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Mr. Sheriff,' said he, addressing me, here's a writ ready for service, Sir. Mrs. Bayton, Sir, has our piano-forte, Sir, rose-wood case, Sir, seven octavius, Sir— beg pardon, Sir, octavos, Sir — she has it, Sir, in her house, beyant Broadway, by Wooster-street. And will you go now and execute the process at once?'
"Certainly, Mr. Largo, I am ready, and am at your service on the instant.
* Beg pardon, Sheriff,' replied he, 'I'm not jist ready; only say the word after two hours, and I will have assistants to accompany you to take the piano down. Will you be ready by one o'clock to-day?
· Yes, say one o'clock. I will wait for and meet you here at that hour, Mr. Largo. Be prompt, though, if you please.'
He left me, promising to see me at the time appointed.
Now, during the while Largo was speaking, from the time he first addressed me to the end of the conversation between us, Thison, who had been seated near me, and from the first mention by Largo of a pianoforte replevin, rose-wood, seven octaves, the appointed time, his eyes glistened, nay, sparkled with pleasure; his mouth had a pleasant bow in it; he smacked his lips as his ears caught the sounds which were to make his dream a reality, and with that assurance which was now made known to him by what he heard, he, in a look and an occasional leer, peering right in my eyes, expressed all bis thoughts, at times patting his knees, rubbing his hands, crossing his legs, rising from his chair, listening attentively and closely, lest he might lose a word, until the appointed time, one o'clock, was uttered.
"See, Mr. Sheriff,' said he,' the old man a'n't no fool. Why, I have lived a good many years, and I have dreamed a good many dreams. I told you what would happen, and ha’n't it begun? The little creturs in my dream was the keys ; seven octavios is forty-nine on 'em; and I a'n't sure, but I think there was about as many of the little creturs.'
· Will you be ready to go with me at one o'clock, my old friend ?' said I to him, as I desire very much that you should see the end of your dream, and what will come of it.'
* You couldn't keep me away, God bless you.'
One o'clock came round, and with it punctually came Mr. Largo; but I was sorry to see him accompanied by almost an army of assistants. I complained to him, and objected that so many, or more than one, or at most two, should go with me.
* You do n't want them, Mr. Sheriff,' said Thison; "take an old man's advice; you will get along a great deal better, if you only take one beside me and Mr. Factotum.'
At the mention of which word, Mr. Largo looked unutterable things at Tuison, who, perceiving the mistake into which he had fallen, proceeded very gracefully to ask Mr. Largo's pardon for misnaming him.
• I don't care nothing about it, Mr. Sheriff; 't a'n't none of my business: but take an old man's advice; do n't you take no one with you but Mr. Fac-- Largo, I mean - myself, and another gentleman; for it's an old saying that too many cooks spiles the broth.'
I thereupon, at the suggestion of Thison, allowed him, Mr. Largo, and one of the plaintiff's workmen, to accompany me. Dismissing all the others, we proceeded to the house occupied by the defendants; and when I had got within a block of the place, I saw two or three men on one corner of the street, as many on another corner, several more leisurely walking on one side of the street, one seated on the stoop of a house immediately opposite, a number disposed of in the various groceries around the neighborhood, and to all of whom Mr. Largo gave a nod or word, speaking first to one, to another, and then to several, which proceeding I intimated to him was out of the order of arrangements I had made with him. I remonstrated with him, and told him that he could not expect me to be successful in the matter if he persisted in having such an army around me, posted by him to watch and prevent the piano from being taken or carried away previous to my arrival. But the mischief I had endeavored and labored to avoid, had been completed, as I afterward learned, and now it was too late.
Dey have got a 'Hessian regiment’here, I think,' said Thison to me, and you see if what I've said about too many cooks don't spile all.?
"I'm afraid it's done,' said I in reply. However, not despairing, I went to the house, rung the bell, and quietly waited with my assistant the answer to my summons. Some minutes elapsed: no answer came. I rung again, waited : no answer at the door; but one of the windows of the first floor was opened, and a woman looked out and desired to know my business. I replied that I wished to see Mrs. Bayton.' 'I'm Mrs. Bayton ; what do you want to say to me?'
My dear madam,' replied I, please to open the door, and allow, me to come in your house, and I will feel most happy to announce my business to you.
"Oh, you can do it as well here,' she replied, very tartly, I thought; 'you can tell me just as well at the window as at the door.'
'I suppose I can, my dear madam,' replied I, “but it seems to me that it would be more in accordance with decorum that my business, which is of a private character, should be communicated to you in not so public a manner;' and at the moment recorering myself from the position into which she had placed me, I asked her “if Mr. Bayton, her husband, was in,' preferring always to deal with one of the masculine gender.
He a'n't in,' replied she, snappishly, “and if he was, he a'n't no body here. I'm the boss here,' laying peculiar stress on the words 'no body and boss.
‘Dat's de general of de cats, of my dream,' whispered Thison to me.
"Well, madam,' said I, as Mr. Bayton is not at home, and as he is no body and you are the boss, and as you will compel me to make my business known to you at this place, and in this way, I now announce to you that I am the sheriff, and ihat I have a writ of replevin against you, in which I am commanded to take a piano-forte, wrongfully detained from Mr. Von Helfrich, and which piano-forte is in your possession; and I would respectfully ask you to open the door, to allow me to come in.'
'I won't do it,' said she, angrily; 'I knowed you was a officer; your specs showed it, and this here company of Dutch pianner-forte makers, that has bin hufring about, and watchin' my house all day. No, no, Mr. Sheriff, I a'n't no thief; I have n't stole nothing, and why should my
house be watched all day? I a'n't no robber. No, no, you can't come in, and you sha' n't, unless you break down my door. Open the door!' continued she, 'well, would n't you like to see me do it?'
I would indeed, madam : but if you do not, I shall be compelled to break in.
"Sa, sa! phit, phit!' said she, making all sorts of angry grimaces; do it! Sa — phit, phit — do it - sa, phoo, phoo — 00!' and down went the sash: it rung and jingled so, I thought every pane of glass in it was broken.
During my colloquy with the lady, Mr. Largo and Thison, who were present, and in the immediate hearing of all that was said, suggested various remedies. Thison insisted that the Dutch regiment, as he called the innumerable host of the plaintiff's work-men, should be put to rout by Mr. Largo; that Mr. Largo himself should go with them; that he and the sheriff was ekil to any 'mergency; that 't was n't the fust time he had faced a woman, and that it was n't goin' to frighten him bekase the woman was “the boss,' and he would any how "face the music. Mr. Largo felt in extreme doubt. He was very fearful lest Mrs. Bayton should do him bodily harm; he thought he would go after the plaintiff, and get him to capitulate, (to withdraw the writ, I supposed he meant, and he did mean that,) or otherwise to stand bluntly up, and do as Thison recommended : "face the music.' •He could n't think of going away with the Dutch regiment, as he wanted to be present at the end; and as for sending away the work-men, that would n't do, as he desired and intended to have protection for himself, and they were here to protect him.'
I saw that, as has been said of a broiled beef-steak, in the words of the immortal bard,
'If 't were done, when 't is done, then 't were well it were done quickly.' I was apprehensive that unless I moved with alertness, great danger was to be expected, and every moment lost was adding to the difficulties of access. It would n't do to speculate, so at once, and without farther thought, I directed Mr. Largo, as he was of no earthly use to me, to go and get an axe. With this, I intended to cut down the door, or break it in. Quick! haste, speed, Largo — quick. Thisox, meanwhile, stood close by me, knowing full well what was coming; for he had witnessed and was a sharer with me in many an expedition similar to the one we were now engaged in. When he heard the order for the axe, bis eyes distended; he took off his bat, brushed through his hair with his hands, and with his fingers put up the top-knot and arranged it to his notion ; a favorite operation of his when he proposed coming the bald-eagle, or, as he expressed it, something ticklish was going on or coming off.' 'All ready,' said he to me; 'waiting for orders;' and he buttoned up his coat.
I mounted the stoop of Mrs. Bayton's doorway, and proceeded, according to antique custom in our department, but upon what authority I never could learn, to read a proclamation thrice; the purport of which was, that I had a writ in my hands, commanding me to make delivery of a chattel to the plaintiff, and proclaiming that unless the door was opened
to me, so that I could take the piano-forte, I should force my way by breaking down any barrier that impeded my passage. The proclamation was made once, and I was on tip-toe of anxiety for the return of Largo with the axe but be did n't come when I heard a noise proceeding from Mrs. Bayton's house, similar to ten thousand knocks against a full chime of Chinese gongs. First, it sounded down among the bass notes; then treble, then tenor, as high as the piping of a piccolo; then down low, and a reverberating, continuous sound; and a continued striking, hanımering, sounding, dashing, as though scores of players of the heavy and strong style were at one time engaged on as many instruments, and each playing a different tune; it was any thing but a concord of sweet sounds.'
* Dat was the sort of music I heard in my dream, the last of it,' observed Thison to me.
Why does Largo stay away so long ?' I said to Thison. "I do n't know,' replied he tremblingly.
Down came those thundering blows again, at which he started, and the sweat came streaming down his furrowed cheeks; he closed up to me, and I made proclamation again. Still those knocks, those forceful blows that made every thing ring; the echo of the sounds interrupted by yet more blows, and whiz-z-z, bang, boong, bing, ting, brong, ti-lip, tilip, fizz, bang, swosh, kerool — and then a terrible crash like the sound of thunder reverberating; and then again the piping notes of the piccolo, and yet again, blow for blow, knock, knock, blow for knock; as though the piano-forte was being exercised with a coal-man's attachment,' cr there were two or more pair of arms wielding weapons of destruction upon a dooined instrument.
• Where is Largo? where can he stay ?' said I, in such great anxiety of manner, that Thison, desirous of putting an end to the question, as well as of Largo too, in this affair, strained his eyes by looking up and down the street, at last descried him coming leisurely toward us, and beckoned to him: “Hurry, hurry!'
And still the strokes, knocks, blows, continued; still the sounds of the notes seemingly striking against each other, bong-te-ling, bosh, cring, swosh, boong tiz-z-z-z wang, the cadence of the notes being harsh; and still that booming and hissing, that dashing, crushing, toppling, as of houses falling down; now among the bass notes, then among the treble, then tenor, and now among them all; and then as of some thing snapping -- whiz-te-ling ! - boong, bosh-te-long ! - amid which I heard Tise bidding Largo to hurry! hurry! too late! - late!'
And Largo then came and produced, as the result of his journey, the smallest size of a hatchet, and he banded it to me; and then the noise, the blows, the knocks, all ceased, and I made proclamation yet again : and then the door was opened to me from the inside.
'I think,' said Tise to me, 'that Largo must be a lath-boy; I'm swon, if he a'n't bin gittin' a lath-batchet — the cussed fool! if he'd hurried-never mind !'— and the old man continued muttering about too many cooks.
• The best I could get, and the only one at that,' said he, in reply to Thison's observation.
There being now no objection nor obstruction to my entrance, I walked in the house, and then to the room which had contained the article I was in quest of; when Mrs. Bayton, seeing Largo, raised a heavy woodcutter's axe, and slung it around, and made a desperate attack on him: fortunately for him, I saw the axe raised, and the blow aimed : I seized her arm, and the instrument of destruction fell at my feet, as he for the first time was made aware of his perilous position.
* Dangerous woman, that,' observed Thison, who was then engaged, with all of us, looking at the ruin strewed around us.
‘And dangerous women, I think,' said Largo; there appears to be two axes, and there could n't have been so many blows, nor so much damage, in the short time I was away, by one alone.'
“No, nor there would neither been any damage at all done, if you had n't showed your ugly face here,' tartly replied Mrs. Bayton, walking up to him and shaking her fist at him: "Who are you? what are you? Oh, if I was only a man!'
Indeed, we would n't know what to expect in that alternative,' replied Largo; 'you have accomplished such unparalleled feats to-day. If you had been any thing else, I do n't know but you would have swallowed the instrument at a single gulp, and perhaps the sheriff and his posse too!'
Tarson here came to me, and observed : Piano-forte — rosewood - seven octavios, forty-nine little creturs; axe— two axes -- three axes; three mottled cats, two women, and factotum — music — my dream is all out.'
Yes, yes, my old friend,' said I, “it is all out; it is all broken up. Is his your promised success in the dream? is this all smooth ? Gad, I think it is any thing else but smooth — successful!'
See, Mr. Sheriff,' continued he, anxious to convince me of the potency of his forewarnings and dreams, it would ha' bin, but that cussed
*Stop now, Thison; Tise, no more for the present, but let us look at the damage and ruin before us.'
“Yes, 'look! ha! ha!' bellowed out Mrs. Bayton; "and had n't your friend, the lawyer's tool, better look too? It's glorious; ha! ha!' and she seemed wild with fury and passion, when she thought of Largo.
'I'm blamed if she has n't spiled that insterment; she has knocked it all to pieces,' said Thison; and then the old man muttered something about 'a Dutch regiment - hatchet -- lath-hatchet - lath-boy; fool — dream — forty-nine - seven octavios.'
There the remains of the instrument were: the cover bad been broken in seven pieces; the keys all broken asunder; the case had innumerable gashes in it, wide-gaping; the legs cut and hacked all over; here a forceful stroke had been dealt, and these constant and continued blows had broken all the interior arrangements of the instrument. The strings were all cut, and hanging out of what was once a piano-forte; the pedal was slivered and cut in hacks; the cover or top was strewed in pieces on the floor, and every part of the piano liable to destruction by blows, was damaged, nay, destroyed - heaped up in the centre of the room. Mrs. Bayton mounted the pile, the axe still in her hands, standing confessedly there as the genius of destruction. It almost palls my senses now, to think of it.