Part 4 out of 8
M. de Fontanges then explained to Newton the order which he had
received. Newton replied that he had had no right to expect otherwise on
his first landing on the island; that he had incurred a heavy debt of
gratitude to them for having preserved him so long from a prison; and
that the remembrance of their kindness would tend to beguile the tedious
hours of captivity (from which it may appear that Newton, in point of
expressing himself, was half a Frenchman already). He then kissed the
hand of Madame de Fontanges, tried to console the little slave girls,
who were all _au desespoir_, patted Cupidon on the head, by way of
farewell, and quitted the boudoir, in which he had passed so many happy
hours. When he was outside, he again expressed his obligations to M. de
Fontanges, who then stated his determination to call upon his brother,
the governor, and try to allieviate the hardships of his lot as much as
was possible. In less than an hour, Newton, in company with his host,
was on the road to Basse Terre, leaving the corporal and his two file of
men to walk back as fast as they could; the corporal having sufficient
_savoir vivre_ not to refuse the pledge of the governor's brother for
the safe delivery of the prisoner.
It was not until late in the evening that they arrived at Basse Terre,
when they immediately proceeded to the house of the governor, and were
admitted to his presence.
The governor, who had been much displeased at the circumstance of Newton
having remained so long on the island, was more pacified when M. de
Fontanges explained to him the way in which he had been made prisoner,
and the hardships which he had previously endured. M. de Fontanges
accounted for his long detention at Lieu Desire by stating the real
fact, viz., the pertinacity of Madame de Fontanges; which, although it
might have been considered a very poor argument in England, had its due
weight in a French colony.
The governor entered into conversation with Newton, who detailed to him
the horrors of the shipwreck which he had undergone. The narrative
appeared to affect him much. He told Newton that under such
circumstances he could hardly consider him as a prisoner, and would take
the first opportunity of releasing him, and would accept his parole for
not quitting the island. Newton returned his thanks for so much
courtesy, and withdrew in company with M. de Fontanges.
"Monsieur le Marquis has much sympathy for those who have been
shipwrecked," observed Monsieur de Fontanges, after they had quitted the
room. "Poor man! he lost his wife, a beautiful young woman, and his only
child, a little girl, about seven years back, when they were proceeding
home in a vessel bound to Havre. The vessel has never been heard of since,
and he has never recovered the loss."
"In what year was it?" inquired Newton.
"In the autumn of the year--"
"There were many vessels wrecked on our coast during that dreadful
winter," replied Newton; "I myself, when in a coaster, picked up several
articles belonging to a French vessel. I have them in my possession
now;--they are of some value."
"What did they consist of?" inquired Monsieur de Fontanges.
"A large trunk, containing the wearing apparel of a female and a child:
there were also several orders of knighthood, and some jewels; but I
hardly know what they were, as it is some time since I have looked at
"How strange that you could find no clue to discover the names of the
"There were French letters," replied Newton, "which I could not read;
they were only signed by initials, which did not correspond with the
marks on the linen belonging to the lady, although the surname might
have been the same as that of the child."
"Do you recollect the initials?"
"Perfectly well: the marks on the lady's apparel were L.C., that on the
linen of the infant J.F."
"Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!" cried Monsieur de Fontanges; "then it may indeed
have been the apparel of the Marquise de Fontanges. The linen must have
been some marked with her maiden name, which was Louise de Colmar. The
child was christened Julie de Fontanges, after her grandmother. My poor
brother had intended to take his passage home in the same vessel, his
successor being hourly expected; but the frigate in which the new
governor had embarked was taken by an English squadron, and my brother was
forced to remain here."
"Then the property must undoubtedly belong to the marquis," replied
Newton: "I only wish I could have been able to assure him that his wife
and child were equally safe; but that I am afraid is impossible, as
there can be no doubt but that they were all lost. Do you mean to
communicate what I have told you to the marquis?"
"By no means: it will only tear open a wound which has but partially
healed. If you will send me all the particulars when you return I shall
feel much obliged, not that the effects are of any consequence. The
marquise and her child are undoubtedly lost; and it could be no
consolation to my brother to ascertain that a trunk of their effects had
Here the conversation dropped, and was never again renewed.
Newton was heartily welcomed again at Lieu Desire, where he remained
three weeks, when a note from the governor informed him that a cartel
was about to sail.
It was with mutual pain that Newton and his kind friends took their
farewell of each other. In this instance M. de Fontanges did not
accompany him to Basse Terre, but bade him adieu at his own door.
Newton, soon after he was on the road, perceived that M. de Fontanges
had acted from a motive of delicacy, that he might not receive the
thanks of Newton for two valises, well furnished, which overtook Newton
about a quarter of a mile from the plantation, slung on each side of a
horse, under the guidance of a little negro, perched on the middle.
Newton made his acknowledgments to the governor for his kind
consideration, then embarked on board of the _Marie Therese_ schooner,
and in three days he once more found himself on shore in an English
colony; with which piece of information I conclude this chapter.
"Mercy on us! a bairn, a very pretty bairn,
A boy, a child." SHAKESPEARE.
When Newton was landed from the cartel at Jamaica, he found the
advantage of not being clad in the garb of a sailor, as all those who
were in such costume were immediately handed over to the admiral of the
station, to celebrate their restoration to liberty on board of a
man-of-war; but the clothes supplied to him by the generosity of M. de
Fontanges had anything but a maritime appearance, and Newton was landed
with his portmanteaus by one of the man-of-war's boats, whose crew had
little idea of his being a person so peculiarly suited to their views,
possessing as he did the necessary qualifications of youth, activity,
and a thorough knowledge of his profession. Newton was so anxious to
return home, that after a few days' expensive sojourn at an hotel,
frequented chiefly by the officers of the man-of-war in port, he
resolved to apply to the captain of a frigate ordered home with
despatches, to permit him to take a passage. He had formed a slight
intimacy with some of the officers, who assured him that he would
experience no difficulty in obtaining his request. His application was
made in person; and after his statement that he had been released in the
last cartel which had come from Guadaloupe, his request was immediately
granted, without any further questions being put relative to his
profession, or the manner in which he had been captured. The captain
very civilly gave him to understand that he might mess with the
gun-room officers, if he could arrange with them, and that he expected
to sail on the evening of the ensuing day. Newton immediately repaired
on board of the frigate, to ascertain if the officers would receive him
as a messmate; and further, whether the amount of his mess-money would
be more than he could in prudence afford. At the bottom of one of the
portmanteaus he had found a bag of two hundred dollars, supplied by his
generous host, and in the same bag there was also deposited a small note
from Madame de Fontanges, wishing him success, and enclosing (as a
_souvenir_) a ring, which he had often perceived on her finger; but,
adequate as was this supply to his own wants, Newton did not forget that
his father was, in all probability, in great distress, and would require
his assistance on his return. He was, therefore, naturally anxious not
to expend more than was absolutely necessary in defraying his passage.
The old first lieutenant, to whom, upon his arrival on board, he was
introduced as commanding officer, received him with much urbanity; and,
when Newton stated that he had obtained the captain's permission to make
the application, immediately acceded to his wishes on the part of his
messmates as well as of himself, when Newton followed up his
application, by requesting to know the expense which he would incur, as,
in case of its being greater than his finances could meet, he would
request permission to choose a less expensive mess.
"I am aware," replied the veteran, "that those who have been
shipwrecked, and in a French prison, are not likely to be very flush of
cash. It is, however, a point on which I must consult my messmates.
Excuse me one moment, and I will bring you an answer: I have no doubt
but that it will be satisfactorily arranged; but there is nothing like
settling these points at once. Mr Webster, see that the lighter shoves
off the moment that she is clear," continued the first lieutenant to one
of the midshipmen as he descended the quarter-deck ladder, leaving
Newton to walk the quarter-deck.
In a few minutes the first lieutenant reappeared, with one or two
officers of the gun-room mess, who greeted him most cordially.
"I have seen all that are requisite," said he to Newton. "Two I have not
spoken to, the master and the purser; they are both poor men with
families. If, therefore, you will not be too proud to accept it, I am
requested to offer you a free passage from the other officers of the
mess, as we feel convinced that your company will more than repay us.
The proportion of the expense of your passage to the other two will be
but one or two pounds; a trifle, indeed, but still of consequence to
them; and that is the only expense which you will incur. If you can
afford to pay that, any time after your arrival in England, we shall be
most happy to receive you, and make the passage as comfortable and
pleasant as circumstances will permit."
To this most liberal proposition Newton most gladly acceded. The
officers who had come on deck with the first lieutenant invited Newton
below, where he was introduced to the remainder of the mess, who were
most of them fine young men, as happy and careless as if youth was to
last for ever. Having pledged each other in a glass of grog, Newton
returned on shore. The next morning he made his arrangements, paid his
bill at the hotel, and before twelve o'clock was again on board of the
frigate, which lay with the Blue Peter hoisted, and her fore-topsail
loose, waiting for her captain, who was still detained on shore while
the admiral and governor made up their despatches.
When Newton had applied to the captain of the frigate for a passage
home, he could hardly believe it possible that the person to whom he was
introduced could be entrusted with the command of so fine a vessel. He
was a slight-made, fair complexioned lad, of nineteen or twenty years at
the most, without an incipient mark of manhood on his chin. He appeared
lively, active, and good-natured; but what were the other qualifications
he possessed, to discover such a mark of confidence, were to Newton an
enigma requiring solution.
It was, however, to be explained in very few words. He was the son of
the admiral of the station, and (as at that period there was no
regulation with respect to age, to check the most rapid promotion),
after he had served his time as midshipman, in less than two months he
had been raised through the different ranks of lieutenant, commander,
and post-captain. On receiving the latter step, he was at the same time
appointed to the frigate in question,--one of the finest which belonged
to his Majesty's service. In order, however, that he should to a certain
degree be in leading-strings, a very old and efficient officer had been
selected by the admiral as his first lieutenant. Whether, in common
justice, the captain and his subordinate ought not to have changed
places, I leave the reader to guess; and it was the more unfair towards
the worthy old first lieutenant, as, if the admiral had not entertained
such a high opinion of his abilities and judgment as to confide to him
the charge of his son, he would long before have been promoted himself
to one of the many vacancies which so repeatedly occurred.
Captain Carrington had all the faults which, if no inherent, will
naturally be acquired by those who are too early entrusted with power.
He was self-sufficient, arbitrary, and passionate. His good qualities
consisted in a generous disposition, a kindness of heart when not
irritated, a manly courage, and a frank acknowledgment of his errors.
Had he been allowed to serve a proper time in the various grades of his
profession--had he been taught to obey before he had been permitted to
_command_--he had within him all the materials for a good officer: as it
was, he was neither officer, sailor, nor anything else, except a
_spoiled boy_. He would often attempt to carry on the duty as captain,
and as often fail from want of knowledge. He would commence manoeuvring
the ship, but find himself unable to proceed. At these unfortunate
_break downs_, he would be obliged to resign the speaking-trumpet to the
first lieutenant; and if, as sometimes happened, the latter (either from
accident, or perhaps from a pardonable pique at having the duty taken
out of his hands), was not at his elbow to prompt him when at fault--at
these times the cant phrase of the officers, taken from some farce, used
to be, "_York, you're wanted_."
About an hour before sunset the juvenile captain made his appearance on
board, rather _fresh_ from taking leave of his companions and
acquaintances on shore. The frigate was got under weigh by the first
lieutenant, and, before the sun had disappeared, was bounding over the
foaming seas in the direction of the country which had nurtured to
maturity the gnarled oak selected for her beautiful frame. Newton joined
his new messmates in drinking a prosperous passage to old England; and,
with a heart grateful for his improved prospects, retired to the hammock
which had been prepared for him.
When Newton rose in the morning, he found that the wind had shifted
contrary during the night, and that the frigate was close hauled,
darting through the smooth water with her royals set. At ten o'clock the
master proposed tacking the ship, and the first lieutenant went down to
report his wish to the captain.
"Very well, Mr Nourse," replied the captain; "turn the hands up."
"Ay, ay, sir," replied the first lieutenant, leaving the cabin.
"Call the boatswain, quarter-master--all hands 'bout ship."
"All hands 'bout ship," was now bellowed out by the boatswain, and
re-echoed by his mates at the several hatchways, with a due proportion
of whistling from their pipes.
"Tumble up, there--tumble up smartly, my lads."
In a minute every man was on deck, and at his station; many of them,
however, _tumbling down_ in their laudable hurry to _tumble up_.
"Silence there, fore and aft--every man to his station," cried the first
lieutenant through his speaking-trumpet. "All ready, sir," reported the
first lieutenant to the captain, who had followed him on deck. "Shall we
put the helm down?"
"If you please, Mr Nourse."
"Down with the helm."
When the master reported it down, "The helm's a-lee," roared the first
But Captain Carrington, who thought light winds and smooth water a good
opportunity for practice, interrupted him as he was walking towards the
weather gangway "Mr Nourse, Mr Nourse, if you please, I'll work the
"Very good, sir," replied the first lieutenant, handing him the
speaking-trumpet. "Rise tacks and sheets, if you please, sir," continued
the first lieutenant (_sotto voce_), "the sails are lifting."
"Tacks and sheets!" cried the captain.
"Gather in on the lee main-tack, my lads," said the first lieutenant,
going to the lee gangway to see the duty performed.
Now, Captain Carrington did know that "mainsail haul" was the next word
of command; but as this order requires a degree of precision as to the
exact time at which it is given, he looked over his shoulder for the
first lieutenant, who usually prompted him in this exigence. Not seeing
him there, he became disconcerted; and during the few seconds that he
cast his anxious eyes about the deck, to discover where the first
lieutenant was, the ship had passed head to wind.
"Mainsail haul!" at last cried the captain; but it was too late; the
yards would not swing round; everything went wrong; and the ship was _in
"You hauled a little too late, sir," observed the first lieutenant who
had joined him. "You must box her off, sir, if you please."
But Captain Carrington, although he could put the ship in irons, did not
know how to take her out.
"The ship is certainly most cursedly out of trim," observed he; "she'll
neither wear nor stay. Try her yourself, Mr Nourse," continued the
captain, "I'm sick of her!"--and with a heightened colour, he handed the
speaking-trumpet over to the first lieutenant.
"York, you're wanted," observed the lieutenant abaft to the marine
officer, dropping down the corners of his mouth.
"York, you're wanted," tittered the midshipmen, in whispers, as they
passed each other.
"Well, I've won your grog, Jim," cried one of the marines, who was
standing at the forebrace; "I knew he'd never do it."
"He's like me," observed another, in a low tone; "he left school too
'arly, and lost his edication."
Such were the results of injudicious patronage. A fine ship entrusted to
a boy, ignorant of his duty; laughed at, not only by the officers, but
even by the men; and the honour of the country at stake, and running no
small risk of being tarnished, if the frigate met with a vigorous
opponent. Thank God, this is now over! Judicious regulations have put
a stop to such selfish and short-sighted patronage. Selfish, because
those who were guilty of it risked the honour of the nation to advance
the interests of their _proteges_; short-sighted, because it is of
little use making a young man a captain if you cannot make him an
officer. I might here enter into a discussion which might be of some
use, but it would be out of place in a work intended more for amusement
than for instruction; nor would it in all probability be read. I always
make it a rule myself, to skip over all those parts introduced in a
light work which are of denser materials than the rest; and I cannot
expect but that others will do the same. There is a time and place for
all things; and like the master of Ravenswood, "I bide my time."
[Footnote 1: It is true that an officer must now serve a certain time in
the various grades before promotion, which time is supposed to be
sufficient for him to acquire a knowledge of his profession; but whether
that knowledge is obtained depends, as before, upon the young officer's
prospects in life. If from family interest he is sure of promotion, he
is not quite so sure of being a seaman.]
The frigate dashed gallantly through the water, at one time careening to
an adverse wind, at another rolling before a favouring gale: and, to
judge from her rapid motion, she was not in such very bad trim as
Captain Carrington had found out. Each day rapidly brought her nearer to
their cherished home, as "she walked the waters like a thing of life." I
can conceive no prouder situation in this world than being captain of a
fine frigate, with a well-disciplined crew; but d--n your
"We had better take in the royals, if you please, sir," said the first
lieutenant, as he came, with his hat in his hand, into the cabin, where
the captain was at dinner with several of the officers, the table
crowded with a variety of decanters and French green bottles.
"Pho! nonsense! Mr Nourse; we'll carry them a little longer," replied
the captain, who had been _carrying too much sail_ another way. "Sit
down and take a glass of wine with us. You always cry out before you're
"I thank you, sir," replied the first lieutenant, seriously; "you will
excuse me: it is time to beat to quarters."
"Well, then, do so; I had no idea it was so late. Mr Forster, you don't
pass the bottle."
"I have taken enough, I thank you, sir."
The officers present also made the same statement.
"Well, then, if you won't, gentlemen--steward, let's have some coffee."
The coffee appeared and disappeared; and the officers made their bows
and quitted the cabin as the first lieutenant entered it to report the
muster at quarters.
"All present and sober, sir. I am afraid, sir," continued he, "the masts
will be over the side if we do not clew up the royals."
"Stop a moment, if you please, Mr Nourse, until I go up and judge for
myself," replied the captain, who was inclined to be pertinacious.
Captain Carrington went on deck. The men were still ranged round the
decks at their quarters; more than one pair of eyes were raised aloft to
watch the masts, which were bending like coach-whips, and complaining
"Shall we beat a retreat, and pipe hands to shorten sail, sir? We had
better take in the third reefs, sir;--it looks very squally to-night,"
observed the first lieutenant.
"Really, Mr Nourse, I don't exactly perceive the necessity--"
But at that moment the fore and main-top-gallant-masts went over the
side; and the look-out man at the fore-top-gallant-mast head, who had
been called down by the first lieutenant, but did not hear the
injunction, was hurled into the sea to leeward.
"Helm down!" cried the master.
"Man overboard!--man overboard!" echoed round the decks; while some of
the officers and men jumped into the quarter-boats, and hastily cast off
the gripes and lashings.
Captain Carrington, who was immediately sobered by the catastrophe,
which he felt had been occasioned by his own wilfulness, ran aft to the
taffrail; and when he saw the poor sailor struggling in the waves,
impelled by his really fine nature, he darted overboard to save him; but
he was not by any means a powerful swimmer, and, encumbered with his
apparel, it was soon evident that he could do no more than keep himself
Newton, who perceived how matters stood, with great presence of mind
caught up two of the oars from the boat hanging astern, and darted over
to the assistance of both. One oar he first carried to the seaman, who
was exhausted and sinking. Placing it under his arms, he then swam with
the other to Captain Carrington, who could not have remained above water
but a few seconds more without the timely relief. He then quietly swam
by the side of Captain Carrington, without any attempt at extra
The boat was soon lowered down, and in a few minutes they were all three
again on board, and in safety. Captain Carrington thanked Newton for his
assistance, and acknowledged his error to the first lieutenant. The
officers and men looked upon Newton with respect and increased
good-will; and the sailors declared that the captain was a prime little
fellow, although he hadn't had an "edication."
Nothing worthy of remark occurred during the remainder of the passage.
The ship arrived at Plymouth, and Newton took leave of his friendly
shipmates, Captain Carrington requesting that Newton would command any
interest that he had, if ever it should be required. It was with a
throbbing heart that Newton descended from the outside of the coach
which conveyed him to Liverpool, and hastened towards the obscure street
in which he left his father residing. It was about four o'clock in the
afternoon when Newton arrived at his father's door. To his delight, he
perceived through the shop-window that his father was sitting at his
bench; but his joy was checked when he perceived his haggard
countenance. The old man appeared to be absorbed in deep thought, his
cheek resting upon his hand, and his eyes cast down upon the little
bench, to which the vice used to be fixed, but from which it was now
The door was ajar, and Newton entered with his portmanteau in his hand;
but whatever noise he might have made was not sufficient to rouse
Nicholas, who continued in the same position.
With one glance round the shop, Newton perceived that it was bare of
everything; even the glazed cases on the counter, which contained the
spectacles, &c., had disappeared. All bespoke the same tale, as did the
appearance of his father--misery and starvation.
"My dearest father!" cried Newton, unable to contain himself any longer.
"How!--what?" cried Nicholas, starting at the voice, but not looking
round. "Pho! nonsense!--he's dead," continued the old man, communing
with himself, as he again settled into his former position.
"My dearest father, I'm not dead!--look round--'tis Newton! alive and
"Newton!" replied the old man, rising from his stool, and tottering to
the counter, which was between them, on which he laid both his hands to
support himself, as he looked into his son's face. "'Tis Newton, sure
enough! My dear, dear boy!--then you an't dead?"
"No, indeed, father; I am alive and well, thank God!"
"Thank God, too!" said Nicholas, dropping his face on the counter, and
bursting into tears.
Newton sprang over to the side where his father was, and embraced him.
For some time they were locked in each other's arms; when Nicholas, who
had recovered his composure, looked at Newton, and said, "Are you
hungry, my dear boy?"
"Yes, indeed I am," replied Newton, smiling, as the tears coursed down
his cheeks; "for I have had nothing since breakfast."
"And I have had nothing for these two days," replied Nicholas, leaning
back to the wall in evident exhaustion.
"Good God! you don't say so?" cried Newton; "where can I buy something
"At the shop round the corner: there's a nice piece of boiled beef
there; I saw it yesterday. I offered my improvement on the duplex for a
slice; but he would not trust me, even for that."
Newton ran out, and in a few minutes reappeared with the beef in
question, some bread, and a pot of porter, with two plates and knives
and forks, which the people had lent him, upon his putting down a
deposit. He had laid them on the counter before his father, who, without
saying a word, commenced his repast: the beef disappeared--the bread
vanished--the porter-pot was raised to his mouth, and in a moment it was
"Never made a better dinner, Newton," observed Nicholas: "but I wish
there had been a little more of it."
Newton, who had only been a spectator, immediately went out for another
supply; and on his return assisted his father in its demolition.
"Newton," said Nicholas, who for a few minutes had relinquished his
task, "I've been thinking--that--I should like another slice of that
beef! and Newton, as I said before--I'll trouble you for the porter!"
"ORLANDO--Then forbear your food a little while,
While, like a doe, I go to find my fawn,
And give it food. There is a poor old man
Oppressed with two weak evils, age and hunger."
Reader, were you ever really hungry? I do not mean the common hunger
arising from health and exercise, and which you have the means of
appeasing at the moment, when it may be considered a source of pleasure
rather than of pain:--I refer to the gnawing of starvation; because, if
you have not been, you can form no conception of the agony of the
suffering. Fortunately, but very few of my readers can have any
knowledge of it; the general sympathy which it creates is from an ideal,
not a practical knowledge. It has been my lot during the vicissitudes of
a maritime life to have suffered hunger to extremity; and although
impossible to express the corporeal agony, yet some notion of it may be
conceived from the effect it had upon my mind. I felt that I hated the
whole world, kin or no kin; that theft was a virtue, murder excusable,
and cannibalism anything but disgusting; from which the inference may be
safely drawn, viz., that I was devilish hungry.
I mention this, because Nicholas Forster, although he had been two days
without food, and had disposed of every article which was saleable, was
endued with so much strength of principle as not to have thought (or if
he _had_ thought of it, immediately to have dismissed the thought) of
vending the property found in the trunk by his son, and which had
remained so long in their possession. That few would have been so
scrupulous, I will acknowledge: whether Nicholas was over-scrupulous,
is a question I leave to be debated by those who are fond of argument. I
only state the fact.
Until the arrival of the ship brought home by Mr Berecroft, the
allotment of Newton's wages had been regularly paid to his father; but
when the owner discovered that the brig had parted company with the
convoy, and had not since been heard of, the chance of capture was
considered so great that the owner refused to advance any more on
Newton's account. Nicholas was thus thrown upon his own resources, which
were as small as they well could be. The crew of the brig, who quitted
her in the boat, were picked up by a homeward-bound vessel, and brought
what was considered the certain intelligence of Jackson and Newton
having perished on the wreck. Nicholas, who had frequently called at the
owner's since his allowance had been stopped, to obtain tidings of his
son, was overwhelmed with the intelligence of his death. He returned to
his own house, and never called there again. Mr Berecroft, who wished to
find him out and relieve him, could not ascertain in what quarter of the
town he resided, and shortly after was obliged to proceed upon another
voyage. Thus was the poor optician left to his fate; and it is probable
that, but for the fortunate return of Newton, it would soon have been
Newton was much pleased when he learnt from his father that he had not
disposed of the property which he had picked up at sea, for he now felt
assured that he had discovered the owner at Guadaloupe, and intended to
transmit it to M. de Fontanges as soon as he could find a safe
conveyance; but this at present was not practicable. As soon as his
father had been re-established in his several necessities and comforts,
Newton, aware that his purse would not last for ever, applied to the
owner of the brig for employment; but he was decidedly refused. The loss
of the vessel had soured his temper against anyone who had belonged to
her. He replied that he considered Newton to be an unlucky person, and
must decline his sailing in any of his vessels, even if a vacancy should
To every other application made elsewhere, Newton met with the same ill
fortune. Mr Berecroft was not there to recommend or to assist him, and
months passed away in anxious expectation of his patron's return, when
the intelligence was brought home that he had been carried off by
yellow-fever, which that year had been particularly malignant and fatal.
The loss of his only protector was a heavy blow to poor Newton; but he
bore up against his fortune and redoubled his exertions. As before, he
could always obtain employment before the mast; but this he refused,
knowing that if again impressed, however well he might be off himself,
and however fortunate in prize-money, his father would be left
destitute, and in all probability be starved before he could return. The
recollection of the situation in which he had found him on his return
from the West Indies made Newton resolve not to leave his father without
some surety of his being provided with the means of subsistence. He was
not without some employment, and earned sufficient for their mutual
maintenance by working as a rigger on board of the ships fitting for
sea; and he adhered to this means of livelihood until something better
should present itself. Had Newton been alone in the world, or his father
able to support himself, he would have immediately applied to Captain
Carrington to receive him in some capacity on board of his frigate, or
have entered on board of some other man-of-war. Newton's heart was too
generous, and his mind too truly English, not to bound when he read or
heard of the gallant encounters between the vessels of the rival
nations, and he longed to be one of the many thousands so diligently
employed in twining the wreath of laurel round their country's brow.
Nearly one year of constant fatigue, constant expectation, and constant
disappointment was thus passed away; affairs grew daily worse,
employment scarce, money scarcer. Newton, who had been put off from
receiving his wages until the ensuing day, which, as they had no credit,
was in fact putting off their dinner also to the morrow, went home, and
dropped on a chair in a despondent mood, at the table where Nicholas was
"Well, Newton, what's for dinner?" said Nicholas, drawing his chair
close to the table in preparation.
"I have not been paid the money due to me," replied Newton; "and,
father, I'm afraid there's nothing."
Nicholas backed his chair from the table again, with an air of
resignation, as Newton continued:
"Indeed, father, I think we must try our fortune elsewhere. What's the
use of staying where we cannot get employment? Everything is now gone,
except our wearing apparel. We might raise some money upon mine, it is
true; but had we not better, before we spend it, try if fortune will be
more favourable to us in some other place?"
"Why, yes, Newton, I've been thinking that if we were to go to London,
my improvement on the duplex--"
"Is that our only chance there, sir?" replied Newton, half smiling.
"Why no; now I think of it, I've a brother there, John Forster, or Jack,
as we used to call him. It's near thirty years since I heard of him; but
somebody told me, when you were in the West Indies, that he had become a
great lawyer, and was making a large fortune. I quite forgot the
circumstance till just now."
Newton had before heard his father mention that he had two brothers, but
whether dead or alive he could not tell. The present intelligence
appeared to hold out some prospect of relief, for Newton could not for a
moment doubt that if his uncle was in such flourishing circumstances, he
would not refuse assistance to his brother. He therefore resolved not to
wait until their means were totally exhausted: the next day he disposed
of all his clothes except one suit, and found himself richer than he
had imagined. Having paid his landlord the trifle due for rent, without
any other incumbrance than the packet of articles picked up in the trunk
at sea, three pounds sterling in his pocket, and the ring of Madame de
Fontanges on his little finger, Newton, with his father, set off on foot
for the metropolis.
"I labour to diffuse the important good
Till this great truth by all be understood,
That all the pious duty which we owe
Our parents, friends, our country, and our God,
The seeds of every virtue here below,
From discipline and early culture grow."
The different chapters of a novel remind me of a convoy of vessels. The
incidents and _dramatis personae_ are so many respective freights, all
under the charge of the inventor, who, like a man-of-war, must see them
all safely, and together, into port. And as the commanding officer, when
towing one vessel which has lagged behind up to the rest, finds that in
the meantime another has dropped nearly out of sight, and is obliged to
cast off the one in tow, to perform the same necessary duty towards the
sternmost, so am I necessitated for the present to quit Nicholas and
Newton, while I run down to Edward Forster and his _protegee_.
It must be recollected that, during our narrative, "Time has rolled his
ceaseless course," and season has succeeded season, until the infant, in
its utter helplessness to lift its little hands for succour, has sprung
up into a fair blue-eyed little maiden of nearly eight years old, light
as a fairy in her proportions, bounding as a fawn in her gait; her eyes
beaming with joy, and her cheeks suffused with the blush of health, when
tripping over the sea-girt hills; meek and attentive when listening to
the precepts of her fond and adopted parent.
"Faithful," the Newfoundland dog, is no more, but his portrait hangs
over the mantel-piece in the little parlour. Mrs Beazely, the
housekeeper, has become inert and querulous from rheumatism and the
burden of added years. A little girl, daughter of Robertson, the
fisherman, has been called in to perform her duties, while she basks in
the summer's sun or hangs over the winter's fire. Edward Forster's whole
employment and whole delight has long been centred in his darling child,
whose beauty of person, quickness of intellect, generous disposition,
and affectionate heart, amply repay him for his kind protection.
Of all chapters which can be ventured upon, one upon education is
perhaps the most tiresome. Most willingly would I pass it over, not only
for the reader's sake, but for mine own; for his--because it cannot well
be otherwise than dry and uninteresting; for mine--because I do not
exactly know how to write it.
But this cannot be. Amber was not brought up according to the prescribed
maxims of Mesdames Appleton and Hamilton; and as effects cannot be
satisfactorily comprehended without the causes are made known, so it
becomes necessary, not only that the chapter should be written, but,
what is still more vexatious, absolutely necessary that it should be
Before I enter upon this most unpleasant theme--unpleasant to all
parties, for no one likes to teach, and no one likes to learn,--I cannot
help remarking how excessively _au fait_ we find most elderly maiden
ladies upon every point connected with the rearing of our unprofitable
species. They are erudite upon every point _ab ovo_, and it would appear
that their peculiar knowledge of the _theory_ can but arise from their
attentions having never been diverted by the _practice_.
Let it be the teeming mother or the new-born babe--the teething infant
or the fractious child--the dirty, pinafored urchin or sampler-spoiling
girl--school-boy lout or sapling Miss--voice-broken, self-admiring
hobby-de-hoy, or expanding conscious and blushing maiden, the whole
arcana of nature and of art has been revealed to them alone.
Let it be the scarlet fever or a fit of passion, the measles or a
shocking fib--whooping-cough or apple-stealing--learning too slow or
eating too fast--slapping a sister or clawing a brother--let the disease
be bodily or mental, they alone possess the panacea; and blooming
matrons, spreading out in their pride, like the anxious clucking hen,
over their numerous encircling offspring, who have borne them with a
mother's throes, watched over them with a mother's anxious mind, and
reared them with a mother's ardent love, are considered to be wholly
incompetent, in the opinion of these dessicated and barren branches of
Nature's stupendous, ever-bearing tree.
Mrs Beazely, who had lost her husband soon after marriage, was not fond
of children, as they interfered with her habits of extreme neatness. As
far as Amber's education was concerned, all we can say is, that if the
old housekeeper did no good, she certainly did her no harm. As Amber
increased in years and intelligence, so did her thirst for knowledge on
topics upon which Mrs Beazely was unable to give her any correct
information. Under these circumstances, when applied to, Mrs Beazely,
who was too conscientious to mislead the child, was accustomed to place
her hand upon her back, and complain of the rheumatiz--"Such a stitch,
my dear love, can't talk now--ask your pa when he comes home."
Edward Forster had maturely weighed the difficulties of the charge
imposed upon him, that of educating a female. The peculiarity of her
situation, without a friend in the wide world except himself; and his
days, in all probability, numbered to that period at which she would
most require an adviser--that period, when the heart rebels against the
head and too often overthrows the legitimate dynasty of reason,
determined him to give a masculine character to her education, as most
likely to prove the surest safeguard through a deceitful world.
Aware that more knowledge is to be imparted to a child by conversation
than by any other means (for by this system education is divested of its
drudgery), during the first six years of her life Amber knew little more
than the letters of the alphabet. It was not until her desire of
information was excited to such a degree as to render her anxious to
obtain her own means of acquiring it that Amber was taught to read; and
then it was at her own request. Edward Forster was aware that a child of
six years old, willing to learn, would soon pass by another who had been
drilled to it at an earlier age and against its will, and whose mind had
been checked in its expansive powers by the weight which constantly
oppressed its infant memory. Until the above age, the mind of Amber had
been permitted to run as unconfined through its own little regions of
fancy, as her active body had been allowed to spring up the adjacent
hills--and both were equally beautified and strengthened by the healthy
Religion was deeply impressed upon her grateful heart; but it was
simplified almost to unity, that it might be clearly understood. It was
conveyed to her through the glorious channel of nature, and God was
loved and feared from the contemplation and admiration of His works.
Did Amber fix her eyes upon the distant ocean, or watch the rolling of
the surf; did they wander over the verdant hills, or settle on the
beetling cliff; did she raise her cherub-face to the heavens, and wonder
at the studded firmament of stars, or the moon sailing in her cold
beauty, or the sun blinding her in his warmth and splendour;--she knew
that it was God who made them all. Did she ponder over the variety of
the leaf; did she admire the painting of the flower, or watch the
motions of the minute insect, which, but for her casual observation,
might have lived and died unseen;--she felt, she knew that all was made
for man's advantage or enjoyment, and that God was great and good. Her
orisons were short, but they were sincere; unlike the child who, night
and morning, stammers through a "Belief" which it cannot comprehend,
and whose ideas of religion are, from injudicious treatment, too soon
connected with feelings of impatience and disgust.
Curiosity has been much abused. From a habit we have contracted in this
world of not calling things by their right names, it has been decried as
a vice, whereas it ought to have been classed as a virtue. Had Adam
first discovered the forbidden fruit he would have tasted it, without,
like Eve, requiring the suggestions of the devil to urge him on to
disobedience. But if by curiosity was occasioned the fall of man, it is
the same passion by which he is spurred to rise again, and reappear only
inferior to the Deity. The curiosity of little minds may be impertinent;
but the curiosity of great minds is the thirst for knowledge--the daring
of our immortal powers--the enterprise of the soul, to raise itself
again to its original high estate. It was curiosity which stimulated the
great Newton to search into the laws of heaven, and enabled his
master-mind to translate the vast mysterious page of Nature, ever before
our eyes since the creation of the world, but never, till he appeared,
to be read by mortal man. It is this passion which must be nurtured in
our childhood, for upon its healthy growth and vigour depends the future
expansion of the mind.
How little money need be expended to teach a child, and yet what a
quantity of books we have to pay for! Amber had hardly ever looked into
a book, and yet she knew more, that is, had more general useful
knowledge than others who were twice her age. How small was Edward
Forster's little parlour--how humble the furniture it contained!--a
carpet, a table, a few chairs, a small China vase, as an ornament, on
the mantel-piece. How few were the objects brought to Amber's view in
their small secluded home! The plates and knives for dinner, a silver
spoon or two, and their articles of wearing apparel. Yet how endless,
how inexhaustible was the amusement and instruction derived from these
trifling sources!--for these were Forster's books.
The carpet--its hempen ground carried them to the north, from whence
the material came, the inhabitants of the frozen world, their manners
and their customs, the climate and their cities, their productions and
their sources of wealth. Its woollen surface, with its various
dyes--each dye containing an episode of an island or a state, a point of
natural history, or of art and manufacture.
The mahogany table, like some magic vehicle, transported them in a
second to the torrid zone, where the various tropical flowers and fruit,
the towering cocoa-nut, the spreading palm, the broad-leaved banana, the
fragrant pine--all that was indigenous to the country, all that was
peculiar in the scenery and the clime, were pictured to the imagination
of the delighted Amber.
The little vase upon the mantel-piece swelled into a splendid atlas of
eastern geography, an inexhaustible folio describing Indian customs, the
Asiatic splendour of costume, the gorgeous thrones of the descendants of
the Prophet, the history of the Prophet himself, the superior instinct
and stupendous body of the elephant; all that Edward Forster had
collected of nature or of art, through these extensive regions, were
successively displayed, until they returned to China, from whence they
had commenced their travels. Thus did the little vase, like the vessel
taken up by the fisherman in the "Arabian Nights," contain a giant
confined by the seal of Solomon--Knowledge.
The knife and spoon brought food unto the mind as well as to the body.
The mines were entered, the countries pointed out in which they were to
be found, the various metals, their value, and the uses to which they
were applied. The dress again led them abroad; the cotton hung in pods
upon the tree, the silkworm spun its yellow tomb, all the process of
manufacture was explained. The loom again was worked by fancy, until the
article in comment was again produced.
Thus was Amber instructed and amused: and thus, with nature for his
hornbook, and art for his primer, did the little parlour of Edward
Forster expand into the "universe."
Their noble birth: conduct us to the tombs
Of their forefathers, and from age to age
Ascending, trumpet their illustrious race."
Devoted as he was to the instruction of his adopted child, Edward Forster
was nevertheless aware that more was required in the education of a female
than he was competent to fulfil. Many and melancholy were his reveries on
the forlorn prospects of the little girl (considering his own precarious
life and the little chance that appeared of restoring her to her friends
and relations), still he resolved that all that could should be done; the
issue he left to Providence. That she might not be cast wholly unknown upon
the world, in case of his death, he had often taken Amber to a neighbouring
mansion, with the owner of which, Lord Aveleyn, he had long been on
friendly terms; although, until latterly, he had declined mixing with the
society which was there collected. Many years before, the possessor had
entered the naval service, and had, during the few months that he had
served in the capacity of midshipman, been intrusted to the charge of
It is a curious fact, although little commented upon, how much society
in general is affected by the entailment of property in aristocratical
families upon the male heir; we may add, how much it is demoralised. The
eldest son, accustomed from his earliest days to the flattery and
adulation of dependents, is impressed with but one single idea, namely,
that he is the fortunate person deputed by chance to spend so many
thousands per annum, and that his brothers and sisters, with equal
claims upon their parent, are to be almost dependent upon him for
support. Of this, the latter are but too soon made conscious, by the
difference of treatment which they experience from those around them;
and feelings of envy and ill-will towards their eldest brother are but
too often the result of such inequality. Thus, one of the greatest
charms of life, unity between brethren, is destroyed.
The possessor of the title and the estates is at last borne to his long
home, there to lie until summoned before that Presence where he, and
those who were kings, and those who were clowns, will stand trembling as
erring men, awaiting the fiat of eternal justice. In his turn, the young
lord revels in his youth.
Then how much more trying is the situation of the younger brothers.
During their father's lifetime they had a home, and were brought up in
scenes and with ideas commensurate with the fortune which had been
entailed. Now, they find themselves thrown upon the world, without the
means of support, even adequate to their wants. Like the steward in the
parable, "They cannot dig, to beg they are ashamed;" and, like him, they
too often resort to unworthy means to supply their exigencies.
Should the young heir prove sickly, what speculations on his demise! The
worldly stake is so enormous that the ties of nature are dissolved, and
a brother rejoices at a brother's death! One generation is not
sufficient to remove these feelings; the barrenness of his marriage-bed,
or the weakly state of his children, are successively speculated upon by
the presumptive heir. Let it not be supposed that I would infer this
always to be the fact. I have put the extreme case, to point out what
must ensue, according to the feelings of our nature, if care is not
taken to prevent its occurrence. There is a cruelty, a more than
cruelty, in parents bringing up their children with ideas which seldom
can be realised, and rendering their future lives a pilgrimage of misery
and discontent, if not of depravity.
But the major part of our aristocracy are neither deficient in talent
nor in worth. They set a bright example to the nobles of other
countries, and very frequently even to the less demoralised society of
our own. Trammelled by the deeds of their forefathers, they employ every
means in their power to remedy the evil; and a large proportion of
their younger branches find useful and honourable employment in the
army, the navy, or the church. But their numbers cannot all be provided
for by these channels; and it is the country at large which is taxed to
supply the means of sustenance to the younger scions of nobility--taxed
directly in the shape of place and sinecure, indirectly in various ways;
but in no way so heavily as by the monopoly of the East India Company,
which has so long been permitted to oppress the nation, that these
_detrimentals_ (as they have named themselves), may be provided for. It
is a well-known fact, that there is hardly a peer in the Upper House, or
many representatives of the people in the lower, who are not, or who
anticipate to be, under some obligation to this Company, by their
relations or connections being provided for in those distant climes; and
it is this bribery (for bribery it is, in whatever guise it may appear)
that upholds one of the most glaring, the most oppressive of all
monopolies, in the face of common sense, common justice, and common
decency. Other taxes are principally felt by the higher and middling
classes; but this most odious, this most galling tax, is felt even in
the cottage of the labourer, who cannot return to refresh himself after
his day of toil with his favourite beverage, without paying twice its
value out of his hard-earned pittance, to swell the dividend of the
Company, and support these _pruriencies_ of noble blood.
And yet, deprecating the evils arising from the system of entail, I must
acknowledge that there are no other means by which (in a monarchical
government) the desirable end of upholding rank is to be obtained. I
remember once, when conversing with an American, I inquired after one or
two of his countrymen, who, but a few years before, were of great wealth
and influence. To one of my remarks he answered, "In our country, all
the wealth and power at the time attached to it does not prevent a name
from sinking into insignificance, or from being forgotten soon after its
possessor is dead, for we do not entail property. The distribution
scatters the amassed heap, by which the world around him had been
attracted; and although the distribution tends to the general
fertilisation of the country, yet with the disappearance, the influence
of the possessor, and even his name, are soon forgotten."
These remarks, as will appear in the sequel, are apposite to the parties
whom I am about to introduce to the readers. As, however, they are
people of some consequence, it may appear to be a want of due respect on
my part, if I were to introduce them at the fag-end of a chapter.
"'Twas his the vast and trackless deep to rove.
Alternate change of climates has he known,
And felt the fierce extremes of either zone,
Where polar skies congeal th' eternal snow,
Or equinoctial suns for ever glow;
Smote by the freezing or the scorching blast,
A ship-boy on the high and giddy mast."
The father of the present Lord Aveleyn had three sons, and, in
conformity with the usages commented upon in the preceding chapter, the
two youngest were condemned to the army and navy; the second, who had
priority of choice, being dismissed to gather laurels in a red coat,
while the third was recommended to do the same, if he could, in a suit
of blue. Fairly embarked in their several professions, a sum of fifty
pounds per annum was placed in the hands of their respective agents, and
no more was thought about a pair of "detrimentals."
Lord Aveleyn's father, who had married late in life, was summoned away
when the eldest brother of the present Lord Aveleyn, the heir, was yet a
minor, about two years after he had embarked in the ship to which Edward
Forster belonged. Now it was the will of Providence that, about six
months after the old nobleman's decease, the young lord and his second
brother, who had obtained a short furlough, should most unadvisedly
embark in a small sailing boat on the lake close to the mansion, and
that, owing to some mismanagement of the sail, the boat upset, and they
were both drowned.
As soon as the melancholy intelligence was made known to the trustees, a
letter was despatched to Captain L----, who commanded the ship in which
young Aveleyn was serving his time, acquainting him with the
catastrophe, and requesting the immediate discharge of the young
midshipman. The captain repaired on board; when he arrived on the
quarter-deck, he desired the first lieutenant to send down for young
"He is at the mast-head, sir," replied the first lieutenant, "for
neglect of duty."
"Really, Mr W----," replied the captain, who had witnessed the boy's
_ascent_ at least a hundred times before with perfect indifference, and
had often sent him up himself, "you appear to be very sharp upon that
poor lad; you make no allowance for youth--boys will be boys."
"He's the most troublesome young monkey in the ship, sir," replied the
first lieutenant, surprised at this unusual interference.
"He has always appeared to me to be a well-disposed, intelligent lad, Mr
W----; and I wish you to understand that I do not approve of this system
of eternal mast-heading. However, he will not trouble you any more, as
his discharge is to be immediately made out. He is now," continued the
captain, pausing to give more effect to his communication, "Lord Aveleyn."
"Whew! now the murder's out," mentally exclaimed the first lieutenant.
"Call him down immediately, Mr W----, if you please--and recollect that I
disapprove of the system."
"Certainly, sir; but really, Captain L----, I don't know what I shall do
if you restrict my power of punishing the young gentlemen; they are so
extremely unruly. There's Mr Malcolm," continued the first lieutenant,
pointing to a youngster who was walking on the other side of the deck,
with his hands in his pockets, "it was but yesterday that he chopped off
at least four inches from the tail of your dog 'Ponto' at the beef-block,
and pretends it was an accident."
"What! my setter's tail?"
"Yes, sir, he did, I can assure you."
"Mr Malcolm," cried the captain, in great wrath, "how came you to cut
off my dog's tail?"
Before I went to sea I had always considered a London cock-sparrow to be
the truest emblem of consummate impudence; but I have since discovered
that he is quite modest compared to a midshipman.
"Me, sir?" replied the youngster, demurely. "I didn't cut off his tail,
sir; he _cut it off himself!_"
"What, sir?" roared the captain.
"If you please, sir, I was chopping a piece of beef, and the dog, who
was standing by, turned short round, and put his tail under the
"Put his tail under the chopper, you little scamp!" replied Captain L----,
in a fury. "Now just put your head above the maintop-gallant cross-trees,
and stay there until you are called down. Mr W----, you'll keep him up till
"Ay, ay, sir," replied the first lieutenant, with a satisfactory smile
at the description of punishment inflicted.
When I was a midshipman, it was extremely difficult to avoid the
mast-head. Out of six years served in that capacity, I once made a
calculation that two of them were passed away perched upon the
cross-trees, looking down with calm philosophy upon the microcosm below.
Yet, although I _never_ deserved it, I derived much future advantage
from my repeated punishments. The mast-head, for want of something
_worse_ to do, became my study; and during the time spent there, I in a
manner finished my education. Volumes after volumes were perused to
while away the tedious hours; and I conscientiously believe it is to
this mode of punishment adopted by my rigid superiors that the world is
indebted for all the pretty books which I am writing.
I was generally exalted either for _thinking_ or _not thinking;_ and as
I am not aware of any medium between the active and passive state of our
minds (except dreaming, which is still more unpardonable), the reader
may suppose that there is no exaggeration in my previous calculation of
one-third of my midshipman existence having been passed away upon "the
high and giddy mast."
"Mr M----," would the first lieutenant cry out, "why did you stay so
long on shore with the jolly-boat?"
"I went to the post-office for the officers' letters, sir."
"And pray, sir, who ordered you?"
"No one, sir; but I _thought_--"
"You _thought_, sir! How dare _you think_?--go up to the mast-head,
So much for _thinking_.
"Mr M----," would he say at another time, when I came on board, "did you
call at the admiral's office?"
"No, sir; I had no orders. I didn't _think_--"
"Then why _didn't you think_, sir? Up to the mast-head, and stay there
till I call you down."
So much for _not thinking_. Like the fable of the wolf and the lamb, it
was all the same; bleat as I pleased, my defence was useless, and I
could not avert my barbarous doom.
To proceed: Captain L---- went over the side; the last pipe had been
given, and the boatswain had returned his call into his jacket-pocket
and walked forward, when the first lieutenant, in pursuance of his
orders, looked up aloft, intending to have hailed the new lord, and have
requested the pleasure of his company on deck; but the youngster,
feeling a slight degree of appetite, after enjoying the fresh air for
seven hours without any breakfast, had just ventured down the topmast
rigging, that he might obtain possession of a bottle of tea and some
biscuit, which one of his messmates had carried up for him, and stowed
away in the bunt of the maintopsail. Young Aveleyn, who thought that
the departure of the captain would occupy the attention of the first
lieutenant, had just descended to, and was placing his foot on the
topsail yard, when Mr W---- looked up, and witnessed this act of
disobedience. As this was a fresh offence committed, he thought himself
warranted in not complying with the captain's mandate, and the boy was
ordered up again, to remain till sunset. "I would have called him down,"
muttered Mr W----, whose temper had been soured from long disappointment;
"but since he's a lord, he shall have a good spell of it before he quits
the service; and then we shall not have his recommendation to others in his
own rank to come into it and interfere with our promotion."
Now, it happened that Mr W----, who had an eye like a hawk, when he cast
his eyes aloft, observed that the bunt of the maintopsail was not
exactly so well stowed as it ought to be on board of a man-of-war; which
is not to be wondered at, when it is recollected that the midshipmen had
been very busy enlarging it to make a pantry. He therefore turned the
hands up, "mend sails," and took his station amidship on the booms, to
see that this, the most delinquent sail, was properly furled.--"Trice
up--lay out--All ready forward?"--"All ready, sir."--"All ready
abaft?"--"All ready, sir."--"Let fall."--Down came the sails from the
yards, and down also came the bottle of tea and biscuit upon the face of
the first lieutenant, who was looking up; the former knocking out three
of his front teeth, besides splitting open both his lips and chin.
Young Aveleyn, who witnessed the catastrophe, was delighted; the other
midshipmen on deck crowded round their superior, to offer their
condolements, winking and making faces at each other in by-play, until
the first lieutenant descended to his cabin, when they no longer
restrained their mirth.
About an hour afterwards, Mr W---- reappeared, with his face bound up,
and summoned all the young gentlemen on deck, insisting upon being
informed who it was who had stowed away the bottle in the bunt of the
sail; but midshipmen have most treacherous memories, and not one of
them knew anything about it. As a last resource, young Aveleyn was
called down from the mast-head.
"Now, sir," said Mr W----, "either inform me directly who it was who
stowed away the bottle aloft, or I pledge you my word you shall be
discharged from his Majesty's service to-morrow morning. Don't pretend
to say that you don't know--for you must."
"I do know," replied the youngster, boldly; "but I never will tell."
"Then either you or I shall leave the service. Man the first cutter;"
and when the boat was manned, the first lieutenant sent some papers on
shore, which he had been desired to do by the captain.
When the boat returned, the clerk was sent for, and desired by Mr W----
to make out Mr Aveleyn's discharge, as the officers and midshipmen
thought (for Mr W---- had kept his secret), for his disobedient conduct.
The poor boy, who thought all his prospects blighted, was sent on shore,
the tears running down his cheeks, as much from the applause and kind
farewells of his shipmates, as from the idea of the degradation which he
underwent. Now, the real culprit was young Malcolm, who, to oblige the
captain, had taken his station at the foretop-gallant mast-head, because
the dog "Ponto" thought proper to cut off his own tail. The first
lieutenant, in his own woe, forgot that of others; and it was not until
past nine o'clock at night that Malcolm, who thought that he had stayed
up quite long enough, ventured below, when he was informed of what had
The youngster immediately penned a letter to the captain, acknowledging
that he was the offender, and requesting that Mr Aveleyn might not be
discharged from the service; he also ventured to add a postscript,
begging that the same lenity might be extended towards himself; which
letter was sent on shore by the captain's gig, when it left the ship the
next morning, and was received by Captain L---- at the very same time
that young Aveleyn, who had not been sent on shore till late in the
evening, called upon the captain to request a reprieve from his hard
The boy sent up his name and was immediately admitted.
"I presume you know why you are discharged from the service?" said
Captain L----, smiling benignantly.
"Yes, sir," replied the boy, holding his head down submissively,
"because of that accident--I'm very sorry, sir."
"Of course you must, and ought to be. Such heavy blows are not common,
and hard to bear. I presume you go immediately to Buckhurst?"
"I suppose I must, sir; but I hope, Captain L----, that you'll look over
"I shall have very great pleasure in so doing," replied Captain L----; "I
hear that it is--"
"Thanky, sir, thanky," replied the youngster, interrupting the captain.
"Then may I go on board again and tell the first lieutenant?"
"Tell the first lieutenant what?" cried Captain L----, perceiving some
mistake. "Why, has not Mr W----told you?"
"Yes, sir, he told me it was your orders that I should be dismissed his
"Discharged--not dismissed. And I presume he told you why: because your
two elder brothers are dead, and you are now Lord Aveleyn."
"No, sir!" cried the youngster with astonishment; "because his three
front teeth are knocked out with a bottle of _scaldchops,_ and I would
not peach who stowed it away in the bunt of the sail."
"This is excessively strange!" replied Captain L----. "Do me the favour
to sit down, my lord; the letters from the ship will probably explain
There was, however, no explanation, except from young Malcolm. The
captain read his letter, and put it into the hands of Lord Aveleyn, who
entered into a detail of the whole.
Captain L---- produced the letter from the trustees, and, desiring his
lordship to command him as to any funds he might require, requested the
pleasure of his company to dinner. The boy, whose head wheeled with the
sudden change in his prospects, was glad to retire, having first
obtained permission to return on board with young Malcolm's pardon,
which had been most graciously acceded to. To the astonishment of
everybody on board, young Aveleyn came alongside in the captain's own
gig, when the scene in the midshipmen's berth and the discomfiture of
the first lieutenant may be imagined.
"You don't belong to the service, Frank," said the old master's mate;
"and, as peer of the realm, coming on board to visit the ship, you are
entitled to a salute. Send up and say you expect one, and then W----
must have the guard up, and pay you proper respect. I'll be hanged if I
don't take the message, if you consent to it."
But Lord Aveleyn had come on board to pay a debt of gratitude, not to
inflict mortification. He soon quitted the ship, promising never to
forget Malcolm; and, unlike the promises of most great men, it was
fulfilled, and Malcolm rose to be a captain from his own merit, backed
by the exertions of his youthful patron.
For the next week the three mast-heads were so loaded with midshipmen,
that the boatswain proposed a preventer backstay, that the top-masts
might not go over the side; but shortly after, Captain L----, who was
not pleased at the falsehood which Mr W---- had circulated, and who had
many other reasons for parting with him, succeeded in having him
appointed to another ship; after which the midshipmen walked up and down
the quarter-deck with their hands in their pockets, as before.
"But Adeline determined Juan's wedding
In her own mind, and that's enough for woman;
But then with whom? There was the sage Miss Redding,
Miss Raw, Miss Flaw, Miss Showman and Miss Knowman,
And the two fair co-heiresses Giltbedding.
She deem'd his merits something more than common.
All these were unobjectionable matches,
And might go on, it well wound up, like watches."
The young Lord Aveleyn returned to the hall of his ancestors, exchanging
the gloomy cockpit for the gay saloon, the ship's allowance for
sumptuous fare, the tyranny of his messmates and the harshness of his
superiors for adulation and respect. Was he happier? No. In this world,
whether in boyhood or riper years, the happiest state of existence is
when under control. Although contrary to received opinion, this is a
fact; but I cannot now stop to demonstrate the truth of the assertion.
Life may be compared to a gamut of music: there are seven notes from our
birth to our marriage; and thus may we run up the first octave--milk,
sugar-plums, apples, cricket, cravat, gun, horse; then comes the wife, a
_da capo_ to a new existence, which is to continue until the whole
diapason is gone through. Lord Aveleyn ran up his scale like others
"Why do you not marry, my dear Frank?" said the dowager Lady Aveleyn,
one day, when a thick fog debarred her son of his usual pastime.
"Why, mother, I have no objection to marry; and I suppose I must, one of
these days, as a matter of duty: but I really am very difficult to
please; and if I were to make a bad choice, you know a wife is not like
this gun, which will _go off_ when I please."
"But still, my dear Frank, there are many very eligible matches to be
made just now."
"I do not doubt it, madam, but pray who are they?"
"Why, Miss Riddlesworth--"
"A very pretty girl, and I am told a large fortune. But let me hear the
"Clara Beauchamp, well connected, and a very sweet girl."
"Granted also, for anything I know to the contrary. Have you more on
"Certainly. Emily Riddlesdale; not much fortune, but very highly
connected indeed. Her brother, Lord Riddlesdale, is a man of great
"Her want of money is no object, my dear mother, and the influence of
her brother no inducement; I covet neither. I grant you that she is a
very nice girl. Proceed."
"Why, Frank, one would think that you were a sultan with his
handkerchief. There is Lady Selina Armstrong."
"Well, she is a very fine girl, and talks well."
"There is Harriet Butler, who has just come out."
"I saw her at the last ball we were at--a very pretty creature."
"Lady Jemima Calthorpe."
"Not very good-looking, but clever and agreeable."
"There is Louisa Manners, who is very much admired."
"I admire her very much myself."
"Well, Frank, you have exhausted my catalogue. There is not one I have
mentioned who is not unexceptionable, and whom I would gladly embrace as
a daughter-in-law. You are now turned of forty, my dear son, and must
make up your mind to have heirs to the title and estates. I am, however,
afraid that your admiration is so general, that you will be puzzled in
"I will confess to you, my dearest mother, that I have many years
thought of the necessity of taking to myself a wife, but have never yet
had courage to decide. I admit that if all the young women you have
mentioned were what they appear to be, a man need not long hesitate in
his choice; but the great difficulty is, that their real tempers and
dispositions are not to be ascertained until it is too late. Allow that
I should attempt to discover the peculiar disposition of every one of
them, what would be the consequence?--that my attentions would be
perceived. I do not exactly mean to accuse them of deceit; but a woman
is naturally flattered by perceiving herself an object of attraction;
and when flattered, is pleased. It is not likely, therefore, that the
infirmities of her temper (if she have any) should be discovered by a
man whose presence is a source of gratification. If artful, she will
conceal her faults; if not so, there will be no occasion to bring them to
light. And even if, after a long courtship, something wrong should be
discovered, either you have proceeded too far in honour to retract, or are
so blinded by your own feelings as to extenuate it. Now, it is only the
parents and near relations of a young woman who can be witnesses to her
real character, unless it be, indeed, her own maid, whom one could not
condescend to interrogate."
"That is all very true, Frank; but recollect the same observations apply
to your sex as well as ours. Lovers and husbands are very different
beings. It is quite a lottery on both sides."
"I agree with you, my dear mother; and, as marry I must, so shall it be
a lottery with me--I will leave it to chance, and not to myself: then,
if I am unfortunate, I will blame my stars, and not have to accuse
myself of a want of proper discrimination." Lord Aveleyn took up a sheet
of paper, and, dividing it into small slips, wrote upon them the names
of the different young ladies proposed by his mother. Folding them up,
he threw them on the table before her, and requested that she would
select any one of the papers.
The dowager took up one.
"I thank you, madam," said Lord Aveleyn, taking the paper from her hand,
and opening it--"'Louisa Manners.' Well, then, Louisa Manners it shall be;
always provided that she does not refuse me. I will make my first advances
this very afternoon--that is, if it does not clear up, and I can take out
"You surely are joking, Frank?"
"Never was more serious. I have my mother's recommendation, backed by
fate. Marry I must, but choose I will not. I feel myself desperately in
love with the fair Louisa already. I will report my progress to you, my
dear madam, in less than a fortnight."
Lord Aveleyn adhered to his singular resolution, courted, and was
accepted. He never had reason to repent his choice; who proved to be as
amiable as her countenance would have indicated. The fruits of his
marriage was one son, who was watched over with mingled pride and
anxiety, and who had now arrived at the age of fifteen years.
Such was the history of Lord Avelyn, who continued to extend his
friendship to Edward Forster, and, if he had required it, would gladly
have proffered his assistance, in return for the kindness which Forster
had shown towards him when he was a midshipman. The circumstances
connected with the history of the little Amber were known to Lord
Aveleyn and his lady; and the wish of Forster, that his little charge
should derive the advantage of mixing in good female society, was gladly
acceded to, both on his account and on her own. Amber would often remain
for days at the mansion, and was a general favourite, as well as an
object of sympathy.
But the growth of their son, too rapid for his years, and which brought
with it symptoms of pulmonary disease, alarmed Lord and Lady Aveleyn;
and, by the advice of the physicians, they broke up their establishment,
and hastened with him to Madeira, to re-establish his health. Their
departure was deeply felt both by Forster and his charge; and before
they could recover from the loss, another severe trial awaited them in
the death of Mrs Beazely, who, full of years and rheumatism, was
gathered to her fathers. Forster, habituated as he was to the old lady,
felt her loss severely: he was now with Amber, quite alone; and it so
happened that in the following winter his wound broke out, and confined
him to his bed until the spring.
As he lay in a precarious state, the thought naturally occurred to him,
"What will become of this poor child if I am called away? There is not
the slightest provision for her: she has no friends, and I have not even
made it known to any of my own that there is such a person in
existence." Edward Forster thought of his brother, the lawyer, whom he
knew still to be flourishing, although he had never corresponded with
him; and resolved that, as soon as he was able to undertake the journey,
he would go to town, and secure his interest for the little Amber, in
case of any accident happening to himself.
The spring and summer passed away before he found himself strong enough
to undertake the journey. It was late in the autumn that Edward Forster
and Amber took their places in a heavy coach for the metropolis, and
arrived without accident on the day or two subsequent to that on which
Nicholas and Newton had entered it on foot.
"Through coaches, drays, choked turnpikes, and a whirl
Of wheels, and roar of voices, and confusion,
Here taverns wooing to a pint of 'purl,'
There mails fast flying off, like a delusion.
"Through this, and much, and more, is the approach
Of travellers to mighty Babylon;
Whether they come by horse, or chair, or coach,
With slight exceptions, all the ways seem one."
When Newton Forster and his father arrived at London, they put up at an
obscure inn in the Borough. The next day, Newton set off to discover the
residence of his uncle. The people of the inn had recommended him to
apply to some stationer or bookseller, who would allow him to look over
a red-book; and, in compliance with these instructions, Newton stopped
at a shop in Fleet-street, on the doors of which was written in large
gilt letters--"Law Bookseller." The young men in the shop were very
civil and obliging, and, without referring to the "Guide," immediately
told him the residence of a man so well known as his uncle, and Newton
hastened in the direction pointed out.
It was one of those melancholy days in which London wears the appearance
of a huge scavenger's cart. A lurid fog and mizzling rain, which had
been incessant for the previous twenty-four hours; sloppy pavements, and
kennels down which the muddy torrents hastened to precipitate themselves
into the sewers below; armies of umbrellas, as far as the eye could
reach, now rising, now lowering, to avoid collision; hackney-coaches in
active sloth, their miserable cattle plodding along with their backs
arched and heads and tails drooping like barndoor fowls crouching under
the cataract of a gutter; clacking of pattens and pestering of sweepers;
not a smile upon the countenance of one individual of the multitude
which passed him;--all appeared anxiety, bustle, and selfishness. Newton
was not sorry when he turned down the narrow court which had been
indicated to him, and, disengaged from the throng of men, commenced a
more rapid course. In two minutes he was at the door of his uncle's
chambers, which, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, stood
wide open, as if there should be no obstacle in a man's way, or a single
moment for reflection allowed him, if he wished to entangle himself in
the expenses and difficulties of the law. Newton furled his weeping
umbrella; and, first looking with astonishment at the mud which had
accumulated above the calves of his legs, raised his eyes to the jambs
on each side, where in large letters he read at the head of a long list
of occupants, "Mr Forster, Ground Floor." A door with Mr Forster's name
on it, within a few feet of him, next caught his eye. He knocked, and
was admitted by the clerk, who stated that his master was at a
consultation, but was expected back in half-an-hour, if he could wait so
long. Newton assented, and was ushered into the parlour, where the clerk
presented the newspaper of the day to amuse him until the arrival of his
As soon as the door was closed, Newton's curiosity as to the character
of his uncle induced him to scrutinise the apartment and its contents.
In the centre of the room, which might have been about fourteen feet
square, stood a table, with a shadow lamp placed before the only part of
it which was left vacant for the use of the pen. The remainder of the
space was loaded with parchment upon parchment, deed upon deed, paper
upon paper. Some, especially those underneath, had become dark and
discoloured by time; the ink had changed to a dull red, and the imprint
of many a thumb inferred how many years they had been in existence, and
how long they had lain there as sad mementos of the law's delay. Others
were fresh and clean, the japanned ink in strong contrast with the
glossy parchment,--new cases of litigation, fresh as the hopes of those
who had been persuaded by flattering assurances to enter into a
labyrinth of vexation, from which, perhaps, not to be extricated until
these documents should assume the hue of the others, which silently
indicated the blighted hopes of protracted litigation. Two massive iron
chests occupied the walls on each side of the fireplace; and round the
whole area of the room were piled one upon another large tin boxes, on
which, in legible Roman characters, were written the names of the
parties whose property was thus immured. There they stood like so many
sepulchres of happiness, mausoleums raised over departed competence;
while the names of the parties inscribed appeared as so many registers
of the folly and contention of man.
But from all this Newton could draw no other conclusion than that his
uncle had plenty of business. The fire in the grate was on so small a
scale, that, although he shivered with the wet and cold, Newton was
afraid to stir it, lest it should go out altogether. From this
circumstance he drew a hasty and unsatisfactory conclusion that his
uncle was not very partial to spending his money.
But he hardly had time to draw these inferences and then take up the
newspaper, when the door opened, and another party was ushered into the
room by the clerk, who informed him, as he handed a chair, that Mr
Forster would return in a few minutes.
The personage thus introduced was a short young man, with a round face,
bushy eyebrows, and dogged countenance, implying wilfulness without
ill-nature. As soon as he entered, he proceeded to divest his throat of a
large shawl, which he hung over the back of a chair; then doffing his great
coat, which was placed in a similar position, he rubbed his hands, and
walked up to the fire, into which he insinuated the poker, and immediately
destroyed the small symptoms of combustion which remained, reducing the
whole to one chaos of smoke.
"Better have left it alone, I believe," observed he, reinserting the
poker, and again stirring up the black mass, for the fire was now
"You're not cold, I hope, sir?" said the party, turning to Newton.
"No, sir, not very," replied Newton, good humouredly.
"I thought so; clients never are: nothing like law for _keeping you
warm,_ sir. Always bring on your cause in the winter months. I do, if I
can; for it's positive suffocation in the dog-days!"
"I really never was _at law,_" replied Newton, laughing; "but if ever I
have the misfortune, I shall recollect your advice."
"Never was at law! I was going to say, what the devil brings you here?
but that would have been an impertinent question. Well, sir, do you
know, there was a time at which I never knew what law was," continued
the young man, seating himself in a chair opposite to Newton. "It was
many years ago, when I was a younger brother, and had no property: no
one took the trouble to go to law with me; for if they gained their
cause, there were no effects. Within the last six years I have inherited
considerable property, and am always in hot water. I heard that the
lawyers say, 'causes produce effects.' I am sure I can say that 'effects
have produced causes!'"
"I am sorry that your good fortune should be coupled with such a drawback."
"Oh, it's nothing! It's just to a man what a clog is to a horse in a
field--you know pretty well where to find him. I'm so used to it--indeed
so much so, that I should feel rather uncomfortable if I had nothing on
my hands: just keeps me from being idle. I've been into every court in
the metropolis, and have no fault to find with one of them, except the
Court of R------ts."
"And pray, sir, what is that court, and the objection you have to it?"
"Why, as to the court, it's the most confounded ras------; but I must be
careful how I speak before strangers: you'll excuse me, sir; not that I
suspect you, but I know what may be considered as a libel. I shall,
therefore, just state that it is a court at which no gentleman can
appear; and if he does, it's of no use, for he'll never get a verdict in
"What, then it is not a court of justice?"
"Court of justice! no, it's a court for the recovery of small debts; but
I'll just tell you, sir, exactly what took place with me in that court,
and then you will be able to judge for yourself. I had a dog, sir; it
was just after I came into my property; his name was Caesar, and a very
good dog he was. Well, sir, riding out one day about four miles from
town, a rabbit put his nose out of a cellar, where they retailed
potatoes. Caesar pounced upon him, and the rabbit was dead in a moment.
The man who owned the rabbit and the potatoes, came up to me and asked
my name, which I told him; at the same time I expressed my sorrow at the
accident, and advised him in future to keep his rabbits in hutches. He
said he would, and demanded three shillings and sixpence for the one
which the dog had killed. Now, although he was welcome to advice, money
was quite another thing; so he went one way muttering something about
law, and I another, with Caesar at my heels, taking no notice of his
threat. Well, sir, in a few days my servant came up to say that somebody
wished to see me upon _particular_ business, and I ordered him to be
shown up. It was a blackguard-looking fellow, who put a piece of dirty
paper in my hand; summoned me to appear at some dog-hole or another, I
forget where. Not understanding the business, I enclosed it to a legal
friend, who returned an answer, that it was a summons to the Court of
R----ts; that no gentleman could go there; and that I had better let
the thing take its course. I had forgotten all about it, when, in a few
days, a piece of paper was brought to me, by which I found that the
court adjudged me to pay L1 2s. 6d., for damages and costs. I asked who
brought it, and was told it was the son of the potato-merchant,
accompanied by a tipstaff. I requested the pleasure of their company,
and asked the legal gentleman what it was for.
"'Eighteen shillings for ten rabbits destroyed by your dog, and 4s. 6d.
for costs of court.'
"'Ten rabbits!' exclaimed I; 'why, he only killed one.'
"'Yes, sir,' squeaked out the young potato-merchant; 'but it was a doe
rabbit in the family way; we counted nine young ones, all killed too!'
"'Shameful!' replied I. 'Pray, sir, did your father tell the court that
the rabbits were not born?'
"'No, sir; father only said there was one doe rabbit and nine little
ones killed. He asked 4s. 6d. for the old one, but only 1s. 6d. a-piece
for the young ones.'
"'You should have been there yourself, sir,' observed the tipstaff.
"'I wish Caesar had left the rabbit alone. So it appears,' replied I, 'he
only asked 3s. 6d. at first; but by this _Caesarean operation_, I am
nineteen shillings out of pocket.'--Now, sir, what do you think of
"I think that you should exclaim against the dishonesty of the
potato-merchant, rather than the judgment of the court. Had you defended
your own cause, you might have had justice."
"I don't know that. A man makes a claim against another, and takes his
oath to it; you must then either disprove it, or pay the sum; your own
oath is of no avail against his. I called upon my legal friend, and told
him how I had been treated, and he then narrated the following
circumstance, which will explain what I mean:--
"He told me that he never knew of but one instance in which a
respectable person had gained his cause, and in which, he was ashamed to
say, that he was a party implicated. The means resorted to were as
follows:--A Jew upholsterer sent in a bill to a relation of his for a
chest of drawers, which had never been purchased or received. Refusing
to pay, he was summoned to the Court of R----ts. Not knowing how to
act, he applied to my informant, who, being under some obligations to
his relative, did not like to refuse.
"'I am afraid that you will have to pay,' said the attorney to his
relation, when he heard the story.
"'But I never had them, I can swear to it.'
"'That's of no consequence; he will bring men to swear to the delivery.
There are hundreds about the court who are ready to take any oath, at
half a crown a-head; and that will be sufficient. But, to oblige you, I
will see what I can do.'
"They parted, and, in a day or two my legal acquaintance called upon his
relation, and told him that he had gained his cause. 'Rather at the
expense of my conscience, I must acknowledge,' continued he; 'but one
must fight these scoundrels with their own weapons.'
"'Well, and how was it?' inquired the other.
"'Why, as I prophesied, he brought three men forward, who swore to the
delivery of the goods. Aware that this would be the case, I had provided
three others, who swore to their having been witness to the _payment of
the bill_! This he was not prepared for; and the verdict was given in
"Is it possible," exclaimed Newton, "that such a court of Belial can exist
"Even so; and as there is no appeal, pray keep out of it. For my--"
But here the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mr John
Forster, who had returned from his consultation.
We have already described Mr John Forster's character; we have now only to
introduce his person. Mr John Forster was about the middle height, rather
inclined to corpulency, but with great show of muscular strength. His black
nether garments and silk stockings fitted a leg which might have been
envied by a porter, and his breadth of shoulder was extreme. He had a
slouch, probably contracted by long poring over the desk; and his address
was as abrupt as his appearance was unpolished. His forehead was large and
bald, eye small and brilliant, and his cheeks had dropped down so as to
increase the width of his lower jaw. Deep, yet not harsh, lines were
imprinted on the whole of his countenance, which indicated inflexibility
"Good morning, gentlemen," said he, as he entered the room; "I hope you
have not been waiting long. May I request the pleasure of knowing who
came first? 'First come, first served,' is an old motto."
"I _believe_ this gentleman came first," replied the young man.
"Don't you _know_, sir? Is it only a _believe_?"
"I did arrive first, sir," said Newton; "but as I am not here upon legal
business, I had rather wait until this gentleman has spoken to you."
"Not upon legal business--humph!" replied Mr Forster, eyeing Newton.
"Well, then, if that is the case, do me the favour to sit down in the
office until I have communicated with this gentleman."
Newton, taking up his hat, walked out of the door, which was opened by
Mr Forster, and sat down in the next room until he should be summoned.
Although the door between them was closed, it was easy to hear the
sound of the voices within. For some minutes they fell upon Newton's
ears; that of the young man like the loud yelping of a cur; that of his
uncle like the surly growl of some ferocious beast. At last the door
"But, sir," cried the young man, _in alto_.
"_Pay_, sir, _pay_! I tell you, _pay_!" answered the lawyer, in a
"But he has cheated me, sir!"
"Charged twice their value, sir!"
"I tell you, pay!"
"But, sir, such imposition!"
"I have told you twenty times, sir, and now tell you again--and for the
"Won't you take up my cause, sir, then?"
"No, sir! I have given you advice, and will not pick your pocket!--Good
morning, sir:" and Mr Forster, who had backed his client out of the room,
shut the door in his face, to prevent further discussion.
The young man looked a moment at the door after it was closed, and then
turned round to Newton.
"If yours is really law business, take my advice, don't stay to see him;
I'll take you to a man who _is_ a lawyer. Here you'll get no law at
"Thankye," replied Newton, laughing; "but mine really is not law
The noise of the handle of the door indicated that Mr Forster was about
to re-open it to summon Newton; and the young man, with a hasty good
morning, brushed by Newton and hastened into the street.
"HAMLET.--Is not parchment made of sheepskin?
HORATIO.--Ay, my lord, and of calves' skins too.
HAMLET.--They are sheep and calves which
Seek out their assurance in that."
The door opened as intimated at the end of our last chapter, and Newton
obeyed the injunction from the lawyer's eye to follow him into the room.
"Now, sir, your pleasure?" said Mr Forster.
"I must introduce myself," replied Newton: "I am your nephew, Newton
"Humph! where's your documents in proof of your assertion?"
"I did not consider that anything further than my word was necessary. I am
the son of your brother, Nicholas Forster, who resided many years at
"I never heard of Overton: Nicholas I recollect to have been the name of my
third brother; but it is upwards of thirty years since I have seen or heard
of him. I did not know whether he was alive or dead. Well, for the sake of
argument, we'll allow that you are my nephew;--what then?"
Newton coloured up at this peculiar reception. "What then, uncle?--why I
did hope that you would have been glad to have seen me; but as you appear
to be otherwise, I will wish you good morning;"--and Newton moved towards
"Stop, young man; I presume that you did not come for nothing! Before you
go, tell me what you came for."
"To tell you the truth," replied Newton with emotion, "it was to ask your
assistance, and your advice; but--"
"But jumping up in a huff is not the way to obtain either. Sit down on that
chair, and tell me what you came for."
"To request you would interest yourself in behalf of my father and myself;
we are both out of employ, and require your assistance."
"Or probably I never should have seen you!"
"Most probably: we knew that you were in good circumstances, and thriving
in the world; and as long as we could support ourselves honestly, should
not have thrust ourselves upon you. All we wish now is that you will, by
your interest and recommendation, put us in the way of being again
independent by our own exertions; which we did not consider too much to ask
from a brother and an uncle."
"Humph!--so first you keep aloof from me because you knew that I was able
to assist you, and now you come to me for the same reason!"
"Had we received the least intimation from you that our presence would have
been welcome, you would have seen us before."
"Perhaps so; but I did not know whether I had any relations alive."
"Had I been in your circumstances, uncle, I should have inquired."
"Humph!--Well, young man, as I find that I have relations, I should like to
hear a little about them;--so now tell me all about your father and
Newton entered into a detail of the circumstances, with which the reader is
already acquainted. When he had finished, his uncle, who had listened with
profound attention, his eye fixed upon that of Newton, as if to read his
inmost thoughts, said, "It appears, then, that your father wishes to
prosecute his business as optician. I am afraid that I cannot help him. I
wear spectacles certainly when I read; but this pair has lasted me eleven
years, and probably will as many more. You wish me to procure you a
situation in an East Indiaman as third or fourth mate. I know nothing about
the sea; I never saw it in my life; nor am I aware that I have a sailor in
"Then, uncle, I will take my leave."
"Not so fast, young man; you said that you wanted my _assistance_ and my
_advice_. My assistance I cannot promise you for the reasons I have stated;
but my advice is at your service. Is it a legal point?"
"Not exactly, sir," replied Newton, who was mortified almost to tears;
"still I must acknowledge that I now more than ever wish that the articles
were in safe keeping, and out of my hands." Newton then entered into a
detail of the trunk being picked up at sea; and stated his having brought
with him the most valuable of the property, that it might be deposited in
"Humph!" observed his uncle, when he had finished. "You say that the
articles are of value."
"Those who are judges consider the diamonds and the other articles to be
worth nearly one hundred pounds; I cannot pretend to say what their real
"And you have had these things in your possession these seven years?"
"I have, sir."
"Did it never occur to you, since you have been in distress, that the sale
of these articles would have assisted you?"
"It often has occurred to me, when I have found that the little I could
earn was not sufficient for my father's support; but we had already decided
that the property was not _legally mine_, and I dismissed the idea as soon
as I could from my thoughts. Since then I have ascertained to whom the
property belongs, and of course it has become more sacred."
"You said a minute ago that you now more than ever wished the property in
sate keeping. Why so?"
"Because, disappointed in the hopes I had entertained of receiving your
assistance, I foresaw that we should have more difficulties than ever to
struggle against, and wished not to be in the way of temptation."
"You were right. Well, then, bring me those articles to-morrow, by one
o'clock precisely; I will take charge of them, and give you a receipt. Good
morning, nephew; very happy to have had the pleasure of making your
acquaintance. Remember me kindly to my brother, and tell him I shall be
happy to see him at one, precisely."
"Good morning, sir," replied Newton, with a faltering voice, as he hurried
away to conceal the disappointment and indignation which he felt at this
cool reception and dismissal.
"Not _legally_ mine--humph! I like that boy," muttered the old lawyer to
himself when Newton had disappeared.--"Scratton!"
"Yes, sir," replied the clerk, opening the door.
"Fill up a cheque for five hundred pounds, self or bearer, and bring it to
me to sign."
"Is it this evening or to-morrow, that I attend the arbitration meeting?"
"This evening, seven o'clock."
"What is the name of the party by whom I am employed?"
"East India director, is he not?"
"Humph!--that will do."
The clerk brought in the draft, which was put into his pocket-book without
being signed; his coat was then buttoned up, and Mr John Forster repaired
to the chop-house, at which for twenty-five years he had seldom failed to
make his appearance at the hour of three or four at the latest.
It was with a heavy heart that Newton returned to the inn in the Borough,
at which he had left his father, whom he found looking out of window,
precisely in the same seat and position where he had left him.
"Well, Newton, my boy, did you see my brother?"
"Yes, sir; but I am sorry to say that I have little hope of his being of
service to us."
Newton then entered into a narration of what had passed.
"Why really, Newton," said his father, in his single-heartedness, "I do not
see such cause of despair. If he did doubt your being his nephew, how could
he tell that you were? and if he had no interest with naval people, why
it's not his fault. As for my expecting him to break his spectacles on
purpose to buy new ones of me, that's too much, and it would be foolish on
his part. He said that he was very happy to have made your acquaintance,
and that he should be glad to see me. I really don't know what more you
could expect. I will call upon him to-morrow, since he wishes it. At five
o'clock precisely, don't you say?"
"No, sir, at one."
"Well, then, at one; those who have nothing to do must suit their hours to
those who are full of business. Recollect now, two o'clock precisely."
"One o'clock, sir."
"Ay, very true, one o'clock I meant; now let's go to dinner."
Nicholas Forster appeared in excellent spirits: and Newton, who did not
like to undeceive him, was glad to retire at an early hour, that he might
be left to his own reflections, and form some plan as to their proceedings
in consequence of this unexpected disappointment.
"Now, by two-headed Janus.
Nature hath named strange fellows in her time;
Some that will ever more peep through their eyes,
And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper;