Part 3 out of 11
"D'ye stand amazed?--Look o'er thy head, Maximinian!
Look to the terror which overhangs thee."
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _The Prophetess_.
Phillip had been five weeks in his new home: in another week, he was to
enter on his articles of apprenticeship. With a stern, unbending gloom
of manner, he had commenced the duties of his novitiate. He submitted to
all that was enjoined him. He seemed to have lost for ever the wild and
unruly waywardness that had stamped his boyhood; but he was never seen to
smile--he scarcely ever opened his lips. His very soul seemed to have
quitted him with its faults; and he performed all the functions of his
situation with the quiet listless regularity of a machine. Only when the
work was done and the shop closed, instead of joining the family circle
in the back parlour, he would stroll out in the dusk of the evening, away
from the town, and not return till the hour at which the family retired
to rest. Punctual in all he did, he never exceeded that hour. He had
heard once a week from his mother; and only on the mornings in which he
expected a letter, did he seem restless and agitated. Till the postman
entered the shop, he was as pale as death--his hands trembling--his lips
compressed. When he read the letter he became composed for Catherine
sedulously concealed from her son the state of her health: she wrote
cheerfully, besought him to content himself with the state into which he
had fallen, and expressed her joy that in his letters he intimated that
content; for the poor boy's letters were not less considerate than her
own. On her return from her brother, she had so far silenced or
concealed her misgivings as to express satisfaction at the home she had
provided for Sidney; and she even held out hopes of some future when,
their probation finished and their independence secured, she might reside
with her sons alternately. These hopes redoubled Philip's assiduity, and
he saved every shilling of his weekly stipend; and sighed as he thought
that in another week his term of apprenticeship would commence, and the
Mr. Plaskwith could not but be pleased on the whole with the diligence of
his assistant, but he was chafed and irritated by the sullenness of his
manner. As for Mrs. Plaskwith, poor woman! she positively detested the
taciturn and moody boy, who never mingled in the jokes of the circle, nor
played with the children, nor complimented her, nor added, in short,
anything to the sociability of the house. Mr. Plimmins, who had at first
sought to condescend, next sought to bully; but the gaunt frame and
savage eye of Philip awed the smirk youth, in spite of himself; and he
confessed to Mrs. Plaskwith that he should not like to meet "the gipsy,"
alone, on a dark night; to which Mrs. Plaskwith replied, as usual, "that
Mr. Plimmins always did say the best things in the world!"
One morning, Philip was sent a few miles into the country, to assist in
cataloguing some books in the library of Sir Thomas Champerdown--that
gentleman, who was a scholar, having requested that some one acquainted
with the Greek character might be sent to him, and Philip being the only
one in the shop who possessed such knowledge.
It was evening before he returned. Mr. and Mrs. Plaskwith were both in
the shop as he entered--in fact, they had been employed in talking him
"I can't abide him!" cried Mrs. Plaskwith. "If you choose to take him
for good, I sha'n't have an easy moment. I'm sure the 'prentice that
cut his master's throat at Chatham, last week, was just like him."
"Pshaw! Mrs. P.," said the bookseller, taking a huge pinch of snuff, as
usual, from his waistcoat pocket. "I myself was reserved when I was
young; all reflective people are. I may observe, by the by, that it was
the case with Napoleon Buonaparte: still, however, I must own he is a
disagreeable youth, though he attends to his business."
"And how fond of money he is!" remarked Mrs. Plaskwith, "he won't buy
himself a new pair of shoes!--quite disgraceful! And did you see what a
look he gave Plimmins, when he joked about his indifference to his sole?
Plimmins always does say such good things!"
"He is shabby, certainly," said the bookseller; "but the value of a book
does not always depend on the binding."
"I hope he is honest!" observed Mrs. Plaskwith;--and here Philip
"Hum," said Mr. Plaskwith; "you have had a long day's work: but I suppose
it will take a week to finish?"
"I am to go again to-morrow morning, sir: two days more will conclude the
"There's a letter for you," cried Mrs. Plaskwith; "you owes me for it."
"A letter!" It was not his mother's hand--it was a strange writing--he
gasped for breath as he broke the seal. It was the letter of the
His mother, then, was ill-dying-wanting, perhaps, the necessaries of
life. She would have concealed from him her illness and her poverty.
His quick alarm exaggerated the last into utter want;--he uttered a cry
that rang through the shop, and rushed to Mr. Plaskwith.
"Sir, sir! my mother is dying! She is poor, poor, perhaps starving;--
money, money!--lend me money!--ten pounds!--five!--I will work for you
all my life for nothing, but lend me the money!"
"Hoity-toity!" said Mrs. Plaskwith, nudging her husband--"I told you
what would come of it: it will be 'money or life' next time."
Philip did not heed or hear this address; but stood immediately before
the bookseller, his hands clasped--wild impatience in his eyes. Mr.
Plaskwith, somewhat stupefied, remained silent.
"Do you hear me?--are you human?" exclaimed Philip, his emotion
revealing at once all the fire of his character. "I tell you my mother
is dying; I must go to her! Shall I go empty-handed! Give me money!"
Mr. Plaskwith was not a bad-hearted man; but he was a formal man, and an
irritable one. The tone his shopboy (for so he considered Philip)
assumed to him, before his own wife too (examples are very dangerous),
rather exasperated than moved him.
"That's not the way to speak to your master:--you forget yourself, young
"Forget!--But, sir, if she has not necessaries-if she is starving?"
"Fudge!" said Plaskwith. "Mr. Morton writes me word that he has provided
for your mother! Does he not, Hannah?"
"More fool he, I'm sure, with such a fine family of his own! Don't look
at me in that way, young man; I won't take it--that I won't! I declare
my blood friz to see you!"
"Will you advance me money?--five pounds--only five pounds, Mr.
"Not five shillings! Talk to me in this style!--not the man for it,
sir!--highly improper. Come, shut up the shop, and recollect yourself;
and, perhaps, when Sir Thomas's library is done, I may let you go to
town. You can't go to-morrow. All a sham, perhaps; eh, Hannah?"
"Very likely! Consult Plimmins. Better come away now, Mr. P. He looks
like a young tiger."
Mrs. Plaskwith quitted the shop for the parlour. Her husband, putting
his hands behind his back, and throwing back his chin, was about to
follow her. Philip, who had remained for the last moment mute and white
as stone, turned abruptly; and his grief taking rather the tone of rage
than supplication, he threw himself before his master, and, laying his
hand on his shoulder, said:
"I leave you--do not let it be with a curse. I conjure you, have mercy
Mr. Plaskwith stopped; and had Philip then taken but a milder tone, all
had been well. But, accustomed from childhood to command--all his fierce
passions loose within him--despising the very man he thus implored--the
boy ruined his own cause. Indignant at the silence of Mr. Plaskwith, and
too blinded by his emotions to see that in that silence there was
relenting, he suddenly shook the little man with a vehemence that almost
overset him, and cried:
"You, who demand for five years my bones and blood--my body and soul--a
slave to your vile trade--do you deny me bread for a mother's lips?"
Trembling with anger, and perhaps fear, Mr. Plaskwith extricated himself
from the gripe of Philip, and, hurrying from the shop, said, as he banged
"Beg my pardon for this to-night, or out you go to-morrow, neck and crop!
Zounds! a pretty pass the world's come to! I don't believe a word about
your mother. Baugh!"
Left alone, Philip remained for some moments struggling with his wrath
and agony. He then seized his hat, which he had thrown off on entering--
pressed it over his brows--turned to quit the shop--when his eye fell
upon the till. Plaskwith had left it open, and the gleam of the coin
struck his gaze--that deadly smile of the arch tempter. Intellect,
reason, conscience--all, in that instant, were confusion and chaos. He
cast a hurried glance round the solitary and darkening room--plunged his
hand into the drawer, clutched he knew not what--silver or gold, as it
came uppermost--and burst into a loud and bitter laugh. The laugh itself
startled him--it did not sound like his own. His face fell, and his
knees knocked together--his hair bristled--he felt as if the very fiend
had uttered that yell of joy over a fallen soul.
"No--no--no!" he muttered; "no, my mother,--not even for thee!" And,
dashing the money to the ground, he fled, like a maniac, from the house.
At a later hour that same evening, Mr. Robert Beaufort returned from his
country mansion to Berkeley Square. He found his wife very uneasy and
nervous about the non-appearance of their only son. Arthur had sent home
his groom and horses about seven o'clock, with a hurried scroll, written
in pencil on a blank page torn from his pocket-book, and containing only
"Don't wait dinner for me--I may not be home for some hours. I have met
with a melancholy adventure. You will approve what I have done when we
This note a little perplexed Mr. Beaufort; but, as he was very hungry, he
turned a deaf ear both to his wife's conjectures and his own surmises,
till he had refreshed himself; and then he sent for the groom, and
learned that, after the accident to the blind man, Mr. Arthur had been
left at a hosier's in H----. This seemed to him extremely mysterious;
and, as hour after hour passed away, and still Arthur came not, he began
to imbibe his wife's fears, which were now wound up almost to hysterics;
and just at midnight he ordered his carriage, and taking with him the
groom as a guide, set off to the suburban region. Mrs. Beaufort had
wished to accompany him; but the husband observing that young men would
be young men, and that there might possibly be a lady in the case, Mrs.
Beaufort, after a pause of thought, passively agreed that, all things
considered, she had better remain at home. No lady of proper decorum
likes to run the risk of finding herself in a false position. Mr.
Beaufort accordingly set out alone. Easy was the carriage--swift were
the steeds--and luxuriously the wealthy man was whirled along. Not a
suspicion of the true cause of Arthur's detention crossed him; but he
thought of the snares of London--or artful females in distress; "a
melancholy adventure" generally implies love for the adventure, and money
for the melancholy; and Arthur was young--generous--with a heart and a
pocket equally open to imposition. Such scrapes, however, do not terrify
a father when he is a man of the world, so much as they do an anxious
mother; and, with more curiosity than alarm, Mr. Beaufort, after a short
doze, found himself before the shop indicated.
Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, the door to the private
entrance was ajar,--a circumstance which seemed very suspicious to Mr.
Beaufort. He pushed it open with caution and timidity--a candle placed
upon a chair in the narrow passage threw a sickly light over the flight
of stairs, till swallowed up by the deep shadow from the sharp angle made
by the ascent. Robert Beaufort stood a moment in some doubt whether to
call, to knock, to recede, or to advance, when a step was heard upon the
stairs above--it came nearer and nearer--a figure emerged from the shadow
of the last landing-place, and Mr. Beaufort, to his great joy, recognised
Arthur did not, however, seem to perceive his father; and was about to
pass him, when Mr. Beaufort laid his hand on his arm.
"What means all this, Arthur? What place are you in? How you have
Arthur cast a look upon his father of sadness and reproach.
"Father," he said, in a tone that sounded stern--almost commanding--"I
will show you where I have been; follow me--nay, I say, follow."
He turned, without another word re-ascended the stairs; and Mr. Beaufort,
surprised and awed into mechanical obedience, did as his son desired. At
the landing-place of the second floor, another long-wicked, neglected,
ghastly candle emitted its cheerless ray. It gleamed through the open
door of a small bedroom to the left, through which Beaufort perceived the
forms of two women. One (it was the kindly maidservant) was seated on a
chair, and weeping bitterly; the other (it was a hireling nurse, in the
first and last day of her attendance) was unpinning her dingy shawl
before she lay down to take a nap. She turned her vacant, listless face
upon the two men, put on a doleful smile, and decently closed the door.
"Where are we, I say, Arthur?" repeated Mr. Beaufort. Arthur took his
father's hand-drew him into a room to the right--and taking up the
candle, placed it on a small table beside a bell, and said, "Here, sir--
in the presence of Death!"
Mr. Beaufort cast a hurried and fearful glance on the still, wan, serene
face beneath his eyes, and recognised in that glance the features of the
neglected and the once adored Catherine.
"Yes--she, whom your brother so loved--the mother of his children--died
in this squalid room, and far from her sons, in poverty, in sorrow! died
of a broken heart! Was that well, father? Have you in this nothing to
Conscience-stricken and appalled, the worldly man sank down on a seat
beside the bed, and covered his face with his hands.
"Ay," continued Arthur, almost bitterly--"ay, we, his nearest of kin--we,
who have inherited his lands and gold--we have been thus heedless of the
great legacy your brother bequeathed to us:--the things dearest to him--
the woman he loved--the children his death cast, nameless and branded, on
the world. Ay, weep, father: and while you weep, think of the future, of
reparation. I have sworn to that clay to befriend her sons; join you,
who have all the power to fulfil the promise--join in that vow: and may
Heaven not visit on us both the woes of this bed of death!"
"I did not know--I--I--" faltered Mr. Beaufort.
"But we should have known," interrupted Arthur, mournfully. "Ah, my dear
father! do not harden your heart by false excuses. The dead still speaks
to you, and commends to your care her children. My task here is done: O
sir! yours is to come. I leave you alone with the dead."
So saying, the young man, whom the tragedy of the scene had worked into a
passion and a dignity above his usual character, unwilling to trust
himself farther to his emotions, turned abruptly from the room, fled
rapidly down the stairs and left the house. As the carriage and liveries
of his father met his eye, he groaned; for their evidences of comfort and
wealth seemed a mockery to the deceased: he averted his face and walked
on. Nor did he heed or even perceive a form that at that instant rushed
by him--pale, haggard, breathless--towards the house which he had
quitted, and the door of which he left open, as he had found it--open, as
the physician had left it when hurrying, ten minutes before the arrival
of Mr. Beaufort, from the spot where his skill was impotent. Wrapped in
gloomy thought, alone, and on foot-at that dreary hour, and in that
remote suburb--the heir of the Beauforts sought his splendid home.
Anxious, fearful, hoping, the outcast orphan flew on to the death-room
of his mother.
Mr. Beaufort, who had but imperfectly heard Arthur's parting accents,
lost and bewildered by the strangeness of his situation, did not at first
perceive that he was left alone. Surprised, and chilled by the sudden
silence of the chamber, he rose, withdrew his hands from his face, and
again he saw that countenance so mute and solemn. He cast his gaze round
the dismal room for Arthur; he called his name--no answer came; a
superstitious tremor seized upon him; his limbs shook; he sank once more
on his seat, and closed his eyes: muttering, for the first time, perhaps,
since his childhood, words of penitence and prayer. He was roused
from this bitter self-abstraction by a deep groan. It seemed to come
from the bed. Did his ears deceive him? Had the dead found a voice? He
started up in an agony of dread, and saw opposite to him the livid
countenance of Philip Morton: the Son of the Corpse had replaced the Son
of the Living Man! The dim and solitary light fell upon that
countenance. There, all the bloom and freshness natural to youth seemed
blasted! There, on those wasted features, played all the terrible power
and glare of precocious passions,--rage, woe, scorn, despair. Terrible
is it to see upon the face of a boy the storm and whirlwind that should
visit only the strong heart of man!
"She is dead!--dead! and in your presence!" shouted Philip, with his
wild eyes fixed upon the cowering uncle; "dead with--care, perhaps with
famine. And you have come to look upon your work!"
"Indeed," said Beaufort, deprecatingly, "I have but just arrived: I did
not know she had been ill, or in want, upon my honour. This is all a--a
--mistake: I--I--came in search of--of--another--"
"You did not, then, come to relieve her?" said Philip, very calmly.
"You had not learned her suffering and distress, and flown hither in the
hope that there was yet time to save her? You did not do this? Ha! ha!
--why did I think it?"
"Did any one call, gentlemen?" said a whining voice at the door; and the
nurse put in her head.
"Yes--yes--you may come in," said Beaufort, shaking with nameless and
cowardly apprehension; but Philip had flown to the door, and, gazing on
the nurse, said,
"She is a stranger! see, a stranger! The son now has assumed his post.
Begone, woman!" And he pushed her away, and drew the bolt across the
And then there looked upon him, as there had looked upon his reluctant
companion, calm and holy, the face of the peaceful corpse. He burst into
tears, and fell on his knees so close to Beaufort that he touched him; he
took up the heavy hand, and covered it with burning kisses.
"Mother! mother! do not leave me! wake, smile once more on your son!
I would have brought you money, but I could not have asked for your
blessing, then; mother, I ask it now!"
"If I had but known--if you had but written to me, my dear young
gentleman--but my offers had been refused, and--"
"Offers of a hireling's pittance to her; to her for whom my father would
have coined his heart's blood into gold! My father's wife!--his wife!--
He rose suddenly, folded his arms, and facing Beaufort, with a fierce
determined brow, said:
"Mark me, you hold the wealth that I was trained from my cradle to
consider my heritage. I have worked with these hands for bread, and
never complained, except to my own heart and soul. I never hated, and
never cursed you--robber as you were--yes, robber! For, even were there
no marriage save in the sight of God, neither my father, nor Nature, nor
Heaven, meant that you should seize all, and that there should be nothing
due to the claims of affection and blood. He was not the less my father,
even if the Church spoke not on my side. Despoiler of the orphan, and
derider of human love, you are not the less a robber though the law
fences you round, and men call you honest! But I did not hate you for
this. Now, in the presence of my dead mother--dead, far from both her
sons--now I abhor and curse you. You may think yourself safe when you
quit this room-safe, and from my hatred you may be so but do not deceive
yourself. The curse of the widow and the orphan shall pursue--it shall
cling to you and yours--it shall gnaw your heart in the midst of
splendour--it shall cleave to the heritage of your son! There shall be a
deathbed yet, beside which you shall see the spectre of her, now so calm,
rising for retribution from the grave! These words--no, you never shall
forget them--years hence they shall ring in your ears, and freeze the
marrow of your bones! And now begone, my father's brother--begone from
my mother's corpse to your luxurious home!"
He opened the door, and pointed to the stairs. Beaufort, without a word,
turned from the room and departed. He heard the door closed and locked
as he descended the stairs; but he did not hear the deep groans and
vehement sobs in which the desolate orphan gave vent to the anguish which
succeeded to the less sacred paroxysm of revenge and wrath.
"Incubo. Look to the cavalier. What ails he?
. . . . .
Hostess. And in such good clothes, too!"
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _Love's Pilgrimage_.
"Theod. I have a brother--there my last hope!.
Thus as you find me, without fear or wisdom,
I now am only child of Hope and Danger."--Ibid.
The time employed by Mr. Beaufort in reaching his home was haunted by
gloomy and confused terrors. He felt inexplicably as if the
denunciations of Philip were to visit less himself than his son. He
trembled at the thought of Arthur meeting this strange, wild, exasperated
scatterling--perhaps on the morrow--in the very height of his passions.
And yet, after the scene between Arthur and himself, he saw cause to fear
that he might not be able to exercise a sufficient authority over his
son, however naturally facile and obedient, to prevent his return to the
house of death. In this dilemma he resolved, as is usual with cleverer
men, even when yoked to yet feebler helpmates, to hear if his wife had
anything comforting or sensible to say upon the subject. Accordingly, on
reaching Berkeley Square, he went straight to Mrs. Beaufort; and having
relieved her mind as to Arthur's safety, related the scene in which he
had been so unwilling an actor. With that more lively susceptibility
which belongs to most women, however comparatively unfeeling, Mrs.
Beaufort made greater allowance than her husband for the excitement
Philip had betrayed. Still Beaufort's description of the dark menaces,
the fierce countenance, the brigand-like form, of the bereaved son, gave
her very considerable apprehensions for Arthur, should the young men
meet; and she willingly coincided with her husband in the propriety of
using all means of parental persuasion or command to guard against such
an encounter. But, in the meanwhile, Arthur returned not, and new fears
seized the anxious parents. He had gone forth alone, in a remote suburb
of the metropolis, at a late hour, himself under strong excitement. He
might have returned to the house, or have lost his way amidst some dark
haunts of violence and crime; they knew not where to send, or what to
suggest. Day already began to dawn, and still he came not. A length,
towards five o'clock, a loud rap was heard at the door, and Mr. Beaufort,
hearing some bustle in the hall, descended. He saw his son borne into
the hall from a hackney-coach by two strangers, pale, bleeding, and
apparently insensible. His first thought was that he had been murdered
by Philip. He uttered a feeble cry, and sank down beside his son.
"Don't be darnted, sir," said one of the strangers, who seemed an
artisan; "I don't think he be much hurt. You sees he was crossing the
street, and the coach ran against him; but it did not go over his head;
it be only the stones that makes him bleed so: and that's a mercy."
"A providence, sir," said the other man; "but Providence watches over us
all, night and day, sleep or wake. Hem! We were passing at the time
from the meeting--the Odd Fellows, sir--and so we took him, and got him a
coach; for we found his card in his pocket. He could not speak just
then; but the rattling of the coach did him a deal of good, for he
groaned--my eyes! how he groaned! did he not, Burrows?"
"It did one's heart good to hear him."
"Run for Astley Cooper--you--go to Brodie. Good Heavens! he is dying.
Be quick--quick!" cried Mr. Beaufort to his servants, while Mrs.
Beaufort, who had now gained the spot, with greater presence of mind had
Arthur conveyed into a room.
"It is a judgment upon me," groaned Beaufort, rooted to the stone of his
hall, and left alone with the strangers. "No, sir, it is not a judgment,
it is a providence," said the more sanctimonious and better dressed of
the two men "for, put the question, if it had been a judgment, the wheel
would have gone over him--but it didn't; and, whether he dies or not, I
shall always say that if that's not a providence, I don't know what is.
We have come a long way, sir; and Burrows is a poor man, though I'm well
This hint for money restored Beaufort to his recollection; he put his
purse into the nearest hand outstretched to clutch it, and muttered forth
something like thanks.
"Sir, may the Lord bless you! and I hope the young gentleman will do
well. I am sure you have cause to be thankful that he was within an inch
of the wheel; was he not, Burrows? Well, it's enough to convert a
heathen. But the ways of Providence are mysterious, and that's the truth
of it. Good night, sir."
Certainly it did seem as if the curse of Philip was already at its work.
An accident almost similar to that which, in the adventure of the blind
man, had led Arthur to the clue of Catherine, within twenty-four hours
stretched Arthur himself upon his bed. The sorrow Mr. Beaufort had not
relieved was now at his own hearth. But there were parents and nurses,
and great physicians, and skilful surgeons, and all the army that combine
against Death, and there were ease, and luxury, and kind eyes, and pitying
looks, and all that can take the sting from pain. And thus, the very
night on which Catherine had died, broken down, and worn out, upon a
strange breast, with a feeless doctor, and by the ray of a single candle,
the heir to the fortunes once destined to her son wrestled also with the
grim Tyrant, who seemed, however, scared from his prey by the arts and
luxuries which the world of rich men raises up in defiance of the grave.
Arthur, was, indeed, very seriously injured; one of his ribs was broken,
and he had received two severe contusions on the head. To insensibility
succeeded fever, followed by delirium. He was in imminent danger for
several days. If anything could console his parents for such an
affliction, it was the thought that, at least, he was saved from the
chance of meeting Philip.
Mr. Beaufort, in the instinct of that capricious and fluctuating
conscience which belongs to weak minds, which remains still, and
drooping, and lifeless, as a flag on a masthead during the calm of
prosperity, but flutters, and flaps, and tosses when the wind blows and
the wave heaves, thought very acutely and remorsefully of the condition
of the Mortons, during the danger of his own son. So far, indeed, from
his anxiety for Arthur monopolising all his care, it only sharpened his
charity towards the orphans; for many a man becomes devout and good when
he fancies he has an Immediate interest in appeasing Providence. The
morning after Arthur's accident, he sent for Mr. Blackwell. He
commissioned him to see that Catherine's funeral rites were performed
with all due care and attention; he bade him obtain an interview with
Philip, and assure the youth of Mr. Beaufort's good and friendly
disposition towards him, and to offer to forward his views in any course
of education he might prefer, or any profession he might adopt; and he
earnestly counselled the lawyer to employ all his tact and delicacy in
conferring with one of so proud and fiery a temper. Mr. Blackwell,
however, had no tact or delicacy to employ: he went to the house of
mourning, forced his way to Philip, and the very exordium of his
harangue, which was devoted to praises of the extraordinary generosity
and benevolence of his employer, mingled with condescending admonitions
towards gratitude from Philip, so exasperated the boy, that Mr. Blackwell
was extremely glad to get out of the house with a whole skin. He,
however, did not neglect the more formal part of his mission; but
communicated immediately with a fashionable undertaker, and gave orders
for a very genteel funeral. He thought after the funeral that Philip
would be in a less excited state of mind, and more likely to hear reason;
he, therefore, deferred a second interview with the orphan till after
that event; and, in the meanwhile, despatched a letter to Mr. Beaufort,
stating that he had attended to his instructions; that the orders for the
funeral were given; but that at present Mr. Philip Morton's mind was a
little disordered, and that he could not calmly discuss the plans for the
future suggested by Mr. Beaufort. He did not doubt, however, that in
another interview all would be arranged according to the wishes his
client had so nobly conveyed to him. Mr. Beaufort's conscience on this
point was therefore set at rest. It was a dull, close, oppressive
morning, upon which the remains of Catherine Morton were consigned to the
grave. With the preparations for the funeral Philip did not interfere;
he did not inquire by whose orders all that solemnity of mutes, and
coaches, and black plumes, and crape bands, was appointed. If his vague
and undeveloped conjecture ascribed this last and vain attention to
Robert Beaufort, it neither lessened the sullen resentment he felt
against his uncle, nor, on the other hand, did he conceive that he had a
right to forbid respect to the dead, though he might reject service for
the survivor. Since Mr. Blackwell's visit, he had remained in a sort of
apathy or torpor, which seemed to the people of the house to partake
rather of indifference than woe.
The funeral was over, and Philip had returned to the apartments occupied
by the deceased; and now, for the first time, he set himself to examine
what papers, &c., she had left behind. In an old escritoire, he found,
first, various packets of letters in his father's handwriting, the
characters in many of them faded by time. He opened a few; they were the
earliest love-letters. He did not dare to read above a few lines; so
much did their living tenderness, and breathing, frank, hearty passion,
contrast with the fate of the adored one. In those letters, the very
heart of the writer seemed to beat! Now both hearts alike were stilled!
And GHOST called vainly unto GHOST!
He came, at length, to a letter in his mother's hand, addressed to
himself, and dated two days before her death. He went to the window and
gasped in the mists of the sultry air for breath. Below were heard the
noises of London; the shrill cries of itinerant vendors, the rolling
carts, the whoop of boys returned for a while from school. Amidst all
these rose one loud, merry peal of laughter, which drew his attention
mechanically to the spot whence it came; it was at the threshold of a
public-house, before which stood the hearse that had conveyed his
mother's coffin, and the gay undertakers, halting there to refresh
themselves. He closed the window with a groan, retired to the farthest
corner of the room, and read as follows:
"MY DEAREST PHILIP,--When you read this, I shall be no more. You and
poor Sidney will have neither father nor mother, nor fortune, nor name.
Heaven is more just than man, and in Heaven is my hope for you. You,
Philip, are already past childhood; your nature is one formed, I think,
to wrestle successfully with the world. Guard against your own passions,
and you may bid defiance to the obstacles that will beset your path in
life. And lately, in our reverses, Philip, you have so subdued those
passions, so schooled the pride and impetuosity of your childhood, that I
have contemplated your prospects with less fear than I used to do, even
when they seemed so brilliant. Forgive me, my dear child, if I have
concealed from you my state of health, and if my death be a sudden and
unlooked-for shock. Do not grieve for me too long. For myself, my
release is indeed escape from the prison-house and the chain--from bodily
pain and mental torture, which may, I fondly hope, prove some expiation
for the errors of a happier time. For I did err, when, even from the
least selfish motives, I suffered my union with your father to remain
concealed, and thus ruined the hopes of those who had rights upon me
equal even to his. But, O Philip! beware of the first false steps into
deceit; beware, too, of the passions, which do not betray their fruit
till years and years after the leaves that look so green and the blossoms
that seem so fair.
"I repeat my solemn injunction--Do not grieve for me; but strengthen your
mind and heart to receive the charge that I now confide to you--my
Sidney, my child, your brother! He is so soft, so gentle, he has been so
dependent for very life upon me, and we are parted now for the first and
last time. He is with strangers; and--and--O Philip, Philip! watch over
him for the love you bear, not only to him, but to me! Be to him a
father as well as a brother. Put your stout heart against the world, so
that you may screen him, the weak child, from its malice. He has not
your talents nor strength of character; without you he is nothing. Live,
toil, rise for his sake not less than your own. If you knew how this
heart beats as I write to you, if you could conceive what comfort I take
for _him_ from my confidence in you, you would feel a new spirit--my
spirit--my mother-spirit of love, and forethought, and vigilance, enter
into you while you read. See him when I am gone--comfort and soothe him.
Happily he is too young yet to know all his loss; and do not let him
think unkindly of me in the days to come, for he is a child now, and they
may poison his mind against me more easily than they can yours. Think,
if he is unhappy hereafter, he may forget how I loved him, he may curse
those who gave him birth. Forgive me all this, Philip, my son, and heed
"And now, where you find this letter, you will see a key; it opens a well
in the bureau in which I have hoarded my little savings. You will see
that I have not died in poverty. Take what there is; young as you are,
you may want it more now than hereafter. But hold it in trust for your
brother as well as yourself. If he is harshly treated (and you will go
and see him, and you will remember that he would writhe under what you
might scarcely feel), or if they overtask him (he is so young to work),
yet it may find him a home near you. God watch over and guard you both!
You are orphans now. But HE has told even the orphans to call him
When he had read this letter, Philip Morton fell upon his knees, and
"His curse! Dost comprehend what that word means?
Shot from a father's angry breath."
JAMES SHIRLEY: _The Brothers_.
"This term is fatal, and affrights me."--Ibid.
"Those fond philosophers that magnify
Our human nature . . . . . .
Conversed but little with the world-they knew not
The fierce vexation of community!"--Ibid.
After he had recovered his self-possession, Philip opened the well of the
bureau, and was astonished and affected to find that Catherine had saved
more than L100. Alas! how much must she have pinched herself to have
hoarded this little treasure! After burning his father's love-letters,
and some other papers, which he deemed useless, he made up a little
bundle of those trifling effects belonging to the deceased, which he
valued as memorials and relies of her, quitted the apartment, and
descended to the parlour behind the shop. On the way he met with the
kind servant, and recalling the grief that she had manifested for his
mother since he had been in the house, he placed two sovereigns in her
hand. "And now," said he, as the servant wept while be spoke, "now I can
bear to ask you what I have not before done. How did my poor mother die?
Did she suffer much?--or--or--"
"She went off like a lamb, sir," said the girl, drying her eyes. "You
see the gentleman had been with her all the day, and she was much more
easy and comfortable in her mind after he came."
"The gentleman! Not the gentleman I found here?"
"Oh, dear no! Not the pale middle-aged gentleman nurse and I saw go down
as the clock struck two. But the young, soft-spoken gentleman who came
in the morning, and said as how he was a relation. He stayed with her
till she slept; and, when she woke, she smiled in his face--I shall never
forget that smile--for I was standing on the other side, as it might be
here, and the doctor was by the window, pouring out the doctor's stuff in
the glass; and so she looked on the young gentleman, and then looked
round at us all, and shook her head very gently, but did not speak. And
the gentleman asked her how she felt, and she took both his hands and
kissed them; and then he put his arms round and raised her up to take the
physic like, and she said then, 'You will never forget them?' and he
said, 'Never.' I don't know what that meant, sir!"
"Well, well--go on."
"And her head fell back on his buzzom, and she looked so happy; and, when
the doctor came to the bedside, she was quite gone."
"And the stranger had my post! No matter; God bless him--God bless him.
Who was he? what was his name?"
"I don't know, sir; he did not say. He stayed after the doctor went, and
cried very bitterly; he took on more than you did, sir."
"And the other gentleman came just as he was a-going, and they did not
seem to like each other; for I heard him through the wall, as nurse and I
were in the next room, speak as if he was scolding; but he did not stay
"And has never been seen since?"
"No, sir. Perhaps missus can tell you more about him. But won't you
take something, sir? Do--you look so pale."
Philip, without speaking, pushed her gently aside, and went slowly down
the stairs. He entered the parlour, where two or three children were
seated, playing at dominoes; he despatched one for their mother, the
mistress of the shop, who came in, and dropped him a courtesy, with a
very grave, sad face, as was proper.
"I am going to leave your house, ma'am; and I wish to settle any little
arrears of rent, &c."
"O sir! don't mention it," said the landlady; and, as she spoke, she
took a piece of paper from her bosom, very neatly folded, and laid it on
the table. "And here, sir," she added, taking from the same depository a
card,--"here is the card left by the gentleman who saw to the funeral.
He called half an hour ago, and bade me say, with his compliments, that
he would wait on you to-morrow at eleven o'clock. So I hope you won't go
yet: for I think he means to settle everything for you; he said as much,
Philip glanced over the card, and read, "Mr. George Blackwell, Lincoln's
Inn." His brow grew dark--he let the card fall on the ground, put his
foot on it with a quiet scorn, and muttered to himself, "The lawyer shall
not bribe me out of my curse!" He turned to the total of the bill--not
heavy, for poor Catherine had regularly defrayed the expense of her
scanty maintenance and humble lodging--paid the money, and, as the
landlady wrote the receipt, he asked, "Who was the gentleman--the younger
gentleman--who called in the morning of the day my mother died?"
"Oh, sir! I am so sorry I did not get his name. Mr. Perkins said that
he was some relation. Very odd he has never been since. But he'll be
sure to call again, sir; you had much better stay here."
"No: it does not signify. All that he could do is done. But stay, give
him this note, if she should call."
Philip, taking the pen from the landlady's hand, hastily wrote (while
Mrs. Lacy went to bring him sealing-wax and a light) these words:
"I cannot guess who you are: they say that you call yourself a relation;
that must be some mistake. I knew not that my poor mother had relations
so kind. But, whoever you be, you soothed her last hours--she died in
your arms; and if ever--years, long years hence--we should chance to
meet, and I can do anything to aid another, my blood, and my life, and my
heart, and my soul, all are slaves to your will. If you be really of her
kindred, I commend to you my brother: he is at ----, with Mr. Morton.
If you can serve him, my mother's soul will watch over you as a guardian
angel. As for me, I ask no help from any one: I go into the world and
will carve out my own way. So much do I shrink from the thought of
charity from others, that I do not believe I could bless you as I do now
if your kindness to me did not close with the stone upon my mother's
He sealed this letter, and gave it to the woman.
"Oh, by the by," said she, "I had forgot; the Doctor said that if you
would send for him, he would be most happy to call on you, and give you
"And what shall I say to Mr. Blackwell?"
"That he may tell his employer to remember our last interview."
With that Philip took up his bundle and strode from the house. He went
first to the churchyard, where his mother's remains had been that day
interred. It was near at hand, a quiet, almost a rural, spot. The gate
stood ajar, for there was a public path through the churchyard, and
Philip entered with a noiseless tread. It was then near evening; the sun
had broken out from the mists of the earlier day, and the wistering rays
shone bright and holy upon the solemn place.
"Mother! mother!" sobbed the orphan, as he fell prostrate before that
fresh green mound: "here--here I have come to repeat my oath, to swear
again that I will be faithful to the charge you have entrusted to your
wretched son! And at this hour I dare ask if there be on this earth one
more miserable and forlorn?"
As words to this effect struggled from his lips, a loud, shrill voice--
the cracked, painful voice of weak age wrestling with strong passion,
rose close at hand.
"Away, reprobate! thou art accursed!"
Philip started, and shuddered as if the words were addressed to himself,
and from the grave. But, as he rose on his knee, and tossing the wild
hair from his eyes, looked confusedly round, he saw, at a short distance,
and in the shadow of the wall, two forms; the one, an old man with grey
hair, who was seated on a crumbling wooden tomb, facing the setting sun;
the other, a man apparently yet in the vigour of life, who appeared bent
as in humble supplication. The old man's hands were outstretched over
the head of the younger, as if suiting terrible action to the terrible
words, and, after a moment's pause--a moment, but it seemed far longer to
Philip--there was heard a deep, wild, ghastly howl from a dog that
cowered at the old man's feet; a howl, perhaps of fear at the passion of
his master, which the animal might associate with danger.
"Father! father!" said the suppliant reproachfully, "your very dog
rebukes your curse."
"Be dumb! My dog! What hast thou left me on earth but him? Thou hast
made me loathe the sight of friends, for thou hast made me loathe mine
own name. Thou hast covered it with disgrace,--thou hast turned mine old
age into a by-word,--thy crimes leave me solitary in the midst of my
"It is many years since we met, father; we may never meet again--shall we
"Thus, aha!" said the old man in a tone of withering sarcasm! "I
comprehend,--you are come for money!"
At this taunt the son started as if stung by a serpent; raised his head
to its full height, folded his arms, and replied:
"Sir, you wrong me: for more than twenty years I have maintained myself--
no matter how, but without taxing you;--and now, I felt remorse for
having suffered you to discard me,--now, when you are old and helpless,
and, I heard, blind: and you might want aid, even from your poor good-
for-nothing son. But I have done. Forget,--not my sins, but this
interview. Repeal your curse, father; I have enough on my head without
yours; and so--let the son at least bless the father who curses him.
The speaker turned as he thus said, with a voice that trembled at the
close, and brushed rapidly by Philip, whom he did not, however, appear to
perceive; but Philip, by the last red beam of the sun, saw again that
marked storm-beaten face which it was difficult, once seen, to forget,
and recognised the stranger on whose breast be had slept the night of his
fatal visit to R----.
The old man's imperfect vision did not detect the departure of his son,
but his face changed and softened as the latter strode silently through
the rank grass.
"William!" he said at last, gently; "William!" and the tears rolled down
his furrowed cheeks; "my son!" but that son was gone--the old man
listened for reply--none came. "He has left me--poor William!--we shall
never meet again;" and he sank once more on the old tombstone, dumb,
rigid, motionless--an image of Time himself in his own domain of Graves.
The dog crept closer to his master, and licked his hand. Philip stood
for a moment in thoughtful silence: his exclamation of despair had been
answered as by his better angel. There was a being more miserable than
himself; and the Accursed would have envied the Bereaved!
The twilight had closed in; the earliest star--the star of Memory and
Love, the Hesperus hymned by every poet since the world began--was fair
in the arch of heaven, as Philip quitted the spot, with a spirit more
reconciled to the future, more softened, chastened, attuned to gentle and
pious thoughts than perhaps ever yet had made his soul dominant over the
deep and dark tide of his gloomy passions. He went thence to a
neighbouring sculptor, and paid beforehand for a plain tablet to be
placed above the grave he had left. He had just quitted that shop, in
the same street, not many doors removed from the house in which his
mother had breathed her last. He was pausing by a crossing, irresolute
whether to repair at once to the home assigned to Sidney, or to seek some
shelter in town for that night, when three men who were on the opposite
side of the way suddenly caught sight of him.
"There he is--there he is! Stop, sir!--stop!"
Philip heard these words, looked up, and recognised the voice and the
person of Mr. Plaskwith; the bookseller was accompanied by Mr. Plimmins,
and a sturdy, ill-favoured stranger.
A nameless feeling of fear, rage, and disgust seized the unhappy boy, and
at the same moment a ragged vagabond whispered to him, "Stump it, my
cove; that's a Bow Street runner."
Then there shot through Philip's mind the recollection of the money he
had seized, though but to dash away; was he now--he, still to his own
conviction, the heir of an ancient and spotless name--to be hunted as a
thief; or, at the best, what right over his person and his liberty had he
given to his taskmaster? Ignorant of the law--the law only seemed to
him, as it ever does to the ignorant and the friendless--a Foe. Quicker
than lightning these thoughts, which it takes so many words to describe,
flashed through the storm and darkness of his breast; and at the very
instant that Mr. Plimmins had laid hands on his shoulder his resolution
was formed. The instinct of self beat loud at his heart. With a bound--
a spring that sent Mr. Plimmins sprawling in the kennel, he darted across
the road, and fled down an opposite lane.
"Stop him! stop!" cried the bookseller, and the officer rushed after
him with almost equal speed. Lane after lane, alley after alley, fled
Philip; dodging, winding, breathless, panting; and lane after lane, and
alley after alley, thickened at his heels the crowd that pursued. The
idle and the curious, and the officious,--ragged boys, ragged men, from
stall and from cellar, from corner and from crossing, joined in that
delicious chase, which runs down young Error till it sinks, too often, at
the door of the gaol or the foot of the gallows. But Philip slackened
not his pace; he began to distance his pursuers. He was now in a street
which they had not yet entered--a quiet street, with few, if any, shops.
Before the threshold of a better kind of public-house, or rather tavern,
to judge by its appearance, lounged two men; and while Philip flew on,
the cry of "Stop him!" had changed as the shout passed to new voices,
into "Stop the thief!"--that cry yet howled in the distance. One of the
loungers seized him: Philip, desperate and ferocious, struck at him with
all his force; but the blow was scarcely felt by that Herculean frame.
"Pish!" said the man, scornfully; "I am no spy; if you run from justice,
I would help you to a sign-post."
Struck by the voice, Philip looked hard at the speaker. It was the voice
of the Accursed Son.
"Save me! you remember me?" said the orphan, faintly. "Ah! I think I
do; poor lad! Follow me-this way!" The stranger turned within the
tavern, passed the hall through a sort of corridor that led into a back
yard which opened upon a nest of courts or passages.
"You are safe for the present; I will take you where you can tell me all
at your ease--See!" As he spoke they emerged into an open street, and
the guide pointed to a row of hackney coaches. "Be quick--get in.
Coachman, drive fast to ---"
Philip did not hear the rest of the direction.
Our story returns to Sidney.
"Nous vous mettrons a couvert,
Repondit le pot de fer
Si quelque matiere dure
Vous menace d'aventure,
Entre deux je passerai,
Et du coup vous sauverai.
. . . . . . . .
Le pot de terre en souffre!"--LA FONTAINE.
["We, replied the Iron Pot, will shield you: should any hard
substance menace you with danger, I'll intervene, and save you
from the shock.
. . . . . . . . . The Earthen Pot was the sufferer!]
"SIDNEY, come here, sir! What have you been at? you have torn your
frill into tatters! How did you do this? Come sir, no lies."
"Indeed, ma'am, it was not my fault. I just put my head out of the
window to see the coach go by, and a nail caught me here."
"Why, you little plague! you have scratched yourself--you are always in
mischief. What business had you to look after the coach?"
"I don't know," said Sidney, hanging his head ruefully. "La, mother!"
cried the youngest of the cousins, a square-built, ruddy, coarse-featured
urchin, about Sidney's age, "La, mother, he never see a coach in the
street when we are at play but he runs arter it."
"After, not arter," said Mr. Roger Morton, taking the pipe from his
"Why do you go after the coaches, Sidney?" said Mrs. Morton; "it is very
naughty; you will be run over some day."
"Yes, ma'am," said Sidney, who during the whole colloquy had been
trembling from bead to foot.
"'Yes ma'am,' and 'no, ma'am:' you have no more manners than a cobbler's
"Don't tease the child, my dear; he is crying," said Mr. Morton, more
authoritatively than usual. "Come here, my man!" and the worthy uncle
took him in his lap and held his glass of brandy-and-water to his lips;
Sidney, too frightened to refuse, sipped hurriedly, keeping his large
eyes fixed on his aunt, as children do when they fear a cuff.
"You spoil the boy more than do your own flesh and blood," said Mrs.
Morton, greatly displeased.
Here Tom, the youngest-born before described, put his mouth to his
mother's ear, and whispered loud enough to be heard by all: "He runs
arter the coach 'cause he thinks his ma may be in it. Who's home-sick, I
should like to know? Ba! Baa!"
The boy pointed his finger over his mother's shoulder, and the other
children burst into a loud giggle.
"Leave the room, all of you,--leave the room!" said Mr. Morton, rising
angrily and stamping his foot.
The children, who were in great awe of their father, huddled and hustled
each other to the door; but Tom, who went last, bold in his mother's
favour, popped his head through the doorway, and cried, "Good-bye, little
A sudden slap in the face from his father changed his chuckle into a very
different kind of music, and a loud indignant sob was heard without for
some moments after the door was closed.
"If that's the way you behave to your children, Mr. Morton, I vow you
sha'n't have any more if I can help it. Don't come near me--don't touch
me!" and Mrs. Morton assumed the resentful air of offended beauty.
"Pshaw!" growled the spouse, and he reseated himself and resumed his
pipe. There was a dead silence. Sidney crouched near his uncle, looking
very pale. Mrs. Morton, who was knitting, knitted away with the excited
energy of nervous irritation.
"Ring the bell, Sidney," said Mr. Morton. The boy obeyed-the parlour-
maid entered. "Take Master Sidney to his room; keep the boys away from
him, and give him a large slice of bread and jam, Martha."
"Jam, indeed!--treacle," said Mrs. Morton.
"Jam, Martha," repeated the uncle, authoritatively. "Treacle!"
reiterated the aunt.
"Jam, I say!"
"Treacle, you hear: and for that matter, Martha has no jam to give!"
The husband had nothing more to say.
"Good night, Sidney; there's a good boy, go and kiss your aunt and make
your bow; and I say, my lad, don't mind those plagues. I'll talk to them
to-morrow, that I will; no one shall be unkind to you in my house."
Sidney muttered something, and went timidly up to Mrs. Morton. His look
so gentle and subdued; his eyes full of tears; his pretty mouth which,
though silent, pleaded so eloquently; his willingness to forgive, and his
wish to be forgiven, might have melted many a heart harder, perhaps, than
Mrs. Morton's. But there reigned what are worse than hardness,--
prejudice and wounded vanity--maternal vanity. His contrast to her own
rough, coarse children grated on her, and set the teeth of her mind on
"There, child, don't tread on my gown: you are so awkward: say your
prayers, and don't throw off the counterpane! I don't like slovenly
Sidney put his finger in his mouth, drooped, and vanished.
"Now, Mrs. M.," said Mr. Morton, abruptly, and knocking out the ashes of
his pipe; "now Mrs. M., one word for all: I have told you that I promised
poor Catherine to be a father to that child, and it goes to my heart to
see him so snubbed. Why you dislike him I can't guess for the life of
me. I never saw a sweeter-tempered child."
"Go on, sir, go on: make your personal reflections on your own lawful
wife. They don't hurt me--oh no, not at all! Sweet-tempered, indeed; I
suppose your own children are not sweet-tempered?"
"That's neither here nor there," said Mr. Morton: "my own children are
such as God made them, and I am very well satisfied."
"Indeed you may be proud of such a family; and to think of the pains I
have taken with them, and how I have saved you in nurses, and the bad
times I have had; and now, to find their noses put out of joint by that
little mischief-making interloper--it is too bad of you, Mr. Morton; you
will break my heart--that you will!"
Mrs. Morton put her handkerchief to her eyes and sobbed. The husband was
moved: he got up and attempted to take her hand. "Indeed, Margaret, I
did not mean to vex you."
"And I who have been such a fa--fai--faithful wi--wi--wife, and brought you
such a deal of mon--mon--money, and always stud--stud--studied your
interests; many's the time when you have been fast asleep that I have sat
up half the night--men--men--mending the house linen; and you have not
been the same man, Roger, since that boy came!"
"Well, well" said the good man, quite overcome, and fairly taking her
round the waist and kissing her; "no words between us; it makes life
quite unpleasant. If it pains you to have Sidney here, I will put him
to some school in the town, where they'll be kind to him. Only, if you
would, Margaret, for my sake--old girl! come, now! there's a darling!--
just be more tender with him. You see he frets so after his mother.
Think how little Tom would fret if he was away from you! Poor little
"La! Mr. Morton, you are such a man!--there's no resisting your ways!
You know how to come over me, don't you?"
And Mrs. Morton smiled benignly, as she escaped from his conjugal arms
and smoothed her cap.
Peace thus restored, Mr. Morton refilled his pipe, and the good lady,
after a pause, resumed, in a very mild, conciliatory tone:
"I'll tell you what it is, Roger, that vexes me with that there child.
He is so deceitful, and he does tell such fibs!"
"Fibs! that is a very bad fault," said Mr. Morton, gravely. "That must
"It was but the other day that I saw him break a pane of glass in the
shop; and when I taxed him with it, he denied it;--and with such a face!
I can't abide storytelling."
"Let me know the next story he tells; I'll cure him," said Mr. Morton,
sternly. "You now how I broke Tom of it. Spare the rod, and spoil the
child. And where I promised to be kind to the boy, of course I did not
mean that I was not to take care of his morals, and see that he grew up
an honest man. Tell truth and shame the devil--that's my motto."
"Spoke like yourself, Roger," said Mrs. Morton, with great animation.
"But you see he has not had the advantage of such a father as you. I
wonder your sister don't write to you. Some people make a great fuss
about their feelings; but out of sight out of mind."
"I hope she is not ill. Poor Catherine! she looked in a very bad way
when she was here," said Morton; and he turned uneasily to the fireplace
Here the servant entered with the supper-tray, and the conversation fell
upon other topics.
Mrs. Roger Morton's charge against Sidney was, alas! too true. He had
acquired, under that roof, a terrible habit of telling stories. He had
never incurred that vice with his mother, because then and there he had
nothing to fear; now, he had everything to fear;--the grim aunt--even the
quiet, kind, cold, austere uncle--the apprentices--the strange servants--
and, oh! more than all, those hardeyed, loud-laughing tormentors, the
boys of his own age! Naturally timid, severity made him actually a
coward; and when the nerves tremble, a lie sounds as surely as, when I
vibrate that wire, the bell at the end of it will ring. Beware of the
man who has been roughly treated as a child.
The day after the conference just narrated, Mr. Morton, who was subject
to erysipelas, had taken a little cooling medicine. He breakfasted,
therefore, later than usual--after the rest of the family; and at this
meal _pour lui soulager_ he ordered the luxury of a muffin. Now it so
chanced that he had only finished half the muffin, and drunk one cup of
tea, when he was called into the shop by a customer of great importance--
a prosy old lady, who always gave her orders with remarkable precision,
and who valued herself on a character for affability, which she
maintained by never buying a penny riband without asking the shopman how
all his family were, and talking news about every other family in the
place. At the time Mr. Morton left the parlour, Sidney and Master Tom
were therein, seated on two stools, and casting up division sums on their
respective slates--a point of education to which Mr. Morton attended with
great care. As soon as his father's back was turned, Master Tom's eyes
wandered from the slate to the muffin, as it leered at him from the slop-
basin. Never did Pythian sibyl, seated above the bubbling spring, utter
more oracular eloquence to her priest, than did that muffin--at least the
parts of it yet extant--utter to the fascinated senses of Master Tom.
First he sighed; then he moved round on his stool; then he got up; then
he peered at the muffin from a respectful distance; then he gradually
approached, and walked round, and round, and round it--his eyes getting
bigger and bigger; then he peeped through the glass-door into the shop,
and saw his father busily engaged with the old lady; then he began to
calculate and philosophise, perhaps his father had done breakfast;
perhaps he would not come back at all; if he came back, he would not miss
one corner of the muffin; and if he did miss it, why should Tom be
supposed to have taken it? As he thus communed with himself, he drew
nearer into the fatal vortex, and at last with a desperate plunge, he
seized the triangular temptation,--
"And ere a man had power to say 'Behold!'
The jaws of Thomas had devoured it up."
Sidney, disturbed from his studies by the agitation of his companion,
witnessed this proceeding with great and conscientious alarm. "O Tom!"
said he, "what will your papa say?"
"Look at that!" said Tom, putting his fist under Sidney's reluctant
nose. "If father misses it, you'll say the cat took it. If you don't--
my eye, what a wapping I'll give you!"
Here Mr. Morton's voice was heard wishing the lady "Good morning!" and
Master Tom, thinking it better to leave the credit of the invention
solely to Sidney, whispered, "Say I'm gone up stairs for my pocket-
hanker," and hastily absconded.
Mr. Morton, already in a very bad humour, partly at the effects of the
cooling medicine, partly at the suspension of his breakfast, stalked into
the parlour. His tea-the second cup already poured out, was cold. He
turned towards the muffin, and missed the lost piece at a glance.
"Who has been at my muffin?" said he, in a voice that seemed to Sidney
like the voice he had always supposed an ogre to possess. "Have you,
"N--n--no, sir; indeed, sir!"
"Then Tom has. Where is he?"
"Gone up stairs for his handkerchief, sir."
"Did he take my muffin? Speak the truth!"
"No, sir; it was the--it was the--the cat, sir!"
"O you wicked, wicked boy!" cried Mrs. Morton, who had followed her
husband into the parlour; "the cat kittened last night, and is locked up
in the coal-cellar!"
"Come here, Master Sidney! No! first go down, Margaret, and see if the
cat is in the cellar: it might have got out, Mrs. M.," said Mr. Morton,
just even in his wrath.
Mrs. Morton went, and there was a dead silence, except indeed in Sidney's
heart, which beat louder than a clock ticks. Mr. Morton, meanwhile, went
to a little cupboard;--while still there, Mrs. Morton returned: the cat
was in the cellar--the key turned on her--in no mood to eat muffins, poor
thing!--she would not even lap her milk! like her mistress, she had had a
very bad time!
"Now come here, sir," said Mr. Morton, withdrawing himself from the
cupboard, with a small horsewhip in his hand, "I will teach you how to
speak the truth in future! Confess that you have told a lie!"
"Yes, sir, it was a lie! Pray--pray forgive me: but Tom made me!"
"What! when poor Tom is up-stairs? worse and worse!" said Mrs. Morton,
lifting up her hands and eyes. "What a viper!"
"For shame, boy,--for shame! Take that--and that--and that--"
Writhing--shrinking, still more terrified than hurt, the poor child
cowered beneath the lash.
"Mamma! mamma!" he cried at last, "Oh, why--why did you leave me?"
At these words Mr. Morton stayed his hand, the whip fell to the ground.
"Yet it is all for the boy's good," he muttered. "There, child, I hope
this is the last time. There, you are not much hurt. Zounds, don't cry
"He will alarm the whole street," said Mrs. Morton; "I never see such a
child! Here, take this parcel to Mrs. Birnie's--you know the house--only
next street, and dry your eyes before you get there. Don't go through
the shop; this way out."
She pushed the child, still sobbing with a vehemence that she could not
comprehend, through the private passage into the street, and returned to
"You are convinced now, Mr. M.?"
"Pshaw! ma'am; don't talk. But, to be sure, that's how I cured Tom of
fibbing.--The tea's as cold as a stone!"
"Le bien nous le faisons: le mal c'est la Fortune.
On a toujours raison, le Destin toujours tort."--LA FONTAINE.
[The Good, we effect ourselves; the Evil is the handiwork of
Fortune. Mortals are always in the right, Destiny always in the
Upon the early morning of the day commemorated by the historical events
of our last chapter, two men were deposited by a branch coach at the inn
of a hamlet about ten miles distant from the town in which Mr. Roger
Morton resided. Though the hamlet was small, the inn was large, for it
was placed close by a huge finger-post that pointed to three great roads:
one led to the town before mentioned; another to the heart of a
manufacturing district; and a third to a populous seaport. The weather
was fine, and the two travellers ordered breakfast to be taken into an
arbour in the garden, as well as the basins and towels necessary for
ablution. The elder of the travellers appeared to be unequivocally
foreign; you would have guessed him at once for a German. He wore, what
was then very uncommon in this country, a loose, brown linen _blouse_,
buttoned to the chin, with a leathern belt, into which were stuck a
German meerschaum and a tobacco-pouch. He had very long flaxen hair,
false or real, that streamed half-way down his back, large light
mustaches, and a rough, sunburnt complexion, which made the fairness of
the hair more remarkable. He wore an enormous pair of green spectacles,
and complained much in broken English of the weakness of his eyes. All
about him, even to the smallest minutiae, indicated the German; not only
the large muscular frame, the broad feet, and vast though well-shaped
hands, but the brooch--evidently purchased of a Jew in some great fair--
stuck ostentatiously and superfluously into his stock; the quaint, droll-
looking carpet-bag, which he refused to trust to the boots; and the
great, massive, dingy ring which he wore on his forefinger. The other
was a slender, remarkably upright and sinewy youth, in a blue frock, over
which was thrown a large cloak, a travelling cap, with a shade that
concealed all of the upper part of his face, except a dark quick eye of
uncommon fire; and a shawl handkerchief, which was equally useful in
concealing the lower part of the countenance. On descending from the
coach, the German with some difficulty made the ostler understand that he
wanted a post-chaise in a quarter of an hour; and then, without entering
the house, he and his friend strolled to the arbour. While the maid-
servant was covering the table with bread, butter, tea, eggs, and a huge
round of beef, the German was busy in washing his hands, and talking in
his national tongue to the young man, who returned no answer. But as
soon as the servant had completed her operations the foreigner turned
round, and observing her eyes fixed on his brooch with much female
admiration, he made one stride to her.
"Der Teufel, my goot Madchen--but you are von var pretty--vat you call
it?" and he gave her, as he spoke, so hearty a smack that the girl was
more flustered than flattered by the courtesy.
"Keep yourself to yourself, sir!" said she, very tartly, for
chambermaids never like to be kissed by a middle-aged gentleman when a
younger one is by: whereupon the German replied by a pinch,--it is
immaterial to state the exact spot to which that delicate caress was
directed. But this last offence was so inexpiable, that the "Madchen"
bounced off with a face of scarlet, and a "Sir, you are no gentleman--
that's what you arn't!" The German thrust his head out of the arbour,
and followed her with a loud laugh; then drawing himself in again, he
said in quite another accent, and in excellent English, "There, Master
Philip, we have got rid of the girl for the rest of the morning, and
that's exactly what I wanted to do--women's wits are confoundedly sharp.
Well, did I not tell you right, we have baffled all the bloodhounds!"
"And here, then, Gawtrey, we are to part," said Philip, mournfully.
"I wish you would think better of it, my boy," returned Mr. Gawtrey,
breaking an egg; "how can you shift for yourself--no kith nor kin, not
even that important machine for giving advice called a friend--no, not a
friend, when I am gone? I foresee how it must end. [D--- it, salt
butter, by Jove!]"
"If I were alone in the world, as I have told you again and again,
perhaps I might pin my fate to yours. But my brother!"
"There it is, always wrong when we act from our feelings. My whole life,
which some day or other I will tell you, proves that. Your brother--bah!
is he not very well off with his own uncle and aunt?--plenty to eat and
drink, I dare say. Come, man, you must be as hungry as a hawk--a slice
of the beef? Let well alone, and shift for yourself. What good can you
do your brother?"
"I don't know, but I must see him; I have sworn it."
"Well, go and see him, and then strike across the country to me. I will
wait a day for you,--there now!"
"But tell me first," said Philip, very earnestly, and fixing his dark
eyes on his companion,--"tell me--yes, I must speak frankly--tell me, you
who would link my fortunes with your own,--tell me, what and who are
Gawtrey looked up.
"What do you suppose?" said he, dryly.
"I fear to suppose anything, lest I wrong you; but the strange place to
which you took me the evening on which you saved me from pursuit, the
persons I met there--"
"Well-dressed, and very civil to you?"
"True! but with a certain wild looseness in their talk that--But I have
no right to judge others by mere appearance. Nor is it this that has
made me anxious, and, if you will, suspicious."
"Your dress-your disguise."
"Disguised yourself!--ha! ha! Behold the world's charity! You fly from
some danger, some pursuit, disguised--you, who hold yourself guiltless--I
do the same, and you hold me criminal--a robber, perhaps-a murderer it
may be! I will tell you what I am: I am a son of Fortune, an adventurer;
I live by my wits--so do poets and lawyers, and all the charlatans of the
world; I am a charlatan--a chameleon. 'Each man in his time plays many
parts:' I play any part in which Money, the Arch-Manager, promises me a
livelihood. Are you satisfied?"
"Perhaps," answered the boy, sadly, "when I know more of the world, I
shall understand you better. Strange--strange, that you, out of all men,
should have been kind to me in distress!"
"Not at all strange. Ask the beggar whom he gets the most pence from--
the fine lady in her carriage--the beau smelling of eau de Cologne?
Pish! the people nearest to being beggars themselves keep the beggar
alive. You were friendless, and the man who has all earth for a foe
befriends you. It is the way of the world, sir,--the way of the world.
Come, eat while you can; this time next year you may have no beef to your
Thus masticating and moralising at the same time, Mr. Gawtrey at last
finished a breakfast that would have astonished the whole Corporation of
London; and then taking out a large old watch, with an enamelled back--
doubtless more German than its master--he said, as he lifted up his
carpet-bag, "I must be off--tempos fugit, and I must arrive just in time
to nick the vessels. Shall get to Ostend, or Rotterdam, safe and snug;
thence to Paris. How my pretty Fan will have grown! Ah, you don't know
Fan--make you a nice little wife one of these days! Cheer up, man, we
shall meet again. Be sure of it; and hark ye, that strange place, as you
call it, where I took you,--you can find it again?"
"Here, then, is the address. Whenever you want me, go there, ask to see
Mr. Gregg--old fellow with one eye, you recollect--shake him by the hand
just so--you catch the trick--practise it again. No, the forefinger
thus, that's right. Say 'blater,' no more--'blater;'--stay, I will write
it down for you; and then ask for William Gawtrey's direction. He will
give it you at once, without questions--these signs understood; and if
you want money for your passage, he will give you that also, with advice
into the bargain. Always a warm welcome with me. And so take care of
yourself, and good-bye. I see my chaise is at the door."
As he spoke, Gawtrey shook the young man's hand with cordial vigour, and
strode off to his chaise, muttering, "Money well laid out--fee money; I
shall have him, and, Gad, I like him,--poor devil!"
"He is a cunning coachman that can turn well in a narrow room."
Old Play: from Lamb's _Specimens_.
"Here are two pilgrims,
And neither knows one footstep of the way."
HEYWOOD's Duchess of Suffolk, Ibid.
The chaise had scarce driven from the inn-door when a coach stopped to
change horses on its last stage to the town to which Philip was, bound.
The name of the destination, in gilt letters on the coach-door, caught
his eye, as he walked from the arbour towards the road, and in a few
moments he was seated as the fourth passenger in the "Nelson Slow and
Sure." From under the shade of his cap, he darted that quick, quiet
glance, which a man who hunts, or is hunted,--in other words, who
observes, or shuns,--soon acquires. At his left hand sat a young woman
in a cloak lined with yellow; she had taken off her bonnet and pinned it
to the roof of the coach, and looked fresh and pretty in a silk
handkerchief, which she had tied round her head, probably to serve as a
nightcap during the drowsy length of the journey. Opposite to her was a
middle-aged man of pale complexion, and a grave, pensive, studious
expression of face; and vis-a-vis to Philip sat an overdressed, showy,
very good-looking man of about two or three and forty. This gentleman
wore auburn whiskers, which met at the chin; a foraging cap, with a gold
tassel; a velvet waistcoat, across which, in various folds, hung a golden
chain, at the end of which dangled an eye-glass, that from time to time
he screwed, as it were, into his right eye; he wore, also, a blue silk
stock, with a frill much crumpled, dirty kid gloves, and over his lap lay
a cloak lined with red silk. As Philip glanced towards this personage,
the latter fixed his glass also at him, with a scrutinising stare, which
drew fire from Philip's dark eyes. The man dropped his glass, and said
in a half provincial, half haw-haw tone, like the stage exquisite of a
minor theatre, "Pawdon me, and split legs!" therewith stretching himself
between Philip's limbs in the approved fashion of inside passengers. A
young man in a white great-coat now came to the door with a glass of warm
sherry and water.
"You must take this--you must now; it will keep the cold out," (the day
was broiling,) said he to the young woman.
"Gracious me!" was the answer, "but I never drink wine of a morning,
James; it will get into my head."
"To oblige me!" said the young man, sentimentally; whereupon the young
lady took the glass, and looking very kindly at her Ganymede, said, "Your
health!" and sipped, and made a wry face--then she looked at the
passengers, tittered, and said, "I can't bear wine!" and so, very slowly
and daintily, sipped up the rest. A silent and expressive squeeze of the
hand, on returning the glass, rewarded the young man, and proved the
salutary effect of his prescription.
"All right!" cried the coachman: the ostler twitched the cloths from the
leaders, and away went the "Nelson Slow and Sure," with as much
pretension as if it had meant to do the ten miles in an hour. The pale
gentleman took from his waistcoat pocket a little box containing gum-
arabic, and having inserted a couple of morsels between his lips, he next
drew forth a little thin volume, which from the manner the lines were
printed was evidently devoted to poetry.
The smart gentleman, who since the episode of the sherry and water had
kept his glass fixed upon the young lady, now said, with a genteel smirk:
"That young gentleman seems very auttentive, miss!"
"He is a very good young man, sir, and takes great care of me."
"Not your brother, miss,--eh?"
"La, sir--why not?"
"No faumily likeness--noice-looking fellow enough! But your oiyes and
Miss turned away her head, and uttered with pert vivacity: "I never likes
compliments, sir! But the young man is not my brother."
"A sweetheart,--eh? Oh fie, miss! Haw! haw!" and the auburn-whiskered
Adonis poked Philip in the knee with one hand, and the pale gentleman in
the ribs with the other. The latter looked up, and reproachfully; the
former drew in his legs, and uttered an angry ejaculation.
"Well, sir, there is no harm in a sweetheart, is there?" "None in the
least, ma'am; I advoise you to double the dose. We often hear of two
strings to a bow. Daun't you think it would be noicer to have two beaux
to your string?" As he thus wittily expressed himself, the gentleman
took off his cap, and thrust his fingers through a very curling and
comely head of hair; the young lady looked at him with evident coquetry,
and said, "How you do run on, you gentlemen!"
"I may well run on, miss, as long as I run aufter you," was the gallant
Here the pale gentleman, evidently annoyed by being talked across, shut
his book up, and looked round. His eye rested on Philip, who, whether
from the heat of the day or from the forgetfulness of thought, had pushed
his cap from his brows; and the gentleman, after staring at him for a few
moments with great earnestness, sighed so heavily that it attracted the
notice of all the passengers.
"Are you unwell, sir?" asked the young lady, compassionately.
"A little pain in my side, nothing more!"
"Chaunge places with me, sir," cried the Lothario, officiously. "Now
do!" The pale gentleman, after a short hesitation, and a bashful excuse,
accepted the proposal. In a few moments the young lady and the beau were
in deep and whispered conversation, their heads turned towards the
window. The pale gentleman continued to gaze at Philip, till the latter,
perceiving the notice he excited, coloured, and replaced his cap over his
"Are you going to N----? asked the gentleman, in a gentle, timid voice.
"Is it the first time you have ever been there?"
"Sir!" returned Philip, in a voice that spoke surprise and distaste at
his neighbour's curiosity.
"Forgive me," said the gentleman, shrinking back; "but you remind me of-
of--a family I once knew in the town. Do you know--the--the Mortons?"
One in Philip's situation, with, as he supposed, the officers of justice
in his track (for Gawtrey, for reasons of his own, rather encouraged than
allayed his fears), might well be suspicious. He replied therefore
shortly, "I am quite a stranger to the town," and ensconced himself in
the corner, as if to take a nap. Alas! that answer was one of the many
obstacles he was doomed to build up between himself and a fairer fate.
The gentleman sighed again, and never spoke more to the end of the
journey. When the coach halted at the inn,--the same inn which had
before given its shelter to poor Catherine,--the young man in the white
coat opened the door, and offered his arm to the young lady.
"Do you make any stay here, sir?" said she to the beau, as she unpinned
her bonnet from the roof.
"Perhaps so; I am waiting for my phe-a-ton, which my faellow is to bring
down,--tauking a little tour."
"We shall be very happy to see you, sir!" said the young lady, on whom
the phe-a-ton completed the effect produced by the gentleman's previous
gallantries; and with that she dropped into his hand a very neat card, on
which was printed, "Wavers and Snow, Staymakers, High Street."
The beau put the card gracefully into his pocket-leaped from the coach-
nudged aside his rival of the white coat, and offered his arm to the
lady, who leaned on it affectionately as she descended.
"This gentleman has been so perlite to me, James," said she. James
touched his hat; the beau clapped him on the shoulder,--"Ah! you are not
a hauppy man,--are you? Oh no, not at all a hauppy man!--Good day to
you! Guard, that hat-box is mine!"
While Philip was paying the coachman, the beau passed, and whispered
"Recollect old Gregg--anything on the lay here--don't spoil my sport if
we meet!" and bustled off into the inn, whistling "God save the king!"
Philip started, then tried to bring to mind the faces which he had seen
at the "strange place," and thought he recalled the features of his
fellow-traveller. However, he did not seek to renew the acquaintance,
but inquired the way to Mr. Morton's house, and thither he now proceeded.
He was directed, as a short cut, down one of those narrow passages at the
entrance of which posts are placed as an indication that they are
appropriated solely to foot-passengers. A dead white wall, which
screened the garden of the physician of the place, ran on one side; a
high fence to a nursery-ground was on the other; the passage was lonely,
for it was now the hour when few persons walk either for business or
pleasure in a provincial town, and no sound was heard save the fall of
his own step on the broad flagstones. At the end of the passage in the
main street to which it led, he saw already the large, smart, showy shop,
with the hot sum shining full on the gilt letters that conveyed to the
eyes of the customer the respectable name of "Morton,"--when suddenly the
silence was broken by choked and painful sobs. He turned, and beneath a
_compo portico_, jutting from the wall, which adorned the physician's door,
he saw a child seated on the stone steps weeping bitterly--a thrill shot
through Philip's heart! Did he recognise, disguised as it was by pain
and sorrow, that voice? He paused, and laid his hand on the child's
shoulder: "Oh, don't--don't--pray don't--I am going, I am indeed:" cried
the child, quailing, and still keeping his hands clasped before his face.
"Sidney!" said Philip. The boy started to his feet, uttered a cry of
rapturous joy, and fell upon his brother's breast.
"O Philip!--dear, dear Philip! you are come to take me away back to my
own--own mamma; I will be so good, I will never tease her again,--never,
never! I have been so wretched!"
"Sit down, and tell me what they have done to you," said Philip, checking
the rising heart that heaved at his mother's name.
So, there they sat, on the cold stone under the stranger's porch, these
two orphans: Philip's arms round his brother's waist, Sidney leaning on
his shoulder, and imparting to him--perhaps with pardonable exaggeration,
all the sufferings he had gone through; and, when he came to that
morning's chastisement, and showed the wale across the little hands which
he had vainly held up in supplication, Philip's passion shook him from
limb to limb. His impulse was to march straight into Mr. Morton's shop
and gripe him by the throat; and the indignation he betrayed encouraged
Sidney to colour yet more highly the tale of his wrongs and pain.
When he had done, and clinging tightly to his brother's broad chest,
"But never mind, Philip; now we will go home to mamma."
"Listen to me, my dear brother. We cannot go back to our mother. I will
tell you why, later. We are alone in the world-we two! If you will come
with me--God help you!--for you will have many hardships: we shall have
to work and drudge, and you may be cold and hungry, and tired, very
often, Sidney,--very, very often! But you know that, long ago, when I
was so passionate, I never was wilfully unkind to you; and I declare now,
that I would bite out my tongue rather than it should say a harsh word to
you. That is all I can promise. Think well. Will you never miss all
the comforts you have now?"
"Comforts!" repeated Sidney, ruefully, and looking at the wale over his
hands. "Oh! let--let--let me go with you, I shall die if I stay here.
I shall indeed--indeed!"
"Hush!" said Philip; for at that moment a step was heard, and the pale
gentleman walked slowly down the passage, and started, and turned his
head wistfully as he looked at the boys.
When he was gone. Philip rose.
"It is settled, then," said he, firmly. "Come with me at once. You
shall return to their roof no more. Come, quick: we shall have many
miles to go to-night."
Yet careless what he brings; his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn;
And having dropp'd the expected bag, pass on----
To him indifferent whether grief or joy."
COWPER: Description of the Postman.
The pale gentleman entered Mr. Morton's shop; and, looking round him,
spied the worthy trader showing shawls to a young lady just married. He
seated himself on a stool, and said to the bowing foreman--
"I will wait till Mr. Morton is disengaged."
The young lady having closely examined seven shawls, and declared they
were beautiful, said, "she would think of it," and walked away. Mr.
Morton now approached the stranger.
"Mr. Morton," said the pale gentleman; "you are very little altered. You
do not recollect me?"
"Bless me, Mr. Spencer! is it really you? Well, what a time since we
met! I am very glad to see you. And what brings you to N----?
"Yes, business. Let us go within?"
Mr. Morton led the way to the parlour, where Master Tom, reperched on the
stool, was rapidly digesting the plundered muffin. Mr. Morton dismissed
him to play, and the pale gentleman took a chair.
"Mr. Morton," said he, glancing over his dress, "you see I am in
mourning. It is for your sister. I never got the better of that early
"My sister! Good Heavens!" said Mr. Morton, turning very pale; "is she
dead? Poor Catherine!--and I not know of it! When did she die?"
"Not many days since; and--and--" said Mr. Spencer, greatly affected, "I
fear in want. I had been abroad for some months: on my return last week,
looking over the newspapers (for I always order them to be filed), I read
the short account of her lawsuit against Mr. Beaufort, some time back.
I resolved to find her out. I did so through the solicitor she employed:
it was too late; I arrived at her lodgings two days after her--her
burial. I then determined to visit poor Catherine's brother, and learn
if anything could be done for the children she had left behind."
"She left but two. Philip, the elder, is very comfortably placed at
R----; the younger has his home with me; and Mrs. Morton is a moth--that
is to say, she takes great pains with him. Ehem! And my poor--poor
"Is he like his mother?"
"Very much, when she was young--poor dear Catherine!"
"What age is he?"
"About ten, perhaps; I don't know exactly; much younger than the other.
And so she's dead!"
"Mr. Morton, I am an old bachelor" (here a sickly smile crossed Mr.
Spencer's face); "a small portion of my fortune is settled, it is true,
on my relations; but the rest is mine, and I live within my income. The
elder of these boys is probably old enough to begin to take care of
himself. But, the younger--perhaps you have a family of your own, and
can spare him!"
Mr. Morton hesitated, and twitched up his trousers. "Why," said he,
"this is very kind in you. I don't know--we'll see. The boy is out now;
come and dine with us at two--pot-luck. Well, so she is no more!
Heigho! Meanwhile, I'll talk it over with Mrs. M."
"I will be with you," said Mr. Spencer, rising.
"Ah!" sighed Mr. Morton, "if Catherine had but married you she would have
been a happy woman."
"I would have tried to make her so," said Mr. Spencer, as he turned away
his face and took his departure.
Two o'clock came; but no Sidney. They had sent to the place whither he
had been despatched; he had never arrived there. Mr. Morton grew
alarmed; and, when Mr. Spencer came to dinner, his host was gone in
search of the truant. He did not return till three. Doomed that day to
be belated both at breakfast and dinner, this decided him to part with
Sidney whenever he should be found. Mrs. Morton was persuaded that the
child only sulked, and would come back fast enough when he was hungry.
Mr. Spencer tried to believe her, and ate his mutton, which was burnt to
a cinder; but when five, six, seven o'clock came, and the boy was still
missing,--even Mrs. Morton agreed that it was high time to institute a
regular search. The whole family set off different ways. It was ten
o'clock before they were reunited; and then all the news picked up was,
that a boy, answering Sidney's description, had been seen with a young
man in three several parts of the town; the last time at the outskirts,
on the high road towards the manufacturing districts. These tidings so
far relieved Mr. Morton's mind that he dismissed the chilling fear that
had crept there,--that Sidney might have drowned himself. Boys will
drown themselves sometimes! The description of the young man coincided
so remarkably with the fellow-passenger of Mr. Spencer, that he did not
doubt it was the same; the more so when he recollected having seen him
with a fair-haired child under the portico; and yet more, when he
recalled the likeness to Catherine that had struck him in the coach, and
caused the inquiry that had roused Philip's suspicion. The mystery was
thus made clear--Sidney had fled with his brother. Nothing more,
however, could be done that night. The next morning, active measures
should be devised; and when the morning came, the mail brought to Mr.
Morton the two following letters. The first was from Arthur Beaufort.
"SIR,--I have been prevented by severe illness from writing to yon
before. I can now scarcely hold a pen; but the instant my health is
recovered I shall be with you at N ---, on her deathbed, the mother of
the boy under your charge, Sidney Morton, committed him solemnly to me.
I make his fortunes my care, and shall hasten to claim him at your kindly
hands. But the elder son,--this poor Philip, who has suffered so
unjustly,--for our lawyer has seen Mr. Plaskwith, and heard the whole
story--what has become of him? All our inquiries have failed to track
him. Alas, I was too ill to institute them myself while it was yet time.
Perhaps he may have sought shelter, with you, his uncle; if so, assure
him that he is in no danger from the pursuit of the law,--that his
innocence is fully recognised; and that my father and myself implore him
to accept our affection. I can write no more now; but in a few days I
shall hope to see you.
"I am, sir, &c.,
"Berkely Square. "
The second letter was from Mr. Plaskwith, and ran thus:
"DEAR MORTON,--Something very awkward has happened,--not my fault, and
very unpleasant for me. Your relation, Philip, as I wrote you word, was
a painstaking lad, though odd and bad mannered,--for want, perhaps, poor
boy! of being taught better, and Mrs. P. is, you know, a very genteel
woman--women go too much by manners--so she never took much to him.
However, to the point, as the French emperor used to say: one evening he
asked me for money for his mother, who, he said, was ill, in a very
insolent way: I may say threatening. It was in my own shop, and before
Plimmins and Mrs. P.; I was forced to answer with dignified rebuke, and
left the shop. When I returned, he was gone, and some shillings-
fourteen, I think, and three sovereigns--evidently from the till,
scattered on the floor. Mrs. P. and Mr. Plimmins were very much
frightened; thought it was clear I was robbed, and that we were to be
murdered. Plimmins slept below that night, and we borrowed butcher
Johnson's dog. Nothing happened. I did not think I was robbed; because
the money, when we came to calculate, was all right. I know human
nature. He had thought to take it, but repented--quite clear. However,
I was naturally very angry, thought he'd comeback again--meant to reprove
him properly--waited several days--heard nothing of him--grew uneasy--
would not attend longer to Mrs. P.; for, as Napoleon Buonaparte observed,
'women are well in their way, not in our ours.' Made Plimmins go with me
to town--hired a Bow Street runner to track him out--cost me L1. 1s, and
two glasses of brandy and water. Poor Mrs. Morton was just buried--quite
shocked! Suddenly saw the boy in the streets. Plimmins rushed forward
in the kindest way--was knocked down--hurt his arm--paid 2s. 6d. for
lotion. Philip ran off, we ran after him--could not find him. Forced to
return home. Next day, a lawyer from a Mr. Beaufort--Mr. George
Blackwell, a gentlemanlike man called. Mr. Beaufort will do anything for
him in reason. Is there anything more I can do? I really am very uneasy
about the lad, and Mrs. P. and I have a tiff about it: but that's
nothing--thought I had best write to you for instructions.
"P. S.--Just open my letter to say, Bow Street officer just been here--
has found out that the boy has been seen with a very suspicious
character: they think he has left London. Bow Street officer wants to go
after him--very expensive: so now you can decide."
Mr. Spencer scarcely listened to Mr. Plaskwith's letter, but of Arthur's
he felt jealous. He would fain have been the only protector to
Catherine's children; but he was the last man fitted to head the search,
now so necessary to prosecute with equal tact and energy.
A soft-hearted, soft-headed man, a confirmed valtudinarian, a day-
dreamer, who had wasted away his life in dawdling and maundering over
Simple Poetry, and sighing over his unhappy attachment; no child, no
babe, was more thoroughly helpless than Mr. Spencer.
The task of investigation devolved, therefore, on Mr. Morton, and he went
about it in a regular, plain, straightforward way. Hand-bills were
circulated, constables employed, and a lawyer, accompanied by Mr.
Spencer, despatched to the manufacturing districts: towards which the
orphans had been seen to direct their path.
"Give the gentle South
Yet leave to court these sails."
BEAUMONT AND FLLTCHER: Beggar's Bush.
"Cut your cloth, sir,
According to your calling."--Ibid.
Meanwhile the brothers were far away, and He who feeds the young ravens
made their paths pleasant to their feet. Philip had broken to Sidney the
sad news of their mother's death, and Sidney had wept with bitter
passion. But children,--what can they know of death? Their tears over
graves dry sooner than the dews. It is melancholy to compare the depth,
the endurance, the far-sighted, anxious, prayerful love of a parent, with
the inconsiderate, frail, and evanescent affection of the infant, whose
eyes the hues of the butterfly yet dazzle with delight. It was the night
of their flight, and in the open air, when Philip (his arms round
Sidney's waist) told his brother-orphan that they were motherless. And
the air was balmy, the skies filled with the effulgent presence of the
August moon; the cornfields stretched round them wide and far, and not a
leaf trembled on the beech-tree beneath which they had sought shelter.
It seemed as if Nature herself smiled pityingly on their young sorrow,
and said to them, "Grieve not for the dead: I, who live for ever, I will
be your mother!"
They crept, as the night deepened, into the warmer sleeping-place
afforded by stacks of hay, mown that summer and still fragrant. And the
next morning the birds woke them betimes, to feel that Liberty, at least,
was with them, and to wander with her at will.
Who in his boyhood has not felt the delight of freedom and adventure?
to have the world of woods and sward before him--to escape restriction--
to lean, for the first time, on his own resources--to rejoice in the wild
but manly luxury of independence--to act the Crusoe--and to fancy a
Friday in every footprint--an island of his own in every field? Yes, in
spite of their desolation, their loss, of the melancholy past, of the
friendless future, the orphans were happy--happy in their youth--their
freedom--their love--their wanderings in the delicious air of the
glorious August. Sometimes they came upon knots of reapers lingering in
the shade of the hedge-rows over their noonday meal; and, grown sociable
by travel, and bold by safety, they joined and partook of the rude fare
with the zest of fatigue and youth. Sometimes, too, at night, they saw,
gleam afar and red by the woodside, the fires of gipsy tents. But these,
with the superstition derived from old nursery-tales, they scrupulously
shunned, eying them with a mysterious awe! What heavenly twilights
belong to that golden month!--the air so lucidly serene, as the purple of
the clouds fades gradually away, and up soars, broad, round, intense, and
luminous, the full moon which belongs to the joyous season! The fields
then are greener than in the heats of July and June,--they have got back
the luxury of a second spring. And still, beside the paths of the
travellers, lingered on the hedges the clustering honeysuckle--the
convolvulus glittered in the tangles of the brake--the hardy heathflower
smiled on the green waste.
And ever, at evening, they came, field after field, upon those circles
which recall to children so many charmed legends, and are fresh and
frequent in that month--the Fairy Rings! They thought, poor boys! that
it was a good omen, and half fancied that the Fairies protected them, as
in the old time they had often protected the desolate and outcast.
They avoided the main roads, and all towns, with suspicious care. But
sometimes they paused, for food and rest, at the obscure hostel of some
scattered hamlet: though, more often, they loved to spread the simple
food they purchased by the way under some thick, tree, or beside a stream
through whose limpid waters they could watch the trout glide and play.
And they often preferred the chance shelter of a haystack, or a shed, to
the less romantic repose offered by the small inns they alone dared to
enter. They went in this much by the face and voice of the host or
hostess. Once only Philip had entered a town, on the second day of their
flight, and that solely for the purchase of ruder clothes, and a change
of linen for Sidney, with some articles and implements of use necessary
in their present course of shift and welcome hardship. A wise
precaution; for, thus clad, they escaped suspicion.
So journeying, they consumed several days; and, having taken a direction
quite opposite to that which led to the manufacturing districts, whither
pursuit had been directed, they were now in the centre of another county
--in the neighbourhood of one of the most considerable towns of England;
and here Philip began to think their wanderings ought to cease, and it
was time to settle on some definite course of life. He had carefully
hoarded about his person, and most thriftily managed, the little fortune
bequeathed by his mother. But Philip looked on this capital as a deposit
sacred to Sidney; it was not to be spent, but kept and augmented--the
nucleus for future wealth. Within the last few weeks his character was
greatly ripened, and his powers of thought enlarged. He was no more a
boy,--he was a man: he had another life to take care of. He resolved,
then, to enter the town they were approaching, and to seek for some
situation by which he might maintain both. Sidney was very loath to
abandon their present roving life; but he allowed that the warm weather
could not always last, and that in winter the fields would be less
pleasant. He, therefore, with a sigh, yielded to his brother's
They entered the fair and busy town of one day at noon; and, after
finding a small lodging, at which he deposited Sidney, who was fatigued
with their day's walk, Philip sallied forth alone.
After his long rambling, Philip was pleased and struck with the broad
bustling streets, the gay shops--the evidences of opulence and trade. He
thought it hard if he could not find there a market for the health and
heart of sixteen. He strolled slowly and alone along the streets, till
his attention was caught by a small corner shop, in the window of which
was placed a board, bearing this inscription:
"OFFICE FOR EMPLOYMENT.--RECIPROCAL ADVANTAGE.
"Mr. John Clump's bureau open every day, from ten till four. Clerks,
servants, labourers, &c., provided with suitable situations. Terms
moderate. N.B.--The oldest established office in the town.
"Wanted, a good cook. An under gardener."
What he sought was here! Philip entered, and saw a short fat man with
spectacles, seated before a desk, poring upon the well-filled leaves of a
"Sir," said Philip, "I wish for a situation. I don't care what."
"Half-a-crown for entry, if you please. That's right. Now for
particulars. Hum!--you don't look like a servant!"
"No; I wish for any place where my education can be of use. I can read
and write; I know Latin and French; I can draw; I know arithmetic and
"Very well; very genteel young man--prepossessing appearance (that's a
fudge!), highly educated; usher in a school, eh?"
"What you like."
"I have none."
"Eh!--none?" and Mr. Clump fixed his spectacles full upon Philip.
Philip was prepared for the question, and had the sense to perceive that
a frank reply was his best policy. "The fact is," said he boldly, "I was
well brought up; my father died; I was to be bound apprentice to a trade
I disliked; I left it, and have now no friends."
"If I can help you, I will," said Mr. Clump, coldly. "Can't promise
much. If you were a labourer, character might not matter; but educated
young men must have a character. Hands always more useful than head.
Education no avail nowadays; common, quite common. Call again on
Somewhat disappointed and chilled, Philip turned from the bureau; but he
had a strong confidence in his own resources, and recovered his spirits
as he mingled with the throng. He passed, at length, by a livery-stable,
and paused, from old associations, as he saw a groom in the mews
attempting to manage a young, hot horse, evidently unbroken. The master
of the stables, in a green short jacket and top-boots, with a long whip
in his hand, was standing by, with one or two men who looked like
"Come off, clumsy! you can't manage that I ere fine hanimal," cried the
liveryman. "Ah! he's a lamb, sir, if he were backed properly. But I
has not a man in the yard as can ride since Will died. Come off, I say,
But to come off, without being thrown off, was more easily said than
done. The horse was now plunging as if Juno had sent her gadfly to him;
and Philip, interested and excited, came nearer and nearer, till he stood
by the side of the horse-dealers. The other ostlers ran to the help of
their comrade, who at last, with white lips and shaking knees, found