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Title: Collected Stories
Author: Sylvanus Cobb, Jr.
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100171.txt
Language: English
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Title: Collected Stories
Author: Sylvanus Cobb, Jr.

* * *

CONTENTS

A FOOTLIGHT FLASH: A DETECTIVE'S STORY
Published in The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.),
Saturday, 13 June, 1885.

A MEAN OLD RASCAL
Published in The Brisbane Courier,
Saturday, 1 September, 1866.

AN IMPORTANT WITNESS: A CASE OF DIRECT EVIDENCE
Published in The North Australian and Northern Territory Gazette,
Friday, 21 March, 1890.

GERTRUDE'S DREAM
Published in The Queenslander,
Saturday, 22 September, 1866.

MY MAD ENGINEER
Published in The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.),
Wednesday, 1 April, 1885.

THE APOTHECARY'S COMPOUND: FROM A PHYSICIAN'S NOTE BOOK
Published in The Brisbane Courier,
Saturday, 17 November, 1866.

THE CURATE'S GUEST: A LIFE SKETCH
Published in the Burra Record (S.A.),
Friday, 8 December, 1882.
(previously published in the New York Ledger.)

A CLERGYMAN'S STORY: THE WIDOW'S CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Published in The Queenslander,
Saturday, 26 December, 1868.


* * *


A FOOTLIGHT FLASH: A DETECTIVE'S STORY


Published in The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.),
Saturday, 13 June, 1885.


I don't know by what particular right I could call myself a "detective"
at that time, though I was serving on the staff of the chief detective
of the State. I had had considerable experience as a county officer--as
constable and deputy-officer and had come down to Marysville, where Mr.
Warrington, the chief of the force, was stopping for a short time on
business. The way of it was this: Being anxious to obtain a position
upon Warrington's immediate personal staff, I had written to him,
forwarding my own request, backed up by the recommendations of Hon. Mr.
Wentworth and Judge Forsyth. I wrote to the chief what I candidly
believed to be my personal qualifications, and told him, moreover, that
I had just returned from a year's absence in Europe, where I had made
quite a study of the science of rogue-catching in England and France,
and in Germany. It was Judge Forsyth's letter, however, which did the
business. His earnest personal recommendation was enough, and upon the
strength of it Warrington wrote to me, informing me that he should be in
Marysville at such a day (it was September), and bidding me meet him
there.

I did as I was bidden. I met the chief, and liked him; and he liked me.
He asked me what I had seen in Europe. If I had known his purpose it
might have flustered me, but I did not, so I told my story in an easy,
off-hand way, and at its conclusion he said to me, with a nod and a
smile:

"Mr. Vialle, I guess you'll do. At all events we'll make a try of it.
You have not inquired for me by name here, have you?"

"No, sir," I answered. "You told me I should not in your letter, and I
have made no inquiries at all."

"Good," he went on. "For the time that I am here I am Mr. Johnson. You
will remember?"

I told him I would.

"You," he said, to me, "are not known as one of the force, so you may
keep your own name. And now, sir, I have a piece of work on hand. There
is an accomplished rogue that I wish much to catch, and I am very sure
he is somewhere in this section of the country."

"Do you mean Mark Shefton?" I asked.

"Yes. What do you know of him?"

"Only what I have read in the papers. Burglary and highway robbery
within the last two weeks."

"Aye," added the chief, "and before that he had performed some of the
boldest operations in St. Louis and elsewhere on the river, that were
ever heard of. We are sure it was he that killed old Bixby; and how many
other murders he has been guilty of we have no means of knowing. We only
know this: He holds human life in no more esteem, when it comes between
his hand and his plunder, than he does the life of a dog.

"Now look you, Vialle, I have a photograph of that man, and I want you
to take it, and find him. You are a fresh hand, and if you are any way
shrewd he cannot suspect you. He probably knows by sight every detective
in this region, and can keep out of the way. I know what you would ask,"
he went on, with a smile, as I attempted to speak. "You wonder how it is
that while he is keeping an eye upon us, and dodging us, we cannot get
an eye upon him?"

I nodded assent.

"Well, sir," said Warrington, "the fact must be simply this: The man has
disguises that no human eye can penetrate. It is evidently his one
strong point. Now the picture I have of him gives him in one of his
disguises, that is, if we have the picture at all. Let me tell you about
the picture. It was taken at St. Charles. The man had been followed up
there, and tracked to a drinking-house close by one of the landings. I
got a photographer to take the necessary materials for a negative, and
station himself at an open window directly opposite that place.
Everything worked to a charm. Our man came out with three others, and
the artist caught him as he stopped for a moment on the stoop. Now you
may see the picture, and let me see if you can select our bird."

He handed me a card photograph as he spoke, and I held it to the light,
and examined it. It had been taken by what photographers call the
"instantaneous exposure," and the details were not very clearly defined;
but the figure was plain, The background of the picture was the front of
a miserable den, and upon the low, uneven stoop stood four men. I
recognized my man at a glance. It was more than the outward appearance.
It seemed to me as though I had known the man before. He was a
villainous looking fellow--villainous looking in every way and if he was
in disguise, that villainous look was no part of it. That was certainly
a part of the man himself.

By and by Warrington asked me if I had fixed upon the man we wanted. I
smiled as I pointed out my fancy.

"That's the man," said he, "and if we'd known as much then as we do now
he would not have gone from that place without being arrested, but we
did not know then. He is now somewhere in the vicinity of Marysville. I
know it, and yet I cannot get my eye upon him."

"Do you mean," said I, holding up the photograph, and pointing at my
villain, "that this is he, and that he is lurking in this vicinity?"

The chief said be meant just that thing. And there was the mystery.

"We simply know he must be here," he said; "and he has doubtless
confederates with him; but the confederates are new men, and unknown to
us--that is, unknown as connected with him. Now, will you keep that
photograph, and set yourself to the work of looking up the original?"

Most certainly I would. I felt my blood quicken and warm with the
thought.

And then we set down to the work of posting up. Mr. Warrington gave me
such information as he possessed, which was, in fact, but very little.
The whole business might be summed up in the simple proposition that
there was the picture of my man, and I was to find him; and when I had
my eye upon him, I was to telegraph to my chief, who would keep me
informed of his whereabouts. My despatch was to be directed to Thomas
Johnston, St. Louis, and was to inform him thus:

"The plans are accepted. You may forward men and material."

And if I wanted extra help--that is, if I thought a considerable force
would be required for the capture--I was to add:

"Foundation of granite."

You see, I had planned that I would take a room at the hotel as an
architect, and in that capacity I intended to look over the place.

When Warrington had left, and I was alone, I sat down to that picture,
and examined it with a magnifying glass.

Yes, it was something more than that man's villainous look that struck
me. The whole man wore a familiar look. And yet it was not as though I
had known him. The more and the longer I looked, the more deeply was I
puzzled. I must sleep over the matter. I put the photograph away into my
pocket-book, and went down to supper.

In the bar-room I found a knot of men talking about the late robberies,
and I discovered two of them to be local officers. They were on the
search, and were making a good deal of noise about it. A remark from one
of them arrested my attention:

"I heard that old Noble had sent to St. Louis for Warrington to come up
here and look after the rascals, but there aint no use of that. If
they're here we can find 'em as well as he can; but it's my opinion that
the dogs have cut sticks."

And yet, on the very next morning, the good people of Marysville were
thrown into a state of excitement wilder than any that had yet been
theirs to experience. Between 11 o'clock and midnight, an express agent,
coming in from Olneyville, where there had been a break in the railroad,
had been stopped in a desolate stretch by three armed men, and robbed of
14,000 dollars.

I heard of this very early in the morning, and having hastily swallowed
my breakfast, I took a team and drove out to Olneyville. I fancied there
must have been a deeply-laid plan for that robbery, and on arriving upon
the ground, and looking around, and making a few enquiries, I thought I
could see through it. On the previous evening a heavy freight train had
been wrecked in a long deep cut. A stone had fallen from one of the
embankments upon the track. The next train due after this freight was
the eastern express. My theory was this: The robbers had been informed
that the express agent, coming on that train, would bring with him some
thousands of dollars in greenbacks and coupon bonds of the Government.
If such an obstruction could be placed in that cut as should effectually
prevent the train from going on, the express messenger would hurry on
overland with his most important matter, so as to be able to forward it
from Marysville in the morning. Of course, that would bring him on the
road somewhere about midnight. To this end the robbers had dumped that
stone in season to wreck the freight; then, when they had seen that much
accomplished, they had waited for the coming of the express. It came,
and was stopped; and when the express agent saw the situation, he left
his grosser matter in charge of the baggage hands, and, in company with
a reliable companion, took horse and set forward.

So far, so good; and the rest was easy. The robbers, three in number,
well mounted, well-armed, and desperate, fell upon the messenger and his
companion in the wood, and overcame and robbed them, and left them
bound, hand and foot, by the wayside, from which situation they were set
free an hour later by some men who went that way.

As soon as I got back to Marysville I found the express-man, and
obtained from him a description of the men who had robbed him. He said
two of the robbers had worn masks, but the one who seemed to be
chief--who throttled him and took his money, while the others held their
pistols to his head--was not disguised at all. And he went on and
described the man whose picture I had in my pocket. There was room for
not one atom of mistake. This bold and skilfully-planned piece of work
had been done by the man known as Mark Shefton.

I went up to my room, and spent an hour in vain and profitless study. I
studied until my head ached. It was that picture. What was the mystery?
Why did that murderous-looking face and form so haunt me?

I could not stay longer in my room. I would go out in the street and see
what was to be seen. At a proper time, when I had arranged for it, I
intended to scour the sinks and slums of the town. I stopped a few
moments in the office, and then went into the smoking and reading room.
The daily papers were all in hand and being read; so I sat down by one
of the tables, on which were a few books and worn magazines. I picked up
a book and opened it. It was Dickens' Oliver Twist. It had once been a
fine book--of one of the best illustrated editions. As I mechanically
turned over the leaves my eyes fell upon a picture. I started as though
a mine had exploded at my feet. It was not the work of moments, but the
work of an instant. That picture was of the fight of the wretched Sykes
after his murder of Nancy. From that picture to its counterpart in my
pocket-book, and then to a scene on the stage in Liverpool, where I had
seen an actor, called Rudolph Dangerfield, ploy that character of Sykes.
I took out my pocket-book, and looked once more upon the photograph.
There was no more mystery. Not only was here the picture of the man I
had seen behind the footlights, but in the very same make up, even to
the false eyebrows, wig and throat beard he had worn on that occasion.

Ah! and there was more still. Rudolph Dangerfield was at that time
stopping at the one other hotel in Marysville--the Seymour House. He had
been acting in St. Louis, and had before that travelled with a Thespian
company through the country, boyong the Mississippi. As soon as I could
collect my somewhat scattered senses, I put on my hat and went to the
Seymour. I looked at the register, and found that Dangerfield's name had
not yet been crossed off. I sat down and took up a paper, and there I
remained for half an hour. I did not dare to ask a question concerning
that man.

And there was no need. At the end of half an hour he came in from the
street. There was not a finer looking gentleman in St. Charles country
than was this man; and what a magnificent physique! But the villain was
all there. Looking carefully beneath the gentility and the fine cloth,
especially with the key that I possessed, and it could be seen. It was
in the tiger's eyes, in the brutal lips, in the swelling of the head
behind the ears and in the low, sloping brow, with its enormous
perceptives making those eyes cavernous.

While Dangerfield stood at the bar, in conversation with the clerk, I
took out my pocket-book, and took a pencil and a piece of paper, and
pretended to be copying an item from the newsprint, but I was quietly
and secretly comparing that photograph with the original. The features
were all there. The bottom features were the same in both the picture
and in the man. Looking at the picture I saw the villain Sykes, upon
whom I had seen the Liverpool footlights flash. Looking upon the man at
the bar, I saw the actor who had personated that character. You who have
seen one of those marvellous stage make-ups can understand me without
further remark.

I went to the bar, and asked for a man whom I had seen take a depot
coach early that morning. He had gone. I was very sorry. When would he
return? The clerk did not know. I drank a glass of beer, and waited
around until I had seen Dangerfield go towards his room. Then, in a
friendly way, I spoke of having seen the gentleman on the stage, and of
how much pleasure it had afforded me.

"And," said I, "he is a splendid singer, too. I think I heard him last
evening."

"Where?" asked the clerk.

"Why, in the Hall of the Porter House. Was he not there with the
glee-club?"

"Guess not," returned the gentlemanly servitor, with a look of
superiority. "Mr. Dangerfield was away last evening. He spent the night
out of town. He was away, and the smash-up on the road prevented his
getting back."

Of course I must have been mistaken.

But did the clerk not think Mr. Dangerfield would give some sort of an
exhibition before leaving town?

"Guess not this time," said the clerk. "He leaves town to-morrow."

I was sorry but it could not be helped.

Very shortly after that I was at the telegraph office, and I sent the
following message to "Mr. Thomas Johnson, St. Louis,"; "The plans are
accepted. You may forward men and material. The underpinning must go up
in a hurry."

A slight change from the preconcerted arrangement, but I thought he
would understand.

And so he did. In less than hour I received an answer over the wires, as
follows: "Shall forward material by rail at once. Look out for it."

I did look out, and at 10 o'clock that evening I met Warrington at the
depot. He had only one man with him, but that was enough. I told him my
story as we went along. Of course he was surprised, but he was too well
used to the marvellous ways of accomplished villains to be sceptical.
And yet, when we entered the office of the Seymour, and I pointed out
our man standing at the bar, with a glass of hot liquor in his hand, the
chief was for the moment inclined to regard the thing as a wild
hallucination on my part; but when, attracted by our step, Rudolph
Dangerfield turned, and exposed his full face in the direct glare of the
light, he caught the outline of features of which he had so long been in
search.

But that was not all. The moment the robber saw the chief detective, and
caught the sparkle of those steel-blue eyes, he knew what it meant--knew
so well that the glass fell from his nerveless grasp, and was shivered
to atoms on the floor. On the next instant he started to draw a pistol,
but before he could get it out we were upon him.

We went first to his room, where we persuaded him to let us have the
keys of his trunks. He would thus save them from being broken open, that
was all. In a small travelling bag we found the garb and the wig and the
beard of Sykes, And we found other disguises. And we also found the
money and the bonds which had been taken from the express
messenger--every dollar.

In St. Louis, Rudolph Dangerfield, alias Mark Shefton, alias "Liverpool
Doll," and I don't know how many other aliasses, was arraigned for
highway robbery and murder. He was convicted of the robbery, but not of
murder. But it made no odds. In little more than a year from that time
he was shot dead in his tracks while trying to make his escape from
prison.

That was my first essay at rogue-catching; and I think you will agree
with me that it was, in some respects, a remarkable case of chance
identification.


--ooOOoo--


A MEAN OLD RASCAL


Published in The Brisbane Courier,
Saturday, 1 September, 1866.


ARTEMAS NODD was not only very mean, but he could, upon a pinch, be very
dishonest.

Not far from Artemas Nodd's tailor shop was a small livery stable kept
by Deemy Sniffs. Deemy was set down as a jockey, and he was sharp at a
trade, but the man who openly trusted Deemy had nothing to fear. Make
Deemy Sniffs understand that you had confidence in him as a man of
honor, and he would sooner suffer loss than do you wrong; but go at work
to get the better of him in a trade, and you might be surprised to find
how far the result was from being in your favor.

One day the young people of the village got up a riding party, and in
making out the number of teams Deemy found himself just one harness
short. Artemas Nodd had a harness, and Deemy went and borrowed it for
the occasion. It was a cheap, shaky affair which Nodd had taken for a
debt, looking new and bright with its outside polish and trimmings, but
being really good for nothing. Deemy, when he saw the quality of the
harness, hesitated about taking it, fearing that it would be really
unsafe, but he knew not where to look for another, so he concluded that
he would take it, and put it upon one of his steadiest horses, and let
the whole to a careful driver.

The riding party went to a somewhat noted Summer resort, away off among
the hills and vales and brooks, where there was quite a commodious
public house. They spent the afternoon in various sports out of doors,
and in the evening they enjoyed a pleasant dance, waiting for a good
moon to light them home. When they had danced enough, and had settled
their bills, and came to look for their teams, everything was not found
to be exactly as it should be. There had not been room in the stable for
all the horses, so some of them had been hitched in a copse of maples
close by the buildings, and among the latter was the horse which John
Stearns had driven. Quite a number of the party missed their whips, and
John Stearns missed both whip and harness. Some thief had been along
during the evening, and seeing that Stearns' harness looked the newest,
he had selected it. This was the conclusion arrived at after search had
been made in every nook and corner upon the premises without effect. The
landlord, however, managed to improvise, from various odds and ends,
harness enough to help John home; and as little twigs from the maple
branches where made to serve in lieu of the missing whips, the party
wended their way homeward in the soft moonlight merrily enough.

On the following morning John Stearns went to settle for the lost
harness. Deemy thought twenty dollars would be sufficient, and he agreed
to take that amount.

"The harness," said he, "was not worth twenty dollars, but it was nearly
new, and it may take that amount to satisfy Nodd."

Stearns paid the twenty dollars, with the understanding that it should
be refunded if the missing property were ever found; and Deemy
furthermore agreed that if he could make a more favorable settlement
with the tailor, John should have the benefit of it.

"Fifty dollars!" said Artemas Nodd, after Deemy had stated to him the
case. "The harness cost me fifty dollars."

"Why, you little rascal," returned Deemy, "The harness didn't cost you
fifty cents. You happened to hit Tom Northrop just in the nick of time,
and got it for a debt that you know you had given up as worthless long
ago."

"Don't make any odds. You can pay me fifty dollars, or you can give me
an order on Driscoll for one of his new ones."

"Driscoll don't make such harnesses as that was. He hasn't got any of
that cussed mean kind of leather."

"O, its all very well for you to talk, Deemy Sniffs, but you can't talk
me out of my harness, nor out of my just dues. You can pay me the fifty
dollars now, or you can pay it to Squire Lectem."

Deemy saw where the tailor had the advantage, and rather than make
trouble he concluded to settle upon the terms proposed. It was a bitter
pill to swallow, for Sniffs knew that the harness had been a cheat, and
he furthermore knew that Nodd knew it.

Those who had been members of the riding party, and who understood the
circumstances, when they heard of the manner in which Artemas Nodd had
pushed his advantage, were very indignant. John Stearns came of his own
accord and offered to make up from his own pocket a part of the sum, but
Deemy shook his head.

"Just you hold still, John, and keep your money to yourself. If I can't
get it out of Artemas Nodd I'll afford to lose it. At any rate, I shall
lay low for him."

Artemas Nodd, during the two past years, had been making money. He had
taken a contract for manufacturing army clothing, and he had made a good
thing of it. At one time he had no less than four hundred women at work
for him, and when we consider that he not only paid very low wages, but
that most of what he did pay was paid in dry goods and groceries, which
he bought for the purpose, we may safely conclude that he made good
profit on all work that passed through his hands. In carrying on this
sort of business--in the giving out and gathering up of work--Artemas
had found it necessary to keep a horse and wagon. The horse was a good,
strong, serviceable, beast--just the thing for a work horse, where
strength, willingness and docility were the requisites, but making
rather a clumsy appearance when hitched to a pleasure wagon.

When Artemas Nodd confessed himself able to take two thousand dollars
worth of bank stock, Mrs. Artemas Nodd suggested the propriety of buying
a nicer looking waggon, and of getting a better horse; and Master
Adolphus Gustavus Nodd strongly seconded his mother's motion. In time
Artemas himself came to feel that he owed it to his improved
circumstances to make a little more show in the world. And he thought it
might help him in his business; for both his wife and Master Adolphus
Gustavus assured him that people always loved to patronise men who
showed by their establishments that they were successful.

But Mr. Artemas concluded not to get a new wagon. Wagons were too high.
He would wait until winter and get a bran new sleigh, and then swap off
old Dobbin for a stylish horse. Such was his plan, and in the way of
conversation, he let it drop in the hearing of Deemy Sniffs.

Deemy was alive and stirring betimes. He knew every horse and colt for
miles around, and he fancied he could suit Artemas Nodd to a piece of
horseflesh. Up in the back part of the town, belonging to an honest old
codger, was the very animal. Deemy had known him ever since the days of
his boyhood, and he knew the beast to be a living refutation of the
generally received opinion that a horse isn't good for anything after he
has reached the age of five and twenty. Our stable keeper went up and
bought the horse, paying five dollars, lawful money, and binding himself
by a promise to remove the property within a month.

"Because," said the former owner, "I don't sartinly think the critter
'll live more 'n a month. The cold weather 'll finish him. He's spent
thirty winters, to my sartin knowledge, on this very farm, an' me and
Jerusha was a sayin', only a day or two ago, that we guessed he'd seen
his last Janooary."

"Old Dobbin ain't agoing to die in a hurry, Mr. Podkins," said Deemy,
with a confident shake of the head. "I'll send up to-morrow a few
bushels of nice corn meal, and on the day after I'll send up some
oat-meal, and I want to make arrangements with either you or your wife
to have this fed out in a proper manner. The poor beast is too old to
eat hay, for he can't chew it; and he cannot half chew up dry oats; but
if we can keep him fed on good warm corn and oat-meal, and keep a
blanket on him, and keep a good bed of straw under him, and have him
thoroughly cleaned and rubbed down every morning, we'll have a pretty
good looking horse of him yet."

Nehemiah Podkins promised that he would do his best, and Deemy went
away.

In just one month from that time, Deemy Sniff's went after his horse;
and when he had used the shears pretty freely, trimming the fetlocks and
evening the mane and tail, he was himself truly surprised upon beholding
Dobbin's wonderful improvement. It was just in the edge of the evening
when he started for home, and though Dobbin exhibited a remarkably
moderate rate of speed, yet he borrowed no trouble.

In a week the snow had come, and the sleighing was capital. One bright
morning Deemy put a new, silver-mounted harness upon Dobbin and hitched
him to the handsomest sleigh he owned; but in order that the animal
might do justice to himself on the occasion, it became necessary that a
little private arrangement should be made for his especial benefit. In
the right hand rein, about where it would rest upon the horse's rump,
Deemy set a lot of very sharp needle-points, driving the needles through
the leather until the points projected from an eighth to quarter of an
inch, and then breaking off the other ends. By this arrangement Deemy
could bring the needles to bear as he pleased, simply by turning the
rein in his hand and drawing it in over the animal's rump, or, if he
chose, down upon the flank. It required a little practise to bring the
horse under subjection while the sharp points where on; but Deemy was
equal to that, and finally the new turn-out made its appearance on the
street.

"Hallo! Deemy's got a new horse!"

"My gracious, there's life for ye!"

"Ain't there style?"

"I wonder where he picked that up?"

"By thunder, you can bet there's speed there!"

"Look at the way he carries that tail, will ye? Jerusalem! how he does
get up!"

Such were a few of the expressions elicited by the appearance of Dobbin
as Deemy turned him up and down the street, taking the best of care that
Artemas Nodd shouldn't go without a sight.

And so, for three or four days, the new team was exhibited on the
street. Old Dobbin's first instinct, from long, long habit, upon being
called upon to "go," was to remain very still; but a smart sinking of
those needle-points into his rump or flank put new life into him.

"I bought him of an old farmer," said Deemy, one day, as a number of the
citizens were assembled in his stable--Artemas Nodd among them. "The old
codger didn't feel able to keep quite so many dollars in horseflesh,
especially with oats at a dollar a bushel, so he sold him. But I don't
need him. He isn't exactly the right kind of a horse to let--he's too
kind and too willing. But then I don't mind that. My wife has taken a
fancy to him, and I'll keep him for her until somebody wants him more 'n
I do."

"Would your wife dare to drive him?" asked Artemas, guardedly.

"Bless you!" replied Deemy, "a child could drive him--that is, a child
who knew anything about a horse."

"I kind o' fancied 'at he acted sort of skittish and skeery like,"
suggested the tailor.

"That's 'cause I give him to many oats. He hasn't been used to my kind
o' feed. But, really, that's just the horses best point--his perfect
kindness and docility. To be sure, he's got life--in one sense, he's got
more life than any other animal I ever owned--and yet he's one o' them
sensible sort of critturs that don't go to cutting up high unlest you
ask him to."

"Would you be willin' to warrant him kind and safe in every way?" asked
Artemas.

"I'll not only warrant him kind and safe," answered Deemy, "but I'll
bind myself to take him back and pay a penalty of ten dollars to any man
who buys him, if he proves to be anything else."

The result of this was, that on the next day Artemas Nodd came down to
trade horses with Deemy Sniffs.

"Well," said Deemy, "I can tell you exactly how I'll trade. Give me your
horse and one hundred dollars, and I'll give you Bonaparte."

Such was the high-sounding name which Deemy had given to Dobbin.

Artemas couldn't think of it.

"Ex-actly," said Deemy. "I didn't s'pose you could think of it. Fact is,
you don't want any such horse as this. You want a cheap one; and I'd
advise you to go and find one. By gracious, sir, you don't find many
horses as has got the life and the kindness both as this one's got 'em."

"But, Deemy, are you honest about his bein' kind? Aint he a leetle
dangerous? Aint he jest a leetle hard on the bit?"

"I'll tell you what I'll do," said Deemy, with blunt honesty. "If, when
you've had the animal a day, or a week, you can truthfully say that he's
skittish, or skeery, or hard-bitted, or vicious in any way, I'll take
him back."

Artemas finally came to terms, and that evening Deemy led Bonaparte
around to the tailor's house, where he took in exchange Nodd's chubby
work-horse and a hundred-dollar greenback.

Towards the middle of the forenoon on the next day word was brought to
the stable that Artemas was harnessing up his new horse; whereupon Deemy
Sniffs, in company with John Stearns and a few others who had been let
into the secret since the trade had been made, hurried around and took
their stations where they could see what was going on. And this was what
they saw, and this was what they heard:

Slowly and carefully Artemas Nodd led forth the equine Bonaparte,
shining in patent leather and silver-plated mountings, and as the animal
snuffed the fresh air Artemas trembled and held the check-rein with a
firm grip. Master Adolphus Gustavus held up the shafts, and his father
succeeded in backing the horse to his place without accident of any
kind. The rest of the harnessing was soon done, and then the animal was
made fast to a hitching-post, Artemas feeling that it would not be safe
to leave the restive beast unsecured even for a moment. When this had
been done, Mrs. Nodd came forth arrayed in a new set of furs, and
Artemas fixed the robes so that she could take her seat.

"Don't you mind me, Artemas," she said, as she approached the sleigh.
"Jest you go an' look out for the hoss, for I know he's dreadful
skittish. Ye needn't tell me 'at he aint. I seed Deemy Sniffs drive him.
Oh!--do be keerful! My gracious me! I hope we won't break our necks!
Oh!--ugh!"

"Mercy sake alive! don't be afeared, Sofrony. The hoss is hitched. He
can't run away. Didn't Mr. Sniffs warrant him to be kind."

"Yes," retorted Sofrony, trembling in her seat, while her husband was
tucking the buffalo robe around her; "but what'll Deemy Sniffs' warrant
be good for arter both our precious necks is broke."

"Good Lord! don't be a fool, Sofrony. Don't ye s'pose I ken handle a
hoss! There--now keep the buffaloes up around ye good. Hold on,
Adolphus! Don't ye onhitch the crittur till I git in."

With much apparent trepidation Artemas Nodd crept into his seat by the
side of Sofrony, making every movement as though he feared that the
crackle of a straw might awaken a blood-thirsty giant; and when he had
drawn the robe around him, and gathered up the reins, he turned to his
son.

"Now, Adolphus, you may onhitch the beast. Easy! Be keerful! Don't for
mercy's sake startle him! TAKE--care! Git out o' the way!"

This last exclamation was for the safety of Adolphus Gustavus; but the
youth did not need the caution, for he took himself out of the way as
soon as the head-fast had been cast off.

"Who-o-a! Easy, Bonaparte! Easy! Come--come, Bony! Come, old feller!
Come--git up!"

The first words were spoken in a low tone, and very carefully; but when
Artemas found that Bonaparte did not leap off at a bound, he grew
bolder, and allowed his voice more scope.

"Come, Bony! Git up! Git UP! Don't be afraid, old feller!" And with this
Artemas ventured to let the reins fall gently upon the horse's back.

"'Pears to me the hoss don't hear," suggested Sofrony.

So Artemas called out very loudly, and let the reins fall with some
emphasis, the result of which was that Bonaparte slowly turned his head,
and took a good look at Mr. and Mrs. Nodd.

"If I was in your place, Dad, I'd try the whip."

"Well, Adolphus, p'r'aps you had better git the whip. I guess the hoss
has allers been used to bein' driv' that way."

Master Adolphus Gustavus got the whip, and his father tried its
effects--very gently and very carefully at first; but gradually applying
it with a will born of anger and exasperation: and it was not until the
lash had been smartly laid on that the horse moved off; and when he did
move, it was at a pace highly suggestive of the speed and gait of a
one-legged man on two crutches. Just as the equippage turned the corner
into the road Artemas heard something that sounded like a laugh, and at
the same moment his wife exclaimed:

"Why, goodness gracious me! If there aint Deemy Sniffs an' John Stearns,
with a lot more on 'em, a laffin' at us! By glory! I tell ye, Artemas,
there's some miserable hocus-pocus about this!"

But Artemas Nodd made no reply. He remembered the harness which he had
made Sniffs pay for, and he began to "smell a very big mice." When he
found that no amount of coaxing, urging, or beating, would induce the
beast to break from his lumbering shuffle, he turned into a cross
street, and got back home as secretly as possible. Two days he chewed
the cud of his chagrin, and then he made up his mind that he would put a
bold face upon the matter, and see upon what terms Sniffs would trade
back. So he went down to the stable and broached the subject.

After long bantering, Deemy offered to trade back for fifty dollars to
boot.

"But I paid you a hundred dollars between this beast and my hoss!"

"Certainly," replied Deemy. "That was a horse trade. And now, if you'll
just pay me what I gave you for that stolen harness, I'll let you have
your horse back again; and--you can bring me Bonaparte, or you can keep
him, as you please!"

"Eh!--Then you acknowledge that the animal isn't good for nothing?"

"His skin is worth something,"

"By thunder, Deemy Sniffs, you lied to me!"

"How?"

"About that hoss."

"In what way? Didn't you find him kind, and gentle, and docile, and
willing?"

"Aha-a-h!" exclaimed Artemas, feeling that he now had the jockey on the
hip, "and didn't you tell me that the hoss had LIFE! By thunder! you
swore that he had more life than any other hoss you ever owned! Ah--yes,
you did, Deemy Sniff's, and you can't deny it. I'll leave it to those
men, for some of 'em were here when you said so."

"I said, in one sense, the horse had more life, Artemas."

"Well--an' how d'ye make it out?"

"Why," explained Deemy, with the utmost gravity, "if Nehemiah Podkins
don't lie--and I guess he don't, for he raised the beast himself--that
horse as lived longer than any other horse I ever owned!"

The little tailor could see it now; so he scratched his ear and went
home; and before the week was out he had his old work-horse back again.

Somehow in his cash-accounts Artemas Nodd had made due entry of fifty
dollars received for a certain harness which he had let go to Deemy
Sniffs; but not anywhere has he ever set down or made mention of any
money or moneys paid to said Sniff's for that kind, docile, gentle, and
willing horse called BONAPARTE.


--ooOOoo--


AN IMPORTANT WITNESS: A CASE OF DIRECT EVIDENCE


Published in The North Australian and Northern Territory Gazette,
Friday, 21 March, 1890.


"Walter Palmer, for little more I'd put a bullet through your head."

"Oh, no, Tom; not quite so bad as that. You are heated."

"Heated! Who would not be heated under such provocation?"

"What provocation have I given you?"

"What provocation have you given me? Is my sister nothing to me? Am I to
rest supine while she suffers from a wrong which she is powerless to
redress or to avenge?"

"Has your sister asked you to demand any justification of me on her
account?"

"Good heavens! Must a man wait for his sister to beg of him to help her
before he lifts a finger in her behalf?"

"Tom! Tom! You don't know what you are saying. You are beside yourself."

"Beside myself! O! why don't I shoot you and have done with it?"

"Simply, Tom, because you are not half so bloody-minded as you think
yourself."

"Walter Palmer, I ask you once more: Will you marry my sister at once?
If you refuse me I cannot tell what I may do in my great anger. You may
find me more bloody-minded than you think."

They were young men, both of them. Tom Belknap was twenty-three; a
light-haired, blue eyed fellow, tall and strong, with a face about as
handsome as a man's face need to be; and he was intelligent, too, but he
was apt to lose all reason and all self-control when deeply enraged.

Walter Palmer, just one year older, was a different man. He was not
quite as tall as Tom, but be was broader across the shoulders, and
larger of body in every way. He stood like a statue, while his companion
quivered like an aspen from top to toe.

They had been friends for many years--in fact, from their boyhood up.
More than one person, seeing how close and intimate they were, and how
they appeared to depend upon each other, had likened them to Damon and
Pythias.

But they were far from feeling friendly towards one another now, and the
cause of the trouble we can surmise. Lucy Belknap, Tom's sister, two
years younger than he, was one of the best, as she was one of the
fairest and prettiest girls to be found anywhere. She was sunny-haired
and blue-eyed like her brother; and, like her brother, fair as a lily.
She loved Walter Palmer with all her heart; and be had certainly loved
her. He said he loved her still; and very likely he did.

The immediate cause of Tom's present ebulition was his discovery that
Walter was upon the point of leaving the town, to be gone for a
considerable time, and he wished him to marry with his sister before he
went; a thing which Walter had refused to do.

Walter was an orphan, and had been reared by a wealthy uncle, Jonas
Palmer, who was supposed to own very nearly a half of the town.
He--Walter--in explanation of his going away, would only say that be was
going on business for his uncle.

"Aye," Tom had said in return; "I know what that means. You are going
away to marry the girl that your uncle has selected for you. Oh, Walter,
if you do that I'll never forgive you!"

Walter only shook his head, and refused to answer further.

The two had met again, upon the river's bank, just above the village,
when the conversation had occurred to which we have listened; and there
had been other listeners. Two shipwrights, on their way home from their
work, had overheard a part; and had stopped to hear more; but they could
not stop to hear the conclusion.

"Tom," said Walter, almost prayerfully, "I beg of you to go away and
leave me. I tell you once again,--You don't know what you are talking
about. You'll be sorry when you do." And with this he turned to walk
away; but the other caught him by the arm and held him.

"No, no. Walter! You can't escape me in that fashion. I must have your
promise."

"Must!"

"Yes. I MUST!"

"O! Pshaw! Let me go."

And again he turned; and again the other caught him by the arm, and held
him.

"Tom! be careful!"

"By my soul's salvation! Walter, if you do not give me the promise I ask
I'll----"

"Hush! Not another word!"

And now Walter took him by the shoulders, and laid him prostrate upon
the river sand.

When Tom Belknap got upon his feet, he was alone. The shadows of evening
had fallen while they had been talking; and now it was dark. He looked
around, but could see nothing of Walter; and perhaps something told him
that he had better not seek him. At all events, after peering about him
for a little time in the gloom, he turned his steps homeward.

At home he found his mother and sister waiting for him. They would not
eat supper without his presence. His father had been dead several years,
and his mother his sister and himself, together with one servant,
constituted the family. Not a word spoke Tom of his late meeting with
Walter, nor did either of the others question him. Lucy was low-spirited
and melancholy, though she made frequent attempts to cast off the
incubus; but she held her peace. Not a single word fell from her lips.

It had been on Monday evening, November sixth, that Tom and Walter had
last met. The days passed on until Saturday and they had not met again.
Tom was thankful. He was not yet in the mood for another interview.

On Saturday morning, as Tom went to his office--he had charge of the
telegraph--almost the first person whom he met asked him when he had
last seen Walter Palmer; and within ten minutes from that time the same
question had been repeated in his hearing at least a dozen times. What
did it mean?

He reached his office, and he found it. The first thing he saw, on
reaching the outer steps, and casting his eyes upon the bill-board that
adorned a space of the building's front, was a flaming placard, "ONE
HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD!"

Walter Palmer was missing--had been missing since the afternoon of
Monday, the sixth instant; and his uncle, Jonas Palmer fearing all sorts
of horrors, had put forth that notice. A minute description of the
missing man was given; it stated at what time and under what
circumstances he had left home; any person who had seen him subsequent
to that hour--the noon of Monday--was earnestly requested to give
information immediately; and the person who should find him, or who
should give information leading to his being found, should receive the
above reward.

Tom was thunderstruck!--dumbfounded! Monday afternoon! And it was on
that very afternoon--at the close of it--that he and Walter had met, and
had hot, angry words. Should he call upon the agent, whom Mr. Palmer had
named in his notice, and inform him of this fact? The agent whom Jonas
Palmer had designated was his lawyer, John Twombly. Esq. All information
was to be communicated to him. While Tom was reflecting a rush of
telegraphic business came upon him, and he let it go till another time.

And while Tom waited and attended to business, Mr. Twombly had other
visitors. John Lothron and Peter Wilson, two intelligent men,
comparatively young shipwrights, had been on their way homeward from
their day's work on Monday evening, and they had seen Walter Palmer, and
Tom Belknap with him, on the river's bank, about half a mile above the
steamboat landing; and, after much questioning, the lawyer drew from
them a detailed account of all they had seen and heard on that occasion.
They had remained, listening, until Tom Belknap had caught Palmer by the
arm, and pulled him back, when he would have left, a second time.

On that occasion they had heard Walter say--in an imploring tone, they
would call it: "Tom, be careful!" Then Tom had sworn, by his soul's
salvation: "Walter, if you do not give me the promise I ask. I'll--" And
that was all they had heard. Just then, as nearly as they could judge,
Walter Palmer took Tom by the arm to draw him away.

"And we," added John Lothrop, "supposing they'd discovered us listening,
turned about and started off once more for home."

Mr. Twombly went up to the great house on the hill and conferred with
Jonas Palmer.

"Aha! there's the mischief!" the old man exclaimed, greatly excited and
thoroughly wroth. "Just where I've been looking for it this long while.
That young chap, Tom Belknap, and that lily-faced sister of his have
been trying for more than a year to get poor Walter entangled there.
Arrest him, Twombly. Arrest the young rascal the very first thing you
do."

"Will you swear out the writ, or shall I? I mean, who shall make the
complaint under oath?"

"I will." And he did it.

And that afternoon Tom Belknap was arrested. If he had been
thunderstruck on seeing the placard, he was doubly thunderstruck now. As
soon as he could collect his scattered senses he sent for a legal
friend--a smart young lawyer--Charles Allen, in whom he had entire
confidence--and asked him to stand by him.

That night and the next day Tom spent in durance, but not vile. The
sheriff gave him quarters in his own house. We will say nothing of the
astoundment, the grief and the weeping at Tom's home. All that can be
imagined.

On the following Monday Tom was taken into the court of a trial justice,
and examined. The testimony of the two shipwrights was very simple, very
direct, and very heavy. Tom told his story--told it as frankly and
bravely as he could, considering how the name of his sister was mixed up
in it; but nothing he could say could overcome the impression already
produced.

Since that moment when the two artisans had turned away towards their
homes on that Monday evening, not a trace of Walter Palmer could be
found; and his uncle had expected him borne to supper on that evening.
He--Walter--was to have started on his northern trip later in the week.

It was finally decided that Tom should be held to await further
developments. And then arose the question of bail. Old Jonas was furious
when the justice decided that bail might be received. He did not feel
authorised to lock a man up in gaol under such circumstances.

But the plot thickened. The examination was on Monday. On the following
Thursday the body of Walter Palmer, so it was said, was found washed
ashore, on a point of marshy land, three miles below the village. We may
state here that the town Springport--was only ten miles distant from the
sea, the river being navigable for large ships to its wharves, and for
several miles above.

The body found was considerably disfigured; eels and pouts and lobsters
and various other occupants of the watery depths had made sad havoc with
it. Touching the property that should have been found upon it, the body
had been landed some time during the night of Wednesday, and somebody
had evidently found it, and stripped it of money and jewellery before
the coming of those who had given notice to the authorities. This was
evident, not only from the absence of the articles, but tracks of the
purloiners--fresh and new--were found about the spot.

Ah! but the positive proof was found, after all. In one of the
hip-pockets of the pants was found a gold watch, on the inside case of
which was engraved: "WALTER PALMER. A Gift from UNCLE JONAS."

Considering that the old uncle had swore positively to the body as being
that of his nephew, before the finding of the watch, very naturally the
latter incident clinched the matter. Two surgeons made critical
examination of the remains, but gave it as their opinion that the man
had been killed by a blow on the head from some blunt instrument like a
club or a bludgeon, they having found the skull fractured exactly in
such manner as would have been done by such a weapon.

And then Tom Belknap was fully accused of the wilful murder of Walter
Palmer; and in due time the grand jury found a true bill, and he was
committed for trial. Ah! there could be no bail now.

The severest blow to Tom was to come. One day his sister visited him in
prison, and he told to her the story of his last interview with
Walter--gave her every item of it.

"O, Tom?" she said, with her arms around his neck, "no wonder Walter
told you that you knew not what you said. Tom! Tom! he was my husband!
We were married five months ago. We kept it secret because of his uncle.
O, Tom, how you misunderstood! And yet I do not wonder. We ought to have
told you; but he was so afraid of his uncle; and he seemed to think he
could keep our marriage hidden until something should turn up to help
us. But Tom, do you believe that was the body of Walter?"

"No."

"I will swear it was not. I don't care for the watch. I know that was
his; but he has not carried it for more than a year. He bought a better
one for time, when he was last in Melbourne. O, Tom! Tom! something
tells me the truth will yet be known."

"You believe me, Lucy?"

"Yes; every word you have said."

"Thank Heaven for that!"

It was a long and weary waiting--the months that passed before the next
session of the Supreme Court. But it came at length and Tom Belknap was
put on trial for the murder of Walter Palmer. The court-room was crowded
in every nook and corner. The staid old judge took his place on the
bench; the case was called; the indictment was read; the prisoner
pleaded "Not guilty," and the trial went on.

The evidence against Tom Belknap having been twice given--once before
the trial justice, and again before the grand jury--the people had
become familiar with it; and it was the general impression that he would
be convicted. The faces of the jury looked that way. They were sad and
solemn, as though a smile had no place there.

Tom sat in the prisoner's pen, with a deputy sheriff at his elbow, and
his lawyer seated directly in front of him within easy whispering
distance. The mother and sister occupied seats not far away, whence they
could look in his face; and though their hearts were ready to break they
sought to give him courage.

They were proving that a murder had been committed, and that the
murdered man had been Walter Palmer. Old Uncle Jonas was on the stand.
The district attorney had given him the watch that had been found upon
the body of the dead man and he had identified it as the only gold watch
he had ever given his nephew; and with it in his hand, plainly exposed,
he turned to the judge, who was an old and intimate friend, and
impulsively exclaimed:

"Your honor, if nothing else could prove those remains to have been once
the body of my beloved nephew, surely this watch should do it. O!
Walter! Walter!----"

"Hold on, Uncle Jonas! I'm coming!" The voice, hearty and robust,
sounded from the far part of the densely crowded room; and pretty soon
it could be seen that a man was making a desperate effort to force his
way through the compact mass; and he did it; and very soon appeared in
the open space immediately before the bar.

"Here I am, uncle! That watch----"

But he was not allowed to talk about the watch just then. It was Walter
Palmer, alive and well! When the shouts of the multitude had drowned his
voice, he turned and sprang towards the prisoner, and threw his arms
around his neck.

"Tom, dear old fellow, I came as soon as I could. Zounds! I've been to
the Fiji Islands since I last saw you!"

Ah! there was no more of enmity between those two. Tom was at once set
free.

Walter's story was quickly told. On that Monday evening after leaving
Tom, he concluded to go down to Greyport, at the mouth of the river, and
spend the night with a friend there whom he wished much to see before he
went away on his journey westward. He stopped in the waiting-room of the
railway station, and wrote a note to his uncle, informing him of his
plan, and telling him not to look for him until he came; and he gave the
missive into the hands of a boy whom be found lounging about the place;
and, further, gave him five shillings to carry it up to the big house on
the hill. The boy took the money, and probably destroyed the note. At
all events, he never delivered it.

At Greyport Walter found his friend gone, and nobody knew when he was
coming back. That night he slept in his friend's bed, and on the next
morning made a breakfast of food which he found in his friend's larder.
After breakfast he went down to one of the landings and hired a boat,
without giving his name, to make a run round to Walling Point, to see a
friend there. Outside a squall struck him, and carried away his mast. He
had a boat-hook and one oar. The squall was followed by a gale, blowing
directly off shore. Suffice it to say, in the end he was picked up by a
brig bound for the Fiji islands; and as he supposed his uncle had
received his note, and as this voyage would settle at once and forever
the northern trip which he had abominated, he entered upon it without
regret. He only wished that he could have informed Lucy; that was all.

However, it was all right now. And another thing was made right. When
old Jonas learned that Walter was really married to Lucy Belknap, and
the question came up for his decision: Could he afford to part with his
nephew? He remembered how he had suffered when be believed the dear boy
dead, and he believed he would suffer still more to be parted from him
living.

So, in the end, he gracefully surrendered; and the time came when he was
both proud and happy in seeing the wife of his dear Walter at the head
of his domestic establishment.

With regard to the watch which had been found, Walter explained, that
little more than a month before he had sold it to an itinerant jewellery
dealer; and the body found was, later, proved to have from that of the
peddler in question.


--ooOOoo--


GERTRUDE'S DREAM


Published in The Queenslander,
Saturday, 22 September, 1866.


Pale and wan, just recovering from a severe illness, sat Huldah Duncan,
in her lowly chamber, trying to ply her needle, but her fingers did not
move as was their wont, and at length, with a heavy sigh, she allowed
the work to fall upon her lap.

"Dear mother, you are not strong enough to work yet. O, I wish you would
take more rest. If you knew how sad and sorrowful it makes me to see you
suffer so!"

The speaker was a delicately formed girl, with soft brown hair and large
blue eyes, and with a face which, if not really beautiful, was at least
made lovely by its light of truth and its heart given tone of childish
innocence and affection. As she spoke she went to her mother's side, and
wound her arm about her neck, and kissed her upon the cheek.

"Blessed mother, do take time to get well. If you will put away your
sewing I will find something to do--something from which I can earn
enough to help us on until brighter days come."

"Brighter days?" muttered Mrs. Duncan, mournfully. "Ah, Gertrude, when
shall we see them?"

"When you get well and strong, dear mother. Surely the days will be
bright then."

"Alas, my child, the brightness of earth has faded away forever from me.
I shall not be strong any more." She saw the shadow of pain that her
words had called to the face of her daughter, and she presently added:

"But you, Gertrude, will yet be joyous and happy. You are a blessed
child, you are so good and true, so kind and so affectionate, and so
self-sacrificing. I know God holds much reward in store for you."

"And why not for you, too, my mother!" cried the child, again kissing
that pale cheek. "Surely you need to be happy. You have suffered much.
God will not let you suffer always."

"Gertrude," spoke the invalid, after a pause, "I must meet my fate, let
it be as it will. You would urge me to take more rest. Rest from what?
Rest from physical labor, that I may suffer more mentally. What have we
in the house that we can call our own? Where will we find our next loaf
of bread?"

"I have money enough for that, mother."

"But suppose we should pay the doctor?"

"He will wait, mother."

"Aye, because we have not money enough to pay him. Gertrude, I must ply
my needle. I will rest to-day, and to-morrow I will go at work. I shall
feel better to-morrow. You must not interfere with me in this."

The pale woman leaned her head against the back of her chair, and
pressed her hand upon brow, and the child, taking a seat not far away,
regarded her mother with a wistful, anxious look. There was a magnetic
influence in that fixed gaze, for by and by Huldah Duncan moved and
opened her eyes as though something troubled her.

"Gertrude, what is it? Why do you look at me so? Have you been dreaming
again?"

"Yes, mother, I have dreamed again, but it was the same old dream."

As the invalid covered her face once more, the child drew her low stool
softly to her side, and rested both her hands upon her knees.

"Dear mother, you do not trust me fully."

"Gertrude!"

"O, mother, if you knew how much I could help you--if you knew how my
heart yearns to share all your griefs--you would not keep any thing from
me. You asked me if I had been dreaming again. I might truthfully tell
you that I am dreaming all the time. That face, one so strangely fixed
upon my mind, is never absent from me. O, if you would tell me what I
feel that I have a right to know."

"My child!"

"Do not put me off again, mother. I am no longer the child of other
years. I am fourteen now, and into the last few years of my life have
been crowded experiences enough to make me a woman. Mother, I am going
to speak plainly. I know you will not forbid me."

"Go on, Gertrude."

The child took one of her mother's hands, and presently she said, in a
low, quivering voice:

"You have never told me, in plain words, that my father was dead."

Mrs. Duncan started as though she had received a sudden blow from some
unseen hand; and before her daughter could speak further she arose from
her chair and walked to the window. She stood there some little time,
watching the lengthening shadows of the closing day, and when she came
back she had her hands folded and pressed upon her heart.

"Dear mother, if it pains you so much----"

"No, no, Gertrude. It is time that you knew the truth; and now, before I
again commence my toil, I will give to you the lesson of my life. I have
not kept the truth from you because I would deceive you. Far from it. I
have simply kept it because I would taste the full cup of my great
sorrow alone. Do you remember, my child, that you once asked me why I
had marked with my pencil a certain passage of Scripture?"

"Yes, mother."

"And do you remember what is was?"

"Yes, for I have often read the verse since, and wondered why you were
so strangely affected by it."

"Read it now, Gertrude."

"I can recite it, mother. It is the sixth verse of the last chapter of
Solomon's Song 'Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine
arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the
coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.'"

"O, Gertrude, my blessed child, may you never know the truth of that as
I have known it!--One moment--one moment. Fear not; these tears will do
me good."

Ere long the woman wiped her eyes, and then, drawing her child nearer to
her, she said:

"Gertrude, you shall know the whole story now. You are old enough to
understand it, and I know you will comprehend and appreciate the lesson.
I was only eighteen when I became the wife of Henry Duncan. He was
handsome, and well educated, and good; and I won him for my own while
many others were anxious to find favor in his eyes. He was not wealthy,
but he was steady and industrious, and was able to give me a good home.
For a few months I was the happiest among the happy; but at length a
dark-visaged monster crept into our home, and instead of turning the
intruder out I invited his stay. Henry was too gay, too free-hearted,
and too social, to settle down at once, into the staid, sober life of a
married recluse; and as many of those maidens with whom he had formerly
been free and social still sought his pleasant company at our balls and
parties, he laughed and joked, and promenaded and danced with them as of
old. He was very careful not to bestow his attentions on any particular
one; but, so far as he could, he treated them all alike. I did not see
it then, however. I simply saw that he smiled upon others as well as
upon me, and I, in the blind foolishness of my heart blamed him for it.
At first he only laughed at me, and told me how foolish I was; but I
would not believe him. I had allowed myself to become jealous, and I
found plenty of fuel ready to feed the angry flame. And I was not
without companions to help me on in my miserable course. There were
those who had been envious because I had won Henry Duncan, and when they
found how my suspicions were running, they failed not to whisper words
of warning into my ear. I dare not tell you all that I did and said to
my husband. He was high-spirited and strong-willed; and when he had
borne all that he could bear--and God knows he bore enough--he turned
upon me so fiercely that for some time he frightened me. You were then
an infant, only three months old, and as the care of you kept me
confined most of the time, I had plenty of opportunity to suspect that
my husband was spending his evenings in more agreeable company. And yet,
before Heaven, I had no just cause for those suspicions. Only my own
folly drove Henry from me, and then I was angry because he left my side.

"Matters went on in this way for a whole year, and at the end of that
time I had become utterly insane upon that one subject. The social
comforts which my husband could not find at home he sought elsewhere,
and when he did come beneath his own roof, it was only to meet with pain
and abuse. One day information came to him by mail that his cousin was
very sick--perhaps she might not live,--and he told me that he should go
and see her. His cousin was a bright-eyed, beautiful girl, between whom
and Henry there had always been a warm attachment, and of her I had been
excessively jealous. She had then recently removed to a distant town,
and if Henry went to see her, he would have to be gone over night. I
told him I would not have him go. He informed me that he had engaged a
conveyance, and should be gone within an hour. A few more words passed
between us, and finally I told him if he went I should leave his house
never to return. He looked at me a few moments, and then he said,--it
was the first time he had ever spoken such words--and he was very pale
when he said it:--'Go, Huldah, if you wish. You and I should both be
happier to live apart!' He left me as he thus spoke, and within an hour
afterwards I knew that he was on his way to visit his cousin.

"I had said that I would leave my husband's house, and I resolved to
keep my word. I gathered up my clothing, and having secured my scanty
stock of jewellery and the little money that I possessed, I sent for a
carriage to come and take me away. I felt no pang when I took my child
in my arms and went out from that house. I only felt that I would be
revenged upon my husband!

"Not many miles away, in a neighboring town, lived an aunt of mine--a
simple-minded, good-hearted woman, who had loved me dearly when I was a
child--and to her I went. She listened to my story, and as she believed
it as I told it, she felt that I had been deeply wronged; and she gave
me a home beneath her roof. A few days afterwards I received a letter
from Henry. It was very short--only asking if he might come and see me.
O, it was not Huldah Duncan that answered that letter. It was an evil
spirit that had possessed her. At that moment the spirit of the wife was
with the father of her child; but the fiend sat down and wrote, and this
was what was written: That I wished to see my husband no more forever!

"In one short month from that time my child was taken sick, and by the
couch of the little sufferer, worn down with much watching, my senses
came back to me, and the foul fiend fled away. Amazed at first in view
of what I had done, and then contrite and almost broken hearted, I took
my pen and wrote to my husband. I wrote as I felt. I acknowledged my
error--my sin--and I told him if he would let me come back to him that I
would prove by a life of undeviating devotion how truly and deeply I
loved him. I sent the letter; but no answer came back to me. When the
first leaves of winter lay upon the ground, an old acquaintance passed
our door, from whom I learned that Henry Duncan had gone to Europe.
Before the winter had passed my aunt sickened and died, and when the
spring came I was forced to seek a new home. I had a little money; but I
had no friends to whom I dared apply for assistance. One of my aunt's
neighbors had sold his place for the purpose of removing to this town,
and I came hither with him and his family. For a time I lived as
comfortably as one could live who bore so mighty a grief; but at the end
of two years my friend died, and I was left alone with my child.

"Gertrude, you know the rest. You know how I have labored, and how
scanty has been my board; but you do not know how I have suffered, and I
pray God that you never may! In the hour of my madness I threw away one
of the noblest hearts that God ever made, and since that time my life
has been dark and sorrowful. O, most surely mine has been a heavy
retribution; and I know that it has been just. Heaven save you, sweet
child, from the sin that cursed your mother!"

Huldah Duncan bowed her face upon her hands, and sobbed aloud, while the
child threw her arms round her mother's neck and kissed her.

"Have you never heard from my father since he went away?"

"Never, Gertrude."

"But he may come back."

"Hush! O, wake not such a thought within me! He is dead, Gertrude--dead
to you and me. But see--it has grown dark, and you have not yet had your
supper. Speak no more now. God bless you, my child; bless you always."

Late in the evening, when the mother and child were ready to retire,
Gertrude, who had been strangely thoughtful and reflective, gently
whispered:

"I think I shall dream again, mother."

"Hush, darling!"

"I shall dream again, mother."

"Dreams are idle things, Gertrude."

"Not when they make us hopeful and happy."

"Perhaps not. And yet if we build too much upon such hopes it may be
worse for us."

"We can hope and pray."

"Yes, my child."

"Then such hope will I cherish."

"Ah, Gertrude, your eye is bright, and your face is stamped with
eagerness. You are hoping too much. Alas, poor child! your dreams are
leading your thoughts astray. Pray for strength to support you in the
trials you are destined to endure while travelling through this vale of
tears."

"I will pray, mother."

"And may the God of the fatherless hear and answer your prayer."

In the morning when Mrs. Duncan awoke, she found that Gertrude had got
breakfast almost ready.

"Ah, my child," she said, with a faint smile, "I think you had no dreams
last night."

"Dear mother, you are mistaken. It was a dream that awoke me."

"And was it the same old dream?"

"Wait, mother--wait until our work is done--until we find time to sit
down--and I will tell you all about my dream. I think I have never yet
told you how strangely things appeared to me in my phantasy, but since I
have heard your story they affect me more wondrously than before."

"Ah, my child----"

"Hush, mother. Say no more now. Let us eat our breakfast."

When they had partaken of the simple meal, and the few dishes had been
washed and put away, Gertrude put on her hood and shawl.

"We have money enough to purchase a little more food, mother, and I
think I can find some thing to do to help you. At all events, we will
not despair." And without waiting for any reply, the girl took her
little basket and left the chamber.

It was near the middle of the forenoon when Gertrude returned. There was
a bright light in her eye, and upon her fair cheek was a tinge fresher
and more ruddy than Huldah Duncan had seen there for years.

"Gertrude----"

"O, dear mother," cried the child, winding her arms about her parent's
neck, "I have had such excellent fortune. You must put your sewing away
now. I shall be able to help you until you are strong."

"Gertrude,--what mean you? You tremble--you are excited. What has
happened?"

"A strange fortune, mother. I shall have work enough--and such pleasant,
easy work, and such marvellous pay. I will tell you all about it by and
by. But first I am going to tell you of my dream. I promised you that I
would tell it, and I shall not rest until it is done. Will you listen to
me now?"

"Yes, my child."

Gertrude had already removed her hood and shawl, and taking a seat close
by her mother's side, and drawing one of her hands within her own, she
said:

"Let me tell you my dream, mother, as though it was all dreamed in one
night; for, though it came in many parts, yet they all fit together so
regularly that it makes one complete whole. You listen to me?"

Huldah Duncan tremblingly whispered that she would.

"Dear mother, I dreamed this: I was in the street, standing before the
window of the pastry-cook, when a man came along and stopped by my side.
I looked up into his face, and I thought I had never seen so handsome a
face, nor one so kind. I went into the shop and bought some cakes, and
when I came out he man went in, and as I stopped a moment to look back,
I saw him talking with the cook. On the next day, at the same place, the
same man met me again; and before I knew what he would do he bent over
and kissed me upon the cheek, and I thought his eyes were filled with
tears. He drew me away into the shop, and I went with him without fear.
He asked me what my name was; and he asked me about my mother; and when
I had told him all, I thought he drew me upon his bosom, and held me
there a long time; and it seemed to me as though he was some kind,
saving spirit come from the better world, for I rested upon his bosom
with a thrill of wild delight, and I thought I could rest there forever.
By and by, he asked me if I knew the story of my mother's early life,
and when I told him that I did not, he made me promise that I would get
the story from her, and that when I had heard it, I would tell it to
him.

"Dear mother, was it not very, very strange? After you had told me your
story I knew I should have more of my dream. And I did. I dreamed thus:
The same man met me again, and resting upon his bosom, with both his
arms wound tightly about me, I told him what you had told me--told him
how you had wronged your husband--how you had fled from his home--how
you had repented in grief and sorrow--and how, from the bedside of your
sick child, you had written him a letter--and I told him what was in
that letter,--and how that your husband had gone away to Europe before
the letter could reach him. And then I told him how you had suffered
since, and how you felt that all your sufferings were just. And when I
had done my face and hands were wet with tears--not my tears,
mother,--no, they were his tears. And by and by, when he had thanked God
many times, and had dried his eyes, and become calm enough to speak
plainly, he asked me if he might go with me and see my mother. And with
a glad cry I took the man by the hand and led him--I, the weak child,
led the strong man--led him to your own door----"

"Gertrude! Gertrude! O, God have mercy! Why did you tell me this!"

"Mother--dear mother--look up."

"Huldah! My wife!"

And the mother was caught in a fond embrace, and held to a wildly
throbbing bosom. Not the embrace of a child--not to the bosom of her
daughter. They were strong, manly arms that held her, and the bosom was
one whereon her head had been pillowed before her child had being.

"Huldah!--my wife! Look up. Tell me, O, tell me, has the sunshine come
again?"

Huldah Duncan spoke not then. She could only cling to the neck of her
long-lost husband and weep and sob and pray. But by and by, when she
could fully comprehend that Gertrude's dream had been all a day-dream;
and that her husband had been seeking her for a long, long time, and had
at length found her through their child; and that he had come to her
with all the love and devotion of the heart that was wholly here in the
hour that saw them made one at that holy altar; and that he could
forgive all the past, and take her to a home where every comfort of
earth should be hers, then, when she comprehended all this, she gave him
both her hands, and with a look made all of truth and holy love, she
said:

"Henry, if you can take me back to your home and to your heart, every
energy of my life shall be yours, and I will care for your love as
something so pure and sacred that I would rather die than that it should
be snatched from me! Once more, my husband--upon your bosom--thus. O!
thank God!"

--ooOOoo--


MY MAD ENGINEER

Published in The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.),
Wednesday, 1 April, 1885.


My route was west from Milan, two hundred miles to Magnolia; my usual
time for starting, at eight o'clock in the morning; but on two mornings
in the week I might wait one hour for the steamer from Cairo. It was one
of these mornings that I came down from my boarding-place, finding my
train ready for running out, but no engineer. My regular engineer had
been taken down with fever. I was in a world of trouble, when Charles
Millett--Major Charles, the mail-agent of my train--came down and
informed me that Mr. Booth, one of our directors, had gone off to hunt
up Tom Ryerson, who he believed, was in town.

Yes, it flashed upon me then that I had seen Tom on Sunday evening,
reeling drunk, with two of our men trying to get him away from the
engine-house. He had come down, crazy drunk, with the idea firmly fixed
in his mind that he must run out. He fancied that a new locomotive had
been built on purpose for him, and he wanted it fired up and a train
shackled on at once. But the Major thought he might be sober by this
time, and if he was he would answer.

At twenty minutes past eight the signals was hoisted on Boone's Hill,
informing us that the Cairo steamer was in sight, coming up, and ten
minutes later my heart was made glad by the appearance of Mr. Booth with
Tom Ryerson in tow.

Tom was one of the best locomotive engineers I ever knew; a strong,
well-built handsome fellow, five-and-thirty years of age, reared from
his youth in the midst of steam and machinery. He had one failing--that
of drink--which had grown upon him to such an extent that no company
dared to give him an engine, and for three months he had been lying
idle. On the present occasion he had been on the spree two weeks, but
had drunk nothing since the previous Saturday evening; and Mr. Booth had
found him utterly unable to drink, and in care of a brother, who was one
of the best physicians in that region.

"Mr. Rogers," said the director, addressing myself. "I think we'll help
you out of your difficulty. Tom is certainly good for the run and his
brother, the doctor, assures me that he will not touch a drop of liquor
for a week, at least. He has been in constant attendance upon him since
Saturday night and this morning he got him to eat a very fair breakfast.
Here he is, to speak for himself."

At that juncture Tom Ryerson himself came up. He greeted me pleasantly
and cheerfuly, and his hand grasp was hearty.

There was a peculiar gleaming in the man's eyes that struck me as not
exactly right, but when I had talked with him a space, and had found him
calmly rational as ever a man was, I put away my fears, and felt
thankful for his aid. I say he was calmly rational and so, at the time,
I thought him. There were flashes of light in the eye, an occasional
twitching of the lips which did not strike me as being dangerously
significant. I told him where he would find the engine, and then turned
my attention to my train and to my passengers.

My train consisted of six passenger coaches! It was before the days of
the Pullman and Wagner palaces on wheels. Three of them were large, new
cars; two very good ones, ranking as first-class; while the forward was
a second-hand affair, brought from an Eastern road, and put on for
second-class passengers. Next came a heavy baggage and freight car, and
ahead of that car given to the express and post-office. Mine was the
through mail.

The steamer had brought to me over a hundred passengers, so that I
started out with a full load. I think there were not more than twenty or
thirty seats vacant on the train. At 8.40 Tom backed up his engine and
shackled on and as I went forward to assure myself that all was right I
found him happy and jubilant. "Aint she a beauty?" he exclaimed, with
his hand on the lever of the throttle-valve, as though eager to let on
steam. "I'll show you some running. Did you know the machine was made on
purpose for me!"

I laughed, and made a light, pleasant response, and then went back to my
train. The agent of the express had everything aboard, and the mails
were safety housed. "All aboard!" A signal to the engineer and off we
went.

A run of thirty miles to Clinton, and I made my first stop. An
accommodation train from Milan to Harwich had gone out at seven o'clock,
and another would go over the same route at noon so my express made only
four stops in the two hundred miles. At Rossville sixty miles from
Milan, I met the northern train from Gainsville, generally with a heavy
mail, and there we usually made a free exchange of passengers. Then a
run of forty miles, to Finley, and thence, forty miles further, to
Harwich, where I met a train from the South with another exchange of
passengers, and a considerable change of mail and express matter. From
Harwich to Magnolia, sixty miles, we ran without a stop, saving fuel and
water. The Western Queen was a coal-burner, and we had the best of
bituminous coal for use.

The run to Clinton, thirty miles, was made rapidly, yet smoothly. Never
had my train glided over the rails more easily. Thirty miles further, to
Rossville, with the same easy motion, and yet at a speed that brought us
in only fifteen minutes behind the Gainsville train--and we had started
forty-five minutes behind time.

The run from here to Harwich, where we should meet the Lebanon train,
was eighty miles, with a stop midway at Finley. "All aboard?"

"All aboard for the Moon," I heard Tom shout, in repose to my call.

I stepped upon the rear platform of the second car from the baggage, and
the train started with a leap that came near throwing me over. Evidently
Tom had pulled his throttle-valve wide open at the word, go! And it then
struck me that Zach had been throwing an unusual quantity of coal into
the coal-box. Still, I did not borrow trouble at the moment. Tom had
said he would be at Harwich on time, and I suppose be was eager to show
what he could do. No man living was more thoroughly acquainted with all
powers and possibilities--the ins and outs--of a locomotive, than was
Tom Ryerson; I knew, moreover, that he was perfectly sober,--for he had
not left the engine since starting--so, what had I to fear?

I had entered the car--one of the new ones--and passed half way through,
when I became aware that we were going at an unusual speed, and the
speed was increasing. By the time I had reached the far end of the car I
realized that my train was running wild. The heavy cars were rocking to
and fro; literally thundering over the rails, the noise of the swiftly
revolving wheels sounding like a continuous crash. And we were going
faster and faster.

I gained the platform outside, and grasped the iron railing for support.
The rushing of the wind was like a tornado. The trees, the rocks, and
then the posts of the fences, flew past like lighting, and all the while
the fearful rocking and swaying of the ponderous cars increased. We were
going much faster than a mile a minute. With a dreadful sinking of the
heart I started for the head of my train.

"Conductor," said a passenger, as I entered the car where he sat, "your
engineer must be mad!"

And then, for the first time, the terrible truth, in all its nakedness,
burst upon me, Tom had the delirium tremens. And I knew from the nature
of the man--from the intensity of his nervous organization, and from the
length and depth of the debauch through which he had just passed, that
his mania would be frightful. It would be madness indeed if madness of
the most demoniac kind.

In the forward car--the second-class--I met Major Millet, the
mail-agent, on his way in search of me. The moment he saw me, he made a
simple sign for me to follow, and then turned, without speaking. From a
score of passengers came the cry: "What is the matter?" I told them,
nothing. "My engineer is trying to make up for the lost time, but I am
going to stop it," and with this I passed on.

"Good heavens! Bill," said the major, as soon as we had reached the
baggage car, "Tom is as mad as a March hare. He's got poor Zach, tied
hand and foot, he has jammed the fire-box full, the throttle-valve is
wide open, and he's got a big revolver with which he threatens to shoot
the first man that comes near him."

I hurried forward, with the Major and Moses Gould in company. Gould was
the express agent. Upon reaching the forward platform of the express and
mail car, only the tender was between me and the engine; and I saw it
all, at a glance, as Millet had said. Poor little Zach had been bound,
hand and foot, and jammed up into the corner of the cab under his own
seat; the fire under the boiler was at white heat, and roaring; and
there stood Tom, his head bare, his flaxen hair flying in the wind, his
eyes emitting fiery light, and in his right hand he held a heavy army
revolver, cocked and in our direction. He saw me the moment I stepped
out upon the platform, and at once yelled, in horrible tones, with a
wild maniac laugh:

"Oho! All aboard for the moon; Its my engine--my Queen of the West! and
the moon's in the west to-night! Take care! William! If you put a foot
upon my tender, I'll send a bullet through your brain! Look sharp!--and
look to your passengers! I've got six bullets in this pistol; and you
know I never miss my mark. Ho! ho! We're off for the moon!"

And then followed a laugh, long and loud, and far from horrible than the
words he had spoken--a laugh that rang in my ears, and sank with horror
into my quaking heart.

"Merciful heavens! Look!" cried the major, at the same time, with
blanched face and horrified look, pointing ahead.

"Aye,--look! look!" shouted the maniac, whose quick ear had heard the
terror-laden cry. "It is the gateway of the moon; but, we don't stop
there. William--remember;--we don't stop at that place, No, no. Oh! no!
no! For the moon! for the moon! Away! away!"

I looked where the major had pointed, and there was Finley, not a mile
distant ahead! There was no time for thought--no time for any thing, O!
if I could have laid a hand upon that throttle! But I could not; and no
power under the sun could stop the mad engine that side of Finley. The
thought flashes across me to sound an alarm, and on the instant I
reached up, and caught the cord that opened the valve of the alarm
whistle, which cord, fortunately, was let into the forward cars. I gave
a long jerking pull, and a wild demoniac scream from the rushing steam
followed. Evidently, the men at the Finley Station heard, and feared
danger. I saw them flying to and fro. Certainly, they could see that the
train was not to stop.

With my heart in my mouth, I stood and looked at the line of rail ahead!
but only for a seeming moment; on the next we thundered by the
water-tank, the small freight-house, then by other buildings; flew with
a speed that I had never dreamed of--flew and thundered on reeling and
rocking, swaying and heaving, the cars threatening every moment to leave
the rails.

For a wonder--as by a miracle--we passed the Finley Station in safety. I
caught the wondering frightened looks upon the line of human faces as we
shot past, and in a moment more we were away; but we had left an
anxious, horrified multitude behind; for the wild maniac yelling and
gesticulations of our engineer had told them that he was hopelessly mad.

And while we had been flying through Finley, Tom had cunningly watched
his opportunity and hurled on more coal on the fire; and as I saw the
Tartarean box, I knew there was heat enough for another hour, even
supposing he should put on more coal.

Suddenly as we left Finley behind, a cry of horror from the major caused
me to look into his face, and, before he spoke, I knew what he meant.
Twenty miles from Finley Station was a sharp bend in the road, called
Garrick's Bow, where the rails ran around an enormous mass, or hill, of
native rock. It was a point where we always slowed up for an even mile,
the pointed rules of the road telling us that we must come down to a
speed of six miles an hour; we usually took ten to twelve minutes to
that mile. What would become of us at that point? We might hope to do
something before reaching Harwich; the water might give out, or the fire
go down; but what should save us from death at Garrick's Bow?

For the first time since the horror had come upon us, I began to
think--to think calmly and rationally. The train was mine. The lives of
almost four hundred passengers were in my hands for me to answer for.
There were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children, large and
small, and then the hundreds of relatives and friends, in distant
places, anxiously awaiting the coming of loved ones! I thought--thought
quickly and clearly. I leaped back into the car, and caught up a heavy
iron shackling-pin, which I had seen lying on the floor. Then I said to
the major and to Gould:

"Look you, boys, I have a wife and children in Milan. If anything should
happen to me, remember them. The road must care for then!"

Then, before either of them could speak, I had leaped back upon the
platform, and with another bound I was upon the box of the tender. Bang!
went Tom's pistol, and the bullet whistled close to my ear. Another
shot, and I felt a sharp snap of fire in my left shoulder. On the next
instant, while Tom was cocking his pistol for the third shot, I brought
the iron pin down, with crashing force, upon his bare head, and he sank
upon the floor of the cab like a dead man.

My first movement after that was to shut the throttle-valve, and in a
moment more the major and Moses Gould were by my side, while the
platform of the forward car was crowded by anxious passengers.

We cast off the old waste robes which Tom had bound upon the legs and
arms of poor Zach Eberly, and bound them securely upon his own limbs. I
had pressed my fingers upon the spot where my blow had fallen and
assured myself that the skull had not been broken. The brake-men had
responded to my signal of 'on brakes!' and as we were taking the lost
turn upon Tom's ankles the train came to a stop; and not forty rods away
looming up directly across the line of our course, arose Garrick's Rock!
My feelings as I looked can be imagined better than I can describe them.

Also you can imagine between three and four hundred passengers crowding
forward on both sides eager to know what in the world had happened. And
perhaps you can imagine the gratitude of many when they had learned the
whole truth. Some there were who took it all as a matter of course, and
who saw nothing in what I had done for their saving more than they would
have expected to see done by a man to whom they had paid their money for
certain services to be rendered.

But some there were on the train who had hearts of gold. The major and
the express agent took it upon themselves to tell how I had taken my
life in my hand and faced the madman's pistol; and how I had flinched
not even after a bullet had struck me. And they repeated the speech I
had made to them about my wife and children before setting forth upon my
hazardous expedition.

Let me say here, that the wound in my shoulder was but a simple affair,
which did not keep me from my duty an hour; and when, that evening at
Magnolia, a gentlemen brought me an envelope, which he gave me as a
'slight token of grateful appreciation from numerous passengers who felt
that I had saved their lives'--and when I found therein between five and
six hundred dollars you can imagine that my wound gave me no more
thought of pain.

I took charge of the locomotive and ran it to Harwich, and as we looked
down into the deep chasm which yawned upon our left hand as we rounded
the giant rock, you can further imagine whether we shuddered or not. At
Harwich Tom Ryerson awoke, but not to a recollection of his journey on
our engine. And even after he had entirely recovered, that wild, mad run
of his upon the Western Queen was as a blank page in the story of his
life.

But it was not a blank in the story of my life, nor yet in that of poor
Zach Eberly. We both of us came to the conclusion on that day--a
conclusion from which we have never departed--that, if we must have a
madman for a companion, we would be delivered from a railway train over
the destinies of which he might be called to preside as engineer.


--ooOOoo--


THE APOTHECARY'S COMPOUND: FROM A PHYSICIAN'S NOTE BOOK


Published in The Brisbane Courier,
Saturday, 17 November, 1866.


At the age of five-and-twenty I graduated from one of the best medical
schools in the country; and I do not think I stretch the truth when I
say that no man had ever been more untiring in his efforts to obtain a
thorough knowledge of all that should be understood by the true
physician than I had been. I had entered upon my studies with a love for
the profession, and as I progressed I loved it more and more; and when I
finally received my diploma, and our old professor of anatomy and
surgery assured me that I was fit to practice anywhere, I was vain
enough to believe that he spoke the truth; though now, in the prime of
life, I am forced to confess that so far as the theory and practice of
medicine is concerned, I have learned wonderful things since the day on
which that bit of "sheep-skin" came into my hands.

With my diploma in one pocket, and a neat case of surgical instruments
in another, and a black leather medicine trunk in my hand, I stopped to
consider where I should settle. One of our professors advised me to go
to Warrenville. He said it was a thriving place--a growing place--and he
thought I might grow up with it, and, by due attention to my profession,
become a very important part of it. I took his advice and went to
Warrenville; and when I had an opportunity to look about me I was
perfectly satisfied with the landing I had made. The settlement was an
old one; but the opening of the railroad, which had been commenced only
a short time before, had given a new impetus to the growth of the place;
and as the town possessed one of the best water supplies in the country,
that growth could not be else than permanent and healthy. There were
already two physicians in the place, and there was also an apothecary
and druggist who pretended to know something of pathology. My first
visit I made to Dr. Corbett, whom I found to be a genial old man, some
three-score-and-ten years of age, and who had been in practice in
Warrenville for more than ten years. When he had seen my diploma, and
understood that two of the professors under whom I had studied had been
old class-mates of his, his heart warmed towards me at once, and I knew
that he was sincere when he told me he was glad that I had come there to
settle. So far as his need of worldly goods was concerned he cared not
for further practice. He would like to have me take the labor off his
hands, and so far as responsibility was concerned, he would be willing
to share it with me--that is, he would consult with me at any time, and
he would be glad to have me consult with him. When I asked him about Dr.
Belknap, the other physician in the place, he shook his head and
informed me that he had never met him in consultation.

"Not," said he, "because I distrust his ability, but simply because our
systems of medicine are so widely different, and our estimations of
pathological conditions so dissimilar, that we could never arrive at the
same conclusion touching either diagnostics or methods of treatment. He
is a gentleman as the world goes; but I am sorry that he has allowed
himself to make some very unjust and ungenerous attacks upon my system
of treatment. However, I care nothing for that; and I would advise that
you, now in the morning of your professional career, firmly fix a
resolution to pursue just such a course as your own judgment shall
dictate regardless of what any man of another school may say or do.
Select the good wherever you find it, and reject what you may deem to be
evil; no matter if the good is from the laboratory of an opposing
school, and the evil one of the most cherished agents of your own
pharmacy."

I spent half a day with Dr. Corbett, and the visit was one of pleasure
and profit. I did not think it worth while to call upon Dr. Belknap; but
as soon as I had secured and fitted up my office he called upon me, and
I was certainly very much disappointed in the result--agreeably so. I
found him not only intelligent and gentlemanly, but I also found that
upon no essential point did we differ in our theories either of
pathology or medicine. He held a diploma from a different school, but we
both acknowledged the same primal teacher and governor--common sense. I
could very easily see where he and Corbett had differed; and I could
also see that the old physician had given me advice which he had not
been willing to openly follow himself. When Dr. Belknap left me I was
satisfied that he and I could always meet on friendly terms, and that
there could be no difficulty in the way of our consulting together.

And now for the apothecary. His name was Luther McVaughn. I called upon
him to obtain some medicine, and he did his utmost to please me; but I
did not like him. Aye, more--I disliked him exceedingly; and the more he
tried to show me the bright side of his character the more apparent was
the dark side. He was a man of medium height, slight, but wiry in frame,
and about five-and-thirty years of age. He was of very dark complexion,
with straight, black hair, scanty black beard, and small, piercing black
eyes, and I could not help believing that not many generations back
there had been an Indian parent in his family. In general outline his
head had what we commonly term the female form, but not so in local
developments. The ears were broad and thin, standing out from the
mastoid process in a peculiarly cautious manner; the seat of the
perceptive faculties, directly over the eyes, was very prominent, while
the reflective group was sadly deficient. And this slope of deficiency
continued on, cutting off almost entirely the dwelling-places of
benevolence and veneration, leaving the summit of the skull at the seat
of self-will and self-esteem. His nose, in profile, was of the Hebrew or
commercial mould; but when seen in front view it was found to be too
thin for any great work; yet it was most emphatically a money-getting
nose. His voice was, if I may use the expression, a sort of button-hole
voice--low, oily and insinuating. His vocal organs were never intended
for any great range of power, but were made for use in corners and
closets, and for producing tones that would not startle even a mouse if
he desired to entrap the tiny marauder. I saw his handwriting, and I
found it to be as delicate and regular and finely traced as the most
perfect copperplate impressions that are to be found in, our copy-books.
It was one of those entirely mechanical, negative hands which indicate a
character so secretive that only an expert physiognomist can read it. I
said that this man's complexion was dark, and I should have added that
his face was bloodless. He was more than cool--he was cold-blooded; and
I remember that I said to myself as I left his shop on my first visit,
"God grant that I may never come in conflict with that man!"--little
thinking then how soon I should be forced to cross his track.

On the next day after I had given my sign to the public gaze, as I sat
in my office debating with myself whether it would be a good plan for me
to call upon a few of the prominent citizens, a boy made his appearance
and informed me that Dr. Corbett wanted to see me. When I reached the
dwelling of the old physician I found him laid up with an attack of
inflammatory rheumatism, and my first impression was that he had sent
for me to prescribe for him; but he had done no such thing. He had
perfect confidence in his own prescriptions; though I cannot resist the
temptation here to remark that he used for himself, as I learned before
I left, a prescription which he would have been very reluctant to
recommend to a patent. In short, the "old moss-covered bucket that hung
in the well" yielded nearly all the medicine he took--outside and in.
Dr. Belknap would have smiled had he known of this.

"Doctor," said Corbett, as soon as I had taken a seat, and we had passed
from the subject of his own ailment, "perhaps you have heard of Mr.
Moses Parker?"

Of course I had heard of him, for he was one of the wealthiest men in
the place.

"Perhaps," resumed the old physician, "you have heard that he has been
sick."

I had heard so.

"Well, Doctor, I shall be obliged to get you to call upon him, for he
certainly needs looking after, and I am utterly unable to move from my
house. I had intended to have you visit him with me for the purpose of
consultation; but that cannot be done until I get over this attack.
However, I want you to see him, to examine his case critically, and let
me know what you think about it."

I asked Corbett what had been the result of his own diagnosis.

"I declare," he replied, with an expression of sad perplexity, "I cannot
give you any kind of a satisfactory answer. When the man was first taken
sick I thought I detected the typhoid symptoms, and I treated him
accordingly; but I discovered in a few days that I had been mistaken,
and I fancied that it was a case of inflammation of the stomach. Another
critical examination revealed not only inflammation of the oesophagus
and stomach, but of the whole alimentary canal. This, in a few days, I
succeeded in subduing; but my patient did not improve. He continued to
fail; the pulse became low and irregular; the stomach rejected all kinds
of proper nourishment; and the skin became cold and clammy to the touch.
Mr. Parker has been what we may term, a high liver, and I am forced to
the conclusion that the digestive functions have given out,--in short,
that he is paying a most severe penalty for former infractions of the
physical laws. I have heard this morning that his niece has been taken
sick. She has been unremitting in her care of her uncle, and I fancy she
has broken down under the labor. You will find her a lovely girl, and
your own instincts will lead you to help her all you can."

After some further conversation I started for the residence of Moses
Parker, which I found to be a large, Gothic mansion, with a splendid
park in front, and with numerous outbuildings, each one of which was
finished equal to any ordinary dwelling-house. Here, certainly, was the
opportunity I sought. If I succeeded here, with the wealthiest man of
the town, all would be well with me.

I found Mr. Parker to be a man past threescore, and possessing one of
the finest physical structures I had ever seen. When I had examined his
chest and limbs, and had noted those signs of the state of the liver
which are discernable in the eye, I made up my mind that the failure of
the digestive organs had not been the origin of his sickness. I
explained to him why I had come, and after I had conversed with him a
little while I fancied that he was rather pleased with me, and that I
was more than welcome.

"Perhaps," said he, "you can help me. I do not think that Dr. Corbett
understands my case. He thinks I have lived too high; but I give you my
word, sir, that I never know what it was to have victuals hurt me until
I was taken down with this sickness."

In reply I told him that I should not attempt to form an opinion until I
had had opportunity for more investigation and observation. I saw
plainly that his internal organs were weak and torpid, and that the
whole system was extremely prostrated. His only diet for the past week
had been a light beef-broth and small quantities of port wine.

"The wine," said he, "is about all that I can keep upon my stomach."

I suggested that old port wine might be too much for him--too bracing,
as it was generally termed.

"O, no," he cried, with considerable animation. "It is wine that was
imported on purpose for me ten years ago. There is a bottle on the
side-board. Try it for yourself. If you do not pronounce it good, then I
am no judge. Try it to please me," he added, as he saw that I hesitated.

I am no lover of wine, though I never absolutely refused it. I went to
the side-board, and poured out half a glass and drank it. It was pure
and good, and rather stout; but I told him that sherry wine, slightly
diluted, would be better for him. He said he didn't love sherry so well,
but if I said so he would try it.

After spending half an hour by his bedside I found myself almost
hopelessly puzzled. According to his account he had frequent symptoms of
vertigo; and at intervals there was sharp pain in the head, and a
burning sensation in the stomach. Sometimes the pulse would be quick and
feeble, and then slow and extremely irregular. At times his skin would
be hot and parched, and at others, as I found it on this occasion, cold
and clammy. And I noticed, too, that as the excitement consequent upon
the appearance of a strange doctor wore off, his face assumed a
strangely anxious and uneasy expression. But this might be the result of
anxiety on account of the sickness of his niece. He told me that I must
go in and see her, and that I must help her all I could.

"She is an angel--my Addie is," he said; "and she watched with me until
she has entirely broken herself down."

As he spoke he reached up over his head and pulled a bell-cord, and
presently a female nurse entered the room. She was a woman perhaps
thirty years of ago, and by many she would have been termed good
looking, and, by some, even handsome; but her face and her form were of
that mould which never had any beauty for me. I will not attempt to
describe her person. To me, who had mingled so much with the inmates of
the hospitals of a great city, she bore the repulsive stamp of the
voluntary outcast. She started when she saw me, and she certainly
betrayed considerable uneasiness when she found my eye fixed upon her. I
could not fail to notice it. Had she been an unsophisticated, modest
girl, I might have judged that the unexpected appearance of a stranger
had so moved her; but as the signs of modesty were not upon her face I
could attribute her emotion to no such cause.

"Margaret," said Mr. Parker, "Doctor Corbett is sick, and this new
doctor has come in his place. I want you to take him to Addie's room."

The woman turned away, and I followed her. As we were passing near the
head of the broad staircase I head footsteps below, and upon looking
down I saw a man crossing the lower hall. I caught but a momentary
glimpse of him; but I could not be deceived. It was Luther McVaughn, the
apothecary! And Margaret saw him, too; and she glanced quickly back as
though she would observe whether I had noticed him; but my eyes were not
turned in that direction when she did so.

When we reached the chamber of the sick niece the woman simply
introduced me as a physician who had come in place of Dr. Corbett, and
then retired.

I could not, at first sight, determine whether Addie Parker was an angel
or not; but I could determine that she was a very beautiful girl--one of
the most beautiful, I thought, that I had ever seen. She was twenty
years of age, and the mould of her face was perfect. It might be that
sickness had lent a depth to the spirituality of that face, but sickness
had not created it. Surely the old doctor had said truly when he told me
that my own instincts would lead me to help her all I could. I sat down
by her bedside, and very quickly observed that she was ready to trust
me; and when I saw that she mutely appealed to me to help her I
experienced a degree of anxiety that I had never experienced before in
my life.

Was it that anxiety that made my head ache, and produced a dizziness and
sickness? As I sat there, holding the wrist of my fair patient, I
realised that a sudden and entirely unnatural sickness had come upon me.
My first instinct of mind was to think if I had taken anything into my
stomach which ought not to have been there, because in ninety-nine cases
in a hundred a headache may be traced to derangement of the stomach.
That intricate nervous webwork of the pneumogastrics, connecting the
stomach, the heart and the brain in a common sympathy, will not bear
much abuse without making the fact known. But I could think of nothing
that I had eaten. Could it be possible that the very small quantity of
wine I had drank could have produced such a result? I could not think
so. However, by a strong effort I so far overcame the trouble as to bend
my mind to the business in hand, and very soon I forgot my own ailment.

I was not long in satisfying myself that Addie Parker's sickness was not
the result of any overwork. Her symptoms were very much the same as
those which had marked the disease of her uncle. The pulse was low and
quick; the skin was cold; the tongue exhibited a slight tending to
ulceration; and there was evidently more or less of inflammation along
the whole alimentary canal.

"Doctor," she said, with an eager, anxious look, "what ails me?"

I had been in a deep reverie when she spoke, and my thoughts had
wandered from her to the man whom I had seen in the lower hall. Partly
to evade a direct answer to her question--and partly to satisfy a
strange curiosity which had possessed me, I passed directly to another
subject. I still held her wrist, for it really appeared to me that she
liked to have it rest there. The warmth of my hand probably imparted
vital force, and it was not unlikely that she thus expressed a
confidence in me, and a willingness to lean upon me for support.

"Are you acquainted with Luther McVaughn, the apothecary?" I asked.

"O, yes," she replied. "He is my cousin."

"How is that?"

"He was the son of Uncle Moses's sister."

"And you were the child of a brother?"

"Yes, sir."

I cannot say that any direct suspicion led me on in questioning my
patient further, but I know that I was impelled by something more than
idle curiosity.

"Has your uncle Moses any family of his own?" I asked.

"No, sir. He was married once, but his wife and child both died, and he
has never married since."

"What other near relatives has he beside yourself and Luther McVaughn?"

"None; Luther and I are both orphans, and we were only children. Our
parents died when we were quite young, and Uncle Moses has been a father
to us both."

"But I should judge," said I, trying to smile, "that Luther had been
rather a wayward nephew."

"I don't know," she answered. "He always seemed to be steady enough, and
has never given uncle much trouble, but----"

"But he has never been a very loving nephew," I suggested, as she
hesitated.

"You are right, sir. And yet I cannot tell how it is. Of late years he
hasn't seemed like a cousin at all, though he has been very--very--kind
to my uncle--sometimes. But please don't talk of him any more."

"Of course not, if you do not wish it. But who is this woman that seems
to be acting as nurse here?"

"Her name is Margaret Arnford."

"Has she been long here?"

"Only about six months. She used to work for Luther, in his family, but
when his wife died he did not want her any more, and he let her come up
here. She is a superior cook, and for that uncle took her."

"Then your cousin Luther is a widower?"

"Yes, sir."

"Has he any children?"

"No, sir--not living. He had a daughter, but she died before her
mother."

"I suppose," said I, with another attempt at smiling, "that your cousin
Luther visits his uncle quite often."

"No, sir, not very, though he comes up once in a while to inquire about
him. But he is very kind and solicitous when he does come. I have
thought--and I hope it is so--that Luther's heart has warmed somewhat
since uncle Moses has been sick."

I had another question upon my tongue when Addie Parker was suddenly
attacked by nausea, and she desired that I should call the nurse, but
instead of that I brought a large china washbowl, and raised her to a
sitting posture. She vomited quite freely, and when the spasm had passed
I laid her head back upon the pillow, and carried the bowl back to the
toilette stand. As I set it down I noticed a large, soft sponge close
by, and the thought occurred to me that here was just the opportunity I
needed above all others--the opportunity to find what was in the sick
girl's stomach. So I took the sponge and placed it in the basin, and it
absorbed nearly all the contents. This I carefully rolled up in a napkin
which lay at hand, and then I put the parcel into my hat.

I did not sit down again, but I went and stood by the bed, and told the
fair sufferer that I would go to my office and see if I could fix up
some medicine that would help her.

"But do you know what ails me?" she asked.

"I have some idea," I replied, "but I could not explain it to you so
that you would understand it. It is now about noon. I will see you again
before night, and until I do see you again I would prefer that you
should take nothing upon your stomach--nothing at all--unless it be a
little cold water."

She promised that she would obey me, and with a word of hope and cheer I
left the room, and went back to the uncle, and to him I said the same
that I had said to the niece. I was going to fix him some medicine--I
would come back before night--and I wanted him to take nothing upon his
stomach until he saw me again. He might take a little pure cold water if
he was thirsty, but nothing more. If he wanted me to help him he must do
as I told him. He promised, and I went away. I saw nothing of the
apothecary as I left, and I supposed he had gone before me. I met
Margaret Arnford in the lower hall, and I fancied that she looked as
though she feared me. At all events, if she could have known what was
passing in my mind at the time, she would have had plenty of cause for
alarm.

My first movement, when I reached my office, was to start a fire of
charcoal in a small furnace in a rear apartment, which I had fitted up
as a sort of private operating room and laboratory. Then I selected a
crucible to which I could fit a cover, and having placed therein the
saturated sponge which I had brought from the mansion with me, I fitted
the cover on as tightly as possible, and then set it into the furnace. I
allowed the crucible to reach a red heat, when I removed it from the
fire and took off the cover.

Ah, there was no mistaking the odor that arose from the heated vessel.
It was not so strong as would have been exhaled from the volatilized
metal, but there was garlic enough in the smell to assure me that there
had been arsenic upon Addie Parker's stomach.

And if there had been arsenic upon her stomach, there had been arsenic
upon the stomach of her uncle.

And if there had been arsenic upon the stomach of Moses Parker, had
these not been either arsenic, or some other poison, upon my own? I
fancied that I could now understand how that small quantity of wine had
so affected me.

My conclusions were soon formed, and may be stated in a very few words:
With Moses Parker and his niece both dead, Luther McVaughn would be the
sole heir to his uncle's vast wealth. He had engaged Margaret Arnford to
assist him in the work of bringing that wealth to his possession. He had
prepared poison, and the woman had mixed it in the food and drink of the
intended victims. Of course I need not tell the reader how I arrived at
these conclusions, for that must be obvious to all. I was satisfied,
from the various symptoms, that a part of the poison had been irritant
and a part narcotic, but it had not been administered with much
judgment, and I doubt if the apothecary had prepared it with any great
degree of skill. The intention had evidently been to so prepare and
administer it that the progress of the disease should be gradual, and
the presence of the destroying agent entirely hidden, but McVaughn
probably understood but little of toxicology as a science, and the
irritants had been given too freely.

I wondered how Corbett could have failed to detect the presence of
poison; and yet, when I came to reflect, I was willing to confess that
had not extraneous circumstances excited my suspicions I might myself
have failed to detect the true cause of the disease by the symptoms.
However, it was all very plain now, and my action must needs be speedy.

I prepared such remedies as I thought best adapted to the cases of my
two patients, and then hastened back to the mansion. Mr. Parker had
drank considerable water during my absence, and I found him vomiting
freely which of course did him no harm. Margaret Arnford was with him;
but she left when I came in; and after the old man had become quiet, I
sat down and told him of the discovery I had made. I gave him a detailed
account of the whole affair, so that when I had done he had no questions
to ask. He followed me attentively, and he did not interrupt me; for I
could see that as soon as the first film was torn away from the mystery
he comprehended the whole. He was deeply moved--at times horrified--and
his moans and sobs were agonizing. When I had finished my story he
remained a little while with his hands over his face, and his first
words were:

"Can you save my Addie?"

"I can save you both," I answered.

"Then go and look to Addie now. Do not tell her of this--not at present;
but save her--oh, save her! I want to think."

"But," said I, "there is one thing that must be attended to immediately.
I must have a faithful and competent cook and nurse in place of Margaret
Arnford."

"I will think of that while you are gone. You can come back pretty
soon."

I found Addie Parker asleep, and I did not disturb her; so went back to
my first patient.

"Well, well," said the old man, when I had taken a seat by his side, "we
must strike at the bottom of this affair; and the sooner we do it the
better. I will call Margaret, and I want you to tell her just what she
and Luther have been doing. I think she will confess the truth."

I would have offered some objection to this summary proceeding; but he
did not wait. He pulled the bell-cord, and the woman soon answered the
summons.

"Doctor," said Mr. Parker, as Margaret Arnford approached his bed, "will
you lock that door and put the key in your pocket?"

I did as directed; and the woman became alarmed.

"Now," pursued Parker, still addressing me, "I want you to tell Margaret
what you have discovered."

"I can tell her that in a very few words," said I. I then turned to the
woman, who was trembling violently, and continued in a calm confident
tone, and with a fixed look into her blanched face:

"Margaret Arnford, not long ago Luther McVaughn and yourself entered
into a horrid conspiracy to destroy the lives of this old man and his
niece, the object being to obtain possession of wealth. McVaughn has
prepared and furnished poison, and you have administered it. That very
bottle, standing there upon the sideboard, contains some of the poison
at this moment!"

The woman evidently tried to muster strength enough to deny the charge;
but she could not do it. She was a coward, and she sank down upon her
knees and begged of the old man to spare her. She declared, in a wild
and incoherent manner, that Luther McVaughn was the villain--that he had
concocted the scheme--that he had urged her into it--that he had
threatened her if she did not help him--and that he had promised to make
her his wife as soon as he gained his uncle's property.

I cannot tell what more she said, only that she begged and prayed like
one insane; but the old man made little reply. He directed me to unlock
the door, and when I had done that, he told Margaret that she might go
to her room.

"You had better secure that woman," I suggested, after she had gone.

"For what?" asked Parker.

"She will flee from your house, and give the alarm to McVaughn."

The old man brushed his hand across his face, and then said, in
faltering accents:

"I never had but one sister, and I loved her very much. Luther McVaughn
was her child. I cannot lift my hand against him. Doctor, if you would
please me, give no more attention to those two unfortunate persons. Let
your attention be confined to my niece and myself, for I have full
confidence in your skill and understanding. I will call another servant,
with whom we can make arrangements for a new nurse. Not a word of this
to any one until you have my permission."

There were two bell-cords at the head of his bed. He pulled the second
one as he ceased speaking, and the summons was are long answered by a
man-servant.

"John, do you think your sister Mary would be willing to come here and
help us for a few weeks?"

"Certainly she would," replied the man.

"Then go down and send Kate up to me, and then go after Mary as quickly
as you can. Tell her she must come to-night, because Margaret is going
away."

I found Kate to be quite an intelligent Irish girl, and my first
direction to her was to prepare a goodly quantity of barley-water, and
some very thin porridge of flour and milk. After this I saw Addie, and
when I told her that I had discovered what ailed her, and that I was
sure I could cure her, her face brightened wonderfully.

I remained until I had seen the barley-water and the porridge prepared,
and had given directions for its use, and then I went away to see Dr.
Belknap. I wanted a proper vapor bath, and I was fortunate enough to
find him in possession of one, which he would lend to me with pleasure.
I called a teamster and had the bath carried to the mansion, and then I
went to Dr. Corbett's but I did not see him. His pain had evidently
induced him to take a narcotic dose, and he was asleep--the first sleep,
his wife told me, he had obtained for forty-eight hours.

On the following morning I made it in my way to look in at the
apothecary's shop, and I found Dr. Belknap there purchasing some
medicine; but I did not see McVaughn. I came out with Belknap, and asked
him if he knew where the proprietor was.

"If you mean Mr. McVaughn," he replied, "I can simply inform you that he
has sold out to Mr. Green. I was somewhat surprised when I heard of it
this morning."

"Has he left town?" I asked,

"Yes. Green informs me that he left last night. It seems, however, that
he sold out the whole concern two weeks ago. I cannot conceive why he
should have kept the transaction so private."

I did not inform Belknap of the light which I possessed upon the
subject.

When I reached the mansion I found Mr. Parker quite comfortable.
According to my directions he had drank of the barley-water very freely,
and the result had been that his stomach was pretty thoroughly washed
out. I asked him where Margaret Arnford was, and he told me she had
gone.

"She went last night," he said, "as I thought she would, and as I wished
that she should. I could not have punished her without exposing my
sister's child. If she has given warning to Luther, and he will also
leave, I shall be content."

"Then," said I, "you may find rest, for your nephew has sold out and
left the town."

"Thank God for that!" ejaculated the old man, with clasped hands. "If my
sister's freed spirit can visit me, as I think it does, I know she will
not blame me. And now, doctor, let us try and forget that misguided,
erring man."

From this time I went at the work of healing in earnest. For Mr. Parker
I used the vapor bath myself--used it as freely as I dared; and I very
soon instructed the new nurse so that she could use it for Addie. Those
at all acquainted with the method of treatment will understand the
object I had in view. By thus opening the external avenues of the system
by throwing open those millions of little gates--struggling nature was
suffered to cast out the impurities, while what was taken into the
stomach was calculated to strengthen and build up. The result was, that
in a very few weeks the niece had entirely recovered; and ere long
afterwards the uncle was in the same happy condition.

Dr. Corbett was rejoiced at my success. I was very careful to make him
understand that he would have discovered the secret of the strange
disease if his own ailment had not interrupted his investigations, while
he took much credit to himself for having called me to attend in his
place.

Of course the story of the poisoning leaked out, and there was an
attempt on the part of some of the police of find McVaughn and his
guilty paramour, but they were not found.

And furthermore, from that time I had plenty of practice in Warrenville.

And there is one thing more that may be mentioned. Addie Parker loved
the man who had saved her, even before she was cured, and I once thought
that the happiest day in my life was that on which she promised to
become my wife, but I was mistaken. My married life has been almost an
uninterrupted season of perfect domestic bliss, and even now, in the
full vigor of manhood, with half-a-dozen children about me, I can hold
my dear one to my bosom and devoutly say, as uncle Moses said years ago,
"She is an angel, my Addie is!"

Just after the battle of Nashville in America, in which Thomas so
effectually disposed of the rebel army under Hood, I received a letter
from a friend who was serving in Thomas's army. He wrote to me that he
had seen Luther McVaughn--that McVaughn had been assistant surgeon in
one of the western regiments, and that on the afternoon of the last day
of the battle of Nashville, he was shot through the head and instantly
killed.

I read the letter to uncle Moses, and when he had heard it he bowed his
head upon his hands, and I fancied that I heard him pronounce his
sister's name. In a little while he looked up, and said to me:

"Surely we may thank Heaven that the poor man has thus made some
atonement for his sin, and for myself, I am willing to take that
atonement as full and ample. May a merciful God forgive him as I do!"


--ooOOoo--


THE CURATE'S GUEST: A LIFE SKETCH


Published in the Burra Record (S.A.),
Friday, 8 December, 1882.
(previously published in the New York Ledger.)


Not a great many years ago an aged clergyman and his wife sat together
in their poor farm-house, on a chill October evening, engaged in an
earnest conversation upon the one important subject that gave them deep
concern. The clergyman's place was in Norfolk, on the great Norwich
stage-road--in a small agricultural village, the inhabitants of which
were poor, and able to do but little towards supporting the excellent
old man who broke to them the bread of life. His name was Silas Barclay;
and the name for miles around was the synonym of all that was good and
true and sympathetic in man. His poor neighbors came to him for
everything in the way of help in poverty, and sympathy in distress; and
he never sent a petitioner away empty-handed if it lay within his power
to give relief. He had reached his five-and-sixtieth year, hale, hearty
and strong, and one of the best educated men in the country, he had no
place because, in all the world, he had not an influential friend.

Barclay had a poor parish. We may judge something of the ability of his
flock when it is recorded that from his curacy and the tuition of the
few students who came to him for help in their studies--he prepared
young men for college, and also gave instruction to young students for
the ministry--from all sources he gained an income of not more than
eighty pounds per annum.

His wife, Betsy, often scolded him for giving help to the poor wayfarers
that applied at his door for food and lodgings, especially when they
seemed strong and able to work, but he would answer her, "Ah, Betty, my
love, the poor are all God's children, and how do we know when the angel
may be with us unawares?" And he went on, living his humble, useful
life, giving help and happiness to those poorer than himself whenever
the opportunity was.

On this chill, rainy October evening our good old curate was in trouble.
He had received a letter from Scotland, where he had an only son living,
informing him that dire misfortune had befallen his boy--a boy, however,
married, and with a family of his own. He had had a great deal of
sickness; his wife had been prostrated during the summer, and was not
yet able to be around: and altogether he was in sore distress. O! could
not his good old father help him?

"Alas!" the old man murmured, "it is very hard for poor George. Wife, is
there not some way in which we can give him help? Can you think of
anything we can do?"

The wife looked at him in pitying surprise.

"Silas," she said, with an ominous shake of the head, "I think you must
be losing your senses. Help! Ah! who would help him more quickly than
would I? But where are we to find it? Do you forget that next week the
tax-gatherer comes for the last time? Have you the money for him?"

The clergyman's countenance fell. He was obliged to acknowledge that he
had not the money, and further that he knew not where he was to find it.

"But, dear wife, let us not borrow trouble. Never have I seen the
righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread! Something will come to
help us. I have lived too long to begin to doubt the Lord at this day.
Let as pray--pray and hope--pray, and trust in the Lord."

Betsy looked as though she would like to give him a severe lecture for
his willingness to find anything hopeful in their present situation; but
there was something in the warm, loving, and generous light of his
really happy face that withheld her from the harsh criticism which had
been evidently upon her tongue. Still, she felt that she could properly
lay before her husband the exact situation of their poverty-stricken
exchequer; and the pattering of the rain-drops against the windows
formed a tuneful cadence to her thoughts, and seemed to inspire her. She
had opened her lips, and was upon the point of speaking, when the tramp
of a horse was heard upon the pavement at the gate: and, ere long
thereafter, a smart rap sounded upon the door. The clergyman took up a
lighted candle and answered the summons.

The caller proved to be a Frenchman, on his way to Norwich, who had been
overtaken by the storm; was wet, and cold, and hungry; and knew not
where to look for a public house. He did not feel that he could, with
safety to his health, to say nothing of bodily comfort--travel any
farther in the storm.

He was a respectable looking man; rather under-size: and dark of
complexion; and the good wife, when she saw him, was afraid of him. As
soon as she could gain an opportunity to speak with her husband apart,
she urged him not, on any account, to ask the man to stop over night.
The curate's answer to this was curious,--and, when considered in the
light of subsequent events--prophetic:

"Wife," said he, half playfully. "We've been looking for our angel all
these years among our own countrymen; may it not be that the Good Father
has sent him from France?"

The clergyman lighted a lantern, and went out and put the stranger's
horse into his barn, and gave him hay and grain, and then came back to
find the dame in the act of bestowing upon him--the stranger--one of his
own warm dressing-gowns. The man donned the robe cheerfully; then sat
down by the fire, while the hostess made ready refreshment for him. It
was an humble meal which the clergyman's wife was able to prepare; but
it was substantial and well-cooked, and there was enough of it.

The visitor gave his name--a curious French name, which Barclay found it
difficult to pronounce after him;--he said he came from Nevers, in the
very centre of France; and that he was a farmer, in a small way. He
spoke English very well--very plainly, and the good clergyman, at length
ventured upon his slight knowledge of French, as he called it; whereupon
the visitor tried to be indignant.

"My faith!" he exclaimed, "you speak my language purely and with grace.
If you understand the grammar----"

"O,--that is about all I have dared to think I did understand," the host
put in. "I venture to assert that I can teach French Grammar."

"Aye,--and you may henceforth claim that you can teach your pupils how
to speak it."

In the course of the evening, after the supper table had been cleared
off, the Frenchman discovered an old chess-board standing against the
wainscot; and he asked his host if he played chess.

"Yes," said the clergyman. "I think myself a good player."

"I am glad! I have found no man in England who could beat me."

The board and a box of very fine ivory pieces--a present to the curate
from a former pupil--were brought forth, a small stand set out, and they
went at the game. The Frenchman was an excellent chess-player; but Rev.
Silas Barclay was a better. They played from eight o'clock until almost
midnight, and the guest did not win a game. One game was given up as a
draw--by a false move the clergyman lost his last piece--he was telling
to his antagonist the story of his life, which had been drawn from him
almost without his knowledge--and in a thoughtless moment, while telling
of his son in Scotland, he lost his victory: the two kings were left
alone in their glory on the board. And that finished the conflict.

Not once had the guest lost his perfect good-nature, and he was content,
in the end, to acknowledge that his host was the most skilful chess
player he had ever met.

The board was set aside, after which the curate brought forth his Bible,
upon which the guest claimed the privilege of reading. He selected and
read the fourth chapter of Second Corinthians, which--both the subject
and the manner of reading--affected the host deeply. Then the good
clergyman offered up a fervent prayer, and they sought their pillows.
The wife had endeavoured to impress it upon her husband that he should
put the guest to sleep in the little coop over the shed, but the
great-hearted clergyman could not have done that under any
circumstances, and now that he had come to really love the man it was
farther from his heart than ever. He led his guest to the one nice
chamber of his humble cottage, and there wished him sweet sleep and
pleasant dreams.

In the morning they were up early. The storm had passed over; the sun
had arisen brightly; the guest's garments were all dry, and had been
brushed clean by the clergyman himself. His wife chanced to come up on
him while he was engaged at the work, and she could not resist the
impulse to scold him for his making of himself a lackey to a strolling
Frenchman. And again, laughingly, the old clergyman replied, in all
innocence, "I tell thee, wife, this may be our angel. When the bright
visitants come they don't make themselves known at once."

After a plain but hearty breakfast, the guest's horse was brought to the
door by the old clergyman himself; a warm and fervent hand-shake; a
pleasant bow, and hearty thanks to the dame, and the Frenchman rode
away.

Four days latter a letter arrived at the curate's humble cottage,
bearing the post mark of the country-seat of the Duke of Norfolk, and
the broad seal upon the letter bore an armorial crest. The wondering
curate opened the missive without breaking the seal, and within found
but a brief note, written upon paper bearing a crest, as follows:

"REV. SILAS BARCLAY,--I have not forgotten your generous hospitality to
a wayfaring stranger a few days since; nor have I forgotten the sound
drubbing you gave me at chess. I have thought much of the story you told
me of your humble life, as you were pleased to call it; and since your
telling that story cost you a decided victory in a single game--giving
to me the honour of a draw,--I feel that I am your debtor. If you will
kindly accept the Living of Oakham, worth five hundred pounds a year, it
is open for your immediate occupancy. If you accept, you will at once
inform his Grace, the Duke of Norfolk, and also thank him for having
given it to me for you. Trusting that you may be blessed with a long
life of enjoyment in this new field, I am your friend, sincerely."

"LOUIS, DUKE OF NIVERNAIS."

At first the poor clergyman could not believe it. It must be a cruel
hoax. Five hundred pounds per annum! Impossible! And then he bent his
head, and reflected. He remembered that the Duke of Nivernais was the
French Ambassador at the English Court. It must have been he whom he had
entertained. Aye--now that he came to call to mind some of the remarks
that had fallen from his guest's lips he knew he must be the man.

"Ho! wife! Now what think ye? Said I not our angel would come from
France?"

"You'd better be sure that the living is to be yours, first," she
retorted. But she was happy, nevertheless; and she was very, very
thankful that she had not suffered the stranger guest to witness her
coldness on the occasion of his visit.

Our good curate,--a Rector now,--found his grace of Norfolk happy to
greet him, and happy to bestow upon him the promised living. He entered
upon his new sphere of labor in earnest, and his parishioners very
quickly learned to honor and love him. So the even of his life was
tranquil and happy; and he lived long to bless the hour that brought the
stranger-guest of that stormy October night to his door.

--ooOOoo--


A CLERGYMAN'S STORY: THE WIDOW'S CHRISTMAS PRESENT


Published in The Queenslander,
Saturday, 26 December, 1868.


When I came to settle in Hampton the people had been without stated
preaching for a long time. I went at work in earnest. In my pulpit
labors, and in my everyday intercourse with the people, I sought to make
Christianity a living, operating power--a companion for the hearthstone
and the workshop; a guide and a mentor in all the busy affairs of life;
a support under the burden of earthly cares; and a source of blessed
hope in the hour of sickness and dissolution.

Just at the end of the village, on the north, and under the shadow of
Mount Prospect stood a small cot, with a shed, a cow-house, and a shop
attached. This shop had been once a shoemaker's shop; but the door was
locked now, and the skivings of leather lay untrodden about the
stepping-stone, growing black and crisp in the storm and sunshine. I
knew that the widow Naomi Preston lived there--that she lived alone--and
that she was very poor. And I had heard her sad story: how her husband
had died a drunkard, and how her only child--her son, Noel--had fallen
into temptation, and been torn from her by the hands of the law.

"Noel Preston was really a true-hearted boy," said Charles Bradford, who
was my informant; "and the time was when he was one of the fairest lads
in the town; but his father's fall broke his spirit, and he took to
drink. The rest of the story you can easily imagine. A mother's love did
occasionally hold him back for a little while; but the demon had fast
hold on him, and finally drew him down. Two years ago come Christmas,
Noel Preston, then nineteen, got into a drunken quarrel: or, perhaps I
should use some other term than quarrel, for I have it from those who
were his boon companions that he never quarrelled. The circumstances
were simply these: It was Christmas evening, and a dance was going on at
the tavern. Noel was in liquor, and went there to see the dancers, and
hear the music; and there he drank more--drank until he was intoxicated.
One of the dancers, who had drank enough to bring out the natural
littleness of his soul, objected to Noel's being allowed in the tavern,
and finally wound up his opening speech upon the subject by declaring
that with the landlord's permission he would put the drunken puppy out.
Noel heard him, and demanded to know whom he called a drunken puppy,
upon which the dancer--Aaron Robinson, by name--replied that he called
him--Noel Preston--a drunken puppy, and then he added a sentence which
was perfectly awful."

Charles Bradford told me what Robinson said, but I cannot transcribe it
here. After Robinson had uttered those dreadful, brutal words against
the memory of Noel's dead father, Noel caught him and dragged him down
into the hall, and thence out of doors, where he challenged him to stand
up like a man, and either take those words back or fight. The result was
a fight, during which a chance blow, delivered full upon the side of
Robinson's neck, directly under the ear, dislocated the spine, causing
almost instant death. Noel was arrested, and tried, and convicted of
manslaughter, and sentenced to imprisonment for ten years.

It was during the last week in October that I called upon Mrs. Preston.
I found her alone in the little cot, and a feeling of extreme sadness
possessed me when I saw how poor she was. She had just been eating when
I entered. Upon the rickety table were a pewter plate, a small broken
pitcher, a brown drinking-mug, part of a loaf of black bread, and a
piece of rusty boiled pork. There was one other chair beside that which
she occupied, and this she offered to me. There was a bed in the room;
and, over a little pine bureau, against the wall, between the two front
windows, was tacked up a triangular piece of looking-glass. I could see,
at once, that everything not absolutely necessary for the common wants
of life had been sold.

The poor woman had handed me a chair, but she had not done it in a
spirit of welcome. In fact, I could plainly see that my presence was not
agreeable to her, but I meant to overcome her dislike if I could.

"You're the new minister, I suppose!" she said, after I had taken the
proffered seat.

I told her I was, and that in the round of my parochial visits I had
called in to see her.

She looked up into my face, and I could detect the signs of inward
struggling. Presently, she said:

"You might have saved yourself the trouble, sir. I don't belong to your
parish, and I have no part in your affairs. I don't have the
companionship of those who attend your meetings, and I don't want it.
What did you come here for?"

For a moment this question, coming as it did after such chilling speech,
rather non-plussed me, but I quickly recovered myself.

"I came to see you, to visit you as I visit others who may be in trouble
and sorrow."

She laughed a bitter, freezing laugh, and cried:

"And what are my troubles and sorrows to you? Can you bear them for me?"

"Yes," I told her. "We can all help to bear one another's burdens of
life, if we will. If I give you my love, and sympathy, and good-will,
and pray for you, will not that relieve you of a portion of the burden?"

"Who talks of love for such as me? Bah! It's a lie! Nobody loves me! And
what do you suppose I care for your prayers? How can your prayers
benefit me? I tell you they are empty, senseless things."

"That must depend upon what sort of prayers I put forth," I said to her,
with a kindly smile. "I mean to show you that my prayers can do much.
The cold winter is coming, and you must have food, and fuel, and
clothing; and you are entitled to them. I will pray for you as I would
pray for my own mother. My lips shall speak only what my hands are
willing to make good. You must allow me to take the place, so far as I
can, of him who has been taken from you."

For a few seconds, I could not tell how she was going to receive this.
Her head was bowed, her hands pressed over her face, and I could see
that there was an inward struggle. But the gentler spirit triumphed, and
love for her boy moved her to speak.

"O, sir, God forgive me if I have been harsh and unkind to you; but you
don't know what I have to bear. You've heard the story of my poor boy?"

"Yes," I said.

"O," she went on, "it isn't his being away from me that cuts the deepest
into my heart, but when I think the brand is upon him, and that in all
the time to come men must shun him and despise him--O, it is cruel,
cruel!"

I told the suffering woman that she was mistaken. I told her that the
best men of the town did not regard her son as a murderer, nor think him
even a very great criminal. For my own part, I looked upon her son as a
poor unfortunate, whose youthful life had been made dark and bitter by
the circumstances of his father's death, and whose greatest fault lay in
his lack of will to overcome the evil habit that pressed upon him.
Touching the event which had caused his imprisonment, I did not regard
it as weighing against him in a moral point at all. That is, it could
not, in the eyes of Heaven increase the weight of his guilt. His killing
of a brother man was entirely an accident, and the combat which had led
to the homicide was in a measure, forced upon Noel; for the speech which
had been made against his father was a thousand times more cruel than a
blow of the fist could have been.

Thus I drew out the woman's true heart, and a warm and loving one it
was, though almost broken. She loved her son with a love that was a part
of her very self. It seemed to be a love spirit, pervading every part of
her being, which she clasped to her bosom as though it was some thing of
substance which she could grasp and feel. I spent an hour with her, and
when I went away she had consented to accept any help which I might
send; and she furthermore asked me to come again, freely acknowledging
that my visit had done her good.

I had heard enough of Noel Preston to convince me that he was a
good-hearted, right-feeling man, and I determined to visit him. The
prison, in Shireton, was only fifteen miles distant, and on the Monday
following my visit to the widow, I took one of Mr. Bradford's teams,
and, in company with Charles, rode over there. I found the warden to be
a man whom I knew, and he very cheerfully called Noel Preston to the
visitor's room, where Charles and I had a long interview with him.

There is no need that I should fill up space in transcribing our
conversation on that occasion. Suffice it for me to say that I came away
loving that unfortunate youth. I found him to be handsome, intelligent,
and, quick-witted, his heart warm and large with generous impulse, and
his instincts all bent in the right direction. Such a man could never
betray a friend; he could not lie; nor could he witness suffering
without doing all in his power towards its alleviation. And, above all
else, I found a basis of true religious feeling underlaying his whole
character--a religious feeling arising from a conception of his duty to
God as a Father and Friend, and of his duty to man as a member of a
common brotherhood.

Once during my visit I started to speak upon the subject of the old
enemy under whose power he had fallen; but he stopped me in an instant:

"Not a word upon that subject!" he cried. "I have borne all of
reflection I can bear. 'Twas rum killed my father; and it was rum that
brought me here. If I live to go forth again into the world, I will hold
up my head if I can; and if my fellows will be kind to me, and give to
me the benefit of the good I'll try to do, I shall live in freedom from
that tyrant. I know what I say, sir; and I know that my resolution is
strong enough to save me--to save me, and to save my mother--God bless
her!"

When I came out from that prison I bore in my heart the will to procure
Noel Preston's pardon. I returned to Hampton and, upon conversation with
the leading citizens I found them all of one mind. If they could be
assured that Noel would keep clear of the drink cup, they would gladly
assist in the work of procuring his release. But would they patronize
him when he should have once more opened his shop? Yes--they said they
would; and Mr. Bradford said, if Noel could not find enough to do in his
shop, he would give him a good place in his foundry. Jonas Bradford was
the great manufacturer of the village, and the father of my college
friend, Charles Bradford.

My next step was to prepare documents, and obtain signatures; and when I
had done what I could do in Hampton, I repaired to Shireton, where I
obtained a paper from the good warden. And thus armed I went to the
Governor, and presented the case to himself and his council.

* * * * *

It was the day before Christmas. Towards evening I made my way to the
humble cot of Naomi Preston. I found the widow alone, and more sad than
I had ever before seen her. It was not the old complaining sadness, but
a deep, pervading melancholy, which asked for no relief. She received me
very kindly, however; for she had come to respect me, and, in a measure,
to love me.

I told her that I had come to see how she was getting on, and also to
warn her that she should hang up her stocking. "For," said I, "we will
make you a present to-morrow. On the day when all are remembered, you
must not be forgotten."

"No, no," she replied, shaking her head with solemn decision. "I want
nothing."

I would have spoken, but she put forth her hand and stopped me.

And then I asked her: "On the morrow--the anniversary of the birth of
the Blessed Son of God, and of the birth of your own beloved son, may I
not come and pray with you?"

She looked into my face, and the tears fell thick and fast over her thin
and furrowed cheeks.

"In God's name, yes!" she answered me. "You may come and pray. I shall
need prayer. Yes--yes--prayer to God, earnestly and devoutly uttered,
may be good for him, as well as for me. But, remember--no gala presents
for me. In memory of my suffering boy, I will bow my head in sorrow, and
the day shall be to me a day of fasting and prayer."

I left her, and hurried homeward, for I had much to do in the way of
preparing for Christmas.

At an early hour I went to the widow's cot, accompanied by Mr. Bradford
and Charles--and one other--but only we entered at first. We found Mrs.
Preston sitting by the fire, her face covered with her apron and she had
been weeping.

For the moment she was disconcerted, and seemed not at all to like this
intrusion; but when we had greeted her kindly, and Mr. Bradford and his
son had wished her a "Merry Christmas," so earnestly and so frankly that
true friendship was apparent in the salutation, she extended a warm
welcome, and offered us seats. (She had chairs now).

"Mrs. Preston," said I, after we had taken our seats, "I have been
forced to disobey you. After what you said to me last evening, I would
not have taken any steps towards procuring for you anything like a
Christmas present, but we had one already selected, and as it will be of
vastly more service to you than to anyone else, we have thought proper
to bring it."

"Mr. Austin," she said in deep distress, "I am sorry you have done this.
You know what I told you. I want no joy to-day. My heart would upbraid
me should I present to it a joy on this sad occasion."

I could delay no longer, for we were keeping some one out, and so I
said:

"Look up, Naomi Preston, and thank God for his goodness to you and yours
on this Christmas Day!"

How did she bear it?

It seemed as though the sustaining power of the Redeemer was with her.
She started up from beneath the weight of my hand, when she heard the
footfall coming from the door that communicated directly with the little
shop, and when she turned she beheld him. There was an earnest, eager
look upon her face, and during that brief interval she saw that he was a
man, noble and true, with the God-like seal upon his fair brow. And then
she became weak, and tottered like an infant into his arms, and was
clasped to his bosom.

"Mother--dear mother--fear not to look upon me now. God has given you
back your boy; and henceforth, while life is ours, he shall be a joy and
a blessing to your declining years!"

And in a little while Naomi Preston stretched forth her hands to me and
said:

"By your lips, sir, let us return thanks to God."

And we knelt down in that humble cot, and lifted our hearts in
thanksgiving and praise.

That was five-and-twenty years ago. Noel Preston did not go back into
the little shop, for the solitude of the old place where his father had
worked and suffered was oppressive. He went into the establishment of
Mr. Bradford, and to-day he and Charles are the owners of the whole
property.

And Naomi Preston is not yet bent with age, though three score and ten
are the number of her years. The evening of her life has been full of
joy, and she still lives to bless that Christmas morning when she
received, at my hands, the present of a redeemed and sanctified son.



THE END



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