“Let me ask you, young man, on what business were you abroad last night? I expect you will answer me candidly?”
“It’s no matther,” replied young Lamh Laudher gloomily, “my character’s gone. I cannot be worse, an’ I will tell no man how I spent it, till I have an opportunity of clarin’ myself.”
“If you spent it innocently,” returned the magistrate, “you can have no hesitation in making the disclosure we require.”
“I will not mention it,” said the other; “I was disgraced, an’ that is enough. I think but little of the robbery.”
Brookleigh understood him; but the last assertion, though it exonerated him in the opinion of a man who knew something about character, went far in that of his friends who were present to establish his guilt.
They then withdrew; and it would have been much to young Lamh Laudher’s advantage if this private interview had never taken place.
The next morning O’Rorke and his wife! waited upon Mr. Brookleigh to state, that in their opinion it would be more judicious to liberate Nell M’Collum, provided he kept a strict watch upon all her motions. The magistrate instantly admitted both the force and ingenuity of the thought; and after having appointed three persons to the task of keeping her under surveillance, he set her at large.
This was all judicious and prudent; but in the mean time, common rumor, having first published the fact of young Lamh Laudher’s cowardice, found it an easy task to associate his name with the robbery. His very father, after their last conference with the magistrate, doubted him; his friends, in the most sympathetic terms, expressed their conviction of his guilt, and the natural consequence resulting from this was, that he found himself expelled from his paternal roof, and absolutely put out of caste. The tide of ill-fame, in fact, set in so strongly against him, that Ellen, startled as she had been by his threat of taking to the highway, doubted him. The poor young man, in truth, led a miserable life. Nanse M’Collum had not been found, and the unfavorable rumor was still at its height, when one morning the town arose and found the walls and streets placarded with what was in those days known as the fatal challenge of the DEAD BOXER!
This method of intimating his arrival had always been peculiar to that individual, who was a man of color. No person ever discovered the means by which he placarded his dreadful challenge. In an age of gross superstition, numerous were the rumors and opinions promulgated concerning this circumstance. The general impression was, that an evil spirit attended him, by whose agency his advertisements were put up at night; A law, it is said, then existed, that when a pugilist arrived in any town, He might claim the right to receive the sum of fifty guineas, provided no man in the town could be found to accept his challenge within a given