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The Fortunes of Oliver Horn   By: (1838-1915)

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THE FORTUNES OF OLIVER HORN

by F. Hopkinson Smith

I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO THE MEMORY OF

"THE MAN OF ALL OTHERS ABOUT KENNEDY SQUARE MOST BELOVED, AND THE MAN OF ALL OTHERS LEAST UNDERSTOOD RICHARD HORN, THE DISTINGUISHED INVENTOR." F.H.S.

THE FORTUNES OF OLIVER HORN

CHAPTER I

THE OLD HOUSE IN KENNEDY SQUARE

Kennedy Square, in the late fifties, was a place of birds and trees and flowers; of rude stone benches, sagging arbors smothered in vines, and cool dirt paths bordered by sweet smelling box. Giant magnolias filled the air with their fragrance, and climbing roses played hide and seek among the railings of the rotting fence. Along the shaded walks laughing boys and girls romped all day, with hoop and ball, attended by old black mammies in white aprons and gayly colored bandannas; while in the more secluded corners, sheltered by protecting shrubs, happy lovers sat and talked, tired wayfarers rested with hats off, and staid old gentlemen read by the hour, their noses in their books.

Outside of all this color, perfume, and old time charm, outside the grass line and the rickety wooden fence that framed them in, ran an uneven pavement splashed with cool shadows and stained with green mould. Here, in summer, the watermelon man stopped his cart; and here, in winter, upon its broken bricks, old Moses unhooked his bucket of oysters and ceased for a moment his droning call.

On the shady side of the square, and half hidden in ivy, was a Noah's Ark church, topped by a quaint belfry holding a bell that had not rung for years, and faced by a clock dial all weather stains and cracks, around which travelled a single rusty hand. In its shadow to the right lay the home of the Archdeacon, a stately mansion with Corinthian columns reaching to the roof and surrounded by a spacious garden filled with damask roses and bushes of sweet syringa. To the left crouched a row of dingy houses built of brick, their iron balconies hung in flowering vines, the windows glistening with panes of wavy glass purpled by age.

On the sunny side of the square, opposite the church, were more houses, high and low; one all garden, filled with broken nosed statues hiding behind still more magnolias, and another all veranda and honeysuckle, big rocking chairs and swinging hammocks; and still others with porticos curtained by white jasmine or Virginia creeper.

Half way down this stretch of sunshine and what a lovely stretch it was there had stood for years a venerable mansion with high chimneys, sloping roof, and quaint dormer windows, shaded by a tall sycamore that spread its branches far across the street. Two white marble steps guarded by old fashioned iron railings led up to the front door, which bore on its face a silver plated knocker, inscribed in letters of black with the name Of its owner "Richard Horn." All three, the door, the white marble steps, and the silver plated knocker not to forget the round silver knobs ornamenting the newel posts of the railings were kept as bright as the rest of the family plate by that most loyal of servants, old Malachi, who daily soused the steps with soap and water, and then brought to a phenomenal polish the knocker, bell pull, and knobs by means of fuller's earth, turpentine, hard breathing, and the vigorous use of a buckskin rag.

If this weazened faced, bald headed old darky, resplendent in white shirt sleeves, green baize apron, and never ceasing smile of welcome, happened to be engaged in this cleansing and polishing process and it occurred every morning and saw any friend of his master approaching, he would begin removing his pail and brushes and throwing wide the white door before the visitor reached the house, would there await his coming, bent double in profound salutation. Indeed, whenever Malachi had charge of the front steps he seldom stood upright, so constantly was he occupied by reason of his master's large acquaintance in either crooking his back in the beginning of a bow, or straightening it up in the ending of one... Continue reading book >>




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