Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

66

Why you

the colonel. " When Tom Dickson, of the first Maryland Regiment, said Jack Tomlinson"

"But,” said Allen, “suppose his adversary's arguments should be blows."

“ He has no fears of personal violence. Though he never practised pistol-shooting, his boxing and fencing, as I know by experience, are of the first quality. He can make a decided hit, and a hard one. He is as strong and active as a Sadler's Well’s Hercules, and boxes, cudgels, and fences, like an admirable Crichton.'

“Besides,” said Simpson," it is quite time to drop it. have gone too far already. If ever he should find out the tricks we have been playing him, we may have a serious quarrel, although no duel. He has suffered in both the spirit and the flesh.”

don't think his lank sides and hollow cheeks are caused by the doughty Captain Smith ?” said Allen.

" What else ?" was asked.

“For some time past," said the manager, “ I have had my suspicions that there is a more formidable as well as a real personage, the meeting with whom at home has thrown him into the snares prepared for him abroad. Poor Spiff, I wish I could free him from all his engagements as easily as from this of Captain Smith.” 66 I'll tell you what, my masters,'

,said Hilson, " Spiff certainly does look miserable, and we ought to make an end of the hoax.'

6 Well, well,” said Allen, 6 but don't let us break off too abruptly. He will expect some account from me of the reason given for the challenger's non-appearance. He has a right to expect it. I have promised it. Therefore he must have the explanation, as I have told you it was owing to the difference of the watches and all that--and this explanation I am supposed to receive from Beaglehole."

“You forget that you told Spiff that Beaglehole's watch was set to yours.

“True. I forgot that.”
** There's an old proverb on that subject.”

“You mean, that• Liars should have good memories.' If it was not a company concern I'd challenge you for that.

“ For what? It was your conscience that said it-not I."

“ I do sometimes think that we have gone too far; but we can't stop now. I must excuse the watch business; then I

must not receive the excuse of Smith's second ; I threaten to post Captain Smith ; Captain Smith threatens to horsewhip Spiffard. That will do! And, then, as Captain Smith is a big bully of a fellow, Spiff must be persuaded to buy a pair of pocket-pistols ; and I will parade him up and down Broadway; and every now and then I can see Captain Smith waiting at a corner, ready to put his threat into execution.”

Thus, forgetting his late qualms of conscience, the youth delighted himself with anticipating the triumphant conclusion of his long-protracted boy’s-play.

Some of the party protested against any further prosecution of the boyish sport; others agreed with Allen that more must be done to prevent suspicion; and he, tracing Spiffard to Cooke's lodgings, entered the antichamber in time to interrupt the colloquy between our hero and his brother yankee, and to prevent some further notions being communicated which would have defeated the intention of Allen's visit.

As it was, some thoughts had been generated by Trustworthy in the mind of Spiffard which were adverse to Allen's scheme ; but anything like the truth could not be imagined by one so guileless.

Allen told Spiffard that he came to inform him of the result of his interview with Beaglehole.

Spiffard made no reply, but looked in the face of the informant as though he would read more than was spoken. Still he had no suspicion of deliberate falsehood. He was obliged to view the faces of those with whom he conve

versed, from that point which portrait-painters prefer. He looked up to the face of Allen, and saw nothing but manly beauty. He saw nothing dishonest in the half-opened lips, disclosing their even and white indwellers; or in the quiet grey eyes, surmounted by lofty arched brows that never had been bent by care. All was as fair as the herculean youth's complexion. The scrutinising look was continued from absence of mind. Spiffard was thinking of something else after the first glance. Allen blushed.

The supposed conversation was recited nearly as we have given it in anticipation; concluding with Captain Smith's threat of personal chastisement.

“I do not fear the arm of any man." “ He is a stout muscular fellow,” said Allen.. “ You have seen him, then ?” This was a thrust not to be parried. Another of those false

hoods which men of honour can tell under tne paltry shelter of w it's a joke," must be resorted to. One lie begets another. A falsehood cannot stand alone. To hesitate would not have comported with the acknowledged reputation of Allen in the art of quizzing, and he boldly answered, " I saw a very stout, athletic, nautical-looking man, part from Beaglehole as I approached him.”

This (although pure fiction) was spoken with such an undaunted air of confidence, and so much in the manner and tone of truth, that joined to the probability (all the preceding circumstances being believed as undoubted facts) that Spiffard's incipient wavering doubts-if he had any–were dispersed.

“I do not fear the arm of any man,” he quietly repeated. " But to receive a blow !" “I can arrest a blow.” “But from a horse-whip ?"

“I trust my activity, skill, and strength, to wrest such wea-. pon from the hand of an antagonist.”

6 But the scandal of such a contest in the streets ?" " I do not seek it."

“ If you carried pistols, you might, by presenting one on his approach, prevent an altack; and if assailed, you would be justified in shooting him.”

I think not. I will not shed blood. I have never intended it."

“ But self-defence."
“I can defend myself.”

“ The probability is, that by merely showing a pistol, bloodshed will be prevented; for if you undergo his chastisement you will challenge him; I shall insist on that. You must have satisfaction, otherwise you cannot look your friends in the face." “I shall not do wrong for fear-even of my

friends. You must act as you please.

“It is you that inust act. These fellows must not boast that you have kept yourself out of their way through fear, have been to Bonfanti's and purchased a pair of little bulldogs. We will walk Broadway to show the bullies that we are not to be frightened into hiding-places by blustering. You had better take the pistols.”

“ No, sir. I am going into Broadway as soon as I have seen Mr. Cooke.?!

8*

He went into the old gentleman's chamber, and Allen followed. Spiffard, having determined to visit Mr. Littlejohn, made his stay very short with his sick friend ; and, passing through Wall-street, he took his way up Broadway, accompanied by Allen. Mr. Littlejohn's residence being in the lower part of Courtlandt-street, the young man proceeded thither. Some of the conspirators followed, thinking that Allen had succeeded in his plan, while Spiffard was almost unconscious of his presence. Allen at times thought he saw in the countenance of his pupil, that anxiety he wished to see; and then, again, was puzzled by the abstracted air of the unhappy man, whose friend he really was, notwithstanding this worse than boy’s-play. But little did he think whence arose that abstraction. In this state of bewilderment, they passed the house of Mr. Littlejohn unnoticed, and the absent-man was roused by the voice of Allen, hitherto unattended to : “ There he is !

“ What do you mean ?"!

And looking up he perceived the ferry-boat just pushing off for Paulus Hook.

- There he is !” cried Allen again. o What and whom do you mean ?"

"I mean Captain Smith. There he goes !” pointing to the ferry-boat. 6 That's the man. There he goes, the cowardly braggart."

Spiffard, more fully aroused from his revery, asked quietly, 66 Which is he?"

6 That fellow in the watch-coat with an enormous horsewhip in his hand. The fellow with three capes to his overcoat, and a whip which he had not courage to use. see him?"

" I see a man with a great-coat and horse-whip."

“ That's the fellow I saw with Beaglehole. His second has not been able to keep him up to the mark. have known him?"

66 No."
6. That's the man, depend upon it.”

Spiffard doubted not that he had seen Captain Smith ; but he thought little of it, and turned to retrace his way to Mr. Littlejohn's. He was somewhat surprised to see several of the usual club or knot, near the wharf. Allen joined them, pointing to the boat, and he heard the name of Captain Smith as he passed. He heard a laugh-he thought of Davenport. It was

Do you

Would you

dismissed in a moment. He left his friends to laugh at his credulity, and wearied by long watching, anxiety, and forebodings of evil, he sought and found a counsellor in his friend the merchant; a friend whom he ought to have consulted before his affairs had arrived at this fearful crisis.

« ZurückWeiter »