JUSTICE IN THE BY-WAYS. A TALE OF LIFE.
BY F. COLBURN ADAMS,
AUTHOR OF "OUR WORLD," ETC., ETC., ETC.
"A rebellion or an invasion alarms, And puts the people upon its defence; But a corruption of principles Works its ruin more slowly perhaps, But more surely."
NEW YORK: LONDON:
PREFACES, like long sermons to fashionable congregations, are distasteful to most readers, and in no very high favor with us. A deep interest in the welfare of South Carolina, and the high esteem in which we held the better, and more sensible class of her citizens, prompted us to sit down in Charleston, some four years ago (as a few of our friends are aware), and write this history. The malady of her chivalry had then broken out, and such was its virulence that very serious consequences were apprehended. We had done something, and were unwise enough to think we could do more, to stay its spread. We say unwise, inasmuch as we see, and regret that we do see, the malady breaking out anew, in a more virulent type-one which threatens dire consequences to this glorious Union, and bids fair soon to see the Insane Hospital of South Carolina crammed with her mad-politicians.
Our purpose, the reader will not fail to discover, was a high moral one. He must overlook the means we have called to our aid in some instances, remember that the spirit of the work is in harmony with a just sense of duty to a people among whom we have long resided, and whose follies deserve our pity, perhaps, rather than our condemnation. To remain blind to their own follies, is the sin of weak States; and we venture nothing when we say that it would be difficult to find a people more dragged down by their own ignorance than are the South Carolinians. And yet, strange as it may seem, no people are more energetic in laying claim to a high intellectual standard. For a stranger to level his shafts against the very evils they themselves most deprecate, is to consign himself an exile worthy only of that domestic garment
Tar and feathers. in which all who think and write too freely, are clothed and sent away.
And though the sentiments we have put forth in this work may not be in fashion with our Southern friends, they will give us credit for at least one thing-picturing in truthful colors the errors that, by their own confessions, are sapping the very foundations of their society. Our aim is to suggest reforms, and in carrying it out we have consulted no popular prejudice, enlarged upon no enormities to please the lover of tragedy, regarded neither beauty nor the art of novel making, nor created suffering heroines to excite an outpouring of sorrow and tears. The incidents of our story, which at best is but a mere thread, are founded in facts; and these facts we have so modified as to make them acceptable to the reader, while shielding ourself from the charge of exaggeration. And, too, we are conscious that our humble influence, heretofore exerted, has contributed to the benefit of a certain class in Charleston, and trust that in this instance it may have a wider field.
Three years and upwards, then, has the MS. of this work laid in the hands of a Philadelphia publisher, who was kind enough to say more good things of it than it deserved, and only (as he said, and what publishers say no one ever thinks of doubting) regretted that fear of offending his Southern customers, who were exceedingly stiff in some places, and tender in others, prevented him publishing it. Thankful for the very flattering but undeserved reception two works from our pen (both written at a subsequent period) met, in England as well as this country, we resolved a few weeks ago to drag the MS. from the obscurity in which it had so long remained, and having resigned it to the rude hands of our printer, let it pass to the public. But there seemed another difficulty in the way: the time, every one said, and every one ought to know, was a hazardous one for works of a light character. Splash & Dash, my old publishers, (noble fellows), had no less than three Presidents on their shoulders, and could not be expected to take up anything "light" for several months. Brick, of the very respectable but somewhat slow firm of Brick & Brother, a firm that had singular scruples about publishing a work not thickly sprinkled with the author's knowledge of French, had one candidate by the neck, and had made a large bet that he could carry him into the "White House" with a rush, while the junior partner was deeply immersed in the study of Greek. Puff, of the firm of Puff & Bluff, a house that had recently moved into the city to teach the art of blowing books into the market, was foaming over with his two Presidential candidates, and thought the public could not be got to read a book without at least one candidate in it. It was not prudent to give the reading world more than a book of travels or so, said Munch, of the house of Munch & Muddle, until the candidates for the White House were got nicely out of the way. Indeed, there were good reasons for being alarmed, seeing that the publishing world had given up literature, and, following the example set by the New York Corporation, taken itself very generally to the trade of President-making. Wilkins, whose publications were so highly respectable that they invariably remained on his shelves, and had in more than one instance become so weighty that they had dragged the house down, thought the pretty feet of some few of the female characters in this volume a little too much exposed to suit the delicate sensibilities of his fair readers. Applejack, than whose taste none could be more exquisite, and who only wanted to feel a manuscript to tell whether it would do to publish it, made it a point, he said, not to publish novels with characters in them that would drink to excess. As for the very fast firm of Blowers & Windspin, celebrated for flooding the country with cheap books of a very tragic character, why, it had work enough on hand for the present. Blowers was blessed with a wife of a literary turn of mind, which was very convenient, inasmuch as all the novels with which the house astonished the world were submitted to her, and what she could not read she was sure to pass a favorable judgment upon. The house had in press four highly worked up novels of Mrs. Blowers' own, Mr. Blowers said,—all written in the very short space of six weeks. She was a remarkable woman, and extraordinary clever at novels, Blowers concluded with an air of magnificent self-satisfaction. These works, having been written by steam, Mr. Windspin, the unior partner, was expected to put into the market with a very large amount of high pressure.
Our friends in South Carolina, we knew, would be anxious to see what we had written of them in this volume, and we have made and shall continue to make it a point to gratify them: hence our haste in this instance. Conscious, too, that life is the great schoolmaster, and that public taste is neither to be regulated by a few, nor kept at any one point, we caught up a publisher with only one candidate for the "White House" on his shoulders, and with his assistance, now respectfully submit this our humble effort.
NEW YORK, Sept., 1856.
CHAPTER I.—Tom Swiggs' Seventh Introduction on board of the Brig Standfast,
CHAPTER II.—Madame Flamingo-Her Distinguished Patrons, and her very respectable House,
CHAPTER III.—In which the Reader is presented with a Varied Picture,
CHAPTER IV.—A few Reflections on the Cure of Vice,
CHAPTER V.—In which Mr. Snivel, commonly called the Accommodation Man, is introduced, and what takes place between him and Mrs. Swiggs.
CHAPTER VI.—Containing Sundry Matters appertaining to this History,
CHAPTER VII.—In which is seen a Commingling of Citizens,
CHAPTER VIII.—What takes place between George Mullholland and Mr. Snivel,
CHAPTER IX.—In which a Gleam of Light is shed on the History of Anna Bonard,
CHAPTER X.—A Continuation of George Mullholland's History,
CHAPTER XI.—In which the Reader is introduced to Mr. Absalom McArthur,
CHAPTER XII.—In which are Matters the Reader may have anticipated,
CHAPTER XIII.—Mrs. Swiggs comes to the Rescue of the House of the Foreign Missions,
CHAPTER XIV.—Mr. McArthur makes a Discovery,
CHAPTER XV.—What Madame Flamingo wants to be,
CHAPTER XVI.—In which Tom Swiggs gains his Liberty, and what befalls him,
CHAPTER XVII.—In which there is an Interesting Meeting,
CHAPTER XVIII.—Anna Bonard seeks an Interview with the Antiquary,
CHAPTER XIX.—A Secret Interview,
CHAPTER XX.—Lady Swiggs encounters Difficulties on her Arrival in New York,
CHAPTER XXI.—Mr. Snivel pursues his Search for the Vote-Cribber,
CHAPTER XXII.—Mrs. Swiggs falls upon a Modern Heathen World,
CHAPTER XXIII.—In which the very best Intentions are seen to fail,
CHAPTER XXIV.—Mr. Snivel advises George Mullholland how to make Strong Love,
CHAPTER XXV.—A Slight Change in the Picture,
CHAPTER XXVI.—In which a High Functionary is made to play a Singular Part,
CHAPTER XXVII.—The House of the Nine Nations, and what may be seen in it,
CHAPTER XXVIII.—In which is presented Another Picture of the House of the Nine Nations,
CHAPTER XXIX.—In which may be seen a few of our Common Evils,
CHAPTER XXX.—Containing Various Things appertaining to this History,
CHAPTER XXXI.—The Keno Den, and what may be seen in it,
CHAPTER XXXII.—In which a State of Society is slighty Revealed,
CHAPTER XXXIII.—In which there is a Singular Revelation,
CHAPTER XXXIV.—The Two Pictures,
CHAPTER XXXV.—In which a Little Light is shed upon the Character of our Chivalry,
CHAPTER XXXVI.—In which a Law is seen to serve Base Purposes,
CHAPTER XXXVII.—A Short Chapter of Ordinary Events,
CHAPTER XXXVIII.—A Story without which this History would be found wanting,
CHAPTER XXXIX.—A Story with many Counterparts,
CHAPTER XL.—In which the Law is seen to Conflict with our Cherished Chivalry,
CHAPTER XLI.—In which Justice is seen to be very accommodating,
CHAPTER XLII.—In which Some Light is thrown on the Plot of this History,
CHAPTER XLIII.—In which is revealed the One Error that brought so much Suffering upon many,
CHAPTER XLIV.—In which is recorded Events the Reader may not have Expected,
CHAPTER XLV.—Another Shade of the Picture,
CHAPTER XLVI.—The Soul may gain Strength in a dreary Cell,
CHAPTER XLVII.—In which is a Happy Meeting, and something Pleasing,
CHAPTER XLVIII.—A Few Words With the Reader,
JUSTICE IN THE BY-WAYS.
TOM SWIGGS' SEVENTH INTRODUCTION ON BOARD OF THE BRIG STANDFAST.
IT is in the spring of 1847 this history commences.
"Steady a bit! Here I am, boys, turned up again-a subject of this moral reform school, of moral old Charleston. If my good old mother thinks it'll reform a cast-off remnant of human patchwork like me, I've nothing to say in protest. Yes, here I am, comrades (poor Tom Swiggs, as you used to call me), with rum my victor, and modern vengeance hastening my destruction." This is the exclamation of poor Tom Swiggs (as his jail companions are pleased to call him), who, in charge of two officers of the law, neither of whom are inclined to regard him with sympathy, is being dragged back again to the Charleston jail. The loathsome wreck of a once respectable man, he staggers into the corridor, utters a wild shriek as the iron gate closes upon him, and falls headlong upon the floor of the vestibule, muttering, incoherently, "there is no hope for one like me." And the old walls re-echo his lamentation.
"His mother, otherwise a kind sort of woman, sends him here. She believes it will work his reform. I pity her error-for it is an error to believe reform can come of punishment, or that virtue may be nurtured among vice." Thus responds the brusque but kind-hearted old jailer, who view swith an air of compassion his new comer, as he lays, a forlorn mass, exposed to the gaze of the prisoners gathering eagerly about him.
The dejected man gives a struggle, raises himself to his haunches, and with his coarse, begrimed hands resting on his knees, returns the salutation of several of his old friends. "This, boys, is the seventh time," he pursues, as if his scorched brain were tossed on a sea of fire, "and yet I'm my mother's friend. I love her still-yes, I love her still!" and he shakes his head, as his bleared eyes fill with tears. "She is my mother," he interpolates, and again gives vent to his frenzy: "fellows! bring me brandy-whiskey-rum-anything to quench this flame that burns me up. Bring it, and when I'm free of this place of torment, I will stand enough for you all to swim in."
"Shut your whiskey-pipe. You don't appreciate the respectability of the company you've got among. I've heard of you," ejaculates a voice in the crowd of lookers-on.
"What of a citizen are you?" inquires Tom, his head dropping sleepily.
"A vote-cribber-Milman Mingle by name; and, like yourself, in for formal reform," retorts the voice. And the burly figure of a red, sullen-faced man, comes forward, folds his arms, and looks for some minutes with an air of contempt upon the poor inebriate.
"You're no better than you ought to be," incoherently continues Tom, raising his glassy eyes as if to sight his seemingly querulous companion.
"Better, at all events, than you," emphatically replies the man. "I'm only in for cribbing voters; which, be it known, is commonly called a laudable enterprise just before our elections come off, and a henious offence when office-seekers have gained their ends. But what use is it discussing the affairs of State with a thing like you?" The vote-cribber, inclined to regard the new-comer as an inferior mortal, shrugs his shoulders, and walks away, contemplatively humming an air.
"If here ain't Tom Swiggs again!" exclaims a lean, parchment-faced prisoner, pressing eagerly his way through the circle of bystanders, and raising his hands as he beholds the wreck upon the floor.
"Fate, and my mother, have ordered it so," replies Tom, recognizing the voice, and again imploring the jailer to bring him some brandy to quench the fires of his brain. The thought of his mother floated uppermost, and recurred brightest to the wandering imagination of this poor outcast.
"There's no rum here, old bloat. The mother having you for a son is to be pitied-you are to be pitied, too; but the jail is bankrupt, without a shilling to relieve you in the liquor line," interposes another, as one by one the prisoners begin to leave and seek their several retreats.
"That breath of yours," interrupts the vote-cribber, who, having returned, stands regarding the outcast man with singular interest, "would make drunk the whole jail. A week in 'Mount Rascal' The upper story used for the confinement of felons. will be necessary to transmute you, as they call it, into something Christian. On 'the Mount' you will have a chance to philosophize-mollify the temperature of your nervous system-which is out of fix just now."
There is an inert aristocracy, a love of distinction, among the lowest dregs of society, as there is also a love of plush and other insignificant tawdry among our more wealthy republicans. Few would have thought of one inebriate affecting superiority over another, (the vote-cribber was an inebriate, as we shall show,) but so it was, nevertheless.
"I own up," rejoins Tom, "I own up; I love my mother, and am out of sorts. You may call me a mass of filth-what you please!"
"Never mind; I am your friend, Tom," interrupts the brusque old jailer, stooping down and taking him gently by the arm. "Good may come of the worst filth of nature-evil may come of what seemeth the best; and trees bearing sound pippins may have come of rotten cores. Cheer up!"
The cool and unexpected admonition of the "vote-cribber" leaves a deep impression in Tom's feelings. He attempts, heaving a sigh, to rise, but has not strength, and falls languidly back upon the floor. His countenance, for a few moments, becomes dark and desponding; but the kind words that fall from the jailer's lips inspire him with confidence; and, turning partly on his side, he thrusts his begrimed hands into a pair of greasy pockets, whistling "Yankee Doodle," with great composure.
The jailer glances about him for assistance, saying it will be necessary to get him up and carry him to his cell.
"To a cell-a cell-a cell!" reiterates the inebriate. "Well, as the legal gentry say," he continues, "I'll enter a 'non-contender.' I only say this by way of implication, to show my love for the fellow who gathers fees by making out writs on my account."
In reply to a question from the jailer, he says they mistake Tom Swiggs, if they think he has no pride left.
"After all, there's something more in you than I thought, Tom. Give us your hand," says the vote-cribber, extending cordially his hand, as if a change for the better had come over him, and grasping firmly that of the inebriate. Raising his besotted head, Tom gazes distrustfully at the cribber, as if questioning his sincerity. "I am not dead to shame," he mutters, struggling at the same time to suppress his emotions.
"There are, Tom," continues the cribber, playfully, "two claims on you-two patent claims! (He lets go the inebriate's hand, and begins teasing his long, red beard.) And, are you disposed to come out on the square, in the liquor line, you may redeem yourself—"
"Name 'em!" interposed Tom, stopping short in his tune.
"The gentleman commonly called Mister Jones, and a soap-chandler, are contesting a claim upon you. The one wants your body, the other your clothes. Now, as I am something of a lawyer, having had large dealings in elections, I may say, as a friend, that it is only a question of time, so far as you are concerned. Take my advice, then, and cheat both, by selling out, in advance. The student and the janitor pay good prices for such things as you. Give the last-named worthy a respondentia bond on yourself, redeemable before death, or resign the body after, (any lawyer will make the lien valid,) and the advance will produce floods of whiskey. Come out, Tom, like a hero, on the square."
An outcast, hurled deep into the gulf of despair, and surrounded by victims of poverty and votaries of crime, the poor inebriate has yet left him one lingering spark of pride. As if somewhat revived, he scrambles to his feet, staggers into the room of a poor debtor, on the left of the long, sombre aisle, and drawing from his pocket a ten-cent piece, throws it upon the table, with an air of great importance.
"I am not moneyless," he exclaims—"not I!" and he staggers to the great chimney-place, rebounding to the floor, saying, "Take that-bring her in-quench my burning thirst!"
Tom is the only surviving, and now the outcast, member of a somewhat respectable family, that has moved in the better walks of society. His mother, being scrupulous of her position in society, and singularly proud withal, has reared and educated her son in idleness, and ultimately slights and discards him, because he, as she alleges, sought society inferior to his position and her dignity. In his better days he had been erect of person, and even handsome; but the thraldom of the destroyer has brought him to the dust, a pitiable wreck.
Tom has seen thirty summers, presents a full, rounded figure, and stands some five feet ten. He wears an old brown coat, cut after the fashion of a surtout, that might have fitted him, he says, when he was a man. But it has lost the right cuff, the left flap, and a part of the collar; the nefarious moths, too, have made a sieve of its back. His trowsers are of various colors, greasy down the sides, ragged at the bottoms, and revealing two encrusted ancles, with feet stuck into old shoes, turned under at the heels for convenience sake. A remark from the cribber touches his pride, and borrowing a few pins he commences pinning together the shattered threads of his nether garment. A rope-yarn secured about his waist gives a sailor-like air to his outfit. But, notwithstanding Tom affects the trim of the craft, the skilled eye can easily detect the deception; for the craftsman, even under a press of head sail, preserves a becoming rig.
Indeed, Tom might have attempted without effect, during his natural life, to transform himself into a sailor. The destroyer was his victor; the inner man was but a reflex of the outer. He pulled an old cloth cap over his face, which was immersed in a massive black beard, bordering two red, swollen cheeks; and with his begrimed hands he rubbed lustily his inflamed eyes—once brown, large, and earnest—now glassy and sunken.
"I'm all square, ain't I?" he inquires, looking with vacant stare into the faces of those who tease him with facetious remarks, then scans his haberdashery. There yet remains something displeasing to him. His sense of taste is at stake. This something proves to be a sooty striped shirt, open in front, and disclosing the remains of a red flannel under-garment. Every few minutes will he, as if touched with a sense of shame, wriggle his shoulders, and pull forward the wreck of his collarless coat, apparently much annoyed that it fails to cover the breastwork of his distress.
Again he thrusts his hands into his pockets, and with an air of apparent satisfaction, struts twice or thrice across the dingy room, as if he would show how far he has gained his equilibrium. "I shall go straight mad; yes, mad, if the whiskey be not brought in," he pursues, stopping short in one of his sallies, and with a rhetorical flourish, pointing at the piece of silver he so exultingly tossed upon the table. As if his brain were again seized by the destroyer's flame, his countenance becomes livid, his eyes glare wildly upon each object near him; then he draws himself into a tragic attitude, contorts hideously his more hideous face, throws his cap scornfully to the ground, and commences tearing from his head the matted black hair that confusedly covers it. "If my mother thinks this a fit place for me—" He pauses in the middle of his sentence, gives an imploring stare at his companions, shakes and hangs down his head; then his brain reels, and his frame trembles, and like a lifeless mass he falls to the floor.
"I'm gone now—gone—gone—gone!" he mutters, with a spasmodic effort, covering his face with his hands.
"He'll go mad; you can only save him with a hair of the same dog," one of the prisoner's measuredly suggests, folding his arms, and looking mechanically upon the wretched man.
A second agrees with the first; a third says he is past cure, though a gallon of whiskey were wasted upon him.
Mr. Mingle, the vote-cribber—regarded good authority in such matters—interposes. He has not the shadow of a doubt but that a speedy cure can be effected, by his friends drinking the whiskey, (he will join them, without an objection,) and just letting Tom smell the glass.
A fifth says, without prejudice to the State of South Carolina, if he knew Tom's mother, he would honestly recommend her to send him special minister to Maine. There, drinking is rather an aristocratic indulgence, enjoyed only on the sly.
Suddenly the poor inebriate gives vent to his frenzy. The color of his face changes from pale livid to sickly blue; his hands seem more shrunken and wiry; his body convulses and writhes upon the floor; he is become more the picture of a wild beast, goaded and aggravated in his confinement. A narcotic, administered by the hand of the jailer, produces quiet, and with the assistance of two prisoners is he raised to his feet, and supported into the corridor, to receive the benefit of fresh air. Here he remains some twenty minutes, stretched upon two benches, and eyed sharply by the vote-cribber, who paces in a circle round him, regarding him with a half suspicious leer, and twice or thrice pausing to fan his face with the drab felt hat he carries under his arm.
"A curious mother that sends you here for reform," muses the vote-cribber; "but he must be a perfect fleshhook on the feelings of the family."
Send him up into Rogue's Hall," exclaims a deep, sonorous voice, that echoes along the aisle. The vote-cribber, having paused over Tom, as if to contemplate his degradation, turns inquiringly, to see from whence comes the voice. "It is me!" again the voice resounds. Two glaring eyes, staring anxiously through the small iron grating of a door leading to a close cell on the left of the corridor, betrays the speaker. "It's Tom Swiggs. I know him—he's got the hydrophobia; its common with him! Take him in tow, old Spunyarn, give him a good berth, and let him mellow at thirty cents a day," continues the voice.
The last sentence the speaker addressed to a man of comely figure and frank countenance, who has just made his appearance, dressed in the garb of a sailor. This man stoops over Tom, seems to recognize in him an old acquaintance, for his face warms with kindliness, and he straightway commences wiping the sun-scorched face of the inebriate with his handkerchief, and with his hand smooths and parts, with an air of tenderness, his hair; and when he has done this, he spreads the handkerchief over the wretched man's face, touches the querulous vote-cribber on the arm, and with a significant wink beckons him away, saying, "Come away, now, he has luffed into the wind. A sleep will do him good."
MADAME FLAMINGO-HER DISTINGUISHED PATRONS, AND HER VERY RESPECTABLE HOUSE.
REGARD us forbearingly, generous and urbane reader; follow us undaunted whither we go, nor charge us with tracing crime in a bad cause. We will leave the old prison, the dejected inebriate, the more curious group that surround him, and the tale of the destroyer it develops, and escort you in our walk to the mansion of Madame Flamingo, who is well known in Charleston, and commonly called the Mother of Sin. It is a massive brick pile, situate in one of the public thoroughfares, four stories high, with bold Doric windows, set off with brown fluted freestone, and revealing faded red curtains, overlain with mysterious lace, and from between the folds of which, at certain hours of the day, languid and more mysterious eyes may be seen peering cautiously. Madame Flamingo says (the city fathers all know it) she has a scrupulous regard to taste, and develops it in the construction of her front door, which is of black walnut, fluted and carved in curious designs. In style it resembles somewhat the doors of those fashionable churches that imitate so closely the Italian, make good, paying property of fascinating pews, and adopt the more luxurious way of getting to heaven (prayer-book of gold in hand) reclining on velvet and satin damask.
The mansion of Madame Flamingo differs only in sumptuousness of furniture from twenty others of similar character, dotted here and there about the little city. Add to these the innumerable smaller haunts of vice that line the more obscure streets-that, rampart-like, file along the hundred and one "back lanes" that surround the scattered town, and, reader, you may form some estimation of the ratio of vice and wretchedness in this population of thirty thousand, of which the enslaved form one-third.
Having escorted you to the door, generous reader, we will forget the common-place jargon of the world, and affect a little ceremony, for Madame Flamingo is delicately exact in matters of etiquette. Touch gently the bell; you will find it there, a small bronze knob, in the fluting of the frame, and scarce perceptible to the uninitiated eye. If rudely you touch it, no notice will be taken; the broad, high front of her house will remain, like an ill-natured panorama of brick and freestone, closed till daylight. She admits nothing but gentlemen; and gentlemen know how to ring a bell. Well, you have touched it like one of delicate nerves, and like a bell with manners polished by Madame Flamingo herself, it answers as faintly as does the distant tinkle of an Arab's bell in the desert.
There! It was recognized as the ring of a genteel gentleman, and Madame Flamingo's heavy foot is heard advancing up the hall. Be a diplomatist now. Show a white glove, and a delicate hand, and a winning smile, and you have secured your passport to the satin and brocade of her mansion. A spring is heard to tick, a whisper of caution to some one within follows, and a block broad enough to admit your hat swings open, disclosing the voluptuous splendor of a great hall, the blaze of which flashes upon your senses, and fills you instinctively with curious emotions. Simultaneously a broad, cheerful face, somewhat matronly in its aspect, and enlivened with an urbane smile, darkens the space. After a few moments' pause we see two sharp gray eyes peering curiously at us, and a soft but quick accenting voice inquires who we are. Ah! yes, the white glove has told who we are, for the massive doors swing open, and we find ourselves in a long, stately hall, resplendent of Persian carpets, lounges in tapestry, walls and ceiling frescoed in uncouth and bright-colored designs, and curiously wrought chandeliers, shedding over all a bewitching light. The splendor is more gaudy than regal; it strikes our fancy, but leaves our admiration unmoved. The door is suddenly closed, and the short, portly figure of Madame (she bows, saying her house is most select) stands before us, somewhat nervous, as if she were yet undecided about our position in society. She has seen some sixty summers, made her nefarious reputation in New York; there she keeps a joint establishment, which, she adds, has been kindly patronized by the members of several pumpkin-headed corporations. Indeed, her princely tabernacle there was owned by one of these individuals, but in deference to his reputation she had the lease of a third party. Of corporations in general has she the very highest opinion.
Madame Flamingo's round, dapper figure, is set off with a glossy, black satin, made high at the neck, about which a plain white collar is arranged, corresponding nicely with the dash of snowy lace down the stomacher, and an embroidered buff apron, under which she every few minutes thrusts her fat, jewelled fingers. Her face is pallid, her chin fat and dimpled, her artificial hair light brown, and lain smoothly over a low forehead, which is curiously contrasted with a jauntily-setting cap, the long strings of which flutter down her shoulders.
"If you please, gentlemen," she says, "my house is highly respectable-highly respectable (don't make strange of me tending my own door!) I assure you gentlemen." And Madame Flamingo's eyes quicken, and she steps round us, now contemplating us suspiciously, then frisking her hands beneath her embroidered apron, which she successively flaunts.
We have assured her of our standing in society. To which, with an air of resumed confidence, and a quickened step, she says she has (that is, she thinks she has) seen us before, and is glad to see us again. She is getting well down in the role of years, has a treacherous memory-the result of arduous business, and a life of trouble-the poison of a war upon society-the excitement of seeking revenge of the world. She cannot at all times trust her memory, for it has given out in the watchfulness necessary to the respectability of her house, which she regards as the Gibraltar from which she turns upon society her unerring guns. "Lord, gentlemen," she says in quick accents, "the reputation of this house-I watch it as our senator to Congress does his-is my bank stock; and on the respectability and behavior of my customers, who are of the first families, depends my dividends. Madame Flamingo wouldn't-gentlemen, I am no doubt known to you by reputation?-soil the reputation of her house for uncounted gold." This she whispers, tripping nervously over the soft carpet up the hall, until she reaches mid-way, where on the right and left are two massive arched doors of black walnut, with stained glass for fan-lights. Our guardian (she has assumed the office) makes a significant motion with her left hand, which she moves backward, places her right upon the porcelain knob, turns to the right, and puts her ear inquiringly to the door. "It's a sort of commonwealth; yes, sir, a commonwealth-but then they are all gentlemen-some very distinguished," she continues, shaking her head as if to caution us. Voices in loud conversation are heard in the room to the right, while from out the left float the mellow notes of a waltz, accompanied by the light tripping of feet.
With an urbane bow, and a familiar smile, Madame opens the door, watches with an air of exultation the effect her sumptuously-furnished parlors, and her more sumptuously-dressed worshippers, have on our feelings. The great glare of Gothic windows; the massive curtains of orange-colored satin that, veiled with lace, pend in undulating folds over them; the cloudlike canopy that overhangs a dias at the further end of the parlor; the gorgeously-carved piano, with keys of pearl, that stands in dumb show beneath the drapery; the curiously-carved eagles, in gilt, that perch over each window, and hold daintily in their beaks the amber-colored drapery; the chastely-designed tapestry of sumptuously-carved lounges, and reclines, and ottomans, and patrician chairs, and lute tabs, arranged with exact taste here and there about the great parlor; the massive centre and side-tables, richly inlaid with pearl and Mosaic; the antique vases interspersed along the sides, between the windows, and contrasting curiously with the undulating curtains, looped alternately with goddesses of liberty, in gilt; the jetting lights from a great chandelier, blending with prismatic reflections; and the gaudy gossamers in which weary and blanched-faced females flaunt, more undressed than dressed-all mingle in one blaze of barbaric splendor.
It is here your child of ignorance and neglect is fascinated and made to drink the first cup of death; it is here your faltering sister falls; it is here your betrayed daughter seeks revenge; it is here your forlorn, outcast sufferer first feels the world her enemy, has no sympathizing sister to stretch out the hand of encouragement, and sinks hopeless in the agony of her meditations. It is here, alas! too often necessity forces its hapless victims, and from whence a relentless world—without hope of regaining the lost jewel-hurls them down a short life, into a premature grave. Your church is near by, but it never steps in here to make an inquiry; and if it chance to cast a suspicious look in now and then, it is only as it passes along to inquire the state of the slave market, of so much more importance is the price of men. Your common school (a thing unknown, and held extremely dangerous in Carolina!) may be your much talked of guiding star to virtue; your early education is your bulwark against which the wave of vice is powerless; but unless you make it something more than a magnificent theory-unless you seek practical means, and go down into the haunts of vice, there to drag up the neglected child, to whom the word early education is a mystery, you leave untouched the festering volcano that vomits its deadly embers upon the community.
Your homilies preached to pew-holders of fashion, who live sumptuously, ride sumptuously to church of a Sunday, and meekly enjoy a sumptuous sermon for appearance sake, will, so long as you pass unheeded the haunts of vice, fall as chaff before the wind. You must make "early education" more than the mere motto of future happiness; you must go undaunted into the avenues of want and misery, seek out the fallen child, forbear with her, and kindly teach her how much good there is in its principles, its truths.
Pardon, generous reader, this digression, and keep our arm while we see of what metal are the votaries at the shrine of Madame Flamingo. "I am-that is, they say I am-something of an aristocrat, you see, gentlemen," says the old woman, flaunting her embroidered apron, and fussily doddling round the great centre-table, every few minutes changing backward and forward two massive decanters and four cut-glass goblets. We bow approvingly. Then with an air of exultation she turns on her centre, giving a scrutinizing look at the rich decorations of her palace, and again at us, as if anxious to draw from us one word of approval. "Gentlemen are no way sensitive here," pursues Madame Flamingo, moving again the great decanters, "it's a commonwealth of gentlemen, you see. In New York-I dash out there, you know-my house is a perfect palace. I keep a footman and coachman there, have the most exact liveries, and keep up an establishment equal to my Fifth Avenue neighbors, whose trade of rope and fish is now lost in their terrible love of plush. I am a woman of taste, you see; but, my honor for it, gentlemen, I know of no people so given to plush and great buttons as our Fifth Avenue parvenues."
It is a high old house this of Madame Flamingo. We speak approvingly of all we see, her pride is stimulated, she quickens her conversation. "I think you said two bottles, gentlemen? Our sparkling Moselle is pronounced a gem by connoisseurs." And again flaunting her embroidered apron, she trips hurriedly out of the room. While she is gone we turn to view its human furniture. Yonder, in a cozy alcove, stands a marble-topped pier-table, at which are seated two gentlemen of great respectability in the community, playing whist with fair but frail partners. Near them, on a soft lounge, is seated a man of portly person and venerable appearance (his hair is snowy white, and he has a frank, open countenance), holding converse with, and evidently enamoured of a modest and beautiful girl, of some sixteen summers, who has just taken her seat at the opposite end. Madame Flamingo addresses this man as "Judge." His daylight duty is known to be that of presiding over a criminal court. The girl with whom he nervously holds conversation, and whose bright, Italian eyes, undulating black hair, Grecian face and fair features, swelling bust and beautifully-chiseled shoulders, round polished arms and tapering hands, erect figure, so exactly dressed in black brocade, and so reserve in her demeanor, is the Anna Bonard of this history. "Judge!" she says in reply to a question he has advanced, and turning disdainfully upon him her great black eyes, walks gracefully out of the room.
Sitting on a sofa opposite is a slender youth, somewhat flashily dressed. His complexion is sandy, there is something restless in his manner; and in his features, which are sharp and watchful, is that which indicates a mind weak and vacillating. He sits alone, seemingly thoughtful, and regarding with a jealous eye the insidious manner in which the venerable judge addresses the beautiful Anna, in whom you must know, reader, he has a deep and passionate interest. As Anna passes out of the room he, like one in despair, rests his head in his pale, bony, and freckled hand, and mutters to himself: "I will have revenge. His gray hairs shall not save him—my name is George Mullholland!"
Here and there, on sofas arranged between the great windows, sit faded denizens, reclining languidly in dresses of various bright colors, set off with gaudy trinkets, and exhibiting that passion for cheap jewelry so much in vogue with the vulgar of our self-plumed aristocracy—such as live at fashionable hotels, and, like Mrs. Snivel, who has a palace on the Fifth Avenue, make a show-case for cheap diamonds of themselves at breakfast table. Beside these denizens are men of every shade and grade of society. With one sits the distinguished lawyer; with a second converses the grave-demeanored merchant, who seeks, away from the cares of his domestic hearth, to satisfy his curiosity here; with a third, the celebrated physician sips his wine; with a fourth, the fatherly planter exchanges his saliant jokes; with a fifth, Doctor Handy the politician-who, to please his fashionable wife, a northern lady of great beauty, has just moved from the country into the city, keeps up an unmeaning conversation. In the lefthand corner, seated on an ottoman, and regarding the others as if a barrier were placed between them, are two men designated gamblers. Your Southern gentleman is, with few exceptions, a votary of the exciting vice; but he who makes it his profession severs the thread that bound him to society. And there sits not far from these members of the sporting fraternity, the tall, slender figure of a man, habited in the garb of a quaker. He regards everything about him with the eye of a philosopher, has a flowing white beard, a mild, playful blue eye, a short but well-lined nose, a pale oval face, an evenly-cut mouth, and an amiable expression of countenance. He intently watches every movement of the denizens, and should one accost him, he will answer in soft, friendly accents. He seems known to Madame Flamingo, whom he regards with a mysterious demeanor, and addresses as does a father his child. The old hostess gets no profit of his visits, for "he is only a moralist," she says, and his name is Solon —; and better people love him more as more they know him.
Madame Flamingo has returned, followed by a colored gentleman in bright livery, bearing on a silver tray two seductive bottles of the sparkling nectar, and sundry rich-cut goblets. "There! there!" says the old hostess, pointing to the centre-table, upon which the colored man deposits them, and commences arranging some dozen glasses, as she prepares to extract the corks. Now she fills the glasses with the effervescing beverage, which the waiter again places on the tray, and politely serves to the denizens, in whose glassy eyes, sallow faces, coarse, unbared arms and shoulders, is written the tale of their misery. The judge drinks with the courtesan, touches glasses with the gambler, bows in compliment to the landlady, who reiterates that she keeps the most respectable house and the choicest wine. The moralist shakes his head, and declines.
And while a dozen voices are pronouncing her beverage excellent, she turns suddenly and nervously to her massive, old-fashioned side-board, of carved walnut, and from the numerous cut glass that range grotesquely along its top, draws forth an aldermanic decanter, much broken. Holding it up to the view of her votaries, and looking upon it with feelings of regret, "that," she says, "is what I got, not many nights since, for kindly admitting one-I don't know when I did such a thing before, mind ye!—of the common sort of people. I never have any other luck when I take pity on one who has got down hill. I have often thought that the more kind I am the more ungrateful they upon whom I lavish my favors get. You must treat the world just as it treats you-you must."
To your simple question, reader, more simply advanced, she replies coquettishly: "Now, on my word of honor, Tom Swiggs did that. And the poor fellow-I call him poor fellow, because, thinking of what he used to be, I can't help it-has not a cent to pay for his pranks with. Bless you, (here Madame Flamingo waxes warm,) why I knew Tom Swiggs years ago, when he wasn't what he is now! He was as dashing a young buck then as you'd meet in the city; used to come here a perfect gentleman; and I liked him, and he liked me, and he got to liking the house, so you couldn't, if you had wanted to, have kept him away. And he always had no end of money, which he used to spend so freely. Poor fellow! (she sighs and shakes her head,) I confess I used to almost love Tom then. Then he got to courting a lady-she (Madame corrects herself) wasn't a lady though, she was only the daughter of a mechanic of small means—mechanic families have no standing in society, you see-and this cut deep into his mother's pride. And she, you see, was not quite sure where she stood in society, you see, and wouldn't for the world have her pride lessened; so she discarded poor Tom. And the girl has been got out of the way, and Tom has become penniless, and such a wreck of dissipation that no respectable house will admit him. It's a stiff old family, that Swiggs family! His mother keeps him threading in and out of jail, just to be rid of him. She is a curious mother; but when I think how he looks and acts, how can I wonder she keeps him in jail? I had to put him there twice—I had! (Madame Flamingo becomes emphatic.) But remembering what a friend of the house he used to be, I took pity on him, let him out, and lent him two dollars. And there's honor—I've great faith in honor-in Tom, who, I honestly believe, providing the devil do not get him in one of his fits, will pay all damages, notwithstanding I placed the reputation of my house in jeopardy with him a few nights since, was forced to call three policemen to eject him, and resolved that he should not again darken my door."
IN WHICH THE READER IS PRESENTED WITH A VARIED PICTURE.
TOM has passed a restless night in jail. He has dreamed of bottled snakes, with eyes wickedly glaring at him; of fiery-tailed serpents coiling all over him; of devils in shapes he has no language to describe; of the waltz of death, in which he danced at the mansion of Madame Flamingo; and of his mother, (a name ever dear in his thoughts,) who banished him to this region of vice, for what she esteemed a moral infirmity. Further on in his dream he saw a vision, a horrible vision, which was no less than a dispute for his person between Madame Flamingo, a bishop, and the devil. But Madame Flamingo and the devil, who seemed to enjoy each other's company exceedingly, got the better of the bishop, who was scrupulous of his dignity, and not a little anxious about being seen in such society. And from the horrors of this dream he wakes, surprised to find himself watched over by a kind friend-a young, comely-featured man, in whom he recognizes the earnest theologian, as he is plumed by the prisoners, whom he daily visits in his mission of good. There was something so frank and gentle in this young man's demeanor-something so manly and radiant in his countenance-something so disinterested and holy in his mission of love—something so opposite to the coldness of the great world without—something so serene and elevated in his youth, that even the most inveterate criminal awaited his coming with emotions of joy, and gave a ready ear to his kindly advice. Indeed, the prisoners called him their child; and he seemed not dainty of their approach, but took them each by the hand, sat at their side, addressed them as should one brother address another;—yea, he made them to feel that what was their interest it was his joy to promote.
The young theologian took him a seat close by the side of the dreaming inebriate; and as he woke convulsively, and turned towards him his distorted face, viewing with wild stare each object that met his sight, the young man met his recognition with a smile and a warm grasp of the hand. "I am sorry you find me here again-yes, I am."
"Better men, perhaps, have been here—"
"I am ashamed of it, though; it isn't as it should be, you see," interrupts Tom.
"Never mind-(the young man checks himself)-I was going to say there is a chance for you yet; and there is a chance; and you must struggle; and I will help you to struggle; and your friends—"
Tom interrupts by saying, "I've no friends."
"I will help you to struggle, and to overcome the destroyer. Never think you are friendless, for then you are a certain victim in the hands of the ruthless enemy—"
"Well, well," pauses Tom, casting a half-suspicious look at the young man, "I forgot. There's you, and him they call old Spunyarn, are friends, after all. You'll excuse me, but I didn't think of that;" and a feeling of satisfaction seemed to have come over him. "How grateful to have friends when a body's in a place of this kind," he mutters incoherently, as the tears gush from his distended eyes, and child-like he grasps the hand of the young man.
"Be comforted with the knowledge that you have friends, Tom. One all-important thing is wanted, and you are a man again."
"As to that!" interrupts Tom, doubtingly, and laying his begrimed hand on his burning forehead, while he alternately frets and frisks his fingers through his matted hair.
"Have no doubts, Tom-doubts are dangerous."
"Well, say what it is, and I'll try what I can do. But you won't think I'm so bad as I seem, and 'll forgive me? I know what you think of me, and that's what mortifies me; you think I'm an overdone specimen of our chivalry-you do!"
"You must banish from your mind these despairing thoughts," replies the young man, laying his right hand approvingly on Tom's head. "First, Tom," he pursues, "be to yourself a friend; second, forget the error of your mother, and forgive her sending you here; and third, cut the house of Madame Flamingo, in which our chivalry are sure to get a shattering. To be honest in temptation, Tom, is one of the noblest attributes of our nature; and to be capable of forming and maintaining a resolution to shake off the thraldom of vice, and to place oneself in the serener atmosphere of good society, is equally worthy of the highest commendation."
Tom received this in silence, and seemed hesitating between what he conceived an imperative demand and the natural inclination of his passions.
"Give me your hand, and with it your honor-I know you yet retain the latent spark-and promise me you will lock up the cup—"
"You'll give a body a furlough, by the way of blowing off the fuddle he has on hand?"
"I do not withhold from you any discretionary indulgence that may bring relief—"
Tom interrupts by saying, "My mother, you know!"
"I will see her, and plead with her on your behalf; and if she have a mother's feelings I can overcome her prejudice."
Tom says, despondingly, he has no home to go to. It's no use seeing his mother; she's all dignity, and won't let it up an inch. "If I could only persuade her—" Tom pauses here and shakes his head.
"Pledge me your honor you'll from this day form a resolution to reform, Tom; and if I do not draw from your mother a reconciliation, I will seek a home for you elsewhere."
"Well, there can't be much harm in an effort, at all events; and here's my hand, in sincerity. But it won't do to shut down until I get over this bit of a fog I'm now in." With child-like simplicity, Tom gives his hand to the young man, who, as old Spunyarn enters the cell to, as he says, get the latitude of his friend's nerves, departs in search of Mrs. Swiggs.
Mrs. Swiggs is the stately old member of a crispy old family, that, like numerous other families in the State, seem to have outlived two chivalrous generations, fed upon aristocracy, and are dying out contemplating their own greatness. Indeed, the Swiggs family, while it lived and enjoyed the glory of its name, was very like the Barnwell family of this day, who, one by one, die off with the very pardonable and very harmless belief that the world never can get along without the aid of South Carolina, it being the parthenon from which the outside world gets all its greatness. Her leading and very warlike newspapers, (the people of these United States ought to know, if they do not already,) it was true, were editorialized, as it was politely called in the little State-militant, by a species of unreputationized Jew and Yankee; but this you should know-if you do not already, gentle reader-that it is only because such employments are regarded by the lofty-minded chivalry as of too vulgar a nature to claim a place in their attention.
The clock of old Saint Michels, a clock so tenacious of its dignity as to go only when it pleases, and so aristocratic in its habits as not to go at all in rainy weather;—a clock held in great esteem by the "very first families," has just struck eleven. The young, pale-faced missionary inquiringly hesitates before a small, two-story building of wood, located on the upper side of Church street, and so crabbed in appearance that you might, without endangering your reputation, have sworn it had incorporated in its framework a portion of that chronic disease for which the State has gained for itself an unenviable reputation. Jutting out of the black, moss-vegetating roof, is an old-maidish looking window, with a dowdy white curtain spitefully tucked up at the side. The mischievous young negroes have pecked half the bricks out of the foundation, and with them made curious grottoes on the pavement. Disordered and unpainted clapboards spread over the dingy front, which is set off with two upper and two lower windows, all blockaded with infirm, green shutters. Then there is a snuffy door, high and narrow (like the State's notions), and reached by six venerable steps and a stoop, carefully guarded with a pine hand-rail, fashionably painted in blue, and looking as dainty as the State's white glove. This, reader, is the abode of the testy but extremely dignified Mrs. Swiggs. If you would know how much dignity can be crowded into the smallest space, you have only to look in here and be told (she closely patterns after the State in all things!) that fifty-five summers of her crispy life have been spent here, reading Milton's Paradise Lost and contemplating the greatness of her departed family.
The old steps creak and complain as the young man ascends them, holding nervously on at the blue hand-rail, and reaching in due time the stoop, the strength of which he successively tests with his right foot, and stands contemplating the snuffy door. A knocker painted in villanous green-a lion-headed knocker, of grave deportment, looking as savage as lion can well do in this chivalrous atmosphere, looks admonitiously at him. "Well!" he sighs as he raises it, "there's no knowing what sort of a reception I may get." He has raised the monster's head and given three gentle taps. Suddenly a frisking and whispering, shutting of doors and tripping of feet, is heard within; and after a lapse of several minutes the door swings carefully open, and the dilapidated figure of an old negro woman, lean, shrunken, and black as Egyptian darkness—with serious face and hanging lip, the picture of piety and starvation, gruffly asks who he is and what he wants?
Having requested an interview with her mistress, this decrepit specimen of human infirmity half closes the door against him and doddles back. A slight whispering, and Mrs. Swiggs is heard to say—"show him into the best parlor." And into the best parlor, and into the august presence of Mrs. Swiggs is he ushered. The best parlor is a little, dingy room, low of ceiling, and skirted with a sombre-colored surbase, above which is papering, the original color of which it would be difficult to discover. A listen carpet, much faded and patched, spreads over the floor, the walls are hung with several small engravings, much valued for their age and associations, but so crooked as to give one the idea of the house having withstood a storm at sea; and the furniture is made up of a few venerable mahogany chairs, a small side-table, on which stands, much disordered, several well-worn books and papers, two patch-covered foot-stools, a straightbacked rocking-chair, in which the august woman rocks her straighter self, and a great tin cage, from between the bars of which an intelligent parrot chatters—"my lady, my lady, my lady!" There is a cavernous air about the place, which gives out a sickly odor, exciting the suggestion that it might at some time have served as a receptacle for those second-hand coffins the State buries its poor in.
"Well! who are you? And what do you want? You have brought letters, I s'pose?" a sharp, squeaking voice, speaks rapidly.
The young man, without waiting for an invitation to sit down, takes nervously a seat at the side-table, saying he has come on a mission of love.
"Love! love! eh? Young man-know that you have got into the wrong house!" Mrs. Swiggs shakes her head, squeaking out with great animation.
There she sits, Milton's "Paradise Lost" in her witch-like fingers, herself lean enough for the leanest of witches, and seeming to have either shrunk away from the faded black silk dress in which she is clad, or passed through half a century of starvation merely to bolster up her dignity. A sharp, hatchet-face, sallow and corrugated; two wicked gray eyes, set deep in bony sockets; a long, irregular nose, midway of which is adjusted a pair of broad, brass-framed spectacles; a sunken, purse—drawn mouth, with two discolored teeth protruding from her upper lip; a high, narrow forehead, resembling somewhat crumpled parchment; a dash of dry, brown hair relieving the ponderous border of her steeple-crowned cap, which she seems to have thrown on her head in a hurry; a moth-eaten, red shawl thrown spitefully over her shoulders, disclosing a sinewy and sassafras-colored neck above, and the small end of a gold chain in front, and, reader, you have the august Mrs. Swiggs, looking as if she diets on chivalry and sour krout. She is indeed a nice embodiment of several of those qualities which the State clings tenaciously to, and calls its own, for she lives on the labor of eleven aged negroes, five of whom are cripples.
The young man smiles, as Mrs. Swiggs increases the velocity of her rocking, lays her right hand on the table, rests her left on her Milton, and continues to reiterate that he has got into the wrong house.
"I have no letter, Madam—"
"I never receive people without letters-never!" she interrupts, testily.
"But you see, Madam—"
"No I don't. I don't see anything about it!" again she interposes, adjusting her spectacles, and scanning him anxiously from head to foot. "Ah, yes (she twitches her head), I see what you are—"
"I was going to say, if you please, Madam, that my mission may serve as a passport—"
"I'm of a good family, you must know, young man. You could have learned that of anybody before seeking this sort of an introduction. Any of our first families could have told you about me. You must go your way, young man!" And she twitches her head, and pulls closer about her lean shoulders the old red shawl.
"I (if you will permit me, Madam) am not ignorant of the very high standing of your famous family—" Madam interposes by saying, every muscle of her frigid face unmoved the while, she is glad he knows something, "having read of them in a celebrated work by one of our more celebrated genealogists—"
"But you should have brought a letter from the Bishop! and upon that based your claims to a favorable reception. Then you have read of Sir Sunderland Swiggs, my ancestor? Ah! he was such a Baron, and owned such estates in the days of Elizabeth. But you should have brought a letter, young man." Mrs. Swiggs replies rapidly, alternately raising and lowering her squeaking voice, twitching her head, and grasping tighter her Milton.
"Those are his arms and crest." She points with her Milton to a singular hieroglyphic, in a wiry black frame, resting on the marble-painted mantelpiece. "He was very distinguished in his time; and such an excellent Christian." She shakes her head and wipes the tears from her spectacles, as her face, which had before seemed carved in wormwood, slightly relaxes the hardness of its muscles.
"I remember having seen favorable mention of Sir Sunderland's name in the book I refer to—"
She again interposes. The young man watches her emotions with a penetrating eye, conscious that he has touched a chord in which all the milk of kindness is not dried up.
"It's a true copy of the family arms. Everybody has got to having arms now-a-days. (She points to the indescribable scrawl over the mantelpiece.) It was got through Herald King, of London, who they say keeps her Majesty's slippers and the great seal of State. We were very exact, you see. Yes, sir-we were very exact. Our vulgar people, you see-I mean such as have got up by trade, and that sort of thing-went to a vast expense in sending to England a man of great learning and much aforethought, to ransack heraldry court and trace out their families. Well, he went, lived very expensively, spent several years abroad, and being very clever in his way, returned, bringing them all pedigrees of the very best kind. With only two exceptions, he traced them all down into noble blood. These two, the cunning fellow had it, came of martyrs. And to have come of the blood of martyrs, when all the others, as was shown, came of noble blood, so displeased-the most ingenious (the old lady shakes her head regrettingly) can't please everybody-the living members of these families, that they refused to pay the poor man for his researches, so he was forced to resort to a suit at law. And to this day (I don't say it disparagingly of them!) both families stubbornly refuse to accept the pedigree. They are both rich grocers, you see! and on this account we were very particular about ours."
The young man thought it well not to interrupt the old woman's display of weakness, inasmuch as it might produce a favorable change in her feelings.
"And now, young man, what mission have you besides love?" she inquires, adding an encouraging look through her spectacles.
"I am come to intercede—"
"You needn't talk of interceding with me; no you needn't! I've nothing to intercede about"—she twitches her head spitefully.
"In behalf of your son."
"There-there! I knew there was some mischief. You're a Catholic! I knew it. Never saw one of your black-coated flock about that there wasn't mischief brewing-never! I can't read my Milton in peace for you—"
"But your son is in prison, Madam, among criminals, and subject to the influence of their habits—"
"Precisely where I put him-where he won't disgrace the family; yes, where he ought to be, and where he shall rot, for all me. Now, go your way, young man; and read your Bible at home, and keep out of prisons; and don't be trying to make Jesuits of hardened scamps like that Tom of mine."
"I am a Christian: I would like to extend a Christian's hand to your son. I may replace him on the holy pedestal he has fallen from—"
"You are very aggravating, young man. Do you live in South Carolina?"
The young man says he does. He is proud of the State that can boast so many excellent families.
"I am glad of that," she says, looking querulously over her spectacles, as she twitches her chin, and increases the velocity of her rocking. "I wonder how folks can live out of it."
"As to that, Madam, permit me to say, I am happy to see and appreciate your patriotism; but if you will grant me an order of release—"
"I won't hear a word now! You're very aggravating, young man-very! He has disgraced the family; I have put him where he is seven times; he shall rot were he is! He never shall disgrace the family again. Think of Sir Sunderland Swiggs, and then think of him, and see what a pretty level the family has come to! That's the place for him. I have told him a dozen times how I wished him gone. The quicker he is out of the way, the better for the name of the family."
The young man waits the end of this colloquy with a smile on his countenance. "I have no doubt I can work your son's reform-perhaps make him an honor to the family—"
"He honor the family!" she interrupts, twitches the shawl about her shoulders, and permits herself to get into a state of general excitement. "I should like to see one who has disgraced the family as much as he has think of honoring it—"
"Through kindness and forbearance, Madam, a great deal may be done," the young man replies.
Now, you are very provoking, young man-very. Let other people alone; go your way home, and study your Bible." And with this the old lady calls Rebecca, the decrepit slave who opened the door, and directs her to show the young man out. "There now!" she says testily, turning to the marked page of her Milton.
The young man contemplates her for a few moments, but, having no alternative, leaves reluctantly.
On reaching the stoop he encounters the tall, handsome figure of a man, whose face is radiant with smiles, and his features ornamented with neatly-combed Saxon hair and beard, and who taps the old negress under the chin playfully, as she says, "Missus will be right glad to see you, Mr. Snivel-that she will." And he bustles his way laughing into the presence of the old lady, as if he had news of great importance for her.
A FEW REFLECTIONS ON THE CURE OF VICE.
DISAPPOINTED, and not a little chagrined, at the failure of his mission, the young man muses over the next best course to pursue. He has the inebriate's welfare at heart; he knows there is no state of degradation so low that the victim cannot, under proper care, be reclaimed from it; and he feels duty calling loudly to him not to stand trembling on the brink, but to enter the abode of the victim, and struggle to make clean the polluted. Vice, he says to himself, is not entailed in the heart; and if you would modify and correct the feelings inclined to evil, you must first feed the body, then stimulate the ambition; and when you have got the ambition right, seek a knowledge of the heart, and apply to it those mild and judicious remedies which soften its action, and give life to new thoughts and a higher state of existence. Once create the vine of moral rectitude, and its branches will soon get where they can take care of themselves. But to give the vine creation in poor soil, your watching must exhibit forbearance, and your care a delicate hand. The stubbornly-inclined nature, when coupled with ignorance, is that in which vice takes deepest root, as it is, when educated, that against which vice is least effectual. To think of changing the natural inclination of such natures with punishment, or harsh correctives, is as useless as would be an attempt to stop the ebbing and flowing of the tide. You must nurture the feelings, he thought, create a susceptibility, get the heart right, by holding out the value of a better state of things, and make the head to feel that you are sincere in your work of love; and, above all, you must not forget the stomach, for if that go empty crime will surely creep into the head. You cannot correct moral infirmity by confining the victim of it among criminals, for no greater punishment can be inflicted on the feelings of man; and punishment destroys rather than encourages the latent susceptibility of our better nature. In nine cases out of ten, improper punishment makes the hardened criminals with which your prisons are filled, destroying forever that spark of ambition which might have been fostered into a means to higher ends.
And as the young man thus muses, there recurs to his mind the picture of old Absalom McArthur, a curious old man, but excessively kind, and always ready to do "a bit of a good turn for one in need," as he would say when a needy friend sought his assistance. McArthur is a dealer in curiosities, is a venerable curiosity himself, and has always something on hand to meet the wants of a community much given to antiquity and broken reputations.
The young theologian will seek this good old man. He feels that time will work a favorable revolution in the feelings of Tom's mother; and to be prepared for that happy event he will plead a shelter for him under McArthur's roof.
And now, generous reader, we will, with your permission, permit him to go on his errand of mercy, while we go back and see how Tom prospers at the old prison. You, we well know, have not much love of prisons. But unless we do now and then enter them, our conceptions of how much misery man can inflict upon man will be small indeed.
The man of sailor-like deportment, and whom the prisoners salute with the sobriquet of "Old Spunyarn," entered, you will please remember, the cell, as the young theologian left in search of Mrs. Swiggs. "I thought I'd just haul my tacks aboard, run up a bit, and see what sort of weather you were making, Tom," says he, touching clumsily his small-brimmed, plait hat, as he recognizes the young man, whom he salutes in that style so frank and characteristic of the craft. "He's a bit better, sir-isn't he?" inquires Spunyarn, his broad, honest face, well browned and whiskered, warming with a glow of satisfaction.
Receiving an answer in the affirmative, he replies he is right glad of it, not liking to see a shipmate in a drift. And he gives his quid a lurch aside, throws his hat carelessly upon the floor, shrugs his shoulders, and as he styles it, nimbly brings himself to a mooring, at Tom's side. "It's a hard comforter, this state. I don't begrudge your mother the satisfaction she gets of sending you here. In her eyes, ye see, yeer fit only to make fees out on, for them ar lawyer chaps. They'd keep puttin' a body in an' out here during his natural life, just for the sake of gettin' the fees. They don't care for such things as you and I. We hain't no rights; and if we had, why we hain't no power. This carryin' too much head sail, Tom, won't do-'twon't!" Spunyarn shakes his head reprovingly, fusses over Tom, turns him over on his wales, as he has it, and finally gets him on his beam's ends, a besotted wreck unable to carry his canvas. "Lost yeer reckonin', eh, Tom?" he continues as that bewildered individual stares vacantly at him. The inebriate contorts painfully his face, presses and presses his hands to his burning forehead, and says they are firing a salute in his head, using his brains for ammunition.
"Well, now Tom, seein' as how I'm a friend of yourn—"
"Friend of mine?" interrupts Tom, shaking his head, and peering through his fingers mistrustfully.
"And this is a hard lee shore you've beached upon; I'll lend ye a hand to get in the head sail, and get the craft trimmed up a little. A dash of the same brine will help keep the ballast right, then a skysail-yard breakfast must be carefully stowed away, in order to give a firmness to the timbers, and on the strength of these two blocks for shoring up the hull, you must begin little by little, and keep on brightening up until you have got the craft all right again. And when you have got her right you must keep her right. I say, Tom!—it won't do. You must reef down, or the devil 'll seize the helm in one of these blows, and run you into a port too warm for pea-jackets." For a moment, Spunyarn seems half inclined to grasp Tom by his collarless coat and shake the hydrophobia, as he calls it, out of him; then, as if incited by a second thought, he draws from his shirt-bosom a large, wooden comb, and humming a tune commences combing and fussing over Tom's hair, which stands erect over his head like marline-spikes. At length he gets a craft-like set upon his foretop, and turning his head first to the right, then to the left, as a child does a doll, he views him with an air of exultation. "I tell you what it is, Tom," he continues, relieving him of the old coat, "the bright begins to come! There's three points of weather made already."
"God bless you, Spunyarn," replies Tom, evidently touched by the frankness and generosity of the old sailor. Indeed there was something so whole-hearted about old Spunyarn, that he was held in universal esteem by every one in jail, with the single exception of Milman Mingle, the vote-cribber.
"Just think of yourself, Tom-don't mind me," pursues the sailor as Tom squeezes firmly his hand. "You've had a hard enough time of it—" Tom interrupts by saying, as he lays his hands upon his sides, he is sore from head to foot.
"Don't wonder," returns the sailor. "It's a great State, this South Carolina. It seems swarming with poor and powerless folks. Everybody has power to put everybody in jail, where the State gives a body two dog's-hair and rope-yarn blankets to lay upon, and grants the sheriff, Mr. Hardscrable, full license to starve us, and put the thirty cents a day it provides for our living into his breeches pockets. Say what you will about it, old fellow, it's a brief way of doing a little profit in the business of starvation. I don't say this with any ill-will to the State that regards its powerless and destitute with such criminal contempt-I don't." And he brings water, gets Tom upon his feet, forces him into a clean shirt, and regards him in the light of a child whose reformation he is determined on perfecting. He sees that in the fallen man which implies a hope of ultimate usefulness, notwithstanding the sullen silence, the gloomy frown on his knitted brow, and the general air of despair that pervades the external man.
"There!" he exclaims, having improved the personal of the inebriate, and folding his arms as he steps back apace to have a better view of his pupil—"now, don't think of being triced up in this dreary vault. Be cheerful, brace up your resolution-never let the devil think you know he is trying to put the last seal on your fate-never!" Having slipped the black kerchief from his own neck, he secures it about Tom's, adjusts the shark's bone at the throat, and mounts the braid hat upon his head with a hearty blow on the crown. "Look at yourself! They'd mistake you for a captain of the foretop," he pursues, and good-naturedly he lays his broad, browned hands upon Tom's shoulders, and forces him up to a triangular bit of glass secured with three tacks to the wall.
Tom's hands wander down his sides as he contemplates himself in the glass, saying: "I look a shade up, I reckon! And I feel-I have to thank you for it, Spunyarn-something different all over me. God bless you! I won't forget you. But I'm hungry; that's all that ails me now.
"I may thank my mother—"
"Thank yourself, Tom," interposes the sailor.
"For all this. She has driven me to this; yes, she has made my soul dead with despair!" And he bursts into a wild, fierce laugh. A moment's pause, and he says, in a subdued voice, "I'm a slave, a fool, a wanderer in search of his own distress."
The kind-hearted sailor seats his pupil upon a board bench, and proceeds down stairs, where, with the bribe of a glass of whiskey, he induces the negro cook to prepare for Tom a bowl of coffee and a biscuit. In truth, we must confess, that Spunyarn was so exceedingly liberal of his friendship that he would at times appropriate to himself the personal effects of his neighbors. But we must do him justice by saying that this was only when a friend in need claimed his attention. And this generous propensity he the more frequently exercised upon the effects-whiskey, cold ham, crackers and cheese- of the vote-cribber, whom he regards as a sort of cold-hearted land-lubber, whose political friends outside were not what they should be. If the vote-cribber's aristocratic friends (and South Carolina politicians were much given to dignity and bad whiskey) sent him luxuries that tantalized the appetites of poverty-oppressed debtors, and poor prisoners starving on a pound of bread a-day, Spunyarn held this a legitimate plea for holding in utter contempt the right to such gifts. And what was more singular of this man was, that he always knew the latitude and longitude of the vote-cribber's bottle, and what amount of water was necessary to keep up the gauge he had reduced in supplying his flask.
And now that Tom's almost hopeless condition presents a warrantable excuse, (the vote-cribber has this moment passed into the cell to take a cursory glance at Tom,) Spunyarn slips nimbly into the vote-cribber's cell, withdraws a brick from the old chimney, and seizing the black neck of a blacker bottle, drags it forth, holds it in the shadow of the doorway, squints exultingly at the contents, shrugs his stalwart shoulders, and empties a third of the liquid, which he replaces with water from a bucket near by, into his tin-topped flask. This done, he ingeniously replaces the bottle, slides the flask suspiciously into his bosom, saying, "It'll taste just as strong to a vote-cribber," and seeks that greasy potentate, the prison cook. This dignitary has always laid something aside for Spunyarn; he knows Spunyarn has something laid aside for him, which makes the condition mutual.
"A new loafer let loose on the world!" says the vote-cribber, entering the domain of the inebriate with a look of fierce scorn. "The State is pestered to death with such things as you. What do they send you here for?-disturbing the quiet and respectability of the prison! You're only fit to enrich the bone-yard-hardly that; perhaps only for lawyers to get fees of. The State 'll starve you, old Hardscrabble 'll make a few dollars out of your feed-but what of that? We don't want you here." There was something so sullen and mysterious in the coarse features of this stalwart man-something so revolting in his profession, though it was esteemed necessary to the elevation of men seeking political popularity-something so at variance with common sense in the punishment meted out to him who followed it, as to create a deep interest in his history, notwithstanding his coldness towards the inebriate. And yet you sought in vain for one congenial or redeeming trait in the character of this man.
"I always find you here; you're a fixture, I take it—"
The vote-cribber interrupts the inebriate—"Better have said a patriot!"
"Well," returns the inebriate, "a patriot then; have it as you like it. I'm not over-sensitive of the distinction." The fallen man drops his head into his hands, stabbed with remorse, while the vote-cribber folds his brawny arms leisurely, paces to and fro before him, and scans him with his keen, gray eyes, after the manner of one mutely contemplating an imprisoned animal.
"You need not give yourself so much concern about me—"
"I was only thinking over in my head what a good subject to crib, a week or two before fall election, you'd be. You've a vote?"
Tom good-naturedly says he has. He always throws it for the "old Charleston" party, being sure of a release, as are some dozen caged birds, just before election.
"I have declared eternal hatred against that party; never pays its cribbers!" Mingle scornfully retorts; and having lighted his pipe, continues his pacing. "As for this jail," he mutters to himself, "I've no great respect for it; but there is a wide difference between a man who they put in here for sinning against himself, and one who only violates a law of the State, passed in opposition to popular opinion. However, you seem brightened up a few pegs, and, only let whiskey alone, you may be something yet. Keep up an acquaintance with the pump, and be civil to respectable prisoners, that's all."
This admonition of the vote-cribber had a deeper effect on the feelings of the inebriate than was indicated by his outward manner. He had committed no crime, and yet he found himself among criminals of every kind; and what was worse, they affected to look down upon him. Had he reached a stage of degradation so low that even the felon loathed his presence? Was he an outcast, stripped of every means of reform-of making himself a man? Oh no! The knife of the destroyer had plunged deep-disappointment had tortured his brain-he was drawn deeper into the pool of misery by the fatal fascinations of the house of Madame Flamingo, where, shunned by society, he had sought relief-but there was yet one spark of pride lingering in his heart. That spark the vote-cribber had touched; and with that spark Tom resolved to kindle for himself a new existence. He had pledged his honor to the young theologian; he would not violate it.
The old sailor, with elated feelings, and bearing in his hands a bowl of coffee and two slices of toasted bread, is accosted by several suspicious-looking prisoners, who have assembled in the corridor for the purpose of scenting fresh air, with sundry questions concerning the state of his pupil's health.
"He has had a rough night," the sailor answers, "but is now a bit calm. In truth, he only wants a bit of good steering to get him into smooth weather again." Thus satisfying the inquirers, he hurries up stairs as the vote-cribber hurries down, and setting his offering on the window-sill, draws from his bosom the concealed flask. "There, Tom!" he says, with childlike satisfaction, holding the flask before him—"only two pulls. To-morrow reef down to one; and the day after swear a dissolution of copartnership, for this chap (he points to the whiskey) is too mighty for you."
Tom hesitates, as if questioning the quality of the drug he is about to administer.
"Only two!" interrupts the sailor. "It will reduce the ground-swell a bit." The outcast places the flask to his lips, and having drank with contorted face passes it back with a sigh, and extends his right hand. "My honor is nothing to the world, Spunyarn, but it is yet something to me; and by it I swear (here he grasps tighter the hand of the old sailor, as a tear moistens his suffused cheeks) never to touch the poison again. It has grappled me like a fierce animal I could not shake off; it has made me the scoffed of felons-I will cease to be its victim; and having gained the victory, be hereafter a friend to myself."
"God bless you-may you never want a friend, Tom-and may He give you strength to keep the resolution. That's my wish." And the old sailor shook Tom's hand fervently, in pledge of his sincerity.
IN WHICH MR. SNIVEL, COMMONLY CALLED THE ACCOMMODATION MAN, IS INTRODUCED, AND WHAT TAKES PLACE BETWEEN HIM AND MRS. SWIGGS.
READER! have you ever witnessed how cleverly one of our mob-politicians can, through the all-soothing medium of a mint-julep, transpose himself from a mass of passion and bad English into a child of perfect equanimity? If not, perhaps you have witnessed in our halls of Congress the sudden transition through which some of our Carolina members pass from a state of stupidity to a state of pugnacity? (We refer only to those members who do their own "stumping," and as a natural consequence, get into Congress through abuse of the North, bad whiskey, and a profusion of promises to dissolve the Union.) And if you have, you may form some idea of the suddenness with which Lady Swiggs, as she delights in having her friends call her, transposes herself from the incarnation of a viper into a creature of gentleness, on hearing announced the name of Mr. Soloman Snivel.
What!—my old friend! I wish I had words to say how glad I am to see you, Lady Swiggs!" exclaims a tall, well-proportioned and handsome-limbed man, to whose figure a fashionable claret-colored frock coat, white vest, neatly-fitting dark-brown trowsers, highly-polished boots, a cluster of diamonds set in an avalanche of corded shirt-bosom, and carelessly-tied green cravat, lend a respectability better imagined than described. A certain reckless dash about him, not common to a refined gentleman, forces us to set him down as one of those individuals who hold an uncertain position in society; and though they may now and then mingle with men of refinement, have their more legitimate sphere in a fashionable world of doubtful character.
"Why!—Mr. Snivel. Is it you?" responds the old woman, reciprocating his warm shake of the hand, and getting her hard face into a smile.
"I am so glad-But (Mr. Snivel interrupts himself) never mind that!"
"You have some important news?" hastily inquires Mrs. Swiggs, laying a bit of muslin carefully between the pages of her Milton, and returning it to the table, saying she has just been grievously provoked by one of that black-coated flock who go about the city in search of lambs. They always remind her of light-houses pointing the road to the dominions of the gentleman in black.
"Something very important!" parenthesises Soloman—"very." And he shakes his head, touches her significantly on the arm with his orange-colored glove,—he smiles insidiously.
"Pray be seated, Mr. Snivel. Rebecca!—bring Mr. Snivel the rocking-chair."
"You see, my good Madam, there's such a rumor about town this morning! (Soloman again taps her on the arm with his glove.) The cat has got out of the bag-it's all up with the St. Cecilia!—"
"Do, Rebecca, make haste with the rocking-chair!" eagerly interrupts the old woman, addressing herself to the negress, who fusses her way into the room with a great old-fashioned rocking-chair. "I am so sensitive of the character of that society," she continues with a sigh, and wipes and rubs her spectacles, gets up and views herself in the glass, frills over her cap border, and becomes very generally anxious. Mrs. Swiggs is herself again. She nervously adjusts the venerable red shawl about her shoulders, draws the newly-introduced arm-chair near her own, ("I'm not so old, but am getting a little deaf," she says), and begs her visitor will be seated.
Mr. Soloman, having paced twice or thrice up and down the little room, contemplating himself in the glass at each turn, now touching his neatly-trimmed Saxon mustache and whiskers, then frisking his fingers through his candy-colored hair, brings his dignity into the chair.
"I said it was all up with the St. Cecilia—"
"Yes!" interrupts Mrs. Swiggs, her eyes glistening like balls of fire, her lower jaw falling with the weight of anxiety, and fretting rapidly her bony hands.
Soloman suddenly pauses, says that was a glorious bottle of old Madeira with which he enjoyed her hospitality on his last visit. The flavor of it is yet fresh in his mouth.
"Thank you-thank you! Mr. Soloman. I've a few more left. But pray lose no time in disclosing to me what hath befallen the St. Cecilia."
"Well then-but what I say must be in confidence. (The old woman says it never shall get beyond her lips-never!) An Englishman of goodly looks, fashion, and money-and, what is more in favor with our first families, a Sir attached to his name, being of handsome person and accomplished manners, and travelling and living after the manner of a nobleman, (some of our first families are simple enough to identify a Baronet with nobility!) was foully set upon by the fairest and most marriageable belles of the St. Cecilia. If he had possessed a dozen hearts, he could have had good markets for them all. There was such a getting up of attentions! Our fashionable mothers did their very best in arraying the many accomplishments of their consignable daughters, setting forth in the most foreign but not over-refined phraseology, their extensive travels abroad—"
"Yes!" interrupts Mrs. Swiggs, nervously—"I know how they do it. It's a pardonable weakness." And she reaches out her hand and takes to her lap her inseparable Milton.
"And the many marked attentions-offers, in fact-they have received at the hands of Counts and Earls, with names so unpronounceable that they have outlived memory—"
"Perhaps I have them in my book of autographs!" interrupts the credulous old woman, making an effort to rise and proceed to an antique sideboard covered with grotesque-looking papers.
Mr. Soloman urbanely touches her on the arm-begs she will keep her seat. The names only apply to things of the past. He proceeds, "Well-being a dashing fellow, as I have said-he played his game charmingly. Now he flirted with this one, and then with that one, and finally with the whole society, not excepting the very flirtable married ladies;—that is, I mean those whose husbands were simple enough to let him. Mothers were in a great flutter generally, and not a day passed but there was a dispute as to which of their daughters he would link his fortunes with and raise to that state so desirable in the eyes of our very republican first families-the State-Militant of nobility—"
"I think none the worse of 'em for that," says the old woman, twitching her wizard-like head in confirmation of her assertion. "My word for it, Mr. Soloman, to get up in the world, and to be above the common herd, is the grand ambition of our people; and our State has got the grand position it now holds before the world through the influence of this ambition."
"True!—you are right there, my dear friend. You may remember, I have always said you had the penetration of a statesman, (Mrs. Swiggs makes a curt bow, as a great gray cat springs into her lap and curls himself down on her Milton;) and, as I was going on to say of this dashing Baronet, he played our damsels about in agony, as an old sportsman does a covey of ducks, wounding more in the head than in the heart, and finally creating no end of a demand for matrimony. To-day, all the town was positive, he would marry the beautiful Miss Boggs; to-morrow it was not so certain that he would not marry the brilliant and all-accomplished Miss Noggs; and the next day he was certain of marrying the talented and very wealthy heiress, Miss Robbs. Mrs. Stepfast, highly esteemed in fashionable society, and the very best gossipmonger in the city, had confidentially spread it all over the neighborhood that Mr. Stepfast told her the young Baronet told him (and he verily believed he was head and ears in love with her!) Miss Robbs was the most lovely creature he had seen since he left Belgravia. And then he went into a perfect rhapsody of excitement while praising the poetry of her motion, the grace with which she performed the smallest offices of the drawing-room, her queenly figure, her round, alabaster arms, her smooth, tapering hands, (so chastely set off with two small diamonds, and so unlike the butchers' wives of this day, who bedazzle themselves all the day long with cheap jewelry,)—the beautiful swell of her marble bust, the sweet smile ever playing over her thoughtful face, the regularity of her Grecian features, and those great, languishing eyes, constantly flashing with the light of irresistible love. Quoth ye! according to what Mr. Stepfast told Mrs. Stepfast, the young Baronet would, with the ideal of a real poet, as was he, have gone on recounting her charms until sundown, had not Mr. Stepfast invited him to a quiet family dinner. And to confirm what Mr. Stepfast said, Miss Robbs had been seen by Mrs. Windspin looking in at Mrs. Stebbins', the fashionable dress-maker, while the young Baronet had twice been at Spears', in King Street, to select a diamond necklace of great value, which he left subject to the taste of Miss Robbs. And putting them two and them two together there was something in it!"