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Title: Wise Saws and Modern Instances, Volume II (of 2)
Author: Cooper, Thomas, 1805-1892
Language: English
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                        WISE SAWS
                          AND
                    MODERN INSTANCES.
                       VOL. II.

                        LONDON:
               Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,
                    New-Street-Square.

                       WISE SAWS
                          AND
                   MODERN INSTANCES.
                          BY
                     THOMAS COOPER,
                     THE CHARTIST,

                       AUTHOR OF
              "THE PURGATORY OF SUICIDES."


                     IN TWO VOLUMES.
                        VOL. II.


                        LONDON:
               PRINTED FOR JEREMIAH HOW,
                    209. PICCADILLY.
                         1845.



                       CONTENTS
                          OF
                   THE SECOND VOLUME.


                                                            PAGE

  THE OLD CORPORATION                                          7

  NED WILCOM; A STORY OF A FATHER'S SACRIFICE OF HIS
  CHILD AT THE SHRINE OF MAMMON                               25

  LONDON 'VENTURE; OR, THE OLD STORY OVER AGAIN               42

  THE LAD WHO FELT LIKE A FISH OUT OF WATER                   60

  THE INTELLECTUAL LEVER THAT LACKED A FULCRUM                84

  NICHOLAS NIXON, "GENTLEMAN," WHO COULD NOT UNDERSTAND
  WHY, BUT WHO KNEW "IT WAS SO"                              111

  SIGNS OF THE TIMES; OR, ONE PARSON AND TWO CLERKS          123

  DAME DEBORAH THRUMPKINSON, AND HER ORPHAN APPRENTICE,
  JOE                                                        150

  TOBY LACKPENNY THE PHILOSOPHICAL: A DEVOTEE OF
  THE MARVELLOUS                                             204



                         THE OLD CORPORATION.


Those words "odd," and "singular," and "eccentric," what odd, singular,
eccentric sort of words they are, reader! How often they mean
nothing,--being thrown out, as descriptions of character, by drivelling
Ignorance, who scrapes them up as the dregs,--the mere siftings left at
the bottom of his vocabulary, when he has expended his scant collection
of more definite images-in-syllables. And how much more often are they
affixed to the memories of the living or dead, who have been real
brothers among men, and have thus earned these epithets from jaundiced
envy, or guilty selfishness, or heartless pride and tyranny. How little
it commends to us, either our common nature, or such corrupt fashioning
as ages of wrong have given it, that, if we would become acquainted with
a truly good man,--a being to love and to knit the heart unto,--we must
seek for him among the class of character which the world--woe worth
it!--calls "odd," or "singular," or "eccentric!"

Yet so it is, the best of mankind, those, most veritably, "of whom the
world was not worthy," have been, in their day, either the butt for the
sneers of silliness, or the object of envy's relentless hate, or they
have toiled and toiled, perhaps unto martyrdom, beneath the withering,
blasting frown of pride and oppression. Ay, and let us be honest with
ourselves, and confess, that though years or hard experience may have
bettered our own natures,--for we are all too much like that kind of
fruit which takes long days and many weathers to ripen it, so as to
bring forth its most wholesome flavour,--let us be honest, I say, with
ourselves, and confess, that we were as foolishly willing as others, in
our youth, to laugh at what the varlet world calls oddness, and
singularity, and eccentricity. Some of us, however, now see matters in a
somewhat different light. We have discovered that there is some marrow
of meaning in many of those old saws we once thought so tiresome and
dry,--such as, "All is not gold that glitters," and, "Judge not a nut by
the shell," and the like; and we say, within ourselves, when we are in a
moralising mood, (as you and I are now, reader,) that, if we were young
again, we would not join the world in laughing as we used to laugh with
it, at certain queer folk who dwell in our memories,--for we begin to
have a shrewd suspicion that they were among the true "diamonds in the
rough" of human character.

And, to be truly candid with ourselves, reader, have not you and I
found out, by this time, that we are, to all intents and purposes, as
"odd," and as "singular," and as "eccentric," as other folk? Is not the
jewel of the truth this,--as pointless as the saying may look at first
sight,--that--All men are singular? Hath not every man his likes and his
dislikes, his whims and his caprices, his fancies and his hobbies, his
faults and his failings? And are not these found so strangely interwoven
in our daily thinkings, and sayings, and doings, that they may well make
observers ponder upon them, if they had not enough of similar employment
at home? Nay, if some one unnatural sort of thought, or impression, or
habit, which each of us have, could be seen, at all times, by every
body, in its true dimensions, would it not look as uncouth as one of
those huge boulders of primary rock tumbled down from the mass, and left
sticking out from some late-formed strata of marl, quite at a distance
from its proper place, that the geologists talk of? Would not the
thought, or impression, or habit, if our most attached friends could see
it in its proper moral bulk, dwarf many of our "excellencies," as their
partiality phrases it, and really render us poor deformed things, in
their judgment?

"What, then, do ye mean to preach us into the belief that it is a crime
for us ever to have a hearty, harmless laugh, at a queer fellow when we
chance to see him?" Not exactly so, my lads; but we ought never to
forget that we are queer fellows ourselves. Nor ought we to fail in the
reflection that, if we were fully acquainted with that queer fellow, it
might happen we should discover him to be of infinitely more moral value
than ten thousand of the smooth-trimmed estimables in the eye of the
world, who conform to all its precepts so obediently that they never
anger it. And, much more, if we know enough of the "queer fellow" to be
aware that a true, warm, glowing, fraternal heart for his
fellow-creatures beats in his bosom, notwithstanding a few outward
traits of somewhat striking difference from the crowd, why, then, it
becomes our bounden duty,--I will not say, never to smile at his
peculiarities, for that sort of puritanism will not make us better
men,--but to dwell upon his virtues and excellencies,--to extol them,
yea, to enthrone them, whenever he is seen, or heard, or talked of, by
those with whom we company.

Perhaps political party is more universal than any other bad influence
without, in misguiding Englishmen into ill-natured, or contemptuous, or
depreciatory judgments of their neighbours and fellow-townsmen. The last
dozen or fifteen years, especially, have engendered a superabundance of
this foul canker;--so many new rivalries have sprung up with the great
changes in political and municipal institutions; and men, from the
mightiest to the meanest, have been caught up, and whirled along, in
many instances so involuntarily, into the rush and torrent of change.
And yet, how the lapse of these dozen or fifteen years hath altered the
judgment of many of us, with regard to some men and their party-cries.
What a wide-spread "liberal" laudation, for instance, there was about
the famous definition of a Tory, in the _Times_,--and yet how soon it
became its own "duck-legged drummer-boy," and all that! Nay, how soon
did some of the very chiefs of the potential reforming party,--from
idols of the multitude,--by their refusal to complete what they had
begun, and, indeed, in some instances, by their open manifestation of a
will to undo what they had done,--become its scoff and scorn, nay, even
its detestation!

And then the old "Guilds," or "Corporations," to which the new
"Town-Councils" have succeeded,--what a general tendency to exaggeration
there was in the mode of judging of them, and in the tone of talking and
writing about them, especially in the public prints. How witty were the
newspaper people in their conceits of conserving, or pickling, or
embalming an alderman, and having him placed in the British Museum, as a
curiosity for antiquaries to form profound speculations upon, some ten
or twelve centuries into futurity! Ay, and how eloquently abusive was
the prevailing Whig strain about "nests of corruption," and "rotten
lumber," and "fine pickings," and "impositions, and frauds, and dark
rogueries of the self-elect!" And how the scale has turned, since, in
the greater share of boroughs, where the poor and labouring classes
threw up their hats for joy at "municipal reform,"--and now mutter
discontent at the pride of upstarts become insolent oppressors,--or
openly curse, as in the poverty-stricken and hunger-bitten manufacturing
districts, at the relentless and grinding tyrannies of the recreant
middle-classes whom municipal honours have drawn off from their
hot-blooded radicalism, and converted into cold, unfeeling, merciless
wielders of magisterial or other local power.

There was, it cannot be denied, in the droll trappings and antiquated
mummeries of the old guilds,--in their ermined scarlet cloaks, and funny
cocked hats, and in their maces and staves,--and above all, in the
starch, and march, and swelling, and strut, and pomposity, with which
these were worn or borne,--much that was calculated to tickle the
spectator into mirth; but, really, when one thinks of it, are the
horse-hair wig of a bishop, a judge, or a barrister, the robe and
coronet of a peer, or the crown and sceptre of a king or queen, less
like playthings for upgrown children than were the "regalia" and antique
habits of the old corporation-men? Was Cromwell so far beside the mark
when he called the Speaker's mace a "fool's bauble?"--and might not the
expression be applied with as much fitness to many other "ensigns of
office," as they are called?

And again: though it is true that a grand uncurtaining of robbery,--for
that is the plain English of it,--was made in some, at least, of the old
boroughs, by the inquest of that parliamentary commission which preceded
the sweeping away of the old corporations,--yet are we not, now, become
conscious, that amid the party heat and animosity of the period, much
private excellence was over-shaded or forgotten in the rage of public
censure, nay, that much virtue was denied, even where it was known to
exist, lest the recognition of it should mar the scheme for overthrowing
the party to which that virtue was attached?

This is a long exordium for a fugitive sketch, and it is time to say it
has sprung from reflections created in the mind of an imprisoned
"conspirator" and "mover of sedition," by the flitting across his cell,
in his imagination, of sundry bygone shapes with whom he was, more or
less, familiar at one period of his changeful life. It is the "Old
Corporation" of the ancient and time-honoured city of Lincoln, of which
the writer speaks;--and though wit might discover among its members many
a foible that would form a picture to "make those laugh whose lungs are
tickled o' the sere," yet generosity, and justice, no less, must
confess, that after the most searching inquiry and exposure, they were
neither individually nor collectively stained with the acts of
peculation and embezzlement, nor application of public funds to
political party purposes, which were so heavily, and, no doubt, truly
charged on some of the old guilds in other parts of the country.

Yet they were, as a body, supporters of the _ancien régime_, as was
natural: they had been inured, the greater part of them, through nearly
the whole of their lives, to look upon the established state of things
as the best and fittest;--and, no doubt, the majority of them
conscientiously believed it to be so,--failing, through the confined and
stinted nature of their social training, to reflect that what was
productive to themselves, the few, of pleasure or comfort, might confer
no benefits on the many,--but rather be a source, to these, of deep and
increasing suffering. Passing by many a picture that starts to memory of
"mayoralty," and its ludicrous airs of greatness, and many a
reminiscence of grave joke and lighter whimsicality,--of burlesque
importance, and mirth-moving earnestness about trifles,--recollection
dwells with consolated interest on more durable limnings of simple,
uncorrupted manners, and warm hearts, and really expansive natures, that
belonged to some of that "Old Corporation."

There is one comes before me, vividly, at this moment,--while that sweet
robin-red-breast hops into my day-room, and bends his neck to look at me
so knowingly and friendlily in my loneliness, as he doth, almost
daily;--and the loved bird's image consorts delightfully with him I was
thinking of,--for, above all things, the fine, noble-hearted, yet meek
and gentle old alderman, loved to be thought and esteemed an
_ornithologist_! That was his pride, his loftiest aim, his highest
ambition,--as far as reputation or a name was the subject of his
thought. As for his charities, and enlarged acts of sympathy for his
suffering fellow-creatures, his deeds of mercy and goodness, he strove
to hide them, performing them often by stealth, and half denying the
performance of them, when admiration of his beneficence kindled praise
of it in his hearing. Ah! it is too true: he relieved wretchedness till
his purse was scanty, and his circumstances were straitened;--and
then,--and then,--in spite of his aldermanic dignity, in spite of his
"respectable" family connections, and even the respectability of his own
practice and profession, as a surgeon,--he was mentioned as the
"odd,"--the "singular,"--the "eccentric" Mr. ----!

_That_ is the world. Who would have dreamt that Alderman----was odd, or
singular, or eccentric, had he kept his money, instead of giving it to
the distressed?

But the kind-hearted old man thirsted for reputation as an
_ornithologist_. Well, and in good sooth, he had some solid claim to it.
Birds were his passion; and you seldom met any one who knew so much
about them. I know not whether his relatives keep the book of drawings
which the good man showed to me, as he had showed it to hundreds, with
so much innocent pride;--taking care to relate how it had been begun
when he was a young apprentice, and had taken him years to complete;
above all, that it was the product of early hours stolen from sleep, and
had never robbed, his professional duties of their proper share of
attention. They ought to keep it, however, and to value it too. Not for
the sake of any surpassing excellence in the portraitures of birds with
which it was filled; for, although the good old man was so proud of the
"_real_ birds," which he used to observe it contained, yet they were
embodied to the eye somewhat in Chinese taste, as clearly as I can
remember: rather with exactitude of pencillings and shades, than with
skill in the "drawing" or attitude of the bird, or observance of rules
of perspective, or "fore-shortening," or any of the intricacies of art.
But the heart--the heart of the good man whose hand performed these
curious and laborious limnings--should stamp a precious value on the
book that contained them.

Nor was it a mere unmeaning hobby, this love of the feathered tribe
which was so strong in the benevolent alderman. He was another Gilbert
White in diligence of observation on their habits in the woods and
fields, and on the heath and the moor. In his rural rides as a surgeon,
he was ever learning some fact relative to their economy, and he most
diligently chronicled it. And at the return of the season, he was as
punctually periodical as the fall of the leaf in acquainting his
friendly circle with his impressions relative to the severity or the
openness of the ensuing winter, from his observations on the feathered
tribe. Many of these "prognostications," as some people called them,
although he never assumed the character of a prophet himself, were
registered in the _Stamford Mercury_, the long-established and
ably-conducted medium of information for the extensive though
thinly-peopled district of Lincolnshire; and they so seldom failed to be
realised, that the ornithological surgeon was often complimented on his
prophecies. "Nay," he would reply, "I am no prophet: I only go by
Nature's books: you may do the same, if you'll read them."

Was it his diligent and loving perusal of these books which imbued him
with that never-failing zeal to relieve the miserable? was it by his
continued drinking of the lessons of bounty and care discoverable in
those books, that kept open, to his latest day, the sluices of his
beneficent heart,--so that the icy influences of the world never froze
them up,--but they were left to well out goodness, and tenderness, and
pity, for the poor, and hungry, and sick, and miserable, to the end of
his life?

One cannot suppress a persuasion of this kind; and it seems next to
impossible but that Gilbert White must have gladdened the poor of his
"Selborne," to the very extent of his means, and, perhaps, sometimes
beyond it,--secretly, humbly, and unobtrusively,--while his amiable
mind was displaying so simply and charmingly, in that correspondence
with Tennant and Barrington, its devoted love and admiration of the
characters in "Nature's books." This thought may be but a prejudice of
the imagination; but such prejudices are less criminal than the
prejudices of the judgment or understanding, and one feels unwilling to
have them removed in a case like this: we have, alas! too many examples
of evil contradictions in the characters we thirst to love,--and our
worship even of the noblest intelligences,--such as Bacon,--is too often
checked by them.

In the devoted reader of "Nature's books," however, of whom we are
immediately speaking, there was a delightful harmony of character. "I
cannot pay you, yet, Mr. ----,"--said a poor woman to him, as I walked by
his side, along the High Street of St. Botolph's parish, listening to
his autumnal chronicle,--"I cannot pay you yet, sir, for my husband is
out of work."--"Pr'ythee, never mind, woman," replied the good man.
"Make thyself easy, and get that poor boy a pair of shoes, before thou
pays me!"--"God bless you, sir!" replied the poor woman, with her ragged
and shoeless lad, and dropped a courtesy, while the grateful tear rolled
down her cheek. I looked, with an impulse of admiration, at the face of
the good alderman, as we passed along, and the tears were coursing each
other adown his face likewise!

And how often have I heard,--what, indeed, well-nigh every citizen of
old Lincoln had either heard, or witnessed,--of his bounteous relief of
famishing and clotheless families he was called to attend during the
sickness of a child or father, or the mother's agony of Nature. One
thought presents itself painfully: it is, that while he manifested so
true a fraternity with man, and lived a life of so much private,
unobtrusive blessing,--he was so frequently the victim of encroaching
and designing knaves. His ready loans of money, in his wealthiest days,
to needy tradesmen, were often punctually and honestly returned; but he
was too often victimised. And there is one image now crosses me, very
legibly,--that used to haunt and pester the good-hearted man, even up to
the period of his straitness,--ever goading him with some plea of
difficulty, and essaying to squeeze out of him another sum, under the
unprincipled name of a loan. He was a "limb of the law," who had been
"done up" in his profession, for his want of honesty. And yet I have
some misgivings whether that human being were so morally culpable as his
life of shuffle, and deceit, and meanness, would lead one to think; for
I remember how often I noticed the large indentation across his bald
head, caused by some accident, in which the bone of the skull had been
bent or broken, and, consequently, the brain injured. His career is at
an end, however; and whatever might be the true solution of the problem
of his idiosyncrasy, one cannot help feeling a regret that the best and
finest natures should so often, in this world, become a prey to the
worst,--as in the case of this vile practiser, who often boasted over
his brandy, in the presence of some base associate, that he had gulled
the alderman again!----

Memory calls up another form less distinctly, since it belonged to one
who was much nearer the end of his course; and the impression of his
identity depends more on what others said of him than on any thing like
personal or intimate acquaintance with his character. From some
unskilfulness of speech, or want of grace in outward demeanour, or some
other mark that the world thought "odd," or "singular," or "eccentric,"
he had gained the odd, singular, and eccentric, but very distinctive
_soubriquet_ of Alderman Lob. He was a bulky sort of man externally,
talked thick, yet talked a great deal; was laid up with the gout often,
and passed his closing years totally within doors as an invalid: but
many a poverty-stricken habitant of Lincoln found weekly relief at his
door; and more than one aged and infirm creature prayed for the
lengthening out of his life, in the fear they would be left destitute,
or be compelled to go into the workhouse, when they could no longer
depend on his weekly charity.----

The master-spirit of that old guild, though too mentally acute, and too
successful in the acquirement of wealth to leave room for the world to
term him odd, or singular, or eccentric, united in his composition some
high qualities that now rise in kindly answer to the record memory gives
of the bitter things spoken of him by party. He had been the
"town-clerk" of the guild, and even then wielded the principal power in
it, being really its master, though nominally its servant; and only laid
aside the black gown and quill to don an alderman's ermined cloak,
because he had become too wealthy either to desire longer to reap the
salary, or undergo the fatigue and labour of his first office.

His attention to every man in whom he discerned superior ability,
without regard to conventional grade, and often in defiance of its
rules; his real liberality in giving aid to honest industry, wherever he
found it; his munificence in assisting either the "charities" which are
the just pride of old Lincoln, or any plan for presenting its citizens
with amusement that combined usefulness: these were among his life-long
acts. And, in spite of the keen raillery with which his shrewd
penetration of character often led him to visit the vulgar conceit or
affectation of some with whom his office brought him into frequent
contact, all bore testimony to his intelligence and honour. Nay,
although he was one who never professed any fervid sympathy with popular
progress, and therefore was not likely to become a favourite with a
people so strongly political as the Lincoln cits were a few years ago,
yet so deeply did they regard him as a man who, by the excellence of
his understanding, had done honour to their city in bearing one of its
chief offices, that a general and reverential sorrow was expressed when
his end approached, for it was seen, in his wasted frame and fading eye,
many months before the fatal moment came.

Perhaps their knowledge of the one bitter draught that was mingled with
his life's chalice, during the concluding years of his course, served
greatly to soften their thoughts towards the intellectual chief of the
old municipal institution, even while many of them rejoiced at the
overthrow of the institution itself. His tenderly beloved and highly
accomplished daughter,--his only child,--faded and died; and, therewith,
the charm of life seemed broken for him. How often was this a subject of
kindly-spirited converse among citizens as he passed; and how
reflectingly did they note what they learnt to be his own poignant
observations on that heart-rending bereavement!--his pithy and thrilling
confessions that he had toiled for nothing!--that life was only a scene
of disappointment!--that he had used unceasing exertion to attain
wealth; but he had, now, neither "chick nor child" to leave it to! So
fertile is life in affording moral nurture and correction to all
hearts!--creating sympathy with the sorrowful brother, with him to whom
the bitter cup is appointed; but infusing a salutary admonition,
meanwhile, not to set our hearts too passionately on things of clay,
lest we doom ourselves also to drink of that bitterness!----

He who was esteemed the most "odd," the most "singular," the most
"eccentric" member of that Old Corporation, lingered long after its
demise; and by the popularity of his character, as the only radical
alderman of the Old, became a town councillor, and eventually a mayor,
under the New municipal institution. How rife were the stories of his
furious attacks upon the "self-elect" of the olden time!--and what a
rich hue of the burlesque was thrown around the pictures that were given
of him in daily conversation! Yet, who did not, in spite of his
slenderness of intellect, love him for his incorruptible honesty, and,
above all, for his unfailing benevolence? Oh! there was not a human
being,--beggar, pauper, distressed stranger, or townsman,--who ever went
from his door unrelieved; nor could he pass, in the street, a
fellow-creature whose appearance led him to suppose he had found a real
sufferer, but he must inquire into it, even unsolicited. The abhorrent
enactments of the New Poor Law,--how he hated them!--and how staggered
he felt in his reforming faith, when the "liberal" administration urged
the passing of the strange Malthusian measure! "I cannot understand it!"
he would exclaim, in the hearing of the numerous participants in his
English hospitality; "I never thought that Reform was to make the poor
more miserable, and the poorest of the poor the most miserable: it is a
mystery to me! Surely it is a mistake in Lord Grey and Lord Brougham!"
So the good old man thought and said; but he did not live to see the
"liberal" lawmakers either correct their mistake, or acknowledge that
they had made one,--though agonised thousands pealed that sad truth in
their ears!



                               NED WILCOM;

                               A STORY OF
                   A FATHER'S SACRIFICE OF HIS CHILD
                                 AT THE
                            SHRINE OF MAMMON.


"Sirrah! you have nothing to do but to get on in the world. You _may_ do
that, if you will. The way is open for you, as it was for me; so get up
to London, and try. There's twenty pounds for you: I'll give you twenty
thousand, as soon as you show me one thousand of your own; but I won't
give you another farthing till you prove to me that you know the value
of money, and can get it yourself. And mark me, sir! if you haven't the
nouse to make something out in the world, you shall live and die a
beggar, for me; for I'll leave all I have to your sisters, and cut you
off with a shilling. There, sir! there's your road! Good morning!"

And so saying, Mr. Ned Wilcom, senior, pushed Mr. Ned Wilcom, junior,
his only son, out of his counting-house, and shut the door upon him.
That was an awkward way for a rich Leeds merchant to receive a son on
the completion of his apprenticeship as a draper, and at the early age
of twenty. Yet it was no worse than young Ned expected. Nor did it break
his heart, as it would have broken the heart of a lad who had been more
tenderly nurtured. Ned Wilcom never saw his father occupied with any
other thought, act, employ, or pleasure, but what pertained to
money-getting; nor ever heard his father pass an encomium on any human
character in his life, save on such as succeeded in piling together
large fortunes from small beginnings, or enriched themselves by
outwitting their neighbours. From the age of nine to sixteen, he had
only seen his father twice a year--Midsummer and Christmas; and having
lost his mother when a mere infant, he never knew or felt the softening
influences of maternal affection. The artificial life of a
boarding-school, during those seven years, infused a good deal of craft,
and nearly as large a measure of heartlessness, into Ned's nature--for
it was not originally of such tendencies. The master and ushers were
hypocrites and tyrants, only differing in grade; and if there were a lad
with a little more gentleness, humanity, and openness about him than the
rest, Ned observed that he soon "went to the wall" among his
school-fellows. And so, with one influence or other, Ned Wilcom left
school with the firm persuasion that the world was a general
battle-field, where the weak and the virtuous were destined to become
the prey of the strong and the crafty; and, all things considered, Ned
resolved to take sides with the winning party.

Such were Ned's resolves at sixteen; and they were by no means changed
in their direction, or weakened in their vigour, by an apprenticeship in
a dashing and aspiring draper's shop in Liverpool during the succeeding
four years. To that sea-port he was accompanied, per coach, by his
father; whose parting words then were, that he was to remember that "he
was going to be taught how to make money, the only thing worth
learning;" and, until he received the summary benediction already
rehearsed, Ned did not see his father again. It is true, he received
from home a half-yearly letter, but it never harped on more than one
string, and that was the old one; so that, drawing his inferences from
these premises, Ned Wilcom was not surprised to be dismissed in five
minutes, with twenty pounds, and to have the counting-house door shut in
his face by his own father.

Within a week after his arrival in London, Ned Wilcom found a situation;
and it was one to his heart's content--as he told his father in a letter
of five lines, for he knew his parent too well to trouble him with a
longer epistle. The lad's ambition could only have been more highly
gratified by a reception into the establishment of Swan and Edgar, in
the Quadrant, or the superb "Waterloo House" in Cockspur Street, for he
had obtained a place in that immensest of show-shops which attracts the
stranger crowds in St. Paul's Churchyard, where the business was of a
less select nature than in the two rival first-rate shops at the West
End, and was therefore a more fitting field for the exercise of such
knowledge and tact as Ned had acquired in Liverpool. And all went on
exceedingly well with Ned for several weeks. It is true, the discipline
of the establishment was somewhat more rigorous than in the house he had
quitted; but he was prepared to expect it. He was compelled to "look
sharp about him;" but he had heard in the country that that would be the
case. The matter of vianding, the exact minute of remaining out in the
evening, the amount of exertion and energy in discharging his duties,
all was so exactly defined, measured, and timed, that to a mere raw
apprentice from the country, or to one whose mind was less determinately
girt up to make his way, the situation would have seemed any thing but
pleasant. Ned, however, felt quite at home, for he had yoked his will to
his necessities; and in lieu of indulging the slightest disposition to
grumble at his lot, set success before himself, and determined to
achieve it. With a mind so fully made up, a handsome figure, a winning
address, and a fair portion of natural shrewdness, Ned was sure to
conduct himself in such a way as to please his employers. In fact, in
the course of a dozen or fifteen weeks, he became the decided favourite
with the manager of the concern, and, of course, experienced
proportionate pecuniary advancement.

But a woeful change awaited Ned Wilcom, despite these fair prospects.
His eagerness to succeed had urged him to stretch his powers beyond
their strength, and his resolve to economise, so as to win the means of
early independence, induced him to deny himself too rigidly of
under-clothing, and the consequence was, that a nervous lassitude and a
severe cold at once attacked him. He bore up some days; but was a little
shocked to observe a change of look in the manager, and to overhear a
little whispering by way of comment on his lack of energy. Five days had
passed; but on the morning of the sixth, it was with extreme difficulty
he rose from bed, and so lethargic were his faculties, that he felt it
utterly impossible to put on appearances of excessive complaisance, or
to display the customary grimaces of civility. Towards noon, excessive
pains in the head and chest drove him from the shop; and, without saying
a word to any one, he sought his sleeping-room, and threw himself on his
bed. Here he was found in a state of insensibility, in the course of
half an hour was undressed, and put into bed. Ned refused the cool
offers of extra diet made him, when he came to his senses; and when
visited by the manager, said he had no doubt he would be quite well by
the next morning. The manager elevated his brows, said he hoped so, and
walked away immediately.

When the morning came, however, the youth was so weak that he felt he
would be utterly incapable of exertion if he went down stairs; yet he
would have attempted it, had not one who had been much longer in the
establishment than himself--though Ned had passed him by, in
preferment--stepped into his bed-room, and most pressingly persuaded him
not to think of going down. So Ned put off his half resolve to go down,
and threw himself again on the bed. But what was his surprise, grief,
and disgust, on seeing this very individual step again into his room in
the course of five minutes, to announce with the most marble coldness of
look, that the manager desired Mr. Wilcom would get up and make out his
account--for it was against rule for any one to remain on the
establishment who was unable to attend to business. "Immediately," was
the only word the messenger added, turning back as he was about to quit
the room, and then departing with a wicked sneer upon his face. Poor
Ned! he felt he was in a hard case; but his native pride was too great
to permit him to weep, or give way. Indignation strung his nerves for
the nonce; he bounced up--dressed himself--though he trembled like one
in the palsy--made out his account--went down stairs, and presented
it--was paid, by the manager's order--and quitted the premises, in the
lapse of fifteen minutes.

Occupied with the vengeful feeling that was natural after such cruel
treatment--though it was but an every-day fact, with drapers'
assistants, in London--the youth had arrived in Fleet Street ere he
bethought him that he had left his clothes behind him, and had not made
up his mind as to where he was going. Faintness began to come over him,
and he was compelled to cling to a window for support. Two passengers on
the causeway stopped, and began to address him sympathetically; the rest
of the living stream swept on, without staying to notice him. A cabman,
however, less from sympathy than from the hope of employ, speedily
brought his vehicle to the edge of the slabs, and jumping from his seat
with the reins in his hand, asked if he could be of any service to the
gentleman. Ned felt it was not a time for prolonged consideration, and
earnestly, though feebly, desired the cabman to convey him to some
decent boarding-house. One of the persons supporting him saw that his
state did not permit questioning, and prevented the cabman's asking
where he would be driven to, by telling the man to proceed at once to a
number he mentioned in Bolt Court. The same individual walked by the
side of the cab, for the little way that it was to the entry of the
court, and then helped to support Ned to the house. A sick man, however,
was not likely to meet with a very hearty welcome in a London
boarding-house; and, in spite of the entreaties of the person who
accompanied him, the youth would have had the door shut upon him, had he
not roused all his remaining vigour, and assured the keeper of the
establishment, not only that he would soon be well, but that he was able
to pay for what he might need. With such assurances he was reluctantly
received, and supported up stairs to a bed-room. Presence of mind served
him to give order for fetching his portmanteau from the establishment he
had just quitted; and it was well that it was so, for he became
insensible almost immediately. A fever ensued of some weeks'
continuance; and, at the end of it, when Ned regained his consciousness,
he found himself reduced to a state of emaciation, and under medical
attendance, with a deeply reduced purse.

These were concomitants of a nature to bring great pain to the mind of
one like Ned Wilcom; and it was with a severe struggle that he shut out
despair, and encouraged himself to believe that, though so grievously
frustrated in his commencing hopes of independence, the prospect of
success would again bud, and finally blossom. After ascertaining from
his physician that his state would bear a removal to a less expensive
lodging, Ned wrote home to his father, and informed him of his
unfortunate condition, and of what had led to it. Mr. Wilcom, senior,
was a little surprised to receive a second letter from his son so soon,
for "he had no notion," as he used to say, "of lads perpetually writing
home, like unweaned babies that wanted pap;" and he, therefore, broke
the seal of poor Ned's letter with no remarkable degree of good humour.
The length of the letter, when opened, caused the money-getting father
to throw it aside with an indescribable curl of the lip and nose, and a
loud "Pshaw!"--and that was all the attention the poor youth's epistle
received for the five next succeeding days, that is to say, until Sunday
came, and the merchant thought he had time to look at it. The next
morning Ned Wilcom received his father's answer: it was simply--

     "Sir,

     "Yours came to hand last Monday. If your illness was brought on by
     want of caution, it ought to teach you prudence. If you have been
     unlucky, you are only like many more; and, as your grandfather used
     to say, the best way and the manliest, with troubles, is to grin
     and abide by them. Wish you better.

       "Your humble servant,
         "EDWARD WILCOM, senior.

The letter dropped from Ned's hand like a lump of lead too heavy to
hold. With all his knowledge of his father's nature and habits, he had
not expected this. Indeed, Ned's uninterrupted good health, through the
whole of his brief space of life, had prevented the possibility of his
testing his father's tenderness before. For some hours, the youth
experienced misery he had never known till then; and was so completely
paralysed with the sense of his wretched and deserted state, that the
physician, who made his usual call in the afternoon, could obtain no
intelligent answer to his questions; and though by no means one whose
heart overflowed with the milk of human kindness, felt constrained, in a
sympathising tone, to ask if any thing extraordinary had occurred to his
patient. Ned pointed to the letter which lay on the floor, and in spite
of the hardness of feeling into which he had trained himself, burst into
a flood of tears.

Nature was thus sufficiently relieved to enable the youth to answer the
physician's inquiries as to his father's wealth, habits, and so on, with
a slight but very significant additional query as to the extent of Ned's
remaining stock of money. The conclusion was _not_ any promise of help,
but cool advice to remove, forthwith, to a cheaper lodging; or which,
the physician remarked, would be far more prudent, to an hospital. The
latter alternative Ned could not brook _then_, so he did remove to a
cheaper lodging; but his feebleness disappeared so slowly, and the
contents of his slender purse so rapidly, that he was compelled to enter
an hospital, after discharging his medical attendant's bill, and
finding himself possessed but of one sovereign, at the end of another
fortnight.

For six dreary months Ned Wilcom's feeble state compelled him to remain
an inmate of this charitable establishment; and though his wants were
amply provided for, and his complaints and sufferings were met with
prompt and sympathising kindness and attention, yet his spirit was
greatly soured. He ventured one more letter to his father, but it
received no greater welcome than the former one; and, in the bitterness
of his soul, Ned cursed the parent who could thus treat his child, and
resolved never to write home again, as long as he lived.

At length, he was strong enough to leave his refuge, and without staying
to be told that he must go, he went. Once more, he took a cheap lodging,
but a much cheaper one, as far as price went, than before, and in one of
the purlieus of Lambeth, where he would have scorned almost to set his
foot, when he first arrived in London. Though his scanty sovereign would
have recommended instant search for a situation, his great weakness, and
his looking-glass, told him he must take, at least, one week's further
rest. He took it, and then commenced inquiry for a situation, not at the
establishment where his misfortunes commenced, neither at any of the
first-rate fashionable shops. Sourness of spirit kept him at a distance
from the cathedral churchyard; and the somewhat seedy condition, even of
his best suit, debarred his admission, he believed, at any of the
"tip-top" houses. So he sought to be engaged in some more humble
establishment; but, alas! his pallid face and sunken eye, his hollow
voice and feeble step, were against him; and a shake of the head, or a
hard stare, with a decided negative, was the invariable answer to his
applications.

To shorten the melancholy story of his deeper descent into
wretchedness--at the end of the tenth week after his departure from the
hospital, he was so far restored to strength as to be able to walk
upright, to speak in his natural tone of firmness, and would have been
competent to have discharged the duties of a draper's assistant in any
shop in the metropolis; but every article of clothing he had possessed,
except two shirts, two pairs of stockings, and the outer suit he
constantly wore, were all in pawn, and he was, now, absolutely--penniless!

It was when the eleventh week began, and the dreaded Monday morning
returned, when his weekly lodging-rent should be paid, that Ned
stealthily descended from his attic, and passed, unobserved by his
landlady, from the front door, to wander he knew not whither--except to
avoid shame. By the Marsh Gate he passed, and through the New Cut, and
over Blackfriars' Bridge, and, losing the remembrance of where he was,
he wandered from street to street, till, suddenly, in Old Street, he was
awoke to the sense of delight--a feeling he had long been a stranger
to--by seeing a half-crown at the edge of the pavement, as he sauntered
along with his head dropped on his chest. He snatched it up with
inconceivable eagerness: no one was near to whom he could suppose it
belonged, had his necessity permitted him to think of asking for its
proper owner; and galled by a complete abstinence of two whole days, he
hurried to the very first appearance of food that met his eye--a stall
of coarse shell-fish.

"How d'ye sell them?--what d'ye call them?" were the questions he put to
the poor ragged man who stood by this stall of strange vendibles that
Ned had seen poverty-stricken children and females stand to eat, but had
never tasted them himself.

"Ve calls 'em vilks, sir," answered the man, "six a penny: shall I open
ye a penn'orth o' fresh uns, sir?"

"Oh! these will do--let me have a dozen," said Ned Wilcom, and seized,
and devoured a couple in a moment.

"La! stop, sir!" cried the man--"you vants winegar to 'em!"--and he took
the old broken bottle of earthenware, with the cork and a hole in it,
and would fain have poured some of the horrible adulteration upon the
shell-fish, but the very smell of it was too much for the youth's
senses. He devoured the dozen; but though the first mouthful had seemed
delicious, he had some difficulty in gulping the last; and had not
proceeded twenty paces from the stall, after receiving the change for
his half-crown, before he felt half overcome with sickness and nausea.
He was about to pass by a dram-shop--but the thought suddenly struck him
that a small glass of brandy would dispel the sickness; and he stepped
in and called for one. An elderly female was sipping a very small glass
of liquor, when Ned crossed the threshold, but passed out immediately,
after giving him a keen glance, as he gave his call, and laid a shilling
on the dram-shop counter. By this woman he was immediately accosted,
when he quitted the dram-shop:--

"Have you taken coffee this morning, sir?" said she, with a short
courtesy: "I shall be happy to accommodate you, if you have not, sir: my
house is just here, sir"--and so saying, she led the way into Bath
Street, at the corner of St. Luke's, and Ned, half-helplessly, followed;
for though the brandy had dispelled the sickness, it seemed to have
given a wolvish strength to his two days' hunger.

A younger female, tawdrily clad, but possessing features of sufficient
power to attract Ned's especial gaze, was the only apparent occupant of
the low habitation into which the elderly woman led the way. Breakfast
was speedily prepared, in a somewhat humble mode, but Ned was too hungry
to be delicate. The younger woman was soon engaged so freely and
familiarly in conversation with the youth, as to venture a mirthful
observation on his good appetite. Ned's heart glowed too warmly with the
fitful delight of having found the half-crown and the means of a
breakfast, to permit him to cultivate secrecy. He told it outright--the
fact that he had fasted two days, and found the half-crown but half an
hour before on the pavement. What will not the tongue tell, when the
heart has been suddenly and unexpectedly unbondaged, though it be but
temporarily, from deep-during sorrow?

And then, of course, that confession led to others, and the whole story
of Ned's life and parentage, of his sickness and harsh treatment, and of
his sufferings and deprivations, till that moment, were unfolded. And
then came the formidable question--What did he now intend to do?--and it
was one that brought back the full sense of his misery, for his
half-crown was reduced already to a shilling; and he knew not what must
become of him when that was spent--unless he stood in the streets to
beg!

The evil moment that was to seal Ned's ruin was come. The elderly female
at a glance given her by the younger, which the youth's misery prevented
his observing, threw on her shawl, and went out.--

She returned--but it was after two hours had passed; and Ned Wilcom,
who, when he entered London, believed himself heir to a gentleman's
fortune and rank, had become the slave of a prostitute, and had pledged
himself to take lessons from her in the practice of dishonesty. That
very afternoon, he entered on his guilty profession: she hung on his
arm, and as they entered a crowded thoroughfare she taught him to
purloin, successively, a handkerchief, a book, and a watch, from the
pockets of passengers.

The perfect security with which his first thefts were accomplished, and
the galling remembrance of his past indignities, added to the new
fascination above mentioned, stifled the reproaches of Ned Wilcom's
conscience, when the hour of reflection came. He advanced in the
downward path, until he became a daring burglar, and a skilful adept at
swindling, under the name of card-playing, in addition to his more petty
practice on pockets. Some idea of his son's fate, at length reached the
brutal and sordid mind of Wilcom the elder. He commissioned a friend,
two or three times, on his London journies, to make strict inquiry as to
the accuracy of the reports concerning Ned. The youth avoided the search
as much as possible, but could not prevent the truth from reaching his
native town.

The catastrophe approached in another year. The papers contained an
account of Ned's apprehension for a series of daring robberies: his
father's acquaintances boldly and honestly reprehended his unparental
cruelty; and though the Mammon-worshipping wretch was unmoved for some
time, at length he dashed up to town to "see what all the noise was
about," as he said. He arrived soon enough to see his son at the bar as
a degraded criminal; and before he had gazed upon him for more than five
minutes, heard him sentenced to transportation for life! Ned was
immediately reconducted to his cell, while his father fell, senseless,
in the Court; and though he was taken home to Leeds the following week,
it was to be a helpless, doting paralytic, and a proverb to the end of
his life.



                          LONDON 'VENTURE;

                                OR,
                     THE OLD STORY OVER AGAIN.


It was in the year '39, a little before the "Dog-cart Nuisance," as it
used to be called, was abolished in London, that Ingram Wilson had some
curious thoughts as he stood looking at a very old and interesting dog,
in one of the by-streets of the Borough.--Ingram Wilson, it ought to
have been first said, was a young man who had forsaken an engagement on
a thriving newspaper in an opulent agricultural district, and had "come
up to London," partly through a slight disagreement with his former
patron, but chiefly through a vivid persuasion, that London was the only
true starting point for "a man of genius," a title to which young Ingram
laid claim. Now, this claim had never been questioned by any one in the
country, and Ingram thought every one would as readily acknowledge it in
the metropolis. How could Ingram Wilson help thinking so, when every
body had asked him, for three years, "why he did not go to London, and
make his fortune?" But, good-lack! when Ingram arrived in London, and
had stared at all the lions for three days, he began to feel himself in
a desert, even amidst thousands. He knew nobody, and nobody knew him. He
stept into two or three newspaper offices, stationers' shops, and
booksellers' little warehouses, asking questions about an engagement;
but people looked at him so suspiciously, that he grew afraid of asking
further. He looked at the Times, and the Herald, and the Chronicle every
morning, in one coffee-house or other--walked to this place and that--or
wrote letters of application, in answer to advertisements, but all was
in vain: two months fled entirely, and he had not received a single
hour's employ, or earned one farthing in London; and he was now reduced
to his last sovereign!

Feeling the necessity of an instant resort to the strictest and most
prudential economy, he quitted his lodgings, and found one, (a beggarly
bed, a chair, and broken table, in a fifth floor,) at eighteen-pence a
week. All day he was out, and sometimes dined on threepenn'orth of
boiled beef and potatoes, and sometimes he didn't: however, he contrived
to make the sovereign last one more month, for he still found no employ.
And now he was come to selling or pawning--what he had never been
driven to before, in his life. His books none of the pawn-brokers would
have: they were an article that could be turned to no account, if not
redeemed. So Ingram pawned his watch; but for so small a sum, that
though he was still more economical, he could only stretch another month
on the "lent money," as he called it, little supposing he would never
see the watch again. And then went extra articles of clothing, till he
could go no farther. And when six months were gone, part of his books
were gone likewise; but they were _sold_ at comparatively waste-paper
price at the second-hand booksellers.

It was then, at the expiration of six months' trial of London, without
having found one hour's employ, and when he had reduced his clothes till
he looked "shabby," and had not half-a-dozen books left that would fetch
him the value of another week's subsistence at the book-stalls;--it was
then that young Ingram Wilson had "some curious thoughts as he stood
looking at a very old and interesting dog, in one of the by-streets of
the Borough."

Ingram had been much disgusted with every dog-cart he had seen before;
for he was driven to moralise, almost by necessity, as he wandered about
from street to street; and he had made many a notch in his mind about
costermongers riding on the front of their dog-carts in a morning,
"four-in-hand," and all in a row, yelping as they galloped under the
lash of the whip; and how much they must resemble Esquimaux emperors
and Kamschatka princes, if there were any; and of the wicked glee of the
rascally young sweeps who would rattle down Blackfriars' Road, and St.
George's Road, and other roads of an evening, racing one against
another--"taking home" the one-dog shay of some cat's meat man or dealer
in greens, who had thus committed his chariot and animals to these sooty
Jehus, while he himself staid at some favourite resort to smoke and
tipple "heavy wet" till midnight. I say, young Ingram Wilson had made
many a notch in his mind about these, and other dog-cart phenomena; but
he had never felt so much melancholy interest in looking at a dog in a
cart, as he felt in looking at this "very old and interesting dog."

There might be something in the way in which his attention was first
aroused to look at the dog. He had just entered this by-street, and was
so much absorbed in reflecting on his own increasingly perilous
circumstances, that he had not even noticed the name of the street
(though this was a practice he usually attended to so punctually, that
he grew quite familiar with numerous localities during the six
months):--he merely saw that it was a street of some length, with a
ground-story room to every house on the right hand, what would be termed
a cellar in the country,--fenced off by neat palisades from the flagged
pavement. His reverie was broken suddenly, by the shrill, and
peculiarly disagreeable, and well-known cry "Cat's m-e-a-t!" and the man
jumped from his vehicle, the dog stood stock still, and almost along the
whole line of the street, cats white, and black, and tabby, and
tortoiseshell, were suddenly at the palisades, of the houses, setting up
their backs and tails, and uttering a shrill "mew!" Ingram was a little
struck with this; but still more with a fine large black tom-cat, that
leaped from the palisade of the house where the cart was standing, and
ran under the old dog's head. Setting up his back and tail, he passed
under the head of the dog again and again, so coaxingly and soothingly,
and uttered so kindly sympathetic a "purr," every time that he passed
backward and forward, and the poor aged dog arched his neck, and hung
his ears forward, and bent down to receive the soft rub of the cat's
back under his chin, and looked so grateful, that Ingram stood still,
and pondered curiously on this display of sympathy between brute
creatures--a quality that he began to think scarce among human beings.

The poor old dog looked almost like a bag of leather, with a collection
of old bones in it: he was so gaunt and worn, and the hair was so much
chafed off, in sundry places with his harness; and, moreover, his back
and limbs were so crooked and bent, that Ingram felt sure the dog had
known no slight portion of slavery in his day. And, perhaps, he had a
hard master, and no one sympathised with him but this black tom-cat,
thought the poverty-stricken philosopher--but who sympathises with me?
That was his only sour thought, but it did not abide with him. The man
returned to the cart, said, "Go on!" and the dog went on; but none of
the other cats came to rub under the old dog's head. Ingram felt he was
attracting the man's frowning notice, by standing to look at the dog,
and so he walked on to think.

"The world is not _all_ misery for that poor old dog," thought Ingram,
as he walked on: "very likely, the few minutes' pleasure he receives
every morning from the gentle sympathy of the black tom-cat renders him
happily forgetful of the labour and hardness of the remaining part of
the day. And yet, the poor old dog looked as if he were poorly fed; and
what a mortification it must be to be carrying food to the cats, and
have so little himself: always in the smell of it, but never or seldom
to taste: almost as bad as Tantalus steeped to the very chin, and most
likely drenched through the skin, and yet dry as a fish! There is a
something that pleases me, however, very much, in this act of the kind,
brotherly tom-cat," said Ingram to himself, "and I'll see this sight
again."

And Ingram saw the sight again, for he took care to walk in the same
neighbourhood for the three mornings following, and felt increasing
pleasure in witnessing the black tom-cat rub his back under the poor
old dog's chin, while the dog looked each morning as richly gratified as
ever. Ingram Wilson was satisfied that if those few minutes' pleasure
did not form a compensation for the poor dog's every day's pain, they
went very far towards it.

But the circumstance of a pale, handsome young man, though rather
seedily dressed, coming through that particular street every morning,
for four mornings, at the same hour, and standing to look at that old
dog and tom-cat, was an occurrence not likely to go unnoticed in London,
where people notice every minute circumstance in a way that much
surprised Ingram Wilson, when he first began to find it out, for he had
calculated on a very different sort of feeling in that respect. Nothing,
indeed, annoyed him so much as the keen impudent stare of strangers,
full in his face, and for several seconds: for Ingram did not reflect
that he must be staring equally hard, or he would not know that other
people were staring at him. And nothing pestered him more than to
observe passengers smile and talk to their companions, as they observed
Ingram's lips move, when some thought passed through his mind earnestly;
and yet he forgot how much he had been struck with that circumstance,
above every thing, when he first walked along Cheapside, and Ludgate and
Fleet Streets, and the Strand: the very great number of people who
talked to themselves as they walked alone, and even motioned with their
hands in the most earnest manner.

Ingram had been closely observed, and the observance, on the fourth
morning, produced him an adventure. He was turning to move on, at the
end of his fourth soliloquy on the dog-and-cat spectacle, when a tall
gentlemanly person, with a cane, stepped from the house where the
tom-cat ran in, and seemed bent on walking along the street in Ingram's
company.

"A fine morning, sir," said the gentleman: "you seemed to be interested
with our fine old cat and his way of saying, 'How d'ye do?' to the old
dog, every morning."

"Yes, sir, I was," answered Ingram, somewhat pleased with the pretty
expression, as he thought it, of the gentleman, and the silvery voice in
which he spoke.

"Ay, sir, there's more kindness among dumb creatures than we think of,"
rejoined the gentleman: "much more, I'm inclined to think, than amongst
human beings."

"Do you think so, sir?" asked Ingram; for the observation awoke a vague
painfulness that he did not like, at once, to express to a stranger.

"Why, have _you_ found nothing but kindness, young man, in the world,
hitherto?" said the stranger, with a look that Ingram thought so
benevolent as to be completely melted by it. "Have you found nothing
but kindness, now, in London, permit me to ask? You are from the
country, I think?"

"Yes," answered Ingram, feeling too much at work with regret within to
say more.

"Seeking for a situation, and finding none, perhaps?" continued the
gentleman; "and--but I shall, perhaps, be obtruding where I have no
right--perhaps, beginning to feel it difficult to subsist?"

Ingram looked volumes, but could not reply: he had lived on two cups of
muddy coffee and a roll, daily, for the last month, and this was the
first and only human being who had troubled himself to ask him a
question relative to his circumstances. Ingram was next invited, very,
very kindly, to return to the stranger's house; and he could not muster
pride enough to refuse. There was one face at the window, which had been
there every one of the four mornings that Ingram had passed, although he
had not seen it; but he saw it now, and he thought it the sweetest he
had ever seen; and, indeed, it was looking very angelically just then,
when he caught the first glimpse of it. 'Twas an expression that said,
"Oh! he's come back, just as I wished!"--if Ingram could have read it.

Ingram Wilson had found a friend: not a rich one, as he speedily found,
but a human being with a heart--a _real_ heart--and Ingram could not
have found any thing more valuable had he searched the world over. After
partaking a good plain breakfast--for, although the forenoon was
advanced, the poor young fellow had not, till then, broken his
fast--Ingram composed his spirits, and, at the request of his new
friend--his first London friend--related the cause and intent of his
leaving the country. His course of suffering in London he touched upon
but slightly at first; but the gentleman gradually and winningly drew
the entire truth from him, and then proceeded, with a paternal look, to
give Ingram some little advice as to the future.

"You have only erred as hundreds have erred before you," he
said:--"hundreds! I might have said thousands; for it is not merely
through the persuasion that they shall be able to attain eminence in
literature that the young come on adventure to London. A sort of
universal romantic idea pervades the minds of most young people with
regard to the capital; and, indeed, it is the same almost all over
Europe, and, for any thing I know to the contrary, all over the world. I
am sure, however, that the feeling is equally strong, and I think
stronger in France. All young French people have an idea that Paris is
the only place wherein to attain their wishes. With the same impression,
all young people imagine, if they can only struggle up to London, they
shall make something out in the world. Alas! thousands reach this
overgrown hive, merely to starve and die in it; and they are fortunate
who can find their way back into the country without falling victims to
their own romance. Now, permit me to ask--and yet, your own account of
the little rupture of good feeling between your former patron and
yourself almost answers the question beforehand--did you bring with you
any note of introduction or recommendation to any person in London?"

Ingram answered, that the thought had presented itself before he left
the country, that a note of introduction from his patron to certain
newspaper offices might be serviceable, but pride and temporary anger
had prevented his asking the favour.

Ingram's new friend shook his head, but looked compassionately upon the
lad, and told him nothing could be done without an introduction in
London: it was what every one looked for who received an application,
and what every body must be furnished with who made one.

The youth caught eagerly at the information, and said he could yet
obtain a note of introduction--and he thought more than one--from the
country:--such notes, too, as he thought must certainly be available in
procuring him an engagement on some of the leading periodicals: or,
perhaps, an offer for an independent work; and he had several tales and
romances begun.

The gentleman smiled, but soon warned Ingram, in a serious tone, not to
depend so sanguinely on what he had not tried. "I said that nothing
could be done without an introduction," he continued; "but I did not
tell you that introductions were always successful in bringing benefits
to those who presented them."

However, Ingram's constitution did not permit him to sober down without
experience, when once an idea had seized him. The gentleman quickly
perceived it; for he had partaken of the same temperament in youth,
although he had cooled down by age and disappointment. He did not use
further dissuasion, then; but permitted Ingram to retire to his lodgings
to write the letters he began to talk about, with hope beaming so
lucidly in his face, and only pressed him cordially to sup with him in
the evening. Ingram retired, shaking hands fervently and gratefully with
the gentleman and his elderly lady, and then with the daughter--and saw
nothing, mentally, all the way to his lodgings, but the sweet face of
her whose hand he had last shaken. A thousand visions succeeded during
that day as he wrote the letters--thought again and again of the
beautiful face--took the letters to the post-office--and, in the
evening, again saw the sweet face, and talked with the sensible
gentleman, and received his kind hospitality.

The gentleman ventured to give a hint that he himself had influence
enough to help Ingram to some occasional employs a copyist at the
British Museum; but Ingram had, all along, most romantically resolved to
aim at something more dignified; and, in his present sanguine mood, in
spite of his poverty, he gave no ear to the gentleman's hint. So the
gentleman did not repeat his hint; but reserved it, for an occasion
when, he feared, it would become but too acceptable to the young man.

A week passed, and Ingram breakfasted at ten, and supped at eight, every
morning and evening of the term, with the gentleman and his wife and
daughter. The week was one of immense anxiety to Ingram when he was at
his own lodgings, or wandering in the street; but it was productive of
real pleasure, in the shape of solid information and advice from the
kind gentleman; and it gave a commencement to a mutual and avowed
attachment between the youth and the gentleman's beautiful and gentle
daughter.

At the end of a week, two letters of introduction arrived: one to the
M.P. who represented the borough in which Ingram had resided, and to
whose cause he had rendered some service in his former newspaper
capacity; the other was from a baronet, Ingram had also served in a
similar mode, to a literary man of some eminence; in fact, the M.P. was
also an eminent _littérateur_, so that Ingram's hopes grew large and
fervid. The gentleman advised moderation; but Ingram _could_ not observe
it: his constitution, as yet, was master of his reason. He was smilingly
received by the literary man; but he could not help observing that the
literary man smiled more as he read the baronet's letter, than at his,
Ingram's, application. He was begged politely to call again. He _did_
call again--and again---and again--before he found the literary man once
more "at home." The event was a recommendation to wait on a small
publisher, who had commenced a small periodical, and wanted a young man
of genius, and all that, to edit it. Ingram went to work in that
quarter:--helped to bring out four weekly numbers of the
periodical--received one sovereign for his month's labour--and then the
thing was stopped, like hundreds of similar ephemera, because "it did
not sell."

The same literary man was visited again, when this engagement failed;
but Ingram left his door in wrath, and never called again; because _he
saw_ the literary man enter his own house, while he, Ingram, was but at
a dozen yards' distance from it; and yet the servant affirmed "he was
not at home."

Ingram's better and more magnificent hopes, however, were yet
undissipated. During his month's harassing and ill-paid labour on the
unsuccessful magazine, he was awaiting an important decision: at least
he believed so. The literary M.P. had also received him with
smiles--smiles that Ingram had been inured to at election seasons; but
which, as green as he was, he always _felt_ to be assumed; for it is the
heart, not the understanding, that really judges of the genuineness of a
smile. Yet, on the occasion of Ingram's first call at the town residence
of the legislator, the smile was so prolonged, that Ingram conceived it
to be more like a _real_ smile, than the evanescent and valvular-like
changes of skin and muscle that the M.P. always seemed to have at such
delightful and momentary command while "canvassing" or "returning
thanks," in the borough he represented. And then the M.P. entered, of
his own accord, on the inquiry as to _what_ Ingram had written, and
begged he would entrust a little manuscript or two, to his, the M.P.'s,
care, and _he_ would place them in the hand of _his own_ publisher, with
_his own_ recommendation, _if_ he believed they possessed merit.

The _if_ shook Ingram a little; but he, next day, took his best
manuscript, and left it at the M.P.'s house, for _he_ was "_not_ at
home," like the other literary man, although Ingram really thought he
heard his voice, when the servant took in the name of the caller; but
the valet said, "Not at home, sir," when he returned, and so Ingram left
the manuscript, and called again next day. To make the story as short as
possible, he called fifteen times during the four weeks, but had only
one more interview with the literary M.P. during that term; and this was
the product of it: the M.P. assured Ingram that his manuscript possessed
merit, much merit; that he had left it with his own publisher; and
begged Ingram would call again in a few more days, and he would tell him
whether the publisher received it.

This seemed to Ingram Wilson a very solid foundation for most
magnificent hopes. How could a publisher refuse a manuscript which was
so highly recommended? and how could the M.P. fail, very highly, to
recommend what he himself said "possessed merit, much merit?" Such were
Ingram's questions; and he was a little shocked to see his friend, the
kind gentleman, shake his head and give a silent look, when they were
proposed in the gentleman's hearing.

Another month passed, and the dream was dissipated! Ingram was always
answered, "Not at home," when he called at the M.P.'s: his friend, the
kind gentleman, called at the publisher's, and learned, most
unequivocally, that the publisher had never had such a manuscript
presented to him, either by the M.P. or any other person: Ingram wrote to
the M.P., and received his manuscript by a messenger, for an answer; and
was only prevented from writing back to tell the M.P. he was a rascal,
by the advice, or, rather, _authority_, for it amounted to that, of his
friend, the kind gentleman.

And now, Ingram, spirit-broken and humbled with what he conceived to be
his sanguine and foundationless folly, vowed to his friend that he would
never believe promises in future, and would copy at the Museum, or "do
any thing" as a means of obtaining a mere livelihood, till he could
finish one of his works entirely, and try a publisher by his own
application, and solely on the merits of his production. The gentleman
cheered the youth, as well as he was able, but Ingram drooped from that
time.

A winter of heartache, inward grief, mortified pride, colds and coughs,
and, eventually, consumption, succeeded. And then the sweet face of his
beloved faded; and when the spring returned, it did not bring back the
roses to her cheek.

A summer of toil for little pecuniary reward succeeded that winter, and
Ingram received, at length, the appalling information from his friend,
the kind gentleman, that he had embarrassed himself by entertaining him,
for the gentleman was merely a retired half-pay naval officer. A look,
depicturing such agony as Ingram never saw before, in the face of man,
accompanied this declaration on the part of his friend, and Ingram never
felt so truly miserable, since he was born, as he felt while witnessing
it.

There was no room for hesitation: Ingram never tasted food in the kind
gentleman's house after that avowal. Yet he called every day to exchange
words of grateful friendship with the gentleman, words and looks of love
with the beautiful being that was fast journeying to the tomb. In
mid-winter she died: her delicate constitution, her sensitive fears and
griefs for Ingram's fate, combined, were too much for her endurance.

Ingram drooped, and became a dependent on charity, in an hospital for
six weeks; and then the kind gentleman and his wife followed his corpse
to the grave, which was dug beside that of their daughter--the beloved
of the unfortunate young man of genius!

Will the story prevent or check romance and adventure in others? Ah! no:
more Chattertons will perish, more Otways be choked with a crust, unless
human nature becomes unlike its former and present self; ay, and more
Shakespeares will prosper, in the ages to come, or, otherwise, the true
glory and vigour of the human mind have all gone by, and the future must
feed on its dregs!



           THE LAD WHO FELT LIKE A FISH OUT OF WATER.


Diggory Lawson was not fond of his baptismal name, and often wondered
what in the world had put it into his father's head to give him such a
one. But where was the use of grumbling, now the name was inevitably his
own?--was a sensible thought which often passed through the brain of Dig
(for his mother used to shorten the awkward name into that still more
awkward one of three letters), where was the use of grumbling about it?
His name could not mend him if Nature had marred him, nor could it mar
him if Nature had made him fit for any good and useful purpose of
existence.

With such thoughts, though but a very little lad, Diggory used to
ramble, when school was up, about pleasant Nottingham, where he was
born, and about its charming neighbourhood. His father was only a poor
lace-weaver; but an affectionate and almost overweening fondness for
their only child rendered his parents prompt to sacrifice any personal
comfort, in order to secure him a respectable portion of education. The
lad was, therefore, kept steadily at school. But his father mingled no
little of the eccentric in his constitution, as may be guessed from the
name he gave his child, for he had no "family reason" for it; and so it
happened, which was not at all the worse, that the lad was not left to
gather his knowledge simply from the dry and barren teaching of a
day-school. His father was a dabbler in the mathematics, in astronomy,
in dialling, in botany and floriculture, in history and antiquities; and
so Dig Lawson caught a tincture of each of these knowledges, at such
seasons as his father felt disposed to communicate what he knew of them.

Nor did the irregularity of communication in his father's fragmentary
hints prevent the lad's mind and its stores from taking a regular form.
That form was somewhat unique, perhaps, but a true philosopher would
have thought it symmetrical. The lad did not forget his humble
condition: he was never proud: but his thinkings were far more exalted
than those of the majority of the children who were, at times, his
playmates. The greater part of his leisure was spent in lonely
wanderings. And if any locality in England can tend to elevate the
sentiments of its young habitants, one would think it to be Nottingham.
Such was its effect, however, on the mind of young Dig Lawson: he became
a vehicle of noble, though somewhat romantic thinkings, while wandering
in the meadows by the beautiful Trent, and watching, alternately, the
ripple of the stream, or the unfolding of some beautiful flower that
grew on its border; or rambling over the wildernesses of the
Forest-ground, so classically English, and giving himself up, for the
nonce, to day-dreams of Robin Hood, till he half imagined he saw the
merry band tripping over the hill-side among the furze and stunted
trees, clad in their Lincoln green, and heard the real sound of bold
Robin's bugle; or climbing the rocks that project round the beautiful
park, and looking up at "Mortimer's Hole" in the castled cliff, and
picturing the chivalrous attack on the concealed traitor by the mailed
bands of the third Edward; or creeping among the strange-looking Druid
caves on the border of the silver Lene, and conjuring up in his
imagination the white-bearded priests crowned with oak, and bearing the
"mistletoe bough," and chanting the hymn to the sun or moon, while a
crowd of painted Britons struck up the chorus "Derry-down." Less florid
but more substantial thinkings often occupied him, when he watched the
last rays of the setting sun tint up the windows of the modern building
called "the Castle" (the unruly Radicals had not blackened it then,) and
remembered how, on its memorable rock, the fated Stuart first unfurled
the standard of war against his own people and parliament, and how
unweariedly the high-souled and incorruptible Hutchinson sustained the
harassments of petty faction so long on the same spot. These more
weighty thoughts, especially, visited him as his boyhood began to ripen
into youth. And as soon as his understanding began to mature, and he
became capable of combining the useful with the comely, in his delights
and preferences, he could derive almost as much pleasure from a walk
round the splendid area of the market-place of his native town, as from
a stroll in the park, or by the Trent. He was often told there was no
market-place like it in England; and he felt as proud of its superb
space and neat ornamental piazzas, as if he were a man, and owner of
half the buildings round it. Diggory Lawson, therefore, had not yet
become "the lad who felt like a fish out of water."

Neither did Dig at all resemble such an unfortunate animal for the three
years, that is to say, from fourteen to seventeen, that he passed at his
father's humble trade. Every leisure season was spent in literature; and
he had not only read some hundreds of volumes by the time that he had
reached the age of seventeen, but he had made some attempts at original
composition that were by no means contemptible. The lad was happy
enough, and was likely to make a happy and useful man, had "Luck"--that
spirit with so questionable a name--kept out of his father's way, and
thereby prevented the father from placing himself in Dig's way.

The brilliant but evanescent "Bobbin-net" speculation sprung up, like a
forest of mushrooms--with an immense surface of promise, but very
slender stalk for continuance--in the town of Nottingham. Diggory's
father was just the man to jump into a new scheme; and he really jumped
into the bobbin-net speculation to some purpose, apparently, for he
realised a thousand pounds' profit in twelve months. Such "luck," of
course, determined him to continue in the pursuit of money, in the same
line; but he was seized, alas! with a vehement resolution to make Dig
into a gentleman!

The large admixture of whimsicality in his father's composition,
however, left Diggory's destiny in a very nondescript condition for some
time; since his ideas of the exactest, best, and fittest way of making
his lad into the thing he thought of were none of the clearest, and most
fixed. One step, and one only, could Dig's father determine upon--and
that was--that Dig should work no more! No: he could work himself, and
could make as much money as ever Dig would want as long as he lived: but
Dig shouldn't work; and his mother said, "No, _that_ he shouldn't," when
she heard her husband say so; and so Dig was compelled, as the
neighbours said, to "drop it"--and to lay aside his every-day clothes,
and put on his Sunday ones, and to consider that, from that day forth,
he had done working with his hands--to the end of his life.

Well: for a lad of seventeen, who was so fond of books and of
sentimentalising by the Trent, and in the Park, and as far as Clifton
Grove, this was, certainly, for the first week, a glorious state of
existence. But, somehow or other, the second holyday week, in Sunday
clothes every day, was not so happy as the first; and when the third
arrived--then Diggory Lawson, for the first time in his life, became
"the lad who felt like a fish out of water." The river did not look so
beautiful and silvery, nor the flowers so lovely, nor the Park so green;
in brief, Dig was tired of all he saw, and all he read, and tired even
of himself; and he told his father and mother so outright. But la! the
mother had an answer for Dig so nicely opportune that she was in
ecstacies to tell it--for she was sure it was a piece of such excellent
"luck." Mrs. Strutabout, the lace-merchant's lady (who had a large
family of unmarried daughters), had sent so politely to say that she
would be very happy to see _young_ Mister Lawson to tea that
afternoon--and they were such respectable people! Dig's father said,
"Capital! just the thing!" when he heard it; for he felt instantaneously
sure--and indeed all his convictions ran by fits and starts--that _that_
was certainly a step towards making Dig into a gentleman. An
introduction to genteel society, to "respectable" company--what could be
finer?

Diggory himself, however, hung his head, and felt shy about it, for he
had never been "out to tea" before, in his life. But his father said,
"Pshaw! you young shame-face! you must shake all that off: remember I
intend you to be as respectable a man as any of 'em!" And the mother
reminded Diggory that he would be sure to hear some music, for the young
ladies Strutabout were thumping away on the piano from morning to night;
you might hear them any hour of the day that you went by the front-room
windows. It was the last hint that enabled Diggory to master his
bashfulness; for although he knew not a note scientifically, nor could
he play on any instrument, yet his love of music amounted to a passion.

And so, at five o'clock in the afternoon, Dig knocked, with a heart
pit-a-pat, at the front-door of the merchant Strutabout, and was
immediately welcomed in, and received, in the best room, by Mrs.
Strutabout herself, so smilingly--and by the half dozen Misses
Strutabout, so sweetly--that he hardly knew where he was with the
novelty of so much genteel welcome. One of the young ladies, so gently
and winningly, took his hat, saying, "Pray let me take your hat,
_Mister_ Lawson!"--for poor Diggory, in his plainness, had brought it
into the room, and, for the life of him did not know where to put it!
And then "the infinite deal of nothings" that the young ladies talked
for a full half hour--Mrs. Strutabout herself retiring, and saying so
politely, "She hoped Mister Lawson would excuse her a short time,"--and
poor Diggory's difficulty in framing answers about nothing! If they had
talked of anybody he knew from books, either of Socrates or Alexander,
of Cicero or Cæsar, of Wat Tyler or John of Gaunt, of Hampden or Lord
Chatham, of Marlborough or Napoleon; or of anybody that was "worth
talking about," as he said to himself; or of any thing, or place, or
substance, of which any thing could be said that was sensible, Diggory
could have talked, ay, and in good, thundering, long-syllabled words,
too, as well as any man or youth in the three kingdoms. But to take up a
full half-hour in prattling about--Lord! he could not describe it when
he returned home, it was such infantile sort of stuff as he had never
supposed mortals uttered in "respectable" or any other sort of society!
Diggory Lawson was, indeed, during that half-hour, "the lad that felt
like a fish out of water."

At length, Mrs. Strutabout sailed in with her high turban cap, and her
wide-spread swelling dress, more smilingly than ever, and the tea was
brought in, and Mr. Strutabout arrived from the counting-house, and
places began to be taken, and _Mister_ Lawson was "begged" to come to
the table, "unless he chose to take a cup where he was." Diggory stared
at the addition to the invitation. And it was well for him that Mr.
Strutabout jumped up, and began to urge him to the table, for had they
handed Dig a cup of tea with cake, as he sat in the recess by the
window, he would have been in a woeful pucker, no doubt. As it was, he
was in trouble enough. Poor Diggory! he took his tea every day in a
basin at home, and held up a book before it, devouring the contents of
the volume far more eagerly than his food; and it was a cruel piece of
ambition in his mother and father to thrust him upon "respectable"
society so unthinkingly. It may seem strange to fine drawing-room
people, but with all Dig's knowledge, and as old as he was, the silver
tea-spoon bothered him so indescribably, in the cup, that he knew not
what to do; yet he durst not put it out upon the tray, because he saw,
by peeping aside with his head down, that no one else did so. The eldest
Miss Strutabout saw this, and would have liked to show him how to place
the spoon neatly under the side of his forefinger, but then, it would be
so strange a thing to tell him at table. As for the younger misses they
were much disposed to giggle at poor Dig's awkwardness, only the mother
looked gentle daggers at them, and restrained their lightness. The good
lady strove to hide Diggory's blunders, and the merchant engaged the
youth in general talk on trade and business, so as to enable him to get
through with the appearance that he was too much taken up with the
conversation to attend to table etiquette. But for all this good service
and kindly interference, Diggory Lawson, while at Mrs. Strutabout's
tea-table, was indeed, and of a truth, "the lad who felt like a fish out
of water."

The mortal agony was at last ended; and Diggory began to hope that he
would reap some little enjoyment from his stay the remainder of the
evening, since the piano was mentioned. But, lackadaisy! the young
ladies thumped and rattled, till Dig thought it was any thing but music;
and as for their singing--so unlike the simple ditties of the milkmaids,
under the cows, which he used to listen in the early summer mornings by
the "pasture Trent," with the skylark carolling overhead--so much like
the midnight melody of some stray grimalkin was the singing of the
Misses Strutabout, that it made Dig wish himself, over and over again,
five miles out of hearing of it. He must endure it, however, since he
dare not offend the family by suddenly withdrawing, they were so
"respectable:" nay, more, he was compelled to praise, for at the end of
every overture, or solo, or duet, he was asked "how he liked that?" or
"what he thought of that?" and the poor lad was compelled to torture his
tongue into the utterance of commendations on what he began actually to
loathe, until the announcement of supper gave a momentary suspension to
his discontent. And merely momentary was his ease, for the confounded
ceremoniousness of the supper plagued him worse than the etiquette of
the tea-table; and passing over the mention of all his blushes and
throbbings, under the consciousness that he knew nothing about the
niceties of this second eating process, let us come at once to the end
of the adventure, and say that when he had fairly stepped into the
street at ten o'clock, and when, after unnumbered polite adieus, the
door of the merchant Strutabout was closed behind him, Diggory Lawson
drew in a full breath of air with a feeling of thankfulness similar to
that of one who passes out of a prison after a twelvemonth's
confinement.

Very gleefully did Dig's mother salute her boy when he came home, and
his father not less proudly; but how queer they felt, when the poor lad
told them he had "felt like a fish out of water!" And when Diggory had
given them such a brief account of his treat, as his dislike would
permit, they looked at each other, and began to think, and to remember,
that "they ought to have known that the lad would meet with fine manners
that he was unused to at home." But Dig's father told him to "cheer up,"
for he would know better how to go on another time. But Diggory,
inwardly, felt indisposed to try another time; yet he did not say so,
and so the affair passed over.

Now Diggory's mother knew no more about the right way of making the lad
into a gentleman than the father; but she began to grow greatly
distressed at observing the lad's restlessness and disquietude, for the
hours and days went over Diggory's head more heavily the longer he was
idle. So she seriously took her husband to task, as they say in
Nottinghamshire, about his delay in determining how Dig was to begin to
be a gentleman. Her discourse would have rendered the poor man very
uneasy, indeed, had not "luck" extricated him from his dilemma on the
next day succeeding the curtain lecture.

In his new manufacture, Diggory Lawson's father did business with a
Londoner: this personage made his quarterly call at the very moment when
his customer was so much intent on the great problem as to display much
concern in his face. A shrewd question was put: Dig's father told his
trouble, and the cockney gave most instantaneous advice how the thing
was to be done, as soon as he had been informed of what was so much
desired. "The young man must be had out to travel," he said; "_he_ would
procure him a 'highly respectable' situation as a genteel commercial
traveller for a house in town: _that_ was the way to set him off in the
world, and make a real gentleman of him, for he would be thrown into the
very best society!"

Such was the cockney's advice; and it was sincere, too, for the pert
little man really believed there was nothing in the world more "highly
respectable" than that morsel of vanity--himself! And then his prate was
so fluent, so glib, so high sounding, he was such a walking vocabulary
of commercial phrases, that he completely enfevered Dig's father with
the persuasion of his cleverness; and the countryman yielded to the
advice of the Londoner, believing he had been shown the very best way in
the world for beginning to make his son into a gentleman. The lad was,
it is true, willing to go, he was so weary of the insipidity of his
present idleness, and besides, he wanted to see London, and other parts
of the country, never having yet quitted his native shire; but yet his
common sense was a little suspicious, that this was _not_ exactly the
way to make him a gentleman. Still this suspicion on the part of Diggory
was no impediment in the way of a trial--for the lad did not so much
wish to be a gentleman as a man--and he thought a little knowledge of
the world would not prevent his progress towards that better climax.

"Mr. Lawson, the bobbin-net manufacturer," would have had his son
fashionably clothed ere he started for town; but the cockney turned up
his nose at the very idea. "It was a thing quite out of character," he
told Mr. Lawson: "all the country tailors' fits were reckoned only
dresses for scarecrows by the best tailors in town: it wouldn't do at
all: he was against it, most decidedly!"

Young Diggory, therefore, was impursed with a handsome sum, more than
sufficient to purchase an outfit in London; for his father well knew he
could trust to his prudence, and was despatched, per mail, to town, in
company with the all-sufficient Londoner. A week, or so, was spent, in
visiting the various public exhibitions, and seeing the sights,--a
change of neat suits was purchased (for the lad was too sensible to be
fooled into the kickshaw dandy habits which the cockney recommended),--a
situation, a "highly respectable" situation, (although but at very low
remuneration, a thing of no consequence to Diggory,) was procured by the
all-sufficient gentleman; and off started the new adventurer into Kent,
to canvass for orders for a citizen and dry-salter of London.

The merchant, his employer, had had but one interview with him, having
engaged him chiefly through a quick impression of his solid
intelligence, rather than from the cockney's florid recommendation; but
the cockney gave him a regular "drill," as it might be called in his new
profession, before he started out; and, although the tradesmen upon whom
he called perceived that he was a "new beginner," yet his good sense
prevented his experiencing any insurmountable difficulty in making his
way as a commercial traveller. In fact, Diggory had a much larger stock
of theoretical knowledge to enable him to eke out his deficiencies in
what was practical, than most young fellows who go out, for the first
time, on similar engagements; and, therefore, it was not as a
"greenhorn" among tradesmen, that he was likely to feel "like a fish out
of water:" that was not the sort of uneasiness that newly awaited
Diggory Lawson.

What was it then?--Nothing less than the old pest in a new
form:--etiquette. He had been most cogently admonished by the cockney to
take up his quarters at the very best commercial inns in his prescribed
route,--or it would let down his employer, disgust customers, and injure
his patron's business; nor had he been less earnestly warned to avoid
deporting himself in any way contrary to the rules and customs of
gentlemen he would meet with, who were "on the road" like himself, and
who had their "highly respectable" established usages. Diggory, like an
obedient son, followed his father's monitions, and strove to conduct
himself exactly as the Londoner advised and directed. At the first-rate
commercial inn in each town he stopped, hasted to canvass the tradesmen,
and punctually returned to the inn at the hour when he was told dinner
would be on the table in the "Commercial Room." Diggory, too, being a
sharp lad, as the reader knows by this time, bought a book on
"Etiquette" and all that sort of thing, while in London: but though he
imagined he would be a match for his new compeers "of the road," he
found himself sorely mistaken, in the very outset, at Maidstone.

At four, exactly, returned Diggory to his inn, having despatched
considerable business for a mere beginner, and entered the "Commercial
Room." A buzz and a general whisper went round, as he entered, and no
one returned his courteous movement (for he followed his book) when he
performed it! The company was large, well-dressed, and from the
"bang-up" appearance of the numerous leather portmanteaus under the
side-tables in the room, and the dashing whips and proud cloaks on the
hooks, Diggory was sure they were, indeed, what the cockney would call
"highly respectable" commercial gentlemen, or "gentlemen on the road."
It was strange, he thought, that they should be so uncourteous. Yet,
Diggory observed, that every new comer was received in the same way; and
so he set it down in his memory that it was the wrong time of the day
for bows of courtesy among "commercial gentlemen;"--and that was not a
bad idea, either, for so green an observer,--especially as the gentlemen
had not dined.

Dinner was brought in, and a tolerably sumptuous affair it was.
"Commercial gentlemen," even at the "first-rate commercial inns," don't
"cut it quite so fat" (for so vulgar a phrase may be allowed since it
will apply to the dinners) now-a-days, as they did then,--since we are
speaking of something more than twenty years bygone; and the last twenty
years, with their wonderful innovations of railway travelling and
increased competition, have made woeful alterations among your princely
commercial travellers: they were the innkeeper's grandees then: the case
is altered now. Diggory, with all his intellectuality and sentimentalism
and so forth, was pleased to see the goodly provisions of the table,
for he was very hungry; and he began to muster up his recollections of
"the book of etiquette."

But, behold!--a single moment threw all his calculations out of order.
He was the youngest in the room; and by the rules of the road, he must,
therefore, take the post of vice-president at the dinner! Diggory's book
said nothing about this; for it was not written expressly for
"commercial gentlemen," but for "good society" generally. Poor Dig took
the post, however, but felt in a strange perturbation as the gentleman
at his right hand intimated a wish for a little mutton, and looked at
him, "the Vice!" The chairman was already helping his end of the table
to slices of a sirloin, and so Diggory drew the piece of hot mutton near
him, and was beginning to cut, but did it so awkwardly that the
gentleman at his right-hand, who was somewhat of a gourmand, cried out,
"Oh dear, sir! not that way!" Diggory stopped,--stared,--blushed: but
the chairman, an elderly and fatherly-looking man, put on an encouraging
smile, and said, "Lengthwise, sir, if you please; not across: the other
way keeps in the gravy best." Diggory's heart cleaved to the man who
told him this so kindly and handsomely, and he thanked the chairman,
adding, in his simplicity, that he was unused to carving mutton,
especially a shoulder, he added, looking at it, and thinking it could
not be a leg.

"A shoulder!" exclaimed the gentleman on his right hand, staring like
one who was horror-struck; "why, God bless me, 'tis a saddle!"

Diggory blushed worse than before, for there was a perceptible laugh
round the table; but he made no reply, and tried to proceed with his
work of carving. Trembling as he did, there was no wonder that he
spattered the right-hand gentleman with gravy until the gentleman grew
angry. And then Diggory apologised; but the gentleman, still more
indignantly, besought him to go on, and not keep the company
waiting,--meaning himself. How glad was the lad when he had succeeded in
filling the man's plate, and silencing him! The rest whom he had to
accommodate were of less irritable natures; but no one offered to
relieve him, until each had despatched their first plate, and _then_
Diggory's appetite was gone, for he had not been able to eat a mouthful
up to that time, through the throng of his new and difficult employment.

The next course increased poor Diggory's trouble: he knew no more about
carving a fowl than conducting a ship to China; and when he had cut off
a blundering slice at a venture, and put it on the right-hand
gentleman's plate, the irritable gourmand stared ferociously in his
face, shovelled the clumsy slice off the plate into the dish, cried
aloud, "Mangling done here!" and to Diggory's consternation seized the
carving-knife and fork, to cut for himself.

And now the chairman interfered. "He trusted he should be supported by
the company, sitting there as he did: if the young gentleman was an
improficient in the duties of the table, perhaps he might be allowed to
say that they all knew what it was to be young at one time in their
lives, and he _did_ think--though he was the last man in the world to
wish to give the slightest offence--that the gentleman to the right of
the vice-president of that table had not acted so courteously as he
might have done." And then there was a pretty general "Hear, hear!" But
quickly uprose the irritable gentleman, and rejected the admonition of
the president with scorn, and thumped the table during his delivery of a
most energetic oration of half a minute, until he shook the glasses so
that they rang changes against each other.

The irritable gentleman no sooner sat down than another arose, and
another, and another, each demanding that he should apologise to the
president for his want of courtesy, and the irritable gentleman yielded
to apologise--though it was far more from eagerness to eat, than a
return of good-nature.--Diggory was "assisted" in cutting up the fowl by
one on his left, who began to be warmed with sympathy for the youth, now
the sympathiser's stomach was allayed in some small degree by sundry
hearty slices of mutton. To the drawing of the cloth Diggory experienced
no further mortification: but the past was enough, in any conscience;
and during the season in which that company of "highly respectable
gentlemen" were masticating their viands, poor Diggory, who did not eat
three mouthfuls, might most aptly be styled "the lad who felt like a
fish out of water."

And now the wine was pushed about; and whether it was the little "tiff"
which had taken place during the dinner, or whatever might be the cause,
considerable difficulty was felt, for some time, by all the company, in
attaining that sense of freedom, that warm hilariousness, which an
Englishman always looks for, over the bottle, and by the charm of which,
and not by the animal gust for the liquor, drinking usages have become
so widely established. This uneasy feeling, however, was dissipated by
degrees; and then, by the natural reaction of the human spirits, the
zest for good-fellowship grew unbounded. And yet this over-heated,
steamy sort of boon companionship manifested itself exactly as might be
expected among "highly respectable commercial gentlemen," though poor
Diggory was too ignorant of the genus to make the proper calculation.
They neither called each other by familiar names, nor sang, nor shouted,
nor huzzaed, nor laughed, till they hiccupped. Compliments, that
out-heroded Herod in their gorgeousness of dress and brilliancy of
colouring,--good-wishes,--mighty, vast, profound, coming from the
"bottom of their hearts,"--for the prosperity of each other in their
undertakings,--testimonies to each other's "respectability" (_always_
first), honour, candour, probity, (take the first catalogue of the
virtues you find, and supply all the rest,)--flowed out of the smiling,
bubbling, fountain of their wine-warmed hearts, and wreathed itself so
fantastically into the vaporous shapes of words (if that be nonsense,
take it for a specimen of their speeches),--that Diggory Lawson was
puzzled to determine whether they were more lunatic or tipsy.

Luckily, he found a little relief, both corporeally and mentally in
nibbling at the remnant of the dessert, which the whole company forgot
for wine and speechifying. Yet he had but a torturous time of it, and
was still "the lad who felt like a fish out of water."

It should scarcely be omitted, that by the natural way of ascending from
the mediocre to the sublime, so genial to the minds of "highly
respectable commercial gentlemen," the last hour of the speechifying was
entirely occupied by that grand problem,--that question of
questions,--that important and absorbing interrogation of "_the_
commercial room,"--"Is it not time to smoke?"

Now the president insisted, that eight o'clock being the established
hour for "permitting to smoke" in _that_ room, he, as president of
_that_ company, sitting there as he did, could not grant permission to
smoke, since it was but just seven. And then arose the irritable little
gentleman who talked so politely about "mangling" when Diggory spoilt
the fowl. He really felt that he _must_ claim the indulgence of the
company: but he would appeal to every gentleman in the room, and he,
most conscientiously, felt that he _could_ safely and confidently appeal
to them, and he was sure they would bear testimony that no one was more
observant than himself of the rules of _that_ room, (and then there was
a general "Hear, hear!" though Diggory, in spite of his timidity, could
not forbear saying "Hem!")--and he would feel it beneath him to infringe
on the necessary regulations for the preservation of comfort in good
society; but yet,--but yet, on the present occasion,--feeling as they
all did, that warmth of esteem, and union of sentiment and feeling,
and--(we omit a page here)--he thought the president of that company
might take it upon him to dispense with the peculiar rule relative to
smoking on _that_ occasion.

_Pro_ and _con_--the arguments were equally laborious, equally long, and
equally senseless; and the president, being one of the oldest "gentlemen
on the road," and though very bland in his nature, yet a stickler for
custom, stuck to his point to the last, and was only worsted by the
clock. Truly, Diggory Lawson, during the smoke discussion, was "the lad
who felt like a fish out of water." Much more did he resemble the said
unlucky fish when the smoking began, insomuch that he was compelled to
seize an early opportunity of retiring to bed.

Diggory Lawson completed his journey, but returned to London with a
complete mental nausea of the cockney's plan for making him into a
gentleman. Torn entirely from his beloved books, he was infinitely more
miserable than when their only companionship subjected him to weariness.
His mind hurried with anxiety, dissipated by the unintellectual nature
of his engagement, annoyed and disgusted with the manners of those he
was compelled to regard as the proper associates of his leisure, he
wrote home to his father entreating permission to return. One paragraph
will show the character of his letter:--

"Not a single thought or habit of my short life has prepared me for such
an engagement as that procured me by your friend. It was misery enough
to listen to the prattle of 'unidea'd girls,' as Dr. Johnson expressed
himself on a similar occasion; but of all the tortures in the world,
deliver me from the company of empty, conceit-blown mortals, who have
such large notions of their own importance as these 'highly respectable
commercial gentlemen.' I entreat your permission to return home, for I
am 'like a fish out of water.'"

The boon was readily granted,--for Diggory's mother, having never been
separated from her child before, had wept every day since she parted
with him. The very next month, Dig's father gave up the notion of
making him into a gentleman,--for the bobbin-net speculation waned,--and
there was an end to making an immense fortune in a twinkling. He
embarked the little capital he had gained in the more staple manufacture
of the town, took Diggory into the trade, and associating with plain,
sensible men, and cultivating knowledge in his leisure hours, Diggory
Lawson was happier every day, and was no longer "the lad who felt like a
fish out of water."



           THE INTELLECTUAL LEVER THAT LACKED A FULCRUM.


Mr. Mortimer had suddenly inherited an estate of something more than
five hundred a year, by the death of an uncle, and was persuaded by his
Whig acquaintances in the metropolis, since he had just jumped into "a
qualification," to set himself in earnest about getting into Parliament:
for a seat then, when Lord Melbourne's premiership seemed to be held by
a very frail tenure, might--his cockney friends entreated him to
remember--enable him to "_save_ the country" for, at least, another
year, from the "merciless grasp" of the Tories. So Mr. Mortimer set his
wits to work, to find out how the seat was to be gained. He hunted for
opinions wherever he went; but none "took his fancy" so much as a shrewd
hour's advice given him one day, without a fee, by a lawyer, or a person
who said he was one, and with whom he fell into conversation on board
one of the Richmond steamers.

"Start a newspaper, sir; that's your only sure card, for cheapness,"
said the earnest talking man who called himself "a solicitor:" "the
press gives a man a power that is irresistible."

Mr. Mortimer was struck with the words, and wondered that he had never,
by his own unassisted thought, alighted on so "tangibly-intelligent an
idea," as he inwardly and emphatically termed it. But the "legal
gentleman's" next words made him feel still more confident that he was
talking to a man who was worth listening to:--a solid matter-of-fact
man, and not a mere fanciful idealist:--one who surveyed his ground
before he either trod upon it himself, or recommended others to set
their feet upon it.

"And, if I were asked," the said legal gentleman continued, _without_
being asked,--"if I were asked _where_ would you start it? I should say
'Kent,' in one word. You desire to serve the present administration.
Well: there's Greenwich, and Deptford, and Woolwich: the naval and
military establishments give the government full sweep there: Chatham,
the same: Deal and Sandwich, no difference: Dover, as beforesaid:
Hythe--there Marchbanks (that's the genteel way of pronouncing his name)
can put you in if he likes, for he's a Whig: Canterbury: Lord Albert
Conyngham's going out, and a Whig's sure to be returned there. In fact,
there is but old Rochester where the Tories are sure; and Maidstone
where the Conservatives can't easily be got out. Start a paper on Whig
principles in Kent, sir; and--this is autumn of Eighteen-Forty--and, my
word to a thousand pounds! before Forty-one is out, you will be returned
for one or other of the Kentish boroughs."

Mr. Mortimer was quite decided: he declared he was. And so he buttoned
up the breast of his surtout, and put on his gloves, after pulling them
off very suddenly,--and began to walk, very energetically, about the
deck of the little packet. The "solicitor" took care to keep close to
his elbow, suggesting, and then answering, a hundred questions on hops,
and cherries, and wheat, and sanfoin, and clover, and smuggled spirits
and tobacco; and the scores of "houses to let" at the watering-places,
and the company there, and how it differed at Margate and Ramsgate, and
Dover and Gravesend, respectively; and, in short, on "all and sundry,"
the natural and manufactured productions of "Kent, the first English
county in point of rank," as the legal gentleman assured Mr. Mortimer it
was always esteemed to be.

Mr. Mortimer was quite decided: he declared he was!

"Egad! now I recollect," said the legal gentleman. "A friend of mine in
one of the streets leading into Cheapside, has, at this very time, a
large assortment of type, with a small handy machine-press, a most neat
affair, I'll assure you! in fact, every thing that would be suitable for
a commencement: they came into his hands for a bad debt, and might be
had amazingly cheap."

Mr. Mortimer looked just as eager as the solicitor wished him to look.

"And, if you like," continued the solicitor; "if you like,--but 'tis of
no consequence if you prefer new type,--only that would be most
confoundedly expensive,--but, if you like,--I have no doubt I could get
the whole lump,--I had almost said, dirt-cheap for you."

Mr. Mortimer commissioned the legal gentleman, in a twinkling, to make
the purchase; for he was decided: he declared he was. So Mr. Mortimer
gave the gentleman his card; and the "solicitor" (who swore, when he
discovered that he had "lost his card-case") gave Mr. Mortimer his
address; and as the packet was at Westminster Stairs by this time, Mr.
Mortimer got out, and bade "good day," with a grateful smile, to the
"solicitor," who remained in the boat to land at London Bridge, for the
city.

Mr. Mortimer dined very heartily, and in most speechless silence; for he
was exceedingly full of thought, and exceedingly pleased with his
good-fortune. Every thing had fallen out so exceedingly, so wonderfully
lucky. The advice of the legal gentleman was so intelligent,--so
sensible,--so deeply distinguished by common sense, which Dean Swift
(Mr. Mortimer remembered) always said was of more value than all other
kinds of sense put together. In fact, the man he (Mr. Mortimer) could
clearly see was "up to snuff," and knew all about the mysteries of
government influence, and where it lay, and what the county produced;
and--every thing! But to complete his good fortune, to put the crowning
mark upon it, this very man knew where type and a machine-press was to
be had for a mere trifle! so that he (Mr. Mortimer) had nothing to do
but to write out an advertisement for the Chronicle; and he _would_
write it out that very afternoon, and take it to the office himself; and
to-morrow morning, within three hours of the paper being published, no
doubt, half-a-score literary men would be at the door, as corrivals and
competitors for the new editorship.

Thus was Mr. Mortimer ruminating over his third glass of claret, when
the servant's announcement that Mr. ---- had called,--the very legal
gentleman whom Mr. Mortimer left at Westminster Stairs but two hours
before,--caused him to open his eyes very wide, and ask the gentleman's
name again. The gentleman was introduced, however, and, with a world of
apologies, but another world of assurances that it resulted from his
zeal to serve Mr. Mortimer, regretted that he should have intruded at
such a time; but he had bought the machine-press and the type, for he
had run upon his friend in Cheapside before he reached his own
residence, and snapped up the whole thing before any one else found it,
and it was now actually at the door!

"At the door!" cried Mr. Mortimer,--"what door?"

"My dear sir," answered the legal gentleman, with singular suavity, "I
regret exceedingly, as I have just observed, that I should have intruded
at this particular time; but I knew the highly important object,--the
national object, as I may say,--that you had fixed your mind
upon--admitted of no delay, and so I went to work _instanter_. To a
gentleman who is rather unused to these things----"

Mr. Mortimer confessed he _was_ unused to these things, and felt that he
_ought_ to feel grateful, exceedingly grateful, to the gentleman.

The gentleman begged there might be no apology.--But Mr. Mortimer really
felt he ought to apologise.--Yet the gentleman most particularly begged
there might be no apology; and--there was the little bill!--and--where
would Mr. Mortimer have the goods put, since they were in a van--the
very first thing, in the shape of a conveyance, that the gentleman could
see when he had bargained for the type and the machine-press--in a van,
at the door!

The bill was something more than one hundred pounds, and--and--Mr.
Mortimer was staggered, for he had not calculated on half the sum; but,
what could he say? It would be so disrespectful, so ungrateful, so
ungentlemanlike, to demur to the price or the purchase; so Mr. Mortimer
thanked the gentleman "most heartily:" he was under very deep
obligations to him: it was what he ought not to expect from a mere
stranger: he would retain a most grateful sense of the gentleman's
kindness. And he begged the gentleman would be seated; and would the
gentleman take claret, or did he prefer Burgundy?

The gentleman reminded Mr. Mortimer that the van was at the door, and it
was necessary to say what was to be done with the goods. He (the "legal
gentleman") had an unoccupied office just now on his hands, and it was
at Mr. Mortimer's service if----

An English thought shot across Mr. Mortimer's mind, and he rang the
bell, and summoned his landlady. "Did she know of any upholsterer, or
other tradesman in the neighbourhood, who could take care of a little
furniture that was in the van at the door?" The landlady replied that
she did, and Mr. Mortimer begged she would see it taken care of, in her
own name.

The legal gentleman looked very sharply and earnestly at his
watch,--when the landlady withdrew, and Mr. Mortimer again mentioned the
wine. He, the "legal gentleman," really could not stay at that
particular time: he had acted thus promptly in order to serve Mr.
Mortimer, for he was aware of the vast importance of promptitude in
national affairs, and Mr. Mortimer's particular business might most
emphatically be termed a national affair, when its ultimate purpose was
considered.

Mr. Mortimer could not press the gentleman under such circumstances, so
began to write out a cheque for the amount of the bill. A sudden thought
struck him, however, just as he had handed it to the gentleman.

"We must talk one point over, my dear sir," he said, "and that is,
_where_ must the paper be published? for you observed that there were
already several small papers of an insignificant character in the
county, and that they were published at different towns. Now _where_
must my new paper be published, so as best to compete with one of them?"

The legal gentleman looked as if taken aback for a moment, but speedily
answered, "Why not in London?"

"Hum!" replied Mr. Mortimer, musingly: "would not that be rather out of
character? Might not the Kentish people deny that the paper was a
Kentish paper at all, then?"

"Your plan, sir, is this," answered the solicitor, with the same air of
unanswerable decision and discernment which he wore in the
steamer;--"take a trip of observation through the whole county for
yourself: it will cost you little, if you go shrewdly to work; and you
will learn much, by the way, that will be of immense service to you, in
the great undertaking itself: that's the likeliest way to find your
fulcrum, as a clever mechanical friend of mine always says, and then
plant your intellectual lever; and may it prove successful, sir, is my
heart's best wish, in raising you speedily to the House of Commons!"

The legal gentleman rounded with a smile; but his speech needed no
gilding for Mr. Mortimer: it went to the inmost chamber of his brain,
with the speed and power of instant and undisturbable conviction; and he
shook his adviser most fervently by the hand, and regretted, again and
again, that the gentleman could not stay and spend the evening, but
hoped he would have the pleasure of his company again, when he, Mr.
Mortimer, had completed the little projected tour. The legal gentleman
assured Mr. Mortimer he would feel honoured in accepting the invitation,
and, with great politeness, withdrew.

Mr. Mortimer's Kentish tour was commenced the very next morning. He was
in the street at Greenwich, as soon as the first train could arrive
there, in its fifteen minutes' journey from the foot of London Bridge.
Mr. Mortimer could, of course, think of no step so likely to be taken
with a view to obtaining information, as calling at a respectable
business-like inn. He had made a little inquiry in the railway carriage;
and "The Mitre" and "The Greyhound" were recommended as highly
respectable resorts of company. Mr. Mortimer bent his steps towards the
Greyhound. He found the landlord to be a person of very frank and
pleasing appearance, and of very courteous manners; but it was too
early for company, so the tourist intimated that he would require dinner
at such an hour, and went out to saunter a few hours about the Hospital
and the Park. There seemed to be much that a person might be pleased
with, he thought, amidst all that he saw; but his mind was fixed on
obtaining information, and he could see no one walking in the Park, nor
about the Hospital colonnades, that was at all likely, in his judgment,
to tell him any thing about the desirableness or propriety of starting a
newspaper at Greenwich. He passed several old pensioners, while in this
discontented mood, sitting under the shade of the noble chestnut trees,
some recounting their naval adventures while turning the quid, or
smoking, and others reading. Suddenly, he observed that a veteran who
was reclining alone was reading a newspaper; and the whim seized him to
make a little inquiry in the line of his own pursuit, though he thought
it a somewhat unlikely quarter from whence to obtain the information he
was seeking.

"You are busy, I see, my friend," said Mr. Mortimer: "any particular
news, just now?"

"Why no, sir?" answered the veteran, looking through his spectacles at
the person who asked him the question: "every thing seems very dull, but
you know they always fill the newspapers up with something,--what with
things that happen and things that never did happen, and what with
things that they invent, and things that they borrow."

"Do you read the papers much?" asked Mr. Mortimer, thinking the old man
displayed shrewdness enough to deserve another question.

"Why, sir, I might read 'em more than I do, if I would," answered the
veteran; "but I don't think it worth the trouble. This is a London
paper, and I see it weekly. They publish two papers in Greenwich here,
but they're neither of 'em worth looking at, according to my thinking.
How they get supported I can't make out, for nobody thinks any thing of
'em; yet I heard a person say that there was strong talk of another
being started by some gentleman that's disposed to fool his money away.
'Tis a pity but what somebody or other would advise him different, for
it's the wildest scheme in the world, I think, to imagine that any
newspaper can prosper in a place like this, that's so near London."

Mr. Mortimer felt as if he would have dropped into the earth, and had
but just presence of mind left to bid the old pensioner "good morning,"
before he walked away to recover the blow thus given to his hopes. But
he consoled himself by reflecting that it was a "mere vulgar old man"
who had delivered this opinion,--one who was not at all likely to know
what chance there was for the success of a newspaper enterprise, into
which so many commercial and political interests and considerations must
needs be woven. It must be a matter altogether beyond the scope and
reach of a mere Greenwich pensioner. After restoring his own confidence
in some degree, the tourist returned to his inn, dined, read the papers,
and at length had the pleasure of seeing the evening company begin to
gather. But Mr. Mortimer was resolved to make longer preliminary
observation this time, ere he introduced the subject that most nearly
concerned him. He was pleased to find, by attending to the tone of
remarks, as the current subjects of Mahomet Ali, and Napier, and the
Syrian question, were being discussed, that the two great parties of
Whigs and Tories were fully represented in the room. He thought this a
fortunate circumstance for himself, since he would be less likely to
gather a biassed decision among the company, on his great newspaper
question, when he thought the time was come for his introduction of it.
And after waiting long, he _did_ introduce it, cautiously concealing, as
he thought, the fact, that he himself was desirous of commencing a
Kentish paper. But Mr. Mortimer was not the cunningest man in the world,
and more than one member of the company perceived his purpose before the
close of the conversation.

"Vy, sir, you understand,"--began a very elderly person, of a portly
figure, who seemed to be held in great respect by his companions, but
who, by his dialect, had evidently been thrown among the least
cultivated portion of the metropolitan population,--"you understand,
that's a vay o' hembarking cappitle, as it vere, vich I vouldn't
recommend, for von: for, by the same rule, you understand, another
gen'lmans a-been thinking of it, and I said the same, you understand, to
him."

But Mr. Mortimer did _not_ understand; and he therefore made no reply.

"But it depends a good deal on the particular object the individual has
in view who embarks the capital," observed a thin, keen-looking man: "if
Captain Dundas, now, were to start a paper in Greenwich, it could not
fail to answer his purpose."

"By the same rule," interjected the elderly person, "that's quite
another affair, as it vere. The Captain, you understand,--and success to
him say I, vith all my 'art!--the Captain, you understand, by the same
rule, vouldn't care about the paper paying."

"Exactly," observed the bland landlord, reconciling the apparent
difference of his guests; "so that that does not disprove your point."

"But pray, gentlemen," asked Mr. Mortimer, "may I ask what would be the
particular object of Captain Dundas, if he were to start a new paper in
your town?"

"O! Parliament, sir!--Parliament, of course!" quickly replied the thin,
keen-looking man, with a very significant shake of the head.

Mr. Mortimer's blood beat quick with a rush of thoughts; but he
resolved to be prudent, and so he said nothing; but he felt more than
ever assured of the legal gentleman's intelligence who had first
recommended his present errand, and he sank gently back, when he had
sipped largely at his brandy and water, and pulled away vehemently at
his cigar. "It is indeed the intellectual lever, as the gentleman said,"
reflected Mr. Mortimer within himself, "whereby a man may raise himself
to the House of Commons: every intelligent man thinks so: but
then--where to plant the fulcrum?"

So Mr. Mortimer rejoined the conversation, which was now in full tide
respecting the relative chances of a new Whig, and a new Tory paper; and
pressed the question very closely, whether, in the whole county of Kent,
Greenwich were the more likely place to start a new paper. To this
question there were many answers: one said it was a better place than
Woolwich, where a new paper had just started; and another compared it
with Gravesend; and others with Canterbury, and Dover; but there was a
fair majority in the room for Greenwich;--yet, what chiefly puzzled Mr.
Mortimer was the fact, that when he subjected his own doubt to the
consideration of the company, as to whether the immediate proximity of
Greenwich to London would not militate against the chances of prosperity
for a new Greenwich paper, there were equal numbers, for and against.
One circumstance particularly gratified Mr. Mortimer: the thin,
keen-looking man strenuously maintained that the contiguity of Greenwich
to London would be, and was, and must necessarily be, the strongest, the
most advantageous point of view in which the whole question to be solved
could be entered upon. The thin, keen-looking man said a great deal
more,--but, somehow or other, Mr. Mortimer understood him less, the more
he talked; and as the hour was advancing on midnight, Mr. Mortimer
withdrew, resolving to turn the whole conversation over, and make up his
mind in bed.

But Mr. Mortimer did _not_ turn the conversation over there, for he had
smoked and drank too much, in his earnestness, to keep awake one minute
when he was fairly abed. Yet he dreamt wonderful things about the
"Intellectual Lever,"--things that warmed and enraptured his fancy when
he woke the next morning;--but nothing about the "fulcrum,"--so that he
gained no help by his dreams towards making up his mind about publishing
at Greenwich. It was "all right," however, Mr. Mortimer reflected, as he
sat down to breakfast,--it was all right, that he did not make up his
mind at the outset: it was most judicious to keep himself, mentally, in
equilibrio, until he had been round the country, completed his tour of
observation, and then put the merits and advantages of each town side by
side,--so as to enable himself to draw a correct judgment.

If all Mr. Mortimer's thinkings were to be related, his story would be
a very long one. Suffice it to say, that he, forthwith, set out for
Lewisham, when he had breakfasted, and paid his bill, and bidden the
landlord good-morning. From Lewisham Mr. Mortimer strode on to Bromley;
and from Bromley, per stage-coach, he went to Sevenoaks, and the next
day to Tunbridge, and to the Wells the following day. This was the route
Mr. Mortimer had most sagaciously chalked out for himself,--he being
thoroughly bent on making the complete circuit of the county. The
"Intellectual Lever" he took care to mention whereever he went,--for he
had now fully resolved to give his projected newspaper that name,--and
he thought every one looked as pleased with it as he felt himself.
Indeed, every one was delighted during the whole of this part of Mr.
Mortimer's tour with the idea of a newspaper that was to take up the
interests of parts of the county which, they assured him, had been so
much neglected, notwithstanding they were so highly important.
Equal delight and similar assurances greeted the ears of the
projector at Cranbrook, and Tenterden, and Ashford, and Hythe, and
Folkestone,--insomuch that Mr. Mortimer began to feel more than ever
puzzled with the task of arranging, in his own mind, the astounding
claims of importance preferred by the respectable denizens of the towns
through which he passed,--ever announcing his design of planting the
"Intellectual Lever"--when he should have found a "fulcrum."

At Dover, Mr. Mortimer made a longer halt, finding a most agreeable
lodging at the Gun Hotel, and meeting, moreover, advisers of a
determined character for "planting the Intellectual Lever" there: it was
the key of England, these counsellors assured Mr. Mortimer: it was,
really, the only natural "fulcrum" for the lever, seeing that it
received the first continental news: it was, anciently, of so much
importance; it was about to become of so much importance, by the
formation of a grand new harbour, and by its new railway connection with
London; and, above all, it sent two members to parliament. Mr. Mortimer
was troubled, for the Dover counsellors assured him _they_ would have
nothing to do with a Greenwich paper: Greenwich was nothing to them; and
as for the other towns through which the projector had passed, they only
laughed to hear them mentioned.

"It must be Dover," thought Mr. Mortimer;--yet he had resolved to act
prudently, and so he did not positively say so; but bidding his earnest
advisers a very earnest farewell, mounted a daily conveyance for Deal
and Walmer. There, he was assured by all with whom he conversed, that
the "Intellectual Lever" must be published at Dover,--and then--and
then--it could not fail to secure the _entire_ patronage of Deal and
Walmer! Mr. Mortimer thought the Deal and Walmer people talked somewhat
inflatedly anent their straggling sea-side villages,--for so he was
inclined to call them: but then, he reflected again, that they shared
with Sandwich in returning two members to Parliament. To Sandwich he
went, next day; but--what was the importance of any town he had visited
compared with Sandwich--in the eyes of its little population? Mr.
Mortimer was perplexed--greatly perplexed--for the little old town
looked, to him, so very unimportant, and the claims of its inhabitants
to political consideration were so lofty! Dover? yes, they thought Dover
might do,--or Canterbury; but the "lever" must be planted in _their_
neighbourhood. In fact, Mr. Mortimer perceived, clearly enough, that the
Sandwichers would have liked to tell him, plainly, that Sandwich was the
proper "fulcrum" for the "Intellectual Lever," but very shame withheld
them.

The next day, the traveller went on in the same kind of daily
conveyance--half-cab, half-cart--to Ramsgate. The journeying was very
pleasant, in the neighbourhood of the sea, and the company very
cheerful; but they were not of a character to understand much about
levers and fulcrums,--so Mr. Mortimer said nothing about either, but
listened rather than conversed.

Mr. Mortimer had been perplexed before,--but what could describe his
perplexity, when he had spent a day each in Ramsgate and Margate? He was
lectured rather than told,--by every company he joined,--on the
absolute, the imperative necessity of regarding "the Isle of Thanet" in
its proper light: every body was neglecting it: no one attended to it:
their interests were vanishing: property was becoming of no value: any
petty village in Kent could have its puffs and its praises, while their
towns--the two most respectable watering-places in all England--were
forgotten! Dover?--nonsense!--Canterbury was the place--if the gentleman
did not like to venture on taking the Isle of Thanet for a fulcrum. But
the gentleman must remain another day, and attend the grand "annual
dinner of the Isle of Thanet," at the "Ranelagh Gardens;"--a delightful
spot, Mr. Mortimer was assured it was: the gentleman would then be able
to draw some more accurate conclusion as to the real importance of their
distinct part of Kent. So Mr. Mortimer staid, and attended the dinner,
and was much pleased, for a time. A London editor of a newspaper was
there, it is true; and drew a little more attention than Mr. Mortimer
was pleased to see; but then, the editor belonged to a daily paper, and
Mr. Mortimer consoled himself with the belief that that would not stand
in the way of his weekly "lever," when he had found the fulcrum, and
planted it. But, alack! poor Mr. Mortimer--how did he feel during the
last three hours of the feast;--for it was a protracted midnight affair,
according to custom, elsewhere, in similar "annual" meetings;--how did
poor Mr. Mortimer feel when, after all the usual "loyal toasts" had been
drunk,--and the grand toast of the evening, the "prosperity" toast, came
on,--an ambitious Ramsgate-man dared to put the name of _his_ town
before the name of Margate! Thunder and lightning! Etna and
Vesuvius!--Was there ever any thing comparable to the rage that
followed, and the denunciation, and the eloquent invective, so far
transcending Chatham and Grattan and Brougham, and all the wielders of
scathing sarcasm that ever breathed! Ten?--no! nor twenty pages--would
not hold the speeches:--so 'tis to no purpose making more words about
it: Mr. Mortimer was--to use a very expressive slang phrase or two--Mr.
Mortimer was completely _flummaxed_ and _flabbergasted_; or, as Jonathan
would say--he was "struck all of a heap!" Mr. Mortimer's head reeled,
and he said nothing,--no! not a word, as they crammed him into a
carriage with half-a-dozen more, at midnight, to go back to Margate;
though the reason might, partly, be, that he had tippled two bottles of
sherry, and was asleep: but, suffice it to say, that, the next morning,
Mr. Mortimer left Margate for Canterbury, more than ever puzzled with
the immense problem of the "relative importance" of towns in Kent,--more
than ever in a quandary as to where the true and indisputable "fulcrum"
existed for "planting the intellectual lever."

Canterbury,--ah! Canterbury was a city he had often longed to see,
and he had, more than once, half made up his mind to visit it, for
mere curiosity. But, _now_, when his brains were in such a whirl
with thinking about the lever, and finding such alarming difficulty
in discovering the fulcrum--why he forgot Becket, and the Black
Prince, and St. Augustine, and deferred all historical inquiries
and all sight-seeing, and asked about nought but newspapers.
"Newspapers, sir!"--exclaimed the landlord of the inn at which he
alighted,--"newspapers!--why, Lord love ye! we have _four_ published
here in Canterbury, already!"

Mr. Mortimer stared more than ever he had stared in his life. "Four!" he
echoed; "four! What sort o' papers are they, pray?"

"Sort o' papers, sir!" answered the landlord, "why very capital papers:
three of 'em at least,--them as is heddited by Mr. Mudford, a werry
clever man, sir."

"Mudford!--what--Mudford that used to edit the Courier?"

"The werry same gen'lman, sir," answered the cockney landlord.

Mr. Mortimer turned pale. "And the other paper?" he said, by way of
question.

"Oh! that, sir, is a low radical affair--"The Kent Herald;"--but I don't
belong to that party, though they're werry strong here; and the paper
sells well, they say."

Mr. Mortimer sat down, and tried to think. He sipped a pint of sherry,
and munched a couple of biscuits, and he _did_ think; for the result
was, that he took coach in another hour, and set off for Chatham and
Rochester.

And now, Mr. Mortimer, singularly enough, rose from zero to fever heat,
in his hopes and resolves about the fulcrum and the intellectual lever.
"The four towns," as the Chatham people told him,--Strood, Rochester,
Chatham, and Brompton, united as they were, lying around the basin of
the Medway, filled with trading enterprise, blending so many great
interests,--the dockyard, the soldiers' barracks, the hulks, the
Dissenters, so all-powerful in Chatham, the Jew brokers, the cigar
smugglers (or makers rather), the corporation of Rochester and its two
members, and Chatham and its one member of Parliament, the cathedral,
and the castle in ruins,--were all thrown upon Mr. Mortimer in such
clustered phrases of inviting importance, that he completely lost his
"rules of prudence," and proclaimed in a tone very like a shout, and
very like Archimedes, only he didn't speak Greek,--"I have found it!"
Yes: Mr. Mortimer declared he had found it; found the fulcrum for the
lever, and the new newspaper _should_ be published at Chatham: the forty
thousand inhabitants of the four towns, he said, were surely able to
support a paper themselves. He was decided, he declared he was.

Mr. Mortimer's resolution was confirmed beyond the possibility of
change, he felt assured, by a little voyage in the steamer to Sheerness.
Chatham was "just the place," the Sheerness people assured him, for the
publication of a paper, and _they_ would support it; in fact, it would
have the support of "the _whole_ Isle of Sheppy!" Mr. Mortimer was
exhilarated,--nay, he was exultant; and, although he had determined only
to stay an hour in Sheerness, and then get on board a steamer for
returning up the Thames, he was so pleased that he remained all day, and
drank as hard, in his earnestness, as he had at the "Ranelagh Gardens"
in the Isle of Thanet.

Mr. Mortimer had but _one_ call now to make, in order to complete the
line of Kentish survey,--circle, rather, which he had so sagaciously
laid down for himself; and he, accordingly, got out at Gravesend, the
next morning, as he was proceeding in the packet on the Thames. Not that
Mr. Mortimer thought Gravesend of great importance, but it might be as
well, he said within himself, to call there. Unfortunate Mr. Mortimer!
what did he know of the "relative importance" of the towns of Kent?
Landlords, company, shopkeepers, loungers of all grades, in fact, every
body, insisted that Gravesend was the _only_ place in Kent where a paper
could possibly prosper! People little thought of the real worth of
Gravesend. "But you have no member of parliament," said poor Mr.
Mortimer, feeling all his old tribulation returning. What then? it was
answered: they had a corporation, and two piers, and two packet
companies, with eternal war between the piers and the companies,--war
that shook the whole bank of the Thames, and was even perceived to have
caused sundry vibrations in London bridge itself, where "the companies'"
packets landed their passengers. Besides, they had had a paper in
Gravesend once,--"The Journal,"--and _it_ prospered; but no sooner was
it removed to Greenwich than it became worthless. _That_ ought to be a
convincing proof to Mr. Mortimer that Gravesend was the proper, the
_only_ fulcrum for his intellectual lever. Above all,--Gravesend was now
become "London in parvo,"--a fine, well-fed and well-dressed gentleman
observed: genteel people,--he meant prosperous merchants,--removed their
families thither for the entire summer season, and just took the run
with the steamers to London and back, morning and evening, to transact
business: the metropolis possessed its finest suburb in the rising and
extending and rapidly-improving town of Gravesend!--and the company
cheered the gentleman's speech most enthusiastically,--and, poor Mr.
Mortimer! he was, more than ever, confounded, puzzled, bothered,
perplexed, flummaxed, and flabbergasted! He could not return to London
that day: that was as clear as the sun at noon,--although the "fulcrum"
question was become so disastrously dim, since he left Chatham and
Sheerness. Nay, Mr. Mortimer staid at Gravesend even the whole of the
following day; and the more people he saw--(and he saw no end of new
faces,--in fact, they appeared to him, in his puzzled condition, to
spring out of the earth--though the fact was they came in fresh shoals
by the packet every morning, noon, and night, from town,)--the more
people he saw, the more he was told that Gravesend was the place wherein
he ought to publish "The Intellectual Lever:" that _there_ he could lift
all Kent, and get himself returned,--the conclusion, he thought, ought
to be,--for any Kentish borough _he chose_ to represent!

"Well," said Mr. Mortimer to himself, as he was dressing on the fourth
morning of his stay in Gravesend: "it _is_ strange--certainly."

Mr. Mortimer would have said more to himself,--but he just then happened
to be glancing down into the street, as he was tying his neckerchief,
and seeing an omnibus going by,--one of the regular and frequent
conveyances from Gravesend to Chatham,--that run the eight miles with
passengers,--he read upon one of its sides--"Meets conveyances to
MAIDSTONE."

"Why, what in the world has possessed me, all this time?" exclaimed Mr.
Mortimer, aloud, although he was alone,--"what in the world has
possessed me, that I have been going round Kent, and calling at every
little hole without thinking of Maidstone,--the county town, where the
assizes are held,--in the very core and centre of the shire?"

There was no one to answer Mr. Mortimer,--but he was down stairs in
another minute,--besought the landlord to stop the omnibus,--paid his
bill,--and set off, breakfastless, for Maidstone, by way of Chatham. Mr.
Mortimer was resolved he would have his own unbiassed judgment this
time, and so called on no one at Chatham or Rochester.

Maidstone--finished Mr. Mortimer! A _new_ newspaper for Kent?--why,
every one assured him it was of all schemes the most foolish. The
"Maidstone Gazette," on the Whig side, was edited by Mr. Whiting, a
gentleman of real talent, swarmed with advertisements, and had a good
circulation: the "Maidstone Journal," on the Conservative side, was
rising into favour and patronage, with its own party: these were the two
_real_ representatives of Kent: there was no room for another paper:
fools might speculate, in any corner, to please knaves, and throw their
money away: there was no full growth of radicalism, as in the
manufacturing districts: London was so near at hand that its daily
papers and literary periodicals supplied every want:--in short, every
man of any pretensions to common sense assured Mr. Mortimer, if he
desired to throw away his fortune, his projected "lever" was the very
instrument to enable him to throw it away effectually,--if he chose Kent
for the "fulcrum!"

Mr. Mortimer returned to London an altered man. He believed he had been
"humbugged;" and so it proved. He tried to find "the solicitor," but no
such person was to be found at the house he had pencilled down on his
tablets. "Ah!" thought Mr. Mortimer, as he returned towards the West
end,--"how lucky it was that I bethought me not to let the fellow place
the types and the press in his 'office,' as he called it!" Mr. Mortimer
resolved to sell the materials, get back his hundred pounds, and give up
the scheme. He sent for an appraiser. The press was only fit to burn,
and the types had to be sold for old metal!!--

Mr. Mortimer is _not_ in parliament yet.



                    NICHOLAS NIXON, "GENTLEMAN,"
        WHO COULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHY, BUT WHO KNEW "IT WAS SO."


Dullness was well nigh at the meridian of her reign in old Lincoln.
In the solemn "precincts" of the cathedral the humble bees seemed
almost afraid to disturb the solitude by a hum; and venerable maiden
ladies had no vicissitude of existence, save an occasional scold at
their servants, or a grumbling complaint of "short measure" to the
coalman as he made his weekly call. And, indeed, the rest of the city
was most autumnally tame and uninteresting. The fashionables were at the
watering-places,--the throng of the working population was in the
fields,--and while one tradesman complained, with a yawn, to his
neighbour, that there was "nothing doing, and no money stirring," the
other invariably rejoined, "No, nor won't be, till after harvest!"--and
then imitated his neighbour in stretching his mouth from ear to ear.

In fact, the only interesting people you met were those who endeavoured
to keep you awake by collecting and pouring out several dull,
disagreeable, or doleful subjects in a breath; such as the relation of
the robbery of such a tradesman's shop at noon-day,--the thieves having
taken advantage of the extreme dullness of the time to effect their
villainous scheme;--or, the accident of the poor-fellow, the
bricklayer's assistant, falling from the top of his ladder, with the hod
on his head, and being taken up to the hospital;--coupled with the
"remarkable fact" that he was the second husband of a poor woman whose
first fell from a pear-tree, and was killed, leaving her with a large
family;--with an additional half-score of disasters, if your nerves or
inclination would permit you to stay and learn the sum-total of the
catalogue.

Nicholas Nixon, "gentleman," had dwelt threescore years in the venerable
city; that is to say, the whole of his life, and had kept decent state
as a householder among the genteel people of the Minster-yard, for at
least half of the term. Living "retired," on a yearly income, and
passing each successive day of his existence in an almost unvaried
routine of eating, washing, dressing, walking, and sleeping, one would
have thought that all seasons of the year would have become equally
agreeable or indifferent to him. But Mr. Nixon was too true a
Minster-yard cit either to feel or to affect indifference in a matter
that, he knew, drew forth so much dull comment among his
fellow-citizens, as did the dullness of the autumn season.

"Really, Mr. Subdean," said he to that cathedral dignitary, as he
overtook him, by the County Hospital, at the top of the "Steep Hill," in
the forenoon of one of these drowsy days, "I think our autumns grow
duller and duller every year: I'm sure you must feel it to be a bore
that you are in residence this latter end."

"I feel it to be a little dull to be among you, at this time of the
year, Mr. Nixon," replied the subdean, "but still it is an agreeable
change."

"I am glad you can think so, sir," rejoined Gentleman Nixon;--for that
was the mode by which he was usually distinguished from the several
tradesmen Nixons who inhabited the city,--"I am glad you can bring
yourself to think so: for my own part, I feel it to be very dull, very
dull, indeed!--Are you for a walk to the Bar, sir?"

"I am, Mr. Nixon: shall I have the pleasure of your company?" was the
rejoinder of the courteous and kind-natured clergyman.

"I shall be most happy, Mr. Subdean: I feel very highly honoured, sir:
I----"

"And what is the best news, stirring, Mr. Nixon?" asked the subdean,
desirous of cutting short the retired gentleman's flourish of
politeness.

"Well, sir," answered Mr. Nicholas, very quickly, "I think the best news
is that the poor freemen have had the spirit to stop this mushroom
scheme of the town council to turn the West Common into a botanical
garden. They are a mischievous set, these Below-hill Whig-radicals,
depend upon it, Mr. Subdean: we shall have need to look sharp after
'em."

The churchman was full well acquainted with Gentleman Nixon's
undeviating adherence to the "Pink" partisanship,--that is to say,
Sibthorpian, or "House-of-Canwick" side of politics, which was most
prevalent "Above-hill"--the division of old Lincoln comprising the
habitations situate around the ancient castle and magnificent cathedral,
and beyond which the Roman city did not extend. The subdean, I say, knew
well that Mr. Nixon was among the most unchanging of the well-nigh
changeless denizens in this elevated region: he knew that Mr. Nicholas
professed the highest, the most exclusive toryism; and therefore he
showed no signs of surprise at the uncharitable manner in which Mr.
Nicholas chose to express himself upon the question of the political
morality displayed by the citizens dwelling in the lower region; and yet
the clergyman, by one gentle word, excited great surprise in Mr.
Nicholas Nixon.

"I really don't think the new corporation are intentionally
mischievous," said he; "I have no doubt they mean well: 'tis reckoned to
be an age of improvements, you know, Mr. Nixon, and they must be in the
fashion."

"'Pon my honour, sir, I don't understand the rule by which you
distinguish between mischievous deeds and intentions," sharply observed
Mr. Nicholas: "I always think that when a number of men deliberately
attempt mischief they mean it."

"I think their scheme would have been less objectionable had they
proposed that each of the poor freemen should have cultivated a little
plot of garden ground for himself on the common," observed the
churchman, by way of parrying the citizen's strong remark.

"But the law would not permit that, in my opinion, any more than the
other," said the retired gentleman: "besides, the fact is just this,
sir: once permit these reforming gentry to begin their schemes of
improvement, and one acre after another would disappear from the
corporate tenure of the freemen,--until, the property becoming
individual, it would quickly be bought for a dog's price, by one or
other of these liberals who have longer purses and more knavish heads
than the rest of their neighbours."

"I hope none of the new corporation are such men as you are speaking
of," said the subdean: "you know, Mr. Nixon, I neither go along with
them nor their party; but I do not like to be uncharitable."

"Uncharitable! nonsense, sir!" exclaimed the exclusive cit, forgetting
his courtesy, through bigoted partisanship: "I do not hold these fellows
to be at all deserving of a charitable opinion, for I believe them
capable of any wickedness. Why, sir, as Mr. Christopher shrewdly
observed on the hustings in the castle-yard at the last county contest,
while he pointed to the venerable Minster, 'These fellows would turn
that sacred and time-hallowed building into a cotton-mill to-morrow if
they had the power.' I believe he hit the mark there, sir, for he made
the liberals very sore, I assure you," and Mr. Nicholas Nixon chuckled
with a vindictive pleasure as he ended.

"If I did not excuse Mr. Christopher from a knowledge of the rash
speeches which excitement and opposition impel country gentlemen to
deliver on the hustings," rejoined the clergyman, looking somewhat
grave, "I could not hesitate to censure him for making so offensive a
remark. I do not see any good to be done by this fierce spirit of
quarrel--but much evil."

"Pardon me, Mr. Subdean," persisted Gentleman Nixon, "but I really must
say that I think if all of us were as tamely disposed as yourself, the
church would soon tumble over your ears."

"I think nothing can tend to build it up so securely, Mr. Nixon,"
returned the dignitary, with a smile, "as showing the world that we, as
ministers of the church, are the truest friends of mankind,--the
readiest and most cheerful toilers for human happiness. You know I never
like to talk politics, in any shape; I would much rather hear you and
other gentlemen propose some plan for making the poor more comfortable
in their circumstances,--or join you in any little scheme for amusing
them. Do you attend the concerts of these young working-men in St.
Peter's church, Mr. Nixon?"

"Sir, I take the liberty to tell you plainly," persevered the heated
"Pink" partisan, "that the easy good-nature of such kind-hearted people
as yourself, and the indolence of our most respectable citizens
Above-hill, go far to make it nearly impossible, already, to recover any
degree of influence in city affairs. We are almost a lost party: the
Blues have it all their own way,--and although you must be aware they
are bent on ruining the poor entirely, under the mask of helping them,
yet you will not lend a hand to oppose them----"

"But am I not telling you, my dear sir," interrupted the subdean, "that
I think all the quarrels in the world can never convince mankind--the
poor as well as the rest--that the quarrellers are the friends of
mankind? If the Blue party be so bitterly bent on ruining the poor, as
you say they are--let us carry relief into the houses of the poor always
in the spirit of benevolence, and never as an act to oppose a party. If
we look at the very persons we have to relieve, I think we may learn to
do this,--for indeed, Mr. Nixon, there is no denying but that the poor
are much more skilful in discerning the motives of those who visit them
with charitable professions, than they were some years ago."

"Why, sir, what with Methodist cant on the one hand, and demagoguism on
the other, the poor are spoilt," replied Mr. Nicholas, in the same tart
spirit: "they have the impudence, now-a-days, to pry into the conduct of
all ranks and conditions: your cloth does not screen you from their
envious inquisitiveness; and they make all kinds of offensive and
sneering remarks on respectable people. And then, their pride! Why now,
Mr. Subdean, here we are, nearly at St. Botolph's bar, and not a single
poor man has paid you a mark of respect, all the way we have walked!
Take my word for it, sir,--forty years ago if I had been honoured to
walk down the street with a cathedral dignitary, I should have seen
every poor man that we met touch his hat to him! I ask you, sir, what is
to come of such a state of things?" concluded Mr. Nicholas, in a very
earnest and emphatic tone.

The churchman fairly burst into laughter; and had it been any other than
a Minster grandee, Gentleman Nixon would have been highly irritated by
his mirth. As it was, he began to suspect himself of folly, for having
carried his opposition to such an extremity in a merely friendly
dialogue.

"Come now, Mr. Nixon," resumed the subdean, in a tone of pleasant
expostulation, "does not this very circumstance, of the striking change
in manners that you have alluded to, convince you that the hostile
course is unwise? Do you expect, now, that the poor can be brought to
observe the same outwardly submissive courtesies that their fathers
practised when you and I were young?"

"Well, I must confess, I do not," tardily--but perforce of
conviction--Mr. Nicholas made answer.

"It would be foolish to expect it, Mr. Nixon," continued the clergyman;
"and as they will continue to keep the course they have commenced
outwardly, so will they grow in the habit of scrutinising the conduct of
those above them. I think the time is nearly at hand when neither Blues
nor Pinks, nor any other shade of political party, will be able to raise
excitements by attempting to persuade the poor, that these are designing
to cheat them, while those are their disinterested and sympathising
friends. The times are changed, for the English people are changed: we
cannot deny it, since we have here a proof of it, Mr. Nixon."

"That we have, too truly, Mr. Subdean!" echoed Mr. Nicholas, and sighed
very dolorously.

"Nay, I do not think there is any cause for regret, in all this,"
observed his cheerful and more enlightened acquaintance; "whatever
severe causes may have operated to produce it, no philanthropist can
regret that there is discernible the commencement of a spirit of
self-respect on the part of the poor. We are all equal in the sight of
our Maker, you know, my friend; and for my part I assure you, I do not
desire that the old usages of servility should be resumed, and the great
first law of human brotherhood be again lost sight of--for, I suspect,
that was too often the fact while the brother in superfine cloth
received such frequent obeisance from the brother in ragged linen."

"I must again say you surprise me greatly, sir," observed Gentleman
Nixon, beginning again to recover his belligerent humour.

"But _do not_ be surprised, Mr. Nixon," answered the churchman,
instantly and persuasively: "the world has changed, though you remain an
honest Tory, and----"

"And you have become a Whig, sir, I fear," observed Mr. Nicholas, while
his face and throat began to assume the hue of a distempered
turkey-cock.

"No, Mr. Nixon, a Conservative, if you please."

"All the same," said the retired gentleman, but with a subsidence of his
mettle; "scarcely any thing but a distinction without a difference."

"To speak the broad truth," resumed the clergyman, "there are but very
few now, who boast themselves,--as you do, Mr. Nixon, most honestly,--to
be Tories. Nor are you very far from right in your belief of the
resemblance of some other parties,--for the old Whig and the modern
Conservative are nearly akin. The modern Whig would also have been a
Radical some few years ago, while the hotter advocates for change have
also considerably enlarged their demands."

"And do you pretend to tell me, Mr. Subdean," asked Mr. Nicholas, very
impatiently, "that you and others are any other than madmen to yield to
this jacobinical spirit of change?--I say jacobinical--the plain word
that my father used, and that I believe to be the best word."

"But I do _not_ believe it to be the best word, my dear sir," repeated
the subdean, and took the hand of the retired gentleman with a
smile,--seeing they were about to separate; "I believe we should be
madmen indeed if we did not yield wisely to this spirit of change. You
will never find me among the advocates of rash and hasty changes, Mr.
Nixon; but I repeat--change has begun,--and if we do not yield to it
wisely, it will speedily proceed more rashly and hastily than any of us
would wish to see. All parties are amalgamating, for they are blending
names; and all ranks are converging to a common point, where rank will
be forgotten. Forty years ago you could not have imagined that a
cathedral dignitary would have walked from the 'Chequer Gate to St.
Botolph's Bar, and not one of the hundreds of poor men he met ever touch
their hat to him;--and yet you have walked with me every inch of the way
this morning, and seen every poor man pass by without showing the
subdean any more respect than he shows to one of his ragged
neighbours:--you have seen this, Mr. Nixon, and you cannot deny that _it
was so_. Good morning, sir!"

"Good morning, sir!" echoed Mr. Nicholas Nixon, though it was somewhat
vacantly. And thrice he turned to look after the clergyman when they had
separated,--stunned and confounded as he felt at what the dignitary had
said; and then wondered how it could be! But the more Mr. Nicholas
wondered, the less he could comprehend what he wondered at. He knew that
he himself was what he was thirty years ago,--the same old-fashioned
Tory, who, even then, lived each day alike, in the same house in the
Minster-yard; but as for the subdean and many others, though he
perceived they had changed, he could not comprehend why:--all that he
could comprehend was,--that _it was so_.



                       SIGNS OF THE TIMES;

                               OR,
                   ONE PARSON AND TWO CLERKS.


It was at the very time,--for History is notoriously fond of
synchronisms for her greatest events,--witness Mycale and Platæa, fought
and won on the self-same day,--it was at the very time that Papineau and
the Canadian rebels took up swords and guns to resist Sir John Colborne
and the English troops,--that the old women of Stow, in the parts of
Lindsey, took up eggs to pelt the parish parson!

All the world knows, or if it doth not know it has profited but little
by the industry of antiquarians, that Stow, in the division of Lindsey,
and eight miles north-and-by-west of Lincoln, was an ancient Roman
station, under the euphonic appellation of _Sidnacester_; that under
that name it was the seat of a Saxon bishopric; that although Remigius
de Feschamp, one of the Norman tyrant's fighting churchmen, transferred
the seat of the diocese to Lincoln, yet when the stately cathedral which
he founded was finished, while they placed his episcopal effigy on one
of the grand pinnacles of the imposing west front, they fixed the
grotesque image of "the Swineherd of Stow" (holding in his hand the horn
which he gave filled with silver pennies, towards building the Minster,)
on the other; that the episcopal palace of Stow was the favourite
residence of the bishops of Lincoln down to the close of the fourteenth
century, and that Stow still gives title to an archdeacon; lastly, that
its venerable-looking church, dedicated to the blessed Virgin,
constructed in the form of the Holy Rood, and adorned with a west door
of decayed Gothic grandeur, is, to this day, called "the Mother of
Lincoln Minster."

Now such being the distinctions of Stow itself, of course the "Perpetual
Curate" of Stow, on receiving the awful impressment of episcopal hands,
and the mysterious investiture of canonical habits, together with the
comfortable appointment of the patron to the vacant curacy, entered on
the discharge of his spiritual functions with strong notions of the
altitude of his office, and of the plenary powers attached thereto. The
ideas of the governed, however, in these days, somehow or other, don't
happen to preserve an equal altitude, respecting office, with those of
the governors; and the new Perpetual Curate of Stow, the successor to
the once vice-regal priests of Sidnacester, was stricken with ghostly
astonishment at finding that sundry rustics of his parish cared not a
bodle for his new authority; that they snapped their fingers at his
counsel and reproofs; and, setting at nought his college learning,
preferred lending their ears to the unlearned Wesleyan local
preachers,--a race of heretics who are so vulgar and unfashionable as to
follow the example of Paul, and other vulgar workers of old, who earned
their bread with the labour of their own hands, and yet, occasionally,
ministered in word and doctrine. In the very nature of things this was
unsavoury to a clergyman,--especially to a young one,--but more
especially to one who actually stood in the shoes, speaking spiritually,
of the princely and potential bishops of Sidnacester: it was not for
him, above all established teachers in the shire, to endure such
contemptuous preferences, and by that endurance permit heresy to bud and
blossom unchecked.

Now, a neighbouring reverend brother of his, the fox-hunting shepherd of
Willingham, was also very grievously pestered with these energetic
heretics,--and he had resorted to the ancient evangelical custom of
thundering forth anathemas against them from his pulpit: but that only
seemed to render the pestiferous teachers more successful,--so the
Perpetual Curate of Stow resolved to exert the whole power of his wit in
discovering some effectual way of doing, what his zealous and pious
brother of Willingham could not do,--driving out heresy, and subduing
the rebellious spirit of his flock. So to work the Perpetual Curate went
with his wit, and a profound mine he wrought: such a mine as would, no
doubt, have blown up heresy for ever in his parish, had he ever been
able to put the match to it: so profound, that, since his scheme was
frustrated, no one has ever been able to fathom it, and, therefore,
_nobody_ can tell _anybody_ what it really was. But how was it that a
scheme so profound, so workmanlike, so masterly, did not succeed? Alas!
how often in this frail humanity of ours do the most exalted enterprises
fail, yea, often by the unexpected resistance of the very instruments on
which we think we can most unerringly and safely depend! And thus it was
with the great Perpetual Curate: he was most magnanimously bent on
subduing revolt and heresy, when, lo! even Sir Amen, his clerk, lifted
up his heel against him!

Now this was a notable event of a very auspicious character for the
revolters. Clerk William Middleton was no ordinary clerk. Gervase
Middleton, his father, had been clerk before him. Clerk William
Middleton had, therefore, an important hereditary stamp upon him. And
then, he was a _schollard_, as the old women called it, and was so
gentle, that he was never known to hurt a worm; so moral, that he was
never seen drunk in his life; so religious, that he never used a
stronger oath than "Marry good faith!" and "By'r Lady!" (old oaths of
popish times that are not yet lost in old Lincolnshire); and so upright,
that he would not deny his conscience, even for the parson! This was no
ordinary auxiliary on the side of the enemy; and there was no wonder
that it put the Perpetual Curate, for a while, to his wit's end, to hear
the reports which were brought to him by one Spurr (who was spurred on
by his own inward aims to reach Sir Amen's office), of the stout and
unflinching and open assertions made in the streets of Stow, by Clerk
William Middleton, that the Methodists had as much right to preach as
the parson! It was heresy he did not expect from such a quarter; but he
was resolved he would be even with this member of the revolt, however;
so he played a master-stroke so suddenly, that it shook the whole parish
like an earthquake: he actually _un_-clerked Clerk William Middleton,
the son of Clerk Gervase, the old, learned, hereditary, gentle, moral,
upright, pious, and religious parish-clerk!!!

This was a most unprecedented and most unexpected event; and it gave
rise, as may be guessed it would, to a mighty concatenation of
stupendous occurrences. The spirit of the Perpetual Curate was roused,
and his genius, too, as was proved by his statesmanlike blow at the
ring-leader of the rustic confederacy; and the spirit of the
parishioners was roused likewise, for they were determined that,
although the parson might appoint a new clerk, they would stick by the
old one. The ensuing Sunday, accordingly, brought forth the strange
anomaly of _one_ parson with _two_ clerks, reading the church service in
the ancient aisle of Stow! Moreover, when the _chosen_ of the Perpetual
Curate was beheld to be the egregious tale-bearer and notorious
sycophant, Spurr, who was no adept at the letters of his prayer-book,
the churchwarden and parishioners were alike wroth, and resolved, still
more resolutely, on abiding by their old respected utterer of amens,
Clerk William Middleton, the son of Clerk Gervase. Thus it fell out that
Clerk Spurr,--we know not, nor care we, what was his pronomen, or
"christened" name, as they call it in Lincolnshire; whether it were
Moses or Mahershalalhashbaz, Nahum or Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah or Judas
Iscariot, we cannot tell, nor doth it concern the dignity of this our
record, to say with positiveness,--for the fellow was but as a buzzard
to a sparrow-hawk, when compared with the rightful clerk; but thus it
fell out, that Clerk Spurr was called "the Parson's Clerk," while Clerk
William Middleton, the son of Clerk Gervase, bore the creditable and
legitimate epithet of "the Parish Clerk."

And, then, it came to pass that, when announcements of christenings,
burials, or marriages, had to be made, the parishioners, in the spirit
of their preference, commissioned their own clerk, "the Parish Clerk,"
to inform his Reverence the Perpetual Curate of the same, and to
request the fulfilment of the accustomed rites. But the cooler the
parishioners grew towards "the Parson's Clerk," the hotter did the
parson grow towards his parishioners. He scorned to compromise his
sacerdotal dignity by attempting a reconciliation with the unruly
spirits by which he was surrounded: he spurned the ignoble example of
the ancient worthies who thought the first and last part of Christianity
was meekness and long-suffering; and he meditated a still more
afflictive stroke of retaliation on his spiritual rebels.

Clerk William Middleton conveyed a request to his spiritual superior
from a sorrowing villager to bury his dead child;--but the grand
Perpetual Curate would not fulfil the request because it was brought him
by the discarded, though old, hereditary Amen,--and adjourned, in
dudgeon, to the hamlet of Coates,--while the poor villager's child was
put into its grave,--as every child of such rebels deserved to be
put,--_like a dog_,--without a prayer being read, or a hope expressed
about its resurrection!

This circumstance sank deeply into the minds of the Stow revolters: it
was a something that had never been heard of a clergyman in the memory
of man,--at least at Stow in the parts of Lindsey: it made their skin
creep, and the very "hair of their flesh to stand up,"--for they were
simple, unsophisticated sort of people, and, therefore, all strong
mental emotions had the same effects upon their physical frames, as the
author of "Job" and Homer describe in their days. But the strong feeling
did not evaporate through the pores of their skin, especially with the
more noble, though tenderer, sex: _they_ laid their heads together to do
such a deed upon a parson as had never been done upon one since the name
of parson had been known in Stow. In a short time another message had to
be despatched to the Perpetual Curate: a woman had to be churched, and a
child to be buried, on the same afternoon,--and, judging from the former
example, the villagers conjectured that his Reverence would "make
himself scarce" after the churching, and leave this child, also,
unburied. And now, a valorous army of the female gender, their pockets
plentifully provided with plenipotent ammunition of eggs, formed
themselves, in heroic ambuscade, near the church door, purposing right
courageously to assail the clerical enemy, if he should haughtily refuse
the offices of Christian sepulture to the deceased child. "Enterprises
of great pith and moment," however, as the immortal one saith, often
"their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action." So it was in
this ambuscade so gloriously planned. The clerical enemy wisely
capitulated: his clerk, "the Parson's Clerk," preceded the Perpetual
Curate from the church, as a herald of moderation, assuring the armed
battalion that his reverence would peaceably inter the child; and,
forthwith, some of the gallant troop immediately _grounded_ their arms,
while others preferred _throwing_ them to a distance,--in token that
they put away all hostile thoughts far from them.

And here, perchance, this chivalrous history might have ended, had not
the demon of Litigation, who was doubtless hovering near the field of
intended affray, taken the case into his own foul hands. Some part of
the rejected artillery chanced to alight upon the garments of "the
Parson's Clerk's" wife, and of the Perpetual Curate's servant-maid. It
was in vain that the members of the ambuscade protested this mishap to
be owing in no degree to their intent:--the parson commenced an action
at law against the entire petticoat regiment, or its ringleaders, for
"assault and battery."

Another untoward event thickened the quarrel, and doubled the action at
law; but the event itself cannot be so distinctly related as the last,
seeing it occurred in the dark, while the female ambuscade was planted
by broad daylight. The successor of the bishops, bearing a staff instead
of a crosier, and his chosen Amen, bearing a hayfork, chanced to meet
two youths connected with the revolters, one evening after dusk, in the
churchyard. Who gave the primal assault cannot be positively affirmed,
for it is not over safe to speak closely after the parties in a
squabble, when there are no other witnesses. However, a fight certainly
took place, even among the tombs of the dead; and so high did the wrath
of the belligerent Clerk Spurr rise in the conflict, that a cottager,
neighbouring to the church, heard with alarm, even at his own door, the
said clerkly warrior threaten to stab his opponent with the hayfork! Ere
the cottager could quit his door, up came the parson and demanded help;
but the cottager honestly told the parson "he would look better at
home." His Reverence then sought "help" at the blacksmith's shop, but
there, also, no one thought he needed it,--and so he retreated to his
lodgings.

Such, in a few words, was the cause of the double action at law; and, at
the ensuing Kirton sessions, the two youngsters who had either cudgelled
the parson, or had been cudgelled themselves, together with the
ringleaders of the famous female ambuscade, were together tried for
"assault and battery." But the wrathful parson did not get his will: the
affair was so ludicrous that he was compelled to consent that it should
be "hushed up."

To hush up the heart-burnings of the parties, on their return to the
seat of war, was, however, not so easy a matter. Above all things, did
it now become a difficult task to keep peace between the rival clerks.
Passing by the many minor occasions wherein fiery frowns and black
glances were exchanged, this history, which we must abridge, through
dread of being adjudged tedious, conducts us to another notable event,
which became the subject of _another_ "action-at-law," at a succeeding
Kirton Quarter Sessions.

The funeral of a parishioner was about to take place, and the friends of
the deceased "particularly requested" that Clerk William Middleton, the
son of Clerk Gervase,--the true "Parish Clerk,"--the old, hereditary,
and established, and legitimate pronouncer of conclusive amens,--might
give the responses at this funeral. Clerk Spurr, the "Parson's Clerk,"
however, determined on contesting the point;--and--a struggle for the
old folio prayer-book actually took place in the church!

Here, again, was a sight that had never been beheld, or dreamt of,
before, in the parish of Stow: but as strange and indecorous a sight as
it was, it was one that many a rural spectator declared he wouldn't have
missed for a quart of ale!--The very mourners for the dead were
compelled to hide their laughing faces with their white
handkerchiefs,--for the grotesque wrestling of the rival clerks, and
their looks of rage, as they together grasped and tugged at the
prayer-book, put weeping out of the question. The parson had got
through--"I said I will take heed to my ways,"--and wanted to
begin--"Lord, thou hast been our refuge,"--but there stood the
wrestlers, grasping, and pulling, and panting, and sweating,--and it was
a most difficult thing to say which would be likely to beat. Many a
stout farmer that shook his sides,--for the laugh became broad and
general, in spite of the solemnity of the occasion,--longed to shout
out, "A crown to a groat upon Middleton!"--but restrained himself. At
length,--the genuine, hereditary spirit of the true "Parish Clerk"
prevailed!--he possessed the book: the "Parson's Clerk" sought a seat,
to take his breath;--and Clerk William, panting, and wiping the
streaming perspiration from his comely and heroic brow, proceeded to
echo the "Confession" after the Perpetual Curate.

Such was the cause of the "action" brought by Spurr (at the direction,
and by the ghostly advice of the Perpetual Curate) against Middleton at
the succeeding sessions,--an action of "assault committed by the said
Middleton upon him the said Spurr, while in the performance of duty."
The jury, on this occasion,--to make short of the narrative,--sat till
eleven at night,--the Court rang with laughter for hours,--and the
affair was, at last, got rid of,--by some legal resort, and Spurr (or
his advisers) were saddled with costs. _That_ was a conclusion that
"gravelled" Spurr, as he said, on leaving the Court; and the Perpetual
Curate was also "gravelled"--though he did not use the same expression;
and they each showed it, soon after their second return to the old seat
of war. But another slight event must first be chronicled, ere the
several succeeding and exalted doings of the "Parson's Clerk" and the
Perpetual Curate are narrated.

Thomas Skill, was a skilful yeoman of good report, holding two farms in
the ancient parish of Stow; and although he eschewed all heresy and
dissent, and willed to worship after the fashion of his
forefathers,--who had been creditable yeomen in Stow from time
immemorial,--yet liked he not of the wayward doings of his Reverence the
Perpetual Curate. Now it chanced that on a certain Sunday in November
that the said Skill the skilful went, as was his pious and religious
wont, to pay his devotions _according to law_, in the parish church of
Stow, the ancient and venerated sanctuary of his forefathers. As a
holder of two farms, be it observed, this creditable yeoman had a right,
by the customs of this rural district, to _two_ pews; nevertheless,
being by no means a person of an unreasonable disposition, he was
content, on that day, to occupy but _one_, if so be that he might be
allowed to worship quietly. Nevertheless, scarcely was he seated, ere a
certain Jesse Ellis, an aged man of some rural rank as a
master-husband-man who had been selected by the Perpetual Curate as
_his_ churchwarden, came up to the pew-door, said "he was _ordered_ to
pull Skill out," and, forthwith, attempted to put the "order" into
execution. Did Skill the skilful resist?--Did he yield? No, no: he knew
a trick worth two of either. He had not his name for nought! When Ellis
laid his grasp vehemently on the pew-door, skilful Skill held it fast
for a few moments, and then skilfully let it go,--all in a moment,--so
that the vehement Ellis, by the vehemence of his grasp and the rebound
of the pew-door, was overthrown; and there he lay,--he, the parson's
own churchwarden,--on the floor of the aisle of Stow church, in the time
of "divine service," with the congregation from their seats and pews,
and the Perpetual Curate, from his reading-desk, and Clerk Spurr, the
"Parson's Clerk," and Clerk William Middleton, the son of Clerk Gervase,
squeezing one another in the desk below, and yet looking on, and all
looking on, at his signal defeat and overthrow: there he "lay
vanquished--confounded;"--like Milton's Satan, sprawling on the "fiery
gulf," when all the fallen angels were sprawling there likewise, but yet
looking on and shaking their heads at him for a rash captain--no doubt!

Then appeared Skill the skilful, and Ellis the sprawler, before a bench
of "Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the parts of Lindsey," in
the Moothall of Gainsborough; where the justices acted with sense and
discernment, and dismissed the sprawler's suit, saddling him with costs.
An end might have come to this episode here; but the sprawler and his
son were people of spirit, and were so much dissatisfied with this
decision of the justices, that they went home muttering all the way
about _law_, and declaring to every one they met, that they "would _yet
have it_." And so skilful Skill thought it wise and prudent to let them
"have it;" and, therefore, from mere neighbourly good humour, commenced
his action, in turn, against the said Jesse Ellis for attempting to
pull him out of his own pew, on the said Sunday in November, and in the
parish church of Stow aforesaid. Our manuscript hath, in this place, an
hiatus; so that we cannot say how the said action terminated: but it
will not excite wonder that amidst the ravelled tissue of broils and
litigations occasioned by the gospel-mindedness of the illustrious
successor to the Sidnacestrian prelates, some of their issues should
escape complete and satisfactory chronicle.

It behoveth, moreover, that we now attend to the more lofty department
of this our history of ecclesiastical revolutions,--for, as the sun
transcendeth the stars, so do the acts of sacerdotal personages outshine
the brightest deeds of the vulgar laity.

And first, of the continued luminous acts and deeds of Clerk Spurr, the
notable and notorious "Parson's Clerk," the hero of the hayfork. Let
none imagine that he always warred with such a vulgar weapon of the
field; forasmuch as his Reverence the Perpetual Curate, being in
possession of a grand double-barrelled gun, was wont to commit and
intrust it to the lawful custody of his worthy coadjutor in heroic
exercises, the heroic Clerk Spurr. Neither did it redound a little to
the credit of the Perpetual Curate's humanity, that he did so commit and
intrust the said formidable piece of ordnance to the custody of the said
Spurr;--forasmuch as the life and safety of that hero of the hayfork
were discerned to be seriously in danger,--inasmuch as it had been
proven how the malicious urchins of the community, participating deeply
in the heart-burnings of their sires and mothers, were wont often to
annoy, with sundry small pebbles and other mischief-working missiles,
the precious person of the said hero. Lest, therefore, these assaults
should issue in some bodily harm to himself, the man of nightly valour
was equipped with the gun, and speedily proceeded to defend himself
therewith, in the manner that shall now be described and related,
together with the fruition of his new act of heroism.

The night was two hours old,--no moon, no stars,--it was deeply dark and
murkily cloudy, and--but never mind all that! Anon, up cometh the troop
of youngsters, whispering laughter, and saying "Hush!" to each other, as
they approach the camp of the enemy. Little thought they, as they
marched along, each laden with his pocket of pebbles, of the sore
discomfiture which had been planned for them by the foe! Clerk Spurr,
that signal warrior of the implement with prongs, had planted himself,
firelock on shoulder, eye full of aim, and heart full of valour, close
by the usual point of attack. The besiegers halt,--and, in a moment, a
shower of gravel gravelleth their enemy; but loud as was the war-cry of
their tiny voices, above it rose the booming thunder of the "Parson's
Clerk's" grand double-barrelled gun,--and woeful was the effect
thereof!!! The shot or the wadding,--the manuscript sayeth not
which--had entered,--_not_ the brains, nor, even, the hats of the
juvenile assailants,--but--but--the church windows! Away scampered the
youngsters,--every mother's son feeling whether his head was off or
on,--and yelling, till every cottage door in the neighbourhood was
thrown open, and lights were brought out in alarm! Down tumbled the old
coloured glass from the ancient mullions, rattling on the tomb-stones
beneath, and sounding like curses on sacrilege in the ears of the
affrighted hero of the gun and the hayfork! His weapon dropped,--for he
was panic-struck! The churchwardens brought a bill against him for the
repair of the church-windows: he refused to pay: was brought before the
Lincoln county magistrates for recovery; and the hero of the hayfork had
to "fork out" seven shillings and sixpence for his freak! The Stow
rustics grinned from ear to ear, nodded approbation of the sentence, and
spread mirth and fun when they reached home with the news; but the
reverend successor of the ancient episcopal potencies was sorely grieved
at heart when he heard of this repetition of defeat for his chosen and
chop-fallen ejaculator of amens.

As for the grand Perpetual Curate himself, his personal troubles and
griefs, and the uninterrupted continuation thereof, would require
volumes for full narration. Suffice it to say, ere we bring this exalted
record to an end, that, in the profundity of his wisdom, he resorted to
multitudinous devices of apostolical character, after the defeats at
law that have been heretofore noted. During ten successive Sundays he
resorted to a most novel course of Christianity, closing the service
after merely reading a few of the "Sentences,"--or, in addition, a few
words of the "Absolution,"--and then, leaving his flock to find their
way to heaven as they might. The legitimate "Parish Clerk" would come
into his desk pretty early; then would come in the "Parson's Clerk;"
and, lastly, the parson would walk into his desk, and commence reading
after the following unique method:--

"When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath
committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his
soul alive.----William Middleton! I charge you to come out of that seat,
and let the clerk come in peaceably and quietly!"

The poor "Parish Clerk," meanwhile, would make no answer; but full
meekly, and in the spirit of his vocation, would hold his peace. Again
the parson would proceed:--

"Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry places
to----William Middleton! if you do not come out of that seat, and cease
interrupting me in my duty, I shall conclude the service!"

And then would he close the book,--the poor "Parish Clerk" answering not
a word,--and, walking to the communion-table, give a couple of parish
alms-loaves to such as he chose to call--usually _his own_ clerk, for
one,--and then,--and then,--in the spirit of Jewel and Latimer, and the
rest of the tireless and devoted exemplars of his religion, would he
quit the consecrated edifice, and leave the congregation to finish by
themselves,--or disperse, which of course they preferred to do, after
witnessing these apostolical exhibitions. One more relation of the
subtle and profound devices of the immortal and Perpetual Curate, ere we
come to an end.

Vexed, teased, troubled, and circumvented, as he was, it came to pass
that, in the plenitude of his mortified and yet haughty reflections, the
successor of purple prelates bethought him that it was not seemly for
the rebellious herdsmen, ploughmen, and other rustics of low degree,
wherewith he was surrounded, to walk daily over the "consecrated ground"
of the churchyard, in the ancient footpath. The more he thought of it
the more he shuddered at it; that a number of rude rebels, with their
heretical and sacrilegious feet, should tread daily on ground which had
been "consecrated" in the hallowed mists of dateless antiquity, by
mitred magnates, before whose uplifted crosier kings had lowered their
sceptres, and mailed barons trembled and turned pale. It was not to be
permitted: the magnanimous Perpetual Curate resolved to root out such
impious sacrilege from the face of the earth; and immediately fastened
up the gates of the said ancient footpath with strong locks and chains;
yea, planted goodly young trees in the line of road hitherto trodden by
unworthy and rebellious rustics. Nay, more, conceiving that even the
remembrance of every grandmother and great-grandfather of such a
stiff-necked generation should be obliterated, his high-minded Reverence
gave order that all the hillocks over the graves should be laid low, and
the whole churchyard be levelled!

But now the grand priest had reached a climax, in the judgment of his
parishioners; and now arose the mighty wrath of the people,--that
barrier which hath so often stood before proud priests,--yea, and will
so stand again,--seeming to bear on its front, "Thus far shall ye go,
and no further, and here shall your proud wills be stayed!" A
parishioner, whose purse was lined with a store of guineas to back his
resolution, avowed that the Perpetual Curate, if he caused to be touched
a single clod that covered the ashes of his, the parishioner's,
forefathers, should have his clerical cup sweetened with all the sugar
that could be purchased for him in a court of law; and, lo! the
successor of the prelates of Sidnacester rescinded his "order" for
levelling the quiet graves of the dead!

Nor long did the other late devices of his canonical wisdom stand. The
urchins of the parish contrived to slip slily over the churchyard wall,
and to break down the newly-planted trees; and, at length, one
parishioner, having conversed with Sir John Barleycorn at Gainsborough
market, and being strongly advised by that notable counsellor of courage
to set the proud parson at nought, and "break his bonds asunder," rushed
to the churchyard gates, as soon as he arrived at his native village,
and smiting at locks and chains, as if he had been Samson before Gaza,
burst his way valiantly through,--and, thereafter, did the sacrilegious
feet of every rebel rustic again press the path of their forefathers,
without let or impediment! Such are the sovereign achievements of the
magisterial "people," when engaged in the assertion of their
time-hallowed "rights!" What are the acts of emperors compared
therewith?

And now come we to the final "action" in this concaten_ation_ of
litig_ation_, one that gave constern_ation_ to the poor "parish clerk,"
be it understood. We have spoken of the "actions" at the first Kirton
Sessions; namely, the Perpetual Curate _versus_ the Female Ambuscaders,
and the Perpetual Curate _versus_ the Cudgellers in the dark: then spoke
we of the "action" at the next sessions, Clerk Spurr, the Parson's
Clerk, _v._ Clerk William Middleton, the son of Clerk Gervase, the
Parish Clerk: then of the _petit_ "action" before the Gainsborough
Justices--Ellis _v._ Skill: then of the greater "action" at
assize--Skill _v._ Ellis: then of the "action" before the Lincoln
magistrates for recovery of value for broken church-windows--the
Churchwardens of Stow _v._ the Parson's Clerk: lastly, of the
_threatened_ action by the parishioner of the long purse, which the
Perpetual Curate avoided by rescinding his presumptuous "order" for
levelling the graves:--but now come we to the final "action"--the action
of actions: that to which all the rest formed but a petty preface: that
wherein the Perpetual Curate departing from all by-ways of attack,
undisguisedly assumed a position of legal and spiritual antagonism
against the foe whom he esteemed as the chief author of his ills, the
disturber of his projected schemes, that would, so many months before,
have issued in subjugating the rebels, and consuming heresy in his
parish,--against the old, hereditary, gentle, moral, upright parish
clerk, Clerk William Middleton, the son of Clerk Gervase.

And _where_ was the action commenced?--Before the county
magistrates,--or at sessions,--or at assize? Pooh! nonsense!--that was
not the way to finish Middleton's business as the parson intended to
finish it. Where then? In the Queen's Bench, or the Common Pleas, or the
Exchequer? No. What then, in the Vice Chancellor's Court, or the Court
of Chancery itself? Not one of 'em, sir; but in a more awful court than
any of 'em, or all of 'em put together: in the SPIRITUAL COURT, sir!

What aged dame in Lindsey had not heard of the Spiritual Court? Why the
mere sound of the word served to fill her with mysterious awe, and to
call up in her memory all the fireside stories of her grandmothers: how
such awful "penances" were inflicted by this court, on erring females,
in _their_ days,--when the dread power of the priesthood was displayed
in punishing the subjects of that natural frailty called "scandal," by
compelling them to walk up the church aisle covered with a white sheet,
and bearing a wax taper in their hand! With such associations derived
from his grandmother, only conceive how awfully queer poor, moral,
gentle, religious, upright Clerk William felt when he received the
mysterious "writ," issued against him by this mysterious court.
"Schollard," as he was, it was so strange a thing to look upon, that he
instantly sent for the parish schoolmaster, who, with spectacles on
nose, and frequent spelling and some mispelling, read aloud--to a house
full of consternated neighbours,--Clerk William turning pale as he heard
the beginning,--

     "IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN!

     "We, John Haggard, Doctor in Civil and Canon Law, Vicar-General in
     spirituals of the Right Reverend Father in God, John, by Divine
     Permission, Lord Bishop of Lincoln, and official Principal of the
     Episcopal and Consistorial Court of Lincoln, lawfully
     constituted,--to you William Middleton, of the parish of Stow, &c.
     &c., touching and concerning your soul's health, and the lawful
     correction and reformation of your manners and excesses, and more
     especially for profaning the parish church of Stow aforesaid, by
     brawling, quarrelling, or chiding in the said parish church during
     the celebration of divine service therein by the Rev. ----,
     perpetual curate, &c. &c., and also for contumacious behaviour, and
     refusing to obey the lawful commands of the said----," &c. &c.

And then followed a pompous quotation from a statute of Edward the
Sixth, showing that a clergyman had power to prohibit a contumacious
member of his flock _ab ingressu ecclesiæ_,--that is to say, from
entering the church: in other words, to excommunicate him! Furthermore,
an act of the 53d George III. was quoted, declaring that "Persons who
may be pronounced or declared to be excommunicate by any ecclesiastical
court _in definitive sentences_, or _in interlocutory decrees_, having
the force and effect of definitive sentences, as spiritual censures for
offences of ecclesiastical cognisance, shall incur imprisonment not
exceeding six months, as the court pronouncing or decreeing such person
excommunicate shall direct."

That was a sore shake for poor Clerk William! Excommunicated! Why, the
thought of such a fate to one who had been brought up in a veneration of
the church, whose father was a clerk, and thought himself as fully
consecrated as a bishop!--it was no joke to such a one to hear there
was a chance of his being excommunicated. Yet he would not "give it up!"
No, that he wouldn't: his father had said, "Nobody could turn the parish
clerk out of his office so long as he had morality on his side: his
office was his freehold:" so his father, Clerk Gervase, of pious memory,
had said; and he, Clerk William, would abide by it. So he took the desk
on the following Sunday, and kept up the war as usual. Yet he often
pondered on "definitive sentences" and "interlocutory decrees,"--when he
had learnt the words by heart,--wondering what kind of awful things they
were.

The effect of issuing this writ, however, so completely astounded the
parishioners that they thenceforth only whispered where they had
shouted, and were silent where they had whispered, in all matters
relating to the parson: true, whenever a paper for convening any
particular parochial meeting was attached to the church door, bearing
the usual signature of ---- ----, Incumbent Minister, some wag would be
sure to scratch out one of the words, so as to make it read
"Incumbrance" Minister, instead: but beyond that there was, now, no
further daring.

And, at last, the summons came, and no less than a score of witnesses
were taken to the Consistory in Lincoln Cathedral, to be sworn that they
would give evidence on the case. And week by week--week by week--the
prosing "examinations" were proceeded with, on a certain day of the
week, until _a thousand folios_ of "examination" were counted; and when
a parishioner asked how much he must pay for a copy of the depositions
for Clerk William, the reckoning was made by the "registrar" of the
court, at the usual sum per folio--and he was told it would merely be
such a trifle as _five-and-twenty pounds_! And then the calculations,
and the wonders, and wishes that were expressed, night by night, and day
by day, in every cottage at Stow,--nay, in all the villages round, and
the wagers that were laid in every village ale-house on a Saturday
night, what would be the cost of the whole trial, and how long Clerk
William would be imprisoned, and _where_ they would imprison him,--for
nobody was so slow of heart or understanding, as not to know beforehand
that the "Vicar-General in Spirituals" would give judgment _against_ the
poor "parish clerk," as a matter of course, whenever the trial should
come to an end.

And _did_ the trial ever come to an end? and _was_ Clerk William
Middleton, the son of Clerk Gervase, really excommunicated? "By no
manner of means, sir," as the pompous fellow says in the play: the grand
suit, after causing so tremendous a quassation, and all that, of a
considerable quarter of Lindsey, was--given up! Yes, it was: and more
than that, the true "parish clerk," Clerk William, was reinstated, fully
and entirely, in his rightful office. Ay to this day,--unless our
information misleads us,--he exercises the same without losing an inch
of his height, or a fragment of his independent spirit; for it is but a
few months bygone since he showed it. The grand Perpetual Curate,
according to his wont, took upon him to reprehend, at the very
grave-side, a Wesleyan, whose child, then being interred, had been
baptized by a Wesleyan preacher: Clerk William, right bluntly, told the
priest that the Wesleyan had a right to please himself! "Why, as for
you, you will say or do any thing," retorted the priest, "if they'll pay
you for it!"--"And would you be standing there in that gown, with that
book in your hand, unless _you_ were paid for it?" asked and answered
Clerk William. The grand Perpetual Curate bit his lip, and walked away!

Reader, we have been relating _facts_: perhaps, in adopting the style of
half-rhodomontade, we have not displayed very good taste; but the
narrative itself contains uncontradictable _facts_. And these did not
occur in a district disturbed by chartism, nor revolutionised by
radicalism, or anti-corn-law agitation; but in the old-fashioned, rural
centre of Lindsey: it is even there where the "spiritual court" shrinks
from employing the foolery of its own worn-out terrors; and where the
peasant adventures to beard the priest! Are not these "Signs of the
Times?"



                     DAME DEBORAH THRUMPKINSON,

                                AND
                     HER ORPHAN APPRENTICE, JOE.


Joe's story opens in that unclassical region, the Isle of Axholme,--a
section of Lincolnshire divided from the main body of the county by the
broad and far extending stream of the Trent. Insular situations are
invariably held to give some peculiarity of manners to their
inhabitants; and the Axholmians, or "Men of the Isle," have always been
reckoned to be an odd sort of, plain kind of people, by the other
inhabitants of Lindsey, the great northern division of the shire, of
which the Isle is accounted a part. This was more emphatically true of
them seventy years ago; and the face of the country was, at that time,
much in keeping with the unpolished character of the Axholmian people. A
journey through the Isle, in the autumnal and winter months especially,
would then have been studiously avoided by a traveller acquainted with
its excessively bad roads, rendered insufferably disagreeable by the
stench of the sodden "line" or flax, with which the broad ditches on
each side of the rural ways were filled. Low, thatched abodes, built of
"stud and mud,"--or wood and clay, were the prevailing description of
human dwellings scattered over the land; and swine were the animals most
commonly kept and fattened by the farmers and peasantry.

The two considerable villages of Owston and Crowle (pronounced _Crool_
by the euphonious Axholmians), together with the town of Epworth, the
modern capital of the Isle, were the only localities in Axholme to which
improvements, common in the rest of the shire, had then penetrated.
Haxey, the ancient capital of the district, meanwhile, remained
unvisited by the spirit of modern change, and drew its only distinction
from the historic associations connected with its decay. In remote
times, and under its Saxon appellation of "Axel," the town had been
fortified with a castle of the Mowbrays, to a chief of which chivalrous
race the greater part of "the Isle of Axelholm" was given as a manor, by
the Norman conqueror. And, amid the straggling and irregular assemblage
of buildings which now form the village, an intelligent visitor would
discover indubitable evidence of the former importance of the place. Its
large church, displaying the rich architecture prevalent during the wars
of the Roses, and supporting a lofty tower resonant at stated hours with
chimes of loud and pleasing music, looks from an eminence, almost in
cathedral state, over the greater extent of the Isle; and a few ample
and curiously built houses of some centuries old,--affording a striking
contrast to the paltry erections of the day,--denote the ancient
denizens of Haxey to have been the principal possessors of comparative
wealth, and, it may be added, of the soil in the neighbourhood.

On a fine summer's evening, at the door of one of these large antiquated
houses, sat Dame Deborah Thrumpkinson, the aged widow of Barachiah
Thrumpkinson, cordwainer, deceased. Her husband, who had been long dead,
was a thrifty man at his trade, and had, by habits of strict industry
and parsimony,--holpen therein by the like disposition of his beloved
Deborah,--contrived to store a good corner of his double-locked oaken
chest with spade-ace guineas. Deborah had acquired sufficient skill in
the "art and mystery" of her husband's employment to be able to carry on
his trade after his death; and, with the assistance of two stout
apprentices, and as many journeymen, was, at the season in which our
narrative begins, conducting the best business in that line within a
circuit of several miles.

We have hinted that Dame Deborah began to be stricken in years:
nevertheless, the labours of "the gentle craft" gave little fatigue to
her elastic mind and strong sinewy frame; and as she sat in the
old-fashioned oaken chair, enjoying rest, and inhaling the soft breeze,
after a day of healthful toil, she neither stooped through infirmity,
nor experienced dimness of vision, though sixty winters had gone over
her head. The short pipe in her mouth proved that she had discovered an
effectual, though unfeminine, solace for a weary frame; and although,
through the flitting volumes of smoke, you saw that their frequent
visitings had left on the dame's cheek a deeper shade than years only
would have imprinted there,--yet, a nearer gaze would have convinced you
that, in youth, no contemptible degree of comeliness had been commingled
with her strength. With the calmness derived from experienced age, and
from a consciousness of honest independence,--thus, then, sat the grave
Deborah, receiving, now and then, a mark of respect from the slow, worn
labourers of either sex, as they passed homeward, with fork or rake on
shoulder, from the hay-field.

The dame had just knocked the ashes out of the head of her pipe, and was
about to retire within her dwelling for the night, when her attention
was strongly attracted by the conversation of a group which was suddenly
formed but a few yards from her threshold. A pale, melancholy-looking
woman, with a very little boy clinging to her blue linen apron, was met
by a master chimney-sweep, followed by a couple of wretched-looking
urchins bowed beneath enormous bags of soot.

"Well, mistress," said the man, in a voice so harsh that it grated
sorely on the ears of Dame Deborah, who would have been offended with
the words of the speaker, even if they had been uttered in the softest
accents, "you may as well take the fasten-penny I offered you the other
day, and let me have this lad o' yours."

The child clung more closely to his mother, and looked imploringly and
pitifully in her face.

"Nay, I think I mustn't," replied the pale-looking woman, in a faint and
somewhat irresolute tone, catching the wistful glance of her child, and
then bending her eyes sorrowfully on the ground.

"Why, a golden guinea'll do thee some service," resumed the sweep; "and
I'll warrant me, I'll take care o' thy little lad. He shall get plenty
to eat and drink,--and I reckon he doesn't get overmuch of ayther with
thee."

"I get as much as my mammy gets," said the child, adventuring to speak,
but looking greatly affrighted.

"Why, thou art a tight little rogue," said the chimney sweep, smiling
grimly through his soot, "and could run briskly up a chimney, I lay a
wager.--Come, give us thy hand, and say thou wilt go with us."

The man's attempt at coaxing had a repulsive effect on the child, for he
drew back, and trembled lest he should be laid hold of.

"Come, I'll make it two guineas," resumed the sweep, again addressing
the mother; "and what canst thou do with him, now his father is
dead,--as thou saidst when I met thee at Wroot, the other day? Thou
wilt be obliged to throw thyself on some parish, soon,--for they'll
never suffer thee to go sorning about in this way; and if thou art once
in the workhouse, depend on't th' overseers will soon 'prentice the poor
little fellow to somebody that may prove a hard master to him, mayhap.
Better take my offer, and let him be sure of kind usage."

The mother was silent and motionless, and tears began to fall fast,
while the sense of her present destitution and fears for the impending
future struggled like strong wrestlers, with natural affection:--a
fearful antagonism within, of which none but Adversity's children can
conceive the reality of the portraiture.

"Nay, prythee, do not fret," said the man, with affected pity; and then
taking out his begrimed hempen purse under the confident expectation
that he was about to gain his point at once from the heart-broken
weakness of a woman, added, "Come, come, here's that that will get thee
a new gown, and, maybe, put thee in the way of getting on in the world
besides."

The woman did not put forth her hand to take the proffered price for her
child, for her mind was now too deeply distracted to understand the
sweep's meaning; or, if she understood him, her frame was now too weak
with grief to permit her making any answer.

"Oh, mammy, mammy!--do not let the grimy man take me away!" exclaimed
the child, bursting into violent weeping, and pulling forcibly at his
mother's apron.

"What's the matter with your bairn, good woman?" cried the benevolent
old Dame Deborah at this moment,--for she had heard too much to be
longer a listener, merely;--and the Axholmians were not versed in those
refinements of modern society which define a neighbourly and humane
interposition to be an act of unmannerly officiousness.

"Mammy, mammy!--good old woman speaks you," said the eager child,
striving to arouse his mother's attention, and to call off her mind from
the intense conflict which seemed to have paralysed her consciousness.

"Ay, ay," observed the sweep, "Dame Thrumpkinson is a thrifty, sensible
body: let us put it, now, to her, as a reasonable matter, and see if she
does not say I speak fair."

The group drew near the dame's door, and the man recounted the terms of
his proposal with a self-complacent emphasis which indicated that he
believed the dame, being a well-reputed tradeswoman, would assent at
once to the advisableness of his scheme, and assist him in its immediate
accomplishment.

"Now, what d'ye think, dame?" he said in conclusion; "d'ye not think
that I speak fair?"

"Think!" answered the aged woman, fixing her keen grey eyes upon the
trafficker with an expression which withered his hopes in a
moment;--"think!--why I think it would be a sinful shame to soil that
bairn's pratty face wi' soot; and I think, beside, that thou hast so
little of a man in thee, to wring a widowed-woman's heart by tempting
her to barter the body and soul of her own bairn for gold, that if I
were twenty years younger, I would shake thy liver in thee for what thou
hast said to her."

The man's countenance fell, and he looked, for a moment, as if about to
return an answer of abuse; but the dame kept her keen eye bent
unblenchingly upon him;--and it seemed as if his courage failed, for he
put up the guineas hastily into his purse, and turned from the spot,
without daring to attempt an answer, followed by the two diminutive
slaves whose hard lot it was to call him "Master."

"Ah, poor woman!" exclaimed Dame Deborah to the weeping and speechless
mother;--"what a sorry sight it would have been to see you take yon
hard-hearted rascal's money, while this poor faytherless innocent
trudged away with a bag o' soot on his feeble back! No, no, it isn't
come to that, nayther," she continued, vacating her arm-chair, and
gently forcing the distressed woman into it; "sit thee down, poor heart!
the bairn shall not want a friend, if aught should ail thee. I'll take
care of him myself, if God Almighty should take thee away as well as his
poor fayther."

"God bless you, dame!" sobbed the cheered mother, clasping her hands,
and bursting anew into tears, which were now tears of joy.

"God bless good old woman!" shouted the little fellow, with the real
heaven of guileless childhood in his face.

"My poor child may soon need your goodness, kind dame," rejoined the
melancholy mother, turning very deadly pale,--"for I feel I am not long
for this world: my strength is nearly gone."

"Well, well, poor heart, cheer up!" said the dame, in a tone of sincere
condolence:--"remember, that there is One above, who hath said, He will
be "a husband to the widow, and a"----but I'll fetch thee and thy pratty
bairn a bite o' bread and cheese, and a horn o' mead.--Lord bless me!
how white the poor creature is turning! God Almighty save her soul!
she's going!"

The kind old woman hastened to support the sinking head of the dying
stranger, and the child clung, convulsively, to the cold and helpless
hand of his mother,--and uttered his wailing agony. All was soon
over,--for the poor wanderer died almost instantaneously in Dame
Deborah's arm-chair.

Reader, if thou hast a heart to love thy mother, I need not attempt to
describe to thee how deep was the grief and horror felt by the orphan as
he gazed upon his dead mother's face. And if thou hast not such a heart,
I will not give thee an occasion to slight a feeling so holy as a
child's absorbed love for its loving mother.

Suffice it to say, that after three days of almost unmitigated grief,
the child, led by Dame Deborah, followed his mother's corpse, sobbing,
to the grave; but the aged hand that conducted him to witness the laying
of his heart-broken parent in her last resting-place led him back to a
comfortable home. The sudden and striking circumstances of his mother's
death saddened the orphan's spirits for some time; but he soon recovered
the natural gaiety of childhood, notwithstanding his transference from
the care of an affectionate and over-indulgent mother, to that of a
guardian of advanced age and grave manners.

Deborah Thrumpkinson in vain inquired after the orphan's full name. He
only knew that he had been called "Joe." She guessed that he must be
about four years old; and, fearful that a ceremony which she conceived
to be an indispensable preparative for his eternal salvation might have
been neglected, she took him to the font of the parish church, and had
him baptized "Joseph--in a Christian way," as she termed it: the good
dame, herself, becoming surety for the child's fulfilment of the vows
thus taken upon himself by proxy.

Joe's godmother and protectress taught him to read. And no benefit she
conferred upon him in after-life was more thankfully remembered by him
than this, her humane and patient initiation of his infantile
understanding into the mystery of the alphabet, and the formation of
syllables. Here her labour ended, for her science extended little
further; but a Bible with the Apocrypha, ornamented with plates,--a
valued family possession of the Thrumpkinsons,--was within his reach,
and, at any hour of Sunday,--and sometimes on other days of the week
when he had washed his hands very clean,--he was privileged with the
growing pleasure of turning over the pages of the folio of wonders ever
new.

The good old Dame was not disposed to mar her act of genuine
charity,--the adoption of an orphan,--by imprisoning his young limbs too
early in the bonds of labour. She did not place him on the humble
_stall_ to bend over the _last_, till she supposed he had reached the
age of fourteen. The ten preceding years of his orphanage passed away in
a course of happy quietude. The staid age of his venerated protectress
forbade any outbreaks of juvenile buoyancy in her sedate presence; but
in Joe's lonely wanderings through the fields and lanes, as well as in
his silent readings of the pictured Scriptures, he found pleasures which
abundantly repaid the irksomeness of occasional restraint. His simple
heart danced with joy at each return of the gladsome Spring, when his
beloved acquaintances, the wild flowers, shewed their beautiful faces by
brook and hedgerow; and he became familiar with all their localities,
and felt a glowing and mysterious rapture in the renewed survey of
their glorious tints and delicate pencillings, long before he learnt
their names.

The commencement of his apprenticeship was marked by an event of no less
importance than his introduction to Toby Lackpenny,--the most learned
tailor in the Isle of Axholme,--and a personage of such exalted merit,
that we purpose to pluck a sprig of "immortal amaranth," by making the
world acquainted with his separate history:--"but let that pass."
Toby,--from the rich immensity--for such it seemed to Joe--of his
"library,"--furnished the young disciple of St. Crispin with two books
which completely fascinated him: they were--the immortal fables of "The
Pilgrim's Progress" and "Robinson Crusoe,"--by the immortal toilers,
John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe. Joe was assured by his new friend that
Crusoe's adventures were no less veritable true than wonderful,--while
the "Pilgrim" had a hidden and all-important meaning, which he must
endeavour to discover, and apply to his own spiritual state as he went
along.

During the season of his intense and enamoured pursuit of these
absorbing studies, an incident occurred which produced some uneasiness
both to teacher and disciple. Joe was seated, one evening, on a stool at
the tailor's door, fervently engaged in his usual recreation,--the
tailor meanwhile plying his needle,--when the clergyman of the village
passing by, and observing the boy's studious deportment as something
unusual, stepped towards him, and desired to know what he was so intent
upon. Joe naturally felt some diffidence in returning an answer, and
turned towards his friend on the shop-board with a glance that was meant
to entreat his kind offices in the formation of a reply. But the tailor,
to Joe's utter confusion, hung down his head doggedly, and struck his
needle into a nether garment that lay upon his knees, with singular
vehemence. In default of this expected help, Joe gave his two precious
volumes, silently and resignedly, into the hands of the vicar,--a
reverend gentleman held in deserved respect by his humble flock for the
rigid purity of his morals, but of small skill in the waywardness of the
human mind.

After a very few minutes' examination of the books, the spiritual
overseer crimsoned with apparent displeasure, shook his head very
expressively at the boy, and returning the volumes into his hands,
assured him he was very sorry to see him so ill employed,--"for one of
the books," he said, "contained only a foolish tale,--and the other was
as whimsical a dream as ever ran through the brains of a fanatic." So
saying, the well-intentioned, but ill-informed, teacher turned
away,--leaving the boy to his own reflections, and the hot criticism of
the tailor on what they had just heard from the village parson. These by
no means led Joe into a coincidence with the vicar's way of thinking;
and, whenever opportunity served, he was sure, as before, to be
wandering, ideally, with the romantic and intrepid adventurer on the
desert island, or to be found absorbed in the effort to penetrate the
spiritual mysteries he had been directed to discover in the remaining
volume whose enchanting imagery had captivated his young understanding.
"A foolish tale,"--he could not conceive the narrative of the
shipwrecked and eremite mariner to be: it was too full of sober
earnestness, he thought, to be fantastic: it created before him a
verisimilitude in which he himself lived all the wild yet truthful
adventures of the cast-a-way seaman over again. And if he had not been
told that the story of the Pilgrim was a parable, his simple and eager
phantasy would have, primarily, set it down for a literal
truth,--however after-reflection might have qualified his first
conclusion.

But the accident of his evening's occupation having been scrutinised by
the clergyman had not yet expended its influence on Joe's thoughts and
feelings. On the first ensuing visit made by Dame Deborah to pay her
tithes, she was solemnly admonished to forbid her godson's unprofitable
studies, and to interdict his future association with the tailor. The
good dame's reverence for her spiritual guide inclined her, at once, to
yield obedience to his recommendation; more especially as she had for
some time noted that the boy did not, as formerly, eagerly resort, at
every leisure opportunity, to the old family Bible.

Accordingly, on her return home, she sharply reproved him for his
neglect of the sacred book, and insisted that he should discontinue his
communings at the tailor's cottage, and read no more of his books. Joe
returned not a word in answer to the reproof of his aged mistress, for
mingled gratitude, under a sense of her tender kindness, and reverence
for her authority, rendered him incapable of disobeying her orders. He
returned, dutifully, to the perusal of his first book; but though the
rich variety of its histories, and the sublime interest of its matchless
poetry, did not fail to keep alive his attention while he bent over its
pages, yet, in the long hours of daily labour, his desire strongly
thirsted for the more exciting intellectual draught of which he had
lately partaken, and a dreary and monotonous feeling of weariness
consumed his spirit. Dame Deborah little knew the evil she was doing
when she bereaved her foster-child of his innocent pleasures. In the
lapse of a few weeks she became sensible that it was not always wise to
pursue the counsel even of the village parson too strictly.

Among the visiters to the dame's domicile, there had long been some who
professed the tenets of Wesley,--the great heresiarch who drew his first
breath in the Isle of Axholme. Of the peculiar doctrines set forth by
this celebrated religious teacher, Joe, like Deborah herself, knew
nought, save that the parson said they were "heresies." The sturdy
intelligence of Dame Deborah led her to turn a deaf ear to all
innovations in religion. She had been bred a strict church-woman, and
never conceived the slightest idea of the fallibility of the orthodox
and established Protestant faith. Her apprentices were not permitted to
attend meeting or conventicle; and she steadfastly repelled and
discouraged all attempts, on the part of her visiters, to introduce
religious novelties in their daily gossip. But the restlessness and
disquietude of his mind, now its faculties were once more without a
fixed object of attachment, impelled Joe to discard, imperceptibly at
first, the rules on religious matters, which had been tacitly observed
by every member of the dame's household ever since he had entered it.
With those who manifested a disposition to enlarge on the merits of the
new religious system, he entered eagerly into discussion; and the result
was, a determination to pay a secret attendance on one of the meetings
of the sect, and thus form a judgment for himself.

A preacher of considerable rhetorical powers occupied the meeting-house
pulpit, during his first stolen visits; and the skill with which
passages from the book which had been his first source of instruction
were quoted and applied, rivetted his attention and inflamed his fancy.
The speaker gave illustrations of some of the patriarchal histories, and
founded on them, and upon the sacrifices under the Mosaic law, such
hypotheses as were exactly calculated to awe, and yet to lead captive,
Joe's active imagination. To tell, in one sentence, the history of
numberless hours of mental revolution, Joe brooded over these theories
and their consequences while engaged at his daily labour, and repeated
his secret visits to the meeting-house, until his young and earnest mind
was filled with the one pervading idea that the only true happiness for
the human soul was to be found in some sudden and ecstatic change to be
received by what his new teachers called "an act of faith in the
atonement."

From the period in which this conviction took entire hold of his
judgment, the alteration in Joe's conduct was so decided as to become
serious cause of alarm, even to the firm common-sense of Dame Deborah.
He spurned the thought of any longer concealing his attendance at the
sectarian meeting-house; and at every brief cessation from labour, as
well as at prolonged hours in the night, and early in the morning, he
was overheard in a weeping agony of prayer. His humble bed-room, an
out-house, or the corner of a field, served the young devotee alike, for
a place of "spiritual wrestling;" and whoever gave him an opportunity
was sure to receive from Joe an earnest warning to "flee from the wrath
to come!" Days,--weeks rolled on,--and the ardour of the lad's
enthusiasm was approaching its meridian,--for he had given up himself so
completely to its power, that not only did he consume the night more
fully in prolonged acts of ascetic and almost convulsive devotion,--but
his mind was so entirely wrapt up in the effort to "pray without
ceasing,"--that he was scarcely conscious of what passed in the dame's
cottage during the hours of work.

The visit of a "Revivalist" to the new religious community at Haxey thus
found Joe fully prepared to hail the event as one fraught with
unspeakable benefits. The narrow meeting-house was crammed with
villagers attracted by the loud and unusual noises, and affected by the
agonised looks and gestures, of their neighbours. Many of these stray
visiters, in the language of the initiated, "came to scoff, but remained
to pray." The "Revivalist" crept from form to form,--for the humble
meeting-house was unhonoured with a pew,--urging the weeping and
kneeling penitents to "press into mercy;" and pouring forth successive
petitions for their salvation until the perspiration dropped from his
brows like rain.

Joe was too intensely absorbed in the burning desire to obtain the
immediate purification of his nature to be able to reflect, for a
moment, on the question,--whether, in all this boisterous procedure,
there was not an appalling violation of every principle of worship. And
when the preacher approached the form at which he was kneeling, the
workings of his spirit shook his whole frame with expectation. The
preacher, at length, addressed him:--

"Believe, my young brother," said he, in a voice naturally musical, and
rendered wonderfully influential by enthusiasm,--"believe, for the
pardon of your sins!"

"Oh! I would believe in a moment, if I felt they were pardoned!" cried
Joe, in all the earnestness of excitement.

"Nay, but you must believe first!" rejoined the preacher; "only believe
that your sins are pardoned, and you will feel your burden gone!"

The boy's reason, for a moment, asserted its own majesty, at the
broaching of this wild doctrine; and he returned an instant answer to
the preacher which would have confounded a less practised casuist.

"That would be pardoning myself," he said: "I want the Lord to pardon
me: if believing that my sins were forgiven, while I feel they are not,
would produce a real pardon, I need never have asked the Almighty to
perform the work."

"Ah, my dear young brother!" quickly replied the preacher,--"I waited,
as you have, no doubt, for weeks and weeks, expecting some miracle to be
performed for me; but I found, at last, that there was no other refuge
but believing. You _must_ believe: _that_ is your only way! All the
direction that the word gives you is, '_Believe_, and thou shalt be
saved!' You have nothing else to do but to believe; and the moment you
do believe--that moment you will be happy! Try it!"--and, so saying, the
"Revivalist" hastened on to make proof of the efficacy of his wild
notional catholicon upon the comfortless spirit of some less hesitating
patient or penitent.

Joe's distress, when the preacher left him, became greater than ever. He
felt fearful, on the one hand, of becoming a victim to self-deceit; and
was horrified, on the other, with the terrible dread of losing his soul
through the sin of unbelief. But the combat between his imagination and
his understanding was one in which the former faculty had all the
vantage-ground of his youthful age and his tendency to the
marvellous,--and was immeasurably assisted by the overwhelming energy of
his desire. The attainment of the new spiritual state had become his
sole idea; and his reason succumbed beneath the combined strength of his
wishes and the prurience of his ideality.

"The preacher says he has _tried_ believing, and it has made him happy;
therefore, I will try to believe," said Joe to himself,--becoming
mentally desperate with distracting fears.

He _did_ try; and the experiment produced,--as it could not fail to
produce in such a mind, surrounded with such excitements,--a thrilling
and ecstatic feeling; but yet, he doubted again, a few moments after!
Thus, his intellect, all undisciplined and untutored as it had been,
still revolted at the indignity of becoming the dupe of its own
trickery. But the misery of doubt, and the pangs of spiritual
condemnation, were more insupportable than the effort to impose upon
himself the delusive assurance that he really possessed what he so
ardently sought; and he, therefore, rushed to another act of desperate
credence:--"I _will_ believe! I _do_ believe!" he wildly cried, at the
full pitch of his voice, while the din and confusion of fifty persons
praying aloud, at the same time, rendered his enthusiasm unnoticeable.
At every new resurrection of his reason he thus drew afresh on the
exorcism of his ideality, and allayed the troublous misgivings of the
sterner faculty; so that, by the time the meeting was concluded, his
reason had ceased to rebel,--and he went home, persuaded that he had
attained the "new birth."

For some days, Joe dwelt in a frame of greater tranquillity than he had
experienced since the commencement of his religious "awakenings." But
the calm was a deceitful one; and was but the prelude to a more terrific
tempest than had ever yet raged in the breast of the young victim to the
ideal. Joe heard descriptions from the pulpit of the sectaries, of the
unspeakable ecstasy of true believers; and reflected that his own
feelings bore scarcely any resemblance to such highly-wrought pictures.
Gradually, he felt it utterly impossible to conceal from himself the
tormenting conviction that he had never received that amazing change of
nature which he had been taught, so energetically and sanguinely, to
expect as the fruit of his "act of faith." Instead of the "heavenly joy
of assurance," which the preachers described,--Joe could not conceal
from himself the fact that his nearest approaches to inward joy and
calm,--fitful as they were,--resulted from the effort to _assure
himself_; and this seemed too strained a mental state, he thought, to be
termed "heavenly joy of assurance." Then, again, he was conscious that
he had not the mental purity that he had heard described as one of the
certain marks of regeneration. And this, soon, hurried him into a
whirlpool of inward distraction;--for, instead of attributing the
irritability and peevishness which now frequently agitated him to their
real source,--the exhaustion of his nervous system by extreme
asceticism,--the poor boy set them down, in his helpless and pitiable
ignorance, to the inheritance of a nature that involved him, still, in
the awful sentence of divine wrath. The tortures of disappointment thus
augmented the distraction of doubt; and, at length, Joe was unable to
quell his uneasiness for another moment by resorting to the act of
self-delusion recommended by the "Revivalist,"--and called by him "the
act of faith." Worn out, and jaded, with his daily, hourly, and almost
momentary attempts to palm the fiction, anew, upon his understanding,
Joe gave up the practice of "the act of faith" altogether, with a
feeling of weariness and disgust and self-degradation too bitter for
description!

The prostration of the youth's corporeal strength accompanied this
distressing mental conflict. Dame Deborah began to watch the hectic
flush on the cheek of her beloved foster-child with an aching heart;
and, for the first time, entertained fears, that Time, so far from
curing him of his errors, would only serve to mark his early grave. She
would have interdicted his future attendance on the meetings of his
religious associates; but the drooping state of his health deterred her
from crossing his will, lest she should hasten the catastrophe which she
began, in sadness and sorrow, to anticipate.

The good old dame finally resolved to try the efficacy of a change of
scene and circumstances, as means of aiding the youth's recovery. Joe
had never yet crossed the bounds of Haxey parish since he entered it;
but the Dame being in the habit of attending the weekly market at
Gainsborough, the nearest trading town, she determined that he should
become a partner in her future journies. Her project was as sensible as
it was benevolent. The new excitements created for the lad by these
little expeditions could not fail to produce an issue in some degree
salutary to his mind. And yet the relief he experienced might have been
but temporary, had not a medicine,--seemingly hazardous,--but yet,
signally well adapted for his disordered mental condition,--been
opportunely disclosed from the womb of Circumstance,--the great
productive source of new thinkings, new resolves, and new courses of
action, which, in mockery of ourselves, we so often attribute to our
own "will" and "intelligence."

Mounted on a stout grey mare, with his aged mistress behind, on an
old-fashioned pillion-seat, Joe set forth on his first journey with
emotions of natural curiosity; and, in the course of his progress, began
to regain some degree of his constitutional cheerfulness. Eight miles of
country, beheld for the first time, though its landscape was only of an
ordinary and monotonous character, presented a world of objects for
reflection to Joe's impressible spirit. The season was an early spring;
and albeit the young equestrian felt some slight alarm when the animal
sunk, beneath the superincumbent weight of himself and his companion,
well-nigh up to the saddle-skirts, in the miry sloughs that intervened
between Haxey and the Trent,--yet the view of the face of nature,
smilingly outspread around him, fully compensated, he felt, for these
occasional drawbacks on the pleasure of the journey. The few verdant
meads which were scattered among the dull fallows looked as lovely, Joe
thought, as they could look in any other part of England; while the
cottages, in their array of honeysuckles, were attired as blushingly and
beautifully, he thought, as if reared in the sunny climes of the South.

Midway in the journey, Joe and his aged mistress dismounted to cross the
Trent,--and four more miles brought them to Gainsborough. On arriving
at the market-town, the good old dame, somewhat to the lad's surprise,
presented him with half-a-crown,--a sum he had never, till then,
possessed. After a brief preface of prudence, she informed him that he
was at liberty to spend the next three hours in looking at the rarities
in the market, in walking about the town, or in any mode that he thought
would most highly gratify his curiosity. Joe set forth, anticipating
sights which might afford a passing gratification; but in the course of
the first hour became immovably attracted by a display of merchandise,
from which the rustic traffickers of the market, too generally, turned
away with indifference,--a spacious stall of old books.

The image of a homely country lad, clad in a rustic garb, and shod with
heavy-laced boots, standing by that old book-stall, presented a very
uninteresting spectacle to the market people at Gainsborough. The
butter-women brushed rudely past him, grumbling at the awkwardness with
which he obstructed their crowded path; and the hucksters roughly cursed
him, half-overturning the absorbed youth in their haste to forestall
each other in cheapening the produce of the village dairies. Yet Joe was
wont to refer to the hour during which he looked over the tattered
treasures of the travelling bookseller as the most important in his
whole life. He laid out the first half-crown he had ever possessed in
purchasing the translated work of a French philosopher, without
knowing, for many months after, that the author of the book bore an
opprobious designation among theologians. At successive periods of his
after-history, Joe attributed this occurrence to the operation of the
inevitable laws of necessity, to accident, to permissive Providence:
but, without entering into the labyrinth of his progressive trains of
thought, or solving the question of the validity of any of his
conclusions,--suffice it to say, that the purchase of that book produced
a sequel of the most intense interest to the young and undirected
inquirer.

Joe had but just paid his half-crown into the hand of the bookseller,
and buttoned the volume in the breast of his coat, when his ears were
stricken by the boisterous tones of a bawling pedlar. With remarkable
elongation of face, the man was proclaiming the wondrous contents of a
pamphlet that he held in his hand, copies of which he was offering for
sale, "amazingly cheap," as he avowed, to the staring by-standers. The
stroller rapidly gleaned coppers among the wonder-stricken butter-women,
who forgot their baskets in the serious interest awakened by the
pedlar's tale; and Joe could not refrain from noting the comments which
the simple people made upon the story.

"Here is a true and faithful account," reiterated the pedlar, with all
his power of lungs, "of the awful apparition of a young woman to her
sweetheart, three weeks after her death,--warning him, in the most
solemn manner, to forsake his evil ways, and not to deceive others, as
he had deceived her,--and foretelling to him that he would die that day
fortnight,--and then vanishing in a flash of fire, leaving a smell of
brimstone behind her! And how the young man took to his bed immediately
after, and died at the time his sweetheart had foretold,--making a godly
confession of his sins on his death-bed. All which happened," concluded
the pedlar, with a look of solemn assurance that went at once to the
hearts of his unsuspecting audience,--"but one month ago, in the county
of Cornwall;--and here are the names of ten creditable parishioners of
the place, who heard the young man's confession, and have set their
names as witnesses of the truth of the circumstance, that it might be a
warning to young men to repent, and not to deceive their
sweet-hearts,--and all this you have for the small charge of one penny!"

"The Lord ha' marcy on us, Moggy," cried a young and blooming
butter-woman to her elderly neighbour, as they leant over the handles of
their baskets, aghast with wonder:--"what an awful thing it must ha'
been to see that young woman come from the deead!"

"It must, indeed, Dolly," replied the older gossip, shaking her head:
"it's enough to mak one tremmle to think on't! Some folks say that
there's no sich thing as a ghooast,--but I'm sewer I wouldn't be so
wicked as to say so."

"And she vanished in a flash o' fire and brimstone, did she, maister?"
said Dolly to the pedlar, as she tendered her penny.

"That she did, pretty maid!" quickly answered the vender, with a look of
roguish seriousness: "take the book home, and let your sweetheart read
it to you, if you can't read it yourself; and you'll find that what I
have said is all true."

"I hope it is, maister, for they're solemn things to joke about!"
remarked a staid-looking matron, who was taking out her spectacles to
read the veracious story.

"True as the Gospel!" exclaimed the ready pedlar: "I was born and
brought up in the parish, and know every one of the creditable yeomen
who have signed the young man's confession."

"Yo may ha' been born there," interjected a Sheffield huckster, with a
satirical grin; "but it's many a moile off!"

The pedlar strode rapidly away to a distant part of the market.

"Why, you dooant doot what th' man says, do you, Roger?" asked a fair
Axholmian butter-maiden of the huckster.

"Daht!" replied the Sheffielder, in his own dialect; "I al'ays daht
loies, mun! But come, lass! tak t'other hawp'ny a pahnd, and bring t'
basket along wi' thee!"

"Marcy on us!" exclaimed the butter-woman in spectacles, as the rude
huckster left the market; "you Sheffield fellow'll hev to see a ghooast
before he believes there is one! What an alarming accoont this is, to be
sewer!"

"Would you be so kind," said Joe to the elderly dame who uttered this
latter exclamation, "as to let me look at the account for a few minutes?
I will return it to you again, very soon."

"Why, yes,--I'll let you look at it," answered the woman, scanning him
from head to foot; "and I hope you'll take a lesson from the book, and
never act so wickedly as this young man did."

It was not mere curiosity which prompted the lad to ask the loan of the
pedlar's tract. He felt certain that he had glanced at a similar tale in
a volume of old pamphlets on the bookseller's stall, but a few minutes
before. After a short search, he found the volume again, and comparing
the stories, saw that they were the same, to a letter, save that the
copy on the stall affirmed the apparition to have taken place in
Westmoreland, more than half-a-century before. While his thoughts were
all in a tumult at this strange discovery, the bookseller, who was
attentive to the behaviour of his customers, stept up, and addressed him
in a whisper.

"You look surprised, young man," he said, while Joe gazed at the
sinister expression in his countenance; "but I knew it was all an old
story, though the fellow was making such a noise about it. Say nothing
about it, however,--for all trades must live,--and most people would
think one tale as good and as true as the other!"

The bookseller was only just in time with his precept of caution; for
Joe's gathering indignation at the pedlar's imposture would have
impelled him, the next moment, to break through his boyish bashfulness,
and proclaim his discovery aloud, in the ears of the surrounding
butter-women:--a proceeding which, in lieu of thanks, would have, no
doubt, drawn down upon his head a storm of wrath from their disturbed
superstition. Feeling unspeakably confused with his reflections, Joe now
hastily returned the volume to its place on the stall; and thanking the
kind butter-woman for her loan of the ghost-story, gave it carefully
into her hands. He then hasted away towards the little inn where he was
to meet Dame Deborah, partly under an impression that his hours of
liberty were near their expiry,--but much more with the persuasion that
he would be able, as he went along, being no longer surrounded with the
market-din, to disentangle the web of conflicting thought into which the
slight incidents just narrated had cast him.

The pedlar's falsehood and audacity,--and the whispered caution of the
bookseller, whom Joe felt strongly inclined to characterise as an
abettor of imposture and knavery,--the credulity of the
butter-women,--and the gaping wonder manifested by the listening
crowd,--formed a mass of striking corroborations,--a sort of powerful
running commentary on what he had hastily read in the volume he had just
purchased. The incidents in the little market, in fact, opened to the
lad's inexperienced mind a glimpse of the melancholy truth that man and
the multitude have been prone to superstition in all ages, and have
eagerly received frauds which have been imposed upon them, throughout
all time, by the craft of interested and organised parties; or, where
these were wanting, that man has forged deceptions for himself, through
the strength of his own wondering faculty. The end to which these
incipient reasonings would lead him was not, and could not, then, be
manifest to him; or Joe, scarcely rid of his fanatical incubus, would
have revolted from them with horror. It was merely the dawn of thoughts
which were waiting to break in upon his mind with all the power and
effulgence of new truth. But, whatever might be the tendency of these
commencing reasonings, the progress of them was speedily arrested by the
beginning of the journey homewards.

Joe, with the good old dame behind him, rode as far as the Trent ferry,
at Stockwith, in company with sundry rustic frequenters of the weekly
market. The gossip chiefly consisted of a recapitulation of the prices
of corn and flax, and poultry, and pigs, and butter,--until the
re-introduction of the ghost-story, at what time Joe and his
foster-mother, with the rest, were seated in the ferry-boat, and were
recrossing the Trent.

"Well,--it's an awful accoont, Maister Gawky!" exclaimed Diggory
Dowlson, the rough old ferryman, after an Axholmian farmer had briefly
recounted the pedlar's tale; "but I've heeard many sich i' my
time,--thof I nivver seed nowt mysen."

"And the Lord send I nivver may!" ejaculated Betty Bogglepeep, a
tottering old wife of Owston, who had, the day before, as she said, in
the course of her gossip, chopped off the head of her best black hen,
because she crowed like a cock:--"the Lord send I nivver may, for it
maks me queer to think a thowt o' sich things; and I'm sewer if I woz to
see 'em, it would freeten me oot o' my wits!"

"Hold thy foolish tongue, prithee!" chimed in her loving husband, whose
bravery seemed chiefly owing to his late fellowship with Sir John
Barleycorn, at the market:--"why does ta talk aboot being freeten'd at
shadows?"

"Nay, nay, Davy, it's to no use puttin' it off i' that way," interjected
the old ferryman, taking up the cause of the old woman and the ghost,
with the fervour of gallantry and faith united;--"depend on't, though
deead folks may come like shadows, yet it's a fearful seeght to see
'em!"

"No doot, no doot, Diggory!" replied the farmer, "but seeing 'em's
_all_--thoo knaws!"

The farmer meant this for an arch sally, but his companions in the boat
were not in the vein to relish his humour.

"What do _you_ think aboot sich solemn things, Dame Thrumpkinson?" asked
the old ferryman, turning to the corner of the boat where Deborah seemed
buried in reflection;--"you sit and say not a word, all this time. Give
us your thowts, dame, for ye've more sense than all of us, put
together!"

"I don't give heed to every fool's tale about such things," replied Dame
Deborah, in her usual grave tone; "but I've serious reason for believing
that the dead often know what the living are doing."

"Why, did ye ivver see owt spirit'al, Dame Thrumpkinson?" instantly
asked half-a-dozen voices, while twice as many eyes glared upon the aged
Deborah with a gaze as wonder-stricken as that of a nest of owls
suddenly awakened by daylight.

"Nay, neighbours, nay!" replied the dame, drooping her head, and
speaking in a tone of melancholy tenderness;--"do not ask me further. I
think we ought to keep sacred the secrets of the dead that have been
near and precious to us!"

The manner of Dame Deborah's reply was so affecting, and its intimate
meaning, though only guessed by her rude auditors, seemed to command so
deep a respect from their simple feelings, that the subject was
immediately dropped; and the whole party remained silent until the boat
had touched the western bank of the river.

Some of the company now took a direction for Owston and Butterwick, and
such parts of the country as lay on the banks of the Trent; while the
remnant, who were bound for the more central parts of the isle, being
more strongly mounted than Joe and his aged mistress, and many of them
having a greater distance to reach ere night-fall, sped on before, after
bidding their deeply-respected acquaintance, Dame Deborah, a hearty and
kindly farewell. The journey home was nearly ended before the dame broke
silence, her mind seeming deeply intent on thoughts which the
conversation in the boat had awakened within her; and when she addressed
her foster-son, it was but briefly, though kindly.

"I hope the ride will do thee no harm, bairn," she said, in a tone of
the gentlest affection; "and how did ta spend the half-crown?"

"I bought a book with it, dame," Joe answered.

"A book!" said she, pleasantly:--"well, well, it's like thee: but, may
be, thou could not ha' spent it better. And what sort of a book is it,
bairn?"

"Quite on a new subject," Joe replied, scarcely knowing how to describe
the book to the dame's plain understanding.

"A new subject!" she repeated, with a gentle laugh;--"well, well, I hope
it will do thee more good than some of thy old subjects." And then, as
if fearful of bringing back distressful thoughts to the heart of one
over whom she yearned so tenderly, the good old dame permitted the
journey to end without further remark. Joe would fain have entreated an
explication of the mysterious conclusion given by his aged protectress
to the conversation in the boat; but there was something too sombre in
her mood of mind, at that time, he thought, to permit his hazarding any
reference to such a subject.

Almost insensibly, to himself, Joe's opinions on religious matters began
to undergo an entire change within a short period succeeding his
acquaintance with the work of the French philosopher. The arguments of
the book were conducted in too covert a mode for one, so little skilled
in the arts of disguise, to be able to detect its real tendency in the
outset. The blandishments of the writer's style captivated his taste;
and the boldness with which he saw the doctrines of natural liberty
asserted, took strong possession of his judgment. Degraded as his reason
had felt itself to be while enslaved to the teachings of fanaticism,
there was no wonder that he felt the awakening of a desire for mental
independence, and listened willingly to the voice of an advocate for the
native dignity of man's understanding. Appended to the volume, which now
began to engross his leisure hours, was a treatise, entitled "The Law of
Nature." Joe perused its precepts and digested its reasonings, until he
believed he had committed a lamentable error by wearying his flesh and
spirit with acts of ascetic devotion,--and resolved he would address
himself to the practice of the elevated moral virtue which the French
writer asserted to be easy and natural to man when brought within the
influence of instruction.

The native activity of his intellect prevented a prolonged abidance on
the mere threshold of opinion: a few months rolled over, and Joe's
convictions took a current which they kept for some years. In truth, the
formation of his conclusions was hastened by the very circumstance of
his being compelled to pursue his doubts and inquiries in silence. No
one around him understood the questions with which his mind was
grappling; and the answers which his own judgment gradually gave them,
would, he was sensible, create a general horror if broadly proclaimed in
the hearing of the simple people by whom he was surrounded.

His faith once shaken in the rules of practice prescribed by the
sectarian teachers, since he knew no other way of interpreting the
experimental doctrines of the Scriptures than that they pursued,--his
reason became gradually distasted with the Scriptures themselves,--and
he easily adopted the arguments against the Bible contained in his
favourite volume of French philosophy. He began to suspect, and, at
length, boldly concluded, that the Jehovah of the Hebrews was, indeed,
the mere mythological fiction of a rude and barbarous age,--a Deity
scarcely more godlike in his character and attributes than the savage
Moloch of the Ammonites. To class the garden of primeval innocence, and
the forbidden fruit, and the tempting serpent, and the lapse of the
first human pair, among the allegories which, he now learned, the
ancient nations were wont to adopt in order to embody their conceptions
of things otherwise difficult of narration, was a still easier step. The
Prophecies, he thought, were evidently attributable to that prolific
Oriental faculty which gave birth and authority to the pagan oracles;
and the Miracles, as events opposed to general experience, were to be at
once discarded from the catalogue of historic facts, by every true
philosopher.

Amid these rapid and decided changes of sentiment, Joe sometimes
wondered that he felt none of the inward terror and the "stings of
conscience," which he had so perpetually been taught to regard as the
sure avenging vicegerents of a Deity, in the breasts of those who dared
to doubt revealed truth. That he was tormented by none of these
appalling visitings, was another proof to his mind of the fallacy of his
rejected teachers. He was conscious that, in his conclusions, whether
right or wrong, he was sincere: he was satisfied that his new mental
condition was far preferable to the spirit-degrading and wearisome
slavery he had so recently shaken off; and he had not, yet,
sufficiently probed the depths of his own heart to know that his
self-gratulation was also aided by the pride of thinking diversely from
the mass of his fellows. The ghost story at the market, and its
accompanying circumstances, often ran through his memory, and served,
not a little, to enforce his persuasion that the mass of mankind were
the dupes of superstition; and, at the close of every similar train of
reflection, he could not refrain from indulging a self-complacent
feeling on his having, himself, thrown off what he gradually deemed to
be a blind and implicit trust in fables under the delusive guise of
Divine inspiration.

Glowing with the conception that he had hitherto been living in a dream
of multiform illusions, but had now broken it, Joe resolved to "gird up
the loins of his mind" for the laborious and persevering pursuit of
solid knowledge; and said within himself,--"I will henceforth converse
with experience, and not with imagination: I will cleave to fact and not
to phantasy." The weekly journies to Gainsborough with his aged
mistress, which were uninterruptedly kept up from their commencement,
afforded him what he conceived to be ample means for carrying this
resolve into successful practice. And so, in some measure, it proved;
for, by an exchange of volumes with the travelling bookseller, and the
casual assistance of a few shillings from his indulgent godmother, he
reaped an unremitting supply for his intellectual appetite,--a faculty
which rapidly "grew with what it fed on." He eagerly devoured whatever
came within his reach in the shape of history or chronicle;--he sought
industriously to acquire the rudiments of real science;--and strove to
sharpen and fortify his reason by the perusal of ancient tomes of logic
and philosophy. For records of travel he craved with an incontrollable
passion: a feeling which was, in reality, but a revivification of the
ardour awakened in his boyish mind by the adventures of the shipwrecked
Crusoe. But the fervid desire he once cherished, to penetrate vast
deserts and visit unknown realms, was now transmuted, by the influence
of his more sober associations and habits of reflection, into a
prevalent wish to see the world of men; and the prospect of a new and
wider field of observation to be entered upon at the close of his humble
servitude began thenceforth to pervade his daily musings, and,
eventually, to take a shape in his purposes.

The secrecy which Joe was compelled to observe on religious subjects was
a restraint through which he would gladly have broken; but there was not
one to whom he could communicate his sceptical views without fear of an
explosion of alarm. Observance of caution being repulsive to his
feelings, it was, therefore, natural that his real sentiments should
occasionally escape. Only, however, when the gross superstitions of his
daily associates excited very strong disgust within him, did Joe utterly
forget his rules of caution. His fellow-apprentices were in little
danger of imbibing heretical opinions, from the fact of their
understandings being too uninformed to apprehend the real drift of his
thinkings when expressed. But Dame Deborah pondered on some of these
hasty expressions of opinion, until her aged heart often ached with the
suspicion that all was not right in the new religious state of her
foster-son. Yet, when she marked the tenour of his daily conduct,--his
inviolable regard for truth,--his steady rebuke of every thing coarse
and unfeeling,--when she listened to the language in which his
conceptions, even on ordinary subjects, were uttered,--and when she
contrasted his manly cheerfulness with his former gloom and despondency,
a confidence arose that dispelled her temporary doubts of the
correctness of his heart, and her bosom glowed with pride at the
remembrance that she had adopted him for her own.

During the concluding five years of his apprenticeship, Joe had piled
together in his mind, though after no prescribed rule, much knowledge of
a multifarious character. The acquirement of one of the noble languages
of antiquity was his severest unassisted struggle during this
probationary course; but it was a strife from which he reaped the
richest after-pleasures. The facts he gleaned from history were stored
up faithfully in his memory, not merely as chronological items, but as
texts for fertile and profitable reflection; while he assiduously strove
to catch the rays of such new truths as were perceptible in his more
limited reading of ethics, and to evince their spirit in his thoughts
and actions. Thus, without written pattern or oral instructor, the
orphan apprentice endeavoured, by the selection of such materials as lay
within his grasp, to build up, within himself, a mental fabric of seemly
architecture. But, to cut short observations that are already too
protracted,--Joe, with all his efforts after mental discipline, was, at
twenty-one, what all the lonely self-educated must be at that age, often
the slave of his own hypothesis when he believed himself to be following
the most legitimate deductions from an authenticated fact,--oftener a
visionary than a true philosopher.

On the evening preceding the day of Joe's freedom, the good old Deborah,
sitting at her own door, presented a picture almost identical with the
sketch attempted at the opening of this brief recital. Except the deeper
furrows on her face, there was no token that age had strengthened its
empire over her. The fine old woman sat as erect in her arm-chair as she
had sat there sixteen years before. Her eyes also beamed with the same
wakefulness and kindliness on her neighbours, as they passed by, from
their labour, and tendered her a respectful recognition,--for she was at
peace with all, and beloved by all; and while the light vapour curled
and wreathed, as it floated slowly upward from her pipe, and then
melted, above her head, into the invisibility of space, it seemed a type
of the serene and healthful course she had trod in her uprightness, that
was, in due time, to receive its quiet change into the unseen but
felicitous future. The solicitude she had, for seventeen years,
increasingly felt respecting the welfare of her foster-son,--now the
youth was within a few hours of being at age,--filled her heart so
completely, that she could do nothing as she sat in her customary seat,
that evening, but con over the probable consequences of Joe's
emancipation from the thraldom of apprenticeship, which was to take
place the following noon.

"Well, I'm truly thankful," soliloquised the peaceful septuagenarian,
puffing away the clouds from her pipe with growing energy, and now and
then ending her sentences in an audible tone, through the strength of
earnestness,--"that the Lord moved my heart to take care of this poor
motherless and faytherless bairn. It's Him, I'm sensible, that inclines
us to do any good,--for there's little that's good in us by natur'. I've
no reason to repent what I did; for though the dear lad has a few
whirligig notions, yet I'm sure there's a vast deal o' good in him. He
doesn't like church over well,--but then the parson grows old and
stupid, like me; and it's not likely that a young fellow that's grown so
very book-larnt as our Joe, should be fond o' spending his time in
listening to an old toothless parson's dull drawling. Neighbour Toby
Lackpenny says that the lad's ower nat'ral; and not abstrac' enough, in
his way o' thinking; but, for my part, I think he's far ower abstrac'
already! At least, I hope he'll grow wiser, in a few years, than to say
that the dead never appear to the living. He may talk in that way to
green geese like himself, but not to me. Didn't I see my own dear
Barachiah, for three nights together, stand in the moonlight, at the
foot of my bed, while I was weeping sore for the loss of him?--The Lord
forgive me, that I should have grieved so sinfully as to have disturbed
his rest! But that's past and gone, and many a deep trouble besides,
thank Heaven above! And now, here's this lad. I wished, often, that I
had one o' my own;--but it was not God's will so to bless my poor
Barachiah and me,--and how could I have loved a child of my own better
than I do love this poor bairn? But I was thinking about what I must do
for him before he leaves me,--for he's long talked o' seeing the world
when he was out of his time;--and, I make no doubt, he'll want to be off
to-morrow, as soon as noontide makes him free. I must say a few words to
him about it, to-night,--and yet, I feel so chicken-hearted about his
going, that I hardly know how to speak to him."

The good dame's irregular soliloquy was put an end to by the voices of
her younger apprentices, who were drawing homewards for the night. Her
foster-son soon afterwards made his appearance,--book in hand, as
usual, at the end of his evening's walk at the conclusion of labour. The
supper-table was spread,--the meal ended,--and Joe and the aged dame
were speedily left the sole occupants of the little kitchen. Joe had
retaken up his book, and had been buried for more than half-an-hour in
deep attention to its contents,--the hour was growing late;--and Dame
Deborah, after many inward struggles, began, in a very tremulous tone,
to address her foster-child on the most important theme in her recent
soliloquy.

"Joe," said she, "I was thinking, since you will be of age, and a
freeman, to-morrow----" and there her emotion compelled her to hesitate;
but although Joe had laid down his book to attend to his aged
protectress, he felt too much agitated to take up the observation where
the dame had left it.

"I reckon you are in the same mind about leaving me, Joe," resumed the
aged woman, trembling with extreme feeling, and uttering the sentence
with a cadence that sounded like the key-note of desolation;--"but I
wish you to say what you are intending to do when I give you your
indentures, to-morrow at noon."

"My kind mother,--for a true mother you have been to me," replied the
youth, forcibly subduing his feelings, and addressing Dame Deborah with
a degree of animation and a fervency of look she had seldom witnessed in
him,--"it is high time I became acquainted with the world. Believe
me,--I do not desire to leave you through ingratitude for your
unremitted kindness to a poor orphan,--but I feel I am fitted for other
scenes than these. More than all, man is the great book I wish to read;
and the few humble pages of his history which lie around me here I have
turned over, till I am weary of the writing. I shall be useless to you
if I remain, for I shall never be content, or at rest. I go from you,
for a season; but never, never, dear mother, shall I cease to think of
you!"

Joe bowed his head, and covered his face with his hands, in deep
emotion; and the dame, moved utterly beyond self-possession, arose with
trembling haste, and clasping her foster-child in her aged arms, kissed
his fair forehead, while the unwonted tears trickled down her furrowed
cheeks.

"My dear bairn! my pratty bairn! my noble bairn!" exclaimed she with a
bounding heart, as she stood over him in affectionate admiration.

Joe wept, in spite of his efforts to master tears,--but, at length,
recovered sufficient self-possession to lead his aged protectress back
to her chair, and to recommence the conversation.

"You will consent, then, I hope, to let me go, kind mother," he said,
still holding her hand.

"The Lord's will be done, bairn!" replied Deborah, in a tone of calm and
natural piety. "Yes," added she, with resumed cheerfulness, and in her
customary firm under-tone,--"thou shal' go, Joey, lad! and thy pocket
shall not be empty, nayther!"

"Nay, dear mother," answered the high-minded lad,--"I have already
burdened you too heavily, and I will never consent to rob you of the
refuge of your old age:--remember, I have hands and health, and can work
for my own support."

"God forbid thou should'st be idle!" answered the dame;--"for idleness
leads to sin and crime, while honest labour needs never be ashamed. But
a few guineas in thy pocket will do thee no harm, an' thou husbands 'em
well. More than that, 'There's no knowing what a man may have to meet
when he leaves home,' thou know'st is an old saying, and thou'lt find it
so apt, that thou'lt think on't when thou has left me, mayhap."

A calm and provident conversation ensued, during which Joe agreed to
accept a purse of twenty spade-aces from the good old dame, after she
had assured him it would by no means straiten her means either of
subsistence or plenty.

"And now, dear Joey," said the kind old woman, "let me persuade thee to
throw aside some o' thy whirligig notions. Do not contradict every body
thou meets who are so old-fashioned as to believe what their forefathers
taught 'em. More than all, Joey," continued Deborah, with some warmth,
"I'm shocked at your stubbornness in trying to deny what the Scripter
says about foul spirits:--the Lord keep us from them!--and, especially
at your daring to threap so stoutly that the dead never come again!"

"Indeed, dame," replied Joe, in a tone of conciliation and respect, "I
never denied these things out of stubbornness, but because they are
opposed to all experience:--who, and where, is the person, now living,
that has really seen a ghost?"

"Who--and where--Joe?" echoed Deborah, with a strange and solemn look.

Joe felt amazed that he had not, before he had asked the last question,
called to mind the dame's serious observations in the ferry-boat, five
years before, and sat gazing upon the changed countenance of his aged
mistress with intense earnestness.

"Joe," continued Deborah, after a deep pause succeeding her emphatic
echo of the youth's sceptical question,--"I thought to have kept what I
am about to reveal of the dead as a solemn secret, and to have buried it
with me, in my grave; but to save thee from foul unbelief about such
solemn things, I will reveal it to thee.

"Wedded husband and wife could not live in greater happiness than my
dear Barachiah and I," continued the aged woman, in a voice faltering
with affection:--"the stroke which took him from me raised a murmuring
spirit within me, and day after day, as I moved about this dwelling, my
rebellious heart dared to say that He who lives on high, and does all
things well, had stricken me in wrath that I deserved not. My
neighbours would often attempt to soothe me; and some of them treated my
sorrow with lightness, and said, I would soon forget my dead husband,
and seek another. But they who uttered this mockery little knew me.
Added days and nights only served to increase my grief; and, at length,
I began to watch through the night, until my strength failed, and, as I
watched, I prayed, in sinful stubbornness and presumption, that my Maker
would either take me away to join the dear being that I loved, or bring
him once more to me. It was done unto me according to my wicked
prayer;--for, one midnight, about ten months after my dear Barachiah's
death, as I sat up in bed, with the burning desire in my heart to see my
husband once more, and giving full vent to my rebelliousness by the
utterance of words which I remember with horror,--behold! he whom I had
lost stood at the foot of my bed, but with such a piercing look of
reproof as I never saw him wear when alive. He wore a garment of lovely
light, and I could have delighted for ever to gaze on him, had it not
been for that severe look which ran through my heart, and told me I had
done wrong. I sank away, senseless. When I came to myself, and the
vision was gone, I vowed that I would never pray more as I had done that
night. But, my will was perverse; and, on the next night, I was tempted
again to desire, and then to pray, that I might, yet once more, see my
departed husband. I was punished as before;--but such was my
wickedness, or my weakness, I cannot tell which, that I prayed yet a
third time, as presumptuously as ever, and was visited by another and
still more reproving apparition of him God gave to me, and whom He had
taken away. The next morning I was unable to attend to my daily cares,
and was compelled to send for a physician. I took medicines, but I think
they helped less to heal me, than did the kind counsel of the aged man
who administered them, and who is now in his grave. I prayed no more the
prayer of the presumptuous, but asked for resignation, till He who has
promised to be a husband to the widow, filled my bosom therewith."

Deborah ceased, as it seemed, disabled by the fullness of her heart,
from prolonging her narrative. Joe had not only listened to her
revelation with the profoundest attention, but felt an irresistible awe
under the recital. Deborah had never risen so much above her ordinary
self, in his eyes, as while she was thus unbosoming a secret she had
kept for years. Her attitude, and the expression of her features, her
tone of voice, and the very words in which she conveyed her solemn
story, indicated an unusual frame of mind, and formed a combined and
undeniable proof that the utterer of such unearthly news was as fully
persuaded, as of her own existence, that she was delivering truths.

Joe's strong affection for his aged protectress, and his reverence for
her sterling uprightness, contributed to fix his mind more absorbingly
on what he heard. The relation of the apparition of Barachiah
Thrumpkinson, although authenticated solely by this solemn averment of
his aged relict, thus made a stronger impression on the faith of the
youthful listener than any former narrative of the supernatural, written
or oral. The united reasonings of five years seemed to be shaken to
atoms; and Joe remained answerless, with his eyes fixed on the floor.
Nor had his reasoning faculty re-asserted its dominion, ere the aged
dame rose, and looking parentally upon him, while she uttered her usual
evening farewell, "Good night, bairn!" took the way to her rustic couch.

Joe returned the salutation with a faltering voice, and hasted,
likewise, to seek his place of repose; but sleep was long ere it visited
his eyes, even when he had overcome, in some degree, the strange
over-awed feeling which had crept over him while listening to Deborah's
story. Amid the solemn stillness of the night, Memory ran through her
beaten paths, and Imagination arose, and mingled therewith the scenes of
the future. The great event of to-morrow,--the greatest, hitherto, in
the life of the humble shoemaker's apprentice,--soon dissipated all
other excitements. Would he be happier when he was free, and had entered
the world, as a personal observer, instead of learning its varied
character from books? Something whispered a doubt. But would he not be
wiser? Yes; that, he thought, was certain. He would be able, by the
practice of close observation, to compare men with each other: he would
have the opportunity of trying, as upon a touch-stone, the truth or
fallacy of the peculiar hypotheses he had framed: he would learn to read
the human heart. And then he thought of the probability, nay, certainty,
of his finding some kindred mind, but farther advanced in great truths,
that would be able to set him right where he was wrong; who would teach
him the true secret of perfecting his moral nature, and would lead him
on to the acquirement of intellectual stores, of the very existence of
which, it might be that he had scarcely a faint conception,--thoughts
that enfevered him with pleasurable anticipation.

Then, reverting to the past, he reminded himself of his orphan
condition, of the gratitude he owed his affectionate foster-mother, and
of the kind and parental assistance she had offered him, although he was
about to desert her. Often he felt the melting mood come over him so
conqueringly, that he was all but resolved to tell the aged dame, in the
morning, that he would remain with her, and try to comfort her old age.
And then he thought of the many sensible lessons she had given for his
future conduct in the world,--till, wearied out with the variety of his
thoughts, and physically, as well as mentally exhausted, he sunk to
slumber.

Joe awoke early, after a dreamless and refreshing sleep, and again his
mind laboured with its difficulties about Deborah's relation of the
apparition; but its labour was vain. The more he reasoned the greater
were his difficulties. The healthful effect of these baffled and
perplexed thinkings upon Joe's intellect was, the deterring of its
powers from precipitant and immature conclusions,--the throwing of its
energies back upon fresh and deeper inquiry,--and the in-fixing of a
humiliating consciousness that, after all his struggles in pursuit of
knowledge, he scarcely knew any thing yet as he ought to know it. Thus,
his conscious ignorance for the present was really beneficial to him;
and when the voice of his affectionate mistress was heard summoning him
to breakfast, he stept down the ladder, shaking his head at himself for
a conceited puppy, and applying homeward to his own case the significant
rebuke--

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, _Joe_,
    Than are dreamt of in _your_ philosophy."

Labour, the honest dame declared, should not be thought of, in her
house, the day that Joe was of age,--according to her reckoning by
guess,--and free. And she bustled about, as old as she was, to place her
best earthen jugs, filled with mead and ale, in goodly array, on the
white and well-scoured table, that every visiter might drink the young
freeman's health; and she hasted to prepare a large plumb-pudding, and
other homely eates, for dinner,--all the while holding up her head, and
striving to look as blythe and merry as if she had been in her teens.

At length, the hour of parting came; and when Joe rose and took up his
hat,--and his fellow-apprentices that were,--but a few hours
before,--took each a bundle to accompany him a few miles on the
way,--Dame Deborah's aged frame shook violently, and the tears streamed,
unchecked, down her time-worn face.

"God speed thee, my dear bairn!" she cried,--"and help thee to take heed
of thy ways, that no harm may befall thee!"

Joe felt completely unmanned, and mingled his tears with those of his
beloved and revered benefactress, while he bent to receive her parting
benediction.

       *       *       *       *       *

The orphan saw his foster-mother no more alive. When, three
years afterwards, he again entered that little village of
Haxey, it was to attend the interment of Dame Deborah in
the same churchyard to which she had conducted him to witness
the burial of his mother. And what an altered man was Joe!
A residence in the manufacturing districts had unveiled to him a world of
misery--contention--competition--avarice--oppression--and suffering--and
famine--that he had never supposed to exist! As for his religious
opinions they changed, and changed again,--amidst varnished,
high-sounding professors of sanctity, on the one hand,--and starving
thousands, who in the pangs of despair charged God with the authorship
of their wretchedness, on the other. Had Joe been asked, ten years
afterwards, what were _now_ his religious sentiments, he would have
answered:--"I am wearied with talking about creeds, and I am trying,--by
relieving misery as much as I can, and diffusing all the happiness I
can,--to show that I believe all men to be my brethren: I think _that_
is the best religion."



                TOBY LACKPENNY THE PHILOSOPHICAL:

                               A
                   DEVOTEE OF THE MARVELLOUS.


Among the most remarkable events which took place in Haxey, towards the
close of the last century, was the settlement, in that ancient village,
of curious Toby Lackpenny, the philosophical tailor. Toby's coat was
usually out at the elbows, but he had long held, throughout the whole
Isle of Axholme, a high reputation as a man of deep and singular
learning. His "library" was the theme of marvel unceasing to his plain
and unsophisticated customers; and though it consisted but of forty or
fifty ragged volumes, it constituted a wealth that the philosophical
Toby, himself, priced above rubies. To this treasury of wisdom he,
nightly, resorted, with ever-fresh delight, as regularly as his manual
labour closed; and many an ecstatic hour did he live over his books in
the sweet stillness and solitude of early morning. There were tractates
on the whole circle of science, in his bibliographical collection, Toby
asserted; for, like all other great philosophers, he aspired to be an
encyclopedist in knowledge: but, up to the time at which we are
commencing this brief record of Toby's history, it was simply, by his
mastery of the erudite pages of Nicholas Culpepper,--and of a very
ancient volume comprising treatises on Astrology, Geomancy, Palmistry,
and other kindred occult studies,--that Toby had won for himself,
throughout the length and breadth of Axholmian land, so high a character
for wisdom. None could doubt the profundity of Toby's acquirements; for
whoever took a wild flower to his door was sure to be told its
name,--its healing virtues,--and the names of its presiding influences,
the planets and zodiacal constellations,--those celestial potencies from
which, he assured the visiter, every herb and flower derived their
medicinal virtues. And, oh! the decoctions, and the salves, and the
ointments, and the plasters, and the poultices, and the liniments, and
the electuaries, and the simples, and the compounds, that were made by
the old women of Haxey, and all Axholme, by Toby Lackpenny's oracular
direction! And then the exultant looks and honied words with which some
would return thanks to Toby, and assure him all their tooth-ache, or
head-ache, or elbow-ache, had vanished, like magic, by their diligent
attention to his prescription; and then the reach and shrewdness he
displayed in answering such as complained that his advice had not been
of the service they had apprehended, namely, that they had not plucked
the flower in the hour when its own planet presided,--or they had not
boiled it before the Moon rose,--and she was in opposition to Jupiter,
the lord of the plant wormwood,--or some other convincing reason why the
device had not succeeded.

Toby's advancement in the "astral science," also brought him an
increasing number of customers,--though the naked condition of his
elbows told the fact that this growing knowledge was somewhat profitless
in a substantial sense. Nevertheless, every successive day strengthened
his confidence that he would soon be "even with Booker, or Lilly, or
Gadbury, or any of 'em that his grandfather used to talk about;"--for he
had also been eager, in his day, to be able to prognosticate future
events by tracing "the stars in their courses." And, now, as surely as
the evening returned, Toby might be seen at his own door, seated on a
low stool, drawing astrological diagrams on a fragment of slate, and
placing the symbols of the planets and signs of the zodiac in due
position in the "table of houses."

The vagueness which Toby found to be so characteristic of what
astrologers call the "rules of judgment" often brought the zealous
student to a pause, as to the real utility of his pursuit; but the
extreme credulousness of his constitution usually urged him to put an
end to the dubious reasonings that often rose within him. Now and then,
a sharp stroke from the village parson,--levelled, in full canonicals,
from the pulpit of a Sunday forenoon,--with the marksman's stern eye
fixed, meanwhile, on poor Toby,--made him stagger a little. It was a
guilty act,--the clergyman asserted,--to rend away the natural veil
which the Creator had drawn over man's discernment of futurity: it was a
controversion of the order of His Providence: it was an attempt to seize
upon the Almighty's own attributes, and wield a power that belonged
solely to Himself. Such eloquent sentences bothered Toby still more,
when the well-intentioned shepherd rounded them by exclaiming, as he
beat the

            "----drum ecclesiastic
    With fist instead of a stick,"

that "star-gazers, and wizards, and enchanters, were, each and all, an
abomination to the Lord!"

But, alas! for poor Toby,--when his favourite disciple Joe, after being
torn from him by Dame Deborah's commandment in obedience to Toby's great
foe,--the vicar,--alas! for Toby, when Joe, filled with zeal to
discharge his conscience, re-entered the tailor's cottage one evening at
dusk, and attacked his old teacher in the very heart and centre of his
predilections, declaring there would be no salvation for him in this
world, till he had followed the example of the Ephesian Christians, and
burnt his cabalistical books; nor any happiness for him in the prospect
of a future life, until he had eschewed all his delusive vanities, and
cried at the footstool of his Maker for the pardon of his sins! Never
was the might with which a mind sinewed by some strong enthusiasm
controls even an elder and more experienced intellect more signally
evinced than in the contest between the orphan Joe, under his religious
frenzy, and his old teacher, the soothsaying tailor. In the outset of
this strange opposition and aggression on the part of his late scholar,
Toby Lackpenny stoutly parried the blows of his unexpected adversary by
returning text for text, and argument for argument.

"Is it not plainly declared in the Book of Judges, that 'the stars in
their courses fought against Sisera?'" asked Toby, with all the emphasis
which his zeal for the hereditary honour and power of the stars
prompted;--"can any thing prove more clearly that they sway human
affairs? And the inspired Psalmist saith of the heavenly bodies, that
'Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the
end of the world.' Which word _line_, according to Aben Ezra, and the
most skilful cabalists," continued Toby, diving into the profoundest
depths of his learning for the defence of his beloved theories, "ought
to be rendered _rule_ or _direction_, and evidently sets forth the fact
that the planets exercise lordship in their respective houses,--while
the latter part of the passage makes known the precious truth that the
wise and skilful student will learn to understand their language."

"But you have studied their language a long time without understanding
it a whit the surer,--you know you have,--for you have told me so more
than once, neighbour Toby," replied Joe, with honest and unshrinking
fervour; "and as your head is fast becoming grey, and as flowers are
often nipped though but in the bud,--I think it would be wiser in you as
an aged man, and in me as a frail youth, to get prepared for
death;--therefore, I conjure you, Toby, as you value your own soul, to
forsake these vanities!"

This simple and sincere language, from one who was then little more than
a child in years, shook the old man's heart more than all the
clergyman's hortatory thunderbolts had shaken his reason. Toby attempted
to renew his sophistries, at Joe's succeeding visits; but felt, at
length, thoroughly subdued under the heartfelt and persevering
enthusiasm of a mere boy.

"Verily!" Toby Lackpenny often exclaimed in after-times, when relating
the progress of his conversion,--"although my will was stubborn, I often
trembled before the spirit of that child, like Felix before Paul, or
like the gaoler in the prison at Philippi!"

The astrologer burnt his books of the astral science, and all the other
occult, and therefore satanical sciences; and he and Joe were
thenceforth united in a novel and more elevated pursuit,--the
acquirement of a purified and spiritual nature. But the distinctness of
minds, and the force of habit in different natures, were strikingly
discoverable in the relative degrees of zeal with which the youth and
Toby followed their new object. Joe's ascetic fervour has been
described. But Toby's bent was of a diverse character: he found it
impossible to enter with Joe's vehemence into the quest of an entire
renewal of heart,--and could not resist the tendency to seek for
enlightenment among the curious treasures of his little library. With
indescribable rapture Toby found, as he thought, exactly what he wanted,
in the abstruse pages of Jacob Boehmen. He had long kept the volumes of
the mystical German on his shelves; but he assured himself that he never
saw the true meaning of the high mysteries developed in the "Forty
Questions," with so clear a vision as he did now the films of the "old
Adam" were beginning to fall from his eyes.

It need scarcely be observed that Joe heard Toby's announcement of these
abstract discoveries with rigid indifference. Neither when the lad's
fervour had abated, and disgust and melancholy succeeded, did he feel
able to receive the tailor's assurances of the superior consolation to
be derived from these puzzling studies. Toby's exhilaration of spirits,
happily for himself, suffered little interruption after the full growth
of his devoted attachment to the cloudy exercitations of the old
quietest.--"Of a truth," he would often say to his customers, "I can
never be sufficiently thankful that a merciful Providence showed me the
spiritual lantern of Jacob Boehmen, wherewith I might find, and possess,
the pearl of great price!"

Within two years of the expiry of Joe's apprenticeship, however, the
devotional and marvel-loving tailor had transferred his worship from the
shrine of the mystical German shoemaker to the more lofty, as well as
more celestial image of Baron Emanuel Swedenborg. The Scripture
histories had, thenceforth, an allegorical sense for Toby, as well as
for Joe; and the lad could scarcely hint that he thought the
transactions in the garden of Eden were to be read as a figure, before
the learned Lackpenny was ready to pour out a profound descant on the
_proprium_, or "sensual principle," which he affirmed to be typified by
the serpent in the garden;--and declared his conviction, that the Mosaic
account of the first human pair was, in reality, a mere symbolical
history of "the First Church," and of the causes of its forfeiture of
purity.

At another argumentative season, when the apprentice had ventured to ask
if Toby did not think there was something incongruous in the account of
Noah's flood, and in the size the ark was said to be,--and how the
beasts went in,--and how they were supported,--the penetrating
Swedenborgian assured the inquirer, with the utmost gravity, that he
thought there was nothing in the whole world of books or facts more easy
of explication.

"Know thou, my beloved Joey," said the sincere old man, raising his
spectacles, and placing them, like two additional eyes, in the centre of
his large forehead, "that whoever giveth his hearty faith to the
teaching of the celestial-minded Swedenborg will receive a second
eye-sight,--spiritual, and far more precious than the eyes of this
earthly body. The Deluge, Joey, represents 'the Second Church,' as the
garden of Paradise represents the first. The ark is the man of the
church; and the forty days' rain is a figure for the temptations of the
senses, by which the Second Church, as well as the First, was tried: you
may see that figure plainly cleared up by our Saviour's temptation in
the wilderness. The ark is also described as having a window
above,--that signifies the intellectual principle; and a door, moreover,
at the side,--that denotes the faculty of hearing."

"I wish all these things had been described in a plainer way, if they
mean all this," interjected the youth, impatient of his mystic friend's
harangue.

"_If!_" exclaimed Toby, astonished out of measure that any sane person
could, for one moment, doubt what seemed to himself to be so pellucidly
clear;--"if!--why, only read it for yourself, Joe, in the 'Celestial
Arcana' of the inspired Emanuel of the North!"--and, therewith, the
agile old philosopher sprang from his chair, and reached the volume from
his shelves.

"Never mind, friend Toby: not at present," said Joe, very quietly.

"Well, well," said Toby, "another time then;--but you won't hear me out,
or otherwise I could clearly prove what I had begun to say."

"But what confidence can one place in these dreams of your favourite
Emanuel?" said Joe.

"Dreams!" retorted the mystic tailor, lowering his voice, and changing
the expression of his countenance, until Joe wondered what was the
matter with him.--"Dreams! no, no, he didn't dream, Joey. He was
favoured with heavenly visions! The angels actually took him several
times to heaven,--for he says so himself----"

"And Mahomet said the same," interjected Joe.

"Interrupt me not!" continued Toby, looking still more awfully
mysterious:--"I tell thee, the angels took him to heaven, and unfolded
to him hidden mysteries! And I tell thee, Joey, that I believe it is
possible to attain unto such a pure state here, in this world, that we
may converse with angels. I have fasted every day this week till
sunset," concluded the poor honest old enthusiast, creeping close to
Joe, and speaking almost in his ear,--"and I have faith to believe,
that, in a little time, after much prayer, I, even I, shall be
permitted to see the angelic world, yea, and to converse with it!"

One of Joe's fellow-apprentices here lifted up the latch, and informed
him that Dame Deborah wished he would come home, for the hour was
getting late. Pressing his old friend's hand, without looking him in the
face, the youth wished him "Good-night!" not a little relieved by the
summons of his mistress.

On the morrow, the neighbourhood was thrown into a state of alarm by a
cottager having found poor Toby Lackpenny in a swoon upon his
shop-board. Finding the experiment attended with such imminent hazard,
the fervent enthusiast was persuaded the next night, by Joe, after two
hours' indefatigable argumentation, to lay aside his attempt, by devout
abstinence, at "purging the frame terrestrial till it could witness the
vision celestial."

The occurrence of a very singular incident, however, and some effects
that followed it, produced many a misgiving in poor Toby's mind that he
had done wickedly in giving up the pursuit of this spiritual and exalted
object. It was about the third night after Toby had yielded to Joe's
prudent counsel,--and while they were sitting in quiet converse on one
of their old themes,--that Toby's cottage door was suddenly burst open
by a blow which resembled the stroke of a thunderbolt in the imagination
of Joe and his ancient gossip,--and, on the centre of the floor, as
suddenly stood Frank Friskit, Joe's younger fellow-apprentice, and the
most mischievous scape-grace in the village. The face of the unexpected
visitant was like the whitened wall; and his curly locks, as if in
consternation at the unwonted pallor of his countenance, stood "nine
ways of a Wednesday," as Toby phrased it. His trembling knees and torn
dress made confession,--the trembler himself being tongueless with
dread,--that Frank had been engaged in some fearful adventure. Joe
hastened to support him,--for the lad swooned almost instantly. Toby
hastened for cold water to aid his recovery;--and, in a few seconds,
Noah Wallhead, Joe's other fellow-apprentice, also entered Toby's
cottage, and manifested considerable solicitude about Frank's alarming
condition. After a plentiful libation upon his temples, Frank began to
come to his senses.

"What's the matter, Franky?" said Toby, gently, as soon as he thought
the convalescent was able to bear the inquiry.

"I've--I've seen some'at!" replied Frank, hysterically.

"Seen!--well, but what have you seen, Frank?" asked Joe.

"A bar-ghost, Joe, or else th' old lad!" answered Friskit, with a
chattering of the teeth.

Noah Wallhead laughed; but Toby and Joe, seeing the young ghost-seer was
now able to sit up without help, requested him, when they had closed
the door, to tell his story at length, and conceal nothing.

The repentant Frank avowed himself to be the guilty perpetrator of a
series of malicious attempts upon the natural liberty of Toby
Lackpenny's cat! Every urchin in the village of Haxey had been blamed,
at one time or other, for the base machination of setting "snickles," or
nooses of wire, in the tailor's little garden. The sage Toby profoundly
conjectured, and openly maintained, all along, that these wicked devices
were intended to ensnare his favourite tabby; but neither he, nor any
one else, had ever suspected Frank Friskit to be the foul conspirator,
inasmuch as he was so frequently in Toby's cot, and on friendly terms
with him. Under the agitation of affright, the conscience-stricken and
self-discovered culprit solemnly vowed that he would forsake the way of
transgression thenceforth; for he had seen such a sight, while setting a
snickle, as he could never forget as long as he lived! How he had got
over the hedge he could not tell:--he believed his wits left him as soon
as he saw the bar-ghost,--for he could remember nothing besides that
queer sight!

"But what was it like, Frank?" asked Joe.

"Like!--why it had a dark-looking face, and a pair of eyes as big as
owls' heads!" replied the lad, with a shudder.

"And how big was it?" asked Joe, again.

"I only saw the great foul face grinning and staring at me, and all on
a blaze,--and then it was gone!" said Frank.

Joe received the last answer with a smile,--but, on turning round, when
Noah Wallhead touched his elbow, he could not forbear laughter. Noah
showed Joe the hollow turnip, with its eyes and mouth, that had so
marvellously affrighted the younger apprentice when lit up with a bit of
candle,--a common trick among rustic youngsters. Toby, however, was not
let into the secret, and took it very ill that Joe, especially, should
laugh at what he considered a very alarming narrative. Feeling it
incumbent on himself to use this advantageous opportunity for enforcing
a homily on reform, he thus addressed himself to the penitent Frank
Friskit:--

"Be thankful, foolish boy," he said, "that this evil spirit has done
thee no real harm; and, for the future, lay aside thy wicked follies.
And, above all, Frank, bethink thee that thou has' been guilty of a
great sin to be so long pretending good neighbourship with me, and yet
to be all the while plotting how to snickle my poor dumb creatur'. No
wonder the bar-ghost should visit thee! Say thy Belief, as well as thy
prayers, to-night, Frank,--and be a good lad in futur', and then thou
may' hope that the Lord will forgive this deceit, for that's a greater
sin than mischief!"--and then, fearing to renew the lad's
terrors,--since he already began to tremble afresh,--Toby besought Joe
and Noah Wallhead to take him home.

Toby Lackpenny felt "indescribably queer," as he afterwards said,--when
left alone that night. He tried to banish the remembrance of Frank's
strange description of the trunkless head,--but he found that to be
impossible, as long as he sat by the fire,--for every flicker of the
flames startled him with a new fear or fancy. So he betook himself to
bed. But alas! poor Toby's frame had been so completely weakened by
fasting, and his indulgence of the marvelling propensity of his
constitution had rendered his understanding and will so powerless, that
he felt like a being that has no longer any self-government. The
head,--the queer head that Frank had seen,--with its fiery eyes and
mouth,--was all Toby could think about, as he lay tossing to and fro in
bed:--"What a marvellous sight it must have been!" said Toby to
himself,--"a grinning dark face, with eyes as big as owls' heads,"--the
boy said;--"all on a blaze in a moment, and then gone!" And the
revolting picture, at length, burst in reality,--he believed,--before
his eyes! Nor had he the power to banish the uncouth and distorted
phantasm,--although he gathered up all his courage and tried to laugh,
once:--it was in vain,--the sound of his own forced laughter caused his
skin to creep! Then Toby shut his eyes, and turned himself on his
pillow, and bravely resolved he would sleep,--but it still was in
vain:--when his eyelids ached with the compressure he had exerted upon
them, he opened his eyes once more,--and lo! there was a real, grinning,
goggle-eyed head,--all on fire,--coming towards him, from an immense
distance! The trunkless head was a mile off, apparently,--but it was
coming,--and what was he to do? It came on rapidly,--and the heart of
poor Toby beat loudly against his ribs, and the perspiration started
from his brow; and, at length, when the glaring phantom of a head was
approaching very near, he made a convulsive effort, and dashed his head
beneath the bed-clothes! Half suffocated with heat and fear, he threw
the clothes sufficiently off to obtain a breath or two, when, to his
unspeakable relief, his incomprehensible tantaliser vanished.

In a few minutes, however, the horrible spectre of a head appeared
again, in the immense, immeasurable distance. It approached at the same
rapid and threatening rate as before, and with features he thought still
more frightful; and, again, he had recourse to the bed-clothes for
protection from this terrific visitant. When the head commenced its
menacing approach for the third time, Toby's horror exceeded endurance,
and he jumped from his low bed, and threw open his little window to
catch the cool air. The night breeze speedily dispelled his giddiness,
and effectually banished the disturbing figure from his disordered
sensory.

Toby stood a few moments attempting to rally his mind, by his old
employment of counting the stars in each of the more striking
constellations, which were at the time distinctly and brightly
visible;--but the hour of midnight, told by the solemn tones of the
church clock, warned him to close the window, and endeavour to find the
rest he felt he now so much needed. Exhaustion, happily, came to his
relief, and Toby forgot the fiery head without a trunk, in more gentle
dreams.

Joe heard Toby's relation of this singular visit, the next night, with a
degree of phlegm and coolness that amazed the marvel-stricken tailor.
Nor could Toby receive for gospel any of the natural explanations of his
young friend: it was in vain that Joe recounted what he had lately read
of Nicolai, the printer of Berlin, and his wondrous diseased
visions,--it was equally in vain that the youth strove to shew Toby that
the very manner of the strange head's visit,--so like what was called
"phantasmagoria" and other optical delusions,--proved, to a dead
certainty, that it all arose from over-excitement of the brain. Toby
poohed and pshawed at every thing Joe said,--and was nearer than Joe had
ever thought him towards calling his former disciple by some offensive
name. The lad was compelled to desist from his attempt to reason Toby
out of his uneasy conviction, that he had actually been visited by some
evil agent as a punishment for his infraction of the vow he took never
to eat food till sunset,--that so he might attain to communion with
heavenly angels!

Left to himself, the stricken idealist fell into still more pernicious
errors. Witchcraft, was the next delusion he was fated to experience.
Not that Toby ever imagined himself to be either a witch or a wizard;
but he fell, most obstinately, into the belief,--ay, as obstinately as
the knight of La Mancha himself,--that he was under the mischievous
power of some who dealt with wicked spirits and practised enchantments.
His imagination in this, as in earlier instances of its treacherousness
to his judgment, made a rapid, though gradual, abandonment of all
self-evident and common-sense conclusions, even in the every-day affairs
of life. That nest of temptation--his library--as, also, in the case of
the world-known Quixote, was, again, the source from which Toby
Lackpenny drew the written proofs for the reality of his credulous
vagaries. "Gloomy Glanvil," as critical Toby had called him in the days
of his higher spiritual-mindedness, was the superstitious expounder of
doctrine to whom the philosophical tailor now attached himself. How
could he deny that a compact with evil spirits was possible to fallen
human creatures, when he had believed, so heartily, with Swedenborg,
that it was possible for sinful man to hold communion with celestial
ministers? Besides, was there not the indubitable history of the Witch
of Endor, and innumerable other references to dealers with familiar
spirits, in the volume of Holy Writ? And were they likely--these wicked
and envious agencies of the "evil eye"--to look on any human being so
maliciously as on him who had aspired to converse with good angels?
Would they not feel an instinctive antipathy towards him? He was
convinced they would, as soon as he inwardly asked the question.

He had just lost his thimble while he was thinking thus; and though he
hunted for it a full hour, he was not able to find it! What though this
had often fallen to his share of ill luck before? It was not, now, to be
accounted for as an accident. No: it had been spirited away: he was
bewitched; he was sure he was. It was by petty acts of mischief that the
withered hags of hell usually commenced their annoyance of those whose
aspirations after purity had raised their devilish hate. His case, he
feared, was too sure to prove a sorrowful one, for he knew not how to
counterwork their malevolence. What a dunce he had been to neglect that
branch of occult study! But it might not be too late to acquire even a
profound knowledge of it; and so he would set about it in right earnest.

And, poor Toby! he _did_ set about it in earnest, insomuch that he sewed
side-seams to tops and bottoms of new garments, and stitched circular
patches on square rents, and squares on circular apertures in the
damaged attire he undertook to repair, and mislaid his thread where he
could not find it for hours,--and pricked his thumbs and fingers,
half-callous though they were, with the needles,--and heated his goose
till he burnt the cloth,--and fell into blunders and mishaps of most
awful consequence to his professional reputation, day by day, more
thickly and disastrously, until the very disasters themselves convinced
him that he was approaching a climax of knowledge in the gloomy science
of which he had now become so devoted a student. The witches knew--foul,
cunning, devil-dealers that they were--they knew, although he did not,
as yet, ken _who_ they were, that he was about to become a match for
them; and, therefore, they were thus bedevilling him and his cloth, and
goose, and shears, and thimble, and needles, in this "hey-day,
hide-and-seek, burn-it-and-bother-it," sort of way.

Toby would not "give it up," however, torment him as they might--the
spiteful fiendlings! He still read and thought, and thought and read,
and compared the descriptions of feature which his books contained, with
the physiognomies of all who visited his abode, until he entertained a
shrewd suspicion of who were the real and identical, though secret,
practisers of all this infernal mischief. Yet, as some of these had
been, for years, his best and kindest employers, the witch-seer found it
go sorely against the grain of his affectionate nature to provoke a
quarrel with them. Often did he chide his spirit when he had permitted
any of these suspicious visiters to depart with heartfelt thanks for the
kindly present of a cake, or a new cheese, or a dish of butter, or
half-score of eggs, with which they had coupled their order for the
repair of a coat, or nether habit; and as often did he resolve to
prepare himself against their next visit for a red-hot quarrel.

Months elapsed before the amiable-hearted visionary could "screw his
courage to the sticking-place," so as to enable him to "fall out" with
his friends and benefactors: not that he feared their witchery, or the
heavier harm it might bring upon him, when he had defied it. He soon
lost all dread of that kind. It was his true-heartedness--his genuine
gratitude--that precious quality which a rogue never feels, though he
talks the most loudly about it, but which honest and noble natures
cannot stifle, even when warm friends have become persecuting foes,--it
was that superlative virtue which struggled to keep its citadel in
gentle Toby's heart's core, and the contest with which was so
troublous to him. Happily for the poor mistaken philosopher, his
loving-heartedness had rendered him so dear to all who knew him, that
none would believe he was in his right mind, when he suddenly became so
discourteous and angry-tempered.

"Pr'ythee, Goody, what think'st ta?" said Dolly Dustit, the little
hard-working flax-woman, to Peggy the staid housekeeper at Farmer
Robinson's,--"is neighbour Toby growing queerish in his heed, wi' so
much book-larning,--or, what the plague can be the matter wi' him? I
asked him to tell me what yerbs I should get to mak' a green plaister
for our Jack's sore scaup, and he grinned like a fummard, and tell'd ma
to gooa to the divvil, and as th' oud lad was a friend o' mine he would
mak' ma my plaisters, with a witness! Doesn't ta think he's gone
stranny?"

"For sartain there's summat the matter wi' his wits, from what our
maister was saying about him this morning," answered Peggy; "but who can
wonder at it, Dolly? I wonder his knowledge-box hasn't gone wrong-side
up'ards many a year since!"

"And Maister Robinson has had some foul speech from him, has he, then,
Peggy?" asked the little flax-woman, curious to learn more of Toby's
vagaries.

"Sich foul speech as maks one queer to mention it," replied Peggy,
though she evidently wanted to unburthen herself of it to her gossip,
and told the shuddering news in the next breath:--"he tell'd th' farmer
that his breeches smelled o' brimstone, and he wouldn't put a stitch in
'em to please ayther him, or the divvil his maister!"

"The Lord ha' marcy on us, Peggy!" ejaculated the honest little
flax-woman, "it's a sore thing to think on; but poor Toby's brain's
addled at last, I'm varry sewer. He's as harmless as a lamb, when he's
right: one nivver heeard a foul word come out of his mouth. I'm varry
sorry for him, Peggy----" and so saying, Dolly Dustit sped on to her
daily work in the flax field, more deeply grieved at what she believed
to be poor Toby's affliction, than at his repulsive treatment of her
application for his medical advice.

Such conferences of inquiry, wonder, and regret, began to arise daily,
in the ancient little town of Haxey, as Toby advanced further into the
spirit and essence of witch-knowing; but the erring philosopher, at
length, set the whole village into uproar by telling no less-beloved a
personage than Dame Deborah Thrumpkinson, herself, that he believed she
was a witch,--nay the queen and ring-leader of all the witches in the
Isle of Axholme,--and, to complete his madness, Toby actually strove to
eject the venerable old woman from his cottage! Fortunately, his
corporal weakness prevented him from effecting the rudeness which he
thus attempted; and the hearty old dame, though pitying, rather than
censuring his folly, felt disposed to try the effect of a somewhat
vigorous reproof of it. Seizing the lean, attenuated student by the
collar, she laid him, with one sinewy lift, fairly on his back,
breathless and fear-stricken, upon the shop-board.

"'Od rabbet thee, and thy fizzlegig foolery!" she exclaimed, setting her
teeth together, as she was wont when moved more strongly than usual,
"what maggots hast thou got into thy star-gazing noddle, now? A witch,
indeed! Who will take thee to be a wizard for saying so, thou dreaming
old owl? Marry, come up! I say a witch, too!"--and then she shook poor
Toby till his teeth chattered, and he would fain have uttered a loud
alarm, but durst not speak, for the life of him.

The dame left him to recover his courage, and laughed heartily, in spite
of some slight feeling of vexation, as she told the story to her
customers during the day. A few hours served to bring a crowd round the
tailor's dwelling, though none would enter it; and, till night-fall,
Toby's ears were assailed with epithets which shook his nerves till he
wished himself a thousand miles off, as he afterwards said to Joe.
During the evening, the elder and more influential members of the little
population of Haxey went from house to house expressing their deep
regret for Toby Lackpenny's lunacy,--for they decided that he _was_
lunatic,--and conjuringly besought the younger and more frivolous people
to desist from persecution of one who had always been so good and
kind-hearted a neighbour, and was now under a visitation of Providence
that rendered him an object of commiseration rather than ridicule. And
so the victim of imagination was delivered from the storm of persecution
which he had foreboded would be renewed on the succeeding day.

Desirous, on her part, of making Toby feel the value of her
neighbourship, Dame Deborah never crossed his threshold on that day.
Toby was thus left a solitary; and yet his mental disease had not yet
reached a stage that would render solitude curative. On the contrary, it
permitted his prurient imagination to become more mischievous in its
influence.

A neat little dove-cote was a conspicuous rural adornment to the ancient
gable of Dame Deborah's dwelling; and its cooing habitants were
familiarly acquainted with the tailor's threshold, and even with his
cottage-floor,--whither they were often attracted by the crumbs Toby
spread upon it, when his favourite tabby had strayed forth from the cot,
and so could give no alarm to these feathered visitants. Toby had been
reading a full description, during that solitary morning, in one of his
witchery-books, of the way in which the most powerful of all charms
might be prepared for subjugating a witch or a wizard; and the entrance
of one of Dame Deborah's pigeons, into his cottage, seemed to give him
the opportunity he coveted of testing the efficacy of the prescribed
charm. He wilily closed his door, and after a brief struggle, captured
the bird,--which he, forthwith, secured, by shutting it up in the oaken
corner cupboard, which served him for wardrobe, larder, and coal-cellar.

The day wore on, and the philosopher, with a struggle against his
misgivings that whispered "cruelty and barbarity," reckoned mightily on
the triumph his newly acquired knowledge was to give him over the
powers of darkness as soon as night arrived, and the murky hour of
twelve approached. He sharpened a knife till the edge was most deadly
keen; he made up a good fire: he collected, at least, one hundred pins
from the patches on his shop-board and in his drawers: he prepared the
string by which the dove's heart was to be hung to roast; and he drove
in the nail to which the string was to be tied.

And now the black midnight hour was near, and trembling with agitation
that might almost be called horror, Toby Lackpenny took the poor
fluttering pigeon out of its hiding-place, and took the fierce knife
into his hand to be ready to dash into its breast as soon as the church
clock struck the first stroke of twelve. Need he had for self-possession
and preparedness of mind and act, in order to complete his necromantic
feat like a true adept,--for although he was not to wound the bird till
he heard the first stroke of twelve, yet he must have its heart out,
alive, and have it stuck full of pins, and placed down at the fire to
roast,--and all before the church clock had told the last stroke of
twelve!

"Pshaw!--nonsense--what a chicken-hearted fool I am!" said poor Toby to
himself, as he stood trying to confine the bird's wings with one hand,
and holding his sharp knife in the other: "let me think of the victory I
shall obtain over these agents of the Evil One,--and not give way in
this childish manner!"

But Toby _did_ give way, and could not help it; as he said to Joe when
he afterwards described this strange temptation to his beloved young
friend. The faster the moments flew, and the more nearly the magical
moment approached, the more Toby trembled, and the more loudly his heart
beat against his ribs, and the more terrifically his conscience menaced
his peace, till--as the last half minute was elapsing, he threw down the
knife, and releasing the pigeon from his grasp, declared aloud, though
out of the hearing of every human being, that he neither could nor would
hurt the poor harmless dove, even if all the witches on earth, and all
the fiends they dealt with in the other place, should, thenceforth, have
power to torment him every minute of his remaining life.

There was an end of Toby's grand achievement of power over all the
witches and wizards with whom he believed the Isle of Axholme to be
infested! The hour had passed over, and it was too late--perhaps, for
ever--for him to perform the all-potent immolation,--since the sacrifice
of the same pigeon would be of no efficacy, after it had been prepared,
and yet remained unslaughtered. His better nature felt satisfaction at
the thought of the pigeon being still alive, though his superstitious
ambition led him to experience a deep shade of regret that he had not
had hardihood of spirit sufficient to enable him to grasp the grand
ideal prize which was so nearly within his reach. Regrets were useless,
however, he reflected; and so he quenched his blazing fire, and lay down
to rest.

In the morning, a new temptation awaited the fanatical witch-finder.
Forgetting that Tabby could easily pounce upon the pigeon while left on
the cottage-floor, though she could not get at it in the cupboard,--Toby
had gone to bed without concerning himself about the safety of the bird,
being so much absorbed with the feeling of satisfaction that he had
spared its life. No sooner had her master fallen asleep, however, and
the bird placed its bill under its wing for taking rest, than Tabby
slily seized her prize and butchered it for a secret banquet. Her bloody
mouth and glistening eyes, together with the scattered feathers,
proclaimed her deed, most unmistakeably, as soon almost as Toby had
opened his eyes and looked round his humble dwelling.

A new conviction sprang into his capricious brain: Tabby was a witch,
self-transfigured into a cat! There could be no doubt of it--not the
shadow of a doubt. How strange that he had not marked her particular
habits before!--and yet, it was a fact, now he came to think of
it,--that she purred and squinted, just like the transfigured
cat-witches he had lately read of in his profound, mystical books. As
for the pigeon, she hated it, of course, knowing the purpose for which
it had been brought thither. It was as clear as the sun at noon,--though
all cats liked pigeon flesh if they could get it,--that Tabby devoured
this pigeon because she was a witch, and it had been secreted as a
forthcoming sacrificial charm for overthrowing witch-power!

What, then, was the discerning Lackpenny to do, under this astounding
discovery? He resolved to put an end to Tabby's life, by the peculiar
and effectual mode in which alone a cat-witch could be destroyed: she
must be hung up by the heels over his cottage-door to die a prolonged
but irredeemable death! Toby shuddered; but he was convinced it was the
only righteous and wise way to be taken,--and so he set about carrying
it into effect. Tabby inflicted some vengeful wounds on her old master
while he was in course of tying the cord round her hind feet, and then
hoisting her up over the door,--but Toby fulfilled his office of
executioner--thrust on him by fate and duty, he believed--very stoutly
this time--in spite of the aversion he felt at taking away the life of a
dumb creature which had sung "three-thrum" on his hearth so often, and
borne him company through so many days of poverty, although days of
content. He hung up his cat; but how was he to stop her cries?

A crowd again gathered round his house, and demanded that he should
release his cat. But Toby was more resolute that he would not, the more
they insisted on it. Dame Deborah, at length, stepped from her dwelling,
and, cutting the poor animal loose, broke Toby's counter-enchantment at
a stroke. Then throwing open the tailor's door, and fixing her eyes upon
him very threateningly, she told him she would certainly help to hang
him by the heels,--if ever he attempted again to treat his poor harmless
cat in so barbarous a manner.

Toby spake not one word. His recollection of the fearful shake the aged
dame had lately given him, rendered him apprehensive that she might
renew it, and so he kept prudent silence.

The crowd gradually departed, and left the baffled
philosopher-visionary, once more, to solitary reflection--but it was now
_hungry_ reflection,--and proved to be most effectual in dispelling his
wild fancies. Shame under the keen reproofs of his neighbours, and
failure of his cupboard, contributed to weary him of his witch
notions,--so that on the following morning he was fain to receive a
little present from Dame Deborah, with thanks for her kindness.

Gradually, he became so entirely ashamed of his recent eccentricities
that he made earnest apologies to all whom he had treated with
rudeness,--and all were so ready to forgive, and so happy to see him
restored to a neighbourly temper,--that Toby found it easy to recover
his former ease of mind and habitual good humour.

The longer Toby lived the less likely was it for one so ardently
imaginative by constitution, to sink into the mere matter-of-fact
quietude of thought that characterised the majority of his neighbours.
On the contrary, as he grew older, his brain became more and more
prolific of imaginations; but, happily, they were increasingly of a more
pleasing nature as he increased in years. In spite of all his life-long
dreams and fancies, and in spite of straitness in his means of living,
Toby was a happy old man; for, with all the startling activity of his
imagination, Toby had never corrupted his bodily vigour by a single act
of intemperance. When Joe returned to bury his aged foster-mother, Toby
walked, by the help of two sticks, to the grave-side, declaring that he
saw two lovely angels walking before the coffin, all the way from the
dame's door, and he knew they would come for him next. Whether the
yearning of his desire and imagination, or the great effort he made to
attend the funeral, most assisted to hasten his end, cannot be
said,--but he died the very next day,--with a heaven of smiles on his
aged face,--and with the words "heaven" and "angels" on his tongue.


                              THE END.


                              LONDON:
                      Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,
                          New-Street Square.





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