Part 9 (1/2)

CHAPTER XVII.

MR. GUSHER IS INTRODUCED TO MATTIE.

The Reverend Warren Holbrook was left in the farm-house to further develop the discovery, and lift the great enterprise into popularity among the confiding people in that portion of the country. The rest of the party, including Gusher, returned to the boat near sundown and set off for Nyack, the st.u.r.dy oarsmen singing a merry song. There in the bottom of the boat was the bucket containing the black sand and discolored dollars--the capital stock of the great Kidd Discovery Company--which Chapman and Gusher affected to guard with particular care.

They reached Nyack the next day about noon, looking fatigued and careworn, for they had enjoyed but little sleep since leaving. During their absence all sorts of wild rumors had been circulated concerning the object of the expedition. Imagination had made some of its highest flights, and even found a relative of Kidd, who was to join the expedition a few miles up the river, and who possessed the power to make the devil surrender sounding-rock--in case he proved obstinate and refused to acknowledge Hanz's authority. t.i.tus Bright's inn was the place where all the wisdom of the settlement concentrated of a night.

And it was here that all the various features of the great expedition were discussed over ale and cider. Sundry honest Dutchmen shook their heads suspiciously, and declared no good would come of it if Chapman got his finger in. Others said it was all clear enough now where Hanz Toodleburg got his dollars and his doubloons. It was no wonder that he was so much better off than his neighbors. Another declared that he had more than once told Hanz he would never get to heaven, and that secret on his mind.

When the boat reached the landing a number of persons were gathered there, all anxious to know what success had attended the expedition, and what discoveries had been made concerning Kidd's money. News that the expedition had returned soon spread over Nyack, and the town was greatly agitated. The arrival of Gusher, a gentleman of such distinguished personal appearance, tended still further to increase the agitation, and to give wing to wilder rumors. Hanz was received with salutations of welcome, for every one seemed glad to see him back. But where this foreign-looking gentleman came from, and what was his history, were questions they confounded their wits over without finding a satisfactory solution.

Considerable ado was now made in getting the bucket and its contents on sh.o.r.e, which was done with as much care and ceremony as if every grain of black sand it contained had been gold. And when a number of the coins had been exhibited to the bystanders, and the genuineness of the metal they were made of shown to be beyond doubt, the boatmen ran a pole through the handle and carried it on their shoulders up the road, creating such a sensation in turn that they were followed by a curious and astonished crowd, which seemed to increase at every step.

The effect was exactly what Chapman wanted. He had the precious treasure carried to his house and deposited, while Hanz and the boatmen proceeded to their homes, stopping at Bright's inn on the way, where they gave a marvellous account of their expedition and what they had discovered.

The portly figure of Mrs. Chapman, arrayed in her best millinery, stood in the door ready to welcome her dear husband and Mr. Gusher, who had proceeded in advance of the crowd.

”Allow me to welcome you to my house--such as it is, Mr. Gusher,” said she, making a low courtesy, and then extending her fat, waxy hand. Mr.

Gusher bowed in return, and received the hand formally.

”Madam, I am so very happy to have ze pleazure to zee you in your own house,” replied Mr. Gusher, raising his hand to his heart, then lifting his hat and making another formal bow.

”I am sure you will forego all ceremony, Mr. Gusher, and make yourself at home. We are plain, unpretending people, and like to receive our friends in a plain, unpretending manner,” resumed Mrs. Chapman, escorting her guest into the parlor, and begging him to be seated. ”It seems so very long since we met in New York, Mr. Gusher. I never shall forget that visit, made so pleasant by your kindness. I have spoken of you so often, Mr. Gusher, to my daughter, that we both feel as if we were well acquainted with you--”

”Madam,” interrupted Mr. Gusher, again putting his hand to his heart and making a formal bow, ”you do me so many compliments as I don't deserve.

I have antic.i.p.ated ze pleazure and ze honor so much to zee your daughter. I am zure I shall be delight wiz her. If I shall speak Englis so well as you, then I shall be so happy. Then I makes myself agreeable to your daughter, I am so sure.” Mr. Gusher was indeed quite embarra.s.sed at the number of compliments Mrs. Chapman seemed inclined to bestow on him.

”Nyack is so dull and stupid--so very dull, Mr. Gusher. We only endure it, you know. And there are so few nice people in it--so very few we care about a.s.sociating with,” resumed this fat, fussy woman, giving her head a toss and extending her hands. ”A few, a very few nice people have come up from the city--we find them very agreeable society, quite a relief. We intend to set up a residence in the city. How delightful to look forward to the day. We can then live in a style more agreeable to our taste.”

”Oh! madam,” rejoined Mr. Gusher, ”I am sure you must be very happy.

Your house is so very elegant. I should be so happy in zis house.

(Pardon, madam, I cannot speak Englis so well.) And zen, wiz your beautiful daughter.” Mr. Gusher placed his hand to his heart again, bowed his head gracefully, and a.s.sumed a sentimental air. ”Oh, I shall be so happy to have my home like zis. And your beautiful daughter--she would sing to me, and she would play me sweet music, and read to me some poetry. You shall zee I am so proud of ze poetry--”

”How very kind of you,” interrupted Mrs. Chapman, bowing condescendingly; ”how very kind of you, to pay my daughter this high compliment. And, then, coming from so distinguished a foreigner. Indeed, Mr. Gusher, I have had a mother's responsibility in educating my daughter up to the highest requisitions of society. Then she's only a young, thoughtless girl yet, you know. Indeed, Mr. Gusher, if it was not that she is so intellectual--I say this out of respect to her father, whose intellectual qualities she inherits--I should feel alarmed about her. Indeed I should. She is so much admired. And there is nothing spoils a young, ardent girl so much as admiration.”

Chapman now entered the room and suggested that Mr. Gusher, their guest, must be very much fatigued after so arduous an expedition. Mr. Gusher was thereupon shown to his room, and left to his own contemplations. In truth, he was glad enough to escape in this way from a continuation of this fussy woman's compliments. He had, however, created in his mind a beautiful picture of Mattie, with oval face, fair complexion, soft blue eyes, flowing golden hair, and a form that Diana might have envied, and a voice so sweet in song. As to her parents, they knew nothing of him, (perhaps it was well they did not); and he knew nothing of them. There was a mystery overhanging the means by which he had been brought in contact with these peculiar people. But the more he revolved the beautiful picture of Mattie over in his mind the more his anxiety to see her increased.

Mr. Gusher rested for two hours, and then re-appeared in the parlor, so exquisitely dressed and made up. Every hair on his head seemed to have been curled so exactly. The gentleman had evidently taken great pains to get himself up in a style that should be faultless. I may mention, also, that Mr. Gusher regarded himself as a very valuable ornament in the atmosphere of fas.h.i.+onable society--just such a nice young man as an ambitious woman just setting up in society would require at least a dozen of to make her first reception a success.

Mrs. Chapman and Mattie were already in the parlor, waiting to receive Mr. Gusher, ”My dear sir!” exclaimed Mrs. Chapman; ”you are looking so much improved. I hope you are rested? And now, sir, allow me to present you to my daughter--Miss Mattie, my only daughter. This is Mr. Gusher, my daughter. You have heard me speak of Mr. Gusher so often.” Mattie blushed and looked confused, then courtesied in a cold and formal manner.

”I am so glad to make you my compliments,” said Mr. Gusher, making one of his best bows, and moving backward with a shuffling motion, ”I am so glad to make you my friend,” he continued, bowing and placing his right hand on his heart. Mattie's beauty was quite up to the picture Mr.

Gusher had drawn of it in his imagination. But her manner was so cold and formal that it not only disappointed but annoyed him. Instead of an ardent, impressible, romantic and even demonstrative girl, bubbling over with warmth and vivacity, here she was, as cold and formal as a charity school matron of forty summers.

”I hope, sir, that you will find your visit to Nyack pleasant,” she replied, tossing her long, golden curls bewitchingly over her fair, full shoulders with her right hand, then motioning Mr. Gusher to be seated ”Nyack is a very dull place, though. I am sure you will not find much in it to interest you. My mother tells me you are to make but a very short stay. I don't wonder you are anxious to get back, sir--”

Mrs. Chapman was at this time in a state of great alarm lest Mattie should say something not strictly within the rules of propriety. She shook her head and cast a significant glance at Mattie, then raised the fore-finger of her right hand to her lips, admonis.h.i.+ngly.

”My daughter has not heard of the great enterprise yourself and my dear husband are engaged in--”