Produced by Cornell University, Joshua Hutchinson, Sandra
Brown and PG Distributed Proofreaders
Produced by Cornell University, Joshua Hutchinson, Sandra
Punchinello, Vol. 1, No. 14, July 2, 1870
SATURDAY, JULY 2, 1870.
PUBLISHED BY THE
PUNCHINELLO PUBLISHING COMPANY.
83 NASSAU STREET, NEW YORK.
THE MYSTERY OF MR. E. DROOD.
BY ORPHEUS C. KERR,
MORE CONFIDENCES THAN ONE.
“You and your sister have been insured, of course,” said the Gospeler to MONTGOMERY PENDRAGON, as they returned from escorting Mr. SCHENCK.
“Of course,” echoed MONTGOMERY, with a suppressed moan. “He is our guardian, and has trampled us into a couple of policies. We had to yield, or excess of Boreal conversation would have made us maniacs.”
“You speak bitterly for one so young,” observed the Reverend OCTAVIUS SIMPSON. “Is it derangement of the stomach, or have you known sorrow?”
“Heaps of sorrow,” answered the young man. “You may be aware, sir, that my sister and I belong to a fine old heavily mortgaged Southern family—the PENRUTHERSES and MUNCHAUSENS of Chipmunk Court House, Virginia, are our relatives—and that SHERMAN marched through us during the late southward projection of certain of your Northern military scorpions. After our father’s felo-desease, ensuing remotely from an overstrain in attempting to lift a large mortgage, our mother gave us a step-father of Northern birth, who tried to amend our constitutions and reconstruct us.”
“Dreadful!” murmured the Gospeler.
“We hated him! MAGNOLIA threw her scissors at him several times. My sister, sir, does not know what fear is. She would fight a lion; inheriting the spirit from our father, who, I have heard said, frequently fought a tiger. She can fire a gun and pick off a State Senator as well as any man in all the South. Our mother died. A few mornings thereafter our step-father was found dead in his bed, and the doctors said he died of a pair of scissors which he must have swallowed accidentally in his youth, and which were found, after his death, to have worked themselves several inches out of his side, near the heart.”
“Swallowed a pair of scissors!” exclaimed the Reverend OCTAVIUS.
“He might have had a stitch in his side at the time, you know, and wanted to cut it,” explained MONTGOMERY. “At any rate, after that we became wards of Mr. SCHENCK, up North here. And now let me ask you, sir, is this Mr. EDWIN DROOD a student with you?”
“No. He is visiting his uncle, Mr. BUMSTEAD,” answered the Gospeler, who could not free his mind from the horrible thought that his young companion’s fearless sister might have been in some way acscissory to the sudden cutting off of her step-father’s career.
“Is Miss FLORA POTTS his sister?”
Mr. SIMPSON told the story of the betrothal of the young couple by their respective departed parents.
“Oh, that’s the game, eh?” said MONTGOMERY. “I understand now his whispering to me that he wished he was dead.” In a moment afterwards they re-entered the house in Gospeler’s Gulch.
The air was slightly laden with the odor of cloves as they went into the parlor, and Mr. BUMSTEAD was at the piano, accompanying the Flowerpot while she sang. Executing without notes, and with his stony gaze fixed intently between the nose and chin of the singer, Mr. BUMSTEAD had a certain mesmeric appearance of controlling the words coming out of the rosy mouth. Standing beside Miss POTTS was MAGNOLIA PENDRAGON, seemingly fascinated, as it were, by the BUMSTEAD method of playing, in which the performer’s fingers performed almost as frequently upon the woodwork of the instrument as upon the keys. Mr. PENDRAGON surveyed the group with an arm resting on the mantel; Mr. SIMPSON took a chair by his maternal nut-cracker, and Mr. DROOD stealthily practiced with his ball on a chair behind the sofa.
The Flowerpot was singing a neat thing by LONGFELLOW about the Evening Star, and seemed to experience the most remarkable psychological effects from Mr. BUMSTEAD’S wooden variations and extraordinary stare at the lower part of her countenance. Thus, she twitched her plump shoulders strangely, and sang—
“Just a-bove yon sandy bar, As the day grows faint—(te-hee-he-he!) Lonely and lovely a single—(now do-o-n’t!) Lights the air with”—(sto-o-op! It tickles—)
Convulsively giggling and exclaiming, alternately, Miss POTTS abruptly ended her beautiful bronchial noise with violent distortion of countenance, as though there were a spider in her mouth, and sank upon a chair in a condition almost hysterical.
“Your playing has made SISSY nervous, JACK,” said EDWIN DROOD, hastily concealing his ball and coming forward. “I noticed, myself, that you played more than half the notes in the air, or on the music-rack, without touching the keys at all.”
“That is because I am not accustomed to playing upon two pianos at once,” answered BUMSTEAD, who, at that very moment, was industriously playing the rest of the air some inches from the nearest key.
“He couldn’t make me nervous!” exclaimed Miss PENDRAGON, decidedly.
They bore the excited Flowerpot, (who still tittered a little, and was nervously feeling her throat,) to the window, for air; and when they came back Mr. BUMSTEAD was gone. “There, Sissy,” said EDWIN DROOD, “you’ve driven him away; and I’m half afraid he feels unpleasantly confused about it; for he’s got out of the rear door of the house by mistake, and I can hear him trying to find his way home in the back-yard.”
The two young men escorted Miss CAROWTHERS and the two young ladies to the door of the Alms-House, and there bade them good-night; but, at a yet later hour, FLORA POTTS and the new pupil still conversed in the chamber which they were to occupy conjointly.
After discussing the fashions with great excitement; asking each other just exactly what each gave for every article she wore; and successively practicing male-discouraging, male-encouraging, and chronically-in-different expressions of face in the mirror (as all good young ladies always do preparatory to their evening prayers,) the lovely twain made solemn nightcap-oath of eternal friendship to each other, and then, of course, began picking the men to pieces.
“Who is this Mr. BUMSTEAD?” asked MAGNOLIA, who was now looking much like a ghost.
“He’s that absurd EDDY’S ridiculous uncle, and my music-teacher,” answered the Flowerpot, also presenting an emaciated appearance.