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The Perils of Wealth by Jonathan F. Kelley

Money is admitted to be—there is no earthly use of dodging the fact—the lever of the whole world, by which it and its multifarious cargo of men and matters, mountains and mole hills, wit, wisdom, weal, woe, warfare and women, are kept in motion, in season and out of season. It is the arbiter of our fates, our health, happiness, life and death. Where it makes one man a happy Christian, it makes ten thousand miserable devils. It is no use to argufy the matter, for money is the “root of all evil,” more or less, and—as Patricus Hibernicus is supposed to have said of a single feather he reposed on—if a dollar gives some men so much uneasiness, what must a million do? Money has formed the basis of many a long and short story, and we only wish that they were all imbued, as our present story is, with—more irresistible mirth than misery. Lend us your ears.

Not long ago, one of our present well-known—or ought to be, for he is a man of parts—business men of Boston, resided and carried on a small “trade and dicker” in the city of Portland. By frugal care and small profits, he had managed to save up some six hundred dollars, all in halves, finding himself in possession of this vast sum of hard cash, he began to conceive a rather insignificant notion of small cities; and he concluded that Portland was hardly big enough for a man of his pecuniary heft! In short, he began to feel the importance of his position in the world of finance, and conceived the idea that it would be a sheer waste of time and energy to stay in Portland, while with his capital, he could go to Boston, and spread himself among the millionaires and hundred thousand dollar men!

“Yes,” said B——, “I'll go to Boston; I'd be a fool to stay here any longer; I'll leave for bigger timber. But what will I do with my money? How will I invest it? Hadn't I better go and take a look around, before I conclude to move? My wife don't know I've got this money,” he continued, as he mused over matters one evening, in his sanctum; “I'll not tell her of it yet, but say I'm just going to Boston to see how business is there in my line; and my money I'll put in an old cigar box, and—”

       * * * * *

B——was all ready with his valise and umbrella in his hand. His “good-bye” and all that, to his wife, was uttered, and for the tenth time he charged his better half to be careful of the fire, (he occupied a frame house,) see that the doors were all locked at night, and “be sure and fasten the cellar doors.”

B——had got out on to the pavement, with no time to spare to reach the cars in season; yet he halted—ran back—opened the door, and in evident concern, bawled out to his wife—


“Well?” she answered.

“Be sure to fasten the alley gate!”

“Ye-e-e-e-s!” responded the wife, from the interior of the house.

“And whatever you do, don't forget them cellar doors, Caddie!”

“Ye-e-e-e-s!” she repeated, and away went B——, lickety split, for the Boston train.

After a general and miscellaneous survey of modern Athens, B——found an opening—a good one—to go into business, as he desired, upon a liberal scale; but he found vent for the explosion of one very hallucinating idea—his six hundred dollars, as a cash capital, was a most infinitesimal circumstance, a mere “flea bite;” would do very well for an amateur in the cake and candy, pea-nut or vegetable business, but was hardly sufficient to create a sensation among the monied folks of Milk street, or “bulls” and “bears” on 'change. However, this realization was more than counter-balanced by another fact—“confidence” was a largely developed bump on the business head of Boston, and if a man merely lacked “means,” yet possessed an abundance of good business qualifications—spirit, energy, talent and tact—they were bound to see him through! In short, B——, the great Portland capitalist, found things about right, and in good time, and in the best of spirits, started for home, determining, in his own mind, to give his wife a most pleasant surprise, in apprizing her of the fact that she was not only the wife of a man with six hundred silver dollars, and about to move his institution—but the better half of a gentleman on the verge of a new campaign as a Boston business man.

“Lord! how Caroline's eyes will snap!” said B——; “how she'll go in; for she's had a great desire to live in Boston these five years, but thinks I'm in debt, and don't begin to believe I've got them six hundred all hid away down——. But I'll surprise her!”

B——had hardly turned his corner and got sight of his house, with his mind fairly sizzling with the pent-up joyful tidings and grand surprise in store for Mrs. B., when a sudden change came over the spirit of his dream! As he gazed over the fence, by the now dim twilight of fading day, he thought—yes, he did see fresh earthy loose stones, barrels of lime, mortar, and an ominous display of other building and repairing materials, strewn in the rear of his domicil! The cellar doors—those wings of the subterranean recesses of his house—which he had cautioned, earnestly cautioned, the “wife of his bussim” to close, carefully and securely, were sprawling open, and indeed, the outside of his abode looked quite dreary and haunted.

“My dear Caroline!” exclaimed B——, rushing into the rear door of his domestic establishment, to the no small surprise of Mrs. B., who gave a premature—

“Oh dear! how you frightened me, Fred! Got home?”

“Home? yes! don't you see I have. But, Carrie, didn't I earnestly beg of you to keep those doors—cellar doors—shut? fastened?”

“Why, how you talk! Bless me! Keep the cellar shut? Why, there's nothing in the cellar.”

“Nothing in the cellar?” fairly howls B——.

“Nothing? Of course there is not,” quietly responded the wife; “there is nothing in the cellar; day before yesterday, our drain and Mrs. A.'s drain got choked up; she went to the landlord about it; he sent some men, they examined the drain, and came back to-day with their tools and things, and went down the cellar.”

Down the cellar?” gasped B——, quite tragically.

“Down the cellar!” slowly repeated Mrs. B.

“Give me a light—quick, give me a light, Caroline!”

“Why, don't be a fool. I brought up all the things, the potatoes, the meat, the squashes.”

“P-o-o-h! blow the meat and squashes! Give me a light!” and with a genuine melo-drama rush, B——seized the lamp from his wife's hand, and down the cellar stairs he went, four steps at a lick. In a moment was heard—

“O-o-o-h! I'm ruined!”

With a full-fledged scream, Mrs. B. dashed pell-mell down the stairs, to her husband. He had dropped the lamp—all was dark as a coal mine.

“Fred—Frederick! oh! where are you? What have you done?” cried his wife, in intense agony and doubt.

“Done? Oh! I'm done! yes, done now!” he heavily sighed.

“Done what? how? Tell me, Fred, are you hurt?”

“What on airth's the matter, thar? Are you committing murder on one another?” came a voice from above stairs.

“Is that you, Mrs. A.?” asked Mrs. B. to the last speaker.

“Yes, my dear; here's a dozen neighbors; don't get skeert. Is thare robbers in yer house? What on airth is going on?”

This brought B——to his proper reckoning. He ordered his wife to “go up,” and he followed, and upon reaching the room, he found quite a gathering of the neighbors. He was as white as a white-washed wall, and the neighbors staring at him as though he was a wild Indian, or a chained mad dog. Importuned from all sides to unravel the mystery, B—— informed them that he had merely gone down cellar to see what the masons, &c., had been doing—dropped his lamp—his wife screamed—and that was all about it! The wife said nothing, and the neighbors shook their incredulous heads, and went home; which, no sooner had they gone, than B——seized his hat and cut stick for the office of a cunning, far-seeing limb of the law, leaving Mrs. B. in a state of mental agitation better imagined than described. B——stated his case—he had buried six hundred dollars in a box under the lee of the cellar-wall, and gone to Boston on business, and as if no other time would suit, a parcel of drain-cleaners, and masons, and laborers, must come and go right there and then to dig—get the six hundred dollars and clear.

After a long chase, law and bother, B——recovered half his money—packed up and came to Boston.—There's a case for you! Beware of money!


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