My Life: or the Adventures of Geo. Thompson - Being the Auto-Biography of an Author. Written by Himself.
by George Thompson
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The Adventures of Geo. Thompson. Being the Auto-Biography of an Author. Written by Himself.

Why rove in Fiction's shadowy land, And seek for treasures there, When Truth's domain, so near at hand, Is filled with things most rare— When every day brings something new, Some great, stupendous change, Something exciting, wild and true, Most wonderful and strange!


{First published 1854}


In which the author defineth his position.

It having become the fashion of distinguished novelists to write their own lives—or, in other words, to blow their own trumpets,—the author of these pages is induced, at the solicitation of numerous friends, whose bumps of inquisitiveness are strongly developed, to present his auto-biography to the public—in so doing which, he but follows the example of Alexandre Dumas, the brilliant French novelist, and of the world-renowned Dickens, both of whom are understood to be preparing their personal histories for the press.

Now, in comparing myself with the above great worthies, who are so deservedly distinguished in the world of literature, I shall be accused of unpardonable presumption and ridiculous egotism—but I care not what may be said of me, inasmuch as a total independence of the opinions, feelings and prejudices of the world, has always been a prominent characteristic of mine—and that portion of the world and the "rest of mankind" which does not like me, has my full permission to go to the devil as soon as it can make all the necessary arrangements for the journey.

I shall be true and candid, in these pages. I shall not seek to conceal one of my numerous faults which I acknowledge and deplore; and, if I imagine that I possess one solitary merit, I shall not be backward in making that merit known. Those who know me personally, will never accuse me of entertaining one single atom of that despicable quality, self-conceit; those who do not know me, are at liberty to think what they please.—Heaven knows that had I possessed a higher estimation of myself, a more complete reliance upon my own powers, and some of that universal commodity known as "cheek," I should at this present moment have been far better off in fame and fortune. But I have been unobtrusive, unambitious, retiring—and my friends have blamed me for this a thousand times. I have seen writers of no talent at all—petty scribblers, wasters of ink and spoilers of paper, who could not write six consecutive lines of English grammar, and whose short paragraphs for the newspapers invariably had to undergo revision and correction—I have seen such fellows causing themselves to be invited to public banquets and other festivals, and forcing their unwelcome presence into the society of the most distinguished men of the day.

I have spoken of my friends—now a word or two in regard to my enemies. Like most men who have figured before the public, in whatever capacity, I have secured the hatred of many persons, who, jealous of my humble fame, have lost no opportunity of spitting out their malice and opposing my progress. The friendship of such persons is a misfortune—their enmity is a blessing.

I assure them that their hatred will never cause me to lose a fraction of my appetite, or my nightly rest. They may consider themselves very fortunate, if, in the following pages, they do not find themselves immortalized by my notice, although they are certainly unworthy of so great a distinction. I enjoy the friendship of men of letters, and am therefore not to be put down by the opposition of a parcel of senseless blockheads, without brain, or heart, or soul.

I shall doubtless find it necessary to make allusions to local places, persons, incidents, &c. Those will add greatly to the interest of the narrative. Many portraits will be readily recognized, especially those whose originals reside in Boston, where the greater portion of my literary career has been passed.

The life of an author, must necessarily be one of peculiar and absorbing interest, for he dwells in a world of his own creation, and his tastes, habits, and feelings are different from those of other people. How little is he understood—how imperfectly is he appreciated, by a cold, unsympathising world! his eccentricities are ridiculed—his excesses are condemned by unthinking persons, who cannot comprehend the fact that a writer, whose mind is weary, naturally longs for physical excitement of some kind of other, and too often seeks for a temporary mental oblivion in the intoxicating bowl. Under any and every circumstance, the author is certainly deserving of some degree of charitable consideration, because he labors hard for the public entertainment, and draws heavily on the treasures of his imagination, in order to supply the continual demands of the reading community. When the author has led a life of stirring adventure, his history becomes one of extraordinary and thrilling interest. I flatter myself that this narrative will be found worthy of the reader's perusal.

And now a few words concerning my personal identity. Many have insanely supposed me to be George Thompson, the celebrated English abolitionist and member of the British Parliament, but such cannot be the case, that individual having returned to his own country. Again—others have taken me for George Thompson, the pugilist; but by far the greater part of the performers in this interesting "Comedy of Errors" have imagined me to be no less a personage than the celebrated "One-eyed Thompson," and they long continued in this belief, even after that talented but most unfortunate man had committed suicide in New York, and in spite of the fact that his name was William H., and not George. Two circumstances, however, seemed to justify the belief before the man's death:—he, like myself, had the great misfortune to be deprived of an eye. How the misfortune happened to me, I shall relate in the proper place. I have written many works of fiction, but I have passed through adventures quite as extraordinary as any which I have drawn from the imagination.

In order to establish my claim to the title of "author," I will enumerate a few of the works which I have written:—

Gay Girls of New York, Dissipation, The Housekeeper, Venus in Boston, Jack Harold, Criminal, Outlaw, Road to Ruin, Brazen Star, Kate Castleton, Redcliff, The Libertine, City Crimes, The Gay Deceiver, Twin Brothers, Demon of Gold, Dashington, Lady's Garter, Harry Glindon, Catharine and Clara.

In addition to these works—which have all met with a rapid sale and most extensive circulation—I have written a sufficient quantity of tales, sketches, poetry, essays and other literary stock of every description, to constitute half a dozen cart loads. My adventures, however, and not my productions must employ my pen; and begging the reader's pardon for this rather lengthy, but very necessary, introduction, I begin my task.


In which I begin to Acquire a Knowledge of the World.

I have always thought, and still think, that it matters very little where or when a man is born—it is sufficient for him to know that he is here, and that he had better adapt himself, as far as possible, to the circumstances by which he is surrounded, provided that he wishes to toddle through the world with comfort and credit to himself and to the approbation of others. But still, in order to please all classes of readers, I will state that some thirty years ago a young stranger struggled into existence in the city of New York; and I will just merely hint that the twenty-eighth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, should be inserted in the next (comic) almanac as having been the birth-day of a great man—for when an individual attains a bodily weight of two hundred pounds and over, may he not be styled great?

My parents were certainly respectable people, but they both inconsiderately died at a very early period of my life, leaving me a few hundred dollars and a thickheaded uncle, to whom was attached an objectionable aunt, the proprietress of a long nose and a shrewish temper. The nose was adapted to the consumption of snuff, and the temper was effective in the destruction of my happiness and peace of mind. The worthy couple, with a prophetic eye, saw that I was destined to become, in future years, somewhat of a gourmand, unless care should be taken to prevent such a melancholy fate; therefore, actuated by the best motives, and in order to teach me the luxury of abstinence, they began by slow but sure degrees to starve me. Good people, how I reverence their memory!

One night I committed burglary upon a closet, and feloniously carried off a chunk of bread and meat, which I devoured in the cellar.

"Oh, my prophetic soul—my uncle!" That excellent man caught me in the act of eating the provender, and—my bones ache at this very moment as I think of the licking I got! I forgot to mention that I had a rather insignificant brother, four years older than myself, who became my uncle's apprentice, and who joined that gentleman in his persecutions against me. My kind relatives were rather blissful people in the way of ignorance, and they hated me because they imagined that I regarded myself as their superior—a belief that was founded on the fact that I shunned their society and passed the greater portion of my time in reading and writing.

I lived at that time in Thomas street, very near the famous brothel of Rosina Townsend, in whose house that dreadful murder was committed which the New York public will still remember with a thrill of horror. I allude to the murder of the celebrated courtezan Ellen Jewett. Her lover, Richard P. Robinson, was tried and acquitted of the murder, through the eloquence of his talented counsel, Ogden Hoffman, Esq. The facts of the case are briefly these:—Robinson was a clerk in a wholesale store, and was the paramour of Ellen, who was strongly attached to him. Often have I seen them walking together, both dressed in the height of fashion, the beautiful Ellen leaning upon the arm of the dashing Dick, while their elegant appearance attracted universal attention and admiration. But all this soon came to a bloody termination. Dick was engaged to be married to a young lady of the highest respectability, the heiress of wealth and the possessor of surpassing loveliness. He informed Ellen that his connection with her must cease in consequence of his matrimonial arrangements, whereupon Ellen threatened to expose him to his "intended" if he abandoned her. Embarrassed by the critical nature of his situation, Dick, then, in an evil hour, resolved to kill the courtezan who threatened to destroy his anticipated happiness. One Saturday night he visited her as usual; and after a splendid supper, they returned to her chamber. Upon that occasion, as was afterwards proved on the trial, Dick wore an ample cloak, and several persons noticed that he seemed to have something concealed beneath it. His manner towards Ellen and also his words, were that night unusually caressing and affectionate. What passed in that chamber, and who perpetrated that murder the Almighty knows—and, perhaps, Dick Robinson, if he is still alive, also knows![A] The next morning (Sunday,) at a very early hour, smoke was seen to proceed from Ellen's chamber, and the curtains of her bed were found to have been set on fire. The flames were with difficulty extinguished, and there in the half consumed bed, was found the mangled corpse of Ellen Jewett, having on the side of her head an awful wound, which had evidently been inflicted by a hatchet. Dick Robinson was nowhere to be found, but in the garden, near a fence, were discovered his cloak and a bloody hatchet. With many others, I entered the room in which lay the body of Ellen, and never shall I forget the horrid spectacle that met my gaze! There, upon that couch of sin, which had been scathed by fire, lay blackened the half-burned remains of a once-beautiful woman, whose head exhibited the dreadful wound which had caused her death. It had plainly been the murderer's intention to burn down the house in order to destroy the ghastly evidence of his crime; but fate ordained that the fire should be discovered and extinguished before the fatal wound became obliterated. Robinson, as I said before, was tried and pronounced guiltless of the crime, through the ingenuity of his counsel, who termed him an "innocent boy." The public, however, firmly believed in his guilt; and the question arises—"If Dick Robinson did not kill Ellen Jewett, who did?" I do not believe that ever before was presented so shameful an instance of perverted justice, or so striking an illustration of the "glorious uncertainty of the law." It is rather singular that Furlong, a grocer, who swore to an alibi in favor of Robinson, and who was the chief instrument employed to effect the acquittal of that young man, some time afterwards committed suicide by drowning, having first declared that his conscience reproached him for the part which he played at the trial!

The Sabbath upon which this murder was brought to light was a dark, stormy day, and I have reason to remember it well, for, in the afternoon, that good old pilgrim—my uncle, of course,—discovered that I had played truant from Sunday School in the morning, and for that atrocious crime, he, in his holy zeal for my spiritual and temporal welfare, resolved to bestow upon me a wholesome and severe flogging, being aided and abetted in the formation of that laudable resolution by my religious aunt and my sanctimonious brother, the latter of whom had turned informer against me. Sweet relatives? how I love to think of them—and never do I fail to remember them in my prayers. Well, I was lugged up into the garret, which was intended to be the scene of my punishment. If I recollect rightly, I was then about twelve years of age, and rather a stout youth considering my years. I determined to rebel against the authority of my beloved kindred, assert my independence, and defend myself to the best of my ability. "I have suffered enough;" said I to myself, "and now I'm going in."

"Sabbath-breaker, strip off your jacket," mildly remarked by dear uncle as he savagely flourished a cowhide of most formidable aspect and alarming suppleness.

My reply was brief, but expressive:

"I'll see you d——d first," said I.

My uncle turned pale, my aunt screamed, and my brother rolled up the white of his eyes and groaned.

"What, what did you say?" demanded my uncle, who could not believe the evidence of his own senses, for up to that moment I had always tamely submitted to the good man's amiable treatment of me, and he found it impossible to imagine that I was capable of resisting him. Well, if there ever was an angel on earth, that uncle of mine was that particular angel. Saints in general are provided with pinched noses, green eyes, and voices like unto the wailings of a small pig, which is suffering the agonies of death beneath a cart-wheel. And, if there ever was a cherub, my brother was certainly that individual cherub, although, in truth, my pious recollections do not furnish me with the statement that cherubs are remarkable for swelled heads and bandy legs.

"I say," was my reply to my uncle's astonished inquiry, "that I ain't going to stand any more abuse and beatings. I've stood bad treatment long enough from the whole pack of you. I'm almost starved, and I'm kicked about like a dog. Let any of you three tyrants touch me, and I'll show you what is to get desperate. I disown you all as relatives, and hereafter I'm going to live where I please, and do as I please."

Furious with rage, my sweet-tempered uncle raised the cowhide and with it struck me across the face. I immediately pitched into that portion of his person where he was accustomed to stow away his Sabbath beans, and the excellent man fell head over heels down the garret stairs, landing securely at the bottom and failing to pick himself up, for the simple reason that he had broken his leg. What a pity it would have been, and what a loss society would have sustained, if, instead of his leg, the holy man had broken his neck!

My dear brother, accompanied by my affectionate aunt, now choked me, but I was not to be conquered just then, for "thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just." The lady I landed in a tub of impure water that happened to be standing near; and she presented quite an interesting appearance, kicking up her heels and squalling like a cat in difficulties. My other assailant I hurled into a heap of ashes, and the way he blubbered was a caution to a Nantucket whaleman. Rushing down the stairs, I passed over the prostrate form of my crippled uncle, who requested me to come back, so that he might kick me with his serviceable foot; but, brute that I was, I disregarded him—requested him to go to a place which shall be nameless—and then left the house as expeditiously as possible, fully determined never to return, whatever might be the consequences.

"I am now old enough, and big enough," I mentally reflected, "to take care of myself; and to-morrow I'll look for work, and try to get a chance to learn a trade. Where shall I sleep to-night? It's easy enough to ask that question, but deuced hard to answer it. I wish to-day wasn't Sunday!"

Rather an impious wish, but quite natural under the circumstances. I felt in my pockets, to see if I was the proprietor of any loose change; my search was magnificently successful, for I discovered that I had a sixpence!

Yes, reader, a new silver sixpence, that glittered in my hand like a bright star of hope, urging me on to enterprise—to exertions. So fearful was I of losing the precious coin, that I continued to grasp it tightly in my hand. I never had been allowed any pocket money, even on the Fourth of July; and this large sum had come into my possession through the munificence of a neighbor, as a reward for performing an errand.

Not knowing where else to go, I went down on the Battery, and sheltered myself under a tree from the rain, which fell in torrents. Rather an interesting situation for a youth of twelve—homeless, friendless, almost penniless! I was wet through to the skin, and as night came on, I became desperately hungry, for I had eaten no dinner that day, and even my breakfast had been of the phantom order—something like the pasteboard meals which are displayed upon the stage of the theatre. However, I did not despair, for I was young and active, full of the hope so natural to a youth ere rough contact with the world has crushed his spirit. I was well aware of the fact that I was no fool, although I had often been called one by my hostile and unappreciating relatives, whose opinions I had ever held in most supreme contempt. As I stood under that tree to shelter myself from the rain, I felt quite happy, for a feeling of independence had arisen within me. I was now my own master, and the consciousness that I must solely rely upon myself, was to me a source of gratification and pride. I had not the slightest doubt of being able to dig my way through the world in some way or other.

Night came on at last, black as the brow of a Congo nigger, and starless as a company of travelling actors. I could not remain under the tree all night, that was certain; and so I left it, although I could scarcely see my hand before me. That hand, by the way, still tenaciously grasped the invaluable sixpence. Groping my way out of the Battery, and guided by a light, I entered the bar-room of a respectable hotel, where a large number of well-dressed gentlemen were assembled, who were seeking shelter from the storm, and at the same time indulging their convivial propensities. Much noise and confusion prevailed; and two gentlemen, who, as I afterwards learned, were officers belonging to a Spanish vessel then in port, fell into a dispute and got into a fight, during which one of them stabbed the other with a dirk-knife, inflicting a mortal wound.

Officers were sent for, the murderer and his victim were removed, and comparative quiet prevailed. I was seated in an obscure corner of the bar-room, wondering how I should get through the night, when I was unceremoniously accosted by a lad of about my own age. He was a rakish looking youth, quite handsome withal, dressed in the height of fashion, and was smoking a cigar with great vigor and apparent relish. It will be seen hereafter that I have reason to remember this individual to the very last day of my life. Would to heaven that I had never met him!

This youth slapped me familiarly on the shoulder, and said—

"Hallo, bub! why, you're wet as a drowned rat! Come and take a brandy cocktail—it will warm you up!"

I had never drank a drop of liquor in my life, and I hadn't the faintest idea of what a brandy cocktail was, and so I told my new friend, who laughed immoderately as he exclaimed—

"How jolly green you are, to be sure; why, you're a regular greenhorn, and I'm going to call you by that name hereafter. Have you got any tin?"

I knew that he meant money, and so I told him that I had but a sixpence in the world.

"Bah!" cried my friend, as he drew his cigar from his mouth and salivated in the most fashionable manner, "who are you, what are you and what are you doing here? Come, tell me all about yourself, and it may perhaps be in my power to do you a service."

His frank, off-hand manner won my confidence. I told him my whole story, without any reserve; and he laughed uproariously when I told him how I had pitched my tyrannical uncle down stairs.

"It served the old chap right," said he approvingly—"you are a fellow of some spirit, and I like you. Come take a drink, and we can afterwards talk over what is best to be done."

I objected to drink, because I had formed a strong prejudice against ardent spirits, having often been a witness of its deplorable effects in depriving men—and women, too—of their reason, and reducing them to the condition of brute beasts. So, in declining my friend's invitation, I told him my reasons for so doing, whereupon he laughed louder than ever, as he remarked—

"Why, Greenhorn, you'd make an excellent temperance lecturer. But perhaps you think I haven't got any money to pay the rum. Look here—what do you think of that?"

He displayed a large roll of bank bills, and flourished them triumphantly. I had never before seen so much money, except in the broker's windows; and my friend was immediately established in my mind as a millionaire, whose wealth was inexhaustible. I suddenly conceived for him the most profound respect, and would not have offended him for the world. How could I persist in refusing to drink with a young gentleman of such wealth, and (as a necessary consequence) such distinction? Besides, I suddenly felt quite a curiosity to drink some liquor, just to see how it tasted. After all, it was only very low people who got drunk and wallowed in the mire. Gentlemen (I thought) never get drunk, and they always seem so happy and joyous after they have been drinking! How they shake hands, and swear eternal friendship, and seem generously willing to lend or give away all they have in the world! So thought I, as my mind was made up to accept the invitation of my friend. It is singular that I had forgotten all about the murder which had just taken place in that bar-room, and which had been directly produced by intemperance.

"The fact is, my dear Greenhorn," said my friend, impressively, as he flourished his hand after the manner of some aged, experienced and eloquent orator, "the fact is, the use of liquor, and its abuse, are two very different things. A man (here he drew himself up) can drink like a gentleman, or he can swill like a loafer, or a beast. Now I prefer the gentlemanly portion of the argument, and therefore we'll go up and take a gentlemanly drink. I shall be happy, young man, to initiate you into the divine joys and mysteries of Bacchus—ahem!"

I looked at my friend with increased wonder, for he displayed an assurance, a self-possession, an elegant nonchalance, that were far beyond his years, for he was only about twelve years old—my own age exactly. And then what language he used—so refined, glowing, and indicative of a knowledge of the world! I longed to be like him—to equal him in his many perfections—to sport as much money as he did, and to wear as good "harness." I forgot to mention that he carried a splendid gold watch, and that several glittering rings adorned his fingers. "Who can he be?" was the question which I asked myself; and of course, I could not find an answer.

"Felix," said my friend, addressing the bar-keeper in a style of patronizing condescension, as we approached the bar, "Felix, my good fellow, just mix us a couple of brandy cocktails, will you, and make them strong, d'ye hear, for the night is wet, and I and my verdant friend here, are about to travel in search of amusement, even as the Caliph and his Vizier used to perambulate the streets of Baghdad. Come, hurry up!"

The bar-keeper grinned, mixed the liquor, and handed us the tumblers. My friend knocked his glass against mine, and remarked "here's luck," a ceremony and an observation which both somewhat surprised me at the time, although I have long since become thoroughly acquainted with what was then a mystery. Many of my readers—indeed, I may say the greater portion of them—will require no explanation of this matter; and as for those who are in ignorance of it, I will simply say, long may they keep so!

My friend tossed off his cocktail with the air of one who is used to it, and rather liked it than otherwise; but I was not quite so successful, for being wholly unacquainted with the science of drinking, the strength of the liquor nearly choked me, to the intense amusement of my more experienced friend, who advised me to try again. I did try again, and more successfully, the liquor went the way of all rum, and soon produced the usual effects. Of course its influence on me was exceedingly powerful, I being entirely unaccustomed to its use. A very agreeable feeling of exhilaration stole over me—I thought I was worth just one hundred thousand dollars—I embraced my friend and swore he was a "trump"—I then noticed, with mild surprise, that he had been multiplied into two individuals—there were two barkeepers now, although just before I drank, there was but one—an additional chandelier had just stepped in to visit the solitary one which had lighted the room—to speak plainly, I saw double; and to sum the whole matter up in a few words, I was, for the first time in my life, most decidedly and incontestably drunk.

As nearly as I can remember, my friend linked his arm within mine, and we passed out into the street—he partially supporting me, and keeping me from falling. Two precious youths, of twelve years of age, we certainly were—one staggering and trying to fall down, and the other laughing, and holding him up!

The rain had ceased falling, and the stars were shining as if nothing had happened. The cool air sobered me, and my friend congratulated me on my recovery from a state of inebriety.

"After a little practice at the bar," said he—"it will take a good many tods to floor you. Let me give you a few hints as regards drinking. Never mix your liquor—always stick to one kind. After every glass, eat a cracker—or, what is better, a pickle. Plain drinks are always the best—far preferable to fancy drinks, which contain sugar, and lemons, and mint, and other trash; although a mixed drink may be taken on a stormy night, such as this has been. Drink ale, or beer, sparingly, and only after dinner—for, taken in large quantities, it is apt to bloat a person, and it plays the very devil with his internal arrangements. Besides, it is filthy stuff, at best, being made of the most repulsive materials and in the dirtiest manner. Always drink good liquor, which will not hurt you, while the vile stuff which is sold in the different bar-rooms will soon send you to your grave. If you pass a day or two in drinking freely, do not miss eating a single meal, and if you do not feel inclined to eat, force yourself to do it; for, if you neglect your food, that terrible fiend, Delirium Tremens, will have you in his savage grasp before you know it. Every morning after a spree, take a good stiff horn of brandy, and soon afterwards a glass of plain soda, which will cool you off. Never drink gin—it is vulgar stuff, not fit to be used by gentlemen.—When you desire to reform from drinking, never break off abruptly, which is dangerous; but taper off gradually—three glasses to-day, two to-morrow, and one the next day. Never drink with low people, under any circumstances, for it brings you down to their level. When you go to a drinking party, or to a fashionable dinner, sit with your back toward the sun—confine yourself to one kind of liquor—take an occasional sip of vinegar—and the very devil himself cannot drink you under the table! Now do you understand me, my dear greenhorn?"

Such language and advice, emanating from a boy of twelve, astonished me, and hurried me to the conclusion that he must be a very "fast" youth indeed. I took a more particular survey of my new friend. He was not remarkable handsome, but his face was flushing not with health, but with drinking. A rosy tint suffused his full cheeks, and a delicate vermillion colored the top of his well-formed nose. His form was somewhat slighter than mine, but he looked vigorous and active. His closely buttoned jacket developed a full breast, and a pair of muscular arms. His small feet were encased in patent-leather boots. Upon his head was a jaunty cloth cap, from beneath which flowed a quantity of fine, curly hair. I really envied him his good looks, as also his mental endowments. He saw that I admired him; and he liked me for it.

Such was Jack Slack, I may as well give his name at once, for I hate the trickery of authors who keep the curiosity of their readers painfully excited to the end of their narratives for the purpose of producing an effect. My professional habits as a writer prompt me to do the same; but I must not forget that I am writing my own history, and not an effusion of my imagination, which seems to be a prolific mother, for it hath produced many children, and (if I live) may produce many more.

While I now write, the Sabbath bells are ringing in sweet harmony, and through my open window comes the cool but mild breath of an autumnal morning. Yes, it is Sunday, and all the holy associations of the sacred day crowd upon me. I can almost see the village church, and the throng of worshippers within it, listening to the fervent remarks and exhortations of their pastor. Then I can fancy the gorgeous cathedral, with its stained windows, its elaborate carvings, its pealing organs, and its fashionable assembly of superficial worshippers. While others are praying, pleasuring and sleeping, I am rushing my iron pen over the spotless paper, and wishing that my penmanship could keep pace with my thought.—This is a digression; but the reader will pardon it. There is one dear creature, I know, who, when her eyes scan these pages, will understand me. But she, alas! is far away.

Where was I? Oh, speaking of Jack Slack. How well do I remember the night upon which first I met him! I can see him now, with his mischievous smiles, his eyes full of deviltry—his scornful lips—I can almost hear his mocking laugh. Yes, although eighteen years have passed since then, the remembrance of that night is fresh within me, as if its occurrence were but things of yesterday.

May perdition seize the circumstances which led me to encounter him! He was the foundation of my misfortunes in life. But for him, I might have led a happy, tranquil life; unknown, it is true, but still happy. But, poor fellow! he is dead now. He died by my hand, and I do not regret the act, nor would I recall it, had I the power. But of this the reader shall know hereafter.

That was my first night of dissipation—that was the occasion of my initiation into the mysteries of debauchery. I had previously led a necessarily regular and abstemious life—to bed at eight, up at six, at school by nine, and so on. (By the way, I never learned any thing at school—the master pronounced me the most stupid rascal in the concern; and flogged me accordingly—good old man! All I ever learned was acquired in a printing office.) Well, here was I at the age of twelve, fairly launched upon the sea of city life, without a guide, protector, or friend. What wonder is it that I became a reckless, dissipated individual, careless of myself, my interests, my fame and fortune?

Jack Slack and I, arm-in-arm, entered Broadway, and proceeded at a leisurely pace up that noble avenue. Many a courtezan did we meet, and many a watchman did we salute with the compliments of the season. (There were no Brazen Stars,[B] nor M.P.'s, then.) One lady of the pave, whom my companion addressed in terms of complimentary gallantry, said—"Little boy, go home to your mother and tell her she wants you!"

I am now about to make a humiliating confession, but I must not shrink from it, inasmuch as I sat down with the determination of writing "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." I allowed Jack to persuade me to accompany him on a visit to a celebrated establishment in Leonard street—a house occupied by accommodating ladies of great personal attractions, who were not especially virtuous. That was of course my first visit to a house of ill-fame; and without exactly comprehending the nature of the place and its arrangements, I was deeply impressed with the strangeness and novelty of everything that surrounded me. The costly and elegant furniture—the brilliant chandeliers—the magnificent but rather loose French prints and paintings—the universal luxury that prevailed—the voluptuous ladies, with their bare shoulders, painted cheeks, and free-and-easy manners—the buxom, bustling landlady, who was dressed with almost regal splendor and wore a profusion of jewelry—the crowd of half-drunken gentlemen who were drinking wine and laughing uproariously—all these things astonished and bewildered me. My friend Jack appeared to be well known to the inmates of the house, with whom he seemed to be an immense favorite. Having—much to my dissatisfaction and disgust—introduced me to a lady, he took possession of another one, and called for a couple of bottles of wine. Jack and his lady were evidently upon the most intimate and affectionate terms, while my female companion seemed inclined to be very loving, but I did not appreciate her advances, being altogether unaccustomed to such things. The champagne was brought, and I was persuaded to drink freely of it. The consequence was that I soon became helplessly intoxicated. I can indistinctly remember the dancing lights, the popping of champagne corks—the noise, the confusion, the thrumming of a piano, and the boisterous laughter—and then I fell into a condition of complete insensibility.

When I awoke, I was astonished at my situation and naturally enough, for I was in a strange apartment and snugly stowed away in a strange but decidedly luxuriant bed. The room was handsomely furnished, but to my additional surprise, many female garments were scattered about, indicating that the regular inhabitant of the place was a lady. This mystery was soon solved, for I was not the only inmate of the couch. My companion was the lady to whom I had been introduced by Jack Slack. Pitying my helpless condition—and, doubtless, prompted by the mischievous Jack—she had carried me to bed, and had also retired herself, being actuated by a benevolent anxiety for my safety. What a delicate situation for a modest youth to be placed in! Having, to my no small satisfaction, ascertained that the lady was fast asleep, I arose so carefully and noiselessly as not to awaken her. In truth, I was disgusted with the whole concern, and determined to leave it as speedily as possible. A light was fortunately burning in the room, which enabled me to move about with safety. A gold watch which lay upon the table informed me that it was nearly midnight.—Leaving the chamber and its sleeping inmate, I crept down stairs, and, on passing the door of the principal sitting-room, the voice of Jack Slack, who was singing a comic song amid the most enthusiastic applause, convinced me that my interesting friend was still rendering himself a source of amusement and an object of admiration. Without stopping to compliment him upon the excellence of his performance, I approached the front door, turned the key which was in the lock, unfastened the chain, and passed out into the street, just as the clock of a neighboring steeple was proclaiming the hour of twelve.

My head ached terribly after the champagne which I had so profusely drank, and besides, I felt heavy and sleepy to an extraordinary degree. Unable to resist the overpowering influence of my feelings, I sat down upon the steps of a house and was fast asleep in less than a minute. Then I dreamed of being seized in the powerful grasp of some gigantic demon, and hurried away to the bottomless pit. I certainly felt conscious of being moved about, but my oblivious condition would not admit of arriving at any definite understanding of what was happening to me. When I finally awoke, I found myself in an apartment that was far different in its aspect from the luxurious chamber I had just quitted. The floor, walls and ceiling of the apartment were of stone; there were no windows, but a narrow aperture, high up in the wall, admitted the feeble glimmer of daylight. There was an iron door, and a water-pipe, and platform on which I lay, and on which reposed several gentlemen of seedy raiment and unwholesome appearance. The place and the company, as dimly revealed by the uncertain morning light, inspired me with emotions of horror; and in my inexperience and ignorance, I said to myself—

"I must leave this place at once. How I came here is a mystery, but it is certain that I cannot remain."

I arose from my hard couch, and approached the iron door with the confident expectation of being able to pass out without any difficulty, for I imagined that I had fallen into one of those cheap and wretched lodging houses with which the city abounds. (By the way, I may hereafter have something to say with reference to these cheap lodging-houses. Some rich development may be made, which will rather astonish the unsophisticated reader.)

To my surprise, I found that the door could not be opened; and then one of my fellow-lodgers, who had been observing my movements, exclaimed:

"Are you going to leave us, my lad? Then leave us your card, or a lock of your hair to remember you by."

"Will you be kind enough to tell me what place this is?" said I.

The man laughed loudly, as he replied—

"Why, don't you know? What an innocent youth you are, to be sure! How the devil could you come here, without knowing anything about it? But I suppose that you were drunk, which is a great pity for a boy like you. Well, not to keep you in suspense, I must inform you that you are in the watch-house of the Tombs!"

This information appalled me. To be in confinement—to be a prisoner—to be associated with a company of outcasts, thieves and perhaps murderers—was to me the height of horror. I looked particularly at the man with whom I had been conversing. He was a savage-looking individual, with a beard like that of a pirate, and an eye that spoke of blood and outrage. He was roughly dressed, in a garb that announced him to be a mariner.

In the course of a conversation that we fell into, he informed me that he had committed a murder on the preceding evening, and that he expected to be hung.

"We quarrelled at cards," said he, "and he gave me the lie—whereupon I drew my death-knife and stabbed him to the heart. He died instantly; the police rushed in, and here I am. My neck will be stretched, but I don't care. What matters it how a man dies? When my time comes, I shall go forth as readily and as cheerfully as if I were going to take a drink."

(I will here remark that I afterwards saw this man hung in the yard of the Tombs. His history is in my possession, and I shall hereafter write it.)[C]

At nine o'clock I was taken before the magistrate, who, after severely reprimanding me for my misconduct, discharged me from custody, with the remark that if I were brought there again he would be obliged to commit me to the Tombs for the term of five days. Delighted at having obtained my liberty, I posted out of the court room and found myself in Centre street. My debauch of the preceding night had not spoiled my appetite, by any means; and, as I still had in my possession the sixpence alluded to before, I resolved to produce some breakfast forthwith. Aware that my limited finances would not admit of my obtaining a very sumptuous repast, and fully appreciating the necessity of economy, I entered the shop of a baker and purchased three rolls at the rate of one cent per copy. Thus provided, I repaired to a neighboring street pump, and made a light but wholesome breakfast.

It was thus, reader, that your humble servant began to acquire a knowledge of the world.


[A] The last that was heard of Robinson, he was in Texas, and it was reported that he was married and wealthy, his right arm he had lost in some battle, the name of which I do not remember.

[B] I have just written a story under this title, full of fact and fun, and containing more truth than poetry. The reader can have it by applying to the publisher of this work. It is well worthy of perusal.

[C] This work is now in active course of preparation. To the lovers of exciting tales, this story will be one of particular attraction. It will be issued by the publisher of this narrative.


In which I become a Printer, and am introduced into certain mysteries of connubial life.

Having breakfasted to my entire satisfaction and also to my great bodily refreshment, I entered the Park, seated myself upon the steps of the City Hall, and thought "what is best to be done?"—It was Monday morning, and the weather was excellently fine. It was an excellent time to search for employment. A sign on an old building in Chatham street attracted my notice; upon it were inscribed the words, "Book and Job Printing."

"Good!" was my muttered exclamation, as I left the Park and crossed over towards the old building in question—"I'll be a printer! Franklin was one, and he, like myself, was fond of rolls, because he entered Philadelphia with one under each arm. Yes, I'll be a printer."

Entering the printing office, I found it to be a very small concern, containing but one press and a rather limited assortment of type. The proprietor of the office, whom I shall call Mr. Romaine, was a rather intellectual looking man, of middle age. Being very industrious, he did the principal portion of his work himself, occasionally, however, hiring a journeyman when work was unusually abundant. As I entered he looked up from his case and inquired, with an air of benevolence—

"Well, my lad, what can I do for you this morning?"

"If you please, sir, I want to learn to be a printer," replied I, boldly.

"Ah, indeed! Well, I was just thinking of taking an apprentice. But give an account of yourself—how old are you, and who are you?"

I frankly communicated to Mr. Romaine all that he desired to know concerning me, and he expressed himself as being perfectly satisfied. He immediately set me to "learning the boxes" of a case of type; and in half an hour I had accomplished the task, which was not very difficult, it being merely an effort of memory.

It having been arranged that I should take up my abode in the house of Mr. Romaine, I accompanied that gentleman home to dinner. He lived in William street and his wife kept a fashionable boarding-house for merchants, professional men, &c. Several of these gentlemen were married men and had their wives with them. Mrs. Romaine, the wife of my employer, was one of the finest-looking women I ever saw—tall, voluptuous, and truly beautiful. She was about twenty-five years of age, and her manners were peculiarly fascinating and agreeable. She was always dressed in a style of great elegance, and was admirably adapted to the station which she filled as landlady of an establishment like that. I will remark that although she had been the wife of Mr. Romaine for a number of years, she had not been blessed with offspring, which was doubtless to her a source of great disappointment, to say nothing of the chagrin which a married woman naturally feels when she fails in due time to add to the population of her country.

Accustomed as I had been to the economical scantiness of my uncle's table, I was both surprised and delighted with the luxurious abundance that greeted me on sitting down to dinner at Mrs. Romaine's. I was equally well pleased with the sprightliness, intelligence and good-humor of the conversation in which the ladies and gentlemen engaged, and also with their refined and courteous bearing towards each other. I congratulated myself on having succeeded in getting not only into business, but also into good society.

"If my dearly-beloved relatives," thought I, "could see me now, they might not be well pleased at my situation and prospects. Let them go to Beelzebub! I will get on in the world, in spite of them!"

In a few days I began to be very useful about the printing office, for I had learned to set type and to roll behind the press; I also performed all the multifarious duties of devil, and was so fortunate as to secure the good will of my employer, who generously purchased for me a fine new suit of clothes, and seemed anxious to make me as comfortable as possible. His wife, also, treated me very kindly; but there was something mysterious about this lady, which for a time, puzzled me extremely. One discovery which I made rather astonished me, young as I was, and caused me to do a "devil of a thinking." Mr. Romaine and his wife occupied separate sleeping apartments, and there seemed to be an aversion between them, although they treated each other with the most formal and scrupulous politeness. But my readers will agree with me that mere politeness is not the only sentiment which should exist between a husband and his wife. There was evidently something "rotten in Denmark" between Mr. and Mrs. Romaine, and I determined, if possible, to penetrate the mystery.

Mr. Romaine, who was professedly a pious man, was particularly in favor of "remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy," and he therefore directed me to be very punctual in attendance at church and Sunday school, and I obeyed his praiseworthy request until visions of literary greatness and renown began to dawn upon me, whereupon, prompted by gingerbread and ambition, and being moreover aided and abetted by another printer's devil of tender years and literary aspirations, I, one Sunday morning, entered the printing office, (of which I kept the key,) and assisted by my companion, set up and worked off one hundred copies of a diminutive periodical just six inches square, containing a very brief abstract of the news of the day, a very indifferent political leader, and a few rather partial theatrical criticisms. This extensive newspaper we issued on three successive Sundays, circulating it among our juvenile friends at the moderate rate of one cent a copy. On the fourth Sunday we were caught in the act of printing our journal by Mr. Romaine himself, who, although he with difficulty refrained from laughing at the fun of the thing, gave us a long lecture on the crime of Sabbath-breaking, and then made us distribute the type, forgetting that we were breaking the Sabbath as much by taking our form to pieces as by putting it together.

Mr. Romaine was also strongly opposed to theatres, but, nevertheless, I visited the "little Frankin" four or five times every week, to see John and Bill Sefton in the "Golden Farmer," and other thrilling melo-dramas, a convenient ally, a garden and a shed enabled me to enter my chamber at any hour during the night, without my employer's becoming aware of my absence from home.

One night after having been to my favorite place of amusement, I returned home about midnight. On entering the garden, I discovered to my surprise a light streaming from the kitchen windows—a very unusual occurrence. I crept softly up to one of the windows, and looking into the kitchen, a scene met my gaze that filled me with astonishment.

Mrs. Romaine, arrayed in her night-dress only, was seated at a table, and at her side was a young gentleman named Anderson, who boarded in the house, and who was a prosperous merchant. His arm was around the lady's waist, and her head rested affectionately upon his shoulder. She looked uncommonly beautiful and voluptuous that night, I thought, young as I was, I wondered not at the look of passionate admiration with which Anderson regarded his fair companion, upon whose sensual countenance there rested an expression of gratified love. Upon the table were the remains of a supper of which they had evidently partaken; there were also a bottle of wine and two glasses, partially filled. Mrs. Romaine sipped her wine occasionally, as well as her paramour; and the guilty pair seemed to be enjoying themselves highly. It was plain that the lady was resolved to lose nothing by her estrangement from her husband; it was equally plain that between her and Mr. Romaine there existed not the smallest particle of love. I now ceased to wonder why the wedded pair occupied separate apartments; and I came to the conclusion that disappointment in the matter of children was the cause of their mutual aversion. If I were writing a romance instead of a narrative of facts, I would here introduce an imaginary tender conversation between the pair. But as no such conversation took place I have none to describe.

"Well," said I to myself—"this is a pretty state of affairs, truly. I guess that if Mr. Romaine suspected any thing of this kind, there would be the very devil to pay, and no mistake. But it's no business of mine; and so I'll climb into my window and go to bed."

My employer was a very good sort of a man, and I sincerely pitied him on account of his unhappy connubial situation. I turned away from the kitchen window, and began to mount the shed in order to reach my chamber. I had nearly gained the roof of the shed, when a board gave way and I was precipitated to the ground, a distance of about ten feet. Fortunately I sustained no injury; but the noise aroused and alarmed the loving couple in the kitchen. Mrs. Romaine, in her terror and dread of discovery, gave utterance to a slight scream; while Mr. Anderson rushed forth and seized me in a rather powerful grasp. I struggled, and kicked, and strove to extricate myself, but it was all of no use. With many a muttered imprecation Anderson dragged me into the kitchen, and swore that if I did not remain quiet he would stab me to the heart with a dirk-knife that he produced from his pocket.

"You young rascal," said he "who employed you to play the part of a spy? Did Mr. Romaine direct you to watch us? Is he lurking outside, in the garden? If so, let him beware, for I am a desperate man, one not to be trifled with!"

I explained everything to the entire satisfaction of both the gentleman and lady, whose countenances brightened when they found that matters were far from being as bad as they expected.

"Now, my boy," said Anderson, "just do keep perfectly dark about this business, and I'll make your fortune. You shall never want a dollar while I live. As an earnest of what I may hereafter do for you, accept this trifle, which will enable you to gratify your theatre-going propensities to your heart's content."

The "trifle" was a ten dollar gold piece. I had never before possessed so much money; and no millionaire ever felt richer than I did at that moment. Delightful visions of dramatic treats arose before me, and I was happy.

Mr. Anderson made me drink a couple of glasses of wine, which tasted very good, and caused me to feel quite elevated. Then he told me that I had better go to bed, and I fully agreed with him. So, bidding the enamoured couple a patronizing good night and facetiously wishing them a pleasant time together—the wine had made me bold and saucy—I left the kitchen and began to ascend the stairs towards my own room with all the silence and caution of which I was capable.

I was destined that night to make another astonishing discovery. Being quite tipsy, I was deprived of my usual judgement, and suffered myself to stumble against a table that stood upon one of the landings opposite the chamber door of a young and particularly pretty widow named Mrs. Raymond, who boarded in the house. She possessed a snug independent fortune, and led a life of elegant leisure. Although demure in her looks and reverend in her deportment, there was a whole troop of dancing devils in her eyes that proclaimed the fact that her nature was not exactly as cold as ice.

My collision with the table caused me to recoil, and I fell violently against Mrs. Raymond's door, which burst open, and down I landed in the very centre of the apartment.

I heard a scream, and then a curse. The scream was the performance of the fair widow; the curse was the production of Mr. Romaine, my pious, Sabbath-venerating and theatre-opposing employer, who, springing up from the sofa upon which he had been seated by the side of the widow, seized me by the throat and demanded how the devil I came there?

My wits had not entirely deserted me, and I managed to tell quite a plausible story. I candidly confessed that I had been to the theatre and stated that I had got into the house through the kitchen window. Of course I said nothing about Anderson and Mrs. Romaine.

"You have been drinking," said Mr. Romaine, in a tone that was by no means severe, "but I forgive you for that, and also for having disobeyed me by going to the theatre. Be a good boy in future, and you shall never want a friend while I live."

While he was speaking, I looked about the room. It was exquisitely furnished with the most refined and elegant taste. Mrs. Raymond, who still sat upon the sofa, blushed deeply as her eyes encountered mine. She was en deshabille, and looked charming. I could not help admiring the divine perfections of her form, as revealed by the deliciously careless attire which she wore. I did not wonder that my respected presence confused her, for she had always held herself up as the very pink and pattern of female propriety, and besides, she often lectured me severely upon the enormity of some of my juvenile offences, which came to her knowledge.

Mr. Romaine continued to address me, thus:

"If you will solemnly promise to say nothing about having seen me in this room, I will reward you handsomely."

I readily gave the required promise, whereupon my pious employer presented me with a five-dollar bill, which I received with all the nonchalance in the world. I then withdrew, and reached my own room without encountering any more adventures. Sleep did not visit me that night, for my thoughts were too busily engaged with the discoveries which I had made; and besides, the blissful consciousness of being the possessor of the princely sum of fifteen dollars, would have kept me awake, independent of anything else.

A day or two after these occurrences, while looking over one of the morning newspapers, I saw an advertisement signed by my uncle, in which that worthy man offered a reward for my apprehension. The notice contained a minute description of my personal appearance and the clothes which I had on when I "ran away." Although my garments had been entirely changed, I was fearful that some one might recognize my person, and carry me back to my uncle's house, where I had every reason to expect far worse treatment than I had ever received before. But Mr. Romaine, to whom I showed the advertisement, told me not to be at all alarmed, as he would protect me at any risk. This assurance made me feel much easier. I was never molested in consequence of that advertisement.

After the night on which I had detected the intrigue of my employer and his wife, I began to live emphatically "in clover," and accumulated money tolerably fast. All the parties concerned treated me with the utmost consideration and respect. Mr. Romaine suffered me to do pretty much as I pleased in the printing office, and so I enjoyed a very agreeable and leisurely time of it, doing as much Sunday printing on my own account as I desired, and going to the theatre as often as I wished. Mr. Anderson would occasionally slip a five dollar note into my hand, at the same time enjoining me to "keep mum;" Mrs. Romaine, with her own fair hands, made me a dozen superb shirts, supplied me with handkerchiefs, stockings and fancy cravats innumerable, and so arranged it that when I returned from the theatre at night, a nice little supper awaited me in the kitchen. These repasts she would sometimes share with me, for, like a sensible woman, she was fond of all the good things of this life, including good eating and drinking. Anderson would join us occasionally, and a snug, cosy little party we made. Mrs. Raymond, the pretty widow, was not backward in testifying to me how grateful she was for my silence with reference to her frailty. She made me frequent presents of money, and gave me an elegant and valuable ring, which I wore until the "intervention of unfortunate circumstance" compelled me to consign it to the custody of "my uncle"—not my beloved relative of Thomas street, (peace to his memory, for he has gone the way of all pork,)—but that accommodating uncle of mine and everybody else, Mr. Simpson, who dwelleth in the Rue de Chatham, and whose mansion is decorated with three gilded balls. Kind, convenient Uncle Simpson!

Ah! those were my halcyon days, when not a single care cast its shadow o'er my soul. As I think of that season of unalloyed happiness, I involuntarily exclaim, in the words of a fine popular song—

"I would I were a boy again!"

Three years passed away, unmarked by the occurrence of any event of sufficient importance to merit a place in this narrative. When I reached my fifteenth year, the fashionable boarding-house of Mrs. Romaine became the scene of a tragedy so bloody, so awful and so appalling, that even now, while I think and write about it, my blood runs cold in my veins. That terrible affair can no more be obliterated from my memory than can the sun be effaced from the arch of heaven; and to my dying day, its recollection will continue to haunt me like a hideous spectre.

But I must devote a separate chapter to the details of that sanguinary event. I would gladly escape from the task of describing it; but, of course, were I to omit it, this narrative would be incomplete. Therefore the unwelcome duty must be performed.


In which is enacted a bloody tragedy.

I began to observe with considerable uneasiness, that Mr. Romaine stealthily regarded his wife with looks of intense hatred and malignant ferocity; then he would transfer his gaze from her to Mr. Anderson, who was altogether unconscious of the scrutiny. My employer was usually a very quiet man, but I knew that his passions were very violent, and that, when once thoroughly aroused, he was capable of perpetrating almost any act of savage vengeance. I began to fear that he suspected the intimacy which existed between his adulterous wife and her paramour. By the way it may be as well to remark that I had never told either Anderson or Mrs. Romaine of the intrigue between Mr. Romaine and the widow, Mrs. Raymond; and it is scarcely necessary to observe that I was equally discreet in withholding from my employer and his "ladye love" all knowledge of the state of affairs between the other parties.

I communicated my fears to Mr. Anderson, but he laughed at them saying—

"Nonsense, my dear boy—why should Romaine suspect anything of the kind? I and Harriet (Mrs. Romaine) have always been very discreet and careful. Our intimacy began three or four years ago; and as it has lasted that length of time without discovery, it is scarcely likely to be detected now. You are quite sure that you have given Romaine no hint of the affair?"

"Do you think me capable of such base treachery?" I demanded, with an offended air.

"Forgive me," said Anderson, "I did wrong to doubt you. Believe me, your fears are groundless; however, I thank you for the caution, and shall hereafter exercise additional care, so as to prevent the possibility of discovery. Here is a ticket for the opera to-night; when you return, which will be about midnight, come to Harriet's room, and we three will sup like two kings and a queen."

Having dressed myself with unusual care, I went to the opera. While listening to the divine strains of a celebrated prima donna, my attention was attracted by a group occupying one of the most conspicuous boxes. This group consisted of a youth apparently about my own age, and two showy looking females whose dresses were cut so low as to reveal much more of their busts than decency could sanction, even among an opera audience. There could be no doubt as to the character of these two women. I examined their youthful cavalier with attention; and soon recognized my quondum friend and pitcher—JACK SLACK. Jack was magnificently dressed, and his appearance was truly superb. The most fastidious Parisian exquisite—even the great Count D'Orsay himself might have envied him the arrangement of his hair, the tie of his cravat, the spotlessness of his white kids. He flourished a glittering, jeweled lorgnette, and the way the fellow put on "French airs" must have been a caution to the proudest scion of aristocracy in the house.

After a little while Jack saw me; and, having taken a good long stare at me through his opera-glass, he beckoned me to come to him, at the same time pointing significantly at one of his "lady" companions, as if to intimate that she was entirely at my disposal. But I shook my head, and did not stir, for I had no desire to resume my acquaintance with that fascinating but mysterious youth. Perhaps I entertained a presentiment that he was destined to become, to both of us, the cause of a great misfortune.

Jack looked angry and disappointed, at my refusal to accept of his hospitable invitation. He directed the attention of his women towards me, and I saw that they were attempting to titter and sneer at my expense;—but the effort was a total failure, for there was not a better-dressed person in the house than I was. Having honored the envious party with a smile of scorn,—which, I flattered myself, was perfectly successful,—I turned towards the stage, and did not indulge in another look at Jack or his friends during the remainder of the opera. I am convinced that from that hour, Jack Slack became my mortal foe.

At the conclusion of the performances, I left the house and saw Jack getting into a carriage with the two courtezans. He observed me, and uttered a decisive shout, to which I paid no attention, but hurried home, anxious to make one of the little party in the apartment of Mrs. Romaine, and quite ready to partake of the delicacies which, I knew, would be provided.

On my arrival home, I immediately repaired to Mrs. Romaine's private room, where I found that good lady in company with Mr. Anderson. We three sat down to supper in the highest possible spirits. Alas! how little did we anticipate the terrible catastrophe that was so soon to follow!

The more substantial portion of the banquet having been disposed of, the sparkling wine-cup was circulated freely, and we became very gay and jovial. Unrestrained by my presence, and exhilarated by the rosy beverage of jolly Bacchus, the lovers indulged in many little acts of tender dalliance. Always making it a point to mind my own business, I applied myself diligently to the bottle, for the wine was excellent and the sardines had made me thirsty. I had just lighted a cigar, and was resigning myself to the luxurious and deliciously soothing influence of the weed, when the door was thrown violently open, and Mr. Romaine rushed into the room.

His appearance was frightful! his face was dreadfully pale, and his eyes glared with the combined fires of jealousy and rage. Intense excitement caused him to quiver in every limb. In one hand he grasped a pistol, and in the other a bowie knife of the largest and most formidable kind.

It was but too evident that my fears had been well founded, and that Mr. Romaine had discovered the intimacy between Anderson and his wife.

The reader will agree with me that the "injured husband" was equally culpable on account of his intrigue with the young and handsome widow, Mrs. Raymond.—How prone are many people to lose sight of their own imperfections while they censure and severely punish the failings of those who are not a whit more guilty than themselves! The swinish glutton condemns the drunkard—the villainous seducer reproves the frequenter of brothels—the arch hypocrite takes to task the open, undisguised sinner—and the rich, miserly old reprobate, whose wealth places him above the possibility of ever coming to want, who would sooner "hang the guiltless than eat his mutton cold," and who would not bestow a cent upon a poor devil to keep him from starving—that old rascal, perhaps, in his capacity as a magistrate, sentences to jail an unfortunate man whom hunger has driven into the "crime" of stealing a loaf of bread! Bah! ladies and gentlemen, take the beams out of your own eyes before you allude to the motes in the optics of your fellow beings. That's my advice, free of charge.

On seeing her husband enter in that furious and threatening manner, Mrs. Romaine, overcome with fear and shame—for she well knew that her guilt had been detected—fell to the floor insensible. Anderson, confused and not knowing what to say, sat motionless as a statue;—while I awaited, with almost trembling anxiety, the issue of this most extraordinary state of affairs.

Romaine was the first to break the silence, and he spoke in a tone of voice that was singularly calm considering his physical agitation.

"Well, sir," said he, addressing Anderson—"you are enjoying yourself finely—drinking my wine, devouring my provisions, and making love to my wife in her own bed-chamber. Anderson, for some time past I have suspected you and Harriet of being guilty of criminal intimacy. I have noticed your secret signs, and have read and interpreted the language of your eyes, whenever you and she have exchanged glances in my presence. You both took me to be a weak fool, too blind and imbecile to detect your adulterous intercourse; but I have now come to convince you that I am a man capable of avenging his ruined conjugal honor!"

Anderson, recovering some degree of his usual self-possession, remarked,

"Your accusation, sir, is unjust. Your wife and myself are friends, and nothing more. She invited me to sup with her here to-night and that is all about it. If our intentions were criminal, would we have courted the presence of a third party?"

With these words, Anderson pointed towards me, but Romaine, without observing me at all, continued to address the paramour of his wife.

"Anderson, you are a liar, and the falsehoods which you have uttered, only serve to increase your guilt, and confirm me in my resolution to sacrifice both you and that guilty woman who lies yonder. Can I disbelieve the evidence of my own eyes? Must I go into particulars, and say that last night, at about this hour, in the kitchen—ha! you turn pale—you tremble—your guilt is confessed. I would have killed you last night, Anderson, but I had not the weapons. This knife and pistol I purchased to-day, and I shall use them!

"Try and revive that harlot, for I would speak with her ere she dies!"

Anderson mechanically obeyed. Placing the insensible form of Mrs. Romaine upon a sofa, he sprinkled water upon her face, and she was soon restored to a state of consciousness. For a few moments she gazed about her wildly; and then, when her eyes settled upon her husband, and she saw the terrible weapons with which he was armed, she covered her face with her hands and trembled in an agony of terror, for she knew that her life was in the greatest possible danger.

Romaine now addressed his wife in a tone of calmness which was, under the circumstances, far more terrible than the most violent outburst of passion:

"Harriet," said he—"I now fully comprehend your reasons for requesting to be allowed to occupy a separate apartment. You desired an opportunity to gratify your licentious propensities without any restraint. Woman, why have you used me thus? Have I deserved this infamous treatment? Have I ever used you unkindly, or spoken a harsh word to you? Do you think that I will tamely wear the horns which you and your paramour have planted upon my brow? Do you think that I will suffer myself to be made an object of scorn, and allow myself to be pointed at and ridiculed by a sneering community?"

"Forgive me," murmured the unhappy wife—"I will not offend again. I acknowledge that I have committed a grievous sin; but Heaven only knows how sincerely I repent of it!"

"Your repentance comes too late," said Romaine, hoarsely—"Heaven may forgive you, but I shall not! You say that you will not offend again. Having forever destroyed my happiness, my peace of mind, and my honor, you will not offend again! You shall not have the opportunity, wretched woman. You shall no longer survive your infamy. You and the partner of your guilt must die!"

With these words, Romaine cocked his pistol and approached his wife, saying, in a low, savage tone that evinced the desperate purpose of his heart—

"Take your choice, madam; do you prefer to die by lead or by steel?"

The miserable woman threw herself upon her knees, exclaiming—

"Mercy, husband—mercy! Do not kill me, for I am not prepared to die!"

"You call me husband now—you, who have so long refused to receive me as a husband. Come—I am impatient to shed your blood, and that of your paramour. Breathe a short prayer to Heaven, for mercy and forgiveness, and then resign your body to death and your soul to eternity!"

So saying the desperate and half-crazy man raised on high the glittering knife. Poor Mrs. Romaine uttered a shriek, and, before she could repeat it, the knife descended with the swiftness of lightning, and penetrated her heart. Her blood spouted all over her white dress, and she sank down at the murderer's feet, a lifeless corpse!

Paralyzed with horror, I could neither move nor speak. Anderson also stood motionless, like a bird which is subjected to the fascinating gaze of a serpent. Notwithstanding the terrible danger in which he was placed, he seemed to be rooted to the spot and incapable of making a single effort to save himself by either resistance or flight.

The scene was most extraordinary, thrilling and awful. The luxurious chamber—the failing lamp—the murderer, holding in his hand the bloody knife—the doomed Anderson, whose soul was quivering on the brink of the dread abyss of eternity; all these combined to form a spectacle of the most strange and appalling character.

Romaine now raised his pistol and took deliberate aim at Anderson, saying,

"My work is but half done; it is your turn now! Are you ready?"

"Do not shoot me like a dog," implored the unfortunate young man, who, to do him justice, possessed a considerable amount of courage—"give me, at least, some chance for my life. If I have wronged you, and I candidly confess that I have, I am ready to give you the satisfaction of a gentleman. Give me a pistol, place me upon an equal footing with yourself, and we will settle the matter as becomes men of honor. This boy, here, will be a witness of the affair."

To this proposition, Romaine scornfully replied,

"I admire your assurance, sir.—After seducing the wife, you want a chance to shoot the husband. Well, as I am an accommodating man, it shall be as you say, for I am sick of life and care not if I am killed. But I have no other pistol. Stay!—suppose we toss up a coin, and thus decide which of us shall have this weapon, with the privilege of using it. Here is a quarter of a dollar; I will throw it up in the air, and when it falls upon the floor, if the head is uppermost, the pistol is mine; but if the tail is uppermost, the pistol shall be yours. I warn you that if I win, I shall show you no mercy; and, if you win, I shall expect none from you. Do you agree to this?"

"I do," replied Anderson, firmly, "and I thank you for your fairness."

Romaine threw up the coin, which spun around in the air and landed upon the carpet. How strange that it should have become the province of that insignificant coin to decide which of those two men must die!

Romaine calmly took the dim lamp from the table, and knelt down upon the carpet in a pool of his wife's blood.

"Watch me closely, and see that I do not touch the coin," said he, as he bent eagerly over the life-deciding quarter of a dollar.

How my heart beat at that moment, and what must have been the sensation of poor Anderson!

"The head is uppermost, and I have won!" said Romaine, in a hoarse whisper—"come and see for yourself."

"I am satisfied, your word is sufficient," said Anderson, with a shudder, as he folded his arms across his breast and seemed to abandon himself to profound despair.

Romaine's pale face assumed an expression of savage delight, as he raised the pistol and pointed it at the head of his intended victim, saying—

"Then, sir, nothing remains but for me to avail myself of the favor which fortune has conferred upon me. Young man, in five seconds I shall fire!"

"Hold!" cried Anderson, "I have a favor to ask, which I am sure you will not refuse to grant me. Before I die, let me write a couple of letters, and make a few notes of the manner in which I wish my property to be disposed of. It is the last request of a dying man."

"It is granted," said Romaine, "there, upon that escritoire, are writing materials. But make haste, for I am impatient to finish this disagreeable business."

Anderson sat down, and began to write rapidly. I longed to rush out and give the alarm, so that the impending tragedy might be averted; but I feared that any movement on my part might result in the passage of a bullet through my brain, and therefore I remained quiet, for which I am sure, no sensible reader will blame me.

Poor Anderson! tears gushed from his eyes and streamed down his cheeks while he was writing one of the letters, which, as I afterwards ascertained, was addressed to a young lady to whom he was engaged to be married. He wrote two letters, folded, sealed and directed them; these he handed to me, saying—

"Have the kindness to deliver these letters to the persons to whom they are addressed. Will you faithfully promise to do this?"

I promised, of course; he shook hands with me, and bade me farewell; then, calmly turning towards Romaine, he announced his readiness to die. Up to that moment, I had tried to persuade myself that Anderson's life would be spared, thinking that Romaine must have had enough of blood after slaying his wife in that barbarous manner. But I was doomed to be terribly disappointed. Scarcely had Anderson muttered the words, "I am ready to die," when Romaine pulled the trigger of the upraised pistol, and the young merchant fell dead upon the floor, the bullet having penetrated his brain.

"Now I am satisfied, for I have had my revenge," said the murderer, coolly, as he wiped the perspiration from his pallid brow.

"Blood-thirsty villain!" exclaimed I, unable longer to restrain my indignation—"you will swing upon the gallows for this night's work!"

"Not so," rejoined Romaine, calmly, "for I do not intend to survive this wholesale butchery, and did not, from the first. I was determined that Anderson should die, at all events. He won the pistol, for the coin fell with the tail uppermost. Had he stooped to examine it, I would have blown out his brains, just the same. But hark! the boarders and inmates of the house have been aroused by the report of the pistol, and they are hastening here. The gallows—no, no, I must avoid that! They shall not take me alive. Now, may heaven have mercy upon my guilty soul!"

With these words the unhappy man seized the Bowie knife and plunged it into his heart, thus adding the crime of suicide to the two atrocious murders which he had just committed.

Scarcely had this crowning point of the fearful tragedy been enacted, when a crowd of people, half-dressed and excited, rushed into the room. Among them was the beautiful widow, Mrs. Raymond. On seeing the bleeding corpse of Romaine stretched upon the floor, she gave utterance to a piercing scream and fell down insensible.

In the horror and confusion that prevailed, I was unnoticed. I determined to leave the house, never to return, for I dreaded being brought before the public, as a witness, being a great hater of notoriety in any shape. (The reader may smile at this last remark; but I assure him, or her, that my frequent appearance before the public as a writer, has been the result of necessity—not of inclination.)

Accordingly, I left the house unobserved, and took lodgings for the remainder of the night at a hotel. But sleep visited me not, for my mind was too deeply engrossed with the bloody scenes which I had witnessed, to suffer the approach of "tired nature's sweet restorer." In the morning I arose early, and investigated the condition of my finances. The result of this examination was highly satisfactory, for I found that I was the possessor of a considerable sum of money.

I walked about the city until noon, uncertain how to act. I felt a strong disposition to travel, and see the world;—but I could not make up my mind in what direction to go. After a sumptuous dinner at Sandy Welch's "Terrapin Lunch,"—one of the most famous restaurants of the day—I indulged in a contemplative walk up Broadway. Such thoughts as these ran through my mind:—"I cannot help contrasting my present situation with the position I was in, three years ago. Then I was almost penniless, and gladly breakfasted on dry bread at a street pump; now I have three hundred dollars in my pocket, and have just dined like an epicurean prince. Then I was clad in garments that were coarse and cheap; now I am dressed in the finest raiment that money could procure. Then I had no trade; now I have a profession which will be to me an unfailing means of support. But, alas! then I was comparatively innocent, and ignorant of the wicked ways of the world; now, although only fifteen years of age, I am too thoroughly posted up on all the mysteries of city follies and vices. No matter: there's nothing like experience, after all."

Comforting myself with this philosophical reflection, I strolled on. A newsboy came along, bawling out, at the top of his voice—"Here's the extra Sun, with a full account of the two murders and suicide in William street last night—only one cent!" Of course I purchased a copy; and, upon perusing the account, I could not help smiling at the ludicrous and absurd exaggerations which it contained. It was a perfect modern tragedy of Othello, with Romaine as the Moor, Mrs. Romaine as Desdemona, and Anderson as a sort of cross between Iago and Michael Cassio. I was not alluded to in any way whatever, which caused me to rejoice exceedingly.[D]

Suddenly remembering the two letters which had been confided to my care by the unfortunate Anderson, I resolved to deliver them immediately. One was directed to a Mr. Sargent, in Pine street. I soon found the place, which was a large mercantile establishment. Over the door was the sign "Anderson & Sargent." This had been poor Anderson's place of business, and Sargent had been his partner. I entered, found Mr. Sargent in the counting-room, and delivered to him the letter. He opened it, read it through coolly, shrugged his shoulders, and said—

"I have already been made acquainted with the full particulars of this melancholy affair. Anderson was a clever fellow, and I'm sorry he's gone, although his death will certainly promote my interests. He gives me, in this letter, every necessary instruction as to the disposition of his property, and he also directs me to present you with the sum of two hundred dollars, both as an acknowledgement of your services and as a token of his friendship. I will fill out a check for the amount immediately."

This instance of Anderson's kindness and generosity, almost at the very moment of his death, deeply affected me; and, at the same time, I could not help feeling disgusted with the heartlessness displayed by Sargent, who regarded the tragical death of his partner merely as an event calculated to advance his own interests.

Having received the check, I withdrew from the august presence of Mr. Sargent, who was a tall, thin, hook-nosed personage, of unwholesome aspect and abrupt manners. I drew the money at the bank, and then hastened to deliver the other letter, which was addressed to Miss Grace Arlington, whose residence was designated as being situated in one of the fashionable squares up-town. I had no difficulty in finding the house, which was of the most elegant and aristocratic appearance. My appeal to the doorbell was responded to by a smart-looking female domestic, who, on learning my errand, ushered me into the presence of her mistress. Miss Grace Arlington was a very lovely and delicate young lady, whose soft eyes beamed with tenderness and sensibility, whose voice was as sweet as the music of an angel's harp, while her step was as light as the tread of a fairy whose tiny feet will not crush the leaves of a rose. When I handed her the letter, and she recognized the well known handwriting, she bestowed upon me a winning and grateful smile which I shall never forget. My heart misgave me as she opened the missive, for I could well divine its contents; and I almost reproached myself for being the messenger of such evil tidings. I watched her closely as she read. She was naturally somewhat pale, but I saw her face grow ghastly white before she had read two lines. When she had finished the perusal of the fatal letter, she pressed her hand upon her breast, murmured "Oh God!" and would have fallen to the floor if I had not caught her in my arms.

"Curses on my stupidity!" I muttered, as I placed her insensible form upon a sofa—"I ought to have prepared her gradually for the terrible announcement which I knew that letter to contain!"

I rang the bell furiously, and the almost deafening summons was answered by half-a-dozen female servants, who, on seeing the condition of their young Mistress, set up a loud chorus of screams. The uproar brought Mr. Arlington, the father of the young lady, to the scene. He was a fine-looking old gentleman, a retired merchant and a millionaire. I hastened to explain to him all that had occurred, and Anderson's letter, which lay upon the floor, confirmed my statements. Mr. Arlington was horror-struck, for he, as well as his daughter, had until that moment been in happy ignorance of the bloody affair. The old gentleman had first established Anderson in business, and he had always cherished for that unfortunate young man the warmest friendship. No wonder, then, that he was overpowered when he became aware of the tragical end of him whom he had expected so shortly to become his son-in-law.

A celebrated physician, who resided next door, was sent for. He happened to be at home, and arrived almost instantly. He knelt down beside the broken-hearted girl, and, as his fingers touched her wrist, a look of profound grief settled upon his benevolent face.

"Well, Doctor," exclaimed Mr. Arlington, breathlessly, "what is the matter with my child? She will recover soon, will she not? It is merely a fainting fit produced by the reception of unwelcome news."

"Alas, sir!" replied the Doctor, in a tone of deep sympathy, as he brushed away the tears from his eyes—"I may as well tell you the melancholy truth at once. The sudden shock caused by the unwelcome news you speak of, has proved fatal; your daughter is dead!"

Poor old Arlington staggered to a seat, covered his face with his hands, and moaned in the agony of his spirits. Notwithstanding all his wealth, how I pitied him!

Seeing that I could be of no service whatever, I left the house of mourning and walked down town in a very thoughtful mood. I had already begun to enter upon an experience such as few youths of fifteen are ever called upon to encounter; and I wondered what the dim, uncertain Future had in store for me.

However, as the reader will see in the next chapter, I did not long suffer my mind to be intruded upon by melancholy reflections.


[D] Many of my New York readers will remember the "William Street Tragedy," to which I have alluded. The bloody event created the most intense excitement at the time of its occurrence. Having witnessed the horrible affair, I have truly related all the facts concerning it.


In which I set forth upon my travels, and met with a great misfortune.

Having plenty of means at my disposal, I determined to enjoy myself to the full extent of my physical and intellectual capacity, for I remembered the graceful words of the charming poet who sung—

"Go it while you're young: For, when you get old, you can't!"

Behold me, at the age of fifteen, fairly launched upon all the dissipations of a corrupt and licentious city! It is not without a feeling of shame that I make these confessions; but truth compels me to do so. I soon became thoroughly initiated into all the mysteries of high and low life in New York. In my daily and nightly peregrinations I frequently encountered my old friend Jack Slack; we never spoke, but on the contrary regarded each other with looks of enmity and defiance. Stronger and stronger within me grew the presentiment that this mysterious youth was destined to become my evil genius and the cause of a great misfortune. Therefore, whenever I met him, I could not help shuddering with dread.

Three years passed away in this manner, and I had reached the age of eighteen, with an unimpaired constitution and a firm belief that I was destined to exist for ever. I had lived luxuriously upon the earnings of my pen, for I was a regular contributor to the Knickerbroker Magazine and other popular periodicals. Having accumulated considerable money, notwithstanding my extravagance, I resolved to take a Southern tour, visiting Philadelphia, Washington, and other cities of note. Accordingly, one fine day, I found myself established in comfortable quarters, at the most fashionable hotel in the "city of brotherly love." I became a regular frequenter of the theatres and other places of amusement, and formed the acquaintance of many actors and literary people. It was here that I had the honor of being introduced to Booth, the great tragedian, now dead; to "Ned Forrest," the American favorite; to "Uncle" J.R. Scott, as fine a man as ever drank a noggin of ale or ate a "dozen raw," and to Major Richardson, the author of "Wacousta," and the "Monk Knight of St. John," the latter being one of the most voluptuous works ever written. Poor Major! his was a melancholy end. He was formerly a Major in the British army, and was a gentleman by birth, education and principle. Possessing a fine person, a generous heart and the most winning manners, he was a general favorite with his associates. He became the victim of rapacious publishers, and grew poor. Too proud to accept of assistance from his friends, he retired to obscure lodgings and there endeavored to support himself by the productions of his pen. But his spirit was broken and his intellect crushed by the base ingratitude of those who should have been his warmest friends. Often have I visited him in his garret—for he actually occupied one; and, with a bottle of whiskey before us, we have condemned the world as being full of selfishness, ingratitude and villainy. Winter came on, and the Major had no fuel, nor the means of procuring any. I have repeatedly called upon him and found him sitting in the intensely cold atmosphere of his miserable apartment, wrapped in a blanket and busily engaged in writing with a hand that was blue and trembled with the cold. He firmly refused to receive aid, in any shape, from his friends; and they were obliged to witness his gradual decay with sad hearts. The gallant Major always persisted in denying that he needed anything; he swore his garret was the most comfortable place in the world, and that the introduction of a fire would have been preposterous; he always affirmed with a round military oath, that he "lived like a fighting-cock," and was never without his bottle of wine at dinner; yet I once came upon him rather unexpectedly, and found him dining upon a crust of bread and a red herring. Sometimes, but rarely, he appeared at the theatres, and, upon such occasions, he was always scrupulously well-dressed, for Major Richardson would never appear abroad otherwise than as a gentleman. Want, privation and disappointment finally conquered him; he grew thin, and haggard, and melancholy, and reserved, and discouraged the visits of his friends who used to love to assemble at his humble lodgings and avail themselves of his splendid conversational powers, or listen to his personal reminiscences and racy anecdotes of military life. One morning he was found dead in his bed; and his death caused the most profound grief in the breasts of all who knew him as he deserved to be known, and who respected him for his many excellent qualities of head and heart. His remains received a handsome and appropriate burial; and many a tear was shed o'er the grave of him who had been a gallant soldier and a celebrated author, but a truly wronged and most unfortunate man.

The reader will, I am sure, pardon this digression, for I was anxious to do justice to the memory of a much-valued friend and literary brother. I now resume the direct course of my narrative, and come to the darkest portion of my career.

One night, in a billiard room, I had a very unpleasant encounter with an old acquaintance. I observed, at one of the tables, a young man whose countenance seemed strangely familiar to me, although I did not immediately recognize him. He was dressed in the extreme of fashion, and his upper lip was darkened by an incipient moustache—the result, doubtless, of many months of industrious cultivation. A cigar was in his mouth, and a billiard-cue was in his hand; and he profusely adorned his conversation with the most extravagant oaths. Altogether, he seemed to be a very "fast" young man; and I puzzled my brain in endeavoring to remember where I had met him before.

Suddenly, he raised his eyes, and their gaze encountered mine; then I wondered that I had not before recognized "my old friend," Jack Slack!

"This fellow is my evil genius; he follows me everywhere," thought I, turning to leave the saloon. Would to heaven that I had never entered it! But regrets are useless now.

Jack stepped after me, and detained me. I instantly saw that trouble was about to come.

"Greenhorn," said Jack, with an air of angry reproach, as he laid his hand upon my shoulder—"why do you so continually avoid me? What in the devil's name have I ever done to deserve this treatment? Have I ever injured you in any way? Damn it, we are equal in age, and in disposition—let us be friends. I can put you in a way, in this city, to enjoy the tallest kind of sport. Give me your hand, and let's go up to the bar and take a social drink."

"Jack," said I, seriously and very calmly—"I will shake hands with you in friendship, but I candidly confess that I do not like you; and I believe that it will be better for us both not to associate together at all. Observe me!—I have no hard feelings against you;—you are a clever fellow, and generous to a fault; but something whispers to me that we must not be companions, and I therefore respectfully desire you not to speak to me again. Good night."[E]

I turned to go, but Jack placed himself directly in my path, and said, in a voice that was hoarse with passion—

"Stay and hear me. We must not part in this way. Do you think that I will tamely submit to be cut in a manner so disgraceful? Do you think that I am going to remain the object of an unfounded and ridiculous prejudice? Explain yourself, and apologize, or by G——, it will be the worse for you!"

"Explain myself—apologize!" I scornfully repeated—"you are a fool, and don't know to whom you are talking. Let me go."

"No!" passionately screamed my enraged antagonist, who was somewhat intoxicated—"you must stay and hear me out. I may as well throw off the mask at once. Know, then, that I hate you like hell-fire, and that, the very first time I saw you, I resolved to make you as bad as myself. Therefore did I induce you to drink, and visit disreputable places. The cool contempt with which you have always treated me, had increased my hatred ten-fold. I thirst for vengeance, and I'll fix you yet!"

"Do your worst," said I, contemptuously; and again did I essay to take my departure. Meanwhile, during the quarrel, the frequents of the saloon had gathered around and appeared to enjoy the scene highly.

"If he has given you any cause of offence, Jack, why don't you pitch into him?" suggested a half-drunken fellow who bore the enviable reputation of being a most expert pickpocket.

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