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- Justice in the By-Ways - 32/64 -


increased motion; and her sharp, gray eyes, as before, peer anxiously through her great-eyed spectacles. And, generous reader, that you may not mistake her, she has brought her inseparable Milton, which she holds firmly grasped in her right hand. "You have had a tedious time of it, Madam," says a corpulent lady, who is extensively dressed and jewelled, and accosts her with a familiar air. Lady Swiggs says not so tedious as it might have been, and gives her head two or three very fashionable twitches.

"Your name, if you please?"

"The Princess Grouski. My husband, the Prince Grouski," replies the corpulent lady, turning and introducing a fair-haired gentleman, tall and straight of person, somewhat military in his movements, and extremely fond of fingering his long, Saxon moustache. Lady Swiggs, on the announcement of a princess, rises suddenly to her feet, and commences an unlimited number of courtesies. She is, indeed, most happy to meet, and have the honor of being fellow-voyager with their Royal Highnesses-will remember it as being one of the happiest events of her life,--and begs to assure them of her high esteem. The corpulent lady gives her a delicate card, on which is described the crown of Poland, and beneath, in exact letters, "The Prince and Princess Grouski." The Prince affects not to understand English, which Lady Swiggs regrets exceedingly, inasmuch as it deprives her of an interesting conversation with a person of royal blood. The card she places carefully between the leaves of her Milton, having first contemplated it with an air of exultation. Again begging to thank the Prince and Princess for this mark of their distinguished consideration, Lady Swiggs inquires if they ever met or heard of Sir Sunderland Swiggs. The rotund lady, for herself and the prince, replies in the negative. "He was," she pursues, with a sigh of disappointment, "he was very distinguished, in his day. Yes, and I am his lineal descendant. Your highnesses visited Charleston, of course?"

"O dear," replies the rotund lady, somewhat laconically, "the happiest days of my life were spent among the chivalry of South Carolina. Indeed, Madam, I have received the attention and honors of the very first families in that State."

This exclamation sets the venerable lady to thinking how it could be possible that their highnesses received the attentions of the first families and she not know it. No great persons ever visited the United States without honoring Charleston with their presence, it was true; but how in the world did it happen that she was kept in ignorance of such an event as that of the Prince and Princess paying it a visit. She began to doubt the friendship of her distinguished acquaintances, and the St. Cecilia Society. She hopes that should they condescend to pay the United States a second visit, they will remember her address. This the rotund lady, who is no less a person than the distinguished Madame Flamingo, begs to assure her she will.

Let not this happy union between Grouski and the old hostess, surprise you, gentle reader. It was brought about by Mr. Snivel, the accommodation man, who, as you have before seen, is always ready to do a bit of a good turn. Being a skilful diplomatist in such matters, he organized the convention, superintended the wooing, and for a lusty share of the spoils, secured to him by Grouski, brought matters to an issue "highly acceptable" to all parties. A sale of her palace of licentiousness, works of art, costly furniture, and female wares, together with the good will of all concerned, (her friends of the "bench and bar" not excepted,) was made for the nice little sum of sixty-seven thousand dollars, to Madame Grace Ashley, whose inauguration was one of the most gorgeous fˆtes the history of Charleston can boast. The new occupant was a novice. She had not sufficient funds to pay ready money for the purchase, hence Mr. Doorwood, a chivalric and very excellent gentleman, according to report, supplies the necessary, taking a mortgage on the institution, which proves to be quite as good property as the Bank, of which he is president. It is not, however, just that sort of business upon which an already seared conscience can repose in quiet, hence he applies that antidote too frequently used by knaves-he never lets a Sunday pass without piously attending church.

The money thus got, through this long life of iniquity, was by Madame Flamingo handed over to the Prince, in exchange for his heart and the title she had been deluded to believe him capable of conferring. Her reverence for Princes and exiled heroes, (who are generally exiled humbugs,) was not one jot less than that so pitiably exhibited by our self-dubbed fashionable society all over this Union. It may be well to add, that this distinguished couple, all smiling and loving, are on their way to Europe, where they are sure of receiving the attentions of any quantity of "crowned heads." Mr. Snivel, in order not to let the affair lack that eclat which is the crowning point in matters of high life, got smuggled into the columns of the highly respectable and very authentic old "Courier," a line or two, in which the fashionable world was thrown into a flutter by the announcement that Prince Grouski and his wealthy bride left yesterday, en route for Europe. This bit of gossip the "New York Herald" caught up and duly itemised, for the benefit of its upper-ten readers, who, as may be easily imagined, were all on tip-toe to know the address of visitors so distinguished, and leave cards.

Mrs. Swiggs has (we must return to her mission) scarcely set foot on shore, when, thanks to a little-headed corporation, she is fairly set upon by a dozen or more villanous hack-drivers, each dangling his whip in her face, to the no small danger of her bonnet and spectacles. They jostle her, utter vile imprecations, dispute for the right of carrying her, each in his turn offering to do it a shilling less. Lady Swiggs is indeed an important individual in the hands of the hack-drivers, and by them, in a fair way of being torn to pieces. She wonders they do not recognize her as a distinguished person, from the chivalric State of South Carolina. The captain is engaged with his ship, passengers are hurrying ashore, too anxious to escape the confinement of the cabin; every one seems in haste to leave her, no one offers to protect her from the clutches of those who threaten to tear her into precious pieces. She sighs for Sister Slocum, for Mr. Hadger, for any one kind enough to raise a friendly voice in her behalf. Now one has got her black box, another her corpulent carpet-bag-a third exults in a victory over her band-box. Fain would she give up her mission in disgust, return to the more aristocratic atmosphere of Charleston, and leave the heathen to his fate. All this might have been avoided had Sister Slocum sent her carriage. She will stick by her black box, nevertheless. So into the carriage with it she gets, much discomfited. The driver says he would drive to the Mayor's office "and 'ave them ar two coves what's got the corpulent carpet-bag and the band-box, seed after, if it wern't that His Honor never knows anything he ought to know, and is sure to do nothing. They'll turn up, Mam, I don't doubt," says the man, "but it's next to los'in' on 'em, to go to the Mayor's office. Our whole corporation, Mam, don't do nothin' but eats oysters, drinks whiskey, and makes presidents;--them's what they do, Marm." Lady Swiggs says what a pity so great a city was not blessed with a bigger-headed corporation.

"That it is, Marm," returns the methodical hack-driver, "he an't got a very big head, our corporation." And Lady Swiggs, deprived of her carpet-bag and band-box, and considerably out of patience, is rolled away to the mansion of Sister Slocum, on Fourth Avenue. Instead of falling immediately into the arms and affections of that worthy and very enterprising lady, the door is opened by a slatternly maid of all work-her greasy dress, and hard, ruddy face and hands-her short, flabby figure, and her coarse, uncombed hair, giving out strong evidence of being overtaxed with labor. "Is it Mrs. Slocum hersel' ye'd be seein'?" inquires the maid, wiping her soapy hands with her apron, and looking querulously in the face of the old lady, who, with the air of a Scotch metaphysician, says she is come to spend a week in friendly communion with her, to talk over the cause of the poor, benighted heathen. "Troth an' I'm not as sure ye'll do that same, onyhow; sure she'd not spend a week at home in the blessed year; and the divil another help in the house but mysel' and himsel', Mr. Slocum. A decent man is that same Slocum, too," pursues the maid, with a laconic indifference to the wants of the guest. A dusty hat-stand ornaments one side of the hall, a patched and somewhat deformed sofa the other. The walls wear a dingy air; the fumes of soapsuds and stewed onions offend the senses. Mrs. Swiggs hesitates in the doorway. Shall I advance, or retreat to more congenial quarters? she asks herself. The wily hack-driver (he agreed for four and charged her twelve shillings) leaves her black box on the step and drives away. She may be thankful he did not charge her twenty. They make no allowance for distinguished people; Lady Swiggs learns this fact, to her great annoyance. To the much- confused maid of all work she commences relating the loss of her luggage. With one hand swinging the door and the other tucked under her dowdy apron, she says, "Troth, Mam, and ye ought to be thankful, for the like of that's done every day."

Mrs. Swiggs would like a room for the night at least, but is told, in a somewhat confused style, that not a room in the house is in order. That a person having the whole heathen world on her shoulders should not have her house in order somewhat surprises the indomitable lady. In answer to a question as to what time Mr. Slocum will be home, the maid of all work says: "Och! God love the poor man, there's no tellin'. Sure there's not much left of the poor man. An' the divil a one more inoffensive than poor Slocum. It's himsel' works all day in the Shurance office beyant. He comes home dragged out, does a dale of writing for Mrs. Slocum hersel', and goes to bed sayin' nothin' to nobody." Lady Swiggs says: "God bless me. He no doubt labors in a good cause-an excellent cause-he will have his reward hereafter."

It must here be confessed that Sister Slocum, having on hand a newly-married couple, nicely suited to the duties of a mission to some foreign land, has conceived the very laudable project of sending them to Aleppo, and is now spending a few weeks among the Dutch of Albany, who are expected to contribute the necessary funds. A few thousand dollars expended, a few years' residence in the East, a few reports as to what might have been done if something had not interposed to prevent it, and there is not a doubt that this happy couple will return home crowned with the laurels of having very nearly Christianized one Turk and two Tartars.

The maid of all work suddenly remembers that Mrs. Slocum left word that if a distinguished lady arrived from South Carolina she could be comfortably accommodated at Sister Scudder's, on Fourth Street. Not a little disappointed, the venerable old lady calls a passing carriage, gets herself and black box into it, and orders the driver to forthwith proceed to the house of Sister Scudder. Here she is-and she sheds tears that she is-cooped up in a cold, closet-like room, on the third story, where, with the ends of her red shawl, she may blow and warm her fingers. Sister Scudder is a crispy little body, in spectacles. Her features are extremely sharp, and her countenance continually wears a wise expression. As for her knowledge of scripture, it is truly wonderful, and a decided improvement when contrasted with the meagre set-out of her table. Tea time having arrived, Lady Swiggs is invited down to a cup by a pert Irish servant, who accosts her with an independence she by no means approves. Entering the room with an air of stateliness she deems necessary to the position she desires to maintain, Sister Scudder


Justice in the By-Ways - 32/64

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