Produced by Cornell University, Joshua Hutchinson, Sandra
Brown and PG Distributed Proofreaders
Produced by Cornell University, Joshua Hutchinson, Sandra
Punchinello, Vol. 1, No. 16, July 16, 1870
THE MYSTERY OF MR. E. DROOD.
BY ORPHEUS C. KERR.
The Pond at Bumsteadville is sufficiently near the turnpike to be readily reached from the latter, and, if mentioned in the advertisement of a summer boarding-house, would be called Lake Duckingham, on account of the fashionable ducks resorting thither for bathing and flirtation in the season. When July’s sun turns its tranquil mirror to hues of amber and gold, the slender mosquito sings Hum, sweet Hum, along its margin; and when Autumn hangs his livery of motley on the trees, the glassy surface breathes out a mist wherefrom arises a spectre, with one hand of ice and the other of flame, to scatter Chills and Fever. Strolling beside this picturesque watering-place in the dusk, the Gospeler suddenly caught the clatter of a female voice, and, in a moment, came face to face with MONTGOMERY and MAGNOLIA PENDRAGON.
“A cold and frog-like place, this, for a lady’s walk, Miss PENDRAGON,” he said, hastily swallowing a bronchial troche to neutralize the damp air admitted in speaking. “I hope you have on your overshoes.”
“My sister brings me here,” explained the brother, “so that her constant talking to me, may not cause other people’s heads to pain them.”
“I believe,” continued the Reverend OCTAVIUS, walking slowly on with them, “I believe, Mr. PENDRAGON, your sister finds out from you everything that you learn, or say, or do?”
“Everything,” assented the young man, who seemed greatly exhausted. “She averages one question a minute.”
“Consequently,” went on Mr. SIMPSON, “she knows that I have advised you to make some kind of apology to EDWIN DROOD, for the editorial remarks passing between you on a certain important occasion?” He looked at the sister as he spoke, and took that opportunity to quickly swallow a quinine powder as a protection from the chills.
“My brother, sir,” said MAGNOLIA, “because, like the Lesbian Alcaeus, fighting for the liberty of his native Mitylene, he has sympathized with his native South, finds himself treated by Mr. DROOD with a lack of magnanimity of which even the renegade PITTACUS would have been ashamed.”
“But even at that,” returned the Gospeler, much educated by her remark, “would it not be better for us all, to have this hapless misunderstanding manfully explained away, and a reconciliation achieved?”
“Did AESCHYLUS explain to the Areopagus, after he had been unjustly abused?” asked the young female student, eagerly. “Or did he, rather, nobly prefer to remain silent, even until AMEINIAS reminded his prejudiced Yankee judges that he had fought at Salamis?”
“Dear me,” ejaculated the Gospeler, gasping, “I only meant—”
“I defend my brother,” continued MAGNOLIA, passionately, “as in the Antigone of SOPHOCLES, ELECTRA defends ORESTES; and even if he has no PYLADES, he shall still be not without a friend in the habitation of the Pylopidae.”
“Upon my soul!” murmured the Reverend Mr. SIMPSON, “this is a dreadful state of things.”
“I may as well confess to you, sir,” said MONTGOMERY, temporarily removing his fingers from his ears, “that I admire Miss POTTS as much as I’m down on DROOD.”
“He admires her,” struck in his sister, “as ALCMAN, of Sardis, admired MEGALOSTRATA; and, in her betrothal to a Yankee, sees another SAPPHO matrimonially sacrificed to another CERCOLAS of Andros.”
“Mr. PENDRAGON,” panted the Gospeler, “you must give up this infatuation. The Flowerpot is engaged to another, and you have no business to express such sentiments for another’s bride until after she is married. Eloquently as your sister—”
“I pretend to be no MYRTIS, in genius,” continued MAGNOLIA, humbly. “I am not an ERINNA, an AMYTE, a PRAXILLA, or a NOSSIS; but all that is intellectually repugnant within me is stirred by this treatment of my brother, who is no PHILODEMUS to find in Mr. DROOD his PISO; and sometimes I feel as though, like another SIMONIDES, I could fly with him from this inhospitable Northern house of SCOPAS, to the refuge of some more generous DIOSCURI. In the present macrocosm, to which we have come from our former home’s microcosm, my brother is persistently maligned, even by Mr. BUMSTEAD, who may yet, if I am any judge, meet the fate of ANACREON, as recorded by SINDAS; though, in his case, the choking will not be accomplished by a grape-stone, but by a clove.”
“Well, well,” said the Reverend OCTAVIUS, in a faint voice, “I shall expect you to at least meet EDWIN DROOD half-way in a reconciliation, Mr. PENDRAGON, for your own sake. I will see that he makes the first advance.”
“Generous and dear tutor!” exclaimed MONTGOMERY, “I will do anything, with you for my guide.”
“Follow your guide penitently, brother,” cried his sister, pathetically, “and you will find in him a relenting—POLYNICUS. Whatever we may feel towards others,” she added, catching and kissing the overpowered Gospeler’s hand, as they parted company, “you shall ever be our chosen, trusted and only PSYCHOPOMPOS[A].”
Holding his throbbing head with both his hands, as he walked feebly homeward, the worn-out Gospeler noticed a light streaming from Mr. BUMSTEAD’S window; and, inspired by a sudden impulse, entered the boarding-house and ascended straightway to the Ritualistic organist’s rooms. BUMSTEAD was asleep upon the rug before the fire, with his faithful umbrella under his arm, when Mr. SIMPSON, after vainly knocking, opened the door; and never could the Gospeler forget how, upon being addressed, the sleeper started wildly up, made a futile pass at him with the umbrella, took a prolonged and staring drink from a pitcher of water on the table, and hurriedly ate a number of cloves from a saucer near an empty lemon-tea goblet over the mantel.
“Why, it’s only I,” explained the Reverend OCTAVIUS, rather alarmed by the glare with which he was regarded.
“Sit down, my friends,” said MR. BUMSTEAD, huskily; himself taking a seat upon a coal-scuttle near at hand, with considerable violence. “I’m glad you aroused me from a dreadful dream of reptiles. I sh’pose you want me to seeyouhome, sir?”
“Not at all,” was the Gospeler’s answer. “In fact, Mr. BUMSTEAD, I am anxious to bring about a reconciliation, between these two young men. Let us have peace.”
“If you want to let’s have peash,” observed the other, rather vaguely, “why don’t you go fishing whenever there’s any fighting talk, shir! Such a course is not, you’ll Grant, unpresidented.”
“I believe,” said Mr. SIMPSON, waiving the suggestion, “that you entertain no favorable opinion of young PENDRAGON!”
Reaching to a book on the table, and, after various airy failures, laying hold upon it, Mr. BUMSTEAD answered: “This is my Diary, gentlemen; to be presented to Mrs. STOWE, when I’m no more, for a memoir. You, being two clergymen, wouldn’t care to read it. Here’s my entry on the night of the caucus in this room. Lish’n now: ‘Half-pash Ten.—Considering the Democratic sentiments of the MONTGOMERIES PENDRAGONS, and their evident disinclination to vote the Republican Ticket, I b’lieve them capable of any crime. If they should kill my two nephews, it would be no hic-straordinary sh’prise. Have just been in to look at my nephews asleep, to make sure that the PENDRAGONS have put no snakes in their bed.’ Thash is one entry,” continued Mr. BUMSTEAD, momentarily pausing to make a blow with the fire-shovel at some imaginary creature crawling across the rug. “Here’s another, written next morning after cloves: ‘My nephews have gone to New York together this A.M. They laughed when I cautioned them against the MONTGOMERIES, and said they didn’t see it. I am still very uneasy, however, and have hurriedly pulled off my boots to kill the reptiles in them. How’s this for high?” Mr. BUMSTEAD fell into a doze for an instant, and then added: “I see the name ‘J. BUMSTEAD’ signed to this. Who’sh he?—Oh! i’mushbe myself.”