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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].
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CHAPTER XVII. Almost a murder.

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I had frequent opportunities of walking to
church, and to prayer meetings, with Georgiana;
and sometimes I accompanied her in her charitable
visits, although she usually preferred going
alone on such errands. But we were rarely together
in her uncle's house. Mrs. Butler was no
stranger to our feelings, and she never interfered
when there was a prospect of our being left alone;
but my duties, or company, or some other cause,
rarely allowed me this happiness.

It was the settled conviction of Georgiana, that
it would be sinful in her to plight her faith to one,
whose heart had not been touched by the same
divine influences which she believed had wrought
a change in her. She quoted to me the proofs
from holy writ, on which her faith was founded;
and although I could not refute her arguments,
yet they failed to carry conviction to my mind. I
had the double mortification of feeling my inferiority
to her, and of knowing she loved me, without
the hope of ever possessing her. Truly, with
me, religion was the “one thing needful.” Never,

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since the cross was erected, did a man strive harder
to convert himself. I read the most powerful
and argumentative essays; I listened attentively
to the most stirring sermons, and even tried to
look pious, with the hope that a habit of body
might beget a corresponding habit of mind. Many
and earnest were the prayers which Georgiana
breathed in my behalf. But all to no purpose.
My dislike to religious things and duties increased
in proportion to the efforts that were made to overcome
it. At last, I began to look upon all religious
men, and books, and even upon the bible
itself, as united in a conspiracy to rob me of my
life's pleasure.

My sole hope was, that Georgiana herself
would change; that her delusion would wear
away, or be overcome by her love for me. I began
to fear that no change would be effected in me.

But it was no small consolation to know, that
Georgiana actually loved me, and that she refused
me, not for personal, but for spiritual reasons.
And it added not a little to this consolation, to
know, that in gaining her affections, I had achieved
a mighty triumph over my cousin. He was introduced
to her for the first time, at Mrs. Brown's
party, and fell in love with her on the spot. He
had called on her repeatedly since, but had always

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been coolly received. He pretended to be engaged
in some religious enterprise, and became a
regular attendant at the chapel which Georgiana
frequented; and once, when he attempted to address
her, as she came out of the door, when the
service was over, she merely made a slight inclination
of the head, and taking my arm, we walked
quietly away, and left him to chew the cud of his
disappointment at his leisure. I took a wicked
pleasure in mortifying his pride, and I longed to
whisper in his ear the odious words which he
had planted in my memory. I cared nothing now
for his real estate, nor his money; and I knew he
envied me the situation I held, as it allowed me
free intercourse with Georgiana. I frequently
passed him in the street, but I never gave him a
look of recognition. The cause of his showing
such a wanton malice towards me, I never knew;
I was some years his junior, and I had never, until
he unprovokedly wounded my feelings, entertained
a hard thought of him; although from a
child he had sought every occasion to excite my

It was very seldom that my services were required
at the counting room of an evening; but
the night after that on which Georgiana had taken
my arm, as my cousin spoke to her when she came

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out of the chapel, Mr. Bargin requested me to
remain, and assist in preparing the invoices and
bills of lading, for a ship belonging to Marisett
& Co., which was to sail the next morning. I
was always glad when an opportunity offered to
render myself serviceable; and on this occasion,
I remained in the counting room as long as there
was any thing to be done. It was midnight when
I left, and I had almost three miles to walk. Mr.
Marisett's house was on the north side of the city,
at the foot of one of the new streets which led down
to the Hudson. The night was cold and dark, and
I wrapped my cloak about me, and walked briskly
through the silent streets, till I got within a
block or two of the house, where the side walk
was shaded with young sycamore trees, when
a man suddenly jumped from behind one of the
casings of a tree, and caught me in his arms, and
before I could clear myself from my cloak, he
tripped up my heels, and I fell upon my back; in
my fall, my hat got jambed over my eyes, which
prevented me from seeing my assailant, and before
I had time to make an attempt at defence, I felt a
sharp instrument graze my left side. But it was
directed with such force, that, as it struck the pavement,
it slipped out of the murderer's hand, and I
caught his arm before he could regain it. I held

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hard, and shouted murder with all my might. The
sound of the watchman's staff was soon heard,
and I struggled hard with the assassin, but he had
an advantage of me by being on top, and before
the watch came, he had escaped. The blood had
flown freely from my wound, and I had no sooner
told the number of the house where I lived, than I

When I revived again, I found myself underssed
and in bed, and in my own chamber; Mrs. Butler
and Mr. Marisett were both at my bed-side,
and they spoke soothingly and kindly to me. It
was some time before I could call together my
scattered senses, or be made to understand what
had happened to me. It appeared that I had
received a deep cut in my left side, and in my
arm; but the doctor had pronounced the wounds
not dangerous; but I had bled profusely, and felt
extremely weak and feverish.

An ivory-handled bowie-knife was found by my
side by the watchman who picked me up; it was
a murderous-looking weapon, but of beautiful
workmanship; on each side of the blade was a
motto, or rather an inscription: “Short and sweet,”
on one side; “A heart-seeker,” on the other. Mr.
Marisett delivered it to the officers of the police,
next morning, and offered a reward of a thousand

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dollars for the apprehension of the assassin who
attacked me, and the mayor of the city offered a
reward of five hundred dollars in addition. But
he was never detected. It was evident, that the
object of the murderer was not plunder, for it was
at a time when all those gentlemen who live by
plundering their neighbors, were making money
fast enough to satisfy their desires, by speculating
in lots. Owing to the suddenness of the attack,
and the darkness of the night, I did not even catch
a glimpse of his person, and consequently I could
not furnish the slightest clue to lead to his detection.
A horrible suspicion crossed my mind, but
I would not trust it to my own thoughts. I was
conscious of having injured no one, and consoled
myself with the reflection, that I had been mistaken
for another person.

I was confined to my bed a fortnight, and during
that time I received many additional proofs
of regard from Mr. Marisett, and Georgiana, and
from good Mrs. Butler, who hardly left me ten
minutes at a time. Georgiana read the bible to
me every day, and prayed by my side; she improved
the peculiar circumstances in which I was
placed, by admonishing me of the uncertainty of
life, and the necessity of being always prepared
for a summons to the next world. But it was in

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vain she talked, I could think of no other heaven
than that which her presence made. Had I been
called upon to worship her, I could have knelt
devoutly at her feet; but I could not dismiss her
from my mind long enough to dwell on a higher
or a purer being.

A few days after I had sufficiently recovered to
go down stairs, Mr. Marisett gave a small dinner-party,
and as mishap had in some sort made a
little lion of me, he invited me to the table. The
guests were principally merchants, gentlemen
with whom the house of Marisett & Co. had transacted
business; Mr. Bargin was present, of course,
for, as he said himself, he was au fait at a dinner
party: he knew exactly what to do on such an
occasion; he had not studied the fashionable novels
for nothing. The only ladies present were
Georgiana and Miss Rippletrump, a cousin of
Mr. Marisett's; she was a fine, stately-looking
woman, as matronly in her appearance as though
she had been the mother of a baker's dozen. She
made a boast, that she had passed her fortieth
year, and was not married yet. She made her
appearance on this occasion in a blue satin turban
and maraboo feathers. I have always observed,
that your bold, dashing women, are fond of a turban,
and I do not remember that I ever met with

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a modest, retiring woman, with one on her head.
Georgiana was dressed with great simplicity and
neatness, and she appeared to great advantage by
the side of her dressed-up relation.

The finest gentleman of the party, excepting
Mr. Bargin, was Mr. De Challies, an importer of
French millinery articles. He spoke of the prices
of goods, and the prospects of trade, with
an air bordering upon grandeur. Mr. Looman, a
stock broker, took rank next to the importer. He
was a tall, pale man, with a broken nose and a
broken voice; but those were trifles; his slender
form was ornamented with a filligree chain,
which dangled from his neck. Mr. Looman spoke
about `dollars,' and operations,' and `loans,' and
`exchanges,' and `bills,' with such an air of superiority,
that I felt myself the meanest creature
in existence, when I remembered my own

“Aw, Looman, what has become of Smith?”
said Mr. De Challies.

“What, the grocer, or the broker?” said Mr.

“The grocer,” replied Mr. De Challies.

“Oh! he is dead.”

“Dead! Now that is very strange. Bless my
soul and body, I thought I saw him yesterday

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with a decidedly shabby vest on. Poor Smith;
he was the best judge of French brandy in Front

“Oh! then if you saw him yesterday he can't
be dead. But he's a poor wretch.”

“Is it possible!” exclaimed Mr. De Challies,
suspending his spoon midway between his plate
and his mouth.

“True fact, sir,' replied Mr. Looman; “he
isn't worth a dollar.”

“What, failed, and didn't save nothing for
himself?” asked a gentleman whose name I have

“The fool!” said another.

“Very indefatigable man, Smith,” said another.

“Quite an ingenious man,” said another.

“Poor stick,” ejaculated another gentleman.

“Quite so,” added Mr. Bargin, and with him
the remarks on Smith terminated. Mr. Marisett
said nothing on the subject. Mr. De Challies
took wine with Miss Rippletrump, who sat opposite
to him.

“That's a rich wine, madam,” remarked Mr.
De Challies.

“Cousin usually keeps good wine, I believe,”
replied the lady.

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“He is an importer of the article, I presume,”
said Mr. De Challies, in whose estimation an importer
outranked a mere jobber.

“Very probable,” replied Miss Rippletrump,
with a stately toss of her turban, which made her
maraboo feathers shake again.

“In his own ships,” said Mr. De Challies,
smacking his lips, and repeating again, “very
rich wine.”

“Every thing is rich now-a-days,” said the lady;
“for my part, I long for the good old days
when people were poor. If I only knew where
there was a poor man, woman, or child, I should
be glad. I wish, cousin Marisett, you would take
a fashionable young wife to help you spend your
money, and then I could hope some day to find a
poor relation in you.”

“I am extremely obliged to you for your kind
wishes,” replied Mr. M.

“Then why don't you take my advice,” replied
the lady.

“Humph!” ejaculated Mr. Marisett; “if women
were always women, perhaps I might. But
some have usurped the offices of men, and made
me half suspect the gentleness of the others.
Some have taken swords in their hands, and
others pens; some have gone into the pulpit,

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and others have mounted the rostrum. Such women
are not for me; no, no, cousin; when I lay
my head by the side of a woman, she must be
every thing that a man is not. But come, come,
why do you not get married yourself, cousin?”

“If men were all men,” said Miss Rippletrump,
parodying the words of Mr. Marisett,
“perhaps I might. But some have usurped the
offices of women, and made me more than suspect
the manliness of the others; some sit cross legged,
with needles in their huge fingers, and others
stand all day behind a counter, using their lusty
arms to measure out millinery; and the best do
but devote their days to no more noble objects
than hoarding money; no, no, cousin; such men
are not for me; if ever I do sacrifice myself to
a man, he must be every thing that a woman is

Mr. De Challies and Mr. Looman and Mr. Bargin,
looked at each other with the liveliest consternation
depicted in their countenances, which
seemed to say, “did you ever?” Men could not
have manifested greater amazement by their

But good humor was soon restored, and the
dinner passed off very pleasantly. However,
neither Mr. De Challies nor Mr. Looman uttered

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another syllable about their business. As soon as
the dessert was brought on, Miss Rippletrump
and Georgiana retired to the parlor, where I
joined them very soon. The first named lady was
still in a high excitement.

“I am very glad you have joined us, Mr. Franco,”
she said, “for I cannot find out from Miss
De Lancey, whether you are rich or not; if you
be, I hope you will not take offence at what I
have said.”

I assured Miss Rippletrump, that the meekest
man in the world would not desire to be poorer.

“Well, I am glad to hear it,” she said, “although
money is well enough in its way; indeed,
I have got a little myself, which I should be very
sorry to lose. But money, without refinement,
makes brutes of its possessors.”

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].
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