'Pooh!' exclaimed the old maid, climbing into her berth, and privately taking off her wig, (she was bald,)—'I can take my pick of ten thousand men, yet I wouldn't have one of them.' (She had been pining for an offer twenty years!)
The buxom widow got into her berth, which she shared with her lapdog; and as the little animal dove under the bed-clothes and became invisible, it is difficult to conjecture in what precise locality he stowed himself! The fashionable lady 'turned in' after the most approved manner; and as the berths were somewhat scarce, her maid generously offered to share her couch with little Charley, an offer which that interesting youth at first declined, saying he was afraid of her, she 'squeezed him so,' but his scruples were overcome by her assurances that the offence should not be repeated, and Charley concluded to accept the offer.
Those scenes did not pass unwitnessed for two men were standing outside, looking thro' one of the windows, from which the curtain had been partially drawn. Both these men were respectably dressed, and both were over sixty years of age; yet they viewed the unconscious and undressed ladies with lecherous delight.
'But, deacon,' said one—'do look at that one standing before the glass; what breasts—what legs—what a form—what—heavens! I shall go crazy if I look much longer!'
'Now, in my way of thinking,' said the deacon—'that young thing of sixteen is the most delicious little witch of the entire lot;—what a fair skin—what elastic limbs—what wantonness in every look and movement! There's a youthfulness and freshness about her, which render her doubly attractive.'
'Ah, they are all going to retire, and we shall lose our sport.—By the way, deacon, what kind of a set are they that I'm going to preach to, in Boston?' asked the Rev. John Marrowfat—for it was that noted hero of pulpit oratory, amours and matrimony!
'Oh, they're a set of soft-pated fools,' replied deacon Small, 'preach hell-fire and brimstone to 'em, they'll swallow everything you say, and give you a devilish good salary into the bargain.'
A young man, small and thin, and well dressed, now approached, and grasped the deacon by the hand.
'Why, this is an unexpected pleasure,' said the young man—'who would have thought of seeing you here?'
'I am happy to meet you, brother,' said the deacon—'brother Marrowfat, allow me to introduce you to Samuel Cough, a distinguished advocate of temperance.'
'What are you going to do in Boston, Sam?' asked deacon Small.
'Oh, going to astonish the natives a little, that's all,' replied Mr. Cough. 'That was a bad scrape I got into, in Albany; I got infernally drunk, and slept in a brothel, which was all very well, you know, and nothing unusual—but people found it out! Well, I got up a cock-and-bull story about drinking drugged soda, and some people believe it and some don't. Now, when I get corned, I keep out of sight.—Ah, temperance spouting is a great business! But come, gentlemen—it won't do for us to be seen drinking at the bar; I've got a bottle of fourth-proof brandy in my pocket; let's take a swig all around.'
And producing the article in question, Mr. Cough took a very copious swig, and passed the bottle to the others, who followed his example. We shall now leave this worthy trio, with the remark that they all got very comfortably drunk previous to retiring for the night. Mr. Cough turned into his berth with his boots on and a cigar in his mouth; Mr. Marrowfat sung obscene songs, and fell over a chair; and deacon Small rushed into the gentleman's cabin, and offered to fight any individual present, for a trifling wager. He was finally carried to bed in the custody of the bootblack.
Among the passengers was a very handsome lad, twelve or fourteen years of age, whose prepossessing appearance seemed to attract the attention of a tall gentleman, of distinguished bearing, enveloped in a cloak.—He wore a heavy moustache, and his complexion was very dark. He paid the most incessant attention to the boy, making him liberal presents of cake and fruit, and finally gave him a beautiful gold ring, from his own finger.
This man was a foreigner—one of those beasts in human shape whose perverted appetites prompts them to the commission of a crime against nature. Once before, in the tenth chapter of this narrative, we took occasion to introduce one of those fiends to the notice of the reader; it was at the masquerade ball, where the Spanish ambassador made a diabolical proposal to Josephine Franklin, whom he supposed to be a boy. It is an extremely delicate task for a writer to touch on a subject so revolting; yet the crime actually exists, beyond the shadow of a doubt, and therefore we are compelled to give it place in our list of crimes. We are about to record a startling fact—in New York, there are boys who prostitute themselves from motives of gain; and they are liberally patronized by the tribe of genteel foreign vagabonds who infest the city. It was well known that the principal promenade for such cattle was in the Park, where they might be seen nightly; and the circumstance had been more than once commented upon by the newspapers.—Any person who has resided in New York for two or three years, knows that we are speaking the truth. Nor is this all. There was formerly a house of prostitution for that very purpose, kept by a foreigner, and splendidly furnished; here lads were taken as apprentices, and regularly trained for the business;—they were mostly boys who had been taken from the lowest classes of society, and were invariably of comely appearance. They were expensively dressed in a peculiar kind of costume; half masculine and half feminine; and were taught a certain style of speech and behaviour calculated to attract the beastly wretches who patronize them. For a long time the existence of this infernal den was a secret; but it eventually leaked out, and the proprietor and his gang were obliged to beat a hasty retreat from the city, to save themselves from the summary justice of Lynch law.
But to return to the steamboat. The foreigner called the lad aside, and the following conversation ensued:—
'My pretty lad, this cabin is excessively close, and the bed inconvenient. I have a very nice state-room, and should be happy to have you share it with me.'
'Thank you, sir,' answered the boy—'if it would cause you no inconvenience—'
'None whatever; come with me at once,' said the other, and they ascended to the deck, and entered his state room. It is proper to observe, that the youth was perfectly innocent, and suspected not the design of his new friend. Half an hour afterwards he dashed from the state room with every appearance of indignation and affright; seeking one of the officers of the boat he told his story, and the result was that the foreign gentleman and his baggage were set ashore at a place destitute of every thing but rocks, and over ten miles from any house; very inconvenient for a traveller, especially at night, with a storm in prospect. The miserable sodomite should have been more harshly dealt with.
To return to Josephine and her mother, whom we left in the Captain's elegant state room.
We must here remark that Sophia Franklin, the gentle, angelic sister of the depraved Josephine, had gone to spend a month or so with an aunt, (her father's sister,) in Newark, N.J., which circumstance will account for not accompanying her mother and sister in their flight from New York. It may be as well to add that she was in blissful ignorance of her father having been murdered, and of course, knew nothing of the discovery of that fact by Dr. Sinclair.
'Thank heaven,' cried Josephine, raising the wine glass to her vermilion lips—'we are at last clear of that odious New York! I feel as if just liberated from a prison.'
'The feeling is natural, my dear,' rejoined her mother—'you are no longer in constant dread of that horrible fellow who is so savagely amorous with regard to both of us. We have fairly given him the slip, and it will be difficult for him to find us.'
'Don't you think, mamma,' asked the young lady—'that the Captain, who so politely surrendered this beautiful cabin for our accommodation, is a splendid fellow? Really, I am quite smitten with him.'
'So am I,' remarked her mother—'he is certainly very handsome, and it is hard that he should be turned out of his cabin on our account. Why cannot we all three sleep here? I am sure he needs but a hint to make him joyfully agree to such an arrangement.'
'I understand you mamma,' said Josephine, her eyes sparking with pleasure—'you will see what a delicate invitation I'll give him; but I won't be selfish—you shall enjoy as much benefit from the arrangement as myself. Hark! somebody knocks—it must be the Captain.'
And so it was; he had come to inquire if the ladies were comfortable, and on receiving an affirmative answer, was about to bid them good night and depart, when Josephine invited him to sit down and have a glass of wine with them. It was not in the nature of the good Captain to decline an invitation when extended by a pretty woman. The mother and daughter, tastefully attired in superb evening dresses, looked irresistibly charming—the more so, perhaps, because their cheeks were suffused with the rosy hues of wine and passion.
'I have been thinking, Captain,' said Josephine, casting her brilliant eyes upon the carpet—'that it is unjust for us to drive you from your cabin, and make you pass the night in some less comfortable place. Mother and I have been talking about it, and we both think you had better sleep in here, as usual.'
'What—and drive you ladies out?' cried the Captain—'couldn't think of it, upon my honor.'
'Oh, it doesn't necessarily follow that we must be driven out,' said Josephine, raising her eyes to his face, and smiling archly—'you silly man, don't you see that we want to be very kind to you?'
'Is it possible?' exclaimed the Captain, almost beside himself with joy—'dear ladies, you cannot be jesting, and I accept your offer with gratitude and delight. Good heavens, what a lucky fellow I am!'
And clasping both ladies around the waists, he kissed them alternately, again and again. That night was one of guilty rapture to all the parties; but the particulars must be supplied by the reader's own imagination.
* * * * *
And now, behold Mrs. Lucretia Franklin and her daughter Josephine, in the great city of Boston! The same day of their arrival they hired a handsome house, already furnished in Washington street: and the next day they made their debut in that fashionable thoroughfare, by promenading, in dresses of such magnificence and costliness, that they created a tremendous excitement among the bucks and belles who throng there every fine afternoon.
'Who can they be?' was asked by every one, and answered by no one. The dandy clerks, in high dickies and incipient whiskers, rushed to the doors and windows of their stores, to have a glimpse of the two beautiful unknowns; the mustachioed exquisites raised their eye-glasses in admiration, and murmured, 'dem foine,' the charming Countess, the graceful Cad, and the bewitching Jane B——t, were all on the qui vive to ascertain the names, quality and residence of the two fair strangers, who were likely to prove such formidable rivals in the hearts and purses of the lady-loving beaux of the city.
That evening they went to the opera, and while listening to the divine strains of Biscaccianti, became the cynosure of a thousand admiring glances. And that night, beneath the windows of their residence, a party of gallant amateurs, with voice and instrument, awoke sounds of such celestial harmony, that the winged spirits of the air paused in their aerial flight to catch the choral symphony that floated on the soft breezes of the moon-lit night!
[Footnote 4: A fact, derived by the Author from the private history of a fashionable courtezan.]
Showing the Desperate and Bloody Combat which took place in the Dark Vaults.
'You will pray for death in vain; death shall not come to your relief for years,' were the words of the miscreant who had shut up poor Frank in that loathsome dungeon;—and like a weight of lead, that awful doom oppressed and crushed the heart of our hero, as he lay stretched upon the stone floor of the cell, with the maniac Dwarf gibbering beside him, and staring at him with its serpent-like and malignant eyes.
While lying there, weak with hunger, and his soul filled with despair, a wild delirium took possession of his senses, and in his diseased mind horror succeeded horror. First, the misshaped Dwarf seemed transformed into a huge vulture, about to tear him to pieces with its strong talons; then it became a gigantic reptile, about to discharge upon him a deluge of poisonous slime; then it changed to the Evil One, come to bear him to perdition. Finally, as the wildest paroxysms of his delirium subsided, the creature stood before him as the Image and spirit of the Dead Man, appointed to torture and to drive him mad.
'Die, thou fiend incarnate!' he exclaimed, in a phrenzy of rage and despair; and starting from the ground, he rushed upon the creature and attempted to strangle it. But with an appalling yell, it struggled from his grasp, and leaping upon his shoulders bore him to the earth with a force that stunned him; and then it fastened its teeth in his flesh and began to drink his blood.
But the fates willed that Sydney was not thus to die; for at that moment the iron door was suddenly thrown open, and the glare of a lantern shone into the dungeon; then there entered a person whose features were concealed by a hideous mask, and the dwarf quitted its hold of the victim, and flew screaming into a corner.
'He must be revived ere he is brought to judgement,' said the Mask; and he raised Sydney in his arms, carried him out of the dungeon, and fastened the door.
Then the Mask stepped upon the platform with his burden, and descended into the dark abyss. When Frank recovered his senses, he found himself in a sort of cavern which was lighted by a lamp suspended from the ceiling. He was lying upon a rude bed; and near him, silent and motionless, sat a masked figure.
'Where am I—and who art thou?' demanded our hero, in a feeble tone, as a vague terror stole over him.
The Mask replied not, but rising, brought him a cup of wine and some food, of which he partook with eagerness. Much refreshed, he sank back upon his pillow, and fell into a long, deep slumber. When he awoke, he found himself in the same cavern, on the same bed, and guarded as before by the mysterious Mask, who now spoke for the first time.
'Arise and follow me,' said he.—Sydney obeyed, and followed the Unknown through a long passage, and into a vast hall or cavern, brilliantly lighted. Glancing around him, he saw at once that he was in the Dark Vaults, in that part called the 'Infernal Regions,' the rendezvous of the band of miscreants known as the 'Jolly Knights of the Round Table.'
Seated around that table was a company of men, to the number of about fifty, all so hideously masked, that they seemed like a band of demons just released from the bottomless pit. They sat in profound silence, and were all so perfectly motionless that they might have been taken for statues rudely chiseled from the solid rock.
In the centre of the table, upon a coffin, sat the Judge of that awful tribunal, arrayed from head to foot in a blood-red robe: he wore no mask—why need he? What mask could exceed in hideousness the countenance of the Dead Man?
Sydney was compelled to mount the table, and seat himself before his Judge, who thus addressed him:—
'Prisoner, you are now in the presence of our august and powerful band,—the Knights of the Round Table, of which I have honor to be the Captain. I am also Judge and Executioner.—The charges I have against you are already known to every Knight present. It but remains for them to pronounce you guilty, and for me to pass and execute sentence upon you. Attention, Knights! those of you who believe the prisoner to be guilty, and worthy of such punishment as I shall choose to inflict upon him, will stand up!'
Every masked figure arose, excepting one! and that one remained silent and motionless. To him the judge turned with a savage scowl.
'How now, Doctor!' he cried in a voice of thunder—'do you dare dissent from the decision of your comrades? Stand upon your feet, or by G—— I'll spring upon you and tear you limb from limb!'
But the Doctor stirred not.
'By hell!' roared the Dead Man, foaming with rage—'dare you disobey the orders of your Captain? Villain, do you seek your own death?'
'Dare?' exclaimed the Doctor, tearing off his mask, and confronting his ruffian leader with an unquailing eye—'dare! Why, thou white-livered hound, I dare spit upon and spurn ye! And forsooth, ye call me a villain—you coward cut-throat, traitor, monster, murderer of weak women and helpless babes! I tell you, Dead Man, your Power is at an end in these Vaults. There are robbers, there may be murderers here—although thank God, I never shed human blood—but bad as we are, your damnable villainy, your cruelty and your tyranny have disgusted us. I for one submit to your yoke no longer; so may the devil take you, and welcome!'
Sydney now for the first time recognized in the speaker, the same individual who sought to rob him one night in the Park, and whose gratitude he had won by presenting him with a fifty dollar bill.
The Dead Man glared from some moments in silence upon the bold fellow who thus defied him. At length he spoke—
'Fool! you have presumed to dispute my authority as Captain of this band, and your life is forfeit to our laws. But, by Satan! I admire your courage, and you shall not die without having a chance for your life. You shall fight me, hand to hand—here to-night, at once; the Knights shall form a ring, and we will arm ourselves with Bowie knives; cut and slash shall be the order of the combat; no quarters shall be shown; and he who cuts out his adversary's heart, and presents it to the band on the point of his knife, shall be Captain of the Round Table. Say do you agree to this?'
'Yes!' replied the Doctor, much to the disappointment of his challenger, who would have been glad had the offer been rejected. However, there was no retracting, and instant preparations were made for the combat. Sydney was placed in charge of two men, in order to prevent his escape; and the Knights formed themselves into a large ring, while the combatants prepared for the encounter. Both men stripped to the skin; around their left arms they wrapped blankets to serve as shields; and in their right hands, they grasped long, sharp Bowie knives, whose blades glittered in the brilliant light of the many candles. All was soon ready, and the adversaries entered the ring, amid profound silence.—Poor Sydney contemplated the scene with painful interest; how sincerely he prayed that the Doctor might prove victorious in the combat!
Gaunt and bony, the Dead Man looked like a skeleton; yet the immense muscles upon his fleshless arms, indicated prodigious strength. He looked terribly formidable, with his livid face, deadly eye and jaws firmly set—his long fingers clutching his knife with an iron grasp, and his left arm raised to protect himself.—The Doctor was a large, dark-complexioned, handsome man—an Apollo in beauty and a Hercules in strength, presenting a singular contrast to the hideous, misshapen being with whom he was about to engage in deadly conflict.
Cautiously they advanced towards each other, with knives upraised. Standing scarce five feet apart, they eyed each other for two minutes; not a muscle moved; with a howl like that of a hyena, the Dead Man sprang upon his enemy, and gave him a severe gash upon his shoulder; but the Doctor, who was an accomplished pugilist, knocked his assailant down, and favored him with a kick in the jaw that left its mark for many a day, and did not enhance his beauty.
The Dead Man arose, grinding his teeth with passion, but advancing with extreme caution. By a rapid and dexterous movement of his foot, he tripped the Doctor down, and having him at that disadvantage, was about to bury his knife in his heart, when several of the band rushed forward and prevented him, exclaiming—
'When you were down, the Doctor suffered you to regain your feet, and you shall allow him the same privilege. Begin again on equal terms, and he who gets the first advantage, shall improve it.'
'Curses on you for this interference,' growled the ruffian, as he reluctantly suffered the Doctor to arise. The combat was then renewed with increased vigor on both sides. Severe cuts were given and received; two of the Doctor's fingers were cut off, and Sydney began to fear that he would be vanquished, when, rallying desperately, he closed with the Dead Man, and with one tremendous stroke, severed the miscreant's right hand from his wrist! Thus disabled, he fell to the ground, bathed in blood.
'I'll not take your life, miserable dog,' cried the Doctor, as he surveyed his fallen adversary with a look of contempt—'as I have deprived you of that murderous hand, you shall live. You are now comparatively harmless—an object of pity rather than of fear. I am a surgeon, and will exert my skill to stop the effusion of blood.'
The Dead Man had fainted. He was laid upon the Round Table, and the Doctor dressed the wound. Then he turned to his comrades, and said, 'Gentlemen of the Round Table, you will admit that I have fairly conquered our leader; I have spared his life not in the hope that he will ever become a better man, for that is impossible—but that he may be reserved for a worse fate than death by my knife. He shall live to die a death of horror.'
The band crowded around the Doctor, clapping their hands, and exclaiming—'Hail to our new Captain!'
'Not so,' cried the Doctor—'to-night I leave this band forever. Nay, hear me, comrades—you know that I am not a bad man by nature—you are aware that I have been driven to this life by circumstances which I could not control. You are satisfied that I never will betray you; let that suffice. Should any of you meet me hereafter, you will find in me a friend, provided you are inclined to be honest.—I have a word to say in regard to this prisoner; he is my benefactor, having once supplied my wants when I was in a condition of deep distress. I am grateful to him, and wish to do him a service. He has been brought before you by the Captain, for some private wrongs, which have not affected you as a band. Say, comrades, will you set him free?'
Many of the band seemed inclined to grant this favor; but one, who possessed much influence, turned the current of feeling against Sydney, by saying—
'Comrades, listen to me. Though our Captain is conquered, we will not do him injustice. This man is his prisoner, captured by his hand, and he alone can justly release him. Let the Doctor depart, since he wishes it; but let the prisoner be kept in custody; to be disposed of as our Captain may see proper.'
This speech was received with applause by the others. The Doctor knew it would be useless to remonstrate; approaching Sydney, he whispered—
'Have courage, sir—in me you have a friend who will never desert you. I shall be constantly near you to aid you at the first opportunity. Farewell.'
He pressed Sydney's hand, bade adieu to his comrades, and left the Vaults.
The Dead Man slowly revived; on opening his eyes, his first glance rested upon his prisoner, and a gleam of satisfaction passed over his ghastly visage. At his request, two of the band raised him from the table, and placed him in a chair; then, in a feeble voice, he said—
'Eternal curses on you all, why have you suffered the Doctor to escape? Hell and fury—my right hand cut off!—But no matter; I shall learn to murder with the other. Ha, Sydney! you are there, I see; the Doctor may go, in welcome, since you are left to feel my vengeance. I am too weak at present to enjoy the sight of your torture, and the music of your groans. Back to your dungeon, dog; yet stay—the dwarf may kill you, and thus cheat me of my revenge; it is not safe to confine you with him any longer. Maggot and Bloodhound, take Sydney and shut him up in the Chamber of Death.'
Two of the worst villains of the gang, who answered to the singular names of Maggot and Bloodhound, seized Sydney by his arms, and dragged him along one of the dark passages which branched off from the Vault. The Dead Man himself followed, bearing a lantern in his only remaining hand.
They arrived at a low iron door, in which was a grating formed of thick bars of the same metal. This door being opened, the party descended a flight of stone steps, and entered an apartment of great extent where the damp, chill air was so charged with noxious vapours, that the light of the lantern was almost extinguished. The stone walls and floor of this dungeon were covered with green damp; and from the ceiling in many places dripped a foul moisture. The further extremity of the place was involved in a profound darkness which could not be dissipated by feeble rays of the lamp.
'Here,' said the Dead Man, addressing his prisoner—'you will be kept in confinement for the rest of your life—a confinement varied only by different modes of torture which I shall apply to you, from time to time. This dungeon is called the Chamber of Death—for what reason you will ere long find out. It is built directly under the sewers of the city, which accounts for the liquid filth that oozes through the ceiling. Many persons have been shut up in this place, for offences against our band and against me; and not one of them has ever got out, either alive or dead! To-morrow I shall visit you, and bring you food—for I do not wish you to die of hunger; I will endeavor to protract, not shorten your life, so that I may longer enjoy the pleasure of torturing you. To-morrow, perhaps, you shall receive your first lesson in my methods of torture. Adieu—come, comrades, let's leave him the lamp, that he may contemplate the horrors of the place—for darkness here is bliss.'
The three villains ascended the steps and left the dungeon, having first carefully locked the door.
Poor Sydney fell upon his knees on the cold, damp floor, and prayed earnestly for either a safe deliverance from that awful place, or a speedy death. Somewhat comforted by the appeal to a Supreme Being, whose existence all men acknowledge in times of peril, he arose, and taking the lamp resolved to explore the dungeon. He had not proceeded far before a spectacle met his gaze which caused him to pause in horror and affright.
Seated around a vast table, was a row of figures fantastically dressed and in every extravagant attitude. At first, Frank thought that they were living creatures; but observing that they did not move, he approached nearer, and discovered that they were skeletons. Some were dressed as males, others as females; and many of them, in fearful mockery of death, had been placed in attitudes the most obscene and indecent. Presiding over this ghastly revel, was a gigantic skeleton, arrayed in what had once been a splendid theatrical dress, and grasping in its fleshless hand a large gilt goblet; this figure was seated on a sort of throne, made of rough boards.
These were the skeletons of those who had died in the Vaults, as well as of those persons who, having fallen into the power of the band of villains, had been murdered in that dungeon, by starvation or torture. With infernal ingenuity, the Dead Man had arrayed the skeletons in fanciful costumes, which had been plundered from the wardrobe of a theatre; and placed them in the most absurd and indecent positions his hellish fancy could devise. The large skeleton, which seemed to preside over the others, was the remains of a former Captain of the band, celebrated for his many villainies and gigantic stature.
While gazing upon this figure, Sydney distinctly saw the head, or skull, nod at him. Astonished at this, yet doubting the evidence of his own eyesight, he approached nearer, and held the lamp close up to it; again it moved, so plainly as to admit of no further doubt. Our hero was not superstitious, but the strangeness of this incident almost terrified him, and he was about to make a rapid retreat to the other side of the dungeon, when the mystery was explained in a manner that would have been ludicrous under any other circumstances: a large cat leaped from the skull, where it had taken up an abode, and scampered off, to the great relief of Sydney, who was glad to find that the nod of the skeleton proceeded from such a trifling cause.
On the back of each chair whereon was seated a member of the ghostly company was written the name which he or she had borne during life. Judges, magistrates and police officers were there, who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the gang, in years past, by vigilance in detecting, or severity in passing sentences upon many of its members. These individuals had been waylaid by their ruffian enemies, and made to die a lingering death in that dungeon; their fate was never known to their friends, and their sudden and unaccountable removal from the world, was chronicled in the newspapers, at the time, under the head of mysterious disappearance. Ladies, whose testimony had tended to the conviction of the band, were there; but their fate had been doubly horrible, for previous to their imprisonment in the dungeon, they had been dishonored by the vile embraces of almost every ruffian in the Vaults; and even after death, they had been placed in attitudes unseemly and shameful. But the horror of Sydney, while beholding these things, was soon absorbed in a discovery which to him was ten times more horrible than all the rest; for written on the chair of a female figure, was the name of his aunt Mrs. Stevens!
It will be remembered that this lady was murdered by the Dead Man, at her residence in Grand Street; on the night of the masquerade ball, in order to prevent her giving favorable testimony at the trial of Sydney. Having been found, suspended by the neck, it was at first supposed that she committed suicide; but that belief was removed from the public mind, when it was found that a robbery had been committed in the house. It was then apparent that she had been inhumanely murdered. Her servant testified that a strange man had called on her mistress that evening whom she would not be able to recognize, his face having been concealed in the folds of his cloak. After admitting him into the house, and calling Mrs. Stevens, the girl had gone out on a short errand, and on her return, found her mistress in the situation described, and quite dead. The old lady was buried; but her murderer broke open the tomb, and carried the corpse to the dungeon of the Vaults, where he had placed her with the other victims, in the position in which Sydney, her nephew, now found her.
'It is as I suspected,' thought our hero, as he sadly viewed the remains of his poor aunt—'that villain murdered her, and now it is forever out of my power to avenge her blood. Ha! what's this?—my name, upon an empty chair.'
And so it was; the name, Francis Sydney, was written out on the back of an unoccupied chair; he comprehended that this was designated to be his seat when he should form one of that awful crew, in the chamber of Death.
Suddenly, the damp, foul air of the place extinguished the light of his lamp, and he found himself in total darkness.
Showing how Sydney was tortured in the Chamber of Death, and how he made his escape through the City Sewers.
Groping his way to the extremity of the dungeon, Frank sat down upon the stone steps, his mind a prey to feelings of keenest horror and despair. His soul recoiled from the idea of suicide, as a heinous crime in the sight of Heaven, or he would have dashed his brains out against the walls of his prison, and thus put an end to his misery. Vainly he tried to forget his sorrows in sleep; no sooner would he close his eye-lids, than the band of skeletons would seem to rush towards him, and with fleshless arms beckon him to join their awful company.
Slowly, slowly passed the hours away. Numbed with cold, and paralyzed with the terrors of his situation, Sydney was at last sinking into a state of insensibility, when he was aroused by the loud noise caused by the opening of the dungeon door, and the gleam of a lantern flashed upon him. He staggered to his feet, and saw that his visitors were the two villains, Maggot and Bloodhound. One of them came down the steps and deposited upon the floor a small basket and a lamp.
'Here,' said he—'is some grub for you, and a light to scare away the ghosts. Eat your fill—you will need it; for in an hour from this time, our captain will visit you to commence his tortures, in which I and my comrade will be obliged to help him.'
'Why will you aid that wretch in his cruelties?' asked Sydney—'I never injured you; pray act like a man of heart and feeling, and release me from this dreadful place.'
'Release you!' cried the man—'I dare not. True, I have no animosity against you, young man; but our Captain has, and were I to let you go, life would not be worth a minute's purchase. I'd not incur that man's wrath for a million of money. No, no, make up your mind to the worst—you can never go out of this dungeon.'
With this consoling assurance, the man and his comrade took their departure. On examining the contents of the basket, our hero found an ample supply of good, wholesome food, and a jug of water; and while heartily partaking of these necessities, (of which he stood in great need,) he could not help comparing his situation with that of an animal being fattened for slaughter!
An hour elapsed; the dungeon was again opened, and the Dead Man entered, followed by Maggot and Bloodhound. The two latter worthies carried between them an apparatus of singular appearance and construction.
'Well, dog,' cried the Dead Man, 'how do you like your new kennel? Not so comfortable, I'll swear, as your fine house on Broadway! Faith, a fine prayer you made last night, after we left you; you called on God to help you—ha, ha! Fool—he cannot help you!—I alone can do it. Down, then, on your marrow bones and worship me!'
And saying this, he raised his right arm, and with it struck his victim heavily on his head; the extremity of the arm, where the hand had been cut off, had been furnished with a piece of iron like a sledge-hammer, to enable the ruffian to possess the means of attack and defence. Fortunate it was that the blow did not fracture Sydney's skull.
Meanwhile Maggot and Bloodhound had placed the machine which they had brought with them upon the floor and began to prepare it for use. The vaults of the Spanish Inquisition never contained a more horrible instrument of torture. It was a box made of iron and shaped like a coffin; the sides and bottom were covered with sharp nails, firmly fixed with their points outwards; beneath the box was a sort of furnace, filled with shavings and charcoal. This apparatus was called by the ruffians—The Bed of Ease.
Sydney was made to strip himself entirely naked, and lie down in the box; then the cover was fastened on. The points of the nails penetrated his flesh, causing him the most excruciating torture; blood started profusely from all parts of his body, and he could scarce repress groans of the most heart-felt anguish. But this was nothing to what he was doomed to endure; for the demons in human shape kindled a fire beneath him, and when nature could hold out no longer, and he screamed with agony, his tormentors roared with laughter.
They released him when a cessation of his cries warned them that he could hold out no longer without endangering his life—for they wished him to live to endure future torments. He was truly a pitiable object when taken from the box—his flesh torn and bleeding, and horribly burnt. They rubbed him with oil, assisted him to dress and laid him upon a heap of straw which one of them brought. They then left him, after assuring him that, as soon as he was healed, they had tortures in store for him much more severe than the one just inflicted. The iron box they left behind them in the dungeon, probably intending to use it again on some future occasion.
In what a deplorable situation did poor Sydney now find himself placed! Nearly dead with the torments which he had just undergone, his mind was harassed by the dread of other and more severe tortures yet in store for him. How gladly would he have bared his bosom to the deadly stroke of the knife, or the fatal discharge of the pistol!
But exhausted nature could hold out no longer, and he fell into a deep sleep, from which he was awakened by the entrance of some person into the dungeon. Starting up, he was confronted by the dark and menacing visage of the Dead Man. The villain was alone and held in his left hand a large knife; Sydney perceived, by his unsteady gait, his wildly rolling eyes, and his thick, indistinct utterance, that he was much intoxicated.
'I am come, dog,' said he, with a look that a demon might have envied—'to feast upon your heart, and drink your blood. My soul is hungry. I wish you had a thousand lives for me to take. Sit up, and let me dig out your eyes, and cut off your nose, ears and fingers—for you must die by inches! Get up, I say!'
'The monster is drunk,' thought Sydney; 'had I a weapon and sufficient strength, I might perhaps overcome him; but alas! I am weak and sore—'
'Get up!' again roared the ruffian,'that I may sacrifice ye upon the flaming altar of Satan, my deity. My heart is a coal of fire; it burns me, and blood alone can quench it!'
With the howl of a wild beast, he threw himself upon his victim.
But ere he could strike the deadly blow, he was writhing and struggling in the powerful grasp of a tall, stout man, who at that crisis rushed into the dungeon.
'Now, reptile, I have thee!' muttered the Doctor, (for it was he) as with mighty and resistless strength he dashed the miscreant to the floor and deprived him of his knife.
But the Dead Man struggled with all the fury of desperation; with his iron hand he made rapid and savage passes at the head of his assailant, knowing that a single well-directed blow would stun him. But the Doctor's science in pugilism enabled him to keep off the blows with ease, while he punished his antagonist in the most thorough and satisfactory manner. Finding himself likely to be overcome, the villain yelled at the top of his voice—'Treason! murder! help!'
'Your handkerchief, Mr. Sydney—quick!' cried the Doctor. Frank, who had already arisen from his bed of straw, handed his gallant protector the article he had called for—and, though very weak, assisted in gagging the vanquished ruffian, who, breathless and exhausted, could now offer but a slight resistance.
'Into the box with him!' exclaimed the Doctor, and the next minute the Dead Man was stretched upon the points of the sharp nails; the lid was closed upon him, the fire was lighted beneath, and he writhed in all the torture he had inflicted upon poor Sydney.
Suddenly, the Doctor assumed a listening attitude, and whispered to his companion—
'By heavens, the band is aroused, and the Knights are coming to the rescue. If they capture us, we are lost! There is but one way for us to escape—and that is through the sewers, a dreadful avenue! Will you dare it?'
'I will dare anything, to escape from this earthly hell!' cried our hero, vigor returning to his frame as he thought of liberty.
'Follow me, then,' said the Doctor, taking up the lamp, and hurrying up the dungeon steps; he led the way, at a rapid pace, up another high flight of steps, to a point which overlooked the city sewers. By the dim light of the lamp, Frank saw, twenty feet below, the dark, sluggish and nauseous stream of the filthy drainings of the vast city overhead, which, running thro' holes under the edges of the sidewalk, collect in these immense subterranean reservoirs, and are slowly discharged into the river.
'Leap boldly after me—you will land in the mud, and break no bones,' said the Doctor—'our enemies are at our heels!' A fact that was demonstrated by the sound of many footsteps hurrying rapidly towards them.
The Doctor leaped into the dark and terrible abyss. Sydney heard the splash of his fall into the muddy water, and nerving himself for the deed, jumped in after him; he sank up to his chin in the loathsome pool. His friend grasped his hand, and whispered—'We are now safe from our pursuers, unless they follow us, which is hardly probable; for I confess these sewers are so full of horrors, that even those villains would hesitate to pass through them, unless under circumstances as desperate as ours.' Frank shuddered. 'Will they not fire upon us?' he asked. The Doctor answered:—
'No, they dare not; for the noise of fire-arms would be heard in the streets above, and people might be led to inquire into the cause of such a phenomena. Fortunately my lamp is not extinguished, and as the mud is not over our heads, we may make our way out of this infernal trap, provided we are not devoured by rats and reptiles, which swarm here. Ah, by Jupiter, there are our pursuers!'
And as he spoke, some fifteen or twenty men appeared above them, on the point from which they had jumped. On seeing the fugitives, they setup a shout of surprise and anger.
'A pretty trick you've served us, Doctor,' called out the fellow known as Bloodhound—'you've nearly roasted the Dead Man, and carried off his prisoner; however, we rescued our Captain just in time to save his life. You had better come back, or we'll blow your brains out!'—and he levelled a pistol.
'Blow and be d——d,' coolly remarked the Doctor, who knew very well that he dare not fire—'come, Mr. Sydney, follow me, and leave these fellows to talk to the empty air.'
With much difficulty the two fugitives began to move off through the mud and water.
'What, cowards, will you let them escape before your eyes?' roared the Dead Man, as he rushed up to the brink of the chasm, and glared after Sydney and his friend with flaming eyes. 'Plunge in after them, and bring them back, or by G——every man of you shall die the death of a dog!'
Not a man stirred to obey the order; and the miscreant would have leaped into the sewers himself, had they not forcibly held him back.
'No, no, Captain,' cried Maggot—'the Doctor's too much for you; you've only got one hand now, and you'd be no match for him, for he's the devil's pup at a tussle. Let them both slide this time; you may catch them napping before long. As it is, they've got but a devilish small chance of escape, for it rains terribly overhead, which will fill up the sewers, and drown them like kittens.'
Meanwhile, Frank and his brave deliverer struggled manfully through the foul waters which encompassed them. Soon an angle in the wall concealed them from their enemies; and they entered a passage of vast extent, arched overhead with immense blocks of stone. This section of the sewers was directly under Canal street, and pursued a course parallel with that great avenue, until its contents were emptied into the North river. Our subterranean travellers could distinctly hear the rumbling of the carts and carriages in the street above them, like the rolling of thunder.
It was an awful journey, through that dark and loathsome place. At every few steps they encountered the putrid carcase of some animal, floating on the surface of the sickening stream. As they advanced, hundreds of gigantic rats leaped from crevices in the wall, and plunged into the water. Their lamp cast its dim rays upon the green, slimy stone-work on either side of them; and their blood curdled with horror as they saw, clinging there, hideous reptiles, of prodigious size, engendered and nourished there. They imagined that at every step they took, they could feel those monsters crawl and squirm beneath their feet—and they trembled lest the reptiles should twine around their limbs, and strike deadly venom to their blood. But a new terror came to increase their fears; the water was growing deeper every instant, and threatened to overwhelm them. Sydney overcome by the awful effluvia, grew too sick and faint to proceed further; he requested the Doctor to leave him to his fate—but the gallant man raised his sinking form in his powerful arms, and struggled bravely on. 'Courage, my friend,' cried the Doctor—'we are near the river, for I see a light ahead, glimmering like a star of hope!' In ten minutes more they emerged from the sewers, and plunged into the clear waters of the North river.
Without much difficulty they got on board of a sloop which lay moored at the wharf; and as Sydney had money, he easily procured a change of raiment for himself and friend, from the skipper, who was too lazy to ask any questions, and who was very well satisfied to sell them two suits of clothes at five times their value. Frank took the Doctor to his home, resolved never to part with so faithful and gallant a friend, whose faults had been the faults of unfortunate circumstances, but whose heart, he felt assured, was 'in the right place.'
Poor Clinton, the dumb boy, welcomed his master and his old acquaintance the Doctor, with mute eloquence. Dennis, the Irish footman, was almost crazy with delight at Mr. Sydney's safe return, swearing that he thought him 'murthered and kilt intirely.'
That awful night was so indelibly stamped upon the memory of our hero, that often, in after times, it haunted him in his dreams.
The Marriage—The Intoxicated Rector—Miseries of an aged Bridegroom on his Wedding Night.
Mrs. Belmont was seated in the elegant parlor of her residence in Reade street. It was the evening appointed for her marriage with Mr. Hedge, and she was dressed in bridal attire—a spotless robe of virgin white well set off her fine form and rich complexion, while a chaplet of white roses made a beautiful contrast with the dark, luxuriant hair on which it rested.
A superb French clock on the marble mantel piece proclaimed in silvery tones, the hour of seven.
'He will soon be here,' she murmured—'to carry me to the house of the clergyman, there to be made his wife. How little the fond, foolish old man suspects the snare in which he is about to fall! How admirably have my artifices deceived him! And the other evening when in the heat of passion, he pressed me to grant him a certain favor in advance of our marriage, how well I affected indignation, and made him beg for forgiveness! Oh, he thinks me the most virtuous of my sex—but there is his carriage; now for the consummation of my hopes!'
Mr. Hedge entered the room, and raising her jewelled hand to his lips, kissed it with rapture. The old gentleman was dressed in a style quite juvenile;—his coat was of the most modern cut, his vest and gloves white, and his cambric handkerchief fragrant with eau de cologne. To make himself look as young as possible, he had dyed his gray hair to a jet black, and his withered cheeks had been slightly tinged with rouge, to conceal the wrinkles, and give him a youthful, fresh appearance. He certainly looked twenty years younger than ever, but he could not disguise his infirm gait and the paralytic motions of his body.
But let not the reader suppose that he was either a superannuated coxcomb or a driveling dotard. He was a man of sense and feeling, but his passion for Julia had, for the time, changed all his manner and habits.—He saw that she was a young and lovely woman, about to give herself to the arms of a man thrice her age; and he wished to render the union less repugnant to her, by appearing to be as youthful as possible himself. Therefore, he had made up his toilet as we have described, not from personal vanity, but from a desire to please his intended bride.
We wish not to disguise the fact that Mr. Hedge was an exceedingly amorous old gentleman; and that in taking Julia to his matrimonial embrace, he was partially actuated by the promptings of the flesh. But in justice to him we will state that these were not the only considerations which had induced him to marry her; he wanted a companion and friend—one whose accomplishments and buoyancy of spirits would serve to dispel the loneliness and ennui of his solitary old age. Such a person he fancied he had found in the young, beautiful 'widow,' Mrs. Belmont.
'Sweetest Julia,' said the aged bridegroom, enclosing her taper waist with her arm—'the carriage is at the door, and all is in readiness to complete our felicity. To-night we will revel in the first joys of our union in my own house—to-morrow, as you have requested, we depart for Boston.'
'Ah, dearest,' murmured Julia, as her ripe lips were pressed to his—'you make me so happy! How young you look tonight! What raptures I anticipate in your arms! Feel how my heart beats with the wildness of passion!'
She placed his hand into her fair, soft bosom, and he felt that her heart was indeed throbbing violently; yet 'twas not with amorous passion, as she had said; no, 'twas with fierce triumph at the success of her schemes.
The contact of his hand with her voluptuous charms, inflamed him with impatient desire.
'Come,' cried he,—'let us no longer defer the blissful hour that gives you to my arms.'
In a few minutes Julia was ready; and the happy pair, seating themselves in the carriage, were driven to the abode of Dr. Sinclair, who was to perform the marriage ceremony.
We said happy pair—yes, they were indeed so; the old gentleman was happy in the prospect of having such a beautiful creature to share his fortune and bed; and the young lady was happy in the certainty of having secured a husband whose wealth would enable her to live in luxury and splendor.
They arrive at the rector's residence, and are ushered into a spacious apartment. Everything is handsome and costly, yet everything is in disorder; judging from appearances one would suppose that the place was occupied by a gentleman of intemperate habits—not by a minister of the gospel. The rich carpet is disfigured with many stains, which look marvelously like the stains produced by the spilling of port wine. The mirror is cracked; the sofa is daubed with mud; a new hat lies crushed beneath an overturned chair. An open Bible is upon the table, but on it stand a decanter and a wine-glass; and the sacred page is stained with the blood-red juice of the grape. On the mantle-piece are books, thrown in a confused pile; the collection embraces all sorts—Watts' hymn book reposes at the side of the 'Frisky Songsters,' the Pilgrim's Progress plays hide-and-seek with the last novel of Paul de Kock; while 'Women of Noted Piety' are in close companionship with the 'Voluptuous Turk.'
Soon the rector enters, and there is something in his appearance peculiar, if not suspicious. His disordered dress corresponds with his disordered room. His coat is soiled and torn, his cravat is put on awry, and his linen is none of the cleanest. He salutes Brother Hedge and his fair intended, in an unsteady voice, while his eyes wander vacantly around the apartment, and he leans against a chair for support.
'How very strangely he looks and acts,' whispered Julia to her frosty bridegroom—'surely he can't be tipsy?'
'Of course not,' replied Mr. Hedge—'such a supposition with reference to our beloved pastor would be sacrilege. He is only somewhat agitated; he is extremely sensitive, and deep study has doubtless operated to the injury of his nervous system. My dear Brother Sinclair, we are waiting for you to perform the ceremony,' he added, in a louder tone.
'Waiting—ceremony—' said the rector, abstractedly, gazing upward at the ceiling—'Oh, marriage ceremony, you mean? Ah, yes, I had forgotten. Certainly. Quite right, Brother Hedge, or Ditch—ha, ha! Excuse me. All ready.'
We shall not attempt to imitate the rector, in his manner of performing the ceremony, as we deem the matter to be too serious for jest; but we will say, never before was ceremony performed in so strange a manner. However, to all intents and purposes, they were married; and at the conclusion of the service, the bridegroom slipped a fifty-dollar note into the rector's hand, and then conducted his lovely bride to the carriage, in which they were soon driven to Mr. Hedge's residence in Hudson street.
In explanation of the singular conduct of Dr. Sinclair, we will state that he became a wine-bibber and a drunkard. Remorse for his amorous follies with Josephine, and horror at her crimes, had driven him to drown such painful remembrances in the bottle. The very next day after he had accused the mother and daughter of the murder, he drank himself into a state of intoxication, and each subsequent day witnessed a renewal of the folly. On the Sabbath, he managed to preserve a tolerably decent degree of sobriety, but his appearance plainly indicated a recent debauch, and his style of preaching was tame and irregular. His congregation viewed him with suspicion and distrust privately; but as yet, no public charge had been made against him. He knew very well that he could not long continue in his own unworthy course, and be a minister of the gospel; he plainly saw the precipice over which he hung—but with mad infatuation he heeded not the danger, and rushed onwards to his ruin. His house became the scene of disorder and revelry. His servants neglected their duties when he so far forgot himself as to make them familiar associates of his orgies. The voice of prayer was no longer heard in his dwelling: the Bible was cast aside. Blasphemy had supplanted the one and obscene books had taken the place of the other. We shall see how rapid was his downfall, and to what a state of degradation he sunk at last.
But we return for the present to Mr. Hedge and his newly-made wife. They alighted at the old gentleman's princely mansion in Hudson street and entered a magnificent apartment in which a bridal supper had been prepared for them. Julia, as the mistress of the house, was received with the most profound respect by half a score of domestics, clad in plain but costly livery. Everything betokened unbounded wealth, and the repast was served on a scale of splendid luxury—every article of plate being of massive silver. Viands the most recherche graced the board, and wines the most rare added zest to the feast. There, sparkling like the bright waters of the Castalian fountain, flowed the rich Greek wine—a classic beverage, fit for the gods; there, too, was the delicate wine of Persia, fragrant with the spices of the East; and the diamond-crested champagne, inspiring divinities of poesy and Love.
'Drink, my Julia,' cried the happy bridegroom—'one cup to Hymen, and then let us seek his joys in each other's arms. I have a chamber prepared for us, which I have dedicated to Venus and to Cupid; there hath Love spread his wing, and beneath it shall we enjoy extatic repose. Come, dearest.'
He took her hand, and preceded by a female domestic bearing candles, conducted her up a broad marble staircase; they entered an apartment sumptuously furnished—it was the bridal chamber. The footstep fell noiseless upon the thick and yielding carpet; each chair was a gilded throne, and each sofa a luxurious divan, cushioned with purple velvet. Vast paintings, on subjects chiefly mythological, were reflected in immense mirrors, reaching from floor to ceiling. The bed was curtained with white satin, spangled with silver stars; and a wilderness of flowers, in exquisite vases, enriched the atmosphere with their perfume.
The old gentleman kissed his bride, whispered a few words in her ear, and left the chamber, followed by the domestic. Then Julia was waited upon by two young ladies, dressed in white, who saluted her respectfully, and signified their desire to assist her in disrobing.
'We are only servants, madam,' said they, modestly,—'we perform the duties of housekeepers for Mr. Hedge, and are highly honored if we can be of service to his lady.'
But the truth is, these young ladies were the illegitimate daughters of the old gentleman. Tho' Julia was his first wife, in his young days he had formed an attachment for a poor but lovely young woman; circumstances would not admit of his marrying her, and as she loved him in return, they tasted the joys of Venus without lighting the torch of Hymen. The young woman became enciente, and died in giving birth to twins—both daughters. Mr. Hedge brought these children up under his own roof, and educated them liberally; yet while he treated them with the most indulgent kindness, he never acknowledged himself to be their father, fearing that if the fact became known, it would injure his reputation as a man and a Christian, he being a zealous church member. The girls themselves were ignorant of their parentage, and only regarded Mr. Hedge as their generous benefactor. They had been taught to believe that they had been abandoned by their parents in their infancy, and that the old gentleman had taken them under his protection from motives of charity. They were of a gentle disposition, beloved by all who knew them, and by none more so than by Mr. Hedge, who maintained them as ladies although he suffered them to superintend the affairs of his extensive bachelor establishment. Their names were Emma and Lucy.
While these young ladies are engaged in disrobing the fair (but not blushing) bride, let us seek the newly-elected husband, in the privacy of his library.
A library—How we love to linger in such a place, amid the thousands of volumes grown dingy with the accumulated dust of years!—We care not for one of your modern libraries, with its spruce shelves, filled with the sickly effusions of romantic triflers—the solemn, philosophical nonsense of Arthur, the dandified affectation of Willis, and the clever but wearisome twittle-twattle of Dickens—once great in himself, now living on the fading reputation of past greatness; we care not to enter a library made up of such works, all faultlessly done up in the best style of binder. No—we love to pass long solitary hours in one of those old depositories of choice literature made venerable by the rich mellowing of time, and the sombre tapestry of cobwebs which are undisturbed by the intrusive visitation of prim housemaids. There, amid antique volumes, caskets of thought more precious than gems, how delightful to commune with the bright spirit of dead authors, whose inspired pens have left behind them the glorious scintillations of immortal genius, which sparkle on every page! When the soft light of declining day steals gently into the dusky room, and dim shadows hover in every nook, the truly contemplative mind pores with a quiet rapture over the sublime creations of Shakespeare, the massive grandeur of Scott, and the glowing beauties of Byron. Then are the dull realities of life forgotten, and the soul revels in a new and almost celestial existence.
In such a place do we now find Mr. Hedge, but he is not feasting on the delicacies of an elevated literature. Far differently is he engaged: he is entirely undressed, and reclining at full length in a portable bath, which is one-third full of wine. Such luxurious bathing is often resorted to by wealthy and superannuated gentlemen, who desire to infuse into their feeble limbs a degree of youthful activity and strength, which temporarily enables them to accomplish gallantries under the banner of Venus, of which they are ordinarily incapable.
'Oh that I were young!' ejaculated the bridegroom, as with a melancholy air he contemplated his own wasted frame. 'Would that thro' my veins, as in days of yore, there leaped the fiery current of vigorous youth! Alas seventy winters have chilled my blood and while my wishes are as ardent as ever, my physical organization is old, and weak, and shattered—and I fear me, cannot carry out the warm promptings of my enamored soul. How gladly would I give all my wealth, for a new lease of life, that I might revel in the joys of youth again!'
He rang a small bell, and a valet entered, bearing a dish containing a highly nutritious broth, which he had caused to be prepared on account of its invigorating properties. After partaking of this rich and savory mess, and having drank a glass of a certain cordial celebrated for its renovating influence, he arose, and his valet rubbed him vigorously with a coarse towel, then slipping on a few garments and a dressing-gown, he repaired to the bridal chamber with a beating heart.
The two young ladies, having performed their task, had retired, and Julia was on the couch awaiting her husband's coming. As he entered, she partly rose from her recumbent posture, with a smile of tender invitation lighting up her charming face; and rushing forward, he strained her passionately to his breast.
Then came a torrent of eager kisses, and a thousand whispered words of tenderness and love—sincere on the part of the old gentleman, but altogether affected on the part of Julia, who felt not the slightest degree of amorous inclination towards him. Yet he imagined her to be, like himself, fired with passion, and full of desire. His eyes feasted upon the beauties of her glorious form, which, so seductively voluptuous, was liberally exposed to his gaze; and his trembling hand wandered amid the treasures of her swelling bosom, so luxuriant in its ripened fullness.
Soon the withered form of the aged bridegroom is encircled by the plump, soft arms of his beautiful young bride. There are kisses, and murmurings, and sighs—but there is a heavy load of disappointment on the heart of the husband, who curses the three score and ten years that bind his warm wishes with a chain of ice; and he prays in vain for the return—even the temporary return—of glad youth, with its vigor, and its joys.
Julia comprehends all, and secretly congratulates herself on his imbecility which releases her from embraces that are repugnant to her, though she assumes an air of tender concern at his distress. Maddened at a failure so mortifying, Mr. Hedge half regrets his marriage.
Oh, why does weak tottering age seek to unite itself with warm, impetuous youth! The ice of winter is no congenial mate for the fresh, early flower of spring. How often do we see old, decrepit men wooing and wedding young girls, purchased by wealth from mercenary parents! Well have such sacrifices to Lust and Mammon, been termed legalized prostitution. And does not such a system excuse, if not justify, infidelity on the part of the wife? An old, drivelling dotard takes to his home and bed a virgin in her teens, whom he has purchased, but as he has gone through a formal ceremony, law and the world pronounce her wife. His miserable physical incapacity provokes without satisfying the passions of his victim; and in the arms of a lover she secretly enjoys the solace which she cannot derive from her legal owner. Then, if she is detected, how the world holds up its ten thousand hands in pious horror!—Wives who have young husbands are eloquent in their censure; old women who have long passed the rubicon of love and feeling, denounce her a shameless hussey; while the old reprobate who calls himself her husband, says to his indignant and sympathizing friends—'I took her from a low station in life; I raised her to a position of wealth and rank, and see how ungrateful she is.'
Irritated by the disappointment, he arose, threw on his garments, and muttering a confused apology, left the chamber, taking with him a light. As he closed the door behind him, Julia burst into a gay silvery laugh.
'Poor old man!' she said to herself,—'how disconcerted he is!' I could scarce keep myself from laughing. Well, he is not likely to prove very troublesome to me as a husband, and I'm glad of it, for really, the pawings, and kisses, and soft nonsense of such an old man are disgusting to me. Heigho! when we get to Boston, I must look out for a lover or two, to atone for the lamentable deficiencies of that withered cypher.'
When Mr. Hedge quitted the chamber, he went directly to his library, and rang the bell violently. In a few minutes the summons was answered by his valet. This man was of middle age, and rather good-looking, but possessed what is generally called a wicked eye.
'Brown,' said his master—'make a fire in this room, and bring up some wine and refreshments. I shall pass the night here.'
'The devil!' thought Brown, as he sat about obeying these orders—'master going to pass the night in his library, and just married to a woman so handsome that one's mouth waters to look at her! They've either had a quarrel, or else the old man has found himself mistaken in some of his calculations. I'm a fool if I don't turn things to my advantage. I see it all; she has cheated old Hedge into marrying her, although she has a husband already. She did not know me, in this livery; but she soon shall know me. Why, she's in my power completely, and if she don't do just as I want her to, d——n me if I don't blow on her, and spoil all her fun!'
We may as well enter into an explanation at once. This valet, called Brown, was no other than Davis—Frank Sydney's former butler—who had been sent to the State Prison for the term of five years, for his participation in the attempt to rob his master's house. In less than a month after his removal to Sing Sing, he was pardoned out by the Governor, who, being a good-natured man, could not refuse to grant the request of the prisoner's friends. On being set at liberty, Davis assumed the name of Brown, and entered the service of Mr. Hedge as valet. He had instantly recognized in the newly-made wife of his master, his former mistress, Mrs. Sydney;—but she knew him not, as his appearance was greatly changed. Being a shrewd fellow, he saw through the whole affair, and understanding her exact position, was resolved to take advantage of it, as soon as a proper opportunity should present itself.
The fire was made, the refreshments were brought, and the valet stood as if awaiting further orders.
'Sit down, Brown,' said his master, 'and take a glass of wine. You know that I was married to-night to a young lady—you saw her. Ah, she's a beautiful creature; and yet she might as well be a stick or a stone, for I am too old and worn-out to enjoy her charms. I did wrong to marry her; she's an estimable lady, and deserves a husband capable of affording her the satisfaction which I cannot—Yet I'll do my utmost to make her happy; I know that she will be faithful to me. Hereafter we will occupy separate chambers; and as I cannot discharge the duties of a husband, I will become a father to her. To-morrow we depart for Boston; and as I still need the services of a valet, you can go with me if you choose.'
'Thank'ee, sir; I shall be glad to go with you,' said Brown.
'Then that matter is settled,' rejoined Mr. Hedge—'you can leave me now; I shall not want you again to-night. I will stretch myself upon this sofa, and try to sleep.'
The valet bade his master good night, and left the library; but instead of going to his own room, he crept stealthily towards the chamber of Julia, now Mrs. Hedge. At the door he paused and listened; but hearing nothing, he softly opened the door, and glided in with noiseless steps, but with a palpitating heart, for it was a bold step he was taking—he, a low menial, to venture at midnight into the bed-chamber of his master's wife! Yet he was a daring fellow, lustful and reckless; and he fancied that his knowledge of the lady's true history, and her fear of exposure, would render her willing to yield her person to his wishes.
He approached the bed, and found that she was sleeping. The atmosphere of the room was warm and heavy with voluptuous perfumes; and the dying light of the wax candles shed but a dim and uncertain ray upon the gorgeous furniture, the showy drapery of the bed, and the denuded form of the fair sleeper; denuded of everything but one slight garment, whose transparent texture imperfectly concealed charms we dare not describe. How gently rose and fell that distracting bosom, with its prominent pair of luscious twin sisters, like two polished globes of finest alabaster! A soft smile parted her rosy lips, disclosing the pearly teeth; and her clustering hair lay in rich masses upon the pillow. So angelic was her appearance, and so soft her slumbers that a painter would have taken her as a model for a picture of Sleeping Innocence. Yet, within that beautiful exterior, dwelt a soul tarnished with guilty passion, and void of the exalted purity which so ennobles the exquisite nature of woman.
Long gazed the bold intruder upon that magnificent woman; and the sight of her ravishing charms made his breath come fast and thick, and his blood rushed madly through his veins. Trembling with eager wishes and a thousand fears, he bent over her and, almost touching his lips to hers, inhaled the fragrance of her breath, which came soft as a zephyr stirring the leaves of a rose. Then he laid his hand upon her bosom, and passed it daringly over the swelling and luxuriant outlines. Julia partially awoke, and mistaking the disturber of her slumbers for Mr. Hedge, languidly opened her eyes, and murmured—'Ah, dearest, have you returned?'
The valet replied by imprinting a hot kiss upon her moist, red lips; but at that moment the lady saw that it was not her husband who had ravished the kiss. Starting up in bed she exclaimed, in mingled surprise and alarm—
'Good heavens, who is this?—Fellow, what do you want, how dare you enter this chamber?'
'Why, ma'am,' said Brown, doggedly—'I knew that master is old, and no fit companion for such a lively young woman as you be, and I thought—'
'No more words, sir!' cried Julia, indignantly—'leave this room instantly—go at once, and I am willing to attribute your insolence to intoxication—but linger a moment, and I will alarm the house, and give you up to the anger of your master!'
'Oh, no missus,' said the fellow, coolly—'If that be your game, I can play one worth two of it. Give the alarm—rouse up the servants—bring your husband here—and I'll expose you before them all as the wife of Mr. Sydney, turned out by him, for a nasty scrape with a negro footman! Missus you don't remember me, but I've lived in your house once, and know you well enough. I am Davis, the butler, very much at your service.'
'I recollect you now,' rejoined Julia, scornfully—'You are the scoundrel who treacherously admitted burglars into the house, and who was captured and sent to the State Prison, from which you were pardoned, as I saw stated in the newspapers. You are mistaken if you think that a dread of exposure will induce me to submit to be outraged by you. Heavens, I will not yield my person to every ruffian who comes to me with threats of exposure! Vile menial, I will dare ruin and death sooner than become the slave of your lust!'
As she uttered these words with a tone and air of indignant scorn, she looked more superbly beautiful than ever—her dark eyes sparkled, her cheeks glowed, and her uncovered bosom heaved with excitement and anger.
But Brown was a determined ruffian, and resolved to accomplish his purpose even if obliged to resort to force. Grasping the lady by both arms, he said, in a stern whisper—
'Missus, I am stronger than you be—keep quiet, and let me have my way and you shan't be hurt; but if you go to kicking up a rumpus, why d——n me if I won't use you rather roughly.'
He forced her back upon the bed, and placed his heavy hand over her mouth, to prevent her from screaming. Holding her in such a position that she could not move, he covered her face, neck and breasts with lecherous kisses; and was preparing to complete the outrage, when the report of a pistol thundered through the chamber, and the ruffian fell upon the carpet, weltering in his blood. His body had been perforated by a ball from a revolver, in the hands of Mr. Hedge.
'Die, you d——d treacherous villain,' cried the old gentleman, swearing for the first time in his life.
The dying wretch turned his malignant eyes upon Julia, and gasped, faintly—
'Mr. Hedge—your wife—false—negro—Sydney—'
He could say no more, for the hand of death was upon him; and gnashing his teeth with rage and despair, he expired.
Mr. Hedge had paid no attention to the ruffian's dying words; for he had caught Julia in his arms, and was inquiring anxiously if she were hurt.
'No, dearest,' she replied—'only frightened. But how came you to arrive so opportunely to my rescue?'
'I was endeavoring to get some sleep on the sofa in my library,' answered the old gentleman—'when suddenly I fancied I heard a noise in your chamber. Thinking that robbers might have got into the house, I grasped a pistol, and cautiously approached the door of this room. Pausing a moment to listen, I heard the villain threaten you with violence in case you resisted; the door being open a little, I stepped into the room without making any noise, and saw him preparing to accomplish the outrage. Then I raised my pistol with unerring aim, and put a ball through his infernal carcass. Thank heaven, I have reserved my Julia from a fate worse than death.'
Fortunately for Julia, he had not heard what had passed between her and the valet, in reference to her exposure. He believed her to be the most virtuous of her sex; while she was beyond measure rejoiced that Davis, who might have ruined her, was now dead.
The next day the newly-married pair left New York for the city of Boston, according to previous arrangement. Arrived in that great metropolis, they took up their quarters at the most fashionable hotel, there to remain until Mr. Hedge should purchase a suitable house in which to take up their permanent residence.
Julia had not neglected to bring her maid Susan with her, as that discreet abigail might be of service to her in any little matter of intrigue she might engage in. Nero, the black, she had discharged from her service.
Her greatest happiness now arose from the belief that she had now escaped from the persecutions of the Dead Man.
Servants' Frolics—a Footman in Luck—a Spectre—a Footman out of Luck—the Torture—the Murder, and Destruction of Franklin House.
We left Franklin House in charge of Simon, the favorite footman of Mrs. Franklin, who was to take care of the house until it should be sold, and then join his mistress in Boston.
Now, although Simon was an honorable, faithful fellow enough, he soon grew intolerably lonesome, and heartily tired of being all alone in that great mansion. To beguile his time, he often invited other servants of his acquaintance to come and sup with him; and regardless of the orders of his mistress, several of his visitors were females. These guests he would entertain in the most sumptuous manner; and Franklin House became the scene of reckless dissipation and noisy revels, such as it had seldom witnessed before.
One evening Simon invited a goodly number of his friends to a 'grand banquet,' as he pompously termed it; and there assembled in the spacious parlor about twenty male and female domestics from various houses in the neighborhood. The males included fat butlers, gouty coachman, lean footmen and sturdy grooms; and among the females were buxom cooks, portly laundresses and pretty ladies' maids. Simon had well nigh emptied the cellar of its choice contents, in order to supply wine to his guests; and towards midnight the party became uproarious in the extreme.
We shall not attempt to sketch the toasts that were offered, nor the speeches that were made; neither shall we enter too minutely into the particulars of the game of 'hide-and-seek,' in which they indulged—or tell how our handsome footman chased some black-eyed damsel into a dark and distant chamber, and there tussled her upon the carpet, or tumbled her upon the bed, or perpetrated other little pleasantries of a similar nature. Suffice it to say, all these amusements were gone through with by the company, until tired of the sport, they reassembled in the parlor, and gathering around the fire, began to converse on ghosts.
Reader, have you ever, at the solemn hour of midnight, while listening to the recital of some fearful visitation from the land of spirits, felt your hair to bristle, and your flesh to creep, and your blood to chill with horror, as you imagined that some terrible being was at that moment standing outside the door, ready to glide into the room and stand beside your chair? Did you not then dread to look behind you as you drew close to your companions, and became almost breathless with painful interest in the story?
Solemn feeling prevailed among Simon's guests, as Toby Tunk, the fat coachman, who had been relating his experience in ghosts uttered the following words:—
'Well, I was sitting by the coffin, looking at the corpse, when the door slowly opened, and—'
Toby was fearfully interrupted, for the door of that room DID slowly open and there entered a being of so terrible an aspect, that all the assembled guests recoiled from its presence with horror and affright. It advanced towards the fireplace, seated itself in an unoccupied chair, and surveyed the company with menacing eyes.
The form of the spectre was tall, and its countenance was ghastly and awful to behold; it was enveloped in a cloak, and where its right hand should have been, was a massive piece of iron which joined the wrist.
At length, after an interval, during which all the guests came near dying with fear, it spoke in a harsh and threatening tone:—
'Those of ye that belong not in this house, depart instantly, on peril of your lives; and if any there be who do belong here, let them remain, and stir not!'
All, with the exception of poor Simon, tremblingly left the room and the house, resolved never again to cross the threshold of a place visited by such fearful beings. The spectre then turned to the affrightened footman, and said, with a hideous frown—
'Now, rascal, tell me what has become of your mistress and her daughter—where have they gone—speak!'
But Simon, imagining that he had to do with a being from the other world, fell upon his knees and began to mutter a prayer.
'Accursed fool!' cried the supposed spectre, striking him with his iron hand—'does that feel like the touch of a shadowy ghost? Get up, and answer me; I am no ghost, but a living man—living, though known as the Dead Man. Where have the two Franklin ladies gone?'
Now Simon, convinced that his visitor was indeed no ghost, was beginning to regain his natural shrewdness: and remembering the injunctions of his mistress, not to reveal where she had gone, with her daughter, he replied, in accordance with the instructions which he had received—
'The ladies have gone to Philadelphia.'
'Liar!' cried the Dead Man—'you betray yourself; had you answered with more hesitation, I might have believed you—the readiness of your reply proves its falsehood. Now, by hell! tell me correctly where the ladies have gone, or I'll murder you!'
'Not so fast, old dead face,' cried Simon, who was a brave fellow, and had by this time recovered all his courage—'perhaps you mightn't find it so easy to murder me, as you imagine. Once for all, I'll see you d——d before I will tell you where the ladies have gone.'
The Dead Man smiled grimly as he surveyed the slight form of the footman; then, in a fierce tone, he demanded—
'Are you mad?—Do you want to rush on headlong to ruin and death? Do you know me? I am one whose awful presence inspires fear in my friends, consternation in my foes. Puny wretch, will you give me the required information, ere I crush you as a worm?'
'No!' replied Simon, decidedly.
'Bah! I shall have work here,' said the other, calmly: then he sprung upon the footman, who, altogether unprepared for so sudden an attack, could make but a feeble resistance, especially in the grasp of a man who possessed more than twice his strength.
The struggle was brief, for the Dead Man handled him as easily as if he were a child. Soon he was gagged and bound fast to a chair;—then the miscreant, with a diabolical grin, thrust the poker into the fire, and when it became red-hot, he drew it forth, saying—
'I have found a way to loosen your tongue, d——n you! When you get ready to answer my question, nod your head, and the torture shall cease.'
The monster applied the iron to various parts of his victim's body, burning through the clothes, and deep into the flesh. Simon winced with intense torture, yet he did not give the designated sign in token of submission until the skin was entirely burnt from his face, by the fiery ordeal.
Then the Dead Man removed the gag from his mouth, and asked—
'Where have the Franklin ladies gone, you infernal, obstinate fool?'
'To Boston,' gasped the miserable young man, and fainted. Ah! Simon, thy faithfulness to thy worthless mistress was worthy of a better cause!
'Boston, hey?' growled the villain—'then, by G——, I must go to Boston, too. Ah, I'm not at all surprised at their selecting that city for their place of refuge—for it is the abode of hypocrisy and lust; and they no doubt anticipate reaping a rich harvest there. But ere I depart for that virtuous and Christian city, I must finish my business here. And first to silence this fool's tongue forever!'
He drew forth his deadly knife, and plunged it up to the hilt in his victim's throat. With scarce a groan or struggle, poor Simon yielded his spirit into the hands of his Maker.
The murderer viewed his appalling work with satisfaction. His eyes seemed to feast upon the purple stream that gushed from the wound, and stained the carpet. It seemed as if, in the ferocity of his soul, he could have drank the gory flood!
'Would that the human race had but one single throat, and I could cut it at a stroke,' he cried, adopting the sentiment of another: then, taking a lamp, he left the room, with the intention of exploring the house.
One apartment he found carefully locked; and he was obliged to exert all his strength to break in the door. This room was furnished in a style of extravagant luxury; it was of great extent, and adorned with a multitude of paintings and statues, all the size of life.
A silken curtain, suspended across the further end of the room, bore in large gilt letters, the words 'Sanctuary of the Graces.' And behind the curtain were collected a large number of figures, exquisitely made of wax, representing males and females, large as life, and completely nude, in every imaginable variety of posture, a few classical, others voluptuous, and many positively obscene.
In this curious apartment—a perfect gallery of amorous conceptions—Josephine and her mother were in the habit of consummating those intrigues which they wished to invest with extraordinary eclat and voluptuousness. Here they loved to feed their impure tastes by contemplating every phase of licentious dalliance; and here they indulged in extravagant orgies which will admit of no description.
The intruder into this singular scene noticed a small iron apparatus attached to the wall; a sudden idea struck him—advancing, he touched a spring, and instantly every wax figure was in motion, imitating the movements of real life with wonderful fidelity! A closet in one corner contained the machinery of these automatons; and the whole affair was the invention of an ingenious German, whose talents had been misapplied to its creation. It had formerly constituted a private exhibition; but, after the murder of her husband, Mrs. Franklin had purchased it at a large cost.
'By Satan!' cried the Dead Man—'those Franklins are ladies after my own heart; lecherous, murderous and abandoned, they are meet companions for me. What a splendid contrivance! It needs but the additions of myself and the superb Josephine, to render it complete!'
He left the room, and entered an elegant bed-chamber which adjoined it. It was the chamber of Josephine; and her full-length portrait hung upon the wall; there was her proud brow, her wanton eyes, her magnificent bust, uncovered, and seeming to swell with lascivious emotions. Everything was sumptuous, yet everything lacked that beautiful propriety which is so charming a characteristic of the arrangements of a virtuous woman—one whose purity of soul is mirrored in all that surrounds her. The bed, gorgeous though it was, seemed, in its shameless disorder, to have been a nest of riotous harlotry. Costly garments lay trampled under foot; a bird in a golden-wired prison, was gasping and dying for want of nourishment; splendidly-bound books, with obscene contents, were scattered here and there, and a delicate white slipper, which Cinderella might have envied, was stuffed full with letters. The Dead Man examined the documents; and among them was a paper, in the handwriting of Josephine, which we shall take the liberty of transcribing:—
'PRIVATE JOURNAL.—'Monday. Passed last evening with Signor Pacci, the handsome Italian Opera singer. Was rather disappointed in my expectations; he is impetuous, but * * * *.'
'Tuesday. Have just made an appointment with —— the actor; he came to my box last night, between the acts, and made a thousand tender pretensions. Mem.—must try and get rid of Tom the coachman—am tired of him; besides it is outre to permit liberties to a menial.'
'Thursday. Am bored to death with the persecutions of Rev. Mr. ——. I cannot endure him, he is so ugly. Mem.—His son is a charming youth of sixteen; must try and get him.'
'Saturday. Dreadfully provoked with mother for her disgraceful liaison with her new coachman. She promised to discharge the fellow—did not perceive my drift. Mem.—Am to admit him to-night to my chamber.'
'Sunday. Heard Mr. —— preach; he visits me to-night.'
Having perused this precious morceau, the Dead Man thrust it into his pocket, and then, after a moment's reflection, deliberately applied the flame of the lamp to the curtains of the bed; and having waited to see the fire fairly started, he ran rapidly down stairs, and escaped from the house.
Within a quarter of an hour afterwards, Franklin House was entirely enveloped in flames; and notwithstanding every effort was made to save the building, it was completely destroyed. In one short hour that magnificent and stately pile was reduced to a heap of smoking ruins.
The destruction of this house and the property contained in it, brought Mrs. Franklin and her daughter to absolute poverty. When the news of the event reached them in Boston they were far from supposing that it was caused by the hideous ruffian whom they had so much reason to fear; they attributed the conflagration to the carelessness of Simon, and knew nothing of his having been murdered, but thought that, being intoxicated, he had perished in the flames.
The mother and daughter held a long consultation as to the best means of retrieving their ruined fortunes; and the result was, they determined to send for Sophia, in order to make use of her in a damnable plot, which, while it would supply them abundantly with cash, would forever ruin the peace and happiness of that innocent and pure-minded girl.
In answer to the summons, Sophia left the home of her relative in New Jersey, and joined her mother and sister in Boston. They received her with every demonstration of affection; and little did she suspect that an infamous scheme had been concocted between them, to sacrifice her upon the altars of avarice and lust.
Scene on Boston Common—George Radcliff—the Rescue—Two Model Policemen—Innocence protected—the Duel, and the Death—the Unknown.
After Frank Sydney's escape from the Dark Vaults, through the City Sewers, he did not deem it prudent to remain longer in New York. Accordingly, accompanied by the Doctor, the dumb boy Clinton, and his faithful servant Dennis, he left the city, to take up his abode elsewhere. None of his friends knew the place of his destination; some supposed that he had gone to Europe; others thought that he had emigrated to the 'far West'; while many persons imagined that he had exhausted his fortune, and been obliged to leave by the persecutions of creditors. Those who had been accustomed to borrow money from him, regretted his departure; but those who had been afflicted with jealousy at his good looks and popularity with la belle sex, expressed themselves as 'devilish glad he'd gone.'
But, in truth, Frank had neither gone to Europe, nor to the far West, neither had he been driven away by creditors; his fortune was still ample, and adequate to all his wants, present and to come. Where, then, was our hero flown? impatiently demands the reader. Softly, and you shall know in good time.
It was a beautiful afternoon, in spring, and Boston Common was thronged with promenaders of both sexes and all conditions. Here was the portly speculator of State street, exulting over the success of his last shave; here was the humble laborer, emancipated for a brief season from the drudgery of his daily toil; here was the blackleg, meditating on future gains; and here the pickpocket, on the alert for a victim. Then there were ladies of every degree, from the poor, decent wife of the respectable mechanic, with her troop of rosy children, down to the languishing lady of fashion, with her silks, her simperings, and her look of hauteur. Nor was there wanting, to complete the variety, the brazen-faced courtezan, with her 'nods,' and becks, and wreathed smiles, tho' to class her with ladies of any grade, would be sacrilege.
The weather was delicious; a soft breeze gently stirred the trees, which were beginning to assume the fair livery of spring, and the mild rays of the declining sun shone cheerily over the noble enclosure. In the principal mall a young lady was slowly walking with an air pensive and thoughtful.
She could scarce have been over sixteen years of age—a beautiful blonde, with golden hair and eyes of that deep blue wherein dwells a world of expression. In complexion she was divinely fair; her cheeks were suffused with just enough of a rich carnation to redeem her angelic countenance from an unbecoming paleness. Her figure, petite and surpassingly graceful, had scarce yet attained the matured fullness of womanhood; yet it was of exquisite symmetry.—Her dress was elegant without being gaudy, and tasteful without being ostentatious.
Have you noticed, reader, while perusing this narrative, that nearly all the characters introduced have been more or less tainted with crime?—Even Sydney, good, generous and noble as he was, had his faults and weaknesses. Alas! human excellence is so very scarce, that had we taken it as the principal ingredient of our book, we should have made a slim affair of it, indeed.
But you may remember, that in the former portions of our story, we made a slight allusion to one Sophia Franklin. She, excellent young lady! shall redeem us from the imputation of total depravity. Her virtue and goodness shall illumine our dark pages with a celestial light—even though her mother and sister were murderesses!
Sophia Franklin it was, then, whom we have introduced as walking on the Common, with thoughtful and pensive air, on that fine afternoon in early spring.
But why thoughtful, and why pensive? Surely she must be happy.—There certainly cannot exist a creature made in God's glorious image, who would plant the thorn of unhappiness in the pure breast of that gentle girl?
There is. Her worst enemies are her nearest relatives. Her mother and sister are plotting to sacrifice her to the lust of a rich villain, for gold.
Oh, GOLD!—Great dragon that doth feed on human tears, and human honor, and human blood! Thou art the poor man's phantom—the rich man's curse. Magic is thy power, thou yellow talisman; thou canst cause men and women to forget themselves, their neighbors, their God! See yon grey-headed fool, who hugs gold to his breast as a mother hugs her first born; he builds houses—he accumulates money—he dabbles in railroads. A great man, forsooth, is that miserly old wretch, who stoops from manhood to indulge the dirty promptings of a petty avarice. But is he happy? NO; how can such a thing be happy, even tho' he possess thousands accumulated by his detestable meanness—when men spit on him with contempt; decency kicks him, dishonorable care will kill him, infamy will rear his monument, and the devil will roast him on the hottest gridiron in hell—and he knows it!