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

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admonition, and again covers his face with his domino.

The accommodation man, calling him by his judicial title, says he
will yet repent the refusal!

It is ten o'clock. The gentleman slightly colored, who represents a
fussy beadle, makes a flourish with his great staff. The doors of
the dancing hall are thrown open. Like the rushing of the gulf
stream there floods in a motley procession of painted females and
masked men-the former in dresses as varied in hue as the fires of
remorse burning out their unuttered thoughts. Two and two they jeer
and crowd their way along into the spacious hall, the walls of which
are frescoed in extravagant mythological designs, the roof painted
in fret work, and the cornices interspersed with seraphs in stucco
and gilt. The lights of two massive chandeliers throw a bewitching
refulgence over a scene at once picturesque and mysterious; and from
four tall mirrors secured between the windows, is reflected the
forms and movements of the masquers.

Reader! you have nothing in this democratic country with which to
successfully compare it. And to seek a comparison in the old world,
where vice, as in this city of chivalry, hath a license, serves not
our office.

Madame Flamingo, flanked right and left by twelve colored gentlemen,
who, their collars decorated with white and pink rosettes, officiate
as masters of ceremony, and form a crescent in front of the
thronging procession, steps gradually backward, curtsying and
bowing, and spreading her hands to her guests, after the manner of
my Lord Chamberlain.

Eight colored musicians, (everything is colored here,) perched on a
raised platform covered with maroon-colored plush; at the signal of
a lusty-tongued call-master, strike up a march, to which the motley
throng attempt to keep time. It is martial enough, and discordant
enough for anything but keeping time to.

The plush-covered benches filing along the sides and ends of the
hall are eagerly sought after and occupied by a strange mixture of
lookers on in Vienna. Here the hoary-headed father sits beside a
newly-initiated youth, who is receiving his first lesson of
dissipation. There the grave and chivalric planter sports with the
nice young man, who is cultivating a beard and his way into the
by-ways. A little further on the suspicious looking gambler sits
freely conversing with the man whom a degrading public opinion has
raised to the dignity of the judicial bench. Yonder is seen the man
who has eaten his way into fashionable society, (and by fashionable
society very much caressed in return,) the bosom companion of the
man whose crimes have made him an outcast.

Generous reader! contemplate this grotesque assembly; study the
object Madame Flamingo has in gathering it to her fold. Does it not
present the accessories to wrong doing? Does it not show that the
wrong-doer and the criminally inclined, too often receive
encouragement by the example of those whose duty it is to protect
society? The spread of crime, alas! for the profession, is too often
regarded by the lawyer as rather a desirable means of increasing his

Quadrille follows quadrille, the waltz succeeds the schottish, the
scene presents one bewildering maze of flaunting gossamers and
girating bodies, now floating sylph-like into the foreground, then
whirling seductively into the shadowy vista, where the joyous laugh
dies out in the din of voices. The excitement has seized upon the
head and heart of the young, - the child who stood trembling between
the first and second downward step finds her reeling brain a captive
in this snare set to seal her ruin.

Now the music ceases, the lusty-tongued call-master stands surveying
what he is pleased to call the oriental splendor of this grotesque
assembly. He doesn't know who wouldn't patronize such a house! It
suddenly forms in platoon, and marshalled by slightly-colored
masters of ceremony, promenades in an oblong figure.

Here, leaning modestly on the arm of a tall figure in military
uniform, and advancing slowly up the hall, is a girl of some sixteen
summers. Her finely-rounded form is in harmony with the ravishing
vivacity of her face, which is beautifully oval. Seen by the glaring
gaslight her complexion is singularly clear and pale. But that
freshness which had gained her many an admirer, and which gave such
a charm to the roundness of early youth, we look for in vain. And
yet there is a softness and delicacy about her well-cut and
womanly features-a child-like sweetness in her smile-a glow of
thoughtfulness in those great, flashing black eyes-an expression of
melancholy in which at short intervals we read her thoughts-an
incessant playing of those long dark eyelashes, that clothes her
charms with an irresistible, a soul-inspiring seductiveness. Her
dress, of moire antique, is chasteness itself; her bust exquisite
symmetry; it heaves as softly as if touched by some gentle zephyr.
From an Haidean brow falls and floats undulating over her
marble-like shoulders, the massive folds of her glossy black hair.
Nature had indeed been lavish of her gifts on this fair creature, to
whose charms no painter could give a touch more fascinating. This
girl, whose elastic step and erect carriage contrasts strangely with
the languid forms about her, is Anna Bonard, the neglected, the
betrayed. There passes and repasses her, now contemplating her with
a curious stare, then muttering inaudibly, a man of portly figure,
in mask and cowl. He touches with a delicate hand his watch-guard,
we see two sharp, lecherous eyes peering through the domino; he
folds his arms and pauses a few seconds, as if to survey the metal
of her companion, then crosses and recrosses her path. Presently his
singular demeanor attracts her attention, a curl of sarcasm is seen
on her lip, her brow darkens, her dark orbs flash as of fire, - all
the heart-burnings of a soul stung with shame are seen to quicken
and make ghastly those features that but a moment before shone
lambent as summer lightning. He pauses as with a look of withering
scorn she scans him from head to foot, raises covertly her left
hand, tossing carelessly her glossy hair on her shoulder, and with
lightning quickness snatches with her right the domino from his
face. "Hypocrite!" she exclaims, dashing it to the ground, and with
her foot placed defiantly upon the domino, assumes a tragic
attitude, her right arm extended, and the forefinger of her hand
pointing in his face. "Ah!" she continues, in biting accents, "it is
against the perfidy of such as you I have struggled. Your false
face, like your heart, needed a disguise. But I have dragged it
away, that you may be judged as you are. This is my satisfaction for
your betrayal. Oh that I could have deeper revenge!" She has
unmasked Judge Sleepyhorn, who stands before the anxious gaze of an
hundred night revellers, pressing eagerly to the scene of confusion.
Madame Flamingo's house, as you may judge, is much out in its
dignity, and in a general uproar. There was something
touching-something that the graver head might ponder over, in the
words of this unfortunate girl - "I have struggled!" A heedless and
gold-getting world seldom enters upon the mystery of its meaning.
But it hath a meaning deep and powerful in its appeal to society-
one that might serve the good of a commonwealth did society stoop
and take it by the hand.

So sudden was the motion with which this girl snatched the mask from
the face of the Judge, (he stood as if appalled,) that, ere he had
gained his self-possession, she drew from her girdle a pearl-hilted
stiletto, and in attempting to ward off the dreadful lunge, he
struck it from her hand, and into her own bosom. The weapon fell
gory to the floor-the blood trickled down her bodice-a cry of
"murder" resounded through the hall! The administrator of justice
rushed out of the door as the unhappy girl swooned in the arms of
her partner. A scene so confused and wild that it bewilders the
brain, now ensued. Madame Flamingo calls loudly for Mr. Soloman; and
as the reputation of her house is uppermost in her thoughts, she
atones for its imperiled condition by fainting in the arms of a
grave old gentleman, who was beating a hasty retreat, and whose
respectability she may compromise through this uncalled-for act.

A young man of slender form, and pale, sandy features, makes his way
through the crowd, clasps Anna affectionately in his arms, imprints
a kiss on her pallid brow, and bears her out of the hall.

By the aid of hartshorn and a few dashes of cold water, the old
hostess is pleased to come to, as we say, and set about putting her
house in order. Mr. Soloman, to the great joy of those who did not
deem it prudent to make their escape, steps in to negotiate for the
peace of the house and the restoration of order. "It is all the
result of a mistake," he says laughingly, and good-naturedly,
patting every one he meets on the shoulder. "A little bit of
jealousy on the part of the girl. It all had its origin in an error
that can be easily rectified. In a word, there's much ado about
nothing in the whole of it. Little affairs of this kind are incident
to fashionable society all over the world! The lady being only
scratched, is more frightened than hurt. Nobody is killed; and if
there were, why killings are become so fashionable, that if the
killed be not a gentleman, nobody thinks anything of it," he
continues. And Mr. Soloman being an excellent diplomatist, does,
with the aid of the hostess, her twelve masters of ceremony, her
beadle, and two policemen, forthwith bring the house to a more
orderly condition. But night has rolled into the page of the past,
the gray dawn of morning is peeping in at the half-closed windows,
the lights burning in the chandeliers shed a pale glow over the
wearied features of those who drag, as it were, their languid bodies
to the stifled music of unwilling slaves. And while daylight seems
modestly contending with the vulgar glare within, there appears
among the pale revellers a paler ghost, who, having stalked thrice
up and down the hall, preserving the frigidity and ghostliness of
the tomb, answering not the questions that are put to him, and
otherwise deporting himself as becometh a ghost of good metal, is
being taken for a demon of wicked import. Now he pauses at the end
of the hall, faces with spectre-like stare the alarmed group at the
opposite end, rests his left elbow on his scythe-staff, and having
set his glass on the floor, points to its running sands warningly
with his right forefinger. Not a muscle does he move. "Truly a
ghost!" exclaims one. "A ghost would have vanished before this,"
whispers another. "Speak to him," a third responds, as the musicians
are seen to pale and leave their benches. Madame Flamingo, pale and
weary, is first to rush for the door, shrieking as his ghostship
turns his grim face upon her. Shriek follows shriek, the lights are
put out, the gray dawn plays upon and makes doubly frightful the
spectre. A Pandemonium of shriekings and beseechings is succeeded by
a stillness as of the tomb. Our ghost is victor.



THE man who kissed and bore away the prostrate girl was George

"Oh! George-George!" she whispers imploringly, as her eyes meet his;
and turning upon the couch of her chamber, where he hath lain her,
awakes to consciousness, and finds him watching over her with a
lover's solicitude. "I was not cold because I loved you less-oh no!
It was to propitiate my ambition-to be free of the bondage of this
house-to purge myself of the past-to better my future!" And she lays
her pale, nervous hand gently on his arm-then grasps his hand and
presses it fervently to her lips.

Though placed beyond the pale of society-though envied by one
extreme and shunned by the other-she finds George her only true
friend. He parts and smooths gently over her polished shoulders her
dishevelled hair; he watches over her with the tenderness of a
brother; he quenches and wipes away the blood oozing from her
wounded breast; he kisses and kisses her flushed cheek, and bathes
her Ion-like brow. He forgives all. His heart would speak if his
tongue had words to represent it. He would the past were buried-the
thought of having wronged him forgotten. She recognizes in his
solicitude for her the sincerity of his heart. It touches like sweet
music the tenderest chords of her own; and like gushing fountains
her great black eyes fill with tears. She buries her face in her
hands, crying, "Never, never, George, (I swear it before the God I
have wronged, but whose forgiveness I still pray,) will I again
forget my obligation to you! I care not how high in station he who
seeks me may be. Ambitious! - I was misled. His money lured me away,
but he betrayed me in the face of his promises. Henceforth I have
nothing for this deceptive world; I receive of it nothing but
betrayal - "

"The world wants nothing more of either of us," interrupts George.

More wounded in her feelings than in her flesh, she sobs and wrings
her hands like one in despair.

"You have ambition. I am too poor to serve your ambition!"

That word, too "poor," is more than her already distracted brain can
bear up under. It brings back the terrible picture of their past
history; it goads and agonizes her very soul. She throws her arms
frantically about his neck; presses him to her bosom; kisses him
with the fervor of a child. Having pledged his forgiveness with a
kiss, and sealed it by calling in a witness too often profaned on
such occasions, George calms her feelings as best he can; then he
smooths with a gentle hand the folds of her uplifted dress, and with
them curtains the satin slippers that so delicately encase her small
feet. This done, he spreads over her the richly-lined India morning-
gown presented to her a few days ago by the Judge, who, as she says,
so wantonly betrayed her, and on whom she sought revenge. Like a
Delian maid, surrounded with Oriental luxury, and reclining on satin
and velvet, she flings her flowing hair over her shoulders, nestles
her weary head in the embroidered cushion, and with the hand of her
only true friend firmly grasped in her own, soothes away into a calm
sleep-that sovereign but too transient balm for sorrowing hearts.

Our scene changes. The ghost hath taken himself to the grave-yard;
the morning dawns soft and sunny on what we harmlessly style the
sunny city of the sunny South. Madame Flamingo hath resolved to nail
another horse-shoe over her door. She will propitiate (so she hath
it) the god of ghosts.

George Mullholland, having neither visible means of gaining a
livelihood nor a settled home, may be seen in a solitary box at
Baker's, (a coffee-house at the corner of Meeting and Market
streets,) eating an humble breakfast. About him there is a
forlornness that the quick eye never fails to discover in the
manners of the homeless man. "Cleverly done," he says, laying down
the Mercury newspaper, in which it is set forth that "the St.
Cecilia, in consequence of an affliction in the family of one of its
principal members, postponed its assembly last night. The theatre,
in consequence of a misunderstanding between the manager and his
people, was also closed. The lecture on comparative anatomy, by
Professor Bones, which was to have been delivered at Hibernian Hall,
is, in consequence of the indisposition of the learned Professor,
put off to Tuesday evening next, when he will have, as he deserves,
an overflowing house. Tickets, as before, may be had at all the
music and bookstores." The said facetious journal was silent on the
superior attractions at the house of the old hostess; nor did it
deem it prudent to let drop a word on the misunderstanding between
the patrons of the drama and the said theatrical manager, inasmuch
as it was one of those that are sure to give rise to a very serious
misunderstanding between that functionary and his poor people.

In another column the short but potent line met his eye: "An
overflowing and exceedingly fashionable house greeted the Negro
Minstrels last night. First-rate talent never goes begging in our
city." George sips his coffee and smiles. Wonderfully clever these
editors are, he thinks. They have nice apologies for public taste
always on hand; set the country by the ears now and then; and amuse
themselves with carrying on the most prudent description of wars.

His own isolated condition, however, is uppermost in his mind.
Poverty and wretchedness stare him in the face on one side;
chivalry, on the other, has no bows for him while daylight lasts.
Instinct whispers in his ear-where one exists the other is sure to

To the end that this young man will perform a somewhat important
part in the by-ways of this history, some further description of him
may be necessary. George Mullholland stands some five feet nine, is
wiry-limbed, and slender and erect of person. Of light complexion,
his features are sharp and irregular, his face narrow and freckled,
his forehead small and retreating, his hair sandy and short-cropped.
Add to these two small, dull, gray eyes, and you have features not
easily described. Nevertheless, there are moments when his
countenance wears an expression of mildness-one in which the quick
eye may read a character more inoffensive than intrusive. A
swallow-tail blue coat, of ample skirts, and brass buttons; a
bright-colored waistcoat, opening an avalanche of shirt-bosom,
blossoming with cheap jewelry; a broad, rolling shirt-collar, tied
carelessly with a blue ribbon; a steeple-crowned hat, set on the
side of his head with a challenging air; and a pair of
broadly-striped and puckered trowsers, reaching well over a
small-toed and highly-glazed boot, constitutes his dress. For the
exact set of those two last-named articles of his wardrobe he
maintains a scrupulous regard. We are compelled to acknowledge
George an importation from New York, where he would be the more
readily recognized by that vulgar epithet, too frequently used by
the self-styled refined - "a swell."

Life with George is a mere drift of uncertainty. As for aims and
ends, why he sees the safer thing in having nothing to do with them.
Mr. Tom Toddleworth once advised this course, and Tom was esteemed
good authority in such matters. Like many others, his character is
made up of those yielding qualities which the teachings of good men
may elevate to usefulness, or bad men corrupt by their examples.
There is a stage in the early youth of such persons when we find
their minds singularly susceptible, and ready to give rapid growth
to all the vices of depraved men; while they are equally apt in
receiving good, if good men but take the trouble to care for them,
and inculcate lessons of morality.

Not having a recognized home, we may add, in resuming our story,
that George makes Baker's his accustomed haunt during the day, as do
also numerous others of his class-a class recognized and made use of
by men in the higher walks of life only at night.

"Ah! ha, ha! into a tight place this time, George," laughs out Mr.
Soloman, the accommodation man, as he hastens into the room, seats
himself in the box with George, and seizes his hand with the
earnestness of a true friend. Mr. Soloman can deport himself on all
occasions with becoming good nature. "It's got out, you see."

"What has got out?" interrupts George, maintaining a careless

"Come now! none of that, old fellow."

"If I understood you - "

"That affair last night," pursues Mr. Soloman, his delicate fingers
wandering into his more delicately-combed beard. "It'll go hard with
you. He's a stubborn old cove, that Sleepyhorn; administers the law
as CвАШsar was wont to. Yesterday he sent seven to the whipping-post;
to-day he hangs two 'niggers' and a white man. There is a
consolation in getting rid of the white. I say this because no one
loses a dollar by it."

George, continuing to masticate his bread, says it has nothing to do
with him. He may hang the town.

"If I can do you a bit of a good turn, why here's your man. But you
must not talk that way - you must not, George, I assure you!" Mr.
Soloman assumes great seriousness of countenance, and again, in a
friendly way, takes George by the hand. "That poignard, George, was
yours. It was picked up by myself when it fell from your hand - "

"My hand! my hand!" George quickly interposes, his countenance
paling, and his eyes wandering in excitement.

"Now don't attempt to disguise the matter, you know! Come out on the
square-own up! Jealousy plays the devil with one now and then. I
know-I have had a touch of it; had many a little love affair in my
time - "

George again interrupts by inquiring to what he is coming.

"To the attempt (the accommodation man assumes an air of sternness)
you made last night on the life of that unhappy girl. It is
needless," he adds, "to plead ignorance. The Judge has the poignard;
and what's more, there are four witnesses ready to testify. It'll go
hard with you, my boy." He shakes his head warningly.

"I swear before God and man I am as innocent as ignorant of the
charge. The poignard I confess is mine; but I had no part in the act
of last night, save to carry the prostrate girl-the girl I dearly
love-away. This I can prove by her own lips."

Mr. Soloman, with an air of legal profundity, says: "This is all
very well in its way, George, but it won't stand in law. The law is
what you have got to get at. And when you have got at it, you must
get round it; and then you must twist it and work it every which
way-only be careful not to turn its points against yourself; that,
you know, is the way we lawyers do the thing. You'll think we're a
sharp lot; and we have to be sharp, as times are."

"It is not surprising," replies George, as if waking from a fit of
abstraction, "that she should have sought revenge of one who so
basely betrayed her at the St. Cecilia - "

"There, there!" Mr. Soloman interrupts, changing entirely the
expression of his countenance, "the whole thing is out! I said there
was an unexplained mystery somewhere. It was not the Judge, but me
who betrayed her to the assembly. Bless you, (he smiles, and
crooking his finger, beckons a servant, whom he orders to bring a
julep,) I was bound to do it, being the guardian of the Society's
dignity, which office I have held for years. But you don't mean to
have it that the girl attempted - (he suddenly corrects himself) - Ah,
that won't do, George. Present my compliments to Anna - I wouldn't for
the world do aught to hurt her feelings, you know that - and say I am
ready to get on my knees to her to confess myself a penitent for
having injured her feelings. Yes, I am ready to do anything that
will procure her forgiveness. I plead guilty. But she must in return
forgive the Judge. He is hard in law matters - that is, we of the law
consider him so - now and then; but laying that aside, he is one of
the best old fellows in the world, loves Anna to distraction; nor
has he the worst opinion in the world of you, George. Fact is, I
have several times heard him refer to you in terms of praise. As I
said before, being the man to do you a bit of a good turn, take my
advice as a friend. The Judge has got you in his grasp, according to
every established principle of law; and having four good and
competent witnesses, (you have no voice in law, and Anna's won't
stand before a jury,) will send you up for a twelve-months'
residence in Mount Rascal."

It will be almost needless here to add, that Mr. Soloman had, in an
interview with the Judge, arranged, in consideration of a goodly
fee, to assume the responsibility of the betrayal at the St.
Cecilia; and also to bring about a reconciliation between him and
the girl he so passionately sought.

"Keep out of the way a few days, and everything will blow over and
come right. I will procure you the Judge's friendship - yes, his
money, if you want. More than that, I will acknowledge my guilt to
Anna; and being as generous of heart as she is beautiful, she will,
having discovered the mistake, forgive me and make amends to the
Judge for her foolish act.

It is almost superfluous to add, that the apparent sincerity with
which the accommodation man pleaded, had its effect on the
weak-minded man. He loved dearly the girl, but poverty hung like a
leaden cloud over him. Poverty stripped him of the means of
gratifying her ambition; poverty held him fast locked in its
blighting chains; poverty forbid his rescuing her from the condition
necessity had imposed upon her; poverty was goading him into crime;

Online LibraryF. Colburn AdamsJustice in the By-Ways, a Tale of Life → online text (page 6 of 29)