"The Spiritualists and the Detectives" by Allan Pinkerton. Published by Good Press. Good Press publishes a wide range of titles that encompasses every genre. From well-known classics & literary fiction and non-fiction to forgotten−or yet undiscovered gems−of world literature, we issue the books that need to be read. Each Good Press edition has been meticulously edited and formatted to boost readability for all e-readers and devices. Our goal is to produce eBooks that are user-friendly and accessible to everyone in a high-quality digital format.
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I WISH to anticipate any adverse criticism that may be made upon the following pages, by being as frank with the public as I trust the critics will be fair with me.
Therefore I must say at the beginning that I expect many well-meaning people to differ with me as to the propriety of giving this book to the public; but I am exceedingly hopeful that that difference will not amount to a serious condemnation. Nor can I think it will when I earnestly assert that I have caused its publication out of as honest a motive as I ever possessed; and I am sure that whatever the American people have come to think of me in other respects, they are pretty certain of my honesty.
The incidents related are true, though, out of a proper regard for my patrons and many who do not sustain that relation, but who unavoidably become identified in numberless ways with my operations in ferreting out crime and criminals, I have deemed it best to locate the story in a city several hundred miles from the place where the occurrences really transpired, and, for the same reason, have given the characters fictitious names; but the incidents are exact parallels of the original facts, and in many cases are literal transcripts of, while in every instance they agree with, the records of the case as minutely reported during its progress.
By way of further explanation, I desire to remind my readers how very difficult it is for those not familiar with the detective business to realize the masses of iniquity we are often obliged to unearth, unpalatable as the work may be and is. But while, from the nature of my business, my records are necessarily so exhaustive, and have been made so thoroughly minute, as to contain simply everything, good or bad, regarding an operation, and are, therefore, as records, reliable and true—though they thus become repositories of much that is vile—I have striven in every instance, while relating the truth and nothing but the truth, to speak of unpleasant things in as delicate a manner as possible, and in a way which, while plain enough to convey with proper force and directness the moral lessons that these developments cannot fail to impress upon the minds of all readers, might still leave no unclean thought behind them; and the only sense in which a charge that my "Detective Stories" were in any respect untrue might be sustained, would be in the fact that I have in numberless instances, for the very good reason mentioned, told immeasurably less, and never more, than the whole truth.
I make no assumption of having given in this book an exhaustive exposé of modern spiritualism, and I wish it as well remembered that I have no more prejudice against the good there is in that ism than I have against the good there is in any other ism; but my experience with these people, which has been large, has invariably been against their honesty or social purity.
So far as there being anything about Spiritualism to compel awe or attract any but weak-minded or "weak-moraled" people, the assumption is simply absurd; for the few illustrations given in the following pages will show how utterly preposterous the claim of supernatural power is, as applied to the cause of these "manifestations," which are not, in themselves, first-class tricks, but which, when made mysterious and enshrouded with the element of superstitious fear—which all of us in some measure possess—lead crowds of inconsiderate people into unusual eccentricities, if not eventually into insane asylums, as in some painful instances of which the public are already well aware.
In my exceptionally strange avocation I have been enabled to view this entire matter from the side which the public cannot reach—the side where the fraud of it all is so apparent that it becomes disgustingly monotonous and common; and as a matter of duty to those who are half inclined to accept Spiritualism as a divine revelation and blessed experience, I have given but a single case—a sample of hundreds of others—which illustrates the despicable character of many, if not a majority, of Spiritualism's public champions and private disciples; only adding that in this instance the picture does not show a thousandth part of the hideousness of the original.
The Judge Williams mentioned as having presided at Batavia, N. Y., is no myth, but an eminent jurist at present sitting upon the bench of one of the most important courts in the country. He has not only furnished a copy of his scathing remarks to the Winslow-Lyon jury upon their disagreement, as related, but will vouch for the correctness of much of this narrative, as most of the facts mentioned came under his personal observation.
I have given them to the public trusting they will fill some good place in the world, and assist in removing from the minds of those who are occupying the debatable ground regarding the question of the genuineness of Spiritualism and Spiritualistic "manifestations" the superstitious fear and the sensuous fascination which have heretofore bound and held them.
Chicago, January, 1877.
THE SPIRITUALISTSANDTHE DETECTIVES.
"Kal'm'zoo!"—The Home of the Nettletons.—Lilly Nettleton.—A wild Heart and a burning Brain.
MOST commercial and uncommercial travellers filling the swift shuttles of transit between the East and the West will remember that while passing through Michigan, over the Central road, the brakeman has shrieked the legend "Kal'm'zoo!" at them as the train rushed into one of the prettiest little cities in the country. There is nothing particularly picturesque about Kalamazoo, unless the wondering face of some harmless lunatic, on parole from the Asylum which stands so gloomily among the hills beyond the town, the solemn visage of some Baptist University student, who with his toast, tea and Thucydides, has become grave and attenuated, or the plump form of some "seminary girl" who will look at the incoming trains, and flout her handkerchief too, in spite of parents, principals, and all the proprieties, and the ordinary ebb and flow of the life of a stirring provincial town, may be so considered. Neither is there anything particularly interesting about Kalamazoo, save its native, quiet beauty. It meets life easily, and, like a happily-disposed tradesman, takes its full measure of traffic and enjoyment with undisturbed tranquillity, cultivating neat yards and streets, the social graces, and occasionally the arts, with a lazy sort of satisfaction that is pleasant to look upon and contemplate.
Standing at any street-corner of the city, you will see wide avenues of fine business houses or elegant residences, and, where the latter, a wealth of neatly-trimmed shrubbery, and long lines of overarching maple trees merging into pretty vistas which seem to invite you beyond to the beautiful hills, uplands and valleys, with their murmuring streams, sloping farms and well-kept homes, where both plenty and contentment seem to be waiting to give you a right hearty welcome.
About twenty-five years ago, when the country was much newer, and the sturdy farmers that have made this great West blossom so magically until it has become the whole world's storehouse, were held closely to their arduous work by the hard hand of necessity and toil, a few miles up the river from the then little village of Kalamazoo might have been seen a comfortable log farm-house which nestled within a pretty ravine sloping down to the banks of the lazily-flowing stream. It was a plain, homely sort of a place, but there was an air of thrift and cleanliness about the locality that told of earnest toil and its sure reward.
The farm was of that character generally described as "openings;" here a clump of oak, beech, and maple trees, there a rich stretch of meadow-land; beyond, a series of hills extending to the uplands, the bases of which were girted with groves, and whose summits were composed of a warm, rich, stony loam, where the golden seas of ripening grain, touched by passing zephyrs, waved and shimmered in the glowing summer sun; while where the river wound along towards the villages below, there was a dense growth of elm, maple, and beech trees, standing there dark and sombre, save where the glintings of sunlight pierced their foliaged armor, like grim sentinels of the centuries.
This was the home of Robert Nettleton, a plain and uneducated farmer, who had several years before removed from the East with his family, and with them was slowly accumulating a competence for his declining days.
Robert Nettleton's family consisted of himself, his wife, and their three children. He was looked upon by his neighbors as somewhat erratic and strange, being repelling in his manner, and at times sullen and reticent. He went about his duties in a severe way, and at all times compelled the strictest obedience from each member of his family. On the contrary, his wife was a meek-eyed little woman, patient and long-suffering, and was looked upon in the neighborhood as a nonentity from her unresisting, broken-down demeanor, save in times of sickness and trouble, when she was immediately in great demand, as she had little to say, but much to do, and had an effective method of noiseless, tender watching and nursing at command, which was at all times ungrudgingly employed.
The children consisted of one boy and two girls, the eldest of whom, now in her eighteenth year, little dreamed of the despicable commotion she was to create in after-life, and was the reigning belle of the community, though she always kept the country bumpkins at a respectful distance and was feared by fully as many as she was admired, from her impetuous, imperious ways, that brooked no opposition or hinderance. One would have to travel a long distance to find a more attractive figure and face than those possessed by this country girl. She was somewhat above the medium height, a living model for a Venus, supple and lithe as the willows that grew upon the banks of the winding stream, and so physically powerful that she had already gained some notoriety among her acquaintances through having soundly shaken the pedagogue of the district school, and afterwards pitched him through the window into an adjacent snow-drift, where he had remained buried to his middle, his legs wildly waving signals of distress, until she had just as impulsively released him.
Although somewhat strange and unusual, her features, while not strikingly beautiful, were still singularly attractive. Her head, which was large and seemingly well provided with faculties of quick perception, was covered with a wondrous wealth of black hair, so heavy and luxurious as to be almost unmanageable, and which, when not in restraint, fell about her form, hiding it completely, nearly to her feet. Her forehead was full and prominent, while her eyes, large and rather deeply set, and fringed with heavy lashes, were of that peculiar gray color which at times may be touched by all shades, while a trace of blue always predominates. There was nothing worth remarking about other portions of her face, save that, critically examined, too much of it seemed to have got into her chin, and her upper lip had a strange habit of hugging her brilliantly white teeth too closely, and then curling upward before meeting the lower one, where sometimes crimson and ashy paleness played like quick and cruel lightning, a key to the slumbering devils within her. At these times, too, there was a certain light in her eyes that an observing person would feel a peculiar dread of awakening, though usually her face showed a complete repose, and it would have been difficult to decide whether she was a very ordinary or a very extraordinary character.
Still, with her magnificent figure and strangely attractive face, she was a young woman to strongly draw just two classes of men towards her—students of character and students of form. The first she invariably disappointed and repelled, always awakening the indefinable dread I have mentioned, while her presence among the latter class as swiftly opened the floodgates of passion to swiftly sweep the better nature and all good resolves before it. So, with her peculiarly unfortunate construction, it is not strange that, on arriving at that period of life when the almost omnipotent power of a self-willed woman begins to develop and hint at the possibilities beyond the threshold of the strange life her inexperienced feet had just reached, Lilly Nettleton should have felt an oppressive sense of littleness in the quiet community in which she lived, and experienced a burning desire to cast these humble associations from her, to compel admiration and conquer whoever and whatever she might meet in the wide, wide world beyond.
The "Circuit-Rider."—Mr. Pinkerton and these Gospel Knights-Errant in the early Days.—The Rev. Mr. Bland appears.—"And Satan came also!"—A "charge" is established.—A Compact "where the golden maple-leaves fall."—Bland departs.—"The scared form of a young Woman steals away from her Home!"
DURING the summer the presiding elder of the Kalamazoo district decided to bid for the benighted souls that dwelt in Mr. Nettleton's neighborhood, and made arrangements to "supply" the school-house at the corners where Lilly had distinguished herself in giving the schoolmaster a cold bath in the snow-bank, with circuit-riders, or with young clergymen who had just graduated and were supposed to be in training for more extended fields of labor.
At that time the system of salvation as carried on by the Methodist Church—which must certainly be credited with a vast amount of push and energy in furthering its peculiar plan of redemption—outside of the large cities was almost exclusively one which necessitated the employment of circuit-riders, as they were then called, and are now called in some portions of the extreme west. They were usually men of great suavity of manner, personal bravery, unbounded zeal, and remarkable religious enthusiasm. They trusted principally in the Lord, but also placed implicit confidence in the extraordinary hospitality of the plain pioneer people with whom they came in contact, who, if not prepared to accept everything told them, responded to their strenuous efforts for their salvation by an unqualified welcome; so that the appearance of the circuit-rider, or "supply," was not only cause for unusual Bible catechism and hymn reading, but also a signal for culinary preparations on a grand scale, to which, as a rule, the hen-roost materially contributed.
Time and time again, in the early days, have I journeyed with these Gospel Knights-errant, listening to their interesting adventures, almost as strange as my own, and their simple tales of blessed experiences; often tarrying with them at their "stations," and for some good purpose, best known to myself, joining in their efforts to sow seed meet unto repentance as we crossed the beautiful streams and broad prairies of Illinois; and as we journeyed along so pleasantly together the thought that my comrade was giving his whole life to the work of saving sin-sick souls, while mine was as irrevocably devoted to bringing many of them to summary justice, has flashed across my mind with such startling force, that the dramatic nature of the life we live was presented to me more powerfully than I have since seen it shown before the footlights of any of the grandest theatres of the world.
As the Nettleton family had belonged to that church in the East, and had also attended service at the village when the roads and weather were favorable, they were, of course, leaders in the plan to secure "meetings" nearer home; and when the good brother made his appearance one pleasant autumn Saturday afternoon, as was natural, he directed his faithful Rozinante to the comfortable log-house by the river, where both it and its reverend rider were given a genuine welcome.
The new preacher was none of your soiled, worked-out, toiling itinerants. He was a young clergyman, scarcely thirty years old, and just from college; tall, well-formed, with a florid, smoothly-shaven face, and plenty of hair and hallelujah about him. He could tell you all about the stars, and just as easily point out the merits or demerits in your plate of mutton or porter-house; and, being of this tropical nature, if there were two things above any other two things in life for which he had a penchant, they were a spirited nag and a spirited woman. In fact, he had accepted the ministry just the same as he would have accepted any other profession, merely as a makeshift, and had submitted to being ground through the theological mill, and afterwards to this backwoods breaking-in process, simply because his widowed mother, a Detroit lady, was immensely pious and also immensely wealthy; and if he should become a noted minister, he would get all her property, which otherwise would go to the good cause direct, but which, once in his hands, would enable him to gratify his elegant tastes and do as he pleased generally.
So, being a thorough judge of women, he was at once more interested in Lilly Nettleton than in the welfare of the souls of the Nettleton neighborhood; and after a bountiful supper had been disposed of, and the family were gathered upon the verandah for a pleasant chat with the minister in the long, hazy September sunset, and the Rev. Mr. Bland—for that was the young clergyman's name—had flattered Mr. Nettleton on the merits of his pretty farm, Mrs. Nettleton upon her elegant cooking, and the younger children upon their various degrees of perfection, he passed directly to the subject which most occupied his mind, and in a patronizing way, evidently with a view of attracting Lilly's attention without arousing the suspicions of her honest parents, said:
"By the way, Mr. Nettleton, your beautiful daughter here—ah, what may I call her? thank you, Lilly; and a very appropriate name, too—is the perfect image of a very dear friend of ours—my mother's and my own—in Detroit."
There was certainly a flush on Lilly's face deeper than could have been put there by the red glow of the setting sun. Mr. Bland did not fail to notice it either; and as there was no response to his remark, he continued, occasionally glancing at Lilly, who, though apparently only interested in her needle-work, drank in every word that fell from the reverend gentleman's lips.
"In fact," said the minister, "the resemblance is quite striking, though I really think your daughter Lilly is the finer-looking of the two—indeed, has quite an intellectual face, and would, I am sure, make a thorough student."
"But she won't go to school here," interrupted Mr. Nettleton; while the strange light came into Lilly's eyes and the crimson and ashy paleness played upon the curled lips.
"But, Brother Nettleton, you must remember that we are not all similarly created. The world must have its hewers of wood and drawers of water, but it must also have its grand minds to direct——"
"I can do all the directin' necessary here," bluntly persisted Mr. Nettleton.
"Of course, of course," pleasantly continued Mr. Bland, talking at Lilly, though answering her father; "but I hope Lilly can some time have those advantages which would certainly cause her to shine in society——"
"And despise her home!" said Mr. Nettleton, bitterly.
The storm was still playing fiercely over Lilly's face, and her heaving bosom told how hard a struggle was necessary to restrain her from then and there saying or doing some reckless thing, and then rushing away into the woods and the night to escape the restraint that set so heavily upon her imperious spirit.
"No, I think not," replied Mr. Bland soothingly. "I am a pretty good judge of human nature, though a young man, and am sure that Lilly has a kind heart and will prove a blessing to your later years. Our dear Detroit friend was also a little spirited, but she is now one of the leaders of Sunday-school and church society, and is much sought after—yes, much sought after," repeated Mr. Bland slowly, as he saw its effect upon Lilly.
The clergyman's good opinion of their daughter made the simple parents really happy; but she knew as well as he what it was all said for, and she already hated the flippant Mr. Bland, for her quick woman's instinct—they never reason—had analyzed him thoroughly. But her heart throbbed at the idea of being considered "fine-looking," and her brain burned with the desire to also become "sought after." Yes, young and inexperienced as she was, she was old in the crime of impure thought and unbridled ambition, and was ready to lend herself to any scheme, however questionable, that might offer release, or give promise of the gratification of her passion for notoriety, and ruling or ruining anything with which she came in contact.
After this the evening passed pleasantly to the old people, who, after a time, went into the house to attend to their several duties; and also to the young people, Mr. Bland and Lilly, who, without any effort on the part of either, had arrived at a thorough understanding—so much so, indeed, that when the voice of Mr. Nettleton was heard apprising Mr. Bland that he would show him to his room whenever he desired to retire, he quietly stepped near to where Lilly was sitting in the weird moonlight, and taking her pretty, warm hand within his own, said rapidly, but in a low voice:
"My dear Lilly, I have a deep interest in you; your people cannot understand it, and, should they know it, would only suspect me, and watch and restrain you. Make an opportunity for us to be together alone. I will remain until you accomplish it; and—" Mr. Nettleton's step was now heard in the hall—"quick, Lilly! do we understand each other?"
She gave him a look that would have withered any but a lecherous villain as he was; but he met it in kind, as she whispered "Yes!" and added, disengaging herself as Bland stealthily stepped back and carelessly leaned against the door:
"What book did you say?"
"Ah, yes—'hem! 'Young's Night Thoughts.' It is a pure book, and would not only cultivate your mind, but aid you in the common duties of life. I will send it to you, and you can read it aloud to your parents. I know they will enjoy it too! Ha! Mr. Nettleton, excuse me Lilly, of course you will join us at prayers?"
She had been taught her first lesson, was an apt scholar, too; and as the man of God on his bended knees prayed that all blessings might descend upon this happy home, however much his cursed soul might have been stung by the devilish hypocrisy of the hour, there was not a pang of remorse in her heart for the bold step she knew she had taken.
Lilly did not attend service at the school-house on Sabbath, and made her appearance but once or twice during the day, feigning illness; but on Monday she was about the house fresh and rosy as ever, and the first opportunity that offered suggested to Bland the propriety of asking her out for a boat-ride on the river, which he did in the afternoon during Mr. Nettleton's absence, his meek wife thinking it a great honor to the family, and in her poor mother's heart, no doubt, praying that the good man might so soften her proud daughter's heart that she might be bettered, and eventually led to the source of all good.
Whether he did or not, if the reader of this book could have followed the couple up the winding river to a secluded spot where the golden maple-leaves fell upon the stream and were borne away in silence, whatever of mad passion or reckless guilt might have been discovered, just before they stepped into the boat to float with the tide back to the dishonored home, a certain Rev. Mr. Bland might have been seen placing in Lilly Nettleton's shameless hand a roll of bills, and heard to say to the same person:
"Be sure, now—next Sunday night. Row down to Kalamazoo in this boat, and take the late night train for Detroit. Go to the Michigan Exchange Hotel, where I will meet you Monday evening!"
So the little neighborhood had had its "religious supply," but had also had its loss; for, as the weird moonlight of the next Sunday evening fell upon the quiet log farm-house, built strange forms among the moaning, almost leafless trees, and pictured upon the river's bosom a thousand ghostly figures, the scared form of a young woman stole away from her home, glided to the murmuring stream, sprang into the little boat, and was borne away to the hell of her future just as noiselessly but just as resistlessly as the river itself pushed onward to the great lakes, and was swept from thence to the ultimate, all-absorbing sea!
Lilly in Detroit.—First and last Remorse.—The reverend Villain and his Victim enjoy the Hospitality of the Michigan Exchange Hotel.—A Scene.—"Bland, am I to go to your Mother's, as you promised?"—The Clergyman(?) "crazed."—Everything, save Respectability.—A Woman's Will—And a Man's Cajolement.
TO the imagination of the wayward country girl Detroit was a great city, and as she was whirled into the depot, where she saw the rushing river beyond, and was hustled hither and thither by the clamorous cabmen, a sense of giddiness came upon her, and for the first, and undoubtedly last time, she yearned for the quiet of the old log farm-house by the pleasant river.
Perhaps the old forms and faces called to her imploringly, pleading with her, as only the simple things of home, however plain and commonplace, can plead with the wandering one; and in a swift, agonized longing for the restfulness which the meanest virtue gives, but which had forever fled from her, the thought, if not the words:
sped through her mind in a pitiful way; but just as she had almost resolved to return to her parents, ask their forgiveness, and disclose the character of the reverend villain, a man approached her, who, saying he was "from Bland," conducted her to a carriage in waiting and conveyed her to the Michigan Exchange Hotel, where she was fictitiously registered, and the clerk informed that her brother would call for her in the evening.
She had been assigned a very pretty room, elegantly furnished, and the windows gave her a view of the river and the shipping, with Windsor and the bluff hills of Canada beyond. It was all beautiful and wonderful to her—the hotel a palace, the river, with its great steamers, vessels, and ferries—a fairy scene; and Windsor, with the broken country beyond, all covered by the soft, blue, gossamer veil of early autumn—a beautiful dream!
With her thoroughly unprincipled nature there was a lazy sort of enjoyment in all this; and when her dinner was brought to her room, as had been previously ordered by the hackman, and she was gingerly served by an ordinarily nimble waiter, but who took every possible occasion to illustrate the fact that he was cultivated and she was not, she received the attention in as dignified a manner as though born to rule, and had been accustomed to the service of menials from infancy.
The afternoon wore away, and as the gas-lights began to flare out upon the city, a gentle tap was heard at her door, and a moment after, before an invitation to enter had been given, the oily Bland slid into Lilly's apartment, closed the door after him, and turned the key in the lock. Then he walked right over to where Lilly was sitting upon the sofa, and took her in his arms, saying:
"Well, I see my dearest Lilly has kept her word."
She allowed him to fondle her just long enough to dare to repel him gently, and answered:
"After what passed by the river, I could not do otherwise than keep my word. Yes, your 'dearest Lilly' has kept her word. And what now, Mr. Bland?"
Seeing that she was disposed to ask leading questions, he changed the subject laughingly.
"Why, some supper, of course," and immediately rang the bell, ordering of the servant, who appeared directly, a sumptuous spread, not forgetting a bottle of wine.
During the preparation of the meal Lilly stepped to the window, and pressing her restless face against the panes, seemed intently regarding the dancing lights upon the broad river, while Bland whistled softly, and warmed his delicate, pliable hands at the coals in the fireplace, which gave to the chilly evening a pleasant, cheery glow. Suddenly she stepped close to him, leaned her head in her left hand, her elbow resting upon the marble mantel, while with her right hand she firmly grasped his shoulder. She then said, in a quiet, determined way:
"Bland, am I to go to your mother's, as you promised?"
She said this in such a resolute, icy way, and her hand rested upon his shoulder so heavily, that, for the first time, he looked at her as if satisfied that he had a beautiful tigress in keeping, and it might possibly require supreme will force to control her.
"No, Lilly, you will not go to my mother's."
"Then I will go home."
"You will not go home. You will remain here."
"Bland, no person on God's earth shall say 'will' to me. That is just as certain as the course of that river!" and her long, trembling forefinger swept towards the rushing stream.
The appearance of the waiter with supper quieted the conversation, which was becoming stormy, and it was only resumed when Bland saw that Lilly was mellowing under the influence of the wine, which thrilled through her veins, pushing the rich, healthy blood to her cheeks, and lighting her great gray eyes with a wonderful lustre. It could not be said that he loved the girl, but he had a mad passion for her which was simply overwhelming at these times when, untutored and uncultivated as she was, she became truly queenly in appearance.
It was a dainty little supper served upon a dainty little table, and they were sitting very closely together, and Bland, after feasting his eyes upon her magnificent form for a time, drew her into his arms impulsively, kissing her again and again, calling her endearing names, and promising her everything that could come to the tongue of a talented man made wild by wine and a woman.
"Lilly, you have crazed me—ruined me!" he said, excitedly. "You know what I profess to be—a Christian minister! God forgive me for my cursed weakness, but you have me in your power!"
Although her face rested against his, and their hot cheeks burned together, the old wicked light gleamed in her eyes, and the crimson and ashy paleness played upon the curled lip. If it all could have been seen by the reverend gentleman, it would have sobered him. The words "in your power" had flung the lightning into Lilly Nettleton's face. Power, power, power! No matter how secured; no matter what the result. The very word maddened her, made a scheming devil of her, but also made her ready for any proposition Bland might offer, as it swiftly came into her mind that the deeper she sank with him the greater would be her power over him.
"Well?" she said, reassuringly.
"'Well?'—I am at your mercy. A knowledge of what has passed between us would be my ruin; your ruin also. We have done what cannot be undone; yes," he continued passionately, and drawing her closer to him, "what I would not undo!"
"Well?" It was tenderly said, and gave him courage.
"I am rich, or will be, Lilly."
"If you are careful," she added with a light laugh.
"Exactly. I can do a great deal for you, and will——"
"Yes, conditionally. The conditions are that you live quietly at an elegant place to which we will shortly be driven. You will be mistress of the place; that is, you will have everything you can desire——"
"Save respectability, Mr. Bland?"
She was shrewder than he—in fact, his master already; but hinted at the sale of her soul so heartlessly that it shocked even him.
"You had 'respectability' at home, Lilly; and," glancing at her plain garments, which were a burlesque upon her beautiful figure, "and old clothes, and surveillance, and restraint, and——"
"Bland," she said, springing to her feet with such violence as to send him sprawling to the floor, from which he stared in amazement at her magnificent form, which trembled like a leaf, while the wicked lightning gleamed from her eyes, and swift shuttles of color flashed back and forth upon her lips; "Bland, be careful! Never speak to me again of the meanness of my home. The meanness of your black heart is a million times greater. You have something more than a country girl to deal with, sir; you have a woman and a woman's will. It is enough that I have sold my body and soul for what you can, or might, give me. I bargained for no contempt; and, Bland," she continued, advancing towards him fiercely as he regained his feet and retreated from her in dismay, "as sure as there is a heaven, and as sure as there ought to be a hell for such as we, if you begin it, I will kill you! Yes," she hissed, "I will kill you!" and then, woman-like, having passed the climax of feeling and expression, she threw herself on the bed for a good cry, while Bland, with wine and words and countless caresses, soothed her wild spirit, bringing her back to pliant good nature, where she was as putty in his dexterous hands.
Tells how the Rev. Mr. Bland preached a Funeral Sermon.—Shows a dainty Cottage, holding more than the Neighbors knew.—Installs Lilly as a Clergyman's Mistress.—Reverts to a Desolate Home.—Introduces Dick Hosford, a returned "Forty-Niner," who begins a despairing Search.—And shows that unholy, as well as true Love, does not always run smoothly.
SHORTLY afterwards a closed cabriolet containing two persons was rapidly driven from the Michigan Exchange up Wisconsin street, from thence into Griswold, and out towards the suburbs, finally drawing up before a neat cottage-house, where the lights, peeping around the edges of the drawn curtains, showed the place to be in a state of preparation.
A man and a woman quickly alighted from the carriage, and as the woman, apparently a young one, though closely veiled, stepped to the gate, opened it and waited for her escort, the gentleman said in a low tone to the coachman:
"James, drive to the house and inform mother that while down town this evening I received an unexpected call to Ann Arbor, to preach a funeral sermon over the remains of an old student-friend at the University, and that I may not be home until late to-morrow evening;" then, after handing James some coin, "you understand, James?"
James thought he understood, grinned grimly, put the money in his pocket and drove away.
"Remember, Lilly," said Bland, stepping to the gate and taking her arm, "you are Lilly Mercer here."
"And you are never to mention anything regarding yourself to the lady who owns this place."
"I think I can keep my own counsel."
"And, if any inquiries are made here, by any person whatever, regarding myself, you are to be innocently and utterly ignorant."
"And what are you to do?" asked Lilly, naïvely.
"I?—why I am to do well by you."
"Just so long as you do that, Bland, you are perfectly safe!"
She had taken to dictating also; but it was a pretty little cottage and grounds, and a feeling of satisfaction at being their mistress, even if it necessitated being his mistress, came over her that made her affable and winning, if she did occasionally say things that hinted at a stormy future.
They strolled up the broad brick walk, he thrilled with his magnificent capture, and she just as satisfied with the power she had attained over one so high socially, and who stood in such near prospect of obtaining vast wealth. Instead of entering the house at its little front door with its highly ornamented porch, they opened the door of a little trellis-worked addition to the cottage, which was now covered by an almost leafless mass of vines, and passed to a side entrance, where a gentle pull of the bell caused the immediate appearance of a very fat and very flabby woman of middle age, who at once conducted them to a suite of rooms, consisting of a parlor and a large sleeping-room, between which, in place of the original folding-doors, had been substituted rich hangings sufficiently drawn apart to admit of the passage of one person, and which, with the tastefully draped windows, the deeply-framed pictures, the vari-colored marble mantels and fireplaces, the heavy, yielding carpet giving back no sound to the foot-fall, and the great easy-chairs into which one sank as into pillows of down, gave the rooms the hintings of such luxuriousness that Lilly was completely dazzled and bewildered with the unexpected elegance, and the, to her, never before realized splendor.
"Mother Blake," said Bland, "this is Lilly Mercer, who is my friend, and whom you are to make comfortable."
Mother Blake, as if realizing that her duties began whenever Bland spoke, majestically crossed the room, sat down beside Lilly and immediately kissed her very affectionately, merely remarking, "And a very nice girl she is, too, Mr. Bland."
"That'll do, mother. You may get us a small bottle of wine, and then go to bed. It's getting late, and you know you need a good deal of sleep."
Mother Blake chuckled, and shook from it as though her enjoyment of any sort of pleasantry came to the surface only in a series of ripples over her great fat body, instead of in echoes of enjoyment from her great fat throat. But it might have been merely a habit with its origin in the necessities of her quiet mode of life; and, doing as requested, only lingered to fasten back the curtain so that the low, luxurious bed came temptingly into view, after which she beamingly backed out of the room, wishing the couple "a pleasant night, and many of 'em!"
If shame hovered over this pretty place, it did not pale the amber glow of the sparkling wine; it came not into the ruddy coals upon the hearth, which gave forth their glowing warmth just as cheerily as from any other hearth in the broad land; it never dimmed the light from the gilded chandeliers; it put no crimson flush upon the faces which touched each other with an even flow of blood, nor quickened the pulses of the hands that as often met; and God only knows whether, when, as sleep came down upon the city, and the man and woman rested in each other's arms upon the bed beyond the rich curtains (which, as the light in the fireplaces grew or waned, never contained one ghostly rustle or semblance), there was even a guilty dream to mark its presence!
But what of the inmates of the old log farm-house by the pleasant river?
The morning came, and the agonized parents found that their daughter had gone. Robert Nettleton set his teeth and swore that he would never search for her, while his poor wife was completely broken and crushed as much from the agonized fears that flooded into her heart as from the actual loss of her child.
The most dejected member of the household, however, was a new-comer, one Dick Hosford, who years before had drifted into the Nettleton family and had been brought up by them until, becoming a stout young man, he was borne away in the gold excitement with the "Forty-niners" to California, where by hard work and no luck whatever, being an honest, simple soul, he had got together a few thousand dollars; with no announcement of his proposed return, had come back as far as Terre Haute, Indiana, where he had purchased a snug farm, and immediately turned his footsteps towards Mr. Nettleton's, arriving there the very morning after Lilly's departure, as he said, "to marry the gal, but couldn't find her shadder."
He was simply inconsolable, and it took off the keen edge of the parents' grief somewhat to find that another shared it with them, and even seemed to feel that it was all his own.
So it was arranged that the inquisitive neighbors should only know that Lilly had "gone to town for a week or two," while Dick Hosford should go to Chicago, and then back east as far as Detroit, making diligent search for something even more tangible than the "shadder" of the lost girl; and as he said good-by to the Nettletons with quivering lips and suspiciously dimmed eyes, he added:
"Bob Nettleton, and mother—for you've always been a half-dozen mothers to me—don't ye never expect to see me back to these yer diggin's 'thout I bring the gal. I've sot my heart onto her; and" with an oath that the Recording Angel as surely blotted out as Uncle Toby's, for it was only the clinching of a brave determination, "I'll have her if I find her in a——" He stopped suddenly as he saw the pain in their faces, shook their hands in a way that told them more than his simple words ever could have expressed, and trudged away with as little certainty of finding whom he sought, save by accident—or, if found, of securing the prize for himself, unless through her whim—as of ever himself becoming anything save the honest, faithful, gullible soul that he was.
At Detroit, Mother Blake had orders to provide Lilly Mercer, her latest charge, with a suitable wardrobe and some fine pieces of jewelry, which was accordingly done; and in the novelty of her transformation, which really made her a beautiful young woman, her ardor of fondness for Bland was certainly sufficient to gratify both his vanity and passion to the fullest extent. But, to some women, both passion and finery must be frequently renewed in order to insure constancy; and while Bland was as hopelessly in her toils as ever, as she had always despised him and now despised his offerings, which were neither so numerous or costly as at first, she became almost unmanageable, caused Mother Blake great perturbation of spirit, and led Bland a deservedly stormy life.
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