Copyright
F. Colburn Adams.

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

. (page 23 of 29)
Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 23 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


very excellent "Tract Society" she struggled so faithfully to serve,
we close this chapter of events, the reader having, no doubt,
discovered the husband of Madame Montford in the wretched man, Mr.
Toddleworth.






CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE TWO PICTURES.





WE come now to another stage of this history. Six months have glided
into the past since the events recorded in the foregoing chapter.
The political world of Charleston is resolved to remain in the Union
a few months longer. It is a pleasant evening in early May. The
western sky is golden with the setting sun, and the heavens are
filled with battlements of refulgent clouds, now softening away into
night. Yonder to the East, reposes a dark grove. A gentle breeze
fans through its foliage, the leaves laugh and whisper, the perfumes
of flowers are diffusing through the air birds make melodious with
their songs, the trilling stream mingles its murmurs, and nature
would seem gathering her beauties into one enchanting harmony. In
the foreground of the grove, and looking as if it borrowed solitude
of the deep foliage, in which it is half buried, rises a pretty
villa, wherein may be seen, surrounded by luxuries the common herd
might well envy, the fair, the beautiful siren, Anna Bonard. In the
dingy little back parlor of the old antiquary, grim poverty looking
in through every crevasse, sits the artless and pure-minded Maria
McArthur. How different are the thoughts, the hopes, the emotions of
these two women. Comfort would seem smiling on the one, while
destitution threatens the other. To the eye that looks only upon the
surface, how deceptive is the picture. The one with every wish
gratified, an expression of sorrow shadowing her countenance, and
that freshness and sweetness for which she was distinguished passing
away, contemplates herself a submissive captive, at the mercy of one
for whom she has no love, whose gold she cannot inherit, and whose
roof she must some day leave for the street. The other feels poverty
grasping at her, but is proud in the possession of her virtue; and
though trouble would seem tracing its lines upon her features, her
heart remains untouched by remorse; - she is strong in the
consciousness that when all else is gone, her virtue will remain her
beacon light to happiness. Anna, in the loss of that virtue, sees
herself shut out from that very world that points her to the yawning
chasm of her future; she feels how like a slave in the hands of one
whose heart is as cold as his smiles are false, she is. Maria owes
the world no hate, nor are her thougnts disturbed by such
contemplations. Anna, with embittered and remorseful feelings-with
dark and terrible passions agitating her bosom, looks back over her
eventful life, to a period when even her own history is shut to her,
only to find the tortures of her soul heightened. Maria looks back
upon a life of fond attachment to her father, to her humble efforts
to serve others, and to know that she has borne with Christian
fortitude those ills which are incident to humble life. With her, an
emotion of joy repays the contemplation. To Anna, the future is hung
in dark forebodings. She recalls to mind the interview with Madame
Montford, but that only tends to deepen the storm of anguish the
contemplation of her parentage naturally gives rise to. With Maria,
the present hangs dark and the future brightens. She thinks of the
absent one she loves-of how she can best serve her aged father, and
how she can make their little home cheerful until the return of Tom
Swiggs, who is gone abroad. It must be here disclosed that the old
man had joined their hands, and invoked a blessing on their heads,
ere Tom took his departure. Maria looks forward to the day of his
return with joyous emotions. That return is the day dream of her
heart; in it she sees her future brightening. Such are the cherished
thoughts of a pure mind. Poverty may gnaw away at the hearthstone,
cares and sorrow may fall thick in your path, the rich may frown
upon you, and the vicious sport with your misfortunes, but virtue
gives you power to overcome them all. In Maria's ear something
whispers: Woman! hold fast to thy virtue, for if once it go neither
gold nor false tongues can buy it back.

Anna sees the companion of her early life, and the sharer of her
sufferings, shut up in a prison, a robber, doomed to the lash. "He
was sincere to me, and my only true friend - am I the cause of this?"
she muses. Her heart answers, and her bosom fills with dark and
stormy emotions. One small boon is now all she asks. She could bow
down and worship before the throne of virgin innocence, for now its
worth towers, majestic, before her. It discovers to her the falsity
of her day-dream; it tells her what an empty vessel is this life of
ours without it. She knows George Mullholland loves her
passionately; she knows how deep will be his grief, how revengeful
his feelings. It is poverty that fastens the poison in the heart of
the rejected lover. The thought of this flashes through her mind.
His hopeless condition, crushed out as it were to gratify him in
whose company her pleasures are but transitory, and may any day
end, darkens as she contemplates it. How can she acquit her
conscience of having deliberately and faithlessly renounced one who
was so true to her? She repines, her womanly nature revolts at the
thought-the destiny her superstition pictured so dark and terrible,
stares her in the face. She resolves a plan for his release, and,
relieved with a hope that she can accomplish it while propitiating
the friendship of the Judge, the next day seeks him in his prison
cell, and with all that vehemence woman, in the outpouring of her
generous impulses, can call to her aid, implores his forgiveness.
But the rust of disappointment has dried up his better nature; his
heart is wrung with the shafts of ingratitude - all the fierce
passions of his nature, hate, scorn and revenge, rise up in the one
stormy outburst of his soul. He casts upon her a look of withering
scorn, the past of that life so chequered flashes vividly through
his thoughts, his hate deepens, he hurls her from him, invokes a
curse upon her head, and shuts her from his sight. "Mine will be the
retribution!" he says, knitting his dark brow.

How is it with the Judge-that high functionary who provides thus
sumptuously for his mistress? His morals, like his judgments, are
excused, in the cheap quality of our social morality.

Such is gilded vice; such is humble virtue.

A few days more and the term of the Sessions commences. George is
arraigned, and the honorable Mr. Snivel, who laid the plot, and
furthered the crime, now appears as a principal witness. He procures
the man's conviction, and listens with guilty heart to the sentence,
for he is rearrainged on sentence day, and Mr. Snivel is present.
And while the culprit is sentenced to two years imprisonment, and to
receive eighty lashes, laid on his bare back, while at the public
whipping-post, at four stated times, the man who stimulated the hand
of the criminal, is honored and flattered by society. Such is the
majesty of the law.






CHAPTER XXXV.

IN WHICH A LITTLE LIGHT IS SHED UPON THE CHARACTER OF OUR CHIVALRY.





MR. MCARTHUR has jogged on, in the good old way but his worldly
store seems not to increase. The time, nevertheless, is arrived when
he is expected to return the little amount borrowed of Keepum,
through the agency of Mr. Snivel. Again and again has he been
notified that he must pay or go to that place in which we lock up
all our very estimable "first families," whose money has taken wings
and flown away. Not content with this, the two worthy gentlemen have
more than once invaded the Antiquary's back parlor, and offered, as
we have described in a former chapter, improper advances to his
daughter.

Mr. Keepum, dressed in a flashy coat, his sharp, mercenary face,
hectic of night revels, and his small but wicked eyes wandering over
Mr. McArthur's stock in trade, is seen in pursuit of his darling
object. "I don't mind so much about the pay, old man! I'm up well in
the world. The fact is, I am esteemed-and I am! - a public benefactor.
I never forget how much we owe to the chivalric spirit of our
ancestors, and in dealing with the poor-money matters and politics
are different from anything else-I am too generous. I don't mind my
own interests enough. There it is!" Mr. Keepum says this with an
evident relief to himself. Indeed it must here be acknowledged that
this very excellent member of the St. Cecilia Society, and profound
dealer in lottery tickets, like our fine gentlemen who are so
scrupulous of their chivalry while stabbing men behind their backs,
fancies himself one of the most disinterested beings known to
generous nature.

Bent and tottering, the old man recounts the value of his
curiosities; which, like our chivalry, is much talked of but hard to
get at. He offers in apology for the nonpayment of the debt his
knowledge of the old continentals, just as we offer our chivalry in
excuse for every disgraceful act-every savage law. In fine, he
follows the maxims of our politicians, recapitulating a dozen or
more things (wiping the sweat from his brow the while) that have no
earthly connection with the subject. "They are all very well," Mr.
Keepum rejoins, with an air of self-importance, dusting the ashes
from his cigar. He only wishes to impress the old man with the fact
that he is his very best friend.

And having somewhat relieved the Antiquary's mind of its
apprehensions, for McArthur stood in great fear of duns, Mr. Keepum
pops, uninvited, into the "back parlor," where he has not long been
when Maria's screams for assistance break forth.

"Ah! I am old-there is not much left me now. Yes, I am old, my
infirmities are upon me. Pray, good man, spare me my daughter. Nay,
you must not break the peace of my house;" mutters the old man,
advancing into the room, with infirm step, and looking wistfully at
his daughter, as if eager to clasp her in his arms. Maria stands in
a defiant attitude, her left hand poised on a chair, and her right
pointing scornfully in the face of Keepum, who recoils under the
look of withering scorn that darkens her countenance. "A gentleman!
begone, knave! for your looks betray you. You cannot buy my ruin
with your gold; you cannot deceive me with your false tongue. If
hate were a noble passion, I would not vent that which now agitates
my bosom on you. Nay, I would reserve it for a better purpose - "

"Indeed, indeed-now I say honestly, your daughter mistakes me. I was
only being a little friendly to her," interrupts the chopfallen man.
He did not think her capable of summoning so much passion to her
aid.

Maria, it must be said, was one of those seemingly calm natures in
which resentment takes deepest root, in which the passions are most
violent when roused. Solitude does, indeed, tend to invest the
passionate nature with a calm surface. A less penetrating observer
than the chivalrous Keepum, might have discovered in Maria a spirit
he could not so easily humble to his uses. It is the modest,
thoughtful woman, you cannot make lick the dust in sorrow and tears.
"Coward! you laid ruffian hands on me!" says Maria, again towering
to her height, and giving vent to her feelings.

"Madam, Madam," pursues Keepum, trembling and crouching, "you
asperse my honor, - my sacred honor, Madam. You see-let me say a
word, now-you are leting your temper get the better of you. I never,
and the public know I never did-I never did a dishonorable thing in
my life." Turning to the bewildered old man, he continues: "to be
called a knave, and upbraided in this manner by your daughter, when
I have befriended you all these days!" His wicked eyes fall guilty
to the floor.

"Out man! - out! Let your sense of right, if you have it, teach you
what is friendship. Know that, like mercy, it is not poured out with
hands reeking of female dishonor."

Mr. Keepum, like many more of our very fine gentlemen, had so
trained his thoughts to look upon the poor as slaves created for a
base use, that he neither could bring his mind to believe in the
existence of such things as noble spirits under humble roofs, nor to
imagine himself-even while committing the grossest outrages-doing
aught to sully the high chivalric spirit he fancied he possessed.
The old Antiquary, on the other hand, was not a little surprised to
find his daughter displaying such extraordinary means of repulsing
an enemy.

Trembling, and child-like he stands, conscious of being in the grasp
of a knave, whose object was more the ruin of his daughter than the
recovery of a small amount of money, the tears glistening in his
eyes, and the finger of old age marked on his furrowed brow.

"Father, father!" says Maria, and the words hang upon her quivering
lips, her face becomes pale as marble, her strength deserts her, - she
trembles from head to foot, and sinks upon the old man's bosom,
struggling to smother her sobs. Her passion has left her; her calmer
nature has risen up to rebuke it. The old man leads her tenderly to
the sofa, and there seeks to sooth her troubled spirit.

"As if this hub bub was always to last!" a voice speaks suddenly. It
is the Hon. Mr. Snivel, who looks in at the eleventh hour, as he
says, to find affairs always in a fuss. "Being a man of legal
knowledge-always ready to do a bit of a good turn-especially in
putting a disordered house to rights-I thought it well to look in,
having a leisure minute or two (we have had a convention for
dissolving the Union, and passed a vote to that end!) to give to my
old friends," Mr. Snivel says, in a voice at once conciliating and
insinuating. "I always think of a border feud when I come
here-things that find no favor with me." Mr. Snivel, having first
patted the old man on the shoulder, exchanges a significant wink
with his friend Keepum, and then bestows upon him what he is pleased
to call a little wholesome advice. "People misunderstand Mr.
Keepum," he says, "who is one of the most generous of men, but lacks
discretion, and in trying to be polite to everybody, lets his
feelings have too much latitude now and then." Maria buries her face
in her handkerchief, as if indifferent to the reconciliation
offered.

"Now let this all be forgotten-let friendship reign among friends:
that's my motto. But! I say, - this is a bad piece of news we have
this morning. Clipped this from an English paper," resumes the Hon.
gentleman, drawing coolly from his pocket a bit of paper, having the
appearance of an extract.

"You are never without some kind of news-mostly bad!" says Keepum,
flinging himself into a chair, with an air of restored confidence.
Mr. Snivel bows, thanks the gentleman for the compliment, and
commences to read. "This news," he adds, "may be relied upon, having
come from Lloyd's List: 'Intelligence was received here (this is,
you must remember, from a London paper, he says, in parentheses)
this morning, of the total loss of the American ship - , bound from
this port for Charleston, U.S., near the Needles. Every soul on
board, except the Captain and second mate, perished. The gale was
one of the worst ever known on this coast-'"

"The worst ever known on this coast!" ejaculates Mr. Keepum, his
wicked eyes steadily fixed upon Maria. "One of Trueman's ships," Mr.
Snivel adds. "Unlucky fellow, that Trueman - second ship he has
lost."

"By-the-bye," rejoins Keepum, as if a thought has just flashed upon
him, "your old friend, Tom Swiggs, was supercargo, clerk, or
whatever you may call it, aboard that ship, eh?"

It is the knave who can most naturally affect surprise and regret
when it suits his purposes, and Mr. Snivel is well learned in the
art. "True!" he says, "as I'm a Christian. Well, I had made a man of
him-I don't regret it, for I always liked him-and this is the end of
the poor fellow, eh?" Turning to McArthur, he adds, rather
unconcernedly: "You know somewhat of him?" The old man sits
motionless beside his daughter, the changes of whose countenance
discover the inward emotions that agitate her bosom. Her eyes fill
with tears; she exchanges inquiring glances, first with Keepum, then
with Snivel; then a thought strikes her that she received a letter
from Tom, setting forth his prospects, and his intention to return
in the ship above named. It was very natural that news thus artfully
manufactured, and revealed with such apparent truthfulness, should
produce a deep impression in the mind of an unsuspecting girl.
Indeed, it was with some effort that she bore up under it.
Expressions of grief she would fain suppress before the enemy gain a
mastery over her-and ere they are gone the cup flows over, and she
sinks exhausted upon the sofa.

"There! good as far as it goes. You have now another mode of gaining
the victory," Mr. Snivel whispers in the ear of his friend, Keepum;
and the two gentlemen pass into the street.






CHAPTER XXXVI.

IN WHICH A LAW IS SEEN TO SERVE BASE PURPOSES.





MARIA has passed a night of unhappiness. Hopes and fears are
knelling in the morning, which brings nothing to relieve her anxiety
for the absent one; and Mr. Snivel has taken the precaution to have
the news of the lost ship find its way into the papers.

And while our city seems in a state of very general excitement;
while great placards on every street corner inform the wondering
stranger that a mighty Convention (presided over by the Hon. S.
Snivel) for dissolving the Union, is shortly to be holden; while our
political world has got the Union on its shoulders, and threatens to
throw it into the nearest ditch; while our streets swarm with long,
lean, and very hairy-faced delegates (all lusty of war and
secession), who have dragged themselves into the city to drink no
end of whiskey, and say all sorts of foolish things their savage and
half-civilized constituents are expected to applaud; while our more
material and conservative citizens are thinking what asses we make
of ourselves; while the ship-of-war we built to fight the rest of
the Union, lies an ugly lump in the harbor, and "won't go over the
bar;" while the "shoe-factory" we established to supply niggerdom
with soles, is snuffed out for want of energy and capacity to manage
it; while some of our non-slaveholding, but most active secession
merchants, are moving seriously in the great project of establishing
a "SOUTHERN CANDLE-FACTORY" - a thing much needed in the
"up-country;" while our graver statesmen (who don't get the State
out of the Union fast enough for the ignorant rabble, who have
nothing but their folly at stake) are pondering over the policy of
spending five hundred thousand dollars for the building of another
war-ship-one that "will go over the bar;" and while
curiously-written letters from Generals Commander and Quattlebum,
offering to bring their allied forces into the field-to blow this
confederation down at a breath whenever called upon, are being
published, to the great joy of all secessiondom; while saltpetre,
broadswords, and the muskets made for us by Yankees to fight
Yankees, and which were found to have wood instead of flint in their
hammers, (and which trick of the Yankees we said was just like the
Yankees,) are in great demand-and a few of our mob-politicians, who
are all "Kern'ls" of regiments that never muster, prove conclusively
our necessity for keeping a fighting-man in Congress; while, we
assert, many of our first and best known families have sunk the
assemblies of the St. Cecilia in the more important question of what
order of government will best suit-in the event of our getting
happily out of the Union! - our refined and very exacting state of
society; - whether an Empire or a Monarchy, and whether we ought to
set up a Quattlebum or Commander dynasty?-whether the Bungle family
or the Jungle family (both fighting families) will have a place
nearest the throne; what sort of orders will be bestowed, who will
get them, and what colored liveries will best become us (all of
which grave questions threaten us with a very extensive war of
families)? - while all these great matters find us in a sea of
trouble, there enters the curiosity-shop of the old Antiquary a
suspicious-looking individual in green spectacles.

"Mr. Hardscrabble!" says the man, bowing and taking a seat,
leisurely, upon the decrepid sofa. Mr. McArthur returns his
salutation, contemplates him doubtingly for a minute, then resumes
his fussing and brushing.

The small, lean figure; the somewhat seedy broadcloth in which it is
enveloped; the well-browned and very sharp features; the straight,
dark-gray hair, and the absent manner of Mr. Hardscrabble, might,
with the uninitiated, cause him to be mistaken for an "up-country"
clergyman of the Methodist denomination.

"Mr. Hardscrabble? Mr. Hardscrabble? Mr. Hardscrabble?" muses the
Antiquary, canting his head wisely, "the Sheriff, as I'm a man of
years!"

Mr. Hardscrabble comforts his eyes with his spectacles, and having
glanced vacantly over the little shop, as if to take an inventory of
its contents, draws from his breast-pocket a paper containing very
ominous seals and scrawls.

"I'm reluctant about doing these things with an old man like you,"
Mr. Hardscrabble condescends to say, in a sharp, grating voice; "but
I have to obey the demands of my office." Here he commences reading
the paper to the trembling old man, who, having adjusted his
broad-bowed spectacles, and arrayed them against the spectacles of
Mr. Hardscrabble, says he thinks it contains a great many useless
recapitulations.

Mr. Hardscrabble, his eyes peering eagerly through his glasses, and
his lower jaw falling and exposing the inner domain of his mouth,
replies with an - "Umph." The old Antiquary was never before called
upon to examine a document so confusing to his mind. Not content
with a surrender of his property, it demands his body into the
bargain-all at the suit of one Keepum. He makes several motions to
go show it to his daughter; but that, Mr. Hardscrabble thinks, is
scarce worth while. "I sympathize with you-knowing how frugal you
have been through life. A list of your effects-if you have one-will
save a deal of trouble. I fear (Mr. Hardscrabble works his quid) my
costs will hardly come out of them."

"There's a fortune in them-if the love of things of yore - " The old
man hesitates, and shakes his head dolefully.

"Yore! - a thing that would starve out our profession."

"A little time to turn, you know. There's my stock of uniforms."

"Well-I-know," Mr. Hardscrabble rejoins, with a drawl; "but I must
lock up the traps. Yes, I must lock you up, and sell you out-unless
you redeem before sale day; that you can't do, I suppose?"

And while the old man totters into the little back parlor, and,
giving way to his emotions, throws himself upon the bosom of his
fond daughter, to whom he discloses his troubles, Mr. Hardscrabble
puts locks and bolts upon his curiosity-shop. This important
business done, he leads the old man away, and gives him a lodging in
the old jail.






CHAPTER XXXVII.

A SHORT CHAPTER OF ORDINARY EVENTS.





TO bear up against the malice of inexorable enemies is at once the
gift and the shield of a noble nature. And here it will be enough to
say, that Maria bore the burden of her ills with fortitude and
resignation, trusting in Him who rights the wronged, to be her
deliverer. What took place when she saw her aged father led away, a
prisoner; what thoughts invaded that father's mind when the prison
bolt grated on his ear, and he found himself shut from all that had
been dear to him through life, regard for the feelings of the reader
forbids us recounting here.

Naturally intelligent, Maria had, by close application to books,
acquired some knowledge of the world. Nor was she entirely ignorant
of those arts designing men call to their aid when seeking to effect
the ruin of the unwary female. Thus fortified, she fancied she saw
in the story of the lost ship a plot against herself, while the
persecution of her father was only a means to effect the object.
Launched between hope and fear, then-hope that her lover still
lived, and that with his return her day would brighten-fear lest the
report might be founded in truth, she nerves herself for the
struggle. She knew full well that to give up in despair-to cast
herself upon the cold charities of a busy world, would only be to
hasten her downfall. Indeed, she had already felt how cold, and how
far apart were the lines that separated our rich from our poor.

The little back parlor is yet spared to Maria, and in it she may now



Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 23 of 29)