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“ True, most true," coincided Whifphles, ready to agree with any one upon the subject of getting off.
The three, very pale, and much frightened, commenced a loud appeal for “help." Each thinking of his own preservation more than of his companions, the absence of Augustus Brown had not been noticed by either, until Whifphles, resting for a fresh supply of breath, saw the vacant seat which Brown had occupied.
“Heaven and earth! where's Brown? ” exclaimed he, spectral white with a presentiment of death, and pointing to the empty place.
Smith and Snuffles gazed in silence upon the seat, then upon each other's eyes filling with salt tears. The former snatched the handkerchief of the latter, not possessing one of his own,- to check the course of the briny drops now streaming from their secret springs, as offerings to the shrine of friendship for the supposed lost Augustus Brown.
That worthy member of society was at this precise moment trying to obtain a salute from the assumed reluctant rosy-lips of the flirting barmaid.
“ Poor Brown!” groaned Smith. “What will his mother say ? "
“Help! help!” screamed Whifphles, his excitement increasing at the idea.
Then followed a simultaneous shout for assistance, which reached the ears of the searching boatman.
“All right, gentlemen !” exclaimed he, rowing up to them unperceived in the rear, nearly screened from sight by the broad and topping flags.
Never did a countenance so ill-favoured meet with such looks of admiration as the coarse, beer-drinking-for-ever face of the boatman emerging from the rushes. Never did words gratify ears more than those just uttered in one of the least euphonious voices allotted to a member of the huinan family.
“Stop one moment, sirs,” said he, as the ardent three were ready for a scramble into his wherry ; “I'll give ye a hand, or we may all go over.”
This caution acted upon their excited nerves as a material cooler; and with admirable order each was handed to the stern seat in the boat. When convinced of their own safety, each began to inquire clamorously for “ his dear friend, Brown.”
"All in good time you shall hear about him," replied the boatman. “Wait till I shove off the punt, and get her in tow."
Two or three vigorous and scientific pushes with a boat-hook effected a clearance from the bank, and, taking the vessel in tow, the boatman splashed his oars into the water, and said that “he was ready to scull them anywhere they pleased to go.”
“Yes; but tell us what has become of poor Brown first,” replied Whifphles, the most interested of the party, from the circumstance of Augustus having borrowed divers sums at divers times, varying from two shillings to three halfcrowns, from his better-conditioned exchequer.
The boatman, perceiving the extreme anxiety of the trio to learn the secret in his possession, thought it a good opportunity for obtaining an additional bribe, and, with a look worthy of a crafty diplomatist, replied, that “ he had been paid ten shillings not to say a word about the gentleman, or anything of the transaction.”
As a matter of course this information added to the mystery of the occurrence. A council was held by the astonished three in a low whisper, and a decision unanimously agreed upon that a sum be of. fered to purchase the strange and unaccountable history from the individual now asking whether “ he was to pull them up or down."
“Suppose we give you five shillings a-head to tell us," said Smith.
“ Then I shall split immediately; as it's a principle with me always to let the best offer regulate my market with anything," replied the boatman.
The money was doled out, and placed in the hand of the informer, whose anticipation of “ making a good day's work of the affair ” became realized with this additional sum.
To describe the indignation of the Messrs. Snuffies, Whifphles, and Smith; their loud expressions of contempt at Augustus Brown's mean conduct in taking advantage of their too-poterish and sleepy state, is impossible. They were somewhat consoled with the knowledge that the practical joke had occasioned the perpetrator of it some trouble, corresponding with their own fears.
“ To think of being alarmed for nothing at all !” exclaimed Whifphles, “it's a shame! a 'orrible shame! It's worse than having something, because one 's consoled at knowing he ain't been made a fool of.”
“ That's my opinion,” added Smith. “And so it is mine," coincided Snuffles. “Now then, gentlemen, just say which it is to be up to the Island, or down to the Bridge,” said the boatman, wishing to get dismissed now that he had obtained all that was to be had.
“Let us go to town without Brown, and leave him in the lurch. I know that he hasn't a sixpence left," suggested the revengeful Whifphles.
“We will—we will,” said Sinith, rubbing his hands with delight at the soothing idea.
“ Delicious thought !” from Snuffles, concluded the arrangement.
“ Pull away to the bridge,” ordered Whifphles, and towards it the boatmen rowed.
The last bell was ringing on board the “ Firefly.” On deck leaped the three friends.
“Cast off that rope !” bawled the Captain, and on paddled the steamer.
“Don't go to the Island,” hallooed Smith to the boatman just as they had started.
“You may be sure I sha'n't, sir,” replied he.
“ Because he ain't got no more money,” shouted the boatman, with a total disregard to negatives, but a special observance of the truth.
Hours past by; the sun had set, and bright Venus was glancing her fickle beam upon this dull, sublunary planet ; but no news arrived to the distracted Augustus Brown of the fate of his friends. There he was, upon Eel-pie Island, pacing up and down a narrow grass-plot, with agony in his step, despair in his look. Occasionally he would stop in his hurried gait to look through the increasing misty folds upon the water for the approach of the boat. As the
shades of evening deepened he relied upon his ear for the expected arrival; his heart beat quick as the splash of a distant oar gave hope of a consummation of his wishes : but “ hope deferred maketh the heart sick ;” and he at last determined to drown his care in ginan'-water. Proceeding to the inn, he directed the fascinating barmaid “to mix him a glass." His spirits rose as the spirits sunk; but the last had scarcely been drained from the glass when the thought flashed in his mind that no likeness of Her Majesty upon the meanest coin graced his purse, or chafed the lining of his pocket. Supposing his friends, Whifphles, Snuffles, and Smith, did not return, how was he to get back to London? How was the gin-an'water to be paid for? Such were the mental queries of Augustus Brown, whose visage bore deep marks of the distress of his tortured mind.
“What am — what shall I do!” exclaimed he, forgetting the presence of the charming barmaid.
“What's the matter, sir? ” inquired she, with a little toss of the diminutive cap. “You seem in a quandary."
“I am in a quandary,” groaned Brown, slapping his forehead like a confused prime-minister.
Suddenly he withdrew his fingers from his pressed brow, and dived both hands deeply into the pockets of his trowsers, — signs of flattering hope, and deep resolve.
“Gentlemen in difficulties ” have frequently applied the bonds of Hymen to pay off bonds of another description. The speculations of the present day in matrimony are, generally, of so pecuniary a description, that connubial felicity would be more correctly described by the term of “ a-matter-of-money," instead of the one more generally used.
Augustus Brown thought the barmaid pretty in the morning, when he first saw her; he now was convinced that she was beauti. ful. He was unmarried, and so was she, evidently, from no ring encircling the finger, doomed to announce publicly the double-in-one state. He had no less a sum than eighteen shillings a-week; dinner for one is dinner for two. No doubt a sum had been saved-as barmaids invariably have accounts at savings' banks: the gin-an'water need not be paid for. Besides, if success attended him, a small advance might be obtained, to get to the office by the appointed hour in the morning. Such were the reflections of Augustus, that determined him to pop the interrogatory immediately to the barmaid, and escape from his most pressing annoyances, if prac
“His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate ;
His tears pure messengers sent from his heart;
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth." The stars were propitious. Augustus Brown pleaded his case well-well, because successful.
From being as unhappy a Brown as ever breathed the pure air of Twickenham, or sipped a glass of gin-an'- water upon Eel-pie Island, Augustus became one of the happiest; all his expectations were to be realized, and, when he stretched his wearied limbs upon a cot prepared by the hands of the equally-pleased barmaid, did a thought of the fate of his friends occupy his attention for a moment -- it was but for a moment. Soft slumber soon sealed his eyelids. He dreamed of fat small boys, in a state of nudity, dancing in the air, and throwing white favours at each other's heads. The scene changed, and he saw his companions sticking in a muddy pool, up to their chins. He stretched out his hand to clutch one of them; but, missing his hold, fell out of bed.
“D-n Whifphles, Snuffles, and Smith," said he, sprawling upon the floor.
Most folks with virtuous indignation Would“ flare-up” at the imputa
tion, (However well-deserved the same,) Upon their fair and honest fame, Of trickery, and double-dealing, And such-like covert arts of stealing, Which don't amount to downright rob
bery, At which you could “ kick up a bob
bery," But just sail near enough the wind To leave the impression on your mind That you 've been regularly “ done," Of which few persons see the fun. Yet, somehow, these same honest peo
ple Their principle in practice keep ill; For, though they'd talk of hostile
meeting, And mayhap treat you to a beating, If you but hinted they were cheating, And, rather than defraud their neigh
bour, Would undergo twelvemonths' hard
labour: They think it quite a different thing To chouse our Sovereign Lord the
King; Or rather, now-a-days, I mean Her Gracious Majesty the Queen. That is, in fact, they reckon smuggling A very clever kind of juggling; And, that they may the better do it,
aye Exert their utmost ingenuity. And, certes, 'tis some consolation To sosten down one's indignation At being hurried to that bore Of travellers, the custom-house, And there watched as by cat a mouse, While they your luggage are unpack
ing, And every trunk and bag ransacking,
Turning your chattels topsy-turvy, And treating them in way most scurvy, To search if 'midst the various par
ticles There lie hid any smuggled articles. I say you feel a satisfaction, As if you'd done a worthy action, To know that, spite of all their prying, They've missed, in some snug corner
lying, No end of gloves, or Brussels lace, Or satins, as may be the case, Things which you've fetched across
the Channel, (Whose billows often make a man ill!) With sundry other odds and ends, As presents to your lady friends; All specimens of foreign finery, That ne'er were wrought by home
machinery, And should, in consequence, pay duty 'Ere they adorn a native beauty. Well, I was going to tell a story To illustrate the case before ye, That somehow men are all inclined, If but occasion they can find, To cheat the royal revenue, Nor, as they are enjoined to do, Give custom to whom custom 's due; No matter whence those customs rise, From tolls, or taxes, or excise. “ Be 't known to all men by these
presents," That, to raise money from the peasants, And other traders, who bring down Their country wares to sell in town, There stands in every road in France A bureau d'octroi, in advance Of each town's suburbs, where they
A toll proportionally heavy
And that gensd'arme, or any such
man, If I don't chouse him, I'm a Dutch
On vin du pays, corn, and brandy, And other things which they command
ye: And, deuced sharp those gensd'armes
look That none escape, by hook or crook, From “ forking out the full amount, For every item of the account; And they must sure be “ artful
dodgers” Who can evade such prying codgers ; Though many “try it on," and so A few succeed, as I sball show. It happened that (no matter where It might be, Dieppe or St. Omer,) An honest butcher went one day A call professional to pay To some old farmer near the town, Whose grazing-stock held high re
nown, And purchase for his week's supply, Unless he found the price too high, A well-fed calf, or some such beast, On which his customers to feast. One was selected from the lot, Which Jean said was the best he'd
got, And asked, of course, a longish price, Which Pierre refused him in a trice, Saying, he asked too much by half For such a “ morceau” of a calf. On this they set to work, and grum
bled, And haggled, " sacré'd," swore, and
stumbled Upon some rather awkward names, Which added fuel to the flames, And might perchance have led to mur.
ther, Had they proceeded any further. But luckily a Frenchman's quarrel, As Johnny Crapaud does but spar ill, After a wordy contest ends, In general in making friends" Eh bien,” the former says at last, After this little breeze was past, “ Though on the price we can't agree, You 're a good customer to me, And so for once, to make things plea
sant, I'll make you of the calf a present; But, mind you, Pierre, on one condi.
tion, Which is, despite the prohibition, That, while to town the beast convey
ing, You pass the octroi without paying.” “ Done!” cries the butcher; “ come,
I'll take it, Since you are willing thus to stake it ;
But will you be so good as lend me That dog of yours there to attend me?" His willingness did Jean express, Though Pierre's intent he could not
guess; So, without asking his permission, After some growls and opposition, He cramm'd the dog into a sack, And trudged off with him on his back, Giving him now and then a licking, To stop his howling and his kicking, Until at last the brute lay quiet, And didn't dare to make a riot. The octroi reach'd, he never stay’d, But look'd as if he wishid to evade The keeper's eye, and hasten'd onward, Directing still his progress townward. Old Cerberus, as he expected, A something from his look suspected, Which made him think all was not
right; So, in a manner most polite, He forthwith called the gemman back, And ask'd him what was in his sack. “ Je vous assure, Monsieur, ce n'est
rien," Says Pierre, “ qu'une pauvre bête de
chien, Dont un de mes amis m'a fait Le cadeau-voilà tout ce que c'est!” “Tell that to the marines," says t'other; “So, come, let's see, without more
bother, What you've got in that sack. I'll
wager It's no dog. I'm too old a stager To humbug thus, you may depend
on't; And I must know,—so there's an end
Pierre made a well-feign'd opposition Before he deign'd to make submission, Grumbling that, if he oped the sack, The dog would cut him, and run back, And he should have his toil and trouble, By ruuning after him, made double. Finding, at length, remonstrance vain, (Just what he wish'd, his end to gain,) He quietly untied the string, And so contrived that one good spring Set free the dog, who, not admiring His narrow berth, with speed untiring, And Pierre's loud voice his terror
heightening, Bolted off home like “butter'd light