« 上一頁繼續 »
Mr. Quick drew a chair opposite to Brown, and seating himself, with his clasped fingers in his lap, and a more than usually lustrous smile on his smooth countenance, he looked benignantly in the face of his lodger, eleared his throat, and said, “Mr. Brown, we have now been together in this house upwards of twenty years."
“Twenty years, Mr. Quick. It quite seems to me that I have never lived in any other," said Brown. A charming house!”
“ Tolerably well,” said Quick; “ but the fact is, I came to tell you that I am about to give up the house.” Brown started and looked
grave at this piece of intelligence--for it threatened his repose. spider comprehend the mischief of a hair-broom, it would view that instrument with a dread akin to that with which Brown contemplated the face of Quick.
“Give up the house! explain yourself, Mr. Quick," said Brown.
“Mr. Brown," and the smiling landlord approached his lodger, and shook him cordially by the hand—“Mr. Brown, it is now upwards of twenty years since we were introduced to one another. At that time, Sir, you had a thousand pounds."
“A new sum to me—1 may say it, quite a trouble. It was a happy day for me when I met you, Mr. Quick,” said Brown.
“You had exactly one thousand pounds," repeated Quick, " and that—that was twenty years ago.”
A cloud fell upon the face of Brown. From the manner of Quick, our hero rashly divined that his landlord was about to exhibit a long accompt for bed and board, placing him in the light, or, rather, in the dark shadow of a debtor. “ I told you, Mr. Quick,” said Brown, his face colouring somewhat—"I told you, you couldn't afford it. To have lived and lodged as I have, and on the interest of only a thousand pounds, I told you it was not to be done. I knew that when you came to reckon
“ Hear me, my dear Mr. Brown-compose yourself”—for Brown began to shift restlessly in his seat—"compose yourself, and hear me. Ha! Sir, you can't tell what I suffered for six months after I received
“And I have been a burthen, and I-I have never seen it!” cried Brown, in a contrite spirit.
“You have been a blessing to me, Mr. Brown,” said the whipmaker -for Quick, the kindest of men, was, in the way of business, a dealer in scourges—“listen to me, Sir; pray, listen. When we met I had been married two years
“Martha was thirteen months old,” said Brown.
“ To a day,” said Quick. “I had no capital-none; all my stock was in my window. I hadn't a friend when I met you. Well, you forced your money on me; it was, you said, of no use to you ; you
had never been in trade; all you wanted was
“What I have had, Mr. Quick : your roof, and your board, and no trouble,” said Brown.
“ 'Tis all over now; but you don't know the days I was worn, the nights I lay awake, the blame I heaped upon myself for having used what was not my own; the dreams I had, seeing you houseless, and in rags, and I-I the cause, Mr. Brown.” “But that hasn't happened, Mr. Quick; and as it never hasSept.-VOL. LI. No. cci.
“I bless my stars, Mr. Brown, there's little fear of it now. There, Mr. Brown,” and Quick laid a slip of paper in the hand of his lodger.
“What is this? A cheque for a thousand pounds ?”
“Your money, Mr. Brown,” said Quick. “You had a thousand pounds when
“Well, but that—that is in the three per cents.,” cried Brown. “Very true; but then, you see, compound interest,” Mr. Brown.
“Interest! but hav’n't I lived upon you ?—Heaven forgive me !—for, the last twenty years,” cried the lodger.
“Mr. Brown,”—and Quick rose, and tears came into his eyes as he caught the hand of his tenant—"without your money I might have had no roof, no bed. Now, all I have to ask of you is, that you'll think yourself to have been my guest from the first day you came here."
“Impossible !” cried Brown.
“You must. And, what is more, you must leave this house,” said Quick.
“ How can you ask it ? As I have never lived in any other for the last twenty years,' how is it possible that—"
“ The truth is, Mr. Brown, we have made money enough. I am rich-rich beyond every want. Now, had you but used your own thousand pounds, I might have been pennyless, and you a man of wealth.”
“ Very true, very true,” said Brown ; “but then, as I never had ventured any money, how could I begin ?”
This argument, the text of his whole life-a text whipped into him by his schoolmaster—was sufficient to Brown, who was perfectly satisfied at having been the cause of wealth in others, he remaining poor himself.
It was a hard task for the retired whipmaker to carry Brown from London. For a long time he stuck with the tenacity of a lamprey to his old abode ; but was at length induced to emigrate by the circumstance of Quick purchasing an estate in the neighbourhood wherein Brown had passed his schoolboy days.
Brown was close on fifty when he returned to his native place; the self-same Brown that left it. Here he found, retired in ease and dwelling in the house of her late father, the widow of the bold, decided Jack Simmons, who had arrived at the honours of city clerk ere he slept beneath the sculptured glories of a marble monument. Quick died ; his girls were married and carried off; his boys were thrifty dealers in London ; and Brown, at sixty, had consumed so much food—had slept so many hours-had breathed so many tons of vital air.
Nothing was left our hero, save fishing and the evening society of Mrs. Simnions. Neighbours, with unseemly levity, would wink knowingly, and prophecy a marriage. Nay, the curate once boldly put the question to our bachelor. People would talk; Mr. Brown was very constant in his visits to the cottage ; did he really intend to marry Mrs. Simmons ?")
“Really, Mr. Ringdove, the fact is, I-whatever my intentions might have been forty years ago-bless me! is it so long ?- I remember, Sir," -- and Brown pointed to some noble elms—“those trees were then no thicker than my stick-whatever my intentions were, I-as I—that is, as I never have married, could I marry now ?”
Another year elapsed, and the widow Simmons was gathered to her departed lord. Her death was somewhat sudden. To Brown it brought peculiar pain; for in their last interview high words—such was the term his self-accusing spirit gave the following syllables-had passed between him and the deceased.
“ Indeed, Mr. Brown,” said the widow, flinging down her cards, “I am quite tired of cribbage. Don't you play chess ?”
“No, ma’am,” said Brown.
“Come, then, I don't mind if I take the trouble of teaching you. Susan, bring the board.”
“Madam, I feel your kindness," said Brown, calmly shuffling the cards; “but, as I never have played at chess, it appears to me very absurd that, at my time of life, I should attempt to learn.”
“Ha! Brown, Brown !"--and the widow looked mournfully at the bachelor—"if you had but known everything from the first, what a man you might have been!"
Brown was alone. He had no wife, no child, no kin to care for him. His sole companion was his fishing-rod; and in the long summer days he would stand or sit dreamingly upon an old plank, projecting above that stream wherein he once went to learn to swim, and was sagely whipped for the imprudence. What were his thoughts—what his meditations on the nothingness of the past, and the consequent barrenness of the present, we will not consider. Thinking of the wisdom of the schoolmaster, Brown may have sometimes seen the pedagogue rise from the water, as the Saracen saw the ghost of Angelica's brother,
“Insino al petto uscir, d'aspetto fiero." Perhaps it was at some such moment that Brown hastily leaned his back against the rail above the plank, and that the rotten support, snapping with the weight, suffered our elderly angler to fall into the water, which had been to him the bitter waters of his youth. Happily—for Brown had never learned to swim-his mishap was witnessed by a younger brother of the line, who plucked the struggler from the death below, and, in a brief time, conducted him to his lonely home.
“It is nothing-nothing at all,” said Brown to his housekeeper, who begged her master to go between hot blankets. “He never had cared for wet, and ought he to care now?”
At eleven o'clock next morning Brown was still in bed. “Medicine! he had never taken medicine; and, if he were a little feverish or so, it was sure to go off. He never had kept his bed for a day, and he would get up.” Brown rose.
The next day Brown kept his bed. “Your hand, Sir, if you please,” said the doctor, brought, on her own responsibility, by the housekeeper. “ Humph! very feverish; a blister, Mr. Brown.
“Pshaw! I never had a blister,” said the patient. “ And I must bleed you.”
“ Bleed ! I tell you, Mr. Squills, I never lost a drop of blood in my life--and, therefore, I never will.”
Brown was obstinate : no blister, no lancet would he suffer to approach him. The fourth day the doctor appeared, and shook his head as he looked upon the eight uncorked bottles on the sick man's table. “ He had lived sixty years without medicine, and was it likely physic would do him good now ?”
Squills opened the curtains, and shook his head still more anxiously. “If I had only bled him," said Squills to the curate.
“Never-never-never was bled in all my life,” said Brown, and died.
Such was the life and death of Brown. Are there not Browns political-Browns philosophical-Browns scientific? Truly, the Browns are a great family.
Our next shall speak of “ Jones.”
AN ELECTION ANECDOTE.
Hail, glorious day, on which the Bill was pass'd,
That gave at last
Reform to Britons free!
Are dead and clean forgotten,
As they ought to be.
We've done with such abuses;
Or flimsy notes,
Purchase base votes :
None can avail,
Without a tale
A fit and proper person, very :
Of rights and wrongs, and England's Charter,
One Jacob Sneak,
His vote and int'rest to bespeak :
Come, friend, your name enroll,
I must allow,
It shows dejection ;
I hope to see you with a plumper.
True blue's the colour that can ne'er be beat !
Says Mr. Sneak,
But I'm afraid,
My rates ar'n't paid,
Good men and sure,
If I but axes,
To pay their taxes !"
Th' impatient squire ;
Give me their names."
Who never paid a rate before,
“ All 's right,” said he;
And so we will, my hearty!
We 'll strain our throats
Until they crack;
Good lack !
Nemo. Atheneum, 12th August.