Those were great days in mid autumn. The Republic was in grave
peril of dissolution. Liberty that had hymned her birth in the last
century now hymned her destiny in the voices of bard and orator.
Crowds of men gathered in public squares, at bulletin boards, on
street corners arguing, gesticulating, exclaiming and cursing.
Cheering multitudes went up and down the city by night, with
bands and torches, and there was such a howl of oratory and
applause on the lower half of Manhattan Island that it gave the
reporter no rest. William H. Seward, Charles Sumner, John A. Dix,
Henry Ward Beecher and Charles O'Connor were the giants of the
stump. There was more violence and religious fervour in the
political feeling of that time than had been mingled since '76. A
sense of outrage was in the hearts of men. 'Honest Abe' Lincoln
stood, as they took it, for their homes and their country, for human
liberty and even for their God.
I remember coming into the counting-room late one evening. Loud
voices had halted me as I passed the door. Mr Greeley stood back
of the counter; a rather tall, wiry grey-headed man before it. Each
was shaking a right fist under the other's nose. They were shouting
loudly as they argued. The stranger was for war; Mr Greeley for
waiting. The publisher of the Tribune stood beside the latter,
smoking a pipe; a small man leaned over the counter at the
stranger's elbow, putting in a word here and there; half a dozen
people stood by, listening. Mr Greeley turned to his publisher in a
'Rhoades,' said he, 'I wish ye'd put these men out. They holler 'n
yell, so I can't hear myself think.
Then there was a general laugh.
I learned to my surprise, when they had gone, that the tall man was
William H. Seward, the other John A. Dix.
Then one of those fevered days came the Prince of Wales - a
Godsend, to allay passion with curiosity.
It was my duty to handle some of 'the latest news by magnetic
telegraph', and help to get the plans and progress of the campaign
at headquarters. The Printer, as they called Mr Greeley, was at his
desk when I came in at noon, never leaving the office but for
dinner, until past midnight, those days. And he made the Tribune a
mighty power in the state. His faith in its efficacy was sublime,
and every line went under his eye before it went to his readers. I
remember a night when he called me to his office about twelve o
clock. He was up to his knees in the rubbish of the day-newspapers
that he had read and thrown upon the floor; his desk was littered
'Go an' see the Prince o' Wales,' he said. (That interesting young
man had arrived on the Harriet Lane that morning and ridden up
Broadway between cheering hosts.) 'I've got a sketch of him here
an' it's all twaddle. Tell us something new about him. If he's got
a hole in his sock we ought to know it.'
Mr Dana came in to see him while I was there.
'Look here, Dana,' said the Printer, in a rasping humour. 'By the
gods of war! here's two columns about that performance at the
Academy and only two sticks of the speech of Seward at St Paul.
I'll have to get someone if go an' burn that theatre an' send
the bill to me.
In the morning Mayor Wood introduced me to the Duke of
Newcastle, who in turn presented me to the Prince of Wales - then
a slim, blue-eyed youngster of nineteen, as gentle mannered as any I
have ever met. It was my unpleasant duty to keep as near as
possible to the royal party in all the festivities of that week.
The ball, in the Prince's honour, at the Academy of Music, was
one of the great social events of the century. No fair of vanity in
the western hemisphere ever quite equalled it. The fashions of the
French Court had taken the city, as had the Prince, by
unconditional surrender. Not in the palace of Versailles could one
have seen a more generous exposure of the charms of fair women.
None were admitted without a low-cut bodice, and many came that
had not the proper accessories. But it was the most brilliant
company New York had ever seen.
Too many tickets had been distributed and soon 'there was an
elbow on every rib and a heel on every toe', as Mr Greeley put it.
Every miss and her mamma tiptoed for a view of the Prince and
his party, who came in at ten, taking their seats on a dais at one
side of the crowded floor. The Prince sat with his hands folded
before him, like one in a reverie. Beside him were the Duke of
Newcastle, a big, stern man, with an aggressive red beard; the
blithe and sparkling Earl of St Germans, then Steward of the Royal
Household; the curly Major Teasdale; the gay Bruce, a
major-general, who behaved himself always like a lady. Suddenly
the floor sank beneath the crowd of people, who retired in some
disorder. Such a compression of crinoline was never seen as at that
moment, when periphery pressed upon periphery, and held many a
man captive in the cold embrace of steel and whalebone. The royal
party retired to its rooms again and carpenters came in with saws
and hammers. The floor repaired, an area was roped off for
dancing - as much as could be spared. The Prince opened the
dance with Mrs Governor Morgan, after which other ladies were
honoured with his gallantry.
I saw Mrs Fuller in one of the boxes and made haste to speak with
her. She had just landed, having left Hope to study a time in the
Conservatory of Leipzig.
'Mrs Livingstone is with her,' said she, 'and they will return
together in April.
'Mrs Fuller, did she send any word to me?' I enquired anxiously.
'Did she give you no message?
'None,' she said coldly, 'except one to her mother and father, which
I have sent in a letter to them.
I left her heavy hearted, went to the reporter's table and wrote my
story, very badly I must admit, for I was cut deep with sadness.
Then I came away and walked for hours, not caring whither. A
great homesickness had come over me. I felt as if a talk with Uncle
Eb or Elizabeth Brower would have given me the comfort I needed. I
walked rapidly through dark, deserted streets. A steeple clock was
striking two, when I heard someone coming hurriedly on the walk
behind me. I looked over my shoulder, but could not make him out in
the darkness, and yet there was something familiar in the step. As he
came near I felt his hand upon my shoulder.
'Better go home, Brower,' he said, as I recognised the voice of
Trumbull. 'You've been out a long time. Passed you before tonight.'
'Why didn't you speak?'
'You were preoccupied.'
'Not keeping good hours yourself,' I said.
'Rather late,' he answered, 'but I am a walker, and I love the night.
It is so still in this part of the town.'
We were passing the Five Points.
'When do you sleep,' I enquired.
'Never sleep at night,' he said, 'unless uncommonly tired. Out every
night more or less. Sleep two hours in the morning and two in the
afternoon - that's all I require. Seen the hands o' that clock yonder
on every hour of the night.'
He pointed to a lighted dial in a near tower.
Stopping presently he looked down at a little waif asleep in a
doorway, a bundle of evening papers under his arm. He lifted him
'Here, boy,' he said, dropping corns in the pocket of the ragged
little coat, 'I'll take those papers - you go home now.
We walked to the river, passing few save members of 'the force ,
who always gave Trumbull a cheery 'hello, Cap!' We passed
wharves where the great sea horses lay stalled, with harnesses
hung high above them, their noses nodding over our heads; we
stood awhile looking up at the looming masts, the lights of the
'Guess I've done some good,' said he turning into Peck Slip. 'Saved
two young women. Took 'em off the streets. Fine women now both
of them - respectable, prosperous, and one is beautiful. Man who s
got a mother, or a sister, can't help feeling sorry for such people.
We came up Frankfort to William Street where we shook hands
and parted and I turned up Monkey Hill. I had made unexpected
progress with Trumbull that night. He had never talked to me so
freely before and somehow he had let me come nearer to hun than
I had ever hoped to be. His company had lifted me out of the
slough a little and my mind was on a better footing as I neared the
Riggs's shop was lighted - an unusual thing at so late an hour.
Peering through the window I saw Riggs sleeping at his desk An
old tin lantern sat near, its candle burning low, with a flaring
flame, that threw a spray of light upon him as it rose and fell. Far
back in the shop another light was burning dimly. I lifted the big
iron latch and pushed the door open. Riggs did not move. I closed
the door softly and went back into the gloom. The boy was also
sound asleep in his chair. The lantern light flared and fell again as
water leaps in a stopping fountain. As it dashed upon the face of
Riggs I saw his eyes half-open. I went close to his chair. As I did
so the light went out and smoke rose above the lantern with a rank
'Riggs!' I called but he sat motionless and made no answer.
The moonlight came through the dusty window lighting his face
and beard. I put my hand upon his brow and withdrew it quicidy. I
was in the presence of death. I opened the door and called the
sleeping boy. He rose out of his chair and came toward me rubbing
'Your master is dead,' I whispered, 'go and call an officer.
Riggs's dream was over - he had waked at last. He was in port and
I doubt not Annie and his mother were hailing him on the shore,
for I knew now they had both died far back in that long dream of
the old sailor.
My story of Riggs was now complete. It soon found a publisher
because it was true.
'All good things are true in literature,' said the editor after he had
read it. 'Be a servant of Truth always and you will be successful.'
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