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Justice in the By-Ways - A Tale of Life
by F. Colburn Adams
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"Nay, nay, my poor sufferer, rather I might ask forgiveness of you." She takes the woman by the hand, and, with an air of regained calmness, raises her from the floor. With her, the outer life seems preparing the inner for what is to come. "But I have long sought you-sought you in obedience to the demands of my conscience, which I would the world gave me power to purify; and now I have found you, and with you some rest for my aching heart. Come, sit down; forget what you have suffered; tell me what befell you, and what has become of the child; tell me all, and remember that I will provide for you a comfortable home for the rest of your life." Madame motions her to a chair, struggling the while to suppress her own feelings.

"I loved the child you intrusted to my care; yes, God knows I loved it, and watched over it for two years, as carefully as a mother. But I was poor, and the brother, in whose hands you intrusted the amount for its support (this, the reader must here know, was not a brother, but the paramour of Madame Montford), failed, and gave me nothing after the first six months. I never saw him, and when I found you had gone abroad—" The woman hesitates, and, with weeping eyes and trembling voice, again implores forgiveness. "My husband gave himself up to drink, lost his situation, and then he got to hating the child, and abusing me for taking it, and embarrassing our scanty means of living. Night and day, I was harassed and abused, despised and neglected. I was discouraged, and gave up in despair. I clung to the child as long as I could. I struggled, and struggled, and struggled—" Here the woman pauses, and with a submissive look, again hangs down her head and sobs.

"Be calm, be calm," says Madame Montford, drawing nearer to her, and making an effort to inspirit her. "Throw off all your fears, forget what you have suffered, for I, too, have suffered. And you parted with the child?"

"Necessity forced me," pursues the woman, shaking her head. "I saw only the street before me on one side, and felt only the cold pinchings of poverty on the other. You had gone abroad—"

"It was my intention to have adopted the child as my own when I returned," interrupts Madame Montford, still clinging to that flattering hope in which the criminal sees a chance of escape.

"And I," resumes the woman, "left the husband who neglected me, and who treated me cruelly, and gave myself,—perhaps I was to blame for it,—up to one who befriended me. He was the only one who seemed to care for me, or to have any sympathy for me. But he, like myself, was poor; and, being compelled to flee from our home, and to live in obscurity, where my husband could not find me out, the child was an incumbrance I had no means of supporting. I parted with her-yes, yes, I parted with her to Mother Bridges, who kept a stand at a corner in West street—"

"And then what became of her?" again interposes Madame Montford. The woman assumes a sullenness, and it is some time before she can be got to proceed.

"My conscience rebuked me," she resumes, as if indifferent about answering the question, "for I loved the child as my own; and the friend I lived with, and who followed the sea, printed on its right arm two hearts and a broken anchor, which remain there now. My husband died of the cholera, and the friend I had taken to, and who treated me kindly, also died, and I soon found myself an abandoned woman, an outcast-yes, ruined forever, and in the streets, leading a life that my own feelings revolted at, but from which starvation only seemed the alternative. My conscience rebuked me again and again, and something—I cannot tell what it was—impelled me with an irresistible force to watch over the fortunes of the child I knew must come to the same degraded life necessity-perhaps it was my own false step-had forced upon me. I watched her a child running neglected about the streets, then I saw her sold to Hag Zogbaum, who lived in Pell street; I never lost sight of her-no, I never lost sight of her, but fear of criminating myself kept me from making myself known to her. When I had got old in vice, and years had gone past, and she was on the first step to the vice she had been educated to, we shared the same roof. Then she was known as Anna Bonard—"

"Anna Bonard!" exclaims Madame Montford. "Then truly it is she who now lives in Charleston! There is no longer a doubt. I may seek and claim her, and return her to at least a life of comfort."

"There you will find her. Ah, many times have I looked upon her, and thought if I could only save her, how happy I could die. I shared the same roof with her in Charleston, and when I got sick she was kind to me, and watched over me, and was full of gentleness, and wept over her condition. She has sighed many a time, and said how she wished she knew how she came into the world, to be forced to live despised by the world. But I got down, down, down, from one step to another, one step to another, as I had gone up from one step to another in the splendor of vice, until I found myself, tortured in mind and body, a poor neglected wretch in the Charleston Poor-house. In it I was treated worse than a slave, left, sick and heart-broken, and uncared-for, to the preying of a fever that destroyed my mind. And as if that were not enough, I was carried into the dungeons-the 'mad cells,'-and chained. And this struck such a feeling of terror into my soul that my reason, as they said, was gone forever. But I got word to Anna, and she came to me, and gave me clothes and many little things to comfort me, and got me out, and gave me money to get back to New York, where I have been ever since, haunted from place to place, with scarce a place to lay my head. Surely I have suffered. Shall I be forgiven?" Her voice here falters, she becomes weak, and seems sinking under the burden of her emotions. "If,—if-if," she mutters, incoherently, "you can save me, and forgive me, you will have the prayers of one who has drank deep of the bitter cup." She looks up with a sad, melancholy countenance, again implores forgiveness, and bursts into loud sobs.

"Mine is the guilty part-it is me who needs forgiveness!" speaks Madame Montford, pressing the hand of the forlorn woman, as the tears stream down her cheeks. She has unburdened her emotions, but such is the irresistible power of a guilty conscience that she finds her crushed heart and smitten frame sinking under the shock-that she feels the very fever of remorse mounting to her brain.

"Be calm, be calm-for you have suffered, wandered through the dark abyss; truly you have been chastened enough in this world. But while your heart is only bruised and sore, mine is stung deep and lacerated. The image of that child now rises up before me. I see her looking back over her chequered life, and pining to know her birthright. Mine is the task of seeking her out, reconciling her, saving her from this life of shame. I must sacrifice the secrets of my own heart, go boldly in pursuit of her—" She pauses a moment. There is yet a thin veil between her and society. Society only founds its suspicions upon the mystery involved in the separation from her husband, and the doubtful character of her long residence in Europe. Society knows nothing of the birth of the child. The scandal leveled at her in Charleston, was only the result of her own indiscretion. "Yes," she whispers, attempting at the same time to soothe the feelings of the poor disconsolate woman, "I must go, and go quickly-I must drag her from the terrible life she is leading;—but, ah! I must do it so as to shield myself. Yes, I must shield myself!" And she puts into the woman's hand several pieces of gold, saying: "take this!—to-morrow you will be better provided for. Be silent. Speak to no one of what has passed between us, nor make the acquaintance of any one outside the home I shall provide for you." Thus saying, she recalls Mr. Detective Fitzgerald, rewards him with a nostrum from her purse, and charges him to make the woman comfortable at her expense.

"Her mind, now I do believe," says the detective, with an approving toss of the head, "her faculties 'll come right again,—they only wants a little care and kindness, mum." The detective thanks her again and again, then puts the money methodically into his pocket.

The carriage having returned, Madame Montford vaults into it as quickly as she alighted, and is rolled away to her mansion.



CHAPTER XLIV.

IN WHICH IS RECORDED EVENTS THE READER MAY NOT HAVE EXPECTED.



WHILE the events we have recorded in the foregoing chapter, confused, hurried, and curious, are being enacted in New York, let us once more turn to Charleston.

You must know that, notwithstanding our high state of civilization, we yet maintain in practice two of the most loathsome relics of barbarism-we lash helpless women, and we scourge, at the public whipping-post, the bare backs of men.

George Mullholland has twice been dragged to the whipping-post, twice stripped before a crowd in the market-place, twice lashed, maddened to desperation, and twice degraded in the eyes of the very negroes we teach to yield entire submission to the white man, however humble his grade. Hate, scorn, remorse-every dark passion his nature can summon-rises up in one torturing tempest, and fills his bosom with a mad longing for revenge. "Death!" he says, while looking out from his cell upon the bright landscape without, "what is death to me? The burnings of an outraged soul subdue the thought of death."

The woman through whom this dread finale was brought upon him, and who now repines, unable to shake off the smarts old associations crowd upon her heart, has a second and third time crept noiselessly to his cell, and sought in vain his forgiveness. Yea, she has opened the door gently, but drew back in terror before his dark frown, his sardonic scorn, his frenzied rush at her. Had he not loved her fondly, his hate had not taken such deep root in his bosom.

Two or three days pass, he has armed himself "to the death," and is resolved to make his escape, and seek revenge of his enemies. It is evening. Dark festoons of clouds hang over the city, lambent lightning plays along the heavens in the south. Now it flashes across the city, the dull panorama lights up, the tall, gaunt steeples gleam out, and the surface of the Bay flashes out in a phosphoric blaze. Patiently and diligently has he filed, and filed, and filed, until he has removed the bar that will give egress to his body. The window of his cell overlooks the ditch, beyond which is the prison wall. Noiselessly he arranges the rope, for he is in the third story, then paces his cell, silent and thoughtful. "Must it be?" he questions within himself, "must I stain these hands with the blood of the woman I love? Revenge, revenge-I will have revenge. I will destroy both of them, for to-morrow I am to be dragged a third time to the whipping-post." Now he casts a glance round the dark cell, now he pauses at the window, now the lightning courses along the high wall, then reflects back the deep ditch. Another moment, and he has commenced his descent. Down, down, down, he lowers himself. Now he holds on tenaciously, the lightning reflects his dangling figure, a prisoner in a lower cell gives the alarm, he hears the watchword of his discovery pass from cell to cell, the clashing of the keeper's door grates upon his ear like thunder-he has reached the end of his rope, and yet hangs suspended in the air. A heavy fall is heard, he has reached the ditch, bounds up its side to the wall, seizes a pole, and places against it, and, with one vault, is over into the open street. Not a moment is to be lost. Uproar and confusion reigns throughout the prison, his keepers have taken the alarm, and will soon be on his track, pursuing him with ferocious hounds. Burning for revenge, and yet bewildered, he sets off at full speed, through back lanes, over fields, passing in his course the astonished guardmen. He looks neither to the right nor the left, but speeds on toward the grove. Now he reaches the bridge that crosses the millpond, pauses for breath, then proceeds on. Suddenly a light from the villa Anna occupies flashes out. He has crossed the bridge, bounds over the little hedge-grown avenue, through the garden, and in another minute stands before her, a pistol pointed at her breast, and all the terrible passions of an enraged fiend darkening his countenance. Her implorings for mercy bring an old servant rushing into the room, the report of a pistol rings out upon the still air, shriek after shriek follows, mingled with piercing moans, and death-struggles. "Ha, ha!" says the avenger, looking on with a sardonic smile upon his face, and a curl of hate upon his lip, "I have taken the life to which I gave my own-yes, I have taken it-I have taken it!" And she writhes her body, and sets her eyes fixedly upon him, as he hastens out of the room.

"Quick! quick!" he says to himself. "There, then! I am pursued!" He recrosses the millpond over another bridge, and in his confusion turns a short angle into a lane leading to the city. The yelping of dogs, the deep, dull tramp of hoofs, the echoing of voices, the ominous baying and scenting of blood-hounds-all break upon his ear in one terrible chaos. Not a moment is to be lost. The sight at the villa will attract the attention of his pursuers, and give him time to make a distance! The thought of what he has done, and the terrible death that awaits him, crowds upon his mind, and rises up before him like a fierce monster of retribution. He rushes at full speed down the lane, vaults across a field into the main road, only to find his pursuers close upon him. The patrol along the streets have caught the alarm, which he finds spreading with lightning-speed. The clank of side-arms, the scenting and baying of the hounds, coming louder and louder, nearer and nearer, warns him of the approaching danger. A gate at the head of a wharf stands open, the hounds are fast gaining upon him, a few jumps more and they will have him fast in their ferocious grasp. He rushes through the gate, down the wharf, the tumultuous cry of his pursuers striking terror into his very heart. Another instant and the hounds are at his feet, he stands on the capsill at the end, gives one wild, despairing look into the abyss beneath—"I die revenged," he shouts, discharges a pistol into his breast, and with one wild plunge, is buried forever in the water beneath. The dark stream of an unhappy life has run out. Upon whom does the responsibility of this terrible closing rest? In the words of Thomson, the avenger left behind him only "Gaunt Beggary, and Scorn, with many hell-hounds more."

When the gray dawn of morning streamed in through the windows of the little villa, and upon the parlor table, that had so often been adorned with caskets and fresh-plucked flowers, there, in their stead, lay the lifeless form of the unhappy Anna, her features pale as marble, but beautiful even in death. There, rolled in a mystic shroud, calm as a sleeper in repose, she lay, watched over by two faithful slaves.

The Judge and Mr. Snivel have found it convenient to make a trip of pleasure into the country. And though the affair creates some little comment in fashionable society, it would be exceedingly unpopular to pry too deeply into the private affairs of men high in office. We are not encumbered with scrutinizing morality. Being an "unfortunate woman," the law cannot condescend to deal with her case. Indeed, were it brought before a judge, and the judge to find himself sitting in judgment upon a judge, his feelings would find some means of defrauding his judgment, while society would carefully close the shutter of its sanctity.

At high noon there comes a man of the name of Moon, commonly called Mr. Moon, the good-natured Coroner. In truth, a better-humored man than Mr. Moon cannot be found; and what is more, he has the happiest way in the world of disposing of such cases, and getting verdicts of his jury exactly suited to circumstances. Mr. Moon never proceeds to business without regaling his jury with good brandy and high-flavored cigars. In this instance he has bustled about and got together six very solemn and seriously-disposed gentlemen, who proceed to deliberate. "A mystery hangs over the case," says one. A second shakes his head, and views the body as if anxious to get away. A third says, reprovingly, that "such cases are coming too frequent." Mr. Moon explains the attendant circumstances, and puts a changed face on the whole affair. One juryman chalks, and another juryman chalks, and Mr. Moon says, by way of bringing the matter to a settled point, "It is a bad ending to a wretched life." A solemn stillness ensues, and then follows the verdict. The body being identified as that of one Anna Bonard, a woman celebrated for her beauty, but of notorious reputation, the jury are of opinion (having duly weighed the circumstances) that she came to her melancholy death by the hands of one George Mullholland, who was prompted to commit the act for some cause to the jury unknown. And the jury, in passing the case over to the authorities, recommend that the said Mullholland be brought to justice. This done, Mr. Moon orders her burial, and the jury hasten home, fully confident of having performed their duty unswerved.

When night came, when all was hushed without, and the silence within was broken only by the cricket's chirp, when the lone watcher, the faithful old slave, sat beside the cold, shrouded figure, when the dim light of the chamber of death seemed mingling with the shadows of departed souls, there appeared in the room, like a vision, the tall figure of a female, wrapped in a dark mantle. Slowly and noiselessly she stole to the side of the deceased, stood motionless and statue-like for several minutes, her eyes fixed in mute contemplation on the face of the corpse. The watcher looked and started back, still the figure remained motionless. Raising her right hand to her chin, pensively, she lifted her eyes heavenward, and in that silent appeal, in those dewy tears that glistened in her great orbs, in those words that seemed freezing to her quivering lips, the fierce struggle waging in that bosom was told. She heard the words, "You cannot redeem me now!" knelling in her ears, her thoughts flashed back over years of remorse, to the day of her error, and she saw rising up as it were before her, like a spectre from the tomb, seeking retribution, the image of the child she had sacrificed to her vanity. She pressed and pressed the cold hand, so delicate, so like her own; she unbared the round, snowy arm, and there beheld the imprinted hearts, and the broken anchor! Her pent-up grief then burst its bounds, the tears rolled down her cheeks, her lips quivered, her hand trembled, and her very blood seemed as ice in her veins. She cast a hurried glance round the room, a calm and serene smile seemed lighting up the features of the lifeless woman, and she bent over her, and kissed and kissed her cold, marble-like brow, and bathed it with her burning tears. It was a last sad offering; and having bestowed it, she turned slowly away, and disappeared. It was Madame Montford, who came a day too late to save the storm-tossed girl, but returned to think of the hereafter of her own soul.



CHAPTER XLV.

ANOTHER SHADE OF THE PICTURE.



WHILE the earth of Potter's Field is closing over all that remains of Anna Bonard, Maria McArthur may be seen, snatching a moment of rest, as it were, seated under the shade of a tree on the Battery, musing, as is her wont. The ships sail by cheerily, there is a touching beauty about the landscape before her, all nature seems glad. Even the heavens smile serenely; and a genial warmth breathes through the soft air. "Truly the Allwise," she says within herself, "will be my protector, and is chastising me while consecrating something to my good. Mr. Keepum has made my father's release the condition of my ruin. But he is but flesh and blood, and I—no, I am not yet a slave! The virtue of the poor, truly, doth hang by tender threads; but I am resolved to die struggling to preserve it." And a light, as of some future joy, rises up in her fancy, and gives her new strength.

The German family have removed from the house in which she occupies a room, and in its place are come two women of doubtful character. Still, necessity compels her to remain in it; for though it is a means resorted to by Keepum to effect his purpose, she cannot remove without being followed, and harassed by him. Strong in the consciousness of her own purity, and doubly incensed at the proof of what extremes the designer will condescend to, she nerves herself for the struggle she sees before her. True, she was under the same roof with them; she was subjected to many inconveniencies by their presence; but not all their flattering inducements could change her resolution. Nevertheless, the resolution of a helpless female does not protect her from the insults of heartless men. She returns home to find that Mother Rumor, with her thousand tongues, is circulating all kinds of evil reports about her. It is even asserted that she has become an abandoned woman, and is the occupant of a house of doubtful repute. And this, instead of enlisting the sympathies of some kind heart, rather increases the prejudice and coldness of those upon whom she has depended for work. It is seldom the story of suffering innocence finds listeners. The sufferer is too frequently required to qualify in crime, before she becomes an object of sympathy.

She returns, one day, some work just finished for one of our high old families, the lady of which makes it a boast that she is always engaged in "laudable pursuits of a humane kind." The lady sends her servant to the door with the pittance due, and begs to say she is sorry to hear of the life Miss McArthur is leading, and requests she will not show herself at the house again. Mortified in her feelings, Maria begs an interview; but the servant soon returns an answer that her Missus cannot descend to anything of the kind. Our high old families despise working people, and wall themselves up against the poor, whose virtue they regard as an exceedingly cheap commodity. Our high old families choose rather to charge guilt, and deny the right to prove innocence.

With the four shillings, Maria, weeping, turns from the door, procures some bread and coffee, and wends her way to the old prison. But the chords of her resolution are shaken, the cold repulse has gone like poison to her heart. The ray of joy that was lighting up her future, seems passing away; whilst fainter and fainter comes the hope of once more greeting her lover. She sees vice pampered by the rich, and poor virtue begging at their doors. She sees a price set upon her own ruin; she sees men in high places waiting with eager passion the moment when the thread of her resolution will give out. The cloud of her night does, indeed, seem darkening again.

But she gains the prison, and falters as she enters the cell where the old Antiquary, his brow furrowed deep of age, sleeps calmly upon his cot. Near his hand, which he has raised over his head, lays a letter, with the envelope broken. Maria's quick eye flashes over the superscription, and recognizes in it the hand of Tom Swiggs. A transport of joy fills her bosom with emotions she has no power to constrain. She trembles from head to foot; fancies mingled with joys and fears crowd rapidly upon her thoughts. She grasps it with feelings frantic of joy, and holds it in her shaking hand; the shock has nigh overcome her. The hope in which she has so long found comfort and strength-that has so long buoyed her up, and carried her safely through trials, has truly been her beacon light. "Truly," she says within herself, "the dawn of my morning is brightening now." She opens the envelope, and finds a letter enclosed to her. "Oh! yes, yes, yes! it is him-it is from him!" she stammers, in the exuberance of her wild joy. And now the words, "You are richer than me," flash through her thoughts with revealed significance.

Maria grasps the old man's hand. He starts and wakes, as if unconscious of his situation, then fixes his eyes upon her with a steady, vacant gaze. Then, with childlike fervor, he presses her hand to his lips, and kisses it. "It was a pleasant dream—ah! yes, I was dreaming all things went so well!" Again a change comes over his countenance, and he glances round the room, with a wild and confused look. "Am I yet in prison?-well, it was only a dream. If death were like dreaming, I would crave it to take me to its peace, that my mind might no longer be harassed with the troubles of this life. Ah! there, there!"—(the old man starts suddenly, as if a thought has flashed upon him)—" there is the letter, and from poor Tom, too! I only broke the envelope. I have not opened it."

"It is safe, father; I have it," resumes Maria, holding it before him, unopened, as the words tremble upon her lips. One moment she fears it may convey bad news, and in the next she is overjoyed with the hope that it brings tidings of the safety and return of him for whose welfare she breathed many a prayer. Pale and agitated, she hesitates a moment, then proceeds to open it.

"Father, father! heaven has shielded me-heaven has shielded me! Ha! ha! ha! yes, yes, yes! He is safe! he is safe!" And she breaks out into one wild exclamation of joy, presses the letter to her lips, and kisses it, and moistens it with her tears. "It was all a plot-a dark plot set for my ruin!" she mutters, and sinks back, overcome with her emotions. The old man fondles her to his bosom, his white beard flowing over her suffused cheeks, and his tears mingling with hers. And here she remains, until the anguish of her joy runs out, and her mind resumes its wonted calm.

Having broken the spell, she reads the letter to the enraptured old man. Tom has arrived in New York; explains the cause of his long absence; speaks of several letters he has transmitted by post, (which she never received;) and his readiness to proceed to Charleston, by steamer, in a few days. His letter is warm with love and constancy; he recurs to old associations; he recounts his remembrance of the many kindnesses he received at the hands of her father, when homeless; of the care, to which he owes his reform, bestowed upon him by herself, and his burning anxiety to clasp her to his bosom.

A second thought flashes upon her fevered brain. Am I not the subject of slander! Am I not contaminated by associations? Has not society sought to clothe me with shame? Truth bends before falsehood, and virtue withers under the rust of slandering tongues. Again a storm rises up before her, and she feels the poisoned arrow piercing deep into her heart. Am I not living under the very roof that will confirm the slanders of mine enemies? she asks herself. And the answer rings back in confirmation upon her too sensitive ears, and fastens itself in her feelings like a reptile with deadly fangs. No; she is not yet free from her enemies. They have the power of falsifying her to her lover. The thought fills her bosom with sad emotions. Strong in the consciousness of her virtue, she feels how weak she is in the walks of the worldly. Her persecutors are guilty, but being all-powerful may seek in still further damaging her character, a means of shielding themselves from merited retribution. It is the natural expedient of bad men in power to fasten crime upon the weak they have injured.

Only a few days have to elapse, then, and Maria will be face to face with him in whom her fondest hopes have found refuge; but even in those few days it will be our duty to show how much injury may be inflicted upon the weak by the powerful.

The old Antiquary observes the change that has come so suddenly over Maria's feelings, but his entreaties fail to elicit the cause. Shall she return to the house made doubtful by its frail occupants; or shall she crave the jailer's permission to let her remain and share her father's cell? Ah! solicitude for her father settles the question. The alternative may increase his apprehensions, and with them his sufferings. Night comes on; she kisses him, bids him a fond adieu, and with an aching heart returns to the house that has brought so much scandal upon her.

On reaching the door she finds the house turned into a bivouac of revelry; her own chamber is invaded, and young men and women are making night jubilant over Champagne and cigars. Mr. Keepum and the Hon. Mr. Snivel are prominent among the carousers; and both are hectic of dissipation. Shall she flee back to the prison? Shall she go cast herself at the mercy of the keeper? As she is about following the thought with the act, she is seized rudely by the arms, dragged into the scene of carousal, and made the object of coarse jokes. One insists that she must come forward and drink; another holds an effervescing glass to her lips; a third says he regards her modesty out of place, and demands that she drown it with mellowing drinks. The almost helpless girl shrieks, and struggles to free herself from the grasp of her enemies. Mr. Snivel, thinking it highly improper that such cries go free, catches her in his arms, and places his hand over her mouth. "Caught among queer birds at last," he says, throwing an insidious wink at Keepum. "Will flock together, eh?"

As if suddenly invested with herculean strength, Maria hurls the ruffian from her, and lays him prostrate on the floor. In his fall the table is overset, and bottles, decanters and sundry cut glass accompaniments, are spread in a confused mass on the floor. Suddenly Mr. Keepum extinguishes the lights. This is the signal for a scene of uproar and confusion we leave the reader to picture in his imagination. The cry of "murder" is followed quickly by the cry of "watch, watch!" and when the guardmen appear, which they are not long in doing, it is seen that the very chivalric gentlemen have taken themselves off-left, as a prey for the guard, only Maria and three frail females.

Cries, entreaties, and explanations, are all useless with such men as our guard is composed of. Her clothes are torn, and she is found rioting in disreputable company. The sergeant of the guard says, "Being thus disagreeably caught, she must abide the penalty. It may teach you how to model your morals," he adds; and straightway, at midnight, she is dragged to the guard-house, and in spite of her entreaties, locked up in a cell with the outcast women. "Will you not hear me? will you not allow an innocent woman to speak in her own behalf? Do, I beg, I beseech, I implore you-listen but for a minute-render me justice, and save me from this last step of shame and disgrace," she appeals to the sergeant, as the cell door closes upon her.

Mr. Sergeant Stubble, for such is his name, shakes his head in doubt. "Always just so," he says, with a shrug of the shoulders: "every one's innocent what comes here 'specially women of your sort. The worst rioters 'come the greatest sentimentalists, and repents most when they gets locked up-does! You'll find it a righteous place for reflection, in there." Mr. Sergeant Stubble shuts the door, and smothers her cries.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE SOUL MAY GAIN STRENGTH IN A DREARY CELL.



IT is Bulwer, the prince of modern novelists, who says: "There is in calumny a rank poison that, even when the character throws off the slander, the heart remains diseased beneath the effect." And this is the exact condition in which Maria finds herself. The knaves who have sought her ruin would seem to have triumphed; the ears of the charitable are closed to her; her judgment seems sealed. And yet when all is dark and still; when her companions sleep in undisturbed tranquillity; when her agitated feelings become calmed; when there seems speaking to her, through the hushed air of midnight, the voice of a merciful providence-her soul quickens, and she counsels her self-command, which has not yet deserted her. Woman's nature is indeed strung in delicate threads, but her power of endurance not unfrequently puts the sterner sex to the blush. "Slander has truly left my heart diseased, but I am innocent, and to-morrow, perhaps, my star will brighten. These dark struggles cannot last forever!" she muses, as her self-command strengthens, and gives her new hopes. Her betrothed may return to-morrow, and his generous nature will not refuse her an opportunity to assert her innocence.

And while she thus muses in the cell of the guard-house, the steamer in which Tom proceeds to Charleston is dashing through the waves, speeding on, like a thing of life, leaving a long train of phosphoric brine behind her. As might naturally have been expected, Tom learns from a fellow-passenger all that has befallen the old Antiquary. This filled his mind with gloomy forebodings concerning the fate of Maria. There was, too, something evasive in the manner of the man who conveyed to him this intelligence, and this excited his apprehensions, and prompted him to make further inquiries. His confidence in her faith animated and encouraged his heart. But when he remembered that the old man was, even when he left, in the clutches of Snivel and Keepum (men whose wealth and influence gave them power to crush the poor into the dust), an abyss, terrible and dark, opened to him, his whole nature seemed changed, and his emotions became turbulent. He again sought the passenger, and begging him to throw off all restraint, assured him that it would relieve his feelings to know what had become of Maria. The man hesitated for a few moments, then, with reluctant lips, disclosed to him that she had fallen a victim of necessity-more, that she was leading the life of an outcast. Tom listened attentively to the story, which lost nothing in the recital; then, with passions excited to frenzy, sought his state-room. At first it seemed like a sentence of eternal separation ringing through his burning brain. All the dark struggles of his life rose up before him, and seemed hastening him back into that stream of dissipation in which his mind had found relief when his mother forsook him. But no! something-he knew not what-whispered in his ear, "Do not reject her. Faith and hope remains to you; let truth be the judge." He stretched himself in his berth, but not to sleep.

On the following morning Maria, with the frail companions of her cell, is brought into court, and arraigned before His Honor, Judge Sleepyhorn, who, be it said to his credit, though terrible in his dealings with the harder sex, and whose love of hanging negroes is not to be outdone, is exceedingly lenient with female cases, as he is pleased to style them. Though her virtue is as chaste as the falling snow, Maria is compelled to suffer, for nearly an hour, the jeers and ribald insinuations of a coarse crowd, while the fact of her being in the guard-house is winged over the city by exultant scandal-mongers. Nevertheless, she remains calm and resolute. She sees the last struggle of an eventful life before her, and is resolved to meet it with womanly fortitude.

The Judge smiles, casts a glance over his assembly, and takes his seat, as Mr. Sergeant Stubble commences to read over the charges against the accused. "Business," says the Judge, "will proceed."

"Now, Judge!" speaks up one of the frail women, coming forward in a bold, off-hand manner to speak for her companions, "I don't exactly see what we have done so much out of the way. No ladies of our standing have been up here before. The law's comin' very nice all at once. There's a heap, as you know, Judge—"

"No, no, no! I know nothing about such places!" quickly interrupts the Judge, his face full of virtuous indignation, and his hands raised in horror.

"Then I may be pardoned for not wearing spectacles," resumes the woman, with a curtsy. Finding the judgment-seat becoming a little too warm for his nerves, the Judge very prudently dismisses the damsels, with an admonition to go and do better-in fine, to tighten their tongues as well as their morality.

With the aid of Mr. Sergeant Stubble, Maria is brought forward, pale and trembling, and struggling with the war of grief waging in her heart. Calmly she looks up at the Judge for a moment, then hangs down her head in silence. "There is a Judge above who knows the circumstances, gives me now His hand, and will judge me in the balance of truth and mercy, when my enemies are at my feet," flashes through her thoughts, and strengthens the inner nature. But her tongue has lost its power; her feelings unbend to the thought that she is in a criminal court, arraigned before a Judge. She has no answer to make to the Judge's questions, but gives way to her emotions, and breaks out into loud sobs. Several minutes, during which a sympathizing silence is manifest, pass, when she raises slowly her head, and makes an attempt to mutter a few words in her defence. But her voice chokes, and the words hang, inarticulate, upon her lips. She buries her face in her hands, and shakes her head, as if saying, "I have said all."

His Honor seems moved to mercy by the touching spectacle before him. He whispers in the ear of Mr. Sergeant Stubble, and that functionary brightens up, and with an attempt to be kind, says: "Pray, Miss McArthur—it's a duty we have to perform, you see—where is your father? the Judge says."

Ah! That question has touched the fountain-spring of all her troubles, and the waters come gushing forth, as if to engulph the last faint shadow of hope in darkness. Almost simultaneously she falls to the floor in a fit of violent hysterics. The Judge orders the court-room cleared of its spectators, and if the reader has ever witnessed the painful sight of a female suffering such paroxysms, he may picture more forcibly in his imagination than we can describe, the scene that follows. For some fifteen minutes the sufferer struggles, and when her mind resumes its calm, she casts a wild, despairing look round the room, then fixes her eyes upon those who are gathered about her.

There was a kind impulse yet left in the Judge. He discovers a sympathy for her condition, holds her weak, trembling hand in his own, and bathes her temples with cologne. "You are free to go home-there is no charge against you," he whispers in her ear. "I have ordered a carriage, and will send you to your home-where is it?" This is, indeed, cruel kindness.

"If I had a home," responds Maria, in a low voice, as she rises, and rests herself on her elbow, "it would shelter me from this distress. Yes, I would then be happy once more."

A carriage soon arrives, she is put into it, and with a few consoling words from the Judge, is driven back, as hastily as possible, to the house from which she was dragged only last night. She has nowhere else to go to-day, but resolves to-morrow to seek a shelter elsewhere. Through the whisperings of that unaccountable human telegraph, the news of her shame, made great and terrible with a thousand additions, is flown into the family secrets of the city. How strange and yet how true of human nature is it, that we stand ever ready to point the finger of scorn at those we fancy in the downward path, while refusing ourselves to receive the moralist's lessons.



CHAPTER XLVII.

IN WHICH IS A HAPPY MEETING, AND SOMETHING PLEASING.



IT is night-Mr. Keepum is seen seated before a table in his drawing-room, finishing a sumptuous supper, and asking himself: "Who dares to question me, the opulent Keepum?" Mr. Snivel enters, joins him over a glass of wine, and says, "this little matter must be settled tonight, Keepum, old fellow-been minced long enough." And the two chivalric gentlemen, after a short conversation, sally into the street. Yonder, in the harbor, just rounding the frowning walls of Fort Sumpter, blazes out the great red light of the steamer, on which the impatient lover fast approaches Charleston city.

"She can do nothing at law—against our influence she is powerless!" ejaculates Keepum, as the two emerge from the house and stroll along up Broad street.

Maria, pale and exhausted with the fatigues and excitements of the day, sits in her solitary chamber, fearing lest each footstep she hears advancing, may be that of her enemies, or hoping that it may announce the coming of her lover and rescuer.

"You are richer than me!" still tinkles its silvery music in her ear, and brings comfort to her agitated heart. The clock strikes ten, and suddenly her room is entered by Keepum and Snivel. The former, with an insinuating leer, draws a chair near her, while the latter, doffing his coat, flings himself upon the cot. Neither speak for some minutes; but Maria reads in their looks and actions the studied villany they have at heart.

"Inconsistency adorned!" exclaims Keepum, drawing his chair a little nearer. "Now, I say, you have stuck stubbornly to this ere folly." Mr. Keepum's sharp, red face, comes redder, and his small, wicked eyes flash like orbs of fire. "Better come down off that high horse-live like a lady. The devil's got Tom, long ago."

"So you have said before, Mr. Keepum," rejoins Maria, turning upon him a look of disdain. "You may persecute me to the death; you may continue to trample me into the dust; but only with my death shall your lust be gratified on me!" This declaration is made with an air of firmness Mr. Keepum seems to understand. "D-n it," rejoins Mr. Snivel, with a sardonic laugh, "these folks are affecting to be something."

Maria raises her right hand, and motions Mr. Keepum away. It does indeed seem to her that the moment when nature in her last struggle unbends before the destroyer-when the treasure of a life passes away to give place to dark regrets and future remorse, is come. Let us pause here for a moment, and turn to another part of the city.

The steamer has scarce reached her berth at the wharf, when the impatient lover springs ashore, dashes through the throng of spectators, and, bewildered as it were, and scarce knowing which way he is proceeding, hurries on, meeting no one he knows, and at length reaching Meeting street. Here he pauses, and to his great joy meets an old negro, who kindly offers to escort him to the distant quarter of the city where Maria resides. Again he sets out, his mind hung in suspense, and his emotions agitated to the highest degree. He hurries on into King street, pauses for a moment before the house of the old Antiquary, now fast closed, and as if the eventful past were crowding upon his fancy, he turns away with dizzy eyes, and follows the old negro, step by step-faint, nervous, and sinking with excitement-until they reach the cabin of Undine, the mulatto woman, under whose roof Maria once sought refuge for the night. Ready to exclaim, "Maria, I am here!" his heart is once more doomed to disappointment. The question hangs upon his lips, as his wondering eyes glance round the room of the cabin. Undine tells him she is not here; but points him to a light, nearly half a mile distant, and tells him she is there! there! The faithful old negro sets off again, and at full speed they proceed up the lane in the direction of the light. And while they vault as it were o'er the ground, let us again turn to the chamber of Maria.

With a sudden spring, Keepum, who had been for several minutes keeping his eyes fixedly set upon Maria, and endeavoring to divert her attention, seized her arms, and was about to drag her down, when Snivel put out the light and ran to his assistance. "Never! never!" she shrieks, at the very top of her voice. "Only with my life!" A last struggle, a stifled cry of "never! never!" mingled with the altercation of voices, rang out upon the air, and grated upon the impatient lover's ear like death-knells. "Up stairs, up stairs!" shouts the old negro, and in an instant he has burst the outer door in, mounts the stairs with the nimbleness of a catamount, and is thundering at the door, which gives way before his herculean strength. "I am here! I am here! Maria, I am here!" he shouts, at the top of his voice, and with an air of triumph stands in the door, as the flashing light from without reveals his dilating figure. "Foul villains! fiends in human form! A light! a light! Merciful heavens-a light!" He dashes his hat from his brow, turns a revengeful glance round the room, and grasps Maria in his arms, as the old negro strikes a light and reveals the back of Mr. Snivel escaping out of a window. Keepum, esteeming discretion the better part of valor, has preceded him.

Tightly Tom clasps Maria to his bosom, and with a look of triumph says: "Maria! speak, speak! They have not robbed you?"

She shakes her head, returns a look of sweet innocence, and mutters: "It was the moment of life or death. Thank heaven-merciful heaven, I am yet guiltless. They have not robbed me of my virtue-no, no, no. I am faint, I am weak-set me down-set me down. The dawn of my morning has brightened."

And she seems swooning in his arms. Gently he bears her to the cot, lays her upon it, and with the solicitude of one whose heart she has touched with a recital of her troubles, smooths her pillow and watches over her until her emotions come subdued.

"And will you believe me innocent? Will you hear my story, and reject the calumny of those who have sought my ruin?" speaks Maria, impressing a kiss upon the fevered lips of her deliverer, and, having regained her self-command, commences to recount some of the ills she has suffered.

"Maria!" rejoins Tom, returning her embrace, "you, whom I have loved so sincerely, so quietly but passionately, have no need of declaring your innocence. I have loved you-no one but you. My faith in your innocence has never been shaken. I hastened to you, and am here, your protector, as you have been mine. Had I not myself suffered by those who have sought your ruin, my pride might be touched at the evil reports that have already been rung in my ears. Grateful am I to Him who protects the weak, that I have spared you from the dread guilt they would have forced upon you."

Again and again he declares his eternal love, and seals it with a kiss. His, nature is too generous to doubt her innocence. He already knows the condition of her father, hence keeps silent on that point, lest it might overcome her. He raises her gently from the cot and seats her in a chair; and as he does so, Mr. Snivel's coat falls upon the floor, and from the pocket there protrudes four of his (Tom's) letters, addressed to Maria.

"Here! here!" says Tom, confusedly, "here is the proof of their guilt and your innocence." And he picks up the letters and holds them before her. "I was not silent, though our enemies would have had it so."

And she looks up again, and with a sweet smile says: "There truly seems a divine light watching over me and lightening the burdens of a sorrowing heart."

The excitement of the meeting over, Maria rapidly recounts a few of the trials she has been subjected to.

Tom's first impulse is, that he will seek redress at law. Certainly the law will give an injured woman her rights. But a second thought tells him how calmly justice sits on her throne when the rights of the poor are at stake. Again, Mr. Keepum has proceeded strictly according to law in prosecuting her father, and there is no witness of his attempts upon her virtue. The law, too, has nothing to do with the motives. No! he is in an atmosphere where justice is made of curious metal.

"And now, Maria," says Tom, pressing her hand in his own, "I, whom you rescued when homeless-I, who was loathed when a wretched inebriate, am now a man. My manhood I owe to you. I acknowledge it with a grateful heart. You were my friend then-I am your friend now. May I, nay! am I worthy of retaining this hand for life?"

"Rather, I might ask," she responds, in a faltering voice, "am I worthy of this forgiveness, this confidence, this pledge of eternal happiness?"

It is now the image of a large and noble heart reflects itself in the emotions of the lovers, whose joys heaven seems to smile upon.

"Let us forget the past, and live only for the future-for each other's happiness; and heaven will reward the pure and the good!" concludes Tom, again sealing his faith with an ardent embrace. "You are richer than me!" now, for the last time, rings its gladdening music into her very soul.

Tom recompenses the faithful old negro, who has been a silent looker on, and though the night is far spent, he leads Maria from the place that has been a house of torment to her, provides her a comfortable residence for the night, and, as it is our object not to detain the reader longer with any lengthened description of what follows, may say that, ere a few days have passed, leads Maria to the altar and makes her his happy Bride.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

A FEW WORDS WITH THE READER.



THE abruptness with which we were compelled to conclude this history, may render it necessary to make a few explanations. Indeed, we fancy we hear the reader demanding them.

By some mysterious process, known only to Keepum and Snivel, the old Antiquary was found at large on the day following Tom Swiggs' return, notwithstanding the Appeal Court did not sit for some six weeks. It is some months since Tom returned, and although he has provided a comfortable home for the Antiquary, the queer old man still retains a longing for the old business, and may be seen of a fine morning, his staff in his right hand, his great-bowed spectacles mounted, and his infirm step, casting many an anxious look up at his old shop, and thinking how much more happy he would be if he were installed in business, selling curiosities to his aristocratic customers, and serving the chivalry in general.

As for Keepum, why he lost no time in assuring Tom of his high regard for him, and has several times since offered to lend him a trifle, knowing full well that he stands in no need of it.

Snivel is a type of our low, intriguing politician and justice, a sort of cross between fashionable society and rogues, who, notwithstanding they are a great nuisance to the community, manage to get a sort of windy popularity, which is sure to carry them into high office. He is well thought of by our ignorant crackers, wire-grassmen, and sand-pitters, who imagine him the great medium by which the Union is to be dissolved, and South Carolina set free to start a species of government best suited to her notions of liberty, which are extremely contracted. It may here be as well to add, that he is come rich, but has not yet succeeded in his darling project of dissolving the Union.

Judge Sleepyhorn thinks of withdrawing into private life, of which he regards himself an exquisite ornament. This, some say, is the result of the tragic death of Anna Bonard, as well as his love of hanging negroes having somewhat subsided.

Madame Montford takes her journeys abroad, where she finds herself much more popular than at home. Nevertheless, she suffers the punishment of a guilty heart, and this leaves her no peace in body or mind. It is, however, some relief to her that she has provided a good, comfortable home for the woman Munday. Tenacious of her character, she still finds a refuge for her pride in the hope that the public is ignorant on the score of the child.

Brother Spyke is in Antioch, and writes home that he finds the Jews the most intractable beings he ever had to deal with. He, however, has strong hopes of doing much good. The field is wide, and with a few thousand dollars more-well, a great deal of light may be reflected over Antioch.

Sister Slocum is actively employed in the good cause of dragging up and evangelizing the heathen world generally. She has now on hand fourteen nice couples, young, earnest, and full of the best intentions. She hopes to get them all off to various dark fields of missionary labor as soon as the requisite amount of funds is scraped up.

There came very near being a little misunderstanding between the House of the Foreign Missions and the House of the Tract Society, in reference to the matter of burying Mrs. Swiggs. The Secretary of the Tract Society, notwithstanding he had strong leanings to the South, and would not for the world do aught to offend the dignity of the "peculiar institution," did not see his way so clearly in the matter of contributing to the burial expenses of the sister who had so long labored in the cause of their tracts. However, the case was a peculiar one, and called for peculiar generosity; hence, after consulting "The Board," the matter was compromised by the "Tract Society" paying a third of the amount.

If you would have strong arguments in favor of reform in the Points just look in at the House of the Nine Nations. There you will find Mr. Krone and his satellites making politicians, and deluging your alms-houses and graveyards with his victims, while he himself is one of the happiest fellows in the world. And after you have feasted your eyes on his den, then come out and pay your homage to the man who, like a fearless Hercules, has sacrificed his own comfort, and gone nobly to work to drag up this terrible heathen world at your own door. Give him of your good gifts, whisper an encouraging word in his ear (he has multiplied the joys of the saved inebriate), and bid him God-speed in his labor of love.

A word in reference to the young theologian. He continues his visits to the old jail, and has rendered solace to many a drooping heart. But he is come a serious obstacle to Mr. Sheriff Hardscrabble, who, having an eye to profit, regards a "slim goal" in anything but a favorable light.

Old Spunyarn has made a voyage to the Mediterranean, and returned with a bag full of oranges for Tom Swiggs; but now that he sees him in possession of such a fine craft as Maria, he proposes that she have the oranges, while his hearty good wishes can just as well be expressed over a bumper of wine. He hopes Tom may always have sunshine, a gentle breeze, and a smooth sea. Farther, he pledges that he will hereafter keep clear of the "land-sharks," nor ever again give the fellow with the face like a snatch-block a chance to run him aboard the "Brig Standfast."

As for Mr. Detective Fitzgerald, he still pursues his profession, and is one of the kindest and most efficient officers of his corps.

And now, ere we close our remarks, and let the curtain fall, we must say a word of Tom and Maria. Tom, then, is one of the happiest fellows of the lot. He occupies a nice little villa on the banks of the "mill-dam." And here his friends, who having found wings and returned with his fortunes, look in now and then, rather envy the air of comfort that reigns in his domicil, and are surprised to find Maria really so beautiful. Tom so far gained the confidence of his employer, that he is now a partner in the concern; and, we venture to say, will never forfeit his trust. About Maria there is an air of self-command-a calmness and intelligence of manner, and a truthfulness in her devotion to Tom, that we can only designate with the word "nobleness." And, too, there is a sweetness and earnestness in her face that seems to bespeak the true woman, while leaving nothing that can add to the happiness of him she now looks up to and calls her deliverer.

THE END.

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