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CROSS-BELT PLATE OF A MASSACHUSETTS SOLDIER, WITH
REBEL MINIE BALL EMBEDDED.—[SEE
[Entered according to Act of
Congress, in the Year 1862, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the
District Court for the Southern District of New York.]
AUTHOR OF "THE WOMAN IN
WHITE," "DEAD SECRET,"
ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN M'LENAN.
CAPTAIN WRAGGE stopped nearly
midway in the one little row of houses composing Rosemary Lane, and let himself
and his guest in at the door of his lodgings with his own key. As they entered
the passage a careworn woman, in a widow's cap, made her appearance with a
candle. "My niece," said the captain, presenting Magdalen; "my niece on a visit
to York. She has kindly consented to occupy your empty bedroom. Consider it let,
if you please, to my niece—and be very particular in airing the sheets. Is Mrs.
Wragge up stairs? Very good. You may lend me your candle. My dear girl, Mrs.
Wragge's boudoir is on the first
floor; Mrs. Wragge is visible. Allow me to show you the way up."
As he ascended the stairs first
the care-worn widow whispered piteously to Magdalen: "I hope you'll pay me,
miss. Your uncle doesn't."
The captain threw open the door
of the front room on the first floor, and disclosed a female figure, arrayed in
a gown of tarnished amber-colored satin, seated solitary on a small chair, with
dingy old gloves on its hands, with a tattered old book on its knees, and with
one little bedroom candle by its side. The figure terminated at its upper
extremity in a large, smooth, white round face like a moon, encircled by a cap
and green ribbons, and dimly irradiated by eyes of mild and faded blue, which
looked straight forward into
vacancy, and took not the
smallest notice of Magdalen's appearance on the opening of the door.
"Mrs. Wragge!" cried the captain,
shouting at her as if she was fast asleep—"Mrs. Wragge!" The lady of the faded
blue eyes slowly rose to an apparently interminable height. When she had at last
attained an upright position she towered to a stature of two or three inches
over six feet. Giants of both sexes are, by a wise dispensation of Providence,
created for the most part gentle. If Mrs. Wragge and a lamb had been placed side
by side, comparison, under those circumstances, would have exposed the lamb as a
"Tea, dear?" inquired Mrs. Wragge,
looking submissively down at her husband, whose head when he stood on tip-toe
barely reached her shoulder.
"Miss Vanstone the younger," said
the captain, presenting Magdalen. "Our fair relative, whom I have met by a
fortunate accident. Our guest for the night. Our guest!" reiterated the captain,
shouting once more, as if the tall lady was still fast asleep, in spite of the
plain testimony of her own eyes to the contrary.
A smile expressed itself (in
faint outline) on the large vacant space of Mrs. Wragge's countenance. "Oh?" she
said, interrogatively. "Oh, indeed? Please, miss, will you sit down? I'm
sorry—no, I don't mean I'm sorry; I mean I'm glad—" She stopped, and consulted
her husband by a helpless look.
"Glad, of course!" shouted the
"Glad, of course," echoed the
giantess of the amber satin, more meekly than ever.
"Mrs. Wragge is not deaf,"
explained the captain. "She's only a little slow. Constitutionally torpid—if I
may use the expression. I am merely loud with her (and I beg you will honor me
by being loud too) as a necessary stimulant to her ideas. Shout at her—and her
mind comes up to time. Speak to her—and she drifts miles away from you directly.
Mrs. Wragge instantly
acknowledged the stimulant. "Tea, dear?" she inquired, for the second time.
"Put your cap straight!" shouted
her husband. "I beg ten thousand pardons," he resumed, again addressing himself
to Magdalen. "The sad truth is, I am a martyr to my own sense of order. All
untidiness, all want of system and regularity, causes me the acutest irritation.
My attention is distracted, my composure is upset; I can't rest till things are
set straight again. Externally speaking, Mrs. Wragge is, to my infinite regret,
the crookedest woman I ever met with. More to the right!" shouted the captain,
as Mrs. Wragge, like a well-trained child, presented herself with her revised
head-dress for her husband's inspection.
Mrs. Wragge immediately pulled
the cap to the left. Magdalen rose and set it right for her. The moon-face of
the giantess brightened for the first time. She looked admiringly at Magdalen's
cloak and bonnet. "Do you like dress, miss?" she asked suddenly, in a
confidential whisper. "I do."
"Show Miss Vanstone her room,"
said the captain, looking as if the whole house belonged to him. "The
spare-room, the landlady's spare-room, on the. third floor front. Offer Miss
Vanstone all articles connected with the toilet of which she may stand in need.
She has no luggage with her. Supply the deficiency; and then come back and make
Mrs. Wragge acknowledged the
receipt of these lofty directions by a look of placid bewilderment, and led the
way out of the room, Magdalen following her with a candle presented by time
attentive captain. As soon as they were alone on the landing outside, Mrs.
Wragge raised the tattered old book which she had been reading when Magdalen was
first presented to her, and which she had never let out of her hand since, and
slowly tapped herself on the forehead with it. "Oh, my poor head!" said the tall
lady, in meek soliloquy; "it's Buzzing again worse than ever!"
"Buzzing?" repeated Magdalen, in
the utmost astonishment.
Mrs. Wragge ascended the stairs
without offering any explanation, stopped at one of the rooms on the second
floor, and led the way in.
"This is not the third floor,"
"This is not my room, surely?"
"Wait a bit," pleaded Mrs. Wragge.
"Wait a bit, miss, before we go up any higher. I've got the Buzzing in my head
worse than ever. Please wait for me till I'm a little better again."
"Shall I ask for help?" inquired
Magdalen. " Shall I call the landlady?"
"Help?" echoed Mrs. Wragge.
"Bless you, I don't want help! I'm used to it. I've had the Buzzing in my head,
off and on—how many years?" She stopped reflected, lost herself, and suddenly
tried a question in despair. "Have you ever been at Darch's Dining-Rooms in
London?" she asked, with an appearance of the deepest interest. -
"No," replied Magdalen, wondering
at the strange inquiry.
"That's where the Buzzing in my
head first begun," said Mrs. Wragge, following the new clew with the deepest
attention and anxiety. "I was employed to wait on the gentlemen at Darch's
Dining-Rooms—I was. The gentlemen all came together; the gentlemen were all
hungry together; the gentlemen all gave their orders together—" She stopped, and
tapped her head again despondently with the tattered old book.
"And you had to keep all their
orders in your memory, separate one from the other?" suggested Magdalen, helping
her out. "And the trying to do that confused you?"
"That's it!" said Mrs. Wragge,
becoming violently excited in a moment. "Boiled pork and greens and pease-pudding
for Number One. Stewed beef and carrots and gooseberry tart for Number Two. Cut
of mutton, and quick about it, well done, and plenty of fat, for Number Three.
Codfish and parsnips, two chops to follow, hot-and-hot, or I'll be the death of
you, for Number Four. Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Carrots and gooseberry
tart—pease-pudding and plenty of fat—pork and beef and mutton, and cut 'em all,
and quick about it—stout for one, and ale for t'other—and stale bread here, and
new bread there—and this gentleman likes cheese, and that gentleman
doesn't—Matilda, Tilda, Tilda, Tilda, fifty times over, till I didn't know my
own name again—oh lord! oh lord!! oh lord!!! all together, all at the same time,
all out of temper, all buzzing in my poor head like forty thousand million
bees—don't tell the captain! don't tell the captain!" The unfortunate creature
dropped the tattered old book, and beat both hands on her head, with a look of
blank terror fixed on the door.
"Hush! hush!" said Magdalen. "The
captain hasn't heard you. I know what is the matter with your head now. Let me
She dipped a towel in water, and
pressed it on the hot and helpless head which Mrs. Wragge submitted to her with
the docility of a sick child.
"What a pretty hand you've got!"
said the poor creature, feeling the relief of the coolness, and taking
Magdalen's hand admiringly in her own. "How soft and white it is! I try to be a
lady; I always keep my gloves on—but I can't get my hands like yours. I'm nicely
dressed though, ain't I? I like dress: it's a comfort to me. I'm always happy
when I'm looking at my things. I say—you won't be angry with me?—I should so
like to try your bonnet on."
Magdalen humored her, with the
ready compassion of the young. She stood smiling and nodding at herself in the
glass, with the bonnet perched on the top of her head. "I had one, as pretty as
this, once," she said—"only it was white, not black. I wore it when the captain
"Where did you meet with him?"
putting the question as a chance
means of increasing her scanty stock of information on the subject of Captain
"At the Dining-Rooms," said Mrs.
Wragge. "He was the hungriest and the loudest to wait upon of the lot of 'em. I
made more mistakes with him than I did with all the rest of them put together.
He used to swear—oh, didn't he use to swear! When he left off' swearing at me,
he married me. There was others wanted me besides him. Bless you, I had my pick.
Why not? When you have a trifle of money left you, that you didn't expect, if
that don't make a lady of you, what does? Isn't a lady to have her pick? I had
my trifle of money, and I had my pick, and I picked the captain—I did. He was
the smartest and the shortest of them all. He took care of me and my money. I'm
here, the money's gone. Don't you put that towel down on the table—he won't have
that! Don't move his razors—don't please, or I shall forget which is which. I've
got to remember which is which to-morrow morning. Bless you, the captain don't
shave himself! He had me taught. I shave him. I do his hair, and cut his
nails—he's awfully particular about his nails. So he is about his trowsers. And
his shoes. And his newspaper in the morning. And his breakfasts, and lunches,
and dinners, and teas—" She stopped, struck by a sudden recollection, looked
about her, observed the tattered old book on the floor, and clasped her hands in
despair. "I've lost the place!" she exclaimed, helplessly. "Oh, mercy, what will
become of me! I've lost the place."
"Never mind," said Magdalen;
"I'll soon find the place for you again."
She picked up the book, looked
into the pages, and found that the object of Mrs. Wragge's anxiety was nothing
more important than an old-fashioned Treatise on the Art of Cookery, reduced
under the usual heads of Fish, Flesh, and Fowl, and containing the customary
series of recipes. Turning over the leaves, Magdalen came to one particular
page, thickly studded with little drops of moisture, half dry. "Curious!" she
said. "If this was any thing but a cookery-book I should say somebody had been
crying over it."
"Somebody?" echoed Mrs. Wragge,
with a stare of amazement. "It isn't somebody—it's Me. Thank you kindly, that's
the place sure enough. Bless you, I'm used to crying over it! You'd cry too if
you had to get the captain's dinners out of it. As sure as ever I sit down to
this book the Buzzing in my head begins again. Who's to make it out? Sometimes I
think I've got it, and it all goes away from me. Sometimes I think I haven't got
it, and it all comes back in a heap. Look here! Here's what he's ordered for his
breakfast to-morrow: 'Omelette with Herbs. Beat up two eggs with a little water
or milk, salt, pepper, chives, and parsley. Mince small.' There! mince small!
How am I to mince small, when it's all mixed up and running? 'Put a piece of
butter the size of your thumb into the frying-pan.' Look at my thumb and look at
yours! whose size does she mean? 'Boil but not brown.' If it mustn't be brown
what color must it be? She won't tell me; she expects me to know, and I don't.
'Pour in the omelette.' There! I can do that. 'Allow it to set, raise it round
the edge; when done, turn it over to double it.' Oh, the numbers of times I
turned it over and doubled it in my head before you came in to-night! 'Keep it
soft; put the dish on the frying-pan and turn it over.' Which am I to turn
over—oh mercy, try the cold towel again, and tell me which, the dish or the
"Put the dish on the frying-pan,"
said Magdalen, "and then turn the frying-pan over. That is what it means, I
"Thank you kindly," said Mrs.
Wragge, "I want to get it into my head; please say it again."
WILLIAM A. JACKSON, EX-COACHMAN OF JEFF DAVIS.—[SEE
"I SAY—YOU WON'T BE ANGRY WITH ME?—I SHOULD SO LIKE
TO TRY YOUR BONNET ON."