MRS. E. D. E. N. SOUTHWORTH
Author of THE CURSE OF CLIFTON
New York Hurst & Company Publishers
I. The Nocturnal Visit
II. The Masks
III. The Quest
V. The Discovery
VI. A Short, Sad Story
VII. Metamorphosis of the Newsboy
VIII. Herbert Greyson
IX. Marah Rocke
X. The Room of the Trap-Door
XI. A Mystery and a Storm at Hurricane Hall
XII. Marah's Dream
XIII. Marah's Memories
XIV. The Wasting Heart
XV. Cap's Country Capers
XVI. Cap's Fearful Adventure
XVII. Another Storm at Hurricane Hall
XVIII. The Doctor's Daughter
XIX. The Resigned Soul
XX. The Outlaw's Rendezvous
XXI. Gabriel LeNoir
XXII. The Smuggler and Capitola
XXIII. The Boy's Love
XXIV. Capitola's Mother
XXV. Cap's Tricks and Perils
XXVI. The Peril and the Pluck of Cap
XXVII. Seeking his Fortune
XVIII. A Panic in the Outlaw's Den
XXIX. The Victory Over Death
XXX. The Orphan
THE HIDDEN HAND.
THE NOCTURNAL VISIT.
* * * Whence is that knocking? How is't with me when every sound appals me? * * * I hear a knocking In the south entry! Hark!—More knocking! —Shakespeare.
Hurricane Hall is a large old family mansion, built of dark-red sandstone, in one of the loneliest and wildest of the mountain regions of Virginia.
The estate is surrounded on three sides by a range of steep, gray rocks, spiked with clumps of dark evergreens, and called, from its horseshoe form, the Devil's Hoof.
On the fourth side the ground gradually descends in broken, rock and barren soil to the edge of the wild mountain stream known as the Devil's Run.
When storms and floods were high the loud roaring of the wind through the wild mountain gorges and the terrific raging of the torrent over its rocky course gave to this savage locality its ill-omened names of Devil's Hoof, Devil's Run and Hurricane Hall.
Major Ira Warfield, the lonely proprietor of the Hall, was a veteran officer, who, in disgust at what he supposed to be ill-requited services, had retired from public life to spend the evening of his vigorous age on this his patrimonial estate. Here he lived in seclusion, with his old-fashioned housekeeper, Mrs. Condiment, and his old family servants and his favorite dogs and horses. Here his mornings were usually spent in the chase, in which he excelled, and his afternoons and evenings were occupied in small convivial suppers among his few chosen companions of the chase or the bottle.
In person Major Warfield was tall and strongly built, reminding one of some old iron-limbed Douglas of the olden time. His features were large and harsh; his complexion dark red, as that of one bronzed by long exposure and flushed with strong drink. His fierce, dark gray eyes were surmounted by thick, heavy black brows that, when gathered into a frown, reminded one of a thunder cloud, as the flashing orbs beneath them did of lightning. His hard, harsh face was surrounded by a thick growth of iron-gray hair and beard that met beneath his chin. His usual habit was a black cloth coat, crimson vest, black leather breeches, long, black yarn stockings, fastened at the knees, and morocco slippers with silver buttons.
In character Major Warfield was arrogant, domineering and violent—equally loved and feared by his faithful old family servants at home—disliked and dreaded by his neighbors and acquaintances abroad, who, partly from his house and partly from his character, fixed upon him the appropriate nickname of Old Hurricane.
There was, however, other ground of dislike besides that of his arrogant mind, violent temper and domineering habits. Old Hurricane was said to be an old bachelor, yet rumor whispered that there was in some obscure part of the world, hidden away from human sight, a deserted wife and child, poor, forlorn and heart-broken. It was further whispered that the elder brother of Ira Warfield had mysteriously disappeared, and not without some suspicion of foul play on the part of the only person in the world who had a strong interest in his "taking off." However these things might be, it was known for a certainty that Old Hurricane had an only sister, widowed, sick and poor, who, with her son, dragged on a wretched life of ill-requited toil, severe privation and painful infirmity in a distant city, unaided, unsought and uncared for by her cruel brother.
It was the night of the last day of October, eighteen hundred and forty-five. The evening had closed in very dark and gloomy. About dusk the wind arose in the northwest, driving up masses of leaden-hued clouds, and in a few minutes the ground was covered deep with snow and the air was filled with driving sleet.
As this was All Hallow Eve, the dreadful inclemency of the weather did not prevent the negroes of Hurricane Hall from availing themselves of their capricious old master's permission and going off in a body to a banjo breakdown held in the negro quarters of their next neighbor.
Upon this evening, then, there was left at Hurricane Hall only Major Warfield, Mrs. Condiment, his little housekeeper, and Wool, his body servant.
Early in the evening the old hall was shut up closely to keep out as much as possible the sound of the storm that roared through the mountain chasms and cannonaded the walls of the house as if determined to force an entrance. As soon as she had seen that all was safe, Mrs. Condiment went to bed and went to sleep.
It was about ten o'clock that night that Old Hurricane, well wrapped up in his quilted flannel dressing-gown, sat in his well-padded easy-chair before a warm and bright fire, taking his comfort in his own most comfortable bedroom. This was the hour of the coziest enjoyment to the self-indulgent old Sybarite, who dearly loved his own ease. And, indeed, every means and appliance of bodily comfort was at hand. Strong oaken shutters and thick, heavy curtains at the windows kept out every draft of air, and so deadened the sound of the wind that its subdued moaning was just sufficient to remind one of the stormy weather without in contrast to the bright warmth within. Old Hurricane, as I said, sat well wrapped up in his wadded dressing-gown, and reclining in his padded easy-chair, with his head thrown back and his feet upon the fire irons, toasting his shins and sipping his punch. On his right stood a little table with a lighted candle, a stack of clay pipes, a jug of punch, lemons, sugar, Holland gin, etc., while on the hearth sat a kettle of boiling water to help replenish the jug, if needful.
On his left hand stood his cozy bedstead, with its warm crimson curtains festooned back, revealing the luxurious swell of the full feather bed and pillows, with their snow-white linen and lamb's-wool blankets, inviting repose. Between this bedstead and the corner of the fireplace stood Old Hurricane's ancient body servant Wool, engaged in warming a crimson cloth nightcap.
"Fools!" muttered Old Hurricane, over his punch—"jacks! they'll all get the pleurisy except those that get drunk! Did they all go, Wool?"
"Ebery man, 'oman and chile, sar!—'cept 'tis me and coachman, sar!"
"More fools they! And I shouldn't wonder if you, you old scarecrow, didn't want to go too!"
"I know better, sir! Don't contradict me! Well, as soon as I'm in bed, and that won't be long now, you may go—so that you get back in time to wait on me to-morrow morning."
"Hold your tongue! You're as big a fool as the rest."
"I take this," said Old Hurricane, as he sipped his punch and smacked his lips—"I take this to be the very quintessence of human enjoyment—sitting here in my soft, warm chair before the fire, toasting my legs, sipping my punch, listening on the one hand to the storm without and glancing on the other hand at my comfortable bed waiting there to receive my sleepy head. If there is anything better than this in this world I wish somebody would let me know it."
"It's all werry comformable indeed, marse," said the obsequious Wool.
"I wonder, now, if there is anything on the face of the earth that would tempt me to leave my cozy fireside and go abroad to-night? I wonder how large a promise of pleasure or profit or glory it would take now?"
"Much as ebber Congress itse'f could give, if it give you a penance for all your sarvins," suggested Wool.
"Yes, and more; for I wouldn't leave my home comforts to-night to insure not only the pension but the thanks of Congress!" said the old man, replenishing his glass with steaming punch and drinking it off leisurely.
The clock struck eleven. The old man again replenished his glass, and, while sipping its contents, said:
"You may fill the warming-pan and warm my bed, Wool. The fumes of this fragrant punch are beginning to rise to my head and make me sleepy."
The servant filled the warming-pan with glowing embers, shut down the lid and thrust it between the sheets to warm the couch of this luxurious Old Hurricane. The old man continued to toast his feet, sip his punch and smack his lips. He finished his glass, set it down, and was just in the act of drawing on his woolen nightcap, preparatory to stepping into his well-warmed bed when he was suddenly startled by a loud ringing of the hall-door bell.
"What the foul fiend can that mean at this time of night?" exclaimed Old Hurricane, dropping his nightcap and turning sharply around toward Wool, who, warming-pan in hand, stood staring with astonishment. "What does that mean, I ask you?"
"'Deed, I dunno, sar, less it's some benighted traveler in search o' shelter outen de storm!"
"Humph! and in search of supper, too, of course, and everybody gone away or gone to bed but you and me!"
At this moment the ringing was followed by a loud knocking.
"Marse, don't less you and me listen to it, and then we ain't 'bliged to 'sturb ourselves with answering of it!" suggested Wool.
"'Sdeath, sir! Do you think that I am going to turn a deaf ear to a stranger that comes to my house for shelter on such a night as this? Go and answer the bell directly."
"But stop—look here, sirrah—mind I am not to be disturbed. If it is a traveler, ask him in, set refreshments before him and show him to bed. I'm not going to leave my warm room to welcome anybody to-night, please the Lord. Do you hear?"
"Yes, sar," said the darkey, retreating.
As Wool took a shaded taper and opened the door leading from his master's chamber, the wind was heard howling through the long passages, ready to burst into the cozy bedroom.
"Shut that door, you scoundrel!" roared the old man, folding the skirt of his warm dressing-gown across his knees, and hovering closer to the fire.
Wool quickly obeyed, and was heard retreating down the steps.
"Whew!" said the old man, spreading his hands over the blaze with a look of comfortable appreciation. "What would induce me to go abroad on such a night as this? Wind blowing great guns from the northwest—snow falling fast from the heavens and rising just as fast before the wind from the ground—cold as Lapland, dark as Erebus! No telling the earth from the sky. Whew!" and to comfort the cold thought, Old Hurricane poured out another glass of smoking punch and began to sip it.
"How I thank the Lord that I am not a doctor! If I were a doctor, now, the sound of that bell at this hour of night would frighten me; I should think some old woman had been taken with the pleurisy, and wanted me to get up and go out in the storm; to turn out of my warm bed to ride ten miles through the snow to prescribe for her. A doctor never can feel sure, even in the worst of weathers, of a good night's rest. But, thank Heaven, I am free from all such annoyances, and if I am sure of anything in this world it is of my comfortable night's sleep," said Old Hurricane, as he sipped his punch, smacked his lips and toasted his feet.
At this moment Wool reappeared.
"Shut the door, you villain! Do you intend to stand there holding it open on me all night?" vociferated the old man.
Wool hastily closed the offending portals and hurried to his master's side.
"Well, sir, who was it rung the bell?"
"Please, marster, sir, it wer' de Reverend Mr. Parson Goodwin."
"Goodwin? Been to make a sick-call, I suppose, and got caught in the snow-storm. I declare it is as bad to be a parson as it is to be a doctor. Thank the Lord I am not a parson, either; if I were, now, I might be called away from my cozy armchair and fireside to ride twelve miles to comfort some old man dying of quinsy. Well, here—help me into bed, pile on more comforters, tuck me up warm, put a bottle of hot water at my feet, and then go and attend to the parson," said the old man, getting up and moving toward his inviting couch.
"Sar! sar! stop, sar, if you please!" cried Wool, going after him.
"Why, what does the old fool mean?" exclaimed Old Hurricane, angrily.
"Sar, de Reverend Mr. Parson Goodwin say how he must see you yourself, personable, alone!"
"See me, you villain! Didn't you tell him that I had retired?"
"Yes, marse; I tell him how you wer' gone to bed and asleep more'n an hour ago, and he ordered me to come wake you up, and say how it were a matter o' life and death!"
"Life and death? What have I to do with life and death? I won't stir! If the parson wants to see me he will have to come up here and see me in bed," exclaimed Old Hurricane, suiting the action to the word by jumping into bed and drawing all the comforters and blankets up around his head and shoulders.
"Mus' I fetch him reverence up, sar?"
"Yes; I wouldn't get up and go down to see—Washington. Shut the door, you rascal, or I'll throw the bootjack at your wooden head."
Wool obeyed with alacrity and in time to escape the threatened missile.
After an absence of a few minutes he was heard returning, attending upon the footsteps of another. And the next minute he entered, ushering in the Rev. Mr. Goodwin, the parish minister of Bethlehem, St. Mary's.
"How do you do? How do you do? Glad to see you, sir; glad to see you, though obliged to receive you in bed. Fact is, I caught a cold with this severe change of weather, and took a warm negus and went to bed to sweat it off. You'll excuse me. Wool, draw that easy-chair up to my bedside for worthy Mr. Goodwin, and bring him a glass of warm negus. It will do him good after his cold ride."
"I thank you, Major Warfield. I will take the seat but not the negus, if you please, to-night."
"Not the negus? Oh, come now, you are joking. Why, it will keep you from catching cold and be a most comfortable nightcap, disposing you to sleep and sweat like a baby. Of course, you spend the night with us?"
"I thank you, no. I must take the road again in a few minutes."
"Take the road again to-night! Why, man alive! it is midnight, and the snow driving like all Lapland!"
"Sir, I am sorry to refuse your proffered hospitality and leave your comfortable roof to-night, and sorrier still to have to take you with me," said the pastor, gravely.
"Take me with you! No, no, my good sir!—no, no, that is too good a joke—ha! ha!"
"Sir, I fear that you will find it a very serious one. Your servant told you that my errand was one of imminent urgency?"
"Yes; something like life and death——"
"Exactly; down in the cabin near the Punch Bowl there is an old woman dying——"
"There! I knew it! I was just saying there might be an old woman dying! But, my dear sir, what's that to me? What can I do?"
"Humanity, sir, would prompt you."
"But, my dear sir, how can I help her? I am not a physician to prescribe——"
"She is far past a physician's help."
"Nor am I a priest to hear her confession——"
"Her confession God has already received."
"Well, and I'm not a lawyer to draw up her will."
"No, sir; but you are recently appointed one of the justices of the peace for Alleghany."
"Yes. Well, what of that? That does not comprise the duty of getting up out of my warm bed and going through a snow-storm to see an old woman expire."
"I regret to inconvenience you, sir; but in this instance your duty demands your attendance at the bedside of this dying woman——"
"I tell you I can't go, and I won't! Anything in reason I'll do. Anything I can send she shall have. Here, Wool, look in my breeches pocket and take out my purse and hand it. And then go and wake up Mrs. Condiment, and ask her to fill a large basket full of everything a poor old dying woman might want, and you shall carry it."
"Spare your pains, sir. The poor woman is already past all earthly, selfish wants. She only asks your presence at her dying bed."
"But I can't go! I! The idea of turning out of my warm bed and exposing myself to a snow-storm this time of night!"
"Excuse me for insisting, sir; but this is an official duty," said the parson mildly but firmly.
"I'll—I'll throw up my commission to-morrow," growled the old man.
"To-morrow you may do that; but meanwhile, to-night, being still in the commission of the peace, you are bound to get up and go with me to this woman's bedside."
"And what the demon is wanted of me there?"
"To receive her dying deposition."
"To receive a dying deposition! Good Heaven! was she murdered, then?" exclaimed the old man in alarm, as he started out of bed and began to draw on his nether garments.
"Be composed; she was not murdered," said the pastor.
"Well, then, what is it? Dying deposition! It must concern a crime," exclaimed the old man, hastily drawing on his coat.
"It does concern a crime."
"What crime, for the love of Heaven?"
"I am not at liberty to tell you. She will do that."
"Wool, go down and rouse up Jehu, and tell him to put Parson Goodwin's mule in the stable for the night. And tell him to put the black draught horses to the close carriage, and light both of the front lanterns—for we shall have a dark, stormy road——Shut the door, you infernal——I beg your pardon, parson, but that villain always leaves the door ajar after him."
The good pastor bowed gravely, and the major completed his toilet by the time the servant returned and reported the carriage ready.
It was dark as pitch when they emerged from the hall door out into the front portico, before which nothing could be seen but two red bull's-eyes of the carriage lanterns, and nothing heard but the dissatisfied whinnying and pawing of the horses.
"What are these, So withered and so wild in their attire That look not like th' inhabitants of earth And yet are on't?" —Macbeth.
"To the Devil's Punch Bowl," was the order given by Old Hurricane as he followed the minister into the carriage. "And now, sir," he continued, addressing his companion, "I think you had better repeat that part of the church litany that prays to be delivered from 'battle, murder and sudden death,' for if we should be so lucky as to escape Black Donald and his gang, we shall have at least an equal chance of being upset in the darkness of these dreadful mountains."
"A pair of saddle mules would have been a safer conveyance, certainly," said the minister.
Old Hurricane knew that, but, though a great sensualist, he was a brave man, and so he had rather risk his life in a close carriage than suffer cold upon a sure-footed mule's back.
Only by previous knowledge of the route could any one have told the way the carriage went. Old Hurricane and the minister both knew that they drove, lumbering, over the rough road leading by serpentine windings down that rugged fall of ground to the river's bank, and that then, turning to the left by a short bend, they passed in behind that range of horseshoe rocks that sheltered Hurricane Hall—thus, as it were doubling their own road. Beneath that range of rocks, and between it and another range, there was an awful abyss or chasm of cleft, torn and jagged rocks opening, as it were, from the bowels of the earth, in the shape of a mammoth bowl, in the bottom of which, almost invisible from its great depth, seethed and boiled a mass of dark water of what seemed to be a lost river or a subterranean spring. This terrific phenomenon was called the Devil's Punch Bowl.
Not far from the brink of this awful abyss, and close behind the horseshoe range of rocks, stood a humble log-cabin, occupied by an old free negress, who picked up a scanty living by telling fortunes and showing the way to the Punch Bowl. Her cabin went by the name of the Witch's Hut, or Old Hat's Cabin. A short distance from Hat's cabin the road became impassable, and the travelers got out, and, preceded by the coachman bearing the lantern, struggled along on foot through the drifted snow and against the buffeting wind and sleet to where a faint light guided them to the house.
The pastor knocked. The door was immediately opened by a negro, whose sex from the strange anomalous costume it was difficult to guess. The tall form was rigged out first in a long, red, cloth petticoat, above which was buttoned a blue cloth surtout. A man's old black beaver hat sat upon the strange head and completed this odd attire.
"Well, Hat, how is your patient?" inquired the pastor, as he entered preceding the magistrate.
"You will see, sir," replied the old woman.
The two visitors looked around the dimly-lighted, miserable room, in one corner of which stood a low bed, upon which lay extended the form of an old, feeble and gray-haired woman.
"How are you, my poor soul, and what can I do for you now I am here?" inquired Old Hurricane, who in the actual presence of suffering was not utterly without pity.
"You are a magistrate?" inquired the dying woman.
"Yes, my poor soul."
"And qualified to administer an oath and take your deposition," said the minister.
"Will it be legal—will it be evidence in a court of law?" asked the woman, lifting her dim eyes to the major.
"Certainly, my poor soul—certainly," said the latter, who, by the way, would have said anything to soothe her.
"Send every one but yourself from the room."
"What, my good soul, send the parson out in the storm? That will never do! Won't it be just as well to let him go up in the corner yonder?"
"No! You will repent it unless this communication is strictly private."
"But, my good soul, if it is to be used in a court of law?"
"That will be according to your own discretion!"
"My dear parson," said Old Hurricane, going to the minister, "would you be so good as to retire?"
"There is a fire in the woodshed, master," said Hat, leading the way.
"Now, my good soul, now! You want first to be put upon your oath?"
The old man drew from his great-coat pocket a miniature copy of the Scriptures, and with the usual formalities administered the oath.
"Now, then, my good soul, begin—'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,' you know. But first, your name?"
"Is it possible you don't know me, master?"
"Not I, in faith."
"For the love of heaven, look at me, and try to recollect me, sir! It is necessary some one in authority should be able to know me," said the woman, raising her haggard eyes to the face of her visitor.
The old man adjusted his spectacles and gave her a scrutinizing look, exclaiming at intervals:
"Lord bless my soul, it is! it ain't! it must! it can't be! Granny Grewell, the—the—the—midwife that disappeared from here some twelve or thirteen years ago!"
"Yes, master, I am Nancy Grewell, the ladies' nurse, who vanished from sight so mysteriously some thirteen years ago," replied the woman.
"Heaven help our hearts! And for what crime was it you ran away? Come—make a clean breast of it, woman! You have nothing to fear in doing so, for you are past the arm of earthly law now!"
"I know it, master."
"And the best way to prepare to meet the Divine Judge is to make all the reparation that you can by a full confession!"
"I know it, sir—if I had committed a crime; but I have committed no crime; neither did I run away."
"What? what? what? What was it, then? Remember, witness, you are on your oath."
"I know that, sir, and I will tell the truth; but it must be in my own way."
At this moment a violent blast of wind and hail roared down the mountain side and rattled against the walls, shaking the witch's hut, as if it would have shaken it about their ears.
It was a proper overture to the tale that was about to be told. Conversation was impossible until the storm raved past and was heard dying in deep, reverberating echoes from the depths of the Devil's Punch Bowl.
"It is some thirteen years ago," began Granny Grewell, "upon just such a night of storm as this, that I was mounted on my old mule Molly, with my saddlebags full of dried yarbs and 'stilled waters and sich, as I allus carried when I was out 'tendin' on the sick. I was on my way a-going to see a lady as I was sent for to 'tend.
"Well, master, I'm not 'shamed to say, as I never was afraid of man, beast, nor sperrit, and never stopped at going out all hours of the night, through the most lonesome roads, if so be I was called upon to do so. Still I must say that jest as me and Molly, my mule, got into that deep, thick, lonesome woods as stands round the old Hidden House in the hollow I did feel queerish; 'case it was the dead hour of the night, and it was said how strange things were seen and hearn, yes, and done, too, in that dark, deep, lonesome place! I seen how even my mule Molly felt queer, too, by the way she stuck up her ears, stiff as quills. So, partly to keep up my own spirits, and partly to 'courage her, says I, 'Molly,' says I, 'what are ye afeared on? Be a man, Molly!' But Molly stepped out cautious and pricked up her long ears all the same.
"Well, master, it was so dark I couldn't see a yard past Molly's ears, and the path was so narrow and the bushes so thick we could hardly get along; and just as we came to the little creek, as they calls the Spout, 'cause the water jumps and jets along it till it empties into the Punch Bowl, and just as Molly was cautiously putting her fore foot into the water, out starts two men from the bushes and seized poor Molly's bridle!"
"Good Heaven!" exclaimed Major Warfield.
"Well, master, before I could cry out, one of them willains seized me by the scruff of my neck, and, with his other hand upon my mouth, he says:
"'Be silent, you old fool, or I'll blow your brains out!'
"And then, master, I saw for the first time that their faces were covered over with black crape. I couldn't a-screamed if they'd let me! for my breath was gone and my senses were going along with it from the fear that was on me.
"'Don't struggle; come along quietly, and you shall not be hurt,' says the man as had spoke before.
"Struggle! I couldn't a-struggled to a-saved my soul! I couldn't speak! I couldn't breathe! I liked to have a-dropped right offen Molly's back. One on 'em says, says he:
"'Give her some brandy!' And t'other takes out a flask and puts it to my lips and says, says he:
"'Here, drink this.'
"Well, master, as he had me still by the scruff o' my neck I couldn't do no other ways but open my mouth and drink it. And as soon as I took a swallow my breath came back and my speech.
"'And oh, gentlemen,' says I, 'ef it's "your money or your life" you mean, I hain't it about me! 'Deed, 'clare to the Lord-a-mighty, I hain't! It's wrapped up in an old cotton glove in a hole in the plastering in the chimney corner at home, and ef you'll spare my life you can go there and get it,' says I.
"'You old blockhead!' says they, 'we want neither one nor t'other! Come along quietly and you shall receive no harm. But at the first cry, or attempt to escape—this shall stop you!" And with that the willain held the mizzle of a pistil so nigh to my nose that I smelt brimstone, while t'other one bound a silk hankercher round my eyes, and then took poor Molly's bridle and led her along. I couldn't see, in course, and I dassint breathe for fear o' the pistil. But I said my prayers to myself all the time.
"Well, master, they led the mule on down the path until we comed to a place wide enough to turn, when they turned us round and led us back outen the wood, and then 'round and round, and up and down, and crossways and lengthways, as ef they didn't want me to find where they were taking me.
"Well, sir, when they'd walked about in this 'fused way, leadin' of the mule about a mile, I knew we was in the woods again—the very same woods and the very same path—I, knowed by the feel of the place and the sound of the bushes as we hit up against them each side, and also by the rumbling of the Spout as it rumbled along toward the Punch Bowl. We went down and down and down, and lower and lower and lower until we got right down in the bottom of that hollow.
"Then we stopped. A gate was opened. I put up my hand to raise the hankerchief and see where I was; but just at that minute I felt the mizzle o' the pistol like a ring of ice right agin my temple, and the willain growling into my ear:
"'If you do——!'
"But I didn't—I dropped my hand down as if I had been shot, and afore I had seen anything, either. So we went through the gate and up a gravelly walk—I knew it by the crackling of the gravel under Molly's feet—and stopped at a horse-block, where one o' them willains lifted me off. I put up my hand agin.
"'Do if you dare!' says t'other one, with the mizzle o' the pistol at my head.
"I dropped my hand like lead. So they led me on a little way, and then up some steps. I counted them to myself as I went along. They were six. You see, master, I took all this pains to know the house agin. Then they opened a door that opened in the middle. Then they went along a passage and up more stairs—there was ten and a turn, and then ten more. Then along another passage, and up another flight of stairs just like the first. Then along another passage and up a third flight of stairs. They was alike.
"Well, sir, here we was at the top o' the house. One o' them willains opened a door on the left side, and t'other said:
"'There—go in and do your duty!' and pushed me through the door and shut and locked it on me. Good gracious, sir, how scared I was! I slipped off the silk handkercher, and, 'feared as I was, I didn't forget to put it in my bosom.
"Then I looked about me. Right afore me on the hearth was a little weeny taper burning, that showed I was in a great big garret with sloping walls. At one end two deep dormer windows and a black walnut bureau standing between them. At t'other end a great tester bedstead with dark curtains. There was a dark carpet on the floor. And with all there were so many dark objects and so many shadows, and the little taper burned so dimly that I could hardly tell t'other from which, or keep from breaking my nose against things as I groped about.
"And what was I in this room for to do? I couldn't even form an idee. But presently my blood ran cold to hear a groan from behind the curtains! then another! and another! then a cry as of some child in mortal agony, saying:
"'For the love of Heaven, save me!'
"I ran to the bed and dropped the curtains and liked to have fainted at what I saw!"
"And what did you see?" asked the magistrate.
"Master, behind those dark curtains I saw a young creature tossing about on the bed, flinging her hair and beautiful arms about and tearing wildly at the fine lace that trimmed her night-dress. But, master, that wasn't what almost made me faint—it was that her right hand was sewed up in black crape, and her whole face and head completely covered with black crape drawn down and fastened securely around her throat, leaving only a small slit at the lips and nose to breathe through!"
"What! Take care, woman! Remember that you are upon your oath!" said the magistrate.
"I know it, master. And as I hope to be forgiven, I am telling you the truth!"
"Go on, then."
"Well, sir, she was a young creature, scarcely past childhood, if one might judge by her small size and soft, rosy skin. I asked her to let me take that black crape from her face and head, but she threw up her hands and exclaimed:
"'Oh, no; no, no! for my life, no!'
"Well, master, I hardly know how to tell you what followed," said the old woman, hesitating in embarrassment.
"Go right straight on like a car of Juggernaut, woman! Remember—the whole truth!"
"Well, master, in the next two hours there were twins born in that room—a boy and a girl; the boy was dead, the girl living. And all the time I heard the measured tramping of one of them willains up and down the passage outside of that room. Presently the steps stopped, and there was a rap at the door. I went and listened, but did not open it.
"'Is it all over?' the voice asked.
"Before I could answer a cry from the bed caused me to look round. There was the poor, masked mother stretching out her white arms toward me in the most imploring way. I hastened back to her.
"'Tell him—no—no,' she said.
"'Have you got through?' asked the man at the door, rapping impatiently.
"'No, no,' said I, as directed.
"He resumed his tramping up and down, and I went back to my patient. She beckoned me to come close, and whispered:
"'Save my child! The living one, I mean! Hide her! oh, hide her from him! When he demands the babe, give him the poor little dead one—he cannot hurt that! And he will not know there was another. Oh! hide and save my child!'
"Master, I was used to queer doings, but this was a little the queerest. But if I was to conceal that second child in order to save it, it was necessary to stop its mouth, for it was squalling like a wild cat. So I took a vial of paregoric from my pocket and give it a drop and it went off to sleep like an angel. I wrapped it up warm and lay it along with my shawl and bonnet in a dark corner. Just then the man rapped again.
"'Come in, master,' said I.
"'No, bring me the babe,' he said.
"I took up the dead infant. Its mother kissed its brow and dropped tears upon its little cold face. And I carried it to the man outside.
"'Is it asleep?' the willain asked me.
"'Yes, master,' said I as I put it, well wrapped up, in his arms; 'very sound aslep.'
"'So much the better,' said the knave, walking away.
"I bolted the door and went back to my patient. With her free hand she seized mine and pressed it to her lips and then, holding up her left hand, pointed to the wedding ring upon her third finger.
"'Draw it off and keep it,' she said; 'conceal the child under your shawl and take her with you when you go! Save her and your fortune shall be made.'
"I declare, master, I hadn't time to think, before I heard one of them wretches rap at the door.
"'Come! Get ready to go,' he said.
"She also beckoned me. I hastened to her. With eager whispers and imploring gestures she prayed me to take her ring and save her child.
"'But you,' said I, 'who is to attend to you?'
"'I do not know or care! Save her!'
"The rapping continued. I ran to the corner where I had left my things. I put on my bonnet, made a sort of sling around my neck of the silk handkercher, opened the large part of it like a hammock and laid the little sleeping babe there. Then I folded my big shawl around my breast and nobody any the wiser. The rapping was very impatient.
"'I am coming,' said I.
"'Remember!' whispered the poor girl.
"'I will,' said I, and went out and opened the door. There stood t'other willain with his head covered with black crape. I dreamt of nothing but black-headed demons for six months afterward.
"'Are you ready?' says he.
"'Yes, your worship,' says I.
"'Come along, then.'
"And, binding another silk hankercher round my eyes, he led me along.
"Instead of my mule, a carriage stood near the horse-block.
"'Get in,' says he, holding the pistil to my ears by way of an argument.
"I got in. He jumped up upon the driver's seat and we drove like the wind. In another direction from that in which we come, in course, for there was no carriage road there. The carriage whirled along at such a rate it made me quite giddy. At last it stopped again. The man in the mask got down and opened the door.
"'Where are you taking me?' says I.
"'Be quiet,' says he, 'or'——And with that he put the pistil to my cheek, ordered me to get out, take the bandage from my eyes and walk before him. I did so and saw dimly that we were in a part of the country that I was never at before. We were in a dark road through a thick forest. On the left side of the road in a clearing stood an old house; a dim light was burning in a lower window.
"'Go on in there,' said the willain, putting the pistil to the back of my head. As the door stood ajar I went in, to a narrow, dark passage, the man all the time at my back. He opened a door on the left side and made me go into a dark room. Just then the unfortunate child that had been moving restlessly began to wail. Well it might, poor, starved thing!
"'What's that?' says the miscreant under his breath and stopping short.
"'It ain't nothing, sir,' says I, and 'Hush-h-h' to the baby. But the poor little wretch raised a squall.
"'What is the meaning of this? 'says he. 'Where did that child come from? Why the demon don't you speak?' And with that he seized me again by the scruff of the neck and shook me.
"'Oh, master, for the love of Heaven don't!' says I. 'This is only a poor unfortnet infant as its parents wanted to get outen the way, and hired me to take care on. And I have had it wrapped up under my shawl all the time 'cept when I was in your house, when I put it to sleep in the corner.'
"'Humph—and you had that child concealed under your shawl when I first stopped you in the woods?'
"'In course, master,' says I.
"'Whose is it?'
"'Master,' says I, 'it's—it's a dead secret!' for I hadn't another lie ready.
"He broke out into a rude, scornful laugh, and seemed not half to believe me and yet not to care about questioning me too closely. He made me sit down then in the dark, and went out and turned the key on me. I wet my finger with the paregoric and put it to the baby's lips to quiet its pains of hunger. Then I heard a whispering in the next room. Now my eyesight never was good, but to make up for it I believe I had the sharpest ears that ever was, and I don't think anybody could have heard that whispering but me. I saw a little glimmer of light through the chinks that showed me where the door was, and so I creeped up to it and put my ear to the key-hole. Still they whispered so low that no ears could o' heard them but my sharp ones. The first words I heard good was a grumbling voice asking:
"'Fifty—more or less, but strong, active, a good nurse and a very light mulatto,' says my willain's voice.
"'Hum—too old,' says the other.
"'But I will throw the child in.'
"A low, crackling laugh the only answer.
"'You mean that would be only a bother. Well, I want to get rid of the pair of them,' said my willain, 'so name the price you are willing to give.'
"'Cap'n, you and me have had too many transactions together to make any flummery about this. You want to get shet o' them pair. I hain't no objections to turning an honest penny. So jest make out the papers—bill o' sale o' the 'oman Kate, or whatsoever her name may be, and the child, with any price you please, so it is only a make-believe price, and I'll engage to take her away and make the most I can of them in the South—that won't be much, seeing it's only an old 'oman and child—scarcely a fair profit on the expense o' takin' of her out. Now, as money's no object to you, Cap'n——'
"'Very well; have your own way; only don't let that woman escape and return, for if you do——'
"'I understand, Cap'n; but I reckon you needn't threaten, for if you could blow me—why, I would return you the same favor,' said the other, raising his voice and laughing aloud.
"'Be quiet, fool, or come away farther—here.' And the two willains moved out of even my hearing.
"' I should o' been uneasy, master, if it hadn't been the 'oman they were talking about was named Kate, and that wasn't my name, which were well beknown to be Nancy.'
"Presently I heard the carriage drive away. And almost 'mediately after the door was unlocked, and a great, big, black-bearded and black-headed beast of a ruffian came in, and says he:
"'Well, my woman, have you had any supper?'
"'No,' said I, 'I hain't; and ef I'm to stay here any length of time I'd be obleeged to you to let me have some hot water and milk to make pap for this perishing baby.'
"'Follow me,' says he.
"And he took me into the kitchen at the back of the house, where there was a fire in the fireplace and a cupboard with all that I needed. Well, sir, not to tire you, I made a nursing-bottle for the baby and fed it. And then I got something for my own supper, or, rather, breakfast, for it was now near the dawn of day. Well, sir, I thought I would try to get out and look about myself to see what the neighborhood looked like by daylight, but when I tried the door I found myself locked up a close prisoner. I looked out of the window and saw nothing but a little back yard, closed in by the woods. I tried to raise the sash, but it was nailed down. The black-headed monster came in just about that minute, and seeing what I was a-doing of, says he:
"'What am I stopped here for?' says I; 'a free 'oman,' says I, a-'vented of going about her own business?' says I.
"But he only laughed a loud, crackling, scornful laugh, and went out, turning the key after him.
"A little after sunrise an old, dried-up, spiteful looking hag of a woman came in and began to get breakfast.
"'What am I kept here for?' says I to her.
"But she took no notice at all; nor could I get so much as a single word outen her. In fact, master, the little 'oman was deaf an' dumb.
"Well, sir, to be short, I was kept in that place all day long, and when night come I was druv into a shay at the point of the pistil, and rattled along as fast as the horses could gallop over a road as I knew nothing of. We changed horses wunst or twict, and just about the dawn of day we come to a broad river with a vessel laying to, not far from the shore.
"As soon as the shay druv down on the sands, the willain as had run away with me puts a pipe to his willainous mouth and blows like mad. Somebody else blowed back from the wessel. Then a boat was put off and rowed ashore. I was forced to get into it, and was follered by the willain. We was rowed to the wessel, and I was druv up the ladder on to the decks. And there, master, right afore my own looking eyes, me and the baby was traded off to the captain! It was no use for me to 'splain or 'spostulate. I wasn't b'lieved. The willain as had stole me got back into the boat and went ashore, and I saw him get into the shay and drive away. It was no use for me to howl and cry, though I did both, for I couldn't even hear myself for the swearing of the captain and the noise of the crew, as they was a gettin' of the wessel under way. Well, sir, we sailed down that river and out to sea.
"Now, sir, come a strange providence, which the very thoughts of it might convert a heathen! We had been to sea about five days when a dreadful storm riz. Oh, marster! the inky blackness of the sky, the roaring of the wind, the raging of the sea, the leaping of the waves and the rocking of that wessel—and every once in a while sea and ship all ablaze with the blinding lightning—was a thing to see, not to hear tell of! I tell you, marster, that looked like the wrath of God! And then the cursing and swearing and bawling of the captain and the crew, as they were a-takin' in of sail, was enough to raise one's hair on their head! I hugged the baby to my breast, and went to praying as hard as ever I could pray.
"Presently I felt an awful shock, as if heaven an' earth had come together, and then everybody screaming, 'She's struck! She's struck!' I felt the wessel trembling like a live creetur, and the water a-pouring in everywhere. I hugged the babe and scrambled up the companionway to the deck. It was pitch dark, and I heard every man rushing toward one side of the wessel.
"A flash of lightning that made everything as bright as day again showed me that they were all taking to the boat. I rushed after, calling to them to save me and the baby. But no one seemed to hear me; they were all too busy trying to save themselves and keep others out of the boat, and cursing and swearing and hollering that there was no more room, that the boat would be swamped, and so on. The end was, that all who could crowd into the boat did so. And me and the baby and a poor sailor lad and the black cook were left behind to perish.
"But, marster, as it turned out, we as was left to die were the only ones saved. We watched after that boat with longing eyes, though we could only see it when the lightning flashed. And every time we saw it it was farther off. At last, marster, a flash of lightning showed us the boat as far off as ever we could see her, capsized and beaten hither and thither by the wild waves—its crew had perished.
"Marster, as soon as the sea had swallowed up that wicked captain and crew the wind died away, the waves fell and the storm lulled—just as if it had done what it was sent to do and was satisfied. The wreck—where we poor forlorn ones stood—the wreck that had shivered and trembled with every wave that struck it,—until we had feared it would break up every minute, became still and firm on its sand-bar, as a house on dry land.
"Daylight came at last. And a little after sunrise we saw a sail bearing down upon us. We could not signal the sail, but by the mercy of Providence, she saw us and lay to, and sent off a boat and picked us up and took us on board—me and the baby and the cook and the sailor lad.
"It was a foreign wessel, and we could not understand a word they said, nor they us. All we could do was by signs. But they were very good to us—dried our clothes and gave us breakfast and made us lie down and rest, and then put about and continued their course. The sailor lad—Herbert Greyson—soon found out and told me they were bound for New York. And, in fact, marster, in about ten days we made that port.
"When the ship anchored below the Battery, the officers and passengers made me up a little bundle of clothes and a little purse of money and put me ashore, and there I was in a strange city, so bewildered I didn't know which way to turn. While I was a-standing there, in danger of being run over by the omnibuses, the sailor boy came to my side and told me that he and the cook was gwine to engage on board of another 'Merican wessel, and axed me what I was gwine to do. I told him how I didn't know nothing at all 'bout sea sarvice, and so I didn't know what I should do. Then he said he'd show me where I could go and stay all night, and so he took me into a little by-street, to a poor-looking house, where the people took lodgers, and there he left me to go aboard the ship. As he went away he advised me to take care of my money and try to get a servant's place.
"Well, marster, I ain't a gwine to bother you with telling you of how I toiled and struggled along in that great city—first living out as a servant, and afterward renting a room and taking in washing and ironing—ay! how I toiled and struggled—for—ten—long—years, hoping for the time to come when I should be able to return to this neighborhood, where I was known, and expose the evil deeds of them willains. And for this cause I lived on, toiling and struggling and laying up money penny by penny. Sometimes I was fool enough to tell my story in the hopes of getting pity and help—but telling my story always made it worse for me! some thought me crazy and others thought me deceitful, which is not to be wondered at, for I was a stranger and my adventures were, indeed, beyond belief.
"No one ever helped me but the lad Herbert Greyson. W'enver he came from sea he sought me out and made a little present to me or Cap.
"Cap, marster, was Capitola, the child. The reason I gave her that name was because on that ring I had drawn from the masked mother's hand were the two names—Eugene—Capitola.
"Well, marster, the last time Herbert Greyson came home he gave me five dollars, and that, with what I had saved, was enough to pay my passage to Norfolk.
"I left my little Cap in the care of the people of the house—she was big enough to pay for her keep in work—and I took passage for Norfolk. When I got there I fell ill, spent all my money, and was at last taken to the poor-house. Six months passed away before I was discharged, and then six months more before I had earned and saved money enough to pay my way on here.
"I reached here three days ago and found a wheat field growing where my cottage fire used to burn, and all my old cronies dead, all except Old Hat, who has received and given me shelter. Sir, my story is done—make what you can of it," said the invalid, sinking down in her bed as if utterly exhausted.
Old Hurricane, whose countenance had expressed emotions as powerful as they were various while listening to this tale, now arose, stepped cautiously to the door, drew the bolt, and, coming back, bent his head and asked:
"What more of the child?"
"Cap, sir? I have not heard a word of Cap since I left her to try to find out her friends. But any one interested in her might inquire for her at Mrs. Simmons', laundress, No. 8 Rag Alley."
"You say the names upon that ring were Eugene—Capitola?"
"Yes, sir, they were."
"Have you that ring about you?"
"No, marster. I thought it was best in case of accidents to leave it with the child."
"Have you told her any part of this strange history?"
"No, marster, nor hinted at it; she was too young for such a confidence."
"You were right. Had she any mark about her person by which she could be identified?"
"Yes, marster, a very strange one. In the middle of her left palm was the perfect image of a crimson hand, about half an inch in length. There was also another. Henry Greyson, to please me, marked upon her forearm, in India ink, her name and birthday—'Capitola, Oct. 31st, 1832.'"
"Right! Now tell me, my good soul, do you know, from what you were able to observe, what house that was where Capitola was born?"
"I am on my oath! No, sir; I do not know, but——"
The woman nodded.
"It was——" said old Hurricane, stooping and whispering a name that was heard by no one but the sick woman.
She nodded again, with a look of intense meaning.
"Does your old hostess here, Hat, know or suspect anything of this story?" inquired Major Warfield.
"Not a word! No soul but yourself has heard it!"
"That is right! Still be discreet! If you would have the wicked punished and the innocent protected, be silent and wary. Have no anxiety about the girl. What man can do for her will I do and quickly! And now, good creature, day is actually dawning. You must seek repose. And I must call the parson in and return home. I will send Mrs. Condiment over with food, wine, medicine, clothing and every comfort that your condition requires," said Old Hurricane, rising and calling in the clergyman, with whom he soon after left the hut for home.
They reached Hurricane Hall in time for an early breakfast, which the astonished housekeeper had prepared, and for which their night's adventures had certainly given them a good appetite.
Major Warfield kept his word, and as soon as breakfast was over he dispatched Mrs. Condiment with a carriage filled with provisions for the sick woman. But they were not needed. In a couple of hours the housekeeper returned with the intelligence that the old nurse was dead. The false strength of mental excitement that had enabled her to tell so long and dreadful a tale had been the last flaring up of the flame of life that almost immediately went out.
"I am not sorry, upon the whole, for now I shall have the game in my own hands!" muttered Old Hurricane to himself. "Ah! Gabrielle Le Noir, better you had cast yourself down from the highest rock of this range and been dashed to pieces below, than have thus fallen into my power!"
Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling And out he rode. —Hudibras.
Pursuant to the orders of Major Warfield, the corpse of the old midwife was the next day after her decease brought over and quietly interred in the family graveyard of Hurricane Hall.
And then Major Warfield astonished his household by giving orders to his housekeeper and his body-servant to prepare his wardrobe and pack his trunks for a long journey to the north.
"What can the major be thinking of, to be setting out for the north at this time of the year?" exclaimed good little Mrs. Condiment, as she picked over her employer's shirts, selecting the newest and warmest to be done up for the occasion.
"Lord A'mighty o'ny knows; but 'pears to me marster's never been right in his headpiece since Hollow-eve night, when he took that ride to the Witch's Hut," replied Wool, who, with brush and sponge, was engaged in rejuvenating his master's outer garments.
But, let his family wonder as they would, Old Hurricane kept his own counsel—only just as he was going away, lest mystery should lead to investigation, and that to discovery, the old man gave out that he was going north to invest capital in bank stock, and so, quite unattended, he departed.
His servant Wool, indeed, accompanied him as far as Tip-Top, the little hamlet on the mountain at which he was to meet the eastern stage; but there having seen his master comfortably deposited in the inside of the coach, and the luggage safely stowed in the boot, Wool was ordered to return with the carriage. And Major Warfield proceeded on his journey alone. This also caused much speculation in the family.
"Who's gwine to make his punch and warm his bed and put his slippers on the hearth and hang his gown to de fire?—that what I want to know!" cried the grieved and indignant Wool.
"Oh, the waiters at the taverns where he stops can do that for him," said Mrs. Condiment.
"No, they can't, nuther; they don't know his ways! they don't know nuffin' 'bout him! I 'clare, I think our ole marse done gone clean crazy! I shouldn't be s'prised he'd gone off to de norf to get married, and was to bring home a young wife to we dem!"
"Tut! tut! tut! such talk! That will never do!" exclaimed the deeply shocked Mrs. Condiment.
"Werry well! All I say is, 'Dem as libs longest will see most!'" said Wool, shaking his white head. After which undeniable apothegm the conversation came to a stand.
Meanwhile, Old Hurricane pursued his journey—a lumbering, old-fashioned stage-coach ride—across the mountains, creeping at a snail's crawl up one side of the precipice and clattering thunderously down the other at a headlong speed that pitched the back-seat passengers into the bosoms of the front ones and threatened even to cast the coach over the heads of the horses. Three days and nights of such rugged riding brought the traveler to Washington City, where he rested one night and then took the cars for New York. He rested another night in Philadelphia, resumed his journey by the first train in the morning and reached New York about noon.
The crowd, the noise, the hurry and confusion at the wharf almost drove this irascible old gentleman mad.
"No, confound you!"
"I'll see your neck stretched first, you villain!"
"Out of my way, or I'll break your head, sirrah!" were some of his responses to the solicitous attentions of cabmen and porters. At length, taking up his heavy carpet-bag in both hands, Old Hurricane began to lay about him, with such effect that he speedily cleared a passage for himself through the crowd. Then addressing a cabman who had not offended by speaking first, he said:
"Here, sir! Here are my checks! Go get my luggage and take it to the Astor House. Hand the clerk this card, and tell him I want a good room, well warmed. I shall take a walk around the city before going. And, hark ye! If one of my trunks is missing I'll have you hanged, you rogue!"
"Breach of trust isn't a hanging matter in New York, your honor," laughed the cabman, as he touched his hat and hurried off toward the crowd collected around the baggage car.
Old Hurricane made a step or two as if he would have pursued and punished the flippancy of the man, but finally thought better of it, picked up his portmanteau and walked up the street slowly, with frequent pauses and bewildered looks, as though he had forgotten his directions or lost his way, and yet hesitated to inquire of any one for the obscure little alley in which he had been told to look for his treasure.
Her sex a page's dress belied, Obscured her charms but could not hide. —Scott.
"Please, sir, do you want your carpet-bag carried?" asked a voice near.
Old Hurricane looked around him with a puzzled air, for he thought that a young girl had made this offer, so soft and clear were the notes of the voice that spoke.
"It was I, sir! Here I am, at yours and everybody's service, sir!" said the same voice.
And turning, Old Hurricane saw sitting astride a pile of boxes at the corner store, a very ragged lad some thirteen years of age.
"Good gracious!" thought Old Hurricane, as he gazed upon the boy, "this must be crown prince and heir apparent to the 'king of shreds and patches!'"
"Well, old gent! you'll know me next time, that's certain," said the lad, returning the look with interest.
It is probable Old Hurricane did not hear this irreverent speech, for he continued to gaze with pity and dismay upon the ragamuffin before him. He was a handsome boy, too, notwithstanding the deplorable state of his wardrobe. Thick, clustering curls of jet-black hair fell in tangled disorder around a forehead broad, white and smooth as that of a girl; slender and quaintly arched black eyebrows played above a pair of mischievous, dark-gray eyes that sparkled beneath the shade of long, thick, black lashes; a little turned-up nose, and red, pouting lips completed the character of a countenance full of fun, frolic, spirit and courage.
"Well, governor, if you've looked long enough, maybe you'll take me into service," said the lad, winking to a group of his fellow-newsboys that had gathered at the corner.
"Dear! dear! dear! he looks as if he had never in his life seen soap and water or a suit of whole clothes!" ejaculated the old gentleman, adding, kindly: "Yes, I reckon I will give you the job, my son!"
"His son! Oh, crikey! do you hear that, fellows? His son? Oh, Lor'! my governor's turned up at last. I'm his son! oh, gemini! But what did I tell you! I always had a sort of impression that I must have had a father in some former period of my life; and, behold, here he is! Who knows but I might have had a mother also? But that isn't likely. Still, I'll ask him. How's the old woman, sir?" said the newsboy, jumping off the boxes and taking the carpet-bag in his hand.
"What are you talking about, you infatuated tatterdemalion? Come along! If it weren't for pity I'd have you put in the pillory!" exclaimed Old Hurricane, shaking his cane at the offender.
"Thanky, sir! I've not had a pillow under my head for a long time."
"Just so, sir! 'a dumb devil is better than a talking one!'" answered the lad, demurely following his employer.
They went on some distance, Old Hurricane diligently reading the names of the streets at the corners. Presently he stopped again, bewildered, and after gazing around himself for a few minutes, said:
"Do you know such a place as Rag Alley in Manillo Street?"
"Rag Alley, sir?"
"Yes; a sort of narrow, dark, musty place, with a row of old, tumble-down tenements each side, where poor wretches live all huddled up together, fifty in a house, eh? I was told I couldn't drive up it in a carriage, so I had to walk. Do you know such a place?"
"Do I know such a place! Do I know Rag Alley? Oh, my eye! Oh, he! he! he! he!"
"What are you laughing at now, you miscellaneous assortment of variegated pieces?"
"Oh! oh, dear! I was laughing to think how well I knew Rag Alley!"
"Humph! you do look as if you were born and bred there."
"But, sir, I wasn't!"
"Humph! How did you get into life, then?"
"I don't know, governor, unless I was raked up from the gutter by some old woman in the rag-picking line!" said the newsboy, demurely.
"Humph. I think that quite likely! But now, do you say that you know where that alley is?"
"Oh, don't set me off again! Oh, he! he! he! Yes, sir, I know."
"Well, then, show me the way and don't be a fool!"
"I'd scorn to be it, sir. This is the way!" said the lad, taking the lead.
They walked on several squares, and then the boy stopped, and pointing down a cross-street, said:
"There, governor; there you are."
"There! Where? Why that's a handsome street!" said Old Hurricane, gazing up in admiration at the opposite blocks of stately brown-stone mansions.
"That's it, hows'ever! That's Rag Alley. 'Tain't called Rag Alley now, though! It's called Hifalutin Terrace! Them tenements you talk of were pulled down more'n a year ago and these houses put up in their place," said the newsboy.
"Dear! dear! dear! what changes! And what became of the poor tenants?" asked Old Hurricane, gazing in dismay at the inroads of improvement.
"The tenants? poor wretches! how do I know? Carted away, blown away, thrown away, with the other rubbish. What became of the tenants?
"'Ask of the winds that far around With fragments strewed the sea-ty!'
I heard that spouted at a school exhibition once, governor!" said the lad, demurely.
"Humph! well, well well! the trace is lost! What shall I do?—put advertisements in all the daily papers—apply at the chief police office? Yes, I'll do both," muttered Old Hurricane to himself; then, speaking out, he called:
"Call me a cab!"
"Yes, sir!" And the lad was off like an arrow to do his bidding.
In a few moments the cab drove up. The newsboy, who was sitting beside the driver, jumped down and said:
"Here it is, sir!"
"Thank you, my son; here is your fee," said Old Hurricane, putting a silver dollar into the lad's hand.
"What! Lor', it can't be I but it is! He must have made a mistake! What if he did, I don't care! Yes, I do, too! 'Honor bright!'" exclaimed the newsboy, looking in wonder and desire and sore temptation upon the largest piece of money he had ever touched in his life. "Governor!"
"Well, boy?" said the old gentleman, with his feet upon the steps of the cab.
"You've been and done and gone and give me a whole dollar by mistake!"
"And why should you think it a mistake, you impertinent monkey?"
"Your honor didn't mean it?"
"Why not, you young rascal? Of course I did. Take it and be off with you!" said Old Hurricane, beginning to ascend the steps.
"I'm a great mind to," said the newsboy, still gazing on the coin with satisfaction and desire—"I'm a great mind to; but I won't! 'tain't fair! Governor, I say!"
"What now, you troublesome fellow?"
"Do stop a minute! Don't tempt me too hard, 'cause, you see, I ain't sure I could keep honest if I was tempted too hard."
"What do you mean now, you ridiculous little ape?"
"I mean I know you're from the country, and don't know no better, and I mus'n't impose upon your ignorance."
"My ignorance, you impudent villain!" exclaimed the old man, with rising wrath.
"Yes, governor; you hain't cut your eye-teeth yet! you hain't up to snuff! you don't know nothing! Why, this is too much for toting a carpet-bag a half a dozen squares; and it's very well you fell in with a honest lad like me, that wouldn't impose on your innocence. Bless you, the usual price isn't more'n a dime, or, if you're rich and generous, a shillin'; but——"
"What the deuce do I care for the usual price, you—you—you perfect prodigy of patches? There, for the Lord's sake, go get yourself a decent suit of clothes! Drive on, cabman!" roared Old Hurricane, flinging an eagle upon the sidewalk and rolling off in his cab.
"Poor dear, old gentleman! I wonder where his keeper is? How could he have got loose? Maybe I'd better go and tell the police! But then I don't know who he is, or where he's gone! But he is very crazy, and I'm afraid he'll fling away every cent of his money before his friends can catch him. I know what I'll do. I'll go to the stand and watch for the cab to come back and ask the driver what he has done with the poor, dear old fellow!" said the newsboy, picking up the gold coin and putting it into his pocket. And then he started, but with an eye to business, singing out:
"Herald! Triebune! Express! last account of the orful accident—steamer," etc., etc., etc., selling his papers as he went on to the cab-stand. He found the cabman already there. And to his anxious inquiries as to the sanity of the old gentleman, that Jehu replied:
"Oh, bless your soul, crazy? No; no more'n you or I. He's a real nob—a real Virginian, F. F. V., with money like the sands on the seashore! Keep the tin, lad; he knowed what he was a-doin' on."
"Oh, it a'most scares me to have so much money!" exclaimed the boy, half in delight, half in dismay; "but to-night I'll have a warm supper and sleep in a bed once more! And to-morrow a new suit of clothes! So here goes—Herald! Express!—full account—the horrible murder—Bell Street—Ledgee-ee-ee," etc., etc., etc., crying his papers until he was out of hearing.
Never in his life had the newsboy felt so prosperous and happy.
"And at the magistrate's command, And next undid the leathern band That bound her tresses there, And raised her felt hat from her head, And down her slender form there spread Black ringlets rich and rare."
Old Hurricane meanwhile dined at the public table at the Astor, and afterward went to his room to rest, smoke and ruminate. And he finished the evening by supping and retiring to bed.
In the morning, after an early breakfast, he wrote a dozen advertisements and called a cab and rode around to leave them with the various daily papers for immediate publication. Then, to lose no time, he rode up to the Recorder's office to set the police upon the search.
As he was about to enter the front portal he observed the doorway and passage blocked up with even a larger crowd than usual.
And seeing the cabman who had waited upon him the preceding day, he inquired of him:
"What is the matter here?"
"Nothing, your honor, 'cept a boy tuk up for wearing girl's clothes, or a girl tuk up for wearing boy's, I dunno which," said the man, touching his hat.
"Let me pass, then; I must speak to the chief of police," said Old Hurricane, shoving his way into the Recorder's room.
"This is not the office of the chief, sir; you will find him on the other side of the hall," said a bystander.
But before Old Hurricane had gathered the sense of these words, a sight within the office drew his steps thither. Up before the Recorder stood a lad of about thirteen years, who, despite his smart, new suit of gray casinet, his long, rolling, black ringlets and his downcast and blushing face, Old Hurricane immediately recognized as his acquaintance, of the preceding day, the saucy young tatterdemalion.
Feeling sorry for the friendless boy, the old man impulsively went up to him and patted him on the shoulder, saying:
"What! In trouble, my lad? Never mind; never look down! I'll warrant ye an honest lad from what I've seen myself. Come! come! pluck up a spirit! I'll see you through, my lad."
"'Lad!' Lord bless your soul, sir, he's no more a lad than you or I! The young rascal is a girl in boy's clothes, sir!" said the officer who had the culprit in custody.
"What—what—what!" exclaimed Old Hurricane, gazing in consternation from the young prisoner to the accuser; "what—what! my newsboy, my saucy little prince of patches, a girl in boy's clothes?"
"Yes, sir—a young scoundrel! I actually twigged him selling papers at the Fulton Ferry this morning! A little rascal!"
"A girl in boy's clothes! A girl!" exclaimed Old Hurricane, with his eyes nearly starting out of his head.
Just then the young culprit looked up in his face with an expression half melancholy, half mischievous, that appealed to the rugged heart of the old man. Turning around to the policeman, he startled the whole office by roaring out:
"Girl, is she, sir? Then, demmy, sir, whether a girl in boy's clothes, or men's clothes, or soldier's clothes, or sailor's clothes, or any clothes, or no clothes, sir, treat her with the delicacy due to womanhood, sir! ay, and the tenderness owed to childhood! for she is but a bit of a poor, friendless, motherless, fatherless child, lost and wandering in your great Babylon! No more hard words to her, sir—or by the ever-lasting——"
"Order!" put in the calm and dignified Recorder.
Old Hurricane, though his face was still purple, his veins swollen and his eyeballs glaring with anger, immediately recovered himself, turned and bowed to the Recorder and said:
"Yes, sir, I will keep order, if you'll make that brute of a policeman reform his language!"
And so saying Old Hurricane subsided into a seat immediately behind the child, to watch the examination.
"What'll they do with her, do you think?" he inquired of a bystander.
"Send her down, in course."
"To Blackwell's Island—to the work'us, in course."
"To the workhouse—her, that child?—the wretches! Um-m-m-me! Oh-h-h!" groaned Old Hurricane, stooping and burying his shaggy gray head in his great hands.
He felt his shoulder touched, and, looking up, saw that the little prisoner had turned around, and was about to speak to him.
"Governor," said the same clear voice that he had even at first supposed to belong to a girl—"Governor, don't you keep on letting out that way! You don't know nothing! You're in the Recorder's Court! If you don't mind your eye they'll commit you for contempt!"
"Will they? Then they'll do well, my lad! Lass, I mean. I plead guilty to contempt. Send a child like you to the——! They shan't do it! Simply, they shan't do it! I, Major Warfield of Virginia, tell you so, my boy—girl, I mean!"
"But, you innocent old lion, instead of freeing me, you'll find yourself shut up between four walls! and very narrow ones at that, I tell you! You'll think yourself in your coffin! Governor, they call it The Tombs!" whispered the child.
"Attention!" said the clerk.
The little prisoner turned and faced the court. And the "old lion" buried his shaggy, gray head and beard in his hands and groaned aloud.
"Now, then, what is your name, my lad—my girl, I should say?" inquired the clerk.
Old Hurricane pricked up his ears and raised his head, muttering to himself: "Cap-it-o-la! That's a very odd name! Can't surely be two in the world of the same! Cap-it-ola!—if it should be my Capitola, after all! I shouldn't wonder at all! I'll listen and say nothing." And with this wise resolution, Old Hurricane again dropped his head upon his hands.
"You say your name is Capitola—Capitola what?" inquired the clerk, continuing the examination.
"Nothing! What do you mean?"
"I have no name but Capitola, sir."
"Who is your father?"
"Never had any that I know, sir."
"Never had a mother either, sir, as ever I heard."
"Where do you live?"
"About in spots in the city, sir."
"Oh—oh—oh!" groaned old Hurricane within his hands.
"What is your calling?" inquired the clerk.
"Selling newspapers, carrying portmanteaus and packages sweeping before doors, clearing off snow, blacking boots and so on."
"Little odd jobs in general, eh?"
"Yes, sir, anything that I can turn my hand to and get to do."
"Boy—girl, I should say—what tempted you to put yourself into male attire?"
"In boy's clothes, then?"
"Oh, yes; want, sir—and—and—danger, sir!" cried the little prisoner, putting her hands to a face crimson with blushes and for the first time since her arrest upon the eve of sobbing.
"Oh—oh—oh!" groaned Old Hurricane from his chair.
"Want? Danger? How is that?" continued the clerk.
"Your honor mightn't like to know."
"By all means! It is, in fact, necessary that you should give an account of yourself," said the clerk.
Old Hurricane once more raised his head, opened his ears and gave close attention.
One circumstance he had particularly remarked—the language used by the poor child during her examination was much superior to the slang she had previously affected, to support her assumed character of newsboy.
"Well, well—why do you pause? Go on—go on, my good boy—girl, I mean I" said the Recorder, in a tone of kind encouragement.
A SHORT, SAD STORY.
"Ah! poverty is a weary thing! It burdeneth the brain, It maketh even the little child To murmur and complain."
"It is not much I have to tell," began Capitola. "I was brought up in Rag Alley and its neighborhood by an old woman named Nancy Grewell."
"Ah!" ejaculated Old Hurricane.
"She was a washwoman, and rented one scantily furnished room from a poor family named Simmons."
"Oh!" cried Old Hurricane.
"Granny, as I called her, was very good to me, and I never suffered cold nor hunger until about eighteen months ago, when Granny took it into her head to go down to Virginia."
"Umph!" exclaimed Old Hurricane.
"When Granny went away she left me a little money and some good clothes and told me to be sure to stay with the people where she left me, for that she would be back in about a month. But, your honor, that was the last I ever saw or heard of poor Granny! She never came back again. And by that I know she must have died."
"Ah-h-h!" breathed the old man, puffing fast.
"The first month or two after Granny left I did well enough. And then, when the little money was all gone, I eat with the Simmonses and did little odd jobs for my food. But by and by Mr. Simmons got out of work, and the family fell into want, and they wished me to go out and beg for them. I just couldn't do that, and so they told me I should look out for myself."
"Were there no customers of your grandmother that you could have applied to for employment?" asked the Recorder.
"No, sir. My Granny's customers were mostly boarders at the small taverns, and they were always changing. I did apply to two or three houses where the landladies knew Granny; but they didn't want me."
"Oh-h-h!" groaned Major Warfield, in the tone of one in great pain.
"I wouldn't have that old fellow's conscience for a good deal," whispered a spectator, "for, as sure as shooting, that gal's his unlawful child!"
"Well, go on! What next?" asked the clerk.
"Well, sir, though the Simmonses had nothing to give me except a crust now and then, they still let me sleep in the house, for the little jobs I could do for them. But at last Simmons he got work on the railroad away off somewhere, and they all moved away from the city."
"And you were left alone?"
"Yes, sir; I was left alone in the empty, unfurnished house. Still it was a shelter, and I was glad of it, and I dreaded the time when it would be rented by another tenant, and I should be turned into the street."
"Oh! oh! oh, Lord!" groaned the major.
"But it was never rented again, for the word went around that the whole row was to be pulled down, and so I thought I had leave to stay at least as long as the rats did!" continued Capitola, with somewhat of her natural roguish humor twinkling in her dark-gray eyes.
"But how did you get your bread?" inquired the Recorder.
"Did not get it at all, sir. Bread was too dear! I sold my clothes, piece by piece, to the old Jew over the way and bought corn-meal and picked up trash to make a fire and cooked a little mush every day in an old tin can that had been left behind. And so I lived on for two or three weeks. And then when my clothes were all gone except the suit I had upon my back, and my meal was almost out, instead of making mush every day I economized and made gruel."
"But, my boy—my good girl, I mean—before you became so destitute you should have found something or other to do," said the Recorder.
"Sir, I was trying to get jobs every hour in the day. I'd have done anything honest. I went around to all the houses Granny knew, but they didn't want a girl. Some of the good-natured landlords said if I was a boy, now, they could keep me opening oysters; but as I was a girl they had no work for me. I even went to the offices to get papers to sell; but they told me that crying papers was not proper work for a girl. I even went down to the ferry-boats and watched for the passengers coming ashore, and ran and offered to carry their carpet-bags or portmanteaus; but some growled at me, and others laughed at me, and one old gentleman asked me if I thought he was a North American Indian to strut up Broadway with a female behind him carrying his pack. And so, sir, while all the ragged boys I knew could get little jobs to earn bread, I, because I was a girl, was not allowed to carry a gentleman's parcel or black his boots, or shovel the snow off a shopkeeper's pavement, or put in coal, or do anything that I could do just as well as they. And so because I was a girl there seemed to be nothing but starvation or beggary before me!"
"Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! that such things should be!" cried Old Hurricane.
"That was bad, sir; but there was worse behind! There came a day when my meal, even the last dust of it, was gone. Then I kept life in me by drinking water and by sleeping all I could. At first I could not sleep for the gnawing—gnawing—in my stomach; but afterwards I slept deeply, from exhaustion, and then I'd dream of feasts and the richest sort of food, and of eating such quantities; and, really, sir, I seemed to taste it and enjoy it and get the good of it, almost as much as if it was all true! One morning after such a dream I was waked up by a great noise outside. I staggered upon my feet and crept to the window, and there, sir, were the workmen all outside a-pulling down the house over my head!"
"Good Heaven!" ejaculated Old Hurricane, who seemed to constitute himself the chorus of this drama.
"Sir, they didn't know that I or any one was in the empty house! Fright gave me strength to run down-stairs and run out. Then I stopped. Oh! I stopped and looked up and down the street. What should I do? The last shelter was gone away from me—the house where I had lived so many years, and that seemed like a friend to me, was falling before my eyes! I thought I'd just go and pitch myself into the river and end it all!"
"That was a very wicked thought," said the Recorder.
"Yes, sir, I know it was, and, besides, I was dreadfully afraid of being suffocated in the dirty water around the wharf!" said Capitola, with a sparkle of that irrepressible humor that effervesced even through all her trouble. "Well, sir, the hand that feeds young ravens kept me from dying that day. I found a five-cent piece in the street and resolved not to smother myself in the river mud as long as it lasted. So I bought a muffin, ate it, and went down to the wharf to look for a job. I looked all day but found none, and when night came I went into a lumber yard and hid myself behind a pile of planks that kept the wind off me, and I went to sleep and dreamed a beautiful dream of living in a handsome house, with friends all around me and everything good to eat and drink and wear!"
"Poor, poor child; but your dream may come true yet!" muttered Old Hurricane to himself.
"Well, your honor, next day I spent another penny out of my half-dime and looked in vain for work all day and slept at night in a broken-down omnibus that had happened to be left on the stand. And so, not to tire your patience, a whole week passed away. I lived on my half-dime, spending a penny a day for a muffin, until the last penny was gone, and sleeping at night wherever I could—sometimes under the front stoop of a house, sometimes in an old broken carriage and sometimes behind a pile of boxes on the sidewalk."
"That was a dreadful exposure for a young girl," said the Recorder.
A burning blush flamed up over the young creature's cheek as she answered:
"Yes, sir, that was the worst of all; that finally drove me to putting on boy's clothes."
"Let us hear all about it."
"Oh, sir, I can't—I—How can I? Well, being always exposed, sleeping outdoors, I was often in danger from bad boys and bad men," said Capitola, and, dropping her head upon her breast and covering her crimson cheeks with her hands, for the first time she burst into tears and sobbed aloud.
"Come, come, my little man—my good little woman, I mean! don't take it so to heart. You couldn't help it!" said Old Hurricane, with raindrops glittering even in his own stormy eyes.
Capitola looked up, with her whole countenance flashing with spirit, and exclaimed: "Oh! but I took care of myself, sir! I did, indeed, your honor! You mustn't, either you or the old gentleman, dare to think but what I did!"
"Oh, of course! of course!" said a bystander, laughing.
Old Hurricane sprang up, bringing his feet down upon the floor with a resound that made the great hall ring again, exclaiming:
"What do you mean by 'of course! of course!' you villain? Demmy! I'll swear she took care of herself, you varlet; and if any man dares to hint otherwise, I'll ram his falsehood down his throat with the point of my walking stick and make him swallow both!"
"Order! order!" said the clerk.
Old Hurricane immediately wheeled to the right about faced and saluted the bench in military fashion, and then said:
"Yes, sir! I'll regard order! but in the meanwhile, if the court does not protect this child from insult I must, order or no order!" and with that the old gentleman once more subsided into his seat.
"Governor, don't you be so noisy! You'll get yourself stopped up into a jug next! Why, you remind me of an uproarious old fellow poor Granny used to talk about, that they called Old Hurricane, because he was so stormy!" whispered Capitola, turning toward him.
"Humph! she's heard of me, then!" muttered the old gentleman to himself.
"Well, sir—I mean, miss—go on!" said the clerk, addressing Capitola.
"Yes, sir. Well, your honor, at the end of five days, being a certain Thursday morning, when I couldn't get a job of work for love nor money, when my last penny was spent for my last roll, and my last roll was eaten up, and I was dreading the gnawing hunger by day and the horrid perils of the night, I thought to myself if I were only a boy I might carry packages and shovel in coal, and do lots of jobs by day, and sleep without terror by night. And then I felt bitter against Fate for not making me a boy. And so, thinking and thinking and thinking I wandered on until I found myself in Rag Alley, where I used to live, standing right between the pile of broken bricks, plaster and lumber that used to be my home, and the old Jew's shop where I sold my clothes for meal. And then all of a sudden a bright thought struck me? and I made up my mind to be a boy!"
"Made up your mind to be a boy?"
"Yes, sir, for it was so easy! I wondered how I came to be so stupid as not to have thought of it before. I just ran across to the old Jew's shop and offered to swap my suit of girl's clothes, that was good, though dirty, for any, even the raggedest suit of boy's clothes he had, whether they'd fit me or not, so they would only stay on me. The old fellow put his finger to his nose as if he thought I'd been stealing and wanted to dodge the police. So he took down an old, not very ragged, suit that he said would fit me, and opened a door and told me to go in his daughter's room and put 'em on.
"Well, not to tire your honors, I went into that little back parlor a girl and I came out a boy, with a suit of pants and jacket, with my hair cut short and a cap on my head! The Jew gave me a penny roll and a sixpence for my black ringlets."
"All seemed grist that came to his mill!" said Old Hurricane.
"Yes, Governor, he was a dealer in general. Well, the first thing I did was to hire myself to the Jew, at a sixpence a day and find myself, to shovel in his coal. That didn't take me but a day. So at night the Jew paid me, and I slept in peace behind a stack of boxes. Next morning I was up before the sun and down to the office of the little penny paper, the 'Morning Star.' I bought two dozen of 'em and ran as fast as I could to the ferry-boats to sell to the early passengers. Well, sir, in an hour's time I had sold out and pocketed just two shillings, and felt myself on the highroad to fortune!"
"And so that was the way by which you came to put yourself in male attire?"
"Yes, sir, and the only thing that made me feel sorry was to see what a fool I had been not to turn to a boy before, when it was so easy! And from that day forth I was happy and prosperous! I found plenty to do! I carried carpet-bags, held horses, put in coal, cleaned sidewalks, blacked gentlemen's boots and did everything an honest lad could turn his hand to. And so for more'n a year I was as happy as a king, and should have kept on so, only I forgot and let my hair grow; and instead of cutting it off, just tucked it up under my cap; and so this morning on the ferry-boat, in a high breeze, the wind blowed off my cap and the policeman blowed on me!"
"'Twasn't altogether her long hair, your honor, for I had seen her before, having known her when she lived with old Mrs. Grewell in Rag Alley," interrupted the officer.
"You may sit down, my child," said the Recorder, in a tone of encouragement.
METAMORPHOSIS OF THE NEWSBOY.
With caution judge of probability, Things deemed unlikely, e'en impossible, Experience oft hath proven to be true. —Shakespeare.
"What shall we do with her?" inquired the Recorder, sotto voce, of a brother magistrate who appeared to be associated with him on the bench.
"Send her to the Refuge," replied the other, in the same tone.
"What are they consulting about?" asked Old Hurricane, whose ears were not of the best.
"They are talking of sending her to the Refuge," answered a bystander.
"Refuge? Is there a refuge for destitute children in New York? Then Babylon is not so bad as I thought it. What is this Refuge?"
"It is a prison where juvenile delinquents are trained to habits of——"
"A prison! Send her to a prison? Never!" burst forth Old Hurricane, rising and marching up to the Recorder; he stood, hat in hand, before him and said:
"Your honor, if a proper legal guardian appears to claim this young person and holds himself in all respects responsible for her, may she not be at once delivered into his hands?"
"Assuredly," answered the magistrate, with the manner of one glad to be rid of the charge.
"Then, sir, I, Ira Warfield, of Hurricane Hall, in Virginia, present myself as the guardian of this girl, Capitola Black, whom I claim as my ward. And I will enter into a recognizance for any sum to appear and prove my right if it should be disputed. For my personal responsibility, sir, I refer you to the proprietors of the Astor, who have known me many years."
"It is not necessary, Major Warfield; we assume the fact of your responsibility and deliver up the young girl to your charge."
"I thank you, sir," said Old Hurricane, bowing low. Then hurrying across the room where sat the reporters for the press he said:
"Gentlemen, I have a favor to ask of you; it is that you will altogether drop this case of the boy in girl's clothes—I mean the girl in girl's clothes—I declare I don't know what I mean; nor I shan't, neither, until I see the creature in its proper dress, but this I wish to request of you, gentlemen, that you will drop that item from your report, or if you must mention it, treat it with delicacy, as the good name of a young lady is involved."
The reporters, with sidelong glances, winks and smiles, gave him the required promise, and Old Hurricane returned to the side of his protegee.
"Capitola, are you willing to go with me?"
"Jolly willing, governor."
"Then come along; my cab is waiting," said Old Hurricane, and, bowing to the court, he took the hand of his charge and led her forth, amid the ill-suppressed jibes of the crowd.
"There's a hoary-headed old sinner!" said one.
"She's as like him as two peas," quoth another.
"Wonder if there's any more belonging to him of the same sort?" inquired a third.
Leaving all the sarcasm behind him, Old Hurricane handed his protegee into the cab, took the seat beside her and gave orders to be driven out toward Harlem.
As soon as they were seated in the cab the old man turned to his charge and said:
"Capitola, I shall have to trust to your girl's wit to get yourself into your proper clothes again without exciting further notice."
"My boy—girl, I mean—I am not the governor of Virginia, though if every one had his rights I don't know but I should be. However, I am only Major Warfield," said the old man, naively, for he had not the most distant idea that the title bestowed on him by Capitola was a mere remnant of her newsboys "slang."
"Now, my lad—pshaw! my lass, I mean—how shall we get you metamorphosed again?"
"I know, gov—major, I mean. There is a shop of ready-made clothing at the Needle Woman's Aid, corner of the next square. I can get out there and buy a full suit."
"Very well. Stop at the next corner, driver," called Old Hurricane.
The next minute the cab drew up before a warehouse of ready-made garments.
Old Hurricane jumped out, and, leading his charge, entered the shop.
Luckily, there was behind the counter only one person—a staid, elderly, kind-looking woman.
"Here, madam," said Old Hurricane, stooping confidentially to her ear, "I am in a little embarrassment that I hope you will be willing to help me out of for a consideration. I came to New York in pursuit of my ward—this young girl here—whom I found in boy's clothes. I now wish to restore her to her proper dress, before presenting her to my friends, of course. Therefore, I wish you to furnish her with a half dozen complete suits of female attire, of the very best you have that will fit her. And also to give her the use of a room and of your own aid in changing her dress. I will pay you liberally."
Half suspicious and half scandalized, the worthy woman gazed with scrutiny first into the face of the guardian and then into that of the ward; but finding in the extreme youth of the one and the advanced age of the other, and in the honest expression of both, something to allay her fears, if not to inspire her confidence, she said:
"Very well, sir. Come after me, young gentleman—young lady, I should say." And, calling a boy to mind the shop, she conducted Capitola to an inner apartment.
Old Hurricane went out and dismissed his cab. When it was entirely out of sight he hailed another that was passing by empty, and engaged it to take himself and a young lady to the Washington House.
When he re-entered the shop he found the shop woman and Capitola returned and waiting for him.
Capitola was indeed transfigured. Her bright black hair, parted in the middle, fell in ringlets each side her blushing cheeks; her dark-gray eyes were cast down in modesty at the very same instant that her ripe red lips were puckered up with mischief. She was well and properly attired in a gray silk dress, crimson merino shawl and a black velvet bonnet.
The other clothing that had been purchased was done up in packages and put into the cab.
And after paying the shop woman handsomely, Old Hurricane took the hand of his ward, handed her into the cab and gave the order:
"To the Washington House."
The ride was performed in silence.
Capitola sat deeply blushing at the recollection of her male attire, and profoundly cogitating as to what could be the relationship between herself and the gray old man whose claim the Recorder had so promptly admitted. There seemed but one way of accounting for the great interest he took in her fate. Capitola came to the conclusion that the grim old lion before her was no more nor less than—her own father! for alas! poor Cap had been too long tossed about New York not to know more of life than at her age she should have known. She had indeed the innocence of youth, but not its simplicity.
Old Hurricane, on his part, sat with his thick cane grasped in his two knobby hands, standing between his knees, his grizzled chin resting upon it and his eyes cast down as in deep thought.
And so in silence they reached the Washington House.
Major Warfield then conducted his ward into the ladies' parlor, and went and entered his own and her name upon the books as "Major Warfield and his ward, Miss Black," for whom he engaged two bedrooms and a private parlor.
Then, leaving Capitola to be shown to her apartment by a chambermaid, he went out and ordered her luggage up to her room and dismissed the cab.
Next he walked to the Astor House, paid his bill, collected his baggage, took another carriage and drove back to the Washington Hotel.
All this trouble Old Hurricane took to break the links of his action and prevent scandal. This filled up a long forenoon.
He dined alone with his ward in their private parlor.
Such a dinner poor Cap had never even smelled before. How immensely she enjoyed it, with all its surroundings—the comfortable room, the glowing fire, the clean table, the rich food, the obsequious attendance, her own genteel and becoming dress, the company of a highly respectable guardian—all, all so different from anything she had ever been accustomed to, and so highly appreciated.
How happy she felt! How much happier from the contrast of her previous wretchedness, to be suddenly freed from want, toil, fear and all the evils of destitute orphanage, and to find herself blessed with wealth, leisure and safety, under the care of a rich, good and kind father (or as such Capitola continued to believe her guardian to be). It was an incredible thing! It was like a fairy tale!
Something of what was passing in her mind was perceived by Old Hurricane, who frequently burst into uproarious fits of laughter as he watched her.
At last, when the dinner and the dessert were removed, and the nuts, raisins and wine placed upon the table, and the waiters had retired from the room and left them alone, sitting one on each side of the fire, with the table and its luxuries between them, Major Warfield suddenly looked up and asked:
"Capitola, whom do you think that I am?"
"Old Hurricane, to be sure. I knew you from Granny's description, the moment you broke out so in the police office," answered Cap.
"Humph! Yes, you're right; and it was your Granny that bequeathed you to me, Capitola."
"Then she is really dead?"
"Yes. There—don't cry about her. She was very old, and she died happy. Now, Capitola, if you please me I mean to adopt you as my own daughter."
"No, no; you needn't call me father, you know, because it isn't true. Call me uncle, uncle, uncle."
"Is that true, sir?" asked Cap, demurely.
"No, no, no; but it will do, it will do. Now, Cap, how much do you know? Anything? Ignorant as a horse, I am afraid."