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Munday's not here now, that's settled-but I'll-for curiosity's
sake-show you into the 'mad cells.'" Mr. Glentworthy leads the way,
down the rickety old stairs, through the lumbered passage, into an
open square, and from thence into a small out-building, at the
extreme end of which some dozen wet, slippery steps, led into a dark
subterranean passage, on each side of which are small, dungeon-like
cells. "Heavens!" exclaims Madame Montford, picking her way down the
steep, slippery steps. "How chilling! how tomb-like! Can it be that
mortals are confined here, and live?" she mutters, incoherently. The
stifling atmosphere is redolent of disease.

"It straightens 'em down, sublimely-to put 'em in here," says Mr.
Glentworthy, laconically, lighting his lamp. "I hope to get old
Saddlerock in here. Give him such a mellowing!" He turns his light,
and the shadows play, spectre-like, along a low, wet aisle, hung on
each side with rusty bolts and locks, revealing the doors of cells.
An ominous stillness is broken by the dull clank of chains, the
muttering of voices, the shuffling of limbs; then a low wail breaks
upon the ear, and rises higher and higher, shriller and shriller,
until in piercing shrieks it chills the very heart. Now it ceases,
and the echoes, like the murmuring winds, die faintly away. "Look in
here, now," says Mr. Glentworthy - "a likely wench-once she was!"

He swings open a door, and there issues from a cell about four feet
six inches wide, and nine long, the hideous countenance of a poor,
mulatto girl, whose shrunken body, skeleton-like arms, distended and
glassy eyes, tell but too forcibly her tale of sorrow. How vivid the
picture of wild idiocy is pictured in her sad, sorrowing face. No
painter's touch could have added a line more perfect. Now she rushes
forward, with a suddenness that makes Madame Montford shrink back,
appalled-now she fixes her eyes, hangs down her head, and gives vent
to her tears. "My soul is white-yes, yes, yes! I know it is white;
God tells me it is white-he knows-he never tortures. He doesn't keep
me here to die-no, I can't die here in the dark. I won't get to
heaven if I do. Oh! yes, yes, yes, I have a white soul, but my skin
is not," she rather murmurs than speaks, continuing to hold down her
head, while parting her long, clustering hair over her shoulders.
Notwithstanding the spectacle of horror presented in this living
skeleton, there is something in her look and action which bespeaks
more the abuse of long confinement than the result of natural
aberration of mind. "She gets fierce now and then, and yells," says
the unmoved Glentworthy, "but she won't hurt ye - "

Can it be possible that such things as are here pictured have an
existence among a people laying any claim to a state of
civilization? the reader may ask. The author would here say that to
the end of fortifying himself against the charge of exaggeration, he
submitted the MS. of this chapter to a gentleman of the highest
respectability in Charleston, whose unqualified approval it
received, as well as enlisting his sympathies in behalf of the
unfortunate lunatics found in the cells described. Four years have
passed since that time. He subsequently sent the author the
following, from the "Charleston Courier," which speaks for itself.

"FROM THE REPORTS OF COUNCIL.

"January 4th, 1843.

"The following communication was received from William M. Lawton,
Esq., Chairman of the Commissioners of the Poor-house.

"'Charleston, Dec. 17th, 1852. "'To the Honorable, the City Council
of Charleston:

"'By a resolution of the Board of Commissioners of this City, I have
been instructed to communicate with your honorable body in relation
to the insane paupers now in Poor-house', (the insane in a
poorhouse!) 'and to request that you will adopt the necessary
provision for sending them to the Lunatic Asylum at Columbia.

* * * *

There are twelve on the list, many of whom, it is feared, have
already remained too long in an institution quite unsuited to their
unfortunate situation.

"'With great respect, your very obedient servant,

"'(Signed) WM. M. LAWTON, "'Chairman of the Board of Commissioners.'"

"How long," inquires Madame Montford, who has been questioning
within herself whether any act of her life could have brought a
human being into such a place, "has she been confined here?" Mr.
Glentworthy says she tells her own tale.

"Five years, - five years, - five long, long years, I have waited for
him in the dark, but he won't come," she lisps in a faltering voice,
as her emotions overwhelm her. Then crouching back upon the floor,
she supports her head pensively in her left hand, her elbow resting
on her knee, and her right hand poised against the brick wall.
"Pencele!" says Mr. Glentworthy, for such is the wretched woman's
name, "cannot you sing a song for your friends?" Turning aside to
Madame Montford, he adds, "she sings nicely. We shall soon get her
out of the way-can't last much longer." Mr. Glentworthy, drawing a
small bottle from his pocket, places it to his lips, saying he stole
it from old Saddlerock, and gulps down a portion of the contents.
His breath is already redolent of whiskey. "Oh, yes, yes, yes! I can
sing for them, I can smother them with kisses. Good faces seldom
look in here, seldom look in here," she rises to her feet, and
extends her bony hand, as the tears steal down Madame Montford's
cheeks. Tom stands speechless. He wishes he had power to redress the
wrongs of this suffering maniac-his very soul fires up against the
coldness and apathy of a people who permit such outrages against
humanity. "There! - he comes! he comes! he comes!" the maniac speaks,
with faltering voice, then strikes up a plaintive air, which she
sings with a voice of much sweetness, to these words: When you find
him, speed him to me, And this heart will cease its bleeding, &c.

The history of all this poor maniac's sufferings is told in a few
simple words that fall incautiously from Mr. Glentworthy's lips:
"Poor fool, she had only been married a couple of weeks, when they
sold her husband down South. She thinks if she keeps mad, he'll come
back."

There was something touching, something melancholy in the music of
her song, as its strains verberated and reverberated through the
dread vault, then, like the echo of a lover's lute on some Alpine
hill, died softly away.






CHAPTER XXXIII.

IN WHICH THERE IS A SINGULAR REVELATION.





MADAME MONTFORD returns, unsuccessful, to her parlor. It is
conscience that unlocks the guilty heart, that forces mortals to
seek relief where there is no chance of finding it. It was this
irresistible emotion that found her counciling Tom Swiggs, making of
him a confidant in her search for the woman she felt could remove
the doubt, in respect to Anna's identity, that hung so painfully in
her mind. And yet, such was her position, hesitating as it were
between her ambition to move in fashionable society, and her anxiety
to atone for a past error, that she dare not disclose the secret of
all her troubles even to him. She sought him, not that he could
soften her anxiety, but that being an humble person, she could
pursue her object through him, unobserved to society-in a word, that
he would be a protection against the apprehensions of
scandal-mongers. Such are the shifts to which the ambitious guilty
have recourse. What she has beheld in the poorhouse, too, only
serves to quicken her thoughts of the misery she may have inflicted
upon others, and to stimulate her resolution to persevere in her
search for the woman. Conscious that wealth and luxury does not
always bring happiness, and that without a spotless character, woman
is but a feeble creature in this world, she would now sacrifice
everything else for that one ennobling charm.

It may be proper here to add, that although Tom Swiggs could not
enter into the repentant woman's designs, having arranged with his
employer to sail for London in a few days, she learned of him
something that reflected a little more light in her path. And that
was, that the woman Anna Bonard, repined of her act in leaving
George Mullholland, to whom she was anxious to return-that she was
now held against her will; that she detested Judge Sleepyhorn,
although he had provided lavishly for her comfort. Anna knew George
loved her, and that love, even to an abandoned woman (if she could
know it sincere), was dearer to her than all else. She learned, too,
that high up on Anna's right arm, there was imprinted in blue and
red ink, two hearts and a broken anchor. And this tended further to
increase her anxiety. And while evolving all these things in her
mind, and contemplating the next best course to pursue, her parlor
is invaded by Mr. Snivel. He is no longer Mr. Soloman, nor Mr.
Snivel. He is the Hon. Mr. Snivel. It is curious to contemplate the
character of the men to whose name we attach this mark of
distinction. "I know you will pardon my seeming neglect, Madame," he
says, grasping her hand warmly, as a smile of exultation lights up
his countenance. "The fact is, we public men are so absorbed in the
affairs of the nation, that we have scarce a thought to give to
affairs of a private nature. We have elected our ticket. I was
determined it should be so, if Jericho fell. And, more than all, I
am made an honorable, by the popular sentiment of the people - "

"To be popular with the people, is truly an honor," interrupts the
lady, facetiously.

"Thank you-O, thank you, for the compliment," pursues our hero.
"Now, as to this unfortunate person you seek, knowing it was of
little use to search for her in our institutions of charity-one
never can find out anything about the wretches who get into them-I
put the matter into the hands of one of our day-police-a plaguey
sharp fellow-and he set about scenting her out. I gave him a large
sum, and promised him more if successful. Here, then, after a long
and tedious search-I have no doubt the fellow earned his money-is
what he got from New York, this morning." The Hon. Mr. Snivel,
fixing his eye steadily upon her, hands her a letter which reads
thus:

"NEW YORK, Dec. 14th, 18-.

"Last night, while making search after a habitant of the Points, a
odd old chip what has wandered about here for some years, some think
he has bin a better sort of man once, I struck across the woman you
want. She is somewhere tucked away in a Cow Bay garret, and is awful
crazy; I'll keep me eye out till somethin' further. If her friends
wants to give her a lift out of this place, they'd better come and
see me at once.

"Yours, as ever,

"M. FITZGERALD."

Mr. Snivel ogles Madame Montford over the page of a book he affects
to read. "Guilt! deep and strong," he says within himself, as
Madame, with flushed countenance and trembling hand, ponders and
ponders over the paper. Then her emotions quicken, her eyes exchange
glances with Mr. Snivel, and she whispers, with a sigh, "found-at
last! And yet how foolish of me to give way to my feelings? The
affair, at best, is none of mine." Mr. Snivel bows, and curls his
Saxon mustache. "To do good for others is the natural quality of a
generous nature."

Madame, somewhat relieved by this condescension of the Hon.
gentleman, says, in reply, "I am curious at solving family affairs."

"And I!" says our hero, with refreshing coolness - "always ready to do
a bit of a good turn."

Madame pauses, as if in doubt whether to proceed or qualify what she
has already said. "A relative, whose happiness I make my own," she
resumes, and again pauses, while the words tremble upon her lips.
She hears the words knelling in her ears: "A guilty conscience needs
no betrayer."

"You have," pursues our hero, "a certain clue; and of that I may
congratulate you."

Madame says she will prepare at once to return to her home in New
York, and-and here again the words hang upon her lips. She was going
to say, her future proceedings would be governed by the paper she
holds so nervously in her fingers.

Snivel here receives a nostrum from the lady's purse.
"Truly,! - Madame," he says, in taking leave of her, "the St. Cecilia
will regret you-we shall all regret you; you honored and graced our
assemblies so. Our first families will part with you reluctantly. It
may, however, be some satisfaction to know how many kind things will
be said of you in your absence." Mr. Snivel makes his last bow, a
sarcastic smile playing over his face, and passes into the street.

On the following day she encloses a present of fifty dollars to Tom
Swiggs, enjoins the necessity of his keeping her visit to the
poor-house a secret, and takes leave of Charleston.

And here our scene changes, and we must transport the reader to New
York. It is the day following the night Mr. Detective Fitzgerald
discovered what remained of poor Toddleworth, in the garret of the
House of the Nine Nations. The City Hall clock strikes twelve. The
goodly are gathered into the House of the Foreign Missions, in which
peace and respectability would seem to preside. The good-natured fat
man is in his seat, pondering over letters lately received from the
"dark regions" of Arabia; the somewhat lean, but very
respectable-looking Secretary, is got nicely into his spectacles,
and sits pondering over lusty folios of reports from Hindostan, and
various other fields of missionary labor, all setting forth the
various large amounts of money expended, how much more could be
expended, and what a blessing it is to be enabled to announce the
fact that there is now a hope of something being done. The same
anxious-faced bevy of females we described in a previous chapter,
are here, seated at a table, deeply interested in certain
periodicals and papers; while here and there about the room, are
several contemplative gentlemen in black. Brother Spyke, having
deeply interested Brothers Phills and Prim with an account of his
visit to the Bottomless Pit, paces up and down the room, thinking of
Antioch, and the evangelization of the heathen world. "Truly,
brother," speaks the good-natured fat man, "his coming seemeth
long." "Eleven was the hour; but why he tarryeth I know not,"
returns Brother Spyke, with calm demeanor. "There is something more
alarming in Sister Slocum's absence," interposes one of the ladies.
The house seems in a waiting mood, when suddenly Mr. Detective
Fitzgerald enters, and changes it to one of anxiety. Several voices
inquire if he was successful. He shakes his head, and having
recounted his adventures, the discovery of where the money went to,
and the utter hopelessness of an effort to recover it; "as for the
man, Toddleworth," he says, methodically, "he was found with a
broken skull. The Coroner has had an inquest over him; but murders
are so common. The verdict was, that he died of a broken skull, by
the hands of some one to the jury unknown. Suspicions were strong
against one Tom Downey, who is very like a heathen, and is
mistrusted of several murders. The affair disturbed the neighborhood
a little, and the Coroner tried to get something out concerning the
man's history; but it all went to the wind, for the people were all
so ignorant. They all knew everything about him, which turned out to
be just nothing, which they were ready to swear to. One believed
Father Flaherty made the Bible, another believed the Devil still
chained in Columbia College-a third believed the stars were lanterns
to guide priests-the only angels they know-on their way to heaven."

"Truly!" exclaims the man of the spectacles, in a moment of
abstraction.

Brother Spyke says: "the Lord be merciful."

"On the body of the poor man we found this document. It was rolled
carefully up in a rag, and is supposed to throw some light on his
history." Mr. Fitzgerald draws leisurely from his pocket a distained
and much-crumpled paper, written over in a bold, business-like hand,
and passes it to the man in the spectacles, as a dozen or more
anxious faces gather round, eager to explore the contents.

"He went out of the Points as mysteriously as he came in. We buried
him a bit ago, and have got Downey in the Tombs: he'll be hanged, no
doubt," concludes the detective, laying aside his cap, and setting
himself, uninvited, into a chair. The man in the spectacles
commences reading the paper, which runs as follows:

"I have been to you an unknown, and had died such an unknown, but
that my conscience tells me I have a duty to perform. I have wronged
no one, owe no one a penny, harbor no malice against any one; I am a
victim of a broken heart, and my own melancholy. Many years ago I
pursued an honorable business in this city, and was respected and
esteemed. Many knew me, and fortune seemed to shed upon me her
smiles. I married a lady of wealth and affluence, one I loved and
doted on. Our affections seemed formed for our bond; we lived for
one another; our happiness seemed complete. But alas! an evil hour
came. Ambitious of admiration, she gradually became a slave to
fashionable society, and then gave herself up to those flatterers
who hang about it, and whose chief occupation it is to make
weak-minded women vain of their own charms. Coldness, and
indifference to home, soon followed. My house was invaded, my
home-that home I regarded so sacredly-became the resort of men in
whose society I found no pleasure, with whom I had no feeling in
common. I could not remonstrate, for that would have betrayed in me
a want of confidence in the fidelity of one I loved too blindly. I
was not one of those who make life miserable in seeing a little and
suspecting much. No! I forgave many things that wounded my feelings;
and my love for her would not permit a thought to invade the
sanctity of her fidelity. Business called me into a foreign country,
where I remained several months, then returned-not, alas! to a home
made happy by the purity of one I esteemed an angel; - not to the arms
of a pure, fond wife, but to find my confidence betrayed, my home
invaded-she, in whom I had treasured up my love, polluted; and
slander, like a desert wind, pouring its desolating breath into my
very heart. In my blindness I would have forgiven her, taken her
back to my distracted bosom, and fled with her to some distant land,
there still to have lived and loved her. But she sought rather to
conceal her guilt than ask forgiveness. My reason fled me, my
passion rose above my judgment, I sank under the burden of my
sorrow, attempted to put an end to her life, and to my own misery.
Failing in this, for my hand was stayed by a voice I heard calling
to me, I fled the country and sought relief for my feelings in the
wilds of Chili. I left nearly all to my wife, took but little with
me, for my object was to bury myself from the world that had known
me, and respected me. Destitution followed me; whither I went there
seemed no rest, no peace of mind for me. The past floated uppermost
in my mind. I was ever recurring to home, to those with whom I had
associated, to an hundred things that had endeared me to my own
country. Years passed-years of suffering and sorrow, and I found
myself a lone wanderer, without friend or money. During this time it
was reported at home, as well as chronicled in the newspapers, that
I was dead. The inventor of this report had ends, I will not name
them here, to serve. I was indeed dead to all who had known me happy
in this world. Disguised, a mere shadow of what I was once, I
wandered back to New York, heart-sick and discouraged, and buried
myself among those whose destitution, worse, perhaps, than my own,
afforded me a means of consolation. My life has long been a burden
to me; I have many times prayed God, in his mercy, to take me away,
to close the account of my misery. Do you ask my name? Ah! that is
what pains me most. To live unknown, a wretched outcast, in a city
where I once enjoyed a name that was respected, is what has haunted
my thoughts, and tortured my feelings. But I cannot withhold it,
even though it has gone down, tainted and dishonored. It is Henry
Montford. And with this short record I close my history, leaving the
rest for those to search out who find this paper, at my death, which
cannot be long hence. "HENRY MONTFORD. "New York, Nov. -, 184-."

A few sighs follow the reading of the paper, but no very deep
interest, no very tender emotion, is awakened in the hearts of the
goodly. Nevertheless, it throws a flood of light upon the morals of
a class of society vulgarly termed fashionable. The meek females
hold their tears and shake their heads. Brother Spyke elongates his
lean figure, draws near, and says the whole thing is very
unsatisfactory. Not one word is let drop about the lost money.

Brother Phills will say this-that the romance is very cleverly got
up, as the theatre people say.

The good-natured fat man, breathing somewhat freer, says: "Truly!
these people have a pleasant way of passing out of the world. They
die of their artful practices-seeking to devour the good and the
generous."

"There's more suffers than imposes-an' there's more than's written
meant in that same bit of paper. Toddleworth was as inoffensive a
creature as you'd meet in a day. May God forgive him all his
faults;" interposes Mr. Detective Fitzgerald, gathering up his cap
and passing slowly out of the room.

And this colloquy is put an end to by the sudden appearance of
Sister Slocum. A rustling silk dress, of quiet color, and set off
with three modest flounces; an India shawl, loosely thrown over her
shoulders; a dainty little collar, of honiton, drawn neatly about
her neck, and a bonnet of buff-colored silk, tastefully set off with
tart-pie work without, and lined with virtuous white satin within,
so saucily poised on her head, suggests the idea that she has an eye
to fashion as well as the heathen world. Her face, too, always so
broad, bright, and benevolent in its changes-is chastely framed in a
crape border, so nicely crimped, so nicely tucked under her
benevolent chin at one end, and so nicely pinned under the virtuous
white lining at the other. Goodness itself radiates from those
large, earnest blue eyes, those soft, white cheeks, that large
forehead, with those dashes of silvery hair crossing it so smoothly
and so exactly-that well-developed, but rather broad nose, and that
mouth so expressive of gentleness.

Sister Slocum, it requires no very acute observer to discover, has
got something more than the heathen world at heart, for all those
soft, congenial features are shadowed with sadness. Silently she
takes her seat, sits abstracted for a few minutes-the house is
thrown into a wondering mood-then looks wisely through her
spectacles, and having folded her hands with an air of great
resignation, shakes, and shakes, and shakes her head. Her eyes sud-
denly fill with tears, her thoughts wander, or seem to wander, she
attempts to speak, her voice choaks, and the words hang upon her
lips. All is consternation and excitement. Anxious faces gather
round, and whispering voices inquire the cause. The lean man in the
spectacles having applied his hartshorn bottle, Sister Slocum, to
the great joy of all present, is so far restored as to be able to
announce the singular, but no less melancholy fact, that our dear
guest, Sister Swiggs, has passed from this world to a better. She
retired full of sorrow, but came not in the morning. And this so
troubled Sister Scudder that there was no peace until she entered
her room. But she found the angel had been there before her,
smoothed the pillow of the stranger, and left her to sleep in death.
On earth her work was well done, and in the arms of the angel, her
pure spirit now beareth witness in heaven. Sister Slocum's emotions
forbid her saying more. She concludes, and buries her face in her
cambric. Then an outpouring of consoling words follow. "He cometh
like a thief in the night: His works are full of mystery; truly, He
chasteneth; He giveth and taketh away." Such are a few of the
sentiments lisped, regrettingly, for the departed.

How vain are the hopes with which we build castles in the air; how
strange the motives that impel us to ill-advised acts. We leave
untouched the things that call loudest for our energies, and
treasure up our little that we may serve that which least concerns
us. In this instance it is seen how that which came of evil went in
evil; how disapointment stepped in and blew the castle down at a
breath.

There could not be a doubt that the disease of which Sister Smiggs
died, and which it is feared the State to which she belongs will one
day die, was little dignity. Leaving her then in the arms of the
House of the Foreign Mission, and her burial to the Secretary of the



Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 22 of 29)