Stories by American Authors VI.
THE VILLAGE CONVICT.
THE DENVER EXPRESS.
THE MISFORTUNES OF BRO' THOMAS WHEATLEY.
THE HEARTBREAK CAMEO.
MISS EUNICE'S GLOVE.
BROTHER SEBASTIAN'S FRIENDSHIP.
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
THE VILLAGE CONVICT.
BY C.H. WHITE.
"Wonder 'f Eph's got back; they say his sentence run out yisterday."
The speaker, John Doane, was a sunburnt fisherman, one of a circle of
well-salted individuals who sat, some on chairs, some on boxes and
barrels, around the stove in a country store.
"Yes," said Captain Seth, a middle-aged little man with earrings; "he
come on the stage to-noon. Wouldn't hardly speak a word, Jim says.
Looked kind o' sot and sober."
"Wall," said the first speaker, "I only hope he won't go to burnin' us
out of house and home, same as he burnt up Eliphalet's barn. I was
ruther in hopes he'd 'a' made off West. Seems to me I should, in his
place, hevin' ben in State's-prison."
"Now, I allers bed quite a parcel o' sympathy for Eph," said a short,
thickset coasting captain, who sat tilted back in a three-legged chair,
smoking lazily. "You see, he wa'n't but about twenty-one or two then,
and he was allus a mighty high-strung boy; and then Eliphalet did act
putty ha'sh, foreclosin' on Eph's mother, and turnin' her out o' the
farm, in winter, when everybody knew she could ha' pulled through by
waitin'. Eph sot great store by the old lady, and I expect he was putty
mad with Eliphalet that night."
"I allers," said Doane, "approved o' his plan o' leadin' out all the
critters, 'fore he touched off the barn. 'Taint everybody 't would hev
taken pains to do that. But all the same, I tell Sarai't I feel kind o'
skittish, nights, to hev to turn in, feelin' 't there's a convict in the
"I hain't got no barn to burn," said Captain Seth; "but if he allots my
henhouse to the flames, I hope he'll lead out the hens, and hitch 'em to
the apple trees, same's he did Eliphalet's critters. Think he ought to
deal ekally by all."
A mild general chuckle greeted this sally, cheered by which the speaker
"Thought some o' takin' out a policy o' insurance on my cockerel."
"Trade's lookin' up, William," said Captain Seth to the storekeeper, as
some one was heard to kick the snow off his boots on the door-step.
"Somebody's found he's got to hev a shoestring 'fore mornin'."
The door opened, and closed behind a strongly made fellow of twenty-six
or seven, of homely features, with black hair, in clothes which he had
outgrown. It was a bitter night, but he had no coat over his flannel
jacket. He walked straight down the store, between the dry-goods
counters, to the snug corner at the rear, where the knot of talkers sat;
nodded, without a smile, to each of them, and then asked the storekeeper
for some simple articles of food, which he wished to buy. It was Eph.
While the purchases were being put up, an awkward silence prevailed,
which the oil-suits hanging on the walls, broadly displaying their arms
and legs, seemed to mock, in dumb show.
Nothing was changed, to Eph's eyes, as he looked about. Even the
handbill of familiar pattern:
"STANDING WOOD FOR SALE.
APPLY TO J. CARTER, ADMIN'R,"
seemed to have always been there.
The village parliament remained spellbound. Mr. Adams tied up the
purchases and mildly inquired:
"Shall I charge this?"
Not that he was anxious to open an account, but that he would probably
have gone to the length of selling Eph a barrel of molasses "on tick"
rather than run any risk of offending so formidable a character.
"No," said Eph; "I will pay for the things."
And having put the packages into a canvas bag, and selected some
fish-hooks and lines from the show-case, where they lay environed by
jackknives, jewsharps, and gum-drops—dear to the eyes of his
childhood—he paid what was due, said "Good-night, William," to the
storekeeper, and walked steadily out into the night.
"Wall," said the skipper, "I am surprised! I strove to think o' suthin'
to say, all the time he was here, but I swow I couldn't think o'
nothin'. I couldn't ask him if it seemed good to git home, nor how the
thermometer had varied in different parts o' the town where he'd been.
Everything seemed to fetch right up standin' to the State's-prison."
"I was just goin' to say, 'How'd ye leave everybody?'" said Doane; "but
that kind o' seemed to bring up them he'd left. I felt real bad, though,
to hev the feller go off 'thout none on us speakin' to him. He's got a
hard furrer to plough; and yet I don't s'pose there's much harm in him,
'f Eliphalet only keeps quiet."
"Eliphalet!" said a young sailor, contemptuously. "No fear o' him! They
say he's so sca't of Eph he hain't hardly swallowed nothin' for a week."
"But where will he live?" asked a short, curly-haired young man, whom
Eph had seemed not to recognize. It was the new doctor, who, after
having made his way through college and "the great medical school in
Boston," had, two years before, settled in this village.
"I believe," said Mr. Adams, rubbing his hands, "that he wrote to
Joshua Carr last winter, when his mother died, not to let the little
place she left, on the Salt Hay Road, and I understand that he is going
to make his home there. It is an old house, you know, and not worth
much, but it is weather-tight, I should say."
"Speakin' of his writin' to Joshua," said Doane, "I have heard such a
sound as that he used to shine up to Joshua's Susan, years back. But
that's all ended now. You won't catch Susan marryin' no jailbirds."
"But how will he live?" said the doctor. "Will anybody give him work?"
"Let him alone for livin'," said Doane. "He can ketch more fish than any
other two men in the place—allers seemed to kind o' hev a knack o'
whistlin' 'em right into the boat. And then Nelson Briggs, that settled
up his mother's estate, allows he's got over a hundred and ten dollars
for him, after payin' debts and all probate expenses, and that and the
place is all he needs to start on."
"I will go to see him," said the doctor to himself, as he went out upon
the requisition of a grave man in a red tippet, who had just come for
him. "He doesn't look so very dangerous, and I think he can be tamed. I
remember that his mother told me about him."
Late that night, returning from his seven miles' drive, as he left the
causeway, built across a wide stretch of salt-marsh, crossed the
rattling plank bridge and ascended the hill, he saw a light in the
cottage window, where he had often been to attend Aunt Lois. "I will
stop now," said he. And, tying his horse to the front fence, he went
toward the kitchen door. As he passed the window, he glanced in. A lamp
was burning on the table. On a settle, lying upon his face, was
stretched the convict, his arms beneath his head. The canvas bag lay on
the floor beside him. "I will not disturb him now," said the doctor.
A few days later Dr. Burt was driving in his sleigh with his wife along
the Salt Hay Road. It was a clear, crisp winter forenoon. As they neared
Eph's house, he said:
"Mary, suppose I lay siege to the fort this morning. I see a curl of
smoke rising from the little shop in the barn. He must be making himself
a jimmy or a dark-lantern to break into our vegetable cellar with."
"Well," said she, "I think it would be a good plan; only, you know, you
must be very, very careful not to hint, even in the faintest way, at his
imprisonment. You mustn't so much as suspect that he has ever been
away from the place. People hardly dare to speak to him, for fear he
will see some reference to his having been in prison, and get angry."
"You shall see my sly tact," said her husband, laughing. "I will be as
innocent as a lamb. I will ask him why I have not seen him at the
Sabbath-school this winter."
"You may make fun," said she, "but you will end by taking my advice,
all the same. Now, do be careful what you say."
"I will," he replied. "I will compose my remarks carefully upon the back
of an envelope and read them to him, so as to be absolutely sure. I will
leave on his mind an impression that I have been in prison, and that he
was the judge that tried me."
He drove in at the open gate, hitched his horse in a warm corner by the
kitchen door, and then stopped for a moment to enjoy the view. The
situation of the little house, half a mile from any other, was beautiful
in summer, but it was bleak enough in winter. In the small front
dooryard stood three lofty, wind-blown poplars, all heading away from
the sea, and between them you could look down the bay or across the
salt-marshes, while in the opposite direction were to be seen the roofs
and the glittering spires of the village.
"It is social for him here, to say the least," said the doctor, as he
turned and walked alone to the shop. He opened the door and went in. It
was a long, low lean-to, such as farmers often furnish for domestic
work, with a carpenter's bench, a grind-stone, and a few simple tools.
It was lighted by three square windows above the bench. An air-tight
stove, projecting its funnel through a hole in one of the panes, gave
out a cheerful crackling.
Eph, in his shirt-sleeves, his hands in his pockets, was standing, his
back against the bench, surveying, with something of a mechanic's eye,
the frame of a boat which was set up on the floor.
He looked up and colored slightly. The doctor took out a cigarette, lit
it, sat down on the bench, and smoked, clasping one knee in his hands
and eying the boat.
"Centre-board?" he asked, at length.
"Yes," said Eph.
"I was brought up to sail a boat," said the doctor, "and I often go
fishing in summer, when I get a chance. I shall want to try your boat
"The timbers are not seasoned, are they? They look like pitch-pine, just
out of the woods. Won't they warp?"
"No. Pitch-pine goes right in, green. I s'pose the pitch keeps it, if
it's out of the sun."
"Where did you cut it?"
Eph colored a little.
"In my back lot."
The doctor smoked on calmly, and studied the boat.
"I don't know you," said Eph, relaxing a little.
"Good reason," said the doctor. "I've only been here two years;" and
after a moment's pause, he added: "I am the doctor here, now. You've
heard of my father, Dr. Burt, of Broad River?"
Eph nodded assent; everybody knew him, all through the country;—a
fatherly old man, who rode on long journeys at everybody's call, and
never sent in his bills.
The visitor had a standing with Eph at once.
"Doctors never pick at folks," he said to himself—"at any rate, not old
Dr. Burt's son."
"I used to come here to see your mother," said the doctor, "when she was
sick. She used to talk a great deal about you, and said she wanted me to
get acquainted with you, when your time was out."
Eph started, but said nothing.
"She was a good woman, Aunt Lois," added the doctor; "one of the best
women I ever saw."
"I don't want anybody to bother himself on my account," said Eph. "I ask
"You will have to take favors, though," said the doctor, "before the
winter is over. You will be careless and get sick; you have been living
for a long time entirely in-doors, with regular hours and work and food.
Now you are going to live out-of-doors, and get your own meals,
irregularly. You didn't have on a thick coat the other night, when I saw
you at the store."
"I haven't got any that's large enough for me," said Eph, a little less
harshly, "and I've got to keep my money for other things."
"Then look out and wear flannel shirts enough," said the doctor, "if
you want to be independent. But before I go, I want to go into the
house. I want my wife to see Aunt Lois's room, and the view from the
west window;" and he led the way to the sleigh.
Eph hesitated a moment, and then followed him.
"Mary, this is Ephraim Morse. We are going in to see the Dutch tiles I
have told you of."
She smiled as she held out her mittened hand to Eph, who took it
The square front room, which had been originally intended for a
keeping-room, but had been Aunt Lois's bedroom, looked out from two
windows upon the road, and from two upon the rolling, tumbling bay, and
the shining sea beyond. A tall clock, with a rocking ship above the
face, ticked in the corner. The painted floor with bright rag-mats, the
little table with a lacquer work-box, the stiff chairs, and the
old-fashioned bedstead, the china ornaments upon the mantel-piece, the
picture of "The Emeline G. in the Harbor of Canton," were just as they
had been when the patient invalid had lain there, looking from her
pillow out to sea. In twelve rude tiles set around the open fireplace,
the Hebrews were seen in twelve stages of their escape from Egypt. It
would appear from this representation that they had not restricted their
borrowings to the jewels of their oppressors, but had taken for the
journey certain Dutch clothing of the fashion of the seventeenth
century. The scenery, too, was much like that about Leyden.
"I think," said the doctor's wife, "that the painter was just a little
absent-minded when he put in that beer-barrel. And a wharf, by the Red
"I wish you would conclude to rig your boat with a new sail," said the
doctor, as he took up the reins, at parting. "There isn't a boat here
that's kept clean, and I should like to hire yours once or twice a week
in summer, if you keep her as neat as you do your house. Come in and see
me some evening, and we'll talk it over."
Eph built his boat, and, in spite of his evident dislike of visitors,
the inside finish and the arrangements of the little cabin were so
ingenious and so novel that everybody had to pay him a visit.
True to his plan of being independent, he built in the side of the hill,
near his barn, by a little gravelly pond, an ice-house, and, with the
hardest labor, filled it, all by himself. With this supply, he would not
have to go to the general wharf at Sandy Point to sell his fish, with
the other men, but could pack and ship them himself. And he could do
better, in this way, he thought, even after paying for teaming them to
The knowing ones laughed to see that, from asking no advice, he had
miscalculated and laid in three times as much as he could use.
"Guess Eph cal'lates ter fish with two lines in each hand and 'nother in
his teeth," said Mr. Wing. "He's plannin' out for a great lay o' fish."
The spring came slowly on, and the first boat that went out that season
was Eph's. That day was one of unmixed delight to him. What a sense of
absolute freedom, when he was fairly out beyond the lightship, with the
fresh swiftness of the wind in his face! What an exquisite consciousness
of power and control, as his boat went beating through the long waves!
Two or three men from another village sailed across his wake. His boat
lay over, almost showing her keel, now high out of water, now settling
between the waves, while Eph stood easily in the stern in his
shirt-sleeves, steering with his knee, smoking a pipe, heaving and
hauling his line astern for bluefish.
"Takes it nat'ral ag'in, don't he? Stands as easy as ef he was loafin'
on a wharf," said one of the observers. "Expect it's quite a treat to be
out. But they do say he's gittin' everybody's good opinion. They looked
for a regular ruffian when he come home—cuttin' nets, killin' cats,
chasin' hens, gittin' drunk. They say Eliphalet Wood didn't hardly dare
to go ou' doors for a month, 'thout havin' his hired man along. But he's
turned out as peaceful as a little gal."
One June day, as Eph was slitting bluefish at the little pier which he
had built on the bay-shore, near his rude ice-house, two men came up.
"We've got about sick, tradin' down to the wharf; we can't git no fair
show. About one time in three, they tell us they don't want our fish,
and won't take 'em unless we'll heave 'em in for next to nothin',
and we know there ain't no sense in it. So we just thought we'd slip
down and see ef you wouldn't take 'em, seein's you've got ice, and send
'em up with yourn."
Eph was taken all aback with this mark of confidence. He would decline
the offer, sure that it sprang from some mere passing vexation.
"I can't buy fish," said he. "I have no scales to weigh 'em."
"Then send ourn in separate barrels," said one of them.
"But I haven't any money to pay you," he said. "I only get my pay once a
"We'll git tick at William's, and you can settle 'th us when you git
"Well," said he, unable to refuse, "I'll take 'em, if you say so."
Before the season was over, he had still another customer, and could
have had three or four more, if he had had ice enough. He was strongly
inclined that fall to build a larger ice-house, and although he was a
little afraid of bringing ridicule upon himself in case no fish should
be brought to him the next summer, he decided to do so, on the assurance
of three or four men that they would deal with him. Nobody else had such
a chance, he thought—a pond right by the shore.
One evening there was a knock at the door of Eliphalet Wood, the owner
of the burned barn. Eliphalet went to the door, but turned pale at
seeing Eph there.
"Oh, come in, come in!" he panted. "Glad to see you. Walk in. Have a
chair. Take a seat. Sit down."
But he thought his hour had come: he was alone in the house, and there
was no neighbor within call.
Eph took out a roll of bills, counted out eighty dollars, laid the money
on the table, and said, quietly:
"Give me a receipt on account."
When it was written he walked out, leaving Eliphalet stupefied.
Joshua Carr was at work, one June afternoon, by the road-side, in front
of his low cottage, by an enormous pile of poles, which he was shaving
down for barrel-hoops, when Eph appeared.
"Hard at it, Joshua!" he said.
"Yes, yes!" said Joshua, looking up through his steel-bowed spectacles.
"Hev to work hard to make a livin'—though I don't know's I ought to
call it hard, neither; and yet it is rather hard, too; but then, on
t'other hand, 'taint so hard as a good many other things—though there
is a good many jobs that's easier. That's so! That's so!
"'Must we be kerried to the skies
On feathery beds of ease?'
Though I don' know's I oughter quote a hymn on such a matter; but
then—I don' know's there's any partic'lar harm in't, neither."
Eph sat down on a pile of shavings and chewed a sliver; and the old man
kept on at his work.
"Hoop-poles goin' up and hoops goin' down," he continued. "Cur'us, ain't
it? But then, I don' know as 'tis; woods all bein' cut off—poles
gittin' scurcer; hoops bein' shoved in from Down East. That don' seem
just right, now, does it—but then, other folks must make a livin', too.
Still, I should think they might take up suthin' else; and yet, they
might say that about me. Understand, I don' mean to say that they
actually do say so; I don' want to run down any man unless I know—"
"I can't stand this," said Eph to himself; "I don't wonder that they
always used to put Joshua off at the first port, when he tried to go
coasting. They said he talked them crazy with nothing.
"I'll go into the house and see Aunt Lyddy," he said, aloud. "I'm
loafing this afternoon."
"All right! all right!" said Joshua. "Lyddy'll be glad to see ye—that
is, as glad as she would be to see anybody," he added, reaching out for
a pole. "Now, I don' s'pose that sounds very well; but still, you know
how she is—she allus likes to hev folks to talk, and then she's allus
sayin' talkin' wears on her; but I ought not to say that to you, because
she allus likes to see you—that is, as much as she likes to see
anybody—in fact, I think, on the whole—"
"Well, I'll take my chances," said Eph, laughing, and he opened the gate
and went in.
Joshua's wife, whom everybody called Aunt Lyddy, was oscillating in a
rocking-chair in the kitchen, and knitting. It was currently reported
that Joshua's habit of endlessly retracting and qualifying every idea
and modification of an idea which he advanced, so as to commit himself
to nothing, was the effect of Aunt Lyddy's careful revision.
"I s'pose she thought 'twas fun to be talked deef when they was
courtin'," Captain Seth had once sagely remarked. "Prob'ly it sounded
then like a putty piece on a seraphine; but I allers cal'lated she'd git
her fill of it, sooner or later. You most gin'lly git your fill o' one
"How are you this afternoon, Aunt Lyddy?" asked Eph, walking in without
knocking, and sitting down near her.
"So as to be able to keep about," she replied. "It is a great mercy I
ain't afflicted with falling out of my chair, like Hepsy Jones, ain't
"I've brought you some oysters," he said. "I set the basket down on the
door-step. I just took them out of the water myself from the bed I
planted to the west of the water-fence."
"I always heard you was a great fisherman," said Aunt Lyddy, "but I had
no idea you would ever come here and boast of being able to catch
oysters. Poor things! How could they have got away? But why don't you
bring them in? They won't be afraid of me, will they?"
He stepped to the door and brought in a peck basket full of large,
black, twisted shells, and with a heavy clasp-knife proceeded to open
one, and took out a great oyster, which he held up on the point of the
"Try it," he said; and then Aunt Lyddy, after she had swallowed it,
laughed to think what a tableau they had made—a man who had been in the
State-prison standing over her with a great knife! And then she laughed
"What are you laughing at?" he said.
"It popped into my head, supposing Susan should have looked in at the
south window and Joshua into the door, when you was feeding out that
oyster to me, what they would have thought!"
Eph laughed, too, and, surely enough, just then a stout, light-haired,
rather plain-looking young woman came up to the south window and leaned
in. She had on a sun-bonnet, which had not prevented her from securing a
few choice freckles. She had been working with a trowel in her
"What's the matter?" she said, nodding easily to Eph. "What do you two
always find to laugh about?"
"Ephraim was feeding me with spoon-meat," said Aunt Lyddy, pointing to
the basket, which looked like a basket of anthracite coal.
"It looks like spoon-meat," said Susan, and then she laughed too. "I'll
roast some of them for supper," she added, "a new way that I know."
Eph was not invited to stay to supper, but he stayed, none the less:
that was always understood.
"Well! Well! Well!" said Joshua, coming to the door-step, and washing
his hands and arms just outside, in a tin basin. "I thought I see you
set down a parcel of oysters—but there was seaweed over 'em, and I don'
know's I could hev said they was oysters; but then, if the square
question hed been put to me, 'Mr. Carr, be them oysters or not?' I
s'pose I should hev said they was; still, if they'd asked me how I
"Come, come, father!" said Aunt Lyddy, "do give poor Ephraim a little
peace. Why don't you just say you thought they were oysters, and done
"Say I thought they was?" he replied, innocently. "I knew well enough
they was—that is—knew? No, I didn't know, but—"
Aunt Lyddy, with an air of mock resignation, gave up, while Joshua
endeavored to fix, to a hair, the exact extent of his knowledge.
Eph smiled; but he remembered what would have made him pardon, a
thousand times over, the old man's garrulousness. He remembered who
alone had never failed, once a year, to visit a certain prisoner, at the
cost of a long and tiresome journey, and who had written to that
homesick prisoner kind and cheering letters, and had sent him baskets
of simple dainties for holidays.
Susan bustled about, and made a fire of crackling sticks, and began to
roast the oysters in a way that made a most savory smell. She set the
table, and then sat down at the melodeon, while she was waiting, and
sang a hymn—for she was of a musical turn, and was one of the choir.
Then she jumped up, and took out the steaming oysters, and they all sat
"Well, well, well!" said her father; "these be good! I didn't s'pose you
had any very good oysters in your bed, Ephraim. But there, now—I don'
s'pose I ought to have said that; that wasn't very polite; but what I
meant was—I didn't s'pose you had any that was
real good—though I
don' know but that I've said about the same thing, now. Well, anyway,
these be splendid; they're full as good as those cohogs we had t'other
"Quahaugs!" said Susan. "The idea of comparing these oysters with
"Well, well! that's so!" said the father. "I didn't say right, did I,
when I said that? Of course, they ain't no comparison—that is—no
comparison—why, of course, they is a comparison between everything,
but then, cohogs don' really compare with oysters! That's true!"
And then he paused to eat a few.
He was silent so long at this occupation that they all laughed.
"Well, well!" said he, laying down his fork, and smiling innocently;
"what be you all laughin' at? Not but what I allers like to hev folks
laugh—but then—I didn't see nothin' to laugh at. Still perhaps, they
was suthin' to laugh at that I didn't see; sometimes one man'll be
lookin' down into his plate, all taken up with his vittles, and others
that's lookin' around the room, may see the kittens frolickin', or some
such thing. 'Tain't the fust time I've known all hands to laugh all to
onct, when I didn't see nothin'."
Susan helped him again, and secured another brief respite.
"Ephraim," said he, after awhile, "you ain't skilled to cook oysters
like this, I don' believe. You ought to get married! I was sayin' to
Susan t'other day—well, now, mother, have I said an'thing out o' the
way?—well, I don' s'pose 'twas just my place to hev said an'thing about
gittin' married, to Ephraim, seein's—"
"Come, come, father," said Aunt Lyddy, "that'll do, now. You must let
Ephraim alone, and not joke him about such things."
Meanwhile Susan had hastily gone into the pantry to look for a pie,
which she seemed unable at once to find.
"Pie got adrift?" called out Joshua. "Seems to me you don' hook on to it
very quick. Now that looks good," he added, when she came out. "That
looks like cookin'! All I meant was, 't Ephraim ought not to be doin'
his own cookin'—that is—if you can call it cookin'—but then, of
course, 'tis cookin'—there's all kinds o' cookin'. I went cook myself,
when I was a boy."
After supper, Aunt Lyddy sat down to knit, and Joshua drew his chair up
to an open window, to smoke his pipe. In this vice Aunt Lyddy encouraged
him. The odor of Virginia tobacco was a sweet savor in her nostrils. No
breezes from Araby ever awoke more grateful feelings than did the
fragrance of Uncle Joshua's pipe. To Aunt Lyddy it meant quiet and
Susan and Eph sat down on the broad flag door-stone, and talked quietly
of the simple news of the neighborhood, and of the days when they used
to go to school, and come home, always together.
"I didn't much think, then," said Eph, "that I should ever bring up
where I have, and get ashore before I was fairly out to sea!"
"Jehiel's schooner got ashore on the bar, years ago," said Susan, "and
yet they towed her off, and I saw her this morning, from my chamber
window, before sunrise, all sail set, going by to the eastward."
"I know what you mean," said Eph. "But here—I got mad once, and I
almost had a right to, and I can't get started again; I never shall. I
can get a livin', of course; but I shall always be pointed out as a
jail-bird, and could no more get any footin' in the world than
Portuguese Jim was the sole professional criminal of the town, a weak,
good-natured, knock-kneed vagabond, who stole hens, and spent every
winter in the House of Correction as an "idle and disorderly person."
Susan laughed outright at the picture. Eph smiled, too, but a little
"I suppose it was more ugliness than anything else," he said, "that made
me come back here to live, where everybody knows I've been in jail and
is down on me."
"They are not down on you," said Susan. "Nobody is down on you. It's all
your own imagination. And if you had gone anywhere that you was a
stranger, you know that the first thing that you would have done would
have been to call a meetin' and tell all the people that you had burned
down a man's barn, and been in the State's-prison, and that you wanted
them all to know it at the start; and you wouldn't have told them why
you did it, and how young you was then, and how Eliphalet treated your
mother, and how you was going to pay him for all he lost. Here,
everybody knows that side of it. In fact," she added, with a little
twinkle in her eye, "I have sometimes had an idea that the main thing
they don't like is to see you savin' every cent to pay to Eliphalet."
"And yet it was on your say that I took up that plan," said Eph. "I
never thought of it till you asked me when I was goin' to begin to pay
"And you ought to," said Susan. "He has a right to the money—and then
you don't want to be under obligations to that man all your life. Now,
what you want to do is to cheer up and go around among folks. Why, now,
you're the only fish-buyer there is that the men don't watch when he's
weighin' their fish. You'll own up to that, for one thing, won't you?"
"Well, they are good fellows that bring fish to me," he said.
"They weren't good fellows when they traded at the great wharf," said
Susan. "They had a quarrel down there once a week, reg'larly."
"Well, suppose they do trust me in that," said Eph. "I can never rub out
that I've been in State's-prison."
"You don't want to rub it out. You can't rub anything out that's ever
been; but you can do better than rub it out."
"What do you mean?"
"Take things just the way they are," said Susan, "and show what can be
done. Perhaps you'll stake a new channel out, for others to follow in
that haven't half so much chance as you have. And that's what you will
do, too," she added.
"Susan!" he said, "if there's anything I can ever do, in this world or
the next, for you or your folks, that's all I ask for, the chance to do
it. Your folks and you shall never want for anything while I'm alive.
"There's one thing sure," he added, rising. "I'll live by myself and be
independent of everybody, and make my way all alone in the world; and if
I can make 'em all finally own up and admit that I'm honest with 'em,
I'm satisfied. That's all I'll ever ask of anybody. But there's one
thing that worries me sometimes—that is, whether I ought to come here
so often. I'm afraid, sometimes, that it'll hinder your father from
gettin' work, or—something—for you folks to be friends with me."
"I think such things take care of themselves," said Susan, quietly. "If
a chip won't float, let it sink."
"Good-night," said Eph, and he walked off, and went home to his echoing
After that, his visits to Joshua's became less frequent.
It was a bright day in March—one of those which almost redeem the
reputation of that desperado of a month. Eph was leaning on his fence,
looking now down the bay and now to where the sun was sinking in the
marshes. He knew that all the other men had gone to the town-meeting,
where he had had no heart to intrude himself—that free democratic
parliament where he had often gone with his father in childhood; where
the boys, rejoicing in a general assembly of their own, had played ball
outside, while the men debated gravely within. He recalled the time when
he himself had so proudly given his first vote for President, and how
his father had introduced him then to friends from distant parts of the
town. He remembered how he had heard his father speak there, and how
respectfully everybody had listened to him. That was in the long ago,
when they had lived at the great farm. And then came the thought of the
mortgage, and of Eliphalet's foreclosure, and—
It was one of the men from whom he took fish—a plain-spoken, sincere
"Why wa'n't you down to town-meet'n'?"
"I was busy," said Eph.
"How'd ye like the news?"
There was never any good news for him now.
"Hain't heard who's selected town-clerk?"
Had they elected Eliphalet, and so expressed their settled distrust of
him, and sympathy for the man whom he had injured?
"Who's elected?" he asked, harshly.
"You be!" said the man; "went in flyin', all hands clappin' and stompin'
An hour later the doctor drove up, stopped, and walked toward the
kitchen door. As he passed the window, he looked in.
Eph was lying on his face, upon the settle, as he had first seen him
there, his arms beneath his head.
"I will not disturb him now," said the doctor.
One breezy afternoon, in the following summer, Captain Seth laid aside
his easy every-day clothes, and transformed himself into a stiff
broadcloth image, with a small silk hat and creaking boots. So attired,
he set out in a high open buggy, with his wife, also in black, but with
gold spectacles, to the funeral of an aunt. As they pursued their
jog-trot journey along the Salt Hay Road, and came to Ephraim Morse's
cottage, they saw Susan sitting in a shady little porch, at the front
door, shelling peas, and looking down the bay.
"How is everything, Susan?" called out Captain Seth; "'bout time for Eph
to be gitt'n' in?"
"Yes," she answered, nodding and smiling, and pointing with a pea-pod;
"that's our boat, just coming up to the wharf, with her peak down."
THE DENVER EXPRESS.
BY A.A. HAYES.
Any one who has seen an outward-bound clipper ship getting under way and
heard the "shanty-songs" sung by the sailors as they toiled at capstan
and halliards, will probably remember that rhymeless but melodious
"I'm bound to see its muddy waters
Yeo ho! that rolling river;
Bound to see its muddy waters
Yeo ho! the wild Missouri."
Only a happy inspiration could have impelled Jack to apply the adjective
"wild" to that ill-behaved and disreputable river, which, tipsily
bearing its enormous burden of mud from the far North-west, totters,
reels, runs its tortuous course for hundreds on hundreds of miles; and
which, encountering the lordly and thus far well-behaved Mississippi at
Alton, and forcing its company upon this splendid river (as if some
drunken fellow should lock arms with a dignified pedestrian),
contaminates it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
At a certain point on the banks of this river, or rather—as it has the
habit of abandoning and destroying said banks—at a safe distance
therefrom, there is a town from which a railroad takes its departure for
its long climb up the natural incline of the Great Plains, to the base
of the mountains; hence the importance to this town of the large but
somewhat shabby building serving as terminal station. In its smoky
interior, late in the evening and not very long ago, a train was nearly
ready to start. It was a train possessing a certain consideration. For
the benefit of a public easily gulled and enamored of grandiloquent
terms, it was advertised as the "Denver Fast Express;" sometimes, with
strange unfitness, as the "Lightning Express"; "elegant" and "palatial"
cars were declared to be included therein; and its departure was one of
the great events of the twenty-four hours, in the country round about. A
local poet described it in the "live" paper of the town, cribbing from
an old Eastern magazine and passing off as original, the lines—
"Again we stepped into the street,
A train came thundering by,
Drawn by the snorting iron steed
Swifter than eagles fly.
Rumbled the wheels, the whistle shrieked,
Far rolled the smoky cloud,
Echoed the hills, the valleys shook,
The flying forests bowed."
The trainmen, on the other hand, used no fine phrases. They called it
simply "Number Seventeen"; and, when it started, said it had "pulled
On the evening in question, there it stood, nearly ready. Just behind
the great hissing locomotive, with its parabolic headlight and its
coal-laden tender, came the baggage, mail, and express cars; then the
passenger coaches, in which the social condition of the occupants seemed
to be in inverse ratio to their distance from the engine. First came
emigrants, "honest miners," "cow-boys," and laborers; Irishmen, Germans,
Welshmen, Mennonites from Russia, quaint of garb and speech, and
Chinamen. Then came long cars full of people of better station, and last
the great Pullman "sleepers," in which the busy black porters were
making up the berths for well-to-do travellers of diverse nationalities
It was a curious study for a thoughtful observer, this motley crowd of
human beings sinking all differences of race, creed, and habits in the
common purpose to move Westward—to the mountain fastnesses, the
sage-brush deserts, the Golden Gate.
The warning bell had sounded, and the fireman leaned far out for the
signal. The gong struck sharply, the conductor shouted, "All aboard,"
and raised his hand; the tired ticket-seller shut his window, and the
train moved out of the station, gathered way as it cleared the outskirts
of the town, rounded a curve, entered on an absolutely straight line,
and, with one long whistle from the engine, settled down to its work.
Through the night hours it sped on, past lonely ranches and infrequent
stations, by and across shallow streams fringed with cottonwood trees,
over the greenish-yellow buffalo grass; near the old trail where many a
poor emigrant, many a bold frontiersman, many a brave soldier, had laid
his bones but a short time before.
Familiar as they may be, there is something strangely impressive about
all night journeys by rail; and those forming part of an American
transcontinental trip are almost weird. From the windows of a
night-express in Europe, or the older portions of the United States, one
looks on houses and lights, cultivated fields, fences, and hedges; and,
hurled as he may be through the darkness, he has a sense of
companionship and semi-security. Far different is it when the long train
is running over those two rails which, seen before night set in, seemed
to meet on the horizon. Within, all is as if between two great seaboard
cities; the neatly dressed people, the uniformed officials, the handsome
fittings, the various appliances for comfort. Without are now long,
dreary levels, now deep and wild cañons, now an environment of strange
and grotesque rock-formations, castles, battlements, churches, statues.
The antelope fleetly runs, and the coyote skulks away from the track,
and the gray wolf howls afar off. It is for all the world, to one's
fancy, as if a bit of civilization, a family or community, its
belongings and surroundings complete, were flying through regions
barbarous and inhospitable.
From the cab of Engine No. 32, the driver of the Denver Express saw,
showing faintly in the early morning, the buildings grouped about the
little station ten miles ahead, where breakfast awaited his passengers.
He looked at his watch; he had just twenty minutes in which to run the
distance, as he had run it often before. Something, however, travelled
faster than he. From the smoky station out of which the train passed the
night before, along the slender wire stretched on rough poles at the
side of the track, a spark of that mysterious something which we call
electricity flashed at the moment he returned the watch to his pocket;
and in five minutes' time, the station-master came out on the platform,
a little more thoughtful than his wont, and looked eastward for the
smoke of the train. With but three of the passengers in that train has
this tale specially to do, and they were all in the new and comfortable
Pullman "City of Cheyenne." One was a tall, well-made man of about
thirty—blond, blue-eyed, bearded, straight, sinewy, alert. Of all in
the train he seemed the most thoroughly at home, and the respectful
greeting of the conductor, as he passed through the car, marked him as
an officer of the road. Such was he—Henry Sinclair, assistant engineer,
quite famed on the line, high in favor with the directors, and a rising
man in all ways. It was known on the road that he was expected in
Denver, and there were rumors that he was to organize the parties for
the survey of an important "extension." Beside him sat his pretty young
wife. She was a New Yorker—one could tell at first glance—from the
feather of her little bonnet, matching the gray travelling dress, to the
tips of her dainty boots; and one, too, at whom old Fifth Avenue
promenaders would have turned to look. She had a charming figure, brown
hair, hazel eyes, and an expression at once kind, intelligent, and
spirited. She had cheerfully left a luxurious home to follow the young
engineer's fortunes; and it was well known that those fortunes had been
materially advanced by her tact and cleverness.
The third passenger in question had just been in conversation with
Sinclair, and the latter was telling his wife of their curious meeting.
Entering the toilet-room at the rear of the car, he said, he had begun
his ablutions by the side of another man, and it was as they were
sluicing their faces with water that he heard the cry:
"Why, Major, is that you? Just to think of meeting you here!"
A man of about twenty-eight years of age, slight, muscular, wiry, had
seized his wet hand and was wringing it. He had black eyes, keen and
bright, swarthy complexion, black hair and mustache. A keen observer
might have seen about him some signs of a jeunesse orageuse, but his
manner was frank and pleasing. Sinclair looked him in the face, puzzled
for a moment.
"Don't you remember Foster?" asked the man.
"Of course I do," replied Sinclair. "For a moment I could not place you.
Where have you been and what have you been doing?"
"Oh," replied Foster, laughing, "I've braced up and turned over a new
leaf. I'm a respectable member of society, have a place in the express
company, and am going to Denver to take charge."
"I am very glad to hear it, and you must tell me your story when we have
had our breakfast."
The pretty young woman was just about to ask who Foster was, when the
speed of the train slackened, and the brakeman opened the door of the
car and cried out in stentorian tones:
"Pawnee Junction; twenty minutes for refreshments!"
When the celebrated Rocky Mountain gold excitement broke out, more than
twenty years ago, and people painted "PIKE'S PEAK OR BUST" on the
canvas covers of their wagons and started for the diggings, they
established a "trail" or "trace" leading in a south-westerly direction
from the old one to California.
At a certain point on this trail a frontiersman named Barker built a
forlorn ranch-house and corral, and offered what is conventionally
called "entertainment for man and beast."
For years he lived there, dividing his time between fighting the Indians
and feeding the passing emigrants and their stock. Then the first
railroad to Denver was built, taking another route from the Missouri,
and Barker's occupation was gone. He retired with his gains to St. Louis
and lived in comfort.
Years passed on, and the "extension" over which our train is to pass was
planned. The old pioneers were excellent natural engineers, and their
successors could find no better route than they had chosen. Thus it was
that "Barker's" became, during the construction period, an important
point, and the frontiersman's name came to figure on time-tables.
Meanwhile the place passed through a process of evolution which would
have delighted Darwin. In the party of engineers which first camped
there was Sinclair, and it was by his advice that the contractors
selected it for division headquarters. Then came drinking "saloons," and
gambling-houses—alike the inevitable concomitant and the bane of
Western settlements; then scattered houses and shops, and a shabby
so-called hotel, in which the letting of miserable rooms (divided from
each other by canvas partitions) was wholly subordinated to the business
of the bar. Before long, Barker's had acquired a worse reputation than
even other towns of its type, the abnormal and uncanny aggregations of
squalor and vice which dotted the plains in those days; and it was at
its worst when Sinclair returned thither and took up his quarters in the
engineers' building. The passion for gambling was raging, and to pander
thereto were collected as choice a lot of desperadoes as ever "stocked"
cards or loaded dice. It came to be noticed that they were on excellent
terms with a man called "Jeff" Johnson, who was lessee of the hotel; and
to be suspected that said Johnson, in local parlance, "stood in with"
them. With this man had come to Barker's his daughter Sarah, commonly
known as "Sally," a handsome girl with a straight, lithe figure, fine
features, reddish auburn hair, and dark blue eyes. It is but fair to say
that even the "toughs" of a place like Barker's show some respect for
the other sex, and Miss Sally's case was no exception to the rule. The
male population admired her; they said she "put on heaps of style"; but
none of them had seemed to make any progress in her good graces.
On a pleasant afternoon, just after the track had been laid some miles
west of Barker's, and construction trains were running with some
regularity to and from the end thereof, Sinclair sat on the rude veranda
of the engineers' quarters, smoking his well-colored meerschaum and
looking at the sunset. The atmosphere had been so clear during the day
that glimpses were had of Long's and Pike's peaks, and as the young
engineer gazed at the gorgeous cloud-display he was thinking of the
miners' quaint and pathetic idea that the dead "go over the Range."
"Nice-looking, ain't it, Major?" asked a voice at his elbow, and he
turned to see one of the contractors' officials taking a seat near him.
"More than nice-looking, to my mind, Sam," he replied. "What is the news
"Nothin' much. There's a sight of talk about the doin's of them faro an'
keno sharps. The boys is gittin' kind o' riled, fur they allow the game
ain't on the square wuth a cent. Some of 'em down to the tie-camp wuz
a-talkin' about a vigilance committee, an' I wouldn't be surprised ef
they meant business. Hev yer heard about the young feller that come in a
week ago from Laramie an' set up a new faro-bank?"
"No. What about him?"
"Wa'al, yer see he's a feller thet's got a lot of sand an' ain't afeared
of nobody, an' he's allowed to hev the deal to his place on the square
every time. Accordin' to my idee, gamblin's about the wust racket a
feller kin work, but it takes all sorts of men to make a world, an' ef
the boys is bound to hev a game, I calkilate they'd like to patronize
his bank. Thet's made the old crowd mighty mad, an' they're a-talkin'
about puttin' up a job of cheatin' on him an' then stringin' him up. Be
sides, I kind o' think there's some cussed jealousy on another lay as
comes in. Yer see the young feller—Cyrus Foster's his name—is sweet on
thet gal of Jeff Johnson's. Jeff wuz to Laramie before he come here, an'
Foster knowed Sally up thar. I allow he moved here to see her. Hello! Ef
thar they ain't a-comin' now."
Down a path leading from the town, past the railroad buildings, and well
on the prairie, Sinclair saw the girl walking with the "young feller."
He was talking earnestly to her, and her eyes were cast down. She looked
pretty and, in a way, graceful; and there was in her attire a noticeable
attempt at neatness, and a faint reminiscence of by-gone fashions. A
smile came to Sinclair's lips as he thought of a couple walking up Fifth
Avenue during his leave of absence not many months before, and of a
letter, many times read, lying at that moment in his breast-pocket.
"Papa's bark is worse than his bite," ran one of its sentences. "Of
course he does not like the idea of my leaving him and going away to
such dreadful and remote places as Denver and Omaha, and I don't know
what else; but he will not oppose me in the end, and when you come on
"By thunder!" exclaimed Sam; "ef thar ain't one of them cussed sharps a
Sure enough, a rough-looking fellow, his hat pulled over his eyes, half
concealed behind a pile of lumber, was casting a sinister glance toward
"The gal's well enough," continued Sam; "but I don't take a cent's wuth
of stock in thet thar father of her'n. He's in with them sharps, sure
pop, an' it don't suit his book to hev Foster hangin' round. It's ten to
one he sent that cuss to watch 'em. Wa'al, they're a queer lot, an' I'm
afeared thar's plenty of trouble ahead among 'em. Good luck to you,
Major," and he pushed back his chair and walked away.
After breakfast next morning, when Sinclair was sitting at the table in
his office, busy with maps and plans, the door was thrown open, and
Foster, panting for breath, ran in.
"Major Sinclair," he said, speaking with difficulty, "I've no claim on
you, but I ask you to protect me. The other gamblers are going to hang
me. They are more than ten to one. They will track me here, and unless
you harbor me, I'm a dead man."
Sinclair rose from his chair in a second and walked to the window. A
party of men were approaching the building. He turned to Foster:
"I do not like your trade," said he; "but I will not see you murdered if
I can help it. You are welcome here." Foster said "Thank you," stood
still a moment, and then began to pace the room, rapidly clinching his
hands, his whole frame quivering, his eyes flashing fire—"for all the
world," Sinclair said, in telling the story afterward, "like a fierce
"My God!" he muttered, with concentrated intensity, "to be
TRAPPED like this!"
Sinclair stepped quickly to the door of his bedroom, and motioned Foster
to enter. Then there came a knock at the outer door, and he opened it
and stood on the threshold, erect and firm. Half a dozen "toughs" faced
"Major," said their spokesman, "we want that man."
"You cannot have him, boys."
"Major, we're a-goin' to take him."
"You had better not try," said Sinclair, with perfect ease and
self-possession, and in a pleasant voice. "I have given him shelter, and
you can only get him over my dead body. Of course you can kill me, but
you won't do even that without one or two of you going down; and then
you know perfectly well, boys, what will happen. You
know that if you
lay your finger on a railroad man it's all up with you. There are five
hundred men in the tie-camp, not five miles away, and you don't need to
be told that in less than one hour after they get word there won't be a
piece of one of you big enough to bury."
The men made no reply. They looked him straight in the eyes for a
moment. Had they seen a sign of flinching they might have risked the
issue, but there was none. With muttered curses, they slunk away.
Sinclair shut and bolted the door, then opened the one leading to the
"Foster," he said, "the train will pass here in half an hour. Have you
"Very well; keep perfectly quiet, and I will try to get you safely off."
He went to an adjoining room and called Sam, the contractor's man. He
took in the situation at a glance.
"Wa'al, Foster," said he, "kind o' 'close call' for yer, warn't it?
Guess yer'd better be gittin' up an' gittin' pretty lively. The train
boys will take yer through, an' yer kin come back when this racket's
Sinclair glanced at his watch, then he walked to the window and looked
out. On a small mesa, or elevated-plateau, commanding the path to the
railroad, he saw a number of men with rifles.
"Just as I expected," said he. "Sam, ask one of the boys to go down to
the track and, when the train arrives, tell the conductor to come here."
In a few minutes the whistle was heard, and the conductor entered the
building. Receiving his instructions, he returned, and immediately on
engine, tender, and platform appeared the trainmen, with
covering the group on the bluff. Sinclair put on his hat.
"Now, Foster," said he, "we have no time to lose. Take Sam's arm and
mine, and walk between us."
The trio left the building and walked deliberately to the railroad. Not
a word was spoken. Besides the men in sight on the train, two behind the
window-blinds of the one passenger coach, and unseen, kept their fingers
on the triggers of their repeating carbines. It seemed a long time,
counted by anxious seconds, until Foster was safe in the coach.
"All ready, conductor," said Sinclair. "Now, Foster, good-by. I am not
good at lecturing, but if I were you, I would make this the
turning-point in my life."
Foster was much moved.
"I will do it, Major," said he; "and I shall never forget what you have
done for me to-day. I am sure we shall meet again."
With another shriek from the whistle the train started. Sinclair and Sam
saw the men quietly returning the firearms to their places as it
gathered way. Then they walked back to their quarters. The men on the
mesa, balked of their purpose, had withdrawn.
Sam accompanied Sinclair to his door, and then sententiously remarked:
"Major, I think I'll light out and find some of the boys. You ain't got
no call to know anything about it, but I allow it's about time them
cusses was bounced."
Three nights after this, a powerful party of Vigilantes, stern and
inexorable, made a raid on all the gambling dens, broke the tables and
apparatus, and conducted the men to a distance from the town, where they
left them with an emphatic and concise warning as to the consequences
of any attempt to return. An exception was made in Jeff Johnson's
case—but only for the sake of his daughter—for it was found that many
a "little game" had been carried on in his house.
Erelong he found it convenient to sell his business and retire to a town
some miles to the eastward, where the railroad influence was not as
strong as at Barker's. At about this time, Sinclair made his
arrangements to go to New York, with the pleasant prospect of marrying
the young lady in Fifth Avenue. In due time he arrived at Barker's with
his young and charming wife and remained for some days. The changes were
astounding. Common-place respectability had replaced abnormal
lawlessness. A neat station stood where had been the rough contractor's
buildings. At a new "Windsor" (or was it "Brunswick"?) the performance
of the kitchen contrasted sadly (alas! how common is such contrast in
these regions) with the promise of the menu. There was a tawdry
theatre yclept "Academy of Music," and there was not much to choose in
the way of ugliness between two "meeting-houses."
"Upon my word, my dear," said Sinclair to his wife, "I ought to be
ashamed to say it, but I prefer Barker's au naturel."
One evening, just before the young people left the town, and as Mrs.
Sinclair sat alone in her room, the frowsy waitress announced "a lady,"
and was requested to bid her enter. A woman came with timid mien into
the room, sat down, as invited, and removed her veil. Of course the
young bride had never known Sally Johnson, the whilom belle of Barker's,
but her husband would have noticed at a glance how greatly she was
changed from the girl who walked with Foster past the engineers'
quarters. It would be hard to find a more striking contrast than was
presented by the two women as they sat facing each other: the one in the
flush of health and beauty, calm, sweet, self-possessed; the other still
retaining some of the shabby finery of old days, but pale and haggard,
with black rings under her eyes, and a pathetic air of humiliation.
"Mrs. Sinclair," she hurriedly began, "you do not know me, nor the like
of me. I've got no right to speak to you, but I couldn't help it. Oh!
please believe me, I am not real downright bad. I'm Sally Johnson,
daughter of a man whom they drove out of the town. My mother died when I
was little, and I never had a show; and folks think because I live
with my father, and he makes me know the crowd he travels with, that I
must be in with them, and be of their sort. I never had a woman speak a
kind word to me, and I've had so much trouble that I'm just drove wild,
and like to kill myself; and then I was at the station when you came in,
and I saw your sweet face and the kind look in your eyes, and it came in
my heart that I'd speak to you if I died for it." She leaned eagerly
forward, her hands nervously closing on the back of a chair. "I suppose
your husband never told you of me; like enough he never knew me; but
I'll never forget him as long as I live. When he was here before, there
was a young man "—here a faint color came in the wan cheeks—"who was
fond of me, and I thought the world of him, and my father was down on
him, and the men that father was in with wanted to kill him; and Mr.
Sinclair saved his life. He's gone away, and I've waited and waited for
him to come back—and perhaps I'll never see him again. But oh! dear
lady, I'll never forget what your husband did. He's a good man, and he
deserves the love of a dear good woman like you, and if I dared, I'd
pray for you both, night and day."
She stopped suddenly and sank back in her seat, pale as before, and as
if frightened by her own emotion. Mrs. Sinclair had listened with
sympathy and increasing interest.
"My poor girl," she said, speaking tenderly (she had a lovely, soft
voice) and with slightly heightened color, "I am delighted that you came
to see me, and that my husband was able to help you. Tell me, can we not
do more for you? I do not for one moment believe you can be happy with
your present surroundings. Can we not assist you to leave them?"
The girl rose, sadly shaking her head. "I thank you for your words," she
said. "I don't suppose I'll ever see you again, but I'll say, God bless
She caught Mrs. Sinclair's hand, pressed it to her lips, and was gone.
Sinclair found his wife very thoughtful when he came home, and he
listened with much interest to her story.
"Poor girl!" said he; "Foster is the man to help her. I wonder where he
is? I must inquire about him."
The next day they proceeded on their way to San Francisco, and matters
drifted on at Barker's much as before. Johnson had, after an absence of
some months, come back and lived without molestation, amid the shifting
population. Now and then, too, some of the older residents fancied they
recognized, under slouched sombreros, the faces of some of his former
"crowd" about the "Ranchman's Home," as his gaudy saloon was called.
Late on the very evening on which this story opens, and they had been
"making up" the Denver Express in the train-house on the Missouri, "Jim"
Watkins, agent and telegrapher at Barker's, was sitting in his little
office, communicating with the station rooms by the ticket window. Jim
was a cool, silent, efficient man, and not much given to talk about such
episodes in his past life as the "wiping out" by Indians of the
construction party to which he belonged, and his own rescue by the
scouts. He was smoking an old and favorite pipe, and talking with one of
"the boys" whose head appeared at the wicket. On a seat in the station
sat a woman in a black dress and veil, apparently waiting for a train.
"Got a heap of letters and telegrams there, ain't year, Jim?" remarked
the man at the window.
"Yes," replied Jim; "they're for Engineer Sinclair, to be delivered to
him when he passes through here. He left on No. 17, to-night." The
inquirer did not notice the sharp start of the woman near him.
"Is that good-lookin' wife of his'n a comin' with him?" asked he.
"Yes, there's letters for her, too."
"Well, good-night, Jim. See yer later," and he went out. The woman
suddenly rose and ran to the window.
"Mr. Watkins," cried she, "can I see you for a few moments, where no one
can interrupt us? It's a matter of life and death." She clutched the
sill with her thin hands, and her voice trembled. Watkins recognized
Sally Johnson in a moment. He unbolted a door, motioned her to enter,
closed and again bolted it, and also closed the ticket window. Then he
pointed to a chair, and the girl sat down and leaned eagerly forward.
"If they knew I was here," she said in a hoarse whisper, "my life
wouldn't be safe five minutes. I was waiting to tell you a terrible
story, and then I heard who was on the train due here to-morrow night.
Mr. Watkins, don't, for God's sake, ask me how I found out, but I hope
to die if I ain't telling you the living truth! They're going to wreck
that train—No. 17—at Dead Man's Crossing, fifteen miles east, and rob
the passengers and the express car. It's the worst gang in the country,
Perry's. They're going to throw the train off the track the passengers
will be maimed and killed,—and Mr. Sinclair and his wife on the cars!
Oh! My God! Mr. Watkins, send them warning!"
She stood upright, her face deadly pale, her hands clasped. Watkins
walked deliberately to the railroad map which hung on the wall and
scanned it. Then he resumed his seat, laid his pipe down, fixed his eyes
on the girl's face, and began to question her. At the same time his
right hand, with which he had held the pipe, found its way to the
telegraph key. None but an expert could have distinguished any change in
the clicking of the instrument, which had been almost incessant; but
Watkins had "called" the head office on the Missouri. In two minutes the
"sounder" rattled out "All right! What is it?"
Watkins went on with his questions, his eyes still fixed on the poor
girl's face, and all the time his fingers, as it were, playing with the
key. If he were imperturbable, so was not a man sitting at a receiving
instrument nearly five hundred miles away. He had "taken" but a few
words when he jumped from his chair and cried:
"Shut that door, and call the superintendent and be quick! Charley,
brace up—lively—and come and write this out!" With his wonderful
electric pen, the handle several hundred of miles long, Watkins,
unknown to his interlocutor, was printing in the Morse alphabet this
"Inform'n rec'd. Perry gang going to throw No. 17 off
track near—xth mile-post, this division, about nine to-morrow
(Thursday) night, kill passengers, and rob express and mail.
Am alone here. No chance to verify story, but believe it to be
on square. Better make arrangements from your end to block
game. No Sheriff here now. Answer."
The superintendent, responding to the hasty summons, heard the message
before the clerk had time to write it out. His lips were closely
compressed as he put his own hand on the key and sent these laconic
sentences: "O.K. Keep perfectly dark. Will manage from this end."
Watkins, at Barker's, rose from his seat, opened the door a little way,
saw that the station was empty, and then said to the girl, brusquely,
"Sally, you've done the square thing, and saved that train. I'll take
care that you don't suffer and that you get well paid. Now come home
with me, and my wife will look out for you."
"Oh! no," cried the girl, shrinking back, "I must run away. You're
mighty kind, but I daren't go with you." Detecting a shade of doubt in
his eye, she added: "Don't be afeared; I'll die before they'll know I've
given them away to you!" and she disappeared in the darkness.
At the other end of the wire, the superintendent had quietly impressed
secrecy on his operator and clerk ordered his fast mare harnessed, and
gone to his private office.
"Read that!" said he to his secretary, "it was about time for some
trouble of this kind, and now I'm going to let Uncle Sam take care of
his mails. If I don't get to the reservation before the General's turned
in, I shall have to wake him up. Wait for me, please."
They gray mare made the six miles to the military reservation in just
half an hour. The General was smoking his last cigar, and was alert in
an instant; and before the superintendent had finished the jorum of "hot
Scotch" hospitably tendered, the orders had gone by wire to the
commanding officer at Fort----, some distance east of Barker's, and been
Returning to the station, the superintendent remarked to the waiting
"The General's all right. Of course we can't tell that this is not a
sell; but if those Perry hounds mean business they'll get all the fight
they want; and if they've got any souls—which I doubt—may the Lord
have mercy on them!"
He prepared several despatches, two of which were as follows:
"MR. HENRY SINCLAIR:
"On No. 17, Pawnee Junction:
This telegram your authority to take charge of train on which
you are, and demand obedience of all officials and trainmen on
road. Please do so, and act in accordance with information
wired station agent at Pawnee Junction."
To the Station Agent:
"Reported Perry gang will try wreck and rob No. 17 near—xth
mile-post. Denver Division, about nine Thursday night
Troops will await train at Fort----. Car ordered ready for
them. Keep everything secret, and act in accordance with
orders of Mr. Sinclair."
"It's worth about ten thousand dollars," sententiously remarked he,
"that Sinclair's on that train. He's got both sand and brains.
Good-night," and he went to bed and slept the sleep of the just.
The sun never shone more brightly and the air was never more clear and
bracing than when Sinclair helped his wife off the train at Pawnee
Junction. The station-master's face fell as he saw the lady, but he
saluted the engineer with as easy an air as he could assume, and watched
for an opportunity to speak to him alone. Sinclair read the despatches
with an unmoved countenance, and after a few minutes' reflection simply
said: "All right. Be sure to keep the matter perfectly quiet." At
breakfast he was distrait—so much so that his wife asked him what was
the matter. Taking her aside, he at once showed her the telegrams.
"You see my duty," he said. "My only thought is about you, my dear
child. Will you stay here?"
She simply replied, looking into his face without a tremor:
"My place is with you." Then the conductor called "All aboard," and the
train once more started.
Sinclair asked Foster to join him in the smoking-compartment and tell
him the promised story, which the latter did. His rescue at Barker's, he
frankly and gratefully said, had been the turning point in his life.
In brief, he had "sworn-off" from gambling and drinking, had found
honest employment, and was doing well.
"I've two things to do now, Major," he added; "first, I must show my
gratitude, to you; and next—"he hesitated a little—"I want to find
that poor girl that I left behind at Barker's. She was engaged to marry
me, and when I came to think of it, and what a life I'd have made her
lead, I hadn't the heart till now to look for her; but, seeing I'm on
the right track, I'm going to find her, and get her to come with me. Her
father's a—old scoundrel, but that ain't her fault, and I ain't going
to marry him."
"Foster," quietly asked Sinclair, "do you know the Perry gang?"
The man's brow darkened.
"Know them?" said he. "I know them much too well. Perry is as ungodly a
cutthroat as ever killed an emigrant in cold blood, and he's got in his
gang nearly all those hounds that tried to hang me. Why do you ask,
Sinclair handed him the despatches. "You are the only man on the train
to whom I have shown them," said he.
Foster read them slowly, his eyes lighting up as he did so. "Looks as if
it was true," said he. "Let me see! Fort----. Yes, that's the—th
infantry. Two of their boys were killed at Sidney last summer by some of
the same gang, and the regiment's sworn vengeance. Major, if this
story's on the square, that crowd's goose is cooked, and
forget it! I say, you must give me a hand in."
"Foster," said Sinclair, "I am going to put responsibility on your
shoulders. I have no doubt that, if we be attacked, the soldiers will
dispose of the gang; but I must take all possible precautions for the
safety of the passengers. We must not alarm them. They can be made to
think that the troops are going on a scout, and only a certain number of
resolute men need be told of what we expect. Can you, late this
afternoon, go through the cars, and pick them out? I will then put you
in charge of the passenger cars, and you can post your men on the
platforms to act in case of need. My place will be ahead."
"Major, you can depend on me," was Foster's reply. "I'll go through the
train and have my eye on some boys of the right sort, and that's got
their shooting-irons with them."
Through the hours of that day on rolled the train, till over the crisp
buffalo grass, across the well-worn buffalo trails, past the prairie-dog
villages. The passengers chatted, dozed, played cards, read, all
unconscious, with the exception of three, of the coming conflict between
the good and the evil forces bearing on their fate; of the fell
preparations making for their disaster; of the grim preparations making
to avert such disaster; of all of which the little wires alongside of
them had been talking back and forth. Watkins had telegraphed that he
still saw no reason to doubt the good faith of his warning, and Sinclair
had reported his receipt of authority and his acceptance thereof.
Meanwhile, also, there had been set in motion a measure of that power to
which appeal is so reluctantly made in time of peace. At Fort----, a
lonely post on the plains, the orders had that morning been issued for
twenty men under Lieutenant Halsey to parade at 4 P.M., with overcoats,
two days' rations, and ball cartridges; also for Assistant Surgeon
Kesler to report for duty with the party. Orders as to destination were
communicated direct to the lieutenant from the post commander, and on
the minute the little column moved, taking the road to the station. The
regiment from which it came had been in active service among the Indians
on the frontier for a long time, and the officers and men were tried and
seasoned fighters. Lieutenant Halsey had been well known at the West
Point balls as the "leader of the german." From the last of these balls
he had gone straight to the field and three years had given him an
enviable reputation for sang froid and determined bravery. He looked
every inch the soldier as he walked along the trail, his cloak thrown
back and his sword tucked under his arm. The doctor, who carried a Modoc
bullet in some inaccessible part of his scarred body, growled
good-naturedly at the need of walking, and the men, enveloped in their
army-blue overcoats, marched easily by fours. Reaching the station, the
lieutenant called the agent aside and with him inspected, on a siding, a
long platform on which benches had been placed and secured. Then he took
his seat in the station and quietly waited, occasionally twisting his
long blond mustache. The doctor took a cigar with the agent, and the men
walked about or sat on the edge of the platform. One of them, who
obtained a surreptitious glance at his silent commander, told his
companions that there was trouble ahead for somebody.
"That's just the way the leftenant looked, boys," said he, "when we was
laying for them Apaches that raided Jones's Ranch and killed the women
and little children."
In a short time the officer looked at his watch, formed his men, and
directed them to take their places on the seats of the car. They had
hardly done so, when the whistle of the approaching train was heard.
When it came up, the conductor, who had his instructions from Sinclair,
had the engine detached and backed on the siding for the soldiers'
which thus came between it and the foremost baggage-car, when the train
was again made up. As arranged, it was announced that the troops were to
be taken a certain distance to join a scouting party, and the curiosity
of the passengers was but slightly excited. The soldiers sat quietly in
their seats, their repeating rifles held between their knees, and the
officer in front. Sinclair joined the latter, and had a few words with
him as the train moved on. A little later, when the stars were shining
brightly overhead, they passed into the express-car, and sent for the
conductor and other trainmen, and for Foster. In a few words Sinclair
explained the position of affairs. His statement was received with
perfect coolness, and the men only asked what they were to do.
"I hope, boys," said Sinclair, "that we are going to put this gang
to-night where they will make no more trouble. Lieutenant Halsey will
bear the brunt of the fight, and it only remains for you to stand by the
interests committed to your care. Mr. Express Agent, what help do you
want?" The person addressed, a good-natured giant, girded with a
cartridge belt, smiled as he replied:
"Well, sir, I'm wearing a watch which the company gave me for standing
off the James gang in Missouri for half an hour, when we hadn't the
ghost of a soldier about. I'll take the contract, and welcome, to hold
this fort alone."
"Very well," said Sinclair. "Foster, progress have you made?"
"Major, I've got ten or fifteen as good men as ever drew a bead, and
just red-hot for a fight."
"That will do very well. Conductor, give the trainmen the rifles from
the baggage-car and let them act under Mr. Foster. Now, boys, I am sure
you will do your duty. That is all."
From the next station Sinclair telegraphed "All ready" to the
superintendent, who was pacing his office in much suspense. Then he said
a few words to his brave but anxious wife, and walked to the rear
platform. On it were several armed men, who bade him good-evening, and
asked "when the fun was going to begin." Walking through the train, he
found each platform similarly occupied, and Foster going from one to the
other. The latter whispered as he passed him:
"Major, I found Arizona Joe, the scout, in the smokin'-car, and he's on
the front platform. That lets me out, and although I know as well as you
that there ain't any danger about that rear sleeper where the madam is,
I ain't a-going to be far off from her." Sinclair shook him by the hand;
then he looked at his watch. It was half-past eight. He passed through
the baggage and express cars, finding in the latter the agent sitting
behind his safe, on which lay two large revolvers. On the platform-car
he found the soldiers and their commander, sitting silent and
unconcerned as before. When Sinclair reached the latter and nodded, he
rose and faced the men, and his fine voice was clearly heard above the
rattle of the train.
"Company, 'tention!" The soldiers straightened themselves in a second.
"With ball cartridge, load!" It was done with the precision of a
machine. Then the lieutenant spoke, in the same clear, crisp tones that
the troops had heard in more than one fierce battle.
"Men," said he, "in a few minutes the Perry gang, which you will
remember, are going to try to run this train off the track, wound and
kill the passengers, and rob the cars and the United States mail. It is
our business to prevent them. Sergeant Wilson" (a gray-bearded
non-commissioned officer stood up and saluted), "I am going on the
engine. See that my orders are repeated. Now, men, aim low, and don't
waste any shots." He and Sinclair climbed over the tender and spoke to
"How are the air-brakes working?" asked Sinclair.
"Then, if you slow down now, you could stop the train in a third of her
length, couldn't you?"
"Easy, if you don't mind being shaken up a bit."
"That is good. How is the country about the—xth mile-post?"
"Dead level, and smooth."
"Good again. Now, Lieutenant Halsey, this is a splendid head-light, and
we can see a long way with my night glass, I will have a—"
"—2d mile-post just passed," interrupted the engine-driver.
"Only one more to pass, then, before we ought to strike them. Now,
lieutenant, I undertake to stop the train within a very short distance
of the gang. They will be on both sides of the track no doubt; and the
ground, as you hear, is quite level You will best know what to do."
The officer stepped back. "Sergeant," called he, "do you hear me
"Have the men fix bayonets. When the train stops, and I wave my sword,
let half jump off each side, run up quickly, and form line
the engine—not ahead."
"Jack," said Sinclair to the engine-driver, "is your hand steady?" The
man held it up with a smile. "Good. Now, stand by your throttle and your
air-brake. Lieutenant, better warn the men to hold on tight, and tell
the sergeant to pass the word to the boys on the platforms, or they will
be knocked off by the sudden stop. Now for a look ahead!" and he brought
the binocular to his eyes.
The great parabolic head-light illuminated the track a long way in
advance, all behind it being of course in darkness. Suddenly Sinclair
"The fools have a light there, as I am a living man; and there is a
little red one near us. What can that be? All ready. Jack! By heavens!
they have taken up two rails. Now, hold on, all! STOP HER!!"
The engine-driver shut his throttle-valve with a jerk. Then, holding
hard by it, he sharply turned a brass handle. There was a fearful
jolt—a grating—and the train's way was checked. The lieutenant,
standing sidewise, had drawn his sword. He waved it, and almost before
he could get off the engine, the soldiers were up and forming, still in
shadow, while the bright light was thrown on a body of men ahead.
"Surrender, or you are dead men!" roared the officer. Curses and several
shots were the reply. Then came the orders, quick and sharp:
"Forward! Close rip! Double-quick! Halt! FIRE!"
It was speedily over. Left on the car with the men, the old sergeant had
"Boys, you hear. It's that ---- Perry gang. Now, don't forget Larry and
Charley that they murdered last year," and there had come from the
soldiers a sort of fierce, subdued growl. The volley was followed by a
bayonet charge, and it required all the officer's authority to save the
lives even of those who "threw up their hands." Large as the gang was
(outnumbering the troops), well armed and desperate as they were, every
one was dead, wounded, or a prisoner when the men who guarded the train
platforms ran up. The surgeon, with professional coolness, walked up to
the robbers, his instrument case under his arm.
"Not much for me to do here, Lieutenant," said he. "That practice for
Creedmoor is telling on the shooting. Good thing for the gang, too.
Bullets are better than rope, and a Colorado jury will give them plenty
Sinclair had sent a man to tell his wife that all was over. Then he
ordered a fire lighted, and the rails relaid. The flames lit a strange
scene as the passengers flocked up. The lieutenant posted men to keep
"Is there a telegraph station not far ahead Sinclair?" asked he. "Yes?
All right." He drew a small pad from his pocket, and wrote a despatch to
the post commander.
"Be good enough to send that for me," said he "and leave orders at
Barker's for the night express eastward to stop for us, and to bring a
posse to take care of the wounded and prisoners. And now, my dear
Sinclair, I suggest that you get the passengers into the cars, and go on
as soon as those rails are spiked. When they realize the situation, some
of them will feel precious ugly, and you know we can't have any
Sinclair glanced at the rails and gave the word at once to the conductor
and brakemen, who began vociferating, "All aboard!" Just then Foster
appeared, an expression of intense satisfaction showing clearly on his
face, in the firelight.
"Major," said he, "I didn't use to take much stock in special
Providence, or things being ordered; but I'm darned if I don't believe
in them from this day. I was bound to stay where you put me, but I was
uneasy, and wild to be in the scrimmage; and, if I had been there, I
wouldn't have taken notice of a little red light that wasn't much
behind the rear platform when we stopped. When I saw there was no danger
there, I ran back, and what do you think I found? There was a woman, in
a dead faint, and just clutching a lantern that she had tied up in a red
scarf, poor little thing! And, Major, it was Sally! It was the little
girl that loved me out at Barker's, and has loved me and waited for me
ever since! And when she came to, and knew me, she was so glad she 'most
fainted away again; and she let on as it was her that gave away the job.
And I took her into the sleeper, and the madam, God bless her!--she knew
Sally before and was good to her—she took care of her, and is cheering
her up. And now, Major, I'm going to take her straight to Denver, and
send for a parson and get her married to me, and she'll brace up, sure
The whistle sounded, and the train started. From the window of the
"sleeper" Sinclair and his wife took their last look at the weird scene.
The lieutenant, standing at the side of the track, wrapped in his cloak,
caught a glimpse of Mrs. Sinclair's pretty face, and returned her bow.
Then, as the car passed out of sight, he tugged at his mustache and
"Why, boys, why,
Should we be melancholy, boys,
Whose business 'tis to die?"
In less than an hour, telegrams having in the mean time been sent in
both directions, the train ran alongside the platform at Barker's; and;
Watkins, inperturbable as usual, met Sinclair, and gave him his letters.
"Perry gang wiped out, I hear, Major," said he "Good thing for the
country. That's a lesson the 'toughs' in these parts won't forget for a
long time. Plucky girl that give 'em away, wasn't she. Hope she's all
"She is all right," said Sinclair, with a smile.
"Glad of that. By-the-way, that father of her'n passed in his checks
to-night. He'd got one warning from the Vigilantes, and yesterday they
found out he was in with this gang, and they was a-going for him; but
when the telegram come, he put a pistol to his head and saved them all
trouble. Good riddance to everybody, I say. The sheriff's here now, and
is going east on the next train to get them fellows. He's got a big
posse together, and I wouldn't wonder if they was hard to hold in, after
the 'boys in blue' is gone."
In a few minutes the train was off, with its living freight—the just
and the unjust, the reformed and the rescued, the happy and the anxious.
With many of the passengers the episode of the night was already a thing
of the past. Sinclair sat by the side of his wife, to whose cheeks the
color had all come back; and Sally Johnson lay in her berth, faint
still, but able to give an occasional smile to Foster. In the station on
the Missouri the reporters were gathered about the happy superintendent,
smoking his cigars, and filling their note-books with items. In Denver,
their brethren would gladly have done the same, but Watkins failed to
gratify them. He was a man of few words. When the train had gone, and a
"Hope they'll get through all right, now," he simply said:
"Yes, likely. Two shots don't 'most always go in the same hole." Then he
went to the telegraph instrument. In a few minutes he could have told a
story as wild as a Norse saga, but what he said, when Denver had
responded, was only—
"No. 17, fifty-five minutes late."
THE MISFORTUNES OF BRO' THOMAS WHEATLEY.
By LINA REDWOOD FAIRFAX.
He is our office-boy and messenger, and, my senior tells me, has been
employed by the firm in this capacity for about thirty years. He is a
negro, about sixty years old, rather short and stout, with a mincing,
noiseless gait, broad African features, beautiful teeth, and small,
round, twinkling eyes, the movements of which are accompanied by little
abrupt, sidewise turns of the head, like a bird. His manner is a curious
mixture of deference and self-importance, his voice a soft, sibilant
whisper, and as he was born and bred in Alexandria, Virginia, it seems
almost superfluous to add that he and the letter "r" are not on speaking
He has a prominent characteristic, which always attracts attention at
first sight. This is the shape of his head, which is immensely large in
proportion, very bald, and so abundant in various queer, knobby
excrescences about the forehead and sides, and so unnaturally long and
level on top, that for some time after I made his acquaintance I could
never see him without finding myself forming absurd conjectures as to
whether his cranium and the hydrostatic press could ever have become
acquainted at some early period of his life; and so strong is this
association of ideas that, even now, his sudden appearance invariably
suggests to me the study of natural philosophy. Poor fellow! his chagrin
was great when this peculiar conformation of his skull was first brought
to his notice. He had been telling me for some time past of the
"splendid piccha" he had had "took," and I had been promised a sight of
it just as soon as it arrived from the photographer's. I confess I had
not been sanguine as to the result, although I knew a handsome portrait
was confidently expected by the sitter. One morning he deposited the
photograph before me.
"Hello!" I cried, taking it in my hand; "here you are, hit off to the
"Do' say that, Mist' Dunkin,
do' say hit, seh," he replied, in a
tone of deep mortification. Then, catching a glimpse of the picture, his
ire broke forth: "Nevvah wuz like me in de wueld," he cried, in an
elevated key; "nevvah wuz ha'f so ugly ez that. I'm—I'm a
bettah-lookin' man, Mist' Dunkin. Why, look at de color of de thing,"
contemptuously. "Cain' tell de face f'om de coat I nevvah set up to be
what you'd call faih-cumplectid, but disha things iss same is that
thaih ink; jess iss same. My hade do' look that a way, neitha. Naw,
seh, 'taint s' bad 's that."
"Why, Thomas," said I, "I think it a very good likeness—the
complexion is a little dark to be sure, but do you know I particularly
admire the head. Look at that forehead; any one can see that you are a
man of intellect. I tell you it isn't every one who can boast of such a
"The—the 'mahk you make 'bout me, has been made 'fo'; I may say, has
been made quite frequent—quite frequent; on'y lass Tuesd'y fohtni't,
Sistah Ma'y Ann Jinkins—a promnunt membeh of ouh class (that is, Asba'y
class, meets on Gay Street), Sistah Ma'y Ann Jinkins, she ups an' sez,
befo' de whole class, dat she'd puppose de motion, dat Bro' Thomas
Wheatley wuz 'p'inted fus' speakah in de nex' 'Jug-breakin' an'
Jaymiah's Hamma,' by de i-nanemous vote of de class. I'm clah to say I
wuz 'stonished; but ahta class wuz ovvva, Bro' Moss tole me de
'p'intment wuz made jes' f'on de 'peahunce of my hade, ''Cause,' he sez,
'no man cain't be a po' speakah with sich a fine intellec' which we see
expressed in de hade of Bro' Thomas Wheatley—but, same time, I knowed
all time de fus' motion come f'om Sistah Ma'y Ann Jinkins—she's a ve'y
good friend o' mine, Sistah Ma'y Ann Jinkins—thinks a sight o' me; I
'scohts heh to class ev'y Tuesd'y—ev'y Tuesd'y, sine die."
"You do? What does your wife have to say to that?" I asked,
He stared at me an instant, then replied:
"My wife!--oh—oh, Law bless yoh soul, seh,
she do' keeh. Bro'
'Dolphus Beam, he sees ahta heh: you see, seh, she's I-o-n-g way
'moved f'om Asba'y class; 'twont admit none but fus'-class
'speience-givvahs in Asba'y, an' my wife she wa'n't nevvah no han' to
talk; haint got de gif' of de tongue which Saul, suhname Paul, speaks of
in de Scripcheh—don't possess hit, seh."
"She must be a very nice person to live with," I remarked.
"Well, y-e-es, seh," replied Thomas, after reflecting awhile. "I hain't
got nuth'n' 'g'in' Ailse; she's quite, an' ohdaly, a good cook, an'
laundriss, an' she's a lady, an' all that, but sh' ain't not to say
what you'd call a giftid 'oman."
"Like Sister Mary Ann Jinkins, eh?"
"Egg-zac'ly, seh. Mist' Dunkin, you put hit kehrec', seh. Ailse hain't
possessed with none of the high talence, cain't exhoht, naw sing with
fehveh, naw yit lead in praieh; heh talence is mos'ly boun' up in
napkins—as Scripcheh say—mos'ly boun' up in napkins; foh I do' deny
she kin do up all kines o' table-linen, she kin indeed. Naw, seh, I
cain't say I got nuth'n' 'g'in' Ailse."
He was, I think, the worst manager of finances that I have ever known.
He cleaned all the offices in our building, and earned, as near as I
could estimate, about thirty-five dollars a month. Three of his four
children were self-supporting, and his wife was honest and industrious,
taking in washing, and getting well paid for her work. Yet, he was
perpetually in debt, and his wages were always overdrawn. Whenever I
came into the office after my two-o'clock lunch, and found him seated on
his wooden chair, in the corner, gazing absently out at the dingy
chimneys opposite—apparently too abstracted to observe my entrance, I
knew I had only to go to my desk to find, placed in a conspicuous
position thereon, a very small, dirty bit of paper, with these words
laboriously inscribed upon it: "Mr. Dunkin Sir cen you oblidge me with
the sum of three dolers an a half [or whatever the sum might be] an
deduc thee same from mi salry i em in grate kneed of thee same yours mos
respecfull thomas wheatley."
The form was always the same, my name in imposing capitals and the
remainder in the very smallest letters which he could coax his stiff old
fingers to make, and all written on the tiniest scrap of writing-paper.
I think his object was to impress me with his humiliation,
impecuniosity, and general low condition, because as soon as he received
the money—which he always did, I vowing to myself each time that this
advance should be the last, and as regularly breaking my vow—he would
tip-toe carefully to the mantel-piece, get down his pen and ink, borrow
my sand-bottle, and proceed to indite me a letter of acknowledgment.
This written, he would present it with a sweeping bow, and then retire
precipitately to his corner, chuckling, and perspiring profusely. He
usually preferred foolscap for these documents, and the capitals were
numerous and imposing. Like the others, however, they were invariably
word for word the same, and were couched in the following terms:
"SIR I have Recieved thee Sum of Three Dolers an a half
from Your hans an I Recieve thee same with Joy an Grattetude.
I said his applications for money were always granted. I must, however,
make an exception, which, after all, will only go to prove the rule. One
bright morning he met me at the office-door, his face as beaming as the
weather. He hardly waited for me to doff my overcoat and hat, when he
announced that he had bought a second-hand parlor organ the evening
before, on credit, for seventy-five dollars, to be paid in instalments
of twelve dollars and a half each. He had been very hard up for a month
past, as I had abundant occasion to know, and it was therefore with a
feeling rather stronger than surprise, that I received the announcement
of this purchase.
"But you haven't fifty cents toward paying for it. And what on earth can
you possibly want with a parlor organ? Can you play?—can any of your
"Well, naw, seh," scratching his head reflectively. "I cain't s'ay they
kin not to say play"—as if they were all taking lessons, and
expected to become proficient at some not far distant day. "In fac',
seh, none on um knows a wued o' music. I didn't mean, seh, I didn't
'tend the—the instrument fu' househol' puhpasses—I—I 'tended hit as a
off'in' to ouh Sabbath-school. We—we has no instrument at present,
I am afraid I uttered a very bad word at this juncture. Thomas started,
and retired in great discomfiture, and I thought I had made an end of
the matter, but that afternoon I found the small scrap of paper on my
desk—really, I think, with a little practice, Thomas might hope to
rival the man who goes about writing the Lord's Prayer in the space of
half a dollar. My name was in larger capitals, the rest in smaller
letters, than usual, and I was requested "to oblidge him with the sum of
twelve dolers an' a half." I knew then that the first organ-instalment
was due, but I think it needless to add, his application was refused.
About a week afterward, I learned that the Sabbath-school was again
without a musical instrument, the organ having been pawned for twenty
dollars, Thomas paying ten per cent a month on the money. It was so with
everything he undertook. Once he gave me elaborate warning that I must
furnish myself with another messenger at once, as he was going to make
a fortune peddling oranges and apples. Accordingly, he bought a barrel
(!) of each kind of fruit, sold half at reasonable rates, and then, the
remainder beginning to decay on his hands, he came to me, offering
really fine Havana oranges at a cent apiece.
"I'm driffin' 'em off et coss—driffin' 'em off et coss," he whispered,
speaking rapidly, and waving his hands about, oriental fashion, the
palms turned outward and the fingers twirling; this peculiar gesture
seemed intended to indicate the cheapness of his wares. "Dey coss me
mo'n that; heap mo', but I'm faih to lose um all now, en I'm driffin'
'em off, sine die."
After that, some dozen or more of the large wholesale houses engaged him
to furnish their counting-rooms with lunch, and he began with brilliant
prospects. He brought his basket around to me for first choice.
Everything was very nice; a clean new basket, covered with a white
cloth, wherein lay piles of neatly arranged packages done up in
letter-paper, with a strange-looking character inscribed upon each.
"What do these letters mean?" I asked, taking up one of the packages,
and trying in vain to decipher the cabalistic sign upon it.
"Oh, that's to show de kine of san'wich dey is, Mist' Dunkin. You see,
seh, I got th'ee kines—so I put 'B' on de beef, 'H' on de
hahm, an' I
stahtid to put 'H' on de hystehs too, but den I foun' I couldn't tell
de hystehs f'om de
hahm, so den I put 'H I' on de hystehs."
"Oh, I see," said I, opening one of the "hysteh" packages. It was very
good; an excellent French roll, well spread with choice butter, and two
large, nicely fried oysters between. I ate it speedily, took another,
and, that disposed of, asked the price.
"Ten cents, seh."
"Yes, seh; fi' cents 'piece."
"Why, Thomas," I exclaimed, "you mustn't begin by asking five cents
apiece; you'll ruin yourself. These things are worth at least twice as
much money. Why, I pay ten cents for a sandwich at an eating-house, and
it doesn't begin to have as good materials in it as yours. You ought to
"Naw, seh; naw, seh; Mist' Dunkin; as' less, an' sell mo'—that's my
motteh. I have all dese yeah clean sole out 'fo' two 'clock—clean sole
out 'fo' two 'clock."
I interrupted him, asking the cost of each article, and then proving to
him by calculation that he lost money on each sandwich he sold at five
cents. But I could not convince him—he received the twenty-five cents
which I insisted on paying him with many expressions of gratitude, but
he left me reiterating his belief in "quick sales and small profits."
"Be back yeah clean sole out by two 'clock, sine die," he exclaimed,
brightly, as he departed.
This venture brought him six dollars in debt at the expiration of a
fortnight, and after that, by my advice, he abandoned peddling,
condemning it as a "low-life trade," and agreeing to stick to legitimate
business for the future.
One of his famous expressions, the most formidable rival of
(which, as the reader has doubtless discovered, he intended as an
elegant synonym for without fail), was entirely original—this was
"Granny to Mash" (I spell phonetically), used as an exclamation, and
only employed when laboring under great mental excitement.
As I was proceeding homeward one evening, I spied him standing on a
street corner, holding forth to a select assemblage of his own color,
who were listening to him with an appearance of the profoundest respect.
His back was toward me, and I stopped and caught his words without
attracting observation. He had assumed a very pompous, hortatory manner,
and I could well believe he held a prominent position in Asbury class.
"Yes, gentlemun; yes," he was saying, "ez Brotheh Jones 'mahks, I
live in a ve'y su-peeiaw at-mos-pheeh—suh-roundid by people of
leahnin', with books, pens, blottehs, letteh-pess,
en what not, ez
common ez these yeah bricks which I see befo' me. But thaih hain't no
trueh wued then ev'y station has its hawdships, gentlemun, en mine ah
not exemp', mine ah not exemp'.
"Fus'ly, thaih's the 'sponsebility. W'y, this yeah ve'y mawnin' I banked
nigh on to a thousan' dollehs fu' de young boss. En w'en I tell you
mo'n two hundred stamps is passed my mouth this yeah blessid evenin', 't
will give you some slight idee of the magnitude of the duties I has to
puffawn. W'y, gentlemun, I is drank wateh, an' I is drank beeh, but my
mouth hain't got back hits right moistuh yit."
The day of the 20th of July, 1877, was very quiet We had heard, of
course, of the "strikes" all over the country, and the morning papers
brought tidings of the trouble with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad
employés at Martinsburg, but no serious difficulty was apprehended in
That afternoon I was detained very late at the office. I intended
beginning a three weeks' holiday next morning, and was trying to get
beforehand with my work. My senior was out of town, and Thomas and I had
been very busy since three o'clock—I writing, he copying the letters.
After five, we had the building pretty much to ourselves, and a little
after half past five, the fire alarm sounded. The City Hall bell was
very distinctly heard, and Thomas—who had finished his work and was
waiting to take some papers to the office of the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad for me—took down a list of the different stations, to
ascertain the whereabouts of the fire.
"1—5," he counted, as the strokes fell; "that makes fifteen, and that
is," passing his finger slowly down the card, "that is Eastun Po-lice
station, cawneh—naw, on Bank Street. On Bank Street, seh."
I listened an instant.
"1—5—1," I said, "151; it isn't fifteen."
Another five minutes elapsed, while he searched for "151" I busily
writing the while.
"Hit's—w'y, Lawd-a-massy! Mist' Dunkin, hit's fu' de milinte'y."
"Let me see," said I. "Yes, so it is; but they only want them to go to
Cumberland. There's a strike there, and the strikers are getting
He made no reply, and as the bells ceased ringing soon afterward, I
resumed my work, which kept me busy until seven o'clock. I then placed
the papers in an envelope, and took up the letters.
"Be sure you see the Vice-President himself, Thomas," I said. "You know
him, don't you?"
Receiving no reply, and turning to ascertain the cause of his silence, I
saw he was leaning out at the open window, gazing earnestly northward
toward Baltimore Street.
"Thomas! Thomas!" I shouted.
He heard me at last, and withdrawing his head, apologized for his
"I thought—I heehed sup'n nutha like a hollehin' kine of a noise,
an'—some guns, aw sup'n, an' I wuz look'n' to see, but thaih don't
'peah to be nuthin' goin' on."
"They're mending the railroad on Baltimore Street," I said. "I suppose
that is what you heard." And I gave the papers into his hand repeating
my directions: "If the gentleman is not there, don't leave them on any
account. I'll wait here until you get back—but go first to the
post-office and mail these."
He wrapped the papers carefully in his handkerchief, placed them in his
vest-pocket, and started off.
After he left, I leaned my elbow on the dusty window-sill and lounged
there awhile, watching him as he trotted busily down the deserted
street; then, rousing myself, I stretched my weary limbs and set about
arranging my desk, closing the safe, etc. At last everything was put in
order, and I seated myself in an arm-chair, rubbing my cramped fingers
and wrist, and afterward consulting my watch, more for something to do
than to ascertain the time, which the clock on the mantel-piece would
have told me.
Only quarter past seven, and he might be detained until, half-past
eight. I leaned back and closed my eyes. How still and hot it was! I
believe I was the only human being in that whole long block of big
buildings on that July evening. Everything was as quiet as the typical
country churchyard. I had a lethargic sense now and then of the far-off
tinkle of a car-bell. I could catch a distant rumble from a passing
vehicle a block or two away. And, yes, I did observe the presence of a
dull, continuous drone, which proceeded from the direction of Baltimore
Street, but just as I sat up to hearken, some one passing whistled,
"Silver Threads among the Gold," the melody tracing itself upon the
stillness like phosphoric letters in a dark room. I listened with vivid
interest, but the tune presently grew fainter, faded, and was dissolved
into the dusk, leaving me lonelier than before, and too sleepy to give
my attention to the strange hum, of which I again became dully
conscious. It is tiresome work waiting here with nothing to do, was my
last drowsy thought, as I folded my arms on the desk, and rested my head
upon them, to be aroused by a knocking at my door.
"Come in," I called.
The door creaked on its hinges, and somebody entered. I waited an
instant, when an adolescent voice of the colored persuasion asked:
"Do somebody name Mist' Dunkin live here?"
"Yes. I'm here; what do you want?"
"Dey wan's you down-y street."
I stretched myself, reached mechanically for a match, and lighted the
gas, which disclosed a small yellow boy, standing in the doorway, some
fright and a good deal of excitement in his aspect. I then detected that
he had something important to tell, and that his errand was a source of
gratification to him.
"Well, what is it?" I asked, after we had stared at one another.
"Ain't yer yeared nuth'n' 'tall?" a shade of contempt in his tone.
"No, what is there to hear?" I asked, rather irascibly.
"Dey's a big fight down-town; de folks dey done tore de Six Reggimen'
all ter pieces, an' dey's wuk'n 'long on de Fif now."
I started up, and got on my hat in an instant.
"Dey's et Camd' Street depot, now. Ole colored gentlemun he's been
hurtid, an' sent me atter you."
It did not take half a minute to lock the door and we proceeded
"He's down yere on Eutaw Street," continued my informant. "Dey's
fightin' all 'long dere—I come nigh gittin' hit myself—he gimme ten
cents to come tell yer—maybe he's done dade now," he added, cheerfully,
as we gained the street, and began to walk.
"Dey fet all 'long yere," was his next breathless remark, made some time
later. We were now proceeding rapidly up Baltimore Street, as rapidly,
at least, as people can who are pushing against a steady stream of
agitated humanity. "Dey fawr'd a bullet clean through de Sun-paper
room," pursued the boy, "an' dey bust up dem dere winder-glassis—"
Pausing involuntarily to look, I caught stray scraps of additional
"Twenty-five people killed."
"As many as that?"
"Oh, yes; fully, I should say. The Sixth fired right into the crowd,
all along from Gay to Eutaw Street."
"Well, I hear the Sixth are pretty well cleaned out by this time, so
it's tit for tat."
"The Fifth must be there now—"
"The Fifth?—what are they—two hundred men against two thousand?—Lord
knows how it will end. I hope this old town won't be burnt, that's all."
The boy, listening, turned fearfully around, looking with distended eyes
into mine. "Come on," I responded, and we spoke no more until we reached
Liberty Street. Then, all at once, above the street noises—the rumbling
of fugitive vehicles, the jingle of street-cars, and the hum of excited
voices—rose a deep, hollow roar; a horrible sound of human menace in
it, which was distinguishable even at that distance. The boy pressed
closer, clutching timidly at my hand.
"Is yer—is yer gwine ter keep on?" he faltered.
"De ole gentlemun, he 'lowed puticler you wa'n't to run no resk 'count
"Where is he?" I asked. "In the thick of it?"
"No, sir; he's lay'n' down in a little alley—clean off d' street."
"Come on, then; you'll have to show me where it is. I won't let you get
When we first wheeled into South Eutaw Street, I was conscious of an
almost painful stillness, more noticeable after the tumult of confused
sounds from which we had just emerged. The houses either side were fast
closed, doors and windows Some of them were even unlighted, and not
vehicle was in sight. The street was partially unpaved, where new
gas-pipes had been laid, and piles of paving-stones were heaped on the
edge of the sidewalks. The place seemed deserted.
But presently, far down in the immediate vicinity of the depot, I
perceived accumulated a dense, dark mass, like a low-hanging cloud, from
which a low hoarse murmur seemed to proceed. It swayed slightly from
side to side, with the inevitable motion of a large crowd, while at the
same time it kept well within certain bounds. We walked quickly along,
block after block, without encountering a single soul. I had been so
engrossed with the dark, muttering pulsation in front, that I failed to
attend to the sounds from behind, until the boy, jerking my hand, bade
me listen to the drum. I heard it then plainly, as soon as he spoke, and
the approaching tramp of disciplined feet was soon after distinctly
audible. I turned and looked. The Fifth Regiment was marching down the
middle of North Eutaw Street, having not yet crossed Baltimore Street,
the drum corps in front, the colors flying, and crowding the sidewalks
on either hand was a motley van and bodyguard, consisting of street
loafers and half-grown boys, who had come along to see the "fun," and
whose sympathies were plainly with the rioters. The foremost of these
soon reached the spot where I stood, and as I drew aside to let them
pass, I heard a gamin say to his neighbor:
"I say, Bill, these yere putty little soldier-boys hadn't better make
ther las' will an' testyment—ain't it?'"
"I dunno 'bout that," replied the other, a veteran of fourteen, who was
chewing tobacco, and whom I recognized as a certain one-eyed newsboy.
"These yere men hez fought in the late war, yer see, plenty of 'um, an'
you bet they don't carry no bokays on ther bayonits."
As the column advanced, I glanced anxiously toward the human sea down
yonder. At first, no additional movement could be detected, then, as the
drums approached nearer, a quick stir, like a sudden gust, struck its
troubled waters; the hoarse, horrible cry tore raggedly through the
summer air. And then I hastily drew the terrified child with me into the
shade of a receding doorway—for the mad flood came raving over its
bounds toward us.
The mob was mostly composed of men in their working-clothes, with bare
arms and gaunt, haggard faces. There were some women among
them—wretched, half-starved creatures—who kept shrieking like furies
all the time. As the regiment, still moving resolutely onward,
approached within a few yards of them, there fell the first volley of
stones, accompanied with hoots and jeers of derision.
"Thuz only two hundred of 'um, boys," shouted a rough voice. "They'll
run quick enough if you give it to 'um good," and a second shower of
missiles fell into the ranks, the mob arming themselves with the
paving-stones at hand.
But the little band of soldiers did not once falter, although here and
there in their ranks you could discover a man leaning against a comrade,
who gave him support as they moved on together. The crowd seemed a
little dashed. The dispersion of the Sixth Regiment had been such a mere
bagatelle, and their own number had, since then, been re-enforced by
half the professional rowdies in town. They redoubled their cries,
which, from jeers, now became shouts of rage and mortification.
"Wot are you 'bout? Give it to 'um good, I tell yer. They daresn't
fire," howled the same brawny giant who had spoken before.
As they continued the attack, a pistol-shot could be heard now and then
from the crowd. The regiment did not return the fire, but as the mob
pressed closer, an order from the front was passed along the line.
The opposing parties were now only a few feet apart, and a rain of
stones was falling so thick and fast as to darken the air, when all at
once I saw the colonel's sword flash out, the blunt edge striking one of
the rioters who was pressing on him.
"Clear the way, there!" he cried.
Then, wheeling and facing his command, his voice rang out, clear as a
"A—r—m—s, 'port! Double-time, march! Ch—ar—ge, bayonets! Hurrah!
Give 'em a yell, boys, and you can do it," added the colonel.
I cannot describe the shout which followed—a clear, ringing, organized
whoop; fresh and vibrant; of a perfectly distinct quality from the
hoarse, undisciplined howl of the mob—sounding cool and terrible, like
the cry of an avenging angel.
The mob turned and fled, appalled, melting away like wax before the blue
flame of the glittering bayonets, and the regiment entered the depot.
Then I took time to breathe, and remembered Thomas.
"He ain't fur f'om yere," said the boy. "Right 'roun' d' corner."
And we passed out of the shelter of the doorway to a small, dirty alley,
about twenty-five yards distant, where I found the old man resting
against a lamp-post, the blood streaming down his face from a ghastly
wound in the head, and his eyes closed. I made the boy get some water,
and after bathing his face for a few moments, I succeeded in rousing
"Is that you, Mist' Dunkin?" he asked, faintly.
"Yes. How do you feel, Thomas?"
"Dey's tuhibul times down-street," he gasped. "I like to got kilt."
"Dey 'lowed dey wanted dem daih papehs—an'—dey didn't git
'um—an'—den—den dey hit me side de hade—with a brickbat—an' I come
'long tell I git yeah—an' den, disha boy he come 'long—"
His voice was very faint and his hands very cold
"Don't talk any more now," I said, chafing them in mine, while I
wondered perplexedly how I should get him home. Presently he spoke
"But de papehs is all right, seh. I hilt on to 'um, sho'. Dey—dey
couldn't git 'um nohow, wid all de smahtniss," he said, with feeble
triumph. "Dey's right yeah in my wescut pocket." Then he added, with a
sudden change of tone: "But I'd like to go home, Mist' Dunkin; Ailse'll
be oneasy 'bout me."
I had to leave him with the boy while I went for a doctor and a vehicle,
neither of which was easy to be had, but finally a milk-wagon was
pressed into service, and although the mob had gathered together again,
and were besieging the depot, yet, after some delay, we succeeded in
conveying him to his home. I saw him safe in bed, his hurt dressed;
then, after bestowing a reward upon the colored boy, who had rendered me
such efficient service, I left him in charge of the doctor and his wife.
The latter was a small, plump yellow woman, with large, gentle black
eyes, and the soft voice so often found among Virginia "house" servants.
After watching her as she assisted the surgeon to dress the wound, I
came to the conclusion all of her talents were by no means "bound up in
napkins," and I went home assured my faithful old messenger was left in
very capable hands.
Next morning, directly after breakfast, I sallied forth to inquire
concerning his condition. After passing along the crowded thoroughfares,
where everybody was occupied with the riot, it was a relief to find
myself turning into the obscure little street where he lived.
"Here, at least, everything seems peaceful enough," I said, aloud, as I
approached the house. I was just in the act of placing my foot on the
one door-step, when the door was thrown violently open, and a tall black
woman bounced out, colliding with me as she passed, her superior
momentum thrusting me backward across the narrow pavement into the
street. She was too excited to heed my exclamation of astonishment. I
don't think she saw me, even, for she turned immediately and faced some
one standing in the doorway, whom I now perceived to be Ailse, looking
"Good-mornin', Mis' Wheatley," said the Amazon, with withering
sarcasm; "good-mornin', madam. I
think you'll know it the nex' time
I darkens your doors, I think you will. Served me right, though, we'en
I demeaned myself to come; I might 'a' knowed what treatment I'd
'eceive from you. Ef I hadn't ben boun' by solemn class-rules to pay
some 'tention to Brother Wheatley's immortal soul "—these words were
uttered at the very top of her voice—"you wouldn't 'a' caught
comin'; but I'll never come ag'in, never; so make yourself easy, Mis'
A shade of relief passed over Ailse's features as this assurance was
repeated, and I coming forward at this moment, the representative of the
church militant betook herself off, while I entered and spoke to Ailse,
who, fairly dazed, sank into a chair, and stared me helplessly in the
face. There was a moment's silence, when she suddenly rose and offered
me a seat, remarking, as she did so, that "Sisteh Ma'y Ann Jinkins
ca'in' on so" made her forget her manners.
"What is the matter?" said I.
"I dunno, seh, 'cep'n' she's mad 'cause docteh won't leave heh stay and
talk to Mist' Wheatley; he made heh go, an' I s'pose hit kindeh put
"What was she doing?"
"Talkin', seh; jiss talkin' and prayin'."
"And exciting the man into a fever," said the doctor, entering at that
moment. "I came here half an hour ago," he continued, turning to me,
"and found this woman—who really is a good nurse—turned out of her
husband's room by that termagant who has just gone, and whom I found in
the act of preparing the man for death, she having decided his hours
on earth were numbered; in fact, I actually chanced in upon a species of
commendatory prayer, which, if continued another half hour—and I have
every reason to think it would have been—would almost inevitably have
ended the man's life."
"I suppose I had better not see him this morning, then," said I.
"Oh, yes; you can see him; he's doing well now, and if he doesn't talk
too much, I think the sight of a cheerful face will do him good," and I
left him giving some directions to Ailse, while I proceeded up-stairs to
the room where Thomas lay. He was awake, so I walked up to his bedside,
and asked him how he felt.
"I'm tollubul, thankee, seh; de medicine makes me kind o' sleepy, that's
I seated myself beside him, there was a moment or two of silence, then
he asked, fretfully:
"Whai—whaih's Ailse? I like to see the 'oman 'roun'; s'haint got no
speshul great gif', but she's kind o' handy wen a body's sick."
"You don't seem to care so much for gifted women in a sick-room,
Thomas?" I remarked, somewhat mischievously, after I had summoned his
wife from down-stairs.
"Well, naw, seh," a little shamefacedly. "Not so much. You see, seh,
dey—dey's mos' too much fu' a body, sich times. Dey
will talk, you'se
dey will, an' 'livah 'scouhcis, an' a sick man he hain't got de strenth
to—to supplicate in kine, an' hit kind o' mawtifies him, seh."
Once more there followed a silence, when I asked:
"Thomas, why didn't you give up those papers to the mob, when they
attacked you last night? Your retaining them might have cost you your
life. I didn't mean you to endanger your life for them."
He smiled slightly, as his glance met mine.
"I dunno, seh," he replied, with his old reflective air. "You tole me
mos' pehticaleh to hole on to 'um, an' 'twouldn't be doin' my duty
faithful to let 'um go 's long ez I could hole on to 'um."
"But suppose they had killed you?"
"Well, Mist' Dunkin, ef dey had, I hope I'd been ready to go. I ben
tryin' to lead a godly an' Chris'chun life, ez Scripcheh sez, fu' fawty
yeahs, now, an' I hope I'd a foun' dyin' grace at de las'. You see, seh,
thing hoped me mos' was de thoughts of a tex' Bro' Moss preached on las'
Sund'y; 'peached like hit hep' on jinglin' in my hade all time dey was
jawin' an' fightin' with me."
"What text was it?" I asked.
But he was almost asleep, and his wife signalled me not to wake him. So
I was stealing away toward the door, when he opened his eyes and
"De tex', oh yes, seh. I fo'got—'twas a Scripcheh tex'—'Be thou
He then turned over, settling himself comfortably in his pillows, and in
a moment dropped asleep.
In due course of time, he made his appearance in the office again, being
anxious to "resume his duties," he said. But that blow on the head has
proved to be a serious affair, affecting the old man's memory
permanently, and giving a violent shock to his system, from which it
will never entirely recover. He is no longer the clear-headed messenger
he was, when he was wont to assert—no idle boast either—that he could
"fetch an' cai' eq'il to any man." Now and then, in these latter days,
he confuses things a little, always suffering the keenest mortification
when he discovers his mistakes. As I said in the beginning, he is still
our office-boy and messenger, although a smart young mulatto is hired to
come betimes, make things tidy, and leave before the old man gets down,
so his feelings mayn't be hurt. He sometimes remarks on our being the
"cleanis' gentlemun in de wueld," but we contrive that no whisper of the
real state of the case ever reaches his ear, and he is allowed to sweep
and dust a little to satisfy his mind.
THE HEARTBREAK CAMEO.
By LIZZIE W. CHAMPNEY.
"It is a cameo to break one's heart!" said Mrs. Dalliba, as she toyed
with the superb jewel. "The cutting is unmistakably Florentine, and yet
you have placed it among your Indian curiosities. I do not understand it
Mrs. Dalliba was a connoisseur in gems; she had travelled from one
extremity of Europe to the other; had studied the crown jewels of nearly
every civilized nation, haunted museums, and was such a frequent visitor
at the jewellers' of the Palais Royal, that many of them had come to
regard her as an individual who might harbor burglarious intentions. She
was a very harmless specialist, however, who, though she loved these
stars of the underworld better than any human being, could never have
been tempted to make one of them unfairly her own, and she seldom
purchased, for she never coveted one unless it was something quite
extraordinary, beyond the reach of even her considerable fortune.
Meanwhile few of the larger jewelry houses had in their employ
lapidaries more skilled than Mrs. Dalliba. She pursued her studies for
the mere love of the science, devoting a year in Italy to mosaics,
cameos, and intaglios. And yet the Crèvecoeur cameo had puzzled wiser
heads than Mrs. Dalliba's, adept though she was. It was cut from a solid
heart-shaped gem, a layer of pure white, shading down through exquisite
gradations into deep green, and representing Aphrodite rising from the
sea; the white foam rose gracefully, with arms extended, scattering the
drops of spray from her hands and her wind-blown hair; the foamy waves
were beautifully cut with their intense hollows and snowy crests; it was
evidently the work of a cultivated as well as a natural artist; it was
not surprising that Mrs. Dalliba should insist that it could not have
been executed out of Italy.
But Prof. Stonehenge was right too; it was a stone of the chalcedonic
family, resembling sardonyx, except in color; others, similar to it both
in a natural state and wrought into arrow-heads, had been found along
the shores of Lake Superior. This seemed to have been brought away from
its associates by some wandering tribe, for it had been discovered in
Central Illinois. The nearest point at which other relics belonging to
the same period had been found was the site of Fort Crèvecoeur, near
Starved Rock, Illinois. After all, the stone only differed from the
arrow-heads of Lake Superior in its beautiful carving and unprecedented
size—and, ah, yes! there was another difference, the mystery of its
discovery. No other skeleton among all the buried braves unearthed by
scientific research at Crèvecoeur had been found with a gem for a
heart—a gem that glittered not on the breast, but within a chest hooped
with human bone. Mrs. Dalliba had just remarked that she had never felt
so strong a desire to possess and wear any jewel as now; but when Prof.
Stonehenge told how the uncanny thing rattled within the white ribs of
the skeleton in which it was found, she allowed the gem to slip from her
hand, while something of its own pale green flickered in the disgusted
expression which quivered about the corners of her mobile mouth. The
cameo was a mystery which had baffled geologist, antiquarian, and
sculptor alike, for Father Francis Xavier had gone down to his grave
with his secret and his cameo hidden in his heart. He had kept both well
for two centuries, and when the heart crumbled in dust it took its
secret with it, leaving only the cameo to bewilder conjecture.
Its story was, after all, a simple one. On the southern shore of
Michillimackinac, in the romantic days of the first exploration of the
great lakes by the Courreurs de Bois and pioneer priests, had settled
good Père Ignace, a devoted Jesuit missionary. The old man was revered
and loved by the Indians among whom he dwelt. His labors blossomed in a
little village, called from his patron saint the mission of St. Ignace,
that displayed its cluster of white huts and wigwams like the petals of
a water-lily on the margin of the lake. Just back of the village was a
round knoll which served as a landmark on the lake, for the shore near
St. Ignace was remarkably level. On the summit of this mound the good
father had reared a great white cross, and at its foot the superstitious
Indians often laid votive offerings of strongly incongruous character.
Here he had lived and taught for many years, succeeding in instructing
his little flock in the French tongue, and in at least an outward
semblance of the Catholic religion. Even the rude trappers, who came to
trade at regular intervals, revered him, and lived like good Christians
while at the mission, so as not to counteract his teaching by their
lawless example. Here Père Ignace was growing old, and even this
grasshopper of a spiritual charge was becoming a burden. His superior,
at Montreal, understood this, and sent him an assistant.
Very unlike Father Ignatius was Père François Xavier, a man with all the
fire and enthusiasm of youth in his blood—just the one for daring,
hazardous enterprises; just the one to undergo all the privation and
toil of planting a mission; to undertake plans requiring superhuman
efforts, and to carry them through successfully by main force of will. A
better assistant for Father Ignatius could not have been found. It was
force, will, and intellect in the service of love and meekness; only
there was a doubt if the servant might not usurp the place of the
master, and the sway of love be not materially advanced by its new ally.
Indeed, if the truth had been known, even the Bishop of Montreal had
felt that Father Francis Xavier was too ambitious a character to reside
safely in too close proximity to himself; and engrossing employment at a
distance for him, rather than the expressed solicitude for Father
Ignatius, prompted this appointment. The results of the following year
approved the arrangement. The mission received a new accession of life;
its interests were pushed forward energetically.
Father Francis Xavier devoted himself to an acquisition of the various
Indian dialects, and to excursions among the neighboring tribes.
Converts were made in astonishing numbers, and they brought liberal
gifts to the little church from their simple possessions. Father
Ignatius had never thought to barter with the trappers and traders, but
his colleague did; large church warehouses were erected, and the mission
soon had revenues of importance. Away in the interior Father Xavier had
discovered there was a silver mine; but this discovery, for the present,
he made no attempt at exploiting. He had secured it to the church by
title deed and treaty with the chief who claimed it; had visited it and
assured himself that it would some day be very valuable, and he
contented himself with this for the present, and even managed to forget
its acquisition in his yearly report sent to Montreal. Father Francis
Xavier was something of a geologist; his father was a Florentine
jeweller, and the son had studied as his apprentice, not having at first
been destined for the church. Even after taking holy orders, Father
Francis Xavier had labored over precious stones designed for
ecclesiastical decoration. His specialty had been that of a gem
engraver, and his long white fingers were remarkably skilful and
delicate. This northern region, with all its wealth of precious stones,
was a great jewel casket for him, and he became at once an enthusiastic
Before the coming of his assistant, Father Ignatius had managed his own
simple housekeeping in all its most humble details. Now they had the
services of an Indian maid of all work, who had been brought up under
the eyes of Father Ignatius, and whom the old man regarded rather as a
daughter than as a servant. Her moccasined feet fell as silently as
those of spirits as she glided about their lodge. She never sang at her
work, and rarely spoke, but she smiled often with a smile so childlike
as to be almost silly in expression. Father Ignatius loved the silent
smile, and a word from him was always sure to bring it; but it angered
Father Francis Xavier more than many a more repulsive thing would have
done. It seemed so utterly imbecile and babyish to him, he had got so
far away from innocence and smiles and childhood himself, that the
sight of them irritated him. The young Indian girl had a long and almost
unpronounceable name. Père Ignace had baptized her Marie, and the new
name had gradually taken the place of the old.
One day, as she was silently but dexterously putting to order the large
upper room, which served Père Francis Xavier as study and dormitory, she
paused before his collection of agates and minerals, and stroking the
stones, said in her soft French and Indian patois, "Pretty, pretty."
Father Xavier was seated at the great open window, looking over the top
of his book away across the breezy lake. He heard the words, and knew
that she was looking at him from the corner of her eye, but his only
reply was a deeper scowl and a lowering of his glance to the printed
page. The silly smile which he felt sure was upon her face faded out,
but the girl spoke again, and this time more resolutely, determined to
attract his attention. "Pretty stones. Marie's father many more, much
Father Xavier laid down his book. He was all attention. "Where did your
father get them?" he asked.
"In the mountains climb, in the mines dig, in the lake dive, he seek
them all the time summer."
"What does he do with them?"
"Cuts them like mon père," and Marie imitated in pantomime the use of
the hammer and chisel. "Cut them all time winter, very many."
"What does he do that for?" asked the priest, surprised.
"All the same you," replied the girl—"make arrow-heads."
"Oh! he makes arrow-heads, does he? Mine are not arrow-heads, but I
should like to see what your father does. Does he live far from here?"
"Marie take you to-night in canoe."
"Very well, after supper."
She had often taken him out upon the lake before, for she managed their
birch-bark canoe with more skill than himself, and it was convenient to
have some one to paddle while he fished or read or dreamed. She rowed
him swiftly up the lake for several miles, then, fastening the canoe,
led the way through a trail in the forest. The sun was setting, and "the
whispering pines and the hemlocks" of the forest primeval formed a
tapestry of gloom around the paternal wigwam as they reached it. Black
Beaver, her father, reclined lazily in the door, watching the coals of
the little fire in front of his tent. He was always lazy. It was
difficult to believe that he ever climbed or dug or dived for agates as
Marie had said, so complete a picture he seemed of inaction. The girl
spoke a few words to him in their native dialect, and he grumblingly
rose, shuffled into the interior of the wigwam, and brought out two
baskets. One was a shallow tray filled with the finished heads in great
variety of material and color. There were white carnelian, delicately
striped with prophetic red, blood-stone deep colored and hard as ruby,
agates of every shade and marking, flinty jasper, emerald-banded
malachite, delicate rose color, and purple one made from shells, and
various crystals with whose names Father Francis Xavier was unfamiliar.
There was one shading from dark green through to red, only a drop of the
latter color on the very tip of the arrow where blood would first kiss
blood. Father Xavier looked at it in wondering admiration, and at last
asked Black Beaver what he called it.
"It is a devil-stone," replied the Indian. "More here," and he opened
the deeper basket in which were stored the unground and uncut stones,
and placed a superb gem in Father Xavier's hand. He had ground it
sufficiently to show that it was in two layers, white and green; in this
there was no touch of red, but in every other respect it was the
"Will you sell it to me?" asked the priest. "How much?"
The Indian smiled with an expression strangely like that of his
daughter, and put it back with alacrity in his basket, saying, "Me no
sell big devil-stone. No money buy."
"What do you mean to do with it?" asked Father Xavier.
"Make arrow-head—very hungry—no blood;" and he indicated the absence
of the red tint. "Very hungry—kill very much—never have enough!"
"Then you mean to keep it and use it yourself?"
"No," said the other. "Me no hunt game—hunt stones."
"What will you do with it?" asked the puzzled priest.
"Give it away," said Black Beaver—"give away to greatest—"
"Chief?" asked Father Xavier.
Black Beaver shook his head.
"No," grunted the arrow-head maker—"give away to big
"What did he mean by that?" Father Xavier asked of Marie on their way
back to the mission. And the girl explained the superstition that
Indians of their own tribe never killed an enemy with ordinary weapons,
for fear that his soul would wait for theirs in the Happy Hunting
Grounds; but if he was shot with a devil-stone, the soul could not fly
upward, but would sink through all eternity, until it reached the
deepest spot of all the great lakes under the stony gaze of the Doom
When he inquired further as to the whereabouts of the Doom Woman's
residence he ascertained that she was only a sharp cliff among "the
pictured rocks of sandstone" of the upper lake—a cliff that viewed from
either side maintained its resemblance to a female profile looking
sternly down at the water beneath it, which was here believed to be
unfathomable. The Doom Woman still exists. Strange to say, under its
sharp-cut features a steamer has since been wrecked and sunk, and its
expression of gloomy fate is now awfully appropriate. Marie had visited
"the great Sea Water" with her father. Nature's titanic and fanciful
frescoing and cameo-cutting had strongly wrought upon her impressionable
mind, and the old legends and superstitions of paganism had been by no
means effaced by the very slight veneer of Christianity which she had
received at the mission.
From this evening Father Xavier's manner toward her changed. Her smile
no longer seemed to irritate him, and a close observer might have
noticed that she smiled less than formerly. He talked with her more,
paid closer attention to her studies, made her little presents from time
to time, and spoke to her always with studied gentleness that was quite
foreign to his nature. And Marie watched him at work over his stones,
spent her spare time in rambling in search of those which she had
learned he liked, and laid upon his table without remark each new
discovery of quartz, or crystal, or pebble. She had been in the habit of
making little boxes which she decorated with a rude mosaic of small
shells, and Father Xavier noticed that these gradually acquired more
taste and were arranged with some eye to the harmonies of color, while
the forms were copied with Chinese accuracy from patterns on the
bindings of his books or the borders of the religious pictures. Marie
was developing under an art education which, if carried far enough,
might effect great things. She even managed his graving tools with a
good deal of accuracy, copying designs which he set her, until he
wondered what his father would have thought of so apt an apprentice.
Suddenly, one morning in midsummer, Marie announced that she should
leave them. Her father was going on a long expedition for stones to the
head of Lake Superior, and she did not know when she might return. As
she imparted this information she watched Father Xavier from the corner
of her eye, and something of the old childish smile reappeared as he
showed that he was really annoyed.
The summer passed profitably for the Black Beaver, and he began to think
of returning to St. Ignace with his small store of valuable stones
before the fall gales should set in. He was just a few days too late.
When within sight of Michillimackinac a storm arose driving them out
upon the open lake, and playing with their canoe as though it were a
cockle-shell. When the storm abated a cloudy night had set in; no land
was visible in any direction; they had completely lost their direction,
and knew not toward which point to seek the shore. Paddling at hazard
might take them further out into the centre of the lake, and indeed they
were too worn with battling with the storm to do any more than keep the
tossed skiff from capsizing. Morning dawned wet and gray, after a
miserable night; they were drenched to the skin, and almost spent with
weariness and hunger, and now that a wan and ghostly daylight had come
they were no better for it, for an impenetrable fog shut them in on
every side. Marie and her mother began to pray. The Black Beaver sat
dogged and inert, with upturned face, regarding the sky.
The day wore by wearily; some of the time they paddled straight onward,
with sinking hearts, knowing not toward what they were going, and at
others rested with the inaction of despair. When the position of the
bright spot which meant the sun told that it lacked but an hour of
sunset, and the clouds seemed to be thickening rather than dispersing,
the Black Beaver gave a long and hideous howl. His wife and daughter
shuddered when they heard it, as would any one, for a more unearthly and
discordant cry was never uttered by man or beast; but they had double
reason to shudder; it was the death cry of their nation.
"We can never live through another night," said he, and he covered his
face with his arms.
"Father," said Marie, "try what power there is in the white man's God.
Say that you will give Him your devil-stone if He will save us now."
"The priest may have it," said the Black Beaver, and he uncovered his
face and sat up as though expecting a miracle. And the miracle came. The
sun was setting behind them, and in front, somewhat above the horizon,
the clouds parted, forming a circle about a white cross which hung
suspended in the air. They all saw it distinctly, but only for a few
moments; then the clouds closed and the vision vanished. With new hope
the little party rowed toward the spot where they had last seen it, and
through the fog they could dimly discern the outlines of the coast—they
were nearing land. A little further on, and a village was visible, which
gained a more and more familiar aspect as they approached. Night settled
down before they reached it, but ere their feet touched the land they
had recognized the mission of St. Ignace. The cross was not a vision.
The clouds had parted to show them the great white landmark and sign
which Father Ignatius had raised upon the little knoll.
The next day the Black Beaver unearthed his devil-stone, and fastening a
silver chain to it, was about to carry it away and attach it to the
cross, which was already loaded with the gifts of the little colony; but
Marie took it from his hand. "I will give it to the good priest myself,"
she said. "He may see fit to place it on the image of the Virgin in the
A few days later Marie placed the coveted stone in Father Xavier's hand;
but what was his bitter disappointment to find that she had marred the
exquisite thing by a rude attempt at a delineation upon it of the vision
of the cross. She had carefully chiselled away the milky white layer,
excepting on the crests of some very primitive representations of waves,
and within the awkwardly plain cross in the centre of the gem. All his
hopes of cutting a face upon this lovely jewel were crushed; it was
ruined by her unskilful work. Father Xavier was completely master of his
own emotions. He took the stone without remark, and hung it, as Marie
requested, about the neck of the Madonna. Each day as he said mass the
sight of the mutilated jewel roused within him resentful feelings
against poor, well-wishing little Marie. He had been very kind to her
since he had first seen the stone in the possession of her father, but
now it was worse than before. He avoided her markedly, for the smile
which so annoyed him still lighted her face whenever she saw him, and
there was in it a reproachful sadness which was even more aggravating
than its simple childishness had been.
One day Father Xavier, in turning over his papers, came across an old
etching of Venus rising from the sea. The figure, with its outstretched
arms, suggested a possibility to him. He made a careful tracing of it,
took it to the church, and laid it upon the stone. All of its outlines
came within the white cross; there was still hope for the cameo. All
that winter Father Xavier toiled upon it, exhausting his utmost skill,
but never exhausting his patience. His chief trial was in the extreme
hardness of the stone, which rapidly wore out his graving tools. At last
it was finished, and Father Xavier confessed to himself, in all
humility, that he had not only never executed so delicate a piece of
workmanship, but he had never seen its equal. Every curve of the
exquisite-hued waves was studied from the swell that sometimes swept
grandly in from the lake on the long reef of rocks a few miles above St.
Ignace. The form of the goddess was modelled from his remembrance of the
Greek antique. It was a gem worthy of an emperor. What should he do with
As the spring ripened into summer, ambitious thoughts flowered in Père
Francis Xavier's soul. What a grand bishopric this whole western country
would make with its unexplored wealth of mines, and furs, and forest!
Why should he be obliged to make reports of the revenue which his own
financiering had secured to the mission, to the head at Montreal? Why
should not his reverence the Lord Bishop Francis Xavier dwell in an
episcopal palace built somewhere on these lakes, with unlimited
spiritual and temporal sway over all this country? To effect such a
scheme it would be necessary for him to see both the King of France and
the Pope. He was not sure that even if he could return to Europe
immediately, he had the influence necessary in either quarter, but the
cameo was a step in the right direction. Something of the same thought
occurred at the same time to the Bishop of Montreal. Father Xavier's
reports showed the mission to be in a flourishing condition. The first
struggles of the pioneer were over. Father Xavier must not be left in
too luxurious a position. The Chevalier La Salle was now fitting out his
little band designed to explore the lakes and follow the Mississippi
from its source to the Gulf. A most important expedition; it would be
well that the Jesuit fathers should share in the honors if it proved
successful, and if the little party perished in its hazardous enterprise
Père Francis Xavier could perhaps be spared as easily as any member of
his spiritual army.
And so, in the summer of 1679, the Chevalier sailed up the Lac du
Dauphin, as Lake Erie was then called, into the Lac d'Orleans, or Huron,
carrying letters in which Père Francis Xavier was ordered to leave his
charge for a time in order to render all the assistance in his power to
the explorers. The Bishop of Montreal could never have guessed with what
heartfelt joy his command was obeyed. Father Xavier was tired of this
peaceful life, tired of "the endless wash of melancholy waves," of the
short cool summers, and long white blank of winter; tired of inaction,
of the lack of stimulating surroundings, of the gentleness of Father
Ignatius and Marie's haunting smile. Here, too, might be the very
occasion he craved of making himself famous and deserving of reward as
an explorer. It was true that he started as a subordinate, but that was
no reason that he should return in the same capacity. Marie had served
the noble guests with pleasant alacrity, passing the rainbow-tinted
trout caught as well as broiled by her own hand, and the luscious
huckleberries in tasteful baskets of her own braiding, and Tontz Main de
Fer, the chivalric companion and friend of La Salle, was moved like
Geraint, served by Enid, "to stoop and kiss the dainty little thumb
that crossed the trencher." The salutation was received with unconscious
dignity by little Marie; once only was Père François Xavier annoyed by
the absence of a display of childish pleasure in an ever-ready smile.
History tells how trial and privation of every kind waited on this
little band of heroic men; how hunger, and cold, and fever dogged their
steps; how the Indians proved treacherous and hostile; how, having
reached central Illinois, after incredible exertion, they found
themselves in the dead of winter unable to proceed further, and
surrounded by tribes incited against them by some unknown enemy. A
fatality seemed to hang over them; suspicious occurrences indicated that
they had a traitor among their number, but he was never discovered. La
Salle did not despair or abandon the enterprise; but when six of his
most trusted men mutinied and deserted, he lost hope, and became seized
with a presentiment that he would never return from his expedition.
Father Xavier was his confidant as well as confessor, but he seems not
to have been able to disperse the gloom which settled over the leader's
mind. Perhaps he did not endeavor to do so. Hopeless but still true to
his trust, La Salle constructed near Peoria a fort which he named
Crèvecoeur, in token of his despondency and disappointment. Leaving
Tontz Main de Fer in command here with the greater part of his men, he
set out with five for Frontenac, on the 2d of March, 1680, intending to
return with supplies to take command again of his party, and to proceed
southward. It was at this point that the most inexplicable event of the
entire enterprise occurred. Before the party divided
attempted to poison the Chevalier La Salle. The poison was a subtle and
slow one, similar in its effects to those used by the Borgia family; the
secret of its manufacture was thought to be unknown out of Italy.
Fortunately he had taken an under or overdose of it, and the effects
manifested themselves only in a long illness. He was too far on his
journey from Fort Heartbreak when stricken down to return to it, and was
mercifully received and nursed back to health by the friendly
While the leader was lying sick in an Indian lodge, the knightly Tontz,
ignorant of the fate of his friend, was having his troubles at the
little fort of Heartbreak. Père François Xavier had remained with him,
and aided him with counsels and personal exertions; he had made himself
so indispensable that he was now lieutenant; if anything should happen
to Tontz, he would be commander. He was secretary of the expedition,
drew careful maps, and made voluminous daily entries in a journal, which
was afterward found to be a marvel of painstaking both in the facts and
fictions which it contained. Scanty mention was there of La Salle and
Tontz Main de Fer, and much of Père François Xavier, but it was clear,
explicit, depicting the advantages of an acquisition of this territory
to the crown of France in glowing terms, and strongly advising that the
man who had most distinguished himself in the difficulties of its
discovery should be appointed as governor, or baron, under the royal
While Father Xavier was compiling this remarkable piece of authorship,
the Iroquois descended in warlike array upon the somewhat friendly
disposed Illinois Indians, in whose midst Fort Crèvecoeur had been
built. The suspicious Indian mind immediately connected the advent of
their enemies with the building of the fort, and regarded the little
garrison with distrust. Tontz, at the instance of Father Xavier,
presented himself to their chief, and offered to do anything in his
power to prove his friendly intentions. The chief accepted his services,
and sent him as ambassador to inquire into the cause of the coming of
the Iroquois. This mission had nearly been his last, for Tontz was
received with stabs, and hardly allowed to give the message of the
chief. His ill-treatment at the hands of their enemies did not reassure
the suspicious Illinois, who ordered Tontz to immediately evacuate the
fort and return with his forces to the country whence he had come. In
his wounded condition such a journey was extremely hazardous, and it
must have been with grave doubts as to his surviving it that Father
Xavier took temporary command of the returning expedition.
It was in the spring of 1681. Father Xavier had been absent nearly two
years. Father Ignatius missed him sadly—all the life and fire seemed
have gone out of the mission. Even Marie moved about her work in a
listless, languid way, which contrasted markedly with her once lithe and
rapid movements. They had not once heard from the explorers, and Father
Ignatius shook his head sadly, and feared that he would never see his
energetic colleague again. The Black Beaver had slept through the last
months of winter, and, as with the general awakening of spring the bears
came out of their dens, and the snakes sunned themselves near their
holes, he too stretched himself lazily and awoke to a consciousness of
what was passing around him. In the first place something was amiss with
Marie. When she came to the wigwam it was not to chat merrily of the
affairs of the mission. She did not braid as many baskets as formerly,
and no longer showed him new patterns in shell mosaic on the lids of
little boxes. He was a curious old man, and he soon drew her secret from
her. Marie loved Père François Xavier, and he had gone.
The Black Beaver went down to the mission one evening and had a long
talk with Father Ignatius. He ascertained first that Père François
Xavier really meant to return; then, with all the dignity of an old
feudal baron, he offered Marie as a bride for his spiritual son. Very
gently the good Père Ignace explained that Romish priests were so nearly
in the kingdom of heaven that the question of marrying and giving in
marriage was not for them to consider. The Black Beaver went home, told
no one of his visit, and for several days indulged in the worst drunken
spree of which he was capable. When he came out of it he announced to
his wife and Marie that he was going away on his annual trip for stores,
but that they need not accompany him.
Marie knelt as usual in the little church on the evening of the day on
which her father had gone away. Père François Xavier had replaced the
cameo on the Virgin's breast before he went; it was a safer place than
the vault of a bank would have been, had such a thing existed in the
country. There was no one in the island sacrilegious enough to rob the
church. Marie had gazed at the stone each time that she repeated the
prayer which he had taught her. She looked up now, and it was gone.
Half way upon their northward route, Tontz's band were struggling
wearily on when they were met by a solitary Indian, who, though he
carried a long bow, had not an unfriendly aspect. He eyed the little
band silently as they passed by him in defile, then ran after them, and
inquired if the Père François Xavier, of Mission St. Ignace, was not of
their number. He was informed that the reverend father had remained a
short distance behind to write in his journal, but that he would soon
overtake them; and he was warmly pressed to remain with them if he had
messages for the priest, and give them to him when he arrived; but the
Indian shook his head and passed on in the direction in which they told
him he would be likely to meet Father Xavier. The party halted and
waited hour after hour for the priest, but he did not come. Finally two
went back in search, and found him lying upon the sod with upturned
face—the place where he had written last in his journal marked by a few
drops of his heart's blood, and the long shaft of an arrow protruding
from his breast. They drew it out, but the arrow-head had been attached
as is the custom in some Indian tribes, by means of a soft wax, which is
melted by the warmth of the body, and it remained in the heart. Father
Xavier had been dead some hours. They buried him where they found him,
and proceeded on their march. Tontz recovered on the way. They reached
Michillimackinac in safety, where they were joined two months later by
La Salle; and the world knows the result of his second expedition.
Little Marie learned by degrees to smile again, and in after years
married another arrow-head maker, as swarthy and as shaggy as the Black
Beaver. There is no moral to my story except that of poetic justice.
Père François Xavier had sown a plentiful crop of stratagems, and he
learned in the lonely forest that "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he
Meanwhile to all but you, my readers, the Crèvecoeur cameo remains as
great a mystery as ever.
MISS EUNICE'S GLOVE
By Albert Webster.
For a long time blithe and fragile Miss Eunice, demure, correct in
deportment, and yet not wholly without enthusiasm, thought that day the
unluckiest in her life on which she first took into her hands that
unobtrusive yet dramatic book, "Miss Crofutt's Missionary Labors in the
It came to her notice by mere accident, not by favor of proselyting
friends; and such was its singular material, that she at once devoured
it with avidity. As its title suggests, it was the history of the
ameliorating endeavors of a woman in criminal society, and it contained,
perforce, a large amount of tragic and pathetic incident. But this last
was so blended and involved with what Miss Eunice would have skipped as
commonplace, that she was led to digest the whole volume—statistics,
philosophy, comments, and all. She studied the analysis of the
atmosphere of cells, the properties and waste of wheaten flour, the cost
of clothing to the general government, the whys and wherefores of crime
and evil-doing; and it was not long before there was generated within
her bosom a fine and healthy ardor to emulate this practical and
She was profoundly moved by the tales of missionary labors proper. She
was filled with joy to read that Miss Crofutt and her lieutenants
sometimes cracked and broke away the formidable husks which enveloped
divine kernels in the hearts of some of the wretches, and she frequently
wept at the stories of victories gained over monsters whose defences of
silence and stolidity had suddenly fallen into ruin above the slow but
persistent sapping of constant kindness. Acute tinglings and chilling
thrills would pervade her entire body when she read that on Christmas
every wretch seemed to become for that day, at least, a gracious man;
that the sight of a few penny tapers, or the possession of a handful of
sweet stuff, or a spray of holly, or a hot-house bloom, would appear to
convert the worst of them into children. Her heart would swell to learn
how they acted during the one poor hour of yearly freedom in the
prison-yards; that they swelled their chests; that they ran; that they
took long strides; that the singers anxiously tried their voices, now
grown husky; that the athletes wrestled only to find their limbs stiff
and their arts forgotten; that the gentlest of them lifted their faces
to the broad sky and spent the sixty minutes in a dreadful gazing at the
The pretty student gradually became possessed with a rage. She desired
to convert some one, to recover some estray, to reform some wretch.
She regretted that she lived in America, and not in England, where the
most perfect rascals were to be found; she was sorry that the gloomy,
sin-saturated prisons which were the scenes of Miss Crofutt's labors
must always be beyond her ken.
There was no crime in the family or the neighborhood against which she
might strive; no one whom she knew was even austere; she had never met a
brute; all her rascals were newspaper rascals. For aught she knew, this
tranquillity and good-will might go on forever, without affording her an
opportunity. She must be denied the smallest contact with these
frightful faces and figures, these bars and cages, these deformities of
the mind and heart, these curiosities of conscience, shyness, skill, and
daring; all these dramas of reclamation, all these scenes of fervent
gratitude, thankfulness, and intoxicating liberty—all or any of these
things must never come to be the lot of her eyes; and she gave herself
up to the most poignant regret.
But one day she was astonished to discover that all of these delights
lay within half an hour's journey of her home; and moreover, that there
was approaching an hour which was annually set apart for the indulgence
of the inmates of the prison in question. She did not stop to ask
herself, as she might well have done, how it was that she had so
completely ignored this particular institution, which was one of the
largest and best conducted in the country, especially when her desire to
visit one was so keen; but she straightway set about preparing for her
intended visit in a manner which she fancied Miss Crofutt would have
approved, had she been present.
She resolved, in the most radical sense of the word, to be alive. She
jotted on some ivory tablets, with a gold pencil, a number of hints to
assist her in her observations. For example: "Phrenological development;
size of cells; ounces of solid and liquid; tissue-producing food; were
mirrors allowed? if so, what was the effect? jimmy and skeleton-key,
character of; canary birds: query, would not their admission into every
cell animate in the human prisoners a similar buoyancy? to urge upon the
turnkeys the use of the Spanish garrote in place of the present
distressing gallows; to find the proportion of Orthodox and Unitarian
prisoners to those of other persuasions." But beside these and fifty
other similar memoranda, the enthusiast cast about her for something
practical to do.
She hit upon the capital idea of flowers. She at once ordered from a
gardener of taste two hundred bouquets, or rather nosegays, which she
intended for distribution among the prisoners she was about to visit,
and she called upon her father for the money.
Then she began to prepare her mind. She wished to define the plan from
which she was to make her contemplations. She settled that she would be
grave and gentle. She would be exquisitely careful not to hold herself
too much aloof, and yet not to step beyond the bounds of that sweet
reserve that she conceived must have been at once Miss Crofutt's sword
Her object was to awaken in the most abandoned criminals a realization
that the world, in its most benignant phase, was still open to them;
that society, having obtained a requital for their wickedness, was ready
to embrace them again on proof of their repentance.
She determined to select at the outset two or three of the most
remarkable monsters, and turn the full head of her persuasions
exclusively upon them, instead of sprinkling (as it were) the whole
community with her grace. She would arouse at first a very few, and then
a few more, and a few more, and so on ad infinitum.
It was on a hot July morning that she journeyed on foot over the bridge
which led to the prison, and there walked a man behind her carrying the
Her eyes were cast down, this being the position most significant of her
spirit. Her pace was equal, firm, and rapid: she made herself oblivious
of the bustle of the streets, and she repented that her vanity had
permitted her to wear white and lavender these making a combination in
her dress which she had been told became her well. She had no right to
embellish herself. Was she going to the races or a match, or a
kettle-drum, that she must dandify herself with particular shades of
color? She stopped short, blushing. Would Miss Cro----. But there was no
help for it now. It was too late to turn back. She proceeded, feeling
that the odds were against her.
She approached her destination in such a way that the prison came into
view suddenly. She paused, with a feeling of terror. The enormous gray
building rose far above a lofty white wall of stone, and a sense of its
prodigious strength and awful gloom overwhelmed her. On the top of the
wall, holding by an iron railing, there stood a man with a rifle
trailing behind him. He was looking down into the yard inside. His
attitude of watchfulness, his weapon, the unseen thing that was being
thus fiercely guarded, provoked in her such a revulsion that she came to
What in the name of mercy had she come here for? She began to tremble.
The man with the flowers came up to her and halted. From the prison
there came at this instant the loud clang of a bell, and succeeding this
a prolonged and resonant murmur which seemed to increase. Miss Eunice
looked hastily around her. There were several people who must have heard
the same sounds that reached her ears, but they were not alarmed. In
fact, one or two of them seemed to be going to the prison direct. The
courage of our philanthropist began to revive. A woman in a brick house
opposite suddenly pulled up a window-curtain and fixed an amused and
inquisitive look upon her.
This would have sent her into a thrice-heated furnace. "Come, if you
please," she commanded the man, and she marched upon the jail.
She entered at first a series of neat offices in a wing of the
structure, and then she came to a small door made of black bars of iron.
A man stood on the farther side of this, with a bunch of large keys.
When he saw Miss Eunice he unlocked and opened the door, and she passed
She found that she had entered a vast, cool, and lofty cage, one hundred
feet in diameter; it had an iron floor, and there were several people
strolling about here and there. Through several grated apertures the
sunlight streamed with strong effect, and a soft breeze swept around the
Without the cage, before her and on either hand, were three more wings
of the building, and in these were the prisoners' corridors.
At the moment she entered, the men were leaving their cells, and
mounting the stone stairs in regular order, on their way to the chapel
above. The noisy files went up and down and to the right and to the
left, shuffling and scraping and making a great tumult. The men were
dressed in blue, and were seen indistinctly through the lofty gratings.
From above and below and all around her there came the metallic snapping
of bolts and the rattle of moving bars; and so significant was
everything of savage repression and impending violence, that Miss Eunice
was compelled to say faintly to herself "I am afraid it will take a
little time to get used to all this."
She rested upon one of the seats in the rotunda while the chapel
services were being conducted, and she thus had an opportunity to regain
a portion of her lost heart. She felt wonderfully dwarfed and belittled,
and her plan of recovering souls had, in some way or other, lost much of
its feasibility. A glance at her bright flowers revived her a little, as
did also a surprising, long-drawn roar from over her head, to the tune
of "America." The prisoners were singing.
Miss Eunice was not alone in her intended work, for there were several
other ladies, also with supplies of flowers, who with her awaited until
the prisoners should descend into the yard and be let loose before
presenting them with what they had brought. Their common purpose made
them acquainted, and by the aid of chat and sympathy they fortified each
Half an hour later the five hundred men descended from the chapel to the
yard, rushing out upon its bare broad surface as you have seen a burst
of water suddenly irrigate a road-bed. A hoarse and tremendous shout at
once filled the air, and echoed against the walls like the threat of a
volcano. Some of the wretches waltzed and spun around like dervishes,
some threw somersaults, some folded their arms gravely and marched up
and down, some fraternized, some walked away pondering, some took off
their tall caps and sat down in the shade, some looked toward the
rotunda with expectation, and there were those who looked toward it with
There led from the rotunda to the yard a flight of steps. Miss Eunice
descended these steps with a quaking heart, and a turnkey shouted to the
prisoners over her head that she and others had flowers for them.
No sooner had the words left his lips, than the men rushed up pell-mell.
This was a crucial moment.
There thronged upon Miss Eunice an army of men who were being punished
for all the crimes in the calendar. Each individual here had been caged
because he was either a highwayman, or a forger, or a burglar, or a
ruffian, or a thief, or a murderer. The unclean and frightful tide bore
down upon our terrified missionary, shrieking and whooping. Every
prisoner thrust out his hand over the head of the one in front of him,
and the foremost plucked at her dress.
She had need of courage. A sense of danger and contamination impelled
her to fly, but a gleam of reason in the midst of her distraction
enabled her to stand her ground. She forced herself to smile though she
knew her face had grown pale.
She placed a bunch of flowers into an immense hand which projected from
a coarse blue sleeve in front of her; the owner of the hand was pushed
away so quickly by those who came after him that Miss Eunice failed to
see his face. Her tortured ear caught a rough "Thank y', miss!" The
spirit of Miss Crofutt revived in a flash, and her disciple thereafter
possessed no lack of nerve.
She plied the crowd with flowers as long as they lasted, and a jaunty
self possession enabled her finally to gaze without flinching at the
mass of depraved and wicked faces with which she was surrounded. Instead
of retaining her position upon the steps, she gradually descended into
the yard, as did several other visitors. She began to feel at home; she
found her tongue, and her color came back again. She felt a warm pride
in noticing with what care and respect the prisoners treated her gifts;
they carried them about with great tenderness, and some compared them
with those of their friends.
Presently she began to recall her plans. It occurred to her to select
her two or three villains. For one, she immediately pitched upon a
lean-faced wretch in front of her. He seemed to be old, for his back was
bent and he leaned upon a cane. His features were large, and they bore
an expression of profound gloom. His head was sunk upon his breast, his
lofty conical cap was pulled over his ears, and his shapeless uniform
seemed to weigh him down, so infirm was he.
Miss Eunice spoke to him. He did not hear; she spoke again. He glanced
at her like a flash, but without moving; this was at once followed by a
scrutinizing look. He raised his head, and then he turned toward her
The solemnity of his demeanor nearly threw Miss Eunice off her balance,
but she mastered herself by beginning to talk rapidly. The prisoner
leaned over a little to hear better. Another came up, and two or three
turned around to look. She bethought herself of an incident related in
Miss Crofutt's book, and she essayed its recital. It concerned a lawyer
who was once pleading in a French criminal court in behalf of a man
whose crime had been committed under the influence of dire want. In his
plea he described the case of another whom he knew who had been punished
with a just but short imprisonment instead of a long one, which the
judge had been at liberty to impose, but from which he humanely
refrained. Miss Eunice happily remembered the words of the lawyer: "That
man suffered like the wrong-doer that he was. He knew his punishment was
just. Therefore there lived perpetually in his breast an impulse toward
a better life which was not suppressed and stifled by the five years he
passed within the walls of the jail. He came forth and began to labor.
He toiled hard. He struggled against averted faces and cold words, and
he began to rise. He secreted nothing, faltered at nothing, and never
stumbled. He succeeded; men took off their hats to him once more; he
became wealthy, honorable, God-fearing. I, gentlemen, am that man, that
criminal." As she quoted this last declaration Miss Eunice erected
herself with burning eyes and touched herself proudly upon the breast. A
flush crept into her cheeks, and her nostrils dilated, and she grew
She came back to earth again, and found herself surrounded with the
prisoners. She was a little startled.
"Ah, that was good!" ejaculated the old man upon whom she had fixed her
eyes. Miss Eunice felt an inexpressible sense of delight.
Murmurs of approbation came from all of her listeners, especially from
one on her right hand. She looked around at him pleasantly.
But the smile faded from her lips on beholding him. He was extremely
tall and very powerful. He overshadowed her. His face was large, ugly,
and forbidding; his gray hair and beard were cropped close, his eyebrows
met at the bridge of his nose and overhung his large eyes like a screen.
His lips were very wide, and, being turned downward at the corners, they
gave him a dolorous expression. His lower jaw was square and protruding,
and a pair of prodigious white ears projected from beneath his
sugar-loaf cap. He seemed to take his cue from the old man, for he
repeated his sentiment.
"Yes," said he, with a voice which broke alternately into a roar and a
whisper, "that was a good story."
"Y-yes," faltered Miss Eunice, "and it has the merit of being t-rue."
He replied with a nod, and looked absently over her head while he rubbed
the nap upon his chin with his hand. Miss Eunice discovered that his
knee touched the skirt of her dress, and she was about to move in order
to destroy this contact, when she remembered that Miss Crofutt would
probably have cherished the accident as a promoter of a valuable
personal influence, so she allowed it to remain. The lean-faced man was
not to be mentioned in the same breath with this one, therefore she
adopted the superior villain out of hand.
She began to approach him. She asked him where he lived, meaning to
discover whence he had come. He replied in the same mixture of roar and
whisper, "Six undered un one, North Wing."
Miss Eunice grew scarlet. Presently she recovered sufficiently to pursue
some inquiries respecting the rules and customs of the prison. She did
not feel that she was interesting her friend, yet it seemed clear that
he did not wish to go away. His answers were curt, yet he swept his cap
off his head, implying by the act a certain reverence, which Miss
Eunice's vanity permitted her to exult at. Therefore she became more
loquacious than ever. Some men came up to speak with the prisoner, but
he shook them off, and remained in an attitude of strict attention,
with his chin on his hand, looking now at the sky, now at the ground and
now at Miss Eunice.
In handling the flowers her gloves had been stained, and she now held
them in her fingers nervously twisting them as she talked. In the course
of time she grew short of subjects, and as her listener suggested
nothing, several lapses occurred; in one of them she absently spread her
gloves out in her palms, meanwhile wondering how the English girl acted
under similar circumstances.
Suddenly a large hand slowly interposed itself between her eyes and her
gloves, and then withdrew, taking one of the soiled trifles with it.
She was surprised, but the surprise was pleasurable. She said nothing at
first. The prisoner gravely spread his prize out upon his own palm, and
after looking at it carefully, he rolled it up into a tight ball and
thrust it deep in an inner pocket.
This act made the philanthropist aware that she had made progress. She
rose insensibly to the elevation of patron, and she made promises to
come frequently and visit her ward and to look in upon him when he was
at work; while saying this she withdrew a little from the shade his huge
figure had supplied her with.
He thrust his hands into his pockets, but he hastily took them out
again. Still he said nothing and hung his head. It was while she was in
the mood of a conqueror that Miss Eunice went away. She felt a touch of
repugnance at stepping from before his eyes a free woman, therefore she
took pains to go when she thought he was not looking.
She pointed him out to a turnkey, who told her he was expiating the sins
of assault and burglarious entry. Outwardly Miss Eunice looked grieved,
but within she exulted that he was so emphatically a rascal.
When she emerged from the cool, shadowy, and frowning prison into the
gay sunlight, she experienced a sense of bewilderment. The significance
of a lock and a bar seemed greater on quitting them than it had when she
had perceived them first. The drama of imprisonment and punishment
oppressed her spirit with tenfold gloom now that she gazed upon the
brilliancy and freedom of the outer world. That she and everybody around
her were permitted to walk here and there at will, without question and
limit, generated within her an indefinite feeling of gratitude; and the
noise, the colors, the creaking wagons, the myriad voices, the splendid
variety and change of all things excited a profound but at the same time
a mournful satisfaction.
Midway in her return journey she was shrieked at from a carriage, which
at once approached the sidewalk. Within it were four gay maidens bound
to the Navy-Yard, from whence they were to sail, with a large party of
people of nice assortment, in an experimental steamer, which was to be
made to go with kerosene lamps, in some way. They seized upon her hands
and cajoled her. Wouldn't she go? They were to sail down among the
islands (provided the oil made the wheels and things go round), they
were to lunch at Fort Warren, dine at Fort Independence, and dance at
Fort Winthrop Come, please go. Oh, do! The Germanians were to furnish
Miss Eunice sighed, but shook her head. She had not yet got the air of
the prison out of her lungs, nor the figure of her robber out of her
eyes, nor the sense of horror and repulsion out of her sympathies.
At another time she would have gone to the ends of the earth with such a
happy crew, but now she only shook her head again and was resolute. No
one could wring a reason from her, and the wondering quartet drove away.
Before the day went, Miss Eunice awoke to the disagreeable fact that her
plans had become shrunken and contracted, that a certain something had
curdled her spontaneity, and that her ardor had flown out at some
crevice and had left her with the dry husk of an intent.
She exerted herself to glow a little, but she failed. She talked well
at the tea-table, but she did not tell about the glove. This matter
plagued her. She ran over in her mind the various doings of Miss
Crofutt, and she could not conceal from herself that that lady had never
given a glove to one of her wretches; no, nor had she ever permitted the
smallest approach to familiarity.
Miss Eunice wept a little. She was on the eve of despairing.
In the silence of the night the idea presented itself to her with a
disagreeable baldness. There was a thief over yonder that possessed a
confidence with her.
They had found it necessary to shut this man up in iron and stone, and
to guard him with a rifle with a large leaden ball in it.
This villain was a convict. That was a terrible word, one that made her
She, the admired of hundreds and the beloved of a family, had done a
secret and shameful thing of which she dared not tell. In these solemn
hours the madness of her act appalled her.
She asked herself what might not the fellow do with the glove? Surely he
would exhibit it among his brutal companions, and perhaps allow it to
pass to and fro among them. They would laugh and joke with him, and he
would laugh and joke in return, and no doubt he would kiss it to their
great delight. Again, he might go to her friends, and, by working upon
their fears and by threatening an exposure of her, extort large sums of
money from them. Again, might he not harass her by constantly appearing
to her at all times and all places and making all sorts of claims and
demands? Again, might he not, with terrible ingenuity, use it in
connection with some false key or some jack-in-the-box, or some
dark-lantern, or something, in order to effect his escape; or might he
not tell the story times without count to some wretched
curiosity-hunters who would advertise her folly all over the country, to
her perpetual misery?
She became harnessed to this train of thought. She could not escape from
it. She reversed the relation that she had hoped to hold toward such a
man, and she stood in his shadow, and not he in hers.
In consequence of these ever-present fears and sensations, there was one
day, not very far in the future, that she came to have an intolerable
dread of. This day was the one on which the sentence of the man was to
expire. She felt that he would surely search for her; and that he would
find her there could be no manner of doubt, for, in her surplus of
confidence, she had told him her full name, inasmuch as he had told her
When she contemplated this new source of terror, her peace of mind fled
directly. So did her plans for philanthropic labor. Not a shred
remained. The anxiety began to tell upon her, and she took to peering
out of a certain shaded window that commanded the square in front of
her house. It was not long before she remembered that for good behavior
certain days were deducted from the convicts' terms of imprisonment.
Therefore, her ruffian might be released at a moment not anticipated by
her. He might, in fact, be discharged on any day. He might be on his way
toward her even now.
She was not very far from right, for suddenly the man did appear.
He one day turned the corner, as she was looking out at the window
fearing that she should see him, and came in a diagonal direction across
the hot, flagged square.
Miss Eunice's pulse leaped into the hundreds. She glued her eyes upon
him. There was no mistake. There was the red face, the evil eyes, the
large mouth, the gray hair, and the massive frame.
What should she do? Should she hide? Should she raise the sash and
shriek to the police? Should she arm herself with a knife? or—what? In
the name of mercy, what? She glared into the street. He came on
steadily, and she lost him, for he passed beneath her. In a moment she
heard the jangle of the bell. She was petrified. She heard his heavy
step below. He had gone into the little reception-room beside the door.
He crossed to a sofa opposite the mantel. She then heard him get up and
go to a window, then he walked about, and then sat down; probably upon a
red leather seat beside the window.
Meanwhile the servant was coming to announce him. From some impulse,
which was a strange and sudden one, she eluded the maid, and rushed
headlong upon her danger. She never remembered her descent of the
stairs. She awoke to cool contemplation of matters only to find herself
entering the room.
Had she made a mistake, after all? It was a question that was asked and
answered in a flash. This man was pretty erect and self-assured, but she
discerned in an instant that there was needed but the blue woollen
jacket and the tall cap to make him the wretch of a month before.
He said nothing. Neither did she. He stood up and occupied himself by
twisting a button upon his waistcoat. She, fearing a threat or a demand,
stood bridling to receive it. She looked at him from top to toe with
He glanced at her. She stepped back. He put the rim of his cap in his
mouth and bit it once or twice, and then looked out at the window. Still
neither spoke. A voice at this instant seemed impossible.
He glanced again like a flash. She shrank, and put her hands upon the
bolt. Presently he began to stir. He put out one foot, and gradually
moved forward. He made another step. He was going away. He had almost
reached the door, when Miss Eunice articulated, in a confused whisper,
"My—my glove; I wish you would give me my glove."
He stopped, fixed his eyes upon her, and after passing his fingers up
and down upon the outside of his coat, said, with deliberation, in a
husky voice, "No, mum. I'm goin' fur to keep it as long as I live, if it
takes two thousand years."
"Keep it!" she stammered.
"Keep it," he replied.
He gave her an untranslatable look. It neither frightened her nor
permitted her to demand the glove more emphatically. She felt her cheeks
and temples and her hands grow cold, and midway in the process of
fainting she saw him disappear. He vanished quietly. Deliberation and
respect characterized his movements, and there was not so much as a jar
of the outer door.
This incident nearly sent her to a sick-bed. She fully expected that her
secret would appear in the newspapers in full, and she lived in dread of
the onslaught of an angry and outraged society.
The more she reflected upon what her possibilities had been and how she
had misused them, the iller and the more distressed she got. She grew
thin and spare of flesh. Her friends became frightened. They began to
dose her and to coddle her. She looked at them with eyes full of supreme
melancholy, and she frequently wept upon their shoulders.
In spite of her precautions, however, a thunder-bolt slipped in.
One day her father read at the table an item that met his eye. He
repeated it aloud, on account of the peculiar statement in the last
"Detained on suspicion.—A rough-looking fellow, who gave the name of
Gorman, was arrested on the high-road to Tuxbridge Springs for suspected
complicity in some recent robberies in the neighborhood. He was
fortunately able to give a pretty clear account of his late whereabouts
and he was permitted to depart with a caution from the justice. Nothing
was found upon him but a few coppers and an old kid glove wrapped in a
bit of paper."
Miss Eunice's soup spilled. This was too much, and she fainted this time
in right good earnest; and she straightway became an invalid of the
settled type. They put her to bed. The doctor told her plainly that he
knew she had a secret, but she looked at him so imploringly that he
refrained from telling his fancies; but he ordered an immediate change
of air. It was settled at once that she should go to the "Springs"—to
Tuxbridge Springs. The doctor knew there were young people there, also
plenty of dancing. So she journeyed thither with her pa and her ma and
with pillows and servants.
They were shown to their rooms, and strong porters followed with the
luggage. One of them had her huge trunk upon his shoulder. He put it
carefully upon the floor, and by so doing he disclosed the ex-prisoner
to Miss Eunice and Miss Eunice to himself. He was astonished, but he
remained silent. But she must needs be frightened and fall into another
fit of trembling. After an awkward moment he went away, while she called
to her father and begged piteously to be taken away from Tuxbridge
Springs instantly. There was no appeal. She hated,
Tuxbridge Springs, and she should die if she were forced to remain. She
rained tears. She would give no reason, but she could not stay. No,
millions on millions could not persuade her; go she must. There was no
alternative. The party quitted the place within the hour, bag and
baggage. Miss Eunice's father was perplexed and angry, and her mother
would have been angry also if she had dared.
They went to other springs and stayed a month, but the patient's fright
increased each day, and so did her fever. She was full of distractions.
In her dreams everybody laughed at her as the one who had flirted with a
convict. She would ever be pursued with the tale of her foolishness and
stupidity. Should he ever recover her self-respect and confidence?
She had become radically selfish. She forgot the old ideas of
noble-heartedness and self-denial, and her temper had become weak and
childish. She did not meet her puzzle face to face, but she ran away
from it with her hands over her ears. Miss Crofutt stared at her, and
therefore she threw Miss Crofutt's book into the fire.
After two days of unceasing debate, she called her parents, and with
the greatest agitation told them all.
It so happened, in this case, that events, to use a railroad phrase,
No sooner had Miss Eunice told her story than the man came again. This
time he was accompanied by a woman.
"Only get my glove away from him," sobbed the unhappy one, "that is all
I ask!" This was a fine admission! It was thought proper to bring an
officer, and so a strong one was sent for.
Meanwhile the couple had been admitted to the parlor. Miss Eunice's
father stationed the officer at one door, while he, with a pistol, stood
at the other. Then Miss Eunice went into the apartment. She was wasted,
weak, and nervous. The two villains got up as she came in, and bowed.
She began to tremble as usual, and laid hold upon the mantelpiece. "How
much do you want?" she gasped.
The man gave the woman a push with his forefinger. She stepped forward
quickly with her crest up. Her eyes turned, and she fixed a vixenish
look upon Miss Eunice. She suddenly shot her hand out from beneath her
shawl and extended it at full length. Across it lay Miss Eunice's glove,
very much soiled.
"Was that thing ever yours?" demanded the woman, shrilly.
"Y-yes," said Miss Eunice, faintly.
The woman seemed (if the apt word is to be excused) staggered. She
withdrew her hand, and looked the glove over. The man shook his head,
and began to laugh behind his hat.
"And did you ever give it to him?" pursued the woman, pointing over her
shoulder with her thumb.
Miss Eunice nodded.
"Of your own free will?"
After a moment of silence she ejaculated, in a whisper, "Yes."
"Now wait," said the man, coming to the front; "'nough has been said by
you." He then addressed himself to Miss Eunice with the remains of his
laugh still illuminating his face.
"This is my wife's sister, and she's one of the jealous kind. I love my
wife" (here he became grave), "and I never showed her any kind of slight
that I know of. I've always been fair to her, and she's always been fair
to me. Plain sailin' so far; I never kep' anything from her—but this."
He reached out and took the glove from the woman, and spread it out upon
his own palm, as Miss Eunice had seen him do once before. He looked at
it thoughtfully. "I wouldn't tell her about this; no, never. She was
never very particular to ask me; that's where her trust in me came in.
She knowed I was above doing anything out of the way—that is—I mean—"
He stammered and blushed, and then rushed on volubly. "But her sister
here thought I paid too much attention to it; she thought I looked at it
too much, and kep' it secret. So she nagged and nagged, and kept the
pitch boilin' until I had to let it out: I told 'em" (Miss Eunice
shivered). "'No,' says she, my wife's sister, 'that won't do, Gorman.
That's chaff, and I'm too old a bird.' Ther'fore I fetched her straight
to you, so she could put the question direct."
He stopped a moment as if in doubt how to go on. Miss Eunice began to
open her eyes, and she released the mantel. The man resumed with
something like impressiveness:
"When you last held that," said he, slowly, balancing the glove in his
hand, "I was a wicked man with bad intentions through and through. When
I first held it I became an honest man, with good intentions."
A burning blush of shame covered Miss Eunice's face and neck.
"An' as I kep' it my intentions went on improvin' and improvin', till I
made up my mind to behave myself in future, forever. Do you
understand?—forever. No backslidin', no hitchin', no slippin'-up. I
take occasion to say, miss, that I was beset time and again; that the
instant I set my foot outside them prison-gates, over there, my old
chums got round me; but I shook my head. 'No,' says I, 'I won't go back
on the glove.'"
Miss Eunice hung her head. The two had exchanged places, she thought;
she was the criminal and he the judge.
"An' what is more," continued he, with the same weight in his tone, "I
not only kep' sight of the glove, but I kep' sight of the generous
sperrit that gave it. I didn't let that go. I never forgot what you
meant. I knowed—I knowed," repeated he, lifting his forefinger—"I
knowed a time would come when there wouldn't be any enthoosiasm, any
'hurrah,' and then perhaps you'd be sorry you was so kind to me; an' the
time did come."
Miss Eunice buried her face in her hands and wept aloud.
"But did I quit the glove? No, mum. I held on to it. It was what I
fought by. I wasn't going to give it up, because it was asked for. All
the police-officers in the city couldn't have took it from me. I put it
deep into my pocket, and I walked out. It was differcult, miss. But I
come through. The glove did it. It helped me stand out against
temptation when it was strong. If I looked at it, I remembered that once
there was a pure heart that pitied me. It cheered me up. After a while I
kinder got out of the mud. Then I got work. The glove again. Then a girl
that knowed me before I took to bad ways married me, and no questions
asked. Then I just took the glove into a dark corner and blessed it."
Miss Eunice was belittled.
A noise was heard in the hallway. Miss Eunice's father and the policeman
were going away.
The awkwardness of the succeeding silence was relieved by the moving of
the man and the woman They had done their errand, and were going.
Said Miss Eunice, with the faint idea of making a practical apology to
her visitor, "I shall go to the prison once a week after this, I think."
"Then may God bless ye, miss," said the man. He came back with tears in
his eyes and took her proffered hand for an instant. Then he and his
wife's sister went away.
Miss Eunice's remaining spark of charity at once crackled and burst into
a flame. There is sure to be a little something that is bad in
everybody's philanthropy when it is first put to use; it requires to be
filed down like a faulty casting before it will run without danger to
anybody. Samaritanism that goes off with half a charge is sure to do
great mischief somewhere; but Miss Eunice's, now properly corrected,
henceforth shot off at the proper end, and inevitably hit the mark. She
purchased a new Crofutt.
BROTHER SEBASTIAN'S FRIENDSHIP.
BY HAROLD FREDERIC.
I, who tell this story, am called Brother Sebastian. This name was given
me more than forty years ago, while Louis Philippe was still king. My
other name has been buried so long that I have nearly forgotten it. I
think that my people are dead. At least I have heard nothing from them
in many years. My reputation has always been that of a misanthrope—if
not that, then of a dreamer. In the seminary I had no intimates. In the
order, for I am a Brother of the Christian Schools, my associates are
polite—nothing more. I seem to be outside their social circles, their
plans, their enjoyments. True, I am an old man now. But in other years
it was the same. All my life I have been in solitude.
To this there is a single exception—one star shining in the blackness.
And my career has been so bleak that, although it ended in deeper
sadness than I had known before, I look back to the episode with
gratitude. The bank of clouds which shut out this sole light of my life
quickened its brilliancy before they submerged it.
After the terrible siege of '71, when the last German was gone, and our
houses had breasted the ordeal of the Commune, I was sent to the South.
The Superior thought my cheeks were ominously hollow, and suspected
threats of consumption in my cough. So I was to go to the Mediterranean,
and try its milder air. I liked the change. Paris, with its gloss of
noisy gayety and its substance of sceptical heartlessness, was repugnant
to me. Perhaps it was because of this that Brother Sebastian had been
mured up in the capital two thirds of his life. If our surroundings are
too congenial we neglect the work set before us. But no matter; to the
coast I went.
My new home was a long-established house, spacious, venerable, and
dreary. It was on the outskirts of an ancient town, which was of far
more importance before our Lord was born than it has ever been since. We
had little to do. There were nine brothers, a handful of resident
orphans, and some three-score pupils. Ragged, stupid, big-eyed urchins
they were, altogether different from the keen Paris boys. For that
matter, every feature of my new home was odd. The heat of the summer was
scorching in its intensity. The peasants were much more respectful to
our cloth, and, as to appearance, looked like figures from Murillo's
canvases. The foliage, the wine, the language, the manners of the
people—everything was changed. This interested me, and my morbidness
vanished. The Director was delighted with my improved condition. Poor
man! he was positive that my cheeks had puffed out perceptibly after the
first two months. So the winter came—a mild, wet, muggy winter, wholly
unlike my favorite sharp season in the North.
We were killing time in the library one afternoon, the Director and a
Swiss Brother sitting by the lamp reading, I standing at one of the
tall, narrow windows, drumming on the panes and dreaming. The view was
not an inspiring one. There was a long horizontal line of pale yellow
sky and another of flat, black land, out of which an occasional poplar
raised itself solemnly. The great mass below the stripes was brown;
above, gloomy gray. Close under the window two boys were playing in the
garden of the house. I recall distinctly that they threw armfuls of wet
fallen leaves at each other with a great shouting. While I stood thus,
the Brother Servitor, Abonus, came in and whispered to the Director. He
always whispered. It was not fraternal, but I did not like this Abonus.
"Send him up here," said the Director. Then I remembered that I had
heard the roll of a carriage and the bell ring a few moments before.
Abonus came in again. Behind him there was some one else, whose
footsteps had the hesitating sound of a stranger's. Then I heard the
"You are from Algiers?"
"I am, Brother."
"Well, tell me more."
"I was under orders to be in Paris in January, Brother. As my health was
poor, I received permission to come back to France this autumn. At
Marseilles I was instructed to come here. So I am here. I have these
papers from the Mother house, and from Etienne, Director, of Algiers."
Something in the voice seemed peculiar to me. I turned and examined the
new-comer. He stood behind and to one side of the Director, who was
laboriously deciphering some papers through his big horn spectacles. The
light was not very bright, but there was enough to see a wonderfully
handsome face, framed in dazzling black curls. Perhaps it looked the
more beautiful because contrasted with the shaven gray poll and surly
features of grim Abonus. But to me it was a dream of St. John the
Evangel. The eyes of the face were lowered upon the Director, so I could
only guess their brilliancy. The features were those of an extreme
youth—round, soft, and delicate. The expression was one of utter
fatigue, almost pain. It bore out the statement of ill-health.
The Director had finished his reading. He lifted his head now and
surveyed the stranger in turn. Finally, stretching out his fat hand, he
"You are welcome, Brother Edouard. I see the letter says you have had no
experience except with the youngest children. Brother Photius does that
now. We will have you rest for a time. Then we will see about it.
Meanwhile I will turn you over to the care of good Abonus, who will give
you one of the north rooms."
So the two went out, Abonus shuffling his feet disagreeably. It was
strange that he could do nothing to please me.
"Brother Sebastian," said the Director, as the door closed, "it is
curious that they should have sent me a tenth man. Why, I lie awake now
to invent pretences of work for those I have already. I will give up all
show of teaching presently, and give out that I keep a hospital—a
retreat for ailing brothers. Still, this Edouard is a pretty boy."
"Etienne's letter says he is twenty and a Savoyard. He speaks like a
"Very likely he is seminary bred," put in the Swiss.
"Whatever he is, I like his looks," said our Superior. This good man
liked every one. His was the placid, easy Alsatian nature, prone to find
goodness in all things—even crabbed Abonus. The Director, or, as he was
known, Brother Elysee, was a stout, round little man, with a fine face
and imperturbable good spirits. He was adored by all his subordinates.
But I fancy he did not advance in favor at Paris very rapidly.
I liked Edouard from the first. The day after he came we were together
much, and, when we parted after vespers, I was conscious of a vast
respect for this new-comer. He was bright, ready spoken, and almost a
man of the world. Compared with my dull career, his short life had been
one of positive gayety. He had seen Frederic le Maitre at the Comédie
Française. He had been at Court and spoken with the Prince Imperial. He
was on terms of intimacy with Monsignori, and had been a protégé of the
sainted Darboy. It was a rare pleasure to hear him talk of these things.
Before this, the ceaseless shifting of brothers from one house to
another had been indifferent to me. For the hundreds of strangers who
came and went in the Paris house on Oudinot Street I cared absolutely
nothing, I did not suffer their entrance nor their exit to excite me.
This was so much the case that they called me a machine. But with
Edouard this was different. I grew to love the boy from the first
evening, when, as he left my room, I caught myself saying, "I shall be
sorry when he goes." He seemed to be fond of me, too. For that matter
most of the brothers petted him, Elysee especially. But I was flattered
that he chose me as his particular friend. For the first time my heart
We were alone one evening after the holidays. It was cold without, but
in my room it was warm and bright. The fire crackled merrily, and the
candles gave out a mellow and pleasant light. The Director had gone up
to Paris, and his mantle had fallen on me. Edouard sat with his feet
stretched to the fender, his curly head buried in the great curved back
of my invalid chair, the red fire-light reflected on his childish
features. I took pleasure in looking at him. He looked at the coals and
knit his brows as if in a puzzle. I often fancied that something
weightier than the usual troubles of life weighed upon him. At last he
spoke, just as I was about to question him:
"Are you afraid to die, Sebastian?"
Not knowing what else to say, I answered, "No, my child."
"I wonder if you enjoy life in community?"
This was still stranger. I could but reply that I had never known any
other life; that I was fitted for nothing else.
"But still," persisted he, "would you not like to leave it—to have a
career of your own before you die? Do you think this is what a man is
created for—to give away his chance to live?"
"Edouard, you are interrogating your own conscience," I answered. "These
are questions which you must have answered yourself, before you took
your vows. When you answered them, you sealed them."
Perhaps I spoke too harshly, for he colored and drew up his feet. Such
shapely little feet they were. I felt ashamed of my crustiness.
"But, Edouard," I added, "your vows are those of the novitiate. You are
not yet twenty-eight. You have still the right to ask yourself these
things. The world is very fair to men of your age. Do not dream that I
was angry with you."
He sat gazing into the fire. His face wore a strange, far-away
expression, as he reached forth his hand, in a groping way, and rested
it on my knee, clutching the gown nervously. Then he spoke slowly,
seeking for words, and keeping his eye on the flames:
"You have been good to me, Brother Sebastian. Let me ask you: May I tell
you something in confidence—something which shall never pass your lips?
I mean it."
He had turned and poured those marvellous eyes into mine with
irresistible magnetism. Of course I said, "Speak!" and I said it without
the slightest hesitation.
"I am not a Christian Brother. I do not belong to your order. I have no
claim upon the hospitality of this roof. I am an impostor!"
He ejected these astounding sentences with an energy almost fierce,
gripping my knee meanwhile. Then, as suddenly, his grasp relaxed, and he
fell to weeping bitterly.
I stared at him solemnly, in silence. My tongue seemed paralyzed.
Confusing thoughts whirled in a maze unbidden through my head. I could
say nothing. But a strange impulse prompted me to reach out and take his
hot hand in mine. It was piteous to hear him sobbing, his head upon his
raised arm, his whole frame quivering with emotion. I had never seen any
one weep like that before. So I sat dumb, trying in vain to answer this
bewildering self-accusation. At last there came out of the folds of the
chair the words, faint and tear-choked:
"You have promised me secrecy, and you will keep your word; but you will
"Why no, no, Edouard, not hate you," I answered, scarcely knowing what I
said. I did not comprehend it at all. There was nothing more for me to
say. Finally, when some power of thought returned, I asked:
"Of all things, my poor boy, why should you choose such a dreary life as
this? What possible reason led you to enter the community? What
attractions has it for you?"
Edouard turned again from the fire to me. His eyes sparkled. His teeth
were tight set.
"Why? Why? I will tell you why, Brother Sebastian. Can you not
understand how a poor hunted beast should rejoice to find shelter in
such an out-of-the-way place, among such kind men, in the grave of this
cloister life? I have not told you half enough. Do you not know in the
outside world, in Toulon, or Marseilles, or that fine Paris of yours,
there is a price on my head?—or no, not that, but enemies that are
looking for me, searching everywhere, turning every little stone for the
poor privilege of making me suffer? And do you know that these enemies
wear shakos, and are called gens d'armes? Would you be pleased to learn
that it is a prison I escape by coming here? Now, will you hate me?"
The boy had risen from his chair. He spoke hurriedly, almost
hysterically, his eyes snapping at mine like coals, his curls
dishevelled, his fingers curved and stiffened like the talons of a hawk.
I had never seen such intense earnestness in a human face. Passions like
these had never penetrated the convent walls before.
While I sat dumb before them, Edouard left the room. I was conscious of
his exit only in a vague way. For hours I sat in my chair beside the
grate thinking, or trying to think. You can see readily that I was more
than a little perplexed. In the absence of Elysee, I was director. The
management of the house, its good fame, its discipline, all rested on my
shoulders. And to be confronted by such an abyss as this! I could do
absolutely nothing. The boy had tied my tongue by the pledge. Besides,
had I been unsworn, I am sure the idea of exposure would never have come
to me. It was late before I retired that night. And I recall with
terrible distinctness the chaos of brain and faculty which ushered in a
restless sleep almost as dawn was breaking.
I had fancied that Brother Edouard would find life intolerable in
community after his revelation to me. He would be chary of meeting me
before the brothers; would be constantly tortured by fear of detection.
As I saw this prospect of the poor innocent—for it was absurd to think
of him as anything else—dreading exposure at each step in his false
life, shrinking from observation, biting his tongue at every word—I was
greatly moved by pity. Judge my surprise, then, when I saw him the next
morning join in the younger brothers' regular walk around the garden,
joking and laughing as I had never seen before. On his right was thin,
sickly Victor, rest his soul! and on the other pursy, thick-necked John,
as merry a soul as Cork ever turned out. And how they laughed, even the
frail consumptive! It was a pleasure to see his blue eyes brighten with
enjoyment and his warm cheeks blush. Above John's queer, Irish chuckle,
I heard Edouard's voice, with its dainty Parisian accent, retailing
jokes and leading in the laughter. The tramp was stretched out longer
than usual, so pleasant did they find it. At this development I was much
The same change was noticeable in all that Edouard did. Instead of the
apathy with which he had discharged his nominal duties, his baby pupils
(for Photius had gone to Peru) now became bewitched with him. He told
them droll stories, incited their rivalry in study by instituting prizes
for which they struggled monthly, and, in short, metamorphosed his
department. The change spread to himself. His cheeks took on a ruddier
hue, the sparkle of his black eyes mellowed into a calm and steady
radiance. There was no trace of feverish elation which, in solitude,
recoiled to the brink of despair. He sang to himself evenings in his
dormitory, clearly and with joy. His step was as elastic as that of any
school-boy. I often thought upon this change, and meditated how
beautiful an illustration of confession's blessings it furnished.
Frequently we were alone, but he never referred again to that memorable
evening, even by implication. At first I dreaded to have the door close
upon us, feeling that he must perforce seek to take up the thread where
he had broken it then. But he talked of other things, and so easily and
naturally that I felt embarrassed. For weeks I could not shake off the
feeling that, at our next talk, he would broach the subject. But he
Elysee returned, bringing me kind words from the Mother house, and a
half-jocular hint that Superior General Philippe had me much in his
mind. No doubt there had been a time when the idea of becoming a
Director would have stirred my pulses. Surely it was gone now. I asked
for nothing but to stay beside Edouard, to watch him, and to be near to
lend him a helping hand when his hour of trouble should come. From that
ordeal, which I saw approaching clearly and certainly, I shrank with all
my nerves on edge. As the object of my misery grew bright-eyed and
strong, I felt myself declining in health. My face grew thin, and I
could not eat. I saw before my eyes always this wretched boy singing
upon the brow of the abyss. Sometimes I strove not to see his
fall—frightful and swift. His secret seemed to harass him no longer.
To me it was heavier than lead.
The evening the Brother Director returned, we sat together in the
reading-room, the entire community. Elysee had been speaking of the
Mother-house, concerning which Brother Barnabas, an odd little Lorrainer
who spoke better German than French, and who regarded Paris with the
true provincial awe and veneration, exhibited much curiosity. We had a
visitor, a gaunt, self-sufficient old Parisian, who had spent fourteen
days in the Mazas prison during the Commune. I will call him Brother
Albert, for his true name in religion is very well known.
"I heard a curious story in the Vaugirard house," said the Brother
Director, refreshing himself with a pinch of snuff, "which made the more
impression upon me that I once knew intimately one of the persons in it.
Martin Delette was my schoolmate at Pfalsbourg, in the old days. A fine,
studious lad he was, too. He took orders and went to the north where he
lived for many years a quiet country curé. He had a niece, a charming
girl, who is not now more than twenty or one-and twenty. She was an
orphan, and lived with him, going to a convent to school and returning
at vacations. She was not a bad girl, but a trifle wayward and easily
led. She gave the Sisters much anxiety. Last spring she barely escaped
compromising the house by an escapade with a young
miserable of the
town named Banin."
"I know your story," said Albert, with an air which hinted that this
was a sufficient reason why the rest should not hear it. "Banin is in
Elysee proceeded: "The girl was reprimanded. Next week she disappeared.
To one of her companions she had confided a great desire to see Paris.
So good Father Delette was summoned, and, after a talk with the
Superioress, started post-haste for the capital. He found no signs
either of poor Renée or of Banin, who had also disappeared. The Curé was
nearly heart-broken. Each day, they told me, added a year to his
appearance. He did not cease to importune the police chiefs and to haunt
the public places for a glimpse of his niece's face. But the summer
came, and no Renée. The Curé began to cough and grow weak. But one day
in August the Director, good Prosper, called him down to the
reception-room to see a visitor.
"'There is news for you,'" he whispered, pressing poor Martin's hand.
"In the room he found—"
"In the room he found—" broke in Albert, impertinently, but with a
quiet tone of authority which cowed good Elysee, "a shabby man, looking
like a poorly-fed waiter. This person rose and said, 'I am a detective;
do you know Banin—young man, tall, blonde, squints, broken tooth upper
jaw, hat back on his head, much talk, hails from Rheims?'
"'Ah,' said Delette, 'I have not seen him, but I know him too well.'
"The detective pointed with his thumb over his left shoulder. 'He is in
jail. He is good for twenty years. I did it myself. My name is
so-and-so. Good job. Procurator said you were interested—some woman in
the case, parishioner of yours, eh?'
"'My niece,' gasped the Curé.
"'O ho! does you credit; pretty girl, curly-head, good manners. Well,
she's off. Good trick, too. She was the decoy. Banin stood in the shadow
with club. She brought gentleman into alley, friend did work. That's
Banin's story. Perhaps a lie. You have a brother in Algiers? Thought so.
Girl went out there once? So I was told. Probably there now. African
officers say not; but they're a sleepy lot. If I was a criminal, I'd go
to Algiers. Good biding.' The detective went. Delette stood where he was
in silence. I went to him, and helped carry him up-stairs. We put him in
his bed. He died there."
Brother Albert stopped. He had told the story, dialogue and all, like a
machine. We did not doubt its correctness. The memory of Albert had
passed into a proverb years before.
Brother Albert raised his eyes again, and added, as if he had not
paused, "He was ashamed to hold his head up. He might well be."
A strange, excited voice rose from the other end of the room. I looked
and saw that it was Edouard who spoke. He had half arisen from his chair
and scowled at Albert, throwing out his words with the tremulous haste
of a young man first addressing an audience:
"Why should he be ashamed? Was he not a good man? Was the blame of his
bad niece's acts his? From the story, she was well used and had no
excuse. It is he who is to be pitied, not blamed!"
The Brother Director smiled benignly at the young enthusiast. "Brother
Edouard is right," he said. "Poor Martin was to be compassioned. None
the less, my heart is touched for the girl. In Banin's trial it appeared
that he maltreated her, and forced her to do what she did by blows. They
were really married. Her neighbors gave Renée a name for gentleness and
a good heart. Poor thing!"
"And she never was found?" asked Abonus, eagerly. He spoke very rarely.
He looked now at me as he spoke, and there was a strange, ungodly
glitter in his eyes which made me shudder involuntarily.
"Never," replied the Director, "although there is a reward, 5000 francs,
offered for her recovery. Miserable child, who can tell what depths of
suffering she may be in this moment?"
"It would be remarkable if she should be found now, after all this
time," said Abonus, sharply. His wicked, squinting old eyes were still
fastened upon me. This time, as by a flash of eternal knowledge, I read
their meaning, and felt the ground slipping from under me.
I shall never forget the night that followed. I made no pretence of
going to bed. Edouard's little dormitory was in another part of the
house. I went once to see him, but dared not knock, since Abonus was
stirring about just across the hall, in his own den. I scratched on a
piece of paper "Fly!" in the dark, and pushed it under the door. Then I
returned to walk my chamber, chafing like a wild beast. Ah, that night,
With the first cock crow in the village below, long before the bell, I
left my room. I wanted air to breathe. I passed Abonus on the broad
stairway. He strode up with unwonted vigor, bearing a heavy cauldron of
water as if it had been straw. His gown was tumbled and dusty; his
greasy rabat hung awry about his neck. I had it in my head to speak
with him, but could not. So the early hours, with devotions which I went
through in a dream, wore on in horrible suspense, and breakfast came.
We sat at the long table, five on a side, the Director—looking red-eyed
and weary from the evening's unaccustomed dissipation—sitting at the
head. Below us stood Brother Albert, reading from Tertullian in a dry,
monotonous chant. I recall, as I write, how I found a certain comfort in
those splendid, sonorous Latin sentences, though I was conscious of not
comprehending a word. I dreaded the moment they should end. Edouard sat
beside me. We had not exchanged a word during the morning. How could I
speak? What should I say? I was in a nervous flutter, like unto those
who watch the final pinioning of a criminal whose guillotine is awaiting
him. I could not keep my eyes from the fair face beside me, with its
delicately-cut profile, made all the more cameo-like by its pallid
whiteness. The lips were tightly compressed. I could see askant that the
tiny nostrils were quivering with excitement. All else was impassive on
Edouard's face. We two sat waiting for the axe to fall.
It is as distinct as a nightmare to me. Abonus came in with his great
server laden with victuals. He stumbled as he approached. He too was
excited. He drew near, and stood behind me. I seemed to feel his breath
penetrate my skull; and yet I was forced to answer a whispered question
of Brother John's with a smooth face. I saw Edouard suddenly reach for
the milk glass in front of his plate, and hand it back to Abonus with
the disdain of a duchess. He said, in a sharp, peremptory tone:
"Take it away and cleanse it. No one but a dirty monk would place such a
glass on the table."
Albert ceased his reading. Abonus did not touch the glass. He shuffled
hastily to the side-board and deposited his burden. Then he came back
with the same eager movement. He placed his fists on his hips, like a
fish-woman, and hissed, in a voice choking with concentrated rage—
"No one but a woman would complain of it!"
The brothers stared at each other and the two speakers in mute surprise.
But they saw nothing in the words beyond a personal wrangle—though even
that was such a novelty as to arrest instant attention. I busied myself
with my plate. The Director assumed his harshest tone, and asked the
cause of the altercation. Abonus leaned over and whispered something in
his ear. I remember next a room full of confusion, a babel of
conflicting voices, and a whirling glimpse of uniforms. Then I fainted.
When I revived I was in my own room, stretched upon my pallet. I looked
around in a dazed way and saw the Brother Director and a young gendarme
by the closed door. Something black and irregular in the outline of the
bed at my side attracted my eyes. I saw that it was Edouard's head
buried in the drapery. As in a dream I laid my numb hand upon those
crisp curls. I was an old man, she a weak, wretched girl. She raised her
face at my touch, and burned in my brain a vision of stricken agony, of
horrible soul-pain, which we liken, for want of a better simile, to the
anguish in the eyes of a dying doe. Her lips moved; she said something,
I know not what. Then she went, and I was left alone with Elysee. His
words—broken, stumbling words—I remember:
"She asked to see you, Sebastian, my friend. I could not refuse. Her
papers were forged. She did come from Algiers, where her uncle is a
Capuchin. I do not ask, I do not wish to know, how much you know of
this. Before my Redeemer, I feel nothing but pity for the poor lamb. Lie
still, my friend; try to sleep. We are both older men than we were
There is little else to tell. Only twice have reflections of this
episode in my old life reached me in the seclusion of a missionary post
at the foot of the Andes. I learned a few weeks ago that the wretched
Abonus had bought a sailor's café on the Toulon wharves with his five
thousand francs. And I know also that the heart of the Marshal-President
was touched by the sad story of Renée, and that she left the prison La
Salpetriere to lay herself in penitence at the foot of Mother Church.
This is the story of my friendship.