Byrnewood and Lorrimer
The harsh sound of their footsteps, resounding along the frozen pavement, awoke the echoes of the State
House buildings, as linked arm in arm, Byrnewood and Lorrimer hurried along Chesnut street, their figures
thrown in lengthened shadow by the beams of the setting moon.
The tall, manly and muscular figure of Lorrimer, attired in a close-fitting black overcoat, presented a fine
contrast to the slight yet well-proportioned form of Byrnewood, which now and then became visible as the wind
flung his voluminous cloak back from his shoulders. The firm and measured stride of Lorrimer, the light and agile
footstep of Byrnewood, the glowing countenance of the magnificent Gus, the pale solemn face of the young
Merchant, the rich brown hair which hung in clustering masses around the brow of the first, and the long dark
hair which fell sweeping to the very shoulders of his companion, all furnished the details of a vivid contrast,
worthy the effective portraiture of a master in our sister-art.
"Almost as cold as charity, Byrnewood my boy—" exclaimed Lorrimer, as he gathered Byrnewood's arm
more closely within his own—"Do you know, my fellow, that I believe vastly in faces?"
"I can tell a man's character from his face, the moment I clap my eye on him. I like or dislike at first sight.
Now there's Silly Petriken's face—how do you translate it?"
"The fact is, Lorrimer, I know very little about him. I was introduced to him, for the first time, at a party,
where he was enrapturing some sentimental old maids, with a few quires of sonnets on every thing in general.
Since that occasion I have never met him, until to-night, when he hailed me in Chesnut street, and forced me into
Mutchins' room at the United States Hotel. You know the rest "
"Well, well, with regard to Petriken, a single word. Clever fellow, clever, but like Mutchins, he sells for a
reasonable price. I buy them both. By Jupiter! the town swarms with such fellows, who will sell themselves to
any master for a trifle. Petriken—poor fellow—his face indicates his character—a solemn pimp, a sententious
parasite. Mutchins is just the other way—an agreeable jolly old-dog of a pander. They hire themselves to me for
the season—I use and, of course, despise them—"
"You're remarks are truly flattering to these worthy gentlemen!" said Byrnewood, drily.
"And now my fellow, you may think me insincere, but I tell you frankly, that the moment I first saw your
face, I liked you, and resolved you should be my friend. For your sake I am about to do a thing which I would
do for no living man, and possibly no dead one—"
"And that is—" interrupted Byrnewood.
"Just listen my fellow. Did you ever hear any rumors of a queer old house down town, kept by a reputable
old lady, and supported by the purses of goodly citizens, whose names you never hear without the addition of
'respectable,' 'celebrated,' or—ha—ha—'pious'—most 'pious?' A queer old house my good fellow, where,
during the long hours of the winter nights, your husband, so kind and good, forgets his wife, your merchant his
ledger, your lawyer his quibbles, your parson his prayers? A queer old house, my good fellow, where wine and
woman mingle their attractions, where at once you sip the honey from a red-lip, and a sparkling bubble from the
champagne? Where luxuriantly-furnished chambers resound all night long with the rustling of cards, or the clink
of glasses, or—it may be—the gentle ripple of voices, murmuring in a kiss? A queer old house, my dear fellow,
in short, where the very devil is played under a cloak, and sin grows fat within the shelter of quiet rooms and
"Ha—ha—Lorrimer you are eloquent ! Faith, I've heard some rumors of such a queer old house, but
always deemed them fabulous—"
"The old house is a fact, my boy, a fact. "Within its walls this night I will wed my pretty bride, and within its
walls, my fellow, despite the pains and penalties of our Club, you shall enter—"
"I should like it of all things in the world. How is your club styled?"
"All in good time, my friend. Each member, you see, once a week, has the privilege of introducing a friend.
The same friend must never enter the Club House twice. Now I have rather overstepped the rules of the Club in
other respects—it will require all my tact to pass you in to-night. It shall be done, however—and mark me—you
will obtain a few fresh ideas of the nature of the secret life of this good Quaker City—"
"Why Lorrimer—" exclaimed Byrnewood, as they approached the corner of Eighth and Chesnut—"You
seem to have a pretty good idea of life in general—"
"Life?" echoed the magnificent Gus, in that tone of enthusiasm peculiar to the convivialist when recovering
from the first excitement of the bottle—"Life? What is it? As brilliant and as brief as a champagne bubble! To
day a jolly carouse in an oyster cellar, to-morrow a nice little pic nic party in a grave-yard. One moment you
gather the apple, the next it is ashes. Every thing fleeting and nothing stable, every thing shifting and changing,
and nothing substantial! A bundle of hopes and fears, deceits and confidences, joys and miseries, strapped to a
fellow's back like Pedlar's wares—"
"Huzza! Bravo—the Reverend Gus Lorrimer preaches. And what moral does your reverence deduce from
"One word, my fellow—ENJOY! Enjoy till the last nerve loses its delicacy of sense; enjoy till the last sinew
is unstrung; enjoy till the eye flings out its last glance, till the voice cracks and the blood stagnates; enjoy, always
enjoy, and at last—"
"Aye, aye—that terrible at last—"
"At last, when you can enjoy no longer, creep into a nice cozy house, some eight feet deep, by six long and
two wide, wrap yourself up in a comfortable quilt of white, and tell the worms—those jolly gleaners of the
scraps of the feast of life—that they may fall to and be d—d to 'em—"
"Ha—ha—Lorrimer! Who would have thought this of you?"
"Tell me, my fellow, what business do you follow?"
"Rather an abrupt question. However, I'm the junior partner in the \importing house of Livingston, Harvey,
& Co., along Front street—"
"And I—" replied Gustavus slowly and with deliberation—"and I am junior and senior partner in a snug little
wholesale business of my own. The firm is Lorrimer, & Co.—the place of business is everywhere about town
and the business itself is enjoyment, nothing but enjoyment; wine and woman forever! And as for the capital—
I've an unassuming sum of one hundred thousand dollars, am independent of all relations, and bid fair to live at
least a score of years longer. Now my fellow, you know me—come, spice us up a few of your own secrets.
Have you no interest ing little amour for my private ear?"
"By Heaven, I'd forgotten all about it!" cried Byrnewood starting aside from his companion as they stood in
the full glare of the gas-lamp at the corner of Eighth and Chesnut street—"I'd forgotten all about the letter!"
"The letter? What letter?"
"Why just before Petriken hailed me in Chesnut street this evening—or rather last evening a letter was
placed in my hands, which I neglected to read. I know the handwriting on the direction, however. It's from a
dear little love of a girl, who, some six months ago, was a servant in my father's house. A sweet girl, Lorrimer—
and—you know how these things work—she was lovely, innocent and too confiding, and I was but a—man—"
"And she a 'slewer.' Rather a low walk of business for you, my boy. However, let's read the letter by
"Here it is—'Dear Byrnewood—I would like very much to see you to-night. I am in great distress. Meet me
at the corner of Fourth and Chesnut streets at nine o'clock or you will regret it to the day of your death. Oh for
God's sake do meet me—Annie.' What a pretty hand she writes—Eh! Lorrimer! That 'for God's sake' is rather
cramped—and—egad! there's the stain of a tear—"
"These things are quite customary. These letters and these tears. The dear little women can only use these
arguments when they yield too much to our persuasions—"
"And yet—d—n the thing—how unfortunate for the girl my acquaintance has proved! She had to leave my
father's house on account of—of—the circumstance becoming too apparent, and her parents are very poor. I
should have liked to have seen her to-night. However, it will do in the morning. And now, Lorrimer, which
"To the 'queer old house' down town. By the bye, there goes the State House—one o'clock, by Jupiter!
We've two good hours yet to decide the wager. Let's spend half an hour in a visit to a certain friend of mine.
Here, Byrnewood, let me instruct you in the mysteries of the 'lark'—"
And, leaning aside, the magnificent Gus whispered in the ear of his friend with as great an appearance of
mystery as the most profound secret might supposed to demand.
"Do you take, my fellow?"
"Capital, capital—" replied Byrnewood, crushing the letter into his pocket—"We shall crowd this night with
The dawn of daylight—it is true—closed the accounts of a night somewhat crowded with incidents. Did
these merry gentlemen who stood laughing so cheerily at the corner of Eighth and Chesnut streets, at the hour of
one, their faces glowing in the light of the midnight moon, did they guess the nature of the incidents which five
o'clock in the morning could disclose? God of Heaven—might no angel of mercy drop from the skies and warn
them back in their career?
No warning came, no omen scared them back. Passing down Eighth street, they turned up Walnut, which
they left at Thirteenth. Turning down Thirteenth they presently stood before a small old fashioned two storied
building, with a green door and a bull window, that occupied nearly the entire width of the front, protruding in
the light. A tin sign, placed between the door and window, bore the inscription, "*. *****, ASTROLOGER."
"Wonder if the old cove's in bed—exclaimed Lorrimer, and as he spoke the green door opened, as if in
answer to his question, and the figure of a man, muffled up in the thick folds of a cloak with his hat drawn over
his eyes, glided out of the Astrologer's house, and hurried down Thirteenth street.
"Ha—ha—devilish cunning, but not so cunning as he thinks!" laughed Byrnewood—"I saw his face it's old
Grab-and-Snatch, the President of the—Bank, which every body says is on the eve of a grand blow up!"
"The respectable old gentleman has been consulting the stars with regard to the prospects of his bank—
ha—ha! However, my boy, the door is open—let's enter! Let's consult this familiar of the fates, this intimate
acquaintance of the Future!"
|Come back next week to learn of their nefarious consultation
with this starbound master of the occult sciences