HotFreeBooks.com
The Poacher - Joseph Rushbrook
by Frederick Marryat
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The Poacher, by Captain Marryat.



Captain Frederick Marryat was born July 10 1792, and died August 8 1848. He retired from the British navy in 1828 in order to devote himself to writing. In the following 20 years he wrote 26 books, many of which are among the very best of English literature, and some of which are still in print.

Marryat had an extraordinary gift for the invention of episodes in his stories. He says somewhere that when he sat down for the day's work, he never knew what he was going to write. He certainly was a literary genius.

"The Poacher" was published in 1841, the eighteenth book to flow from Marryat's pen.

This e-text was transcribed in 1998 by Nick Hodson, and was reformatted in 2003, and again in 2005.



THE POACHER, BY CAPTAIN FREDERICK MARRYAT.



CHAPTER ONE.

IN WHICH THERE IS MORE ALE THAN ARGUMENT.

It was on a blusterous windy night in the early part of November, 1812, that three men were on the high road near to the little village of Grassford, in the south of Devonshire. The moon was nearly at the full, but the wild scud, and occasionally the more opaque clouds, passed over in such rapid succession, that it was rarely, and but for a moment or two, that the landscape was thrown into light and shadow; and the wind, which was keen and piercing, bent and waved the leafless branches of the trees which were ranged along the hedgerows, between which the road had been formed.

The three individuals to whom we have referred appeared all of them to have been indulging too freely in the ale which was sold at the public-house about half a mile from the village, and from which they had just departed. Two of them, however, comparatively speaking, sober, were assisting home, by their joint efforts, the third, who, supported between them, could with difficulty use his legs. Thus did they continue on; the two swayed first on the one side of the road, and then on the other, by the weight of the third, whom they almost carried between them. At last they arrived at a bridge built over one of those impetuous streams so common in the county, when, as if by mutual understanding, for it was without speaking, the two more sober deposited the body of the third against the parapet of the bridge, and then for some time were silently occupied in recovering their breath. One of the two who remained leaning on the parapet by the side of their almost lifeless companion was a man of about forty years of age, tall and slender, dressed in a worn-out black coat, and a pair of trousers much too short for him, the original colour of which it would have been difficult to have surmised; a sort of clerical hat, equally the worse for wear, was on his head. Although his habiliments were mean, still there was something about his appearance which told of better days, and of having moved in a different sphere in society; and such had been the case. Some years before he had been the head of a grammar-school, with a comfortable income; but a habit of drinking had been his ruin, and he was now the preceptor of the village of Grassford, and gained his livelihood by instructing the children of the cottagers for the small modicum of twopence a head per week. This unfortunate propensity to liquor remained with him and he no sooner received his weekly stipend than he hastened to drown his cares, and the recollection of his former position, at the ale-house which they had just quitted. The second personage whom we shall introduce was not of a corresponding height with the other: he was broad, square-chested, and short-dressed in knee-breeches, leggings, and laced boots—his coat being of a thick fustian, and cut short like a shooting-jacket: his profession was that of a pedlar.

"It's odd to me," said the pedlar, at last breaking silence, as he looked down upon the drunken man who lay at his feet, "why ale should take a man off his legs; they say that liquor gets into the head, not the feet."

"Well," replied the schoolmaster, who was much more inebriated than the pedlar, "there's argument even in that and, you see, the perpendicular deviation must arise from the head being too heavy, that's clear; and then, you see, the feet, from the centre of gravity being destroyed, become too light; and if you put that and that together, why, a man can't stand. You understand my demonstration?"

"It was heavy wet, that ale, and so I suppose it's all right," replied the pedlar; "but still ale a'n't poured into the head or into the feet of a man, but into the internals, which are right in the middle of a man; so, how do you make out your case, Mr Furness?"

"Why, Byres, you talk of the residuum."

"Never said a word about it; and, as I stand here, never even heard the word before."

"Perhaps not: the residuum is, you see, Byres, what is left."

"If that's residgium, I didn't mean to say a word about it; there was none left, for you drained the pot."

"Good, Byres; you have never been to college, that's clear. Now, observe, when a man pours down into his stomach a certain quantity of liquor, the spirituous or lighter part ascends to his head, and that makes his head heavy. Do you understand?"

"No; what's light can't make things heavy."

"Can't it?—you know nothing about the matter. Have you not a proof before you?" replied the schoolmaster, reeling, and catching hold of the parapet for support; "look at that unfortunate man, who has yielded to excess."

"Very true; I see that he's drunk, but I want to know how it is that he got drunk?"

"By drinking."

"That I knew before."

"Then why ask any more questions? Had we not better proceed, and take him home to his expectant and unhappy wife? 'Tis a sad, sad thing, that a man should 'put an enemy into his mouth to steal away his brains.'"

"Half a pint will do that with Rushbrook," replied the pedlar; "they say that he was wounded on his head, and that half his brains are gone already, and that's why he has a pension."

"Yes, seventeen pounds a year; paid quarterly, without deduction, and only to walk four miles to get it," replied Furness; "yet how misplaced is the liberality on the part of the government. Does he work? No; he does nothing but drink and lie in bed all day, while I must be up early and remain late, teaching the young idea at twopence per week. Friend Byres, 'mercy is not itself which oft looks so.' Now, it is my opinion that it would be a kindness to this poor wretch if we were to toss him, as he now is, over the bridge into the rushing stream; it would end all his troubles."

"And save us the trouble of getting him home," replied Byres, who determined to humour his more inebriated companion. "Well, Mr Furness, I've no objection. Why should he live? Is he not a sinecurist—one of the locusts who fatten on the sweat and blood of the people, as the Sunday paper says? Don't you remember my reading it this morning?"

"Very true, Master Byres."

"What d'ye say, then?—shall we over with him?"

"We must think a little," replied the schoolmaster, who put his hand up to his chin, and remained silent for a minute or two. "No," resumed he, at last; "on second thoughts I cannot do it. He halves his beer with me. No pension—no beer; that's a self-evident proposition and conclusion. It were ingratitude on my part, and I cannot consent to your proposal," continued the schoolmaster; "nay, more, I will defend him against your murderous intentions to the very last."

"Why, Master Furness, you must be somewhat the worse for liquor yourself: it was your proposal to throw him over the bridge, not mine."

"Take care what you say," replied the schoolmaster; "would you accuse me of murder, or intent to murder?"

"No, not by no means—only you proposed heaving him over the bridge: I will say that."

"Friend Byres, it's my opinion you'll say anything but your prayers; but in your present state I overlook it. Let us go on, or I shall have two men to carry home instead of one. Come, now, take one of his arms, while I take the other, and raise him up. It is but a quarter of a mile to the cottage."

Byres, who, as we observed, was by far the more sober of the two, did not think it worth his while to reply to the pedagogue. After a few staggers on the part of the latter, their comrade was raised up and led away between them.

The drunken man appeared to be so far aware of what was going on that he moved his legs mechanically, and in a short time they arrived at the cottage-door, which the pedagogue struck with his fist so as to make it rattle on its hinges. The door was opened by a tall, handsome woman, holding a candle in her hand.

"I thought so," said she, shaking her head. "The old story: now he will be ill all night, and not get up till noon."

"What a weary life it is with a drunken husband. Bring him and thank you kindly for your trouble."

"It has been hard work and hot work," observed the schoolmaster, sitting down in a chair, after they had placed their comrade on the bed.

"Indeed, and it must be," replied the wife. "Will you have a drop of small beer, Mr Furness?"

"Yes, if you please, and so will Mr Byres, too. What a pity it is your good man will not keep to small beer."

"Yes, indeed," replied the wife, who went into the back premises, and soon returned with a quart mug of beer.

The schoolmaster emptied half the mug, and then handed it to the pedlar.

"And my little friend Joey, fast asleep, I'll warrant!"

"Yes, poor child, and so should I have been by this time; the clock has gone twelve."

"Well, Mrs Rushbrook, I wish you a good night. Come, Mr Byres, Mrs Rushbrook must want to be in bed."

"Good night, Mr Furness, and good night, sir, and many thanks."

The schoolmaster and pedlar quitted the cottage. Mrs Rushbrook, after having watched them for a minute, carefully closed the door.

"They're gone now," said she, as she turned to her husband.

What would have created much astonishment could anybody else have witnessed it, as soon as his wife had spoken, Rushbrook immediately sprang upon his feet, a fine-looking man, six feet in height, very erect in his bearing,—and proved to be perfectly sober.

"Jane, my dear," said he, "there never was such a night: but I must be quick, and lose no time. Is my gun ready?"

"Everything's ready; Joey is lying down on his bed, but all ready dressed, and he awakes in a minute."

"Call him, then, for there is no time to lose. That drunken fool, Furness, proposed throwing me over the bridge. It was lucky for them that they did not try it, or I should have been obliged to settle them both, that they might tell no tales. Where's Mum?"

"In the wash-house. I'll bring him and Joey directly."

The wife left the room, while Rushbrook took down his gun and ammunition, and prepared himself for his expedition. In a minute or two a shepherd's dog, which had been released from the wash-house, made his appearance, and quietly lay down close to his master's feet; it was soon followed by Mrs Rushbrook, accompanied by Joey, a thin, meagre-looking boy, of about twelve years old, very small for his age, but apparently as active as a cat, and with energy corresponding. No one would have thought he had been roused from his sleep; there was no yawning or weariness of motion—on the contrary, his large eye was as bright as an eagle's, as he quietly, although quickly, provided himself with a sack, which he threw over his shoulders, and a coil of line, which he held in his hand, waiting until his father was ready to start. The wife put out the lights, softly opened the cottage-door, looked well round, and then returned to her husband, who, giving a low whistle, as a summons to Joey and the dog, walked out of the door. Not a word was spoken; the door was softly shut to; and the trio crept stealthily away.



CHAPTER TWO.

IN WHICH THE HERO OF THE TALE IS FORMALLY INTRODUCED.

Before we proceed with our narrative, perhaps it will be better to explain what may appear very strange to the reader. Joseph Rushbrook, who has just left the cottage with his son and his dog, was born in the village in which he was then residing. During his younger days, some forty years previous to his present introduction to the reader, the law was not so severe, or the measures taken against poachers so strong as they were at the period of which we write. In his youth he had been very fond of carrying a gun—as his father had been before him—but he never was discovered; and after having poached for many years, and gained a perfect knowledge of the country for miles round, he was persuaded, in a fit of semi-intoxication, at a neighbouring fair, to enlist in a marching regiment. He had not been more than three months at the depot when he was ordered out to India, where he remained eleven years before he was recalled. He had scarcely been six months in England, when the exigency of the war demanded the services of the regiment in the Mediterranean, where he remained for twelve years, and having received a severe wound in the head, he was then pensioned off and discharged. He resolved to return to his native village, and settle down quietly, hoping by moderate labour and his pension, to gain a comfortable living. On his return he was hardly known; many had emigrated to a foreign clime; many had been transported for offences against the laws, particularly for the offence of poaching: and as most of his former allies had been so employed, he found himself almost a stranger where he expected to meet with friends. The property also about the village had changed hands. People recollected Squire So-and-So, and the Baronet, but now their lands were held by wealthy manufacturers or retired merchants. All was new to Joe Rushbrook, and he felt himself anywhere but at home. Jane Ashley, a very beautiful young woman, who was in service at the Hall, the mansion appertaining to the adjacent property, and the daughter of one of his earliest friends, who had been transported for poaching, was almost the only one who could talk to him after his absence of twenty-four years; not that she knew the people at the time, for she was then an infant, but she had grown up with them after Joe had left, and could narrate anecdotes of them, and what had been their eventual destinies. Jane having been the daughter of a man who had been transported for poaching, was to Joe a sort of recommendation, and it ended in his taking her for his wife. They had not been long settled in their cottage before Joe's former propensities returned; in fact, he could not be idle, he had carried a musket too long, and had lived such a life of excitement in the service of his country, that he found it impossible to exist without shooting at something. All his former love of poaching came strong upon him, and his wife, so far from checking him, encouraged him in his feelings. The consequence was, that two years after his marriage, Joe Rushbrook was the most determined poacher in the county. Although often suspected, he had never been detected; one great cause of this was his appearing to be such a drunkard, a plan hit upon by his wife, who had observed that drunken men were not suspected of being poachers. This scheme had therefore been hit upon, and very successfully; for proving before a magistrate that a man was carried home dead drunk and speechless at midnight, was quite as good an alibi as could be brought forward. Joe Rushbrook had, therefore, the credit of being a worthless drunken fellow, who lived upon his pension and what his wife could earn; but no one had an idea that he was not only earning his livelihood, but laying by money from his successful night labours. Not that Joe did not like a drop occasionally—on the contrary, he would sometimes drink freely; but, generally speaking, the wounds in his head were complained of; and he would, if the wind was fresh and set in the right quarter, contrive to be carried home on the night in which he had most work to do. Such was the case, as we have represented in the first chapter.

Little Joey, who, as the reader may anticipate, will be our future hero, was born the first year after marriage, and was their only child. He was a quiet, thoughtful, reflective boy for his years, and had imbibed his father's love of walking out on a dark night to an extraordinary degree: it was strange to see how much prudence there was, mingled with the love of adventure, in this lad. True it is, his father had trained him early, first to examine the snares and conceal the game, which a little shrimp like Joey could do, without being suspected to be otherwise employed than in picking blackberries. Before he was seven years old, Joey could set a springe as well as his father, and was well versed in all the mystery and art of unlawful taking of game. Indeed, he was very valuable to his father, and could do what his father could not have ventured upon without exciting suspicion. It was, perhaps, from his constant vigils, that the little boy was so small in size; at all events, his diminutive size was the cause of there being no suspicion attached to him. Joey went very regularly to the day-school of Mr Furness; and although often up the best part of the night, he was one of the best and most diligent of the scholars. No one could have supposed that the little fair-haired, quiet-looking boy, who was so busy with his books or his writing, could have been out half the night on a perilous excursion, for such it was at the time we are speaking of. It need hardly be observed that Joey had learned one important lesson, which was to be silent; not even Mum, the dog, who could not speak, was more secret or more faithful.

It is astonishing how much the nature and disposition of a child may be altered by early tuition. Let a child be always with its nurse, even under the guidance of a mother, regularly brought up as children usually are, and it will continue to be a child, and even childish, after childhood is gone. But take the same child, put it by degrees in situations of peril, requiring thought and observation beyond its years, accustom it to nightly vigils, and to watching, and to hold its tongue, and it is astonishing how the mind of that child, however much its body may suffer, will develop itself so as to meet the demand upon it. Thus it is with lads that are sent early to sea, and thus it was with little Joey. He was a man in some points, although a child in others. He would play with his companions, laugh as loudly as the others, but still he would never breathe a hint of what was his father's employment. He went to church every Sunday, as did his father and mother; for they considered that poaching was no crime, although punished as such by the laws; and he, of course, considered it no crime, as he only did what his father and mother wished. Let it not be thought, therefore, that the morals of our little hero were affected by his father's profession, for such was not the case.

Having entered into this necessary explanation, we will now proceed. No band of North American Indians could have observed a better trail than that kept by our little party. Rushbrook walked first, followed by our hero and the dog Mum. Not a word was spoken; they continued their route over grass-lands and ploughed fields, keeping in the shade of the hedgerows: if Rushbrook stopped for a while to reconnoitre, so did Joey, and so did Mum at their relative distances, until the march was resumed. For three miles and a half did they thus continue, until they arrived at a thick cover. The wind whistled through the branches of the bare trees, chiefly oak and ash; the cold, damp fog was now stationary, and shrouded them as they proceeded cautiously by the beaten track in the cover, until they had passed through it, and arrived on the other side, where the cottage of a gamekeeper was situated. A feeble light was burning, and shone through the diamond-paned windows.

Rushbrook walked out clear of the cover, and held up his hand to ascertain precisely the direction of the wind. Having satisfied himself; he retreated into the cover, in a direction so as to be exactly to leeward of the keeper's house, that the noise of the report of his gun might not be heard. Having cleared the hedge, he lowered his gun, so as to bring the barrel within two or three inches of the ground, and walked slowly and cautiously through the brushwood, followed, as before, by Joey and Mum. After about a quarter of a mile's walk, a rattling of metal was heard, and they stopped short; it was the barrel of the fowling-piece which had brushed one of the wires attached to a spring-gun, set for the benefit of poachers. Rushbrook lifted up his left hand, as a sign to Joey not to move; and following the wire, by continually rattling his barrel against it, he eventually arrived at the gun itself; opened the pan, threw out all the priming, leaving it with the pan open, so that it could not go off; in case they fell in with another of the wires. Rushbrook then proceeded to business, for he well knew that the gun would be set where the pheasants were most accustomed to roost; he put a small charge of powder in his fowling-piece, that, being so near, he might not shatter the birds, and because the noise of the report would be much less; walking under an oak-tree he soon discovered the round black masses which the bodies of the roosting pheasants presented between him and the sky, and raising his piece, he fired; a heavy bound on the earth near his feet followed the discharge; Joey then slipped forward and put the pheasant into his bag; another and another shot, and every shot brought an increase to Joey's load. Seventeen were already in it when Mum gave a low growl. This was the signal for people being near. Rushbrook snapped his finger; the dog came forward to his side, and stood motionless, with ears and tail erect. In a minute's time was heard the rustling of branches as the party forced their way through the underwood. Rushbrook stood still, waiting the signal from Mum, for the dog had been taught, if the parties advancing had another dog with them, always to raise his fore-feet up to Rushbrook's knees, but not otherwise; Mum made no such sign, and then Rushbrook lay down in the brushwood, his motions being closely followed by his son and his dog.

Voices in whispers were now heard, and the forms of two men with guns were to be seen not four yards from where they were lying.

"Somewhere about here, I'll swear," said one.

"Yes, I think so; but it may be further on—the wind has brought down the sound."

"Very true, let's follow them, and they may fall back upon the spring-gun."

The parties then advanced into the cover, and were soon out of sight; after a time Rushbrook held his ear to the wind, and, satisfied that all was safe, moved homewards, and arrived without further adventure, having relieved Joey of the heavy sack as soon as they were in the open fields.

At three o'clock in the morning, he tapped at the back door of the cottage. Jane opened it, and the spoils of the night having been put away in a secret place, they were all soon in bed and fast asleep.



CHAPTER THREE.

TRAIN A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO, AND HE WILL NOT DEPART FROM IT.

It is an old saying, that "if there were no receivers there would be no thieves," and it would have been of very little use for Rushbrook to take the game if he had not had the means of disposing of it. In this point, Byres, the pedlar, was a valuable accessory. Byres was a radical knave, who did not admire hard work. At first he took up the profession of bricklayer's labourer, one that is of a nature only affording occasional work and moderate wages. He did this that he might apply to the parish for relief; and do nothing for the major portion of the year. But even a few months' work would not suit him, and subsequently he gained his sustenance by carrying on his head a large basket of crockery, and disposing of his wares among the cottagers. At last he took out a pedlar's license—perhaps one of the most dangerous permits ever allowed by a government, and which has been the cause of much of the ill-will and discontent fomented among the lower classes. Latterly, the cheapness of printing and easiness of circulation have rendered the profession of less consequence: twenty years ago the village ale-houses were not provided with newspapers; it was an expense never thought of; the men went to drink their beer and talk over the news of the vicinity, and if there was a disturbance in any other portion of the United Kingdom, the fact was only gained by rumour, and that vaguely and long after it had taken place. But when the pedlar Byres made his appearance, which he at last did, weekly or oftener, as it might happen, there was a great change; he was the party who supplied information, and, in consequence, he was always welcome, and looked upon as an oracle; the best seat near the fire was reserved for him, and having deposited his pack upon the table or in a corner, he would then produce the Propeller, or some other publication full of treason and blasphemy, and read it aloud for the benefit of the labourers assembled. A few months were more than sufficient to produce the most serious effects: men who had worked cheerfully through the day, and retired to bed satisfied with their lot, and thankful that work was to be obtained, now remained at the public-house, canvassing the conduct of government, and, leaving their resort, satisfied in their own minds that they were ill-used, harshly treated, and in bitter bondage. If they met their superiors, those very parties to whom they were indebted for employment, there was no respect shown to them as formerly or, if so, it was sullen and forced acknowledgement. The church was gradually deserted—the appearance of the pastor was no longer a signal for every hat to be lifted from the head; on the contrary, boys of sixteen or seventeen years of age would lean against the church, or the walls of the churchyard, with their hands in both pockets, and a sort of leer upon their faces, as though they defied the pastor on his appearance—and there would they remain outside during the service, meeting, unquailed and without blushing, his eyes, cast upon them as he came out again. Such was the state of things in the village of Grassford in one year after the pedlar had added it to his continual rounds—and Byres was a great favourite, for he procured for the women what they commissioned him to obtain, supplied the girls with ribbons and gewgaws, and trusted to a considerable extent. His reappearance was always anxiously looked for; he lived scot-free at the public-house, for he brought so much custom, and was the occasion of the drinking of so much ale, that the landlord considered his coming as a godsend. His box of ware was well supplied in the sunnier months, for the fine weather was the time for the wearing of gay ribbons; but in the winter he travelled more to receive orders, or to carry away the game supplied to him by the poachers, with whom he was in league. Had his box been examined during the shooting season, it would have been found loaded with pheasants, not with trinkets and ribbons. It need hardly be observed after this that Byres was the party who took off the hands of Rushbrook all the game which he procured, and which he had notice to call for before daylight, generally the second morning after it had been obtained; for Rushbrook was too cautious to trust Byres with his secret, that of never going out of a night without having previously pretended intoxication, and having suffered himself to be led or carried home.

Our readers will acknowledge that little Joey was placed in a very dangerous position; it is true that he was not aware that he was doing wrong in assisting his father; nevertheless, being a reflective boy, it did sometimes occur to him that it was odd that what was right should be done so secretly; and he attempted to make out how it was that the birds that flew about everywhere, and appeared to belong to every one, might not be shot in the open day. He knew that the laws forbade it; but he inquired of himself why such laws should be. Joey had heard but one side of the question, and was therefore puzzled. It was fortunate for him that the pastor of the parish, although he did not reside in it, did at least once a week call in at Mr F's school, and examine the boys. Mr Furness, who was always sober during the school hours, was very proud of these visits, and used to point out little Joey as his most promising scholar. This induced the pastor to take more immediate notice of our hero, and the commendation which he received, and the advice that was bestowed upon him, was probably the great cause why Joey did attend assiduously to his lessons, which his otherwise vagrant life would have disinclined him to do; and also kept a character for honesty and good principle, which he really deserved. Indeed, his father and mother, setting aside poaching, and the secrecy resorted to in consequence, were by no means bad examples in the ordinary course of life; they did to their neighbours as they would be done by, were fair and honest in their dealings, and invariably inculcated probity and a regard to truth on their son. This may appear anomalous to many of our readers, but there are many strange anomalies in this world. It may therefore be stated in a very few words, that although our little hero had every chance of eventually following the road to ruin, yet, up to the present time, he had not entered it.

Such was the life led by little Joey for three years subsequent to our introduction of him to the reader; every day he became more useful to his father; latterly he had not attended school but in the forenoon, for, as we have before observed, Joey could, from his diminutive size and unsuspicious appearance, do much that his father would not have ventured to attempt. He was as well versed in the art of snaring as his father, and sauntering like a child about the fields and hedge-rows, would examine his nooses, take out the game, and hide it till he could bring it home. Sometimes he would go out at night attended only by Mum, and the dog would invariably give him mute notice, by simply standing with his ears and tail erect, when the keepers had discovered the snares, and were lying in wait for the poacher, to lay hold of him when he came to ascertain his success. Even in such a case, Joey very often would not retreat, but, crawling on his stomach, would arrive at the snare, and take out the animal without the keepers perceiving him; for their eyes were invariably directed to the horizon, watching the appearance of some stout figure of a man, while Joey crawled along, bearing away the prize unseen. At other times, Joey would reap a rich harvest in the broad day, by means of his favourite game-cock. Having put on the animal his steel spurs, he would plunge into the thickest of the cover, and, selecting some small spot of cleared ground for the combat, he would throw down his gallant bird, and conceal himself in the brushwood; the game-cock would immediately crow, and his challenge was immediately answered by the pugnacious male pheasant, who flew down to meet him: the combat was short, for the pheasant was soon pierced by the sharp steel of his adversary; and as one antagonist fell dead, again would the game-cock crow, and his challenge be accepted by another. In an hour or two the small arena was a field of blood Joey would creep forward, put his victorious cock into his bag together with many dead adversaries, and watch an opportunity for a safe retreat.

Such was the employment of our hero; and although suspicion had often been attached to his father, none had an idea that there had been a violation of the laws on the part of the son, when an event took place which changed our hero's destiny.



CHAPTER FOUR.

IN WHICH THE AUTHOR HAS ENDEAVOURED, WITH ALL HIS POWER, TO SUIT THE PRESENT TASTE OF THE PUBLIC.

We have said that Byres was the receiver of the game obtained by Rushbrook. It so happened, that in these accounts Byres had not adhered to his duty towards his neighbour; in fact, he attempted to over-reach, but without success, and from that time Byres became Rushbrook's determined, but secret, enemy. Some months had passed since their disagreement, and there was a mutual mistrust (as both men were equally revengeful in their tempers), when they happened to meet late on a Saturday night at the ale-house, which was their usual resort. Furness the schoolmaster was there; he and many others had already drunk too much; all were boisterous and noisy. A few of the wives of those drinking were waiting patiently and sorrowfully outside, their arms folded in their aprons as a defence against the cold, watching for their husbands to come out, that they might coax them home before the major part of the week's earnings had been spent in liquor. Byres had the paper in his hand—he had taken it from the schoolmaster, who was too far gone to read it, and was declaiming loudly against all governments, monarchy, and laws when a stranger entered the tap-room where they were all assembled. Rushbrook was at the time sitting down, intending quietly to take a pint and walk home, as he had too much respect for the Sabbath to follow his profession of poacher on the morning of that day: he did not intend, therefore, to resort to his usual custom of pretending to be intoxicated; but when the stranger came in, to his great surprise he observed a glance of recognition between him and Byres, after which they appeared as if they were perfect strangers. Rushbrook watched them carefully, but so as not to let them perceive he was so doing, when a beckon from the stranger to Byres was again made. Byres continued to read the paper and to harangue, but at the same time took an opportunity of making a signal in reply. There was something in the stranger's appearance which told Rushbrook that he was employed as a keeper, or something in that way, for we often single out our enemies by instinct. That there was mischief in the wind Rushbrook felt sure, and his heart misgave him the more so, as occasionally the eyes of both were turned towards him. After a little reflection, Rushbrook determined to feign intoxication, as he had so often done before: he called for another pint, for some time talked very loud, and at last laid his head on the table; after a time he lifted it up again, drank more, and then fell back on the bench. By degrees the company thinned, until there was no one left but the schoolmaster, the pedlar, and the stranger. The schoolmaster, as usual, offered to assist the pedlar in helping Rushbrook to his cottage; but Byres replied that he was busy, and that he need not wait for Rushbrook; the friend he had with him would assist him in taking home the drunken man. The schoolmaster reeled home, leaving the two together. They sat down on the bench, not far from Rushbrook, who appeared to them to be in the last stage of inebriety. Their conversation was easily overheard. The pedlar stated that he had watched several nights, but never could find when Rushbrook left his cottage, but he had traced the boy more than once; that R had promised to have game ready for him on Tuesday, and would go out on Monday night for it. In short, Rushbrook discovered that Byres was about to betray him to the man, whom, in the course of their conversation, he found out to be a game-keeper newly hired by the lord of the manor. After a while they broke up, Byres having promised to join the keeper in his expedition, and to assist in securing his former ally. Having made these arrangements, they then took hold of Rushbrook by the arms, and, shaking him to rouse him as much as they could, they led him home to the cottage, and left him in charge of his wife. As soon as the door was closed, Rushbrook's long-repressed anger could no longer be restrained: he started on his feet, and striking his fist on the table so as to terrify his wife, swore that the pedlar should pay dear for his peaching. Upon his wife's demanding an explanation, Rushbrook, in a few hurried sentences, explained the whole. Jane, however she might agree with him in his indignation, like all women, shuddered at the thought of shedding blood. She persuaded her husband to go to bed. He consented; but he slept not: he had but one feeling, which was vengeance towards the traitor. When revenge enters into the breast of a man who has lived peaceably at home, fiercely as he may be impelled by the passion, he stops short at the idea of shedding blood. But when a man who had, like Rushbrook, served so long in the army, witnessed such scenes of carnage, and so often passed his bayonet through his adversary's body, is roused up by this fatal passion, the death of a fellow-creature becomes a matter of indifference, provided he can gratify his feelings. Thus it was with Rushbrook, who, before he rose on the morning of that Sabbath in which, had he gone to church, he could have so often requested his trespasses might be forgiven, as he "forgave them who trespassed against him," had made up his mind that nothing short of the pedlar's death would satisfy him. At breakfast he appeared to listen to his wife's entreaties, and promised to do the pedlar no harm; and told her that, instead of going out on the Monday night, as he had promised, he should go out on that very night, and by that means evade the snare laid for him. Jane persuaded him not to go out at all; but this Rushbrook would not consent to. He told her that he was determined to show them that he was not to be driven off his beat, and would make Byres believe on Tuesday night that he had been out on the Monday night. Rushbrook's object was to have a meeting with Byres, if possible, alone, to tax him with his treachery, and then to take summary vengeance.

Aware that Byres slept at the ale-house, he went down there a little before dark, and told him that he intended going out on that night; that it would be better if, instead of coming on Tuesday, he were to meet him at the corner of one of the covers, which he described, at an hour agreed upon, when he would make over to him the game which he might have procured. Byres, who saw in this an excellent method of trapping Rushbrook, consented to it, intending to inform the keeper, so that he should meet Rushbrook. The time of meeting was arranged for two o'clock in the morning. Rushbrook was certain that Byres would leave the ale-house an hour or two before the time proposed, which would be more than sufficient for his giving information to the keeper. He therefore remained quietly at home till twelve o'clock, when he loaded his gun, and went out without Joey or the dog. His wife perceiving this, was convinced that he had not gone out with the intention to poach, but was pursuing his scheme of revenge. She watched him after he left the cottage, and observed that he had gone down in the direction of the ale-house; and she was afraid that there would be mischief between him and Byres, and she wakened Joey, desiring him to follow and watch his father, and do all he could to prevent it. Her communication was made in such a hurried manner, that it was difficult for Joey to know what he was to do, except to watch his father's motions, and see what took place. This Joey perfectly understood; and he was off in an instant, followed, as usual, by Mum, and taking with him his sack. Our hero crept softly down the pathway, in the direction of the ale-house. The night was dark, for the moon did not rise till two or three hours before the morning broke, and it was bitterly cold: but to darkness and cold Joey had been accustomed, and although not seen himself; there was no object could move without being scanned by his clear vision. He gained a hedge close to the ale-house. Mum wanted to go on, by which Joey knew that his father must be lurking somewhere near to him: he pressed the dog down with his hand, crouched himself; and watched. In a few minutes a dark figure was perceived by Joey to emerge from the ale-house, and walk hastily over a turnip-field behind the premises: it had gained about half over, when another form, which Joey recognised as his father's, stealthily followed after the first. Joey waited a little time, and was then, with Mum, on the steps of both; for a mile and a half each party kept at their relative distances, until they came near a furze bottom, which was about six hundred yards from the cover; then the steps of Rushbrook were quickened, and those of Joey in proportion; the consequence was, that the three parties rapidly neared each other. Byres for it was he who had quitted the ale-house—walked along leisurely, having no suspicion that he was followed. Rushbrook was now within fifteen yards of the pedlar, and Joey at even less distance from his father, when he heard the lock of his father's gun click as he cocked it.

"Father," said Joey, not over loud, "don't—"

"Who's there?" cried the pedlar, turning round. The only reply was the flash and report of the gun; and the pedlar dropped among the furze.

"Oh father—father!—what have you done?" exclaimed Joey, coming up to him.

"You here, Joey!" said Rushbrook. "Why are you here?"

"Mother sent me," replied Joey.

"To be evidence against me," replied his father, in wrath.

"Oh no!—to stop you. What have you done, father?"

"What I almost wish I had not done now," replied he, mournfully; "but it is done, and—"

"And what, father?"

"I am a murderer, I suppose," replied Rushbrook. "He would have peached, Joey—have had me transported, to work in chains for the rest of my days, merely for taking a few pheasants. Let us go home;" but Rushbrook did not move, although he proposed so doing.

He leant upon his gun, with his eyes fixed in the direction where Byres had fallen.

Joey stood by him—for nearly ten minutes not a word was spoken. At last Rushbrook said—

"Joey, my boy, I've killed many a man in my time, and I have thought nothing of it; I slept as sound as ever the next night. But then, you see, I was a soldier, and it was my trade, and I could look on the man I had killed without feeling sorrow or shame; but I can't look upon this man, Joey. He was my enemy; but—I've murdered him—I feel it now. Go up to him, boy—you are not afraid to meet him—and see if he be dead."

Joey, although generally speaking fear was a stranger to him, did, however, feel afraid; his hands had often been dyed with the blood of a hare or of a bird, but he had not yet seen death in his fellow-creatures. He advanced slowly and tremulously through the dark towards the furze-bush in which the body laid; Mum followed, raising first one paw and pausing, then the other, and as they came to the body, the dog raised his head and gave such a mournful howl, that it induced our hero to start back again. After a time Joey recovered himself; and again advanced to the body. He leant over it, he could distinguish but the form; he listened, and not the slightest breathing was to be heard; he whispered the pedlar's name, but there was no reply; he put his hand upon his breast, and removed it reeking with warm blood.

"Father, he must be dead, quite dead," whispered Joey, who returned trembling. "What shall we do?"

"We must go home," replied Rushbrook; "this is a bad night's work;" and, without exchanging another word until their arrival, Rushbrook and Joey proceeded back to the cottage, followed by Mum.



CHAPTER FIVE.

THE SINS OF THE FATHER ARE VISITED UPON THE CHILD.

Jane had remained in a state of great anxiety during her husband's absence, watching and listening to every sound; every five minutes raising the latch of the door, and looking out, hoping to see him return. As the time went on, her alarm increased; she laid her head down on the table and wept; she could find no consolation, no alleviation of her anxiety; she dropped down on her knees and prayed.

She was still appealing to the Most High, when a blow on the door announced her husband's return. There was a sulken gloom over his countenance as he entered: he threw his gun carelessly on one side, so that it fell, and rattled against the paved floor; and this one act was to her ominous of evil. He sat down without speaking; falling back in the chair, and lifting his eyes up to the rafters above, he appeared to be in deep thought, and unconscious of her presence.

"What has happened?" inquired his wife, trembling as she laid her hand on his shoulder.

"Don't speak to me now," was the reply.

"Joey," said the frightened woman in a whisper, "what has he done?"

Joey answered not, but raised his hand, red with the blood which was now dried upon it.

Jane uttered a faint cry, dropped on her knees, and covered her face, while Joey walked into the back kitchen, and busied himself in removing the traces of the dark deed.

A quarter of an hour had elapsed—Joey had returned, and taken his seat upon his low stool, and not a word had been exchanged.

There certainly is a foretaste of the future punishment which awaits crime; for how dreadful were the feelings of those who were now sitting down in the cottage! Rushbrook was evidently stupefied from excess of feeling; first, the strong excitement which had urged him to the deed; and now from the reaction the prostration of mental power which had succeeded it. Jane dreaded the present and the future—whichever way she turned her eyes the gibbet was before her—the clanking of chains in her ears; in her vision of the future, scorn, misery, and remorse—she felt only for her husband. Joey, poor boy, he felt for both. Even the dog showed, as he looked up into Joey's face, that he was aware that a foul deed had been done. The silence which it appeared none would venture to break, was at last dissolved by the clock of the village church solemnly striking two. They all started up—it was a warning—it reminded them of the bell tolling for the dead—of time and of eternity; but time present quickly effaced for the moment other ideas; yes, it was time to act; in four hours more it would be daylight, and the blood of the murdered man would appeal to his fellow-men for vengeance. The sun would light them to the deed of darkness—the body would be brought home—the magistrates would assemble—and who would be the party suspected?

"Merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Jane, "what can be done?"

"There is no proof;" muttered Rushbrook.

"Yes, there is," observed Joey, "I left my bag there, when I stooped down to—"

"Silence!" cried Rushbrook. "Yes," continued he, bitterly, to his wife, "this is your doing; you must send the boy after me, and now there will be evidence against me; I shall owe my death to you."

"Oh, say not so! say not so!" replied Jane, falling down on her knees, and weeping bitterly as she buried her face in his lap; "but there is yet time," cried she, starting up; "Joey can go and fetch the bag. You will, Joey: won't you, dear? you are not afraid—you are innocent."

"Better leave it where it is, mother," replied Joey, calmly.

Rushbrook looked up at his son with surprise; Jane caught him by the arm; she felt convinced the boy had some reason for what he said— probably some plan that would ward off suspicion—yet how could that be, it was evidence against them, and after looking earnestly at the boy's face, she dropped his arm. "Why so, Joey?" said she, with apparent calmness.

"Because," replied Joey, "I have been thinking about it all this time; I am innocent, and therefore I do not mind if they suppose me guilty. The bag is known to be mine—the gun I must throw into a ditch two fields off. You must give me some money, if you have any; if not, I must go without it; but there is no time to be lost. I must be off and away from here in ten minutes; to-morrow ask every one if they have seen or heard of me, because I have left the house some time during the night. I shall have a good start before that; besides, they may not find the pedlar for a day or two, perhaps; at all events, not till some time after I am gone; and then, you see, mother, the bag which is found by him, and the gun in the ditch, will make them think it is me who killed him; but they will not be able to make out whether I killed him by accident, and ran away from fear, or whether I did it on purpose. So now, mother, that's my plan, for it will save father."

"And I shall never see you again, my child!" replied his mother.

"That's as may be. You may go away from here after a time, mother, when the thing has blown over. Come, mother, there is no time to lose."

"Rushbrook, what say you—what think you?" said Jane to her husband.

"Why, Jane, at all events, the boy must have left us, for, you see, I told Byres, and I've no doubt but he told the keeper, if he met him, that I should bring Joey with me. I did it to deceive him; and, as sure as I sit here, they will have that boy up as evidence against his father."

"To be sure they will," cried Joey; "and what could I do? I dare not—I don't think I could tell a lie; and yet I would not peach upon father, neither. What can I do—but be out of the way?"

"That's the truth—away with you, then, my boy, and take a father's blessing with you—a guilty father's, it is true; God forgive me. Jane give him all the money you have; lose not a moment: quick, woman, quick." And Rushbrook appeared to be in agony.

Jane hastened to the cupboard, opened a small box, and poured the contents into the hands of Joey.

"Farewell, my boy," said Rushbrook; "your father thanks you."

"Heaven preserve you, my child!" cried Jane, embracing him, as the tears rained down her cheeks. "You will write—no! you must not—mercy!— mercy!—I shall never see him again!"—and the mother fainted on the floor.

The tears rose in our hero's eyes as he beheld the condition of his poor mother. Once more he grasped his father's hand; and then, catching up the gun, he went out at the back door, and driving back the dog, who would have followed him, made over the fields as fast as his legs would carry him.



CHAPTER SIX.

"THE WORLD BEFORE HIM, WHERE TO CHOOSE."

We have no doubt but many of our readers have occasionally, when on a journey, come to where the road divides into two, forking out in different directions, and the road being new to them, have not known which of the two branches they ought to take. This happens, as it often does in a novel, to be our case just now. Shall we follow little Joey, or his father and mother?—that is the question. We believe that when a road does thus divide, the wider of the two branches is generally selected, as being supposed to be the continuation of the high road. We shall ourselves act upon that principle; and, as the hero of the tale is of more consequence than characters accessory, we shall follow up the fortunes of little Joey. As soon as our hero had deposited the gun so that it might be easily discovered by any one passing by, he darted into the high road, and went off with all the speed that he was capable of, and it was not yet light when he found himself at least ten miles from his native village. As the day dawned, he quitted the high road, and took to the fields, keeping a parallel course, so as to still increase the distance; it was not until he had made fifteen miles, that, finding himself exhausted, he sat down to recover himself.

From the time that he had left the cottage until the present, Joey had had but one overwhelming idea in his head, which was, to escape from pursuit, and by his absence to save his father from suspicion; but now that he had effected that purpose, and was in a state of quiescence, other thoughts rushed upon his mind. First, the scenes of the last few hours presented themselves in rapid array before him—he thought of the dead man, and he looked at his hand to ascertain if the bloody marks had been effaced; and then he thought of his poor mother's state when he quitted the cottage, and the remembrance made him weep bitterly: his own position came next upon him,—a boy, twelve years of age, adrift upon the world—how was he to live—what was he to do? This reminded him that his mother had given him money; he put his hand into his pocket, and pulled it out to ascertain what he possessed. He had 1 pound, 16 shillings; to him a large sum, and it was all in silver. As he had become more composed, he began to reflect upon what he had better do; where should he go to?—London. It was a long way, he knew, but the farther he was away from home, the better. Besides, he had heard much of London, and that every one got employment there. Joey resolved that he would go to London; he knew that he had taken the right road so far, and having made up his mind, he rose up, and proceeded. He knew that, if possible, he must not allow himself to be seen on the road for a day or two, and he was puzzled how he was to get food, which he already felt would be very acceptable; and then, what account was he to give of himself if questioned? Such were the cogitations of our little hero as he wended his way till he came to a river, which was too deep and rapid for him to attempt to ford—he was obliged to return to the high road to cross the bridge. He looked around him before he climbed over the low stone wall, and perceiving nobody, he jumped on the footpath, and proceeded to the bridge, where he suddenly faced an old woman with a basket of brown cakes something like ginger-bread. Taken by surprise, and hardly knowing what to say, he inquired if a cart had passed that way.

"Yes, child, but it must be a good mile ahead of you," said the old woman, "and you must walk fast to overtake it."

"I have had no breakfast yet, and I am hungry; do you sell your cakes?"

"Yes, child, what else do I make them for? three a penny, and cheap too."

Joey felt in his pocket until he had selected a sixpence, and pulling it out, desired the old woman to give him cakes for it, and, taking the pile in his hand, he set off as fast as he could. As soon as he was out of sight, he again made his way into the fields, and breakfasted upon half his store. He then continued his journey until nearly one o'clock, when, tired out with his exertions, as soon as he had finished the remainder of his cakes, he laid down under a rick of corn, and fell fast asleep, having made twenty miles since he started. In his hurry to escape pursuit, and the many thoughts which occupied his brain, Joey had made no observation on the weather; if he had, he probably would have looked after some more secure shelter than the lee-side of a haystack. He slept soundly, and he had not been asleep more than an hour, when the wind changed, and the snow fell fast; nevertheless, Joey slept on, and probably never would have awakened more, had it not been that a shepherd and his dog were returning home in the evening, and happened to pass close to the haystack. By this time Joey had been covered with a layer of snow, half an inch deep, and had it not been for the dog, who went up to where he laid, and commenced pawing the snow off of him, he would have been passed by undiscovered by the shepherd, who, after some trouble, succeeded in rousing our hero from his torpor, and half dragging, half lifting him, contrived to lead him across one or two fields, until they arrived at a blacksmith's shop, in a small village, before Joey could have been said to have recovered his scattered senses. Two hours' more sleep and there would have been no further history to give of our little hero.

He was dragged to the forge, the fire of which glowed under the force of the bellows, and by degrees, as the warmth reached him, he was restored to self-possession. To the inquiries made as to who he was, and from where he came, he now answered as he had before arranged in his mind. His father and mother were a long way before him; he was going to London, but having been tired, he had fallen asleep under the haystack, and he was afraid that if he went not on to London directly, he never might find his father and mother again.

"Oh, then," replied the shepherd, "they have gone on before, have they? Well, you'll catch them, no doubt."

The blacksmith's wife, who had been a party to what was going on, now brought up a little warm ale, which quite re-established Joey; and at the same time a waggon drove up to the door, and stopped at the blacksmith's shop.

"I must have a shoe tacked on the old mare, my friend," said the driver. "You won't be long?"

"Not five minutes," replied the smith. "You're going to London?"

"Yes, sure."

"Here's a poor boy that has been left behind by his father and mother somehow—you wouldn't mind giving him a lift?"

"Well, I don't know; I suppose I must be paid for it in the world to come."

"And good pay too, if you earn it," observed the blacksmith.

"Well, it won't make much difference to my eight horses, I expect," said the driver, looking at Joey; "so come along, youngster: you may perch yourself on top of the straw, above the goods."

"First come in with me, child," said the wife of the blacksmith; "you must have some good victuals to take with you—so, while you shoe the horse, John, I'll see to the boy."

The woman put before Joey a dish in which were the remains of more than one small joint, and our hero commenced his attack without delay.

"Have you any money, child?" inquired the woman.

Joey, who thought she might expect payment, replied, "Yes ma'am, I've got a shilling;" and he pulled one out of his pocket and laid it out on the table.

"Bless the child! what do you take me for, to think that I would touch your money? You are a long way from London yet, although you have got such a chance to get there. Do you know where to go when you get there?"

"Yes, ma'am," replied Joey; "I shall get work in the stables, I believe."

"Well, I dare say that you will; but in the meantime you had better save your shilling—so we'll find something to put this meat and bread up for your journey. Are you quite warm now?"

"Yes, thank'ee, ma'am."

Joey, who had ceased eating, had another warm at the fire, and in a few minutes, having bade adieu, and giving his thanks to the humane people, he was buried in the straw below the tilt of the waggon, with his provisions deposited beside him, and the waggon went on his slow and steady pace, to the tune of its own jingling bells. Joey, who had quite recovered from his chill, nestled among the straw, congratulating himself that he should now arrive safely in London, without more questioning. And such was the case: in three days and three nights, without any further adventure, he found himself, although he was not aware of it, in Oxford-street, somewhat about eight or nine o'clock in the evening.

"Do you know your way now, boy?" said the carman.

"I can ask it," replied Joey, "as soon as I can go to the light and read the address. Good-bye, and thank you," continued he, glad at last to be clear of any more evasive replies.

The carman shook him by the hand as they passed the Boar and Castle, and bade him farewell, and our hero found himself alone in the vast metropolis.

What was he to do? He hardly knew—but one thought struck him, which was, that he must find a bed for the night. He wandered up and down Oxford Street for some time, but every one walked so quick that he was afraid to speak to them: at last a little girl, of seven or eight years of age, passed by him, and looked him earnestly in the face.

"Can you tell me where I can get a bed for the night?" said Joey.

"Have you any brads?" was the reply.

"What are those?" said Joey.

"Any money, to be sure; why, you're green—quite."

"Yes, I have a shilling."

"That will do—come along, and you shall sleep with me."

Joey followed her very innocently, and very glad that he had been so fortunate. She led him to a street out of Tottenham-court-road, in which there were no lamps—the houses, however, were large, and many stories high.

"Take my hand," said the girl, "and mind how you tread."

Guided by his new companion, Joey arrived at a door that was wide open: they entered, and, assisted by the girl, he went up a dark staircase, to the second storey. She opened a room-door, when Joey found himself in company with about twenty other children, of about the same age, of both sexes. Here were several beds on the floor of the room, which was spacious. In the centre were huddled together on the floor, round a tallow candle, eight or ten of the inmates, two of them playing with a filthy pack of cards, while the others looked over them: others were lying down or asleep on the several beds. "This is my bed," said the girl; "if you are tired you can turn in at once. I shan't go to bed yet."

Joey was tired, and he went to bed; it was not very clean, but he had been used to worse lodgings lately. It need hardly be observed that Joey had got into very bad company, the whole of the inmates of the room consisting of juvenile thieves and pickpockets, who in the course of time obtain promotion in their profession, until they are ultimately sent off to Botany Bay. Attempts have been made to check these nurseries of vice: but pseudo-philanthropists have resisted such barbarous innovation: and upon the Mosaic principle, that you must not seethe the kid in the mother's milk, they are protected and allowed to arrive at full maturity, and beyond the chance of being reclaimed, until they are ripe for the penalties of the law.

Joey slept soundly, and when he awoke next morning found that his little friend was not with him. He dressed himself; and then made another discovery, which was, that every farthing of his money had been abstracted from his pockets. Of this unpleasant fact he ventured to complain to one or two boys, who were lying on other beds with their clothes on; they laughed at him, called him a greenhorn, and made use of other language, which at once let Joey know the nature of the company with whom he had been passing the night. After some altercation, three or four of them bundled him out of the room, and Joey found himself in the street without a farthing, and very much inclined to eat a good breakfast.

There is no portion of the world, small as it is in comparison with the whole, in which there is more to be found to eat and to drink, more comfortable lodgings, or accommodation and convenience of every kind, than in the metropolis of England, provided you have the means to obtain it; but notwithstanding this abundance, there is no place, probably, where you will find it more difficult to obtain a portion of it, if you happen to have an empty pocket.

Joey went into a shop here and there to ask for employment—he was turned away everywhere. He spent the first day in this manner, and at night, tired and hungry, he laid down on the stone steps of a portico, and fell asleep. The next morning he awoke shivering with the cold, faint with hunger. He asked at the areas for something to eat, but no one would give him anything. At a pump he obtained a drink of water— that was all he could obtain, for it cost nothing. Another day passed without food, and the poor boy again sheltered himself for the night at a rich man's door in Berkeley-square.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

IF YOU WANT EMPLOYMENT GO TO LONDON.

The exhausted lad awoke again, and pursued his useless task of appeals for food and employment. It was a bright day, and there was some little warmth to be collected by basking in the rays of the sun, when our hero wended his way through Saint James's Park, faint, hungry, and disconsolate. There were several people seated on the benches; and Joey, weak as he was, did not venture to go near them, but crawled along. At last, after wandering up and down, looking for pity in everybody's face as they passed, and receiving none, he felt that he could not stand much longer, and emboldened by desperation, he approached a bench that was occupied by one person. At first he only rested on the arm of the bench, but, as the person sitting down appeared not to observe him, he timidly took a seat at the farther end. The personage who occupied the other part of the bench was a man dressed in a morning suit a la militaire and black stock. He had clean gloves and a small cane in his hand, with which he was describing circles on the gravel before him, evidently in deep thought. In height he was full six feet, and his proportions combined strength with symmetry. His features were remarkably handsome, his dark hair had a natural curl, and his whiskers and mustachios (for he wore those military appendages) were evidently the objects of much attention and solicitude. We may as well here observe, that although so favoured by nature, still there would have been considered something wanting in him by those who had been accustomed to move in the first circles, to make him the refined gentleman. His movements and carriage were not inelegant, but there was a certain retinue wanting. He bowed well, but still it was not exactly the bow of a gentleman. The nursery-maids as they passed by said, "Dear me, what a handsome gentleman!" but had the remark been made by a higher class, it would have been qualified into "What a handsome man!" His age was apparently about five-and-thirty—it might have been something more. After a short time he left off his mechanical amusements, and turning round, perceived little Joey at the farther end. Whether from the mere inclination to talk, or that he thought it presuming in our hero to seat himself upon the same bench, he said to him—

"I hope you are comfortable, my little man; but perhaps you've forgot your message."

"I have no message, sir, for I know no one: and I am not comfortable, for I am starving," replied Joey, in a tremulous voice.

"Are you in earnest now, when you say that, boy; or is it that you're humbugging me?"

Joey shook his head. "I have eaten nothing since the day before yesterday morning, and I feel faint and sick," replied he at last.

His new companion looked earnestly in our hero's face, and was satisfied that what he said was true.

"As I hope to be saved," exclaimed he, "it's my opinion that a little bread and butter would not be a bad thing for you. Here," continued he, putting his hand into his coat-pocket, "take these coppers, and go and get some thing into your little vitals."

"Thank you, sir, thank you, kindly. But I don't know where to go: I only came up to London two days ago."

"Then follow me as fast as your little pins can carry you," said the other. They had not far to go, for a man was standing close to Spring-garden-gate with hot tea and bread and butter, and in a few moments Joey's hunger was considerably appeased.

"Do you feel better now, my little cock?"

"Yes, sir, thank you."

"That's right, and now we will go back to the bench, and then you shall tell me all about yourself; just to pass away the time. Now," said he, as he took his seat, "in the first place, who is your father, if you have any; and if you haven't any, what was he?"

"Father and mother are both alive, but they are a long way off. Father was a soldier, and he has a pension now."

"A soldier! Do you know in what regiment?"

"Yes, it was the 53rd, I think."

"By the powers, my own regiment! And what is your name, then, and his?"

"Rushbrook," replied Joey.

"My pivot man, by all that's holy. Now haven't you nicely dropped on your feet?"

"I don't know, sir," replied our hero.

"But I do; your father was the best fellow I had in my company—the best forager, and always took care of his officer, as a good man should do. If there was a turkey, or a goose, or a duck, or a fowl, or a pig within ten miles of us, he would have it: he was the boy for poaching. And now tell me (and mind you tell the truth when you meet with a friend) what made you leave your father and mother?"

"I was afraid of being taken up—" and here Joey stopped, for he hardly knew what to say; trust his new acquaintance with his father's secret he dare not, neither did he like to tell what was directly false; as the reader will perceive by his reply, he partly told the truth.

"Afraid of being taken up! Why, what could they take up a spalpeen like you for?"

"Poaching," replied Joey; "father poached too: they had proof against me, so I came away with father's consent."

"Poaching! well, I'm not surprised at that, for if ever it was in the blood, it is in yours—that's truth. And what do you mean to do now?"

"Anything I can to earn my bread."

"What can you do—besides poaching, of course? Can you read and write?"

"Oh, yes."

"Would you like to be a servant—clean boots, brush clothes, stand behind a cab, run messages, carry notes, and hold your tongue?"

"I could do all that, I think—I am twelve years old."

"The devil you are! Well then, for your father's sake, I'll see what I can do for you, till you can do better. I'll fit you out as a tiger, and what's more, unless I am devilish hard up, I won't sell you. So come along. What's your name?"

"Joey."

"Sure that was your father's name before you, I now recollect and should any one take the trouble to ask you what may be the name of your master, you may reply, with a safe conscience, that it's Captain O'Donahue. Now come along. Not close after me—you may as well keep open file just now, till I've made you look a little more decent."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

A DISSERTATION UPON PEDIGREE.

Our readers will not perhaps be displeased if we introduce Captain O'Donahue more particularly to their notice: we shall therefore devote this chapter to giving some account of his birth, parentage, and subsequent career. If the father of Captain O'Donahue was to be believed, the race of the O'Donahues were kings in Ireland long before the O'Connors were ever heard of. How far this may be correct we cannot pretend to offer an opinion, further than that no man can be supposed to know so much of a family's history as the descendant himself. The documents were never laid before us, and we have only the positive assertion of the Squireen O'Donahue, who asserted not only that they were kings in Ireland before the O'Connors, whose pretensions to ancestry he treated with contempt, but further, that they were renowned for their strength, and were famous for using the longest bows in battle that were ever known or heard of. Here we have circumstantial evidence, although not proof. If strong, they might have been kings in Ireland, for there "might has been right" for many centuries; and certainly their acquirements were handed down to posterity, as no one was more famous for drawing the long bow than the Squireen O'Donahue. Upon these points, however, we must leave our readers to form their own opinions. Perhaps some one more acquainted with the archives of the country may be able to set us right if we are wrong, or to corroborate our testimony if we are right. In his preface to "Anne of Geierstein," Sir Walter Scott observes, that "errors, however trivial, ought, in his opinion, never to be pointed out to the author without meeting with a candid and respectful acknowledgement." Following the example of so great a man, we can only say, that if any gentleman can prove or disprove the assertion of the Squireen O'Donahue, to wit, that the O'Donahues were kings of Ireland long before the O'Connors were heard of; we shall be most happy to acknowledge the favour, and insert his remarks in the next edition. We should be further obliged to the same party, or indeed, any other, it they would favour us with an idea of what was implied by a king of Ireland in those days; that is to say, whether he held a court, taxed his subjects, collected revenue, kept up a standing army, sent ambassadors to foreign countries, and did all which kings do nowadays? or whether his shillelagh was his sceptre, and his domain some furze-crowned hills and a bog, the intricacies of which were known only to himself? whether he was arrayed in jewelled robes, with a crown of gold weighing on his temples? or whether he went bare-legged and bare-armed, with his bare locks flowing in luxurious wildness to the breeze? We request an answer to this in full simplicity. We observe that even in Ireland now, a fellow six feet high, and stout in proportion, is called a "prince of a fellow," although he has not wherewithal to buy a paper of tobacco to supply his dhudeen: and, arguing from this fact, we are inclined to think that a few more inches in stature, and commensurate muscular increase of power, would in former times have raised the "heir-apparent" to the dignity of the Irish throne. But these abstruse speculations have led us from our history, which we must now resume.

Whatever may once have been the importance of the house of O'Donahue, one thing is certain, that there are many ups and downs in this world; every family in it has its wheel of fortune, which revolves faster or slower as the fates decree, and the descendant of kings before the O'Connor's time was now descended into a species of Viceroy, Squireen O'Donahue being the steward of certain wild estates in the county of Galway, belonging to a family who for many years had shown a decided aversion to the natural beauties of the country, and had thought proper to migrate to where, if people were not so much attached to them, they were at all events more civilised. These estates were extensive, but not lucrative. They abounded in rocks, brushwood, and woodcocks during the season; and although the Squireen O'Donahue did his best, if not for his employer, at least for himself; it was with some difficulty that he contrived to support, with anything like respectability (which in that part of the country means "dacent clothes to wear"), a very numerous family, lineally descended from the most ancient of all the kings of Ireland.

Before the squireen had obtained his employment, he had sunk his rank and travelled much—as a courier—thereby gaining much knowledge of the world. If, therefore, he had no wealth to leave his children, at all events he could impart to them that knowledge which is said to be better than worldly possessions. Having three sons and eight daughters, all of them growing up healthy and strong, with commensurate appetites, he soon found that it was necessary to get rid of them as fast as he could. His eldest, who, strange to say, for an O'Donahue, was a quiet lad, he had as a favour lent to his brother, who kept a small tobacconist and grocer's shop in Dublin, and his brother was so fond of him, that eventually O'Carroll O'Donahue was bound to him as an apprentice. It certainly was a degradation for the descendant of such ancient kings to be weighing out pennyworths of sugar, and supplying halfpenny papers of tobacco to the old apple and fish women; but still there we must leave the heir-apparent while we turn to the second son, Mr Patrick O'Donahue, whose history we are now relating, having already made the reader acquainted with him by an introduction in Saint James's Park.



CHAPTER NINE.

IN WHICH THE ADVICE OF A FATHER DESERVES PECULIAR ATTENTION.

It may be supposed that, as steward of the estates, Squireen O'Donahue had some influence over the numerous tenants on the property, and this influence he took care to make the most of. His assistance in a political contest was rewarded by the offer of an ensigncy for one of his sons, in a regiment then raising in Ireland, and this offer was too good to be refused. So, one fine day, Squireen O'Donahue came home from Dublin, well bespattered with mud, and found his son Patrick also well bespattered with mud, having just returned home from a very successful expedition against the woodcocks.

"Patrick, my jewel," said the Squireen, taking a seat and wiping his face, for he was rather warm with his ride, "you're a made man."

"And well made too, father, if the girls are anything of judges," replied Patrick.

"You put me out," replied the Squireen; "you've more to be vain of than your figure."

"And what may that be that you're discoursing about father?"

"Nothing more nor less, nor better nor worse, but you're an ensign in his Majesty's new regiment—the number has escaped my memory."

"I'd rather be a colonel, father," replied Patrick, musing.

"The colonel's to come, you spalpeen," said the Squireen.

"And the fortune to make, I expect," replied Patrick.

"You've just hit it but haven't you the whole world before you to pick and choose?"

"Well," replied Patrick, after a pause; "I've no objection."

"No objection! Why don't you jump out of your skin with delight? At all events, you might jump high enough to break in the caling."

"There's no ceiling to break," replied Patrick, looking up at the rafters.

"That's true enough; but still you might go out of your seven senses in a rational sort of a way."

"I really can't see for why, father dear. You tell me I'm to leave my poor old mother, who doats upon me; my sisters, who are fond of me; my friends here," patting the dogs, "who follow me; the hills, that I love; and the woodcocks, which I shoot; to go to be shot at myself, and buried like a dead dog, without being skinned, on the field of battle."

"I tell you to go forth into the world as an officer, and make your fortune; to come back a general, and be the greatest man of your family. And don't be too unhappy about not being skinned. Before you are older or wiser, dead or alive, you'll be skinned, I'll answer for it."

"Well, father, I'll go; but I expect there'll be a good deal of ground to march over before I'm a general."

"And you've a good pair of legs."

"So I'm told every day of my life. I'll make the best use of them when I start; but it's the starting I don't like, and that's the real truth."

The reader may be surprised at the indifference shown by Patrick at the intelligence communicated by his father; but the fact was, Mr Patrick O'Donahue was very deep in love. This cooled his national ardour; and it must be confessed that there was every excuse, for a more lovely creature than Judith McCrae never existed. To part with her was the only difficulty, and all his family feelings were but a cloak to the real cause of his unwillingness.

"Nevertheless, you must start to-morrow, my boy," said his father.

"What must be, must," replied Patrick, "so there's an end of the matter. I'll just go out for a bit of a walk, just to stretch my legs."

"They require a deal of stretching, Pat, considering you've been twenty miles, at least, this morning, over the mountains," replied the Squireen. But Patrick was out of hearing; he had leapt over a stone wall which separated his father's potato ground from Cornelius McCrae's, and had hastened to Judith, whom he found very busy getting the dinner ready.

"Judith, my dear," said Patrick, "my heart's quite broke with the bad news I have to tell you. Sure I'm going to leave you to-morrow morning."

"Now, Patrick, you're joking, surely."

"Devil a joke in it. I'm an ensign in a regiment."

"Then I'll die, Patrick."

"More like that I will, Judith; what with grief and a bullet to help it, perhaps."

"Now, what d'ye mean to do, Patrick?"

"Mean to go, sure; because I can't help myself; and to come back again, if ever I've the luck of it. My heart's leaping out of my mouth entirely."

"And mine's dead," replied Judith, in tears.

"It's no use crying, mavourneen. I'll be back to dance at my own wedding, if so be I can."

"There'll be neither wedding for you, Patrick, nor wake either, for you'll lie on the cold ground, and be ploughed in like muck."

"That's but cold comfort from you, Judith, but we'll hope for a better ending; but I must go back now, and you'll meet me this evening beyond the shealing."

"Won't it be for the last time, Patrick," replied Judith, with her apron up to her eyes.

"If I've any voice in the matter, I say no. Please the pigs, I'll come back a colonel."

"Then you'll be no match for Judith McCrae," replied the sobbing girl.

"Shoot easy, my Judith, that's touching my honour; if I'm a general it will be all the same."

"Oh, Patrick! Patrick!"

Patrick folded Judith in his arms, took one kiss, and then hastened out of the house, saying—"Remember the shealing, Judith, dear, there we'll talk the matter over easy and comfortable."

Patrick returned to his house, where he found his mother and sisters in tears. They had received orders to prepare his wardrobe, which, by the bye, did not give them much trouble from its extent; they only had to mend every individual article. His father was sitting down by the hearth, and when he saw Patrick he said to him,—"Now just come here, my boy, and take a stool, while you listen to me and learn a little worldly wisdom, for I may not have much time to talk to you when we are at Dublin."

Patrick took a seat, and was all attention.

"You'll just observe, Pat, that it's a very fine thing to be an officer in the king's army; nobody dares to treat you ill, although you may ill-treat others, which is no small advantage in this world."

"There's truth in that," replied Patrick.

"You see, when you get into an enemy's country, you may help yourself; and, if you look sharp, there's very pretty pickings—all in a quiet way, you understand."

"That, indeed."

"You observe, Pat, that, as one of his officers, the king expects you to appear and live like a gentleman, only he forgets to give you the means of so doing; you must, therefore, take all you can get from his Majesty, and other people must make up the difference."

"That's a matter o' course," said Patrick.

"You'll soon see your way clear, and find out what you may be permitted to do, and what you may not; for the king expects you to keep up the character of a gentleman as well as the appearance."

"O' course."

"Mayhap you may be obliged to run in debt a little—a gentleman may do that; mayhap you may not be able to pay—that's a gentleman's case very often: if so, never go so far as twenty pounds; first, because the law don't reach; and secondly, because twenty pound is quite enough to make a man suffer for the good of his country."

"There's sense in that, father."

"And, Patrick, recollect that people judge by appearances in this world, especially when they've nothing else to go by. If you talk small, your credit will be small; but if you talk large, it will be just in proportion."

"I perceive, father."

"It's not much property we possess in this said county of Galway, that's certain; but you must talk of this property as if I was the squire, and not the steward; and when you talk of the quantity of woodcocks you have bagged, you must say on our property."

"I understand, father."

"And you must curse your stars at being a younger brother; it will be an excuse for your having no money, but will make them believe it's in the family, at all events."

"I perceive," replied Patrick.

"There's one thing more, Pat; it's an Irish regiment, so you must get out of it as soon as possible by exchange."

"For why?"

"This for why. You will be among those born too near home, and who may doubt all you say, because your story may interfere with their own. Get into an English regiment by all means, and there you'll be beyond the reach of contradiction, which ain't pleasant."

"True enough, father."

"Treasure up all I have told you—it's worldly wisdom, and you have your fortune to make; so now recollect, never hold back at a forlorn hope; volunteer for everything; volunteer to be blown from a cannon's mouth, so that they will give you promotion for that same; volunteer to go all over the world, into the other world, and right through that again into the one that comes after that, if there is any, and then one thing will be certain, either that you'll be colonel or general, or else—"

"Else what, father?"

"That you won't require to be made either, seeing that you'll be past all making; but luck's all, and lucky it is, by the bye, that I have a little of the squire's rent in hand to fit you out with, or how we should have managed, the saints only know. As it is, I must sink it on the next year's account; but that's more easy to do than to fit you out with no money. I must beg the tenants off, make the potato crop fail entirely, and report twenty, by name at least, dead of starvation. Serve him right for spending his money out of Old Ireland. It's only out of real patriotism that I cheat him—just to spend the money in the country. And now, Patrick, I've done; now you may go and square your accounts with Judith, for I know now where the cat jumps; but I'll leave old Time alone for doing his work."

Such was the advice of the Squireen to his son; and, as worldly wisdom, it was not so bad; and, certainly, when a lad is cast adrift in the world, the two best things you can bestow on him are a little worldly wisdom and a little money, for without the former, the latter and he will soon part company.

The next day they set off for Dublin, Patrick's head being in a confused jumble of primitive good feeling, Judith McCrae, his father's advice, and visions of future greatness. He was fitted out, introduced to the officers, and then his father left him his blessing and his own way to make in the world. In a fortnight the regiment was complete, and they were shipped to Liverpool, and from Liverpool to Maidstone, where, being all newly raised men, they were to remain for a time to be disciplined. Before the year had expired, Patrick had followed his father's advice, and exchanged, receiving a difference, with an ensign of a regiment going on foreign service. He was sent to the West Indies: but the seasons were healthy, and he returned home an ensign. He volunteered abroad again after five years, and gained his lieutenant's commission, from a death vacancy, without purchase.

After a fifteen years' hard service, the desired Captain's commission came at last, and O'Donahue, having been so unsuccessful in his military career, retired upon half-pay, determined, if possible, to offer his handsome person in exchange for competence. But, during the fifteen years which had passed away, a great change had come over the ingenuous and unsophisticated Patrick O'Donahue; he had mixed so long with a selfish and heartless world, that his primitive feelings had gradually worn away. Judith had, indeed, never been forgotten; but she was now at rest, for, by mistake, Patrick had been returned dead of the yellow fever, and at the intelligence she had drooped like a severed snowdrop, and died. The only tie strong enough to induce him to return to Ireland was therefore broken, his father's worldly advice had not been forgotten, and O'Donahue considered the world as his oyster. Expensive in his habits and ideas, longing for competence, while he vegetated on half-pay, he was now looking out for a matrimonial speculation. His generosity and his courage remained with him—two virtues not to be driven out of an Irishman—but his other good qualities lay in abeyance; and yet his better feelings were by no means extinguished; they were dormant, but by favourable circumstances were again to be brought into action. The world and his necessities made him what he was; for many were the times, for years afterwards, that he would in his reveries surmise how happy he might have been in his own wild country, where half-pay would have been competence, had his Judith been spared to him, and he could have laid his head upon her bosom.



CHAPTER TEN.

IN WHICH MAJOR MCSHANE NARRATES SOME CURIOUS MATRIMONIAL SPECULATIONS.

Our hero was soon fitted out with the livery of a groom, and installed as the confidential servant of Captain O'Donahue, who had lodgings on the third floor in a fashionable street. He soon became expert and useful, and, as the captain breakfasted at home, and always ordered sufficient for Joey to make another cold meal of during the day, he was at little or no expense to his master.

One morning, when Captain O'Donahue was sitting in his dressing-gown at breakfast, Joey opened the door, and announced Major McShane.

"Is it yourself, O'Donahue?" said the major, extending his hand; "and, now, what d'ye think has brought me here this fine morning? It's to do a thing that's rather unusual with me,—neither more nor less than to pay you the 20 pounds which you lent me a matter of three years ago, and which, I dare say, you never expected to see anything but the ghost of."

"Why, McShane, if the truth must be told, it will be something of a resurrection when it appears before me," replied O'Donahue; "I considered it dead and buried; and, like those who are dead and buried, it has been long forgotten."

"Nevertheless, here it is in four notes—one, two, three, four: four times five are twenty; there's arithmetic for you, and your money to boot, and many thanks in the bargain, by way of interest. And now, O'Donahue, where have you been, what have you been doing, what are you doing, and what do you intend to do? That's what I call a comprehensive inquiry, and a very close one too."

"I have been in London a month, I have done nothing, I am doing nothing, and I don't know what I intend to do. You may take that for a comprehensive answer."

"I'll tell you all about myself without your asking. I have been in London for nearly two years, one of which I spent in courting, and the other in matrimony."

"Why, you don't mean to say that you are married, McShane; if so, as you've been married a year, you can tell me, am I to give you joy?"

"Why, yes, I believe you may; there's nothing so stupid, O'Donahue, as domestic happiness, that's a fact; but, altogether, I have been so large a portion of my life doubtful where I was to get a dinner, that I think that on the whole I have made a very good choice."

"And may I inquire who is the party to whom Major McShane has condescended to sacrifice his handsome person?"

"Is it handsome you mane? As the ugly lady said to the looking-glass, I beg no reflections—you wish to know who she is; well, then, you must be content to listen to all my adventures from the time we parted, for she is at the end of them, and I can't read backwards."

"I am at your service, so begin as you please."

"Let me see, O'Donahue, where was it that we parted?"

"If I recollect, it was at the landing made at —-, where you were reported killed."

"Very true, but that, I gave my honour, was all a lie; it was fat Sergeant Murphy that was killed, instead of me. He was a terrible fellow, that Sergeant Murphy; he got himself killed on purpose, because he never could have passed his accounts; well, he fought like a devil, so peace be with him. I was knocked down, as you know, with a bullet in my thigh, and as I could not stand, I sat upon the carcass of Sergeant Murphy, bound up my leg, and meditated on sublunary affairs. I thought what a great rogue he was, that Sergeant Murphy, and how he'd gone out of the world without absolution; and then I thought it very likely that he might have some money about him, and how much better it would be that I should have it to comfort me in prison than any rascally Frenchman, so I put my hand in his pocket and borrowed his purse, which was, taking the difference of size, as well lined as himself. Well, as you had all retreated and left me to be taken prisoner, I waited very patiently till they should come and carry me to the hospital, or wherever else they pleased. They were not long coming for me: one fellow would have passed his bayonet through me, but I had my pistol cocked, so he thought it advisable to take me prisoner. I was taken into the town, not to the hospital or the prison, but quartered at the house of an old lady of high rank and plenty of money. Well, the surgeon came and very politely told me that he must cut off my leg, and I very politely told him to go to the devil; and the old lady came in and took my part, when she saw what a handsome leg it was, and sent for another doctor at her own expense, who promised to set me on my pins in less than a month. Well, the old lady fell in love with me; and although she was not quite the vision of youthful fancy, as the saying is, for she had only one tooth in her head, and that stuck out half an inch beyond her upper lip, still she had other charms for a poor devil like me; so I made up my mind to marry her, for she made cruel love to me as I laid in bed, and before I was fairly out of bed the thing was settled, and a week afterwards the day was fixed; but her relatives got wind of it, for, like an old fool, she could not help blabbing, and so one day there came a file of soldiers, with a corporal at their head, informing me that I was now quite well, and therefore, if it was all the same to me, I must go to prison. This was anything but agreeable, and contrary to rule. As an officer, I was entitled to my parole; and so I wrote to the commanding officer, who sent for me, and then he told me I had my choice, to give up the old lady, whose friends were powerful, and would not permit her to make a fool of herself (a personal remark, by the bye, which it was unhandsome to make to a gentleman in my circumstances), or to be refused parole, and remain in prison, and that he would give me an hour to decide; then he made me a very low bow, and left me. I was twisting the affair over in my mind, one moment thinking of her purse and carriage and doubloons, and another of that awful long tooth of hers, when one of her relatives came in and said he had a proposal to make, which was, that I should be released and sent to Gibraltar, without any conditions, with a handsome sum of money to pay my expenses, if I would promise to give up the old lady now and for ever. That suited my book; I took the money, took my leave, and a small vessel took me to Gibraltar; so after all, you see, O'Donahue, the thing did not turn out so bad. I lost only an old woman with a long tooth, and I gained my liberty."

"No; you got out of that affair with credit."

"And with money, which is quite as good; so when I returned and proved myself alive, I was reinstated, and had all my arrears paid up. What with Sergeant Murphy's purse, and the foreign subsidy, and my arrears, I was quite flush; so I resolved to be circumspect, and make hay while the sun shone: notwithstanding which, I was as nearly trapped by a cunning devil of a widow. Two days more, and I should have made a pretty kettle of fish of it."

"What, at your age, McShane?"

"Ah, bother! but she was a knowing one—a widow on a first floor, good-looking, buxom, a fine armful, and about thirty—met her at a party—pointed out to me as without encumbrance, and well off—made up to her, escorted her home—begged permission to call, was graciously received—talked of her departed husband, thought me like him— everything so comfortable—plenty of plate—good furniture—followed her up—received notes by a little boy in sky-blue and silver sugar-loaf buttons—sent me all her messages—one day in the week to her banker's to cash a check. Would you believe the cunning of the creature? She used to draw out 25 pounds every week, sending me for the money, and, as I found out afterwards, paid it in again in fifties every fortnight, and she only had 50 pounds in all. Wasn't I regularly humbugged? Made proposals—was accepted—all settled, and left off talking about her departed. One day, and only two days before the wedding, found the street-door open, and heard a noise between her and her landlady of the top of the stairs, so I waited at the bottom. The landlady was insisting upon her rent, and having all her plate back again—my charming widow entreating for a little delay, as she was to be married— landlady came downstairs, red as a turkey-cock, so I very politely begged her to walk into the parlour, and I put a few questions, when I discovered that my intended was a widow with a pension of 80 pounds a-year, and had six children, sent out of the way until she could find another protector, which I resolved, at all events, should not be Major McShane; so I walked out of the door, and have never seen her since."

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse