But we turn from a contemplation of such villains, to pursue a different and somewhat more agreeable channel.
Showing that a man should never marry a woman before he sees her face—The Disappointed Bridegroom—Final Catastrophe.
Two months passed away. Two months!—how short a space of time, and yet, perchance, how pregnant with events affecting the happiness and the destiny of millions! Within that brief span—the millionth fraction of a single sand in Time's great hour-glass—thousands have begun their existence, to pursue through life a career of honor, of profit, of ambition, or of crime!—and thousands, too, have ceased their existence, and their places are filled by others in the great race of human life.
But a truce to moralizing.—Two months passed away, and it was now the season of summer—that delicious season, fraught with more voluptuous pleasures than virgin spring, gloomy autumn or hoary winter. It was in rather an obscure street of Boston—in a modest two-story wooden house—and in an apartment plainly, even humbly furnished, that two ladies were seated, engaged in an earnest conversation.
One of these ladies was probably near forty years of age, and had evidently once been extremely handsome; her countenance still retained traces of great beauty—but time, and care, and perhaps poverty, were beginning to mar it. Her figure was good, though perhaps rather too full for grace; and her dress was very plain yet neat, and not without some claims to taste.
Her companion was probably much younger, and was attired with considerable elegance; yet a strange peculiarity in her costume would have instantly excited the surprise of an observer—for although the day was excessively warm, she wore a thick veil, which reached to her waist, and effectually concealed her face. She conversed in a voice of extraordinary melody; and the refined language of both ladies evinced that they had been accustomed to move in a higher sphere of society than that in which we now find them.
'At what time do you expect him here?' asked the oldest lady, in continuation of the discourse in which they had previously been engaged.
'At eight o'clock this evening,' replied the other. 'He is completely fascinated with me; and notwithstanding I have assured him, over and over again, that my countenance is horribly disfigured, and that I am entirely blind, he persists in believing that I am beautiful, and that I have perfect eye-sight, attributing my concealment of face to a whim.'
'Which opinion you have artfully encouraged, Josephine,' said Mrs. Franklin.—The reader has probably already guessed the identity of the two ladies; this was the mother and her once beautiful, but now hideous and blind daughter. They were reduced to the most abject poverty, and had been forced to leave their handsome residence in Washington street, and take up their abode in an humble and cheap tenement. Entirely destitute of means, they were obliged to struggle hard to keep themselves above absolute want. Josephine, being a superb singer, had obtained an engagement to sing in one of the fashionable churches; but as she always appeared closely veiled, the fact of her being so terribly disfigured was unsuspected. The beauty of her voice and the graceful symmetry of her figure had attracted the attention and won the admiration of a wealthy member of the church, who was also attached to the choir; and as she was always carefully conducted in and out of the church by her mother this gentleman never suspected that she was blind. He had framed an excuse to call upon her at her residence; and, tho' astonished to find her veiled, at home—and tho' he had never seen her face—he was charmed with her brilliant conversation, and resolved to win her, if possible. The very mystery of her conduct added to the intensity of his passion.
Mr. Thurston, (the church member), continued his visits to Josephine, but never saw her face. When he grew more familiar, he ventured upon one occasion to inquire why she kept herself so constantly veiled; whereupon she informed him that her face had been disfigured by being scalded during her infancy, which accident had also deprived her of sight. But when he requested her to raise her veil, and allow him to look at her face, she refused with so much good-humored animation, that he began to suspect the young lady of having playfully deceived him.
'This interesting creature,' thought he, 'is trying to play me a trick.—She hides her face and pretends to be a fright, while the coquetry of her manners and the perfect ease of her conversation convince me that she cannot be otherwise than beautiful.—What, the owner of that superb voice and that elegant form, ugly? Impossible! Now I can easily guess her object in trying to play off this little piece of deception upon me; I have read somewhere of a lady who kept her face constantly veiled, and proclaimed herself to be hideously ugly, which was universally believed, notwithstanding which she secured an admirer, who loved her for her graces of mind; he offered her his hand, and she agreed to marry him, provided that he would not seek to behold her face until after the performance of the ceremony—adding, that if he saw how ugly she was, he would certainly never marry her. 'I love you for your mind, and care not for the absence of beauty,' cried the lover. They were married; they retired to their chamber. 'Now prepare yourself for an awful sight,'—said the bride, slowly raising her veil. The husband could not repress a shudder—he gazed for the first time upon the face of his wife—when lo and behold! instead of an ugly and disfigured face, he saw before him a countenance radiant with celestial beauty! 'Dear husband,' said the lovely wife, casting her arms around her astonished and happy lord, 'you loved me truly, although you thought me ugly; such devotion and such disinterested love well merit the prize of beauty.'
'Now, I feel assured,' said Mr. Thurston to himself, pursuing the current of his thoughts—'that this young lady, Miss Franklin, is trying to deceive me in a similar manner, in order to test the sincerity of my affection; and should I marry her, I would find her to be a paragon of beauty. Egad, she is so accomplished and bewitching, that I've more than half a mind to propose, and make her Mrs. T.'
The worthy deacon (for such he was,) being a middle-aged man of very good looks, and moreover very rich, Josephine was determined to 'catch him' if she could; she therefore took advantage of his disbelief in her deformity, and, while she persisted in her assurances that she was hideously ugly, she made those assurances in a manner so light and playful, that Mr. T. would have taken his oath that she was beautiful, and he became more and more smitten with the mysterious veiled lady, whose face he had never seen.
Josephine, with consummate art, was resolved, if possible, to entice him into matrimony; and once his wife, she knew that in case he refused to live with her on discovering her awful deformity, he would liberally provide for her support, and thus her mother and herself would be enabled again to live in luxury. As for Sophia, she no longer lived with them—the fair, innocent girl had gone to occupy a position to be stated hereafter.
We now resume the conversation between Mrs. Franklin and her daughter, which we interrupted by the above necessary explanation.—'Which opinion you have artfully encouraged, Josephine,' said Mrs. Franklin—'and you will of course suffer him to enjoy that opinion, until after your marriage with him, which event is, I think, certain; then you can reveal your true condition to him, and if he casts you off, he will be obliged to afford you a sufficient income, which we both so much need; for he cannot charge you with having deceived him, as you represent to him your real condition, and if he chooses to disbelieve you, that is his own affair, not yours.'
'True, mother; and the marriage must be speedily accomplished, for we are sadly in need of funds, and all my best dresses are at the pawnbroker's. Alas, that my beauty should be destroyed—that beauty which would have captured the hearts and purses of so many rich admirers! I am almost inclined to rejoice that my eyesight is gone, for I cannot see my deformity. Am I very hideous, mother?'
'My poor, afflicted child,' said Mrs. Franklin, shedding tears—'do not question me on that subject. Oh, Josephine, had I, your mother, set you an example of purity and virtue, and trained you up in the path of rectitude, we never should have experienced our past and present misery, and you, my once beautiful child, would not now be deformed and blind. Alas, I have much to reproach myself for.'
'Tut, mother; you have grown puritanical of late. Let us try to forget the past, and cherish hope for the future.—How very warm it is!'
She retired from the window to avoid the observation of the passers-by, and removed her veil. Good God!—Can she be the once lovely Josephine! Ah, terrible punishment of sin!
Her once radiant countenance was of a ghastly yellow hue, save where deep purple streaks gave it the appearance of a putrefying corpse. Her once splendid eyes, that had so oft flashed with indignant scorn, glowed with the pride of her imperial beauty, or sparkled with the fires of amorous passion, had been literally burned out of her head! That once lofty and peerless brow was disfigured by hideous scars, and a wig supplied the place of her once clustering and luxuriant hair.—She was as loathsome to look upon as had been her destroyer, the Dead Man. Oh, it was a pitiful sight to see that talented and accomplished young lady thus stricken with the curses of deformity and blindness, through her own wickedness—to see that temple which God had made so beautiful and fair to look upon, thus shattered and defiled by the ravages of sin!
Evening came, and with it brought Mr. Thurston. Josephine, seated on a sofa and impenetrably veiled, received him with a courteous welcome;—and comported herself so admirably and artfully, that the most critical observer would not have imagined her to be blind, but would have supposed her to be wearing a veil merely out of caprice, or from some trifling cause.—When she spoke to her lover, or was addressed by him, she invariably turned her face towards him, as if unconsciously; and the gentleman chuckled inwardly, as he thought he saw in that simple act an evidence of her being possessed of the faculty of sight.
But one incident occurred which doubly confirmed him in his belief; it was an artful contrivance of Josephine and her mother. Previous to Mr. Thurston's arrival, a rose had been placed upon the carpet, close to Josephine's feet; and during a pause in the conversation, while apparently in an abstracted mood, she leaned forward, took it up by the stem, and began slowly to pick it to pieces, scattering the leaves all about her.
'By Jupiter, I have her now!' said the lover to himself, triumphantly—and then he abruptly said—
'How now, Josephine! If you are blind, how saw you that rose upon the carpet?'
Josephine, affecting to be much confused, stammered out something about her having discovered the rose to be near her by its fragrance; but Mr. Thurston laughed and said—
'It won't do, my dear Miss Franklin; it is evident that you can see as well as I can. Come, end this farce at once, and let me see your face.'
'No, you shall not, for I have vowed that the first man who beholds my face shall be my husband.'
'Then hear me, Josephine,' cried her lover, raising her fair hand to his lips—'I know not what singular whim has prompted you in your endeavors to make me think you ugly and blind, but this I know, you have inspired me with ardent love. I know you to be beautiful and free from imperfection of sight—nay, do not speak—but I will not again allude to the subject, nor press you to raise your veil, until after our marriage—that is, if you will accept me. Speak, Josephine.'
'Mr. Thurston, if, after my many solemn assurances to you that I am afflicted in the manner I have so often described, you ask me to become your wife—here is my hand.'
'A thousand thanks, my beautiful, mysterious, veiled lady!' exclaimed the enraptured lover—'as to your being afflicted—ha, ha!—I'll risk it, I'll risk it! Naughty Josephine, I'll punish you hereafter for your attempt to deceive me!'
The poor man little suspected how egregiously she was deceiving him!—He was a person of no natural penetration, and could no more see thro' her designs, than through the veil which covered her face.
Midnight came, and found Josephine and her victim still seated upon the sofa in the little parlor, her head reposing upon his shoulder, and his arm encircling her waist. He felt as happy as any man can feel, who imagines he has won the love of a beautiful woman; but had he known the blackness of her heart, and seen the awful hideousness of her face, how he would have cast her from him with contempt and loathing!
When about to take his leave, he lingered in the entry and begged her to grant him a kiss; she consented, on condition that it should be a 'kiss in the dark.' The candle was extinguished, she raised her veil, and he pressed his lips to hers. Could he have seen her ghastly cheek, her eyeless sockets, and the livid lips which he so rapturously kissed, his soul would have grown sick with horror. But he departed, in blissful ignorance of her deformity of body and impurity of soul.
We hasten to the final catastrophe. They were married. The eager bridegroom conducted his veiled and trembling bride to the nuptial chamber.—Josephine was much agitated; for the grand crisis had arrived, which would either raise her to a comfortable independence, or hurl her into the dark abyss of despair.
'Is it very light here?' she asked. 'Yes, dearest,' replied the husband—'I have caused this our bridal chamber to be illuminated, in order that I may the better be enabled to feast my eyes upon your beauty, so long concealed from my gaze.'
'Prepare yourself,' murmured Josephine, 'for a terrible disappointment. I have not deceived you.—Behold your bride!'
She threw up her veil.
LETTER FROM MRS. SOPHIA SYDNEY TO A LADY.
You cannot imagine, my dearest Alice, what a life of calm felicity I enjoy with my beloved Francis, in our new home among the majestic mountains of Vermont. Had you the faintest conception of the glorious scenery which surrounds the little rustic cottage which we inhabit, (our ark of safety—poor, wearied doves that we are!) you would willingly abandon your abode in the noisy, crowded metropolis, to join us in our beautiful and secluded retreat.
Our dwelling is situated on the margin of a clear and quiet lake, whose glassy surface mirrors each passing cloud, and at night reflects a myriad of bright stars. We have procured a small but elegant pleasure barge, in which we often gently glide over those placid waters, when Evening darkens our mountain home with the shadow of her wing, and when the moon gilds our liquid path with soft radiance. Then, while my Francis guides the little vessel, I touch my guitar and sing some simple melody; and as we approach the dark, mysterious shore, my imagination oft conjures up a troop of fairy beings with bright wings, stealing away into the dim recesses of the shadowy forest. And often, when the noon-day sun renders the air oppressive with his heat, I wander into the depths of that forest, where the giant trees, forming a vast arch overhead, exclude the glare of summer, and produce a soft, delicious twilight. My favorite resting place is upon a mossy bank, near which flows a crystal brook whose dancing waters murmur with a melody almost as sweet as the low breathings of an Aeolian harp.—Here, with a volume of philosophic Cowper or fascinating Scott, I sometimes linger until twilight begins to deepen into darkness, and then return to meet with smiles the playful chidings of my husband, for my protracted absence—an offence he can easily forgive, if I present him with a bouquet of wild flowers gathered during my ramble; although he laughingly calls the floral offering a bribe.
We have almost succeeded in banishing the remembrance of our past sorrows, and look forward to the future with trustful hope. I am happy, Alice—very, very happy; and oh! may no care or trouble ever o'ershadow our tranquil home.
'So on your patience evermore attending, New joy wait on you—here our play has ending.'
Reader, our task is done. Thou hast kindly accompanied us through our rambling narrative, until the end; and now it but remains for us to dispose of the dramatis personae who have figured in the various scenes, and then bid thee farewell.
Frank Sydney and his beautiful Sophia were united in marriage, and are now residing in one of the most romantic spots to be found in all New England. Sophia has long since ceased all correspondence with her wretched and abandoned mother, who has become the keeper (under an assumed name) of a celebrated and fashionable brothel in West Cedar street.
Josephine Franklin terminated her miserable existence by poison (procured for her by her own mother,) on the day after her marriage with Mr. Thurston, who, when he beheld the hideous deformity of his bride, instead of the beauty which he expected, recoiled with horror—and after bitterly reproaching her, drove her from his presence, bidding her never to let him see her again, and refusing to make the smallest provision for her support. A few days after Josephine's death, Mr. Thurston, overcome with mortification, shot himself through the heart.
The Doctor has become one of the most respectable physicians, in Boston, and enjoys a lucrative and extensive practice. He is married to an amiable lady, and has named his first son after Sydney, his generous benefactor. He has received into his office, as a student of medicine, Clinton Romaine, the dumb boy, who bids fair to become a skilful and useful physician.
Nero, the African, who has played no inconsiderable part in our drama, finally came to Boston, and now follows the respectable occupation of barber, in the vicinity of the Maine Railroad Depot.
In conclusion, if the foregoing pages have in the least degree contributed to the reader's entertainment, or initiated him into any mystery of CITY CRIMES heretofore unknown—and if this tale, founded on fact, has served to illustrate the truth of the ancient proverbs that 'honesty is the best policy' and 'virtue is its own reward'—then is the author amply repaid for his time and toil, and he tenders to the indulgent public his most respectful parting salutations.
Alternative spellings and hyphenation have been retained as they appear in the original book. Changes to the original have been made as follows:
"Family worship was always adhered to by them, a well as grace before and after meals." —> "Family worship was always adhered to by them, as well as grace before and after meals."
"'pressing me close to him" —> "pressing me close to him"
"all that was said." —> "all that was said.'"
"'These words were said" —> "These words were said"
"'See here, young feller, 'said the stranger" —> "'See here, young feller,' said the stranger"
"What is your name?" —> "What is your name?'"
"'Then you will please to bundle out of this house as soon as possible," —> "'Then you will please to bundle out of this house as soon as possible,'"
"inclined her heard toward him." —> "inclined her head toward him."
"in another instant she was prostate" —> "in another instant she was prostrate"
"While he was surveying herself, she gave utterance" —> "While she was surveying herself, she gave utterance"
"to a cupboard in on corner" —> "to a cupboard in one corner"
"'lost, lost!'" —> "'lost, lost!"
"pausing before Mr. Belmont's chamber" —> "pausing before Mrs. Belmont's chamber"
"the pathetic Hiberian ballad" —> "the pathetic Hibernian ballad"
"Our preferences are both strictly classical;" —> "'Our preferences are both strictly classical;"
"'Insolent, am I?'—take that, and be d——d to you!'" —> "'Insolent, am I?—take that, and be d——d to you!'"
"laughing heartily.'—'d'ye think" —> "laughing heartily.—'d'ye think"
"On, how I hugged myself with joy" —> "Oh, how I hugged myself with joy"
"and gazing eagerly about him. Pete, did you hear anything?'" —> "and gazing eagerly about him. 'Pete, did you hear anything?'"
"The day when he commits murder will be he happiest day of my life." —> "The day when he commits murder will be the happiest day of my life."
"She faintly thanked her deliver" —> "She faintly thanked her deliverer"
"disgusting and and unnatural" —> "disgusting and unnatural"
"until a strange feeling of fascination over him" —> "until a strange feeling of fascination came over him"
"but, to my, horror," —> "but, to my horror,"
"my old schoolmates are now keeping fashionable boarding house" —> "my old schoolmates are now keeping fashionable boarding houses"
"'Dare? exclaimed the Doctor" —> "'Dare?' exclaimed the Doctor"
"with is so charming a characteristic" —> "which is so charming a characteristic"
"have been more less tainted with crime" —> "have been more or less tainted with crime"
"Two policeman now ran up" —> "Two policemen now ran up"
"his unvaried kindess" —> "his unvaried kindness"
"raising her fair had" —> "raising her fair hand"