradoxes, said, "True, Tiffles, true!"

"Don't think," pursued Tiffles, "that I expected to impose on you with
it. You know that I am a poor devil, living on my wits." (Tiffles was
delightfully frank with his intimate acquaintances.) "I hold out this
glittering bait, not for my friends, but for my old foe and natural
enemy, the world. You must know that I am on the eve of a grand
speculation--probably the grandest I have ever undertaken."

"Another plan of advertising with large kites by day, and pictorial
lanterns attached to their tails at night?" asked Marcus Wilkeson.

"Or another Submarine Pneumatic Parcel-Delivering Tube to Brooklyn?"
asked Matthew Maltboy.

"Or an Association for the Cultivation of Mushrooms in Dark Cellars?"
asked Fayette Overtop.

"Capital hits!" replied Wesley Tiffles, who took an unfeigned delight in
a friendly allusion to his failures. "But allow me to inform you
definitely, that those unfortunate speculations are not to be revived.
Like the lightning, I don't strike twice in the same place. No; the
project upon which I am now engaged is one so eminently practical, so
free from all that is visionary, that you will wonder how I thought of
it. That project is a PANORAMA OF AFRICA!"



CHAPTER V.

THE PANORAMA OF AFRICA

The three bachelors concurred in the opinion that the idea was a good
one; but Marcus Wilkeson suggested that the field was too large.

"I thought you would like the general proposition," said Tiffles. "But,
bless you, Mark! I don't mean to paint the whole continent, from stem to
stern, so to speak; only the undiscovered part of Central Africa--say
from Cape Guardafui on the east to the Bight of Benin on the west."

"But how the deuce," asked Matthew Maltboy, "are you, or anybody else,
going to paint what has not been discovered?"

Tiffles could hardly suppress a smile at the simplicity of the question.
"Why," said he, "that's easy enough. Don't all the geographers tell us
that the interior of Africa is made up, so far as known, of alternate
deserts and jungles, like the patches on a coverlet? Very well. I
conform to this general principle of the continent. I put half of the
canvas in desert, and the rest in jungle, and I can't be far out of the
way. Take the idea?"

"Perfectly," said Matthew Maltboy; "but if you have nothing but
alternate, deserts and jungles, it strikes me your panorama will be a
little monotonous. Perhaps I am wrong." (Maltboy always offered
suggestions timidly.)

"I have thought of that, and guarded against it. I shall fill the
jungles with animated life--elephants, lions, tigers, panthers,
leopards, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles,
boa constrictors, and other specimens of natural history indigenous to
that delightful region."

"Good!" cried Overtop; "and if you will take a hint from me, you will
show your elephants in the act of being caught by natives, or engaged in
combats with each other; your lions fighting your tigers or your
rhinoceroses; your hippopotamuses engaged in death struggles with your
crocodiles; and your boa constrictors gobbling down your natives--or, if
that is objectionable on the score of humanity, your monkeys."

"Thank you for the hint; but the expense, and the necessity of
completing the panorama at an early day, put it out of the question. To
paint accurate representations of these animals engaged in their
innocent sports, would occupy the time of a first-class artist for
months, and cost an enormous sum."

"Ah, I see," interrupted Overtop, who liked to show that he snatched the
meaning; "you will put your animals in recumbent attitudes--sleeping,
perhaps, in the depth of jungles, shaded from the fierce rays of the
equatorial sun."

"You have guessed it," said Tiffles, with a broad smile. "Most of them
will be just there--out of sight. The others will be suggested rather
than introduced. Elephants will be signified by their trunks appearing
above the tops of the dense undergrowth. Lions, tigers, and other
quadrupeds, by the tips of their tails. A boa constrictor will be
expressed by a head, a coil, and a bit of tail showing at intervals. The
one horn of the rhinoceros will always tell where _he_ is. I shall have
two small lakes (they are scarce in Africa) for my hippopotamuses and
crocodiles. If they exhibit only small portions of their heads above the
surface, that is not my fault. It is the nature of the beasts,
you know."

"Ha! ha! That is what I call Art concealing Art," said Overtop.

"So it is," returned Tiffles; "and it will be appreciated, I doubt not,
by those who affect the school of Severe Simplicity in painting."

"One thing more," said Marcus Wilkeson. "Do you intend to take the
panorama through the country, and lecture on it?"

"I do. And here let me say, that I read up the law of false pretences
long ago. I shall style myself Professor Wesley on the bills. That I
have a right to do, as my full name doesn't look well in type. Actors
and singers do the same thing every day. I shall call myself a great
traveller. This is strictly true. I have been North to Boston, West to
Detroit, and South to Baltimore. I shall not say that I have been in
Africa, or that the sketches were taken on the spot. If my audience
choose to infer _that_, that is their business. If any one doubts the
accuracy of my panorama, I can say triumphantly, 'Prove it!'"

"Excellent, but a little risky," said Marcus Wilkeson, who could not
help admiring the audacity of the plan. "Your next great difficulty will
be to satisfy audiences after you have got them together, as I dare say
you will, by some brilliant system of advertising. I have heard--perhaps
you have--of audiences breaking furniture, smashing chandeliers, and
tarring and feathering people."

"All that has been thought of," was the reply. "Before I leave the city,
I shall give a private exhibition of the panorama to a few ministers of
various denominations, in the lecture room of some up-town church.
Ministers, you know, are debarred by their profession from attending the
opera and theatres, and will catch at the chance to see a panorama for
nothing. In private life, they are capital people, as a class--I have
known several of them--and will willingly certify that the panorama is a
highly moral, instructive, and interesting exhibition. I think I can
rely on my persuasive powers for that much. These certificates I shall
print on my posters and handbills. They will draw moral audiences. Moral
audiences do not break furniture, &c., &c. Comprehend my line of
argument?"

"Perfectly," said Marcus; "and very ingenious, _as_ an argument."

"I thought you would like it. And now, to drop the subject, I want you
three fellows to come up to my rooms, No. 121, third floor, Bartholomew
Buildings, Broadway--you remember--and see this great work of art, early
next week."

"Is it nearly finished?" asked Marcus.

"Yes--in my mind's eye. That is the main thing. The painting has not yet
been begun. It will be a very simple matter. The canvas will be about
four hundred feet long. One half of it will be a dead level of yellow
paint, for desert; and the rest, perpendicular stripes of green paint,
for jungle. A good artist, with a whitewash brush and two tubsful of
paint, ought to do up the whole panorama in two days. The heads and
tails of animated life, the two small lakes, and a few other objects of
interest, such as the sun, the moon, birds flying in the air, &c., could
be put in afterward by an artist of higher grade. And, by the way, now I
think of it, I may as well open with a sunrise off Cape Guardafui, and a
distant view of the Straits of Babel Mandel, give a passing glance at
the sources of the Nile, which lie in that undiscovered region, a brief
glimpse at the Mountains of the Moon, and wind up with a splendid sunset
in the Bight of Benin. It--"

Mr. Tiffles's observations were cut short by the sudden entrance of Miss
Philomela Wilkeson. She shot rapidly into the room, but, when her eyes
rested on Mr. Tiffles, she recoiled with maiden modesty, and stepped
back as if to beat a retreat. Then, recovering her self-possession in a
small measure, she stepped forward again, and said, in the blandest of
tones, with just the least virgin coyness:

"I thought perhaps I had left my scissors here this afternoon."

Messrs. Wilkeson, Overtop, and Maltboy asserted, without rising from
their seats, that they had not seen her scissors, and doubted very much
whether the scissors were in that room. But Wesley Tiffles, who was the
most polite and obliging of mortals when there was a lady in the case,
rose respectfully upon her entrance, and insisted upon searching the
apartment for the missing tool.

Miss Wilkeson, thus being placed under obligations to Mr. Tiffles, was
compelled to take personal cognizance of him, which she did with the
nearest approach to a blush that she was ever known to make. "I beg,
sir, that you will not trouble yourself. I--I do not think the scissors
are here, after all."

"That can be ascertained only by searching, miss," replied Tiffles. Then
he glided about the room in his own nimble fashion, looking behind the
two vases on the mantelpiece, raking over the littered burden of the
table in the corner, and peering and poking into every place where there
was the least likelihood of finding a stray pair of scissors; Miss
Wilkeson all the while deprecating any further search.

Mr. Tiffles suddenly stopped, like a dragonfly in the midst of his
angular dartings, and said: "Since your scissors are not to be found, it
is fortunate that I have a pocket pair, which are always at your
service." Mr. Tiffles produced the ill-omened article, and handed it to
her. This called out a new lot of thanks, regrets for having troubled
him, apologies, and a peremptory refusal to take his scissors,
immediately followed by their acceptance, and a promise that she would
take the best care of them, and return them to the owner on his
next visit.

Then was the auspicious moment for Miss Wilkeson to have retired with
dignity; but she stood at the door, twirling the fatal scissors in her
hand, and waiting either to say something which did not come
spontaneously, or to have something said to her.

Marcus Wilkeson saw a subtle motive in this awkward tarrying at the
door, and, having no objection to gratifying it, he straightway
introduced Mr. Wesley Tiffles to Miss Philomela Wilkeson. Mr. Tiffles
put himself into the form of an L, like a professional acrobat; and Miss
Wilkeson executed a courtesy in the old, exploded style. Then, as if
appalled at what she had done, she backed into the entry as fast as she
had come from it.

Mr. Tiffles, upon whom the small events of life made no impression,
thought no more of Miss Wilkeson that evening, but smoked three pipes,
told two funny stories, sang one comic song, and then went home, having
previously exacted from the three bachelors a promise to call at his
rooms and see at least one half of the panorama completed, on the
following day week.

Since Miss Wilkeson had been an inmate of that house, she had seen
Wesley Tiffles perhaps a dozen times, in the entry or on the doorsteps,
and had been impressed with his gentlemanlike air, his quick black eyes,
and his deferential manner toward her. Everybody is supposed to have a
realized ideal somewhere, if he or she could only find it. Such was
Wesley Tiffles to Philomela Wilkeson. Let it be confessed at once. The
lost scissors were all the time quietly resting at the bottom of Miss
Wilkeson's workbag, and she knew it. The prevalent frailty of human
nature must be her excuse.

She had-obtained not only an introduction to Wesley Tiffles, but a pair
of scissors which must be returned to him, and were therefore a bond of
friendship. But Miss Wilkeson forgot the fatality which the proverb
attaches to gifts or loans of that particular article of cutlery.



BOOK FIFTH.

MANOEUVRES.



CHAPTER I.

STOLEN--MOKE THAN A PURSE.

One morning, as Marcus Wilkeson was idly turning the pages of a
blue-and-gold favorite, the doorbell rang. In accordance with some
mysterious law of acoustics, the sound was full three minutes descending
the kitchen staircase, entering the keyhole of the kitchen door, and
striking on the tympanum of Mash, the cook, who was sitting by the fire,
reading the twenty-fifth chapter of "The Buttery and the Boudoir: A Tale
of Real Life." When Mash became fully conscious (which was not till the
end of the chapter) that the bell had rung, she expelled a sigh from her
fat chest, and wiped the tears from her eyes with the end of her clean
apron, and then went to the door with a noble resignation to her lot.
There she found a stout elderly woman, bearing a note for "Marcus
Wilkeson, Esq."

"Lor'! how slow you are!" said the stout woman, handing the letter to
her.

Mash, who had read, in the twenty-third chapter, of the overwhelming way
in which the heroine cook had answered an insult by dignified silence,
said not a word in reply, but took the note, and slammed the door in the
stout woman's face.

The exclamation "Bah!" and certain indistinct mutterings which were
audible through the panels, convinced Mash that, by her self-denial, she
had won a moral victory. It was with a feeling of excusable pride that
she walked into the back parlor, and delivered the note to
Marcus Wilkeson.

"Thank you, Mash," said he. It was a singular illustration of his
excessive politeness, that he was no less grateful for paid services
than for free.

Mash retired, thinking to herself that, if Mr. Wilkeson were only a
pirate, a smuggler, a guerilla chieftain, or a dashing fellow in some
unlawful, dangerous business, a few years younger, he would be a
perfect hero.

Marcus did not recognize the handwriting of the address. Tearing open
the envelope, he read the following lines, hastily scrawled on a bit of
blue paper:

     Wednesday, A.M.

     MARCUS WILKESON, ESQ.:

     SIR: Please come over and see me immediately. I have
     something important to communicate.

     Your obedient servant,

     ELIPHALET MINFORD."

"Something must be wrong," said Marcus; and startling thoughts then
occurred to him. "Has her hard studying brought on illness? It can't be.
She was well enough last evening. What can be the matter?"

Marcus Wilkeson's temperament was of that unfortunate nervous sort which
is thrown off its balance by the slightest shock. His frame trembled as
he put on his overcoat and hat; and, when he looked in the mirror, he
noticed that his face was paler than usual, and his eyes were glassy.
"Pooh! what a sensitive fool I am!" said he.

He walked hurriedly to Mr. Minford's, and mounted the long, creaking
staircases, two steps at a time, tormenting himself all the way with
vague apprehensions of evil.

When he entered the room, without knocking (as was his custom of late),
he found the inventor standing in front of his machine, with bare arms,
hard at work. Marcus nervously said, "Good morning," and stepped forward
to shake him by the hand, but stopped when he saw that Mr. Minford
averted his face, and did not move.

"I wished to show you a letter which I received a few minutes ago," said
the inventor, still not facing Marcus, but busily filing off the rough
edge of a brass wheel fresh from the mould. "There it is, on the table."

Marcus caught up the letter, and read the following:

     NEW YORK, Wednesday Forenoon.

     MR. MINFORD:

     RESPECTED SIR: Allow a true friend and well wisher to ask a
     few questions. Who is this Mr. Marcus Wilkeson that has
     suddenly taken such an interest in your family affairs? What
     is his private history? Why is he relieving you from all
     trouble and expense in the education of your beautiful child?
     What are the man's _real_ motives? Would it not be well to
     spare your eyes from your invention long enough to look into
     these matters a little? Pardon the suggestion. The office of
     a spy, and a secret accuser, is an unpleasant, and, perhaps,
     a thankless one. I should never have assumed it, but for the
     fact that your ardent devotion to science may render you the
     easy dupe--and your daughter the innocent victim--of a
     designing and heartless man of the world. I do not ask you to
     believe the writer of an anonymous note, and therefore I make
     no specific charges against this Wilkeson; but merely ask you
     to inquire into his private character, and, above all, his
     MOTIVES, for yourself.

     ONE OF MANY.

Though Marcus Wilkeson was as innocent as a child, in deed and thought,
of the baseness hinted at in this letter, he felt that he was looking
guilty. Astonishment and indignation kindled in his eyes; but a flush of
shame mounted at the same time to his cheeks. Marcus had often said,
that if he were tapped on the shoulder in the street, and charged with a
petty theft, he would look guilty of grand larceny until he could regain
command of his feelings. This diseased sensitiveness, inherited from his
mother, was the curse of his physical and mental organization.

His shame was increased by a consciousness that the inventor was
stealthily watching him, and studying the enlargement of those horrid
red spots on his cheeks.

"When Marcus finished the letter, he put on an expression of outraged
innocence--which matched poorly with the flaming tokens of
guilt--and said:

"These are infernal lies, sir; and, if I knew the coward who wrote them,
I would cram them down his throat."

"Of course they are lies," returned Mr. Minford. "Every anonymous letter
writer is a liar--until it is proved that he tells the truth. I shall
believe none of these low aspersions on your honor, Mr. Wilkeson,
without conclusive evidence." As the inventor said this, not
emphatically, Marcus saw that he believed all that the letter had
insinuated.

By this time, Marcus had got his constitutional devil a little under
control. There was something of real boldness and honesty in his eyes,
as he answered:

"This is a distressing subject to talk or think of. But now that it has
been brought before us, I demand a full investigation. Go, wherever you
will, among those who know me, and inquire into my character. Recall
everything that has occurred between us since the beginning of our
acquaintance. Ask your daughter if I have ever spoken a word to her, or
cast a look at her, which could justify these infamous insinuations.
Thus much I ask of you, in justice to me."

"And I refuse, sir," said the inventor. "I will not insult you by an
unworthy suspicion. The world is full of impertinent people, and we can
no more stop their gabble, than that of swallows in the air. This
nameless fellow signs himself 'One of Many,' That is probably a lie. But
if there were thousands like himself prying into your and my affairs, I
should not care. As for motives, none but fools and misanthropes trouble
themselves about _them_."

The inventor tossed off the last sentence contemptuously. But Marcus
knew that he did attach a great importance to motives; although he could
not fairly be ranked either among the misanthropes or the fools. He
therefore replied:

"The whole world is welcome to inquire into my motives. As I understand
them, they are: First, I take pleasure in your society, sir, because,
like myself, you are a quiet, thinking man. Second, you have a
hobby--your machine, there--and I admire people with hobbies. Third, I
am fond of children, and--and--your daughter is a very pleasant,
intelligent child. Fourth, you have insisted on selling me an interest
in your invention, in return for a small loan, and that fact would draw
me here, if nothing else did. These are motives enough to satisfy the
most inquisitive mind, I should think."

Marcus said this with an attempt at a light laugh. But there was one
motive not yet confessed--a motive which could hardly be called a
motive, for it lay dim and half-formed within his brain. He had never,
in his moments of self-inquisition, acknowledged its existence to
himself. How could he, then, venture to disclose it to another? It was
the suppression of this immature motive, that brought back that look of
deceit and guilt to Marcus Wilkeson's ingenuous face.

This unfortunate physiognomical revelation was not lost upon the keen
eyes of the inventor. But he said:

"Mr. Wilkeson, let us not say another word on this ridiculous subject. I
am ashamed of myself for showing you the letter. I ought to have thrown
it into the fire."

"There I differ with you, my dear sir," said Marcus. "You did perfectly
right, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to define my
position here clearly, once and for all." Marcus could not avoid saying
this much in mere civility to the inventor, but he indulged the private
opinion that that gentleman should have burned the anonymous note.

"Who can have written this scoundrelly thing?" continued Marcus,
turning over the letter, and then the envelope, for the twentieth time
each, and minutely examining them.

The note was written on a half sheet of common letter paper. The
manufacturer's stamp in the corner had been cut off, and the size of the
half sheet further diminished by paring down one of the sides. The
writing was what is known as "backhanded," in strokes which appeared at
first sight to be of a uniform lightness. On inspecting it very closely,
Marcus discovered a tendency, in this backhanded penmanship, to ascend
from the line; and also that, in a few instances, the downward strokes
on certain long letters were a trifle thicker than on others. That the
writing was a man's, Marcus had no doubt, though he would have been
puzzled to give the reasons which led him to that conclusion. The
envelope was the ordinary prepaid-stamped one issued by the Government,
and therefore could not contribute to the identification of the
anonymous writer. The superscription was in the same backhand, and was
peculiar in nothing but a small curved nourish, like Hogarth's line of
beauty, beneath the words, "New York. City."

"The rascal has carefully disguised his hand," said Marcus, "and does
not mean to be found out. I can say nothing more positive, than that it
is written by somebody who has never corresponded with me. My memory of
autographs happens to be pretty tenacious."

"And I am positive that it is written by no acquaintance of mine, or of
my daughter's, for we have none--except you. As the case now stands, it
is a mystery, not worth the exploring."

"Again I differ with you," said Marcus. "Whoever wrote this false
letter, has powerful motives of hostility to me or you, or,
perhaps--worse still--to your daughter. I must try to smoke him out of
his hiding place. Meanwhile, I trust, sir, you will see the propriety of
concealing this unpleasant matter from Miss Minford."

"Certainly, Mr. Wilkeson, certainly. As for myself, it is forever
dismissed from my mind; and I cannot blame myself sufficiently for
having troubled you with it." Mr. Minford here proffered his hand, which
Marcus cordially shook, rejoicing to observe no trace of suspicion in
the inventor's clear gray eyes.

"Allow me to retain this letter for the present," asked Marcus. "It may
serve as a clue to the detection of the concealed scoundrel. I also beg
that you will show me any other anonymous letters of the same character
that may reach you."

Mr. Minford laughed. "The stove door is the pigeonhole where all such
nonsense ought to be filed away. But just as you please. If any more
come to hand, you shall see them. They may amuse you, as they do me.
Ha! ha!"

Marcus echoed the laugh, but feebly. Then it occurred to him that Pet
would soon be home, and he felt a strange aversion to meeting her, after
what had happened. He therefore pleaded a pressing engagement at eleven
o'clock (which it then was), and took his departure from the inventor's
roof, but not without a warm and seemingly sincere invitation to
"call soon."



CHAPTER II.

CONSOLATIONS OF HIGH ART.

Marcus walked slowly toward Broadway, musing and unhappy. To a man of
his delicate and hyper-sensitive nature, an event of this kind was a
vast disturbance. He felt that this anonymous letter was but the
forerunner of a long series of troubles. That prescience which nervous
people have of misfortunes portrayed to him a future black with
disappointments and dangers.

"Hallo, Mark! What's the matter? You look as sad as a low comedian by
daylight!" Previous to this salutation came a ringing slap on the
left shoulder.

Marcus rather liked familiarities; but the slap, coming on him when his
nerves were unstrung, startled him. He turned sharply; but the stern
and indignant face wreathed into amiable smiles, when he saw that the
lively gentleman behind him was only Wesley Tiffles. Everybody liked
Wesley Tiffles; even those who bore the burden of his unlucky financial
schemes uniting in cheerful testimony to his charming, companionable
qualities. His presence was like a ray of sunlight to Marcus Wilkeson's
beclouded mind; and when Wesley Tiffles hooked an arm in his (as he did
to everybody on the second day of their acquaintance), Marcus felt his
perplexities passing away from him, like electricity on a
conducting rod.

Wesley Tiffles and his single diamond (the latter from the background of
a third day's shirt) shone on him together; and Marcus laughed
merrily in reply:

"I don't look sad now," said he. "I'm glad to see you, Tiffles. What are
you driving at _now_, eh?"

This question was continually poked at Tiffles. He changed his business
so often.

"At the panorama of Africa, to be sure," said Tiffles. "It is a great
idea, and I am constant to it, although several capital schemes have
occurred to me since I first thought of it. But Africa deserves, and
shall have the precedence."

"Oh! yes--I remember. And how far have you got along with this great
work?"

"It's almost finished, thank you. Patching is the artist. You know
Patching, of course--one of the most promising painters of the modern
school. There were several Patchings very much praised by the Sunday
papers, at the last National Academy Exhibition, though the hanging
committee put them either among the dirt or the cobwebs. This conspiracy
against Patching is far-reaching. It would seem as if his rivals of the
Academy actually went about town calling upon people, and cautioning
them _not_ to buy Patchings. Indeed, to such an extent has this
outrageous attempt to put down a fellow artist been carried, that I know
of but one Patching to be publicly seen in the city. It is an attic
interior--a sweet thing, quite equal to Frère, and hangs behind a bar
near Spring street. Perhaps you would like to examine it?"

"Hem! Not to-day. Some other time," answered Marcus, who, strangely
enough, interpreted the question as an invitation to drink at his
(Marcus's) expense.

"I did not mean to-day," said Wesley Tiffles. "Any time will do. Well, I
have engaged this brilliant but neglected creature to paint my panorama.
At first he refused--as I expected. He said that it would hurt his
reputation. I argued to him, that, the larger the picture, the more the
reputation; and said that I would put his name on the bills in type
second only to my own. But he could not bring himself to see the matter
as I did, and consented to paint it only on condition of profound
secrecy. Price, one hundred dollars. You will therefore understand
(Tiffles lowered his voice) that what I am saying to you is strictly
confidential--as, indeed, all is that I say about my panorama. Secrecy
alone gives value to these grand, original ideas."

Wesley Tiffles was always unbosoming himself to the world, and informing
each individual hearer that his disclosure was strictly confidential.

"I give you my word," said Marcus. He wondered where Tiffles raised the
money to pay the artist, but did not like to ask him.

"Now I have caught you, you must come and see how we get along. The work
is going on at my room in the Bartholomew Buildings, only a few steps
from here." (According to Tiffles, the Bartholomew Buildings were only a
few steps from anywhere, when he wanted to take anybody to them.)
"Patching will object to bringing in a stranger; but I can pass you off
as a capitalist, who thinks of taking an interest in the panorama. Good
joke, that!"

Marcus drew back a little at the joke; but Wesley Tiffles had proved so
great a relief to his low spirits, that he determined to keep on taking
him, and expressed his ardent desire to see the panorama.

The couple, arm in arm, sauntered into Broadway, and down that
thoroughfare. Tiffles nodded to a great many acquaintances, and Wilkeson
to a very few. People whom Tiffles did not know personally, he had short
biographies of, and he entertained Marcus with an incessant string of
anecdotes and memoranda of passers by. The walk was leisurely and
uninterrupted, with two exceptions, when Wesley Tiffles broke suddenly
from his companion, rushed into the entry of a photographic
establishment, and examined numerous square feet of show portraits with
profound interest. Marcus explained these impulsive movements on the
supposition that Tiffles sought to escape from approaching duns. He
noticed that that individual, while observing people who streamed by him
on either side, kept one eye, as it were, about a block and a half
ahead. In some parts of the world, Marcus might have objected to walking
publicly with a man of such an eccentric demeanor. But he was well aware
that, in New York, a citizen's reputation is not in the least degree
affected by the company that he keeps.

They soon arrived at the Bartholomew Buildings--a rickety five-story
edifice, which had been altered from a hotel to a nest of private
offices. The basement was a restaurant, the first floor a dry goods
store, and thence to the roof there was a small Babel of trades and
professions known and unknown. No census taker had ever booked all the
businesses and all the names under that comprehensive roof.

In the upper story of this building, at the end of a long, hall, the
floor of which was hollowed in places by the feet of half a century, was
the room, or office, as he called it, of Mr. Wesley Tiffles. There was
no number, or sign, on the door, but only a card bearing the
inscription, in a bold hand, "Back in five minutes." Mr. Tiffles always
put out this standing announcement whenever he had occasion to absent
himself from his office for an indefinite period. At the top of the door
there was a swinging window, which was ever close fastened, and covered
with four thicknesses of newspapers. Though door and window were shut,
there came from this room, as if through pores of the wood and the
glass, a strong odor of tobacco smoke. A voice within could be heard
softly humming an operatic air.

Wesley Tiffles opened the door with a latch key, saying, "All right!" in
a loud voice, as he did so. Marcus entered with him into a blue cloud of
smoke heated to a sickly degree by a small coal stove with a prodigious
quantity of pipe. Even Marcus's hardened lungs found it difficult
to breathe.

The room was about twenty feet square. It had been a part of the laundry
when the building was a hotel. The walls, from the floor to the low
ceiling, appeared to be hung with a strange, dim tapestry. A second
glance convinced Marcus Wilkeson that this seeming tapestry was the
panorama, which was fastened on stretchers along three sides of the
room, and rolled up in a corner as fast as completed. At the farther end
of the room, barely visible through the smoke, was the figure of a man
in a torn and dirty dressing gown, and an enormous black felt hat with a
huge turn-up brim, of the kind supposed to be worn by the bandits of the
Pyrenees. The back of the man was turned to Marcus Wilkeson, and he was
making rapid dabs on the canvas with a long brush, frequently dipping
into one of a series of pails or pans which stood on the floor by his
side. He was smoking and humming the operatic air at the same time; and
he pulled his great slouched hat farther over his eyes, as a signal for
impertinent curiosity to keep its distance.

Wesley Tiffles whispered something about the eccentricities of genius,
and then said:

"Mr. Patching. Allow me. Mr. Wilkeson. A capitalist, who thinks of
taking a small interest in the panorama. Confidential, of course."

The artist turned round during these remarks, and presented the original
of a portrait which Marcus remembered to have seen--dressing gown, hat,
and all--in a small print-shop window in the Sixth Avenue. Touching the
face he might have had doubt, but there was no mistaking the pattern of
the dressing gown and the amazing hat. He also had a faint recollection
of the thin face, the Vandyke beard, and the long, tangled hair at Mrs.
Slapman's, on New Year's, but was not positive as to their identity. Mr.
Patching's individuality lay chiefly in his hat.

The artist placed a moist hand, with one long finger nail like a claw,
at the disposal of Marcus Wilkeson. The latter gentleman shook the
member feebly, and distinctly felt the sharp edge of the long finger
nail in his palm. It was an unpleasant sensation.

"Happy to meet a _confidential_ friend of Tiffles's," said Patching.
"Painting panoramas is not exactly what I have been used to. An artist's
reputation is his capital in trade, you know." He spoke slowly and
languidly, as if hope and happiness were quite dead within him, and he
had consented to live on only for the good of high Art.

"I understand," said Marcus. "The secret shall be inviolate."

"Nothing but my old friendship for Tiffles here could possibly have
induced me to undertake the job. My enemies--and I have them, ha! ha!"
(he said this bitterly)--"would like nothing better to say of Patching,
than that he had got down to the panorama line of business. It would be
a pretty piece of scandal."

"My lips are sealed, sir. But it strikes me, as a casual observer, that
there is nothing to be ashamed of in this beautiful work of art." Marcus
Wilkeson had the amiable vice of flattery.

Patching shrugged his shoulders, and made a contemptuous gesture toward
the canvas with his outstretched brush. "A mere daub," said he. "One
step higher than painting a barn or a board fence--that's all."

"Yet the true artist adorns what he touches," said Marcus.

Patching accepted the homage calmly, as one who knew that he deserved
it. "A very just and discriminating remark, sir. I have no doubt that a
person thoroughly familiar with my style would say, looking at this
panorama, 'It has the severe simplicity of a Patching.' I consented to
paint it, as Tiffles well remembers, only on condition that I should not
wholly abase myself by abandoning the style upon which I have built up
my reputation."

Tiffles, thus appealed to, corroborated the statement with a solemn bow.

The artist continued: "Fortunately, the subject is one peculiarly
adapted to my genius. For instance: the desert of Sahara is a dead level
of sand. It is a perfect type of severe simplicity in the highest sense.
It exhibits no common display of gorgeous colors, such as poor artists
and the ignorant crowd rejoice in. As far as the eye can see, there is a
serene stretch of yellow sand, without even a blade of grass to break
its awful immensity." (The artist, being on his favorite theme, took his
pipe out of his mouth for the first time, and spoke with warmth.) "Look
at that bit of desert, now. Does it not convey a perfect idea of
solitude and desolation?"

Marcus Wilkeson glanced at about ten feet of straight yellow paint
(which was all of the desert of Sahara not rolled up in the canvas), and
said that it did--which was perfectly true.

"There are one hundred feet more, which you don't see, just like it.
Another artist would have put in an oasis, or a stray hyena, or the
bleached bones of an unfortunate traveller. _I_ did not. Why? Another
would have worked up a sunset, or a moonrise, or a thunder storm, to
give variety to the sky. _I_ did not. Why? The sky over my desert is an
uninterrupted blue. There is not even a bird in it. There is nothing, in
short, either on the ground or in the air, to take away the mind of the
spectator, for one moment, from the sublime idea of a desert--an object
which, considered aesthetically, is one of the grandest in the universe.
This is severe simplicity. It is the highest school of Art."

"And the cheapest," observed Tiffles; "which is an important
consideration when you have an acre or two of canvas to paint. It would
cost a deal more to put in the sun and moon, travelling caravans, and
other objects of interest, here and there."

"Incidentally it may be the cheapest," said Patching. "But that is a
question for capitalists, and not for artists to determine. True Art
never thinks of the expense."

"It always seemed to me to be the easiest school of Art," said Marcus
Wilkeson. "I suppose, now, that you can dash off twenty or thirty rods
of this a day."

Patching smiled with a lofty pity. "So I can. Not because it is the
easiest, though--far from it; but because I happen to have a genius for
quick and sure touches. You, not being a professional artist, think the
execution of that scrap of desert and sky an easy matter. Perhaps you
fancy that you could do it." There was the least infusion of satire in
the artist's tone.

"Oh, no!" replied Marcus Wilkeson, who ever shrank from wounding the
self-love of a fellow creature. "I am not rash enough to suppose that I
could do it. I merely observed that it seemed--to my inexperienced
eyes--an easy matter. A few strokes of yellow paint here, for sand, and
a few strokes of blue paint there, for sky. But I am not even an
amateur, and so my opinion goes for nothing."

"I admire your frankness," said Patching. "Now let me convince you
practically. Be good enough to stand near this window with me."

Marcus moved to the spot indicated by the artist.

"Here," said Patching, "you are at about the same distance from the
desert as the front row of spectators will be. Now look at it
critically."

Marcus shaded his eyes with his left hand, cocked his head over his
right shoulder, in the true critical style, and gazed on the scene.

"Do you see the harmony--the TONE, I may say--in the desert?" asked
Patching, after a short pause.

"I think I do," responded Marcus, willing to oblige the artist.

"And the spiritual, or INNER meaning of the sky?"

"Ye-yes. It is quite perceptible."

"These are the effects of severe simplicity. But you must understand
that a single mis-stroke of the brush would have spoiled all the harmony
in the desert, or reduced the sky to a mere inexpressive field of blue
vapor. Why? Genius alone can achieve such grand results by such
apparently simple means. You comprehend?"

"Perfectly," said Marcus Wilkeson.

"Then I shall take a real pleasure in showing you more of the panorama
which is already completed and rolled up. With this idea of severe
simplicity in your mind, you will be prepared to appreciate the work,"

"I believe I have already remarked, that Mr. Wilkeson is a capitalist,
and comes here expressly to look at the panorama," said Tiffles; with a
wink at the artist.

"With every respect for him as a capitalist," returned Patching, "I see
in him only the ingenuous student of Art, whom it is a happiness
to teach."

The first instalment was a continuation of the desert with which Marcus
had been already regaled. Patching begged him to observe the unfaltering
harmony of the sand, and the protracted spirituality of the sky. Then
came a jungle.

"You will note the severe simplicity here," observed Patching, "No
meretricious effects. Nothing but strokes of green paint, up and down,
representing the density of an African jungle. Yet how admirably these
seemingly careless strokes, laid on by the hand of genius, convey the
idea of DEPTH! You do not fail to notice the DEPTH, I presume?"

"I see it," said Marcus.

"_That_ is severe simplicity," replied the artist.

At this point, Marcus noticed a brown something bearing a strong
resemblance to the swamp stalk, known among boys as the cattail. "Excuse
my ignorance of African plants," said he; "but what is that?"

The artist smiled. "Another happy illustration of my theory," said he.
"It is the tail of a lion bounding through his native jungles. Why? The
effect of suggesting the lion, so to speak, is much more thrilling than
that of painting him at full length. Genius accomplishes by hints what
mere talent fails to achieve by the utmost elaboration. You will not
deny that that vague revelation of the lion's tail inspires a feeling of
mystery and terror, which would not be caused by a full-length portrait
of that king of beasts?"

Marcus Wilkeson did not deny it, but said that perhaps everybody could
not identify the object as a lion's tail.

"That has all been thought of," said Tiffles. "I shall explain the
panorama, you must understand. When I come to the lion's tail, I shall
tell the audience what it is, and go on to give a full account of the
lion, and his ferocious habits. This will gratify the women and small
boys quite as much as seeing the lion _in propria persona_."

"Precisely. Very good," was the laughing acknowledgment. "And what is
that thing, twisted like a piece of grapevine above the tall grass at
this point?"

"The trunk of an elephant. Look a little farther on, as the canvas
unrolls, and you will observe the white tusk of a rhinoceros protruding
from the jungle with wonderful effect. Why? The two animals are
advancing toward each other for mortal combat."

"I shall describe their terrific struggles," interrupted Tiffles. "Have
read up Buffon for it."

"More lions' and elephants' tails, you observe," continued the artist;
"also more rhinoceroses' tusks. It is well to have enough of them, to
illustrate the teeming life of the African jungle. Also the head of a
boa constrictor. Likewise the tail of one. Here we come to a change of
scene. Mark how wonderfully a few strokes of dark-green paint, put on by
the hand of genius, impart the idea of a pestiferous swamp. That
odd-looking object, like a rock, is the head of a hippopotamus. A few
feet beyond, you notice two things like the stumps of aquatic weeds.
Those are the tails of two hippopotamuses engaged in deadly strife at
the bottom of the swamp. The heads of crocodiles are thrust up here and
there. Severe simplicity again."

The panorama, from thence nearly to the end of it--or rather the
beginning--was a repetition of jungles and deserts, varied by an
occasional swamp, all diversified with the heads and tails of indigenous
animals. The last hundred feet was the river Gambier, over which
Patching had introduced a sunrise of the most gorgeous description, at
the earnest request of Wesley Tiffles.

Patching explained: "In my opinion, such effects are tawdry, and detract
not only from the severe simplicity, but from the UNITY which should
pervade a painting of this description. Of course, I wash my hands of
all these innovations upon the province of high Art."

"And I cheerfully shoulder them," said Tiffles. "I know what the public
want. They want any quantity of sunsets, crocodiles, lions, and other
objects of interest. If we had time and money to spare, and I could
overcome Patching's scruples--do you understand?--I would put 'em in
twice as thick. Men of genius, like Patching, cannot be expected to be
practical."

The artist shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.

Tiffles then repeated his invitation to Marcus to accompany him on his
first expedition into the interior of New Jersey; but Marcus positively
declined. Tiffles said he would send him a note a day or two before the
panorama started, and hoped that Marcus would conclude to go, just for
the fun of the thing.

Marcus then shook hands with Patching--who made his long finger nail
amicably felt--and with Tiffles, and withdrew to the entry, followed by
the latter individual.

Tiffles closed the door. "By the way," said he, as if the thought
occurred to him then for the first time, "can you spare thirty-five
dollars to-day? Pay you on the--let me see--on the first of next month.
By that time the panorama will be fairly under headway, and coining
money." (Tiffles always fixed his days of payment with great
particularity.)

Marcus, without saying a word, produced his pocket book, and counted out
thirty-five dollars. Tiffles had already borrowed from Overtop and
Maltboy, but had generously spared the oldest of the three bachelors.
Marcus felt that his time had come, and he would not meanly avoid his
destiny. He placed the money in Tiffles's hand.

"Give you my note?" asked Tiffles.

"Oh, no!" said Marcus; "make it a matter of honor."

Tiffles pocketed the funds, placed his hand over his heart, and replied
that it should be. "But, now I think of it," he suddenly added, "I want
exactly sixty-three dollars--do you understand?--to see me through with
this panorama. Suppose you make it twenty-eight dollars more."

Marcus smiled, and said that he didn't understand; whereat Tiffles
laughed outright, to show that he took no offence at the refusal; and
creditor and debtor parted with mutual good wishes.



CHAPTER III.

LOVING AFAR OFF.

The boy Bog had now become, professionally, a creature of the night. He
was abroad at the, same hours as the burglars and garroters, and other
owls and weasels of society. Fink & Co. (Bog was the Co.) had secured
the bill posting for three theatres and one negro-minstrel hall. This
they called their heavy business. Carrying the huge damp placards, had
already given to Bog's shoulders a manifest tendency to roundness, which
he was constantly trying to overcome by straightening up. Fink, who was
the veteran bill poster of the town, was as round shouldered as a hod
carrier. But Bog thought of somebody, and stood as nearly erect as
he could.

The firm also obtained rather more than their share of ordinary bill
posting, from doctors, drygoods dealers, and other people who find their
profit in continually addressing the public from the summit of a dead
wall, or the muddy level of the curbstones. This they called their light
business. As it required neither strength nor practised dexterity of
manipulation, the firm intrusted it to assistants.

There were a dozen of these, all stout, hulking young fellows nearly as
old as Bog. They took a fancy to bill posting, and worked industriously
and faithfully at it, because it was nocturnal, mysterious, romantic.
The half dollar which they each received for a night's labor, enabled
them to lounge about the streets all day in glorious indolence.
Sometimes there was a prodigious rush of business, and then the firm
were obliged to hire an extra force of boys.

Once, when a quack undertook to take the public by storm with his "New
and Sure Cure for Dyspepsia," Fink & Co. put a colored poster as large
as a dining table on every wall and high fence below Sixty-first street;
small oblong bills every ten feet along the curbstones of Broadway,
Bowery, Wall street, Fulton street, Cortlandt street, and Third, Fourth,
Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Madison, and Lexington Avenues; besides throwing
cheap circulars, folded, into the front yards of about four thousand
residences in the fashionable quarters of the town--all in a single
night. This immense job took one hundred boys.

Bog had been in this partnership since the first of January. It was now
near the close of March. The firm had been very successful. Bog had
comfortably supported himself and his aunt (whose rheumatism got worse
in steady proportion as his business improved), and had invested more
than two hundred and fifty dollars in a Wall-street savings bank.

With this money at his disposal, Bog might have thrown away the greasy
cap and old coat and trowsers, spotted with paste, in which he pursued
his occupation. But when Bog was at his business, he was not above his
business. And he felt none the less attached to his old clothes because
they were two inches too short in the legs and arms, and pinched him a
little in all directions.

But Bog had a better suit, made of neat gray cloth, which he wore upon
occasions. These occasions happened daily between three and four P.M.
During that interval, it always fell out that Bog had no work to do
which he could not postpone as well as not. And whether it rained or
shone, the occasions brought him, like an inexorable fate, through the
street where Miss Pillbody's school was situated. He would first stride
smartly up the opposite sidewalk, whistling, and cast ardent glances at
the lower windows of Miss Pillbody's school, shaded by green curtains
with gold borders.

After going two blocks in that direction, he would cross the street,
whistling yet, and march boldly up the other sidewalk, past Miss
Pillbody's school, as on an enemy. But if there had been anybody to
watch him closely--as there was not on that thronged street--that body
would have seen that Bog's cheeks began to blush, and his eyes to be
cast down, and his whistle to be fainter, as he hurried by the neat
three-story brick building with the polished doorplate and
handsome curtains.

Then he would loiter for a while in front of McFeeter's grocery, two
corners remote, and gaze from that safe distance with intrepidity upon
the abode of enchantment; after which he would screw his courage up to
the point of marching past the house back and forth again, and would
then resume his position at McFeeter's, and wait until four P.M., or
about that time, when the envied door of Miss Pillbody's establishment
would open, and an angel would dazzle upon his sight, with a music book
in her hand instead of a harp, and a jaunty little chip bonnet on her
head instead of a golden crown. If the harp and crown had suddenly taken
their proper places, and a pair of spangled wings had blossomed right
out of her shoulders, and the radiant creature, thus equipped, had
spread her pinions and soared up to heaven, the boy Bog would hardly
have been surprised. As this angel came down the happy front steps to
the blessed pavement (Bog's mind supplying these adjectives), Bog would
color up, and sneak off at his best walking pace in the opposite
direction. He felt that, if Pet ever saw him, and should ask him what he
was doing in that neighborhood, he should melt away in perspiring
confusion on the spot.

He called at Mr. Minford's twice a week, to indulge in the hollow form
of asking if he could do anything for him. There he confronted Pet, with
that trembling figure and those averted eyes which an inexperienced
thief may show before the man that he has robbed. But Pet knew not of
the adoring spy.

One afternoon, the boy Bog had made his second detour, and was
approaching the corner of the favored block, when a novel idea struck
him. The very night before, Bog had posted bills of the play, "Faint
Heart Ne'er Won Fair Lady." The gigantic lettering arose in his mind's
eye, like the cross in Constantine's. He had never seen the drama, and
he did not know to what extent Ruy Gomez pushed his audacity, and won
the Countess by it. But the name of the drama held the moral of it; and
the moral, as applied to Bog's case, was: "Stop at this corner, and take
a good view of the, house." To do this, in Bog's opinion, was the height
of boldness. But he thought of the huge parti-colored lettering, and
he did it.

He stopped at the corner, and leaned recklessly against a hydrant. He
looked at the house with a deliberation that amazed himself. At the same
time, as a matter of instinctive caution, he kept his left leg well out
toward the side street, so that he might retreat, should the door
suddenly open and disclose the seraphic vision. He consulted his large
bull's-eye silver watch (a capital timekeeper), and found that it was
half past three o'clock, and he never knew her to be out before four.

This reflection emboldened him. "Faint Heart Ne'er Won Fair Lady," he
thought again, and brought back his left leg to an easy position,
crossing it with his right one against the hydrant. Then he feasted,
with strange composure, upon the house.

Neither Bog nor a much wiser metaphysician could explain it; but the
house, and all around it, seemed to be glorified by the loved one
within. The newly painted door was bright with love; the polished
doorplate and bell handle glistened with love. The name Pillbody looked,
somehow, musical and winning, because the owner of that name was the
teacher and dear companion of Pet. The carved stone roses over the door
seemed to be truly the emblems of love. It was a silly notion; but, in
Bog's eyes, love imparted a not unpleasant expression to the grim lions'
faces that looked down from the roof. But the green window curtains with
gold borders were the most significant symbols of love, in his eyes. Bog
felt that curtains of any other color would be wholly out of place in
that house. The patch of a garden, scarcely bigger than a bathroom, in
front of the house; the single fir tree that grew up in the middle of
it; the black iron railing; the door steps, and the pavement--all took
their share of beatitude from the joy within. Bog could hear love rustle
in the boughs of the young maple, that stood in its long green case like
a fancy boot top, at the edge of the sidewalk.



CHAPTER IV.

LEGERDEMAIN.

As Bog was resting against the hydrant, absorbed in this delicious
revery, and totally indifferent to the consequences, he was startled by
a slight tap on the shoulder. He turned quickly, and saw--the man he
hated--the man who pretended (Bog would never admit that it was more
than a pretence) to save Pet from the falling boards.

"Well," said Bog, looking on this man as his mortal enemy, "What do you
want of me?" He spoke in the gruff, defiant manner peculiar to children
of the city.

The man's livid face and lead-colored eyes and white teeth all combined
in a reassuring smile. "Nothing," said he, "my good fellow, but to do
an errand."

"I say, now, who'd you take me for, hey?" answered Bog, shaking his head
at the man, and feeling a tremendous desire to knock his shining
hat off.

The man looked up and down Bog's cheap gray suit, and at his neatly
polished shoes and his clean slouching cap, and then said:

"No offence meant, my lad. But I thought you wouldn't object to earning
a quarter. You're only to deliver a letter at that house; that's all."
He pointed to Miss Pillbody's.

"Hey--what house?" asked Bog, turning pale, with a strange and jarring
combination of rage, jealousy, envy, and insulted dignity.

"The one with the bright doorplate, green curtains and gold borders. I
thought you were looking at it as I came up."

"N-no, I wasn't. And what if I was, hey?"

"It strikes me you're rather touchy, my young friend," said the man,
with his conciliatory smile. "Here's the letter, now, and a quarter.
It's only a few steps. No answer required."

As Bog caught sight of the letter, done up in the long, rakish envelope
which had just begun to come into fashion, and faintly perfumed, a lucky
thought occurred to him.

The man saw that he wavered. "Only a step," said he. "And here is the
quarter." He offered it to Bog between a thumb and finger.

"Why don't you deliver the letter yourself?" asked Bog.

"Oh! oh! for family reasons," answered the man, hesitating. "Miss
Pillbody there is my aunt, and the lady to whom this letter is addressed
is my cousin. The old woman and I have had a sort of falling out about
the young one, you see. These little difficulties will occur in the
best-regulated families. Come, take the letter. I'm in a hurry."

Bog allowed the letter to be thrust into his hand. He looked at it, and
saw, as he expected, that it was addressed to "Miss Minford, Present."
The direction was in a beautiful commercial hand, which was at once
more hateful in his eyes than the most crabbed of writing.

"All right," said he. "I'll deliver it. Poh! never mind the quarter. I
won't take it." Bog moved toward the house as he spoke.

"You're a queer fellow, but a good one. Well, you'll accept my thanks,
at any rate."

He waited at the hydrant until Bog had delivered the letter.

Bog walked straight to the house, and up the steps, although his face
was pale, and his knees trembled.

He rang the bell with a decisive pull, and, as he did so, glanced at the
strange man, who nodded approvingly at him.

He suddenly turned his back on the strange man. With a quick movement of
the fingers of his right hand, he thrust the letter up his coat sleeve:
The next instant he whipped a handkerchief out of an inside breast
pocket, and, with it, a stray copy of a new "Dentifrice" circular, which
he had been distributing the night before. This circular was folded to
about the size and shape of the letter. With the handkerchief he wiped
his face, upon which there were real drops of sweat. The circular he
slipped into his right hand, and then turned toward the strange man
again, to show that he still held the letter. This bit of legerdemain
took about three seconds.

In three seconds more, Bog heard footsteps approaching in the entry.
What if his angel should come to the door? The thought sent a horrible,
sickly sensation all over him, and the solid rock seemed to tremble
beneath his feet.

The door opened, and something quite the opposite of an angel presented
itself. It was Bridget; and her red hair was dishevelled, her face
flushed to the parboiled tint, and her dress uncommonly damp and frowsy.
A mop which she held in her hand explained everything.

"A circular, if you please," said Bog, in a quivering voice, poking the
folded paper at her.

"A succular, is it? Miss Peelbody told me not to take any succulars for
her. So 'way wid ye." Bridget put her hand on the door, and was about to
swing it to.

"It isn't for Miss Pillbody at all," said Bog, fearful lest the strange
man should see it refused, "but for your own pretty self."

Bridget smiled, for she was conscious that the compliment was deserved.
She relaxed her hand on the door. "Fat is it?" said she.

"Hush!" said Bog, in a whisper; "a circular about the rights of
servants, issued by the 'Servants' Mootual Protecting Society.'" (Bog
thought of the name on the spur of the moment.) "Please take it--quick."

Bridget snatched the circular out of his hand, and was about to look at
it, bottom side up, for she had not yet attained to the mystery of
reading, when the musical voice of Miss Pillbody was heard at the back
of the entry. "Bridget--what is wanted, Bridget?"

"Nothing ma'am, but one of these succular men. Bad luck to him! Here,
now, take it."

She made a feint of handing back the circular to Bog, but concealed it,
with the other hand, in her capacious bosom.

"Heaven bless ye!" said she, in a low voice, and then slammed the door
in his face.

Bog came down the door steps quickly, and saw the strange man make a bow
and a gesture of gratitude at him, and then disappear suddenly round the
corner. Bog's first impulse was to follow him at a distance; but his
curiosity to inspect the slender, perfumed letter, overcame it.

When Bog reached the awning in front of McFeeter's store--a sort of
haven or putting-in place for him--he pulled out the letter, and was
about to read it. Then it occurred to him that the situation was too
much exposed. The strange man might come back, and see him with the open
letter in his hand. Bog would have enjoyed a personal collision with him
on any pretext; but to be caught in the act of reading the letter, would
spoil the strategical advantage that Bog now had over him.

Bog moved on down a side street, and took his stand behind a huge
wooden column surmounted by a gilded mortar and pestle. Here he was
about to rip open the envelope, but a glance across the street
discovered a policeman looking at him. Bog felt guilty and awkward. He
coughed, and thrust the letter into his pocket, and moved on again. The
exciting events of the morning had made Bog intensely nervous. He did
not stop this time until he had gained his home.

His aunt was sitting in the front room, reading a book through a huge
pair of silver-rimmed spectacles. There was a thick fold of flannel
about her neck, and she smelt strongly of embrocation. As Bog rushed
into the room, she groaned audibly, and laid down the book, as if it
were a wicked enjoyment.

"I'm so bad to-day, Bog," said she. "Them shootin' pains'll be the death
of me."

Bog responded not a word, but dashed across the apartment, and, entering
his little sleeping room, closed the door, and bolted it.

"Unfeelin' creetur!" said his aunt. She stopped groaning, and took up
her book and read again.

Bog seated himself on his hair trunk, and drew out the letter. There was
a slight discussion within him on the abstract question of his right to
open it. After turning it over twice, the question was decided in the
affirmative. He slit the envelope with his thumb, and brought to light a
billet faultlessly written, as follows:

"Frederick Lynville begs to present his compliments to Miss Minford, and
to assure her, from the depths of his heart, that his feelings toward
her are only those of the purest admiration for the matchless charms of
her mind and person. He takes this method of explaining himself, because
he has observed with great sorrow that Miss Minford has shown a desire
to avoid him on several recent occasions, when they have accidentally
met in the street. It was Mr. Lynville's blessed privilege, under
Providence, to save Miss Minford's life; but he would not be selfish and
base enough on that account to obtrude himself on Miss Minford's notice.
Mr. Lynville would die sooner than be guilty of that discourtesy. He is
not presumptuous enough to ask an answer to this letter. His only object
in writing it, is to inform Miss Minford that he will not venture again
upon the impropriety of speaking to her first when they next meet. Miss
Minford will therefore be free to drop his acquaintance, or continue it,
as she thinks best. Whatever fate she may decide for him, her happiness
will still be his constant prayer."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bog was ill versed in the art of complimentary letter writing. But the
villany here seemed to be clumsily concealed. That the letter was full
of danger to the object of his boyish idolatry, he had no doubt.

But why did Pet avoid this Frederick Lynville? Did she really dislike
him? Or----. The thought of his own shyness toward the beautiful girl
came into his mind like a flash. To avoid might be--to love.

The poor boy dropped the letter, and covered his face with his hands,
and wept.

Love is not always selfish; and goodness is sometimes its own reward. In
that bitter hour of his first real misery, Bog did not regret his
kindness to the Minfords, or take credit to himself for having nobly
concealed from their knowledge those little weekly gifts of money which
he sent to them through the mail, when they were in poorer
circumstances. He was not for a moment base enough to think that Pet
would look with kinder eyes on him, if she but knew of his secret
benefactions--which, up to this time, neither she nor her father had
suspected, and which they would never learn from his lips.



BOOK SIXTH.

MYSTERIES OF THE NIGHT.



CHAPTER I.

THE UNKNOWN HAND.

Marcus Wilkeson made no effort to discover the writer of the anonymous
letter, because he knew that such an effort would be in vain. He called
on Mr. Minford once in two or three days now. The inventor always took
occasion to refer to the letter, and assured Marcus that it was not
worth remembering, or talking about. "Why, then, did he talk about it?"
Marcus asked himself. His eyes were not blind to watchful and suspicious
glances which the old man directed to him, at times, under cover of
those shaggy, overhanging eyebrows. Nor could he help noticing a strange
reserve in the bearing of Pet toward him. It was not mere modesty, or
timid gratitude, but DOUBT, as he read the signs. Marcus was convinced
that the father had put his child on guard against something, though he
might not have mentioned the existence of the anonymous letter. This
thought distressed him acutely.

But his troubles, as well as his joys, he kept to himself. The miser
puts his broken bank notes and his good gold under the same lock
and key.

One evening, early in April, Overtop and Maltboy observed a peculiar
expression of sadness on the face of their friend. He had eaten nothing
at dinner, but had drunk more than his usual allowance of sherry. He had
kept his eyes fixed on the table as in a revery, and had scarcely spoken
a word. Miss Wilkeson, in her solemn state opposite the boiled chickens,
was hardly less social.

After dinner, Marcus took to his pipe with a strange sullenness, and
smoked furiously. His two friends, closely regarding him, saw that he
was unhappy, but wisely forbore to make him more unhappy still by
obtruding their condolence on him. The day had been rainy and cold. They
knew that Marcus's spirits were barometrically sensitive to the weather,
like those of most persons who look at it through a window.

They had noticed, as they came home, that he was reading that sweetest
of elegies, the "In Memoriam" of Tennyson. And the two friends thought
that the melancholy weather and the melancholy poem together fully
accounted for the gloom on his brow.

Marcus sat for some minutes meditating. Then he heaved a sigh, which was
distinctly audible to his two friends. Then he left the room without
saying a word, and went up stairs.

Presently he was heard to come down; but, instead of returning to the
little parlor, he went into the street, and closed the door with a sharp
slam. At the same moment, the cold rain of the April night beat noisily
against the window.

"Sly old fellow!" said Maltboy.

"Up to something, depend on it," said Overtop.

Marcus walked rapidly toward the inventor's house. "My fate is decided
to-night," he muttered.

His long strides soon brought him to the house. The old building wore a
gloomy look. He did not speculate on the reason of this. It was probably
because there was no light visible in any of the front windows, and very
little light in the street lamps. The gas burned low and blue, and
flickered in the wind.

Ringing the bell, Marcus was admitted by one of the numerous children
belonging to somebody in the house (Marcus could never determine to
whom), and walked up to the inventor's room. His heart beat with strange
emotion as he rapped at the door. For a moment he was sorry that he
had come.

"Come in," said the inventor, in a voice more sepulchral than usual.

Marcus entered the apartment. The inventor received him with a feeble
shake of the hand, bearing no resemblance to the hearty one which he
used to bestow in the early days of their acquaintance. Marcus noticed
that Mr. Minford's hand was hot. He also observed that his eyes were
preternaturally lustrous, and that the circles under them were deep and
dark. His cheeks were deathly pale, saving a little red spot in the
centres. He looked like a man in a state of fearful mental exaltation
and nervous excitement.

Marcus was not in the habit of worrying people upon the subject of their
ill health; but the inventor looked so palpably bad, that Marcus could
not forbear to say, in a tone of anxiety, "You are unwell, sir."

"Oh, no! Quite well, I assure you," said the inventor, with a weary
smile. "Though I should be sick, perhaps, but for the glorious hope that
bears me up. I have not eaten, or slept, for forty-eight hours."

"But, my dear sir, this is trifling with your health."

"I acknowledge it. But we must make sacrifices, if we would master the
UNKNOWN. Newton lived on bread and water when he wrote his immortal
Principia. He condemned himself to the coarse fare of a prison, in order
that his intellect might soar untrammelled to the stars. I have improved
on Newton--I eat nothing. As for sleep, I grudge a single hour of it
which comes between me and the completion of my great work."

"But how long can you stand this dreadful strain upon your powers?"

"Till daylight to-morrow, with safety. By that time I shall have
overcome the last obstacle. Of this I am confident. Then, ho! for
unbounded wealth and undying fame. The toil has been severe, but the
reward will be glorious."

"I congratulate you," said Marcus, "on the near approach of your final
triumph. And, in order that I may not delay you a single moment, I will
bid you 'good-night.'" Marcus rose, but he hoped that the inventor would
ask him to stay.

The inventor did so. "Pray don't hurry, Mr. Wilkeson; I would like to
have a brief conversation with you. A few minutes only." He drew a chair
to the side of Marcus, and seated himself.

"Mr. Wilkeson," he said, in a deliberate voice, as if he were repeating
carefully-considered words, "it is unnecessary for me to say that I have
the highest opinion of you. Providence seems to have sent you to me at a
time when I was in the greatest need. You saved me from starving. The
world will be as much indebted to you for my grand invention, as it was
to the generous patronage of Queen Isabella for the discovery
of America."

"Pooh!" interrupted Marcus, blushing.

"The praise is none too high," continued the inventor. "It is true, I
have repaid your advances of money tenfold, by giving you an interest in
my future but certain fortune. But that does not diminish my gratitude."

Marcus knew that this flattering exordium meant something serious. It
was a favorite theory of his, that danger, or any kind of anticipated,
disagreeable thing, was best met halfway. So he said, with a feeble
attempt at a smile:

"I infer from this ominous opening that you have received another lying
anonymous letter about me. If I am right, Mr. Minford, be good enough to
let me see it at once, according to your promise."

"You have guessed correctly, Mr. Wilkeson. I have received a second
anonymous letter, which I intended showing to you after a further brief
explanation. But I can readily appreciate your anxiety to read it
without delay. Here it is." He drew forth a letter, and handed it
to Marcus.

Marcus immediately recognized the envelope and the address as similar
to those of the first letter, which he still had in his possession.

He pulled the letter nervously from its yellow sheath, and read as
follows:

     MR. MINFORD:

     DEAR SIR,--Pardon me for intruding on you a second time. But,
     as a friend of virtue, I must warn you of continued danger to
     your daughter from the acquaintance of Mr. Wilkeson, your
     pretended benefactor. If you are any longer in doubt as to
     the vile intentions of this man, conceal yourself from
     observation within sight of Miss Pillbody's school, any fair
     afternoon, about half past two o'clock, and watch his
     actions. If his suspicious conduct, at that time and place,
     does not give a sufficient significance to my warnings, then
     take the trouble to go to ----, Westchester Co., where he was
     born, and search into his infamous history. Take heed--I warn
     you again--lest, in your devotion to science, you forget that
     you are a father.

     ONE WHO WOULD SHIELD THE INNOCENT.

While reading this letter, Marcus was conscious that the eyes of the
inventor were fixed piercingly upon him. That consciousness caused his
head to bow, and his cheeks to crimson with shame. It is the curse of
this morbid sensibility, that righteous indignation at a foul slander
upon one's good name springs up only after the victim has shown all the
accepted evidences of guilt.

There was one reason why a man much less sensitive than Marcus should
have been thrown off his balance by this letter. It was a fact that
every afternoon, at half past two o'clock, rain or shine, with
bachelor-like punctuality, he passed up and down in front of Miss
Pillbody's school, and looked sentimentally at the closed blinds,
thinking unutterable things. He was also addicted to standing at the
hydrant on the corner, and gazing hard at the house, wishing that he
could see through its brick walls. Then he would cross the street, and
pace up and down on that side, taking views of the house at every
variety of angle. This was precisely what the boy Bog did daily about an
hour and a half later. Now, although Marcus felt, in his heart, that
these pedestrian exercises--absurd to everybody but a lover--were
perfectly harmless in their purpose and effect, he was aware that, to a
man like Mr. Minford, looking at them suspiciously, they would appear to
be connected with some stealthy and base design.

As to the imputations upon his former history, Marcus could freely
challenge the closest scrutiny; which is more than most men can do into
that long record of juvenile frailties and escapades which ushers in the
sober book of manhood. But here again the devil of sensitiveness
asserted his supremacy. Marcus had had a twin brother (who died years
before), a duplicate of himself in all respects but two. Marcus was
quiet, studious, honest, and frank; while Aurelius was quiet, studious,
less honest, and infinitely crafty. Marcus had, on several occasions in
his boyhood, been accused of petty offences which Aurelius had
committed, but which that cunning youth had unblushingly denied. These,
so far as Marcus supposed, were nothing more serious than robbing
orchards or melon patches. Still it was possible that some graver
wrong--more worthy of the title "infamous"--committed by his wild,
shrewd brother, might be brought to light by some deep explorer among
the traditions of his native village, and charged upon himself. This
possibility, and the difficulty of refuting a serious accusation under
such circumstances, brought a second flush of guilt to the face of
Marcus Wilkeson as he read the letter.

These harassing thoughts, which fill so much space, written out, are but
a small part of those which were suggested with electric suddenness.

Marcus's first impulse was to say: "I love your daughter, Mr. Minford,
with my whole heart and soul. It is my first and my only love, singular
though this confession may sound from the lips of a man of thirty-six
years. The proudest and happiest day of my life would be that on which I
could marry her, with her dear love and your fatherly consent. This
love, which is as pure as the angelic creature upon whom it is lavished,
fully explains my visits here, and whatever else is mysterious in my
conduct. But, before declaring myself to your daughter, or asking her
hand of you, I have desired to see whether it were possible to inspire
her with love for a man so much older than herself. For, much as I love
her, I would not seek to marry her without a return of love--not mere
respect, esteem, or gratitude. That is the problem I have been waiting
to solve."

A confession to this effect was on the tip of his tongue. To have made
it, would have been like tearing open his breast and showing his heart.
But he would have made it, whatever the pain, if, on looking nervously
up from the letter, which he had now finished, he had not met the cold,
searching eyes of the inventor. He instantly shut his lips upon the
outcoming confession, and said, with as much indifference as he could
awkwardly assume:

"I hope, sir, you have taken the trouble to investigate these ridiculous
charges." But Marcus inwardly hoped he had not.

"I have sir," responded the inventor, gravely. "Had the accusations been
vague, like those in the first letter from this unknown person, I should
have dismissed them from my mind with a laugh. But they were so
specific, and the truth or falsity of them was so easily ascertained,
that I thought it my duty, in justice to my daughter, yourself, and to
me, to look into them. It was a painful task, but I have done it."

"And what have you learned?" asked Marcus, making a transparent feint to
look at ease.

"I will tell you frankly; though I wish to say, in advance, that my
discoveries, though they might justify some suspicion, do not prejudice
me in the least against you. I have no doubt that you will be able to
explain everything." But so spoke not the eyes of the inventor.

"Well, then, to make a short story of this unpleasant affair, I have
watched your promenades in front of Miss Pillbody's school three
afternoons in succession. I will spare you the details, though, so
clearly are your movements back and forth imprinted on my memory, that I
could recount them all to you, if necessary. It is sufficient to say,
that I am forced to believe that my daughter is the magnet which draws
you to that neighborhood, and keeps your eyes riveted on that house.
This is all I have to say on the first point in the letter."



CHAPTER II.

IN VAIN--IN VAIN.

This was Marcus Wilkeson's golden opportunity, and he manfully
determined to seize it. But, as he was on the point of blurting out the
stifled secret, that cold, pale face--which resembled marble in all but
the drops of sweat upon the brow--chilled him again. At the same moment,
the hopeless absurdity of love and marriage between a girl of seventeen
and a man of thirty-six, occurred to him in all its force. Stupidly
sensitive being that he was, he thought that this icy, intellectual Mr.
Minford would laugh at him.

"I confess, sir, that these wanderings seem 'singular,' as you term
them. But all the habits of old bachelors are regarded as singular, I
believe. Now, it has been my daily habit, since I retired from business,
to lay down my book at two o'clock, and take a little out-door exercise.
Miss Pillbody's school is not far from my house; the street is pretty
clean for New York, and the sidewalks are tolerably dry. Therefore I
select that neighborhood for my daily walk--my--my 'constitutional,' as
they call it. If, in so doing, I should occasionally cast my eyes--in
fits of absent-mindedness, I may say--on Miss Pillbody's school, that
is not strange, considering--considering the interest that I take in
your daughter's education. It strikes me, my dear sir, that this seeming
suspicion is easily cleared up." Marcus smiled to think how adroitly he
had extricated himself.

But there was no smile on the shroud-colored face of the inventor.

"The explanation is _plausible_" (Mr. Minford emphasized the word), "and
I will not attempt to set it aside. God alone knows all the motives of
human action. Now, to the second, and more serious implication of the
letter. I have visited your native village, and inquired into your early
history. Though you moved to the city over fifteen years ago, and have
returned to your birthplace but once since, so far as I could
ascertain--"

"Allow me," said Marcus. "My absence from my old home may seem strange,
but it is occasioned by no shame or disgrace. My father, mother, and
twin brother died and were buried there. By my father's failure, shortly
before his death, the old family mansion passed out of his hands, and
was afterward torn down to make room for a railway depot. This
extinction of my family--for I am now left without a relation in the
world, excepting a half-sister--and this destruction of our old home,
have made my native village horrible to me. When I visited the scene of
desolation, ten years ago, the village seemed to me like a huge
graveyard, in every part of which some happiness of my boyhood was
entombed; and I vowed that I would never go near it again. In the matter
of family recollections, I am exquisitely sensitive."

"I respect your feelings, sir," said the inventor, "and regret that I
should be the means of reviving these painful recollections. But I have,
a duty to perform."

"And I will no longer delay you in its performance. Now be kind enough
to let me know the worst at once. I can stand it." Marcus unconsciously
sat up more erect, as if to brace himself against a shock.

"On my arrival in the village, my first act was to seek out some of the
oldest inhabitants. I found that most of them distinctly remembered you,
and your brother--Aurelius, I think, was his name. You will pardon me
for telling you the exact result of my inquiries, but I found that these
old inhabitants, without a single exception, gave you a very bad name,
and your brother a very good one."

Marcus was about to explain, that his brother and himself were images of
each other; that the former was crafty, and full of mischief, and that
he (Marcus) had been made, on fifty occasions, the innocent scapegoat of
his brother's little offences. But he forbore. He had cheerfully
received reprimands, and even chastisements, for his brother while
living; and he would not blacken his memory when dead. He merely smiled
a sad smile, and said, "Ah?"

"Many of the offences charged against you by these old gossips, were
petty and excusable. But there were others, committed by you when you
were at or near manhood, exhibiting, if true--understand, I say, _if_
true--a moral depravity for which no extenuation can be found. Some of
the charges were not sustained by adequate proofs, and those I set down
as idle rumors. But there was one of which the proof was abundant and
most positive. No less than five persons gave me circumstantial
accounts--all agreeing with each other--of your betrayal and ruin of
Lucy Anserhoff."

"Lucy Anserhoff!" echoed Marcus, in real amazement. "I have a faint
remembrance of an old lady by that name, and a pretty girl who was her
daughter. But as God is my judge, I never wronged her." Still there was
that expression of guilt, which did not escape the scrutinizing glance
of the inventor.

Marcus could have hunted up evidence to transfer the burden of the
imputed wrong to the memory of the dead Aurelius. But should he commit
this profanation of the grave--as he regarded it? The voice of brotherly
love--for he had tenderly loved his erring brother--said, "No." Would
any amount of proof satisfy the nervous, doubting man before him? He
feared not. Therefore Marcus Wilkeson did an act of awful solemnity, to
prove his innocence. And, because the doing of it thrilled his sensitive
soul, as if he had thrust himself into the terrible presence of the
Infinite, he weakly supposed that the most suspicious of men would
unhesitatingly believe him.

He stood up, turned his eyes to the ceiling, raised both hands, and
said, in a deep, trembling voice:

"May God strike me dead, if I am guilty of this offence, or any like it,
or of any thought of wrong toward your daughter."

Marc as sat down, pale, and caught his breath quickly. He was
awestricken by his own act.

"That is a solemn adjuration," said the inventor, after a short pause,
"and should not be lightly taken."

Marcus looked well at Mr. Minford. Unbelief was written in every hard
line and wrinkle of that white, deathlike face. "Do you doubt me now?"
he asked, sharply. His sensitiveness on the subject of personal honor
and veracity was painfully acute. He had never told a lie in his life.

"Oh! no," replied Mr. Minford; "I do not say that I doubt you" (in a
tone expressive of the greatest doubt). "I shall be truly glad to
receive counter proofs from you."

"You have heard my solemn appeal to God, sir. Between gentlemen of honor
that should be sufficient."

The inventor's thin lips (from which the last drops of blood had
disappeared within the last half hour) curved in a satirical smile.
Marcus interpreted it as a reiterated doubt and a sneer upon his honor.
For the moment he lost control of his temper, and was about to make a
remark that he would have regretted immediately after, when the door
yielded to a gentle pressure, and Pet entered the room.

Her face was pale. Her eyes were dull, and the lids hung droopingly,
weighed down by twenty-four hours of wakefulness by the bedside of her
sick teacher. The faint blue crescents beneath--those strange shadows
of the grave, which sometimes seem the deepest when the eyes above are
giving the brightest light--imparted a frail, delicate beauty to her
countenance. They were the last master-touches of Nature in working out
that portraiture of weaned and sleepy loveliness.

As she put her foot in the room, Mr. Minford and his guest telegraphed a
truce with their eyes, and assumed a cheerful look.

Little Pet timidly ran to her father, and kissed him, and then shook
hands with Marcus. He observed a shrinking in her touch. She averted
her eyes.

"Your clothes are damp, and your feet wet, my darling," said the father,

"Are they?" answered Pet, looking down at her saturated garments and
glistening shoes. "I had not noticed them. Oh! I am so happy that she is
well now. The doctor called at the house just before I left, and said
she was out of all danger. He ordered me home."

"Very sensible of the doctor. Another hour of this watching might have
killed my poor child."

"So I took a last look at my dear teacher--who was asleep--and kissed
her, and came right away through the rain."

"It was foolish to do that without an umbrella and overshoes, my child.
But, as you were always forgetful of yourself, your father will not be
forgetful of you, at any rate." The inventor glanced significantly at
Marcus. That glance, so full of distrust, entered his soul. He longed to
say something--if only a word of common civility--to the young girl;
but he felt that there was now an impassable barrier between them.

"But what is the matter, Pet?" exclaimed the father. She had dropped
into a chair, and her head fell on one side. He sprang to catch her. So
did Marcus. But the inventor reached her first, and seized her in his
arms, directing another of his speaking looks at Marcus.

Pet roused herself at the touch of her father's hands, sat erect, and
opened her large blue eyes. "I am so sleepy," she said.

"Of course you are, my blessed; and to bed you must go at once. That is
my prescription. But, first--always first--a cup of tea."

The inventor darted to the stove, snatched up the teapot, poured out a
cup of the universal restorer, scalding his forefinger in the hurry,
milked and sugared it just right, and bore it to his daughter, who was
nodding again. She drank it dutifully, like medicine.

Children do not comprehend tea. We have to grow up to it. It is the
appointed balm of fatigued and sorrowing middle age.

In its function of medicine, the strong draught revived her, giving a
twist to her pretty features, and sending a lively shudder through her
slender frame. Pet rose from her seat quite briskly.

"Now to bed. To bed at once. No delay. And mind you put on all the
blankets, and your heavy shawl a-top of them."

"Yes, father."

Marcus blushed, twirled his hat, and made a motion toward the door.

"You need not go, Mr. Wilkeson," said the inventor. "I beg that you will
not. I wish to settle up that little unfinished business with you
to-night."

Marcus saw that the inventor was in earnest. He coughed, and hesitated
what to say.

But, before he could say anything, Pet had kissed her father, and said
"Good-night," in a faint voice, to the guest, and already had her hand
on the knob of the door which led to her little sleeping room.

"Remember, darling--all the blankets, and your shawl. To-morrow morning
you will wake up bright and happy, and ready to enjoy a little surprise
that I shall have for you." He jerked his thumb toward the machine.

Pet understood him, and smiled sadly. "You need bed more than I,
father," said she.

"Nonsense, child!" replied the old man, with a hollow laugh. "It is not
for the patient to prescribe to the physician. There, good-night, now."

He kissed her again with more tenderness. "Remember," said he, "there is
a little surprise in store for you to-morrow."

Pet said, "Heaven bless you, father," murmured another "Good-night," and
disappeared within her sanctuary, closing the door after her.

"Now, Mr. Wilkeson," said the inventor, "we can finish our
conversation."

His voice sounded like a voice from the tomb.



CHAPTER III.

THE CLASHING ORBS.

The rain had ceased, and the moon was out. The dark, massy clouds that
floated between her and the earth were doing their ghostly,
phantasmagoric work. At one moment, clear, white light, like a shroud;
at another moment, darkness, like a pall. An owl, lighting on the spire
of Grace Church in his flight over the city, might have seen the white
edge of the shroud, or the black edge of the pall, advancing in
well-defined lines over the housetops, and the parks, and the two
rivers, swiftly succeeding each other.

It was as if the mighty invisible demons of the night were capriciously
trying the effects of cerements on the sleeping city. It was as if they
were perplexed between the soft beauty of the shroud and the sombre
majesty of the pall. A woman could not have tried on two shawls more
often and more indecisively, before making up her mind to buy.

Little Pet's sleeping room, like every room that faced the south, that
night, was full of strange, spectral effects. The scrolls and the roses
on the cheap yellow curtains that hung in the windows, were changed to
hideous faces of variable size and ugliness. Their grotesque shadows on
the floor mingled with other faces--horrible as antique masks--wrought
by the magic of the moon from the gigantic flowers that adorned the
narrow strip of carpet by the bedside. Her dresses, suspended from a row
of hooks in the corner--and showing, in gentle swells and curves, the
lithe, graceful form of the little wearer, like moulds,--would have
looked to any open eye, that dreadful night, like women hanging against
the wall. This startling idea would have been helped along by two or
three shadowy bonnets depending from pegs above them. The white
somethings carelessly tossed over a chair near the head of the bed, were
no longer the garments of youth, beauty, and innocence, but
graveclothes, cold, shining, shuddering, in that deathly light. The
touch of the moon, like the presence of a sexton, suggested mortality.

The narrow, single bed, with its four black posts, looked like the fatal
trestle, or bier. The slender body which lay upon it was still as death.
The head nestled motionless in a deep indentation of the pillow. A
slanting ray of the moon, coming between one of the window curtains and
the window, fell upon the face, and showed it white and waxen; the lips,
still red, parted to the gleaming teeth; and the eyes not quite covered
by the lids. One beautiful round arm curved above her head, and some of
her soft brown hair rested in the little open palm. The other stretched
down toward the centre of the bed, as if fearlessly to invite the touch
of those weird things with which imagination peoples the solemn
night--which the wakeful eye, in the still, small hours, sees moving in
the darker corners, or passing swiftly by the bedside, or hovering in
the air, wearing the semblance of one's dead friends, or filling large
portions of the room with some formless presence of unutterable
malignity and woe.

It was only sleep to which the moon thus gave the pale polish of death.
The gentle murmur of a childish breath broke the silence. The heavy
bedclothes slowly rose and fell with the mysterious pulsations of warm
life beneath. At intervals, a shudder shook the little figure of the
sleeper, her breath came louder and quicker, and her arms moved with
sudden starts. Pet was dreaming, under the joint influences of an excess
of blankets and a cup of strong tea.

She was alone in infinite space. Above, below, on all sides, was a
leaden atmosphere. Neither sun, nor moon, nor stars illumined it, but
only some dull, phosphorescent light, which seemed to be born of the
murky, stagnant air. It was such a strange, sickly, wavering gleam as
she had seen above decaying wood, fish, and other substances. All around
was absolute stillness. Not a swallow waved his wing nor an insect
hummed in that barren immensity. Nature was hushed by some deadly spell.

Yet the dread silence portended the near approach of HORRORS. She knew
what they were, for she had been in this frightful region often before,
and was familiar with its dread phenomena. They came. They were only two
little black specks--like motes in the sunbeams--scarcely visible to her
strained vision at first. She gazed upon them with the fascination of a
charmed bird on the two small jet eyes of a serpent; but with this
difference, that she knew the terrible peril that they brought. The
moment that these two motes became visible to her in that dimly lighted
mist, they commenced revolving around each other.

They revolved slowly, and increased in size as they rolled on. The
slowness of the motion and the swelling of the motes were elements of
horror. But she could not take her eyes from those two black objects
revolving like binary stars, until her breath should cease to come and
go, and her heart to beat. As the motes enlarged, their orbits widened.
And they grew and-grew, performing greater and more awful
circuits--still slowly, still noiselessly. The eternal, unbroken silence
was another element of horror. The doomed spectatress of this solemn,
maddening whirl would fain have shrieked, or even whispered, to break
the silence, but she could not. Either her powers of articulation had
disappeared in that region of universal dumbness, or the dead atmosphere
was waveless, and could vibrate to no sound. She knew, by harrowing
experience, the scene that was to come, and she prayed inwardly to God
to strengthen her for it.

The two black objects swelled and swelled in even proportions, until
they became as large as a full moon just seen above the horizon; then to
the size of two full moons, and a dozen, and a hundred, and a thousand.
Still black, still noiseless, still revolving slowly, like a tardy but
certain doom. Then a quarter of the leaden space was filled with their
gigantic bodies, and the lurid air was darker. Then a half of the
heavens was blotted out; She grew faint and sick, as she moved her head
to the right and left, and up and down, and watched the dizzy
revolutions of those vast orbs, between which she knew that she was to
be crushed at last, as by the nether and upper millstones. Her
inarticulate cries to God were unheard. It seemed as if there were no
God for that accursed part of the universe.

Majestically, slowly, silently ever, the orbs increased. Two strips of
the sky could be seen constantly changing positions, but always opposite
to each other. These were the gaps, fast narrowing, which were to be
filled up by the swelling worlds before her destruction was
accomplished. Her long familiarity with the movements of this stupendous
enginery of death enabled her to calculate to a nicety when the crash
would come. She lay like the bound victim under the guillotine, watching
fer the axe to descend.

The blackness of darkness above and beneath and around her ... a
suffocating compression of the stagnant air ... a thrilling
consciousness of the close approach of the two cruel orbs.... a
superlative stillness ... and then a mighty attrition, in which the
mortal part of the poor girl was about to be ground to atoms, when she
... awoke.

She threw back the heavy blankets that oppressed her chest, as if
_they_ were the crushing danger. She looked overhead, expecting to see a
whirling globe within a foot of her face. But she saw only the ceiling,
made visible by the pallid light of the room. Then she knew that she was
in her own little room, and that this frightful adventure was only the
old, old dream, that came to her two or three times a year, as far back
as she could remember--the same always, without addition or curtailment.



CHAPTER IV.

A VISION OF HORRORS.

Little Pet was not the least superstitious; because her father had
taught her from infancy to pay no heed to dreams or signs; and because
he had allowed no housemaid or fussy old woman to inoculate his young
daughter with her own senseless and cowardly fears. Pet smiled at the
momentary terror which the strange old dream had caused, closed her
eyes, and addressed herself again to sleep. But, first, she drew up the
weighty blankets over her little frame, as her father had told her to
do. She had already found out by experience, that a hot application of
blankets was the best remedy for a young cold.

A low murmur, as of conversation, came from the adjoining room. Then she
remembered that Mr. Wilkeson was there when she had come to bed. She
said to herself: "It cannot be late; for he never stops after ten
o'clock." Then she began to think of some matters which had recently
perplexed and distressed her greatly. But she was so sleepy, that the
thoughts came into her little head confusedly, and, several times,
merged into dreams, and then came out again. The low murmur of the talk
outside, like the distant hum of a waterfall or a mill, was sedative.
The act of listening to it--as she did for a few moments with natural
curiosity--was provocative of sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

The conversation suddenly grew louder. The hollow voice of the inventor,
and the deep bass of Marcus Wilkeson, could be heard alternating
quickly. These words reached little Pet:

THE INVENTOR. "We have had along conversation, Mr. Wilkeson, and I will
end it by saying that it is best for us to separate, now and forever."

MARCUS (_bitterly_). "As you please, sir; but it is hard that a man's
reputation should be at the mercy of any scoundrel who knows how to
write a libel, and has not courage enough to acknowledge it."

THE INVENTOR (_pettishly_). "I have told you a dozen times, that I
despise anonymous letter writers. They are ever liars and cowards."

MARCUS. "But you respected this one enough to adopt his suggestions."

THE INVENTOR. "So the magistrate uses hints that may be furnished him by
professional thieves, for the detection of crime. But he, none the less,
loathes those who would inform upon their comrades."

MARCUS. "You believe, therefore, only what you have seen or heard for
yourself."

THE INVENTOR. "Nothing further, I assure you. In all matters of proof,
it is my nature to be suspicious."

MARCUS. "But none of these accusations against me have been proved."

THE INVENTOR. "Why protract this painful conversation? It is sufficient
for me to say that we must part.--(_Excitedly_.) Good heavens, sir! am I
not the guardian of my daughter, and warranted in accepting or rejecting
acquaintances for her? Must I make long explanations to everybody that I
don't see fit to admit into my house and my daughter's society? Is not
this a free country, sir?"

MARCUS _(with deep despair in his voice_). "Perfectly free, sir. I admit
your rights. And I hereby pledge myself not to intrude upon you or
her--at least, until you are convinced of the great injustice of your
conduct toward me, and invite me again to your house. But there is one
thing more!"

THE INVENTOR (_impatiently_). "One thing more! will this dialogue never
end? Well, sir. What the devil is it?" Then he added, as if aware of the
coarseness and gross impropriety of that expression. "Excuse me, sir,
but it is late, and my machine is waiting."

MARCUS (_slowly and firmly_). "One moment, sir. I have sworn my
innocence before God, with the most solemn oath known to man. I may have
misconstrued your remarks, but I thought you still doubted me. It is my
misfortune to be extremely sensitive upon the point of honor. Having
relinquished your acquaintance and that of--of--your daughter, it is now
my duty to ask whether you presume to question my oath?"

THE INVENTOR (_with increased impatience_). "Why should I be bored with
this cross-examination? I have never said I doubted your oath."

MARCUS (_quickly_). "That is not an answer. Do you believe me, or
disbelieve me? Am I a liar and perjurer, or not? In one word; yes,
or no!"

THE INVENTOR (_laughing nervously_). "Will you bully me in my own house,
sir? There is the door. Out of it!"

There was a noise like the opening of a door.

MARCUS (_between his teeth_). "Never, sir. Never, until you retract your
imputation upon my honor."

THE INVENTOR (_losing all control of himself_). "Curse your honor. If
you had been more careful of it in your native village--where you are
best known--it would not trouble you now. Come, there are the stairs."

MARCUS. "Once more. Do you believe my oath, or not?"

THE INVENTOR (_shouting_). "No! no! a million times, no! since you drive
me to it. I believe you to be a crafty scoundrel, who has been trying to
ruin my daughter. Out, sir, now--out!"

Then was a sound of two men clenching, and struggling toward the door.
A noise followed like that caused by the sharp closing of the door; but
the two men were still in the room, for their scuffling and their short,
quick grunts of exertion could be heard with increased distinctness. The
noise indicated that one was pushing the other toward the centre of the
room. Then followed the dull, nauseating sound of blows, apparently
struck with fists upon heads and chests, mingled with noisier but still
partly suppressed groans, and defiances.

The conversation which preceded this struggle, had come to Pet's ears
with such distinctness, and made such a terrifying impression upon her
mind, that it seemed as if she could see the combatants.

At the time when the clenching commenced, the vision was faint, as if
she were looking into a dark room. But, as the struggle proceeded, the
room seemed to be gradually lighted up for her; and every grapple, every
blow, every facial contortion of this horrible contest, were plainly
visible. And yet she was not in the room, but lying in her little bed,
bound as in the awful dream of the clashing orbs. She knew she was
there, and yet she felt that her eyes, all her faculties of observation,
had been somehow transferred to her father's room, and that she was
actually seeing and hearing the commission of a murder there.

She tried to cry aloud, but her jaws were closed. She would have risen,
entered the room, and thrown herself between the frenzied men, but
neither hand nor foot could she move. Her body was fastened to the bed
as if with adamantine chains, while her mind and soul were the voiceless
spectators of a tragedy of which she knew that she was the cause. She
could not even open her eyes. If she could have loosed but a muscle from
the rigidity of the trance, she knew that her whole frame would be
relaxed in an instant. Then she would have bounded--oh! with what
speed--into the other room, where her immortal part was helplessly
watching the conflict, and interceded at the risk of her life. Alas!
Prometheus was tied to the rock not more firmly than she to that bed
of anguish!

The struggle went on. The inventor, though past the prime of life, and
worn down by excessive thought, had some strength left. Its duration was
brief; but it was not to be despised while it lasted. He grasped the
tall figure of Marcus Wilkeson by the neck with one arm, and with the
other struck dozens of blows upon his face and chest. The comparative
youth and freshness of Marcus were unable to free him from the strong
hold of this vigorous old man. Pangs of terror shot through the heart of
the poor girl as she saw that her father was about to become a murderer.
Then the tide of fortune changed. Marcus, bruised and black in the face,
and panting with exertion, released himself from the inventor's clutch,
and, in turn, caught him by the throat. With his long arm he held the
furious old man at a safe distance. The unhappy girl was now agonized
with fears for her father's life.

"This is madness. Let us stop it." Thus Pet heard Marcus Wilkeson say,
in panting accents.

What demoniac spell was it that prevented her from shrieking--"Stop it.
In God's name, father, stop?"

"Never!" said the undaunted old man. "Never, till I have thrown you
headlong down stairs! Liar! Villain!"

With that, Pet saw her father hurl himself, with the ferocity of a
tiger, on Marcus Wilkeson. Such was the suddenness and impetuosity of
the movement, that Marcus was pushed back several feet toward the door,
from the centre of the room, where the most obstinate part of the
struggle had taken place.

But the old man's supremacy was short lived. The younger and stronger
man suddenly stooped, caught the inventor with both hands under the
arms, and thrust him toward the corner occupied by the mysterious
machine. The inventor would have fallen on it, and perhaps have been
instantly killed by contact with some portion of the brass or iron work,
but for the interposition of the screen. This broke his fall. He
scrambled to his feet, full of rage, and foaming at the mouth.

Marcus stepped back, and said, "Now let it cease."

Pet saw her father snatch something that looked like a club, from some
part of the machine.

"This is my answer," he said, and precipitated himself with fresh fury
upon Marcus.

The younger man had expected the attack, and braced himself for it. He
caught the inventor by the arm that held the club, or other weapon. They
wrestled for its possession--the inventor with frenzy in every feature,
Marcus with fixed determination, and silently.

The weapon was now aloft--now below--now shifted in the twinkling of an
eye to the right, and now to the left. At one time the inventor seemed
to be on the point of securing it; at another, Marcus. Suddenly Pet saw
it whirl like a shillelah above her father's head, with a strange noise
like the quick winding of a clock. Then she heard a dull sound, as of
striking a board with a brick, and--she saw her father fall to the
floor. At the same moment, the light in the room went out, and all
was darkness.

The pent-up agony at last found utterance. She shrieked, and, instantly,
her eyes were open, and her limbs free. She jumped out of bed, and was
about to rush into the chamber of horrors, when she saw the bright light
of the gas yet shining through the crack beneath her door. She listened.
The house was still as the grave. Not a sound from all the world
outside, except the striking of a fire alarm for the seventh district.
The deep notes vibrated upon her quickened hearing like a knell.

Then she remembered that, in the vision, the light had disappeared. Here
it was gleaming under her door as brightly as ever. "Pshaw! what a silly
girl I am!" said she. "It was a nightmare. That's all." She raised her
hands to her face. It was hot and dripping.

"Father prescribed too large a dose of blankets. No wonder I had this
horrid dream."

But, notwithstanding the presence of the light, and the absence of all
noise, such as would be caused by the murderer in leaving the room and
going down stairs, the impression of this tragic vision upon her mind
was not to be dismissed with a "Pshaw!"

Pet would have derived much relief from opening the door and looking in,
and seeing, with her own waking eyes, that her father was alive, at his
usual seat in the corner. She placed her hand upon the latch.

But then she remembered how her father had laughed at her, two or three
times before, when she was a younger girl, and not so wise as now, and
had rushed into his room screaming with fright from a nightmare. She
prided herself on having outgrown childish fears.

She also remembered that her father had told her, two days before, that
he was engaged in the most difficult mathematical calculations, day and
night, and, kissing her, had playfully said that she must not
disturb him.

"He is thinking over his problems now," thought little Pet. "Dear
father! I _do_ wish he would give up that hateful machine. It will be
the death of him. But he said I must not disturb him, and I will not.
Mr. Wilkeson must have gone home a long time ago; and dear father is
thinking, as he calls it, with his hand on his forehead, in the old
corner. Let me take one little peep through the keyhole, and go to
bed again."

Pet stooped, and looked through the keyhole. Within her range were the
chair where Marcus Wilkeson had sat that evening, and the nail
where--with bachelor-like precision--he always hung his hat. Neither
Marcus Wilkeson nor his hat were in their accustomed, places. "What
silly things these dreams are!" thought little Pet. The keyhole did not
command the corner of the room where the machine stood, and where the
inventor pondered and toiled; but Pet felt as certain that he was there,
coaxing thoughts out of his pale brow with that habitual caress of the
hand, as if she had seen him.

"Good night, dear father," she whispered, softly. "May Heaven watch over
your labors, and keep you from all harm."

With this pious prayer, she slid into her warm nest. But, before
adjusting her limbs for sleep, she threw off a portion of the heavy
blankets which had weighed upon her, and was soon sound asleep, and
dreaming of a garden in which all the roses were beautiful new bonnets.

Still the moon played her ghastly metamorphoses in the little chamber.
And the figures on the carpet and the figures on the curtain writhed in
horrible contortions of glee, as if they rejoiced over a calamity which
had befallen that house.



CHAPTER V.

WHAT THE MORNING BROUGHT.

The child woke about seven o'clock. She knew the time by the sun's rays
upon the window curtains. In that strong, cheerful light, the phantom
faces had shrunk back to great red bunches of flowers again. She thought
of the absurd dream, or vision, as of something that had happened ages
ago, and wondered that she had been foolish enough to be frightened
by it.

There was no noise in her father's room. But that was not strange, for
he rarely retired to bed before three o'clock in the morning (even when
he did not sit up all night), and slept till eight. His sleep, though
short, was sound; and it was Pet's custom to prepare breakfast in her
father's room without waking him.

She washed her face, which looked rosy and bewitching in the little
cracked mirror, and dressed her hair in two simple bands down the
cheeks, and put on a white calico dress with small red spots, and a
white apron bound with blue. This was the dress that her father loved
the best. She looked in the glass, and examined her damaged reflection
with a charming coquetry, and said, "Pet, child, you are looking well
to-day. Now for breakfast."

Pet walked to the door, humming her last music lesson in a low voice.

She placed her hand upon the latch, and opened the door softly. As it
swung on its hinges, and she began to obtain a glimpse of the room, she
noticed the gas still burning, though the daylight filled the apartment.
This was strange. A shudder passed through her frame, and her cheeks
began to pale.

"Pooh! what nonsense!" she said. She pushed the door wide open.

Was it another mocking, maddening vision that she saw? She rubbed her
eyes in wild affright, and then raised her hands aloft with a
piercing shriek.

There, before her, lay the dead body of her father. In the centre of his
ghastly forehead was a small wound, from which the blood had trickled
over the temples, bedabbling his thin gray hairs, and forming a small
red pool by his side. Near him, on the floor, was a club with an iron
tip, which had done the dreadful deed. She recognized it at once as a
part of the machine.

The monstrous vision of the night was true! Her father was dead! Mr.
Wilkeson was his murderer! She was an orphan!

These agonizing thoughts flashed through her brain in the single
instant. She felt her head turning, and her limbs failing under her. She
had only strength to shriek, "Murder! murder! Help! help!" and then she
fell headlong and senseless upon her father's dead body.



BOOK SEVENTH.

JOURNEYINGS AGAINST FATE.



CHAPTER I.

PEA-SHOOTING AS A SCIENCE.

Be it said to the credit of Wesley Tiffles, that he always paid bills
promptly when he could borrow money to do it. The funds that he had
raised from Marcus Wilkeson, and others, for the panorama, had been
faithfully applied to that great object. If he could have borrowed money
from other people to repay those loans, that act of financial justice
would also have been done; and so on without end, like a round robin.

When Tiffles bestowed the last instalment of compensation upon Patching,
that individual shrugged his shoulders, and smiled. "The paltry price of
artistic degradation," said he. "Remember, I would have done this job
only for a friend. The world must not know it is a Patching--though I
fear that even on this hasty daub I have left marks of my style which
will betray me."

"You are safe, my dear fellow," said Tiffles. "I have already ordered
the posters and bills; and the name of Andrea Ceccarini will appear
thereon as the artist. Ceccarini has an Italian look, which is an
advantage; and, you will pardon me for saying, is rather more imposing
than Patching."

The artist was sensitive touching his name. It had been punned upon in
some of the comic papers. He could not take offence at the innocent
remark of a friend, but he felt hurt, and vindictively rammed the large
roll of one-dollar bills into his vest pocket without counting them.
(Whenever it was practicable, Tiffles paid his debts in bills of that
denomination. He had a theory that the amount looked larger, and was
more satisfactory to the receiver.)

As Tiffles saw how lightly the artist regarded the money, not even
counting it, he felt a momentary pang at the thought that he had
paid him.

The panorama of Africa had not only been finished and paid for, but it
had been exhibited to a large number of clergymen of all denominations,
at the lecture room of an up-town church. The clergymen, being debarred
from attending secular amusements, as a class, had gladly accepted the
invitation of "Professor Wesley" (Tiffles's panoramic name), and brought
with them their wives and a number of children apiece.

The panorama was rigged up at the end of the lecture room, in front of
the desk, under the personal supervision of a former assistant of
Banvard's, and worked beautifully, saving an occasional squeak in
the rollers.

Tiffles, in his character of Professor Wesley, told his story glibly and
with perfect coolness, interspersing the heavier details with amusing
anecdotes, which made the ministers smile, and brought out a loud titter
of laughter from the ministers' wives, and tremendous applause,
inclusive of stamping and the banging of hymn books, from the
ministers' children.

One of the children, with the love of mischief peculiar to that division
of the human family, had provided himself with peas, and, taking
advantage of the partial darkness in which the panorama was exhibited,
shot those missiles with practised aim at Professor Wesley, and now and
then hit him in the face. The lecturer kept in good humor; and when,
after a smart volley of peas, Rev. Dr. A---- arose, and suggested that
these disturbances were disgraceful, and, although he did not wish to
meddle with the household government of his brethren, he thought that
the children who were guilty of such outrages ought to be taken home,
soundly whipped, and put to bed--when Rev. Dr. A----, moved by just
indignation, did this, the lecturer smiled, and blandly said: Oh, no; he
wasn't annoyed in the least (at the same time receiving a pea on his
left cheek). He would trust to the generosity of his young friends not
to fire their peas too hard; and he hoped that the reverend gentleman
would withdraw his suggestion.

Cries of "All right, brother!" "We'll keep the boys quiet!" "Go on! go
on!" went up from all parts of the room. Rev. Dr. A----, yielding to the
pressure, sat down, and received, at that moment, one pea on the right
eye of his gold spectacles, and another square on the end of his nose.
The two peas were fired by his second son John, who had been delivering
this invisible artillery all the evening from the other end of the
identical pew in which the Rev. Dr. was seated. He groaned in the
spirit, and muttered something to Mrs. Rev. Dr. A---- about the
degeneracy of other people's children, which made that lady chuckle low,
under cover of the night; for she knew that her second son John was the
pea-shooter, and had made vain efforts to stop him, by pinching his leg,
though the good matron could not help laughing at every fine shot
achieved by her promising boy.

Professor Wesley "went on," as requested, and so did the pea-shooting,
until John's stock of ammunition gave out.

The lecturer had ransacked the Society, Astor, and Mercantile libraries,
and stuffed himself with facts touching the interior of Africa, so far
as that mystery had been explored. Fortified with these facts, and a
lively imagination, he found no difficulty in satisfying the curiosity
of his auditors on every point; and answered questions of all sorts,
which were fired at him even thicker than the peas, without the least
hesitation.

When the exhibition was over, every clergyman present signed a
certificate declaring that they had been highly entertained and
instructed by the Panorama of Africa, and Mr. Wesley's able lecture;
that they considered the painting a masterpiece of moral Art, and
cordially recommended it to the patronage of an enlightened public.



CHAPTER II.

BY STEAM.

Tiffles had selected, as his first field of active operations, the State
of New Jersey. His large number of relatives (the Tiffleses were
prolific on the female side) and friends, and occasional creditors,
scattered through New England and New York, effectually barred him from
all that territory. New Jersey, then Pennsylvania, then the West--those
were the great topographical features of his campaign.

For his initiatory performance, he had chosen a quiet little town less
than thirty miles from the city, on a line of railway. If his panorama
was to be a hopeless failure at the very outset, Tiffles wanted to be
within striking distance of New York. He was sanguine of success; but,
like a prudent general, he looked after his lines of retreat.

To this small town in New Jersey, with which the fate of the great
enterprise was to be indissolubly linked, Tiffles had sent a large stock
of posters and handbills. He had previously corresponded (free of
expense both ways) with that universal business man of every American
village, the postmaster, and, through him, had engaged Washington
Hall--the largest hall in the place, capable of holding six hundred
people--at five dollars for one night, with the refusal of two
nights more.

The name of the hall and the night of exhibition were written in blank
spaces on the posters and handbills with red chalk, in a fine commercial
hand, by Tiffles himself; and, for a small consideration, the postmaster
had agreed to stick up the posters on every corner; also on the post
office and the three town pumps; and to distribute the handbills in
every house. These labors the P.M. did not undertake to perform
personally--though he had plenty of leisure for them, as well as for the
local defence of the National Administration, which was his peculiar and
official function--but he turned them over to a semi-idiot, who
occasionally did jobs of that kind, and who was willing to trust for his
pay to the coming of Professor Wesley.

The last letter from the postmaster ran thus:

     Yure's of the 6th reseved, and contense, including for my
     pussenel expenses, dooly noted, Washinton Hall has been moped
     out for you and is clene as a pin, six new tin cannel sticks
     have been put up in the antyrum by the propryetor, this is
     lyberul, all the hanbils has been distributid, and the
     posters stuck up, sum of em wrong side down, owin to the
     bilposter bein a little week-minded, which will be a kind of
     curosity, and an advantije to you I think. I have sent
     tickets to the village pastures and their famylis, as yu
     requested and they red the notises last Sunday and advised
     everybuddy to go. I have gut public opinion all rite for yu
     here, now cum on with yer panyrammer of Afriky.

     Yure's trooly,

     B. PERSIMMON, p.m.

This was cheering; and Tiffles only hoped that he would be able to
secure so faithful an ally in every postmaster, for he had decided to do
this preliminary work through that variety of public functionary, until
the success of the panorama would justify hiring a special courier to go
in advance and smooth the way for him,

All these preparations having been satisfactorily made; and the
panorama, with the curtains, the lighting apparatus, and the other
properties, having been forwarded in three enormous boxes to the scene
of the impending conflict with public opinion, Tiffles made ready to
follow. And, on the eventful morning of the----- of April, 185-, he
might have been seen at the Cortlandt-street ferry, accompanied by
Patching, who had graciously consented to see how the "thing worked" on
its first public trial.

Patching pulled his enormous hat still farther over his eyes, so that he
might not be recognized. This gave him an extremely questionable aspect;
and the ticket taker at the ferry peered under the huge brim
suspiciously as Patching came in. He also attracted the attention of a
detective in citizen's clothes, and was a general object of interest to
all the people congregated in the ferry house and waiting for the boat.

"This is fame," muttered Patching, glancing at his scrutinizers from the
shadow of the far-reaching hat. "This is what people starve and die for.
It is a bore." He struck an attitude, as if unconsciously, folding his
arms, and appearing to be in a profound revery. Then, after another
cautious glance about, he turned to Tiffles, by his side, and said:

"It is useless. I am recognized. But remember your solemn promise. I had
no hand in the painting of it."

"Not a little finger, my dear fellow," cheerfully replied Tiffles, who
had given the artist similar assurances of secrecy five times
that morning.

At that moment a hand touched Tiffles familiarly on the shoulder. He
turned suddenly, for he was always expecting rear attacks from
creditors. He saw Marcus Wilkeson.

"Best of friends," said Tiffles, with unfeigned joy, "I am glad to see
you. Of course you are going with us, though I hardly dared hope as much
when I sent you the invitation."

"To tell the truth, Tiffles, I had no intention of going, till this
morning, when it suddenly occurred to me that a little trip in the
country, and the fun of seeing your panorama and hearing you lecture,
would drive away the blues. I had a bad fit of them last night."

Here Patching turned, and looked Marcus in the face, without seeming to
recognize him. It was his habit (not a singular one among the human
species) to pretend not to remember people, and to wait for the first
word. Marcus indulged in the same habit to some extent, and, when he saw
Patching looking at him without a nod or a word, he also was blank and
speechless.

"Don't you remember each other?" said Tiffles. "Mr. Patching. Mr. Marcus
Wilkeson."

The gentlemen shook hands, and said:

"Oh, yes! How do you do? It is a fine morning. Very."

"So much paler than when I last saw you, that I didn't know you,
positively. Little ill, sir?" asked Patching. The artist was sure to
observe and speak of any signs of illness on the faces of his friends
and acquaintances. Some people called him malevolent for it.

To be told that one looks pale, always makes one turn paler. Marcus,
extra sensitive on the point of looks, became quite pallid, and said,
with confusion:

"I have not been well for several days, and my rest was badly broken
last night."

Tiffles had also remarked the unusual deadly whiteness of his friend's
complexion, and the air of lassitude and unhappiness which pervaded his
face, but he would not have alluded to them for the world. He never made
impertinent observations of that sort.

"Unwell?" said Tiffles. "I had not noticed it. In the morning, all New
York looks as if it had just come out of a debauch. Wilkeson will pass,
I guess." This calumny upon the city was Tiffles's favorite bit of
satire, and it had cheered up many a poor fellow who thought himself
looking uncommonly haggard.

Marcus smiled languidly, and turned away his head with a sigh. As his
eyes swept about, they encountered the gaze of the man in citizen's
clothes, previously noticed. At first, Marcus thought he had seen this
man somewhere before; and then he thought he was mistaken. The man
evinced no recognition of Marcus, and, an instant after, his sharp
glance wandered to some other person in the large group waiting for
the boat.

Here the boat came into the slip, and, after bumping in an uncertain way
against the piles on either side, neared almost within leaping distance
of the wharf. A solid crowd of passengers stood at the edge of the boat,
with their eyes fixed on the landing place, as if it were the soil of a
new world upon which they were to leap for the first time, like a party
of Columbuses When the distance had been diminished to about four feet,
the front row of passengers jumped ashore, and rushed wildly up the
street, as if impelled by a rocket-like power from behind. These people
could not have been more eager to get ashore, if they had come from the
other side of the globe on business involving a million apiece, to be
transacted on that day only.

In fact, they were only lawyers, tradesmen, mechanics, and clerks,
living in Jersey City, and going over to New York on their daily,
humdrum business. It was not the business that attracted them, but the
demon of American restlessness that pushed them on. They went back at
night in just the same hurry, and made equally hazardous jumps on the
Jersey side. They were mere shuttlecocks between the battledoors of
Jersey City and New York.

Tiffles and Patching lifted up the thin carpet bags which reposed at
their feet, and which contained an exceedingly small amount of personal
linen and other attire, and went on board the boat, followed by Marcus,
who was unencumbered with baggage. They entered the ladies' cabin. The
thick crowd of people pressed into the cabin in their front and rear,
and all about them, and scrambled for seats. There was a general
preference for the part forward of the wheelhouse, because it was a few
feet nearer New Jersey than the aft part. The rush to obtain these
preferred places was like that of the opera-going world for the front
row of boxes at a _matinée_. Ladies who obtained eligible seats, settled
themselves in them, spread out their dresses, put their gloved hands in
position, and smiled with a sweet satisfaction at ladies who had got no
seats. Those ladies, in turn, looked reproachfully at the gentlemen who
were comfortably seated. And those gentlemen, with the exception of a
few who rose and gracefully offered their seats to the youngest and
prettiest of the ladies, in turn looked out of the windows, or at the
floor, or at a paper, intently.

A stranger to the ferry boats and customs of the country would have
supposed that the passengers were bound for Europe instead of the
opposite shore of North River.

Marcus Wilkeson, Times, and Patching did not participate in this contest
for seats, but walked through the fetid and stifling cabins to the
forward deck, where fresh, bracing air, glorious sunlight, and a cheery
view of the river were to be had. But these charms of nature were
apparently thrown away on the trio. They all leaned over the railing,
and, looked steadily into the water. Times was thinking up his lecture,
and other matters of the panorama. Patching was misanthropically
reviewing his career, and exulting in future triumphs over his
professional enemies. Marcus was engrossed with some sad theme which,
once or twice, brought tears into his eyes. A burst of noble music, a
fine sentiment in a poem, a poor woman crying, keen personal
disappointment, or any acute mental trouble, had this strange effect on
the optics of Marcus Wilkeson.

The bell rang; voices shouted, "All aboard!" the gangplank was drawn in;
several belated people jumped on, at the risk of their lives, after the
boat had left the wharf, one man vaulting over ten feet; and the voyage
for Jersey was commenced.

Three minutes later, the inmates of the cabins began to go forward and
pick favorable positions for jumping off on the other side. The scramble
to evacuate the seats then was as sharp as the scramble to possess them,
three minutes before. A few more rounds of the wheels, and the boat
thumped in the usual way against one row of piles at the entrance of the
Jersey slip, and then caromed like a billiard ball on the other, each
time nearly knocking the passengers off their feet, and shaking a small
chorus of screams out of the ladies.

When the boat was within a yard of the wharf, the jumping commenced; and
all the able-bodied men, most of the boys, and some of the ladies, were
off before the boat butted with tremendous force against the wharf,
shaking both wharf and boat to their foundations, and giving to the
people on both a parting jar, which they carried in their bones for the
rest of the day.

Once safely on the wharf, the scramble was continued in various
directions and for various objects. Marcus, Tiffles, and Patching
indulged in the eccentricity of not scrambling; and, when they reached
the Erie Railroad cars, they found every seat taken, some by two
persons, but many by one lady and a bandbox or carpet bag, which was
intended to signify to the inquiring eye that the lawful human occupant
of that half of the seat was absent, but might be expected to come in
and claim it at any moment.

The three companions understood this conventional imposture, and
politely claimed the spare half seats from the nearest ladies. The fair
occupants looked forbidding, and slowly removed their bandboxes,
baskets, and other parcels, to the floor beneath, or the rack overhead;
and the disturbers of their peace and comfort ruthlessly took the
vacated seats, with a bow, signifying "Thank you."

The seats thus procured were some distance apart; and so the three
companions were precluded from conversing with each other. This suited
the taciturn mood of each that morning. As for the ladies who filled the
other half of the three seats, they might as well have been lay figures
from a Broadway drygoods store; conversation with them being prohibited
by the etiquette of railway travelling. A man may journey two hundred
and fifty miles in a car, with his elbow unavoidably jogging a lady's
all the way, and still be as far from her acquaintance (unless she is
graciously inclined to say something first) as if the pair were leagues
apart. This is proper, but peculiar.

The strange sadness that possessed Marcus that morning was intensified
as the ears rolled on. There is something in the monotonous vibration of
the train, and the recurring click of the wheels against the end of the
rails, that provokes melancholy. Marcus looked out of the window at the
flying landscape, and the distant patches of wood which seemed to be
slowly revolving about each other, and was profoundly wretched. He was
totally unconscious of the sharp, pale, nervous face by his side.

The owner of the face was about thirty-five years old, though the lines
on her brow and cheeks added an apparent five years to her age. If she
had been put upon her trial for murder, the police reporters would have
discovered traces of great beauty in her countenance. An ordinary
spectator, having no occasion to spice a paragraph, would have made the
equivocal remark that she had once been handsomer.

This lady was dressed plainly, comfortably, and in good taste. Her
hands, ungloved, were shapely, but red and hard with manual labor. On
the second finger of the left hand was a little gold ring, much thinned
by wearing. The eyes of this lady were regarding the unconscious Marcus
obliquely, with a singular expression of mingled recollection and doubt.
Sometimes her glance would drop to the ring, as if that were a link in
the chain of her perplexed reflections. A sudden jolt of the car, as the
train ran over a pole which had fallen on the track, roused Marcus to
the existence of this face and those eyes.

As he saw the eyes sternly bent on him, he thought that his staring out
of the window, past the lady's profile, might have offended her. So,
with a cough which was meant to serve as an apology for the
unintentional rudeness, he turned his face away, and continued his
gloomy revery among the odd patterns of the oilcloth on the floor of
the aisle.

Still the thin, nervous lady watched him obliquely.

A ride of three quarters of an hour brought them to their destination,
as they learned from a preliminary howl of the conductor through the
rear door of the car. The engine bell rang, the whistle screamed, the
clack of the wheels gradually became slower.

"Only one minute. Hurry!" howled the conductor again.

Marcus, Tiffles, and Patching were out of their seats and at the door
with American despatch. Before the car had quite stopped, they had
jumped off. Marcus did not notice that, behind him, was a woman
struggling between the two rows of seats with a bandbox, a workbasket,
an umbrella, and her hoops, all of which caught in turn on one side or
the other. Nor did the conductor observe that this burdened and
distressed lady was trying to make her way out; for, after looking from
the rear of the train, and seeing that three persons had landed, and
that there was nobody to get on, he concluded that it would be a waste
of time to stop a minute, and so rang the bell to go ahead. The engine
driver, equally impatient, jerked the starting lever, and the engine
bounded forward like a horse, giving a shock to the train, and nearly
upsetting the woman, who was still wrestling with her personal effects
between the rows of seats. With a sudden effort, she freed herself,
opened the door, and stood upon the platform.

The engine had wheezed three times, and she hesitated to jump. She
screamed shrilly. The sound entered the ears of Marcus Wilkeson, who was
whisking dust and ashes off his clothes with a handkerchief. He ran
forward, and saw the predicament of his pale and nervous fellow
traveller. She screamed again, as the engine wheezed for the
eighth time.

Marcus extended his hand. "Jump!" said he; "I'll catch you."

She did jump, much to the surprise of Marcus and the two lookers
on--thereby indicating decision of character.

Marcus caught her in his arms--bandbox, basket, and all--and the train
hurried on.

"Thank you, sir," said the lady, with some confusion. Then she walked
rapidly down the road toward the village, like one who lived there.

"A customer for the panorama, perhaps," said Tiffles. "I'm glad you
landed her safely." Tiffles had got through his thinking, and was
exhilarate again. He laughed so pleasantly, that even Marcus relaxed his
grim visage, and smiled.

"Not a bad ankle, that," observed Patching, looking at the rapidly
retreating form of the rescued woman. Patching, artist-like, was always
discovering beauties where nobody else looked for them.

Marcus had no eye for the charms of nature that morning, and he
responded not to the remark which the artist had addressed to him.
Whereupon Patching determined not to speak to Marcus again that day.

They followed the mysterious female down the road which led to the
village. On the fences, every few rods, were plastered posters
announcing the "Panorama of Africa" for that evening, at "Washington
Hall"--"Tickets, twenty-five cents"--"Children under twelve years of
age, half price," &c., &c. As B. Persimmon, P.M., had said, in one of
his letters, some of the posters were stuck upside down. This
circumstance did not seem to prevent the population from reading them;
for the party observed at least two boys (half prices) in the act of
spelling them out between their legs.

Tiffles was so absorbed in the contemplation of the posters, Patching in
a critical survey of the scenery on both sides of the road, and Marcus
Wilkeson in an introspection of his troubled heart, that none of them
observed how often the thin, nervous female, walking rapidly ahead,
looked over her shoulder at one of their number.



CHAPTER III.

PIGWORTH, J.P.

The village was composed of the usual ingredients, in the usual
proportions. Law, drygoods, liquor, blacksmithing, carpentry, education,
painting and glazing, medicine, dentistry, tinware, and other comforts
of civilization, were all to be had on reasonable terms. There were four
churches with rival steeples, and two taverns with rival signs. The
village contained everything that any reasonable man could ask for,
except a barber's shop. It takes a good-sized town to support a
barber's shop.

As they marched into the village, they were conscious of attracting
general attention. Men looked out of the doors, women out of the
windows, and boys had begun to fall in procession behind.

"Them are the performers," said one boy to another "Wonder what that
feller with the big hat does?" observed a second. "Turns the crank,
guess," was the response.

Patching pulled his hat farther over his eyes, and smiled gloomily at
Tiffles, "They little think who I am," he murmured.

"What a solemncholy mug that tall chap's got," said another youthful
citizen. This made Marcus try to laugh genially at the boys. But
in vain.

"Say, Bill, isn't that little feller's shirt out o' jail?"

Tiffles made a personal application of this remark. It was his constant
misfortune to suffer rents in portions of his garments where their
existence was least likely to be discovered by himself. As he could not
publicly verify the suggestion of the impertinent small boy, he buttoned
his coat tightly about him.

How their identity with the panorama of Africa had been established, was
a mystery. Small boys divine secrets by instinct, as birds find food
and water.

The two taverns were the National House and the United States Hotel.
Although the signs were large and clean, the taverns were small and
dirty. There was no choice between them, except in the fact that the
United States Hotel was directly opposite Washington Hall. Therefore the
adherents of the panorama cast their fortunes with that place of
entertainment for man and beast--particularly beast.

Mr. Thomas Pigworth, the landlord, was seated on the stoop of his
hostelry, discoursing of national politics to a small group of his
fellow citizens, who were performing acrobatic feats with chairs in a
circle about him. Pigworth was a justice of the peace, and was always
dressed in his best clothes, so as to perform his judicial functions at
a moments notice, with dignity and ease. He was tall, thin, baldheaded.
T.J. Childon, landlord of the "National," said hard things, as in duty
bound, of his rival. Among others, that he had kept himself lean by
running so hard for office for the last ten years. To which slander
Pigworth retorted, that Childon was fat (which was true--a fine, plump
figure was Childon's) only because he ate everything in his house, and
left nothing for his customers.

The three newcomers mounted the rotten wooden steps to the stoop. Mr.
Pigworth left his group of auditors, came forward, and received them
with the affability of a retired statesman.

"The landlord?" asked Tiffles.

"I keep the hotel," said Pigworth, with a smile which intimated that he
kept it for amusement rather than profit.

"Room and board for three of us?" asked Tiffles.

"Certainly," said Pigworth, with the air of a man who was doing them a
favor. "Ef you want only one apartment, I can give you the one occupied
last week by the Hon. Mr. Podhammer. You have heard of him?"

"Of course," responded Tiffles, to cut short the conversation.

"He spoke in Washington Hall, there, on the Cons'tution. He is smart on
some things, but THE CONS'TUTION he doesn't understand--not a word of
it. I told him so."

Tiffles was about to ask why, if the Hon. Mr. Podhammer didn't
understand a word of the Constitution, he had the audacity to lecture on
it; when he remembered that it was no uncommon thing for lecturers to
talk of what they don't understand--himself of Africa, for instance.

"Be good enough to show us the room," said he.

"I say, Judge" (Pigworth, being a justice of the peace, was universally
styled thus), cried a voice from the group, "do you, or do you not,
indorse my sentiments?"

Pigworth turned majestically, and spoke like an oracle:

"I do not indorse your sentiments. I wish it distinctly understood, that
I do not indorse them. I indorse nothing but the Cons'tution. That
instrument I indorse to any extent. Are you satisfied now?"

This speech was hailed by cries of "Good! good!" "That's so!" "Sound
doctrine, that!" "The Judge knows what's what!" Only one person, the
questioner, a young man with a preternatural head, was unappeased.

"A single word more," said this young man. "Do you, or do you not,
subscribe to my views on the Homestead Law?"

Pigworth looked at the three comers as if to say, "Mark how I crush him
now." Then, pointing his long right arm at the rash youth, he replied,
slowly, but with fearful distinctness: "I do not subscribe to your
views. Sooner would I lose this right arm than subscribe to them. There
is only one view that I subscribe to. That view to which I subscribe
(the Judge spoke with increased dignity here, and rose on his
toes)--that view is found in the Cons'tution. You would do well to study
the Cons'tution, my young friend."

This withering rebuke was greeted with shouts and clapping of hands from
all but the young man, who muttered something about humbug, and
looked glum.

The landlord had another excoriating remark, which he might have flung
at the young man and finished him up, but he magnanimously forbore.

"Now, my friends," said the landlord, patronizingly. He ushered them
into a dirty entry, and piloted the way up stairs.

"From New York, I suppose?" said the landlord. "Any political news?"

"Really, sir, we don't meddle with politics," replied Tiffles, sharply.

The landlord looked at him with an expression of pity "Oh! to be sure
not. You belong to the pannyrama. I recolleck that the last circus folks
that come here never talked about politics. Are you Professor Wesley?"

"I am," said Tiffles.

"I merely wanted to say," continued the landlord, "that six of my
lodgers are goin' to the pannyrama on my recommendation. I have a wife,
sister-in-law and five children."

Tiffles took the hint. "I will hand you a complimentary ticket for
yourself and family," said he.

"Oh, no! by no means!" replied the landlord. "I wouldn't think of taking
it."

Mr. Pigworth then ushered his guests into the large, uncomfortable
apartment known as the "best room" in all country hotels. The ceiling
was low; there were three windows with small panes, the sashes of which
rattled in the wind; a rag carpet covered the floor; an old bureau,
topped off with a dirty white cloth, a rickety table similarly draped,
four cane-bottomed chairs, and a huge wooden spitbox filled with
sawdust, stood at intervals around. Two single beds occupied
opposite corners.

With reference to the beds, Mr. Pigworth remarked:

"Podhammer and Gineral Chetley slept in that air one. Colonel
Hockensacker and Judge Waterfield in t'other. There was four other
mattresses put down here that night, each of 'em with two of our most
distinguished citizens on it. That convention was worth to me a good
hundred dollars."

With every respect for the precedent established by Podhammer and
associates, Marcus Wilkeson preferred to sleep alone, as he had done for
twenty years. He privately expressed to the landlord a desire for one of
the mattresses which had done duty during the convention.

The landlord smiled, evidently regarding the request as eccentric and
unreasonable, but nodded "All right." As for Tiffles and Patching,
having shared the same couch several nights during the incubation of the
panorama, the problem of how to distribute three men among two beds
gave them no concern. Pigworth then retired.

Marcus Wilkeson's first act was to open the windows, and mix some fresh
air with the damp and mouldy atmosphere of the apartment. Patching's
first act was to light his pipe, and throw himself on the nearest bed
for a smoke. Tiffles's first act was to inspect the rent which the
impertinent small boy had discovered, and make temporary repairs with a
pin. Having done these things, and arranged their toilets hastily in a
mirror with a crack running through it like a streak of lightning, the
three adventurers sallied forth, and crossed the street to
Washington Hall.



CHAPTER IV.

STOOP.

Washington Hall was the only place of public congregation, excepting the
churches, in the village. It was used on Sunday by a small but clamorous
religious sect; on Monday by a lodge of Free Masons; on Tuesday by a
lodge of Odd Fellows; on Wednesday by the Sons of Temperance; and for
the balance of the week was open to any description of exhibition that
came along. It was originally built for a loft, and its reconstruction
into a public hall was an afterthought. It was situated over a drug
store, and was owned by the druggist, Mr. Boolpin, who was universally
regarded as the meanest man in the village.

As the three drew near the door, Mr. Boolpin, strongly smelling of
aloes, and carrying a pestle in his hand, came out to greet them. He, in
common with all the inhabitants, knew that the "pannyrarmer folks" were
in town. The small boys had borne the glad intelligence all abroad. A
number of citizens, who had been lying in wait, issued forth with Mr.
Boolpin, and looked hard at the three.

"The proprietor of the hall," said Mr. Boolpin, introducing himself.

"My name is Wesley," responded Tiffles. He then introduced Patching as
Signor Ceccarini, and Wilkeson as Mr. Wilkes. Patching chuckled inwardly
at the thought of the incognito, and imagined the sensation that would
be produced by the accidental revelation of his real name. Marcus felt a
momentary humiliation at having consented to this innocent imposture.

Mr. Boolpin, having shaken hands solemnly with the three, asked them to
walk up stairs and look at the hall. They accordingly followed him up a
series of creaking steps.

"Everything in apple-pie order," said Mr. Boolpin. "The three boxes
containing the panorama right side up with care, you see. I had them
carted from the depot. Cost me a dollar. People thought they were
coffins. Ha! ha! Six new tin candlesticks, you observe; also the ceiling
whitewashed; also ten extra seats introduced, making the entire capacity
of the hall three hundred and fifty--giving twelve inches of sitting
room to each person. No extra charge for these fixings, though I made
them expressly on your account. There are some things about this hall to
which I would call your attention. Boo! Boo! Hallo! Hallo! No echo, you
perceive. Likewise notice the fine view from the window." Mr. Boolpin
pointed to a swamp which could be distinctly seen over a housetop toward
the east. "The ventilation is a great feature, too." Mr. Boolpin
directed his pestle toward a trap door in a corner of the ceiling,
through which a quantity of rain had come a night or two previous,
leaving a large wet patch on the floor. "It's almost too cheap for
fifteen dollars a night."

"For what?" asked Tiffles.

"For fifteen dollars," replied Mr. Boolpin, twirling his pestle
playfully. "Of course, not reckoning in the one dollar that you owe me
for cartage. It's too cheap. I ought to have made it twenty dollars."

"Why, Mr. Persimmon, the postmaster here, engaged the hall for five
dollars. Here is his letter mentioning the price." Tiffles produced the
letter, and pointed out the numeral in question.

"It's a 5, without any doubt," rejoined Mr. Boolpin; "but Persimmon had
no authority to name that price. I distinctly told him fifteen dollars.
But here he is. Perhaps he can explain it."

The three turned on their heels, and beheld, standing at the door, a
short, dirty man in a faded suit of black, and a cold-shining satin
vest. He wore an old hat set well back on a bald head, and his cravat
was tied on one side in hangman's fashion. One leg of his trowsers was
tucked into the top of his boot; the other hung down in its proper
position. The man's face and hands wanted washing. This was Mr.
Persimmon, postmaster. The secrets of his popularity were: First, his
addiction to dirt; second, his eccentricities of dress, heretofore
enumerated; third, a reputation for political craft and long-headedness,
not wholly unfounded, as his ingenuity in procuring the passage of
resolutions supporting the policy of the Administration, in all the
conventions of his party since he became postmaster, fully proved. This
political sage walked about town with Post-Office documents and
confidential communications from Washington sticking out of all his
pockets, and under the edge of his hat. He had a slight stoop in the
shoulders, which the local wits said had increased since he undertook to
carry the Administration.

"Professor Wesley?" remarked Persimmon, extending a grimy hand. "Happy
to see you."

"Your most obedient," said Tiffles, a little stiffly, for the fifteen
dollars annoyed him. It was a small sum to borrow, but a large one
to pay.

"Have you such a thing as a morning newspaper about you?" asked the
postmaster. "Our bundle missed the train. As you may naturally imagine,
sir, I am anxious to see how the grand mass meeting went off last night
in your city. Perhaps you wos there?"

Tiffles had never attended such a thing in his life; although he was
aware that two or three grand mass meetings were held every week about
all the year round, and a dozen nightly in times of political
excitement. "No," said he; "but will you be good enough to tell me how
much you hired this room for?"

Persimmon thought how culpably ignorant some people were of the great
political movements of the day, but did not say so. Descending from
politics to the subject in hand, he replied:

"Oh! fifteen dollars, of course. You will find it stated in my last
letter to you." At this moment (no one of the three observing the act),
the long-headed postmaster tipped a slight wink to Mr. Boolpin, who
returned that signal of mutual understanding.

Tiffles handed the letter to the postmaster, pointing out the figure 5.

"Can I believe my eyes?" said the postmaster. "True enough, it is a 5.
Confound my absent-mindedness in not puttin' down a 1." It may here be
said, that similar instances of mental aberration were discovered in Mr.
Persimmon's accounts toward the close of his official term.

Tiffles was staggered, as he reflected that it would take sixty full
tickets to pay the single item of rent. He had less than half a dollar
in his own pocket. Patching was, as usual, reduced to his last
five-dollar bill. Marcus had incidentally observed, a few minutes
before, that he had left his wallet at home, and had only a handful of
small silver about him. Suppose the panorama should fail on the first
night, and be detained for debt! Tiffles had not thought of that.

Tiffles remonstrated, entreated, suggested compromises, but all to no
purpose. Boolpin was iron. The best arrangement that Tiffles could make,
was to postpone the final settlement of the terms until after the
performance. To that, Boolpin had not the least objection.

"One thing more," said Boolpin. "If there is a row, and any seats or
windows are broken, you are to pay the damages."

Tiffles laughed faintly. "Oh! of course," said he. "But you never have
rows here, do you?" He put the question with disguised interest.

"Sometimes," carelessly replied Mr. Boolpin. "There was a legerdemain
man got his machinery knocked to pieces, and his head broken. The mob
was quite reasonable about the furniture, and smashed only ten seats and
sixteen panes of glass. I charged the Professor twenty dollars for
damages, but took off two dollars on account of his illness. Poor
fellow! he was laid up more than a month. Then there was a band of
nigger minstrels, called the 'Metropoliganians.' They were regular
humbugs; and so the mob took them, and tarred and feathered them in the
back lot. Damage to furniture on that occasion was only sixteen dollars;
and I got every cent of it, by holding on to their trunks. There have
been a good many such little affairs in this village. I mention these
two cases only as examples."

"And yet no people in the world is more peaceable, nor more easily
satisfied, than the people of this town," said the postmaster. "They
only axes not to be imposed on. That's all."

"A kinder-hearted people don't live on the face of this earth," added
Boolpin, stating the case in another way; "but you mustn't give them
less than twenty-five cents' worth for a quarter."

Tiffles replied to the effect that he would give them a dollar's worth
apiece; but, in his heart, he foresaw, with that remarkable prescience
which is occasionally vouchsafed to mortals, that the panorama of Africa
was doomed to be a bad failure; and he bitterly regretted that he had
not tried some one of a dozen other immense speculations which he had
thought of. But he determined to give one night's exhibition, whatever
might be the consequences. "I may as well die for an old sheep as a
lamb," thought Tiffles.

During this conversation, Patching was secretly studying the effect of
the swamp, visible from the eastern windows; and Marcus was looking at
the cracked wall in a fit of abstraction.

Tiffles had observed several times, that morning, a youth, or man, of
singular aspect, following him. Occasionally, on turning around
suddenly, he would see this person at his elbow. Looking behind, at the
close of the colloquy with the landlord, he again saw the strange youth,
or man. The being was nearly six feet high, and powerfully built, like a
strong man of twenty-five. His face was childish even to the degree of
silliness. The mouth opened like a flytrap; the eyes were small and
intensely guileless. Only a few wrinkles, and a few hairs, which grew
wide apart on his cheeks and chin, indicated his manhood. But the oddest
feature was the falling away of his forehead, at an angle which a dirty
greased cap, pulled over his brow, could not conceal.

"Well, sir, what do you want?" said Tiffles.

"If you please, sir," said the singular being, in a cracked voice, "yure
the pannyrarmer, a'n't ye?"

"Not exactly, my lad, but I own it. And who are you?"

"My name's Stoop, if you please, sir."

Mr. Boolpin broke out with a laugh, which made the building reverberate.
"It's the village idiot," said he. "He goes by the name of Stoop, which
is short for Stupid. Ha! ha! Come, now, clear out, Stupid, and don't be
bothering the gentleman."

The boy-man began to whimper, when Tiffles, recollecting an allusion to
a semi-idiot in one of the postmaster's letters, said:

"Stay, my lad; I believe I owe you something."

"For pastin' up two hundred posters, fifty cents; and distributin' five
hundred bills, twenty-five cents. Totale, seventy-five cents." The idiot
did not hold out his hand for the pay, and Tiffles conceived an instant
esteem for him. An idea came to Tiffles. This idiot, as he was called,
had shown intelligence in reckoning. He might have a deal of good sense
under that dull exterior. Tiffles had observed, in his travels, that
_the_ idiot which Providence assigns to every town and village, is not
always the biggest fool in it. This idiot might have sufficient
intellect to turn the crank of the panorama, and render muscular aid in
other respects. At any rate, he was able-bodied enough.

"My lad," said Tiffles.

"Stoop, if you please, sir."

"Very good. Stoop, I think I can find some work for you behind the
scenes to-night. Can you turn a crank?"

"I've done it to grindstones, sir."

"It's the same principle," said Tiffles, laughing. "I'll engage you."

The idiot took off his greasy cap, and swung it in the air with joy. A
smile irradiated his great, coarse face, and his small eyes twinkled.
"Gosh golly!" he cried; "I'm goin' to be one of the performers. I'm
so glad!"

He said this, in a spirit of juvenile exultation, to the dozen boys who
stood gaping in at the doorway. This innocent bit of boasting provoked
their derisive laughter, and a quantity of playful epithets and
nicknames, which the idiot endured with marvellous patience, until one
dirty little boy put the thumb of his left hand to his nose, twirled the
fingers, and said, "Boo! boo! boo!" This act had the same effect on poor
Stoop as the shaking of a red handkerchief at a bull. It enraged him. He
sprang at the youth, and, but for the sudden closing of the door by the
offender, who had judiciously kept a hand on the knob, would have
chastised him on the spot.

The door not only arrested his progress, but suddenly checked his wrath.
"I'm very sorry, indeed, Professor," said he; "but Gorrifus! it makes
me so mad!"

Messrs. Boolpin and Persimmon laughed heartily. "He's a perfect idiot,
you see," remarked the former. "Coming the nose system at him always
makes him mad."

Tiffles did not understand how that was any proof of idiocy; but, to
prevent the recurrence of any difficulty between his new assistant and
the populace of small boys, he thought it best to take possession of the
hall, and lock the door. He therefore signified to Mr. Boolpin that they
would at once proceed to put up the panorama. Tiffles threw off his
coat, thereby intimating that he would go to work at once.

Messrs. Boolpin and Persimmon inquired, as a matter of form, whether
their further assistance was needed, and were answered in the negative.
Whereupon they retired--Mr. Boolpin uttering a farewell caution against
driving more nails in the wall than were necessary, and not to cut the
floor under any circumstances--and the panorama and its adherents were
left alone.

Mr. Boolpin had driven the uproarious boys before him with his pestle,
administering smart taps to the reluctant ones. Tiffles suffered no
further annoyance from them that day, save an occasional "Boo! boo!"
shouted through the keyhole, and followed by an immediate scampering of
the perpetrators down stairs. This well-known sound always roused the
idiot to fury; and the peaceable persuasions, and even the gentle
violence of Tiffles, were needed to keep him from relinquishing his work
and springing to the door.

He was a most intelligent and useful idiot. He could measure distances
more accurately than either of the three, and could ply the saw, hammer,
plane, or hatchet (Tiffles brought all these tools with him) like a
carpenter. His strength and skill were so great, that Tiffles found
himself gratefully relieved from the necessity of lifting, or directing.
Marcus Wilkeson, who had also thrown off his coat with a manful
determination to do a hard day's work, in the hope of tiring out and
driving away the sadness that possessed him, put on the garment again,
and sat on a front bench, vacantly staring like an idiot at the idiot,
and all the while thinking, gloomily, of New York. Patching stalked
about the hall, and criticized the work as it progressed, from numerous
angles of observation; but even he confessed that he could make no
improvement on Stoop's highly artistic disposition of things.

The idiot worked on steadily and swiftly, and only two things
interrupted him. The first was the "Boo!" yelled through the keyhole, as
heretofore described. The second was the unrolling of portions of the
panorama as they were taken out of the boxes, fastened together, and
attached to the rollers.

As the canvas was unwound, Stoop would drop his saw, or hammer, or other
tool, and gaze, with his large mouth and small eyes wide open, at the
pictorial marvels successively disclosed. "Blame it!" said he; "a'n't
that splendid?" or, "By jingo! look at that!" or, "Thunder! don't that
beat all?" The tigers' tails and the elephants' trunks, the alligators'
snouts and the boa constrictor's convolutions, he recognized at once. He
had "read all about 'em in Olney's Jogriffy."

"He is an idiot of taste," thought Patching. "I wonder what they call
him an idiot for?" thought Tiffles. "It's a pity all the people aren't
idiots," said Marcus Wilkeson to Tiffles. "Your panorama would be
patronized and appreciated then." It was Marcus's first approach to a
joke that day.

By four o'clock in the afternoon the Panorama of Africa was all up, the
rollers and the curtain in good working order, and everything ready for
the eventful night. Stoop had taken a lesson at the wheel, and turned it
beautifully. Tiffles had arranged a system of signals with him. One
cough was "Stop;" two coughs were "Go on;" one stamp was "Slower;" two,
stamps were "Faster." Tiffles and Stoop rehearsed the system several
times, the one being before the curtain, in the position of the
lecturer, and the other behind it, at the crank. Nothing could be more
satisfactory.

"Only one thing puzzles me," said Tiffles to his friends. "Why do they
call this smart fellow an idiot?"



CHAPTER V.

AN AUDIENCE ANALYZED.

The eventful night came on. Tiffles and friends fortified themselves
with a poor supper, including numerous cups of weak black tea, at the
hotel, and repaired, full of anxiety and misgivings, to the hall. The
idiotic but intelligent Stoop had remained in charge of the panorama,
and feasted himself, intellectually, upon the splendors of that work of
Art, as disclosed by a single candle in front.

All the candles in the hall and the entry were then lighted up, and
produced quite a gorgeous illumination of the four windows fronting on
the main street. This having been done, Marcus (who, having a more
extensive acquaintance with the faces of bank bills than either of his
friends, had kindly consented to act as money taker and cashier) took
his seat in a little box with a pigeon hole in it, and his entire stock
of loose change, amounting to seventy-five cents in silver, spread
before him. Tiffles stood within the door of the hall, to see that
nobody came in (especially small boys) who had not paid. Stoop remained
behind the scenes, and was positively instructed to stay there. Patching
wandered up and down the hall, as if he were an early comer, and had
paid his quarter, and had no personal knowledge of or interest in
the panorama.

Performance was to commence at 8 o'clock. Doors were open at 61/2. Some
time previous to that hour, the stairs leading from the street door to
the hall were lined with the lads of the village, who amused themselves
with making jocular remarks about "the man in the cage there" (meaning
Marcus), and "t'other man at the door, whose shirt was out of jail"
(meaning Tiffles). Marcus smiled grimly at his assailants through the
small pigeon hole; and Tiffles, who felt reckless in the sure view of a
failure, laughed heartily at them, returned jokes as bad as they sent,
but, in the height of his humor, begged them distinctly to understand
that they could not get In without paying. At which the juvenile chorus
sarcastically replied, "P'r'aps not;" "Mebbe you're right," "You'll have
to stop up the keyhole, Mister;" "Mind I don't get down the
chimbley," &c., &c.

At precisely forty-seven minutes past six, the first man made his
appearance. He was a thick-set, pompous individual, with a gold-headed
cane and gold spectacles, and climbed up the stairs with dignity and
difficulty. He was followed by a pale little woman, four small children,
and a stout, red-haired nurse, bearing in her arms a baby, which was
laboring under an attack of the intermittent squalls. Marcus
reconnoitred the party through his pigeon hole, and nervously jingled
the seventy-five cents in his hand. Tiffles stepped forward to the head
of the stairs, in order that he might not be wanting in personal respect
to his first patron.

As this thick-set man ascended the stairs, the boys hushed their voices;
but Tiffles distinctly heard several of them say, "It's the Square."
Though apparently awestruck in his presence, the boys did not forget to
play a few practical jokes on "the Square's" children, such as slapping
them, and pinching their legs as they clambered wearily up. A peal of
cries from his tortured offspring, particularly the baby, who received a
pin in a sensitive part of its little person, so enraged "the Square,"
that he would have beaten all the boys with his gold-headed cane, had
they not jumped away, laughing, and got safely out of the building, only
to be back again the next minute.

"You should not allow these boys to hang around the stairs, sir," said
the pompous man, planting his foot on the topmost step, and bringing
down his cane on the floor with the ring of a watchman's club. "It's
trouble enough to come to your panorama, without being annoyed by all
the young vagabonds in the village."

"I'm sorry, sir," replied Tiffles, inwardly laughing, "but it would take
six strong men to regulate the little rascals."

"Then you ought to employ six strong men, sir. It's your business to see
that your patrons are not insulted."

Tiffles could only smile deprecatingly.

"Every exhibition in this hall, for a year past," continued the man,
"has been a humbug--an outrage on the common sense of mankind. Perhaps
yours is an exception, though, to be candid, I have my doubts of it. Do
I understand, sir, that you have travelled in Africa?"

Tiffles indulged in the unjustifiable deception of nodding his head.

"And you mean to say that the sketches for this panorama were taken on
the spot?"

"Yes, sir; on the spot--in a horn."

"In a horn! What's that?"

"A technical phrase, sir, which it is hardly worth while to explain at
length. Briefly, however, I may say, that no more ingenious or
satisfactory mode of taking sketches has been invented."

"Oh! never mind the details. I hate the jargon of Art. I only wished to
assure myself that I am not to be imposed on. Well, I think I will risk
it, and go in. You can put us on a front seat, I suppose?"

"First come, first served," said Tiffles, amiably, for he had reckoned
up, and found that this party brought him a dollar and a quarter,
counting the children as half prices, and the baby free.

"Under these circumstances we will go in, though I must confess I expect
to be disappointed. You will excuse my plain speaking." The thick-set
gentleman thereupon thrust a hand into a pocket, and produced--not a
huge roll of bank bills, or a half pint of silver, as Marcus, who eyed
him sharply through the pigeon hole, had expected, but--a card, which he
poked at Tiffles.

Tiffles recognized it at the first glance. It was one of thirty
complimentary tickets that he had caused to be distributed among the
leading men of the village that morning, by advice of the landlord; and
it bore the name of "C. Skimmerhorn, Esq."

"Welcome, sir, welcome!" said Tiffles, as he observed the dollar and a
quarter disappear from his mental horizon, and felt that, but for his
indomitable good nature, he would like to kick C. Skimmerhorn, Esq.,
down stairs. And Tiffles, nobly concealing his disappointment, showed C.
Skimmerhorn, Esq., and his domestic caravan to the best front seat. As
he turned back to the door, he heard that gentleman say to his spouse,
"That fellow looks like a humbug."

A stream of people on the stairs gladdened his eyes. In one sweeping
survey, he figured up three dollars. But they proved to be three
clergymen, with faded wives, large families, and female relatives
stopping with them. Each of the clergymen graciously informed Tiffles,
on delivering up his family ticket, that a panorama was one of the few
secular entertainments that he could consent to patronize. They doubted
very much whether they could have been persuaded to come, but for the
recommendation of their evangelical brethren in the city.

Tiffles bowed acknowledgment of the empty honor, and ushered the three
clergymen and families to the front row of seats, of which C.
Skimmerhorn, Esq., and his train, occupied as much as they could cover
by spreading out. Mr. Skimmerhorn recognized, in one of the clergymen,
his beloved pastor, and proceeded, in a pleasant, off-hand manner, and a
loud voice, to give a few of the reasons which inclined him to pronounce
the panorama a humbug.

"Being deadheads," sarcastically observed Tiffles to Marcus Wilkeson,
"of course they come early, and take the best seats."

The next customer was a poor but jovial mechanic, having a red-faced
little wife slung on his arm. This humble individual paid down fifty
cents in bright new silver to the grim treasurer, entered the hall, and
took seats about halfway up. "It's a splendid affair, Sally, this 'ere
pannyrammer, I'll bet anything." "Sha'n't we enjoy it, John!" returned
that healthy young woman.

More work for the amiable Tiffles, but none for the melancholy
Wilkeson. Two more clergymen with families, the County Judge, the local
railroad agent, all the members of the Board of Freeholders, and several
other people, who, according to the landlord of the United States Hotel,
were highly influential in moulding public opinion, and were in the
habit of receiving free tickets.

"Very good for a school of comparative anatomy," said Tiffles to Marcus
(in facetious allusion to the deadheads), "but decidedly bad for my
panorama."

Marcus responded with a dreary smile through the pigeon hole.

Then there came a few more mechanics and other plain people, and then a
streak of fortune--an entire young ladies' seminary, headed by the
preceptress, and divided into squads, each commanded by an assistant
teacher acting as drill sergeant. They were admitted at half price (as
per advertisement), and brought five dollars and sixty-two cents into
the treasury. Tiffles rubbed his eyes at the sight of such a troop of
blooming faces, and his hands at the thought of the grand accession to
his cash box. The female seminary was accommodated with the two front
rows of the best seats left.

Following the seminary, in an unprecedented sequence of luck, was a
boys' school, that came whooping up the stairway like a tribe of young
Indians, in charge of a venerable sachem in spectacles. In the rush and
excitement of the moment, several of them ran toll--a circumstance of
which the old gentleman did not take cognizance when he settled with
Marcus Wilkeson for their admission at twelve and a half cents _per
capita_. Marcus had not noticed it, and Tiffles was far too generous to
make a fuss about a few shillings.

Then a party of six flashily dressed young men, who threw away their
cigars as they came up stairs, and thrust their quarters through the
pigeon hole at Marcus Wilkeson, as if they were good for nothing--which
proved to be true of two of them. Being informed of the fact by Marcus,
the owners of the counterfeits winked at each other, and whispered, "No
go," and then offered a broken bill on a Connecticut bank. This also
proved "no go," whereat the sharp practitioners winked again and
laughed, and this time paid out good current coin. These were some of
the fast men of the village. They took seats behind the female seminary.

Luck changed again, and brought in the landlord, Mr. Persimmon, P.M.,
Mr. Boolpin, and three more free tickets, with their wives and families.
Mr. Boolpin whispered in Tiffles's ear, that he hoped there wouldn't be
a row; but it was a hard-looking crowd that had just gone in ahead of
him. And there were plenty more of them coming.

The latter observation proved true. The next minute, the stairs swarmed
with a jovial party, under the leadership of a gorgeous person, who wore
in the middle of his snowy shirt front a cluster diamond pin larger than
a ten-cent piece. This was one of the gentlemanly conductors on the
railroad; and the mixed company which he had the honor to command, was
composed of ticket sellers, freight masters, brakemen, civil engineers,
and clerks of liberal dispositions and small salaries in various walks
of life. The party was slightly drunk, but not offensive. The
gentlemanly conductor paid for himself and associates out of a huge side
pocket full of loose silver. They rolled up the hall, and took the
nearest spare seats to the female seminary.

Seven and three quarters P.M. arrived. The people in the hall began to
stamp with a noise like thunder. Tiffles had marked the heavy boots of
the conductor, and could recognize them in the din. Several deep hisses
varied the monotony of the performance. There were no persons coming up
stairs. The small boys, Tiffles observed with astonishment, had vacated
the building some time before, and could now be heard whispering quietly
around the door below.



CHAPTER VI.

HUMOUS OF THE MANY-HEADED.

Tiffles knew that his time had come, and he accepted the crisis.

Requesting Marcus to pocket the funds, shut up the shop, and leave the
door to take care of itself, Tiffles marched boldly to his doom.
Previous to extinguishing the candles in the exhibition hall, he went
behind the curtain, and there found the idiot sitting patiently at the
crank, and rehearsing, in a low tone, the code of signals which had been
adopted. Patching was also there. He shrugged his shoulders in the
French style as Tiffles came in, but said not a word. Tiffles proceeded
straight to a bottle which stood on a window sill, and took a long drink
from it, and then passed it to Patching, who mutely did the same, and,
in turn, handed it to the idiot, who pulled at it with great gusto, in
the manner of a rational person.

Feeling that it would be superfluous to repeat his instructions to so
sagacious an idiot, Tiffles immediately presented himself before the
audience again, with a long stick, or wand, for pointing out the
beauties of the panorama.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am about to exhibit to you the Panorama of
Africa. You have all heard of Africa."

VOICE. "Consider'ble."

"True, my friend; therefore you will be well prepared to enjoy the
pictorial attractions which I am about to unfold."

VOICE. "H'ist the rag."

"My friend--who has no doubt paid his quarter--I respect your request.
The rag _is_ about to be h'isted. But, before that ceremony is proceeded
with, I would ask the gentlemen sitting nearest the candles to be good
enough to blow them out."

Never was request more cheerfully complied with. There was a scramble of
six or seven tall young men to each candle; and, at several of the
candles, a brisk but friendly struggle took place between rival
aspirants for the privilege. The room was then in total darkness, save a
small gleam which came through the partly opened door from a solitary
tallow in the entry, and the dull reflection of the panorama lights
through the curtain.

Some of the effects of this sudden extinguishment were extraordinary.
The female seminary all screamed slightly. The boys' school all laughed,
and several were heard to say, "Prime fun, a'n't it?" The railroad
conductor and his friends coughed fictitiously, and said, "Oh! oh!"
"A'n't you ashamed!" "Look out for pockets!" "Thief in the house!" and
other playful things, which put the entire audience in good humor. But
the strangest and most unexpected occurrence, was a grand rush, as of a
herd of wild bulls, on the stairs, accompanied by the dousing of the one
remaining light in the entry. Another moment, and over a hundred of the
choicest juvenile spirits tore into the hall, and knocked over each
other and everybody else in a frantic contest for free seats. The young
ladies' seminary screamed in concert, and all the elderly ladies cried,
"Oh my!" "Good gracious!" "What's that?"

"Only the boys," said Tiffles, with unruffled composure. "Let them come.
It is a moral entertainment, and will do them good."

After a pause of about three minutes, giving the boys time to seat
themselves, and the screams, mutterings, and laughter of the rest of the
audience to die away, Tiffles said:

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, I will introduce you to sunrise, in the
Bight of Benin."

This was the preconcerted signal for the raising of the curtain, which
office was performed by Patching, without a hitch. The gorgeous proem,
or introduction to the panorama, was then for the first time disclosed
to the public. Patching blushed as he thought of the vile pandering to
popular taste of which he had been guilty.

There was a dead calm for a minute. Tiffles was silent, in order that he
might not interrupt the quiet admiration of the spectators. The
spectators were silent, because they could not exactly understand the
scene, and did not know whether to laugh, hiss, or applaud. The silence
was broken, by a boy in the back part of the hall:

"I say, Mister, is that a cartwheel on top of a stonewall?"

"No, sonny not exactly," said Tiffles. "What your uneducated eyes
mistake for a cartwheel is the rising sun. The objects that your
immature judgment confounds with spokes, are rays. Your stone wall, it
is hardly necessary to inform riper intellects, is a distant range of
mountains. It is one of Ceccarini's happiest efforts."

"Hurrah for Checkerberry!" cried another lad, mistaking the name of the
high (imaginary) Italian artist.

"Are we to understand, sir, that this is a rolling prairie in the
foreground?" asked a deep voice, which Tiffles at once recognized as
emanating from C. Skimmerhorn, Esq.

"Oh! no, sir; it is the Bight of Benin; and I must say, though, perhaps,
I am too partial, that Ceccarini never did a better thing."

"The _what_ of Benin?" asked the voice.

"The Bight--or, in other words, as you may not be familiar with
geography, the Bay of Benin."

"Then why not say Bay, sir?" replied C. Skimmerhorn Esq., stung with the
allusion to his want of geographical knowledge. "Why this mystery
about terms!"

There were cries of "Go it, Square." "Dry up, old boy!" "Propel with the
show!" &c., &c. Tiffles adopted the latter suggestion, and without
answering the lawyer's insinuation, proceeded to point out the natural
appearance of the waves, the truthfulness of the distant mountains, the
absolute fidelity of the sunrise. "And here let me answer an
objection in advance. It may be said that this sunrise does not
look like a sunrise in Jersey. Admit it. Neither do the snakes
(_sensation_)--neither do the snakes which I am about, to exhibit
(_increased sensation_ and Oh! me's! from the Young Ladies' Seminary)
resemble the familiar green or striped serpent of your own peaceful
fields. Neither do the tigers, which I shall presently have the honor of
showing to you _(renewed sensation)_, bear any marked affinity to the
serene woodchuck that burrows in your happy hills. The sunrises and
sunsets, the boa constrictors, the tigers, and the other phenomena of
Africa, are all immense, gorgeous, and peculiar. They must be judged by
themselves, and not by comparison. My hearers will be kind enough to
bear this in mind, as we go on."

He then went on to repeat a great many statistics concerning the
population and resources of Africa. He had read up for these facts and
figures, under the impression that they would interest the solid portion
of his audience. But he soon found out that he interested nobody
(perhaps because the solid portion of audiences is a myth), and finally
yielded to general requests of "Push ahead!" "Fire away!" "Start your
train!" (the latter from the gentlemanly conductor and friends.)

Tiffles therefore whistled once, and the panorama commenced moving
slowly and steadily. The idiot, the rollers, and the lights, all
worked well.

From the Bight of Benin, the voyaging spectators took an excursion up
the river.

The uninterrupted stretch of deep blue for water, and light blue for
sky, and green for the farther bank, with occasional palm trees looking
like long-handled pickaxes, seemed to satisfy them. At any rate they
looked on, and found no fault in words; which both Tiffles and Patching
took for an auspicious sign. Tiffles kept step with his explanations.

His method was this. When the palm tree came in sight, he would give a
minute account of that noble tropical growth, and the many uses to which
it and its products could be put. When a flock of wild ducks appeared
sailing majestically on the river, he would entertain his auditors with
a circumstantial description of how the natives caught wild ducks. A
boat or hollow log, with a human figure, suggested a reference to the
progress which the African had made in marine architecture and the
science of navigation. In this way, Tiffles thought he was beguiling his
customers. Some low sounds, like suppressed hisses, soon convinced him
of his error.

"I beg your pardon, Professor," said a thick-set voice, which he always
recognized as coming from C. Skimmerhorn, Esq.; "but it seems to me that
this portion of your panorama is a little monotonous. I presume that in
this suggestion, I express the sentiments of my fellow citizens here
assembled." Cries of "Go on, Square!" "That's so!" mingled with a
vigorous stamping of feet and catcalls from the boys in the background,
proved, alas! the truth of the conjecture.

Tiffles coughed twice for the idiot to stop, and was sagaciously obeyed.
"In behalf of Africa," he remarked, "representing her, as I may say, on
this occasion, I would beg leave to apologize to the learned gentleman
for the poverty of her scenery, at this stage of the panorama. If Africa
had been aware of the learned gentleman's preferences, she would,
doubtless, have got up some stunning effects for him in places where now
you see only a river, a sky, and a strip of green bank, all unadorned,
precisely as they are."

The exquisite irony of this retort pleased the audience, and elicited
general though faint applause, and several cries of "Shut up, Skim!"
"Got your match, old boy!" "Oh! let the man go on!" The last remark
issued from the gentlemanly conductor, and fell with peculiar pleasure
on Tiffles's ears.

"One word more, and I am done," resumed the lawyer, who was
professionally calm amid scenes of disturbance. "I only wish to elicit
the truth. Have you, and your artist (Mr. Chicory, I think you call
him), or either of you, actually gone over the scenery here represented.
We wish to understand that point!"

"We have, both of us, gone over this scenery repeatedly." This was true,
as both Tiffles and Patching, anticipating some such question, had
stepped over the canvas back and forth, in rolling and unrolling it,
several times. "Is the eminent counsellor satisfied?"

"Oh! yes," said C. Skimmerhorn, Esq., in a voice which signified that
he knew the panorama was a humbug, but, unfortunately, couldn't
prove it.

One cough, and the panorama started again--but a little too fast.
Tiffles stamped once, and the idiot reduced the speed, until it was too
slow. Two stamps brought it right. The river soon disappeared in a
swamp, where the alligators' heads protruding above the water gave
Tiffles an opportunity to describe several terrific combats which he had
enjoyed with those pugnacious creatures. This entertained the audience
for several minutes.

"Have you no full views of alligators, sir?" asked a voice which Tiffles
presumed, from its solemn inflection, to come from a clergyman.

"None at all, sir. The African alligator persists in keeping out of
sight. You never see anything but his head--except his tail, as
represented here." Tiffles pointed with his wand to something that
looked like the end of a fence rail sticking out of the water. "True
Art, sir, sacrifices effect for Truth."

"Certainly, sir. Truth is what we are all after," replied the clergyman.
But there was an indefinable something in his voice that indicated a
wish for more alligator--much more.

The swamp ended in a dry jungle, interspersed with palm trees,
elephants, lions, tigers, and serpents. Tiffles counted upon interesting
his audience here. Snakes were first on the list. Two heads, with
expanded jaws and forked tongues, were looking at each other above the
jungle, and two tails were interlocked, also above the jungle, a few
feet off. This conveyed the idea of two boa constrictors fighting. Other
heads and other tails--there was always a tail for every head--stuck up
at regular intervals about. He stopped the panorama with a cough,
and said:

"The entire population of this particular jungle are--boa constrictors
of unprecedented size and ferocity."

Tiffles heard a rustle of fans and dresses not far off. It was the
whole female seminary shuddering. There was also a general movement
throughout the audience as of people adjusting themselves to obtain a
good sight.

"These boa constrictors, so admirably delineated here,"--commenced
Tiffles.

"Where?" said the voice of a country gentleman. "I don't see any bore
constructors."

"Nor I." "Nor I." "Trot 'em out!" "Show 'em up!" "Produce your snakes!"
Such were the remarks that resounded through the hall.

"Oh, no!" "Don't!" "Please don't!" emanated from several girlish voices.

"My fair auditors have no cause for alarm. I have no living snakes to
show. I might have captured several hundred, and brought them to this
country and exhibited them, but, in deference to the well-known aversion
cherished toward snakes by cultivated communities, I forbore to do so.
The only boa constrictors that I have, are now before you. These are
their heads. These their tails" (indicating the termini of the snakes).

Now, the spectators--or a large number of them--had suffered fearful
expectations of seeing real snakes. When, therefore, it was announced
that these harmless daubs, resembling, at a distance, some variety of
tropical vegetation, were the only snakes they were to see, there was a
feeling, first, of relief, and then of disappointment.

The disappointment manifested itself in low hisses, and exclamations,
such as "Humbug!" "Gammon!" "Swindle!" Tiffles made several beginnings
of excellent snake stories, of which he was the hero, but was checked by
the tumult. Finding the snakes were not popular, he determined to try
the tigers, lions, and other beasts of prey farther on. He coughed once
emphatically, and the canvas moved like clockwork.

Before it had journeyed five feet, somebody on the front row of seats
coughed twice in precisely the same manner as Tiffles. The idiot,
supposing the signal came from his employer, stopped. Tiffles,
perceiving the mistake, coughed again, and the motion was resumed; when
a double cough resounded from the front seat, and the motion ceased.

Then Tiffles realized that his system of signals was understood by
somebody. What should he do? He could not stop the free, universal right
to cough. Therefore he stepped to the corner of the curtain, raised it,
and said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by the audience, "Stoop,
whenever I want you to 'stop,' or 'go on,' or 'faster,' or 'slower,' I
will say so. You understand?"

"Puffickly," replied the gifted idiot.

"I say, boys, Stoop's in there," shouted the somebody that had coughed.

"Stoop!" "Stoop!" "Bully for Stoop!" "Come out o' that, Stoop!" was
shouted all over the house; but Stoop remained faithful to his post, and
calmly ground away at the crank.

Suddenly it occurred to some boy to yell, "Boo! boo!" whereat the other
boys laughed, and took up the chorus, "Boo! boo!"

The canvas moved less steadily, slackening for a moment, and then
shooting ahead, as if the propelling power were the subject of strange
perturbation. The roguish boys, and the men too, and, chief of them,
that practical humorist of a conductor, observing this, screamed, "Boo!
boo! boo I boo!" all the louder. Tiffles knew that the critical time had
come, and philosophically laughed at the ruin of his last grand project,
as he had laughed at the ruin of forty other grand projects in
their day.

The panorama stopped without a signal this time. A hoarse voice
screamed, "Gorryfus! Gosh thunder! By jimminy!" The curtain was jerked
aside, and Stoop rushed into the hall like a fury. Coming out of a place
partly lighted into one totally dark, his first move was to run blindly
into Tiffles, nearly knocking that gentleman off his legs.

"Hold on, Stoop! Hold on!" shouted Tiffles, with what was left of his
breath. But the idiot only screamed, "Gosh thunder! Gorryfus!" and
darted for the main aisle, intending to run a muck among his
persecutors. There was a general scrambling of the boys to avoid this
incarnated wrath. The whole female seminary, and all the ladies present,
screamed together.



CHAPTER VII.

SCENES NOT IN THE BILLS.

The enraged idiot struck out right and left, without hurting
anybody--the objects of his vengeance contriving to elude him in the
dark. Most of the sturdy blows which he dealt, using his arms like
flails, fell upon the railings of the seats, and only bruised his hands.
Just as he had caught a boy by the collar, and was about to take a twist
in his hair, the door opened, and a light appeared. It came from three
candles borne by three men.

This apparition caused the furious idiot to suspend hostilities on the
instant.

All eyes were turned toward the three men. All voices were hushed. There
was a whisper in the air that something strange was about to happen.

The man who entered first was a stranger, who moved and looked about in
the quick, nervous way born of city life. The other two men were
well-known residents of the village. Some of the audience had had
unpleasant cause to know them.

Having locked the door, and stationed his associates in a position to
command the windows, the stranger walked quickly up the aisle, bearing
his lighted candle, and said, in a loud voice, which fell strangely on
the hushed assemblage:

"Marcus Wilkeson will be kind enough to give himself up. Upon my honor,
he cannot escape." This was said with a charming politeness.

A tall figure arose at the wall end of one of the back seats. "I am
Marcus Wilkeson. What do you want with me, sir?" His voice trembled, and
his face was livid.

"To go with me to New York, Mr. Wilkeson," said the tall stranger,
quickly. "Thank you for your promptness in answering. The only clue that
I had, was the hasty measure I took of you this morning, when I was
watching for an escaped convict at Cortlandt-street ferry. Perhaps you
remember seeing me there, sir?"

Marcus, though the sudden shock had almost stunned him, at once recalled
the man who had eyed him narrowly at the ferry that morning.

The two other candle bearers had stepped forward as Marcus declared
himself, and were about to lay hold of him, when the first man smilingly
pushed them back, and said:

"Don't touch him. It's all right. Mr. Wilkeson is a gentleman, and will
go quietly."

To Marcus he said, apologetically:

"Two Jersey constables I got to assist me. They don't do things exactly
in the style of Detective Leffingwell."

Marcus recognized the name; and so terrified was he at the thoughts
which it conjured up, that his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.
The scene was like a horrid dream.

"Everything is regular, sir," continued the detective. "We have a
requisition for you from the Governor of this State. It was obtained by
telegraph from Trenton. You will excuse my dropping on you in this way;
but I wanted to take you to New York to-night, as the inquest meets
again at ten o'clock to-morrow morning."

"The inquest!--what inquest? Tell me, in God's name!" said Marcus,
finding his voice at last.

"Inquest! There must have been a murder committed." "What is it?" "Tell
us, Mr. Policeman." The question was asked on all sides.

"Now I _didn't_ want a scene," said Detective Leffingwell, politely,
"and I won't have one. Mr. Wilkeson and I understand each other. The
word 'inquest' dropped out of my mouth before I thought."

"As heaven is above us, we do not understand each other!" said Marcus.
"Tell me, pray tell me at once, or I shall go mad."

"Anything to please you," replied the officer; "but I can't bear these
explanations in public. It isn't my way of doing business." He then
leaned forward, and whispered in the ear of Marcus.

"Great God!" was all that Marcus could say. Then he sank to the seat,
and bowed his head in agony.

Tiffles, who had forced his way to his friend's side during the
excitement, threw his arms about him, and said:

"Never mind appearances, Marcus. I'll stake my life you are innocent of
the charge, whatever it is."

"Oh! you're a humbug," remarked C. Skimmerhorn, Esq.

"Call me and my panorama a humbug, if you please; but Mr. Wilkeson is a
gentleman and a man of honor." Tiffles's face beamed with a strange
kindness. He looked up, and saw the idiot standing near him. His small
eyes filled with tears as he gazed with an expression of intelligent
pity at the crushed man. Tiffles could have hugged the idiot, not only
as the most sensible man, but the best-hearted one he had seen in
the village.

C. Skimmerhorn, Esq., would have retorted severely, but his attention,
and that of all the crowd, was drawn, at that moment, to a citizen who
came forward, and, in a state of beathless excitement, said he guessed
he knew what it all meant. He was in New York that afternoon, and read,
in one of the evening papers, an account of a dreadful murder committed
on an old man named Minford. The supposed murderer, the paper said, was
a Mr. Wilkes or Wilkson.

"Now I hope you are satisfied," said Detective Leffingwell, looking
around with contempt at his hearers.

A slight scream was heard from the corner of a seat near by. From the
beginning of this unpleasant affair, it was observed that a plainly
dressed woman--a seamstress accompanying the family of a Mr. Graft--had
become very pale and nervous, and had been seen to move uneasily in her
seat. This woman had fainted away. She it was who had stared so
strangely at Marcus in the car that morning.

Mrs. Graft and her two daughters promptly removed the fainting woman to
the entry, where the fresh air soon restored her, and she was sent home.

"No wonder the women faint away, when you crowd round here so stupidly,"
said the officer, momentarily losing his temper. "Please step back, now,
and let Mr. Wilkeson and me get out. We must leave for New York by the
next train--and that starts in fifteen minutes." The detective referred
to his watch. "Are you ready, sir?" tapping Marcus gently on
the shoulder.

Marcus rose, and displayed a face haggard with grief.

They all whispered, or thought, "He is guilty."

"I am ready," said he; "but I call heaven to witness that I know nothing
of this crime."

The detective bowed courteously, and then said:

"I also have summons for Mr. Tiffles and Mr. Patching, gentlemen
connected with this panorama, as witnesses. They will please
step forward."

"I am Mr. Tiffles," said that person. "Wesley is my panoramic name."

This disclosure caused a small sensation. "I knew the man was a humbug
from the start," whispered C. Skimmerhorn, Esq., to a friend at his
elbow. "I'd like to prosecute him for swindling."

"And I am Mr. Patching," exclaimed the artist, presenting himself.

It should be here stated, that, when the disturbances of the evening
first set in, Patching, in pure disgust at the bad taste of the
audience, had quietly dropped himself out of the second story window at
the rear of the stage, and had been skulking in the back lot ever since.
Having heard, outside, of the arrest of Marcus Wilkeson, on an unknown
charge, he had plucked up courage and friendship enough to reenter the
hall, and tender his aid and consolation to that unhappy man. He came in
just in time to hear his name called.

"So that's the chap they called Chicory, or Checkerberry," whispered C.
Skimmerhorn, Esq. "Anybody can see he is a swindler by his slouched hat,
and beard. _Shouldn't_ I enjoy having a good case against him!"

Pigworth, J. P., landlord of the United States Hotel, and Mr. Boolpin,
proprietor, came forward with their little bills, and demanded immediate
payment. This financial difficulty was arranged in one minute by the
genius of Wesley Tiffles. After paying Stoop one dollar and a half (that
excellent idiot crying, and vowing that he didn't want it), the rest of
the proceeds, deducting enough for fares to New York, were divided
equally between the two other creditors; and the panorama and all the
appurtenances were left as a joint security for remaining obligations.
The panorama was worth twice the debts, to be cut into window shades.
After some grumbling, Messrs. Pigworth and Boolpin accepted the terms.

Five minutes later, the polite detective and his party started for New
York. There was a great number of people at the station to see them off,
but only one to say "good-by." That one was the man-boy Stoop, who cried
as if his great, simple heart would break.



BOOK EIGHTH.

A DRAMATIC INTERLUDE.



CHAPTER I.

THE OVERTURE.

It was the last of a delightful series of dramatic nights at Mrs.
Slapman's; and her house was quite filled with embodied Poetry, Travels,
Dramatic Literature, Music, Art, and the Sciences.

The dramatic arrangements of Mrs. Slapman's house were simple, but
effective. A curtain, with rings, hung across the north end of the
parlor, established the confines of the stage, which was on a level with
the floor, and covered with green baize to represent rural scenes, or a
three-ply carpet to indicate refined interiors. Against the wall were
rollers, from which scenes could be dropped, affording perspectives of
country, or streets, or gilded saloons, as the necessities of the drama
required. There were six of these scenes, all painted by Patching (to
oblige Mrs. Slapman) in his leisure moments, which were numerous; and
they all exhibited evidences of his style. Six sets of flies, or side
scenes, matching with the rear views, had been executed by a
scene-painter's assistant, whom Mrs. Slapman had taken under her
patronage, and were thought, by some persons, superior to Patching's
efforts. Such was the belittling criticism to which that great artist
was constantly subjected. There was a space of about four feet between
the top of the curtain and the high ceiling. The light from the parlor
chandelier directly in front, aided by six gas jets behind the scenes,
made the whole performance and performers as clear as noonday.

This miniature theatre was constructed of portable frames, which could
be put up or taken down in half an hour, and was the ingenious invention
of the scene-painter's assistant. When it was removed, the only traces
of its former presence were two brass-headed spikes in the walls, from
which the side curtains depended.

These spikes imparted anguish to the mind of Mr. Slapman whenever he
gazed upon them. Mrs. S. had heard him say, that "some people would look
well hanging up there." By "some people," he was supposed to mean the
gentlemen who participated in her dramatic entertainments. Mrs. S. bore
the cruel remark meekly, merely replying that perhaps he had better try
the strength of the spikes first, by suspending himself from one
of them.

The audience, usually numbering about fifty, were seated in chairs,
which filled the parlor, with the exception of a space of ten feet in
front of the stage. A fair view of the entire proceedings could be had
from all but the two back rows of chairs, the occupants of which were
compelled to imagine the attachment of feet and ankles to the several
characters of the drama.

From the left wing of the stage a door opened into the hall, affording
communication by the staircase to the ladies' and gentlemen's dressing
rooms on the floor above. On the third floor (it was known to some of
the guests) was the private apartment of Mr. Slapman. A strong smell of
cigar smoke, as of one fumigating sullenly and furiously, was the
unvarying proof of his presence in the house. On this eventful night, he
had been seen, at an early hour, pacing up and down the hall of his
third floor, belching forth clouds of smoke, like Vesuvius just before a
fiery eruption.

People who were in the sad secret of Mrs. Slapman's household sorrows,
looked at each other and smiled, but said nothing; for it was a point of
good breeding not to allude to him in conversation. The newer guests,
unaware of the melancholy facts in the case, supposed that the restless
gentleman on the third floor was some one of Mrs. Slapman's eccentric
friends, working out an idea. Mrs. Slapman paid no attention to her
jealous spouse, imagining that he would smoke away his wrath quietly, as
usual, and not interfere with the evening's amusement. Hitherto, on
occasions, he had done nothing more disagreeable than to open the parlor
door furtively, cast one wild look inside, and then suddenly withdraw
his head, gently slamming the door after him.

The play of the evening was written "expressly for the occasion" by a
gentleman who had produced one melodrama at a Bowery theatre, and failed
to produce a large number of melodramas at all the theatres in Broadway.
Mrs. Slapman, a true patroness of genius, kindly permitted this
gentleman to prepare all her charades, and gratified him, on several
occasions by bringing out some of the minor plays from his stuffed
portfolio.

By eight o'clock all the chairs were filled, and the actors and
actresses were still lingering over their toilet. After waiting ten
minutes longer, and crossing and uncrossing their legs repeatedly, the
audience stamped and whistled very much in the manner of an impatient
crowd at a real theatre. Mrs. Slapman relished these little ebullitions
of natural feeling, because it made the illusion of her "Thespian
parlor" (as she called it) more complete.

At eight and a quarter o'clock, the orchestra, consisting of two flutes
and a violin, issued from behind the curtain, and seated itself before
some music stands ranged against the wall. The performers were amateurs
(two bookkeepers, and a cashier in private life), and could not have
been hired to play for any amount of money, though they were always
willing to favor a few friends. Mrs. Slapman humored them in this whim,
and they played regularly at her private theatricals.

After a few nods and facetious remarks to their friends in the audience
(familiarities from which a paid orchestra would have been totally cut
off), the musicians dashed into a new overture, composed by Signor
Mancussi, also "expressly for the occasion."

This musical composition had been rehearsed the week previous in the
presence of a select party of amateurs and critics, and had been
pronounced, by the sub-editor of a weekly paper, "remarkable for its
breadth and color." Under these circumstances, the overture was listened
to with much interest at first, which abated as the music progressed.
Touching the merits of "color" and "breadth" there might be some grounds
of doubt, but none whatever concerning its "length."

It lasted until twenty minutes of nine; and, toward the close, faint
scrapings of dissatisfaction were heard, which would have been more
audible had Signor Mancussi not been present. As the last twang of the
fiddle died on the air, M. Bartin was heard by several persons to say,
"Bah! a bad hash from Rossini and Auber." The remark was reported to
Signor Mancussi, and did not tend to enhance his friendly regards for
the other gentleman.



CHAPTER II.

CURTAIN UP.

At eight and three quarters P.M. the curtain was rung up, and discovered
a rustic scene, in the midst of which Mrs. Slapman (Fidelia) was seated.
She was dressed in a white frock with low neck, and a flat hat, and was
trimmed out with red ribbons in all directions. She looked young and
pretty. Only an anxious knitting of her eyebrows revealed the cares and
troubles of intellect. Mrs. Slapman was applauded by a unanimous
clapping of hands. She was seated in a red-velvet rocking chair, at a
small but costly table, on which stood an expensive vase filled with
flowers. These properties, though few, were intended to signify
boundless affluence and luxury. Fidelia languidly waved a jewelled fan,
and sighed. "Will he never come?" said she.

She had hardly made this remark, when, by a singular coincidence,
Alberto (Overtop) entered from the left wing, and threw himself, with as
much grace as his tights would permit, at her feet. She emitted a small
shriek, and gave him her hand to kiss, which he did with ecstasy.
Alberto was habited like an Italian gentleman in good circumstances; and
no one would have suspected his poverty, if he had not commenced the
dialogue by an affecting allusion to his last _scudi_, which brought
tears to the eyes of the fair Fidelia.

Such trifling questions as lovers alone can ask and answer then passed
between them; and at last came the solemn interrogatory from the
kneeling Alberto: "And will you always love me, dearest?"

Fidelia turned her meek orbs toward the ceiling, raised her hand, said
"_Forever!_" and was about to add, "I swear," when Bidette (Miss Wick)
rushed upon the scene with the intelligence, "He comes."

"Who?" asked Alberto.

"My father!" shrieked Fidelia. "Go--that way." She pointed with her
small alabaster hand to the left wing.

Alberto vanished as per request, while Fidelia, with well-affected
calmness, commenced humming an opera air, and fanning herself. Bidette,
the favorite maid, pretended to readjust a flower in her mistress's
hair. These feminine artifices were to throw the coming father off
his scent.

But the father (Mr. Johnsone, the junior of a small book-publishing
house) was sharp eyed, though he lacked spectacles. As he emerged from
the right wing, he caught a distinct view of a pair of soles
disappearing in the distance, and benignantly asked: "Who is that,
my child?"

The child answered: "Only the postman, pa."

"Where is the letter?" he asked.

"Please, sir," interrupted Bidette, observing her mistress's confusion,
"there wasn't no letter. He mistook the house for another, sir."

The father nodded his head to express his complete satisfaction with
this explanation, and then told Bidette to leave the spot, as he had
something of the utmost importance to tell his daughter. Bidette pouted,
and withdrew, giving a bewitching shake of her striped calico dress, to
signify her hatred of brutal fathers. This touch of nature drew plaudits
from those among the audience who were but slightly acquainted with Miss
Wick. The others looked on with critical indifference.

The father took a chair, thrust out his legs like a reigning prince, and
proceeded, in a story of unnecessary length, to tell his daughter that
he owed one hundred and seventy thousand florins to Signor Rodicaso, and
would be a ruined man in forty-eight hours if that sum were not paid.
Life, in that event, would be simply insupportable. He had procured a
pistol to blow out his brains, but had subsequently concluded to make
one more effort to save himself. He would, therefore, appeal to his
daughter, _as_ a father, and ask her to marry Signor Rodicaso, and so
liquidate the debt, to-morrow. He did not wish to influence her
choice--far from it--but, if she did not consent, he should feel under
the painful necessity of shooting himself on the spot.

The father produced a pistol, and held it to his left ear.

Fidelia, looking like a marble statue of grief, said, in a low but
perfectly audible voice: "Stay! I will wed him." This was enunciated
with the calmness of despair. Not a gesture, nor a twinge of the
features, nor an accent to indicate emotion of any kind. It was in quiet
efforts like these that Mrs. Slapman excelled.

When the applause elicited by this stroke of genius had ceased, Mr.
Chickson (Signor Rodicaso) came rather awkwardly upon the stage. His
eyes (and, it might be added, his legs) rolled absently about, as if he
were endeavoring to recall his part, or were in the inward act of
composing a poem.

"Your future husband, Fidelia," said the father.

Fidelia rose from her seat--still imperturbable.

Chickson advanced with a sliding motion, and then paused, as if he had
forgotten what to do. Mrs. Slapman was heard to whisper something
(probably the cue), but he only rolled his eyes heavily in response. A
look of displeasure marred her serene features, and, instead of fainting
away in Signor Rodicaso's arms, as she should have done, she dropped
into the embrace of her father, taking that personage quite
unexpectedly, and nearly knocking him off his chair.

Chickson projected himself forward at the same time to catch her, and,
in so doing, lost his balance, and just escaped, by an effort, from
sprawling on the floor.

Then he looked helplessly at the audience; and there was no longer any
doubt entertained that Chickson was slightly intoxicated. Getting drunk,
now and then, was an infirmity of Chickson's genius.

The stage manager had the good sense to ring down the curtain on this
painful scene, and, the next moment, there was a dull sound, as of
somebody falling on the floor behind the green baize.

After an interval of fifteen minutes--protracted by the "unexpected
indisposition" of the poet, and the consequent necessity of intrusting
Signor Rodicaso to other hands--the curtain rises again, and discloses
Alberto in a humble cot, surrounded by three-legged stools, and other
evidences of extreme poverty. He is seated on a rickety table (in
preference to the greater uncertainty of the stools), his arms are
folded, and his head droops upon his breast.

In this attitude, he begins to soliloquize, and informs the audience
(what they did not know before) that, from a clump of shrubbery, he had
seen fully as much as they of the preceding scene. He does not blame
Fidelia. Oh! no. In her cruel dilemma, she could do no less. But he
curses--and curses again--and continues to curse for some time--that
Fate which deprives him of the "paltry means" (one hundred and seventy
thousand florins) to buy off the "heartless monster" (Rodicaso). Having
wreaked himself upon Destiny to his own satisfaction, he suddenly
remembers that he has not eaten anything for thirty-six hours. He feels
in all his pockets successively, but finds nothing. He then draws from
his bosom a portrait of his father, set with antique gems. He gazes upon
it reverently, kisses it, and says: "Shall I part with this sacred
memento for vulgar bread? Never! Let me die!" He restores the portrait
to his bosom, folds his arms again, inclines his head, and shuts his
eyes, as if preparing to expire comfortably.

All this time, a fat red face, belonging to a corpulent body, has been
watching the depressed lover from the right wing. As Alberto utters the
last sad ejaculation, a thick hand attached to a short arm raises a
kerchief to a pair of small eyes in this fat red face, and wipes them.
Then the stout gentleman reflects a moment, nods his head approvingly,
draws forth a wallet, opens it slowly, takes out some paper that rustles
like bank notes, produces a memorandum book, writes a few lines on one
of the leaves hastily with a pencil, tears out the leaf, encloses the
leaf and the bank notes in an envelope, emerges with his entire figure
into the full light of the stage, walks stealthily toward Alberto with a
pair of creaking shoes that would have waked the soundest sleeper,
places the note on the table by his side, raises his hands to heaven,
murmuring, "God bless the boy!" and retires in the same feline but
tumultuous manner.

This mysterious visitor was Bignolio (Matthew Maltboy), a rich money
lender, uncle of Alberto, and commonly reported to be the "tightest old
skinflint in Venice."

After a pause, scarcely long enough to allow his uncle's heavy footsteps
to die away in the distance, Alberto came out of his revery. His first
act was to look at the ceiling, then at the floor, then all about
him--everywhere but at the note on the table. At last, when nothing else
remained to be scrutinized, his eyes naturally fell upon this valuable
communication.

"What is this?" he asked. Then he answered his own question by opening
the letter, and reading it, as follows:

     Venice, Oct. 16,----.

     Dear Nephew:

     I have watched you, and know all. You are indeed the son of
     your father, and, I am proud to add, the nephew of your
     uncle. Enclosed are sixty thousand florins. Go to Jinkerini
     Bros., on the Rialto, and buy up judgments that they hold
     against Rodicaso for three times that amount, and offset them
     against old Corpetto's debts. Rodicaso conceals his property
     so well, that none has ever been found to satisfy these
     judgments. Drive a sharp bargain, and show yourself a chip of
     the old block. Keep the balance for your wedding gift.

     Farewell--till we meet again.

     Bignolio.

"Dear, dear uncle!" exclaimed Alberto, carefully buttoning up his pocket
over the funds, and kissing the letter in transports of joy. "And only
yesterday he would not lend me a _scudi_ to get my dinner. Generous man!
how have I wronged him! Now, Fate, I will floor thee and Rodicaso
together."

[Exit Alberto, rapidly, by shortest land route to the Rialto.]

Overtop's acting, throughout this difficult scene, was of a superior
order. Nothing could be more natural, for instance, than the buttoning
up of his pocket over his uncle's gift. But neither that, nor the other
strong point, where he exulted in the finest tragedy tones over the
anticipated downfall of Fate and Rodicaso, produced the slightest
sensation among his hearers. Matthew Maltboy paid the penalty of his
intimate relations with Overtop, by an equal unpopularity. His fine
rendition of the character of Bignolio might as well have been played to
a select company of gravestones.

There was a necessary interval of twenty minutes for the fitting out of
the stage--during which time the amateur orchestra performed selections
from "Semiramide," but, happily, not loud enough to interfere with the
easy flow of conversation all over the room. The second flutist, while
looking over his shoulder angrily at the garrulous audience, executed a
false note, which almost threw the first (and only) violinist into fits.
In turning round to rebuke the errant performer, the violinist struck
his elbow against a similar projection of the other flutist, and knocked
a false note out of that gentleman too, besides momentarily ruffling his
temper. This little episode diffused unhappiness over the entire music.



CHAPTER III.

ACT SECOND.

The spectators had been told that there were imposing stage effects in
the second and last act; and they were not disappointed. The entire
front was filled with furniture, real mahogany and brocade, leaving
barely room for human beings to walk about. The background was a
perspective of pillars, conveying the idea of unlimited saloons, all
opening into each other. Three Bohemian vases, filled with natural
flowers, were placed on pedestals in places where they would be least in
the way, if it were possible to make such a discrimination. But the
great feature of the scene was a magnificent paper chandelier of nine
candles, which hung from the centre of the framework, and made every
spectator, while he admired, tremble with fear that it would set the
house on fire.

At a small table in front, covered by a rich cloth, sat the heroine,
dressed in a gorgeousness of apparel that mocked her misery. Beneath the
gems that studded her bosom, there was supposed to be unappeasable
wretchedness; and the white brow, covered with a spangled wreath, was
presumed to ache with mental agony. She was pale and beautiful. Murmurs
of applause ran round the apartment.

By her side was the faithful Bidette, armed with a bottle of salts. She
bent affectionately over her mistress, and asked if she wanted anything.

"Nothing, my child--but death," was the thrilling reply.

Bidette was taken somewhat aback. She made a respectful pause. Then she
said:

"But, my dear mistress, though you do not love Signor Rodicaso--"

"In Heaven's name, stop, child! You are piercing my heart with a hot
iron. Name not love to me. Henceforth I erase it from the tablets of my
brain. Now go on" (with tranquil despair).

"I was about to say, dear mistress, please, that Signor Rodicaso has a
splendid town house, and a beautiful country seat (they say), and
thousands of acres of land, which will all be yours--"

The eloquent grief of her mistress's face checked the maid.

"Bidette," she said, "I shall want but a small portion of all his
lands."

"What do you mean, dear mistress?" asked the frightened maid.

"Only enough for--a grave," was the harrowing reply.

This dreary dialogue was here interrupted by the appearance of the
father in tights, knee buckles, velvet coat, ruffles, a powdered wig,
and a general air of having been got up for a great occasion. He
carefully picked his way through the furniture to his daughter, and
kissed her on the forehead.

"Are you happy, my dear daughter?" he asked.

"Happy? Oh! yes, father, I am _so_ happy! See how I smile." So saying,
she made a feeble attempt to smile, which was a most artistic failure,
and brought out another tribute of applause.

The father, not detecting the sad irony of the smile, replied:

"It is indeed fortunate that you are enabled not only to achieve your
own happiness by this marriage, but also to redeem what is dearer to me
than all else in this world--my mercantile credit. But here they come."

"Here they come," was the cue which was to bring in Signor Rodicaso and
party; but the Signor was momentarily delayed by the giving way of two
buttons in his doublet. When he had repaired damages with pins as well
as he could, he emerged into view, accompanied by a notary and a pair of
friendly witnesses. The Signor, this time, proved to be the author of
the play, who had kindly consented, at five minutes' notice, to take the
part in which the hapless Chickson had broken down. Stealing behind, in
the shadow of the others, was distinctly seen (by all except the people
on the stage) the burly form of Uncle Bignolio.

To satisfy the conventional idea of dramatic concealment, his left leg
was plunged in obscurity behind the scenes, while the rest of his figure
stood out in bold relief. He was observed, by those who watched him
narrowly, to send a pleasant wink and nod to Bidette, who responded with
a scarcely perceptible pout.

On the entrance of Signor Rodicaso and friends, Fidelia rose, turned
toward them, and made a profound courtesy, as if to signify her abject
submission. Signor Rodicaso bowed with equal profundity, and straightway
proceeded to make a speech to the lady, in which he spoke of the wild
idolatry that he had long felt for her, and alluded most disparagingly
to his own merits. If the Signor's statements could be relied on, he was
totally unworthy of an alliance with the beautiful Fidelia; in fact, was
a "dog who would be proud only but to bask in the sunshine of
her smile."

This singular address, extending over "one length," or forty-five lines,
excited little less astonishment on the stage than in the audience. For
it was not set down in the acting copy, but had been improvised by the
author, to better the part of the Signor, which, as originally written,
was destitute of Long and effective orations.

Fidelia smiled, and could only reply to this unpremeditated effusion by
several modest inclinations of the head. The other actors and actress
turned aside to conceal their grins. Uncle Bignolio alone fulfilled the
requirements of his part, by casting Mephistophelean leers at the
Signor, and now and then stealthily shaking his fists at him.

The father, not being apt at off-hand oratory, did not attempt any
response to this speech, but merely bowed, to express his perfect
agreement in everything that had been said, and waved his hand toward a
table in the rear of the stage, as if to say, "Let us proceed to
business."

The notary, taking the hint, seated himself at the table, opened his
black bag, drew forth a document from it, and spread it out. Then he
dipped a pen into an inkstand, and said:

"We now await the signing of the contract of marriage between Signor
Alessandro Arturo Rodicaso, gentleman, and Signorina Giulia Innocenza
Fidelia Corpetto, only daughter of Signor Francesco Corpetto, merchant."

In the absence of any definite information on the Venetian formula
adopted in such cases, the author had selected this style of
announcement as being sufficiently stiff and imposing.

Signor Rodicaso sprang forward with joyful alacrity to sign the
contract, dashing off his name in two strokes, as is the invariable
custom on the stage.

The climax of the drama had now arrived, and everybody stood aside for
the wretched Fidelia. Mrs. Slapman proved equal to the great occasion.
Directing one look to heaven, as if for strength, and pressing a hand
over the jewelled bodice which covered her bursting heart, she walked
with firm steps toward the fatal table. Never in her life had she been
more grandly simple. It was sublime!

As Fidelia came up to the little table, she faltered, and leaned upon it
to support herself; then, with a nervous motion, grasped the pen.
Several times she dipped the pen in the empty inkstand, and each time
her face assumed a look of more settled anguish. Then, bracing all her
nerves for the decisive act of woman's life, she put down the pen
boldly on the paper, and made one up stroke. Before she could make the
other down stroke which was necessary to complete her signature, a wild
figure, with hair dishevelled, and other evidences of hasty purpose,
burst upon the stage.

Fidelia paused; all stood back; and gentlemen who had swords laid hands
on them.

"Who is this?" asked the Father, with mercantile calmness.

"Who dares thus break in upon my happiness?" inquired Signor Rodicaso.

"Know you not, young man, that you are committing a breach of the
peace?" remarked the notary, regarding the intrusion with the eye of
a lawyer.

The wild figure answered them all at once: "I am Alberto, and I come to
rend this impious contract--thus--thus--thus!" (snatching the parchment
from the table, tearing it to pieces, and trampling on it).

Fidelia, astonished at the turn events were taking, leaned back in her
chair, and looked on silently. Her time for fainting had not yet come.

"Draw and defend yourself, caitiff!" exclaimed Signor Rodicaso,
brandishing his sword.

"Anywhere but in the presence of a lady," was the sarcastic reply.
"Besides, I have claims on you, which, perhaps may teach you to
respect me."

"Claims! Thou liest! What claims?"

"These! Hast seen them before? Ha! ha!" shouted Alberto, shaking a
bundle of papers in the face of his rival.

"Allow me to examine them, if you please?" asked Signor Rodicaso, with
forced calmness.

"No, you don't," was the response. "But I'll tell you what they are.
They are judgments to the extent of one hundred and seventy thousand
florins--dost hear? one hundred and seventy thousand florins--against
you, which I have bought for less than quarter price from Jinkerini
Bros, No. 124 Rialto. With them I offset the sum which this unhappy but
excellent merchant" (pointing to the father) "owes you. Here, sir; now
you are released from yon monster's clutches." (Hands package of
judgments to the father, who, overpowered by the scene, takes and holds
them in dumb amazement.)

An expression of silent joy begins to steal over the face of Fidelia.
But her time for fainting had not yet come!

"Boy!" said Signor Rodicaso, with a composure that was perfectly
wonderful, "there is another hand than thine in all this work. Thou art
but the poor tool and I despise thee!"

"Here is the hand!" exclaimed the uncle Bignolio, drawing out his leg
from its seclusion, and bringing his whole body into full view. "Dost
know it?" He held up his right hand, to carry out the idea of
the author.

"It is the hand of Bignolio the usurer," said Signor Rodicaso,
despondingly, seeing now that the game was clearly against him.

"Bignolio the usurer!" exclaimed the father, still wrapped in amazement.

"Bignolio the usurer!" murmured Fidelia, whose woman's wit divined the
mystery of his appearance. But her time to faint had not _yet_ come.

"Bignolio the usurer!" cried the notary, witnesses, and Bidette in
chorus.

"Yes," returned that gentleman; "Bignolio the _usurer,_ who now is proud
to claim the dearer title of 'own uncle' to his nephew Alberto. That
nephew he this day receives into his partnership, and proclaims his only
heir. Come to my arms, adopted son!"

Alberto flew to his uncle, and was silently embraced. Even at this
moment, sacred to the interchange of the noblest affections, several
persons in the audience distinctly saw the uncle's left eye wink over
Alberto's shoulder to Bidette, who responded to the unwelcome
familiarity, this time, with an indignant frown.

The nephew gently uncoiled his uncle, and addressed himself to the
father:

"Respected sir, I have long loved your daughter, and am not totally
unprepared to believe that she may, in some slight measure, reciprocate
my affections. I humbly solicit her hand in marriage."

The father, with the characteristic decision of an old man of business,
had already made up his mind. Alberto, the young partner and heir of the
rich usurer of Venice, would be a more manageable son-in-law than the
middle-aged though wealthy Rodicaso. The father said words to this
effect in an "aside," and then replied aloud:

"Her hand is yours; and may your union be crowned with felicity. Come,
children, and receive a parent's blessing."

"My bitter curse be on you all! Boy, we shall meet again!" shouted
Rodicaso, striding off the stage, and followed by the notary for his
pay, and by the laughter and scorn of the rest of the company.

Fidelia's little cup of earthly happiness was now full. Her time for
fainting had arrived at last. Everybody moved to clear a space for her.
She rose, and walked with an unfaltering step toward Alberto. There was
no overdone rapture in her gait; no exaggerated ecstasy in her face. As
a practised critic remarked, "her calmness was the truest expression of
her agony of joy."

Alberto advanced halfway with a lover's ardor, and extended his arms.
Then was her time to faint; and she fainted with a slight scream,
sinking gently upon a faithful breast.

The father raised his hands above the couple, and blessed them in the
correct way, never seen off the stage. Uncle Bignolio wiped his eyes,
and murmured, "Dear boy! How much he looks like his father now!"--a
remark somewhat out of place, considering that Alberto's back was turned
to the uncle. Bidette hovered near the happy group, and danced for joy.

It was a touching tableau, and the spectators applauded it In a way
that tickled the heart of the author, who was watching the effect
through an eyehole of the left wing.



CHAPTER IV.

HOW THE PLAY ENDED.

Just as the curtain was to be rung down on the end of the play, a mad
clatter of boots was heard behind the scenes. Then a man, dressed in
complete black, and excessively pale, jumped upon the stage. His black
hair was tossed all over his head, and his black eyes were rolling
wildly. Thus much all the spectators saw at a glance.

The strange man's first intention appeared to be to dash at the happy
couple; but, if so, he checked himself, and, standing at a distance of
four feet from them, uttered these words: "Scoundrel! what are you doing
with my wife there?" The man's whole figure could be seen to tremble.

Many of the spectators, supposing this was a part of the play--though
they did not see its precise connection with the plot--applauded what
was apparently a fine piece of acting.

"Good!" "Capital!" "Bravo!" were heard from all parts of the room,
mingled with stamping and clapping.

The man darted looks of concentrated hate at the audience.

"Who is he?" "How well he does it!" "What splendid tragedy powers!" were
some of the audible remarks that this called forth.

It was also observed that a wonderfully natural style of acting was
instantly developed among the other _dramatis personae_. Fidelia sprang
from the arms of Alberto, and put on a lifelike expression of insulted
dignity, mingled with astonishment. Alberto took a step away from the
ghastly intruder, and was evidently at a loss what to do. His face was
eloquent with bewilderment and mortification. The father looked confused
and sheepish, and put his hands into his pockets. Bidette screamed a
little, and fled to the opposite scenes. Uncle Bignolio whistled and
smiled, and was evidently amused at the occurrence.

All this, done in five seconds, so delighted the spectators, that they
cheered, and cheered again. "As good as a theatre!" ejaculated a new
friend of Mrs. Slapman's, on the front row.

The strange, disorderly man plunged forward with one leg toward Alberto,
and then drew himself back suddenly, as if in a state of harassing
indecision. (Applause.) Then he cast a diabolical look (worthy of the
elder Booth in Richard III) at the young lover, and shrieked, "Wretch!
villain! I will--I will--" He hesitated to add what he would do, but
shook his fists in a highly natural manner at the object of his hate.
(Great applause.)

"Sir!" said Fidelia, stretching her proud young form erect, like a
tragedy queen, "How dare you, sir!" (Boisterous applause, and this
remark from an elderly gentleman: "The picture of Mrs. Siddons!")

The singular individual in black was seen to tremble with increased
violence. His eyes rolled more wildly, while his face took on a chalkier
hue. He stepped back, as if to insure his retreat. Then, mustering all
his resolution, he said:

"M-Mrs. M-Mrs. Slapman, you--you ought to be a-ashamed of yourself!"

The real character of the strange actor was now made evident, and the
whole house was hushed in awe and expectation. There was not a man or
woman present but knew too well the folly of mingling in a family
quarrel. So they held their tongues, and enjoyed the scene.

Mrs. Slapman turned to the audience. She was pale, but perfectly
composed. She said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is my husband, a very quiet and well-behaved
man, whose only fault is excessive nervousness. This fault, I am sorry
to say, he encourages, by constantly smoking cigars and drinking strong
black tea. He has been indulging in both of these stimulants to-night,
till he is quite beside himself. I trust you will excuse and pity him.
He has no other vices that I know of."

Then, turning to her husband, whose hands had now dropped listlessly by
his side, she added:

"My dear, bathe your head, and go to bed immediately."

He struggled to say something in the presence of this calm embodiment of
satire, but could not. Hanging down his head, and looking very silly, he
slinked off the stage.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," said Mrs. Slapman, "after an interval of
fifteen minutes, we will proceed with the comedietta of 'A Morning
Call,' as if nothing had happened."

When she had said this, Mrs. Slapman fainted--this time in earnest. She
was caught in the arms of Fayette Overtop, who immediately, and with the
utmost delicacy, resigned her to the arms of Miss Wick (Bidette), and of
several other ladies, who came upon the stage and proffered salts,
cologne, and other restoratives.

The gentlemen present, actors and audience, unanimously decided that the
best thing for them to do, under all the circumstances, was to leave
the premises.

This they did as soon as they could, reserving all discussion of the
painful event of the evening for the free air of the street.

As Overtop, very serious, and Maltboy, very jovial, were about to
descend the steps to the sidewalk, they were met by a messenger, who
desired them to go with him immediately to the station house to see some
friends (names forgotten) who had been arrested, and had sent for them.

Thither they went, and experienced the greatest surprise of the evening.



BOOK NINTH.

THE INQUEST.



CHAPTER I.

Coroner and Jury.

The post-mortem examination had been held; and three doctors had sworn
that deceased came to his death from a great variety of Greek and Latin
troubles, all caused by a learned something which signified, in plain
English, a blow on the head. Coroner Bullfast was so struck with the
clear and explicit nature of the medical evidence, that he had it
reduced to writing for his private regalement.

The post-mortem examination, and the testimony of the three doctors, and
of all the people in the house (except Patty Minford, daughter of the
deceased)--whose joint knowledge upon the subject amounted to nothing
more than hearing somebody with heavy boots come down stairs about
midnight--occupied the whole of the first day. Patty, or Pet, was so
thoroughly unnerved by the events of that horrible night, that the
coroner found it impossible to take her evidence on that day. She had
fainted twice before she could make Coroner Bullfast clearly understand
that Marcus Wilkeson, her benefactor, and her father's best friend, was
THE MURDERER. Having learned thus much, the coroner had put the police
on the track of Marcus Wilkeson, and had postponed the further
examination of the chief witness.

Mrs. Crull, on learning of the tragic affair, had gone in person to the
house of death, and taken Patty to her own home.

The remains of the unfortunate inventor had been removed to the nearest
undertaker's for interment, at the expense of Mrs. Crull. The apartments
had been diligently searched, and the personal effects of the deceased
examined, under the direction of the coroner. A number of documents had
been discovered, which, in the coroner's opinion, threw a flood of light
on the motives that led to the crime. A few dollars and a bull's-eye
silver watch, found on the dead body, precluded the idea that the murder
was done for plunder. With that quickness of perception for which
Coroner Bullfast, like most of his official kind, was celebrated, he had
formed his theory of the murder, and tremendously strong must be the
future testimony that could shake it.

On the morning of the second day, Coroner Bullfast and the jury
reassembled, about ten o'clock, in the room where the murder was
committed.

The coroner was a jovial man, with a bulging forehead, a ruddy nose, a
large diamond breastpin (a real diamond, of that superlative style only
seen in its perfection on the shirt fronts of aldermen, contractors, and
Washington Market butchers), and the native New York manner of speaking,
which is sharp and mandatory. The coroner began life as a stone mason,
gained early distinction as a fireman, controlled several hundred votes
in his ward, became a member of a political committee, and got a
coronership as his share of the spoils. He had aspired to be a police
justice, or city inspector, or commissioner of the Croton Board. To
either of these positions, or, for that matter, to any position
indefinitely higher, he felt himself perfectly equal. But other members
of the committee (which was a kind of joint-stock company for the
distribution of offices) had prior and stronger claims than Harry
Bullfast, and so he was put off with a coronership. He felt the slight
acutely, but, like a prudent man, determined to so keep himself before
the public in his performance of the office, as to make it a stepping
stone to something much higher--the city comptrollership, or a seat in
the State Senate, or in Congress, or (who could tell?) the governorship
of the commonwealth--that grand possibility which every ward politician
carries in his hat.

The coroner was seated in the inventor's private armchair, with one leg
thrown over the side of it, and the other stretched on the floor. He was
chewing tobacco with manly vigor, and cracking jokes with a facetious
juryman, who was assistant foreman of the Bully Boy Hose, of which the
coroner was an exempt and honorary member.

The jury was composed of six men whom the coroner had picked from the
large number of idle spectators found by him at the scene of the murder
when he was first summoned. Two of them chanced to be acquaintances of
his. As to the rest, the coroner had not the remotest idea. They might
have been beggars or pickpockets, for aught that he cared. They looked
stupid, and he liked stupid jurors.

"Them sharp fellers that thinks they knows more'n the cor'ner, is a
cussed nuisance," he often had occasion to remark.

The jury sat near one of the windows, in a semicircle of chairs which
had been borrowed from the first and second floors. Pending the
resumption of their melancholy work, such of them as could read were
reading newspapers containing reports of the first day's proceedings,
from two to ten columns long, wherein the scene of the "Mysterious
Midnight Tragedy," as one paper called it, was represented in the most
ingenious manner by printers' rules cut to show the dimensions of the
rooms on the third floor, the position of the fireplace, bed, washstand,
chest of drawers, unknown machine in the corner, and other things which
had no bearing whatever on the affair. The other jurors, who could not
read at all, or had an insuperable aversion to that laborious
occupation, were rolling their quids in silence, and looking wise.

At a long table in the centre of the room were seated several young
gentlemen, dressed with singular independence of style. From one point
of view they looked like actors, bearing about them signs of fatigue, as
if from heavy night work. Observed again, they resembled young lawyers
of indolent habits and scanty practice, who had just dropped in to
watch the case.

From their conversation, no clue to their professional identity could be
gathered. They were cracking jokes, propounding conundrums, and telling
stories humorously broad to each other. Everything was to them a
legitimate amusement. The proceedings of the day before were peculiarly
rich in funny reminiscences; and one tall, bright, curly-haired fellow
was evoking roars of suppressed laughter by his capital mimicry of two
of the dullest witnesses. Another was drawing comic profiles of a sleepy
juryman on a scrap of paper. He had previously dashed off a very happy
sketch of the coroner, and shown it to that functionary, who had
"haw-hawed," and pronounced it "devilish good," and, in turn, presented
the young artist with a fine Havana cigar, which he playfully put in his
mouth and chewed the end of. Yet there were, about these young
gentlemen, signs of business, which an intelligent observer might have
easily interpreted. From the outside breast pockets of each of them
protruded a number of pencils; and, from their lower side pockets, thick
memorandum books with gray covers, or stiffly folded quires of foolscap.

They were the reporters of the press--the gamins and good fellows of
literature;--fellows of inexhaustible resources, who carry their wits
literally at their fingers' ends;--who can do more than extract sunbeams
from cucumbers; for they can make up thrilling facts out of
nothing;--who can thread their way through a crowd where a tapeworm
would be squeezed to death;--whose writing desk is usually another man's
back; and who sketch out a much better speech between an orator's
shoulder blades than he is making in front;--whose written language is
a perplexity compared with which Greek is a relaxation and Sanscrit a
positive amusement;--who deal in adjectives, and know their precise
value, and how to administer them, as an apothecary knows the drugs that
are boxed and bottled on his shelves;--who are less men than parts of an
enormous mill grinding out grist to be branned and bolted in the
editorial rooms, made into food in the printing office and press vault,
and served up hot for the public's breakfast next morning.

Clever, witty, insatiable fellows they, for whom a planet ought to be
set apart, where all the murders are wrapped in impenetrable mystery,
and the smallest railroad accidents are frightful catastrophes.

The east side of the room, where the dead body had been found, was
preserved inviolate from the broom, mop, and other touch, until the
inquest was over. The strange machine stood in its accustomed place,
flanked by the screen. It had been extensively handled and looked at,
and passed for a new kind of clock. Two large weights (which had fallen
to the floor) and the interplaying cogwheels gave force to that
conjecture.

A large purple spot on the floor showed where the old man's life had
ebbed away. Close by this spot, precisely where it had been picked up,
lay the long oaken club with the iron tip, which, it was supposed, had
done the dreadful deed. There were small splashes and spots on it too.

The fun of the reporters, the chat of the coroner and his friends, the
readings and airy meditations of the jurors, were all suddenly checked
by the appearance of Marcus Wilkeson, escorted by two police officers,
and Messrs. Overtop and Maltboy, Patching and Tiffles. All five had
passed the night in the station house--Messrs. Patching and Tiffles from
compulsion, as witnesses, and possible accomplices, and Overtop and
Maltboy as guides, philosophers, and friends. All looked seedy and
criminal, as if there were something in the atmosphere of station houses
to give a man the semblance of a vagabond and an outcast. Marcus
Wilkeson was very pale, and, when he looked across the room, as he did
upon his entrance, by a singular impulse, and saw the great blood mark
and the club on the floor, he trembled with emotion.

The keen eyes of the coroner caught these signs, and he immediately
brought in a mental verdict of "guilty." Some of the jury observed the
same signs, and thought them suspicious. The reporters looked upon
Marcus Wilkeson without emotion or prejudgment. They were so accustomed
to seeing murderers, that they regarded them simply as a part of the
business community--a little vicious, perhaps, but not so much worse
than other people, after all. One reporter, attached to an illustrated
paper, dashed off the profile of Marcus Wilkeson, under the cover of his
hat, and caught the dejected expression of his face to a nicety.



CHAPTER II.

STATEMENT OF THE PRISONER.

The coroner received Marcus with that air of consideration which
magistrates instinctively bestow upon persons charged with great crimes,
and informed him, with some respect, that he was brought there to make
any explanation that he saw fit, touching his connection with "this
'ere murder."

The party were then accommodated with seats near the jury, and facing
the reporters. As Marcus looked up, and saw those practised scribes
sharpening their pencils, his heart sank deeper within him. The vision
which had troubled him all night, of a broadside notoriety in all the
city papers, rose before his mind, clothed with fresh horror. The dull
sound of sharpening those pencils was like the whetting of the
executioner's knife.

The proper course was to have accepted an unsworn statement from the
prisoner; but the coroner always administered oaths when prisoners were
willing to take them. The repetition of that jargon with a profane
conclusion (for so it seemed, in the slipshod way that it was said),
which the coroner called an oath, was a positive pleasure to that
official. As Marcus desired to take the oath, the coroner rattled off
the unintelligible something, and handed him a Bible, which the prisoner
pressed reverentially to his lips. Marcus, being now supposed to be
sworn, proceeded, with what firmness he could muster, to answer the
numerous interrogatories of the coroner. That official chewed hard, and,
as it were, spit out his questions.

His testimony, in substance, was this:

That he was a friend of the deceased, and had loaned him one thousand
dollars to complete a machine upon which he was engaged--pointing to the
unfinished pile in the corner. That his relations with the deceased and
his family (Marcus did not like to mention Pet's name) were entirely
agreeable, until an anonymous letter, charging him with improper motives
in visiting the house, had poisoned the mind of the deceased against
him. [The giving up of this letter to the coroner, who read it to the
jury, and then tossed it over to the reporters for copying, was a hard
trial, but Marcus had resolved upon meeting all the troubles of the
case halfway.]

The coroner here produced the second anonymous letter, which had been
found on the person of the deceased, showed it to Marcus for
identification, and then threw it to the reporters, as one would throw a
choice bone to a cage full of hungry animals.

Marcus explained that he had made every effort to discover the
authorship of the letters, without success; whereupon the coroner shut
his eyes knowingly, rolled his quid from right to left, and said that he
was "investigatin' 'em" himself.

QUESTION BY A JUROR. "Wos the letters postpaid?"

ANSWER. "They were."

The juror took the reply into his profoundest consideration.

Marcus, resuming, stated that, on his last visit--the night of the
supposed murder--he had found Mr. Minford very much disturbed in mind by
the unjust suspicions aroused by these letters. He had accused witness
of the vile intentions referred to in them. Witness had denied the
imputations with emphasis. The discussion was becoming quite warm, when
the daughter of the deceased entered the room, and, being worn out with
watching by the side of a sick friend, retired to bed in the adjoining
chamber. The conversation, broken off by her entrance, was then
continued, much in the same vein. Mr. Minford was in a distressing state
of nervous excitement that evening, and talked loud and wild. Witness
made an effort to keep his temper, and did so, though the peculiar
injustice of the accusations were enough to arouse any man's anger. He
reserved his show of wrath for the author of the anonymous letters, if
he could ever catch him. He would not say that he had not replied to the
deceased with some warmth of manner. But as to threatening him, or
hurting one hair of his head, witness had not done it--so help him God!

QUESTION BY A JUROR. "Was the key of the door in the keyhole that
night?"

ANSWER. "I don't know."

COMMENT BY FACETIOUS JUROR. "Be me sowl, I thinks that whishkay had more
to do with it than the doorkay. Don't you, Harry?"

CORONER. "Bully for you!"

Clothing himself again with dignity, the coroner asked:

"Der yer mean to say, Mr. Wilkingson, that yer didn't kill this man?
Remember, now, yer on yer oath!"

The horrible bluntness of the question nearly felled Marcus to the
floor. He placed his hand on his brow, now pale with the acutest
anguish. Then he rose, and, looking upward said:

"As God is my judge, and as I hope for heaven, I am innocent of this
murder, or of any part in it."

"If you please, Mr. Coroner, this gentleman and myself are counsel for
the accused," said Overtop.

"Oh! you're his counsel. Then the other two are the chaps arrested as
'complices?"

Patching writhed at this. Nor were his feelings relieved by observing,
with an oblique glance, that the artist of the illustrated paper was in
the act of taking him.

"I protest," said Wesley Tiffles, rising to his full height, and
throwing out both arms for a comprehensive gesture, "I protest against
this arrest and detention as illegal. If the coroner will give me but a
short hour of his valuable time, I can--"

CORONER _(puffing up_). "The gentleman will be good enough to shut up
for the present. When we are ready, we will hear what he has to say."

TIFFLES. "I protest, sir. I wish the gentlemanly and intelligent
reporters to note that I protest--"

CORONER. "Are you, or me, boss here, hey?"

TIFFLES. "Oh! you, of course, sir." The protestant then sank into his
seat, not wholly disappointed, for he had gained his object of making a
little newspaper capital by tickling the reporters. He had also
remarked, with pleasure, that, while he stood erect, with both arms
outstretched, the artist had secured his full length. Tiffles was fond
of notoriety, however achieved; and he saw a good opening for it in
this case.

Overtop here suggested that it would be easy to prove their client's
innocence. He would respectfully request his Honor to procure the
testimony of Miss Patty Minford, if she could be found. As she went to
bed in the adjoining room early that evening, she must have heard some
noise in connection with the murder--if, indeed, a murder had been
committed. Overtop's legal education taught him to doubt everything.

Coroner Bullfast was touched with the title of Honor, so skilfully
applied by Overtop; and he answered, with uncommon sweetness:

"I am expecting Miss Minford every minute, sir. She will speak for
herself. For the present, sir, I am sorry to say that it was on her
testimony alone that Mr. Wilkingson was 'rested."

A look of new surprise and horror passed over the pale face of Marcus,
and Overtop and Maltboy exchanged glances of astonishment.

"Now, Mr. Wilkingson," continued the coroner, taking a fresh chew,
"please drive ahead with yer statement--if yer choose to. Yer not bound
to say anythink, yer know."

AN INTELLIGENT JUROR. "Will Mr. Wilkeson tell us about what time he left
this house that night, and where he went?"

Marcus raised his sunken head, and shook it, as if to dispel a
stupefaction. Then, in a faint and trembling voice, he replied that he
looked at his watch just before bidding Mr. Minford "good-night,"
and-observed that it was fifteen minutes past eleven o'clock.

QUESTION BY A JUROR. "What kind o' watch do you carry?"

ANSWER (_exhibiting the watch_). "An English hunter--- lever
escapement--- full jewelled."

At any other time, Marcus would have smiled at the impertinence of the
question, but he answered it gravely.

He then went on to say, that Mr. Minford had not replied to his
"good-night." That he repeated the salutation, and extended his hand as
a token of unbroken friendship. That Mr. Minford refused to take it, and
said that he had one last favor to ask of him (Marcus), and that was,
never to cross his threshold again. That he (Marcus) responded, "I
forgive you, sir. When, on reflection, you think that you have done me
injustice--as you will, at last--send for me, and I will still be your
friend." That he received no answer to this, save a shake of the head,
and immediately went down stairs into the street. He was feverish, and
his brain was in a whirl. Hardly knowing what he did, he walked the
streets hither and thither. He could not tell what streets he traversed,
but he kept up the exercise till he was tired. Then he became calmer,
returned home, entered the house with a latch key, and went to bed
without waking any of the inmates. On going to bed, he observed that his
watch marked one o'clock.

An intelligent juror. "You must have passed a large number of people in
the streets between eleven and one o'clock. Did you see no one whom
you knew?"

"No one; but at a corner some distance from here,--I could not say what
corner,--I noticed a policeman sitting on a barrel in front of a
grocery, smoking. He was a short, fat man, and his legs hardly reached
to the pavement. I remember him the more particularly, because I stopped
and lighted a cigar at his pipe. Just at that moment, the City Hall bell
commenced striking a fire alarm."

"What was the district?" asked the juror who was assistant foreman of
the Bully Boy Hose.

"The Seventh. I counted the strokes. I walked on rapidly, and soon came
up with another policeman, who was leaning against a grocery store. I
said to him, 'A cold night, Mr. Policeman,' and I think he would
remember that circumstance, if he could be found. Just after I had
passed him, the alarm bells struck the last round. Three or four rounds
had been struck."

The assistant foreman of the Bully Boy Hose, having referred to a
memorandum book which he drew from a breast pocket, here exclaimed:

"The alarm was at twenty-five minutes of twelve. Nothing but a chimney
in Whitehall street. We run into Twenty's fellers, comin' back, and had
a nice little row. Ever belong to the department, sir?"

Marcus answered "No;" and the pyrophilist looked compassionately upon
him, as upon one who had never known true happiness.

"If you never run with the mersheen," observed the coroner, "you do'
'no' wot life is. As for me, sir, it's my boast and pride that I have
been a member of the New York Fire Department for more'n twenty years.
It wos the backin' of the boys that made me a coroner; and, thank God!
I'm never ashamed to tell 'em so."

The coroner spoke truly. So far from being ashamed to "tell 'em so," he
was always "telling 'em so," never missing an opportunity, at political
meetings, to inform the firemen that he was "one of 'em," and that no
mark of honor, even from the President of the United States, was equal
to his fireman's badge. The continual "telling of 'em so" had aided in
procuring for him his present official distinction, and was destined to
earn higher honors for him at a future day.

The coroner tore off a fresh chew from a half hand of Cavendish which
had been well gnawed at all the edges, and told Marcus that he might
"fire away" again.

Marcus then proceeded to state that, on the morning after the eventful
night, he woke up early. His dreams had been horrible, and his waking
reflections were no less distressing. The thought that Mr. Minford
should have suspected him, thus unjustly, of the basest of crimes, and
that they, who had been such good friends, should have parted in a way
that effectually cut off reconciliation; and the other thought, that
this mischief had been wrought by some unscrupulous enemy, when he had
always fondly believed that he never could have a foe in the
world--these thoughts, occurring with great force to a nervous and
sensitive man, nearly maddened him. He felt that if he remained in the
house that day, as usual, and brooded over his troubles, he would grow
crazy. While he was pondering what to do, his eyes chanced to fall on an
invitation which he had received from Mr. Wesley Tiffles, to meet him at
the Cortlandt street ferry at seven and a quarter o'clock that morning,
and accompany him and his panorama of Africa to New Jersey. The day
before, when this invitation came to hand, he had determined not to
accept it; but it now seemed to offer him a capital chance to see some
excitement and ran. As these remedies were precisely what his mental
malady required, he jumped to dress himself, and hurried out of the
house, seeing nobody as he made his exit, and leaving no word of
explanation. He took no luggage, except a clean collar, as he intended
to return the following day. He was even so careless and forgetful as to
leave his purse behind him, and found, on reaching the ferry, that he
had barely two dollars in his pocket.

QUESTION BY A JUROR. "Wos they bank bills; and, if so, what bank wos
they on?"

Marcus answered the question to the best of his knowledge, and the juror
sagely nodded, and took the reply under treatment.

"I say, Tubbs," cried the coroner, "wot's the use of askin' them kind o'
questions?"

Tubbs looked up from his ruminations, somewhat confused. The politic
Overtop--that model of a rising lawyer--here put in a word for Tubbs,
and said that the question, in his opinion, was a very pertinent one,
for it went to test the memory of his client. If Mr. Wilkeson had just
committed murder, he would hardly be in that calm frame of mind which is
necessary to the recollection of small facts. He hoped that the
ingenious gentleman would ask many more such questions. By these
judicious remarks, Overtop gained one fast friend for his client on
the jury.



CHAPTER III.

JUSTICE GOES TO DINNER.

Wesley Tiffles was then examined. He commenced with an eloquent
dissertation on the rights of man, and his own rights in particular, but
stopped when he saw that the reporters tucked their pencils behind their
ears, and waited for facts. The moment he began to talk facts--which are
to reporters what corn is to crows--down came the pencils from their
perches again, and went tripping over the paper.

Mr. Tiffles's testimony would have consumed two hours, or two days,
perhaps, if he had been allowed to go on unchecked. But the coroner had
been invited to dine at a Broadway restaurant, with a few political
friends, at three P.M. So he concluded, after Tiffles had talked five
minutes, that he knew nothing about the murder, and could throw no
light on it, and told Tiffles that he was not wanted further.

"And you mean to tell me, sir, that I am not to be locked up in the
station house to-night," said Tiffles.

"No, unless yer want ter be."

"Of course not--of course not." But the interior Tiffles was
disappointed at this sudden and unromantic termination of his case. A
few more nights in the station house, or in the Tombs, would have given
him capital material for a book, of which he had already projected the
first chapter. He sat down, and execrated his ill luck.

Patching, the artist, was then interrogated, to the extent of two
minutes, and corroborated Tiffles's testimony as to the sad and strange
appearance of Mr. Wilkeson on the day after the supposed murder.
Patching was then informed by the coroner that his further attendance at
the inquest would not be required.

Patching, on rising, had assumed the attitude of Paul before Felix, as
set forth in some ancient cartoon; and in that position of mingled
innocence, dignity, and defiance, the artist of the illustrated paper
got a spirited sketch of him. Had Patching dreamed how capitally his
long hair, peaked beard, thin nose, and bony forehead would be taken
off, in a rough but faithful character portrait, he would have sunk in
confusion. Happily, the newspaper artist was sitting almost behind his
more pretentious brother of the canvas, and the latter knew not what had
been done, until, the following week, he saw a striking intensification
of himself staring into the street from numerous bulletin boards and
shop windows.

Before sitting down, Mr. Patching begged to explain to the jury, and to
the public through the reporters (who did not take down a word of the
explanation), that he had painted the panorama of Africa to oblige his
friend, "Wesley Tiffles. It was hardly necessary for him to say, in this
community, that he was more at home among higher walks of Art.

"Are you a sign painter, Mr. Patching?" asked the coroner. "No, sir; I
am not," said Patching, with dignified contempt.

"Perhaps you're a carriage painter, then? Them's the fellers for
picturin'. The woman and flowers on the Bully Boys' hose carriage wos
well done. Hey, Jack?"

"That it wos, Harry," returned the assistant foreman of the Bully Boys.
"If Patching can do that sort o' thing, he'll pass."

Patching fixed looks of professional indignation on the coroner and the
assistant foreman, and sat down gloomily, amid the suppressed laughter
of the irreverent reporters.

The coroner then looked at his watch, and, finding that the time was
within half an hour of dinner, said that the inquest would be adjourned
till the following morning, at ten o'clock.

"But, your Honor," said Overtop, "--that is, if you will allow me to
make the suggestion--couldn't you give us an hour longer? Nothing has
yet been heard from Miss Minford, who, you said, was expected to be in
attendance to-day. Will you be good enough to send to Mrs. Crull's
house for her?"

"Really, I can't wait," replied the coroner. "The young lady must be
sick, or she would have been here before now."

"But--pardon me, your Honor--we are anxious to have Miss Minford brought
on the stand this afternoon, believing, that her testimony alone will
acquit our client."

"You believe so, because you do' 'no' what it is. But, as I said before,
it wos on Miss Minford's statement that Mr. Wilkingson there was
'rested. And the best advice I can give him is to take a good night's
rest, and get his nerves ready for the young woman's testimony
to-morrow, for it'll be a staggerer." The coroner consulted his watch
again, with evident impatience, and rose from his seat.

Overtop essayed to speak again; but the coroner interrupted him with,
"The inquest is 'journed till to-morrer, at ten o'clock. Mr. Policeman,
you will take the prisoner back to the station house."

This speech was torture to Overtop and Maltboy, who, believing firmly
in their friend's innocence, were convinced that a full investigation of
the case that day would procure his acquittal. They turned eyes of
exhaustless friendship and sympathy toward him.

Marcus was in that half-comatose state which is the stupid reaction from
an intense and painful excitation of the nerves. He was morbidly calm.
The opinion of the coroner, that Miss Minford's testimony would be a
"staggerer," had no more effect on him than it would have had on the
most phlegmatic reader of the case in next morning's paper.

"Then, your Honor, we must ask you to take bail," said Overtop.

"Can't take bail! Can't take anything but my dinner, to-day! For the
third time, I say, the inquest is adjourned." The coroner hastily put on
his spring overcoat.

Overtop was tempted to make a fierce reply; but the legal discretion in
which he was educated restrained him.

The word had gone forth. The jurors rose, yawned, and grasped their
hats. The reporters jammed their notes into their pockets, and
precipitately fled from the room. The policeman escorted Marcus Wilkeson
and his counsel, and Tiffles and Patching, to the carriage which brought
them, and which still stood in front of the house, an object of tragic
interest to a large crowd of men, women, and children, who had remained
about the doorway during the inquest, and could not be dispersed by the
policemen.

"Which is he?" "Who's the murderer?" whispered twenty voices, as the
party emerged from the stairs upon the sidewalk.

"That's him! That chap with the big hat and long hair. You could pick
him out of a million," said a shrewd observer.

"What ugly eyes he's got! They're sharp enough to stab ye," added a shop
girl.

"I seen some pirates hung, when I was a little gal," remarked an old
woman, "and they were pooty compared to him."

The object of these and other remarks was the unhappy Patching, who had
not yet got over his wrath at the coroner, and was scowling and
compressing his lips very like a murderer.

The policeman and his companions, all but the spell-bound Marcus, could
not help laughing at these ridiculous mistakes. But Patching turned upon
the crowd, and delivered among them one withering look of scorn, which
fully confirmed them in the belief that he was a murderer of the deepest
dye. And when the carriage rolled away, it was followed by a volley of
groans, mixed with a few pebbles, handfuls of mud, and other missiles
which happened to be lying around loose.

"Here, boys, don't act that way," said the coroner, who had just made
his appearance on the sidewalk. "Let the poor devil go. It's a case of
murder, clear, enough; and he won't slip through my hands easy, I can
tell ye, if he _is_ rich." The coroner spoke good-naturedly, for he saw
several of his political adherents among the throng.

"That's the talk!" "Good boy!" "You're the feller for us!" were some of
the warm responses.

The coroner smiled, as he stopped to light a cigar from the pipe of a
dirty admirer, and then, bowing obsequiously to the group, he stalked
off in a rowdy way in the direction of his expected dinner.



CHAPTER IV.

LIGHT IN THE PRISON.

On the return of the prisoner and friends to the station house, Marcus
was gratified to find a number of old business acquaintances waiting for
him in the ante-room. They were men whom he had known in his Wall-street
epoch, and had always set down as good-enough friends in prosperity, but
cold-shouldered creatures in an hour of trial. He was mistaken, as many
men are mistaken, in judging the hearts of business men from their
white and careworn faces. They came with warm hands, sympathetic words,
and offers of bail money and other aid, if wanted. There were short
notes from two or three other old fellows whom he had not seen for
years, telling him that they were at his command.

These expressions of good will touched Marcus to the heart. He learned
that, in the self-conceit of his retired and studious life, he had done
injustice to these citizens of the whirling world. With a thousand
thanks for the kindness of his callers, he told them that their friendly
services were not needed; that his innocence would surely be made to
appear; and that, to the day of his death, he should never forget them.
Upon this assurance, repeated two or three times, his business friends
withdrew with characteristic business impetuosity, wishing him a speedy
release from his disagreeable position--which is the roundabout phrase
for prison.

A policeman, who had charge of the station house during the absence of
his superior officer, here informed Marcus that an old lady and a young
one, an old gen'leman and a lad, had called. The old gen'leman and the
lad would drop round again during the evening. The old lady and the
young one were waiting for him in the captain's room.

He entered the captain's room--his companions staying outside--and saw,
as he expected, his half-sister Philomela, and a young woman dressed in
the height of cheap fashion, who was no other than Mash, the cook.

His sister rose, and extended her hand to him severely, and said, with a
solemn voice:

"Brother Marcus, I am sorry to see you here. I hope you are not guilty
of this crime?"

"Hope?" said Marcus, stung to the quick. "Why not say at once that I am
guilty? It is strange that the only relative I have on earth should be
the first to doubt my innocence."

"Oh, no, Marcus! You do me injustice there. I do not for a moment doubt
your innocence. But you know I always advised you to give up your
moping habits at home, and go into active business, like other men of
your age. If you had been in business now, you wouldn't have had time to
get mixed up in the affairs of this old man Minford and his daughter,
and would have escaped this disgrace. I trust, Marcus," she added,
emphatically, "I trust this will be a lesson to you."

Poor Mash, the cook, had been playing with her bonnet strings, and
trying to check her tears. But the unnatural effort was too much for
her, and she burst out crying.

"Oh, Mr. Wilkeson!" she said, between her sobs, "I--I'm so sorry to see
you here; b-but I--I know yer innocent. Boo-boo-hoo!"

"Thank you, Mash," replied Marcus, quite affected at this sudden
outbreak of sympathy. "_You_ speak like a true woman. But don't cry any
more, my good girl. I shall be released to-morrow." Marcus said this
confidently--though he had not the least idea how his acquittal was to
be obtained.

"Oh! I hope so--I--hope so, Mr. Wilkeson. Boo-boo-hoo--I--I wish I could
g-go to prison in your place. Boo-boo-hoo!"

Mash had derived this preposterous idea of vicarious imprisonment from
the story of "The Buttery and the Boudoir," which was now drawing near
its conclusion, and gradually killing, or marrying off, its heroes
and heroines.

Marcus could not help smiling at the romantic notion. Miss Philomela
laughed sarcastically, and exclaimed:

"You must take pattern from me, girl, and control your feelings. My
brother doesn't want crying women about him at this time."

"Don't be too sure of that, sister. Tears come naturally from a woman.
They are her best evidence of sympathy, and therefore precious to one
who needs it."

Mash, the cook, gave vent to a fresh shower of tears at this encouraging
remark, and made Miss Philomela shrug her shoulders in disgust.

"Oh! _don't_ be silly. Mash!" said Miss Philomela, losing all patience
with the cook.

"I--I--boo-boo-hoo!--can't help it, marm."

"Nonsense!" said the superior female. "As for you, Marcus, you should
not encourage such folly, when you have troubles that demand our sober
and earnest attention. With reference to the past, I might say a great
many things, but I forbear. To be serious, now--for once in your
life--what can I do for you?"

"Will you do what I ask, faithfully?" asked Marcus.

"Yes, faithfully. I promise."

"Then, my sister, be so good as to go home immediately, and send me a
spare shirt and a change of clothes. Mash can bring them. And, lest
another interview should prove too severe a trial for your female
sensibility, I beg that you will not come here again. If I want you very
much, I can send for you."

"You are very unkind--very unkind. But I will not make any remarks. You
know that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to serve my
brother. For, though you have faults--I suppose you will not deny that
you have some little faults--you are still my brother."

Marcus smiled, and thought how foolish it was to quarrel with the
whimsical but not bad-hearted woman. "Well, sister Philomela, you can
see for yourself that I am not ill used here. Comfortable bed, rousing
fire, and warm meals from the restaurant round the corner! The
lieutenant[1] who is in command of this station house turns out to be an
old friend of my boyhood, and treats me more like a guest than a
prisoner. And I must say, that, but for the idea of a prison, I could
live as pleasantly here as at home. Even you can do nothing to lighten
my captivity. But I promise, that _if_ I am held by this coroner's
jury--which, of course, I shall not be--and am sent to the Tombs, then I
will tax your sisterly affection to the utmost."

[Footnote 1: Called sergeant of police under the recent Metropolitan
Act.]

At the mention of that dreadful place, the "Tombs," Mash broke into
sobs again. The touching experiences of Gerald Florville in that house
of despair--as set forth in "The Buttery and the Boudoir"--were
poignantly brought to her mind.

Miss Philomela looked serious as the Tombs loomed up in her mind, and
she would have said something condoling, but for the irritating conduct
of the cook, who annoyed her so much that she decided to leave. She
abruptly shook hands with her half-brother. "It is very easy," said she,
"to point out how certain mistakes might have been avoided. But let the
past go. If you are not acquitted to-morrow, I shall call here again,
notwithstanding you don't seem very desirous to see me. Now, good-by.
Come, hurry up, Mash!"

Marcus shook hands with his half-sister, and also with Mash, who wept
afresh.

In the ante-room, Miss Philomela saw Overtop and Maltboy, upon whom she
bestowed a half smile, and Tiffles, whom she treated to a cordial
grimace, not unmingled with a blush. Tiffles, on his part, was
profoundly polite, and inquired if she were going home. Learning that
she was, he remarked that he had occasion to walk in the same direction,
and accompanied her as she left the station house. Mash followed at a
short distance behind, not because she did not think herself fully as
good as Miss Philomela, but because she wished to indulge unchecked in
the mild luxury of tears.

A new visitor was now announced. He was a curly-headed, neatly dressed
boy of nineteen years. His face was one that is handsomer in promise
than in fact. Marcus recognized him as the boy Bog, whom he had not seen
for several weeks. The boy had developed a remarkable talent for making
money honestly. For two months he had attended a night school, and was
fast correcting his awkward English, and attaining to other knowledge.
Prosperity and schooling together had given him quite a polish. The
rough boy was coming to be a presentable youth.

He advanced timidly toward Marcus, who shook hands with him. He sat down
before the fire, and commenced fumbling his cap in the old way. "With
the exception of that trick, and his shyness, there was little of the
original boy Bog about him,

"Mr. Wilkeson," said he, giving his cap a twirl, "I am very sorry to see
you here; because, I may say, I _know_ you are innocent."

The positive manner in which the boy asserted this, charmed Marcus, "I
thank you, my dear Bog," said he; "but how do you know it? For, though I
am innocent, I may have some trouble in proving it."

The boy drew a small folded note from his pocket. "I'll explain, sir,"
said he.

Marcus here called in his counsel, Messrs. Overtop and Maltboy, and his
good friend the lieutenant of police, who had just arrived in the outer
room, in order that they might hear the explanation.

The boy was embarrassed by his audience; but the anxious look of Marcus,
and a few kind words from the lieutenant of police, reassured him. Bog
then proceeded to tell what he knew of the strange young man's
acquaintance with Miss Patty Minford--which was very easily told, since
it did not amount to much--and concluded by opening the letter given to
him by the young man for delivery to Miss Minford, and handed it
to Marcus.

Marcus glanced at the writing, expecting that it would resemble that of
the first anonymous letter addressed to Mr. Minford, which he drew from
his pocket for comparison. But the writing was totally different in
inclination, thickness of the downward stroke, and all other respects.
He read it aloud, his counsel and the lieutenant of police listening
attentively.

"I don't know much about the case yet," said the lieutenant, "but,
jumping at a conclusion, I should say that this sneaking chap was
jealous of your intimacy with the Minford family; that he wrote the
anonymous letters to the old man, in a different hand, and that he
either committed the murder, or knows something about it. His motive for
annoying Miss Minford I can understand--for this city is full of just
such well dressed scoundrels; but the motive of the murder I can't
comprehend. But mark me--- this fellow has some knowledge of it; and we
must hunt him up. And, first, let us compare the letters."

Marcus handed the two letters to the lieutenant, who, with Overtop and
Maltboy, gave them a close examination. One was written on faint blue
paper in a buff envelope; the other on white paper in a white envelope.
Every curve, cross, and dot was minutely compared; but not the faintest
resemblance between the two letters could be discovered. "No more like
than chalk and cheese," said the lieutenant. "My theory is knocked on
the head."

"Let me examine the envelopes again," said Overtop. They had inspected
them less carefully than the contents.

As soon as Overtop had placed the two envelopes side by side, his eyes
lighted up with the pleasure of a great discovery. "What fools we are!"
he exclaimed. "There it is! Don't you see? Don't you see? A regular
Hogarthian line of beauty under the name on each."

All stared at the envelopes, and at once recognized the similarity
between the graceful curved lines. They looked somewhat like the letter
S laid on its side; and more like the arm of a rocking chair.

Marcus had a sudden inward vision of the writer. One of those
convictions which defy all logical analysis flashed upon his mind.

"Do you know where this strange young man lives, Bog?" asked Marcus.

"No, sir. I follered--I should say followed--him two or three times,
because I thought he wasn't acting just right toward Miss Minford (here
Bog blushed). He always went into drinking houses and billiard saloons,
and once into a place where they say the worst kind o' gambling is
allers--I mean always--going on. But he knew me by sight, and I was
afraid he would ask me about that letter which I didn't deliver for
him. So I had to follow him a good piece behind; and sometimes I lost
track of him. Then, again, he would keep a tramping round from one
drinking place to another--but never getting drunk that I could
see--till twelve or one o'clock at night. By that time I felt I ought to
go home, and so I never tracked him to his lodgings, if he has any. But
it's my belief he travels in the night, and sleeps in the daytime, like
the cats."

"Good, so far," said Marcus. "You have already given us a general
description of this fellow's dress and appearance. Now, tell me whether
his face is pale, his mustache small and curved up in points, his eyes
light gray, and never looking straight at you; his nose small, thin, and
sharp; and, now I think of it, has he not got a small scar on one of
his cheeks?"

"Why, Mr. Wilkeson," exclaimed the boy Bog, "that's the very chap!"

"Who is he?" asked the lieutenant of police, "that I may have him
arrested at once."

"He is the son--"



CHAPTER V.

THE SORROW OF WHITE HAIRS.

At that moment the door opened, and the venerable form of Myndert Van
Quintem appeared before them. Marcus cast a hasty glance, importing
silence, at his companions, and rose to receive his old friend.

Mr. Van Quintem's face expressed the tenderest compassion. He clasped
Marcus's hand, and said:

"My young friend, it deeply grieves me to see you here; for I feel--I
may say I know morally--that you are innocent of any part in
this murder."

"Thank you for your confidence," said Marcus. "I hope, when Miss Minford
and certain other witnesses are examined to-morrow, to prove my
innocence conclusively."

"So you will, I am sure. When I say that I know you are innocent, I
found my belief on my short but pleasant acquaintance with you. But I
cannot guess, from the evidence at the inquest yesterday and that of
to-day--just published in the afternoon papers,--who committed the
murder, or what was the motive of it. Have you any clue to the mystery?"

"Yes--yes," replied Marcus. "We think we have a clue; but so slight,
that it is hardly worth mentioning. My friends here are going to
follow it up."

"And in order that we may do so without any delay," said the lieutenant,
"please give us the name of that sneaking letter writer."

Marcus coughed, looked at the lieutenant knowingly, and said, "Oh,
_that's_ no consequence. It's a false scent. Depend on it."

The old gentleman, as he entered the room, had caught Marcus Wilkeson's
words. "He is the son--" and had observed the slight confusion with
which Marcus had stopped saying something. He now noticed the glance
enjoining silence, which Marcus had directed at the lieutenant
of police.

Mr. Van Quintem turned pale, as a harrowing suspicion came into his
mind. "Mr. Wilkeson," he said, in a trembling voice, "will you answer me
one question truly?"

"I--I will," replied Marcus.

"Then tell me, in Heaven's name, do you know of anything that connects
my son with this monstrous crime? I have had a dreadful presentiment,
all along, that he had something to do with it. The end of his wrong
career will be the gallows. I have dreamt of it for years. O God! that I
should have begotten such a profligate and miscreant into the world!"

The old man made another pause, and then said, with a calmness that
surprised his hearers. "Now I am ready to hear all."

"And you shall," said Marcus, "though it pains me, my dear friend, to
tell you what we know of your son. I will say, however, that there is
no proof directly connecting him with the murder."

"He is cunning and covers his tracks," said the wretched parent. "I know
him well."

Marcus then exhibited the letters. Mr. Van Quintem compared them
carefully, but could not detect the least trace of resemblance. But, on
examining the envelopes, at the suggestion of Fayette Overtop, he at
once recognized the Hogarthian curve as a mark which he had always
observed on his son's letters.

"I could almost swear to this mark; and yet it is possible that he did
not write the letters. Bad as he is, I will wait for further proofs.
Please tell me all else that you know, Mr. Wilkeson."

"With regard to the letter written to Miss Minford," said Marcus, "there
is, unhappily, but little doubt; as this lad, who was well acquainted
with the Minford family, can inform you."

The boy Bog, very reluctantly, and with many awkward breaks, and
swingings of his cap, repeated the history of the first letter, and
described the young man's person most minutely, and told how he had
followed him in his wild rambles about the town.

The old man listened sadly and quietly; only now and then interrupting
the boy's narrative with questions that were seemingly as calm as a
judge's interrogatories.

"He is a murderer. Something in the air tells me that he is," murmured
the old man. "And he is my son."

The inexpressible heart-broken sadness, with which he uttered these
words, brought tears to the eyes of his hearers.

"It may be, my dear Mr. Van Quintem, that your son did not write the
anonymous letters to Mr. Minford, notwithstanding the point of
resemblance which we think we have detected. While sitting, at my
window, I have often noticed him in his room scribbling at a desk, as if
he were practising penmanship. Perhaps, if you examine the contents of
the desk, you may get some further light on the subject. It is
wonderful--most people would say impossible--that a man should write
two letters so entirely dissimilar as these."

"My son always excelled in writing. It was one of the branches that he
took prizes in at school. I will examine the desk; but I fear I shall
only confirm my strong suspicions that he is a murderer. O God! O God!
Why did he not die with his sainted mother! Far better would that have
been. It is a hard thing, gentlemen--it is a very hard thing; but if
this boy of mine does not surrender himself to the hands of justice
to-morrow, I shall--I shall--myself denounce him to the--"

The afflicted man, overcome with the terrible conflict between a sense
of public duty, and a lingering, inextinguishable parental affection,
fainted and fell into the arms of Marcus, who sprang to catch him.

While he was still insensible, the lieutenant of police, and the boy
Bog, slipped out of the room, and started off on a search for Myndert
Van Quintem, jr.



CHAPTER VI.

WHAT PAPER, TYPES, AND INK CAN DO.

When Marcus and his counsel, accompanied by the faithful lieutenant of
police, arrived in a close carriage at the scene of the inquest, at the
hour of adjournment next morning, they saw a convincing illustration of
the power of paper, types, and ink.

The morning journals, with whole leaded pages of evidence, and new
diagrams of the house and fatal room; and the enterprising illustrated
weekly, with portraits of the deceased, the prisoner, his counsel,
Tiffles, Patching (great hat and all), Patty Minford, the coroner, the
foreman of the jury, a full-page design of the murder, as it was
supposed to have taken place, representing the infuriate Wilkeson, club
in hand, standing over the prostrate body of the inventor, from whose
forehead the gore was pouring in torrents--all these delightful,
provocatives of sensation had done their full and perfect work.

At that moment, Marcus Wilkeson was known to the world of readers in New
York and the whole country round about, as the murderer of
Eliphalet Minford.

On the second morning of the inquest an immense crowd of people were
assembled in front of the house. They had been collecting since five
A.M., when a party of six Jerseymen, having sold off their stock of
nocturnal cabbages at Washington Market, had taken position of vantage
before the house, from which they and their wagons were afterward
dislodged with great effort by a squad of police. Some butcher boys,
also returning from their night's work at market, were next on the
ground, and selected adjacent awning posts and trees, as good points of
observation. Mechanics and shop girls, going to their labor, recklessly
postponed the duties of the day, and stopped to stare, awestricken, at
the house.

A knot of people in a street, is like a drift of wood in a river. It
chokes up the stream, and catches all the other wood that is
floating down.

The police had in vain tried to clear out this human throng. They had
waged the following contests with their fellow citizens, since six
o'clock A.M.:--first, they had driven the Jersey market wagons to the
street corner below; second, they had tumbled the butcher boys out of
the trees, where they hung like a strange species of fruit; third, they
had cleared a space of ten feet square in front of the house. Having
done thus much, the police paused from exhaustion, and endured the jokes
of the populace with philosophic disdain.

Three policemen guarded the door, within which no one was admitted but
the coroner, the jury, witnesses, a few political friends of the
coroner, who exhibited passes from him, and about twenty-five reporters,
fifteen of whom really belonged to newspapers, and the remainder had a
general connection with the press, which could never be clearly defined
and established. To the magic word "reporter," accompanied by the
flourish of a pencil and a roll of paper, the three policemen smiled
obsequiously, and unbarred the way. Seeing how well this plan worked,
two gentlemen of inelegant leisure, and at least one pickpocket,
provided themselves with rolls of paper and pencils, and, giving the
password, were admitted.

As the carriage rolled round the corner of the street, bringing Marcus
in full view of these acres of men, women, and children--all waiting for
him--the little courage which he had plucked up failed him, as
plucked-up courage generally does. The sound of mingled laughter, jokes,
oaths, and exclamations of impatience reached his ears.

"Great heavens!" he cried; "and I am to face all these people!" If his
features could have been seen, at that instant, by some person who
thought himself skilled in physiognomy, he would have been
unhesitatingly pronounced guilty of several murders. Marcus sat in the
rear part of the coach, and he leaned back to avoid observation.

As the carriage entered the outskirts of the throng, they became aware
that it contained the man of their desires. Five small boys, who had run
all the way from the station house, had brought the exciting
intelligence. The vehicle was at once surrounded by clamorous people.

"Say, Mister, wich is the murderer, hey?" asked a red-shirted fellow of
Matthew Maltboy, whose corpulent figure squeezed the thin form of
Fayette Overtop into a corner of the front seat.

Maltboy was not quick at thinking; but, on this occasion, a brave
thought came into his head before he could turn to the speaker. "I am
the prisoner," said he.

"I knowed you wos," was the red-shirted reply, "by your--ugly face."

"Thank you," said Matthew, meekly.

"That's the chap that killed the old man--him with the big chops," said
the red-shirted individual to his numerous red and other shirted
friends about.

"What! that fat cuss with the pig eyes?"

"Zackly!"

"He's the puffick image of his portrait in the--Weekly, isn't he?"

"Like as two peas."

There was truth in this; for the artist who sketched the portraits, had
inadvertently placed Marcus's name under Matthew's portrait, and
_vice versa_.

"Well," said another man, an expert in human nature, "I'd convict that
fellow of murder any time, on the strength of his looks. Never were the
worst passions of our nature more prominently shown than in that bad
face." Having said which, the speaker looked about for somebody to
contradict him, and was disappointed in finding no one.

Marcus Wilkeson said: "Here, Matt, none of that generous nonsense, if
you please. I am the prisoner, my good people." As Marcus spoke, he
stretched forward, and exhibited his face to the gaze of the red-shirted
querist and his companions.

"No, you don't!" said that fiery leader. "This blubbery chap is the one.
We knows him by his picter."

"No use disputing them, Mark," said Maltboy, with his indomitable smile.

The friendly struggle was soon terminated by their arrival at the house.
Here the human jam was tremendous; but the police, under the direction
of the lieutenant, succeeded in getting their convoy safe within the
entry. The door was then closed, and five sturdy policemen stood outside
to guard it.

On entering the room, everybody and everything were found just as they
had been the day before--a day that seemed to Marcus a month ago. The
jury were idling over the newspapers, or lazily turning their quids. The
coroner, who looked a little the worse for his dinner of the day before,
was bandying jokes with the facetious reporters. The other reporters
were sharpening their pencils and laying out their note books. Some--the
younger ones--were listening with a species of reverence, which they
would soon outgrow, to the official jesting of the coroner. Others were
squabbling over the right and title to certain chairs which possessed
the extraordinary advantage of being a foot or two nearer the coroner
than the other chairs. This is a grave cause of dispute among the
reporters, and has been known to give rise to a great many hard words,
and threats of subsequent chastisements, which are always indefinitely
postponed.

The coroner nodded, and said "good morning" to the comers, and assumed a
temporary official dignity, by taking down his right leg from the arm of
the chair over which it gracefully depended. He also fortified himself,
by thrusting a sizable chew into a corner of his mouth, as if he were
carefully loading a pistol.

But neither the coroner, nor the jury, nor the reporters, nor the few
private citizens who had obtained entrance by special dispensation, and
sat gaping about the room, attracted the attention of the prisoner.
Before him was one in whose presence all other persons faded into
nothingness--the fair disturber of his peaceful life--the arbitress of
his fate--Patty Minford.



CHAPTER VII.

PET AS A WITNESS.

Little Pet sat on the low stool which she had always occupied, and which
Marcus, in his strange sentimentality, had always considered sacred to
her. She was veiled; but, through the thick gauze, he could see that her
beautiful face was deathly pale. Her slender frame shook with little
convulsions, that made the chair rattle.

"Be calm, my dear child," said a stout, self-possessed woman who sat by
her side, and held a bottle of salts conspicuously in her hand.
"Remember, you have only to tell the trewth, and let the consekences
fall where they may. Tell the trewth, as the old sayin' is, and shame
the de--you know who."

Mrs. Crull--for she it was--checked herself with a neat cough. Her
three months' private education seemed to have been lost upon her. She
could never speak correctly out of Miss Pillbody's sight. Fortunately,
her heart needed no education. She had taken the poor orphan girl to her
home, and been a mother to her. In that phrase there is an horizonless
world of love.

The deep, manly voice of Mrs. Crull carried assurance to the sinking
heart of Patty. She took the extended hand, and pressed it, deriving
strength from the contact of that strong, positive nature.

"If you please, Mr. Cronner," said Mrs. Crull, "I think you'd better go
ahead with her examination at once. Quickest said, soonest mended,
you know."

The prisoner and his counsel having taken their seats, the coroner
having involuntarily thrown his right leg into the old, easy position,
the jury having pricked up their ears, the reporters having cleared
spaces for their elbows, the young girl proceeded to give her testimony.
She was too nervous to make a clear, connected statement. Sometimes
terror, sometimes tears, would choke her voice; but the cheering words
and the smelling bottle of Mrs. Crull invariably "brought her round in
no time," in the words of that estimable lady.

Pet told the story of her return home on the fatal night, of her finding
Mr. Wilkeson and her father in angry conversation; of her retiring to
bed very much fatigued; of more conversation, growing angrier and
angrier, which she overheard; of her marvellous vision in the night; of
her waking next morning to find her vision true, and her father dead on
the floor. All these facts, with which the reader is already familiar,
the poor child made known to the jury in a fragmentary, roundabout way,
as they were elicited by questions from the coroner, the jury, and
occasionally the prisoner's counsel. The narrative of the vivid dream,
or vision, produced a startling effect on the coroner, who was a firm
believer in every species of supernaturalism winch is most at variance
with human experience and reason.

In his interrogatories to the witness, the coroner took the truth of the
vision for granted. When she testified to the blows which (in her
dream) she saw her father and the prisoner exchange, and the battered
appearance of Mr. Wilkeson's face, the coroner looked at the prisoner,
and was evidently disappointed to observe no traces of a bruise upon his
pale brow or cheeks, nor the lightest discoloration about his eyes. But
the absence of this corroboration did not, in the coroner's opinion,
throw the least discredit on the dream.

But the foreman of the jury, who had been listening with an affrighted
look to the marvellous story, and believing it, had his faith sadly
shaken by this discrepancy. Having been fireman ten years, and foreman
of a hose company six years, he knew by large experience how long it
took to tone down a black eye or reduce a puffed cheek. The foreman
looked at the smooth, clear face of the prisoner, smiled incredulously,
and shook his head at his associates.

Fayette Overtop here acted his part with a skill worthy of a veteran.
Instead of making a great ado over this weak point of the dream, he
shrugged his shoulders, and smiled faintly at the jury. The jurors, who
had been inclined, up to this time, to accept the dream as evidence,
without question, now decided that it was nonsense.

Marcus Wilkeson sat and listened, as if the scene and all the actors in
it, himself included, were only a dream too. The young girl's evidence,
of which he had not an inkling before, would have astounded him, if
anything could. But he had reached that point of reaction in the
emotions, where a stolid and complete apathy happily takes the place of
high nervous excitement. He somehow felt certain of his acquittal, but
was strangely benumbed to his fate.

He looked at the witness--the holy idol of all his romantic and tender
thoughts in days gone by--with unruffled composure. The marked stoicism
of his demeanor was not lost on the reporters, and they noticed it in
paragraphs to the effect that the prisoner exhibited a hardened
indifference during the most thrilling portion of the evidence.

QUESTION BY THE CORONER (_after thinking it over a bit_). "Who do you
say struck the fust blow, miss? Remember, now, you're on oath."

ANSWER. "My father, sir--or rather, I dreamed so."

The coroner was disappointed again, for he hoped that the witness would,
on second thought, fix the commencement of the actual assault on the
prisoner. "Your father, being old and kind o' feeble, struck a light
blow, I s'pose."

WITNESS. "No, sir--a heavy one, I should judge; for it appeared to cut
open Mr. Wilkeson's lip, and bruise his cheek. The blood seemed to run
down his face in a stream." Here little Pet exhibited signs of
faintness, which good Mrs. Crull stopped by an instant application of
the smelling bottle.

CORONER. "Mr. Wilkeson struck back a terrible blow in return, I s'pose."

WITNESS. "Yes, sir. He hit my father right in the eye, raising a black
and blue spot as large as a hen's egg." The painful recollection of this
part of the dream so overpowered the witness, that she burst into tears,
but was soon quieted by the motherly attentions of Mrs. Crull.

FOREMAN OF THE JURY. "I don't want to hurt the young lady's feelin's,
but this 'ere dream is all nonsense; and it strikes me we're a lot o'
fools to be listenin' to it. Why, Harry, you know, as well as I do, that
there wasn't no bruise on the old man's face, exceptin' the big one on
his forehead. No more is there a sign of a scratch on the prisoner's mug
there. It's all gammon."

Three others of the jury nodded in approval of this sentiment. The
remaining two shared somewhat in the coroner's reverence for dreams, and
awaited further developments.

The coroner turned his quid uneasily. "You can think as you please,
Jack," said he: "but we'll see--we'll see." The coroner, like many
other men of greater claims to wisdom, used this enigmatical expression
when he could not see anything.

A lawyer less crafty than Fayette Overtop would have protested against
the reception of this singular testimony at the outset, and at intervals
of a minute during its delivery. But he foresaw that, being a dream, it
must be full of absurdities, which would surely betray themselves, and
help his client. Besides, he was curious to hear all of the evidence,
however ridiculous and worthless, against the prisoner.

The witness then proceeded to the close of her testimony, amid the
silence of all hearers. The narrative of the dreadful grapple, the
struggle for the club, and the death blow given by Mr. Wilkeson to her
prostrate father--all delivered with an intense earnestness, broken only
by occasional sobs and pauses of anguish--produced a powerful
impression. As she finished, and fell, half fainting, into the arms of
Mrs. Crull, the coroner nodded his head slowly, and said:

"What do you think of dreams now, Jack? Something in 'em, eh?"

The foreman shared in the general feeling of awe; but he had given his
opinion that the dream was nonsense, and stood by it. "It's strange,"
said he. "It's what the newspapers call a 'strordinary quincidence,'
that the young lady should 'a' dreamed out this murder so plain. I do'
'no' much about the science o' dreams, but I think this one might be
explained somethin' in this way: The young lady heerd the old man and
Mr. Wilkeson here talkin' strong, when she come home that night. She
went to sleep with their conversation ringin' in her ears. Part on it
she heerd in her dreams, and the rest she 'magined. She says she was
afraid there would be trouble between 'em when she went to bed. The
fight, and the murder, and all that, which she says she saw in a dream,
or vision like, might have grown out o' that naterally enough. That's my
notion of it, off hand. I've often gone to bed, myself, thinkin' of
somethin' horrible that was goin' to happen, and dreamt that it did
happen."

[Illustration: THE INQUEST. MARCUS SPRINGS TO HIS FEET.]

This was precisely the theory upon which Fayette Overtop intended to
explain the dream to the jury when the proper time arrived. He was glad
that the foreman had done it instead; for he knew the tenacity with
which a man, having given an opinion, defends it. To have so potent an
advocate of his client's innocence on the jury, was a strong point.

"Very good, old boy," said the coroner; "but, if the prisoner didn't
commit the murder, who did?"

This question, so manifestly unjust, and betraying the coroner's
intention to sacrifice Marcus to a theory, roused that unfortunate man
to consciousness, and he sprang to his feet. But the wiser Overtop
placed his hands upon his friend's shoulder, whispered in his ear, and
forced him reluctantly into his seat. Overtop knew that the
argumentative foreman could best dispose of the coroner.

The foreman replied to the coroner's question:

"As to who did the murder, that's what we're here to find out. But, for
one, I sha'n't bring in no man guilty till it's proved onto him."

The foreman's face was a dull one, but it became suddenly luminous with
an idea:

"You say, miss, that you was waked by a noise as of somethin' heavy
fallin' on the floor?"

"Yes, sir."

"You s'pose--as we all s'pose--that it was your father's body that fell,
when he received his death blow?"

"Yes, sir."

"You say you heerd no one a-goin' out o' the room?"

"No, sir."

"That's not strange; for the murd'rer could 'a' slipped off his boots or
shoes, and walked out puffickly quiet. I noticed, this mornin', and the
other members of the jury can see for themselves, that the boards of the
floor don't creak when you walk on 'em, nor the entry door neither when
you open it. Didn't you never observe that succumstance?"

"Yes, sir; but it did not occur to me when I woke up. I thought, if the
dream had been true, that I should have heard Mr. Wilkeson moving around
in the room, or going out of the door. I listened for a long time, as I
have already said, and, hearing nobody, I thought the dream was nothing
but a nightmare, as father used to call it."

"One more question, miss, which may or may not be of some consekence.
Haven't you no idee about what time it was when you was waked up by this
noise of somethin' fallin'?"

"No, sir; not the least. It might have been about midnight, I should
guess."

"Think a minute, miss, if you didn't hear any sound outside that could
give you some idee of the time." The foreman fixed his eyes piercingly
on the witness.

She reflected a moment. "Yes--yes; I do remember, that when I jumped out
of bed--which I did the very second that I woke up--and listened at the
door, I heard the fire bells striking. Now, if anybody could tell what
time that happened."

"At precisely twenty-five minutes of twelve," said the foreman, in a
solemn voice. "It was for the seventh district--the only 'larm that
night. It was a false 'larm, and only three or four rounds was sounded.
Did you hear the bell many times?"

"Only two or three, and then it stopped. The sound was very plain, sir,
because the bell tower is only a short distance from here, you know."

"Exactly," said the foreman. "You woke up just as Uncle Ith was givin'
off the last round."

There was a deep, awestruck silence in the room; for all understood the
object of these inquiries.

"Now, gentlemen," continued the foreman, in a trembling voice, "let the
prisoner only prove that he was a half, or a quarter, or an eighth of a
mile from here when that 'larm was sounded, and I rather think he will
clear himself. Where are the policemen that the prisoner saw
that night?"

A noise, as of heavy official boots, was heard on the stairs, sending a
strange thrill through the hearts of all present.

"God be praised," said Fayette Overtop, "if the lieutenant has found
them." It was the first time that the model young lawyer had shown any
signs of emotion.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE BENEFICENCE OF FIRE BELLS.

The door opened, and the tall form of the police lieutenant appeared,
attended by two patrolmen. The patrolmen, on entering, looked directly
at the prisoner, and seemed to recognize him. The police lieutenant
appeared to be pleased with his success in finding the witnesses, after
a hunt through several station houses; but he was not aware what
importance the testimony which they could give had suddenly acquired.
The witnesses had been searched for at the suggestion of Fayette
Overtop, with the vague hope of making them useful in some way.

The coroner scowled at the witnesses, for he feared that they would
prove the man innocent, who, in his opinion, was the murderer. Having
adopted this theory at the outset, and staked the whole issue upon it,
he felt a natural reluctance to give it up.

The lieutenant explained to the coroner that the two officers could
probably throw some light on the prisoner's movements, the night of
the murder.

The coroner administered the oath to both of them, as follows:

"Holeup your ri't'an'. You swear to tell truth, th'ole truth, nothin'
but truth, s'elpyeGod. Kiss the book."

The men complied with these impressive formalities, and the coroner then
proceeded to interrogate one of them--a strapping fellow with an
intensely Irish face.

"Name?" said the coroner.

"Patrick O'Dougherty, yer Honor."

The phrase "Yer Honor" produced its customary gracious effect.

"Do you spell O'Dougherty with a 'k,'?" asked the coroner.

"Hang me if I knows!" said the O'Dougherty. "I niver spilt it. Spill it
to suit yezself, yer Honor."

"Spell it in the usual way, with a 'k'" said the coroner, turning to the
reporters.

"Your residence, Mr. O'Dougherty?"

"Me what?"

"Your residence. Where do you live?"

"Oh! it's fare I live yer want to know. In Mulberry street, near
Baxter."

"You belong to the perlice, I believe?" asked the coroner.

"It's quare ye should ax me that!" replied the O'Dougherty, with an
enormous smile.

"Because you have the perliceman's hat, club, and badge? You forget,"
said the coroner, patronizingly, "that courts of justice doesn't know
nothin' until it's proved to them. As a coroner, I shouldn't know my own
grandmother, until she swore to herself."

"'Tisn't that, yer Honor; but becos yer got me onto the perlice yerself.
Don't yer 'member, on 'lection day, I smashed two ticket booths of
t'other can'date, in the Sixth Ward, lickt as much as a dozen men who
was workin' agen ye, an' din was put into the Tumes over night--bad luck
to the Tumes, I say! Well, yer Honor, ye was 'lected coroner by a small
vote; an', in turn for me services, ye got me 'p'inted--"

"Ah! oh! I remember, now," said the coroner, somewhat confused. "I did
not know you in the perliceman's dress. Well, Mr. O'Dougherty, did you
see the prisoner on the night of the murder?"

"I did, yer Honor. It was about twelve o'clock. I was sittin' on a
bar'l in front of Pat McKibbin's store, corner of Washin'ton
and ---- streets. I was watchin' the bar'l, yer Honor, becos Pat
McKibbin had some of 'em stole lately, ye see."

"Could yer swear to him, Mr. O'Dougherty?"

"Could I shwear to me own mother?--Hivin rest her sowl! Bedad, I shud
know him a thousan' years from now. Didn't he shtop and light his siggar
at me poipe? And didn't his nose touch me own?"

"Did he look pale and excited?" asked the coroner.

"No, yer Honor; his face was red as a brick, an', though it was a cowld
night, he looked to be warm wid fasht walkin'."

"Did he say anythin'?"

"No; he only axed for a light."

"Was his 'pearance 'spicious?"

"No, yer Honor, more'n yer own. No offince to yez."

"That'll do, Mr. O'Dougherty. Next witness."

"If you please, your Honor," said the smooth Overtop, rising, "you have
accidentally omitted to ask one very important question. The prisoner
stated, on his preliminary examination, you remember, that, when he
stopped to light a cigar from the pipe of a policeman, he heard the
sound of a fire bell commencing to strike. Miss Minford testifies, that
when she was roused from sleep by the noise of her father falling to the
floor, she heard the alarm for the Seventh District. McKibbin's store,
at the corner of Washington and ---- streets, is more than half a mile
from here. In view of these facts, I will, with your Honor's permission,
ask Mr. O'Dougherty if he heard the fire alarm that night; and, if so,
whether the prisoner was in sight at the time?"

"Shure, an' I heerd it," answered the O'Dougherty. "It was fur the
Seventh District. An' wasn't this gin'leman here at the ind o' me poipe,
jist when it begun to bang away?"

Overtop cast one triumphant glance at the jury, which was fully
reciprocated by the foreman and four others.

"I have no more questions to ask, your Honor," said Overtop.

"Nor I," said the coroner, "as the witness's testimony has no great
bearin' on the case, that I can see. What is jour name, Mister--er--"

"Thomas Jelliman," responded the second policeman, a stout, bluff,
honest-looking fellow. He did not say "Your Honor," and thereby offended
the coroner.

"Well, what's yer bizness, anyhow?" asked the coroner, curtly.

"I should think you would remember that I was a policeman," said the
witness, looking the coroner straight in the eye.

The coroner, taking a second observation of the witness, recalled him as
the identical officer who had arrested him, one Christmas night, for
drunkenness, and locked him up in the station house. This little
occurrence was before his election to the dignified and responsible
office of County Coroner.

"If you don't remember me," said the witness, "I think I could bring
myself to your mind easy. On a certain Christmas night, not many
years ago--"

"Never mind the particulars, Mr. Jelliman," observed the coroner. "Come
to look at yer, I recolleck yer very well. Ahem! What do you know about
this 'ere case, Mr. Jelliman?"

"Nothing, sir, except that I can swear to having seen the prisoner, on
the night of the murder, at the corner of West and ---- streets. He was
smoking a cigar, and walking fast. As he passed me, he said, 'A cold
night, Mr. Policeman.' This made me notice him particularly, because it
isn't very often that people throw away civilities on us. Just as he
turned the corner below me, the alarm bells struck the last round for
the Seventh District. They had struck three or four rounds. That is all
I know about the affair."

"I have no other questions to ask, Mr. Jelliman," said the coroner, with
great politeness.

The coroner was baffled. He had staked the whole case upon the theory of
Marcus Wilkeson's guilt, and had made no attempt to procure other
testimony than what would prove that supposition. He scratched his head
and rolled his quid in a perfect quandary.

Another noise was heard on the stairs, as of several persons hurriedly
ascending.

Then the door opened, and an excited group made its appearance. In
advance was a slender young man, whose face was pale with debauchery.
His clothes were rich, and had an unpleasantly new look. As he stepped
over the threshold, he glanced coolly about the room, and, his eyes
resting on the coroner, smiled.

"Ah, Myndert, my boy," said the coroner, "what are you here for?"



CHAPTER IX.

AN OLD MAN'S OFFERING.

"Hang me if I know, Harry! It's the old man's work. He'll explain it to
you."

Behind this easy young man came a strong policeman, who, immediately
upon his entrance, received a nod of approbation from the lieutenant.
Behind the policeman walked, with bended white head and tottering limbs,
the venerable Mr. Van Quintem. The old gentleman was partly supported,
in his infirmity, by the boy Bog. It was a touching sight to see the
confiding trust with which the weakness of sixty-eight clung to the
strong arm of nineteen. Bog hung down his head modestly, and blushed. He
was not seen even to look at the little veiled figure which sat in the
middle of the room. But young Myndert Van Quintem looked at it, and
bowed with the deepest respect. The bow was answered by a faint nod and
a delicate blush. Mrs. Crull observed the interchange of recognitions,
and frowned to herself.

"Mr. Coroner," said the old gentleman, straightening himself, and coming
forward with a quick step, as one who was about to perform an unpleasant
task, and would hurry through it, "this young man is my son. God knows
what love I have lavished upon him from the day that he was born, and
with what ingratitude he has repaid me. But--but that is neither here
nor there. I have come here to deliver him up to you as a prisoner--"

"As a prisoner!" echoed the coroner; and he and all looked amazed at
this strange announcement.

"Why should it surprise you? It is a simple act of justice. I have
reason to think that my son knows something about this murder" (here the
old gentleman's voice faltered); "and my duty, as a good citizen and an
honest man, requires me to surrender him. There are other affairs of a
private nature between myself and my son--he knows to what I refer
--which I am not prepared to make public at the present time." The old
gentleman looked significantly at his son, who smiled calmly at him
in return.

A chair was brought for Mr. Van Quintem, sen., and he sank into it. The
young man seated himself in another chair which was handed to him by the
attentive coroner himself.

"Now, Myndert, my good fellow," said the coroner, "if yer knows anything
about this affair, fire away."

"Will the coroner be good enough to swear the witness?" asked Fayette
Overtop.

"Oh! I'd quite forgot it." And the coroner mumbled his irreverent
jargon.

"Two minutes are enough to tell you all I know, Harry," said the young
man, in a sweet, effeminate voice. "I happened to save Miss Minford's
life, a few months ago--she will give you the particulars, no doubt, if
you desire them--and that is the way I made her acquaintance." (Here
another respectful bow to the young lady.) "Since then, I have met her,
quite accidentally, a few times, and--I do not pretend to conceal
it--have gradually come to feel an interest--a brotherly interest, I may
call it--in her." (The coroner smiled.) "Having learned from her that
she was receiving her education at the expense of Mr. Wilkeson, and that
that gentleman was a constant visitor at her father's house I thought
it proper, as a sincere and disinterested friend of the young lady, to
make some inquiries into his character. Judging, from the result of
these inquiries, that his designs were not honorable toward Miss
Minford--Mr. Wilkeson will pardon the expression, but I am under oath,
and must tell the truth as to my motives--I took the liberty of writing
a note to Mr. Minford, merely cautioning him against Mr. Wilkeson. I did
not sign my name to the note, because I was not personally acquainted
with Mr. Minford--in fact, never saw him in my life--and did not wish to
assume the responsibility, disagreeable to every sensitive person, of
interfering in another man's family affairs. The object of the note was
to make Mr. Minford cautious. I presume no one will undertake to say
that a father can be too cautious concerning the honor of a young and
lovely daughter." (Another respectful glance at Miss Minford.) "I am
aware anonymous letters are a little irregular, in the opinions of most
people. But, when sent with a good motive, I really don't see the
harm in them."

"Nor I neither," said the coroner. "It strikes me they're correct enough
when the motive's a good 'un."

"But, your Honor, when an anonymous letter is full of lies and slanders,
I respectfully submit that it is a piece of cowardly malice, which the
law ought to punish with the utmost severity." Fayette Overtop spoke
with tranquillity and firmness, looking young Van Quintem directly in
the eye, and making him quail.

The judicious phrase, "Your Honor," alone saved Overtop from an
explosion of official wrath. "The Court can't allow these interruptions,
Mr. Overtop," said the coroner. "Her dignity must be maintained. As for
'nonymous letters, whether it's right or wrong to send them, people will
differ. The coroner and the jury is competent to judge for themselves.
Go ahead, Myndert."

"As the first letter seemed to have no effect, I sent another,
suggesting that Mr. Minford should inquire into Mr. Wilkeson's history
in the little village of----, Westchester County, where he was born,
and lived many years. I learned from Miss Minford that her father
visited Westchester County one day, and presume that he made some
important discoveries there; for Miss Minford told me, that, on his
return, he had forbidden Mr. Wilkeson to come to the house. If there was
any harm in putting Mr. Minford on the track to find out the real truth
about the man who was a constant attendant at his fireside, I do not
see it."

"Nor I neither," said the coroner. "The end, as the sayin' is, justifies
the means."

"If your Honor pleases," said the facile Overtop, "we could easily prove
that all the reports which Mr. Minford gathered in Westchester County,
prejudicial to my client, arose from a confounding of another person
with him. But, as this explanation would involve the disclosure of
private family affairs, and also the reflection of disgrace on the
memory of the dead, my client prohibits me from saying more on the
subject. But all this, as none knows better than your Honor, has nothing
to do with the case. We ask that my client shall either be proved guilty
of the murder, or of some knowledge of it, or released."

Fayette Overtop here looked volumes of confidence at the jury; and five
of the jury looked back volumes of agreement with him.

"Nobody can be in a bigger hurry than me, Mr. Overtop," said the
coroner, with tolerable good nature. "These 'ere inquests, commencin' in
the mornin' and holdin' on a good part of the day, are rather hard on a
chap 'customed to his 'leven-o'clock drink. I have to make up for the
loss by adjournin' early in the arternoon. Ha! ha! Now, Myndert, my boy,
rush her through. You don't know anythin' about the murder, I s'pose.
You were somewhere else on the fatal night, of course--and I can guess
where. At Brown's, eh?"

Brown's was a notorious gambling house on Broadway.

"Exactly, Harry. I was at Brown's from nine P.M. to four o'clock the
following morning. And, if I mistake not, there is a gentleman in this
room who can swear to having seen me there, say from ten to eleven."
Saying this, young Van Quintem winked hard at the coroner.

"You needn't mince matters," said the coroner. "I was at Brown's that
night, and between the hours you name. Being a public officer, I
sometimes look into Brown's, and a good many other places, too, to see
that nothin' a'n't a-goin' on wrong. Ha! I partickly 'member it, because
I accidentally lost about fifty dollars there that night. Ha! ha!"

"I think I recollect the little circumstance," said the witness, with a
smile.

"Very likely. Ha! Now, Myndert, of course we all understand that you are
innocent; but, to satisfy the public, I guess I'd better summon a few
witnesses from Brown's, to prove you were there all night."

"I thought of that, Harry, and requested a number of my friends at
Brown's to drop around here, and prove an _alibi_ for me. They were very
much engaged at the time, or they would have come with me."

"They were playing faro," said the old gentleman, "and my son was
gambling with them. Wretched young man, how often have I cautioned you
against that vice!"

"The cautioning I don't object to," said the son; "but I consider it
unfair to drag a fellow away from a streak of good luck. I was raking in
the piles just as you and the policeman, and that mop-headed youth
behind you" (he alluded to the boy Bog) "came down on me. Ah! I see the
game is finished, and here they are."

Four men, of a highly correct appearance, dressed in quiet good taste,
who would have passed in the Broadway muster for merchants of the
severest practical variety, entered the room.

They nodded in the most gentlemanly manner to the coroner, and gave a
friendly recognition to young Myndert.

"You may be willing to believe these polished scoundrels under oath;
but hang me if I would!" said the old gentleman, with emphasis.

The four gamblers showed their even rows of white teeth pleasantly, and
one of them replied:

"You are an elderly gentleman, Mr. Van Quintem, and the father of our
young friend; and, of course, you are permitted to abuse us as much as
you like."

"It seems to me, Mr. Van Quintem," said the coroner, "that you are
rather hard on these gen'lemen, who, so fur as I know 'em, is of the
highest respectability. Don't yer want to have yer son prove
an _alibi?_"

"I want to have him prove the truth, and that's all. And for that reason
I wouldn't credit such evidence as these men will give."

"You would like to have me hanged, my dear father," said the son,
mildly; "but I don't think you will be gratified in that amiable little
desire. Eh, Harry?"

The coroner grinned, shifted his quid, put on his most serious official
look, and said:

"No more of this 'ere jokin', if you please, gen'lemen. A inquest isn't
zactly the place for fun."

He then proceeded to swear and interrogate the four new witnesses. They
took the oath decorously, kissing the book in the politest, most
gentlemanly manner. Their testimony was to the effect that young Van
Quintem passed the night of the murder, from ten P.M. till four A.M., at
Brown's, and was not absent one minute. They were able to corroborate
the fact, by a reference to pocket memorandum books, in which entries
such as "Van Q., debit $50," or "Van Q., credit $100," appeared at
intervals. As to the general character of the house, upon which several
members of the jury asked questions, they testified that it was a
species of club house, where a few gentlemen of excellent reputation
occasionally met for the purposes of innocent social intercourse. Games
of chance were sometimes played at Brown's, to while away an hour; and
betting was now and then done, in a strictly honorable and legitimate
way. Several of the jurymen would have improved the occasion, to learn
all about the internal management of Brown's; but the coroner decided
that such questions were entirely "relevant" (meaning irrelevant), and
suggested that, as there were no more witnesses, the case might as well
go to the jury. The coroner had just consulted his watch, and found that
it was four o'clock. He was aware, from the turn things had taken, that
he had lost the verdict which he hoped to obtain; but that was no reason
why he should lose his dinner. The coroner was not a man of energy; and,
being foiled in his efforts to convict Marcus Wilkeson, he had no
disposition to pursue the matter further. Besides, he had already
achieved a large measure of profitable notoriety from the case; for he
had been ridiculed and abused in most of the city papers; and _that_
insured him, beyond all doubt, the nomination for and election to the
State Senate, for which he was an aspirant at the next fall campaign.
Under all these circumstances, the coroner was satisfied.

The jurors, receiving but a shilling a day, and being hungry and tired,
were quite willing to wind up the case. After putting their heads
together, whispering and nodding about five minutes, the foreman
declared the following as their verdict:

"That the deceased, Eliphalet Minford, came to his death, on the night
of the ---- day of April, 185-, from a wound inflicted on the head by a
club in the hands of some person unknown to the jurors."

Overtop and Maltboy took the verdict as a matter of course, having
anticipated it for some time. Marcus Wilkeson, who had been in a gloomy
stupor for the past hour, and had expected the worst, looked up in
surprise at this lucky dispensation of Fate. Tears sprang to his eyes,
and he extended a hand to each of his faithful friends, by whom he was
warmly congratulated on the happy issue of the affair. The jurors also
came forward with their congratulations. Even the coroner said, "Well,
Mr. Wilkeson, I did my pootiest to hold you, because I thought you was
the murderer; but the jury doesn't indorse my 'pinion, and I gives in."
Mrs. Crull, who had been watching Marcus narrowly, and was firmly
impressed with the conviction of his innocence, came forward with a warm
hand, and tried to think of a proverb suitable to the occasion, but
could not. Patty Minford removed the veil from her face, and looked at
her benefactor. She made a motion as if to rise and go toward him. Then
an expression of doubt stole over her features; and Marcus, who observed
her at that moment, knew that the vision of the night was still before
her, and that she could not hold him guiltless though a dozen juries had
released him. This thought touched Marcus with sadness, which all the
congratulations of his friends could not disperse.

A faint cry was heard. Old Mr. Van Quintem had fallen from his chair,
and would have dropped upon the floor, but for the strong arm of the boy
Bog. He was in the act of rising from his seat for the purpose of
offering his hand to Marcus, when the vertigo, from which he was an
occasional sufferer, seized him.

"Poor old gentleman!" said Marcus, forgetful of all else, and rushing to
the side of his venerable friend. Directing that the windows be opened,
Marcus, aided by the boy Bog, bore the senseless form to the fresh, cool
air. The grateful breeze, and a cup of cold water applied to his brow,
soon restored the wretched father to a beginning of consciousness.

As he lay there, more dead than alive, in the arms of his two friends,
the ingrate son, having lighted a cigar, looked coldly over the
shoulders of the bystanders at the senseless figure of his father, and
said, in the sweetest voice:

"Poor old fellow! He has only himself to blame for kicking up all this
row. I told him it would be too much for his nerves; but he would insist
on dragging me up here. I forgive him from the bottom of my heart."

The bystanders looked on in amazement at this speech.

The son continued: "I'm glad to see that he is in good hands. Upon my
word, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to help a little; but
I fear that, when the old man came out of it, and saw me over him, he
would go off again. So I guess I had better leave."

And young Van Quintem sauntered cheerfully out of the room, in company
with his four friends from Brown's. The coroner had been waiting at the
foot of the stairs for them; and the party adjourned to the nearest
drinking saloon, when the coroner, overjoyed at having got rid of a
tedious and embarrassing case, stood treat for one round.

But who killed the inventor?

The papers and the police, after groping for weeks in search of the
answer, turned it over to the solution of Time, with the comforting
assurance that MURDER WILL OUT.



BOOK TENTH.

DONE ON BOTH SIDES.



CHAPTER I.

A FISHER OF MEN.

Mr. Augustus Whedell was a gentleman who had been living handsomely for
three years on his wits.

There was nothing remarkable in Mr. Whedell's personal appearance, with
the exception of his wig. It was his fond belief that this wig looked
like natural hair; but everybody knew it was a wig across the street. He
also wore a gold double eyeglass, which he handled as effectively as a
senorita her fan. Most of his loans, credits, and extensions, had been
obtained by the dexterous manipulation of that eyeglass.

Mr. Whedell twirled the dangerous instrument, and opened and shut it
with more than his usual grace, one evening toward the middle of April.
He was about to broach a disagreeable subject to his daughter, who,
blooming, and exquisitely dressed, sat by the fire and yawned.

"My dear Clementina, you are now twenty years old, and ought to be
married. Delays are dangerous. What do you think of Chiffield?"

Mr. Whedell spoke bluntly, and to the point, because he was addressing
his own daughter, and also because short speeches suited his
natural languor.

"He's a horrid dancer!" said that young lady.

"Granted. But when he does dance, he jingles money in his pocket."

"He's a perfect fright, pa. You won't deny that?"

"I won't deny that he is a plain, substantial gentleman. He has immense
feet, and he is a little bald. What of that?"

"Oh! nothing," replied Clementina, in a tone that signified
"Everything."

Her father caught the irony of the remark, and said:

"My dear child, I know the natural leaning of your sex to handsome men.
You are like your mother there. But remember, they never have any
money--as a general rule. I won't undertake to explain the curious fact.
But fact it is, you will admit that."

"Very likely. But I hate this old Chiffield."

Mr. Whedell smiled, twirled his double eyeglass a few dozen times round
his forefinger, and said:

"My darling daughter, listen, and you will appreciate the advantages of
this match."

Clementina frowned, and bit her finger nails.

"My child," continued the fond parent, "I have always concealed my
troubles from you. They can no longer be kept a secret. This house is
not mine. Most of this furniture is unpaid for. The last month's bills
at the butcher's, baker's, and grocer's are still due. I have exhausted
my credit, and don't know where to raise a dollar. That is my
'situation,' as the newspapers say."

Clementina turned pale with amazement, and could not say a word.

"You are willing to hear me? I will explain further. Three years ago, my
old friend Mr. Abernuckle failed. He owned this house, and, wishing to
save it from his creditors, he had previously made a sham sale of it to
me. I have occupied it free of rent. On the strength of this house, I
got credit for furniture, for clothes, for our bread and meat. On the
strength of this house, I have borrowed money enough to keep my
principal creditors at bay. On the strength of this house, we occupy
to-day a very fair position in society. On the strength of this house, I
propose to marry you."

His daughter still looked on with open mouth, like one stupefied.

"But, to do this, no time must be lost. My friend Abernuckle has at last
settled with his creditors at fifteen per cent., and wants possession of
the house on the 1st of May. On that day this will be our home
no longer."

There was a fearless pull at the door bell. "It is a creditor," said Mr.
Whedell. "I will face him."

Mr. Whedell went to the door, and returned in a few moments. "It was the
butcher," said he. "He had called twice to-day, and, not finding me in,
takes this unusual hour to ask for a settlement. The old excuses would
not do. What do you suppose I told him this time?"

"I can't imagine. Something dreadful, I suppose," was the shuddering
reply.

"The man had to be got rid of. We must have meat. I was at my wits' end.
So I took the liberty of telling him, confidentially, that my daughter
would marry a wealthy merchant in a few days, and asked him, as a favor,
to let the bill run on to the 1st of May. On that day he should
positively be paid. The man grumbled at first, but finally said he would
give me one more trial, and then went away. Neatly arranged, wasn't
it, my dear?"

Mr. Whedell would have been delighted with one word of approval (even a
qualified one) from his daughter, but she would not, or could not
speak it.

"You listen attentively, my darling. I am glad to see it. This plan
worked so well with the butcher, that I shall try it on with the
upholsterer, the baker, the grocer, the tailor, and the rest of my long
list of creditors. I shall stake all on the 1st of May. To save us from
a grand explosion, and to obtain a roof for your head and mine on the
1st of May, you must marry immediately."

Miss Clementina Whedell, like many other people, had an unsuspected
strength of character which only a great occasion could call out. "It is
perfectly atrocious," said she, at length, "and I am making a grave
sacrifice of my happiness; but I suppose I must do it. Are you sure this
Chiffield is rich?"

"Now, you are my own dear daughter!" said Mr. Whedell, tossing his
double eyeglass up and catching it, as was his custom when exulting.
"Your question is a prudent one, and worthy of you. I am happy to inform
you that Chiffield is worth one hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

Clementina smiled faintly, though she tried to look like a martyr.

"I learn this from the tax rolls. When Chiffield first began to call
here, and showed a profound interest in my conversation, I knew that he
was after you, and I thought it best to look into his resources. The tax
rolls, which are the best possible evidence, show that he has ten lots
in Harlem, with a cottage tenement on each of them, and several acres
now rented to German gardeners in the Twelfth Ward. These are rated in a
lump at seventy-five thousand dollars, which is a low estimate. So much
for the real estate. Now the personal property of Upjack, Chiffield &
Co. is valued on the same tax rolls (which always understate it) at
three hundred thousand dollars. Suppose Chiffield to own a one-fourth
interest only, and there you have the item of seventy-five thousand
dollars more. Grand total, one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. A
nearer figure would probably be two hundred thousand dollars; but I will
not build castles in the air for you. Chiffield is only forty--which is,
in fact, young. He is healthy and energetic. The firm are making money.
He will yet be a millionnaire. Confess, now, that I have chosen
wisely for you."

Here another decisive pull at the door bell. Mr. Whedell answered it in
person. Returning, he merely said, giving his double eyeglass a fillip,
"The furniture man. Have fixed him for the 1st of May. So far, the plan
works well."

"But are you sure, pa," asked the discreet Clementina, "that Mr.
Chiffield will offer himself?"

"Positive; because he has always been so very attentive to me. When men
flatter, and study the hobbies of the father, they are after the
daughter in earnest. Mr. Chiffield's very figure--the cut of his jib, so
to speak--is that of a marrying man. Only you must give him some little
encouragement. Not keep him at a distance, as you have hitherto done."

"But he may not be anxious to marry before the 1st of May. Then what?"

"Poor thing! how little you understand mankind! He will marry you at
twenty-four hours' notice, if you will let him. All men are alike
impatient and unreasonable in such matters. It is the women who hold
back--after they are safely engaged."

"La, pa! how knowingly you talk!"

"I flatter myself I know something of the human species," returned Mr.
Whedell. "Ah! another ring. Too faint for a creditor. Mr.
Chiffield, perhaps."



CHAPTER II.

PLAYING WITH THE LINE.

The conjecture was correct. But with Mr. Chiffield came Matthew Maltboy.
They had arrived on the door steps at the same moment, coming from
different directions.

Mr. Whedell received Chiffield with his heartiest grip, and inflicted
only a mild squeeze on the hand of Maltboy, whose appearance at that
time he considered decidedly unfortunate. The father thought he had
observed in Clementina signs of preference for that corpulent young
lawyer. He was pained to see that Clementina barely extended the tips of
her fingers to Chiffield, while to Maltboy she gave her whole palm with
great cordiality. Not only this, but she encouraged Maltboy to take a
seat by her, and commenced talking with him of the opera, of balls, of
new music, of fashions, of the last novel, rattling away on these
subjects as if her whole soul were wrapped up in the discussion. It was
almost a monologue. Maltboy's part consisted of "Yes;" "I think so too;"
"We agree perfectly," and adjectives of admiration occasionally thrown
in. That musical voice! He could have listened with rapture to its
recital of the multiplication table.

Mr. Chiffield and Mr. Whedell had settled themselves on a _tête-à-tête_,
and, after some cursory observations on the weather, commenced talking
of finance--a theme of which neither of those gentlemen ever tired.

"So money is getting tighter?" said Mr. Whedell, after a pause to digest
the awful truth which Mr. Chiffield had imparted to him. "Now I
shouldn't be surprised, sir, to hear of failures before long, and in
quarters where the public least expect them."

If Mr. Whedell's double eyeglass had been astride his nose instead of
swinging in his fingers, he might have noticed a faint paleness blending
with the deep yellow of Mr. Chiffield's complexion. That gentleman
replied, a little more quickly than was his wont:

"A few small, weak houses may go down, perhaps, but the strong ones will
weather the storm easy enough. If our establishment could live through
1847, it is in no danger now."

"And such was the good fortune of Upjack, Chiffield & Co., I well
remember," said Mr. Whedell.

Mr. Chiffield bowed his gracious acknowledgment of the handsome
historical allusion.

"How is Erie, Mr. Chiffield?"

"Looking up."

"Sure of it?"

"A leading Wall-street man told me, this afternoon, it would advance
three per cent. this week. I have a slight interest in watching it,"
said Mr. Chiffield, smiling.

"So have I," said Mr. Whedell, smiling also.

Daring their conversation, and the remainder of their financial
dialogue, Mr. Whedell kept one ear, and occasionally one eye, inclined
toward his daughter and the favored Maltboy. If there was a hint
conveyed in those side glances at his daughter, she either did not
notice it, or did not choose to take it. Sometimes Mr. Chiffield looked
in the same direction, but casually, as it were, and without one sign of
impatience visible in the depths of his calm brown eyes. Mr. Chiffield
was not a nervous man.

Matthew Maltboy was so perfectly free from selfishness at this moment,
that he would cheerfully have spared a few words from Miss Whedell's
delightful monologue for the gratification of his late rival ("late" was
now decidedly the word, in Maltboy's opinion) over the way. In the
exercise of his large charity and compassion, he pitied that
unfortunate, sadly disappointed dealer in dry goods.

This pity, as Matthew used to say in after days, was thrown away. At the
end of a brilliant description of a new set of quadrilles which Miss
Whedell had danced at a sociable the night before, that young lady said,
"Excuse me," and crossed the room to a what-not in the corner, and
searched for something among a pile of magazines and pictures. The
thought that she was making efforts to please him, tickled Matthew's
vanity. While she was overhauling the pile, Mr. Whedell left his seat by
Chiffield, and took the one just vacated by his daughter. Matthew
received him with the diplomatic courtesy due to the parent of one's
enchantress, and made a well-meant if not novel remark on the state of
the weather. Mr. Whedell mildly disputed his proposition (whatever it
was)--for Mr. W. was always disputatious on that subject--and then
passed to the consideration of national politics. "The one topic
natually suggests the other," said Mr. Whedell, "for they are equally
variable." This was one of the father's few standard jokes; and Maltboy
always laughed at it with the heartiness of a future son-in-law. They
then grappled with the great theme in earnest.



CHAPTER III.

PULLING IN.

Clementina, having found what she sought, glided to the chair which her
father had relinquished, and said, coquettishly, "Now I have come to
entertain _you_, Mr. Chiffield. You were speaking of Niagara Falls, the
other day. Here are some photographs of them, taken for me on the spot."
She handed the pictures to Mr. Chiffield. That gentleman took them with
a profound bow, glanced over them, and said, "How elegant!" "What rich
scenery!" "How tasty they are got up, a'n't they?" "This is the showiest
picture;" "Here's a neat one," &c., &c., &c. Mr. Chiffield had
contracted the use of a certain class of highly descriptive adjectives
in selling dry goods. Clementina watched him narrowly, and thought how
nicely she could manage this heavy fellow.

"How many times have you been to the Falls?" she asked, when Chiffield
had shuffled through the photographs twice.

"Three times," said Chiffield, telling a white lie; for he had seen them
at morning, noon, and evening on the same day. "And how often have you
visited them, Miss Whedell?"

"Oh! so often I can't remember. My last visit was early last autumn. Oh!
pa, did we go to Niagara Falls before or after our trip to the White
Mountains?"

"After it, my child," replied the father, who maintained a cocked ear
toward his child. "Don't you recollect we went from the Falls to Lake
George, and stayed there till the first week in November? That was the
year we omitted Newport and Saratoga, for a wonder," he added, conveying
the idea, in a look to Mr. Chiffield, that such an omission was a marvel
in their annual experiences.

"You love the Falls, I suppose?" said Mr. Chiffield.

"Oh! not much. I think they're dreadfully overrated." Clementina was
determined not to be won too cheaply.

"So I think," said Chiffield, delighted to speak his real sentiments
this time; "though everybody is obliged to praise 'em, because that's
the fashion."

"But, though the Falls a'n't much, I must say the balls and hops are
delightful. The fresh air there seems to give one strength to dance all
night without a bit of fatigue. I bought these pictures because they
show the hotels and other places where I have had such delicious
dances."

Chiffield execrated dancing, because he had large feet, and legs
slightly bowed. He moved in the cotillon or waltz with a certain
elephantine ponderousness and sagacity. Therefore she tantalized him
with these reminiscences.

"You see the Clifton House, there, on the Canada side? One night I
danced eight waltzes, six polkas, four quadrilles, three fancy dances,
and wound up, at five o'clock, with the German."

"Wonderful!" observed Chiffield, not knowing what else to say.

"Perhaps you think I was tired? Oh! not a particle. Next night we had a
little hop on Table Rock. It was got up on short notice, but perfectly
charming, I assure you. There were only two fiddles, and sometimes the
noise of the Falls would almost drown the music. The fiddlers had to
scrape so hard, that they gave out about three o'clock, and we had to
give up the dancing, and go home, very much disappointed."

"Unlucky, indeed!" interjected Chiffield.

"But the next night we had two extra fiddlers. They relieved the other
two at midnight, and then we danced till daybreak. Oh! such a glorious
time. Next year, when I heard that a part of Table Rock had tumbled into
the horrid river, I could have cried."

"It was a great shame, indeed!" said Chiffield.

"Isn't this view of Suspension Bridge natural?" she asked

"Amazing!" said Chiffield; and he ventured to add that he considered
that bridge to be a great triumph of human genius.

"I dare say it is. But I didn't think of that. I was only going to tell
you how the gentlemen of our Table Rock party tried to hire the use of
the bridge one night to dance on. The owners wouldn't let it. Mean,
weren't they?"

"Contemptible!" replied Chiffield.

"We should have had it nicely swept and lighted. The breeze coming down
the river would have been beautiful, and the awful noise of the Falls
wouldn't have been too loud for the music. But we almost made up for our
disappointment. Next night, the gentlemen hired the 'Maid of the
Mist'--the little steamboat, you know, that you see in this picture--and
we sailed round and round below the Falls all night, dancing all the
time. We went so near the Falls twice, that I got quite wet with the
nasty spray, and caught cold; but that didn't prevent me from dancing
all the next night, at the International. You have a good view of the
house in this picture."

"Tasty," said Chiffield.

Mr. Whedell and Maltboy had not lost a word of this conversation, though
they had been mutually boring each other with complex sentences about
national politics. Happily, the discussion required no mental effort,
and left them both free to hear and make mental comments on the dialogue
that buzzed across the way.

Mr. Whedell regretted that his daughter should expatiate with such
vivacity upon a subject that must be extremely disagreeable to a
gentleman of Mr. Chiffield's large figure and steady habits. To the
cultivated judgment of Maltboy, it was evident that the young lady was
trying to amuse Chiffield merely for the purpose of annoying him
(Maltboy). Experience had taught Matthew the best kind of cure for this
species of female perversity. He determined to leave the house, and
thereby show that he was not to be trifled with.

Availing himself of a pause in the dissertations on national politics,
Maltboy pulled out his watch and consulted it. "Why!" said he; "nine
o'clock! And I was to be in Fourteenth street by half past eight. Only
intended to drop in just to see how you were. You really must excuse me,
Mr. Whedell." Matthew rose as he spoke, to show that his mind was made
up, and remonstrances would be useless.

"Don't go. Put off your other call," ejaculated Mr. "Whedell, at the
same time rising, and thereby indicating a perfect acquiescence in the
departure of his guest.

"You are in a hurry," said Miss Whedell, calmly, but without objection
in voice or eye.

Mr. Chiffield looked calmly at his rival; and none but a skilled student
of physiognomy could have discovered a gleam of triumph in his dull,
yellow face.

Maltboy was disappointed in the calm demeanor of Miss Whedell; but,
strong in his purpose, he walked toward the door, followed by the
father. As he passed into the entry, he bowed coldly to the lady of his
heart, and drew from her a scarcely perceptible nod.

At this moment, a valuable thought occurred to the paternal Whedell.

"My dear Maltboy," said he, closing the parlor door, "excuse the
abruptness of the question; but could you lend me a couple of hundred?"

The question was indeed abrupt, but not altogether unexpected. Mr. Quigg
had apprised Maltboy of Mr. Whedell's financial weakness; but the
infatuation of the ardent young bachelor had led him to disregard that
warning. He was fully prepared to say, "Yes, with pleasure," and he
did say so.

"Thank you," said the gratified parent. "Only want it a few days." Mr.
Whedell was too great an adept in the art of borrowing, to waste words
of tedious explanation and gratitude, which only produce an impression
that the borrower does not mean to pay. He accepted Maltboy's reply as a
matter of course.

"If not too much trouble, could you give me a check to-night?" asked
Mr. Whedell. "Have a payment to make before bank hours to-morrow."

"Most readily, my dear sir," replied the amiable Matthew. "Have you pen
and paper convenient?"

"In this room, Mr. Maltboy," said his host, ushering him into a little
apartment at the end of the entry, which contained a few books, and was
passed off upon a credulous world as Mr. Whedell's library. The gas was
lighted, writing materials were produced, and, in less than three
minutes, Matthew Maltboy had put his name at the bottom of a check on
the ---- Bank, for two hundred dollars. He did so smiling, and with a
full consciousness that he had sustained a dead loss to that extent. But
he was always too good-natured to deny a friend; and, in this particular
case, he felt that he was buying a perpetual free admission to the
house, and a usufructuary interest in the fascinations of Clementina.
The idea of marriage with that young lady had never occurred to him. He
never troubled himself with problems of the future.

"All right," said Mr. Whedell, folding up the check carelessly, and
putting it in his pocket. "Shall I give you my note?"

"Oh, no!" said the willing victim, blandly. "Hand it me any time, at
your convenience."

"Can return it within a week," responded Mr. Whedell; "but, on some
accounts, the 1st of May will suit me best, if perfectly agreeable
to you."

"As you please."

"We will call it the 1st of May, then. I regret you are in a hurry, sir.
But remember, we are always happy to see you here."

With this pleasant remark ringing in his ears, and fully compensating
him for the loss of his two hundred dollars, Maltboy hastened home, but
did not tell his friends of his adventure; but he smoked and mused over
it agreeably, and was totally unmindful of the truth announced by Mr.
Quigg on New Year's day, when speaking of this same Whedell, that
"somehow debtors always give the cold shoulder to creditors, as if the
creditors owed the money."

Mr. Whedell, left to his own society, flattered himself that he had
turned a rejected lover to a good account, and entered his library and
sat down in the cold, that he might not, by his presence, mar the
harmonious progress of the courtship upon which so much depended, in
the parlor.



CHAPTER IV.

THE FIRST OF MAY.

Mr. Chiffield proposed, was accepted, and was married in a Broadway
church about the middle of April. The affair was simplicity
itself--bridesmaids, groomsmen, costly wedding costume, and the
subsequent conventional reception at the bride's residence being
dispensed with. The ceremony was witnessed only by the officiating
minister, the sexton, the happy father, and about two hundred of the
floating population of Broadway, including a number of pickpockets, one
of whom sounded the recesses of the coat tails appertaining unto Mr.
Whedell and his son-in-law, as they were coming out of church, and found
nothing in them.

The Siamese twins of the soul passed from the church amid the sneers,
criticisms, and suppressed laughter of the spectators--who united in
pronouncing the ceremony a shabby affair, not worth looking at--and,
entering a carriage with Mr. Whedell, were driven to the New Jersey
Railroad Depot furiously, as if they had been guilty of some crime
against society. At the depot, Mr. Whedell kissed his daughter in
public, and not without a touch of the melodrama, for which he had
cherished a fondness in his earlier days, and wrung the hand of his
son-in-law. The train bore the couple away toward the city of
Washington, where a portion of that indefinite season known as the
honeymoon was to be passed, amid every discomfort that money could
purchase. Why they should have gone to Washington in pursuit of bad
hotels, and other miseries, when they could have procured them in so
many other parts of the country for a quarter of the money, was
something which Mr. Chiffield was never able to explain to his own
satisfaction.

He afterward bitterly regretted that he had not made the nuptial trip to
Newburg, or some place near the city, where the expenses would have been
more moderate. But we anticipate.

Mr. and Mrs. Chiffield had been absent ten days. They were expected home
on the 28th day of April; but a letter from Clementina informed her
father that she had taken a bad cold, was confined to her room, and
could not return before the 1st of May. The brief note was written in a
crabbed hand, and exhibited spots, which, if not lemon juice, were
tears. She made no allusion to her husband, but wound up by saying, "Oh,
pa! I am an unhappy girl!"

This intelligence was a thorn in the bed of Mr. Whedell's comfort. Had
he not arranged to settle with his creditors on the 1st of May? Was not
the owner of the house occupied and used by him to resume possession on
that eventful day? And was not everything--even his daily
food--dependent on the return of his children, as he fondly called them,
with their pockets full of money? What if this infernal cold should keep
them in Washington until after the 1st of May? As Mr. Whedell thought of
himself, turned adrift, and a wanderer, he invariably tore out a few of
the gray hairs which could be poorly spared from his venerable skull.

Mr. Whedell had a deep and unchanging faith in his ill luck; but, this
time, he was pleasantly disappointed. The morning train on the 1st of
May brought back his children to him. They arrived just as those
Bedouins of civilization--the New Yorkers--were beginning to indulge
their nomadic propensities. The streets were full of wagons and drays
laden with jingling stoves, rickety bedsteads, conspicuous crockery, and
other damaged Penates, on the way to new domiciles. Fortunately, the
owner of Mr. Whedell's residence had not yet come to claim possession.
Creditors are early birds; but the hour--sis and a half A.M.--was even
too early for them; and only one--Mr. Rickarts, the shoemaker--had
called. He had been disposed of in the library, by the servant, under
the pretence that Mr. Whedell was not yet up. But Mr. Whedell was up and
dressed before six o'clock, and was watching for the expected carriage,
through the window blinds of his apartment. He ran down to the door with
juvenile briskness to receive the returning ones.

Mrs. Chiffield looked pale and jaded. Her hair was carelessly arranged,
and her bonnet awry--unerring indications of fathomless female misery.
To the anxious inquiry by her parent after her health, she only replied,
"Horrid!" Mr. Chiffield wore the aspect of a man who is disappointed in
his just expectations. He gave a hearty grip to the proffered hand of
his father-in-law, but he quarrelled with the driver over the fare, and
abused him in an under tone, by way of relieving himself.

"And how did you like Washington, my child?" said the fond father, in
his tenderest voice.

"I hate it!" said Mrs. Chiffield, hurrying into the house, as if she
were running away from her husband.

"Hum. Well, I'm not surprised that she dislikes the capital. I believe
most visitors do. Clemmy seems to be a little nervous from travelling,
eh?" Mr. Whedell addressed these remarks to his son-in-law.

"Nervous? Perhaps she is just a trifle nervous, sir. All women are."

"True--true! One of the peculiarities of the sex. Well, you have had a
pleasant time, I trust?"

"Pleasant time? Oh! yes--delightful! Your daughter is a charming girl,
sir, and will make a most excellent wife." Mr. Chiffield spoke as if he
were very much in earnest, but the expression of his face was not
of rapture.

"She is a treasure, sir--a perfect treasure!" replied the doting parent.
"It cost me many pangs to part with her. I trust that we shall not be
separated now. Why should we be? There are but three of us--just enough
for a happy family." Mr. Whedell was hinting at a home under the future
roof of his son-in-law.

"I agree with you perfectly," said Mr. Chiffield, with unaffected
eagerness. "Let us live together always. It will suit me exactly." He
was thinking of free board and lodging at the house of his
father-in-law.

The couple shook hands, mutually pleased at the prospect, and beamed on
each other.

A part of this conversation took place in the hall, into which the
hackman had borne the travellers' luggage. A pull was heard at the door
bell--a loud, confident pull--which Mr. Whedell knew could be inflicted
only by a creditor. It would not do to admit his son-in-law into his
budget of family secrets just yet. So he said:

"Now, Chiffield, you must need some rest. Let me not detain you, my dear
fellow. Your room is on the first floor. I'll show it to you."

Mr. Whedell snatched a carpet bag out of the hand of his son-in-law, and
hurried up stairs with him. Having turned that gentleman into the
apartment reserved for him, and shut the door, Mr. Whedell paused at the
head of the stairs, and listened for the developments below. The
servant, after waiting for two or three more jerks at the bell, so as to
be quite sure that it was the bell, went to the door, and there found
Mr. Numble, the butcher, who supplied the Whedells with meat on the
strength of the brownstone front.

Pursuant to instructions, the servant explained that Mr. Whedell was not
up, and asked him to walk into the library and wait a few minutes. Mr.
Numble growled--as if he scented deception not far off--but allowed
himself to be conducted into the library. There he discovered Mr.
Rickarts, the shoemaker, taking down the few books which graced the
shelves of the library, and evidently pricing them with an unpractised
eye. The two gentlemen knew each other, and straightway engaged in a
brisk dialogue about the weather.



CHAPTER V.

DEMOLITION OF CERTAIN AIR CASTLES.

The coast being clear, Mr. Whedell hastened down stairs to the front
parlor, where his daughter had secluded herself immediately after her
entrance into the house. She was lying back on the sofa, with her bonnet
on, biting the ends of her gloves, and staring into space. She did not
appear to observe her father.

Mr. Whedell seated himself on the other end of the sofa, and reached out
his hand, as if he would have taken his daughter's caressingly within
it. If that was his intention, it was frustrated by her drawing the hand
away. Then the father heaved a sigh, and said:

"Ah, my child, I am so thankful that you have returned to-day. You will
save us from ruin."

"_I_ save you from ruin!" said Mrs. Chiffield, in a hollow voice.
"That's a good joke!"

Mr. Whedell grinned a ghastly smile, as if he did not precisely see the
point of the jest. "Joke or no joke," said he, "I must look to you for
some money to put off the infernal creditors, who have begun to flock
into the house. There's the bell. Hang me, if it isn't another one! To
come to the point, then, I wish you would loan me, say two hundred
dollars. It is a small amount, but will stave them off a week or two."

"Two hundred dollars!" Mrs. Chiffield opened her fine eyes in amazement.

"That's all. Perhaps you have saved up the amount from your pin money?
Or, if you have been a little extravagant, and spent it all, why, then,
perhaps you can get it from Mr. Chiffield this morning?"

The daughter laughed bitterly again. "I tell you, father," said she,
"that this man is the meanest creature that walks OB two legs. He has
not spent fifty dollars on both of us, during our absence. As for me, I
have never got a cent from him, though I have dropped a thousand hints
about new bonnets, dresses, and jewelry."

"Gracious heavens!" cried Mr. Whedell, turning pale "But then," he
added, with an effort to laugh, "Mr. Chiffield is a business man, and
was an old bachelor. He knows nothing of women's wants. It must be your
mission to teach him what they are."

"Pooh!" said the daughter; "I don't believe he has got any money."

"Don't talk so, my child. You put me in a cold sweat."

"Anyhow, I examined his pocket, last night, when he was asleep in the
cars, and found only five dollars there."

Mr. Whedell's jaw dropped. "Oh, no! it can't be," said he, at length.
"Mr. Chiffield must be a rich man. You remember his fine horses at
Saratoga and Newport. You remember how much his society was courted by
mammas with disposable daughters. They never patronize poor young men.
Their instinct in finding out rich ones is unerring. And furthermore,
Mr. Chiffield is a member of a firm twenty years old, who are marked 'A
No. 1' on the books of a mercantile agency, that makes it a business to
pry into other people's affairs. I paid ten dollars for the information,
only a month ago. He must be rich! He must be rich!" Mr. Whedell
repeated it twice, as if the repetition put the question of Chiffield's
opulence beyond a doubt. "Ha! there goes that dreadful bell again!"

"What you say may be true, but I don't believe a word of it, till I have
the proofs," replied the daughter, who seemed to delight in taking a
gloomy view of her case. "Why--will you believe it?--I can't get him
even to talk about engaging a house in New York. He always dodges the
subject, somehow. Upon my word, I think he expects to quarter on you for
the balance of his life. That would be rich!"

Mr. Whedell raised his eyebrows, and emitted a doleful whistle.
Reflecting, he said:

"You may misjudge him. Perhaps he doesn't like to disturb Love's young
dream, by looking into the future. That's all--I'm sure of it."

"Humbug!" ejaculated Mrs. Chiffield.

"Poor thing!" said her father, tenderly. "There--cheer up. Depend upon
it, that you have got a rich husband, who will take all our troubles off
our shoulders. Stay here, and I will go up stairs and sound him."

Mr. Whedell proceeded to the apartment where his son-in-law was shut up,
and found that individual in a deep fit of meditation.

"Thinking--and so soon after marriage?" said Mr. Whedell, with a
charming smile.

"Oh, yes; and I was thinking how much happier is a married man than a
bachelor."

"You will always think so, I am sure, with my dear Clemmy as your wife.
My dear Clemmy! How naturally that phrase comes to my lips. And you are
about to take her away. It's a foolish thought, but I hardly know how I
shall live without her." Mr. Whedell paused, for effect, and
contemplated the vermicular work in the carpet.

"A happy thought strikes me," said Chiffield. "You have a house here,
already furnished. Let us occupy it free of rent, and I will pay the
housekeeping bills of the establishment. That will be mutually
advantageous, and will especially suit your daughter, who, of course,
has a child's attachment for home. What do you say to the proposition,
respected father-in-law?"

Mr. Whedell did not catch at it with the alacrity that was expected of
him. "A capital plan," said he, at length; "but, unfortunately, the
house is not mine. I only lease it."

Chiffield's lips puckered up. "That's curious," thought he. "The old
fellow must have put his money into bonds and stocks. Well, they are the
best-paying investments."

Mr. Whedell proceeded to break the news of his penniless condition to
his son-in-law, gently. "Mr. Chiffield," said he, "as a wholesale
dealer in dry goods, you must have observed, perhaps at times
experienced, the fickleness of fortune."

"Can he suspect?" thought Chiffield. "And what if he does? The truth
cannot be concealed much longer. But I will pump him a little further
before disclosing all."

"Yes," said he; "our firm, like others, has had its ups and downs; but
then, business would not be interesting without some little risks,
you know."

The easy manner of his son-in-law convinced Mr. Whedell that no "little
risks" had shaken the firm of Upjack, Chiffield & Co. "Ah, yes," said
he. "Rich to-day, poor to-morrow--the history of the world. As every
person may learn this by his own sad experience, some time or other, he
ought to be lenient in judging of those who have become reduced from
wealth to poverty."

"Can he mean me?" thought the son-in-law. "Faith! it sounds very much
like it. If so, his manner of broaching the subject is truly generous
and delicate."

"I agree with you," said he, aloud. "Money does not make the man." It is
a safe adage, and Chiffield quoted it intrepidly.

"True--true!" replied Mr. Whedell. "Money is but a small item in the sum
of earthly happiness. Take the institution of marriage, for example.
What gives to that institution its blessedness--love, or money?"

"Love," responded the unhesitating Chiffield.

"The promptness of that reply shows that he does not expect a fortune
with Clemmy," thought Mr. Whedell.

"He must suspect--perhaps already knows--the truth," thought Chiffield.
"How kind in him to spare me the least humiliation!"

"That person is truly rich," continued Mr. Whedell, "rich beyond
expression, who brings pure love and exalted virtues into the
married state."

"Generous father-in-law!" thought Chiffield. "He knows that I am ruined.
Yet how nobly he treats me! I may cast away all reserve now."

"It would be an affectation, sir," said Chiffield, aloud, "to pretend
that I do not understand to whom you refer, my dear father-in-law."

"The glorious fellow!" thought Mr. Whedell. "He guesses what I am about
to disclose, and yet calls me a dear father-in-law."

Chiffield continued: "To save any further circumlocution, sir, and in
order that we may fully understand each other, I will say at once, that
we are completely--ruined!"

"Ha! What! Who ruined?"

"The house of Upjack, Chiffield & Co. I--I thought you knew it."

"Ruined, sir!" cried Mr. Whedell, livid with horror. He choked for
further utterance.

"Yes, sir," said Chiffield, who, being a fat man, was happily calm;
"totally ruined."

"You impudent scoundrel! out of this house!" shrieked Mr. Whedell,
rising from his chair, and glaring like a wildcat at his son-in-law.

"Be calm," said that phlegmatic individual. "I respect your age."

"Curse your impudence! what do you mean by my age?" (approaching
Chiffield in a threatening manner). "I'll let you know, sir, that I am
young enough to kick a swindler like you into the street."

"Pray compose yourself, sir," returned the bland Chiffield. "Your
surprise and excitement are natural, and therefore pardonable. But my
affairs are, after all, not quite as bad as they might be. I have a sure
prospective fortune, if not a present one."

"What do you mean, sir?" asked Mr. Whedell, not quite so savage as
before.

"That I have talents, energy, a large business acquaintance," said the
cheerful Chiffield.

"Humbug!" roared Mr. Whedell. "What is all that stuff good for, without
money?"

"Not much, I admit," was the conciliatory reply. "There fore, sir, to
come to the point at once, advance me ten thousand dollars to start in
business again, and I will make a fortune in three years. It was the
outside speculations of my partners that ruined me. Perhaps you don't
know that dry goods are going up, sir? Now's the time to buy."

"This man will drive me mad!" shrieked Mr. Whedell, combing his hair
wildly with his hands.

"Regard it in the light of a family investment," suggested the soothing
Chiffield.

"You diabolical scoundrel!" yelled Mr. Whedell, in a partial asphyxia of
rage; "if I had a million dollars to-day, I wouldn't give you a cent.
You should starve first. But I want to tell you--and hang me if it isn't
a pleasure, too--that I am a beggar, sir--a beggar, sir--a beggar, sir!
By noon to-day I shall be turned out of this house. And, by Jove! I'm
glad of it, for then I shall get rid of you." During this _adagio_
passage, the speaker shook his fist within a few inches of
Chiffield's nose.

The summery Chiffield answered, with a hearty laugh: "I see," said he;
"it's a regular sell on both sides. However, neither of us is worse off
than he was, since neither of us had anything. As for me, I have gained
one point, for I have a tolerably good-looking wife."

Mr. Whedell was about to retort in a vein of unmitigated ferocity, when
Mrs. Chiffield, who had been listening in the entry, and could contain
herself no longer, rushed into the room, and, brandishing a small
clenched hand in the face of her laughing spouse, forcibly observed:

"You sneaking, swindling, cheating, lying, black-hearted, ill-looking
pauper, scoundrel, and vagabond!"

"Very prettily said," remarked the imperturbable Chiffield.

"You miserable thief!" continued his matrimonial partner, aiming a blow
at him, which he playfully parried; "why didn't you tell me you were
a beggar?"

"Why? Because you didn't ask me. For that matter, why didn't you or
your father tell me that _you_ were beggars?"

"I sha'n't answer your insulting questions, you mean, deceiving, ugly,
ungentlemanly--" (no other epithet suggesting itself.) At this crisis,
the infuriated wife burst into tears, and wished several times that
she was dead.

"Poor, dear wifey!" said the emollient Chiffield.

"None of your 'poor dears' to my daughter, you jailbird!" screamed Mr.
Whedell.

"Now, don't get excited, father-in-law."

"How dare you call me father-in-law, sir!"

"Perhaps you prefer the more endearing epithet of 'poppy,' sir?"

"Monster! will you leave my house?"

"Have you any good old brandy on hand?" asked Chiffield.

"Brandy! No. If you want brandy, sir, go to the d---l for it."

"Not quite so far, thank you," retorted Chiffield the genial; "but I
don't mind walking to the next corner for a smash."

Chiffield rose, put on his hat, and stepped toward the door.

"Good-by, wifey. I sha'n't be gone long."

A growl, bisected by a sob, was the only reply.

"By-by, poppy," said Chiffield, with a flippant wave of the hand.

Mr. Whedell cast at him a look of scorn, to which justice could be done
in no known language; and Chiffield, with a bow of exceeding grace, left
father and child to their reflections.



CHAPTER VI.

MR. WHEDEEL'S CREDITORS IN CONVENTION ASSEMBLED.

These reflections, which were neither profitable nor interesting to the
parties immediately concerned, were interrupted by a peculiarly
rigorous pull at the door bell. Pulls of a startling description had
come so often, the previous ten minutes, that Mr. Whedell had quite
ceased to notice them. But this long and strong pull caused him to
start, and remark, "It must be Quigg."

It was Quigg, who had come to make his last appeal. He was by far the
heaviest creditor. The unfortunate servant girl, acting under her
general instructions, would fain have shown him into the parlor, where
his fellow sufferers, having overrun the library and dining room, were
already in strong force; but Quigg, having immense interests at stake,
would stand no such nonsense.

"Where is Whedell?" said he. "I can't dance attendance on him all day."

It was always remarked that Quigg put off his slow and stately method of
speech, when dealing with obstinate debtors.

The terrified Mary lost her presence of mind, and replied; "In the first
floor, front." Quigg mounted the stairs with surprising agility, and
gave a hard rap at the door of the first floor front.

Mr. Whedell said, in a voice calm with despair, "Come in." In the few
minutes that had elapsed since the retirement of Chiffield, Mr. Whedell
had privately determined to give up everything to his creditors, leaving
them to divide the spoils among themselves, and then to go out, expend
his last quarter on a dose of poison, and end his existence. This
resolution, suddenly taken, imparted preternatural composure both to his
mind and his face. He could now see his way out of all difficulties--or
out of the world, which is the same thing. Clementina, who had not yet
risen to that height of philosophy, buried her face in her hands, and
sobbed with fresh violence.

Quigg entered, and at a glance saw that he had lost. He stopped short in
the bow that he was intending to make.

"Well, Whedell," said he, roughly, "how are things to-day?" By "things,"
he always meant money.

"Not a penny," said Mr. Whedell. "I've done my best to pay you, and
failed."

"Just as I expected. Serves me right. I never was forbearing with a
debtor, that I didn't get chiselled this way. Strike me if I ever make
the mistake again. This marriage of your daughter's, which was going to
set you up in funds, has proved a fizzle, eh? Instead of taking somebody
in, you have been taken in yourself."

Quigg laughed; and then remembering that a delinquent debtor was before
him, assumed his wonted serious aspect.

At this allusion, poor Mrs. Chiffield burst into tears again. Mr.
Whedell adroitly turned the circumstance to advantage. He pointed to
her, and said, "There is my reply."

Quigg felt that he was losing ground on these side issues. "Well,
Whedell, we must have a settlement to day. You owe me one hundred and
fifty dollars. Turn over all your furniture to me, and we'll call
it square."

Mrs. Chiffield doubled her sobs anew. But Mr. Whedell said, "Very good.
Take everything, I shall want nothing where I am going."

Quigg had been accustomed to these dark hints from contumacious debtors,
and was not to be frightened. "I accept your offer," said he, "and will
take everything."

At this moment, a rush, as of many feet, was heard upon the stairs. The
owners of the feet appeared to be literally tumbling up in their anxiety
to get up. By the time Quigg could open the door, a half dozen flushed
persons were ready to step in, and did so, brushing him aside. More than
a score of others followed, and all plunged pell mell into the presence
of Mr. Whedell and daughter.

"Here we are, Mr. Whedell, by appintment," said the spokesman of the
party, Rickarts, the shoemaker.

"I see you are," responded the placid Whedell. "Take seats, if you can
find them, gentlemen." This with a real smile, for he thought of the
arsenic, and the immeasurable relief that it would afford him.

"We don't want seats, Mr. Whedell; and, if we did, there isn't enough
for all of us. We want our pay, and have got tired of waitin' down
stairs for it. You put us all off to the 1st of May, you know, expecting
you said, to raise money enough by the marriage of your daughter (excuse
the remark, marm, but business is business) to pay off all of us. We
found, on comparin' notes down stairs, this mornin', that you had told
the same story to everybody. Now, sir, as your daughter is married,
accordin' to the papers, and the 1st of May has arriv', will you be good
enough to square up?"

Mr. Whedell smiled touchingly. "My good and patient friends," said he,
"nothing would give me greater pleasure--I might say, without
exaggeration, rapture--than to pay all that I owe, with compound
interest thrown in. But, unfortunately for my excellent intentions, I
have no money."

"Blast me if that isn't just what we expected! I told 'em, down stairs,
that I'd bet ten to one you couldn't or wouldn't raise any think out of
your son-in-law."

"Your name is Rickarts, I believe?" asked Mr. Whedell.

"Yes, Rickarts!" growled the owner of the appellation, "You ought to
know it by this time; for I've dunned you often enough."

"True, Mr. Rickarts, but then I have so many creditors, you see, that I
cannot be expected to know them all. I merely wanted to observe, Mr.
Rickarts, that, at least, _you_ have not been disappointed in your
expectations. Furthermore, that if you had made a bet of ten to one, it
wouldn't have been a bad speculation for you."

Cries of "Pshaw!" "Humbug!" "Swindled!" "Done for!" and kindred
expressions, arose from all sides. The spokesman said: "We ha'n't got no
time to joke, Mr. Whedell. We have only to remark, now, that the best
thing for you to do is to give up your furniture, without the trouble
and expense of a lot of lawsuits."

"You are perfectly welcome to the whole of it, my good friends," said
Mr. Whedell.

"The, deuce they are!" cried Quigg. "Why, you have just turned it over
to me!"

"I give it to all of you, singly and collectively, severally and
jointly," responded the happy, melancholy man. "Divide it among
yourselves, and leave me."

The small creditors, under twenty dollars, took a favorable view of the
proposition. One of them immediately jumped on a bureau having a marble
top and elaborately carved legs, and expressed his willingness to take
that for his pay. Another laid violent hands on the heavy yellow window
curtains, and declared himself satisfied. A third commenced ripping up a
corner of the carpet, and notified all persons that he claimed _that_.
The original owner of the bureau, curtains, and carpet, who had
furnished the house, and held an exalted rank among the principal
creditors, objected to this summary disposition of the property. Quigg,
in very emphatic but improper English, insisted that he had the largest
and first claim, and warned everybody on their peril not to remove a
thing from the house.

Mr. Whedell reclined in his chair, positively enjoying the spectacle,
which was all the more entertaining because the common wrath was now
diverted from him. Mrs. Chiffield wept behind her handkerchief. Her
bonnet was knocked on one side, and the flowers were seriously
disarranged, indicating a real case of distress.

_Sauve qui peut_ was now the motto among all the small creditors.
Notwithstanding the energetic objections of Quigg and others, they
rushed down stairs into the parlors, where the best furniture was kept,
and commenced, taking possession. Rickarts, the shoemaker, seated
himself on the top of the piano, and said he considered that his'n. But
a second after, a man milliner, who had furnished two new bonnets to
Miss Clementina on the strength of the brownstone front, took his seat
on the other end of the piano, and gave Mr. Rickarts distinctly to
understand that he was glued to it. The man milliner was a powerful
fellow, and looked as if his proper vocation were hammering stone or
rolling iron, instead of handling flowers and feathers. Rickarts
murmured something inaudibly, at first but, on taking a second survey of
his neighbor, concluded that he would be more desirable as an ally than
as an enemy.

"All right," said he; "s'pose we go snacks on this?"

"Agreed," said the man milliner.

Other of the minor creditors, not caring to quarrel for a third or
fourth interest in the piano, attached themselves to movable pieces of
furniture, such as ottomans, whatnots, etageres, and chairs. One
succeeded in unscrewing a large chandelier which hung from the centre of
the front parlor, and the gas came pouring through the opening in
odorous volumes, while the spoliator waddled off to the door with his
prize. Others rummaged the small stock of showy books which consituted
the library, and were surprised to find that the most imposing volumes
were bound in wood, with gilt backs, and contained nothing but air,
which a funny creditor characterized as very light reading matter.

In about five minutes, a considerable amount of portable property would
have gone out of the house, but for Quigg's presence of mind. Seeing
that decisive action was required, he slipped out of the front door,
locked it, and returned in a moment with a couple of policemen, who
chanced to be strolling through the street at that hour.

On the way to the house, Mr. Quigg succeeded in persuading the policemen
that it was necessary for the peace of society that they should turn all
the other creditors out of the house, and leave Mr. Whedell's effects to
be divided among them according to the regular legal process. As the
officers marched up the steps of the house, it fell out that Matthew
Maltboy came sauntering by. Observing the two officers, headed by an
excited individual, going into Mr. Whedell's house, it occurred, to his
benevolent heart that that gentleman must be in trouble. He also felt
moved by a desire to hear of his old flame--for such she now seemed at
the remote distance of six weeks,--of whose marriage with Mr. Chiffield
he had read in the papers with the utmost complacency. Therefore,
Maltboy stepped up behind the officers, and was about to follow them
into the house. The officers would have kept him back; but Quigg
recognized his friend of New Year's day, and asked him in, hoping to get
legal advice for nothing.

"An old friend of mine, and of Mr. Whedell's," said Quigg. "Admit him,
officers. Perhaps, sir" (Quigg had forgotten his name), "you know
something about Whedell's affairs, and, as a lawyer" (with a wink), "can
tell me where he has some property snugly stowed away, that I can pounce
on. If so, I would cheerfully let the smaller creditors divide the
furniture among themselves. Any information--ahem!--will be
confidential, you know."

"I am not a shyster!" said the indignant Matthew, alluding, by that
term, to the outlaws of his profession.

Quigg was evidently surprised at this unfriendly repulse. "I only made
the suggestion for you to think on. No offence meant. Please walk
in, sir."

The door being opened, several of the small creditors were discovered,
grouped together, with property in their hands. They had made several
ineffectual attempts to break the lock, or pry back the bolt. The larger
creditors were forcibly remonstrating against this disposition of Mr.
Whedell's effects; and a serious row would probably have ensued, but for
the timely arrival of the police.



CHAPTER VII.

DEUS EX MACHINA.

One of the officers planted himself against the front door, and gave
general notice that no one would be allowed to remove any of the
furniture. The other officer stationed himself at the back door, to
carry out a similar policy at that point.

These manoeuvres caused consternation among the small creditors, and a
vivid feeling of approval among the larger ones.

"I am happy to announce," said Quigg, "that the counsel of Mr.
Whedell--one of the most distinguished ornaments of the bar--has now
arrived, and will take charge of his client's affairs. To those who know
the name of--" (Aside) "By the way, your name escapes me at
this moment."

"Maltboy," said Matthew, a little flattered with this compliment.

"I repeat, that, to those who know the name of Maltboy, no assurance
need be given that Mr. Whedell's affairs will be honorably adjusted."
Quigg again winked at the young lawyer.

Matthew, having recovered from the flutter into which he was thrown, was
about to disclaim the office thus thrust upon him, when the voice of Mr.
Whedell was heard from the first landing. He had come to listen to the
disturbance, and smile at it.

"It is my dear Maltboy!" he exclaimed, catching at the straw of a hope.
"Thank Heaven! he is here. Yes, gentlemen, he is my lawyer, and I refer
you to him for the adjustment of all your claims. Come up, my
dear Maltboy."

"Oh! it is dear--good--Mr. Maltboy!" added a voice, qualified by sobs.
"How kind of him--to--to come here at this time! Oh--ho!"

Maltboy never could resist Beauty in any condition; and, for Beauty in
tears, he would cheerfully lay down his life. He did not deny that he
was the counsel and confidential adviser of Mr. Whedell, but rushed up
stairs, just in time to receive the falling form of Mrs. Chiffield
in his arms.

Matthew felt that he had no moral right to clasp that burden of
loveliness; but he took it tenderly in his arms, and followed Mr.
Whedell into the room which father and daughter had just left. There he
deposited it, with the gentleness of a professional nurse, on the sofa,
when it opened its eyes, and faintly said, "Heaven bless you, our
benefactor!"

The creditors were pouring into the apartment. "In the name of
humanity," said Mr. Whedell, "leave us for a few moments. I appeal to
you as gentlemen and Christians."

The appeal produced no effect; those to whom it was made conceiving,
perhaps, that it did not apply to them. Maltboy added the remark: "If
you will withdraw at once, I promise you that in fifteen minutes we will
proceed to business."

"That's all right," said Quigg, winking again at Matthew. "Let us go,
friends."

The proposition was accepted, as the best thing that could be done under
the circumstances, and all the creditors retired.

Mr. Whedell then locked the door, and proceeded to inform Mr. Maltboy of
the black-hearted treachery of which he and his daughter had been the
victims, in the Chiffield alliance. Clementina corroborated the paternal
statement with numerous particulars, delivered in a heart-broken voice,
showing what an abandoned wretch her husband was. Matthew listened,
nodded his head, and said, "The brute!" and the "The monster!" at
intervals, looking the while into the deep blue eyes of Mrs. Chiffield,
which sparkled with tears. "If he had but been the lucky man!" he
thought. But it suddenly occurred to Matthew that these thoughts were a
little irregular; and, besides, he had a fresh recollection of the
troubles from which Fayette Overtop had not yet emerged. He therefore
pulled out his watch, and informed Mr. Whedell that thirteen of the
fifteen minutes were consumed. The creditors were beginning to pace
heavily in the entry.

Mr. Whedell, taking the hint, came down to business. His affairs were of
a kind that were easily settled. He owned nothing except his personal
clothing, and a few small articles of furniture. Everything else had
been obtained on credit, and either not paid for, or only partly paid
for. This statement of affairs occupied one minute.

A minute remained, which Mr. Whedell put to good use. He looked
appealingly at Maltboy. So did Mrs. Chiffield.

"My dear friend," said Mr. Whedell, "I find myself, at an advanced
period of life, in this cold world, deserted, penniless. You are the
only person living that I can call by the sacred name of friend. I have
already experienced your noble bounty in a loan of two hundred
dollars." (Tramps of creditors becoming louder outside.) "In a word,
sir, can you lend me one hundred dollars more? It will at least save me
from the self-destruction which I had contemplated."

At the word "self-destruction," Mrs. Chiffield cried aloud, and threw
herself on her parent's breast, with a fresh flood of tears.

These tears swept away the last trace of Matthew's prudence. He whipped
out his pocket book, and delivered over five twenty-dollar gold pieces
to Mr. Whedell. The sight of those beautiful coins seemed to reconcile
the wretched man to life.

Mr. Whedell was about to thank his preserver most profusely, and Mrs.
Chiffield to burst into a new torrent, when Matthew, to avoid these
demonstrations, rose, opened the door, and let in the pack of hungry
creditors.

Now Matthew had, in these fleeting fifteen minutes, thought up no plan
of settlement. Being taken aback by the sudden reappearance of the
creditors, he did not know what to propose.

"Everything fixed, I s'pose?" said Rickarts, the shoemaker.

When Matthew was in strong doubt what to do in any case, it was his
invariable custom to postpone. "I think," he feebly suggested, "that we
had better postpone final action, say till three P.M. It would give
us time--"

"Can't come it!" "No go!" "Now, or never!" were some of the exclamations
which went up from the excited crowd.

Matthew was too good natured to quarrel with these insinuations. "My
friends," said he, "as you appear to have unlimited confidence in each
other, suppose you appoint a committee to dispose of this property,
which my client generously" (cries of "Oh! oh!") "turns over to you, and
divide the proceeds among yourselves _pro rata_"

The creditors looked at each other suspiciously. A want of that
childlike trust which, in a perfect state of society should exist
between man and man, was unhappily too apparent.

Just then, when Matthew was at his wits' end, the police man who guarded
the front door entered the room, and delivered a note to Mr. Whedell.
That gentleman perused it languidly, and passed it to Matthew.

"Good news," said he. "Mr. Abernuckle, the owner of these premises, who
was intending to move in to-day, writes that he will not be able to take
possession until noon to-morrow. Therefore, I say, let the creditors
employ an auctioneer, hang out the red flag, sell, and divide, before
that period arrives."

The large creditors were silent--Quigg veiling his dissatisfaction under
a look of complete misanthropy--but the small ones, headed by Rickarts,
the shoemaker, highly commended it.

"Besides," added a butter man, who had originally been in the
mock-auction line, "don't ye see, we can all stay at the auction, and
kind o' bid on the things. Hey?" The butter man nodded at the lesser
creditors.

The idea took; only a few of the larger creditors holding out against
it.

"My friends," again observed Matthew, drawing on his stores of legal
knowledge, "you seem to forget that, if my client chose to resist your
claims, he could retain a large amount of furniture as household
articles under the law, which exempts certain necessary things. But,
with rare magnanimity, he gives up all."

The allusion to magnanimity produced some derisive laughs, which
slightly nettled Matthew.

"Auction it off," said he, "or we throw ourselves back on our reserved
rights."

At this hint, everybody gave in; and a committee, consisting of Quigg,
Rickarts, and the butter man, was appointed to make all the arrangements
for an immediate sale.

It is not pleasant to pursue this painful theme--the decline and fall
of the Whedell household--farther. Let the historian barely record, that
the sale attracted a large crowd, and that, by the ingenious side bids
of the creditors, the furniture was run up to twice its original value
(no uncommon thing at auctions); that the creditors, large and small,
were well satisfied with the results; that Mr. Whedell and daughter
moved to Boston, and became stipendiaries upon a younger brother, who
had made a fortune in the upholstery business, and whom Mr. Whedell had
always despised; that Mr. Chiffield took to drink tenaciously in
consequence of his misfortunes, and never saw or sought after his wife
from the day when he discovered that she was dowerless; that Mrs.
Chiffield obtained a divorce from the bonds of matrimony, but had not
married again at last accounts; and that Matthew Maltboy, Esq., on
looking over the whole episode of his acquaintance with the Whedells
thanked his stars that he had got out of their entanglements on the
reasonable terms of three hundred dollars.



BOOK ELEVENTH.

DISCOVERIES.



CHAPTER I.

THE OLD HOUSE REVISITED.

In the month that followed the acquittal of Marcus Wilkeson, three real
murders, a railway collision killing thirty persons, and a steamboat
explosion almost as tragical in its results, occurred. The Minford
affair was already getting old. Public curiosity, except in the
immediate neighborhood of the house, no longer exercised itself upon the
problem which all of Coroner Bullfast's powers of analysis had failed
to solve.

Marcus Wilkeson might have derived a selfish consolation from the fact
that other mysteries and calamities were causing his name, which last
month was on the tongue of the whole town, to be forgotten. But he had a
nobler and truer source of consolation in his dear books. In the
presence of the philosophers, and sages, and historians, and novelists,
and poets, and wits, the men of genius of the past, chroniclers of the
loss of empires, grave men who taught the vanity of life, and funny men
who taught the same lesson in a different way, Marcus felt his pack of
sorrows considerably lightening. His first, last, only disappointment in
love had subsided into a gentle and not disagreeable melancholy. His
trial, and the dreadful notoriety which his name had acquired, had
imparted to his mild nature a gentle tinge of cynicism, which
improved him.

Marcus was sitting, one morning, in the little back parlor, idly
turning over the leaves of an old folio, and looking with a half eye
through the closed window at the houses opposite, and thinking what a
deal of trouble it was possible to extract from a single block of
buildings, when a slight rap was heard at the door. Simultaneously, the
door was pushed open, and Wesley Tiffles shot in.

He had brought all his tonical properties with him. Good nature and
cheerfulness effervesced from his face. Through the trial, and since the
acquittal, Wesley Tiffles had stuck to Marcus. Twice, often three times
a day, he called, and was always welcomed by Marcus, and not
inhospitably received by Miss Philomela Wilkeson. The interviews between
that lady and the romantic speculator usually took place, quite by
accident, in the entry, on the arrival or the departure of Mr. Tiffles;
but, as it happened, not with the cognizance of Marcus.

On one occasion--at the edge of evening--Marcus went into the entry a
few minutes after Tiffles had left the room, and saw that gentleman and
Philomela standing in the doorway. Tiffles appeared to be in the act of
raising the lady's hand to kiss it; but, if that were his intention, he
abandoned it on seeing Marcus, and shook the attenuated fingers instead.
Then he coughed, and, saying "Good-night," went down the steps, as if he
had not seen Marcus in the gloom. Miss Wilkeson coughed also (why do
people always cough?), and, turning to her approaching brother, said it
was a cool night, which was not true, as the night was agreeably warm.
Marcus had never afterward seen them together, and had forgotten this
slightly mysterious circumstance. Wesley Tiffles had, as usual,
something enlivening to tell.

"Got the funniest piece of news for you, my dear fellow!" said he.

"Anything funny is always welcome, Tiffles," said he, closing his folio,
that he might not appear to obstruct his friend's jocosity.

"I've heard from that infernal old panorama--when I say infernal, of
course I don't mean to imply that it wasn't a splendid idea, if I had
had capital enough to see it through--and what do you s'pose the
landlord and the other creditor have done with it? You couldn't guess
in a month."

"Well, what?" asked Marcus Wilkeson, laughing in anticipation.

"Ha! ha! cut it up, and sold it for window curtains. A friend of mine,
who passed through there the other day, says there's a picture of a
lion, or a palm tree, or a slice of a desert--principally desert--hung
up in every other window. And the best of it is, that they made a good
thing of it. The curtains brought at least twice what I owed them. Great
heavens! why didn't I think of it myself?"

"Of what?"

"Why, to cut up the panorama into window curtains, when Patching had
finished it, and--ha! ha!--peddle them through the country. By Jupiter!
that speculation may be worth trying yet. But at present I have my new
patent process for----"

Marcus coughed, and opened the book. Tiffles accepted the delicate hint
in a spirit of true friendship, and let his new patent process drop.

"Marcus," said he, "I don't wish to revive an unpleasant subject; but
have you no idea what the late Mr. Minford was trying to invent?"

"Not the least. I never trouble myself about inventions, as you well
know, who are full of them. Besides, poor Mr. Minford was not
communicative on that subject. He kept the secret even from his
daughter."

"You have a claim on the apparatus, whatever it is."

"Yes. Mr. Minford insisted on giving me a paper to that effect, as
security for two loans of five hundred dollars each. I took it to please
the old gentleman." Marcus felt like groaning, as he thought of the
sorrows that he had derived from his connection with the Minford family;
but he had just been reading of the consolations of philosophy, and he
stifled the rising weakness.

"I have thought, Marcus, that there might be something about that
unfinished machine that could be patented for the benefit of Miss
Minford. You know I am a good judge of patentable things."

"What do you propose, then?" asked Marcus, concealing, with an effort,
the emotions which the mention of Miss Minford always caused."

"That we go to the house together. The legal claim which you hold upon
the machine entitles you to see it, if only to ascertain that it has not
been stolen."

"The visit you propose is a disagreeable one; but if you think there is
a possibility of benefiting Miss Minford, I will go. Not that she is
likely to be in want, however, at present, for I understand that a
wealthy lady, Mrs. Crull, who befriended her at the inquest, you
remember, has taken her to her own house."

Without further words--for Marcus retained his old business habit of
forming his conclusions suddenly, and adhering to them--the friends
proceeded to the late residence of Mr. Minford.

Marcus had not yet philosophically conquered his dread of recognition in
the street as the man who had been suspected of a murder. He buttoned
his overcoat up to his chin, pulled his hat over his brow, and walked
fast. As he had purposely altered his style of dress since the inquest,
he was not readily identified. But he was sympathetically conscious that
several persons whom he passed, and who glanced at him, knew him, and
that he was pointed out to others when his back was turned.

Reaching the house, they hurried up stairs, hoping to run the gauntlet
of the three floors in safety. Luckily, there had been a general move
from the premises--the lodgings being less desirable since the supposed
murder. The faces which thrust themselves out of the doorways as the two
visitors passed, were strange ones.

Marcus felt his heart palpitating, and his face growing pale, as they
ascended the last flight of stairs, at the head of which were the room
and the mystery. The lodgings had not been taken. The rent had been paid
by Mr. Minford up to the 1st of May; and no person had been sufficiently
charmed with the apartments to hire them since that date.

Upon the door was a placard, announcing that the key could be obtained
by application to the floor below. Tiffles went for it, and returned
accompanied by an old woman, who looked as if she knew a great deal
which she did not care to tell. She had been requested by the landlord
to show the apartments to applicants, but not to whisper a word about
the murder; and she was almost bursting with her great secret. While the
old woman was wondering how much longer she would be able to hold in,
Marcus and Tiffles entered the front room, and quietly closed the door
in her face. The old woman grumbled at this discourtesy but, as she had
a superstitious objection to putting her foot in a room where a murder
had been committed, she leaned against the banisters of the stairs, and
waited for the visitors' reappearance.

The room looked just as it did on the day of the inquest. The faded and
worn furniture was all there; the yellow curtains still covered the
windows; the clock still hung against the wall, tickless. Marcus's eyes
glanced restlessly about the room for a moment, not daring to look at
the spot where the old man had received his death blow. But an
inevitable magnetism soon brought his eyes to it, and his heart was
lightened as he saw that the blood stains had been carefully wiped out.

The door of the adjoining room--the maiden's bedchamber--was ajar.
Marcus pushed it open with that slow motion which is a token of delicacy
and respect. The general appearance of the room was unchanged, as well
as Marcus could recollect from the occasional glimpses of it which he
had formerly stolen. The little row of dresses which hung on pegs in a
corner, and a few simple ornaments, might have been removed, but nothing
more. Marcus felt that he was intruding here, and he closed the door.

In the mean time, Wesley Tiffles had been examining the mysterious
machine, which stood undisturbed in its corner, with the protecting
screen still standing before it. Tiffles had first wiped off the dust,
and then looked into it, and through it, and over it, and under it, with
an eye that was predetermined to pry out a secret. Then he felt of every
wheel, lever, cam, ratchet, drum, and other portion within reach of his
fingers. Everything was immovable. Then he stood aloof from the machine,
folded his arms, pursed up his lips, and cocked an eye at it, as if, by
the mere force of intellect, he would compel the dumb thing to give up
its mystery.

As Tiffles was applying this species of exorcism in vain, Marcus came to
his assistance.

"What on earth can it be?" exclaimed Tiffles. "Not a new kind of steam
engine; or an electrical apparatus; or a clock; or a sewing machine; or
anything for spinning, carding, or weaving--nothing that is adapted to
any useful labor. These heavy weights, that have fallen on the floor,
would give the works a kind of jerky motion for a few seconds, while the
weights were descending. Nothing more. But the ultimate purpose of the
machine is a puzzler."

"Mr. Minford always said that it was something that would revolutionize
the world of industry--that it was a new mechanical principle of
universal application."

Tiffles laughed a little. "Excuse my levity," said he, "but
inventors--and I am one of them, you know--always claim that they are
about to revolutionize the world of industry. I never knew one of them
to claim less than that for a patent flytrap or an improved sausage
stuffer. Mr. Minford was a man of genius, I dare say, but he probably
overestimated the importance of his invention. Have you any objection to
my prying the thing apart at this opening? I want to inspect some of the
works that are partly concealed. I pledge myself to put it together
again as good as new."



CHAPTER II.

A POSTHUMOUS SECRET.

"Go ahead," said Marcus; and Tiffles, inserting his walking stick in a
wide gap between two cog wheels, forced the strange machine apart. A
large brass drum upon which a small chain was loosely coiled, fell to
the floor. The other portions were not disturbed. Marcus picked up the
drum; and Tiffles cast his unerring eye in among the new jumble of
wheels and connecting levers that was brought to view.

"Can't make head or tail of it," said he, at length. "Let me see that
drum."

Marcus handed it to him. Tiffles took it, like an expert, between a
thumb and finger, and tapped it with his stick. It answered back with a
muffled clink.

"It is hollow, and contains some soft non-metallic substance. Ah! here
we have it." And Tiffles, unscrewing a nicely fitting cap from the drum,
drew out a close roll of paper. He unfolded it with trembling fingers.

The upper portion of the paper was covered with neatly drawn diagrams,
which bore some semblance to the machine. Beneath, in the fine
copperplate hand of the inventor, were these memorable words:

"_Eliphalet Minford's original plan of_ PERPETUAL MOTION, _to which he
has devoted his fortune, and twenty years of labor. Perseverantia
vincit omnia_."

"_Christmas Day_, 185-."

Then followed a careful technical description of the plan, and a mention
of the fact that on two occasions the machine had moved. One occasion
was the night of April 10, 184-, when the mass of wheels started with a
sudden click, but stopped in three seconds by the clock. The other
occasion was daybreak, December 30, 185-, when the works began to move
of their own accord, and did not stop for six seconds. This record had
evidently been made by the inventor for his private reference, and
concealed in the brass drum for safe keeping.

Tiffles read with bated breath; and Marcus listened in astonishment.

"What do you think of it?" asked Marcus.

"I think," replied Tiffles, "with every respect for the memory of the
inventor, that he was insane. Perpetual motion, without an exhaustive
power--or, in other words, the eternal motion of a thing by its own
inherent properties--is a simple impossibility. To cite familiar
illustrations of its absurdity, you might as well try to lift yourself
by the straps of your boots, or pour a quart into a pint pot. I wasted
six months on perpetual motion when I was a boy, and gave it up. Every
inventive genius bothers his head with this nonsensical problem, till he
learns that he is a fool. Of course, I say this with every possible
regard for your deceased friend. He was insane on this point--_quoad
hoc_, as the lawyers have it--without question, or he would not have
thrown away twenty years on it;--or twenty-three years, I should say,
since the paper is dated, you observe, three years ago."

"But Mr. Minford says, in that document, that the machine moved twice.
He could have no object in deceiving himself."

"You are wrong there, my friend. Inventors are continually deceiving
themselves. Their judgment, their very eyesight becomes worthless in
respect to subjects upon which they have labored long and hoped
ardently. This machine has evidently been greatly altered from the
original plan in the progress of its construction. You observe that
these weights do not appear on the diagrams. They were an
afterthought--recently put on, I should judge, from the appearance of
the cords which hold them. Anybody can see, as I said before, that the
weights would move the works spasmodically, so to speak. But this motion
cannot be what he alludes to as having taken place on two occasions. Of
course, I can't explain what caused the motion on those occasions--if it
were a real motion, and not a fantasy of the inventor's brain--but I'll
bet my life that any intelligent mechanic could have fully explained it
to Mr. Minford at the time. But, mark you, Mr. Minford would never have
accepted the explanation. Inventors never take advice."

"So then you are satisfied that this machine is of no value--to Miss
Minford--except for old brass?"

"Oh! I don't say that. Mr. Minford, aside from this absurd crotchet, may
have possessed real mechanical genius. Let me see if some part of it may
not be good for something besides perpetual motion."

Wesley Tiffles peered down among the brazen and steel complexities
again. "Sure enough, here it is," said he; "a splendid window fastener."

"I don't see any window fastener," exclaimed Marcus, looking in the
direction of his friend's forefinger.

"There--that cam with a small spring and lever attached. Strength and
simplicity combined. I have studied the subject of window fasteners--in
fact, have invented three or four, which possessed the extraordinary
property of never letting the window up or down when you wanted to move
it. I recognize, in this window fastener, my ideal. Marcus, you must
patent it for Miss Minford. It will be a sure fortune to her. I'll make
the drawings and specifications."

Marcus, sadly happy in the thought of rendering any service to that
young lady, readily chimed in with Tiffles's views, and said that the
patent should be obtained as soon as might be.

It was then agreed that Tiffles should call on Mrs. Crull, on the
following day, and inform Miss Minford of the important discoveries
which had been made by him--not mentioning the name of Marcus
Wilkeson--and should also offer to remove and dispose of the neglected
furniture, as the young lady might think best.

As this conclusion was arrived at, the door opened suddenly. The old
lady, being apprehensive, from the long stay of the two visitors, that
they were ransacking the rooms and hiding portable articles about their
persons, had overcome her superstitious antipathy, and opened the door
quickly, so that she might catch them in the act. But they were only
standing in the middle of the room, earnestly talking to each other.

The old lady muttered an inaudible apology; and the two friends hastened
to take their departure.



CHAPTER III.

OVERTOP FINDS A SENSIBLE WOMAN.

Next morning, Mr. Wesley Tiffles, after an inexpensive breakfast at a
cheap restaurant in Chatham street, set out on his mission of goodness.
He was reduced to his last dollar, but felt opulent in the possession of
his diamond breastpin--that tower of moral strength to the borrower. He
whistled as he walked, and thought what would be the best name for the
new patent window fastener of the future. "Union," "American,"
"Columbian," "Peoples'," "Washington," "Ne Plus Ultra," and a score
more, were turned over and rejected. Finally he settled upon the
"Cosmopolitan Window Fastener," meaning that its destined field of
usefulness was the whole civilized globe. Patents for it could be and
should be obtained in England, France, Germany, Russia, and Spain.

While Wesley Tiffles was taking this rosy view of the "Cosmopolitan
Window Fastener," he stumbled upon Fayette Overtop, Esq., who was
walking briskly toward his office, and thinking over a hard case in
which his services had been secured the day before.

The firm of Overtop & Maltboy had recently come into a small but paying
business, in this way: The release of Marcus Wilkeson was generally
supposed to have been effected, not by his innocence, but by the skilful
and professional, but unprincipled efforts of his legal advisers. Their
name was not unfavorably known among the thieves and murderers of the
city; and several individuals belonging to those classes of society
resolved to employ them when they got into their next little difficulty.
And, since the inquest, another thing had greatly contributed to the
prosperity of the firm. We allude to the case of Slapman _vs_. Slapman.

This was an action for divorce, with alimony, brought by Mrs. Grazella
Jigbee Slapman against her husband, Ferdinand P. Slapman. The ground
upon which the separation was sought, was the continual brutality of Mr.
Slapman toward his wife.

It was the law and the custom, in cases where both parties to the action
were agreed to that arrangement, to turn over this species of litigation
to a referee, who took the testimony in private, heard arguments of
counsel, and rendered a decision subject to the confirmation of the
Supreme Court. The Court had issued a standing order prohibiting all
persons from publishing (except with the consent of the parties to the
action) any further reports of the cases than a simple announcement of
the decree, as confirmed by the Court, for or against a divorce. This
order was put forth to protect the public from the contaminating example
of matrimonial infelicities; though we are not aware that the number of
divorce cases has materially decreased, or the standard of public
morality been greatly elevated in consequence thereof.

The case of Slapman _vs_. Slapman was on trial before a referee, by
mutual agreement of the parties. The newspapers did not report it; but
some of them kept hinting at it in an appetizing way. The gentleman
whose "gallantry, &c.," was the "remote cause of the action," was
described as "a rising young lawyer, who distinguished himself in a
recent inquest before Coroner ----, the thrilling particulars of which
are still fresh in the minds of our readers;" or as a "young ornament of
the legal profession, whose office was not a hundred miles from the
corner of Broadway and ---- street" (the precise location of his
office). One paper went so far as to say, that the "triumph which this
disciple of Coke had achieved in the late _cause celebre_, was only to
be equalled by his invariable success in affairs of the heart, &c., &c."

All this caused Fayette Overtop's name to be known by thousands of
people. Persons who were seeking divorces, reasoned, strangely enough,
that a man whose "gallantry, &c.," was the cause of a divorce, could
materially assist them in severing the matrimonial bonds. Therefore they
began to flock to him. He already had five female and two male clients
of this description.

When Tiffles stumbled against Fayette Overtop, he at once invited his
friend to go with him to Mrs. Crull's. His legal knowledge (of which
Tiffles, in common with the public, was beginning to have a high
opinion) might be of some service. Overtop had been told by Marcus
Wilkeson of the previous day's transactions, and of Wesley Tiffles's
intended visit to Miss Minford; and he at once consented to
accompany him.

On their way to Mrs. Crull's--whose residence had been ascertained from
the Directory--they passed Miss Pillbody's select school. Tiffles
suggested that it would be well to call on that young lady, and pick up
some intelligence of Miss Minford. She might still be receiving lessons
from Miss Pillbody; and might, possibly, be in the house at that moment.
Overtop also thought it would not be a bad idea to call there. He had
heard much from Marcus Wilkeson in praise of Miss Pillbody, especially
of her sensible qualities. Being still in the active pursuit of a
sensible woman, he was moved with a real curiosity to see her.

The servant showed the two callers to the speckless little front parlor;
and, a minute afterward, Miss Pillbody, looking fresh and neat, her
narrow collar white and smooth, and every hair of her heavy brown
tresses in its place, made her appearance.

Miss Pillbody entered the room in that noiseless, sliding way, which
indicates a constitutional diffidence. Her eyelids involuntarily
contracted, so that she might see her callers on a near approach to
them. Fayette Overtop, marking her modest demeanor and her
short-sightedness, immediately announced his name and that of his
companion, and the object of their visit.

At the mention of his name, Miss Pillbody started. She had heard of
Fayette Overtop, Esq., through the newspapers, as counsel for Marcus
Wilkeson; but not as the philosophic friend of Mrs. Slapman. In reply to
questions about Miss Minford, she stated that that interesting young
pupil had not taken lessons from her since the death of her father.

Miss Pillbody here indulged in a little artifice. She produced a
memorandum book, to see when Miss Minford took her last lesson; and, in
order that she might read distinctly, drew out her eyeglasses, and
adjusted them with a graceful movement of the arm and hand. Overtop
thought that she handled the eyeglasses in a most ladylike manner; and
that, when they were astride of her shapely nose, they became her face
wonderfully.

When Miss Pillbody had referred to the little memorandum book, she gave
one short look at Fayette Overtop. That gentleman, conscious that his
face was scrutinized, looked at the wall. Miss Pillbody stole but one
glance, and then shut the eyeglasses prettily, and stuck them into an
invisible pocket of her waist. She had come to the conclusion that Mr.
Overtop was a person of dignified and intelligent appearance. And Mr.
Overtop had settled into the opinion that Miss Pillbody was a near
approach to that imagined paragon--a sensible woman.

Mr. Overtop was about to make a shrewd remark upon the great superiority
of private select schools over all public institutions for the education
of young ladies, when Miss Pillbody rose.

"Do you desire any other information, gentlemen?" said she.

"No, I thank you, Miss Pillbody," returned Overtop, who interpreted her
question to mean that a pupil was waiting for her somewhere--which was
true; for Mrs. Gipscon, a fat lady of forty-eight, was taking her
second grammar lesson in the back parlor.

The two callers seized their hats.

"Could I intrust you with a message for Miss Minford, Mr. Overtop?"

"With a thousand," said that gallant man.

"Please, then, give my love to her, and ask her to come round and see
me."

Mr. Overtop would have said that he always found it difficult to carry a
lady's love to another without keeping some himself; but then he thought
that this might be a little bold for a stray caller. So he answered,
"With pleasure."

The two visitors bowed, and Miss Pillbody bent her head gracefully
toward Mr. Overtop.

"What do you think of the schoolmarm?" asked Tiffles, when they had got
into the street.

Overtop did not like the phrase "schoolmarm." "I think Miss Pillbody,"
said he, "is--a sensible woman."



CHAPTER IV.

INNOCENCE ON A SLIPPERY ROAD.

Walking with the nervous and unreasonable quickness of city men, they
soon arrived at Mrs. Grail's. The good lady was sitting at one of her
front windows, sewing. As she looked into the street, her face was seen
to have a sad and thoughtful expression. She came to the door in
response to a sharp ring by Wesley Tiffles, who was tentative of
bellpulls. Mrs. Crull kept two servants, but she could never get over
the impulse to answer the door, when she was near it.

Overtop explained that they were desirous of seeing Miss Minford on
important business.

"The poor, dear child!" exclaimed Mrs. Crull, in a broken voice. "She is
not here."

"Not here!" cried Overtop. "Where is she, then?"

"I don't know, sir; and that's what troubles me so." Here the good Mrs.
Crull began to twitch about the mouth. But she did not cry. She had too
much of the masculine element for that. Her whole life was a struggle
between the weakness of her feminine body and the strong self-control of
her manly soul, in which the latter, after an effort, always came
out victor.

Mrs. Crull then proceeded to explain, a little incoherently, that she
had taken Miss Minford to her house, the day after the murder, and had
asked the poor child to live with her, to be her adopted daughter. Miss
Minford had gladly accepted the offer, and had stayed there until
yesterday. During the last two or three days, she had noticed that Miss
Minford, or Pet, as she always called her, was worried about something.
She would not tell Mrs. Crull what was the matter, but Mrs. Crull
somehow guessed that it was a love affair. She remembered the handsome,
dissipated young man at the inquest, and she had seen him standing at
the corner below her house, only two days before Miss Minford left.

"Left!" exclaimed Overtop, jumping at a conclusion. "Then that villain
has abducted and ruined her."

"It's bad enough, I fear," continued Mrs. Crull; "but perhaps not so bad
as that 'ere. Anyhow, I hopes not. I spoke to Pet about that young man,
and she looked as innocent as a spring lamb at me, though she kind o'
blushed when she denied having met him since the trial. And, to do her
justice, I don't think she had met him then, though I sort o' suspeck
she seen him from the window two or three times--she had a habit of
looking out o' the window--and that he contrived to have a talk with her
somewhere and somehow, the day before she went away. And I think he must
have had the cheek to come into this very room" (Mrs. Crull had shown
her visitors into her front parlor), "because one o' my servants says
that she heerd a strange voice in the entry, and the door shut as if
somebody had gone out. When she come into the entry to see who it was,
she saw Pet hurrying into the parlor, and heerd her humming a tune. Pet
wasn't in the habit of humming tunes; and, the servant thought that
rather 'spicious. So do I--not of any wrong, mind you. I wouldn't
believe that till it was proved. But, to make a long story short, here
is the note that poor Pet left on my dressin' table. Read it. I--I
haven't got my spectacles."

The truth was, that Mrs. Crull's eyes were filling with tears, and she
could not have read the now familiar lines on that little piece of paper
even with the powerful aid of her spectacles.

     Monday Evening.

     DEAR MRS. CRULL:

     Please pardon me for what I have done. I knew you would not
     consent to it, and so I did not tell you. I was afraid I
     should become a burden to you; though you are too
     good-hearted to say so. I have a nice place, and am earning
     my own living honestly. Do not try to find me, but believe I
     will always be good, and worthy of your love, and, some day,
     will repay you for all your kindness.

     With love and respect,

     PATTY MINFORD.

"A very strange note!" murmured Overtop. "Young girls are not apt to
complain of being burdens, or to take such misanthropic views of life.
There is a man's hand in this. That wretch, Van Quintem, jr., without a
doubt. Did you never warn Miss Minford against him?"

"Once," said Mrs. Crull, with a faint choke in her voice. "I had noticed
his glances toward her at the inquest, and I told her he was a bad young
man, and she must not allow him to speak to her in the street, and that,
if he should come to my house to see her, I should shut the door in
his face."

"And what did she say to that?"

"She said all she knew about him was, that he had saved her life once.
She couldn't forget that. Then I showed her how improper it was in him
to hide his own name from her, and what horrid holes these gambling
dens was which he goes to. I also p'inted out how unfeelin' his conduct
was to his poor old father."

"And what did she say to all that?"

"She nodded her head, and said, 'Yes, so it was;' but I see, now, that
all my talk didn't make no impression on her."

"The sum of it is," said Overtop, "that she loves this worthless
vagabond, and knew that you would not permit his visits to your house.
Therefore she has left you."

Mrs. Crull was a woman of firmness as well as affection. She regretted
that her opposition to this young man should have been the means of
driving Pet away. But she knew that she had done what any prudent mother
would have done for her own child.

"I'm sorry it has come to this," said she; "but I did it all for the
best, Heaven knows. Gen'lemen, we must find this child. But how?"

Tiffles, being a man of infinite expedients, and accustomed to solve
problems for himself, and everybody else, at the shortest notice,
answered at once:

"_Not_ by advertising for her, or putting the police on her track. Young
Van Quintem would take the alarm, and move her out of town. She will go
anywhere with him, if I mistake not, until she finds him out better.
Have you no clue to her whereabouts; or can you think of any one that
could give us any information?"

Mrs. Crull reflected. "Unless I am much mistaken," said she, "I saw that
tall, clean-looking boy, Bog, I believe they call him--you remember him
at the inquest--walking on t'other side o' the street, two or three
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
Pet's, too."

"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.



CHAPTER V.

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
as follows:

     MR. VAN QUINTEM:

     DEAR SIR: Come to me at once, for I am in trouble.

     PET.

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
admission.

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
great eyes.

"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
politely added.

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
two.

"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 _viséd_ without hesitation by the diplomatic
attendant.

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."
Bog winked.

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
wanted."

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.



CHAPTER VI.

TRACKED.

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
native dress.

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
personage.

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
goes, now."

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
scoundrel."

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
of business.

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
the street.



CHAPTER VII.

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
eccentricities.

"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
intruders.

"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
clear backout.

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
own reward.

"You see, now, my darling," continued Mrs. Crull, "what a scoundrel you
have escaped from. Will you be my adopted child forever? Speak, my
precious!"

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
about her."

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.]



BOOK TWELFTH,

SPECULATIONS--PECUNIARY AND MATRIMONIAL.



CHAPTER I.

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)
exertions.

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 coöperative 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
evening school.

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
the Company.

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
the States.

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.



CHAPTER II.

MIDDLE-AGED CUPID.

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
all reserve.

"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
her fan.

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
her.

"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
see--ahem!"

"Heard a scream--thought it was here--no intention to intrude," added
Overtop.

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
hard epithets.

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.



CHAPTER III.

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
revered patroness?

"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 _soirée_. 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,
fell harmless.

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
liberal alimony."

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 soirée 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
joint benefit.



CHAPTER IV.

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
happiness.

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:

     New York,--.

     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
gentle pressure.

"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
to Chitty.



CHAPTER V.

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
distance beyond.

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
impulsive ardor.

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
room.

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
piazza railing?"

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,
playfully.

"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
than I."

"I am indeed fortunate. In the first place, then this man Frump is
really--dead?"

The carpenter pulled his rough hat farther over his forehead, and
replied:

"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
carpenter.

"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
common report."

"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
excitement.

"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
for him?"

"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
carpenter:

"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."



CHAPTER VI.

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
laugh at.

"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
notes.

"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
hold her."

"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
a dream?"

"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
change that."

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,
good-naturedly.

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
said it."

"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
Van Quintem.

"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
things.'"



BOOK THIRTEENTH

THE STRANGE LADY.



CHAPTER I.

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
Marcus Wilkeson.

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
mortal dislike.

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
hacking cough.

"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
hollow.

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!"



CHAPTER II.

POSSIBLE LOVE.

"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
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
her friend.

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
last time."

The carriage was driven slowly away.

The poor woman's word's were true; and Marcus never saw her more.



CHAPTER III

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
her notice.

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
avuncular affection.

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
the proofs."

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
Marcus.

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
adopted child.

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!



BOOK FOURTEENTH.

HAPPY DAYS.



CHAPTER I.

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
dissimilarity.

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,
looking upward.

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
to-morrer."

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
the wedding.

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.



CHAPTER II.

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
looked pale.

"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
lady."

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
better now,

"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
everything."

"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
her tears.

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.



CHAPTER III.

LOVE CROWNED.

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
ushered in.

The anticipated awkwardness of an introduction to old Van Quintem, was
prevented by the approach of that gentleman before his name was
announced.

"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
been answered.

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
disappointed.

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
photographer's plate.

       *       *       *       *       *

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
without seats.

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 room.

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
possible delay.

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
congratulations commenced.

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,
old-fashioned house.

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?"

"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?"

"Thank you."

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
gymnastics.

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.



CHAPTER IV.

FIVE YEARS.

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
the block.

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
as ever.

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
marry again.

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.





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