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- Justice in the By-Ways - 4/64 -


haunts of vice that line the more obscure streets-that, rampart-like, file along the hundred and one "back lanes" that surround the scattered town, and, reader, you may form some estimation of the ratio of vice and wretchedness in this population of thirty thousand, of which the enslaved form one-third.

Having escorted you to the door, generous reader, we will forget the common-place jargon of the world, and affect a little ceremony, for Madame Flamingo is delicately exact in matters of etiquette. Touch gently the bell; you will find it there, a small bronze knob, in the fluting of the frame, and scarce perceptible to the uninitiated eye. If rudely you touch it, no notice will be taken; the broad, high front of her house will remain, like an ill-natured panorama of brick and freestone, closed till daylight. She admits nothing but gentlemen; and gentlemen know how to ring a bell. Well, you have touched it like one of delicate nerves, and like a bell with manners polished by Madame Flamingo herself, it answers as faintly as does the distant tinkle of an Arab's bell in the desert.

There! It was recognized as the ring of a genteel gentleman, and Madame Flamingo's heavy foot is heard advancing up the hall. Be a diplomatist now. Show a white glove, and a delicate hand, and a winning smile, and you have secured your passport to the satin and brocade of her mansion. A spring is heard to tick, a whisper of caution to some one within follows, and a block broad enough to admit your hat swings open, disclosing the voluptuous splendor of a great hall, the blaze of which flashes upon your senses, and fills you instinctively with curious emotions. Simultaneously a broad, cheerful face, somewhat matronly in its aspect, and enlivened with an urbane smile, darkens the space. After a few moments' pause we see two sharp gray eyes peering curiously at us, and a soft but quick accenting voice inquires who we are. Ah! yes, the white glove has told who we are, for the massive doors swing open, and we find ourselves in a long, stately hall, resplendent of Persian carpets, lounges in tapestry, walls and ceiling frescoed in uncouth and bright-colored designs, and curiously wrought chandeliers, shedding over all a bewitching light. The splendor is more gaudy than regal; it strikes our fancy, but leaves our admiration unmoved. The door is suddenly closed, and the short, portly figure of Madame (she bows, saying her house is most select) stands before us, somewhat nervous, as if she were yet undecided about our position in society. She has seen some sixty summers, made her nefarious reputation in New York; there she keeps a joint establishment, which, she adds, has been kindly patronized by the members of several pumpkin-headed corporations. Indeed, her princely tabernacle there was owned by one of these individuals, but in deference to his reputation she had the lease of a third party. Of corporations in general has she the very highest opinion.

Madame Flamingo's round, dapper figure, is set off with a glossy, black satin, made high at the neck, about which a plain white collar is arranged, corresponding nicely with the dash of snowy lace down the stomacher, and an embroidered buff apron, under which she every few minutes thrusts her fat, jewelled fingers. Her face is pallid, her chin fat and dimpled, her artificial hair light brown, and lain smoothly over a low forehead, which is curiously contrasted with a jauntily-setting cap, the long strings of which flutter down her shoulders.

"If you please, gentlemen," she says, "my house is highly respectable-highly respectable (don't make strange of me tending my own door!) I assure you gentlemen." And Madame Flamingo's eyes quicken, and she steps round us, now contemplating us suspiciously, then frisking her hands beneath her embroidered apron, which she successively flaunts.

We have assured her of our standing in society. To which, with an air of resumed confidence, and a quickened step, she says she has (that is, she thinks she has) seen us before, and is glad to see us again. She is getting well down in the role of years, has a treacherous memory-the result of arduous business, and a life of trouble-the poison of a war upon society-the excitement of seeking revenge of the world. She cannot at all times trust her memory, for it has given out in the watchfulness necessary to the respectability of her house, which she regards as the Gibraltar from which she turns upon society her unerring guns. "Lord, gentlemen," she says in quick accents, "the reputation of this house-I watch it as our senator to Congress does his-is my bank stock; and on the respectability and behavior of my customers, who are of the first families, depends my dividends. Madame Flamingo wouldn't-gentlemen, I am no doubt known to you by reputation?-soil the reputation of her house for uncounted gold." This she whispers, tripping nervously over the soft carpet up the hall, until she reaches mid-way, where on the right and left are two massive arched doors of black walnut, with stained glass for fan-lights. Our guardian (she has assumed the office) makes a significant motion with her left hand, which she moves backward, places her right upon the porcelain knob, turns to the right, and puts her ear inquiringly to the door. "It's a sort of commonwealth; yes, sir, a commonwealth-but then they are all gentlemen-some very distinguished," she continues, shaking her head as if to caution us. Voices in loud conversation are heard in the room to the right, while from out the left float the mellow notes of a waltz, accompanied by the light tripping of feet.

With an urbane bow, and a familiar smile, Madame opens the door, watches with an air of exultation the effect her sumptuously-furnished parlors, and her more sumptuously-dressed worshippers, have on our feelings. The great glare of Gothic windows; the massive curtains of orange-colored satin that, veiled with lace, pend in undulating folds over them; the cloudlike canopy that overhangs a dias at the further end of the parlor; the gorgeously-carved piano, with keys of pearl, that stands in dumb show beneath the drapery; the curiously-carved eagles, in gilt, that perch over each window, and hold daintily in their beaks the amber-colored drapery; the chastely-designed tapestry of sumptuously-carved lounges, and reclines, and ottomans, and patrician chairs, and lute tabs, arranged with exact taste here and there about the great parlor; the massive centre and side-tables, richly inlaid with pearl and Mosaic; the antique vases interspersed along the sides, between the windows, and contrasting curiously with the undulating curtains, looped alternately with goddesses of liberty, in gilt; the jetting lights from a great chandelier, blending with prismatic reflections; and the gaudy gossamers in which weary and blanched-faced females flaunt, more undressed than dressed-all mingle in one blaze of barbaric splendor.

It is here your child of ignorance and neglect is fascinated and made to drink the first cup of death; it is here your faltering sister falls; it is here your betrayed daughter seeks revenge; it is here your forlorn, outcast sufferer first feels the world her enemy, has no sympathizing sister to stretch out the hand of encouragement, and sinks hopeless in the agony of her meditations. It is here, alas! too often necessity forces its hapless victims, and from whence a relentless world--without hope of regaining the lost jewel-hurls them down a short life, into a premature grave. Your church is near by, but it never steps in here to make an inquiry; and if it chance to cast a suspicious look in now and then, it is only as it passes along to inquire the state of the slave market, of so much more importance is the price of men. Your common school (a thing unknown, and held extremely dangerous in Carolina!) may be your much talked of guiding star to virtue; your early education is your bulwark against which the wave of vice is powerless; but unless you make it something more than a magnificent theory-unless you seek practical means, and go down into the haunts of vice, there to drag up the neglected child, to whom the word early education is a mystery, you leave untouched the festering volcano that vomits its deadly embers upon the community.

Your homilies preached to pew-holders of fashion, who live sumptuously, ride sumptuously to church of a Sunday, and meekly enjoy a sumptuous sermon for appearance sake, will, so long as you pass unheeded the haunts of vice, fall as chaff before the wind. You must make "early education" more than the mere motto of future happiness; you must go undaunted into the avenues of want and misery, seek out the fallen child, forbear with her, and kindly teach her how much good there is in its principles, its truths.

Pardon, generous reader, this digression, and keep our arm while we see of what metal are the votaries at the shrine of Madame Flamingo. "I am-that is, they say I am-something of an aristocrat, you see, gentlemen," says the old woman, flaunting her embroidered apron, and fussily doddling round the great centre-table, every few minutes changing backward and forward two massive decanters and four cut-glass goblets. We bow approvingly. Then with an air of exultation she turns on her centre, giving a scrutinizing look at the rich decorations of her palace, and again at us, as if anxious to draw from us one word of approval. "Gentlemen are no way sensitive here," pursues Madame Flamingo, moving again the great decanters, "it's a commonwealth of gentlemen, you see. In New York-I dash out there, you know-my house is a perfect palace. I keep a footman and coachman there, have the most exact liveries, and keep up an establishment equal to my Fifth Avenue neighbors, whose trade of rope and fish is now lost in their terrible love of plush. I am a woman of taste, you see; but, my honor for it, gentlemen, I know of no people so given to plush and great buttons as our Fifth Avenue parvenues."

It is a high old house this of Madame Flamingo. We speak approvingly of all we see, her pride is stimulated, she quickens her conversation. "I think you said two bottles, gentlemen? Our sparkling Moselle is pronounced a gem by connoisseurs." And again flaunting her embroidered apron, she trips hurriedly out of the room. While she is gone we turn to view its human furniture. Yonder, in a cozy alcove, stands a marble-topped pier-table, at which are seated two gentlemen of great respectability in the community, playing whist with fair but frail partners. Near them, on a soft lounge, is seated a man of portly person and venerable appearance (his hair is snowy white, and he has a frank, open countenance), holding converse with, and evidently enamoured of a modest and beautiful girl, of some sixteen summers, who has just taken her seat at the opposite end. Madame Flamingo addresses this man as "Judge." His daylight duty is known to be that of presiding over a criminal court. The girl with whom he nervously holds conversation, and whose bright, Italian eyes, undulating black hair, Grecian face and fair features, swelling bust and beautifully-chiseled shoulders, round polished arms and tapering hands, erect figure, so exactly dressed in black brocade, and so reserve in her demeanor, is the Anna Bonard of this history. "Judge!" she says in reply to a question he has advanced, and turning disdainfully upon him her great black eyes, walks gracefully out of the room.

Sitting on a sofa opposite is a slender youth, somewhat flashily dressed. His complexion is sandy, there is something restless in his manner; and in his features, which are sharp and watchful, is that which indicates a mind weak and vacillating. He sits alone, seemingly thoughtful, and regarding with a jealous eye the insidious manner in which the venerable judge addresses the beautiful Anna, in whom you must know, reader, he has a deep and passionate interest. As Anna passes out of the room he, like one in despair, rests his head in his pale, bony, and freckled hand, and mutters to himself:


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