Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by the PUNCHINELLO PUBLISHING COMPANY, in the Clerk's Office
of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York.
THE MYSTERY OF MR. E. DROOD.
BY ORPHEUS C. KERR.
INSURANCE AND ASSURANCE.
Six months had come and gone and done it; the weather was as inordinately hot as it had before been intolerably cold; and the Reverend OCTAVIUS SIMPSON stood waiting, in the gorgeous Office of the Boreal Life Insurance Company, New York, for the appearance of Mr. MELANCTHON SCHENCK.
Having been directed by a superb young clerk, who parted his hair in the middle, to "just stand out of the passage-way and amuse yourself with one of our Schedules for awhile," until the great life-Agent should come in, the Gospeler read a few schedulistic pages, proving, that if a person had his life Insured at the age of Thirty, and paid his premiums regularly until he was Eighty-five, the cost to him and profit to the Company would, probably, be much more than the amount he had insured for. It must, then, be evident to him, that, upon his death, at Ninety, the Company would have received, in all, sufficient funds from him to pay the full amount of his Policy to the lady whom he had always introduced as his wife, and still retain enough to declare a handsome Dividend for itself. Such was the sound business-principle upon which the Boreal was conducted; and the merest child must perceive, that only the extremely unlikely coincidence of at least four insurers all dying before Eighty-five could endanger the solvency of the beneficent institution.—Having mastered this convincing argument, and become greatly confused by its plausibility, Mr. SIMPSON next gave some attention to what was going on around him in the Office, and allowed his overwrought mind to relax cheerfully in contemplation thereof. One of human nature's peculiarities was quite amusingly exemplified in the different treatment accorded to callers who were "safe risks," and to those who were not. Thus, the whisper of "Here comes old Tubercles, again!" was prevalent amongst the clerks upon the entrance of a very thin, narrow-chested old gentleman, whom they informed, with considerable humor, that he was only wasting hours which should be spent with a spiritual adviser, in his useless attempts to take out a Policy in that office. The Boreal couldn't insure men who ought to be upon their dying beds instead of coughing around Insurance offices. Ha, ha, ha! Another gentleman, florid of countenance and absolutely without neck, was quickly checked in the act of giving his name at one of the desks; one clerk desiring another clerk to look, under the head of "A.," in his book, for "Apoplexy," and let this man see that we can't take such a risk as he is on any terms. A third caller, who really looked quite healthy except around the eyes, was also assured that he need not call again—"Because, you see," explained the clerkly wag, "it's no go for you to try to play your BRIGHT'S Disease on us!" When, however, the applicant was a robustious, long-necked, fresh individual, he was almost lifted from his feet in the rush of obliging young Boreals to show him into the room of the Medical Examiner; and when, now and then, an agent, or an insurance-broker, came dragging in, by the collar, some Safe Risk, just captured, there was an actual contest to see who should be most polite to the panting but healthy stranger, and obtain his private biography for the consideration of the Company.
The Reverend OCTAVIUS studied these sprightly little scenes with unspeakable interest until the arrival of Mr. SCHENCK, and then followed that popular benefactor into his private office with the air of a man who had gained a heightened admiration for his species.
"So you have come to your senses at last!" said Mr. SCHENCK, hastily drawing his visitor toward a window in the side-room to which they had retired. "Let me look at your tongue, sir."
"What do you mean?" asked the Gospeler, endeavoring to draw back.
"I mean what I say. Let—me—see—your—tongue.—Or, stop!" said Mr. SCHENCK, seized with a new thought, "I may as well examine your general organization first." And, flying at the astounded Ritualistic clergyman, he had sounded his lungs, caused a sharp pain in his liver, and felt his pulse, before the latter could phrase an intelligent protest.
"You may die at any moment, and probably will," concluded Mr. SCHENCK, thoughtfully; "but still, on the score of friendship, we'll give you a Policy for a reasonable amount, and take the chance of being able to compromise with your mother on a certain per centage after the funeral."
"I don't want any of your plagued policies!" exclaimed the irritated Gospeler, pushing away the hand striving to feel his pulse again.
"As you have expressed a desire to resign the guardianship of your wards, Mr. and Miss PENDRAGON, and I have agreed to accept it, my purpose in calling here is to obtain such statement of your account with those young people as you may be disposed to render."
"Ah!" returned the other, in sullen disappointment. "That is all, eh? Allow me to inform you, then, that I have cancelled the Boreal policies which have been granted to the Murderer and his sister; and allow me also to remark, that a dying clergyman like yourself might employ his last moments better than encouraging a Southern destroyer of human life."
"I do not, cannot believe that MONTGOMERY PENDRAGON is guilty," said Mr. SIMPSON, firmly. "Having his full confidence, and thoroughly knowing his nature, I am sure of his innocence, let appearances be what they may. Consequently, it is my determination to befriend him."
"And you will not have your life insured?"
"I will not, sir. Please stop bothering me."
"And you call yourself a clergyman!" cried Mr. SCHENCK, with intense scorn. "You pretend to be a Ritualistic spiritual guide; you champion people who slay the innocent and steal devout men's umbrellas; and yet you do not scruple to leave your own high-church Mother entirely without provision at your death.—In such a case," continued the speaker, rising, while his manner grew ferocious with determination—"in such a case, all other arguments having failed, my duty is plain. Yon shall not leave this room, sir, until you have promised to take out a Boreal Policy."
He started, as he spoke, for the door of the private-office, intending to lock it and remove the key; but the unhappy Ritualist, fathoming his design, was there before him, and tore open the door for his own speedy egress.
"Mr. SCHENCK," observed the Gospeler, turning and pausing in the doorway, "you allow your business-energy to violate all the most delicate amenities of private life, and will yet drive some maddened mortal to such resentful use of pistol, knife, or poker, as your mourning family shall sincerely deplore. The articles on Free Trade and Protection in the daily papers have hitherto been regarded as the climax of all that utterly wearies the long-suffering human soul; but I tell you, as a candid friend, that they are but little more depressing and jading to the vital powers than your unceasing mention of life-insurance."
"These are strong words, sir," answered Mr. SCHENCK, incredulously. "The editorial articles to which you refer are considered the very drought of journalism; those by Mr. GREELEY, especially, being so dry that they are positively dangerous reading without a tumbler of water."
"Yon brought the comparison upon yourself, Mr. SCHENCK. Good day."
Thus speaking, the Reverend OCTAVIUS SIMPSON hurried nervously from the Boreal temple; not fairly satisfied that he had escaped a Policy until he found himself safely emerged on Broadway and turning a corner toward Nassau Street. Beaching the latter bye-way, after a brief interval of sharp walking, he entered a building nearly opposite that in which was the office of Mr. DIBBLE; and, having ascended numerous flights of twilight stairs to the lofty floor immediately over the saddened rooms occupied by a great American Comic Paper, came into a spidery garret where lurked MONTGOMERY PENDRAGON,
"Hard at it?" he asked, approaching a ricketty table at which sat the persecuted Southerner, reading a volume of HOYLE'S Games.
"My only friend!" ejaculated the lonely reader, hurriedly