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.
BENTHAM TO THE RESCUE.
European travellers in this country—especially if one economical condition of their coming hither has not been the composition of works of imagination on America, sufficiently contemptuous to pay all the expenses of the trip—have, occasionally—and particularly if they have been invited to write for New York magazines, take professorships in native colleges, or lecture on the encouraging Continental progress of scientific atheism before Boston audiences;—such travellers, we say, convinced that they shall lose no money by it, but, on the contrary, rather sanguine of making a little thereby in the long run, have occasionally remarked, that, in the United States, women journeying alone are treated with a chivalric courtesy and deference not so habitually practiced in any other second-class new nation on the face of the earth.
What, oh, what can be more true than this? A lady well stricken in years, and of adequate protraction of nose and rectilinear undeviation of figure, can travel alone from Maine to Florida with as perfect immunity from offensive masculine intrusion as though she were guarded by a regiment; while a somewhat younger girl, with curls and an innocent look, can not appear unaccompanied by an escort in an American omnibus, car, ferry-boat, or hotel, without appealing at once to the finest fatherly feelings of every manly middle-aged observer whose wife is not watching him, and exciting as general a desire to make her trip socially delightful as though each gentlemanly eye seeking hers were indeed that of a tender sire.
Thus, although Miss POTTS'S lonely stay in her hotel had been so brief, the mysterious American instinct of chivalry had discovered it very early on the first morning after her arrival, and she arose from her delicious sleep to find at least half a dozen written offers of hospitality from generous strangers, sticking under her door. Understanding that she was sojourning without natural protectors in a strange city, the thoughtful writers, who appeared to be chiefly Western men of implied immense fortunes, begged her (by the delicate name of "Fair Unknown") to take comfort in the thought that they were stopping at the same hotel and would protect her from all harm with their lives. In proof of this unselfish disposition on their parts, several of them were respectively ready to take her to a circus-matinee, or to drive in Central Park, on that very day: and her prompt acceptance of these signal evidences of a disinterested friendship for womanhood without a natural protector could not be more simply indicated to those who now freely offered such friendship, than by her dropping her fork twice at the public breakfast table, or sending the waiter back three times with the boiled eggs to have them cooked rightly.
FLORA had completed her chemical toilet, put all the bottles, jars, and small round boxes back into her satchel again, and sat down to a second reading of these gratifying intimations that a prepossessing female orphan is not necessarily without assiduous paternal guardianship at her command wherever there are Western fathers, when Mr. DIBBLE appeared, as he had promised, accompanied by Gospeler SIMPSON.
"Miss CAROWTHERS was so excited by your sudden flight, Miss POTTS," said the latter, "that she came at once to me and OLDY with your farewell note, and would not stop saying 'Did you ever!' until, to restrain my aggravated mother from fits, I promised to follow you to your guardian's and ascertain what your good-bye note would have meant if it had actually been punctuated."
"Our reverend friend reached me about an hour ago," added Mr. DIBBLE, "saying, that a farewell note without a comma, colon, semi-colon, or period in it, and with every other word beginning with a capital, and underscored, was calculated to drive friends to distraction. I took the liberty of reminding him, my dear, that young girls from boarding-school should hardly be expected to have advanced as far as English composition in their French and musical studies; and I also related to him what you had told me of Mr. BUMSTEAD."
"And I don't know that, under the circumstances, you could do a better thing than you have done," continued the Gospeler. "Mr. BUMSTEAD, himself, explains your flight upon the supposition that you were possibly engaged with myself, my mother, Mr. DIBBLE, and the PENDRAGONS, in killing poor Mr. DROOD."
"Oh, oughtn't he to be ashamed of himself, when he knows that I never did kill any absurd creature!" cried the Flowerpot, in earnest deprecation. "And just think of darling MAGNOLIA, too, with her poor, ridiculous brother! You're a lawyer, Mr. DIBBLE and I should think you could get them a habeas corpus, or a divorce, or some other perfectly absurd thing about courts, that would make the judges tell the juries to bring them in Not Guilty."
Fixing upon the lovely young reasoner a look expressive of his affectionate wonder at her inspired perception of legal possibilities, the old lawyer said, that the first thing in order was a meeting between herself and Miss PENDRAGON; which, as it could scarcely take place (all things considered,) with propriety in the private room of that lady's brother, nor without publicity in his own office, or in a hotel, he hardly knew how to bring about.
And here we have an example of that difference between novels and real life which has been illustrated more than once before in this conscientious American Adaptation of what all our profoundly critical native journals pronounce the "most elaborately artistic work" of the grandest of English novelists. In an equivalent situation of real life, Mr. DIBBLE'S quandary would not have been easily relieved; but, by the magic of artistic fiction, the particular kind of extemporized character absolutely necessary to help him and the novel continuously along was at that moment coming up the stairs of the hotel.
At the critical