Off-Hand Sketches, a Little Dashed with Humour
Part 3 out of 4
power to do so; but a legal acknowledgment of the claim I am not
willing to make. You mustn't think hard of me for what I did to-day.
I could not, in justice to myself, have done any thing else."
Gooding professed to be fully satisfied with this explanation,
although he was not. He was very well assured that Jenkins was
perfectly able to pay him the three hundred dollars, if he chose to
do so, and that his refusal to let him have the fifty dollars,
conditionally promised, was a dishonest act.
More than a year passed, during which time Gooding made many
fruitless attempts to get something out of Jenkins, who was always
on the best terms with him, but put him off with fair promises, that
were never kept. These promises were never made in the presence of a
third person, and might, therefore, have just as well been made to
the wind, so far as their binding force was concerned. Things grew
worse and worse with Gooding, and he became poorer every day, while
the condition of Jenkins as steadily improved.
One rainy afternoon, Gooding drove up to the store of his old
friend, about half an hour earlier than he usually left for home.
Jenkins was standing in the door.
"As it is raining, I thought I would call round for you," he said,
as he drew up his horse.
"Very much obliged to you, indeed," returned Jenkins, quite well
pleased. "Stop a moment, until I lock up my desk, and then I will be
In a minute or two Jenkins came out, and stepped lightly into the
"It is kind in you, really, to call for me," he said, as the wagon
moved briskly away. "I was just thinking that I should have to get a
"It is no trouble to me at all," returned Gooding, "and if it were,
the pleasure of doing a friend a kindness would fully repay it."
"You smell strong of whisky here," said Jenkins, after they had
ridden a little way, turning his eyes toward the back part of the
wagon as he spoke. "What have you here?"
"An empty whisky-hogshead. This rain put me in mind of doing what my
wife has been teasing me to do for the last six months--get her a
rain-barrel. I tried to get an old oil-cask, but couldn't find one.
They make the best rain-barrels. Just burn them out with a flash of
good dry shavings, and they are clear from all oily impurities, and
tight as a drum."
"Indeed! I never thought of that. I must look out for one, for our
old rain-hogshead is about tumbling to pieces."
From rain-barrels the conversation turned upon business, and at
length Gooding brought up the old story, and urged the settlement of
his claim as a matter of charity.
"You don't know how much I need it," he said. "Necessity alone
compels me to press the claim upon your attention."
"It is hard, I know, and I am very sorry for you," Jenkins replied.
"Next week, I will certainly pay you fifty dollars."
"I shall be very thankful. How soon after do you think you will be
able to let me have the balance of the three hundred due me. Say as
early as possible."
"Within three months, at least, I hope," replied Jenkins.
"Harry! Do you hear that?" said Gooding, turning his head toward the
back part of the wagon, and speaking in a quick, elated manner.
"Oh, ay!" came ringing from the bunghole of the whisky-hogshead.
"Who the dickens is that?" exclaimed Jenkins, turning quickly round.
"No one," replied Gooding, with a quiet smile, "but my clerk, Harry
"Here," replied the individual named, pushing himself up through the
loose head of the upright hogshead, and looking into the face of the
discomfited Jenkins, with a broad smile of satisfaction upon his
always humorous phiz.
"Whoa, Charley," said Gooding, at this moment reining up his horse
before the house of Jenkins.
The latter stepped out, with his eyes upon the ground, and stood
with his hand upon the wagon, in thought, for some moments; then
looking up, he said, while the humour of the whole thing pressed
itself so full upon him, that he could not help smiling,
"See here, Gooding, if both you and Harry will promise me never to
say a word about this confounded trick, I will give you a check for
three hundred dollars on the spot."
"No, I must have four hundred and twenty-six dollars, the principal
and interest. Nothing less," returned Gooding firmly. "You have
acknowledged the debt in the presence of Mr. Williams, and if it is
not paid by to-morrow twelve o'clock, I shall commence suit against
you. If I receive the money before that time, we will keep this
little matter quiet; if suit is brought, all will come out on the
"As you please," said Jenkins angrily, turning away, and entering
Before twelve o'clock on the next day, however, Jenkins's clerk
called in at the store of Gooding, and paid him four hundred and
twenty-six dollars, for which he took his receipt in full for all
demands to date. The two men were never afterward on terms of
sufficient intimacy to ride in the same wagon together. Whether
Gooding and his clerk kept the matter a secret, as they promised, we
don't know. It is very certain, that it was known all over town in
less than a week, and soon after was told in the newspapers, as a
most capital joke.
A SHOCKING BAD MEMORY.
"MUST I give up every thing?" asked Mr. Hardy of his lawyer, with
whom he was holding a consultation as to the mode and manner of
getting clear of certain responsibilities in the shape of debt.
"Yes, every thing, or commit perjury. The oath you have taken is
very comprehensive. If you keep back as much as ten dollars, you
will swear falsely."
"Bad--bad. I have about seven thousand dollars, and I owe twenty
thousand. To divide this among my creditors, gives them but a small
sum apiece, while it strips me of every thing. Is there no way, Mr.
Dockett, by which I can retain this money, and yet not take a false
oath? You gentlemen of the bar can usually find some loop-hole in
the law out of which to help your clients. I know of several who
have gone through the debtors' mill, and yet not come forth
penniless; and some of them, I know, would not be guilty of false
"Oh yes, the thing is done every day."
"Ah, well, how is it done?"
"The process is very simple. Take your seven thousand dollars, and
make it a present to some friend, in whom you can confide. Then you
will be worth nothing, and go before the insolvent commissioners and
swear until you are black and blue, without perjuring yourself."
"Humph! is that the way it is done?" said Mr. Hardy.
"The very way."
"But suppose the friend should decline handing it back?"
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders as he replied, "You must take care
whom you trust in an affair of this kind. At worst, however, you
would be just as well off, assuming that your friend should hold on
to what you gave him, as you would be if you abandoned all to your
"True, if I abandon all, there is no hope of, even getting back a
dollar. It is the same as if I had thrown every thing into the sea."
"While, in adopting the plan you propose, the chances for getting
back my own again are eight to ten in my favour."
"Or, you might almost say, ten to ten. No friend into whose hands
you confided the little remnant of your property would be so base as
to withhold it from you."
"I will do it," said Mr. Hardy, as he parted with the lawyer.
One day, a few weeks after this interview took place, the client of
Mr. Dockett came hurriedly into his office, and, drawing him aside,
said, as he slipped a small package into his hand, "Here is
something for you. You remember our conversation a short time ago?"
"Oh, very well."
"You understand me, Mr. Dockett?"
"Oh, perfectly! all right; when do you go before the commissioners?"
"Yes--good morning. I will see you again as soon as all is over."
"Very well--good morning."
On the next day, Mr. Hardy met before the commissioners, and took a
solemn oath that he had truly and honestly given up into the hands
of his assignee every dollar of his property, for the benefit of his
creditors, and that he did not now possess any thing beyond what the
law permitted him to retain. Upon this, the insolvent commissioners
gave him a full release from the claims that were held against him,
and Mr. Hardy was able to say, as far as the law was concerned, "I
owe no man any thing."
Mr. Dockett, the lawyer, was sitting in his office on the day after
his client had shuffled off his coil of debt, his mind intent upon
some legal mystery, when the latter individual came in with a light
step and cheerful air.
"Good morning, Mr. Hardy," said the lawyer, smiling blandly.
"Good morning," returned the client.
"How are things progressing?" inquired the lawyer.
"All right," returned Hardy, rubbing his hands. "I am at last a free
man. The cursed manacle of debt has been stricken off--I feel like a
"For which I most sincerely congratulate you," returned the lawyer.
"For your kindness in so materially aiding me in the matter," said
Mr. Hardy, after a pause, "I am most truly grateful. You have been
my friend as well as my legal adviser."
"I have only done by you as I would have done by any other man,"
replied the lawyer. "You came to me for legal advice, and I gave it
"Still, beyond that, you have acted as my disinterested friend,"
said Mr. Hardy; "and I cannot express my gratitude in terms
The lawyer bowed low, and looked just a little mistified. A slight
degree of uneasiness was felt by the client. A pause now ensued. Mr.
Hardy felt something like embarrassment. For some time he talked
around the subject uppermost in his mind, but the lawyer did not
appear to see the drift of his remarks. At last, he said--
"Now that I have every thing arranged, I will take the little
package I yesterday handed you."
There was a slight expression of surprise on the countenance of Mr.
Dockett, as he looked inquiringly into the face of his client.
"Handed to me?" he said, in a tone the most innocent imaginable.
"Yes," returned Hardy, with much earnestness. "Don't you recollect
the package containing seven thousand dollars, that I placed in your
hands to keep for me, yesterday, while I went before the
The lawyer looked thoughtful, but shook his head.
"Oh, but Mr. Dockett," said Hardy, now becoming excited; "you must
remember it. Don't you recollect that I came in here yesterday,
while you were engaged with a couple of gentlemen, and took you
aside for a moment? It was then that I gave you the money."
Mr. Dockett raised his eyes to the ceiling, and mused for some time,
as if trying to recall the circumstance to which allusion was made.
He then shook his head, very deliberately, two or three times,
remarking, as he did so, "You are evidently labouring under a
serious mistake, Mr. Hardy. I have not the most remote recollection
of the incident to which you refer. So far from having received the
sum of money you mention, I do not remember having seen you for at
least a week before to-day. I am very certain you have not been in
my office within that time, unless it were when I was away. Your
memory is doubtless at fault. You must have handed the money to some
one else, and, in the excitement of the occasion, confounded me with
that individual. Were I not charitable enough to suppose this, I
should be deeply offended by what you now say."
"Mr. Dockett," returned the client, contracting his brow heavily,
"Do you take me for a simpleton?"
"Pray don't get excited, Mr. Hardy," replied the lawyer, with the
utmost coolness. "Excitement never does any good. Better collect
your thoughts, and try and remember into whose hands you really did
place your money. That I have not a dollar belonging to you, I can
"Perhaps you call my seven thousand dollars your own now. I gave you
the sum, according to your own advice; but it was an understood
matter that you were to hand the money back so soon as I had
appeared before the commissioners."
"Mr. Hardy!" and the lawyer began to look angry. "Mr. Hardy, I will
permit neither you nor any other man to face me with such an
insinuation. Do you take me for a common swindler? You came and
asked if there was not some mode by which you could cheat your
creditors out of six or seven thousand dollars; and I, as in duty
bound, professionally, told you how the law might be evaded. And now
you affirm that I joined you as a party in this nefarious
transaction! This is going a little too far?"
Amazement kept the duped client dumb for some moments. When he would
have spoken, his indignation was so great that he was afraid to
trust himself to utter what was in his mind. Feeling that too much
was at stake to enter into any angry contest with the man who had
him so completely in his power, Mr. Hardy tore himself away, by a
desperate effort, in order that, alone, he might be able to think
more calmly, and devise, if possible, the means whereby the
defective memory of the lawyer might be quickened.
On the next day, he went again to the office of his legal adviser,
and was received very kindly by that individual.
"I am sure, Mr. Dockett," he said, after he was seated, speaking in
a soft, insinuating tone of voice, "that you can now remember the
little fact of which I spoke yesterday."
But Mr. Dockett shook his head, and answered, "You have made some
mistake, Mr. Hardy. No such sum of money was ever intrusted to me."
"Perhaps," said Hardy, after thinking for a few minutes, "I may have
been in error in regard to the amount of money contained in the
package. Can't you remember having received five thousand dollars
from me? Think now!"
The lawyer thought for a little while, and then shook his head.
"No, I have not the slightest recollection of having received such a
sum of money from you."
"The package may only have contained four thousand dollars," said
Mr. Hardy, driven to this desperate expedient in the hope of
inducing the lawyer to share the plunder of the creditors.
But Mr. Dockett again shook his head.
"Say, then, I gave you but three thousand dollars."
"No," was the emphatic answer.
"But I am sure you will remember having received two thousand
dollars from my hand."
"No, nor one thousand, nor one hundred," replied the lawyer
"Mr. Dockett, you are a knave!" exclaimed the client, springing to
his feet and shaking his clenched fists at the lawyer.
"And you are both a knave, and a fool," sneeringly replied Mr.
Hardy, maddened to desperation, uttered a threat of personal
violence, and advanced upon the lawyer.
But the latter was prepared for him, and, before the excited client
had approached three paces, there was heard a sharp click; and at
the same moment, the six dark barrels of a "revolver" became
visible. While Mr. Dockett thus coolly held his assailant at bay, he
addressed him in this wise:
"Mr. Hardy, from what you have just said, it is clear that you have
been playing a swindling game with your creditors, and stained your
soul with perjury into the bargain!--Now, if you do not leave my
office instantly, I will put your case in the hands of the Grand
Jury, at present in session, and let you take your chance for the
State prison on the charge of false swearing!"
Mr. Hardy became instantly as quiet as a lamb. For a few moments, he
looked at the lawyer in bewildered astonishment, and then, turning
away, left his office, in a state of mind more easily imagined than
Subsequently, he tried, at various times and on various occasions,
to refresh the memory of Mr. Dockett on the subject of the seven
thousand dollars, but the lawyer remained entirely oblivious, and to
this day has not been able to recall a single incident attending the
Mr. Dockett has, without doubt, a shocking bad memory.
DRIVING A HARD BARGAIN.
WE know a great many businessmen, famous for driving hard bargains,
who would consider an insinuation that they were not influenced by
honest principles in their dealings a gross outrage. And yet such an
insinuation would involve only the truth. Hard bargains, by which
others are made to suffer in order that we may gain, are not honest
transactions; and calling them so don't in the least alter their
We have our doubts whether men who overreach others in this way, are
really gainers in the end. They get to be known, and are dealt with
by the wary as sharpers.
A certain manufacturer--we will not say of what place, for, our
story being substantially true, to particularize in this respect
would be almost like pointing out the parties concerned--was obliged
to use a kind of goods imported only by two or three houses. The
article was indispensable in his business, and his use of it was
extensive. This man, whom we will call Eldon, belonged to the class
of bargain makers. It was a matter of principle with him never to
close a transaction without, if possible, getting an advantage. The
ordinary profits of trade did not satisfy him; he wanted to go a
little deeper. The consequence was that almost every one was on the
look out for him; and it not unfrequently happened that he paid more
for an article which he imagined he was getting, in consequence of
some manúuvre, at less than cost, than his next-door neighbour, who
dealt fairly and above-board.
One day, a Mr. Lladd, an importer, called upon him, and said--
"I'd like to close out that entire lot of goods, Eldon. I wish you'd
"How many pieces have you left?" inquired Eldon, with assumed
indifference. It occurred to him, on the instant, that the merchant
was a little pressed, and that, in consequence, he might drive a
sharp bargain with him.
Eldon shook his head.
"What's the matter?" asked Lladd.
"The lot is too heavy."
"You'll work up every piece before six months."
"No, indeed. Not in twelve months."
"Oh, yes, you will. I looked over your account yesterday, and find
that you have had a hundred aid fifty pieces from me alone, and in
"You must be in error."
"No. It is just as I say."
"Well, what terms do you offer?"
"If you will take the entire lot, you may have them for ten and a
quarter, three months."
Eldon thought for a few moments, and then shook his head.
"You must say better than that."
"What better can you ask? You have been buying a dozen pieces at a
time, for ten and a half, cash, and now I offer you the lot at ten
and a quarter, three months."
"Not inducement enough. If you will say ten at six months, perhaps I
will close with you."
"No. I have named the lowest price and best terms. If you like to
take the goods, well and good; if not, why you can go on and pay ten
and a half, cash, as before."
"I'll give you what I said."
"Oh, no, Mr. Eldon. Not a cent less will bring them."
"Very well. Then we can't trade," said the manufacturer.
"As you like," replied the merchant.
And the two men parted.
Now Eldon thought the offer of Lladd a very fair one, and meant to
accept of it, if he could make no better terms; but seeing that the
merchant had taken the pains to come and offer him the goods, he
suspected that he was in want of money, and would take less than he
asked, in order to get his note and pass it through bank. But he
erred in this. Eldon fully expected to see Mr. Lladd before three
days went by. But two weeks elapsed, and as there had been no visit
from the dealer, the manufacturer found it necessary to go to him,
in order to get a fresh supply of goods. So he went to see him.
"I must have a dozen pieces of those goods to-day," said he, as he
met Mr. Lladd.
"Very well. They are at your service."
"You'll sell them at ten and a quarter, I suppose?"
Mr. Lladd shook his head.
"But you offered them at that, you know."
"I offered the whole lot at that price, and the offer is still open;
though I am in no way particular about selling."
Since ten dollars and a quarter a piece had been mentioned; the idea
of paying more had become entirely obliterated from the mind of
"But if you can sell for ten and a quarter, three months, you can
sell for the same, cash."
"Yes, so I can; but I don't mean to do it."
The merchant felt a little fretted. Eldon was disappointed. He stood
chaffering for some time longer; but finding it impossible to bring
Lladd over to his terms, he finally agreed to take the two hundred
pieces at ten and a quarter, on his note at three months.
Still he was far from being satisfied. He had fully believed that
the merchant was pressed for money, and that he would in consequence
be able to drive a hard bargain with him. Notwithstanding he had
been compelled to go to Lladd, and to accept his terms, he yet
believed that money was an object to him, and that, rather than not
have the sale confirmed, he would let it be closed at ten dollars a
piece, on a note at six months. So firmly was he impressed with this
idea, that he finally concluded to assume, boldly, that ten dollars
was the price agreed upon, and to affect surprise that the bill
expressed any other rate.
In due time, the goods were delivered and the bill sent in.
Immediately upon this being done, Eldon called upon the merchant and
said, in a confident manner, as he laid the bill he had received
upon his desk.
"You've made a mistake, haven't you?"
"In charging these goods."
"No. I told you the price would be ten and a quarter, didn't I?"
"I believe not. I understood the terms to be ten dollars, at six
"You offered that, but I positively refused it."
"I am sure I understood you as accepting my offer, and ordered the
goods to be sent home under that impression."
"If so, you erred," coolly replied Lladd.
"I can't take them at the price called for in this bill," said
Eldon, assuming a positive air, and thinking, by doing so, Lladd
would deem it his better policy to let the goods go at ten dollars.
"Then you can send them home," replied the merchant, in a manner
that offended Eldon.
"Very well, I will do so, and you may keep your goods," he retorted,
betraying, as he spoke, a good deal of warmth.
And the goods were sent back, both parties feeling offended; Lladd
at the glaring attempt made to overreach him, and Eldon because the
other would not submit to be overreached.
On the day following, Eldon started out in search of another lot of
the goods he wanted, and thought himself fortunate in meeting with
some in the hands of a dealer named Miller, but demurred when twelve
dollars and a half a piece were asked for them.
"I can't take less," was replied.
"But," said Eldon, "Lladd has the same article for ten and a half."
"You don't pretend to put his goods alongside of mine?" returned
Eldon examined them more closely.
"They are better, it is true. But the difference is not so great as
Another close examination was made.
"They are finer and thicker certainly. But you ask too much for
"It's my lowest price. They will bring it in the market, which is
"Won't you let me have a dozen pieces at twelve dollars?" asked
"Can't sell a piece for less than what I said."
Eldon hung on for some time, but finally ordered a dozen pieces to
be sent home, and paid the bill, though with a bad grace. Still, he
was so angry with Lladd because he had shown a proper resentment at
the effort made to overreach him, that he determined to buy no more
of his goods if he could supply himself at a higher price. Thus
matters went on for five or six months, Eldon supplying himself at
the store of Miller, and reconciling himself to the serious advance
in price, with the reflection that Lladd's goods were remaining dead
on his hands.
At last, Miller's supply was exhausted. Eldon called, one day, and
ordered a dozen pieces, and received for answer--
"Not a piece in the store."
"What? All gone?" said Eldon.
"Yes, you got the last some days ago."
"I'm sorry for that. Lladd has a good stock on hand, but I don't
care about dealing with him, if I can help it. He's a crusty sort of
a fellow. Has no other house a supply?"
"Not to my knowledge. There is only a limited demand for the
article, you know, and but few importers care about ordering it, for
the reason that it goes off slowly."
Eldon tried several places, but couldn't find a yard. By the next
day, his workmen would be idle; and so he had no alternative but to
call upon Lladd. The merchant received him pleasantly; and they
chatted for a while on matters and things in general. At last Eldon,
though it went against the grain, said--
"I want you to send me twenty pieces of those goods around, with the
The merchant smiled blandly and replied--
"Sorry I can't accommodate you. But I haven't a yard in the store."
"What?" Lladd looked blank.
"No. I have sold off the entire lot, and concluded not to import any
more of that class of goods."
"Ah? I supposed they were still on hand."
"No, I placed them in the hands of Miller, and he has worked them
all off for me at a considerable advance on former prices. He
notified me, a week ago, that the lot was closed out, and rendered
account sales at twelve and a half per piece."
Lladd said all this seemingly unconscious that every word he was
uttering fell like a blow upon his old customer. But he understood
it all very well, and had caught the hard bargain maker in a trap he
little dreamed had been laid for his feet.
Eldon stammered out some half coherent responses, and took his
departure with more evidences of his discomfiture in his face and
manner than he wished to appear. He had, in fact, been paying twelve
dollars and a half for the very goods he had sent back because he
couldn't get them for ten dollars, at six months credit.
Eldon did not understand how completely he had overreached himself,
until a part of his establishment had been idle for days, and he had
been compelled to go to New York, and purchase some fifty pieces of
the goods he wanted, for cash, at twelve dollars per piece, a price
that he is still compelled to pay, as neither Lladd nor any other
importing house in the city has since ordered a case from abroad. So
much for driving a hard bargain.
OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN INTO THE FIRE;
OR, THE LOVE OF A HOUSE.
"HADN'T you better give your landlord notice to-day, that we will
move at the end of the year, Mr. Plunket?"
"Move! For heaven's sake, Sarah, what do we want to move for?"
"It's a very strange way for you to address me, Mr. Plunket. A very
"But for what on earth do you want to move, Sarah? Tell me that. I'm
sure we are comfortable enough off here."
"Here! I wouldn't live in this miserable house another twelve
months, if you gave me the rent free."
"I don't see any thing so terribly bad about the house. I am well
"Are you, indeed! But I am not, I can tell you for your comfort."
"What's the matter with the house?"
"Every thing. There isn't a comfortable or decent room in it, from
the garret to the cellar. Not one. It's, a horrid place to live in;
and such a neighbourhood to bring up children in!"
"You thought it a 'love of a house' a year ago."
"Me! Mr. Plunket, I never liked it; and it was all your fault that
we ever took the miserable affair."
"My fault! Bless me, Sarah, what are you talking about? I didn't
want to move from where we were. _I never want to move_."
"Oh, no, you'd live in a pigstye for ever, if you once got there,
rather than take the trouble to get out of it."
Wise from experience, the gentleman deemed it better to run than
fight. So, muttering to himself, he took up his hat and beat a hasty
Mrs. Plunket had a mother, a fact of which Mr. Plunket was perfectly
aware, particularly as said relative was a member of his family. She
happened to be present when the above spicy conversation took place.
As soon as he had retired, she broke out with--"Humph! just like
him; any thing to be contrary. But I wouldn't live in this old
rattle-trap of a place another year for any man that ever stepped
into shoe-leather. No, indeed, not I. Out of repair from top to
bottom; not a single convenience, so to speak; walls cracked, paper
soiled, and paint yellow as a pumpkin."
"And worse than all, ma, every closet is infested with ants and
overrun with mice. Ugh! I'm afraid to open a cupboard, or look into
a drawer. Why, yesterday, a mouse jumped upon me and came near going
into my bosom. I almost fainted. Oh, dear! I never can live in this
house another year; it is out of the question. I should die."
"No one thinks of it, except Mr. Plunket, and he's always opposed to
every thing; but that's no matter. If he don't notify the landlord,
we can. Live here another twelvemonth! No, indeed!"
"I saw a bill on a house in Seventh street yesterday, and I had a
great mind, then, to stop and look at it. It was a beautiful place,
just what we want."
"Put your things on, Sarah, right away, and go and see about it.
Depend upon it, we can't do worse than this."
"Worse! No, indeed, that's impossible. But Mr. Plunket!"
"Pshaw! never mind him; he's opposed to every thing. If you had
given him his way, where would you have been now?"
Mrs. Plunket did not reply to this, for the question brought back
the recollection of a beautiful little house, new, and perfect in
every part, from which she had forced her husband to move, because
the parlours were not quite large enough. Never, before nor since,
had they been so comfortably situated.
Acting as well from her own inclination as from her mother's advice,
Mrs. Plunket went and made an examination of the house upon which
she had seen the bill.
"Oh, it is such a love of a house!" she said, upon her return.
"Perfect in every respect: it is larger than this, and is full of
closets; and the rent is just the same."
"Did you get the refusal of it?"
"Yes. I told the landlord that I would give him an answer by
to-morrow morning. He says there are a great many people after it;
that he could have rented it a dozen times, if he had approved the
tenants who offered. He says he knows Mr. Plunket very well, and
will be happy to rent him the house."
"We must take it, by all means."
"That is, if Mr. Plunket is willing."
"Willing! Of course, he'll have to be willing."
"Oh, it is such a love of a house, ma!"
"I'm sure it must be."
"A very different kind of an affair from this, you may be certain."
When Mr. Plunket came home that evening, his wife said to him, quite
amiably--"Oh, you don't know what, a love of a house I saw to-day up
in Seventh street; larger, better, and more convenient than this in
every way, and the rent is just the same."
"But I am sure, Sarah, we are very comfortable here."
"Comfortable! Good gracious, Mr. Plunket, I should like to know what
you call comfort. How can any one be comfortable in such a miserable
old rattletrap of a place as this?"
"You thought it a love of a house, you remember, before we came into
"Me? Me? Mr. Plunket? Why, I never liked it; and it was all your
fault that we ever moved here."
"Yes, indeed, it was all your fault. I wanted the house in Walnut
street, but you were afraid of a little more rent. Oh, no, Mr.
Plunket, you mustn't blame me for moving into this barracks of a
place; you have only yourself to thank for that; and now I want to
get out of it on the first good opportunity."
Poor Mr. Plunket was silenced. The very boldness of the position
taken by his wife completely knocked him _hors du combat_. His
fault, indeed! He would have lived on, year after year, in a log
cabin, rather than encounter the horrors of moving; and yet he was
in the habit of moving about once a year. What could he do now? He
had yielded so long to his wife, who had grown bolder at each
concession, that opposition was now hopeless. Had she stood alone,
there might have been some chance for him; but backed up, as she
was, by her puissant mother, victory was sure to perch on her
banner; and well did Mr. Plunket know this.
"It will cost at least a hundred and fifty or two hundred dollars to
move," he ventured to suggest.
"Indeed, and it will cost no such thing. I'll guaranty the whole
removal for ten dollars."
"It cost over a hundred last year."
"Nonsense! it didn't cost a fifth of it."
But Mr. Plunket knew he had the best right to know, for he had paid
From the first, Mr. Plunket felt that opposition was useless. A
natural repugnance to change and a horror of the disorder and
discomfort of moving caused him to make a feeble resistance; but the
opposing current swept strongly against him, and he had to yield.
The house in Seventh street was taken, and, in due time, the
breaking up and change came. Carpets were lifted, boxes, barrels,
and trunks packed, and all the disorderly elements of a regular
moving operation called into activity. Every preparation had been
made on the day previous to the contemplated flight; the cars were
to be at the door by eight o'clock on the next morning. In
anticipation of this early movement, the children had been dragged
out of bed an hour before their usual time for rising. They were, in
consequence, cross and unreasonable; but not more so than mother,
grandmother, and nurse, all of whom either boxed them, scolded them,
or jerked them about in a most violent manner. Breakfast was served
early; but such a breakfast! the least said about that the better.
It was well there were no keen appetites to turn away with
"Strange that the cars are not here!" said Mr. Plunket, who had put
himself in going order. "It's nearly half an hour past the time now.
Oh, dear! confound all this moving, say I."
"That's a strange way for you to talk before children, Mr. Plunket,"
retorted his wife.
"And this is a much stranger way for you to act, madam; for ever
dragging your husband and children about from post to pillar. For my
part, I feel like Noah's dove, without a place to rest the sole of
A war of words was about commencing, but the furniture-cars drove up
at the moment, when an armistice took place.
In due time, the family of the Plunkets were, bag and baggage, in
their new house. A lover of quiet, the male head of the
establishment tried to refrain from any remarks calculated to excite
his helpmate, but this was next to impossible, there being so much
in the new house that he could not, in conscience, approve. If Mrs.
Plunket would have kept quiet, all might have gone on very smoothly;
but Mrs. Plunket could not or would not keep quiet. She was
extravagant in her praise of every thing, and incessant in her
comparisons between the old and the new house. Mr. Plunket listened,
and bit his lip to keep silent. At last the lady said to him, with a
coaxing smile, for she was not going to rest until some words of
approval were extorted from her liege lord--"Now, Mr. Plunket, don't
you think this a love of a house?"
"No!" was the gruff answer.
"Mr. Plunket! Why, what is your objection? I'm sure we can't be more
uncomfortable than we have been for a year."
"Oh, yes, we can."
"There is such a thing as going from the frying-pan into the fire."
"Just what you'll find we have done, madam."
"How will you make that appear, pray?"
"In a few words. Just step this way. Do you see that building?"
"Just to the south-west of us; from that quarter the cool breezes of
summer come. We shall now have them fragrant with the delightful
exhalations of a slaughter-house. Humph! Won't that be delightful?
Then, again, the house is damp."
"Oh, no. The landlord assured me it was as dry as a bone."
"The landlord lied, then. I've been from garret to cellar half a
dozen times, and it is just as I say. My eyes never deceive me. As
to its being a better or more comfortable house, that is all in my
eye. I wouldn't give as much for it, by fifty dollars, as for the
one we have left."
Notwithstanding Mrs. Plunket's efforts to induce her husband to
praise the house, she was not as well satisfied with it as she was
at the first inspection of the premises.
"I'm sure," she replied, in rather a subdued manner, "that it is
quite as good as the old house, and has many advantages over it."
"Name one," said her husband.
"It is not overrun with vermin."
"Wait a while and see."
"Oh, I know it isn't."
"How do you know?"
"I asked the landlord particularly."
"And he said no?"
"Humph! We shall see."
And they did see. Tired but with a day's moving and fixing, the
whole family, feeling hungry, out of humour, and uncomfortable,
descended to the kitchen, after it had become dark, to overhaul the
provision-baskets, and get a cold cut of some kind. But, alas! to
their dismay, it was found that another family, and that a numerous
one, already had possession. Floor, dresser, and walls were alive
with a starving colony of enormous cockroaches, and the baskets,
into which bread, meats, &c. had been packed, were literally
swarming with them.
In horror, man, woman, and child beat a hasty retreat, and left the
It would hardly be fair to record all the sayings and doings of that
eventful evening. Overwearied in body and mind, the family retired
to rest, but some of them, alas! not to sleep. From washboards and
every other part of the chamber in which a crevice existed, crept
out certain little animals not always to be mentioned to ears
polite, and, more bold than the denizens of the kitchen, made
immediate demonstrations on the persons of master, mistress, child,
It took less than a week to prove satisfactorily to Mrs. Plunket,
though she did not admit the fact, that the new house was not to be
compared with the old one in any respect. It had not a single
advantage over the other, while the disadvantages were felt by every
member of the family.
In a few months, however, Mr. Plunket began to feel at home, and to
settle down into contentment, but as he grew better and better
satisfied, his wife grew more and more desirous of change, and is
now, as the year begins to draw to a close, looking about her for
bills on houses, and examining, every day, the "to let" department
of the newspapers with a lively degree of interest. Mr. Plunket
will, probably, resist stoutly when this lady proposes some new
"love of a house," but it will be of no use; he will have to pull up
stakes and try it again. It is his destiny; he has got a moving
wife, and there is no help for him.
MARRYING A COUNT.
"IS any body dead?"
"Yes, somebody dies every second."
"So they say. But I don't mean that. Why are you looking so solemn?"
"I am not aware that I look so very solemn."
"You do, then, as solemn as the grave."
"Then I must be a grave subject." The young man affected to smile.
"You smile like a death's head, Abel. What is the matter?"
Abel Lee took his interrogator by the arm, and drew him aside. When
they were a little apart from the company, he said in a low voice--
"You know that I have taken a fancy to Arabella Jones?"
"Yes, you told me that a month ago."
"She is here to-night."
"So I see."
"And is as cold to me as an icicle."
"For a very plain reason."
"Yes, too plain."
"Whiskers and moustaches are driving all before them. The man is
nothing now; hair is every thing. Glover will carry off the prize
unless you can hit upon some plan to win back the favour of Miss
Arabella. You must come forward with higher attractions than this
rival can bring."
Lee drew his fingers involuntarily over his smooth lip and chin, a
movement which his friend observed and comprehended.
"Before the hair can grow Arabella will be won," he said.
"Do you think I would make such a fool of myself."
"Fool of yourself! What do you mean by that? You say you love
Arabella Jones. If you wish to win her, you must make yourself
attractive in her eyes. To make yourself attractive, you have only
to cultivate whiskers, moustaches, and an imperial, and present a
more luxuriant crop than Glover. The whole matter is very simple,
and comprised in a nut-shell. The only difficulty in the way is the
loss of time consequent upon the raising of this hairy crop. It is
plain, in fact, that you must take a shorter way; you must purchase
what you haven't time to grow. Hide yourself for a week or two, and
then make your appearance with enough hair upon your face to conceal
one-half or two-thirds of your features, and your way to the heart
of Miss Jones is direct."
"I feel too serious on the subject to make it a matter of jesting,"
said Lee, not by any means relishing the levity of his friend.
"But, my dear sir," urged the friend, "what I propose is your only
chance. Glover will have it all his own way, if you do not take some
means to head him off. The matter is plain enough. In the days of
chivalry, a knight would do almost any unreasonable thing--enter
upon almost any mad adventure--to secure the favour of his
lady-love; and will you hesitate when nothing of more importance
than the donning of false whiskers and moustaches is concerned? You
don't deserve to be thought of by Miss Jones."
"Jest away, Marston, if it is so pleasant to you," remarked Lee,
with a slightly offended air.
"No, but my dear fellow, I am in earnest. I really wish to serve
you. Still if the only plan at all likely to succeed is so repugnant
to your feelings, you must let the whole matter go. Depend upon it,
there is no other chance for you with the lady."
"Then she must go. I would not make a fool of myself for the Queen
of Sheba. A man who sacrifices his own self-respect in order to
secure the love of a woman becomes unworthy of her love."
"Well said, Abel Lee! That is the sentiment of a right mind, and
proves to me that Arabella Jones is unworthy of you. Let her go to
the whiskers, and do you try to find some one who has soul enough to
love the man."
The young men separated, to mingle with the company. Marston could
not help noticing Miss Arabella Jones more particularly than before,
and perceived that she was coldly polite to all the young men who
ventured to approach her, but warm and smiling as a June morning to
an individual named Glover who had been abroad and returned home
rich in hairy honours, if in nothing else. The manners of this
Glover distinguished him as much as his appearance.
"To think that a woman could be attracted by a thing like that!" he
said to himself a little pettishly, as he saw the alacrity with
which Arabella seized the offered arm of Glover to accompany him to
the supper table.
Marston was a fellow of a good deal of humour, and relished
practical joking rather more than was consistent with the comfort of
other people. We cannot commend him for this trait of character. But
it was one of his faults, and all men have their failings. It would
have given him great pleasure, could he have induced Abel Lee to set
up a rivalry in the moustache and whisker line; but Abel had too
much good sense for that, and Marston, be it said to his credit, was
rejoiced to find that he had. Still, the idea having once entered
his head, he could not drive it away. He had a most unconquerable
desire to see some one start in opposition to Glover, and was half
tempted to do it himself, for the mere fun of the thing. But this
was rather more trouble than he wished to take.
Not very long after this, a young stranger made his appearance in
fashionable circles, and created quite a flutter among the ladies.
He had, besides larger whiskers, larger moustache, and larger
imperial than Glover, a superb goatee, and a decided foreign accent.
He soon threw the American in the shade, especially as a whisper got
out that he was a French count travelling through the country, who
purposely concealed his title. The object of his visit, it was also
said, was the selection of a wife from among the lovely and
unsophisticated daughters of America. He wished to find some one who
had never breathed the artificial air of the higher circles in his
own country; who would love him for himself alone, and become his
loving companion through life.
How all these important facts in relation to him got wind few paused
to inquire. Young ladies forgot their plain-faced, untitled, vulgar
lovers, and put on their best looks and most winning graces for the
count. For a time he carried all before him. Daily might he be seen
in Chestnut street, gallanting some favoured belle, with the elegant
air of a dancing-master, and the grimace of a monkey. Staid citizens
stopped to look at him, and plain old ladies were half in doubt
whether he were a man or a pongo.
At last the count's more particular attentions were directed toward
Miss Arabella Jones, and from that time the favoured Glover found
that his star had passed its zenith. It was in vain that he curled
his moustache more fiercely, and hid his chin in a goatee fully as
large as the count's; all was of no avail. The ladies generally, and
Miss Arabella in particular, looked coldly upon him.
As for Abel Lee, the bitterness of his disappointment was already
past. The conduct of Arabella had disgusted him, and he therefore
looked calmly on and marked the progress of events.
At length the count, from paying marked attention to Arabella in
company, began to visit her occasionally at her father's house,
little to the satisfaction of Mr. Jones, the father, who had never
worn a whisker in his life, and had a most bitter aversion to
moustaches. This being the case, the course of Arabella's love did
not, it may be supposed, run very smooth, for her father told her
very decidedly that he was not going to have "that monkey-faced
fellow" coming about his house. Shocked at such vulgar language,
"Gracious me, father! Don't speak in that way of Mr. De Courci. He's
a French count, travelling in disguise."
"A French monkey! What on earth put that nonsense into your head?"
"Everybody knows it, father. Mr. De Courci tried to conceal his
rank, but his English valet betrayed the secret. He is said to be
connected with one of the oldest families in France, and to have
immense estates near Paris."
"The largest estates he possesses are in Whiskerando, if you ever
heard of that place. A French count! Preposterous!"
"I know it to be true," said Arabella, emphatically.
"How do you know it, Miss Confidence?"
"I know it from the fact that I hinted to him, delicately, my
knowledge of his rank abroad, and he did not deny it. His looks and
his manner betrayed what he was attempting to conceal."
"Arabella!" said Mr. Jones, with a good deal of sternness, "if you
were silly enough to hint to this fellow what you say you did, and
he was impostor enough not to deny it on the spot in the most
unequivocal terms, then he adds the character of a designing villain
to that of a senseless fop. In the name of homely American common
sense, can you not see, as plain as daylight, that he is no nearer
akin to a foreign nobleman than his barber or boot-black may be?"
Arabella was silenced because it was folly to contend in this matter
with her father, who was a blunt, common-sense, clear-seeing man;
but she was not in the least convinced Mr. De Courci was not a
French count for all he might say, and, what was better, evidently
saw attractions in her superior to those of which any of her fair
compeers could boast.
"My dear Miss Jones," said the count, when they next met, speaking
in that delightful foreign accent, so pleasant to the ear of the
young lady, and with the frankness peculiar to his nature, "I cannot
withhold from you the honest expression of my sentiments. It would
be unjust to myself, and unjust to you; for those sentiments too
nearly involve my own peace, and, it may be, yours."
The count hesitated, and looked interesting. Arabella blushed and
trembled. The words, "You will speak to my father," were on the
young lady's tongue. But she checked herself, and remained silent.
It would not do to make that reference of the subject.
Then came a gentle pressure of hair upon her cheek, and a gentle
pressure from the gloved hand in which her own was resting.
"My dear young lady, am I understood?" Arabella answered,
delicately, by returning the gentle pressure of her hand, and
leaning perceptibly nearer the Count De Courci.
"I am the happiest of men!" said the count, enthusiastically.
"And I the happiest of women," responded Arabella, not audibly, but
"Your father?" said De Courci. "Shall I see him?"
"It will not be well yet," replied the maiden, evincing a good deal
of confusion. "My father is"--
"Is what?" asked the nobleman, slightly elevating his person.
"Is a man of some peculiar notions. Is, in fact, too rigidly
American. He does not like"--
"Doesn't like foreigners. Ah! I comprehend," and the count shrugged
his shoulders and looked dignified; that is, as dignified as a man
whose face is covered with hair can look.
"I am sorry to say that he has unfounded prejudices against every
thing not vulgarly American."
"He will not consent, then?"
"I fear not, Mr. De Courci."
"Hum-m. Ah!" and the count thought for some moments. "Will not
consent. What then? Arabella!" and he warmed in his
manner--"Arabella, shall an unfounded prejudice interpose with its
icy barriers? Shall hearts that are ready to melt into one, be kept
apart by the mere word of a man? Forbid it, love! But suppose I go
"It will be useless! He is as unbending as iron."
Such being the case, the count proposed an elopement, to which
Arabella agreed, after the expression of as much reluctance as
seemed to be called for. A few weeks subsequently, Mr. Jones
received a letter from some person unknown, advising him of the fact
that if at a certain hour on that evening he would go to a certain
place, he would intercept Mr. De Courci in the act of running away
with his daughter. This intelligence half maddened the father. He
hurried home, intending to confront Arabella with the letter he had
received, and then lock her up in her room. But she had gone out an
hour before. Pacing the floor in a state of strong excitement, he
awaited her return until the shadows of evening began to fall.
Darkness closed over all things, but still she was away, and it soon
became evident that she did not mean to come back.
It was arranged between De Courci and Arabella that he was to wait
for her with a carriage at a retired place in the suburbs, where she
was to join him. They were then to drive to a minister's, get the
marriage ceremony performed, and proceed thence to take possession
of an elegant suite of rooms which had been engaged in one of the
most fashionable hotels in the city. To escape all danger of
interference with her movements, the young lady had left home some
hours before evening, and spent the time between that and the
blissful period looked for with such trembling delight, in the
company of a young friend and confidante. Darkness at length threw a
veil over all things, and under cover of this veil Arabella went
forth alone, and hurried to the appointed place of meeting. A lamp
showed her the carriage in waiting, and a man pacing slowly the
pavement near by, while she was a considerable distance off. Her
heart beat wildly, the breath came heavily up from her bosom. She
quickened her pace, but soon stopped suddenly in alarm, for she saw
a man advancing rapidly from another quarter. It a few moments this
individual came up to the person who was walking before the
carriage, and whom she saw to be her lover. Loud words instantly
followed, and she was near enough to hear an angry voice say--
"Ill count you, you base scoundrel!"
It was the voice of her father! Fearful lest violence should be done
to her lover, Arabella screamed and flew to the spot. Already was
the hand of Mr. Jones at De Courci's throat, but the count in
disguise, not relishing the rough grasp of the indignant father,
disengaged himself and fled ingloriously, leaving poor Arabella to
the unbroken fury of his ire. Without much ceremony he thrust her
into the waiting carriage, and, giving the driver a few hurried
directions, entered himself. What passed between the disappointed
countess, that was to be, and her excited father, it is not our
business to relate.
Not content with having interrupted this nice little matrimonial
arrangement, Mr. Jones called at the hotel where De Courci put up,
early on the next morning. But the elegant foreigner had not
occupied his apartments during the night. He called a few hours
later, but he had not yet made his appearance; in the morning, but
De Courci was still away. On the next morning the following notice
appeared in one of the daily newspapers:--
"NIPPED IN THE BUD.--Fashionable people will remember a whiskered,
mustachioed fellow with a foreign accent, named De Courci, who has
been turning the heads of half the silly young girls in town for the
last two months. He permitted it to leak out, we believe, that he
was a French count, with immense estates near Paris, who had come to
this country in order to look for a wife. This was of course
believed, for there are people willing to credit the most improbable
stories in the world. Very soon a love affair came on, and he was
about running off with the silly daughter of a good substantial
citizen. By some means the father got wind of the matter, and
repaired to the appointed place of meeting just in time. He found De
Courci and a carriage in waiting. Without much ceremony, he laid
violent hands on the count, who thought it better to run than to
fight, and therefore fled ingloriously, just as the daughter arrived
on the ground. He has not been heard of since. We could write a
column by way of commentary upon this circumstance, but think that
the facts in the case speak so plainly for themselves, that not a
single remark is needed to give them force. We wish the lady joy at
her escape, for the count in disguise is no doubt a scheming villain
Poor Arabella was dreadfully cut down when this notice met her eye.
It was a long time before she ventured into company again, and ever
after had a mortal aversion to mustaches and imperials. The count
never after made his appearance in Philadelphia.
The young man named Marston, who had jested with Abel Lee about the
loss of his lady-love, was seated in his room some ten minutes after
the sudden appearance of Mr. Jones at the place of meeting between
the lovers, when his door was thrown open, and in bounded De Courci,
hair and all! Cloak, hat, and hair were instantly thrown aside, and
a smooth, young, laughing face revealed itself from behind whiskers,
moustaches, imperials, and goatee.
"Where's the countess?" asked Marston, in a merry voice. "Did she
"Dear knows. That sturdy old American father of hers got me by the
throat before I could say Jack Robinson, and I was glad to make off
with a whole skin. Arabella arrived at the moment, and gave a
glorious scream. Of any thing further, deponent sayeth not."
"She'll be cured of moustaches, or I'm no prophet."
"I guess she will. But the fact is, Marston," and the young man
looked serious, "I'm afraid this joke has been carried too far."
"Not at all. The moral effect will tell upon our silly young ladies,
whose heads are turned with a foreign accent and a hairy lip. You
acted the whiskered fop to a charm. No one could have dreamed that
all was counterfeit."
"So far as the general effect is concerned, I have no doubt; but I'm
afraid it was wrong to victimize Miss Arabella for the benefit of
the whole race of weak-minded girls. The effect upon her may be more
serious than we apprehend."
"No, I think not. The woman who could pass by as true a young man as
Abel Lee for a foreign count in disguise, hasn't heart enough to
receive a deep injury. She will be terribly mortified, but that will
do her good."
"If it turn out no worse than that, I shall be glad. But I must own,
now that the whole thing is over, that I am not as well satisfied
with myself as I thought I would be. I don't know what my good
sisters at the South would say, if they knew I had been engaged in
such a mad-cap affair. But I lay all the blame upon you. You, with
your cool head, ought to have known better than to start a young
hot-brained fellow like me, just let loose from college, upon such a
wild adventure. I'm afraid that if Jones had once got me fairly into
his clutches, he would have made daylight shine through me."
"Ha! ha! No doubt of it. But come, don't begin to look long-faced.
We will keep our own counsel, and no one need be the wiser for our
participation in this matter. Wait a while, and let us enjoy the
nine days' wonder that will follow."
But the young man, who was a relative of Marston, and who had come
to the city fresh from college, just in the nick of time for the
latter, felt, now that the excitement of his wild prank was over, a
great deal more sober about the matter than he had expected to feel.
Reason and reflection told him that he had no right to trifle with
any one as he had trifled with Arabella Jones. But it was too late
to mend the matter. No great harm, however, came of it; and perhaps,
good; for a year subsequently, Abel Lee conducted his old flame to
the altar, and she makes him a loving and faithful wife.
OR, THE LADY WITH NERVES.
WHAT a blessed era in the world's history that was when the ladies
had no nerves! Alas! I was born too late instead of too early, as
the complaint of some is. I am cursed with nerves, and, as a
consequence, am ever and anon distressed with nervous fears of some
direful calamity or painful affliction. I am a simpleton for this, I
know; but then, how can I help it? I try to be a woman of sense, but
my nerves are too delicately strung. Reason is not sufficient to
subdue the fears of impending evil that too often haunt me.
It would not be so bad with me, if I did not find so many good souls
ready to add fuel to the flames of my fears. One of my most horrible
apprehensions, since I have been old enough to think about it, has
been of that dreadful disease, cancer. I am sure I shall die of
it,--or, if not, some time in life have to endure a frightful
operation for its removal.
I have had a dull, and sometimes an acute pain in one of my breasts,
for some years. I am sure it is a cancer forming, though my husband
always ridicules my fears. A few days ago a lady called in to see
me. The pain had been troubling me, and I felt nervous and
"You don't look well," said my visitor.
"I am not very well," I replied.
"Nothing serious, I hope?"
"I am afraid there is, Mrs. A--" I looked gloomy, I suppose, for I
"You really alarm me. What can be the matter?"
"I don't know that I have ever mentioned it to you, but I have, for
a long time, had a pain in my left breast, where I once had a
gathering, and in which hard lumps have ever since remained. These
have increased in size, of late, and I am now confirmed in my fears
that a cancer is forming."
"Bless me!" And my visitor lifted both hands and eyes. "What kind of
a pain is it?"
"A dull, aching pain, with occasional stitches running out from one
spot, as if roots were forming."
"Just the very kind of pain that Mrs. N--had for some months
before the doctors pronounced her affection cancer. You know Mrs.
"Not personally. I have heard of her."
"You know she had one of her breasts taken off?"
"Had she?" I asked, in a husky voice. I had horrible feelings.
"Oh, yes!" My visitor spoke with animation.
"She had an operation performed about six months ago. It was
dreadful! Poor soul!"
My blood fairly curdled; but my visitor did not notice the effect of
"How long did the operation last?" I ventured to inquire.
"Half an hour."
"Half an hour! So long?"
"Yes; it was a full half hour from the time the first incision was
made until the last little artery was taken up."
"Horrible! horrible!" I ejaculated, closing my eyes, and shuddering.
"If so horrible to think of, what must it be in reality?" said my
thoughtless visitor. "If it were my case, I would prefer death. But
Mrs. N--is not an ordinary woman. She possesses unusual fortitude,
and would brave any thing for the sake of her husband and children.
It took even her, however, a long time to make up her mind to have
the operation performed; and it was only when she was satisfied that
further delay would endanger her life, that she consented to have it
done. I saw her just the day before; she looked exceedingly pale,
and said but little. A very intimate friend was with her, whom I was
surprised to hear talk to her in the liveliest manner, upon subjects
of the most ordinary interest. She was relating a very amusing story
which she had read; when I entered, and was laughing at the
incidents. Even Mrs. N--smiled. It seemed to me very much out of
place, and really a mockery to the poor creature; it was downright
cruel. How any one could do so I cannot imagine. 'My dear madam,' I
said as soon as I could get a chance to speak to her, 'how do you
feel? I am grieved to death at the dreadful operation you will have
to go through. But you must bear it bravely; it will soon be over.'
She thanked me with tears in her eyes for my kind sympathies, and
said that she hoped she would be sustained through the severe trial.
Before I could get a chance to reply, her friend broke in with some
nonsensical stuff that made poor Mrs. N--laugh in spite of
herself, even though the tears were glistening on her eyelashes. I
felt really shocked. And then she ran on in the wildest strain you
ever heard, turning even the most serious remark I could make into
fun. And, would you believe it? she treated with levity the
operation itself whenever I alluded to it, and said that it was
nothing to fear--a little smarting and a little pain, but not so bad
as a bad toothache, she would wager a dollar.
"'That is all very well for you to say,' I replied, my feelings of
indignation almost boiling over, 'but if you had the operation to
bear, you would find it a good deal worse than a bad toothache, or
the severest pain you ever suffered in your life.'
"Even this was turned into sport. I never saw such a woman. I
believe she would have laughed in a cholera hospital. I left,
assuring Mrs. N--of my deepest sympathies, and urged her to nerve
herself for the sad trial to which she was so soon to be subjected.
I was not present when the operation was performed, but one who
attended all through the fearful scene gave me a minute description
of every thing that occurred."
The thought of hearing the details of a dreadful operation made me
sick at heart, and yet I felt a morbid desire to know all about it.
I could not ask my visitor to pause; and yet I dreaded to hear her
utter another sentence. Such was the strange disorder of my
feelings! But it mattered not what process of thought was going on
in my mind, or what was the state of my feelings; my visitor went
steadily on with her story, while every fifth word added a beat to
my pulse per minute.
The effect of this detail was to increase all the cancerous symptoms
in my breast, or to cause me to imagine that they were increased.
When my husband came home, I was in a sad state of nervous
excitement. He anxiously inquired the cause.
"My breast feels much worse than it has felt for a long time," said
I. "I am sure a cancer is forming. I have all the symptoms."
"Do you know the symptoms?" he asked.
"Mrs. N--had a cancer in her breast, and my symptoms all resemble
"How do you know?"
"Mrs. A--has been here, and she is quite intimate with Mrs. N--.
All my symptoms, she says, are precisely like hers."
"I wish Mrs. A--was in the deserts of Arabia!" said my husband, in
a passion. "Even if what she said were true, what business had she
to say it? Harm, not good, could come of it. But I don't believe you
have any more cancer in your breast than I have. There is an
obstruction and hardening of the glands, and that is about all."
"But Mrs. N--'s breast was just like mine, for Mrs. A--says so.
She described the feeling Mrs. N--had, and mine is precisely like
"Mrs. A--neither felt the peculiar sensation in Mrs. N--'s breast
nor in yours; and, therefore, cannot know that they are alike. She
is an idle, croaking gossip, and I wish she would never cross our
threshold. She always does harm."
I felt that she had done me harm, but I wouldn't say so. I was a
good deal vexed at the way my husband treated the matter, and
accused him of indifference as to whether I had a cancer or not. He
bore the accusation very patiently, as, indeed, he always does any
of my sudden ebullitions of feeling. He knows my weakness.
"If I thought there were danger," he mildly said, "I would be as
much troubled as you are."
"As to danger, that is imminent enough," I returned, fretfully.
"On the contrary, I am satisfied that there is none. One of your
symptoms makes this perfectly clear."
"Indeed! What symptom?" I eagerly asked.
"Your terrible fears of a cancer are an almost certain sign that you
will never have one. The evil we most fear, rarely, if ever, falls
"That is a very strange way to talk," I replied.
"But a true way, nevertheless," said my husband.
"I can see no reason in it. Why should we be troubled to death about
a thing that is never going to happen?"
"The trouble is bad enough, without the reality, I suppose. We are
all doomed to have a certain amount of anxiety and trouble here,
whether real or imaginary. Some have the reality, and others the
imagination. Either is bad enough; I don't know which is worse."
"I shall certainly be content to have the imaginary part," I
"That part you certainly have, and your full share of it. I believe
you have, at some period or other, suffered every ill that flesh is
heir to. As for me, I would rather have a good hearty fit of
sickness, a broken leg or arm, or even a cancer, and be done with
it, than become a living Pandora's box, even in imagination."
"As you think I am?"
"As I know you are."
"Then you would really like to see me have a cancer in my breast,
and be done with it?" I said this pretty sharply.
"Don't look so fiercely at me," returned my husband, smiling. "I
didn't say I would rather you would have a cancer; I said I would
rather have one, and be done with it, than suffer as you do from the
fear of it, and a hundred other evils."
"I must say you are quite complimentary to your wife," I returned,
in a little better humour than I had yet spoken. The fact was, my
mind took hold of what my husband said about real and imaginary
evils, and was somewhat braced up. Of imaginary evils I had
certainly had enough to entitle me to a whole lifetime exemption
from real ones.
From the time Mrs. A--left me until my husband came in, the pain
in my breast had steadily increased, accompanied by a burning and
stinging sensation. In imagination, I could clearly feel the entire
cancerous nucleus, and perceive the roots eating their way in all
directions around it. This feeling, when I now directed my thoughts
to my breast, was gone--very little pain remained.
After tea, my husband went out and returned in about an hour. He
said he had been round to consult with our physician, who assured
him that he had seen hundreds of cases like mine, not one of which
terminated in cancer; that such glandular obstructions were common,
and might, under certain circumstances, unless great care were used,
cause inflammation and suppuration; but were no more productive of
cancer, a very rare disease, and consequent upon hereditary
tendencies, than were any of the glandular obstructions or
gatherings in other parts of the body.
"But the breast is so tender a place," I said.
"And yet," returned my husband, "the annals of surgery show ten
cancers in other parts of the body to one in the breast."
In this way my husband dissipated my fears, and restored my mind to
a comparatively healthy state. This, however, did not long remain; I
was attacked on the next day with a dull, deeply-seated pain in one
of my jaw-teeth. At first, I did not regard it much, but its longer
continuance than usual began to excite my fears, especially as the
tooth was, to all appearance, sound.
While suffering from this attack, I had a visit from another friend
of the same class with Mrs. A--. She was a kind, good-natured
soul, and would watch by your sick-bed untiringly, night after
night, and do it with real pleasure. But she had, like Mrs. A--, a
very thoughtless habit of relating the many direful afflictions and
scenes of human suffering it had been her lot to witness and hear
of, unconscious that she often did great harm thereby, particularly
when these things were done, as was too often the case, _apropos_.
"You are not well," she said, when she came in and saw the
expression of pain in my face.
"What is the matter?"
"Nothing more than a very troublesome tooth-ache," I replied.
"Use a little kreosote," said she.
"I would; but the tooth is sound."
"A sound tooth, is it?" My visitor's tone and look made my heart
"Yes, it is perfectly sound."
"I am always afraid of an aching tooth that is perfectly sound,
since poor Mrs. P--had such a time with her jaw."
"What was that?" I asked, feeling instantly alarmed.
"Which tooth is it that aches?" my friend asked.
I pointed it out.
"The very same one that troubled Mrs. P--for several months, night
"Was the pain low and throbbing?" I eagerly asked.
"Yes; that was exactly the kind of pain she had."
"And did it continue so long as several months?"
"Oh, yes. But that wasn't the worst! the aching was caused by the
formation of an abscess."
"A what?" A cold chill passed over me.
"At the root of her tooth?"
"Yes. But that wasn't so bad as its consequences; the abscess caused
the bone to decay, and produced what the doctors called a disease of
the antrum, which extended until the bone was eaten clear through,
so that the abscess discharged itself by the nostrils."
"Oh, horrible!" I exclaimed, feeling as sick as death, while the
pain in my tooth was increased fourfold. "How long did you say this
abscess was in forming?"
"Did she have an operation performed?" I have a terrible fear of
"Oh, yes. It was the only thing that saved her life. They scraped
all the flesh away on one cheek and then cut a hole through the
bone. This was after the tooth had been drawn, in doing which the
jaw-bone was broken dreadfully. It was months before it healed, or
before she could eat with any thing but a spoon."
This completely unmanned, or, rather, unwomanned me. I asked no more
questions, although my visitor continued to give me a good deal of
minute information on the subject of abscesses, and the dreadful
consequences that too frequently attended them. After she left
another friend called, to whom I mentioned the fact of having a very
bad tooth-ache, and asked her if she had ever known any one to have
an abscess at the root of a sound tooth.
She replied that tooth-ache from that cause was not unfrequent, and
that, sometimes, very bad consequences resulted from it. She advised
me, by all means, to have the tooth extracted.
"I can't bear the thought of that," I replied. "I never had but one
tooth drawn, and when I think of having another extracted I grow
cold all over."
"Still, that is much better than having caries of the jaw, which has
been known to attend an abscess at the root of a tooth."
"But this does not always follow?"
"No. It is of rare occurrence, I believe. Though no one knows when
such a disease exists, nor where it is going to terminate. Even
apart from caries of the jaw, the thing is painful enough. Mrs.
T--, an intimate friend of mine, suffered for nearly a mouth,
night and day, and finally had to have the tooth extracted, when her
mouth was so much inflamed, and so tender, that the slightest touch
caused the most exquisite pain. A tumor was found at the root of the
tooth as large as a pigeon's egg!"
This completed the entire overthrow of my nerves. I begged my
friend, in mercy to spare me any further relations of this kind. She
seemed half offended, and I had to explain the state of mind which
had been produced by what a former visitor had said. She, evidently,
thought me a very weak woman. No doubt I am.
"In the dumps again, Kate?" said my husband, when he returned home
in the evening. "What is the matter now?"
"Enough to put you or any one else in the dumps," I replied
fretfully. "This tooth-ache grows worse, instead of better."
"Does it, indeed? I am really very sorry. Can't any thing be done to
"Nothing, I am persuaded. The tooth is sound, and there must be an
abscess forming at the root, to occasion so much pain."
"Who, in the name of common sense, has put this in your head?"
My husband was worried.
"Has Mrs. A--been here again?"
"No," was my simple response.
"Then what has conjured up this bugbear to frighten you out of your
I didn't like this language at all. My husband seemed captious and
unreasonable. Dear soul! I supposed he had cause; for they say a
nervous woman is enough to worry a man's life out of him; and, dear
knows, I am nervous enough! But I had only my fears before me then:
I saw that my husband did not sympathize with me in the least. I
"It may be very well for you to speak to your wife in this way,
after she has suffered for nearly three days with a wretched
tooth-ache. If the tooth were at all decayed, or there were any
apparent cause for the pain, I could bear it well enough, and
wouldn't trouble you about it. But it is so clear to my mind now,
that nothing but a tumour forming at the root could produce such a
steady, deep-seated, throbbing pain, that I am with reason alarmed;
and, instead of sympathy from my husband I am met with something
very much like ridicule."
"My dear Kate," said my husband, tenderly, and in a serious voice,
"pardon my apparent harshness and indifference. If you are really so
serious about the matter, it may be as well to consult a dentist,
and get his advice. He may be able to relieve very greatly your
fears, if not the pain in your jaw."
"He will order the tooth to be extracted, I have not the least
"If there should be a tumour at the root, it will be much safer to
have it out than let it remain."
A visit to the dentist at once was so strenuously urged by my
husband, that I couldn't refuse to go. I got myself ready, and we
went around before tea. I did not leave the house, however, before
making my husband promise he would not insist upon my having the
tooth taken out on the first visit. This he did readily.
The dentist, after examining very carefully the tooth pointed out to
him, said that he didn't believe that tooth ached at all.
"Not ache, doctor?" said I, a little indignantly.
"If you had it in your head, you would think it ached."
"Pardon me, madam," he returned, with a polite bow. "I did not mean
to say that you were not in pain. I only mean to say that I think
that you are mistaken in its exact locality."
"I don't see how I can be. I have had it long enough, I should
think, to determine its locality with some certainty."
"Let me examine your mouth again, madam," said the dentist.
This time he examined the right jaw--the pain was on the left side.
"I think I have found out the enemy," said he, as he took the
instrument from my mouth with which he had been sounding my teeth.
"The corresponding tooth on the other side has commenced decaying,
and the nerve is already slightly exposed."
"But what has that to do with this side?" I put my hand where the
pain was, as I spoke.
"It may have a good deal to do with it. We shall soon see." And he
went to his case of instruments.
"You are not going to extract it, doctor!" I rose from the operating
chair in alarm.
"Oh no, no, madam! I am only going to put something into it, to
destroy the sensibility of the nerve, previous to preparing it for
being filled. The tooth can still be preserved. We will know in a
minute or two whether all the difficulty lies here."
A preparation, in which I could perceive the taste and odour of
creosote, was inserted in the cavity of the decayed tooth. In less
than five seconds I was free from pain.
"I thought that was it," said the dentist, smiling. "A sound tooth
is not very apt to ache of itself. It is sometimes difficult to tell
which is the troublesome member. But we have discovered the
offending one this time, and will put an end to the disturbance he
has been creating."
I could say not a word. My husband looked at me with a humorous
expression in his eye. After we were in the street, he remarked,
"No abscess yet, my dear. Were it not for physicians, who understand
their business, I am afraid your Job's comforters would soon have
you imagine yourself dying, and keep up the illusion until you
actually gave up the ghost."
"I really am ashamed of myself," I replied; "but you know how
shattered my nerves are, and how little a thing it takes to unsettle
me. I do wish my Job's comforters, as you call them, would have more
discretion than to talk to me as they do."
"Let them talk; you know it is all talk."
"No--not all talk. They relate real cases of disease and suffering,
and I immediately imagine that I have all the symptoms that
ultimately lead to the same sad results."
"Be a woman, Kate! be a woman," responded my husband.
This was all very well, and all easily said. I believe, however, I
am a woman, but a woman of the nineteenth century, with nerves far
too delicately strung. Ah me! if some of my kind friends would only
be a little more thoughtful, they would save me many a wretched day.
I hope this will meet the eyes of some of them, and that they will
read it to a little profit. It may save others, if it does not save
me from a repetition of such things as I have described.
THE CODE OF HONOUR.
TWO young men, one with a leather cap on his head and military
buttons on his coat, sat in close conversation, long years ago, in
the bar-room of the--Hotel. The subject that occupied their
attention seemed to be a very exciting one, at least to him of the
military buttons and black cap, for he emphasized strongly, knit his
brow awfully, and at last went so far as to swear a terrible oath.
"Don't permit yourself to get so excited, Tom, interposed a friend.
"It won't help the matter at all."
"But I've got no patience."
"Then it is time you had some," coolly returned the friend. "If you
intend pushing your way into the good graces of my lady Mary
Clinton, you must do something more than fume about the little
matter of rivalry that has sprung up."
"Yes; but to think of a poor milk-sop of an
author--author?--pah!--scribbler!--to think, I say, of a spiritless
creature like Blake thrusting himself between me and such a girl as
Mary Clinton; and worse, gaining her notice, is too bad! He has
sonneteered her eyebrows, no doubt--flattered her in verse until she
don't know who or where she is, and in this way become a formidable
rival. But I won't bear it--I'll--ll"--
"What will you do?"
"Do? I'll--I'll wing him! that's what I'll do. I'll challenge the
puppy and shoot him."
And the young lieutenant, for such he was, flourished his right arm
and looked pistol-balls and death.
"But he won't fight, Tom."
"Won't he?" and the lieutenant's face brightened. "Then I'll post
him for a coward; that'll finish him. All women hate cowards. I'll
post him--yes, and cowhide him in the bargain, if necessary."
"Posting will do," half sarcastically replied his friend. "But upon
what pretext will you challenge him?"
"I'll make one. I'll insult him the first time I meet him and then,
if he says any thing, challenge and shoot him."
"That would be quite gentlemanly, quite according to the code of
honour," returned the friend, quietly.
The young military gentleman we have introduced was named Redmond.
The reader has already penetrated his character. In person he was
quite good-looking, though not the Adonis he deemed himself. He had
fallen deeply in love with the "acres of charms" possessed by a
certain Miss Clinton, and was making rapid inroad upon her heart--at
least he thought so--when a young man well known in the literary
circles made his appearance, and was received with a degree of
favour that confounded the officer, who had already begun to think
himself sure of the prize. Blake had a much readier tongue and a
great deal more in his head than the other, and could therefore, in
the matter of mind at least, appear to much better advantage than
his rival. He had also written and published one or two popular
works; this gave him a standing as an author. Take him all in all,
he was a rival to be feared, and Redmond was not long in making the
discovery. What was to be done? A military man must not be put down
or beaten off by a mere civilian. The rival must be gotten rid of in
some manner; the professional means was, as has been seen thought of
first. Blake must be challenged and killed off, and then the course
would be clear.
A few days after this brave and honourable determination, the
officer met the author in a public place, and purposely jostled him
rudely. Blake said nothing, thinking it possible that it was an
accident; but he remained near Redmond, to give him a chance to
repeat the insult, if such had been his intention. It was not long
before the author was again jostled in a still ruder manner than
before at the same time some offensive word was muttered by the
officer. This was in the presence of a number of respectable
persons, who could not help hearing, seeing, and understanding all.
Satisfied that an insult was intended, Blake looked him in the face
for a moment, and then asked, loud enough to be heard all
around--"Did you intend to jostle me?"
"I did," was the angry retort.
"_Gentlemen_ never do such things."
As Blake said this with marked emphasis, he looked steadily into the
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