ePub 版

of his heedlessness and abstraction, he stood as one paralysed—the hue of death stealing over his features. His daughter! his adored Cecil! it was from her hand he had received the fatal paper-at her request he had written that which no man in his senses, or attending to what he was about, ought or would have written. Cecil !-could she have known or connived at -the thought was madness!

His wife had told him on that morning, that Otway was certainly a lover of Cecil's, and, she feared, a favoured one; that their daughter's mind had been violently prejudiced against Sir Hargrave; and that the latter was prevented from keeping his appointment, and coming to an explanation of his intentions, she verily believed, by some arts and instigations of Otway's; and that Cecil had spent her time in tears ever since his sudden and strange departure.

All this returned to Wilmot's mind with the rapidity of lightning. Cecil !-his own innocent Cecil !-was she, could she have been, the willing, artful instrument to implicate her father? He groaned deeply, covering his eyes with his hands, as if to shut out the light of heaven. Those present looked at each other in astonishment. Was it possible that Wilmot could be the perpetrator of such an action ?-his pure unspotted character—his easy if not absolutely wealthy circumstanceshis morals, his religion,-all forbade such an idea ; yet there he stood, the very personification of guilt and shame!

Even the obtuse Sir Hargrave was shocked-he had not anticipated this. He had never admired any one so much as Cecil-loved, indeed, if a selfish man can love; and he was really distressed to see the father of her whom he had honoured with his regard in so degraded a position ; le felt it as a sort of degradation to himself, that so near a relative of her whom he had but two days since almost resolved on raising to the dignity of being his wife, could be indeed guilty, and of such a crime.

There was a dead silence ; at length Wilmot spoke unquestioned. In a hoarse and chuking voice, he said, looking wildly around

“ I am guilty !-1 alone !-1 executed that signature myself-unasked! Yes, yes ; believe me it was unasked. No person persuadedno person induced me.

Oh God! oh God! what do I say? Yes, yes; I assure you it was my own premeditated act.”

“ Recollect yourself, Mr. Wilmot,” said the Magistrate kindly; " if you hold this language, and thus criminate yourself in a court of justice, your life will be forfeit to the laws which you have offended. Surely there must be some mistake here, Sir Hargrave-some sort of palliation. It cannot be as this poor gentleman declares; his senses appear to be wandering. Yet it really is not a bailablc offence. We shall be under the necessity of committing him until this affair is inquired into, or until the real culprit can be brought forward.”

Otway's apprehension did not tend to throw much light on this mysterious transaction. He denied the fact of having committed the forgery, and Wilmot confessed it. He, finding his first terrible suspicion of his daughter's perfidy confirmed by her elopement with Otway, and her being actually taken at Dover in his company-cared not for life, and obstinately persisted in pleading “guilty.”

Every one, even the most black-letter man amongst the lawyers, was perfectly convinced that Otway was the real perpetrator of the whole, and that the unhappy father was innocent. Cecil was not implicated;

[ocr errors]

her name had never been mentioned by any one; and her elopement with Otway, however damning to her fair name, did not come within the cognizance of a law court. Miss Priscilla was very willing to tell Sir Hargrave all she knew, but in fact that was nothing, except that she herself in her hurry had omitted to secure the second note. Mrs. Wilmot's testimony was not required; the evidence of a wife, either for or against her husband, not being admissible in law.

We do not intend to trouble our readers with an account of the legal proceedings in this case, especially as not being ourselves either professional lawyers or learned in the law; and, as amateurs, we might possibly make some desperate blunder in the detail. It is sufficient to say, that after a tedious investigation and examination, testimony respecting character, &c., Otway was found guilty of uttering the cheque, knowing it to be a forgery, and with intent to defraud; and Mr. Wilmot was found guilty of having executed the same, but on account of his previous character (and every one being perfectly convinced of his innocence) he was recommended to mercy,

Many years subsequent to the events here detailed, the medical attendant of a lunatic asylum was called in to a patient, who, after years of hopeless insanity, had suddenly been restored to consciousness and feeling. Philip Wilmot, gazing on the wasted form and faded face which bent over him as he lay-even through the mournful change wrought by time and sorrow-recognised his own Cecil, whom he had in his heart so cruelly wronged when he believed her capable of falsehood and perfidy towards him-whom he had often and often, in the wild ravings of a maniac wronged with his lips, unconscious that she stood beside him-unconscious that the humble untiring attendant, who ministered to his wants, endured his violence, shrunk not from his reproaches, was indeed that unhappy Cecil whom he thus vilified. But in the short interval of reason which preceded his death, he recognised his once happy, innocent, and beautiful child, whom he had loved so devotedly, so exclusively, even through the veil of what she then was, through the dimness which years and wasting grief, and hopeless watching, had cast over her beauty. He knew again his own Cecil-ay, even in the lustreless eye, the pallid lip, the once raven tresses, shaded, alas! with grey-he knew again his own. Her whom he had deemed lost-lost here and hereafter—was by his side, devoted to him alone.

“Oh my child! my child !” he murmured, as with dying clasp he pressed her to his heart,“ my own, my wronged, my devoted Cecil!”.

And Cecil believed that momentary recognition, and implied blessing, a full recompense for all—for her blighted youth and long years of hopeless endurance.






« SMITA! BROWN! Jones! and ROBINSON !” We can see the eyes of the reader sparkle as they meet the names of his schoolboy friends. And now, they melt, and the reader lays his hand upon his pensive heart, sighing at the untimely fate of " Smith,” who drowned.” The reader mourns for the dead—for the red-cheeked, curlyheaded little Smith, prodigal of apples when apples fell to his lot-cunning at taw-agile at leap-frog-knowing at kite: for Smith who, like many a Chancellor of the Exchequer, had surmounted multiplication only to sink; for Smith who, like many philosophers and metaphysicians, sounded the lowest depths of things only to leave the world in ignorance of his discoveries.

It was our first purpose to make no further allusion to the spelling-book tragedy than that already set down; in our simplicity we thought the mere names, Brown, Jones, and Robinson, would be all-sufficient to awaken a full recollection of their perils past—of the punishment they suffered of the immortal reasons of the schoolmaster for the chastisement he weepingly bestowed.

“ We will trust,” said we to our prosaic friend Wagstaff_" we will trust to the recollections of the world,” and we looked about us proudly. “ Dearest ," said Wagstaff,“ do no such thing. No-no; give

Give the whole story of the Boys that went into the Water instead of being at School or at Home, and then, whatever you may have to say upon the matter—though I believe Mr. Daniel Fenning has said all that can be said-state briefly afterwards. But, answer me,

what can you purpose by your present whim ?

Whim, Mr. Wagstaff? We feel that we are about to become a great moral teacher. We have documents, yes, Sir, documents, containing the future lives of Brown, Jones, and Robinson, which will enable us to show the paramount value and influence of early impressions. When at school, Mr. Wagstaff, were you ever whipped ?”

“I never was at school, Mr. ” and Wagstaff seemed to rise a good inch higher. “But what has whipping to do with early impressions?"

'You shall find, if you will patiently listen to the lives of Brown, Jones, and Robinson. But first I will set on the head of my story where it will glitter like a coronet-a passage from Mr. Fenning. Mark the simple beauty of

“ Lesson I.— There were several boys that used to go into the water instead of being at school, and they sometimes staid so long after school. time, that they used to frighten their parents very much; and though they were told of it time after time, yet they would frequently go to

your text.

[ocr errors]

wash themselves! One day four of them, Smith, Brown, Jones, and Robinson, took it into their heads to play the truant, and go into the water. They had not been in long before Smith was drowned! Brown's father followed him, and lashed him heartily while he was naked; and Jones and Robinson ran home half-dressed, which plainly told where they had been. However, they were both sent to bed without ary supper, and told very plainly that they should be well corrected at school next day!”

We pass the “second lesson," as it contains little worthy of thought, save the benevolent promise of the schoolmaster, who, as they say in the play-bills, “ in the most handsome manner" pledges himself to flog the delinquents; a pledge which he redeems in a spirit of punctuality more than satisfactory to the sufferers. We now come to Lesson III.," which shows “ How Brown, Jones, and Robinson were served.

“Next day, Brown, Jones, and Robinson were sent to school, and in a short time were called up to their master; and he first began with Brown. --Pray, young gentleman, said he, what is the reason you go into the water without the consent of your parents, and even when you should be at school? I won't do so any more, said Brown. That is nothing at all, replied the master ; I cannot trust you. Pray can you swim? No, Sir. Not swim, do you say? Why, you might have been drowned as well as Smith. Take him up, said the master. So he was taken up, and well whipped.

“ Well, said he to Jones, can you swim? A little, Sir. A little ! said the master ; why, you were in more danger than Brown, and might have been drowned if you had ventured much farther. Take him up, said he.

“Now, Robinson could swim very well, and thought, as Brown and Jones were whipped because they could not swim, that he should escape. Well, Robinson, said the master, can you swim ? Yes, Sir, said he (very boldly), anywhere over the river. You can swim, you say? Yes, Sir. Then pray, Sir, if you can swim so well, what business had you in the water, when you should have been at school ? You didn't want to learn to swim, you say? it is plain then you go in for idleness' sake. Take him up, take him up, said he. So they were all severely corrected for their disobedience and folly!”

Brown, Jones, and Robinson were whipped, but Smith was beyond the vengeance of the schoolmaster. Smith might blandly smile at“ the silvery stems of delicate birch-trees." He was secure from the strong arm, and the stronger reason of the pedagogue. His future days were not like the days of his surviving companions, doomed to feel the influence of“ early impressions.” Little Smith was borne to the churchyard by boys and girls in comely white; flowers grew on his grave, and in due time a cherub head, considered to be a likeness of the deceased, wept enormous tears--a touching type of his watery fate-above him. The mortal part of Smith was assuredly laid in dust; but, to this day, his ghost is said to be in many waters. “ I'm sure," exclaimed a little fellow of six years' old, gazing on a brook with solemn eye, “ I'm sure that's the pond where Smith was drowned !” How many an urchin, with a vague sense of curious awe, looks for Smith in puddles—the “ Proteus rising from the sea,” of childish apprehension !

The reader cannot have failed to mark the wisdom of the inexorable schoolmaster, who scourges Brown because he“ cannot swim," and who notwithstanding“ goes into the water.” Brown should have first learned to swim on dry land, ere he ventured to wet himself. The life of the man Brown showed that the schoolboy was fully impressed with the golden lesson of the teacher; that to the end of his days he had never forgotten the wise maxims of his master. It is the accidents befalling the man, Brown, we are about to narrate; and thereby, as we fondly hope, to display a vivid illustration of the effect of early impressions. The pearls let fall by the schoolmaster, Brown gathered up, and wore as amulets through life.


CHAP. I. Young Brown inherited from his father the equivocal sum of a thousand pounds. He had better inherited nothing; for, in the present state of society, we hold a thousand pounds to be not merely a useless, but a mischievous, sum: it is not a negative good, but a positive evil. What is to be done with a thousand pounds ? Put it in the funds, says Quiet, and philosophise upon thirty pounds a-year! There are exquisite essays written to prove the sufficiency of thirty pounds a-year, allowing at least five shillings per quarter for the conversion of the Jews; essays, in which the expenses of a pauper gentleman are so nicely calculated that it must be his own wilful eccentricity, if, at the end of the year, he either owes a shilling or has one. We happen to be honoured with the short acquaintance of the author of some of these libretti. He had thrice been shut up in the Fleet on an income of three hundred per annum, and was consequently enabled to preach on the competence of thirty pounds a-year. It was during his third visit to the gaol that we had some interesting talk with him. He was lamenting the extravagance of the present generation ; and passing his right hand under his velvet cap, and turning his pensive and eloquent eye upwards, asked us if we had ever read his book ? Of course we had. We, however, ventured to question the correctness of its conclusions; in a word, we were hardy enough to express our doubts of the possibility of existing as a gentleman” - for such were the author's premises-on thirty pounds a-year. “Look at Higginbottom," said we," he has followed your system to a chop, and yet Higginbottom is in debt." “ Pardon me,” quickly returned the author, “ I grant his obedience so far as the chop goes, but there were three days in the year that Higginbottom would not take his chop without pickles. Now, my system is so philosophically arranged as not to admit of even a single onion. Depend upon it, my dear Sir, with a wise economy, a man may always on thirty pounds a-year obtain his chop; the ruin lies in the pickles." We were about to dispute the point, when the temperate author began to swear at a boy who entered with a bottle of port. “ And where, you scoundrel,” cried the author of a treatise on the sufficiency of thirty pounds per year, “ where, you miscreant, are the olives? What! forgot them? Vagabond ! to suppose I could drink port without olives! Vanish! Stop! Don't make the blunder you made before : mind-French olives!”

We are satisfied in our belief of the worse than worthlessness of a single thousand pounds. Laid out at interest, it may bring daily bread;

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »