And in order to give more perfection to the reception, and to make it in every way worthy of so great a politician, he had his troop of worthy policemen drawn up in front of the City Hall, where they performed a series of marches and counter-marches with such wonderful precision, that Don Fernando offered to wager a thousand acres of land in California that a more orderly body of men was not to be found. The major expressed himself delighted with what he saw of them. “Indeed, sir,” said he, “I am pleased to see that they carry their clubs like men accustomed to a mighty master. And let malicious scribblers say what they will of them, I make no doubt they will either keep or break the peace at your bidding.” At this Don Fernando blushed, but was cautious not to whisper a word about their agility for smashing skulls, and sleeping at street corners, which was truly wonderful.
The major returned thanks for the high honor paid him, and taking leave of Don Fernando, with many assurances of esteem for his great administrative abilities, repaired to his carriage, and returned to the hotel, where he met with a misfortune, the quality of which will be related in the next chapter.
Relating to the appearance of an unexpected character, which grievously disturbed the major’s equanimity.
As the major entered the great entrance to the St. Nicholas, a well dressed man of medium size advanced toward him, somewhat nervously, and fixing a quick, suspicious eye upon him, whispered in his ear something that caused him to turn pale. Indeed, he seemed confused and bewildered. Seeing that he had “private” business with the major, the honorable gentlemen of this reception committee, with becoming discretion, quietly took their departure. “If you please, sir,” said the man, “there is a little matter of business-these are delicate matters; but you see, sir, (and I make it as delicate as my duty will admit,) I treat every one whose acquaintance I make in this way with indulgence, and more especially men of your standing.”
Here the man timorously commenced drawing an ominous looking document from his coat pocket, but the major interrupted, by touching him on the arm, and saying, in a whisper, “As you are a man of discretion, pray deal with me like a gentleman, and just come up stairs; for I would have you be cautious how you let your business out.”
The man touched his hat, and followed at a respectful distance, and soon both disappeared into the major’s parlor.
“Don’t allow yourself to have any fears, sir; for I pledge you no one will know my business. I may say, for I see you are nervous, that I pay so many little attentions here, and to politicians, though not so great as yourself, that most folks fancy me a guest of the house.” The man smiled, and was in no way displeased when he saw the major feeling for a bottle with something in it. After finding one, he held it before his eye: