Story type: Literature
A Washington Christmas
[No. This story also is “Invented Example.” But it is founded on facts. It is a pleasure to me, writing fifty-four years after the commission intrusted to me by the late Mrs. Fales, to say that that is a real name, and that her benevolence at a distance is precisely represented here.
Perhaps the large history of the world would be differently written but for that kindness of hers.
I was a very young clergyman, and the remittance she made to me was the first trust of the same kind which had ever been confided to me.]
“Only think, Matty, papa passed right by me when I was sitting with my back to the fire and stitching away on his book-mark without my once seeing him! But he was so busy talking to mamma that he never saw what I was doing, and I huddled it under a newspaper before he came back again. Well, I have got papa’s present done, but I cannot keep out of mamma’s way. Matty, dear, if I will sit in the sun and keep a shawl on, may I not sit in your room and work? It is not one bit cold there. Really, Matty, it is a great deal warmer than it was yesterday.”
“Dear child,” said Matty, to whom everybody came so readily for advice and help, “I can do better for you than that. You shall come into the study; papa will be away all the morning, and I will have the fire kept up there,–and mamma shall never come near you.”
All this, and a thousand times more of plotting and counterplotting, was going on among four children and their elders in a comfortable, free-and-easy seeming household in Washington, as the boys and girls, young men and young women were in the last agonies of making ready for Christmas. Matty is fully entitled to be called a young woman, when we see her. She has just passed her twenty-first birthday. But she looks as fresh and pretty as when she was seventeen, and certainly she is a great deal pleasanter though she be wiser. She is the oldest of the troop. Tom, the next, is expected from Annapolis this afternoon, and Beverly from Charlotte. Then come four boys and girls whose ages and places the reader must guess at as we go on.
The youngest of the family were still young enough to write the names of the presents which they would be glad to receive, or to denote them by rude hieroglyphs, on large sheets of paper. They were wont to pin up these sheets on certain doors, which, by long usage in this free-and-easy family, had come to be regarded as the bulletin-boards of the establishment. Well-nigh every range of created things had some representation on these bulletins,–from an ambling pony round to a “boot- buttenner,” thus spelled out by poor Laura, who was constantly in disgrace, because she always appeared latest at the door when the children started for church, to ride, or for school. The youngsters still held to the theory of announcing thus their wants in advance. Horace doubted whether he were not too old. But there was so much danger that nobody would know how much he needed a jig-saw, that he finally compromised with his dignity, wrote on a virgin sheet of paper, “gig-saw,” signed his name, “Horace Molyneux, Dec. 21,” and left his other presents to conjecture.
And of course at the very end, as Santa Claus and his revels were close upon them, while the work done had been wonderful, that which we ought to have done but which we had left undone, was simply terrible. Here were pictures that must be brought home from the frame-man, who had never pretended he would send them; there were ferns and lycopodiums in pots which must be brought home from the greenhouse; here were presents for other homes, which must not only be finished, but must be put up in paper and sent before night, so as to appear on other trees. Every one of these must be shown to mamma, an approved by her and praised; and every one must be shown to dear Matty, and praised and approved by her. And yet by no accident must Matty see her own presents or dream that any child has remembered her, or mamma see HERS or think herself remembered.
And Matty has all her own little list to see to, while she keeps a heart at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathize. She has to correct the mistakes, to repair the failures, to respect the wonder, to refresh the discouragement, of each and all the youngsters. Her own Sunday scholars are to be provided with their presents. The last orders are to be given for the Christmas dinners of half-a-dozen families of vassals, mostly black or of some shade of black, who never forgot their vassalage as Christmas came round. Turkey, cranberry, apples, tea, cheese, and butter must be sent to each household of these vassals, as if every member were paralyzed except in the muscles of the jaw. But, all the same, Matty or her mother must be in readiness all the morning and afternoon to receive the visits of all the vassals,–who, so far as this form of homage went, did not seem to be paralyzed at all.
For herself, Matty took possession of the dining- room, as soon as she could clear it of the breakfast equipage, of the children and of the servants, and here, with pen and ink, with wrapping-paper and twine, with telegraph blanks and with the directory, and with Venty as her Ariel messenger–not so airy and quick as Ariel, but quite as willing–Matty worked her wonders, and gave her audiences, whether to vassals from without or puzzled children from within.
Venty was short for Ventidius. But this name, given in baptism, was one which Venty seldom heard.
Matty corded up this parcel, and made Venty cord up that; wrote this note of compliment, that of inquiry, that of congratulation, and sent Venty on this, that, and another errand with them; relieved Flossy’s anxieties and poor Laura’s in ways which have been described; made sure that the wagon should be at the station in ample time for Beverly’s arrival; and at last, at nearly one o’clock, called Aunty Chloe (who was in waiting on everybody as a superserviceable person, on the pretence that she was needed), bade Aunty pick up the scraps, sweep the floor, and bring the room to rights. And so, having attended to everybody beside herself, to all their wishes and hopes and fears, poor Matty–or shall I say, dear Matty–ran off to her own room, to finish her own presents and make her own last preparations.
She had kept up her spirits as best she could all the morning, but, at any moment when she was alone, her spirits had fallen again. She knew it, and she knew why. And now she could not hold out any longer. She and her mother, thank God, never had any secrets. And as she ran by her mother’s door she could not help tapping, to be sure if she had come home.
Yes, she had come home. “Come in!” and Matty ran in.
Her mother had not even taken off her hat or her gloves. She had flung herself on the sofa, as if her walk had been quite too much for her; her salts and her handkerchief were in her hands, and when she saw it was Matty, as she had hoped when she spoke, she would not even pretend she had not been in tears.
In a moment Matty was on her knees on the floor by the sofa, and somehow had her left arm round about her mother’s neck.
“Dear, dear mamma! What is it, what is the matter?”
“My dear, dear Matty,” replied her mother, just succeeding in speaking without sobs, and speaking the more easily because she stroked the girl’s hair and caressed her as she spoke, “do not ask, do not try to know. You will know, if you do not guess, only too soon. And now the children will be better, and papa will get through Christmas better, if you do not know, my darling.”
“No, dear mamma,” said Matty, crossing her mother’s purpose almost for the first time that she remembered, but wholly sure that she was right in doing so,–“No, dear mamma, it is not best so. Indeed, it is not, mamma! I feel in my bones that it is not!” This she said with a wretched attempt to smile, which was the more ghastly because the tears were running down from both their faces.
“You see I have tried, mamma. I knew all day yesterday that something was wrong, and at breakfast this morning I knew it. And I have had to hold up–with the children and all these people–with the feeling that any minute the hair might break and the sword fall. And I know I shall do better if you tell me. You see the boys will be here before dark, and of course they will see, and what in the world shall I say to them?”
“What, indeed?” said her poor mother. “Terrible it is, dear child, because your father is so wretched. I have just come from him. He would not let me stay, and yet for the minute I was there, I saw that no one else could come in to goad him. Dear, dear papa, he is so resolute and brave, and yet any minute I was afraid that he would break a blood-vessel and fall dead before me. Oh, Matty, Matty, my darling, it is terrible!”
And this time the poor woman could not control herself longer, but gave way to her sobs, and her voice fairly broke, so that she was inarticulate, as she laid her cheek against her daughter’s on the sofa.
“What is terrible? Dear mamma, you must tell me!”
“I think I must tell you, Matty, my darling. I believe if I cannot tell some one, I shall die.”
Then Mrs. Molyneux told the whole horror to Matty. Here was her husband charged with the grossest plunder of the treasury, and now charged even in the House of Representatives. It had been whispered about before, and had been hinted at in some of the lower newspapers, but now even a committee of Congress had noticed it, and had “given him an opportunity to clear himself.” There was no less a sum than forty-seven thousand dollars, in three separate payments, charged to him at the Navy Department as long ago as the second and third years of the Civil War. At the Navy they had his receipts for it. Not that he had been in that department then any more than he was now. He was then chief clerk in the Bureau of Internal Improvement, as he was now Commissioner there. But this was when the second Rio Grande expedition was fitted out; and from Mr. Molyneux’s knowledge of Spanish, and his old connection with the Santa Fe trade, this particular matter had been intrusted to him.
“Yes, dear mamma!”
“Well, papa has it all down on his own cashbook; that book he carries in his breast-pocket. There are the three payments, and then all the transfers he made to the different people. One, was that old white-haired Spaniard with the harelip, who used to come here at the back door, so that he should not be seen at the Department. But it was before you remember. The others were in smaller sums. But the whole thing was done in three weeks, and then the expedition sailed, and papa had enough else to think of, and has never thought of it since, till ten or fifteen days ago, when somebody in the Eleventh Auditor’s office discovered this charge, and his receipt for this money.”
“Well, dear mamma?”
“Well, dear child, that is all, but that now the newspapers have got hold of it, and the Committee on Retrenchment, who are all new men, with their reputations to make, have got hold of it, and some of them really think, you know, that papa has stolen the money!” And she broke down crying again.
“But he can show his accounts, mamma!” What are his accounts worth? He must show the vouchers, as they are called. He must show these people’s receipts, and what has become of these people; what they did with the money. He must show everything. Well, when the `Copperhead’ first spoke of it–that was a fortnight ago–papa was really pleased. For he said it would be a good chance to bring out a piece of war history. He said that in our Bureau we had never had any credit for the Rio Grande successes, that they were all our thunder; because THEN he could laugh about this horrid thing. He said the Navy had taken all the boners, while we deserved them all. And he said if these horrid `Copperhead’ and `Argus’ and `Scorpion’ people would only publish the vouchers half as freely as they published the charges, we should get a little of the credit that was our due.”
“Well, mamma, and what is the trouble now?”
“Why, papa was so sure that he would do nothing until an official call came. But on Monday it got into Congress. That hairy man from the Yellowstone brought in a resolution or something, and the Committee was ordered to inquire. And when the order came down, papa told Mr. Waltsingham to bring him the papers, and, Matty, the papers were not there!”
“Stolen!” cried Matty, understanding the crisis for the first time.
“Yes–perhaps–or lost–hidden somewhere. You have no idea of the work of those days night work and all that. Many a time your father did not undress for a week.”
“And now he must remember where he put a horrid pile of papers, eleven, twelve years ago. Mamma, that pile is stolen. That odious Greenhithe stole it. He lives in Philadelphia now, and he has put up these newspapers to this lie.”
Mr. Greenhithe was an underclerk in the Internal Improvement Bureau, who had shown an amount of attention to Miss Matty, which she had disliked and had refused to receive. She had always said he was bad and would come to a bad end, and when he was detected in a low trick, selling stationery which he had stolen from the supply room, and was discharged in disgrace, Matty had said it was good enough for him.
These were her reasons for pronouncing at once that he had stolen the vouchers and had started the rumors.
“I do not know. Papa does not know. He hardly tries to guess. He says either way it is bad. If the vouchers are stolen, he is in fault, for he is responsible for the archives; if he cannot produce the vouchers, then all the country is down on him for stealing. I only hope,” said poor Mrs. Molyneux, “that they won’t say our poor old wagon is a coach and six;” and this time she tried to smile.
And now she had told her story. All last night, while the children were asleep, Mr. Molyneux had been at the office, even till four o’clock in the morning, taking old dusty piles from their lairs and searching for those wretched vouchers. And mamma had been waiting–shall one not say, had been weeping?–here at home. That was the reason poor papa had looked so haggard at breakfast this morning.
This was all mamma had to tell. She had been to the office this morning, but papa would not let her stay. He must see all comers, just as if nothing had happened, was happening, or was going to happen.
Well! Matty did make her mother take off her jacket and her hat and her gloves. She even made her drink a glass of wine and lie down. And then the poor girl retired to her own room, with such appetite as she might for taking the last stitches in worsted work, for stippling in the lights into drawings, for writing the presentation lines in books, and for doing the thousand little niceties in the way of finishing touches which she had promised the children to do for them.
Her dominant feeling–yes, it was a dominant passion, as she knew–was simply rage against this miserable Greenhithe, this cowardly sneak who was thus taking his revenge upon her, because she had been so cold to him. Or was it that he made up to her because he was already in trouble at the Office and hoped she would clear him with her father? Either way he was a snake and a scorpion, but he had worked out for himself a terrible revenge. Poor Matty! She tried to think what she could do, how she could help, for that was the habit of her life. But this was now hard indeed. Her mind would not now take that turn. All that it would turn to was to the wretched and worse than worthless question, what punishment might fall on him for such utter baseness and wickedness.
All the same the children must have their lunch, and they must not know that anything was the matter. Oh dear! this concealment was the worst of all!
So they had their lunch. And poor Matty counselled again, and helped again, and took the last stitches, and mended the last breaks, and waited and wondered, and tried to hope, till at five o’clock an office messenger came up with this message.
4.45 P.M. DEAR MATTY,–I shall not come up to dinner. There is pressing work here. Tell mamma not to sit up for me. I have my key. I have no chance to get my things for the children. Will you see to it? Here is twenty dollars, and if you need more let them send in the bill. I had only thought of that jig-saw–was it?–that Horace wants. See that the dear fellow has a good one.
Love to all and ever yours,
“Poor, dear papa,” said Matty aloud, shedding tears in spite of herself. “To be thinking of jig-saws and children in all this horrid hunt! As if hunting for anything was not the worst trial of all, always.” And at once the brave girl took down her wraps and put on her walking-shoes, that her father’s commissions might be met before their six-o’clock dinner. And she determined that first of all she would meet Tom at the station.
At the station she met Tom; that was well. Matty had not been charged to secrecy; that was well. She told him all the story, not without adding her suspicions, and giving him some notion of her rage.
And Tom was angry enough,–there was a crumb of comfort there. But Tom went off on another track. Tom distrusted the Navy Department. He had been long enough at Annapolis to doubt the red tape of the bureaus with which his chiefs had to do. “If the navy had the money, the navy had the vouchers,” that was Tom’s theory. He knew a chief clerk in the navy, and Tom was going at once round there.
But Matty held him in check at least for the moment. Whatever else he did, he must come home first; he must see mamma and he must see the children, and he must have dinner. She had not told him yet how well he looked, and how handsome he was.
But after Tom had seen them he slipped off, pretended he had unfinished preparations to make, and went right to the Department, forced his way in because he was Mr. Molyneux’s son, and found his poor father with Zeigler, the chief clerk, still on this wretched and fruitless overhaul of the old files. Tom stated frankly, in his off-hand, business-like way, what his theory was. Neither Zeigler nor Tom’s father believed in it in the least. Tom knew nothing, they said; the Navy paid the money, but the Navy was satisfied with our receipt, and should be.
Tom continued to say, “If the Navy paid the money the Navy must have the vouchers;” and at last, more to be rid of him than with any hope of the result, Mr. Molyneux let the eager fellow go round to his friend, Eben Ricketts, and see if Eben would not give an hour or two of his Christmas to looking up the thing. Mr. Molyneux even went so far as to write a frank line to Mr. Ricketts, and enclosed a letter which he had had that day from the chairman of the House Committee,–a letter which was smooth enough in the language, but horrible enough in the thing.
Ah me! Had not Ricketts read it all already in the evening “Argus”? He was willing, if he could, to serve. So he with Tom went round and found the Navy Department messenger, and opened and lighted up the necessary rooms, and they spent three hours of their Christmas there. Meanwhile Beverly had arrived from Norfolk. He had a frolic with the children, and then called his mother and Matty away from them.
“What in thunder is the matter?” said the poor boy.
And they told him. How could they help telling him? And so soon as the story was finished, the boy had his coat on and was putting on his boots. He went right down to his father’s office, he made old Stratton admit him, and told his father he too had reported for duty.
And at last Christmas morning dawned,–gray enough and grim enough.
In that house the general presenting was reserved for evening after dinner,–when in olden days there had always been a large Christmas-tree lighted and dressed for the children and their little friends. As the children had grown older, and the trees at the Sunday-school and elsewhere had grown larger, the family tree had grown smaller, and on this day was to be simply atypical tree, a little suggestion of a tree, between the front windows; while most of the presents of every sort and kind were to be dispersed–where room could be made for them–in any part of the front parlors. All the grand ceremonial of present-giving was thus reserved to the afternoon of Christmas, because then it was certain papa would be at home, Tom and Beverly would both be ready, and, indeed, as the little people confessed, they themselves would have more chance to be quite prepared.
But none the less was the myth of Santa Claus and the stockings kept up, although that was a business of less account, and one in which the children themselves had no share, except to wonder, to enjoy, and to receive. You will observe that there is a duality in most of the enjoyments of life,–that if you have a long-expected letter from your brother who is in Yokohama, by the same mail or the next mail there comes a letter from your sister who is in Cawnpore. And so it was of Christmas at this Molyneux house. Besides the great wonders, like those wrought out by Aladdin’s slave of the lamp, there were the wonders, less gigantic but not less exquisite, of the morning hours, wrought out by the slave of the ring. How this series of wonders came about, the youngest of the children did not know, and were still imaginative enough and truly wise enough not to inquire.
While, then, the two young men and their father were at one or the other Department, now on step-ladders, handing down dusty old pasteboard boxes, now under gaslights, running down long indexes with inquiring fingers and unwinking eyes, Matty and her mother watched and waited till eleven o’clock came, not saying much of what was on the hearts of both, but sometimes just recurring to it, as by some invisible influence,–an influence which would overcome both of them at the same moment. For the mother and daughter were as two sisters, not parted far, even in age, and not parted at all in sympathy. For occupation, they were wrapping up in thin paper a hundred barley dogs, cats, eagles, locomotives, suns, moons, and stars,–with little parcels of nuts, raisins, and figs, large red apples, and bright Florida oranges,–all of which were destined to be dragged out of different stockings at daybreak.
“And now, dear, dear mamma,” said Matty, “you will go to bed,–please do, dear mamma.” This was said as she compelled the last obstinate eagle to accept his fate and stay in his wrapping-paper, from which he had more than once struggled out, with the instincts of freedom.
“Please do, dear mamma; I will sort these all out, and will be quite sure that each has his own. At least, let us come upstairs together. I will comb your hair for you; that is one of the little comforts. And you shall get into bed and see me arrange them, and if I do it wrong you can tell me.”
Poor mamma, she yielded to her–as who does not yield, and because it was easier to go upstairs than to stay. And the girl led her up and made herself a toilet woman indeed, and did put her worn-out mamma into bed, and then hurried to the laundry, where she was sure she could find what Diana had been bidden to reserve there–a pair of clean stockings belonging to each member of the family. The youngest children, alas, who would need the most room for their spread-eagles and sugar locomotives, had the smallest feet and legs. But nature compensates for all things, and Matty did not fail to provide an extra pair of her mother’s longest stockings for each of “the three,” as the youngest were called in the councils of their elders. So a name was printed by Santa Claus on a large red card and pinned upon each receptacle, FLOSSY or LAURA, while all were willing to accept of his bounties contained within, even if they did not recognize yarn or knitting as familiar. Matty hurried back with their treasures. She brought from her own room the large red tickets, already prepared, and then, on the floor by her mother’s bedside, assorted the innumerable parcels, and filled each stocking full.
Dear girl! she had not wrongly guessed. There was just occupation enough, and just little enough, for the poor mother’s anxious, tired thought. Matty was wise. She asked fewer and fewer questions; fewer and fewer she made her journeys to the great high fender, where she pinned all these stiff models of gouty legs. And when the last hung there quietly, the girl had the exquisite satisfaction of seeing that her mother was fast asleep. She would not leave the room. She turned the gas-light down to a tiny bead. She slipped off her own frock, put on her mother’s heavy dressing-gown, lay down quietly by her side without rousing her, and in a little while–for with those so young this resource is well-nigh sure–she slept too.
It was five o’clock when she was wakened by her father’s hand. He led her out into his own dressing- room, and before she spoke she kissed him!
She knew what his answer would be. She knew that from his heavy face. But all the same she tried to smile, and she said,
“Found? No, no, dear child, nor ever will be. How is mamma?”
And Matty told him, and begged him to come and sleep in her own little room, because the children would come in in a rout at daybreak. But no! he would not hear to that. “Whatever else is left, dear Matty, we have each other. And we will not begin–on what will be a new life to all of us–we will not begin by ‘bating a jot of the dear children’s joys. Matty, that is what I have been thinking of all the way as I walked home. But maybe I should not have said it, but that Beverly said it just now to me. Dear fellow! I cannot tell you the comfort it was to me to see him come in! I told him he should not have come, but he knew that he made me almost happy. He is a fine fellow, Matty, and all night long he has shown the temper and the sense of a man.”
For a moment Matty could not say a word. Her eyes were all running over with tears. She kissed her father again, and then found out how to say, “I shall tell him what you say, papa, and there will be two happy children in this house, after all.”
So she ran to Beverly’s room, found him before he was undressed, and told him. And the boy who was just becoming a man, and the girl who, without knowing it, had become a woman, kissed each other; held each other for a minute, each by both hands, looked each other so lovingly in the eyes, comforted each other by the infinite comfort of love, and then said good-night and were asleep. Tom had stolen to bed without waking his mother or his sister, some hours before.
Yes! They all slept. The little ones slept, though they had been so certain that they should not sleep one wink from anxiety. This poor jaded man slept because he must sleep. His poor wife slept because she had not slept now for two nights before. And Matty and Tom and Beverly slept because they were young and brave and certain and pure, and because they were between seventeen and twenty-two years of age. This is all to say that they could seek God’s help and find it. This is to say that they were well-nigh omnipotent over earthly ills,–so far, at the least, that sleep came when sleep was needed.
But not after seven o’clock! Venty and Diana had been retained by Flossy and Laura to call them at five minutes of seven, and Laura and Flossy had called the others. And at seven o’clock, precisely, a bugle-horn sounded in the children’s quarters, and then four grotesque riders, each with a soldier hat made of newspaper, each with a bright sash girt round a dressing- gown, each with bare feet stuck into stout shoes, came storming down the stairs, and as soon as the lower floor was reached, each mounted on a hobby-horse or stick, and with riot not to be told came knocking at Matty’s door, at Beverly’s, and at Tom’s. And these all appeared, also with paper soldier hats upon their heads, and girt in some very spontaneous costume, and so the whole troop proceeded with loud fanfaron and drumbeat to mamma’s door and knocked for admission, and heard her cheery “Come in.” And papa and mamma had heard the bugle-calls, and had wrapped some sort of shawls around their shoulders, and were sitting up in bed, they also with paper soldier hats upon them; and one scream of “Merry Christmas” resounded as the doors flew open,–and then a wild rampage of kissing and of hugging as the little ones rushed for the best places they could find on the bed– not to say in it. This was the Christmas custom.
And Tom rolled up a lounge on one side of the bed, which after a fashion widened it, and Beverly brought up his mother’s easy-chair, which had earned the name of “Moses’ seat,” on the other side, and thus, in a minute, the great broad bed was peopled with the whole family, as jolly, if as absurd, a sight as the rising sun looked upon. And then! Flossy and Beverly were deputed to go to the fender, and to bring the crowded, stiff stockings, whose crackle was so delicate and exquisite; and so, youngest by youngest, they brought forth their treasures, not indeed gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but what answered the immediate purposes better, barley cats, dogs, elephants and locomotives, figs, raisins, walnuts, and pecans.
Yes, and for one noisy half-hour not one person thought of the cloud which hung over the house only the night before!
But such happy forgetfulness cannot last forever. There was the Christmas breakfast. And Tom tried to tell of Academy times, and Beverly tried to tell stories of the University. But it was a hard pull. The lines under papa’s eyes were only too dark. And all of a sudden he would start, and ask some question which showed that he did not know what they were talking of. Matty had taken care to have the newspapers out of the way; but everybody knew why they were out of the way,–and perhaps this made things worse. Poor blundering Laura must needs say, “That is the good of Christmas, that there are no horrid newspapers for people to bother with,” when everybody above Horace’s age knew that there were papers somewhere, and soon Horace was bright enough to see what he had not been told in words,–that something was going wrong.
And as soon as breakfast was done, Flossy cried out, “And now papa will tell us the story of the bear! Papa always tells us that on Christmas morning. Laura, you shall come; and, Horace, you shall sit there.” And then her poor papa had to take her up and kiss her, and say that this morning he could not stop to tell stories, that he had to go to the Department. And then Flossy and Laura fairly cried. It was too bad. They hated the Department. There never could be any fun but what that horrid old Department came in. And when Horace found that Tom was going to the Department too, and that Bev meant to go with him, he was mad, and said he did not see what was the use of having Christmas. Here he had tin- foil and plaster upstairs, and little Watrous had lent him a set of government medals, and they should have such a real good time if Bev would only stay. He wished the Department was at the bottom of the Potomac. Matty fairly had to take the scolding boy out of the room.
Mr. Molyneux, poor fellow, undertook the soothing of Flossy. “Anyway, old girl, you shall meet me as you go to church, and we will go through the avenue together, and I will show you the new Topsy girl selling cigars at Pierre’s tobacco shop. She is as big as Flossy. She has not got quite such golden hair, but she never says one word to her papa, because she is never cross to him.”
“That’s because he is never kind to her,” said the quick child, speaking wiser than she knew.
For Matty, she got a word with Tom, and he too promised that they would be away from the Department in time to meet the home party, and that all of them should go to church together.
CHURCH AND SERMON
And, accordingly, as Mrs. Molyneux with her little troop crossed F Street, they met the gentlemen all coming toward them. They broke up into groups, and Tom and Matty got their first real chance for talk since they had parted the night before. No! Tom had found no clue at the Navy Department. And although Eben Ricketts had been good as gold, and had stayed and worked with Tom till long after midnight, Eben had only worked to show good-will, for Eben had not the least faith that there was any clue there. Eben had said that if old Mr. Whilthaugh, who knew the archive rooms through and through, had not been turned out, they could do in fifteen minutes what had cost them six hours, and that old Mr. Whilthaugh, without looking, could tell whether it was worth while to look. But old Mr. Whilthaugh had been turned out, and Eben, even, did not know precisely what had become of him. He thought he had gone back into Pennsylvania, where his wife came from, but he did not know.
“But, Matty, if nothing turns up to-day, I go to Pennsylvania to-morrow to find this old Mr. Whilthaugh. For I shall die if I stay here; and all the Eben Rickettses in the world will never persuade me that the vouchers are not in that archive-room. If the Navy did the work, the Navy must have the vouchers.”
Then Matty ventured to ask what she and her mother had wondered about once and again,–why these particular bits of paper were so necessary. Surely other vouchers, or certified copies, or books of account could be found somewhere!
“Yes! I know; you would say so. And if it were all yesterday, and was all in these lazy times of peace, you would say true. But you see, in the first place, this is ever so long ago. Then, in the second place, it was in the heat of war, when everything was on a gigantic scale, and things had to be done in unheard-of ways. Then, chiefly, this particular business involved the buying up of I do not know who among the Rebels there in Texas, and among their allies on the other side the Rio Grande. This old Spaniard, whom mamma remembers, and whom I just remember, he was the chief captain among the turncoats, and there were two or three others, F. F. men in their places,–“First Family men,” that means, you know; but after they did this work they did not stay in their places long. No! papa says he was mighty careful; that he had three of the scoundrels sworn before notaries, or rather before one notary, and had their receipts and acknowledgments stamped with his notary’s seal. Still, it did not do to have a word said in public then. And after everything succeeded so perfectly, after the troops landed without a shot, and found all the base ready for them, corn and pork just where they wanted it,–why, then everybody was too gratified to think of imagining, as they do now, that papa had stolen that money that bought the pork and the corn.”
“I wish they were only half as grateful now,” he said, after a pause.
“Tom,” said Matty, eagerly, “who was that notary?”
“I thought of that, too,” said Tom. “There is no doubt who it was. It was old Gilbert; you must remember his sign, just below Faulkner’s on the avenue. But in the first place, Gilbert died just after our taking Richmond. In the second place, he never knew what the papers were–and he executed twenty such sets of papers every day, very likely. All he could say, at the very best, would be that at such a time father brought in an old Spaniard and two or three other greasers, and that he took their acknowledgments of something.”
“I do not know that, Tom,” said the girl, without flinching at his mannish information. “If notaries in Washington are anything like notaries in novels, that man kept a record or register of his work. If he was not very unlike everybody else who lives and works here, he left a very destitute widow when he died. Tom, I shall go after church and hunt up the Widow Gilbert. I shall ask her for her husband’s books, and shall tell her why I want them.”
The girl dropped her voice and said: “Tom, I shall ask her IN HIS NAME.”
“God grant it does any good, dear girl,” said he. “Far be it from me to say that you shall not try–“
But here he stopped speaking, for he felt Matty’s arm shake in his, and her whole frame trembled. Tom had only to keep his eyes before him to see why.
Mr. Greenhithe, Matty’s old admirer, the clerk who had been dismissed for stealing, was just entering the church, and even touched his hat to her as she went by.
Tom resisted his temptation to thrash him then and there. He said,–
“Matty, I believe I will tackle that man!”
“Yes, Matty, I can keep my temper, and he cannot keep his. He has one advantage over most knaves, that he is not only a knave of the first water, but he is sometimes a fool, too. If it were only decent and right to take him into Downing’s saloon, and give him just one more glass of whiskey than the blackguard would care to pay for, I could get at his whole story.”
“But, Tom, I thought you were so sure the Navy had the papers!”
“Well! well!” said Tom, a little annoyed, as eager people are when other eager people remember their words against them. “I was sure–I was wholly sure–till I left Eben Ricketts. But after that–well, of course, we ought to pull every string.”
“Tom!” This with a terrible gulp.
“Tom, you don’t think I ought to speak with him!”
“Why, Tom, yes; if he does know–if he is holding this up in terror, Tom, I could make him do what I chose once, Tom. You don’t think I ought to try?”
“Matty, if you ever speak to that snake again, I will thrash him within an inch of his life, and I will never say a word to you as long as you live.”
“That’s my dear Tom!” And, hidden as they were, and crying as she was under her veil, she flung her arms around him and kissed him.
“All the same,” said Tom, after he had kissed her again and again,–“all the same, I shall find out, after church, where the snake is staying. I shall go to the hotel and take a cigar. I shall offer him one, and he is so mean and stingy that he will take it. Perhaps this may be one of his fool days. Perhaps somebody else will treat him to the whiskey. No, Matty! honor bright, I will not, though that ten cents might give us all a Merry Christmas. Honor bright, I will not treat. But I am not a saint, Matty! If anybody else treats, I must not be expected to be far away.”
Then he wiped her eyes with his own handkerchief and led her in to the service. Their own pew was already full. He had to take her back into Dr. Metcalf’s pew.
So Matty was spared one annoyance which was prepared for her.
Directly in front of her father’s pew, sitting in the most conspicuous seat on the other side of the aisle, was the hateful Mr. Greenhithe.
Had he put himself there to watch Matty’s face?
If he did, he was disappointed. If he had persuaded himself he was to see a pale cheek or tearful eyes, or that he was going to compel her to drop her veil, he had reckoned quite without his host. Whenever he did look that way, all he saw was the face of Master Horace. Horace was engaged in counting the large tassels on his side of the pulpit curtains; in counting, also, the number of small tassels between them, and from the data thus obtained, in calculating how many tassels there must be on all the curtains to the pulpit, and how many on the curtains behind the rail to the chancel. Mr. Greenhithe, therefore, had but little comfort in studying Horace’s face.
Just as the Creed was finished, when the rest of the church was still, the sexton led up the aisle a grim- looking man, with a shaggy coat and a very dirty face, and brought him close to the door of Mr. Molyneux’s pew– as if he would fain bring him in. Mr. Molyneux was at the end of the pew, but happened to be turning away from the aisle, and the sexton actually touched him. He turned round and looked at the stranger,–evidently did not know him,–but with the instinct of hospitality, stepped into the aisle and offered him his seat. The stranger was embarrassed; hesitated as if he would speak, then shook his head in refusal of the attention, and crossing the aisle, took a seat offered him there, in full sight of Mr. Molyneux, and, indeed, of Matty.
Poor girl! The trifle–of course it was a trifle– upset her sadly.
Was the man a marshal or a sheriff? Would they really arrest her father on Christmas Day, in church?
IS THIS CHRISTMAS?
Yes; it was, as you have said, a very curious Christmas service for all those people.
What Horace turned his mind to, at intervals, has been told.
Of the elder members of our little company who sat there near the head of the side aisle, it may be said, in general, that they did their best to keep their hearts and minds engaged in the service, and that sometimes they succeeded. They succeeded better while they could really join in the hymns and the prayers than they did when it came to the sermon. Good Dr. Gill, overruled by one of those lesser demons, whose work is so apparent though so inexplicable in this finite world, had selected for the text of his sermon of gladness the words, “Search and look.” And so it happened–it was what did not often happen with him–he must needs repeat those words often, at the beginning and end, indeed, of every leading paragraph of the sermon. Now this duty of searching and looking had been just what all the elder members of the Molyneux family had been solidly doing–each in his way or hers, directly or by sympathy–in the last forty- eight hours. To get such relief as they might from it, they had come to church, to look rather higher if they could. So that it was to them more a misfortune than a matter of immediate spiritual relief that their dear old friend, who loved each one of them with an intimate and peculiar love, happened to enlarge on his text just as he did.
If poor Mr. Molyneux, by dint of severe self-command, had succeeded in abstracting his thoughts from disgrace almost certain,–from thinking over, in horrible variety, the several threads of inquiry and answer by which that disgrace was to be avoided or precipitated,–how was it possible to maintain such abstraction, while the worthy preacher, wholly unconscious of the blood he drew with every word, ground out his sentences in such words as these:–
“Search and look, my brethren. Time passes faster than we think. Our gray hairs gather apace above our foreheads. And the treasure which we prized beyond price in years bygone has perhaps, amid the cares of this world, or in the deceitfulness of riches, been thrust on one side, neglected, at last forgotten. How is it with you, dear friends? Are you the man? Are you the woman? Have you put on one side the very treasure of your life,–as some careless housewife might lay aside on a forgotten shelf this parcel or that, once so precious to her? Dear friends, as the year draws to a close, awaken from such neglect! Brush away the dust from these forgotten caskets! Lift them from their hiding-places and set them forth, even in your Christmas festivities. Search and look!”
Poor Mrs. Molyneux had never wished before so earnestly that a sermon might be done. She dared not look round to see her husband for a while, but after one of these invocations–not quite so terrible as the rest, perhaps–she stole a glance that way, to find–that she might have spared her anxiety. Two nights of “searching and looking” had done their duty by the poor man, and though his head was firm braced against the column which rose from the side of their pew, his eyes were closed, and his wife was relieved by the certainty that he was listening, as those happy members of the human family listen who assure me that they hear when their lids are tight pressed over their eyeballs. As for Beverly, he was assuming the resolute aspect of a sailor under fire, and was imagining himself taking the whole storm of Fort Constantine as he led an American squadron into the Bay of Sevastopol. Tom did not know what the preacher said, but was devising the method of his interview with Greenhithe. Matty did know. Dear girl! she knew very well. And with every well-rounded sentence of the sermon she was more determined as to the method of her appeal to Mrs. Gilbert, the widow of the notary. She would search and look there.
Yes! and it was well for every one of them that they went to that service. The sermon at the worst was but twenty minutes. “Twenty minutes in length,” said Beverly, wickedly, “and no depth at all.” But that was not true nor fair; nor was that, either way, the thing that was essential. By the time they had all sung
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,”
even before the good old Doctor had asked for Heaven’s blessing upon them, it had come. To Mr. Molyneux it had come in an hour’s rest of mind, body, and soul. To Matty it had come in an hour’s calm determination. To Mrs. Molyneux it had come in the certainty that there is One Eye which sees through all hiding-places and behind all disguises. To the children it had come, because the hour had called up to them a hundred memories of Galilee and Nazareth, of Mary Mother, and of children made happy, to supplement and help out their legends of Santa Claus. Yes, and even Beverly the brave, and Tom the outraged, as they stood to receive the benediction of the preacher, were more of men and less of firebrands than they were. They all stood with reverence; they paused a moment, and then slowly walked down the aisle.
“Where is your father, Horace?” said Mrs. Molyneux, a little anxiously, as she came where she could speak aloud. Horace was waiting for her.
“Papa? He went away with the gentleman who came in after service began; they crossed the street and took a carriage together.”
“And did papa leave no message?”
“Why, no; he did not turn round. The strange man– the man in the rough coat–just touched him and spoke to him half-way down the aisle. Then papa whispered to him and he whispered back. Then, as soon as they came into the vestibule here, papa led him out at that side door, and did not seem to remember me. They almost ran across the street, and took George Gibb’s hack. I knew the horses.”
“That’s too bad,” said Laura; “I thought papa would walk home with us and tell us the story of the bears.”
Poor Mrs. Molyneux thought it was too bad, too; but she said nothing.
And Matty, when she joined her mother, said,–
“I shall feel a thousand times happier, mamma, if I go and see Mrs. Gilbert now.” And she explained who Mrs. Gilbert was. “Perhaps it may do some good. Anyway, I shall feel as if I were doing something. I will be home in time to finish the tree and things, for Horace will like to help me.”
And the poor girl looked her entreaties so eagerly that her mother could not but assent to her plan. So she made Beverly go up the avenue with her,–Beverly, who would have swum the Potomac and back for her, had she asked him,–as he was on his way to join his father at the Bureau.
As they came out upon the broad sidewalk, that odious Greenhithe, with some one whom Beverly called a blackguard of his crew, pushed by them, and he had the impudence to turn and touch his hat to Matty again.
Matty’s hand trembled on Beverly’s arm, but she would not speak for a minute, only she walked slower and slower.
Then she said: “I am so afraid, Bev, that Tom and he will get into a quarrel. Tom declares he will go into Willard’s and find out whether he does know anything.”
But Beverly, very mannish, tried to reassure her and make her believe that Tom would be very self-restrained and perfectly careful.
On Christmas Day the Jew’s dry-goods store, which had taken the place of old Mr. Gilbert’s notary’s office, was closed–not perhaps so much from the Israelite’s enthusiasm about Christmas as in deference to what in New England is called “the sense of the street.” Matty, however, acting from a precise knowledge of Washington life, rang boldly at the green door adjacent, Beverly still waiting to see what might turn up; and when a brisk “colored girl” appeared, Matty inquired if Mrs. Munroe was at home.
Now all that Matty knew of Mrs. Munroe was that her name was on a well-scoured brass plate on the door.
Mrs. Munroe was in. Beverly said he would wait in the passage. Mrs. Munroe proved to be a nice, motherly sort of a person, who, as it need hardly be said, was stone-deaf. It required some time for Matty to adjust her speaking apparatus to the exigency, but when this was done, Mrs. Munroe explained that Mr. Gilbert was dead,– that an effort had been made to continue the business with the old sign and the old good will, under the direction of a certain Mr. Bundy, who had sometimes been called in as an assistant. But Mr. Bundy, after some years, paid more attention to whiskey than he did to notarying, and the law business had suffered. Finally, Mr. Bundy was brought home by the police one night with a broken head, and then Mrs. Gilbert had withdrawn the signs, cancelled the lease, turned Mr. Bundy out-of- doors, and retired to live with a step-sister of her brother’s wife’s father near the Arsenal; good Mrs. Munroe was not certain whether on Delaware Avenue, or whether on T Street, U Street, or V Street. And, indeed, whether the lady’s name were Butman before she married her second husband, and Lichtenfels afterward–or whether his name were Butman and hers Lichtenfels, Mrs. Munroe was not quite sure. Nor could she say whether Mr. Gilbert took the account books and registers –there were heaps on heaps of them, for Mr. Gilbert had been a notary ever since General Jackson’s day–or whether Bundy did not take them, or whether they were not sold for old paper, Mrs. Munroe was not sure. For all this happened– all the break-up and removal–while Mrs. Munroe was on a visit to her sister not far from Brick Church above Little Falls, on your way to Frederic. And Mrs. Munroe offered this visit as a constant apology for her not knowing more precisely every detail of her old friend’s business.
This explanation took a good deal of time, through all of which poor Beverly was fretting and fuming and stamping his cold feet in the passage, hearing the occasional questions of his sister, uttered with thunder tone in the “setting-room” above, but hearing no word of the placid widow’s replies.
When Matty returned and held a consultation with him, the question was, whether to follow the books of account to Georgetown, where Mr. Bundy was understood to be still residing, or to the neighborhood of the Arsenal, in the hope of finding Mrs. Gilbert, Mrs. Lichtenfels, or Mrs. Butman, as the case might be. Readers should understand that these two points, both unknown to the young people, are some six miles asunder, the original notary’s office being about half-way between them. Beverly was more disposed to advise following the man. He was of a mind to attack some one of his own sex. But the enterprise was, in truth, Matty’s enterprise. Beverly had but little faith in it from the beginning, and Matty was minded to follow such clue as they had to Mrs. Gilbert, quite sure that, woman with woman, she should succeed better with her than, man with man, Beverly with Bundy. Beverly assented to this view the more willingly, because Matty was quite willing to undertake the quest alone. She was very brave about it indeed. “Plenty of nice people at the Arsenal,” or near it, whom she could fall back upon for counsel or information. So they parted. Matty took a street car for the east and south, and Beverly went his ways to the Bureau of Internal Improvement to report for duty to his father.
This story must not follow the details of Matty’s quest for the firm of “Gilbert, Lichtenfels, or Butman.” Certain it is that she would never have succeeded had she rested simply on the directory or on such crude information as Mrs. Munroe had so freely given. But Matty had an English tongue in her head,–a courteous, which is to say a confiding, address with strangers; she seemed almost to be conferring a favor at the moment when she asked one, and she knew, in this business, that there was no such word as fail. After one or two false starts–some very stupid answers, and some very blunt refusals–she found her quarry at last, by as simple a process as walking into a Sunday-school of colored children, where she heard singing in the basement of a little chapel.
In a few words Matty explained her errand to the Superintendent, and that it was necessary that she should find Mrs. Gilbert before dark.
“Ting!” one stroke of the bell called hundreds of eager voices to silence.
“Who knows where Mrs. Gilbert lives? Is it at Mrs. Butman’s house or Mrs. Lichtenfels’?”
Twenty eager hands contended with each other for the honor of giving the information, and in three minutes more, Matty, all encouraged by her success, was on her way.
And Mrs. Gilbert was at home. Good fortune number two! Matty’s star was surely in the ascendant! Matty sent in her card, and the nice old lady presented herself at once, remembered who Matty was, remembered how much business Mr. Molyneux used to bring to the office, and how grateful Mr. Gilbert always was. She was so glad to see Matty, and she hoped Mr. Molyneux was well, and Mrs. Molyneux and all those little ones! She used to see them every Sunday as they went to church, if they went on the avenue.
Thus encouraged, Matty opened on her sad story, and was fairly helped from stage to stage by the wonder, indignation, and exclamations of the kind old lady. When Matty came to the end, and made her understand how much depended on the day-book, register, and ledger of her husband, it was a fair minute before she spoke.
“We will see, my dear, we will see. I wish it may be so, but I ‘m all afeard. It would not be like him, my dear. It would not be like any of them. But come with me, my dear, we will see–we will see.”
Then, as Matty followed her, through devious ways, out through the kitchen, across a queer bricked yard, into a half stable, half woodshed, which the good woman unlocked, she went on talking:–
“You see, my dear child, that though notaries are called notaries, as if it were their business to give notice, the most important part of their business is keeping secrets. Now, when a man’s note goes to protest, the notary tells him what has happened, which he knew very well before; and then he comes to the notary and begs him not to tell anybody else, and of course he does not. And the business of a notary’s account books, as my husband used to say, is to tell just enough, and not to tell any more.
“Why, my dear child, he would not use blotting-paper in the office,–he would always use sand. `Blotting- paper! Never!’ he would say; ‘Blotting-paper tells secrets!’”
With such chatter they came to the little chilly room, which was shelved all around, and to Matty’s glad eyes presented rows of green and blue and blue and red boxes,–and folio and quarto books of every date, from 1829 to 1869, forty years in which the late Mr. Gilbert had been confirming history, keeping secret what he knew, but making sure what, but for him, might have been doubted by a sceptic world.
Things were in good order. Mrs. Gilbert was proud to show that they were in good order. The day-book for 1863 was at hand. Matty knew the fatal dates only too well. And the fatal entries were here!
How her heart beat as she began to read!
To Thomas Molyneux Esq., (B. I. I.) official
authentication of signature of Felipe Gazza . . . $1.25
Same, authentication of signature of Jose B. Du
Camara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.25
Same, authentication of signature of Jacob H.
Cole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.25
And this was all! Poor Matty copied it all, but all the time she begged Mrs. Gilbert to tell her if there was not some note-book or journal that would tell more. And kind Mrs. Gilbert looked eagerly for what she called the “Diry.” At the proper dates on the cash-book, at intervals of a week or two, Matty found similar entries– the names of the two Spaniards appearing in all these– but other names in place of Cole’s just as Tom had told her already. By the time she had copied all of these, Mrs. Gilbert had found the “Diry.” Eager, and yet heart- sick, Matty turned it over with her old friend.
This was all:–
“Mr. Molyneux here. Very private. Papers in R. G. E.” And then followed a little burst of unintelligible short-hand.
Poor Matty! She could not but feel that here would not be evidence good for anything, even in a novel. But she copied every word carefully, as a chief clerk’s daughter should do. She thanked the kind old lady, and even kissed her. She looked at her watch. Heavens! how fast time had gone! and the afternoons were so short!
“Yes, my dear Miss Molyneux; but they have turned, my dear, the day is a little longer and a little lighter.”
Did the old lady mean it for an omen, or was it only one of those chattering remarks on meteors and weather change of which old age is so fond? Matty wondered, but did not know. Fast as she could, she tripped bravely on to the avenue for her street car.
“The day is longer and lighter.”
Meanwhile Tom was following his clue in the public rooms at Willard’s, to which, as he prophesied, Mr. Greenhithe had returned after the unusual variation in his life of a morning spent in the sanctuary. Tom bought a copy of the Baltimore “The Sun,” and went into one of the larger rooms resorted to by travellers and loafers, and sat down. But Mr. Greenhithe did not appear there. Tom walked up and down through the passages a little uneasily, for he was sure the ex-clerk had come into the hotel. He went up and looked in at the ladies’ sitting-rooms, to see if perhaps some Duchess of Devonshire, of high political circles, had found it worth while to drag Mr. Greenhithe up there by a single hair. No Mr. Greenhithe! Tom was forced to go down and drink a glass of beer to see if Mr. Greenhithe was not thirsty. But at that moment, though Mr. Greenhithe was generally thirsty in the middle of the day, and although many men were thirsty at the time Tom hung over his glass of lager, Mr. Greenhithe was not thirsty there. It was only as Tom passed the billiard-room that he saw Mr. Greenhithe was playing a game of billiards, by way of celebrating the new birth of a regenerated world.
What to do now! Tom could not, in common decency, go in to look on at the game of a man he wanted to choke. Yet Tom would have given all his chances for rank in the Academy to know what Greenhithe was talking about. Tom slowly withdrew.
As he withdrew, whom should be meet but one of his kindest friends, Commodore Benbow? When the boys made their “experimental cruise” the year before, they had found Commodore Benbow’s ship at Lisbon. The Commodore had taken a particular fancy to Tom, because he had known his mother when they were boy and girl. Tom had even been invited personally to the flag-ship, and was to have been presented at Court, but that they sailed too soon.
To tell the whole truth, the Commodore was not overpleased to see his protege hanging about the bar and billiard-room on Christmas Day. For himself, his whole family were living at Willard’s, but he knew Tom’s father was not living there, and he thought Tom might be better employed.
Perhaps Tom guessed this. Perhaps he was in despair. Anyway he knew “Old Benbow,” as the boys called him, would be a good counsellor. In point of statistics “Old Benbow” was just turned forty, had not a gray hair in his head, could have beaten any one of Tom’s class, whether in gunning or at billiards, could have demonstrated every problem in Euclid while they were fiddling over the forty-seventh proposition. He was at the very prime of well-preserved power, but young nineteen called him “Old Benbow,” as young nineteen will, in such cases.
Bold with despair, or with love for his father, Tom stopped “Old Benbow” and asked him if he would come into one of the sitting-rooms with him. Then he made this venerable man his confidant. The Commodore had seen the slurs in the “Scorpion” and the “Argus” and the “Evening Journal.” “A pity,” said he, “that Newspaper Row, that can do so much good, should do so much harm. What is Newspaper Row? Three or four men of honor, three or four dreamers, three or four schoolboys, three or four fools, and three or four scamps. And the public, Molyneux,– which is to say you and I,–accept the trumpet blast of one of these heralds precisely as we do that of another. Practically,” said he, pensively, “when we were detached to serve with the 33d Corps in Mobile Bay, I found I liked the talk of those light-infantry men who had been in every scrimmage of the war, quite as much as I did that of the bandmen who played the trumpets on parade. But this is neither here nor there. I thought of coming round to see your father, but I knew I should bother him. What can I do, my boy?”
Then Tom told him, rather doubtfully, that he had reason to fear that Mr. Greenhithe was at the bottom of the whole scandal. He said he wished he did not think that Mr. Greenhithe had himself stolen the papers. “If I am wrong, I want to know it,” said he; “if I am right, I want to know it. I do not want to be doing any man injustice. But I do not want to keep old Eben Ricketts down at the department hunting for a file of papers which Greenhithe has hidden in his trunk or put into the fire.”
“No!–no!–no, indeed,” said “old Benbow,” musing. “No!–No!–No!–“
Then after a pause, “Tom,” said he, “come round here in an hour. I know that young fellow your friend is playing with, and I wish he were in better company than he is. I think I know enough of the usages of modern society to `interview’ him and his companion, though times have changed since I was of your age in that regard. Come here in an hour, or give me rather more, come here at half-past two, and we will see what we will see.”
So Tom went round to the Navy Department, and here he found the faithful Eben–faithful to him, though utterly faithless as to any success in the special quest which was making the entertainment of the Christmas holiday. Vainly did Tom repeat to him his formula,–
“If the Navy did the work, the Navy has the vouchers.”
“My dear boy,” Eben Ricketts repeated a hundred times, “though the Navy did the work, the Navy did not provide the pork and beans; it did not arrange in advance for the landing, least of all did it buy the greasers. I will look where you like, for love of your father and you; but that file of vouchers is not here, never was here, and never will be found here.”
An assistant like this is not an encouraging companion or adviser.
And, in short, the vouchers were not found in the Navy Department, in that particular midday search. At twenty-five minutes past two Tom gave it up unwillingly, bade Eben Ricketts good-by, washed from his hands the accretions of coal-dust, which will gather even on letter-boxes in Navy Departments, and ran across in front of the President’s House, to Willard’s. He looked up at the White House, and wondered how the people there were spending their Christmas Day.
Commodore Benbow was waiting for him. He took him up into his own parlor.
“Molyneux, your Mr. Greenhithe is either the most ingenious liar and the best actor on God’s earth, or he knows no more of your lost papers than a child in heaven.
“I went back to the billiard-room, after you left me. I walked up to Millet–that was Lieutenant Millet playing with Greenhithe–and I shook hands. He had to introduce me to your friend. Then I asked them both to come here, told Millet I had some papers from Montevideo that he would be glad to see, and that I should be glad of a call when they had done their game. Well, they came. I am sorry to say your friend–“
“Oh, don’t, my dear Commodore Benbow, don’t call him my friend, even in a joke; it makes me feel awfully.”
“I am glad it does,” said the Commodore, laughing. “Well, I am very sorry to say that the black sheep had been drinking more of the whisky downstairs than was good for him; and, no fault of mine, he drank more of my Madeira than he should have done, and, Tom, I do not believe he was in any condition to keep secrets. Well, first of all, it appeared that he had been in Bremen and Vienna for six months. He only arrived in New York yesterday morning.”
Tom’s face fell.
“And, next–you may take this for what it is worth– but I believe he spoke the truth for once; he certainly did if there is any truth in liquor or in swearing. For when I asked Millet what all this stuff about your father meant, Greenhithe interrupted, very unnecessarily and very rudely, and said, with more oaths than I will trouble you with, that the whole was a damned lie of the newspaper men; that they had lied about him (Greenhithe) and now were lying about old Molyneux; that Molyneux had been very hard on him and very unjust to him, but he would say that he was honest as the clock– honest enough to be mean. And that he would say that to the committee, if they would call on him, and so on and so on.”
“Much good would he do before the committee,” said poor Tom.
And thus ended Tom’s branch of the investigation. “Come to me, if I can help you, my boy,” said Old Benbow. “It is always the darkest, old fellow, the hour before day.”
Tom was astronomer enough to know that this old saw was as false as most old saws. But with this for his only comfort, he returned to the bureau to seek Beverly and his father.
Neither Beverly nor his father was there! Tom went directly home. His mother was eager to see him.
She had come home alone, and, save Horace and Laura and Flossy and Brick, she had seen nobody but a messenger from the bureau.
Brick was the family name for Robert, one of the youngest of this household.
Of Beverly’s movements the story must be more briefly told. They took more time than Tom’s; as much indeed as his sister’s, after they parted. But they were conducted by means of that marvel of marvels, the telegraph,–the chief of whose marvels is that it compels even a long- winded generation like ours to speak in very short metre.
Beverly began with Mr. Bundy at Georgetown. Georgetown is but a quiet place on the most active of days. On Christmas Day Beverly found but little stirring out of doors.
Still, with the directory, with the advice of a saloon-keeper and the information of a police officer, Beverly tracked Mr. Bundy to his lair.
It was not a notary’s office, it was a liquor shop of the lowest grade, with many badly painted signs, which explained that this was “Our House,” and that here Mr. Bundy made and sold with proper license–let us be grateful–Tom and Jerry, Smashes, Cocktails, and did other “deeds without a name.” On this occasion, however, even the door of “Our House” was closed. Mr. Bundy had gone to a turkey-shooting match at Fairfax Court House. The period of his return was very doubtful. He had never done anything but keep this drinking-room since old Mrs. Gilbert turned him out of doors.
With this information Master Beverly returned to town. He then began on his own line of search. Relying on Tom’s news, he went to the office of the Western Union Telegraph and concocted this despatch, which he thought a masterpiece.
GREENSBURG, Westmoreland Co., Pa.
TO ROBERT JOHN WHILTHAUGH:
When and where can I see you on important business? Answer.
BEVERLY MOLYNEUX, for THOMAS MOLYNEUX.
Then he took a walk, and after half an hour called at the office again. The office was still engaged in calling Greensburg. Greensburg was eating its Christmas dinner. But at last Greensburg was called. Then Beverly received this answer:–
Whilthaugh has been dead more than a year.
To which Beverly replied:–
Where does his wife live, or his administrator?
To which Greensburg, having been called a second time with difficulty, replied:–
His wife is crazy, and we never heard of any property.
With this result of his investment as a non-dividend member of the great Western Union Mutual Information Club, Beverly returned home, chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancies.
“There is no speech nor language,” sang the choir in St. Matthews as he passed, “where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth–” And Tom heard no more, as he passed on.
As he walked, almost unwillingly, up the street to the high steps of his father’s house, Matty, out of breath, overtook him.
“What have you found, Bev?”
“Nothing,” said the boy, moodily. And poor Matty had to confess that she had hardly more to tell.
They came into the house by the lower entrance, that they need not attract their mother’s attention. But she was on the alert. Even Horace and the younger children knew by this time that something was wrong.
Horace’s story about the strange man and papa was the last news of papa. Papa had not been at the bureau. The bureau people waited for him till two, and he did not come. Then Stratton had come round to see if he was to keep open any longer. Stratton had told Mrs. Molyneux that her husband had not been there since church.
Where in the world was he?
Poor Mrs. Molyneux had not known where to send or to go. She had just looked in at the Doctor’s, but he was not there.
Tom had appeared first to her tedious waiting. Tom would not tell her, but he even went and looked in on Newspaper Row, which he had been abusing so. For Tom’s first thought was that a formal information had been lodged somewhere, and that his father was arrested.
But Newspaper Row evidently was unsuspicious of any arrest.
Tom even walked down to the old jail, and made an absurd errand to see the Deputy-Marshal. But the Deputy- Marshal was at his Christmas dinner.
Tom told all this in the hall to Beverly and to Matty.
Everything had failed, and papa was gone. Who could the man in the shaggy coat be?
The three went together into the parlor.
For a little, Matty and Horace and Tom and Beverly then made a pretence of arranging the tree. But, in truth, Mrs. Molyneux, in the midst of all her care, had done that, while they were all away.
Dinner was postponed half an hour, and they gathered, all in the darkness, looking at the sickliest blaze that ever rambled over half-burned Cumberland coal.
The Brick came climbing up on Tom’s knees and bade him tell a story; but even Laura saw that something was wrong, and hushed the child, and said she and Flossy would sing one of their carols. And they sang it, and were praised; and they sang another, and were praised. But then it was quite dark, and nobody had any heart to say one word.
“Where is papa?” said the Brick.
“Where indeed?” everybody wanted to say, and no one did.
But then the door-bell rang, and Chloe brought in a note.
“He’s waiting for an answer, mum.”
And Tom lighted the gas. It popped up so bright that little Flossy said,–
“The people that sat in darkness saw a great light–“
This was just as Mrs. Molyneux tore open the note. For the instant she could not speak. She handed it to the three.
“Home in half an hour!
“All right! thank God!
“Saw a great light, indeed!” said Horace, who, for once, felt awed.
THIS IS CHRISTMAS
For half a minute, as it seemed afterwards, no one spoke. Then Matty flew to her mother, and flung her arms around her neck, and kissed her again and again.
Tom hardly knew what he was doing; but he recovered self-command enough to know that he must try to be manly and businesslike,–and so he rushed downstairs to find the man who brought the note. It proved to be a man he did not know. Not a messenger from the bureau, not one from the Navy Department, least of all, an aid of the Assistant Marshal’s. He was an innocent waiter from the Seaton House, who said a gentleman called him and gave him the note, told him to lose no time, and gave him half a dollar for coming. He had asked for an answer, though the gentleman had not told him to do so.
Tom wrote: “Hurrah! All’s well! All at home.–T.” and gave this note to the man.
They all talked at once, and then they sat still without talking. The children–must it be confessed?– asked all sorts of inopportune questions. At last Tom was even fain to tell the story of the bear himself, by way of silencing the Brick and Laura; and with much correction from Horace, had got the bear well advanced in smelling at the almond-candy and the figs, when a carriage was heard on the street, evidently coming rapidly towards them. It stopped at the door. The bear was forgotten, as all the elders in this free-and-easy family rushed out of the parlor into the hall.
Papa was there, and was as happy as they. With papa, or just behind him, came in the man with the rough coat, whose face at church had been so dirty, whose face now was clean. To think that papa should have brought the Deputy-Marshal with him! For by the name of “the Deputy- Marshal” had this mysterious stranger been spoken of in private by the two young men since the fatal theory had been advanced that he had come into the church to arrest Mr. Molyneux.
The unknown, with great tact, managed to keep in the background, while Mrs. Molyneux kissed her husband, and while Matty kissed him, and while among them they pulled off his coat. But Mr. Molyneux did not forget. He made a chance in a moment for saying, “You must speak to our friend who has brought me here; no one was ever so welcome at a Christmas dinner. Mr. Kuypers, my dear, Mr. Kuypers, Matty dear; these are my boys, Mr. Kuypers.”
Then the ladies welcomed the stranger, and the boys shook hands with him. Mr. Molyneux added, what hardly any one understood: “It is not every friend that travels two thousand miles to jog a friend’s memory.”
And they all huddled into the parlor. But in a moment more, Mrs. Molyneux had invited Mr. Kuypers to go upstairs to wash himself, and he, with good feeling, which he showed all the evening, gladly took himself out of the way, and so, as Tom returned from showing him to his room, the parlor was filled with “those God made there,” as the little boy used to say, and with none beside.
“Now tell us all about it, dear papa,” cried Tom.
“I was trying to tell your mother. But there is not much to tell. Poor Mr. Kuypers had travelled all the way from Colorado, the minute he heard I was in trouble. Yesterday he bought the `Scorpion’ in the train, and found the Committee was down on us. He drove here from the station as soon as the train came in. He missed you here, and drove by mistake to Trinity. That made him late with us, and so, as the service had begun, he waited till it was done.”
“Well!” said Bev, perhaps a little impatiently.
“But so soon as we were going out he touched me, and said he had come to find me, in the matter of the Rio Grande vouchers. Do you know, Eliza, I can afford to laugh at it now, but at the moment I thought he was a deputy of the Sergeant-at-Arms?”
“There!” screamed Tom, “I said he was a deputy-marshal!”
“I said, `Certainly;’ and I laughed, and said they seemed to interest all my friends. Then he said, `Then you have them? If I had known that, I would have spared my journey.’ This threw me off guard, and I said I supposed I had them, but I could not find them. And he said eagerly–this was just on the church steps–`But I can.’
“Then he said he had a carriage waiting, and he bade me jump in.
“So soon as we were in the carriage he explained, what I ought to have remembered, but could not then recollect for the life of me, that after General Trebou returned from Texas, there was a Court of Inquiry, and that there was some question about these very supplies, the beans and the coffee particularly; they had nothing to do with the landing nor with the Mexicans. And the Court of Inquiry sent over one day from the War Department, where they were sitting, to our office for an account, because we were said to have it. Mr. Kuypers was their messenger to us, and because we had bound them all together, the whole file was sent as it was. He took them, and as it happened, he looked them over, and what was better, he remembered them. Where our receipt is, Heaven knows!
“Well, that Court of Inquiry was endless, as those army inquiries always are. Mr. Kuypers was in attendance all the time. He says he never shall forget it, if other people do.
“So, as soon as he saw that we were in trouble at the bureau–that I was in trouble, I mean,” said Mr. Molyneux, stoutly, “he knew that he knew what nobody else knew,–that the vouchers were in the papers of that Court of Inquiry.”
“And he came all the way to tell? What a good fellow!”
“Yes, he came on purpose. He says he could not help coming. He says he made two or three telegrams; but every time he tried to telegraph, he felt as if he were shirking. And I believe he was right. I believe we should never have pulled through without him. `Personal presence moves the world,’ as Eli Thayer used to say.”
“And you found them?” asked Mrs. Molyneux, faintly essaying to get back to the story.
“Oh Yes, we found them; but not in one minute. You see, first of all, I had to go to the chief clerk at the War Department and get the department opened on a holiday. Then we had no end of clerks to disturb at their Christmas dinners, and at last we found a good fellow named Breen who was willing to take hold with Mr. Kuypers. And Mr. Kuypers himself,” here he dropped his voice, “why, we have not three men in all the departments who know the history of this government or the system of its records as he does.
“Once in the office, he went to work like a master. Breen was amazed. Why! We found those documents in less than half an hour!
“Then I sent Breen with a note to the Secretary. He was good as gold; came down in his own carriage, congratulated me as heartily–well almost as heartily as you do, Tom–and took us both round, with the files, to Mr. McDermot, the Chairman of the House Committee. He was dining with his mess, at the Seaton House, but we called him out, and I declare, I believe he was as much pleased as we were.
“I only stopped to make him give me a receipt for the papers, because they all said it was idle to take copies, and here we are!”
On the hush that followed, the Brick made his way up on his father’s knee and said,–
“And now, papa, will you tell us the story of the bear? Tom does not tell it very well.”
They all laughed,–they could afford to laugh now; and Mr. Molyneux was just beginning upon the story of the bear, when Mr. Kuypers reappeared. He had in this short time revised his toilet, and looked, Mr. Molyneux said in an aside, like the angel of light that he was. “Bears!” said he, “are there any bears in Washington? Why, it was only last Monday that I killed a bear, and I ate him on Tuesday.”
“Did you eat him all?” asked the Brick, whose reverence for Mr. Kuypers was much more increased by this story than by any of the unintelligible conversation which had gone before. But just as Mr. Kuypers began on the story of the bear, Chloe appeared with beaming face, and announced that dinner was ready.
That dinner, which this morning every one who had any sense had so dreaded, and which now seemed a festival indeed!
Well! there was great pretence in fun and form in marshalling. And Mr. Kuypers gave his arm to Matty, and Horace his to Laura, and Beverly his to Flossy, and Tom brought up the rear with the Brick on his shoulders. And Mr. Molyneux returned thanks and asked a blessing all together. And then they fell to, on the turkey and on the chicken pie. And they tried to talk about Colorado and mining; about Gold Hill and Hale-and-Norcross, and Uncle Sam and Overman and Yellow Jacket. But in spite of them all, the talk would drift back to Bundy and his various signs, “Our House” and Tom and Jerry; to the wife of Mr. Whilthaugh; to Commodore Benbow; to old Mrs. Gilbert and Delaware Avenue. And this was really quite as much the fault of Mr. Kuypers as it was of any of the Molyneux family. He seemed as much one of them as did Tom himself. This anecdote of failure and that of success kept cropping out. Walsingham’s high-bred and dignified enthusiasm for the triumph of the office, and the satisfaction that Eben Ricketts would feel when he was told that the Navy never had the vouchers,–all were commented on. Then Mr. Molyneux would start and say, “We are talking shop again. You say the autumn has been mild in the mountains;” and then in two minutes they would be on the trail of “Search and Look” again.
It was in one of these false starts that Mr. Kuypers explained why he came, which in Horace’s mind and perhaps in the minds of the others had been the question most puzzling of all.
“Why,” said Horace, bluntly, “had you ever heard of papa before!”
“Had I heard of him? ” said Mr. Kuypers. “I think so. Why, my dear boy, your father is my oldest and kindest friend!” At this exclamation even Mrs. Molyneux showed amazement. Tom laid down his fork and looked to see if the man was crazy, and Mr. Molyneux himself was thrown off his balance.
Mr. Kuypers was a well-bred man, but this time he could not conceal his amazement. He laid down knife and fork both, looked up and almost laughed, as he said with wonder,–
“Don’t you know who I am?”
“We know you are our good angel to-day,” said Mrs. Molyneux, bravely; “and that is enough to know.”
“But don’t you know why I am here, or what sent me?”
Mr. Molyneux said that he understood very well that his friend wanted to see justice done, and that he had preferred to see to this in person.
“I thought you looked queer,” said Mr. Kuypers, frankly; “but still, I did not know I was changed. Why, don’t you remember Bruce? You remember Mrs. Chappell, surely.”
“Are you Bruce?” cried Mr. Molyneux; and he fairly left his chair and went round the table to the young man. “Why, I can see it now. But then–why, you were a boy, you know, and this black beard–“
“But pray explain, pray explain,” cried Tom. “The mysteries increase on us. Who is Mrs. Chappell, and, for that matter, who is Bruce, if his real name be not Kuypers?”
And they all laughed heartily. People got back their self-possession a little, and Mr. Kuypers explained.
“I am Bruce Kuypers,” said he, “though your father does not seem to remember the Kuypers part.”
“No,” said Mr. Molyneux, “I cannot remember the Kuypers part, but the Bruce part I remember very well.”
“My mother was Mrs. Kuypers before she married Mr. Chappell, and Mr. Chappell died when my brother Ben was six years old, and little Lizzy was a baby.”
“Lizzy was my godchild,” said Mrs. Molyneux, who now remembered everything.
“Certainly she was, Mrs. Molyneux, and last month Lizzy was married to as good a fellow as ever presided over the melting of ingots. We marry them earlier at the West than you do here.”
“Where Lizzie would have been,” he said more gravely, addressing Tom again, “where my mother would have been, or where I should have been but for your father and mother here, it would be hard to tell. And all to-day I have taken it for granted that to him, as to me, this has been one part of that old Christmas! Surely you remember?” he turned to Mrs. Molyneux.
Yes, Mrs. Molyneux did remember, but her eyes were all running over with tears and she did not say so.
“Mr. Molyneux,” said Bruce Kuypers, again addressing Tom, “seventeen years ago this blessed day, there was a Christmas morning in the poor old tenement above Massachusetts Avenue such as you never saw, and such as I hope you never may see.
“There was fire in the stove because your father had sent the coal. There was oatmeal mush on the table because your father paid my mother’s scot at your father’s grocer.
“But there was not much jollity in that house, and there were no Christmas presents, but what your mother had sent to Bruce and Ben and Flora, and even to the baby. Still we kept up such courage as we could. It was a terribly cold day, and there was a wet storm.
“All of a sudden a carriage stopped at the door, and in came your father here. He came to say that that day’s mail had brought a letter from Dr. Wilder of the navy, conveying the full certificate that William Chappell’s death was caused by exposure in the service. That certificate was what my mother needed for her pension. She never could get it, but your father here had sifted and worried and worked. The `Macedonian’ arrived Thursday at New York, and had Dr. Wilder on board, and Friday afternoon your father had Wilder’s letter, and he left his own Christmas dinner to make light my mother’s and mine. That was not all. Your father, as he came, had stopped to see Mr. Birdsall, who was the Speaker of the House. He had seen the Speaker before, and had said kind things about me. And that day the Speaker told him to tell me to come and see him at his room at the Capitol next day. Oh! how my mother dressed me up! Was there ever such a page seen before! What with your father’s kind words and my dear mother’s extra buttons, the Speaker made me his own page the next day, and there I served for four years. It was then that I was big enough to go into the War Department, and Mr. Goodsell–he was the next Speaker, if you remember–recommended me there.
“After that,” said Bruce Kuypers, modestly, if I did not see you so often, but I used to see you sometimes, and I did not think”–this with a roguish twinkling of the eye–“that you forgot your young friends so soon.”
“I remember you,” said Tom. “I used to think you were the grandest man in Washington. You gave me the first ride on a sled I ever had, when there was some exceptional fall of snow.”
“I think we all remember Mr. Kuypers now,” said Matty, and she laughed while she blushed; “he always bought things for our stockings. I have a Noah’s Ark upstairs now, that he gave me. In my youngest days I had a queer mixture of the name Bruce and the name Santa Claus. I believe I thought Santa Claus’ name was Nicholas Bruce. I am sure I did not know that Mr. Bruce had any other name.”
“If you had said you were Mr. Chappell,” said Mr. Molyneux, “I should have known you in a minute.”
“But I was not,” said the young man, laughing.
“Well, if you had said you were `Bruce,’ I should have known.”
“Dear me, yes; but I have been a man so long, and at Gem City nobody calls me Bruce, but my mother and Lizzy. So I said `Mr. Kuypers,’ forgetting that I had ever been a boy. But now I am in Washington again, I shall remember that things change here very fast in ten years. And yet not so fast as they change at the mines.”
And now everybody was at ease. How well Mrs. Molyneux recalled to herself what she would not speak of that Christmas Day of which Mr. Kuypers told his story! It was in their young married life. She had her father and mother to dine with her, and the event was really a trial in her young experience. And then, just as the old folks were expected, her husband came dashing in and had asked her to put dinner a little later because he had had this good news for the poor Widow Chappell, and she had to tell her father and mother, when they came, that they must all wait for his return.
The Widow Chappell was one of those waifs who seem attracted to Washington by some fatal law. It had been two or three months before that Mr. Molyneux had been asked to hunt her up and help her. A letter had come, asking him to do this, from Mrs. Fales, in Roxbury, and Mrs. Fales had sent money for the Chappells. But the money had gone in back rent, and shoes, and the rest, and the wolf was very near the Chappells’ door, when the telegraph announced the “Macedonian.” Mr. Molyneux had telegraphed instanter to this Dr. Wilder. Dr. Wilder had some sense of Christmas promptness. He remembered poor Chappell perfectly, and mailed that night a thorough certificate. This certificate it was which Mr. Molyneux had carried to the poor old tenement of Massachusetts Avenue, and this had made happy that Christmas Day–and this.
“Why,” said Mr. Bruce Kuypers, almost as if he were speaking aloud, “it seems so queer that Christmas comes and goes with you, and you have forgotten all about that stormy day, and your ride to Mrs. Chappell’s!
“Why, at our place, we drink Mr. Molyneux’s health every Christmas Day, and I am afraid the little ones used to think that you had a red nose, a gray beard, and came down the chimney!”
“As, at another place,” said Matty, “they thought of Mr. Bruce–of Noah’s Ark memory.”
“Anyway,” said Mr. Molyneux, “any crumbs of comfort we scattered that day were BREAD UPON THE WATERS.”
Of Mr. Kuypers’s quick journey the main points have been told. Six days before, by some good luck, which could hardly have been expected, the “Gem City Medium’s” despatch from Washington was full enough to be intelligible. It was headed, “ANOTHER SWINDLER NAILED.” It said that Mr. Molyneux, of the Internal Improvement office, had feathered his nest with $500,000 during the war, in a pretended expedition to the Rio Grande. It had now been discovered that there never was any such expedition, and the correspondent of the Associated Press hoped that justice would be done.
The moment Bruce Kuypers read this he was anxious. Before an hour passed he had determined to cross to the Pacific train eastward. Before night he was in a sleeping-car. Day by day as he met Eastern papers, he searched for news of the investigation. Day by day he met it, but thanks to his promptness he had arrived in time. It was pathetic to hear him describe his anxiety from point to point, and they were all hushed to silence when he told how glad he was when he found he should certainly appear on Christmas Day.
After the dinner, another procession, not wholly unlike the rabble rout of the morning, moved from the dining-room to the great front parlor, where the tree was lighted, and parcels of gray and white and brown lay round on mantel, on piano, on chairs, on tables, and on the floor.
No; this tale is too long already. We will not tell what all the presents were to all the ten,–to Venty, Chloe, Diana, and all of their color. Only let it tell that all the ten had presents. To Mr. Kuypers’s surprise, and to every one’s surprise, indeed, there were careful presents for him as for the rest, but it must be confessed that Horace and Laura had spelled Chipah a little wildly. The truth was that each separate person had feared that he would feel a little left on one side,–he to whom so much was due on that day. And each person, severally, down to the Brick himself, had gone secretly, without consulting the others, to select from his own possessions something very dear, and had wrapped it up and marked it for the stranger. When Mr. Kuypers opened a pretty paper, to find Matty’s own illustrated Browning, he was touched indeed. When in a rough brown paper he found the Brick’s jack-knife labelled “FOR THE MAN,” the tears stood in his eyes.
The next day the “Evening Lantern” contained this editorial article:–
“The absurd fiasco regarding the accounts of Mr. Molyneux, which has occupied the correspondents of the periodical press for some days, and has even been adverted to in New York journals claiming the title of metropolitan, came to a fit end at the Capitol yesterday. The wiseacre owls who started it did not see fit to put in an appearance before the committee. Mr. Molyneux himself sent to the Chairman a most interesting volume of manuscript, which is, indeed, a valuable historical memorial of times that tried men’s souls. The committee and other gentlemen present examined this curious record with great interest. Not to speak of the minor details, an autograph letter of the lamented Gen. Trebou gives full credit to the Bureau of Internal Improvement for the skill with which they executed the commission given them in a department quite out of their line. Our brethren of the `Argus’ will be pleased to know that every grain of oats and every spear of straw paid for by, the now famous $47,000, are accounted for in detail. The authenticated signatures of the somewhat celebrated Camara and Gazza and the mythical Captain Cole appear. Very valuable letters, throwing interesting light on our relations with the Government of Mexico, from the pens of the lamented Adams and Prigg, show what were the services of those Spanish turncoats and their allies.
“We cannot say that we regret the attention which has thus been given to a very important piece of history, too long neglected in the rush of more petty affairs. We take the occasion, however, to enter our protest once more against this preposterous system of `Resolutions,’ in which, as it were in echo to every niaiserie of every hired pen in the country, the House degrades itself to the work of the common scavenger, orders at immense expense an investigation into some subject where all well informed persons are fully advised, and at a cost of the national treasure, etc., etc., etc. to the end of that chapter.’”
But I fear no one at the Molyneux mansion had “the lantern.” They had “found a man,” and did not need a lantern to look farther.
It was as Mr. Molyneux had said: he had cast his Bread upon the Waters, and he had found it after many days.