'That'll teach you genteel chaps not to meddle with us officers,' growled the watchman. 'I wonder what he's got about him—perhaps some dangerous weapon—let's see.' Thrusting his hand into the pockets of his victim, he drew forth a valuable gold watch, and a purse containing a considerable sum of money. Why did he so rapidly transfer these articles to this own pockets? Was if for the purpose of restoring them to the owner, on the morrow? We shall see.
'I 'spose I'd better lug him to the watch-house,' said the 'officer'—and he struck his club three times on the pavement, which summoned another 'officer' to his assistance. The two then raising the wounded man between them, conducted him towards the Tombs.
The Doctor, awaking from his unconsciousness, and feeling himself in the grasp of the watchman, instantly comprehended the state of affairs, and shuddered as he thought of his exposure and ruin. The fumes of the wine which he had drunk, had entirely subsided; but he felt himself weak from loss of blood, sick from his recent debauch, while the wound on his head pained him terribly. Oh, how bitterly he deplored his connection with that depraved woman, who had been the cause of his downfall!
The awful dread of exposure prompted him to appeal to the mercy of his captors.
'Watchman,' said he, 'pray conduct me to my home, or suffer me to go there myself, for with shame I confess it, I am a gospel minister, and wish to avoid exposure.'
The two fellows laughed scornfully. 'Don't think to come that gammon over us,' said they. 'A minister indeed!—and picked up blind drunk in the street at midnight!'
'But I have money about me, and will pay you well,' said the Doctor.
The man who had struck him with the club, knowing that he had no money, affected to be indignant at this attempt to 'bribe an officer,' and refused to release him.
Oh, hapless fate!—truly the 'way of transgressors is hard.' The learned and eloquent Dr. Sinclair—the idol of his aristocratic and fashionable congregation—whose words of piety and holiness were listened to with attention by admiring thousands every Sabbath day—was incarcerated in the watch-house! Yes—thrust into a filthy cell, among a swarm of felons, vile negroes, vagabonds and loafers—the scum of the city!
The cell was about twenty feet square; one half of it was occupied by a platform, at a height of four feet from the floor. This platform was called the 'bunk,' and it was covered with the prostate forms of about twenty men, including the ragged beggar, the raving drunkard, and the well-dressed thief—all huddled together, and shivering with the cold, which was intense. The stone floor of the cell was damp and covered with filth; yet upon it, and beneath the bunk, several wretched beings were stretched, some cursing each other and themselves, others making the place resound with hideous laughter, while one was singing, in drunken tones, a shockingly obscene song.
Into this den of horrors was Dr. Sinclair rudely thrust; for no one believed his statement that he was a clergyman, and indeed his appearance, when undergoing the examination of the Captain of the Watch, was anything but clerical. His face was covered with blood, his clothes soiled and disordered, his hat crushed, and his manner wild and incoherent. It is more than probable that, had the Captain known who he was, he would have ordered his immediate discharge.
Groping his way along the damp, cold walls of his cell, which was in profound darkness, the Doctor stumbled over a person who was lying upon the floor, writhing in the agonies of delirium tremens. In frantic rage, this miserable creature seized the rector's leg, and bit it horribly, causing him to utter a cry of agony, which was responded to by roars of laughter from the hellish crew. Extricating himself with difficulty from the fierce clutch of the maniac, the unhappy gentleman seated himself upon a large iron pipe which ran through the cell, and prayed for death.
Slowly passed the dreadful night away; and the first faint rays of morning, struggling through the narrow aperture in the wall, revealed an appalling sight. Men made hideous and inhuman by vice and wretchedness lay stretched amid the filth and dampness of that dungeon, glaring at each other with savage eyes. And soon the awful discovery was made, that one of their number had, during the night, been frozen to death! Yes—there, beneath the bunk, cold and ghastly, lay the rigid corpse of a poor fellow creature, whose only crime had been his poverty! Out upon such justice and such laws, which tolerate such barbarities to one whose misfortunes should be pitied, not visited by the damnable cruelty of the base hirelings of a corrupt misgovernment!
It is not our wish to devote much time to the relation of unimportant particulars; suffice it to say, that Dr. Sinclair was brought before the police for drunkenness, and was also charged with having violently assaulted Watchman Squiggs, who had taken him in custody!
'You see, yer honor, I was going my rounds, when up comes this ere chap and knocks me down, and would have killed me, if I hadn't hit him a light tap on the head with my club. Then I rapped for help, and—'
'That's enough!' growled the magistrate, who had himself been drunk the night before, and was made irritable by a severe headache—'that's enough—he struck an officer—serious offence—looks guilty—old offender—thief, no doubt—send him up for six months!'
The Doctor whispered a few words in the ear of the magistrate, who rubbed his eyes and regarded him with a look of astonishment, saying—
'Bless my soul, is it possible? Dr. Sinclair—humph! Sentence is revoked—you're discharged; the devil!—about to send you up for six months—a great mistake, upon my word—ha, ha, ha!'
The rector turned to watchman Squiggs, and said to him, sternly—
'Fellow, when I fell into your infernal clutches, I had a watch and money about me; they are now missing; can you give any account of them?'
The watchman solemnly declared he knew nothing about them! The Doctor felt no inclination to bandy words with the scoundrel; he paused a moment to reflect upon the best course to pursue, under the disagreeable circumstances in which he found himself placed. A feasible plan soon suggested itself, and leaving the police office, he stepped into a hackney coach, and requested the driver to convey him with all despatch to Franklin house. Arrived there, he dismissed the vehicle, and ascending to Josephine's chamber, explained to her the whole affair, and threw himself upon a sofa to obtain a few hours' necessary repose.
As soon as he had left the police office, the magistrate whispered to the watchman—
'Squiggs, I know very well that you took that gentleman's watch and money. Don't interrupt me—I say, I know you did. Well, you must share the spoils with me.'
'I'll take my oath, yer honor—'
'Your oath!—that's a good one!' cried the magistrate, laughing heartily.—'d'ye think I'd believe you on oath? Why, man, you just now perjured yourself in swearing that Parson Sinclair assaulted you—whereas you beat him horribly with your club, with little provocation, and stole his watch and money. I know you, Squiggs; you can't gammon me. Once for all, will you share the booty with me?'
The rascal dared not hesitate any longer; so with great reluctance he drew the plunder from his pocket, and divided it equally with 'his honor,' who reserved the watch for himself, it being a splendid article, of great value.
Is any one disposed to doubt the truth of this little sketch? We assure the reader it is not in the least degree exaggerated. The local magistracy of New York included many functionaries who were dishonest and corrupt. Licentiousness was a prominent feature in the characters of some of these unworthy ministers of justice. Attached to the police office was a room, ostensibly for the private examination of witnesses. When a witness happened to be a female, and pretty, 'his honor' very often passed an hour or so in this room with her, carefully locking the door to prevent intrusion; and there is every reason to suppose that his examination of her was both close and searching.
We remember an incident which occurred several years ago, which is both curious and amusing. A beautiful French girl—a fashionable courtezan—was taken to the police office, charged with stealing a lady's small gold watch. Her accuser was positive that she had the article about her; her pocket, reticule, bonnet, hair, and dress were searched without success. The rude hand of the officer invaded her voluptuous bosom, but still without finding the watch. 'Perhaps she has it in her mouth,' suggested the magistrate; but no, it was not there. 'Where can she have hidden it? I am certain she has it somewhere on her person,' remarked the accuser. 'I will examine her in private,' quoth the magistrate, and he directed the girl to follow him into the adjoining room. His honor locked the door, and said to the fair culprit—'My dear, where have you concealed the watch?' In the most charming broken English imaginable, Mademoiselle protested her innocence of the charge, with such passionate eloquence, that his honor began to think the accuser must be mistaken. 'At all events,' thought he, 'she is a sweet little gipsy;' and he forthwith honored her with a shower of amorous kisses, which she received with the most bewitching naivete; but when he began to make demonstrations of a still more decided nature, she resisted, though unsuccessfully, for his honor was portly and powerful, and somewhat 'used to things.' But lo! to his astonishment, he discovered the watch—and in such a place! French ingenuity alone could have devised such a! method of concealment, and legal research alone could have discovered it.
We left Dr. Sinclair in the chamber of Josephine, at Franklin House, reposing after the exciting and disagreeable adventures of the preceding night. He awoke at noon, somewhat refreshed, and entered a bath while Josephine sent a servant to purchase a suit of clothes, as those which he had worn were so soiled and torn as to be unfit for further service.
Reclining luxuriously in the perfumed water of the marble bath, the Doctor experienced a feeling of repose and comfort. He had long learned to disregard the 'still, small voice' of his own conscience; and, provided he could reach his home and answer all inquiries without incurring suspicion—provided, also, his having been incarcerated in the watch-house should not be exposed—he was perfectly contented.
His clothes being brought him, he dressed himself, and joining Josephine in the parlor, partook of a refreshing repast; then, bidding farewell to his 'lady-love,' he took his departure, and proceeded to his own residence. In answer to the earnest inquiries of the members of his household, he stated that he had passed the night with a friend in Brooklyn; and entering his study, he applied himself to the task of writing his next Sunday's sermon.
Illustrating the truth of the proverb that 'Murder will out,' and containing an Appalling Discovery.
Two or three days after the above events, Dr. Sinclair was sent for by a woman lying at the point of death. He found her occupying the garret of an old, crazy tenement in Orange street; she was stretched upon a miserable bed, covered only by a few rags, and her short breathings, sunken cheeks, and lustreless eyes, proclaimed that the hand of death was upon her. Though young in years, her appearance indicated that she had passed through much suffering, destitution and sin.
'Are you the clergyman?' she asked in a faint voice.
'I am; what can I do for you, my good woman?' said the Doctor, seating himself on a rickety stool at the bedside.
'Oh, sir,' cried the invalid, evidently in great mental distress, 'I want you to pray for me. Do you think there is any hope for such a sinner as I have been? I am dying, and my soul is lost—forever!'
In his own heart, the rector felt his unfitness to administer comfort in such a case, considering his own wickedness; yet he strove to quiet the uneasiness of the poor creature, by assuring her that there was hope for the 'chief of sinners.' At her request he prayed with her; and then she addressed him as follows:—
'There is something on my mind which I must make confession of, or I shall not die easy—something that will make you shrink from me, as from a guilty wretch, who deserves no mercy. I am a murderess!'
'A murderess!' echoed the Doctor, starting back with horror; after a few moments' pause, he added—'proceed with your confession.'
'I will, sir. Four years ago, I entered the service of Mrs. Lucretia Franklin, in Washington Place.'
The Doctor started again—this time with surprise; and he listened with attentive interest to the woman's narrative.
'Mrs. Franklin's husband,' she resumed, 'was a very rich man, and very religious and strict; his daughter Sophia took after him much, and was a very good girl; but his wife and daughter Josephine were exactly contrary to him, for they were very giddy and gay, always going to theatres, and balls, and such like places, keeping late hours, and acting so dissipated like, that at last Mr. Franklin was determined to put a stop to it entirely, and make them stay at home. So he told them that he shouldn't allow them to go on as they had any longer; and having once said the word, he stuck to it. My lady and Miss Josephine were both very much dissatisfied with Mr. Franklin, on account of his being so strict with them; and I could plainly see that they began to hate him. It is now about two years ago, and Josephine was in her sixteenth year (ah, sir, I have good reason to remember the time,) when I found myself in the way to become a mother, having been led astray by a young man, who deceived me under a promise of marriage, and then deserted me. Well, sir, my situation was at last noticed by my lady and her daughter, and one evening they called me up into a chamber, and accused me of being a lewd girl. Falling on my knees, I acknowledged my fault, and implored them to pity and forgive me, and not turn me off without a character. Then Miss Josephine spoke harshly to me, and asked me how I dared do such a thing, and bring disgrace upon their house and family; and her mother threatened to send me to jail, which frightened me so that I promised to do anything in the world if they would forgive me. 'Will you do any thing we command you to do, if we forgive you?' asked Mrs. Franklin; and I said that I would. 'You must swear it,' said Miss Josephine; and getting a Bible, they made me swear a dreadful oath to do as they bid me. They then told me that there was one thing I must do, and they would give me as much money as I wanted; they said I must kill Mr. Franklin! On hearing such a horrible request, I almost fainted; and told them that I never would do such a dreadful thing. But they reminded me of my oath, and at last threatened and frightened me so, that I consented to do the awful deed. 'It must be done to-night!' said Miss Josephine, and her eyes seemed to flash fire; then she gave me some brandy to drink, which flew into my brain, and I felt myself able to do anything, no matter how wicked it might be.—They staid with me until midnight, and made me drink brandy until I was almost crazy. You must know, sir, that Mr. Franklin slept in a separate room from my lady, ever since their disagreement; upon that dreadful night he retired to bed at about ten o'clock. Well—but oh, my God! how can I tell the dreadful truth!—yet I must nerve myself to confess the whole matter. At midnight, Mrs. Franklin brought into the room a small copper cup, which contained a small quantity of lead; this cup she held over the lamp until the lead was melted as thin as water; and then she handed it to me, and told me to go softly into her husband's room, and pour the lead into his ear! I DID IT! Yes, as God is my Judge, I did it!—The poor gentleman was lying on his side, in a sound sleep; with a steady hand I poured the liquid metal into his ear—it did not awake him! he merely shuddered once, and died.—The next morning he was found by his servant, stiff and cold. Some people talked of 'disease of the heart,' others, of 'apoplexy,' many, of 'the visitation of God,' while some shrugged their shoulders, and said nothing. But I knew the secret of his death! He was buried with great pomp in the family tomb in St. Paul's churchyard. My confession is made. After the funeral, my lady and Josephine gave me plenty of money. 'Go,' said they, 'to some other city, and take up your abode; you will never the mention the manner in which Mr. Franklin came to his death, for such a disclosure would bring your own neck to the halter, without injuring us—your hand alone did the deed!' I went to Boston, and gave birth to a stillborn child; my money soon went and I became a common prostitute.—Disease soon overtook me—but why dwell upon the misfortunes and wanderings of a wretch like me? A week ago, I found myself again in New York, the inmate of this garret; to-day I felt myself dying, and sent for a clergyman to hear my dying confession. I am exhausted; I can say no more—God have mercy on me!'
'One word more,' cried the rector; 'by what name were you known to the Franklins?'
'Mary Welch,' she replied, faintly.
The wretched creature soon afterwards breathed her last.
The Doctor left a sufficient sum of money with the inmates of the house to defray the expenses of the woman's funeral, and took his departure from that scene of wretchedness. As he retraced his steps to his own dwelling, his thoughts were of the most painful nature; the woman's confession, implicating Josephine and her mother in the crime of murder, horrified him, and gave rise to the most terrible reflections. In his own heart he could not doubt the truth of the wretched woman's statement, made as it was on her death-bed, and just as she was about to be ushered into the presence of her Maker.
'My God!' thought the rector, entering his study, and throwing himself distractedly into a seat—'to what a dreadful disclosure have I listened—Josephine the murderess of her father! Mrs. Franklin the murderess of her husband! Can it be possible?—Alas, I cannot doubt it; for why should that woman, at the awful moment of her dissolution, tell a falsehood? I remember now the circumstances of Mr. Franklin's death; it was sudden and unaccountable, and privately spoken of with suspicion, as to its cause; yet those suspicions never assumed any definite shape.—The poor gentleman was buried without any post mortem examination, and the singular circumstances of his death were gradually forgotten. But now the awful mystery is revealed to me; he met his death at the hands of that miserable woman, at the instigation of Josephine and her mother.'
But the Doctor's most painful thoughts arose from the reflection that he had formed a criminal connection with such a vile, guilty creature as Josephine. He had learned to tolerate her licentiousness and her consummate hypocrisy; he had loved her with passionate fervor, while he had only regarded her as a frail, beautiful woman, who, having become enamored of him, had enticed him to her arms. But now she stood before him as a wretch capable of any crime—as the murderess of her own father; and all his love and admiration for her were turned into a loathing hate; and while he had no intention of denouncing her and her mother to the authorities of justice, he determined to have but one more interview with her, and at that interview to reproach her for her crime, and cast her off forever.
'But previous to that interview,' thought he, 'I will make assurance doubly sure; I will find means to enter the vault wherein Mr. Franklin's body was interred; I will examine the remains, and as my knowledge of human anatomy is considerable, I shall have no difficulty in discovering the evidences of foul play, if such evidences exist. Having thus satisfied myself beyond the shadow of a doubt that Mr. Franklin was murdered, I can with confidence accuse Josephine and her mother of the deed; and from that moment, all connection between me and that wicked woman shall cease forever. I have been infatuated and enslaved by her seductive beauty and her fascinating favors; but thank God, I am myself again, and resolved to atone for the past, by leading a life of purity and virtue for the future.'
That night the Doctor was called on to perform the marriage ceremony at the house of a friend, at a distant part of the city; and it was late when he set out to return to his own home.
It was a dismal night, dark and starless; the sky was laden with impending storm, and the rector shuddered as he looked forward into the gloom, and contrasted it with the scene of light and gaiety which he had just left. His heart was oppressed with a heavy weight; for he could not shake off the dreadful thought that Josephine—beautiful and accomplished Josephine—whom he had loved with a fervent though unholy passion—was a murderess!
While hurrying on with rapid strides, his mind tortured by such painful reflections, a tall figure suddenly stood before him, and a voice whispered—
'Deliver your money, or die!'
The rector perceived that the robber had his arm raised, and that he held in his hand a large knife, ready to strike in case of resistance or alarm. Dr. Sinclair was no coward; had there been a single chance in his favor, he would have grappled with the robber, rather than yield to his demand; yet he was slender and by no means powerful—he was also unarmed; and besides, the idea flashed through his mind that the desperado might be of use to him, and these considerations prompted him to speak in a conciliatory tone and manner:—
'Friend,' said he, 'unfortunately for you I am but a poor parson, and have only about me a few dollars, which I have just received as my fee for uniting a happy couple in the holy bonds of wedlock. What I have you are welcome to; here is my purse.'
The robber took the purse, and was about to move off, when the rector called to him and said,—
'Stay, friend; you are the very man I want to assist me in a dangerous enterprise—one that requires courage, and strength, and skill; if you engage to aid me, your reward shall be liberal—what say you?'
'You must first tell me what it is you want done,' replied the robber.
'I want to break open a tomb in St. Paul's churchyard, and examine a dead body; and to do this I shall require an assistant,' said the Doctor, in a low tone.
'That is all well enough,' rejoined the robber; 'but how do I know that you are not laying a plan to entrap me into the clutches of the law, for having robbed you?'
'Pshaw!' exclaimed the Doctor, disdainfully, 'why should I seek to entrap you? You have only relieved me of a few dollars, and what care I for that! Draw near, and examine me closely; do I look like a man who would tell a base lie, even to bring a robber to justice?—have I not the appearance of a gentleman? I pledge you my sacred word of honor, that I meditate no treachery against you.'
'Enough—I am satisfied,' said the robber, after having scrutinized the Doctor as closely as the darkness would admit of—'when is this thing to be done?'
'To-morrow night will probably be stormy, and suitable for the purpose,' replied Dr. Sinclair. 'Meet me precisely as the clock strikes the hour of midnight, at the great gate on the lower extremity of the Park; you must come provided with such tools as will be necessary to effect an entrance into the tomb, which is probably secured by a strong padlock; also bring with you a lantern, and the means of lighting it. My object in thus disturbing the repose of the dead, is of no consequence to you; it will be sufficient for you to understand that you are hired to perform a service, which is to be well paid for when completed—you comprehend me?'
'I do,' said the robber, 'and shall not fail to meet you at the time and place appointed; if you have no more to say to me, I will now bid you good night.'
'Good night,' said the Doctor; 'and pray, my good friend, do not menace any other belated traveller with that ugly knife of yours.'
The robber laughed, and turning on his heel, strode away in the darkness, while the rector continued on his way towards his residence. When he reached his house, and had entered the door, a person emerged from the darkness, and by the light of a street lamp which was near, read the name upon the door-plate.—The Doctor had been followed home by the robber.
'All right,' muttered the latter worthy, as he walked away—'he lives in that house, and his name is Dr. Sinclair. Men of his class don't generally play the spy or traitor; so I can safely keep the appointment. He is not a physician or surgeon; therefore what in the devil's name should he want to break into a tomb for? No matter; to-morrow night will explain the mystery.' And the robber's form was lost in the darkness.
As the Doctor had predicted, the night which followed the adventure just related, was stormy; the snow fell thick and fast, and the darkness was intense. As the clock struck the hour of midnight, a figure muffled in a cloak slowly emerged from the lower extremity of the Park, and paused at the great gate which forms the Southern angle of that vast enclosure. He had waited there but a few minutes, when he was joined by another person, who asked him—
'Well, Sir Robber, is it you?'
'All right, sir; you see I am punctual,' replied the robber. The other person was of course the rector.
Without any further conversation, the two proceeded down Broadway, until they stood before the magnificent church of St. Paul's. This splendid edifice, of Grecian architecture, was situated on the border of an extensive burying ground, which with the church itself, was surrounded by an iron railing of great height. Finding the front gate secured by a massive lock, the robber applied himself to the task of picking it, with an instrument designed for that purpose. This was soon accomplished, and entering the enclosure, the two passed around the rear of the church, and stood among the many tomb-stones which marked the last resting place of the quiet dead.
The rector, being well acquainted with the arrangements of the ground, had no difficulty in finding the tomb he wished to enter. A plain marble slab, upon which was sculptured the words 'Franklin Family,' denoted the spot. It required the united strength of both the men to raise this slab from the masonry on which it rested. This being done, they stepped into the aperture, descended a short flight of stone steps, and found their further progress arrested by an iron door, secured by an immense padlock.
'It will now be necessary to light my lantern; I can do so with safety,' said the robber. And igniting a match, he lighted a dark lantern which he had brought with him. Dr. Sinclair then, for the first time, distinctly beheld the features of his midnight companion; and he started with horror—for the most diabolically hideous countenance he had ever seen or dreamed of in his life, met his gaze. The robber observed the impression he had made upon his employer, and grinned horribly a ghastly smile.
'You don't like my looks, master,' said he, gruffly.
'I certainly cannot call you handsome,' replied the Doctor, trying to smile—'but no matter—you will answer my purpose as well as a comelier person. Let us proceed with our work; can you break or pick this padlock?'
The robber made no reply, but drew from his pocket a bunch of skeleton keys, with which he soon removed the padlock; and the heavy iron door swung upon its rusty hinges with a loud creaking noise.
'D——n and blast that noise!' growled the robber.
'Silence, fellow!' cried the rector, authoritatively; 'you are standing in the chamber of the dead, and such profanity is out of place here—no more of it.'
This reproof was received with a very ill grace by the robber, who glared savagely upon his reprover, and seemed almost inclined to spring upon him and strangle him on the spot—no difficult thing for him to do, for the Doctor was of slender build, while he himself possessed a frame unusually muscular and powerful.
They entered the vault, and the feeble rays of the lantern shone dimly on the damp green walls, and on the few coffins which were placed upon shelves.
An awful odor pervaded the place, so loathsome, so laden with the effluvia of death and corruption, that the rector hesitated, and was more than half inclined to abandon the undertaking; but after a moment's reflection—
'No,' he said, mentally—'having gone thus far, it would ill become me to retreat when just on the point of solving the terrible mystery; I will proceed.'
He advanced and examined the coffins, some of which were so much decayed, that their ghastly inmates were visible through the large holes in the crumbling wood. At length he found one, in a tolerable state of preservation, upon which was a gold plate bearing the name of Edgar Franklin. Satisfied that this was the one he was in search of, he desired the robber to come forward and assist in removing the lid, which being done, a fleshless skeleton was revealed to their view.
'Now, fellow,' said the Doctor, 'I am about to make a certain investigation, of which you must not be a witness; therefore, you will retire to the outer entrance of the tomb, and wait there until I call you. Your reward shall be in proportion to your faithful obedience of my orders.'
Casting a look of malignant hate at the young gentleman, the robber withdrew from the vault, shutting the iron door behind him; and as he did so, he muttered a deep and terrible curse.
'Now may Heaven nerve me to the performance of this terrible task!' exclaimed the rector, solemnly; and bending over the coffin, he held the lantern in such a position as enabled him to gaze into the interior of the skull, through the eyeless sockets.
But oh, horrible—within that skull was a mass of live corruption—a myriad of grave worms banquetting upon the brains of the dead!
The Doctor reeled to the iron door of the vault, threw it open, and eagerly breathed the fresh air from above. This somewhat revived him, and he called on his assistant to come down. The robber obeyed, and was thus addressed by his employer—
'Friend, I have overrated my own powers—perhaps your nerves are stronger, your heart bolder than mine. Go to that coffin which we opened, search the interior of the skull, and if you find anything in it singular, or in the least degree unusual, bring it to me.—Here is a pocket-book containing money to a large amount; take it and keep it, but do as I have requested.'
The robber took the pocket-book and went into the vault. Horror could not sicken him; the terrors of death itself had no terror for him.
After the lapse of a few moments, he exclaimed—'I have found something!' and advancing to the door, he handed to the doctor a small object, having first wiped it with an old handkerchief.
Overcoming his repugnance by a powerful effort, the doctor walked back into the vaults towards the lantern, which still remained upon the coffin-lid.
Upon examining the article which had been taken from the skull, he found it to be a piece of lead, of an irregular shape and weighing nearly two ounces.
'My belief in the guilt of Josephine and her mother is confirmed,' thought he. 'Shall I deliver them into the hands of justice? that must be decided hereafter; at all events, I will accuse them of the crime, and discontinue all connection with the wretched Josephine forever.'
Having carefully placed the piece of lead in his pocket, he advanced to the door, with the intent of leaving the robber to fasten on the lid of the coffin. To his surprise and horror he discovered that the door was locked! He knocked frantically against it, but was only answered by a low laugh from the outside.
'Wretch—villain!' he exclaimed. 'What mean you by this trick? Open the door instantly, I command you!'
'Fool!' cried the robber, contemptuously. 'I obey your commands no longer. You shall be left in this tomb to rot and die. You spoke to me with scorn, and shall now feel my vengeance. Think not, that I am ignorant of your true object in entering this tomb;—there has been a murder committed, and you sought for evidence of the crime. That evidence is now in your possession; but the secret is known to me, and I shall not fail to use it to my advantage. I shall seek out the Franklins, and inform them of the discovery which places them completely in my power. Farewell, parson—; I leave you to your agreeable meditations, and to the enjoyment of a long, sound sleep!'
The miserable rector heard the sound of the ruffian's departing footsteps; with a wild cry of anguish and despair he threw himself against the iron door, which yielded not to his feeble efforts, and he sank exhausted upon the floor, in the awful conviction that he was buried alive!
Soon the horrors of his situation increased to a ten-fold degree—for he found himself assailed by a legion of rats. These creatures attacked him in such numbers that he was obliged to act on the defensive; and all his exertions were scarce sufficient to keep them from springing upon him, and tearing his flesh with their sharp teeth.
To his dismay he observed that the light of the lantern was growing dim and came near to being exhausted; darkness was about to add to the terrors of the place. Nerved to desperation, though faint and sick with the awful stench of that death vault, he searched about for some weapon with which to end his miserable existence. While thus engaged, he stumbled over a heavy iron crowbar which lay in one corner and seizing it with a cry of joy, applied it with all his force to the door of his loathsome prison.
It yielded—he was free! for the slab had not been replaced over the tomb, owing to the robber's inability to raise it. Falling on his knees, the rector thanked God for his deliverance; and ascending the steps, stood in the burial-ground, just as the lamps in the tomb below had become extinguished.
He was about to make his way out of the grave-yard, when he heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and low voices; and just as he had concealed himself behind a tall tomb-stone, he saw, through the thick darkness, two men approach the uncovered tomb from which he emerged only a few minutes before.
''Twas fortunate I met you, Ragged Pete,' said one; 'for without your aid I never could have lifted this stone into its place; and if it were left in its present position, it would attract attention in the morning, and that cursed parson might be rescued from the tomb. Take hold, and let's raise it on.'
'Werry good—but are you sure that the chap is down there still?' demanded Ragged Pete; 'hadn't we better go down and see if he hasn't took leg bait?'
'Pshaw, you fool!' rejoined the first speaker, angrily; 'how could he escape after I had locked him in? There's an iron door, fastened with a padlock as big as your head; so hold your tongue, and help me raise the stone to its place.'
This was done with considerable difficulty; and the two men sat down to rest after their labor.
'The parson won't live over night; if he is not devoured by the rats, he is sure to be suffocated,' remarked the man who had fastened the doctor in the tomb.
'Somehow or other,' said Ragged Pete, 'whoever offends you is sure to be punished in some dreadful and unheard-of manner. By thunder, I must try and keep in your good graces!'
'You will do well to do so,' rejoined his companion, 'my vengeance is always sure to overtake those who cross my path. Pete, I have led a strange life of crime and wickedness, from my very cradle, I may say, up to the present time. See, the storm is over, and the stars are shining brightly. It lacks several hours of daybreak; and as I feel somewhat sociably inclined, suppose I tell you my story? I have a flask of brandy in my pocket, and while we are moistening our clay, you shall listen to the history of one whose proudest boast is, he never did a good action, but has perpetrated every enormity in the dark catalogue of crimes.'
Ragged Pete expressed his desire to hear the story; and even Dr. Sinclair, in his place of concealment, prepared to listen with attention. Probably the reader has already guessed that the robber was no other than the terrible Dead Man; such was indeed the case; it was that same villain, who has occupied so prominent a place in the criminal portions of our narrative. We shall devote a separate chapter to his story.
The Dead Man's story; being a tale of many Crimes.
'I never knew who my parents were; they may have been saints—they may have been devils; but in all probability they belonged to the latter class, for when I was three weeks old, they dropped me upon the highway one fine morning near the great city of Boston, to which famous city belongs the honor of my birth! Well, I was picked up by some Samaritans, who wrapped me up in red flannel, and clapped me in the Alms House. Behold me, then, a pauper!
'I throve and grew; my constitution was iron—my sinews were steel, and my heart a lion's. Up to the age of twelve, I was as other children are—I cried when I was whipped, and submitted when oppressed. At twelve, I began to reason and think; I said to myself,—Before me lies the world, created for the use of all its inhabitants. I am an inhabitant and entitled to my share—but other inhabitants, being rogues and sharpers, refuse to let me have my share. The world plunders me—in turn, I will plunder the world!
'At fourteen, I bade adieu to the Alms House, without the knowledge or consent of the overseer. I exchanged my grey pauper suit for a broadcloth of a young nabob, which I accidentally found in one of the chambers of a fashionable hotel, in Court street. Behold me, then, a gentleman! But I had no money; and so took occasion to borrow a trifling sum from an old gentleman, one night, upon one of the bridges which lead from Boston to Charleston. Do you ask how he came to give me credit? Why, I just tapped him on the head with a paving stone tied up in the corner of a handkerchief, after which delicate salutation he made not the slightest objection to my borrowing what he had about him. The next day it was said that a man's body had been found on the bridge, with his skull severely smashed—but what cared I?
'Gay was the life I led; for I was young and handsome. You laugh—but I was handsome then—my features had not the deathlike expression which they now wear. By and by you shall learn how I acquired the hideousness of face which procured for me the title of the Dead Man.
'One day I made too free with a gentleman's gold watch on the Common; and they shut me up for five years in the Stone University, where I completed my education at the expense of the State. At twenty I was free again. Behold me, then, a thoroughly educated scoundrel! I resolved to enlarge my modes of operation, and play the villain on a more extensive scale.
'Hiring an office in a dark alley in Boston, I assumed the lofty title of Doctor Sketers. My shelves were well stocked with empty phials and bottles—my windows were furnished with curtains, upon which my assumed name was painted in flaming capitals. The columns of the newspapers teemed with my advertisements, in which I was declared to be the only regular advertising physician—one who had successfully treated twenty-five millions of cases of delicate unmentionable complaints. Certificates of cure were also published by thousands, signed by people who never existed. Having procured an old medical diploma, I inserted my borrowed name, and exhibited it as an evidence of my trustworthiness and skill. The consequence of all this was, I was overrun with patients, none of whom I cured. My private entrance for ladies often gave admission to respectable unmarried females, who came to consult me on the best method of suppressing the natural proofs of their frailty. From these I would extract all the money possible and then send them to consult the skillful agent of Madam R——. A thriving, profitable business, that of quackery! From it I reaped a golden harvest, and when that became tiresome, I put on a white neckcloth, and became a priest.
'Behold me a deacon, and a brother beloved! Who so pious, so exemplary, so holy as I! I lived in an atmosphere of purity and prayer; prayer seasoned my food before meals, and washed it down afterwards; prayer was my nightcap when I went to bed and my eye opener in the morning. At length I began to pray so fervently with the younger and fairer sisters of the flock, that the old ones, with whom I had no desire to pray, began to murmur—so, growing tired of piety, I kicked it to the devil, and joined the ranks of temperance.
'For over a year I lectured in public, and got drunk in private—glorious times! But at last people began to suspect that I was inspired by the spirit of alcohol, instead of the spirit of reform. A committee was appointed to wait on me and smell my breath—which they had no sooner done than they smelt a rat—and while some were searching my heart, others searched my closet, and not only discovered a bottle of fourth-proof, but uncovered a pile of counterfeit bank notes, there concealed. Reacting like a man of genius, my conduct was both forcible and striking; I knocked three of the brethren down, jumped out of the back window, scaled a fence, rushed through an alley, gained the street and was that afternoon on a steamboat bound for New York.
'On the passage, I observed a gentleman counting a pile of money; he was a country merchant, going to purchase goods. The weather was intensely warm, and many of the passengers slept on deck; among these was the country merchant. He lay at a considerable distance from the others and the night was dark. I stole upon him, and passed my long Spanish knife through his heart.—He died easy—a single gasp and all was over. I took his money, and threw his body over to the fishes. 'Twas my second murder—it never troubled me, for I never had a conscience. I entered New York, for the first time, with a capital of three thousand dollars, got by the murder of the country merchant; and this capital I resolved to increase by future murders and future crimes.
'I will now relate a little incident of my life, which will serve to show the bitterness of my hatred towards all mankind. For several years I had lived in various families, in a menial capacity, my object, of course, being robbery, and other crimes. It chanced that I once went to live in the family of a wealthy gentleman, whose wife was the most beautiful woman I ever saw; and her loveliness inspired me with such passion, that one day, during her husband's absence, I ventured to clasp her in my arms—struggling from my embrace, she repelled me with indignant scorn, and commanded me to leave the house instantly. I obeyed, swearing vengeance against her, and her family; and how well that oath was kept! About a week after my dismissal from the family, being one night at the theatre, I saw Mr. Ross, the husband of the lady whom I had insulted, seated in the boxes. Keeping my eye constantly upon him, I saw him when he left the theatre, and immediately followed him, though at such a distance as to prevent his seeing me. Fortunately his way home lay through a dark and lonely street; in the most obscure part of that street, I quickened my steps until I overtook him—and just as he was about to turn around to see who followed him, I gave him a tremendous blow on his right temple with a heavy slung shot, and he fell to the earth without a groan. I knew that I had killed him and was glad of it—it was my third murder. After dragging his body into a dark alley, so that he might not be found by the watchman, I rifled his pockets of their contents, among which was the night-key of his house, which I regarded as a prize of inestimable value.
'Leaving the corpse of Mr. Ross in the alley, I went straight to his house in Howard street, and admitted myself by means of the night-key which I had found in his pocket. A lamp was burning in the hall; I extinguished it and groped my way up stairs to the chamber of Mrs. Ross with the situation of which I was well acquainted. On opening the chamber door, I found to my intense delight that no light or candle was burning within; all was in darkness. Approaching the bed, I became convinced that the lady was in a sound sleep; this circumstance added greatly to my satisfaction. Well, I deliberately stripped myself and got into bed; still she awoke not. Think you I was troubled with any remorse of conscience, while lying at the side of the wronged woman whose husband had just been slain by my hand? Not a bit of it; I chuckled inwardly at the success of my scheme, and impatiently waited an opportunity to take every advantage of my position. At last she awoke; supposing me, of course, to be her husband, she gently chided me for remaining out so late; I did not dare suffer her to hear the sound of my voice, but replied to her in whispers. She suspected nothing—and I completed my triumph! Yes, the proud, beautiful woman who had treated me with such scorn, was then my slave. I had sacrificed her honor on the altar of my duplicity and lust!
'Morning came, and its first beams revealed to my victim the extent of her degradation—she saw through the deception, and with a wild cry, fell back senseless. Hastily dressing myself, I stepped into an adjoining room where the two children of Mrs. Ross were sleeping; they were twins, a boy and a girl, three years of age, and pretty children they were. I drew my pocket knife, to cut their throats; just then they awoke, and gazed upon me with bright, inquiring eyes—then recognizing me, their rosy cheeks were dimpled with smiles, and they lisped my name. Perhaps you think their innocence and helplessness touched my heart—hah! no such thing; I merely changed my mind, and with the point of my knife cut out their beautiful eyes! having first gagged them both, to prevent their screaming. Delicious fun, wasn't it? Then I bolted down stairs, but was so unfortunate as to encounter several of the servants, who had been aroused by their mistress's shriek. Frightened at my appearance, (for I was covered with the children's blood,) they did not arrest my flight, and I made good my escape from the house. That scrape was my last for some time; for people were maddened by the chapter of outrages committed by me on that family—the murder of the husband, the dishonor of the wife, and the blinding of those two innocent children. I was hunted like a wild beast from city to city; large rewards were offered for my apprehension, and minute descriptions of my entire person flooded every part of the country. But my cunning baffled them all; for two months I lived in the woods, in an obscure part of New Jersey, subsisting upon roots, and wild herbs, and wild berries, and crawling worms, which I dug from the earth. One day in my wanderings, I came across a gang of counterfeiters, who made their rendezvous in a cave; these were congenial spirits for me—I told them my story, and became one of them. The gang included several men of superior education and attainments, among whom was a celebrated chemist.
'This man undertook to procure for me a certain chemical preparation which he said would alter and disfigure my features so that I never could be recognized, even by those who were most intimately acquainted with me. He was as good as his word; he furnished me with a colorless liquid, contained in a small phial, directing me to apply it to my face at night, but cautioning me particularly to avoid getting any of it into my eyes. His directions were followed by me, to the very letter;—during the night, my face seemed on fire, but I heeded not the torture. Morning came—the pain was over; I arose, and rushed to a mirror. Great God! I scarce knew myself, so terribly changed was my countenance. My features, once comely and regular, had assumed the ghastly, horrible and death-like appearance they now wear. Oh, how I hugged myself with joy when I found myself thus impenetrably disguised! Never did the face of beauty have half the charms for me, that my blanched and terrific visage had! 'I will go forth into the great world again—no one will ever recognize me!' thought I; and bidding adieu to my brother counterfeiters, I returned to New York. Ha, ha, ha! how people shrank from me! how children screamed at my approach; how mothers clasped their babes to their breasts as I passed by, as though I were the destroying angel! The universal terror which I inspired was to me a source of mad joy. Having ample means in my possession, I began a career of lavish expenditure and extravagant debauchery, until the eye of the police was fastened upon me with suspicion; and then I deemed it prudent to act with more caution.—About that time I became aware of the existence of the Dark Vaults, and the 'Jolly Knights of the Round Table.' Soon after my meeting with that jovial crew, the law put its iron clutch on me for a murder—a mere trifle; I passed my knife between a gentleman's ribs one night in the street, just to tickle his heart a bit, and put him in a good humor to lend me some money, but the fool died under the operation, having first very impolitely called out Murder! which resulted in my being captured on the spot by two of those night prowlers known as watchmen. Well, my ugly face was against me, and I could give no good account of myself—therefore they (the judge and jury) voted me a hempen cravat, to be presented and adjusted one fine morning between the hours of ten and twelve. But his Excellency the Governor, (a particular friend of mine,) objected to such a summary proceeding, as one calculated to deprive society of its brightest ornament; he therefore favored me with a special permit to pass the rest of my useful life within the walls of a place vulgarly termed the State Prison—a very beautiful edifice when viewed from the outside. I did not long remain there, however, to partake of the State's hospitality—to be brief, I ran away, but was carried back again, after being a year at liberty, through the instrumentality of Sydney, whom may the devil confound! But again I escaped—you know in what manner; and you are well acquainted with most of my adventures since—my cutting out the boy Kinchen's tongue, my murder of Mrs. Stevens, and other matters not necessary for me to repeat.'
'But,' said Ragged Pete, with some hesitation, 'you haven't told me of your wife, you know.'
'Wife—ha, ha, ha!' and the Dead Man laughed long and loud; there was something in his laugh which chilled the blood, and made the heart beat with a nameless terror.
'True, Pete, I have not yet told you about my wife, as you call her. But you shall hear. What would you say if I told you that Mrs. Ross, the lady whose husband I murdered, whose children I blinded, and whom I so outrageously deceived herself—what would you say if you were told that the woman who passes for my wife, is that same lady?'
'I should say it was a thing impossible,' replied Pete.
'It is true,' rejoined the Dead Man.—'Listen:—when I left my counterfeiting friends in New Jersey, and returned to New York with my new face, I learned by inquiry that Mrs. Ross was living with her blind twins in a state of poverty, her husband's property, at his death, having been seized upon by his creditors, leaving her entirely destitute. I found her in an obscure part of the city, subsisting upon the charity of neighbors, the occupant of a garret. The woman's misfortunes, through me, had ruined her intellect;—she had grown fierce and reckless,—as wild as a tigress. I sat down and conversed with her; she knew me not. 'You are hideous to look upon,' said she, 'and I like you for it. The world is fair, but it has robbed me of husband, honor and taken away my children's eye-sight. Henceforward, all that is hideous I will love!' I saw that her brain was topsy-turvy, and it rejoiced me. Her children were still pretty, though they were blind; and it almost made me laugh to see them grope their way to their mother's side, and turning their sightless eyes toward her, ask, in childish accents,—'Mamma, what made the naughty man put out our eyes?' Well, the woman, with a singular perversity of human nature, liked me, and commenced to place herself under my protection. She could be of service to me; but her children were likely to prove a burden—and so I got rid of them.'
'What did you do with them—no harm, I hope?' asked Pete.
'Certainly not—the Dark Vaults were not a fit place of abode for the blind babes, and so I sent them to take up their abode in another place, and that was heaven; to explain, I cut their throats, and threw their bodies into the sewers.'
'Monster—inhuman villain!' was the involuntary exclamation of Dr. Sinclair, in his hiding-place behind the tomb-stone.
'Ha—who spoke?' cried the Dead Man, jumping to his feet, and gazing eagerly about him. 'Pete, did you hear anything?'
'I heerd a noise, that's certain—but perhaps 'twas only the wind a whistling among these old tomb-stones,' answered Pete.
'Most probably it was,' rejoined the other—'for who the devil could be here to-night, besides ourselves? Well, to resume my story: after I had made away with the children, their mother never asked for them; she seemed to have forgotten that she ever had children at all. She manifested a strange unnatural liking for me; not love, but the fierce attachment of a tigress for her keeper. She obeyed me in everything; and finding her such an easy instrument in my hands, I took pains to instruct her in all the mysteries of city crimes. By parading the streets like a woman of the town, she enticed men to my Anthony street crib (which you know communicates with the Vaults,) and by the aid of the drugging powder our victims were soon made unresisting objects of robbery and murder. You know how she allured Sydney into the house, disguised as a sailor, and how the rascal caused her to swallow the dose intended for him—also how he cut the ropes of the platform the same night, which nearly cost me my life. Ever since the woman took the powder, she has been a raging maniac, and I am deprived of her valuable services. May the devil scorch that Sydney!'
'You have had two children by her,' remarked Pete.
'Yes, the first one, that infernal dwarf, whom I call my Image; we kept him shut up in the cellar, in Anthony street. Our second child, whom I have christened Jack the Prig, takes after his mother, and a smart little fellow he is. Why man, he can pick a pocket in as workmanlike a manner as either of us. He will make a glorious thief, and will shed honor on his father's name. The day when he commits murder will be the happiest day of my life.'
Ragged Pete, having imbibed the greater part of the contents of the brandy flask, now suggested to his companion that they should take their departure. The Dead Man assented and the worthy pair took themselves off, little thinking that every word which had been said, was heard by him whom they supposed to be imprisoned in the tomb below.
The rector emerged from his place of concealment, and went to his home with a heavy heart. Though he had himself become, in a measure, depraved and reckless of his moral and religious obligations, still he was horrified and astounded at the awful evidences of crime which had been revealed to him that night.—The miscreant's tale of murder and outrage, told with such cool indifference, and with an air of sincerity that left no doubt of its perfect truth, appalled him; and the proof he had obtained of the guilt of Josephine and her mother struck his soul with horror. Ere he sought his couch, he prayed long and earnestly for the forgiveness of his past transgressions, and for strength to resist future temptations.
Showing how Mrs. Belmont was pursued by a hideous ruffian.
The time appointed for the marriage of Mr. Hedge to Mrs. Belmont approached. The enamored old gentleman paid her frequent visits, and supplied her liberally with funds, nor did he neglect to make her most costly presents. Julia's position and prospects, with reference to her contemplated marriage, were certainly very gratifying to her; yet there was one thing which troubled her exceedingly and was a source of constant apprehension and dread.
The uneasiness proceeded from the fact that she was completely in the power of the Dead Man, who knew that she was the cast-off wife of Sydney—cast off for the crime of adultery with a black—and who could at any time, by exposing her true character to Mr. Hedge, ruin her schemes in that quarter forever. She knew too well that the deadly villain was as deceitful as he was criminal; and she knew not at what moment he might betray her to her intended husband.
The Dead Man was disposed to take every advantage in his power over her. The secret passage into the cellar admitted him into the house at all hours of the day and night; and his visits were frequent. At first his treatment of her was more respectful than otherwise; but gradually he grew familiar and insolent, and began to insinuate that as she had formerly granted her favors to a negro, she could not object to treat HIM with equal kindness. This hint she received with disgust; and assuming an indignant tone, bade him relinquish all thought of such a connection, and never recur to the subject again.
But the villain was not to be repulsed; each time he visited her he grew more insulting and audacious, until at last his persecutions became almost unbearable to the proud and beautiful woman, who viewed him with loathing and abhorrence.
One afternoon, about a fortnight previous to the time fixed on for her marriage, she was seated in her chamber, engaged in reflections which partook of the mingled elements of pleasure and pain. The day was dark and gloomy, and the wind sighed mournfully around the house, and through the leafless branches of the trees which fronted it. Suddenly the door of the chamber was opened, and the Dead Man entered. Julia shuddered, for the presence of that terrible man inspired her with a nameless dread. He seated himself familiarly at her side—and on glancing at him, she perceived, to her alarm, that he was much intoxicated. His eyes rolled wildly, and his loathsome features were convulsed and full of dark and awful meaning.
'Well, my bird,' said he in an unsteady voice—'by Venus and by Cupid, I swear thou art beautiful today! Nay, thou need'st not shrink from me—for I have sworn by Satan to taste thy ripe charms within this very hour!'
He attempted to clasp her in his arms, but she pushed him from her with a look of such disgust, that he became enraged and furious. Drawing a sharp knife from his pocket, he seized her by her arm, and hissed from between his clenched teeth—
'Hark'ee, woman, I have borne with your d——d nonsense long enough, and now if you resist me I'll cut that fair throat of yours from ear to ear—I will by hell!'
She would have screamed with affright, but he grasped her by the throat, and nearly strangled her.
'Silly wench,' he cried, as he released her and again placed himself at her side—'why do you provoke me into enmity, when I would fain be your lover and friend? Mine you must be—mine you shall be, if I have to murder you!'
Miserable Julia! thy wickedness has met with a terrible retribution; thou art a slave to the lust and fury of a monster more dreadful than the venomous and deadly cobra di capello of the East!
Ye who revel in guilty joys, and drink deep of the nectar in the gilded cup of unhallowed pleasures—beware! Though the draught be delicious as the wines of Cypress, and though the goblet be crowned with flowers, fragrant as the perfume of love's sighs—a coiled serpent lurks in the dregs of the cup, whose deadly fang will strike deep in the heart and leave there the cankering sores of remorse and dark despair. Ye who bask in the smiles of beauty, and voluptuously repose on the soft couch of licentiousness—beware! That beauty is but external; beneath the fair surface lie corruption, disease, and death!
The ruffian, having accomplished his triumph, developed a new trait in the fiendish malignity of his nature. He would have the wretched lady become his menial—he would have her perform for him the drudgery of a servant. He ordered her to bring him wine, and wait upon him; and enforced the command with a blow, which left a red mark upon her beautiful white shoulder.
'Henceforward,' cried he, with an oath, 'I am your master, and you are my slave. Hesitate to obey me in any thing which I may desire you to do, and I will denounce you to Mr. Hedge as a vile adulteress and impostor, unworthy to become his wife, even if you had no husband living. Dare to refuse my slightest wish, and I will prevent your marriage under pain of being sent to the State Prison for the crime of bigamy.'
By these and other threats did the ruffian compel the unhappy Julia to obey him. She brought him wine and waited upon him; and was obliged to submit to every species of insult and degradation. Nor was this the only refinement of cruelty which only his own infernal ingenuity could have devised; he resolved that Nero, the black, should be a witness of her humiliation; and accordingly he rang the bell, and ordered the negro to be sent up. Nero entered the room, and observing the triumphant chuckle of the Dead Man, and the dejected look of his mistress, with his natural acuteness instantly comprehended the true state of affairs. The contempt with which Julia had treated him was still fresh in his memory, and led him to view that lady with hatred; he therefore determined to add to her chagrin and hatred on the present occasion, by enjoying the scene as much as possible.
'Sit down, Nero,' said the Dead Man, with a sardonic grin—'this beautiful lady, who formerly showered her favors upon you, has transferred her kindness to me; I have just tasted the joys of heaven in her arms. Is she not a superb creature?'
'Divinely voluptuous,' replied the African, rubbing his hands and showing his white teeth.
'She is so,' said the other—'but the virtue of obedience is her most prominent and excellent quality. Mark how she will obey me in what I order her to do: Julia, love, my shoes are muddy; take them off my feet, and clean them.'
The high-born lady was about to give utterance to an indignant refusal, when a terrible glance from her tyrant assured her that resistance would be useless. His savage brutality—the blow he had given her—her forced submission to his loathsome embraces—and the consciousness that she was completely in his power, compelled her to obey the degrading command.
Yes—that lovely, educated and accomplished lady actually took off the vile ruffian's dirty shoes, with her delicate hands; then with an elegant pearl handled pen-knife, she scraped off the filth, and afterwards, at the orders of her master, washed them with rose-water in a china ewer, and wiped them with a cambric handkerchief—and all in the presence of her negro footman.
This task being completed, the Dead Man requested Nero to retire; and then he inflicted new and nameless indignities upon his poor victim. Once, when she shudderingly refused to obey some horrible request, he struck her violently in the face, and the crimson blood dyed her fair cheek.
To be brief, the stupendous villain, in the diabolical malignity of his nature, derived a fierce pleasure from ill-treating and outraging that frail, but to him inoffensive woman. Her defenceless situation might have excited compassion in the breast of a less brutal ruffian; but when had his stony heart ever known compassion?
Nero entered the room to inform his mistress that Mr. Hedge was below, having called on his accustomed evening visit.
'Wash the blood from your face, then go and receive him,' said the Dead Man. 'I shall station myself in the adjoining room, to see and hear all that passes between you.'
Poor Julia removed from her face the sanguinary stains, and endeavoring to arrange her hair so as to conceal the wound which had been inflicted upon her; all in vain, however, for Mr. Hedge noticed it the first moment she entered the room.
'My own dear Julia,' said he, in a tone of much concern, and taking her hand—'what has caused that terrible bruise upon your cheek? And my God! you look pale and ill—speak, dearest, and tell me what is the matter.'
She could not reply; but burst into tears; the old gentleman's kindness of manner, contrasted with the savage cruelty of her persecutor, had overcome her. Mr. Hedge strove to comfort her, as a father might comfort a distressed child; and his kindness filled her soul with remorse, in view of the great deceit she was practising upon him. Still, she could not muster sufficient resolution to confess that deceit. Considering herself just on the eve of securing a great prize, she could not bring herself to ruin all by a confession of her true character. In answer to his renewed inquiries, she stated that her wound had been caused by a severe fall; but she assured him that it was nothing serious. The Dead Man grinned with satisfaction, as, with his ear applied to the key-hole, he heard her thus account for the wound inflicted by his own villainous hand.
Mr. Hedge did not remain long that evening: but ere his departure he presented Julia with a magnificent set of diamonds, which had cost him near a thousand dollars.
'Wear these, my dear Julia, for my sake,' said he—'and though they cannot increase your charms, they may serve to remind you of me when I am absent. A fortnight more, and I shall claim you for my own bride; then, in the beautiful city of Boston, we will be enabled to move in that sphere of society and fashion which your loveliness and accomplishments so eminently qualify you to adorn.'
After Mr. Hedge had taken his leave, the Dead Man entered the room with a smile of satisfaction.
'By Satan,' cried he—'Mrs. Belmont, as you call yourself, that old gallant of yours is devilish liberal, and there's no reason why I should not come in for a share of his generosity. These diamonds I shall carry off with me, and you can tell him that you were robbed—and so you are; ha, ha, ha! So you're going to Boston after you're married—hey? Well, I'll go to Boston too; and you must always keep me plentifully supplied with cash to insure my silence with regard to matters that you don't wish to have known. I'll leave you now; but listen:—to-morrow I intend to make a grand effort to get Francis Sydney into my power. Does that intelligence afford you pleasure?'
'Yes,' replied Julia, forgetting in her hatred of Sydney, the cruelty of the Dead Man—'yes, it does; give me but the opportunity to see him writhe with agony, and I forgive your barbarous treatment of me to-day.'
'That opportunity you shall have,' rejoined the ruffian—'come, I am half inclined to be sorry for having used you so; but d——n it, 'tis my nature, and I cannot help it. My heart even now hungers after outrage and human blood—and Sydney—Sydney shall be the victim to appease that hunger!'
Saying this, he quitted the room, leaving Julia to her own reflections, which were of the most painful nature. The only thought which shed a gleam of joy into her heart, was the prospect of soon gratifying her spirit of revenge upon Sydney, whom she unjustly regarded as the author of her troubles.
Frank Sydney in the Power of his Enemies—his incarceration in the Dark Dungeon, with the Dwarf.
The next day after the occurrence just related, Frank Sydney, as was his custom, took a leisurely stroll down the most fashionable promenade of the metropolis—Broadway; this magnificent avenue was thronged with elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen, who had issued forth to enjoy the genial air of a fine afternoon.
At one of the crossings of the street, our hero observed an old woman, respectfully dressed, but nearly double with age and infirmity, and scarcely able to crawl along, in great danger of being run over by a carriage which was being driven at a furious rate. Frank humanely rushed forward, and dragged the poor creature from the impending danger, just in time to save her from being dashed beneath the wheels of the carriage. She faintly thanked her deliverer, but declared her inability to proceed without assistance. On inquiring where she resided, he learned that it was in Reade street, which was but a short distance from where they then stood; and he generously offered her the support of his arm, saying that he would conduct her home, an offer which was thankfully accepted. They soon reached her place of abode, which was a house of genteel appearance, and at the invitation of the old lady, Frank entered, to rest a few moments after his walk.
He had scarcely seated himself in the back parlor, when he was horrified and astounded at what he saw.
The old woman, throwing off her cloak, bonnet and mask, stood before him, erect and threatening; and our hero saw that he had been made the dupe of the Dead Man!
'Welcome, Sydney, welcome!' cried the miscreant, his features lighted up with a demon's triumph—'at last thou art in my power. Did I not play my part well? Who so likely to excite thy compassion as an old lady in distress; 'twas ably planned and executed. Thou hast fallen into the trap, and shall never escape. But there are others who will be gratified to see thee, Frank. Nero—Julia—the bird is caught at last!'
These last words were uttered in a loud tone; and were immediately responded to by the entrance of Julia and the black. The woman's eyes flashed fire when she beheld the object of her hate; she advanced towards him and spat in his face, saying—
'May the fires of hell consume thee, heart and soul, detested wretch—thou didst cast me from thee, friendless and unprotected, when a kind reproof might have worked my reformation. Through thee I have become the victim of a ruffian's lust, the object of his cruelty; I have been struck like a dog, (look at this mark upon my cheek,) and I have been compelled to minister to the disgusting and unnatural lechery of a monster—all through thee, thou chicken-hearted knave, who even now doth tremble with unmanly terror!'
'Woman, thou art a liar!' exclaimed our hero, rising and boldly confronting his three enemies—'I do tremble, but with indignation alone! Dare you charge your misfortune upon me? Did you not dishonor me by adultery with this vile negro?—and then to talk to me of kind reproof! Pshaw, thou double-eyed traitorous w——e!—I had served thee rightly had I strangled thee on the spot, and thrown thy unclean carcase to the dogs!'
'Silence, curse ye, or I'll cut out your tongue as I did the Kinchen's!' roared the Dead Man, drawing his knife. 'Nero, what cause of complaint have you against this man?'
'Cause enough,' replied the black—'he shut me up in a dark dungeon for having gratified the wishes of his licentious wife.'
'Enough,' cried the Dead Man—'I will now state my grounds of complaint against him. Firstly—he played the spy upon me, and was the cause of my being returned to the State Prison, from which I had escaped. Secondly—he discovered the secrets of my Anthony street crib, and administered a drug to my wife which has deprived her of reason. And thirdly he is my mortal foe, and I hate him. Is that not enough?'
'It is—it is!' replied Julia and the African. The Dead Man continued:
'Now, Sydney, listen to me: you behold the light of day for the last time. But 'tis not my wish to kill you at once—no, that would not satisfy my vengeance. You shall die a slow, lingering death; each moment of your existence shall be fraught with a hell of torment; you will pray for death in vain; death shall not come to your relief for years. Each day I will rack my ingenuity to devise some new mode of torture. To increase the horrors of your situation, you shall have a companion in your captivity—a being unnatural and loathsome to look upon—a creature fierce as a hyena, malignant as a devil. Ha, you turn pale; you guess my meaning. You are right; you shall be shut up in the same dungeon with my Image! the deformed and monstrous dwarf, whom Heaven (if there is one,) must have sent as a curse and a reproach to me; he shall now become your curse and punishment!'
Poor Frank heard this awful doom pronounced which he could not repress. He could have borne any ordinary physical torture with fortitude; but the thought of being shut up in that noisome dungeon with a being so fearful and loathsome as the Image, made him sick and faint; and when the Dead Man and the negro seized him in their powerful grasp, in order to convey him to the dungeon, he could make no resistance, even if resistance had been of any avail. Julia did not accompany them, but contented herself with a glance of malignant triumph at her husband.
They descended to the cellar, and entered the secret passage, which they traversed in profound darkness. This passage communicated directly with the cellar of the house in Anthony street; a walk of ten minutes brought them to it, and when they had entered it, the Dead Man ignited a match and lit a lamp.
The appearance of the cellar was precisely the same as when Frank had last seen it.—There was the same outlet and the moveable platform; there, in that dim and distant corner, lay the putrefying corpse; and there, too, was the iron door of the dungeon, secured on the outside by the massive bolt.
At that moment the fearful inmate of that dungeon set up its strange, unnatural cry.
'Hark—my Image welcomes you, Sydney,' whispered the Dead Man, and, assisted by the African, he hurried his victim towards the dungeon door.
'In God's name,' said Frank, imploringly—'I beseech you to kill me at once, rather than shut me up with that fearful creature—for death is preferable to that!'
But the two ruffians only laughed—and drawing back the bolt, they opened the iron door, and thrust their victim into the dungeon; then closing the door, they pushed the bolt into its place, and left him to an eternal night of darkness and horror.
He heard the sound of their department footsteps; groping his way to a corner of the dungeon, he sat down upon the cold stone floor. Had he been alone he could have reconciled himself to his situation; but the consciousness of being in such fearful company, froze his blood with horror.
Soon his eyes became accustomed to the darkness; and as a very faint glimmer of light stole in over the door of the dungeon, he was enabled to see objects around him, though very indistinctly. With a shudder, he glanced around him; and there, cowering in one corner, like some hideous reptile, its green eyes fixed upon him, sat the Image of the Dead Man—the terrible Dwarf!
Hour after hour did that mis-shapen thing gaze upon our hero, until a strange feeling of fascination came over him—his brain grew dizzy, and he felt as if under the influence of a horrible dream. Then it uttered its strange, unnatural cry, and with the crawling motion of a snake, stole to his side. He felt its breath, like the noisome breath of a charnel-house, upon his cheek; he felt its cold, clammy touch, and could not thrust it from him; it twined its distorted, fleshless arms around him, and repeated its awful yell. Then Sydney fell prostrate upon the floor, insensible.
When he recovered from his swoon, (in which he had lain for many hours) he felt numbed with cold, sick with the foetid atmosphere of the place, and faint with hunger. The dwarf was ferociously devouring some carrion which had been thrown into the dungeon; and the creature made uncouth signs to our hero, as if inviting him to eat. But on examining the food he found it to be so repulsive, that he turned from it in disgust, and resolved, sooner than partake of it, to let starvation put an end to his misery.
Josephine and Mrs. Franklin receive two important Visits.
Josephine Franklin and her mother were languidly partaking of a late breakfast, and indolently discussing the merits of the Italian opera, to which they had both been on the preceding night.
It not being the hour for fashionable calls, both ladies were attired with an extreme negligence which indicated that they anticipated seeing no company. And yet, to the eyes of a true connoisseur in beauty, there was something far more seductive in those voluptuous dishabilles, than there could have been in the most magnificent full dress. The conversation in which they were engaged, was characteristic of them both:—
'I think, mamma,' said Josephine—'that the most captivating fellow on the stage last night, was the Signor Stopazzi, who played the peasant. Ah, what superb legs! what a fine chest! what graceful motions! I am dying to get him for a lover!'
'What, tired of the handsome Sinclair already?' asked Mrs. Franklin with a smile.
'Indeed, to confess the truth, mamma,' replied Josephine—'the Doctor is becoming somewhat de trop—and then, again, those Italians make such delightful lovers; so full of fire, and passion, and poetry; and music, and charming romance—ah, I adore them!'
'Apropos of Italian lovers,' said her mother. 'I once had one; I was then in my sixteenth year, and superbly beautiful. My Angelo was a divine youth, and he loved me to distraction. Once, in a moment of intoxicating bliss, he swore to do whatever I commanded him, to test the sincerity of his life; and I playfully and thoughtlessly bade him go and kill himself for my sake. The words were forgotten by me, almost as soon as uttered. Angelo supped with me that night, and when he took his leave, he had never seemed gayer or happier. The next day, at noon, I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and a perfumed billet-doux; they were from Angelo. On opening the missive, I found that it contained the most eloquent assurance of his sincere love—but, to my horror, in a postscript of two lines he expressed his intention of destroying himself ere his note could reach me, in obedience to my command. Almost distracted, I flew to his hotel; my worst fears were confirmed. Poor Angelo was found with his throat cut, and quite dead, with my miniature pressed to his heart.'
'Delightfully romantic!' exclaimed Josephine—'how I should like to have a lover kill himself for my sake!'
But the brilliant eyes of her mother were suffused with tears. Just then a servant in livery entered and announced—
'Dr. Sinclair is below, and craves an audience with Mrs. Franklin and Miss Josephine.'
'Let him come up,' said Josephine, with a gesture of some impatience; for, in truth, she was beginning to be tired of the rector, and longed for a new conquest.
Dr. Sinclair entered with a constrained and gloomy air.
'My dear Doc,' cried Josephine, with affected cordiality—'how opportunely that you called! I was just now wishing that you would come.'
'Ladies,' said the Doctor, solemnly—'I have recently made a terrible, a most astonishing discovery.'
'Indeed! and pray what is it?' cried both mother and daughter.
'It is that Mr. Edgar Franklin, whose death was so sudden and unaccountable, was basely murdered!'
The mother and daughter turned pale, and losing all power of utterance, gazed at each other with looks of wild alarm.
'Yes,' resumed the Doctor—'I have in my possession evidence the most conclusive, that he met his death by the hands of a murderess, who was urged to commit the deed by two other devils in female shape.'
'Doctor—explain—what mean you?' gasped Josephine, while her mother seemed as if about to go into hysterics.
'In the first place I will ask you if you ever knew a woman named Mary Welch?' said the Doctor; then after a pause, he added—'your looks convince me that you have known such a person; that woman recently died in this city, and on her death-bed she made the following confession.'
The rector here produced and read a paper which he had drawn up embodying the statement and confession which the woman Welch had made to him, just before her death. As the reader is acquainted with the particulars of that confession it is unnecessary for us to repeat them.
Having finished the perusal of this document, the rector proceeded to relate an account of his visit to the tomb of Mr. Franklin, and concluded his fearfully interesting narrative by producing the lump of lead which had been taken from the skull of the murdered man.
It is impossible to describe the horror and dismay of the two wretched and guilty women, when they saw that their crime was discovered. Falling on their knees before the rector, they implored him to have mercy on them and not hand them over to justice.—They expressed their sincere repentance of the deed, and declared that sooner than suffer the ignominy of an arrest, they would die by their own hands. Josephine in particular did not fail to remind Dr. Sinclair of the many favors she had granted him and hinted that her exposure would result in his own ruin, as his former connection with her would be disclosed, if herself and mother were arrested and brought to trial.
'Were I inclined to bring you to justice, the dread of my own exposure would not prevent me; for no personal consideration should ever restrain me from doing an act of justice, provided the public good would be prompted thereby. But I do not see the necessity of bringing you to the horrors of a trial and execution; much rather would I see you allowed a chance of repentance. Therefore, you need apprehend no danger from me; the secret of your crime shall not be revealed by me. But I warn you that the secret is known to another, who will probably use his knowledge to his own advantage; the matter lies between you and him. I shall now leave this house, never again to cross its threshold; but ere I depart, let me urge you both before God to repent of your sins. Josephine, I have been very guilty in yielding to your temptations; but the Lord is merciful, and will not refuse forgiveness to the chief of sinners. Farewell—we shall meet no more: for I design shortly to retire from a ministerial life, of which I have proved myself unworthy; and shall take up my abode in some other place, and lead a life of obscurity and humble usefulness.'
With these words the Doctor took his departure, leaving the mother and daughter in a state of mind easier to be imagined than described. Josephine was the first to break the silence which succeeded his exit from the house:—
'So our secret is discovered,' said she.—'Perdition! who would have thought that our crime could ever be found out in that manner? Mother, what are we to do?'
'I know not what to say,' replied Mrs. Franklin. 'One thing, however, is certain; that whining parson will never betray us. He said that the dread of his own folly would not deter him from denouncing us, but he lies—that dread of being exposed will alone keep his mouth shut. Yet, good Heavens! he assures us that the secret is known to another person, who will not scruple to use the knowledge to his advantage. Who can that person be? And what reward will he require of us, to ensure his silence?'
'Mother,' said Josephine, in a decided tone—'We must quit this city forever. We can dwell here no longer with safety. Let us go to Boston, and dwell there under an assumed name. I have heard that Boston is a great city, where licentiousness and hypocrisy abound, in secret; where the artful dissimulator can cloak himself with sanctity, and violate with impunity every command of God and man. Yes, Boston is the city for us.'
'I agree with you, my dear,' rejoined her mother—'it is the greatest lust market of the Union. You will be surprised to learn that several of my old schoolmates are now keeping fashionable boarding houses for courtezans in that city and from the business derive a luxurious maintenance. There is my friend Louisa Atwill, whose history I have often narrated to you and there, too, is Lucy Bartlett, and Rachel Pierce, whose lover is the gay and celebrated Frank Hancock, whom I have often seen—nor must I omit to mention Julia Carr, whose establishment is noted for privacy, and is almost exclusively supported by married men. All these with whom I occasionally correspond testify to the voluptuous temperament of the Bostonians, among whom you will be sure to make many conquests.'
We merely detail this conversation for the purpose of showing the recklessness and depravity of these two women. They had just acknowledged themselves guilty of the crime of murder; and could thus calmly converse on indifferent and sinful topics, immediately after the departure of their accuser, and as soon as their first excitement of fear had subsided.
While thus arranging their plans for the future, the servant in livery again entered, to announce another visitor.
'He is a strange looking man,' said the servant, 'and when I civilly told him that the ladies received no company before dinner, he gave me such a look as I shall never forget, and told me to hold my tongue and lead the way—good Lord, here he comes now!'
The terrified servant vanished from the room, as a tall figure stalked in, wrapped in a cloak. The ladies could scarce repress a shriek, when throwing aside his hat and cloak, the stranger exhibited a face of appalling hideousness; and a fearful misgiving took possession of their minds, that this was the other person who was in the secret of their crime.
'You are the two Franklin ladies I presume—mother and daughter—good!' and the stranger glanced from one to the other with a fierce satisfaction.
'What is your business with us?' demanded Josephine, haughtily.
'Ha! young hussey, you are very saucy,' growled the stranger savagely—'but your pride will soon be humbled. In the first place, are we alone, and secure from interruption?'
'We are—why do you ask?' said Mrs. Franklin.
'Because your own personal safety demands that our interview be not overheard,' replied the man. 'As you are fashionable people, I will introduce myself. Ladies, I am called the Dead Man, and have the honor to be your most obedient servant. Now to business.'
The Dead Man proceeded to relate those circumstances with which the reader is already acquainted, connected with his visit to the tomb of Mr. Franklin, and the manner in which he had come to the knowledge of that gentleman's murder. He omitted, however, to state that he had shut up the rector in the tomb, for he firmly believed in his own mind that Dr. Sinclair had perished.
'You perceive,' said he, when he had finished these details—'it is in my power to have you hung up at any time. Now, to come to the point at once—what consideration will you allow me if I keep silent in regard to this affair?'
'Of course you require money,' remarked Josephine, who was disposed to treat the matter in as business-like a manner as possible.
'Why—yes; but not money alone,' replied the Dead Man, with a horrible leer;—'you are both devilish handsome, and I should prefer to take out a good portion of my reward in your soft embraces. You shudder ladies; yet would not my arms around those fair necks of yours be pleasanter than an ugly rope, adjusted by the hands of the hangman? You will one day admit the force of the argument; at present I will not press the matter, but content myself with a moderate demand on your purse. Oblige me with the loan—ha, ha!—of the small trifle of one thousand dollars.'
After a moment's consultation with her daughter, Mrs. Franklin left the room to get the money from her escritoire. The door had scarcely closed upon her, when the Dead Man advanced to Josephine, caught her in his arms, despite her resistance, imprinted numberless foul kisses upon her glowing cheeks, her ripe lips, and alabaster shoulders. It was a rare scene; Beauty struggling in the arms of the Beast!
The lecherous monster did not release her until he heard her mother returning. Mrs. Franklin handed to him a roll of bank-notes, and said—
'There is the amount you asked for and you must grant that you are liberally paid for your silence. I trust that you will consider the reward sufficient, and that we shall see you no more.'
'Bah!' exclaimed the ruffian, as he deposited the money in his pocket—'do you think I will let you off so cheaply? No, no, my pretty mistress—you may expect to see me often; and at my next visit I must have something besides money—a few little amative favors will then prove acceptable, both from you and your fair daughter, whose lips, by Satan! are as sweet to my taste as human blood. I know very well you will attempt to run away from me, by secretly removing from the city; but hark'ee—though you remove to hell, and assume the hardest name of Beelzebub's family of fourth cousins—I'll find you out! Remember, I have said it. Adieu.'
And bowing with mock politeness, the miscreant took his departure from the house.
'Good heavens!' exclaimed Mrs. Franklin—'we are completely in the power of that dreadful man. We must leave the city, without delay, for Boston; yet we will spread the report that we are going to Philadelphia, in order to escape from that monster, if possible.'
'A monster indeed!' said Josephine shuddering—'during your absence from the room, he took the most insolent liberties with me, and besmeared me with his loathsome kisses. How horrible it will be, if he ever finds us out, and compels us to yield our persons to his savage lust!'
'True,' said her mother—'and yet, for my own part, sooner than pay him another thousand, I would yield to his desires; for the manner in which we have squandered money, during the last two years, has fearfully diminished my fortune, and there is but a very small balance of cash in my favor at the bank. This house must be sold, together with all our furniture, in order to replenish our funds. Now, my dear, we must make preparations for our instant departure for Boston.'
Mrs. Franklin summoned her servants, paid them their wages, and discharged them all, with the exception of her handsome footman, whom she determined to leave in charge of the house, until it was sold, after which he was privately requested to join his mistress in Boston; he was particularly directed to state, in answer to all inquiries, that the family had gone to Philadelphia. Simon, (for this was the footman's name) promised implicit obedience to these orders; and was rewarded for his fidelity by a private tete-a-tete with his fair patron, during which many kisses were exchanged, and other little tokens of affection were indulged in; after which she gave him the keys of the house, charging him not to visit the wine-cellar too often, and by all means not to admit a woman into the house, under pain of her eternal displeasure.
That same afternoon, the two ladies took passage in a steamer for Boston. They were received on board by the handsome and gentlemanly Captain, who, being somewhat of a fashionable man, had some slight acquaintance with the aristocratic mother and her beauteous daughter. He courteously insisted that they should occupy his own state-room; and they accordingly took possession of that elegant apartment, where they ordered tea be served; and, at their invitation, the Captain supped with them. The repast over, he apologized to the ladies for his necessary absence; and sent the steward to them with a bottle of very choice wine.
The state-room was divided into two apartments by a curtain of silk; and in each of these apartments was a magnificent bed. The floor was handsomely carpeted, and the walls were adorned with superb mirrors and pictures. The Captain was a man of taste, and his cabin was a gem of luxury and splendor.
As the stately steamer ploughed her way through the turbid waters of the Sound, many were the scenes which took place on board of her, worthy to be delineated by our pen. Though it is our peculiar province to write of city crimes, we nevertheless must not omit to depict some of the transactions which occurred during the passage, and which may be appropriately classed under the head of steamboat crimes.
At the hour for retiring, the ladies' cabin was filled with the feminine portion of the passengers, who began to divest themselves of their garments in order to court the embraces of the drowsy god. There was the simpering boarding-school miss of sixteen; the fat wife of a citizen with a baby in her arms, and another in anticipation; the lady of fashion, attended by her maid; the buxom widow, attended by a lap-dog, musical with silver bells, and there, too, was the elderly dame, attended by a host of grandchildren, to the horror of an old maid, who declares she 'can't BEAR young ones,' which is true enough, literally.
Now it is a fact beyond dispute, that ladies, among themselves, when no males are present, act and converse with more freedom from restraint, than a company of men; and the fact was never more forcibly illustrated than upon this occasion. The boarding-school miss, en chemise, romped with the buxom widow, who was herself in similar costume. The citizen's fat wife lent her baby to the old maid, who wanted to know how it seemed; and was rewarded for her kindness by a token of gratitude on the baby's part, which caused the aforesaid old maid to drop the little innocent like a hot potato. The fashionable lady, who dressed for bed as for a ball, was arrayed in a very costly and becoming night-dress, ornamented with a profusion of lace and ruffles; and standing before a mirror, was admiring her own charms; yet she painted, and had false teeth—defects which were atoned for by a fine bust and magnificent ankle. Her maid, a stout, well-looking girl, was toying with a very pretty boy of eight or nine years of age, and when unobserved, embraced and kissed him with an ardor which betokened a good share of amative sensibility on her part.
'The men are such odious creatures, I positively cannot endure them,' remarked the old maid.
'And yet they are very useful, and sometimes agreeable,' said the buxom widow, with an arch smile, (she was handsome, if she was a widow,) and glancing significantly at the citizen's fat wife.