Page images
PDF

three days. At last, I concluded to let matters go as they would, for I supposed something would turn up, some day or other. But nothing did. Days, weeks, and months went by. I had to give up my office, for I got no practice, and could not pay my rent; my watch, my spare clothes, and all I could well pawn followed each other to the house of a liberal Hebrew gentleman on the east side of town; and one fine day in June I found myself strolling down the street, with a thread-bare coat on my back and not a cent in my pocket. I was terribly hungry too, for I had had no breakfast, and had gone to bed the night before without supper. The venerable proprietor of my lodging-rooms had just informed me that my apartment was needed for the use of a lodger who would do what I had neglected to do—pay for its use. It was plain that something or somebody must be done; but how to do either was past my ingenuity. Suddenly it flashed on my mind that I was a fool. It was a fortunate discovery.

"Yes!" I said to myself, "I am a fool; or rather, I was—for a fool I will be no longer."

As I said this I came very near tumbling over a pork-barrel, and made a remark concerning obstructions in the street which was more forcible than chaste. I heard a low laugh, and looked up. There stood a stout, well-dressed man in the door of the store-house before me. I glanced at the sign over the door, which bore the word "Groceries." My mind was made up. I stepped in, and walked back toward the counting-room. The stout man followed and accosted me.

"What can we do for you?" he asked. "I don't know," said I. "That is precisely what I want to find out." The stout man stared at me. I went on: "I am six feet, lacking a half inch, in my stockings, and, as you see, broad-shouldered," I said. "I have been brought up a gentleman, and have not a cent. I have had nothing to eat since yesterday at noon. No! you need not do that," I added, as I saw him make a movement to his vest pocket. "Begging is out of my line. I want work, if you have any."

"Well," he replied, "I expect a vacancy in my second clerk's place shortly, but—"

"I know nothing about book-keeping," I interrupted.

"My porter goes away to-day—he is about to set up a retail store; but as you are a gentleman—"

"I'll take that," I said, "if you'll take me without any recommendation but my muscle."

He laughed. "You are about the oddest customer," said he, "that I have come across recently; but I think I'll try you, if you're not above making yourself useful, and can content yourself with nine dollars a week."

"Nine dollars a week!" I exclaimed. "It is a gold mine! What am I to go at first?"

"The first thing is to get your breakfast, and the next to rig yourself out in a pair of overalls and a blue frock. The breakfast you can get at

Fulton Market; the other things at the slopshop around the corner. When you come back there are thirty bags of coffee to be delivered to an order, and the carmen will be here in an hour. I'll advance you three dollars on your week's wages. Here!"

"Very good," said I, taking the money; "I'll bo back in half an hour. Your new porter's name is Lovatt."

Off I went. I had a royal breakfast!—beefsteaks, coffee, bread-and-butter—to say nothing of a pickle; and having dispatched them, I turned to and had them over again. After that I bought my blue shirt and overalls, put them on, and went back to the store-house with my coat on my arm, looking at the proprietor's name on the door-post as I entered.

"Here I am, Mr. Banks," I said; and Mr. Banks sent me to the head-clerk, who told me what to do at the moment, and I did it.

I found a cheap boarding-house at a convenient distance from the store, and worked my way along faithfully and manfully. I grew to like the work. I ate heartily, and slept soundly. Only once I felt a tremor. I was one day rolling some barrels from a car into the store-house, when I saw a former fashionable acquaintance picking his way along the sidewalk. What had brought him to that quarter I did not know, but I reddened when I saw him. He did not see me, however; and would not probably have recognized me if he had.

My employer paid no farther attention to me after the first day. One day, however, about three months after I first took the place, the chief clerk called to me:

"Lovatt," he said, "come here. I notice that you caleulate very well, and write a good hand. Mr. Greene [that was the name of our new second clerk] is sick abed to-day. Couldn't you help me with this lot of invoices?"

"I'll try, if you show me what you want." He explained, and I went at the task. I have already said that I was apt at figures, and I got through quite rapidly; and leaving the result on the desk, went back to my bags and barrels. Presently Mr. Banks came in and went into the counting-room. Ho had been there only about a quarter of an hour when he called me to him.

"Sit down," he said, when I entered. "Mr. Lipscombe tells me that you gave him material help to-day. As Greene is too sick to come here at present, suppose you take his place in the counting-room till he recovers."

"Very good," I replied; and, removing my overalls, I perched myself at the desk.

The result was that poor Greene never recovered, and I retained his situation. It was only twelve dollars a week, but it was a step.

Three weeks afterward another pair of incidents occurred. I was at the desk, arranging papers and copying into the invoice-book, when Mr. Banks came in.

"Lovatt," said he, "I heard mention of you last night. An acquaintance of ours—a Mr. Van Gelt—spoke of a young Lovatt, a lawyer, who has left the profession, and gone no one knows whither—turned out a mere vagabond. From the description of personal appearance I had an idea he meant you; but as it might have annoyed you, I did not mention that you were in my employ."

"Thank you," I answered. "Van Gelt! oh yes; I remember a John Van Gelt, to whom, in my better days, I loaned five hundred dollars. I took his note for it; but as he has no money, I suppose I might as well have that much waste paper. Common gratitude might have taught him common decency when he spoke of me."

"Have you the note?"

'' Yes—somewhere."

"Look it up, then. He has money now; his uncle died recently, and left him comfortable. Give me the note, and I'll see that he pays it. And, by-the-by, I have left a package of papers at home, on the library table. I wish you'd take the cars and go up to my house with this note. Mrs. Banks will hand you the papers."

I followed orders, and was soon at Banks's house—a handsome mansion on one of the fashionable streets. I sent up the note to Mrs. Banks, and was shown into the parlor.

I had not been seated more than two or three minutes before I heard a light step, and, rising, turned toward the door. There stood my young lady of the fringed mantle! The recognition was mutual. She blushed, and looked embarrassed; and I felt my face glow. She was the first to recover, and handing mo the package, said,

"My mother directed me to give you these, Sir."

I bowed—I could not speak—and backed myself out of the door, runuing against a hat-stand in the hall, and growing redder at the awkward blunder. The young lady reddened with sympathy. Not exactly knowing what I did, I bowed profoundly to the servant who was showing mo to the door, and she looked amazed and amused. This put tho copestone to the fabric of my utter discomfiture, and I made my way down the street in no pleasant frame of mind.

"Pep, my boy!" I said to myself, "you are getting to be a fool again. You are a clerk with a salary of twelve dollars a week, and you're falling in love with the sweetest little—pshaw! what's Hecuba to you, or you to Hecuba? Stick to your invoices, you noodle!"

But I could not help recalling the looks of tho young lady. What a neat, nice little body she was! Kind-hearted, as her countenance showed her; she must have been tickled at my awkwardness, though. What a booby I must have appeared to her to be! I felt my face redden again, and clenched my fist in my vexation, as though I would commit an assault and battery on my own person.

Two days after Mr. Banks handed mo a check for five hundred and eighty-five dollars and three cents—the amount of Van Gelt's note, with interest. I knew the value of money now; and

as my salary was quite enough for my immediate necessities, I deposited the sum in bank, waiting for a chance to invest it properly, and went on with my usual business. But I found myself frequently making caleulations on bits of loose paper, of divers speculations in which I might double my little fortune, and keep doubling it until, in geometrical progression, it became a colossal fortune, whereon in fancy I built me a fine mansion in town, and bought me a noble country-seat, and got married to Dora Banks. Dora!—what a nice name it was, to be sure!

Unfortunately, however, nothing turned up by which I might double my money, until one day I added five-fold to it, but not through a speculation. The complicated affairs of Bullwinkle, Badger, and Bullwinkle were at length wound up, a small dividend was paid to their creditors, and after taking out letters of administration to my father's estate, I found myself possessor of a sum which made my five hundred and eighty odd dollars nearly three thousand.

Then I builded bigger air-castles than ever, with Dora for mistress of each. And yet I rarely saw her—occasionally at the house, once in the street, and once, for a whole afternoon, on her father's birthday, when Mr. Lipscombe and myself were invited to dine with our principal. On that occasion I had danced with Dora, and talked with her, though the conversation must have been very silly on my part, for I was in that state of ecstatic confusion that my tongue refused to perform its ordinary office.

I was destined to a separation from Dora, however. Nearly a year after I was first taken into Mr. Bun!:s's employ, I was seated alone in the counting-room, Mr. Lipscombe having gone out to lunch, when our principal came in.

"Mr. Lovatt,"he said, "what have you done with the money you obtained from your father's estate?"

"Nothing. It is in the savings-fund, drawing five per cent. I thought it the safest, on the whole."

"The reason I asked is, because you will need it. I am going to displace you."

I looked at him in some alarm, and stammered out a reply—I forget what.

"I have advices from Rio that it will be a more than safe speculation to send some Richmond flour there. It will about arrive at the right time. I want the matter managed adroitly, and you are the man for it, I think. Will you go out as supercargo?"

I was relieved at once, and answered promptly in the affirmative.

"I am going to give you a chance to make something for yourself. Draw out your money and invest it in this venture."

"Thank you. Sir. I should be very happy to do so, but unfortunately I have to give a month's notice."

'1Never mind. Transfer the account to me, and I will draw it while you are away, and advance the amount to you now. The vessel will sail on day after to-morrow. Dine with me tomorrow afternoon. You can leave when Lipscombe comes to arrange your outfit. I will have your place supplied for you until your return. To-morrow morning I will put you in full possession of my views."

My preparations were soon made. The following day I dined at the Banks's. There was no one present but the family. After dinner I was invited to spend the evening there, and as Mr. and Mrs. Banks had a short visit to make, Dora was left to entertain me nutil their return.

Now, if there was any thing in the world I would have given ten years of my life for, it was for a tete-a-tete with Dora Banks. Without any sacrifice it was mine; and yet, now that I had it, what could I say? I felt that to make love to her—I being a comparatively poor clerk—would be, under the circumstances, a piece of gross ingratitude and a breach of confidence. Yet what could I talk about? We sat there, for some minutes after the elder people had departed, in embarrassed silence. Dora was evidently waiting for me to say something, and that added to my embarrassment. At length she took the initiative.

"Your departure is a rather sudden determination, is it not, Mr. Lovatt?"

"Rather so, Miss Dora—I beg pardon, Miss Banks, I mean."

A long pause, varied slightly by the very loud ticking of an ormolu clock on the mantle, accompanied by a terrible thumping under my waistcoat.

"There is not apt to be yellow-fever at Rio at the season you arrive, Mr. Lovatt?" "Oh no, not at all."

The young lady gave a long breath, as though relieved. Another pause ensued.

"Have you been to the opera much this spring, Mr. Lovatt?"

"No, Miss Banks—but once. My duties are so laborious—so—that is—"

Another pause, of great length. I began to feel confused. I felt my face redden. I stole a glance at the lady. By Jove! she was blushing to the very roots of her hair. Just then our eyes met.

Ten minutes after the conversation was quite lively.

"I thought of you sometimes too," quoth the lady. "I recognized you tho moment you came into the house."

"I had never forgotten you; and knew you on the moment," quoth the gentleman.

Now the more violently bodies, charged with electricity, are attracted to each other the more violently they are repelled. The attraction between Dora and myself must have been very strong in the first instance, for at the sound of Mr. Banks's latch-key in the door the two bodies flew hastily to the extremities of the apartment; and when the merchant and his wife entered the parlor, Pepperidge Lovatt was glancing over some knicknacks on a pier-table between the frontwindows, and Dora Banks was turning over the

pages of a musie-book at the piano near the other end of the room.

After an hour's general conversation I bid the ladies farewell—the vessel leaving early next morning. They accompanied me to the door, and somehow or other we got mixed up, and I felt the gentle pressure of Dora's fingers, in return for a squeeze that must nearly have disabled her hand. It thrilled me from head to foot. But as I walked home I grew very miserable. I felt that I had not acted rightly. I had violated all my fine promises to myself on the first trial.

"PepperidgeLovatt!" said I to myself, "you are a rascal. Is this your gratitude to an honest man, who has shown you such favor? Making love clandestinely to his daughter—the dear girl! Pepperidge! you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Never mind! she will forget you —and you must be glad of it. What a sweet girl she is! Ah, if I were only rich!"

Next day I sailed. We arrived at Rio after a very short passage, and our correspondent proved to be right. The flour came at the very height of tho market, and coffee was unusually low. Every thing went swimmingly, and just as it was concluded a perfect fleet of vessels arrived and coffee advanced. But my confidence about the yellow-fever was misplaced. It caught me, and badly at that. The ship remained a week later, and I was sufficiently better to be able to go on board without danger.

We had been but a few days at sea when I was able to walk the deck. It happened in the course of conversation that I expressed my regrets to the captain that we had no chickens on board. I had taken a strange fancy for an omelet.

"Lord bless you I" answered the old salt, who had taken a fancy to me from the first day, '' that's easily made up. Just wait a few hours, and if the weather keeps good we'll stop at my poultry-yard."

That afternoon I had an explanation of his speech, for we came in sight of a small island a few miles from the coast, and made for it. As we approached I saw it to be a nearly barren rock, about a mile in length, mostly white, with a few green patches, and rising about fifty feet in tho centre from the surface of the water. But what struck me was the number of sea-birds upon it, scattered on its surface or rising in clouds. A boat was lowered, and I went with the party. We had no difficulty in effecting a landing; and while the rest were gathering eggs I wandered over the island.

It was a singular place—singular from the number of birds, old and young, but more singular from the peculiar situation of the little verdure on the island. On the long level patches nothing grew; but wherever a rock peered above the surface there a scanty soil had been made, and a few weeds or patches of grass had taken hold. The other parts were covered with a fetid, barren sand, strewn with the bones of birds. I gathered some few bleached birds' skulls and put them in my pocket, and, as a matter of curiosity, filled my handkerchief with the greenish-yellow sand. Hearing the rest call me, I went to the boat, where I found a large number of eggs gathered. We were soon on board. I asked the captain the latitude and longitude of this singular island, and he told me. I did this because I thought it worth noting from its odd appearance.

For several days we had sea-fowl eggs, in various ways, until we were all surfeited.

We arrived without misadventure. It was nearly dark when we approached the Narrows. We came to at Quarantine, and though, after examination, the doctor passed us, we lay there, intending to come up next morning. I was impatient to get home, and hired a boat to take me to the Jersey shore, where I got a conveyance to Jersey City, and crossed the ferry. It was after ten o'clock; but I knew that my news would make me welcome, and I took a hack from Cortland Street to Banks's house. On my way I thought a deal about Dora. Was she well? Had she forgotten me? But no matter how that might be, I was determined to be careful and not to let my love be seen. No! It would not be fair treatment to her father, whose kindness had bettered my fortune; and so I resolved to conceal my feelings.

I dismissed the hackman when we arrived at the house, and rang the bell. A servant came to the door and informed me that Mr. and Mrs. Banks were at the theatre with some friends from the country. Miss Dora was at home, not being very well.

I trembled from head to foot.

"I will remain till they return," I said. "I have important business with Mr. Banks."

I did not send up my name. No! I would not even let Dora know I was there. The servant showed me into the parlor and closed the door. There was a lady who turned as I entered. I trembled violently, for it was Dora herself. She stared at me wildly. Her face was pale. She gave a slight scream, followed by a burst of hysterical laughter, and staggering forward fell into my arms.

Now I put it to any man whether I was to blame under tho cireumstances. I ask any reasonable man—yes, even the rich father of a handsome marriageable daughter—whether the strongest resolution would not naturally give way in a like case? And could I help it, when I discovered that a report of my death by yellowfever had been brought by a vessel arriving before us, and that she had mourned me so bitterly, that I then and there told my love, and, as I think I had a right to do—taking the time, place, and circumstances into consideration— that I gave her one of those kisses which are so delicious and unfrequent in a man's life, the first kiss of an accepted lover? Who blames me?

It is useless to spin out the story. Ridiculous as it may sound in such a connection—but facts are facts—my barren rock was of as much value as a gold mine. John Van Gelt had grown

seusible and gone into business. He dealt in fertilizers and agricultural implements—choosing that line, possibly, because he didn't knew a Valparaiso squash from a Cashaw pumpkin. He had my yellow sand analyzed—tried to pump from me the secret of the place—and finally, for a percentage, negotiated with a great guano company on my behalf. I received, after the matter had been fairly tested, two hundred thousand dollars, less the fifty thousand which John took for commission—the grasping fellow! And when I proposed in due form for Dora, I had the pleasure of learning that the father and mother had suspected me all along; that the elder Banks had come to the conclusion that a young man brought up as I was, who could exhibit such pluck and industry, would make a good son-in-law; and that I was sent us supereargo that I might make the money which my share of the venture brought, and so pave the way to an admission to partnership. And that is the simple story of how I won fortune and Dora— commouplace, I admit; but you will remember that I warned you of that fact at the beginning.

A FEW FRENCHMEN AND
YANKEES.

I SOME DISTINGUISHED FEEN'CHMES.

IN the spring of 1848 I crossed the Atlantic in the same steamer with Prince Murat, and happened accidentally to have a seat next to him at table. He was going to France, to derive what advantage he could from the Revolution of February. I found him a most goodnatured, jovial companion, with a good deal of a certain kind of shrewdness and wit. He was extremely careless about his person, an immense feeder, and the most formidable snorer I ever met. Unfortunately for mo his state-room was directly opposite mine, and as he always slept with his door open, I had the full benefit of the terrific noise he made at night. More than once, after lying awake for hours, I have in sheer desperation hurled my boots at his berth; which rather forcible protest he would always take very amiably. His proportions then were of the Daniel Lambert order, but he has developed considerably since. The last time I saw him in Paris he was in full uniform, covered with orders, and a sight to behold. What a change his fortunes have undergone! To bo elevated from a sort of New Jersey squatter to be a member of the Imperial family of France, with at one time a squint at the throne of Naples!

The Prince used to wear on his head a very old and very rough soft felt hat, which was any thing but ornamental. Apropos of this hat, he told me that, before he left home, his wife insisted that he should buy a proper black headcovering at Leary's so soon as he reached town; that if he would not agree to do this she would not consent to see him ofF; that he told her he could not afford the extravagance, and if she made so unreasonable a condition to accompanying him to New York, she might stay in New Jersey. He had with him the famous white plume which used to distinguish his father on the field of battle, or rather the whalebone remains of it.

He had acquired a great reputation in New Jersey as a horse-jockey. It was said that he would start off for a journey on the back of a sorry Rosinante, and return home, after an absence of several weeks, driving a stylish pair of horses behind an elegant carriage, the result of a scries of successful swops. He had a great natural taste for mechanics; and, from his conversation, seemed to consider Mr. Stevens, of Hoboken, the greatest man of the age.

I was very much amused with a conversation I had with him one afternoon about his uncle, Joseph Bonaparte, and I will try to repeat what he said, as nearly as I can recollect, in his own words:

"My uncle Joseph was a very estimable man, with one great weakness—his excessive and ridiculous affectation of philosophy and martyrdom. He had been King of Spain; and yet he had become resigned to live in obscurity in a Republic! He used to bore me to death with this nonsense, until ono day I lost my patience, and almost lost my temper. 'I am weary of these pretensions,' I said to him. 'You are not half the philosopher I am. Compare for a moment our fates. You were born a miserable Corsican peasant. You happened to have a brother who had more brains than is frequently allotted to mankind. Ho grasped the sceptre of the world, and elevated you to the rank of a sovereign. You had not a very quiet time of it in your exalted position, it is true, and you were soon compelled to descend from it. But you came to the ground unharmed—not a feather ruffled; and while your illustrious brother was expiating his fate on a barren rock in the midst of a distant ocean, you retired quietly to this charming place, where you are living like a prince, surrounded by all the refinements of life, with the comfortable income of sixty thousand dollars per annum. I, on the contrary, was born on the steps of a throne. My father was shot; I escaped, with extreme difficulty, with my life, got to America, and have been a poor New Jersey farmer ever since. And I take things as they come, without ever thinking of complaining. I am a hundred times more of a philosopher than you are."'

We arrived at Liverpool on a Sunday—the very day on which the election was to take place in France for members of the Legislative Assembly. Immediately on landing the Prince and I went together to the Adelphi Hotel, and there learned that, as luck would have it, the election had been postponed one week. The Prince took the first train for London, crossed the Chaunel, hurried down to his father's native department, and announced himself as a candidate. Other arrangements had been made, and other candidates were in the field; but the name of Murat was a spell, and he overeame all opposition, and was returned almost unanimously. Since then

his fortunes have constantly tended upward. I called upon him in Paris. He was not in town; but a few days later he sent an aid to me, inviting me to his country seat. Unfortunately for me my engagements at the time would not permit me to avail myself of this invitation. I subsequently saw him once, as I have intimated, at a public ceremony, but had no opportunity of speaking with him.

I have never seen but two of Louis Philippe's family—the Due de Nemours and the Due de Montpensier. I was in Paris in the year 1843, and went one day to the races in the Champ de Mars. The Due de Nemours was at that time the leading patron of races in France, and he had a stand of his own on the course. The carriage in which I was, however, was stationed so far off that, although I could make out that the stand was full of people, I could not distinguish any faces. After the first race was over I alighted, with the intention of walking across the course to have a look at the Prince. When I reached the stand it was empty, and I made up my mind that he must have gone home. Lighting a cigar, I turned back until I reached the middle of the course, where I stood for some time watching what was going on. Near me was a young man, who did not particularly attract my attention, in conversation with an older one. I only observed that he was very illdressed, and had a very unpleasant lisp in speaking. After a while he took a cigar-case from his pocket, and selecting a cigar from it, asked mo for a light. "Certainly, Sir," I replied, handing him my lighted cigar. A few moments afterward an officer approached him, bareheaded, and asked him when Monscigncur would have his guard. I then knew that the young man was the Due de Nemours.

The Due de Montpensier I saw at a monster concert in the Champs Elysees the next year. Among the pieces performed was a chorus from the opera of Charles VI., I think, "Jamais TAnglais ne regnera en />cwicc—-Never shall the English reign in France." Feeling between the two nations was running high at that time, and the applause was tremendous. The Duke in his enthusiasm split a pair of new gloves. His unlucky marriage with the sister of the Queen of Spain did as much as any thing else to precipitate his father from the throne.

M. Guizot I had the honor of knowing. He is undoubtedly one of the purest public men of the age. I was requested to translate into English an Address which he delivered before the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, on the Intellectual Activity of the United States. This gave me the occasion to call upon him at his modest residence several times. His character and the tone of his mind are rather English than French, and so indeed is his appearance; but when he speaks, although sober in his gestures for a Frenchman, he could not possibly be mistaken for any thing else. He is a Protestant, as is well known, and after the downfall of the King wns oftered the Professorship of History in the

« PreviousContinue »