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Cornelius Agrippa could not have shown more signs of alarm than Mr.
Barnard Jones : his hand trembled so he could hardly hold the feather,
and he turned as white as a sheet ; but the countenance of Mr. BEranda,
who had been watching the manipulation with deep interest, did not
betray the slightest change. *

" Don't speak !" whispered the Jew. " We should be ruined if any
one came in."

** That is not possible," said Mr. Miranda, coolly, ** unless we please,
for the door is double-locked, and the chest is against it"

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<<I bad forgot ! 8*help me, I had forgot! Bat don't speak Who^
ewer it is he will go away if he g^ no answer."

But Mr. Barnard Jones was mistaken. Not only was the knocking
renewed more loudly than before, but the nasal tones of Colonel Wash^
ington M. Snakes became dktinctly audible.

** Merchant 1" he said, ^ ain't yon to home ? That cossed black nigger
on the landing told me you was. If he's made me bark up the wrong
tree I kinder tlunk he'll get an awful cowhiding. Ain't you to hoade,
merchant ?

^ Oh yes," replied Mr. Iifiranda, disregarding the imploring look of
his companion — '' but you can't come in at present I am dressing ; in
feet, shaving. Wait ten minutes below, and I'll join you at the bar."

*^ Shaving !" repeated the cofeoel. *^ 1 should have said liquoring, by
Ae smell ! And a tarnation phlegm-cutter, too ! It quite takes away
one's breath."

There was a particular reason for tliis effect, the colonePs eye being
just then screwed close to the keyhole.

** Not impossible," rejoined Mr. Miranda ; '^ I have been using some
hartshorn. It is very strong."

** Well, I'll just rench my mouth out below till you come down. You
won't be long now. But, I say, merchant, you haven't seen nothing of
that critter Jones ?"

" Not since breakfast," was the answer ; and as the colonel's retreating
footsteps were heard, the face of the Jew resumed its usual hue.

" What can the fellow want ?" he exclaimed, impatiently. ^* EEe very
nearly spoilt all my work."

*^ He has business like ourselves," said Mr. Miranda. '^ I dare say he
came to speak to me about his Wall Street project."

" You mean the Mississippi Sand-bank Company ! Is there anything
in it ? Is the sand so very good for making glass F'

^* Whether it is good or bad is of no consequence, provided it taket.
Sand or dust, what does it matter, if it gets into people's eyes T'
" And he wants us to take shares in his precious venture ?"
" Why not ? They will cost us nothing — that is to say," added Mr,
Miranda, correcting himself, and pointing to the table, ^^ only your labour
and the price of tiiese materials."

The Jew laughed wickedly : '*To take him in, too, won't be bad !"
Thereupon he resumed his work, and Mr. Miranda left him to join the

The former was right in his conjecture. The object of the colonel's
visit was to press his scheme.

The Mississippi Sand-bank was a property which Colonel Washington
M. Snakes had picked up on his travels — he did not explain how— -and
having lost everything but that when the Crolden Eagle was wrecked,
it was all he had to fall back upon. The remittances horn Snakesville
aomehow did not arrive.

''Perhaps," said the colonel, ''the all-fired place has gone to Bally-
hack while I was in Ca." — an idiomatic mode of describing the posstme
ruin of his patrimony during his absence.

Perhaps he was right ; but, if so, he bore his misfortune like a philo-
sopher. Had the Snakesville estate never been in existence he could

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kardly haTe displayed more eqaanimity ! The only apparent effect of
his loss was to give him a better opinion of the capabilities of ** Point
Alligator,** the name he gave to* his property : a name to which it had a
very good daim, at low water.

" That sand-bank was," he yowed, " the real grit. Nothing never
came nigh it for making of glass. He had fused it some. It oom«red
crystal ! Diamonds sung small beside it !"

It was impossible to doubt these asseverations. Mr. Miranda made no
attempt to controvert them. Indeed, the readiness with which he entered
into the colonel's views, would have excited the surprise of that gentleman
if he had not entertuned the most exalted idea of his own persuasive

Between parties so willing to come to an understanding very little time
was lost. Mr. Miranda agreed to purchase, and Colonel Washington M.
Snakes '^ convened *' to sell, for ten thousand dollars, two-thirds of his
interest in Point Alligator. This transaction was to be preliminary to
the formation of <* The Mississippi Sand-bank Company," in so many
thousand shares, at so many dollars per share. Mr. Miranda expressed
his firm belief in the capabilities of Point Alligator ; would complete the
purchase in a week ; and meanwhile lent the authority of his name to
such purposes as the colonel should think most serviceable to the general
cause, and, of course, the good of the public. No formal writings were
drawn up, written engagements being quite unnecessary between persons
of such strict principle as Mr. Miranda and Colonel Washington M.


There had for some time been a dreary monotony in the New Yoric
share-market. Wall Street was getting impatient for something new,
and eageriy caught at '< The Mississippi Sand-bank Company," introduced
to notice by the wealthy Lisbon firm whose name stood so high at the
Manhattan and other city banks. The shares, consequently, were soon
at a premium, and Colonel Washington M. Snakes was, as they say in
New York, ** as happy as a clam at hicph water." Mr. Miranda, in the
most punctual manner, had paid him the ten thousand dollars in bran-
new notes, from which fact we may infer that nothing had occurred to
prevent the completion of the artistic labours of Mr. Barnard Jones.

For the first time in his life Colonel Washington M. Snakes resolved
to be prudent: he would risk none of thai money; indeed, risking
'* money " had never been a weakness of his: he had pledged his honour
now and then, and lost it as often as it was pledged ; but money, oh no!
So, taking the advice of Mr. Miranda, he locked up the ten thousand
dollars, as a reserve, in case he should once more '^ see the elephant," a
zoological 6gure of speech expressive of utter impecuniosity, and turned
his attention to the subject of Mr. Miranda's chest, which, as I have
already mentioned, occupied a considerable share in his thoughts.

It is a delightful occupation, whatever cynics may say to Uke contrary,
to contemplate the prosperity of the deserving, and while Colonel Wash-
ington M. Snakes is philanthropically devbing the means of recovering

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hit braeftictor^s lost properfcj, it will do us good, I trust, to cast a glance
OD the position of Ifiranda and Co.

Had they succeeded to the full extent of their expectations ? Not yet.
They had a large amount of notes, of their own manufacture, in hand,
and were patiently waitbg for a favourable occasion to convert the bulk
of them into cash. . Pending that event, the IMGlssissippi Sand-bank shares
oon^ued daily to rise in price. The moment they reached a certain
figure Mr. Miranda intended to strike a blow that should be widely felt,
but he concealed the precise nature of his design even from his working

That Mr. Miranda, who had lost all his illicit earnings, should strive
to regain them by any means, however desperate, is not very surprising;
but that a Jew so cunning as Mr. Barnard Jones should imperu actw
money and his own safety by embarking in a scheme of wholesale forgery,
appears, at the first view, a thing to wonder at. But it must be borne
in mind that ever since the hour when the nefarious partnership began,
the authority of Mr. Miranda over his colleague was supreme. Under
him the genius of '* Jones" was rebuked. The former was the head, the
latter the hand. Each, it is true, was in the other's power, but with this
difference — that Ae stronger-minded of the two overawed the weaker. If
Mr. Miranda had suffered the hot to transpire that his golden casket held
only ** meagre lead," the case would undoubtedly have been altered; but
in that respect Mr. Barnard Jones was in a fooPs paradise. Could he
have been content with the sum he had already secreted, could he even
have limited his expectations to a share of Mr. Miranda's gold, he might
have been comparatively safe ; but greediness was his bane, as it is the
bane of all who make money too rapidly, whether by fair means or foul.
As the compact, moreover, was unholy, so was likely to be its issue :
having cheated all the world, it was but a natural consequence that the
conspirators should endeavour in the end to cheat each other, and already
they were both secretly preparing the means of departure.

But, however flattering th€ prospects of mortals, however astute their
policy, events are bevond their control, and it was not given to Miranda
and Co. to achieve the same success in America that had attended their
efforts in Africa and Australia. A slight accident turned the scale
against them.

By an oversight which would appear incredible, if oversights were not
always committod at the very wrong moment, Mr. Barnard Jones had
neglected to pay the stationer at whose shop he bought the tracing-
pi^>er which he had used for copying the Manhattan bank-note.

The tradesman did not doubt his customer, but he happened to be a
punctual man, who made up his accounts with great regularity, and, one
afternoon, a boy from his establiAment made his appearance at the bar
of Astor House, with a "little bill" in his hand, and asked for Mr.
Barnard Jones. That gentleman was not in, but his intimate friend,
Colonel Washington M. Snakes, who was solacing himself just then with
a ** cock-tail," overheard the inquiry and undertook to deliver the bill
into the hands of the person for whom it was intended. Nothing so
natural as that the colonel, having nothing to whittle, should amuse him-
self by looking at the items of the account.
• He cast his eyes on the sum total.

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^38 THE HTfirrosT or MR. XIRAimA.

<* Two dollarsy thirty-fiTe eeots,* be said. ^ That wonH tndrar ook
Mr. J., I reckon. What's it for, tho^? ' IncBa mk, ^ftj centM;
eake of Pmsrian blue, thirty ; mercantile thin post, forty; tracin^paper,
one dollar^ twenty/ Whaterer^s die meaning of these finns ? BlamM
it I can make out ! Let's try 'em again I < India ink, Pmsnan bitte,
Ain post, tracin'-paper/ Tracin'-paper ! That's used for copjin'!

Copyin'what? Letters, bills Hello! what am I thmkin'on? It

esa't be that I If/tis, Fm a rone gander! Stay! Them notes was
all of 'em new ones. Blest if I don't believe it is ! What was it I
spied him at when I peep'd through the keyhole ? He sat diere a
eppyin' somethin' then, though the merchant said he'd not seen him all
day. 'Twam't my bisness Men to seem to know better : m^ichant and
me was haWn' dealins ; *iis my bisness naw^ I reckon ! That 'ere harts-
horn, too, that smelt so strong ! Hartshorn ! Whip me for a goney,
why, 'twas aquafortis ! Oh, the thing's plain. I'm a gone gander!
Fm gouged! The/re into me like a diousand of brick! Tlrayll be
makin' straight shirt-tails if I don't stop 'em !"

The conviction was irresistiUe. Colonel Washington M. Snakes
rudied up-stairs to his own room, seised his portfolio, tore it open, took
out the notes that Mr.'Miranda had paid him, flattened them on the
table, examined every one, held them up to the light, looked at the blue
stamp, and laid them down again more bewildered than ever. His own
acuteness could not assist him in the matter, so dever was the imitation.

" I'll fix it, tho'," he cried, ^« They'll kinder reco'nise diese blue
pups at the Manhattan, if they're their bdongins."

With all the speed that a long^legg^ man in a state of frantic excite-
ment may be supposed to exert^ Colonel Washington M. Snakes ran
straight for the Manhattan Bank. His abrupt entry widiout his hat^
and hair all streaming, set all the place in commotion.

^ Mister !" he shouted to the nearest derk, as he dashed the notes
down on his desk, ^ look at them shinplasters ! Are they gen-n-ute or
ain't they?" . . . . '

With a coolness thi^t was irritating to the last degree, die derk lei-
surely lifted the notes, inspected them one by one, slightly puckered up
his lips at each separate inspection, and then laying them down, with one
hand restine on the pile, replied :

« Wus9 than wild-cats, Mister ! All ibrged !"

Prepared as he was, to a certain extent, for this mtimation, the jM
tittered by Colonel Washington M. Snakes was ^a caution to lUd
Indians." The pens dropped from the hands of every derk in the eate-
blishment ! In an instant a crowd was gathered round him. Whose
face first met his gaze ?

The face of Barnard Jones ?

The wily Jew, urged by desires excee£ng curiosity, had picked the
lock of Mr. Miranda's chest during his temporary absence in Wall S tr eet ,
and made the fatal discovery dnt all the expected gold was nothing but
basest metal. Deceived on so vital a question, he did not hesitate about
the course he should pursue. He would first draw out tiie forty thousand
dollars bdonging to Miranda and Co. in the Manhattan bank— he wodd
then apply for the reserved sum to the same amount which he had lef% ia
his own name at the Commercial — and no worse off dian when he firtfl

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arriTed in New York, would get away by the first train that started for
the Canadian frontier.

An excellent programme, if it oonld only hare been aoeomplished.
Unluckily, the Fates were against him.

Mr. Barnard Jonea was in the act o£ daiming bis balance — the money,
indeed, was being counted, for he wanted it in hard cash — when Colond
Washington M. Snakes entered the bank. The little Jew, however, did
not observe him, being absorbed in watching the cashier, who was piling
m the golden eagles. But at the fear^l cry, which suddenly filled the
maoe, he was starUed like the rest, and ran to see what was the matter.
The next moment he was in the clutches of Colonel Washington M.
Snakes, whose long talons were fixed in his throat He ga^ed and
struggled, but in vain.

'* This here all-fired cripple is the villin," cried the colonel to the by-
standers ; '< hold him some, you ! while I hunt up his 'panion !"

If any attempt were made to detain the speaker it was useless. He
was again making the best use of his legs, and instinct led him towards
Wall Street.

A little apart from the crowd Mr. Miranda was talking to a small knot
of speculators: his most agreeable smile was on his lips ; the Mississippi
Sandrbank shares had just been quoted at the premium which was to be
his maximum. In five minutes more his broker would have received the
order to sell ; but five minutes were not allowed him.

Like a tiger, a panther, a g^riUa, a brute the most furious. Colonel
Washington M. Snakes dashed aside those who chanced to stop his way,
and stood with ferocious aspect glaring on Mr. Miranda. The crippled
Jew had been beneath his personal vengeance, but the Portuguese was a
victim worthy of his rage. He drew out a revc^ver and fired.

While the smoke sdll floated over the spot, the affiighted brokers
raised the body of Mr. Miranda.

He had fallen stone dead !

• • • • •

On the same day that a London Detective took charge of Benjamin
Montefiore, alias Barnard Jones, alias Israel Barnett — his proper name
•—on that same day a New York jury unanimously acquitted Colonel
Washington M. Snakes of the charge of murdering Mr. Miranda. He
quitted the court in triumph, received an ovation from the city, and in
me New York journals of the following day his name was held up to the
admiration of the most enlightened nation on earth, as " The Man who
had vindicated the Commercial Honour of his Country."

The New York people, however, did not subscribe to rehabilitate
Colonel Washington M. Snakes in the price of the shares out of which
ba had (he said) beea so infemldly swindled : and the landlord of the
Aator House, who did not share in the popular sympathy, arrested the
colonel for the amount of the long bill which he had run up during his
stay at that hotel.

Colonel Washington M. Snakes is still in prison ; but when he suo-
oeeds in finding some one who will pay his '^ indebtedness," he means, he
says, to be a rich man again.


By fishing up Mr. Miranda's chest

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Piedmont is, undoubtedlj, of all the Italian states, the most warHke,
and the one upon which the hopes of the patriots in other states hare
been now for some time past concentrated. It has been justly designated
as thi " sword of Italy^ Had Piedmont been true to its mission — the
liberation and redemption of Italy — and had it proceeded to work oat
that mission with the aid of Italy ; had Piedmont, unconquered, whilst
all the rest of the peninsula was enslaved, reared herself up for the com-
bat as the rallying-point of extinguished nationalities, instead of asso-
ciating to themselves the Cratlic host, and reviving thereby the memory
of the times of Francis I., and Charles V., of Charles Emmanuel I., of
Victor Amadeus I. and II., and, indeed, of almost every monarch since
the reconstruction of Piedmont (1559 to 1580), the sympathies, if not
of the rulers, at all events of the people, and of all the civilised portions
of the worid would have been with her and with her cause.

Unfortunately, Piedmont, which its distinguished historian Gallenga
speaks of as ^^ a state of God's own making," and as ** the barrier which
Providence reared up for the defence of Italy,"* has, although an Alpine
and trans- Alpine state, more Swiss than French, and more Italian than
either, always been willingly or unwillingly involved in the vortex of
French politics. The battle-field of nations, she has stood, like Lombardy,
alternately befriended and then devastated, but still always victimised
by friends and foes alike. The only great peculiarity — the charm lent
to her up to the present time — the glory of her crown and unstained
escutcheon, till the Napoleon alliance — was her independence amid trials,
her freedom when surrounded by other people, all writhing in tiie chains
of old and new despotisms, or of a bygone feudal and monkish barbarism.
If the lessons of history are of any avail at the present crisis, it will be
found that it has always been so, and it is therefore probable that it will
also long be so— the prostration of the feeble, however aspiring, to
the strong. All around that circle of mountains which embrace the head
waters of the Po, ever since the time when the House of Savoy first put
forth their claims to the proud appellation of guardians of the Alps, they
have striven to add all the resources of art to the great fortifications
which nature had reared up for their defence. Every valley, except
where the rock and glacier scarcely allow a path for the chamois and its
hunter, has been barred by fortresses — battle -fields above the donds,
which have been repeatedly bathed by the best blood both of the French
and Piedmontese, and which the latter have never failed to rue when
forced by the former, or opened to their domineering hosts. Times go
by, people change, but the physical circumstances of the soil remain the
same; the congregations of people, till the introduction of railways,
scarcely ever varied, and the battie-fields of nations, whether on die
Rhine, the Meuse, the Danube, or the Po, have always been repeated so
near the same spots as to have been almost within the sound of the
booming guns.

* History of Piedmont By Antonio Gallengt. Three Yds. Chapman and

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The northern invasiona, which laid desolate all the provinces of the
Boman Empire, to the almost utter extinction of ancient civilisation, did
not loil in the end to reach the sub- Alpine and Lig^urian lands, but it was
in the same lands, not above thirty Hedmontese miles from Marengo, at
PoUentia, on the left bank of the Tanaro, that Alaric met with a first
check, and was driven thence to Verona and out of the country. When
a new race, or rather a confederacy of races — that of the Franks — first
overran Italy (536-553), they exercised cruelties ^^for which their
wicked race won so sinister a reputation even amongst barbarians.'*
*^ They had turned indiscriminately against firiends and foes ; they had
inflicted such dire calamities on the land, that they themselves perished
almost to a man of the distress, the famine, and plague which their own
blind rage had created.***

It was especially during the senseless, aimless expeditions that followed
upon the first budding of the Frank power, and which were renewed year
after year, that the Franks, whose ephemeral successes were invariably
attended by terrific reverses, gave rise to that ominous saying, so often
applied since to their descendants, that '^ the land of Italy was fiited to
be the tomb of their nation." (Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, canto xxxiii.)
In 665 the Lombards, under one of their iron-crowned kings, Grimoald,
destroyed an army of Clotaire II., near Asti, in the same ill-fated valley
of the Tanaro, in which are also the plains of San Julian, better known as

When a new race of rulers snatched the sceptre from the hands of the
worn-out Merovingians, their rulers, all in succession — Charles Martel,
his son Pepin, and his grandson Charlemagne— meditated, and the last
achieved, tne conquest of Italy. The Church afforded a pretext. " The
Carlovingian pxinces were all distinguished by that loose expedient piety
which, since the conversion of Clovis, had won the Frankish nation the
proud name of ' Eldest Dauehter of die Church,' and covered that mul-
titude of sins by which both its people and its rulers so fat exceeded all
the tribes of mankind.''

^e empire of Charlemagne was not, however, of very long duration ;
built up at a period in which the ruling nation of the Franks was hurry-
ing to its dissolution, it could hardly hold together for two venerations.
Together with its other provinces, South-eastern Gaul and r^orth Italy
— Surgundy and Lombardy — it passed into the hands now of one, now of
another of his sons and grandsons, till, at the deposition and death of the
last emperor of his race — Charles the Fat, in 888 — ^these countries had
already fallen, or were ready to fall, into the hands of powerful princes,
connected or not with the imperial family, who erected them into sepa-
rate kingdoms — a separation which, in an ill-conditioned and ill-fated
country like Italy, only led to civil wars, far more fatal to the cause of
humanity than even the barbaric incursions.

Savoy — whose modem name, Sapaudia, or Sabaudia, first appears in
history in the fourth centuryf — ^first became a separate state at the break-
ing up of the empire of Charlemagne. Its government, however, being
Burgundian, its direction was munly in France, having alternately

* Prooop., De BeUo Gothico^ n. 25; Muratori, Bemm Italicamm Scriptor.,
1. 295.
t Ammianus MarceQinus, XV. 11.

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G«ievay LjoDf, and yienae £or iti oapiUL Both Fnmk and Lombard,
howerer, alike eschewed the high moaiitainc, and in thoee earlj timM
* the renowned ralet of Soaa and Aoeta were, like the whole of the
Valais, but wilderness and unreclaimed forest. Although the fiuned
ekiusey or eciutes (fortificatioas eieoted at the eotraaoe of vaUeys),
existed in the Val di Snsa as far back as the time of Qiarlemagne, and
the £uBons sA>bey of the Novalaise was founded at the £oot of Moont
Cenis, in 726, l^ a Prankish lord dri?en to Susa by the Soraeen inoor-
sions, still there is no doubt birt that, in these eauj times, the whda
▼alley was little better than rook and swamp.*

•L Under Charlemagne and hb descendants, the Alps became agidn the
true limits between Prankish and Italian laa^ The valleys of Susa
and Aosta were restored to the latter kingdom, though Susa continued
to be a depMidency of the diooese of Maurienne, as it had been since
Gontran, King c£ Burgundy, efected that diooese at St. Jean de Man-
rienne in 576. Aosta, alse^ as a bishopric, was united to the metro-
politan see of Vienne, though it ^giaally depended on Milan ; and it

Online LibraryCharles DickensBentley's miscellany → online text (page 84 of 86)