"Tom, you had better stay in the boat. I will either come or send for you."
It was very unwillingly that Tom consented, but I overruled his entreaties, and he remained. I walked to Mary's house and entered. She was up in the little parlour, dressed in deep mourning; when I entered she was looking out upon the river; she turned her head, and perceiving me, rose to meet me.
"You do not come to upbraid me, Jacob, I am sure," said she, in a melancholy voice; "you are too kind-hearted for that."
"No, no, Mary; I come to comfort you, if possible."
"That is not possible. Look at me, Jacob. Is there not a worm—a canker—that gnaws within?"
The hollow cheek and wild flaring eye, once so beautiful, but too plainly told the truth.
"Mary," said I, "sit down; you know what the Bible says—'It is good for us to be afflicted.'"
"Yes, yes," sobbed Mary, "I deserve all I suffer; and I bow in humility. But am I not too much punished, Jacob? Not that I would repine; but is it not too much for me to bear, when I think that I am the destroyer of one who loved me so?"
"You have not been the destroyer, Mary."
"Yes, yes; my heart tells me that I have."
"But—I tell you that you have not. Say, Mary, dreadful as the punishment has been, would you not kiss the rod with thankfulness, if it cured you of your unfortunate disposition, and prepared you to make a good wife?"
"That it has cured me, Jacob, I can safely assert; but it has also killed me as well as him. But I wish not to live; and I trust, in a few short months, to repose by his side."
"I hope you will have your wish, Mary, very soon, but not in death."
"Merciful heavens! what do you mean, Jacob?"
"I said you were not the destroyer of poor Tom—you have not been; he has not yet suffered; there was an informality, which has induced them to revise the sentence."
"Jacob," replied Mary, "it is cruelty to raise my hopes only to crush them again. If not yet dead, he is still to die. I wish you had not told me so," continued she, bursting into tears; "what a state of agony and suspense must he have been in all this time, and I—I have caused his sufferings! I trusted he had long been released from this cruel, heartless world."
The flood of tears which followed assured me that I could safely impart the glad intelligence. "Mary, Mary, listen to me."
"Leave me, leave me," sobbed Mary, waving her hand.
"No, Mary, not until I tell you that Tom is not only alive, but— pardoned."
"Pardoned!" shrieked Mary.
"Yes, pardoned, Mary—free, Mary—and in a few minutes will be in your arms."
Mary dropped on her knees, raised her hands and eyes to heaven, and then fell into a state of insensibility. Tom, who had followed me, and remained near the house, had heard the shriek, and could no longer retain himself; he flew into the room as Mary fell, and I put her into his arms. At the first signs of returning sensibility, I left them together, and went to find old Stapleton, to whom I was more brief in my communication. Stapleton continued to smoke his pipe during my narrative.
"Glad of it, glad of it," said he, when I finished. "I were just thinking how all these senses brought us into trouble, more than all, that sense of love; got me into trouble, and made me kill a man—got my poor wife into trouble, and drowned her—and now almost shot Tom, and killed Mary. Had too much of HUMAN NATUR' lately—nothing but moist eyes and empty pipes. Met that sergeant yesterday, had a turn up; Tom settled one eye, and, old as I am, I've settled the other for a time. He's in bed for a fortnight—couldn't help it—human natur'."
I took leave of Stapleton, and calling in upon Tom and Mary, shaking hands with the one, and kissing the other, I despatched a letter to the Dominie, acquainting him with what had passed, and then hastened to the Drummonds and imparted the happy results of my morning's work to Sarah and her mother.
"And now, Sarah, having so successfully arranged the affairs of other people, I should like to plead in my own behalf. I think that after having been deprived almost wholly of your dear company for a month, I deserve to be rewarded."
"You do, indeed, Jacob," said Mrs Drummond, "and I am sure that Sarah thinks so too, if she will but acknowledge it."
"I do acknowledge it, mamma; but what is this reward to be?"
"That you will allow your father and mother to arrange an early day for our nuptials, and also allow Tom and Mary to be united at the same altar."
"Mamma, have I not always been a dutiful daughter?"
"Yes, my love, you have."
"Then I shall do as I am bidden by my parents, Jacob; it will be probably the last command I receive from them, and I shall obey it; will that please you, dear Jacob?"
That evening the day was fixed, and now I must not weary the reader with a description of my feelings, or of my happiness in the preparations for the ceremony. Sarah and I, Mary and Tom, were united on the same day, and there was nothing to cloud our happiness. Tom took up his abode with his father and mother; and Mary, radiant with happiness, even more beautiful than ever, has settled down into an excellent, doting wife. For Sarah, I hardly need say the same; she was my friend from childhood, she is now all that a man could hope and wish for. We have been married several years, and are blessed with a numerous family.
I am now almost at a conclusion. I have only to acquaint the reader with a few particulars relative to my early friends. Stapleton is still alive, and is wedded to his pipe, which, with him, although the taste for tobacco has been considered as an acquired one, may truly be asserted to be human nature. He has two wherries with apprentices, and from them gains a good livelihood, without working himself. He says that the boys are not as honest as I was, and cheat him not a little; but he consoles himself by asserting that it is nothing but human natur'. Old Tom is also strong and hearty, and says that he don't intend to follow his legs for some time yet. His dame, he says, is peaking, but Mary requires no assistance. Old Tom has left off mending boats, his sign is taken down, for he is now comfortable. When Tom married, I asked him what he wished to do; he requested me to lend him money to purchase a lighter; I made him a present of a new one, just launched by Mr Drummond's firm. But old Stapleton made over to him the 200 pounds, left to him by Mr Turnbull, and his mother brought out an equal sum from her hoards. This enabled Tom to purchase another lighter, and now he has six or seven, I forget which; at all events he is well off, and adding to his wealth every year. They talk of removing to a better house, but the old couple wish to remain. Old Tom, especially, has built an arbour where the old boat stood, and sits there carolling his songs, and watching the crafts as they go up and down the river.
Mr and Mrs Wharncliffe still continue my neighbours and dearest friends. Mrs Turnbull died a few months back, and I am now in possession of the whole property. My father and mother-in-law are well and happy. Mr Drummond will retire from business as soon as he can wind up his multifarious concerns. I have but one more to speak of—the old Dominie. It is now two years since I closed the eyes of this worthy man. As he increased in years so did he in his abstractions of mind, and the governors of the charity thought it necessary to superannuate him with a pension. It was a heavy blow to the old man, who asserted his capabilities to continue to instruct; but people thought otherwise, and he accepted my offer to take up his future residence with us, upon the understanding that it was necessary that our children, the eldest of whom, at that time, was but four years old, should be instructed in Latin and Greek. He removed to us with all his books, etcetera, not forgetting the formidable birch; but as the children would not take to the Latin of their own accord, and Mrs Faithful would not allow the rod to be made use of, the Dominie's occupation was gone. Still, such was the force of habit, that he never went without the Latin grammar in his pocket, and I have often watched him sitting down in the poultry-yard, fancying, I presume, that he was in his school. There would he decline, construe, and conjugate aloud, his only witnesses being the poultry, who would now and then raise a gobble, gobble, gobble, while the ducks with their quack, quack, quack, were still more impertinent in their replies. A sketch of him, in this position, has been taken by Sarah, and now hangs over the mantel-piece of my study, between two of Mr Turnbull's drawings, one of an iceberg, on the 17th of August '78, and the other showing the dangerous position of the Camel whaler, jammed between the floe of ice, in latitude —-, and longitude —-.
Reader, I have now finished my narrative. There are two morals, I trust, to be drawn from the events of my life, one of which is, that in society we naturally depend upon each other for support, and that he who would assert his independence throws himself out of the current which bears to advancement; the other is, that with the advantages of good education, and good principle, although it cannot be expected that everyone will be so fortunate as I have been, still there is every reasonable hope, and every right to expect, that we shall do well in this world. Thrown up, as the Dominie expressed himself, as a tangled weed from the river, you have seen the orphan and charity-boy rise to wealth and consideration; you have seen how he who was friendless secured to himself the warmest friends; he who required everything from others became in a situation to protect and assist in return; he who could not call one individual his relation, united to the object of his attachment, and blessed with a numerous family; and to amass all these advantages and this sum of happiness, the only capital with which he embarked was a good education and good principles.