Charles James Lever.

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rich varnish on their chariot ; while I wander along, alone
and friendless, my worldly substance a few dollars." This
disparity of condition of course occurs to the mind of every
poor man, but it only is a canker to him who has had a
glimpse, be it ever so fleeting, of a life of luxury and ease.
For this reason, the servant-class will always be a great source


of danger to our present social condition ; seeing the weak-
ness, the folly, and sometimes the worse than folly of those
they serve viewing, from a near point, the interior lives of
those who, seen from afar, are reckoned great and illustrious,
they lose the prestige of respect for the distinguishing
qualities of station, and only yield it to the outward symbols
the wealth and riches. What Socialists are our butlers !
what Democrats our footmen ! what Red Republicans are
our cooks ! what a Leveller is the gardener ! For all your
"yellow plush," you are Sansculottes, every man of you.

Now, I deem it a high testimony to my powers of judgment
that I never entertained these views. On the contrary, I
always upheld the doctrine, that society, like a broken thigh-
bone, did best on an " inclined plane ;" and I repudiated
equality with the scorn a man six feet high would feel were
he told that the human standard was to be four and a half.
The only grudge I did feel towards the fortunate man of
wealth was, that I should lose so many brilliant years of life
in acquiring for acquire it I would what I would far rather
employ in dispensing. A guinea at twenty is worth a hundred
at thirty, a thousand at forty, a million at sixty ; that's the
geometrical mean of life. Glorious youth ! that only needs
" debentures " to be divine !

My head became clearer and my brain more unclouded, as
I walked along in the free air of the morning, and I felt that
with a cigar 1 should both compose my vagrant fancies, and
cheat myself out of the necessity of a breakfast. Excellent
weed ! that can make dulness imaginative, and imagination plod-
ding; that renders stupid men companionable to clever ones,
and gives a meek air of thought to the very flattest insipidity !

I searched my pocket for the little case that contained my
Manillas, but in vain ; I tried another like result. How
was it? I always carried it in my greatcoat; had I been
robbed ? I could not help laughing at the thought, it sounded
so ineffably comic. I essayed again, alas ! with no better
success. Could I have placed it in the breast-pocket? What!
there is no breast-pocket ! How is this, Con ? has Thumbo-
rig its influence over you yet ? I passed my hand across my
brow, and tried to remember if the breast-pocket had only
been a tradition of another coat, or what had become of it.
Pockets do not close from bcins; empty, like county banks,
nor do they dry up, like wells, from disuse.

" No, no ; there certainly was once one here." As I said
this, what was my amazement to find that the pocket for
which I had been searching had changed sides, and gone


from left to right ! " Oh, this is too bad ! " thought I ; " with
a little more punch, I could have fancied that I had put my coat
on wrong-sided. Here is a mystery I" said I, "and now, to
solve it patiently;" and so, I sat me down by the way side,
and laying my bundle on the ground, began to reflect.

Reflection, I soon found, was of no use. Habit the in-
stinct of custom showed me that my pocket had always been
to the left ; my right hand sought the spot with an almost
mechanical impulse, whereas my left wandered about like a
man in search of his newly-taken lodging. As I came to
this puzzling fact, my fingers, deeply immersed in the pocket,
came in contact with a small leather case. I drew it forth ;
it was not mine I had never seen it before ! I opened it ;
there was nothing within but a small piece of card, with the
words, " Full Share Ticket," on top, and, underneath, the
figures, " 438."

Prom the card, my eyes reverted to the coat itself; and
now I saw, with a surprise I cannot convey, that it was not
my own coat, but another man's I was wearing. The Negro
at the ordinary had assisted me to put it on. It was the
only one, indeed, remaining, as I came away, and some other
had carried off mine. So far, it was a f;)ir exchange, of which
I was not in any way accountable, seeing that I performed
a mere passive part ; taking and even that unwillingly
what was left me. Certain thread-bare symptoms about the
cuffs, and a missing button or two, also showed me that I
was no gainer by the barter. Was it worth while to go back ?
were the chances of recovering my own equal to the risk of
being myself discovered ? I thought not. It was decidedly
a shabby investment ; and, now that I examined it more closely,
a very miserable substitute for my own. I was vexed at the
occurrence, and could not help reflecting, in very severe terms,
upon the breach of honour such an act displayed. " Lie
down with dogs"' Master Con, says the adage "and see if
you don't get up with fleas ! " '' Such company as you passed
the evening with were assuredly not above a piece of roguery
like this." Falkoner it could not be ; and I own that I was
glad to know that, since he was much taller than me; nor
could I remember one who was near enough :ny own size to
make me suppose him the culprit; and so I ended by. attri-
buting the knavery to the Negro, who probably had kept this
ancient vestment for a moment of substitution.

It may be inferred, from the difficulty of solution in the
case of this very simple occurrence, that my faculties were
not pre-eminently clear and lucid, and that the vapour of the


Thumbo-rig still hung 1 heavily over me ; such, I am bound to
own, was the fact. Every event of the previous night was
as shadowy and imperfect as might be. It was only during
the last half-hour of my conversation with Falkoner, that I
was completely conscious of all said and done around me.
Previous to this, my mind had established a kind of Pro-
visional Government over my rebellious ideas, and, like most
such bodies, its edicts had little force, for they were based 011
but a weak prestige.

Now, then, came a question of this strange-looking piece
of card, with the numbers on which, by some wonderful pro-
cess, I seemed to myself perfectly familiar nay, I felt that
they were, from some hidden cause, recorded facts in my
memory. All I could remember of the night before threw
little light upon the matter, and I wondered on, striving to
pierce the dull mist of uncertainty that enveloped all my
thoughts : by this time, I had reached the bank of the river,
and could perceive about half a mile off', down the stream, a
tall-masted smack, getting ready for sea her blue-Peter
fluttered at the mast-head, and the pleasant ye-ho ! of the
sailors kept time with the capstan-bars as they heaved at the
anchor. The wind was a nor'-wester, and beat with im-
patient gusts the loose canvas that hung ready to be shaken
out, while the stream rushed rapidly along her sides.

" Would I were to sail in you, wherever your voyage
tended ! " was my exclamation ; and I sat down to watch the
preparations, which the loud commands of the skipper
seemed to hasten and press forward. So occupied was I with
the stir and bustle on board the craft, where everything was
done with a lightning-speed, that I did not remark a boat's
crew, who sat leaning on their oars, beside the wall of the
stream ; and it was only when an accidental sound of their
voices struck me that I saw them.

" That's a signal to come away, Ben ! " said one of the
men. " He'll not wait no longer ! "

"And why should he lose a tide for any land-lugger of
them all ? It's not every day, besides, we get a nor'-wester
like this!"

" Well ! what d'ye mean to do ? " asked the former speaker.

" Give him ten minutes more, Ben," cried another. " Let's
have a chance of a dollar apiece, anyhow ! "

" There goes a shot ! " said the man called Ben, as he
pointed to the smack ; from whose bow-port the smoke was
lazily issuing. " I'll not stay here any longer ! shove her
away, lads ! "




WITHOUT further delay, the men prepared to obey the sum-
mons. The boat's chain was cast off', and, as she swung out
from the wall, I could see a small standard at her stern,
carrying a little white flag, which, as the breeze wafted
towards me, showed the enigmatical numbers 438.

I sprang to my legs and uttei'ed a cry of surprise.

"Well! what is it, master?" said Ben, looking np, and
probably expecting to see me take a header into the muddy

" That's the number ! " cried I, not knowing what I said.
" That's the very number ! "

" Very true, master, so it is ! but you ha'n't got the
counterpart, I guess ! "

"Yes, but I have, though ! " said I, producing the ticket
from the pocket-book.

" Why, darn me, if that a'n't himself ! " cried the men ;
and they sung out three hearty cheers at the discovery.

" Were you there long, old fellow ? " said Ben.

"About half an hour," said I.

" Tarnation ! and why did ye keep us a-waitin' ? didn't you
see the tide was on the ebb, and that Christy was making
signals every five minutes, or so ? "

" I was waiting waiting "

" Waiting for what ? I'd like to know."

" Waiting for my baggage ! " said I ; taking a long

" An' it ain't come yet ? "

" No ; I'm afraid they missed the road."

" Be that as it may, master, I'll not stay longer. Come
along without your kit, or stay behind with it, whichever you

" Hang the traps," said I, affecting a bold carelessness ;
" I've a few things there I left out loose, that will do. When
shall we be there? " This was a leading question, for I did
not yet know whither we were bound.

" At Galveston ? Well, to-morrow evening or by night-
fall, I guess, if the wind hold. Sit down there and make


yourself snug ; there's always a little splash of a sea in this
river. And now, lads, pull away! all together."

A second shot from the smack announced that her anchor
was tripped, and we saw her now lurch over as her foresail

The men pulled vigorously, and in about twenty minutes I
stood upon the deck of the Christobal, making sundry excuses
to her skipper for being late, and assuring him, on the faith
of a gentleman, that I had utterly forgotten all about my
voyage till the last moment.

" They only sent me the number from the office late last
night," said he, "and told me to look out for the gemman
about the docks. Hut I warn't goin' to do that, I said. He's
got a passage and grub to Galveston as good as ere a
gemman can de-sire ; he's won a nag they says is worth seven
or eight hundred dollars, with furniture and arms for the
new expedition ; and I take it them things is worth a-looking
arter so darn me blue if I gives myself no trouble about

These scattered hints were all I wanted. The sea-breeze
had restored me to my wonted clearness, and I now saw that
" 438 " meant that I had won a free passage to Texas, a
horse and a rifle when I got there ; so far the " exchange of
coats " was " with a difference." It was with an unspeakable
satisfaction that I learned I was the only passenger on board
the CArittobal. The other " gentlemen " of the expedition
had either already set out or abandoned the project, so that I
had not to undergo any unpleasant scrutiny into my past life,
or any impertinent inquiry regaining my future.

Old Kit Turrel, the skipper, did not play the grand inqui-
sitor on me. His life had been for the most part passed in
making the voyage to and from New Orleans and Galveston,
where he had, doubtless, seen sufficient of character to have
satisfied a glutton in eccentricity. There was not a runaway
rogue, or abandoned vagabond, that had left the coast for
years back with whose history he was not familiar. You had
but to give him a name, and out came the catalogue of his
misdeeds on the instant.

These revelations had a prodigious interest for me. They
opened the book of human adventure at the very chapter I
wanted. It was putting a keen edge upon the razor, to give
me the " last fashions in knavery " not to speak of the
greater advantage of learning the success attendant on each,
since " Kit " could tell precisely how it fared with every one
who had passed through his hands.


He enlightened me also as to these Texan expeditions,
which, to use his own phrase, had never been anything better
than " almighty swindles," planted to catch young flats from
the north country, the southerns being all too " crank" to bo

"And is there no expedition in reality? " said I, with all
the horror of a man who had been seduced from home, and
family, and friends under false pretences.

" There do be a dash now and then into the Camanche
trail, when buffaloes are plenty, or to bring down a stray
buck or so. Mayhap, too, they cut off an Injian fellow or
two, if he lingers too late in the fall ; and then they come
back with wonderful stories of storming villages, and
destroying war parties, and the rest of it ; but we knows
better. Most of 'em ere chaps are more used to picklocks
than rifles, and can handle a 'jemmy ' better than a ' bowie-
knife.' "

" And in the present case, what kind of fellows are
they ? "

He rolled a tobacco quid from side to side of his mouth,
and seemed to hesitate whether he would speak out.

" There is no danger with me, captain ; I am an English-
man, a perfect stranger here, and have never seen or heard
of a man amongst them."

"I see that," said he, "and your friends must be rank
green 'uns to let you go and join this trail, that's a fact."

" But what are they ? "

" Well, they call 'emselves horse-dealers ; but above
Austin there, and along by Bexar, they call 'em horse-
stealers! " and he laughed heartily at the excessive drollery
of the remark.

" And where do they trade with their cattle ? "

" They sells 'em here, or up in the States away north
sometimes, but they picks up the critters along the Chehuhua
Line, or down by Aguaverde, or San Pueblo. I've known
'em to go to Mexico, too. When they don't get scalped they've
rather good fun of it ; but they squabble a bit now and then
among 'emselves ; and so there's a Texan proverb, 'that
buffalo-meat in spring is as rare as a mustang merchant with
two eyes ! ' "

" What does that mean ? "

" They gouge a bit down there, they do, that's a fact.
I've known two or three join the Red men, and say Injians
was better living with, than them 'ere."

" I own your picture is not flattering."


" Yes, but it be, though! You don't know them chaps;
but I know 'em ay, for nigh forty year. I'm a-livin' on
this 'ere passage, and I've seen 'em all. I knew Bowlin Sam,
I did ! " From the manner this was said, I saw that Bowlin
Sam was a celebrity, to bo ignorant of whom was to confess
one's self an utter savage.

"To be sure I was only a child at the time; but I saw
him come aboard with the negro fellow, that ho followed up
the Red River trail. They were two of the biggest fellows
you could see. Sam stood six feet six-an'-a-quarter : the Black
was six feet four, but he had a stoop in his shoulders. Sam
tracked him for two years ; and many's the dodge they had
between 'em : but Sam took him at last, and he brought him
all the way from Guajaqualle here, bound with his hands
behind him, and a log of iron-wood in his mouth ; for he
could tenr like a jugnar.

" They were both on 'em ugly men Sam, very ugly ! Sam
could untwist the strongest links of an iron boat-chain, and
t'other fellow could bite a man-rope clean in two with his
teeth. ' The Black ' eat nothing from the time they took
him ; and when they put him into the shore-boat, in the
river, he was so weak they had to lift him like a child.
Well, out they rowed, into the middle of the stream, where
the water is roughest among the ' snags,' and many a whirl-
pool dashing around 'atween the bows of the ' sawyers.'
That's the spot you're sure to see one of these young sharks;
for the big chaps knows better than to look for their wittals
in dangerous places while the water is black, at times, with
alligators. Well, as I was sayin', out they rowed; and just
as they comes to this part of the stream, the black fellow
gives a spring, and drives both his heavy-ironed feet bnng
through the flooring-plank of the boat. It was past bailiu' ;
they were half swamped before they could ship their oars :
the minute after, they were all struggling in the river together.
There were three besides the nigger; but he was the only one
ever touched land again. He was an Antigua chap, that
same nigger ; and they knows sharks and caymans as we
does dog-fish ; but for all that, he was all bloody, and had
lost part of one foot, when he got ashore."

" Why had he been captured ? what had he done ? "

" What hadn't he clone ! that same black murdered more
men as any six in these parts ; he it was burned down Che-
coat's mill up at Brandy Cove, with all the people fastened
up within. Then he run away to the ' washins ' at Guaja-
qualle, \\hcre he killed Colonel Rixon, as was over the


' Placer.' He cut him in two with a bowie-knife, and never
a one guessed how it happened, as the jaguars had carried
off two or three people from the ' washins ' ; but the nigger
got drunk one night, and began a-cuttin' down the young
hemlock trees, and sayin', ' That's the way I mowed down
Buckra' Georgy' his name was George Kixon. Then, he
bolted, and was never seen more. Ah ! he was a down-
hard'un! that fellow Crick."

" Crick Menelaus Crick 1 " said I, almost springing up
with amazement as I spoke.

" Just so. You've heard enough of him 'fore now, I

The skipper went on to talk about the negro's early ex-
ploits, and the fearful life of crime which he had always
pursued ; but I heard little of what he said. The remem-
brance of the man himself, bowed down with years and
suffering, was before me ; and I thought how terribly murder
is expiated, even in those cases where the guilty man is
believed to have escaped. So is it ; the dock, the dungeon,
and the gallows, can be mercies in comparison with the self-
torment of eternal fear, the terror of companionship, or the
awful hell of solitude ! The scene at Anticosti, and the
terrific night in the Lower Town of Quebec, rose both
together to my mind, and so absorbed my thoughts, that the
old skipper, seeing my inattention, and believing that I was
weary and inclined for sleep, left me for the deck ; and I lay
still, pondering over these sad themes.

At last I roused myself and went on deck. The city had
long since disappeared from view, and even the low land at
the mouth of the river had faded in the distance ; while,
instead of the yellow polluted flood of the Mississippi, the
blue waves, shining and sparkling, danced merrily past, or
broke in foam-sheets at the bow. The white sails were bent
like boards, firm and immovable before the breeze, and the
swift vessel darted her way onward as proudly as though her
freight were something prouder and better than a poor ad-
venturer, without one in the wide world who cared whether
he won or lost the game with Fortune.

My spirits rose every mile we left New Orleans behind us ;
I felt besides, that to bring my skill to such a market, was
but to carry " coals to Newcastle : " nor, from the skipper's
account, did Texas offer a much more favourable field. How-
ever, it smacked of adventure ; the very name had a charm
for me, and I thought I should far rather confront actual
danger than live a life of petty schemes and small expedients.



But, what a strange crucible is the human heart ! here was I,
placed in a situation to which an incident had elevated me
of a kind which a more scrupulous sense of honour would
have made some shudder at fancying, ay, and persuading
myself too, that, in the main, I possessed very admirable
sentiments and most laudable ambitions ; that the occasional
little straits to which I was reduced, were only so many
practical jokes played on me by " Fate," which took, doubt-
less, a high delight in the ingenuity by which I always fell
on my feet, while I felt certain that, were I only fairly
treated, a more upright, honourable, straightforward young
gentleman never lived than I should prove !

" Let Dame Fortune only deal me trumps," said I, " and
I'll promise never 'to look into my neighbour's hand.'"
Gentle reader, you smile at my humility ; well, then, it's
clear you are neither a secretary of state, nor a railway
director that's all.

We dropped anchor off Galveston just as the sun was
setting ; and the evening being calm, and the reflection of
the houses and steeples in the water sharp and defined, the
scene was sufficiently striking. The city itself was more
important as to size and wealth than I had anticipated, and
the office of the " Texan Expedition," held at the " Moon," a
great coffee-house on the Quay, impressed me most favourably
with the respectability and pretensions of my " Co-expedi-
tionaries." Old Kit presented me to the Secretary a very
knavish-looking fellow in spectacles of black gauze as the
winner of the great prize ; which, to my excessive mortifica-
tion, I learned was at Houston, about eighty miles farther up
the Bay.

I apologized for my careless dress, by stating that my
baggage had been unfortunately left behind at New Orleans ;
and that in my haste I had been obliged to come on board
with actually nothing but the few dollars I had in my

"That's a misfortune easily repaired, sir," said the gauze-
eyed Secretary, " you can have your ' credit ' cashed hero
just as liberally as at any town in the country."

" I have no doubt of that," responded I, somewhat tartly,
for I did not fancy this allusion to banks and bankers " but
all my papers are in my portmanteau."

"Provoking, certainly," said he, taking a long pinch of
snuff, "ain't it, Kit?""

But Kit only scratched his nose, and looked puzzled.

" Are your bankers Vicixs and Bull, sir ? "


" N"o," said I, " my credits are all on a northern house : but
I fancy my name is tolerably well known. You've heard of
the Cregans, I suppose ? "

" Cregan Cregan," repeated he a couple of times : then
opening a huge ledger at the letter C, ran his eye down a long
column. " Crabtree Crossley Croxam Crebell Creffet
Cregmore. It is not Cregmore, sir ? "

" No, Cregan is the name."

"Ah, well, there's no Cregan. There was a Cregmore was
* lynched ' here, I see by the mark in the book, and we have a
small trunk waiting to be claimed belonging to him."

" That ain't the fellow as purtended to be winner of the
waggon team that was lotteried here a twelvemonth since, is
it ? " said Kit.

" Yes, but it is, though. He made out he had the ticket
all right and straight, when np comes one Colonel Jabus
Harper, and showed the real thing ; and the chaps took it up
hotly, and they lynched Cregmore that evening."

" Yes, sir, that's a fact," quoth Kit.

" What was the penalty ? " asked I, with a most imposing
incli flference.

" They hanged him up at Hall's Court yonder. I ain't sure
if he be'n't hanging there still."

"And this packet," said I for the theme was excessively
distasteful " when does she sail ? "

" She starts to-night, at twelve first cabin, two dollars ;
steerage, one-twenty."

" Thank you," said I, touching my hat, with the conde-
scending air one occasionally employs to humiliate an
inferior, by its mingled pride and courtesy ;, and I turned into
the street.

" You ain't a-going to Hall's Court, are you? " said Kit,
overtaking me.

" Of course not," responded I, indignantly. " Such sights
are anything but pleasurable."

" He ain't all right, that 'un," said Gauze-eyes, as old Kit
re-entered the office, and I stepped back to listen.

" Well, I don't know," muttered the other : " I'm a-think-
ing it be doubtful, sir. He ha'n't got much clink with him,
that's a fact."

" I have half a mind to send Chico up in the boat to-night,
just to dodge him a bit."

" Well, ye might do it," yawned the other ; " but Chico is
such an almighty willain that he'll make him out a rogue or
a swindler, at all events."

Q 2


" Chico is smart, that I do confess," said the other with a

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 23 of 50)