In the meantime, the news flies in every direction. Brentford is full of it. Mr T had been living too fast—is done up—had been had up at Bow Street—creditors had poured in with bills—servants discharged— carriage and horses seized. Mrs T, poor creature, in hysterics, and nobody surprised at it; indeed, everybody expected it. The Peters of Petercumb Hall heard it, and shook their heads at the many upstarts there were in the world. Mr Smith requested the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Babbleton never to mention to his father the Right Honourable Marquis of Spring-guns, that he had ever been taken to see the Turnbulls or that he, Mr Smith, would infallibly lose his situation in esse, and his living in posse: and Monsieur and Madame Tagliabue were even more astounded; but they felt deeply, and resolved to pay a visit the next morning, at least Monsieur Tagliabue did, and Madame acknowledged to the propriety of it.
The next morning some little order had been restored; the footman hired had been given in charge of a sufficient quantity of plate, the rest had been locked up. The cook was to stay her month; the housemaid had no wish to leave; and as for the lady's maid, she would remain as long as she could to console her poor mistress, and accept what she was inclined to give her in return, in any way of clothes, dresses, etcetera, although, of course, she could not hurt her character by remaining too long in a family where there was no carriage, or gentlemen out of livery. Still Mr T did obtain some breakfast, and had just finished when Monsieur Tagliabue was announced, and was received.
"Ah! Monsieur T, I hope madame is better. Madame Tagliabue did nothing but cry all last night when she heard the very bad news about de debt, and all dat."
"Very much obliged to Madame," replied Turnbull, gruffly; "and now, pray sir, what may be your pleasure?"
"Ah! Monsieur Turnbull, I feel very much for you; but suppose a gentleman no lose his honour, what matter de money?" (Mr Turnbull stared.) "You see, Monsieur Turnbull, honour be everything to a gentleman. If a gentleman owe money to one rascally tradesfellow, and not pay him, dat no great matter; but he always pay de debt of honour. Every gentleman pay dat. Here, Monsieur Turnbull," (and the little Frenchman pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket), "be a leetle note of Madame Turnbull, which she gave to Madame Tagliabue, in which she acknowledged she owe two hundred pounds for money lost at ecarte. Dat you see, Monsieur Turnbull, be what gentlemen call debt of honour, which every gentleman pay, or else he lose de character, and be called one blackguard by all the world. Madame Tagliabue and I too much fond of you and Madame Turnbull not to save your character, and so I come by her wish to beg you to settle this leetle note—this leetle debt of honour;" and Monsieur Tagliabue laid the note on the table, with a very polite bow.
Mr Turnbull examined the note; it was as described by Monsieur Tagliabue. So, thought he, now the whole story's out; she has been swindled out of her money by this rascally French couple. "Now, Monsieur Tagliabue," said he, "allow me to put a question or two before I pay this money; and if you answer me sincerely, I shall raise no objection. I think Mrs T has already lost about six hundred pounds at ecarte before?" (Monsieur T, who presumed that Mrs Turnbull had made him acquainted with the fact, answered in the affirmative.) "And I think that two months ago she never knew what ecarte was."
"Dat is true; but the ladies are very quick to learn."
"Well, but now, do you think that, as she knew nothing about the game, and you and your wife are well acquainted with it, it was honourable on your part to allow her to lose so much money!"
"Ah! Monsieur, when a lady say she will play comment faire, what can you do?"
"But why did you never play at this house, Monsieur?"
"Ah! Monsieur Turnbull, it is for de lady of de house to propose de game."
"Very true," replied Mr Turnbull, writing a cheque for the two hundred pounds; "there is your money, Mr Tagliabue; and now that you are paid, allow me to observe that I consider you and your wife a couple of swindlers; and beg that you will never enter my doors again."
"Vat you say, sir! Swind-lare! God dam! Sar, I will have satisfaction."
"You've got your money—is that sufficient, or do you want anything else?" replied Mr T, rising from his chair.
"Yes, sar, I do want more—I will have more."
"So you shall, then," replied Mr Turnbull, kicking him out of the room along the passage, and out of the front door.
Monsieur Tagliabue turned round every now and then, and threatened, and then tried to escape, as he perceived the upraised boot of Mr Turnbull. When fairly out of the house he turned round, "Monsieur Turnbull, I will have de satisfaction, de terrible satisfaction, for this. You shall pay. By God, sar, you shall pay—de money for this."
That evening Mr Turnbull was summoned to appear at Bow Street on the following morning for the assault. He met Monsieur Tagliabue with his lawyer, and acknowledged that he had kicked him out of his house for swindling his wife, refused all accommodation, and was prepared with his bail. Monsieur Tagliabue stormed and blustered, talked about his acquaintance with the nobility; but the magistrate had seen too much of foreigners to place much reliance on their asseverations. "Who are you, monsieur?"
"Sar, I am a gentleman."
"What profession are you of, sir?"
"Sar, a gentleman has no profession."
"But how do you live, Monsieur Tagliabue?"
"As a gentleman always does, sar."
"You mentioned Lord Scrope just now as your particular friend, I think?"
"Yes, sar, me very intimate with Lord Scrope; me spend three months at Scrope Castle with mi Lady Scrope; mi Lady Scrope very fond of Madame Tagliabue."
"Very well, Monsieur Tagliabue; we must proceed with another case until Mr Turnbull's bail arrives. Sit down for a little while, if you please."
Another case was then heard, which lasted about half-an-hour; but previous to hearing it, the magistrate, who knew that Lord Scrope was in town, had despatched a runner with a note to his lordship, and the answer was now brought back. The magistrate read it, and smiled; went on with the other case, and when it was finished, said, "Now, M. Tagliabue, you have said that you were intimate with Lord Scrope."
"Yes, sar, very intimate."
"Well, Lord Scrope I have the pleasure of knowing: and, as he is in town, I wrote a note to him and here is his answer. I will read it."
M. Tagliabue turned pale as the magistrate read the following:—
"DEAR SIR—A fellow of the name you mention came from Russia with me as my valet. I discharged him with dishonesty; after he left, Lady Scrope's attendant, who it appeared was, unknown to us, married to him, left also, and then I discovered the peculations to have been so extensive that had we known where to have laid hold of him, I should certainly have brought them before you. Now the affair is forgotten; but a greater scoundrel never existed;—Yours, SCROPE."
"Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?" continued the magistrate in a severe tone. M. Tagliabue fell on his knees and begged for mercy from the magistrate, from Lord Scrope, and lastly, from Mr Turnbull, to whom he proffered the draft for 200 pounds. The magistrate, seeing that Mr Turnbull did not take it, said to him, "Make no ceremony of taking your money back again, Mr Turnbull; the very offer of it proves that he has gained it dishonestly; and 600 pounds is quite enough to have lost." Mr Turnbull then took the cheque and tore it in pieces, and the magistrate ordered M. Tagliabue to be taken to the alien office, and he was sent to the other side of the Channel, in company with his wife, to play ecarte with whomsoever he pleased. Thus ended the episode of Monsieur Tagliabue.
MR. TURNBULL FINDS OUT THAT MONEY, THOUGH A NECESSARY EVIL, IS NOT A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS—THE DOMINIE FINDS OUT THAT A LITTLE CALUMNY IS MORE EFFECTUAL THAN OVID'S REMEDY FOR LOVE; AND I FIND OUT THAT WALKING GIVES ONE A GOOD APPETITE FOR FILLET OF VEAL AND BACON—I SET AN EXAMPLE TO THE CLERGY IN REFUSING TO TAKE MONEY FOR A SEAT IN CHURCH.
"And now you see, Jacob, what a revolution has taken place; not very pleasant, I grant, but still it was very necessary. I have since been paying all my bills, for the report of my being in difficulty has brought them in fast enough; and I find that in these last five months my wife has spent a whole year's income; so it was quite time to stop."
"I agree with you, sir; but what does Mrs Turnbull say now—has she come to her senses?"
"Pretty well, I expect, although she does not quite choose to acknowledge it. I have told her that she must dispense with a carriage in future; and so she shall, till I think she deserves it. She knows that she must either have my company in the house, or none at all. She knows that the Peters of Petercumb Hall have cut her, for they did not answer a note of hers, sent by the gardener; and Mr Smith has written a very violent answer to another of her notes, wondering at her attempting to push herself into the company of the aristocracy. But what has brought her to her senses more than all is the affair of Monsieur Tagliabue. The magistrate, at my request, gave me the note of Lord Scrope, and I have taken good care that she could read the police report as well; but the fact is, she is so much mortified that I say nothing to her. She has been following the advice of these French swindlers, who have led her wrong, to be able to cheat her of her money. I expect she will ask me to sell this place, and go elsewhere; but at present we hardly exchange a word during the whole day."
"I feel very sorry for her, sir; for I really believe her to be a very good kind-hearted person."
"That's like you, Jacob—and so she is. At present she is in a state to be pitied. She would throw a share of the blame upon other people, and cannot—she feels it is all herself. All her bubbles of grandeur have burst, and she finds herself not half so respectable as she was before her vanity induced her to cut her former acquaintance, and try to get into the society of those who laughed at her, and at the same time were not half so creditable. But it's that cursed money which has proved her unhappiness—and, I may add, mine."
"Well, sir, I see no chance of its ever adding to my misfortunes, at all events."
"Perhaps not, Jacob, even if you ever should get any; but, at all events, you may take a little to-morrow, if you please. I cannot ask you to dine here; it would not be pleasant to you, and show a want of feeling to my wife; but I should like you to come up with the wherry to-morrow, and we'll take a cruise."
"Very well, I shall be at your orders—at what time?"
"Say ten o'clock if the weather is fine; if not the next day."
"Then, sir, I'll now wish you good-bye, as I must go and see the Dominie."
Mr Turnbull took my hand, and we parted. I was soon at Brentford, and was continuing my course through the long, main street, when I met Mr and Mrs Tomkins, the former head clerk who had charge of the Brentford Wharf. "I was intending to call upon you, sir, after I had paid a visit to my old master."
"Very well, Jacob; and recollect we dine at half-past three—fillet of veal and bacon—don't be late for dinner."
I promised that I would not, and in a few minutes more arrived at the Grammar School. I looked at its peaked, antiquated front, and called to mind my feelings when, years back, I had first entered its porch. What a difference between the little uncouth, ignorant, savage, tricked out like a harlequin, and now the tall, athletic, well-dressed youth, happy in his independence, and conscious, although not vain, of his acquirements! and I mentally blessed the founders. But I had to talk to the Dominie, and to keep my appointment with the veal and bacon at half-past three, so I could not spare any time for meditation. I, therefore, unfolded my arms, and making use of my legs, entered the wicket, and proceeded to the Dominie's room. The door was ajar, and I entered without being perceived. I have often been reminded, by Flemish paintings which I have seen since, of the picture which then presented itself. The room was not large, but lofty. It had but one window, fitted with small diamond-shaped panes in heavy wood-work, through which poured a broad, but subdued, stream of light. On one side of the window was an ancient armoire, containing the Dominie's library, not gilt and lettered but well thumbed and worn. On the other his huge chest of drawers, on which lay, alas! for the benefit of the rising generations, a new birch rod, of large dimensions. The table was in the centre of the room, and the Dominie sat at it, with his back to the window, in a dressing-gown, once black, having been a cassock, but now brown with age. He was on his high and narrow-backed chair, leaning forwards, with both elbows on the table, his spectacles on his luxuriant nose, and his hands nearly meeting on the top of his bald crown, earnestly poring over the contents of a book. A large Bible, which he constantly made use of, was also on the table, and had apparently been shoved from him to give place to the present object of his meditations. His pipe lay on the floor in two pieces, having been thrown off without his perceiving it. On one side of him was a sheet of paper, on which he evidently had been writing extracts. I passed by him without his perceiving me, and gaining the back of his chair, looked over his shoulder. The work he was so intent upon was "Ovid's Remedy of Love."
It appeared that he had nearly finished reading through the whole, for in less than a minute he closed the book, and laying his spectacles down, threw himself back in his chair. "Strange," soliloquised the Dominie; "Yet, verily, is some of his advice important, and I should imagine commendable, yet I do not find my remedy therein. 'Avoid idleness'—yes, that is sage counsel—and employment to one that hath not employed himself may drive away thought; but I have never been idle, and mine hath not been love in idleness; 'Avoid her presence'—that I must do; yet doth she still present herself to mine imagination, and I doubt whether the tangible reality could be more clearly perceptible. Even now doth she stand before me in all her beauty. 'Read not Propertius and Tibullus'—that is easily refrained from; but read what I will, in a minute the type passeth from my eyes, and I see but her face beaming from the page. Nay, cast my eyes in what direction I may wist, it is the same. If I looked at the stained wall, the indistinct lines gradually form themselves into her profile; if I look at the clouds, they will assume some of the redundant outlines of her form; if I cast mine eyes upon the fire in the kitchen-grate, the coals will glow and cool until I see her face; nay, but yesterday, the shoulder of mutton upon the spit gyrated until it at last assumed the decapitated head of Mary. 'Think of her faults and magnify them'—nay, that were unjust and unchristian. Let me rather correct mine own. I fear me that when Ovid wrote his picture he intended it for the use of young men, and not for an old fool like me. Behold! I have again broken my pipe—the fourth pipe that I have destroyed this week. What will the dame say? already hath she declared me demented, and God knows she is not very far from the truth;" and the Dominie covered up his face in his hands. I took this opportunity to step to the door, and appear to enter it, dropping the latch, and rousing the Dominie by the noise, who extended to me his hand. "Welcome, my son—welcome to thine old preceptor; and to the walls which first received thee, when thou wert cast on shore as a tangle weed from the river. Sit, Jacob; I was thinking of thee and thine."
"What, sir? of old Stapleton and his daughter, I suppose."
"Even so; ye were all in my thoughts at the moment that thou madest thy appearance. They are well?"
"Yes, sir," replied I. "I see but little of them; the old man is always smoking, and as for the girl—why, the less one sees of her the better, I should say."
"Nay, Jacob, this is new to me; yet is she most pleasant."
I knew the Dominie's character, and that if anything could cure his unfortunate passion, it would be a supposition on his part that the girl was not correct. I determined at all events to depreciate her, as I knew that what I said would never be mentioned by him, and would therefore do her no harm. Still, I felt that I had to play a difficult game, as I was determined not to state what was not the fact. "Pleasant, sir; yes, pleasant to everybody; the fact is; I don't like such girls as she is."
"Indeed, Jacob; what, is she light?" I smiled and made no answer. "Yet I perceived it not," replied the Dominie.
"She is just like her mother," observed I.
"And what was her mother?"
I gave a brief account of her mother, and how she met her death in trying to escape from her husband. The Dominie mused. "Little skilled am I in women, Jacob, yet what thou sayest not only surpriseth but grieveth me. She is fair to look upon."
"Handsome is that handsome does, sir. She'll make many a man's heart ache yet, I expect."
"Indeed, Jacob. I am full of marvel at what thou hast already told me."
"I have seen more of her, sir."
"I pray thee tell me more."
"No, sir, I had rather not. You may imagine all you please."
"Still she is young, Jacob; when she becometh a wife she might alter."
"Sir, it is my firm opinion (and so it was), that if you were to marry her to-morrow, she would run away from you in a week."
"Is that thy candid opinion, Jacob?"
"I will stake my life upon her so doing, although not as to the exact time."
"Jacob, I thank thee—thank thee much; thou hast opened mine eyes—thou hast done me more good than Ovid. Yes, boy; even the ancients, whom I have venerated, have not done me so kind an act as thou, a stripling, whom I have fostered. Thou hast repaid me, Jacob—thou hast rewarded me, Jacob—thou hast protected me, Jacob—thou hast saved me, Jacob— hast saved me both from myself and from her; for know, Jacob—know—that mine heart did yearn towards that maiden; and I thought her even to be perfection. Jacob, I thank thee! Now leave me, Jacob, that I may commune with myself, and search out my own heart, for I am awakened— awakened as from a dream, and I would fain be quite alone."
I was not sorry to leave the Dominie, for I also felt that I would fain be in company with the fillet of veal and bacon, so I shook hands, and thus ended my second morning call. I was in good time at Mr Tomkins', who received me with great kindness. He was well pleased with his new situation, which was one of respectability and consequence, independently of profit; and I met at his table one or two people who, to my knowledge, would have considered it degrading to have visited him when only head clerk to Mr Drummond. We talked over old affairs, not forgetting the ball, and the illuminations, and Mr Turnbull's bon mot about Paradise; and after a very pleasant evening; I took my leave with the intention of walking back to Fulham, but I found old Tom waiting outside, on the look-out for me.
"Jacob, my boy, I want you to come down to my old shop one of these days. What day will you be able to come? The lighter will be here for a fortnight at least, I find from Mr Tomkins, as she waits for a cargo coming by canal, and there is no other craft expected above bridge, so tell me what day will you come and see the old woman, and spend the whole day with us. I wants to talk a bit with you, and ax your opinion about a good many little things."
"Indeed!" replied I, smiling. "What, are you going to build a new house?"
"No, no—not that; but you see, Jacob, as I told you last winter, it was time for me to give up night work up and down the river. I'm not so young as I was about fifty years ago, and there's a time for all things. I do mean to give up the craft in the autumn, and go on shore for a full due; but, at the same time, I must see how I can make matters out, so tell me what day you will come."
"Well, then, shall we say Wednesday?"
"Wednesday's as good a day as any other day; come to breakfast, and you shall go away after supper, if you like; if not, the old woman shall sling a hammock for you."
"Agreed, then; but where's Tom?"
"Tom, I don't know; but I think he's gone after that daughter of Stapleton's. He begins to think of the girls now, Jacob; but, as the old buffer, her father, says, 'it's all human natur'.' Howsomever, I never interferes in these matters: they seem to be pretty well matched, I think."
"How do you mean?"
"Why, as for good looks, they be well enough matched, that's sure; but I don't mean that, I mean, he is quite as knowing as she is, and will shift his helm as she shifts hers. 'Twill be a long running fight, and when one strikes, t'other won't have much to boast of. Perhaps they may sheer off after all—perhaps they may sail as consorts; God only knows; but this I knows, that Tom's sweetheart may be as tricky as she pleases, but Tom's wife won't be—'cause why? He'll keep her in order. Well, good-night; I have a long walk."
When I returned home I found Mary alone. "Has Tom been here?" inquired I.
"What makes you ask that question?" replied Mary.
"To have it answered—if you have no objection."
"Oh, no! Well, then, Mr Jacob, Tom has been here, and very amusing he has been."
"So he always is," replied I.
"And where may you have been?" I told her. "So you saw old Dominie. Now, tell me, what did he say about me?"
"That I shall not tell," replied I; "but I will tell you this, that he will not think about you any more; and you must not expect ever to see him again."
"But recollect that he promised."
"He kept his promise, Mary."
"Oh, he told you so, did he? Did he tell you all that passed?"
"No, Mary, he never told me that he had been here, neither did he tell me what had passed; but I happen to know all."
"I cannot understand that."
"Still, it is true; and I think, on the whole, you behaved pretty well, although I cannot understand why you gave him a kiss at parting."
"Good heaven! where were you? You must have been in the room. And you heard every word that passed?"
"Every word," replied I.
"Well," said Mary, "I could not have believed that you could have done so mean a thing."
"Mary, rather accuse your own imprudence; what I heard was to be heard by everyone in the street as well as by me. If you choose to have love scenes in a room not eight feet from the ground, with the window wide open, you must not be surprised at every passer-by hearing what you say."
"Well, that's true. I never thought of the window being open; not that I would have cared if all the world had heard me, if you had not."
It never occurred to me till then why Mary was annoyed at my having overheard her, but at once I recollected what she had said about me. I made no answer. Mary sat down, leaned her forehead against her hands, and was also silent. I, therefore, took my candle and retired. It appeared that Mary's pride was much mortified at my having heard her confession of being partial to me—a confession which certainly made very little impression on me, as I considered that she might, a month afterwards, confess the same relative to Tom, or any other individual who took her fancy; but in this I did not do her justice. Her manners were afterwards much changed towards me; she always appeared to avoid, rather than to seek, further intimacy. As for myself, I continued, as before, very good friends, kind towards her, but nothing more. The next morning I was up at Mr Turnbull's by the time agreed upon, but before I set off rather a singular occurrence took place. I had just finished cleaning my boat, and had resumed my jacket, when a dark man, from some foreign country, came to the hard with a bundle under his arm.
"How much for to go to the other side of the river—how much pence?"
"Twopence," replied I; but not caring to take him, I continued, "but you only pay one penny to cross the bridge."
"I know very well, but suppose you take me?"
He was a well-looking, not very dark man; his turban was of coloured cloth—his trousers not very wide; and I could not comprehend whether he was a Turk or not; I afterwards found out he was a Parsee, from the East Indies. He spoke very plain English. As he decided upon crossing, I received him, and shoved off; when we were in the middle of the stream, he requested me to pull a little way up. "That will do," said he, opening his bundle, and spreading a carpet on the stern flooring of the wherry. He then rose, looking at the sun, which was then rising in all its majesty, bowed to it, with his hands raised, three times, then knelt on the carpet, and touched it several times with his forehead, again rose to his feet, took some common field flowers from his vest, and cast them into the stream, bowed again, folded up his carpet, and begged me to pull on shore.
"I say my prayers," said the man, looking at me with his dark, piercing eye.
"Very proper; whom did you say them to?"
"To my God."
"But why don't you say them on shore?"
"Can't see sun in the house; suppose I go out little boys laugh and throw mud. Where no am seen, river very proper place."
We landed, and he took out threepence, and offered it to me. "No, no," said I; "I don't want you to pay for saying your prayers."
"No take money?"
"Yes, take money to cross the river, but not take money for saying prayers. If you want to say them any other morning, come down, and if I am here, I'll always pull you into the stream."
"You very good man; I thank you."
The Parsee made me a low salaam, and walked away. I may here observe that the man generally came down at sunrise two or three days in the week, and I invariably gave him a pull off into the stream, that he might pursue his religious ceremony. We often conversed and at last became intimate.
Mr Turnbull was at the bottom of the lawn, which extended from his house to the banks of the river, looking out for me, when I pulled up. The basket with our dinner, etcetera, was lying by him on the gravel walk.
"This is a lovely morning, Jacob; but it will be rather a warm day, I expect," said he; "come, let us be off at once; lay in your sculls, and let us get the oars to pass."
"How is Mrs Turnbull, sir?"
"Pretty well, Jacob; more like the Molly Brown that I married than she has been for some years. Perhaps, after all, this affair may turn out one of the best things that ever happened. It may bring her to her senses—bring happiness back to our hearth; if so, Jacob, the money is well spent."
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.
MR. TURNBULL AND I GO ON A PARTY OF PLEASURE—IT TURNS OUT TO BE AN ADVENTURE, AND WINDS UP WITH A BLUNDERBUSS, A TIN-BOX, AND A LADY'S CLOAK.
We pulled leisurely up the stream, talking, and every now and then resting on our oars to take breath; for, as the old captain said, "Why should we make a toil of pleasure? I like the upper part of the river best, Jacob, because the water is clear, and I love clear water. How many hours have I, when a boy on board ship, hung over the gunwale of a boat, lowered down in a calm, and watch the little floating objects in the dark blue unfathomable water beneath me; objects of all sizes, of all colours, and of all shapes—all of them beautiful and to be admired; yet of them, perhaps, not one in a hundred millions ever meet the eye of man. You know, Jacob, that the North Seas are full of these animals— you cannot imagine the quantity of them; the sailors call them blubbers, because they are composed of a sort of transparent jelly but the real name I am told is Medusae, that is the learned name. The whale feeds on them, and that is the reason why the whale is found where they are."
"I should like very much to go a voyage to the whale fishery," replied I; "I've heard so much about it from you."
"It is a stirring life, and a hard life, Jacob; still it is an exciting one. Some voyages will turn out very pleasant, but others are dreadful, from their anxiety. If the weather continues fine, it is all very well; but sometimes when there is a continuance of bad weather, it is dreadful. I recollect one voyage which made me show more grey hairs than all the others, and I think I have been twenty-two in all. We were in the drift ice, forcing our way to the northward, when it came on to blow—the sea rose, and after a week's gale it was tremendous. We had little daylight, and when it was daylight, the fog was so thick that we could see but little; there we were tossing among the large drift ice, meeting immense icebergs which bore down with all the force of the gale, and each time we narrowly escaped perishing: the rigging was loaded with ice; the bows of the ship were cased with it; the men were more than half frozen, and we could not move a rope through a block without pouring boiling water through it first, to clear it out. But then the long, dreary, dreadful nights, when we were rising on the mountain wave, and then pitching down into the trough, not knowing but that at each send we might strike upon the ice below, and go to the bottom immediately afterwards. All pitchy dark—the wind howling, and as it struck you, cutting you to the back-bone with its cold, searching power, the waves dancing all black around you, and every now and then perceiving by its white colour and the foam encircling it a huge mass of ice borne upon you, and hurled against you as if there were a demon, who was using it as an engine for your destruction. I never shall forget the turning of an iceberg during the dreadful gale which lasted for a month and three days."
"I don't know what that means, sir."
"Why, you must know, Jacob, that the icebergs are all fresh water, and are supposed to have been detached from the land by the force of the weather and other causes. Now, although ice floats, yet it floats deep: that is, if an iceberg is five hundred feet high above the water, it is generally six times as deep below the water—do you understand?"
"Now, Jacob, the water is much warmer than the air, and in consequence, the ice under the water melts away much faster; so that if the iceberg has been some time afloat, at last the part that is below is not so heavy as that which is above; then it turns, that is, it upsets and floats in another position."
"I understand you, sir."
"Well, we were close to an iceberg, which was to windward of us, a very tall one, indeed, and we reckoned that we should get clear of it, for we were carrying a press of sail to effect it. Still, all hands were eagerly watching the iceberg, as it came down very fast before the storm. All of a sudden it blew twice as hard as before, and then one of the men shouted out—'Turning, turning!'—and sure enough it was. There was its towering summit gradually bowing towards us, until it almost appeared as if the peak was over our heads. Our fate appeared inevitable, as the whole mountain of ice was descending on the vessel, and would, of course, have crushed us into atoms. We all fell on our knees, praying mentally, and watching its awful descent; even the man at the helm did the same, although he did not let go the spokes of the wheel. It had nearly half turned over, right for us, when the ice below, being heavier on one side than on the other, gave it a more slanting impetus, and shifting the direction of its fall, it plunged into the sea about a cable's length astern of us, throwing up the water to the heavens in foam, and blinding us all with the violence with which it dashed into our faces. For a minute the run of the waves was checked, and the sea appeared to boil and dance, throwing up peaked, pointed masses of water in all directions, one sinking, another rising, the ship rocked and reeled as if she were drunk; even the current of the gale was checked for a moment, and the heavy sails flapped and cleared themselves of their icy varnishing—then all was over. There was an iceberg of another shape astern of us, the gale recommenced, the waves pressed each other on as before, and we felt the return of the gale, awful as it was, as a reprieve. That was a dreadful voyage, Jacob, and turned one-third of my hair grey; and what made it worse was, that we had only three fish on board on our return. However, we had reason to be thankful, for eighteen of our vessels were lost altogether, and it was the mercy of God that we were not among the number."
"Well, I suppose you told me that story to prevent my going a voyage?"
"Not a bit, Jacob; if it should chance that you find it your interest to go to the North Pole, or anywhere else, I would say go, by all means; let neither difficulty nor danger deter you; but do not go merely from curiosity; that I consider foolish. It's all very well for those who come back to have the satisfaction to talk of such things, and it is but fair that they should have it; but when you consider how many there are who never come back at all, why, then, it's very foolish to push yourself into needless danger and privation. You are amused with my recollections of Arctic voyages; but just call to mind how many years of hardship, of danger, cold, and starvation I have undergone to collect all these anecdotes, and then judge whether it be worth any man's while to go for the sake of mere curiosity."
I then amused Mr Turnbull with the description of the picnic party, which lasted until we had pulled far beyond Kew Bridge. We thrust the bow of the wherry into a bunch of sedges, and then we sat down to our meal, surrounded by hundreds of blue dragon-flies, that flitted about as if to inquire what we meant by intruding upon their domiciles. We continued there chatting and amusing ourselves till it was late, and then shoved off and pulled down with the stream. The sun had set, and we had yet six or seven miles to return to Mr Turnbull's house, when we perceived a slight, handsome young man in a skiff, who pulled towards us.
"I say, my lads," said he, taking us both for watermen, "have you a mind to earn a couple of guineas with very little trouble?"
"Oh, yes," replied Mr Turnbull, "if you can show us how. A fine chance for you, Jacob," continued he, aside.
"Well, then, I shall want your services, perhaps, for not more than an hour; it may be a little longer, as there is a lady in question, and we may have to wait. All I ask is, that you pull well and do your best. Are you agreed?"
We consented; and he requested us to follow him, and then pulled for the shore.
"This is to be an adventure, sir," said I.
"So it seems," replied Mr Turnbull; "all the better. I'm old now, but I'm fond of a spree."
The gentleman pulled into a little boat-house by the river's side, belonging to one of the villas on the bank, made fast his boat, and then stepped into ours.
"Now, we've plenty of time; just pull quietly for the present." We continued down the river, and after we had passed Kew Bridge, he directed us in shore, on the right side, till we came to a garden sweeping down to the river from a cottage ornee, of large dimensions, about fifty yards from the bank. The water was up to the brick-wall, which rose from the river about four or five feet. "That will do, st—-, st—-, not a word," said he, rising in the stern sheets, and looking over. After a minute or two reconnoitring, he climbed from the boat on to the parapet of the wall, and whistled two bars of an air which I had till then never heard. All was silent. He crouched behind a lilac bush, and in a minute he repeated the same air in a whistle as before; still there was no appearance of movement at the cottage. He continued at intervals to whistle the portion of the air, and at last a light appeared at an upper window: it was removed, and re-appeared three times. "Be ready now, my lads," said he. In about two minutes afterwards, a female, in a cloak, appeared, coming down the lawn, with a box in her hand, panting with excitement.
"Oh, William, I heard your first signal, but I could not get into my uncle's room for the box; at last he went out, and here it is."
The gentleman seized the box from her, and handed it to us in the boat.
"Take great care of that, my lads," said he; "and now, Cecilia, we have no time to lose; the sooner you are in the boat the better."
"How am I to get down there, William?" replied she.
"Oh, nothing more easy. Stop, throw your cloak into the boat, and then all you have to do is, first to get upon the top of the wall, and then trust to the watermen below and to me above for helping you."
It was not, however, quite so easy a matter; the wall was four feet high above the boat, and moreover, there was a trellised work of iron, above a foot high, which ran along the wall. Still, she made every effort on her own part, and we considered that we had arranged so as to conquer the difficulty, when the young lady gave a scream. We looked up and beheld a third party on the wall. It was a stout, tall, elderly man, as far as we could perceive in the dark, who immediately seized hold of the lady by the arm, and was dragging her away. This was resisted by the young gentleman, and the lady was relinquished by the other, to defend himself; at the same time that he called out—"Help, help! Thieves, thieves!"
"Shall I go to his assistance?" said I to Mr Turnbull. "One must stay in the boat."
"Jump up, then, Jacob, for I never could get up that wall."
I was up in a moment, and gaining my feet, was about to spring to the help of the young man, when four servants, with lights and with arms in their hands, made their appearance, hastening down the lawn. The lady had fainted on the grass; the elderly gentleman and his antagonist were down together, but the elderly gentleman had the mastery, for he was uppermost. Perceiving the assistance coming, he called out "Look to the watermen, secure them." I perceived that not a moment was to be lost. I could be of no service, and Mr Turnbull might be in an awkward scrape. I sprang into the boat, shoved off, and we were in the stream and at thirty yards' distance before they looked over the wall to see where we were.
"Stop, in that boat! stop!" they cried.
"Fire, if they don't," cried their master.
We pulled as hard as we could. A musquetoon was discharged, but the shot dropped short; the only person who fell was the man who fired it. To see us he had stood upon the coping bricks of the wall, and the recoil tumbled him over into the river: we saw him fall, and heard the splash; but we pulled on as hard as we could, and in a few minutes the scene of action was far behind us. We then struck across to the other side of the river, and when we had gained close to the shore we took breath.
"Well," said Mr Turnbull, "this is a spree I little looked for; to have a blunderbuss full of shot sent after me."
"No," replied I, laughing, "that's carrying the joke rather too far on the river Thames."
"Well, but what a pretty mess we are in: here we have property belonging to God knows whom; and what are we to do with it?"
"I think, sir, the best thing we can do is, for you to land at your own house with the property, and take care of it until we find out what all this is about; and I will continue on with the sculls to the hard. I shall hear or find out something about it in a day or two; they may still follow up the pursuit and trace us."
"The advice is good," replied Mr Turnbull, "and the sooner we cut over again the better, for we are nearly abreast of my place."
We did so. Mr Turnbull landed in his garden, taking with him the tin-box (it was what they call a deed-box) and the lady's cloak. I did not wait, but boating the oars, took my sculls and pulled down to Fulham as fast as I could. I had arrived, and was pulling gently in, not to injure the other boats, when a man with a lantern came into the wherry.
"Have you anything in your boat, my man?" said he. "Nothing, sir," replied I. The man examined the boat, and was satisfied.
"Tell me, did you see a boat with two men in it as you came along?"
"No, sir," replied I, "nothing has passed me."
"Where do you come from now?"
"From a gentleman's place near Brentford."
"Brentford? Oh, then, you were far below them. They are not down yet."
"Have you a job for me, sir?" said I, not wishing to appear anxious to go away.
"No, my man, no; nothing to-night. We are on the lookout, but we have two boats in the stream, and a man at each landing-place."
I made fast my boat, shouldered my oars and sculls, and departed, not at all sorry to get away. It appeared that as soon as it was ascertained that we were not to be stopped by being fired at, they saddled horses, and the distance by the road being so much shorter, had, by galloping as hard as they could, arrived at Fulham some ten minutes before me. It was, therefore, most fortunate that the box had been landed, or I should have been discovered. That the contents were of value was evident, from the anxiety to secure them; but the mystery was still to be solved. I was quite tired with exertion and excitement when I arrived at Stapleton's. Mary was there to give me my supper, which I ate in silence, complained of a headache, and went to bed.
CHAPTER THIRTY TWO.
THE WATERMAN TURNS WATER-KNIGHT—I BECOME CHIVALROUS, SEE A BEAUTIFUL FACE, AND GO WITH THE STREAM—THE ADVENTURE SEEMS TO PROMISE MORE LAW THAN LOVE, THERE BEING PAPERS IN THE CASE THAT IS, IN A TIN-BOX.
That night I dreamed of nothing but the scene, over and over again, and the two bars of music were constantly ringing in my ears. As soon as I had breakfasted the next morning I set off to Mr Turnbull's, and told him what had occurred.
"It was indeed fortunate that the box was landed," said he, "or you might have now been in prison; I wish I had had nothing to do with it; but, as you say, 'what's done can't be helped;' I will not give up the box, at all events, until I know which party is entitled to it, and I cannot help thinking that the lady is. But, Jacob, you will have to reconnoitre, and find out what this story is. Tell me, do you think you could remember the tune which he whistled so often?"
"It has been running in my head the whole night, and I have been trying it all the way as I pulled here. I think I have it exact. Hear, sir."—I whistled the two bars.
"Quite correct, Jacob, quite correct; well, take care not to forget them. Where are you going to-day?"
"Suppose, then, you pull up the river, and find out the place where we landed, and when you have ascertained that, you can go on and see whether the young man is with the skiff; at all events you may find out something—but pray be cautious."
I promised to be very careful, and departed on my errand, which I undertook with much pleasure, for I was delighted with anything like adventure. I pulled up the river, and in about an hour and a-quarter, came abreast of the spot. I recognised the cottage ornee, the parapet wall, even the spot where we lay, and perceived that several bricks were detached and had fallen into the river. There appeared to be no one stirring in the house, yet I continued to pull up and down, looking at the windows; at last one opened, and a young lady looked out, who, I was persuaded, was the same that we had seen the night before. There was no wind, and all was quiet around. She sat at the window, leaning her head on her hand. I whistled the two bars of the air. At the first bar she started up, and looked earnestly at me as I completed the second. I looked up; she waved her handkerchief once, and then shut the window. In a few seconds she made her appearance on the lawn, walking down towards the river. I immediately pulled in under the wall. I laid in my sculls, and held on, standing up in the boat.
"Who are you? and who sent you?" said she, looking down on me, and discovering one of the most beautiful faces I had ever beheld.
"No one sent me ma'am," replied I, "but I was in the boat last night. I am sorry you were so unfortunate, but your box and cloak are quite safe."
"You were one of the men in the boat. I trust no one was hurt when they fired at you?"
"And where is the box?"
"In the house of the person who was with me."
"Can he be trusted? For they will offer large rewards for it."
"I should think so, ma'am," replied I, smiling; "the person who was with me is a gentleman of large fortune, who was amusing himself on the river. He desires me to say that he will not give up the box until he knows to whom the contents legally belong."
"Good heavens, how fortunate! Am I to believe you?"
"I should hope so, ma'am."
"And what are you, then? You are not a waterman?"
"Yes, ma'am, I am."
She paused, looked earnestly at me for a little while, and then continued, "How did you learn the air you whistled?"
"The young gentleman whistled it six or seven times last night before you came. I tried it this morning coming up, as I thought it would be the means of attracting your attention. Can I be of any service to you, ma'am?"
"Service—yes, if I could be sure you were to be trusted—of the greatest service. I am confined here—cannot send a letter—watched as I move—only allowed the garden, and even watched while I walk here. They are most of them in quest of the tin box to-day, or I should not be able to talk to you so long." She looked round at the house anxiously, and then said, "Stop here a minute, while I walk a little." She then retreated, and paced up and down the garden walk. I still remained under the wall, so as not to be perceived from the house. In about three or four minutes she returned and said, "It would be very cruel—it would be more than cruel—it would be very wicked of you to deceive me, for I am very unfortunate and very unhappy." The tears started in her eyes. "You do not look as if you would. What is your name?"
"Jacob Faithful, ma'am, and I will be true to my name, if you will put your trust in me. I never deceived any one that I can recollect; and I'm sure I would not you—now that I've seen you."
"Yes, but money will seduce everybody."
"Not me, ma'am. I've as much as I wish for."
"Well, then, I will trust you, and think you sent from heaven to my aid; but how am I to see you? To-morrow my uncle will be back, and then I shall not be able to speak to you one moment, and if seen to speak to you, you will be laid in wait for, and perhaps shot."
"Well, ma'am," replied I, after a pause, "if you cannot speak, you can write. You see that the bricks on the parapet are loose here. Put your letter under this brick—I can take it away even in day-time, without being noticed, and can put the answer in the same place, so that you can secure it when you come out."
"How very clever! Good heavens, what an excellent idea!"
"Was the young gentleman hurt, ma'am, in the scuffle last night?" inquired I.
"No, I believe not much, but I wish to know where he is, to write to him; could you find out?" I told her where we had met him, and what had passed. "That was Lady Auburn's," replied she; "he is often there—she is our cousin but I don't know where he lives, and how to find him I know not. His name is William Wharncliffe. Do you think you could find him out?"
"Yes, ma'am, with a little trouble it might be done. They ought to know where he is at Lady Auburn's."
"Yes, some of the servants might—but how will you get to them?"
"That, ma'am, I must find out. It may not be done in one day, or two days, but if you will look every morning under this brick, if there is anything to communicate you will find it there."
"You can write and read, then?"
"I should hope so, ma'am," replied I, laughing.
"I don't know what to make of you. Are you really a waterman?"
"Really, and—" She turned her head round at the noise of a window opening.
"You must go—don't forget the brick;" and she disappeared.
I shoved my wherry along by the side of the wall, so as to remain unperceived until I was clear of the frontage attached to the cottage; and then, taking my sculls, pulled into the stream; and as I was resolved to see if I could obtain any information at Lady Auburn's, I had to pass the garden again, having shoved my boat down the river instead of up, when I was under the wall. I perceived the young lady walking with a tall man by her side; he speaking very energetically, and using much gesticulation, she holding down her head. In another minute they were shut out from my sight. I was so much stricken with the beauty and sweetness of expression in the young lady's countenance that I was resolved to use my best exertions to be of service to her. In about an hour-and-a-half I had arrived at the villa, abreast of which we had met the young gentleman, and which the young lady had told me belonged to Lady Auburn. I could see no one in the grounds, nor indeed in the house. After watching a few minutes, I landed as near to the villa as I could, made fast the wherry, and walked round to the entrance. There was no lodge, but a servant's door at one side. I pulled the bell, having made up my mind how to proceed as I was walking up. The bell was answered by an old woman, who, in a snarling tone, asked me "what did I want?"
"I am waiting below, with my boat, for Mr Wharncliffe; has he come yet?"
"Mr Wharncliffe! No—he's not come; nor did he say that he would come; when did you see him?"
"Yesterday. Is Lady Auburn at home?"
"Lady Auburn—no; she went to town this morning; everybody goes to London now, that they may not see the flowers and green trees, I suppose."
"But I suppose Mr Wharncliffe will come," continued I, "so I must wait for him."
"You can do just as you like," replied the old woman, about to shut the gate in my face.
"May I request a favour of you, ma'am, before you shut the gate—which is, to bring me a little water to drink, for the sun is hot, and I have had a long pull up here;" and I took out my handkerchief and wiped my face.
"Yes, I'll fetch you some," replied she, shutting the gate and going away.
"This don't seem to answer very well," thought I to myself. The old woman returned, opened the gate, and handed me a mug of water. I drank some, thanked her, and returned the mug.
"I am very tired," said I; "I should like to sit down and wait for the gentleman."
"Don't you sit down when you pull?" inquired the old woman.
"Yes," replied I.
"Then you must be tired of sitting, I should think, not of standing; at all events, if you want to sit, you can sit in your boat, and mind it at the same time." With this observation she shut the door upon me, and left me without any more comment.
After this decided repulse on the part of the old woman, I had nothing to do but take her advice—viz., to go and look after my boat. I pulled down to Mr Turnbull's, and told him my good and bad fortune. It being late, he ordered me some dinner in his study, and we sat there canvassing over the affair. "Well," said he, as we finished, "you must allow me to consider this as my affair, Jacob, as I was the occasion of our getting mixed up in it. You must do all that you can to find this young man, and I shall hire Stapleton's boat by the day until we succeed; you need not tell him so, or he may be anxious to know why. To-morrow you go down to old Beazeley's?"
"Yes, sir; you cannot hire me to-morrow."
"Still I shall, as I want to see you to-morrow morning before you go. Here's Stapleton's money for yesterday and to-day and now good-night."
I was at Mr Turnbull's early the next morning, and found him with the newspapers before him. "I expected this, Jacob," said he; "read that advertisement." I read as follows:—"Whereas, on Friday night last, between the hours of nine and ten, a tin box, containing deeds and papers, was handed into a wherry from the grounds of a villa between Brentford and Kew, and the parties who owned it were prevented from accompanying the same. This is to give notice, that a reward of twenty pounds will be paid to the watermen, upon their delivering up the same to Messrs. James and John White, of Number 14 Lincoln's Inn Fields. As no other parties are authorised to receive the said tin box of papers, all other applications for it must be disregarded. An early attention to this advertisement will oblige."
"There must be papers of no little consequence in that box, Jacob, depend upon it," said Mr Turnbull; "however, here they are, and here they shall remain until I know more about it; that's certain. I intend to try what I can do myself with the old woman, for I perceive the villa is to be let for three months—here is the advertisement in the last column. I shall go to town to-day, and obtain a ticket from the agent, and it is hard but I'll ferret out something. I shall see you to-morrow. Now you may go, Jacob."
I hastened away, as I had promised to be down to old Tom's to breakfast; an hour's smart pulling brought me to the landing-place, opposite to his house.
CHAPTER THIRTY THREE.
A TEN-POUND HOUSEHOLDER OCCUPIED WITH AFFAIRS OF STATE—THE ADVANTAGE OF THE WORD "IMPLICATION"—AN UNEXPECTED MEETING AND A RECONCILIATION— RESOLUTION VERSUS BRIGHT BLACK EYES—VERDICT FOR THE DEFENDANT, WITH HEAVY DAMAGES.
The house of old Tom Beazeley was situated on the verge of Battersea Fields, about a mile-and-a-half from the bridge bearing the same name; the river about twenty yards before it—the green grass behind it, and not a tree within half-a-mile of it. There was nothing picturesque in it but its utter loneliness; it was not only lonely, but isolated, for it was fixed upon a delta of about half-an-acre, between two creeks, which joined at about forty yards from the river, and ran up through the fields, so that the house was at high water upon an island, and at low water was defended by an impassable barrier of mud, so that the advances to it could be made only from the river, where a small hard, edged with posts worn down to the conformation of decayed double-teeth, offered the only means of access. The house itself was one storey high; dark red bricks, and darker tiles upon the roof; windows very scarce and very small, although built long before the damnable tax upon light, for it was probably built in the time of Elizabeth, to judge by the peculiarity of the style of architecture observable in the chimneys; but it matters very little at what epoch was built a tenement which was rented at only ten pounds per annum. The major part of the said island was stocked with cabbage plants; but on one side there was half a boat set upright, with a patch of green before it. At the time that old Beazeley hired it there was a bridge rudely constructed of old ship plank, by which you could gain a path which led across the Battersea Fields; but as all the communications of old Tom were by water, and Mrs Beazeley never ventured over the bridge, it was gradually knocked away for firewood, and when it was low-water, one old post, redolent of mud, marked the spot where the bridge had been. The interior was far more inviting. Mrs Beazeley was a clean person and frugal housewife, and every article in the kitchen, which was the first room you entered, was as clean and as bright as industry could make it. There was a parlour also, seldom used; both of the inmates, when they did meet, which was not above a day or two in three weeks, during the time that old Beazeley was in charge of the lighter, preferring comfort to grandeur. In this isolated house, upon this isolated spot, did Mrs Beazeley pass a life of most isolation.
And yet, perhaps there never was a more lively or a more happy woman than Mrs Beazeley, for she was strong and in good health, and always employed. She knew that her husband was following up his avocation on the river, and laying by a provision for their old age, which she herself was adding considerably to it by her own exertions. She had married old Tom long before he had lost his legs, at a time when he was a prime, active sailor, and the best man of the ship. She was a net-maker's daughter, and had been brought up to the business, at which she was very expert. The most difficult part of the art is that of making large seines for taking sea-fish; and when she had no order for those to complete, the making of casting-nets beguiled away her time as soon as her household cares had been disposed of. She made money and husbanded it, not only for herself and her partner, but for her son, young Tom, upon whom she doted. So accustomed was she to work hard and be alone that it was most difficult to say whether she was most pleased or most annoyed when her husband and son made their appearance for a day or two, and the latter was alternately fondled and scolded during the whole of his sojourn. Tom, as the reader may suppose from a knowledge of his character, caring about as much for the one as the other.
I pulled into the hard, and made fast my boat. There was no one outside the door when I landed; on entering, I found them all seated at the table, and a grand display of fragments, in the shape of herring-bones, etcetera. "Well, Jacob—come at last—thought you had forgot us; piped to breakfast at eight bells—always do, you know," said old Tom, on my making my appearance.
"Have you had your breakfast, Jacob?" said Mrs Beazeley.
"No," replied I; "I was obliged to go up to Mr Turnbull's, and that detained me."
"No more sodgers, Jacob," said Tom; "father and I eat them all."
"Have you?" replied Mrs Beazeley, taking two more red herrings out of the cupboard, and putting them on the fire to grill; "no, no, master Tom, there's some for Jacob yet."
"Well, mother, you make nets to some purpose, for you've always a fish when it's wanted."
I despatched my breakfast, and as soon as all had been cleared away by his wife, old Tom, crossing his two timber legs, commenced business, for it appeared, what I was not aware of, that we had met on a sort of council-of-war.
"Jacob, sit down by me; old woman, bring yourself to an anchor in the high chair. Tom, sit anywhere, so you sit still."
"And leave my net alone, Tom," cried his mother, in parenthesis.—"You see, Jacob, the whole long and short of it is this—I feel my toes more and more, and flannel's no longer warm. I can't tide it any longer, and I think it high time to lie up in ordinary and moor abreast of the old woman. Now, there's Tom, in the first place, what's to do with he? I think that I'll build him a wherry, and as I'm free of the river he can finish his apprenticeship with my name on the boat; but to build him a wherry would be rather a heavy pull for me."
"If you mean to build it yourself, I think it will prove a heavy pull for me," replied Tom.
"Silence, Tom; I built you, and God knows you're light enough."
"And, Tom, leave my net alone," cried his mother.
"Father made me light-fingered, mother."
"Ay, and light-hearted too, boy," rejoined the dame, looking fondly at her son.
"Well," continued old Tom, "supposing that Tom be provided for in that way; then now I comes to myself. I've an idea that I can do a good bit of work in patching up boats; for you see I always was a bit of a carpenter, and I know how the builders extortionate the poor watermen when there's a trifle amiss. Now, if they knew I could do it, they'd all come to me fast enough; but then there's a puzzle. I've been thinking this week how I can make them know it. I can't put out a board and say, Beazeley, Boat-builder, because I'm no boatbuilder, but still I want a sign."
"Lord, father, haven't you got one already?" interrupted young Tom; "you've half a boat stuck up there, and that means that you're half a boat-builder."
"Silence, Tom, with your frippery; what do you think. Jacob?"
"Could you not say, 'Boats repaired here?'"
"Yes, but that won't exactly do; they like to employ a builder—and there's the puzzle."
"Not half so puzzling as this net," observed Tom, who had taken up the needle, unseen by his mother, and begun to work; "I've made only ten stitches, and six of them are long ones."
"Tom, Tom, you good-for-nothing—why don't you let my net alone?" cried Mrs Beazeley; "now 'twill take me as much time to undo ten stitches as to have made fifty."
"All right, mother."
"No, Tom, all's wrong; look at these meshes?"
"Well, then, all's fair, mother."
"No, all's foul, boy; look how it's tangled."
"Still, I say, all's fair, mother, for it is but fair to give the fish one or two chances to get away, and that's just what I've done; and now, father, I'll settle your affair to your own satisfaction, as I have mother's."
"That will be queer satisfaction, Tom, I guess; but let's hear what you have to say."
"Then, father, it seems that you're no boat-builder, but you want people to fancy that you are—a'n't that the question?"
"Why, 'tis something like it, Tom, but I do nobody no harm."
"Certainly not; it's only the boats which will suffer. Now, get a large board, with 'Boats built to order, and boats repaired, by Tom Beazeley.' You know if any man is fool enough to order a boat, that's his concern; you didn't say you're a boat-builder, although you have no objection to try your hand."
"What do you say Jacob?" said old Tom, appealing to me.
"I think that Tom has given very good advice, and I would follow it."
"Ah! Tom has a head," said Mrs Beazeley, fondly. "Tom, let go my net again, will you? What a boy you are! Now touch it again if you dare," and Mrs Beazeley took up a little poker from the fire-place and shook it at him.
"Tom has a head, indeed," said young Tom, "but as he has no wish to have it broken, Jacob, lend me your wherry for half-an-hour, and I'll be off."
I assented, and Tom, first tossing the cat upon his mother's back, made his escape, crying:
"Lord, Molly, what a fish—"
as the animal fixed in its claws to save herself from falling, making Mrs Beazeley roar out and vow vengeance, while old Tom and I could not refrain from laughter.
After Tom's departure the conversation was renewed, and everything was finally arranged between old Tom and his wife, except the building of the wherry, at which the old woman shook her head. The debate would be too long, and not sufficiently interesting to detail; one part, however, I must make the reader acquainted with. After entering into all the arrangements of the house, Mrs Beazeley took me upstairs to show me the rooms, which were very neat and clean. I came down with her, and old Tom said, "Did the old woman show you the room with the white curtains, Jacob?"
"Yes," replied I, "and a very nice one it is."
"Well, Jacob, there's nothing sure in this world. You're well off at present, and 'leave well alone' is a good motto; but recollect this, that room is for you when you want it, and everything else we can share with you. It's offered freely, and you will accept it the same. Is it not, old lady?"
"Yes, that it is, Jacob; but may you do better—if not, I'll be your mother for want of a better."
I was moved with the kindness of the old couple; the more so as I did not know what I had done to deserve it. Old Tom gave me a hearty squeeze of the hand, and then continued—"But about this wherry—what do you say, old woman?"
"What will it cost?" replied she, gravely.
"Cost; let me see—a good wherry, with sculls and oars, will be a matter of thirty pounds."
The old woman screwed up her mouth, shook her head, and then walked away to prepare for dinner.
"I think she could muster the blunt, Jacob, but she don't like to part with it. Tom must coax her. I wish he hadn't shied the cat at her. He's too full of fun."
As old Beazeley finished, I perceived a wherry pulling in with some ladies. I looked attentively, and recognised my own boat, and Tom pulling. In a minute more they were at the hard, and who, to my astonishment, were there seated, but Mrs Drummond and Sarah. As Tom got out of the boat and held it steady against the hard, he called to me; I could not do otherwise than go and assist them out; and once more did I touch the hands of those whom I never thought to meet again. Mrs Drummond retained my hand a short time after she landed, saying, "We are friends, Jacob, are we not!"
"Oh, yes, madam," replied I, much moved, in a faltering voice.
"I shall not ask that question," said Sarah, gaily, "for we parted friends."
And as I recalled to mind her affectionate behaviour, I pressed her hand, and the tears glistened in my eyes as I looked into her sweet face. As I afterwards discovered, this was an arranged plan with old and young Tom, to bring about a meeting without my knowledge. Mrs Beazeley courtesied and stroked her apron—smiled at the ladies, looked very cat-ish at Tom, showed the ladies into the house, where old Tom assisted to do the honours after his own fashion, by asking Mrs Drummond if she would like to whet her whistle after her pull. Mrs Drummond looked round to me for explanation, but young Tom thought proper to be interpreter. "Father wants to know, if you please, ma'am, whether, after your pull in the boat, you wouldn't like to have a pull at the brandy bottle?"
"No," replied Mrs Drummond, smiling; "but I should be obliged for a glass of water. Will you get me one, Jacob?"
I hastened to comply, and Mrs Drummond entered into conversation with Mrs Beazeley. Sarah looked at me, and went to the door, turning back as inviting me to follow. I did so, and we soon found ourselves seated on the bench in the old boat.
"Jacob," said she, looking earnestly at me, "you surely will be friends with my father?"
I think I should have shaken my head, but she laid an emphasis on my, which the little gipsy knew would have its effect. All my resolutions, all my pride, all my sense of injury vanished before the mild, beautiful eyes of Sarah, and I replied hastily, "Yes, Miss Sarah, I can refuse you nothing."
"Why Miss, Jacob?"
"I am a waterman, and you are much above me."
"That is your own fault; but say no more about it."
"I must say something more, which is this: do not attempt to make me leave my present employment; I am happy, because I am independent; and that I will, if possible, be for the future."
"Any one can pull an oar, Jacob."
"Very true, Miss Sarah, and is under no obligation to any one by so earning his livelihood. He works for all and is paid for all."
"Will you come and see us, Jacob? Come to-morrow—now do—promise me. Will you refuse your old playmate, Jacob?"
"I wish you would not ask that."
"How then can you say that you are friends with my father? I will not believe you unless you promise to come."
"Sarah," replied I, earnestly, "I will come; and to prove to you that we are friends, I will ask a favour of him."
"Oh, Jacob, this is kind indeed," cried Sarah, with her eyes swimming with tears. "You have made me so—so very happy!"
The meeting with Sarah humanised me, and every feeling of revenge was chased from my memory. Mrs Drummond joined us soon after, and proposed to return. "And Jacob will pull us back," cried Sarah. "Come, sir, look after your fare, in both senses. Since you will be a waterman, you shall work." I laughed and handed them to the boat. Tom took the other oar, and we were soon at the steps close to their house.
"Mamma, we ought to give these poor fellows something to drink; they've worked very hard," said Sarah, mocking. "Come up, my good men." I hesitated. "Nay, Jacob, if tomorrow why not to-day? The sooner these things are over the better."
I felt the truth of this observation, and followed her. In a few minutes I was again in that parlour in which I had been dismissed, and in which the affectionate girl burst into tears on my shoulder, as I held the handle of the door. I looked at it, and looked at Sarah. Mrs Drummond had gone out of the room to let Mr Drummond know that I had come. "How kind you were, Sarah!" said I.
"Yes, but kind people are cross sometimes, and so am I—and so was—"
Mr Drummond came in, and stopped her. "Jacob, I am glad to see you again in my house; I was deceived by appearances, and did you injustice." How true is the observation of the wise man, that a soft word turneth away wrath; that Mr Drummond should personally acknowledge that he was wrong to me—that he should confess it—every feeling of resentment was gone, and others crowded in their place. I recollected how he had protected the orphan—how he had provided him with instruction—how he had made his house a home to me—how he had tried to bring me forward under his own protection I recollected—which, alas! I never should have forgotten—that he had treated me for years with kindness and affection, all of which had been obliterated from my memory by one single act of injustice. I felt that I was a culprit, and burst into tears; and Sarah, as before, cried in sympathy.
"I beg your pardon, Mr Drummond," said I, as soon as I could speak; "I have been very wrong in being so revengeful after so much kindness from you."
"We both have been wrong—but say no more on the subject, Jacob; I have an order to give, and then I will come up to you again;" and Mr Drummond quitted the room.
"You dear, good boy," said Sarah, coming up to me. "Now, I really do love you."
What I might have replied was put a stop to by Mrs Drummond entering the room. She made a few inquiries about where I at present resided, and Sarah was catechising me rather inquisitively about Mary Stapleton, when Mr Drummond re-entered the room, and shook me by the hand with a warmth which made me more ashamed of my conduct towards him. The conversation became general, but still rather embarrassed, when Sarah whispered to me "What is the favour you would ask of my father?" I had forgotten it at the moment, but I immediately told him that I would be obliged if he would allow me to have a part of the money belonging to me which he held in his possession.
"That I will, with pleasure, and without asking what you intend to do with it, Jacob. How much do you require?"
"Thirty pounds, if there is so much."
Mr Drummond went down, and in a few minutes returned with the sum in notes and guineas. I thanked him, and shortly afterwards took my leave.
"Did not young Beazeley tell you I had something for you, Jacob?" said Sarah, as I wished her good-bye.
"Yes; what is it?"
"You must come and see," replied Sarah, laughing. Thus was a finale to all my revenge brought about by a little girl of fifteen years old, with large dark eyes.
Tom had taken his glass of grog below, and was waiting for me at the steps. We shoved off, and returned to his father's house, where dinner was just ready. After dinner old Tom recommenced the argument; "The only hitch," says he, "is about the wherry. What do you say, old woman?" The old woman shook her head.
"As that is the only hitch," said I, "I can remove it, for here is the money for the wherry, which I make a present to Tom," and I put the money into young Tom's hand. Tom counted it out before his father and mother, much to their astonishment.
"You are a good fellow, Jacob," said Tom; "but I say, do you recollect Wimbledon Common?"
"What then?" replied I.
"Only Jerry Abershaw, that's all."
"Do not be afraid, Tom, it is honestly mine."
"But how did you get it, Jacob," said old Tom.
It may appear strange, but, impelled by a wish to serve my friends, I had asked for the money which I knew belonged to me, but never thought of the manner in which it had been obtained. The question of old Tom recalled everything to my memory, and I shuddered when I recollected the circumstances attending it. I was confused, and did not like to reply. "Be satisfied, the money is mine," replied I.
"Yes, Jacob, but how?" replied Mrs Beazeley; "surely you ought to be able to tell how you got so large a sum."
"Jacob has some reason for not telling, missus, depend upon it; mayhap Mr Turnbull, or whoever gave it to him, told him to hold his tongue." But this answer would not satisfy Mrs Beazeley, who declared she would not allow a farthing to be taken unless she knew how it was obtained.
"Tom, give back the money directly," said she, looking at me suspiciously.
Tom laid it on the table before me, without saying a word.
"Take it, Tom," said I, colouring up. "I had it from my mother."
"From your mother, Jacob!" said old Tom. "Nay, that could not well be, if my memory sarves me right. Still it may be."
"Deary me, I don't like this at all," cried Mrs Beazeley, getting up, and wiping her apron with a quick motion. "Oh, Jacob, that must be—not the truth."
I coloured up to the tips of my ears at being suspected of falsehood. I looked round, and saw that even Tom and his father had a melancholy doubt in their countenances; and certainly my confused appearance would have caused suspicion in anybody. "I little thought," said I, at last, "when I hoped to have so much pleasure in giving, and to find that I had made you happy in receiving the money, that it would have proved a source of so much annoyance. I perceive that I am suspected of having obtained it improperly, and of not having told the truth. That Mrs Beazeley may think so, who does not know me, is not to be wondered at; but that you," continued I, turning to old Tom, "or you," looking at his son, "should suspect me, is very mortifying; and I did not expect it. I tell you that the money is mine, honestly mine, and obtained from my mother. I ask you, do you believe me?"
"I, for one, do believe you, Jacob," said young Tom, striking his fist on the table. "I can't understand it, but I know you never told a lie, or did a dishonourable act since I've known you."
"Thank you, Tom," said I, taking his proffered hand.
"And I would swear the same, Jacob," said old Tom; "although I have been longer in the world than my boy has, and have, therefore, seen more; and sorry am I to say, many a good man turned bad, from temptation being too great; but when I looked in your face, and saw the blood up to your forehead, I did feel a little suspicious, I must own; but I beg your pardon, Jacob; no one can look in your face now and not see that you are innocent. I believe all you say, in spite of the old woman and—the devil to boot—and there's my hand upon it."
"Why not tell—why not tell?" muttered Mrs Beazeley, shaking her head, and working at her net faster than ever.
But I had resolved to tell, and did so, narrating distinctly the circumstances by which the money had been obtained. I did it, however, with feelings of mortification which I cannot express. I felt humiliation—I felt that, for my own wants, that money I never could touch. Still my explanation had the effect of removing the doubts even of Mrs Beazeley, and harmony was restored. The money was accepted by the old couple, and promised to be applied for the purpose intended.
"As for me, Jacob," said Tom, "when I say I thank you, you know I mean it. Had I had the money, and you had wanted it, you will believe me when I say that I would have given it to you."
"That I'm sure of, Tom."
"Still, Jacob, it is a great deal of money, and I shall lay by my earnings as fast as I can, that you may have it in case you want it; but it will take many a heavy pull and many a shirt wet with labour before I can make up a sum like that."
I did not stay much longer after this little fracas; I was hurt—my pride was wounded by suspicion, and fortunate it was that the occurrence had not taken place previous to my meeting with Mrs Drummond and Sarah, otherwise no reconciliation would have taken place in that quarter. How much are we the sport of circumstances, and how insensibly they mark out our career in this world? With the best intentions we go wrong; instigated by unworthy motives, we fall upon our feet, and the chapter of accidents has more power over the best regulated mind than all the chapters in the Bible.
CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR.
HOW I WAS REVENGED UPON MY ENEMIES—WE TRY THE BARS OF MUSIC BUT FIND THAT WE ARE BARRED OUT—BEING NO GO, WE GO BACK.
I shook hands with Tom, who perceiving that I was vexed, had accompanied me down to the boat, with his usual sympathy, and had offered to pull with me to Fulham, and walk back; which offer I declined, as I wished to be alone. It was a fine moonlight night, and the broad light and shadow, with the stillness of all around, were peculiarly adapted to my feelings. I continued my way up the river, revolving in my mind the scenes of the day; the reconciliation with one whom I never intended to have spoken to again; the little quarrel with those whom I never expected to have been at variance with, and that at the time when I was only exerting myself to serve them; and then I thought of Sarah, as an oasis of real happiness in this contemplated desert, and dwelt upon the thought of her as the most pleasant and calming to my still agitated mind. Thus did I ruminate till I had passed Putney Bridge, forgetting that I was close to my landing place, and continuing, in my reverie, to pull up the river, when my cogitations were disturbed by a noise of men laughing and talking, apparently in a state of intoxication. They were in a four-oared wherry, coming down the river, after a party of pleasure, as it is termed, generally one ending in intoxication, I listened.
"I tell you I can spin an oar with any man in the king's service," said the man in the bow, "Now look."
He threw his oar out of the rowlocks, spun it in the air, but unfortunately did not catch it when it fell, and consequently it went through the bottom, starting two of the planks of the fragile-built boat, which immediately filled with water.
"Hilloa! waterman!" cried another, perceiving me, "quick, or we shall sink." But the boat was nearly up to the thwarts in water before I could reach her, and just as I was nearly alongside she filled and turned over.
"Help, waterman; help me first; I'm senior clerk," cried a voice which I well knew. I put out my oar to him as he struggled in the water, and soon had him clinging to the wherry. I then tried to catch hold of the man who had sunk the boat by his attempt to toss the oar, but he very quietly said, "No, damn it, there's too many; we shall swamp the wherry; I'll swim on shore"—and suiting the action to the word, he made for the shore with perfect self-possession, swimming in his clothes with great ease and dexterity.
I picked up two more, and thought that all were saved, when turning round, and looking towards the bridge, I saw resplendent in the bright beams of the moon, and "round as its orb," the well-remembered face of the stupid young clerk who had been so inimical to me, struggling with all his might. I pulled to him, and putting out my oar over the bow, he seized it after rising from his first sink, and was, with the other three, soon clinging to the side of the wherry.
"Pull me in—pull me in, waterman!" cried the head clerk, whose voice I had recognised.
"No; you will swamp the boat."
"Well, but pull me in, if not the others. I'm the senior clerk."
"Can't help that; you must hold on," replied I, "while I pull you on shore; we shall soon be there." I must say that I felt a pleasure in allowing him thus to hang in the water. I might have taken them all in certainly, although at some risk, from their want of presence of mind and hurry, arising from the feeling of self-preservation; but I desired them to hold on, and pulled for the landing-place; which we soon gained. The person who had preferred swimming had arrived before us, and was waiting on the beach.
"Have you got them all, waterman?" said he.
"Yes, sir, I believe so; I have four."
"The tally is right," replied he, "and four greater galloots were never picked up; but never mind that. It was my nonsense that nearly drowned them; and, therefore, I'm very glad you've managed so well. My jacket went down in the boat, and I must reward you another time."
"Thank you, sir, no occasion for that, it's not a regular fare."
"Nevertheless, give us your name."
"Oh, you may ask Mr Hodgson, the senior clerk, or that full-moon-faced fellow—they know my name."
"Waterman, what do you mean?" replied Mr Hodgson, shivering with cold.
"Very impudent fellow," said the junior of the round face.
"If they know your name, they won't tell it," replied the other. "Now, I'll first tell you mine, which is Lieutenant Wilson, of the navy; and now let's have yours, that I may ask for it; and tell me what stairs you ply from."
"My name is Jacob Faithful, sir," replied I; "and you may ask your friends whether they know it or not when their teeth don't chatter quite so much."
At the mention of my name the senior and junior clerk walked off, and the lieutenant, telling me that I should hear from him again, was about to leave. "If you mean to give me money, sir, I tell you candidly I shall not take it. I hate these two men for the injuries they have heaped on me; but I don't know how it is, I feel a degree of pleasure in having saved them, that I wish for no better revenge. So farewell, sir."
"Spoken as you ought, my lad—that's glorious revenge. Well, then, I will not come; but if ever we meet again I shall never forget this night and Jacob Faithful." He held out his hand, shook mine warmly, and walked away.
When they were gone, I remained for some little time quite stupified at the events of the day. The reconciliation—the quarrel—the revenge. I was still in thought when I heard the sound of a horse's hoofs. This recalled me, and I was hauling up my boat, intending to go home to Stapleton's; but with no great eagerness. I felt a sort of dislike to Mary Stapleton, which I could not account for; but the fact was I had been in company with Sarah Drummond. The horse stopped at the foot of the bridge; and the rider giving it to his servant, who was mounted on another, to hold, came down to where I was hauling up my boat. "My lad, is it too late for you to launch your boat? I will pay you well."
"Where do you wish to go to, sir? It is now past ten o'clock."
"I know it is, and I hardly expected to find a waterman here; but I took the chance. Will you take me about two miles up the river?"
I looked at the person who addressed me, and was delighted to recognise in him the young man who had hired Mr Turnbull and me to take him to the garden, and who had been captured when we escaped with the tin box; but I did not make myself known. "Well, sir, if you wish it, I've no objection," replied I, putting my shoulder to the bow of my wherry, and launching her again into the water. At all events, this has been a day of adventure, thought I, as I threw my sculls again into the water, and commenced pulling up the stream. I was some little while in meditation whether I should make myself known to the young man; but I decided that I would not. Let me see, thought I, what sort of a person this is— whether he is as deserving as the young lady appeared to consider. "Which side, sir?" inquired I.
"The left," was the reply.
I knew that well enough, and I pulled in silence until nearly up to the wall of the garden which ran down to the band of the river. "Now pull in to that wall, and make no noise," was the injunction; which I obeyed, securing the boat to the very part where the coping bricks had been displaced. He stood up, and whistled the two bars of the tune as before, waited five minutes, repeated it, and watched the windows of the house; but there was no reply, or signs of anybody being up or stirring. "It is too late; she is gone to rest."
"I thought there was a lady in the case, sir," observed I. "If you wish to communicate with her, I think I could manage it."
"Could you?" replied he. "Stop a moment; I'll speak to you by-and-by." He whistled the tune once more, and after waiting another ten minutes, dropped himself down on the stern sheets, and told me to pull back again. After a minute's silence he said to me, "You think you could communicate with her, you say. Pray, how do you propose?"
"If you will write a letter, sir, I'll try to let it come to her hand."
"That, sir, you must leave me to find out, and trust to opportunity; but you must tell me what sort of a person she is, that I may not give it to another; and also, who there is in the house that I must be careful does not see me."
"Very true," replied he. "I can only say that if you do succeed, I will reward you handsomely; but she is so strictly watched that I am afraid it will be impossible. However, a despairing, like a drowning man, will catch at a straw; and I will see whether you will be able to assist me."
He then informed me that there was no one in the house except her uncle and his servants, all of whom were spies upon her; that my only chance was watching if she were permitted to walk in the garden alone, which might be the case; and perhaps, by concealing myself from eight o'clock in the morning till the evening under the parapet wall, I might find an opportunity. He directed me to be at the foot of the bridge next morning at seven o'clock, when he would come with a letter written for me to deliver, if possible. We had then arrived at Fulham. He landed, and putting a guinea in my hand, mounted his horse, which his servant [had] walked up and down, waiting for him, and rode off. I hauled up my boat and went home, tired with the manifold events of the day. Mary Stapleton who had sat up for me, was very inquisitive to know what had occasioned my coming home so late; but I evaded her questions, and she left me in anything but good-humour; but about that I never felt so indifferent.
The next morning the servant made his appearance with the letter, telling me that he had orders to wait till the evening; and I pulled up the river. I placed it under the loose brick, as agreed upon with the young lady, and then shoved off to the other side of the river, where I had a full view of the garden, and could notice all that passed. In half-an-hour the young lady came out, accompanied by another female, and sauntered up and down the gravel-walk. After a while she stopped, and looked on the river, her companion continuing her promenade. As if without hoping to find anything there, she moved the brick aside with her foot; perceiving the letter, she snatched it up eagerly, and concealed it in her dress, and then cast her eyes on the river. It was calm, and I whistled the bar of music. She heard it, and turning away, hastened into the house. In about half-an-hour she returned, and watching her opportunity, stooped down to the brick. I waited a few minutes, when both she and her companion went into the house. I then pulled in under the wall, lifted up the brick, took the letter, and hastened back to Fulham; when I delivered the letter to the servant, who rode off with it as fast as he could; and I returned home quite pleased at the successful issue of my attempt, and not a little curious to learn the real facts of this extraordinary affair.
CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE.
THE DOMINIE READS ME A SERMON OUT OF THE LARGEST BOOK I EVER FELL IN WITH, COVERING NEARLY TWO ACRES OF GROUND—THE PAGES NOT VERY EASY TO TURN OVER, BUT THE TYPE VERY CONVENIENT TO READ WITHOUT SPECTACLES—HE LEAVES OFF WITHOUT SHUTTING HIS BOOK, AS PARSONS USUALLY DO AT THE END OF THEIR SERMONS.
The next day being Sunday, as usual I went to see the Dominie and Mr Turnbull. I arrived at the school just as all the boys were filing off, two and two, for church, the advance led by the usher, and the rear brought up by the Dominie in person, and I accompanied them. The Dominie appeared melancholy and out of spirits—hardly exchanging a word with me during our walk. When the service was over he ordered the usher to take the boys home, and remained with me in the churchyard, surveying the tombstones, and occasionally muttering to himself. At last the congregation dispersed, and we were alone.
"Little did I think, Jacob," said he, at last, "that when I bestowed such care upon thee in thy childhood, I should be rewarded as I have been! Little did I think that it would be to the boy who was left destitute that I should pour out my soul when afflicted, and find in him that sympathy which I have long lost, by the removal of those who were once my friends! Yes, Jacob, those who were known to me in my youth— those few in whom I confided and leant upon—are now lying here in crumbling dust, and the generation hath passed away; and I now rest upon thee, my son, whom I have directed in the right path, and who hast, by the blessing of God, continued to walk straight in it. Verily, thou art a solace to me, Jacob; and though young in years, I feel that in thee I have received a friend, and one that I may confide in. Bless thee, Jacob! bless thee, my boy! and before I am laid with those who have gone before me, may I see thee prosperous and happy! Then I will sing the Nunc Dimittis, then will I say, 'Now, Lord, let thy servant depart in peace.'"
"I am happy, sir," replied I, "to hear you say that I am of any comfort to you, for I feel truly grateful for all your kindness to me; but I wish that you did not require comfort."
"Jacob, in what part of a man's life does he not require comfort and consolation; yea, even from the time when, as a child, he buries his weeping face in his mother's lap till the hour that summons him to his account? Not that I consider this world to be, as many have described it, a 'vale of tears'; No, Jacob; it is a beautiful world, a glorious world, and would be a happy world, if we would only restrain those senses and those passions with which we have been endowed, that we may fully enjoy the beauty, the variety, the inexhaustible bounty of a gracious heaven. All was made for enjoyment and for happiness; but it is we ourselves who, by excess, defile that which otherwise were pure. Thus, the fainting traveller may drink wholesome and refreshing draughts from the bounteous, overflowing spring; but should he rush heedlessly into it, he muddies the source, and the waters are those of bitterness. Thus, Jacob, was wine given to cheer the heart of man; yet, didst not thou witness me, thy preceptor, debased by intemperance? Thus, Jacob, were the affections implanted in us as a source of sweetest happiness, such as those which now yearn in my breast towards thee; yet hast thou seen me, thy preceptor, by yielding to the infatuation and imbecility of threescore years, dote, in my folly, upon a maiden, and turn the sweet affections into a source of misery and anguish." I answered not, for the words of the Dominie made a strong impression upon me, and I was weighing them in my mind. "Jacob," continued the Dominie, after a pause, "next to the book of life, there is no subject of contemplation more salutary than the book of death, of which each stone now around us may be considered as a page, and each page contains a lesson. Read that which is now before us. It would appear hard that an only child should have been torn away from its doting parents, who have thus imperfectly expressed their anguish on the tomb; it would appear hard that their delight, their solace, the object of their daily care, of their waking thoughts, of their last imperfect recollections as they sank into sleep, of their only dreams, should thus have been taken from them; yet did I know them, and Heaven was just and merciful. The child had weaned them from their God; they lived but in him; they were without God in the world. The child alone had their affections, and they had been lost had not He in His mercy removed it. Come this way, Jacob." I followed the Dominie till he stood before another tombstone in the corner of the churchyard. "This stone, Jacob, marks the spot where lies the remains of one who was my earliest and dearest friend—for in my youth I had friends, because I had anticipations, and little thought that it would have pleased God that I should do my duty in that station to which I have been called. He had one fault, which proved a source of misery through life, and was the cause of an untimely death. He was of a revengeful disposition. He never forgave an injury, forgetting, poor, sinful mortal, for how much he had need to be forgiven. He quarrelled with his relations; he was shot in a duel with his friend! I mention this, Jacob, as a lesson to thee; not that I feel myself worthy to be thy preceptor, for I am humbled, but out of kindness and love towards thee, that I might persuade thee to correct that fault in thy disposition."
"I have already made friends with Mr Drummond, sir," answered I; "but still your admonition shall not be thrown away."
"Hast thou, Jacob? then is my mind much relieved. I trust thou wilt no longer stand in thine own light, but accept the offers which, in the fulness of his heart to make redress, he may make unto thee."
"Nay, sir, I cannot promise that; I wish to be independent and earn my own livelihood."
"Then hear me, Jacob, for the spirit of prophecy is on me; the time will come when thou shalt bitterly repent. Thou hast received an education by my unworthy endeavours, and hast been blessed by Providence with talents far above the situation in life to which thou wouldst so tenaciously adhere; the time will come when thou wilt repent, yea, bitterly repent. Look at that marble monument with the arms so lavishly emblazoned upon it. That, Jacob, is the tomb of a proud man, whose career is well known to me. He was in straitened circumstances, yet of gentle race—but like the steward in the Scripture, 'work he could not, to beg he was ashamed.' He might have prospered in the world, but his pride forbade him. He might have made friends, but his pride forbade him. He might have wedded himself to wealth and beauty, but there was no escutcheon, and his pride forbade him. He did marry, and entail upon his children poverty. He died, and the little he possessed was taken from his children's necessities to build this record to his dust. Do not suppose that I would check that honest pride which will prove a safeguard from unworthy actions. I only wish to check that undue pride which will mar thy future prospects. Jacob, that which thou termest independence is naught but pride."