Imatges de pÓgina

he had no notion of taking her without any of the funds her father had to bestow. It was arranged between them that his paternal consent should be asked, and the die or live of matrimony should depend on that. But, with confidence, or what is sometimes called brass, enough to put any sort of question, it was impossible for Chip Dartmouth to state the case to old Mr. Hopkins as it was. Having obtained a private interview, he grasped the old gentleman by the hand with an air as familiar as it was apparently cordial.

"Ah! I am very glad to see you, Mr. Hopkins, for I have been thinking what a fool I must be not to pay my addresses to Miss Millicent; and I can take no steps, you know, without your consent."

"You can take none with it, Sir," was the emphatic reply of the severe parent, with a sort of annihilating look. “I admire your prudence and frankness, my young friend; but, till you show yourself a merchant of my own sort, I beg you will excuse me and my family from any of the steps you contemplate. Goodmorning, Sir,-good-morning!"

The showing-out was irresistible, leaving nothing more to be said.

Chip now resolved that he would double his diligence in making money, out of spite to the father, if not love for the daughter. The old fogy's wealth he would have at any rate, and Millicent with it, if possible, as a sort of bonus. So, obtaining an interview with his fair intended and intending, at the earliest moment, without revealing a hint of his own diplomatic blunder, he told her that her father had refused his consent to their union because his fortune was not sufficient, and she must not expect to see him again till it was so, which he fancied would be in a much shorter time than the old gentleman supposed.

Chip had not long to wait for a chance to strike the first blow in carrying out his new resolution of fast trading. The day after his memorable rebuff, he was sitting in the choky little counting-room of a crammed commission-warehouse in In

dia Street, musing and mousing over the various schemes that occurred to his fertile brain for increasing the profits of his business. He had already bought cotton pretty largely on speculation. Should he monopolize further, make a grand rush in stocks, or join the church and get large trust-funds into his hands on the strength of his reputation for piety? All these and a hundred other questions were getting rapidly and shrewdly discussed in his mind, when a rather stubbed man, with a square, homely face and vinegar expression, opened, or partly opened, the little glass door of the counting-room, and, looking round it more greedily than hopefully, said,—

"You don't want the cargo of the 'Orion' at a bargain?

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"Can't say I do. But walk in, Captain Grant, walk in!"

Captain Grant did walk in, though he said it was no use talking, if Chip didn't want the cotton. Chip saw instinctively, in the sad, acid look of his visitor, that he was anxious to sell, and could be made to take a despondent view of the market. Taking him by the button, he said, rather patronizingly,—


"I know, Captain, you ship-owners want to keep your ships at work at something besides storage. But look there," pointing to the bales of cotton filling the immense floor; "multiply that pile by four and add the basements of two churches, and you see a reason why I should not buy above the level of the market. Now, taking that into consideration, what do you ask for your two hundred and fifty bales in the Orion?'" "Seven cents."

"I know somebody who would feel rich, if he could sell at that," returned

Chip, with a queer grin. "No, no, Cap

tain Grant, that won't do at all. Prices are sinking. If I should buy at that figure, every sign of margin would fade out in a fortnight. I haven't five bales that have been bought at any such price."

It was true, he had not; for they had been bought at seven-and-a-half and eight.

"Well, I will say six-and-a-half at sixty days, to you," said the humiliated Grant.

"My dear Sir," replied Chip, "you don't begin to tempt me. I must burn all my foreign correspondence and forget the facts before I can begin to look at anything beyond six cents and ninety days."

"Ninety days won't do," said Mr. Grant, tersely. "If we must sacrifice,

it must be for something a bank will look at, Mr. Dartmouth. But I want the ship cleared, and if you will say six at two months for the whole, it's a bargain, bad as it is for me."

"Not a bargain for me to be in a hurry about; but I'll think of it. Hold on till to-morrow. But, on the whole, you needn't do that. It wouldn't be an object."

"But I will do it, if you say so, till noon to-morrow."

"Better say five-and-three-fourths and have it done to-day," said Chip, "for I may not give that to-morrow. But if you hold on, and I buy anything at six, it shall be your lot."

Captain Grant, beginning to believe that he should, after all, sell a little above the bottom of the market, took his leave for his home among the Waltham hills, a little less grouty than when he entered.

That same night, Chip, after having dropped in at numerous resorts of the fast men, in most of which somewhat of his conscience, such as it was, dropped out, was proceeding homeward through Devonshire Street, with the brightest of his wits still about him. It was a raw night, one of the rawest ever got up by a belated equinoctial, with almost nothing stirring in the streets but the wind, and the loose shutters and old remnants of summer awnings left to its tender mercies. Æolus, with these simple instruments of sound, added to the many sharp corners of city architecture, managed to get up something of a symphony, enough almost to make up for the nocturnal cats, now retired to silence and the snuggest attainable quarters. The hour was

one of the short ones ayont the twal, and sleep reigned everywhere except in the daily-newspaper-offices and in the most fashionable of the grog-shops. Besides Chip, the only living thing in Devonshire Street was a thinly-clad stripling, with a little roll of yellowish tissue-paper in his hand, knocking and shaking feebly at a door which grimly refused to open. His powers of endurance were evidently giving way, and his grief had become both vocal and fluent in the channel of his infant years.

"What's the matter, my boy?" asked Chip,-" locked out, hey?"

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"Most froz'n, aren't you?

"O-00-00, that I be, Sir."

Here a very bright idea struck Chip, and he inquired,—

"Is this all that's coming?" "Boo-hoo. Yes, Sir. They've sent good-night once before, and this is the pos'crip'. The wires is shut off now, and some of the papers is shut off, too; for I've been to three before this, and can't git into nary one on 'em."

"Never mind, my poor fellow; I belong up here. I'll take the sheets and send 'em round to all the other papers that are open. Never mind; you take that, and go right home to your moth


"Thank you, Sir," said the shivering lad, and, giving up the yellow roll and taking the loose coppers offered him in the quickest possible time, he scampered off around the corner of Water Street and left Chip in company with two temptations.

"Now," thought Chip. "it will be certainly a clean and gentlemanly thing, if, after having relieved this poor little devil of his trouble and responsibility, I should oblige the still poorer devil of a concern up-stairs by giving 'em this posteript of foreign news, which, by working so late,

they will probably have exclusively. That would be most truly honest, benevolent, and philanthropic. It would make at least one newspaper my friend, and, on the whole, it is something of a temptation. But let me see what it will cost."

Giving the black door a vigorous push, he entered, and by the gas-burner on the first landing discovered that the postcript in his possession gave the state of the Liverpool cotton-market a day later than the body of the dispatch, which had already gone into type, and, what was more to the purpose, announced a rise of a penny-and-a-half on the pound. Chip clutched the gauzy sheets in his fist, closed the door as softly as possible, and yielded himself a doomed captive to temptation number two. Here was a little fortune on the cotton he had in store at any rate, and, if he really had in his grasp all the news of the rise, he might make by it a plump ten thousand dollars out of Captain Grant's "Orion." But to this end he must be sure that not a lisp of the rise would be published in the morning papers, and he must see Captain Grant and close his bargain for the "Orion's" cargo before the wires should begin to furnish additional news by the "Africa" to the evening papers. They would not, after obtaining such news, lose a moment in parading it on their bulletinboards, and Captain Grant might get hold of it before reaching the little countingroom in India Street. Chip, of course, saw what to do, and did it. Waiting in one of the little "meals-at-all-hours" saloons till he heard the churning of the press-engines, he sallied out and bought of the overloaded carriers the earliest copies of the morning papers, and made himself sure that the foreign news did not disclose any change of the cottonmarket. The next thing was to transfer himself to Captain Grant's residence in Waltham,-exactly whereabout in Waltham he did not know, but, of course, he could easily find out,-and, without exciting the grouty old salt's suspicions of false play, make sure of the cotton at his own price. On the whole, he thought it safer,

as well as cheaper, to use the early train than to hire a special team.

Arrived in Waltham, to his great vexation, it appeared, after much inquiry, that Captain Grant lived full three miles from the station,-and what was worse, every omnibus, hack, buggy, and dogcart was engaged for a muster in one direction or a cattle-show in another. Nothing on wheels could be hired at any price, at least, none could be found in an hour's search from one hotel or liverystable to another. Chip, whose sleepless night and meditated fraud had not left much of the saint in him, swore the whole of Waltham as deep as the grimmest view of predestination would allow. And he restrained himself from being still more profane only lest his wrath should awaken inconvenient suspicions. After all, there was one old tavern a little way out, where possibly a one-horse affair could be raised. The Birch House was a sort of seedy, dried-up, quiet, out-of-the-way inn, whose sign-post stood forth like a window without sash, the rectangular ligneous picture of a man driving cattle to Brighton having long ago been blown out of its lofty setting and split to pieces by the fall. What was the use of replacing it? No one was likely to call, who did not already know that the Widow Birch still kept tavern there, and just how she kept it. It was doubtful if a new sign would attract a single new customer. Indeed, since the advent of railroads, a customer was not a common occurrence any way, though there still remained a few that could be depended on, like the Canada geese, in their season, and their custom was handsomely profitable. The house, a white wooden one, with greenish blinds, had two low stories, the first of which was nearly level with the ground. There was a broad, low entry running through the middle, and on either side two rather spacious square rooms. of those in front had a well-sanded, wellworn pine floor, with a very thirsty-looking counter across one corner, supporting a sort of palisade that appeared to fortify nothing at all,-a place, however,


which had evidently been moist enough in the olden times. In the other front room was a neat carpet, plain, old-fashioned furniture, and a delightful little plantation of fresh and cozy flower-pots, surrounding a vase full of gold-fishes, and overhung by a bright-eyed, mellow throated canary, the whole of that paradise being doubtless under the watch and care of little Laura Birch. This was the ladies' parlor,—the grand reception-room, also, of any genteel male guest, should one for a wonder appear. Little Laura, however, was no longer as little as she had been, though just as innocent, and ten times as bewitching to most people who knew her. You could not but particularly wish her well, the moment her glad, hopeful, playful, confiding, half roguish eye met yours. With the most conscientious resolution to make herself useful, under her mother's thrifty administration, in the long, clean New England kitchen which stretched away behind the square dining-room, interposed between it and the dry bar-room, she had a taste for books and a passion for flowers, which absorbed most of her thoughts, and gained her more chidings from her mother for their untimely manifestations than her handiest services gained thanks or any signs of grateful recognition. She and the flowers, including the bird and the fishes, seemed to belong to the same sisterhood. She had copied their fashion of dress and behavior, rather than the Parisian or any imported style,—and so her art, being all learned from Nature, was quite natural. On the very morning in question, she was engaged in giving this little conservatory the benefit of her thorough skill and affectionate regard, when good Dame Birch broke in upon her with,—

"Why, Laury, what are you thinking about? It's always just so. Here is a gentleman in the bar-room, and he's a' most sure to order breakfast, and them eels isn't touched, and not a thing ready but cold victuals and pie. Them eels would be so nice and genteel! and you know they won't keep."

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She disappeared, muttering something about "them plaguy flower-pots."

In point of fact, Chip Dartmouth was all this while in the aforesaid dry barroom, engaged in an earnest colloquy with Frank Birch, a grown-up son of the landlady, a youth just entered on the independent platform of twenty-one, Laura being three years younger. Chip had arrived rather out of breath and excited, having got decidedly ahead of the amenities that would have been particularly expedient under the circumstances. Approaching a door of the bar-room, which opened near its corner towards the barn, and which stood open at the time, he descried Frank within busily engaged mending harness.

"Hallo! young man, I say, hurry up that job, for I've no time to lose."

"Well, I'm glad on't," retorted Frank, hardly looking up from his work, "for I ha'n't."

"Look here!" said Chip, entering, "you're the man I've been looking for. I must have a ride to Captain Grant's, straight off, at your own price."


Maybe you must, but I'm goin' to the Concord cattle-show, and Captain Grant's is four miles out of the way. I can't think of goin' round, for I shall be too late, any way."

"Never mind that, my young friend, if you 'r' 'n such a hurry, put on the string and look to me for the damage."


Maybe you can't pay it," replied

Frank, looking rather scornful.

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ors," said Frank, "and Boston people may find it out one of these days."

On this, Landlady Birch intervened, taking the bar-room in her way from the parlor to the kitchen.

"What is that you say, Frank? The gentleman can have as good a breakfast here as he can have anywhere out of Boston, I'm sure, though I say it myself. We don't have so many to cook for, and so, perhaps, we take a little more pains, Sir,- ha ha!"

And with that good Mrs. Birch put on a graciousness of smile worthy of the most experienced female Boniface in Anglo-Saxondom.

"The gentleman don't want any breakfast, mother; he only wants a ride round to Captain Grant's, and he ha'n't got the manners to ask for it, like a gentleman;he must have it. I say he mus'n't in my buggy, for I a'n't goin' that way."


Why, son, the gentleman of course expects to pay for it."

“Yes, Madam,” said Chip, "I am willing and expect to bleed freely."

Frank. “Well, I should like to know what you mean by that? I don't want your blood, or that of any other Boston squirt."

Mrs. Birch (to Chip, after a reproving glance at Frank). "I think we can accommodate you, Sir.

The buggy is at the blacksmith's, and will be done in half-an-hour. If you want, you can have breakfast while you are waiting; and you will find a comfortable fire in the parlor to sit by, at any rate."

With this, Mrs. Birch made her exit, to hurry matters on the cook-stove.


"There! that's her, all over!" grumbled Frank. "If she can sell a meal of victuals, she don't care what becomes of me. I'll let her know the mare's mine, and the buggy's mine, all but the harness; and I tell you, Sir, I'll see the mare drowned in Charles River and the buggy split into kindling-wood, before you shall have a ride to Captain Grant's this day."

"But here's a five-dollar-bill," quoth Chip, displaying a small handful of bank


Frank. "You may go to thunder with the whole of 'em! I tell you I've set my foot down, and I won't take it up for my own mother, and I'm sure I won't for anything that ever was or will be under your clo'es."

With this, he jerked up the harness and went off to the barn, with an air that convinced Chip that the controversy between mother and son was not likely to be decided in his favor at a sufficiently early hour to answer his purpose. But where else should he go, or what else should he do? As he was a little more inclined now to bet on calmness than on passion, he decided to take a seat in the parlor, and keep it, at least, till he could dispose of his present doubt. Easily might he have measured three miles over the Waltham hills, in the bracing morning-air, with his own locomotive apparatus, while he had been looking in vain for artificial conveyance. But if that plan had occurred to him at all at first, it would have been dismissed with contempt as unbusinesslike. He must not, by any possibility, appear to Captain Grant to be so madly anxious to close the bargain. He did a little regret neglecting the service of his own proper pegs, but it was now entirely too late to walk, and he must ride, and at a good pace, too, or lose the entire benefit of the news which the lightning had so singularly confided to his honest hands. The feeling with which he flung himself into that quiet, little, economical parlor was, probably, even more desperate than Richard's, when he offered his kingdom for a horse. It was, in fact, just the feeling, of all others in the world, to prevent a man's getting a horse. Had he carried it into a pasture full of horses, it would have prevented him from catching the tamest of them. But the good influences of the Universe, that encourage and strengthen the noble martyrs of truth and workers of good in their arduous labors, do sometimes also help on villains to their bad ends. Never were troubled waters more quickly smoothed with oil, never were the poles of a magnet more quickly reversed, than

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