"Mrs. Jollipop, said Mr. Whooney, carefully closing the door, and looking all round the room, to see if anyone were there--"Mrs. Jollipop, my heart is broken!"
"Dear me," said Mrs. Jollipop, "I don't believe it. Your stomach must be out of order. Have a cup of tea?" She began pouring out, as she spoke, a fragrant cup of tea, from the tea-pot on the table.
"It's beyond tea," said Mr. Whooney, with a faint smile. "I have written a letter to Lucy, and told her she must not wait any longer; she will never see me again."
"What for," exclaimed Mrs. Jollipop--"after waiting so long, and saving up your money so carefully; though why you won't put it in the bank, and will continue to leave it in your top bureau drawer, to be a temptation to me, I cannot understand?"
"Oh! Mrs. Jollipop," said Mr. Whooney, his face lighting up. "Have you played a trick on me just to convince me what a fool I was. If you have, please tell me." There was an expression, half of hope, half of despair, on his face, as he spoke.
"What trick," said Mrs. Jollipop, too much struck by his evident trouble, to fail to be in earnest herself.
"See here." He drew from under his coat a heavy bag, tore open the mouth of it, and poured out a quantity of what looked like gold pieces, on the table. As he did some rolled upon the floor, and away toward the under part of the cupboard. Mrs. Jollipop rushed hither and thither trying to find them.
"Never mind," he said, "they are not worth anything."
"Not worth anything," she cried, "and butter at twenty-five cents a pound, and going up every day, and they say the Southern States likely to secede, any time, all along of those niggers--not worth anything, Mr. Whooney. I'm afraid your senses are gone, instead of your heart being broken."
"See here," he said, "they are not gold, they are counters. They are no more gold than this;" and he caught hold of the brass poker, which gleamed like gold, in the flickering fire light.
Mrs. Jollipop put on her spectacles, held one up to the fight, turned it over in her hand, rang it on the table, and exclaiming, "Did you ever!" sat down on her chair, with a look of blank amazement.
Mr. Whooney sat down, opposite her, and looked into the fire. Mrs. Jollipop remained silent, for a little while, and then, in an entirely different tone of voice, ejaculated, "Did you ever!" again. Before, she had said it in amazement, now it was in a suggestive sort of way, and equivalent to "go on!"
"You know," said Mr. Whooney, taking the hint, "I told you how, one night, I woke up and found a boy in my room, and when I got out of bed he was not there. The money must have been taken then."
"When did you miss it?" asked Mrs. Jollipop.
"Not till the night before the funeral, when I had .occasion to use a five-dollar gold piece, and even then, so .careless am I, I did not discover it until I had the mortification of being told, by the bookseller in Hubville, that my gold piece was brass. I then rushed back to my room, and. instead of two thousand dollars, I had the bag of counters." He seized the bag, as he said it, and shook it fiercely, and then, as if he had not the energy to be angry, let it drop on the floor.
"Poor fellow!" said Mrs. Jollipop, wiping her eyes. "Poor fellow!" and she picked up the bag and placed it on the table. "Do you suspect anybody," she added.
"Yes," he replied, "and that's the worst of it."
"The worst of it!" cried Mrs. Jollipop; "I think that is the best of it, and, if you will tell me all about it, I will find it out, or my name is not Betsey Jollipop."
But Mr. Whooney only kept saying, with a troubled face, "That's the worst of it." Then, as if excusing himself to himself, he said, "I cannot help it; who can doubt it."
"I know who it is," said Mrs. Jollipop, "it's that Durkey. I always knew he would steal."
"Durkey!" said Mr. Whooney, with an amazed look; "I wish it were."
"Then it's Popkins," said Mrs. Jollipop, "though I would not have thought of him. He is a big bully, but he won't steal."
"No, not Popkins," said Mr. Whooney.
"Pooh!" cried Mrs. Jollipop, "what a ninny I am! It is Snippers. He is always buying, selling .and cheating, like a pedlar."
Mr. Whooney drew his chair so that he could face Mrs. Jollipop. Mrs. Jollipop drew her chair so that she could face Mr. Whooney. There was a profound silence.
"Robert Graham!" said Mr. Whooney, and covered his face with his hands, and without heeding the indignant exclamation of Mrs. Jollipop, poured out his proofs. "I found his knife on the floor, the next morning, after the boy was there. How did it get there?" He seemed to be answering some invisible objector, and did not wait for Mrs. Jollipop to reply. "He was out of his Dormitory that very night, and Dr. Neverasole found him out, and shut him up in the jail. What did he go out for? He had in his possession at least one five-dollar gold piece, marked with the very mark which I had put on my pieces_an L, Mrs. Jollipop."
"For Lichfield!" said Mrs. Jollipop softly. "For Lucy," said Mr. Whooney, under his breath. "How did he get it," he added. "I asked him where, and with a guilty look, he refused to tell me."
"It is impossible, Mr. Whooney," cried Mrs. Jollipop, getting a chance to speak. "He is a good boy, and a true boy--he could not steal."
"A good boy,"--said Mr. Whooney, rising from his seat and swinging his arms about--"no boys are good. They lie, they cheat, they swear, they are cruel and merciless. If any one is helpless and demands pity, even from a brute they have none. They are sneaking, and fawning, and hypocrites. The most manly of them are course, and foul, and filthy. They fear not God, nor regard man. They neither mind father, nor mother, nor teacher. They are unbaptized and unregenerate. The more they know, the worse they are, because they only know the better how to do evil. They search out with a candle, the very corners of nastiness." He raised his voice almost to a scream as he spoke--"and Robert Graham! Robert Graham! he only diners from the rest of the vile crew, in having an open face and ruddy cheeks, and a clear eye, with which he veils a more diabolical wickedness. Boys!" said Mr. Whooney, and here he stopped and rocked himself backward and forward in his chair, as if in an agony.
"Wait till you know the girls," answered Mrs. Jollipop. She was sorry as soon as she had said it, for his momentary passion had passed away, and he went on, "Girls! there was only one, and she was young and fair."
"What fools men are," thought Mrs. Jollipop; "I've seen her photograph, and she was as ugly as sin." This was only thought, not said.
"It is ten years ago, now, and I thought it would not be more than five," continued Mr. Whooney. "She has waited patiently, and well, but, it has come to an end now, and though, I dare say, she will feel bad at first, it will be better at the last. I shall never see Lichfield again; nor Lucy."
"Keep up a good heart, Mr. Whooney," said Mrs. Jollipop. She did not say anything about Lucy; the truth was, Mrs. Jollipop did not like Lucy. Lucy, she had been told by Mr. Whooney, was the daughter of a Minor Canon, of the Cathedral of Lichfield, and, not being versed in ecclesiastical terms, she connected the poor girl with gun-powder, and explosions, and the Fourth of July; and besides, had not Miss Hetty Neverasole confided her own tender feeling for Mr. Whooney, to the sympathizing bosom of Mrs. Jollipop. Many a time, after she had got into bed at night, had Mrs. Jollipop, though by no means bloodthirsty, in her castles in the air, killed off Dr. and Mrs. Neverasole, married Mr. Whooney to Miss Hetty, and started the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy, on a new basis, with great success, financially and religiously. Thus, the loss of Lucy, seemed to Mrs. Jollipop, not nearly so dreadful as the loss of the two thousand dollars. So she added--"We will get back the money; I will find out the thief--boys are not so bad as they look, Mr. Whooney. I remember when I used to think they were all angels."
"Angels!" said Mr. Whooney, bitterly; "what got into you?"
"That was a good while ago," continued Mrs. Jollipop, musingly, "a good while before I knew Popkins. The truth is, boys are a mixture, made up of original sin and something good besides. When the original sin comes out, then you think they are devils--when the good shows itself, and it does sometimes, you think they are angels."
"Angels!" groaned Mr. Whooney again.
"And education," continued Mrs. Jollipop, smoothing down her apron, "is bringing out the goodness and keeping down the original sin. And you can't do that without religion, and that's what's the matter with the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy. That's what I've told that Poggers, fifty times, if I have once. And, as for Robert Graham, if he stole, I did. What poor kind of proof you've got.--Now there's the knife--another boy might have borrowed it of him, and dropped it, or left it there on purpose; and he might have been out of the Dormitory for a hundred things, and as for the five-dollar gold piece--well some boy might have passed it off on him." She stopped, for she was not quite satisfied with this last, and then added, "I'll ask him where he got it, and if he says from home, I'll write, or get you to write, to Dorothy Bersimore, who is my old friend, though she never could make jelly that was fit to eat, and her sausage--pooh!" said Mrs. Jollipop, "pooh! I'll tell you what, I will run up and ask Robert Graham now. I hear the boys going up to their Dormitory, and he will tell me." She moved out of the room quickly, and after about a quarter of an hour returned.
"What did he say?" said Mr. Whooney.
"It's all right," cried Mrs. Jollipop, triumphantly. As she spoke she jingled four five-dollar gold pieces in her hand.
"All right!" said Mr. Whooney, hearing the jingle. "Has the wretched thief made restitution!"
"Thief! Not he," replied Mrs. Jollipop.
"What is it, then?" said Mr. Whooney. "Did you ask him where he got the money?"
"I said to him, 'Robert why do you carry so much money about in your pocket?' He said, 'Because I have no better place to keep it.' "
"The wretch!" ejaculated Mr. Whooney.
"'Give it to me,' says I," went on Mrs. Jollipop. "So he gave me these;" as she spoke, she laid four five-dollar gold pieces on the table, while Mr. Whooney, taking them up, one after another, eagerly pointed to the rough L. scratched upon each of them.
"That doesn't show it," said Mrs. Jollipop, answering his motion, "somebody else may have done it on Robert's gold pieces to get him into the scrape."
"No! No!" said Mr. Whooney, still more eagerly; "I remember this piece, particularly, by the stain upon it. It was made by some sort of acid, which Prof. Goshkins, who was in my room, spilled on it. There can be no doubt about it."
"Wait!" said Mrs. Jollipop--"I asked him where he got them, and he said he supposed Mrs. Dorothy would nol care if he told me that he got them from home. So, Mr. Whooney, I will write to Mrs. Dorothy to-night. Other people may have acids besides Prof. Goshkins."
Mrs. Jollipop was as good as her word, and at once, with some occasional assistance from Mr. Whooney, wrote the following epistle to Mrs. Dorothy:
"My Dear Dorothy Bersimore:--I am well at the time of writing, and hope you enjoy the same blessing, except the rheumatics in my left hand, caused by too thin flannels, at two and six pence a yard, bought in Hubville of Mr. Smirk, whose wife died three months ago with six small children, the youngest only two years, and all sick with the measles. Pickles are dear, and so is butter, all along of the proposed secession, which I never could see any use" in, and do not understand, for I would not have a colored servant, and never have had, except Dinah, and she is a good cook, but dirty as a pig, and always quarreling with Margaret and Mary Ann, which has too many followers, and all of them cousins, a thing I never could stand. Give my respects to Mrs. Graham, of whom I have heard Robert Graham tell, whose excellent deportment is very satisfactory to all except that Poggers, whose mother was a factory girl at Poley, and never visited in the best circles, and never will, though she is dead now, and gone, though she never deserved to--and so don't any of us--to Heaven.
"I have an excelent recipe for sausages, which everybody says are the best in the State, which I will send you any time that you will write, and am
"Your True Friend,
This letter Mrs. Jollipop read in a triumphant way to Mr. Whooney, and was quite overcome when he suggested that she had not asked the question she wished to ask; so she added the following postscript, writing and re-writing it, several times, to make it express exactly her meaning;
"P. S.--Speaking of pickles, some folks will use acids instead of pure cider vinegar, and so spill them on things, as laces, cuffs, aprons, mantillas, not to speak of undergarments, and, even money. Robert Graham is very fond of me, and gives me his money to keep, which is a very important responsibility, as it is four five-dollar gold pieces sent him as a present from his Grandmother and you, with acid spilled on one of them; and too much money for a boy at one time, with Hubville so near by, and many bad companions, though, an uncommonly good boy, and why did you send it to him?
"P. S.--Please answer immediately, as I am for particular reasons anxious to know about it, though nothing out of the way, I trust."
To which the following note came by return of mail:
"My Dear Mrs. Jollipop.--Mrs. Dorothy Bersimore, who, is not much of a letter writer, has asked me to reply to your kind favor just received. She will, at her leisure, answer you in regard to the pickles and sausages. I am, however, exceedingly anxious about my grandson Robert. No money has been sent him from home--a thing I do not approve of, either by Mrs. Dorothy or myself. I should at once go to Dorchester, were I not prevented by my very feeble health, which makes even the task of letter-writing a difficulty. I have written to Robert and Dr. Neverasole by this same mail, and shall await with anxiety the replies.
"I am very gratefully yours,
To Dr. Neverasole Mrs. Graham wrote, begging him to inquire into the matter, as fully as possible; and to Robert she wrote, also, an affectionate letter, asking what it meant. Mrs. Jollipop was confounded. Robert had told her that Mrs. Dorothy had sent him the gold pieces, and here was a letter from Mrs. Graham, stating that no money had been sent Robert, from home. Could Robert have lied? She went about for several hours, with the letter in her hand, quite upset, and almost baked it in a mince pie she was preparing for the dinner of the Polytechnic establishment.
Mr. Whooney, to whom, with many urgent entreaties for profound secrecies, she communicated the contents of the letter, only shook his head half sorrowfully, half fiercely, and replied, "I told you so!"
Mrs. Jollipop could not resist also telling the whole story--under the promise, repeated at least twenty times, that she would never tell--no--not even her mother--to Miss Hetty Neverasole, who, what between her pleasure at the thought of the engagement with Lucy being broken, and her sympathy for Mr. Whooney, and her firm belief in Robert Graham's innocence, was in a most pitiable condition, and went about, dying to tell somebody, and, at least, letting every one know that she had something to tell, if she only could.