Read PART THREE : RECOVERY of Pirate Gold, free online book, by Frederic Jesup Stimson, on ReadCentral.com.

I

The customer of St. Clair’s firm was paid off, the partnership was dissolved without scandal, and the St. Clairs went to live in New Orleans. Jamie occupied one room in the attic of the old house in Salem Street. He wrote no more letters to Mercedes: he did not feel that he was worthy now to write to her. And a year or two after her arrival in New Orleans her letters ceased. She had thanked Jamie sorrowfully when he had paid over the money in New York, and kissed him with her pale lips (though his face was still paler), and upon the memory of this he had lived. But he had fancied her lips wore a new line; their curves had gone; and her eyes had certainly new depth.

When Mercedes ceased to write, Jamie did not complain. He knew well what the trouble was, and that her husband wished her to write to him for more money. But he could do no more for her. And after this his hope was tired, and Jamie hardly had the wish to write. The only link between them now was his prayer at night. The dry old Scotchman had come to prayer at last, for her if not for himself.

And the office lost their interest in him. Only the Bowdoins were true. For the “foreign mail” no longer came; and Jamie was no longer seen writing private letters on his ledger page. His dress grew so shabby that old Mr. Bowdoin had to speak to him about it. He had no long absences at lunch-time, but took a sandwich on the street. In fact, Jamie had grown to be a miser.

Great things were happening in those days, but Jamie took no heed of them. Human liberty was in the air; love of man and love of law were at odds, and clashed with each other in the streets; Jamie took no heed of them. They jostled on the pavement, but Jamie walked to his task in the morning, and back at night, between them; seeing mankind but as trees, walking; bowed down with the love of one. And he who had never before thought of self could think now only of his own dishonor. As a punishment, he tried not to think of her, except only at night, when his prayers permitted it; but he thought of her always. His crime made him ashamed to write to her; his single-heartedness made him avoid all other men.

Only one man, in all those years, did Jamie seem willing to talk to, at the office, and that man was Harleston Bowdoin. Had he not loved her? Jamie never spoke of her; but Harleston had a happy impulse, and would talk to the old man about Mercedes. Away from business, Jamie would walk in all the places where her feet had trod. He would go to King’s Chapel Sundays; and he looked up John Hughson again, and would sit with him, wondering. John had married a stout wife, and had sturdy children. Hughson petted the old man, and gave him pipes of tobacco; for McMurtagh was too poor to buy tobacco, those days. The children on Salem Street feared him, as a miser; which was hard, for Jamie was very fond of little children.

How does a man live whose heart rules his soul, and is broken; whose conscience rules his head, and is dishonored? For men so heavy laden, heaven was, and has been lost. But Jamie never thought his soul immortal until his love for Mercedes came into it; perhaps not consciously now. Such thoughts would have seemed to him childish. How, then, did Jamie live? For no man can live quite without hope, as we believe, hope of some event, some end of suffering, at least of some worthier act.

With Jamie it was the hope of restitution. He wished to leave behind him, as the score of his life, that he had been true to his employer and had loved his little ward. And if the time could ever come when he could do more for her, it would not be until his theft was made good, and his hands were free, as his heart, to serve her again. For the one thing that Jamie stood for was integrity; that was all the little story of his life.

His salary was eighteen hundred dollars; at the end of the first year after his theft he had spent a hundred and fifty. Then he asked for two days’ leave of absence, and went to New York, where he exchanged sixteen hundred and forty dollars for Spanish gold pieces. A less old-fashioned man would have invested the money at six per cent, but Jamie could not forego the satisfaction of restoring the actual gold. Coming back, he opened the old chest, now empty, one day, after hours, and put the pieces in the box. The naked gold made a shining roll in its blackness, just reaching across the lower end; and poor Jamie felt the first thrill of not happiness, but something that was not sorrow nor shame. And then he pulled down the old ledger, and made the first entry on the Dr. side: “Restored by James McMurtagh, June 9, 1849, $1640.” The other ten dollars had gone for his journey to New York.

And that night, as he went home, he looked about him. He bowed (in his queer way) to one or two acquaintances who passed him, unconscious that he had been cutting them for a year. Before supper he went in to see John Hughson, carrying his pipe, and, without waiting to be offered it, asked to borrow a pinch of tobacco against the morrow, when he should buy some. The good Hughson was delighted, pressed a slab of “plug” upon him, and begged him to stay and have something liquid with his pipe. But Jamie would not; he was anxious to be alone.

His little bedroom gave upon the roof of the adjoining house in the rear; and here his neighbor kept a few red geraniums in boxes, and it was Jamie’s privilege to smoke his pipe among them. So this evening, after a hasty meal, he hurried up there. Beyond the roofs of the higher houses was a radiant golden sky, and in it the point of a crescent moon, and even as Jamie was lighting his pipe one star came.

Old Jamie breathed hard and sighed, and the sigh meant rest. He took a pleasure in the tobacco, in the look of the sky again.

And with this throb of returning life, in one great pulsation, his love rushed back to his heart, and he thought of Mercedes.... He sat up nearly all the night, and with the first light of dawn he wrote to her.

II

But Jamie got no answer to his letter, and he wrote again. Again he got no answer; and he wrote a third time, this time by registered mail; so that he got back a card, with her name signed to the receipt.

Jamie’s manner, unconsciously to himself, had changed since that first row of gold coins had gone into the black tin box; the tellers and the bookkeepers had observed it, and they began to watch his mail again. What was their glee to see among Jamie’s papers, one morning, a letter in the familiar feminine hand! “Jamie’s foreign mail has come!” the word went round. “I thought it must be on its way,” said the second bookkeeper; “haven’t you noticed his looks lately?” “The letter is postmarked New Orleans,” said the messenger boy, turning it over. But it was felt this went beyond friendly sympathy.

“Mr. O’Neill,” said Mr. Stanchion sternly, “if I see you again interfering with McMurtagh’s mail, you may go. What business is that of ours?”

Poor O’Neill hung his head, abashed. But all eyes were on Jamie as he opened his desk. He put the letter in his pocket. The clerks looked at one another. The suspense became unendurable. When old Mr. Bowdoin came in, the cashier told him what had happened. “Jamie’s foreign mail has come again. But he will never read it here, sir, and we can’t send him out till lunch-time: the chief bookkeeper”

The old gentleman’s eyes twinkled. “McMurtagh!” he cried (Mr. Bowdoin had always called Jamie so since he came into the bank), “will you kindly step down to my counting-room? I will meet you there in a few minutes, and there are some accounts I want you to straighten out for me.”

As Jamie hurried down to the Long Wharf, he pressed his coat tight against him. The letter lay in his pocket, and he felt it warm against his breast.

Neither Mr. James Bowdoin nor Harley was in the little room (it was just as Jamie remembered it when he first had entered it, no pretense of business was made there now), and he tore the letter open. Thus it ran:

NEW ORLEANS, August 30, 1849.

MY DEAR, DEAR JAMIE, If I have not written to you it was only because I did not want to bring more trouble on you. But things have gone from bad to worse with us. I feel that I should be almost too unhappy to live, only that David is with me now. [Jamie sobbed a little at this.] I wanted never to ask you for money again. But we are very, very poor. I will not give it to him. But if you could send me a little money, a hundred dollars would last me a long time.

Your loving M. ST. CLAIR.

Jamie laid his head upon the old desk, and his tears fell on the letter. What could he do? His conscience told him, nothing. All his earnings belonged to the employers he had robbed.

After a minute he took a sheet of paper and tried to write the answer, no. And Mr. Bowdoin came in, and caught him crying. The old gentleman knocked over a coal-scuttle, and turned to pick it up. By the time he had done so Jamie had rubbed the tears from his eyes, and stood there like a soldier at “Attention.”

“Jamie,” said Mr. Bowdoin, “I should like to make a little present to your ward, to Mercedes. Could you send it for me? I hope she is well?” And before Jamie could answer Mr. Bowdoin had written out a check for a hundred dollars. “Give her my love when you write. I must go to a directors meeting.” And he scurried away hurriedly.

Jamie sat down again and wrote his letter, and told her that the money was from Mr. Bowdoin. “But, dear heart,” it ended, “even if I cannot help you, always write.” And, going home that night, Jamie began to fancy that some omniscient power had put it into the old gentleman’s heart just then to do this thing.

III

Old Mr. Bowdoin, one morning, some time after this, stood at his window before breakfast, drumming on the pane. The gesture has commonly been understood to indicate discontent with one’s surroundings. Mrs. Bowdoin had not yet come down to breakfast. Outside, her worthy spouse could see the very tree upon which cousin Wendell Phillips had not been hanged; and his mouth relaxed as he saw his grandson Harley coming across the Common, and heard the portentous creaking that attended Mrs. Bowdoin’s progress down the stairs, the butler supporting her arm, and her maid behind attending her with shawl and smelling-salts. The old lady was in a rude state of health, but had not walked a step alone for several years. As she entered, Harley behind her, old Mr. Bowdoin gravely and ostentatiously pulled out a silver dollar and put it into the hand of the surprised young man.

“Pass it to the account,” said he.

Harley took the coin, and, detecting a wink, checked his expression of surprise.

“It all goes into the fund, my dear, to be given to your favorite charity the first time you are down in time for breakfast. It amounts to several thousand dollars already.”

Mrs. Bowdoin snorted, but, with a too visible effort, only asked Harley whether he would take coffee or tea.

“With accumulations, my dear, with accumulations. But you should not address me from your carriage in that yellow shawl, when I am talking to a stranger on the Common. At least, I thought it was Tom Pinckney, of the Providence Bank, but it turned out to be a stranger. He took me for a bunco-steerer.”

“James!”

“He did indeed, and you for my confederate,” chuckled the old gentleman. “‘Mr. Pinckney, of Providence, I believe?’ said I. ’No, you don’t,’ said he; and he put his finger on his nose, like that.”

“James!” said Mrs. Bowdoin.

“I didn’t mind don’t know when I’ve been so flattered must look like a pretty sharp old boy, after all, though I have been married to you for fifty years.”

“James, it’s hardly forty.”

“Well, I thought it was fifty. The last time I did meet Tom Pinckney, he asked if I’d married again. I said you’d give me no chance. ’Better take it when you can,’ said he. ‘That will I, Tom,’ says I. ’I’ve got one in my mind.’”

“Really, grandpa,” remonstrated young Harley.

“Don’t you talk, young man. Didn’t I hear of you at another Abolition meeting yesterday? And women spoke, too, short-haired women and long-haired men. Why can’t you leave them both where a wise Providence placed them? Destroy the only free republic the world has ever known for a parcel of well-fed niggers that’ll relapse into Voodoo barbarism the moment they’re freed!”

“James, the country knows that the best sentiment of Boston is with us.”

“The country doesn’t know Boston, then. And as for that crack-brained demagogue cousin of yours, he calls the Constitution a compact with hell! I hope I’ll live to see him hanged some day.”

“Wendell Phillips is a martyr indeed.”

“Martyr! Humbug! He couldn’t get any clients, so he took up a cause. Why, they say at the club that he”

“They said at the meeting last night, sir,” interrupted Harley, “that they’d march up to the club and make you fellows fly the American flag.”

“It’s Phillips wants to pull it down,” said the old gentleman.

Mrs. Bowdoin rattled the tea things.

“Don’t mind your grandma, Harley, if she is out of temper. She’s got a headache this morning. She went to bed with the hot-water bottle under her pillow and the brandy at her feet, and feels a little mixed.”

“James! I never took a brandy bottle upstairs with me in my life. And Harleston knows”

“Do you suppose he knows as well as I do, who have lived with you for fifty years?”

“And I’ll not stay with you to hear my cousin insulted!” Majestic, she rose.

“It’s too much of one girl,” chuckled Mr. Bowdoin. “No wonder men keep a separate establishment.”

“James!” Mrs. Bowdoin swept from the room.

“Don’t run upstairs alone; consider the butler’s feelings!” called her unfeeling spouse after her.

“You’re too bad, sir,” said Harley.

“I’m trying to develop her sense of humor; it’s the one thing I always said I’d have in a wife. Remember it, when you get married. Why the devil don’t you?”

“I have too much sense of humor, sir,” said Harley gravely. “What is that?” For a noise of much shouting was heard from the Common. Both men rushed to the windows, and saw, surrounded by a maddened crowd, a small company of federal soldiers marching north.

“What are they saying?” cried Mr. Bowdoin.

Every minute the crowd increased: men and women, well dressed, sober-looking, crying, “Shame! shame!” and topping by a head the little squad of undersized soldiers (for the regular army was then recruited almost entirely from foreigners) who marched hurriedly forward, with eyes cast straight before and downward, and dressed in that shabby blue that ten years later was to pour southward in serried column, all American then, to free those slaves whom now they hunted down.

“To the Court House! To the Court House!” cried the mob.

“It’s that fellow Simms,” said Mr. Bowdoin, but was interrupted by sounds as of a portly person running downstairs; and they saw the front door fly open and Mrs. Bowdoin run across the street, her cap-strings streaming in the air.

“By Jove, if Abolitionism can make your grandma run, I’ll forgive it a lot!” cried Mr. Bowdoin.

“Do you know the facts, sir?” suggested Harley.

“No, nor don’t want to,” said Mr. Bowdoin. “I know that we are jeopardizing the grandest experiment in free government the world has ever seen for a few African darkies that we didn’t bring here, and have already made Christians of, and a d d sight more comfortable than they ever were at home. But come, let’s go over, or I believe your grandma will be attacking the United States army all by herself!”

But the rescue was made unnecessary by the return of that lady, panting.

“Now, sir,” gasped Mrs. Bowdoin, “I hope you’re satisfied, that foreign Hessians control the laws of Massachusetts!”

“I am always glad to see the flag of my country sustained,” said Mr. Bowdoin dryly; “though we don’t fly it from our club.”

“I think you misunderstand, sir,” ventured Harley. “This Simms is arrested by the Boston sheriff for stabbing a man; and the Southerners have got the federal commissioner to refuse to give him up to justice.”

“If he stabbed a man, it’s cheaper to let them sell him as a slave than keep him five years in our state prison.”

“The poor man seems to prefer it though,” said Harley gently. “Have you seen him?”

“No; what should I see the fellow for?” cried Mr. Bowdoin irritably.

“I understand the State Court House is held like a fort by federal soldiers, and thugs who call themselves deputy marshals.”

Mr. Bowdoin growled something that sounded like, “What if it is?”

The two started to walk down town. Tremont Street was crowded with running men, and School Street packed close; and as they came in sight of the Court House they saw that it was surrounded by a line of blue soldiers.

“Let’s go to the Court House,” said Harley.

The old gentleman’s curiosity made feeble resistance.

“I had a case to see about this morning. Why, there’s Judge Wells, the very man I want to see.”

The judge had a body-guard of policemen, and our two friends joined him as they were slowly forcing a passage through the crowd. When they came before the old gray stone Court House, they saw two cannon posted at the corners, and all the windows full of armed troops; and around the base of the building, barring every door, a heavy iron cable, and behind this a line of soldiers.

“What the devil is the cable for?” said Mr. Bowdoin.

The crowd, which had opened to let the well-known judge go by, were now crying, “Let the judge in! Let the judge in!” and then, “Give him up! Give Simms up! Give him to the sheriff!” and then, “Kidnapped! Kidnapped!” Just ahead of them our party saw another judge stopped rudely before the door by a soldier dropping a bayonet across his breast.

“Can’t get in here, can’t get in here.”

“I tell you I’m a judge of the Supreme Court of this Commonwealth,” they heard him say.

“Go around, then, and get under the chain. But the court can’t sit to-day.” Mr. Bowdoin bubbled with indignation as he saw the old man take off his high hat, and, stooping low, bow his white hairs to get beneath the chain.

“If I do, I’m damned,” said Mr. Bowdoin quietly.

“And if I do, I’m Drop it down, sir, and let me pass: Judge Wells, of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts.”

“And I’m James Bowdoin, of James Bowdoin’s Sons, and a good Democrat, and defendant in a confounded lawsuit before his honor.”

“Courts can’t sit to-day. Keep back.”

“They can’t?” cried Mr. Bowdoin. “Since when do the courts of Massachusetts ask permission of a pack of slave-hunters whether they shall sit or not?”

Harley was chuckling with suppressed delight. “If only grandma were here!” thought he.

“Let them in! Let Judge Wells in!” shouted the crowd.

The soldier called his corporal, and a hasty consultation followed; as a result of which the chain dropped at one end, and the three men walked over it in triumph.

“Three cheers for Judge Wells! Three cheers for Mr. Bowdoin!” cried the crowd, recognizing him.

When they got into the dark, cool corridor of the old stone fort, “That I should ever come to be cheered by a mob of Abolitionists!” gasped Mr. Bowdoin, mopping his face. “Upon my word, I think I lost my temper.”

“Oh no, sir,” said Harley Bowdoin gravely. “But where is the court-room?”

“Follow the line of soldiers,” replied the judge, and hurried to his lobby.

Up the stone stairs went our friends, three flights in all; soldiers upon every landing, and, leaning over the banisters and carelessly spitting tobacco juice on the crowd below, a row of “deputy” United States marshals, with no uniform, but with drawn swords.

Mr. Bowdoin started. “Harley,” said he, stopping by one of them, “I know that fellow. His name’s Huxford, and he keeps a gambling-house; I had him turned out of one of my houses.”

“Very likely,” said Harley.

“Move on there, move on,” said the man surlily, pretending not to recognize Mr. Bowdoin.

“What are you doing here, sir?” said that gentleman. “Don’t you know I swore out a warrant against you?”

“Who the h l are you?”

“James Bowdoin, confound you!” answered that peppery person, and swung his fist right and left with such vigor that Huxford went down on one side, and another deputy on the other. Then Harley hurried the old gentleman through the breach into the upper court-room, where they were under the protection of the county sheriff in his swallow-tailed blue coat, cocked hat, gold lace, and sword, and a friendly judge.

“Hang it, sir, they’ll be arresting you, next,” said Harley.

“By Heaven, I should like to see them do it!” cried our old friend in a loud whisper, if the term can be used. “Sheriff Clark, do you know those fellows are all miserable loafers?”

“They are federal officers, sir; I can do nothing,” whispered back that gorgeous official.

“Humph!” returned Mr. Bowdoin. “How about state rights? Do we live in the sovereign State of Massachusetts, or do we not, I should like to know?”

“How about the Union, sir?” whispered Harley slyly.

“Hang the Union! Hang the Union, if it employ a parcel of thugs to do its work!” said Mr. Bowdoin, so loud that there was a ripple of laughter in the court-room; and the judge looked up from the bench and smiled, for had not he dined with old Mr. Bowdoin in their college club once a month for forty years? But a low-browed fellow who was sitting behind the counsel at the table was heard to mutter “Treason.” Beside him in the prisoner’s dock sat the slave; not cowed nor abject, though in chains and handcuffs, but looking straight before him at the low-browed man who was his master, as a bird might look at a snake.

“Which of those two is the slave?” asked Mr. Bowdoin in an audible voice.

Again the room laughed. The clerk rapped order. The low-browed man looked up angrily, and spoke to a deputy marshal whose face had been turned away from Mr. Bowdoin before. He rose and started toward them.

“By Heaven,” cried Mr. Bowdoin, “it is David St. Clair!”

IV

But old Jamie knew naught of this, and the Bowdoins never told him. They consulted much what they should do; but they never told him. And Jamie went on, piling up his money. Three rolls were in the old chest now, and all of Spanish gold. Doubloons and pistoles were growing rarer, and the price was getting higher. But the old clerk was not content with replacing the present value to the credit of “Pirates” on the books; the actual pieces must be returned; so that if any earringed, whiskered buccaneer turned up to demand his money from James Bowdoin’s Sons, he might have it back in specie, in the very pieces themselves, that the honor of the firm might be maintained. Until then, he felt sure, there was little chance the box would ever be looked into. Practically, he was safe; it was only his conscience, not his fears, that troubled him.

Since he had sent her that hundred dollars, he had heard nothing from Mercedes. The Bowdoins did not tell him how her husband had sunk to be a slave-catcher; for they knew how miserly old Jamie had become, and supposed that his salary all went to her. While Jamie could take care of her, it mattered little what the worthless husband did, save the pain of Jamie’s knowing it. And of course they did not know that Jamie could no longer take care of her, and why.

But one day, in the spring of 185-, a New York correspondent of the bank came on to Boston, and Mr. Bowdoin gave a dinner for him at the house. The dinner was at three o’clock; but old lady Bowdoin wore her best gown of tea-colored satin, and James Bowdoin and his wife were there. After dinner, the three gentlemen sat discussing old madeira, and old and new methods of banking, and the difference between Boston and New York, which was already beginning to assume a metropolitan preeminence.

“By the way, speaking of old-fashioned ways,” said the New Yorker suddenly, “that’s a queer old clerk of yours, Mr. McMurtagh, I mean.”

“Looks as if he might have stepped out of one of Dickens’s novels, does he not?” said Mr. Bowdoin, always delighted to have Jamie’s peculiarities appreciatively mentioned.

“But how did you come to know him?” asked Mr. James.

“Why, I see him once a year or so. Don’t you send him occasionally to New York?”

“He used to go, some years ago,” said Mr. Bowdoin.

“He buys his Spanish gold of us,” added the New Yorker. “Queer fancy you have of buying up doubloons. Gold is gold, though, in these times.”

“Spanish doubloons?” said Mr. James.

“We have a use for them at the bank,” remarked the old gentleman sharply. “Shall we join the ladies?”

“You have to pay a pretty premium for them,” added the money-dealer, as he stopped to wipe his lips. “Wonderful madeira, this.”

Old Mr. Bowdoin took no squeaking toy to bed with him that night; but at breakfast his worthy spouse vowed he must take another room if he would be so wakeful. For once the old gentleman had no repartee, but hurried down to the bank. Early as he was, he found his son James there before him. And with all his soul he seized upon the chance to lose his temper.

“Well, sir, and what are you spying about for? You’re not a director in the bank!”

Mr. James looked up, astonished.

“Got a headache, I suppose, from drinking with that New York tyke they sent us yesterday!”

“Well, sir, when it comes to old madeira”

“I earned it, I bought it, and I can drink it, too. And as for your Wall Street whippersnappers that haven’t pedigree enough to get a taste for wine, and drink champagne, and don’t know an honest man when they see one it’s so seldom”

“Seriously, what do you suppose he wanted with the gold?”

“I don’t know, sir, and I don’t care. But since you’re spying round, come in!” and Mr. Bowdoin led his son into the vault. “There, sir, there’s the confounded box,” tapping with his cane the old chest that lay on the top shelf.

“I see, sir,” said Mr. James, taking his cue.

“And as for its contents, the firm of James Bowdoin’s Sons are responsible. Perhaps you’d like to poke your nose in there?”

“Oh no, sir,” said Mr. James. And that chest was never opened by James Bowdoin or James Bowdoin’s Sons.

“When the pirate wants it, he can have it, in hell or elsewhere,” ended Mr. Bowdoin profanely.

But coming out, and after Mr. James had gone away, the old gentleman went to Jamie McMurtagh’s desk. Poor Jamie had seen them enter the vault, and his heart stood still. But all Mr. Bowdoin said was to ask him if his salary was sufficient. For once in his life the poor old man had failed to meet his benefactor’s eye.

“It is quite enough, sir. I I deserve no more.”

But Mr. Bowdoin was not satisfied. “Jamie,” he said, “if you should ever need more money, a good deal of money, I mean, you will come to me, won’t you? You could secure it by a policy on your life, you know.”

Jamie’s voice broke. “I have no need of money, sir.”

“And Mercedes? How is she?”

“It is some time since I heard, sir; the last was, she had gone with her husband to Havana.”

“Havana!” shouted Mr. Bowdoin; and before Jamie could explain he had crushed his beaver on his head and rushed from the bank.

Jamie’s head sank over the desk, and the tears came. If only this cup could pass from him! If Heaven would pardon this one deceit in all his darkened, upright life, and let him restore the one trust he had broken, before he died! And then he dried his eyes, and took to figuring, figuring over again, as he had so often done before, the time needed, at the present rate, to make good his theft. Ten years more a little less would do it.

But old Mr. Bowdoin ran to the counting-room, where he found his son and Harley in that gloomy silence that ends an unsatisfactory communication.

“Say what you will, you’ll never make me believe old Jamie is a thief,” said Harley.

“Thief! you low-toned rascal!” cried Mr. Bowdoin. “Thief yourself! He’s just told me Mercedes is in Havana. Of course he wants Spanish gold!”

“Of course he does!” cried Harley.

“Of course he does!” cried James.

Their faces brightened, and each one inwardly congratulated himself that the others had not thought how much easier it would have been for Jamie to send her bills of exchange.

V

Meantime, Jamie, all unconscious of his patrons’ anxiety, went on, from spring to fall and fall to spring, working without hope of her, to make his honor good to men. If there was one day in the year that could be said to bring him near enjoyment, it was that day when, his yearly salary saved, he went to New York to buy doubloons. One might almost say he enjoyed this. He enjoyed the night voyage upon the Sound; the waking in the noisy city by busy ships that had come, perhaps, from New Orleans or Havana; the crowded streets, with crowds of which she had once been one, crowds so great that it seemed they must include her still. The broker of whom he bought his gold would always ask to see him, and offer him a glass of wine, which, taken by Jamie with a trembling hand, would bring an unwonted glow to his wrinkled cheeks as he hastened away grasping tight his canvas bag of coin. The miser!

Can you make a story of such a life? It had its interest for the recording angel. But it was two years more to the next event we men must notice.

May the twenty-seventh, eighteen fifty-four. Old Jamie (old he had been called for thirty years, and now was old indeed) had finished his work rather early and locked up the books. All day there had been noise and tramping of soldiers and murmurs of the people out on the street before the door, but Jamie had not noticed it. Old Mr. Bowdoin had rushed in and out, red in the face as a cherry, sputtering irascibility, but Jamie had not known it. And now he had come from counting his coin, a pleasure to him, so nearly the old chest lay as full as it had been that day a quarter century before. He had been gloating over it with a candle in the dark vault; but a few rows more, and his work was done, and he might go to die, or find Mercedes.

As he came out into the street, blinking in the sudden sunlight, he found it crowded close with quiet people. So thick they stood, he could not press his way along the sidewalk. It was not a mob, for there was no shouting or disorder; yet, intermittently, there rose a great murmur, such as the waves make or the leaves, the muttering of a multitude. Jamie turned his face homeward, and edged along by the wall, where there was most room. And now the mutter rose and swelled, and above it he heard the noise of fife and drum and the tread of soldiers.

He came to the first cross-street, and found it cleared and patrolled by cavalry militia. The man on a horse in front called him by name, and waved his sword at him to pass. Jamie looked up, and saw it was John Hughson. He would not have known him in his scarlet coat.

“What is it, John?” said Jamie.

“What is it? The whole militia of the State is out, by G ! to see them catch and take one nigger South. Look there!”

And Jamie looked from the open side street up the main street. There, beneath the lion and the unicorn of the old State House, through that historic street, cleared now as for a triumph, marched a company of federal troops. Behind them, in a hollow square, followed a body of rough-appearing men, each with a short Roman sword and a revolver; and in the open centre, alone and handcuffed, one trembling negro. The fife had stopped, and they marched now in a hushed silence to the tap of a solitary drum; and behind came the naval marines with cannon.

The street was hung across with flags, union down or draped in black, but the crowd was still. And all along the street, as far down as the wharf, where the free sea shone blue in the May sunshine, stood, on either side, a close rank of Massachusetts militia, with bayonets fixed, four thousand strong, restraining, behind, the fifty thousand men who muttered angrily, but stood still. Thus much it took to hold the old Bay State to the Union in 1854, and carry one slave from it to bondage. Down the old street it was South Carolina that walked that day beneath the national flag, and Massachusetts that did homage, biding her time till her sister State should turn her arms upon the emblem. “Shame! shame!” the people were crying. But they kept the peace of the republic.

Old Jamie understood nothing of this. He only saw and wondered; saw the soldiery, saw old Mr. Bowdoin leaning from a window as a young man on the sidewalk tried to drag down a flag that hung from it, with a black coffin stitched to the blue field.

“Young man,” cried the old gentleman, “leave that flag alone; it’s my property!”

“I am an American,” cried the youth, “and I’ll not suffer the flag of my country to be so disgraced!”

“I too am an American, and damme, sir, ’tis the flag in the street there that’s disgraced!”

The fellow slunk away, but Jamie had ceased to listen, for the negro was now in front of him, and there, among the rough band of slave-catchers, his desperate appearance hid by no uniform, a rough felt hat upon his dissolute face, a bowie-knife slung by his waist, there, doing this work in the world, old Jamie saw and recognized the husband of his little girl, St. Clair.

VI

McMurtagh ran out into the street toward him, but was stopped by an officer. He still pressed his way, and when the end of the procession went by they suffered him to go, and he fell in behind the trailing cannon. There he found some others, following out of sympathy for the slave. Some of them he knew, and they took Jamie for an Abolitionist, but Jamie hardly knew what it was all about.

“When Simms was taken,” said one, a doctor, “I vowed that he should be the last slave sent back from Massachusetts.”

“Did you hear,” said another, a young lawyer, “how they have treated him? His master had him whipped, when he got home, for defending his case before our courts.”

Jamie tried to find his way through the artillery company, but failed. It was only when they got down to the Long Wharf that the artillery divided, sending two guns to either side of the street, and Jamie and the others hurried to the end. Here was a United States revenue cutter, armed with marines, to take this poor bondsman back to his master. No crowned head ever left a country with more pomp of escort and retinue of flag and cannon. But Jamie’s business was with the slave-catcher, not the slave. He found St. Clair standing by the gangway, and called him by name. The fellow started like a criminal; then recognizing the poor clerk, “Oh, it’s you, is it?”

“How is Mercedes?” stammered Jamie.

“How the h l should I know? And what is that to you?”

“But you will tell me where she is?” pleaded the poor old man. “She will not answer my letters. Does she get them? I know she does not get them,” he added, as the thought struck him suddenly.

“She gets any that have got money in,” retorted St. Clair grimly. “However, I married her, and I suppose I’ve got to support her. Get out of the way, there!”

The men were already casting off the ropes. Poor Jamie felt in his pocket, but of course he had no money; he never carried money now.

The cordon of soldiers drew across the wharf and presented arms as their commanding officer came ashore, and the stars and stripes rose at the stern of the vessel, and she forged out toward the blue rim of the sea that is visible, even from the wharves, in Boston harbor.

But not a gun was fired. Silently the armed ship left, with its freight of one negro, its company of marines and squad of marshals. Among them St. Clair stood on the lower deck and looked at Jamie. The poor clerk hung his head as if he were the guilty one. And in the silence was heard the voice of a minister in prayer. The little group of citizens gathered around him with bared heads. He prayed for the poor slave and for the recreant republic, for peace, and that no slave-hunter should again tread quietly the soil of Massachusetts. But Jamie heard him not. He was thinking over again the old trouble: how he could not take his salary that was needed for restitution; how he could not ask the Bowdoins, or they would wonder where his salary had gone.

As he turned his steps backward to the city, he wondered if St. Clair was still living with her. But yes, he must be, or she would surely have come back to him. A hand was laid upon his shoulder; he looked up; it was the minister who had been upon the wharf.

“Be not cast down, old man. ‘In his service is perfect freedom,’” quoted the minister. He fancied he was one of the Abolitionist group that had followed Anthony Burns to the last. But Jamie only looked up blankly. He was thinking that in four years more he might go to bring back Mercedes.

VII

Year followed year. This was the twelfth year since Jamie had begun to make up his theft from his own salary; but it had been slower work than he had hoped, for he now had to pay almost a collector’s price to get the Spanish gold. He had hurried home one night eagerly, to count his money; for he made his annual purchase and payment in June. Sixteen hundred dollars in bills he had (it was curious that he kept it now in money, and had no longer a deposit in the bank), and he congratulated himself that he had not had the money at the wharf that day: he might have given it to St. Clair, to learn Mercedes’ whereabouts; and it would not have reached her, and St. Clair would have lied to him; while the taking of a dollar more than was rightfully the bank’s for so Jamie regarded his salary would really make him a defaulter.

For the old chest was getting so full now that the clerk could almost hold his head up among men. The next year, but three rows of gold coin remained to fill. The smaller coins had all been purchased long ago. And Jamie (who had only thought to do this, and die, at the first) now began, timidly, to let his imagination go beyond the restitution; to think of Mercedes, of seeing her, of making her happy yet. For she was still a young girl, to him.

The thirteenth year came. Jamie had begun to take notice of the world. He took regularly a New Orleans newspaper. The balance against him in the account was now so small! He looked wistfully at the page. However small the deficit, his labors were not complete till he could tear the whole page out. And he could not do that yet: the transaction must be shown upon the books; he might die.

Die! Suddenly his heart beat at the thought. Die! He had never thought of this, to fear it; but now if he should die before the gold was all returned, and all his sacrifice go for naught, even his sacrifice of Mercedes

The other clerks had lost their interest in poor Jamie by this time; some of them were new, and to these he was merely an old miser, and they made fun of him, he grew so careful about his health. Life had not brought much to poor Jamie to make him so fond of it; but both the Bowdoins noticed it, and remarked to one another, it was curious, after all, how men clung to life as they grew older.

In 1859 a rumor had reached them all that St. Clair had gone on some filibustering expedition to Cuba. Old Mr. Bowdoin mentioned it to McMurtagh; but he said nothing of sending for the wife. In 1861 the war broke out, and the poor clerk saw the one sober crown of his life put off still a year. He was yet more than a thousand dollars short. He was coming back on a Sound steamer, thinking of this, wondering how he could bear this last delay, his scanty bag of high-priced gold crowded into a pocket, reading his New Orleans paper carelessly (save only the births and deaths), when his eye caught a name. Jamie knew there was a war; and the article was all about some fighting of blockade-runners with a federal cruiser near Mobile. But his quick eye traveled to the centre of it, where he read, “Before the vessel was taken, a round shot killed several of the crew, ... among them ... and David St. Clair, well known in this city.”

VIII

Jamie could not go to bed that night, but sat on deck watching the stars. The next day he went through his avocations in the bank like one in a dream. And in the night ensuing that dream became a vision; and he saw Mercedes alone in a distant city, without money or friends, her soft eyes looking wistfully at him in wonder that he did not come.

The next morning Jamie went to old Mr. Bowdoin’s office, at an hour when he knew he should find him alone. For the old gentleman called early at the little counting-room, as in the days when he might hope to find some ship of his own, fresh from the Orient, warping into the dock. Jamie’s lips were dry, and his voice came huskily. He gave up the effort to speak of St. Clair’s death, but asked briefly that Mr. Bowdoin would get him three months’ leave.

“Three months!” cried the old man. “Why, Jamie, you’ve not taken a vacation for fifteen years!”

“That’s why I make bold to ask it, sir,” said Jamie humbly.

“Take six months, man, six months, not a week less! And your salary shall be paid in advance” Mr. Bowdoin noted a sudden kindling in Jamie’s eye that gave him his cue. “Two quarters! you have well deserved it. And now that the bank is to change its charter, there’ll be a lot of fuss and worry; it’ll be a good time to go away.”

“Change its charter?”

“Ay, Jamie; we’ve got to give up being a state bank, and go in under the new national law to issue shinplasters to pay for beating the rebels! But come with me to the bank, the board are meeting now for discounts,” and the old gentleman grabbed his hat, and dragged Jamie out of the counting-room.

I doubt if ever the old clerk was rushed so rapidly up the street. And coming into the bank, Mr. Bowdoin shoved him into an anteroom. “Wait you there!” said he, and plunged into the board-room.

There had been a light spring snow that night, and Jamie had not had time to wipe his boots. He cleaned them now, and then went back and sat upon a sofa near the sacred precincts of the directors’ room. Suddenly he felt a closing of the heart; he wondered if he were going to be taken into custody after so many years and now, just now, when he must go to rescue Mercedes. Then he remembered that he had been brought there by Mr. Bowdoin, and Jamie knew better than to think this.

In a minute more the door opened, and that gentleman came out. Behind him peered the faces of the directors; in his hand was a crisp new bank-note.

“McMurtagh,” said Mr. Bowdoin, “the directors have voted to give you a six months’ vacation; and as some further slight recognition of your twenty years of service, this,” and he thrust a thousand-dollar note into his hand.

Jamie’s labors were light that day. To begin with, every clerk and teller and errand-boy had to shake him by the hand and hear all about it. And it was not for the money’s sake. Old Mr. Bowdoin had been shrewd enough to guess what only thing could make the clerk want so much liberty; and the news had leaked down to the others, “that Jamie was going for his foreign mail.”

“I hear you are going away,” said one. “To Europe?” said another. “Blockade-running!” suggested a third. “For cotton.”

“I I am going to the tropics,” stammered Jamie. He had but a clouded notion how far south New Orleans might be.

“I told you so,” laughed the teller.

“Bring us all a bale or two.”

Jamie laughed; to the amazement of the bank, Jamie laughed.

When the cashier went to lunch, Jamie stole a chance to get into the vault alone. And there, out of every pocket, with trembling fingers, he pulled a little roll of Spanish gold. Then the delight of sorting and arranging them in the old chest! He had one side for pistoles, and this now was full; and even the doubloon side showed less than the empty space of one roll, across the little chest, needed to fill the count, after he had put the new coins in. The old clerk sat in a sort of ecstasy; reminding himself still that what he gazed at was not the greatest joy he had that day; when all these sordid things were over, he was to start, on the morrow, for Mercedes.

He heard the voice of the cashier returning, and went out.

“Well, McMurtagh,” said he, “you’re lucky to escape this miserable reorganization. July 1st we start as a national bank, you know.”

“Yes,” said Jamie absently.

“Every stick and stone in this old place has got to be counted over again, the first of the month, by the examiners of Uncle Sam, and every book verified. By the way,” the cashier ended carelessly, as witless messengers of fate alone can say such things, “you’d better leave me the key of that old chest we carry in special account for the Bowdoins. They’ll want to look at everything, you know. The examination may come next year, or it may come any time.”

IX

A few minutes more of Jamie’s life were added to the forty years he had spent over his desk. He even went through a few columns of figures. Then he closed the desk, leaving his papers in it as usual, and went out into the street.

So it was all gone for naught, all his labors, all his self-denial, all his denial of help to Mercedes. If he left to seek her, his theft would be discovered in his absence. He would be thought to have run away, to have absconded, knowing his detection was at hand. If he stayed, he could not make it good in time.

What did it matter? She was first. Jamie took his way up the familiar street, through the muddy snow; it had been a day of foul weather, and now through the murky low-lying clouds a lurid saffron glow foretold a clearing in the west. It was spring, after all; and the light reminded Jamie of the South. She was there, and alone.

He had tried to save his own good name, and it was all in vain. He might at least do what he could for her.

He did not go home, but wandered on, walking. Unconsciously his steps followed the southwest, toward the light (we always walk to the west in the afternoon), and he found himself by the long beach of the Back Bay, the railroad behind him. The tide was high, and the west wind blew the waves in froth at his feet. The clearing morrow sent its courier of cold wind; and the old clerk shivered, but did not know he shivered of cold.

He sat upon an old spar to think. The train bound southward rattled behind him; he was sitting on the very bank of the track, so close that the engineer blew his whistle; but Jamie did not hear. So this was the end. He might as well have saved her long before. He might have stolen more. To-morrow he would surely go.

The night came on. Then Jamie thought of getting his ticket. He remembered vaguely that the railroad behind him ran southward; and he rose, and walked along the track to the depot. There he asked if they sold tickets to New Orleans.

The clerk laughed. New Orleans was within the rebel lines. Besides, they sold no tickets beyond New York or Washington. The clerk did not seem sure the way to New Orleans was through Washington. A ticket to the latter city was twenty dollars.

Jamie pulled out his wallet. He had only a few dollars in it; but loose in his pocket he found that thousand-dollar bill. “I I think I will put off buying the ticket until to-morrow,” he said.

For a new notion flashed upon him. He had not thought of this money before. With what he could earn, the bookkeeper had said the investigation might be put off a year, this bill might be enough to cover the remaining deficit.

He hugged it in his hands. How could he have forgotten it? He turned out into the night again to walk home; he felt very faint and cold, and remembered he had had no supper. Well, old Mrs. Hughson would get him something. She had taken the little house on Salem Street, which had been Jamie’s home for so many years. John and his growing family still lived in their house, near by.

But Mrs. Hughson was out. He stumbled up the high stairs in the dark, and lit a lamp with numbed fingers. He had not been often so late away; probably she had gone to search for him. He must go out after her. She was doubtless at John’s.

But first McMurtagh went to his writing-desk and unlocked the drawer that he had not visited for years; and from its dust, beneath a pile of letters, he drew out his only picture of Mercedes. He had vowed never to look at it again until he could go to help her; and now

And now he was not going to help her. He had left her alone all those years; and now he was still to leave her, widowed, in a hostile city, perhaps to starve. Old Jamie strained his eyes to the picture with hard tearless sorrow. It was a daguerreotype of the beautiful young girl that Mercedes had been in 1845.

Was there no way? The thousand dollars he would need if he went after her. Should he borrow of Mr. Bowdoin? But how could he do so, now that he had this present from him? Jamie sat down and pressed his fingers to his temples. Then he forgot himself a moment.

He was out in the street again in the cold. He had the idea that he would go to John Hughson’s; and sure enough, he found the old lady there. She and John cried out as he came in, and would know where he had been. He could not tell. “Why, you are cold,” said the old lady, feeling his hand. And they would have him eat something.

In the street again, returning: it was pleasanter in the dark; one could think. One could think of her; he dared not when people were looking, lest they should know. He would go to her.

Suppose he told old Mr. Bowdoin, frankly, the debt was nearly made up: he would gladly lend him. Nay, but it was a theft, not a debt. How could he tell now when so nearly saved?

In the room, Mrs. Hughson was bustling about getting a hot drink. So nearly! Why, even if David might have lived a year more! And he had been a slave-catcher. Perhaps he had left her money? Perhaps she might get on for a year if he wrote? Ah, here was the hot drink. He would take it; yes, if only to get rid of Mrs. Hughson. She looked old and queer, and smiled at him. But he did not know Mercedes’ address; he could not write. Yes, he felt warmer now; he was well enough, thank you. Ah, by Heaven, he would go! He must sleep first. Would not Mrs. Hughson put out the light? He liked it better so. Good-night. Just this rest, and then the palm-trees, and such a sunny, idle sky, where Mercedes was walking with him. The account had been nearly made up; the balance might rest.

X

No letter came back from Jamie, and Mr. Bowdoin rather wondered at it. But openly he pooh-poohed the idea. His wife had lost twenty years of her age in presiding over Sanitary Commissions, and getting up classes where little girls picked lint for Union soldiers; and Mr. Bowdoin himself was full of the war news in the papers. For he was a war Democrat (that fine old name!), and had he had his way, every son and grandson would have been in the Union army. Most of them were, among them Harley, though the family blood had made him choose the naval branch. Commander Harleston Bowdoin was back on a furlough won him by a gunshot wound: and it was he who asked about old Jamie most anxiously.

“You feel sure that he was going to Havana?” said he over the family breakfast table.

Old lady Bowdoin had left them; long since she had established her claim to the donation fund by arriving always first at breakfast, and had devoted it, triumphantly, to a fund for free negroes, “contrabands,” as they were just then called. But Mrs. Bowdoin never had taken much interest in Mercedes.

“Sure, they were last heard of there. He was on some filibustering expedition in Cuba. Perhaps he was hanged. But no, I don’t think so. Poor Jamie used to send them so much money!”

“He might have written before he sailed,” said Harley, nursing his wounded arm.

“If he wrote, I guess he wrote to her,” said Mr. Bowdoin dryly. “Why should he write to me?”

“I don’t like it,” said Harley.

Mr. Bowdoin did not like it; and not being willing to admit this to himself, it made him very cross. So he rose, and, crowding his hat over his eyes, strode out into the April morning, and down the street to the wharf, and down the wharf to the office, where he silenced his trio of pensioners for the time being by telling them all to go to the devil; he would not be bothered. And these, hardly surprised, and not at all offended, hobbled around to the southern side of the building, where they lent each other quarters against the morrow, when they knew the peppery old gentleman would relent.

Mr. Bowdoin stamped up the two flights of narrow stairs to the counting-room, where his first action was to take off a large piece of cannel coal just put on the fire by Mr. James Bowdoin, and damn his son and heir for his extravagance. As the coal put back in the hod was rapidly filling the room with its smoke, James the younger fled incontinently; and the elder contemplated the situation. It was true Jamie had not written; but he had not thought much about it. Harley entered.

“I was thinking, sir, of going down to Mr. McMurtagh’s lodgings and asking if they had heard from him.”

“Haven’t you been there yet? I should think any fool would have gone there first!”

“That’s why I didn’t, sir,” said Harley respectfully.

Old Mr. Bowdoin chuckled grimly, and his grandson took his leave.

“Come back and tell me at the bank!” cried Mr. Bowdoin.

But hardly had Harley got down the stairs before the old gentleman had another visitor. And this time it was a sheriff with brass buttons; and he held a large document in his hands.

Now Mr. Bowdoin was not over-fond of officers of the law; he detested lawsuits, and he had a horror of legal documents. Therefore he groaned at the sight, and, throwing open a window, fingered his watch-chain nervously, as one who is about to flee.

“What do you want, sir?” said he.

“Is this the office of James Bowdoin’s Sons?”

“What if it were, sir?”

The officer brandished his document. “Is there a clerk here, one James McMurtagh?”

“No, sir.” Mr. Bowdoin spoke decidedly.

“Has he a son-in-law, David St. Clair?”

The old gentleman breathed a sigh of relief. “He has, sir.”

“Where is McMurtagh?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Where is St. Clair?”

“Have you a citation for him?”

The officer winked. “Can you tell me where to find him?”

Mr. Bowdoin saw his chance. “Yes, sir; I can, sir. The last I heard of him, he had gone to Cuba on a filibustering expedition with one General Walker, who has since been hanged; and if you find him, you’ll find him in Havana, Cuba, and can serve the citation on him there; though I’m bound to tell you,” ended the old gentleman in a louder voice, “my opinion is, he won’t care a d n for you or your citation either!” And Mr. Bowdoin bolted down the stairs.

XI

So Mr. Bowdoin hurried up the street to the bank, half chuckling, half angry, still. Then (having found that there was a special and very important directors’ meeting called at once) he scurried out again upon the street, his papers in his hat, and did the business of the day on ’change. And then he went back to the bank, and asked if Mr. Harleston Bowdoin had got there yet.

Mr. Stanchion told him no. By that time it was after eleven. But Mr. Bowdoin made a rapid calculation of the distance (it never would have occurred to him to take a hack; carriages, in his view, were meant for women, funerals, and disreputable merrymakers), and hastened down to Salem Street.

Old Mrs. Hughson met him at the door, grateful and tearful. Yes, young Mr. Harley (she remembered him well in the old days, and had been jealous of him as a rival of her son) was upstairs. She feared poor McMurtagh was very ill. He had been out of his head for days and days. To Mr. Bowdoin’s peppery query why the devil she had not sent for him, Mrs. Hughson had nothing to say. It had never occurred to her, perhaps, that the well-being of such a quaint, dried-up old chap as Jamie could be a matter of moment to his wealthy employers whom she had never known.

“Can I see him?” asked Mr. Bowdoin. But as he spoke, Harley came down the stairs.

“It’s heart-breaking,” he said. “He thinks he’s in the South with her. He was going to meet her, it seems; and the poor old fellow does not know he has not gone.”

“Let me see him,” said the elder. “Have they no nurse?”

“I nurse him off and on, nigh about all he needs,” answered Mrs. Hughson. “And then there’s John.”

But Mr. Bowdoin had hurried up the stairs. Jamie was lying with his eyes wide open, moving restlessly. It seemed a low fever; for his face was pale; only the old ruddiness showed unnaturally, like the mark of his old-country lineage, left from bygone years of youth and sunlight on his paling life. And Jamie’s eyes met Mr. Bowdoin’s; he had been murmuring rapidly, and there was a smile in them; but this now he lost, though the eyes had in them no look of recognition. He became silent as his look touched Mr. Bowdoin’s face and glanced from it quickly, as do the looks of delirious persons and young children. And then, as the old gentleman bent over him and touched his hand, “A thousand dollars yet! a thousand dollars yet!” many times repeating this in a low cry; and all his raving now was of money and rows of money, rows and rows of gold.

Mr. Bowdoin stood by him. Harley came to the door, and motioned to him to step outside. Jamie went on: “A year more! another year more!” Then, as Mr. Bowdoin again touched his hand, he stared, and Mr. Bowdoin started at the mention of his own name.

“See, Mr. Bowdoin! but one row more to fill! But one year more, but one year more!”

Mr. Bowdoin dropped his hand, and went hastily to the door, which he closed behind him.

“Harley, my boy, we mustn’t listen to the old man’s ravings and I must go back to the bank.”

“He has never talked that way to me, sir: it’s all about Mercedes, and his going to her,” and Harley opened the door, and both went in.

And sure enough, the old man’s raving changed. “I must go to her. I must go to her. I must go to her. I cannot help it, I must go to her.”

“Sometimes he thinks he has gone,” whispered Harley. “Then he is quieter.”

“What are these?” said Mr. Bowdoin, kicking over a pile of newspapers on the floor. “Why does he have New Orleans newspapers?”

The two men looked, and found one paper folded more carefully, on the table; in this they read the item telling of St. Clair’s death. They looked at one another.

“That is it, then,” said Harley. “I wonder if he left her poor?”

“So she is not in Havana, after all,” said Mr. Bowdoin.

And old Jamie, who had been speaking meaningless sentences, suddenly broke into his old refrain: “A thousand dollars more!”

“I must get to the bank,” said the old gentleman, “and stop that meeting.”

“And I must go to her!” cried Harleston Bowdoin.

The other grasped his hand. But Jamie’s spirit was far away, and thought that all these things were done.

XII

Old Mr. Bowdoin went back to his bank meeting, which he peremptorily postponed, bidding James his son to vote that way, and he would give him reasons afterward. Going home he linked his arm in his, and told him why he would not have that meeting, and the new bank formed, and all its assets and trusts counted, until James McMurtagh was well again, or not in this world to know. And that same night, Commander Harleston, still on sick leave, started by rail for New Orleans, with orders that would take him through the lines. They had doctors and a nurse now for poor old Jamie; but Mr. Bowdoin was convinced no drug could save his life and reason, only Mercedes. He lay still in a fever, out of his mind; and the doctors dreaded that his heart might stop when his mind came to. That, at least, was the English of it; the doctors spoke in words of Greek and Latin.

James Bowdoin suggested to his father that they should open the chest, thereby exciting a most unwonted burst of ire. “I pry into poor Jamie’s accounts while he’s lost his mind of grief about that girl!” (For also to him Mercedes, now nigh to forty, was still a girl.) “I would not stoop to doubt him, sir.” Yet, on the other hand, Mr. Bowdoin would probably have never condoned a theft, once discovered; and James Bowdoin wasted his time in hinting they might make it good.

“Confound it, sir,” said the father, “it’s the making it good to Jamie, not the making it good to us, that counts, don’t you see?”

“You do suspect him, then?”

“Not a bit, not one whit, sir!” cried the father. “I know him better. And I hate a low, suspicious habit of mind, sir, with all my heart!”

“You once said, sir, years ago (do you remember?), that but one thing love could make a man like Jamie go wrong.”

“I said a lot of d d fool things, sir, when I was bringing you up, and the consequences are evident.” And Mr. Bowdoin slammed out of the breakfast-room where this conversation took place.

But no word came from Harleston, and the old gentleman’s temper grew more execrable every day. Again the bank directors met, and again at his request this time avowedly on account of McMurtagh’s illness the reorganization and examination were postponed. And at last, the very day before the next meeting, there came a telegram from Harley in New York. It said this only:

“Landed to-day. Arrive to-morrow morning. Found.”

“Now why the deuce can’t he say what he’s found and who’s with him?” complained old Mr. Bowdoin to his wife and son for the twentieth time, that next morning.

Breakfast was over, and they were waiting for Harley to arrive. Mrs. Bowdoin went on with her work in silence.

“And why the devil is the train so late? I must be at the bank at eleven. Do you suppose she’s with him?”

“How is Jamie?” said Mrs. Bowdoin only in reply.

“Much the same. Do you think do you think”

“I am afraid so, James,” said the old lady. “Harley would have said”

“There he comes!” cried Mr. Bowdoin from the window. Father and son ran to the door, in the early spring morning, and saw a carriage stop, and Harley step out of it, and then a little girl.

XIII

The image of Mercedes she was; and the old gentleman caught her up and kissed her. He had a way with all children; and James thought this little maid was just as he remembered her mother, that day, now so long gone, on the old Long Wharf, when the sailing-vessel came in from the harbor, the day he was engaged to marry his Abby. Old Mrs. Bowdoin stood beside, rubbing her spectacles; and then the old man set the child upon his lap, and told her soon she should see her grandfather. And the child began to prattle to him in a good English that had yet a color of something French or Spanish; and she wore a black dress.

“But perhaps you have never heard of your old grandfather?”

The child said that “mamma” had often talked about him, and had said that some day she should go to Boston to see him. “Grandfather Jamie,” the child called him. “That was before mamma went away.”

Mr. Bowdoin looked at the black dress, and then at Harleston; and Harleston nodded his head sadly.

“Well, Mercedes, we will go very soon. Isn’t your name Mercedes?” said the old gentleman, seeing the little maid look surprised.

“My name is Sarah, but mamma called me Sadie,” lisped the child.

Mr. Bowdoin and Harleston looked each at the other, and had the same thought. It was as if the mother, who had so darkened (or shall we, after all, say lightened?) Jamie’s life, had given up her strange Spanish name in giving him back this child, and remembered but the homely “Sadie” he once had called her by. But by this time old lady Bowdoin had the little maid upon her lap, and James was dragging Harley away to tell his story. And old Mr. Bowdoin even broke his rule by taking an after-breakfast cigar, and puffed it furiously.

“I got to New Orleans by rail and river, as you know. There I inquired after St. Clair, and had no difficulty in finding out about him. He had been a sort of captain of marines in an armed blockade-runner, and he was well known in New Orleans as a gambler, a slave-dealer”

Mr. Bowdoin grunted.

“almost what they call a thug. But he had not been killed instantly; he died in a city hospital.”

“There is no doubt about his being dead?” queried Mr. Bowdoin anxiously.

“Not the slightest. I saw his grave. But, unhappily, Mercedes is dead, too.”

“All is for the best,” said Mr. Bowdoin philosophically. “Perhaps you’d have married her.”

“Perhaps I should,” said Commander Harley simply. “Well, I found her at the hospital where he had died, and she died too. This little girl was all she had left. I brought her back. As you see, she is like her mother, only gentler, and her mother brought her up to reverence old Jamie above all things on earth.”

“It was time,” said Mr. Bowdoin dryly.

“She told me St. Clair had got into trouble in New York; and old Jamie had sent them some large sum, over twenty thousand dollars.”

Mr. Bowdoin started. “The child told you this?”

“No, the mother. I saw her before she died.”

“Oh,” said his grandfather. “You did not tell me that.”

“I saw her before she died,” said Harley firmly. “You must not think hardly of her; she was very changed.” The tears were in Commander Harleston’s eyes.

“I will not,” said Mr. Bowdoin. “Over twenty thousand dollars, dear me, dear me! And we have our directors’ meeting to-day. Well, well. I am glad, at least, poor Jamie has his little girl again,” and Mr. Bowdoin took his hat and prepared to go. “I only hope I’m too late. James, go on ahead. Harley, my boy, I’m afraid we know it all.”

“Stop a minute,” said Harley. “There was some one else at the hospital.”

“Everybody seems to have been at the hospital,” growled old Mr. Bowdoin petulantly. But he sat down wearily, wondering what he should do; for he felt almost sure now of what poor Jamie had done.

“The captain of the blockade-runner was there, too. He was mortally wounded; and it was from him that I learned most about St. Clair and how he ended. He seemed to be a Spaniard by birth, though he wore as a brooch a small miniature of Andrew Jackson.”

“Hang Andrew Jackson!” cried the old gentleman. “What do I care about Andrew Jackson?”

“That’s what I asked him. And do you know what he said? ’Why, he saved me from hanging.’”

Mr. Bowdoin started.

“Before he died he told me of his life. He had even been on a pirate, in old days. Once he was captured, and tried in Boston; and, for some kindness he had shown, old President Jackson reprieved him. Then he ran away, and never dared come back. But he left some money at a bank here, and a little girl, his daughter.”

“What was his name? Hang it, what was his name?” shouted old Mr. Bowdoin, putting on his hat.

“Soto, Romolo Soto.”

Mr. Bowdoin sank back in his chair again. “Why, that was the captain. Mercedes was the mate’s child.”

“No. The money was Soto’s, and the child too. He told me he had only lately sent a detective here to try and trace the child.”

“The sheriff’s officer, by Jove!” said Mr. Bowdoin. “But can you prove it? can you prove it?” he cried.

“Mercedes had yellow hair, so had Soto. And he knew your name. And before he died he gave me papers.”

Mr. Bowdoin jumped up, took the papers, and bolted into the street.

XIV

His son James was sitting in the chair, with the other directors around him, when old Mr. Bowdoin reached the bank. There was a silence when he entered, and a sense of past discussion in the air. James Bowdoin rose.

“Keep the chair, James, keep the chair. I have a little business with the board.”

“They were discussing, sir,” replied James, “the necessity of completing our work for the new organization. Is McMurtagh yet well enough to work?”

“No,” said the father.

“What is your objection to proceeding without him?” asked Mr. Pinckney rather shortly.

“None whatever,” coolly answered Mr. Bowdoin.

“None whatever? Why, you said you would not proceed while Mr. McMurtagh was ill.”

“McMurtagh will never come back to the bank,” said old Mr. Bowdoin gravely.

“Dear me, I hope he is not dead?”

“No, but he will retire; on a pension, of course. Then his granddaughter has quite a little fortune.”

“His granddaughter a fortune?”

“Certainly Miss Sarah McMurtagh,” gasped Mr. Bowdoin. He could not say “St. Clair,” and so her name was changed. “Something over twenty thousand dollars. I have come for it now.”

The other directors looked at old Mr. Bowdoin for visual evidence of a failing mind.

“It’s in the safe there, in a box. Mr. Stanchion, please get down the old tin box marked ‘James Bowdoin’s Sons;’ there are the papers. The child’s other grandfather, one Romolo Soto, gave it me himself, in 1829. I myself had it put in this bank the next day. Here is the receipt: ’James Bowdoin’s Sons, one chest said to contain Spanish gold. Amount not specified.’ I’ll take it, if you please.”

“The amount must be specified somewhere.”

“The amount was duly entered on the books of James Bowdoin’s Sons, Tom Pinckney; and their books are no business of yours, unless you doubt our credit. Would you like a written statement?” and Mr. Bowdoin puffed himself up and glared at his old friend.

“Here is the chest, sir,” said Mr. Stanchion suavely. “Have you the key?”

“No, sir; Mr. McMurtagh has the key,” and Mr. Bowdoin stalked from the office.

XV

Then old Mr. Bowdoin, with the box under his arm, hurried down to Salem Street. Jamie still lay there, unconscious of earthly things. For many weeks, his spirit, like a tired bird, had hovered between this world and the next, uncertain where to alight.

For many weeks he had been, as we call it, out of his head. Harley had had time to go to New Orleans and return, Mercedes and Soto to die, and all these meetings about less important things to happen at the bank; and still old Jamie’s body lay in the little house in Salem Street, his mind far wandering. But in all his sixty years of gray life, up to then, I doubt if his soul had been so happy. Dare we even say it was less real? Old Mr. Bowdoin laid the chest beside the door, and listened.

For Jamie was wandering with Mercedes under sunny skies; and now, for many days, his ravings had not been of money or of this world’s duty, but only of her. It had been so from about the time she must have died; dare one suppose he knew it? So his mind was still with her.

The doctors, though, were very anxious for his mind, still wandering. If his body returned to life, they feared that his mind would not. But the Bowdoins and little Sarah sat and watched there.

It came that morning, it was late in May; so calmly that for some moments they did not notice it, old Mr. Bowdoin and the little girl.

Jamie opened his eyes to look out on this world again so naturally that they did not see that he had waked; only he lay there, looking out of the window, and puzzling at a blossom that was on a tree below; for he remembered, when he had gone to sleep the night before, it was March weather, and the snow lay on the ground. The snow lay thick upon the ground as he was walking to the station. How could spring have come in a night? Where was What world was this?

For his eyes traveled down the room to where, sitting at the foot of his bed to be the first to be seen by him, Jamie saw his little girl as he remembered her.

Mr. Bowdoin started as the look of seeing came back to Jamie’s eyes. But the little girl, as she had been told to do, ran forward and took the old clerk’s hand.

It was very quiet in the room. Old Mr. Bowdoin dared not speak; he sat there rubbing his spectacles.

But old Jamie had looked up to her, and said only, “Mercedes!”

XVI

Jamie did come back to the bank once. It was on a day some weeks after this, when he was well. He had been well enough even for one more journey to New York; the Bowdoins did not thwart him. And Mercedes Sadie was at his home; so now he came to get possession of his ward’s little fortune, to be duly invested in his name as trustee, in the stock of the Old Colony Bank. He came in one morning, and all the bookkeepers greeted him; and then he went into the safe, where he found the box as usual; for Mr. Bowdoin, knowing that he would come, had taken it back.

When he came out, the chest was under his arm; and he went to old Mr. Bowdoin, alone in his private room. “Here is the chest, sir, I must ask you to count it.” And before Mr. Bowdoin could answer he had turned the lock, so the lid sprang open. There, almost filling the box, were rows of coin, shining rows of gold.

Old Mr. Bowdoin’s eyes glistened. “Jamie, why should I count it?” he said gently. “It is yours now, and you alone can receipt for it, as Sarah’s legal guardian.”

“I would have ye ken, sir, that the firm o’ James Bowdoin’s Sons ha’ duly performed their trust.”

And old Mr. Bowdoin said no more, but counted the coins, one by one, to the full number the ledger showed.

He did not look at the other page. But Jamie was not one to tear a leaf from a ledger. No one ever looked at the old book again; but the honest entries stand there still upon the page. Only now there is another: “Restored in full, June 26, 1862.”