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Page) "The Imperial is an immense, showy vessel, one of the
first-class river steamers, which completely dwarfs the Laurel Hill, Empire
Parish, and others that we have been long accustomed to look upon as leviathans.
But it was not her size nor fine equipments which impressed the eager multitudes
who thronged to see her; it was the fact that she was the first freight boat
which had ventured down the Mississippi since the fall of Vicksburg and Port
Hudson; and every one who gazed upon her proud form saw in her the embodiment of
reawakened commerce with the Mississippi Valley. She staid in
New Orleans just
long enough to receive the greetings of hundreds, and then went on to
Carrollton, near the city, where she unloaded her living freight.
"The speedy arrival of this
vessel here—so immediately following the capture of the rebel strongholds—tells
as significant a story of the downfall of the rebellion as would the destruction
of a rebel army. Let Commerce once resume her accustomed channels, and all the
eloquence of BELIAL himself will not persuade the people of the South to
continue the horrid pastime of cutting their brothers' throats—for what?—merely
that JEFF DAVIS and his handful of wily oligarchs shall retain power to count
their heads of human cattle, and build up on this Continent a temple of
Despotism upon the ruins of human liberty."
[Entered according to Act of
Congress, in the Year 1863, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the
District Court for the Southern District of New York.]
CHARLES READE, ESQ.
Printed from the Manuscript and
early Proof-sheets purchased by the Proprietors of "Harper's Weekly."
To' return to the Bank: Skinner
came back from the Dodds' that miserable afternoon in a state of genuine
agitation and regret. He was human, and therefore mixed; and their desolation
had shocked him.
The footman told him Mr. Hardie
was not at home; gone to London, he believed. Skinner walked away dejected. What
did this mean? Had he left the country?
He smiled at his fears, and felt
positive Mr. Hardie had misled the servants, and was quietly waiting for him in
the Bank parlor.
It was now dusk: he went round to
that little dark nook of the garden the parlor window opened on, and tapped:
there was no reply; the room looked empty. He tried the sash: it yielded: Mr.
Hardie had been too occupied with embezzling another's property to take common
precautions in defense of his own; never in his life before had he neglected to
fasten the iron shutters with his own hand, and to-day he had left the very
window unfastened. This augured ill. "He is off: he has done me along with the
rest," thought Skinner. He stepped into the room, found a lucifer box, shut the
shutters, lighted a candle, and went peering about among the Banker's papers, to
see if he could find a clew to his intentions: and, as he pottered and peered,
he quaked as well: a detector by dishonest means feels thief-like; and is what
he feels. He made some little discoveries, that guided him in his own conduct;
he felt more and more sure his employer would outwit him if he could; and
resolved it should be diamond cut diamond.
The church clock struck one.
He started at the hour, crept
out, and closed the window softly: then away by the garden gate.
A light was still burning in
Alfred's room: and at this Skinner had another touch of compunction; "There is
one won't sleep this night, along of our work," thought he.
At three next afternoon Mr.
He had gone up to town to change
the form of the deposit:—He took care to think of it as a deposit still, the act
of deposit having been complete, the withdrawal incomplete, and by no fault of
his, for he had offered it back; but Fate and Accident had interposed—He had
converted the notes into gold direct, and the bills into gold through notes;
this was like going into the river to hide his trail. Next process: he turned
his gold into £500 notes; and came flying home with them.
His return was greeted by Skinner
with a sigh of relief. Hardie heard it, interpreted it aright, and sent for him
into the parlor: and there told him, with a great affectation of frankness, what
he had done: then asked significantly if there was any news at Albion Villa.
Skinner, in reply, told Mr.
Hardie of the distress he had witnessed up at Albion Villa: "And, Sir," said he,
lowering his voice, "Mr. Alfred helped carry the body up stairs.—It is a nice
mess altogether, Sir, when you come to think."
"Ah! all the better," was the
cool reply, "he will be useful to let us know what we want; he will tell Jane,
and Jane me. You don't think he will live, do you?"
"Live! no: and then who will know
the money is here?"
"Who should know? Did not he say
he had just landed, and been shipwrecked? Shipwrecked men do not bring fourteen
thousand pounds ashore." The speaker's eyes sparkled; Skinner watched him
demurely. "Skinner," said he, solemnly, "I believe my daughter Jane is right;
and that Providence really interferes sometimes in the affairs of this world:
you know how I have struggled, to save my family from disgrace and poverty:
those struggles have failed in a great degree: but Heaven has seen them, and
saved this money from the sea, and dropped
it into my very hands to retrieve
my fortunes with. "I must be grateful: spend a portion of it in charity; and
rear a noble fortune on the rest. Confound it all!"
And his crest-fallen countenance
showed some ugly misgiving had flashed on him quite suddenly.
"What, Sir? what?" asked Skinner,
"THE receipt? Oh, is that all?
you have got that," said Skinner, very coolly.
"What makes you think so?"
inquired the other, keenly. He instantly suspected Skinner of having it.
"Why, Sir, I saw it in his hand."
"Then it has got to Albion Villa;
and we are ruined."
"No, no, Sir; you won't hear me:
I am sure I saw it fall out of his hand when he was taken ill: and, I think, but
I won't be sure, he fell on it. Any way, there was nothing in his hands when I
delivered him at Albion Villa; so it must be here: I dare say you have thrown it
into a drawer or somewhere, promiscuously."
"No, no, Skinner," said Mr.
Hardie, with increasing alarm: "it is useless for us to deceive ourselves: I was
not three minutes in the room, and thought of nothing but getting to town and
cashing the bills."
He rang the bell sharply, and on
Betty coming in asked her what she had done with that paper that was on the
"Took it up and put it on the
table, Sir. This was it, I think." And she laid her finger upon a paper.
"No, no!" said Mr. Hardie: "the
one I mean was much smaller than that."
"What," said she with that
astonishing memory for trifles people have, who never read, "was was it a little
crumpled up paper? lying by the basket?"
"Yes! yes! that sounds like it."
"Oh, I put that into the basket."
Mr. Hardie's eye fell directly on
the basket, but it was empty. She caught his glance, and told him she had
emptied it in the dust-hole as usual. Mr. Hardie uttered an angry exclamation.
Betty, an old servant of his wife's, resented it with due dignity by tossing her
head as she retired.
"There is no help for it," said
Mr. Hardie, bitterly; "we must go and grub in the dust-hole now."
Why, Sir, your name is not on it
"What does that matter? A man is
bound by the act of his agent: besides it is my form, and my initials are on it.
Come, let us put a good face on the thing." And he led the way to the kitchen;
and got up a little laugh, and asked the scullery maid if she could show Mr.
Skinner and him the dust-hole. She stared, but obeyed, and the pair followed
her, making merry.
The dust-hole was empty.
The girl explained: "It is the
dustman's day: he came at eleven o'clock in the morning and carr'd all the dust
away: and grumbled at the paper and the bones he did. So I told him beggars
mustn't be choosers: just like his impudence! when he gets it for nothing, and
sells it for a mint outside the town." The unwonted visitors left her in dead
silence almost before she had finished her sentence.
Mr. Hardie sat down in his parlor
thoroughly discomposed; Skinner watched him furtively.
At last the former broke out:
"This is the devil's doing; the devil in person. No intelligence nor ability can
resist such luck. I almost wish we had never meddled with it: we shall never
feel safe, never be safe."
Skinner made light of the
matter—treated the receipt as thrown into the sea. "Why, Sir," said he, "by this
time it will have found its way to that monstrous heap of ashes on the London
road; and who will ever look for it there? or notice it if they find it?" Hardie
shook his head: "That monstrous heap is all sold every year to the farmers. That
Receipt, worth £14,000 to me, will be strewed on the soil for manure: then some
farmer's man, or farmer's boy that goes to the Sunday school, will read it, see
Captain Dodd's name, and bring it to Albion Villa in hopes of a sixpence: a
sixpence. Heaven help the man who does a doubtful act, and leaves damnatory
evidence, on paper, kicking about the world."
From that hour the cash Hardie
carried in his bosom, without a right to it, began to blister.
He thought of telling the dustman
he had lost a paper, and setting him to examine the mountain of ashes on the
London Road: but here caution stepped in; how could he describe the paper
without awakening curiosity and defeating his own end? He gave that up. It was
better to let the sleeping dog lie.
Finally, he resolved to buy
security in a world where after all one has to buy every thing; so he employed
an adroit agent, and quietly purchased that mountain, the refuse of all
Bankington. But he felt so ill used, he paid for it in his own notes; by this
means the treaty reverted to the primitive form of barter:* ashes for rags.
This transaction he concealed
from his confederate.
When he had completed it, he was
not yet secure; for another day had passed, and Captain Dodd alive still. Men
often recover from apoplexy, especially when they survive the first twenty-four
hours. Should he live, he would not now come into any friendly arrangement with
the man who had so nearly caused his death. So then good-by to the matrimonial
combination Hardie had at first relied on to patch his debt to Alfred, and his
*Or exchange of commodities
without the aid of money: see Homer, and Welsh Villages, passim.
Then as to keeping the money and
defying Dodd, that would be very difficult and dangerous; mercantile bills are
traceable things: and criminal prosecutions awkward ones. He found himself in a
situation he could not see his way through by any mental effort; there were so
many objections to every course, and so many to its opposite. "He walked among
fires," as the Latins say. But the more he pondered on the course to be taken
should Dodd live, the plainer did this dilemma stare him in the face; either he
must refund, or fly the country with another man's money, and leave behind him
the name of a thief. Parental love, and the remains of self-respect, writhed at
this thought; and with these combined a sentiment less genuine, but by no means
feeble—the love of reputation. So it was with a reluctant and sick heart he went
to the shipping-office, and peered at the posters, to see when the next ship
sailed for the United States. Still he did go.
Intent on his own schemes, and
expecting every day to be struck in front, he did not observe that a man in a
rusty velveteen coat followed him, and observed this act; and indeed all his
Another perplexity was, when he
should break. There were objections to doing it immediately; and objections to
putting it off.
With all this the man was in a
ferment: by day he sat waiting and fearing, by night he lay sleepless and
thinking; and, though his stoical countenance retained its composure, the
furrows deepened in it, and the iron nerves began to twitch at times, from
strain of mind and want of sleep, and that rack, suspense. Not a night that he
did not awaken a dozen times from his brief dozes with a start, and a dread of
exposure by some mysterious, unforeseen, means.
It is remarkable how truths
sometimes flash on men at night in hours of nervous excitement: it was in one of
these nightly reveries David Dodd's pocket-book flashed back upon Mr. Hardie. He
saw it before his eyes quite plain, and on the inside of the leather cover a
slip of paper pasted, and written on in pencil or pale ink, he could not recall
What was that writing? It might
be the numbers of the notes, the description of the bills. Why had he not taken
it out of the dying man's pocket? "Fool! fool!" he groaned; "to do any thing by
Another night he got a far
severer shock. Lying in his bed dozing; and muttering, as usual, he was suddenly
startled out of that uneasy slumber by three tremendous knocks at the street
He sprang out of bed, and in his
confusion made sure the officers of justice were come for him: he began to
huddle on his clothes with a vague notion of flight.
He had got on his trowsers and
slippers, and was looking under his pillow for the fatal cash, when he heard
himself called loudly and repeatedly by name; but this time the sound came from
the garden into which his bedroom looked. He opened it very softly, in
trepidation and wonder, which were speedily doubled by what met his eyes ; for
there, right in front of his window, stood an unearthly figure; corresponding in
every particular to that notion of a ghost in which we are reared, and which,
when our nerves are healthy, we can ridicule as it deserves; but somehow it is
never cleaned out of our imagination so thoroughly as it is out of our judgment.
The figure was white as a sheet,
and seemed supernaturally tall; and it cried out in a voice like a wounded
lion's, "You villain! you Hardie! give me back my money: my fourteen thousand
pounds. Give me my children's money, or may your children die before your eyes:
give me my darlings' money; or may the eternal curse of God light on you and
yours, you scoundrel!"
And the figure kneeled on the
grass, and repeated the terrible imprecation almost in the same words; that
Hardie shrank back, and, resolute as he was, cowered with superstitious awe.
But this sentiment soon gave way
to vulgar fears; the man would alarm the town. And in fact Mr. Hardie, in the
midst of his agitation, was dimly conscious of hearing a window open softly, not
very far from him. But it was a dark night. He put his head out in great
agitation, and whispered, "Hush! hush! And I'll bring it you down directly."
Internally cursing his hard fate,
he got the fatal cash; put on his coat; hunted for the key of the Bank parlor,
and, having found it, went softly down the stairs, unlocked the door, and went
to open the shutters.
At this moment his ear caught a
murmur; a low buzzing of voices in the garden.
He naturally thought that Captain
Dodd was exposing him to some of the townspeople; he was puzzled what to do;
and, like a cautious man, as he was, remained passive, but on the watch.
Presently the voices were quiet,
and he heard footsteps come very slowly toward the window at which he stood, and
then make for the little gate. On this he slipped into the kitchen, which faced
the street, and got to a window there, and listened. His only idea was to catch
their intentions, if possible, and meet them accordingly. He dared not open the
window; for above him on the pavement he saw a female figure half standing half
crouching: but soon that figure rushed wildly out of his sight to meet the
footsteps, and then he ventured to open the window, and, listening, heard cries
of despair and a young heart-broken voice say her father was dead.
"Ah!—that is all right," muttered
Still even this profound egotist
was not yet so hardened but that he felt one chill of horror at himself for the
thought; a passing chill.
He listened and listened; and
by-and-by he heard the slow feet recommence their journey, amidst sobs and
sighs; and those sorrowful feet,
and the sobs and sighs of his
causing, got fainter and fainter, retreated, and left him in quiet possession of
the fourteen thousand pounds he had brought down to give it up: two minutes ago
it was not worth as many pence to him.
He drew a long breath of relief.
"It is mine; I am to keep it. It is the will of Heaven."
He went to his bed again, and by
a resolute effort composed himself, and determined to sleep. And in fact he was
just dropping off, when suddenly he started wide awake again: for it recurred to
him vividly that a window in his house had opened, while David was cursing him
and demanding his children's money.
Half a dozen people and more
slept on that side of the house.
Whose window could it be?
He walked among fires.
A LITTLE crowd of persons stood
in front of the old Bank, looking half stupefied at the shutters, and at a piece
of paper pasted on them announcing a suspension, only for a month or so, and
laying the blame on certain correspondents not specified.
So great was the confidence
inspired by the old Bank, that many said it would come round, it must come
round, in a month: but other of Mr. Hardie's unfortunate clients recognized in
the above a mere formula to let them down by degrees: they had seen many
statements as hopeful end in a dividend of sixpence in the pound.
Before the day closed the scene
at the Bank door was heart-rending: respectable persons, reduced to pauperism in
that one day, kept arriving and telling their fellow-sufferers their little all
was with Hardie, and nothing before them but the work-house or the alms-house:
ruined mothers came and held up their ruined children for the Banker to see; and
the doors were hammered at, and the house as well as the Bank was beleaguered by
a weeping, wailing, despairing crowd.
But, like an idle wave beating on
a rock, all this human misery dashed itself in vain against the Banker's brick
walls and shutters, hard to them as his very heart.
The next day they mobbed Alfred
and hissed him at the backdoor. Jane was too ashamed and too frightened to stir
out. Mr. Hardie sat calmly putting the finishing strokes to his fabricated
Some innocent and excited victims
went to the mayor for redress; to the aldermen, the magistrates: in vain.
Toward afternoon the Banker's
cool contempt for his benefactors, whose lives he had darkened, received a
temporary check; a heavy stone was flung at the Bank shutters: this ferocious
blow made him start, and the place rattle: it was the signal for a shower; and
presently tink, tink, went the windows of the house, and in came the stones
starring the mirrors, upsetting the chairs, denting the papered walls, chipping
the mantle-pieces, shivering the bell-glasses and statuettes, and strewing the
room with dirty pebbles, and painted fragments and glittering ruin.
Hardie winced: this was the sort
of appeal to touch him. But soon he recovered his sang froid: "Thank you," said
he, "I'm much obliged to you; now I'm in the right and you are in the wrong."
And he put himself under protection of the police; and fee'd them so royally
that they were zealous on his behalf, and rough and dictatorial even with those
who thronged the place only to moan and lament and hold up their ruined
children: "You must move on, you Misery," said the Police. And they were right;
Misery gains nothing by stopping the way; nothing by bemoaning itself.
But if the Banker, naturally
egotistical, and now entirely wrapped in his own plans, and fears, and
well-earned torments, was deaf to the anguish of his clients, there were others
in his house who felt it keenly and deeply. Alfred and Jane were heart-broken:
they sat hand in hand in a little room, drawn closer by misfortune; and heard
the groans at their door; and the tears of pity ran down their own cheeks hot
with shame; and Alfred wrote on the fly-leaf of his "Ethics" a vow to pay every
shilling his father owed these poor people—before he died. It was like him, and
like his happy age; at which the just and the generous can command, in
imagination, the means to do kindred deeds.
Soon he found, to his horror,
that he had seen but a small per-centage of the distress his father had caused;
the greater griefs, as usual, staid at home: behind the gadding woes lay a
terrible number of silent, decent, ruined homes, and broken hearts, and mixed
sorrows so unmerited, so complicated, so piteous, and so cruel, that he was
ready to tear his hair to know them and not be able to relieve them instantly.
Of that mere sample I give a mere
sample: divine the bulk then; and revolve a page of human history often turned
by the people, but too little studied by statisticians and legislators.
Mr. Esgar, a respectable
merchant, had heavy engagements, to meet which his money lay at the old Bank.
Living at a distance he did not hear the news till near dinner-time: and he had
promised to take his daughters to a ball that night. He did so; left them there;
went home, packed up their clothes and valuables, and next day levanted with
them to America, taking all the money he could scrape together in London: and so
he passed his ruin on to others. Esgar was one of those who wear their honesty
long; but loose: it was his first disloyal act in business: "Dishonesty made me
dishonest," was his excuse. Valeat quantum.
John Shaw, a steady footman, had
saved and saved, from twenty-one years old to thirty-eight, for "Footman's
Paradise," a public house. He