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Justice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life online

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families, Mr. Soloman is your man. Are you worth a fee, and want
legal advice, he will give it exactly to your liking. Indeed, he
will lie you into the most hopeless suit, and with equal pertinacity
lie you out of the very best. Every judge is his friend and most
intimate acquaintance. He is always rollicking, frisking, and
insinuating himself into something, affects to be the most liberal
sort of a companion, never refuses to drink when invited, but never
invites any one unless he has a motive beyond friendship. Mr.
Keepum, the wealthy lottery broker, who lives over the way, in Broad
street, in the house with the mysterious signs, is his money-man.
This Keepum, the man with the sharp visage and guilty countenance,
has an excellent standing in society, having got it as the reward of
killing two men. Neither of these deeds of heroism, however, were
the result of a duel. Between these worthies there exists relations
mutually profitable, if not the most honorable. And notwithstanding
Mr. Soloman is forever sounding Mr. Keepum's generosity, the said
Keepum has a singular faculty for holding with a firm grasp all he
gets, the extent of his charities being a small mite now and then to
Mr. Hadger, the very pious agent for the New York Presbyterian Tract
Society. Mr. Hadger, who by trading in things called negroes, and
such like wares, has become a man of great means, twice every year
badgers the community in behalf of this society, and chuckles over
what he gets of Keepum, as if a knave's money was a sure panacea for
the cure of souls saved through the medium of those highly
respectable tracts the society publishes to suit the tastes of the
god slavery. Mr. Keepum, too, has a very high opinion of this
excellent society, as he calls it, and never fails to boast of his
contributions.

It is night. The serene and bright sky is hung with brighter stars.
Our little fashionable world has got itself arrayed in its best
satin-and is in a flutter. Carriages, with servants in snobby coats,
beset the doors of the theatre. A flashing of silks, satins,
brocades, tulle and jewelry, distinguished the throng pressing
eagerly into the lobbies, and seeking with more confusion than grace
seats in the dress circle. The orchestra has played an overture, and
the house presents a lively picture of bright-colored robes. Mr.
Snivel's handsome figure is seen looming out of a private box in the
left-hand procenium, behind the curtain of which, and on the
opposite side, a mysterious hand every now and then frisks, makes a
small but prudent opening, and disappears. Again it appears, with
delicate and chastely-jeweled fingers. Cautiously the red curtain
moves aside apace, and the dark languishing eyes of a female,
scanning over the dress-circle, are revealed. She recognizes the
venerable figure of Judge Sleepyhorn, who has made a companion of
George Mullholland, and sits at his side in the parquette. Timidly
she closes the curtain.

In the right-hand procenium box sits, resplendent of jewels and
laces, and surrounded by her many admirers, the beautiful and very
fashionable Madame Montford, a woman of singularly regular features,
and more than ordinary charms. Opinion is somewhat divided on the
early history of Madame Montford. Some have it one thing, some
another. Society is sure to slander a woman of transcendent beauty
and intellect. There is nothing in the world more natural,
especially when those charms attract fashionable admirers. It is
equally true, too, that if you would wipe out any little taint that
may hang about the skirts of your character you must seek the
panacea in a distant State, where, with the application of a little
diplomacy you may become the much sought for wonder of a new
atmosphere and new friends, as is the case with Madame Montford, who
rebukes her New York neighbors of the Fifth Avenue (she has a
princely mansion there), with the fact that in Charleston she is,
whenever she visits it, the all-absorbing topic with fashionable
society. For four successive winters Madame Montford has honored the
elite of Charleston with her presence. The advent of her coming,
too, has been duly heralded in the morning papers-to the infinite
delight of the St. Cecilia Society, which never fails to distinguish
her arrival with a ball. And this ball is sure to be preceded with
no end of delicately-perfumed cards, and other missives, as full of
compliments as it is capable of cramming them. There is,
notwithstanding all these ovations in honor of her coming, a mystery
hanging over her periodical visits, for the sharp-eyed persist that
they have seen her disguised, and in suspicious places; making
singular inquiries about a woman of the name of Mag Munday. And
these suspicions have given rise to whisperings, and these
whisperings have crept into the ears of several very old and
highly-respectable "first families," which said families have
suddenly dropped her acquaintance. But what is more noticeable in
the features of Madame Montford, is the striking similarity between
them and Anna Bonard's. Her most fervent admirers have noticed it;
while strangers have not failed to discover it, and to comment upon
it. And the girl who sits in the box with Mr. Snivel, so cautiously
fortifying herself with the curtain, is none other than Anna. Mr.
Snivel has brought her here as an atonement for past injuries.

Just as the curtain is about to rise, Mr. McArthur, true to his
word, may be seen toddling to the stage door, his treasure carefully
tied up in a handkerchief. He will deliver it to no one but the
manager, and in spite of his other duties that functionary is
compelled to receive it in person. This done, the old man, to the
merriment of certain wags who delight to speculate on his childlike
credulity, takes a seat in the parquette, wipes clean his venerable
spectacles, and placing them methodically over his eyes, forms a
unique picture in the foreground of the audience. McArthur, with the
aid of his glasses, can recognize objects at a distance; and as the
Hamlet of the night is decidedly Teutonic in his appearance and
pronunciation, he has no great relish for the Star, nor a hand of
applause to bestow on his genius. Hamlet, he is sure, never
articulated with a coarse brogue. So turning from the stage, he
amuses himself with minutely scanning the faces of the audience, and
resolving in his mind that something will turn up in the
grave-digger's scene, of which he is an enthusiastic admirer. It is,
indeed, he thinks to himself, very doubtful, whether in this wide
world the much-abused William Shakspeare hath a more ardent admirer
of this curious but faithful illustration of his genius. Suddenly
his attention seems riveted on the private box, in which sits the
stately figure of Madame Montford, flanked in a half-circle by her
perfumed and white-gloved admirers. "What!" exclaims the old man, in
surprise, rubbing and replacing his glasses, "if I'm not deceived!
Well-I can't be. If there isn't the very woman, a little altered,
who has several times looked into my little place of an evening. Her
questions were so curious that I couldn't make out what she really
wanted (she never bought anything); but she always ended with
inquiring about poor Mag Munday. People think because I have all
sorts of things, that I must know about all sorts of things. I never
could tell her much that satisfied her, for Mag, report had it, was
carried off by the yellow fever, and nobody ever thought of her
afterwards. And because I couldn't tell this woman any more, she
would go away with tears in her eyes." Mr. McArthur whispers to a
friend on his right, and touches him on the arm, "Pooh! pooh!"
returns the man, with measured indifference, "that's the reigning
belle of the season-Madame Montford, the buxom widow, who has been
just turned forty for some years."

The play proceeds, and soon the old man's attention is drawn from
the Widow Montford by the near approach to the scene of the
grave-digger. And as that delineator enters the grave, and commences
his tune, the old man's anxiety increases.

A twitching and shrugging of the shoulders, discovers Mr. McArthur's
feelings. The grave-digger, to the great delight of the Star,
bespreads the stage with a multiplicity of bones. Then he follows
them with a skull, the appearance of which causes Mr. McArthur to
exclaim, "Ah! that's my poor Yorick." He rises from his seat, and
abstractedly stares at the Star, then at the audience. The audience
gives out a spontaneous burst of applause, which the Teutonic Hamlet
is inclined to regard as an indignity offered to superior talent. A
short pause and his face brightens with a smile, the grave-digger
shoulders his pick, and with the thumb of his right hand to his
nasal organ, throws himself into a comical attitude. The audience
roar with delight; the Star, ignorant of the cause of what he
esteems a continued insult, waves his plumes to the audience, and
with an air of contempt walks off the stage.






CHAPTER XIII.

MRS. SWIGGS COMES TO THE RESCUE OF THE HOUSE OF THE FOREIGN
MISSIONS.





"AN excellent society-excellent, I assure you, Madame - "

"Truly, Mr. Hadger," interrupted Mrs. Swiggs, "your labors on behalf
of this Tract Society will be rewarded in heaven - "

"Dear - a - me," Mr. Hadger returns, ere Mrs. Swiggs can finish her
sentence, "don't mention such a thing. I assure you it is a labor of
love."

"Their tracts are so carefully got up. If my poor old negro property
could only read - (Mrs. Swiggs pauses.) I was going to say-if it
wasn't for the law (again she pauses), we couldn't prejudice our
cause by letting our negroes read them - "

"Excuse the interruption," Mr. Hadger says, "but it wouldn't do,
notwithstanding (no one can be more liberal than myself on the
subject of enlightening our negro property!) the Tract Society
exhibits such an unexceptionable regard to the requirements of our
cherished institution."

This conversation passes between Mrs. Swiggs and Mr. Hadger, who, as
he says with great urbanity of manner, just dropped in to announce
joyous tidings. He has a letter from Sister Abijah Slocum, which
came to hand this morning, enclosing one delicately enveloped for
Sister Swiggs. "The Lord is our guide," says Mrs. Swiggs, hastily
reaching out her hand and receiving the letter. "Heaven will reward
her for the interest she takes in the heathen world."

"Truly, if she hath not now, she will have there a monument of
gold," Mr. Hadger piously pursues, adding a sigh.

"There! there! - my neuralgy; it's all down my left side. I'm not long
for this world, you see!" Mrs. Swiggs breaks out suddenly, then
twitches her head and oscillates her chin. And as if some electric
current had changed the train of her thoughts, she testily seizes
hold of her Milton, and says: "I have got my Tom up again-yes I
have, Mr. Hadger."

Mr. Hadger discovers the sudden flight her thoughts have taken: "I
am sure," he interposes, "that so long as Sister Slocum remains a
member of the Tract Society we may continue our patronage."

Mrs. Swiggs is pleased to remind Mr. Hadger, that although her means
have been exceedingly narrowed down, she has not, for the last ten
years, failed to give her mite, which she divides between the house
of the "Foreign Missions," and the "Tract Society."

A nice, smooth-faced man, somewhat clerically dressed, straight and
portly of person, and most unexceptionable in his morals, is Mr.
Hadger. A smile of Christian resignation and brotherly love happily
ornaments his countenance; and then, there is something venerable
about his nicely-combed gray whiskers, his white cravat, his snowy
hair, his mild brown eyes, and his pleasing voice. One is almost
constrained to receive him as the ideal of virtue absolved in
sackcloth and ashes. As an evidence of our generosity, we regard him
an excellent Christian, whose life hath been purified with an
immense traffic in human - (perhaps some good friend will crack our
skull for saying it).

In truth (though we never could find a solution in the Bible for
it), as the traffic in human property increased Mr. Hadger's riches,
so also did it in a corresponding ratio increase his piety. There
is, indeed, a singular connection existing between piety and
slavery; but to analyze it properly requires the mind of a
philosopher, so strange is the blending.

Brother Hadger takes a sup of ice-water, and commences reading
Sister Slocum's letter, which runs thus: "NEW YORK, May -, 1850.
"DEAR BROTHER HADGER:

"Justice and Mercy is the motto of the cause we have lent our hands
and hearts to promote. Only yesterday we had a gathering of kind
spirits at the Mission House in Centre street, where, thank God, all
was peace and love. We had, too, an anxious gathering at the 'Tract
Society's rooms.' There it was not so much peace and love as could
have been desired. Brother Bight seemed earnest, but said many
unwise things; and Brother Scratch let out some very unwise
indiscretions which you will find in the reports I send. There was
some excitement, and something said about what we got from the South
not being of God's chosen earnings. And there was something more let
off by our indiscreet Brothers against the getting up of the tracts.
But we had a majority, and voted down our indiscreet Brothers,
inasmuch as it was shown to be necessary not to offend our good
friends in the South. Not to give offence to a Brother is good in
the sight of the Lord, and this Brother Primrose argued in a most
Christian speech of four long hours or more, and which had the
effect of convincing every one how necessary it was to free the
tracts of everything offensive to your cherished institution. And
though we did not, Brother Hadger, break up in the continuance of
that love we were wont to when you were among us, we sustained the
principle that seemeth most acceptable to you-we gained the victory
over our disaffected Brothers. And I am desired on behalf of the
Society, to thank you for the handsome remittance, hoping you will
make it known, through peace and love, to those who kindly
contributed toward it. The Board of 'Foreign Missions,' as you will
see by the report, also passed a vote of thanks for your favor. How
grateful to think what one will do to enlighten the heathen world,
and how many will receive a tract through the medium of the other.

"We are now in want of a few thousand dollars, to get the Rev.
Singleton Spyke, a most excellent person, off to Antioch. Aid us
with a mite, Brother Hadger, for his mission is one of God's own.
The enclosed letter is an appeal to Sister Swiggs, whose yearly
mites have gone far, very far, to aid us in the good but mighty work
now to be done. Sister Swiggs will have her reward in heaven for
these her good gifts. How thankful should she be to Him who provides
all things, and thus enableth her to bestow liberally.

"And now, Brother, I must say adieu! May you continue to live in the
spirit of Christian love. And may you never feel the want of these
mites bestowed in the cause of the poor heathen. "SISTER ABIJAH
SLOCUM."

"May the good be comforted!" ejaculates Mrs. Swiggs, as Mr. Hadger
concludes. She has listened with absorbed attention to every word,
at times bowing, and adding a word of approval. Mr. Hadger hopes
something may be done in this good cause, and having interchanged
sundry compliments, takes his departure, old Rebecca opening the
door.

"Glad he's gone!" the old lady says to herself. "I am so anxious to
hear the good tidings Sister Slocum's letter conveys." She wipes and
wipes her venerable spectacles, adjusts them piquantly over her
small, wicked eyes, gives her elaborate cap-border a twitch forward,
frets her finger nervously over the letter, and gets herself into a
general state of confritteration. "There!" she says, entirely
forgetting her Milton, which has fallen on the floor, to the great
satisfaction of the worthy old cat, who makes manifest his regard
for it by coiling himself down beside it, "God bless her. It makes
my heart leap with joy when I see her writing," she pursues, as old
Rebecca stands contemplating her, with serious and sullen
countenance. Having prilled and fussed over the letter, she
commences reading in a half whisper: "NO. -, 4TH AVENUE, NEW YORK,
May -, 1850. "MUCH BELOVED SISTER:

"I am, as you know, always overwhelmed with business; and having
hoped the Lord in his goodness yet spares you to us, and gives you
health and bounty wherewith to do good, must be pardoned for my
brevity. The Lord prospers our missions among the heathen, and the
Tract Society continues to make its labors known throughout the
country. It, as you will see by the tracts I send here - with, still
continues that scrupulous regard to the character of your domestic
institution which has hitherto characterized it. Nothing is
permitted to creep into them that in any way relates to your
domestics, or that can give pain to the delicate sensibilities of
your very excellent and generous people. We would do good to all
without giving pain to any one. Oh! Sister, you know what a wicked
world this is, and how it becomes us to labor for the good of
others. But what is this world compared with the darkness of the
heathen world, and those poor wretches ('Sure enough!' says Mrs.
Swiggs) who eat one another, never have heard of a God, and prefer
rather to worship idols of wood and stone. When I contemplate this
dreadful darkness, which I do night and day, day and night, I invoke
the Spirit to give me renewed strength to go forward in the good
work of bringing from darkness ('Just as I feel,' thinks Mrs.
Swiggs) unto light those poor benighted wretches of the heathen
world. How often I have wished you could be here with us, to add
life and spirit to our cause-to aid us in beating down Satan, and
when we have got him down not to let him up. The heathen world never
will be what it should be until Satan is bankrupt, deprived of his
arts, and chained to the post of humiliation-never! ('I wish I had
him where my Tom is!' Mrs. Swiggs mutters to herself.) Do come on
here, Sister. We will give you an excellent reception, and make you
so happy while you sojourn among us. And now, Sister, having never
appealed to you in vain, we again extend our hand, hoping you will
favor the several very excellent projects we now have on hand.
First, we have a project-a very excellent one, on hand, for
evangelizing the world; second, in consideration of what has been
done in the reign of the Seven Churches-Pergamos Thyatira, Magnesia,
Cassaba, Demish, and Baindir, where all is darkness, we have
conceived a mission to Antioch; and third, we have been earnestly
engaged in, and have spent a few thousand dollars over a project of
the 'Tract Society,' which is the getting up of no less than one or
two million of their excellent tracts, for the Dahomy field of
missionary labor-such as the Egba mission, the Yoruba mission, and
the Ijebu missions. Oh! Sister, what a field of labor is here open
to us. And what a source of joy and thankfulness it should be to us
that we have the means to labor in those fields of darkness. We have
selected brother Singleton Spyke, a young man of great promise, for
this all-important mission to Antioch. He has been for the last four
years growing in grace and wisdom. No expense has been spared in
everything necessary to his perfection, not even in the selection of
a partner suited to his prospects and future happiness. We now want
a few thousand dollars to make up the sum requisite to his mission,
and pay the expenses of getting him off. Come to our assistance,
dear Sister-do come! Share with us your mite in this great work of
enlightening the heathen, and know that your deeds are recorded in
heaven. ('Verily!' says the old lady.) And now, hoping the Giver of
all good will continue to favor you with His blessing, and preserve
you in that strength of intellect with which you have so often
assisted us in beating down Satan, and hoping either to have the
pleasure of seeing you, or hearing from you soon, I will say adieu!
subscribing myself a servant in the cause of the heathen, and your
sincere Sister, "MRS. ABIJAH SLOCUM.

"P.S. - Remember, dear Sister, that the amount of money expended in
idol-worship - in erecting monster temples and keeping them in
repair, would provide comfortable homes and missions for hundreds of
our very excellent young men and women, who are now ready to buckle
on the armor and enter the fight against Satan. "A.S."

"Dear-a-me," she sighs, laying the letter upon the table, kicking
the cat as she resumes her rocking, and with her right hand
restoring her Milton to its accustomed place on the table.
"Rebecca," she says, "will get a pillow and place it nicely at my
back." Rebecca, the old slave, brings the pillow. "There, there!
now, not too high, nor too low, Rebecca!" her thin, sharp voice
echoes, as she works her shoulders, and permits her long fingers to
wander over her cap-border. "When 'um got just so missus like,
say-da he is!" mumbles the old negress in reply. "Well, well-a
little that side, now - " The negress moves the pillow a little to the
left. "That's too much, Rebecca-a slight touch the other way. You
are so stupid, I will have to sell you, and get Jewel to take care
of me. I would have done it before but for the noise of her crutch-I
would, Rebecca! You never think of me-you only think of how much
hominy you can eat." The old negress makes a motion to move the
pillow a little to the right, when Mrs. Swiggs settles her head and
shoulders into it, saying, "there!"

"Glad 'um suit-fo'h true!" retorts the negress, her heavy lips and
sullen face giving out the very incarnation of hatred.

"Now don't make a noise when you go out." Rebecca in reply says she
is "gwine down to da kitchen to see Isaac," and toddles out of the
room, gently closing the door after her.

Resignedly Mrs. Swiggs closes her eyes, moderates her rocking, and
commences evolving and revolving the subject over in her mind. "I
haven't much of this world's goods-no, I haven't; but I'm of a good
family, and its name for hospitality must be kept up. Don't see that
I can keep it up better than by helping Sister Slocum and the Tract
Society out," she muses. But the exact way to effect this has not
yet come clear to her mind. Times are rather hard, and, as we have
said before, she is in straightened circumstances, having, for
something more than ten years, had nothing but the earnings of
eleven old negroes, five of whom are cripples, to keep up the
dignity of the house of the Swiggs. "There's old Zeff," she says,
"has took to drinking, and Flame, his wife, ain't a bit better; and
neither one of them have been worth anything since I sold their two
children-which I had to do, or let the dignity of the family suffer.
I don't like to do it, but I must. I must send Zeff to the
workhouse-have him nicely whipped, I only charge him eighteen
dollars a month for himself, and yet he will drink, and won't pay
over his wages. Yes! - he shall have it. The extent of the law, well
laid on, will learn him a lesson. There's old Cato pays me twenty
dollars a month, and Cato's seventy-four-four years older than Zeff.
In truth, my negro property is all getting careless about paying
wages. Old Trot runs away whenever he can get a chance; Brutus has
forever got something the matter with him; and Cicero has come to be
a real skulk. He don't care for the cowhide; the more I get him
flogged the worse he gets. Curious creature! And his old woman,
since she broke her leg, and goes with a crutch, thinks she can do
just as she pleases. There is plenty of work in her-plenty; she has
no disposition to let it come out, though! And she has kept up a
grumbling ever since I sold her girls. Well, I didn't want to keep
them all the time at the whipping-post; so I sold them to save their
characters." Thus Mrs. Swiggs muses until she drops into a profound
sleep, in which she remains, dreaming that she has sold old Mumma
Molly, Cicero's wife, and with the proceeds finds herself in New
York, hob-nobbing it with Sister Slocum, and making one extensive
donation to the Tract Society, and another to the fund for getting
Brother Singleton Spyke off to Antioch. Her arrival in Gotham, she
dreams, is a great event. The Tract Society (she is its guest) is
smothering her with its attentions. Indeed, a whole column and a
half of the very conservative and highly respectable old Observer is
taken up with an elaborate and well-written history of her many
virtues.

The venerable old lady dreams herself into dusky evening, and wakes



Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 10 of 29)