ePub 版

Ellen Maurice could not love her father as she longed to love, but she soon felt that she must love somebody. She could not endure to live, and think, and feel, in the selfishness of the heart's solitude. Moreover she was not without opportunities of choice, if in truth she had not been rather fastidious.

Many a joyful and jolly tar would buy a jacket or a neckcloth at her father's shop, for the sake of being served and smiled upon by Ellen ;but then a common sailor was below her in station; and as yet none of them had made what is called "an impression." But by-and-by her heart had to undergo a regular course of siege from the attacks made upon it, not by a common sailor, but by William Moystyn, the handsome and good-tempered mate of one of the government transports in the bay. He was of good courage too, and he reduced the fortress so, that poor Ellen yielded at, or rather without discretion. And so William Moystyn and Ellen Maurice were now fairly betrothed to each other by their own promises, and in their own hearts; but the poor girl feared her father too much to ask his consent; and their innocent wooing was carried on in secret. At last troops were ordered for embarkation on board the transport, and the vessel herself was put under sailing orders for the West Indies. William sailed in her, having first bought his outfit of Ellen, and promised to return a captain, and ask her father's consent to their marriage. And in this I suppose there would have been no difficulty; old Maurice would have allowed his daughter to marry a captain; but he would have been enraged at the thought of her being in love with a mate. Ellen could not see the wisdom of this. And so Ellen continued in her love-though somewhat in sorrow-on account of the absence of its object; a sort of memory of fondness once indulged; flowers of affection which it was the duty of constancy to keep in bloom.

"Dai bei rami scendea,

Dolce ne la memoria."

Soon after Moystyn's departure, an accession of fortune accrued to Ellen and her parent. A relative in England had died and left between father and daughter a neat independent income; whereupon the pride of old Maurice became mightily raised, and he sold off his old clothes, packed up his traps, and, with characteristic patriotism, left his country the moment he found himself in a condition to live comfortably in it. Away he started in the first steamer, without bothering himself to bid good-bye to his friends; and having passed the ordeal of a rough sea and a longish journey through Holyhead, &c. (every Irishman knows the route,) he found himself, one fine evening, just in time to dine with his daughter at the Swan-with-two-Necks in Lad-lane.

Once in London, old Maurice set himself down in peace, as he said, to enjoy his prosperity; and, having nothing else to do, he thought of busying himself in finding a husband for Ellen, whom he now considered an heiress. The first requisite for his daughter's spouse, in his idea, would be money, the next, a sociable power of companionship; in short, a person who had wherewith to pay for his grog, the will to drink, and the wit to relish it in evening conversations with old Maurice.

Maurice had brought with him an introduction to a person who was to him described as a "respectable merchant," residing in the borough of Southwark, and by name Mr. Wentworth Stokes. This Mr. Went

worth Stokes was a gentleman who might have said to his forty-ninth year what Kennedy the poet said to the year 1833

"Thou art gone, old year, to thy fathers,

In the stormy time of snow.'

It was near Christmas, and Mr. Stokes was fifty! So much for his age in other respects he was such a man as Maurice wanted for his daughter. He said he had money; he proved he had a pleasant, plausible tongue; and all that Christmas he drank gin-and-water with old Maurice during the long evenings. Poor Ellen! as her heart was not much engaged in these proceedings, I have not forced her to make a frequent personal appearance; but when New Year's-day came, she was united in the bands of matrimony to Mr. Wentworth Stokes, in St. George's church in the Borough first, and afterwards by a priest of her own religion.

Almost immediately after her marriage her father died; and Mr. Wentworth Stokes, having at his disposal the property both of parent and child, and being, as before described, "a respectable merchant," immediately applied it to the purpose of freighting a ship to the West Indies, of which he determined to be supercargo himself. Either there must have been something wrong in Mr. Stokes' character, or else a merchant of fifty feels less compunction in leaving a newly-married bride than would a young high-born gentleman. Certain it is, that, as soon as he had engaged an active and intelligent captain to take charge of his vessel, he conveyed Mrs. Stokes to Herne Bay, and having procured her a first floor in a row of houses facing the sea, bade her farewell, and proceeded to Gravesend, there to embark on board his own ship for a tropic clime.

Strangely indeed runs the current of human destiny. Poor Ellen was now alone in the world; left as no other young and attractive child of nature was ever, perhaps, forsaken in her inexperience before. She felt no grief for her husband's absence; her heart was too often artlessly and, as she believed, almost innocently-wandering after her early love but she found herself desolate, a flower with no shelter from the storm,-a reed that might be shaken in the wind.

For the first few days after her husband's departure, she whiled away her time in watching, from the window of her apartment, the vessels that were continually passing the bay. It was an occupation that more than any other filled her mind with thoughts in which she ought not to have indulged, but it seemed thrown in her way, and she could not resist. Often it awakened tears for the love and memory of a being for whom they should no longer have dared to flow. One morning, after a fitful night, in which poor Ellen's dreams had been hardly less stormy than the bellowing waves that ever and anon wakened her as they dashed under the windows, the lonely and unhappy girl approached her casement and gazed upon the ocean before her raging like an angry lion, with a sudden and mysterious foreboding that those turbulent billows had been working out a passage in her destiny, and were by some wild agency commingled with her future fate. As she cast her eye over the waters, all unstilled as they tossed, and ever bristling with their white foam, she saw numerous vestiges of wreck, and knew that more than one noble fabric of human industry had been shattered, and that many lives must have been lost. One vessel had been within sight totally wrecked, and boats of such as dared venture were now putting

off with a view of rendering assistance while there was yet a chance. But, with the exception of one person who had been brought on shore, all the crew of that vessel had perished. Ellen's curiosity now prompted her to inquire the name of the ship that had been so totally destroyed. The answer was, it was the "ELLEN;" all the crew were drowned along with the owner; the captain was the only person saved, he was at the- But Ellen did not hear the rest: her wild delirious sensations overpowered her, and she had fainted away. Her presentiment was surely fulfilled-" She was a widow!"


As soon as they had recovered her, she sent for the captain of her husband's ship, who was at the neighbouring inn, and who, on learning that she was the owner's wife, immediately attended her summons. few minutes and his knock was heard at the door: a strange foreboding tremor pervaded her frame as he ascended the stairs. The door opened, Ellen raised her eyes and started to see before her the figure of WILLIAM MOYSTYN!

[blocks in formation]

William Moystyn and Ellen had been married some years, meeting with occasional reverses, but industriously working their way through the world. William was religiously inclined, and a man of much faith in the mercy of his Redeemer : what he suffered, he endured patiently; when he was blessed, he returned his blessing unto God. He lived happily, though sometimes hardly, with his wife; and he rejoiced in the affections of a parent for his children. He was of that very numerous

English class of " poor but honest." Ellen's property was all


gone with her former worthless husband (for it turned out that he was worthless) and his ship, and Moystyn had nothing but what he earned. One day at the end of a hard quarter he was arrested, he could not tell for what ;-he did not even know by whom. On the back of the writ upon which he was taken was the name of Miller, but he knew nobody of that name. The attorney who had issued the writ was not to be found, and, as far as that action went, Moystyn to the day of his death never discovered who was the plaintiff. It took him, however, in the first instance, to Horsemonger-lane gaol, and as soon as he could get money enough he moved upon it to the King's Bench prison through the form of a habeas. When there, one or two fresh suits were commenced against him by real creditors; detainers were sent down, and he became sadly embarrassed. Long time he tried to battle against misfortune; but, after his furniture was sold, and his wife and family turned into the streets, he almost despaired in his penniless condition, and gave himself up for lost. Ellen-fate-persecuted as she was→ joined him with her children in his gaol, and there they subsisted upon a sum of five shillings per week, allowed Moystyn from some seaman's society, three and sixpence of county-money, and whatever little pittance his wife and his eldest daughter could earn by their needle. The family, however, suffered a great deal from illness: the prison at one time became full, and they had to pay five shillings per week to a chum ; and at last their indigence and destitution became excessive and miserable. Moystyn could never raise money enough to go through the Insolvent Court, and his imprisonment dragged on year after year, wasting his constitution and consuming his frame, so that Ellen, who nursed him with affection to the last, might truly be said to have joined him in a prison like an

angel of kind comfort to tend him on his journey to the grave. How he died it was my fate sorrowfully to witness; but the denouement to Ellen's history did not transpire till the next day.

The day after my last visit to him, Moystyn was carried out in a coffin. Poor fellow! death had released him from his creditors. An inquest was held upon his body, as is customary when men die in prison. The jury in such cases invariably consists of prisoners, some of them taken from inside the walls, others chosen from the rules. On the melancholy occasion in question I was called in to give evidence, and to witness, as it turned out, one of the strangest and most terror-striking events that ever occurred, perhaps, within the charmed pale of coincidence. In the course of the inquiry, I detailed to the jury the leading features of the story I have just narrated, and it commanded the most earnest attention from all present. When I had concluded it, with the sad portrayal of the scene in the deceased's room where I administered the sacrament to him the evening before, there was a momentary silence,—a stillness the effect of mingled sympathy, excitement, and surprise. It was broken by the fall of one of the jury from his chair in a fit of paralysis. He was an old man, and had attended from the rules.

"He had better be taken home," said the coroner. "Who knows where he lives ?"

"I know who he is," said one of the turnkeys; "but I must look in the books to see where he lives." He turned into the lobby and brought the book back.

"John Miller, alias Wentworth Stokes, Melina-place."

"Wentworth Stokes!" cried the whole room in astonishment. "Wentworth Stokes!" shrieked Ellen, (who had been dismissed after her evidence, but was then standing in the lobby,) " where, where ?— let me see. And, as they pointed to the door, she rushed in, and identified the body of her first husband!

"Poor William! then," exclaimed she, 66 our dreams are both fulfilled. He had, indeed, come home from over the seas!" But how he had come or whence-or in what manner he had escaped from the wreck of his vessel, still remains untold, for Wentworth Stokes never spoke again.

It appeared that he had been for some years a prisoner in the rules under his right name of John Miller, living upon a small income which he had preferred remaining in prison to giving up; and this (when the facts were stated) his creditors, instead of dividing amongst themselves, generously consented to assign to the hapless Ellen and orphan family. It will keep them from a recurrence of the poverty they have so long patiently endured.


A Coalition. When Cooke and Kemble met to arrange what characters they should perform together, George Frederic was determined to be as courtierlike as his more polished rival. Iago and Othello, Iachimo and Posthumus, were easily agreed upon, being equal parts; the conversation then proceeded :

Kemble.—I will with pleasure play Richmond to your Richard, Mr. Cooke; will you in return play Pizarro to my Rolla?

Cooke. With great pleasure, I assure you, Mr. Kemble.

Kemble.-If I do Bassanio to your Shylock, you will do Macduff to my Macbeth?

Cooke.-Most undoubtedly, my dear Sir.

Kemble.-I will act Wellborn to your Overreach, if you will perform Horatio to my Hamlet?

Cooke.-What! Horatio! I'll see Covent Garden in h's flames first! George Frederic Cooke play Horatio to your Hamlet-yours! John perceived that the

"Storm was up, and all was on the hazard," and wisely waived the point.

Cooke having failed in London when two-and-twenty, returned to the provinces, and was not again summoned to the great dramatic arena until after a probation of twenty-three years. This might have soured a greater philosopher than poor George Frederic.

Vandenhoff. This gentleman's theatrical history has been a singular one; I believe he, like John Kemble, was originally intended for the Catholic church. I remember seeing him (Vandenhoff), for the first time, in the company of Lee, the Taunton manager, at that town in 1808. He was then, I suppose, just of age; acted Achmet and Norval, and, I think, Iago and Othello. He then impressed me with the notion of his possessing a mature judgment, but lacking energy. He afterwards went to Bath, where he was not very successful, and from thence to Liverpool, where, in a short time, he became the idol of all classes; came to London in 1820, and was but coldly received; returned to Lancashire, and regained his provincial celebrity, and ultimately came again to town as a leading tragedian. It is fatal to an actor's greatness that he should have been a favourite for any number of years in any one province. All our metropolitan actors who attained great fame were rather birds of passage in their early days take for instances, Garrick, Kemble, Cooke, Kean, Henderson, Mathews, Munden, Dowton, &c. The idols of particular provincial towns have attained a respectable station in London, seldom more: for instance, Miss Jarman, Miss Huddart, Mr. Balls, Mr. Egerton, &c. There are some exceptions to this rule, but they are rare.

The Dublin Audience.-The visitors of the galleries in the Dublin, and indeed all the Irish theatres, differ in conduct from the natives of any other country. They single out individuals whom they know in pit or boxes, and keep up a fire of interrogatories by no means pleasant and not always decorous. On one occasion a Mr. C- , a wine-merchant, about whom some delicate affair was then murmured, was in the pit: a lad in the gallery began to inquire of Mr. C————, "How's Mrs. So-and-so, Mr. C- ? Why wouldn't you bring her along wid you, Mr. C-?" &c. &c. Mr. C bore this for some time with great good humour, but at last rose, and said, "As the gentleman wishes to have a chat with me, will Sept.-VOL. XLV. NO. CLXXVII.


« 上一頁繼續 »