Page images
PDF
EPUB

shortest of interviews with the messenger of 'Sympathy,' and then passed away into the black night, breasting the storm with an energy remarkable to behold.

That night marked an important epoch in that old man's life. It was a Friday; and thenceforth the shabby figure might be seen every Friday evening shambling up the street to the house of his fair sympathiser. His song was soon dispensed with, and he became a regular pensioner on the lady's bounty. Her warm heart was touched by the helplessness of the poor fellow. He was past work that was evident-and the lady, herself certainly not in the heyday of strength or health or fortune, lent what material and moral support she could to keep her poorer brother from the workhouse-whither, he said, he would never go while his 'old missus' was alive.

This occupation began twenty years before he met 'Sympathy,' and day after day, up to nearly last Christmas, he went out and brought home his little share towards the joint support of his wife and himself in their New Cut nest.

CHAPTER V.

The life of the street singer had not been one of much incident or interest until its closing chapters were reached. Born and bred in service, he had been a gentleman's servant, page, footman, valet, butler, until paralysis had struck him down; and then, though he partially recovered, he was cast aside, like an old coat or a worn-out piece of furniture. He had, however, married; and when he and his wife finally left service, they set up in a very tiny little house, in a horribly dull dirty TEXAS DICK's judgment was not at fault; for little street running out of the New Cut, Lambeth. it was a white man whom he had seen in company They managed to get the house at a remarkably with two Apachés, and this white man was not low rent, and hence the choice of this unsavoury unknown to him. Nor was the fact of these locality. The wife let lodgings to working-men; Apachés being seen there at that time, devoid and the old man, when he had regained sufficient of a certain ominous significance; for the tribe strength to go about, procured a little connection for himself, running errands for servants in houses were away, and none but loafing, or as they are where he had formerly been in high service, expressively termed in the West, 'bad' Indians brushing clothes, cleaning boots, and generally would be in the district apart from their chiefs performing the very minor character of gentle- and comrades. Texas Dick had also, as he rightly man's gentleman's gentleman. suspected, been seen by the white stranger; for the latter had hurried to the shelter of the broken ground, in order to avoid him.

The two Indians so seen, either understood the design of their companion, or obeyed without questioning; for nothing was said among the three until they stood in a little ravine, and the white had made sure of the Texan's disappearance.

On Friday, the 23d December 1881, the weekly visitor appeared for the last time at the house of his benefactress, and received an extra dole, because of the season of the year, and because of a more tiresome wheeze than usual which was noticeable in his voice. He received also two pair of warm socks from the bountiful hands of the good lady; and was sent away with words of comfort and sympathy, which he laid to heart as he walked home. He was very ill, and he

I fear there may be some difficulty, when I come to explain how I knew your husband.'

'What do you mean, ma'am?' asked the dead singer's wife.

knew it.

On the last Friday of the old year he failed to appear at the house near Eccleston Square. Then the lady sent to the Lambeth address, and found that on Christmas Eve the old man had passed away, saying with his last breath: 'Place those socks which the dear lady gave me, on my chest, old woman; they seem to cheer me.'

m

Well, you are aware that some people would be prejudiced against you, if they knew that he sung in the street for a living.'

He

The widow stood for a moment as if rooted to the floor, her face puckered with pain; and then her knees seemed to give way, and she sank in a heap on the carpet, flung her arms on a chair, buried her face in her hands, and sobbed out: 'Oh, he ne-ver ne-ver told me this! al-ways said he'd got a few frien's in Westminster who he did a thing or two for! O ma'am, ma'am, how good he was! Oh, my poor old man-my poor old man! An' he did this for me; an' Lord love 'im for it, 'e kep' it from me to the very end!'

She ceased, rose trembling from the floor, took the extended hand of "Sympathy,' reverently kissed it, and went her way.

SETTING THE SNARES.

'Señor Tony,' then said one of the Indians, in his broken jumble of English and Spanish, 'that not the man you go for show us—ugh?'

"That!' exclaimed the white man, in a tone expressive of supreme contempt. That is Texas Dick. You should know him surely, Pedro. The man I want to show you is the new boss at the ranche. I know that old man Holt is to ride through Crowsfoot Cañon to-day, and this boy will be with him. I have never met him alone, or I would have'- The speaker ceased abruptly, and tapped the revolver in his belt with a glance which was meant to be fierce. The red man of the West has his features well under control; he rarely laughs or shows to white perceptions, at anyrate-what he thinks;

[ocr errors]

Chambers's Journal, April 22, 1882.]

SETTING THE SNARES.

Injun much tired: Injun want whisky. No can walk more over this mountain without whisky.'

'You shall have whisky soon, Pedro,' returned the white; but I want to show you this man first. We shall strike the cañon directly; then, after they have gone by, you shall have whisky.'

Injun stop here. Injun go to sleep, if no whisky,' sullenly rejoined Pedro, who at once, without further notice, seated himself on a fragment of rock. The second Indian, being either of a taciturn disposition, or understanding even less English than Pedro, grunted out the invariable 'Ugh!' and imitated his comrade.

'You are a sweet pair,' growled Tony, as he looked from one to the other of their obstinate, animal-like faces, so stolid and expressionless. He added some bitter and very strong words; but these also were growled in an under key; for Indian ears are sharp, and are never sharper than when the barbarians are apparently most stupid and abstracted.

With some more half-intelligible grumbling, the white man produced a bottle from one of his pockets. The two Indian faces lighted with a momentary flash as they saw it, and they uttered guttural ejaculations of approval. Making the best of the situation, Señor Tony first drank a deep gulp himself of the raw spirit, then handed the bottle to his companions, who drank with immense gusto, and with repeated exclamations of 'Good-very good,' until the whisky was exhausted, very few minutes being required for this. As soon as the bottle was empty, Señor Tony exclaimed: 'Now then, boys! hurry on to the cañon.'

But, to his disgust, Pedro insisted upon a still further supply of liquor: More whisky. Injun no had plenty enough whisky.'

'I have no more with me,' protested the white man. 'Search me if you like. Come, my good men, let us hurry on, or we shall be too late.'

'Señor Tony ought have bring along much more whisky,' said Pedro. 'Injun no had plenty.' Curling round like a dog as he said this, the Indian disposed himself for sleep, which so exasperated Tony, that he seized him by the shoulder and shook him violently.

In an instant the Indian was erect, his broad knife glittering in his hand, while his eyes wore so diabolical an expression that Tony fell back appalled. For a moment the Indian paused, and then broke into what was intended for a laugh of approval, perhaps of contempt for the scared face of the white man. It was but a grunt or chuckle, yet it awoke the risibility of Miguel, who laughed in concert, and the danger was over. Tony, who had turned ghastly pale, also tried to join in the laughter, but only partly succeeded. As they again walked on, he wiped the cold perspiration from his forehead, and while appearing to be calm, was really mad with rage and quivering with fear.

Tony, however, was pretty well acquainted with the temper of his companions; and by submitting to their rude jokes with apparent enjoyment, and by frequent references to the 'heaps of dollars' which would be earned by them in this enterprise, he got over the crisis safely, so that by the time they entered Crowsfoot Cañon the Anachés had somewhat toned down

259

Tony dreaded lest those they had come to see had already passed; but, happily for his plans, it was not so; and ere they had been at their post of espial many minutes, they descried a small party of mounted men turn the angle of a huge cliff or 'bluff,' and ride up the cañon towards them. 'Hist! keep down, Pedro; keep down, Miguel!' exclaimed the white man in a whisper, for his allies showed signs of breaking out with shouts of defiance and flourishings of knives. 'If they see you to-day, there will be no dollars, no whisky over the job.'

"Ugh!" ejaculated his two associates as this convincing logic reached their ears. Then crouching down behind the broken rocks, they watched patiently the approach of the unconscious riders.

The horse-track ran close under thei lurkingplace. The party was six in number, consisting of Mr Holt and Arthur, Mr Gaisford, and three of their men. They were so near, that any attempt on their lives might have been executed with every prospect of success; but the survivors would infallibly have discovered their assailants, and there were some deadly marksmen in the party, as Tony knew right well. Neither would it have suited his plans to bring on a mêlée in which Mr Holt was exposed to danger. These plans, whatever they were, did not include the death of the farmer. As the riders passed within pistol-shot of the spies, Tony silently pointed with his finger full at Arthur, who for the moment had fallen back a little, and was riding separate. The gleam in the eyes of the red men and their silent nod, showed that he was understood; and no word was spoken until some minutes after the cavalcade had passed.

'You know him now?' eagerly whispered Tony; 'you know the muchacho-the boy?"

'Know him enough,' said Pedro, touching his knife.

'That is right!' exclaimed Tony. 'The sooner the better, boys. Mind! I have promised you fifty dollars, when I know he is dead; and now I say that I will give you a keg of the best whisky as well-the real old rye. You shall get drunk like white men, for a month.'

At this promise, so delightful to their ears, the dark eyes of the Indians blazed again; and Pedro, in whom the fumes of his late potent draught were still working strongly, forgot in this ecstasy his habitual caution, and plucking his knife from its sheath, waved it above his head, and gave one long hideous yell, or 'whoop,' which rang throughout the cañon, and reached the ears of the horsemen, distant as they were. They instantly pulled up, and listened; but the yell was not repeated. Had Mr Holt and his friends been at the entrance to the cañon, they might have been more suspicious; but they had reached a spot where the great breadth of the valley forbade all fear of an ambush; hence, after a brief pause, they rode leisurely on.

CHAPTER VI.

Friendly meetings on the part of Mr Holt and Mr Gaisford, and their respective households and servants, were by no means uncommon; and Arthur among others had come to know the

well. Indeed, it had even been remarked by friendly observers how frequently Arthur found it necessary to ride over to Gaisford Ranche, and how often his business was such as to detain him there for a whole day. It did not, moreover, fail to be noticed, that should Miss Rachel at any time happen to go out for a ride, it was almost certain, by the most curious concurrence of circumstances, that on that very day it should happen to Arthur to go out for a ride likewise; and not only so, but it further happened, through an equally surprising series of coincidences, that though both started to ride towards opposite points of the compass, their paths were almost sure at some point to cross each other; and when this occurred, it was of course necessary that Arthur should see the young lady safe back to her father's house. This series of recurrences was, as must needs be, known to Squire Gaisford, for no endeavour was made to conceal it from him; and as it was noted by all the 'helps,' it was probably known also to Mr Holt. There is, however, good reason to believe that it met with the approval of these elders.

On one particular evening, when Arthur had accompanied Rachel home, and they and the farmer were sitting at supper, the conversation turned upon the Indians. Mr Gaisford, in his antipathy to them, vowed himself willing to give a whole section of his farm-by which he meant one hundred and sixty acres to bury as many of the red scoundrels as could be corralled within its four corners.'

[blocks in formation]

"Harm!' laughed Arthur; 'no, indeed! If I dread anything on the part of Cuervo, it is his great demonstrations of friendship. For some odd reason or another, he has certainly taken a strange fancy for me.' "Yes,' said the farmer reflectively-yes; that You might depend on Cuervo. I will say that, although he's an Injun. When the Injuns or Mexicans do take a liking to a man or a woman, they will do almost anything to serve them.'

is so.

'By the way,' said Arthur, 'I called at the post-office as we came in, to see if there were any letters; but there were none. I do not like your postmaster very much.'

'What have you against him?' asked the farmer.

'We saw old Seth Birrable,' explained Rachel ; and there was something very strange about him. First of all, as we rode up to the shanty where he keeps the office, we found the door fastened. We might have gone away, after knocking, but that I had seen for sure a face peeping at us as we rode up, and saw the door gently closed. So we knocked again'

'Rather loudly,' interposed Arthur.

'Yes; rather loudly continued Rachel, with a smile; and then old Seth came to the door. He looked as skeered as if he had seen a ghost. He stood just in the opening of the door, which he held in his hand, as though he wished to prevent us from entering, which we had no intention of doing. When we asked about the letters, he answered so gruffly, we could scarcely understand what he said, and then slammed the door close without another word.'

'Whisky,' said the farmer sententiously. 'I have noticed something oncommon about Seth for a long time. He is pretty nigh played out, I reckon.'"

"Perhaps you are right,' replied Arthur; 'but he did not look like a drunken man, to my thinking.'

"Whisky,' again repeated Mr Gaisford, in a tone which showed that he, at all events, was perfectly satisfied with the explanation; and neither of his listeners caring to dispute its correctness, the subject dropped.

It was somewhat later than usual when Arthur set out on his homeward ride. The night was clear, from the moon being in her first quarter; and there was no difficulty in a rider, tolerably familiar with the road, finding his way safely enough across the country. Arthur had not proceeded far, when, to his surprise, and a little to his alarm, three mounted figures suddenly emerged into the clear starlight and approached him. He saw they were Indians, and that they separated as they drew nigh him, so that two would approach on his left side, and one on his right.

Seriously alarmed at observing this disposition, he checked his horse and drew his revolver. The action was noted; and a deep guttural voice, which he instantly recognised, said: 'Indianos amigos [friends]. I am Cuervo! No shoot;' and the next instant the friendly Uté was by his side. Resuming his journey, all four rode on towards Mr Holt's Ranche.

Cuervo talked a good deal; but owing to the frequent occurrence of Spanish words in his conversation, Arthur could understand but little of it. He was much puzzled also by the style in which they crowded' him, as they rode along. At last, when about half the distance had been traversed, the Indians either saw that he did not like such close quarters, or their zeal, from some cause, slackened, for they fell away from him; and then, after riding a few hundred yards farther, they quitted him abruptly,

th a brief 'Good-night,' and in another minute were lost in the gloom of the prairie.

There had been something so odd in their sudden appearance and disappearance, that Arthur could not help mentioning the circumstance to Mr Holt on his reaching home.

April 22, 1882.]

The farmer on hearing mention of Cuervo's name, said: 'If it had been any other Injun, I should have thought less of it. I should have put it down to whisky. But Cuervo! he is different. Who were the others with him?'

[ocr errors]

They were Cuervo's sons,' replied Arthur. 'Oh,' said Mr Holt; I know them well; very decent boys for Indians. Whatever Cuervo could want away from his camp after nightfall, I can't imagine; it is so different from his conduct in general. I don't half like it.'

The farmer shook his head as he concluded; and no more was said for the time on the subject.

One bright afternoon not long after this, Arthur had ridden early over to Mr Gaisford's. Goldthread was speedily saddled, and Miss Rachel and he set out for an easy canter towards the high broken ground known as the 'foot-hills,' beyond which in the distance rose the great summits of the Rocky Mountains. This was a favourite ride, as the views there were more extensive and picturesque than from the lowlying country through which the river ran.

'Yonder,' said Arthur, pointing to a group in the distance, 'is Texas Dick and some of our men. They are going to build a sheep corral there they see us!' With this, he waved his hat; the signal was returned, and then the men went on with their work.

too, and there ain't a better place in the States for such work than Kansas. You have not the real grit, Squire Tony, that's where the trouble is'

While they had been exchanging signals with Dick, a man had come to the edge of a thick copse which grew just there, and although he drew back instantly, paused within the shelter of the little wood to watch them. It was only for a minute, and then he disappeared; and they, unconscious of this espionage, proceeded on their

'Now drop this,' interrupted Tony. 'I mean business, and if you can only say'

'So do I,' interposed the postmaster in turn. I mean business, and I am coming right to it. But you must really let me show what I have done. The other afternoon that gal would have seen you here with me, if I had not stuck around that doorway; and then, where would your plans have been? And you get your precious Injuns down here, and catch the boy riding home after dark, and then are afraid to touch him.'

"We should have shot him that night!' exclaimed Tony, but for those blackguard Utés, who rode so close beside him that we dared not fire. I will never believe that was chance; some one must have told them.'

'Shoo!' ejaculated Birrable contemptuously. 'I would have shot Utés and all, and been glad to have taken such a chance. However, that's how it stands. You know what I have done, what you have not done, and what you want me to do now. All I have had is fifty dollars and promises. I want a hundred dollars before I stir another particle in your business; the promises to stand the same as they do now.'

After some argument, Tony drew fifty dollars from his pocket, and this was accepted as a compromise. They then entered upon a kind of whispered conversation, which was broken off by Tony saying: 'Now, there is no time to be lost; for if you can't meet that Britisher before he gets to the Gaisford Ranche, there will be some questions asked which may be difficult to answer; but if you catch him and the girl alone, he will believe anything.'

'I have got just the man for the messenger,' replied Birrable; 'leave it to me.'

ride.

ACONITINE.

On ap

The man who had thus watched them immediately struck through the wood, emerging at the opposite side. Then at a quick pace he descended the sloping ground, and made towards the cluster of huts which we have described as calling itself Andrew Jackson City. proaching these dwellings, the man's gait became THE important trial which has recently taken slower, and he paused occasionally in places place, ending in the conviction of Dr Lamson of where he was screened by a tree, bush, or mound the murder of his brother-in-law by the adminisof earth from the observation of any one who might chance to be looking from the buildings. tration of aconitine, has turned attention not only At last, he reached them without seeing a soul; to this very powerful poison, but also to the and climbing a low fence at the back of the facility with which it and similar poisons may post-office, entered the open door, closing it be obtained for felonious purposes. Considerable carefully behind him. He then turned the uneasiness has consequently taken possession of the handle of another door and stepped into the public mind-and not unnaturally, we confess, front room, in which a man was seated. With when we consider the powerful agent employed in a startled exclamation, the postmaster half drew this case, and the little apparently known regarda large pistol which hung at his belt, but replaced ing it both by medical men and experts. This

it when he saw who was the intruder. There's business to be done to-night, Birrable,' uneasiness may be said to have found expression at the conclusion of the trial in the jury record

said the intruder.

'Is thar?' replied the other. 'Well, looking their conviction that the sale of such poisons here! Squire Tony! I have had enough of should be more strictly guarded; an opinion also your work, and not enough of your dollars. supported by the judge, and since re-echoed in I know what you want; you want the young the columns of many of the daily papers. ProbBritisher at the Holt Ranche sent up, and ably no better method will be found of allaying I don't propose to run that line any longer. this anxiety and at the same time securing I opened old Holt's letters and took copies for

you, and I opened the Britisher's. You met proper legislation in the sale of potent poisons him at New York; and why you didn't clinch-if such be needed-than a just appreciation of

the facts of the case now before 118.

parative ignorance of medical men as to the
effects of aconitine, as exhibited in the above
case, must not be stretched too far. Medical
men have had as many opportunities of study-
ing the toxicological effects of aconite and
its preparations, as of any other poison in the
pharmacopoeia. Indeed, poisoning from the root
alone, of that well-known plant monkshood,
owing to a certain resemblance which it bears
to the common horse-radish, has been so frequent,
that most works on botany and materia medica
carefully give the distinguishing characteristics
of each; and every medical work gives detailed
instructions both as to symptoms and treatment,
in cases of poisoning from its use. All that
ought to be assumed, therefore, regarding the
medical evidence is this, that the cases of poison-
ing from the active principle aconitine have been
so few, that medical men have not had an oppor-
tunity of relatively examining the intensity and
duration of the symptoms, the post-mortem
appearances, and the means of detecting its
presence in the tissues and organs of the body.
Even in these respects, however, the case before
us will have supplied much of the data required
for future guidance; and it may, therefore, we
think, be safely assumed that there is practically
more risk that poisoning from aconitine,
where given surreptitiously, will escape detec-
tion by any ordinary medical practitioner, than
there is of any other vegetable poison more
commonly used.

harmless bitter; and probably the other has no
The officinal process
great medicinal activity.
does not provide for the separation of these or
other proximate principles which may be present
in the roots, nor is there any sufficiently strict
test given whereby changes in the aconitine itself
can be detected-changes in which it passes by the
ordinary process of preparation, and probably also
of exposure, into other and unlike compounds,
with probably unlike if not inert effects. Inves-
tigation has not only shown all this, but it has
also shown further, that while a crystallisable,
and consequently pure and definite aconitine can
be prepared, although at very great cost, it can-
not be prepared, even where the same process is
strictly adhered to, from every batch of roots.
We conclude from this, that such influences
as climate, soil, &c., affect both the amount and
quality of the alkaloid derivable from the
plant.

no

Cases of poisoning from rare, are not unknown.

aconitine, though very In April 1880, for example, a Dr Meyer of Winschoten died from an overdose of this poison, having taken in mistake a dose of French prepared aconitine instead of a German preparation. Herein lies one reason, and probably the principal, why British practitioners avoid the use of this powerful agent namely, the impossibility of regulating the dose, owing to extreme variations in the quality of the substance. This variation in strength is forcibly brought out in a series of experiments undertaken by a French chemist, and recently published. He demonstrated that while it took five milligrammes of English aconitine (Morson's) to kill frogs in thirty minutes, three milligrammes of one foreign make killed them in three minutes; and onetwentieth of a milligramme of another foreign preparation also killed them in three minutes. Powerful as this last preparation is, others more powerful still are known, and can be obtained by using certain species of roots, and exercising care in the extraction and crystallisation of the active principle. In short, different roots and The only remaining source of uneasiness which different modes of extracting and purifying the can possibly exist is in the supposed facility active principle give products widely different there is for obtaining these potent poisons for both in activity and constitution. To understand nefarious purposes. We would, however, point how this is, it may be necessary to explain that out that throughout the trial, there was not & the substance known commercially as aconitine shadow of proof that such poisons could be is not of definite chemical composition. Recent in- obtained by any one outside the medical vestigation has shown that the Aconitum Napellus faculty. It ought not to be overlooked that the -from which it is prepared in this country-party who bought the poison was a properly contains, besides aconitine, two other substances, qualified practitioner, who, in purchasing the which have only been partially examined. At poison, gave his address as such, and as such least one of these substances is comparatively a was exempt from all the provisions of the

As regards the detection of aconitine by chemical means, it has several well marked reactions with various reagents; but these are not sufficiently delicate to detect the minute quantity which the poison-scientist has generally to work with. No test can be said to be of much avail in cases of poisoning from organic substances which will not detect from the onehundredth to the one-thousandth part of a grain. Strychnine, for example, is only soluble to the extent of one part in two thousand parts of cold water; but even this dilute solution is distinctly bitter to the taste. This bitterness, however, is not sufficient to indicate strychnine, as quinine also would give a similar bitterness. It is here that the special knowledge of the expert comes into play. Quinine, if present even in very minute quantity, would impart, with excess of sulphuric acid, a distinct florescent appearance to the solution, which would not only distinguish it from strychnine, but would also be sufficiently distinctive of its own individuality. Strychnine, on the other hand, can be readily detected, if even a trace be present, from the brilliant violetblue_reaction it gives with strong sulphuric acid in the presence of an oxidising agent. With aconitine, however, no such delicate chemical test is known; but here the physiological tests come into operation, and the burning sensation produced by the minutest quantity when touched by the tongue, or the action produced when subcutaneously injected into some of the smaller animals, are tests as delicate and certain as any chemical tests employed to detect the more common poisons. This, we think, was plainly brought out in the recent trial; so that the very cause ought at the same time also to carry the cure to much of that uneasiness which has been created in the public mind.

« PreviousContinue »