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perilous expedition, Tom Tuck said: I tell you how it is, Jack,' addressing himself to our hero, 'you are puttiug all the work on us, while you are not going to do any thing. At this imputation, young Tremlett blushed, and held down his head.
'Don't be a sneak, now,' said Tom.'
'I have done all I can do,' replied our hero.
Well then, if you do n't do something, you shall not have anything,' said the wily Thomas, tauntingly.
'What can I do,' said the youngster.
'You can go with me, and let Sam remain here,' replied Tom. 'But I won't steal, if I do,' replied our hero.
'Nobody is going to steal; it's our own money; mother has said so fifty times; has n't she, Sam?'
Yes, fifty thousand times,' said Sam.
Our hero could think of no argument to oppose to the specious reasoning of the young lawyers; and although he felt it was wrong, yet as he had been accustomed to look upon them as his superiors, he thought they must be better judges than himself of what was right and proper. Beside, he could not bear the idea of sharing in their money, while he incurred no part of the risk of obtaining it; although he always shared his own allowance with the two brothers, without expecting any thing in return. And so he allowed himself to be led by them to do what he knew was wrong, lest they should reproach him with a want of courage.
All the clerks in the employ of Tremlett and Tuck ha left their desks, and gone down to see the parade upon the Battery, with the exception of Mr. Bates, who remained in the counting-room to post his books; but the unusual silence and stillness of the office had such a soothing influence upon the book-keeper's nerves, that he fell fast asleep while in the very act of footing up a long column of figures; his head dropped down upon his opened ledger, and being quite unconscious of what he was doing, as all sleepy people are, with the exception of professed somnambulists, he had contrived to overturn a bottle of red ink, and the contents of it were running down in streams across the ledger, and along the side of his face; giving him very much the appearance of a man with his throat cut from ear to ear. Mr. Tuck was also alone in the private office, apparently engaged in some absorbing calculations at his desk, when his favorite nephew Tom walked in, through a private entrance which led directly into the street.
Ah! Thomas, is that you?' said Mr. Tuck, laying down his pen. How do you do, Uncle; are you pretty well?' inquired the young gentleman, affectionately.
Yes, pretty well; or rather, I am not very well; I took a slight cold yesterday at an auction,' replied the uncle.
I hope you are not going to be sick, uncle,' said his nephew. I hope not, I hope not,' said the uncle, coughing slightly; but what, what brought you here just now?'
'I wanted you to see the soldiers,' said Tom; 'they are just marching along at the foot of the street.'
What, soldiers? What a foolish boy! Do you think I want to
look at a regiment of counter-jumpers with bob-tail coats on! I have got more profitable business than that to attend to, Thomas.'
'Ah, but you never saw any thing so handsome!' said the boy; 'these are real soldiers, with great long swords and guns: hark! hear the drums! You don't know how fine they look; you can see them without going off the stoop, too.'
'Well, well,' said Mr. Tuck, since you have taken so much trouble on my account, I will just step down to the foot of the stairs to gratify you; but I would as soon look at a drove of sheep with their fleeces painted red, as at a parcel of men dressed up in regimentals, and marching through the streets, without any object in view. I tell you it's a poor way of making money, Thomas; there is no profit in it; it is a most ridiculous waste of time; because, Thomas, it requires but a few hours to make a soldier of an able-bodied man, when there is any real occasion for his services; and to compel a poor white-livered denizen of a counting-room, or one of the human fixtures in a cobbler's stall, or a tailor's shop, to shoulder a musket for a part of two days in the year, with the idea of preparing him the better to defend his country, if he should ever be called upon to do it, is too nonsensical.'
By the time that Mr. Tuck had delivered himself of these remarks, they had reached the bottom of the stairs that led to the street door, and on looking out, there was not a soldier to be seen.
But where are the soldiers, Thomas?' inquired the old gentle
They will soon be along, uncle; only wait a moment,' replied Tom. I hear the drums now.'
And then, Thomas, the thing is unjust, as well as absurd,' continued Mr. Tuck; because the burden has to be borne by those who are least able to bear it; but that is always the case in public affairs. You see, Thomas, if it is actually necessary for the safety of the country that men should learn to be soldiers, a trifling fine of a few dollars ought not to be considered a sufficient punishment for neglecting so important a duty, because the rich can easily discharge the penalty, while the poor cannot; and consequently they are compelled to fight for their country, not because they have property at stake, to protect which armies are raised, but because they have not. You see the unreasonableness of it, Thomas.'
'Yes, uncle,' said Thomas,' but I don't see the soldiers yet; I am afraid they have gone up the next street.'
And if I had my way, Thomas, I would make the women train, too,' said Mr. Tuck.
That would be funny!' said Tom; 'my! how I should laugh to see a regiment of women go a-soldiering!'
'You see, Thomas,' said the gallant old bachelor, 'the women are eternally talking about their rights; they want to vote, confound them! and if they will vote, they ought to fight!'
'O, I have seen women fight, many a time,' said the youngster : 'only yesterday morning, I saw two great fat women fighting, down in Fulton market: one of them took up a weak fish, and struck the other right in the face with it; my! did n't they call each other such
Just then our hero was seen to pass the corner of the street, and although he must have heard Mr. Tuck and his affectionate nephew talking together, yet he never turned his head, but walked quickly along.
'I am afraid, uncle, you will take cold, standing here,' said Tom; 'you had better step back into the office, while I run down the next street, and if I see the soldiers coming, I will call you.'
So saying, the youngster ran down the street, and Mr. Tuck returned to his office, saying to himself, as he went: 'What an affectionate boy that Thomas is! - most remarkable child; always so considerate and respectful to old people! I should n't wonder if I gave that boy something one of these days: if I was sure of having just such a boy as that, I do n't know but I might get married after a while, when the times get better: plenty of women that would have me, I dare say; it would n't cost much to bring up a boy like that; he never asks for money, like some children.'
'I wonder,' thought Mr. Tuck, 'what Mr. Bates is doing; I don't hear him stirring;' and so, to satisfy his curiosity, he lifted up a corner of the green curtain that hung before a little window that looked into the outer office; but he suddenly let it drop again, and came very near dropping himself; and if he did not scream murder, it was because fright had deprived him of utterance. Such a spectacle as met his eyes, would have frightened a butcher. It requires but a very short space of time to jump at a conclusion; and Mr. Tuck was not so terrified as to prevent his drawing an inference. Seeing, as he supposed, his book-keeper lying with his throat cut, his first thought was, that some body had robbed him, and then murdered his clerk; and going to his desk, he discovered that his pocket-book was gone, which confirmed his suspicion, and quickened his senses as much as the first glance at Mr. Bates had stunned them; and running out into the street, he shouted Murder! murder!' with all his might. The noise awoke the book-keeper, who perceived at a glance the mischief he had done; and he jumped at a conclusion and jumped off his stool at the same moment. His first thought was, what his wife would say to him, and his next, to run to the nearest bath and wash himself, before any body should see him. So he shut up his ledger, and hurried down stairs in an opposite direction to Mr. Tuck, for the store was on a corner, and as we have already stated, there were two entrances to the counting-room.
A murder is a matter of interest to every body, and therefore Mr. Tuck was soon surrounded by a multitude of men, anxiously inquiring for particulars. But he was too much excited to give any details: he told them to follow him, however, and see for themselves; upon which a great number crowded up the narrow stairs, all anxious to have the first sight of the horrid spectacle.
There he lies!' said Mr. Tuck, turning away his head, but pointing with his out-stretched arm to the door of the outer office; and here is where the murderer took the pocket-book from; full of all my valuable papers.'
Where is he? where is he?' exclaimed a dozen voices; 'we don't see him.'
'Not see him!' exclaimed Mr. Tuck, with astonishment, as he elbowed his way into the outer office.
I see nothing that looks like a murdered man, but this bottle of red ink that is spilled here,' said one of the crowd.
Mr. Tuck was a second time rendered speechless with astonishment; so he said nothing; but he looked as blank as a new ledger.
Some of the men tittered, and some winked very knowingly, but none of them indulged in outright laughter, because they all knew that Mr. Tuck was very rich, and it would not have been genteel to make light of a rich man's mishaps.
All I can say is, gentlemen,' said Mr. Tuck, at last, it is a very strange world we live in, I know I have been robbed of my pocketbook, and I am very certain that my head book-keeper lay here a moment ago, with his throat cut; but what has become of him, is more than I can say.'
As Mr. Bates' house was but a few steps from the counting-room, some humane individual, who had heard an exaggerated account of the disaster, had run there in great haste, and informed Mrs. Bates that her husband had been murdered by his employer, Mr. Tuck.
As the book-keeper's wife had promised herself the prolonged gratification of harassing her husband to death by piece-meal, she was not disposed to view the summary process of Mr. Tuck in a very favorable light; but she hesitated a moment, on first hearing the awful news, between going into hysterics, and going down to the counting-room, to make a display of her outraged feelings: she determined, however, on the latter course, as she would then have the greatest number of spectators. So, without stopping to put on her bonnet, she threw a shawl over her head, and ran with all speed to the office of Tremlett and Tuck, where she arrived before all the men had dispersed, who had been collected together by the outcries of the junior partner. As she ran up the stairs with great agility, the first intimation that Mr. Tuck had of her presence, was a piercing shriek, that went to his very soul.
'You sanguinary wretch! you old hoary-headed, brown-wigged murderer! You villain! you have made my poor children fatherless, and me a widow! Where is his body!-let me see him!' exclaimed Mrs. Bates, in the first agony of her lacerated feelings.
'Woman, be still!' exclaimed Mr. Tuck.
'I won't be still!' replied the imaginary widow; 'give me my husband! O where is he- where is his murdered body!'
'Poor creature!' said one of the by-standers; 'it is a very hard case; very hard case indeed.'
Nothing feeds grief like sympathy, and these few words had such an effect on Mrs. Bates, that she redoubled her shrieks, and gave vent to her feelings in such piercing tones, that Mr. Tuck was compelled to put his hands to his ears.
'Don't let that woman come near me !' he exclaimed; 'take her away, take her away!'
'Give me my dear husband! - give me back my husband!' still shrieked the lady, when in walked Mr. Bates, with his face washed clean, and his coat buttoned up to his chin, to hide the stains of the red ink on his shirt-bosom.
'Here I am, dear,' said Mr. Bates, in his most placid manner; 'what is the matter with you, dear?'
People should be very cautious how they work themselves up into a high passion, as it is one of the most difficult things in the world to descend again to an ordinary level, with ease, and credit to themselves. Mrs. Bates felt the full force of this truth, when her husband made his appearance; and thinking, probably, that the most unnatural conduct would be the most becoming on the occasion, she uttered another piercing scream, and fell senseless in the arms of Mr. Tuck, who being quite unprepared for her reception, fell with her, to the great danger of both of their necks; but fortunately, neither was much hurt, although the merchant was very much frightened. The lady obstinately refused to be brought to her senses, and she was conveyed to her house by Mr. Bates, in an omnibus, where the poor man learned, for the first time, the cause of all the confusion.
As soon as Mr. Tuck had collected his scattered senses, he began to think about his pocket-book; and when he remembered that it must have been taken by some one who entered his office through the room in which Mr. Bates sat writing at his desk, he began to have suspicions of his book-keeper.
A man with such a wife as that, would do any thing!' said Mr. Tuck to himself; 'confound her! she called me a brown-wigged old villain, and I'll have revenge of her!'
Just as Mr. Tuck had come to the determination of sending for a police-officer to arrest Mr. Bates, Mr. Tremlett returned to the counting-room, and on hearing Mr. Tuck's suspicions of his book-keeper, he put them all to rest, by reminding his partner that Mr. Bates had it in his power to rob them of any amount he pleased, without any risk to himself, by false entries in his books; and it was not at all likely that he would do so foolish a thing as to steal his pocket-book, when he must know that suspicion would immediately attach to him.
But Mr. Tuck was unwilling to relinquish the idea that there had been a conspiracy to rob him, and that Mrs. Bates was at the bottom of it. There is one consolation in it,' said Mr. Tuck; if I have lost my pocket-book, I have not got an extravagant wife, to spend what little property I have saved up.'
While the two partners were arguing about the most prudent means to be taken for the recovery of the pocket-book, a messenger came in great haste to inform Mr. Tremlett that his adopted son had been upset in a boat, and that he had been taken from the water, as was supposed, lifeless. The old merchant turned ghastly pale at the intelligence, and sank back in his chair, quite overcome. But he revived again immediately, and took his hat and cane, and hurried to his house, where he found our hero, who had just begun to show signs of life. A physician had been summoned, and all the means that could be made use of, had been put in requisition for his recovery. The old merchant fell on his knees by the side of the boy, and kissed his wet cheeks. Poor, dear child!' he exclaimed, 'I did not know that I loved you half so well. May God in his mercy, spare you to me a little longer! Mrs. Swazey was busily engaged rubbing him with her flannels, while Bridget was wringing her hands, and crying piteously. After a while, the color returned to his cheeks,