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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 V. Meet with no less than two old acquaintances under very peculiar circumstances.

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I inquired at the lottery office, with a beating
heart, and found that my ticket was a blank. I was
now without a hope; not the slightest foundation
left for me to build upon. I had neither a cent
in my pocket, nor a single article of any value;
even my pencil case and pocket knife were both
gone. But I did not despair; I was too hungry
to feel gloomy. My supper the night before
was a very light one, and my breakfast was still
more unsubstantial; a glass of cold water was
the only refreshment I had taken. There had
been a change in the weather, and a keen cold
wind had given an edge to my appetite, sharp
enough to have rendered even a sloth ferocious.

There are many men, beyond a doubt, who go
down to their graves without ever having known
what hunger is; they are to be pitied who do;
they lose an existence, without having tasted one
of the highest zests that can be imparted to it;
their experience of life is imperfect.

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I knew there was nothing to be gained by
standing still, and as I came out of the lottery
office, I turned up a street towards the Park, and
was tantalized by the savoury vapors which ascended
from the Terrapin Lunch, beneath the
American Museum. As I continued on through
Park Row, it appeared as though all the restaurateurs
in that gormandizing region, had conspired
together to torment me with an exhibition of
good things. Such steaks at the Goose and Gridiron,
with delicate streaks of yellow fat, a thousand
times more precious to the eyes than the
heaps of golden coin in a broker's window! such
oysters at the Shakspeare, and such fish and
game at the Cornucopia! I had never seen the
like before, but I averted my head and walked
on; they were as much beyond my reach as the
Georgium Sidus; if I looked upon them, it was
only in silent admiration. I continued to walk
on, until I came to Catharine street, and then
turned down towards the market, attracted
thither, perhaps, by that secret sympathy which
causes birds of the same feather to fly together.
It was certainly one of the last places that I
should have resorted to, under other circumstances.
The impressions which I had received of
the region round about it, were any thing but

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pleasant. But I continued on my way until I arrived
opposite to the door of a cook shop, which
emitted such a delicious odour of fried eels, and
other delicacies peculiar to that quarter, that I
found it impossible to resist the temptation to go

I took a seat at one of the little tables, covered
with oil cloth, and looked wishfully at the various
dishes which were displayed on the counter; my
eyes rested with peculiar satisfaction on a huge
basin of baked beans and pork; it appeared to me
the loveliest object in the world.

The master of this house of refreshments, was a
round-faced, big-bellied man, with a bright hazel
eye and glossy black hair; he wore a snowy white
apron, and brandished in his right hand an immensely
long carving knife. Supposing, as a matter
of course, or perhaps judging from my anxious
looks, that I wanted something to eat, he asked
me what I would have?

“Beans,” I replied, for I had not the power o

“Small plate or large?” he asked.

“Large,” I replied, of course.

And forthwith he brought me a large plate, with
praiseworthy alacrity.

It was a large plate of smoking warm baked

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beans, with a slice of pork, the rind nicely checkered
and most deliciously browned, lying on top;
there was a pickled cucumber on the edge of the
plate, and a slice of bread stuck on the end of the

I smacked my lips as I drew it before me, and
seized the knife and fork, and was about to begin,
when the keeper of the eating house exclaimed,

“I suppose, bossy, you mean to pay for that

“Of course,” I replied, for so I did intend to
do when I got able.

“Then of course you mought as well hand over
a shilling first as last, if you please.”

I was entirely at a loss for an answer; had there
been less at stake, my wits might have suggested
a satisfactory reply, but the stupendousness of the
demand, completely paralyzed me, and I let the
knife and fork fall in despair.

The man seeing my confusion, caught hold of
the plate, and bore it back to his strong hold.

Never before had I known what disappointment
was; this was its bitter dregs; the loss of my money
was a trifle in comparison.

“That is a magnificent vest of yours,” said a
man who set at a table opposite, and whom I had
not observed until he spoke. “Why don't you

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offer it to Mr. Stewpy in pledge, and take your
plate again?”

“Do you think he will take it?” I asked eagerly.

“To be sure you will, won't you, Mr. Stewpy?”
said the benevolent stranger.

“I should rather think I would, if it was offered
to me,” replied Mr. Stewpy.

I made no further inquiries, but pulled off my
coat and vest, and gave the latter garment to Mr.
Stewpy, who, in the most generous manner, returned
the plate of beans to me, and I fell to, and devoured
them as quick as I could, for fear of another

“Is that all you are going to call for?” asked
the stranger, who had kept his eyes steadily fixed
upon me all the time I was eating the baked beans.

“I could eat something more,” I replied.

“Then why don't you call for a couple pieces
of pie, and a couple glasses of beer?” said the
stranger. “These eating house people have no
sensibility; good eating blunts their finer feelings;
they have no soul, sir; if you don't ask for something
more, you may depend upon't Mr. Stewpy
will not offer any thing to you; and your vest is
worth a good many shilling plates.”

I improved the hint of the stranger, and

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requested Mr. Stewpy to bring two pieces of pie and two
glasses of beer.

“I will take pumpkin pie,” said the stranger,
“and be so good as to put my beer into a pewter

Mr. Stewpy brought the pie and the beer without
any hesitation.

Feeling a little more at my ease, I took a glance
at the features of the kind stranger, who had rendered
me such important service. He was a youngish
person, with a pale oval face and black restless
eyes; he had a remarkably hook-billed nose, and
a high forehead, with a narrow promontory of
crispy black hair, extending far down the centre,
and a rivulet of bare skin running up on each side
towards the top of his head. His dress was none
of the brightest; and his shirt collar, although making
no pretensions to a snowy aspect, was ostentatiously
turned over his black stock, notwithstanding.

“You ought always to drink out of a pewter
mug,” remarked the stranger.

“Why so?” I inquired.

“Perhaps you have not been in the habit of attending
lectures at Clinton Hall?” he said, without
answering my question.

“I must acknowledge I have not.”

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“Ah, I thought so. If you had, you might
have learned that when you apply your warm lip
to the edge of the pewter, a sort of an electrogalvanic
action takes place, which imparts a very
peculiar flavor to the liquor, as it pours over the
surface of the metal into your mouth.”

“Is it possible?” I exclaimed.

“Fact, upon my soul,” said the stranger, “just
try it. And so saying, he put the pewter mug to
my lips, and I drank a swallow, but I was obliged
to confess that I failed to detect the flavor.

“Now let me try yours,” he said, and taking
up my tumbler, he drank off its contents, and
smacked his lips with great satisfaction, and said,
the difference was quite obvious.

“This is a vulgar hole,” exclaimed the stranger,
after a moment's silence.

“I dare say it is,” I replied.

“I perfectly detest it,” he said.

“Then why do you come here?”

“Why!” he exclaimed, striking the table with
his fist, and putting on an indignant frown.
“Because — but no matter; perhaps you will not
comprehend me.”

“O, I dare say I shall,” I replied, for I was
very curious to know why a gentleman should

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visit an eating-house which he detested so

“Because,” said the stranger, with a solemn
air, “I am in advance of the age.”

He had rightly surmised that I should not understand
him. I thought that a very strange
reason indeed, and I said so.

“It is because I have got a soul above these
money-making wretches. They toil for silver, I
work for fame. They revel in ignominious wealth,
I eat my crust with the Muse. Wealth is aristocratic;
genius is democratic. But I will take
my revenge of them; they shall go down to posterity
with a brand in their foreheads. I will read
you a thrilling extract from my work in the press.
There is one consolation about it, I shall get as
much for it as Milton got for his Paradise Lost.
You know Otway?”

“I cannot say I do.”

“He was one of us. He starved to death.
And Chatterton, poor Chatterton! You know


“He was another. Sons of Fame, but heirs
of Indigence.”

“Poor fellows!” I ejaculated.

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“It is ever thus with poets, 'tis too true.
Who would be a poet?”

“Not I, for one,” I replied.

“No more I would n't,” said Mr. Stewpy.

“How could you help it?” exclaimed the
stranger, striking his forehead, and rolling up his
eyes, as though his system was undergoing an
agonizing revolution.

“I guess I could help it very easily,” said Mr.
Stewpy; “I never writ a line of poetry in all my
life, I am blessed if I did.”

The poetical stranger made no other reply to
the remark of Mr. Stewpy than a disdainful toss
of the head. But turning to me, he asked me
where I lodged.

I blushed at the question, and replied, “down

“On the battery?” he asked.

“Sometimes,” I replied, affecting to speak

“It is getting to be too common on the battery,”
said the poet; “there are so many low characters
resort there for a lodging, it makes it
quite disagreeable for a gentleman of any sensibility.
Now Washington Square is quite select,
beautiful, clean spot, elegant houses; Waverley
Place is quite a poetical name. Then there is

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the University, it imparts a classic gusto to the
reflection of having slept under its shadow.”

This singular gentleman having delivered himself
of his encomiums on Washington Square,
begged me to excuse him, as he had an engagement
with a gentleman of the press; he said he
should be most happy to encounter me again,
when he would read me an extract from his poem,
of thrilling interest; he then shook my hand very
warmly, and bade me good bye.

After he had left, I asked Mr. Stewpy to make
a further advance on the vest, which he agreed
to do, and I indulged myself with a cup of coffee,
and half a dozen dough nuts.

During the remainder of the day I sauntered
about from street to street, reading the names on
the door plates, and trying to beguile the time,
and cheat myself with idle surmises and conjecture
about the occupants of the houses. But the day
wore away very slowly. I thought the sun would
never go down. By and by, however, it was
dark, and then I walked through the most frequented
streets, up and down Broadway, and
round and round the park. I looked with envy
upon the watchmen, as they walked their prescribed
limits. They had something to walk for;
they were occupied; they were paid for

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sauntering. Every body I met appeared to be engaged
about something. On what a variety of errands
were the multitudes bound who passed me. I
alone was without an aim.

I often wonder now, as I pass through the
crowded thoroughfares of the city, if there are any
among the seemingly hurried multitude that I
meet, who, like me, are wholly without an aim;
who walk in weariness of heart and body, striving
to forget the cheerlessness of their condition,
but reminded of it at every step by the contrasted
cheerfulness of those they encounter. What
a relief to such, is the upsetting of a coach, a
cry of fire, or of stop thief, a new print in a bookseller's
window, or a new placard stuck upon a
wall; any thing, thought it may beguile the mind
but one minute, or one second, is a relief; and
it is sought for with the same earnestness that
Dives prayed for one drop of water to cool his
burning tongue.

I continued to walk until nearly midnight, and
then feeling sleepy, I took the poet's advice, and
sought for a lodging in Washington Square.

I found that he had not overrated it. The
houses were elegant, the grounds were neat, and
the university, though looming up in the moonlight
like a mountain of snow, cast a broad dark

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shadow around. Fortunately, the large door in
front was left open, and I took the liberty of entering
the hall, and coiling myself up on the marble

The morning was well advanced when I awoke.
I felt cold and stiff. Marble steps make but an
indifferent resting place of a chilly night. I resolved
in my mind not to lodge again in the ball
of the university.

The weather was comparatively mild and
pleasant when I fell asleep, but during the night,
one of those changes, so common in our climate,
had taken place, and a dry, piercing cold wind now
swept through the streets, converting heaps of
mud and filth into clouds of fine and penetrating
dust. The shop doors were all closed, and men
hurried through the streets, wrapped in their
cloaks, and their hats drawn tightly over their
eyes, and their heads bowed down to keep the
dust out of their faces, as it met them in spiral
eddies at the corners of the avenues. The omnibuses
were all crowded, for nobody would venture
to walk through clouds of dust and coal
ashes, when they could ride under cover for a
shilling; and the little ragged omnibus boys
would hardly condescend to take their hands out
of their pockets, to open the doors for

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passengers. A poor seamstress, but slenderly protected
from the cold wind by a thin shawl, might be seen
here and there, hurrying to her daily task. Little
barefooted boys were crying out, `here's the
Sun,' in shrill piping voices, while their teeth
chattered together, and their faces were blue with
cold. Although I was compelled to walk very
fast to keep myself from shivering, and sometimes
by the force of a sudden gust of wind, I
could not help noticing these poor creatures, and
envying them, miserable though they were. They
had something to do.

I was very cold, and with my coat buttoned
close up to my throat, I have no doubt I made a
very wretched appearance; but I was indifferent
about my looks; I was hurrying down Broadway,
with a determination to go to Mr. Stewpy,
and make an appeal to his generosity for a breakfast.
I had got as far as Reed street, when, as I
was about to turn the corner, I encountered an
apparition, which drove all thoughts of breakfast
out of my mind, and caused the sweat to start
from every pore in my body.

The apparition which I encountered was not
of the spectral order; it would have startled me
less if it had been; but it was a ruddy cheeked,
hearty looking young man. It was none other

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than my haughty cousin, whose unfeeling taunts
had driven me from my home, to seek a fortune
in the world. He was elegantly and warmly
clad, with a fur collar to his outside coat; he was
leaning on the arm of a young man, and laughing
right heartily, apparently at some observation of
his companion. As soon as I caught sight of
him, I crossed over to the opposite side of the
street, hoping to escape his notice; but he recognised
me, and called out my name. But I kept
on my way without turning my head, and heard
him exclaim, “I told you so; remember what I
told you.” And then he and his companion

I did remember what he had told me; the words
still burned in my brain. I thought my heart
would burst; all the blood in my veins seemed to
rush into it at once. I wandered about, blinded
with grief, my brain was dizzy, and I felt sick. I
looked around in search of some place where I
might hide myself from observation, and give vent
to my feelings in tears.

I had unconsciously strayed into a wretched
street, the houses of which on either side were
disgustingly mean and filthy in their appearance.
Vile looking women, negroes, and squalid children,
hogs, and all manner of unclean things,

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were seen all around; and oaths, and lewd talk,
and boisterous revelry, without mirth, were
heard proceeding from the cellars and shop doors.
I did not know before that there was such a vile
and wretched spot in the city, and I spoke to a
negro woman, who sat on the sill of a cellar door,
smoking a pipe, and asked her what place it

“Get away, white man,” replied the wench,
“you don't say you don't know where de pints is;
get along wid your bodering me. Dis is Five
Points, dat you knows precious well.”

While I was looking around me at the squalid
misery on every side, which appeared a thousand
times more hideous from its evident association
with the most degrading vice, a little bare-headed
and bare-footed child asked me for a penny, in a
voice so weak and feeble, that it smote upon my
heart. But I looked sternly upon the little wretch,
and answered, “no.”

“Won't you come and see mother,” said the
child, at the same time reaching up to take hold of
my hand.

“Where is your mother?” I asked.

“She's a bed,” answered the child. “Do come
and see her.”

I had nothing to give, not even a penny, but I

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could not resist the appeal of the little creature,
and I followed it through a dirty narrow passage,
into a little square court, surrounded by old wooden
sheds, in a most ruinous and dilapidated condition.

Into one of these hovels I was led by the child.
In a low room, destitute of every convenience, was
a bed, on which lay a middle aged woman, covered
over with a few miserable rags. Two children,
smaller than the one that had led me in, were nestling
over a few expiring embers; they were almost
naked, and their pale and emaciated faces showed
too plainly how severely the little innocents had
suffered for the want of wholesome food. The destitution
of the place was extreme. I could hardly
believe that there were human beings living, or rather
dying, in such a condition, in the very centre
of this great and wealthy city.

The poor woman hardly moved her head when
I came in. I stood some minutes, and gazed on the
misery around me, and forgot my own; but when
I remembered that I had not the power to offer the
slightest relief, I wept tears of bitter agony. The
little children ran to the bed side of their mother,
and she looked up at me with disappointment in
her face, when she found that I had nothing but
tears to offer her.

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The little boy, who had gone back as soon as he
had conducted me into the room, now came running
in, exclaiming, “she's coming, mother, she's
coming; don't die mother, she's coming, she's
coming.” I looked out of the window, and saw a
female approaching across the court. Ashamed to
be seen in such a place an idle looker on, I stole
out of a side door, and left it partly ajar, that I
might catch a glimpse of the gentle being who
had come on an errand of mercy, into this loathsome

The children crowded around their visiter
when she entered, and I observed that she gave
them some food from a basket which she carried in
her hand; her face was turned from me towards
the sick woman; but I could hear the tones of her
voice, which were soft and musical. Although I
could not hear the words she uttered, I doubted
not they were words of consolation and pity. After
she had administered to the poor woman's wants,
she took a seat on the side of the bed, and taking
a book from her basket, she commenced reading;
from the few words that I heard, I supposed it was
a religious tract. The gentle murmur of her soft
voice fell upon my ear like angel whispers; I stood
completely entranced, while she was reading, with
the tears running from my eyes. The sick woman

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sobbed aloud, and the gentle being at her side,
when she laid down her book, spoke a few words
to her, and then took off her bonnet, and knelt
down by the bedside to pray.

When she knelt down, her face was turned towards
me. My eyes were almost blinded with
tears, but I could not be mistaken. She lifted her
eyes to Heaven. I could never forget their gentle
expression. It was Georgiana De Lancey.

She crossed her hands upon her breast, and
prayed long and fervently for the sick woman and
her children. O! that I too could have been remembered
in her prayers. Surely, I thought, if
ever prayer be heard, it must be when it is breathed
by lips like hers.

Had she been a stranger to me, I could not have
looked upon her unmoved. Had I never loved
her before, I must have loved her then. When I
saw her last, she was in a crowded theatre, amid
the glare of bright lights, and surrounded by forms
and faces, perhaps as beautiful as her own, and I
thought her then the loveliest vision that had ever
been revealed to mortal eyes. In the two years
that had elapsed, she had grown in stature, and,
if possible, in beauty, and now I saw her in her
proper sphere, like one of God's particular angels,
just lighted upon earth on an errand of love.

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When I saw her last, I had some hope, but now I
had none. I had not the courage to hope to be
ever admitted into her society. I felt the wretchedness
of my condition in all its force. I had
struggled in vain. The objects at which I aimed
could never be mine; they were placed at an immeasurable
distance from me. I felt that I was
doomed to misery; the prophetic words of my
cousin had been again repeated, but I had no kind
parents now upon whose bosom I could pour out
my grief, and no tender sister to mingle her tears
with mine. But I could die, and I exulted in the
thought. Death would not turn from me. I resolved
to die, and I felt calm.

I looked again at the fair vision before me, but
my eyes were blurred with tears; I never expected
to behold her again, until I should look upon her
in the next world.

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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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