The Children of
the Public by Edward Everett Hale
[This story originated in the advertisement of the humbug which
describes. Some fifteen or twenty years since, when gift
enterprises rose to one of their climaxes, a gift of a large
money, I think $10,000, was offered in New York to the most
successful ticket-holder in some scheme, and one of $5,000 to
second. It was arranged that one of these parties should be a
and the other a woman; and the amiable suggestion was added,
part of the undertaker of the enterprise, that if the
lady who drew these prizes liked each other sufficiently well
the distribution was made, they might regard the decision as a
match made for them in Heaven, and take the money as the dowry
the bride. This thoroughly practical, and, at the same time,
thoroughly absurd suggestion, arrested the attention of a
distinguished story-teller, a dear friend of mine, who
me that we should each of us write the history of one of the
successful parties, to be woven together by their union at the
The plan, however, lay latent for years,the gift enterprise
course blew up,and it was not until the summer of 1862 that
wrote my half of the proposed story, with the hope of
other half. My friend's more important engagements, however,
thus far kept Fausta's detailed biography from the light. I
half to Mr. Frank Leslie, in competition for a premium offered
him, as is stated in the second chapter of the story. And the
found such favor in the eyes of the judges, that it received
his second premiums. The first was very properly awarded to
Louisa Alcott, for a story of great spirit and power. The
Children of the Public was printed in Frank Leslie's
Newspaper for January 24 and January 31, 1863. The moral which
tries to illustrate, which is, I believe, an important one,
thus commended to the attention of the very large circle of
readers of that journal,a journal to which I am eager to say
think this nation has been very largely indebted for the
the good sense, and the high tone which seem always to
it. During the war, the pictorial journals had immense
the army, and they used this influence with an undeviating
to the true honor of the country.]
Felix, said my wife to me, as I came home to-night, you will have
to go to the pork-barrel.
Are you quite sure, said I,quite sure? 'Woe to him,' says the
oracle, 'who goes to the pork-barrel before the moment of his need.'
And woe to him, say I, replied my brave wife,woe and disaster
to him; but the moment of our need has come. The figures are here, and
you shall see. I have it all in black and in white.
And so it proved, indeed, that when Miss Sampson, the nurse, was
paid for her month's service, and when the boys had their winter boots,
and when my life-insurance assessment was provided for, and the new
payment for the insurance on the house,when the taxes were settled
with the collector (and my wife had to lay aside double for the
war),when the pew-rent was paid for the year, and the water-rate,we
must have to start with, on the 1st of January, one hundred dollars.
This, as we live, would pay, in cash, the butcher, and the grocer, and
the baker, and all the dealers in things that perish, and would buy the
omnibus tickets, and recompense Bridget till the 1st of April. And at
my house, if we can see forward three months we are satisfied. But, at
my house, we are never satisfied if there is a credit at any store for
us. We are sworn to pay as we go. We owe no man anything.
So it was that my wife said: Felix, you will have to go to the
This is the story of the pork-barrel.
It happened once, in a little parish in the Green Mountains, that
the deacon reported to Parson Plunkett, that, as he rode to meeting by
Chung-a-baug Pond, he saw Michael Stowers fishing for pickerel through
a hole in the ice on the Sabbath day. The parson made note of the
complaint, and that afternoon drove over to the pond in his one-horse
shay. He made his visit, not unacceptable, on the poor Stowers
household, and then crossed lots to the place where he saw poor Michael
hoeing. He told Michael that he was charged with Sabbath breaking, and
bade him plead to the charge. And poor Mike, like a man, plead guilty;
but, in extenuation, he said that there was nothing to eat in the
house, and rather than see wife and children faint, he had cut a hole
in the ice, had put in his hook again and again, and yet again, and
coming home had delighted the waiting family with an unexpected
breakfast. The good parson made no rebuke, nodded pensive, and drove
straightway to the deacon's door.
Deacon, said he, what meat did you eat for breakfast yesterday?
The deacon's family had eaten salt pork, fried.
And where did you get the pork, Deacon?
The Deacon stared, but said he had taken it from his pork-barrel.
Yes, Deacon, said the old man; I supposed so. I have been to see
Brother Stowers, to talk to him about his Sabbath-breaking; and,
Deacon, I find the pond is his pork-barrel.
The story is a favorite with me and with Fausta. But woe, says the
oracle, to him who goes to the pork-barrel before the moment of his
need. And to that woe both Fausta and I say amen. For we know that
there is no fish in our pond for spendthrifts or for lazy-bones; none
for people who wear gold chains or Attleborough jewelry; none for
people who are ashamed of cheap carpets or wooden mantelpieces. Not for
those who run in debt will the fish bite; nor for those who pretend to
be richer or better or wiser than they are. No! But we have found, in
our lives, that in a great democracy there reigns a great and gracious
sovereign. We have found that this sovereign, in a reckless and
unconscious way, is, all the time, making the most profuse provision
for all the citizens. We have found that those who are not too grand to
trust him fare as well as they deserve. We have found, on the other
hand, that those who lick his feet or flatter his follies fare worst of
living men. We find that those who work honestly, and only seek a man's
fair average of life, or a woman's, get that average, though sometimes
by the most singular experiences in the long run. And thus we find
that, when an extraordinary contingency arises in life, as just now in
ours, we have only to go to our pork-barrel, and the fish rises to our
hook or spear.
The sovereign brings this about in all sorts of ways, but he does
not fail, if, without flattering him, you trust him. Of this sovereign
the name isthe Public. Fausta and I are apt to call ourselves his
children, and so I name this story of our lives,
THE CHILDREN OF THE PUBLIC.
WHERE IS THE BARREL?
Where is the barrel this time, Fausta? said I, after I had added
and subtracted her figures three times, to be sure she had carried her
tens and hundreds rightly. For the units, in such accounts, in face of
Dr. Franklin, I confess I do not care.
The barrel, said she, is in FRANK LESLIE'S OFFICE. Here is the
mark! and she handed me FRANK LESLIE'S NEWSPAPER, with a mark at this
for the best Short Tale of from one to two pages of FRANK
ILLUSTRATED NEWSPAPER, to be sent in on or before the 1st of
There is another barrel, she said, with $5,000 in it, and another
with $1,000. But we do not want $5,000 or $1,000. There is a little
barrel with $50 in it. But see here, with all this figuring, I cannot
make it do. I have stopped the gas now, and I have turned the
children's coats,I wish you would see how well Robert's looks,and I
have had a new tile put in the cook-stove, instead of buying that
lovely new 'Banner.' But all will not do. We must go to this barrel.
And what is to be the hook, darling, this time? said I.
I have been thinking of it all day. I hope you will not hate it,I
know you will not like it exactly; but why not write down just the
whole story of what it is to be 'Children of the Public'; how we came
to live here, you know; how we built the house, andall about it?
How Felix knew Fausta, said I; and how Fausta first met Felix,
perhaps; and when they first kissed each other; and what she said to
him when they did so.
Tell that, if you dare, said Fausta; but perhapsthe oracle says
we must not be proudperhaps you might tell just a little. You
knowreally almost everybody is named Carter now; and I do not believe
the neighbors will notice,perhaps they won't read the paper. And if
they do notice it, I don't care! There!
It will not be so bad as
But I never finished the sentence. An imperative gesture closed my
lips physically as well as metaphorically, and I was glad to turn the
subject enough to sit down to tea with the children. After the bread
and butter we agreed what we might and what we might not tell, and then
I wrote what the reader is now to see.
MY LIFE TO ITS CRISIS.
New-Yorkers of to-day see so many processions, and live through so
many sensations, and hurrah for so many heroes in every year, that it
is only the oldest of fogies who tells you of the triumphant procession
of steamboats which, in the year 1824, welcomed General Lafayette on
his arrival from his tour through the country he had so nobly served.
But, if the reader wishes to lengthen out this story, he may button the
next silver-gray friend he meets, and ask him to tell of the broken
English and broken French of the Marquis, of Levasseur, and the rest of
them; of the enthusiasm of the people and the readiness of the
visitors, and he will please bear in mind that of all that am I.
For it so happened that on the morning when, for want of better
lions to show, the mayor and governor and the rest of them took the
Marquis and his secretary, and the rest of them, to see the orphan
asylum in Deering Street,as they passed into the first ward, after
having had a little refreshment in the managers' room, Sally Eaton,
the head nurse, dropped the first courtesy to them, and Sally Eaton, as
it happened, held me screaming in her arms. I had been sent to the
asylum that morning with a paper pinned to my bib, which said my name
was Felix Carter.
Eet ees verra fine, said the Marquis, smiling blandly.
Ràvissant! said Levasseur, and he dropped a five-franc piece into
Sally Eaton's hand. And so the procession of exhibiting managers
talking bad French, and of exhibited Frenchmen talking bad English,
passed on; all but good old Elkanah OgdenGod bless him!who happened
to have come there with the governor's party, and who loitered a minute
to talk with Sally Eaton about me.
Years afterwards she told me how the old man kissed me, how his eyes
watered when he asked my story, how she told again of the moment when I
was heard screaming on the doorstep, and how she offered to go and
bring the paper which had been pinned to my bib. But the old man said
it was no matter,only we would have called him Marquis, said he,
if his name was not provided for him. We must not leave him here, he
said; he shall grow up a farmer's lad, and not a little cockney. And
so, instead of going the grand round of infirmaries, kitchens,
bakeries, and dormitories with the rest, the good old soul went back
into the managers' room, and wrote at the moment a letter to John
Myers, who took care of his wild land in St. Lawrence County for him,
to ask him if Mrs. Myers would not bring up an orphan baby by hand for
him; and if, both together, they would not train this baby till he said
stop; if, on the other hand, he allowed them, in the yearly account,
a hundred dollars each year for the charge.
Anybody who knows how far a hundred dollars goes in the backwoods,
in St. Lawrence County, will know that any settler would be glad to
take a ward so recommended. Anybody who knew Betsy Myers as well as old
Elkanah Ogden did, would know she would have taken any orphan brought
to her door, even if he were not recommended at all.
So it happened, thanks to Lafayette and the city council! that I had
not been a Child of the Public a day, before, in its great, clumsy,
liberal way, it had provided for me. I owed my healthy, happy home of
the next fourteen years in the wilderness to those marvellous habits,
which I should else call absurd, with which we lionize strangers.
Because our hospitals and poorhouses are the largest buildings we have,
we entertain the Prince of Wales and Jenny Lind alike, by showing them
crazy people and paupers. Easy enough to laugh at is the display; but
if, dear Public, it happen, that by such a habit you ventilate your
Bridewell or your Bedlam, is not the ventilation, perhaps, a
compensation for the absurdity? I do not know if Lafayette was any the
better for his seeing the Deering Street Asylum; but I do know I was.
This is no history of my life. It is only an illustration of one of
its principles. I have no anecdotes of wilderness life to tell, and no
sketch of the lovely rugged traits of John and Betsy Myers,my real
father and mother. I have no quest for the pretended parents, who threw
me away in my babyhood, to record. They closed accounts with me when
they left me on the asylum steps, and I with them. I grew up with such
schooling as the public gave,ten weeks in winter always, and ten in
summer, till I was big enough to work on the farm,better periods of
schools, I hold, than on the modern systems. Mr. Ogden I never saw.
Regularly he allowed for me the hundred a year till I was nine years
old, and then suddenly he died, as the reader perhaps knows. But John
Myers kept me as his son, none the less. I knew no change until, when I
was fourteen, he thought it time for me to see the world, and sent me
to what, in those days, was called a Manual-Labor School.
There was a theory coming up in those days, wholly unfounded in
physiology, that if a man worked five hours with his hands, he could
study better in the next five. It is all nonsense. Exhaustion is
exhaustion; and if you exhaust a vessel by one stopcock, nothing is
gained or saved by closing that and opening another. The old up-country
theory is the true one. Study ten weeks and chop wood fifteen; study
ten more and harvest fifteen. But the Manual-Labor School offered
itself for really no pay, only John Myers and I carried over, I
remember, a dozen barrels of potatoes when I went there with my books.
The school was kept at Roscius, and if I would work in the carpenter's
shop and on the school farm five hours, why they would feed me and
teach me all they knew in what I had of the day beside.
Felix, said John, as he left me, I do not suppose this is the
best school in the world, unless you make it so. But I do suppose you
can make it so. If you and I went whining about, looking for the best
school in the world, and for somebody to pay your way through it, I
should die, and you would lose your voice with whining, and we should
not find one after all. This is what the public happens to provide for
you and me. We won't look a gift-horse in the mouth. Get on his back,
Felix; groom him well as you can when you stop, feed him when you can,
and at all events water him well and take care of him well. My last
advice to you, Felix, is to take what is offered you, and never
complain because nobody offers more.
Those words are to be cut on my seal-ring, if I ever have one, and
if Dr. Anthon or Professor Webster will put them into short enough
Latin for me. That is the motto of the Children of the Public.
John Myers died before that term was out. And my more than mother,
Betsy, went back to her friends in Maine. After the funeral I never saw
them more. How I lived from that moment to what Fausta and I call the
Crisis is nobody's concern. I worked in the shop at the school, or on
the farm. Afterwards I taught school in neighboring districts. I never
bought a ticket in a lottery or a raffle. But whenever there was a
chance to do an honest stroke of work, I did it. I have walked fifteen
miles at night to carry an election return to the Tribune's
agent at Gouverneur. I have turned out in the snow to break open the
road when the supervisor could not find another man in the township.
When Sartain started his magazine, I wrote an essay in competition
for his premiums, and the essay earned its hundred dollars. When the
managers of the Orphan Home, in Baltimore, offered their prizes for
papers on bad boys, I wrote for one of them, and that helped me on four
hard months. There was no luck in those things. I needed the money, and
I put my hook into the pork-barrel,that is, I trusted the Public. I
never had but one stroke of luck in my life. I wanted a new pair of
boots badly. I was going to walk to Albany, to work in the State
library on the history of the Six Nations, which had an interest for
me. I did not have a dollar. Just then there passed Congress the bill
dividing the surplus revenue. The State of New York received two or
three millions, and divided it among the counties. The county of St.
Lawrence divided it among the townships, and the township of Roscius
divided it among the voters. Two dollars and sixty cents of Uncle Sam's
money came to me, and with that money on my feet I walked to Albany.
That I call luck! How many fools had to assent in an absurdity before I
could study the history of the Six Nations!
But one instance told in detail is better than a thousand told in
general, for the illustration of a principle. So I will detain you no
longer from the history of what Fausta and I call
I was at work as a veneerer in a piano-forte factory at Attica, when
some tariff or other was passed or repealed; there came a great
financial explosion, and our boss, among the rest, failed. He owed us
all six months' wages, and we were all very poor and very blue.
Jonathan Whittemorea real good fellow, who used to cover the hammers
with leathercame to me the day the shop was closed, and told me he
was going to take the chance to go to Europe. He was going to the
Musical Conservatory at Leipsic, if he could. He would work his passage
out as a stoker. He would wash himself for three or four days at
Bremen, and then get work, if he could, with Voightlander or Von Hammer
till he could enter the Conservatory. By way of preparation for this he
wanted me to sell him my Adler's German Dictionary.
I've nothing to give you for it, Felix, but this foolish thing,it
is one of Burrham's tickets,which I bought in a frolic the night of
our sleigh-ride. I'll transfer it to you.
I told Jonathan he might have the dictionary and welcome. He was
doing a sensible thing, and he would use it twenty times as much as I
should. As for the ticket, he had better keep it. I did not want it.
But I saw he would feel better if I took it,so he indorsed it to me.
Now the reader must know that this Burrham was a man who had got
hold of one corner of the idea of what the Public could do for its
children. He had found out that there were a thousand people who would
be glad to make the tour of the mountains and the lakes every summer if
they could do it for half-price. He found out that the railroad
companies were glad enough to put the price down if they could be sure
of the thousand people. He mediated between the two, and so cheap
excursions came into being. They are one of the gifts the Public gives
its children. Rising from step to step, Burrham had, just before the
great financial crisis, conceived the idea of a great cheap
combination, in which everybody was to receive a magazine for a year
and a cyclopædia, both at half-price; and not only so, but the money
that was gained in the combination was to be given by lot to two
ticket-holders, one a man and one a woman, for their dowry in marriage.
I dare say the reader remembers the prospectus. It savors too much of
the modern Gift Enterprise to be reprinted in full; but it had this
honest element, that everybody got more than he could get for his money
in retail. I have my magazine, the old Boston Miscellany, to
this day, and I just now looked out Levasseur's name in my cyclopædia;
and, as you will see, I have reason to know that all the other
subscribers got theirs.
One of the tickets for these books, for which Whittemore had given
five good dollars, was what he gave to me for my dictionary. And so we
parted. I loitered at Attica, hoping for a place where I could put in
my oar. But my hand was out at teaching, and in a time when all the
world's veneers of different kinds were ripping off, nobody wanted me
to put on more of my kind,so that my cash ran low. I would not go in
debt,that is a thing I never did. More honest, I say, to go to the
poorhouse, and make the Public care for its child there, than to borrow
what you cannot pay. But I did not come quite to that, as you shall
I was counting up my money one night,and it was easily done,when
I observed that the date on this Burrham order was the 15th of October,
and it occurred to me that it was not quite a fortnight before those
books were to be delivered. They were to be delivered at Castle Garden,
at New York; and the thought struck me that I might go to New York, try
my chance there for work, and at least see the city, which I had never
seen, and get my cyclopædia and magazine. It was the least offer the
Public ever made to me; but just then the Public was in a collapse, and
the least was better than nothing. The plan of so long a journey was
Quixotic enough, and I hesitated about it a good deal. Finally I came
to this resolve: I would start in the morning to walk to the
lock-station at Brockport on the canal. If a boat passed that night
where they would give me my fare for any work I could do for them, I
would go to Albany. If not, I would walk back to Lockport the next day,
and try my fortune there. This gave me, for my first day's enterprise,
a foot journey of about twenty-five miles. It was out of the question,
with my finances, for me to think of compassing the train.
Every point of life is a pivot on which turns the whole action of
our after-lives; and so, indeed, of the after-lives of the whole world.
But we are so purblind that we only see this of certain special
enterprises and endeavors, which we therefore call critical. I am sure
I see it of that twenty-five miles of fresh autumnal walking. I was in
tiptop spirits. I found the air all oxygen, and everything all right.
I did not loiter, and I did not hurry. I swung along with the feeling
that every nerve and muscle drew, as in the trades a sailor feels of
every rope and sail. And so I was not tired, not thirsty, till the
brook appeared where I was to drink; nor hungry till twelve o'clock
came, when I was to dine. I called myself as I walked The Child of
Good Fortune, because the sun was on my right quarter, as the sun
should be when you walk, because the rain of yesterday had laid the
dust for me, and the frost of yesterday had painted the hills for me,
and the northwest wind cooled the air for me. I came to Wilkie's
Cross-Roads just in time to meet the Claremont baker and buy my dinner
loaf of him. And when my walk was nearly done, I came out on the low
bridge at Sewell's, which is a drawbridge, just before they raised it
for a passing boat, instead of the moment after. Because I was all
right I felt myself and called myself The Child of Good Fortune. Dear
reader, in a world made by a loving Father, we are all of us children
of good fortune, if we only have wit enough to find it out, as we
The last stroke of good fortune which that day had for me was the
solution of my question whether or no I would go to Babylon. I was to
go if any good-natured boatman would take me. This is a question, Mr.
Millionnaire, more doubtful to those who have not drawn their dividends
than to those who have. As I came down the village street at Brockport,
I could see the horses of a boat bound eastward, led along from level
to level at the last lock; and, in spite of my determination not to
hurry, I put myself on the long, loping trot which the St. Regis
Indians taught me, that I might overhaul this boat before she got under
way at her new speed. I came out on the upper gate of the last lock
just as she passed out from the lower gate. The horses were just put
on, and a reckless boy gave them their first blow after two hours of
rest and corn. As the heavy boat started off under the new motion, I
saw, and her skipper saw at the same instant, that a long new tow-rope
of his, which had lain coiled on deck, was suddenly flying out to its
full length. The outer end of it had been carried upon the lock-side by
some chance or blunder, and there some idle loafer had thrown the
looped bight of it over a hawser-post. The loafers on the lock saw, as
I did, that the rope was running out, and at the call of the skipper
one of them condescended to throw the loop overboard, but he did it so
carelessly that the lazy rope rolled over into the lock, and the loop
caught on one of the valve-irons of the upper gate. The whole was the
business of an instant, of course. But the poor skipper saw, what we
did not, that the coil of the rope on deck was foul, and so entangled
round his long tiller, that ten seconds would do one of three
things,they would snap his new rope in two, which was a trifle, or
they would wrench his tiller-head off the rudder, which would cost him
an hour to mend, or they would upset those two horses, at this instant
on a trot, and put into the canal the rowdy youngster who had started
them. It was this complex certainty which gave fire to the double cries
which he addressed aft to us on the lock, and forward to the magnet
boy, whose indifferent intelligence at that moment drew him along.
I was stepping upon the gate-head to walk across it. It took but an
instant, not nearly all the ten seconds, to swing down by my arms into
the lock, keeping myself hanging by my hands, to catch with my right
foot the bight of the rope and lift it off the treacherous iron, to
kick the whole into the water, and then to scramble up the wet
lock-side again. I got a little wet, but that was nothing. I ran down
the tow-path, beckoned to the skipper, who sheered his boat up to the
shore, and I jumped on board.
At that moment, reader, Fausta was sitting in a yellow chair on the
deck of that musty old boat, crocheting from a pattern in Godey's
Lady's Book. I remember it as I remember my breakfast of this
morning. Not that I fell in love with her, nor did I fall in love with
my breakfast; but I knew she was there. And that was the first time I
ever saw her. It is many years since, and I have seen her every day
from that evening to this evening. But I had then no business with her.
My affair was with him whom I have called the skipper, by way of
adapting this fresh-water narrative to ears accustomed to Marryat and
Tom Cringle. I told him that I had to go to New York; that I had not
time to walk, and had not money to pay; that I should like to work my
passage to Troy, if there were any way in which I could; and to ask him
this I had come on board.
Waal, said the skipper, 'taint much that is to be done, and
Zekiel and I calc'late to do most of that; and there's that blamed boy
This adjective blamed is the virtuous oath by which simple people,
who are improving their habits, cure themselves of a stronger epithet,
as men take to flagroot who are abandoning tobacco.
He ain't good for nothin', as you see, continued the skipper
meditatively, and you air, anybody can see that, he added. Ef you've
mind to come to Albany, you can have your vittles, poor enough they are
too; and ef you are willing to ride sometimes, you can ride. I guess
where there's room for three in the bunks there's room for four. 'Taint
everybody would have cast off that blamed hawser-rope as neat as you
From which last remark I inferred, what I learned as a certainty as
we travelled farther, that but for the timely assistance I had rendered
him I should have plead for my passage in vain.
This was my introduction to Fausta. That is to say, she heard the
whole of the conversation. The formal introduction, which is omitted in
no circle of American life to which I have ever been admitted, took
place at tea half an hour after, when Mrs. Grills, who always voyaged
with her husband, brought in the flapjacks from the kitchen. Miss
Jones, said Grills, as I came into the meal, leaving Zekiel at the
tiller,Miss Jones, this is a young man who is going to Albany. I
don't rightly know how to call your name, sir. I said my name was
Carter. Then he said, Mr. Carter, this is Miss Jones. Mrs. Grills, Mr.
Carter. Mr. Carter, Mrs. Grills. She is my wife. And so our partie
carrée was established for the voyage.
In these days there are few people who know that a journey on a
canal is the pleasantest journey in the world. A canal has to go
through fine scenery. It cannot exist unless it follow through the
valley of a stream. The movement is so easy that, with your eyes shut,
you do not know you move. The route is so direct, that when you are
once shielded from the sun, you are safe for hours. You draw, you read,
you write, or you sew, crochet, or knit. You play on your flute or your
guitar, without one hint of inconvenience. At a low bridge you duck
your head lest you lose your hat,and that reminder teaches you that
you are human. You are glad to know this, and you laugh at the memento.
For the rest of the time you journey, if you are all right within, in
I rode one of those horses perhaps two or three hours a day. At
locks I made myself generally useful. At night I walked the deck till
one o'clock, with my pipe or without it, to keep guard against the
lock-thieves. The skipper asked me sometimes, after he found I could
cipher, to disentangle some of the knots in his bills of lading for
him. But all this made but a little inroad in those lovely autumn days,
and for the eight days that we glided along,there is one blessed
level which is seventy miles long,I spent most of my time with
Fausta. We walked together on the tow-path to get our appetites for
dinner and for supper. At sunrise I always made a cruise inland, and
collected the gentians and black alder-berries and colored leaves, with
which she dressed Mrs. Grill's table. She took an interest in my
wretched sketchbook, and though she did not and does not draw well, she
did show me how to spread an even tint, which I never knew before. I
was working up my French. She knew about as much and as little as I
did, and we read Mad. Reybaud's Clementine together, guessing at the
hard words, because we had no dictionary.
Dear old Grill offered to talk French at table, and we tried it for
a few days. But it proved he picked up his pronunciation at St.
Catherine's, among the boatmen there, and he would say shwo for
horses, where the book said chevaux. Our talk, on the other
hand, was not Parisian,but it was not Catherinian,and we subsided
into English again.
So sped along these blessed eight days. I told Fausta thus much of
my story, that I was going to seek my fortune in New York. She, of
course, knew nothing of me but what she saw, and she told me nothing of
But I was very sorry when we came into the basin at Troy, for I knew
then that in all reason I must take the steamboat down. And I was very
glad,I have seldom in my life been so glad,when I found that she
also was going to New York immediately. She accepted, very pleasantly,
my offer to carry her trunk to the Isaac Newton for her, and to act as
her escort to the city. For me, my trunk,
in danger tried,
Swung in my hand,nor left my side.
My earthly possessions were few anywhere. I had left at Attica most
of what they were. Through the voyage I had been man enough to keep on
a working-gear fit for a workman's duty. And old Grills had not yet
grace enough to keep his boat still on Sunday. How one remembers little
things! I can remember each touch of the toilet, as, in that corner of
a dark cuddy where I had shared Zekiel's bunk with him, I dressed
myself with one of my two white shirts, and with the change of raiment
which had been tight squeezed in my portmanteau. The old overcoat was
the best part of it, as in a finite world it often is. I sold my felt
hat to Zekiel, and appeared with a light travelling-cap. I do not know
how Fausta liked my metamorphosis. I only know that, like butterflies,
for a day or two after they go through theirs, I felt decidedly cold.
As Carter, the canal man, I had carried Fausta's trunk on board. As
Mr. Carter, I gave her my arm, led her to the gangway of the Newton,
took her passage and mine, and afterwards walked and sat through the
splendid moonlight of the first four hours down the river.
Miss Jones determined that evening to breakfast on the boat. Be it
observed that I did not then know her by any other name. She was to go
to an aunt's house, and she knew that if she left the boat on its early
arrival in New York, she would disturb that lady by a premature ringing
at her bell. I had no reason for haste, as the reader knows. The
distribution of the cyclopædias was not to take place till the next
day, and that absurd trifle was the only distinct excuse I had to
myself for being in New York at all. I asked Miss Jones, therefore, if
I might not be her escort still to her aunt's house. I had said it
would be hard to break off our pleasant journey before I had seen where
she lived, and I thought she seemed relieved to know that she should
not be wholly a stranger on her arrival. It was clear enough that her
aunt would send no one to meet her.
These preliminaries adjusted, we parted to our respective cabins.
And when, the next morning, at that unearthly hour demanded by
Philadelphia trains and other exigencies, the Newton made her dock, I
rejoiced that breakfast was not till seven o'clock, that I had two
hours more of the berth, which was luxury compared to Zekiel's bunk,I
turned upon my other side and slept on.
Sorry enough for that morning nap was I for the next thirty-six
hours. For when I went on deck, and sent in the stewardess to tell Miss
Jones that I was waiting for her, and then took from her the check for
her trunk, I woke to the misery of finding that, in that treacherous
two hours, some pirate from the pier had stepped on board, had seized
the waiting trunk, left almost alone, while the baggage-master's back
was turned, and that, to a certainty, it was lost. I did not return to
Fausta with this story till the breakfast-bell had long passed and the
breakfast was very cold. I did not then tell it to her till I had seen
her eat her breakfast with an appetite much better than mine. I had
already offered up stairs the largest reward to anybody who would bring
it back which my scanty purse would pay. I had spoken to the clerk, who
had sent for a policeman. I could do nothing more, and I did not choose
to ruin her chop and coffee by ill-timed news. The officer came before
breakfast was over, and called me from table.
On the whole, his business-like way encouraged one. He had some
clews which I had not thought possible. It was not unlikely that they
should pounce on the trunk before it was broken open. I gave him a
written description of its marks; and when he civilly asked if my
lady would give some description of any books or other articles
within, I readily promised that I would call with such a description at
the police station. Somewhat encouraged, I returned to Miss Jones, and,
when I led her from the breakfast-table, told her of her misfortune. I
took all shame to myself for my own carelessness, to which I attributed
the loss. But I told her all that the officer had said to me, and that
I hoped to bring her the trunk at her aunt's before the day was over.
Fausta took my news, however, with a start which frightened me. All
her money, but a shilling or two, was in the trunk. To place money in
trunks is a weakness of the female mind which I have nowhere seen
accounted for. Worse than this, though,as appeared after a moment's
examination of her travelling sac,her portfolio in the trunk
contained the letter of the aunt whom she came to visit, giving her her
address in the city. To this address she had no other clew but that her
aunt was Mrs. Mary Mason, had married a few years before a merchant
named Mason, whom Miss Jones had never seen, and of whose name and
business this was all she knew. They lived in a numbered street, but
whether it was Fourth Street, or Fifty-fourth, or One Hundred and
Twenty-fourth, or whether it was something between, the poor child had
no idea. She had put up the letter carefully, but had never thought of
the importance of the address. Besides this aunt, she knew no human
being in New York.
Child of the Public, I said to myself, what do you do now? I had
appealed to my great patron in sending for the officer, and on the
whole I felt that my sovereign had been gracious to me, if not yet
hopeful. But now I must rub my lamp again, and ask the genie where the
unknown Mason lived. The genie of course suggested the Directory, and I
ran for it to the clerk's office. But as we were toiling down the pages
of Masons, and had written off thirteen or fourteen who lived in
numbered streets, Fausta started, looked back at the preface and its
date, flung down her pencil in the only abandonment of dismay in which
I ever saw her, and cried, First of May! They were abroad until May.
They have been abroad since the day they were married! So that genie
had to put his glories into his pocket, and carry his Directory back to
the office again.
The natural thing to propose was, that I should find for Miss Jones
a respectable boarding-house, and that she should remain there until
her trunk was found, or till she could write to friends who had this
fatal address, and receive an answer. But here she hesitated. She
hardly liked to explain why,did not explain wholly. But she did not
say that she had no friends who knew this address. She had but few
relations in the world, and her aunt had communicated with her alone
since she came from Europe. As for the boarding-house, I had rather
look for work, she said bravely. I have never promised to pay money
when I did not know how to obtain it; and thatand here she took out
fifty or sixty cents from her purseand that is all now. In
respectable boarding-houses, when people come without luggage, they are
apt to ask for an advance. Or, at least, she added, with some pride,
I am apt to offer it.
I hastened to ask her to take all my little store; but I had to own
that I had not two dollars. I was sure, however, that my overcoat and
the dress-suit I wore would avail me something, if I thrust them boldly
up some spout. I was sure that I should be at work within a day or two.
At all events, I was certain of the cyclopædia the next day. That
should go to old Gowan's,in Fulton Street it was then,the moral
centre of the intellectual world, in the hour I got it. And at this
moment, for the first time, the thought crossed me, If mine could only
be the name drawn, so that that foolish $5,000 should fall to me. In
that case I felt that Fausta might live in a respectable
boarding-house till she died. Of this, of course, I said nothing, only
that she was welcome to my poor dollar and a half, and that I should
receive the next day some more money that was due me.
You forget, Mr. Carter, replied Fausta, as proudly as
before,you forget that I cannot borrow of you any more than of a
boarding-house-keeper. I never borrow. Please God, I never will. It
must be, she added, that in a Christian city like this there is some
respectable and fit arrangement made for travellers who find themselves
where I am. What that provision is I do not know; but I will find out
what it is before this sun goes down.
I paused a moment before I replied. If I had been fascinated by this
lovely girl before, I now bowed in respect before her dignity and
resolution; and, with my sympathy, there was a delicious throb of
self-respect united, when I heard her lay down so simply, as principles
of her life, two principles on which I had always myself tried to live.
The half-expressed habits of my boyhood and youth were now uttered for
me as axioms by lips which I knew could speak nothing but right and
I paused a moment. I stumbled a little as I expressed my regret that
she would not let me help her,joined with my certainty that she was
in the right in refusing,and then, in the only stiff speech I ever
made to her, I said:
I am the 'Child of the Public.' If you ever hear my story, you will
say so too. At the least, I can claim this, that I have a right to help
you in your quest as to the way in which the public will help you. Thus
far I am clearly the officer in his suite to whom he has intrusted you.
Are you ready, then, to go on shore?
Fausta looked around on that forlorn ladies' saloon, as if it were
the last link holding her to her old safe world.
Looked upon skylight, lamp, and chain,
As what she ne'er might see again.
Then she looked right through me; and if there had been one mean
thought in me at that minute, she would have seen the viper. Then she
I have perfect confidence in you, though people would say we were
strangers. Let us go.
And we left the boat together. We declined the invitations of the
noisy hackmen, and walked slowly to Broadway.
We stopped at the station-house for that district, and to the
attentive chief Fausta herself described those contents of her trunk
which she thought would be most easily detected, if offered for sale.
Her mother's Bible, at which the chief shook his head; Bibles, alas!
brought nothing at the shops; a soldier's medal, such as were given as
target prizes by the Montgomery regiment; and a little silver canteen,
marked with the device of the same regiment, seemed to him better
worthy of note. Her portfolio was wrought with a cipher, and she
explained to him that she was most eager that this should be recovered.
The pocket-book contained more than one hundred dollars, which she
described, but he shook his head here, and gave her but little hope of
that, if the trunk were once opened. His chief hope was for this
And where shall we send to you then, madam? said he.
I had been proud, as if it were my merit, of the impression Fausta
had made upon the officer, in her quiet, simple, ladylike dress and
manner. For myself, I thought that one slip of pretence in my dress or
bearing, a scrap of gold or of pinchbeck, would have ruined both of us
in our appeal. But, fortunately, I did not disgrace her, and the man
looked at her as if he expected her to say Fourteenth Street. What
would she say?
That depends upon what the time will be. Mr. Carter will call at
noon, and will let you know.
We bowed, and were gone. In an instant more she begged my pardon,
almost with tears; but I told her that if she also had been a Child of
the Public, she could not more fitly have spoken to one of her
father's officers. I begged her to use me as her protector, and not to
apologize again. Then we laid out the plans which we followed out that
The officer's manner had reassured her, and I succeeded in
persuading her that it was certain we should have the trunk at noon.
How much better to wait, at least so far, before she entered on any of
the enterprises of which she talked so coolly, as of offering herself
as a nursery-girl, or as a milliner, to whoever would employ her, if
only she could thus secure an honest home till money or till aunt were
found. Once persuaded that we were safe from this Quixotism, I told her
that we must go on, as we did on the canal, and first we must take our
constitutional walk for two hours.
At least, she said, our good papa, the Public, gives us wonderful
sights to see, and good walking to our feet, as a better Father has
given us this heavenly sky and this bracing air.
And with those words the last heaviness of despondency left her face
for that day. And we plunged into the delicious adventure of exploring
a new city, staring into windows as only strangers can, revelling in
print-shops as only they do, really seeing the fine buildings as
residents always forget to do, and laying up, in short, with those
streets, nearly all the associations which to this day we have with
Two hours of this tired us with walking, of course. I do not know
what she meant to do next; but at ten I said, Time for French, Miss
Jones. Ah oui, said she, mais où? and I had
calculated my distances, and led her at once into Lafayette Place; and,
in a moment, pushed open the door of the Astor Library, led her up the
main stairway, and said, This is what the Public provides for his
children when they have to study.
This is the Astor, said she, delighted. And we are all right, as
you say, here? Then she saw that our entrance excited no surprise
among the few readers, men and women, who were beginning to assemble.
We took our seats at an unoccupied table, and began to revel in the
luxuries for which we had only to ask that we might enjoy. I had a
little memorandum of books which I had been waiting to see. She needed
none; but looked for one and another, and yet another, and between us
we kept the attendant well in motion. A pleasant thing to me to be
finding out her thoroughbred tastes and lines of work, and I was happy
enough to interest her in some of my pet readings; and, of course, for
she was a woman, to get quick hints which had never dawned on me
before. A very short hour and a half we spent there before I went to
the station-house again. I went very quickly. I returned to her very
The trunk was not found. But they were now quite sure they were on
its track. They felt certain it had been carried from pier to pier and
taken back up the river. Nor was it hopeless to follow it. The
particular rascal who was supposed to have it would certainly stop
either at Piermont or at Newburg. They had telegraphed to both places,
and were in time for both. The day boat, sir, will bring your lady's
trunk, and will bring me Rowdy Rob, too, I hope, said the officer. But
at the same moment, as he rang his bell, he learned that no despatch
had yet been received from either of the places named. I did not feel
so certain as he did.
But Fausta showed no discomfort as I told my news. Thus far, said
she, the Public serves me well. I will borrow no trouble by want of
faith. And Ias Dante would sayand I, to her, will you let me
remind you, then, that at one we dine; that Mrs. Grills is now placing
the salt-pork upon the cabin table, and Mr. Grills asking the blessing;
and, as this is the only day when I can have the honor of your company,
will you let me show you how a Child of the Public dines, when his
finances are low?
Fausta laughed, and said again, less tragically than before, I have
perfect confidence in you,little thinking how she started my blood
with the words; but this time, as if in token, she let me take her hand
upon my arm, as we walked down the street together.
If we had been snobs, or even if I had been one, I should have taken
her to Taylor's, and have spent all the money I had on such a luncheon
as neither of us had ever eaten before. Whatever else I am, I am not a
snob of that sort. I show my colors. I led her into a little
cross-street which I had noticed in our erratic morning pilgrimage. We
stopped at a German baker's. I bade her sit down at the neat marble
table, and I bought two rolls. She declined lager, which I offered her
in fun. We took water instead, and we had dined, and had paid two cents
for our meal, and had had a very merry dinner, too, when the clock
And now, Mr. Carter, said she, I will steal no more of your day.
You did not come to New York to escort lone damsels to the Astor
Library or to dinner. Nor did I come only to see the lions or to read
French. I insist on your going to your affairs, and leaving me to mine.
If you will meet me at the Library half an hour before it closes, I
will thank you; till then, with a tragedy shake of the hand, and a
merry laugh, adieu!
I knew very well that no harm could happen to her in two hours of an
autumn afternoon. I was not sorry for her congé, for it gave me
an opportunity to follow my own plans. I stopped at one or two
cabinet-makers, and talked with the jours about work, that I might
tell her with truth that I had been in search of it;then I sedulously
began on calling upon every man I could reach named Mason. O, how often
I went through one phase or another of this colloquy:
Is Mr. Mason in?
That's my name, sir.
Can you give me the address of Mr. Mason who returned from Europe
Know no such person, sir.
The reader can imagine how many forms this dialogue could be
repeated in, before, as I wrought my way through a long line of
dry-goods cases to a distant counting-room, I heard some one in it say,
No, madam, I know no such person as you describe; and from the recess
Fausta emerged and met me. Her plan for the afternoon had been the same
with mine. We laughed as we detected each other; then I told her she
had had quite enough of this, that it was time she should rest, and
took her, nolens volens, into the ladies' parlor of the St.
Nicholas, and bade her wait there through the twilight, with my copy of
Clementine, till I should return from the police-station. If the reader
has ever waited in such a place for some one to come and attend to him,
he will understand that nobody will be apt to molest him when he has
not asked for attention.
Two hours I left Fausta in the rocking-chair, which there the Public
had provided for her. Then I returned, sadly enough. No tidings of
Rowdy Rob, none of trunk, Bible, money, letter, medal, or anything.
Still was my district sergeant hopeful, and, as always, respectful. But
I was hopeless this time, and I knew that the next day Fausta would be
plunging into the war with intelligence-houses and advertisements. For
the night, I was determined that she should spend it in my ideal
respectable boarding-house. On my way down town, I stopped in at one
or two shops to make inquiries, and satisfied myself where I would take
her. Still I thought it wisest that we should go after tea; and another
cross-street baker, and another pair of rolls, and another tap at the
Croton, provided that repast for us. Then I told Fausta of the
respectable boarding-house, and that she must go there. She did not say
no. But she did say she would rather not spend the evening there.
There must be some place open for us, said she. There! there is a
church-bell! The church is always home. Let us come there.
So to evening meeting we went, startling the sexton by arriving an
hour early. If there were any who wondered what was the use of that
Wednesday-evening service, we did not. In a dark gallery pew we sat,
she at one end, I at the other; and, if the whole truth be told, each
of us fell asleep at once, and slept till the heavy organ tones taught
us that the service had begun. A hundred or more people had straggled
in then, and the preacher, good soul, he took for his text, Doth not
God care for the ravens? I cannot describe the ineffable feeling of
home that came over me in that dark pew of that old church. I had never
been in so large a church before. I had never heard so heavy an organ
before. Perhaps I had heard better preaching, but never any that came
to my occasions more. But it was none of these things which moved me.
It was the fact that we were just where we had a right to be. No
impudent waiter could ask us why we were sitting there, nor any
petulant policeman propose that we should push on. It was God's house,
and, because his, it was his children's.
All this feeling of repose grew upon me, and, as it proved, upon
Fausta also. For when the service was ended, and I ventured to ask her
whether she also had this sense of home and rest, she assented so
eagerly, that I proposed, though with hesitation, a notion which had
crossed me, that I should leave her there.
I cannot think, I said, of any possible harm that could come to
you before morning.
Do you know, I had thought of that very same thing, but I did not
dare tell you, she said.
Was not I glad that she had considered me her keeper! But I only
said, At the 'respectable boarding-house' you might be annoyed by
And no one will speak to me here. I know that from Goody
I will be here, said I, at sunrise in the morning. And so I bade
her good by, insisting on leaving in the pew my own great-coat. I knew
she might need it before morning. I walked out as the sexton closed the
door below on the last of the down-stairs worshippers. He passed along
the aisles below, with his long poker which screwed down the gas. I saw
at once that he had no intent of exploring the galleries. But I
loitered outside till I saw him lock the doors and depart; and then,
happy in the thought that Miss Jones was in the safest place in New
York,as comfortable as she was the night before, and much more
comfortable than she had been any night upon the canal, I went in
search of my own lodging.
To the respectable boarding-house?
Not a bit, reader. I had no shillings for respectable or
disrespectable boarding-houses. I asked the first policeman where his
district station was. I went into its office, and told the captain that
I was green in the city; had got no work and no money. In truth, I had
left my purse in Miss Jones's charge, and a five-cent piece, which I
showed the chief, was all I had. He said no word but to bid me go up
two flights and turn into the first bunk I found. I did so; and in five
minutes was asleep in a better bed than I had slept in for nine days.
That was what the Public did for me that night. I, too, was safe!
I am making this story too long. But with that night and its
anxieties the end has come. At sunrise I rose and made my easy toilet.
I bought and ate my roll,varying the brand from yesterday's. I bought
another, with a lump of butter, and an orange, for Fausta. I left my
portmanteau at the station, while I rushed to the sexton's house, told
his wife I had left my gloves in church the night before,as was the
truth,and easily obtained from her the keys. In a moment I was in the
vestibulelocked inwas in the gallery, and there found Fausta, just
awake, as she declared, from a comfortable night, reading her morning
lesson in the Bible, and sure, she said, that I should soon appear. Nor
ghost, nor wraith, had visited her. I spread for her a brown paper
tablecloth on the table in the vestibule. I laid out her breakfast for
her, called her, and wondered at her toilet. How is it that women
always make themselves appear as neat and finished as if there were no
conflict, dust, or wrinkle in the world.
[Here Fausta adds, in this manuscript, a parenthesis, to say that
she folded her undersleeves neatly, and her collar, before she slept,
and put them between the cushions, upon which she slept. In the morning
they had been pressedwithout a sad-iron.]
She finished her repast. I opened the church door for five minutes.
She passed out when she had enough examined the monuments, and at a
respectable distance I followed her. We joined each other, and took our
accustomed morning walk; but then she resolutely said, Good by, for
the day. She would find work before night,work and a home. And I must
do the same. Only when I pressed her to let me know of her success, she
said she would meet me at the Astor Library just before it closed. No,
she would not take my money. Enough, that for twenty-four hours she had
been my guest. When she had found her aunt and told her the story, they
should insist on repaying this hospitality. Hospitality, dear reader,
which I had dispensed at the charge of six cents. Have you ever treated
Miranda for a day and found the charge so low? When I urged other
assistance she said resolutely, No. In fact, she had already made an
appointment at two, she said, and she must not waste the day.
I also had an appointment at two; for it was at that hour that
Burrham was to distribute the cyclopædias at Castle Garden. The
Emigrant Commission had not yet seized it for their own. I spent the
morning in asking vainly for Masons fresh from Europe, and for work in
cabinet-shops. I found neither, and so wrought my way to the appointed
place, where, instead of such wretched birds in the bush, I was to get
one so contemptible in my hand.
Those who remember Jenny Lind's first triumph night at Castle Garden
have some idea of the crowd as it filled gallery and floor of that
immense hall when I entered. I had given no thought to the machinery of
this folly. I only know that my ticket bade me be there at two P. M.
this day. But as I drew near, the throng, the bands of policemen, the
long queues of persons entering, reminded me that here was an affair of
ten thousand persons, and also that Mr. Burrham was not unwilling to
make it as showy, perhaps as noisy, an affair as was respectable, by
way of advertising future excursions and distributions. I was led to
seat No. 3,671 with a good deal of parade, and when I came there I
found I was very much of a prisoner. I was late, or rather on the
stroke of two. Immediately, almost, Mr. Burrham arose in the front and
made a long speech about his liberality, and the public's liberality,
and everybody's liberality in general, and the method of the
distribution in particular. The mayor and four or five other well-known
and respectable gentlemen were kind enough to be present to guarantee
the fairness of the arrangements. At the suggestion of the mayor and
the police, the doors would now be closed, that no persons might
interrupt the ceremony till it was ended. And the distribution of the
cyclopædias would at once go forward, in the order in which the lots
were drawn,earliest numbers securing the earliest impressions; which,
as Mr. Burrham almost regretted to say, were a little better than the
latest. After these had been distributed two figures would be
drawn,one green and one red, to indicate the fortunate lady and
gentleman who would receive respectively the profits which had arisen
from this method of selling the cyclopædias, after the expenses of
printing and distribution had been covered, and after the magazines had
Great cheering followed this announcement from all but me. Here I
had shut myself up in this humbug hall, for Heaven knew how long, on
the most important day of my life. I would have given up willingly my
cyclopædia and my chance at the profits, for the certainty of seeing
Fausta at five o'clock. If I did not see her then, what might befall
her, and when might I see her again. An hour before this certainty was
my own, now it was only mine by my liberating myself from this prison.
Still I was encouraged by seeing that everything was conducted like
clock-work. From literally a hundred stations they were distributing
the books. We formed ourselves into queues as we pleased, drew our
numbers, and then presented ourselves at the bureaux, ordered our
magazines, and took our cyclopædias. It would be done, at that rate, by
half past four. An omnibus might bring me to the Park, and a Bowery car
do the rest in time. After a vain discussion for the right of exit with
one or two of the attendants, I abandoned myself to this hope, and
began studying my cyclopædia.
It was sufficiently amusing to see ten thousand people resign
themselves to the same task, and affect to be unconcerned about the
green and red figures which were to divide the profits. I tried to
make out who were as anxious to get out of that tawdry den as I was.
Four o'clock struck, and the distribution was not done. I began to be
very impatient. What if Fausta fell into trouble? I knew, or hoped I
knew, that she would struggle to the Astor Library, as to her only
place of rescue and refuge,her asylum. What if I failed her there? I
who had pretended to be her protector! Protector, indeed! she would
say, if she knew I was at a theatre witnessing the greatest folly of
the age. And if I did not meet her to-day, when should I meet her? If
she found her aunt, how should I find her? If she did not find
her,good God? that was worse,where might she not be before twelve
hours were over? Then the fatal trunk! I had told the police agent he
might send it to the St. Nicholas, because I had to give him some
address. But Fausta did not know this, and the St. Nicholas people knew
nothing of us. I grew more and more excited, and when at last my next
neighbor told me that it was half past four, I rose and insisted on
leaving my seat. Two ushers with blue sashes almost held me down; they
showed me the whole assembly sinking into quiet. In fact, at that
moment Mr. Burrham was begging every one to be seated. I would not be
seated. I would go to the door. I would go out. Go, if you please!
said the usher next it, contemptuously. And I looked, and there was no
handle! Yet this was not a dream. It is the way they arrange the doors
in halls where they choose to keep people in their places. I could have
collared that grinning blue sash. I did tell him I would wring his
precious neck for him, if he did not let me out. I said I would sue him
for false imprisonment; I would have a writ of habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus be dd! said the officer, with an irreverent
disrespect to the palladium. If you are not more civil, sir, I will
call the police, of whom we have plenty. You say you want to go out;
you are keeping everybody in.
And, in fact, at that moment the clear voice of the mayor was
announcing that they would not go on until there was perfect quiet; and
I felt that I was imprisoning all these people, not they me.
Child of the Public, said my mourning genius; are you better than
other men? So I sneaked back to seat No. 3,671, amid the contemptuous
and reproachful looks and sneers of my more respectable neighbors, who
had sat where they were told to do. We must be through in a moment, and
perhaps Fausta would be late also. If only the Astor would keep open
after sunset! How often have I wished that since, and for less reasons!
Silence thus restored, Mr. A, the mayor, led forward his little
daughter, blindfolded her, and bade her put her hand into a green box,
from which she drew out a green ticket. He took it from her, and read,
in his clear voice again, No. 2,973! By this time we all knew where
the two thousands sat. Then nine hundreds were not far from the
front, so that it was not far that that frightened girl, dressed all in
black, and heavily veiled, had to walk, who answered to this call. Mr.
Amet her, helped her up the stair upon the stage, took from her her
ticket, and read, Jerusha Stillingfleet, of Yellow Springs, who, at
her death, as it seems, transferred this right to the bearer.
The disappointed nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine joined
in a rapturous cheer, each man and woman, to show that he or she was
not disappointed. The bearer spoke with Mr. Burrham, in answer to his
questions, and, with a good deal of ostentation, he opened a
check-book, filled a check and passed it to her, she signing a receipt
as she took it, and transferring to him her ticket. So far, in dumb
show, all was well. What was more to my purpose, it was rapid, for we
should have been done in five minutes more, but that some devil tempted
some loafer in a gallery to cry, Face! face! Miss Stillingfleet's
legatee was still heavily veiled.
In one horrid minute that whole amphitheatre, which seemed to me
then more cruel than the Coliseum ever was, rang out with a cry of
Face, face! I tried the counter-cry of Shame! shame! but I was in
disgrace among my neighbors, and a counter-cry never takes as its
prototype does, either. At first, on the stage, they affected not to
hear or understand; then there was a courtly whisper between Mr.
Burrham and the lady; but Mr. A, the mayor, and the respectable
gentlemen, instantly interfered. It was evident that she would not
unveil, and that they were prepared to indorse her refusal. In a moment
more she courtesied to the assembly; the mayor gave her his arm, and
led her out through a side-door.
O, the yell that rose up then! The whole assembly stood up, and, as
if they had lost some vested right, hooted and shrieked, Back! back!
Face! face! Mr. Areturned, made as if he would speak, came forward
to the very front, and got a moment's silence.
It is not in the bond, gentlemen, said he. The young lady is
unwilling to unveil, and we must not compel her.
Face! face! was the only answer, and oranges from up stairs flew
about his head and struck upon the table,an omen only fearful from
what it prophesied. Then there was such a row for five minutes as I
hope I may never see or hear again. People kept their places
fortunately, under a vague impression that they should forfeit some
magic rights if they left those numbered seats. But when, for a moment,
a file of policemen appeared in the orchestra, a whole volley of
cyclopædias fell like rain upon their chief, with a renewed cry of
At this juncture, with a good deal of knowledge of popular feeling,
Mr. Aled forward his child again. Frightened to death the poor
thing was, and crying; he tied his handkerchief round her eyes hastily,
and took her to the red box. For a minute the house was hushed. A cry
of Down! down! and every one took his place as the child gave the red
ticket to her father. He read it as before, No. 3,671! I heard the
words as if he did not speak them. All excited by the delay and the
row, by the injustice to the stranger and the personal injustice of
everybody to me, I did not know, for a dozen seconds, that every one
was looking towards our side of the house, nor was it till my next
neighbor with the watch said, Go, you fool, that I was aware that
3,671 was I! Even then, as I stepped down the passage and up the steps,
my only feeling was, that I should get out of this horrid trap, and
possibly find Miss Jones lingering near the Astor,not by any means
that I was invited to take a check for $5,000.
There was not much cheering. Women never mean to cheer, of course.
The men had cheered the green ticket, but they were mad with the red
one. I gave up my ticket, signed my receipt, and took my check, shook
hands with Mr. Aand Mr. Burrham, and turned to bow to the mob,for
mob I must call it now. But the cheers died away. A few people tried to
go out perhaps, but there was nothing now to retain any in their seats
as before, and the generality rose, pressed down the passages, and
howled, Face! face! I thought for a moment that I ought to say
something, but they would not hear me, and, after a moment's pause, my
passion to depart overwhelmed me. I muttered some apology to the
gentlemen, and left the stage by the stage door.
I had forgotten that to Castle Garden there can be no back entrance.
I came to door after door, which were all locked. It was growing dark.
Evidently the sun was set, and I knew the library door would be shut at
sunset. The passages were very obscure. All around me rang this horrid
yell of the mob, in which all that I could discern was the cry, Face,
face! At last, as I groped round, I came to a practicable door. I
entered a room where the western sunset glare dazzled me. I was not
alone. The veiled lady in black was there. But the instant she saw me
she sprang towards me, flung herself into my arms, and cried:
Felix, is it you?you are indeed my protector!
It was Miss Jones! It was Fausta! She was the legatee of Miss
Stillingfleet. My first thought was, O, if that beggarly usher had let
me go! Will I ever, ever think I have better rights than the Public
I took her in my arms. I carried her to the sofa. I could hardly
speak for excitement. Then I did say that I had been wild with terror;
that I had feared I had lost her, and lost her forever; that to have
lost that interview would have been worse to me than death; for unless
she knew that I loved her better than man ever loved woman, I could not
face a lonely night, and another lonely day.
My dear, dear child, I said, you may think me wild; but I must
say this,it has been pent up too long.
Say what you will, she said after a moment, in which still I held
her in my arms; she was trembling so that she could not have sat
upright alone,say what you will, if only you do not tell me to spend
another day alone.
And I kissed her, and I kissed her, and I kissed her, and I said,
Never, darling, God helping me, till I die!
How long we sat there I do not know. Neither of us spoke again. For
one, I looked out on the sunset and the bay. We had but just time to
rearrange ourselves in positions more independent, when Mr. Acame
in, this time in alarm, to say:
Miss Jones, we must get you out of this place, or we must hide you
somewhere. I believe, before God, they will storm this passage, and
pull the house about our ears.
He said this, not conscious as he began that I was there. At that
moment, however, I felt as if I could have met a million men. I started
forward and passed him, saying, Let me speak to them. I rushed upon
the stage, fairly pushing back two or three bullies who were already
upon it. I sprang upon the table, kicking down the red box as I did so,
so that the red tickets fell on the floor and on the people below. One
stuck in an old man's spectacles in a way which made the people in the
galleries laugh. A laugh is a great blessing at such a moment.
Curiosity is another. Three loud words spoken like thunder do a good
deal more. And after three words the house was hushed to hear me. I
Be fair to the girl. She has no father nor mother. She has no
brother nor sister. She is alone in the world, with nobody to help her
but the Publicand me!
The audacity of the speech brought out a cheer, and we should have
come off in triumph, when some rowdythe original face man, I
And who are you?
If the laugh went against me now I was lost, of course. Fortunately
I had no time to think. I said without thinking,
I am the Child of the Public, and her betrothed husband!
O Heavens! what a yell of laughter, of hurrahings, of satisfaction
with a dénouement, rang through the house, and showed that all
was well. Burrham caught the moment, and started his band, this time
successfully,I believe with See the Conquering Hero. The doors, of
course, had been open long before. Well-disposed people saw they need
stay no longer; ill-disposed people dared not stay; the blue-coated men
with buttons sauntered on the stage in groups, and I suppose the worst
rowdies disappeared as they saw them. I had made my single speech, and
for the moment I was a hero.
I believe the mayor would have liked to kiss me. Burrham almost did.
They overwhelmed me with thanks and congratulations. All these I
received as well as I could,somehow I did not feel at all
surprised,everything was as it should be. I scarcely thought of
leaving the stage myself, till, to my surprise, the mayor asked me to
go home with him to dinner.
Then I remembered that we were not to spend the rest of our lives in
Castle Garden. I blundered out something about Miss Jones, that she had
no escort except me, and pressed into her room to find her. A group of
gentlemen was around her. Her veil was back now. She was very pale, but
very lovely. Have I said that she was beautiful as heaven? She was the
queen of the room, modestly and pleasantly receiving their
felicitations that the danger was over, and owning that she had been
very much frightened. Until, she said, my friend, Mr. Carter, was
fortunate enough to guess that I was here. How he did it, she said,
turning to me, is yet an utter mystery to me.
She did not know till then that it was I who had shared with her the
profits of the cyclopædias.
As soon as we could excuse ourselves, I asked some one to order a
carriage. I sent to the ticket-office for my valise, and we rode to the
St. Nicholas. I fairly laughed as I gave the hackman at the hotel door
what would have been my last dollar and a half only two hours before. I
entered Miss Jones's name and my own. The clerk looked, and said,
Is it Miss Jones's trunk which came this afternoon?
I followed his finger to see the trunk on the marble floor. Rowdy
Rob had deserted it, having seen, perhaps, a detective when he reached
Piermont. The trunk had gone to Albany, had found no owner, and had
returned by the day boat of that day.
Fausta went to her room, and I sent her supper after her. One kiss
and Good night was all that I got from her then.
In the morning, said she, you shall explain.
It was not yet seven. I went to my own room and dressed, and
tendered myself at the mayor's just before his gay party sat down to
dine. I met, for the first time in my life, men whose books I had read,
and whose speeches I had by heart, and women whom I have since known to
honor; and, in the midst of this brilliant group, so excited had Mr.
Abeen in telling the strange story of the day, I was, for the hour,
I led Mrs. Ato the table; I made her laugh very heartily by
telling her of the usher's threats to me, and mine to him, and of the
disgrace into which I fell among the three thousand six hundreds. I had
never been at any such party before. But I found it was only rather
simpler and more quiet than most parties I had seen, that its good
breeding was exactly that of dear Betsy Myers.
As the party broke up, Mrs. Asaid to me,
Mr. Carter, I am sure you are tired, with all this excitement. You
say you are a stranger here. Let me send round for your trunk to the
St. Nicholas, and you shall spend the night here. I know I can make you
a better bed than they.
I thought as much myself, and assented. In half an hour more I was
in bed in Mrs. A's best room.
I shall not sleep better, said I to myself, than I did last
That was what the Public did for me that night. I was safe again!
Fausta slept late, poor child. I called for her before breakfast. I
waited for her after. About ten she appeared, so radiant, so beautiful,
and so kind! The trunk had revealed a dress I never saw before, and the
sense of rest, and eternal security, and unbroken love had revealed a
charm which was never there to see before. She was dressed for walking,
and, as she met me, said,
Time for constitutional, Mr. Millionnaire.
So we walked again, quite up town, almost to the region of pig-pens
and cabbage-gardens which is now the Central Park. And after just the
first gush of my enthusiasm, Fausta said, very seriously:
I must teach you to be grave. You do not know whom you are asking
to be your wife. Excepting Mrs. Mason, No. 27 Thirty-fourth Street,
sir, there is no one in the world who is of kin to me, and she does not
care for me one straw, Felix, she said, almost sadly now. You call
yourself 'Child of the Public' I started when you first said so, for
that is just what I am.
I am twenty-two years old. My father died before I was born. My
mother, a poor woman, disliked by his relatives and avoided by them,
went to live in Hoboken over there, with me. How she lived, God knows!
but it happened that of a strange death she died, I in her arms.
After a pause, the poor girl went on:
There was a great military review, an encampment. She was tempted
out to see it. Of a sudden by some mistake, a ramrod was fired from a
careless soldier's gun, and it pierced her through her heart. I tell
you, Felix, it pinned my baby frock into the wound, so that they could
not part me from her till it was cut away.
Of course every one was filled with horror. Nobody claimed poor me,
the baby. But the battalion, the Montgomery Battalion, it was, which
had, by mischance, killed my mother, adopted me as their child. I was
voted 'Fille du Regiment.' They paid an assessment annually, which the
colonel expended for me. A kind old woman nursed me.
She was your Betsy Myers, interrupted I.
And when I was old enough I was sent into Connecticut, to the best
of schools. This lasted till I was sixteen. Fortunately for me,
perhaps, the Montgomery Battalion then dissolved. I was finding it hard
to answer the colonel's annual letters. I had my living to earn,it
was best I should earn it. I declined a proposal to go out as a
missionary. I had no call. I answered one of Miss Beecher's appeals for
Western teachers. Most of my life since has been a school-ma'am's. It
has had ups and downs. But I have always been proud that the Public was
my godfather; and, as you know, she said, I have trusted the Public
well. I have never been lonely, wherever I went. I tried to make myself
of use. Where I was of use I found society. The ministers have been
kind to me. I always offered my services in the Sunday schools and
sewing-rooms. The school committees have been kind to me. They are the
Public's high chamberlains for poor girls. I have written for the
journals. I won one of Sartain's hundred-dollar prizes
And I another, interrupted I.
When I was very poor, I won the first prize for an essay on bad
And I the second, answered I.
I think I know one bad boy better than he knows himself, said she.
But she went on. I watched with this poor Miss Stillingfleet the night
she died. This absurd 'distribution' had got hold of her, and she would
not be satisfied till she had transferred that strange ticket, No.
2,973, to me, writing the indorsement which you have heard. I had had a
longing to visit New York and Hoboken again. This ticket seemed to me
to beckon me. I had money enough to come, if I would come cheaply. I
wrote to my father's business partner, and enclosed a note to his only
sister. She is Mrs. Mason. She asked me, coldly enough, to her house.
Old Mr. Grills always liked me,he offered me escort and passage as
far as Troy or Albany. I accepted his proposal, and you know the rest.
When I told Fausta my story, she declared I made it up as I went
along. When she believed it,as she does believe it now,she agreed
with me in declaring that it was not fit that two people thus joined
should ever be parted. Nor have we been, ever!
She made a hurried visit at Mrs. Mason's. She prepared there for her
wedding. On the 1st of November we went into that same church which was
our first home in New York; and that dear old raven-man made us