An Outcast/Chapter XII
Mr. Soloman Snivel has effected a reconciliation between old Judge Sleepyhorn and the beautiful Anna Bonard, and he has flattered the weak-minded George Mullholland into a belief that the old Judge, as he styles him, is his very best friend. So matters go on swimmingly at the house of Madame Flamingo. Indeed Mr. Soloman can make himself extremely useful in any affair requiring the exercise of nice diplomatic skill—no matter whether it be of love or law. He gets people into debt, and out of debt; into bankruptcy and out of bankruptcy; into jail and out of jail; into society and out of society. He has officiated in almost every capacity but that of a sexton. If you want money, Mr. Soloman can always arrange the little matter for you. If you have old negroes you want to get off your hands at a low figure, he has a customer. If you want to mortgage your negro property, a thing not uncommon with our very first families, Mr. Soloman is your man. Are you worth a fee, and want legal advice, he will give it exactly to your liking. Indeed, he will lie you into the most hopeless suit, and with equal pertinacity lie you out of the very best. Every judge is his friend and most intimate acquaintance. He is always rollicking, frisking, and insinuating himself into something, affects to be the most liberal sort of a companion, never refuses to drink when invited, but never invites any one unless he has a motive beyond friendship. Mr. Keepum, the wealthy lottery broker, who lives over the way, in Broad street, in the house with the mysterious signs, is his money-man. This Keepum, the man with the sharp visage and guilty countenance, has an excellent standing in society, having got it as the reward of killing two men. Neither of these deeds of heroism, however, were the result of a duel. Between these worthies there exists relations mutually profitable, if not the most honorable. And notwithstanding Mr. Soloman is forever sounding Mr. Keepum's generosity, the said Keepum has a singular faculty for holding with a firm grasp all he gets, the extent of his charities being a small mite now and then to Mr. Hadger, the very pious agent for the New York Presbyterian Tract Society. Mr. Hadger, who by trading in things called negroes, and such like wares, has become a man of great means, twice every year badgers the community in behalf of this society, and chuckles over what he gets of Keepum, as if a knave's money was a sure panacea for the cure of souls saved through the medium of those highly respectable tracts the society publishes to suit the tastes of the god slavery. Mr. Keepum, too, has a very high opinion of this excellent society, as he calls it, and never fails to boast of his contributions.
It is night. The serene and bright sky is hung with brighter stars. Our little fashionable world has got itself arrayed in its best satin—and is in a flutter. Carriages, with servants in snobby coats, beset the doors of the theatre. A flashing of silks, satins, brocades, tulle and jewelry, distinguished the throng pressing eagerly into the lobbies, and seeking with more confusion than grace seats in the dress circle. The orchestra has played an overture, and the house presents a lively picture of bright-colored robes. Mr. Snivel's handsome figure is seen looming out of a private box in the left-hand proceniums, behind the curtain of which, and on the opposite side, a mysterious hand every now and then frisks, makes a small but prudent opening, and disappears. Again it appears, with delicate and chastely-jeweled fingers. Cautiously the red curtain moves aside apace, and the dark languishing eyes of a female, scanning over the dress-circle, are revealed. She recognizes the venerable figure of Judge Sleepyhorn, who has made a companion of George Mullholland, and sits at his side in the parquette. Timidly she closes the curtain.
In the right-hand procenium box sits, resplendent of jewels and laces, and surrounded by her many admirers, the beautiful and very fashionable Madame Montford, a woman of singularly regular features, and more than ordinary charms. Opinion is somewhat divided on the early history of Madame Montford. Some have it one thing, some another. Society is sure to slander a woman of transcendent beauty and intellect. There is nothing in the world more natural, especially when those charms attract fashionable admirers. It is equally true, too, that if you would wipe out any little taint that may hang about the skirts of your character you must seek the panacea in a distant State, where, with the application of a little diplomacy you may become the much sought for wonder of a new atmosphere and new friends, as is the case with Madame Montford, who rebukes her New York neighbors of the Fifth Avenue (she has a princely mansion there), with the fact that in Charleston she is, whenever she visits it, the all-absorbing topic with fashionable society. For four successive winters Madame Montford has honored the elite of Charleston with her presence. The advent of her coming, too, has been duly heralded in the morning papers—to the infinite delight of the St. Cecilia Society, which never fails to distinguish her arrival with a ball. And this ball is sure to be preceded with no end of delicately-perfumed cards, and other missives, as full of compliments as it is capable of cramming them. There is, notwithstanding all these ovations in honor of her coming, a mystery hanging over her periodical visits, for the sharp-eyed persist that they have seen her disguised, and in suspicious places, making singular inquiries about a woman of the name of Mag Munday. And these suspicions have given rise to whisperings, and these whisperings have crept into the ears of several very old and highly-respectable "first families," which said families have suddenly dropped her acquaintance. But what is more noticeable in the features of Madame Montford, is the striking similarity between them and Anna Bonard's. Her most fervent admirers have noticed it; while strangers have not failed to discover it, and to comment upon it. And the girl who sits in the box with Mr. Snivel, so cautiously fortifying herself with the curtain, is none other than Anna. Mr. Snivel has brought her here as an atonement for past injuries.
Just as the curtain is about to rise, Mr. McArthur, true to his word, may be seen toddling to the stage door, his treasure carefully tied up in a handkerchief. He will deliver it to no one but the manager, and in spite of his other duties that functionary is compelled to receive it in person. This done, the old man, to the merriment of certain wags who delight to speculate on his childlike credulity, takes a seat in the parquette, wipes clean his venerable spectacles, and placing them methodically over his eyes, forms a unique picture in the foreground of the audience. McArthur, with the aid of his glasses, can recognize objects at a distance; and as the Hamlet of the night is decidedly Teutonic in his appearance and pronunciation, he has no great relish for the Star, nor a hand of applause to bestow on his genius. Hamlet, he is sure, never articulated with a coarse brogue. So turning from the stage, he amuses himself with minutely scanning the faces of the audience, and resolving in his mind that something will turn up in the grave-digger's scene, of which he is an enthusiastic admirer. It is, indeed, he thinks to himself, very doubtful, whether in this wide world the much-abused William Shakspeare hath a more ardent admirer of this curious but faithful illustration of his genius. Suddenly his attention seems riveted on the private box, in which sits the stately figure of Madame Montford, flanked in a half-circle by her perfumed and white-gloved admirers. "What!" exclaims the old man, in surprise, rubbing and replacing his glasses, "if I'm not deceived! Well—I can't be. If there isn't the very woman, a little altered, who has several times looked into my little place of an evening. Her questions were so curious that I couldn't make out what she really wanted (she never bought anything); but she always ended with inquiring about poor Mag Munday. People think because I have all sorts of things, that I must know about all sorts of things. I never could tell her much that satisfied her, for Mag, report had it, was carried off by the yellow fever, and nobody ever thought of her afterwards. And because I couldn't tell this woman any more, she would go away with tears in her eyes." Mr. McArthur whispers to a friend on his right, and touches him on the arm, "Pooh! pooh!" returns the man, with measured indifference, "that's the reigning belle of the season—Madame Montford, the buxom widow, who has been just turned forty for some years."
The play proceeds, and soon the old man's attention is drawn from the Widow Montford by the near approach to the scene of the grave-digger. And as that delineator enters the grave, and commences his tune, the old man's anxiety increases.
A twitching and shrugging of the shoulders, discovers Mr. McArthur's feelings. The grave-digger, to the great delight of the Star, bespreads the stage with a multiplicity of bones. Then he follows them with a skull, the appearance of which causes Mr. McArthur to exclaim, "Ah! that's my poor Yorick." He rises from his seat, and abstractedly stares at the Star, then at the audience. The audience gives out a spontaneous burst of applause, which the Teutonic Hamlet is inclined to regard as an indignity offered to superior talent. A short pause and his face brightens with a smile, the grave-digger shoulders his pick, and with the thumb of his right hand to his nasal organ, throws himself into a comical attitude. The audience roar with delight; the Star, ignorant of the cause of what he esteems a continued insult, waves his plumes to the audience, and with an air of contempt walks off the stage.