“It was a hot, dark, and stormy night, not wet; fitful black clouds floated now and again at a rapid pace over the moon, which now and then shone out brightly; in the distance the sea made a perpetual moan, and at intervals the dark eastern sky was lit up by flashes of summer wildfire lightning over the distant Cathedral towers.
"I fell off; that's what happened.""Yes, I know you did, but there's more to it. I wonder if it's gotanything to do with the loss of my egg?""I guess not.""You guess not? Well, I know something, Phil.""I should hope you do.""I mean about this accident."Phil gazed at his companion keenly.
After dinner we went up into the observatory, and from thence passed out onto the balcony, thrilled by the same sense of delightful expectancy you see in the unennuied eyes of Youth, waiting for the curtain to go up at a play. All save myself had of course seen thunder-storms in Lunismar, but none were blasé. There was eagerness in every face.
“Can it be the same thing over again?” he asked. “How are you feeling?”
hardy hero, and hailed them thus:—
"To the best of my poor power," said the Bishop, and felt, he knew not why (if indeed it were possible for him to feel that way!) a shade uncomfortable.
Singing hey down, ho down, down, derry down!
In one of those thousand and one vein-like streets which cross and recross the mercantile heart of Gotham, is situated a red brick edifice, which, like the beggar who solicits your charity in the Park, has seen better days. In the time of our Knickerbocker sires, it was an aristocratic dwelling fronting on a fashionable street, and "Jeems," in green livery, opened the hall door. The street was a quiet, orderly street in those days--a certain air of conscious respectability hung about it. Sometimes a private cabriolet rolled augustly along; and of summer evenings the city beaux, with extraordinary shoe-buckles, might have been seen promenading the grass-fringed sidewalks. To-day it is a miasmatic, miserable, muddy thoroughfare. Your ears are startled by the "Extray 'rival of the 'Rabia," and the omnibuses dash through the little confined street with a perfect madness. Instead of the white-kidded, be-ruffled gallants of Eld, you meet a hurrying throng of pale, anxious faces, with tare, tret and speculation in their eyes. It is a business street, for Mammon has banished Fashion to the golden precincts of Fifth Avenue. The green of Jeems' livery is, like himself, invisible. He has departed this life--gone, like Hiawatha, to the Land of the Hereafter--to the land of spirits, where we can conceive him to be in his element; but he has a "town residence" in an obscure graveyard, with his name and "recommendation" on a stone door-plate. His mundane superiors are reclining beneath the shadow of St. Paul's steeple, where they are regaled with some delectable music (if you would only think so) from the balcony of the Museum opposite, and have the combined benefit of Barnum's scenic-artist and the Drummond light. The massive door-plate, and highly polished, distorted knocker, no longer grace the oaken panels of number 85; but a republican sign over the family-looking doorway tells you that "the front room, second floor," is occupied by Messrs. Flint & Snarle. After passing up a flight of broad, uncarpeted stairs, you again see the name of that respectable firm painted on a light of ground glass set in the office door. Once on the other side of that threshold, you breathe mercantile air. There have been so many brain-trying interest calculations worked out on those high desks, that the very atmosphere, figuratively speaking, is mathematical. The sign should not read Flint & Snarle, for Snarle has been dead six months, and it is not pleasant to contemplate a name without an owner--it is not to every one, but Mr. Flint likes to read the sign, and think that Snarle is dead. He was the reverse of Flint, and that his name should have been Snarle at all is odd, for in life he was the quintessence of quietness, and the oil of good nature. But Flint is well named; he is chalcedony at heart. Nobody says this, but everybody knows it. Nell, the pretty match-girl, who sells her wares in Wall-street, never approaches him, nor the newsboys; and blind men, with sagacious, half-fed dogs, steer clear of him by instinct. He doesn't tolerate paupers, and Italian hand-organs with monkey accompaniments--not he. The man who has not as much money as the surviving senior of Flint & Snarle, is a dog--in Flint's distinguished estimation. His God is not that divine Presence, whose thought "Shaped the world, And laid it in the sunbeams." Flint's God is Gold.-- "Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! Bright and yellow, hard and cold, Molten, graven, hammered and rolled; Heavy to get, and light to hold; Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold; Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled; Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old To the very verge of the church-yard mould; Price of many a crime untold: Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!" Flint is about fifty-three years of age; but if you could forget his gray hair, and look only at those small, piercing black eyes, you would hardly think him forty. His black dress-coat is buttoned around his somewhat attenuated form, and he wears a stiff white cravat because it looks religious. In this respect, and perhaps in others, you will find Flint's prototype on every corner--people who look religious, if religion can be associated with the aspect of an undertaker. It is Monday morning. Mr. Flint sits in his private office reading the letters. There is a window cut in the wall, and he glances through it now and then, eyeing the book-keeper as if the poor careworn fellow were making false entries. On a high consumptive-looking stool sits the office boy, filing away answered letters and sundry bills paid. The stool seems so high and the boy so small, that he at once suggests some one occupying a dangerous position--at a mast-head or on the golden ball of a church-steeple. For thus risking his life, he receives "thirty dollars per year, and clothing." We like to have forgotten that. The said clothing consists of one white cravat full of hinges, and a dilapidated coat, twelve sizes too large for him, his widowed mother supplying the deficiency. Save the monotonous ticking of a thick-set, croupy clock, and the nervous scratching of pens, not a sound is heard. Mr. Flint in deep thought, with his thumbs lost in the arm-holes of a white vest, paces up and down his limited sanctum, just as a thoughtful-eyed, velvet-mouthed leopard walks its confined cage, only waiting for a chance to put its paws on somebody. The stool on which the boy is sitting is a rickety concern, and its creakings annoy Mr. Flint, who comes out, and looks over the orphan's shoulder. If his lynx eyes discover a document incorrectly filed, he pinches the delinquent's ears, till he (the orphan) is as red in the face as an August sunset. Mr. Flint chuckles when he gets back to his desk, and seems to enjoy it immensely, for he drums out an exhilarating dead march with his long, wiry fingers on the cover of the letter-book. The pale book-keeper--his hair and eyes are darker than when we first saw him sitting with little Bell at "the round window" in the Old House--continues to write assiduously; and the orphan thinks that he hears fire-bells, his ears ring so. He's an unfortunate atom of humanity, that office-boy. He was never young. He never passed through the degrading cycles of infancy--never had any marbles or hoops: his limbs were never ignominiously confined by those "triangular arrangements" incidental to babyhood. At five, when other children are bumping their heads over steep stairs, he smoked cinnamon segars, and was a precocious, astute little villain at seven. For thirty-six months he folded books for Harper & Brothers, and at the advanced age of ten years three months, was bound over to the tender mercies of Flint & Snarle for "thirty dollars per year and clothing," (so the indentures read;) but as he is charged with all the inkstands demolished during the term, and one gross of imaginary lead pencils, he generally has about twenty-five dollars to his credit on the 1st of January, which Flint generously offers to keep for him at four per cent. interest, and which offer the ungrateful orphan "firmly but respectfully" declines. "Mortimer!" cries Mr. Flint, in a quick, snarly voice from the inner office. The book-keeper lays down the pen which he has just dipped in the ink, and disappears in the little room. Mr. Flint is turning over the leaves of the invoice book. "In thirteen pages there are no less than two blots and five erasures. You have grown careless in your penmanship lately;" and Mr. Flint closes the book with a report like that of a pocket-pistol, and opens it again. One would suppose the office-boy to be shot directly through the heart; but he survives, and is attacked with a wonderful fit of industry. "Do you write in your sleep?" inquires Mr. Flint, with a quiet insolence. Mortimer thinks how often he has toiled over those same pages at hours when he should have been sleeping--hours taken from his life. But he makes no reply. He only bites his lips, and lets his eyes flash. Suddenly a thought strikes him, and, bending over Mr. Flint's shoulder, as if to examine more closely his careless chirography, he takes a small key from an open drawer in the escritoire behind him, and drops it into his vest-pocket. After receiving a petulant reprimand, Mortimer returns to his desk; and again that weary, weary pen scratches over the paper. After the bank deposit is made up, and Mr. Flint looks over the bill-book, and startles the orphan from a state of semi-somnolency, he goes on 'Change. He is no sooner out, than Mortimer throws Tim a bit of silver coin. "Get some apples for yourself, Tim." Tim (he's small of his age) slides down from the high stool with agility, while his two eyes look like interrogation points. He is wondering at this sudden outbreak of munificence, for though "Mr. Mortimer" always had a kind word for Tim, and tried to extricate him from the web of mistakes which Tim was forever spinning around himself, yet Tim never knew him to come down with the "block tin" before, as he eloquently expressed it; and he looks at Mortimer all the time he is getting his cap, and pauses a moment at the door to see if he doesn't repent. When Tim's feet cease sounding on the stairs, Mortimer goes into the back office, and with the key which he had taken from the drawer, unlocks a small iron hand-safe. His trembling fingers turn over package after package; at last he finds one which seems to be the object of his search. This he hastily conceals in the bosom of his coat. After carefully re-locking the safe, he approaches the escritoire to return the purloined key, but to his dismay he finds the drawer locked. The one above it, however, is unfastened. Drawing this out, he places the key in its right compartment. Mortimer, in searching for the paper which he has hidden in his bosom, had removed several others from the safe; but in his nervousness he had neglected to replace a small morocco case. He discovers his negligence, and hears foot-falls on the stairs at the same moment. There is no time to re-open the chest: he wraps the case in his handkerchief, and resumes his place at the desk. Tim returns munching the remains of a gigantic apple, and bearing about him a convicting smell of peanuts. Suddenly Mr. Flint enters, and Tim is necessitated to swallow the core of his russet without that usual preparatory mastication which nature's kindly law suggests. Mr. Flint has made a capital bargain on 'Change, and his face is lighted up with a smile, if fancy can coax such an expression into one. It looks like a gas-light in an undertaker's window. It is five o'clock. Mr. Flint goes home to doze over a diminutive glass of sherry. He holds it up between his eyes and the light, smiling to see the liquid jewels, and wishes that they were real rubies. Flint! they are red tears, and not jewels which glisten in your glass, for you crushed the poor, and took advantage of the unfortunate to buy this pleasant blood which pulses in your brittle chalice! That night he thought of a pair of blue, innocent eyes which once looked pleadingly in his--of two tiny arms that were once wound fondly around his neck. Those eyes haunted him into the misty realm of dreams, where myriads of little arms were stretched out to him; and he turned restlessly on his pillow. Ah, Flint, there is an invisible and powerful spirit in the heart of every man that will speak. It whispers to the criminal in his cell; and the downy pillows and sumptuous drapery around the couch of Wealth cannot keep it away at midnight. There is not a house but has its skeleton. There is a ghastly one in Flint's. The silvery lips in Trinity steeple chime the hour of eleven; St. Paul's catch it up, and hosts of belfrys toss the hour to and fro like a shuttle-cork. Then the goblin bells hush themselves to sleep again in their dizzy nests, murmuring, murmuring!--and the pen of the pale book-keeper keeps time with the ticking of the office time-piece. It is nearly twelve o'clock when he reaches the door of a common two-story house in Marion-street. The door is opened before he can turn the bolt with his night-key, and the whitest possible little hand presses his. He draws it within his own, and places his arm around the daintiest little waist that ever submitted to the operation. Then the two enter the front parlor, where the dim light falls on Mortimer and a beautiful girl on the verge of womanhood. She looks into his face, and his lips touch a tress of chestnut hair which has fallen over his shoulder. "You are very pale. Have you been unwell to-day?" "No, Daisy," and he bends down and kisses her. "Why do you persist in sitting up for me? I shall scold if you spoil your cheeks. Kiss me, Daisy." The girl pouts, and declares she won't, as she coquettishly twines her arms around his neck, and Mortimer has such a kiss as all Flint's bank stock could not buy him--a pure, earnest kiss. He was rich, poor in the world's eye, richer than Flint, with his corpulent money bags, God pity him! They sit a long while without speaking. Mortimer breaks the silence. "We are very poor, Daisy." "Yes, but happy." "Sometimes. To-night I am not; I am weary of this daily toiling. The world is not a workshop to wear out souls in. Man has perverted its use. Life, and thought, and brain, are but crucibles to smelt gold in. Nobleness is made the slave of avarice, just as a pure stream is taught to turn a mill-wheel and become foul and muddied. The rich are scornful, and the poor sorrowful. O, Daisy, such things should not be! My heart beats when I think how poorly you and your mother are living." "O, how much we owe you, Mortimer! you are selling your life for us. From morning till night, day after day, you have been our slave. Poor, dear Mortimer, how can we thank you? We can only give you love and prayers. You will not let me help you. Last night, when you found me embroidering a collar, a bit of work which Mrs. Potiphar had kindly given me, you pleasantly cut it in pieces with your pen-knife, and then pawned your gold pencil to pay for ruining Mrs. Potiphar's muslin--too proud to have me work!" "Why will you pain me, darling? I was complaining for others, not myself. I do not toil as thousands do. I am impulsive and irascible, and do not mean all I say. I am ungrateful; my heart should be full of gratitude to-night, for the cloud which has hung over me the last six months has shown its silver lining." "What do you mean?" cries Daisy. "Do you know that you are an heiress?" asks Mortimer, gaily. Daisy laughs at the idea, and mockingly says, "Yes." "An heiress to a good name, Daisy! which is better than purple, and linen, and fine gold." Daisy looks mystified, but forbears to question him, for he complains of sleep. The lovers part at the head of the stairs. Mortimer, on reaching his room, draws a paper from his bosom; he weeps over it, reads it again and again; then he holds it in the flame of a candle. When the ashes have fallen at his feet, he exclaims: "I have kept my promise, Harvey Snarle! Peace to your memory!" From a writing-desk in a corner of the room he takes a pile of manuscript, and weary as he is, adds several pages to it. The dream of his boyhood has grown with him--that delightful dream of authorship! How this will-o'-the-wisp of the brain entices one into mental fogs! How it coaxes and pets one, cheats and ruins one! And so that appalling pile of closely-written manuscript is Mortimer's romance? Wasted hours and wasted thought--who would buy or read it? A down-town clock strikes the hour of two so gently, that it sounds like the tinkling of sheep-bells coming through the misty twilight air from the green meadows. With which felicitous simile we will give our hero a little sleep, after having kept him up two hours after midnight. Slumber touches his eyelids gently; but Daisy lies awake for hours; at last, falling into a trouble sleep, she dreams that she is an heiress. Oh, Daisy Snarle!
"Ah, Mah'met," said Hamilton, looking up with a smile, "all things were quiet on the river my lord Tibbetts tells me."
"It'd be up to me to try, sir. I'd do my best: wouldn't we, Nellie?"
It was at least four days’ journey to North Star Lodge, probably five or six, since he would have to carry the necessaries of life himself, and so burdened would not be able to travel fast. There was food for four days on the sled, and to make sure of reaching North Star, he would have to put himself on rations, and travel as fast as he could. Barring accidents there was an even chance of his getting through, but if any ill-chance arose then—He did not finish the thought. Knocking the ashes out of his pipe, he stretched himself down in the sleeping berth, and presently fell asleep.
The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row complete, offered no remark. As soon as he was on the landing the man pulled a shepherd’s plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his head and ran quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out:
"Just try me at them," answered Dan, grinning.
Whatever mystery had, to Pauline’s exalted senses, taken its place in the world on that afternoon, it seemed to make no difference to the world. Things proceeded. Her uncle had arrived from London during the performance, and had had to have his niece’s absence explained to him, first by the maid and later by the niece. After the explanation Pauline remembered without surprise in her shame that she used to dislike her uncle.详情 ➢
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