Bulls and Bears
WHICH TREATS OF THE MODESTY OF CANDIDATES FOR OFFICE.
MR. SANDFORD sat in his private room. Through the windows in front were seen the same bald and grizzly heads that had for so many years given respectability to the Vortex Company. The contemplation of the cheerful office and the thought of its increasing prosperity seemed to give him great satisfaction; for he rubbed his white and well-kept hands, settled his staid cravat, smoothed his gravely decorous coat, and looked the picture of placid content. He meditated, gently twirling his watch-seal the while.
“Windham will be here presently, for my note admitted only of an answer in person. A very useful person to have a call from is Windham ; these old gentlemen will put up their gold spectacles when he comes, and won’t think any the less of me for having such a visitor. I noticed that Monroe was much impressed the other day. Then Bullion and Stearine will drop in, I think,—both solid men, useful acquaintances. If Plotman has only done what he promised, the thing will come round right. I shall not seek office,—oh, no! I could not compromise my position. But if the people thrust it upon me, I cannot refuse. Citizenship has its duties as well as its privileges, and every man must take his share of public responsibility. By-the-by, that’s a well-turned phrase ; 'twill bear repeating. I'll make a note of it.”
True enough, Mr. Windham called, and, after the trivial business-affair was settled, he introduced the subject he was expected to speak on.
"We want men of character and business habits in public station, my young friend, and I was rejoiced to-day to hear that it was proposed to make you a Senator. We have had plenty of politicians, —men who trade in honors and offices.”
“I am sensible of the honor you mention,” modestly replied Sandford, “and should value highly the compliment of a nomination, particularly coming from men like yourself, who have only the public welfare at heart. But if I were to accept, I don’t know how I could discharge my duties. And besides, I am utterly without experience in political life, and should very poorly fulfil the expectations that would be formed of me.”
"Don’t be too modest, Mr. Sandford. If you have not experience in politics, all the better ; for the ways to office have been foul enough latterly. And as to business, we must arrange that. Your duties here you could easily discharge, and we will get some other young man to take your place in the charitable boards ; —though we shall be fortunate, if we find any one to make a worthy successor.”
After a few words, the stately Mr. Windham bowed himself out, leaving Sandford rubbing his hands with increased, but still gentle hilarity.
Mr. Bullion soon dropped in. He was a stout man, with a round, bald head, short, sturdy legs, and a deep voice,—a weighty voice on ’Change, though, as its owner well knew,—the more, perhaps, because it dealt chiefly in monosyllables.
"How are you, Sandford ? Fine day. Anything doing? Money more in demand, they say. Hope all is right; though it looks like a squall.”
Mr. Sandford merely bowed, with an occasional "Ah !" of "Indeed !"
“How about politics?” Bullion continued. “Talk of sending you to the Senate. Couldn’t do better,—I mean the city couldn’t; you'd be a d—d fool to go. Somebody has to, though. You as well as any. Can I help you ? ”
"You rather surprise me. I had not thought of the honor.”
Bullion turned his eye upon him,—a cool, gray eye, overhung by an eyebrow that seemed under perfect muscular control; for the gray wisp ot hair grew pointed like a paint-brush, and had a queer motion of intelligence.
"Oh, shy, I see ! Just as well. Too forward is bad. We'll fix it. Good morning !”
And Bullion, sticking his hands in his poekets, went away with a half-audible whistle, to look after his debtors, and draw in his resources before the anticipated "squall" should come. Mr. Sandford had lost the opportunity of making his carefully studied speech ; but, as Bullion had said, it was just as well.
Mr. Stearine came next,—a tall, thin man, with a large, bony frame, and a bilious temperament. A smile played perpetually around his loose mouth,— not a smile of frank good-humor, but of uneasy self-consciousness. He smiled because it was necessary to do something ; and he had not the idea of what repose meant.
“You are going to the Senate, I hear,” said the visitor.
“Oh, yes,—I’ve heard it from several. Mr. Windham approves it, and I just heard Bullion speak of it. A solid man is Bullion; a man of few words, but all his words tell; they drop like shot.”
“Mr. Windham was good enough to speak of it to me to-day ; but I haven’t made up my mind. In fact, it will be time enough when the nomination is offered to me. By-the-way, Mr. Stearine, you were speaking the other day of a little discount. If you want a thousand or two, I think I can get it for you. Street rates are rather high, you know ; but I will do the best I can.”
Mr. Stearine smiled again, as he had done every minute before, and expressed his gratification.
“Let me have good paper on short time; it's not my money, and I must consult the lender’s views, you know. About one and a half per cent. a month, I think; he may want one and three quarters, or two per cent.,—not more.”
Mr. Stearine hoped his friend would obtain as favorable terms as he could.
“You’ll have no trouble in meeting the larger note due Bullion, on which I am indorser ?" said Sandford.
“None at all, I think,” was the reply.
“Two birds with one stone,” thought Sandford, after his friend’s departure. “A good investment, and the influence of a good man to boot. Now to see Fletcher and learn how affairs are coming on. We'll make that ten thousand fifteen before fall is over, if I am not mistaken.”
WHEREIN THE INVESTMENT IS DISCUSSED.
IT was the evening of a long day in summer. Mrs. Monroe had rolled up her sewing and was waiting for her son. Tea was ready in the pleasant east room, and the air of the house seemed to invite tranquillity and repose. It was in a quiet street, away from the rattle of carriages, and comparatively free from the multitudinous noises of a city. The carts of milkmen and marketmen were the only vehicles that frequented it. The narrow yard in the rear, with its fringe of grass, and the proximity to the pavement in front, were the only things that would have prevented one from thinking himself a dweller in the country. As the clock struck six, Walter Monroe’s step was heard at the door;—other men might be delayed; he never. No seductions of billiards or pleasant company ever kept him from the society of his mother. He had varied sources of amusement, and many friends, attracted by his genial temper and tried worth; but he never forgot that his mother denied herself all intercourse with society, and was indifferent to every pleasure out of the sphere of home. Nor did he meet her as a matter of course ; mindful of his mother’s absorbing love, and heartily returning it, he seemed always, upon entering the room, to have come home as from a long absence. He kissed her fondly, asked concerning her health and spirits, and how she had passed the day.
“The day is always long till you come, Walter. Tea is ready now, my son. "When you are rested, we will sit down.”
“Ah, mother, you are cheerful to-day. I have brought you, besides the papers, a new book, which we will commence presently.”
“A thoughtful boy you are ; but you haven’t told me all, Walter. I see something behind those eyes of yours.”
“What, telltales they must be ! Well, I have a pretty present for you,—a sweet picture I bought the other day, and which will come home to-morrow, I fancy.”
“Is that all ? I shall be glad to see the picture, because you like it. But you have something else on your mind.”
“I see I never keep anything from you, mother. You seem to know my thoughts.”
“Well, what is it ?”
“I have been thinking, mother, that our little property was hardly so productive as it ought to be,—earning barely six per cent., while I know that many of my friends are getting eight, and even ten.”
“I am afraid that the extra interest is only to pay for the risk of losing all.”
“True, that is often the case; but I think we can make all safe.”
“Well, what do you propose doing ?”
"I have left it with Mr. Sandford, an acquaintance of mine, to invest for me. He is secretary of an insurance company, and knows all the ways of the money-lending world.”
"It’s a great risk, Walter, to trust our all.”
“Not our all, mother. I have a salary, and, whatever may happen, we can always depend on that. Besides, Mr. Sandford is a man of integrity and credit. He has the unlimited confidence of the company, and I rely upon him as I would upon myself.”
"How has he invested it ? Have you got the securities ? ”
“Not yet, mother. I have left the money on his note for the present; and when he has found a good chance to loan it, he will give me the mortgages or stocks, as the case may be. But come, mother, let us sit down to tea. All is safe, I am sure ; and to-morrow I will make you satisfied with my prudent management.”
When the simple meal was over, they sat in the twilight before the gas was lighted. The moments passed rapidly in their free and loving converse. Then the table was drawn out and the new book was opened. Mrs. Monroe suddenly recollected something.
“Walter, my dear, a letter was left here to-day by the postman. As it was directed to the street and number, it did not go to your box. Here it is. I have read it; and rather sad news it brings. Cousin Augustus is failing, so his daughter writes, and it is doubtful whether he ever recovers. Poor child ! I am sorry for her.”
Walter took the letter and hastily read it.
“A modest, feeling, sensible little girl, I am sure. I have never seen her, you know; but this letter is simple, touching, and womanly.”
“A dear, good girl, I am sure. How lonely she must be ! ”
"Mother, I believe I’ll go and see them. In time of trouble we should forget ceremony. Cousin Augustus has never invited me, but I'll go and see him. Won’t you go, too ?”
“Dear boy, I couldn’t! The cars? Oh, never!”
Walter smiled. “You don’t get over your prejudices. The cars are perfectly safe, and more comfortable than coaches.”
“I can’t go; it’s no use to coax me.”
“I have but one thing to trouble me, mother,—and that is, that I can never get you away from this spot.”
“I’m very happy, Walter, and it’s a very pleasant spot; why should I wish to go ? ”
“ How long since you have been down Washington Street ? ”
“Ten years, I think.”
“And you have never seen the new theatre, nor the Music Hall ?”
"Nor any of the new warehouses?”
"I don’t want to see them.”
“ And you wouldn’t go to church, if it were more than a stone’s throw away ? ”
"I am afraid not.”
" How long since you were in a carriage ? "
Her eyes filled with tears, but she made no reply.
“ Forgive me, mother ! I remember the time,—five years ! and it seems like yesterday when father —
There was a silence which, for a time, neither cared to break.
“Well,” said Walter, at length, “I shall have to go alone. To-morrow morning I will arrange my business,—not forgetting our securities,—and start in the afternoon train.”
“Your father often spoke of Cousin Augustus and his lovely wife; I wonder if the daughter has her mother’s beauty ?”
“I can't tell. I hope so. But don’t look so inquiringly. I don’t love a woman in the world,—except you, mother. I shan’t fall in love, even if she is an angel.”
“If Cousin Augustus should be worse, —should die, what wall become of the poor motherless child ?”
"There are no nearer relatives than we, mother,—and we must give her a home, if she will come.”
“Certainly, Walter, we must not be hard-hearted.”
Mrs. Monroe was charitable, kind, and motherly towards the distressed; she felt the force of her son’s generous sentiments. If it were her Cousin Augustus himself who was to be sheltered, or his son, if he had one,—or if the daughter were unattractive, a hoyden even, she would cheerfully make any sacrifice in favor of hospitality. But she could not repress a secret fear lest the beauty and innocence of the orphan should appeal too strongly to Walter's heart. She knew the natural destiny of agreeable young men ; she acknowledged to herself that Walter would sometime marry ; but she put the time far off as an evil day, and kept the subject under ban. None of her neighbors who had pretty daughters were encouraged to visit her on intimate terms. She almost frowned upon every winsome face that crossed her threshold when Walter was at home. So absorbing was this feeling, that she was not aware of its existence, but watched her son by a sort of instinct. Her conduct was not the result of cool calculation, and, if it could have been properly set before her generous, kindly heart, she would have been shocked at, her own fond selfishness.
So she sat and speculated, balancing between fear and hope. If Walter built air-castles, was he to blame ? At twentyfour, with a heart untouched, with fresh susceptibilities, and a little romance withal, is it to bo wondered that his fancy drew such pleasing pictures of his cousin ?
We will leave them to their quiet evening's enjoyment and follow Greenleaf to the house of Mr. Sandford.
THE MUSICAL SOIREE.
A SMALL, but judiciously-selected company had assembled ; all were people of musical tastes, and most of them capable of sharing in the performances. There were but few ladies; perhaps it did not suit the mistress of the house to have the attentions of the gentlemen divided among too many. Miss Sandford was undeniably queen of the evening; her superb face and figure, and irreproachable toilet, never showed to better advantage. And her easy manners, and ready, silvery words, would have given a dangerous charm to a much plainer woman. She had a smile, a welcome, and a compliment for each,—not seemingly studied, but gracefully expressed, and sufficient to put the guests in the best humor. Mrs. Sandford, less demonstrative in manner than her sister-in-law, and less brilliant in conversation and personal attractions, was yet a most winning, lovable woman,—a companion for a summer ramble, or a quiet tête-à-têle, rather than a belle for a drawing-room. Mr. Sandford was calmly conscious, full of subdued spirits, cheerful and ready with all sorts of pleasant phrases. It is not often that one sees such a manly, robust figure, such a handsome, ingenuous face, and such an air of agreeable repose. Easelmann was present, retiring as usual, but with au acute eye that lost nothing while it seemed to be observing nothing. Greenleaf was decidedly the lion. It was not merely his graceful person and regular features that drew admiring glances upon him ; the charm lay rather in an atmosphere of intellect that surrounded him. His conversation, though by no means faultless, was marked by an energy of phrase joined to an almost womanly delicacy and taste. His was the “hand of steel,” but clothed with the “glove of velvet.” Easelmann followed him with a look half stealthy, half comical, as he saw the unusual vivacity of the reigning beauty when in his immediate society. Her voice took instinctively a softer and more musical tone ; she showered her glances upon him, dazzling and prismatic as the rays from her diamonds; she seemed determined to captivate him without the tedious process of a siege. And, in truth, he must have been an unimpressible man that could steel himself against the influence of a woman who satisfied every critical sense, who piqued all his pride, who stimulated all that was most manly in his nature, and without apparent effort filled his bosom with an exquisite intoxication.
The music commenced under Marcia’s direction. There were piano solos that were not tedious,—full of melody and feeling, and with few of the pyrotechnical displays which are too common in modern virtuoso-playing ; vocal duets and quartets from the Italian operas, and from Orfeo and other German masterpieces ; and solos, if not equal to the efforts of professional singers, highly creditable to amateurs, to say the least. The auditors were enthusiastic in praise. Even Charles, who came in late, declared the music “Vewy good, upon my soul,—surpwizingly good !”
Greenleaf was listening to Marcia, with a pleased smile on his face, when Mr. Sandford approached and interrupted them.
“You are proficient in more than one art, I see. You paint as well as though you knew nothing of music, and yet you sing like a man who has made it an exclusive study.”
Greenleaf simply bowed.
“How do you come on with the picture ?” Mr. Sandford continued.
“Very well, I believe.”
“My dear Sir, make haste and finish it.”
“I thought you were not in a hurry.”
“Not in the least, my friend; but when you get that, finished, you can paint others, which I can probably dispose of for you.”
“You are very kind.”
“I speak as a business man,” said Sandford, in a lower tone, at which Marcia withdrew. “The arts fare badly in time of a money panic, and all the pictures you can sell now will be clear gain.”
“Are there signs of a panic ? ”
“Decidedly ; the rates of interest are advancing daily, and no one knows where it will end. Unless there is some relief in the market by Western remittances, the distress will be wide-spread and severe.”
“I am obliged to you for the hint. I have two or three pictures nearly done.”
“I will look at them in a day or two, and try to find you purchasers.”
Greenleaf expressed his thanks, warmly, and then walked towards Mrs. Sandford, who was sitting alone at that moment.
“There is no knowing what Marcia may do,” thought Sandford ; “I have never seen her when she appeared so much in earnest,—infatuated like a candle-fly. I hope she won’t be fool enough to marry a man without money. These artists are poor sheep; they have to be taken care of like so many children. At all events, it won't cost much to keep him at work for the present. Meanwhile she may change her mind.”
Greenleaf was soon engaged in conversation with Mrs. Sandford. She had too much delicacy to flatter him upon his singing, but naturally turned the current towards his art. Without depreciating his efforts or the example of deservedly eminent American painters, she spoke with more emphasis of the acknowledged masters; and as she dwelt with unaffected enthusiasm upon the delight she had received from their immortal works, his old desire to visit Europe came upon him with redoubled force. There was a calm strength in her thoughts and manner that moved him strangely. He saw in a new light his thoughtless devotion to pleasure, and especially the foolish fascination into which he had been led by a woman whom he could not marry and ought not to love. Mrs. Sandford did not exhort, nor even advise ; least of all did she allude to her sister-in-law. Hers was only the influence of truth,— of broad ideas of life and its noblest ends, presented with simplicity and a womanly tact above all art. It seemed to Greenleaf the voice of an angel that he heard, so promptly did his conscience respond. He listened with heightening color and tense nerves; the delicious languor of amatory music, and the delirium he had felt while under the spell of Marcia’s beauty, passed away. It seemed to him that he was lifted into a higher plane, whence he saw before him the straight path of duty, leading away from the tempting gardens of pleasure,—where he recognized immutable principles, and became conscious that his true affinities were not with those who came in contact only with his sensuous nature. He had never understood himself until now.
A long meditation, the reader thinks; but. in reality, it was only an electric current, awakening a series of related thoughts ; as a flash of lightning at night illumines at once a crowd of objects in a landscape, which the mind perceives, but cannot follow in detail.
When, at length, Greenleaf looked up, he was astonished to find the room silent, and himself with his companion in the focus of all eyes. Marcia looked on with a curiosity in which there was perhaps a shade of apprehension. Easelmann relieved the momentary embarrassment by walking towards his friend, with a meaning glance, and taking a seat near Mrs. Sandford.
"I can’t allow this,” said Easelmann. “You have had your share of Mrs. Sandford’s time. It is my turn. Besides, you will forget it all when you cross the room.”
“Trust me, I shall never forget,” said Greenleaf, with a marked emphasis, and a grateful look towards the lovely widow.
“What's this? What's this?” said Easelmann, rapidly, “Insatiate trifler, could not one suffice ? ”
“Oh, we understand each other, perfectly,” said Mrs. Sandford, in a placid tone.
“You do, eh ? I should have interrupted you sooner. It might have saved my peace of mind, and perhaps relieved some other anxieties I have witnessed. But go, now ! ” Greenleaf turned away with a smile.
Marcia at once proposed a duet to conclude the entertainment,—Rossini’s Mira bianca luna,—a piece for which she had reserved her force, and in which she could display the best qualities of her voice and style. Greenleaf had a high and pure tenor voice ; he exerted himself to support her, and with some success; the duet was a fitting close to a delightful and informal concert. But he was thoroughly sobered; the effects he produced were from cool deliberation, rather than the outbursts of an enthusiastic temper. Earlier in the evening the tones and the glances of his companion would have sent fiery thrills along his nerves and lifted him above all self-control.
In the buzz of voices that followed, Murcia commenced a lively colloquy with Greenleaf, as though she desired to leave him under the impressions with which the evening commenced. The amusements of summer were discussed, the merits of watering-places and other fashionable resorts, when Greenleaf accidentally mentioned that he and Easelmann were going presently to Nahant.
"Delightful! ” she exclaimed, “to enjoy the ocean and coast-scenery after the rush of company has left! While the fashionable season lasts, there is nothing but dress and gossip. You are wise to avoid it.”
“I think so,” he replied. “ Neither my tastes nor my pursuits incline me to mingle in what is termed fashionable society. It makes too large demands upon one’s time, to say nothing of the expense or the unsatisfactory nature of its pleasures.”
“ I agree with you. So you are going to sketch. Would not you and Mr. Easelmann like some company ? You will not pore over your canvas all day, surely.”
“ We should be delighted ; I should, certainly. And if you will look at my friend’s face just now, as he is talking to your beautiful sister-in-law, you will see that he would not object.”
“Do you think Lydia is beautiful?” The tone was quiet, but the glance questioning.
“ Not classically beautiful,—but one of the most lovely, engaging women I ever met.”
“ Yes,—she is charming, truly. I don’t think her strikingly handsome, though; but tastes rarely agree, you know. I only asked to ascertain your predilections.”
“ I understand,” thought Greenleaf; but he made no further reply.
“Don’t be surprised, if you see us before your stay is over,—that is, if Lydia and I can induce Charles to go down with us, Henry is too busy, I suppose.”
Charles passed just then ; he was endeavoring to form a cotillon, declaring that talk was slow, and, now that the music was over, a dance would be the thing.
“ Charles, you will go to Nahant for a week,—won’t you ? ”
“In a day or two.”
“ Too cold, Sister Marcia; too late, altogether.”
“ But you were unwilling to go early in the season.”
“ Too early is as bad as too late ; it is chilly there till the company comes. No billiards, no hops, no pwetly girls, no sailing, no wides on the beach, no pwomenades on the moonlight side of the piazza. No, my deah, Nahant is stupid till the curwent sets that way.”
“ Southern visitors warm the coast like the Gulf Stream, I suppose,” said Greenleaf.
“ Pwecisely so,”—then, after the idea had reached his brain, adding, “ Vewy good. Mr. Gweenleaf! Vewy good !”
The soirée ended as all seasons of pleasure must, and without the dance on which Charles had set his heart. The friends walked home together. Greenleaf was rather silent, but Easelmann at last made him talk.
“ What do you think of the beauty, now ? ” the elder asked.
“ Still brilliant, bewitching, dangerous.”
“ You are not afraid of her ? ”
“ Upon my soul, I believe I am.”
“ What has frightened you ? What, faults or defects have you seen ? ”
“ Two. One is, she uses perfumes too freely. Stop that, laugh of yours ! It’s a trifling thing, but it is an indication. I don’t like it.”
“Fastidious man, what next? Has she more hairs on one eyebrow than the other ? Or did you see a freckle of the size of a fly’s foot ? ”
“ The second is in her manner, which, in spite of its ease and apparent artlessness, has too much method in it. Her suavity is no more studied than her raptures. She is frosted all over,—frosted like a cake, I mean, and not with ice. And, to follow the image, I have no idea what sort of a compound the tasteful confectionery covers.”
“ Well, if that is all, I think she has come out from under your scrutiny pretty well. I should like to see the woman in whom you would not find as many faults.”
"If a man does not notice trifles, he will never learn much of character. With women especially, one should be as observing as a Huron on the trail of an enemy.”
“ Ferocious hunter, who supposed there were so many wiles in your simple heart ? "
"Odd enough, there seemed to be a succession of warnings this evening. I was dazzled at first, I own, — almost hopelessly smitten. But Sandford gave me a jolt by bringing in business; he thinks there is to be a smash, and advises me to make hay while the sun shines. Then I talked with Mrs. Sandford.”
“ Now we come to the interesting part —to me ! ”
“ But I shan’t gratify you, you mouser! It is enough to say, that in a few simple words, uttered, I am sure, without forethought, she placed my frivolity before me, and then showed me what I might and ought to be. I was like a grasshopper before, drunk with dew, and then sobered by a plunge into a clear, cool spring. Besides, I have thought more about your advice in regard to the lady, you dissembling old rascal ! For you know that in such matters you never mean what you say ; and when you counsel me to fall in love with a coquette, you only wish me to be warned in time and make good my escape. If it were light enough, I should see that grizzly moustache of yours curl like a cat’s, this minute. You can grin, you amiable Mephistopheles, but I know you! No, my dear Easelmann, I am cured. I shall take hold. of my pencils with new energy. I will save money and go abroad, and—I had nearly forgotten her!—I will take a new look at my darling’s sweet face in my pocket, and, like Ulysses, I'll put wax into my ears when I meet the singing Siren again.”
“ I hope your rustic fiancée is not clairvoyant ? ”
“I hope not.”
“If she is, she will cry her little eyes out to-night.”
“Don’t speak of it, I beg of you.”
“You are getting lugubrious; we shall have to change the subject. Love affects people in as many different ways as wine. Some are exalted,—their feet spurn the earth, their heads are in the clouds; some pugnacious, walking about with a chip, on the shoulder; others are stupidly happy, —their faces wearing a sickly smile that becomes painful to look at; others again, like you, melancholy as a wailing tenor in the last act of 'Lucia.’ Like learning, a little draught of love is dangerous; drink largely and be sober. The charmer will not cast so powerful a spell upon you the next time, and you will come away more tranquil.”
There was just the least shade of sarcasm in the tone, and Greenleaf, as usual, was a little puzzled. For Easelmann was a study,—always agreeable, never untruthful, but fond of launching an idea like a boomerang, to sweep away, apparently, but to return upon some unexpected curve. His real meaning could not always be gathered from any isolated sentence ; and to strangers he was a living riddle. But Greenleaf had passed the excitable period, and had lapsed into a state of moody repentance and grim resolution.
“ You need not tempt me,” he said, “ even if that were your object, which I doubt, you sly fox ! And if you mean only to pique my pride in order to cure my inconstancy to my betrothed, I assure you it is quite unnecessary. I shall have too much self-respect to place myself in the way of temptation again.”
“Now you arc growing disagreeable; the virtuous resolutions of a diner-out, on the headachy morning after, are never pleasant to hear. There is so much implied ! One does not like to follow the idea backward to its naughty source. The penitent should keep his sermons and soda-water to himself.”
“ Well, here we are at home. We have walked a mile, and yet it seems but a furlong. If I were not so disagreeable as you say, we would take another turn about the Common.”
“ Sleep will do you more good, my friend; and I think I’ll go home. I haven't smoked since dinner. Good night!”
Greenleaf went to his room, but not at once to sleep ; his nerves were still too tremulous. With the picture of Alice before him, he sat for hours in a dreamy reverie ; and when at last he went to bed, he placed the miniature under his pillow.
A YOUNG FINANCIER AT HOME.
JOHN FLETCHER lived in a small, but neat house at the South End. Slender and youthful as he looked, he was not a bachelor, but had a pretty, fragile-looking wife, to whom he was married when only nineteen years of age. Such a union could have been brought about only by what the world calls an indiscretion, or from an unreflecting, hasty impulse. Girl as Mrs. Fletcher seemed to be, she was not without prudence as a housekeeper; and as far as she could command her inconstant temper, she made home attractive to her husband. But neither of them had the weight of character to act as a counterpoise to the vacillation of the other. It was not a sun and a planet, the one wheeling about the other,—nor yet were they double stars, revolving about a centre common to both ; their movements were like nothing so much as the freaks of a couple of pith-balls electrically excited,—at one time drawn furiously together, and then capriciously repelling each other. Their loves, caresses, spats, quarrels, poutings, and reconciliations were as uncertain as the vagaries of the weather,—as little guided by sense or reason as the passions of early childhood. On one subject they agreed at all times, and that was to pet and spoil most thoroughly their infant daughter, a puny, weak-voiced, slender-limbed, curly-haired child, with the least possible chance of living to the age of womanhood.
Fletcher was confidential clerk to the great banking-house of Foggarty, Danforth, and Dot. The senior partner rarely took any active part in business, but left it to the management of Danforth and Dot. Danforth had the active brain to plan,—Dot the careful, cool faculty to execute. Fletcher had a good salary,— so large that he could always reserve a small margin for “outside operations,” by which in one way or another he generally contrived to lose.
The god he worshipped was Chance; by which I do not refer at all to any theory of the creation of matter, but to the course and order of human affairs. His drawers were full of old lottery-schemes; he did not long buy tickets, because he was too shrewd; but he made endless calculations upon the probability of drawing prizes,—provided the tickets were really all sold, and the wheel fairly managed. A dice-box was always at hand upon the mantel. He had portraits of celebrated racers, both quadruped and biped, and he could tell the fastest time ever made by either. His manipulation of cards was, as his friends averred, one of the fine arts; and in all the games he had wrought out problems of chances, and knew the probability of every contingency. A stock-list was always tacked above his secretary, and another constantly in his pocket. And this evening he had brought home a revolving disk, having figures of various values engraved around its edge, carefully poised, with a hair-spring pointer, like a hand on a dialplate.
“ What have you got, John ? ” asked his wife.
“ Only a toy, a plaything, deary. See it spin ! ” and he gave the disk a whirl.
“ But what is it for?”
“ Oh, nothing in particular. I thought we could amuse ourselves in turning it for the largest throws.”
“ Is that all ? It is a heavy thing, and must have cost a good lot of money.”
“ Not much. Now see ! You know I have tried to show you how chance rules the world ; and if you once get the chances in your favor, all is right. Now suppose we take this wheel, and on the number 2,000 we paste ‘Michigan Central,’ ‘Western’ over 1,000, ‘Vermont and Massachusetts ’ over 500, ‘Cary Improvement’ over 400, and so on. Now, after a certain number of revolutions, by keeping account, we get the chance of each stock to come up.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don't suppose you do ; you don’t give your mind to it, as I do.”
“But you know you had the same notion once about cards, and pasted the names of the stocks on the court cards; and then you shuffled and cut and dealt and turned up, night after night.”
“Little doxy ! small piece of property ! you’d best attend to that baby, and other matters that you know something about.”
The “little doxy” felt strongly inclined to cry, but she kept back the sobs and said, “You know, John, how sullen and almost hateful you were before, when you were bewitched after those mean stocks. I don’t think you should meddle with such things; they are too big for you Let the rich fools gamble, if they went to ; if they lose, they can afford at and nobody cares but to laugh at them. Oh, John, you promised me you wouldn’t gamble any more.”
“ Well, I don’t gamble. I haven’t been to a faro bank for a year. I stay away just to please you, although I know all the chances, and could break the bank as easy as falling off a log.”
“ You don’t gamble, you say, but you are uneasy till you put all your money at risk on those paper things. I don’t see the difference.”
"You needn't see the difference ; nobody asked you to see the difference. Gamble, indeed! there isn’t a man on the street that doesn’t keep an eye on the paper things, as you call them.”
"You see what I told you. You are cross. You like anything better (a sob) than your poor (another) neglected wife.”
The sobs now thickened into a cry, and, with streaming eyes, she picked up the puny child and declared she was going to bed. To this proposal the moody man emphatically assented. But as Mrs. Fletcher passed near her husband, the child reached out its slender arms and caught hold of him by his cravat, screaming, "Papa! papa! I stay, papa !"
"Let go !" roughly exclaimed the amiable father. But she held the tighter, and shouted, “Papa! my papa!”
What sudden freak overcame his anger probably not even Fletcher himself could tell. But, turning towards his wife, who was supporting the child, whose little fingers still held him fast, his face cleared instantly, and, with a sudden movement, he drew the surprised and delighted woman down upon his knee, and loaded her with every form of childish endearment. Her tears and sorrows vanished together, like the dew.
"Little duck,” said he, "if I were alone, I shouldn't care for any more money. I know I can always take care of myself. But for your sake I want to be independent,—rich, if you please. I want to be free. I want to meet that wily, smooth, plausible, damned, respectable villain face to face, and with as much money as he.”
His eyes danced with a furious light and motion, and the fringy moustache trembled over his thin and sensitive mouth. But in a moment he repented the outbreak; for his wife’s face blanched then, and the tears leaped from her eyes.
“Oh, John” she exclaimed, “what is this awful secret ? I know that something is killing you. You mutter in sleep ; you are sullen at times; and then you break out in this dreadful way.”
Fletcher meditated. “I can’t tell her; ’twould kill her, and not do any good either. No, one good streak of luck will set me up where I can defy him. I'll grin and bear it.”
"What is it, John ? Tell your poor little wife ! ”
“Oh, nothing, my dear. I do some business for Sandford, who is apt to be domineering,—that’s all. To-day he provoked me, and when I am mad it does me good to swear; it’s as natural as lightning out of a black cloud.”
"It may do you good to swear, John ; but it makes the cold chills run over me. Why do you have anything to do with anybody that treats you so ? You are so changed from what you were! Oh, John, something is wrong, I know. Your face looks sharp and inquiring. You are thin and uneasy. There’s a wrinkle in your cheek, that used to be as smooth as a girl’s.”
She patted his face softly, as it rested on her shoulder; but be made no reply save by an absent, half-audible whistle.
“You don’t answer me, John, dear ! ”
“I’ve nothing especial to say, doxy,— only that I will wind up with Sandford as soon as we finish the business in hand.”
“The business in hand ? Has he anything to do with Foggarty, Danforth, and Dot ? ”
Fletcher was not skilful under crossexamination. So he simply answered, "No," and then stopping her mouth with, kisses, promised to explain the matter another day.
“Well, John, I am tired ; I think I’ll take baby and go to bed. Don’t sit up and get blue over your troubles ! ”
As she left the room, Fletcher drew a long breath. What an accent of despair was borne on that sigh ! His busy brain was active in laying plans which his vacillating will could never execute without help. Often before, he had determined to confront Sandford and defy him ; but as often he had quailed before that selfpossessed and imperious man. What hope was there, then, for this timid, crouching man, as long as the hand of his haughty master was outstretched in command? None !
THE stringency of the money-market began to frighten even Mr. Sandford, who had been predicting a panic. There had been but few failures, and those were generally of houses that ought to fail, being insolvent from losses or mismanagement. Mr. Sandford studied over his sheet of bills payable and receivable almost hourly. The amount intrusted to him by Monroe had been loaned out; for which he was now very sorry, as the rate of interest had nearly doubled since he made the last agreement. This, however, was but a small item in his accounts; other transactions of greater magnitude occupied his attention. As he looked over the array of promisors and indorsers, he said to himself, “I am safe. If these men fail, it will be because the universal bottom has dropped out and chaos come again. If anybody is shaky, it is Stearine. He believes, though, that Bullion will help him through, and extend that note. Perhaps he will. Perhaps, again, he will have enough to do to keep on his own legs. He fancies himself strong because he owns the most of the Neversink Mills. But he doesn’t know what I know, that Kerbstone, the treasurer of the Mills, is in the street every day, looking like a gambler when his last dollar is on the table. A few more turns of the screw and down goes Kerbstone. Who knows that the Mills won’t tumble, too, and Bullion after them ? He may go hang ; but we must look after Stearine, and prop him, if necessary. That twenty thousand is more than we can afford to lose just now. Lucky, there he comes ! ”
Mr. Stearine entered, not with his usual smile, but with an expression like that of a man trying to be jolly with the toothache. A short, but dexterous cross-examination showed to Sandford, that, if the twenty-thousand-dollar note could be extended over to better times, Stearine was safe. But the note was soon due, and Bullion might be unable or unwilling to renew; in which case, the Vortex would have to meet it. That was a contingency to be provided against; for Mr. Sandford did not intend that the public should know that the credit of the Company had been used for private purposes by its officers. He therefore called in Mr. Fayerweather, the President, and the affair was talked over and settled between them.
“One thing more,” said Sandford. "Suppose any one should get wind of this, and grow suspicious;—Bullion himself might be foolish enough to let the cat out of the bag;—we might find the shares of the Vortex in the market, and the bears running them down to an uncomfortable figure.”
“True enough. We must stop that.”
“The only way is to keep a sharp lookout, and if any of the stock is offered, to buy it up. Half a dozen of us can take all that will be likely to come into market.”
“How many shares do you own, Sandford?” asked Mr. Fayerweather, with a quizzical look. “Is this a nice little scheme of yours to run them off at par ? It’s a shrewd dodge.”
“You do me wrong,” said Sandford, with a look of wounded innocence. “I merely want to sustain the credit of the Company.”
“Oh, no doubt!” Said the President. "Well, we will agree, then, not to let the shares fall below ninety, say. It would be suspicious, I think, to hold them higher than that, when money is two and a half per cent. a month.”
“Very well. You will see to this? Be careful what men you speak to.”
Mr. Sandford, being left alone, bethought him of Monroe. He did not wish to give him a statement of affairs ; he had put him off once, and must find some way to satisfy him. How was it to be done ? The financier meditated. "I have it,” said he ; "I’ll send him a quarter’s interest in advance. That’s as much as I can spare in these times, when interest grows like those miraculous pumpkinvines out West.” He drew a check for two hundred dollars, and dispatched it to Monroe by letter.
So Mr. Sandford had all things snug. The Vortex was going on under closereefed topsails. If the notes he held were paid as they matured, he would have money for new operations; if not, he had arranged that the debtors should be piloted over the bar and anchored in safety till the storm should blow over. Everything was secured, as far as human foresight could anticipate.
Mr. Sandford had now but little use for Fletcher’s services, except to look after his debtors,—to know who was "shinning” in the street, or “kite-flying” with accommodation-paper. Still he did not admit the agent into his confidence. But this active and scheming mind was not long without employment. Mr. Bullion had seen him in frequent communication with Sandford, and thereby formed a high opinion of his shrewdness and tact;, for he knew that Sandford was very wary in selecting his associates. He sought Fletcher.
“Young man,” said Bullion, pointing his wisp of an eyebrow at him, “do you want a job? Few words and keep mum. Yes or no ?”
“Yes,” said Fletcher, decidedly.
“I like your pluck,” said Bullion.
“It doesn’t take much pluck to follow Mr. Bullion’s lead.”
“None of your nonsense. How do you know anything about me, or what I am going to do ? I may fail to-morrow,— God forbid!—but when the wind comes, it’s the tall trees that are knocked over.”
Fletcher thought the comparison rather ludicrous for a man standing on such remarkably short pegs, but he said nothing.
“I mean to sell a few shares of stock, and I want you to do the business. I am not to be known in it.”
Fletcher bowed, and asked what the stocks were.
“No matter ; any you can sell to advantage. I haven’t a share, but I needn’t tell you that doesn’t make any difference.”
“Let me understand you clearly,” said Fletcher.
“Sell under. For instance, take a stock that sells to-day at ninety-four ; offer to deliver it five days hence at ninety. To-morrow offer it a peg lower, and so on, till the market is easier. "When the first contract is up, we shall get the stock at eighty-eight, or less, perhaps,—deliver to the buyers, and pocket the difference.”
“But it may not fall.”
“It’s bound to fall. People that hold stock must sell to pay their notes. Every day brings a fresh lot of shares to the hammer.”
“But the bulls may corner you; they will try mightily to keep prices up.”
“But they can’t corner, I tell you; there are too many of them in distress. Besides, we’ll spread ; we won’t put all our eggs into one basket. If I stuck to “bearing” one stock, the holders might get all the shares and break me by keeping them so that I couldn’t comply with my contracts. I shan’t do it. I’ll pitch into the “fancies” mainly ; they are held by speculators, who must be short, and they’ll come down with a run.”
“How deep shall I go in ? ”
“Fifty thousand, to begin with. However, there won’t be many transfers actually made ; the bulls will merely pay the differences.”
“Or else waddle out of the street lame ducks.”
Bullion rubbed his hands, while his eyes shone with a colder glitter.
“Well, you are a bear, truly,” said Fletcher, with unfeigned admiration,—“a real Ursa Major.”
“To be sure, I’m a bear. What's the use in being a bull in times like these, to be skinned and sold for your hide and tallow ? ”
“The market is falling, and no mistake.”
“Yes, and will fall lower. Stocks haven’t been down since ’37 so low as you will see them a month from now.”
Fletcher bowed—and waited. Bullion pointed the eyebrow again.
"You don’t want to begin on an uncertainty. I see. Sharp. Proper enough. I’ll give you ten percent. of the profits,— you to pay the commissions. Each day’s work to be set down, and at the end of each week I’ll give you a note for your share. That do ? I thought it would. I offer a liberal figure, for I think you know something, youngster. Use your judgment, now. Consult me, of course; but mum’s the word. If any stock is pushed in, lay hold, and don’t be afraid. The holders must sell, and they must sacrifice. We’ll skin ’em, by G—,” said Bullion, with an excitement that was rare in a cool, hard head like his. Then thinking he had been too outspoken, he resumed his former concise manner.
“All fair, you know. Bargain is a bargain. They must sell; we won’t buy, without we buy cheap; their loss, to be sure, but our gain. All trade on the same plan. Seller gets the most he can ; buyer pays only what he must.”
“That’s it,” said Fletcher. “Every man for himself in this world.”
“Well, good morning, young man. Sharp’s the word. Call at my office this afternoon.” And, with a queer sweep of the pointed eyebrow, he departed.
What visions of opulence rose before Fletcher’s fancy ! He would now lay the foundations of his fortune, and, perhaps, accomplish it. He would become a power in State Street; and, best of all, he would escape from his slavery to Sandford, and perhaps even patronize the haughty man he had so long served. How to begin ? He could not attend the sales at the Brokers’ Board in person, as he was not a member. Should he confide in Danforth? No,—for, with his relations to the house, his own share in the profits would be whittled down. He determined to employ Tonsor, an old acquaintance, who would be glad to buy and sell for the regular commissions. The preliminaries were speedily concluded, and a list of stocks made out on which to operate. The excitement was almost too great for Fletcher to bear. As he counted the piles of bank-bills on his employers’ counter, or stacked up heaps of coin, in his ordinary business, he fancied himself another Ali Baba, in a cave to which he had found the Open Sesame, and he could hardly contain himself till the time should come when he should take possession of his unimaginable wealth. He had built air-castles before, but never one so magnificent, so real. He could have hugged Bullion, bear as he was.—We leave Fletcher and his principal on the high road to success.
THE SIREN COMES TO THE SEA-SHORE.
GREENLEAF worked assiduously upon his landscapes, and, notwithstanding the pressure in the money-market, was fortunate enough to dispose of them to gentlemen whose incomes were not affected by the vicissitudes of business. For this he was principally indebted to Sandford, who took pains to bring his works to the notice of connoisseurs. But, with all his success, the object of his ambition was as far off as at first. Imperceptibly be had acquired expensive habits. He was not prodigal, not extravagant; but, having a keen sense of the beautiful, he gradually became more fastidious in dress, and in all those nameless elegancies which seem of right to belong to the accomplished man, as to the gentleman in easy circumstances. This desire for ease and luxury did not conflict with simplicity; he seemed born for all the enjoyment which the most cultivated society could bestow. He had the power to spend the income of a fortune worthily; unhappily, he did not have it to spend. He had written constantly to his betrothed, and when he told her of the prices he had received for his pictures, he was at a loss how to make her comprehend the new relations into which he had grown,—to explain that he was practically as poor as when he first came to the city. How could he assure her of his desire to end the engagement in marriage, if he spoke of postponement now that he had an income beyond his first expectations ? Imperceptibly to himself, his letters became more like intellectual conversations, or essays, rather,—pleasant enough in themselves, but far different from the simple and fervent epistles he wrote while the memory of Alice was fresher. She felt this, although she had not reasoned upon it, and her sensitive womanly heart was full of vague forebodings.
Would he confess to himself, that, as he looked at her cherished picture, another face, with a more brilliant air and a more dazzling beauty, came between him and the silent image before him ? Dared he to think, that, in his frequent visits to Miss Sandford, the ties which bound him to his betrothed were daily weakening? —that he found a charm in the very caprices and waywardness of the new love, which the unvarying constancy and placid affection of the old had never created ? The one put her heart unreservedly into his keeping; she knew nothing of concealment, and he read her as he would an unsophisticated child; there was not a nook or cranny in her heart, he thought, that he had not explored. The other was full of surprises ; she had as many phases as an April day; and from mere curiosity, if from no other motive, Greenleaf was piqued to follow on to understand her real character. The apprehensions he felt at first wore away; he became accustomed to her measured sentences and her apparently artificial manner. What seemed affectation now became a natural expression. The secret influence she exerted increased, and, at length, possessed him wholly while in her company. It drew him as the moon draws the tides, silently, unconsciously, but with a power he could not resist. It was only when he was away from her that he could reason himself into a belief in his independence.
Greenleaf and Easehnann were at Nahant at the close of the season. A few straggling visitors only remained; the fashionable world had returned to the city. The friends wandered over the rocky peninsula, walked the long beach that leads to the main land, sketched the sea from the shore, and the shore from the sea, and watched and transferred the changing phases of Nature in sunshine and in storm. They were fortunate enough to see one magnificent tempest, by which the ocean was lashed into fury, breaking in thunder over the rugged coast-line, and dashing spray sheer over the huge back of Egg Rock.
Miss Sandford's threat was carried into execution ; the family came to the hotel, and, for a week, Greenleaf and his friend were most devoted in their attentions. Marcia was charmed with their sketches, and, with a tact as delicate as it is rare, gave them time for their cherished pursuits, and planned excursions only for their unemployed hours. They collected colored mosses, star-fish, and other marine curiosities; they sailed, fished, scampered over the rocks, drove over the beach at twilight, sang, danced, and bowled. And when weary of active amusement, they reclined on the grass and listened to the melancholy rote of the sea,—the steady pulsations of its mighty heart.
Easelmann, with his usual raillery, congratulated his friend on his prospects, and declared that the pupil was surpassing the teacher in the beau’s arts.
“Finely, Greenleaf! You are just coming to the interesting part of the process. You are a little flushed, however,—not quite cool enough. A wily adversary she is ; if you allow your feelings to run away with you, it’s all up. She will hold the reins as coolly as you held your trotting pony yesterday. Keep the bits out of your mouth, my boy.”
“Don’t trouble yourself. I shall keep cool. I am not going to make a fool of myself by proposing.”
“Oh, you aren’t? We shall see. But she’ll refuse you, and then you’ll come to your senses.”
“I deuscdly afraid she would accept me.”
“The vanity of mankind ! Don’t tell me that women are vain. Every man thinks himself irresistible,—that he has only to call, to have the women come round him like colts around a farmer with a measure of corn. Shake the kernels in your dish, and cry, ‘Kerjock ! ’ Perhaps she will come.”
“I suppose you think, with Hosea Bigelow, that
’Ta’n’t a knowin’ kind o’ cattle
That is ketched with mouldy com.’"
“I needn’t tell you that Marcia Sandford is knowing,—too knowing to let an enthusiastic lover relapse into a humdrum husband. You amuse her now; for she likes to enjoy poetry and sentiment, dances, rides, and rambles, in company with a man of fresh susceptibilities; —a good phrase that, 'fresh susceptibilities.’—The instant you become serious and ask her to marry you, the dream is over; she will hate you.”
“Well, what is to become of a lady like this,—a creature you think too bright, if not too good, for human nature’s daily food ? ”
“An easy prophecy. The destiny of a pretty woman is to catch lovers,”
“‘The eat doth play, and after slay,’” said Greenleaf, laughing.
“Play while you can, my dear boy; if she is a cat, you’ll get the final coup soon enough. To finish the fortune-telling,— she will continue her present delightful pursuits as long as youth and beauty last; and the beauty will last a long time after the youth has gone. She may pick up some young man of fortune and marry him; but it is not likely; the rich always marry the rich. Just this side of the blasé period, while still in the fulness of her charms, she will open her battery of smiles upon some wealthy old widower and compel him to place her at the head of his establishment. Then, with a secure position and increased facilities, she will draw new throngs of admirers, as long as she has power to fascinate, or until there are no more fools left."
“A pleasing picture of domestic felicity for the husband !"
“Precisely what be deserves. When an old fool marries a young flirt, he deserves to wear whatever honors she may bestow upon him.”
“Do you remember how you artfully persuaded me into this intimacy? And now you are making game of me for following your own suggestions.”
“Me? I never suggest; I never persuade.”
“You did, you crafty old fox ! You advised me to fall in love with her.”
"Did I ? Well, I think now you have gone far enough. A sip from the cup of enchantment is quite sufficient ; you needn’t swallow the whole of it.”
"But people can’t always control themselves. Can you trust yourself to stop this side of insensibility, when you take ether ? or be sure you won’t get drunk, if you commence the evening with a party of dissipated fellows ?"
"That will do, my friend. I know there are people who are fond of confessing their weakness ; don’t you do it. Where is the supremacy of mind and will, and all that nonsense, if a man can't amuse himself with a clever woman’s artifices without tumbling into the snare he is watching?”
"We’ll see how you succeed with the charming widow,—whether the wise man, when his own jecur is pierced with the arrow, may not show it, as well as other people. And by-the-by, you will have an excellent opportunity for your experiment. Marcia and I are going to take a sail this afternoon, and you can entertain Mrs. Sandford while we are gone.”
Easelmann softly whistled.
[ To be continued. ]