University of Virginia Library




“A first-rate business lad he was, but, like other bright lads, needed the
careful eye of a senior, to guard him from the pit-falls he was exposed to.”

Amos Lawrence.

By the liberal use of those appliances which do the work
in our actual life, of wishing-caps and talismanic-rings in
Eastern story, Alice procured, through the turnkey, that
unspeakable consolation to lads of twenty and thereabouts—
a good supper; and when her brother had eaten his oysters
and drank his coffee, he, in his own phrase, “rose up a new
man, and fit to live.”

“Now, Alice, tell me,” he said, “how my mother took
the news? I could not ask you till I got fortified.”

“Dear Max, she has not yet got the news. She went on
Monday morning to Boston.”

“And you were at home alone? poor, dear little Alice!”

“Oh, I was but too thankful that my mother was gone;
and I trust she will hear nothing till we have consulted with
Archibald Lisle. I have telegraphed to him, and I feel sure
he will be here to-morrow.”

“Then he is out of town—thank Heaven! I have sent,
and sent to his office, and could get no answer. I thought
he believed me guilty, and had given me up.”

“No, he is not of that sort, Max.”

“And did you come away without telling any one? You
are the dearest, pluckiest little girl in the world.”

“Yes, I consulted no one; but by this time—. You know


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how it is at Mapleton—give but the least ray of light, and
their sharp eyes can read any riddle. I was at the Prescotts
when the mail came in; Laura opened her paper, and the
very first paragraph she saw she read aloud. It was to this
effect, I can repeat it word by word: `A young man from
Massachusetts was apprehended yesterday, for passing a
forged check at the Manhattan Bank. As we hear he has
respectable connections, we withhold his name for the present.'”

“And so, I suppose, you wise young women of Mapleton
jumped to the conclusion that I was the only clerk in New
York from Massachusetts?”

“Oh, Max, I know not what Laura and the rest did; they
were all silent. My heart throbbed, and I made some pretext,
and ran home through the garden. Your letter lay on
the table—it was written on coarse, soiled paper.”

“Yes, I remember, a sheet I got here in the office.”

“Well, that boded no good. I sat, feeling very faint and
wretched, five minutes before I had courage to open it.”

“You did open it;—spare yourself the trouble of telling
me the contents, as I had the pleasure of writing it.”

“Ah, but dear Max,” said Alice, throwing her arm around
her brother, and bursting afresh into tears, “you don't
know what a comfort the last line in it was to me. Those
blessed words: `I am innocent, mother; take my word for
it.' Why, Max darling, they seemed to spread over the
whole letter. So often have I heard dear mother in her
different distresses about you—and you know they have occurred
pretty often—so often have I heard her say `My boy
is true. I take comfort in that, he never told me a lie.'”

“I never did. I never was afraid to tell my mother the
truth; but go on, Alice. Did you hate me for always getting
you all into hot water? What did you think?”

“I thought of nothing, but how I could best help you. I


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had no one to advise with. Cousin John, and Judge Bliss,
were gone from Mapleton, and there were none but women
left, and they were not wiser than I. So I resolved to come
to you at once. I came off to meet the early train, leaving a
cheerful note to Miss Laura, begging her to account as well
as she could to the inquiring community of Mapleton for my
absence.” Alice proceeded to relate the disappointments
attending her visits to Miss Herbert, and at Lisle's office;
and concluded with saying, “Now, dear Max, tell me the
whole of your troubles from the beginning. I am afraid
both you and Archy have kept us in the dark.”

“No; but in the dusk, it may be, dear. I shall make a
short story of it, for I am my own hero, and good for neither
song nor sermon, neither bright enough for the one, nor
black enough for the other.”

“Well, dear Alice, you know, when I slumped at college,
Archy got me a place in what is called one of the `most
respectable houses in the city: Messrs. Beekwell, and Co.;'
and so I suppose they are, and were, but a deuced bit did they
care for us clerks beyond getting work out of us. But that
did not matter to me so long as I had Archy. Alice, no
brother could have done more for me—not our dear Arthur
if he had been alive.”

“Yes, Max, you wrote us about that—how he gave you
up his sitting-room at his lodgings, for your bed-room.”

“Oh, as to that, Alice, that was not half. And at first, I
did not thank him much for that. I thought he meant to
stand guard over me, and you know fellows don't like to be

“Especially fellows that need watching, dear Max.”

“A brush! Never mind, I deserve it. He soon made
me forget that he was any thing but a dear friend and companion.
He seldom went out himself—Archy was always a
dig, you know—and so he did not know how much I pined


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for some pleasant houses to visit at. He did take me one
evening to the Herberts, to introduce me to your friend. She
was out, and that Miss Carlton and her mother treated me
as if I had come into their drawing-room by mistake, and
should, like any other poor devil of a clerk, have staid in the
entry with my bill, or parcel. Miss Herbert was up to the
mark, for she wrote me the next day a kind note, asking me
to visit them sociably. Lord! I see myself going again, to
have my blood simmering in my veins, as it did while I sat
there—better blood than their's, with all their airs. Besides,
Archy did not go often, himself.”

“Did not go often to see Grace, before he went abroad?
Are you sure, Max?”

“Why, Alice, do you expect every body to worship your
idol? Archy did not, any how. When I could get out of
the store in any decent time, I always found him at our
rooms, and he was so kind. When he was hard at work,
and could not go out, he would have a pleasant book for me
—you know I am not a deep reader, Alice—and if he were
at leisure, he would propose going with me to a lecture, or
to study over the Chinese curiosities, or to see a panorama;
and now and then he took me to the opera, or the theatre,
just enough to slake a fellow's thirst for such things; and
sometimes we would drop into a saloon, and get an oyster
supper, or an ice, or have a little jollification at home. Dear
old Archy! he had not forgotten what it was to be a `young

“Forgotten! Archibald Lisle is not so very much older
than you, Max.”

“No; seven or eight years, though—but, Alice, that
makes all the difference between the boy and the man; and
I was a boy then; and heaven forgive me, have been more
of a boy and a worse boy since. All went well enough till
Archy got ill and dumpish and went abroad, and I was left


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to myself. Now, Alice, I am not good company to myself.
I must have eye answering to eye, voice to voice, heart to
heart, Alice; but to be alone—alone in this city of half a
million, I could not stand it, and no heart of flesh could.”

“But, surely, Max, you were introduced to Mr. Beekwell's
family? You never told us you were not.”

“No, my dear; for we don't tell things of course; but
were you so green as to suppose that a mere clerk—a country
lad—would be admitted by the grand Pachas of the city
into their palaces! Neither Mr. Beekwell nor his partner
could write a grammatical sentence, or spell ten consecutive
words correctly, but they had mounted the golden rungs of
their ladder to the very top, and there was a great gulf between
them and their hard-working clerks.”

“But, surely, Max, all merchants are not so to their

“Of course, Alice, not all. I know some that are like
fathers to them, and that will be the best item of all, I guess,
when they come to foot up their last accounts. But I tell
you, Alice, the reason so many boys go astray, and are lost
in this city is, because the `old gentleman' is left to fill up
their idle time; and you see, Alice, they come fresh and
innocent from their country homes; they long for some one
to say even as much as `good-morning Sam,' or `good-night
Tom;' they go to some lodging-house where no body cares
for them, but to get their week's board, and they are sure
to fall in with some scamp, as I did. I have seen enough of

The young people had both lingered on the threshold of
Max's story, dreading to plunge into its darkest part. The
poor lad now proceeded manfully.

“Just after Archibald sailed, there came a fresh clerk into
our establishment—Ernest Gilmore. He belonged to the
`upper ten;' had been to one famous school after another,


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and had finally been boosted into the junior class in Columbia
College, when he was set adrift and placed in the `respectable
house of Messrs. Beekwell, and Co.,' where it was
expected that hard work would break him in. Any one `can
lead a horse to water,' you know, Alice, but all creation
could not make `Gil,' as we called him, work. I need not go
into particulars. He took a fancy to me. He was lively,
and loved fun, and so did I—you know that is my speciality,
and I can't help it. He had credit at tailors, and livery stables,
and everywhere, for he was yet in his minority, and if
he did not pay, his father would have to come down with
the tin. I did not know all this, Alice, at the time; I would
never have been a party to this plunder with my eyes open,
nor did I know when he passed his minority. By this time
he had pretty thoroughly inoculated me with his passion for
fast horses, and fast doings in general. Don't open your
eyes so wide, and look so scared, my dear little sister. I
give you my word that I never went to any place that I
would hesitate to tell you of. No, there I made a stand, or
rather there stood my mother and you, and hedged up the
road to temptation that way. Do you remember, Alice,
when you and I were little children, on our knees, saying
our prayers to mother, that she asked us to promise her that
we would never in our whole lives omit repeating, each
day, that first prayer we learned: `Our Father, etc.'”

“Yes, indeed, I do.”

“And how solemn and sweet she seemed, and with tears
in her eyes, and all that; well, we made the promise, you
know; and now honor bright, Alice, I do believe that nothing
short of a miracle would have made such a head-over-heels
fellow, as I, keep such a promise; but I have kept it.
That little prayer, Alice, covers the whole ground.”

“So I think, dear Max.”

“I know it has brought me short up many a time, for,


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Alice, to tell the whole truth, while Archy was in Europe, I
led a pretty fast, risky life; and it was no wise strange that
the first thing he heard after he came home, was from Beekwell
and Co., that I must lose my place there. He set to
work, like a good fellow, and got me another, far better. I
should have been thrown out but for him. He made himself
responsible to Messrs. Eaton and Smith for my good
conduct. They have treated me like gentlemen—that is as
if I were a gentleman. And truly, Alice, fearing that you
and my mother would be made miserable by my misconduct,
and feeling what I owed to Archy, I have, for the last six
months, strained every rope in the ship; but they would,
once in a while, get slack—a fellow can't walk a crack forever,
Alice; and Gilmore was forever haunting about me,
and as I found, now, when we had a spree, I had to pay the
fiddler, which he had done while he could, it seemed mean
always to back out. Still I did not go with him often. If
I had not the fear of Archy before my eyes, I had the love
of him, which is better. All this last ten months Gil has
been borrowing money of me—two or three dollars at a
time, sometimes five, and up to ten. While I had a penny,
could I refuse him, after he had been so lavish to me? But,
oh, Alice! you've no notion how like lightning a man goes,
when he begins to slide down hill. Last week, on Tuesday,
he came to me, and said he, `Well, I have been reckoning
up all my small debts to you, and I find, to my astonishment,
I owe you seventy-five dollars.' It did not astonish me, for
I had been as bare as a picked chicken. `Luckily,' said he,
`I have the means to pay the debt,' and he put into my
hands a draft on the Manhattan Bank, made out in my
favor, by Charles Innes of Boston, to the amount of five
hundred dollars. I started, and he said, `Happy dog! am I
not? Old Aunt Sukey is dead, and this Charles Innes, her
executor, wrote me she had left me this legacy of five hundred


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dollars. So, desiring that my various creditors should
not get wind of this blessed windfall, that I might save it
from the sharks, and pay it to the honest fellows like you, I
wrote to said Innes to forward me the money by a draft in your
favor. He did so—I have an appointment to go up to Albany
with my father at three o'clock (it was then half-past
two); if you will step round to the bank, and get the money,
take out your dues, and just hand me the balance, we shall
be all fair and square. I have an errand for my father at
the Metropolitan, and will meet you between there and here.'
I did not, for an instant, think of foul play. I was too glad
at the prospect of getting back my money. I presented the
draft, met Gilmore, paid him the balance, obtained leave of
a day's absence from Messrs. Eaton and Smith, ran off to
my lodgings, and was packing my carpet-bag in a prodigious
fluster of joy to run up to Yonkers, and visit a friend, who
had invited me, and who (between you and me, Alice,) has
the prettiest sister in Christendom, when there was a fearful
ring of the door-bell, an ominous sound in the entry, and
without knocking, without leave or licence, a policeman
entered my room, and politely laying his hand upon me,
said he would change the address of my luggage to the
I was aghast, and did not even surmise whence the
blow came, till he told me my fraud was discovered a half
hour after I left the bank. He examined my person and my
effects for the money, and found the seventy-five dollars in
my purse. I protested my innocence, of course, but he only
smiled and said, `humbug! we are used to all that, young
man.' I begged him not to disgrace me by a commitment,
and told him I had a friend who, I was sure, would be my
bail. The fellow had some bowels, and he waited for an answer
to a note I sent to Archy. Archy was gone, as you
know, and every thing went against me. And so I was
brought here, as they say, `duly committed.'”


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“Why, in the world, Max, did you not send for Mr.
Eaton or Mr. Smith, and tell them how it was?”

“That's you, dear Alice; you always think of the right
thing to be done. Well, my child, I was stunned. I was
in a hot fever all night. I could think of nothing but my
mother and you. I did not eat a morsel, not even when
breakfast time came (mirabile!), but your rational thought
did at last, some time this morning, come into my head, and
I despatched a note to Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith was out of
town. Eaton is in Europe. The head-clerk came round to
me; I told him the whole story. He did not half believe
me; you know how it is with some stupid people—if a man
is accused and put in prison, they think he is as good as convicted.
However, he did go up to Gilmore, and came back,
having seen both Gilmore and his father. Gil denied having
seen me for a week, and expressed the most perfect astonishment
at my story. His father said they had had no intention
of going to Albany, and that his son had dined at home on
Tuesday as usual, and spent the evening at home. So Davis,
the clerk, said I could do nothing further without a lawyer's
advice, hoped I should be able to clear myself, said business
pressed, and left me, Alice; that's the way with the world,
my dear!”

“Oh, I hate the world, Max.”

Alice's faith in her brother was implicit, but her heart
sickened when she found he had not a shadow of evidence
to substantiate his innocence before a legal tribunal.
Younger than Max, and albeit of the weaker sex, she had
more clearness and sedateness of judgment than her brother,
and less of that quality which she called buoyancy,
and others might term levity. After pondering for a while
gloomily on Max's relation, she naturally exclaimed, “What
a horrid hardened wretch that Gilmore must be!”

“Well, Alice, not quite such a hardened wretch as you


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think. Scampish he is, but there is not much to him; he
is more of the weak, than the wicked. He has had a poor
bringing up. His father and mother are nothing but rich.
They thought, I suppose, that their grand house, and carriage,
and horses, and so on, would make Gil a gentleman;
but you know all that won't begin to do it. No, Gil is not
so bad as some; there 's shades in fellows, Alice. Gil got
hooked in with an old stager, who dragged him down—a
rascally blackguard of an Irish gentleman.”

Alice had heard of one such individual in her sheltered
world, and but one, and she asked with some eagerness his

“His name,” Max replied, “is Maltby, Hugh Maltby.”

“Hugh Maltby!” echoed Alice.

“Why, yes, my child—Hugh Maltby; surely you never
heard of the fellow before? What in the world makes you
color so?”

“Color! Did I color, Max? I am tired and nervous to-night.”

“That is not it, sister dear. Come, you are not good at
evasions. Tell me what you know of Hugh Maltby.”

“I can not tell you, Max. Don't ask me.”

“I won't, Alice; but I can't think what you can know
about that wretch. I believe he is at the bottom of this
plot. Gil owed him a gambling debt, and he was afraid of
him. He is a dare-devil. I heard him threaten to shoot
some relation of his children, their uncle, or something of
that sort.” Alice became now deadly pale. She averted her
face, poured a draught of water into a glass, and swallowed
it. “You are tired and nervous, I believe,” continued Max.
“Let's drop the curtain on our miseries, till Archy comes to
help us. Tell me about Mapleton. How is dear mother,
just the same?”

“Yes, just, Max,” replied his sister, breathing a deep


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sigh, as she thought the news of her darling boy would turn
her hair gray.

“Oh, don't fall into the blues again, Alice. How are Tom
Thumb and Brancus—alive?”

“Yes, indeed, and flourishing; mother surfeits them, but
still calls them `Max's pests.'”

“And Blossom—does he still purr around the table, and
mother drop him tit-bits, furtively?”

“Yes, Max.”

“And mother still uses carving-knives, instead of bolts, for
the outer doors? and gives old John a hundred dollars a
year, for `doing chores' he can't do? Poor mother, she's
great on pensions.”

“She is great at every mode of charity. Has she written
you about the paralytic child she is taking care of?”

This announcement, which Alice had been for some minutes
studying how to interject into their discourse, did not,
as she expected, produce a sensation. Max smiled, said,
“Just like mother,” and went on. “Is Mapleton the same
heaven as usual, Alice? No marriages? No engagements?
Neither of the charming Prescotts going off, nor Charlotte
Platt, nor the Days?”

“No, none of them.”

“Not a `Singleton' missing from `Singleside' in the last
year! I told them so; they seem to look on us men as an
elegant superfluity.” Thus the poor lad rattled on, partly
taxing his manhood to be as heroic as possible, and partly
following the natural bent of his careless disposition:

Cushioned round with love, the evening glided away in
that dismal place. Now and then Alice, disturbed by the
foreshadowings of revenges dire that might be done by a
bold, bad man, and of “trial” and “sentence,” would start
or shiver, which Max noticing, he would kiss her cheek, and
draw her closer to him.


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At nine the turnkey's knock announced their separation
for the night. They asked for a reprieve, but the man was
peremptory. “We've already stretched a point,” he said;
“we must use our private judgments sometimes.” Our officials
are very apt to respect this “higher law.” “I can see,”
he added, as he gave Miss Clifford a lamp, and the key that
she might turn the bolt on the inside, “when people is honorable,
and can be trusted with a privilege.”

Alice locked her door, and having arranged her little affairs
for the night, she sat down in the rocking-chair, made
a desk of her lap, and began a letter to her mother. Her
courage was nerved by the strangeness of her position.
Courage she had to face any danger in her brother's cause,
and resolution to conquer any conquerable difficulty. That
there could be any danger to freeze the blood in her young
veins within the walls of her cell, had not even occurred to
her, and when she turned her bolt she felt as secure as the
commander of an impregnable fortress; yet within that narnow
space, she was to encounter an enemy more fearful to
her than the wild beasts of Ephesus.

“Great giants work great wrongs, but we are small.

The noise of steps and bolting of doors along the passages
had ceased; there was no sound but that of her sharp
gold pen, when she was startled by an ominous noise, and
starting up, she saw—not one, nor two, nor three, but, as
she afterward averred, a drove of mice, careering over the
bed, jumping to the floor, and there disporting themselves,
native and happy citizens!

No poor wretch in an Indian jungle, confronting a tiger,
could have been more terrified than our hitherto intrepid
little Alice. She sprang on her feet into the chair; the
rockers were treacherous—over it went, chair, lamp, ink,
Alice, and all!


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It was now utter darkness, and luckily quiet, too. The
little habitués were frightened back to their holes by the
sudden turmoil, and Alice, making an effort of heroism equal
to St. George's, in his contest with the dragon, or to any
other saint's with any other monster, groped around until
she recovered her lamp, and relighted it from a match in her
sack. What was next to be done? In a lion's den, or a
fiery furnace, she might have looked for miraculous intervention;
but now she must trust to her own right arm—to that
poor trembling arm. A rattan in the corner of the cell
caught her eye, she seized this weapon, and intrenching
herself in the chair in a posture which those who have seen
female belligerents engaged in this warfare will picture to
themselves, she girded herself for the battle.

For a while she kept the enemy in their entrenchments by
a steady tattooing with the cane, but its sound soon became
as familiar to them as the snorings of the last denizen of the
cell, and they issued forth, rank and file. To any one of the
male sex their gambols, their glidings, and leapings might
have been amusing, but there is enmity set between mice
and womankind, and to Alice they seemed a host of malignants,
magicians, monsters! To touch their soft hairy sides,
even with her cane, was a horror, but by deftly plying that
she kept them at arm's length. She changed the cane from
wearied hand to hand. The night seemed interminable, and
reference to her watch alone convinced her that it was “but
eleven,” “but twelve,” “but one,” “but two!” Sleep, the
surest of youth's allies, at last came to her relief; her tired,
aching arms fell, no longer obedient to her will, and the will
itself (for so say the sages is its nature) fell asleep, and the
enemy had it all their own way; and while poor Alice's
brain was perturbed with visions of leviathans and mastodons,
they ran up to her shoulders, leaped into her lap, and
performed divers antics, till one, crossing her bare throat in


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quest of a crumb from her supper that had lodged on the
hem of her collar, she started up to a fresh consciousness of
the horrors of her condition.

But now sounds of the restless city's life penetrated from
without to her cell; and as “Hope springs eternal in the
human breast,” hope that she might live to tell the tale
dawned on Alice.