Page images
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]


“ Life's like a ship in constant motion,

Sometimes high and sometimes low;
And we all must brave the ocean,

Whatsoever winds may blow.”

If you will walk two blocks from Mr. Elden's, then turn up a narrow street, the third door from the corner, on the right band side, you will see an old-fashioned house, with a green front door, and on the door an old-fashioned plate ; inscribed upon its brightly-polished surface in plain large letters, is the simple word

STUART.'" “ Are you sure that is the Stewart I want ?” said Douglass. “ I think som

-it is the only one I know of in the vicinity.”

Mr. Douglass was a small, shrewd, busy, practical man ; he hurried on in pursuit of the old house with the green door, when a paper partly torn and folded, lying upon the edge of the walk, attracted bis attention ; fearing some of his valuable law-papers might have escaped from his capa- . cious pocket, he stooped and picked it up. It proved to be the fragment of an old letter, written in a lady's hand, defaced and torn by exposure to wind and rain. The first legible sentence began with the words, "my heart." Yes, yes, thought Douglass, every thing begins with the heart but it ends in “ lands, tenements, and hereditaments.”

Mr. Douglass adjusts his spectacles and reads on—“My heart, like too many human hearts, has one big joy in itand like too many more human hearts, it has one big sorrow in it. Were it not for the sorrow, I might be too happy. Every day I see something new and delightful in this precious joy, yet each night my pillow is wet with tears at the remembrance of this my ever-living mysterious sorrow—& sorrow I cannot reveal to all”-here the letter was torn and soiled, and only a fragment remained legible.

Mr. Douglass adjusts his spectacles and reads on—“ You know how romantic I used to be about large dark eyes and long heavy lashes. I have now just such eyes and lashes in the face of a cherub child I call my own-the lashes are like dark curtains fringing their lids, and the eyes are an exact image of eyes that will haunt me forever-they are brilliant and soft, expressive yet mild, winning yet resolute; sometimes I think I see around her perfectly moulded young head, a kind of halo of glory. In happier days I should have called her Aureola, that beautiful name given by the old painters to the crown of glory around the heads of their saints and martyrs; but now, I cannot call her any such radiant name, my life is too dark-every hour for months, has sent up its prayer, that this shadow may be removed, and one day in the agony of my supplication, as my tears fell on her curl vailed face I gave her the name Nepen the, praying that like the magic potion of the old Greek and Roman poets, she might make me forget my sorrows and misfortunes.

" This little joy-cup I hold in my hand so carefully, so anxiously. If she sleeps, I fear she may never wake; and if she is ill, I fear she may die ; if she is out of my sight a moment, I tremble lest some one take her from me, and she return to me no more.

"Until my Nepenthe came, this old house seemed like a prison-I could not write you before ;-how could I with the weight of this great sorrow pressing heavily upon me ?I have now much business to attend to. I wish when a girl I had learned a little of law ; I am now finding the difference between law and equity—in equity, I am entitled to a large fortune, but in law, strict law, I don't know how matters will end, but here comes Mr. Trap to see about that mortgage, so I can only add the hope, that my little darling may be

[ocr errors]

as good and as happy as you were when I first saw you in that dear little school under the shade of the old elms where we passed together happy hours of our light-hearted child. hood.”

“ There—that is all there is of it,” said Mr. Douglass, folding up the paper, "we have such windy days lately, I suppose it must have blown out of somebody's window. Sorrow! sorrow! If these women lose a lap-dog, or freeze a rose-bush they call it sorrow, if they are in trouble they write a letter, if they are in deeper trouble they add a postscript; if Mary should see this, how she would puzzle and sympathize over it. I'll drop this in her box of literary curiosities,” thought he, as be passed rapidly up street.

As he approached the old house with a green door, a delicate looking woman stepped over the threshold, and called gently, "Nepenthe, Nepenthe ; come here, Nepenthe.",

"I wonder if there's more than one Nepenthe in the world,” thought Mr. Douglass, in his practical way, as a bright-eyed child suddenly appeared from behind a corner, and passed quickly into the house.

As he entered the house, a queer, haggard-looking woman stood near the door, glancing back stealthily yet earnestly. Her careless worn garments, manifested no extreme poverty, only indifference to dress and manners.

She had walked so far that morning, without observing any thing, it was strange she should stop so near that particular house, and look up into that man's face with such an eager, curious expression. Her nose was long and prominent, her eyes deep set, yet full and piercing. As he entered the door, she muttered between her half-closed teeth, “ Yes, he is a lawyer.” She paused a moment longer as the door closed, and then passed on with a hesitating step, muttering again as she tapped her forehead with her left hand in an emphatic, violent manner. “Yes, he must be a lawyer." Bright-eyed children, dignified men, beautiful women passed by, but she heeded them not, her eyes looked ever forward, as if seeking something in the distance.

A strange looking woman, whispered some who passed her, as she walked on as in a dream, without moving to the right or left to accommodate any passing pedestrian. At length, starting as if seized and propelled by some sudden impulse, she walked on with a hurried step, as if bent on accomplish


the paper.


ing something of immediate consequence, and passed out of sight.

Five minutes after, a boy rang violently Mrs. Stuart's door bell, and asked if there was a lawyer there ? that a gentleman in Bleecker street wished to see bim immedi. ately on business of great importance. He handed Mr. Doug- . lass a name written on a slip of paper.


126 Bleecker street. · Rivington, Rivington,” said Douglass, “why, yes, that is my old friend Rivington; he has returned from Cuba. I'm afraid he wants me to draw up his will,--he looked like a ghost when he went away.”

After some rapid walking, and long impatient riding, Mr. Douglass was soon at the door of the house mentioned on

Is Mr. Rivington within ?” he inquired, almost out of breath after his hurry.

“ No sir, there's no such person here, nor is there, as I know on, in the neighborhood," said an old lady who opened the door and looked at him crossly over her spectacles.

" That is what I call a complete sell," said Mr. Douglass, frowning his heavy eyebrows. “I'll tell that boy to go to thunder, the lying rascal-there's some design in all this. But I'll hurry back, I'll not be foiled by this scamp. When was a Douglass ever foiled ?" Mr. Douglass put his foot down determinedly and resolutely, looking at his watch and exclaiming, “ This paper shall be signed, and signed in time if I have to fly for it. I'd like to get one sight of that young rascal, wouldn't I blow him up ? I'd put him through," said he, as puffing and blowing, and frequently exclaiming, “ Thunder and Mars,” the deities mentioned on all extraordinarily provoking occasions, he actually ran to the house with the green door, exclaiming all out of breath, “ Sign, madam, sign, only sigo ; there's just half an hour. I'll be at the City Hall in time if you sign immediately.”

“ A fine form, handsome eyes, yet careworn face,” thought Mr. Douglass, wiping his spectacles, as the lady, plainly dressed in black, bent over the document he had requested her to sign and wrote in a firm legible hand,“ CAROLINE STUART.'

There was nothing unusual in her manner, only a quiet


[ocr errors]

tear dropped on the end of the word Stuart and blurred the “T” a little.

Mr. Douglass was soon walking back and forth in his office, "I paid about fifteen dollars costs,” said he, “ that must conie out of these scamps, they'll swear to all sorts of things. I hate to pile up a big bill of costs, I always have to slide down on it if I do. I'll make about fifty dollars out of this Stuart operation—it is an extra case,” thought he, as he walked back and forth, “'tis an extra case, worth fifty dollars. I'll get wifey a green silk dress, green suits her complexion best, and twenty dollars I'll spend in ducking and diving at Coney Island. Then there's that suit of Mor. gan's, it has been on the calendar long enough, I hope it'll come on next week."

Mr. Douglass always walked back and forth when any important matter absorbed his attention ; the more he thought, the faster he walked. When a young man his maiden aunt often preached to him about "saving his steps," and“ saving the carpet,” but he walked at home, he walked at school, he walked at college, North College, north section ; he walked the office, he walked his wife nervous, he walked his boots thin—all his opinions were literally walked out. He stopped a moment to give an advisory shake of the head to the boy who sat before a desk strewn with paper, most demurely copying writs—he was ever prompt, correct and exact when Mr. Douglass' shrewd face dawned on his expectant vision—but no deponent hath ever said how many papers he did not serve at the right time, or how many small bills he collected on his own account.

Mr. Douglass brushed his hair, caressed his whiskers, and glanced at the calendar—the calendar was full of Mr. Douglass : his thoughts were all available ; could such a test have been applied they would have had a regular metallic ringit was always quid pro quo, quid pro qu; he was the party of the first part, and Mrs. Douglass party of the second part, and both these petitioners daily prayed in their hearts, if not with their lips, that the house in Fifth Avenue night soon be bought, furnished and occupied by Richard Douglass and Ellen his wife.

He was saving his ideality, he owned and acknowledged, for the aforesaid house. Now he seated himself by his desk, quite tired after his his up-town journeying, and

« PreviousContinue »