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Title: A Rivermouth Romance
Author: Aldrich, Thomas Bailey
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Rivermouth Romance" ***


By Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Boston And New York Houghton Mifflin Company

Copyright, 1873, 1885, and 1901


At five o’clock on the morning of the tenth of July, 1860, the front
door of a certain house on Anchor Street, in the ancient seaport town
of Rivermouth, might have been observed to open with great caution. This
door, as the least imaginative reader may easily conjecture, did not
open itself. It was opened by Miss Margaret Callaghan, who immediately
closed it softly behind her, paused for a few seconds with an
embarrassed air on the stone step, and then, throwing a furtive glance
up at the second-story windows, passed hastily down the street towards
the river, keeping close to the fences and garden walls on her left.

There was a ghost-like stealthiness to Miss Margaret’s movements, though
there was nothing whatever of the ghost about Miss Margaret herself. She
was a plump, short person, no longer young, with coal-black hair growing
low on the forehead, and a round face that would have been nearly
meaningless if the features had not been emphasized--italicized, so to
speak--by the small-pox. Moreover, the brilliancy of her toilet would
have rendered any ghostly hypothesis untenable. Mrs. Solomon (we refer
to the dressiest Mrs. Solomon, whichever one that was) in all her glory
was not arrayed like Miss Margaret on that eventful summer morning. She
wore a light-green, shot-silk frock, a blazing red shawl, and a yellow
crape bonnet profusely decorated with azure, orange, and magenta
artificial flowers. In her hand she carried a white parasol. The newly
risen sun, ricocheting from the bosom of the river and striking point
blank on the top-knot of Miss Margaret’s gorgeousness, made her an
imposing spectacle in the quiet street of that Puritan village. But, in
spite of the bravery of her apparel, she stole guiltily along by garden
walls and fences until she reached a small, dingy frame-house near
the wharves, in the darkened doorway of which she quenched her burning
splendor, if so bold a figure is permissible.

Three quarters of an hour passed. The sunshine moved slowly up Anchor
Street, fingered noiselessly the well-kept brass knockers on either
side, and drained the heeltaps of dew which had been left from the
revels of the fairies overnight in the cups of the morning-glories.
Not a soul was stirring yet in this part of the town, though the
Rivermouthians are such early birds that not a worm may be said to
escape them. By and by one of the brown Holland shades at one of the
upper windows of the Bilkins mansion--the house from which Miss Margaret
had emerged--was drawn up, and old Mr. Bilkins in spiral nightcap looked
out on the sunny street. Not a living creature was to be seen, save the
dissipated family cat--a very Lovelace of a cat that was not allowed a
night-key--who was sitting on the curbstone opposite, waiting for
the hall door to be opened. Three quarters of an hour, we repeat, had
passed, when Mrs. Margaret O’Rourke, _née_ Callaghan, issued from the
small, dingy house by the river, and regained the door-step of the
Bilkins mansion in the same stealthy fashion in which she had left it.

Not to prolong a mystery that must already oppress the reader, Mr.
Bilkins’s cook had, after the manner of her kind, stolen out of
the premises before the family were up, and got herself
married--surreptitiously and artfully married, as if matrimony were an
indictable offence.

And something of an offence it was in this instance. In the first
place Margaret Callaghan had lived nearly twenty years with the Bilkins
family, and the old people--there were no children now--had rewarded
this long service by taking Margaret into their affections. It was a
piece of subtile ingratitude for her to marry without admitting the
worthy couple to her confidence. In the next place, Margaret had married
a man some eighteen years younger than herself. That was the young man’s
lookout, you say. We hold it was Margaret that was to blame. What does
a young blade of twenty-two know? Not half so much as he thinks he does.
His exhaust-less ignorance at that age is a discovery which is left for
him to make in his prime.

     “Curly gold locks cover foolish brains,
          Billing and cooing is all your cheer;
     Sighing and singing of midnight strains,
     Under Bonnybell’s window panes,--
          Wait till you come to Forty Year!”

In one sense Margaret’s husband _had_ come to forty year--she was forty
to a day.

Mrs. Margaret O’Rourke, with the baddish cat following close at her
heels, entered the Bilkins mansion, reached her chamber in the attic
without being intercepted, and there laid aside her finery. Two or three
times, while arranging her more humble attire, she paused to take a look
at the marriage certificate, which she had deposited between the leaves
of her Prayer-Book, and on each occasion held that potent document
upside down; for Margaret’s literary culture was of the severest order,
and excluded the art of reading.

The breakfast was late that morning. As Mrs. O’Rourke set the coffee-urn
in front of Mrs. Bilkins and flanked Mr. Bilkins with the broiled
mackerel and buttered toast, Mrs. O’Rourke’s conscience smote her.
She afterwards declared that when she saw the two sitting there so
innocent-like, not dreaming of the _comether_ she had put upon them,
she secretly and unbeknownst let a few tears fall into the cream-pitcher.
Whether or not it was this material expression of Margaret’s penitence
that spoiled the coffee does not admit of inquiry; but the coffee was
bad. In fact, the whole breakfast was a comedy of errors.

It was a blessed relief to Margaret when the meal was ended. She retired
in a cold perspiration to the penetralia of the kitchen, and it was
remarked by both Mr. and Mrs. Bilkins that those short flights of
vocalism--apropos of the personal charms of one Kate Kearney who lived
on the banks of Killarney--which ordinarily issued from the direction of
the scullery were unheard that forenoon.

The town clock was striking eleven, and the antiquated timepiece on the
staircase (which never spoke but it dropped pearls and crystals, like
the fairy in the story) was lisping the hour, when there came three
tremendous knocks at the street door. Mrs. Bilkins, who was dusting
the brass-mounted chronometer in the hall, stood transfixed, with
arm uplifted. The admirable old lady had for years been carrying on
a guerilla warfare with itinerant venders of furniture polish, and
pain-killer, and crockery cement, and the like. The effrontery of the
triple knock convinced her the enemy was at her gates--possibly that
dissolute creature with twenty-four sheets of note-paper and twenty-four
envelopes for fifteen cents.

Mrs. Bilkins swept across the hall, and opened the door with a jerk. The
suddenness of the movement was apparently not anticipated by the
person outside, who, with one arm stretched feebly towards the receding
knocker, tilted gently forward, and rested both hands on the threshold
in an attitude which was probably common enough with our ancestors of
the Simian period, but could never have been considered graceful. By
an effort that testified to the excellent condition of his muscles, the
person instantly righted himself, and stood swaying unsteadily on his
toes and heels, and smiling rather vaguely on Mrs. Bilkins.

It was a slightly-built but well-knitted young fellow, in the not
unpicturesque garb of our marine service. His woollen cap, pitched
forward at an acute angle with his nose, showed the back part of a head
thatched with short yellow hair, which had broken into innumerable
curls of painful tightness. On his ruddy cheeks a sparse sandy beard was
making a timid _début_. Add to this a weak, good-natured mouth, a pair
of devil-may-care blue eyes, and the fact that the man was very drunk,
and you have a pre-Raphaelite portrait--we may as well say it at
once--of Mr. Larry O’Rourke of Mullingar, County Westmeath, and late of
the United States sloop-of-war Santee.

The man was a total stranger to Mrs. Bilkins; but the instant she caught
sight of the double white anchors embroidered on the lapels of his
jacket, she unhesitatingly threw back the door, which with great
presence of mind she had partly closed.

A drunken sailor standing on the step of the Bilkins mansion was no
novelty. The street, as we have stated, led down to the wharves, and
sailors were constantly passing. The house abutted directly on the
street; the granite door-step was almost flush with the sidewalk, and
the huge old-fashioned brass knocker--seemingly a brazen hand that had
been cut off at the wrist, and nailed against the oak as a warning to
malefactors--extended itself in a kind of grim appeal to everybody. It
seemed to possess strange fascinations for all seafaring folk; and when
there was a man-of-war in port the rat-tat-tat of that knocker would
frequently startle the quiet neighborhood long after midnight. There
appeared to be an occult understanding between it and the blue-jackets.
Years ago there was a young Bilkins, one Pendexter Bilkins--a sad losel,
we fear--who ran away to try his fortunes before the mast, and fell
overboard in a gale off Hatteras. “Lost at sea,” says the chubby marble
slab in the Old South Burying-Ground, “ætat 18.” Perhaps that is why
no blue-jacket, sober or drunk, was ever repulsed from the door of the
Bilkins mansion.

Of course Mrs. Bilkins had her taste in the matter, and preferred them
sober. But as this could not always be, she tempered her wind, so to
speak, to the shorn lamb. The flushed, prematurely old face that now
looked up at her moved the good lady’s pity.

“What do you want?” she asked kindly.

“Me wife.”

“There ‘s no wife for you here,” said Mrs. Bilkins, somewhat taken
aback. “His wife!” she thought; “it’s a mother the poor boy stands in
need of.”

“Me wife,” repeated Mr. O’Rourke, “for betther or for worse.”

“You had better go away,” said Mrs. Bilkins, bridling up, “or it will be
the worse for you.”

“To have and to howld,” continued Mr. O’Rourke, wandering
retrospectively in the mazes of the marriage service, “to have and to
howld, till death--bad luck to him!--takes one or the ither of us.”

“You ‘re a blasphemous creature,” said Mrs. Bilkins, severely.

“Thim ‘s the words his riverince spake this mornin’, standin’ foreninst
us,” explained Mr. O’Rourke. “I stood here, see, and me jew’l stood
there, and the howly chaplain beyont.”

And Mr. O’Rourke with a wavering forefinger drew a diagram of the
interesting situation on the door-step.

“Well,” returned Mrs. Bilkins, “if you ‘re a married man, all I have to
say is, there’s a pair of fools instead of one. You had better be off;
the person you want does n’t live here.”

“Bedad, thin, but she does.”

“Lives here?”

“Sorra a place else.”

“The man’s crazy,” said Mrs. Bilkins to herself.

While she thought him simply drunk she was not in the least afraid; but
the idea that she was conversing with a madman sent a chill over her.
She reached back her hand preparatory to shutting the door, when
Mr. O’Rourke, with an agility that might have been expected from his
previous gymnastics, set one foot on the threshold and frustrated the

“I want me wife,” he said sternly.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bilkins had gone up town, and there was no one in the
house except Margaret, whose pluck was not to be depended on. The case
was urgent. With the energy of despair Mrs. Bilkins suddenly placed
the toe of her boot against Mr. O’Rourke’s invading foot, and pushed it
away. The effect of this attack was to cause Mr. O’Rourke to describe a
complete circle on one leg, and then sit down heavily on the threshold.
The lady retreated to the hat-stand, and rested her hand mechanically
on the handle of a blue cotton umbrella. Mr. O’Rourke partly turned his
head and smiled upon her with conscious superiority. At this juncture a
third actor appeared on the scene, evidently a friend of Mr. O’Rourke,
for he addressed that gentleman as “a spalpeen,” and told him to go

“Divil an inch,” replied the spalpeen; but he got himself off the
threshold, and returned his position on the step.

“It’s only Larry, mum,” said the man, touching his forelock politely;
“as dacent a lad as iver lived, when he ‘s not in liquor; an’ I ‘ve
known him to be sober for days to-gither,” he added, reflectively. “He
don’t mane a ha’p’orth o’ harum, but jist now he’s not quite in his
right moind.”

“I should think not,” said Mrs. Bilkins, turning from the speaker to
Mr. O’Rourke, who had seated himself gravely on the scraper, and was
weeping. “Hasn’t the man any friends?”

“Too many of ‘em, mum, an’ it’s along wid dhrinkin’ toasts wid ‘em that
Larry got throwed. The punch that spalpeen has dhrunk this day would
amaze ye. He give us the slip awhiles ago, bad ‘cess to him, an’ come
up here. Did n’t I tell ye, Larry, not to be afther ringin’ at the owld
gintleman’s knocker? Ain’t ye got no sinse at all?”

“Misther Donnehugh,” responded Mr. O’Rourke with great dignity, “ye ‘re
dhrunk agin.”

Mr. Donnehugh, who had not taken more than thirteen ladles of rum-punch,
disdained to reply directly.

“He’s a dacent lad enough”--this to Mrs. Bilkins--“but his head is wake.
Whin he’s had two sups o’ whiskey he belaves he’s dhrunk a bar’l full.
A gill o’ wather out of a jimmy-john ‘d fuddle him, mum.”

“Is n’t there anybody to look after him?”

“No, mum, he’s an orphan; his father and mother live in the owld
counthry, an’ a fine hale owld couple they are.”

“Has n’t he any family in the town”--

“Sure, mum, he has a family; was n’t he married this blessed mornin’?”

“He said so.”

“Indade, thin, he was--the pore divil!”

“And the--the person?” inquired Mrs. Bilkins.

“Is it the wife, ye mane?”

“Yes, the wife: where is she?”

“Well, thin, mum,” said Mr. Donnehugh, “it’s yerself can answer that.”

“I?” exclaimed Mrs. Bilkins. “Good heavens! this man’s as crazy as the

“Begorra, if anybody’s crazy, it’s Larry, for it’s Larry has married

“What Margaret?” cried Mrs. Bilkins, with a start.

“Margaret Callaghan, sure.”

“_Our_ Margaret? Do you mean to say that OUR Margaret has married
that--that good-for-nothing, inebriated wretch!”

“It’s a civil tongue the owld lady has, any way,” remarked Mr. O’Rourke,
critically, from the scraper.

Mrs. Bilkins’s voice during the latter part of the colloquy had been
pitched in a high key; it rung through the hall and penetrated to the
kitchen, where Margaret was thoughtfully wiping the breakfast things.
She paused with a half-dried saucer in her hand, and listened. In a
moment more she stood, with bloodless face and limp figure, leaning
against the banister, behind Mrs. Bilkins.

“Is it there ye are, me jew’l!” cried Mr. O’Rourke, discovering her.

Mrs. Bilkins wheeled upon Margaret.

“Margaret Callaghan, _is_ that thing your husband?”

“Ye-yes, mum,” faltered Mrs. O’Rourke, with a woful lack of spirit.

“Then take it away!” cried Mrs. Bilkins.

Margaret, with a slight flush on either cheek, glided past Mrs. Bilkins,
and the heavy oak door closed with a bang, as the gates of Paradise must
have closed of old upon Adam and Eve.

“Come!” said Margaret, taking Mr. O’Rourke by the hand; and the two
wandered forth upon their wedding journey down Anchor Street, with all
the world before them where to choose. They chose to halt at the small,
shabby tenement-house by the river, through the doorway of which
the bridal pair disappeared with a reeling, eccentric gait; for
Mr. O’Rourke’s intoxication seemed to have run down his elbow, and
communicated itself to Margaret. O Hymen! who burnest precious gums and
scented woods in thy torch at the melting of aristocratic hearts, with
what a pitiful penny-dip thou hast lighted up our little back-street


It had been no part of Margaret’s plan to acknowledge the marriage so
soon. Though on pleasure bent, she had a frugal mind. She had invested
in a husband with a view of laying him away for a rainy day--that is to
say, for such time as her master and mistress should cease to need her
services; for she had promised on more than one occasion to remain with
the old people as long as they lived. Indeed, if Mr. O’Rourke had come
to her and said in so many words, “The day you marry me you must leave
the Bilkins family,” there is very little doubt but Margaret would
have let that young sea-monster slip back unmated, so far as she was
concerned, into his native element. The contingency never entered into
her calculations. She intended that the ship which had brought Ulysses
to her island should take him off again after a decent interval of
honeymoon; then she would confess all to Mrs. Bilkins, and be forgiven,
and Mr. Bilkins would not cancel that clause supposed to exist in his
will bequeathing two first-mortgage bonds of the Squedunk E. B. Co. to a
certain faithful servant. In the mean while she would add each month to
her store in the coffers of the Rivermouth Savings Bank; for Calypso had
a neat sum to her credit on the books of that provident institution.

But this could not be now. The volatile bridegroom had upset the
wisely conceived plan, and “all the fat was in the fire,” as Margaret
philosophically put it. Mr. O’Rourke had been fully instructed in the
part he was to play, and, to do him justice, had honestly intended to
play it; but destiny was against him. It may be observed that destiny
and Mr. O’Rourke were not on very friendly terms.

After the ceremony had been performed and Margaret had stolen back to
the Bilkins mansion, as related, Mr. O’Rourke with his own skilful hands
had brewed a noble punch for the wedding guests. Standing at the head of
the table and stirring the pungent mixture in a small wash-tub purchased
for the occasion, Mr. O’Rourke came out in full flower. His flow of
wit, as he replenished the glasses, was as racy and seemingly as
inexhaustible as the punch itself. When Mrs. McLaughlin held out her
glass, inadvertently upside down, for her sixth ladleful, Mr. O’Rourke
gallantly declared it should be filled if he had to stand on his head
to do it. The elder Miss O’Leary whispered to Mrs. Connally that Mr.
O’Rourke was “a perfic gintleman,” and the men in a body pronounced
him a bit of the raal shamrock. If Mr. O’Rourke was happy in brewing a
punch, he was happier in dispensing it, and happiest of all in drinking
a great deal of it himself. He toasted Mrs. Finnigan, the landlady, and
the late lamented Finnigan, the father, whom he had never seen, and Miss
Biddy Finnigan, the daughter, and a young toddling Finnigan, who was at
large in shockingly scant raiment. He drank to the company individually
and collectively, drank to the absent, drank to a tin-peddler who
chanced to pass the window, and indeed was in that propitiatory mood
when he would have drunk to the health of each separate animal that came
out of the Ark. It was in the midst of the confusion and applause which
followed his song, “The Wearing of the Grane,” that Mr. O’Rourke, the
punch being all gone, withdrew unobserved, and went in quest of Mrs.
O’Rourke--with what success the reader knows.


According to the love-idyl of the period, when Laura and Charles
Henry, after unheard-of obstacles, are finally united, all cares and
tribulations and responsibilities slip from their sleek backs like
Christian’s burden. The idea is a pretty one, theoretically, but, like
some of those models in the Patent Office at Washington, it fails to
work. Charles Henry does not go on sitting at Laura’s feet and reading
Tennyson to her forever: the rent of the cottage by the sea falls due
with prosaic regularity; there are bakers, and butchers, and babies, and
tax-collectors, and doctors, and undertakers, and sometimes gentlemen
of the jury, to be attended to. Wedded life is not one long amatory poem
with recurrent rhymes of love and dove, and kiss and bliss. Yet when
the average sentimental novelist has supplied his hero and heroine with
their bridal outfit and arranged that little matter of the marriage
certificate, he usually turns off the gas, puts up his shutters, and
saunters off with his hands in his pockets, as if the day’s business
were over. But we, who are honest dealers in real life and disdain to
give short weight, know better. The business is by no means over; it is
just begun. It is not Christian throwing off his pack for good and all,
but Christian taking up a load heavier and more difficult than any he
has carried.

If Margaret Callaghan, when she meditated matrimony, indulged in any
roseate dreams, they were quickly put to flight. She suddenly found
herself dispossessed of a quiet, comfortable home, and face to face with
the fact that she had a white elephant on her hands. It is not likely
that Mr. O’Rourke assumed precisely the shape of a white elephant to her
mental vision; but he was as useless and cumbersome and unmanageable as

Margaret and Larry’s wedding tour did not extend beyond Mrs.
Finnigan’s establishment, where they took two or three rooms and set up
housekeeping in a humble way. Margaret, who was a tidy housewife, kept
the floor of her apartments as white as your hand, the tin plates on
the dresser as bright as your lady-love’s eyes, and the cooking-stove as
neat as the machinery on a Sound steamer. When she was not rubbing the
stove with lamp-black she was cooking upon it some savory dish to tempt
the palate of her marine monster. Naturally of a hopeful temperament,
she went about her work singing softly to herself at times, and would
have been very happy that first week if Mr. O’Rourke had known a sober
moment. But Mr. O’Rourke showed an exasperating disposition to keep
up festivities. At the end of ten days, however, he toned down, and
at Margaret’s suggestion that he had better be looking about for some
employment he rigged up a fishing-pole, and set out with an injured air
for the wharf at the foot of the street, where he fished for the rest of
the day. To sit for hours blinking in the sun, waiting for a cunner to
come along and take his hook, was as exhaustive a kind of labor as he
cared to engage in. Though Mr. O’Rourke had recently returned from a
long cruise, he had not a cent to show. During his first three days
ashore he had dissipated his three years’ pay. The housekeeping expenses
began eating a hole in Margaret’s little fund, the existence of which
was no sooner known to Mr. O’Rourke than he stood up his fishing-rod in
one corner of the room, and thenceforth it caught nothing but cobwebs.

“Divil a sthroke o’ work I ‘ll do,” said Mr. O’Rourke, “whin we can live
at aise on our earnin’s. Who ‘d be afther frettin’ hisself, wid money in
the bank? How much is it, Peggy darlint?”

And divil a stroke more of work did he do. He lounged down on the
wharves, and, with his short clay pipe stuck between his lips and his
hands in his pockets, stared off at the sail-boats on the river. He sat
on the door-step of the Finnigan domicile, and plentifully chaffed the
passers-by. Now and then, when he could wheedle some fractional currency
out of Margaret, he spent it like a crown-prince at The Wee Drop around
the corner. With that fine magnetism which draws together birds of a
feather, he shortly drew about him all the ne’er-do-weels of Rivermouth.

It was really wonderful what an unsuspected lot of them there was. From
all the frowzy purlieus of the town they crept forth into the sunlight
to array themselves under the banner of the prince of scallawags. It was
edifying of a summer afternoon to see a dozen of them sitting in a row,
like turtles, on the string-piece of Jedediah Rand’s wharf, with their
twenty-four feet dangling over the water, assisting Mr. O’Rourke in
contemplating the islands in the harbor, and upholding the scenery, as
it were.

The rascal had one accomplishment, he had a heavenly voice--quite in the
rough, to be sure--and he played, on the violin like an angel. He did
not know one note from another, but he played in a sweet natural way,
just as Orpheus must have played, by ear. The drunker he was the
more pathos and humor he wrung from the old violin, his sole piece of
personal property. He had a singular fancy for getting up at two or
three o’clock in the morning, and playing by an open casement, to
the distraction of all the dogs in the immediate neighborhood and
innumerable dogs in the distance.

Unfortunately, Mr. O’Rourke’s freaks were not always of so innocent a
complexion. On one or two occasions, through an excess of animal and
other spirits, he took to breaking windows in the town. Among his
nocturnal feats he accomplished the demolition of the glass in the door
of The Wee Drop. Now, breaking windows in Rivermouth is an amusement
not wholly disconnected with an interior view of the police-station
(bridewell is the local term); so it happened that Mr. O’Rourke woke up
one fine morning and found himself snug and tight in one of the cells in
the rear of the Brick Market. His plea that the bull’s-eye in the glass
door of The Wee Drop winked at him in an insult-in’ manner as he was
passing by did not prevent Justice Hackett from fining the delinquent
ten dollars and costs, which made sad havoc with the poor wife’s bank
account. So Margaret’s married life wore on, and all went merry as a
funeral knell.

After Mrs. Bilkins, with a brow as severe as that of one of the Parcæ,
had closed the door upon the O’Rourkes that summer morning, she sat down
on the stairs, and, sinking the indignant goddess in the woman, burst
into tears. She was still very wroth with Margaret Callaghan, as she
persisted in calling her; very merciless and unforgiving, as the gentler
sex are apt to be--to the gentler sex. Mr. Bilkins, however, after the
first vexation, missed Margaret from the household; missed her singing,
which was in itself as helpful as a second girl; missed her hand in
the preparation of those hundred and one nameless comforts which are
necessities to the old, and wished in his soul that he had her back
again. Who could make a gruel, when he was ill, or cook a steak, when
he was well, like Margaret? So, meeting her one morning at the
fish-market--for Mr. O’Rourke had long since given over the onerous
labor of catching dinners--he spoke to her kindly, and asked her how she
liked the change in her life, and if Mr. O’Rourke was good to her.

“Troth, thin, sur,” said Margaret, with a short, dry laugh, “he ‘s the
divil’s own!”

Margaret was thin and careworn, and her laugh had the mild gayety of
champagne not properly corked. These things were apparent even to Mr.
Bilkins, who was not a shrewd observer.

“I ‘m afraid, Margaret,” he remarked sorrowfully, “that you are not
making both ends meet.”

“Begorra, I ‘d be glad if I could make one ind meet!” returned Margaret.

With a duplicity quite foreign to his nature, Mr. Bilkins gradually drew
from her the true state of affairs. Mr. O’Rourke was a very bad case
indeed; he did nothing towards her support; he was almost constantly
drunk; the little money she had laid by was melting away, and would
not last until winter. Mr. O’Rourke was perpetually coming home with a
sprained ankle, or a bruised shoulder, or a broken head. He had broken
most of the furniture in his festive hours, including the cooking-stove.
“In short,” as Mr. Bilkins said in relating the matter afterwards to
Mrs. Bilkins, “he had broken all those things which he should n’t have
broken, and failed to break the one thing he ought to have broken long
ago--his neck, namely.”

The revelation which startled Mr. Bilkins most was this: in spite
of all, Margaret loved Larry with the whole of her warm Irish heart.
Further than keeping the poor creature up waiting for him until ever
so much o’clock at night, it did not appear that he treated her
with personal cruelty. If he had beaten her, perhaps she would have
worshipped him. It needed only that.

Revolving Margaret’s troubles in his thoughts as he walked homeward, Mr.
Bilkins struck upon a plan by which he could help her. When this plan
was laid before Mrs. Bilkins, she opposed it with a vehemence that
convinced him she had made up her mind to adopt it.

“Never, never will I have that ungrateful woman under this roof!” cried
Mrs. Bilkins; and accordingly the next day Mr. and Mrs. O’Rourke took
up their abode in the Bilkins mansion--Margaret as cook, and Larry as

“I ‘m convanient if the owld gintleman is,” had been Mr. O’Rourke’s
remark, when the proposition was submitted to him. Not that Mr. O’Rourke
had the faintest idea of gardening. He did n’t know a tulip from a
tomato. He was one of those sanguine people who never hesitate to
undertake anything, and are never abashed by their herculean inability.

Mr. Bilkins did not look to Margaret’s husband for any great botanical
knowledge; but he was rather surprised one day when Mr. O’Rourke pointed
to the triangular bed of lilies-of-the-valley, then out of flower, and
remarked, “Thim ‘s a nate lot o’ pur-taties ye ‘ve got there, sur.” Mr.
Bilkins, we repeat, did not expect much from Mr. O’Rourke’s skill in
gardening; his purpose was to reform the fellow if possible, and in any
case to make Margaret’s lot easier.

Reestablished in her old home, Margaret broke into song again, and
Mr. O’Rourke himself promised to do very well; morally, we mean, not
agriculturally. His ignorance of the simplest laws of nature, if nature
has any simple laws, and his dense stupidity on every other subject
were heavy trials to Mr. Bilkins. Happily, Mr. Bilkins was not without
a sense of humor, else he would have found Mr. O’Rourke insupportable.
Just when the old gentleman’s patience was about exhausted, the gardener
would commit some atrocity so perfectly comical that his master all but
loved him for the moment.

“Larry,” said Mr. Bilkins, one breathless afternoon in the middle of
September, “just see how the thermometer on the back porch stands.”

Mr. O’Rourke disappeared, and after a prolonged absence returned with
the monstrous announcement that the thermometer stood at 820!

Mr. Bilkins looked at the man closely. He was unmistakably sober.

“Eight hundred and twenty what?” cried Mr. Bilkins, feeling very warm,
as he naturally would in so high a temperature.

“Eight hundthred an’ twinty degrays, I suppose, sur.”

“Larry, you ‘re an idiot.”

This was obviously not to Mr. O’Rourke’s taste; for he went out and
brought the thermometer, and, pointing triumphantly to the line of
numerals running parallel with the glass tube, exclaimed, “Add ‘em up
yerself, thin!”

Perhaps this would not have been amusing if Mr. Bilkins had not spent
the greater part of the previous forenoon in initiating Mr. O’Rourke
into the mysteries of the thermometer. Nothing could make amusing Mr.
O’Rourke’s method of setting out crocus bulbs. Mr. Bilkins had received
a lot of a very choice variety from Boston, and having a headache that
morning, turned over to Mr. O’Rourke the duty of planting them. Though
he had never seen a bulb in his life, Larry unblushingly asserted that
he had set out thousands for Sir Lucius O’Grady of O’Grady Castle,
“an illegant place intirely, wid tin miles o’ garden-walks,” added
Mr. O’Rourke, crushing Mr. Bilkins, who boasted only of a few humble

The following day he stepped into the garden to see how Larry had done
his work. There stood the parched bulbs, carefully arranged in circles
and squares on top of the soil.

“Did n’t I tell you to set out these bulbs?” cried Mr. Bilkins,

“An’ did n’t I set ‘em out?” expostulated Mr. O’Rourke. “An’ ain’t they
a settin’ there beautiful?”

“But you should have put them into the ground, stupid!”

“Is it bury ‘em, ye mane? Be jabbers! how could they iver git out agin?
Give the little jokers a fair show, Misther Bilkins!”

For two weeks Mr. O’Rourke conducted himself with comparative propriety;
that is to say, be rendered himself useless about the place, appeared
regularly at his meals, and kept sober. Perhaps the hilarious strains
of music which sometimes issued at midnight from the upper window of
the north gable were not just what a quiet, unostentatious family would
desire; but on the whole there was not much to complain of.

The third week witnessed a falling off. Though always promptly on hand
at the serving out of rations, Mr. O’Rourke did not even make a pretence
of working in the garden. He would disappear mysteriously immediately
after breakfast, and reappear with supernatural abruptness at dinner.
Nobody knew what he did with himself in the interval, until one day he
was observed to fall out of an apple-tree near the stable. His retreat
discovered, he took to the wharves and the alleys in the distant part
of the town. It soon became evident that his ways were not the ways of
temperance, and that all his paths led to The Wee Drop.

Of course Margaret tried to keep this from the family. Being a woman,
she coined excuses for him in her heart. It was a dull life for the lad,
any way, and it was worse than him that was leading Larry astray. Hours
and hours after the old people had gone to bed, she would sit without a
light in the lonely kitchen, listening for that shuffling step along the
gravel walk. Night after night she never closed her eyes, and went about
the house the next day with that smooth, impenetrable face behind which
women hide their care.

One morning found Margaret sitting pale and anxious by the kitchen
stove. O’Rourke had not come home at all. Noon came, and night, but
not Larry. Whenever Mrs. Bilkins approached her that day, Margaret was
humming “Kate Kearney” quite merrily. But when her work was done, she
stole out at the back gate and went in search of him. She scoured the
neighborhood like a madwoman. O’Rourke had not been at the ‘Finnigans’.
He had not been at The Wee Drop since Monday, and this was Wednesday
night. Her heart sunk within her when she failed to find him in the
police-station. Some dreadful thing had happened to him. She came back
to the house with one hand pressed wearily against her cheek. The dawn
struggled through the kitchen windows, and fell upon Margaret crouched
by the stove.

She could no longer wear her mask. When Mr. Bilkins came down she
confessed that Larry had taken to drinking again, and had not been home
for two nights.

“Mayhap he ‘s drownded hisself,” suggested Margaret, wringing her hands.

“Not he,” said Mr. Bilkins; “he does n’t like the taste of water well

“Troth, thin, he does n’t,” reflected Margaret, and the reflection
comforted her.

“At any rate, I ‘ll go and look him up after breakfast,” said Mr.
Bilkins. And after breakfast, accordingly, Mr. Bilkins sallied forth
with the depressing expectation of finding Mr. O’Rourke without much
difficulty. “Come to think of it,” said the old gentleman to himself,
drawing on his white cotton gloves as he walked up Anchor Street
“_I_ don’t want to find him.”


But Mr. O’Rourke was not to be found. With amiable cynicism Mr. Bilkins
directed his steps in the first instance to the police-station, quite
confident that a bird of Mr. O’Rourke’s plumage would be brought
to perch in such a cage. But not so much as a feather of him was
discoverable. The Wee Drop was not the only bacchanalian resort in
Rivermouth; there were five or six other low drinking-shops scattered
about town, and through these Mr. Bilkins went conscientiously. He then
explored various blind alleys, known haunts of the missing man, and took
a careful survey of the wharves along the river on his way home. He even
shook the apple-tree near the stable with a vague hope of bringing
down Mr. O’Rourke, but brought down nothing except a few winter
apples, which, being both unripe and unsound, were not perhaps bad
representatives of the object of his search.

That evening a small boy stopped at the door of the Bilking mansion with
a straw hat, at once identified as Mr. O’Rourke’s, which had been found
on Neal’s Wharf. This would have told against another man; but O’Rourke
was always leaving his hat on a wharf. Margaret’s distress is not to
be pictured. She fell back upon and clung to the idea that Larry had
drowned himself, not intentionally, may be; possibly he had fallen
overboard while intoxicated.

The late Mr. Buckle has informed us that death by drowning is regulated
by laws as inviolable and beautiful as those of the solar system; that
a certain percentage of the earth’s population is bound to drown itself
annually, whether it wants to or not. It may be presumed, then, that
Rivermouth’s proper quota of dead bodies was washed ashore during the
ensuing two months. There had been gales off the coast and pleasure
parties on the river, and between them they had managed to do a ghastly
business. But Mr. O’Rourke failed to appear among the flotsam and jetsam
which the receding tides left tangled in the piles of the River-mouth
wharves. This convinced Margaret that Larry had proved a too tempting
morsel to some buccaneering shark, or had fallen a victim to one of
those immense schools of fish which seem to have a yearly appointment
with the fishermen on this coast. From that day Margaret never saw a cod
or a mackerel brought into the house without an involuntary shudder. She
averted her head in making up the fish-balls, as if she half dreaded to
detect a faint aroma of whiskey about them. And, indeed, why might not a
man fall into the sea, be eaten, say, by a halibut, and reappear on the
scene of his earthly triumphs and defeats in the noncommittal form of
hashed fish?

     “Imperial Cæsar, dead and turned to clay,
     Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.”

But, perhaps, as the conservative Horatio suggests, ‘t were to consider
too curiously to consider so.

Mr. Bilkins had come to adopt Margaret’s explanation of O’Rourke’s
disappearance. He was undoubtedly drowned; had most likely drowned
himself. The hat picked up on the wharf was strong circumstantial
evidence in that direction. But one feature of the case staggered Mr.
Bilkins. O’Rourke’s violin had also disappeared. Now, it required no
great effort to imagine a man throwing himself overboard under the
influence of _mania à potu_; but it was difficult to conceive of a man
committing violinicide! If the fellow went to drown himself, why did he
take his fiddle with him? He might as well have taken an umbrella or
a German student-lamp. This question troubled Mr. Bilkins a good deal
first and last. But one thing was indisputable: the man was gone--and
had evidently gone by water.

It was now that Margaret invested her husband with charms of mind and
person not calculated to make him recognizable by any one who had ever
had the privilege of knowing him in the faulty flesh. She eliminated all
his bad qualities, and projected from her imagination a Mr. O’Rourke as
he ought to have been--a species of seraphic being mixed up in some way
with a violin; and to this ideal she erected a costly headstone in
the suburban cemetery. “It would be a proud day for Larry,” observed
Margaret contemplatively, “if he could rest his oi on the illegant
monumint I ‘ve put up to him.” If Mr. O’Rourke could have read the
inscription on it, he would never have suspected his own complicity in
the matter.

But there the marble stood, sacred to his memory; and soon the snow came
down from the gray sky and covered it, and the invisible snow of weeks
and months drifted down on Margaret’s heart, and filled up its fissures,
and smoothed off the sharp angles of its grief; and there was peace upon

Not but she sorrowed for Larry at times. Yet life had a relish to it
again; she was free, though she did not look at it in that light; she
was happier in a quiet fashion than she had ever been, though she would
not have acknowledged it to herself. She wondered that she had the heart
to laugh when the ice-man made love to her. Perhaps she was conscious of
something comically incongruous in the warmth of a gentleman who spent
all winter in cutting ice, and all summer in dealing it out to his
customers. She had not the same excuse for laughing at the baker; yet
she laughed still more merrily at him when he pressed her hand over the
steaming loaf of brown-bread, delivered every Saturday morning at the
scullery door. Both these gentlemen had known Margaret many years, yet
neither of them had valued her very highly until another man came along
and married her. A widow, it would appear, is esteemed in some sort as a
warranted article, being stamped with the maker’s name.

There was even a third lover in prospect; for according to the gossip of
the town, Mr. Donnehugh was frequently to be seen of a Sunday afternoon
standing in the cemetery and regarding Mr. O’Rourke’s headstone with
unrestrained satisfaction.

A year had passed away, and certain bits of color blossoming among
Margaret’s weeds indicated that the winter of her mourning was oyer. The
ice-man and the baker were hating each other cordially, and Mrs. Bilkins
was daily expecting it would be discovered before night that Margaret
had married one or both of them. But to do Margaret justice, she was
faithful in thought and deed to the memory of O’Rourke--not the O’Rourke
who disappeared so strangely, but the O’Rourke who never existed.

“D’ ye think, mum,” she said one day to Mrs. Bilkins, as that lady was
adroitly sounding her on the ice question--“d’ ye think I ‘d condescind
to take up wid the likes o’ him, or the baker either, afther sich a man
as Larry?”

The rectified and clarified O’Rourke was a permanent wonder to Mr.
Bilkins, who bore up under the bereavement with noticeable resignation.

“Peggy is right,” said the old gentleman, who was superintending the
burning out of the kitchen flue. “She won’t find another man like Larry
O’Rourke in a hurry.”

“Thrue for ye, Mr. Bilkins,” answered Margaret. “Maybe there’s as good
fish in the say as iver was caught, but I don’t be-lave it, all the

As good fish in the sea! The words recalled to Margaret the nature of
her loss, and she went on with her work in silence.


“What--what is it, Ezra?” cried Mrs. Bilkins, changing color, and rising
hastily from the breakfast table. Her first thought was of apoplexy.

There sat Mr. Bilkins, with his wig pushed back from his forehead, and
his eyes fixed vacantly on The Weekly Chronicle, which he held out at
arm’s length before him.

“Good heavens, Ezra! what _is_ the matter?”

Mr. Bilkins turned his eyes upon her mechanically, as if he were a great
wax-doll, and somebody had pulled his wire.

“Can’t you speak, Ezra?”

His lips opened, and moved inarticulately; then he pointed a rigid
finger, in the manner of a guide-board, at a paragraph in the paper,
which he held up for Mrs. Bilkins to read over his shoulder. When she
had read it she sunk back into her chair without a word, and the two sat
contemplating each other as if they had never met before in this world,
and were not overpleased at meeting.

The paragraph which produced this singular effect on the aged couple
occurred at the end of a column of telegraph despatches giving the
details of an unimportant engagement that had just taken place between
one of the blockading squadron and a Confederate cruiser. The engagement
itself does not concern us, but this item from the list of casualties on
the Union side has a direct bearing on our narrative:--

     “_Larry O’Rourke, seaman, splinter wound in the leg.
     Not serious_.”

That splinter flew far. It glanced from Mr. O’Rourke’s leg, went plumb
through the Bilkins mansion, and knocked over a small marble slab in the
Old South Burying Ground.

If a ghost had dropped in familiarly to breakfast, the constraint and
consternation of the Bilkins family could not have been greater. How
was the astounding intelligence to be broken to Margaret? Her explosive
Irish nature made the task one of extreme delicacy. Mrs. Bilkins flatly
declared herself incapable of undertaking it. Mr. Bilkins, with many
misgivings as to his fitness, assumed the duty; for it would never do to
have the news sprung suddenly upon Margaret by people outside.

As Mrs. O’Rourke was clearing away the breakfast things, Mr. Bilkins,
who had lingered near the window with the newspaper in his hand, coughed
once or twice in an unnatural way to show that he was not embarrassed,
and began to think that may be it would be best to tell Margaret after
dinner. Mrs. Bilkins fathomed his thought with that intuition which
renders women terrible, and sent across the room an eye-telegram to this
effect, “Now is your time.”

“There ‘s been another battle down South, Margaret,” said the old
gentleman presently, folding up the paper and putting it in his pocket.
“A sea-fight this time.”

“Sure, an’ they ‘re allus fightin’ down there.”

“But not always with so little damage. There was only one man wounded on
our side.”

“Pore man! It’s sorry we oughter be for his wife an’ childer, if he’s
got any.”

“Not badly wounded, you will understand, Margaret--not at all seriously
wounded; only a splinter in the leg.”

“Faith, thin, a splinter in the leg is no pleasant thing in itself.”

“A mere scratch,” said Mr. Bilkins lightly, as if he were constantly in
the habit of going about with a splinter in his own leg, and found it
rather agreeable. “The odd part of the matter is the man’s first name.
His first name was Larry.”

Margaret nodded, as one should say, There’s a many Larrys in the world.

“But the oddest part of it,” continued Mr. Bilkins, in a carelessly
sepulchral voice, “is the man’s last name.”

Something in the tone of his voice made Margaret look at him, and
something in the expression of his face caused the blood to fly from
Margaret’s cheek.

“The man’s last name!” she repeated, wonderingly.

“Yes, his last name--O’Rourke.”

“D’ye mane it?” shrieked Margaret--“d’ ye mane it? Glory to God! O
worra! worra!”

“Well, Ezra,” said Mrs. Bilking, in one of those spasms of base
ingratitude to which even the most perfect women are liable, “you ‘ve
made nice work of it. You might as well have knocked her down with an

“But, my dear”--

“Oh, bother!--my smelling-bottle, quick!--second bureau
drawer--left-hand side.”

Joy never kills; it is a celestial kind of hydrogen of which it seems
impossible to get too much at one inhalation. In an hour Margaret was
able to converse with comparative calmness on the resuscitation of Larry
O’Rourke, whom the firing of a cannon had brought to the surface as if
he had been in reality a drowned body.

Now that the whole town was aware of Mr. O’Rourke’s fate, his friend Mr.
Donne-hugh came forward with a statement that would have been of some
interest at an earlier period, but was of no service as matters stood,
except so far as it assisted in removing from Mr. Bilkins’s mind a
passing doubt as to whether the Larry O’Rourke of the telegraphic
reports was Margaret’s scape-grace of a husband. Mr. Donnehugh had known
all along that O’Rourke had absconded to Boston by a night train and
enlisted in the navy. It was the possession of this knowledge that
had made it impossible for Mr. Donnehugh to look at Mr. O’Rourke’s
gravestone without grinning.

At Margaret’s request, and in Margaret’s name, Mr. Bilkins wrote three
or four letters to O’Rourke, and finally succeeded in extorting an
epistle from that gentleman, in which he told Margaret to cheer up, that
his fortune was as good as made, and that the day would come when she
should ride through the town in her own coach, and no thanks to old
flint-head, who pretended to be so fond of her. Mr. Bilkins tried to
conjecture who was meant by old flint-head, but was obliged to give it
up. Mr. O’Rourke furthermore informed Margaret that he had three hundred
dollars prize-money coming to him, and broadly intimated that when he
got home he intended to have one of the most extensive blow-outs ever
witnessed in Rivermouth.

“Och!” laughed Margaret, “that’s jist Larry over agin. The pore lad was
allus full of his nonsense an’ spirits.”

“That he was,” said Mr. Bilkins, dryly.

Content with the fact that her husband was in the land of the living,
Margaret gave herself no trouble over the separation. O’Rourke had
shipped for three years; one third of his term of service was past,
and two years more, God willing, would see him home again. This was
Margaret’s view of it. Mr. Bilkins’s view of it was not so cheerful The
prospect of Mr. O’Rourke’s ultimate return was anything but enchanting.
Mr. Bilkins was by no means disposed to kill the fatted calf. He would
much rather have killed the Prodigal Son. However, there was always this
chance: he might never come back.

The tides rose and fell at the Rivermouth wharves; the summer moonlight
and the winter snow, in turn, bleached its quiet streets; and the two
years had nearly gone by. In the mean time nothing had been heard of
O’Rourke. If he ever received the five or six letters sent to him, he
did not fatigue himself by answering them.

“Larry’s all right,” said hopeful Margaret. “If any harum had come to
the gossoon, we’d have knowed it. It’s the bad news that travels fast.”

Mr. Bilkins was not so positive about that. It had taken a whole year to
find out that O’Rourke had not drowned himself.

The period of Mr. O’Rourke’s enlistment had come to an end. Two months
slipped by, and he had neglected to brighten River-mouth with his
presence. There were many things that might have detained him,
difficulties in getting his prize-papers or in drawing his pay; but
there was no reason why he might not have written. The days were
beginning to grow long to Margaret, and vague forebodings of misfortune
possessed her.

Perhaps we had better look up Mr. O’Rourke.

He had seen some rough times, during those three years, and some harder
work than catching cunners at the foot of Anchor Street, or setting
out crocuses in Mr. Bil-kins’s back garden. He had seen battles and
shipwreck, and death in many guises; but they had taught him nothing,
as the sequel will show. With his active career in the navy we shall not
trouble ourselves; we take him up at a date a little prior to the close
of his term of service.

Several months before, he had been transferred from the blockading
squadron to a gun-boat attached to the fleet operating against the forts
defending New Orleans. The forts had fallen, the fleet had passed on to
the city, and Mr. O’Rourke’s ship lay off in the stream, binding up her
wounds. In three days he would receive his discharge, and the papers
entitling him to a handsome amount of prize-money in addition to his
pay. With noble contempt for so much good fortune, Mr. O’Rourke dropped
over the bows of the gun-boat one evening and managed to reach the
levee. In the city he fell in with some soldiers, and, being of a
convivial nature, caroused with them that night, and next day enlisted
in a cavalry regiment.

Desertion in the face of the enemy--for, though the city lay under
Federal guns, it was still hostile enough--involved the heaviest
penalties. O’Rourke was speedily arrested with other deserters, tried by
court-martial, and sentenced to death.

The intelligence burst like a shell upon the quiet household in Anchor
Street, listening daily for the sound of Larry O’Rourke’s footstep on
the threshold. It was a heavy load for Margaret to bear, after all those
years of patient vigil. But the load was to be lightened for her. In
consideration of O’Rourke’s long service, and in view of the fact that
his desertion so near the expiration of his time was an absurdity, the
Good President commuted his sentence to imprisonment for life, with
loss of prize-money and back pay. Mr. O’Rourke was despatched North, and
placed in Moyamensing Prison.

If joy could kill, Margaret would have been a dead woman the day these
tidings reached Rivermouth; and Mr. Bilkins himself would have been in a
critical condition, for, though he did not want O’Rourke shot or hanged,
he was delighted to have him permanently shelved.

After the excitement was over, and this is always the trying time,
Margaret accepted the situation philosophically.

“The pore lad’s out o’ harum’s rache, any way,” she reflected. “He can’t
be git-tin’ into hot wather now, and that’s a fact. And maybe after
awhiles they ‘ll let him go agin. They let out murtherers and thaves and
sich like, and Larry’s done no hurt to nobody but hisself.”

Margaret was inclined to be rather severe on President Lincoln for
taking away Larry’s prize-money. The impression was strong on her mind
that the money went into Mr. Lincoln’s private exchequer.

“I would n’t wonder if Misthress Lincoln had a new silk gownd or two
this fall,” Margaret would remark, sarcastically.

The prison rules permitted Mr. O’Rourke to receive periodical
communications “from his friends outside.” Once every quarter Mr. Bilkins
wrote him a letter, and in the interim Margaret kept him supplied with
those doleful popular ballads, printed on broadsides, which one sees
pinned up for sale on the iron railings of city churchyards, and seldom
anywhere else. They seem the natural exhalations of the mould and
pathos of such places, but we have a suspicion that they are written
by sentimental young undertakers. Though these songs must have been a
solace to Mr. O’Rourke in his captivity, he never so far forgot himself
as to acknowledge their receipt. It was only through the kindly chaplain
of the prison that Margaret was now and then advised of the well-being
of her husband.

Towards the close of that year the great O’Rourke himself did condescend
to write one letter. As this letter has never been printed, and as it is
the only specimen extant of Mr. O’Rourke’s epistolary manner, we lay it
before the reader _verbatim et literatim_:--

     _febuary.   1864 mi belovid wife
     fur the luv of God sind mee pop gose the wezel.
     yours till deth_
     .                                        _larry O rourke._

“Pop goes the Weasel” was sent to him, and Mr. Bilkins ingeniously
slipped into the same envelope “The Drunkard’s Death” and “Beware of
the Bowl,” two spirited compositions well calculated to exert a salutary
influence over a man imprisoned for life.

There is nothing in this earthly existence so uncertain as what seems
to be a certainty. To all appearances, the world outside of Moyamensing
Prison was forever a closed book to O’Rourke. But the Southern
Confederacy collapsed, the General Amnesty Proclamation was issued, cell
doors were thrown open; and one afternoon Mr. Larry O’Rourke, with
his head neatly shaved, walked into the Bilkins kitchen and frightened
Margaret nearly out of her skin.

Mr. O’Rourke’s summing up of his case was characteristic: “I ‘ve been
kilt in battle, hanged by the court-martial, put into the lock-up for
life, and here I am, bedad, not a ha’p’orth the worse for it.”

None the worse for it, certainly, and none the better. By no stretch
of magical fiction can we make an angel of him. He is not at all the
material for an apotheosis. It was not for him to reform and settle
down, and become a respectable, oppressed tax-payer. His conduct in
Rivermouth, after his return, was a repetition of his old ways. Margaret
all but broke down under the tests to which he put her affections, and
came at last to wish that Larry had never got out of Moyamensing Prison.

If any change had taken place in Mr. O’Rourke, it showed itself in
occasional fits of sullenness towards Margaret. It was in one of these
moods that he slouched his hat over his brows, and told her she need not
wait dinner for him.

It will be a cold dinner, if Margaret has kept it waiting; for two years
have gone by since that day, and O’Rourke has not come home.

Possibly he is off on a whaling voyage; possibly the swift maelstrom has
dragged him down; perhaps he is lifting his hand to knock at the door of
the Bilkins mansion as we pen these words. But Margaret does not watch
for him impatiently any more. There are strands of gray in her black
hair. She has had her romance.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Rivermouth Romance" ***

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