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The Village Mystery Post by :infowaremall Category :Short Stories Author :John S. Adams Date :October 2011 Read :2638

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The Village Mystery

ABOUT fifty miles from a southern city, about five years ago, a most mysterious personage seemed to fall from the clouds into the midst of a circle of young ladies, whose hours and days were thenceforth busily employed in quizzing, guessing, pondering and wondering.

He was a tall, graceful-formed gentleman, wearing a professional-looking cloak, and buff pants, tightly strapped over boots of delicate make, polished up to the very highest capabilities of Day and Martin. He had no baggage; which fact led some wise-headed old ladies to report him to be a gentleman of leisure, a literary millionaire, it might be, who was travelling through "the States" for the purpose of picking up items for a book on "Ameriky." The old men wagged their heads, and looked most impenetrably mysterious. The young men became jealous. To be sure he was not superlatively handsome, but he had a foreign air, which was considerable among the girls; and his appearance indicated wealth, for his dress was of the first quality and cut. He had half a dozen glistening rings on his hands; he wore a breast-pin of dazzling brilliance; and every time he moved a chained lion could not have made more noise, and clatter, and show with his fetters, than he did with a massive double-linked chain, that danced and flirted upon his crimson vest.

Abby and Nelly, the belles of the place, had each had an eye upon the new comer, since he passed by the splendid mansion of their abode, casting a sly glance up to the open window at which they stood.

In a week, our foreign friend had made the circuit of all the fashionable society of Greendale. He had drank tea with the "Commissioners," and walked out with their amiable daughters. He had visited the pastor, and had evinced great interest in the prosperity of the church. He had even exhorted in the conference-meeting, and had become so popular that some few, taking it for granted that so devout a man must be a clergyman, had serious thoughts of asking the old parson to leave, and the stranger to accept the pulpit,--four hundred and eighty-two dollars a year, and a donation-party's offerings. He had attended the sewing-circle, and made himself perfectly at home with everybody and everything. The young men's society for ameliorating the condition of the Esquimauxs and Hottentots had been favored with his presence; and, likewise, with a speech of five minutes long, which speech had, in an astonishingly short time, been printed on pink satin and handsomely framed.

The lower class of people, for whom the stranger talked so much, and shed so many tears, and gave vent to so many pitiful exclamations, but with whom, however, he did not deign to associate, were filled with a prodigious amount of wonder at the lion and his adventures. They gathered at Squire Brim's tavern, and at the store on the corner, and wondered and talked over the matter. The questions with them were, Who is he?-where did he come, and where is he going to? They would not believe all they had heard conjectured about him, and some few were so far independent as to hint of the possibility of imposition.

There were two who determined to find out, at all hazards, the name, history, come from and go to, of the mysterious guest; and, to accomplish their purpose, they found it necessary for them to go to Baltimore early the subsequent morning.

The morning came. After taking a measurement of the height, breadth and bulk of the foreigner, as also a mental daguerreotype of his personal appearance, they departed.

Having been very politely invited, it is no strange matter of fact that, just as the sun has turned the meridian, on the fifth of March, a young man is seen walking slowly upon the shady side of Butternut-street, Greendale. To him all eyes are directed. Boys stop their plays, and turn their inquisitive eyes towards the pedestrian. The loungers at Brim's tavern flock to the door, and gaze earnestly at him; while Bridget the house-maid, and Dennis the hostler, hold a short confab on the back stairs, each equally wondering whose "bairn" he can be.

As he continues on his way, he meets a couple of sociable old ladies, with whom he formed an acquaintance at the sewing-circle. They shake hands most cordially.

"Abby and Nelly are waiting for you; they're expecting you," says one of the ladies, as she breathes a blessing and bids him good-by, with a hope that he will have a pleasant time at the deacon's.

Let us now take a few steps in advance, and enter the hospitable mansion to which our mysterious personage, who has given his name as Sir Charles Nepod, is passing.

Up these beautiful white steps walk with dainty tread. At this highly-polished door ring with gentle hand.

A stout serving-man answers our call, and a tittering serving-girl scampers away and conceals herself behind the staircase, as we enter. What, think you, can be going on? A wedding, forsooth,--perhaps a dinner-party.

A brace of charming girls, the deacon's only daughters, are seated in the front parlor. We are introduced, and soon learn that they are waiting the arrival of the talented, the benevolent Sir Charles; and, as a matter of form and courtesy, rather than of sincerity and hospitality, we are invited to remain and meet him in the dining-room. We decline; bid them good-by, and leave. As we pass out, we are hailed in a loud whisper by the man who first met us, who glibly runs on with his talk as he leads the way, walking sideways all the time to the door.

"An' sirs,--sirs, dus yers know what the young Misthresses is afther? Well, sirs, they's going' fur to hev' a greath dinner with the furriner. Yes, sirs, with the furriner as come frum a furrin land, and was n't born in this at all a' tall."

As we reach the door, he steps up, whispers in our ears, "An' I tells yer what, sirs, Kate,--that's the gal yer sees, sirs,--me and she's goin' to see all frum the little winder beyant. This is conveniently private to you, sirs, an' I hopes ye'll say nothing to no one about it, sirs; 't is a private secret, sirs."

What should induce this man to give us this information, we cannnot conceive. However, we have no reason to doubt what he tells us, and therefore understand that a dinner-party is to come off, with a wedding in perspective.

As we pass into the street, we meet Nepod.

As he ascends the steps, the two girls, forgetting all rules of etiquette, spring to the door, completely bewildering honest Mike, who is at hand, and welcome the man of the age.

"Mother and aunty have just gone out," says Nelly;--"they thought we young folks would enjoy our dinner much better by ourselves alone."

"How considerate!" replies the guest. "I met the good old ladies on the street. How kind in them to be so thoughtful! How pleasantly will pass the hours of to-day! This day will be the happiest of my life."

The three pass to the dining-room. Though early in March, the weather is quite warm. In the haste of the moment, and somewhat confused by his warm welcome, our hero has taken his hat and cloak and laid them on a lounge near an open window. Seated at the table, the company discourse on a variety of subjects, and the two sisters vie with each other in doing the agreeable.

Down town all was excitement, and a great crowd was gathered at the tavern. The investigating committee had returned from the city, and with the committee three men of mysterious look. To the uninitiated the mystery that had puzzled them for so long a time grew yet more mysterious. Nothing could be learned from the two who had returned, respecting Sir Charles, or the additional strangers. Only dark and mysterious hints were thrown out, rendering the whole affair more completely befogged than before.

Mr. Brim, the keeper of the tavern, silently conducted the new comers out by a back passage, and soon they were seen in the same path which Sir Charles had followed.

One of the men quietly opened the front door of the deacon's home, and, entering, knocked upon the door of the dining-room. A voice said, "Come in;" and he proceeded to do so.

In an instant, as if struck by an electric shock, the distinguished guest sprang from the table, and leaped through the open window, leaving his hat and cloak behind. But the leap did not injure him, for he fell into the arms of a man who stood ready to embrace him; and, mystery on mystery, they placed hand-cuffs on his wrists!

Judge, if you can, of the astonishment and mortification of the deacon's girls, when they were told that he who had been their guest was a bold highwayman, who had escaped from the penitentiary.

There was great ado in Greendale that afternoon and evening. Those who had been unable to gain his attention said they knew all the time he was a rogue. The young men's society voted to sell the frame and destroy the printed speech; and the next Sabbath the good pastor preached about a roaring lion that went about seeking whom he might devour.

(The end)
John S. Adams's short story: Village Mystery

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