Gambar halaman

imagination? In the absence of cross-examination, which is essentially a modern trick, KonÔn's lawyer might have gained credence not only with the jury, but also with the public.





SUNBEAM that has lost its way on an old wall," — excellent

words of M. Taine, which he puts in his Shakspeare's mouth when he represents him prologising in explanation of the motives of those incomparable comedies, whose“ silly sooth” were motive enough to the minds of all men save those who speak Romance tongues and think Romance thoughts. But after all, do sunbeams get lost when they fall upon the mouldiest, most crumbling walls, any more than when they illuminate new fronts of sheeny pressed-brick, or dazzling white marble too, fresh from the stone-cutter's ? Shall benedictions pick their way like Jenny coming thro’ the rye with trussed petticoats? Is anything lost or misplaced in the dim mystic caverns where feeling alternately flames and flickers, any more than in the sharp clear-cut atmosphere where science looks about it with such positive prescient eyes? Do you not remember the wonderful gray old lizard that Heine met sunning himself on the rocks hard by the Baths of Lucca, upon whose tail was written in eternal hieroglyphs the one true philosophy, and who taught that all other philosophies except his were but as the empty shapes of clouds, which sweep their course proud and confident over the face of heaven and are by the next morning's sun dissolved again into their primæval nothingness? After the cloud's brief shadow or glory is dispersed, the lost sunbeam rests upon the old wall just the same as ever.

Yesterday my friend Glossop told me a little story which I shall try to tell here ; and I wish I could tell it as he told it, flung back upon a lounge in my work-shop, his head propped against a pile of Congressional Globes, his long legs hung across the back of a chair, a cloudwrapt pipe between his lips, and a moist eloquence glistening in his eyes that might mean spray from an inward gushing tide of emotion, or might indicate a glass too much from the pitcher of hard cider on the dinner-table. But I can't imitate that florid reportorial style, with its quaint interjections, its occasional throb of pathos, its humor sparkling out like dew-drops in the grass, and its atrocious slang flavored with the very essence of the town; and so I must beg per


mission to tell it my own way, borrowing nothing from Glossop but the first person, without which tales do not always thrive.

Glossop, I must premise, is a rolling stone who goes from Yokohama to Vienna, from Gondokoro to Reikiavik, from Khiva to Cape Horn, just as the impulse drives him, and lives as he goes upon his earnings as newspaper correspondent. He would never write a paragraph if he could get his wine and olives another way; but that he cannot do, and so there is always a phosphorescent wake to mark the devious paths along which he drifts or drives as the mood inclines him.

You think the idylls are all confined to your books, said he, rudely smiting my shelf of poets with the stem of his pipe ; you were never more astray in your life. I could tell you of a little attic-room in Bordeaux, with a pot of mignonette in the one window, and dimity curtains above it, redolent of song-echoes as the leaves of these Pub. Docs, of yours — pah! — are of tobacco smoke.

I could tell you, Ι say,

but I won't. You've no call to have such experiences, nor to hear about them, having made your own nest, out of which it is only necessary for you to poke your writing-fingers forth, as Jean Paul says. Dear heaven, but prison-life is sweet too, sometimes, when one has a Picciola, and understands the language of flowers ! But as I was saying, the prettiest things do not always find their way into books.

Last June I was one day standing in front of Fleury's — you remember that old Frenchman's restaurant in South Fifth Avenue, where we used to get our café noir when we were off from college? debating whether I should go through California on my way to Nukuheva, or whether it would be better for me to take the Suez and New Zealand route. I had just determined to leave it to chance and pulled a Napoleon out of my pocket to toss for it, when Bill Robbins came by and stopped to shake hands. Bill is the prince of detectives, the beau-ideal of a fly cop. He's in the business, I really believe, because he loves it; and a talk with him is like reading Balzac's version of Vidocq. Bill might indeed be Vautrin, if he were not Bill Robbins.

"Glossop," said he, "you've been hunting sights and that sort of thing around the world this many a year, but I fancy I can give you a new sensation.

Don't you want to go on a man-hunt with me? I'm on the track of the cunningest old fox that ever lived, and I mean to run him to earth if it takes me a year. Will you go with me? I need a companion, and I know you're a wiry fellow, for all your long legs.' “Yes, I'll go, if you can promise any entertainment."

“Oh, there'll be lots of new experiences for you, never fear. But there's no time to lose. Get your valise, load your pistols over again, and be at the Hudson river depot in time to catch the evening express. I'll meet you there.”

We went by train to Rochester, and thence in a propeller to Picton across the lake, arriving there about dusk. Robbins, who seemed to know his landmarks confidently, led the way through the town to a wretched board-shanty by the lake shore, kept by a French Canadian, who called his place a cabaret, and I suppose dealt in smuggled brandies. At least he was disposed to resent Robbins' presence very energetically until the latter called him aside, and telling him he was not “on that lay," asked him for an upper room, and inquired of him how he could send a message to Minchin Mose, backing the question with a bright half-eagle. The Canadian's cunning little eyes winked and blinked as he asked if Robbins supposed Minchin Mose had any desire to extend his acquaintance with the police. “Oh, I'll answer for that part of it, Musher,” said Robbins ; * you just send him that and he'll come.” And he put in the Canadian's hand the half of an ivory faro-check, marked with one or two hieroglyphics.

The landlord looked rather incredulous, but took us to a little cuddy on the floor above. Here Bill ordered a pint of brandy and some Weish rarebit, which he said the Canadian had the art of cooking to perfection. When we were alone, the detective said :

Half the thieves of western New York hang out here when it is not good for them to be seen on the other side of the lake. Have your pistols handy and look sharp. Some of the gonnofs that frequent the place wouldn't mind doing me an ill turn if they knew I was here."

Presently the dish and the tipple were served, and we went to work like hungry men. The brandy, like most smuggled stuff, was genuine, and the rarebit nicely cooked. We were still eating when there came an uneven shambling step upon the stair, the door was pushed open, and a low-browed ruffian with grizzled hair close cropped, dressed in duck trowsers and red flannel shirt, shuffled in. Seeing me, he paused and looked behind him apprehensively. His feet were bare, his shoulders broad and square; he wore a knife in a case belted about his waist, and his face was a villainous one, deep-lined, lowering, coarse, sensual, treacherous.

“This here ain't in the bargain, Cap,” said he, pointing to me ; “we was to deal alone. If you ain't square with me, you can't expect me to be square with you."

Come in and shut the door, Mose,” said Robbins. “Did you think I was fool enough to come alone and risk my throat for my pains? Have you brought the plate as you promised ?”

“No, I havn't,” said the ruffian, “but it's where I can get it easy when I want it.” He sat down uneasily in a chair by the door.

“You're lying, Mose ; I see it inside your shirt there now. Come, out with it.”

Are you going to come up to the bargain with me, Cap?" said the ruffian in a whining tone that made his harsh features, if possible, still more repulsive. He came to the table and poured himself a glass of brandy. “It's been hard lines with me since I left down below," said he, drinking, “and I want money worse than I ever did.”

“Oh, I suppose so," rejoined Robbins ; "you belong to that sort. I always keep my promises, as you know, so let me see if you have redeemed yours.'

Minchin Mose thrust his hands into his shirt and drew forth a square about the size of a pane of glass, which he handed to Robbins. The officer unwrapped it, disclosing a fine copper-plate, carefully engraved. Robbins laid the plate down on the table, drew from

[ocr errors]

his pocket a little apparatus such as is used for stamping linen, brushed the plate over with ink, and then, with a piece of tissuepaper, took a rapid proof of the engraving, which, after looking carefully at it, he handed to me. It was the fac-simile of the obverse and reverse of a ten-dollar greenback, and seemed beautifully engraved.

“That's the article !” cried Robbins, with true professional vim, and, drawing a stamp and mallet from his coat-pocket, he cut an official sign-manual right through the engraving, with two blows destroying its integrity forever.

“What did you do that for?” cried the ruffian, rising in his chair and looking with such menacing brows down on Robbins that I thought it worth while to feel if the butt of my Derringer was within easy reach. Do

you mean to go back on me?” “You sit down, Mose! I don't want any foolishness here," answered the officer, coolly wrapping the plate up, tucking it in his bosom, and restoring the printing-apparatus, stamp and mallet to his pockets. Then, taking out his pocket-book, he counted out five hundred dollars and pushed it across the table to the ruffian.

“ There," said he," is that right?" The fellow hastily counted the money, and concealing it, answered, “It's all right, Cap. You always was good pay, I'll say that for you, though you do drop down on a covey so heavy. “Well

, if a covey wants to make the other five hundred, here it is, all ready for him," said Robbins, showing another roll of notes before the ruffian's greedy eyes. I was watching him closely at the time, and I remember thinking that he could be hired to do murder for the sum, or perhaps for even less.

“You want a fellow to squeal on his mates and get a bullet-hole through him for five centuries,' Cap? I don't hold myself that cheap, I don't.”

“Oh, tell that to the clods, Mose!” said Robbins. “You know you stole that plate anyhow, and you know that I know who engraved it. Think I don't know old Sam Dornick's work?"

The 'flying stipple'! Phew! Well, Cap, 'taint no use to try to keep things from you!” I saw a shade of cunning triumph flit across his face as he spoke, but, though I watched him more closely than ever, the leer did not return.

Of course you know where the old koniacker is, don't you?” added he.

“No I don't, and that's what I'm offering you the money to find out. I thought old Dornick was dead until I saw his workmanship and got the invitation from you."

“Dead !” said the rogue, with a dry sort of chuckle. “No, he's not dead; he's only turned pious and jined the church."

So much the more reason for coming up with him. Where does he hang out?"

“Five hundred for the news? Well — it's a pity to disturb old Sam's prayers ; he hain't been in the habit of going to meetin' much, xcept in prison-chapels; but five hundred more 'll set me up in a

bang of my own, and I've as much right to live honest as Sam rnick has. 'Is it cash up, Cap?"

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


You know me too well to play tricks.” And he handed the money over to Minchin Mose, who took it without more ado.

“He's down Georgia way, Sam Dornick is,” said the fellow ; "he's got a little ranch about five miles out from Sparty, in Hancock county. It's on the Greensboro' road a piece. I was down there myself a bit last winter to see the old fellow, but me and him couldn't trade." An evil grin spread over his face at the recollection. “ You go out the pike about four miles, and then turn off to your right till you come to a little church that Sherman's bummers left their marks on. Right in the left-hand corner of the graveyard a path leads away through the pines to Sam Dornick's house.

Sam's getting old, he is; he ain't what he used to be.”

Very well,” said Robbins, rising. “You've told me all I want to know. All I require of you now is not to leave here until my friend and I get aboard the night-boat. If you send any messages to Dornick, I'll hear of it, and you'll fare the worse

“No danger, Cap; he's too pious."

Robbins settled the little score, we left the tavern, and were soon on board a steamer going towards Oswego. There was high jinks in the cabaret as we steamed by.

“They're spending some of the Government's money," said Robbins, pointing. Are

you going to hunt up Dornick ?" I asked. “ You bet?” was the vigorous response. “ That's what I started out for; he's worth a dozen plates."

“Who is he, then?”

“What! been on the newspapers so long and never heard of old Sam Dornick, ‘the flying stipple, as they call him? Sam's an Englishman, about sixty-five years old, I should judge, and has spent thirty years in prison. He is the best engraver of bank-notes in the country, and the cunningest old rogue of them all. The whole family are thieves. Sam's wife was a lister and shover ; his girl was the neatest hand at the panel-game I ever saw; and his son, Abe Dornick, who married a pickpocket, is in Sing-Sing for burglary and safeblowing. The woman died on the Island, and there was a child, I believe, a baby, but I don't know what became of it. Sam has only been out of the Albany penitentiary about four years; but I had lost sight of him entirely, and didn't think much about him, for I'd heard he was dead. I know better now though,” said he, tapping his bosom.

On our journey back we stopped at Albany for a few minutes, and called to see Mr. Pillsbury, superintendent of the penitentiary. "Do you know old Dornick is alive?” said Robbins.

] “Yes, I knew it," answered the superintendent, eying Bill somewhat curiously I thought, “but I cannot guess how you came to know it."

“Oh, I've some of his nice work in custody," said Bill ; "there's no mistaking that. I suppose you know where he hangs out, too?”

Yes ; I hear from him sometimes. Are you in pursuit of him?" “I am that!” “Well, let me advise you to proceed cautiously, and be very cer

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »