« AnteriorContinuar »
When he had concluded, the Alderman said: “Do you smell any thing disagreeable ?'
'I think I do,' he said, imitating Turtlehovey; and being out of humor with his apparent superciliousness, quickly repeated, 'I think I do!' accompanied with a gasp of suffocation. * But after all,' continued he, it may be a mistake, and may be something else ; for an alderman has so much to do with his dirty subjects, that he smells all kinds of ways.?
'I do, do I ?' the other angrily retorted, 'perhaps some of your customers can smell you. There's your friend, Peter Funk,' he continued, “who says he has done more dirty work in your shop, and got less for it, than any other mock-auction, stool-pigeon in the whole city. You talk about bad smells,' continued the Alderman disdainfully, as he turned upon his heel, 'that is rich.'
"Well, that will do!' exclaimed Noisy Tom, with a flourish of his hand, as was his custom when excited by the appearance of several outside customers at his shop in town, as he called strangers who were allured there by the extreme polish he put upon his watches ; ' that will do for you, Alderman Turtlehovey. Do you remember,' said he vindictively, 'how much Battleblommer paid you for getting him the job to clean the city by his new plan of inundation — ha! ha! my old boy? and do you remember how much you got to procure voters to attend primary meetings, and how the sliding-scale went from a fool to a smart fellow, the fool paying for a nomination twice as much as the other, and'
*Stay, stay,' exclaimed Turtlehovey, all the time winking and twitching his eyes convulsively; 'there is no use of old friends quarrelling; and as the fable says: “What would be fun to the outsiders would be no sport to us.''
He uttered this sentiment so pacifically, and indeed kindly, that Noisy Tom had no heart for further retort; and with a tear in his eye, as their former transaetions passed through his mind, offered his hand in token of an entire reconciliation.
Noisy Tom was a passionate man, but like other men of like temperament, was soon reconciled when inconvenient to remain out of humor, and when a little reflection had convinced him of its folly.
He had been hit by the Alderman on a delicate point. An omission of cleanliness was not one of his failings, for that very morning he had changed his linen, and bathed himself in a variety of double extracts beside ; and after all, to be contemptuously made faces at by Alderman Turtlehovey, implying the worst that could be imagined, was an insult that stung him to the quick.
Moses saw something was in the wind, but his mind was so intent upon the surest mode of becoming an Alderman, satisfied that it would be the means of giving him a fair start in the world, that he paid but little attention to the rupture that had just transpired.
At first he supposed the office to be one of dignity only, but it possessed in his eyes additional charms, as well as prospects of great profits, when he learned that superadded to dignity the privilege of letting off miserable rogues was a privilege incidental to its tenure.
No one had a higher estimate of the value of liberty than Moses Dolebear,
and judging others by himself, he was convinced that they would pay their last dollar to be let out of jail to any one having the authoritative power to pronounce the mystic 'open sesame.'
At length he made up his mind to appeal to Turtlehovey for instructions how to proceed to become an alderman. The latter gentleman was at the time confidentially whispering to his companion, but turning short around, answered: 'I'll do the thing up gratis, upon the condition that you will tie up the dogs during our stay at the 'Shades,' for I can tell you, Mr. Dolebear, we do n't choose to be mistaken even by your dogs for those vile, four-footed little wretches which to our misfortune we have been scented with.'
“Yis, I'll tie 'em up,' he promptly answered. “You sha'n't be barked at agin in a hurry; and I'll be to ‘York' when the coon season is over.'
Moses now left his friends, and returned to his cabin, and related to his aunt Hardpan and sister Sue that he considered himself all but an alderman, and held out to them what fine 'gals' they would be after the election was over.
The two ambassadors returned elated with their success, for they not only had accomplished their mission, but by negotiation had rid themselves of any further fear of an attack from the dogs.
Breakfast had not long been over the next morning when it was rumored that Judge Breckenridge and his household were then departing from the "Shades. The cavalcade elicited curiosity from those left behind, as well as the gratification it afforded them of returning the bow the Judge gracefully made to those whose eyes he caught, as the carriage went out of the gate.
A general despondency seized upon the lodgers when they had gone, notwithstanding the recluse life they had led. Their places were sombre for want of occupation; the dignified Judge, the beautiful Amy, and wild-looking servants, were gone never perhaps to return. How deep is the gloom of a watering-place when the season is subsiding! Even the invalid feels its desolation, and would willingly exchange it for the clamor and the jostling that before had annoyed him in town.
It is a feverishly hot day in July. Uncle Peter and myself stand at the counting-house desk, each at his own side of it. The desk has two sloping fronts, and is placed with the end against the pier between the front-windows, so that uncle Peter and myself each have a window. I look out of mine, for I have a faith that windows are made for that purpose; but Uncle Peter uses his merely for the admission of light and air. As I occasionally steal a look at him through the net-work of turned rails, which run along the level centre of the desk, separating the two fronts, I can see his bald head bobbing up and down over his account-books, turning from day-book to ledger, or from inkstand to ruler, but never by any chance lifted for a glance outside.
But to me that outer world is a region of enchantment, beguiling me from solid thought or labor. How, indeed, can I longer hold the pen, and absorb myself in close and forbidding calculation, when every feature of the outer scene bids me throw off the stern practical, and revel in romance? In the eyes
of Uncle Peter, all that I now look upon resolves itself into mere land and water and ships; but with me, an instinct of higher intelligence pervades the whole. Those waves that come up dancing in the bright sun-light have rolled in from the open sea ; and but a few days ago have borne bright medusæ and nautili upon
their breasts ; and have swept over richly tinted shells; and have washed the turf over which bend the palm and the cocoa. Those ships, which lie in compact line moored along the wharves, or in the middle of the stream drag sluggishly upon their anchors, are not mere boxes for the transportation of goods and merchandise, but are beings instinct with life and motion, and joyous with thoughts of dangers vanquished, and new enterprises and struggles to be yet undertaken. They cannot speak, but I can fancy a sort of quiet air of selfpossessed satisfaction in the attitude of their well-braced yards; and directly below me is one old whaler, pointing its bowsprit up at our windows, with a queer kind of satirical expression, as though holding out a mocking fore-finger. I know very well that it is pointing at Uncle Peter, and jeering him for his self-enforced abstraction in dusty ledgers and price-currents, regardless of the world of beauty and harmony which is before him to roam through, if he only would. Upon the shipping-records, Uncle Peter is entered as the owner of that vessel ; but to my mind the true owner seems to be the red-capped, taranointed sailor, who sits caressingly upon the bowsprit, with his foot carelessly resting upon the nearest rope below, like a groom in the saddle of the horse which knows and loves him.
How wonderfully every detail of the scene seems to accord and sympathize
with my own laziness! Below me, in front of a cart laden with bags of coffee, stands a horse with drooping head and sleepy eyes. For an hour he has thus remained, and no one has come near to unload the cart; and now he seems dropping into a doze, too supine even to try to brush off the flies with that lit. tle ragged switch which he presumes to call a tail. Upon the string-piece of the wharf a group of sailors are stretched out in the shadow of the old whaler's bows — qach with his legs crossed, and his hands under his head, speechless and motionless, and with scarcely the energy to keep his pipe alight. Beyond them is a solitary figure — a Kanaka — like the rest, almost asleep, and already perhaps dreaming of his native bread-fruit, t'aro, and yams. The crowded steamer now entering the river, rounds to toward its wharf, with a sluggish sort of motion, as though its pilot were dozing at the helm. There is no motion in nature more listless and unenergetic than that with which the anchored ships slowly rise and fall with the incoming tide. And one great craft
an Indiaman of several thousand tons deeply laden — which has just come in, lies off in the stream, with ropes innumerable swinging in disorder, soiled pennant drooping, and yards awry from stem to stern displaying unmistakable evidences of overpowering weariness and craving for repose. Nothing seems to work except Uncle Peter, who stands in unbending and obstinate alertness of spirit, running down whole columns of close figures, with as bright
and clear comprehension as if he had just got up. And now I yield to the enchantment; the pen slips from my hand, and, like the red-capped sailors in the shadow of the old whaler, I dream of the foreign lands into which my voyages have led me. In what ship did I sail, and when ? That surely need not be told, nor can it matter much if I have never yet left my home. Are there no travels except those which are made in the actual body ? Has not the imagination wings, upon which the soul can ride and gain experience ?
With me such travels date far back in life ; back to the time when I would steal out from school, curl up under some old tree, and there read from fairy or Arabian tales. Then was the time when I journeyed to where shell-paved grottoes opened at my feet, and golden palaces with jewelled windows rose before me, and good and evil genii fought in the enchanted air around me, and metamorphosed princesses hourly crossed my path. Such travels as these, indeed, were soon over, for not many months passed before I learned that I had been revelling in unrealities. But no regret came with the discovery ; for, with advancing years, other books brought other kinds of travel, and the fancies in which I had revelled had only changed their scene. The wonders of, the material world had replaced the immaterial, that is all. And with my imagina tion of what is beyond the seas, tempered with study, observation, and reflection, it is not singular that I can now dream out vivid recollections of places where I have not been.
I am on the border of Andalusia, in a quaint little city, bordering upon the Mediterranean. I sit upon the overhanging balcony of the small podesta, and thence gaze out upon the street. At the right, it leads dark and narrow to the sea ; and peering down through the vista of picturesque houses, I can just distinguish the blue surface of the water, dotted in the distance with feluccas, and with shallops drawn up by the shore. At the left, in as narrow and dark a course, the street leads into the open country; and there, not many miles distant, rise the first rugged ranges of the mountains which once sheltered the Moors. The nearest hills are green with vines and olives, but as they recede, the rich colors fade into a blue, of the same lively tint which marks the opposite sea, and like that, with equal measure slowly deepening into darkness as the evening draws on. In front, the street widens into a plaza of three times its width, bordered with the most presumptuous architecture of the place. How quaint are those buildings which, with their fronts all balconies and windows, line the right! What dignitary can that be who monopolizes the whole side upon the left, with one line of gray stone-wall, over which peep the tops of pomegranate-trees and date-palms ? How many centuries has that old stone fountain stood in the centre of the square, with the water ceaselessly pouring from the mouth of the tortoise, struggling to escape from the laughing Cupid ? Has that old time-worn building on the opposite side, with the official notices pasted beside its broad door-way, actually come down from the Moors, as its architecture seems to denote? And to what nearer epoch are we indebted for the piety which built the huge cathedral, with its confused display of debased Gothic ornaments a faulty and inelegant pile, but large enough to shelter the whole city in case of siege ? Mark ! its very chime of bells seems better fitted to ring the alarm for a province than to call together the worshippers in a single little city. Silent and pleased, I sit and watch the people pass. Here is a market-man with his donkey - both equally unkempt and picturesque. There come a peasant -group from the mountain ; can rags and laughter any where else be found as freely mingled ? In yonder corner a minstrel sings — what rude words I cannot tell, but to me there is no lack of romance and melody in them. Here trips along, with scant drapery and bare feet, a country maiden, light and graceful, but beyond that not wholly prepossessing. She must be Dolores ; for is there any other name in Spain by which we have been wont to know a girl of low degree? There, with slower and more stately step, passes one of better condition, hiding her features with the inevitable mantilla, and accompanied by her duenna. She is Inez ; for is not that the only traditional name known to us as associated with Spanish maidens of high station ? And who is this that comes riding upon his long thin nag? Can it be Don Quixote himself ? See Sancho, stopping under yonder awning to drink. And as I look, the smallest bell of the cathedral-chime tinkles out the vesper call. Sancho stops in the middle of his draught and mutters an 'ave.' The Don reverently takes off his cap, and rides onward down a narrow street. Dolores and Inez enter the cathedral, side by side. And night comes on with rapid fall, blots out sea and mountain, and blends together the ill-sculptured cathedral-ornaments, until the great towers can be distinguished only by their rude outline pressed against the darkening sky.