Part 2 out of 6
of the scaffold; and, after a final appeal, he, too, delivered himself
to the executioner. The drop fell on a guilty neck, having before been
stained with the blood of two innocent men.
The crowd retired with a general conviction that Lesurques had perished
guiltless; and several of the judges were seriously troubled by the
doubts which this day had raised in their minds. Many of the jury began
to repent having relied so on the affirmations of the witnesses from
Mongeron and Lieursaint, precise as they had been. M. Daubenton, the
magistrate who had first ordered the arrest, went home a thoughtful man,
and determined to lose no opportunity of getting at the truth, which the
arrest of the three accomplices mentioned by Couriol could alone
bring to light.
Two years passed on without affording any clue to the conscientious
magistrate. One day, however, he heard that a certain Durochat was
arrested for a recent robbery, and was confined in the Sainte Pelagie;
and remembering that Durochat was the name of the one designated by
Couriol as having taken the place beside the courier, under the false
name of Laborde. At the epoch of the trial of Lesurques, it came out
that several persons, amongst them an inspector of the _administration
des postes_, had seen the false Laborde at the moment that he was
awaiting the mail, and had preserved a distinct recollection of
M. Daubenton, on ascertaining the day of Durochat's approaching trial
for robbery, went to the _administration des postes_, and obtained
through the _Chef_ the permission to send for the inspector who had seen
the false Laborde, and who was no longer in Paris.
The _juges du tribunal_ had also been warned of the suspicions which
rested on Durochat. The day of trial arrived, and he was condemned to
fourteen years' imprisonment, and was about being led from the court
when the inspector arrived, and declared that Durochat was the man whom
he had seen on the 8th Floréal mount beside the courier under the false
name of Laborde. Durochat only opposed feeble denials to this
declaration, and was consequently taken to the _Conciergerie_.
On the morrow, Durochat was transferred to Versailles, where he was to
be judged. Daubenton and a huissier departed with the prisoner and four
gendarmes. As they reached the village of Grosbois he demanded some
breakfast, for he had eaten nothing since the preceding day. They
stopped at the first _auberge_, and there Durochat manifested a desire
to speak to the magistrate in private.
Daubenton ordered the gendarmes to leave them together, and even the
huissier, though he made him understand by a sign the danger of being
alone with so desperate a villain, was begged to retire. A breakfast was
ordered for the two. It was brought--but, by order of the huissier, only
_one_ knife was placed on the table. Daubenton took it up, and began
carelessly to break an egg with it.
Durochat looked at him fixedly for a moment, and said,
"Monsieur le juge, you are afraid?"
"Afraid!" replied he calmly, "and of whom?"
"Of me," said Durochat.
"Folly!" continued the other, breaking his egg.
"You are. You arm yourself with a knife," said he sarcastically.
"Bah!" replied Daubenton, presenting him the knife, "cut me a piece of
bread, and tell me what you have to communicate to me respecting the
murder of the courier of Lyons."
There is something in the collected courage of a brave man more
impressive than any menace; and courage is a thing which acts upon all
natures, however vile. Strongly moved by the calm audacity of the
magistrate the ruffian, who had seized the knife with menacing vivacity,
now set it down upon the table, and with a faltering voice said, "_Vous
êtes un brave, citoyen_!" then after a pause, "I am a lost man--it's all
up with me; but you shall know all."
He then detailed the circumstances of the crime, as we have related them
above, and confirmed all Couriol's declarations, naming Couriol, Rossi,
Vidal, and Dubosq, as his accomplices. Before the tribunal he repeated
this account, adding, "that he had heard an individual named Lesurques
had been condemned for the crime, but that he had neither seen him at
the time of the deed, nor subsequently. He did not know him."
He added, that it was Dubosq whose spur had been broken, and was mended
where they had dined; for he had heard them talk about it, and that he
had lost it in the scuffle. He had seen the other spur in his hand, and
heard him say that he intended throwing it in the river. He further gave
a description of Dubosq's person, and added, that on that day he wore a
Towards the end of the year 8--four years after the murder of the
courier of Lyons--Dubosq was arrested for robbery; and was transferred
to Versailles, there to be judged by the _Tribunal Correctionnel_. The
president ordered that he should wear a flaxen peruke, and be confronted
with the witnesses from Mongeron and Lieursaint, who now unanimously
declared that he was the man they had seen. This, coupled with the
declarations of Couriol, Durochat, and Madelaine Breban, sufficed to
prove the identity; and he did not deny his acquaintance with the other
culprits. He was therefore condemned, and perished on the scaffold for
Vidal was also arrested and executed, though persisting in his
innocence; and, finally, Rossi was shortly after discovered and
condemned. He exhibited profound repentance, and demanded the succours
of religion. To his confessor he left this declaration--"I assert that
Lesurques is innocent; but this must only be made public six months
after my death."
Thus ends this strange drama; thus were the proofs of Lesurques's
innocence furnished beyond a shadow of doubt; and thus, we may add, were
seven men executed for a crime committed by five men; two therefore were
innocent--were victims of the law.
VIII.--THE WAY IN WHICH FRANCE RECTIFIES AN ERROR.
It is now forty years since the innocence of Lesurques has been
established, and little has been done towards the rehabilitation of his
memory, the protection of his children, and the restitution of his
confiscated goods! Forty years, and his wretched widow has only recently
died, having failed in the object of her life! Forty years has the
government been silent.
M. Daubenton, who took so honourable and active a part in the detection
of the real criminals, consecrated a great part of his life and fortune
to the cause of the unfortunate widow and her children. The declaration
he addressed to the Minister of Justice commenced thus:--
"The error, on which was founded the condemnation of Lesurques, arose
neither with the judges nor the jury. The jury, convinced by the
depositions of the witnesses, manifested that conviction judicially; and
the judges, after the declaration of the jury, pronounced according
to the law.
"The error of his condemnation arose from the mistake of the
witnesses--from the fatal resemblance to one of the culprits not
apprehended. Nothing gave reason to suspect at that time the cause of
the error in which the witnesses had fallen."
We beg to observe that the whole trial was conducted in a slovenly and
shameful manner. A man is condemned on the deposition of
witnesses;--witnesses, be it observed, of such dulness of perception,
and such confidence in their notions, that they persisted in declaring
Guesno to be one of the culprits as well as Lesurques. Yet the _alibi_
of Guesno was proved beyond a doubt. How, then, could the jury, with
this instance of mistake before their eyes, and which they themselves
had condemned as a mistake by acquitting Guesno--how could they place
such firm reliance on those self-same testimonies when applied to
Lesurques? If they could convict Lesurques upon such evidence, why not
also convict Guesno on it? Guesno proved an _alibi_--so did Lesurques;
but because one foolish friend perjured himself to serve Lesurques, the
jury hastily set down all his friends as perjurers; they had no evidence
of this; it was a mere indignant reaction of feeling, and, as such, a
violation of their office. The case ought to have been sifted. It was
shuffled over hastily. A verdict, passed in anger, was executed, though
at the time a strong doubt existed in the minds of the judges as to its
Neither the Directory nor the Consulate, neither the Empire nor the
Restoration, paid attention to the widow's supplications for a revision
of the sentence, that her husband's name might be cleared, and his
property restored. In vain did M. Salgues devote ten years to the
defence of the injured family; in vain did M. Merilhou, in an important
_procès_, warmly espouse the cause; the different governments believed
themselves incapable of answering these solicitations.
Since 1830 the widow again supplicated the _Tribune des Chambres_. Few
sessions have passed without some members, particularly from the
_dèpartment du Nord_, calling attention to the subject. All that has
been obtained is a restitution of part of the property seized by the
_fisc_ at the period of the execution.
Madame Lesurques has died unsuccessful, because a judicial error cannot
be acknowledged or rectified, owing to the insufficiency of the Code. A
French journal announces that the son and daughter of Lesurques, still
living, pledged themselves on the death-bed of their mother to continue
the endeavour which had occupied her forty long years--an endeavour to
make the law comprehend that nothing is more tyrannous than the strict
fulfilment of its letter--an endeavour to make the world at large more
keenly feel the questionable nature of evidence as to personal identity
in cases where the witnesses are ignorant, and where the evidence
against their testimony is presumptive.
* * * * *
"_The companion of the wise shall be wise_." A six months' residence
with the religious and self-renouncing minister could not be without its
effect on the character and disposition of the disciple, newly released
from sin and care, and worldly calamity. The bright example of a good
man is much--that of a good and _beloved_ man is more. I was bound to Mr
Clayton by every tie that can endear a man to man, and rivet the ready
heart of youth in truthful and confiding love. I regarded my preserver
with a higher feeling than a fond son may bear towards the mere author
and maintainer of his existence. For Mr Clayton, whose smallest praise
it was that he had restored to me my life, in addition to a filial love,
I had all the reverence that surpassing virtue claims, and lowly piety
constrains. Months passed over our head, and I was still without
occupation, though still encouraged by my kind friend to look for a
speedy termination to my state of dependence. Painful as the thought of
separation had become to Mr Clayton, my situation was far from
satisfactory to myself. I knew not another individual with whom I could
have established myself under similar circumstances. The sense of
obligation would have been oppressive, the conviction that I was doing
wrong intolerable to sustain; but the simplicity, the truth, the
affectionate warmth of my benevolent host, lightened my load day after
day, until I became at last insensible to the burthen. At this period of
my career, the character of Mr Clayton appeared to me bright and fixed
as a spotless star. He seemed the pattern of a man, pure and perfect.
The dazzling light of pious fervour consumed within him the little
selfishness that nature, to stamp an angel with humanity, had of
necessity implanted there. He was swallowed up in holiness--his thoughts
were of heaven--his daily conduct tinged and illumined with a heavenly
hue. Nothing could surpass the intense devotedness of the child of God,
except perhaps the self-devotion, the self-renunciation, and the
profound humility which distinguished him in the world, and in his
conversation amongst men. "_The companion of the wise shall be wise_." I
observed my benefactor, and listened to his eloquence; I pondered on his
habitual piety, until, roused to enthusiasm by the contemplation of the
matchless being, I burned to follow in his glorious course, to revolve
in the same celestial orbit, the most distant and the meanest of his
satellites. The hand of Providence was traceable in every act, which, in
due course, and step by step, had brought me to the minister. It could
not be without a lofty purpose that I had been plucked a brand, as it
were, from the burning; it was not an aimless love that snatched me from
death to life--from darkness to mid-day light--from the depths of
despondency to the heights of serenity and joy. It was that I might
glorify the hand that had been outstretched on my behalf, that I might
carry His name abroad, proclaim His wondrous works, sing aloud His
praises, and in the face of men, give honour to the everlasting Giver of
all good. It was for this and these that I had been selected from
mankind, and made the especial object of a Father's grace. I believed it
in all the simplicity and ingenuousness of a mind awakened to a sense of
religion and human responsibility. I could not do otherwise. From the
moment that I was convinced of the obligation under which I had been
brought, that I could feel the force of the silent compact which had
been effected between the unseen Power and my own soul, it would have
been as easy for me to annihilate thought, to prevent its miraculous
presence in the mind, as to withstand the urgent prickings of my
conscience. I believed in my divine summons, and I was at once ready,
vehement, and impatient to obey it. Had I followed the dictates of my
will, I would have walked through the land, and preached aloud the
wonderful mercies of God, imploring my fellow-creatures to repentance,
and directing them to the fount of all their blessings and all their
happiness. I would have called upon men to turn from error and dangerous
apathy, before their very strongholds. Powerful in the possession of
truth, I would have thundered the saving words before their marketplaces
and exchanges--at the very fortresses in which the world deems itself
chiefly secure, with Mammon at its head, Satan's chief lieutenant. I
would have called around me the neglected and the poor, and in the
highways and in the fields disclosed to them the tenderness and
loving-kindness that I had found, that they might feel, in all their
fulness, if they would turn from sin, and place their trust in heaven.
It was pain and anguish to be silent. Not for my own sake did I yearn to
speak. Oh no! There was nothing less than a love of self in the panting
desire that I felt to break the selfish silence. It was the love of
souls that pressed me forward, and the confidence that the good news
which it was my privilege to impart would find in every bosom a welcome
as warm and ready as it would prove to be effectual. To walk abroad in
silence, feeling myself to be the depositary of a celestial revelation,
and believing that to communicate it to mankind would be to ensure their
participation in its benefits, was hardly to be borne. There was not a
man whom I encountered in the street, to whom I did not secretly wish to
turn, and to pour into his ear the accents of peace and consolation; not
one whom I did not regard as a witness against me on that great day of
trial, when every man shall be judged according to his opportunities. I
spoke to Mr Clayton. He encouraged the feeling by which I was actuated,
but he dissuaded me from the manifestation of it in the form which
"There was no doubt," he said, "that every place was consecrated where
truth was spoken, and the Spirit made itself apparent. No one could deny
it. Much fruit, he did believe, might follow the sowing of the seed,
whose hand soever scattered it. Still there were other and nearer roads
to the point I aimed at. There were the sick and the needy around us--
many of his own congregation--with whom I might reciprocate sweet
comfort, and at whose bedside I might administer the balm that should
serve them in the hardest hour of their extremity. It should be his
office to conduct me to their humble habitations: it would be
unspeakable joy to him to behold me well and usefully employed."
And it was with eagerness that I accepted the touching invitation. I was
not loth or slow to take advantage of it. To serve mankind, to evince my
gratitude for mercies great and undeserved, was all I asked. To know
that I had gratified my wish, was peace itself. Highly as I had
estimated the character of Mr Clayton, I had yet to learn his real
value. I had yet to behold him the dispenser of comfort and contentment
in the hovels of the wretched and the stricken--to see the leaden eye of
disease grow bright at his approach, and the scowl of discontent and
envious repining dissolve into equanimity, or mould itself in smiles. I
had yet to see him the kind and patient companion of the friendless and
the slighted--slighted, because poor; the untired listener to long tales
of misery--so miserable, that they who told them could not track their
dim beginnings, or fix the time in distant childhood when wretchedness
was not. I had yet to find him standing at the beggar's pallet, giving
encouragement, inciting hope, and adding to the counsel of a guide the
solid evidences of a brother's love. With what a zeal did I attempt to
follow in my patron's steps--with what enthusiasm did I begin the course
which his sanction had legalized and rendered holy--and how, without a
doubt as to my title, or a reflection on the propriety of the step,
impelled by religious fervour, did I assume the tone and authority of a
teacher, and arrogate to myself the right of determining the designs of
the Omnipotent, and of appointing the degree of holy warmth below which
no believer could be sure of forgiveness and salvation!
In no transaction of my life have I ever been more sincere--have I acted
with a more decided assurance of the justice and necessity of the task,
than at this critical moment of my career. If Divine goodness had not
been specially vouchsafed to me, it was not that the conviction of my
appointment was not as clear and firm as the liveliest impressions of
the inmost heart could make it. To labour for the souls of the poor--to
teach them their obligations--to point out to them the way of safety--it
was this view of my delegated office that raised me to ecstasy, and
compelled from me the strangest ebullitions of passion. I pronounced the
change in my habits of thought to be "the dawning of the day, and the
sudden rising of the day-star in my heart;" and, dwelling with intensity
on my future labours, I could exclaim, with trembling emotion,--"Oh the
exceeding excellency and glory and sweetness of the work! The smile of
heaven is upon it--the emphatic testimony of my own conscience approves
and hallows it." I reflect at this moment with wonder upon the almost
supernatural ardour and devotion by which I was elevated and abased when
I first became thoroughly convinced of my mission, and declared aloud
that my only business now upon earth was that of the lowest and readiest
of servants, whose joy consists in the pleasure of their Master. The
strangeness, the excitement that accompanied the adoption of my new
character, had nearly overthrown me. Wild with gladness, before I
visited a human being, I took a journey of some twenty miles from the
metropolis. I do not remember now the name of the village at which I
stopped, from which I hurried, and whose fields I scoured with the
design of finding some covert, unfrequented spot, where I might
unmolested and unobserved pour forth the prayers and hymns of praise
with which my surcharged heart was teeming. Until nightfall I remained
there, nor did I leave the place until calmly and deliberately I begged
permission to devote myself to the glory and honour of Him, whose
favoured child I was. I walked a few miles on my return homeward. I
passed a church, that in the stillness of night reared its dark form,
and seemed, solemnly and pensively, like a thing of life, to stand
before me. The moon rose at its full over the venerable wall, and
scattered its bright cool light across the tall and moss-grown windows.
Oh! every thing in life that wondrous night stirred up my soul to pious
resolutions, and gave a wing to thought that could not find repose but
in the silent and eternal sky.
The impetuosity with which I entered upon my scheme of usefulness,
forbade preparation of any kind, had I not believed that any previous
qualification was not essential to my purpose; or if essential, had been
miraculously implanted in me. I was soon called upon to make my first
visitation. Never will it be forgotten. It was to the work-house. Mr
Clayton had been called thither by an old communicant, of whom he had
not heard before for years. "He was ill, and he desired to speak with
his still beloved minister."
Such was the message which reached my friend at the moment of his
quitting his abode, on an errand of still greater urgency. "Go, Caleb,"
said Mr Clayton, "visit and comfort the poor sufferer; and may grace
accompany your first labour of love." I proceeded to the place, and,
arriving there, was ushered into a small close room--to recoil at once
from the scene of misery which was there presented. Lying, with his hat
and clothes upon the bed, dying, was the man himself; his wife was busy
in the room, cleaning it, quietly and indifferently, as though the sleep
of healthy life had closed her partner's eye, and nothing worse. On the
threshold was a girl, the daughter of them both, twenty years of age or
more, _an idiot_, for she laughed outright when I approached her. I had
come to the house with my heart full of precious counsel, and yearning
to communicate the message with which I knew myself to be charged. But
in a moment I was brought to earth, shocked by the sight which I beheld,
wounded in my nature, and I had not a word to say. The hardened woman
looked at me for a moment, and calling me to myself by the act, I
mentioned the name of Mr Clayton, and was again silent.
"What! can't he come, sir?" asked the beldame. "Well, it don't much
matter. It's all over with 'un, I fear. Come, Jessie, can't you speak to
the gentleman? What can you make of her, sir?"
The daughter looked at me again, and sickened me with her unmeaning
laughter. I remembered the object of my visit, and struggled for
composure. Had I become a recreant so quickly? Had I not a word to say
for my Master? Nothing to offer the needy creatures, perishing, perhaps,
of spiritual want? Alarmed at my own apathy, and eager to throw it off,
I turned to the poor girl, and spoke to her. I asked her many questions
before I could command attention. She could only look at me wildly,
blush, laugh, and make strange motions to her mother. At length
"Tell me, Jesse, tell your friend, who came into the world to save
"Him, him, him," she answered hastily, and gabbled as before.
"Ah," said the mother, "the poor cretur does sometimes talk about
religion, but it's very seldom, and uncertain like, and I can't help
"Let me read to _you_," said I.
"Lor' bless you, sir," she answered, "it wouldn't do me no good. I am
too old for that. Now, get out of the way there--do, you simpleton," she
added, turning to the idiot; "just let me pass--don't you see I am
wanting to fetch up water."
She left the room immediately, and her daughter ran after her, screaming
a wild and piercing note. I moved to the dying man. He was insensible to
anything I could say. Fretted and ashamed of myself, I hurried from the
house, and, returning home, rushed to my room, fell upon my knees, and
implored my Father to inflict at once the punishment due to lukewarmness
and apostasy. How vain had been all my previous desire to distinguish
myself--how arrogant my pretensions--how inefficient my weak attempts! I
was not worthy of the commission with which I had been invested, and I
besought heaven to degrade the wretch who could not speak at the
seasonable moment, and to bestow it upon one worthier of its love, and
abler to perform his duty. I passed a miserable night of remorse, and
bitter self-accusation, and in the morning was distracted by the
battling feelings that were marshalled against each other in my soul.
Now, a sense of my unworthiness was victorious over every other thought,
and I resolved to resign my trust, and think of it no more; then the
belief in my election, the animating thought that I was chosen, and must
still go forward or stand condemned, hated by myself, rejected by my
God;--this gained the mastery next, and I was torn by sore perplexity. I
appealed to my benefactor. As usual, balm was on his lips, and I found
encouragement and support.
"I was yet young in the faith," he said, "and the abundance of heavenly
grace was not yet manifested. It would come in due time; and, in the
mean while, I must persevere, and a blessing would unquestionably
Much more he added, to reconcile me to the previous day's defeat, and to
animate me to new trials. Never did I so much need incentive and
upholding, never before had I esteemed the value of a spiritual
counsellor and friend.
In a small cottage, distant about three miles from the residence of Mr
Clayton, there lodged, at this time, an old man with his sister, a blind
woman about seventy years of age. He had communicated with Mr Clayton's
church for many years. He was now poor, and had retired from the
metropolis, to the hut, for the advantage of purer air, and in the hope
of prolonging the short span within which his earthly life had been
brought. To this humble habitation I was directed by Mr Clayton.
"The woman," said the minister, "is without any comfortable hope; but
the prospects of the brother are satisfactory and most cheering. Go to
the benighted woman. Her's is a melancholy case. Satan has a secure
footing in her heart, and defeats every effort and every motive that I
have brought to bear against it. May you be more fortunate--may her
self-deceived and hardened spirit melt before the force and earnestness
of your appeals!"
I ventured for a second time on sacred and interdicted ground, and
visited the cottage. The unhappy woman, to whom I had specially come,
was smitten indeed. She was blind and paralyzed, and on the extreme
verge of eternity. Yet, afflicted as she was, and as near to death as
the living may be, she enjoyed the tranquillity and the gentleness of a
child, ignorant of sin, and, in virtue of her infancy, confident of her
inheritance. I could discover no evidence of a creature alarmed with a
sense of guilt, loathing itself, conscious of its worthlessness. Her
nature, in truth, seemed to have usurped a sweetness and placidity, the
possession of which, as Mr Clayton afterwards observed, was justifiable
only in those who could find nothing but vileness and depravity in
every thought and purpose of their hearts.
It was a beautiful day in summer, and Margaret was sitting before the
cottage porch, feeling the sun's benevolent warmth, and tempering, with
the closed lid, the hot rays that were directed to her sightless orbs.
She had no power to move, and was happy in the still enjoyment of the
lingering and lovely day. She might have been a statue for her
quietness--but there were curves and lines in the decrepit frame that
art could never borrow. Little there seemed about her to induce a love
of life, and yet a countenance more bright with cheerfulness and mild
content I never met. The healthy and the young might read a lesson on
her blanched and wrinkled cheek. Full of my errand, I did not hesitate
at once to engage her mind on heavenly and holy topics. She did not, or
she would not, understand me. I spoke to her of the degradation of
humanity, our fallen nature, and the impossibility of thinking any thing
but sin--and a stone could not be more senseless than the aged listener.
"Was I sure of it?" she asked. "Did my Bible say it? Much she doubted
it, for she had sometimes, especially since her blindness, clear and
beautiful thoughts of heaven that could not be sinful, they rendered her
so happy, and took away from her all fear. It was so shocking, too," she
thought, "to think so ill of men--our fellow-creatures, and the
creatures of a perfect Father. She loved her brother--he was so
simple-minded, and so kind to her, too; how _could_ she call him wicked
"Do you feel no load upon your conscience?" I enquired.
"Bless the good man's heart!" she answered, "why, what cares have I? If
I can hear his friendly voice, and know he is not heavy-burthened, I am
happy. Brother is all to me. Though now and then I'm not well pleased if
the young children keep away who play about me sometimes, as if they did
not need a playfellow more gay than poor blind Margaret."
"Have you no fear of death?" said I.
"Why should I have?" she answered quietly; "I never injured another in
"Can that take off the sting?" I asked.
"And I have tried," continued she, "as far as I was able, to please the
God who made me."
"Did you never think yourself the vilest of the vile?"
"Bless you! never, sir. How could I? If I had been, you may be sure Mr
Clayton and the visiting ladies would never have been so kind to me and
Thomas as they have--and how could we expect it? I was only thinking,
sir, before you came up, that if I had been wicked when I was young, I
would never have been so easy under blindness. Now, it doesn't give me
one unquiet hour."
"Margaret, I would you were more anxious."
"It wouldn't do, sir, for the blind to be anxious," she replied. "They
must do nothing, sir, but wait with patience. Besides, Thomas and I need
no anxiety at all. God gives us more than we require, and it would be
very wicked to be restless and unquiet."
"Margaret," I said impressively, "there is heaven!"
"Yes," she answered quickly, "that I'm sure of. I read of it before I
lost my eyes; and since my blindness I have seen it often. God is very
good to the afflicted, and none but the afflicted know how He makes up
for what He takes away. I have seen heaven, sir, though I have not sight
enough to know your face. Do you play dominoes, Mr--what did you say
your name was, sir?"
"You trifle, Margaret."
"Oh, no indeed, sir. But how wonderful and quick my touch has got, and
how kind is heaven there, sir! I can see the dominoes with my
fingers--touch is just as good as sight. Just think how many hours a
poor blind creature has, that must be filled up some way or another! I
like to keep to myself, and think, and think; but not always--and
sometimes I want Thomas to read to me; and when that's over, I feel a
want of something else. I'll tell you what it is--my eyes they want to
open. When that's the case, I always play at dominoes, and then the
feeling goes away. Thomas can tell you that, for he plays with me."
I continued the conversation for an hour, and with the same result. I
grew annoyed and irritated--not with the deluded sinner, as I deemed
her, but with myself, the feeble and unequal instrument. For a second
time I had attempted to comply with the instructions of my master, and
for a second time had I been foiled, and driven back in melancholy
discomfiture. The imperturbability and easy replies of the woman
harassed and tormented me in the extreme. I had been too recent a pupil
to be thoroughly versed in all the subtleties and mysteries of my
office. Silence was painful to me, and reply only accumulated difficulty
and vexation. She seemed so happy, too; in the midst of all her heresy
and error there existed an unaffected tranquillity and repose which I
would have purchased at any cost or sacrifice. I blushed and grew
ashamed, and for a moment forgot that the bereaved creature was unable
to behold the confusion with which defeat and exposure had covered me.
At length I spoke imperfectly, loosely, and at random. The woman
detected me in an untenable position--checked me--and in her artless
manner, laid bare the fallacy of an inconsiderate assertion. In an
instant I was aware of my conviction, I retracted my expression, and
involved myself immediately in fresh dilemma. Again, and as gently as
before, she made the unsoundness of a principle evident and glaring. How
I closed the argument--the conversation and the interview--and escaped
from her, I know not. Burning with shame, despising myself, and desirous
of burying both my disgrace and self deep in the earth, where both might
be forgotten, I was sensible of hurrying homeward. I reached it in
despair, satisfied that I had become a coward and a renegade, and that I
was lost, hopelessly and utterly here upon earth, and eternally
I had resolved, upon the day succeeding this adventure, to restore to my
benefactor the credentials with which be had been pleased to entrust me.
Satisfied of the truth of my commission, I could only deplore my
inability to execute it faithfully. In spite of what had passed at the
cottage-door, the doctrines which I had advocated there lost none of
their character and influence upon my own mind. Falling from the lips of
others, they dropped with conviction into my _own_ soul. Nothing could
shake my _own_ unbounded reliance on their saving efficacy and heavenly
origin. It was only when _I_ spoke of them, when _I_ attempted to
expound and teach them, that clouds came over the celestial truths, and
the sun's disk was dimmed and troubled. The moment that I ceased to
speak, light unimpaired, and bright effulgence, were restored. It was
enough that I could feel this. Grace and a miracle had made the
startling fact palpable and evident. This assurance followed easily. No
oral communication could have satisfied me more fully of the importance
and necessity of an immediate resignation of my trust. It was a
punishment for my presumption. I should have rested grateful for the
interposition which had rescued me from the jaws of hell, and left to
others, worthy of the transcendent honour, the glorious task of saving
souls. What was I, steeped in sin, as I had been up to the very moment
of my conversion--what was I, insolent, pretending worm, that I should
raise my grovelling head, and presume upon the unmerited favour that had
been showered so graciously upon me? It remained for those--purest and
best of men, whose lives from childhood onward had been a lucid
exposition of the word of truth--whose deeds had given to the world an
assurance of their solemn embassy; it was for them to feel the strength
the countenance, and support of heaven, and to behold with gratitude and
joy their labours crowned with a triumphant issue and success. This was
the new train of feeling suggested by new circumstances. I resigned
myself to its operation as quickly as I had adopted my previous
sentiments; and, a few days before, I was not more anxious to commence
my sacred course than I was now miserable and uneasy until I turned from
it once and for ever. Mr Clayton had placed in my hands a list of
individuals whom he transferred to my care. It was oppressive to know
that I possessed it, and my first step was to place it again at his
disposal. The interview which I obtained for this purpose was an
important one--important in itself--marvellous and astounding in its
Mr Clayton spent many hours daily in a small room, called _a study_. It
was a chamber sacred to the occupation followed there. I had not access
to it--nor had any stranger, with the exception of two ill-favoured men,
whom I had found, for weeks together, constant attendants upon my
benefactor. For a month at a time, not a single day elapsed during which
they were not closeted for a considerable period with the divine. A
three weeks' interval of absence would then take place; Mr Clayton
prosecuted his studies alone and undisturbed, and no strange foot would
cross the threshold until the ill-looking men returned, and passed some
five weeks in the small sanctuary as before. Who could they be? I had
never directly asked the question, curious as I had been to know their
history and the purpose of their visits. Had I not learned from Mr
Clayton the impropriety and sinfulness of judging humanity by its looks,
I should have formed a most uncharitable opinion of their characters.
They were hard-featured men, sallow of complexion, rigid in their looks.
I knew that, attached to the church of Mr Clayton, were two
missionaries--men of rare piety, and some of humble origin--small
boot-makers, in fact; sometimes I believed that the visiters and they
were the same individuals. Circumstances, however, unfavourable to this
idea, arose, and I turned from one conjecture to another, until I
reposed, at length, in the belief that they were sinners--sinners of the
deepest dye--such as their ill-omened looks betrayed--and that they
sought the kind and ever-ready minister to obtain his counsel, and to
share his prayers. At all events, this was a subject upon which I
received no enlightening from their confidant. Once I took occasion to
make mention of it; but, in an instant, I perceived that my enquiry was
not deemed proper to be answered. It was to this forbidden closet--the
scene of so much mystery--that, to my great surprize, I found myself
invited by my benefactor, when I implored him to release me from the
obligation in which I had too hastily involved myself.
"Be seated, Caleb," said Mr Clayton, as we entered the room in company.
"Be seated, and be tranquil. You are excited now."
I was, in truth, and not more so than deeply mortified and humbled.
"You alarm me, dear young friend," continued the good minister. "You
alarm and grieve me. I tremble for you, when I behold your versatility.
Tell me, how is this? Can you not trust yourself? Can I trust you?"
I did not answer.
"I have been careful in not thwarting your own good purposes. I have
been most anxious to give your feelings their full bent. Has your
conversion been too sudden to endure? Have you so soon regretted the
abandonment of the great world and all its pleasures--such as they were
to you? Has a life of usefulness and peace no charms? Alas! I had hoped
I assured my friend that he had mistaken the motive which had compelled
me to forsake, at least for the present, the intention that I had
entertained honestly--though, I felt, erroneously--for the last few
days. Nothing was further from my thoughts than a desire to mix again in
a world of sinfulness and trouble. His precepts and bright example had
won me from it; and I prayed only to be established in the principles,
in the true knowledge of which I knew my happiness to consist. I was not
equal to the task which I had proposed to myself, and he had kindly
permitted me to assume. I wished to be his meanest disciple--to acquire
wisdom from his tuition--and, by the labour of years, to prepare myself
finally for that reward which he had so often announced to me as the
peculiar inheritance of the faithful and the righteous. I ceased. My
auditor did not answer me immediately. He sat for some minutes in
silence, and closed his eyes as if absorbed in thought. At length, he
said to me--
"You do not surprize me, Caleb. I am prepared for this. I perceived
your difficulties from afar. It was inevitable. Self-confidence has
placed you where you are. Be happy, and rejoice in your weakness--but
turn now to the strong for strength. The work that has begun in your
heart must be completed. It shall be so--do not doubt it."
The minister hesitated, looked hard at me, and endeavoured, as I
imagined, to find, in the expression of my countenance, an index to my
thoughts. I said nothing, and he proceeded.
"There are the appointed means. His way is in the sanctuary. He shall
feed his flock like a shepherd. There is but one refuge for the outcast.
I have but one alleviation to offer you. It is all and every thing. Are
you prepared to accept it?"
"You are my friend, my guardian, and my father," I replied.
"You have wandered long in the wilderness," continued the minister. "You
have fed with the swine and the goats. You have found no nourishment
there. All was bleak, and barren, and desolate there. The living waters
were dried up, and the bread of life was denied to the starving
"What must be done, sir?"
"You MUST ENTER THE FOLD--and have communion with the chosen people of
the Lord. Are you content to do it?"
"Oh, am I worthy," I exclaimed, "to be reckoned in the number of those
"I cannot doubt it; but your own spirit shall bear witness to your
state. To-morrow is our next church-meeting. There, if it be your wish,
I will propose you; messengers will be appointed to converse with you.
They will come to you, and gather, from your experience, the evidences
of your renewed, regenerated character."
"What shall I say, sir?" I asked in all simplicity.
"What says the drowning man to the hand that brings him to the shore?
Your beating heart will be too ready to acknowledge the mighty work that
has been already done on your behalf. Have you forgotten the way you
have been led? Point it out to them. Have you been plucked as a brand
from the burning? Acknowledge it to them in strains of liveliest
gratitude. Does not your soul at this moment overflow at the vivid
recollection of all the Lord has done for it and you? Will it not yearn
to sing aloud His praise when strangers come to listen to the song? Then
speak aloud to them. Do you not feel, have not a hundred circumstances
all concurred to prove, that you exist a vessel chosen to show forth His
praise? Show it to them, and let them carry back the certain proofs of
your redemption--let them convey the sweet intelligence of a brother's
safety--and let them bid the church prepare to welcome him with hymns of
praise into her loving bosom."
Within a week of the above conversation, two respectable individuals
called upon me at Mr Clayton's house--the accredited messengers of the
church in which my eternal safety was about to be secured. One was a
thickset man, with large black whiskers and corresponding eyebrows. His
countenance had a stern expression--the eye especially, which lay
couched like a tiger beneath its rugged overhanging brow. You did not
like to look at it, and you could not meet it without unpleasantness and
awe. The gentleman was very tall and sturdy--evidently a hairy person;
he was unshaven, and looked muscular. Acting under the feeling which led
him to despise all earthly grandeur and distinction, and which, no doubt
influenced his conduct throughout life, he was remarkable for a
carelessness and uncleanness of attire, as powerful and striking as the
odour which exhaled from his broad person, and which explained the
profession of the gentleman to be--a working blacksmith. His companion
was thin, and neat, and dapper. There was an air about _him_ that could
not have been acquired, except by frequent intercourse with the polished
and the rich. He was delicacy itself, incapable of a strong expression,
and happier far when he could hint, and not express his sentiments. Had
I been subject only to his examination, my ordeal would not have been
severe. It was the blacksmith whom I found hard and unimpressible as his
own anvil, dark as his forge, and as unpitying as its flames. The thin
examiner held the high office of deacon of the church. Whether it was
the particularly dirty face of his friend that set him off to such
advantage, or whether he had inherent claims to my respect, I cannot
tell; well I know, throughout the scrutiny that soon took place, many
times I should have fallen beneath the blacksmith's hammer, but for the
support and mild encouragement that I found in him. He was most
becomingly dressed. He wore a white cravat, and no collar. He had light
hair closely cut, and his face was as smooth as a woman's. His shirt was
whiter than any shirt I have ever seen before or since, and it was made
of very fine material. He carried an agreeable smirk upon his
countenance, and he disinterred, now and then, some very long and
extraordinary word from the dictionary, when he was particularly
desirous either to make himself understood or conceal his meaning. I had
almost omitted to add, that he was a ladies' haberdasher.
I received the deputation with a trembling and apprehensive heart. I
knew my faith to be sincere, and I believed it to be correct, according
to the views of the church of which my revered friend was the minister
and organ. Still, I could not be insensible to the importance of the
step which I was about to take, and to the high tone of piety which the
true believers demanded from all who joined their ranks and partook of
their exclusive privileges.
It will not be necessary to repeat in detail the course of my
examination. At the close of two hours it was concluded, and I am at
this moment willing to confess that it was, upon the whole,
satisfactory. I mean to myself--for by my questioners, and by the
little haberdasher more particularly, the conference was pronounced most
gratifying and comforting in every way. I say _upon the whole_, for I
could not, even at that early period of my initiation, and with all my
excitement and enthusiasm, prevent the intrusion of some disturbing
thoughts--some painful impressions that were not in harmony with the
general tenor of my feelings. I had prepared myself to meet and deal
with the appointed delegates of heaven, and I had encountered _men_,
yes, and men not entitled to my reverence and regard, except as the
chosen ambassadors of the church. One was low, ignorant, and vulgar. He
took no pains to conceal the fact; he rather gloried in his native and
offensive coarseness. The other was a smoother man, scarcely less
destitute of knowledge, or worthier of respect. Looking back, at this
distance of time, upon this strange interview, I am indeed shocked and
grieved at the part which I then and there permitted myself to
undertake. The scene has lost the colours which gave it a false and
superficial lustre, and I gaze on the melancholy reality chidden, and,
let me say, instructed by the sight. I can now better appreciate and
understand the self-confident tone which pronounced upon my state in the
eye of heaven--the canting expressions of brotherly love--the irreverent
familiarity with which Scripture was quoted, garbled, and tortured to
justify dissent, and render disobedience holy--the daring assumption of
inquisitorial privileges, and the scorn, the illiberality and
self-righteousness, with which my angry, bigoted, and vulgar questioners
decided on the merits of every institution that eschewed their fanciful
vagaries and most audacious claims. I do not wonder that, overtaken in a
career of misery, the consequence of my own imprudence, I should have
been arrested by the voice, and smitten by the eloquence, of Mr Clayton.
I do not wonder that I listened to his arguments, and observed his
conduct, until I was reduced to passiveness, and my mind was willing to
be moulded to his purposes. But I do wonder and lament that any
obscuration of my judgment, any luxuriance of feeling, should have
permitted my youthful understanding for an instant to believe that to
such men as my examiners the keys of heaven were entrusted, and that on
them, and on their voice, depended the reception of a broken-hearted
penitent at the mercy-seat of God.
A few words from the haberdasher-deacon, at the breaking up of the
convocation, or whatever else it might be termed, were satisfactory, in
so far as they showed that my temporal prospects were not entirely
neglected by those who had become so deeply interested in my spiritual
welfare. The blacksmith had hardly brought to a close a somewhat lengthy
and very ungrammatical exhortation, that wound up the day's proceedings,
when the dapper Jehu Tomkins, jumping at once from the carnival to the
revel, shook me cordially by the hand, and most kindly suggested to me
that, under the patronage of so important and religious a connexion as
that into which I was about to enter, I could not fail to succeed,
whatever might be the plan which I had laid down for my future support.
"I have heard all about you," added Jehu, "from our respected minister,
and you'll soon get into something now. It's a good congregation, sir--
wealthy and influential. I should say we have richer people in our
connexion than in any about London. Mr Clayton is a very popular man,
sir--very good, and speaks the truth."
"He is good indeed," I answered.
"Sir, grace is sure to follow you now. It is fifteen years since I first
sat under Mr Clayton! Ah, I remember the night I was converted, as if it
were yesterday. I always felt, up to that very time, the need of
something better than I had got. Business had gone wrong ever since I
opened shop, and my mind was quite unsettled. Satan tried very hard at
me, but it wouldn't do. Sometimes, when my boy had gone home, and shop
was shut up, the Tempter would whisper in my ears words like
these--'Jehu, you're insured, over and over again, for your stock; let a
spark fall on the shavings, and your fortune's made.' Well, sir, once or
twice--will you believe it?--the Devil had nearly got it all his own
way; but grace prevented, and I was saved. I owe it all to Mr Clayton. I
was told by one or two of my customers to go and hear him, but somehow
or other I never did. Satan kept me back. At last the gentleman as was
the deacon--him as built the chapel--Mrs Jehu Tomkin's father--comes to
my shop with his daughter, Mrs Jehu as is now, and spoke to me about the
minister. Well, I heard the old gentleman was very rich and pious, and I
went the next Sabbath-day as was, with his family, into his pew. I never
went any where else after that. He seemed to hit the nail just on the
head, and I was convinced--oh, quite wonderful!--all on a sudden. I was
married to Mrs Jehu before that day twelvemonth. So you see grace
followed me throughout, as it will you, my dear brother, if you only
mind what you are about, and don't be a backslider."
"Mr Clayton," said I, "has kindly promised to procure employment for
"Ah! and he'll do it, if he says so," rejoined Mr Tomkins. "That's your
man. You stick to him, and you won't hurt. He's a chosen vessel, if ever
there was one. What do you say, brother Buster?"
Brother Buster simply groaned his assent, and scowled. He had been for
some time anxious to depart, and he now took his leave without
"You wouldn't think that man was a saint to look at him, would you?"
asked the deacon, as soon as his friend was gone. "He is though. He is
riper in spiritual matters than any man I know. Ah! the Establishment
would give something for a few like him. He'll be taken from us, I fear.
We make a idol of him, and that's sure to be punished. It's wonderful
what he knows; and how it has come to him we can't tell."
I received a pressing invitation from Mr Tomkins to visit his "small and
'appy family," as he was pleased to call it, on any evening after eight
o'clock, which was his latest business hour. "Mrs Jehu," I was assured,
"was just like her father, and his four small Jehus as exactly like
their grandfather, and he wished to say no more for them. After
business his family enjoyed invariably a little spiritual refreshment,
and that and a hymn made the time pass very agreeably till supper-time
at nine, when he had a 'ot collation, at which he should be most proud
to see me."
To all the charges that have been at various times, with more or less
virulence and disinterestedness, brought against the Church of England,
that of assuming to itself the divine attribute of searching the secret
heart of many has, I believe, never been superadded. It has remained for
men very far advanced indeed in spiritual knowledge and perfection, to
assert the bold prerogative, and to venture, unappalled, beneath the
frown of heaven. The close scrutiny, on the part of Mr Buster, proper as
it was as a step preliminary, was by no means sufficient to procure for
me an easy and unquestioned admission into the church which the
blacksmith had so ably represented. There was yet another trial to
ensue, and another jury to pronounce upon the merits of the anxious
candidate. He had yet to prove to the perfect satisfaction of the
self-constituted junto, that styled itself a _church_, how God had
mercifully dealt with him--to detail, with historic accuracy, the method
and procedure of his regeneration, and to find evidence of a spiritual
change, that carried on its front the proof of his conversion and his
accepted state. All this was to be done before I could be _entitled_ to
the privileges which Messrs Buster, Tomkins, and the rest, had it in
their power to bestow. The manner in which this delicate investigation
was carried on, its indecorum and profaneness, I never can forget; nor
can I, in truth, remember it without humiliation and deep sorrow.
Against the indiscreet, illegal exhibition, I set off my ignorance,
simplicity, and desire of serving heaven; and in these I place my hope
of pardon for the share I had in such proceedings.
I received, in due form, a requisition to appear before the body of the
_church_, at its general meeting. I appeared. The chapel was thronged,
the majority of members being women. In the hands of nearly every third
person was a printed paper. I was not then aware of its contents; if I
had been, the ceremony would, in all probability, have concluded with my
entrance. Will it be believed, that this paper contained a printed
formula of the questions which were to test the quality of my faith, and
to pronounce upon the vitality and worth of my spiritual pretensions!
Any person present was at liberty to address me, and to form his own
opinion of my case from the manner and the matter which their ingenuity
elicited. At the suggestion of Mr Tomkins, who, in his capacity of
deacon, was remarkably active on this occasion, it was deemed proper
that I should enter upon my "experience" at once. My heart fluttered as
I rose to comply with the demand, and the chapel was hushed. It will be
sufficient to say, that I repeated my entire history, and secured the
attention of my auditory until I had spoken my last word. There were
parts of the narrative which I could, with a glance, perceive to be
peculiarly _piquant_ and acceptable. As these occurred, a rustling and a
murmur expressed the subdued applause. When, for instance, I mentioned
the disgust which I had conceived for the University upon losing the
scholarship, and the uneasiness which I afterwards felt as long as I
continued a member of that community, a few of the most acute looked at
one another, and shrugged mysteriously, as who should say, "How wondrous
are the ways of Providence!" and when I arrived at the point of my
deliverance by the hand of their own minister, there would have been, I
thought, no end to the gesticulations, expressions of gratitude and joy,
that burst from the "church," in spite of the praiseworthy efforts of
the minister to control and keep them down. When I had concluded, and
whilst the half-suppressed rejoicing still buzzed in the chapel, the
stern Buster rose, and presented to me the unmitigated force of his
unpleasant eye. Silence prevailed immediately.
"Now, sir," said my old friend, "what makes you think yourself a child
of grace? Speak out, if you please; I'm rather deaf."
"The loathing that I feel of what I was."
"Good!" said Jehu Tomkins, with strong emphasis, and loud enough to be
heard by every one.
"When did you feel the fetters fust busting from your spirit?"
"Not till I heard the minister's kind voice," was the reply.
"Do you always feel as strong upon the subject? Do you feel your spirit
"Oh, no," I answered; "there are dreadful fluctuations, and there is
nothing so uncertain as self-dependence. I have dark and bitter moments,
when I feel, in all its power, the melancholy truth--'When I would do
good, evil is present with me.'"
"Capital sign!--capital sign!" exclaimed Jehu Tomkins again; "quite
Yes, it was so. A few questions were put to me by individuals, rather
for the sake of gratifying an impertinent curiosity, than that of
elucidating further proof of my proficiency, and the ceremony was
finished by my formal reception into the body of the church. A prayer
was offered, an address delivered, a hymn sung--the eyes of many ladies
were turned with smiling interest upon me--and the meeting separated.
Jehu Tomkins was the first to congratulate me upon the happy issue of
"You are a made man, sir, depend upon it," said he, with his first
salutation. "You can't fail. There--do you see that fat man that's just
going out--him as has got on the Indy 'ankycher?--I sold him that--he
came on purpose to hear you, and if he found you up to the mark, he's
going to provide for you. He belongs to all our societies, and just does
what he pleases. His word's a law. We've a boiled leg of mutton at nine
to-night. Suppose you come to us, and finish the day there? Bless me,
what a full meeting we've had! Here's a squeezing!" There was certainly
some difficulty in our egression. The people had gathered into a crowd
at the small doorway, and men jostled and made their way without regard
to others in their vicinity. Lost as I was in the indiscriminate host, a
few observations fell upon my ear that were not, I presume, especially
intended for it.
"Well," said a greasy youth, not many yards distant from me, "I doubt
his having had a call. There wasn't life enough in it for me. I
shouldn't be surprised if he's a black sheep after all. I wish I had put
a question or two to him. I think I could have shown Satan in his heart
"Now you say it," replied the person addressed, "I did think him very
backward and lukewarm. I didn't like his tone altogether. Ah! what a
thing experimental religion is! You know what it is, and so do I; but I
werry much fear that delooded young man is as carnal-minded as my mother
was, that went to hell, though I say it, as contented and unconcerned as
if she was going to the saints in glory."
The information conveyed to me by Mr Tomkins as we issued from the
chapel was not unfounded. The very day subsequent to my admittance into
the bosom of the church, I was requested to attend the minister in the
_sanctum_ already referred to. Upon reaching it, I discovered the fat
gentleman of the preceding evening, dressed as he was on the previous
occasion, and still adorned with Jehu's India handkerchief. Both he and
Mr Clayton were seated at table, and writing materials were before them.
The moment I entered the apartment, the fat gentleman held out his hand,
and shook mine with much stateliness. My friend, however, addressed me.
"Caleb," said he, "we are at length able to fulfil our promise. It is my
pleasure to announce to you that a situation is procured for you,
suitable to your talents, and agreeable to your feelings. We are both of
us indebted to this good gentleman. In your name I have already thanked
him, and in your name I have accepted the office which he has been at
some pains to obtain for you."
I looked towards the stout gentleman, and bowed in grateful
"Tell him the duties, Clayton," requested my new-found influential
"Mr Bombasty," proceeded the minister, "feels a warm interest in your
welfare. The happy result of yesterday's trial has secured for you a
friendship which it will be your duty and study to deserve. There is
established, in connexion with our church, a Christian instruction
society, of which Mr Bombasty is the esteemed and worthy president. The
appointment of a travelling secretary rests with him, and he has this
very day nominated you to that distinguished office. I have tendered
your thanks. You can now repeat them."
"Tell him the salary," interrupted the president.
"You will receive one hundred and fifty pounds per annum," continued Mr
Clayton, "in addition to your travelling charges; apartments likewise, I
believe"--He hesitated as if uncertain, and looked towards the
"Yes," replied that gentleman, "go on--coals and candles. You answer for
"As I told you, sir," said my friend, "I will pledge myself for his
trustiness and probity."
The remembrance of Mr Chaser's cold-hearted cruelty occured to my mind
as my benefactor spoke, and tears of gratitude trembled in my eyes. The
fat gentleman remarked the expression of feeling, and brought the
interview to a close.
"Well, Clayton," said he, "you can talk to him. I've twenty places to go
to yet. Get the paper signed, and he may begin at once. Let a lawyer
draw it up. Just make yourself security for a thousand pounds--I don't
suppose he'll ever have more than half that at a time in his
possession--and that'll be all the society will require. He can come to
me to-morrow. Now I'm off. Good-bye, my friend--'morning, young man."
The last adieu was accompanied with a patronizing nod of the head,
which, with the greeting on my first appearance, constituted the whole
of the intercourse that passed between me and my future principal. The
moment that he departed, I turned to Mr Clayton, and thanked him warmly
and sincerely for all that he had accomplished for me.
"I shall leave you, sir," I added, "with mingled feelings of regret and
satisfaction--regret in separating from the purest and the best of men,
my friend, my counsellor, and father--but joy, because I cease to be a
burden upon your charity and good nature. I carry into the world with me
the example of your daily life, and my own sense of your dignified and
exalted character. Both will afford me encouragement and support in the
vicissitudes which yet await me. Tell me how I may better evince my
gratitude, and let me gratify the one longing desire of my
"Caleb," replied the minister, with solemnity, "it is true that I have
been permitted to protect and serve you. It is true that, but for me, at
this moment you would be beyond the reach of help and man's regard. I
have brought you from the grave to life. I have led you to the waters of
life, of which you may drink freely, and through which you will be made
partaker with the saints, of glory everlasting. This I have done for
you. Do I speak in pride? Would I rob Heaven and give the praise and
honour to the creature? God forbid. _I_ have accomplished little. _I_
have done nothing good and praiseworthy but as the instrument of Him
whose servant and whose minister I am. Not for myself, but for my
Master's sake, I demand your friendship and fidelity. If I have been
accounted worthy to save your soul, I am not unworthy of your loyalty
"They are yours, sir. It is my happiness to offer them."
"Caleb," continued my friend, in the same tone, "you have lived with me
many months. Mine is a life of privacy and retirement compared with that
of other men. I strive to be useful to my fellow-creatures, and am happy
if I succeed. If any one may claim immunity from slander and reproach,
it is I, who have avoided diligently all appearance of offence. Yet I
have not succeeded. You are about to mix again with men. You have joined
the church, and you will not fail to hear me spoken of harshly and
"Impossible!" I exclaimed.
"Yes, it would seem so, and it would _be_, if justice in this world
accompanied men's acts. I tell you," continued Mr Clayton, flushing as
he raised his voice, "there are men living now whom I have raised from
beggary and want--men, indebted to me for the air they breathe, who
calumniate and defame me through the world, and who will not cease to do
so till I or they are sleeping in the dust. They owed me every thing,
like you--their gratitude was unbounded, even as yours. What assurance
have I that you will not deal as hardly by your friend as they have
done, and still do?"
"Mr Clayton," I answered, eagerly, "I would lay down my life to serve
"I believe you to be frank and honest, Caleb. I should believe it; for I
am about to pledge a heavy sum upon your integrity--and, indeed, I can
but ill spare it. You ask me how I would have you show your thankfulness
for what I have accomplished for you. I answer, by giving me your
_friendship_. It is a holy word, and comprehends more than is supposed.
A friend believes not ill that is spoken of him to whom he is united by
mutual communion and interest; he is faithful to the end, through good
report and evil, and falls, if need be, with the man to whom he has
engaged his troth and given his heart."
"I am unworthy, sir," I said, "to stand in this relation with one so
good, so holy as yourself. I have but a word to say--trust and confide
in me. I will never deceive you."
"Let us pray," said Mr Clayton, after a long pause, sighing as he spoke,
and speaking very softly--and immediately he fell upon his knees, and I,
according to a practice which I had acquired at the chapel, leaned upon
a chair, and turned my face to the window.
It was about a month after my installation into my new office, that
business connected with the society carried me to the village of
Highgate. It was late in the evening when my commission was completed,
and I was enabled, after a day of excessive fatigue, to direct my steps
once more homeward. The stage-coach, which set out from the village for
London twice during the day, luckily for me, was appointed to make its
last journey about half an hour after my engagements had set me at
liberty. A mile, across fields, intervened between me and the
coach-office. Short as the distance was, it was any thing but an
agreeable task to get over it, with the rain spitting into my face, the
boisterous wind beating me back, and the darkness of a November night
confounding me at every turn. In good time, however, I reached the inn.
Providence favoured me. There were but two seats unoccupied in the
coach; one was already engaged by a gentleman who had requested to be
taken up a mile forward; the other had just been given up by a lady who
had been frightened by the storm, and had postponed her return to London
to the following day. This seat I immediately secured, and in a few
minutes afterwards we were on our way towards Babylon. We made but
little progress. The breed of coach horses has been much improved since
the period of which I write, and a journey from Highgate to London was a
much more important event than a railway conductor of the present day
would suppose. My companions were all men. Their conversation turned
upon the topics of the day. A monetary crisis had taken place in the
mercantile world, and for many days I had heard nothing spoken of but
the vast losses which houses and individuals of high character and
standing had incurred, and the bankruptcy with which the community had
become suddenly threatened. The subject had grown stale and wearisome to
me. It had little interest, in fact, for one whose humble salary of one
hundred and fifty pounds per annum depended so little upon the great
fluctuations of commerce, and I accordingly disposed myself for sleep as
soon as the words _bills_, _money_, and _bankruptcy_, became the staple
matter of discourse. I had scarcely established a comfortable doze
before the coach stopped suddenly, and awoke me. It had halted for the
last inside. A gentleman, apparently stout and well wrapped up--it was
impossible to speak positively on the subject, the night was so very
dark--trod his way into the vehicle over the toes of his
fellow-passengers, and took his seat. The coach was once more moving
towards the metropolis, and again I endeavoured to lull myself to sleep.
The same expressions proceeded from the lips of the travellers, and they
were growing more and more indistinct and shadowy, when I was startled
all on a sudden by one of the most palpable sounds that had ever
disturbed and confounded a dreamer. I sat up and listened, coughed to
convince myself that I was certainly awake, and the sounds were repeated
as clear and as audible as before. I would have sworn that Mr Clayton
was the gentleman whom we had last picked up--that he was now in the
coach with me--and was now talking, if the words which fell from the
traveller had not been such as he would never have used, and the subject
on which he spoke had not been one upon which Mr Clayton, I believed,
was as ignorant as a child. The resemblance between the voices was so
great, that I pronounced the phenomenon the most extraordinary that had
ever occurred to me; and growing quite wakeful from the incident, I
continued to listen to the accents of the speaker until once or twice I
had almost thought it my duty to acquaint him with the remarkable fact,
which he was now living to illustrate. But I held my peace, and the
conversation proceeded without interruption.
"You may depend upon it," said one gentleman, "things must get worse
before they'll mend. Half the mischief isn't done yet. There's a report
to-day that ---- cannot hold out much longer. It will be a queer thing
if they smash. Many petty tradesmen bank with that house, who will be
ruined if they go. Things are certainly in a very sweet state."
"You do not mean," said _the voice_, trembling with emotion or alarm,
"that the house of ---- threatens to give way? I have been in the city
to-day, and did not hear a syllable of this. I think you must he
mistaken. Good God, how frightful!"
Well, it was really wonderful! I could have sworn that Mr Clayton was
the speaker. Had he not concluded with the ejaculation, my doubt would
certainly have ceased. That exclamation, of course, removed the
"You'll find I'm right, sir," was the reply of the traveller who spoke
first. "At least, I fear you will. I hope I may be wrong. If you have
any thing in their hands, you would find it worth your while, I think,
to pay them an early visit to-morrow morning. If there's a run upon
them, nothing in the world can save them."
"And is it true," asked _the voice_, "that ---- stopped payment
on Tuesday? I came to town from Warwickshire only yesterday, and this
is the first news that I heard."
"Oh, there's no doubt about that," answered a third person; "but that
surprized nobody. The only wonder is, how he managed to keep afloat so
long. He has been up to the chin for the last twelvemonth and more. I
hope you don't lose there, sir?"
"Mine has been the devil's luck this year," continued _the voice_, in a
bitter savage tone, that never belonged to Mr Clayton. "Yes, gentlemen,
I lose heavily by them both. But never mind, never mind, _one_ shall
wince for it, if he has been playing ducks and drakes with my good
money. He shall feel the scourge, depend upon it. I'll never leave him
till he has paid me back in groans. Heaven, what a sum!"
_The voice_ said no more during the journey. The other gentlemen having
lost nothing by the various failures, discussed matters with philosophy
and praiseworthy decorum. Sometimes, indeed, "the third person" grew
slightly facetious and jocose when he represented to himself what he
termed "the queer cut" that some old friend would display on presenting
his cheque for payment at the rickety counter of Messrs ---- & Co.; but
no deeper expression of feeling escaped one of those who spoke so long
and volubly on what concerned themselves so very little. I was puzzled
and disturbed. The stranger had returned from Warwickshire the day
before. Twice during my residence with the minister, business of
importance had carried him to that county. It was certainly a curious
coincidence, but coincidences more curious pass by us every day
unheeded. It would have been absurd to conclude from that the identity
of the stranger; yet the fact, coupled with _the voice_, staggered and
confounded me. I said nothing, but determined, as soon as we reached the
public streets, to call to my aid the light--feeble as it was--of the
dimly-burning lamps, which, at the time I speak of, were placed at a
considerable distance from each other along the principal streets of
London, scattering no light, and looking like oil lamps in the last
stage of a lingering consumption. These afforded me little help. The
weakest effort of illumination imaginable strayed across the coach
window as we passed a burner, about as serviceable as the long interval
of darkness that ensued, and far more tantalizing. We were driving
through the city. I was still brooding over the singular occurrence,
when the coach stopped. The stranger alighted. I endeavoured to obtain
sight of him, but he was so wrapped and clothed that I did not succeed.
The coach was on its way again, and I had just opportunity enough to
discover that we had halted at the corner of the street in which Mr
Clayton resided. I had been so intent upon scanning the figure of the
traveller, that the fact had escaped me. Had I been aware of it, I would
certainly have followed the man, and seen him at all events safely
beyond the door of the minister. Now it was too late.
I could not repress the desire which I felt to visit Mr Clayton on the
following morning. I went to him at an early hour. If he and the
stranger were one and the same person, I should be made aware of it at a
glance. The cause that had affected him so deeply in the stage-coach
existed still, and his manner must betray him. My suspicions were, thank
Heaven, instantly removed. I found my friend tranquil as ever, busy at
his old occupation, and welcoming me with his usual smile of
benevolence. He was paler than usual, I thought; but this impression
only convinced me how difficult it is to be charitable and just, when
bias and prejudice once take possession of us. My friend was, if any
thing, kinder and more affectionate than ever. He spoke to me about my
new employment, gave me his advice on points of difficulty, and bade me
consult him always, and without hesitation, when doubt might lead me
into danger. He could not tell me how happy he had been made by having
secured a competency for me; and he hoped sincerely that no act of mine
would ever cause him to regret the step that he had taken.
"Indeed," said he, "I have great confidence in you, Caleb. I do not know
another person in the world upon whose character I would have staked so
large a sum. In truth, I should not have been justified. A thousand
pounds is a heavy venture for one so straitened as I am. But you are
worthy of it all. You are a faithful and good boy, and will never give
me reason to repent my generosity. Will you, child?"
"No, sir," I replied; "not if I am master of myself."
"It is strange," continued the good man, "how we attach ourselves to
individuals! There are some men who repel you at first sight--with whom
your feelings are at variance as oil with water. Others again, who win
us with a look--to whom we could confide the secrets of our inmost
heart, and feel satisfied of their losing nothing of their sacredness.
Have you never experienced this, Caleb?"
"I could speak to you, sir," said I, in return, "as unreservedly as to
"Yes, and I to you. It is a strange and beautiful arrangement.
Providence has a hand in this, as in all other sublunary dispensations.
We were created to be a comfort and a joy to one another, and to
reciprocate confidence and love. Such instances are not confined to
modern times. History tells us of glorious friendships in the ancient
world. The great of old--of Greece and Rome--they who advanced to the
very gate and threshold of TRUTH, and then despairingly turned
back--they have honoured human nature by the intensity and permanency of
their attachments. But what is a Pagan attachment in comparison with
that which exists amongst believers, and unites in bonds that are
indissoluble, the faithful hearts of pious Christians?"
"Ah, what indeed, sir!"
"Come to me to-morrow, Caleb," continued my friend, changing the
subject. "Let me see you as often as your duties will permit you. We
must not be strangers. I did not intend to give you up so easily. It is
sweet and refreshing to pursue our old subjects of discourse. You are
not tired of them?"
"Oh, no, sir."
"Come, then, to-morrow."
It was truly delightful to listen to the minister. I had never known him
more sweetly disposed and more calm than on this occasion. He was
unruffled by the presence of one anxious thought. Ah, how different
would he have been if he had really proved to be my coach acquaintance!
How I despised myself for the one unkind half suspicion which I had
entertained so derogatory to the high character of the saint. But it was
a great comfort to me, nevertheless, to be so satisfied of my delusion,
and to feel so easy and so happy in my mind at the close of our long
interview. According to my promise, I saw the minister on the following
day. He was as peaceful and heavenly-minded as before. Another
appointment was made and kept--another succeeded to that--and for one
fortnight together, I spent many hours daily in the society of my
In pursuance of an arrangement which we had made, I called one afternoon
at Mr Clayton's house, and was distressed to hear that he was confined
to his bed by a sudden attack of illness. He had directed his servant to
acquaint all visiters with his condition, and to admit no one to him,
with the exception of the medical attendant and myself. I was eager to
profit by my privilege, and was in a few seconds at the bedside of my
benefactor. He was reading when I approached him, and he looked flushed
and agitated. He put his book away from him, and held out his hand to
me. I pressed it most affectionately.
"I have been ill, Caleb," he began, "but I am better now, and I shall be
quite well soon. Do not be alarmed."
"How did it happen, sir?" I asked.
"We are in the flesh now, dear boy, and are subject to the evils of the
flesh. Hereafter it will be otherwise. Sorrow and distress, we are told,
shall be no more. Oh, happy time for sinners! I have grievously
offended. This very day I have permitted worldly thoughts to disturb and
harrass me, and to shake the fleshly tabernacle. It was wrong,
"What has happened, sir?" I enquired.
The minister looked hard and tenderly upon me, pressed my hand again,
and bade me take a chair.
"Bring it near to the bed, Caleb," said Mr Clayton; "I like to have you
near me. I am better since you came. To see you is always soothing to my
mind. I am reminded, then, that I am not altogether so worthless and
insignificant a worm as I believe myself, since I have been able to do
so much for you. Tell me, do you still like the employment that I
procured for you?"
"I would not resign it for any other that I know of. It is every thing
to me. I feel my independence, and I have been told that I am useful to
my fellow-creatures. It would be a bitter hour to me, sir, that should
find me deprived of my appointment."
"And that hour is very distant, Caleb, if you are sensible of your duty,
and grateful to the instruments which Heaven has raised for you. You
shall always feel your independence, and always hear that you are useful
and respected. Be but faithful. It is a lesson that I have repeated to
you many times--it cannot be told too often."
"You are a patient and a kind instructor, sir."
"Come closer to me, Caleb, and now listen. But first--look well at me,
and tell me what you see."
I looked as he required, but gave no answer.
"Tell me, do you see the lines and marks that beggary and ruin bring
upon the countenance of men? Does poverty glare from any one expression?
_I am a lost and ruined man._"
"Yes. The trifling pittance upon which I lived, and barely lived, and
yet from which I could still extract enough to do a little good--to
feed, perhaps, one starving throat--is wrested, torn from me, and from
those who shared in what it might obtain. I am myself a beggar."
Mr Clayton became agitated as he spoke, and I implored him to compose
"Yes--it is that I wish to do. I should be above the influence of dross.
And for myself I am. Would that I might suffer alone! And this is not
all. The man who has effected my ruin owes every thing to me. I found
him penniless, and raised him to a condition that should have inspired
him with regard and gratitude. I would have trusted that man with
confidence unbounded. I did entrust him with my all, and he has beggared
and undone me."
"Take it not to heart, sir," I said, soothing the afflicted man; "things
may not be so bad as you suppose."
"They cannot be worse," was the reply; "but I will _not_ take it to
heart. The blow is hard to bear--the carnal man must feel it--yet I am
not without my solace. Read to me, Caleb."
I read a chapter from the work that was lying on the bed. It was called
"_The Good Man's Comfort in Affliction_." It was effectual in restoring
my friend to composure. He spoke afterwards with his usual softness
"This bad man, Caleb," he resumed, "is a member of our church. I am
sorry for it--grievously, bitterly sorry for it. The scandal must be
removed. Personally, I would be as passive and forbearing as a child,
but the church suffers whilst one such member is permitted to profane
her ordinances. He must be cut off from her. It must be done. The church
must disavow the man who has betrayed her minister and disgraced
himself. I have been your friend, Caleb--you must now prove mine."
"Most willingly," said I.
"This business must be brought before a general meeting of the church.
From me the accusation will come with ill grace, and yet a public charge
must be preferred. You must be the champion of my cause. Your's shall be
the task of conferring a lasting obligation on your friend--your's shall
be the glory of ridding the sanctuary of defilement."
"How am I to act, sir?"
"Your course is very easy, child. A meeting shall be convened without
delay. You shall attend it. You shall be made master of the case. You
must propose an examination of his affairs on the part of the church.
The man has failed--he is a bankrupt--our church is pure, and demands an
investigation into the questionable conduct of her children. This you
shall do. The church will do the rest."
I know not how it was--I cannot tell what led to it--but a cold shudder
crept through my body, and a sudden sickness overcame me. I thought of
the coach scene--_the voice_ seemed more like than ever--the tones were
the very same. I seemed unexpectedly enclosed and entangled in some
dreadful mystery. I could not conceive why I should hesitate to accept
the invitation of my friend with alacrity and pleasure. He was my
benefactor, preserver, best and only friend.
He had been defrauded, and he called upon me now to perform a simple act
of justice. A man under much less obligation to the minister would have
met his wishes joyfully; but I _did_ hesitate and hold back. A natural
suggestion, one that I could not control or crush, told me as loudly as
a voice could speak, not to commit myself by an immediate and rash
consent. It must have been the _coach_; for, previously to that
adventure, had the minister commanded me to accuse a hundred men, a hint
would have sufficed for my obedience. But that unfortunate occurrence,
now revived by the manner of my friend--by the expressions which he
employed--by the charge which he adduced against the unhappy member of
his church--filled me with doubt, uncertainty, and alarm. Mr Clayton was
not slow to remark what was passing in my mind.
"How is this, Caleb?" he enquired. "You pause and hesitate."
"What has he done sir?" I asked, in my confusion, hardly knowing what I
"Done!" exclaimed the minister, with an offended air. "Caleb, he has
ruined the man who has made you what you are."
It was too true. Mr Clayton had indeed made me what I was. It was a just
reproof. It was ingratitude of the blackest character, to listen so
coldly to his wishes. For months I had received daily and hourly the
most signal benefits from his hands. He had never till now called upon
me to make the shadow of a return for all his disinterested
love--_disinterested_, ah, was it so? I hated myself for the momentary
doubt--and yet the doubt returned upon me. If I had not heard his voice
in the coach, such a suspicion would have been impossible. _Now_, any
thing seemed possible--nothing was too extraordinary to happen. Well, it
was little that the minister requested me to do. I had but to demand an
investigation into the man's affairs. It was easily done, and without
any cost or sacrifice of principle. But why could not the minister
demand the same himself? "It would be unseemly," he asserted. Well, it
might be--why had he not selected an elder member of the Church?
Because, as he had often told me, there was none so dear to him. This
was plain and reasonable, and all this passed through my brain with the
rapidity of thought in an instant of time.
"You may command me, sir," I said at length.
"No, Caleb, I will not _command_ you. To serve your friend would have
been, I deemed, a labour of love. I did not _command_ you, and I now
retract the trifling request which I find I was too bold to make."
"Do not talk so to me, Mr Clayton, I entreat you. I am disturbed and
unwell to-day. Your illness has unsettled me. Pray command me. Speak to
me as is your wont--with the same kindliness and warmth--you know I am
bound to you. Let me serve you in any way you please."
"We will speak of it some other time. Let us change the subject now.
There are twenty men who will be eager to comply with the wishes of
their minister. An intimation will suffice."
"But why, sir," I returned--"why should others be privileged to do your
bidding, and I denied? Forgive my apparent coldness, and give me my
"Not now," said Mr Clayton, softened by my returning warmth. "Let us
read again. Some other time."
In a few days the subject was again introduced, and I put in possession
of the history of the unfortunate man who was so soon to be brought
under the anathema of the church. According to the statement of the
minister, the guilty person had received at various times from him as a
loan, no less a sum than four thousand pounds, the substance of his
wealth, besides an equal amount from other sources, for which Mr Clayton
had made himself accountable. Mr Clayton had implicated himself so
seriously, as he said, for the advantage of the man whom he had known
from boyhood, and raised from beggary, simply on account of the love he
bore him, and in consideration of his Christian character. Of every
farthing thus advanced, the minister had been defrauded, and within a
month the trader had declared himself a bankrupt. That the minister
should have acted so inconsiderately and prodigally, might seem strange
to any one who did not thoroughly understand the extreme unselfishness
of his disposition. Towards me he had behaved with an equal liberality,
and I, at least, had no right to question the truth of every word he
spoke. The conduct of the man appeared odious and unpardonable, and I
regretted that I should have doubted, for one moment, the propriety of
assisting so manifest an act of justice. Let me acknowledge that there
was much need of self-persuasion to arrive at this conclusion. I wished
to believe that I felt _urged_ to my determination; but the necessity
that I experienced of working myself up to a conviction of the justice
of the case, militated sadly against so pleasing a delusion.
The second church meeting in which it fell to my lot to perform a
distinguished character, took place soon after the communication which I
received from my respected friend. It was convened with the especial
object of inquiring into the circumstances connected with the failure of
Mr George Whitefield Bunyan Smith. The chapel was, if possible, fuller
than on the former evening, and the majority of members was, as before,
women. A movement throughout the assembly--a whispering, and a ceaseless
expectoration, indicated the raciness and interest which attached to the
matter in hand, and every eye and mouth seemed opened in the fulness of
an anxious expectation. I sat quietly and uncomfortably, and my heart
beat palpably against my clothes. I endeavoured to paint the villany of
Mr Smith in the darkest colours, and by the contemplation of it, to
rouse myself to self-esteem--but the effort was a failure. I could see
nothing but the man in the coach, and hear nothing but _the voice_,
which sounded in my ears louder than ever, _and far more like_; and I
became at length perfectly satisfied that I had no business to stand in
the capacity of Mr Smith's accuser. It was too late to recant. The bell
had rung--the curtain was up and the performances were about to begin.
A hymn, as usual, ushered in the proceedings of the day. The
fifty-second psalm was then read by the minister, in the beautiful tone
which he knew so well how to assume, and reverence and awe accompanied
his emphatic delivery. Ah, could I ever forget the hour when those
accents first dropped with medicinal virtue on my soul--when every
syllable from his lips brought unction to my bruised nature--and the
dark shadows of earth were dissipated and destroyed, beneath the clear,
pure light of heaven that he invoked and made apparent! Why passed the
syllables now coldly and ineffectually across the heart they could not
penetrate? Why glittered they before the eye with phosphorescent lustre,
void of all heat and might? I could not tell. The charm was gone. It was
misery to know it. The minister having concluded, "Brother Buster was
requested to engage in prayer." That worthy rose _instanter_. First, he
coughed, then he made a face--an awful face--then closed his eyes--then
opened them again, looked up, and stretched forth his arms. At last he
spoke. He prayed for the whole world, including the islands recently
discovered, "even from the river to the oceans of ages"--then for
Europe, and "more especially" for England, and London "in particular,"
but "chiefly" for the parish in which the chapel stood, and
"principally" for the Chosen People then and there assembled, and,
"above all," for the infatuated man upon whose account they had been
brought together. "Oh, might the delooded sinner repent _off_ his sin,
and, having felt the rod, turn from the error _off_ his ways. Oh might
the Church have grace to purify itself; and oh might the vessel wot was
chosen this night to bring the criminal to justice, be hindood with
strength for the work; and oh, might the criminal be enabled to come out
of it with clean hands, (which he very much doubted;) and oh, might the
minister be preserved to his Church for many years to come; and oh,
might he himself be a door-keeper in heaven, rather than dwell in the
midst of wickedness and sinners!" This was the substance of the divine
supplication, offered up by Jabez Buster, in the presence of the
congregation, and listened to with devout respect and seriousness by the
refined and intellectual Mr Clayton. Another hymn succeeded immediately.
It must have been written for the occasion, for the sentiment of it was
in accordance with the prayer. It was a wail over the backsliding of a
fallen saint. To the assembly thus prejudiced--an assembly made up of
men of business and their wives, mechanics, dressmakers, servant-maids,
and the like, an address suitable to their capacities was spoken. Mr
Clayton himself delivered it.--He trembled with emotion when he referred
to the painful duty which he was now called upon to perform. "Dear
brethren," said he, "you are all aware of the unhappy condition of that
brother who has long been bound to us by every tie that may unite the
brethren in cordial and in Christian love. Truly, he has been dear to
all of us; and for myself, I can with sincerity aver, that no creature
living was dearer to me in the flesh, than him upon whose conduct we are
met this night in Christian charity to adjudicate. Yes, he was my equal,
my guide, and my acquaintance. We took sweet council together, and we
walked to the house of prayer in company. I hope, I pray--would that I
might add, that I believe!--the sin that has been committed in the face
of the Church, and before the world, may be found not to lie at the door
of him we loved and cherished. We are not here to take cognizance of the
temporal concerns of every member of our congregation. We have no right
to do this, so long as the Church is kept pure, and suffers not by the
delinquencies of her children. If the limb be unworthy and unsound, let
it be lopped off. You have heard that the worldly affairs of our brother
are crushed; it is whispered abroad that there is reason to fear the
commission of discreditable acts. Is this so? If it be true, let the
whisper assume a bolder form, and pronounce our brother unworthy of a
place with the elect. If it be false, let every evil tongue be silenced,
and let us rejoice exceedingly, yea, with the timbrel and dance, with
stringed instruments and loud-sounding cymbals. For my own part, I will
not believe him guilty, until proof positive has made him so. His
accuser is here this night. From what I know of our young brother, I am
satisfied he will proceed most cautiously. Should he suggest simply an
investigation into the recent transactions of the unfortunate man, it
will be our duty to act upon that suggestion. If he comes armed with
evidences of guilt, they must be examined with a kind but still
impartial spirit. I know not to what extent it is proposed to proceed.
It is not for me to know it. I am not his prosecutor. I shall not
pronounce upon him. It is for you to judge. If he be proved culpable in
this most melancholy business, and, alas! I fear he must be, if reports
are true--though you must be careful to discard reports and look to
testimony only--our course is plain and easy. Pardon is not with us; it
must be sought elsewhere. I will not detain you longer. Brother Stukely,
the Church will listen to your charge."
But Brother Stukely had been for some time rendered incapable of speech.
He was staggered and overwhelmed. He distrusted his eyes, his ears, and
every sense that he possessed. What?--was _this_ Mr Clayton, the meek,
the pious, the good, the benevolent, the just, the truth-telling, the
Christian, and the minister? What?--could he assert that he was
satisfied of his victim's innocence, until I should prove him guilty--I,
who knew nothing of the man and his affairs, but what I gathered from
his own false lips? There was some terrible mistake here. I dreamt, or
raved. What!--had the history of the last twelvemonth been a cheat--a
fable?--How was it--where was I? What!--could Mr Clayton talk
thus--could HE descend to falsehood and deceit--HE, the immaculate and
infallible? What a moral earthquake was here! What a re-enacting of the
fall of man! But every eye was upon me, and the Church was silent as
death, waiting for my rising. The chapel commenced swimming round me. I
grew sick, and feared that I was becoming blind, for a mist came before
my eyes, and confounded all things. At length I was awakened to
something like consciousness, by a rapid and universal expectoration. I
rose, and became painfully distressed by a conflict of opposing
feelings. I remembered, in spite of the present obliquity of the
minister, his great kindness to me--I remembered it with gratitude--this
urged me to speak aloud, whilst a sense of justice as strongly demanded
silence, and pity for the man whom I had undertaken to accuse, but who
had never offended me, cried shame upon me for the words I was about to
utter. For a second, I stood irresolute, and a merciful interference was
sent to rescue me.
"Why," exclaimed a voice that came pleasing to my ears,--"why are you
going to accuse this here brother? Harn't twenty men failed afore, and
you never thought of asking questions?"
I looked round, and my friend Thompson of happy memory nodded
familiarly, and by no means disconcertedly to me. I had never seen him
in the chapel before. I did not know that he was a member. Here was
another mystery! His words were the signal for loud disapprobation. He
had marred the general curiosity at an intensely interesting moment, and
the anger that was conceived against him was by no means partial. The
minister rose in the midst of it. He looked very pale and much annoyed,
but his manner was still mild, and his expressions as full of charity
and kind feeling as ever.
"It was a proper enquiry," he said; "one that should immediately be
answered." Heaven forbid that their conduct, in one particular, should
savour of injustice. In due time the explanation would have been
offered. Had their brother waited for that time, he would have found
that his harsh observation might have been withheld. The unfortunate man
needed not the champion who had stood so irreverently forward. "I can
assure our brother, that there is one who will hear of his innocence
with greater joy than any other man may feel for him." But it was his
duty to state, and publicly, that there were circumstances connected
with this failure, that unfavourably marked it from every other that had
taken place amongst them. These must be enquired into. Their brother
Stukely had been interrupted in the charge which he was about to make.
He repeated that he knew not how far that charge might have been brought
home. He would propose now, that two messengers be appointed to wait
upon the bankrupt, and to examine thoroughly his affairs, and that,
previous to their report, no further proceedings should take place. The
purity and disinterestedness of their conduct should be made apparent.
Brothers Buster and Tomkins were the gentlemen whom he proposed for the
delicate office, with the full assurance that they would execute their
commission with Christian charity, tempering justice with
The assembly gave a reluctant consent to this arrangement. "Such
things," it was argued, "were better settled at once; and it would have
been far more satisfactory if the bankrupt's matters had been disclosed
to the meeting, who had come on purpose to hear them, and had neglected
important matters at home, rather than be disappointed." The meeting,
however, dissolved with a hymn, sung without spirit or heart. At the
close of it, the minister retired. He passed me on his way; looked at me
coldly, and I thought a frown had settled on his brow almost in spite of
him. I was scarcely in the open street again, before Thompson was at my
side, shaking my hand with the greatest heartiness.
"Well," said he, "I should much sooner have thought of seeing the d----l
in that chapel than you, any how. Why, what does it all mean? I thought
you were in Brummagem."
"Ah! Thompson," I exclaimed sighing, "I wish I were! It is a long
"Well, do let's have it. I _am_ astonished."
I put him in possession of my doings since we parted at the Bull's Head
Inn in Holborn. I had not finished when we arrived at my lodgings. I
invited my old friend to supper, and after that meal, he heard the
conclusion of the narrative.
"Well," said he at last, "some people don't believe in sperits. Now I
do. I believe that a sperit has brought you and me together again.
You've told me a good deal. Now, I'll tell you something. Clayton's an
"He's a mysterious and unintelligible being," I exclaimed.
"Yes," answered Thompson, "you were always fond of them fine words.
P'raps you mean the same as me after all. What I mean is, that fellow
beats all I ever came near. Talk of the Old Un! He's a babby to him."
"I can believe any thing now," I answered.
"I don't complain; because I think it serves me right. I did very well
at our parish church, and had no business to leave it; and I shouldn't
either, if I hadn't been a easy fool all my life. I went on right well
there, and understood the clergyman very well, and I should have done to
this day, if it hadn't been for my missus; she's always worriting
herself about her state, and she happened to hear this Mr Clayton, and
nothing would please her but we must join his congregation, the whole
biling lot of us, and get elected, as they call it. She said all was
cold in the church, and nothing to catch hold on there. I'm blessed if I
havn't catched hold of a good deal more than I like in this here chapel.
They call one another brothers--sich brothers I fancy as Cain was to
Abel. They are the rummest Christians you ever seed. Just look at the
head of them--that Mr Clayton, rolling in riches"----
"In what?" said I, interrupting him. "You mistake. The little that he
had is lost."
"Oh, don't you be gammoned," was the reply. "What he has lost wont hurt
him. He's got enough now to buy this street, out and out. He's the
greediest fellow for money this world ever saw."
"I am puzzled, Thompson," said I.
"Yes, perhaps you are, and you'll be more puzzled yet when you know all.
Why, what is all this about poor Smith? I knew him before Clayton ever
got hold of him, when the chap hadn't a halfpenny to fly with, but was a
most ordacious fellow at speculating and inventions, and was always up
to something new. One day he had a plan for making moist sugar out of
bricks--then soap out of nothing--and sweet oil out of stones. At last
Clayton hears of him, and hooks him up, gets him to the chapel; first
converts him, and then goes partners with him in the spekylations--let's
him have as much money as he asks for, and because soap doesn't come
from nothing, and sugar from bricks, and sweet oil from stones, he stops
short, sews him up, drives him into the Gazette, and now wants to throw
him into the world a beggar, without name and character, and with ten
young 'uns hanging about his widowed arm for bread"
"Oh, it's dreadful, if it's true," said I; "but if he has robbed the
minister, whatever Mr Clayton may be, he ought to be punished."
"But it isn't true, and there's the villany of it. Smith's a fool; you
never see'd a bigger in your life, and though he thinks himself so
clever in his inventions and diskiveries, he's as simple as a child in
business. Why, he gave three thousand pounds for the machinery wot was
to make soap out of nothing; and so all the money's gone. How sich a
deep 'un as Clayton ever trusted him, I can't tell. He's wexed with
himself now, and wants to have his spite upon his unfortunate tool."
"I can hardly believe it," said I.
"No; and do you think I would have believed it the first day as missus
made me come to listen to that out and outer? and, do you think if I had
known about it, they would ever have lugged me in to be a brother? You
shall take a walk with me to-morrow, if you please, and if you don't
believe it then of your own accord, why I sha'n't ask you."
"He has been so kind, so generous to me. He has behaved so unlike a
"Yes; that's just his way. That's what he calls, I suppose, _sharpening
his tools_. He's made up his mind long ago to have out of you all he
gave you, and a little more besides. Why, what did you get up for in the
chapel? Didn't he say it was to bring a charge against Smith? Why, what
do you know of Smith? Can't you see, with half an eye, he's been feeding
of you to do his dirty work; and if you had turned out well, wouldn't it
have been cheap to him at the price?"
"What is it," said I, "you propose to do to-morrow?"
"To take a walk; that's all. Don't ask questions. If you go with me,
I'll satisfy your doubts."
"Surely," said I, "his congregation must have known this; and they would
not have permitted him"----
"Ah, my dear sir, you don't know human nature. Wait till you have lived
as long as I have. Now, there's my wife; she knows as much as I do about
the man, and yet I'm blowed if she doesn't seem to like him all the
better for it! She calls him a chosen wessel, and only wishes I was half
as sure of salvation. As for the congregation, they are a complete set
of chosen wessels together, and the more you blow 'em up, the better the
wessels like it. If what they call the world didn't speak agin 'em,
they'd be afraid they were going wrong. So you never can offend them."
Thompson continued in the same strain for the rest of the evening,
bringing charge after charge against the minister, with the view of
proving him to be a hypocrite of the deepest dye. As he had fostered and
protected me, Thompson explained that he had previously maintained and
trained up Smith, whom he never would have deserted had all his
speculations issued favourably. The loss of his money had so enraged
him, that his feelings had suddenly taken a different direction, and he
would now not stop until he had thoroughly effected the poor man's ruin.
He (Thompson) knew Smith well; he had seen his books; and the man was as
innocent of fraud as a child unborn. Clayton knew it very well, and the
trick of examining the books was all a fudge. "That precious pair of
brothers, Bolster and Tomkins, knew very well what they were about, and
would make it turn out right for the minister somehow. As for hisself,
he stood up for the fellow, because he hadn't another friend in the
place. He knew he should be kicked out for his pains, but that would be
more agreeable than otherways." From all I gathered from Thompson, it
appeared that the pitiable man--the audacious minister of God--was the
slave of one of the most corroding passions that ever made shipwreck of
the heart of man. _The love of money_ absorbed or made subservient every
other sentiment. To heap up riches, there was no labour too painful, no
means too vicious, no conduct too unjustifiable. The graces of earth,
the virtues of heaven, were made to minister to the lust, and to conceal
the demon behind the brightness and the beauty of their forms. There is
no limit to the moral baseness of the man of avarice. There was none
with Mr Clayton. He lived to accumulate. Once let the desire fasten,
anchor-like, with heavy iron to the heart, and what becomes of the
world's opinion, and the tremendous menaces of heaven? Mr Clayton was a
scholar--a man of refinement, eloquent--an angel not more winning--he
was self-denying in his appetites, humble, patient--powerful and
beautiful in expression, when the vices of men compelled the unwilling
invective. Witness the burst of indignation when he spoke of Emma
Harrington, and the race to which it was her misery to belong. He was,
to the eyes of men, studious and holy as an anchorite. But better than
his own immortal soul, he loved and doated upon _gold!_ That love
acknowledged, fed, and gratified, when are its demands appeased?--when
does conscience raise a barrier against its further progress? It is a
state difficult to believe. Could I have listened with an ear of
credulity to the tale of Thompson--could I have borne to listen to it
with patience, had I not witnessed an act of turpitude that ocular
demonstration could only render credible--had I not been prepared for
that act by the tone, the manner, the expressions of the minister, when
we passed an hour together, ignorant of each other's presence? It was a
dreadful conviction that was forced upon me, and as wonderful as
terrible. Self-delusion, for such it was, so perfect and complete, who
could conceive--hypocrisy so super-eminent, who could conjecture! There
was something, however, to be disclosed on the succeeding day. Thompson
was very mysterious about this. He would give no clue to what he
designed. I should judge from what I saw of the truth of his
communications. Alas! I had seen enough already to mourn over the most
melancholy overthrow that had ever crushed the confidence, and bruised
the feelings, of ingenuous youth.
I passed a restless and unhappy night. Miserable dreams distressed me. I
dreamed that I was sentenced to death for perjury--that the gallows was
erected--and that Buster and Tomkins were my executioners. The latter
was cruelly polite and attentive in his demeanour. He put the rope round
my neck with an air of cutting civility, and apologized for the whole
proceeding. I experienced vividly the moment of being turned off. I
suffered the horrors of strangulation. The noose slipped, and I was
dangling in the air in excruciating agony, half-dead and half-alive.
Buster rushed to the foot of the scaffold, and with Christian charity
fastened himself to my legs, and hung there till I had breathed my last.
Whilst he was thus suspended, he sang one of his favourite hymns with
his own rich and effective nasal vigour. Then I dreamed I was murdering
Bunyan Smith in his sleep. Mr Clayton was pushing me forward, and urging
a dagger into my hand. Just as I had killed him, I was knocked down by
Thompson, and Clayton ran off laughing. Then I woke up, thank Heaven,
more frightened than hurt, with every limb in my body sore and aching.
Then, instead of going to sleep again, which I could not do, I lay
awake, and reflected on what had taken place, and I thought all I had
heard against Mr Clayton, and all I had seen in the chapel, was a
dream, like the execution and the murder. One thing seemed just as real
and as likely as the other. Then I became uneasy in my bed, got up, and
walked about the room, and wondered what in the world I should do, if
Mr Clayton deprived me of my situation, and I was thrown out of bread
again. Then I recollected his many hints concerning fidelity and
friendship, and what he had said about my being in no danger, so long as
I was faithful, and the rest of it; and then I wished I had thrown
myself over Blackfriars' Bridge as I had intended, and so put an end to
all the trials that beset my path. But this wish was scarcely felt
before it was regretted and checked at once. Mr Clayton had taught me
wisdom, which his own bad conduct could not sully or affect. It was not
because under the garb of religion he concealed the tainted soul of the
hypocrite, that religion was not still an angel of light, of purity, and
loveliness. Her consolations were not less sweet--her promises not less
sure. It would have been an unsound logic that should have argued, from
the sinfulness of the minister, the falseness of that faith whose simple
profession, and nothing more, alas! had been enough to hide foulest
deformity. No! the vital spark that Mr Clayton had kindled, burned still
steadily and clear. I could still see by its holy light the path of
rectitude and duty, and thank God the while, that in the hour of
temptation he gave me strength to resist evil, and the faculty of
distinguishing aright between _the unshaken testimony_ and _the
unfaithful witness_. I did not, upon reflection, regret that I had not
recklessly destroyed myself; but I prayed on my knees for direction and
help in the season of difficulty and disappointment through which I was
Thompson came early on the following day, punctual to his appointment.
He was accompanied by poor Bunyan Smith, and a voluminous statement of
his affairs. I looked over them as well as I was able; for the
unfortunate man was all excitement, and, faithful to the description of
Thompson, sanguine in the extreme. He interrupted me twenty times, and,
as every new speculation turned up, had still something to say why it
had not succeeded according to his wishes. Although he had failed in
every grand experiment, there was not one which would not have realized
his hopes a hundredfold, but for the occurrence of some unfortunate
event which it was impossible to foresee, but which could not possibly
take place again, had he but money to renew his trials. His bankruptcy
had not subdued him, nor in the least diminished his belief in the
efficacy of his great discoveries. There was certainly no appearance of
fraud in the account of his transactions, but it was not Mr Smith's
innocence I was anxious to establish. It was the known guilt of Mr
Clayton that I would have made any sacrifice to remove.
It was in the afternoon that Thompson and I were walking along the
well-filled pavement of Cheapside, on our way to what he called "the
best witness he could bring to speak in favour of all that he had said
about the minister." He still persisted in keeping up a mystery in
respect of this same witness. "He might be, after all," he said,
"mistaken in the thing, and he didn't wish to be made a fool of. I don't
expect I shall, but we shall see." We reached Cornhill, and were
opposite the Exchange.
"That's a rum place, isn't?" asked Thompson, looking at the
building--"Have you ever been inside?"
"Never," I replied.
"Suppose we just stroll in then? What a row they are kicking up there!
And what a crowd! There's hardly room to move."
The area was, as he said, crowded. There was a loud continued murmur of
human voices. Traffic was intense, and had reached what might be
supposed its acme. It seemed as if business was undergoing a paroxysm,
or fit, rather than pursuing her steady, healthful course. Bodies of men
were standing in groups--some were darting from corner to corner, pen in
mouth--a few were walking leisurely with downcast looks--others quickly,
uneasy and excited. A stout and well-contented gentleman or two leaned
against the high pillars of the building, and formed the centre of a
human circle, that smiled as he smiled, and stopped when he stopped.
"Nice place to study in, sir," said Thompson, as we walked along.
"I mean it though," said he. "I see a man now that comes here on purpose
to study--as clever a man at his books as ever I saw, and as fine a
fellow to talk as you know--there, just look across the road--under that
pillar--near the archway. There, just where them two men has left a open
space. Tell me, who do you see there, sir?"
"Why, Mr CLAYTON!" I replied, astonished at the sight.
"Yes, and if you'll come here every day of your life, there you'll find
him. I've watched him often, since Smith first put me up to his tricks,
and I have never missed him. There he is making money, and wearing his
soul out because he can't make half enough to satisfy his greedy maw.
His covetousness is awful. There's nothing that he doesn't speckylate
in; there's hardly a man of business in his congregation that he
doesn't, either by himself or others, lend money out at usury. I mean
such on 'em as he knows are right; for catch him, if he knows it,
trusting the rotten brothers. Smith says he has got something to do with
every one of the stocks. I don't know whether that is any thing to eat
and drink or not, but I think they call this here bear-garden the Stock
Exchange, and here the out-and-outer spends more than half his days."
Whilst Thompson spoke, one of the two men, whom I have mentioned as
being for many hours together closeted with the minister in his private
study, and whom I set down as missionaries--came up in great haste to Mr
Clayton, and communicated to him news, apparently, of importance. The
latter immediately produced a pocket-book, in which he wrote a few words
with a pencil, and the individual departed. The information, whatever it
may have been, had deeply affected the man to whom it had been brought.
He did not stand still, as before, but walked nervously about, looked