There was an egg-supper, as I said, at Mandluff's store. There was to be a "camp-meeting" in honor of Norman Anderson's successful return to his liberty and his cronies. It gave Norman, the greatest pleasure to return to a society where it was rather to his credit than otherwise that he had gone on a big old time, got caught, and been sent adrift by the old hunk that had tried to make him study Latin.
The eggs were baked in the true "camp-meeting" style, the whisky was drunk, and—so was the company. Bill Day's rather red eyes grew redder, and his nose shone with delight as he shuffled the greasy pack of "kyerds." The maudlin smile crossed the habitually melancholy lines of his face in a way that split and splintered his visage into a curious contradiction of emotions.
"H—a—oo—p!" He shouted, throwing away the cards over the heads of his companions. "Ha—oop! boys, thish is big—hoo! hoo! ha—oop! I say is big. Let's do somethin'!"
Here there was a confused cry that "it was big, and that they had better do somethin' or 'nother."
"Let's blow up the ole school-house," said Bill Day, who was not friendly to education.
"I tell you what," said Bob Short, who was dealing the cards in another set—"I tell you what," and Bob winked his eyes vigorously, and looked more solemn and wise than he could have looked if it had not been for the hard eggs and the whisky—"I tell you what," said Bob a third time, and halted, for his mind's activity was a little choked by the fervor of his emotions—"I tell you what, boys—"
"Wal," piped Jim West in a cracked voice, "you've told us what four times, I 'low; now s'pose you tell us somethin' else."
"I tell you what, boys," said Bob Short, suddenly remembering his sentence, "don't let's do nothin' that'll git us into no trouble arterwards. Ef we blow up the school-house we'll be 'rested fer bigamy or—or—what d'ye call it?"
"For larson," said Bill Day, hardly able to restrain another whoop.
"No, 'taint larson," said Bob Short, looking wiser than a chief-justice, "it's arsony. Now I say, don't let's go to penitentiary for no—no larson—no arsony, I mean."
"Ha—oop!" said Bill. "Let's do somethin' ludikerous. Hurrah for arsony and larson! Dog-on the penitentiary! Ha—oop!"
"Let's go fer the Dutchman," said Norman Anderson, just drunk enough to be good-naturedly murderous and to speak in dialect. "Gus is turned out to committin' larson by breakin' into people's houses an' has run off. Now let's tar and feather the ole one. Of course, he's a thief. Dutchmen always is, I 'low. Clark township don't want none of 'em, I'll be dog-oned if it do," and Norman got up and struck his fist on the counter.
"An' they won't nobody hurt you; you see, he's on'y a Dutchman," said Bob Short "Larson on a Dutchman don't hold."
"I say, let's hang him," said Bill Day. "Ha—oop! Let's hang him, or do somethin' else ludikerous!"
"I wouldn't mind," grinned Norman Anderson, delighted at the turn things had taken. "I'd just like to see him hung."
"So would I," said Bill Day, leaning over to Norman. "Ef a Dutchman wash to court my sishter, I'd—"
"He'd be a fool ef he did," piped Jim West. For Bill Day's sister was a "maid not vendible," as Shakespeare has it.
"See yer," said Bill, trying in vain to draw his coat. "Looky yer, Jeems; ef you say anythin' agin Ann Marier, I'll commit the wust larson on you you ever seed."
"I didn't say nothin' agin Ann Marier," squeaked Jim. "I was talkin' agin the Dutch."
"Well, that'sh all right Ha—oop! Boys, let's do somethin', larson or arsony or—somethin'."
A bucket of tar and some feathers were bought, for which young Anderson was made to pay, and Bill Day insisted on buying fifteen feet of rope. "Bekase," as he said, "arter you git the feathers on the bird, you may—you may want to help him to go to roosht you know, on a hickory limb. Ha—oop! Come along, boys; I say let's do somethin' ludikerous, ef it's nothin' but a little larson."
And so they went galloping down the road, nine drunken fools. For it is one of the beauties of lynch law, that, however justifiable it may seem in some instances, it always opens the way to villainous outrages. Some of my readers will protest that a man was never lynched for the crime of being a Dutchman. Which only shows how little they know of the intense prejudice and lawless violence of the early West. Some day people will not believe that men have been killed in California for being Chinamen.
Of the nine who started, one, the drunkest, fell off and broke his arm; the rest rode up in front of the cabin of Gottlieb Wehle. I do not want to tell how they alarmed the mother at her late sewing and dragged Gottlieb out of his bed. I shudder now when I recall one such outrage to which I was an unwilling witness. Norman threw the rope round Gottlieb's neck and declared for hanging. Bill Day agreed. It would be so ludikerous, you know!
"Vot hash I tun? Hey? Vot vor you dries doo hanks me already, hey?" cried the honest German, who was willing enough to have the end of the world come, but who did not like the idea of ascending alone, and in this fashion.
Mrs. Wehle pushed her way into the mob and threw the rope off her husband's neck, and began to talk with vehemence in German. For a moment the drunken fellows hung back out of respect for a woman. Then Bill Day was suddenly impressed with the fact that the duty of persuading Mrs. Wehle to consent to her husband's execution devolved upon him.
"Take keer, boys; let me talk to the ole woman. I'll argy the case."
"You can't speak Dutch no more nor a hoss can," squeaked Jeems West.
"Blam'd ef I can't, though. Hyer, ole woman, firshta Dutch?"
"Now," said Bill, turning to the others in triumph, "what did I tell you? Well, you see, your boy August is a thief."
"He's not a teef!" said the old man.
"Shet up your jaw. I say he is. Now, your ole man's got to be hung."
"Vot vor?" broke in Gottlieb.
"Bekase it's all your own fault. You hadn't orter be a Dutchman."
Here the crowd fell into a wrangle. It was not so easy to hang a man when such a woman stood there pleading for him. Besides, Bob Short insisted that hanging was arsony in the first degree, and they better not do it. To this Bill Day assented. He said he 'sposed tar and feathers was only larson in the second degree. And then it would be rale ludikerous. And now confused cries of "Bring on the tar!" "Where's the feathers?" "Take off his clothes!" began to be raised. Norman stood out for hanging. Drink always intensified his meanness. But the tar couldn't be found. The man whom they had left lying by the roadside with a broken arm had carried the tar, and had been well coated with it himself in his fall.
"Ha-oop!" shouted Bill Day. "Let's do somethin'. Dog-on the arsony! Let's hang him as high as Dan'el."
And with that the rope was thrown over Gottlieb's, neck and he was hurried off to the nearest tree. The rope was then put over a limb, and a drunken half-dozen got ready to pull, while Norman Anderson adjusted the noose and valiant Bill Day undertook to keep off Mrs. Wehle.
"All ready! Pull up! Ha-oop!" shouted Bill Day, and the crowd pulled, but Mrs. Wehle had slipped off the noose again, and the volunteer executioners fell over one another in such a way as to excite the derisive laughter of Bill Day, who thought it perfectly ludikerous. But before the laugh had finished, the indignant Gottlieb had knocked Bill Day over and sent Norman after him. The blow sobered them a little, and suddenly destroyed Bill's ambition to commit "arsony," or do anything else ludikerous. But Norman was furious, and under his lead Wehle's arms were now bound with the rope and a consultation was held, during which little Wilhelmina pleaded for her father effectively, and more by her tears and cries and the wringing of her chubby hands than by any words. Bill Day said he be blamed of that little Dutch gal's takin' on so didn't kinder make him foul sorter scrimpshous you know. But the mob could not quit without doing something. So it was resolved to give Gottlieb a good ducking in the river and send him into Kentucky with a warning not to come back. They went down the ravine past Andrew's castle to the river. Mrs. Wehle followed, believing that her husband would be drowned, and little Wilhelmina ran and pulled the alarm and awakened the Backwoods Philosopher, who soon threw himself among them, but too late to dissuade them from their purpose, for Andrew's own skiff, the "Grisilde" by name, with three of the soberest of the party, had already set out to convey Wehle, after one hasty immersion, to the other shore, while the rest stood round hallooing like madmen to prevent any alarm that Wehle might raise attracting attention on the other side.
THE GIANT GREAT-HEART.
As soon as Andrew's skiff, the "Grisilde," was brought back and the ruffians had gone off up the ravine, Andrew left Mrs. Wehle sitting by the fire in the loom-room of the castle, while he crossed the river to look after Gottlieb. Little Wilhelmina insisted on going with him, and as she handled a steering-oar well he took her along. They found Gottlieb with his arms cruelly pinioned sitting on a log in a state of utter dejection, and dripping with water from his ducking.
"Ich zay, Antroo, ish dish vat dey galls a vree goontry, already? A blace vare troonk sheounders dosh vot ever dey hadn't ort! Dat is vree koontry. Mein knabe ish roon off ver liebin a Yangee; unt a vool he ish, doo. Unt ich ish hoong unt troundt unt darrdt unt vedderd unt drakt out indoo de ribber, unt dolt if I ko back do mein vrau unt kinder I zhall pe kilt vunst more already. Unt I shpose if ich shtays here der Gainduckee beobles vill hang me unt dar me unt trown me all over in der ribber, doo, already, pekoz I ish Deutsch. Ich zay de voorld ish all pad, unt it aud doo pe vinished vunst already, I ton't gare how quick, so ash dem droonk vools kit vot pelongs doo 'em venever Gabrel ploes his drumbet."
"They'll get that in due time, my friend," said Andrew, untying the rope with which Gottlieb had been pinioned. "Come, let us go back to our own shore."
"Bud daint my zhore no more. Dey said I'd god doo hang again vanst more if I ever grossed de Ohio Ribber vunst again already, but I ton't vants doo hang no more vor noddin already."
"But I'll take care of that," said Andrew. "Before to-morrow night I'll make your house the safest place in Clark township. I've got the rascals by the throat now. Trust me."
It took much entreaty on the part of Andrew and much weeping and kissing on the part of Wilhelmina to move the heart of the terrified Gottlieb. At last he got into the skiff and allowed himself to be rowed back again, declaring all the way that he nebber zee no zich a vree koontry ash dish voz already.
When Bill Day and his comrades got up the next morning and began to think of the transactions of the night, they did not seem nearly so ludikerous as they had at the time. And when Norman Anderson and Bill Day and Bob Short read the notice on the door of Mandluff's store they felt that "arsony" might have a serious as well as a ludikerous side.
Andrew at first intended to institute proceedings against the rioters, but he knew that the law was very uncertain against the influences which the eight or nine young men might bring to bear, and the prejudices of the people against the Dutch. To prosecute would be to provoke another riot. So he contented himself with this
"TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: I have a list of eight men connected with the riotous mob which broke into the house of Gottlieb Wehle, a peaceable and unoffending citizen of the United States. The said eight men proceeded to commit an assault and battery on the person of the said Gottlieb Wehle, and even endeavored at one time to take his life. And the said riotous conduct was the result of a conspiracy, and the said assault with intent to kill was with malice aforethought. The said eight men, after having committed grievous outrages upon him by dipping him in the water and by other means, warned the said Wehle not to return to the State. Now, therefore, I give notice to all and several of those concerned in these criminal proceedings that the said Wehle has returned by my advice; and that if so much as a hair of his head or a splinter of his property is touched I will appear against said parties and will prosecute them until I secure the infliction of the severest penalties made and provided for the punishment of such infamous crimes. I hope I am well enough known here to render it certain that if I once begin proceedings nothing but success or my death or the end of the world can stop them.
"AT THE CASTLE, May 12th, 1843."
"It don't look so ludikerous as it did, does it, Bill?" squeaked Jim West, as he read the notice over Bill's shoulder.
"Shet your mouth, you fool!" said Bill. "Don't you never peep. Ef I'd a been sober I might a knowed ole Grizzly would interfere. He always does."
In truth, Andrew was a sort of Perpetual Champion of the Oppressed, and those who did not like him feared him, which is the next best thing.
A CHAPTER OF BETWEENS.
Did you ever move? And, in moving, did you ever happen to notice how many little things there are to be picked up? Now that I am about to shift the scene of my story from Clark township, the narrow stage upon which it has progressed through two dozen chapters, I find a great number of little things to be picked up.
One of the little things to be picked up is Norman Anderson. Very little, if measured soul-wise. When his father had read the proclamation of Andrew and divined that Norman was interested in the riot, he became thoroughly indignant; the more so, that he felt his own lack of power to do anything in the premises against his wife. But when Mrs. Abigail heard of the case she was in genuine distress. It showed Andrew's vindictiveness. He would follow her forever with his resentments, just because she could not love him. It was not her fault that she did not love him. Poor Norman had to suffer all the persecutions that usually fall to such innocent creatures. She must send him away from home, though it broke her mother's heart to do it; for if Andrew didn't have him took up, the old Dutchman would, just because his son had turned out a burglar. She said burglar rather emphatically, with a look at Julia.
And so Samuel Anderson took his son to Louisville, and got him a place in a commission and produce house on the levee, with which Mr. Anderson had business influence. And Samuel warned him that he must do his best, for he could not come back home now without danger of arrest, and Norman made many promises of amendment; so many, that his future seemed to him barren of all delight. And, by way of encouraging himself in the austere life upon which he had resolved to enter, he attended the least reputable place of amusement in the city, the first night after his father's departure.
In Clark township the Millerite excitement was at white heat. Some of the preachers in other parts of the country had set one day, some another. I believe that Mr. Miller, the founder, never had the temerity to set a day. But his followers figured the thing more closely, and Elder Hankins had put a fine point on the matter. He was certain, for his part, that the time was at midnight on the eleventh of August. His followers became very zealous, and such is the nature of an infection that scarcely anybody was able to resist it. Mrs. Anderson, true to her excitable temper, became fanatic—dreaming dreams, seeing visions, hearing voices, praying twenty times a day, wearing a sourly pious face, and making all around her more unhappy than ever. Jonas declared that ef the noo airth and the noo heaven was to be chockful of sech as she, 'most any other place in the univarse would be better, akordin' to his way of thinkin'. He said she repented more of other folkses' sins than anybody he ever seed.
[Footnote 2: Mrs. Anderson was less devout than some of her co-religionists; the wife of a well-known steamboat-clerk was accustomed to pray in private fifty times a day, hoping by means of this praying without ceasing to be found ready when the trumpet should sound.]
As summer came on, Samuel Anderson, borne away on the tide of his own and his wife's fanatical fever of sublimated devotion, discharged Jonas and all his other employes, threw up business, and gave his whole attention to the straightening of his accounts for the coming day of judgment. Before Jonas left to seek a new place he told Cynthy Ann as how as ef he'd met her alrlier 'twould a-settled his coffee fer life. He was gittin' along into the middle of the week now, but he'd come to feel like a boy since he'd been a livin' where he could have a few sweet and pleasant words—ahem!—he thought December'd be as pleasant as May all the year round ef he could live in the aurora borealis of her countenance. And Cynthy Ann enjoyed his words so much that she prayed for forgiveness for the next week and confessed in class-meeting that she had yielded to temptation and sot her heart on the things of this perishin' world. She was afeared she hadn't always remembered as how as she was a poor unworthy dyin' worm of the dust, and that all the beautiful things in this world perished with the usin'.
And Brother Goshorn, the class-leader at Harden's Cross-Roads, exhorted her to tear every idol from her heart. And still the sweet woman's nature, God's divine law revealed in her heart, did assert itself a little. She planted some pretty-by-nights in an old cracked blue-and-white tea-pot and set it on her window-sill. Somehow the pretty-by-nights would remind her of Jonas, and while she tried to forget him with one half of her nature, the other and better part (the depraved part, she would have told you) cherished the memory of his smallest act and word. In fact, the flowers had no association with Jonas except that along with the awakening of her love came this little sentiment for flowers into the dry desert of her life. But one day Mrs. Anderson discovered the old blue broken tea-pot with its young plants.
"Why, Cynthy Ann!" she cried, "a body'd think you'd have more sense than to do such a soft thing as to be raisin' posies at your time of life! And that when the world is drawing to a close, too! You'll be one of the foolish virgins with no oil to your lamp, as sure as you see that day."
As for Julia's flowers, Mrs. Anderson had rudely thrown them into the road by way of removing temptation from her and turning her thoughts toward the awful realities of the close of time.
But Cynthy Ann blushed and repented, and kept her broken tea-pot, with a fearful sense of sin in doing so. She never watered the pretty-by-nights without the feeling that she was offering sacrifice to an idol.
A NICE LITTLE GAME.
It was natural enough that the "mud-clerk" on the old steamboat Iatan should take a fancy to the "striker," as the engineer's apprentice was called. Especially since the striker know so much more than the mud-clerk, and was able to advise him about many things. A striker with so much general information was rather a novelty, and all the officers fancied him, except Sam Munson, the second engineer, who had a natural jealousy of a striker that knew more than he did.
The striker had learned rapidly, and was trusted to stand a regular watch. The first engineer and the third were together, and the second engineer and the striker took the other watch. The boat in this way got the services of a competent engineer while paying him only a striker's wage.
About the time the heavily-laden Iatan turned out of the Mississippi into the Ohio at Cairo at six in the evening, the striker went off watch, and he ought to have gone to bed to prepare himself for the second watch of the night, especially as he would only have the dog-watch between that and the forenoon. But a passenger had got aboard at Cairo, whose face was familiar. The sight of it had aroused a throng of old associations, pleasant and unpleasant, and a throng of emotions the most tender and the most wrathful the striker had ever felt. Sleep he could not, and so, knowing that the mud-clerk was on watch, he sought the office after nine o'clock, and stood outside the bar talking to his friend, who had little to do, since most of the freight had been shipped through, and his bills for Paducah were all ready. The striker talked with the mud-clerk, but watched the throng of passengers who drank with each other at the bar, smoked in the "social hall," read and wrote at the tables in the gentlemen's cabin, or sat with doffed hats and chatted gallantly in the ladies' cabin, which was visible as a distant background, seen over a long row of tables with green covers and under a long row of gilded wooden stalactites, which were intended to be ornamental. The little pendent prisms beneath the chandeliers rattled gayly as the boat trembled at each stroke of her wheels, and gaping backwoodsmen, abroad for the first time, looked at all the rusty gingerbread-work, and wondered if kings were able to afford anything half so fine as the cabin of the "palatial steamer Iatan," as she was described on the bills. The confused murmur of many voices, mixed with the merry tinkling of the glass pendants, gave the whole an air of excitement.
But the striker did not see the man he was looking for. "Who got on at Cairo? I think I saw a man from our part of the country," he said.
"I declare, I don't know," said the mud-clerk, who drawled his words in a cold-blooded way. "Let me look. Here's A. Robertson, and T. Le Fevre, and L.B. Sykes, and N. Anderson."
"Where is Anderson going?"
"Paid through to Louisville. Do you know him?"
But just then Norman Anderson himself walked in, and went up to the bar with a new acquaintance. They did not smoke the pipe of peace, like red Americans, but, like white Americans, they had a mysterious liquid carefully compounded, and by swallowing this they solemnly sealed their new-made friendship after the curious and unexplained rite in use among their people.
Norman had been dispatched on a collecting trip, and having nine hundred and fifty dollars in his pocket, he felt as much elated as if it had been his own money. The gentleman with whom he drank, had a band of crape around his white hat. He seemed very nearsighted.
"If that greeny is a friend of yours, Gus, I declare you'd better tell him not to tie to the serious-looking young fellow in the white hat and gold specs, unless he means to part with all his loose change before bed-time."
That is what the mud-clerk drawled to August the striker, but the striker seemed to hear the words as something spoken afar off. For just then he was seeing a vision of a drunken mob, and a rope, and a pleading woman, and a brave old man threatened with death. Just then he heard harsh and muddled voices, rude oaths, and jeering laughter, and above it all the sweet pleading of a little girl begging for a father's life. And the quick blood came into his fair German face, and he felt that he could not save this Norman Anderson from the toils of the gambler, though he might, if provoked, pitch him over the guard of the boat. For was not Andrew's letter, which described the mob, in his pocket, and burning a hole in his pocket as it had been ever since he received it?
But then this was Julia's brother, and there was nothing he would not do for Julia. So, sometime after the mud-clerk had ceased to speak, the striker gave utterance to both impulses by replying, "He's no friend of mine," a little crisply, and then softly adding, "Though I shouldn't like to see him fleeced."
By this time a new actor had appeared on the scene in the person of a man with a black mustache and side-whiskers, who took a seat behind a card-table near the bar.
"H'llo!" said the mud-clerk in a low and lazy voice, "Parkins is back again. After his scrape at Paducah last February, he disappeared, and he's been shady ever since. He's growed whiskers since, so's not to be recognized. But he'll be skeerce enough when we get to Paducah. Now, see how quick he'll catch the greenies, won't you?" The prospect was so charming as almost to stimulate the mud-clerk to speak with some animation.
But August Wehle, the striker on the Iatan, had an uncomfortable feeling that he had seen that face before, and that the long mustache and side-whiskers had grown in a remarkably short space of time. Could it be that there were two men who could spread a smile over the lower half of their faces in that automatic way, while the spider-eyes had no sort of sympathy with it? Surely, this man with black whiskers and mustache was not just like the singing-master at Sugar-Grove school-house, who had "red-top hay on to his upper lip," and yet—and yet—
"Gentlemen," said Parkins—his Dickensian name would be Smirkins—"I want to play a little game just for the fun of the thing. It is a trick with three cards. I put down three cards, face up. Here is six of diamonds, eight of spades, and the ace of hearts. Now, I will turn them over so quickly that I will defy any of you to tell which is the ace. Do you see? Now, I would like to bet the wine for the company that no gentleman here can turn up the ace. All I want is a little sport. Something to pass away the evening and amuse the company. Who will bet the wine? The Scripture says that the hand is quicker than the eye, and I warn you that if you bet, you will probably lose." And here he turned the cards back, with their faces up, and the card which everybody felt sure was the ace proved apparently to be that card. Most of the on-lookers regretted that they had not bet, seeing that they would certainly have won. Again the cards were put face down, and the company was bantered to bet the wine. Nobody would bet.
After a good deal of fluent talk, and much dexterous handling of the cards, in a way that seemed clear enough to everybody, and that showed that everybody's guess was right as to the place of the ace, the near-sighted gentleman, who had drunk with Norman, offered to bet five dollars.
"Five dollars!" returned Parkins, laughing in derision, "five dollars! Do you think I'm a gambler? I don't want any gentleman's money. I've got all the money I need. However, if you would like to bet the wine with me, I am agreed."
The near-sighted gentleman declined to wager anything but just the five dollars, and Parkins spurned his proposition with the scorn of a gentleman who would on no account bet a cent of money. But he grew excited, and bantered the whole crowd. Was there no gentleman in the crowd who would lay a wager of wine for the company on this interesting little trick? It was strange to him that no gentleman had spirit enough to make the bet. But no gentleman had spirit enough to bet the wine. Evidently there were no gentlemen in the company.
However, the near-sighted man with the white hat adorned with crape now proposed in a crusty tone to bet ten dollars that he could lift the ace. He even took out a ten-dollar bill, and, after examining it, in holding it close to his nose as a penurious man might, extended his hand with, "If you're in earnest, let's know it. I'll bet you ten."
At this Parkins grew furious. He had never been so persistently badgered in all his life. He'd have the gentleman know that he was not a gambler. He had all the money he wanted, and as for betting ten dollars, he shouldn't think of it. But now that the gentleman—he said gentleman with an emphasis—now that the gentleman seemed determined to bet money, he would show him that he was not to be backed down. If the young man would like to wager a hundred dollars, he would cheerfully bet with him. If the gentleman did not feel able to bet a hundred dollars, he hoped he would not say any more about it. He hadn't intended to bet money at all. But he wouldn't bet less than a hundred dollars with anybody. A man who couldn't afford to lose a hundred dollars, ought not to bet.
"Who is this fellow in the white hat with spectacles?" August asked of the mud-clerk.
"That is Smith, Parkins's partner. He is only splurging round to start up the greenies." And the mud-clerk spoke with an indifference and yet a sort of dilettante interest in the game that shocked his friend, the striker.
"Why don't they set these blacklegs ashore?" said August, whose love of justice was strong.
"You tell," drawled the mud-clerk. "The first clerk's tried it, but the old man protects 'em, and" (in a whisper) "get's his share, I guess. He can set them off whenever he wants to." (I must explain that there is only one "old man" on a steamboat—that is, the captain.)
By this time Parkins had turned and thrown his cards so that everybody knew or thought he knew where the ace was. Smith, the man with the white hat, now rose five dollars more and offered to bet fifteen. But Parkins was more indignant than ever. He told Smith to go away. He thrust his hand into his pocket and drew out a handful of twenty-dollar gold-pieces. "If any gentleman wants to bet a hundred dollars, let him come on. A man who couldn't lose a hundred would better keep still."
Smith now made a big jump. He'd go fifty. Parkins wouldn't listen to fifty. He had said that he wouldn't bet less than a hundred, and he wouldn't. He now pulled out handful after handful of gold, and piled the double-eagles up like a fortification in front of him, while the crowd surged with excitement.
At last Mr. Smith, the near-sighted gentleman in spectacles, the gentleman who wore black crape on a white hat, concluded to bet a hundred dollars. He took out his little porte-monnaie and lifted thence a hundred-dollar bill.
"Well," said he angrily, "I'll bet you a hundred." And he laid down the bill. Parkins piled five twenty-dollar gold-pieces atop it. Each man felt that he could lift the ace in a moment. That card at the dealer's right was certainly the ace. Norman was sure of it. He wished it had been his wager instead of Smith's. But Parkins stopped Smith a moment.
"Now, young man," he said, "if you don't feel perfectly able to lose that hundred dollars, you'd better take it back."
"I am just as able to lose it as you are," said Smith snappishly, and to everybody's disappointment he lifted not the card everybody had fixed on, but the middle one, and so lost his money.
"Why didn't you take the other?" said Norman boastfully. "I knew it was the ace."
"Why didn't you bet, then?" said Smith, grinning a little. Norman wished he had. But he had not a hundred dollars of his own, and he had scruples—faint, and yet scruples, or rather alarms—at the thought of risking his employer's money on a wager. While he was weighing motive against motive, Smith bet again, and again, to Norman's vexation, selected a card that was so obviously wrong that Norman thought it a pity that so near-sighted a man should bet and lose. He wished he had a hundred dollars of his own and—There, Smith was betting again. This time he consulted Norman before making his selection, and of course turned up the right card, remarking that he wished his eyes were so keen! He would win a thousand dollars before bed-time if his eyes were so good! Then he took Norman into partnership, and Norman found himself suddenly in possession of fifty dollars, gotten without trouble. This turned his brain. Nothing is so intoxicating to a weak man as money acquired without toil. So Norman continued to bet, sometimes independently, sometimes in partnership with, the gentlemanly Smith. He was borne on by the excitement of varying fortune, a varying fortune absolutely under control of the dealer, whose sleight-of-hand was perfect. And the varying fortune had an unvarying tendency in the long run—to put three stakes out Of five into the pockets of the gamblers, who found the little game very interesting amusement for gentlemen.
THE RESULT OF AN EVENING WITH GENTLEMEN.
All the time that these smiling villains were by consummate art drawing their weak-headed victim into their tolls, what was August doing? Where were his prompt decision of character, his quick intelligence, his fine German perseverance, that should have saved the brother of Julia Anderson from harpies? Could our blue-eyed young countryman, who knew how to cherish noble aspirations walking in a plowman's furrow—could he stand there satisfying his revenge by witnessing the ruin of a young man who, like many others, was wicked only because he was weak?
In truth, August was a man whose feelings were persistent. His resentment was—like his love—constant. But his love of justice was higher and more persistent, and he could not have seen any one fleeced in this merciless way without taking sides strongly with the victim. Much less could he see the brother of Julia tempted on to the rocks by the false lights of villainous wreckers without a great desire to save him. For the letter of Andrew had ceased now to burn in his pocket. That other letter—the only one that Julia had been able to send through Cynthy Ann and Jonas—that other letter, written all over with such tender extravagances as love feeds on; the thought of that other letter, which told how beautiful and precious were the invitations to the weary and heavy-laden, had stilled resentment, and there came instead a keen desire to save Norman for the sake of Julia and justice. But how to do it was an embarrassing question—a question that was more than August could solve. There was a difficulty in the weakness and wrong-headedness of Norman; a difficulty in Norman's prejudice against Dutchmen in general and August in particular; a difficulty in the fact that August was a sort of a fugitive, if not from justice, certainly from injustice.
But when nearly a third of Norman's employer's money had gone into the gamblers' heap, and when August began to understand that it was another man's money that Norman was losing, and that the victim was threatened by no half-way ruin, he determined to do something, even at the risk of making himself known to Norman and to Parkins—was he Humphreys in disguise?—and at the risk of arrest for house-breaking. August acted with his eyes open to all the perils from gamblers' pistols and gamblers' malice; and after he had started to interfere, the mud-clerk called him back, and said, in his half-indifferent way:
"Looky here, Gus, don't be a blamed fool. That's a purty little game. That greeny's got to learn to let blacklegs alone, and he don't look like one that'll take advice. Let him scorch a little; it'll do him good. It's healthy for young men. That's the reason the old man don't forbid it, I s'pose. And these fellows carry good shooting-irons with hair-triggers, and I declare I don't want to be bothered writing home to your mother, and explaining to her that you got killed in a fight with blacklegs, I declare I don't, you see. And then you'll get the 'old man' down on you, if you let a bird out of the trap in which he goes snucks; you will, I declare. And you'll get walking-papers at Louisville. Let the game alone. You haven't got any hand to play against Parkins, nohow; and I reckon the greenhorns are his lawful prey. Cats couldn't live without mice. You'll lose your place, I declare you will, if you say a word."
August stopped long enough to take in the full measure of his sacrifice. So far from being deterred by it, he was more than ever determined to act. Not the love Julia, so much, now, but the farewell prayer and benediction and the whole life and spirit of the sweet Moravian mother in her child-full house at home were in his mind at this moment. Things which a man will not do for the love of woman he may do for the love of God—and it was with a sense of moral exaltation that August entered into the lofty spirit of self-sacrifice he had seen in his mother, and caught himself saying, in his heart, as he had heard her say, "Let us do anything for the Father's sake!" Some will call this cant. So much the worse for them. This motive, too little felt in our day—too little felt in any day—is the great impulse that has enabled men to do the bravest things that have been done. The sublimest self-sacrifice is only possible to a man by the aid of some strong moral tonic. God's love is the chief support of the strongest spirits.
August touched Norman on the arm. The face of the latter expressed anything but pleasure at meeting him, now that he felt guilty. But this was not the uppermost feeling with Norman. He noticed that August's clothes were spotted with engine-grease, and his first fear was of compromising his respectability.
In a hurried way August began to explain to him that he was betting with gamblers, but Smith stood close to them, looking at August in such a contemptuous way as to make Norman feel very uncomfortable, and Parkins seeing the crowd attracted by August's explanations—which he made in some detail, by way of adapting himself to Norman—of the trick by which the upper card is thrown out first, Parkins said, "I see you understand the game, young man. If you do, why don't you bet?"
At this the crowd laughed, and Norman drew away from the striker's greasy clothes, and said that he didn't want to speak any further to a burglar, he believed. But August followed, determined to warn him against Smith. Smith was ahead of him, however, saving to Norman, "Look out for your pockets—that greasy fellow will rob you."
And Norman, who was nothing if not highly respectable, resolved to shake off the troublesome "Dutchman" at once. "I don't know what you are up to now, but at home you are known as a thief. So please let me alone, will you?" This Norman tried to say in an annihilating way.
The crowd looked for a fight. August said loud enough to be heard, "You know very well that you lie. I wanted to save you from being a thief, but you are betting money now that is not yours."
The company, of course, sympathized with the gentleman and against the machine-oil on the striker's clothes, so that there arose quickly a murmur, started by Smith, "Put the bully out," and August was "hustled." It is well that he was not shot.
It was quite time for him to go on watch now; for the loud-ticking marine-clock over the window of the clerk's office pointed to three minutes past twelve, and the striker hurried to his post at the starboard engine, with the bitterness of defeat and the shame of insult in his heart. He had sacrificed his place, doubtless, and risked much beside, and all for nothing. The third engineer complained of his tardiness in not having relieved him three minutes before, and August went to his duties with a bitter heart. To a man who is persistent, as August was, defeat of any sort is humiliating.
As for Norman, he bet after this just to show his independence and to show that the money was his own, as well as in the vain hope of winning back what he had lost. He bet every cent. Then he lost his watch, and at half-past one o'clock he went to his state-room, stripped of all loose valuables, and sweating great drops. And the mud-clerk, who was still in the office, remarked to himself, with a pleasant chuckle, that it was good for him; he declared it was; teach the fellow to let monte alone, and keep his eyes peeled when he traveled. It would so!
The idea was a good one, and he went down to the starboard engine and told the result of the nice little game to his friend the striker, drawling it out in a relishful way, how the blamed idiot never stopped till they'd got his watch, and then looked like as if he'd a notion to jump into the "drink." But 'twould cure him of meddlin' with monte. It would so!
He walked away, and August was just reflecting on the heartlessness of his friend, when the mud-clerk came back again, and began drawling his words out as before, just as though each distinct word were of a delightful flavor and he regretted that he must part with it.
"I've got you even with Parkins, old fellow. He'll be strung up on a lamp-post at Paducah, I reckon. I saw a Paducah man aboard, and I put a flea in his ear. We've got to lay there an hour or two to put off a hundred barrels of molasses and two hundred sacks of coffee and two lots of plunder. There'll be a hot time for Parkins. He let on to marry a girl and fooled her. They'll teach him a lesson. You'll be off watch, and we'll have some fun looking on." And the mud-clerk evidently thought that it would be even funnier to see Parkins hanged than it had been to see him fleece Norman. Gus the striker did not see how either scene could be very entertaining. But he was sick at heart, and one could not expect him to show much interest in manly sports.
WAKING UP AN UGLY CUSTOMER.
The steady beat of the wheels and the incessant clank of the engines went on as usual. The boat was loaded almost to her guards, and did not make much speed. The wheels kept their persistent beat upon the water, and the engines kept their rhythmical clangor going, until August found himself getting drowsy. Trouble, with forced inaction, nearly always has a soporific tendency, and a continuous noise is favorable to sleep. Once or twice August roused himself to a sense of his responsibility and battled with his heaviness. It was nearing the end of his watch, for the dog-watch of two hours set in at four o'clock. But it seemed to him that four o'clock would never come.
An incident occurred just at this moment that helped him to keep his eyes open. A man went aft through the engine-room with a red handkerchief tied round his forehead. In spite of this partial disguise August perceived that it was Parkins. He passed through to the place where the steerage or deck passengers are, and then disappeared from August's sight. He had meant to disembark at a wood-yard just below Paducah, but for some reason the boat did not stop, and now, as August guessed, he was hiding himself from Paducah eyes. He was not much too soon, for the great bell on the hurricane-deck was already ringing for Paducah, and the summer dawn was showing itself faintly through the river fog.
The alarm-bell rang in the engine-room, and Wehle stood by his engine. Then the bell rang to stop the starboard engine, and August obeyed it. The pilot of a Western steamboat depends much upon his engines for steerage in making a landing, and the larboard engine was kept running a while longer in order to bring the deeply-loaded boat round to her landing at the primitive wharf-boat of that day. There is something fine in the faith with which an engineer obeys the bell of the pilot, not knowing what may be ahead, not inquiring what may be the effect of the order, but only doing exactly what he is bid when he is bid. August had stopped his engine, and stood trying to keep his mind off Parkins and the events of the night, that he might be ready to obey the next signal for his engine. But the bell rang next to stop the other engine, at which the second engineer stood, and August was so free from responsibility in regard to that that he hardly noticed the sound of the bell, until it rang a second time more violently. Then he observed that the larboard engine still ran. Was Munson dead or asleep? Clearly it was August's duty to stand by his own engine. But then he was startled to think what damage to property or life might take place from the failure of the second engineer to stop his engine. While he hesitated, and all these considerations flashed through his mind, the pilot's bell rang again long and loud, and August then, obeying an impulse rather than a conviction, ran over to the other engine, stopped it, and then, considering that it had run so long against orders, he reversed it and set it to backing without waiting instructions. Then he seized Munson and woke him, and hurried back to his post. But the larboard engine had not made three revolutions backward before the boat, hopelessly thrown from her course by the previous neglect, struck the old wharf-boat and sunk it. But for the promptness and presence of mind with which Wehle acted, the steamboat itself would have suffered severely. The mate and then the captain came rushing into the engine-room. Munson was discharged at once, and the striker was promised engineer's wages.
Gus went off watch at this moment, and the mud-clerk said to him, in his characteristically indifferent voice, "Such luck, I declare! I was sure you would be dismissed for meddling with Parkins, and here you are promoted, I declare!"
The mishap occasioned much delay to the boat, as it was very inconvenient to deliver freight at that day and at that stage of water without the intervention of the wharf-boat. A full hour was consumed in finding a landing, and in rigging the double-staging and temporary planks necessary to get the molasses and coffee and household "plunder" ashore. Some hint that Parkins was on the river had already reached Paducah, and the sheriff and two deputies and a small crowd were at the landing looking for him. A search of the boat failed to discover him, and the crowd would have left the landing but for occasional hints slyly thrown out by the mud-clerk as he went about over the levee collecting freight-bills. These hints, given in a non-committal way, kept the crowd alive with expectation, and when the rumors thus started spread abroad, the levee was soon filled with an excited and angry multitude.
If it had been a question of delivering a criminal to justice, August would not have hesitated to tell the sheriff where to look. But he very well knew that the sheriff could not convey the man through the mob alive, and to deliver even such a scoundrel to the summary vengeance of a mob was something that he could not find it in his heart to do.
In truth, the sheriff and his officers did not seek very zealously for their man. Under the circumstances, it was probable he would not surrender himself without a fight, in which somebody would be killed, and besides there must ensue a battle with the mob. It was what they called an ugly job, and they were not loth to accept the captain's assurance that the gambler had gone ashore.
While August was unwilling to deliver the hunted villain to a savage death, he began to ask himself why he might not in some way use his terror in the interest of justice. For he had just then seen the wretched and bewildered face of Norman looking ghastly enough in the fog of the morning.
At last, full of this notion, and possessed, too, by his habit of accomplishing at all hazards what he had begun, August strolled back through the now quiet engine-room to the deck-passengers' quarter. It was about half an hour before six o'clock, when the dog-watch would expire and he must go on duty again. In one of the uppermost of the filthy bunks, in the darkest corner, near the wheel, he discovered what he thought to be his man. The deck-passengers were still asleep, lying around stupidly. August paused a moment, checked by a sense of the dangerousness of his undertaking. Then he picked up a stick of wood and touched the gambler, who could not have been very sound asleep, lying in hearing of the curses of the mob on the shore. At first Parkins did not move, but August gave him a still more vigorous thrust. Then he peered out between the blanket and the handkerchief over his forehead.
"I will take that money you won last night from that young man, if you please."
Parkins saw that it was useless to deny his identity. "Do you want to be shot?" he asked fiercely.
"Not any more than you want to be hung," said August. "The one would follow the other in five minutes. Give back that money and I will go away."
The gambler trembled a minute. He was fairly at bay. He took out a roll of bills and handed it to August. There was but five hundred. Smith had the other four hundred and fifty, he said. But August had a quiet German steadiness of nerve. He said that unless the other four hundred and fifty were paid at once he should call in the sheriff or the crowd. Parkins knew that every minute August stood there increased his peril, and human nature is now very much like human nature in the days of Job. The devil understood the subject very well when he said that all that a man hath will he give for his life. Parkins paid the four hundred and fifty in gold-pieces. He would have paid twice that if August had demanded it.
AUGUST AND NORMAN.
In a story such as I meant this to be, the development of character stands for more than the evolution of the plot, and herein is the true significance of this contact of Wehle with the gamblers, and, indeed, of this whole steamboat life. It is not enough for one to be good in a country neighborhood; the sharp contests and severe ordeals of more exciting life are needed to give temper to the character. August Wehle was hardly the same man on this morning at Paducah, with the nine hundred and fifty dollars in his pocket, that he had been the evening before, when he first felt the sharp resentment against the man who had outraged his father. In acting on a high plane, one is unconsciously lifted to that plane. Men become Christians sometimes from the effect of sudden demands made upon their higher moral nature, demands which compel them to choose between a life higher than their present living, or a moral degradation. Such had been August's experience. He had been drawn upward toward God by the opportunity and necessity for heroic action. I have no doubt the good Samaritan got more out of his own kindness than the robbed Jew did.
Before he had a chance to restore the money to its rightful owner, the two hours of dog-watch had expired, and he was obliged to go on watch again, much to his annoyance. He had been nearly twenty-four hours without sleep, and after a night of such excitement it was unpleasant as well as perilous to have to hold this money, which did not belong to him, for six hours longer, liable at any minute to get into difficulty through any scheme of the gamblers and their allies, by which his recovery of the money might be misinterpreted. The morning seemed to wear away so slowly. All the possibilities of Parkins's attacking him, of young Anderson's committing suicide, and of the misconstruction that might be put upon his motives—the making of his disinterested action seem robbery—haunted his excitable imagination. At last, while the engines were shoving their monotonous shafts backward and forward, and the "palatial steamer" Iatan was slowly pushing her way up the stream, August grew so nervous over his money that he resolved to relieve himself of part of it. So he sent for the mud-clerk by a passing deck-hand.
"I want you to keep this money for me until I get off watch," said August. "I made Parkins stand and deliver this morning while we were at Paducah."
"You did?" said the mud-clerk, not offering to touch the money. "You risked your life, I declare, for that fool that called you a thief. You are a fool, Gus, and nothing but your blamed good luck can save you from getting salivated, bright and early, some morning. Not a great deal I won't take that money. I don't relish lead, and I've got to live among these fellows all my days, and I don't hold that money for anybody. The old man would ship me at Louisville, seeing I never stopped anybody's engine and backed it in a hurry, as you did. If I'd known where Parkins was, I'd a dropped a gentle word in the ear of the crowd outside, but I wouldn't a pulled that greeny's coffee-nuts out of the fire, and I won't hold the hot things for you. I declare I won't. Saltpeter wouldn't save me if I did."
So Gus had to content himself in his nervousness, not allayed by this speech, und keep the money in his pocket until noon. And, after all the presentiment he had had, noon came round. Presentiments generally come from the nerves, and signify nothing; but nobody keeps a tally of the presentiments and auguries that fail. When the first-engineer and a new man took the engines at noon, Gus was advised by the former to get some sleep, but there was no sleep for him until he had found Norman, who trembled at the sight of him.
"Where is your state-room?" said August sternly, for he couldn't bring himself to speak kindly to the poor fellow, even in his misery.
Norman turned pale. He had been thinking of suicide all the morning, but he was a coward, and now he evidently felt sure that he was to be killed by August. He did not dare disobey, but led the way, stopping to try to apologize two or three times, but never getting any further than "I—I—"
Once in the state-room, he sat down on the berth and gasped, "I—I—"
"Here is your money," said August, handing it to him. "I made the gambler give it up."
"I—I—" said the astonished and bewildered Norman.
"You needn't say a word. You are a cowardly scoundrel, and if you say anything, I'll knock you down for treating my father as you did. Only for—for—well, I didn't want to see you fleeced."
Norman was ashamed for once, and hung his head. It touched the heart of August a little, but the remembrance of the attack of the mob on his father made him feel hard again, and so his generous act was performed ungraciously.
Not the boat. The boat ran on safely enough to Louisville, and tied up at the levee, and discharged her sugar und molasses, and took on a new cargo of baled hay and corn and flour, and went back again, and made I know not how many trips, and ender her existence I can not tell how or when. What does become of the old steamboats? The Iatan ran for years after she tied up at Louisville that summer morning, and then perhaps she was blown up or burned up; perchance some cruel sawyer transfixed her; perchance she was sunk by ice, or maybe she was robbed of her engines and did duty as barge, or, what is more probable, she wore out like the one-hoss shay, and just tumbled to pieces simultaneously.
It was not the gambler who got aground that morning. He had yet other nice little games, with three cards or more or none, to play.
It was not the mud-clerk who ran aground—good, non-committal soul, who never look sides where it would do him any harm, and who never worried himself about anything. Dear, drawling, optimist philosopher, who could see how other people's mishaps were best for them, and who took good care not to have any himself! It was not he that ran aground.
It was not Norman Anderson who ran aground. He walked into the store with the proud and manly consciousness of having done his duty, he made his returns of every cent of money that had come into his hands, and, like all other faithful stewards, received the cordial commendation of his master.
But August Wehle the striker, just when he was to be made an engineer, when he thought he had smooth sailing, suddenly and provokingly found himself fast aground, with no spar or capstan by which he might help himself off, with no friendly craft alongside to throw him a hawser and pull him off.
It seems that when the captain promised him promotion, he did not know anything of August's interference with the gamblers. But when Parkins filed his complaint, it touched the captain. It was generally believed among the employes of the boat that a percentage of gamblers' gains was one of the "old man's" perquisites, and he was not the only steamboat captain who profited by the nice little games in the cabin upon which he closed both eyes. And this retrieved nine hundred and fifty dollars was a dead loss of—well, it does not matter how much, to the virtuous and highly honorable captain. His proportion would have been large enough at least to pay his wife's pew-rent in St. James's Church, with a little something over for charitable purposes. For the captain did not mind giving a disinterested twenty-five dollars occasionally to those charities that were willing to show their gratitude by posting his name as director, or his wife's as "Lady Manageress." In this case his right hand never knew what his left hand did—how it got the money, for instance.
So when August drew his pay he was informed that he was discharged. No reason was given. He tried to see the captain. But the captain was in the bosom of his family, kissing his own well-dressed little boys, and enjoying the respect which only exemplary and provident fathers enjoy. And never asking down in his heart if these boys might become gamblers' victims, or gamblers, indeed. The captain could not see August the striker, for he was at home, and must not be interfered with by any of his subordinates. Besides, it was Sunday, and he could not be intruded upon—the rector of St. James's was dining with him on his wife's invitation, and it behooved him to walk circumspectly, not with eye-service as a man-pleaser, but serving the Lord.
So he refuted to see the anxious striker, and turned to compliment the rector on his admirable sermon on the sin of Judas, who sold his master for thirty pieces of silver.
And August Wehle had nothing left to do. The river was falling fast, the large boats above the Falls were, in steamboat-man's phrase, "laying up" in the mouths of the tributaries and other convenient harbors, there were plenty of engineers unemployed, and there were no vacancies.
CYNTHY ANN'S SACRIFICE.
Jonas had been all his life, as he expressed it in his mixed rhetoric, "a wanderin' sand-hill crane, makin' many crooked paths, and, like the cards in French monte, a-turnin' up suddently in mighty on-expected places." He had been in every queer place from Halifax to Texas, and then had come back to his home again. Naturally cautious, and especially suspicious of the female sex, it is not strange that he had not married. Only when he "tied up to the same w'arf-boat alongside of Cynthy Ann, he thought he'd found somebody as was to be depended on in a fog or a harricane." This he told to Cynthy Ann as a reason why she should accept his offer of marriage.
"Jonas," said Cynthy Ann, "don't flatter. My heart is dreadful weak, and prone to the vanities of this world. It makes me abhor myself in dust and sackcloth fer you to say such things about poor unworthy me."
"Ef I think 'em, why shouldn't I say 'em? I don't know no law agin tellin' the truth ef you git into a place where you can't no ways help it. I don't call you angel, fer you a'n't; you ha'nt got no wings nor feathers. I don't say as how as you're pertikeler knock-down handsome. I don't pertend that you're a spring chicken. I don't lie nor flatter. I a'n't goin' it blind, like young men in love. But I do say, with my eyes open and in my right senses, and feelin' solemn, like a man a-makin' his last will and testament, that they a'n't no sech another woman to be found outside the leds of the Bible betwixt the Bay of Fundy and the Rio Grande. I've 'sought round this burdened airth,' as the hymn says, and they a'n't but jest one. Ef that one'll jest make me happy, I'll fold my weary pinions and settle down in a rustic log-cabin and raise corn and potaters till death do us part."
Cynthy trembled. Cynthy was a saint, a martyr to religious feeling, a medieval nun in her ascetic eschewing of the pleasures of life. But Cynthy Ann was also a woman. And a woman whose spring-time had paused. When love buds out thus late, when the opportunity for the woman's nature to blossom comes unexpectedly upon one at her age, the temptation is not easily resisted. Cynthy trembled, but did not quite yield up her Christian constancy.
"Jonas, I don't know whether I'd orto or not. I don't deny—I think I'd better ax brother Goshorn, you know, sence what would it profit ef I gained you or any joy in this world, and then come short by settin' you up fer a idol in my heart? I don't know whether a New Light is a onbeliever or not, and whether I'd be onequally yoked or not. I must ax them as knows better nor I do."
"Well, ef I'm a onbeliever, they's nobody as could teach me to believe quicker'n you could. I never did believe much in women folks till I believed in you."
"But that's the sin of it, Jonas. I'd believe in you, and you'd believe in me, and we'd be puttin' our trust in the creatur instid of the Creator, and the Creator is mighty jealous of our idols, and He would take us away fer idolatry."
"No, but I wouldn't worship you, though I'd rather worship you than anybody else ef I was goin' into the worshipin' business. But you see I a'n't, honey. I wouldn't sacrifice to you no lambs nor sheep, I wouldn't pray to you, nor I wouldn't kiss your shoes, like people does the Pope's. An' I know you wouldn't make no idol of me like them Greek gods that Andrew's got picters of. I a'n't handsome enough by a long shot fer a Jupiter or a 'Pollo. An' I tell you, Cynthy, 'tain't no sin to love. Love is the fullfilling of the law."
But Cynthy Ann persisted that she must consult Brother Goshorn, the antiquated class-leader at the cross-roads. Brother Goshorn was a good man, but Jonas had a great contempt for him. He was a strainer out of gnats, though I do not think he swallowed camels. He always stood at the door of the love-feast and kept out every woman with jewelry, every girl who had an "artificial" in her bonnet, every one who wore curls, every man whose hair was beyond what he considered the regulation length of Scripture, and every woman who wore a veil. In support of this last prohibition he quoted Isaiah iii, 23: "The glasses and the fine linen and the hoods and the veils."
To him Cynthy Ann presented the case with much trepidation. All her hopes for this world hung upon it. But this consideration did not greatly affect Brother Goshorn. Hopes and joys were as nothing to him where the strictness of discipline was involved. The Discipline meant more to a mind of his cast than the Decalogue or the Beatitudes. He shook his head. He did not know. He must consult Brother Hall. Now, Brother Hall was the young preacher traveling his second year, very young and very callow. Ten years of the sharp attritions of a Methodist itinerant's life would take his unworldliness out of him and develop his practical sense as no other school in the world could develop it. But as yet Brother Hall had not rubbed off any of his sanctimoniousness, had not lost any of his belief that the universe should be governed on high general principles with no exceptions.
So when Brother Goshorn informed him that one of his members, Sister Cynthy Ann Dyke, wished to marry, and to marry a man that was a New Light, and had asked his opinion, and that he did not certainly know whether New Lights were believers or not, Brother Hall did not stop to inquire what Jonas might be personally. He looked and felt very solemn, and said that it was a pity for a Christian to marry a New Light. It was clearly a sin, for a New Light was an Arian. And an Arian was just as good as an infidel. An Arian robbed Christ of His supreme deity, and since he did not worship the Trinity in the orthodox sense he must worship a false god. He was an idolater therefore, and it was a sin to be yoked together with such an one.
Many men more learned than the callow but pious and sincere Brother Hall have left us in print just such deductions.
When this decision was communicated to the scrupulous Cynthy Ann, she folded her hopes as one lays away the garment of a dead friend; she west to her little room and prayed; she offered a sacrifice to God not less costly than Abraham's, and in a like sublime spirit. She watered the plant In the old cracked blue-and-white tea-pot, she noticed that it was just about to bloom, and then she dropped one tear upon it, and because it suggested Jonas in some way, she threw it away, resolved not to have any idols in her heart. And, doubtless, God received the sacrifice, mistaken and needless as it was, a token of the faithfulness of her heart to her duty as she understood it.
Cynthy Ann explained it all to Jonas in a severe and irrevocable way. Jonas looked at her a moment, stunned.
"Did Brother Goshorn venture to send me any of his wisdom, in the way of advice, layin' round loose, like counterfeit small change, cheap as dirt?"
"Well, yes," said Cynthy Ann, hesitating.
"I'll bet the heft of my fortin', to be paid on receipt of the amount, that I kin tell to a T what the good Christian wanted me to do."
"Don't be oncharitable, Jonas. Brother Goshorn is a mighty sincere man."
"So he is, but his bein' sincere don't do me no good. He wanted you to advise me to jine the Methodist class as a way of gittin' out of the difficulty. And you was too good a Christian to ask me to change fer any sech reason, knowin' I wouldn't be fit for you ef I did."
Cynthy Ann was silent. She would have liked to have Jonas join the church with her, but if he had done it now she herself would have doubted his sincerity.
"Now, looky here, Cynthy, ef you'll say you don't love me, and never can, I'll leave you to wunst, and fly away and mourn like a turtle-dove. But so long as it's nobody but Goshorn, I'm goin' to stay and litigate the question till the Millerite millennium comes. I appeal to Caeesar or somebody else. Neither Brother Goshorn nor Brother Hall knows enough to settle this question. I'm agoin' to the persidin' elder. And you can't try a man and hang him and then send him to the penitentiary fer the rest of his born days without givin' him one chance to speak fer hisself agin the world and everybody else. I'm goin' to see the persidin' elder myself and plead my own cause, and ef he goes agin me, I'll carry it up to the bishop or the archbishop or the nex' highest man in the heap, till I git plum to the top, and ef they all go agin me, I'll begin over agin at the bottom with Brother Goshorn, and keep on till I find a man that's got common-sense enough to salt his religion with."
4 August was very sick at the castle. This wag the first news of his return that reached Julia through Jonas and Cynthy Ann.
But in my interest in Jonas and Cynthy Ann, of whom I think a great deal, I forgot to say that long before the events mentioned in the last chapter, Humphreys had been suddenly called away from his peaceful retreat in the hill country of Clark township. In fact, the "important business," or "the illness of a friend," whichever it was, occurred the very next day after Norman Anderson's father returned from Louisville, and reported that he had secured for his son an "outside situation," that is to say, a place as a collector.
When he had gone, Jonas remarked to Cynthy Ann, "Where the carcass is, there the turkey-buzzards is gethered. That shinin' example of early piety never plays but one game. That is, fox-and-geese. He's gone after a green goslin' now, and he'll find him when he's fattest."
But the gentle singing-master had come back from his excursion, and was taking a profound interest in the coming end of the world. Jonas observed that it "seemed like as ef he hed charge of the whole performance, and meant to shet up the sky like a blue cotton umbrell. He's got a single eye, and it's the same ole game. Fox and geese always, and he's the fox."
Humphreys still lived at Samuel Anderson's, still devoted himself to pleasing Mrs. Abigail, still bowed regretfully to Julia, and spoke caressingly to Betsey Malcolm at every opportunity.
But August was sick at the castle. He was very sick. Every morning Dr. Dibrell, a "calomel-doctor"—not a steam-doctor—rode by the house on his way to Andrew's, and every morning Mrs. Anderson wondered afresh who was sick down that way. But the doctor staid so long that Mrs. Abigail made up her mind it must be somebody four or five miles away, and so dismissed the matter from her mind. For August's return had been kept secret.
But Julia noticed, in her heart of hearts, and with ever-increasing affliction, that the doctor staid longer each day than on the day before, and she thought she noticed also an increasing anxiety on his face as he rode home again. Her desire to know the real truth, and to see August, to do for him, to give her life for him, were wearing her away. It is hard to see a friend go from you when you have done everything. But to have a friend die within your reach, while you are yet unable to help him, is the saddest of all. All this anxiety Julia suffered without even the blessed privilege of showing it. The pent-up fire consumed her, and she was at times almost distract. Every morning she managed to be on the upper porch when the doctor went by, and from the same watch-tower she studied his face when he went back.
Then came a morning when there were two doctors. A physician from the county-seat village went by, in company with Dr. Dibrell. So there must be a consultation at the castle. Julia knew then that the worst had to be looked in the face. And she longed to get away from under the searching black eyes of her mother and utter the long-pent cry of anguish. Another day of such unuttered pain would drive her clean mad.
That evening Jonas came over and sought an interview with Cynthy Ann. He had not been to see her since his unsuccessful courtship. Julia felt that he was the bearer of a message. But Mrs. Anderson was in one of her most exacting humors, and it gave her not a little pleasure to keep Cynthy Ann, on one pretext and another, all the evening at her side. Had Cynthy Ann been less submissive and scrupulous, she might have broken away from this restraint, but in truth she was censuring herself for having any backsliding, rebellious wish to talk with Jonas after she had imagined the idol cast out of her heart entirely. Her conscience was a tank-master not less grievous than Mrs. Anderson, and, between the two, Jonas had to go away without leaving his message. And Julia had to keep her breaking heart in suspense a while longer.
Why did she not elope long ago and get rid of her mother? Because she was Julia, and being Julia, conscientious, true, and filial in spite of her unhappy life, her own character built a wall against such a disobedience. Nearly all limitations are inside. You could do almost anything if you could give yourself up to it. To go in the teeth of one's family is the one thing that a person of Julia's character and habits finds next to impossible. A beneficent limitation of nature; for the cases in which the judgment of a girl of eighteen is better than that of her parents are very few. Besides, the inevitable "heart-disease" was a specter that guarded the gates of Julia's prison. Night after night she sat looking out over the hills sleeping in hazy darkness, toward the hollow in which stood the castle; night after night she had half-formed the purpose of visiting August, and then the life-long habit of obedience and a certain sense of delicacy held her back. But on this night, after the consultation, she felt that she would see him if her seeing him brought down the heavens.
It was a very dark night. She sat waiting for hours—very long hours they seemed to her—and then, at midnight, she began to get ready to start.
Only those who have taken such a step can understand the pain of deciding, the agony of misgivings in the execution, the trembling that Julia felt when she turned the brass knob on the front door and lifted the latch—lifted the latch slowly and cautiously, for it was near the door of her mother's room—and then crept out like a guilty thing into the dark dampness of the night, groping her way to the gate, and stumbling along down the road. It had been raining, and there was not one star-twinkle in the sky; the only light was that of glow-worms illuminating here and there two or three blades of grass by feeble shining. Now and then a fire-fly made a spot of light in the blackness, only to leave a deeper spot of blackness when he shut off his intermittent ray. And when at last Julia found herself at the place where the path entered the woods, the blackness ahead seemed still more frightful. She had to grope, recognizing every deviation from the well-beaten path by the rustle of the dead leaves which lay, even in summer, half a foot deep upon the ground. The "fox-fire," rotting logs glowing with a faint luminosity, startled her several times, and the hooting-owl's shuddering bass—hoo! hoo! hoo-oo-ah-h! (like the awful keys of the organ which "touch the spinal cord of the universe")—sent all her blood to her heart. Under ordinary circumstances, she surely would not have started at the rustling made by the timid hare in the thicket near by. There was no reason why she should shiver so when a misstep caused her to scratch her face with the thorny twigs of a wild plum-tree. But the effort necessary to the undertaking and the agony of the long waiting had exhausted her nervous force, and she had none left for fortitude. So that when she arrived at Andrew's fence and felt her way along to the gate, and heard the hoarse, thunderous baying of his great St. Bernard dog, she was ready to faint. But a true instinct makes such a dog gallant. It is a vile cur that will harm a lady. Julia walked trembling up to the front-door of the castle, growled at by the huge black beast, and when the Philosopher admitted her, some time after she had knocked, she sank down fainting into a chair.
THE SECRET STAIRWAY.
"God bless you!" said Andrew as he handed her a gourd of water to revive her. "You are as faithful as Hero. You are another Heloise. You are as brave as the Maid of Orleans. I will never say that women are unfaithful again. God bless you, my daughter! You have given me faith in your sex. I have been a lonely man; a boughless, leafless trunk, shaken by the winter winds. But you are my niece. You know how to be faithful. I am proud of you! Henceforth I call you my daughter. If you were my daughter, you would be to me all that Margaret Roper was to Sir Thomas More." And the shaggy man of egotistic and pedantic speech, but of womanly sensibilities, was weeping.
The reviving Julia begged to know how August was.
"Ah, constant heart! And he is constant as you are. Noble fellow! I will not deceive you. The doctors think that he will not live more than twenty-four hours. But he is only dying to see you, now. Your coming may revive him. We sent for you this morning by Jonas, hoping you might escape and come in some way. But Jonas could not get his message to you. Some angel must have brought you. It is an augury of good."
The hopefulness of Andrew sprang out of his faith in an ideal, right outcome. Julia could not conceal from herself the fact that his opinion had no ground. But in such a strait as hers, she could not help clinging even to this support.
Andrew was a little perplexed. How to take Julia up-stairs? Mrs. Wehle and Wilhelmina and the doctor went in regularly, not by the rope-ladder, but by a more secure wooden one which he had planted against the outside of the house. But Andrew had suddenly conceived so exalted an opinion of his niece's virtues that he was unwilling to lead her into the upper story in that fashion. His imagination had invested her with all the glories of all the heroines, from Penelope to Beatrice, and from Beatrice to Scott's Rebecca. At last a sudden impulse seized him.
"My dear daughter, they say that genius is to madness close allied. When I built this house I was in a state bordering on insanity, I suppose. I pleased my whims—my whims were my only company—I pleased my whims in building an American castle. These whims begin to seem childish to me now. I put in a secret stairway. No human foot but my own has ever trodden it. August, whom I love more than any other, and who is one of the few admitted to my library, has always ascended by the rope-ladder. But you are my niece; I would you were my daughter. I will signalize my reverence for you by showing up the stairway the woman who knows how to love and be faithful, the feet that would be worthy of golden steps if I had them. Come."
Spite of her grief and anxiety, Julia was impressed and oppressed with the reverence shown her by her uncle. She had a veneration almost superstitious for the Philosopher's learning. She was not accustomed to even respectful treatment, and to be worshiped in this awful way by such a man was something almost as painful as it was pleasant.
The entrance to the stairway, if that could be called a stairway which was as difficult of ascent as a ladder, was through a closet by the side of the donjon chimney, and the logs had been so arranged without and within that the space occupied by the narrow and zigzag stairs was not apparent. Up these stairs he took Julia, leaving her in a closet above. As this closet was situated alongside the chimney, it opened, of course, into the small corner room which I have before described, and in which August was now lying. Andrew descended the stairs and entered the upper story again by the outside ladder. He thought best to prepare August for the coming of Julia, lest joy should destroy a life that was so far wasted.
We left August on that summer day on the levee at Louisville without employment. He was not exactly disheartened, but he was homesick. That he was forbidden to go back by threats of prosecution for his burglarious manner of entering Samuel Anderson's house was reason enough for wanting to go; that his father's family were not yet free from danger was a stronger reason; but strongest of all, though he blushed to own it to himself, was the longing to be where he might perchance sometimes see the face he had seen that spring morning in the bottom of a sun-bonnet. Right manfully did he fight against his discouragement and his homesickness, and his longing to see Julia. It was better to stay where he was. It was better not to go back beaten. If he surrendered so easily, he would never put himself into a situation where he could claim Julia with self-respect. He would stay and make his way in the world somehow. But making his way in the world did not seem half so easy now us it had on that other morning in March when he stood in the barn talking to Julia. Making your fortune always seems so easy until you've tried it. It seems rather easy in a novel, and still easier in a biography. But no Samuel Smiles ever writes the history of those who fail; the vessels that never came back from their venturous voyages left us no log-books. Many have written the History of Success. What melancholy Plutarch shall arise to record, with a pen dipped in wormwood, the History of Failure?
No! he would not go back defeated. August said this over bravely, but a little too often, and with a less resolute tone at each repetition. He contemned himself for his weakness, and tried, but tried in vain, to form other plans. Had he known how much one's physical state has to do with one's force of character, he might have guessed that he did not deserve the blame he meted out to himself. He might have remembered what Shakespeare's Portia says to Brutus, that "humour hath his hour with every man." But with a dull and unaccountable aching in his head and back he compromised with himself. He would go to the castle and pass a day or two. Then he would return and fight it out.
So he got on the packet Isaac Shelby, and was soon shaking with a chill that showed how thoroughly malaria had pervaded his system. His very bones seemed frozen. But if you ever shook with such a chill, or rather if you were ever shaken by such a chill, taking hold of you like a demoniacal possession; if you ever felt your brain congealing, your icy bones breaking, your frosty heart becoming paralyzed, with a cold no fire could reach, you know what it is; and if you have not felt it, no words of mine can make you understand the sensations. After the chill came the period when August felt himself between two parts of Milton's hell, between a sea of ice and a sea of fire; sometimes the hot wave scorched him, then it retired again before the icy one. At last it was all hot, and the boiling blood scalded his palms and steamed to his brain, bewildering his thoughts and almost blinding his eyes. He had determined when he started to get off at a wood-yard three miles below Andrew's castle, to avoid observation and the chance of arrest; and now in his delirium the purpose as he had planned it remained fixed. He got up at two o'clock, crazed with fever, dressed himself, and went out into the rainy night. He went ashore in the mud and bushes, and, guided more by instinct than by any conscious thought, he started up the wagon-track along the river bank. His furious fever drove him on, talking to himself, and splashing recklessly into the pools of rain-water standing in the road. He never remembered his debarkation. He must have fallen once or twice, for he was covered with mud when he rang the alarm at the castle. In answer to Andrew's "Who's there?" he answered, "You'll have to send a harder rain than that if you want to put this fire out!"
And so, what with the original disease, the mental discouragement, and the exposure to the rain, the fever had well-nigh consumed the life, and now that the waves of the hot sea after days of fire and nights of delirium had gone back, there was hardly any life left in the body, and the doctors said there was no hope. One consuming desire remained. He wanted to see Julia once before he went away; and that one desire it seemed impossible to gratify. When he learned of the failure of Jonas to get any message to Julia through Cynthy, he had felt the keenest disappointment, and had evidently been sinking since the hope that kept him up had been taken away.
The mother sat by his bed, Gottlieb sat stupefied at the foot, with Jonas by his side, and Wilhelmina was crying in a still fashion in one corner of the room. August lay breathing feebly, and with his life evidently ebbing.
"August!" said Andrew, as he stood over his bed, having come to announce the arrival of Julia. "August!" Andrew tried to speak quietly, but there was a something of hope in the inflection, a tremor of eagerness in the utterance, that made the mother look up quickly and inquiringly.
August opened his eyes slowly and looked into the face of the Philosopher. Then he slowly closed his eyes again, and a something, not a smile—he was too weak for that—but a look of infinite content, spread over his wan face.
"I know," he whisperd.
"Know what?" asked Andrew, leaning down to catch his words.
"Julia." And a single tear crept out from under the closed lid. The tender mother wiped it away.
After resting a moment, August looked up at Andrew's face inquiringly.
"She is coming," said the Philosopher.
August smiled very faintly, but Andrew was sure he smiled, and again leaned down his ear.
"She is here," whispered August; "I heard Charon bark, and I—saw—your—face."
Andrew now stepped to the closet-door and opened it, and Julia came out.
"Blamed ef he a'n't a witch!" whispered Jonas. "Cunjures a angel out of his cupboard!"
Julia did not see anybody or anything but the white and wasted face upon the pillow. The eyes were now closed again, and she quickly crossed the floor, and—not without a faint maidenly blush—stooped and kissed the parched lips, from which the life seemed already to have fled.
And August with difficulty disengaged his wasted hand from the cover, and laid his nerveless fingers—alas! like a skeleton's now—In the warm hand of Julia, and said—she leaned down to listen, an he whispered feebly through his dry lips out of a full heart—"Thank God!"
And the Philosopher, catching the words, said audibly, "Amen!"
And the mother only wept.
GETTING READY FOR THE END.
How Julia spent two hours of blessed sadness at the castle; how August slept peacefully for five minutes at a time with his hand in hers, and then awoke and looked at her, and then slumbered again; how she moistened his parched lips for him, and gave him wine; how at last she had to bid him a painful farewell; how the mother gave her a benediction in German and a kiss; how Wilhelmina clung to her with tears; how Jonas called her a turtle-dove angel; how Brother Hall, the preacher who had been sent for at the mother's request, to converse with the dying man, spoke a few consoling words to her; how Gottlieb confided to Jonas his intention never to "sprach nodin 'pout Yangee kirls no more;" and how at last Uncle Andrew walked home with her, I have not time to tell. When the Philosopher bade her adieu, he called her names which she did not understand. But she turned back to him, and after a minute's hesitation, spoke huskily. "Uncle Andrew if he—if he should get worse—I want—"
"I know, my daughter; you want him to die your husband?"
"Yes, if he wishes it. Send for me day or night, and I'll come in spite of everybody."
"God bless you, my daughter!" said Andrew. And he watched until she got safely into the house without discovery, and then he went back satisfied and proud.
Of course August died, and Julia devoted herself to philanthropic labors. It is the fashion now for novels to end thus sadly, and you would not have me be out of the fashion.
But August did not die. Joy is a better stimulant than wine. Love is the best tonic in the pharmacopeia. And from the hour in which August Wehle looked into the eyes of Julia, the tide of life set back again. Not perceptibly at first. For two days he was neither better nor worse. But this was a gain. Then slowly he came back to life. But at Andrew's instance he kept indoors while Humphreys staid.
Humphreys, on his part, like Ananias, pretended to have disposed of all his property, paid his debts, reserved enough to live on until the approaching day of doom, and given the rest to the poor of the household of faith, and there were several others who were sincere enough to do what he only pretended.
Among the leading Adventists was "Dr." Ketchup, who still dealt out corn-sweats and ginseng-tea, but who refused to sell his property. He excused himself by quoting the injunction, "Occupy till I come." But others sold their estates for trifles, and gave themselves up to proclaiming the millennium.
Mrs. Abigail Anderson was a woman who did nothing by halves. She was vixenish, she was selfish, she was dishonest and grasping; but she was religious. If any man think this paradox impossible, he has observed character superficially. There are criminals in State's-prison who have been very devout all their lives. Religious questions took hold of Mrs. Anderson's whole nature. She was superstitious, narrow, and intense. She was as sure that the day of judgment would be proclaimed on the eleventh of August, 1843, as she was of her life. No consideration in opposition to any belief of hers weighed a feather with her. Her will mastered her judgment and conscience.
And so she determined that Samuel must sell his property for a trifle. How far she was influenced in this by a sincere desire to square all outstanding debts before the final settlement, how far by a longing to be considered the foremost and most pious of all, and how far by business shrewdness based on that feeling which still lurks in the most protestant people, that such sacrifices do improve their state in a future world, I can not tell. Doubtless fanaticism, hypocrisy, and a self-interest that looked sordidly even at heaven, mingled in bringing about the decision. At any rate, the property was to be sold for a few hundred dollars.
Getting wind of this decision, Andrew promptly appeared at his brother's house and offered to buy it. But Mrs. Abigail couldn't think of it. Andrew had always been her enemy, and though she forgave him, she would not on any account sell him an inch of the land. It would not be right. He had claimed that part of it belonged to him, and to let him have it would be to admit his claim.
"Andrew," she said, "you do not believe in the millennium, and people say that you are a skeptic. You want to cheat us out of what you think a valuable piece of property. And you'll find yourself at the last judgment with the weight of this sin on your heart. You will, indeed!"
"How clearly you reason about other people's duty!" said the Philosopher. "If you had seen your own duty half so clearly, some of us would have been better off, and your account would have been straighter."
Here Mrs. Anderson grew very angry, and vented her spleen in a solemn exhortation to Andrew to get ready for the coming of the Master, not three weeks off at the farthest, and she warned him that the archangel might blow his trumpet at any moment. Then where would he be? she asked in exultation. Human meanness is never so pitiful as when it tries to seize on God's judgments as weapons with which to gratify its own spites. I trust this remark will not be considered as applying only to Mrs. Anderson.
But Mrs. Anderson fired off all the heavenly small-shot she could find in the teeth and eyes of Andrew, and then, to prevent a rejoinder, she told him it was time for her to go to secret prayer, and she only stopped upon the threshold to send back one Parthian arrow in the shape of a warning to "watch and be ready."
I wonder if a certain class of religious people have ever thought how much their exclusiveness and Pharisaism have to do with the unhappy fruitlessness of all their appeals! Had Mrs. Anderson been as blameless as an angel, such exhortations would have driven a weaker than Andrew to hate the name of religion.
But I must not moralize, for Mr. Humphreys has already divulged his plan of disposing of the property. He has a friend, one Thomas A. Parkins, who has money, and who will buy the farm at two hundred dollars. He could procure the money in advance any day by going to the village of Bethany, the county-seat, and drawing on Mr. Parkins, and cashing the draft. It was a matter of indifference to him, he said, only that he would like to oblige so good a friend.