“Here he comes! here he comes!”
“He” was the “post-rider,” an institution now almost of the past. He rode by the house and threw off a copy of the “Boston Gazette.” Now the “Boston Gazette,” of this particular issue, gave the results of the drawing of the great Massachusetts State Lottery of the Eastern Lands in the Waldo Patent.
Mr. Cutts, the elder, took the “Gazette,” and opened it with a smile that pretended to be careless; but even he showed the eager anxiety which they all felt, as he tore off the wrapper and unfolded the fatal sheet. “Letter from London,” “Letter from Philadelphia,” “Child with two heads,”–thus he ran down the columns of the little page,–uneasily. “Here it is! here it is!–Drawing of the great State Lottery. ‘In the presence of the Honourable Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and of their Honours the Commissioners of the Honourable Council,–was drawn yesterday, at the State House, the first distribution of numbers’—-here are the numbers,–‘First combination, 375-1. Second, 421-7. Third, 591-6. Fourth, 594-1. Fifth,'”–and here Mr. Cutts started off his feet,–“‘Fifth, 219-7.’ Sybil, my darling! it is so! 219-7! See, dear child! 219-7! 219-7! O my God! to think it should come so!”
And he fairly sat down, and buried his head in his hands, and cried.
The others, for a full minute, did not dare break in on excitement so intense, and were silent; but, in a minute more, of course, little Simeon, the youngest of the tribes who were represented there, gained courage to pick up the paper, and to spell out again the same words which his father had read with so much emotion; and, with his sister Sally, who came to help him, to add to the store of information, as to what prize number 5–219-7–might bring.
For this was a lottery in which there were no blanks. The old Commonwealth of Massachusetts, having terrible war debts to pay after the Revolution, had nothing but lands in Maine to pay them with. Now lands in Maine were not very salable, and, if the simple and ordinary process of sale had been followed, the lands might not have been sold till this day. So they were distributed by these Lotteries, which in that time seemed gigantic. Every ticket-holder had some piece of land awarded to him, I think,–but to the most, I fear, the lands were hardly worth the hunting up, to settle upon. But, to induce as many to buy as might, there were prizes. No. 1, I think, even had a “stately mansion” on the land,–according to the advertisement. No. 2 had some special water-power facilities. No. 5, which Mr. Cutts’s ticket had drawn, was two thousand acres on Tripp’s Cove,–described in the programme as that “well-known Harbor of Refuge, where Fifty Line of Battle Ship could lie in safety.” To this cove the two thousand acres so adjoined that the programme represented them as the site of the great “Mercantile Metropolis of the Future.”
Samuel Cutts was too old a man, and had already tested too critically his own powers in what the world calls “business,” by a sad satire, to give a great deal of faith to the promises of the prospectus, as to the commercial prosperity of Tripp’s Cove. He had come out of the Revolution a Brigadier-General, with an honorable record of service,–with rheumatism which would never be cured,–with a good deal of paper money which would never be redeemed, which the Continent and the Commonwealth had paid him for his seven years,–and without that place in the world of peace which he had had when these years began. The very severest trial of the Revolution was to be found in the condition in which the officers of the army were left after it was over. They were men who had distinguished themselves in their profession, and who had done their very best to make that profession unnecessary in the future. To go back to their old callings was hard. Other men were in their places, and there did not seem to be room for two. Under the wretched political system of the old Confederation there was no such rapid spring of the material prosperity of the country as should find for them new fields in new enterprise. Peace did any thing but lead in Plenty. Often indeed, in history, has Plenty been a little coy before she could be tempted, with her pretty tender feet, to press the stubble and the ashes left by the havoc of War. And thus it was that General Cutts had returned to his old love whom he had married in a leave of absence just before Bunker Hill, and had begun his new life with her in Old Newbury in Massachusetts, at a time when there was little opening for him,–or for any man who had spent seven years in learning how to do well what was never to be done again.