MoboReader> Literature > Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic

   Chapter 23 IN WHICH PHIL MEETS A PALE GENTLEMAN WITH ONE ARM IN A SLING.

Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11080

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"I thought you would come back, my dear Phil," said Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne, as he placed himself in the doorway before me. "I knew you had so much respect and regard for us that you would not break our hearts by being long absent. By the way, Phil, how is the weather on the roof?"

"It is rather cool," I replied, seating myself in the vacant chair, "but not quite so cool as you are, Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne."

"Phil, be virtuous, and you will always be happy; that is the secret of my uninterrupted cheerfulness; that enables me always and everywhere to be perfectly calm and collected. Be honest, just, and upright, Phil; and then the man don't live that can make you tremble, or, in other words, shake in your boots. But besides being all these, Phil, you should be charitable and humane, especially the latter. I am humane, Phil, and that adds to the sum total of my bliss on earth."

"You must be an exceedingly happy man, Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne," I added; and I saw that he had been drinking some exhilarating beverage since I left him.

"O, I am-happy as the day is long, and the night too. You were so very imprudent, Phil, as to make your exit-in other words, your departure-from this room by the way of that front window. You might have fallen upon the hard pavement in the street below; and then how I should have wept over your brief but wasted life!"

"You are very affectionate."

"Affection is the staple fodder of my existence, Phil. By a process of reasoning which I need not attempt to develop to your unpractised understanding, I arrived at the conclusion that you would be compelled to remain all night on the roof of this and the adjacent houses, unless something was done for you. Dreading lest, benumbed with cold, you should attempt the fearful feat of returning to this humble apartment by the same means you used in leaving it, I placed that ladder at the skylight for your use. After all the wrongs, injuries, and insults you have heaped upon me, I took this means to prevent you from sacrificing yourself on the hard pavement below. That is what I call humanity, and I offer it to you as an exemplification of that noble attribute."

"Thank you; and I will endeavor to profit by your example, at least so far as it illustrates the attribute of humanity. If you have nothing more to say to me, I will take my leave of you."

"Stay, Phil; I have more to say to you," he interposed. "Be honest, and you will be eccentric-I mean, you will be happy."

"I am glad to hear such lessons of practical wisdom from you, Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne," I replied, hoping he would soon come to the point, if he had any point, as Mr. Bogart had suggested.

"You appreciate true wisdom, Phil. Good! Then you will give that note to this honest young man."

"Certainly I will give it to him when he proves his claim."

I concluded that he was not satisfied with the blank paper sent in the envelope.

"I knew you would be just, Phil, after the good advice I have given you; for you are not a bad boy at heart, though you have been led away by evil influences. If you stay with me a while, you will be reformed, and then you will lead a good and true life, and then you will be eccentric-happy, I mean. Won't you smoke a cigar, Phil?"

"No, I thank you; I never smoke."

"That's right, Phil. It's a filthy practice, besides leading to other vices more to be condemned," said he, lighting a fresh cigar. "Now, Phil, about that note, which justly and rightly belongs to my good friend Morgan Blair. Do you happen to have it about you?"

"Yes; I have it in my pocket," I replied, acting upon the advice of Mr. Bogart.

"Capital! Things always work right for those who are faithful and humane. I'm faithful and humane. Now, we are going to bring you two good and true witnesses, who will convince you that Morgan Blair is the son of Matt Rockwood's sister. We have taken a great deal of pains to send to Vandalia for them, and they will be here to-night-this very night, Phil. That's all we want to see you for."

"Very well; I should like to hear what they have to say."

"You shall hear them. I will go down and bring them up," he added, rising from the chair.

He had hardly got up before the door was darkened by what to me seemed to be an apparition. It was a gentleman with an overcoat thrown loosely over his shoulders. He wore no other coat, and no vest. I saw that his left arm was suspended in a sling. His face was very pale, and he looked very much like my excellent friend Mr. Gracewood, though a second glance assured me it was not he. When he discovered me, he started back, and was disposed to retreat.

"You have company, Mr. Lynch," said the pale gentleman. "I will come another time."

"Come in, Mr. Gracewood. Come in!" replied Lynch, placing the rocking-chair for the visitor, who was evidently an invalid.

Mr. Gracewood! It certainly was not my kind friend; but the resemblance was strong enough to assure me that he was a relative, if not a brother.

"Is this the way you keep my secret?" said the pale gentleman, reproachfully, as he retreated a pace into the entry.

"O, it's all right here. This is Phil Farringford, of whom I spoke to you," added Lynch.

"So much the worse!" exclaimed the invalid, impatiently.

"But he is the very essence of discretion and reserve. Your secret is as safe with him as with me," protested the gambler.

"The mischief is done, whatever it may be. You have called me by my name."

"May I ask if you are a relative of H

enry Gracewood?" I inquired, so much interested in the pale gentleman that I forgot everything else.

"His own brother, and his only brother," replied Mr. Gracewood, bitterly. "I would not have him know that I am here for his fortune and mine, though I am guilty of no crime against him."

"Mind that, Phil," interposed Lynch; "and remember that discretion is the better part of valor, and sometimes the better part of virtue. This honest gentleman has been unfortunate, but not guilty."

I could not understand how a person in his situation, apparently an invalid, should happen to be in a gambling-house, and it seemed to me that the secrecy he coveted was an indication of something evil. He declared that he was guilty of no crime against his brother. Respect and regard for the good friend of my early years prompted me not to betray him, at least before I knew more about him. Then it occurred to me that the detective on the roof, or perhaps in the entry by this time, might discover more than it was desirable for him to know.

"Do you know where my brother is now, young man?" asked the invalid.

"He is at Delaware City, where his wife is sick," I replied, giving him the details of the illness of Mrs. Gracewood.

"You can talk it over between you," interposed Lynch. "I have an engagement with the governor of Missouri and half a dozen congressmen; and I hope you will excuse me for half an hour."

Mr. Gracewood nodded, and Lynch and Blair left the room. I had no doubt Mr. Bogart, in the entry, would attend to their movements, and I did not trouble myself about them. I told my companion all I knew about his brother.

"I had a letter from him this autumn, saying he expected to return to St. Louis before winter. He spoke about you, and about his wife and daughter. I have heard nothing from them since."

"He would have been here a fortnight ago if his wife had not been sick."

"Young man, do you know the character of this house?" said Mr. Gracewood, looking at me very sharply.

"I do, sir, very well indeed; and the character of the man who has just left us."

"How do you happen to be in such a place, then?"

"I was enticed here by Lynch, who wanted to plunder me of certain property in my possession; but I understand him, and he won't make anything out of me."

"Perhaps you wonder that I am here," he added, looking upon the floor, as though he considered his own position more equivocal than mine.

"I confess that I do, sir, especially as you look like an invalid, and I see you have your arm in a sling."

"I would not have my brother know that I am here for all the world, for I judge from the tone of his letter that a great change has come over him. He talks to me of the mercies of God, which I feel that I need more than all else on earth. I am overwhelmed with shame at my situation."

Mr. Gracewood covered his face with his hand, and I heard him groan in bitterness of spirit. I pitied him, for whatever he had done, he was a penitent, and I was sure that God's mercy could reach and comfort him.

"If you wish, I will tell you how I happen to be here," I added, intending, if possible, to divert his mind from the woe that overwhelmed him.

"No, young man; I do not care to know. As you may see my brother before I do, I had better tell you how I happen to be here," he added. "I have been gambling, and I have lost thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. I have even impaired my fortune; and if this calamity had not overtaken me,"-and he pointed to his wounded arm,-"I might even have spent my brother's fortune, which, perhaps you know, he placed in my keeping. I sold stocks and bonds in which I had invested his money, and lost the proceeds at the gambling table.

"In my home at Glencoe, I cursed my own folly and wickedness in wasting my substance in games of chance; but I hoped to redeem my heavy losses. I was fully resolved, when I had done so, never to play again. But the judgment comes when we least expect it. I found, when I looked over my accounts in the quiet of my chamber at Glencoe, that I had lost about twenty thousand dollars' worth of stocks and bonds belonging to my brother. I was appalled, for both his property and mine was largely invested in real estate, and I had not the ready money to make good the deficiency. A few days before, an offer was made me for a piece of property in this city. I proposed to sell it for thirty thousand, and was offered twenty-five. Under the pressure of this need to repair my brother's fortune, I hastened to the city, and closed the bargain at the lower price.

"The purchaser came to me with the money in his hand as soon as I could have the papers prepared. It was four o'clock in the afternoon when the business was completed, and I had twenty-five thousand dollars in my pocket. It was too late to deposit it in the bank that day, and meeting one whose acquaintance I had made at Forstellar's, I came here. I lost a thousand dollars before I fully realized what I was doing. Then I refused to play any more. The one with whom I had come was angry with me. In a word, we had a quarrel, and in his wrath he attempted to stab me; but I warded off the blow with my arm, which was severely wounded.

"The ruffian escaped; but I was taken to a chamber, and a surgeon sent for. Then I thought of the large sum of money in my possession, and the character of the place, and-"

Mr. Gracewood suddenly placed his hand against his breast, and, without another word, fled from the room.

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