« AnteriorContinuar »
THE ALDERMAN OF YORK.
DAY began to dawn upon the tree-tops before Noisy Tom would consent to move; and he had no sooner made the experiment to do so, than he found his limbs too feeble to permit him.
What was next to be done, was the question; and while the Alderman was explaining how a tipsy man could walk who could n't stand, Moses threw him upon his shoulders, and commenced his descent toward the 'Shades.' The Alderman also laid his hand upon him to keep him steady; but Noisy Tom was too heavy for the yet undeveloped muscle of Moses Dolebear. He accordingly laid him down; and after the sun had arisen, commenced rubbing him much in the same way that a hostler would curry a horse. It answered the purpose much better than could be expected, for with the warmth of the sun, his stiffened limbs once more became pliant; and no child ever cut more capers upon first discovering it could walk, than he did upon making a similar discovery of himself.
His progress was slow, however, for all that; and the sun had already reached the tips of the western mountains before they approached the 'Shades.' The gentlemen had not generally come in from their amusements at the billiard-tables and bowling-saloons; and many of the ladies were either yet taking the air in walking upon the margin of the lakes, or amusing themselves in sailing-parties.
But Miss Minikin, and a knot of ladies belonging to 'The Select Humane Society,' were scanning the sides of the mountain, in expectation of being the first to welcome their wandering friends back to the hospitalities of the hotel; and as the mountain was beginning to throw out its longest shadows upon the plains below, probabilities seemed to favor a suggestion of one of the spinssters, 'that it would be dreadful if Noisy Tom had a young wife, for her to be compelled to entertain the idea that she were doomed another day to mourn his absence.' *
But these touching sentiments, that seem to have a dwelling-place in the heart of woman, had scarcely been expressed, when the Alderman and Noisy Tom emerged from a thick wood into plain sight. Miss Minikin and the lady whose sentiments were just related, uttered a scream a-piece; the latter then rushed to the chamber of Mrs. Alderman Turtlehovey, to inform her of the tidings, while the former remained upon the piazza to welcome Noisy Tom.
The meeting between the returned gentlemen and the ladies was all it should have been, particularly on the part of the latter; but the damage the absentees had sustained, and especially that of Noisy Tom, had dampened their natural ardor, and all the favor the last-named gentleman demanded was, to be put to bed, while Alderman Turtlehovey was urgent for something to eat.
Miss Minikin superintended, as far as modesty would permit, the arrangement for forwarding the request of Noisy Tom, while the Alderman was placed
at a table prepared for no one but himself. The landlord knew what suited his palate, and it was so much to his liking that it would be deemed incredible, were the items enumerated that he consumed. He never spoke but once during the whole meal, and then only in a half-whisper said: 'D―n the dogs.'
It was whispered, on the return of the lady who informed Mrs. Turtlehovey of the safety of her husband, that the latter was sound asleep when the former entered the room to announce the fact, and after she had been informed of it, instead of exhibiting any pleasure, drowsily remarked, 'that the Alderman was a self-made man, and knew how to take care of himself,' and having informed the ambassadress that she had nothing more to say, reclined again upon her pillow.
In the course of the evening, a meeting was called by the ladies, to express their thanks to Moses Dolebear, and which was terminated, as will be seen, by adopting several resolutions, and voting him a piece of plate. The game was completely in the hands of Miss Minikin, but as she was still a spinster, and by being too forward might disgust the gentlemen, and never arrive at any other dignity than that she already possessed, if dignity it may be called, to thwart the intentions of nature, she therefore managed to place Mrs. Ebenezer in the chair, while she was appointed to the more humble office of secretary.
Parliamentary rules are generally understood in so simple a matter as the one now referred to, but it is proper to say, that precedents were not deemed material by the presiding officer, so long as they could get at the merits of the case in any easier way.
The proposition for the presentation of a piece of plate being fairly before the meeting, a difficulty arose as to what it should be. One lady very properly observed that it would be absurd to vote spoons or pitchers to such a savage as Moses Dolebear; and the young lady who had pricked her fingers while examining his cap, proposed he should be presented with a new hat.
This proposition brought with it considerable applause, and just as it was about being put to the sense of the meeting by Mrs. Sylvanus Ebenezer, a very young and pretty girl, who stood behind, and almost concealed by a piano, proposed 'that a silver trap be substituted in place of the hat.' Considering the appropriateness of such an implement to the occupation of the reci pient, in connection with the youthfulness of the ingenuous girl who offered the resolution, it brought down a unanimous hearty approval, with a hip, hip, hurra! from several gentlemen who indecorously stood grinning at the door.
Order being at length restored, another lady arose and said that she highly approved of the resolution in the main, but that she thought it too general. The kind of trap she submitted should be more definite. The good sense of this remark was at once apparent, and while all were busy in selecting an appropriate one, a still younger and prettier girl proposed, in a most bewitching lisp, that it should be a mouse-trap. Mrs. Ebenezer at once saw the impropriety of a society engrossing so much of the great public heart as theirs did, voting as a reward of merit so paltry a thing as a mouse-trap. She expressed herself so indignantly and out of temper, that the little girl proposing the
amendment escaped hurriedly from the room, and was absent the rest of the evening.
The matter was discussed at great length, and until a very late hour; and as there were objections made to every proposal to limit the instrument to catching any specific animal, it was finally agreed that the reward should simply be 'a silver trap,' as had been at first proposed.
After the secretary had recorded the decision upon a small slip of sweetscented vellum paper, it was moved and seconded 'that the society do now adjourn sine die.' The proposition was carried after some debate, and the ayes and nays were added in like manner to the record.
Moses had waited in the piazza until weary for the result, but seeing there was little hope of any thing conclusive transpiring, he departed at a late hour for so dreary a tramp as that up the mountain in the night-time.
It was at least one o'clock in the morning before all the sojourners at the 'Shades' had retired to their respective rooms, and an hour later ere the lights were extinguished. This had scarcely been effected, when they were aroused by the most doleful howling of dogs imaginable; not the ordinary howling of one, two, or half-a-dozen of them, but it seemed to come and go from quarter to quarter, gathering, as it went up the sides of the mountain, a mournfulness more than enough to freeze the heart of any one subject to depression.
Soon there were seen candles lighted, first in one window and then in another, until the whole house was in a blaze of light; and as it became illuminated, the lodgers passed from room to room, inquiring in a state of alarm of each other what could be the meaning of the horrible noises out of doors. Some imagined that it must proceed from droves of famished wolves, others thought it must be from hyenas, and the more superstitious insisted that the noises were more terrific than any animal could make, no matter what their number or strength of lungs. One or two scientific ladies suggested it might be 'electricity, in a fused state, struggling in the mountains to produce an equilibrium.'
But none of these explanations satisfied the majority, for the noises ceased the moment the house was lighted. Had all been fully awake when the alarm began, there would not have been such a variety of opinions respecting the cause of their inquiry; for a moment's attention would have convinced them that it was nothing more than the wailing of a dog, and its echoes coming back from the wilderness.
Noisy Tom, being possessed of a singular degree of recuperative energy, had arisen and gone to the drawing-room to console Miss Minikin, and several other ladies of their clique, who had assembled there when the uproar began, and had already interested them in explaining the phenomena of sound, when boisterous laughing was heard to proceed from the room of Alderman Turtlehovey. A rush was made to inquire into the cause of such singular diversion in the midst of all this consternation. The general impression seemed to be that he had gone mad, but nothing could exceed their surprise when, choking with laughter, he was seen pointing through an upraised window to a hideous pair of fiery eyes below, looking directly at him.
This seemed an additional cause of alarm, for such a pair of eyes could belong to nothing save some fiend from the other world; and from seeing them the Alderman must have lost his senses. Soon as he could command himself, and while still writhing with laughter, 'It's nothing but Satan and Sneak,' exclaimed he, and then broke out again as immoderately as before. Noisy Tom caught the idea, and laughed himself, and then explained to the bewildered lodgers that the two dogs that 'treed' them before were again upon their scent.
Being thus satisfied of the cause of this great alarm, they retired again to their rooms, keeping their lights burning, convinced by experience that dogs howl most when there is nothing to howl at.
Nothing more affects the nervous system than being disturbed in the first hours of sleep, for all kind of phantoms seize upon the brain, to torture and impress it unpleasantly.
Most of the gentlemen, however, arose in time for breakfast; but many of the ladies, after partly dressing, finding their complexions not so clear as they ought to be, changed their determination, and bounced back again to bed, to see what a few further hours of repose might do for them.
The excitement in the evening and the subsequent disturbance were particularly disastrous to the complexion of Miss Minikin, and to the eyes of Mrs. Ebenezer. Saffron itself was scarcely yellower than was the face of the spinster; and as for the eyes of the other lady, it is scarcely proper to make the remark, though the temptation is strong, that they resembled in fierceness the orbs of the dog Satan, in his most determined mood.
Could these ladies have been daguerreotyped, and a copy presented to Noisy Tom, the contrast to what they were in the drawing-room would have discouraged any matrimonial alliance he might have entertained with either of them, even had he been armed with the statute of divorces ‘a vinculo matrimonii,' on the one hand, or inspired with the prospect of five hundred a year on the other. Alderman Turtlehovey and Noisy Tom made it a point to present themselves early in the morning, though still suffering from their late sporting tour. The first was feverish from fasting and then over-eating; and the other was stiff in his limbs, which he endeavored to conceal by a sort of sidling 'teter,' in imitation of some young girls, when taking their places in an omnibus, or an opera-box, taught thus to do by some strange woman, from some strange place, and who was patronized by still stranger parents. Upon the whole, the 'Shades' wore a frigid appearance most of the day, the conversation mostly being upon the disturbance during the night. Several gentlemen went out for the purpose of shooting the dogs; but though they wandered around most of the day, nothing could be seen or heard from them.
The evening, however, made amends for the day, for as they assembled in the great drawing-room, the gentlemen and ladies were more cordial than ever. The inconvenience all parties had sustained created a bond of union, 'sweet,' Miss Minikin said, 'as a basket of herbs.'
After all, there was an unseen disturbing power interfering with the happiness of both Minikin and Ebenezer. There was a small party at the 'Shades' which kept by themselves, and who took no pleasure either in the amusements
of the inmates of the house, or interest in the misadventures that had engrossed so much of their time and conversation. It consisted of an old gentleman of a still older school, accompanied by a daughter and retinue of servants. He was a venerable man, still tall and straight, and though his hair was gray, it was made whiter with powder. His coat and manners were patterned after the early days of George the Third, and he wore breeches born in the same school, made of black silk. The residue of his costume was equally antiquated, though graceful and significant of consequence. His daughter was the same who had been affrighted in the mountain, while she was sketching the sublimity of the Wizard's Cave,' as the mountaineers called the place where she had first seen Moses. Every effort had been made by the two leading ladies of the place to become acquainted with them, and so long as their advances were unobtrusive, they had been declined in such a way that offence was impossible; but when persecuted with attentions, they avoided them, giving them to understand that retirement was their object.
Nevertheless, it was a sore matter to these ladies, and caused them much unhappiness. Inquiries were made respecting their history, in hopes enough would be gathered sufficiently unfavorable to lessen the consequence appearance yielded them, but all in vain; some said they came from the eastern shore of Maryland, others from Virginia, while yet another set placed them in still more southern latitudes. Come from where they would, the flaxen hair of the young lady and her blue eyes were a sufficient guarantee of an honest, ancient Saxon lineage, whose household affairs had been of a most liberal character, for it is only through the lapse of time and generous fare that so beautiful a creature could have orginated. While the elements are thus busy in perfecting their works, they will on the other hand suffer them to deteriorate into their original swarthiness, when the means no longer exist for their advancement. The Alderman and his friends, however brave themselves, had they been more temperate, had good reason to suppose that their posterity would be improved upon in coming generations, though it must be conceded that nature must be kept busy a long time in remodelling them.
There seemed but little prospect of further success on the part of Minikin and Ebenezer, in obtaining the information concerning the strangers so eagerly desired, until it occurred to them to make friends with one of their servants. This at first blush would seem a very simple matter, and indeed it would have been under ordinary circumstances; but they were black slaves, and among other strange notions had taken up the idea that the visitors at the 'Shades' were all Abolitionists- a queer sort of folk they accounted them, of whom they had seen something, heard more, but had not seen nor heard of them any thing good. They were quite as exclusive as their young mistress, which, united with their fear, made them as difficult of approach as so many young rabbits.
Taking advantage of a time when the strangers had driven out for an airing, Miss Minikin went to the room of the young lady's maid, and entered it as if by mistake. The visit was so unexpected that she sprang for the window, and would have jumped out had not Miss Minikin laid hold of her. The poor