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only the street before me on one side, and felt only the cold
pinchings of poverty on the other. You had gone abroad - "

"It was my intention to have adopted the child as my own when I
returned," interrupts Madame Montford, still clinging to that
flattering hope in which the criminal sees a chance of escape.

"And I," resumes the woman, "left the husband who neglected me, and
who treated me cruelly, and gave myself, - perhaps I was to blame for
it, - up to one who befriended me. He was the only one who seemed to
care for me, or to have any sympathy for me. But he, like myself,
was poor; and, being compelled to flee from our home, and to live in
obscurity, where my husband could not find me out, the child was an
incumbrance I had no means of supporting. I parted with her-yes,
yes, I parted with her to Mother Bridges, who kept a stand at a
corner in West street - "

"And then what became of her?" again interposes Madame Montford. The
woman assumes a sullenness, and it is some time before she can be
got to proceed.

"My conscience rebuked me," she resumes, as if indifferent about
answering the question, "for I loved the child as my own; and the
friend I lived with, and who followed the sea, printed on its right
arm two hearts and a broken anchor, which remain there now. My
husband died of the cholera, and the friend I had taken to, and who
treated me kindly, also died, and I soon found myself an abandoned
woman, an outcast-yes, ruined forever, and in the streets, leading a
life that my own feelings revolted at, but from which starvation
only seemed the alternative. My conscience rebuked me again and
again, and something - I cannot tell what it was - impelled me with an
irresistible force to watch over the fortunes of the child I knew
must come to the same degraded life necessity-perhaps it was my own
false step-had forced upon me. I watched her a child running
neglected about the streets, then I saw her sold to Hag Zogbaum, who
lived in Pell street; I never lost sight of her-no, I never lost
sight of her, but fear of criminating myself kept me from making
myself known to her. When I had got old in vice, and years had gone
past, and she was on the first step to the vice she had been
educated to, we shared the same roof. Then she was known as Anna
Bonard - "

"Anna Bonard!" exclaims Madame Montford. "Then truly it is she who
now lives in Charleston! There is no longer a doubt. I may seek and
claim her, and return her to at least a life of comfort."

"There you will find her. Ah, many times have I looked upon her, and
thought if I could only save her, how happy I could die. I shared
the same roof with her in Charleston, and when I got sick she was
kind to me, and watched over me, and was full of gentleness, and
wept over her condition. She has sighed many a time, and said how
she wished she knew how she came into the world, to be forced to
live despised by the world. But I got down, down, down, from one
step to another, one step to another, as I had gone up from one step
to another in the splendor of vice, until I found myself, tortured
in mind and body, a poor neglected wretch in the Charleston
Poor-house. In it I was treated worse than a slave, left, sick and
heart-broken, and uncared-for, to the preying of a fever that
destroyed my mind. And as if that were not enough, I was carried
into the dungeons-the 'mad cells,'-and chained. And this struck such
a feeling of terror into my soul that my reason, as they said, was
gone forever. But I got word to Anna, and she came to me, and gave
me clothes and many little things to comfort me, and got me out, and
gave me money to get back to New York, where I have been ever since,
haunted from place to place, with scarce a place to lay my head.
Surely I have suffered. Shall I be forgiven?" Her voice here
falters, she becomes weak, and seems sinking under the burden of her
emotions. "If, - if-if," she mutters, incoherently, "you can save me,
and forgive me, you will have the prayers of one who has drank deep
of the bitter cup." She looks up with a sad, melancholy countenance,
again implores forgiveness, and bursts into loud sobs.

"Mine is the guilty part-it is me who needs forgiveness!" speaks
Madame Montford, pressing the hand of the forlorn woman, as the
tears stream down her cheeks. She has unburdened her emotions, but
such is the irresistible power of a guilty conscience that she finds
her crushed heart and smitten frame sinking under the shock-that she
feels the very fever of remorse mounting to her brain.

"Be calm, be calm-for you have suffered, wandered through the dark
abyss; truly you have been chastened enough in this world. But while
your heart is only bruised and sore, mine is stung deep and
lacerated. The image of that child now rises up before me. I see her
looking back over her chequered life, and pining to know her
birthright. Mine is the task of seeking her out, reconciling her,
saving her from this life of shame. I must sacrifice the secrets of
my own heart, go boldly in pursuit of her - " She pauses a moment.
There is yet a thin veil between her and society. Society only
founds its suspicions upon the mystery involved in the separation
from her husband, and the doubtful character of her long residence
in Europe. Society knows nothing of the birth of the child. The
scandal leveled at her in Charleston, was only the result of her own
indiscretion. "Yes," she whispers, attempting at the same time to
soothe the feelings of the poor disconsolate woman, "I must go, and
go quickly-I must drag her from the terrible life she is
leading; - but, ah! I must do it so as to shield myself. Yes, I must
shield myself!" And she puts into the woman's hand several pieces of
gold, saying: "take this! - to-morrow you will be better provided for.
Be silent. Speak to no one of what has passed between us, nor make
the acquaintance of any one outside the home I shall provide for
you." Thus saying, she recalls Mr. Detective Fitzgerald, rewards him
with a nostrum from her purse, and charges him to make the woman
comfortable at her expense.

"Her mind, now I do believe," says the detective, with an approving
toss of the head, "her faculties 'll come right again, - they only
wants a little care and kindness, mum." The detective thanks her
again and again, then puts the money methodically into his pocket.

The carriage having returned, Madame Montford vaults into it as
quickly as she alighted, and is rolled away to her mansion.






CHAPTER XLIV.

IN WHICH IS RECORDED EVENTS THE READER MAY NOT HAVE EXPECTED.





WHILE the events we have recorded in the foregoing chapter,
confused, hurried, and curious, are being enacted in New York, let
us once more turn to Charleston.

You must know that, notwithstanding our high state of civilization,
we yet maintain in practice two of the most loathsome relics of
barbarism-we lash helpless women, and we scourge, at the public
whipping-post, the bare backs of men.

George Mullholland has twice been dragged to the whipping-post,
twice stripped before a crowd in the market-place, twice lashed,
maddened to desperation, and twice degraded in the eyes of the very
negroes we teach to yield entire submission to the white man,
however humble his grade. Hate, scorn, remorse-every dark passion
his nature can summon-rises up in one torturing tempest, and fills
his bosom with a mad longing for revenge. "Death!" he says, while
looking out from his cell upon the bright landscape without, "what
is death to me? The burnings of an outraged soul subdue the thought
of death."

The woman through whom this dread finale was brought upon him, and
who now repines, unable to shake off the smarts old associations
crowd upon her heart, has a second and third time crept noiselessly
to his cell, and sought in vain his forgiveness. Yea, she has opened
the door gently, but drew back in terror before his dark frown, his
sardonic scorn, his frenzied rush at her. Had he not loved her
fondly, his hate had not taken such deep root in his bosom.

Two or three days pass, he has armed himself "to the death," and is
resolved to make his escape, and seek revenge of his enemies. It is
evening. Dark festoons of clouds hang over the city, lambent
lightning plays along the heavens in the south. Now it flashes
across the city, the dull panorama lights up, the tall, gaunt
steeples gleam out, and the surface of the Bay flashes out in a
phosphoric blaze. Patiently and diligently has he filed, and filed,
and filed, until he has removed the bar that will give egress to his
body. The window of his cell overlooks the ditch, beyond which is
the prison wall. Noiselessly he arranges the rope, for he is in the
third story, then paces his cell, silent and thoughtful. "Must it
be?" he questions within himself, "must I stain these hands with the
blood of the woman I love? Revenge, revenge-I will have revenge. I
will destroy both of them, for to-morrow I am to be dragged a third
time to the whipping-post." Now he casts a glance round the dark
cell, now he pauses at the window, now the lightning courses along
the high wall, then reflects back the deep ditch. Another moment,
and he has commenced his descent. Down, down, down, he lowers
himself. Now he holds on tenaciously, the lightning reflects his
dangling figure, a prisoner in a lower cell gives the alarm, he
hears the watchword of his discovery pass from cell to cell, the
clashing of the keeper's door grates upon his ear like thunder-he
has reached the end of his rope, and yet hangs suspended in the air.
A heavy fall is heard, he has reached the ditch, bounds up its side
to the wall, seizes a pole, and places against it, and, with one
vault, is over into the open street. Not a moment is to be lost.
Uproar and confusion reigns throughout the prison, his keepers have
taken the alarm, and will soon be on his track, pursuing him with
ferocious hounds. Burning for revenge, and yet bewildered, he sets
off at full speed, through back lanes, over fields, passing in his
course the astonished guardmen. He looks neither to the right nor
the left, but speeds on toward the grove. Now he reaches the bridge
that crosses the millpond, pauses for breath, then proceeds on.
Suddenly a light from the villa Anna occupies flashes out. He has
crossed the bridge, bounds over the little hedge-grown avenue,
through the garden, and in another minute stands before her, a
pistol pointed at her breast, and all the terrible passions of an
enraged fiend darkening his countenance. Her implorings for mercy
bring an old servant rushing into the room, the report of a pistol
rings out upon the still air, shriek after shriek follows, mingled
with piercing moans, and death-struggles. "Ha, ha!" says the
avenger, looking on with a sardonic smile upon his face, and a curl
of hate upon his lip, "I have taken the life to which I gave my
own-yes, I have taken it-I have taken it!" And she writhes her body,
and sets her eyes fixedly upon him, as he hastens out of the room.

"Quick! quick!" he says to himself. "There, then! I am pursued!" He
recrosses the millpond over another bridge, and in his confusion
turns a short angle into a lane leading to the city. The yelping of
dogs, the deep, dull tramp of hoofs, the echoing of voices, the
ominous baying and scenting of blood-hounds-all break upon his ear
in one terrible chaos. Not a moment is to be lost. The sight at the
villa will attract the attention of his pursuers, and give him time
to make a distance! The thought of what he has done, and the
terrible death that awaits him, crowds upon his mind, and rises up
before him like a fierce monster of retribution. He rushes at full
speed down the lane, vaults across a field into the main road, only
to find his pursuers close upon him. The patrol along the streets
have caught the alarm, which he finds spreading with
lightning-speed. The clank of side-arms, the scenting and baying of
the hounds, coming louder and louder, nearer and nearer, warns him
of the approaching danger. A gate at the head of a wharf stands
open, the hounds are fast gaining upon him, a few jumps more and
they will have him fast in their ferocious grasp. He rushes through
the gate, down the wharf, the tumultuous cry of his pursuers
striking terror into his very heart. Another instant and the hounds
are at his feet, he stands on the capsill at the end, gives one
wild, despairing look into the abyss beneath - "I die revenged," he
shouts, discharges a pistol into his breast, and with one wild
plunge, is buried forever in the water beneath. The dark stream of
an unhappy life has run out. Upon whom does the responsibility of
this terrible closing rest? In the words of Thomson, the avenger
left behind him only "Gaunt Beggary, and Scorn, with many
hell-hounds more."

When the gray dawn of morning streamed in through the windows of the
little villa, and upon the parlor table, that had so often been
adorned with caskets and fresh-plucked flowers, there, in their
stead, lay the lifeless form of the unhappy Anna, her features pale
as marble, but beautiful even in death. There, rolled in a mystic
shroud, calm as a sleeper in repose, she lay, watched over by two
faithful slaves.

The Judge and Mr. Snivel have found it convenient to make a trip of
pleasure into the country. And though the affair creates some little
comment in fashionable society, it would be exceedingly unpopular to
pry too deeply into the private affairs of men high in office. We
are not encumbered with scrutinizing morality. Being an "unfortunate
woman," the law cannot condescend to deal with her case. Indeed,
were it brought before a judge, and the judge to find himself
sitting in judgment upon a judge, his feelings would find some means
of defrauding his judgment, while society would carefully close the
shutter of its sanctity.

At high noon there comes a man of the name of Moon, commonly called
Mr. Moon, the good-natured Coroner. In truth, a better-humored man
than Mr. Moon cannot be found; and what is more, he has the happiest
way in the world of disposing of such cases, and getting verdicts of
his jury exactly suited to circumstances. Mr. Moon never proceeds to
business without regaling his jury with good brandy and
high-flavored cigars. In this instance he has bustled about and got
together six very solemn and seriously-disposed gentlemen, who
proceed to deliberate. "A mystery hangs over the case," says one. A
second shakes his head, and views the body as if anxious to get
away. A third says, reprovingly, that "such cases are coming too
frequent." Mr. Moon explains the attendant circumstances, and puts a
changed face on the whole affair. One juryman chalks, and another
juryman chalks, and Mr. Moon says, by way of bringing the matter to
a settled point, "It is a bad ending to a wretched life." A solemn
stillness ensues, and then follows the verdict. The body being
identified as that of one Anna Bonard, a woman celebrated for her
beauty, but of notorious reputation, the jury are of opinion (having
duly weighed the circumstances) that she came to her melancholy
death by the hands of one George Mullholland, who was prompted to
commit the act for some cause to the jury unknown. And the jury, in
passing the case over to the authorities, recommend that the said
Mullholland be brought to justice. This done, Mr. Moon orders her
burial, and the jury hasten home, fully confident of having
performed their duty unswerved.

When night came, when all was hushed without, and the silence within
was broken only by the cricket's chirp, when the lone watcher, the
faithful old slave, sat beside the cold, shrouded figure, when the
dim light of the chamber of death seemed mingling with the shadows
of departed souls, there appeared in the room, like a vision, the
tall figure of a female, wrapped in a dark mantle. Slowly and
noiselessly she stole to the side of the deceased, stood motionless
and statue-like for several minutes, her eyes fixed in mute
contemplation on the face of the corpse. The watcher looked and
started back, still the figure remained motionless. Raising her
right hand to her chin, pensively, she lifted her eyes heavenward,
and in that silent appeal, in those dewy tears that glistened in her
great orbs, in those words that seemed freezing to her quivering
lips, the fierce struggle waging in that bosom was told. She heard
the words, "You cannot redeem me now!" knelling in her ears, her
thoughts flashed back over years of remorse, to the day of her
error, and she saw rising up as it were before her, like a spectre
from the tomb, seeking retribution, the image of the child she had
sacrificed to her vanity. She pressed and pressed the cold hand, so
delicate, so like her own; she unbared the round, snowy arm, and
there beheld the imprinted hearts, and the broken anchor! Her
pent-up grief then burst its bounds, the tears rolled down her
cheeks, her lips quivered, her hand trembled, and her very blood
seemed as ice in her veins. She cast a hurried glance round the
room, a calm and serene smile seemed lighting up the features of the
lifeless woman, and she bent over her, and kissed and kissed her
cold, marble-like brow, and bathed it with her burning tears. It was
a last sad offering; and having bestowed it, she turned slowly away,
and disappeared. It was Madame Montford, who came a day too late to
save the storm-tossed girl, but returned to think of the hereafter
of her own soul.






CHAPTER XLV.

ANOTHER SHADE OF THE PICTURE.





WHILE the earth of Potter's Field is closing over all that remains
of Anna Bonard, Maria McArthur may be seen, snatching a moment of
rest, as it were, seated under the shade of a tree on the Battery,
musing, as is her wont. The ships sail by cheerily, there is a
touching beauty about the landscape before her, all nature seems
glad. Even the heavens smile serenely; and a genial warmth breathes
through the soft air. "Truly the Allwise," she says within herself,
"will be my protector, and is chastising me while consecrating
something to my good. Mr. Keepum has made my father's release the
condition of my ruin. But he is but flesh and blood, and I - no, I am
not yet a slave! The virtue of the poor, truly, doth hang by tender
threads; but I am resolved to die struggling to preserve it." And a
light, as of some future joy, rises up in her fancy, and gives her
new strength.

The German family have removed from the house in which she occupies
a room, and in its place are come two women of doubtful character.
Still, necessity compels her to remain in it; for though it is a
means resorted to by Keepum to effect his purpose, she cannot remove
without being followed, and harassed by him. Strong in the
consciousness of her own purity, and doubly incensed at the proof of
what extremes the designer will condescend to, she nerves herself
for the struggle she sees before her. True, she was under the same
roof with them; she was subjected to many inconveniencies by their
presence; but not all their flattering inducements could change her
resolution. Nevertheless, the resolution of a helpless female does
not protect her from the insults of heartless men. She returns home
to find that Mother Rumor, with her thousand tongues, is circulating
all kinds of evil reports about her. It is even asserted that she
has become an abandoned woman, and is the occupant of a house of
doubtful repute. And this, instead of enlisting the sympathies of
some kind heart, rather increases the prejudice and coldness of
those upon whom she has depended for work. It is seldom the story of
suffering innocence finds listeners. The sufferer is too frequently
required to qualify in crime, before she becomes an object of
sympathy.

She returns, one day, some work just finished for one of our high
old families, the lady of which makes it a boast that she is always
engaged in "laudable pursuits of a humane kind." The lady sends her
servant to the door with the pittance due, and begs to say she is
sorry to hear of the life Miss McArthur is leading, and requests she
will not show herself at the house again. Mortified in her feelings,
Maria begs an interview; but the servant soon returns an answer that
her Missus cannot descend to anything of the kind. Our high old
families despise working people, and wall themselves up against the
poor, whose virtue they regard as an exceedingly cheap commodity.
Our high old families choose rather to charge guilt, and deny the
right to prove innocence.

With the four shillings, Maria, weeping, turns from the door,
procures some bread and coffee, and wends her way to the old prison.
But the chords of her resolution are shaken, the cold repulse has
gone like poison to her heart. The ray of joy that was lighting up
her future, seems passing away; whilst fainter and fainter comes the
hope of once more greeting her lover. She sees vice pampered by the
rich, and poor virtue begging at their doors. She sees a price set
upon her own ruin; she sees men in high places waiting with eager
passion the moment when the thread of her resolution will give out.
The cloud of her night does, indeed, seem darkening again.

But she gains the prison, and falters as she enters the cell where
the old Antiquary, his brow furrowed deep of age, sleeps calmly upon
his cot. Near his hand, which he has raised over his head, lays a
letter, with the envelope broken. Maria's quick eye flashes over the
superscription, and recognizes in it the hand of Tom Swiggs. A
transport of joy fills her bosom with emotions she has no power to
constrain. She trembles from head to foot; fancies mingled with joys
and fears crowd rapidly upon her thoughts. She grasps it with
feelings frantic of joy, and holds it in her shaking hand; the shock
has nigh overcome her. The hope in which she has so long found
comfort and strength-that has so long buoyed her up, and carried her
safely through trials, has truly been her beacon light. "Truly," she
says within herself, "the dawn of my morning is brightening now."
She opens the envelope, and finds a letter enclosed to her. "Oh!
yes, yes, yes! it is him-it is from him!" she stammers, in the
exuberance of her wild joy. And now the words, "You are richer than
me," flash through her thoughts with revealed significance.

Maria grasps the old man's hand. He starts and wakes, as if
unconscious of his situation, then fixes his eyes upon her with a
steady, vacant gaze. Then, with childlike fervor, he presses her
hand to his lips, and kisses it. "It was a pleasant dream - ah! yes, I
was dreaming all things went so well!" Again a change comes over his
countenance, and he glances round the room, with a wild and confused
look. "Am I yet in prison?-well, it was only a dream. If death were
like dreaming, I would crave it to take me to its peace, that my
mind might no longer be harassed with the troubles of this life. Ah!
there, there!" - (the old man starts suddenly, as if a thought has
flashed upon him) - " there is the letter, and from poor Tom, too! I
only broke the envelope. I have not opened it."

"It is safe, father; I have it," resumes Maria, holding it before
him, unopened, as the words tremble upon her lips. One moment she
fears it may convey bad news, and in the next she is overjoyed with
the hope that it brings tidings of the safety and return of him for
whose welfare she breathed many a prayer. Pale and agitated, she
hesitates a moment, then proceeds to open it.

"Father, father! heaven has shielded me-heaven has shielded me! Ha!
ha! ha! yes, yes, yes! He is safe! he is safe!" And she breaks out
into one wild exclamation of joy, presses the letter to her lips,
and kisses it, and moistens it with her tears. "It was all a plot-a
dark plot set for my ruin!" she mutters, and sinks back, overcome
with her emotions. The old man fondles her to his bosom, his white
beard flowing over her suffused cheeks, and his tears mingling with
hers. And here she remains, until the anguish of her joy runs out,
and her mind resumes its wonted calm.

Having broken the spell, she reads the letter to the enraptured old
man. Tom has arrived in New York; explains the cause of his long
absence; speaks of several letters he has transmitted by post,
(which she never received;) and his readiness to proceed to
Charleston, by steamer, in a few days. His letter is warm with love
and constancy; he recurs to old associations; he recounts his
remembrance of the many kindnesses he received at the hands of her
father, when homeless; of the care, to which he owes his reform,
bestowed upon him by herself, and his burning anxiety to clasp her



Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 27 of 29)