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took up my position-as far as my body was concerned-just outside the door, and with my face peered right round the corner, and looked in. I had here a perfect view of all that was going on.
She never hesitated a moment, but walked deliberately to the dresser, on which lay a plate of inviting-looking sausages, evidently awaiting the dawn of day and the welcome advent of breakfast. She took up the plate of sausages, and deposited them and her flat candlestick on the kitchen-table. From a pocket in her flowing white garment, to my horror, I saw her produce a bottle. It contained no liquid; merely powder, as it seemed to me. She powdered
the sausages, looked at them with a gaze of triumph, and put them back again to rest during the night on the dresser.
Hitherto I had kept my presence of mind thoroughly well. I had not moved, whispered, sighed, groaned, fallen, broken my shins-indeed, done anything to attract attention. But this last move on the part of diabolical hostess was too much, even for me.
I had witnessed with my own eyes her horrible crime; and the Count-perhaps I myself-was to partake the next morning of the fatal sausages so insidiously poisoned. I could not help it. I groaned.
She started in an instant; and, seeing that it was no longer of any use to hide myself, I appeared in the doorway, assuming the sternest and most formidable expression of countenance I could call up. I am sure I looked awfully angry. I could not trust myself to speak. I glared at her fiendishly.
She merely laughed.
"So you have found me out, have you ?" said she, merrily, "and already? Well, you are a cleverer man than I took you for. I have been married seven weeks to Charley, and he has not yet discovered my trick."
"Is this the way you
"Trick!" I said, in a hollow, mocking tone. allude to your fearful crimes? How dare you talk like that to me, seeing what I have seen-knowing what I know now ?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, hurriedly.
"I mean, that you are plotting against your husband's life.” "How, in heaven's name?"
"By slow poison!"
"You have been attempting to destroy poor Charley's life. Give
me that bottle."
Again she laughed—this time merrily and well. Her eyes flashed; the sweet smile came back, and I felt that I had been deceived. produced the bottle, and pointed to the label :
"For dyspeptics," she said, again laughing more than ever, "and a most useful medicine. I strongly advise your taking some. Will you consent to be poisoned ?"
The mystery was soon explained. Indeed, we seated ourselves in the deserted kitchen, and she gave me a full and faithful account of her wanderings to these deserted regions. I have alluded before to Charley's serious illness, and the plucky way in which his wife nursed him through it. Therein lay the mystery of the charcoal. The Count was always a nervous and fidgety fellow about himself; and the more medicine he had to take, and the more fuss that was made about his ailments, the worse it was to cure him.
His digestive organs were in a very bad state, and the doctor and his wife put their heads together as to the best method that should be adopted for rendering his food digestible without his knowing anything about it. The doctor prescribed the powdered charcoal, and his wife was to administer it in the best manner she thought fit.
The kitchen convention was soon at an end, and in a far different manner from that in which we had entered the kitchen we wended our way upstairs again. But still we had to keep our own counsel. The Count was to know nothing of the ruse for six weeks more, by which time a certain cure was to be effected.
Accordingly, I seconded his wife in her laudable efforts to deceive, and at the end of my time left my friend still under the impression that he was the victim of circumstances, and was gradually coming to an untimely end.
However, at Easter-time, I went down to the turret again; and then, over a bottle of the very best sherry I ever drank, and the finest cigar I ever smoked, we had a thoroughly good laugh-all of us— over the mysteries of my "Christmas in the Count's Folly."
THERE are no kindlier or more hospitable people in the whole world than the Americans; only the modes they adopt, and the days they select for showing such kindness, and dispensing such hospitality, differ from ours. To state thus much is not, I suppose, to fly in the face of the Declaration of Independence, or to speak disparagingly of Republican Institutions.
I don't think they are quite so much given as we are to gormandizing or forfeit-playing on Christmas-day. Their great feasting time is Thanksgiving-day. My first American Christmas I spent, not in the States, but at Montreal, in Canada, where I revelled in the traditional abundance of beef, turkey, and plum-pudding, so dear to the British mind. I was given to understand, however, that although churches might be hung with evergreens, and Christ-. mas carols sung, the festivities on the Twenty-fifth of December in New York were very demure and sober, as compared with those which take place on New Year's-day. So I took good care to be back in Manhattan by the Thirtieth; and having by this time a pretty numerous list of acquaintances, "laid myself out" in right earnestalthough not without some inward misgivings as to how my constitution would stand it—for the ceremonies of January First. I remember that in coming from Rouse's Point to New York I had left my hat in a railway car, and alighted at the Brevoort House with no better headgear than a sealskin cap. Now, it is clear that you cannot pay visits in polite society in a scalskin cap. The obvious remedy for such a deficiency in my apparel was to buy a new hat; but to do this on the First Day of the New Year in New York is simply an impossibility. The shutters of every shop in Broadway are hermetically sealed, and I had not quite sufficient impudence to go down to the world-renowned hat store under the St. Nicholas, and ring up the urbane Mr. Genin. I think my perplexity was brought to a close by an American friend "loaning" me a hat. You know the effect produced on the human economy by wearing somebody else's hat. It never fits you, and you feel as though you had somebody else's head on your shoulders.
Moral, always have two hats; but I never possessed such superfluous wealth in my life. I am always very careful when I purchase a new sombrero to desire Mr. Christie's shopman to "do up" the old one, and send it home, but I always forget to tell him where I live. There is a remedy for this, too, in buying your hats upon credit; your hatter must know where you live then; but "tick" for a hat I never could get.
I think I lived au cinquième at the Brevoort, and that I commenced. my visit-paying campaign at about eleven A.M.; but from as early as nine in the morning my attic storey was invaded by successive groups of gentlemen dressed in their Sunday best, who, coming, some singly, some in pairs, some in threes, grasped my hand, said it was a fine day, but rather cold, smiled amicably, grasped my hand again, and hurried downstairs, probably to repeat the same ceremony with any friends they might happen to possess on the fourth, third, second, or first floors. As I was on somewhat a familiar footing with the last batch of smiling hand-graspers, I went down with them, and prepared myself for the labours of the day by partaking, at the bar of the Brevoort, of some warm stimulant, in the composition of which, so far as my recollection serves me, there entered nutmeg, sugar, eggs, milk, and a liquor they call rum. The hour was young; but there was a "cold snap" about, and I had a hard time before me.
As my visiting-list included some very aristocratic families-as aristocracy is understood under a Republican Dispensation-I had taken care to array myself in full evening costume, patent-leather boots and lemon kid gloves. If, in thus sacrificing to the Graces I erred against American etiquette, I humbly beg pardon of the shades of General Jackson, John C. Calhoun, Rufus Choate, and other Fathers of their Country. Under the circumstances I felt as though I was going out to a funeral at which there was to be a champagne luncha kind of genteel wake, in fact. Then ensconced in the corner of a hackney-coach, and wrapped up in a fur cloak (for the cold was intense, and my ears would have been truly grateful for the discarded sealskin cap), I proceeded to pay my visits.
I think my first call was in Washington Square-not many yards from the Brevoort; and from my coach windows I could see that the side walks were crowded by gentlemen, beneath whose greatcoats peeped symptoms of evening dress-at the which I felt reassured. I observed that while in the street these gentlemen preserved a solemn
and almost rueful mien as though bent on some awfully momentous mission; but as they emerged from houses where they had made a call, it was with a placid and joyous expression of countenance, and that they chuckled as they walked, until they recollected that they were near another door at which a call was due, and so began to look solemn again.
I ran over the gamut of polite conversation ere I pulled at the first bell. I was never a morning-caller; and before the candles are lighted am generally nervous in the society of ladies. What would be the best thing to say ? I asked myself. Should I observe that this was a great any reference country, or that my name was Norval? Should I make to the manner in which the ancient Romans were accustomed to keep the first day of the New Year? Should I merely ejaculate, "Hail Columbia," or say something neat and appropriate about the Star Spangled Banner? On reflection, I determined to confine myself to innocent remarks about the weather, and subsequently to get out of the scrape as best I could.
I found, on experience, that I had much exaggerated the difficulties before me. Beyond the utterance of a few incoherent compliments— usually ending with, "I'm sure"-I was required to say nothing at all;