"Do not, I beg of you," says Madame, blushing. "I am scrupulously opposed to profanity." And then there breaks upon the ear music that seems floating from an enchanted chamber, so soft and dulcet does it mingle with the coarse laughing and coarser wit of the banqueters. At this feast of flowers may be seen the man high in office, the grave merchant, the man entrusted with the most important affairs of the commonwealth-the sage and the charlatan. Sallow-faced and painted women, more undressed than dressed, sit beside them, hale companions. Respectable society regards the Judge a fine old gentleman; respectable society embraces Mr. Soloman, notwithstanding he carries on a business, as we shall show, that brings misery upon hundreds. Twice has he received a large vote as candidate for the General Assembly.
A little removed from the old Judge (excellent man) sits Anna Bonard, like a jewel among stones less brilliant, George Mullholland on her left. Her countenance wears an expression of gentleness, sweet and touching. Her silky black hair rolls in wavy folds down her voluptuous shoulders, a fresh carnatic flush suffuses her cheeks, her great black eyes, so beautifully arched with heavy lashes, flash incessantly, and to her bewitching charms is added a pensive smile that now lights up her features, then subsides into melancholy.
"What think you of my statuary?" inquired the old hostess, "and my antiques? Have I not taste enough for a princess?" How soft the carpet, how rich its colors! Those marble mantel-pieces, sculptured in female figures, how massive! How elegantly they set off each end of the hall, as we shall call this room; and how sturdily they bear up statuettes, delicately executed in alabaster and Parian, of Byron, Goethe, Napoleon, and Charlemagne-two on each. And there, standing between two Gothic windows on the front of the hall, is an antique side-table, of curious design. The windows are draped with curtains of rich purple satin, with embroidered cornice skirts and heavy tassels. On this antique table, and between the undulating curtains, is a marble statue of a female in a reclining posture, her right hand supporting her head, her dishevelled hair flowing down her shoulder. The features are soft, calm, and almost grand. It is simplicity sleeping, Madame Flamingo says. On the opposite side of the hall are pedestals of black walnut, with mouldings in gilt, on which stand busts of Washington and Lafayette, as if they were unwilling spectators of the revelry. A venerable recline, that may have had a place in the propyla, or served to decorate the halls of Versailles in the days of Napoleon, has here a place beneath the portrait of Jefferson. This humble tribute the old hostess says she pays to democracy. And at each end of the hall are double alcoves, over the arches of which are great spread eagles, holding in their beaks the points of massive maroon-colored drapery that falls over the sides, forming brilliant depressions. In these alcoves are groups of figures and statuettes, and parts of statuettes, legless and armless, and all presenting a rude and mutilated condition. What some of them represented it would have puzzled the ancient Greeks to decypher. Madame, nevertheless, assures her guests she got them from among the relics of Italian and Grecian antiquity. You may do justice to her taste on living statuary; but her rude and decrepit wares, like those owned and so much valued by our New York patrons of the arts, you may set down as belonging to a less antique age of art. And there are chairs inlaid with mosaic and pearl, and upholstered with the richest and brightest satin damask,—revealing, however, that uncouthness of taste so characteristic of your Fifth Avenue aristocrat.
Now cast your eye upward to the ceiling. It is frescoed with themes of a barbaric age. The finely-outlined figure of a female adorns the centre. Her loins are enveloped in what seems a mist; and in her right hand, looking as if it were raised from the groundwork, she holds gracefully the bulb of a massive chandelier, from the jets of which a refulgent light is reflected upon the flowery banquet table. Madame smilingly says it is the Goddess of Love, an exact copy of the one in the temple of Jupiter Olympus. Another just opposite, less voluptuous in its outlines, she adds, is intended for a copy of the fabled goddess, supposed by the ancients to have thrown off her wings to illustrate the uncertainty of fortune.
Course follows course, of viands the most delicious, and sumptuously served. The wine cup now flows freely, the walls reecho the coarse jokes and coarser laughs of the banqueters, and leaden eyelids, languid faces, and reeling brains, mark the closing scene. Such is the gorgeous vice we worship, such the revelries we sanction, such the insidious debaucheries we shield with the mantle of our laws-laws made for the accommodation of the rich, for the punishment only of the poor. And a thousand poor in our midst suffer for bread while justice sleeps.
Midnight is upon the banqueters, the music strikes up a last march, the staggering company retire to the stifled air of resplendent chambers. The old hostess contemplates herself as a princess, and seriously believes an alliance with Grouski would not be the strangest thing in the world. There is, however, one among the banqueters who seems to have something deeper at heart than the transitory offerings on the table-one whose countenance at times assumes a thoughtfulness singularly at variance with those around her. It is Anna Bonard.
Only to-day did George Mullholland reveal to her the almost hopeless condition of poor Tom Swiggs, still confined in the prison, with criminals for associates, and starving. She had met Tom when fortune was less ruthless; he had twice befriended her while in New York. Moved by that sympathy for the suffering which is ever the purest offspring of woman's heart, no matter how low her condition, she resolved not to rest until she had devised the means of his release. Her influence over the subtle-minded old Judge she well knew, nor was she ignorant of the relations existing between him and the accommodation man.
On the conclusion of the feast she invites them to her chamber. They are not slow to accept the invitation. "Be seated, gentlemen, be seated," she says, preserving a calmness of manner not congenial to the feelings of either of her guests. She places chairs for them at the round table, upon the marble top of which an inlaid portfolio lies open.
"Rather conventional," stammers Mr. Snivel, touching the Judge significantly on the arm, as they take seats. Mr. Snivel is fond of good wine, and good wine has so mellowed his constitution that he is obliged to seek support for his head in his hands.
"I'd like a little light on this 'ere plot. Peers thar's somethin' a foot," responds the Judge.
Anna interposes by saying they shall know quick enough. Placing a pen and inkstand on the table, she takes her seat opposite them, and commences watching their declining consciousness. "Thar," ejaculates the old Judge, his moody face becoming dark and sullen, "let us have the wish."
"You owe me an atonement, and you can discharge it by gratifying my desire."
"Women," interposes the old Judge, dreamily, "always have wishes to gratify. W-o-l, if its teu sign a warrant, hang a nigger, tar and feather an abolitionist, ride the British Consul out a town, or send a dozen vagrants to the whipping-post-I'm thar. Anything my hand's in at!" incoherently mumbles this judicial dignitary.
Mr. Snivel having reminded the Judge that ten o'clock to-morrow morning is the time appointed for meeting Splitwood, the "nigger broker," who furnishes capital with which they start a new paper for the new party, drops away into a refreshing sleep, his head on the marble.
"Grant me, as a favor, an order for the release of poor Tom Swiggs. You cannot deny me this, Judge," says Anna, with an arch smile, and pausing for a reply.
"Wol, as to that," responds this high functionary, "if I'd power, 'twouldn't be long afore I'd dew it, though his mother'd turn the town upside down; but I hain't no power in the premises. I make it a rule, on and off the bench, never to refuse the request of a pretty woman. Chivalry, you know."
"For your compliment, Judge, I thank you. The granting my request, however, would be more grateful to my feelings."
"It speaks well of your heart, my dear girl; but, you see, I'm only a Judge. Mr. Snivel, here, probably committed him ('Snivel! here, wake up!' he says, shaking him violently), he commits everybody. Being a Justice of the Peace, you see, and justices of the peace being everything here, I may prevail on him to grant your request!" pursues the Judge, brightening up at the earnest manner in which Anna makes her appeal. "Snivel! Snivel!—Justice Snivel, come, wake up. Thar is a call for your sarvices." The Judge continues to shake the higher functionary violently. Mr. Snivel with a modest snore rouses from his nap, says he is always ready to do a bit of a good turn. "If you are, then," interposes the fair girl, "let it be made known now. Grant me an order of release for Tom Swiggs. Remember what will be the consequence of a refusal!"
"Tom Swiggs! Tom Swiggs!—why I've made a deal of fees of that fellow. But, viewing it in either a judicial or philosophical light, he's quite as well where he is. They don't give them much to eat in jail I admit, but it is a great place for straightening the morals of a rum-head like Tom. And he has got down so low that all the justices in the city couldn't make him fit for respectable society." Mr. Snivel yawns and stretches his arms athwart.
"But you can grant me the order independent of what respectable society will do."
Mr. Snivel replies, bowing, a pretty woman is more than a match for the whole judiciary. He will make a good amount of fees out of Tom yet; and what his testy old mother declines to pay, he will charge to the State, as the law gives him a right to do.
"Then I am to understand!" quickly retorts Anna, rising from her chair, with an expression of contempt on her countenance, and a satirical curl on her lip, "you have no true regard for me then; your friendship is that of the knave, who has nothing to give after his ends are served. I will leave you!" The Judge takes her gently by the arm; indignantly she pushes him from her, as her great black eyes flash with passion, and she seeks for the door. Mr. Snivel has placed himself against it, begs she will be calm. "Why," he says, "get into a passion at that which was but a joke." The Judge touches him on the arm significantly, and whispers in his ear, "grant her the order-grant it, for peace sake, Justice Snivel."
"Now, if you will tell me why you take so deep an interest in getting them fellows out of prison, I will grant the order of release," Mr. Snivel says, and with an air of great gallantry leads her back to her chair.
"None but friendship for one who served me when he had it in his power."
"I see! I see!" interrupts our gallant justice; "the renewal of an old acquaintance; you are to play the part of Don Quixote,—he, the mistress. It's well enough there should be a change in the knights, and that the stripling who goes about in the garb of the clergy, and has been puzzling his wits how to get Tom out of prison for the last six months—"
"Your trades never agree;" parenthesises Anna.
"Should yield the lance to you."
"Who better able to wield it in this chivalrous atmosphere? It only pains my own feelings to confess myself an abandoned woman; but I have a consolation in knowing how powerful an abandoned woman may be in Charleston."
An admonition from the old Judge, and Mr. Snivel draws his chair to the table, upon which he places his left elbow, rests his head on his hand. "This fellow will get out; his mother-I have pledged my honor to keep him fast locked up-will find it out, and there'll be a fuss among our first families," he whispers. Anna pledges him her honor, a thing she never betrays, that the secret of Tom's release shall be a matter of strict confidence. And having shook hands over it, Mr. Snivel seizes the pen and writes an order of release, commanding the jailer to set at liberty one Tom Swiggs, committed as a vagrant upon a justice's warrant, &c., &c., &c. "There," says Justice Snivel, "the thing is done-now for a kiss;" and the fair girl permits him to kiss her brow. "Me too; the bench and the bar!" rejoins the Judge, following the example of his junior. And with an air of triumph the victorious girl bears away what at this moment she values a prize.
IN WHICH TOM SWIGGS GAINS HIS LIBERTY, AND WHAT BEFALLS HIM.
ANNA gives George Mullholland the letter of release, and on the succeeding morning he is seen entering at the iron gate of the wall that encloses the old prison. "Bread! give me bread," greets his ear as soon as he enters the sombre old pile. He walks through the debtors' floor, startles as he hears the stifled cry for bread, and contemplates with pained feelings the wasting forms and sickly faces that everywhere meet his eye. The same piercing cry grates upon his senses as he sallies along the damp, narrow aisle of the second floor, lined on both sides with small, filthy cells, in which are incarcerated men whose crime is that of having committed "assault and battery," and British seamen innocent of all crime except that of having a colored skin. If anything less than a gentleman commit assault and battery, we punish him with imprisonment; we have no law to punish gentlemen who commit such offences.
Along the felon's aisle-in the malarious cells where "poor" murderers and burglars are chained to die of the poisonous atmosphere, the same cry tells its mournful tale. Look into the dark vista of this little passage, and you will see the gleaming of flabby arms and shrunken hands. Glance into the apertures out of which they protrude so appealingly, you will hear the dull clank of chains, see the glare of vacant eyes, and shudder at the pale, cadaverous faces of beings tortured with starvation. A low, hoarse whisper, asks you for bread; a listless countenance quickens at your footfall. Oh! could you but feel the emotion that has touched that shrunken form which so despondingly waits the coming of a messenger of mercy. That system of cruelty to prisoners which so disgraced England during the last century, and which for her name she would were erased from her history, we preserve here in all its hideousness. The Governor knows nothing, and cares nothing about the prison; the Attorney-General never darkens its doors; the public scarce give a thought for those within its walls-and to one man, Mr. Hardscrabble, is the fate of these wretched beings entrusted. And so prone has become the appetite of man to speculate on the misfortunes of his fellow-man, that this good man, as we shall call him, tortures thus the miserable beings entrusted to his keeping, and makes it a means of getting rich. Pardon, reader, this digression.
George, elated with the idea of setting Tom at liberty, found the young theologian at the prison, and revealed to him the fact that he had got the much-desired order. To the latter this seemed strange-not that such a person as George could have succeeded in what he had tried in vain to effect, but that there was a mystery about it. It is but justice to say that the young theologian had for six months used every exertion in his power, without avail, to procure an order of release. He had appealed to the Attorney-General, who declared himself powerless, but referred him to the Governor. The Governor could take no action in the premises, and referred him to the Judge of the Sessions. The Judge of the Sessions doubted his capacity to interfere, and advised a petition to the Clerk of the Court. The Clerk of the Court, who invariably took it upon himself to correct the judge's dictum, decided that the judge could not interfere, the case being a committal by a Justice of the Peace, and not having been before the sessions. And against these high functionaries-the Governor, Attorney-General, Judge of the Sessions, and Clerk of the Court, was Mr. Soloman and Mrs. Swiggs all-powerful. There was, however, another power superior to all, and that we have described in the previous chapter.
Accompanied by the brusque old jailer, George and the young theologian make their way to the cell in which Tom is confined.
"Hallo! Tom," exclaims George, as he enters the cell, "boarding at the expense of the State yet, eh?" Tom lay stretched on a blanket in one corner of the cell, his faithful old friend, the sailor, watching over him with the solicitude of a brother. "I don't know how he'd got on if it hadn't bin for the old sailor, yonder," says the jailer, pointing to Spunyarn, who is crouched down at the great black fire-place, blowing the coals under a small pan. "He took to Tom when he first came in, and hasn't left him for a day. He'll steal to supply Tom's hunger, and fight if a prisoner attempts to impose upon his charge. He has rigged him out, you see, with his pea-coat and overalls," continues the man, folding his arms.
"I am sorry, Tom—"
"Yes," says Tom, interrupting the young theologian, "I know you are. You don't find me to have kept my word; and because I haven't you don't find me improved much. I can't get out; and if I can't get out, what's the use of my trying to improve? I don't say this because I don't want to improve. I have no one living who ought to care for me, but my mother. And she has shown what she cares for me."
"Everything is well. (The young theologian takes Tom by the hand.) We have got your release. You are a free man, now."
"My release!" exclaims the poor outcast, starting to his feet, "my release?"
"Yes," kindly interposes the jailer, "you may go, Tom. Stone walls, bolts and chains have no further use for you." The announcement brings tears to his eyes; he cannot find words to give utterance to his emotions. He drops the young theologian's hand, grasps warmly that of George Mullholland, and says, the tears falling fast down his cheeks, "now I will be a new man."
"God bless Tom," rejoins the old sailor, who has left the fire-place and joined in the excitement of the moment. "I alwas sed there war better weather ahead, Tom." He pats him encouragingly on the shoulder, and turns to the bystanders, continuing with a childlike frankness: "he's alwas complained with himself about breaking his word and honor with you, sir—"
The young theologian says the temptation was more than he could withstand.
"Yes sir!—that was it. He, poor fellow, wasn't to blame. One brought him in a drop, and challenged him; then another brought him in a drop, and challenged him; and the vote-cribber would get generous now and then, and bring him a drop, saying how he would like to crib him if he was only out, on the general election coming on, and make him take a drop of what he called election whiskey. And you know, sir, it's hard for a body to stand up against all these things, specially when a body's bin disappointed in love. It's bin a hard up and down with him. To-day he would make a bit of good weather, and to-morrow he'd be all up in a hurricane." And the old sailor takes a fresh quid of tobacco, wipes Tom's face, gets the brush and fusses over him, and tells him to cheer up, now that he has got his clearance.
"Tom would know if his mother ordered it."
"No! she must not know that you are at large," rejoins George.
"Not that I am at large?"
"I have," interposes the young theologian, "provided a place for you. We have a home for you, a snug little place at the house of old McArthur—"
"Old McArthur," interpolates Tom, smiling, "I'm not a curiosity."
George Mullholland says he may make love to Maria, that she will once more be a sister. Touched by the kindly act on his behalf, Tom replies saying she was always kind to him, watched over him when no one else would, and sought with tender counsels to effect his reform, to make him forget his troubles.
"Thank you!—my heart thanks you more forcibly than my tongue can. I feel a man. I won't touch drink again: no I won't. You won't find me breaking my honor this time. A sick at heart man, like me, has no power to buffet disappointment. I was a wretch, and like a wretch without a mother's sympathy, found relief only in drinks—"
"And such drinks!" interposes the old sailor, shrugging his shoulders. "Good weather, and a cheer up, now and then, from a friend, would have saved him."
Now there appears in the doorway, the stalwarth figure of the vote-cribber, who, with sullen face, advances mechanically toward Tom, pauses and regards him with an air of suspicion. "You are not what you ought to be, Tom," he says, doggedly, and turns to the young Missionary. "Parson," he continues, "this 'ere pupil of yourn's a hard un. He isn't fit for respectable society. Like a sponge, he soaks up all the whiskey in jail." The young man turns upon him a look more of pity than scorn, while the jailer shakes his head admonishingly. The vote-cribber continues insensible to the admonition. He, be it known, is a character of no small importance in the political world. Having a sort of sympathy for the old jail he views his transient residences therein rather necessary than otherwise. As a leading character is necessary to every grade of society, so also does he plume himself the aristocrat of the prison. Persons committed for any other than offences against the election laws, he holds in utter contempt. Indeed, he says with a good deal of truth, that as fighting is become the all necessary qualification of our Senators and Representatives to Congress, he thinks of offering himself for the next vacancy. The only rival he fears is "handsome Charley."
An election bully, the ugliest man in Charleston, and the deadly foe of Mingle. The accommodations are not what they might be, but, being exempt from rent and other items necessary to a prominent politician, he accepts them as a matter of economy.
The vote-cribber is sure of being set free on the approach of an election. We may as well confess it before the world-he is an indispensable adjunct to the creating of Legislators, Mayors, Congressmen, and Governors. Whiskey is not more necessary to the reputation of our mob-politicians than are the physical powers of Milman Mingle to the success of the party he honors with his services. Nor do his friends scruple at consulting him on matters of great importance to the State while in his prison sanctuary.
"I'm out to-morrow, parson," he resumes; the massive fingers of his right hand wandering into his crispy, red beard, and again over his scarred face. "Mayor's election comes off two weeks from Friday-couldn't do without me-can knock down any quantity of men-you throw a plumper, I take it?" The young Missionary answers in the negative by shaking his head, while the kind old sailor continues to fuss over and prepare Tom for his departure. "Tom is about to leave us," says the old sailor, by way of diverting the vote-cribber's attention. That dignitary, so much esteemed by our fine old statesmen, turns to Tom, and inquires if he has a vote.
Tom has a vote, but declares he will not give it to the vote-cribber's party. The politician says "p'raps," and draws from his bosom a small flask. "Whiskey, Tom," he says,—"no use offering it to parsons, eh? (he casts an insinuating look at the parson.) First-chop election whiskey-a sup and we're friends until I get you safe under the lock of my crib. Our Senators to Congress patronize this largely." The forlorn freeman, with a look of contempt for the man who thus upbraids him, dashes the drug upon the floor, to the evident chagrin of the politician, who, to conceal his feelings, turns to George Mulholland, and mechanically inquires if he has a vote. Being answered in the negative, he picks up his flask and walks away, saying: "what rubbish!"
Accompanied by his friends and the old sailor, Tom sallies forth into the atmosphere of sweet freedom. As the old jailer swings back the outer gate, Spunyarn grasps his friend and companion in sorrow warmly by the hand, his bronzed face brightens with an air of satisfaction, and like pure water gushing from the rude rock his eyes fill with tears. How honest, how touching, how pure the friendly lisp-good bye! "Keep up a strong heart, Tom,—never mind me. I don't know by what right I'm kept here, and starved; but I expect to get out one of these days; and when I do you may reckon on me as your friend. Keep the craft in good trim till then; don't let the devil get master. Come and see us now and then, and above all, never give up the ship during a storm." Tom's emotions are too deeply touched. He has no reply to make, but presses in silence the hand of the old sailor, takes his departure, and turns to wave him an adieu.
IN WHICH THERE IS AN INTERESTING MEETING.
OUR very chivalric dealers in human merchandise, like philosophers and philanthropists, are composed merely of flesh and blood, while their theories are alike influenced by circumstances. Those of the first, we (the South) are, at times, too apt to regard as sublimated and refined, while we hold the practices of the latter such as divest human nature of everything congenial. Nevertheless we can assure our readers that there does not exist a class of men who so much pride themselves on their chivalry as some of our opulent slave-dealers. Did we want proof to sustain what we have said we could not do better than refer to Mr. Forsheu, that very excellent gentleman. Mrs. Swiggs held him in high esteem, and so far regarded his character for piety and chivalry unblemished, that she consigned to him her old slave of seventy years-old Molly. Molly must be sold, the New York Tract Society must have a mite, and Sister Abijah Slocum's very laudable enterprise of getting Brother Singleton Spyke off to Antioch must be encouraged. And Mr. Forsheu is very kind to the old people he sells. It would, indeed, be difficult for the distant reader to conceive a more striking instance of a man, grown rich in a commerce that blunts all the finer qualities of our nature, preserving a gentleness, excelled only by his real goodness of heart.
When the old slave, leaning on her crutch, stood before Mr. Forsheu, her face the very picture of age and starvation, his heart recoiled at the thought of selling her in her present condition. He read the letter she bore, contemplated her with an air of pity, and turning to Mr. Benbow, his methodical book-keeper of twenty years, who had added and subtracted through a wilderness of bodies and souls, ordered him to send the shrunken old woman into the pen, on feed. Mr. Forsheu prided himself on the quality of people sold at his shambles, and would not for the world hazard his reputation on old Molly, till she was got in better condition. Molly rather liked this, inasmuch as she had been fed on corn and prayers exclusively, and more prayers than corn, which is become the fashion with our much-reduced first families. For nearly four months she enjoyed, much to the discomfiture of her august owner, the comforts of Mr. Forsheu's pen. Daily did the anxious old lady study her Milton, and dispatch a slave to inquire if her piece of aged property had found a purchaser. The polite vender preserved, with uncommon philosophy, his temper. He enjoined patience. The condition and age of the property were, he said, much in the way of sale. Then Mrs. Swiggs began questioning his ability as a merchant. Aspersions of this kind, the polite vender of people could not bear with. He was a man of enormous wealth, the result of his skill in the sale of people. He was the president of an insurance company, a bank director, a commissioner of the orphan asylum, and a steward of the jockey club. To his great relief, for he began to have serious misgivings about his outlay on old Molly, there came along one day an excellent customer. This was no less a person than Madame Flamingo. What was singular of this very distinguished lady was, that she always had a use for old slaves no one else ever thought of. Her yard was full of aged and tottering humanity. One cleaned knives, another fetched ice from the ice-house, a third blacked boots, a fourth split wood, a fifth carried groceries, and a sixth did the marketing. She had a decayed negro for the smallest service; and, to her credit be it said, they were as contented and well fed a body of tottering age as could be found in old Carolina.
Her knife-cleaning machine having taken it into his head to die one day, she would purchase another. Mr. Forsheu, with that urbanity we so well understand how to appreciate, informed the distinguished lady that he had an article exactly suited to her wants. Forthwith, Molly was summoned into her presence. Madame Flamingo, moved almost to tears at the old slave's appearance, purchased her out of pure sympathy, as we call it, and to the great relief of Mr. Forsheu, lost no time in paying one hundred and forty dollars down in gold for her. In deference to Mr. Hadger, the House of The Foreign Missions, and the very excellent Tract Society, of New York, we will not here extend on how the money was got. The transaction was purely commercial: why should humanity interpose? We hold it strictly legal that institutions created for the purpose of enlightening the heathen have no right to ask by what means the money constituting their donations is got.
The comforts of Mr. Forsheu's pen,—the hominy, grits, and rest, made the old slave quite as reluctant about leaving him as she had before been in parting with Lady Swiggs. Albeit, she shook his hand with equal earnestness, and lisped "God bless Massa," with a tenderness and simplicity so touching, that had not Madame Flamingo been an excellent diplomat, reconciling the matter by assuring her that she would get enough to eat, and clothes to wear, no few tears would have been shed. Madame, in addition to this incentive, intimated that she might attend a prayer meeting now and then-perhaps see Cicero. However, Molly could easily have forgotten Cicero, inasmuch as she had enjoyed the rare felicity of thirteen husbands, all of whom Lady Swiggs had sold when it suited her own convenience.
Having made her purchase, Madame very elegantly bid the gallant merchant good morning, hoping he would not forget her address, and call round when it suited his convenience. Mr. Forsheu, his hat doffed, escorted her to her carriage, into the amber-colored lining of which she gracefully settled her majestic self, as a slightly-browned gentleman in livery closed the bright door, took her order with servile bows, and having motioned to the coachman, the carriage rolled away, and was soon out of sight. Monsieur Grouski, it may be well to add here, was discovered curled up in one corner; he smiled, and extended his hand very graciously to Madame as she entered the carriage.
Like a pilgrim in search of some promised land, Molly adjusted her crutch, and over the sandy road trudged, with truculent face, to her new home, humming to herself "dah-is-a-time-a-comin, den da Lor' he be good!!"
On the following morning, Lady Swiggs received her account current, Mr. Forsheu being exceedingly prompt in business. There was one hundred and twenty-nine days' feed, commissions, advertising, and sundry smaller charges, which reduced the net balance to one hundred and three dollars. Mrs. Swiggs, with an infatuation kindred to that which finds the State blind to its own poverty, stubbornly refused to believe her slaves had declined in value. Hence she received the vender's account with surprise and dissatisfaction. However, the sale being binding, she gradually accommodated her mind to the result, and began evolving the question of how to make the amount meet the emergency. She must visit the great city of New York; she must see Sister Slocum face to face; Brother Spyke's mission must have fifty dollars; how much could she give the Tract Society? Here was a dilemma-one which might have excited the sympathy of the House of the "Foreign Missions." The dignity of the family, too, was at stake. Many sleepless nights did this difficult matter cause the august old lady. She thought of selling another cripple! Oh! that would not do. Mr. Keepum had a lien on them; Mr. Keepum was a man of iron-heart. Suddenly it flashed upon her mind that she had already been guilty of a legal wrong in selling old Molly. Mr. Soloman had doubtless described her with legal minuteness in the bond of security for the two hundred dollars. Her decrepid form; her corrugated face; her heavy lip; her crutch, and her piety-everything, in a word, but her starvation, had been set down. Well! Mr. Soloman might, she thought, overlook in the multiplicity of business so small a discrepancy. She, too, had a large circle of distinguished friends. If the worst came to the worst she would appeal to them. There, too, was Sir Sunderland Swiggs' portrait, very valuable for its age; she might sell the family arms, such things being in great demand with the chivalry; her antique furniture, too, was highly prized by our first families. Thus Lady Swiggs contemplated these mighty relics of past greatness. Our celtic Butlers and Brookses never recurred to the blood of their querulous ancestors with more awe than did this memorable lady to her decayed relics. Mr. Israel Moses, she cherished a hope, would give a large sum for the portrait; the family arms he would value at a high figure; the old furniture he would esteem a prize. But to Mr. Moses and common sense, neither the blood of the Butlers, nor Lady Swiggs' rubbish, were safe to loan money upon. The Hebrew gentleman was not so easily beguiled.
The time came when it was necessary to appeal to Mr. Hadger. That gentleman held the dignity of the Swiggs family in high esteem, but shook his head when he found the respectability of the house the only security offered in exchange for a loan. Ah! a thought flashed to her relief, the family watch and chain would beguile the Hebrew gentleman. With these cherished mementoes of the high old family, (she would under no other circumstance have parted with for uncounted gold,) she in time seduced Mr. Israel Moses to make a small advance. Duty, stern and demanding, called her to New York. Forced to reduce her generosity, she, not without a sigh, made up her mind to give only thirty dollars to each of the institutions she had made so many sacrifices to serve. And thus, with a reduced platform, as our politicians have it, she set about preparing for the grand journey. Regards the most distinguished were sent to all the first families; the St. Cecilia had notice of her intended absence; no end of tea parties were given in honor of the event. Apparently happy with herself, with every one but poor Tom, our august lady left in the Steamer one day. With a little of that vanity the State deals so largely in, Mrs. Swiggs thought every passenger on board wondering and staring at her.
While then she voyages and dreams of the grand reception waiting her in New York,—of Sister Slocum's smiles, of the good of the heathen world, and of those nice evening gatherings she will enjoy with the pious, let us, gentle reader, look in at the house of Absalom McArthur.
To-day Tom Swiggs feels himself free, and it is high noon. Downcast of countenance he wends his way along the fashionable side of King-street. The young theologian is at his side. George Mullholland has gone to the house of Madame Flamingo. He will announce the glad news to Anna. The old antiquarian dusts his little counter with a stubby broom, places various curiosities in the windows, and about the doors, stands contemplating them with an air of satisfaction, then proceeds to drive a swarm of flies that hover upon the ceiling, into a curiously-arranged trap that he has set.
"What!—my young friend, Tom Swiggs!" exclaims the old man, toddling toward Tom, and grasping firmly his hand, as he enters the door. "You are welcome to my little place, which shall be a home." Tom hangs down his head, receives the old man's greeting with shyness. "Your poor father and me, Tom, used to sit here many a time. (The old man points to an old sofa.) We were friends. He thought much of me, and I had a high opinion of him; and so we used to sit for hours, and talk over the deeds of the old continentals. Your mother and him didn't get along over-well together; she had more dignity than he could well digest: but that is neither here nor there."
"I hope, in time," interrupts Tom, "to repay your kindness. I am willing to ply myself to work, though it degrades one in the eyes of our society."
"As to that," returns the old man, "why, don't mention it. Maria, you know, will be a friend to you. Come away now and see her." And taking Tom by the hand, (the theologian has withdrawn,) he becomes enthusiastic, leads him through the dark, narrow passage into the back parlor, where he is met by Maria, and cordially welcomed. "Why, Tom, what a change has come over you," she ejaculates, holding his hand, and viewing him with the solicitude of a sister, who hastens to embrace a brother returned after a long absence. Letting fall his begrimed hand, she draws up the old-fashioned rocking chair, and bids him be seated. He shakes his head moodily, says he is not so bad as he seems, and hopes yet to make himself worthy of her kindness. He has been the associate of criminals; he has suffered punishment; he feels himself loathed by society; he cannot divest himself of the odium clinging to his garments. Fain would he go to some distant clime, and there seek a refuge from the odium of felons.
"Let no such thoughts enter your mind, Tom," says the affectionate girl; "divest yourself at once of feelings that can only do you injury. You have engaged my thoughts during your troubles. Twice I begged your mother to honor me with an interview. We were humble people; she condescended at last. But she turned a deaf ear to me when I appealed to her for your release, merely inquiring if-like that other jade-I had become enamored of—" Maria pauses, blushing.
"I would like to see my mother," interposes Tom.
"Had I belonged to our grand society, the case had been different," resumes Maria.
"Truly, Maria," stammers Tom, "had I supposed there was one in the world who cared for me, I had been a better man."
"As to that, why we were brought up together, Tom. We knew each other as children, and what else but respect could I have for you? One never knows how much others think of them, for the—" Maria blushes, checks herself, and watches the changes playing over Tom's countenance. She was about to say the tongue of love was too often silent.
It must be acknowledged that Maria had, for years, cherished a passion for Tom. He, however, like many others of his class, was too stupid to discover it. The girl, too, had been overawed by the dignity of his mother. Thus, with feelings of pain did she watch the downward course of one in whose welfare she took a deep interest.
"Very often those for whom we cherish the fondest affections, are coldest in their demeanor towards us," pursues Maria.
"Can she have thought of me so much as to love me?" Tom questions within himself; and Maria put an end to the conversation by ringing the bell, commanding the old servant to hasten dinner. A plate must be placed at the table for Tom.
The antiquarian, having, as he says, left the young people to themselves, stands at his counter furbishing up sundry old engravings, horse-pistols, pieces of coat-of-mail, and two large scimitars, all of which he has piled together in a heap, and beside which lay several chapeaus said to have belonged to distinguished Britishers. Mr. Soloman suddenly makes his appearance in the little shop, much to Mr. McArthur's surprise. "Say-old man! centurion!" he exclaims, in a maudlin laugh, "Keepum's in the straps-is, I do declare; Gadsden and he bought a lot of niggers-a monster drove of 'em, on shares. He wants that trifle of borrowed money-must have it. Can have it back in a few days."
"Bless me," interrupts the old man, confusedly, "but off my little things it will be hard to raise it. Times is hard, our people go, like geese, to the North. They get rid of all their money there, and their fancy-you know that, Mr. Snivel-is abroad, while they have, for home, only a love to keep up slavery."
"I thought it would come to that," says Mr. Snivel, facetiously. The antiquarian seems bewildered, commences offering excuses that rather involve himself deeper, and finally concludes by pleading for a delay. Scarce any one would have thought a person of Mr. McArthur's position, indebted to Mr. Keepum; but so it was. It is very difficult to tell whose negroes are not mortgaged to Mr. Keepum, how many mortgages of plantation he has foreclosed, how many high old families he has reduced to abject poverty, or how many poor but respectable families he has disgraced. He has a reputation for loaning money to parents, that he may rob their daughters of that jewel the world refuses to give them back. And yet our best society honor him, fawn over him, and bow to him. We so worship the god of slavery, that our minds are become debased, and yet we seem unconscious of it. Mr. Keepum did not lend money to the old antiquarian without a purpose. That purpose, that justice which accommodates itself to the popular voice, will aid him in gaining.
Mr. Snivel affects a tone of moderation, whispers in the old man's ear, and says: "Mind you tell the fortune of this girl, Bonard, as I have directed. Study what I have told you. If she be not the child of Madame Montford, then no faith can be put in likenesses. I have got in my possession what goes far to strengthen the suspicions now rife concerning the fashionable New Yorker."
"There surely is a mystery about this woman, Mr. Snivel, as you say. She has so many times looked in here to inquire about Mag Munday, a woman in a curious line of life who came here, got down in the world, as they all do, and used now and then to get the loan of a trifle from me to keep her from starvation." (Mr. Snivel says, in parentheses, he knows all about her.)
"Ha! ha! my old boy," says Mr. Snivel, frisking his fingers through his light Saxon beard, "I have had this case in hand for some time. It is strictly a private matter, nevertheless. They are a bad lot-them New Yorkers, who come here to avoid their little delicate affairs. I may yet make a good thing out of this, though. As for that fellow, Mullholland, I intend getting him the whipping post. He is come to be the associate of gentlemen; men high in office shower upon him their favors. It is all to propitiate the friendship of Bonard-I know it." Mr. Snivel concludes hurriedly, and departs into the street, as our scene changes.
ANNA BONARD SEEKS AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ANTIQUARY.
IT is night. King street seems in a melancholy mood, the blue arch of heaven is bespangled with twinkling stars, the moon has mounted her high throne, and her beams, like messengers of love, dance joyously over the calm waters of the bay, so serenely skirted with dark woodland. The dull tramp of the guardman's horse now breaks the stillness; then the measured tread of the heavily-armed patrol, with which the city swarms at night, echoes and reoches along the narrow streets. A theatre reeking with the fumes of whiskey and tobacco; a sombre-looking guard-house, bristling with armed men, who usher forth to guard the fears of tyranny, or drag in some wretched slave; a dilapidated "Court House," at the corner, at which lazy-looking men lounge; a castellated "Work House," so grand without, and so full of bleeding hearts within; a "Poor House" on crutches, and in which infirm age and poverty die of treatment that makes the heart sicken-these are all the public buildings we can boast. Like ominous mounds, they seem sleeping in the calm and serene night. Ah! we had almost forgotten the sympathetic old hospital, with its verandas; the crabbed looking "City Hall," with its port holes; and the "Citadel," in which, when our youths have learned to fight duels, we learn them how to fight their way out of the Union. Duelling is our high art; getting out of the Union is our low. And, too, we have, and make no small boast that we have, two or three buildings called "Halls." In these our own supper-eating men riot, our soldiers drill (soldiering is our presiding genius), and our mob-politicians waste their spleen against the North. Unlike Boston, towering all bright and vigorous in the atmosphere of freedom, we have no galleries of statuary; no conservatories of paintings; no massive edifices of marble, dedicated to art and science; no princely school-houses, radiating their light of learning over a peace and justice-loving community; no majestic exchange, of granite and polished marble, so emblematic of a thrifty commerce;—we have no regal "State House" on the lofty hill, no glittering colleges everywhere striking the eye. The god of slavery-the god we worship, has no use for such temples; public libraries are his prison; his civilization is like a dull dead march; he is the enemy of his own heart, vitiating and making drear whatever he touches. He wages war on art, science, civilization! he trembles at the sight of temples reared for the enlightening of the masses. Tyranny is his law, a cotton-bag his judgment-seat. But we pride ourselves that we are a respectable people-what more would you have us?
The night is chilly without, in the fire-place of the antiquary's back parlor there burns a scanty wood fire. Tor has eaten his supper and retired to a little closet-like room overhead, where, in bed, he muses over what fell from Maria's lips, in their interview. Did she really cherish a passion for him? had her solicitude in years past something more than friendship in it? what did she mean? He was not one of those whose place in a woman's heart could never be supplied. How would an alliance with Maria affect his mother's dignity? All these things Tom evolves over and over in his mind. In point of position, a mechanic's daughter was not far removed from the slave; a mechanic's daughter was viewed only as a good object of seduction for some nice young gentleman. Antiquarians might get a few bows of planter's sons, the legal gentry, and cotton brokers (these make up our aristocracy), but practically no one would think of admitting them into decent society. They, of right, belong to that vulgar herd that live by labor at which the slave can be employed. To be anything in the eyes of good society, you must only live upon the earnings of slaves.
"Why," says Tom, "should I consult the dignity of a mother who discards me? The love of this lone daughter of the antiquary, this girl who strives to know my wants, and to promote my welfare, rises superior to all. I will away with such thoughts! I will be a man! Maria, with eager eye and thoughtful countenance, sits at the little antique centre-table, reading Longfellow's Evangeline, by the pale light of a candle. A lurid glare is shed over the cavern-like place. The reflection plays curiously upon the corrugated features of the old man, who, his favorite cat at his side, reclines on a stubby little sofa, drawn well up to the fire. The poet would not select Maria as his ideal of female loveliness; and yet there is a touching modesty in her demeanor, a sweet smile ever playing over her countenance, an artlessness in her conversation that more than makes up for the want of those charms novel writers are pleased to call transcendent. "Father!" she says, pausing, "some one knocks at the outer door." The old man starts and listens, then hastens to open it. There stands before him the figure of a strange female, veiled. "I am glad to find you, old man. Be not suspicious of my coming at this hour, for my mission is a strange one." The old man's crooked eyes flash, his deep curling lip quivers, his hand vibrates the candle he holds before him. "If on a mission to do nobody harm," he responds, "then you are welcome." "You will pardon me; I have seen you before. You have wished me well," she whispers in a musical voice. Gracefully she raises her veil over her Spanish hood, and advances cautiously, as the old man closes the door behind her. Then she uncovers her head, nervously. The white, jewelled fingers of her right hand, so delicate and tapering, wander over and smooth her silky black hair, that falls in waves over her Ion-like brow. How exquisite those features just revealed; how full of soul those flashing black eyes; her dress, how chaste! "They call me Anna Bonard," she speaks, timorously, "you may know me?—"
"Oh, I know you well," interrupts the old man, "your beauty has made you known. What more would you have?"
"Something that will make me happy. Old man, I am unhappy. Tell me, if you have the power, who I am. Am I an orphan, as has been told me; or have I parents yet living, affluent, and high in society? Do they seek me and cannot find me? Oh! let the fates speak, old man, for this world has given me nothing but pain and shame. Am I—" she pauses, her eyes wander to the floor, her cheeks crimson, she seizes the old man by the hand, and her bosom heaves as if a fierce passion had just been kindled within it.
The old man preserves his equanimity, says he has a fortune to tell her. Fortunes are best told at midnight. The stars, too, let out their secrets more willingly when the night-king rules. He bids her follow him, and totters back to the little parlor. With a wise air, he bids her be seated on the sofa, saying he never mistakes maidens when they call at this hour.
Maria, who rose from the table at the entrance of the stranger, bows, shuts her book mechanically, and retires. Can there be another face so lovely? she questions within herself, as she pauses to contemplate the stranger ere she disappears. The antiquary draws a chair and seats himself beside Anna. "Thy life and destiny," he says, fretting his bony fingers over the crown of his wig. "Blessed is the will of providence that permits us to know the secrets of destiny. Give me your hand, fair lady." Like a philosopher in deep study, he wipes and adjusts his spectacles, then takes her right hand and commences reading its lines. "Your history is an uncommon one—"
"Yes," interrupts the girl, "mine has been a chequered life."
"You have seen sorrow enough, but will see more. You come of good parents; but, ah!—there is a mystery shrouding your birth." ("And that mystery," interposes the girl, "I want to have explained.") "There will come a woman to reclaim you-a woman in high life; but she will come too late—" (The girl pales and trembles.) "Yes," pursues the old man, looking more studiously at her hand, "she will come too late." You will have admirers, and even suitors; but they will only betray you, and in the end you will die of trouble. Ah! there is a line that had escaped me. You may avert this dark destiny-yes, you may escape the end that fate has ordained for you. In neglect you came up, the companion of a man you think true to you. But he is not true to you. Watch him, follow him-you will yet find him out. Ha! ha! ha! these men are not to be trusted, my dear. There is but one man who really loves you. He is an old man, a man of station. He is your only true friend. I here see it marked." He crosses her hand, and says there can be no mistaking it. "With that man, fair girl, you may escape the dark destiny. But, above all things, do not treat him coldly. And here I see by the sign that Anna Bonard is not your name. The name was given you by a wizard."
"You are right, old man," speaks Anna, raising thoughtfully her great black eyes, as the antiquary pauses and watches each change of her countenance; "that name was given me by Hag Zogbaum, when I was a child in her den, in New York, and when no one cared for me. What my right name was has now slipped my memory. I was indeed a wretched child, and know little of myself."
"Was it Munday?" inquires the old man. Scarce has he lisped the name before she catches it up and repeats it, incoherently, "Munday! Monday! Munday!" her eyes flash with anxiety. "Ah, I remember now. I was called Anna Munday by Mother Bridges. I lived with her before I got to the den of Hag Zogbaum. And Mother Bridges sold apples at a stand at the corner of a street, on West street. It seems like a dream to me now. I do not want to recall those dark days of my childhood. Have you not some revelation to make respecting my parents?" The old man says the signs will not aid him further. "On my arm," she pursues, baring her white, polished arm, "there is a mark. I know not who imprinted it there. See, old man." The old man sees high up on her right arm two hearts and a broken anchor, impressed with India ink blue and red. "Yes," repeats the antiquary, viewing it studiously, "but it gives out no history. If you could remember who put it there." Of that she has no recollection. The old man cannot relieve her anxiety, and arranging her hood she bids him good night, forces a piece of gold into his hand, and seeks her home, disappointed.
The antiquary's predictions were founded on what Mr. Soloman Snivel had told him, and that gentleman got what he knew of Anna's history from George Mullholland. To this, however, he added what suggestions his suspicions gave rise to. The similarity of likeness between Anna and Madame Montford was striking; Madame Montford's mysterious searches and inquiries for the woman Monday had something of deep import in them. Mag Munday's strange disappearance from Charleston, and her previous importuning for the old dress left in pawn with McArthur, were not to be overlooked. These things taken together, and Mr. Snivel saw a case there could be no mistaking. That case became stronger when his fashionable friend engaged his services to trace out what had become of the woman Mag Munday, and to further ascertain what the girl Anna Bonard knew of her own history.
A SECRET INTERVIEW.
WHILE the scene we have related in the foregoing chapter was being enacted, there might be seen pacing the great colonnade of the Charleston hotel, the tall figure of a man wrapped in a massive talma. Heedless of the throng of drinkers gathered in the spacious bar-room, making the very air echo with their revelry, he pauses every few moments, watches intently up and then down Meeting street, now apparently contemplating the twinkling stars, then turning as if disappointed, and resuming his sallies. "He will not come to night," he mutters, as he pauses at the "Ladies' door," then turns and rings the bell. The well dressed and highly-perfumed servant who guards the door, admits him with a scrutinizing eye. "Beg pardon," he says, with a mechanical bow. He recognizes the stranger, bows, and motions his hands. "Twice," continues the servant, "she has sent a messenger to inquire of your coming." The figure in the talma answers with a bow, slips something into the hand of the servant, passes softly up the great stairs, and is soon lost to sight. In another minute he enters, without knocking, a spacious parlor, decorated and furnished most sumptuously. "How impatiently I have waited your coming," whispers, cautiously, a richly-dressed lady, as she rises from a velvet covered lounge, on which she had reclined, and extends her hand to welcome him. "Madame, your most obedient," returns the man, bowing and holding her delicate hand in his. "You have something of importance,—something to relieve my mind?" she inquires, watching his lips, trembling, and in anxiety. "Nothing definite," he replies, touching her gently on the arm, as she begs him to be seated in the great arm-chair. He lays aside his talma, places his gloves on the centre-table, which is heaped with an infinite variety of delicately-enveloped missives and cards, all indicative of her position in fashionable society. "I may say, Madame, that I sympathize with you in your anxiety; but as yet I have discovered nothing to relieve it." Madame sighs, and draws her chair near him, in silence. "That she is the woman you seek I cannot doubt. While on the Neck, I penetrated the shanty of one Thompson, a poor mechanic-our white mechanics, you see, are very poor, and not much thought of-who had known her, given her a shelter, and several times saved her from starvation. Then she left the neighborhood and took to living with a poor wretch of a shoemaker."
"Poor creature," interrupts Madame Montford, for it is she whom Mr. Snivel addresses. "If she be dead-oh, dear! That will be the end. I never shall know what became of that child. And to die ignorant of its fate will—" Madame pauses, her color changes, she seems seized with some violent emotion. Mr. Snivel perceives her agitation, and begs she will remain calm. "If that child had been my own," she resumes, "the responsibility had not weighed heavier on my conscience. Wealth, position, the pleasures of society-all sink into insignificance when compared with my anxiety for the fate of that child. It is like an arrow piercing my heart, like a phantom haunting me in my dreams, like an evil spirit waking me at night to tell me I shall die an unhappy woman for having neglected one I was bound by the commands of God to protect-to save, perhaps, from a life of shame." She lets fall the satin folds of her dress, buries her face in her hands, and gives vent to her tears in loud sobs. Mr. Snivel contemplates her agitation with unmoved muscle. To him it is a true index to the sequel. "If you will pardon me, Madame," he continues, "as I was about to say of this miserable shoemaker, he took to drink, as all our white mechanics do, and then used to abuse her. We don't think anything of these people, you see, who after giving themselves up to whiskey, die in the poor house, a terrible death. This shoemaker, of whom I speak, died, and she was turned into the streets by her landlord, and that sent her to living with a 'yellow fellow,' as we call them. Soon after this she died-so report has it. We never know much, you see, about these common people. They are a sort of trash we can make nothing of, and they get terribly low now and then." Madame Montford's swelling breast heaves, her countenance wears an air of melancholy; again she nervously lays aside the cloud-like skirts of her brocade dress. "Have you not," she inquires, fretting her jewelled fingers and displaying the massive gold bracelets that clasp her wrists, "some stronger evidence of her death?" Mr. Snivel says he has none but what he gathered from the negroes and poor mechanics, who live in the by-lanes of the city. There is little dependence, however, to be placed in such reports. Madame, with an air of composure, rises from her chair, and paces twice or thrice across the room, seemingly in deep study. "Something," she speaks, stopping suddenly in one of her sallies—"something (I do not know what it is) tells me she yet lives: that this is the child we see, living an abandoned life."
"As I was going on to say, Madame," pursues Mr. Snivel, with great blandness of manner, "when our white trash get to living with our negroes they are as well as dead. One never knows what comes of them after that. Being always ready to do a bit of a good turn, as you know, I looked in at Sam Wiley's cabin. Sam Wiley is a negro of some respectability, and generally has an eye to what becomes of these white wretches. I don't-I assure you I don't, Madame-look into these places except on professional business. Sam, after making inquiry among his neighbors-our colored population view these people with no very good opinion, when they get down in the world-said he thought she had found her way through the gates of the poor man's graveyard."
"Poor man's graveyard!" repeats Madame Montford, again resuming her chair.
"Exactly! We have to distinguish between people of position and those white mechanics who come here from the North, get down in the world, and then die. We can't sell this sort of people, you see. No keeping their morals straight without you can. However, this is not to the point. (Mr. Solomon Snivel keeps his eyes intently fixed upon the lady.)
"I sought out the old Sexton, a stupid old cove enough. He had neither names on his record nor graves that answered the purpose. In a legal sense, Madame, this would not be valid testimony, for this old cove being only too glad to get rid of our poor, and the fees into his pocket, is not very particular about names. If it were one of our 'first families,' the old fellow would be so obsequious about having the name down square—"
Mr. Snivel frets his fingers through his beard, and bows with an easy grace.
"Our first families!" repeats Madame Montford.
"Yes, indeed! He is extremely correct over their funerals. They are of a fashionable sort, you see. Well, while I was musing over the decaying dead, and the distinction between poor dead and rich dead, there came along one Graves, a sort of wayward, half simpleton, who goes about among churchyards, makes graves a study, knows where every one who has died for the last century is tucked away, and is worth six sextons at pointing out graves. He never knows anything about the living, for the living, he says, won't let him live; and that being the case, he only wants to keep up his acquaintance with the dead. He never has a hat to his head, nor a shoe to his foot; and where, and how he lives, no one can tell. He has been at the whipping-post a dozen times or more, but I'm not so sure that the poor wretch ever did anything to merit such punishment. Just as the crabbed old sexton was going to drive him out of the gate with a big stick, I says, more in the way of a joke than anything else: 'Graves, come here!—I want a word or two with you.' He came up, looking shy and suspicious, and saying he wasn't going to harm anybody, but there was some fresh graves he was thinking over."
"Some fresh graves!" repeats Madame Montford, nervously.
"Bless you!—a very common thing," rejoins Mr. Snivel, with a bow. "Well, this lean simpleton said they (the graves) were made while he was sick. That being the case, he was deprived-and he lamented it bitterly-of being present at the funerals, and getting the names of the deceased. He is a great favorite with the grave-digger, lends him a willing hand on all occasions, and is extremely useful when the yellow fever rages. But to the sexton he is a perfect pest, for if a grave be made during his absence he will importune until he get the name of the departed. 'Graves,' says I, 'where do they bury these unfortunate women who die off so, here in Charleston?' 'Bless you, my friend,' says Graves, accompanying his words with an idiotic laugh, 'why, there's three stacks of them, yonder. They ship them from New York in lots, poor things; they dies here in droves, poor things; and we buries them yonder in piles, poor things. They go-yes, sir, I have thought a deal of this thing-fast through life; but they dies, and nobody cares for them-you see how they are buried.' I inquired if he knew all their names. He said of course he did. If he didn't, nobody else would. In order to try him, I desired he would show me the grave of Mag Munday. He shook his head, smiled, muttered the name incoherently, and said he thought it sounded like a dead name. 'I'll get my thinking right,' he pursued, and brightening up all at once, his vacant eyes flashed, then he touched me cunningly on the arm, and with a wink and nod of the head there was no mistaking, led the way to a great mound located in an obscure part of the graveyard—"
"A great mound! I thought it would come to that," sighs Madame Montford, impatiently.
"We bury these wretched creatures in an obscure place. Indeed, Madame, I hold it unnecessary to have anything to distinguish them when once they are dead. Well, this poor forlorn simpleton then sat down on a grave, and bid me sit beside him. I did as he bid me, and soon he went into a deep study, muttering the name of Mag Munday the while, until I thought he never would stop. So wild and wandering did the poor fellow seem, that I began to think it a pity we had not a place, an insane hospital, or some sort of benevolent institution, where such poor creatures could be placed and cared for. It would be much better than sending them to the whipping-post—"
"I am indeed of your opinion-of your way of thinking, most certainly," interpolates Madame Montford, a shadow of melancholy darkening her countenance.
"At length, he went at it, and repeated over an infinite quantity of names. It was wonderful to see how he could keep them all in his head. 'Well, now,' says he, turning to me with an inoffensive laugh, 'she ben't dead. You may bet on that. There now!' he spoke, as if suddenly becoming conscious of a recently-made discovery. 'Why, she runned wild about here, as I does, for a time; was abused and knocked about by everybody. Oh, she had a hard time enough, God knows that.' 'But that is not disclosing to me what became of her,' says I; 'come, be serious, Graves.' (We call him this, you see, Madame, for the reason that he is always among graveyards.) Then he went into a singing mood, sang two plaintive songs, and had sung a third and fourth, if I had not stopped him. 'Well,' he says, 'that woman ain't dead, for I've called up in my mind the whole graveyard of names, and her's is not among them. Why not, good gentleman, (he seized me by the arm as he said this,) inquire of Milman Mingle, the vote-cribber? He is a great politician, never thinks of poor Graves, and wouldn't look into a graveyard for the world. The vote-cribber used to live with her, and several times he threatened to hang her, and would a hanged her-yes, he would, sir-if it hadn't a been for the neighbors. I don't take much interest in the living, you know. But I pitied her, poor thing, for she was to be pitied, and there was nobody but me to do it. Just inquire of the vote-cribber.' I knew the simpleton never told an untruth, being in no way connected with our political parties."
"Never told an untruth, being in no way connected with our political parties!" repeats Madame Montford, who has become more calm.
"I gave him a few shillings, he followed me to the gate, and left me muttering, 'Go, inquire of the vote-cribber.'"
"And have you found this man?" inquires the anxious lady.
"I forthwith set about it," replies Mr. Snivel, "but as yet, am unsuccessful. Nine months during the year his residence is the jail—"
"Yes, Madame, the jail. His profession, although essential to the elevation of our politicians and statesmen, is nevertheless unlawful. And he being obliged to practice it in opposition to the law, quietly submits to the penalty, which is a residence in the old prison for a short time. It's a nominal thing, you see, and he has become so habituated to it that I am inclined to the belief that he prefers it. I proceeded to the prison and found he had been released. One of our elections comes off in a few days. The approach of such an event is sure to find him at large. I sought him in all the drinking saloons, in the gambling dens, in the haunts of prostitution-in all the low places where our great politicians most do assemble and debauch themselves. He was not to be found. Being of the opposite party, I despatched a spy to the haunt of the committee of the party to which he belongs, and for which he cribs. I have paced the colonnade for more than an hour, waiting the coming of this spy. He did not return, and knowing your anxiety in the matter I returned to you. To-morrow I will seek him out; to-morrow I will get from him what he knows of this woman you seek.
"And now, Madame, here is something I would have you examine." (Mr. Snivel methodically says he got it of McArthur, the antiquary.) "She made a great ado about a dress that contained this letter. I have no doubt it will tell a tale." Mr. Snivel draws from his breast-pocket the letter found concealed in the old dress, and passes it to Madame Montford, who receives it with a nervous hand. Her eyes become fixed upon it, she glances over its defaced page with an air of bewilderment, her face crimsons, then suddenly pales, her lips quiver-her every nerve seems unbending to the shock. "Heavens! has it come to this?" she mutters, confusedly. Her strength fails her; the familiar letter falls from her fingers. For a few moments she seems struggling to suppress her emotions, but her reeling brain yields, her features become like marble, she shrieks and swoons ere Mr. Snivel has time to clasp her in his arms.
LADY SWIGGS ENCOUNTERS DIFFICULTIES ON HER ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK.
A PLEASANT passage of sixty hours, a good shaking up at the hands of that old tyrant, sea-sickness, and Lady Swiggs finds the steamer on which she took passage gliding majestically up New York Bay. There she sits, in all her dignity, an embodiment of our decayed chivalry, a fair representative of our first families. She has taken up her position on the upper deck, in front of the wheel house. As one after another the objects of beauty that make grand the environs of that noble Bay, open to her astonished eyes, she contrasts them favorably or unfavorably with some familiar object in Charleston harbor. There is indeed a similarity in the conformation. And though ours, she says, may not be so extensive, nor so grand in its outlines, nor so calm and soft in its perspective, there is a more aristocratic air about it. Smaller bodies are always more select and respectable. The captain, to whom she has put an hundred and one questions which he answers in monosyllables, is not, she thinks, so much of a gentleman as he might have been had he been educated in Charleston. He makes no distinction in favor of people of rank.
Lady Swiggs wears that same faded silk dress; her black crape bonnet, with two saucy red artificial flowers tucked in at the side, sits so jauntily; that dash of brown hair is smoothed so exactly over her yellow, shrivelled forehead; her lower jaw oscillates with increased motion; and her sharp, gray eyes, as before, peer anxiously through her great-eyed spectacles. And, generous reader, that you may not mistake her, she has brought her inseparable Milton, which she holds firmly grasped in her right hand. "You have had a tedious time of it, Madam," says a corpulent lady, who is extensively dressed and jewelled, and accosts her with a familiar air. Lady Swiggs says not so tedious as it might have been, and gives her head two or three very fashionable twitches.
"Your name, if you please?"
"The Princess Grouski. My husband, the Prince Grouski," replies the corpulent lady, turning and introducing a fair-haired gentleman, tall and straight of person, somewhat military in his movements, and extremely fond of fingering his long, Saxon moustache. Lady Swiggs, on the announcement of a princess, rises suddenly to her feet, and commences an unlimited number of courtesies. She is, indeed, most happy to meet, and have the honor of being fellow-voyager with their Royal Highnesses-will remember it as being one of the happiest events of her life,—and begs to assure them of her high esteem. The corpulent lady gives her a delicate card, on which is described the crown of Poland, and beneath, in exact letters, "The Prince and Princess Grouski." The Prince affects not to understand English, which Lady Swiggs regrets exceedingly, inasmuch as it deprives her of an interesting conversation with a person of royal blood. The card she places carefully between the leaves of her Milton, having first contemplated it with an air of exultation. Again begging to thank the Prince and Princess for this mark of their distinguished consideration, Lady Swiggs inquires if they ever met or heard of Sir Sunderland Swiggs. The rotund lady, for herself and the prince, replies in the negative. "He was," she pursues, with a sigh of disappointment, "he was very distinguished, in his day. Yes, and I am his lineal descendant. Your highnesses visited Charleston, of course?"
"O dear," replies the rotund lady, somewhat laconically, "the happiest days of my life were spent among the chivalry of South Carolina. Indeed, Madam, I have received the attention and honors of the very first families in that State."
This exclamation sets the venerable lady to thinking how it could be possible that their highnesses received the attentions of the first families and she not know it. No great persons ever visited the United States without honoring Charleston with their presence, it was true; but how in the world did it happen that she was kept in ignorance of such an event as that of the Prince and Princess paying it a visit. She began to doubt the friendship of her distinguished acquaintances, and the St. Cecilia Society. She hopes that should they condescend to pay the United States a second visit, they will remember her address. This the rotund lady, who is no less a person than the distinguished Madame Flamingo, begs to assure her she will.
Let not this happy union between Grouski and the old hostess, surprise you, gentle reader. It was brought about by Mr. Snivel, the accommodation man, who, as you have before seen, is always ready to do a bit of a good turn. Being a skilful diplomatist in such matters, he organized the convention, superintended the wooing, and for a lusty share of the spoils, secured to him by Grouski, brought matters to an issue "highly acceptable" to all parties. A sale of her palace of licentiousness, works of art, costly furniture, and female wares, together with the good will of all concerned, (her friends of the "bench and bar" not excepted,) was made for the nice little sum of sixty-seven thousand dollars, to Madame Grace Ashley, whose inauguration was one of the most gorgeous ftes the history of Charleston can boast. The new occupant was a novice. She had not sufficient funds to pay ready money for the purchase, hence Mr. Doorwood, a chivalric and very excellent gentleman, according to report, supplies the necessary, taking a mortgage on the institution, which proves to be quite as good property as the Bank, of which he is president. It is not, however, just that sort of business upon which an already seared conscience can repose in quiet, hence he applies that antidote too frequently used by knaves-he never lets a Sunday pass without piously attending church.
The money thus got, through this long life of iniquity, was by Madame Flamingo handed over to the Prince, in exchange for his heart and the title she had been deluded to believe him capable of conferring. Her reverence for Princes and exiled heroes, (who are generally exiled humbugs,) was not one jot less than that so pitiably exhibited by our self-dubbed fashionable society all over this Union. It may be well to add, that this distinguished couple, all smiling and loving, are on their way to Europe, where they are sure of receiving the attentions of any quantity of "crowned heads." Mr. Snivel, in order not to let the affair lack that eclat which is the crowning point in matters of high life, got smuggled into the columns of the highly respectable and very authentic old "Courier," a line or two, in which the fashionable world was thrown into a flutter by the announcement that Prince Grouski and his wealthy bride left yesterday, en route for Europe. This bit of gossip the "New York Herald" caught up and duly itemised, for the benefit of its upper-ten readers, who, as may be easily imagined, were all on tip-toe to know the address of visitors so distinguished, and leave cards.
Mrs. Swiggs has (we must return to her mission) scarcely set foot on shore, when, thanks to a little-headed corporation, she is fairly set upon by a dozen or more villanous hack-drivers, each dangling his whip in her face, to the no small danger of her bonnet and spectacles. They jostle her, utter vile imprecations, dispute for the right of carrying her, each in his turn offering to do it a shilling less. Lady Swiggs is indeed an important individual in the hands of the hack-drivers, and by them, in a fair way of being torn to pieces. She wonders they do not recognize her as a distinguished person, from the chivalric State of South Carolina. The captain is engaged with his ship, passengers are hurrying ashore, too anxious to escape the confinement of the cabin; every one seems in haste to leave her, no one offers to protect her from the clutches of those who threaten to tear her into precious pieces. She sighs for Sister Slocum, for Mr. Hadger, for any one kind enough to raise a friendly voice in her behalf. Now one has got her black box, another her corpulent carpet-bag-a third exults in a victory over her band-box. Fain would she give up her mission in disgust, return to the more aristocratic atmosphere of Charleston, and leave the heathen to his fate. All this might have been avoided had Sister Slocum sent her carriage. She will stick by her black box, nevertheless. So into the carriage with it she gets, much discomfited. The driver says he would drive to the Mayor's office "and 'ave them ar two coves what's got the corpulent carpet-bag and the band-box, seed after, if it wern't that His Honor never knows anything he ought to know, and is sure to do nothing. They'll turn up, Mam, I don't doubt," says the man, "but it's next to los'in' on 'em, to go to the Mayor's office. Our whole corporation, Mam, don't do nothin' but eats oysters, drinks whiskey, and makes presidents;—them's what they do, Marm." Lady Swiggs says what a pity so great a city was not blessed with a bigger-headed corporation.
"That it is, Marm," returns the methodical hack-driver, "he an't got a very big head, our corporation." And Lady Swiggs, deprived of her carpet-bag and band-box, and considerably out of patience, is rolled away to the mansion of Sister Slocum, on Fourth Avenue. Instead of falling immediately into the arms and affections of that worthy and very enterprising lady, the door is opened by a slatternly maid of all work-her greasy dress, and hard, ruddy face and hands-her short, flabby figure, and her coarse, uncombed hair, giving out strong evidence of being overtaxed with labor. "Is it Mrs. Slocum hersel' ye'd be seein'?" inquires the maid, wiping her soapy hands with her apron, and looking querulously in the face of the old lady, who, with the air of a Scotch metaphysician, says she is come to spend a week in friendly communion with her, to talk over the cause of the poor, benighted heathen. "Troth an' I'm not as sure ye'll do that same, onyhow; sure she'd not spend a week at home in the blessed year; and the divil another help in the house but mysel' and himsel', Mr. Slocum. A decent man is that same Slocum, too," pursues the maid, with a laconic indifference to the wants of the guest. A dusty hat-stand ornaments one side of the hall, a patched and somewhat deformed sofa the other. The walls wear a dingy air; the fumes of soapsuds and stewed onions offend the senses. Mrs. Swiggs hesitates in the doorway. Shall I advance, or retreat to more congenial quarters? she asks herself. The wily hack-driver (he agreed for four and charged her twelve shillings) leaves her black box on the step and drives away. She may be thankful he did not charge her twenty. They make no allowance for distinguished people; Lady Swiggs learns this fact, to her great annoyance. To the much- confused maid of all work she commences relating the loss of her luggage. With one hand swinging the door and the other tucked under her dowdy apron, she says, "Troth, Mam, and ye ought to be thankful, for the like of that's done every day."
Mrs. Swiggs would like a room for the night at least, but is told, in a somewhat confused style, that not a room in the house is in order. That a person having the whole heathen world on her shoulders should not have her house in order somewhat surprises the indomitable lady. In answer to a question as to what time Mr. Slocum will be home, the maid of all work says: "Och! God love the poor man, there's no tellin'. Sure there's not much left of the poor man. An' the divil a one more inoffensive than poor Slocum. It's himsel' works all day in the Shurance office beyant. He comes home dragged out, does a dale of writing for Mrs. Slocum hersel', and goes to bed sayin' nothin' to nobody." Lady Swiggs says: "God bless me. He no doubt labors in a good cause-an excellent cause-he will have his reward hereafter."
It must here be confessed that Sister Slocum, having on hand a newly-married couple, nicely suited to the duties of a mission to some foreign land, has conceived the very laudable project of sending them to Aleppo, and is now spending a few weeks among the Dutch of Albany, who are expected to contribute the necessary funds. A few thousand dollars expended, a few years' residence in the East, a few reports as to what might have been done if something had not interposed to prevent it, and there is not a doubt that this happy couple will return home crowned with the laurels of having very nearly Christianized one Turk and two Tartars.
The maid of all work suddenly remembers that Mrs. Slocum left word that if a distinguished lady arrived from South Carolina she could be comfortably accommodated at Sister Scudder's, on Fourth Street. Not a little disappointed, the venerable old lady calls a passing carriage, gets herself and black box into it, and orders the driver to forthwith proceed to the house of Sister Scudder. Here she is-and she sheds tears that she is-cooped up in a cold, closet-like room, on the third story, where, with the ends of her red shawl, she may blow and warm her fingers. Sister Scudder is a crispy little body, in spectacles. Her features are extremely sharp, and her countenance continually wears a wise expression. As for her knowledge of scripture, it is truly wonderful, and a decided improvement when contrasted with the meagre set-out of her table. Tea time having arrived, Lady Swiggs is invited down to a cup by a pert Irish servant, who accosts her with an independence she by no means approves. Entering the room with an air of stateliness she deems necessary to the position she desires to maintain, Sister Scudder takes her by the hand and introduces her to a bevy of nicely- conditioned, and sleek-looking gentlemen, whose exactly-combed mutton chop whiskers, smoothly-oiled hair, perfectly-tied white cravats, cloth so modest and fashionable, and mild, studious countenances, discover their profession. Sister Scudder, motioning Lady Swiggs aside, whispers in her ear: "They are all very excellent young men. They will improve on acquaintance. They are come up for the clergy." They, in turn, receive the distinguished stranger in a manner that is rather abrupt than cold, and ere she has dispensed her stately courtesy, say: "how do you do marm," and turn to resume with one another their conversation on the wicked world. It is somewhat curious to see how much more interested these gentry become in the wicked world when it is afar off.
Tea very weak, butter very strong, toast very thin, and religious conversation extremely thick, make up the repast. There is no want of appetite. Indeed one might, under different circumstances, have imagined Sister Scudder's clerical boarders contesting a race for an extra slice of her very thin toast. Not the least prominent among Sister Scudder's boarders is Brother Singleton Spyke, whom Mrs. Swiggs recognizes by the many compliments he lavishes upon Sister Slocum, whose absence is a source of great regret with him. She is always elbow deep in some laudable pursuit. Her presence sheds a radiant light over everything around; everybody mourns her when absent. Nevertheless, there is some satisfaction in knowing that her absence is caused by her anxiety to promote some mission of good: Brother Spyke thus muses. Seeing that there is come among them a distinguished stranger, he gives out that to-morrow evening there will be a gathering of the brethren at the "House of the Foreign Missions," when the very important subject of funds necessary to his mission to Antioch, will be discussed. Brother Spyke, having levelled this battery at the susceptibility of Mrs. Swiggs, is delighted to find some fourteen voices chiming in-all complimenting his peculiar fitness for, and the worthy object of the mission. Mrs. Swiggs sets her cup in her saucer, and in a becoming manner, to the great joy of all present, commences an eulogium on Mr. Spyke. Sister Slocum, in her letters, held him before her in strong colors; spoke in such high praise of his talent, and gave so many guarantees as to what he would do if he only got among the heathen, that her sympathies were enlisted-she resolved to lose no time in getting to New York, and, when there, put her shoulder right manfully to the wheel. This declaration finds her, as if by some mysterious transport, an object of no end of praise. Sister Scudder adjusts her spectacles, and, in mildest accents, says, "The Lord will indeed reward such disinterestedness." Brother Mansfield says motives so pure will ensure a passport to heaven, he is sure. Brother Sharp, an exceedingly lean and tall youth, with a narrow head and sharp nose (Mr. Sharp's father declared he made him a preacher because he could make him nothing else), pronounces, with great emphasis, that such self-sacrifice should be written in letters of gold. A unanimous sounding of her praises convinces Mrs. Swiggs that she is indeed a person of great importance. There is, however, a certain roughness of manner about her new friends, which does not harmonize with her notions of aristocracy. She questions within herself whether they represent the "first families" of New York. If the "first families" could only get their heads together, the heathen world would be sure to knock under. No doubt, it can be effected in time by common people. If Sister Slocum, too, would evangelize the world-if she would give the light of heaven to the benighted, she must employ willing hearts and strong hands. Satan, she says, may be chained, subdued, and made to abjure his wickedness. These cheering contemplations more than atone for the cold reception she met at the house of Sister Slocum. Her only regret now is that she did not sell old Cicero. The money so got would have enabled her to bestow a more substantial token of her soul's sincerity.
Tea over, thanks returned, a prayer offered up, and Brother Spyke, having taken a seat on the sofa beside Mrs. Swiggs, opens his batteries in a spiritual conversation, which he now and then spices with a few items of his own history. At the age of fifteen he found himself in love with a beautiful young lady, who, unfortunately, had made up her mind to accept only the hand of a clergyman: hence, she rejected his. This so disturbed his thoughts, that he resolved on studying theology. In this he was aided by the singular discovery, that he had a talent, and a "call to preach." He would forget his amour, he thought, become a member of the clergy, and go preach to the heathen. He spent his days in reading, his nights in the study of divine truths. Then he got on the kind side of a committee of very excellent ladies, who, having duly considered his qualities, pronounced him exactly suited to the study of theology. Ladies were generally good judges of such matters, and Brother Spyke felt he could not do better than act up to their opinions. To all these things Mrs. Swiggs listens with delight.
Spyke, too, is in every way a well made-up man, being extremely tall and lean of figure, with nice Saxon hair and whiskers, mild but thoughtful blue eyes, an anxious expression of countenance, a thin, squeaking voice, and features sufficiently delicate and regular for his calling. His dress, too, is always exactly clerical. If he be cold and pedantic in his manner, the fault must be set down to the errors of the profession, rather than to any natural inclination of his own. But what is singular of Brother Spyke is, that, notwithstanding his passion for delving the heathen world, and dragging into Christian light and love the benighted wretches there found, he has never in his life given a thought for that heathen world at his own door-a heathen world sinking in the blackest pool of misery and death, in the very heart of an opulent city, over which it hurls its seething pestilence, and scoffs at the commands of high heaven. No, he never thought of that Babylon of vice and crime-that heathen world pleading with open jaws at his own door. He had no thought for how much money might be saved, and how much more good done, did he but turn his eyes, go into this dark world (the Points) pleading at his feet, nerve himself to action, and lend a strong hand to help drag off the film of its degradation. In addition to this, Brother Spyke was sharp enough to discover the fact that a country parson does not enjoy the most enviable situation. A country parson must put up with the smallest salary; he must preach the very best of sermons; he must flatter and flirt with all the marriageable ladies of his church; he must consult the tastes, but offend none of the old ladies; he must submit to have the sermon he strained his brain to make perfect, torn to pieces by a dozen wise old women, who claim the right of carrying the church on their shoulders; he must have dictated to him what sort of dame he may take for wife;—in a word, he must bear meekly a deal of pestering and starvation, or be in bad odor with the senior members of the sewing circle. Duly appreciating all these difficulties, Brother Spyke chose a mission to Antioch, where the field of his labors would be wide, and the gates not open to restraints. And though he could not define the exact character of his mission to Antioch, he so worked upon the sympathies of the credulous old lady, as to well-nigh create in her mind a resolve to give the amount she had struggled to get and set apart for the benefit of those two institutions ("the Tract Society," and "The Home of the Foreign Missions"), all to the getting himself off to Antioch.