“Never fear,” said Mr. Morton, as he closed the door behind him, and sauntered lazily out of the house.
Mr. Morton speculated in stocks and town-lots in the same spirit that he had formerly betted at the racecourse and cockpit in his dear Palmetto State. It was a pleasant sort of excitement to him, and without excitement of some kind, he would have found it impossible to exist. To have frequented gaming hells and race courses in the North would have greatly impaired his social position; and as he set a high value upon that he was compelled to forego his favourite pursuits, and associate himself with a set of men who conducted a system of gambling operations upon ’Change, of a less questionable but equally exciting character.
Mr. Stevens sat musing at his desk for some time after the departure of his visitor; then, taking up one of the letters that had so strongly excited him, he read and re-read it; then crushing it in his hand, arose, stamped his feet, and exclaimed, “I’ll have it! if I—” here he stopped short, and, looking round, caught a view of his face in the glass; he sank back into the chair behind him, horrified at the lividness of his countenance.
“Good God!” he soliloquized, “I look like a murderer already,” and he covered his face with his hands, and turned away from the glass. “But I am wrong to be excited thus; men who accomplish great things approach them coolly, so must I. I must plot, watch, and wait;” and thus speaking, he put on his hat and left the office.
As Mr. Stevens approached his house, a handsome carriage drove up to the door of his neighbour, and Mr. Garie and his wife, who had been enjoying a drive along the bank of the river, alighted and entered their residence. The rustle of her rich silk dress grated harshly on his ear, and the soft perfume that wafted toward him as she glided by, was the very reverse of pleasant to him.
Mr. Garie bowed stiffly to him as they stood on the steps of their respective residences, which were only divided by the low iron fence; but, beyond the slight inclination of the head, took no further notice of him.
“The cursed haughty brute,” muttered Mr. Stevens, as he jerked the bell with violence; “how I hate him! I hated him before I knew—but now I——;” as he spoke, the door was opened by a little servant that Mrs. Stevens had recently obtained from a charity institution.
“You’ve kept me standing a pretty time,” exclaimed he savagely, as he seized her ear and gave it a spiteful twist; “can’t you manage to open the door quicker?”
“I was up in the garret, and didn’t hear the bell,” she replied, timidly.
“Then I’ll improve your hearing,” he continued malignantly, as he pulled her by the ear; “take that, now, and see if you’ll keep me standing at the door an hour again.”
Striding forward into the back parlour, he found his wife holding a small rattan elevated over little Lizzy in a threatening attitude.