Part 2 out of 4
on my knees, shall I daily offer up prayers to heaven for thy safety and
prosperity. Oh refuse me not!--refuse me not, General, as thou thyself
hopest for mercy from thy God in the hour of retribution!" And she
wildly grasped the knees of the republican commander.
Without saying a word, Cromwell gently disengaged himself from the fair
suppliant, and, turning his back upon her, stalked to the further end of
the apartment, seemingly much agitated.
On gaining the extremity of the room, Cromwell stood for two or three
minutes, still keeping his back to Lady Rae, with arms folded, and
drooping his head, as if musing deeply. At the expiry of this period, he
suddenly turned round, and advancing towards his fair visitor with quick
and hurried step, said--
"My Lady Rae, may the Lord direct me in this matter and in all others. I
have been communing with myself anent your petition; truly have I, but
see not that I can serve thee; I cannot indeed. If we would all walk in
the straight path, we had need to walk warily; for in this matter I
cannot help thee, seeing my Lord Rae is a State prisoner, and I have no
power over him; none, truly, none whatever. The law is strong, and may
not be trifled with. But I will consider, fair lady, indeed will I; I
will seek direction and counsel in the matter from on high. I will do so
this night; I will have this night to think of the matter, and thou wilt
call upon me at this hour to-morrow, and I will then see if the Lord
will vouchsafe me any light as to how I may assist thee and thy poor
husband; for on thy account I would do so if I could."
Confused, and all but wholly unintelligible, as was this address of
Cromwell's, Lady Rae perceived that it contained a gleam of comfort,
that a ray of hope-inspiring light, however feeble, played through its
obscurity; and, satisfied with this, she urged her suit no further, but,
with a thankful acceptance of the Parliamentary general's invitation to
her to wait upon him on the following day, she withdrew.
On Lady Rae issuing from Cromwell's lodgings, she stood in the street,
gazing around her for an instant, as if looking for some one whom she
had expected to find waiting her, but who was not at the moment in
sight. This was the case; but it was only for a moment that she was so
detained. She had glanced but two or three times around her, when she
was joined by a personage of very striking appearance. This was a huge
Highlander, considerably above six feet in stature, proportionably stout
and well made, and apparently of enormous strength. He was dressed in
the full costume of his country, and armed to the teeth. By his side
depended a tremendous claymore; in his belt were stuck a dagger and a
brace of pistols; and on his shoulder rested that formidable weapon
called a Lochaber axe.
The countenance of this tremendous personage was in keeping with his
other charms: it was manly, and decidedly handsome, but withal was
marked with an expression of fierceness that was appalling to look upon;
and was thus calculated, when associated with his gigantic figure, to
inspire at once admiration and fear.
As this formidable personage approached Lady Rae, he touched his bonnet
with an air of the most profound respect, and assumed a look and
attitude of devoted attention to her commands.
"I have seen him, John," said Lady Rae, addressing her Goliath of an
attendant, who was neither more nor less than a retainer of Lord Rae's,
but one who stood high in the estimation of both the former and the
latter for his fidelity, and, fierce as he looked, for the gentleness of
his nature. John M'Kay--for such was his name--was, in short, an
especial favourite of both Lord and Lady Rae, and was admitted to a
degree of confidence and familiarity that elevated him much above his
real condition. They were proud, too, of his superb figure, and
delighted to exhibit him in the full dress of his country, as a specimen
of the men which it produced. "I have seen him, John," said Lady Rae,
whose protector and attendant John always was when she went forth on
occasions of business of importance like the present.
"And what he'll say, my letty?" inquired John in a low and gentle tone,
and stopping to catch Lady Rae's communication.
"Not much that is quite satisfactory, John. He speaks in a strange
style, but I think there is ground of hope. He did not altogether refuse
the prayer of my petition, but bade me call upon him again to-morrow."
John looked grave, but made no reply. His lady walked on, and he
followed at a respectful distance.
The former now directed her steps to a locality in the city with which
she was but too familiar, and which she had had occasion of late but too
often to frequent. This was the Tolbooth--the place of her husband's
On reaching the outer entrance to the jail, the low half-door, thickly
studded with huge-headed nails, by which it was temporarily secured
during the day, was immediately thrown open for her admission by the
turnkey--a little crusty-looking personage in a fur cap--who had been
leaning over it, listlessly looking around him, on her ladyship's
approach. As the latter entered the prison door, the former stood to one
side, doffed his little fur cap, and respectfully wished her ladyship a
"How are you to-day, James?" said Lady Rae in kindly tones; "and how is
"Quite well, my lady, quite well," replied the little turnkey, extremely
proud, seemingly, of the condescension of her ladyship. The latter
passed on, and commenced threading her way through the tortuous but
well-known passages which led to her husband's prison-room. John M'Kay
followed his mistress into the jail, previously leaving his arms at the
door--a condition to which he had always to submit before gaining
admission. Having denuded himself of his weapons, John also passed on,
but not before he had shaken his fist ominously in the face of the
little jailer. This was John's constant practice every time he entered
the prison; and, simple as the act was, it had a good deal of meaning.
It meant, in the first place, that John associated the misfortune of his
master's confinement with the little turnkey's employment; that he
considered him as aiding and abetting in the same. It further meant,
that if it were not for one thing more than another, or, as John himself
would have expressed it, "for todder things more nor ones," he would
have brought his Lochaber axe and the turnkey's head into more intimate
In the meantime, Lady Rae having ascended several flights of dark and
narrow stairs, and traversed several passages of a similar description,
had arrived at a particular door, on either side of which stood a
grenadier, with shouldered musket and bayonet fixed. They were the
guards placed upon her husband, who occupied the apartment which they
The soldiers, who had orders to admit her ladyship and attendant to the
prisoner at any time between the hours of nine in the morning and seven
at night, offered no hindrance to her approaching the door and rapping
for admittance. This she now did; and the "Who's there?" of the captive
was replied to in a powerfully Celtic accent by John M'Kay, with--"My
Letty Rae, my lort." The door instantly flew open, and its inmate came
forth, with a smiling and delighted countenance, to receive his
beautiful and faithful wife.
In the meantime, John M'Kay took his station on the outside of the
door--a more friendly guard over the inmates of the apartment to which
it conducted than those who stood on either side of him. Here the same
feeling which had dictated John's significant hint to the turnkey below,
suggested his general bearing and particular manner to the two soldiers
now beside him.
Maintaining a profound and contemptuous silence, he strutted up and down
the passage--without going, however, more than two or three yards either
way--in front of the door of his lordship's apartment, keeping his huge
form proudly erect, as he thus paced the short walk to which he had
limited himself, and casting, every now and then, a look of fierce
defiance on the appalled soldiers, who looked with fear and dread on the
chafed lion with whom they found themselves thus unpleasantly caged, and
who seemed every moment as if he would spring upon and tear them to
pieces; and, in truth, little provocation would it have taken to have
brought John M'Kay's huge fists into play about their heads. There can
be no doubt that there was nothing at that moment which would have given
John more satisfaction than their affording him an excuse for attacking
them. This, however, the soldiers carefully avoided; and, not content
with refraining from giving the slightest offence, either in word, look,
or deed, endeavoured to conciliate John by an attempt to lead him into
friendly conversation. But the attempt was in vain. Their advances were
all repelled, either with silent contempt or with a gruff uncourteous
response. A specimen of the conversation which did take place between
M'Kay and the guards may be given:--
"Delightful day, friend!" said one of the soldiers.
"S'pose it is!" replied John sternly, and continuing his walk.
"Anything new in the town to-day?" at length said the other soldier.
"S'pose something new every tay!" replied John gruffly.
"Ay, ay, I dare say; but have _you_ anything new to tell us?"
"Maype I have," said John, with a grim smile.
"What is it?"
"Tat I'll knock your tam thick head against tat wall if you'll pe botter
me wi' any more o' your tam nonsense. Tat's news for you!" and John gave
one of those peculiar Celtic grunts which no combination of letters can
express. "And you, you scarecrow-looking rascal," he continued,
addressing the other sentinel, "if you'll spoke anoder word, I'll cram
my sporran doon your dam troat."
Having delivered himself of these friendly addresses, John resumed his
march, with additional pride of step and bearing. In a minute after, he
was summoned into Lord Rae's apartment, where he remained until Lady Rae
left the prison, which she did in a short time afterwards.
It was with a beating heart and anxious mind that Lady Rae wended her
way, on the following day--attended, as usual, by her gigantic
serving-man--to the lodgings of Oliver Cromwell. On reaching the house,
M'Kay took his station, as on a former occasion, on the outside, while
her ladyship advanced towards the door, within which she speedily
disappeared, her admittance having been more prompt on the present visit
than the former.
In an instant after, Lady Rae was again in the presence of Oliver
Cromwell. As on the former occasion, he was employed in writing when she
entered, and as on that occasion, so also he threw down his pen, and
rose to receive her.
"Anent this matter of yours, my lady," began Cromwell abruptly, and
without any previous salutation, although he looked all civility and
kindness, "I really hardly know what to say; truly do I not; but the
Lord directs all, and He will guide us in this thing also."
"I trust so!" interrupted Lady Rae, meekly.
"Yes," resumed the future Protector of England; "for we are but weak
creatures, short-sighted and erring. But indeed, as I told you before,
my lady, your husband is a State prisoner; truly is he, and therefore
may I not interfere with him. I cannot; I have not the power. Yet would
I serve thee if I could; truly would I with great pleasure. But these,
you see, are strange times, in which all men must walk warily; for we
are beset with enemies, with traitors--deceivers on all sides, men who
fear not the Lord. Yet, for this matter of yours, my Lady Rae, I will
tell you: I cannot take your husband from prison; it would be unseemly
in the sight of all God-fearing men; but truly, if you could in any ways
manage to get his lordship once without the prison walls, I would take
upon me to prevent his being further troubled. He should have a
protection under my hand; truly he should, although it might bring me to
some odium with my friends. But he should have it, nevertheless, out of
my respect for you, my lady. Now go, go, my lady; I may say no more on
the subject. Go, try and fall on some means of getting thy husband
without the walls of his prison; this done, come instantly to me, and
thou shalt have a protection for him under my hand; indeed thou shalt."
To Lady Rae, this proposal was a grievous disappointment. It contained
an arrangement which she had never contemplated, and which seemed as
impracticable as it was strange; yet she saw it was all she had to
expect, and that whatever might be the result, she must be content with
the extent of interference on her husband's behalf, which was included
in the singular measures suggested by Cromwell.
Impressed with this conviction, Lady Rae thanked him for his kindness,
said she would endeavour to get her husband without the prison gates by
some means or other, and would then again wait upon him for the
protection he was so generous as to offer.
"Do so, my lady, do so," said Cromwell, escorting her ladyship to the
door with an air of great gallantry; "and may the Lord have thee in his
Lady Rae turned round, again thanked the general, curtseyed, and
On reaching the street, her ladyship was instantly joined by her
faithful attendant M'Kay, who had been waiting with the greatest anxiety
and impatience for her return; for to him his master's life and liberty
were dearer far than his own, and he well knew that both were much in
the power of the extraordinary man on whom his lady was now waiting.
On the first glance which he obtained of his mistress's countenance,
John saw, with a feeling of disappointment that lengthened his own
several inches, that the interview had not been a satisfactory one. His
native sense of politeness, however, and of the deference due to his
mistress, prevented him making any inquiries as to what had passed until
she should herself choose to communicate with him on the subject. For
such communication, however, he had longer to wait than usual; for, lost
in thought and depressed with disappointment, Lady Rae walked on a good
way without taking any notice whatever of her attendant, who was
following at a distance of several yards. At length she suddenly
stopped, but without turning round. This John knew to be the signal for
him to advance. He accordingly did so, and, touching his bonnet, waited
for the communication which it promised.
"I am afraid, John," now said Lady Rae--"I am afraid we shall be
disappointed, after all. The general has made the strangest proposal you
ever heard. He says that he cannot, without compromising himself, or to
that effect, liberate his lordship from jail; but that if he were once
out--that is, if he could be got out by any means--he would save him
from being further troubled, and would grant him a protection under his
own hand. But how on earth are we to get him out? It is impossible.
These two guards at the door, besides other difficulties, render it
altogether impracticable. I know not what is to be done."
It was some seconds before M'Kay made any reply. At length--
"I'll no think ta difficulty fery crate, after all, my letty," replied
John. "There's shust ta bodachan at ta dore, I could put in my sporran,
and ta twa soger."
"Yes, John; the first you might perhaps manage," said Lady Rae, smiling,
and glancing unconsciously at the huge figure of her attendant, which
presented so striking a contrast to that of the little, slim, crusty
turnkey; "but the two soldiers--"
"Whoich," exclaimed John contemptuously; "if's no far prettier men than
was there yesterday, it'll no trouble me much to manage them too, my
letty. A wee bit clamsheuchar wi' my Lochaper axe, or a brog wi' my
skean-dhu, will make them quate aneuch, my letty. Tat's but a small
"John, John, no violence, no violence!" exclaimed Lady Rae, in great
alarm at the sanguinary view of the process for her husband's liberation
which John had taken. "No violence. If his lordship's liberation be
attempted at all, there must be no violence; at least none to the
shedding of blood, or to the inflicting the smallest injury on any one.
The idea is horrible; and, if acted on, would only make matters worse.
Your own life, John, would be the forfeit of such an atrocious
"Foich, a figs for tat, my letty, beggin' your lettyship's pardon,"
replied John, a good deal disappointed at the peaceful tone of his
mistress, and at the loss of an opportunity, such as he had long
desired, of taking vengeance on his master's guards and jailers. "Foich,
a figs for tat, my letty, beggin' your lettyship's pardon," he said. "I
could teuk to the hills in a moment's notice, and see who'll catch John
"Well, well, perhaps, John, you might, but you must speak no more of
violence; I charge you, speak no more of it. We will, in the meantime,
go to his lordship and submit the matter to him, and be guided
thereafter by his advice."
Having said this, Lady Rae directed her steps to the jail, and, closely
followed by M'Kay, was soon after in the apartment of the prisoner.
Lord Rae having been apprised by his lady of the result of her interview
with Cromwell, a secret consultation between the two, which lasted
nearly an hour, ensued.
During this consultation, many different plans for effecting the
liberation of the prisoner were suggested, and, after being duly
weighed, abandoned as impracticable. One at length, however, was
adopted, and this one was proposed by M'Kay; it was characteristic of
the man, and came as close in its nature to his original one as he
durst presume upon.
This plan, which was a simple enough one, was to seize the two guards at
the outside of the door, and to hold them fast until Lord Rae should
have rushed past them and got out of the prison. The turnkey at the
outer door, who, as has been already said, was a little slender man, his
lordship was to seize and throw down, and then get over the little
half-door, which was under his guardianship, the best way he could. A
row of short, sharp pikes, however, with which it was fenced on its
upper edge, rendered this a formidable difficulty; but it was thought
that it might, to speak literally, be got over by the aid of a long form
which stood on one side of the passage of the jail, for the
accommodation of visitors.
All this trouble a touch of the key would have saved; but this the
little man always carried in his pocket, never allowing it to remain in
the lock an instant, however frequent or numerous his visitors might be.
The securing of the two guards at the prisoner's door, by far the most
serious part of the business, M'Kay took upon himself, and with a degree
of confidence that sufficiently showed how well he was aware of his own
This plan of proceedings arranged, it was resolved that it should be put
in execution that very afternoon. On that afternoon, accordingly, John
M'Kay again appeared at the jail door, demanding admittance to his
master. The door was immediately thrown open to him by the little
turnkey, whom he now for the first time addressed in a friendly tone.
The same change of manner marked his salutation to the guards at the
door of his master's apartment. To these he spoke in the most civil and
obliging terms possible. The men, who had often winced under his savage
growls and fierce looks, wondered at the change, but were glad enough to
meet with it in place of his former ferocity.
John, after talking for a few minutes with the sentinels, went into his
lordship's room. The latter was dressed, and ready for the bold
proceeding about to be adopted. "Think you you can manage them, John?"
said his lordship in a whisper, after the door had been secured in the
"Pooch, a dizzen o' them, my lort!" replied M'Kay in the same
under-tone. "It's twa bits o' shachlin' podies no wors speakin' aboot."
"But they are armed, John--they have guns and bayonets; and the former
"Pooch, their guns! what'll sicknify their guns, my lort, when I'll have
cot a hold o' the craturs themsels in my hants?" and he held out his
enormous brown paws as if to certify their power. "I'll crush the podies
like a mussel shells."
"No violence, John, remember," said Lord Rae energetically, but smiling
as he spoke,--"that is, to the extent of doing the men any, the smallest
personal injury. Remember now, John; do otherwise," continued his
lordship in a more severe tone, "and you forfeit my favour and esteem
for ever. Mark, John, besides," added his lordship, who seemed most
anxious on the point which he was now pressing on M'Kay's consideration,
"your doing any injury to these men would be destruction to me; for,
under such circumstances, the general would not grant me a protection
after I was out, and my case would otherwise be rendered infinitely
worse and more hopeless than it is. Now, remember all this, John, and do
the men no personal injury, I charge you."
John's face reddened a little at the earnestness with which these
injunctions were delivered, and probably he thought they indicated
something like degeneracy in his chief; but he promised compliance with
his commands; and, to render his obedience more certain, by lessening
the temptation to infringe them, he denuded himself of a concealed dirk,
which he always carried about him, over and above the arms he openly
wore. Of this proceeding, which was voluntary on M'Kay's part, his
master highly approved, but, smiling, said--
"You have still your fists, John, nearly as dangerous weapons as that
you have just laid aside; but I hope you will use them sparingly."
John smiled, and promised he would.
In a few minutes afterwards M'Kay came forth from Lord Rae's apartment
to perform the daring feat of securing two armed men by the mere force
of physical strength; for he was now without weapon of any kind. When he
came out, however, it was with an appearance of the most friendly
feeling towards the soldiers. He came out smiling graciously, and
entered into familiar chat with the men, alleging that he came to put
off the time till his master had written a letter which he was to
deliver to a person in town.
Thrown off their guard by M'Kay's jocular and cordial manner, the
soldiers grounded their muskets, and began to enter in earnest into the
conversation which he was promoting. M'Kay, in the meantime, was
watching his opportunity to seize them; but this, as it was necessary he
should be placed, with regard to them, so as to have one on either side
of him, that he might grasp both at the same instant, he did not obtain
for some time.
By dint, however, of some exceedingly cautious and wary manoeuvring,
M'Kay at length found himself in a position favourable to his meditated
proceedings. On doing so, he, with the speed and force of lightning,
darted an arm out on either side of him, seized a soldier by the breast
with each hand, and with as much ease as a powerful dog could turn over
a kitten, laid them both gently on their backs on the floor of the
passage, where he held them extended at full length, and immovable in
his tremendous grasp, till he felt assured that Lord Rae had cleared the
prison. This the latter effected with the most perfect success. The
moment M'Kay seized the soldiers--an act of which Lord Rae was apprised
by the former's calling out, "Noo, noo, my lort"--he rushed out, ran
along the passage, descended the stair in three or four leaps, came upon
the little turnkey unawares, as he was looking over the half-door of the
prison entrance--his sole occupation during three-fourths of the
day--seized him by the neck of the coat behind, laid him down, as M'Kay
had done by the soldiers, at his full length--no great length after
all--on the floor; drew the form to the door, placed it over the little
turnkey in such a way as to prevent his rising, jumped on it, leapt into
the street at one bound, and instantly disappeared. All this was done in
the tenth part of the time that has been taken to relate it. It was, in
truth, the work of but a moment.
On being satisfied that Lord Rae had made his escape--
"Noo, lads, ye may got up," said M'Kay, loosening his hold of the men,
and starting himself to his feet. "Ta burd's flown; but ye may look
after ta cage, and see tat no more o' your canaries got away."
Freed from the powerful grasp which had hitherto pinned them to the
floor, the soldiers sprang to their feet, and endeavoured to get hold of
their muskets. Seeing this, M'Kay again seized them, and again threw
them to the floor; but on this occasion it was merely to show the power
he had over them, if they should still have any doubt of it.
"Noo, lads, I'll tell you what it is," said M'Kay, addressing the
prostrate soldiers--"if you'll behave yoursels desenly, and no be
botherin' me wi' ony more o' your tarn nonsense, I'll aloo you to make
me your prisoner; for I'm no intending to run away; I'll kive myself up
to save your hides, and take my shance of ta law for what I'll do. Tat's
my mind of it, lads. If you like to acree to it, goot and well; if not,
I will knock your two heads togidder, till your prains go into smash."
But too happy to accept of such terms, the soldiers at once assented to
them; and on their doing so, were permitted once more to resume their
legs, when M'Kay peaceably yielded himself their prisoner. The gigantic
Highlander could easily have effected his own escape; but he could not
have done so without having recourse to that violence which had been so
anxiously deprecated by both his master and mistress. Without inflicting
some mortal injury on the soldiers, he could not have prevented them
from pursuing him when he had fled, and probably firing on him as he did
so. All this, therefore, had been provided for by the arrangements
previously agreed upon by Lord Rae and his retainer. By these it was
settled, that he should, on the former's making his escape, peaceably
yield himself up to "underlie the law," in a reliance on the friendly
disposition of Cromwell towards the fugitive, which, it was not doubted,
would be exerted in behalf of his servant. Such proceeding, it was
thought too, would bring Lord Rae's case sooner to issue; and be, with
regard to the law, as it were, throwing a bone in the dog's way to
arrest his attention, and interrupt his pursuit of the original and more
important object of his vengeance.
On delivering himself up, M'Kay was immediately placed in confinement,
and shortly after brought to trial, for aiding and abetting in the
escape of a State prisoner. The trial was a very brief one; for the
facts were easily established, and sentence was about to be passed on
the prisoner, when a stir suddenly arose at the court door. The
presiding judge paused; the stir increased. In the next instant it was
hushed; and in that instant Cromwell entered the court. On advancing a
pace or two within the apartment, he took off his hat, bowed
respectfully to the judges, and proceeding onwards, finally ascended the
bench and took his seat beside them.
When a man feels himself master, he need be under no great ceremony;
neither need he trouble himself much about forms or rules which regulate
the conduct of inferiors. Cromwell, on this occasion, got up in a few
minutes after he had taken his place, and delivered to the court a long,
and, after his usual fashion, obscure and unconnected oration in favour
of the prisoner at the bar. The chief ground, however, on which he
rested his defence and exculpation of M'Kay, was the fidelity to his
master, which the crime with which he was charge implied, and the worse
effect to the cause of morality than good to the political interests of
the State, which the infliction of any punishment in such case would
produce. "If," concluded Cromwell, "fidelity to a master is to be
punished as a crime, where shall we look for honest servants?"
The reasoning of Cromwell, even had it been less cogent than it was,
could not be but convincin to those who knew of and dreaded his power.
He was listened to with the most profound attention, and the justness
of his arguments and force of his eloquence acknowledged by the
acquittal of the prisoner.
As M'Kay rose from his seat at the bar to leave the court, Cromwell eyed
him attentively for some seconds, and, struck with his prodigious size
and fierce aspect, whispered to one of the judges near him, "May the
Lord keep me from the devil's and _that_ man's grasp."
We have now only to add, that the protection promised by Cromwell to
Lady Rae for her husband was duly made out, and delivered to her. We
need not say that it was found to be a perfectly efficient document.
THE DIAMOND EYES.
When I entered Edinburgh College the students were tolerably free from
any of those clubs or parties into which some factitious subject--often
a whim--divides them. In the prior year the spirit of wager had seized a
great number of them with the harpy talons of the demon of gambling,
giving rise to consequences prejudicial to their morals, as well as to
their studies. A great deal of money among the richer of them changed
hands upon the result of bets, often the most frivolous, if not
altogether ridiculous. Now, we are not to say that, abstracted from the
love of money, the act of betting is unqualifiedly bad, if rather we may
not be able to say something for it, insomuch as it sometimes brings
out, and stamps ingenuity or sagacity, while it represses and chastises
arrogance. But the practice at the College at that time was actually
wild. They sought out subjects; the aye and the no of ordinary converse
was followed by the gauntlet, which was taken up on the instant; and
they even had an umpire in the club, a respectable young man of the name
of Hawley, who was too wise to bet himself, but who was pleased with the
honour of being privileged to decide the bets of the others.
In the heat of this wild enthusiasm, it happened that two of these
youths, one called Henry Dewhurst, and the other Frank Hamilton, were
walking on the jetty which runs out from the harbour of Leith a full
mile into the Forth. Dewhurst was the son of a West India planter, who
allowed him L300 a year, every penny of which was spent in paying only a
part of his bills long before the year was done; one of which bills I
had an opportunity of seeing, to my wonder--how any one could eat L15
worth of tarts and sweetmeats in the course of not many months! Hamilton
was the son of a west country proprietor, and enjoyed the privilege of
using, to his ruin, a yearly allowance of L250. In the midst of their
sauntering they hailed two of their friends,--one Campbell, a sworn
companion of the young West Indian; and the other Cameron, as closely
allied to Hamilton;--all the four being, as the saying goes, "birds of a
feather," tossing their wings in the gale of sprees, and not always
sleeping in their own nests at night.
As they approached the end of the jetty, they met a lad who had wounded
one of these large gulls called Tom Norries,--a beautiful creature, with
its fine lead-coloured wings and charming snow-white breast, and eye
like a diamond.
"I will give you a shilling for the bird," said Dewhurst.
"But what are you to do with it?" replied the lad. "I would not like it
to be killed. It is only hurt in the wing; and I will get half-a-crown
for it from one who has a garden to keep it in."
"No, no," said Dewhurst, "I'll not kill it. Here's your half-crown."
And the bargain was struck. Dewhurst, with the struggling bird in his
hand, went down, followed by his friends, one of the side stairs to the
stone rampart, by which the jetty is defended on the east. There they
sat down. The sun was throwing a blaze of glory over a sea which repaid
the gift with a liquid splendour scarcely inferior to his of fire; and
the companions of the bird, swirling in the clear air, seemed to be
attracted by the sharp cries of the prisoner; but all its efforts were
vain to gratify its love of liberty and their yearning. It was in the
hands of those who had neither pity for its sufferings, consideration
for the lessons it carried in its structure, nor taste for estimating
its beauties. One of another kind of students might have detected
adaptations in the structure of that creature sufficient to have raised
his thoughts to the great Author of design and the source of all
beauty,--that small and light body, capable of being suspended for a
great length of time in the air by those broad wings, so that, as a bird
of prey, it should watch for its food without the aid of a perch; the
feathers, supplied by an unctuous substance, to enable them to throw off
the water and keep the body dry; the web-feet for swimming; and the long
legs, which it uses as a kind of stay, by turning them towards the head
when it bends the neck, to apply the beak--that beak, too, so admirably
formed--for taking up entire, or perforating the backs of the silly
fishes that gambol too near the surface. Ay, even in these fishes,
which, venturing too far from their natural depths, and becoming amorous
of the sun, and playful in their escapades, he might see the symbol of
man himself, who, when he leaves the paths of prudence, and gets
top-light with pleasure, is ready, in every culmination of his delirium,
to be caught by a waiting retribution. Ah! but our student, who held the
bird, was not incurious--only cold and cruel in his curiosity.
"Hamilton," said he, "that bird could still swim on the surface of that
sea, though deprived of every feather on its body."
"I deny it," replied Hamilton. "It will not swim five minutes,"
"What do you bet?"--- The old watchword.
And getting Campbell to hold the beak, which the bird was using with all
its vigour, he grasped its legs and wings together by his left hand, and
began to tear from the tender living skin the feathers. Every handful
showed the quivering flesh, and was followed by spouts of blood; nor did
he seem to care--although the more carefully the flaying operation was
performed, the better chance he had of carrying his wager--whether he
brought away with the torn tips portions of the skin. The writhing of
the tortured creature was rather an appeal to his deliberate cruelty,
and the shrill scream only quickened the process. The back finished and
bloody, the belly, snow-white and beautiful, was turned up, the feathers
torn away, the breast laid bare, and one wing after the other stript of
every pinion. Nothing in the shape of feathers, in short, was left,
except the covering of the head, which resisted his fingers.
"There now is Plato's definition of a man personified," said he as he
During all this time a lady looked over the parapet. Dewhurst caught her
eye red with anger, but he only laughed the louder.
"Now, Hamilton," said he, "you take the bird, and we mount to the
platform. When I give the sign, fling him in, and we shall see how the
They accordingly mounted, and the lady turning her back, as if she had
been unable to bear longer the sight of so much cold cruelty, directed
her vision towards the west; but a little boy, who was along with her,
seemed to watch the operation.
"Now," cried Dewhurst.
And Hamilton thiew the bird into the sea. The creature, still
vivacious, true to its old instinct, spread out its bare wings in an
attempt to fly, but it was in vain; down it came sinking below the
surface, but rising quickly again to lash, with the bleeding wings, the
water on which it used to swim so lightly and elegantly. The struggle
between the effort to fly and the tendency to sink was continued for
several minutes, its screams bringing closer around it many of its
compeers, who looked as if with pity and amazement on the suffering
victim, known to them now only by the well-known cry of distress.
Meanwhile these curious students of natural history stood looking over
the rail, watch in hand; and the little boy, an important personage in
our story, also intent upon the experiment, cried out two solitary
words, very simple ones too, and yet fraught with a strange import, as
regards consequences, that could not be gathered from them.
But the lady to whom they were addressed had still her head turned away.
"Six minutes," cried Dewhurst. "The time is up, and the bird is only
this instant down. I win."
"I admit it," responded Hamilton, evidently disconcerted. "I shall pay
you to-night at Stewart's, at seven o'clock. I got my remittance
"Content," said Dewhurst, "That's the third bet I have gained off you
within a fortnight,"
Hamilton bit his lip and scowled--- an act which only roused against him
the raillery of his comrades, who were now collected in a circle, and
symptoms of anger of a more expressive kind showed themselves.
"You have been at this trade of flaying before," said he, looking
sternly at Dewhurst. "Your father, like the other West Indians, is well
acquainted with the flaying of negroes, and you have been following his
example with the Jamaica lungies. But, by G--d," he added, getting
enraged, "next time we cross the rapiers of a bet, it shall be for ten
"This instant," answered Dewhurst, on whom the imputations about his
father acted as a fiery stimulant.
"Seek your subject," responded Hamilton.
"You see that lady there?" continued the West Indian. "She has a boy
"The mother of the boy, or not?" continued Dewhurst. "I say she is; and,
in place of fifty, I'll make it a hundred."
"Have you ever seen them before?" asked Hamilton, trying to be calm.
"Never. I know no more of them than you do; and, besides, I give you
your choice of mother, or not mother."
"Ha! ha!" laughed Campbell, as he looked intently at Dewhurst. "Are you
mad, Dewhurst? Has your last triumph blinded you? The woman is too old
by ten years."
Hamilton turned round without saying a word, and drew cautiously near
the lady, whose eyes, as she stood looking at a foreign ship coming in,
were still scornful, and it seemed as if she waited until some gentleman
came up to inform him of the cruel act she had so recently witnessed.
Resisting her fiery glances, he surveyed her calmly, looking by turns at
her and the boy. A slight smile played on his lip in the midst of the
indications of his wrath. One might have read in that expression--
"Not a feature in these two faces in the least similar, and the age is
beyond all mortal doubt. I have the gull-flayer on the hip at last."
And returning to the companions with the same simulated coolness--
"Done for a hundred," he said. "That lady is not the mother of that
"Agreed," answered Dewhurst, with a look of inward triumph. "How to be
"By the lips of the lady herself."
"Yes," joined Campbell, "if you can get these lips to move. She looks
angry, and now she is moving along probably for home, bequeathing to us
the last look of her scorn. We shall give her time to cool down, and
Cameron and I will then pay our respects to her. We shall get it out of
the boy if she refuse to answer."
It was as Campbell said. The lady with the boy, who held her by the
hand, had begun her return along the jetty. The companions kept walking
behind; and of these, Campbell and Dewhurst fell back a little from the
"Hark, Campbell," said Dewhurst. "Back me against Cameron for any sum
you can get out of him. I'm sure of my quarry; and," laughing within the
teeth, he added, "I'll gull him again."
"You're ruined, man," whispered his companion. "The woman is evidently
too old, and I am satisfied you will catch some of her wrinkles."
A deeper whisper from Dewhurst conveyed to the ear of his friend--
"I heard the boy call her mother."
"The devil!" exclaimed Campbell in surprise; but, catching himself, "it
might have been grandmother he meant."
"No, no. Children in Scotland use grandma', never ma', to grandmother.
I'm satisfied; and if you are not a fool, take advantage of my "--
"Dishonesty," added Campbell.
"No; all fair with that fellow Hamilton. Besides, all bets assume a
retention of reasons, otherwise there could be no bets. In addition, I
did not assert that I did not hear them address each other."
"That's something," said Campbell. "I do not say it is impossible, or
even very improbable, that she may be the mother; and if you will assure
me, on your honour, of what you heard, I will have a little speculative
peculation on Cameron."
"I can swear; and if I couldn't, do you think I would have bet so high,
as in the event of losing I should be ruined?"
"I'm content," said Campbell. "Ho, there, Cameron! I will back Dewhurst
on the maternity for ten."
"That will just pay Nightingale," replied Cameron. "I accept. Now for
the grand _denouement_. Let us accost the arbitress of our fortunes."
"Not yet," said Hamilton. "Wait till she gets to the lighthouse, where
there are people. It is clear she has not a good opinion of us, and in
this solitary place she might get alarmed."
Hanging back to wait their opportunity, now upon the verge of a decision
which might be attended with disastrous results to some of them, the
whole four appeared absorbed in anxiety. Not a word was spoken; and it
seemed possible that, during these trying minutes, a hint would have
broken up the imprudent and dangerous compact. The terror of the club
was before them, and the false honour which ruled them, in place of
obedience to their fathers, and humanity to dumb creatures, retained the
ascendency. So has it ever been with the worship of false gods: their
exactions have always been in proportion to the folly and credulity of
their votaries. The moment was approaching. The die was to carry
formidable issues. Dark shadows broke in through the resolution to be
brave, as might have been observed in the features of both the
principals. At length Campbell took the lead. They approached the lady,
who at first seemed to shrink from them as monsters.
"We beg pardon," he said. "Be assured, madam, we have not the most
distant intention to offend you. The truth is, that we have a bet among
us as to whether you are the mother of this fine boy. We assure you,
moreover, that it was the sport of betting that sought out the subject,
and the nature of that subject cannot, we presume, be prejudicial either
to your honour or your feelings. While I ask your pardon, allow me to
add that the wager, foolish or not, is to be decided by your answer--yes
After pronouncing, with a severe sternness, this monosyllable, she
paused a little; and looking round upon the youths with a seriousness
and dignity that sat upon her so well that they shrunk from her glance,
she added, with a corresponding solemnity--
"Would to God, who sees all things--ay, and punishes all those who are
cruel to the creatures He has formed with feelings suitable to their
natures, and dear to them as ours are to us--that he who bet upon my
being the mother of this boy may be he who tortured the unoffending
And, with these words, she departed, leaving the bewildered students
looking at each other, with various emotions. It was, perhaps, fortunate
for Dewhurst that the little sermon, contrary to the practice of the
courts, came after, in place of preceding the condemnation, for he had
been rendered all but insensible by the formidable monosyllable. He saw
there was some mystery overhanging his present position. He doubted,
and he did not doubt the lady; but he heard the boy use the word, and
he took up the impression that he was, by some mistake on his part, to
be punished for the flaying of the bird. The lady's eye, red and angry,
had been fixed upon him, and now, when she was gone, he still saw it.
But there were more lurid lights, playing round certain stern facts
connected with his fortunes. He must pay this L100 on the decision of
her who had burned him with her scorn. There was no relief for him. The
club at the College had no mercy, and he had enraged Hamilton, whose
spirit was relentless. He had been under rebuke from his father, who had
threatened to cut him off; and, worse still, the remnant of the last
yearly remittance was L110 in the Royal Bank, while debts stood against
him in the books of tailors, confectioners, tavern-keepers,
shoemakers--some already in the form of decrees, and one at least in the
advanced stage of a warrant. To sum up all, he was betrothed to Miss
M------- sh, the sister of a writer to the signet, who had already
hinted doubts as the propriety of the marriage. He saw himself, in
short, wrecked on the razor-backed shelving rocks of misery. In his
extremity, he clutched at a floating weed: the woman, the lady, did not
speak the truth. He had ears, and could hear, and he would trust to
them. The boy could not be wrong.
"Campbell," he cried, "dog her home--she lies!" Hamilton and Campbell
burst out into a laugh, but Campbell had been taken aback by the lady's
answer: he had not L10 to pay Cameron, and the fear of the club was
before him, with its stern decree of the brand of caste and rejection by
his associates. Since the moment of the lady's answer, he had been
conscious of obscure doubts as to her truthfulness, clustering round the
suspicion that she might have known, by hearing something, that
Dewhurst, the gull-flayer, was on the side of the maternity, and that
she wanted to punish him--a notion which seemed to be favoured by the
somewhat affected manner of her expressing her little sermon. These
doubts, fluid and wavering, became, as it were, crystallized by
Dewhurst's cry that she was a liar; and, the moment he felt the sharp
angles of the idea, he set off after the lady.
This hope, which was nothing more than despair in hysterics, enabled
Dewhurst to withstand, for a little, the looks of triumph in Hamilton
and Cameron, in spite of their laugh, which still rung in his ears. The
sermon had touched him but little, and if he could have got quit of this
wildly contracted debt, he would likely be the same man again. He did
not, as yet, feel even the dishonour of having taken advantage of the
boy's statement--an act which he had subtlety enough to defend. Give him
only relief from this debt, the fire of the club, the stabbing glances
of Hamilton's eye. At least he was not bound to suffer the personal
expression of his companions' triumph any longer than he could away.
"We will wait the issue of Campbell's inquiry," he said with affected
calmness. "I have a call to make in the Links."
And he was retreating, even as he uttered these words.
"I owe you L5," cried Hamilton, "which, _as a man of honour_, I pay you
to-night at seven o'clock, upon the instant, at Stewart's. I have no
wish to be dragged before the club."
With this barb, touched with wararra poison, or ten times distilled
kakodyle, and a layer of honey over all, Dewhurst hurried away, to make
no call. He was hard to subdue, and a puppy, whose passion it was to
strut, in the perfection of a refined toilette, among fashionable
street-walkers. While he was abroad, his cares rankling within were
overborne by the consciousness of being "in position." The dog's nose is
cold even when his tongue is reeking; and as he walked slowly along, his
exterior showed the proper thermo-metric nonchalance--it was not the
time for a pyrometric measurement within the heart. On his way, he
talked to a Leith merchant, who hailed him; yet he exhibited the
required _retenu_, so expressive of confidence and ease within, and
withal so fashionable. You might have said that he had the heart to wing
a partridge,--to "wing it," a pretty phrase in the mouth of a polite
sportsman, who, if a poacher were to break the bones of his leg, would,
in his own case, think it a little different. Yes, Dewhurst might have
been supposed to be able to "wing a partridge,"--not to "flay a gull."
It was while thus "in position"--not its master, but its slave--that
curvation of the spine of society, which produces so much paralysis and
death--that, when he came to Princes Street, he felt himself constrained
and able to walk up South St. Andrew Street, direct to the door of the
Royal Bank. He even entered; he even drew a draft; he even made that
draft L110, all the money he had there in keeping for so many coming
wants and exigencies; he even presented it to the teller, who knew his
circumstances and his dangers--ay, and his father's anxieties while he
sent the yearly remittance.
"All, Mr. Dewhurst?" said the teller, looking blank at the draft.
"All, sir; I require it all," answered the student, with such a mouthful
of the vowel, that we might write the word _requoire_, and not be far
from the pronunciation.
The teller gave his head a significant shake. If he had had a tail to
shake, and had shaken that tail, it would have been much the same.
Having got the money, he was more than ever under the law of that
proclivity, on the broad line to ruin, on which so many young men take
stations; and still retaining his, he went at the hour of the hot
joints, to dine at the Rainbow, where he met many others, in that
refreshment house, of the same class, who, like himself,
considered--that is, while the money was there--that guineas in the
purse supersede the necessity of having ideas in the head. He took to
such liquid accompaniments of the dinner, as would confirm the
resolution he had formed, of paying at once his debt of honour. And why
not? Was not he of that world whose code of laws draws the legitimate
line of distinction between debts contracted to industrious tradesmen
for the necessaries of life, and those which are the result of whim,
pride, or vindictiveness? All recollections of the flaying of the bird,
and of the lady's adjuration to heaven, had given way to the enthusiasm
of the noble feeling to obey the dictates of that eternal and immutable
code of honour. And by seven o'clock he was at Stewart's, where he found
Hamilton and Cameron waiting for their respective "pounds of flesh."
"Here is the L5," cried Hamilton, as he entered; and, throwing the note
upon the table, "it is for the gull trick."
"And here," responded the West Indian, "is your L100 for the woman
And he cast from him the bundle of notes, with a grandeur of both honour
and defiance. "But I have a reservation to make. Campbell has not
reported to me the issue of his commission; and if it shall turn out
that the woman retracts, I will reclaim the money."
"And get it too," said the other, laughing sneeringly, as he counted
the notes. "But here comes Campbell."
"Campbell," cried Cameron, as his debtor entered, "I want my L10 to pay
"Ask Dewhurst," said Campbell. "I have been cheated by him. He told me a
lie. The woman speaks true, and I shall be revenged."
"I have nothing to do with Dewhurst," answered Cameron. "You are my
debtor; and if I don't get the money to-night--you know my lodgings--the
club will decide upon it to-morrow."
And, throwing a withering look upon his old friend--a word now changed
for, and lost in that expressive vocable, debtor--he hurried out,
followed by Hamilton, who had both his money and his revenge, and wished
to be beyond the reach of a recall.
Left to themselves, the two remaining friends of the hour before, but
now no longer friends, looked sternly at each other. The one considered
himself duped; the other was burning under the imputation of being a
cheat and a liar.
"Oh I don't retract," said Campbell, with increased fierceness. "It was
upon the faith of your word that I ventured the bet against my own
convictions. I have traced the lady to Great King Street, where she
resides, as the aunt of the boy; and I am satisfied that, in a case
where the boy's mother is alive, and now in her own house, he, of the
age he is, never could have used the word mother or mamma, or any word
of that import, to his father's sister. All power and energies are
comparative. This L10 cracks the spine of my fortune as effectually as
ten times the amount. I have not the money, and know no more where to
find it than I do to get hold of the philosopher's stone. I repeat I
have been cheated, and I demand of you the money."
"Which you shall never get," replied Dewhurst. "I can swear that I
heard the words. They thrill on my ears now; and the best proof of my
conviction is, that I am myself ruined. Yes," and he began to roll his
eyes about, as the terrors of his situation came rushing upon him, on
the wake of the now departing effects of the Rainbow wine--"Yes, the
swell, the fop, the leader of the college _ton_, whose coat came from
the artistic study of Willis, whose necktie could raise a _furore_,
whose glove, without a wrinkle, would condescend only to be touched by
friendship on the tip of the finger, is now at the mercy of any one of
twenty sleasy dogs, who can tell the sheriff I owe them money. Money!
why, I have only fifteen pounds in the wide world, and I must pay that
to my landlady."
As he uttered these last words, the door opened, and there stood before
him a man with a blue coat, surmounted by a red collar. He held a paper
in his hand; his demeanour was deferential and exuberantly polite.
"That sum you have mentioned, sir," he said, looking to the student,
"with L10 added, will save you and me much trouble. The debt to Mr. Reid
is L25; and here is a certain paper which gives me the power to do an
unpolite thing. You comprehend? I am an advocate for painless
"Will you accept the L15?" said Dewhurst, now scarcely able to
"Yes, if this gentleman here, who is, I presume, your friend, will
kindly add the L10. The expenses may stand."
Campbell could only grin at this strange conversation.
"Unwilling?" continued the messenger. "Ah, I see. It is strange that
when I devote myself to a gentleman, his friends fly away. This is my
misfortune. Well, there is no help for it. We must take a walk to the
prison," addressing himself to his debtor. "You are a gentleman, and I
shall be your servant in livery."
Dewhurst braced himself with a violent effort, like a spasm, and took
"Give me the L10," said Campbell. "It will make no difference now. There
are no degrees in despair."
"I must take care of my master's money," said the officer, with an
attempt at a smile; and without going the full length of imitating that
most philanthropic of all executors of the law, Simpson, who patted his
victims on the back while he adjusted the rope, he added, "And now, sir,
I am at your humble service."
In a very short time after, the strange events of that day were
terminated by the young man being placed in the debtor's prison of the
Calton. Like other jail birds, he at first shunned his brethren in
misfortune, fleeing to his room, and shrouding himself in solitude and
partial darkness. The change from a life of gaiety, if not dissipation,
to the experiences of prison squalor, had come upon him without
preparation, if indeed preparation for evil ever diminishes or much
ameliorates the inevitable effects of the visitation. Unfortunates
exhibit wonderful diversities in their manifestations. Dewhurst became
dejected, broken in spirits, sad, and remorseful. He scarcely stirred
from the bed on which he had thrown himself when he entered; and his
mind became a theatre where strange plays were acted, and strange
personages performed strange parts, under the direction of stage
managers over whom he had no control. Though some unhappy predecessor in
the same cell had scribbled on the wall,
"A prison is a cannie place,
Though viewed with reprobation,
Where cheats and thieves, and scants o' grace,
Find time for cogitation,"
he did not find that he could properly cogitate or meditate, even if he
had been, which he never was, a thinker. All his thoughts were reduced
to a continued wild succession of burning images,--the mild face of his
mother, so far away, as it smiled upon him when he ran about among the
cane groves of the west; the negroes, with their "young massa" on their
tongues, jabbering their affection; his father scowling upon him as
undutiful; another, not so far away, in whose eyes--beautiful to
him--love dwelt as his worshipper, looking all endearment, only the next
moment to cast upon him the withering glance of her contempt, if not
hatred; admirers, toadies, satellites, and sycophants, all there in
groups and in succession, beslabbering him with praises, then exploding
in peals of laughter. Nor was another awanting in these saturnalia--the
form and face of her whose one word of sentence had been to him as a
doom, and who fixed that doom in his soul by her red glance of reproof.
Seemingly very indifferent objects assumed in the new lights of his
spirit gigantic and affraying features,--the sea-gull, with its torn
back, bleeding and quivering, and those diamond eyes so bright even in
its looks of agony--an object low indeed in the scale of nature, but
here elevated by some overruling power into the very heart of man's
actions and destinies, as if to show out of what humble things the
lightnings of retribution may come. Nay, these diamond eyes haunted him;
they were everywhere in these saturnalian reveries, following every
recurring image as an inevitable concomitant which he had no power to
drive away, entering into the orbits of the personages, gleaming out of
the heads of negroes, that of his father, that of his mother, even that
of his mistress, imparting to the looks and glances of the latter a
brilliancy which enhanced beauty, while it sharpened them into
poignancy. But most of all were they in some way associated with the
form of the unknown lady. She never appeared to him as the being on whom
his destiny was suspended; but, sooner or later, her own comparatively
lustreless orbs changed into those diamonds, which could fulminate scorn
not less than they could beam out supplication.
For several days and nights he had scarcely any intervals of peace from
these soul-penetrating fancies, and these moments were due to visits.
But who came to visit? Not the writer to the signet, the brother of his
affianced, whom he had expected to see first of all as a friend, if not
as a relation, ready to extend the hand that would save him; not any of
those with whom he had shared the folly of extravagance, if not
dissipation, on whom he had lavished favours in the wildness of his
generosity. The first was felicitating himself on his sister's escape;
the latter received the lesson that teaches prudence _a la distance_.
His only visitors were one or two heads of families where he had been
received as a fashionable friend, and these came only to look and
inquire. Their curiosity was satisfied when they got out of him the
amount of his debt, and pleased when they considered that their
daughters were at home, and under no chance of becoming allied to a
prisoner. One or two old associates, too, paid their respects to him,
but they were of those who had resisted his fascinations and found their
pleasures in their studies. We seek for the virtues, but we do not
always find them in the high places, where masks, copied from them and
bearing their beautiful lineaments and their effulgence, are worn in
their stead only to cover the vices which are their very antipodes. No:
more often in lowlier regions, lying _perdu_ behind vices, not
voluntary, but often, as it were, inflicted and peering out, ashamed to
be seen, because arrayed in the rags of poverty. A solitary female
stole in to him. Who was she? One with whom he had formed a connection
of not an honourable kind, only now interrupted by the walls of the
prison? No. One whom he had long before cast off, only because the vice
he had inoculated her with had cast off the beauty that had inflamed
him. Nor did he know the meaning of that stealthy visit, which lasted
only for a few minutes--so unexpected, for he had not seen her during
many months, so singular, so unnatural, so unlike the world, returning
gratitude for injury, benediction for infamy, until, after she had
suddenly slipped away, he found by the side of the wall a small bottle
of wine. That form and face, once more beautiful in his estimation than
were those even now of his honourable affianced, entered among the
imagery of his reveries; but the diamond eyes never displaced those of
her gentle nature. He had wronged her, but they never filled with the
fire of denunciation. She had looked her grief at him only through the
tears he had raised in them, and had never attempted to dry. Yes, the
diamond eyes entered everywhere, and into every form but that one where
the red heat of revenge might have been expected to shrivel up and
harden the issues of tears.
Further on in the same evening, the jailer, a good-natured sort of
fellow, came in to him while he was absorbed in these thoughts. He was
at the time sitting on his bed.
"A lady called in the dusk," he said, "and inquired if it was true you
were here. I told her it was."
"And what more?" asked the youth, as he started out of his day-dream.
"But, stay--what like was she?"
"I could scarcely see her," replied the man; "middling tail, rather
young, as I thought--with a veil, through which I could see a pair of
pretty, bright eyes."
"Were they like diamonds?" cried the student, absolutely forgetting that
he was speaking to an ordinary mortal about very ordinary things.
"Ha, ha! I never saw diamond eyes," answered the jailer; "but I've seen
glass ones in a doll's head looking very bright. Why, you 'aven't got
mad, like some of the chicken-hearted birds in our cage?"
"Yes," cried the youth, "I'm frantic-mad; but stay, have patience. Did
she want to see me?"
"Yes, she asked if she could; but when I told her she might, she seemed
to get afeared to come into a jail, and said she would call again
to-morrow night at the same hour."
"Can you tell me nothing more of what she was like?--not she who was
here this evening?"
"Why, no; don't you think I know her kind? Oh, we see many o' them. They
stick closest to the unfortunate, but 'tis because they are unfortunate
themselves. Common thing, sir. Never feel for others till we have
something to feel for ourselves. The visitor is a lady, sir."
"Can you tell me nothing more?" said the student eagerly. "How was she
"A large, elegant cloak, sir; can scarcely say more."
"Was it trimmed with fur?"
"Not sure; but now, when I think, there was some lightish trimming--I
mean lighter than the cloak."
"And the bonnet?"
"Why, I think velvet; but you'll maybe see her yourself to-morrow. The
like o' her may do you good. The unfortunates who stick so close to the
unfortunate do no good--they're a plaster that don't cure."
"It is Maria!" ejaculated Dewhurst, as the jailer shut the door. "She
feels for me, and has come in spite of her hard-hearted brother. Her
diamond eyes are of another kind. They speak wealth, and love to bestow
it. Her fortune is her own, and with that I may yet turn that wayward
destiny, and laugh at my persecutors."
That ray of hope, illuminating his soul, changed almost in an instant
the whole tenor of his mind. It might be compared to a stream of nervous
energy, emanating from the brain, and shooting down through the network
of chords, confirming convulsed muscles, and; imparting to trembling
members consistency of action and graces of motion. His reveries were
scared by it, as owls under the influence of a sunbeam, and retreated
into the dark recesses from which they had been charmed by the
enchantment of despair. The personages of these visions were no longer
avengers, casting upon him the burning beams of the diamond eyes. They
were hopeful, pitiful; the flatterers and fawners were at their old work
again, and Pleasure, with her siren face, smiled blandishments on him.
Then he would justify the favours of the heaven he made for himself. He
would be a logician, for once, in that kind of dialectics called the
"What was I afraid of?" he said to himself. "There is no turpitude, no
shame in a fair bet. I was worsted in an honourable contest. What crazy
power mocked me into the belief that all this that has befallen me was
connected with the flaying of a bird? Don't we break the necks of
innocent, yea, gentle fowls, not depredators like gulls, every day for
our dinners? And don't ladies, as delicate as the unknown censor who
dared to chastise me with her eyes, eat of the same, with a relish
delightful to the tongues that pronounce the fine words of pity and
philanthropy? But, even admitting there was cruelty in the act, where is
the link that binds it with the consequences which have brought me
here? The bet upon the maternity was not an effect of the flaying of the
bird. If it followed the prior bet, it would have followed another, in
which I was gainer, equally the same. The mad energy which weaves in my
head these day-dreams, and pursues me with these diamond eyes of wrath,
is a lying power, and I shall master it by the strength of my reason,
which at least is God's gift. Come, my Maria, as my good angel, and
enable me to free my mind from illusions. I will sit and look into your
eyes, as I have done so often. Yes, I will satisfy myself that they
shine still with the lustre of love, hope, and happiness; and oh, let
these, and these only, enter into my dreams."
And thus he satisfied himself, as all do, whose hope weaves the
syllogisms of their wishes, and sits to see pleasure caught on the wing.
The day passed apace to usher in the evening with its messenger of
peace. Where, in that squalid place, would he seat her, whose peculiar
province was the drawing-room? How would he receive her first look of
sympathy? how repay it? with what words express his emotions? with what
fervour kiss those lips redolent of forgiveness? with what ecstasy look
into those eyes refulgent with love? He would control himself, and be
calm. He would rehearse, that he might not fail in the forms of an
interview on which hung his destiny, almost his life. The hour of seven
arrived. He heard the heavy foot of the jailer come tramp, tramp along
the lobby. There was a softer step behind, as if the echo of the heavier
tread. A stern voice and a softer one mingled their notes. The door
"My Mar--! O God! these scornful eyes again."
"Not scornful now," replied the soft voice of a woman, as she came
forward, and stood before him in the dusk.
"Were there light enough," she continued, "I would lift my veil and
show you that they are capable of a kindlier light than even that they
now carry, for the offering I made to heaven has been more than
"Ah, you come to retract," he said, "to speak the truth at last. It is
not too late to say you _are_ the mother--the mother of the boy. Nor
need you be ashamed: there may be reasons; but many a woman lives to
"Hold, sir," she cried with indignation, as she fixed upon him a look
even more penetrating than that he so well remembered. "I have nothing
to retract--nothing to be ashamed of. I came here out of pure sympathy,
to make amends to one who has fallen for a prayer which burst from me in
my anger. Your friend, who called for me, told me that you were a
prisoner, and that your imprisonment was the consequence of the wager
which it fell to me to decide. I did not come to repeat to you what I
said before, that I am not the mother of the boy, but to make an
"And I have one to ask," said he.
"I am ready to answer."
"How could I be deceived?" said he. "I heard the boy address you as his
"And that is what I came to explain. I have taxed my memory since Mr.
Campbell insisted, in my presence, that Frederick did address me in the
manner you have stated. Shall I tell you the precise words he used?"
"I wait for them."
"Well, they were, 'See ma.'"
"The very words; and were they not enough for proof and belief?"
"Yes, sir; but there are words which have two significations. Ma' is
the contraction, as you know, for mamma, but it is pronounced the same
as _maw_, which is a word which we use to designate those birds
otherwise called gulls. I recollect that while I was unable to bear the
sight of the tortured bird, and had turned my head in another direction,
my nephew kept looking over the rails, and that, as he saw the
struggling creature, he cried out to me the words you misconstrued. And
thus the mystery is cleared up."
"Miserable and fatal error," he gasped out, as he staggered back. "And
the connection!--the connection! There _was_ retribution in those
"What mean you, sir?"
"The bird's eyes that haunt me in my reveries, and enter into the
sockets of my dream-beings!"
"Are you mad?"
"No; or the heavens are mad, with their swirling orbs and blazing
comets, that rush sighing through space before some terrible power that
will give them no respite, except with the condition that when they rest
"Poor youth! so early doomed; I pity you."
"Ay, pity those who have no pity--those are the truly wretched; for
pity, in the world's life, is the soul of reason's action. Ah, madam, it
is those who have pity who do not need the pity of others, for they are
generally free from the faults that produce the unhappiness that needs
"But you have been punished, I admit, in a very strange and mysterious
way; for the word used by the boy was the joining link of the two
transactions, and you were led to misconstrue it--ay, and to take
advantage of your misconstruction to get the better of your friend."
"I see it all."
"But I say you have been punished," continued she, consolingly; "and I
perceive you are penitent--perhaps justice is satisfied; and when you
are liberated, you may be the better for the lesson. I shall now reverse
my prayer, and say to one I shall perhaps never see again, May God deal
mercifully by you."
And with these words, she retreated. But her prayer was never answered,
so far as man can judge of heaven's mysterious ways. The conviction
settled down and down into his heart, that that apparently simple affair
of killing a bird--which, even with the aggravation of all the cruelty
exhibited by the thoughtless, yet certainly pitiless youth, is so apt to
be viewed carelessly, or only with an avowal of disapprobation--which,
if too much insisted on as an act to be taken up by superior
retribution, is more apt still to be laughed at--was the cause of all
the ills that had befallen him. The diamond eyes proved to him no fancy.
But for all this, we are afforded, by what subsequently occurred, some
means of explanation, which will be greedily laid hold of by minute
philosophers. Even then it was to have been feared that the seeds of
consumption had been deposited in favourable soil. In our difficulties
about explanations of mental phenomena, we readily flee to diseases of
the body, which, after all, only removes the mystery a step or two back
in the dark.
It remains for me to add some words of personal experience. A
considerable period after these occurrences, I had occasion--by a
connection with a medium through which Dewhurst received from his
father, whose fortunes had in the meantime failed, a petty allowance--to
be the bearer to him, now liberated, of a quarter's payment. I forget
the part of the town where I found him, but I have a distinct
remembrance of the room. It was a garret, almost entirely empty. He was
lying on a kind of bed spread upon the floor. There was a small grate,
with a handful of red cinders in it; only one chair, and a pot or pan or
two. There was a woman moving between him and the fireplace, as if she
had been preparing some warm drink or medicine of some kind for him. I
did not know then, but I knew afterwards, that that woman was she who
called upon him in prison, and deposited the small bottle of wine. Her
love for him had always overcome any of those feelings of enmity, or
something stronger, generally deemed so natural in one who has been
robbed of her dearest treasure, and ruined. She alone had indeed not
assumed the diamond eyes. The diamonds were elsewhere,--yea, in her
heart, where she nourished pity for him who had so cruelly deserted her,
and left her to a fate so common, and requiring only a hint to be
understood by those who know the nature of women. After he had got out
of prison, she sought him out, got the room for him, collected the
paltry articles, procured food for him, and continued to nurse him till
his death, with all the tenderness of a lover who had not only not been
cast off, but cherished. He betrayed the ordinary symptoms of
consumption, and the few words he muttered were those of thanks. I think
he was buried in the Canongate Churchyard.
"There is a history in all men's lives."--SHAKSPEARE.
It has been often said, and, I believe, with truth, that there are few
persons, however humble in station, whose life, if it has been of any
duration, does not present some incidents of an interesting, if not
Induced by a belief in this assertion as a general truth, and yet
further by an opinion that, in my own particular case, there are
occurrences which will be considered somewhat extraordinary, I venture
to lay the following sketch of my life before the reader, in the hope
that it will not be found altogether devoid of interest.
With the earlier part of my history, which had nothing whatever
remarkable in it, I need not detain the reader further than to say that
my father was, though not a wealthy, a respectable farmer in
Lanarkshire; that he lived at----, within fourteen miles of Glasgow;
that I was well educated; and that, at the period when I take up my own
history, I was in the eighteenth year of my age.
Having given these two or three particulars, I proceed:
It was in the year 18--, and during the week of the Glasgow Fair, which
occurs in July, that my father, who had a very favourable opinion of my
intelligence and sagacity, resolved to entrust me with a certain
important mission. This was to send me to the fair of Glasgow to
purchase a good draught horse for him.
I am not sure, however, that, with all the good opinion my father
entertained of my shrewdness, he would have deputed me on the present
occasion had he been able to go himself; but he was not able, being
confined to bed by a severe attack of rheumatism. Be this as it may,
however, the important business was put into my hands; and great was the
joy it occasioned me, for it secured me in an opportunity of seeing
Glasgow Fair--a scene which I had long desired to witness, and which I
had seen only once when but a very young boy.
From the moment I was informed by my father of his intention of sending
me to the fair, and which was only on the day preceding that on which
the horse-market is held, my imagination became so excited that I could
attend to nothing. I indeed maintained some appearance of working--for
though the son of a farmer, I wrought hard--but accomplished little of
The joys and the splendours of Glasgow Fair, of which I had a dim but
captivating recollection, rose before my mind's eye in brilliant
confusion, putting to rout all other thoughts, and utterly paralyzing
all my physical energies. Nor was the succeeding night less blessed with
happy imaginings. My dreams were filled with visions of shows, Punch's
opera, rope-dancers, tumblers, etc. etc., and my ears rang with the
music of fiddles, bugles, tambourines, and bass drums. It was a
delicious night with me; but the morning which brought an approach to
the reality was still more so.
Getting up betimes, I arrayed myself in my best attire; which attire, as
I well recollect, consisted of a white corduroy jacket, knee-breeches of
the same colour and material, and a bright-red waistcoat. A "neat
Barcelona," tied carelessly round my neck, and a pair of flaming-red
garters, at least two inches broad, wound round my legs just below the
knee, and ending in a knot with two dependent ends hanging down, that
waved jauntily as I walked, completed my equipment.
Thus arrayed, and with thirty pounds in my pocket to purchase a horse
for my father, I took the road, stick in hand, for Glasgow.
It was a fine summer morning. I was in high spirits; and, in my red
waistcoat and red garters, looked, I believe, as tight and comely a lad
as might be seen.
Pushing on with a light heart and light step, I quickly reached the
suburbs of the city, and in a few minutes more was within view and
earshot of the sights and sounds of the fair. I saw the crowd; I got a
glimpse of the canvas roofs of the shows at the end of the old
bridge--the locality on which the fair was then held; and heard the
screaming and braying of the cracked trumpets, the clanging of the
cymbals, and the thunders of the bass drums.
My heart beat high on hearing these joyous sounds. I quickened my pace,
and in a few seconds was in the thick of the throng that crowded the
space in front of the long line of shows extending from the bridge to
the Bridgegate. As it was yet several hours to the height of the
horse-market, I resolved on devoting that interval to seeing some of the
interesting sights which stood in such tempting array before me.
The first that fixed my regard was "The Great Lancashire Giant," whose
portrait at full length--that is, at the length of some fifteen or
twenty feet--flapped on a sheet of canvas nearly as large as the
mainsail of a Leith smack.
This extraordinary personage was represented, in the picture, as a youth
of sixteen, dressed in a ruffled shirt, a red jacket, and white
trousers; and his exhibitor assured the spectators that, though but a
boy, he already measured nine feet in height and seven feet round the
body; that each of his shoes would make a coffin for a child of five
years old, and every stocking hold a sack of flour. Six full-grown
persons, he added, could be easily buttoned within his waistcoat; and
his tailor, he asserted, was obliged to mount a ladder when he measured
him for a jacket.
Deeply interested by the astounding picture of this extraordinary youth,
and the still more astounding description given of him by his exhibitor,
I ascended the little ladder that conducted to the platform in front of
the show, paid my twopence--the price of admission--and in the next
minute was in the presence of "The Great Lancashire Giant;" a position
which enabled me to make discoveries regarding that personage that were
not a little mortifying.
In the first place, I found that, instead of being a youth of sixteen,
he was a man of at least six-and-thirty; in the next, that if it had not
been for the raised dais on which he stood, the enormous thickness of
the soles of his shoes, and the other palpably fictitious contrivances
and expedients by which his dimensions were enlarged, he would not
greatly have exceeded the size of my own father. I found, in short, that
the tremendous "Lancashire Giant" was merely a pretty tall man, and
Quitting this exhibition, and not a little displeased at being so
egregiously bitten, I passed on to the next, which was "Mr.
Higgenbotham's Royal Menagerie. The Noblest Collection of Wild Beasts
ever seen in the Civilised World."
This was a splendid affair. On a narrow stage in front were seated four
fat red-faced musicians, in beef-eater coats, puffing and blowing on
bugles and trombones. Close by these, stood a thin, sharp-eyed,
sallow-complexioned man in plain clothes, beating a huge drum, and
adding the music of a set of Pandean pipes, which were stuck into his
bosom, to the general harmony. This was Mr. Higgenbotham himself.
But it was the paintings on the immense field of canvas above that
particularly attracted my attention. On this field were exhibited an
appalling collection of the most terrific monsters: lions, as large as
cows, gambolling amongst rocks; ourang-outangs, of eight feet in height,
walking with sticks in their hands, as grave and stately as drum-majors;
and a serpent, as thick as a hogshead, and of interminable length--in
truth, without any beginning, middle, or end--twining round an
unfortunate black, and crushing him to death in its enormous folds.
All this was irresistible. So up the stair I sprang, paid my sixpence,
and in a moment after found myself in the centre of the well-saw dusted
area in the interior, gazing on the various birds and beasts in the
cages around me. It was by no means a perplexing task; for, as in the
case of "The Great Lancashire Giant," the fulfilment of the inside but
little corresponded with the promise of the out. The principal part of
the collection I found to consist of half-a-dozen starved monkeys, as
many parrots--grey and green, an indescribable monster, in a dark
corner, strongly suspected by some of the spectators of being a boy in a
polar bear's skin, a bird of paradise, and a hedgehog, which they
dignified with the name of a porcupine.
"Whaur's the lions, and the teegers, and the elephants, and the boy
instructor, and the black man?" said a disappointed countryman,
addressing a fellow in a short canvas frock or overall, who was crossing
the area with a bucket of water.
"Ah! them's all in the other caravan," replied the man, "vich should
'ave been here on Monday night, but hasn't coom yet, and we suppose has
broken down by the way; but there's a hanimal worth 'em all," he added,
pointing to the indescribable monster in the dark corner. "The most
curiousest ever was seen. Take a look on him; and if you don't own he
is, I'll heat him, skin and all. They calls him the great Guampa from
Having said this, the fellow, desirous, for reasons best known to
himself, to avoid further questioning, hurried away, and disappeared at
a side door.
It was just as this man left us, and as the small crowd of spectators,
of whom I was one, who had surrounded him, were dispersing, that a
gentleman--or a person, at least, who had the air and manner of one,
although somewhat broken down in his apparel--came close up to me, and
whispered in my ear, in a perfectly calm and composed tone--
"My lad, you are robbed."
With a start of horror, and a face as pale as death, I clapped my hand
on the outside of my buttoned jacket, to feel for my pocket-book, which
I carefully deposited in an inside pocket. It was gone.
"Be calm--be composed, my lad," said the gentleman, marking my excessive
agitation, and seeing that I was about to make some outcry. "The fellows
will bolt on the least alarm; and as there are three or four of them,
may force their way out, if driven to extremity. Leave the matter to me,
and I'll manage it for you."
During all this time, the stranger, who had spoken in a very low tone,
carefully abstained from looking towards those of whom he was speaking,
and wore such an air of composure and indifference, that no one could
possibly have suspected for a moment what was the subject of his
communication to me.
Having made this communication, and desired me to remain where I was,
and to exhibit no symptom of anything particular having happened, my
friend, as I could not but reckon him, went out for an instant.
When he returned, he kept hovering about the entrance into the show, as
if to prevent the egress of any one, but without making any sign to me,
or even looking at me. My agitation during this interval was excessive;
and although I strictly obeyed my friend's injunctions, notwithstanding
that I knew not to what they were to lead, I could not suppress the
dreadful feelings by which I was distracted. I, however, did all I could
to refrain from exhibiting any outward sign of consciousness of my loss.
To return to my friend. He had not stood, I think, more than a minute at
the entrance to the menagerie, when I observed three fellows, after
having winked to each other, edging towards it. My friend, on seeing
them approach, planted himself in the doorway, and, addressing the
first, at the same time extending his arms to keep him back, said--
"Stop a moment, my lad, I have something to say to you."
The fellow seemed taken aback for a moment by this salutation; but,
quickly regaining his natural effrontery, he, with a tremendous oath,
made an attempt to push past, when four policemen suddenly presented
themselves at the entrance.
"Come away, my lads," said my friend, addressing them. "Just in time; a
minute later, and the birds would have been flown. Guard the door there
a moment." Then, turning to the astonished spectators who were assembled
in the area--"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "there has been a robbery
committed here within these fifteen minutes. I saw it done, and know the
person who did it; but as he has several colleagues here, all of whom I
may not have discovered, I have no doubt that the pocket-book--the
article stolen--has been long since transferred to other hands than
those that first took it. It is therefore necessary that we should all,
without any exception, submit to a search of our persons by the officers
No objection to this proceeding having been offered by any of the
persons present, the search began; my friend submitting himself the
The operation was a tedious one; for it was unsuccessful. One after
another, including the three suspicious characters already alluded to,
was searched, but no pocket-book was found. At length, the last person
was taken in hand; and he, too, proved innocent--at least of the
possession of my lost treasure.
I was in despair at this result, thinking that my friend must have been
mistaken as to the robbery--that is, as to his having witnessed it--and
that my money was irretrievably gone. No such despair of the issue,
however, came over my friend--he did not appear in the least
disconcerted; but, on the completion of the fruitless search, merely
nodded his head, uttering an expressive humph.
"It's gone," said I to him in bitter anguish.
"Patience a bit, my lad," he replied, with a smile. "The pocket-book is
within these four walls, and we'll find it too."
Turning now to one of the men belonging to the establishment, he desired
him to bring one of the rakes with which they levelled the sawdust in
It was brought; when he set the man to work with it--to rake up, slowly
and deliberately, the surface of the sawdust, himself vigilantly
superintending the operation, and directing the man to proceed
regularly, and to leave no spot untouched. I need not say with what
intense interest I watched this proceeding. I felt as if life or death
were in the issue; for the loss of such a sum as L30, although it could
not, perhaps, be considered a very great one, was sufficiently large to
distress my father seriously; and already some idea of never facing him
again, should the money not be recovered, began to cross my mind.
All thoughts, however, of this or any other kind were absorbed, for the
moment, by the deep interest which I took in the operations of the man
with the rake; an interest this in which all present, less or more,
For a long while this search also was fruitless. More than half the area
had been gone over, and there was yet no appearance of my lost treasure.
At length, however--oh! how shall I describe the joy I felt?--a sweep of
the rake threw the well-known pocket-book on the surface of the sawdust.
I darted on it, clutched it, tore it open, and saw the bank-notes
apparently untouched. I counted them. They were all there.
"I thought so; I thought we should find it," said, with a calm smile,
the gentleman who had been so instrumental in its recovery.
The whole proceedings of the thief or thieves, so promptly and correctly
conjectured by my friend, were now obvious. Finding that passing it from
hand to hand would not avail them, he who was last in possession of it
had, on the search commencing, dropt it on the ground, and shuffled it
under the sawdust with his foot.
The police now requested my friend to point out the person who had
committed the robbery, that they might apprehend him; but this he
declined, saying that he was not quite sure of the man, and that he
would not like to run the risk of blaming an innocent person; adding,
with the quiet smile that seemed to be natural to him, that as the money
was recovered, it might be as well to let the matter drop. The police
for some time insisted on my friend pointing out the man; but as he
continued firmly to decline interfering further in the matter, they gave
it up and left the place.
Every one saw that it was benevolence, however impoperly exerted, that
induced my friend to refuse giving up the culprit; and as I had now
recovered my money, I felt pretty much in the same disposition--that
was, to allow him to fall into other hands.
I now presented the man who had been employed to rake the area with five
shillings, for his trouble. But how or in what way was I to reward the
friendly person to whom I was wholly indebted for the recovery of my
pocket-book? This puzzled me sadly. Money, at least any such sum as I
could spare, I could not offer one who, notwithstanding the little
deficiencies in his apparel formerly noticed, had so much the appearance
and manner of a gentleman. I was greatly at a loss. In the meantime, my
friend and I left the exhibition together; he lecturing me the while,
although in the most kindly manner, on the danger of going into crowded
places with large sums of money about one's person.
He said he had seen a good deal of the world, had resided long in
London, and knew all the tricks of the swell mob.
"It was my knowledge and experience of these gentry," he added, "that
enabled me to manage your little matter so successfully." We were at
this time passing along Stockwell Street, when, observing a
respectable-looking tavern, it struck me that I might, without offence,
ask my friend to take a little refreshment,--a glass of wine or so.
With some hesitation, I proposed it.
He smiled; and as if rather complying with my humour, or as if unwilling
to offend me by a refusal, said, "Well, my young friend, I have no
objection, although I am not greatly in the habit of going to taverns.
Not there, however," he added, seeing me moving towards the house on
which I had fixed my eye. "There is a house in the Saltmarket, which, on
the rare occasions I do go to a tavern, and that is chiefly for a sight
of the papers, I always frequent. They are decent, respectable people.
So we'll go there, if you please; that is, if it be quite the same to
I said it was, and that I would cheerfully accompany him wherever he
This point settled, we proceeded to the Saltmarket; when my friend, who,
by the way, had now told me that his name was Lancaster, conducted me up
a dark, dirty-looking close, and finally into a house of anything but
respectable appearance. The furniture was scanty, and what was of it
much dilapidated: half the backs of half the chairs were broken off, the
tables were dirty and covered with stains and the circular marks of
drinking measures. A tattered sofa stood at one end of the apartment,
the walls were hung with paltry prints, and the small, old-fashioned,
dirty windows hung with dirtier curtains.
To crown all, we met, as we entered, a huge, blowzy, tawdrily dressed
woman, of most forbidding appearance, who, I was led to understand, was
the mistress of the house. Between this person and Mr. Lancaster I
thought I perceived a rapid secret signal pass as we came in, but was
All this--namely, the appearance of the house and its mistress, the
shabbiness of the entrance to the former, the secret signal, etc.
etc.--surprised me a little; but I suspected nothing wrong--never dreamt
On our taking our seats in the apartment into which we had been shown, I
asked my good genius, Mr. Lancaster, what he would choose to drink.
He at once replied that he drank nothing but wine; spirits and malt
liquors, he said, always did him great injury.
But too happy to be able to contribute in any way to the gratification
of one who had rendered me so essential a service, I immediately ordered
a bottle of the best port, he having expressed a preference for that
description of wine.
It was brought; when Mr. Lancaster, kindly assuming the character of
host, quickly filled our glasses, when we pledged each other and drank.
Wine, at that time, was no favourite liquor of mine, so that I soon
began to show some reluctance to swallowing it.
Mr. Lancaster, perceiving this, began to banter me on my abstemiousness,
and to urge me to do more justice to the wine, which he said was
Prevailed on partly by his urgency, and partly by a fear of displeasing
him by further resistance, I now took out my glass as often as he filled
The consequence was, that I soon felt greatly excited; and eventually so
much so, that I not only readily swallowed bumper after bumper, but,
when our bottle was done, insisted on another being brought in;
forgetting everything but my debt of gratitude to Mr. Lancaster, and
losing sight, for the moment at any rate, of all my obligations, in the
delight with which I listened to his entertaining conversation. For
another half hour we went on merrily, and the second bottle of wine was
nearly finished, when I suddenly felt a strange sinking sensation come
over me. The countenance of Mr. Lancaster, who sat opposite me, seemed
to disappear, as did also all the objects with which I was surrounded.
From that moment I became unconscious of all that passed. I sank down on
the floor in the heavy sleep, or rather in the utter insensibility, of
On awaking, which was not until a late hour of the night, I found the
scene changed. The room was dark, the bottles and glasses removed, and
my friend Mr. Lancaster gone.
It was some seconds before I felt myself struck by this contrast; that
is, before I fully recollected the circumstances which had preceded my
unconsciousness. These, however, gradually unfolded themselves, until
the whole stood distinctly before me. After having sat up for a second
or two--for I found myself still on the floor when I awoke, having been
left to lie where I fell--and having recalled all the circumstances of
the day's occurrences, I instinctively clapped my hand to the breast of
my jacket to feel for my pocket-book. It was again gone. Thinking at
first that it might have dropt out while I slept, I began groping about
the floor; but there was no pocket-book there. In great alarm I now
started to my feet, and began calling on the house. My calls were
answered by the landlady herself, who, with a candle in her hand, and a
fierce expression of face, flushed apparently with drink, entered the
apartment, and sternly demanded what I wanted, and what I meant by
making such a noise in her house.
Taking no notice of the uncourteous manner in which she had addressed
me, I civilly asked her what had become of Mr. Lancaster.
"Who's Mr. Lancaster?" she said fiercely. "I know no Mr. Lancaster."
"The gentleman," I replied, "who came in here with me, and who drank
wine with me."
"I know nothing about him," said the virago; "I never saw him before."
"That's strange," said I; "he told me that he was in the habit of
frequenting this house."
"If he did so, he told you a lie," replied the lady; "and I tell you
again, that I know nothing about him, and that I never saw him before,
nor ever expect to see him again."
I now informed her that I missed a pocket-book containing a considerable
sum of money, and, simply enough, asked her if she had it, or knew
anything about it.
At this, her rage, which before she seemed to have great difficulty in
controlling, burst out in the wildest fury.
"I know nothing about your pocket-book," she exclaimed, stamping
passionately on the floor; "nor do I believe you had one. It's all a
fetch to bilk me out of my reckoning; but I'll take care of you, you
swindler! I'm not to be done that way. Come, down with the price of the
two bottles of wine you and your pal drank--fifteen shillings--or I'll
have the worth of them out of your skin." And she flourished the
candlestick in such a way as led me to expect every instant that it
would descend on my skull.
Terrified by the ferocious manner and threatening attitude of the
termagant, and beginning to feel that the getting safe out of the house
ought to be considered as a most desirable object, I told her, in the
most conciliatory manner I could assume, that I had not a farthing
beyond two or three shillings, which she was welcome to; all my money
having been in the pocket-book which I had lost--I dared not say of
which I had been robbed.
"Let's see what you have, then," she said, extending her hand to receive
the loose silver I had spoken of. I gave it to her.
"Now," she said, "troop, troop with you; walk off, walk off," motioning
me towards the outer door, "and be thankful you have got off so cheaply,
after swindling me out of my reckoning, and trying to injure the
character of my house."
But too happy at the escape permitted me, I hurried out of the house,
next down the stair--a pretty long one--at a couple of steps, and rushed
into the street.
I will not here detain the reader with any attempt at describing my
feelings on this occasion: he will readily conceive them, on taking into
account all the circumstances connected with my unhappy position. My
money gone now, there was no doubt, irretrievably; the market over, no
horse bought, the hour late, and I an entire stranger in the city,
without a penny in my pocket; my senses confused, and a mortal sickness
oppressing me, from the quantity of wine I had drunk, and which, I began
to suspect, had been drugged.
Little as I was then conversant with the ways of the town, I knew there
was but one quarter where I could apply or hope for any assistance in
the recovery of my property. This was the police office.
Thither I accordingly ran, inquiring my way as I went--for I knew not
where it was--with wild distraction in my every look and movement.
On reaching the office, I rushed breathlessly into it, and began
telling my story as promptly and connectedly as my exhaustion and
agitation would permit. My tale was patiently listened to by the two or
three men whom I found on duty in the office. When I had done, they
smiled and shook their heads; expressions which I considered as no good
augury of the recovery of my pocket-book.
One of the men--a sergeant apparently--now put some minute queries to me
regarding the personal appearance of my friend Mr. Lancaster. I gave him
the best description of that gentleman I could; but neither the sergeant
nor any of the others seemed to recognise him. They had no doubt,
however, they said, that he was a professed swindler, and in all
probability one of late importation into the city; that there was little
question that he was the person who had robbed me; adding, what was
indeed obvious enough, that he had assisted in the recovery of my
pocket-book from the first set of thieves who assailed me, that he might
secure it for himself.
The house in the Saltmarket, which I also described as well as I could,
they knew at once, saying it was one of the most infamous dens in the
city. The men now promised that they would use every exertion in their
power to recover my money, but gave me to understand that there was
little or no hope of success. The event justified their anticipations.
They could discover no trace of Lancaster; and as to the house in the
Saltmarket, there was not the slightest evidence of any connection
whatever between its mistress, or any other of its inmates, and either
the robber or the robbery. The police indeed searched the house; but of
course to no purpose.
Being, as I have already said, penniless, and thus without the means of
going anywhere else, I remained in the police office all night; and, in
the hope every hour of hearing something of my pocket-book, hung about
it all next day till towards the evening, when the sergeant, of whom I
have before spoken, came up to me as I was sauntering about the gate,
and told me that it was useless my hanging on any longer about the
office; that all would be done in my case that could be done; but that,
in the meantime, I had better go home, leaving my address; and that if
anything occurred, I would instantly be informed of it. "But I think it
but right to tell you, young man," he added, "that there is scarcely any
chance whatever of your ever recovering a sixpence of your money. I
mention this to prevent you indulging in any false hopes. It is best you
should know the worst at once."
Satisfied that the man spoke truly, and that it was indeed useless my
hanging on any longer, I gave him my name and address, and went away,
although it was with a heavy heart, and without knowing whither I should
go; for to my father's house I could not think of returning, after what
had happened. I would not have faced him for the world. In this matter,
indeed, I did my father a great injustice; for although a little severe
in temper, he was a just and reasonable man, and would most certainly
have made all allowances for what had occurred to me.
The determination--for it now amounted to that--to which I had come, not
to return home, was one, therefore, not warranted by any good reason; it
was wholly the result of one of those mad impulses which so frequently
lead youthful inexperience into error.
On leaving the vicinity of the police office, I sauntered towards the
High Street without knowing or caring whither I went. Having reached the
street just named, I proceeded downwards, still heedless of my way,
until I found myself in the Saltmarket, the scene of my late disaster.
Curiosity, or perhaps some vague, absurd idea of seeing something or
other, I could not tell what, that might lead to the recovery of my
pocket-book, induced me to look about me to see if I could discover the
tavern in which I had been robbed. I was thus employed--that is, gaping
and staring at the windows of the lower flats of the houses on either
side of the street, for I did not recollect on which was the house I
wanted--when a smart little man, dressed in a blue surtout, with a black
stock about his neck, and carrying a cane in his hand, made up to me
"Looking for any particular place, my lad?"
Taken unawares, and not choosing to enter into any explanations with a
stranger, I simply answered, "No, no."
"Because if you were," continued my new acquaintance, "I should have
been glad to have helped you. But I say, my lad--excuse me," he went on,
now looking earnestly in my face, and perceiving by my eyes that I had
been weeping, which was indeed the case--"you seem to be distressed.
What has happened you? I don't ask from any impertinent curiosity, but
from sympathy, seeing you are a stranger."
Words of kindness in the hour of distress, by whomsoever offered, at
once find their way to the heart, and open up the sluices of its pent-up
feelings. The friendly address of the stranger had this effect on me in
the present instance. I told him at once what had occurred to me.
"Bad business, my lad; bad business indeed," he said. "But don't be cast
down. Fair weather comes after foul. You'll soon make all up again."
This was commonplace enough comfort; but without minding the words, the
intention was good, and with that I was gratified.
My new friend, who had learnt from what I told him that I was penniless,
now proposed that I should take share of a bottle of ale with him.
Certain recollections of another friend, namely, Mr. Lancaster, made me
hesitate, indeed positively decline, this invitation at first; but on my
new acquaintance pressing his kindness, and the melancholy truth
occurring to me that I had now no pocket-book to lose, I yielded, and
accompanied him to a tavern at the foot of the High Street. I may add
that I was the more easily induced to this, that I was in a dreadful
state of exhaustion, having tasted nothing in the shape of either food
or drink for nearly thirty hours.
Having entered the tavern, a bottle of ale and a plate of biscuit
quickly stood before us. My entertainer filled up the glasses; when,
having presented me with one, he raised his own to his lips, wished me
"better luck," and tossed it off. I quickly followed his example, and
never before or since drank anything with so keen a relish. After we had
drunk a second glass each--
"Well, my lad," said my new acquaintance, "what do you propose doing? Do
you intend returning to the plough-tail, eh? I should hardly think
you'll venture home again after such a cursed mishap."
I at once acknowledged that I did not intend returning home again; but
as to what I should do, I did not know.
"Why, now," replied my entertainer, "I think a stout, good-looking,
likely young fellow as you are need be at no loss. There's the army. Did
you ever think of that, eh? The only thing for a lad of spirit. Smart
clothes, good living, and free quarters, with a chance of promotion.
The chance, said I? Why, I might say the certainty. Bounty too, you
young dog! A handful of golden guineas, and pretty girls to court in
every town. List, man, list," he shouted, clapping me on the shoulder,
"and your fortune's made!"
List! It had never occurred to me before. I had never thought, never
dreamt of it. But now that the idea was presented to me, I by no means
disliked it. It was not, however, the flummery of my new acquaintance,
who, I need hardly say, was neither more nor less than a sergeant in
coloured clothes, assumed, I suppose, for the purpose of taking young
fellows like myself unawares,--I say it was not his balderdash, which,
young and raw as I was, I fully perceived, that reconciled me to the
notion of listing. It was because I saw in it a prompt and ready means
of escaping the immediate destitution with which I was threatened, my
foolish determination not to return home having rather gained strength
than weakened, notwithstanding a painful sense of the misery which my
protracted absence must have been occasioning at home. To the sergeant's
proposal of listing, therefore, I at once assented; when the former