Part 1 out of 8
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J. FENIMORE COOPER
It is not improbable that some of those who read this book, may feel
a wish to know in what manner I became possessed of the manuscript.
Such a desire is too just and natural to be thwarted, and the tale
shall be told as briefly as possible.
During the summer of 1828, while travelling among those valleys of
Switzerland which lie between the two great ranges of the Alps, and
in which both the Rhone and the Rhine take their rise, I had passed
from the sources of the latter to those of the former river, and had
reached that basin in the mountains that is so celebrated for
containing the glacier of the Rhone, when chance gave me one of
those rare moments of sublimity and solitude, which are the more
precious in the other hemisphere from their infrequency. On every
side the view was bounded by high and ragged mountains, their peaks
glittering near the sun, while directly before me, and on a level
with the eye, lay that miraculous frozen sea, out of whose drippings
the Rhone starts a foaming river, to glance away to the distant
Mediterranean. For the first time, during a pilgrimage of years, I
felt alone with nature in Europe. Alas! the enjoyment, as all such
enjoyments necessarily are amid the throngs of the old world, was
short and treacherous. A party came round the angle of a rock, along
the narrow bridle-path, in single file; two ladies on horseback,
followed by as many gentlemen on foot, and preceded by the usual
guide. It was but small courtesy to rise and salute the dove-like
eyes and blooming cheeks of the former, as they passed. They were
English, and the gentlemen appeared to recognize me as a countryman.
One of the latter stopped, and politely inquired if the passage of
the Furca was obstructed by snow. He was told not, and in return for
the information said that I would find the Grimsel a little
ticklish; "but," he added, smiling, "the ladies succeeded in
crossing, and you will scarcely hesitate." I thought I might get
over a difficulty that his fair companions had conquered. He then
told me Sir Herbert Taylor was made adjutant-general, and wished me
I sat reflecting on the character, hopes, pursuits, and interests of
man, for an hour, concluding that the stranger was a soldier, who
let some of the ordinary workings of his thoughts overflow in this
brief and casual interview. To resume my solitary journey, cross the
Rhone, and toil my way up the rugged side of the Grimsel, consumed
two more hours, and glad was I to come in view of the little chill-
looking sheet of water on its summit, which is called the Lake of
the Dead. The path was filled with snow, at a most critical point,
where, indeed, a misplaced footstep might betray the incautious to
their destruction. A large party on the other side appeared fully
aware of the difficulty, for it had halted, and was in earnest
discussion with the guide, touching the practicability of passing.
It was decided to attempt the enterprise. First came a female of one
of the sweetest, serenest countenances I had ever seen. She, too,
was English; and though she trembled, and blushed, and laughed at
herself, she came on with spirit, and would have reached my side in
safety, had not an unlucky stone turned beneath a foot that was much
too pretty for those wild hills. I sprang forward, and was so happy
as to save her from destruction. She felt the extent of the
obligation, and expressed her thanks modestly but with fervor. In a
minute we were joined by her husband, who grasped my hand with warm
feeling, or rather with the emotion one ought to feel who had
witnessed the risk he had just run of losing an angel. The lady
seemed satisfied at leaving us together.
"You are an Englishman?" said the stranger.
"An American! This is singular--will you pardon a question?--You
have more than saved my life--you have probably saved my reason--
will you pardon a question?--Can money serve you?"
I smiled, and told him, odd as it might appear to him, that though
an American, I was a gentleman. He appeared embarrassed, and his
fine face worked, until I began to pity him, for it was evident he
wished to show me in some way, how much he felt he was my debtor,
and yet he did not know exactly what to propose.
"We may meet again," I said, squeezing his hand.
"Will you receive my card?"
He put "Viscount Householder" into my hand, and in return I gave him
my own humble appellation.
He looked from the card to me, and from me to the card, and some
agreeable idea appeared to flash upon his mind.
"Shall you visit Geneva this summer?" he asked, earnestly.
"Within a month."
"Hotel de l'Ecu."
"You shall hear from me. Adieu."
We parted, he, his lovely wife, and his guides descending to the
Rhone, while I pursued my way to the Hospice of the Grimsel. Within
the month I received a large packet at l'Ecu. It contained a
valuable diamond ring, with a request that I would wear it, as a
memorial of Lady Householder, and a fairly written manuscript. The
following short note explained the wishes of the writer:
"Providence brought us together for more purposes than were at first
apparent. I have long hesitated about publishing the accompanying
narrative, for in England there is a disposition to cavil at
extraordinary facts, but the distance of America from my place of
residence will completely save me from ridicule. The world must have
the truth, and I see no better means than by resorting to your
agency. All I ask is, that you will have the book fairly printed,
and that you will send one copy to my address, Householder Hall,
Dorsetshire, Eng., and another to Captain Noah Poke, Stonington,
Conn., in your own country. My Anna prays for you, and is ever your
friend. Do not forget us.
"Yours, most faithfully,"
I have rigidly complied with this request, and having sent the two
copies according to direction, the rest of the edition is at the
disposal of any one who may feel an inclination to pay for it. In
return for the copy sent to Stonington, I received the following
"ON BOARD THE DERBY AND DOLLY,
"STONNIN'TUN, April 1st, 1835.
"AUTHOR OF THE SPY, ESQUIRE:
"Dear Sir:--Your favor is come to hand, and found me in good health,
as I hope these few lines will have the same advantage with you. I
have read the book, and must say there is some truth in it, which, I
suppose, is as much as befalls any book, the Bible, the Almanac, and
the State Laws excepted. I remember Sir John well, and shall gainsay
nothing he testifies to, for the reason that friends should not
contradict each other. I was also acquainted with the four Monikins
he speaks of, though I knew them by different names. Miss Poke says
she wonders if it's all true, which I wunt tell her, seeing that a
little unsartainty makes a woman rational. As to my navigating
without geometry, thats a matter that wasn't worth booking, for it's
no curiosity in these parts, bating a look at the compass once or
twice a day, and so I take my leave of you, with offers to do any
commission for you among the Sealing Islands, for which I sail to-
morrow, wind and weather permitting.
"Yours to sarve, NOAH POKE."
"To the Author of THE SPY, Esquire,
---town,------county, York state.
"P. S.--I always told Sir John to steer clear of too much
journalizing, but he did nothing but write, night and day, for a
week; and as you brew, so you must bake. The wind has chopped, and
we shall take our anchor this tide; so no more at present.
"N. B.--Sir John is a little out about my eating the monkey, which I
did, four years before I fell in with him, down on the Spanish Main.
It was not bad food to the taste, but was wonderful narvous to the
eye. I r'ally thought I had got hold of Miss Poke's youngest born."
THE AUTHOR'S PEDIGREE,--ALSO THAT OF HIS FATHER.
The philosopher who broaches a new theory is bound to furnish, at
least, some elementary proofs of the reasonableness of his
positions, and the historian who ventures to record marvels that
have hitherto been hid from human knowledge, owes it to a decent
regard to the opinions of others, to produce some credible testimony
in favor of his veracity. I am peculiarly placed in regard to these
two great essentials having little more than its plausibility to
offer in favor of my philosophy, and no other witness than myself to
establish the important facts that are now about to be laid before
the reading world for the first time. In this dilemma, I fully feel
the weight of responsibility under which I stand; for there are
truths of so little apparent probability as to appear fictitious,
and fictions so like the truth that the ordinary observer is very
apt to affirm that he was an eye-witness to their existence: two
facts that all our historians would do well to bear in mind, since a
knowledge of the circumstances might spare them the mortification of
having testimony that cost a deal of trouble, discredited in the one
case, and save a vast deal of painful and unnecessary labor, in the
other. Thrown upon myself, therefore, for what the French call les
pieces justificatives of my theories, as well as of my facts, I see
no better way to prepare the reader to believe me, than by giving an
unvarnished the result of the orange-woman's application; for had my
worthy ancestor been subjected to the happy accidents and generous
caprices of voluntary charity, it is more than probable I should be
driven to throw a veil over those important years of his life that
were notoriously passed in the work-house, but which, in consequence
of that occurrence, are now easily authenticated by valid minutes
and documentary evidence. Thus it is that there exists no void in
the annals of our family, even that period which is usually
remembered through gossiping and idle tales in the lives of most
men, being matter of legal record in that of my progenitor, and so
continued to be down to the day of his presumed majority, since he
was indebted to a careful master the moment the parish could with
any legality, putting decency quite out of the question, get rid of
him. I ought to have said, that the orange-woman, taking a hint from
the sign of a butcher opposite to whose door my ancestor was found,
had very cleverly given him the name of Thomas Goldencalf.
This second important transition in the affairs of my father, might
be deemed a presage of his future fortunes. He was bound apprentice
to a trader in fancy articles, or a shopkeeper who dealt in such
objects as are usually purchased by those who do not well know what
to do with their money. This trade was of immense advantage to the
future prosperity of the young adventurer; for, in addition to the
known fact that they who amuse are much better paid than they who
instruct their fellow-creatures, his situation enabled him to study
those caprices of men, which, properly improved, are of themselves a
mine of wealth, as well as to gain a knowledge of the important
truth that the greatest events of this life are much oftener the
result of impulse than of calculation.
I have it by a direct tradition, orally conveyed from the lips of my
ancestor, that no one could be more lucky than himself in the
character of his master. This personage, who came, in time, to be my
maternal grandfather, was one of those wary traders who encourage
others in their follies, with a view to his own advantage, and the
experience of fifty years had rendered him so expert in the
practices of his calling, that it was seldom he struck out a new
vein in his mine, without finding himself rewarded for the
enterprise, by a success that was fully equal to his expectations,
"Tom," he said one day to his apprentice, when time had produced
confidence and awakened sympathies between them, "thou art a lucky
youth, or the parish officer would never have brought thee to my
door. Thou little knowest the wealth that is in store for thee, or
the treasures that are at thy command, if thou provest diligent, and
in particular faithful to my interests." My provident grandfather
never missed an occasion to throw in a useful moral, notwithstanding
the general character of veracity that distinguished his commerce.
"Now, what dost think, lad, may be the amount of my capital?"
My ancestor in the male line hesitated to reply, for, hitherto, his
ideas had been confined to the profits; never having dared to lift
his thoughts as high as that source from which he could not but see
they flowed in a very ample stream; but thrown upon himself by so
unexpected a question, and being quick at figures, after adding ten
per cent. to the sum which he knew the last year had given as the
net avail of their joint ingenuity, he named the amount, in answered
to the interrogatory.
My maternal grandfather laughed in the face of my direct lineal
"Thou judgest, Tom," he said, when his mirth was a little abated,
"by what thou thinkest is the cost of the actual stock before thine
eyes, when thou shouldst take into the account that which I term our
Tom pondered a moment, for while he knew that his master had money
in the funds, he did not account that as any portion of the
available means connected with his ordinary business; and as for a
floating capital, he did not well see how it could be of much
account, since the disproportion between the cost and the selling
prices of the different articles in which they dealt was so great,
that there was no particular use in such an investment. As his
master, however, rarely paid for anything until he was in possession
of returns from it that exceeded the debt some seven-fold, he began
to think the old man was alluding to the advantages he obtained in
the way of credit, and after a little more cogitation, he ventured
to say as much.
Again my maternal grandfather indulged in a hearty fit of laughter.
"Thou art clever in thy way, Tom," he said, "and I like the
minuteness of thy calculations, for they show an aptitude for trade;
but there is genius in our calling as well as cleverness. Come
hither, boy," he added, drawing Tom to a window whence they could
see the neighbors on their way to church, for it was on a Sunday
that my two provident progenitors indulged in this moral view of
humanity, as best fitted the day, "come hither, boy, and thou shalt
see some small portion of that capital which thou seemest to think
hid, stalking abroad by daylight, and in the open streets. Here,
thou seest the wife of our neighbor, the pastry-cook; with what an
air she tosses her head and displays the bauble thou sold'st her
yesterday: well, even that slattern, idle and vain, and little
worthy of trust as she is, carries about with her a portion of my
My worthy ancestor stared, for he never knew the other to be guilty
of so great an indiscretion as to trust a woman whom they both knew
bought more than her husband was willing to pay for.
"She gave me a guinea, master, for that which did not cost a seven-
"She did, indeed, Tom, and it was her vanity that urged her to it. I
trade upon her folly, younker, and upon that of all mankind; now
dost thou see with what a capital I carry on affairs? There--there
is the maid, carrying the idle hussy's patterns in the rear; I drew
upon my stock in that wench's possession, no later than the last
week, for half-a-crown!"
Tom reflected a long time on these allusions of his provident
master, and although he understood them about as well as they will
be understood by the owners of half the soft humid eyes and
sprouting whiskers among my readers, by dint of cogitation he came
at last to a practical understanding of the subject, which before he
was thirty he had, to use a French term, pretty well exploite.
I learn by unquestionable tradition, received also from the mouths
of his contemporaries, that the opinions of my ancestor underwent
some material changes between the ages of ten and forty, a
circumstance that has often led me to reflect that people might do
well not to be too confident of the principles, during the pliable
period of life, when the mind, like the tender shoot, is easily bent
aside and subjected to the action of surrounding causes.
During the earlier years of the plastic age, my ancestor was
observed to betray strong feelings of compassion at the sight of
charity-children, nor was he ever known to pass a child, especially
a boy that was still in petticoats, who was crying with hunger in
the streets, without sharing his own crust with him. Indeed, his
practice on this head was said to be steady and uniform, whenever
the rencontre took place after my worthy father had had his own
sympathies quickened by a good dinner; a fact that maybe imputed to
a keener sense of the pleasure he was about to confer.
After sixteen, he was known to converse occasionally on the subject
of politics, a topic on which he came to be both expert and eloquent
before twenty. His usual theme was justice and the sacred rights of
man, concerning which he sometimes uttered very pretty sentiments,
and such as were altogether becoming in one who was at the bottom of
the great social pot that was then, as now, actively boiling, and
where he was made to feel most, the heat that kept it in
ebullition. I am assured that on the subject of taxation, and on
that of the wrongs of America and Ireland, there were few youths in
the parish who could discourse with more zeal and unction. About
this time, too, he was heard shouting "Wilkes and liberty!" in the
But, as is the case with all men of rare capacities, there was a
concentration of powers in the mind of my ancestor, which soon
brought all his errant sympathies, the mere exuberance of acute and
overflowing feelings, into a proper and useful subjection, centring
all in the one absorbing and capacious receptacle of self. I do not
claim for my father any peculiar quality in this respect, for I have
often observed that many of those who (like giddy-headed horsemen
that raise a great dust, and scamper as if the highway were too
narrow for their eccentric courses, before they are fairly seated in
the saddle, but who afterward drive as directly at their goals as
the arrow parting from the bow), most indulge their sympathies at
the commencement of their careers, are the most apt toward the close
to get a proper command of their feelings, and to reduce them within
the bounds of common sense and prudence. Before five-and-twenty, my
father was as exemplary and as constant a devotee of Plutus as was
then to be found between Ratcliffe Highway and Bridge Street:--I
name these places in particular, as all the rest of the great
capital in which he was born is known to be more indifferent to the
subject of money.
My ancestor was just thirty, when his master, who like himself was a
bachelor, very unexpectedly, and a good deal to the scandal of the
neighborhood, introduced a new inmate into his frugal abode, in the
person of an infant female child. It would seem that some one had
been speculating on his stock of weakness too, for this poor,
little, defenceless, and dependent being was thrown upon his care,
like Tom himself, through the vigilance of the parish officers.
There were many good-natured jokes practised on the prosperous
fancy-dealer, by the more witty of his neighbors, at this sudden
turn of good fortune, and not a few ill-natured sneers were given
behind his back; most of the knowing ones of the vicinity finding a
stronger likeness between the little girl and all the other
unmarried men of the eight or ten adjoining streets, than to the
worthy housekeeper who had been selected to pay for her support. I
have been much disposed to admit the opinions of these amiable
observers as authority in my own pedigree, since it would be
reaching the obscurity in which all ancient lines take root, a
generation earlier, than by allowing the presumption that little
Betsey was my direct male ancestor's master's daughter; but, on
reflection, I have determined to adhere to the less popular but more
simple version of the affair, because it is connected with the
transmission of no small part of our estate, a circumstance of
itself that at once gives dignity and importance to a genealogy.
Whatever may have been the real opinion of the reputed father
touching his rights to the honors of that respectable title, he soon
became as strongly attached to the child, as if it really owed its
existence to himself. The little girl was carefully nursed,
abundantly fed, and throve accordingly. She had reached her third
year, when the fancy-dealer took the smallpox from his little pet,
who was just recovering from the same disease, and died at the
expiration of the tenth day.
This was an unlooked-for and stunning blow to my ancestor, who was
then in his thirty-fifth year and the head shopman of the
establishment, which had continued to grow with the growing follies
and vanities of the age. On examining his master's will, it was
found that my father, who had certainly aided materially of late in
the acquisition of the money, was left the good-will of the shop,
the command of all the stock at cost, and the sole executorship of
the estate. He was also intrusted with the exclusive guardianship of
little Betsey, to whom his master had affectionately devised every
farthing of his property. An ordinary reader may be surprised that a
man who had so long practised on the foibles of his species, should
have so much confidence in a mere shopman, as to leave his whole
estate so completely in his power; but, it must be remembered, that
human ingenuity has not yet devised any means by which we can carry
our personal effects into the other world; that "what cannot be
cured must be endured"; that he must of necessity have confided this
important trust to some fellow-creature, and that it was better to
commit the keeping of his money to one who, knowing the secret by
which it had been accumulated, had less inducement to be dishonest,
than one who was exposed to the temptation of covetousness, without
having a knowledge of any direct and legal means of gratifying his
longings. It has been conjectured, therefore, that the testator
thought, by giving up his trade to a man who was as keenly alive as
my ancestor to all its perfections, moral and pecuniary, he provided
a sufficient protection against his falling into the sin of
peculation, by so amply supplying him with simpler means of
enriching himself. Besides, it is fair to presume that the long
acquaintance had begotten sufficient confidence to weaken the effect
of that saying which some wit has put into the mouth of a wag, "Make
me your executor, father; I care not to whom you leave the estate."
Let all this be as it might, nothing can be more certain than that
my worthy ancestor executed his trust with the scrupulous fidelity
of a man whose integrity had been severely schooled in the ethics of
trade. Little Betsey was properly educated for one in her condition
of life; her health was as carefully watched over as if she had been
the only daughter of the sovereign instead of the only daughter of a
fancy-dealer; her morals were superintended by a superannuated old
maid; her mind left to its original purity; her person jealously
protected against the designs of greedy fortune-hunters; and, to
complete the catalogue of his paternal attentions and solicitudes,
my vigilant and faithful ancestor, to prevent accidents, and to
counteract the chances of life, so far as it might be done by human
foresight, saw that she was legally married, the day she reached her
nineteenth year, to the person whom, there is every reason to think,
he believed to be the most unexceptionable man of his acquaintance--
in other words, to himself. Settlements were unnecessary between
parties who had so long been known to each other, and, thanks to the
liberality of his late master's will in more ways than one, a long
minority, and the industry of the ci-devant head shopman, the
nuptial benediction was no sooner pronounced, than our family
stepped into the undisputed possession of four hundred thousand
pounds. One less scrupulous on the subject of religion and the law,
might not have thought it necessary to give the orphan heiress a
settlement so satisfactory, at the termination of her wardship.
I was the fifth of the children who were the fruits of this union,
and the only one of them all that passed the first year of its life.
My poor mother did not survive my birth, and I can only record her
qualities through the medium of that great agent in the archives of
the family, tradition. By all that I have heard, she must have been
a meek, quiet, domestic woman; who, by temperament and attainments,
was admirably qualified to second the prudent plans of my father for
her welfare. If she had causes of complaint, (and that she had,
there is too much reason to think, for who has ever escaped them?)
they were concealed, with female fidelity, in the sacred repository
of her own heart; and if truant imagination sometimes dimly drew an
outline of married happiness different from the fact that stood in
dull reality before her eyes, the picture was merely commented on by
a sigh, and consigned to a cabinet whose key none ever touched but
herself, and she seldom.
Of this subdued and unobtrusive sorrow, for I fear it sometimes
reached that intensity of feeling, my excellent and indefatigable
ancestor appeared to have no suspicion. He pursued his ordinary
occupations with his ordinary single-minded devotion, and the last
thing that would have crossed his brain was the suspicion that he
had not punctiliously done his duty by his ward. Had he acted
otherwise, none surely would have suffered more by his delinquency
than her husband, and none would have a better right to complain.
Now, as her husband never dreamt of making such an accusation, it is
not at all surprising that my ancestor remained in ignorance of his
wife's feelings at the hour of his death.
It has been said that the opinions of the successor of the fancy-
dealer underwent some essential changes between the ages of ten and
forty. After he had reached his twenty-second year, or, in other
words, the moment he began to earn money for himself, as well as for
his master, he ceased to cry "Wilkes and liberty!" He was not heard
to breathe a syllable concerning the obligations of society toward
the weak and unfortunate, for the five years that succeeded his
majority; he touched lightly on Christian duties in general, after
he got to be worth fifty pounds of his own; and as for railing at
human follies, it would have been rank ingratitude in one who so
very unequivocally got his bread by them. About this time, his
remarks on the subject of taxation, however, were singularly
caustic, and well applied. He railed at the public debt, as a public
curse, and ominously predicted the dissolution of society, in
consequence of the burdens and incumbrances it was hourly
accumulating on the already overloaded shoulders of the trader.
The period of his marriage and his succession to the hoardings of
his former master, may be dated as the second epocha in the opinions
of my ancestor. From this moment his ambition expanded, his views
enlarged in proportion to his means, and his contemplations on the
subject of his great floating capital became more profound and
philosophical. A man of my ancestor's native sagacity, whose whole
soul was absorbed in the pursuit of gain, who had so long been
forming his mind, by dealing as it were with the elements of human
weaknesses, and who already possessed four hundred thousand pounds,
was very likely to strike out for himself some higher road to
eminence, than that in which he had been laboriously journeying,
during the years of painful probation. The property of my mother had
been chiefly invested in good bonds and mortgages; her protector,
patron, benefactor, and legalized father, having an unconquerable
repugnance to confiding in that soulless, conventional, nondescript
body corporate, the public. The first indication that was given by
my ancestor of a change of purpose in the direction of his energies,
was by calling in the whole of his outstanding debts, and adopting
the Napoleon plan of operations, by concentrating his forces on a
particular point, in order that he might operate in masses. About
this time, too, he suddenly ceased railing at taxation. This change
may be likened to that which occurs in the language of the
ministerial journals, when they cease abusing any foreign state with
whom the nation has been carrying on a war, that it is, at length,
believed politic to terminate; and for much the same reason, as it
was the intention of my thrifty ancestor to make an ally of a power
that he had hitherto always treated as an enemy. The whole of the
four hundred thousand pounds were liberally intrusted to the
country, the former fancy-dealer's apprentice entering the arena of
virtuous and patriotic speculation, as a bull; and, if with more
caution, with at least some portion of the energy and obstinacy of
the desperate animal that gives title to this class of adventurers.
Success crowned his laudable efforts; gold rolled in upon him like
water on a flood, buoying him up, soul and body, to that enviable
height, where, as it would seem, just views can alone be taken of
society in its innumerable phases. All his former views of life,
which, in common with others of a similar origin and similar
political sentiments, he had imbibed in early years, and which might
with propriety be called near views, were now completely obscured by
the sublimer and broader prospect that was spread before him.
I am afraid the truth will compel me to admit, that my ancestor was
never charitable in the vulgar acceptation of the term; but then, he
always maintained that his interest in his fellow-creatures was of a
more elevated cast, taking a comprehensive glance at all the
bearings of good and evil--being of the sort of love which induces
the parent to correct the child, that the lesson of present
suffering may produce the blessings of future respectability and
usefulness. Acting on these principles, he gradually grew more
estranged from his species in appearance, a sacrifice that was
probably exacted by the severity of his practical reproofs for their
growing wickedness, and the austere policy that was necessary to
enforce them. By this time, my ancestor was also thoroughly
impressed with what is called the value of money; a sentiment which,
I believe, gives its possessor a livelier perception than common of
the dangers of the precious metals, as well as of their privileges
and uses. He expatiated occasionally on the guaranties that it was
necessary to give to society, for its own security; never even voted
for a parish officer unless he were a warm substantial citizen; and
began to be a subscriber to the patriotic fund, and to the other
similar little moral and pecuniary buttresses of the government,
whose common and commendable object was, to protect our country, our
altars, and our firesides.
The death-bed of my mother has been described to me as a touching
and melancholy scene. It appears that as this meek and retired woman
was extricated from the coil of mortality, her intellect grew
brighter, her powers of discernment stronger, and her character in
every respect more elevated and commanding. Although she had said
much less about our firesides and altars than her husband, I see no
reason to doubt that she had ever been quite as faithful as he could
be to the one, and as much devoted to the other. I shall describe
the important event of her passage from this to a better world, as I
have often had it repeated from the lips of one who was present, and
who has had an important agency in since making me the man I am.
This person was the clergyman of the parish, a pious divine, a
learned man, and a gentleman in feeling as well as by extraction.
My mother, though long conscious that she was drawing near to her
last great account, had steadily refused to draw her husband from
his absorbing pursuits, by permitting him to be made acquainted with
her situation. He knew that she was ill; very ill, as he had reason
to think; but, as he not only allowed her, but even volunteered to
order her all the advice and relief that money could command (my
ancestor was not a miser in the vulgar meaning of the word), he
thought that he had done all that man could do, in a case of life
and death--interests over which he professed to have no control. He
saw Dr. Etherington, the rector, come and go daily, for a month,
without uneasiness or apprehension, for he thought his discourse had
a tendency to tranquillize my mother, and he had a strong affection
for all that left him undisturbed, to the enjoyment of the
occupation in which his whole energies were now completely centred.
The physician got his guinea at each visit, with scrupulous
punctuality; the nurses were well received and were well satisfied,
for no one interfered with their acts but the doctor; and every
ordinary duty of commission was as regularly discharged by my
ancestor, as if the sinking and resigned creature from whom he was
about to be forever separated had been the spontaneous choice of his
young and fresh affections.
When, therefore, a servant entered to say that Dr. Etherington
desired a private interview, my worthy ancestor, who had no
consciousness of having neglected any obligation that became a
friend of church and state, was in no small measure surprised.
"I come, Mr. Goldencalf, on a melancholy duty," said the pious
rector, entering the private cabinet to which his application had
for the first time obtained his admission; "the fatal secret can no
longer be concealed from you, and your wife at length consents that
I shall be the instrument of revealing it."
The Doctor paused; for on such occasions it is perhaps as well to
let the party that is about to be shocked receive a little of the
blow through his own imagination; and busily enough was that of my
poor father said to be exercised on this painful occasion. He grew
pale, opened his eyes until they again filled the sockets into which
they had gradually been sinking for twenty years, and looked a
hundred questions that his tongue refused to put.
"It cannot be, Doctor," he at length querulously said, "that a woman
like Betsey has got an inkling into any of the events connected with
the last great secret expedition, and which have escaped my jealousy
"I am afraid, dear sir, that Mrs. Goldencalf has obtained glimpses
of the last great and secret expedition on which we must all, sooner
or later, embark, that have entirely escaped your vigilance. But of
this I will speak some other time. At present it is my painful duty
to inform you it is the opinion of the physician that your excellent
wife cannot outlive the day, if, indeed, she do the hour."
My father was struck with this intelligence, and for more than a
minute he remained silent and without motion. Casting his eyes
toward the papers on which he had lately been employed, and which
contained some very important calculations connected with the next
settling day, he at length resumed:
"If this be really so, Doctor, it may be well for me to go to her,
since one in the situation of the poor woman may indeed have
something of importance to communicate."
"It is with this object that I have now come to tell you the truth,"
quietly answered the divine, who knew that nothing was to be gained
by contending with the besetting weakness of such a man, at such a
My father bent his head in assent, and, first carefully enclosing
the open papers in a secretary, he followed his companion to the
bedside of his dying wife.
TOUCHING MYSELF AND TEN THOUSAND POUNDS.
Although my ancestor was much too wise to refuse to look back upon
his origin in a worldly point of view, he never threw his
retrospective glances so far as to reach the sublime mystery of his
moral existence; and while his thoughts might be said to be ever on
the stretch to attain glimpses into the future, they were by far too
earthly to extend beyond any other settling day than those which
were regulated by the ordinances of the stock exchange. With him, to
be born was but the commencement of a speculation, and to die was to
determine the general balance of profit and loss. A man who had so
rarely meditated on the grave changes of mortality, therefore, was
consequently so much the less prepared to gaze upon the visible
solemnities of a death-bed. Although he had never truly loved my
mother, for love was a sentiment much too pure and elevated for one
whose imagination dwelt habitually on the beauties of the stock-
books, he had ever been kind to her, and of late he was even much
disposed, as has already been stated, to contribute as much to her
temporal comforts as comported with his pursuits and habits. On the
other hand, the quiet temperament of my mother required some more
exciting cause than the affections of her husband, to quicken those
germs of deep, placid, womanly love, that certainly lay dormant in
her heart, like seed withering with the ungenial cold of winter. The
last meeting of such a pair was not likely to be attended with any
violent outpourings of grief.
My ancestor, notwithstanding, was deeply struck with the physical
changes in the appearance of his wife.
"Thou art much emaciated, Betsey," he said, taking her hand kindly,
after a long and solemn pause; "much more so than I had thought, or
could have believed! Dost nurse give thee comforting soups and
My mother smiled the ghastly smile of death; but waved her hand,
with loathing, at his suggestion.
"All this is now too late, Mr. Goldencalf," she answered, speaking
with a distinctness and an energy for which she had long been
reserving her strength. "Food and raiment are no longer among my
"Well, well, Betsey, one that is in want of neither food nor
raiment, cannot be said to be in great suffering, after all; and I
am glad that thou art so much at ease. Dr. Etherington tells me thou
art far from being well bodily, however, and I am come expressly to
see if I can order anything that will help to make thee more easy."
"Mr. Goldencalf, you can. My wants for this life are nearly over; a
short hour or two will remove me beyond the world, its cares, its
vanities, its--" My poor mother probably meant to add, its
heartlessness or its selfishness; but she rebuked herself, and
paused: "By the mercy of our blessed Redeemer, and through the
benevolent agency of this excellent man," she resumed, glancing her
eye upwards at first with holy reverence, and then at the divine
with meek gratitude, "I quit you without alarm, and were it not for
one thing, I might say without care."
"And what is there to distress thee, in particular, Betsey?" asked
my father, blowing his nose, and speaking with unusual tenderness;
"if it be in my power to set thy heart at ease on this, or on any
other point, name it, and I will give orders to have it immediately
performed. Thou hast been a good pious woman, and canst have little
to reproach thyself with."
My mother looked earnestly and wistfully at her husband. Never
before had he betrayed so strong an interest in her happiness, and
had it not, alas! been too late, this glimmering of kindness might
have lighted the matrimonial torch into a brighter flame than had
ever yet glowed upon the past.
"Mr. Goldencalf, we have an only son--"
"We have, Betsey, and it may gladden thee to hear that the physician
thinks the boy more likely to live than either of his poor brothers
I cannot explain the holy and mysterious principle of maternal
nature that caused my mother to clasp her hands, to raise her eyes
to heaven, and, while a gleam flitted athwart her glassy eyes and
wan cheeks, to murmur her thanks to God for the boon. She was
herself hastening away to the eternal bliss of the pure of mind and
the redeemed, and her imagination, quiet and simple as it was, had
drawn pictures in which she and her departed babes were standing
before the throne of the Most High, chanting his glory, and shining
amid the stars--and yet was she now rejoicing that the last and the
most cherished of all her offsprings was likely to be left exposed
to the evils, the vices, nay, to the enormities, of the state of
being that she herself so willingly resigned.
"It is of our boy that I wish now to speak, Mr. Goldencalf," replied
my mother, when her secret devotion was ended. "The child will have
need of instruction and care; in short, of both mother and father."
"Betsey, thou forgettest that he will still have the latter."
"You are much wrapped up in your business, Mr. Goldencalf, and are
not, in other respects, qualified to educate a boy born to the curse
and to the temptations of immense riches."
My excellent ancestor looked as if he thought his dying consort had
in sooth finally taken leave of her senses.
"There are public schools, Betsey; I promise thee the child shall
not be forgotten: I will have him well taught, though it cost me a
thousand a year!"
His wife reached forth her emaciated hand to that of my father, and
pressed the latter with as much force as a dying mother could use.
For a fleet moment she even appeared to have gotten rid of her
latest care. But the knowledge of character that had been acquired
by the hard experience of thirty years, was not to be unsettled by
the gratitude of a moment.
"I wish, Mr. Goldencalf," she anxiously resumed, "to receive your
solemn promise to commit the education of our boy to Dr.
Etherington--you know his worth, and must have full confidence in
such a man."
"Nothing would give me greater satisfaction, my dear Betsey; and if
Dr. Etherington will consent to receive him, I will send Jack to his
house this very evening; for, to own the truth, I am but little
qualified to take charge of a child under a year old. A hundred a
year, more or less, shall not spoil so good a bargain."
The divine was a gentleman, and he looked grave at this speech,
though, meeting the anxious eyes of my mother, his own lost their
displeasure in a glance of reassurance and pity.
"The charges of his education will be easily settled, Mr.
Goldencalf," added my mother; "but the Doctor has consented with
difficulty to take the responsibility of my poor babe, and that only
under two conditions."
The stock-dealer required an explanation with his eyes.
"One is, that the child shall be left solely to his own care, after
he has reached his fourth year; and the other is, that you make an
endowment for the support of two poor scholars, at one of the
As my mother got out the last words, she fell back on her pillow,
whence her interest in the subject had enabled her to lift her head
a little, and she fairly gasped for breath, in the intensity of her
anxiety to hear the answer. My ancestor contracted his brow, like
one who saw it was a subject that required reflection.
"Thou dost not know perhaps, Betsey, that these endowments swallow
up a great deal of money--a great deal--and often very uselessly."
"Ten thousand pounds is the sum that has been agreed upon between
Mrs. Goldencalf and me," steadily remarked the Doctor, who, in my
soul, I believe had hoped that his condition would be rejected,
having yielded to the importunities of a dying woman, rather than to
his own sense of that which might be either very desirable or very
"Ten thousand pounds!"
My mother could not speak, though she succeeded in making an
imploring sign of assent.
"Ten thousand pounds is a great deal of money, my dear Betsey--a
very great deal!"
The color of my mother changed to the hue of death, and by her
breathing she appeared to be in the agony.
"Well, well, Betsey," said my father a little hastily, for he was
frightened at her pallid countenance and extreme distress, "have it
thine own way--the money, yes, yes--it shall be given as thou
wishest--now set thy kind heart at rest."
The revulsion of feeling was too great for one whose system had been
wound up to a state of excitement like that which had sustained my
mother, who, an hour before, had seemed scarcely able to speak. She
extended her hand toward her husband, smiled benignantly in his
face, whispered the word "Thanks," and then, losing all her powers
of body, sank into the last sleep, as tranquilly as the infant drops
its head on the bosom of the nurse. This was, after all, a sudden,
and, in one sense, an unexpected death: all who witnessed it were
struck with awe. My father gazed for a whole minute intently on the
placid features of his wife, and left the room in silence. He was
followed by Dr. Etherington, who accompanied him to the private
apartment where they had first met that night, neither uttering a
syllable until both were seated.
"She was a good woman, Dr. Etherington!" said the widowed man,
shaking his foot with agitation.
"She was a good woman, Mr. Goldencalf."
"And a good wife, Dr. Etherington."
"I have always believed her to be a good wife, sir."
"Faithful, obedient, and frugal."
"Three qualities that are of much practical use in the affairs of
"I shall never marry again, sir."
The divine bowed.
"Nay, I never could find such another match!"
Again the divine inclined his head, though the assent was
accompanied by slight smile.
"Well, she has left me an heir."
"And brought something that he might inherit," observed the Doctor,
My ancestor looked up inquiringly at his companion, but apparently
most of the sarcasm was thrown away,
"I resign the child to your care, Dr. Etherington, conformably to
the dying request of my beloved Betsey."
"I accept the charge, Mr. Goldencalf, comformably to my promise to
the deceased; but you will remember that there was a condition
coupled with that promise which must be faithfully and promptly
My ancestor was too much accustomed to respect the punctilios of
trade, whose code admits of frauds only in certain categories, which
are sufficiently explained in its conventional rules of honor; a
sort of specified morality, that is bottomed more on the convenience
of its votaries than on the general law of right. He respected the
letter of his promise while his soul yearned to avoid its spirit;
and his wits were already actively seeking the means of doing that
which he so much desired.
"I did make a promise to poor Betsey, certainly," he answered, in
the way of one who pondered, "and it was a promise, too, made under
very solemn circumstances."
"The promises made to the dead are doubly binding; since, by their
departure to the world of spirits, it may be said they leave the
performance to the exclusive superintendence of the Being who cannot
My ancestor quailed; his whole frame shuddered, and his purpose was
"Poor Betsey left you as her representative in this case, however,
Doctor," he observed, after the delay of more than a minute, casting
his eyes wistfully towards the divine.
"In one sense, she certainly did, sir."
"And a representative with full powers is legally a principal under
a different name. I think this matter might be arranged to our
mutual satisfaction, Dr. Etherington, and the intention of poor
Betsey most completely executed; she, poor woman, knew little of
business, as was best for her sex; and when women undertake affairs
of magnitude, they are very apt to make awkward work of it."
"So that the intention of the deceased be completely fulfilled, you
will not find me exacting, Mr. Goldencalf."
"I thought as much--I knew there could be no difficulty between two
men of sense, who were met with honest views to settle a matter of
this nature. The intention of poor Betsey, Doctor, was to place her
child under your care, with the expectation--and I do not deny its
justice--that the boy would receive more benefit from your knowledge
than he possibly could from mine."
Dr. Etherington was too honest to deny these premises, and too
polite to admit them without an inclination of acknowledgment.
"As we are quite of the same mind, good sir, concerning the
preliminaries," continued my ancestor, "we will enter a little
nearer into the details. It appears to me to be no more than strict
justice, that he who does the work should receive the reward. This
is a principle in which I have been educated, Dr. Etherington; it is
one in which I could wish to have my son educated; and it is one on
which I hope always to practise."
Another inclination of the body conveyed the silent assent of the
"Now, poor Betsey, Heaven bless her!--for she was a meek and
tranquil companion, and richly deserves to be rewarded in a future
state--but, poor Betsey had little knowledge of business. She
fancied that, in bestowing these ten thousand pounds on a charity,
she was acting well; whereas she was in fact committing injustice.
If you are to have the trouble and care of bringing up little Jack,
who but you should reap the reward?"
"I shall expect, Mr. Goldencalf, that you will furnish the means to
provide for the child's wants."
"Of that, sir, it is unnecessary to speak," interrupted my ancestor,
both promptly and proudly. "I am a wary man, and a prudent man, and
am one who knows the value of money, I trust; but I am no miser, to
stint my own flesh and blood. Jack shall never want for anything,
while it is in my power to give it. I am by no means as rich, sir,
as the neighborhood supposes; but then I am no beggar. I dare say,
if all my assets were fairly counted, it might be found that I am
worth a plum."
"You are said to have received a much larger sum than that with the
late Mrs. Goldencalf," the divine observed, not without reproof in
"Ah, dear sir, I need not tell you what vulgar rumor is--but I shall
not undermine my own credit; and we will change the subject. My
object, Dr. Etherington, was merely to do justice. Poor Betsey
desired that ten thousand pounds might be given to found a
scholarship or two: now, what have these scholars done, or what are
they likely to do, for me or mine? The case is different with you,
sir; you will have trouble--much trouble, I make no doubt; and it is
proper that you should have a sufficient compensation. I was about
to propose, therefore, that you should consent to receive my check
for three, or four, or even for five thousand pounds," continued my
ancestor, raising the offer as he saw the frown on the brow of the
Doctor deepen. "Yes, sir, I will even say the latter sum, which
possibly will not be too much for your trouble and care; and we will
forget the womanish plan of poor Betsey in relation to the two
scholarships and the charity. Five thousand pounds down, Doctor, for
yourself, and the subject of the charity forgotten forever."
When my father had thus distinctly put his proposition, he awaited
its effect with the confidence of a man who had long dealt with
cupidity. For a novelty, his calculation failed. The face of Dr.
Etherington flushed, then paled, and finally settled into a look of
melancholy reprehension. He arose and paced the room for several
minutes in silence; during which time his companion believed he was
debating with himself on the chances of obtaining a higher bid for
his consent, when he suddenly stopped and addressed my ancestor in a
mild but steady tone.
"I feel it to be a duty, Mr. Goldencalf," he said, "to admonish you
of the precipice over which you hang. The love of money, which is
the root of all evil, which caused Judas to betray even his Saviour
and God, has taken deep root in your soul. You are no longer young,
and although still proud in your strength and prosperity, are much
nearer to your great account than you may be willing to believe. It
is not an hour since you witnessed the departure of a penitent soul
for the presence of her God; since you heard the dying request from
her lips; and since, in such a presence and in such a scene, you
gave a pledge to respect her wishes, and, now, with the accursed
spirit of gain upper-most, you would trifle with these most sacred
obligations, in order to keep a little worthless gold in a hand that
is already full to overflowing. Fancy that the pure spirit of thy
confiding and single-minded wife were present at this conversation;
fancy it mourning over thy weakness and violated faith--nay, I know
not that such is not the fact; for there is no reason to believe
that the happy spirits are not permitted to watch near, and mourn
over us, until we are released from this mass of sin and depravity
in which we dwell--and, then, reflect what must be her sorrow at
hearing how soon her parting request is forgotten, how useless has
been the example of her holy end, how rooted and fearful are thine
My father was more rebuked by the manner than by the words of the
divine. He passed his hand across his brow, as if to shut out the
view of his wife's spirit; turned, drew his writing materials
nearer, wrote a check for the ten thousand pounds, and handed it to
the Doctor with the subdued air of a corrected boy.
"Jack shall be at your disposal, good sir," he said, as the paper
was delivered, "whenever it may be your pleasure to send for him."
They parted in silence; the divine too much displeased, and my
ancestor too much grieved, to indulge in words of ceremony.
When my father found himself alone, he gazed furtively about the
room, to assure himself that the rebuking spirit of his wife had not
taken a shape less questionable than air, and then, he mused for at
least an hour, very painfully, on all the principal occurrences of
the night. It is said that occupation is a certain solace for grief,
and so it proved to be in the present case; for luckily my father
had made up that very day his private account of the sum total of
his fortune. Sitting down, therefore, to the agreeable task, he went
through the simple process of subtracting from it the amount for
which he had just drawn, and, finding that he was still master of
seven hundred and eighty-two thousand three hundred and eleven
pounds odd shillings and even pence, he found a very natural
consolation for the magnitude of the sum he had just given away, by
comparing it with the magnitude of that which was left.
OPINIONS OF OUR AUTHOR'S ANCESTOR, TOGETHER WITH SOME OF HIS OWN,
AND SOME OF OTHER PEOPLE'S.
Dr. Etherington was both a pious man and a gentleman. The second son
of a baronet of ancient lineage, he had been educated in most of the
opinions of his caste, and possibly he was not entirely above its
prejudices; but, this much admitted, few divines were more willing
to defer to the ethics and principles of the Bible than himself. His
humility had, of course, a decent regard to station; his charity was
judiciously regulated by the articles of faith; and his philanthropy
was of the discriminating character that became a warm supporter of
church and state.
In accepting the trust which he was now obliged to assume, he had
yielded purely to a benevolent wish to smooth the dying pillow of my
mother. Acquainted with the character of her husband, he had
committed a sort of pious fraud, in attaching the condition of the
endowment to his consent; for, notwithstanding the becoming language
of his own rebuke, the promise, and all the other little attendant
circumstances of the night, it might be questioned which felt the
most surprise after the draft was presented and duly honored, he who
found himself in possession, or he who found himself deprived, of
the sum of ten thousand pounds sterling. Still Dr. Etherington acted
with the most scrupulous integrity in the whole affair; and although
I am aware that a writer who has so many wonders to relate, as must
of necessity adorn the succeeding pages of this manuscript, should
observe a guarded discretion in drawing on the credulity of his
readers, truth compels me to add, that every farthing of the money
was duly invested with a single eye to the wishes of the dying
Christian, who, under Providence, had been the means of bestowing so
much gold on the poor and unlettered. As to the manner in which the
charity was finally improved, I shall say nothing, since no inquiry
on my part has ever enabled me to obtain such information as would
justify my speaking with authority.
As for myself, I shall have little more to add touching the events
of the succeeding twenty years. I was baptized, nursed, breeched,
schooled, horsed, confirmed, sent to the university, and graduated,
much as befalls all gentlemen of the established church in the
united kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, or, in other words, of
the land of my ancestor. During these pregnant years, Dr.
Etherington acquitted himself of a duty that, judging by a very
predominant feeling of human nature (which, singularly enough,
renders us uniformly averse to being troubled with other people's
affairs), I think he must have found sufficiently vexatious, quite
as well as my good mother had any right to expect. Most of my
vacations were spent at his rectory; for he had first married, then
become a father, next a widower, and had exchanged his town living
for one in the country, between the periods of my mother's death and
that on my going to Eton; and, after I quitted Oxford, much more of
my time was passed beneath his friendly roof than beneath that of my
own parent. Indeed, I saw little of the latter. He paid my bills,
furnished me with pocket-money, and professed an intention to let me
travel after I should reach my majority. But, satisfied with these
proofs of paternal care, he appeared willing to let me pursue my own
course very much in my own way.
My ancestor was an eloquent example of the truth of that political
dogma which teaches the efficacy of the division of labor. No
manufacturer of the head of a pin ever attained greater dexterity in
his single-minded vocation than was reached by my father in the one
pursuit to which he devoted, as far as human ken could reach, both
soul and body. As any sense is known to increase in acuteness by
constant exercise, or any passion by indulgence, so did his ardor in
favor of the great object of his affections grow with its growth,
and become more manifest as an ordinary observer would be apt to
think the motive of its existence at all had nearly ceased. This is
a moral phenomenon that I have often had occasion to observe, and
which, there is some reason to think, depends on a principle of
attraction that has hitherto escaped the sagacity of the
philosophers, but which is as active in the immaterial, as is that
of gravitation in the material world. Talents like his, so
incessantly and unweariedly employed, produced the usual fruits. He
grew richer hourly, and at the time of which I speak he was pretty
generally known to the initiated to be the warmest man who had
anything to do with the stock exchange.
I do not think that the opinions of my ancestor underwent as many
material changes between the ages of fifty and seventy as they had
undergone between the ages of ten and forty. During the latter
period the tree of life usually gets deep root, its inclination is
fixed, whether obtained by bending to the storms, or by drawing
toward the light; and it probably yields more in fruits of its own,
than it gains by tillage and manuring. Still my ancestor was not
exactly the same man the day he kept his seventieth birthday as he
had been the day he kept his fiftieth. In the first place, he was
worth thrice the money at the former period that he had been worth
at the latter. Of course his moral system had undergone all the
mutations that are known to be dependent on a change of this
important character. Beyond a question, during the last five-and-
twenty years of the life of my ancestor, his political bias, too,
was in favor of exclusive privileges and exclusive benefits. I do
not mean that he was an aristocrat in the vulgar acceptation. To
him, feudality was a blank; he had probably never heard the word.
Portcullises rose and fell, flanking towers lifted their heads, and
embattled walls swept around their fabrics in vain, so far as his
imagination was concerned. He cared not for the days of courts leet
and courts baron; nor for the barons themselves; nor for the honors
of a pedigree (why should he?--no prince in the land could more
clearly trace his family into obscurity than himself), nor for the
vanities of a court, nor for those of society; nor for aught else of
the same nature that is apt to have charms for the weak-minded, the
imaginative, or the conceited. His political prepossessions showed
themselves in a very different manner. Throughout the whole of the
five lustres I have named, he was never heard to whisper a censure
against government, let its measures, or the character of its
administration, be what it would. It was enough for him that it was
government. Even taxation no longer excited his ire, nor aroused his
eloquence. He conceived it to be necessary to order, and especially
to the protection of property, a branch of political science that he
had so studied as to succeed in protecting his own estate, in a
measure, against even this great ally itself. After he became worth
a million, it was observed that all his opinions grew less favorable
to mankind in general, and that he was much disposed to exaggerate
the amount and quality of the few boons which Providence has
bestowed on the poor. The report of a meeting of the Whigs generally
had an effect on his appetite; a resolution that was suspected of
emanating from Brookes's commonly robbed him of a dinner, and the
Radicals never seriously moved that he did not spend a sleepless
night, and pass a large portion of the next day in uttering words
that it would be hardly moral to repeat. I may without impropriety
add, however, that on such occasions he did not spare allusions to
the gallows; Sir Francis Burdett, in particular, was a target for a
good deal of billingsgate; and men as upright and as respectable
even as my lords Grey, Landsdowne, and Holland, were treated as if
they were no better than they should be. But on these little details
it is unnecessary to dwell, for it must be a subject of common
remark, that the more elevated and refined men become in their
political ethics, the more they are accustomed to throw dirt upon
their neighbors. I will just state, however, that most of what I
have here related has been transmitted to me by direct oral
traditions, for I seldom saw my ancestor, and when we did meet, it
was only to settle accounts, to eat a leg of mutton together, and to
part like those who, at least, have never quarrelled.
Not so with Dr. Etherington. Habit (to say nothing of my own merits)
had attached him to one who owed so much to his care, and his doors
were always as open to me as if I had been his own son.
It has been said that most of my idle time (omitting the part
misspent in the schools) was passed at the rectory.
The excellent divine had married a lovely woman, a year or two after
the death of my mother, who had left him a widower, and the father
of a little image of herself, before the expiration of a
twelvemonth. Owing to the strength of his affections for the
deceased, or for his daughter, or because he could not please
himself in a second marriage as well as it had been his good fortune
to do in the first, Dr. Etherington had never spoken of forming
another connection. He appeared content to discharge his duties, as
a Christian and a gentleman, without increasing them by creating any
new relations with society.
Anna Etherington was of course my constant companion during many
long and delightful visits at the rectory. Three years my junior,
the friendship on my part had commenced by a hundred acts of boyish
kindness. Between the ages of seven and twelve, I dragged her about
in a garden-chair, pushed her on the swing, and wiped her eyes and
uttered words of friendly consolation when any transient cloud
obscured the sunny brightness of her childhood. From twelve to
fourteen, I told her stories; astonished her with narratives of my
own exploits at Eton, and caused her serene blue eyes to open in
admiration at the marvels of London. At fourteen, I began to pick up
her pocket-handkerchief, hunt for her thimble, accompany her in
duets, and to read poetry to her, as she occupied herself with the
little lady-like employments of the needle. About the age of
seventeen I began to compare cousin Anna, as I was permitted to call
her, with the other young girls of my acquaintance, and the
comparison was generally much in her favor. It was also about this
time that, as my admiration grew more warm and manifest, she became
less confiding and less frank; I perceived too that, for a novelty,
she now had some secrets that she did not choose to communicate to
me, that she was more with her governess, and less in my society
than formerly, and on one occasion (bitterly did I feel the slight)
she actually recounted to her father the amusing incidents of a
little birthday fete at which she had been present, and which was
given by a gentleman of the vicinity, before she even dropped a hint
to me, touching the delight she had experienced on the occasion. I
was, however, a good deal compensated for the slight by her saying,
kindly, as she ended her playful and humorous account of the affair:
"It would have made you laugh heartily, Jack, to see the droll
manner in which the servants acted their parts" (there had been a
sort of mystified masque), "more particularly the fat old butler, of
whom they had made a Cupid, as Dick Griffin said, in order to show
that love becomes drowsy and dull by good eating and drinking--I DO
wish you COULD have been there, Jack."
Anna was a gentle feminine girl, with a most lovely and winning
countenance, and I did inherently like to hear her pronounce the
word "Jack"--it was so different from the boisterous screech of the
Eton boys, or the swaggering call of my boon companions at Oxford!
"I should have liked it excessively myself, Anna," I answered; "more
particularly as you seem to have so much enjoyed the fun."
"Yes, but that COULD NOT BE" interrupted Miss-Mrs. Norton, the
governess. "For Sir Harry Griffin is very difficult about his
associates, and you know, my dear, that Mr. Goldencalf, though a
very respectable young man himself, could not expect one of the
oldest baronets of the county to go out of his way to invite the son
of a stock-jobber to be present at a fete given to his own heir."
Luckily for Miss-Mrs. Norton, Dr. Etherington had walked away the
moment his daughter ended her recital, or she might have met with a
disagreeable commentary on her notions concerning the fitness of
associations. Anna herself looked earnestly at her governess, and I
saw a flush mantle over her sweet face that reminded me of the
ruddiness of morn. Her soft eyes then fell to the floor, and it was
some time before she spoke.
The next day I was arranging some fishing-tackle under a window of
the library, where my person was concealed by the shrubbery, when I
heard the melodious voice of Anna wishing the rector good morning.
My heart beat quicker as she approached the casement, tenderly
inquiring of her parent how he had passed the night. The answers
were as affectionate as the questions, and then there was a little
"What is a stock-jobber, father?" suddenly resumed Anna, whom I
heard rustling the leaves above my head.
"A stock-jobber, my dear, is one who buys and sells in the public
funds, with a view to profit."
"And is it thought a PARTICULARLY disgraceful employment?"
"Why, that depends on circumstances. On 'Change it seems to be well
enough--among merchants and bankers there is some odium attached to
it, I believe."
"And can you say why, father?"
"I believe," said Dr. Etherington, laughing, "for no other reason
than that it is an uncertain calling--one that is liable to sudden
reverses--what is termed gambling--and whatever renders property
insecure is sure to obtain odium among those whose principal concern
is its accumulation; those who consider the responsibility of others
of essential importance to themselves."
"But is it a dishonest pursuit, father?"
"As the times go, not necessarily, my dear; though it may readily
"And is it disreputable, generally, with the world?"
"That depends on circumstances, Anna. When the stock-jobber loses,
he is very apt to be condemned; but I rather think his character
rises in proportion to his gains. But why do you ask these singular
I thought I heard Anna breathe harder than usual, and it is certain
that she leaned far out of the window to pluck a rose.
"Why, Mrs. Norton said Jack was not invited to Sir Harry Griffin's
because his father was a stock-jobber. Do you think she was right,
"Very likely, my dear," returned the divine, who I fancied was
smiling at the question. "Sir Harry has the advantages of birth, and
he probably did not forget that our friend Jack was not so
fortunate--and, moreover, Sir Harry, while he values himself on his
wealth, is not as rich as Jack's father by a million or two--in
other words, as they say on 'Change, Jack's father could buy ten of
him. This motive was perhaps more likely to influence him than the
first. In addition, Sir Harry is suspected of gambling himself in
the funds through the aid of agents; and a gentleman who resorts to
such means to increase his fortune is a little apt to exaggerate his
social advantages by way of a set-off to the humiliation."
"And GENTLEMEN do really become stock-jobbers, father?"
"Anna, the world has undergone great changes in my time. Ancient
opinions have been shaken, and governments themselves are getting to
be little better than political establishments to add facilities to
the accumulation of money. This is a subject, however, you cannot
very well understand, nor do I pretend to be very profound in it
"But is Jack's father really so very, very rich?" asked Anna, whose
thoughts had been wandering from the thread of those pursued by her
"He is believed to be so."
"And Jack is his heir."
"Certainly--he has no other child; though it is not easy to say what
so singular a being may do with his money."
"I hope he will disinherit Jack!"
"You surprise me, Anna! You, who are so mild and reasonable, to wish
such a misfortune to befall our young friend John Goldencalf!" I
gazed upward in astonishment at this extraordinary speech of Anna,
and at the moment I would have given all my interest in the fortune
in question to have seen her face (most of her body was out of the
window, for I heard her again rustling the bush above my head), in
order to judge of her motive by its expression; but an envious rose
grew exactly in the only spot where it was possible to get a
"Why do you wish so cruel a thing?" resumed Dr. Etherington, a
"Because I hate stock-jobbing and its riches, father. Were Jack
poorer, it seems to me he would be better esteemed."
As this was uttered the dear girl drew back, and I then perceived
that I had mistaken her cheek for one of the largest and most
blooming of the flowers. Dr. Etherington laughed, and I distinctly
heard him kiss the blushing face of his daughter. I think I would
have given up my hopes in another million to have been the rector at
Tenthpig at that instant.
"If that be all, child," he answered, "set thy heart at rest. Jack's
money will never bring him into contempt unless through the use he
may make of it. Alas! Anna, we live in an age of corruption and
cupidity! Generous motives appear to be lost sight of in the general
desire of gain; and he who would manifest a disposition to a pure
and disinterested philanthropy is either distrusted as a hypocrite
or derided as a fool. The accursed revolution among our neighbors
the French has quite unsettled opinions, and religion itself has
tottered in the wild anarchy of theories to which it has given rise.
There is no worldly advantage that has been more austerely denounced
by the divine writers than riches, and yet it is fast rising to be
the god of the ascendant. To say nothing of an hereafter, society is
getting to be corrupted by it to the core, and even respect for
birth is yielding to the mercenary feeling."
"And do you not think pride of birth, father, a mistaken prejudice
as well as pride of riches?"
"Pride of any sort, my love, cannot exactly be defended on
evangelical principles; but surely some distinctions among men are
necessary, even for quiet. Were the levelling principle
acknowledged, the lettered and the accomplished must descend to an
equality with the ignorant and vulgar, since all men cannot rise to
the attainments of the former class, and the world would retrograde
to barbarism. The character of a Christian gentleman is much too
precious to trifle with in order to carry out an impracticable
Anna was silent. Probably she was confused between the opinions
which she most liked to cherish and the faint glimmerings of truth
to which we are reduced by the ordinary relations of life. As for
the good rector himself, I had no difficulty in understanding his
bias, though neither his premises nor his conclusions possessed the
logical clearness that used to render his sermons so delightful,
more especially when he preached about the higher qualities of the
Saviour's dispensation, such as charity, love of our fellows, and,
in particular, the imperative duty of humbling ourselves before God.
A month after this accidental dialogue, chance made me auditor of
what passed between my ancestor and Sir Joseph Job, another
celebrated dealer in the funds, in an interview that took place in
the house of the former in Cheapside. As the difference was so
PATENT, as the French express it, I shall furnish the substance of
"This is a serious and a most alarming movement, Mr. Goldencalf,"
observed Sir Joseph, "and calls for union and cordiality among the
holders of property. Should these damnable opinions get fairly
abroad among the people, what would become of us? I ask, Mr.
Goldencalf, what would become of us?"
"I agree with you, Sir Joseph, it is very alarming!--frightfully
"We shall have agrarian laws, sir. Your money, sir, and mine--our
hard earnings--will become the prey of political robbers, and our
children will be beggared to satisfy the envious longings of some
pitiful scoundrel without a six-pence!"
"'Tis a sad state of things, Sir Joseph; and government is very
culpable that it don't raise at least ten new regiments."
"The worst of it is, good Mr. Goldencalf, that there are some jack-
a-napeses of the aristocracy who lead the rascals on and lend them
the sanction of their names. It is a great mistake, sir, that we
give so much importance to birth in this island, by which means
proud beggars set unwashed blackguards in motion, and the
substantial subjects are the sufferers. Property, sir, is in danger,
and property is the only true basis of society."
"I am sure, Sir Joseph, I never could see the smallest use in
"It is of no use but to beget pensioners, Mr. Goldencalf. Now with
property it is a different thing--money is the parent of money, and
by money a state becomes powerful and prosperous. But this accursed
revolution among our neighbors the French has quite unsettled
opinions, and, alas! property is in perpetual danger!"
"Sorry am I to say, I feel it to be so in every nerve of my body,
"We must unite and defend ourselves, Mr. Goldencalf, else both you
and I, men warm enough and substantial enough at present, will be in
the ditch. Do you not see that we are in actual danger of a division
"Yes, sir, our sacred property is in danger!"
Here Sir Joseph shook my father cordially by the hand and withdrew.
I find, by a memorandum among the papers of my deceased ancestor,
that he paid the broker of Sir Joseph, that day month, sixty-two
thousand seven hundred and twelve pounds difference (as bull and
bear), owing to the fact of the knight having got some secret
information through a clerk in one of the offices; an advantage that
enabled him, in this instance, at least, to make a better bargain
than one who was generally allowed to be among the shrewdest
speculators on 'Change.
My mind was of a nature to be considerably exercised (as the pious
purists express it), by becoming the depository of sentiments so
diametrically opposed to each other as those of Dr. Etherington and
those of Sir Joseph Job. On the one side, I was taught the
degradation of birth; on the other, the dangers of property. Anna
was usually my confidant, but on this subject I was tongue-tied, for
I dared not confess that I had overheard the discourse with her
father, and I was compelled to digest the contradictory doctrines by
myself in the best manner I could.
SHOWING THE UPS AND DOWNS, THE HOPES AND FEARS, AND THE VAGARIES OF
LOVE, SOME VIEWS OF DEATH, AND AN ACCOUNT OF AN INHERITANCE.
From my twentieth to my twenty-third year no event occurred of any
great moment. The day I became of age my father settled on me a
regular allowance of a thousand a year, and I make no doubt I should
have spent my time much as other young men had it not been for the
peculiarity of my birth, which I now began to see was wanting in a
few of the requisites to carry me successfully through a struggle
for place with a certain portion of what is called the great world.
While most were anxious to trace themselves into obscurity, there
was a singular reluctance to effecting the object as clearly and as
distinctly as it was in my power to do. From all which, as well as
from much other testimony, I have been led to infer that the doses
of mystification which appear to be necessary to the happiness of
the human race require to be mixed with an experienced and a
delicate hand. Our organs, both physically and morally, are so
fearfully constituted that they require to be protected from
realities. As the physical eye has need of clouded glass to look
steadily at the sun so it would seem the mind's eye has also need of
something smoky to look steadily at truth. But, while I avoided
laying open the secret of my heart to Anna, I sought various
opportunities to converse with Dr. Etherington and my father on
those points which gave me the most concern. From the first, I heard
principles which went to show that society was of necessity divided
into orders; that it was not only impolitic but wicked to weaken the
barriers by which they were separated; that Heaven had its seraphs
and cherubs, its archangels and angels, its saints and its merely
happy, and that, by obvious induction, this world ought to have its
kings, lords, and commons. The usual winding-up of all the Doctor's
essays was a lamentation on the confusion in classes that was
visiting England as a judgment. My ancestor, on the other hand,
cared little for social classification, or for any other
conservatory expedient but force. On this topic he would talk all
day, regiments and bayonets glittering in every sentence. When most
eloquent on this theme he would cry (like Mr. Manners Sutton),
"ORDER--order!" nor can I recall a single disquisition that did not
end with, "Alas, Jack, property is in danger!"
I shall not say that my mind entirely escaped confusion among these
conflicting opinions, although I luckily got a glimpse of one
important truth, for both the commentators cordially agreed in
fearing and, of necessity, in hating the mass of their fellow-
creatures. My own natural disposition was inclining to philanthropy,
and as I was unwilling to admit the truth of theories that arrayed
me in open hostility against so large a portion of mankind, I soon
determined to set up one of my own, which, while it avoided the
faults, should include the excellences of both the others. It was,
of course, no great affair merely to form such a resolution; but I
shall have occasion to say a word hereafter on the manner in which I
attempted to carry it out in practice.
Time moved on, and Anna became each day more beautiful. I thought
that she had lost some of her frankness and girlish gayety, it is
true, after the dialogue with her father; but this I attributed to
the reserve and discretion that became the expanding reason and
greater feeling of propriety that adorn young womanhood. With me she
was always ingenuous and simple, and were I to live a thousand years
the angelic serenity of countenance with which she invariably
listened to the theories of my busy brain would not be erased from
We were talking of these things one morning quite alone. Anna heard
me when I was most sedate with manifest pleasure, and she smiled
mournfully when the thread of my argument was entangled by a vagary
of the imagination. I felt at my heart's core what a blessing such a
mentor would be, and how fortunate would be my lot could I succeed
in securing her for life. Still I did not, could not, summon courage
to lay bare my inmost thoughts, and to beg a boon that in these
moments of transient humility I feared I never should be worthy to
"I have even thought of marrying," I continued--so occupied with my
own theories as not to weigh, with the accuracy that becomes the
frankness and superior advantages which man possesses over the
gentler sex, the full import of my words; "could I find one, Anna,
as gentle, as good, as beautiful, and as wise as yourself who would
consent to be mine, I should not wait a minute; but, unhappily, I
fear this is not likely to be my blessed lot. I am not the grandson
of a baronet, and your father expects to unite you with one who can
at least show that the 'bloody hand' has once been born on his
shield; and, on the other side, my father talks of nothing but
millions." During the first part of this speech the amiable girl
looked kindly up at me, and with a seeming desire to soothe me; but
at its close her eyes dropped upon her work and she remained silent.
"Your father says that every man who has an interest in the state
should give it pledges"--here Anna smiled, but so covertly that her
sweet mouth scarce betrayed the impulse--"and that none others can
ever control it to advantage. I have thought of asking my father to
buy a borough and a baronetcy, for with the first, and the influence
that his money gives, he need not long wish for the last; but I
never open my lips on any matter of the sort that he does not answer
'Fol lol der rol, Jack, with your knighthoods, and social order, and
bishoprics, and boroughs--property is in danger!--loans and
regiments, if thou wilt--give us more order "ORDER--order"--bayonets
are what we want, boy, and good wholesome taxes, to accustom the
nation to contribute to its own wants and to maintain its credit.
Why, youngster, if the interest on the debt were to remain unpaid
twenty-four hours, your body corporate, as you call it, would die a
natural death; and what would then become of your knights--barro-
knights?--and barren enough some of them are getting to be by their
wastefulness and extravagance. Get thee married, Jack, and settle
prudently. There is neighbor Silverpenny has an only daughter of a
suitable age; and a good hussy is she in the bargain. The only
daughter of Oliver Silverpenny will be a suitable wife for the only
son of Thomas Goldencalf; though I give thee notice, boy, that thou
wilt be cut off with a competency; so keep thy head clear of
extravagant castle-building, learn economy in season, and, above
all, make no debts.' "Anna laughed as I humorously imitated the
well-known intonations of Mr. Speaker Sutton, but a cloud darkened
her bright features when I concluded.
"Yesterday I mentioned the subject to your father," I resumed, "and
he thought with me that the idea of the borough and the baronetcy
was a good one. 'You would be the second of your line, Jack,' he
said, 'and that is always better than being the first; for there is
no security for a man's being a good member of society like that of
his having presented to his eyes the examples of those who have gone
before him, and who have been distinguished by their services or
their virtues. If your father would consent to come into parliament
and sustain government at this critical moment, his origin would be
overlooked, and you would have pride in looking back on his acts. As
it is, I fear his whole soul is occupied with the unworthy and
debasing passion of mere gain. Money is a necessary auxiliary to
rank, and without rank there can be no order, and without order no
liberty; but when the love of money gets to occupy the place of
respect for descent and past actions, a community loses the very
sentiment on which all its noble exploits are bottomed.' So you see,
dear Anna, that our parents hold very different opinions on a very
grave question, and between natural affection and acquired
veneration I scarcely know which to receive. If I could find one
sweet, and wise, and beautiful as thou, and who could pity me, I
would marry to-morrow, and cast all the future on the happiness that
is to be found with such a companion."
As usual, Anna heard me in silence. That she did not, however, view
matrimony with exactly the same eyes as myself was clearly proved
the very next day, for young Sir Harry Griffin (the father was dead)
offered in form and was very decidedly refused.
Although I was always happy at the rectory, I could not help feeling
rather than seeing that, as the French express it, I occupied a
false position in society. Known to be the expectant of great
wealth, it was not easy to be overlooked altogether in a country
whose government is based on a representation of property, and in
which boroughs are openly in market; and yet they who had obtained
the accidental advantage of having their fortunes made by their
grandfathers were constantly convincing me that mine, vast as it was
thought to be, was made by my father. Ten thousand times did I wish
(as it has since been expressed by the great captain of the age),
that I had been my own grandson; for notwithstanding the probability
that he who is nearest to the founder of a fortune is the most
likely to share the largest in its accumulations, as he who is
nearest in descent to the progenitor who has illustrated his race is
the most likely to feel the influence of his character, I was not
long in perceiving that in highly refined and intellectual
communities the public sentiment, as it is connected with the
respect and influence that are the meed of both, directly refutes
the inferences of all reasonable conjectures on the subject. I was
out of my place, uneasy, ashamed, proud, and resentful; in short I
occupied a FALSE POSITION, and unluckily one from which I saw no
plausible retreat except by falling back on Lombard street or by
cutting my throat. Anna alone--kind, gentle, serene-eyed Anna--
entered into all my joys, sympathized in my mortifications, and
appeared to view me as I was; neither dazzled by my wealth nor
repelled by my origin. The day she refused young Sir Harry Griffin I
could have kneeled at her feet and called her blessed!
It is said that no moral disease is ever benefited by its study. I
was a living proof of the truth of the opinion that brooding over
one's wrongs or infirmities seldom does much more than aggravate the
evil. I greatly fear it is in the nature of man to depreciate the
advantages he actually enjoys and to exaggerate those which are
denied him. Fifty times during the six months that succeeded the
repulse of the young baronet did I resolve to take heart and to
throw myself at the feet of Anna, and as often was I deterred by the
apprehension that I had nothing to render me worthy of one so
excellent, and especially of one who was the granddaughter of the
seventh English baronet. I do not pretend to explain the connection
between cause and effect, for I am neither physician nor
metaphysician; but the tumult of spirits that resulted from so many
doubts, hopes, fears, resolutions, and breakings of resolutions,
began to affect my health, and I was just about to yield to the
advice of my friends (among whom Anna was the most earnest and the
most sorrowful), to travel, when an unexpected call to attend the
death-bed of my ancestor was received. I tore myself from the
rectory and hurried up to town with the diligence and assiduity of
an only son and heir summoned on an occasion so solemn.
I found my ancestor still in the possession of his senses, though
given over by the physicians; a circumstance that proved a degree of
disinterestedness and singleness of purpose on their part that was
scarcely to be expected towards a patient who it was commonly
believed was worth more than a million. My reception by the servants
and by the two or three friends who had assembled on this melancholy
occasion, too, was sympathizing, warm, and of a character to show
their solicitude and forethought.
My reception by the sick man was less marked. The total abstraction
of his faculties in the one great pursuit of his life; a certain
sternness of purpose which is apt to get the ascendant with those
who are resolute to gain, and which usually communicates itself to
the manners; and an absence of those kinder ties that are developed
by the exercise of the more familiar charities of our existence had
opened a breach between us that was not to be filled by the simple
unaided fact of natural affinity. I say of natural affinity, for
notwithstanding the doubts that cast their shadows on that branch of
my genealogical tree by which I was connected with my maternal
grandfather, the title of the king to his crown is not more apparent
than was my direct lineal descent from my father. I always believed
him to be my ancestor de jure as well as de facto, and could fain
have loved him and honored him as such had my natural yearnings been
met with more lively bowels of sympathy on his side.
Notwithstanding the long and unnatural estrangement that had thus
existed between the father and son, the meeting on the present
occasion was not entirely without some manifestations of feeling.
"Thou art come at last, Jack," said my ancestor; "I was afraid, boy,
thou might'st be too late."
The difficult breathing, haggard countenance, and broken utterance
of my father struck me with awe. This was the first death-bed by
which I had ever stood; and the admonishing picture of time passing
into eternity was indelibly stamped on my memory. It was not only a
death-bed scene, but it was a family death-bed scene. I know not how
it was, but I thought my ancestor looked more like the Goldencalfs
than I had ever seen him look before.
"Thou hast come at last, Jack," he repeated, "and I'm glad of it.
Thou art the only being in whom I have now any concern. It might
have been better, perhaps, had I lived more with my kind--but thou
wilt be the gainer. Ah! Jack, we are but miserable mortals after
all! To be called away so suddenly and so young!"
My ancestor had seen his seventy-fifth birthday; but unhappily he
had not settled all his accounts with the world, although he had
given the physician his last fee and sent the parson away with a
donation to the poor of the parish that would make even a beggar
merry for a whole life.
"Thou art come at last, Jack! Well, my loss will be thy gain, boy!
Send the nurse from the room."
I did as commanded, and we were left to ourselves.
"Take this key," handing me one from beneath his pillow, "and open
the upper drawer of my secretary. Bring me the packet which is
addressed to thyself."
I silently obeyed; when my ancestor, first gazing at it with a
sadness that I cannot well describe--for it was neither worldly nor
quite of an ethereal character, but a singular and fearful compound
of both--put the papers into my hand, relinquishing his hold slowly
and with reluctance.
"Thou wilt wait till I am out of thy sight, Jack?"
A tear burst from out its source and fell upon the emaciated hand of
my father. He looked at me wistfully, and I felt a slight pressure
that denoted affection.
"It might have been better, Jack, had we known more of each other.
But Providence made me fatherless, and I have lived childless by my
own folly. Thy mother was a saint, I believe; but I fear I learned
it too late. Well, a blessing often comes at the eleventh hour!"
As my ancestor now manifested a desire not to be disturbed, I called
the nurse and quitted the room, retiring to my own modest chamber,
where the packet, a large bundle of papers sealed and directed to
myself in the handwriting of the dying man, was carefully secured
under a good lock. I did not meet my father again but once under
circumstances which admitted of intelligible communion. From the
time of our first interview he gradually grew worse, his reason
tottered, and, like the sinful cardinal of Shakespeare, "he died and
gave no sign."
Three days after my arrival, however, I was left alone with him, and
he suddenly revived from a state approaching to stupor. It was the
only time since the first interview in which he had seemed even to
"Thou art come at last!" he said, in a tone that was already
sepulchral. "Canst tell me, boy, why they had golden rods to measure
the city?" His nurse had been reading to him a chapter of the
Revelations which had been selected by himself. "Thou seest, lad,
the wall itself was of jasper and the city was of pure gold--I shall
not need money in my new habitation--ha! it will not be wanted
there!--I am not crazed, Jack--would I had loved gold less and my
kind more. The city itself is of pure gold and the walls of jasper--
precious abode!--ha! Jack, thou hearest, boy--I am happy--too happy,
The final words were uttered with a shout. They were the last that
ever came from the lips of Thomas Goldencalf. The noise brought in
the attendants, who found him dead. I ordered the room to be cleared
as soon as the melancholy truth was fairly established, and remained
several minutes alone with the body. The countenance was set in
death. The eyes, still open, had that revolting glare of frenzied
delight with which the spirit had departed, and the whole face
presented the dread picture of a hopeless end. I knelt and, though a
Protestant, prayed fervently for the soul of the deceased. I then
took my leave of the first and the last of all my ancestors.
To this scene succeeded the usual period of outward sorrow, the
interment, and the betrayal of the expectations of the survivors. I
observed that the house was much frequented by many who rarely or
never had crossed its threshold during the life of its late owner.
There was much cornering, much talking in an undertone, and looking
at me that I did not understand, and gradually the number of regular
visitors increased until it amounted to about twenty. Among them
were the parson of the parish, the trustees of several notorious
charities, three attorneys, four or five well-known dealers of the
stock exchange, foremost among whom was Sir Joseph Job, and three of
the professionally benevolent, or of those whose sole occupation
appears to be that of quickening the latent charities of their
The day after my ancestor was finally removed from our sight, the
house was more than usually crowded. The secret conferences
increased both in earnestness and in frequency, and finally I was
summoned to meet these ill-timed guests in the room which had been
the sanctum sanctorum of the late owner of the dwelling. As I
entered among twenty strange faces, wondering why I, who had
hitherto passed through life so little heeded, should be
unseasonably importuned, Sir Joseph Job presented himself as the
spokesman of the party.
"We have sent for you, Mr. Goldencalf," the knight commenced,
decently wiping his eyes, "because we think that respect for our
late much-esteemed, most excellent, and very respectable friend
requires that we no longer neglect his final pleasure, but that we
should proceed at once to open his will, in order that we may take
prompt measures for its execution. It would have been more regular
had we done this before he was interred, for we cannot have foreseen
his pleasure concerning his venerable remains; but it is fully my
determination to have everything done as he has ordered, even though
we may be compelled to disinter the body."
I am habitually quiescent, and possibly credulous, but nature has
not denied me a proper spirit. What Sir Joseph Job, or any one but
myself, had to do with the will of my ancestor did not strike me at
first sight; and I took care to express as much, in terms it was not
easy to misunderstand.
"The only child and, indeed, the only known relative of the
deceased," I said, "I do not well see, gentlemen, how this subject
should interest in this lively manner so many strangers!"
"Very spirited and proper, no doubt, sir," returned Sir Joseph,
smiling; "but you ought to know, young gentleman, that if there are
such things as heirs there are also such things as executors!"
This I did know already, and I had also somewhere imbibed an opinion
that the latter was commonly the most lucrative situation.
"Have you any reason to suppose, Sir Joseph Job, that my late father
has selected you to fulfil this trust?"
"That will be better known in the end, young gentleman. Your late
father is known to have died rich, very rich--not that he has left
as much by half a million as vulgar report will have it--but what I
should term comfortably off; and it is unreasonable to suppose that
a man of his great caution and prudence should suffer his money to
go to the heir-at-law, that heir being a youth only in his twenty-
third year, ignorant of business, not over-gifted with experience,
and having the propensities of all his years in this ill-behaving
and extravagant age, without certain trusts and provisions which
will leave his hard earnings for some time to come under the care of
men who like himself know the full value of money."
"No, never!--'tis quite impossible--'tis more than impossible!"
exclaimed the bystanders, all shaking their heads.
"And the late Mr. Goldencalf, too, intimate with most of the
substantial names on 'Change, and particularly with Sir Joseph Job!"
Sir Joseph Job nodded his head, smiled, stroked his chin, and stood
waiting for my reply.
"Property is in danger, Sir Joseph," I said, ironically; "but it
matters not. If there is a will, it is as much my interest to know
it as it can possibly be yours; and I am quite willing that a search
be made on the spot."
Sir Joseph looked daggers at me; but being a man of business he took
me at my word, and, receiving the keys I offered, a proper person
was immediately set to work to open the drawers. The search was
continued for four hours without success. Every private drawer was
rummaged, every paper opened, and many a curious glance was cast at
the contents of the latter, in order to get some clew to the
probable amount of the assets of the deceased. Consternation and
uneasiness very evidently increased among most of the spectators as
the fruitless examination proceeded; and when the notary ended,
declaring that no will was to be found, nor any evidence of credits,
every eye was fastened on me as if I were suspected of stealing that
which in the order of nature was likely to be my own without the
necessity of crime.
"There must be a secret repository of papers somewhere," said Sir
Joseph Job, as if he suspected more than he wished just then to
express; "Mr. Goldencalf is largely a creditor on the public books,
and yet here is not so much as a scrip for a pound!"
I left the room and soon returned, bringing with me the bundle that
had been committed to me by my father.
"Here, gentlemen," I said, "is a large packet of papers that were
given to me by the deceased on his death-bed with his own hands. It
is, as you see, sealed with his seal and especially addressed to me
in his own handwriting, and it is not violent to suppose that the
contents concern me only. Still, as you take so great an interest in
the affairs of the deceased, it shall now be opened, and those
contents, so far as you can have any right to know them, shall not
be hid from you."
I thought Sir Joseph looked grave when he saw the packet and had
examined the handwriting of the envelope. All, however, expressed
their satisfaction that the search was now most probably ended. I
broke the seals and exposed the contents of the envelope. Within it
there were several smaller packets, each sealed with the seal of the
deceased, and each addressed to me in his own handwriting like the
external covering. Each of these smaller packets, too, had a
separate indorsement of its contents. Taking them as they lay, I
read aloud the nature of each before I proceeded to the next. They
were also numbered.
"No. 1," I commenced. "Certificates of public stock held by Tho.
Goldencalf, June 12th, 1815." We were now at June 29th of the same
year. As I laid aside this packet I observed that the sum indorsed
on its back greatly exceeded a million. "No. 2. Certificates of Bank
of England stock." This sum was several hundred thousands of pounds.
"No. 3. South Sea Annuities." Nearly three hundred thousand pounds.
"No. 4. Bonds and mortgages." Four hundred and thirty thousand
pounds. "No. 5. The bond of Sir Joseph Job for sixty-three thousand
I laid down the paper and involuntarily exclaimed, "Property is in
danger!" Sir Joseph turned pale, but he beckoned to me to proceed,
saying, "We shall soon come to the will, sir."
"No. 6.--" I hesitated; for it was an assignment to myself, which
from its very nature I perceived was an abortive attempt to escape
the payment of the legacy duty.
"Well, sir, No. 6?" inquired Sir Joseph, with tremulous exultation.
"Is an instrument affecting myself, and with which you have no
"We shall see, sir, we shall see, sir--if you refuse to exhibit the
paper there are laws to compel you."
"To do what, Sir Joseph Job? To exhibit to my father's debtors'
papers that are exclusively addressed to me and which can affect me
only? But here is the paper, gentlemen, that you so much desire to
see. 'No. 7. The last will and testament of Tho. Goldencalf, dated
June 17th, 1816.'" (He died June the 24th of the same year.)
"Ah! the precious instrument!" exclaimed Sir Joseph Job, eagerly
extending his hand as if expecting to receive the will.
"This paper, as you perceive, gentlemen," I said, holding it up in a
manner that all present might see it, "is especially addressed to
myself, and it shall not quit my hands until I learn that some other
has a better right to it."
I confess my heart failed me as I broke the seals, for I had seen
but little of my father and I knew that he had been a man of very
peculiar opinions as well as habits. The will was all in his own
handwriting, and it was very short. Summoning courage I read it
aloud in the following words:
"In the name of God--Amen: I, Tho. Goldencalf, of the parish of Bow,
in the city of London, do publish and declare this instrument to be
my last will and testament:
"That is to say; I bequeath to my only child and much-beloved son,
John Goldencalf, all my real estate in the parish of Bow and city of
London, aforesaid, to be held in free-simple by him, his heirs, and
"I bequeath to my said only child and much-beloved son, John
Goldencalf, all my personal property of every sort and description
whatever of which I may die possessed, including bonds and
mortgages, public debt, bank stock, notes of hand, goods and
chattels, and all others of my effects, to him, his heirs, or
"I nominate and appoint my said much-beloved son, John Goldencalf,
to be the sole executor of this my last will and testament,
counselling him not to confide in any of those who may profess to
have been my friends; and particularly to turn a deaf ear to all the
pretensions and solicitations of Sir Joseph Job, Knight. In witness
whereof," etc., etc.
This will was duly executed, and it was witnessed by the nurse, his
confidential clerk, and the housemaid.