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

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the gold question. Mark ye, Mullholland! - there is an easy way to get
money. Do you take? (His fingers wander over his forehead, as he
watches intently in George's face.) You can make names? Such things
are done by men in higher walks, you know. Quite a common affair in
these parts. The Judge has carried off your property; make a fair
exchange-you can use his name, get money with it, and make it hold
fast the woman you love. There are three things, George, you may set
down as facts that will be of service to you through life, and they
are these: when a man eternally rings in your ears the immoralities
of the age, watch him closely; when a man makes what he has done for
others a boast, set him down a knave; and when a woman dwells upon
the excellent qualities of her many admirers, set her down as
wanting. But, get money, and when you have got it, charm back this
beautiful creature."

Such is the advice of Mr. Soloman Snivel, the paid intriguer of the
venerable Judge.



THE two lone revellers remain at the pier-table; moody and hectic.
Mr. Snivel drops into a sound sleep, his head resting on the marble.
Weak-minded, jealous, contentious-with all the attendants natural to
one who leads an unsettled life, sits George Mullholland, his elbow
resting on the table, and his head poised thoughtfully in his hand.
"I will have revenge-sweet revenge; yes, I will have revenge
to-night!" he mutters, and sets his teeth firmly.

In Anna's chamber all is hushed into stillness. The silvery
moonbeams play softly through the half-closed windows, lighting up
and giving an air of enchantment to the scene. Curtains hang,
mist-like, from massive cornices in gilt. Satin drapery,
mysteriously underlaid with lace, and floating in bewitching
chasteness over a fairy-like bed, makes more voluptuous that
ravishing form calmly sleeping-half revealed among the snowy sheets,
and forming a picture before which fancy soars, passion unbends
itself, and sentiment is led away captive. With such exquisite forms
strange nature excites our love; - that love that like a little stream
meanders capriciously through our feelings, refreshing life,
purifying our thoughts, exciting our ambition, and modulating our
actions. That love, too, like a quick-sand, too often proves a
destroyer to the weak-minded.

Costly chairs, of various styles, carved in black walnut, stand
around the chamber: lounges covered with chastely-designed tapestry
are seen half concealed by the gorgeous window curtains. The foot
falls upon a soft, Turkey carpet; the ceiling-in French white, and
gilt mouldings-is set off with two Cupids in a circle, frescoed by a
skilled hand. On a lounge, concealed in an alcove masked by curtains
pending from the hands of a fairy in bronze, and nearly opposite
Anna's bed, the old Judge sleeps in his judicial dignity. To-day he
sentenced three rogues to the whipping-post, and two wretched
negroes-one for raising his hand to a white man-to the gallows.

Calmly Anna continues to sleep, the lights in the girandoles
shedding a mysterious paleness over the scene. To the eye that scans
only the exterior of life, how dazzling! Like a refulgent cloud
swelling golden in the evening sky, how soon it passes away into
darkness and disappointment! Suddenly there appears, like a vision
in the chamber, the stately figure of a female. Advancing slowly to
the bed-side, for a minute she stands contemplating the sleeping
beauty before her. A dark, languishing eye, an aquiline nose,
beautifully-cut mouth, and a finely-oval face, is revealed by the
shadow in which she stands. "How willingly," she mutters, raising
the jewelled fingers of her right hand to her lips, as her eyes
become liquid with emotion, and her every action betokens one whose
very soul is goaded with remorse, "would I exchange all these
worldly pleasures for one single day in peace of mind." She lays
aside her mantle, and keeps her eyes fixed upon the object before
her. A finely-rounded shoulder and exactly-developed bust is set
off with a light satin boddice or corsage, cut low, opening
shawl-fashion at the breast, and relieved with a stomacher of fine
Brussels lace. Down the edges are rows of small, unpolished pearls,
running into points. A skirt of orange-colored brocade, trimmed with
tulle, and surrounded with three flounces, falls, cloud-like, from
her girdle, which is set with cameos and unpolished pearls. With her
left hand she raises slightly her skirts, revealing the embroidered
gimps of a white taffeta underskirt, flashing in the moonlight.
Small, unpolished pearls ornament the bands of her short sleeves; on
her fingers are rings, set with diamonds and costly emeralds; and
her wrists are clasped with bracelets of diamonds, shedding a modest
lustre over her marble-like arms.

"Can this be my child? Has this crime that so like a demon haunts
me-that curses me even in my dreams, driven her, perhaps against her
will, to seek this life of shame?" She takes the sleeper's hand
gently in her own, as the tears gush down her cheeks.

The sleeper startles, half raises herself from her pillow, parts her
black, silky hair, that lays upon her gently-swelling bosom, and
throws it carelessly down her shoulders, wildly setting her great
black orbs on the strange figure before her. "Hush, hush!" says the
speaker, "I am a friend. One who seeks you for a good purpose. Give
me your confidence-do not betray me! I need not tell you by what
means I gained access to you."

A glow of sadness flashes across Anna's countenance. With a look of
suspicion she scans the mysterious figure from head to foot. "It is
the Judge's wife!" she says within herself. "Some one has betrayed
me to her; and, as is too often the case, she seeks revenge of the
less guilty party." But the figure before her is in full dress, and
one seeking revenge would have disguised herself. "Why, and who is
it, that seeks me in this mysterious manner?" whispers Anna, holding
her delicate hand in the shadow, over her eyes. "I seek you in the
hope of finding something to relieve my troubled spirit. I am a
mother who has wronged her child-I have no peace of mind-my heart is
lacerated - "

"Are you, then, my mother?" inerrupts Anna, with a look of scorn.

"That I would answer if I could. You have occupied my thoughts day
and night. I have traced your history up to a certain period. ("What
I know of my own, I would fain not contemplate," interrupts Anna.)
Beyond that, all is darkness. And yet there are circumstances that
go far to prove you the child I seek. Last night I dreamed I saw a
gate leading to a dungeon, that into the dungeon I was impelled
against my will. While there I was haunted with the figure of a
woman of the name of Mag Munday-a maniac, and in chains! My heart
bled at the sight, for she, I thought, was the woman in whose charge
I left the child I seek. I spoke-I asked her what had become of the
child! She pointed with her finger, told me to go seek you here, and
vanished as I awoke. I spent the day in unrest, went to the ball
to-night, but found no pleasure in its gay circle. Goaded in my
conscience, I left the ball-room, and with the aid of a confidant am

"I recognize-yes, my lady, I recognize you! You think me your
abandoned child, and yet you are too much the slave of society to
seek me as a mother ought to do. I am the supposed victim of your
crime; you are the favored and flattered ornament of society. Our
likenesses have been compared many times:-I am glad we have met. Go,
woman, go! I would not, outcast as I am, deign to acknowledge the
mother who could enjoy the luxuries of life and see her child a

"Woman! do not upbraid me. Spare, oh! spare my troubled heart this
last pang," (she grasps convulsively at Anna's hand, then shrinks
back in fright.) "Tell me! oh, tell me!" she pursues, the tears
coursing down her cheeks -

Anna Bonard interrupts by saying, peremptorily, she has nothing to
tell one so guilty. To be thus rebuked by an abandoned woman,
notwithstanding she might be her own child, wounded her feelings
deeply. It was like poison drying up her very blood. Tormented with
the thought of her error, (for she evidently labored under the smart
of an error in early life,) her very existence now seemed a burden
to her. Gloomy and motionless she stood, as if hesitating how best
to make her escape.

"Woman! I will not betray your coming here. But you cannot give me
back my virtue; you cannot restore me untainted to the world-the
world never forgives a fallen woman. Her own sex will be first to
lacerate her heart with her shame." These words were spoken with
such biting sarcasm, that the Judge, whose nap the loudness of
Anna's voice had disturbed, protruded his flushed face and snowy
locks from out the curtains of the alcove. "The gay Madame Montford,
as I am a Christian," he exclaims in the eagerness of the moment,
and the strange figure vanishes out of the door.

"A fashionable, but very mysterious sort of person," pursues the
Judge, confusedly. "Ah! ha, - her case, like many others, is the want
of a clear conscience. Snivel has it in hand. A great knave, but a
capital lawyer, that Snivel - "

The Judge is interrupted in his remarks by the entrance of Mr.
Snivel, who, with hectic face, and flushed eyes, comes rushing into
the chamber. "Hollo! - old boy, there's a high bid on your head
to-night. Ready to do you a bit of a good turn, you see." Mr. Snivel
runs his fingers through his hair, and works his shoulders with an
air of exultation. "If," he continues, "that weak-minded
fellow-that Mullholland we have shown some respect to, hasn't got a
pistol! He's been furbishing it up while in the parlor, and swears
he will seriously damage you with it. Blasted assurance, those
Northerners have. Won't fight, can't make 'em gentlemen; and if you
knock 'em down they don't understand enough of chivalry to resent
it. They shout to satisfy their fear and not to maintain their
honor. Keep an eye out!"

The Judge, in a tone of cool indifference, says he has no fears of
the renegade, and will one of these days have the pleasure of
sending him to the whipping-post.

"As to that, Judge," interposes Mr. Snivel, "I have already prepared
the preliminaries. I gave him the trifle you desired-to-morrow I
will nail him at the Keno crib." With this the Judge and the Justice
each take an affectionate leave of the frail girl, and, as it is now
past one o'clock in the morning, an hour much profaned in
Charleston, take their departure.

Armed with a revolver Mullholland has taken up his position in the
street, where he awaits the coming of his adversaries. In doubt and
anxiety, he reflects and re-reflects, recurs to the associations of
his past life, and hesitates. Such reflections only bring more
vividly to his mind the wrong he feels himself the victim of, and
has no power to resent except with violence. His contemplations only
nerve him to revenge.

A click, and the door cautiously opens, as if some votary of crime
was about to issue forth in quest of booty. The hostess' heed
protrudes suddenly from the door, she scans first up and then down
the street, then withdraws it. The Judge and Mr. Snivel, each in
turn, shake the landlady by the hand, and emerge into the street.
They have scarce stepped upon the sidepath when the report of a
pistol resounds through the air. The ball struck a lamp-post,
glanced, passed through the collar of Judge Sleepyhorn's coat, and
brushed Mr. Snivel's fashionable whiskers. Madame Ashley, successor
to Madame Flamingo, shrieks and alarms the house, which is suddenly
thrown into a state of confusion. Acting upon the maxim of
discretion being the better part of valor, the Judge and the Justice
beat a hasty retreat into the house, and secrete themselves in a
closet at the further end of the back-parlor.

As if suddenly moved by some strange impulse, Madame Ashley runs
from room to room, screaming at the very top of her voice, and
declaring that she saw the assassin enter her house. Females rush
from their rooms and into the great parlor, where they form groups
of living statuary, strange and grotesque. Anxious faces-faces half
painted, faces hectic of dissipation, faces waning and sallow, eyes
glassy and lascivious, dishevelled hair floating over naked
shoulders; - the flashing of bewitching drapery, the waving and
flitting of embroidered underskirts, the tripping of pretty feet and
prettier ankles, the gesticulating and swaying of half-draped
bodies-such is the scene occasioned by the bench and the bar.

Madame Ashley, having inherited of Madame Flamingo the value of a
scrupulous regard for the good reputation of her house, must needs
call in the watch to eject the assassin, whom she swears is
concealed somewhere on the premises. Mr. Sergeant Stubbs, a much
respected detective, and reputed one of the very best officers of
the guard, inasmuch as he never troubles his head about other
people's business, and is quite content to let every one fight their
own battles, - provided they give him a "nip" of whiskey when they are
through, lights his lantern and goes bobbing into every room in the
house. We must here inform the reader that the cause of the emeute
was kept a profound secret between the judicial gentry. Madame
Ashley, at the same time, is fully convinced the ball was intended
for her, while Anna lays in a terrible fright in her chamber.

"Ho," says Mr. Stubbs, starting back suddenly as he opened the door
of the closet in which the two gentlemen had concealed themselves.
"I see! I see! - beg your pardon, gentlemen!" Mr. Stubbs whispers, and
bows, and shuts the door quickly.

"An infernal affair this, Judge! D-n me if I wouldn't as soon be in
the dock. It will all get out tomorrow," interposes Mr. Snivel,

"Blast these improper associations!" the high functionary exclaims,
fussily shrugging his shoulders, and wiping the sweat from his
forehead. "I love the girl, though, I confess it!"

"Nothing more natural. A man without gallantry is like a pilgrim in
the South-West Pass. You can't resist this charming creature. In
truth it's a sort of longing weakness, which even the scales of
justice fail to bring to a balance."

Mr. Stubbs fails to find the assassin, and enters Madame Ashley's
chamber, the door of which leads into the hall. Here Mr. Stubbs's
quick eye suddenly discerns a slight motion of the curtains that
enclose the great, square bed, standing in one corner. "I ax your
pardon, Mam, but may I look in this 'ere bed?" Mr. Stubbs points to
the bed, as Madame, having thrown herself into a great rocking
chair, proceeds to sway her dignity backward and forward, and give
out signs of making up her mind to faint.

Mr. Stubbs draws back the curtains, when, behold! but tell it not in
the by-ways, there is revealed the stalworth figure of Simon
Patterson, the plantation parson. Our plantation parsons, be it
known, are a singular species of depraved humanity, a sort of
itinerant sermon-makers, holding forth here and there to the negroes
of the rich planters, receiving a paltry pittance in return, and
having in lieu of morals an excellent taste for whiskey, an article
they invariably call to their aid when discoursing to the ignorant
slave-telling him how content with his lot he ought to be, seeing
that God intended him only for ignorance and servitude. The parson
did, indeed, cut a sorry figure before the gaze of this
indescribable group, as it rushed into the room and commenced
heaping upon his head epithets delicacy forbids our inserting
here-calling him a clerical old lecher, an assassin, and a disturber
of the peace and respectability of the house. Indeed, Madame Ashley
quite forgot to faint, and with a display of courage amounting
almost to heroism, rushed at the poor parson, and had left him in
the state he was born but for the timely precautions of Mr. Stubbs,
who, finding a revolver in his possession, and wanting no better
proof of his guilt, straightway took him off to the guardhouse.
Parson Patterson would have entered the most solemn and pious
protestations of his innocence but the evidence was so strong
against him, and the zeal of Mr. Sargeant Stubbs so apparent, that
he held it the better policy to quietly submit to the rough fare of
his new lodgings.

"I have a terror of these brawls!" says Mr. Snivel, emerging from
his hiding-place, and entering the chamber, followed by the high
legal functionary.

"A pretty how-do-ye-do, this is;" returns Madame Ashley, cooling her
passion in the rocking-chair, "I never had much respect for
parsons - "

"Parsons?" interrupts Mr. Snivel, inquiringly, "you don't mean to
say it was all the doings of a parson?"

"As I'm a lady it was no one else. He was discovered behind the
curtain there, a terrible pistol in his pocket-the wretch!"

Mr. Snivel exchanges a wink with the Judge, points his thumb over
his left shoulder, and says, captiously: "I always had an implacable
hatred of that old thief. A bad lot! these plantation parsons."

Mr. Stubbs having discovered and removed the assassin, the terrified
damsels return to their chambers, and Madame Ashley proceeds to
close her house, as the two legal gentlemen take their departure.
Perhaps it would be well to inform the reader that a principal cause
of Anna's preference for the Judge, so recently manifested, was the
deep impression made on her already suspicious mind by Mr. McArthur,
the antiquary, who revealed to her sincerely, as she thought, her
future dark destiny.



THE morning following the events detailed in the foregoing chapter,
finds the august Sleepyhorn seated on his judgment-seat. The clock
strikes ten as he casts his heavy eyes over the grotesque group
gathered into his little, dingy court-room; and he bows to his
clerk, of whom he gets his law knowledge, and with his right hand
makes a sign that he is ready to admonish the erring, or pass
sentence on any amount of criminals. History affords no record of a
judge so unrelenting of his judgments.

A few dilapidated gentlemen of the "learned profession," with sharp
features and anxious faces, fuss about among the crowd, reeking of
whiskey and tobacco. Now they whisper suspiciously in the ears of
forlorn prisoners, now they struggle to get a market for their legal
nostrums. A few, more respectably clothed and less vicious of
aspect, sit writing at a table inside the bar, while a dozen or more
punch-faced policemen, affecting an air of superiority, drag
themselves lazily through the crowd of seedy humanity, looking
querulously over the railing encircling the dock, or exchanging
recognitions with friends.

Some twenty "negro cases" having been disposed of without much
respect to law, and being sent up for punishment (the Judge finds it
more convenient to forego testimony in these cases), a daughter of
the Emerald Isle, standing nearly six feet in her bare soles, and
much shattered about the dress, is, against her inclination,
arraigned before his Honor. "I think I have seen you before, Mrs.
Donahue?" says the Judge, inquiringly.

"Arrah, good-morning, yer 'onher! Shure, it's only the sixth time
these three weeks. Doesn't meself like to see yer smiling face,
onyhow!" Here Mrs. Donahue commences complimenting the Judge in one
breath, and laying no end of charges at the door of the very
diminutive and harmless Mister Donahue in the next.

"This being the sixth time," returns his Honor, somewhat seriously,
"I would advise you to compromise the matter with Donahue, and not
be seen here again. The state of South Carolina cannot pay your fees
so often - "

"Och, bad luck to Donahue! Troth, an' if yer onher'd put the fees
down to Donahue, our acquaintance 'ouldn't be so fraquent." Mrs.
Donahue says this with great unction, throwing her uncombed hair
back, then daintily raising her dress apace, and inquiring of Mr.
Sheriff Hardscrabble, who sits on his Honor's left, peering sharply
through his spectacles, how he likes the spread of her broad, flat
foot; "the charging the fees to Donahue, yer onher, 'd do it!" There
was more truth in this remark than his Honor seemed to comprehend,
for having heard the charge against her (Mr. Donahue having been
caught in the act of taking a drop of her gin, she had well-nigh
broken his head with the bottle), and having listened attentively
while poor Donahue related his wrongs, and exhibited two very well
blacked eyes and a broken nose, he came to the very just conclusion
that it were well to save the blood of the Donahues. And to this end
did he grant Mrs. Donahue board and lodging for one month in the old
prison. Mrs. Donahue is led away, heaping curses on the head of
Donahue, and compliments on that of his Honor.

A pale, sickly looking boy, some eleven years old, is next placed
upon the stand. Mr. Sergeant Stubbs, who leans his corpulent figure
against the clerk's desk, every few minutes bowing his sleepy head
to some friend in the crowd, says: "A hard 'un-don't do no good
about here. A vagrant; found him sleeping in the market."

His Honor looks at the poor boy for some minutes, a smile of
kindliness seems lighting up his face; he says he would there were
some place of refuge-a place where reformation rather than
punishment might be the aim and end, where such poor creatures could
be sent to, instead of confining them in cells occupied by depraved

Mr. Sheriff Hardscrabble, always eager to get every one into jail he
can, inasmuch as it pays him twenty-two cents a day clear profit on
each and every person confined, says: "A hard customer. Found
sleeping in the market, eh? Well, we must merge him in a tub of
water, and scrub him up a little." Mr. Hardscrabble views him with
an air of satisfaction, touches him with a small cane he holds in
his hand, as if he were something very common. Indeed, Mr.
Hardscrabble seems quite at a loss to know what species of animal he
is, or whether he be really intended for any other use than filling
up his cells and returning him twenty-two cents a day clear profit.
"Probably an incendiary," mutters the sagacious sheriff. The
helpless boy would explain how he came to sleep in the market-how
he, a poor cabin-boy, walked, foot-sore and hungry, from Wilmington,
in the hope of getting a ship; and being moneyless and friendless he
laid down in the market to sleep. Mr. Hardscrabble, however,
suggests that such stories are extremely common. His Honor thinks it
not worth while to differ from this opinion, but to the end that no
great legal wisdom may be thrown away, he orders the accused to be
sent to the common jail for three months. This, in the opinion of
Judge Sleepyhorn, is an extremely mild penalty for being found
sleeping in the market.

Next there comes forward a lean, up-country Cracker, (an
half-civilized native,) who commences telling his story with
commendable simplicity, the Judge in the meanwhile endeavoring to
suppress a smile, which the quaintness of his remarks excite. Making
a tenement of his cart, as is usual with these people when they
visit the city, which they do now and then for the purpose of
replenishing their stock of whiskey, he had, about eleven o'clock on
the previous night, been set upon by three intoxicated students,
who, having driven off his mule, overturned his cart, landing him
and his wife prostrate in the ditch. A great noise was the result,
and the guard, with their accustomed zeal for seizing upon the
innocent party, dragged up the weaker (the Cracker and his wife) and
let the guilty go free. He had brought the good wife, he added, as a
living evidence of the truth of what he said, and would bring the
mule if his honor was not satisfied. The good wife commences a
volley of what she is pleased to call voluntary testimony, praising
and defending all the good qualities of her much-abused husband,
without permitting any one else an opposing word. No sufficient
charge being brought against the Cracker (he wisely slipped a five
dollar bill into the hands of Stubbs), he joins his good wife and
goes on his way rejoicing.

During this little episode between the court and the Cracker's wife,
Madame Grace Ashley, arrayed in her most fashionable toilet, comes
blazing into Court, bows to the Judge and a few of her most select
friends of the Bar. A seat for Madame is provided near his Honor's
desk. His Honor's blushes seem somewhat overtaxed; Madame, on the
other hand, is not at all disconcerted; indeed, she claims an

Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 18 of 29)