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- Justice in the By-Ways - 34/64 -


like this sort of modesty. 'Tis n't every one can put it on cleverly." Mr. Snivel winks to Keepum, who makes an ineffectual attempt to extinguish the light, which Maria seizes in her hand, and summoning her courage, stands before them in a defiant attitude, an expression of hate and scorn on her countenance. "Ah, fiend! you take this liberty-you seek to destroy me because I am poor-because you think me humble-an easy object to prey upon. I am neither a stranger to the world nor your cowardly designs; and so long as I have life you shall not gloat over the destruction of my virtue. Approach me at your peril-knaves! You have compromised my father; you have got him in your grasp, that you may the more easily destroy me. But you will be disappointed, your perfidy will recoil on yourselves: though stripped of all else, I will die protecting that virtue you would not dare to offend but for my poverty." This unexpected display of resolution has the effect of making the position of the intruders somewhat uncomfortable. Mr. Keepum, whose designs Snivel would put in execution, sinks, cowardly, upon the sofa, while his compatriot (both are celebrated for their chivalry) stands off apace endeavoring to palliate the insult with facetious remarks. (This chivalry of ours is a mockery, a convenient word in the foul mouths of fouler ruffians.) Mr. Snivel makes a second attempt to overcome the unprotected girl. With every expression of hate and scorn rising to her face, she bids him defiance. Seeing himself thus firmly repulsed, he begs to assure her, on the word of a gentleman-a commodity always on hand, and exceedingly cheap with us-he was far from intending an insult. He meant it for a bit of a good turn-nothing more. "Always fractious at first-these sort of people are," pursues Keepum, relighting his cigar as he sits on the sofa, squinting his right eye. "Take bravely to gentlemen after a little display of modesty-always! Try her again, Squire." Mr. Snivel dashes the candle from her hand, and in the darkness grasps her wrists. The enraged girl shrieks, and calls aloud for assistance. Simultaneously a blow fells Mr. Snivel to the floor. The voice of Tom Swiggs is heard, crying: "Wretch! villain!--what brings you here? (Mr. Keepum, like the coward, who fears the vengeance he has merited, makes good his escape.) Will you never cease polluting the habitations of the poor? Would to God there was justice for the poor, as well as law for the rich; then I would make thee bite the dust, like a dying viper. You should no longer banquet on poor virtue. Wretch!--I would teach thee that virtue has its value with the poor as well as the rich;--that with the true gentleman it is equally sacred." Tom stands a few moments over the trembling miscreant, Maria sinks into a chair, and with her elbows resting on the table, buries her face in her hands and gives vent to her tears.

"Never did criminal so merit punishment; but I will prove thee not worth my hand. Go, wretch, go! and know that he who proves himself worthy of entering the habitations of the humble is more to be prized than kings and princes." Tom relights the candle in time to see Mr. Snivel rushing into the street.

The moon sheds a pale light over the city as the two chivalric gentlemen, having rejoined and sworn to have revenge, are seen entering a little gate that opens to a dilapidated old building, fronted by a neglected garden, situate on the north side of Queen street, and in days gone by called "Rogues' Retreat." "Rogues' Retreat" has seared vines creeping over its black, clap-boarded front, which viewed from the street appears in a squatting mood, while its broken door, closed shutters-the neglected branches of grape vines that depend upon decayed trellice and arbors, invest it with a forlorn air: indeed, one might without prejudicing his faculties imagine it a fit receptacle for our deceased politicians and our whiskey-drinking congressmen-the last resting-place of our departed chivalry. Nevertheless, generous reader, we will show you that "Rogues' Retreat" serves a very different purpose. Our mob-politicians, who make their lungs and fists supply the want of brains, use it as their favorite haunt, and may be seen on the eve of an election passing in and out of a door in the rear. Hogsheads of bad whiskey have been drunk in "Rogues' Retreat;" it reeks with the fumes of uncounted cigars; it has been the scene of untold villanies. Follow us; we will forego politeness, and peep in through a little, suspicious-looking window, in the rear of the building. This window looks into a cavern-like room, some sixteen feet by thirty, the ceiling of which is low, and blotched here and there with lamp-smoke and water-stains, the plastering hanging in festoons from the walls, and lighted by the faint blaze of a small globular lamp, depending from the centre, and shedding a lurid glare over fourteen grotesque faces, formed round a broad deal-table. Here, at one side of the table sits Judge Sleepyhorn, Milman Mingle, the vote-cribber, on his right; there, on the other, sits Mr. Snivel and Mr. Keepum. More conspicuous than anything else, stands, in the centre of the table, bottles and decanters of whiskey, of which each man is armed with a stout glass. "I am as well aware of the law as my friend who has just taken his seat can be. But we all know that the law can be made subordinate; and it must be made subordinate to party ends. We must not (understand me, I do not say this in my judicial capacity) be too scrupulous when momentous issues are upon us. The man who has not nerve enough to make citizens by the dozen-to stuff double-drawered ballot-boxes, is not equal to the times we live in;--this is a great moral fact." This is said by the Judge, who, having risen with an easy air, sits down and resumes his glass and cigar.

"Them's my sentiments-exactly," interposes the vote-cribber, his burly, scarred face, and crispy red hair and beard, forming a striking picture in the pale light. "I have given up the trade of making Presidents, what I used to foller when, you see, I lived in North Caroliner; but I tell you on the faith of my experience, that to carry the day we must let the law slide, and crib with a free chain: there's no gettin' over this."

"It is due," interrupts the Judge, again rising to his feet and bowing to the cribber, "to this worthy man, whose patriotism has been tried so often within prison-walls, that we give weight to his advice. Hie bears the brunt of the battle like a hero-he is a hero!" (The vote-cribber acknowledges the compliment by filling his glass and drinking to the Judge.)

"Of this worthy gentleman I have, as a member of the learned profession, an exalted opinion. His services are as necessary to our success as steam to the speed of a locomotive. I am in favor of leaving the law entirely out of the question. What society sanctions as a means to party ends, the law in most cases fails to reach," rejoins a tall, sandy-complexioned man, of the name of Booper, very distinguished among lawyers and ladies. Never was truth spoken with stronger testimony at hand. Mr. Keepum could boast of killing two poor men; Mr. Snivel could testify to the fallacy of the law by gaining him an honorable acquittal. There were numerous indictments against Mr. Keepum for his dealings in lottery tickets, but they found their way into the Attorney-General's pocket, and it was whispered he meant to keep them there. It was indeed pretty well known he could not get them out in consequence of the gold Keepum poured in. Not a week passes but men kill each other in the open streets. We call these little affairs, "rencontres;" the fact is, we are become so accustomed to them that we rather like them, and regard them as evidences of our advanced civilization. We are infested with slave-hunters, and slave-killers, who daily disgrace us with their barbarities; yet the law is weak when the victor is strong. So we continue to live in the harmless belief that we are the most chivalrous people in the world.

"Mr. Booper!" ejaculates Mr. Snivel, knocking the ashes from his cigar and rising to his feet, "you have paid no more than a merited compliment to the masterly completeness of this excellent man's cribbing. (He points to the cribber, and bows.) Now, permit me to say here, I have at my disposal a set of fellows, (he smiles,) who can fight their way into Congress, duplicate any system of sharps, and stand in fear of nothing. Oh! gentlemen, (Mr. Snivel becomes enthusiastic,) I was-as I have said, I believe-enjoying a bottle of champagne with my friend Keepum here, when we overheard two Dutchmen-the Dutch always go with the wrong party-discoursing about a villanous caucus held to-night in King street. There is villany up with these Dutch! But, you see, we-that is, I mean I-made some forty or more citizens last year. We have the patent process; we can make as many this year."

Mr. Sharp, an exceedingly clever politician, who has meekly born any number of cudgellings at the polls, and hopes ere long to get the appointment of Minister to Paris, interrupts by begging that Mr. Soloman will fill his glass, and resume his seat. Mr. Snivel having taking his seat, Mr. Sharp proceeds: "I tell you all what it is, says I, the other day to a friend-these ponderous Dutch ain't to be depended on. Then, says I, you must separate the Irish into three classes, and to each class you must hold out a different inducement, says I. There's the Rev. Father Flaherty, says I, and he is a trump card at electioneering. He can form a breach between his people and the Dutch, and, says I, by the means of this breach we will gain the whole tribe of Emeralds over to our party. I confess I hate these vagabonds right soundly; but necessity demands that we butter and sugar the mover until we carry our ends. You must not look at the means, says I, when the ends are momentous."

"The staunch Irish," pursues the Judge, rising as Mr. Sharp sits down, "are noble fellows, and with us. To the middle class-the grocers and shopkeepers-we must, however, hold out flattering inducements; such as the reduction of taxes, the repeal of our oppressive license laws, taking the power out of the hands of our aristocracy-they are very tender here-and giving equal rights to emigrants. These points we must put as Paul did his sermons-with force and ingenuity. As for the low Irish, all we have to do is to crib them, feed and pickle them in whiskey for a week. To gain an Irishman's generosity, you cannot use a better instrument than meat, drink, and blarney. I often contemplate these fellows when I am passing sentence upon them for crime."

"True! I have the same dislike to them personally; but politically, the matter assumes quite a different form of attraction. The laboring Irish-the dull-headed-are what we have to do with. We must work them over, and over, and over, until we get them just right. Then we must turn them all into legal voting citizens--"

"That depends on how long they have been in the country," interrupts a brisk little man, rising quickly to his feet, and assuming a legal air.

"Mr. Sprig! you are entirely behind the age. It matters not how long these gentlemen from Ireland have been in the country. They take to politics like rats to good cheese. A few months' residence, and a little working over you know, and they become trump voters. The Dutch are a different sort of animal; the fellows are thinkers," resumes the Judge.

Mr. Snivel, who has been sipping his whiskey, and listening very attentively to the Judge, rises to what he calls the most important order. He has got the papers all ready, and proposes the gentlemen he thinks best qualified for the naturalization committee. This done, Mr. Snivel draws from his pocket a copy of the forged papers, which are examined, and approved by every one present. This instrument is surmounted with the eagle and arms of the United States, and reads thus: "STATE OF NEW YORK.


Justice in the By-Ways - 34/64

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