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I had a sort of candle-light acquaintance with Mr. Philip
McRueit when we were in college. I mean to say that I had a
daylight repugnance to him, and never walked with him or talked
with him, or rode with him, or sat with him; and, indeed, seldom
saw him—except as one of a club oyster-party of six. He was a
short, sharp, satirical man (nicknamed “my cruet,” by his cronies
—rather descriptively!) but as plausible and vindictive as
Mephistopheles before and after the ruin of a soul. In some
other state of existence I had probably known and suffered by
Phil. McRueit—for I knew him like the sleeve of an old coat,
the first day I laid eyes on him; though other people seemed to
have no such instinct. Oh, we were not new acquaintances—
from whatever star he had been transported, for his sins, to this
planet of dirt. I think he was of the same opinion, himself. He
chose between open warfare and conciliation in the first five minutes—after
seeing me as a stranger—chose the latter.

Six or seven years after leaving college, I was following my
candle up to bed rather musingly, one night at the Astor, and
on turning a corner, I was obliged to walk round a short gentleman


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who stood at the head of the stairs in an attitude of
fixed contemplation. As I weathered the top of his hat rather
closely, I caught the direction of his eye, and saw that he was
regarding, very fixedly, a pair of rather dusty kid slippers, which
had been set outside the door, probably for cleaning, by the occupant
of the chamber opposite. As the gentleman did not move,
I turned on the half landing of the next flight of stairs, and
looked back, breaking in, by my sudden pause, upon his fit of
abstraction. It was McRueit, and on recognizing me, he immediately
beckoned me to his side.

“Does it strike you,” said he, “that there is anything peculiar
in that pair of shoes?”

“No—except that they certify to two very small feet on the
other side of the door.”

“Not merely `small,' my dear fellow! Do you see where the
pressure has been in those slender shoes, how straight the inside
line, how arched the instep, how confidingly flat the pressure downward
of the little great toe! It's a woman of sweet and relying character
who wore that shoe to-day, and I must know her. More, sir,
I must marry her! Ah, you laugh—but I will! There's a magnetism
in that pair of shoes addressed to me only. Beg your
pardon—good night—I'll go town stairs and find out her number
—`74!' I'll be well acquainted with `74' by this time to-morrow!”

For the unconscious young lady asleep in that room, I lay awake
half the night, troubled with foreboding pity. I knew the man
so well, I was so certain that he would leave nothing possible undone
to carry out this whimsical purpose. I knew that from that
moment was levelled, point-blank, at the lady, whoever she might
be (if single) a battery of devilish and pertinacious ingenuity,
which would carry most any small fort of a heart, most any way


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barricaded and defended. He was well off, he was well-looking
enough; he was deep and crafty. But if he did win her, she
was gone! gone, I knew, from happiness, like a stone from a
sling. He was a tyrant—subtle in his cruelties to all people dependent
on him—and her life would be one of refined torture,
neglect, betrayal and tears.

A fit of intermittent disgust for strangers, to which all persons
living in hotels are more or less liable, confined my travels, for
some days after this rencontre, to the silence-and-slop thoroughfare
of the back-stairs. “Coming to my feed” of society one
rainy morning, I went into the drawing-room after breakfast, and
was not surprised to see McRueit in a posture of absorbed attention
beside a lady. His stick stood on the floor, and with his left
cheek resting on the gold head, he was gazing into her face, and
evidently keeping her perfectly at her ease as to the wants and
gaps of conversation, as he knew how to do—for he was the readiest
man with his brick and mortar whom I ever had encountered.

“Who is that lady?” I asked of an omni-acquainted old bachelor
friend of mine.

“Miss Jonthee Twitt—and what can be the secret of that
rather exclusive gentleman's attention to her, I cannot fancy.”

I pulled a newspaper from my pocket, and seating myself in
one of the deep windows, commenced rather a compassionate
study of Miss Twitt—intending fully, if I should find her interesting,
to save her from the clutches of my detestable classmate.

She was a slight, hollow-chested, consumptive-looking girl, with
a cast of features that any casual observer would be certain to
describe as “interesting.” With the first two minutes' gaze
upon her, my sympathies were active enough for a crusade
against a whole army of connubial tyrants. I suddenly paused,


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however. Something McRueit said made a change in the lady's
countenance. She sat just as still; she did not move her head
from its negligent posture; her eyebrows did not contract; her
lips did not stir; but the dull, sickly-colored lids descended
calmly and fixedly till they hid from sight the upper edges of
the pupils! and by this slight but infallible sign I knew—but the
story will tell what I knew. Napoleon was nearly, but not quite
right, when he said that there was no reliance to be placed on
peculiarities of feature or expression.


In August of that same year, I followed the world to Saratoga.
In my first reconnoitre of the drawing-room of Congress
Hall, I caught the eye of Mr. McRueit, and received from him
a cordial salutation. As I put my head right, upon its pivot,
after an easy nod to my familiar aversion, my eyes fell upon Miss
Jonthee Twitt—that was—for I had seen, in the newspapers of
two months before, that the resolve (born of the dusty slipper
outside her door), had been brought about, and she was now on
the irrevocable side of a honeymoon sixty days old.

Her eyelid was down upon the pupil—motionless, concentrated,
and vigilant as a couched panther—and from beneath the hem
of her dress curved out the high arched instep of a foot pointed
with desperate tension to the carpet; the little great toe (whose
relying pressure on the soiled slipper Mr. McRueit had been
captivated by), now rigid with as strong a purpose as spiritual
homeopathy could concentrate in so small a tenement. I thought


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I would make Mr. and Mrs. McRueit the subject of quiet study
while I remained at Saratoga.

But I have not mentioned the immediate cause of Mrs. McRueit's
resentment. Her bridegroom was walking up and down
the room with a certain Mrs. Wanmaker, a widow, who was a
better woman than she looked to be, as I chanced to know, but
as nobody could know without the intimate acquaintance with
Mrs. Wanmaker upon which I base this remark. With beauty
of the most voluptuous cast, and a passion for admiration which
induced her to throw out every possible lure to men any way
worth her time as victims, Mrs. Wanmaker's blood was as “cold
as the flow of Iser,” and her propriety, in fact, wholly impregnable.
I had been myself “tried on” by the widow Wanmaker,
and twenty caravan-marches might have been made across the
Desert of Sahara, while the conviction I have just stated was
“getting through my hair.” It was not wonderful, therefore,
that both the bride and her (usually) most penetratious bridegroom,
had sailed over the widow's shallows, unconscious of
soundings. She was a “deep” woman, too—but in the love

I thought McRueit singularly off his guard, if it were only for
“appearances.” He monopolized the widow effectually, and she
thought it worth her while to let the world think him (a bridegroom
and a rising young politician), mad for her, and, truth to
say, they carried on the war strenuously. Perfectly certain as I
was that “the whirligig of time” would “bring about the
revenges” of Mrs. McRueit, I began to feel a meantime pity for
her, and had myself presented duly by McRueit the next morning
after breakfast.

It was a tepid, flaccid, revery-colored August morning, and the


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sole thought of the universe seemed to be to sit down. The
devotees to gayety and mineral water dawdled out to the porticoes,
and some sat on chairs under the trees, and the dandies lay on
the grass, and the old ladies on the steps and the settees, and here
and there, a man on the balustrade, and, in the large swing, visà-vis,
sat McRueit and the widow Wanmaker, chattering in an
undertone quite inaudible. Mrs. McRueit sat on a bench, with
her back against one of the high-shouldered pine-trees in the
court-yard, and I had called McRueit out of his swing to present
me. But he returned immediately to the widow.

I thought it would be alleviative and good-natured to give Mrs.
McRueit an insight to the harmlessness of Mrs. Wanmaker, and
I had done so very nearly to my satisfaction, when I discovered
that the slighted wife did not care sixpence about the fact, and
that, unlike Hamlet, she only knew seems. The more I developed
the innocent object of the widow's outlay of smiles and confidentialities,
the more Mrs. McRueit placed herself in a posture
to be remarked by the loungers in the court-yard and the dawdlers
on the portico, and the more she deepened a certain look—
you must imagine it for the present, dear reader. It would take
a razor's edge of analysis, and a Flemish paint-pot and patience
to carve that injured look into language, or paint it truthfully to
the eye! Juries would hang husbands, and recording angels
“ruthlessly overcharge,” upon the unsupported evidence of such
a look. She looked as if her heart must have suffocated with
forbearance long before she began to look so. She looked as if
she had forgiven and wept, and was ready to forgive and weep
again. She looked as if she would give her life if she could
conceal “her feelings,” and as if she was nerving soul, and
heart, and eyelids, and lachrymatory glands—all to agony—to


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prevent bursting into tears with her unutterable anguish! It
was the most unresisting, unresentful, patient, sweet miserableness!
A lamb's willingness to “furnish forth another meal” of
chops and sweetbread, was testy to such meek endurance! She
was evidently a martyr, a victim, a crushed flower, a “poor
thing!” But she did, now and then—unseen by anybody but
me—give a glance from that truncated orb of a pupil of hers,
over the top of her handkerchief, that, if incarnated, would have
made a hole in the hide of a rhinoceros! It was triumph,
venom, implacability—such as I had never before seen expressed
in human glances.

There are many persons with but one idea, and that a good
one. Mrs. McRueit, I presume, was incapable of appreciating
my interest in her. At any rate she played the same game with
me as with other people, and managed her affairs altogether with
perfect unity. It was in vain that I endeavored to hear from her
tongue what I read in the lowering pupil of her eye. She spoke
of McRueit with evident reluctance, but always with discretion—
never blaming him, nor leaving any opening that should betray
resentment, or turn the current of sympathy from herself. The
result was immediate. The women in the house began to look
black upon McRueit. The men “sent him to Coventry” more
unwillingly, for he was amusing and popular—but “to Coventry”
he went! And at last the widow Wanmaker became aware that
she was wasting her time on a man whose attentions were not
wanted elsewhere—and she (the unkindest cut of all) found reasons
for looking another way when he approached her. He had
became aware, during this process, what was “in the wind,” but
he knew too much to stay in the public eye when it was inflamed.
With his brows lowering, and his face gloomy with feelings I


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could easily interpret, he took the early coach on the third morning
after my introduction to Mrs. McRueit, and departed, probably
for a discipline trip, to some place where sympathy with his
wife would be less dangerous.


I think, that within the next two or three years, I heard
McRueit's name mentioned several times, or saw it in the papers,
connected with strong political movements. I had no very definite
idea of where he was residing, however. Business called
me to a western county, and on the road I fell into the company
of a great political schemer and partisan—one of those joints (of
the feline political body), the next remove from the “cat's
paw.” Finding that I cared not a straw for politics, and that we
were going to the same town, he undertook the blandishment of
an overflow of confidence upon me, probably with the remote
possibility that he might have occasion to use me. I gave in to
it so far as courteously to receive all his secrets, and we arrived
at our destination excellent friends.

The town was in a ferment with the coming election of a member
for the legislature, and the hotel being very crowded, Mr.
Develin (my fellow-traveller) and myself were put into a double-bedded
room. Busy with my own affairs, I saw but little of him,
and he seemed quite too much occupied for conversation, till the
third night after our arrival. Lying in bed with the moonlight
streaming into the room, he began to give me some account of
the campaign preparing for around us, and presently mentioned


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the name of McRueit—(the name, by the way, that I had seen
upon the placards, without caring particularly to inquire whether
or not it was “mine ancient” aversion).

“They are not aware,” said Mr. Develin, after talking on the
subject awhile, “that this petty election, is, in fact, the grain of
sand that is to turn the presidential scale. If McRueit should be
elected (as I am sorry to say there seems every chance he will
be), Van Buren's doom is sealed. I have come a little too late
here. I should have had time to know something more of this
man McRueit—”

“Perhaps I can give you some idea of him,” interrupted I,
“for he has chanced to be more in my way than I would have
bargained for. But what do you wish to know particularly?”
(I spoke, as the reader will see, in the unsuspecting innocence
of my heart).

“Oh—anything—anything! Tell me all you know of him!”

Mr. Develin's vividness rather surprised me, for he raised
himself on his elbow in bed—but I went on and narrated very
much what I have put down for the reader in the two preceding

“How do you spell Mrs. Wanmaker's name?” asked my imbedded
vis-à-vis, as I stopped and turned over to go to sleep.

I spelt it for him.

He jumped out of bed, dressed himself and left the room.
Will the reader permit me to follow him, like Asmodeus, giving
with Asmodean brevity the knowledge I afterward gained of his
use of my involuntary revelation?

Mr. Develin roused the active member of the Van Buren committee
from his slumber, and in an hour had the printers of their
party paper at work upon a placard. A large meeting was to be


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held the next day in the town-hall, during which both candidates,
it was supposed, would address the people. Ladies were to occupy
the galleries. The hour came round. Mrs. McRueit's
carriage drove into the village a few minutes before eleven, and
as she stopped at a shop for a moment, a letter was handed her
by a boy. She sat still and read it. She was alone. Her face
turned livid with paleness after its first flush, and forgetting her
errand at the shop, she drove on to the town-hall. She took her
seat in a prominent part of the gallery. The preliminaries were
gone through with, and her husband rose to speak. He was a
plausible orator, an eloquent man. But there was a sentiment
circulating in the audience—something whispered from man to
man—that strangely took off the attention of the audience. He
could not, as he had never before found difficulty in doing, keep
their eyes upon his lips. Every one was gazing on his wife!
And there she sat—with her INJURED LOOK!—pale, sad, apparently
striving to listen and conceal her mental suffering. It was
as convincing to the audience of the truth of the insinuation that
was passing from mouth to mouth—as convincing as would have
been a revelation from Heaven. McRueit followed the many upturned
eyes at last, and saw that they were bent on his wife, and
that—once more—after years of conciliation, she wore THAT
INJURED LOOK! His heart failed him. He evidently comprehended
that the spirit that had driven him from Saratoga, years
before—popular sympathy with women—had overtaken him and
was plotting against him once more. His speech began to lose
its concentration. He talked wide. The increasing noise over-powered
him, and he descended at last from the platform in the
midst of a universal hiss. The other candidate rose and spoke;
and at the close of his speech the meeting broke up, and as they


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dispersed, their eyes were met at every corner with a large placard,
in which “injured wife,” “unfaithful husband,” “widow
W—n—k—r,” were the words in prominent capitals. The
election came on the next day, and Mr. McRueit being signally
defeated, Mr. Van Buren's election to the Presidency (if Mr.
Develin knew anything) was made certain—brought about by a

My business in the county was the purchase of land, and for a
year or two afterward, I was a great deal there. Feeling that I
had unintentionally furnished a weapon to his enemies, I did penance
by cultivating McRueit. I went often to his house. He
was at first a good deal broken up by the sudden check to his
ambition, but he rallied with a change in his character for which
I was not prepared. He gave up all antagonism toward his wife.
He assumed a new manner to her. She had been skilfully managed
before—but he took her now confidingly behind his shield.
He felt overmastered by the key she had to popular sympathy,
and he determined wisely to make it turn in his favor. By assiduity,
by tenderness, childlikeness, he succeeded in completely
convincing her that he had but one out-of-doors wish—that of
embellishing her existence by his success. The effort on her was
marvellous. She recovered her health, gradually changed to a
joyous and earnest promoter of her husband's interests, and they
were soon a marked model in the county for conjugal devotion.
The popular impression soon gained ground that Mr. McRueit
had been shamefully wronged by the previous prejudice against
his character as a husband. The tide that had already turned,
soon swelled to a flood, and Mr. McRueit now—but Mr. McRueit
is too powerful a person in the present government to follow


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any farther. Suffice it to say that he might return to Mrs.
Wanmaker and his old courses if he liked—for his wife's
INJURED LOOK is entirely fattened out of possibility by her happiness.
She weighs two hundred, and could no more look injured
than Sir John Falstaff.