STORIES BY AMERICAN AUTHORS. VOLUME I
WHO WAS SHE?
THE DOCUMENTS IN THE CASE.
ONE OF THE THIRTY PIECES.
AN OPERATION IN MONEY.
STORIES BY AMERICAN AUTHORS. VOLUME I
WHO WAS SHE?
BY BAYARD TAYLOR.
Come, now, there may as well be an end of this! Every time I meet your
eyes squarely I detect the question just slipping out of them. If you
had spoken it, or even boldly looked it; if you had shown in your
motions the least sign of a fussy or fidgety concern on my account; if
this were not the evening of my birthday, and you the only friend who
remembered it; if confession were not good for the soul, though harder
than sin to some people, of whom I am one,—well, if all reasons were
not at this instant converged into a focus, and burning me rather
violently in that region where the seat of emotion is supposed to lie, I
should keep my trouble to myself.
Yes, I have fifty times had it on my mind to tell you the whole story.
But who can be certain that his best friend will not smile—or, what is
worse, cherish a kind of charitable pity ever afterwards—when the
external forms of a very serious kind of passion seem trivial,
fantastic, foolish? And the worst of all is that the heroic part which I
imagined I was playing proves to have been almost the reverse. The only
comfort which I can find in my humiliation is that I am capable of
feeling it. There isn't a bit of a paradox in this, as you will see; but
I only mention it, now, to prepare you for, maybe, a little morbid
sensitiveness of my moral nerves.
The documents are all in this portfolio, under my elbow. I had just read
them again completely through, when you were announced. You may examine
them as you like, afterwards: for the present, fill your glass, take
another Cabaña, and keep silent until my "ghastly tale" has reached its
most lamentable conclusion.
The beginning of it was at Wampsocket Springs three years ago last
summer. I suppose most unmarried men who have reached, or passed, the
age of thirty—and I was then thirty-three—experience a milder return
of their adolescent warmth, a kind of fainter second spring, since the
first has not fulfilled its promise. Of course, I wasn't clearly
conscious of this at the time: who is? But I had had my youthful passion
and my tragic disappointment, as you know: I had looked far enough into
what Thackeray used to call the cryptic mysteries, to save me from the
Scylla of dissipation, and yet preserved enough of natural nature to
keep me out of the Pharisaic Charybdis. My devotion to my legal studies
had already brought me a mild distinction; the paternal legacy was a
good nest-egg for the incubation of wealth,—in short, I was a fair,
respectable "party," desirable to the humbler mammas, and not to be
despised by the haughty exclusives.
The fashionable hotel at the Springs holds three hundred, and it was
packed. I had meant to lounge there for a fortnight and then finish my
holidays at Long Branch; but eighty, at least, out of the three hundred,
were young and moved lightly in muslin. With my years and experience I
felt so safe, that to walk, talk, or dance with them became simply a
luxury, such as I had never—at least so freely—possessed before. My
name and standing, known to some families, were agreeably exaggerated to
the others, and I enjoyed that supreme satisfaction which a man always
feels when he discovers or imagines that he is popular in society. There
is a kind of premonitory apology implied in my saying this, I am aware.
You must remember that I am culprit and culprit's counsel at the same
You have never been at Wampsocket? Well, the hills sweep around in a
crescent on the northern side and four or five radiating glens
descending from them unite just above the village. The central one
leading to a waterfall (called "Minnehehe" by the irreverent young
people, because there is so little of it), is the fashionable drive and
promenade; but the second ravine on the left, steep, crooked, and
cumbered with bowlders which have tumbled from somewhere and lodged in
the most extraordinary groupings, became my favorite walk of a morning.
There was a footpath in it, well-trodden at first, but gradually fading
out as it became more like a ladder than a path, and I soon discovered
that no other city feet than mine were likely to scale a certain rough
slope which seemed the end of the ravine. With the aid of the tough
laurel-stems I climbed to the top, passed through a cleft as narrow as a
doorway, and presently found myself in a little upper dell, as wild and
sweet and strange as one of the pictures that haunt us on the brink of
There was a pond—no, rather a bowl—of water in the centre; hardly
twenty yards across, yet the sky in it was so pure and far down that the
circle of rocks and summer foliage inclosing it seemed like a little
planetary ring, floating off alone through space. I can't explain the
charm of the spot, nor the selfishness which instantly suggested that I
should keep the discovery to myself. Ten years earlier, I should have
looked around for some fair spirit to be my "minister," but now—
One forenoon—I think it was the third or fourth time I had visited the
place—I was startled to find the dint of a heel in the earth, half-way
up the slope. There had been rain during the night, and the earth was
still moist and soft It was the mark of a woman's boot, only to be
distinguished from that of a walking-stick by its semicircular form. A
little higher, I found the outline of a foot, not so small as to awake
an ecstasy, but with a suggestion of lightness, elasticity, and grace.
If hands were thrust through holes in a boardfence, and nothing of the
attached bodies seen, I can easily imagine that some would attract and
others repel us: with footprints the impression is weaker, of course,
but we cannot escape it. I am not sure whether I wanted to find the
unknown wearer of the boot within my precious personal solitude; I was
afraid I should see her, while passing through the rocky crevice, and
yet was disappointed when I found no one.
But on the flat, warm rock overhanging the tarn—my special throne—lay
some withering wild-flowers, and a book! I looked up and down, right and
left: there was not the slightest sign of another human life than mine.
Then I lay down for a quarter of an hour, and listened; there were only
the noises of bird and squirrel, as before. At last I took up the book,
the flat breadth of which suggested only sketches. There were, indeed,
some tolerable studies of rocks and trees on the first pages; a few not
very striking caricatures, which seemed to have been commenced as
portraits, but recalled no faces I knew; then a number of fragmentary
notes, written in pencil. I found no name, from first to last; only,
under the sketches, a monogram so complicated and laborious that the
initials could hardly be discovered unless one already knew them.
The writing was a woman's, but it had surely taken its character from
certain features of her own: it was clear, firm, individual. It had
nothing of that air of general debility which usually marks the
manuscript of young ladies, yet its firmness was far removed from the
stiff, conventional slope which all Englishwomen seem to acquire in
youth and retain through life. I don't see how any man in my situation
could have helped reading a few lines—if only for the sake of restoring
lost property. But I was drawn on, and on, and finished by reading all:
thence, since no further harm could be done, I re-read, pondering over
certain passages until they stayed with me. Here they are, as I set them
down, that evening, on the back of a legal blank:
"It makes a great deal of difference whether we
wear social forms as bracelets or handcuffs."
"Can we not still be wholly our independent
selves, even while doing, in the main, as others
do? I know two who are so; but they are married."
"The men who admire these bold, dashing
young girls treat them like weaker copies of themselves.
And yet they boast of what they call 'experience!'"
"I wonder if any one felt the exquisite beauty
of the noon as I did, to-day? A faint appreciation
of sunsets and storms is taught us in youth,
and kept alive by novels and flirtations; but the
broad, imperial splendor of this summer noon!--and
myself standing alone in it—yes, utterly
"The men I seek
must exist: where are they?
How make an acquaintance, when one obsequiously
bows himself away, as I advance? The fault
is surely not all on my side."
There was much more, intimate enough to inspire me with a keen interest
in the writer, yet not sufficiently so to make my perusal a painful
indiscretion. I yielded to the impulse of the moment, took out my
pencil, and wrote a dozen lines on one of the blank pages. They ran
something in this wise:
"IGNOTUS IGNOTAE!--You have bestowed without
intending it, and I have taken without your
knowledge. Do not regret the accident which has
enriched another. This concealed idyl of the hills
was mine, as I supposed, but I acknowledge your
equal right to it. Shall we share the possession,
or will you banish me?"
There was a frank advance, tempered by a proper caution, I fancied, in
the words I wrote. It was evident that she was unmarried, but outside of
that certainty there lay a vast range of possibilities, some of them
alarming enough. However, if any nearer acquaintance should arise out of
the incident, the next step must be taken by her. Was I one of the men
she sought? I almost imagined so—certainly hoped so.
I laid the book on the rock, as I had found it, bestowed another keen
scrutiny on the lonely landscape, and then descended the ravine. That
evening, I went early to the ladies' parlor, chatted more than usual
with the various damsels whom I knew, and watched with a new interest
those whom I knew not. My mind, involuntarily, had already created a
picture of the unknown. She might be twenty-five, I thought: a
reflective habit of mind would hardly be developed before that age. Tall
and stately, of course; distinctly proud in her bearing, and somewhat
reserved in her manners. Why she should have large dark eyes, with long
dark lashes, I could not tell; but so I seemed to see her. Quite
forgetting that I was (or had meant to be) Ignotus, I found myself
staring rather significantly at one or the other of the young ladies, in
whom I discovered some slight general resemblance to the imaginary
character. My fancies, I must confess, played strange pranks with me.
They had been kept in a coop so many years, that now, when I suddenly
turned them loose, their rickety attempts at flight quite bewildered me.
No! there was no use in expecting a sudden discovery. I went to the glen
betimes, next morning: the book was gone, and so were the faded flowers,
but some of the latter were scattered over the top of another rock, a
few yards from mine. Ha! this means that I am not to withdraw, I said
to myself: she makes room for me! But how to surprise her?—for by this
time I was fully resolved to make her acquaintance, even though she
might turn out to be forty, scraggy, and sandy-haired.
I knew no other way so likely as that of visiting the glen at all times
of the day. I even went so far as to write a line of greeting, with a
regret that our visits had not yet coincided, and laid it under a stone
on the top of her rock. The note disappeared, but there was no answer
in its place. Then I suddenly remembered her fondness for the noon
hours, at which time she was "utterly alone." The hotel
was at one o'clock, her family, doubtless, dined later, in their own
rooms. Why, this gave me, at least, her place in society! The question
of age, to be sure, remained unsettled; but all else was safe.
The next day I took a late and large breakfast and sacrificed my dinner.
Before noon the guests had all straggled back to the hotel from glen and
grove and lane, so bright and hot was the sunshine. Indeed, I could
hardly have supported the reverberation of heat from the sides of the
ravine, but for a fixed belief that I should be successful. While
crossing the narrow meadow upon which it opened, I caught a glimpse of
something white among the thickets higher up. A moment later, it had
vanished, and I quickened my pace, feeling the beginning of an absurd
nervous excitement in my limbs. At the next turn, there it was again!
but only for another moment. I paused, exulting, and wiped my drenched
forehead. "She cannot escape me!" I murmured between the deep draughts
of cooler air I inhaled in the shadow of a rock.
A few hundred steps more brought me to the foot of the steep ascent,
where I had counted on overtaking her. I was too late for that, but the
dry, baked soil had surely been crumbled and dislodged, here and there,
by a rapid foot. I followed, in reckless haste, snatching at the
laurel-branches right and left, and paying little heed to my footing.
About one third of the way up I slipped, fell, caught a bush which
snapped at the root, slid, whirled over, and before I fairly knew what
had happened, I was lying doubled up at the bottom of the slope.
I rose, made two steps forward, and then sat down with a groan of pain;
my left ankle was badly sprained, in addition to various minor scratches
and bruises. There was a revulsion of feeling, of course,—instant,
complete, and hideous. I fairly hated the Unknown. "Fool that I was!" I
exclaimed, in the theatrical manner, dashing the palm of my hand softly
against my brow: "lured to this by the fair traitress! But, no!--not
fair: she shows the artfulness of faded, desperate spinsterhood; she is
all compact of enamel, 'liquid bloom of youth,' and hair-dye!"
There was a fierce comfort in this thought, but it couldn't help me out
of the scrape. I dared not sit still, lest a sun-stroke should be
added, and there was no resource but to hop or crawl down the rugged
path, in the hope of finding a forked sapling from which I could
extemporize a crutch. With endless pain and trouble I reached a thicket,
and was feebly working on a branch with my penknife, when the sound of a
heavy footstep surprised me.
A brown harvest-hand, in straw hat and shirtsleeves, presently appeared.
He grinned when he saw me, and the thick snub of his nose would have
seemed like a sneer at any other time.
"Are you the gentleman that got hurt?" he asked. "Is it pretty tolerable
"Who said I was hurt?" I cried in astonishment.
"One of your town-women fro them hotel—I reckon she was. I was binding
oats, in the field over the ridge; but I haven't lost no time in comin'
While I was stupidly staring at this announcement, he whipped out a big
clasp knife, and in a few minutes fashioned me a practicable crutch.
Then, taking me by the other arm, he set me in motion toward the
Grateful as I was for the man's help, he aggravated me by his ignorance.
When I asked if he knew the lady, he answered: "It's more'n likely
know her better." But where did she come from? Down from the hill, he
guessed, but it might ha' been up the road. How did she look? was she
old or young? what was the color of her eyes? of her hair? There, now, I
was too much for him. When a woman kept one o' them speckled veils over
her face, turned her head away and held her parasol between, how were
you to know her from Adam? I declare to you, I couldn't arrive at one
positive particular. Even when he affirmed that she was tall, he added,
the next instant: "Now I come to think on it, she stepped mighty quick;
so I guess she must ha' been short."
By the time we reached the hotel, I was in a state of fever; opiates and
lotions had their will of me for the rest of the day. I was glad to
escape the worry of questions, and the conventional sympathy expressed
in inflections of the voice which are meant to soothe, and only
exasperate. The next morning, as I lay upon my sofa, restful, patient,
and properly cheerful, the waiter entered with a bouquet of wild
"Who sent them?" I asked.
"I found them outside your door, sir. Maybe there's a card; yes, here's
a bit o' paper."
I opened the twisted slip he handed me, and read: "From your dell—and
mine." I took the flowers; among them were two or three rare and
beautiful varieties, which I had only found in that one spot. Fool,
again! I noiselessly kissed, while pretending to smell them, had them
placed on a stand within reach, and fell into a state of quiet and
Tell me, yourself, whether any male human being is ever too old for
sentiment, provided that it strikes him at the right time and in the
right way! What did that bunch of wild flowers betoken? Knowledge,
first; then, sympathy; and finally, encouragement, at least. Of course
she had seen my accident, from above; of course she had sent the harvest
laborer to aid me home. It was quite natural she should imagine some
special romantic interest in the lonely dell, on my part, and the gift
took additional value from her conjecture.
Four days afterward there was a hop in the large dining-room of the
hotel. Early in the morning a fresh bouquet had been left at my door. I
was tired of my enforced idleness, eager to discover the fair unknown
(she was again fair, to my fancy!), and I determined to go down,
believing that a cane and a crimson velvet slipper on the left foot
would provoke a glance of sympathy from certain eyes, and thus enable me
to detect them.
The fact was, the sympathy was much too general and effusive. Everybody,
it seemed, came to me with kindly greetings; seats were vacated at my
approach, even fat Mrs. Huxter insisting on my taking her warm place, at
the head of the room. But Bob Leroy—you know him—as gallant a
gentleman as ever lived, put me down at the right point, and kept me
there. He only meant to divert me, yet gave me the only place where I
could quietly inspect all the younger ladies, as dance or supper
brought them near.
One of the dances was an old-fashioned cotillon, and one of the figures,
the "coquette," brought every one, in turn, before me. I received a
pleasant word or two from those whom I knew, and a long, kind, silent
glance from Miss May Danvers. Where had been my eyes? She was tall,
stately, twenty-five, had large dark eyes, and long dark lashes! Again
the changes of the dance brought her near me; I threw (or strove to
throw) unutterable meanings into my eyes, and cast them upon hers. She
seemed startled, looked suddenly away, looked back to me, and—blushed.
I knew her for what is called "a nice girl"—that is, tolerably frank,
gently feminine, and not dangerously intelligent. Was it possible that I
had overlooked so much character and intellect?
As the cotillon closed, she was again in my neighborhood, and her
partner led her in my direction. I was rising painfully from my chair,
when Bob Leroy pushed me down again, whisked another seat from
somewhere, planted it at my side, and there she was!
She knew who was her neighbor, I plainly saw; but instead of turning
toward me, she began to fan herself in a nervous way and to fidget with
the buttons of her gloves. I grew impatient.
"Miss Danvers!" I said, at last.
"Oh!" was all her answer, as she looked at me for a moment. "Where are
your thoughts?" I asked.
Then she turned, with wide, astonished eyes, coloring softly up to the
roots of her hair. My heart gave a sudden leap.
"How can you tell, if I cannot?" she asked.
"May I guess?"
She made a slight inclination of the head, saying nothing. I was then
"The second ravine, to the left of the main drive?"
This time she actually started; her color became deeper, and a leaf of
the ivory fan snapped between her fingers.
"Let there be no more a secret!" I exclaimed. "Your flowers have brought
me your messages; I knew I should find you"—
Full of certainty, I was speaking in a low, impassioned voice. She cut
me short by rising from her seat; I felt that she was both angry and
alarmed. Fisher, of Philadelphia, jostling right and left in his haste,
made his way toward her. She fairly snatched his arm, clung to it with a
warmth I had never seen expressed in a ball-room, and began to whisper
in his ear. It was not five minutes before he came to me, alone, with a
very stern face, bent down, and said:
"If you have discovered our secret, you will keep silent. You are
certainly a gentleman."
I bowed coldly and savagely. There was a draft from the open window; my
ankle became suddenly weary and painful, and I went to bed. Can you
believe that I didn't guess, immediately, what it all meant? In a vague
way, I fancied that I had been premature in my attempt to drop our
mutual incognito, and that Fisher, a rival lover, was jealous of me.
This was rather flattering than otherwise; but when I limped down to the
ladies' parlor, the next day, no Miss Danvers was to be seen. I did not
venture to ask for her; it might seem importunate, and a woman of so
much hidden capacity was evidently not to be wooed in the ordinary way.
So another night passed by; and then, with the morning, came a letter
which made me feel, at the same instant, like a fool and a hero. It had
been dropped in the Wampsocket post-office, was legibly addressed to me,
and delivered with some other letters which had arrived by the night
mail. Here it is; listen!
"NOTO IGNOTA!--Haste is not a gift of the gods,
and you have been impatient, with the usual result,
I was almost prepared for this, and thus am not
wholly disappointed. In a day or two more you
will discover your mistake, which, so far as I can
learn, has done no particular harm. If you wish
me, there is only one way to seek me;
should I tell you what it is, I should run the risk
of losing you,—that is, I should preclude the
manifestation of a certain quality which I hope to
find in the man who may—or, rather, must—be
my friend. This sounds enigmatical, yet you have
read enough of my nature, as written in these
random notes in my sketch-book, to guess, at least,
how much I require. Only this let me add: mere
guessing is useless.
"Being unknown, I can write freely. If you find
me, I shall be justified; if not, I shall hardly need
to blush, even to myself, over a futile experiment.
"It is possible for me to learn enough of your
life, henceforth, to direct my relation toward you.
This may be the end; if so, I shall know it soon.
I shall also know whether you continue to seek
me. Trusting in your honor as a man, I must ask
you to trust in mine, as a woman."
I did discover my mistake, as the Unknown promised. There had been a
secret betrothal between Fisher and Miss Danvers; and singularly enough,
the momentous question and answer had been given in the very ravine
leading to my upper dell! The two meant to keep the matter to
themselves, but therein, it seems, I thwarted them; there was a little
opposition on the part of their respective families, but all was
amicably settled before I left Wampsocket.
The letter made a very deep impression upon me. What was the one way to
find her? What could it be but the triumph that follows ambitious
toil—the manifestation of all my best qualities, as a man? Be she old
or young, plain or beautiful, I reflected, hers is surely a nature worth
knowing, and its candid intelligence conceals no hazards for me. I have
sought her rashly, blundered, betrayed that I set her lower, in my
thoughts, than her actual self: let me now adopt the opposite course,
seek her openly no longer, go back to my tasks, and, following my own
aims vigorously and cheerfully, restore that respect which she seemed to
be on the point of losing. For, consciously or not, she had communicated
to me a doubt, implied in the very expression of her own strength and
pride. She had meant to address me as an equal, yet, despite herself,
took a stand a little above that which she accorded to me.
I came back to New York earlier than usual, worked steadily at my
profession and with increasing success, and began to accept
opportunities (which I had previously declined) of making myself
personally known to the great, impressible, fickle, tyrannical public.
One or two of my speeches in the hall of the Cooper Institute, on
various occasions—as you may perhaps remember—gave me a good headway
with the party, and were the chief cause of my nomination for the State
office which I still hold. (There, on the table, lies a resignation,
written to-day, but not yet signed. We'll talk of it afterwards.)
Several months passed by, and no further letter reached me. I gave up
much of my time to society, moved familiarly in more than one province
of the kingdom here, and vastly extended my acquaintance, especially
among the women; but not one of them betrayed the mysterious something
or other—really I can't explain precisely what it was!--which I was
looking for. In fact, the more I endeavored quietly to study the sex,
the more confused I became.
At last I was subjected to the usual onslaught from the strong-minded. A
small but formidable committee entered my office one morning and
demanded a categorical declaration of my principles. What my views on
the subject were, I knew very well; they were clear and decided; and
yet, I hesitated to declare them! It wasn't a temptation of Saint
Anthony—that is, turned the other way—and the belligerent attitude of
the dames did not alarm me in the least; but she! What was
position? How could I best please her? It flashed upon my mind, while
Mrs.---- was making her formal speech, that I had taken no step for
months without a vague, secret reference to her. So, I strove to be
courteous, friendly, and agreeably non-committal; begged for further
documents, and promised to reply by letter, in a few days.
I was hardly surprised to find the well-known hand on the envelope of a
letter, shortly afterwards. I held it for a minute in my palm, with an
absurd hope that I might sympathetically feel its character, before
breaking the seal. Then I read it with a great sense of relief.
"I have never assumed to guide a man, except
toward the full exercise of his powers. It is not
opinion in action, but opinion in a state of idleness
or indifference, which repels me. I am
deeply glad that you have gained so much since
you left the country. If, in shaping your course,
you have thought of me, I will frankly say that,
that extent, you have drawn nearer. Am I mistaken
in conjecturing that you wish to know my
relation to the movement concerning which you
were recently interrogated? In this, as in other
instances which may come, I must beg you to consider
me only as a spectator. The more my own
views may seem likely to sway your action, the less
I shall be inclined to declare them. If you find
this cold or unwomanly, remember that it is not
Yes! I felt that I had certainly drawn much nearer to her. And from this
time on, her imaginary face and form became other than they were. She
was twenty-eight—three years older; a very little above the middle
height, but not tall; serene, rather than stately, in her movements;
with a calm, almost grave face, relieved by the sweetness of the full,
firm lips; and finally eyes of pure, limpid gray, such as we fancy
belonged to the Venus of Milo. I found her, thus, much more attractive
than with the dark eyes and lashes—but she did not make her appearance
in the circles which I frequented.
Another year slipped away. As an official personage, my importance
increased, but I was careful not to exaggerate it to myself. Many have
wondered (perhaps you among the rest) at my success, seeing that I
possess no remarkable abilities. If I have any secret, it is simply
this—doing faithfully, with all my might, whatever I undertake. Nine
tenths of our politicians become inflated and careless, after the first
few years, and are easily forgotten when they once lose place. I am a
little surprised, now, that I had so much patience with the Unknown. I
was too important, at least, to be played with; too mature to be
subjected to a longer test; too earnest, as I had proved, to be doubted,
or thrown aside without a further explanation.
Growing tired, at last, of silent waiting, I bethought me of
advertising. A carefully-written "Personal," in which
Ignota of the necessity of his communicating with her, appeared
simultaneously in the Tribune, Herald, World, and Times. I renewed the
advertisement as the time expired without an answer, and I think it was
about the end of the third week before one came, through the post, as
Ah, yes! I had forgotten. See! my advertisement is pasted on the note,
as a heading or motto for the manuscript lines. I don't know why the
printed slip should give me a particular feeling of humiliation as I
look at it, but such is the fact. What she wrote is all I need read to
"I could not, at first, be certain that this was
meant for me. If I were to explain to you why I
have not written for so long a time, I might give
you one of the few clews which I insist on keeping
in my own hands. In your public capacity,
you have been (so far as a woman may judge) upright,
independent, wholly manly: in your relations
with other men I learn nothing of you that is not
honorable: toward women you are kind, chivalrous,
no doubt, overflowing with the
refinements, but—Here, again, I run hard upon
the absolute necessity of silence. The way to me,
if you care to traverse it, is so simple, so very simple!
Yet, after what I have written, I cannot even
wave my hand in the direction of it, without certain
self-contempt. When I feel free to tell you,
we shall draw apart and remain unknown forever.
"You desire to write? I do not prohibit it. I
have heretofore made no arrangement for hearing
from you, in turn, because I could not discover
that any advantage would accrue from it. But it
seems only fair, I confess, and you dare not think
me capricious. So, three days hence, at six
o'clock in the evening, a trusty messenger of mine
will call at your door. If you have anything to
give her for me, the act of giving it must be the
sign of a compact on your part, that you will allow
her to leave immediately, unquestioned and
You look puzzled, I see: you don't catch the real drift of her words?
Well—that's a melancholy encouragement. Neither did I, at the time: it
was plain that I had disappointed her in some way, and my intercourse
with, or manner toward, women, had something to do with it. In vain I
ran over as much of my later social life as I could recall. There had
been no special attention, nothing to mislead a susceptible heart; on
the other side, certainly no rudeness, no want of "chivalrous" (she used
the word!) respect and attention. What, in the name of all the gods, was
In spite of all my efforts to grow clearer, I was obliged to write my
letter in a rather muddled state of mind. I had so much to say!
sixteen folio pages, I was sure, would only suffice for an introduction
to the case; yet, when the creamy vellum lay before me and the moist pen
drew my fingers toward it, I sat stock dumb for half an hour. I wrote,
finally, in a half-desperate mood, without regard to coherency or logic.
Here's a rough draft of a part of the letter, and a single passage from
it will be enough:
"I can conceive of no simpler way to you than
the knowledge of your name and address. I have
drawn airy images of you, but they do not become
incarnate, and I am not sure that I should recognize
you in the brief moment of passing. Your
nature is not of those which are instantly legible.
As an abstract power, it has wrought in my life
and it continually moves my heart with desires
which are unsatisfactory because so vague and
ignorant. Let me offer you, personally, my gratitude,
my earnest friendship: you would laugh if
now to offer more."
Stay! here is another fragment, more reckless in tone:
"I want to find the woman whom I can love—who
can love me. But this is a masquerade where
the features are hidden, the voice disguised, even
the hands grotesquely gloved. Come! I will
venture more than I ever thought was possible to
me. You shall know my deepest nature as I myself
seem to know it. Then, give me the commonest
chance of learning yours, through an intercourse
which shall leave both free, should we not
feel the closing of the inevitable bond!"
After I had written that, the pages filled rapidly. When the appointed
hour arrived, a bulky epistle, in a strong linen envelope, sealed with
five wax seals, was waiting on my table. Precisely at six there was an
announcement: the door opened, and a little outside, in the shadow, I
saw an old woman, in a threadbare dress of rusty black.
"Come in!" I said.
"The letter!" answered a husky voice. She stretched out a bony hand,
without moving a step.
"It is for a lady—very important business," said I, taking up the
letter; "are you sure that there is no mistake?"
She drew her hand under the shawl, turned without a word, and moved
toward the hall door.
"Stop!" I cried; "I beg a thousand pardons! Take it—take it! You are
the right messenger!"
She clutched it, and was instantly gone.
Several days passed, and I gradually became so nervous and uneasy that I
was on the point of inserting another "Personal" in the daily papers,
when the answer arrived. It was brief and mysterious; you shall hear
the whole of it.
"I thank you. Your letter is a sacred confidence
which I pray you never to regret. Your
nature is sound and good. You ask no more
than is reasonable, and I have no real right to refuse.
In the one respect which I have hinted,
may have been unskilful or too narrowly cautious:
I must have the certainty of this. Therefore, as a
generous favor, give me six months more! At
the end of that time I will write to you again.
Have patience with these brief lines: another
word might be a word too much."
You notice the change in her tone? The letter gave me the strongest
impression of a new, warm, almost anxious interest on her part. My
fancies, as first at Wampsocket, began to play all sorts of singular
pranks: sometimes she was rich and of an old family, sometimes
moderately poor and obscure, but always the same calm, reposeful face
and clear gray eyes. I ceased looking for her in society, quite sure
that I should not find her, and nursed a wild expectation of suddenly
meeting her, face to face, in the most unlikely places and under
startling circumstances. However, the end of it all was
patience—patience for six months.
There's not much more to tell; but this last letter is hard for me to
read. It came punctually, to a day. I knew it would, and at the last I
began to dread the time, as if a heavy note were falling due, and I had
no funds to meet it. My head was in a whirl when I broke the seal. The
fact in it stared at me blankly, at once, but it was a long time before
the words and sentences became intelligible.
"The stipulated time has come, and our hidden
romance is at an end. Had I taken this resolution
a year ago, it would have saved me many
vain hopes, and you, perhaps, a little uncertainty.
Forgive me, first, if you can, and then hear the
"You wished for a personal interview:
had, not one, but many. We have met, in society,
talked face to face, discussed the weather, the
opera, toilettes, Queechy, Aurora Floyd, Long
Branch and Newport, and exchanged a weary
amount of fashionable gossip; and you never
guessed that I was governed by any deeper interest!
I have purposely uttered ridiculous platitudes,
and you were as smilingly courteous as if
you enjoyed them: I have let fall remarks whose
hollowness and selfishness could not have escaped
you, and have waited in vain for a word of sharp,
honest, manly reproof. Your manner to me was
unexceptionable, as it was to all other women:
but there lies the source of my disappointment,
of—yes—of my sorrow!
"You appreciate, I cannot doubt, the qualities
in woman which men value in one another—culture,
independence of thought, a high and earnest apprehension
of life; but you know not how to seek
them. It is not true that a mature and unperverted
woman is flattered by receiving only the
general obsequiousness which most men give to
the whole sex. In the man who contradicts and
strives with her, she discovers a truer interest,
a nobler respect. The empty-headed, spindle-shanked
youths who dance admirably, understand
something of billiards, much less of horses, and
still less of navigation, soon grow inexpressibly
wearisome to us; but the men who adopt their
social courtesy, never seeking to arouse, uplift, instruct
us, are a bitter disappointment.
"What would have been the end, had you really
found me? Certainly a sincere, satisfying friendship.
No mysterious magnetic force has drawn
you to me or held you near me, nor has my experiment
inspired me with an interest which cannot
be given up without a personal pang. I am
grieved, for the sake of all men and all women.
Yet, understand me! I mean no slightest reproach.
I esteem and honor you for what you
There. Nothing could be kinder in tone, nothing more humiliating in
substance. I was sore and offended for a few days; but I soon began to
see, and ever more and more clearly, that she was wholly right. I was
sure, also, that any further attempt to correspond with her would be
vain. It all comes of taking society just as we find it, and supposing
that conventional courtesy is the only safe ground on which men and
women can meet.
The fact is—there's no use in hiding it from myself (and I see, by
your face, that the letter cuts into your own conscience)—she is a
free, courageous, independent character, and—I am not.
But who was she?
THE DOCUMENTS IN THE CASE.
BY BRANDER MATTHEWS AND H.C. BUNNER.
DOCUMENT NO. I.
Paragraph from the "Illustrated London News," published under the head
of "Obituary of Eminent Persons" in the issue of January 4th, 1879:
SIR WILLIAM BEAUVOIR, BART.
Sir William Beauvoir, Bart., whose lamented death has just occurred at
Brighton, on December 28th, was the head and representative of the
junior branch of the very ancient and honourable family of Beauvoir, and
was the only son of the late General Sir William Beauvoir, Bart., by his
wife Anne, daughter of Colonel Doyle, of Chelsworth Cottage, Suffolk.
He was born in 1805, and was educated at Eton and Trinity Hall,
Cambridge. He was M.P. for Lancashire from 1837 to 1847, and was
appointed a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber in 1843. Sir William married,
in 1826, Henrietta Georgiana, fourth daughter of the Right Honourable
Adolphus Liddell, Q.C., by whom he had two sons, William Beauvoir and
Oliver Liddell Beauvoir. The latter was with his lamented parent when he
died. Of the former nothing has been heard for nearly thirty years,
about which time he left England suddenly for America. It is supposed
that he went to California, shortly after the discovery of gold. Much
forgotten gossip will now in all probability be revived, for the will of
the lamented baronet has been proved, on the 2d inst., and the
personalty sworn under £70,000. The two sons are appointed executors.
The estate in Lancashire is left to the elder, and the rest is divided
equally between the brothers. The doubt as to the career of Sir
William's eldest son must now of course be cleared up.
This family of Beauvoirs is of Norman descent and of great antiquity.
This is the younger branch, founded in the last century by Sir William
Beauvoir, Bart., who was Chief Justice of the Canadas, whence he was
granted the punning arms and motto now borne by his descendants—a
beaver sable rampant on a field gules; motto, "Damno."
DOCUMENT NO. 2.
Promises to pay, put forth by William Beauvoir, junior, at various
times in 1848:
April 10th, 1848.
William Beauvoir, junr.
DOCUMENT NO. 3.
April 22d, 1848.
William Beauvoir, junr.
DOCUMENT NO. 4.
May 10th, 1848.
William Beauvoir, junr.
DOCUMENT NO. 5.
Extract from the "Sunday Satirist," a journal of high-life, published
in London, May 13th, 1848:
Are not our hereditary lawmakers and the members of our old families the
guardians of the honour of this realm? One would not think so to see the
reckless gait at which some of them go down the road to ruin. The D----e
of D----m and the E----l of B----n and L----d Y----g,—are not these
pretty guardians of a nation's name? Quis custodiet? etc. Guardians,
forsooth, parce qu'ils se sont donnés la peine de naître! Some of the
gentry make the running as well as their betters. Young W----m B----r,
son of old Sir W----m B----r, late M.P. for L----e, is truly a model
young man. He comes of a good old county family—his mother was a
daughter of the Right Honourable A----s L----l, and he himself is old
enough to know better. But we hear of his escapades night after night,
and day after day. He bets all day and he plays all night, and poor
tired nature has to make the best of it. And his poor worn purse gets
the worst of it. He has duns by the score. His I.O.U.'s are held by
every Jew in the city. He is not content with a little gentlemanlike
game of whist or écarté, but he must needs revive for his especial use
and behoof the dangerous and well-nigh forgotten pharaoh. As luck
would have it, he had lost as much at this game of brute chance as ever
he would at any game of skill. His judgment of horseflesh is no better
than his luck at cards. He came a cropper over the "Two Thousand
Guineas." The victory of the favorite cost him to the tune of over six
thousand pounds. We learn that he hopes to recoup himself on the Derby,
by backing Shylock for nearly nine thousand pounds; one bet was twelve
And this is the sort of man who may be chosen at any time by force of
family interest to make laws for the toiling millions of Great Britain!
DOCUMENT NO. 6.
Extract from "Bell's Life" of May 19th, 1848:
THE DERBY DAY.
WEDNESDAY.—This day, like its predecessor, opened with a cloudless sky,
and the throng which crowded the avenues leading to the grand scene of
attraction was, as we have elsewhere remarked, incalculable.
The Derby Stakes of 50 sovs. each, h. ft. for three year-olds; colts, 8
st. 7 lb., fillies, 8 st. 2 lb.; the second to receive 100 sovs., and
the winner to pay 100 sovs. towards police, etc.; mile and a half on the
new Derby course; 215 subs.
Lord Clifden's b.c. _Surplice_, by Touchstone.......... 1
Mr. Bowe's b.c. _Springy Jack_, by Hetman.............. 2
Mr. B. Green's br.c. _Shylock_, by Simoon.............. 3
Mr. Payne's b.c. _Glendower_, by Slane............... o
Mr. J.P. Day's b.c. _Nil Desperandum_, by Venison...... o
DOCUMENT NO. 7.
Paragraph of Shipping Intelligence from the "Liverpool Courier" of June
The bark Euterpe, Captain Riding, belonging to the Transatlantic
Clipper Line of Messrs. Judkins & Cooke, left the Mersey yesterday
afternoon, bound for New York. She took out the usual complement of
steerage passengers. The first officer's cabin is occupied by Professor
Titus Peebles, M.R.C.S., M.R.G.S., lately instructor in metallurgy at
the University of Edinburgh, and Mr. William Beauvoir. Professor
Peebles, we are informed, has an important scientific mission in the
States, and will not return for six months.
DOCUMENT NO. 8.
Paragraph from the "N.Y. Herald" of September 9th, 1848:
While we well know that the record of vice and dissipation can never be
pleasing to the refined tastes of the cultivated denizens of the only
morally pure metropolis on the face of the earth, yet it may be of
interest to those who enjoy the fascinating study of human folly and
frailty to "point a moral or adorn a tale" from the events transpiring
in our very midst. Such as these will view with alarm the sad example
afforded the youth of our city by the dissolute career of a young lump
of aristocratic affectation and patrician profligacy, recently arrived
in this city. This young gentleman's (save the mark!) name is Lord
William F. Beauvoir, the latest scion of a venerable and wealthy English
family. We print the full name of this beautiful exemplar of "haughty
Albion," although he first appeared among our citizens under the alias
of Beaver, by which name he is now generally known, although recorded on
the books of the Astor House by the name which our enterprise first
gives to the public. Lord Beauvoir's career since his arrival here has
been one of unexampled extravagance and mad immorality. His days and
nights have been passed in the gilded palaces of the fickle goddess,
Fortune, in Thomas Street and College Place, where he has squandered
fabulous sums, by some stated to amount to over £78,000 sterling. It is
satisfactory to know that retribution has at last overtaken him. His
enormous income has been exhausted to the ultimate farthing, and at
latest accounts he had quit the city, leaving behind him, it is shrewdly
suspected, a large hotel bill, though no such admission can be extorted
from his last landlord, who is evidently a sycophantic adulator of
DOCUMENT NO. 9.
Certificate of deposit, vulgarly known as a pawn-ticket, issued by one
Simpson to William Beauvoir, December 2d, 1848:
Dec. 2nd, 1848,
One Gold Hunting-case Watch and Dolls. Cts.
Chain 150 00
Not accountable in case of fire, damage, moth, robbery, breakage, &c.
25% per ann. Good for 1 year only.
DOCUMENT NO. 10.
Letter from the late John Phoenix, found among the posthumous papers of
the late John P. Squibob, and promptly published in the "San Diego
OFF THE COAST OF FLORIDA, Jan. 3, 1849.
MY DEAR SQUIB:—I imagine your pathetic inquiry
as to my whereabouts—pathetic, not to say
hypothetic—for I am now where I cannot hear the
dulcet strains of your voice. I am on board ship.
I am half seas over. I am bound for California
by way of the Isthmus. I am going for the gold,
my boy, the gold. In the mean time I am lying
around loose on the deck of this magnificent
Mercy G. Tarbox, of Nantucket, bred by
Noah's Ark out of
Pilot-boat, dam by
Raging Canawl. The
Mercy G. Tarbox is one of
the best boats of Nantucket, and Captain Clearstarch
is one of the best captains all along shore—although,
friend Squibob, I feel sure that you
are about to observe that a captain with a name
like that would give any one the blues. But
don't do it, Squib! Spare me this once.
But as a matter of fact this ultramarine joke of
yours is about east. It was blue on the
G.—mighty blue, too. And it needed the inspiring
hope of the gold I was soon to pick up in nuggets
to stiffen my back-bone to a respectable degree
of rigidity. I was about ready to wilt. But
I discovered two Englishmen on board, and now I
get along all right. We have formed a little temperance
society—just we three, you know—to see
if we cannot, by a course of sampling and severe
study, discover which of the captain's liquors is
most dangerous, so that we can take the pledge
not to touch it. One of them is a chemist or a
metallurgist, or something scientific. The other
is a gentleman.
The chemist or metallurgist or something scientific
is Professor Titus Peebles, who is going out
to prospect for gold. He feels sure that his professional
training will give him the inside track in
the gulches and gold mines. He is a smart chap.
He invented the celebrated "William Riley Baking
Powder"—bound to rise up every time.
And here I must tell you a little circumstance.
As I was coming down to the dock in New York,
to go aboard the
Mercy G., a small boy was walloping
a boy still smaller; so I made peace, and walloped
them both. And then they both began heaving
rocks at me—one of which I caught dexterously
in the dexter hand. Yesterday, as I was
pacing the deck with the professor, I put my hand
in my pocket and found this stone. So I asked the
professor what it was.
He looked at it and said it was gneiss.
"Is it?" said I. "Well, if a small but energetic
youth had taken you on the back of the head
with it, you would not think it so nice!"
And then, O Squib, he set out to explain that he
meant "gneiss," not "nice!" The ignorance of
these English about a joke is really wonderful. It
is easy to see that they have never been brought
up on them. But perhaps there was some excuse
for the professor that day, for he was the president
pro tem. of our projected temperance society, and
as such he head been making a quantitative and
qualitative analysis of another kind of quartz.
So much for the chemist or metallurgist or
something scientific. The gentleman and I get on
better. His name is Beaver, which he persists
in spelling Beauvoir. Ridiculous, isn't it? How
easy it is to see that the English have never had
the advantage of a good common-school education—so
few of them can spell. Here's a man don't
know how to spell his own name. And this shows
how the race over there on the little island is degenerating.
It was not so in other days. Shakspere,
for instance, not only knew how to spell his
own name, but—and this is another proof of his
superiority to his contemporaries—he could spell
it in half a dozen different ways.
This Beaver is a clever fellow, and we get on
first rate together. He is going to California for
gold—like the rest of us. But I think he has had his
share—and spent it. At any rate he has not much
now. I have been teaching him poker, and I am
afraid he won't have any soon. I have an idea he
has been going pretty fast—and mostly down hill.
But he has his good points. He is a gentleman
all through, as you can see. Yes, friend Squibob,
even you could see right through him. We are
all going to California together, and I wonder
which one of the three will turn up trumps first—Beaver,
or the chemist, metallurgist or something
Yours respectfully, JOHN PHOENIX.
P.S. You think this a stupid letter, perhaps,
and not interesting. Just reflect on my surroundings.
Besides, the interest will accumulate a good
while before you get the missive. And I don't
know how you ever are to get it, for there is
no post-office near here, and on the Isthmus the
mails are as uncertain as the females are everywhere.
(I am informed that there is no postage on
old jokes—so I let that stand.)
DOCUMENT NO. 11.
Extract from the "Bone Gulch Palladium," June 3d, 1850:
Our readers may remember how frequently we have declared our firm belief
in the future unexampled prosperity of Bone Gulch. We saw it in the
immediate future the metropolis of the Pacific Slope, as it was intended
by nature to be. We pointed out repeatedly that a time would come when
Bone Gulch would be an emporium of the arts and sciences and of the best
society, even more than it is now. We foresaw the time when the best men
from the old cities of the East would come flocking to us, passing with
contempt the puny settlement of Deadhorse. But even we did not so soon
see that members of the aristocracy of the effete monarchies of despotic
Europe would acknowledge the undeniable advantages of Bone Gulch, and
come here to stay permanently and forever. Within the past week we have
received here Hon. William Beaver, one of the first men of Great Britain
and Ireland, a statesman, an orator, a soldier and an extensive
traveller. He has come to Bone Gulch as the best spot on the face of the
everlasting universe. It is needless to say that our prominent citizens
have received him with great cordiality. Bone Gulch is not like
Deadhorse. We know a gentleman when we see one.
Hon. Mr. Beaver is one of nature's noblemen; he is also related to the
Royal Family of England. He is a second cousin of the Queen, and boards
at the Tower of London with her when at home. We are informed that he
has frequently taken the Prince of Wales out for a ride in his
We take great pleasure in congratulating Bone Gulch on its latest
acquisition. And we know Hon. Mr. Beaver is sure to get along all right
here under the best climate in the world and with the noblest men the
sun ever shone on.
DOCUMENT NO. 12.
Extract from the Dead Horse "Gazette and Courier of Civilization" of
August 26th, 1850:
Bonegulch sits in sackcloth and ashes and cools her mammoth cheek in the
breezes of Colorado canyon. The self-styled Emporium of the West has
lost her British darling, Beaver Bill, the big swell who was first
cousin to the Marquis of Buckingham and own grandmother to the Emperor
of China, the man with the biled shirt and low-necked shoes. This curled
darling of the Bonegulch aristocrat-worshippers passed through Deadhorse
yesterday, clean bust. Those who remember how the four-fingered editor
of the Bonegulch "Palladium" pricked up his ears and lifted up his
falsetto crow when this lovely specimen of the British snob first
honored him by striking him for a $ will appreciate the point of the
It is said that the "Palladium" is going to come out, when it makes its
next semi-occasional appearance, in full mourning, with turned rules.
For this festive occasion we offer Brother B. the use of our late
retired Spanish font, which we have discarded for the new and elegant
dress in which we appear to-day, and to which we have elsewhere called
the attention of our readers. It will be a change for the "Palladium's"
eleven unhappy readers, who are getting very tired of the old type cast
for the Concha Mission in 1811, which tries to make up for its lack of
w's by a plentiful superfluity of greaser u's. How are you, Brother
"We don't know a gent when we see him." Oh no(?)!
DOCUMENT NO. 13.
Paragraph from "Police Court Notes," in the "New Centreville [late Dead
Horse] Evening Gazette" January 2d, 1858:
HYMENEAL HIGH JINKS.
William Beaver, better known ten years ago as "Beaver Bill," is now a
quiet and prosperous agriculturalist in the Steal Valley. He was,
however, a pioneer in the 1849 movement, and a vivid memory of this fact
at times moves him to quit his bucolic labors and come in town for a
real old-fashioned tare. He arrived in New Centreville during Christmas
week; and got married suddenly, but not unexpectedly, yesterday morning.
His friends took it upon themselves to celebrate the joyful occasion,
rare in the experience of at least one of the parties, by getting very
high on Irish Ike's whiskey and serenading the newly-married couple with
fish-horns, horse-fiddles, and other improvised musical instruments. Six
of the participators in this epithalamial serenade, namely, José Tanco,
Hiram Scuttles, John P. Jones, Hermann Bumgardner, Jean Durant
("Frenchy"), and Bernard McGinnis ("Big Barney"), were taken in tow by
the police force, assisted by citizens, and locked up over night, to
cool their generous enthusiasm in the gloomy dungeons of Justice
Skinner's calaboose. This morning all were discharged with a reprimand,
except Big Barney and José Tanco, who, being still drunk, were allotted
ten days in default of $10. The bridal pair left this noon for the
DOCUMENT NO. 14.
Extract from "The New York Herald" for June 23d, 1861:
THE RED SKINS.
A BORDER WAR AT LAST!
RED DEVILS RISING!
WOMEN AND CHILDREN SEEKING SAFETY IN THE LARGER
HORRIBLE HOLOCAUSTS ANTICIPATED.
BURYING THE HATCHET—IN THE WHITE MAN'S HEAD.
[SPECIAL DESPATCH TO THE NEW YORK HERALD.]
CHICAGO, June 22, 1861.
Great uneasiness exists all along the Indian frontier. Nearly all the
regular troops have been withdrawn from the West for service in the
South. With the return of the warm weather it seems certain that the red
skins will take advantage of the opportunity thus offered, and
inaugurate a bitter and vindictive fight against the whites. Rumors come
from the agencies that the Indians are leaving in numbers. A feverish
excitement among them has been easily to be detected. Their ponies are
now in good condition, and forage can soon be had in abundance on the
prairie, if it is not already. Everything points toward a sudden and
startling outbreak of hostilities.
[SPECIAL DESPATCH TO THE NEW YORK HERALD.]
ST. PAUL, June 22, 1861.
The Sioux near here are all in a ferment. Experienced Indian fighters
say the signs of a speedy going on the war-path are not to be mistaken.
No one can tell how soon the whole frontier may be in a bloody blaze.
The women and children are rapidly coming in from all exposed
settlements. Nothing overt as yet has transpired, but that the Indians
will collide very soon with the settlers is certain. All the troops have
been withdrawn. In our defenceless state there is no knowing how many
lives may be lost before the regiments of volunteers now organizing can
take the field.
THE WAR BEGUN.
FIRST BLOOD FOR THE INDIANS.
THE SCALPING KNIFE AND THE TOMAHAWK AT WORK AGAIN.
[SPECIAL DESPATCH TO THE NEW YORK HERALD.]
BLACK WING AGENCY, June 22, 1861.
The Indians made a sudden and unexpected attack on the town of Coyote
Hill, forty miles from here, last night, and did much damage before the
surprised settlers rallied and drove them off. The red skins met with
heavy losses. Among the whites killed are a man named William Beaver,
sometimes called Beaver Bill, and his wife. Their child, a beautiful
little girl of two, was carried off by the red rascals. A party has been
made up to pursue them. Owing to their taking their wounded with them,
the trail is very distinct.
DOCUMENT NO. 15.
Letter from Mrs. Edgar Saville, in San Francisco, to Mr. Edgar Saville,
Monster Variety and Dramatic Combination.
ON THE ROAD.
No dates filled except with first-class houses.
Hall owners will please consider silence a polite negative.
SAN FRANCISCO, January 29, 1863.
MY DEAR OLD MAN!--Here we are in our
second week at Frisco and you will be glad to
know playing to steadily increasing biz, having
signed for two weeks more, certain. I didn't like
to mention it when I wrote you last, but things
were very queer after we left Denver, and "Treasury"
was a mockery till we got to Bluefoot
Springs, which is a mining town, where we showed
in the hotel dining-room. Then there was a
strike just before the curtain went up. The house
was mostly miners in red shirts and very exacting.
The sinews were forthcoming very quick my
dear, and after that the ghost walked quite regular.
So now everything is bright, and you wont
have to worry if Chicago doesn't do the right
thing by you.
I don't find this engagement half as disagreeable
as I expected. Of course it aint so very nice
travelling in a combination with variety talent but
they keep to themselves and we regular professionals
happy family that Barnum would not
be ashamed of and quite separate and comfortable.
We don't associate with any of them only
with The Unique Mulligans wife, because he beats
her. So when he is on a regular she sleeps with
And talking of liquor dear old man, if you knew
how glad and proud I was to see you writing so
straight and steady and beautiful in your three
last letters. O, Im sure my darling if the boys
thought of the little wife out on the road they
wouldnt plague you so with the Enemy. Tell
Harry Atkinson this from me, he has a good kind
heart but he is the worst of your friends. Every
night when I am dressing I think of you at
Chicago, and pray you may never again go on the
way you did that terrible night at Rochester.
Tell me dear, did you look handsome in Horatio?
You ought to have had Laertes instead of that
And now I have the queerest thing to tell you.
Jardine is going in for Indians and has secured six
very ugly ones. I mean real Indians, not professional.
They are hostile Comanshies or something
who have just laid down their arms. They
had an insurrection in the first year of the War,
when the troops went East, and they killed all the
settlers and ranches and destroyed the canyons
somewhere out in Nevada, and when they were
brought here they had a wee little kid with them
only four or five years old, but
so sweet. They stole
her and killed her parents and brought her up for
their own in the cunningest little moccasins. She
could not speak a word of English except her own
name which is Nina. She has blue eyes and all
her second teeth. The ladies here made a great
fuss about her and sent her flowers and worsted
afgans, but they did not do anything else for her
and left her to us.
O dear old man you must let me have her!
You never refused me a thing yet and she is so
like our Avonia Marie that my heart almost breaks
when she puts her arms around my neck—she calls
me mamma already. I want to have her with us
when we get the little farm—and it must be near,
that little farm of ours—we have waited for it so
long—and something tells me my own old faker
will make his hit soon and be great. You cant
tell how I have loved it and hoped for it and how
real every foot of that farm is to me. And though
I can never see my own darling's face among the
roses it will make me so happy to see this poor
dead mothers pet get red and rosy in the country
air. And till the farm comes we shall always have
enough for her, without your ever having to black
up again as you did for me the winter I was sick
my own poor boy!
Write me yes—you will be glad when you see
her. And now love and regards to Mrs. Barry and
all friends. Tell the Worst of Managers that he
knows where to find his leading juvenile for next
season. Think how funny it would be for us to
play together next year—we havent done it since
'57—the third year we were married. That was
my first season higher than walking—and now I'm
quite an old woman—most thirty dear!
Write me soon a letter like that last one—and
send a kiss to Nina—our Nina.
Your own girl,
P.S. He has not worried me since.
DOCUMENT NO. 16.
Letter from Messrs. Throstlethwaite, Throstlethwaite and Dick,
Solicitors, Lincoln's Inn, London, England, to Messrs. Hitchcock and Van
Rensselaer, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law, 76 Broadway, New York,
January 8, 1879.
Messrs. HITCHCOCK & VAN RENSSELAER:
GENTLEMEN: On the death of our late client, Sir
William Beauvoir, Bart., and after the reading of
the deceased gentleman's will, drawn up nearly
forty years ago by our Mr. Dick, we were requested
by Oliver Beauvoir, Esq., the second son of the
late Sir William, to assist him in discovering and
communicating with his elder brother, the present
Sir William Beauvoir, of whose domicile we have
little or no information.
After a consultation between Mr. Oliver Beauvoir
and our Mr. Dick, it was seen that the sole
knowledge in our possession amounted substantially
to this: Thirty years ago the elder son of
the late baronet, after indulging in dissipation in
every possible form, much to the sorrow of his respected
parent, who frequently expressed as much
to our Mr. Dick, disappeared, leaving behind him
bills and debts of all descriptions, which we,
under instructions from Sir William, examined,
audited and paid. Sir William Beauvoir would
allow no search to be made for his erring son and
would listen to no mention of his name. Current
gossip declared that he had gone to New York,
where he probably arrived about midsummer,
1848. Mr. Oliver Beauvoir thinks that he crossed
to the States in company with a distinguished
scientific gentleman, Professor Titus Peebles.
Within a year after his departure news came that
he had gone to California with Professor Peebles;
this was about the time gold was discovered in the
States. That the present Sir William Beauvoir
did about this time actually arrive on the Pacific
Coast in company with the distinguished scientific
man above mentioned, we have every reason
to believe: we have even direct evidence on the
subject. A former junior clerk who had left us at
about the same period as the disappearance of the
elder son of our late client, accosted our Mr. Dick
when the latter was in Paris last summer, and informed
him (our Mr. Dick) that he (the former
junior clerk) was now a resident of Nevada and a
member of Congress for that county, and in the
course of conversation he mentioned that he had
seen Professor Peebles and the son of our late
client in San Francisco, nearly thirty years ago.
Other information we have none. It ought not to
be difficult to discover Professor Peebles, whose
scientific attainments have doubtless ere this been
duly recognized by the U.S. government. As
our late client leaves the valuable family estate in
Lancashire to his elder son and divides the remainder
equally between his two sons, you will
readily see why we invoke your assistance in discovering
the present domicile of the late baronet's
elder son, or in default thereof, in placing in our
hands such proof of his death as may be necessary
to establish that lamentable fact in our probate
We have the honour to remain, as ever, your
most humble and obedient servants,
THROSTLETHWAITE, THROSTLETHWAITE & DICK.
P.S. Our late client's grandson, Mr. William
Beauvoir, the only child of Oliver Beauvoir, Esq.,
is now in the States, in Chicago or Nebraska or
somewhere in the West. We shall be pleased if
you can keep him informed as to the progress of
your investigations. Our Mr. Dick has requested
Mr. Oliver Beauvoir to give his son your address,
and to suggest his calling on you as he passes
through New York on his way home.
T.T. & D.
DOCUMENT NO. 17.
Letter from Messrs. Hitchcock and Van Rensselaer, New York, to Messrs.
Pixley and Sutton, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law, 98 California
Street, San Francisco, California.
Law Offices of Hitchcock & Van Rensselaer,
70 Broadway, New York,
P.O. Box 4078.
Jan. 22, 1879.
Messrs. PIXLEY AND SUTTON:
GENTLEMEN: We have just received from our
London correspondents, Messrs. Throstlethwaite,
Throstlethwaite and Dick, of Lincoln's Inn, London,
the letter, a copy of which is herewith enclosed,
to which we invite your attention. We request that
you will do all in your power to aid us in the
search for the missing Englishman. From the letter
of Messrs. Throstlethwaite, Throstlethwaite and
Dick, it seems extremely probable, not to say certain,
that Mr. Beauvoir arrived in your city about
1849, in company with a distinguished English
scientist, Professor Titus Peebles, whose professional
attainments were such that he is probably
well known, if not in California, at least in some
other of the mining States. The first thing to be
done, therefore, it seems to us, is to ascertain the
whereabouts of the professor, and to interview
him at once. It may be that he has no knowledge
of the present domicile of Mr. William Beauvoir—in
which case we shall rely on you to take such
steps as, in your judgment, will best conduce to a
satisfactory solution of the mystery. In any event,
please look up Professor Peebles, and interview
him at once.
Pray keep us fully informed by telegraph of your
movements. Yr obt serv'ts,
HITCHCOCK & VAN RENSSELAER.
DOCUMENT NO. 18.
Telegram from Messrs. Pixley and Sutton, Attorneys and Counsellors at
Law, 98 California Street, San Francisco, California, to Messrs.
Hitchcock and Van Rensselaer, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law, 76
Broadway, New York.
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.
Tite Peebles well known frisco not professor
keeps faro bank.
PIXLEY & SUTTON.
DOCUMENT NO. 19.
Telegram from Messrs. Hitchcock and Van Rensselaer to Messrs. Pixley
and Sutton, in answer to the preceding.
NEW YORK, Jan. 30.
Must be mistake Titus Peebles distinguished
HITCHCOCK & VAN RENSSELAER.
(Free. Answer to D.H.)
DOCUMENT NO. 20.
Telegram from Messrs. Pixley and Sutton to Messrs. Hitchcock and Van
Rensselaer. in reply to the preceding.
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.,
No mistake distinguished faro banker suspected
skin game shall we interview
PIXLEY & SUTTON.
DOCUMENT NO. 21.
Telegram from Messrs. Hitchcock and Van Rensselaer to Messrs. Pixley
and Sutton, in reply to the preceding.
NEW YORK, Jan. 30.
Must be mistake interview anyway
HITCHCOCK & VAN RENSSELAER.
(Free. Answer to D.H.)
DOCUMENT NO. 22.
Telegram from Messrs. Pixley and Sutton to Messrs. Hitchcock and Van
Rensselaer, in reply to the preceding.
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., Jan. 30.
Peebles out of town have written him
PIXLEY & SUTTON. (D.H. 919.)
DOCUMENT NO. 23.
Letter from Tite W. Peebles, delegate to the California Constitutional
Convention, Sacramento, to Messrs. Pixley and Sutton, 98 California
Street, San Francisco, California.
SACRAMENTO, Feb. 2, '79.
Messrs. PIXLEY & SUTTON:
GENTLEMEN: Your favor of the 31st ult., forwarded
me from San Francisco, has been duly
rec'd, and contents thereof noted.
My time is at present so fully occupied by my
duties as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention
that I can only jot down a brief report of my
recollections on this head. When I return to
S.F., I shall be happy to give you any further information
that may be in my possession.
The person concerning whom you inquire was
my fellow passenger on my first voyage to this
State on board the
Mercy G. Tarbox, in the latter
part of the year. He was then known as Mr. William
Beauvoir. I was acquainted with his history,
of which the details escape me at this writing.
He was a countryman of mine; a member of an
important county family—Devonian, I believe—and
had left England on account of large gambling
debts, of which he confided to me the exact
figure. I believe they totted up something like
I had at no time a very intimate acquaintance
with Mr. Beauvoir; during our sojourn on the
Tarbox, he was the chosen associate of a depraved
and vicious character named Phoenix. I am not
averse from saying that I was then a member of a
profession rather different to my present one,
being, in fact, professor of metallurgy, and I saw
much less, at that period, of Mr. B. than I probably
Directly we landed at S.F., the object of your
inquiries set out for the gold region, without adequate
preparation, like so many others did at that
time, and, I heard, fared very ill.
I encountered him some six months later; I
have forgotten precisely in what locality, though I
have a faint impression that his then habitat was
some canon or ravine, deriving its name from certain
osseous deposits. Here he had engaged in
the business of gold-mining, without, perhaps,
sufficient grounds for any confident hope of ultimate
success. I have his I.O.U. for the amount
of my fee for assaying several specimens from his
claim, said specimens being all iron pyrites.
This is all I am able to call to mind at present
in the matter of Mr. Beauvoir. I trust his subsequent
career was of a nature better calculated to
be satisfactory to himself; but his mineralogical
knowledge was but superficial; and his character
was sadly deformed by a fatal taste for low associates.
I remain, gentlemen, your very humble and
obd't servant, TITUS W. PEEBLES.
MY DEAR PIX: If you don't feel inclined to
pony up that little sum you are out on the bay
gelding, drop down to my place when I get back
and I'll give you another chance for your life at
the pasteboards. Constitution going through.
DOCUMENT NO. 24.
Extract from the New Centreville [late Dead Horse] "Gazette and Courier
of Civilization," December 20th, 1878:
"Miss Nina Saville appeared last night at the Mendocino
Grand Opera House, in her unrivalled specialty of
the Child of the Prairies; supported by Tompkins and Frobisher's
Grand Stellar Constellation. Although Miss Saville
has long been known as one of the most promising of California's
younger tragediennes, we feel safe in saying that the impression
she produced upon the large and cultured audience
gathered to greet her last night stamped her as one of the
greatest and most phenomenal geniuses of our own or other
times. Her marvellous beauty of form and feature, added to
her wonderful artistic power, and her perfect mastery of the difficult
science of clog-dancing, won her an immediate place in
the hearts of our citizens, and confirmed the belief that California
need no longer look to Europe or Chicago for dramatic
talent of the highest order. The sylph-like beauty, the harmonious
and ever-varying grace, the vivacity and the power of the
young artist who made her maiden effort among us last night,
prove conclusively that the virgin soil of California teems with
yet undiscovered fires of genius. The drama of
Child of the Prairies, is a pure, refined, and thoroughly absorbing
entertainment, and has been pronounced by the entire
press of the country equal to if not superior to the fascinating
Lady of Lyons. It introduces all the favorites of the company
in new and original characters, and with its original music,
which is a prominent feature, has already received over 200
representations in the principal cities in the country. It abounds
in effective situations, striking tableaux, and a most quaint and
original concert entitled 'The Mule Fling,' which alone is worth
the price of admission. As this is its first presentation in this
city, the theatre will no doubt be crowded, and seats should be
secured early in the day. The drama will be preceded by that
prince of humorists, Mr. Billy Barker, in his humorous sketches
and pictures from life."
We quote the above from our esteemed contemporary, the Mendocino
Gazette, at the request of Mr. Zeke Kilburn, Miss Saville's advance
agent, who has still further appealed to us, not only on the ground of
our common humanity, but as the only appreciative and thoroughly
informed critics on the Pacific Slope to "endorse" this rather vivid
expression of opinion. Nothing will give us greater pleasure. Allowing
for the habitual enthusiasm of our northern neighbor, and for the
well-known chaste aridity of Mendocino in respect of female beauty, we
have no doubt that Miss Nina Saville is all that the fancy, peculiarly
opulent and active even for an advance agent, of Mr. Kilburn has painted
her, and is quite such a vision of youth, beauty, and artistic
phenomenality as will make the stars of Paris and Illinois pale their
Miss Saville will appear in her "unrivalled specialty" at Hanks's New
Centreville Opera House, to-morrow night, as may be gathered, in a
general way, from an advertisement in another column.
We should not omit to mention that Mr. Zeke Kilburn, Miss Saville's
advance agent, is a gentleman of imposing presence, elegant manners, and
complete knowledge of his business. This information may be relied upon
as at least authentic, having been derived from Mr. Kilburn himself, to
which we can add, as our own contribution, the statement that Mr.
Kilburn is a gentleman of marked liberality in his ideas of spirituous
refreshments, and of equal originality in his conception of the uses,
objects and personal susceptibilities of the journalistic profession.
DOCUMENT NO. 25.
Local Item from the "New Centreville Standard," December 20th, 1878:
Hon. William Beauvoir has registered at the United States Hotel. Mr.
Beauvoir is a young English gentleman of great wealth, now engaged in
investigating the gigantic resources of this great country. We welcome
him to New Centreville.
DOCUMENT NO. 26.
Programme of the performance given in the Centreville Theatre, Dec.
HANKS' NEW CENTREVILLE OPERA HOUSE
A. Jackson Hanks.....................Sole Proprietor and Manager.
FIRST APPEARANCE IN THIS CITY OF TOMPKINS & FROBISHER'S GRAND
Supporting California's favorite daughter, the young American
MISS NINA SAVILLE,
Who will appear in Her Unrivalled Specialty,
"Winona, the Child of the Prairie."
THIS EVENING, DECEMBER 21st, 1878,
Will be presented, with the following phenomenal cast, the accepted
WINONA: THE CHILD OF THE PRAIRIE.
FLORA MacMADISON..................................... BIDDY
FLAHERTY........................................... OLD AUNT DINAH
(with Song, "Don't Get Weary").............Miss NINA SALLY
HOSKINS............................................. SAVILLE (With
the old-time melody, "Bobbin' Around.") POOR JOE (with
Song)...................................... FRAULINE LINA
BOOBENSTEIN................................. (With stammering song,
"I yoost landet.") SIR EDMOND BENNETT (specially
engaged)................E.C. GRAINGER WALTON
TRAVERS.........................................G.W. PARSONS GIPSY
'ANNIBAL 'ORACE 'IGGINS................................BILLY BARKER
TOMMY TIPPER.....................................Miss MAMIE SMITH
PETE, the Man on the Dock................................SI HANCOCK
Mrs. MALONE, the Old Woman in the Little House.... Mrs. K.Y. BOOTH
ROBERT BENNETT (aged five)......................Little ANNIE WATSON
Act I.—The Old Home. Act II.—Alone in the World. Act III.—The
Frozen Gulf: THE GREAT ICEBERG SENSATION. Act IV.—Wedding Bells.
"Winona, the Child of the Prairie," will be preceded by
A FAVORITE FARCE,
In which the great BILLY BARKER will appear in one of his most
outrageously funny bits.
New Scenery......................by....................Q.Z. Slocum
Music by Professor Kiddoo's Silver Bugle Brass Band and Philharmonic
Chickway's Grand Piano, lent by Schmidt, 2 Opera House Block.
AFTER THE SHOW, GO TO HANKS' AND SEE A MAN
Pop Williams, the only legitimate Bill-Poster in New Centreville.
(New Centreville Standard Print.)
DOCUMENT NO. 27.
Extract from the New Centreville [late Dead Horse] "Gazette and Courier
of Civilization," Dec. 24th, 1878:
A little while ago, in noting the arrival of Miss Nina Saville of the
New Centreville Opera House we quoted rather extensively from our
esteemed contemporary, the Mendocino Times and commented upon the
quotation. Shortly afterwards, it may also be remembered, we made a very
direct and decided apology for the sceptical levity which inspired those
remarks, and expressed our hearty sympathy with the honest, if somewhat
effusive, enthusiasm with which the dramatic critic of Mendocino greeted
the sweet and dainty little girl who threw over the dull, weary old
business of the stage "sensation" the charm of a fresh and childlike
beauty and originality, as rare and delicate as those strange,
unreasonable little glimmers of spring sunsets that now and then light
up for a brief moment the dull skies of winter evenings, and seem to
have strayed into ungrateful January out of sheer pity for the sad
Mendocino noticed the facts that form the basis of the above
meteorological simile, and we believe we gave Mendocino full credit for
it at the time. We refer to the matter at this date only because in our
remarks of a few days ago we had occasion to mention the fact of the
existence of Mr. Zeke Kilburn, an advance agent, who called upon us at
the time, to endeavor to induce us, by means apparently calculated more
closely for the latitude of Mendocino, to extend to Miss Saville, before
her appearance, the critical approbation which we gladly extended after.
This little item of interest we alluded to at the time, and furthermore
intimated, with some vagueness, that there existed in Kilburn's
character a certain misdirected zeal combined with a too keen artistic
appreciation, are apt to be rather dangerous stock-in trade for an
It was twenty seven minutes past two o'clock yesterday afternoon. The
chaste white mystery of Shigo Mountain was already taking on a faint,
almost imperceptible, hint of pink, like the warm cheek of a girl who
hears a voice and anticipates a blush. Yet the rays of the afternoon sun
rested with undiminished radiance on the empty pork-barrel in front of
McMullin's shebang. A small and vagrant infant, whose associations with
empty barrels were doubtless hitherto connected solely with dreams of
saccharine dissipation, approached the bunghole with precocious caution,
and retired with celerity and a certain acquisition of experience. An
unattached goat, a martyr to the radical theory of personal
investigation, followed in the footsteps of infantile humanity, retired
with even greater promptitude, and was fain to stay its stomach on a
presumably empty rend-rock can, afterward going into seclusion behind
McMullin's horse-shed, before the diuretic effect of tin flavored with
blasting-powder could be observed by the attentive eye of science.
Mr. Kilburn emerged from the hostlery without Mr. McMullin. Mr. Kilburn,
as we have before stated at his own request, is a gentleman of imposing
presence. It is well that we made this statement when we did, for it is
hard to judge of the imposing quality in a gentleman's presence when
that gentleman is suspended from the arm of another gentleman by the
collar of the first gentleman's coat. The gentleman in the rear of Mr.
Kilburn was Mr. William Beauvoir, a young Englishman in a check suit.
Mr. Beauvoir is not avowedly a man of imposing presence; he wears a seal
ring, and he is generally a scion of an effete oligarchy, but he has,
since his introduction into this community, behaved himself, to use the
adjectivial adverb of Mr. McMullin, white, and he has a very
remarkable biceps. These qualities may hereafter enhance his popularity
in New Centreville.
Mr. Beauvoir's movements, at twenty-seven minutes past two yesterday
afternoon, were few and simple. He doubled Mr. Kilburn up, after the
fashion of an ordinary jack-knife, and placed him in the barrel,
wedge-extremity first, remarking, as he did so, "She is, is she?" He
then rammed Mr. Kilburn carefully home, and put the cover on.
We learn to-day that Mr. Kilburn has resumed his professional duties on
DOCUMENT NO. 28.
Account of the same event from the New Centreville "Standard" December
It seems strange that even the holy influences which radiate from this
joyous season cannot keep some men from getting into unseemly wrangles.
It was only yesterday that our local saw a street row here in the quiet
avenues of our peaceful city—a street row recalling the riotous scenes
which took place here before Dead Horse experienced a change of heart
and became New Centreville. Our local succeeded in gathering all the
particulars of the affray, and the following statement is reliable. It
seems that Mr. Kilburn, the gentlemanly and affable advance agent of the
Nina Saville Dramatic Company, now performing at Andy Hanks' Opera House
to big houses, was brutally assaulted by a ruffianly young Englishman,
named Beauvoir, for no cause whatever. We say for no cause, as it is
obvious that Mr. Kilburn, as the agent of the troupe, could have said
nothing against Miss Saville which an outsider, not to say a foreigner
like Mr. Beauvoir, had any call to resent. Mr. Kilburn is a gentleman
unaccustomed to rough-and-tumble encounters, while his adversary has
doubtless associated more with pugilists than gentlemen—at least any
one would think so from his actions yesterday. Beauvoir hustled Mr.
Kilburn out of Mr. McMullin's, where the unprovoked assault began, and
violently shook him across the new plank sidewalk. The person by the
name of Clark, whom Judge Jones for some reason now permits to edit the
moribund but once respectable Gazette, caught the eye of the congenial
Beauvoir, and, true to the ungentlemanly instincts of his base nature,
pointed to a barrel in the street. The brutal Englishman took the hint
and thrust Mr. Kilburn forcibly into the barrel, leaving the vicinity
before Mr. Kilburn, emerging from his close quarters, had fully
recovered. What the ruffianly Beauvoir's motive may have been for this
wanton assault it is impossible to say; but it is obvious to all why
this fellow Clark sought to injure Mr. Kilburn, a gentleman whose many
good qualities he of course fails to appreciate. Mr. Kilburn,
recognizing the acknowledged merits of our job-office, had given us the
contract for all the printing he needed in New Centreville.
DOCUMENT NO. 29.
Advertisement from the New York "Clipper" Dec. 21st, 1878:
WINSTON & MACK'S GRAND INTERNATIONAL MEGATHERIUM VARIETY
COMBINATION. COMPANY CALL.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Company will assemble for rehearsal, at
Emerson's Opera House, San Francisco, on Wednesday, Dec 27th, 12 M
sharp. Band at 11. J.B. WINSTON EDWIN R. MACK—Managers. Emerson's
Opera House, San Francisco, Dec. 10th, 1878. Protean Artist wanted.
Would like to hear from Nina Saville. 12-11.
DOCUMENT NO. 30.
Letter from Nina Saville to William Beauvoir.
NEW CENTREVILLE, December 26, 1878.
My Dear Mr. Beauvoir—I was very sorry to
receive your letter of yesterday—very sorry—because
there can be only one answer that I can
make—and you might well have spared me the
pain of saying the word—No. You ask me if I love
you. If I did—do you think it would be true
love in me to tell you so, when I know what it
would cost you? Oh indeed you must never
me! In your own country you would
never have heard of me—never seen me—surely
never written me such a letter to tell me that you
love me and want to marry me. It is not that I
am ashamed of my business or of the folks around
me, or ashamed that I am only the charity child
of two poor players, who lived and died working
for the bread for their mouths and mine. I am
proud of them—yes, proud of what they did and
suffered for one poorer than themselves—a little
foundling out of an Indian camp. But I know
the difference between you and me. You are a
great man at home—you have never told me how
great—but I know your father is a rich lord, and I
suppose you are. It is not that I think
for that, or think less of me because I was born
different from you. I know how good—how
respectful you have always been to
me—my lord—and I shall never forget it—for a girl
in my position knows well enough how you might
have been otherwise. Oh believe me—my true
friend—I am never going to forget all you have
done for me—and how good it has been to have
you near me—a man so different from most others.
I don't mean only the kind things you have
done—the books and the thoughts and the ways
you have taught me to enjoy—and all the trouble
you have taken to make me something better than
the stupid little girl I was when you found me—but
a great deal more than that—the consideration
you have had for me and for what I hold best in the
world. I had never met a
now the first one I meet—he is my
friend. That is
a great deal.
Only think of it! You have been following me
around now for three months, and I have been
weak enough to allow it. I am going to do the
right thing now. You may think it hard in me
you really mean what you say, but even if everything
else were right, I would not marry you—because
of your rank. I do not know how things are at
your home—but something tells me it would be
wrong and that your family would have a right to
hate you and never forgive you. Professionals
cannot go in your society. And that is even if I
loved you—and I do not love you—I do not love
you—I do not love you—now I have written it you
will believe it.
So now it is ended—I am going back to the line
I was first in—variety—and with a new name. So
you can never find me—I entreat you—I beg of
you—not to look for me. If you only put your
mind to it—you will find it so easy to forget me—for
I will not do you the wrong to think that you
did not mean what you wrote in your letter or
what you said that night
when we sang Annie Laurie
together the last time.
Your sincere friend,
DOCUMENTS NOS. 31 AND 32.
Items from San Francisco "Figaro" of December 29th, 1878:
Nina Saville Co. disbanded New Centreville. 26th. No particulars
Winston & Mack's Comb. takes the road December 31st, opening at Tuolumne
Hollow. Manager Winston announces the engagement of Anna Laurie, the
Protean change artiste, with songs, "Don't Get Weary," "Bobbin' Around,"
"I Yoost Landet."
DOCUMENT NO. 33.
Telegram from Zeke Kilburn, New Centreville, to Winston and Mack,
Emerson's Opera House, San Francisco, Cal.:
NEW CENTREVILLE, Dec. 28, 1878.
Have you vacancy for active and energetic advance
(9 words 30 paid.)
DOCUMENT NO. 34.
Telegram from Winston and Mack, San Francisco, to Zeke Kilburn, New
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 28, 1878
WINSTON & MACK.
(Collect 30 cents.)
DOCUMENT NO. 35.
Bill sent to William Beauvoir, United States Hotel, Tuolumne Hollow,
Tuolumne Hollow, Cal., Dec. 29, 1878.
Wm. Beauvoir, Esq.
Bought of HIMMEL & HATCH,
Opera House Block,
JEWELLERS & DIAMOND MERCHANTS,
Dealers in all kinds of Fancy Goods, Stationery and Umbrellas, Watches,
Clocks and Barometers.
TERMS CASH. MUSICAL BOXES REPAIRED.
Dec. 29, One diamond and enamelled locket......... $75.00
One gold chain........................................... 48.00
Himmel & Hatch,
DOCUMENT NO. 36.
Letter from Cable J. Dexter, Esq., to Messrs: Pixley and Sutton, San
NEW CENTREVILLE, CAL., March 3, 1879.
Messrs. PIXLEY & SUTTON:
GENTS: I am happy to report that I have at last
reached the bottom level in the case of William
alias Beaver Bill, deceased through Indians
In accordance with your instructions and check,
I proceeded, on the 10th ult., to Shawgum Creek,
when I interviewed Blue Horse, chief of the Comanches,
who tomahawked subject of your inquiries
in the year above mentioned. Found the Horse
in the penitentiary, serving out a drunk and disorderly.
Though belligerent at date aforesaid,
Horse is now tame, though intemperate. Appeared
unwilling to converse, and required stimulants
to awaken his memory. Please find enclosed
memo. of account for whiskey, covering extra
demijohn to corrupt jailer. Horse finally stated
that he personally let daylight through deceased,
and is willing to guarantee thoroughness of decease.
Stated further that aforesaid Beaver's
family consisted of squaw and kid. Is willing to
swear that squaw was killed, the tribe having no
use for her. Killing done by Mule-Who-Goes-Crooked,
personal friend of Horse's. The minor
child was taken into camp and kept until December
of 1863, when tribe dropped to howling cold
winter and went on government reservation. Infant
(female) was then turned over to U.S. Government
at Fort Kearney.
I posted to last named locality on the 18th ult.
and found by the quartermaster's books that, no
one appearing to claim the kid, she had been duly
indentured, together with six Indians, to a man
by the name of Guardine or Sardine (probably the
latter), in the show business. The Indians were
invoiced as Sage Brush Jimmy, Boiling Hurricane,
Mule-Who-Goes-Crooked, Joe, Hairy Grasshopper
and Dead Polecat. Child known as White Kitten.
Receipt for Indians was signed by Mr. Hi.
Samuels, who is still in the circus business, and
whom I happen to be selling out at this moment,
at suit of McCullum & Montmorency, former partners.
Samuels positively identified kid with variety
specialist by name of Nina Saville, who has
been showing all through this region for a year
I shall soon have the pleasure of laying before
you documents to establish the complete chain of
evidence, from knifing of original subject of your
inquiries right up to date.
I have to-day returned from New Centreville,
whither I went after Miss Saville. Found she had
just skipped the town with a young Englishman
by the name of Bovoir, who had been paying her
polite attentions for some time, having bowied or
otherwise squelched a man for her within a week
or two. It appears the young woman had refused
to have anything to do with him for a long
period; but he seems to have struck pay gravel
about two days before my arrival. At present,
therefore, the trail is temporarily lost; but I expect
to fetch the couple if they are anywhere this side
of the Rockies.
Awaiting your further instructions, and cash
backing thereto, I am, gents, very resp'y yours,
CABLE J. DEXTER.
DOCUMENT NO. 37
Envelope of letter from Sir Oliver Beauvoir, Bart., to his son, William
Sent to Dead Letter Office.
Mr. William Beauvoir
Sherman House Hotel
United States of America
try Brevoort House
DOCUMENT NO. 38.
Letter contained in the envelope above:
CHELSWORTH COTTAGE, March 30, 1879.
MY DEAR BOY: In the sudden blow which has
come upon us all I cannot find words to write.
You do not know what you have done. Your
uncle William, after whom you were named, died
in America. He left but one child, a daughter,
the only grandchild of my father except you.
And this daughter is the Miss Nina Saville with
whom you have formed so unhappy a connection.
She is your own cousin. She is a Beauvoir. She
is of our blood, as good as any in England.
My feelings are overpowering. I am choked by
the suddenness of this great grief. I cannot write
to you as I would. But I can say this: Do not
let me see you or hear from until this stain be
taken from our name.
DOCUMENT NO. 39.
Cable dispatch of William Beauvoir, Windsor Hotel, New York, to Sir
Oliver Beauvoir, Bart., Chelsworth Cottage, Suffolk, England:
NEW YORK, May 1, 1879.
Have posted you Herald.
DOCUMENT NO. 40.
Advertisement under head of "Marriages," from the New York "Herald,"
April 30th, 1879:
BEAUVOIR—BEAUVOIR.—On Wednesday, Jan. 1st, 1879, at Steal Valley,
California, by the Rev. Mr. Twells, William Beauvoir, only son of Sir
Oliver Beauvoir, of Chelsworth Cottage, Surrey, England, to Nina, only
child of the late William Beauvoir, of New Centreville, Cal.
DOCUMENT NO. 41.
Extract from the New York "Herald" of May 29th, 1879:
Among the passengers on the outgoing Cunard steamer
Gallia, which left
New York on Wednesday, was the Honorable William Beauvoir, only son of
Sir Oliver Beauvoir, Bart., of England. Mr. Beauvoir has been passing
his honeymoon in this city, and, with his charming bride, a famous
California belle, has been the recipient of many cordial courtesies from
members of our best society. Mr. William Beauvoir is a young man of
great promise and brilliant attainments, and is a highly desirable
addition to the large and constantly increasing number of aristocratic
Britons who seek for wives among the lovely daughters of Columbia. We
understand that the bridal pair will take up their residence with the
groom's father, at his stately country-seat, Chelsworth Manor, Suffolk.
ONE OF THE THIRTY PIECES.
BY WILLIAM HENRY BISHOP.
In the spring of the year 1870 the premium on gold had fallen so low
that it began to be thought by sanguine people that specie payments
would be resumed at once. Silver in considerable quantities actually
came into circulation. Restaurants, cigar-stands, and establishments
dealing in the lighter articles of merchandise paid it out in change, by
way of an extra inducement to customers.
On one of these days Henry Barwood, a treasury clerk, and Megilp, the
rather well-known picture restorer, met by accident at the door of
Gruyère's restaurant. Gruyère's place, although in the business
quarter, is not supported to any great extent by the hurrying throng of
bankers', brokers', merchants', and lawyers' clerks who overrun the
vicinity every day at lunch-time. It is a rather leisurely resort,
frequented by well-to-do importers, musicians, and artists, people who
have travelled, and whose affairs admit of considerable deliberation and
repose. Barwood in former times had been in the habit of going there
occasionally to air his amateur French, burn a spoonful of brandy in his
coffee, and enjoy an economical foretaste of Paris. Returned to New York
after a considerable absence, to spend his vacation at home, he was
inclined to renew this with other old associations.
Megilp, sprung from a race which has supplied the world with a large
share of its versatility of talent and its adventurous proclivities, was
familiarly known at Gruyère's as "Mac." He was removed above want by the
possession of an income sufficient, with some ingenuity of management,
to provide him with the bare necessaries of life.
He found leisure to come every day to retail the gossip of the studios,
and fortify himself for the desultory labors in which he was engaged. He
liked the society of young men for several reasons. For one thing, they
were more free with their purses than his older cronies. The
association, he also thought, threw a sort of glamour of youth about his
own person. Finally, they listened to the disquisitions and artistic
rhapsodies in which he was fond of indulging, with an attention by no
means accorded by his compeers.
Barwood was of a speculative turn of mind, and had also by nature a
strong leaning towards whatever was curious and out of the common. These
proclivities Megilp's conversation, pursuits, and studio full of
trumpery were calculated to gratify. A moderate sort of friendship had
in consequence sprung up between them.
They made mutual protestations of pleasure at this meeting. Barwood
considered it an occasion worthy of a bottle of Dry Verzenay, which was
not demurred to by Megilp.
The payment of specie was so entire a novelty that, when the inquiries
and explanations natural after a long separation were concluded, it was
among the first topics touched upon.
"Sure it's the first hard money I've seen these ten years, so it is,"
"That is my case also," said Barwood. "I took as little interest in the
matter as any boy of fourteen might be expected to; but I remember very
well how rapidly specie disappeared at the beginning of the war."
"And where has it been?" said Megilp. "There's many fine points of
interest about it, do you see. Consider the receptacles in which it has
been hoarded—the secret places in chimneys, under floors and under
ground, the vaults, old stockings, cabinets, and caskets that have
teemed and glittered with it. Then there's the characters again, of all
its various owners: the timid doubters about the government, the
speculators, the curiosity hunters, the misers"—
"Yes," said Barwood, "the history of a single one of these pieces for
the period would probably make a story full of interest." It did not
detract from the value of Megilp's conversation, in Barwood's view, that
the worthy artist said "foine" and "hoorded" instead of adopting the
more conventional pronunciation.
"But what I'm after telling you isn't the singular part of it at all,"
resumed Megilp, taking some silver from his pocket and evidently
settling down to the subject. "What is ten years to it? According to the
mint reports a coin of the precious metals loses by wear and tear but
one twenty-four hundredth of its bulk in a year. These pieces I hold in
my hand, coined forty years ago, are scarcely defaced. In another forty
they will be hardly more so. What, for instance, has been the career of
this Mexican dollar? Perhaps it was struck from bullion fresh from a
Mexican mine. In that case I have nothing to say. But just as likely it
was struck from old Spanish plate or from former coin, and then it takes
us back to the earliest times, and its origin is lost in obscurity. The
same metal is time after time re-melted, re-cast, re-stamped, and thus
maintained in perpetual youth. This gold piece upon my watch-chain was
perchance coined from the sands of the Pactolus, and once bore
Chaldaean characters. And to what uses has it come?
'Imperial Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away;'
and so the pieces paid for the ransom of the Inca of Peru or Richard the
Lion-hearted, the material of the spurs of Agincourt, the rings of
Cleopatra and Zenobia, the golden targets of Solomon, fashioned from the
treasures of Ophir, may purchase soap and candles and mutton-chops for
John Smith. And yet why not? We ourselves have come down to commonplace
usages; why should not the works of our hands? You with your
conventional hat and English walking-coat, I with my spectacles and
Irish brogue, have had ancestors that wore coats of mail in the first
crusade, or twanged cross-bows with Robin Hood, sailed in the ships of
Tarshish, and traded to Tyre and Sidon."
"You think, then," said Barwood, "that some part of the coinage of
antiquity is still in circulation."
"To be sure I do, don't I tell you? I say the precious metals are
indestructible. All the coins that have figured prominently in history
are in some shape or other among us still. Twenty-four hundred years of
active use are needed to wear out a coin completely. How long will it
last with moderate use, and with intervals of lying buried for hundreds
of years, as much of the coinage of antiquity now extant in its
original condition has done? We have among us the rings, bolts, chains
bracelets, drinking-vessels, and vases that glitter in the narratives of
all the chroniclers, and embody the pomp and luxury of all the ages.
"My silver dollar here, which I ring upon Gruyère's table, and with
which, had it not been for your amiable politeness, I should have paid
for my frugal lunch, has haply been moulded in Cellini's dagger-hilts or
crucifixes, or formed part of a pirate's booty from a scuttled galleon
on the Spanish Main. For aught I know, it was current money in Nineveh
and Babylon. Perhaps it is one of the pieces paid by Abraham to the
children of Heth for the double cave that looked towards Mamre."
"Or one of the pieces for which Judas betrayed the Master," suggested
Megilp looked startled, and involuntarily pushed the money away from
him. "That is a singular fancy of yours."
"It came to me quite spontaneously this moment," said Barwood. "I don't
know but it is, and yet it was a very natural sequence from what
Both were abstracted for some moments, and contemplated in silence the
bubbles twisting up the stems of the delicate wine-glasses.
"Do you suppose," finally said Barwood, "that those coins, if extant,
carry with them an enduring curse?"
"There's no good in them, you may depend," said the other. By this time
both bottle and plates were empty. The train of thought they had been
pursuing seemed to have found its climax in the turn given it by
Barwood. Over their coffee and dessert they discussed more cheerful
"Come around to my place before you leave town," said Megilp, as they
shook hands at parting. "I have a one-legged bronze Hercules from
Pompeii. I think ye'll enjoy it."
As he hobbled away he muttered to himself more than once, "It's the
divil's own fancy, so it is."
The business of the Bureau of Ethereal Claims at Washington was
conducted by a moderate force of clerks, under the direction of General
Bellwether. The general had been a little of everything in his time. At
the outbreak of the war he abandoned an unprofitable insurance agency to
raise a company. He displayed considerable courage and strategic talent
in his campaigning, came out a brevet brigadier, and had been making a
good thing of it ever since in the government service. The office
bristled with military titles. Everybody except Barwood and Judge
Montane was either colonel, major, or captain. As to the judge, a
middle-aged, uncommunicative man who was known to be supporting a large
family, he confessed one day over a bottle, ordered in by the bureau
during the general's absence, that his title was chiefly honorary.
"What court did you used to be judge of, Montane?" inquired young Mars
"I'll tell you, boys," replied the judge, yielding to the genial
influences of the occasion; "I'm just no judge at all, do you see,
except may be as I'd be a good judge of whiskey or the like."
It was doubtful whether the claims of some others of the number could
have been much better established.
Mars Brown, son of the senator of that name,—a man whose influence few
generals or bureaus of claims could afford to disregard,—was naturally
the most privileged character in the office. He chatted familiarly with
the general when that irregular chief was present, absented himself for
several days at a time with perfect unconcern, came late in the morning,
and went early, as he explained, to make up for it. He was a handsome
fellow, thoroughly confident of himself, and companionable. He
displayed, among other accomplishments, an acquaintance with the manners
and customs of horses and dogs, and a facility in the management of
boats, guns, and fishing tackle that made him an indisputable authority
on all matters of the sort. His stock of stories was immense, his wit
always ready and very comical. He could convulse a dinner-party when
everything else failed, by making ridiculous faces. Among ladies of all
ages he was a sort of conquering hero. He was consequently in general
social demand as the life of the company.
Such was Mars Brown, whom Barwood, shortly after his return to
Washington, began to regard with distrust and dislike, as a possible
rival in the quarter where his affections were chiefly centred.
It might have been expected, from the general's excessive preoccupation
with lobbyists and politicians, that the business of the bureau should
languish, and so it did. The brunt of it was borne by a few clerks—of
whom Barwood was not one—whose tenure of office depended upon efficient
work rather than upon influential backing. Government work must be
performed by somebody, and it happens that, in spite of the great
principle of rotation, the heads of men of undeniable usefulness rest
firm upon their shoulders while hundreds are toppling all about them.
The bureau was not without spasmodic attempts at discipline. The general
spent an occasional forenoon in lying in wait for delinquents, whose
shortcomings he made the text for some very forcible remarks. The
business of the office, he would state warmly, should be attended to, or
he would make unpleasant theological arrangements for himself if he
didn't know the reason why. With Brown he never went much further than
to request, as a personal favor, that he would try to be on hand a
little oftener and rather earlier, to which Brown always acceded quite
Admirable punctuality of attendance and of office hours was almost
always observed for a couple of days after these formalities, and then
things resumed the even tenor of their way.
Whatever might be the effect of this state of affairs upon the other
employés of the office and upon the general public, it was certainly
disastrous to the private interests of Henry Barwood. Naturally of an
unpractical, somewhat morbid disposition, he needed the stimulus of a
business life in which the necessity for action and its results when
performed were constantly apparent. If engaged in his own ventures,
taking risks and devising plans, he might have abandoned his
speculations and fancies, and become a man of affairs. As it was, he
found too much opportunity for their indulgence.
Every day from nine to three he assorted, copied, and made abstracts of
applications and reports, the objects of which were remote, their
expediency questionable, and their ultimate fate problematical. Without
interest in the work and without any particular pressure for its
performance, he dreamed over it, and often awoke from his reveries to
find his figures inaccurate and his sentences meaningless.
Morbid people are probably as incomprehensible to themselves as to
others. The world is viewed by each through the medium of his own
ill-adjusted temperament. Objects are seen in a strangely tinted light,
which is more than suspected to be delusive, yet cannot be decolorized.
Barwood's vision was affected by such a distorting influence. He
discovered subtle meanings in ordinary things or circumstances, in the
manner of a nod from an acquaintance or the tone of a remark, and
brooded over them. He continually scrutinized and questioned his own
motives and those of others.
The mind of every human being is a puzzle to every other. With what is
it occupied when left to its own devices? There is, in Barwood's
handwriting, proof that his brain was filled with a procession of
changing activities and impressions which were for the most part
melancholy,—aspirations for fame, distrust in his own powers,
forecasting of probabilities, repining for past sins and follies, rage
and epithets for imaginary meetings with enemies. In the midst of all
there were moments of perfect peace made up of reminiscences of a
high-porticoed house, the grass-grown wheel-tracks and the sandy beach
of the village on the Connecticut coast where his early home had been.
His fancies were rich and full, but slightly chaotic. So also his will
was strong and imperious at times, but vacillating.
It could not be said that he was not ambitious He would have desired
success in order to secure a kindly recognition and to obviate the jars
and harshness of life. But no one prevailing impulse had ever enlisted
his full powers. He saved money, with a general indefinite notion of
some day becoming a capitalist, and also gave much time to studies of
various sorts. He learned music among the rest, after coming of age, and
composed music of his own, using as an inspiration a favorite poem,
picture, or character. These compositions were marked by a quaintness
like that—if a comparison may be made to something tangible—, of a
Chinese vase or a broken bronze figure. His family, the Barwoods, had
been from the earliest times a race of shrewd and driving New England
storekeepers, the very antipodes of sentiment and dilettanteism. Such
incongruities are among the compensations of nature. The Holbrook farm
was the one locality, and Nina Holbrook the one figure, in the generally
sombre prospect which Barwood saw about him, that gleamed in sunshine.
By the interposition of Mars Brown these also were presently shadowed.
From entries in a carefully kept diary.
It would have been strange, with Barwood's habits of retrospection and
continual casting about for the rare and curious, if the subject matter
of his conversation with the old painter at Gruyère's had not taken some
hold upon his imagination. But to explain the rapidity with which the
notion there suggested grew, and the absorbing interest with which it
finally held him, would be difficult. The influence of the mind upon the
body is known. By persistent direction of thought one can both create
and cure a pain in any specific spot of his organism. The mind has a
similar power over itself. By intense concentration upon one subject it
may suspend and finally destroy its faculty of interest in any and all
The idea that the price of the treason of Judas is still extant and
current in these every-day, commonplace times is at first sight utterly
incongruous and incredible, perhaps a little sacrilegious. Yet it is
evidently plausible. "The precious metals are indeed indestructible, as
Megilp has said," soliloquized Barwood. "They do not oxidize. The most
violent excesses of the elements have no effect upon them. If not still
extant, where then are the treasures of the ages?
"Buried under ground or in the ocean.
"What proportion of the whole has been thus disposed of?
"In the absence of statistics a definite amount cannot be stated, but
from the nature of the case it cannot be large. This form of wealth has
been too highly esteemed, too jealously guarded, and too rigorously
sought for when lost. In the wars and convulsions of society it has
changed hands but it could not be destroyed. Alexander and Tamerlane and
Timour the Tartar and Mahomet might overrun the world, burning and
destroying, and melting its more fragile riches like frost-work. But the
money of the vanquished was useful to the victor for his own purposes.
Rome took from Alexander, the barbarians from Rome, and modern
civilization from the barbarians. The waves of time roll over and engulf
all the monuments of men, all that gold and silver buy and sell, and, as
it were, create; but these irrepressible tokens themselves float and
glitter in the foam-crests upon those very billows. It cannot, then, be
doubted that the instruments and accompaniments of most of the pomp and
luxury, the war, treasons, and varied mercenary crimes of the world, are
still acting their part in it.
"And why not with the rest the fatal money which Judas cast down before
the chief priests in his remorse, going out to destroy himself?"
These were the reflections that recurred again and again to Barwood, and
possessed him with a strange fascination. All coins acquired a new and
intense interest. He saw in each the exponent of centuries of human
passions and activities. It is true that in a country like our own a
large part of the coinage is fresh from the mine. Yet his occasional
encounters with foreign, especially Mexican and Canadian pieces, and a
consideration of the immense sums received at the great ports of entry,
were, in his regard, sufficient to leaven the whole.
Is there anywhere in literature an account of the subsequent career of
the thirty pieces?
The Capitol library, one of the most complete collections in the world,
offers unlimited facilities for research. There Barwood was to be found
some part of every day for months.
The writer has seen a list of the works consulted by him in his singular
investigation. It numbers some hundreds, and includes commentaries of
all sorts upon the Gospels, lives of the apostles, collections of
apocryphal Gospels and Scriptural traditions, the works of the early
fathers, chronicles of the Middle Ages, treatises upon Oriental life and
customs, histories of symbolism and Christian art, a great number of
works upon numismatics, and, finally, accounts of great crimes and
calamities. For Barwood took a new view of history: he looked to find
that the great treasons, briberies, betrayals of trust, murders from
mercenary motives, and perhaps financial troubles, had been set in
motion by this fatal money, made the instrument of divine vengeance.
"It has mown a swath through history," he said, "like a discharge of
He believed it would appear, if the truth were known, in the bank
accounts of Manuel Comnenus, of Egmont, Benedict Arnold, and the
His progress was by no means rapid. Much of the literature among which
he delved, musty with age, written in mediaeval Latin and in obsolete
characters, gave up its secrets with reluctance. Nevertheless he found
definite replies to the questions which he propounded to himself. A
collection of apocryphal Gospels "printed," according to the quaint
title-page, "for Richard Royston at the Angle in Amen Corner, MDCLXX,"
relates particulars about Judas, among the rest, which do not appear in
the Scriptures. He was when young, it was said, a playmate of the boy
Jesus, who delivered him from a devil by which he was even then
possessed. The chief value of this book to Barwood was in a reference it
contained to a fuller Gospel of Judas Iscariot, not now extant with the
exception of some passages quoted in the writings of Irenaeus. But these
passages were upon the very subject of which he was in search. In a
treatise of Irenaeus's, therefore, of about the second century, Barwood
found the first definite mention of the coins.
The main part of the story is that of the authorized version, but after
the account of the relinquishment of the coins by Judas, saying that he
had betrayed innocent blood, and of their use in the purchase of the
potter's field, occurs a passage translated by Barwood as follows:—
"Now the shekels were of the coinage of Simon, the high priest, which
Antiochus authorized him to issue. They bore the pot of manna and the
flowering rod of Aaron, the high priest. But he to whom they were given
knew that they were the price of blood, and was afraid. And
them with a mark in shape like a cross. And great tribulations came
upon him, and tribulation came upon all that bought and sold with the
money of Judas." Later on, Leontinus, a Byzantine writer of the sixth
century, in a treatise devoted to showing the efficacy of certain forms
and processes in imparting virtue to inanimate matter, instances as well
known the malevolence inherent in the thirty pieces of silver of Judas,
which carry ruin wherever they go. From this time the legend is traced
down through successive periods. The Middle Ages, which so delighted in
the romantic, the mysterious, the portentous, received it implicitly.
Eginhard, abbot of Seligenstadt under Charlemagne, William of
Malmesbury, the English chronicler of the twelfth century, Roger Bacon
of the thirteenth, Malespini, the Italian chronicler of the same period,
and many others of equal note mention as fully established that the
coins of Judas were in circulation, and were inflicting serious injury
upon those into whose possession they came. It was said to be
impossible to amalgamate them with any other silver. They either would
not melt or in melting remained distinct. This, however, was a disputed
point. Some of the alchemists in their writings seem disposed to
attribute the ill success of their efforts at transmutation to the
presence of some taint of these pieces in the silver upon which they
Matthew Paris, who first popularized the legend of the Wandering Jew, as
now received, strangely enough makes no mention of them.
The conclusions arrived at by Barwood were these:—
1. There was for hundreds of years a general belief in the existence and
active circulation of the thirty pieces paid to Judas.
2. They were supposed to be sent as a divine judgment, and to leave ruin
in their track.
3. The tradition gradually disappeared and cannot be traced in the
literature of modern times.
Here was a valuable pursuit for a young American treasury clerk of the
nineteenth century! It would have been interesting to have got the
general's opinion upon it, if it could have been sought in some hurried
interval of his confidential transactions with Richard Roe, claim agent
and brother-in-law, or his attention to addition and division with
Barwood did not stop here. Now that his belief was put into tangible
shape, he felt impelled onward to its realization. He examined minutely
every coin collection in Washington. Then, as he could, he made journeys
to several of the great cities. Very seldom did he find a specimen of
Jewish money of any kind. Jewish coins are rare. "It is known that the
Jews had no coinage of their own until the time of Maccabeus. Simon
Maccabeus, by virtue of a decree of Antiochus (1 Macc. xv. 6) issued a
shekel and also a half-shekel. These with the exception of some brass
coins of the Herods, Archelaus, and Agrippa, and a doubtful piece
attributed to Bar Cochba, the leader in the last rising against the
Romans, are the only coins of Judea extant."
Barwood began to be affected by a nervous dread brought on by his too
close study and constant preoccupation with this subject. As he alone
had felt this interest and prosecuted this strange inquiry, might it not
be that he was being drawn in some mysterious way within the influence
of the fatal money? Perhaps he himself was to be involved in its
relentless course. He shuddered at the thought, and yet was borne
irresistibly on, as he believed, in his pursuit. He imagined at times
that he felt a peculiar influence from the touch of certain pieces. This
he held to be a clairvoyant sense that they had figured in crimes.
Perhaps contact with a hand affected by powerful passion had imparted to
them subtle properties capable of being detected by a sensitive
In such study and speculation Barwood passed the spring and summer of
1870. Towards the middle of August occurred the well-remembered flurry
in Wall Street consequent upon the breaking out of the French and
Prussian War. Gold jumped up to one hundred and twenty-three. Money was
loaned at ruinous rates. The whole financial system was disturbed.
Silver, then withdrawn from circulation, has not reappeared to this day.
The effect of these events upon Barwood although not immediately
apparent, was highly important. With the disappearance of specie, the
daily sight and handling of which had given his conception a tangible
support, its strength declined. It was not forgotten at once, nor indeed
at all. But time drew it away by little and little. It threw mists of
distance and hues of strangeness about it, until at length Barwood
looked back upon it, far remote, as a vague object of wonderment.
Diary, June, 1870.
THE HOLBROOK FARM.
The day had been sultry. Even after sunset the atmosphere was
oppressive, and pavements and railings in the city were warm to the
touch from the steady blaze to which they had been subjected. At the
Holbrook farm, however, occasional puffs of air stirred the silver
poplars skirting the road, and waved the brown timothy grass that grew
knee-deep up to the veranda.
Porto Rico and Carter's boy turning somersaults in the grass—entirely
without the knowledge of the discreet Carter himself, it may be
assumed—suddenly relinquished this fascinating sport to rush for the
privilege of holding Barwood's horse, Porto Rico's longer legs and
general force of character gave him the preference. He jumped into the
saddle as soon as Barwood was out of it, and trotted off to the stable
with Carter's boy whooping and bobbing his woolly head in the rear.
"Never you mine," said Carter's boy, "I'll have the other gen'l'm'n."
"No other gen'l'm'n a'n't comin'," said Porto Rico. "Don't I done tole
you dey don't bofe come de same day?"
The Holbrook house, three miles from the Capitol, of the dome of which
it commands a pretty glimpse across an expanse of foliage, is one of the
old residences remaining from the days of the slave-holders. Like many
such places it has been much altered and improved. It seems to have been
originally a one and-a-half-story stone dwelling, to which some later
proprietor has added a high-peaked roof, dormer windows, and ample
piazzas. It stands half-way up a slope, near the top of which is a
grove. A brook runs down through the woods on the other side of the
road, and beyond that rises a steep little bluff crowned with scrub-oaks
The attraction that drew people to Holbrook farm was not the proprietor
himself, nor very much his maiden sister, the housekeeper, nor yet
Carter, the farmer and manager who came with them from Richmond. It was
rather the engaging manners and amiable beauty of Nina Holbrook, the
daughter of the house. The old gentleman was a partial paralytic,
whimsical, and not especially sociable. He was known to have lived in
princely style at Richmond, formerly. He was said to have met for some
years past with continual reverses, in the loss of property, in
sickness, and in the death of friends. The farm was bought with almost
the last remnants of a great fortune.
As Barwood strode down the piazza, a young lady rose from her reading to
give him her hand.
Blonde beauty is slightly indefinite. The edges are, as it were, too
much softened off into the background. The figure before Barwood was
fresh, distinct, clear-cut,—pre-Raphaelitish, to take a word from
painting. In all the details, from the ribbon in her feathery brown hair
to the pretty buttoned boot, there was the ineffable aroma of a pure,
To a man of Barwood's temperament falling in love was difficult. He
analyzed too closely. To ask the tender passion too many questions is to
repel its advances.
Nevertheless, after two years of intimate association, in which he had
discovered in Nina Holbrook a frankness and loveliness of character
commensurate with her personal graces, he had arrived at this
condition. First, He believed that her permanent influence upon his
character could cure his moodiness and his unpractical tendencies, and
enable him to exert his fullest powers. Second, By making the
supposition that anything should intervene to limit or break off their
intercourse, he found that she had become indispensable to him.
Their acquaintance had begun in some one of the ordinary ways in which
people meet. It might have been at a tea-party, or a secretary's
reception, or a boat excursion up the Potomac. They discovered that they
had mutual acquaintances to talk about. His evening rides began to be
directed through the pretty lanes that led to Holbrook. She loaned him a
book; he brought her confectionery; they played some piano duets
On her side the sentiment was different. She respected Barwood for fine
traits and was grateful for his many kindnesses to her. But certain
peculiar moods of his made her uncomfortable. His interest also was too
much occupied with books, speculations about the anomalies and problems
of life, and similar serious matters. She found it wearisome and often
difficult to follow him. She admired such things, but had not as much
head for them as he gave her credit for. Her taste was more practical,
commonplace, and cheerful. She was satisfied with people and things in
their ordinary aspects.
She got on much better with Mars Brown, exchanging comments with him
upon the affairs of her friends and his, discussing the last party and
the next wedding, or laughing at his drollery. She confessed her
stupidity and frivolity with charming frankness.
Barwood was conscious that he did not always interest her, although she
never showed anything but the most ladylike attention. He often went
away lamenting the destiny that had fashioned his nature to run in so
small and rigid a groove. His happiness, therefore, did not consist in
being with her, for then he was oppressed by a consciousness of not
entirely pleasing her. It was rather in retrospect, in his memory of her
sweet and earnest face, the tones of her voice, the shine of her hair.
He gave her such small gifts as he might within the restraints of social
propriety. It would have consisted with his notion of the fitness of
things to give her everything he had and leave himself a beggar.
Barwood rode to Holbrook to-day with a definite purpose. He was aware,
although, as Porto Rico said, both gentlemen did not come on the same
day, that Mars Brown was devoting more attention in this direction of
late than the exigencies of his boat and ball clubs, his shooting and
fishing, and the claims of the social world in town would seem to
warrant. He did not yet really fear him as a rival. His presence was
only a suggestion of possibilities. There might at some time be rivals.
He had determined to forestall possibilities, and tell her of his
affection at once.
Mars Brown was, however, a dangerous rival, although himself perhaps as
little aware of it as Barwood. He also had met Nina and been impressed
by her animated beauty. Accustomed to success, he had ridden out to
Holbrook to add one more to his list of flirtations and conquests. The
results had by no means answered his expectations. When he approached
sentiment Nina laughed at him. By degrees he had been piqued into
earnestness, and had for the first time in his life approximated to a
serious esteem and attachment.
Although Nina laughed at first, later on she sometimes blushed at his
voice or his step, or when she put her hand into his. If his customary
shrewd vision had not been disturbed by some unusual influences at work
within himself, he would have seen it.
He had the audacity that charms women, and with it a frank, open face, a
hearty laugh, an entirely healthy, cheerful disposition, and an air of
strength under all his frivolity.
It has been said that Barwood had come to the farm to-day with a
definite purpose. He drew up one of the comfortable chairs at hand, and
sat down near to Nina. They talked at first of ordinary things, the
unusual heat, the news of the day, and what each had been doing since
their last meeting.
The secluded prospect before them was very peaceful. Barwood felt its
soothing influence acting upon the perturbation of his spirit.
"I am improving my mind, you see," said Nina, holding up to him one of
Motley's histories, which she had apparently been reading. "I do not
believe even you can find fault with this."
"Am I in the habit of finding fault with anybody, Miss Nina?"
"Oh no, I don't mean that exactly, but you know so much, you know, that
you frighten one."
"Thank you," said Barwood with a grave smile, "you flatter me."
"Why were you not at the Hoyts' last Tuesday?" said she.
"I was not invited, and, strange to state, I am a little diffident about
going under such circumstances."
"Ah, you are! how singular! But I wish you had been there, if it was
only to see Betty Goodwin. You used to know her. It is such a short time
ago that she was a little girl. Now she is out of school and as
important as anybody. You should have seen the attention she had, and
her perfect self-possession. It makes me feel extremely antiquated. Am I
very much wrinkled?"
Barwood gazed with admiration at her animated face. She was to him the
personification of youth and beauty. The notion of age and wrinkles in
her regard was inconceivable.
"Why, of course," said he; "Methuselah wasn't a circumstance."
She dismissed the subject with a little pout.
"I am so glad you have come early," she resumed. "I wish the others
would imitate your example."
"The others? What others?"
"Mr. Hyson, the Hoyt boys, Mr. Brown, Fanny Davis, and the rest. You did
not suppose you were to do them alone, I hope."
"Do what alone? I don't understand."
"Why, the tableaux—Evangeline. Did you not get my message yesterday?"
"I got no message. Am I to be implicated in tableaux?"
"Why, certainly. You are to be Evangeline's father. They are for the
benefit of the French wounded. I sent Carter to tell you yesterday. We
are to arrange the preliminaries this evening."
Barwood saw that if he would not postpone his purpose no time was to be
lost. The visitors might arrive at any moment.
Literature is full of the embarrassments of the marriage proposal. To
all who are not borne along by an impetuous impulse it is a trying
ordeal. Barwood was too self-conscious ever to be transported out of
"I have something to say to you, Miss Nina," he began, "which I have
come from town expressly to say. It is of the greatest moment to me."
She continued to look straight before her at the glowing evening sky,
and so did he. The crickets and katydids had commenced their chorus and
the tree-toads their long rhythm. Fire-flies flitted in the uncertain
light. There came from the woods the call of the owl and the
"We have sometimes laughed together at sentiment," he continued, "and
voted it an invention of the story-books; but there are times—there is
a sentiment—which—in short, dear Nina, I have come to ask you to be my
little wife. I have loved you almost since our first meeting."
"Oh, Mr. Barwood," said she, looking hastily towards him, with
heightened color and a tone of regret, "you must not say so. I cannot
let you go on."
"I must go on," said he. "I have never felt so strongly upon any subject
as this. I know I am not worthy of such happiness, yet I cannot bear the
thought of losing it. Consider our long friendship. You will be mine?
Oh, say so, Nina!" In the terrible dread that his petition was already
refused, he became a little incoherent.
Nina, a tender-hearted young lady, was by this time in tears. His
evident distress, and her recognition of the great compliment he had
paid her, would have commanded almost any return save the one he asked.
But the sacrifice was too great. She had not thought it would ever be
necessary to change their relation of friendship.
"I am very sorry to have to say what is painful to you," said she, with
a sob only half repressed. "I want you to be always my friend. I shall
be very unhappy if our friendship is to be broken, but
will find some other"—
"Do not speak further," he interrupted, impetuously. "You have not yet
said no. Reserve your answer; take time to consider. Let me still hope."
"No," she began, "I ought"—but wheels and merry voices were heard at
the gate. "Oh! I cannot let them see me now," she said, and hurried
away. In a moment more the Robinsons' carriage was at the steps. When
Nina came down with a sweet, subdued manner, there was a jolly party of
ten or twelve in the drawing-room. Mars Brown was already amusing
everybody with his absurd posturing.
"I want to be Evangeline," said he, wrapping a lady's shawl about him
and sitting on the arm of a chair in a collapsed attitude. "No, on
second thought, I want to be Basil the blacksmith." He made imitations
of tremendous muscular power with a tack-hammer that happened in his way
for a sledge. Everybody on such occasions has his own notions of the
picturesque. A deal of talking was required in arranging the various
scenes. Evangeline must manifest a "celestial brightness," according to
the lines. "I don't think you do it quite right," said Julia Robinson.
"You should smile a little."
"Oh no, not at all; she should have an earnest, far off look," said
"Of course she should," said Mars Brown, rumpling his hair and
contorting his features into an expression of idiotic vacancy;
"something this way."
"We ought to have a real artist to arrange them," said Nina; "what
would I give if old Mr. Megilp were here."
"Did you know Megilp?" exclaimed Barwood.
"Why, of course I did. He was my drawing teacher at Richmond for years."
"What a small world it is, to be sure," said Barwood, giving vent to a
favorite reflection. The mention of Megilp brought back for a moment a
remembrance of their last meeting and conversation, and the strange
pursuit into which it had led him.
The signing of the marriage contract was selected by the amateurs as an
appropriate subject for illustration.
"We must have a table," said Miss Travers. "At one side sits the notary,
lifting his pen from the document which he has just signed, and at the
other her father, pushing toward the notary a roll of money in payment."
"Here you are," said George Wigwag, taking his place and assuming the
appropriate gesture; "here's your notary; bring on your old gentleman
and his money."
"A roll of old copper cents would be just the thing," said Miss Travers.
"They look antique enough."
"Will some gentleman deposit with the treasurer a roll of antique copper
cents?" said Brown, passing a hat. "No gentleman deposits a roll of
copper cents. Very well, then the wedding can't go on."
"Do you think I'll sign marriage contracts for copper?" said Wigwag.
"No indeed; I'm not that kind of a notary."
"I will bring down some of papa's curiosity coins from his cabinet,"
said Nina. "I don't believe he will scold me, just for once."
She returned in a moment with a dozen or more silver pieces, and placed
them on the table by Barwood. He began to examine them carelessly.
"I did not know your father was a numismatist," said he.
"Oh yes," said Nina, "he always had a great taste in that way. His
collection now is nothing. When we broke up in Richmond most of it was
sold off. He retained only a few of the most valuable pieces, which he
keeps in a case in his room. I don't know much about such things, for my
part. Here is one that is considered curious. It was taken out of a
wreck on the California coast, I believe, and was the last papa bought
before his failure. I think it is Russian, perhaps, or Arabic—no, let
Barwood, with an abstracted air, took it to examine. Suddenly he uttered
a strange exclamation and fell back in his chair, pale, trembling,
The coin was a Jewish shekel, with a cross cut through at one side.
He pleaded sudden illness, and rode hastily homeward in a state of
Barwood's strange and almost forgotten conception was thus at length
realized, and the interest with which it had inspired him intensely
revived. One of the fatal pieces was found. He would now fain have
overthrown the structure of probabilities which he had labored so
painfully to elaborate. He reviewed step by step all the details of his
former study; but no argument availed in the face of the extraordinary
corroboration now offered. The piece was "stamped with a mark in shape
like a cross," and the account of Irenaeus was verified.
That this fatal piece should appear in the hands of the people whom of
all others he most esteemed and with whom his own fortunes were most
intimately bound up, was a terrible shock. This, then, was the clew to
the catalogue of Holbrook's misfortunes. What surpassing crime could the
old man have committed to be so signally marked out for vengeance? But
the question of most vital interest was what could be done to save the
family so dear to him from their impending fate.
With the recovery of some calmness, he felt that his first duty was to
remove the coin from their possession. But how was it to be done? He
could not disclose his knowledge of its baleful properties. It would be
set down as the vagary of a disordered brain; nobody would entertain it
for an instant. His object must be accomplished, if at all, by artifice.
When he next rode to the farm, nearly a week had elapsed since the
evening into which so many distracting emotions had been crowded. He
exerted himself to display unusual cheerfulness, with the double object
of removing any disagreeable impression which might have been the result
of his sudden departure on that occasion, and also of finding means to
forward his purpose. The subject uppermost in the thoughts of both was
at first carefully avoided, and they talked much in their usual fashion.
"Those coins, Miss Nina, which were used the other evening in the
tableau," said he, with a careless air, "can I see them again? I found
them interesting, but owing to my sudden illness, as you know, had
scarcely time to examine them."
"My father was displeased at me for taking them," said she, "and has
forbidden me to do so again. I think he would show them to you himself
with pleasure, if he were here, but he went North yesterday on business
which will detain him a week. He took the key of his cabinet with him."
Disappointed in this, there seemed to be for the present no resource. He
recurred again to his love. If she would consent to be his, he thought,
he might disclose the danger, and they could plan together to avert it.
He told her with what anxiety he had been awaiting her decision, and
then once more made his appeal with all the ardor at his command. As he
finished, standing close beside her, he took her hand.
She did not withdraw it, but still went on to tell him with great
calmness and dignity that what he desired could never be. She hoped
their friendship might always continue, but as for a closer relation, it
would be unjust to him as well as herself to enter into it without the
affection which she could not give.
He went away apparently very much broken down, saying that his life was
a burden to him, and that he had no use for it. The next day he came
again and acted so strangely, mingling appeals to her with talk about
her father's coins, that she was a little frightened.
The few days that succeeded made a striking change in the appearance of
Barwood. He became pale and haggard, and seemed to have lost his
capacity for business and fixed attention. He sat staring helplessly at
his papers for an hour at a time. The general, who with all his
iniquities was a good-hearted chief, thought he was sick, and told him
to stay at home and take care of himself. His reflections at this time
were tormenting. He saw that he had indeed been drawn within the
influence of the fatal coin. It was at him that its malignity was
directed, and he believed that his doom was approaching, as indeed it
was. Sometimes he gazed at his altered face in the glass, while tears
streamed down his cheeks. He said aloud, in a piteous tone, "Poor Henry
The sympathy of the world is generally upon the side of the unsuccessful
lover. He is considered to have been defrauded of happiness which should
by right have been his. But is it fair? Because her face is sweet, her
manners are amiable, her form is slender and graceful, and her hair has
a golden shine, and Barwood or Brown or Travers, as the case may be, in
common with all the world, recognizes it, does that establish a claim
upon her? Just as likely as not he has a snub nose and only fifteen
hundred a year, and cannot dance the Boston. No! sympathy is well
enough, but let not the blame be cast upon Chloe every time that Daphnis
goes off in despair to the Sandwich Islands, or the war in Cuba, or
turns out a good-for-nothing sot. Let it rather be set down as one of
the ill-adjustments of which there are so many in life, and the
endurance of which is no doubt of service in some direction not yet
In about a week there came from Holbrook Farm a message which was not
needed to complete the measure of Barwood's unhappiness.
"My father," wrote Nina, "has just returned. He has decided that we are
to remove permanently to Connecticut, where my aunt has fallen heir to
the Holbrook homestead. We shall leave next Monday. Will you let us see
you before we go?"
He mounted his horse and started at once. He did not know exactly what
he should do or say. His ideas were in a state of confusion, and there
was a numbness over all his sensations. He gave himself up blindly to
He saw Nina sitting in the shade of an apple-tree, half-way down the
lawn, near a little plateau which served for a croquet ground. He tied
his horse to the fence outside, much to the disappointment of the
rollicking negro boys, and walked up. Nina held in her lap a tray of
coins which she was engaged in brightening. She assumed a sprightliness
not quite natural, and evidently designed to obviate the awkwardness of
their peculiar relation.
"We have had an accident," said she. "One of our chimneys fell through
the roof during the storm last night. It shook down the plaster upon
papa's cabinet. The glass was broken and the rain came in so that this
morning it was in a sorry condition. I am repairing damages, you see. If
I were superstitious," she continued, "I should fear that something was
going to happen. I meet with so many omens lately. I spill salt, cross
funerals, and make one of thirteen at dinner parties."
Barwood replied as best he could; he did not know exactly what. He was
in no mood for flippancy. He assumed a dozen different positions in a
short space: first sitting on a camp-chair beside her, then hurried
walking up and down, then careless prostration upon the grass. The old,
useless argument was gone through with again. She told him at last that
it annoyed her, that he was very inconsiderate. Then again he paced up
and down the little croquet ground. She saw him twisting and clutching
his hands together behind him. At the fifth or sixth turn as he came by
she had the marked shekel in her hand. He took it from her and looked at
"Yes, it is indeed," said he in an unnatural voice, "fatal money, and I
am its latest victim!"
He threw it towards the woods with great force.
It rose high in the air, skimmed the trees, and they saw it twinkle into
It was a very little incident. No magic hand arose from the water. The
beauty of the August day was not marred. The rain of the past night had
swollen the brook, which ran hurriedly on to the Potomac, making little
of this trivial addition to its burdens.
Nina did not reproach him. She felt that her father would consider the
loss irreparable, yet she had no words for this extraordinary rudeness.
After two or three turns more in his walk he stopped close beside her.
"For the last time," said he, "have I urged everything, and is it of no
She made no answer.
"You have said so?" he persisted.
"Yes, I have said so," she replied, with a touch of impatience, and
without raising her eyes. "I am engaged to Mars Brown."
He went forward several steps and stood still. Glancing up she saw him
hold a little revolver to his temple. It was one she had known him to
carry for protection when riding late in the evening. He seemed to
deliberate one terrible moment while she sat spell-bound as if by
nightmare, and then he fired and fell.
She tried to reach his body, but fainted on the way. Mars Brown, riding
to Holbrook for a half-holiday, was almost within sight.
Upon the closing scene of Hamlet, where the characters, after a period
of stormy conflict and exquisite anguish, lie strewn by violent death,
arrives young Fortinbras at the head of his marching army. Tall, sturdy,
elastic, dressed in chain-mail, victorious, careless, the impersonation
of ruddy life, the young Norway conqueror leans upon his sword above the
So this brilliant young man, elegant in figure, well dressed, joyous,
cynical, came whistling up the path. He cut off the clover tops with his
walking-stick. The butterflies, the pleasant aromas, and all the
manifestations of rural beauty pleased him.
"Egad," said he, "this isn't so bad, you know."
In a moment he stood by the apple-tree, and the whole sad spectacle was
The telegraphic column of a New York newspaper gave the story next
morning, in the conventional manner, as follows:
"Henry Barwood, a treasury clerk, was killed
yesterday at the Holbrook estate near Washington,
by the discharge of a pistol in his own hands. The
shooting is thought to have been accidental,
although he had been ill and depressed for some
days, and is said to have shown symptoms of insanity
on former occasions."
BY REBECCA HARDING DAVIS.
"There's a man, now, that has been famous in his time," said Davidge, as
we passed the mill, glancing in at the sunny gap in the side of the
I paused incredulously: Phil's lion so often turned out to be Snug the
joiner. Phil was my chum at college, and in inviting me home to spend
the vacation with him I thought he had fancied the resources of his
village larger than they proved. In the two days since we came we had
examined the old doctor's cabinet, listened superciliously to a debate
in the literary club upon the Evils of the Stage, and passed two solid
afternoons in the circle about the stove in the drug-shop, where the
squire and the Methodist parson, and even the mild, white-cravated young
rector of St. Mark's, were wont to sharpen their wits by friction. What
more was left? I was positive that I knew the mental gauge of every man
in the village.
A little earlier or later in life a gun or fishing-rod would have
satisfied me. The sleepy, sunny little market-town was shut in by the
bronzed autumn meadows, that sent their long groping fingers of grass or
parti-colored weeds drowsily up into the very streets: there were ranges
of hills and heavy stretches of oak and beech woods, too, through which
crept glittering creeks full of trout. But I was just at that age when
the soul disdains all aimless pleasures: my game was Man. I was busy in
philosophically testing, weighing, labelling human nature.
"Famous, eh?" I said, looking after the pursy figure of the miller in
his floury canvas round-about and corduroy trowsers, trotting up and
down among the bags.
"That is one of the Balacchi Brothers," Phil answered as we walked on.
"You've heard of them when you were a boy?"
I had heard of them. The great acrobats were as noted in their line of
art as Ellsler and Jenny Lind in theirs. But acrobats and danseuses had
been alike brilliant, wicked impossibilities to my youth, for I had been
reared a Covenanter of the Covenanters. In spite of the doubting
philosophies with which I had clothed myself at college, that old
Presbyterian training clung to me in everyday life close as my skin.
After that day I loitered about the mill, watching this man, whose life
had been spent in one godless theatre after another, very much as the
Florentine peasants looked after Dante when they knew he had come back
from hell. I was on the lookout for the taint, the abnormal signs, of
vice. It was about that time that I was fevered with the missionary
enthusiasm, and in Polynesia, where I meant to go (but where I never did
go), I declared to Phil daily that I should find in every cannibal the
half-effaced image of God, only waiting to be quickened into grace and
virtue. That was quite conceivable. But that a flashy, God-defying actor
could be the same man at heart as this fat, good-tempered, gossiping
miller, who jogged to the butcher's every morning for his wife, a basket
on one arm and a baby on the other, was not conceivable. He was a close
dealer at the butcher's, too, though dribbling gossip there as
everywhere; a regular attendant at St. Mark's, with his sandy-headed
flock about him, among whom he slept comfortably enough, it is true, but
with as pious dispositions as the rest of us.
I remember how I watched this man, week in and week out. It was a
trivial matter, but it irritated me unendurably to find that this
circus-rider had human blood precisely like my own it outraged my early
We talk a great deal of the rose-colored illusions in which youth wraps
the world, and the agony it suffers as they are stripped from its bare,
hard face. But the fact is, that youth (aside from its narrow-passionate
friendships) is usually apt to be acrid and watery and sour in its
judgment and creeds—it has the quality of any other unripe fruit: it is
middle age that is just and tolerant, that has found room enough in the
world for itself and all human flies to buzz out their lives
good-humoredly together. It is youth who can see a tangible devil at
work in every party or sect opposed to its own, whose enemy is always a
villain, and who finds treachery and falsehood in the friend who is
occasionally bored or indifferent: it is middle age that has discovered
the reasonable sweet juste milieu of human nature—who knows few
saints perhaps, but is apt to find its friend and grocer and shoemaker
agreeable and honest fellows. It is these vehement illusions, these
inherited bigotries and prejudices, that tear and cripple a young man as
they are taken from him one by one. He creeps out of them as a crab from
the shell that has grown too small for him, but he thinks he has left
his identity behind him.
It was such a reason as this that made me follow the miller assiduously,
and cultivate a quasi intimacy with him, in the course of which I picked
the following story from him. It was told at divers times, and with many
interruptions and questions from me. But for obvious reasons I have made
it continuous. It had its meaning to me, coarse and common though it
was—the same which Christ taught in the divine beauty of His parables.
Whether that meaning might not be found in the history of every human
life, if we had eyes to read it, is matter for question.
Balacchi Brothers? And you've heard of them, eh? Well, well! (with a
pleased nod, rubbing his hands on his knees). Yes, sir. Fifteen years
ago they were known as The Admirable Crichtons of the Ring. It was
George who got up that name: I did not see the force of it. But no name
could claim too much for us. Why, I could show you notices in the
newspapers that—I used to clip them out and stuff my pocket-book with
them as we went along, but after I quit the business I pasted them in an
old ledger, and I often now read them of nights. No doubt I lost a good
Yes, sir: I was one of Balacchi Brothers. My name
is Zack Loper. And
it was then, of course.
You think we would have plenty of adventures? Well, no—not a great
many. There's a good deal of monotony in the business. Towns seem always
pretty much alike to me. And there was such a deal of rehearsing to be
done by day and at night. I looked at nothing but the rope and George:
the audience was nothing but a packed flat surface of upturned, staring
eyes and half-open mouths. It was an odd sight, yes, when you come to
think of it. I never was one for adventures. I was mostly set upon
shaving close through the week, so that when Saturday night came I'd
have something to lay by: I had this mill in my mind, you see. I was
married, and had my wife and a baby that I'd never seen waiting for me
at home. I was brought up to milling, but the trapeze paid better. I
took to it naturally, as one might say.
But George!--he had adventures every week. And as for acquaintances!
Why, before we'd be in a town two days he'd be hail-fellow-well-met with
half the people in it. That fellow could scent a dance or a joke half a
mile off. You never see such wide-awake men nowadays. People seem to me
half dead or asleep when I think of him.
Oh, I thought you knew. My partner Balacchi. It was Balacchi on the
bill: the actors called him Signor, and people like the manager, South,
and we, who knew him well, George. I asked him his real name once or
twice, but he joked it off. "How many names must a man be saddled with?"
he said. I don't know it to this day, nor who he had been. They hinted
there was something queer about his story, but I'll go my bail it was a
clean one, whatever it was.
You never heard how "Balacchi Brothers" broke up? That was as near to an
adventure as I ever had. Come over to this bench and I'll tell it to
you. You don't dislike the dust of the mill? The sun's pleasanter on
It was early in August of '56 when George and I came to an old town on
the Ohio, half city, half village, to play an engagement. We were under
contract with South then, who provided the rest of the troupe, three or
four posture-girls, Stradi the pianist, and a Madame Somebody, who gave
readings and sang. "Concert" was the heading in large caps on the
bills, "Balacchi Brothers will give their aesthetic
in the interludes," in agate below.
"I've got to cover you fellows over with respectability here," South
said. "Rope-dancing won't go down with these aristocratic church-goers."
I remember how George was irritated. "When I was my own agent," he said,
"I only went to the cities. Educated people can appreciate what we do,
but in these country towns we rank with circus-riders."
George had some queer notions about his business. He followed it for
sheer love of it, as I did for money. I've seen all the great athletes
since, but I never saw one with his wonderful skill and strength, and
with the grace of a woman too, or a deer. Now that takes hard, steady
work, but he never flinched from it, as I did; and when night came, and
the people and lights, and I thought of nothing but to get through, I
used to think he had the pride of a thousand women in every one of his
muscles and nerves: a little applause would fill him with a mad kind of
fury of delight and triumph. South had a story that George belonged to
some old Knickerbocker family, and had run off from home years ago. I
don't know. There was that wild restless blood in him that no home could
have kept him.
We were to stay so long in this town that I found rooms for us with an
old couple named Peters, who had but lately moved in from the country,
and had half a dozen carpenters and masons boarding with them. It was
cheaper than the hotel, and George preferred that kind of people to
educated men, which made me doubt that story of his having been a
gentleman. The old woman Peters was uneasy about taking us, and spoke
out quite freely about it when we called, not knowing that George and I
were Balacchi Brothers ourselves.
"The house has been respectable so far, gentlemen," she said. "I don't
know what about taking in them half-naked, drunken play-actors. What do
you say, Susy?" to her granddaughter.
"Wait till you see them, grandmother," the girl said gently. "I should
think that men whose lives depended every night on their steady eyes and
nerves would not dare to touch liquor."
"You are quite right—nor even tobacco," said George. It was such a
prompt, sensible thing for the little girl to say that he looked at her
attentively a minute, and then went up to the old lady smiling: "We
don't look like drinking men, do we, madam?"
"No, no, sir. I did not know that you were the I-talians." She was quite
flustered and frightened, and said cordially enough how glad she was to
have us both. But it was George she shook hands with. There was
something clean and strong and inspiring about that man that made most
women friendly to him on sight.
Why, in two days you'd have thought he'd never had another home than the
Peters's. He helped the old man milk, and had tinkered up the broken
kitchen-table, and put in half a dozen window-panes, and was intimate
with all the boarders; could give the masons the prices of job-work at
the East, and put Stoll the carpenter on the idea of contract houses,
out of which he afterward made a fortune. It was nothing but jokes and
fun and shouts of laughter when he was in the house: even the old man
brightened up and told some capital stories. But from the first I
noticed that George's eye followed Susy watchfully wherever she went,
though he was as distant and respectful with her as he was with most
women. He had a curious kind of respect for women, George had. Even the
Slingsbys, that all the men in the theatre joked with, he used to pass
by as though they were logs leaning against the wall. They were the
posture-girls, and anything worse besides the name
I never saw.
There was a thing happened once on that point which I often thought
might have given me a clew to his history if I'd followed it up. We were
playing in one of the best theatres in New York (they brought us into
some opera), and the boxes were filled with fine ladies beautifully
dressed, or, I might say, half dressed.
George was in one of the wings. "It's a pretty sight," I said to him.
"It's a shameful sight," he said with an oath. "The Slingsbys do it for
their living, but these women—"
I said they were ladies, and ought to be treated with respect. I was
amazed at the heat he was in.
"I had a sister, Zack, and there's where I learned what a woman should
"I never heard of your sister, George," said I. I knew he would not have
spoken of her but for the heat he was in.
"No. I'm as dead to her, being what I am, as if I were six feet under
I turned and looked at him, and when I saw his face I said no more, and
I never spoke of it again. It was something neither I nor any other man
had any business with.
So, when I saw how he was touched by Susy and drawn toward her, it
raised her in my opinion, though I'd seen myself how pretty and sensible
a little body she was. But I was sorry, for I knew twan't no use. The
Peterses were Methodists, and Susy more strict than any of them; and I
saw she looked on the theatre as the gate of hell, and George and me
swinging over it.
I don't think, though, that George saw how strong her feeling about it
was, for after we'd been there a week or two he began to ask her to go
and see us perform, if only for once. I believe he thought the girl
would come to love him if she saw him at his best. I don't wonder at it,
sir. I've seen those pictures and statues they've made of the old gods,
and I reckon they put in them the best they thought a man could be; but
I never knew what real manhood was until I saw my partner when he stood
quiet on the stage waiting the signal to begin the light full on his
keen blue eyes, the gold-worked velvet tunic, and his perfect figure.
He looked more like other men in his ordinary clothing. George liked a
bit of flash, too, in his dress—a red necktie or gold chain stretched
over his waistcoat.
Susy refused at first, steadily. At last, however, came our final night,
when George was to produce his great leaping feat, never yet performed
in public. We had been practising it for months, and South judged it
best to try it first before a small, quiet audience, for the risk was
horrible. Whether, because it was to be the last night, and her kind
heart disliked to hurt him by refusal, or whether she loved him better
than either she or he knew, I could not tell, but I saw she was strongly
tempted to go. She was an innocent little thing, and not used to hide
what she felt. Her eyes were red that morning, as though she had been
crying all the night. Perhaps, because I was a married man, and quieter
than George, she acted more freely with me than him.
"I wish I knew what to do," she said, looking up to me with her eyes
full of tears. There was nobody in the room but her grandmother.
"I couldn't advise you, Miss Susy," says I. "Your church discipline goes
against our trade, I know."
"I know what's right myself: I don't need church discipline to teach
me," she said sharply.
"I think I'd go, Susy," said her grandmother. "It is a concert, after
all: it's not a play."
"The name doesn't alter it."
Seeing the temper she was in, I thought it best to say no more, but the
old lady added, "It's Mr. George's last night. Dear, dear! how I'll miss
Susy turned quickly to the window. "Why does he follow such godless ways
then?" she cried. She stood still a good while, and when she turned
about her pale little face made my heart ache. "I'll take home Mrs.
Tyson's dress now, grandmother," she said, and went out of the room. I
forgot to tell you Susy was a seamstress. Well, the bundle was large,
and I offered to carry it for her, as the time for rehearsal did not
come till noon. She crept alongside of me without a word, looking weak
and done-out: she was always so busy and bright, it was the more
noticeable. The house where the dress was to go was one of the largest
in the town. The servant showed us into a back parlor, and took the
dress up to her mistress. I looked around me a great deal, for I'd never
been in such a house before; but very soon I caught sight of a lady who
made me forget carpets and pictures. I only saw her in the mirror, for
she was standing by the fireplace in the front room. The door was open
between. It wasn't that she was especially pretty, but in her white
morning-dress, with lace about her throat and her fair hair drawn back
from her face, I thought she was the delicatest, softest, finest thing
of man- or woman-kind I ever say.
"Look there, Susy! look there!" I whispered.
"It is a Mrs. Lloyd from New York. She is here on a visit. That is her
husband;" and then she went down into her own gloomy thoughts again.
The husband was a grave, middle-aged man. He had had his paper up before
his face, so that I had not seen him before.
"You will go for the tickets, then, Edward?" she said.
"If you make a point of it, yes," in an annoyed tone. "But I don't know
why you make a point of it. The musical part of the performance is
beneath contempt, I understand, and the real attraction is the
exhibition of these mountebanks of trapezists, which will be simply
disgusting to you. You would not encourage such people at home: why
would you do it here?"
"They are not necessarily wicked." I noticed there was a curious
unsteadiness in her voice, as though she was hurt and agitated. I
thought perhaps she knew I was there.
"There is very little hope of any redeeming qualities in men who make a
trade of twisting their bodies like apes," he said. "Contortionists and
ballet-dancers and clowns and harlequins—" he rattled all the names
over with a good deal of uncalled-for sharpness, I thought, calling them
"dissolute and degraded, the very offal of humanity." I could not
understand his heat until he added, "I never could comprehend your
interest and sympathy for that especial class, Ellinor."
"No, you could not, Edward," she said quietly.
"But I have it. I never have seen an exhibition of the kind. But I want
to see this to-night, if you will gratify me. I have no reason." she
added when he looked at her curiously. "The desire is unaccountable to
The straightforward look of her blue eyes as she met his seemed
strangely familiar and friendly to me.
At that moment Susy stood up to go. Her cheeks were burning and her eyes
sparkling. "Dissolute and degraded!" she said again and again when we
were outside. But I took no notice.
As we reached the house she stopped me when I turned off to go to
rehearsal. "You'll get seats for grandmother and me, Mr. Balacchi?" she
"You're going, then, Susy?"
"Yes, I'm going."
Now the house in which we performed was a queer structure. A stock
company, thinking there was a field for a theatre in the town, had taken
a four-story building, gutted the interior, and fitted it up with tiers
of seats and scenery. The stock company was starved out, however, and
left the town, and the theatre was used as a gymnasium, a concert-room,
or a church by turns. Its peculiarity was, that it was both exceedingly
lofty and narrow, which suited our purpose exactly.
It was packed that night from dome to pit. George and I had rehearsed
our new act both morning and afternoon, South watching us without
intermission. South was terribly nervous and anxious, half disposed, at
the last minute, to forbid it, although it had been announced on the
bills for a week. But a feat which is successful in an empty house, with
but one spectator, when your nerves are quiet and blood cool, is a
different thing before an excited, terrified, noisy audience, your whole
body at fever heat. However, George was cool as a cucumber, indeed
almost indifferent about the act, but in a mad, boyish glee all day
about everything else. I suppose the reason was that Susy was going.
South had lighted the house brilliantly and brought in a band. And all
classes of people poured into the theatre until it could hold no more. I
saw Mrs. Peters in one of the side-seats, with Susy's blushing,
frightened little face beside her. George, standing back among the
scenes, saw her too: I think, indeed, it was all he did see.
There were the usual readings from Shakespeare at first.
While Madame was on, South came to us. "Boys," said he, "let this matter
go over a few weeks. A little more practice will do you no harm. You can
substitute some other trick, and these people will be none the wiser."
George shrugged his shoulders impatiently: "Nonsense! When did you grow
so chicken-hearted, South? It is I who have to run the risk, I fancy."
I suppose South's uneasiness had infected me.
"I am quite willing to put it off," I said. I had felt gloomy and
superstitious all day. But I never ventured to oppose George more
decidedly than that.
He only laughed by way of reply, and went off to dress. South looked
after him, I remember, saying what a magnificently-built fellow he was.
If we could only have seen the end of that night's work!
As I went to my dressing-room I saw Mrs. Lloyd and her husband in one of
the stage-boxes, with one or two other ladies and gentlemen. She was
plainly and darkly dressed, but to my mind she looked like a princess
among them all. I could not but wonder what interest she could have in
such a rough set as we, although her husband, I confess, did judge us
After the readings came the concert part of the performance, and then
what South chose to call the Moving Tableaux, which was really nothing
in the world but ballet-dancing. George and I were left to crown the
whole. I had some ordinary trapeze-work to do at first, but George
was reserved for the new feat, in order that his nerves might be
perfectly unshaken. When I went out alone and bowed to the audience, I
observed that Mrs. Lloyd was leaning eagerly forward, but at the first
glance at my face she sank back with a look of relief, and turned away,
that she might not see my exploits. It nettled me a little, I think, yet
they were worth watching.
Well, I finished, and then there was a song to give me time to cool. I
went to the side-scenes where I could be alone, for that five minutes. I
had no risk to run in the grand feat, you see, but I had George's life
in my hands. I haven't told you yet—have I?—what it was he proposed to
A rope was suspended from the centre of the dome, the lower end of which
I held, standing in the highest gallery opposite the stage. Above the
stage hung the trapeze on which George and the two posture-girls were to
be. At a certain signal I was to let the rope go, and George, springing
from the trapeze across the full width of the dome, was to catch it in
mid-air, a hundred feet above the heads of the people. You understand?
The mistake of an instant of time on either his part or mine, and death
was almost certain. The plan we had thought surest was for South to give
the word, and then that both should count—One, Two, Three! At Three the
rope fell, and he leaped. We had practised so often that we thought we
counted as one man.
When the song was over the men hung the rope and the trapeze. Jenny and
Lou Slingsby swung themselves up to it, turned a few somersaults and
then were quiet. They were only meant to give effect to the scene in
their gauzy dresses and spangles. Then South came forward and told the
audience what we meant to do. It was a feat, he said, which had never
been produced before in any theatre, and in which failure was death. No
one but that most daring of all acrobats, Balacchi, would attempt it.
Now I knew South so well that I saw under all his confident, bragging
tone he was more anxious and doubtful than he had ever been. He
hesitated a moment, and then requested that after we took our places the
audience should preserve absolute silence, and refrain from even the
slightest movement until the feat was over. The merest trifle might
distract the attention of the performers and render their eyes and hold
unsteady, he said. He left the stage, and the music began.
I went round to take my place in the gallery. George had not yet left
his room. As I passed I tapped at the door and called, "Good luck, old
"That's certain now, Zack," he answered, with a joyous laugh. He was so
exultant, you see, that Susy had come.
But the shadow of death seemed to have crept over me. When I took my
stand in the lofty gallery, and looked down at the brilliant lights and
the great mass of people, who followed my every motion as one man, and
the two glittering, half-naked girls swinging in the distance, and heard
the music rolling up thunders of sound, it was all ghastly and horrible
to me, sir. Some men have such presentiments, they say: I never had
before or since. South remained on the stage perfectly motionless, in
order, I think, to maintain his control over the audience.
The trumpets sounded a call, and in the middle of a burst of triumphant
music George came on the stage. There was a deafening outbreak of
applause and then a dead silence, but I think every man and woman felt a
thrill of admiration of the noble figure Poor George! the new,
tight-fitting dress of purple velvet that he had bought for this night
set off his white skin, and his fine head was bare, with no covering but
the short curls that Susy liked.
It was for Susy! He gave one quick glance up at her, and a bright,
boyish smile, as if telling her not to be afraid, which all the audience
understood, and answered by an involuntary, long-drawn breath. I looked
at Susy. The girl's colorless face was turned to George, and her hands
were clasped as though she saw him already dead before her; but she
could be trusted, I saw. She would utter no sound. I had only time to
glance at her, and then turned to my work. George and I dared not take
our eyes from each other.
There was a single bugle note, and then George swung himself up to the
trapeze. The silence was like death as he steadied himself and slowly
turned so as to front me. As he turned he faced the stage-box for the
first time. He had reached the level of the posture-girls, who fluttered
on either side, and stood on the swaying rod poised on one foot, his
arms folded, when in the breathless stillness there came a sudden cry
and the words, "Oh, Charley! Charley!"
Even at the distance where I stood I saw George start and a shiver pass
over his body. He looked wildly about him.
"To me! to me!" I shouted.
He fixed his eye on mine and steadied himself. There was a terrible
silent excitement in the people, in the very air.
There was the mistake. We should have stopped then, shaken as he was,
but South, bewildered and terrified, lost control of himself: he gave
I held the rope loose—held George with my eyes—One!
I saw his lips move: he was counting with me.
His eye wandered, turned to the stage-box.
Like a flash, I saw the white upturned faces below me, the
posture-girls' gestures of horror, the dark springing figure through the
air, that wavered—and fell a shapeless mass on the floor.
There was a moment of deathlike silence, and then a wild outcry—women
fainting, men cursing and crying out in that senseless, helpless way
they have when there is sudden danger. By the time I had reached the
floor they had straightened out his shattered limbs, and two or three
doctors were fighting their way through the great crowd that was surging
Well, sir, at that minute what did I hear but George's voice above all
the rest, choked and hollow as it was, like a man calling out of the
grave: "The women! Good God! don't you see the women?" he gasped.
Looking up then, I saw those miserable Slingsbys hanging on to the
trapeze for life. What with the scare and shock, they'd lost what little
sense they had, and there they hung helpless as limp rags high over our
"Damn the Slingsbys!" said I. God forgive me! But I saw this battered
wreck at my feet that had been George. Nobody seemed to have any mind
left. Even South stared stupidly up at them and then back at George. The
doctors were making ready to lift him, and half of the crowd were gaping
in horror, and the rest yelling for ladders or ropes, and scrambling
over each other, and there hung the poor flimsy wretches, their eyes
starting out of their heads from horror, and their lean fingers loosing
their hold every minute. But, sir—I couldn't help it—I turned from
them to watch George as the doctors lifted him.
"It's hardly worth while," whispered one.
But they raised him and, sir—the body went one way and the legs
I thought he was dead. I couldn't see that he breathed, when he opened
his eyes and looked up for the Slingsbys. "Put me down," he said, and
the doctors obeyed him. There was that in his voice that they had to
obey him, though it wasn't but a whisper.
"Ladders are of no use," he said. "Loper!"
"You can swing yourself up. Do it."
I went. I remember the queer stunned feeling I had: my joints moved like
When I had reached the trapeze, he said, as cool as if he were calling
the figures for a Virginia reel, "Support them, you—Loper. Now, lower
the trapeze, men—carefully!"
It was the only way their lives could be saved, and he was the only man
to see it. He watched us until the girls touched the floor more dead
than alive, and then his head fell back and the life seemed to go
suddenly out of him like the flame out of a candle, leaving only the
As they were carrying him out I noticed for the first time that a woman
was holding his hand. It was that frail little wisp of a Susy, that used
to blush and tremble if you spoke to her suddenly, and here she was
quite quiet and steady in the midst of this great crowd.
"His sister, I suppose" one of the doctors said to her.
"No, sir. If he lives I will be his wife." The old gentleman was very
respectful to her after that, I noticed.
Now, the rest of my story is very muddled, you'll say, and confused. But
the truth is, I don't understand it myself. I ran on ahead to Mrs.
Peters's to prepare his bed for him, but they did not bring him to
Peters's. After I waited an hour or two I found George had been taken to
the principal hotel in the place, and a bedroom and every comfort that
money could buy were there for him. Susy came home sobbing late in the
night, but she told me nothing, except that those who had a right to
have charge of him had taken him. I found afterward the poor girl was
driven from the door of his room, where she was waiting like a faithful
dog. I went myself, but I fared no better. What with surgeons and
professional nurses, and the gentlemen that crowded about with their
solemn looks of authority, I dared not ask to see him. Yet I believe
still George would rather have had old Loper by him in his extremity
than any of them. Once, when the door was opened, I thought I saw Mrs.
Lloyd stooping over the bed between the lace curtains, and just then her
husband came out talking to one of the surgeons.
He said: "It is certain there were here the finest elements of manhood.
And I will do my part to rescue him from the abyss into which he has
"Will you tell me how George is, sir?" I asked, pushing up. "Balacchi?
Mr. Lloyd turned away directly, but the surgeon told me civilly enough
that if George's life could be saved, it must be with the loss of one or
perhaps both of his legs.
"He'll never mount a trapeze again, then," I said, and I suppose I
groaned; for to think of George helpless—
"God forbid!" cried Mr. Lloyd, sharply. "Now look here, my good man: you
can be of no possible use to Mr.—Balacchi as you call him. He is in the
hands of his own people, and he will feel, as they do, that the kindest
thing you can do is to let him alone."
There was nothing to be done after that but to touch my hat and go out,
but as I went I heard him talking of "inexplicable madness and years of
Well, sir, I never went again: the words hurt like the cut of a whip,
though 'twan't George that spoke them. But I quit business, and hung
around the town till I heard he was going to live, and I broke up my
contract with South. I never went on a trapeze again. I felt as if the
infernal thing was always dripping with his blood after that day.
Anyhow, all the heart went out of the business for me with George. So I
came back here and settled down to the milling, and by degrees I learned
to think of George as a rich and fortunate man.
I've nearly done now—only a word or two more. About six years afterward
there was a circus came to town, and I took the wife and children and
went. I always did when I had the chance. It was the old Adam in me yet,
Well, sir, among the attractions of the circus was the great and
unrivalled Hercules, who could play with cannon-balls as other men would
with dice. I don't know what made me restless and excited when I read
about this man. It seemed as though the old spirit was coming back to me
again. I could hardly keep still when the time drew near for him to
appear. I don't know what I expected, but when he came out from behind
the curtain I shouted out like a madman, "Balacchi! George! George!"
He stopped short, looked about, and catching sight of me tossed up his
cap with his old boyish shout; then he remembered himself and went on
with his performance.
He was lame—yes, in one leg. The other was gone altogether. He walked
on crutches. Whether the strength had gone into his chest and arms, I
don't know; but there he stood tossing about the cannon-balls as I might
marbles. So full of hearty good-humor too, joking with his audience, and
so delighted when they gave him a round of applause.
After the performance I hurried around the tent, and you may be sure
there was rejoicing that made the manager and other fellows laugh.
George haled me off with him down the street. He cleared the ground with
that crutch and wooden leg like a steam-engine. "Come! come along!" he
cried; "I've something to show you, Loper."
He took me to a quiet boarding-house, and there, in a cosey room, was
Susy with a four-year-old girl.
"We were married as soon as I could hobble about," he said, "and she
goes with me and makes a home wherever I am."
Susy nodded and blushed and laughed. "Baby and I," she said. "Do you see
Baby? She has her father's eyes, do you see?"
"She is her mother, Loper," said George—"just as innocent and pure
and foolish—just as sure of the Father in heaven taking care of her.
They've made a different man of me in some ways—a different man,"
bending his head reverently.
After a while I began, "You did not stay with—?" But Balacchi
frowned. "I knew where I belonged," he said.
Well, he's young yet. He's the best Hercules in the profession, and has
laid up a snug sum. Why doesn't he invest it and retire? I doubt if
he'll ever do that, sir. He may do it, but I doubt it. He can't change
his blood, and there's that in Balacchi that makes me suspect he will
die with the velvet and gilt on, and in the height of good-humor and fun
with his audience.
AN OPERATION IN MONEY.
BY ALBERT WEBSTER.
In an elegant and lofty bank-parlor there sat in council, on an autumn
morning, fourteen millionaires. They reposed in deep arm-chairs, and
their venerable faces were filled with profound gravity. Before them,
upon a broad mahogany table, were piles of books, sheaves of paper in
rubber bands, bundles of quill pens, quires of waste paper for
calculations, and a number of huge red-covered folios, containing the
tell-tale reports of the mercantile agencies. They had just completed
the selections from the list of applicants for discount, and were now in
that state of lethargy that commonly follows a great and important act.
The president, with his hands pressed together before him, was looking
at the fresco of Commerce upon the ceiling; his ponderous right-hand
neighbor was stumbling feebly over an addition that one of the
bookkeepers had made upon one of the papers—he hoped to find it wrong;
his left-hand neighbor was doubling his under-lip with his stout
fingers; an octogenarian beyond had buried his chin in his immense neck,
and was going to sleep; another was stupidly blinking at the nearest
coal-fire; two more were exchanging gasping whispers; another was wiping
his gold spectacles with a white handkerchief, now and then stopping to
hold them unsteadily up to the light; and another was fingering the
polished lapel of his old black coat, and saying, with asthmatic
hoarseness to all who would look at him, "F-o-u-r-teen years!
A tall regulator-clock, with its mercury pendulum, ticked upon the wall;
the noise of the heavy rumbling in the streets was softened into a low
monotone, and now and then a bit of coal rattled upon the fender.
The oil-portraits of four former presidents looked thoughtfully down on
the scene of their former labors; the polished wainscots reflected
ragged pictures of the silent fourteen, and all was perfectly in order
and perfectly secure.
Presently, however, there was an end to the stagnation; the white heads
began to move and to look around.
The president's eyes came gradually down from the Commerce, and, after
travelling over the countenances of his stirring confrères, they
settled by accident upon the table before him. There they encountered a
white envelope, inscribed "to the President and Honorable Board of
"Oh gentlemen! gentlemen!" cried the president, seizing the letter, "one
moment more, I beg of you. Here's a—a—note—a communication—a—I
don't know what it is myself, I'm sure, but"—the thirteen sank back
again, feeling somewhat touched that they should be so restrained. The
president ran his eye over the missive. He smiled as one does sometimes
at the precocity of an infant. "The letter, gentlemen," said he,
slipping the paper through his fingers, "is from the paying teller. It
is a request for"—here the president delayed as if about making a
humorous point—"for a larger salary." Then he dropped his eyes and
lowered his head, as he might have done had he confessed that somebody
had kissed him. He seemed to be the innocent mouthpiece of a piece of
There was a moment's silence. Then a heavy-voiced gentleman took up a
pen and said:
"Is this man's name Dreyfus—or—or what is it?"
"Let me think," returned the president, returning once more to the
Commerce; "Dreyfus?—no—not Dreyfus—yes—no. Paying teller—hum—it's
curious I can't recall—it commences with an F—FIELDS—yes, Fields!
that's his name—Fields, to be sure!"
The questioner at once wrote down the word on the paper.
"This is the second time that he has applied for this favor, is it not?"
formally inquired another of the thirteen, in the tone that a judge uses
when he asks the clerk, "Has he not been before me on a former
"Yes," replied the president, "this is a renewal of an effort made six
There was a general movement. Several chairs rolled back, and their
occupants exchanged querulous glances.
"Suppose we hear the letter read," suggested a fair soul. "Perhaps"—a
septuagenarian, with snowy hair and a thin body, clad in the clerical
guise of the old school, and who had made a fortune by inventing a
hat-block, arose hastily to his feet, and said:
"I cannot stay to listen to a dun!"
A chorus from the majority echoed the exclamation. All but four
staggered to their feet, and tottered off in various directions; some to
pretend to look out at the window, and some to the wardrobes, where was
deposited their outer clothing.
"Clarks," stammered the feeble hatter, feeling vainly for the arm-holes
in his great-coat—"clarks presume on their value. Turn 'em out, say I.
Give 'em a chance to rotate. You've got my opinion, Mr. President.
Refuse what's-his-name, Fields. Tell him he's happy and well off now,
without knowing it. Where can be the sleeves to—to this"--his
voice expired in his perplexity.
Fields's cause looked blue. One director after another groped to the
door, saying, as he went, "I can't encourage it, Mr. President—tell him
'No,' Mr. President—it would only make the rest uneasy if we allowed
it—plenty more to fill his place."
The hatter's voice stopped further mention of the subject. He stood at
one end of the apartment in a paroxysm of laughter. Tears filled his
eyes. He pointed to another director, who, at the other extremity of the
room, was also puzzling over a coat. "There's Stuart with my mackintosh!
He's trying to put it on—and here am I with
his coat trying to put
that on. I—I said to myself, 'This is pretty large for a slim man
like you.'—Great God, Stuart, if I hadn't been quick-sighted we might
have stayed here all night!" He immediately fell into another fit of
laughter, and so did his friend. They exchanged coats with great
hilarity, and those who had gone out of the door lumbered back to learn
the cause of it. The story went round from one to the other, "Why,
Stuart had Jacobs's coat, and Jacobs had Stuart's coat!" Everybody went
into convulsions, and the president drew out his pocket-handkerchief and
shrieked into it.
The board broke up with great good feeling, and Jacobs went away very
weak, saying that he was going to tell the joke against Stuart on the
street—if he lived to get there.
Three gentlemen remained, professedly to hear Fields's letter read. Two
staid because the room was comfortable, and the other because he wanted
to have a little private conversation with the president afterward.
Therefore the president wiped away the tears that Stuart's humor had
forced from his eyes, and opened the crumpled letter, and, turning his
back to the light, read it aloud, while the rest listened with looks of
great amusement in their wrinkled faces.
"To the President and Directors of the---- National Bank.
"GENTLEMEN: I most respectfully renew my application for an increase
of my salary to five thousand dollars per annum, it now being four
thousand. I am impelled to do this because I am convinced that I am
not sufficiently recompensed for the labor I perform; and because
other tellers, having the same responsibilities, receive the larger
sum per annum; and, lastly, because I am about to be married.
"I remember that your answer to my first application was a definite
refusal, and I blamed myself for not having presented the case more
clearly to your distinguished notice. Will you permit me to rectify
that fault now, and to state briefly why I feel assured that my
present claim is not an unreasonable one?
"1. While ten years ago we agreed that three thousand dollars was a
fair compensation for the work I was then called upon to perform,
and four years later agreed that four thousand dollars was then fair
pay for my increased tasks, caused by the increase of your business,
is it not just that I should now ask for a still further advance in
view of the fact that your business has doubled since the date of
our last contract?
"It has been necessary for me to acquaint myself with the signatures
and business customs and qualifications of twice the former number
of your customers, and my liability to error has also become greater
in like ratio. But I have committed no errors, which argues that I
have kept up an equal strain of care. This has made demands upon my
brain and my bodily strength, which I think should be requited for.
"2. I, like each of you, will one day reach an age when the body and
mind will no longer be able to provide for themselves. But between
us, should we continue our present relations, there would be this
vital difference: You would have made an accumulation of wealth that
would be sufficient for your wants, while I would be poor in spite
of the fact that I labored with you, and next to yourselves did the
most to protect your interests. In view of my approaching
incompetence (no matter how far off it is), I am working at a
disadvantage. Would it not be right to enable me to protect myself
from this disadvantage?
"3. While you pay me a price for my labor and for my skill as an
expert, do you compensate me for the trials you put upon my
probity? You pay me for what I do, but do you reward me for what I
might, but do
not do? Is what I do
not do a marketable
quantity? I think that it is. To prove it, inquire of those whose
servants have behaved ill, whether they would not have paid
something to have forestalled their dishonesty.
"There is a bad strain to this paragraph, and I will not dwell upon
it. I only ask you to remember that enormous sums of money pass
through my hands every day, and that the smallest slip of my memory,
or of my care, or of my fidelity, might cause you irreparable loss.
Familiarity with money and operations in money always tend to lessen
the respect for the regard that others hold it in. To resist the
subtle influences of this familiarity involves a certain wear and
tear of those principles which
must be kept intact for your sake.
"I beg you to accept what is my evident meaning, even if my method
of setting it forth has not been particularly happy. I have assured
myself that my claim is a valid one, and I await your obliging reply
"I remain, very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,
At the end the president suddenly lowered his head with a smile, and
looked over the top of his glasses at his audience, clearly meaning,
"There's a letter for you!"
But two of the gentlemen were fast asleep, nodding gently at one another
across the table, while their hands clasped the arms of their chairs.
The other one was looking up toward the roofs of the buildings opposite,
absorbed in speculation.
The president said, aloud:
"I think, as long as Fields has made such a touse about it, that I'd
better draft a reply, and not give him a verbal an—"
"Draft!" said the speculator, brought to life by the word. "Draft did
you say, sir? What?—On whom?—"
"I said 'draft a reply' to—to this," returned the other, waving the
"Oh, a reply! Draft one. Draft a reply—a reply to the letter about the
salary. Oh, certainly, by all means."
"And read it to the directors at the meeting next Friday," suggested the
The speculator's eyes turned vacantly upon him, and it was full half a
minute before he comprehended. "Yes, yes, of course, read it to the
directors next Friday. They'll approve it, you know. That will be
regular, and according to rule. But about Steinmeyer, you know. When a
man like Steinmeyer does such a thing as—but just come to the window a
He led the president off by the arm, and that was the last of Fields's
letter for that day.
Fields was truly on the anxious-seat.
As he had said in his letter, he was engaged to be married, and he
wanted to be about the consummation of the contract, for he had already
delayed too long. His affiancée was a sweet girl who lived with her
widowed mother in the country, where they had a fine house, and a fine
demesne attached to it. When the time for the marriage was finally
settled upon, the lady instantly set about remodelling her domicile and
its surroundings, and making it fit for the new spirits that were soon
to inhabit it. She drew upon her accumulation of money that had thriven
long in a private bank, and expended it in laying out new lawns,
planting new trees, building new stables, erecting tasteful graperies
and kiosks. This sum was not very large, and it included not only what
had been saved out of the earnings of the farm, but also what had been
saved out of the income from the widow's property, which consisted of
twelve thousand dollars in insurance stock.
Fields had thus far expended nearly all of his salary of four thousand
dollars. He was accustomed to use a quarter of it for his own purposes,
and the rest he applied to the comfort of his aged parents, whom he
maintained. Thus it will be seen that Fields's desire to add to his own
wealth had reason to be.
Just at this time there stepped in the Chicago fire. On the second day
Fields began to be frightened about the twelve thousand dollars in
insurance stock. Telegrams poured into the city by hundreds, and the
tale grew more dismal with each hour.
His fears were realized. The widow's money was swept away, and a sort of
paralysis fell upon the country-house and all its surroundings. The
carpenters went away from the kiosks, the masons from the face-walls,
the smiths from the graperies, the gardeners from the lawns, and
everything came to a stand-still. The extra farm-hands were discharged,
and much of the work was left unfinished.
What was to be done?
The mother and daughter wept in secret. Their careers had been
interrupted. Desolation was out-of-doors, and desolation was in their
hearts. The earth lay in ragged heaps; beams and timbers leaned half
erect; barns were party-colored with the old paint and the new, and the
shrubbery was bare to the frosts. Joys which had smiled had fled into
the far distance, and now looked surly enough; all pleasures were
unhorsed, and hope was down.
It was under these circumstances that Fields wrote a second time to the
honorable board of directors to ask them to pay him better wages.
Friday came. There was a meeting, and Fields knew that his case must now
be receiving consideration.
At eleven o'clock the directors emerged from their parlor, and passed
by his desk in twos and threes, chatting and telling watery jokes, as
most great men do.
"They look as if they had entirely forgotten me," said Fields to
Pretty soon the cashier came and placed a letter upon his counter.
"Ah!" thought the teller, "I was mistaken. I wonder if I can read it
here without changing countenance?"
He could but try it. He tore off the envelope. It went thus:
"Mr.----Fields, Paying Teller.
"DEAR SIR: The president and directors, to whom you addressed a
request for an increase of salary, must beg to criticise the
arguments advanced in your polite note.
"They do not understand why you should place a new value upon your
honesty because in other people there happens to be sometimes such a
thing as dishonesty. It is a popular notion that honesty among men
is rare, but the idea is a mistaken one. Honesty of the purest kind,
as honesty is usually understood, is very common. They cannot help
feeling, also, that you somewhat overestimate the value of your
work, which to them seems to be only a higher sort of routine,
calling for no intellectual endeavor, and requiring but little more
than an ordinary bookkeeper's care for its perfect performance. But
for the differences that
do exist between your tasks and those of
the bookkeeper you will remember you are already compensated by a
salary a fourth larger.
"Briefly, they consider their bank a piece of money-making
mechanism, of which you are an able and respected part; but they
cannot understand how you could hope to raise their fear of
peculations and villainies when their system of checks and
counter-checks is so perfect. They have never lost a dollar by the
immorality of any of their employés, and they are sure that matters
are so arranged that any such immorality, even of the rankest kind,
could occasion them no inconvenience.
"Nor do they comprehend why your idea that increase of business
justifies a request for an increase of salary may not be met with
the suggestion that your hours of labor are the same as your former
hours, and that all you were able to perform in those hours, to the
best of your capacity, was purchased at the beginning of your
connection with them.
"In regard to the pure question of the sufficiency of your salary,
they hint in the kindest manner that all expenditures are
contractible as well as extensible.
"They hasten to take this opportunity to express to you their
appreciation of your perfect exhibits; and, complimenting you upon
the care with which you have fulfilled the duties of your post, they
remain your obedient servants."
The teller felt that a more maddening letter could not have been
written. Its civility seemed to him to be disagreeable suavity; its
failure to particularize the points he made to be a disgraceful evasion;
and the liberty it took in generalizing his case to be an enormous
The very first sentence on honesty put him in the light of a
blackmailer—one that threatened mischief if his demands were not
complied with. The next sentence went to show that he was an egotist,
because he thought his labors required wear and tear of brain. The third
called him a sound cog-wheel. The latter part of the same said that a
villain could do no evil if he wished to, for they (the directors) had
protected themselves against villains. Then it went on to say that the
writers did not understand how anxiety and caution could be involved in
the pursuit of his duties; and then it was thrown out that his marriage
was his seeking—not theirs. Finally, they patted him on the head.
Fields passed a sleepless night. He felt that he had been belittled to
the extremest point, and that there was not a foothold left for his
dignity. His soul was incised and chafed, and he lay awake thinking that
degradation of himself and his office could have proceeded no further.
Toward morning he hit upon a plan to establish himself in what he
believed to be the proper light. "It will require nerve," reflected he,
doubtingly, "and not only nerve in itself, but a certain exact quantity
of it. Too much nerve would destroy me, and too little nerve would do
the same thing. I think, however, that I can manage it. I feel able to
do anything. Even a paying teller will turn if—" etc., etc.
On the following Monday there was a special meeting of the directors for
the purpose of examining the books and accounts of the bank. The
bank-controller was expected to call for an exhibit within the coming
week, and it was desirable that the directors should feel assured that
their institution was in the proper order. The call of the controller
was always impending. It might come any day, and it would require an
exhibit of the condition of the bank on any previous day. He was
permitted to make five of these calls during the year, and, inasmuch as
he was at liberty to choose his own days, his check upon the banks was
complete. If he found a bank that had not fulfilled the requirements of
law, he was obliged to take away its charter, and to close it: hence the
examination-meeting in the present case. The accounts of the tellers
were passed upon, the cashier's books were looked over, as were also
those of the regular bookkeepers. There seemed to be no errors, and the
contents of the safes were proved. There was perfect order in all the
departments. The clerks were complimented. "Now," said Fields to
himself, "is my opportunity."
On the next day at ten o'clock the directors again assembled—this time
for their regular labors—to examine the proposals for discount.
The day happened to be cold and stormy. The twenty clerks were busily
and silently at work behind their counters and gratings, and the
fourteen directors were shut tight in their mahogany room. There was but
little passing to and fro from the street, though now and then a
half-frozen messenger came stamping in, and did his errand, with
benumbed fingers, through the little windows. The tempest made business
At eleven o'clock Fields wrote a note and sent it to the directors'
room. The boy who carried it knocked softly, and the president appeared,
took the letter, and then closed the door again.
Then there was a moment of almost total silence; the clerks wrote, the
leaves rattled, and it seemed as if it were an instant before an
Presently an explosion came. The clerks heard with astonishment a tumult
in the directors' room—exclamations, hurried questions, the hasty
rolling of chairs on their casters, and then the sound of feet.
The door was hastily drawn open, and those who were near could see that
nearly all the directors were clustered around it, straining their eyes
to look at the paying teller. Most of them were pale and they called,
in one voice, "Come here!" "Come in here at once!" "Fields!" "Mr.
Fields!" "Sir, you are wanted!" "Step this way instantly!" Fields put
down his pen, opened the tall iron gate which separated him from the
counters, and walked rather quickly toward the den of lions. An opening
was made for him in the group, and he passed through the door, and it
was shut once more.
He walked across the room to the fireplace. He took out his
handkerchief, and, seizing a corner between a thumb and forefinger,
slowly shook it open, and then turned around.
"This note, sir! What does it mean?" cried the president, advancing upon
him, waving the paper in his trembling hand.
"Have you read it?" demanded Fields, in a loud voice.
"Yes," said the president. He was astonished at Fields's manner. He cast
a glance upon his fellow-directors.
"Then what is the use of asking me what I mean? It is as plain as I can
"But it says—but it says," faltered the venerable gentleman, turning
the paper to the light, "that you have only money enough to last until
twelve o'clock. Your statement yesterday showed a balance to your credit
of three hundred and fifty-two thousand dollars. That will last at
"But I have not got three hundred and seventy-seven thousand dollars. I
have only got twenty-seven thousand dollars!"
"But we counted three hundred and seventy-seven thousand dollars."
"Yesterday—yes. But not this morning."
"Great God!" cried Stuart, thrusting himself forward, "what!--" He fixed
his feeble eyes upon Fields, but could speak no further. His arms fell
down by his sides, and he began to tremble. He did not have sufficient
courage to ask the question. Somebody else did.
"What has become of it?"
"That I shall not tell you!" returned Fields, looking defiantly at one
director after another.
"But is it gone?" cried the chorus. Many of the faces that confronted
Fields had become waxen. The little group was permeated with a tremor.
"Yes, it is gone; I have taken it."
"You have taken it!" "You have taken it!" "You have taken it!"
The directors, overwhelmed and confounded, retreated from Fields as if
they were in personal danger from him.
"In Heaven's name, Fields!" exclaimed the president, "speak out! Tell
us! What!--where!--the money! Come, man!"
"You had better lock the door," said the teller; "some one will be
One of the most feeble and aged of the board turned around and
hastened, as fast as his infirm limbs would permit him, and threw the
bolt with feverish haste, and then ran back again to hear.
"Yes," said Fields, with deliberation, "I have taken the money. I have
carried it away and hidden it where no one can lay hands upon it but
"Then—then, sir, you have stolen it!"
Fields bowed. "I have stolen it."
"But you have ruined us!"
"And you have ruined yourself!"
"I am not so sure of that."
"Stop this useless talk!" cried a gentleman, who had heretofore been
silent. He bent upon Fields a look of great dignity. "Make it clear,
sir, what you have done."
"Certainly. When I left the bank last night I put into my pockets one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars in greenbacks of the
one-thousand-dollar denomination, one hundred thousand dollars in
national-currency notes of the one-hundred-dollar denomination, and one
hundred thousand dollars in gold certificates. I left to the credit of
my account twenty-seven thousand eight hundred and sixty-two dollars and
some odd cents. Eight thousand of these have been already drawn this
morning. It is not unlikely that the whole of what is left may be drawn
within the next five minutes, and the next draft upon you will find you
insolvent. If the balance is against you at the clearing-house, you
will undoubtedly be obliged to stop payment before one o'clock."
Fields's interlocutor turned sharply around and sank into his seat. At
this three of the young members of the board—Slavin, a wool-dealer,
Debritt, a silk importer, and Saville, an insurance actuary—made a
violent onslaught upon the teller, but others interposed.
What was to be said? What was to be done? Somebody cried for a
policeman, and would have thrown up a window and called into the street.
But the act was prevented. It was denounced as childish. After a moment,
everybody but Fields had seated himself in his accustomed place,
overcome with agitation. Those who could see devoured the teller with
their eyes. Two others wept with puerile fear and anger. They began to
realize the plight they were in. It began to dawn upon them that an
immense disaster was hanging over their heads. How were they to escape
from it? Which way were they to turn to find relief? It was no time for
brawling and denunciation; they were in the hands of an unscrupulous
man, who, at this crucial moment, was as cool and implacable as an
iceberg. They watched him carelessly draw and redraw his handkerchief
through his fingers; he was unmoved, and entirely at ease.
"Can it be possible!" said a tall and aged director, rising from his
chair and bending upon the culprit a look of great impressiveness—"can
it be possible that it is our upright and stainless clerk who confesses
to such a stupendous villainy as this? Can it be that one who has earned
so much true esteem from his fellow-men thus turns upon them and—"
"Yes, yes, yes!" replied Fields, impatiently, "that is all true; but it
is all sentiment. Let us descend to business. I know the extent of my
wickedness better than you do. I have taken for my own use from your
bank. I have robbed you of between a quarter and a half million of
dollars. I am a pure robber. That is the worst you can say of me. The
worst you can do with me is to throw me into prison for ten years. By
the National Currency Act of 1865, section 55, you will see that for
this offence against you I may be incarcerated from five to ten
years—not more than ten. If you imprison me for ten years, you do your
worst. During those ten years I shall have ample time to perfect myself
in at least three languages, and to read extensively, and I shall leave
the jail at forty-five a polished and learned man, in the prime of life,
and possessed of enormous wealth. There will be no pleasure that I
cannot purchase. I shall become a good-natured cynic; I shall freely
admit that I have disturbed the ordinary relations of labor and
compensation, but I shall so treat the matter that I shall become the
subject of a semi-admiration that will relieve me from social ostracism.
I have carefully reviewed the ground. I shall go to jail, pass through
my trial, receive my sentence, put on my prisoner's suit, begin my
daily tasks, and all with as much equanimity as I possess at present.
There will be no contrition and no shame. Do not hope to recover a
dollar of your money. I have been careful to secrete it so that the most
ingenious detectives and the largest rewards will not be able to obtain
a hint of its whereabouts. It is entirely beyond your reach."
Fields was now an entire master of the situation. The board was filled
with consternation; its members conferred together in frightened
"But," pursued Fields, "do you properly understand
your situation? My
desk is virtually without money. My assistant at this instant may
discover that he has not sufficient funds to pay the check he has in his
hand. In a moment more the street may be in possession of the facts.
Besides the present danger, have you forgotten the controller?" Nothing
more could now add to the alarm that filled the room.
"What shall we do, Fields? We cannot go under; we cannot—"
"I will tell you."
The room became silent again. All leaned forward to listen. Some placed
their hands behind their ears.
"I do not think that the drafts upon us to-day will amount to eighty
thousand dollars. You might draw that sum from the receiving teller, but
that would occasion remark. I advise you to draw from your private
accounts elsewhere one hundred thousand dollars, and quietly place it
upon my counter. I would do it without an instant's delay."
"But what guarantee have we that you will not appropriate that also?"
"I give you my word," replied Fields, with a smile.
"And to what end do you advise us to keep the bank intact?"
"That we may have time to arrange terms."
"For a compromise."
Here was a patch of blue sky—a glimpse of the sun. Fields was not
insensible to moderation, after all.
"What do you propose?" eagerly demanded three voices.
"I think you had first better insure yourselves against suspension," was
In ten minutes one of the directors hurriedly departed, with five checks
in his wallet. These were the contributions of his fellows. The
president passed out to see how matters stood at the paying teller's
desk. No more drafts had been presented, and the nineteen thousand
dollars were still undisturbed. He returned reassured. He locked the
"Now, sir," said he to the paying teller, "let us go on."
"Very well," was the reply. "I think you all perceive by this time the
true position of affairs. I possess three hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, and your bank has lost that sum. I have detailed the benefits
which will accrue to me, and the trouble which will in all likelihood
accrue to you. It will be unpleasant for you to throw your selves upon
the mercies of your stockholders. Stockholders are hard-hearted people.
Each one of you will, in case this matter is discovered, find his
financial credit and his reputation for sagacity much impaired; and,
besides this, there will be incurred the dangers of a 'run' upon you, to
say nothing of the actual loss to the institution, which will have to be
made good to the last dollar. But let us see if we cannot do better.
Notwithstanding the fact that I have fully made up my mind to go to
prison, I cannot deny that not to go to prison would be an advantage.
Therefore, if you will promise me immunity from prosecution, I will
return to you to-morrow morning a quarter of a million dollars. I ask
you to give me a reply within five minutes. The proposition is a bare
one, and is sufficiently plain. I shall require your faith as directors
and individuals, and in return I will give my pledge, as a robber of the
highest grade—a bond which perhaps is as good as any that can be made
under the circumstances."
The directors no sooner saw that it lay within their power to regain
five-sevenths of their money than they began, almost with one voice,
threaten Fields with punishment if he did not return the whole.
"Gentlemen," cried the paying teller, interrupting their exclamations,
"I must impose one more condition. It is that you do not mention this
affair again—that you keep the whole matter secret, and not permit it
to be known beyond this apartment that I have had any other than the
most agreeable relations with you. All that is imperative. There remain
but two more minutes. The president will signify to me your decision."
The time elapsed. Fields put his watch into his pocket.
"Well, sir?" said he.
"We accept the terms," replied the president, bowing stiffly.
Fields also bowed. A silence ensued. Presently a director said to
"May I ask you what led you to this step?"
"Sir," replied the teller, with severity, "you are encroaching upon our
contract. I may speak of this affair, but you have no right to."
Then he turned to the board:
"Do you wish me to go back to my work?"
There was a consultation. Then the president said:
"If you will be so kind."
The business of the day went forward as usual. The teller's counter-desk
was supplied with money, and no suspicion was aroused among his
As each director went out of the bank, he stopped at Fields's window,
and addressed some set remark to him upon business matters; and so
intimate did the relations between them seem that the clerks concluded
that the lucky man was about to be made cashier, and they began to pay
him more respect.
In the intervening night there again recurred to the directors the
enormity of the outrage to which they had been subjected. The incident
of recovering so large a part of what they had originally supposed was
gone had the effect of making them partially unmindful of the loss of
the smaller sum which the teller finally agreed to accept in place of
punishment. But in the lapse between the time of the robbery and the
time of the promised restitution, their appreciation of their position
had time to revive again, and when they assembled on the next morning to
receive the money from Fields, they were anxious and feverish.
Would he come? Was he not at this moment in Canada? Would a man who
could steal one hundred thousand dollars return a quarter of a million?
Every moment one of them went to the door to see if Fields had appeared.
The rest walked about, with their hands behind them, talking together
incoherently. The air was full of doubts. The teller usually came at a
quarter past nine, but the hour arrived without the man. Intolerable
Two or three of the directors made paths for themselves amid the chairs,
and anxiously traversed them. Slavin took a post beside a window and
gazed into the street. Debritt, with his right hand in his bosom, and
with his left grasping the upper rail of a seat, looked fixedly into the
coals. Stuart sipped at a goblet of water, but his trembling hand caused
him to spill its contents upon the floor. No one now ventured to speak
except in a whisper; it seemed that a word or a loud noise must disturb
the poise of matters. The clock ticked, the blue flames murmured in the
grate, and the pellets of sand thrown up by the wind rattled against the
But yet there were no signs of the paying teller.
Was it possible that this immense sum of money was
gone? Could it be
true that they must report this terrible thing to the world? Had they
permitted themselves to become the lieutenants to a wily scoundrel? Were
they thus waiting silent and inactive while he was being borne away at
the speed of the wind, out of their reach?
All at once Fields came in at the door.
He was met with a gladness that was only too perceptible. Every
gentleman emitted a sigh of relief, and half started, as if to take the
delinquent by the hand.
Fields had expected this. He was shrewd enough to act before the feeling
He advanced to the table. The directors hastened like schoolboys to
take their accustomed places. They bent upon the teller's face the most
"Gentlemen," said he, "I believe that you fully understand that I return
this large sum of money to you at my own option. You recognize the fact
that most men would endure, for instance, an imprisonment of ten years
rather than lose the control of a quarter of a million of dollars."
The directors hastened to signify "Yes!"
"But," continued Fields, taking several large envelopes from his inner
pockets, "I shall be content with less. There is the sum I mentioned."
The directors fell upon the packages and counted their contents. The
table was strewed with money. Fields contemplated the scene with
curiosity. Presently it was announced that the sum was complete.
"Now, gentlemen," said Fields, "you have suffered loss. I have a hundred
thousand dollars which I have forced you to present me with. That is a
large sum, though to us who are so familiar with millions it seems
small, almost insignificant; but, in reality, it has a great importance.
You now see, my friends, what a part of your money-making mechanism may
achieve. There is no bank, even of third-rate importance, in this city,
whose receiving teller or paying teller may not do exactly as I have
done. On any day, at any hour, they may load themselves with valuables
and go away. You, and all directors, depend servilely upon the pure
honesty of your clerks. You can erect no barrier, no guard, no defence,
that will protect you from the results of decayed principle in them.
They are deeply involved in dangerous elements. Ease, luxury, life-long
immunity from toil, wait upon their resolution to do ill. This
resolution may be the determination of an instant, or the result of
long-continued sophistical reasoning. You cannot detect the approach to
such a resolve in your servant, and he, perhaps, can hardly detect it in
himself. But one day it is complete: he acts upon it. You are bereft of
your property; he flees, and there is the nine days' stir, and all is
over. Your greatest surety lies in your appreciation of your danger. I
have proved to you what that danger consists of; you did not know
before. Your best means of defence is to respect, to the fullest extent,
the people upon whom you depend. They are worthy of it. An instant's
reflection will show you that neither of you would be proof against a
strong temptation. For the sake of recovering a sum of money you have
compounded with felony. All of you are at this moment in breach of the
law. You have submitted without a struggle to the dominant impulse. The
principle of exact honor which you demand in me does not exist in
yourselves. But let us end this disagreeable scene. Perhaps I have
demonstrated something that you never realized. I hope you understand. I
now surrender to you the one hundred thousand dollars, which you
thought I had stolen. I had no intention of keeping it; I only pretended
to take it in order to impress you with my ideas."
Every director arose to his feet in haste. Fields placed another packet
upon the table, and, in face of the astonished board, left the
An hour afterward he was again summoned to the parlor. He advanced to
his old position at the end of the table. It was clear that the temper
of the assembly was favorable to him.
"Mr. Fields," said the president, "your attack upon us was singular and
rapid, and I think it has made the mark that you intended it should.
Your mode of convincing us was, one might say, dramatic; and, though I
believe you might have attained your object in another way, we
acknowledge that your letter had but little effect. We now wish to
provide for you as you claim, and as you deserve. But we cannot look
upon you with quietude. It is almost impossible to see you without
shuddering. We must place you elsewhere. If you remained here, you would
always be in close proximity to a quarter of a million dollars."
"But you believe in my integrity?"
"You understand my motives?"
"And you acknowledge them to be just?"
"But you personify a terrible threat. You are an exponent of a great
danger, and you could not ask us to live with one who showed that he
held a sword above our heads. That would be impossible. We therefore
offer you the position of actuary in the---- Life. Mr. Stuart is about
to resign it, and at our request he has consented to procure you the
chair. Your salary will be thrice that you now receive. Do you accept?"
"Without an instant's hesitation," replied Fields.
He then shook hands with each director, and they separated excellent
Fields winged his way to the farm in the country, and told the news.
That is, he told the best of it. He told the actual news after hours,
when there was but one to tell it to.
There was a shriek.
"Oh, if they had!"
"Had what—Sun and Moon!"
"Why, sent you to prison."
"Well, we should have had to wait ten years, that's all. After that, we
should have been worth, with interest added to the capital, five hundred
and sixty thousand dollars."
"Sir! Can you suppose that I would ever marry a robber, a wretched
"Never! But it is different where one robs for the sake of principle."
"Y—yes, that is true; I forgot that. I think that principle is a great
thing. Don't you?"
In the spring the face-walls and the lawns and the kiosks went forward
according to the original design, and the actuary frequently brought his
city friends, directors and all, down to look at them.