« PreviousContinue »
BY ALFRED B. STREET, BBQ,, AUTHOR OF 'THE FOREST WALK,'
'Yet this great solitude is quick with life ;
A morn in September, the East is yet gray;
Here, leave the geese, Carlo! to nibble their grass,
The rail-fence is leaped, and the wood-boughs are round,
A quick startling whirr now burst's loud on my ear,
On yon spray, the bright oriole dances and sings,
And the robin comes warbling, then flutters away,
We plunge in the swamp – the tough laurels are round,
From this scene of exploits, now made birdless, I pass;
But 'cloud-land' is tinged now with sunset, and bright
And I pull with my spoil to the margin again.
SPECULATION: OR PETER SNUG'S "MOVEMENT,'
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE FIRST LOCOMOTIVE.'
There is something, after all, in a name, that has always struck us forcibly, in matters involving dollars and cents, or what is commonly called finance; and it may be well, by way of preface, to call attention to this matter; although it may have but little to do with the facts about to be stated, farther than to carry conviction to the minds of the skeptical.
It is said, on very high authority, that`a rose by any other name will smell as sweet.' This may be true, as regards roses; but so sure are we, as respects men, that a name given in infancy has much to do with the future worldly destiny of its owner, that we deem it of the utmost importance that parents should look to it,' especially those parents who hope to see their children prosper in the world. We put
the question to you, gentle reader, whether, in the wide range of your acquaintance, either personal or by hear-say, you ever knew or heard of a person by the name of Algernon, Mortimore, Egerton, Frederick-Augustus, Eugene, Alonzo, and the like, who ever proved capable of earning a dollar, or whose note, on his own credit, was ever discounted in a bank? There is neither credit nor ' hard currency' in such names. They may answer very well in a ball-room, or in poems and novels, and thus far are found useful. But in Wall-street, on 'Change, in Banks, any where, in fact, where things are weighed accurately, they are not worth a cent, and never have been, within our memory; and we never expect to see any change in this estimate. To give a boy, then, a fair chance, do n't trammel him with a name ; call him, John, James, George, Thomas, Samuel, Joseph, Robert, or above all these, Peter. He may succeed with either of these names, and as he becomes old, slip into that metallic charm of recognition, as good as old Johnny,' Jimmy,'
Tommy,'. Sammy,' Josey,' and Bobby;"' but to make sure of entire success, give him a name that never has yet failed, to our knowledge : call him Peter; teach him the simple rules of arithmetic, as far as the 'Rule of Three;' and that is all he will ask or require, in the shape of patrimony.
It may be that a lame foot, a cock-eye, a hump-back, or an extremely ugly face, from childhood, may answer nearly as well; but to make assurance doubly sure, by all means call one of your boys Peter, and if you
have more than one, keep as near to Peter as possible ; and if by accident Peter should die young, an instance, by the way, of rare occurrence, fill his place immediately, and never let a family grow to manhood without the advantages of that all-important name. So powerful is its influence on the energies of its possessor, that it will save even the most fanciful name from discredit, if permitted to stand first; that is, you may 'tack on' to Peter almost any name, from * Augustus' to 'Alonzo,' and it will save it from disrepute. Peter, in fact, is like salt, preservative and conservative ; even salt, with all
its claims, fails to perform the superior duties of salt-petre. But to our story.
It may be remembered that a few years since a serious misunderstanding arose between England and the Dutch, at the period when Antwerp was invested by the French, and when old CHASSE defended himself so nobly in the citadel. It will not be forgotten, that at that time, also, our banks were paying specie ; NICHOLAS Biddle and the Bank of the United States were in full feather; and money, in fact, was 'as cheap as cat's meat,' and capitalists were put to their trumps to find profitable employment. Times, by the way, are never worse than when capital goes a-begging. It was at this particular period, that our eastern brethren were on the sharp look-out, and brushing the dust from their spectacles. Every arrival from Europe brought accounts of the ‘siege of Antwerp.' The Scheldt was blockaded, and John Bull was bringing into port richly-laden Dutch ships from Batavia, and holding them in •durance vile;' while at the same time several large frigatelooking vessels, under Dutch flags, and deeply freighted with coffee and spices, took refuge in New York, to await coming events. Every body, in fact, looked forward with strong hopes that maritime difficulties were on the tapis; and Jonathan was 'wide awake. Such events could scarcely be expected to pass him like a summer's cloud, and not excite his especial wonder. He thought he saw that good things were about to drop somewhere, and in such a case, he was unwilling that his dish should be bottom upward. At such a period, it is worth a journey on foot, to go down east,' and see how matters move among men; how a word, or question, or opinion, is turned, and twisted, and scanned. It is at such a period, in a word, when all the old Peters are watched by the young Peters, and when a wink is as good as a nod.
Well, it was at that identical time, when our hero, old. Peter Snug, made a movement,' which furnished the matter for this history: we say history, not story, for it is all fact, and we pity the man who doubts it. Peter Snug had been, in his day, among the most active in his native city. He began when it was only a town, and lived to see it a city, and lives to hear it called, in its just pride, the Emporium.' Long may he live, and if farther honors are in store for it, may he live to enjoy them! Peter Snug was all his name implied. He was either born to it, or, thanks to his parents, he was most fortunately christened to it. He was rich, very rich; and of that happy class who acquire wealth without being charged by any with having obtained it by treading on other people's toes; a sure evidence that he obtained his riches by asking simply a contribution to his honest industry, prudence, and sagacity. Peter had a pretty country place a few miles from the city, and there, of late years, he passed a portion of the hours of his leisure, if so they might be called, for he was as busy there as in the city, which he visited daily, and was as early in his office as the resident citizen. He was not exactly engaged in commerce at the time, but he was recognized as ready for any thing that looked reliable, if not for himself, at least for his sons, who were strung along the continent, from the homestead to the Creek nation. He was supposed, at least, to keep a close view of passing events : hence, in the stirring times of that day, an inquiry or remark, or opinion of his, did not escape notice. On the arrival of every mail
, he was watched with close attention; his track from the post-office to the insurance office, where he would retire to read his letter, would be followed by the seemingly casual friend, who would accidently drop in' to inquire the news.
On several occasions, he was positively seen to open letters dated at Antwerp, via London. He would give the dates, but gave no farther information. He used to go on’Change, and ask freely concerning 'news from Antwerp;' and his most pointed inquiries were such as concerned the probable continuance of the blockade of the Scheldt.' It was ascertained that so deeply was he interested in this matter, that he actually had extended his inquiries to Washington, and to the highest authorities there. What did all this mean? What could it mean, in fact, but that he had some deep-laid plan, involving vast speculations, dependent on the coming events ? For days he spoke of foreign affairs only in connection with the Scheldt and Antwerp; and although various questions were put to him touching Batavia, and coffee voyages, as connected therewith, the very disregard he apparently manifested, was only a stronger evidence to the querist that the Scheldt and Antwerp were the mere incidents to something deeper and more distant. There was no resisting the self-evident fact, that he must have something on foot of deep importance, having positive connection with the blockade, which was a contingent, at least; but what that was, involved a puzzle. A man of millions, with a clear head, and a circle of sons, and one bearing his own name, and Peter himself a deep one, never known to waste time or words upon idle gossip; it was clear that something was on foot that was worth knowing. It was to clearly ascertain what this something was, that furnished the quid-nuncs with full employment. They could not yet plainly see a chance of a 'vy'ge, but the air was full of threatenings and promise; and to add to this, Peter Snug was stirring in the matter. He answered no questions save such and in such a way as only led to a farther puzzle; the end and point of his inquiries being simply to ascertain from others when they supposed the blockade of the Scheldt would be raised, and what their opinion was of its probable continuance; their last dates from Antwerp, from England, France, Russia, any where, in short, that spoke of Antwerp and the Scheldt, and the blockade thereof, would be inquired after by him with the greatest anxiety.
It was on a Saturday, at the close of morning business, when a whole week of intense curiosity was coming to a close, that a circle of the active business men, who had agreed to 'go snacks' in an operation, based on information obtained from Peter Snug, assembled by appointment, and on comparing notes, found that each had gone just as far as his associate, while all were sure, and unanimous in the belief, that something was to be ascertained worthy of their efforts; and so it was concluded that two or three of the shrewdest of them should follow Peter to his country seat, and under the guise of recreation, avail themselves of his hospitality, admire his improvements, and directly or indirectly worm out the actual cause and motive of his great anxiety concerning Antwerp and the Scheldt,