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University of Adelaide
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Charles Howard was left an orphan when he was very young. His father had dissipated a large fortune, and lost his life in a duel, about some debt of honour, which had been contracted at the gaming-table. Without fortune and without friends, this poor boy would probably have lived and died in wretchedness, but for the humanity of his good aunt, Mrs. Frances Howard. This lady possessed a considerable fortune, which, in the opinion of some of her acquaintance, was her highest merit: others respected her as the branch of an ancient family: some courted her acquaintance because she was visited by the best company in town: and many were ambitious of being introduced to her, because they were sure of meeting at her house several of those distinguished literary characters who throw a radiance upon all who can contrive to get within the circle of their glories. Some few, some very few of Mrs. Howard’s acquaintance, admired her for her real worth, and merited the name of friends.
She was a young and cheerful woman when she first undertook the education of her little nephew. She had the courage to resist the allurements of dissipation, or all that by her sex are usually thought allurements. She had the courage to apply herself seriously to the cultivation of her understanding: she educated herself, that she might be able to fulfil the important duty of educating a child. Hers was not the foolish fondness of a foolish aunt; she loved her nephew, and she wished to educate him, so that her affection might increase, instead of diminishing, as he grew up. By associating early pleasure with reading, little Charles soon became fond of it: he was never forced to read books which he did not understand; his aunt used, when he was very young, to read aloud to him any thing entertaining that she met with; and whenever she perceived by his eye that his attention was not fixed, she stopped. When he was able to read fluently to himself, she selected for him passages from books, which she thought would excite his curiosity to know more; and she was not in a hurry to cram him with knowledge, but rather anxious to prevent his growing appetite for literature from being early satiated. She always encouraged him to talk to her freely about what he read, and to tell her when he did not like any of the books which she gave him. She conversed with him with so much kindness and cheerfulness; she was so quick at perceiving his latent meaning; and she was so gentle and patient when she reasoned with him, that he loved to talk to her better than to any body else; nor could little Charles ever thoroughly enjoy any pleasure without her sympathy.
The conversation of the sensible, well-informed people who visited Mrs. Howard contributed to form her nephew’s taste. A child may learn as much from conversation as from books — not so many historic facts, but as much instruction. Greek and Latin were the grand difficulties. Mrs. Howard did not understand Greek and Latin; nor did she, though a woman, set too high or too low a value upon the learned languages. She was convinced that a man might be a great scholar without being a man of sense; she was also persuaded that a man of sense might be a good scholar. She knew that, whatever abilities her nephew might possess, he could not be upon a footing with other men in the world, without possessing that species of knowledge which is universally expected from gentlemen, as an essential proof of their having received a liberal education; nor did she attempt to undervalue the pleasures of classic taste merely because she was not qualified to enjoy them: she was convinced, by the testimony of men of candour and judgment, that a classical taste is a source of real enjoyment, and she wished her nephew’s literary pleasures to have as extensive a range as possible.
To instruct her nephew in the learned languages, she engaged a good scholar and a man of sense: his name — for a man is nothing without a name — was Russell14. Little Charles did not at first relish Latin; he used sometimes to come from his Latin lessons with a very dull, stupified face, which gradually brightened into intelligence, after he had talked for a few minutes with his aunt. Mrs. Howard, though pleased to perceive that he was fond of her, had not the weakness to sacrifice his permanent advantage to her transient gratification. One evening Charles came running up-stairs to his aunt, who was at tea; several people happened to be present. “I have done with Mr. Russell, and my Latin, ma’am, thank goodness — now may I have the elephant and the camel, or the bear and her cubs, that you marked for me last night?”
The company laughed at this speech of Charles: and a silly lady — for even Mrs. Howard could not make all her acquaintance wise — a silly lady whispered to Charles, “I’ve a notion, if you’d tell the truth, now, that you like the bear and her cubs a great deal better than you do Latin and Mr. Russell.”
“I like the bear a great deal better than I do Latin, to be sure,” said the boy; “but as for Mr. Russell — why, I think,” added he, encouraged by the lady’s smiles, “I think I like the bear better than Mr. Russell.”
The lady laughed affectedly at this sally.
“I am sure,” continued Charles, fancying that every person present was delighted with his wit, “I am sure, at any rate, I like the learned pig fifty times better than Mr. Russell!”
The judicious lady burst into a second fit of laughter. Mrs. Howard looked very grave. Charles broke from the lady’s caresses, and going up to his aunt, timidly looking up in her face, said, “Am I a fool?”
“You are but a child,” said Mrs. Howard; and, turning away from him, she desired the servant, who waited at tea, to let Mr. Russell know that she desired the honour of his company. Mrs. Holloway — for that was the silly lady’s name — at the words, “honour of his company,” resumed her gravity, but looked round to see what the rest of the company thought.
“Give me leave, Mr. Russell,” said Mrs. Howard, as soon as he came into the room, “to introduce you to a gentleman, for whose works I know you have a great esteem.” The gentleman was a celebrated traveller, just returned from abroad, whose conversation was as much admired as his writings.
The conversation now took a literary turn. The traveller being polite, as well as entertaining, drew out Mr. Russell’s knowledge and abilities. Charles now looked up to his tutor with respect. Children have sufficient penetration to discover the opinions of others by their countenance and manner, and their sympathy is quickly influenced by the example of those around them. Mrs. Howard led the traveller to speak of what he had seen in different countries — of natural history — of the beaver, and the moose-deer, and the humming-bird, that is scarcely larger than a bumble bee; and the mocking-bird, that can imitate the notes of all other birds. Charles niched himself into a corner of the sofa upon which the gentlemen were sitting, and grew very attentive. He was rather surprised to perceive that his tutor was as much entertained with the conversation as he was himself.
“Pray, sir,” said Mrs. Howard to the traveller, “is it true that the humming-bird is a passionate little animal? Is the story told by the author of the Farmer’s Letters true?”
“What story?” said Charles, eagerly.
“Of a humming-bird that flew into a fury with a flower, and tore it to pieces, because it could not get the honey out of it all at once.”
“Oh, ma’am,” said little Charles, peeping over his tutor’s shoulders, “will you show me that? Have you got the book, dear aunt?”
“It is Mr. Russell’s book,” said his aunt.
“Your book!” cried Charles: “what, and do you know all about animals, and those sorts of entertaining things, as well as Latin? And can you tell me, then, what I want very much to know, how they catch the humming-bird?”
“They shoot it.”
“Shoot it! but what a large hole they must make in its body and beautiful feathers! I thought you said its whole body was no bigger than a bee — a humble bee.”
“They make no hole in its body — they shoot it without ruffling even its feathers.”
“How, how?” cried Charles, fastening upon his tutor, whom he now regarded no longer as a mere man of Latin.
“They charge the gun with water,” said Mr. Russell, “and the poor little humming-bird is stunned by the discharge.”
The conversation next turned upon the entertaining chapter on instinct, in Dr. Darwin’s Zoonomia. Charles did not understand all that was said, for the gentlemen did not address themselves to him. He never listened to what he did not understand: but he was very quick at hearing whatever was within the limits of his comprehension. He heard of the tailor-bird, that uses its long bill as a needle, to sew the dead and the living leaf together, of which it makes its light nest, lined with feathers and gossamer: of the fish called the ‘old soldier,’ that looks out for the empty shell of some dead animal, and fits this armour upon himself: of the Jamaica spider, that makes himself a house under ground, with a door and hinges, which door the spider and all the members of his family take care to shut after them, whenever they go in and out.
Little Charles, as he sat eagerly attentive in his corner of the sofa, heard of the trumpet of the common gnat15, and of its proboscis, which serves at once for an awl, a saw, and a pump.
“Are there any more such things,” exclaimed Charles, “in these books?”
“A great many,” said Mr. Russell.
“I’ll read them all,” cried Charles, starting up —“may I? may not I, aunt?”
“Ask Mr. Russell,” replied his aunt: “he who is obliged to give you the pain of learning what is tiresome, should have the pleasure of rewarding you with entertaining books. Whenever he asks me for Dr. Darwin and St. Pierre, you shall have them. We are both of one mind. We know that learning Latin is not the most amusing occupation in the world, but still it must be learned.”
“Why,” said Charles modestly, “you don’t understand Latin, aunt, do you?”
“No,” said Mrs. Howard, “but I am a woman, and it is not thought necessary that a woman should understand Latin; nor can I explain to you, at your age, why it is expected that a gentleman should; but here are several gentlemen present — ask them whether it be not necessary that a gentleman should.”
Charles gathered all the opinions, and especially that of the entertaining traveller.
Mrs. Holloway, the silly lady, during that part of the conversation from which she might have acquired some knowledge, had retired to the further end of the room to a game at trictrac with an obsequious chaplain. Her game being finished, she came up to hear what the crowd round the sofa could be talking about; and hearing Charles ask the opinions of the gentlemen about the necessity of learning Latin, she nodded sagaciously at Mrs. Howard, and, by way of making up for former errors, said to Charles, in the most authoritative tone —
“Yes, I can assure you, Mr. Charles, I am quite of the gentlemen’s opinion, and so is every body — and this is a point upon which I have some right to speak; for my Augustus, who is only a year and seven months older than you are, sir, is one of the best scholars of his age, I am told, in England. But then, to be sure, it was flogged into him well at first, at a public school, which, I understand, is the best way of making good scholars.”
“And the best way of making boys love literature?” said Mrs. Howard.
“Certainly, certainly,” said Mrs. Holloway, who mistook Mrs. Howard’s tone of inquiry for a tone of assertion, a tone more familiar to her —“certainly, ma’am, I knew you would come round to my notions at last. I’m sure my Augustus must be fond of his Latin, for never in the vacations did I ever catch him with any English book in his hand!”
“Poor boy!” said Charles, with unfeigned compassion, “And when, my dear Mrs. Howard,” continued Mrs. Holloway, laying her hand upon Mrs. Howard’s arm, with a yet untasted pinch of snuff between her fingers, “when will you send Mr. Charles to school?”
“Oh, aunt, don’t send me away from you — Oh, sir! Mr. Russell, try me — I will do my very, very best, without having it flogged into me, to learn Latin — only try me.”
“Dear sir, I really beg your pardon,” said Mrs. Holloway to Mr. Russell; “I absolutely only meant to support Mrs. Howard’s opinion for the sweet boy’s good; and I thought I saw you go out of the room, or somebody else went out, whilst I was at trictrac. But I’m convinced a private tutor may do wonders at the same time; and if my Augustus prejudiced me in favour of public education, you’ll excuse a mother’s partiality. Besides, I make it a rule never to interfere in the education of my boys. Mr. Holloway is answerable for them; and if he prefer public schools to a private tutor, you must be sensible, sir, it would be very wrong in me to set my poor judgment in opposition to Mr. Holloway’s opinion.”
Mr. Russell bowed; for, when a lady claims a gentleman’s assent to a series of inconsistent propositions, what answer can he make but — a bow? Mrs. Holloway’s carriage was now at the door, and, without troubling herself any further about the comparative merits of public and private education, she departed.
When Mrs. Howard was left alone with her nephew, she seized the moment, while his mind was yet warm, to make a lasting impression. Charles, instead of going to Buffon’s account of the elephant, which he was very impatient to read, sat down resolutely to his Latin lesson. Mrs. Howard looked over his shoulder, and when he saw her smile of approbation, he said, “Then you won’t send me away from you?”
“Not unless you oblige me to do so,” said his aunt: “I love to have you with me, and I will try for one year whether you have energy enough to learn what is disagreeable to you, without —”
“Without its being flogged into me,” said Charles: “you shall see.”
This boy had a great deal of energy and application. The Latin lessons were learned very perfectly; and as he did not spend above an hour a day at them, he was not disgusted with application. His general taste for literature, and his fund of knowledge, increased rapidly from year to year, and the activity of his mind promised continual improvement. His attachment to Mrs. Howard increased as he grew up, for she never claimed any gratitude from her pupil, or exacted from him any of those little observances, which women sometimes consider as essential proofs of affection. She knew that these minute attentions are particularly irksome to boys, and that they are by no means the natural expressions of their feelings. She had sufficient strength of mind to be secure in the possession of those qualities which merit esteem and love, and to believe that the child whom she had educated had a heart and understanding that must feel and appreciate her value.
When Charles Howard was about thirteen, an event happened which changed his prospects in life. Mrs. Howard’s large fortune was principally derived from an estate in the West Indies, which had been left to her by her grandfather. She did not particularly wish to be the proprietor of slaves; and from the time that she came to the management of her own affairs, she had been desirous to sell her West India property. Her agent represented to her that this could not be done without considerable loss. From year to year the business was delayed, till at length a gentleman, who had a plantation adjoining to hers, offered to purchase her estate. She was neither one of those ladies who, jealous of their free will, would rather act for themselves, that is to say, follow their own whims in matters of business, than consult men who possess the requisite information; nor was she so ignorant of business, or so indolent, as to be at the mercy of any designing agent or attorney. After consulting proper persons, and after exerting a just proportion of her own judgment, she concluded her bargain with the West Indian. Her plantation was sold to him, and all her property was shipped for her on board The Lively Peggy. Mr. Alderman Holloway, husband to the silly Mrs. Holloway, was one of the trustees appointed by her grandfather’s will. The alderman, who was supposed to be very knowing in all worldly concerns, sanctioned the affair with his approbation. The lady was at this time rich; and Alderman Holloway applauded her humanity in having stipulated for the liberty and provision grounds of some old negroes upon her plantation; he even suggested to his son Augustus, that this would make a very pretty, proper subject for a copy of verses, to be addressed to Mrs. Howard. The verses were written in elegant Latin; and the young gentleman was proceeding with some difficulty in his English translation of them, when they were suppressed by parental authority. The alderman changed his opinion as to the propriety of the argument of this poem: the reasons which worked upon his mind were never distinctly expressed; they may, however, be deduced from the perusal of the following letter:—
“TO MRS. FRANCES HOWARD.
“Sorry am I to be under the disagreeable necessity of communicating to you thus abruptly, the melancholy news of the loss of ‘The Lively Peggy,’ with your valuable consignment on board, viz. sundry puncheons of rum, and hogsheads of sugar, in which commodities (as usual) your agent received the purchase-money of your late fine West India estate. I must not, however reluctantly, omit to mention the casket of your grandmother’s jewels, which I now regret was sent by this opportunity. ’Tis an additional loss — some thousands, I apprehend.
“The captain of the vessel I have just seen, who was set on shore, on the 15th ultimo, on the coast of Wales: his mate mutinied, and, in conspiracy with the crew, have run away with the vessel.
“I have only to add, that Mrs. Holloway and my daughter Angelina sincerely unite with me in compliments and condolence; and I shall be happy if I can be of any service in the settlement of your affairs.
“Mrs Holloway desires me to say, she would do herself the honour of waiting upon you to-morrow, but is setting out for Margate.
“I am, dear madam,
“Your most obedient and humble servant,
“A. T. Holloway.
“P.S. Your agent is much to blame for neglecting to insure.”
Mrs. Howard, as soon as she had perused this epistle, gave it to her nephew, who was reading in the room with her when she received it. He showed more emotion on reading it than she had done. The coldness of the alderman’s letter seemed to strike the boy more than the loss of a fortune —“And this is a friend!” he exclaimed with indignation.
“No, my love,” said Mrs. Howard, with a calm smile, “I never thought Mr. Holloway any thing more than a common acquaintance: I hope — I am sure I have chosen my friends better.”
Charles fixed an eager, inquiring eye upon his aunt, which seemed to say, “Did you mean to call me one of your friends?” and then he grew very thoughtful.
“My dear Charles,” said the aunt, after nearly a quarter of an hour’s silence, “may I know what you have been thinking of all this time?”
“Thinking of, ma’am!” said Charles, starting from his reverie —“of a great many things — of all you have done for me — of — of what I could do — I don’t mean now; for I know I am a child, and can do nothing — I don’t mean nothing. — I shall soon be a man, and then I can be a physician, or a lawyer, or something. — Mr. Russell told me the other day, that if I applied myself, I might be whatever I pleased. What would you wish me to be, ma’am? — because that’s what I will be — if I can.”
“Then I wish you to be what you are.”
“O madam,” said Charles, with a look of great mortification, “but that’s nothing. Won’t you make me of some use to you? — But I beg your pardon, I know you can’t think about me just now. Good night,” said he, and hurried out of the room.
The news of the loss of the Lively Peggy, with all the particulars mentioned in Alderman Holloway’s letter, appeared in the next day’s newspapers, and in the succeeding paper appeared an advertisement of Mrs. Howard’s house in Portman-square, of her plate, china, furniture, books, &c. — She had never in affluence disdained economy. She had no debts; not a single tradesman was a sufferer by her loss. She had always lived within her annual income; and though her generous disposition had prevented her from hoarding money, she had a small sum in the funds, which she had prudently reserved for any unforeseen exigence. She had also a few diamonds, which had been her mother’s, which Mr. Carat, the jeweller, who had new set them, was very willing to purchase. He waited upon Mrs. Howard, in Portman-square, to complete the bargain.
The want of sensibility which Charles showed when his aunt was parting with her jewels to Mr. Carat, would have infallibly ruined him in the opinion of most ladies. He took the trinkets up, one by one, without ceremony, and examined them, asking his aunt and the jeweller questions about the use and value of diamonds — about the working of the mines of Golconda — about the shining of diamonds in the dark, observed by the children of Cogi Hassan, the rope-maker, in the Arabian Tales — about the experiment of Francis the First upon melting of diamonds and rubies. Mr. Carat was a Jew, and, though extremely cunning, profoundly ignorant.
“Dat king wash very grand fool, beg his majesty’s pardon,” said the Jew, with a shrewd smile; “but kings know better nowadays. Heaven bless dere majesties.”
Charles had a great mind to vindicate the philosophic fame of Francis the First, but a new idea suddenly started into his head.
“My dearest aunt,” cried he, stopping her hand as she was giving her diamond ear-rings to Mr. Carat —“stay, my dearest aunt, one instant, till I have seen whether this is a good day for selling diamonds.”
“O my dear young gentleman, no day in de Jewish calendar more proper for de purchase,” said the Jew.
“For the purchase! yes,” said Charles; “but for the sale?”
“My love,” said his aunt, “surely you are not so foolish as to think there are lucky and unlucky days.”
“No, I don’t mean any thing about lucky and unlucky days,” said Charles, running up to consult the barometer; “but what I mean is not foolish indeed: in some book I’ve read that the dealers in diamonds buy them when the air is light, and sell them when it is heavy, if they can; because their scales are so nice that they vary with the change in the atmosphere. Perhaps I may not remember exactly the words, but that’s the sense, I know. I’ll look for the words; I know whereabout to find them.” He jumped upon a chair, to get down the book.
“But, Master Charles,” said the Jew, with a show of deference, “I will not pretend to make a bargain with you — I see you know a great deal more than I of these traffics.”
To this flattery Charles made no answer, but continued looking for the passage he wanted in his book. Whilst he was turning over the leaves, a gentleman, a friend of Mrs. Howard, who had promised her to meet Mr. Carat, came in. He was the gentleman formerly mentioned by the name of the traveller: he was a good judge of diamonds, and, what is better, he was a good judge of the human heart and understanding. He was much pleased with Charles’s ready recollection of the little knowledge he possessed, with his eagerness to make that knowledge of use to his aunt, and more with his perfect simplicity and integrity; for Charles, after a moment’s thought, turned to the Jew and said —
“But the day that is good for my aunt must be bad for you. The buyers and sellers should each have fair play. Mr. Carat, your weights should be diamonds, and then the changes in the weight of the air would not signify one way or the other.16”
Mr. Carat smiled at this speech, but, suppressing his contempt for the young gentleman, only observed, that he should most certainly follow Mr. Charles’s advice, whenever he wash rich enough to have diamonds for weights.
The traveller drew from his pocket a small book, took a pen, and wrote in the title-page of it, For one who will make a good use of it; and, with Mrs. Howard’s permission, he gave the book to her nephew.
“I do not believe,” said the gentleman, “that there is at present another copy in England: I have just got this from France by a private hand.”
The sale of his aunt’s books appeared to Charles a much more serious affair than the parting with her diamonds. He understood something of the value of books, and he took a sorrowful leave of many which he had read, and of many more which he had intended to read. Mrs. Howard selected a few for her own use, and she allowed her nephew to select as many for himself as she had done. He observed that there was a beautiful edition of Shakspeare, which he knew his aunt liked particularly, but which she did not keep, reserving instead of it Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which would in a few years, she said, be very useful to him. He immediately offered his favourite Etudes de la Nature to redeem the Shakspeare; but Mrs. Howard would not accept of it, because she justly observed, that she could read Shakspeare almost as well without its being in such a beautiful binding. Her readiness to part with all the luxuries to which she had been for many years accustomed, and the freedom and openness with which she spoke of all her affairs to her nephew, made a great impression upon his mind.
Those are mistaken who think that young people cannot be interested in such things: if no mystery be made of the technical parts of business, young people easily learn them, and they early take an interest in the affairs of their parents, instead of learning to separate their own views from those of their friends. Charles, young as he was, at this time, was employed by his aunt frequently to copy, and sometimes to write, letters of business for her. He drew out a careful inventory of all the furniture before it was disposed of; he took lists of all the books and papers: and at this work, however tiresome, he was indefatigable, because he was encouraged by the hope of being useful. This ambition had been early excited in his mind.
When Mrs. Howard had settled her affairs, she took a small neat house near Westminster school17, for the purpose of a boarding-house for some of the Westminster boys. This plan she preferred, because it secured an independent means of support, and at the same time enabled her, in some measure, to assist in her nephew’s education, and to enjoy his company. She was no longer able to afford a sufficient salary to a well-informed private tutor; therefore she determined to send Charles to Westminster school; and, as he would board with her, she hoped to unite by this scheme, as much as possible, the advantages of a private and of a public education. Mr. Russell desired still to have the care of Mrs. Howard’s nephew; he determined to offer himself as a tutor at Westminster school; and, as his acquirements were well known to the literary world, he was received with eagerness.
“My dear boy,” said Mrs. Howard to her nephew, when he first went to Westminster, “I shall not trouble you with a long chapter of advice: do you remember that answer of the oracle, which seemed to strike you so much the other day, when you were reading the life of Cicero?”
“Yes,” said Charles, “I recollect it — I shall never forget it. When Cicero asked how he should arrive at the height of glory, the oracle answered, ‘By making his own genius, and not the opinion of the people, the guide of his life.’”
“Well,” said Mrs. Howard, smiling, “if I were your oracle, and you were to put the same question to me, I think I should make you nearly the same answer; except that I should change the word genius into good sense; and, instead of the people, I should say the world, which, in general, I think, means all the silly people of one’s acquaintance. Farewell: now go to the Westminster world.”
Westminster was quite a new world to young Howard. The bustle and noise at first astonished his senses, and almost confounded his understanding; but he soon grew accustomed to the din, and familiarized to the sight of numbers. At first, he thought himself much inferior to all his companions, because practice had given them the power of doing many things with ease, which to him appeared difficult, merely because he had not been used to them. In all their games and plays, either of address or force, he found himself foiled. In a readiness of repartee, and a certain ease and volubility of conversation, he perceived his deficiency; and though he frequently was conscious that his ideas were more just, and his arguments better, than those of his companions, yet he could not at first bring out his ideas to advantage, or manage his arguments so as to stand his ground against the mixed raillery and sophistry of his school fellows. He had not yet the tone of his new society, and he was as much at a loss as a traveller in a foreign country, before he understands the language of a people who are vociferating round about him. As fast, however, as he learned to translate the language of his companions into his own, he discovered that there was not so much meaning in their expressions as he had been inclined to imagine whilst they had remained unintelligible: but he was good-humoured and good-natured, so that, upon the whole, he was much liked; and even his inferiority, in many little trials of skill, was, perhaps, in his favour. He laughed with those that laughed at him, let them triumph in his awkwardness, but still persisted in new trials, till at last, to the great surprise of the spectators, he succeeded.
The art of boxing cost him more than all the rest; but as he was neither deficient in courage of mind nor activity of body, he did not despair of acquiring the necessary skill in this noble science — necessary, we say, for Charles had not been a week at Westminster before he was made sensible of the necessity of practising this art in his own defence. He had yet a stronger motive; he found it necessary for the defence of one who looked up to him for protection.
There was at this time at Westminster, a little boy of the name of Oliver, a Creole, lively, intelligent, open-hearted, and affectionate in the extreme, but rather passionate in his temper, and adverse to application. His literary education had been strangely neglected before he came to school, so that his ignorance of the common rudiments of spelling, reading, grammar, and arithmetic, made him the laughing-stock of the school. The poor boy felt inexpressible shame and anguish; his cheek burned with blushes, when every day, in the public class, he was ridiculed and disgraced; but his dark complexion, perhaps, prevented those blushes from being noticed by his companions, otherwise they certainly would have suppressed, or would have endeavoured to repress, some of their insulting peals of laughter. He suffered no complaint or tear to escape him in public; but his book was sometimes blistered with the tears that fell when nobody saw them: what was worse than all the rest he found insurmountable difficulties, at every step, in his grammar. He was unwilling to apply to any of his more learned companions for explanations or assistance. He began to sink into despair of his own abilities, and to imagine that he must for ever remain, what indeed he was every day called, a dunce. He was usually flogged three times a week. Day after day brought no relief, either to his bodily or mental sufferings: at length his honest pride yielded, and he applied to one of the elder scholars for help. The boy to whom he applied was Augustus Holloway, Alderman Holloway’s son, who was acknowledged to be one of the best Latin scholars at Westminster. He readily helped Oliver in his exercises, but he made him pay most severely for this assistance, by the most tyrannical usage; and, in all his tyranny, he thought himself fully justifiable, because little Oliver, beside his other misfortunes, had the misfortune to be a fag.
There may be — though many schoolboys will, perhaps, think it scarcely possible — there may be, in the compass of the civilised world, some persons so barbarously ignorant as not to know what is meant by the term fag. To these it may be necessary to explain, that at some English schools it is the custom, that all little boys, when they first go to school, should be under the dominion of the elder boys. These little boys are called fags, and are forced to wait upon and obey their master-companions. Their duties vary in different schools. I have heard of its being customary in some places, to make use of a fag regularly in the depth of winter instead of a warming-pan, and to send the shivering urchin through ten or twenty beds successively to take off the chill of cold for their luxurious masters. They are expected, in most schools, to run of all the elder boys’ errands, to be ready at their call, and to do all their high behests. They must never complain of being tired, or their complaints will, at least, never be regarded, because, as the etymology of the word implies, it is their business to be tired. The substantive fag is not to be found in Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary; but the verb to fag is there a verb neuter, from fatigo, Latin, and is there explained to mean, “to grow weary, to faint with weariness.” This is all the satisfaction we can, after the most diligent research, afford the curious and learned reader upon the subject of fags in general.
In particular, Mr. Augustus Holloway took great delight in teasing his fag, little Oliver. One day it happened that young Howard and Holloway were playing at nine-pins together, and little Oliver was within a few yards of them, sitting under a tree, with a book upon his knees, anxiously trying to make out his lesson. Holloway, whenever the nine-pins were thrown down, called to Oliver, and made him come from his book and set them up again: this he repeatedly did, in spite of Howard’s remonstrances, who always offered to set up the nine-pins, and who said it teased the poor little fellow to call him every minute from what he was about.
“Yes,” said Holloway, “I know it teases him — that I see plain enough, by his running so fast back to his form, like a hare — there he is, squatting again: halloo! halloo! come, start again here,” cried Holloway; “you have not done yet: bring me the bowl, halloo!”
Howard did not at all enjoy the diversion of hunting the poor boy about in this manner, and he said, with some indignation,
“How is it possible, Holloway, that the boy can get his lesson, if you interrupt him every instant?”
“Pooh! what signifies his foolish lesson?”
“It signifies a great deal to him,” replied Howard: “you know what he suffered this morning because he had not learned it.”
“Suffered! why, what did he suffer?” said Holloway, upon whose memory the sufferings of others made no very deep impression. “Oh, ay, true — you mean he was flogged: more shame for him! — why did not he mind and get his lesson better?”
“I had not time to understand it rightly,” said Oliver, with a deep sigh; “and I don’t think I shall have time to-day either.”
“More shame for you,” repeated Holloway: “I’ll lay any bet on earth, I get all you have to get in three minutes.”
“Ah, you, to be sure,” said Oliver, in a tone of great humiliation; “but then you know what a difference there is between you and me.”
Holloway misunderstood him; and, thinking he meant to allude to the difference in their age, instead of the difference of their abilities, answered sharply,
“When I was your age, do you think I was such a dunce as you are, pray?”
“No, that I am sure you never were,” said Oliver; “but perhaps you had some good father or mother, or somebody, who taught you a little before you came to school.”
“I don’t remember any thing about that,” replied Holloway; “I don’t know who was so good as to teach me, but I know I was so good as to learn fast enough, which is a goodness, I’ve a notion, some folks will never have to boast of — so trot, and fetch the bowl for me, do you hear, and set up the nine-pins. You’ve sense enough to do that, have not you? and as for your lesson, I’ll drive that into your head by and by, if I can,” added he, rapping with his knuckles upon the little boy’s head.
“As to my lesson,” said the boy, putting aside his head from the insulting knuckles, “I had rather try and make it out by myself, if I can.”
“If you can!” repeated Holloway, sneering; “but we all know you can’t.”
“Why can’t he, Holloway?” exclaimed Howard, with a raised voice, for he was no longer master of his indignation.
“Why can’t he?” repeated Holloway, looking round upon Howard, with a mixture of surprise and insolence. “You must answer that question yourself, Howard: I say he can’t.”
“And I say he can, and he shall,” replied Howard; “and he shall have time to learn: he’s willing, and, I’ll answer for it, able to learn; and he shall not be called a dunce; and he shall have time; and he shall have justice.”
“Shall! shall! shall!” retorted Holloway, vociferating with a passion of a different sort from Howard’s. “Pray, sir, who allowed you to say shall to me? and how dare you to talk in this here style to me about justice? — and what business have you, I should be glad to know, to interfere between me and my fag? What right have you to him, or his time either? And if I choose to call him a dunce forty times a day, what then? he is a dunce, and he will be a dunce to the end of his days, I say, and who is there thinks proper to contradict me?”
“I,” said Howard, firmly; “and I’ll do more than contradict you — I’ll prove that you are mistaken. Oliver, bring your book to me.”
“Oliver, stir at your peril!” cried Holloway, clinching his fist with a menacing gesture: “nobody shall give any help to my fag but myself, sir,” added he to Howard.
“I am not going to help him, I am only going to prove to him that he may do it without your help,” said Howard.
The little boy sprang forward, at these words, for his book; but his tormentor caught hold of him, and pulling him back, said, “He’s my fag! do you recollect, sir, he’s my fag?”
“Fag or no fag,” cried Howard, “you shall not make a slave of him.”
“I will! I shall! I will!” cried Holloway, worked up to the height of tyrannical fury: “I will make a slave of him, if I choose it-a negro-slave, if I please!”
At the sound of negro-slave, the little Creole burst into tears. Howard sprang forward to free him from his tyrant’s grasp: Holloway struck Howard a furious blow, which made him stagger backwards.
“Ay,” said Holloway, “learn to stand your ground, and fight, before you meddle with me, I advise you.”
Holloway was an experienced pugilist, and he knew that Howard was not; but before his defiance had escaped his lips, he felt his blow returned, and a battle ensued. Howard fought with all his soul; but the body has something to do, as well as the soul, in the art of boxing, and his body was not yet a match for his adversary’s. After receiving more blows than Holloway, perhaps, could have borne, Howard was brought to the ground.
“Beg my pardon, and promise never to interfere between me and my fag any more,” said Holloway, standing over him triumphant: “ask my pardon.”
“Never,” said the fallen hero: “I’ll fight you again, in the same cause, whenever you please; I can’t have a better;” and he struggled to rise.
Several boys had, by this time, gathered round the combatants, and many admired the fortitude and spirit of the vanquished, though it is extremely difficult to boys, if not to men, to sympathize with the beaten. Every body called out that Howard had had enough for that night; and though he was willing to have renewed the battle, his adversary was withheld by the omnipotence of public opinion. As to the cause of the combat, some few inquired into its merits, but many more were content with seeing the fray, and with hearing, vaguely, that it began about Howard’s having interfered with Holloway’s fag in an impertinent manner.
Howard’s face was so much disfigured, and his clothes were so much stained with blood, that he did not wish to present himself such a deplorable spectacle before his aunt; besides, no man likes to be seen, especially by a woman, immediately after he has been beaten; therefore, he went directly to bed as soon as he got home, but desired that one of his companions, who boarded at Mrs. Howard’s, would, if his aunt inquired for him at supper, tell her “that he had been beaten in a boxing match, but hoped to be more expert after another lesson or two.” This lady did not show her tenderness to her nephew by wailing over his disaster: on the contrary, she was pleased to hear that he had fought in so good a cause.
The next morning, as soon as Howard went to school, he saw little Oliver watching eagerly for him.
“Mr. Howard — Charles,” said he, catching hold of him, “I’ve one word to say: let him call me dunce, or slave, or negro, or what he will, don’t you mind any more about me — I can’t bear to see it,” said the affectionate child: “I’d rather have the blows myself, only I know I could not bear them as you did.”
Oliver turned aside his head, and Howard, in a playful voice, said, “Why, my little Oliver, I did not think you were such a coward: you must not make a coward of me.”
No sooner did the boys go out to play in the evening, than Howard called to Oliver, in Holloway’s hearing, and said, “If you want any assistance from me, remember, I’m ready.”
“You may be ready, but you are not able,” cried Holloway, “to give him any assistance — therefore, you’d better be quiet: remember last night.”
“I do remember it perfectly,” said Howard, calmly.
“And do you want any more? — Come, then, I’ll tell you what, I’ll box with you every day, if you please, and when you have conquered me, you shall have my fag all to yourself, if you please; but, till then, you shall have nothing to do with him.”
“I take you at your word,” said Howard, and a second battle began. As we do not delight in fields of battle, or hope to excel, like Homer, in describing variety of wounds, we shall content ourselves with relating, that after five pitched battles, in which Oliver’s champion received bruises of all shapes and sizes, and of every shade of black, blue, green, and yellow, his unconquered spirit still maintained the justice of his cause, and with as firm a voice as at first he challenged his constantly victorious antagonist to a sixth combat.
“I thought you had learned by this time,” said the successful pugilist, “that Augustus Holloway is not to be conquered by one of woman breed.” To this taunt Howard made no reply; but whether it urged him to superior exertion, or whether the dear-bought experience of the five preceding days had taught him all the caution that experience only can teach, we cannot determine; but, to the surprise of all the spectators, and to the lively joy of Oliver, the redoubted Holloway was brought, after an obstinate struggle, fairly to the ground. Every body sympathized with the generous victor, who immediately assisted his fallen adversary to rise, and offered his hand in token of reconciliation. Augustus Holloway, stunned by his fall, and more by his defeat, returned from the field of battle as fast as the crowd would let him, who stopped him continually with their impertinent astonishment and curiosity; for though the boasted unconquerable hero had pretty evidently received a black eye, not one person would believe it without looking close in his face; and many would not trust the information of their own senses, but pressed to hear the news confirmed by the reluctant lips of the unfortunate Augustus. In the meantime, little Oliver, a fag no longer, exulting in his liberty, clapped his joyful hands, sang, and capered round his deliverer. —“And now,” said he, fixing his grateful, affectionate eyes upon Howard, “you will suffer no more for me; and if you’ll let me, I’ll be your fag. Do, will you? pray let me! I’ll run of your errands before you can say one, two, three, and away: only whistle for me,” said he, whistling, “and I’ll hear you, wherever I am. If you only hold up your finger when you want me, I’m sure I shall see it; and I’ll always set up your nine-pins, and fly for your ball, let me be doing what I will. May I be your fag?”
“Be my friend!” said Howard, taking Oliver in his arms, with emotion which prevented him from articulating any other words. The word friend went to the little Creole’s heart, and he clung to Howard in silence. To complete his happiness, little Oliver this day obtained permission to board at Mrs. Howard’s, so that he was now constantly to be with his protector. Howard’s friendship was not merely the sudden enthusiasm of a moment; it was the steady persevering choice of a manly mind, not the caprice of a school-boy. Regularly, every evening, Oliver brought his books to his friend, who never was too busy to attend to him. Oliver was delighted to find that he understood Howard’s manner of explaining: his own opinion of himself rose with the opinion which he saw his instructor had of his abilities. He was convinced that he was not doomed to be a dunce for life; his ambition was rekindled; his industry was encouraged by hope, and rewarded by success. He no longer expected daily punishment, and that worst of all punishments, disgrace. His heart was light, his spirits rose, his countenance brightened with intelligence, and resumed its natural vivacity: to his masters and his companions he appeared a new creature. “What has inspired you?” said one of his masters to him one day, surprised at the rapid development of his understanding —“what has inspired you?”
“My good genius,” said the little boy, pointing to Howard. Howard had some merit in giving up a good deal of his time to Oliver, because he knew the value of time, and he had not quite so much as he wished for himself. The day was always too short for him; every moment was employed; his active mind went from one thing to another as if it did not know the possibility of idleness, and as if he had no idea of any recreation but in a change of employment. Not that he was always poring over books, but his mind was active, let him be about what he would; and, as his exertions were always voluntary, there was not that opposition in his opinion between the ideas of play and work, which exists so strongly in the imaginations of those school-boys who are driven to their tasks by fear, and who escape from them to that delicious exercise of their free-will which they call play.
“Constraint, that sweetens liberty,”
often gives a false value to its charms, or rather a false idea to its nature. Idleness, ennui, noise, mischief, riot, and a nameless train of mistaken notions of pleasure, are often classed, in a young man’s mind, under the general head of liberty.
Mr. Augustus Holloway, who is necessarily recalled to our notice, when we want to personify an ill-educated young man, was, in the strictest sense of the word, a school-boy — a clever school-boy — a good scholar — a good historian: he wrote a good hand — read with fluency — declaimed at a public exhibition of Westminster orators with no bad grace and emphasis, and had always extempore words, if not extempore sense, at command. But still he was but a school-boy. His father thought him a man, and more than a man. Alderman Holloway prophesied to his friends that his son Augustus would be one of the first orators in England. He was in a hurry to have him ready to enter college, and had a borough secure for him at the proper age. The proper age, he regretted, that parliament had fixed to twenty-one; for the alderman was impatient to introduce his young statesman to the house, especially as he saw honours, perhaps a title, in the distant perspective of his son’s advancement.
Whilst this vision occupied the father’s imagination, a vision of another sort played upon the juvenile fancy of his son — a vision of a gig; for, though Augustus was but a school-boy, he had very manly ideas — if those ideas be manly which most young men have. Lord Rawson, the son of the Earl of Marryborough, had lately appeared to Augustus in a gig. The young Lord Rawson had lately been a school-boy at Westminster like Augustus: he was now master of himself and three horses at College. Alderman Holloway had lent the Earl of Marryborough certain monies, the interest of which the earl scrupulously paid in civility. The alderman valued himself upon being a shrewd man; he looked to one of the earl’s boroughs as a security for his principal, and, from long-sighted political motives, encouraged an intimacy between the young nobleman and his son. It was one of those useful friendships, one of those fortunate connexions, which some parents consider as the peculiar advantage of a public school. Lord Rawson’s example already powerfully operated upon his young friend’s mind, and this intimacy was most likely to have a decisive influence upon the future destiny of Augustus. Augustus was the son of an alderman. Lord Rawson was two years older than Holloway — had left school — had been at college — had driven both a curricle and a barouche, and had gone through all the gradations of coachmanship — was a man, and had seen the world. How many things to excite the ambition of a schoolboy! Augustus was impatient for the moment when he might “be what he admired.” The drudgery of Westminster, the confinement, the ignominious appellation of a boy, were all insupportable to this young man. He had obtained from his father a promise, that he should leave school in a few months; but these months appeared to him an age. It was rather a misfortune to Holloway that he was so far advanced in his Latin and Greek studies, for he had the less to do at school; his school business quickly despatched, his time hung upon his hands. He never thought of literature as an amusement for his leisure hours; he had no idea of improving himself further in general science and knowledge. He was told that his education was nearly at an end; he believed it was quite finished, and he was glad of it, and glad it was so well over. In the idle time that hung upon his hands, during this intermediate state at Westminster, he heartily regretted that he could not commence his manly career by learning to drive— to drive a curricle. Lord Rawson had carried him down to the country, the last summer vacation, in his dog-cart, driven randem-tandem. The reins had touched his fingers. The whip had been committed to his hand, and he longed for a repetition of these pleasures. From the windows of the house in Westminster, where he boarded, Holloway at every idle moment lolled, to enjoy a view of every carriage, and of every coachman that passed.
Mr. Supine, Mr. Holloway’s tutor, used, at these leisure moments, to employ himself with practising upon the German flute, and was not sorry to be relieved from his pupil’s conversation. Sometimes it was provoking to the amateur in music to be interrupted by the exclamations of his pupil; but he kept his eyes steadily upon his music-book, and contented himself with recommending a difficult passage, when Mr. Holloway’s raptures about horses, and coachmanship, and driving well in hand, offended his musical ear. Mr. Supine was, both from nature and fashion, indolent; the trouble of reproving or of guiding his pupil was too much for him; besides, he was sensible that the task of watching, contradicting, and thwarting a young gentleman, at Mr. Holloway’s time of life, would have been productive of the most disagreeable scenes of altercation, and could possibly have no effect upon the gentleman’s character, which he presumed was perfectly well formed at this time. Mr. and Mrs. Holloway were well satisfied with his improvements. Mr. Supine was on the best terms imaginable with the whole family, and thought it his business to keep himself well with his pupil; especially as he had some secret hope that, through Mr. Holloway’s interest with Lord Rawson, and through Lord Rawson’s influence with a young nobleman, who was just going abroad, he might be invited as a travelling companion in a tour upon the continent. His taste for music and painting had almost raised him to the rank of a connoisseur: an amateur he modestly professed himself, and he was frequently stretched, in elegant ease, upon a sofa, already in reverie in Italy, whilst his pupil was conversing out of the window, in no very elegant dialect, with the driver of a stagecoach in the neighbourhood. Young Holloway was almost as familiar with this coachman as with his father’s groom, who, during his visits at home, supplied the place of Mr. Supine, in advancing his education. The stage-coachman so effectually wrought upon the ambition of Augustus, that his desire to learn to drive became uncontrollable. The coachman, partly by entreaties, and partly by the mute eloquence of a crown, was prevailed upon to promise, that, if Holloway could manage it without his tutor’s knowledge, he should ascend to the honours of the box, and at least have the satisfaction of seeing some good driving.
Mr. Supine was soon invited to a private concert, at which Mrs. Holloway was expected, and at which her daughter, Miss Angelina Holloway, was engaged to perform. Mr. Supine’s judicious applause of this young lady’s execution was one of his greatest recommendations to the whole family, at least to the female part of it; he could not, therefore, decline an invitation to this concert. Holloway complained of a sore throat, and desired to be excused from accompanying his tutor, adding, with his usual politeness, that “music was the greatest bore in nature, and especially Angelina’s music.” For the night of the concert Holloway had arranged his plan with the stage-coachman. Mr. Supine dressed, and then practised upon the German flute, till towards nine o’clock in the evening. Holloway heard the stage-coach rattling through the street, whilst his tutor was yet in the middle of a long concerto: the coachman was to stop at the public-house, about ten doors off, to take up parcels and passengers, and there he was to wait for Holloway; but he had given him notice that he could not wait many minutes.
“You may practise the rest without book, in the chair, as you are going to —— street, quite at your ease, Mr. Supine,” said Holloway to his tutor.
“Faith, so I can, and I’ll adopt your idea, for it’s quite a novel thing, and may take, if the fellows will only carry one steady. Good night: I’ll mention your sore throat properly to Mrs. Holloway.”
No sooner were the tutor and his German flute safely raised upon the chairmen’s shoulders, than his pupil recovered from his sore throat, ran down to the place where the stage was waiting, seized the stage-coachman’s down-stretched hand, sprang up, and seated himself triumphantly upon the coach-box.
“Never saw a cleverer fellow,” said the coachman: “now we are off.”
“Give me the reins, then,” said Holloway.
“Not till we are out o’town,” said the coachman: “when we get off the stones, we’ll see a little of your driving.”
When they got on the turnpike road, Holloway impatiently seized the reins, and was as much gratified by this coachman’s praises of his driving as ever he had been by the applauses he had received for his Latin verses. A taste for vulgar praise is the most dangerous taste a young man can have; it not only leads him into vulgar company, but it puts him entirely in the power of his companions, whoever they may happen to be. Augustus Holloway, seated beside a coachman, became, to all intents and purposes, a coachman himself; he caught, and gloried in catching, all his companion’s slang, and with his language caught all his ideas. The coachman talked with rapture of some young gentleman’s horses which he had lately seen; and said that, if he was a gentleman, there was nothing he should pride himself so much upon as his horses. Holloway, as he was a gentleman, determined to have the finest horses that could be had for money, as soon as he should become his own master.
“And then,” continued the coachman, “if I was a gentleman born, I’d never be shabby in the matters of wages and perquisites to them that be to look after my horses, seeing that horses can’t be properly looked after for nothing.”
“Certainly not,” agreed the young gentleman:—“my friend, lord Rawson, I know, has a prodigious smart groom, and so will I, all in good time.”
“To be sure,” said the coachman; “but it was not in regard to grooms I was meaning, so much as in regard to a coachman, which, I take it, is one of the first persons to be considered in a really grand family, seeing how great a trust is placed in him —(mind, sir, if you please, the turn at the corner, it’s rather sharp)— seeing how great a trust is placed in him, as I was observing, a good coachman is worth his weight in gold.”
Holloway had not leisure to weigh the solidity of this observation, for the conversation was now interrupted by the sound of a postchaise, which drove rapidly by.
“The job and four!” exclaimed the coachman, with as many oaths “as the occasion required.”
“Why did you let it pass us?” And with enthusiasm which forgot all ceremony, he snatched the whip from his young companion, and, seizing the reins, drove at a furious rate. One of the chaise postilions luckily dropped his whip. They passed the job and four; and the coachman, having redeemed his honour, resigned once more the reins to Holloway, upon his promising not to let the job and four get a head of them. The postilions were not without ambition: the men called to each other, and to their horses; the horses caught some portion of their masters’ spirit, and began to gain upon the coach. The passengers in the coach put out their heads, and female voices screamed in vain. All these terrors increased the sport; till at length, at a narrow part of the road, the rival coachman and postilions hazarded every thing for precedency. Holloway was desperate in proportion to his ignorance. The coachman attempted to snatch the reins, but, missing his grasp, he shortened those of the off-hand horse, and drew them the wrong way: the coach ran upon a bank, and was overturned. Holloway was dismayed and silent; the coachman poured forth a torrent of abuse, sparing neither friend nor foe; the complaints of the female passengers were so incoherent, and their fears operated so much upon their imagination, that in the first moments of confusion, each asserted that she had broken either an arm or a leg, or fractured her skull.
The moon, which had shone bright in the beginning of the evening, was now under a cloud, and the darkness increased the impatience of the various complainers; at length a lantern was brought from the turnpike-house, which was near the spot where the accident happened. As soon as the light came, the ladies looked at each other, and after they had satisfied themselves that no material injury had been done to their clothes, and that their faces were in no way disfigured, they began to recover from their terrors, and were brought to allow that all their limbs were in good preservation, and that they had been too hasty in declaring that their skulls were fractured. Holloway laughed loudly at all this, and joined in all the wit of the coachman upon the occasion. The coach was lifted up; the passengers got in; the coachman and Holloway mounted the box, when, just as they were setting off, the coachman heard a voice crying to him to stop. He listened, and the voice, which seemed to be that of a person in great pain, again called for assistance.
“It’s the mulatto woman,” said the coachman: “we forgot her in the bustle. Lend me hold of the lantern, and stand at the horses’ heads, whilst I see after her,” added the coachman, addressing himself to the man who had come from the turnpike-house.
“I shan’t stir for a mulatto, I promise you,” said Holloway, brutally: “she was on the top of the coach, wasn’t she? She must have had a fine hoist!”
The poor woman was found to be much hurt: she had been thrown from the top of the coach into a ditch, which had stones at the bottom of it. She had not been able to make herself heard by any body, whilst the ladies’ loud complaints continued; nor had she been able long to call for any assistance, for she had been stunned by her fall, and had not recovered her senses for many minutes. She was not able to stand; but when the coachman held her up, she put her hand to her head, and, in broken English, said she felt too ill to travel farther that night.
“You shall have an inside place, if you’ll pluck up your heart; and you’ll find yourself better with the motion of the coach.”
“What, is she hurt — the mulatto woman? — I say, coachy, make haste,” cried Holloway; “I want to be off.”
“So do I,” said the coachman; “but we are not likely to be off yet: here’s this here poor woman can’t stand, and is all over bruises, and won’t get into the inside of the coach, though I offered her a place.”
Holloway, who imagined that the sufferings of all who were not so rich as himself could be bought off for money, pulled out a handful of silver, and leaning from the coach-box, held it towards the fainting woman:—“Here’s a shilling for every bruise at least, my good woman:"— but the woman did not hear him, for she was very faint. The coachman was forced to carry her to the turnpike-house, where he left her, telling the people of the house that a return chaise would call for her in an hour’s time, and would carry her either to the next stage, or back to town, whichever she pleased. Holloway’s diversion for the rest of the night was spoiled, not because he had too much sympathy with the poor woman that was hurt, but because he had been delayed so long by the accident, that he lost the pleasure of driving into the town of ——. He had intended to have gone the whole stage, and to have returned in the job and four. This scheme had been arranged before he set out by his friend the coachman; but the postilions in the job and four having won the race, and made the best of their way, had now returned, and met the coach about two miles from the turnpike-house. “So,” said Holloway, “I must descend, and get home before Mr. Supine wakens from his first sleep.”
Holloway called at the turnpike-house, to inquire after the mulatto; or, rather, one of the postilions stopped as he had been desired by the coachman, to take her up to town, if she was able to go that night.
The postilion, after he had spoken to the woman, came to the chaise-door, and told Holloway “that he could hardly understand what she said, she talked such outlandish English; and that he could not make out where she wanted to be carried to.”
“Ask the name of some of her friends in town,” cried Holloway, “and don’t let her keep us here all night.”
“She has no friends, as I can find,” replied the postilion, “nor acquaintance neither.”
“Well, whom does she belong to, then?”
“She belongs to nobody — she’s quite a stranger in these parts, and doesn’t know no more than a child where to go in all London; she only knows the Christian name of an old gardener, where she lodged, she says.”
“What would she have us to do with her, then?” said Holloway. “Drive on, for I shall be late.”
The postilion, more humane than Holloway, exclaimed, “No, master, no! — it’s a sin to leave her upon the road this ways, though she’s no Christian, as we are, poor copper-coloured soul! I was once a stranger myself in Lon’on, without a six-pence to bless myself; so I know what it is, master.”
The good-natured postilion returned to the mulatto woman. “Mistress,” said he, “I’d fain see ye safe home, if you could but think of the t’other name of that gardener that you mentioned lodging with; because there be so many Pauls in London town, that I should never find your Paul, as you don’t know neither the name of his street — But I’ll tell ye now all the streets I’m acquainted with, and that’s a many: do you stop me, mistress, when I come to the right; for you’re sadly bruised, and I won’t see ye left this ways on the road.”
He then named several streets: the mulatto woman stopped him at one name, which she recollected to be the name of the street in which the gardener lived. The woman at the turnpike-house, as soon as she heard the street in which he lived named, said she knew this gardener; that he had a large garden about a mile off, and that he came from London early almost every morning with his cart, for garden-stuff for the market: she advised the mulatto woman to stay where she was that night, and to send to ask the gardener to come on to the turnpike-house for her in the morning. The postilion promised to go to the gardener’s “by the first break of day.” The woman raised her head to bless him; and the impatient Holloway loudly called to him to return to his horses, swearing that he would not give him one farthing for himself if he did not.
The anxiety which Holloway felt to escape detection kept him in pain; but Holloway never measured or estimated his pleasures and his pains; therefore he never discovered that, even upon the most selfish calculation, he had paid too dear for the pleasure of sitting upon a coach-box for one hour.
It was two o’clock in the morning before the chaise arrived in town, when he was set down at the house at which the stage-coach put up, walked home, got in at his bedchamber window — his bedchamber was upon the ground-floor. Mr. Supine was fast asleep, and his pupil triumphed in his successful frolic. Whilst Holloway, in his dreams, was driving again, and again overturning stage-coaches, young Howard, in his less manly dreams, saw Dr. B., the head master of Westminster school, advancing towards him, at a public examination, with a prize medal in his hand, which turned, Howard thought, as he looked upon it, first into the face of his aunt, smiling upon him; then into a striking likeness of his tutor, Mr. Russell, who also smiled upon him; and then changed into the head of little Oliver, whose eyes seemed to sparkle with joy. Just at the instant, Howard awoke, and, opening his eyes, saw Oliver’s face close to him, laughing heartily.
“Why,” exclaimed Oliver, “you seized my head with both your hands when I came to waken you: what could you be dreaming of, Charles?”
“I dreamed I took you for a medal, and I was right glad to have hold of you,” said Howard, laughing; “but I shall not get my medal by dreaming about it. What o’clock is it? I shall be ready in half a second.”
“Ay,” said Oliver, “I wont tell you what o’clock it is till you’re dressed: make haste; I have been up this half hour, and I’ve got every thing ready, and I’ve carried the little table, and all your books, and the pen and ink, and all the things, out to our seat; and the sun shines upon it, and every thing looks cheerful, and you’ll have a full hour to work, for it’s only half after five.”
At the back of Mrs. Howard’s house there was a little garden; at the end of the garden was a sort of root-house, which Oliver had cleaned out, and which he dignified by the title of the seat. There were some pots of geraniums and myrtles kept in it, with Mrs. Howard’s permission, by a gardener, who lived next door to her, and who frequently came to work in her garden. Oliver watered the geraniums, and picked off the dead leaves, whilst Howard was writing at the little table which had been prepared for him. Howard had at this time two grand works in hand, on which he was enthusiastically intent: he was translating the little French book which the traveller had given to him; and he was writing an essay for a prize. The young gentlemen at Westminster were engaged in writing essays for a periodical paper; and Dr. B. had promised to give a prize medal as the reward for that essay, which he, and a jury of critics, to be chosen from among the boys themselves, should pronounce to be the best composition.
“I won’t talk to you, I won’t interrupt you,” said Oliver to Howard; “but only answer me one question: what is your essay about?”
Howard put his finger upon his lips, and shook his head.
“I assure you I did not look, though I longed to peep at it this morning before you were up. Pray, Charles, do you think I shall ever be able to write essays?”
“To be sure,” said Howard; “why not?”
“Ah,” said Oliver, with a sigh, “because I’ve no genius, you know.”
“But,” said Howard, “have not you found out that you could do a great many things that you thought you could not do?”
“Ay, thank you for that: but then you know, those are the sort of things which can be done without genius.”
“And what are the things,” replied Howard, “which cannot be done without genius?”
“Oh, a great, great many, I believe,” said Oliver: “you know Holloway said so.”
“But we are not forced to believe it, because Holloway said so, are we? Besides, a great many things may mean any thing, buckling your shoes, or putting on your hat, for instance.”
Oliver laughed at this, and said, “These, to be sure, are not the sort of things that can’t be done without genius.”
“What are the sort of things?” repeated Howard. “Let us, now I’ve the pen in my hand, make a list of them.”
“Take a longer bit of paper.”
“No, no, the list will not be so very long as you think it will. What shall I put first? — make haste, for I’m in a hurry.”
“Well — writing, then — writing, I am sure, requires genius.”
“Because I never could write, and I’ve often tried and tried to write something, but I never could; because I’ve no genius for it.”
“What did you try to write?” said Howard.
“Why, letters,” said Oliver: “my uncle, and my aunt, and my two cousins, desired I would write to them regularly once a fortnight; but I never can make out a letter, and I’m always sorry when letter-writing day comes; and if I sit thinking and thinking for ever so long I can find nothing to say. I used always to beg a beginning from somebody; but then, when I’ve got over the beginning, that’s only three or four lines; and if I stretch it out ever so much, it won’t make a whole letter; and what can I put in the middle? There’s nothing but that I am well, and hope they are all well; or else, that I am learning Latin, as you desired, dear uncle, and am forward in my English. The end I can manage well enough, because there’s duty and love to send to every body; and about the post is just going out, and believe me to be, in haste, your dutiful and affectionate nephew. But then,” continued little Oliver, “this is all nonsense, I know, and I’m ashamed to write such bad letters. Now your pen goes on, scratch, scratch, scratch, the moment you sit down to it; and you can write three pages of a nice, long, good letter, whilst I am writing ‘My dear uncle John,’ and that’s what I call having a genius for writing. I wonder how you came by it: could you write good letters when you were of my age?”
“I never wrote any letters at your age,” said Howard.
“Oh, how happy you must have been! But then, if you never learned, how comes it that you can write them now? How can you always find something to say?”
“I never write but when I have something to say; and you know, when you had something to say last post about Easter holidays, your pen, Oliver, went scratch, scratch, scratch, as fast as any body’s.”
“So it did,” cried Oliver; “but then the thing is, I’m forced to write when I’ve nothing about the holidays to say.”
“Yes, because I’m afraid my uncle and cousins should be angry if I didn’t write.”
“I’m sure I’m much obliged,” said Howard, “to my dear aunt, who never forced me to write: she always said, ‘Never write, Charles, but when you like it;’ and I never did. When I had any thing to say, that is, any thing to describe, or any reasons to give upon any subject, or any questions to ask, which I very much wished to have answered, then, you know, I could easily write, because I had nothing to do but to write down just the words which I should have said, if I had been speaking.”
“But I thought writing was quite a different thing from speaking, because, in writing, there must be sentences, and long sentences, and fine sentences, such as there are in books.”
“In some books,” said Howard; “but not in all.”
“Besides,” continued Oliver, “one person’s speaking is quite different from another person’s speaking. Now I believe I make use of a great number of odd words, and vulgar expressions, and bad English, which I learned from being with the servants, I believe, at home. You have never talked to servants, Charles, I dare say, for you have not one of their words.”
“No,” said Charles, “never; and my aunt took a great deal of pains to prevent me from hearing any of their conversation; therefore it was impossible that I should catch —”
Here the conversation was interrupted by the appearance of old Paul, the gardener.
“So, Paul,” cried little Oliver, “I’ve been doing your work for you this morning; I’ve watered all the geraniums, and put the Indian corn in the sun; what kept you so late in your bed this fine morning, Paul? — fie, Paul!”
“You would not say fie, master,” replied Paul, “if you knew how early I had been out of my bed, this morning: I was abroad afore sunrise, so I was, master.”
“And why didn’t you come to work then, Paul? You shall not have the watering-pot till you tell me: don’t look so grave about it; you know you must smile when I please, Paul.”
“I can’t smile, just now, master,” said old Paul; but he smiled, and then told Oliver, that “the reason he could not smile was, that he was a little sick at heart, with just coming from the sight of a poor soul who had been sadly bruised by a fall from the top of the stage, which was overturned last night. She was left all night at the pike, and as she had no other friends, she sent for me by a return chay-boy, and I went for her, and brought her home in my covered cart, to my good woman, which she liked, with good reason, better ten to one than the stage. And she’s terribly black and blue, and does not seem quite right in her head, to my fancy.”
“I wish we could do something for her,” said Howard. “As soon as Mr. Russell is up, I’ll ask him to go with us to see her. We will call as we go by to school this morning.”
“But, master,” said the gardener, “I should warn ye beforehand, that mayhap you mayn’t pity her so much, for she’s rather past her best days; and bad must have been her best, for she’s swarthy, and not like one of this country: she comes from over the seas, and they call her a — a — not quite a negro.”
“A mulatto! — I like her the better,” cried Oliver; “for my nurse was a mulatto. I’ll go and waken Mr. Russell this instant, for I’m sure he’ll not be angry.” He ran away to Mr. Russell, who was not angry at being awakened, but dressed himself almost as expeditiously as Oliver wished, and set out immediately with his pupils, delighted to be the companion of their benevolent schemes, instead of being the object of their fear and hatred. Tutors may inspire affection, even though they have the misfortune to be obliged to teach Greek and Latin.18
When the boys arrived at the gardener’s, they found the poor mulatto woman lying upon a bed, in a small close room, which was so full of smoke, when they came in, that they could hardly breathe: the little window, that let in but a glimmering light, could not, without difficulty, be opened. The poor woman made but few complaints; she appeared to be most concerned at the thoughts of being a burden to the good old gardener and his wife. She said that she had not been long in England; that she came to London in hopes of finding a family who had been very kind to her in her youth; but that, after inquiry at the house where they formerly lived, she could hear nothing of them. After a great deal of trouble, she discovered that a West India gentleman, who had known her abroad, was now at Bath; but she had spent the last farthing of her money, and she was, therefore, unable to undertake the journey. She had brought over with her, she said, some foreign seeds of flowers, which her young mistress used to be fond of when she was a child, which she had kept till hunger obliged her to offer them to a gardener for a loaf of bread. The gardener to whom she offered them was old Paul, who took compassion upon her distress, lodged her for a week, and at last paid for an outside place for her upon the Bath coach. There was such an air of truth and simplicity in this woman, that Mr. Russell, more experienced than his pupils, believed her story, at once, as implicitly as they did. “Oh,” exclaimed little Oliver, “I have but this half-crown for her: I wish Holloway had but paid me my half-guinea; I’ll ask him for it again to-day; and will you come with us here again, this evening, Mr. Russell, that I may bring it then?”
Mr. Russell and Howard hired the room for a fortnight in which the mulatto woman was now lying, and paid old Paul, the gardener, for it, promising, at the same time, to supply her with food. The gardener’s wife, at the poor woman’s earnest request, promised that, as soon as she was able to sit up, she would get her some coarse plain work to do.
“But,” said Oliver, “how can she see to work in this smoke? I’m sure it makes my eyes water so that I can hardly bear it, though I have been in it scarcely ten minutes.”
“I wish,” exclaimed Howard, turning to Mr. Russell, “that this chimney could be cured of smoking.”
“Oh, well-a-day,” said the gardener, “we must put up with it as it is, for I’ve had doctors to it, at one time or another, that have cost me a power of money; but, after all, it’s as bad as ever, and my good dame never lights a fire in it this fine spring weather; howsomever, she (pointing to the mulatto woman) is so chilly, coming from a country that, by all accounts, is a hot-house, compared with ours, that she can’t sleep o’ nights, or live o’ days without a small matter of fire, which she’s welcome to, though, you see, it almost fills the house with smoke.”
Howard, during the gardener’s speech, had been trying to recollect where it was that he had lately seen some essay upon smoky chimneys; and he suddenly exclaimed, “It was in Dr. Franklin’s works — was it not, Mr, Russell?”
“What?” said Mr. Russell, smiling.
“That essay upon smoky chimneys which I said I would skip over, the other day, because I had nothing to do with it, and I thought I should not understand. Don’t you remember telling me, sir, that I had better not skip it, because it might, some time or other, be useful to me? I wish I could get the book now; I would take pains to understand it, because, perhaps, I might find out how this poor man’s chimney might be cured of smoking. As for his window, I know how that can be easily mended, because I once watched a man who was hanging some windows for my aunt — I’ll get some sash line.”
“Do you recollect what o’clock it is, my good friend?” said Mr. Russell, holding out his watch to Howard. “We cannot wait till you are perfect master of the theory of smoky chimneys, and the practice of hanging windows; it is time that we should be gone.” Mr. Russell spoke this with an air of raillery, as he usually did, when he was particularly pleased.
As they were going away, Oliver earnestly repeated his request, that Mr. Russell would come again in the evening, that he might have an opportunity of giving the poor woman his half-guinea. Mr. Russell promised him that he would; but he at the same time added, “All charity, my dear Oliver, does not consist in giving money: it is easy for a man to put his hand in his pocket, and take out a few shillings, to give any person in distress.”
“I wish,” said Oliver, “I was able to do more! what can I do? I’ll think of something. Howard, will you think of something that I can do? But I must see about my Latin lesson first, for I had not time to look it over this morning, before I came out.”
When they got back, the business of the day, for some hours, suspended all thoughts of the mulatto woman; but, in the first interval of leisure, Oliver went in search of Mr. Holloway, to ask for his half-guinea. Holloway had a crowd of his companions round him, whom he seemed to be entertaining with some very diverting story, for they were laughing violently when little Oliver first came up to them; but they no sooner perceived him than all their merriment suddenly ceased. Holloway first lowered his voice into a whisper, and then observing that Oliver still stood his ground, he asked him, in his usual peremptory tone, what might be his business? Oliver drew him aside, and asked him to pay him the half-guinea. “The half-guinea?” repeated Holloway: “man, you talk of the half-guinea as if there was but one half-guinea in the world: you shall have the half-guinea, for I hate to be dunned — Stay, I believe I have no half-a-guinea about me: you can’t give me two half-guineas for a guinea, can ye?”
“Well, then, you must wait till I can get change.”
“Must I wait? but I really want it for a particular reason, this evening: I wish you could give it me now — you know you promised; but I don’t like putting people in mind of their promises, and I would not ask you about the money, only that I really want it.”
“Want it! — nonsense: what can you want money for, such a little chap as you? I’ll lay you any wager, your particular reason, if the truth was told, is, that you can’t resist the tart-woman.”
“I can resist the tart-woman,” cried Oliver proudly; “I have a much better use for my money: but I don’t want to boast, neither; only, Holloway, do give me the half-guinea: shall I run and ask somebody to give you two half-guineas for a guinea?”
“No, no, I’ll not be dunned into paying you. If you had not asked me for it, I should have given it you to-night: but since you could not trust to my honour, you’ll please to wait till to-morrow morning.”
“But I did trust to your honour for a whole month.”
“A month! — a great while, indeed; then trust to it a day longer; and if you ask me for the money to-morrow, you shan’t have it till the next day. I’ll teach you not to be such a little dun: nobody, that has any spirit, can bear to be dunned, particularly for such small sums. I thought you had been above such meanness, or, I promise you, I should never have borrowed your half-guinea,” added Holloway; and he left his unfortunate creditor to reflect upon the new ideas of meanness and spirit, which had been thus artfully thrown out.
Oliver was roused from his reflections by his friend Howard. “Mr. Russell is ready to go with us to the gardener’s again,” said Howard: “have you a mind to come?”
“A great mind; but I am ashamed, for I’ve not got my half-guinea which I lent.” Here his newly acquired fear of meanness checked Oliver, and without complaining of his creditor’s want of punctuality, he added, “but I should like to see the poor woman though, for all that.”
They set out, but stopped in their way at a bookseller’s, where Howard inquired for that essay of Dr. Franklin on smoky chimneys, which he was impatient to see. This bookseller was well acquainted with Mr. Russell. Howard had promised to give the bookseller the translation of the little French book which we formerly mentioned; and the bookseller, on his part, was very obliging in furnishing Howard with any books he wanted.
Howard was deep in the essay on smoky chimneys, and examining the references in the print belonging to it, whilst Mr. Russell was looking over the prints in the Encyclopedia, with little Oliver. They were all so intent upon what they were about, that they did not perceive the entrance of Holloway and Mr. Supine. Mr. Supine called in merely to see what Mr. Russell could be looking at, with so much appearance of interest. The indolent are always curious, though they will not always exert themselves, even to gratify their curiosity.
“Only the Encyclopaedia prints,” said Supine, looking over Mr. Russell’s shoulder: “I thought you had got something new.”
“Only smoky chimneys,” exclaimed Holloway, looking over Howard’s shoulder: “what upon earth, Howard, can you find so entertaining in smoky chimneys? Are you turned chimney-doctor, or chimney-sweeper? This will be an excellent thing for Lord Rawson, won’t it, Mr. Supine? We’ll tell it to him on Thursday; it will be a good joke for us, for half the day. Pray, doctor Charles Howard,” continued the wit, with mock solemnity, “do you go up the chimneys yourself?”
Howard took this raillery with so much good-humour, that Holloway looked quite disappointed; and Mr. Supine, in a careless tone, cried, “I take it, reading such things as these will scarcely improve your style, sir — will they, think ye, Mr. Russell?”
“I am not sure,” replied Mr. Russell, “that Mr. Howard’s first object in reading is to improve his style; but,” added he, turning to the title-page, and pointing to Franklin’s name, “you, perhaps, did not know —”
“Oh, Dr. Franklin’s works,” interrupted Supine: “I did not see the name before — to be sure I must bow down to that.”
Having thus easily satisfied Mr. Supine’s critical scruples by the authority of a name, Mr. Russell rose to depart, as he perceived that there was no chance of getting rid of the idlers.
“What are you going to do with yourself, Russell?” said Mr. Supine; “we’ll walk with you, if you are for walking, this fine evening; only don’t let’s walk like penny postmen.”
“But he’s in a hurry,” said Oliver; “he’s going to see a poor woman.”
“A poor woman!” said Supine; “down this close lane too!”
“Oh, let’s see all that’s to be seen,” whispered Holloway; “ten to one we shall get some diversion out of it: Russell’s a quiz worth studying, and Howard’s his ditto.”
They came to the gardener’s house. Holloway’s high spirits suddenly subsided when he beheld the figure of the mulatto woman.
“What’s the matter?” said Oliver, observing that he started; “why did you start so?”
“Tell Howard I want to speak one word with him, this instant, in the street; bid him come out to me,” whispered Holloway; and he hastily retreated before the poor woman saw his face.
“Howard,” cried Holloway, “I sent for you to tell you a great secret.”
“I’m sorry for it,” said Charles; “for I hate secrets.”
“But you can keep a secret, man, can’t you?”
“If it were necessary, I hope I could; but I’d rather not hear —”
“Pooh, nonsense,” interrupted Holloway, “you must hear it; I’ll trust to your honour; and, besides, I have not a moment to stand shilly shally: I’ve got a promise from my father to let me go down, this Easter, with Lord Rawson, to Marryborough, in his dog-cart, randem-tandem, you know.”
“I did not know it, indeed,” said Charles; “but what then?”
“Why, then, you see, I must be upon my good behaviour; and you would not do such an ill-natured trick as to betray me?”
“Betray you! I don’t know what you mean,” said Howard, astonished.
Holloway now briefly told him his stage-coach adventure, and concluded by saying, he was afraid that the mulatto woman should recollect either his face or voice, and should blow him.
“And what,” said Howard, shocked at the selfishness which Holloway showed —“and what do you want me to do? why do you tell me all this?”
“Because,” said Holloway, “I thought if you heard what the woman said, when she saw me, you would have got it all out of her to be sure; therefore I thought it best to trust you with my secret, and so put you upon honour with me. All I ask of you is, to hold your tongue about my — my — my — frolic, and just make some excuse for my not going into the room again where the mulatto woman is: you may tell Supine, if he asks what’s become of me, that I’m gone to the music-shop, to get some new music for him: that will keep him quiet. Good by.”
When Howard returned to the room where the mulatto woman lay, he expected to be questioned by Mr. Supine about Holloway’s sudden departure; but this gentleman was not in the habit of paying great attention to his pupil’s motions. He took it for granted that Holloway had escaped, because he did not wish to be called upon for a charitable subscription. From the same fear, Mr. Supine affected unusual absence of mind whilst Mr. Russell talked to the mulatto woman, and at length, professing himself unable to endure any longer the smell of smoke, he pushed his way into the street. “Mr. Holloway, I suppose,” said he, “has taken himself home, very wisely, and I shall follow him: we make it a rule, I think, to miss one another; but to keep a young man in leading-strings would be a great bore. We’re upon the best footing in the world together: as to the rest —”
New difficulties awaited Holloway. He got home some time before Mr. Supine, and found his friend, the stage-coachman, waiting for him with a rueful face.
“Master,” said he, “here’s a sad job: there was a parcel lost last night, in the confusion of the overturn of the coach; and I must make it good; for it’s booked, and it’s booked to the value of five guineas, for it was a gold muslin gown that a lady was very particular about; and, master, I won’t peach if you’ll pay: but as for losing my place, or making up five guineas afore Saturday, it’s what I can’t take upon me to do.”
Holloway was much dismayed at this news; he now began to think he should pay too dear for his frolic. The coachman persisted in his demand. Mr. Supine appeared at the corner of the street; and his pupil was forced to get rid immediately of the coachman, by a promise, that the money should be ready on Saturday. When Holloway made this promise, he was not master of two guineas in the world; how to procure the whole sum was now the question. Alderman Holloway, with the hope of exciting in his son’s mind a love for literature, made it a practice to reward him with solid gold, whenever he brought home any certificate of his scholarship. Holloway had lately received five guineas from his father, for an approved copy of Latin verses; and the alderman had promised to give him five guineas more if he brought home the medal which was to be the reward for the best essay in the periodical paper, which the Westminster boys were now writing. Holloway, though he could write elegant Latin verses, had not any great facility in English composition; he, consequently, according to the usual practice of little minds, undervalued a talent which he did not possess. He had ridiculed the scheme of writing an English essay, and had loudly declared, that he did not think it worth his while to write English. His opinion was, however, somewhat changed by his father’s promised reward; and the stage-coachman’s impatience for his money now impelled Holloway to exertion. He began to write his essay late on Friday evening — the medal was to be given on Saturday morning — so that there could not be much time for revisal and corrections. Corrections he affected to disdain, and piqued himself upon the rapidity with which he wrote. “Howard,” said he, when they met to deliver in their compositions, “you have been three weeks writing your essay; I ran mine off in three hours and a quarter.”
Mr. Holloway had not considered, that what is written with ease is not always read with ease. His essay was written with such a careless superfluity of words, and such a lack of ideas appeared in the performance, that the judges unanimously threw it aside, as unworthy of their notice. “Gentlemen,” cried Dr. B., coming forward among the anxious crowd of expectants, “which of you owns this motto? —
“‘Hear it, ye Senates, hear this truth sublime,
He who allows oppression shares the crime19.’”
“It’s his! — it’s his! — it’s his!” exclaimed little Oliver, clapping his hands —“it’s Howard’s, sir.”
Dr. B., pleased with this grateful little boy’s honest joy, put the medal into his hands, without speaking, and Oliver ran with it to his friend. “Only,” said he, “only let me be by, when you show it to your aunt.”
How much the pleasure of success is increased by the sympathy of our friends! The triumph of a school-boy over his competitors is sometimes despicable; but Howard’s joy was not of this selfish and puerile sort. All the good passions had stimulated him to exertion, and he was rewarded by his own generous feelings. He would not have exchanged the delight which he saw in his little friend Oliver’s face, the approving smile of his aunt, and the proud satisfaction Mr. Russell expressed at the sight of his medal, for all the solid gold which Alderman Holloway deemed the highest reward of literature.
Alderman Holloway was filled with indignation when he heard from Mr. Supine that his son’s essay had been rejected with contempt. The young gentleman was also much surprised at the decision of the judges; and his tutor, by way of pleasing his pupil’s friends, hesitated not to hint, that there “certainly was great injustice done to Mr. Augustus Holloway’s talents.” The subject was canvassed at a turtle dinner at the alderman’s. “There shall not be injustice done to my Augustus,” said the irritated father, wisely encouraging his Augustus in all his mean feelings. “Never mind ’em all, my boy; you have a father, you may thank Heaven, who can judge for himself, and will: you shall not be the loser by Dr. B.‘s or doctor any body’s injustice; I’ll make it up to you, my boy; in the meantime, join us in a bumper of port. Here’s to Dr. B.‘s better judgment; wishing him health and happiness these Easter holidays, and a new pair of spectacles — hey, Mr. Supine?”
This well-chosen toast was drunk with much applause and laughter by the company. The alderman insisted upon having his Augustus’s essay produced in the evening. Holloway had now ample satisfaction, for the whole company were unanimous in their plaudits, after Mr. Supine had read two or three sentences: the alderman, to confirm his own critical judgment, drew out his purse, and counting out ten bright guineas, presented them, with a look of high self-satisfaction, to his son. “Here, Augustus, my boy,” said he; “I promised you five guineas if you brought me home the prize medal; but I now present you with ten, to make you the amends you so richly deserve, for not having got their medal. Thank God, I am able to afford it; and I hope,” added the alderman, looking round, and laughing, “I hope I’m as good a patron of the belles lettres as the head doctor of Westminster himself.”
Holloway’s eyes sparkled with joy at the sight of the glittering bribe. He began some speech in reply, in which he compared his father to Maecenas; but being entangled in a sentence, in which the nominative case had been too long separated from the verb, he was compelled to pause abruptly. Nevertheless, the alderman rubbed his hands with exultation; and “Hear him! hear him! — hear your member!” was vociferated by all the friends of the young orator. “Well, really,” concluded his mother to the ladies, who were complimenting her upon her son’s performance, “it was not a bad speech, considering he had nothing to say!”
Lord Rawson, who was one of the company, now congratulated his friend in a whisper —“You’ve made a good job of it to-day, Augustus,” said he: “solid pudding’s better than empty praise. We’re going,” continued his lordship to the alderman, “to try my new horses this evening;” and he pulled Augustus with him out of the room.
“There they go,” said the prudent father, delighted with his own son’s being the chosen friend of a nobleman —“there they go, arm in arm, a couple of rare ones: we shall have fine work with them, I foresee, when Augustus gets to college — but young men of spirit must not be curbed like common boys — we must make allowances — I have been young myself — hey, Mr. Supine?”
“Certainly, sir,” said the obsequious tutor; “and you still have all the sprightliness of youth; and my ideas of education square completely with yours.”
According to Alderman Holloway’s ideas of education, the holy days were always to be made a season of complete idleness and dissipation, to relieve his son from his school studies. It was his great delight to contrast the pleasures of home with the hardships of school, and to make his son compare the indulgence of a father with the severity of a schoolmaster. How he could expect an education to succeed which he sedulously endeavoured to counteract, it may be difficult for any rational person to conceive.
After Lord Rawson and Holloway had enjoyed the pleasures of driving the new horses, tandem, in a dog-cart, and had conversed about dogs and horses till they had nothing left to say to each other, his lordship proposed stepping in to Mr. Carat, the jeweller’s shop, to look at some new watches: his lordship said he was tired of his own, for he had had it six months. Mr. Carat was not in the way when they first went in. One of the young men who attended in the shop said, “that his master was extremely busy, in settling some accounts with a captain of a ship, who was to leave England in a few days.”
“Don’t tell me of settling accounts,” cried Lord Ramon —“I hate the sound of settling accounts: run and tell Mr. Carat that Lord Rawson is here, and must speak to him this instant, for I’m in a desperate hurry.”
A quarter of an hour elapsed before the impatient lord could he obeyed; during this time, his lordship and Holloway rummaged over every thing in the shop. A pretty bauble to hang to his watch caught his lordship’s fancy. His lordship happened to have no money in his pocket. “Holloway,” said he, “my good fellow, you’ve ten guineas in your pocket, I know; do lend me them here.” Holloway, rather proud of his riches, lent his ten guineas to his noble friend with alacrity; but a few minutes afterward recollected that he should want five of them that very night, to pay the poor stage-coachman. His recollection came too late, for after Lord Rawson had paid three or four guineas for his trinket, he let the remainder of the money down with an absent nonchalance, into his pocket. “We’ll settle — I’ll pay you, Holloway, to-morrow morning, you know.”
Holloway, from false shame, replied, “Oh, very well.” And at this instant Mr. Carat entered the shop, bowing and apologizing to his lordship for having been busy.
“I’m always, to be sure, in a very great hurry,” cried Lord Rawson; “I never have a minute that I can call my own. All I wanted though, just now, was to tell you, that I could not settle any thing — you understand — till we come back from Marryborough. I go down there to-morrow.”
The Jew bowed with unlimited acquiescence, assuring his lordship that he should ever wait his perfect convenience. As he spoke, he glanced an inquiring eye upon Holloway.
“Mr. Holloway, the eldest, the only son of Alderman Holloway — rich as a Jew! and he’ll soon leave Westminster,” whispered Lord Rawson to the Jew. “Holloway,” continued he, turning to his friend, “give me leave to introduce Mr. Carat to you. You may,” added his lordship, lowering his voice, “find this Jew a useful friend some time or other, my lad. He’s my man in all money jobs.”
The Jew and the school-boy seemed equally flattered and pleased by this introduction; they were quickly upon familiar terms with one another; and Mr. Carat, who was willing that such an acquaintance should begin in the most advantageous and agreeable manner on his part, took the young gentleman, with an air of mystery and confidence, into a little room behind the shop; there he produced a box full of old-fashioned secondhand trinkets, and, without giving Holloway time to examine them, said that he was going to make a lottery of these things. “If I had any young favourite friends,” continued the wily Jew, “I should give them a little whisper in the ear, and bid them try their fortune; they never will have a finer opportunity.” He then presented a hand-bill, drawn up in a style which even Messrs. Goodluck and Co. need not have disdained to admire. The youth was charmed with the composition. The Jew made him a present of a couple of tickets for himself, and gave him a dozen more, to distribute amongst his companions at Westminster. Holloway readily undertook to distribute the tickets upon condition that he might have a list of the prizes in the lottery. “If they don’t see a list of the prizes,” said he, “not a soul will put in.”
The Jew took a pen immediately, and drew up a captivating list of prizes.
Holloway promised to copy it, because Mr. Carat said his hand must not appear in the business, and it must be conducted with the strictest secrecy; because “the law,” added the Jew, “has a little jealousy of these sort of things — government likes none but licensed lotteries, young gentleman.”
“The law! I don’t care what the law likes,” replied the school-boy; “if I break the law, I hope I’m rich enough to pay the forfeit, or my father will pay for me, which is better still.”
To this doctrine the Jew readily assented, and they parted, mutually satisfied with each other.
It was agreed that Lord Rawson should drive his friend to Marryborough the next Tuesday, and that he should return on Wednesday, with Holloway, to Westminster, on purpose that he might meet Mr. Carat there, who was then to deliver the prizes.
“I’ll lay you a bet,” cried Lord Rawson, as he left the Jew’s, “that you’ll have a prize yourself. Now are you not obliged to me for introducing you to Carat?”
“Yes, that I am,” replied Holloway; “it’s easier to put into the lottery than to write Latin verses and English essays. I’ll puzzle and bore myself no more with those things, I promise my father.”
“Who does, after they’ve once left school, I want to know?” said his noble friend. “I’m sure I’ve forgot all I ever learned from Latin and Greek fellows; you know they tell just for nothing when one gets into the world. I make it a principle never to talk of books, for nobody does, you know, that has any thing else to talk of. None but quizzes and quozzes ever came out with any thing of that sort. Now, how they’d stare at Marryborough, Holloway, if you were to begin sporting some of your Horace and Virgil!”
The dashing, yet bashful school-boy, with much emotion, swore that he cared as little for Horace and Virgil as his lordship did. Holloway was really an excellent scholar, but he began to be heartily ashamed of it in his lordship’s company, and prudently resolved to adopt the principles he had just heard; to forget as fast as possible all he had learned: never to talk of books; and to conceal both his knowledge and his abilities, lest they should stare at him at Maryborough.
The lottery tickets were easily disposed of amongst the young gentlemen at Westminster. As young men can seldom calculate, they are always ready to trust to their individual good fortune, and they are, consequently, ever ready to put into any species of lottery.
“Look here!” cried little Oliver, showing a lottery ticket to Howard; “look what Holloway has just offered to give me, instead of half-a-guinea, which he owes me. I told him I would just run and ask your advice. Shall I accept of it?”
“I would advise you not,” answered Howard; “you are sure of your half-guinea, and you have only a chance of getting any thing in the lottery.”
“Oh, but then I’ve a chance of such a number of fine things! You have not seen the list of prizes. Do you know there’s a watch amongst them? Now, suppose my ticket should come up a prize, and that I should get a watch for my half-guinea! — a real watch! — a watch that would go! — a watch that I should wind up myself every night! O Charles! would not that be a good bargain for my half-guinea? I’m sure you have not read the list of prizes, have you?”
“No, I have not,” said Howard: “have you seen the list of blanks?”
“Of blanks! No,” said Oliver, with a changed countenance; “I never thought of the blanks.”
“And yet in most lotteries there are many more blanks than prizes, you know.”
“Are there? Well, but I hope I shall not have a blank,” said Oliver.
“So every body hopes, but some people must be disappointed.”
“Yes,” said the little boy, pausing —“but then some people must win, and I have as good a chance as another, have not I?”
“And do you know what the chance against your winning is? Once I had a great mind, as you have now, Oliver, to put into a lottery. It was just after my aunt lost all her fortune, and I thought that if I were to get the twenty thousand pound prize, I could give it to her.”
“I’ll give my watch (if I get it, I mean) to somebody. I’ll give it to the mulatto woman, because she is poor. No; I’ll give it to you, because you are the best, and I love you the best, and I am more obliged to you than to any body in the world, for you have taught me more; and you have taught me as I was never taught before, without laughing at, or scolding, or frightening, or calling me blockhead or dunce; and you have made me think a great deal better of myself; and I am always happy when I’m with you; and I’m quite another creature since you came to school. I hope you’ll never leave school whilst I am here,” cried Oliver.
“But you have quite forgot the lottery,” said Howard, smiling, and much touched by his little friend’s simplicity and enthusiasm.
“Oh, the lottery! ay,” said Oliver, “you were telling me something about yourself; do go on.”
“I once thought, as you do now, that it would be a charming thing to put into a lottery.”
“Well, and did you win?”
“Did you lose?”
“I did not put into the lottery, for I was convinced that it was a foolish way of spending money.”
“If you think it’s foolish or wrong,” said Oliver, “I’ll have nothing to do with this lottery.”
“I don’t want to govern you by my opinion,” said Howard; “but if you have patience to attend to all the reasons that convinced me, you will he able to judge, and form an opinion for yourself. You know I must leave school some time or other, and then —”
“Well, don’t talk of that, but tell me all the reasons, quick.”
“I can’t tell them so very quickly,” said Howard, laughing: “when we go home this evening I’ll ask my aunt to look for the passage in Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which she showed me.”
“Oh!” interrupted Oliver, with a sigh, “Smith’s Wealth of what? That’s a book, I’m sure, I shall never be able to understand; is it not that great large book that Mr. Russell reads?”
“But I shall never understand it.”
“Because it’s a large book?”
“No,” said Oliver, smiling, “but because I suppose it’s very difficult to understand.”
“Not what I’ve read of it: but I have only read passages here and there. That passage about lotteries, I think, you would understand, because it is so plainly written.”
“I’ll read it, then,” said Oliver, “and try; and in the meantime I’ll go and tell Holloway that I had rather not put into the lottery, till I know whether it’s right or not.”
Holloway flew into a violent passion with little Oliver when he went to return his lottery ticket. He abused and ridiculed Howard for his interference, and succeeded so well in raising a popular cry, that the moment Howard appeared on the playground, a general hiss, succeeded by a deep groan, was heard. — Howard recollected the oracle’s answer to Cicero, and was not dismayed by the voice of the multitude. Holloway threw down half-a-guinea, to pay Oliver, and muttered to himself, “I’ll make you remember this, Mr. Oliver.”
“I’ll give this half-guinea to the mulatto woman, and that’s much better than putting it into a lottery, Charles,” said the little boy; and, as soon as the business of the day was done, Oliver, Howard, and Mr. Russell, took their usual evening’s walk towards the gardener’s house.
“Ay, come in,” cried old Paul, “come in! God bless you all! I don’t know which is the best of you. I’ve been looking out of my door this quarter of an hour for ye,” said he, as soon as he saw them; “and I don’t know when I’ve been idle a quarter of an hour afore. But I’ve put on my best coat, though it’s not Sunday, and wife has treated her to a dish of tea, and she’s up and dressed — the mulatto woman, I mean — and quite hearty again. Walk in, walk in; it will do your hearts good to see her; she’s so grateful too, though she can’t speak good English, which is her only fault, poor soul; but we can’t be born what we like, or she would have been as good an Englishman as the best of us. Walk in, walk in. — And the chimney does not smoke, master, no more than I do; and the window opens too; and the paper’s up, and looks beautiful. God bless ye, God bless ye — walk in.” Old Paul, whilst he spoke, had stopped the way into the room; but at length he recollected that they could not walk in whilst he stood in the door-way, and he let them pass.
The little room was no longer the smoky, dismal, miserable place which it was formerly. It was neatly papered; it was swept clean; there was a cheerful fire, which burnt quite clearly: the mulatto woman was cleanly dressed, and, rising from her work, she clasped her hands together with an emotion of joyful gratitude, which said more than any words could have expressed.
This room was not papered, nor was the chimney cured of smoking, nor was the woman clad in new clothes, by magic. It was all done by human means — by the industry and abilities of a benevolent boy.
The translation of the little French book, which Howard had completed, procured him the means of doing good. The book-seller to whom he offered it was both an honest man, and a good judge of literary productions. Mr. Russell’s name also operated in his pupil’s favour, and Howard received ten guineas for his translation.
Oliver was impatient for an opportunity to give his half-guinea, which he had held in his hand, till it was quite warm. “Let me look at that pretty thimble of yours,” said he, going up to the mulatto woman, who had now taken up her work again; and, as he playfully pulled off the thimble, he slipped his half-guinea into her hand; then he stopped her thanks, by running on to a hundred questions about her thimble. “What a strange thimble! How came you by such a thimble? Was it given to you? Did you buy it? What’s the use of this screw round the inside of the rim of it? Do look at it, Charles!”
The thimble was, indeed, remarkable; and it seemed extraordinary that such a one should belong to a poor woman, who had lately been in great distress.
“It is gold,” said Mr. Russell, examining it, “and very old gold.”
The mulatto woman sighed; and as she put the thimble upon her finger again, said, that she did not know whether it was gold or not; but she had a great value for it; that she had had it a great many years; that it had been given to her by the best friend she had ever had.
“Tell me about that best friend,” said Oliver; “I like to hear about best friends.”
“She was a very good friend indeed; though she was but young, scarcely bigger than yourself, at the time she gave me this thimble: she was my young mistress; I came all the way from Jamaica on purpose to find her out, and in hopes to live with her in my elder days.”
“Jamaica!” cried Howard; “Jamaica!” cried Oliver, in the same breath; “what was her name?”
“My aunt,” exclaimed Howard.
“I’ll run and tell her; I’ll run and bring her here, this instant!” said Oliver. But Mr. Russell caught hold of him, and detained him, whilst they further questioned the woman. Her answers were perfectly consistent and satisfactory. She said, that her mistress’s estate in Jamaica had been sold just before she left the island; that some of the old slaves had been set at liberty, by orders, which came, she understood, in her mistress’s last letter; and that, amongst the rest, she had been freed: that she had heard say that her good mistress had desired the agent to give her also some little provision ground, upon the plantation, but that this had never been done; and that she had sold all the clothes and little things she possessed, to raise money to pay for her passage to England, hoping to find her mistress in London. She added, that the agent had given her a direction to her mistress; but that she had, in vain, applied at at the house, and at every house in the same street. “Show us the direction, if you have it,” said Mr. Russell. The woman said she had kept it very carefully; but now it was almost worn out. The direction was, however, still legible upon the ragged bit of paper which she produced —To Mrs. Frances Howard, Portman Square, London. The instant Mr. Russell was satisfied, he was as expeditious as Oliver himself; they all three went home immediately to Mrs. Howard: she had, some time before, been confined to her room by a severe toothache.
“You promised me, aunt,” said her nephew, “that as soon as you were well enough, you would go to old Paul’s with us, to see our poor woman; can you go this evening?”
“Oh do! do, pray; I’m sure you won’t catch cold,” said Oliver; “for we have a very particular reason for wishing you to go.”
“There is a sedan chair at the door,” said Mr. Russell, “if you are afraid, madam, of catching cold.”
“I am not rich enough to go out in sedan chairs,” interrupted Mrs. Howard, “nor prudent enough, I am afraid, to stay at home.”
“Oh! thank you,” said Oliver, who had her clogs ready in his hands; “now you’ll see something that will surprise you.”
“Then take care you don’t tell me what it is, before I see it,” said Mrs. Howard.
Oliver, with some difficulty, held his tongue during the walk, and contented himself with working off his superfluous animation, by jumping over every obstacle in his way.
The meeting between the poor mulatto woman and her mistress was as full of joy and surprise as little Oliver had expected; and this is saying a great deal, for where much is expected, there is usually much disappointment; and very sympathetic people are often angry with others, for not being as much astonished, or as much delighted, as they think the occasion requires.
The day which Mr. Augustus Holloway imagined would bring him such complete felicity — the day on which Lord Rawson had promised to call for him in his dog-cart, and to drive him down randem-tandem, to Marryborough — was now arrived. His lordship, in his dog-cart, was at the door; and Holloway, in high spirits, was just going to get into the carriage, when some one pulled his coat, and begged to speak a few words with him. It was the stage-coachman, who was absolutely in distress for the value of the lost parcel, which Holloway had promised him should be punctually paid: but Holloway, now that his excursion to Marryborough was perfectly secure, thought but very little of the poor coachman’s difficulties; and though he had the money, which he had raised by the lottery tickets, in his pocket, he determined to keep that for his amusements during the Easter holidays. “You must wait till I come back from Marryborough; I can’t possibly speak to you now; I can’t possibly, you see, keep Lord Rawson waiting. Why didn’t you call sooner? I am not at all convinced that any parcel was lost.”
“I’ll show you the books — it’s book’d, sir,” said the man, eagerly.
“Well, well, this is not a time to talk of booking. I’ll be with you in an instant, my lord,” cried Holloway to Lord Rawson, who was all impatience to be off. But the coachman would not quit his hold. “I’m sorry to come to that, master,” said he: “as long as we were both upon honour together, it was very well; but, if you break squares with me, being a gentleman, and rich, you can’t take it ill, I being a poor man and my place and all at stake, if I take the shortest way to get my own: I must go to Dr. B. for justice, if you won’t give it me without my peaching,” said the coachman.
“I’ll see you again to-morrow morning,” said Holloway, alarmed: “we come up to town again to-morrow.”
“To-morrow won’t do,” said the coachman; “I shall lose my place and my bread to-day. I know how to trust to young gentlemen’s to-morrows.”
A volley of oaths from Lord Rawson again summoned his companion. At this instant, Mr. Russell, young Howard, and little Oliver, came up the street, and were passing on to Mrs. Howard’s, when Holloway stopped Howard, who was the last of the party. “For Heaven’s sake,” said he, in a whisper, “do settle for me with this confounded coachman! I know you are rich; your bookseller told me so; pay five guineas for me to him, and you shall have them again to-morrow, there’s a good fellow. Lord Rawson’s waiting; good by.”
“Stay, stay,” said Howard, who was not so easily to be drawn into difficulties by a moment’s weakness, or by the want of a moment’s presence of mind: “I know nothing of this business; I have other uses for my money; I cannot pay five guineas for you, Holloway.”
“Then let it alone,” cried Holloway, with a brutal execration; and he forcibly broke from the coachman, shook hands with his tutor, Mr. Supine, who was talking to Lord Rawson about the varnish of his gig, jumped into the carriage, and was whirled away from all reflection in a moment, by his noble companion.
The poor coachman entreated Howard to stay one instant, to hear him. He explained the business to him, and reproached himself bitterly for his folly. “I’m sure I thought,” said he, “I was sure of a gentleman’s honour; and young gentlemen ought to be above not paying handsome for their frolics, if they must have frolics; and a frolic’s one thing, and cheating a poor man like me is another; and he had liked to have killed a poor mulatto woman, too, by the overturn of the coach, which was all his doings.”
“The woman is got very well, and is very well off now,” interrupted Howard; “you need say nothing about that.”
“Well, but my money, I must say about that,” said the coachman. Here Howard observed, that Mr. Supine had remained at the door in a lounging attitude, and was quite near enough to overhear their conversation. Howard, therefore, to avoid exciting his attention by any mysterious whispers, walked away from the coachman; but in vain; he followed: “I’ll peach,” said he; “I must in my own defence.”
“Stay till to-morrow morning,” said Howard: “perhaps you’ll be paid then.”
The coachman, who was a good-natured fellow, said, “Well, I don’t like making mischief among young gentlemen; I will wait till to-morrow, but not a day more, master, if you’d go down on your knees to me.”
Mr. Supine, whose curiosity was fully awake, called to the coachman the moment Howard was out of hearing, and tried, by various questions, to draw the secret from him. The words, “overturn of the coach — mulatto woman,” and the sentence, which the irritated coachman had pronounced in a raised voice, that “young gentlemen should be above not paying handsome for their frolics,” had reached Mr. Supine’s attentive ear, before Howard had been aware that the tutor was a listener. Nothing more could Mr. Supine draw, however, from the coachman, who now felt himself upon honour, having promised Howard not to peach till the next morning. Difficulties stimulated Mr. Supine’s curiosity; but he remained for the present satisfied in the persuasion that he had discovered a fine frolic of the immaculate Mr. Charles Howard; his own pupil he did not suspect upon this occasion. Holloway’s whisperings with the coachman had ended the moment Mr. Supine appeared at the door, and the tutor had in the same moment been so struck with the beautiful varnish of Lord Rawson’s dog-cart, that his pupil might have whispered longer, without rousing his attention. Mr. Supine was further confirmed in his mistake about Howard, from the recollection of the mulatto woman, whom he had seen at the gardener’s: he knew that she had been hurt by a fall from a stage-coach. He saw Howard much interested about her. All this he joined with what he had just overheard about a frolic, and he was rejoiced at the idea of implicating in this business Mr. Russell, whom he disliked.
Mr. Supine, having got rid of his pupil, went immediately to Alderman Holloway’s, where he had a general invitation to dinner. Mrs. Holloway approved of her son’s tutor, full as much for his love of gossiping, as for his musical talents: Mr. Supine constantly supplied her with news and anecdotes; upon the present occasion, he thought that his story, however imperfect, would be eagerly received, because it concerned Howard.
Since the affair of the prize essay, and the medal, Mrs. Holloway had taken a dislike to young Howard, whom she considered as the enemy of her dear Augustus. No sooner had she heard Mr. Supine’s blundering information, than, without any farther examination, she took the whole for granted: eager to repeat the anecdote to Mrs. Howard, she instantly wrote a note to her, saying that she would drink tea with her that evening.
When Mrs. Holloway, attended by Mr. Supine, went, in the evening, to Mrs. Howard’s, they found with her Mrs. B., the lady of Dr. B., the master of Westminster School.
“Is not this an odd rencontre?” whispered Mrs. Holloway to Mr. Supine, as she drew him to a recessed window, commodious for gossiping: “I shall be called a tell-tale, I know, at Westminster; but I shall tell our story, notwithstanding. I would keep any other boy’s secret; but Howard is such a saint: and I hate saints.”
A knock at the door interrupted Mrs. Holloway; she looked out of the window. “Oh, here he comes, up the steps,” continued she, “after his sober evening promenade, and his Mr. Russell with — and, I declare, the mulatto woman with him. Now for it!”
Howard entered the room, went up to his aunt, and said, in a low voice —
“Ma’am, poor Cuba is come; she is rather tired with walking, and she is gone to rest herself in the front parlour.”
“Her lameness, though,” pursued little Oliver, who followed Howard into the room, “is almost well. I just asked her how high she thought the coach was from which she was —”
A look from Howard made Oliver stop short; for though he did not understand the full meaning of it, he saw it was designed to silence him. Howard was afraid of betraying Holloway’s secret to Mr. Supine or to Mrs. Holloway: his aunt sent him out of the room with some message to Cuba, which gave Mrs. Holloway an opportunity of opening her business.
“Pray,” said she, “might I presume to ask — for I perceive the young gentleman has some secret to keep from me, which he may have good reasons for — may I, just to satisfy my own mind, presume to ask whether, as her name leads one to guess, your Cuba, Mrs. Howard, is a mulatto woman?”
Surprised by the manner of the question, Mrs. Howard coldly replied, “Yes, madam — a mulatto woman.”
“And she is lame, I think, sir, you mentioned?” persisted the curious lady, turning to little Oliver.
“Yes, she’s a little lame still; but she will soon be quite well.”
“Oh! then, her lameness came, I presume, from an accident, sir, and not from her birth?”
“From an accident, ma’am.”
“Oh! an accident — a fall — a fall from a coach — from a stage-coach, perhaps,” continued Mrs. Holloway, smiling significantly at Mr. Supine: “you take me for a conjuror, young gentleman, I see by your astonishment,” continued she to Oliver; “but a little bird told me the whole story; and I see Mrs. Howard knows how to keep a secret as well as myself.”
Mrs. Howard looked for an explanation.
“Nay,” said Mrs. Holloway, “you know best, Mrs. Howard; but as we’re all out of school now, I shall not be afraid to mention such a little affair, even before the doctor’s lady; for, to be sure, she would never let it reach the doctor’s ears.”
“Really, ma’am,” said Mrs. Howard, “you puzzle me a little; I wish you would explain yourself: I don’t know what it is that you would not have reach the doctor’s ears.”
“You don’t? — well, then, your nephew must have been very clever, to have kept you in the dark; mustn’t he, Mr. Supine?”
“I always, you know, thought the young gentleman very clever, ma’am,” said Mr. Supine, with a malicious emphasis.
Mrs. Howard’s colour now rose, and with a mixture of indignation and anxiety she pressed both Mr. Supine and Mrs. Holloway to be explicit. “I hate mysteries!” said she. Mrs. Holloway still hung back, saying it was a tender point; and hinting, that it would lessen her esteem and confidence in one most dear to her, to hear the whole truth.
“Do you mean Howard, ma’am?” exclaimed little Oliver: “oh, speak! speak! it’s impossible Charles Howard can have done any thing wrong.”
“Go for him, my dear,” said Mrs. Howard, resuming her composure; “let him be present. I hate mysteries.”
“But, my dear Mrs. Howard,” whispered Mrs. Holloway, “you don’t consider; you’ll get your nephew into a shocking scrape; the story will infallibly go from Mrs. B. to Dr. B. You are warm, and don’t consider consequences.”
“Charles,” said Mrs. Howard to her nephew, the moment he appeared, “from the time you were five years old, till this instant, I have never known you tell a falsehood; I should, therefore, be very absurd, as well as very unjust, if I were to doubt your integrity. Tell me — have you got into any difficulties? I would rather hear of them from yourself, than from any body else. Is there any mystery about overturning a stage-coach, that you know of, and that you have concealed from me?”
“There is a mystery, ma’am, about overturning a stage-coach,” replied Howard, in a firm tone of voice; “but when I assure you that it is no mystery of mine — nothing in which I have myself any concern — I am sure that you will believe me, my dear aunt, and that you will press me no further.”
“Not a word further, not a frown further,” said his aunt, with a smile of entire confidence; in which Mr. Russell joined, but which appeared incomprehensible to Mr. Supine.
“Very satisfactory indeed!” said that gentleman, leaning back in the chair; “I never heard any thing more satisfactory to my mind!”
“Perfectly satisfactory, upon my word!” echoed Mrs. Holloway; but no looks, no inuendoes, could now disturb Mrs. Howard’s security, or disconcert the resolute simplicity which appeared in her nephew’s countenance. Mrs. Holloway, internally devoured by curiosity, was compelled to submit in silence. This restraint soon became so irksome to her, that she shortened her visit as much as she decently could.
In crossing the passage, to go to her carriage, she caught a glimpse of the mulatto woman, who was going into a parlour. Resolute, at all hazards, to satisfy herself, Mrs. Holloway called to the retreating Cuba — began by asking some civil questions about her health; then spoke of the accident she had lately met with; and, in short, by a skilful cross-examination, drew her whole story from her. The gratitude with which the poor woman spoke of Howard’s humanity was by no means pleasing to Mr. Supine.
“Then it was not he who overturned the coach?” said Mrs. Holloway.
The woman eagerly replied, “Oh no, madam!” and proceeded to draw, as well as she could, a description of the youth who had been mounted upon the coach-box: she had seen him only by the light of the moon, and afterwards by the light of a lantern; but she recollected his figure so well, and described him so accurately, that Mr. Supine knew the picture instantly, and Mrs. Holloway whispered to him, “Can it be Augustus?”
“Mr. Holloway! — Impossible! — I suppose —”
But the woman interrupted him by saying that she recollected to have heard the young gentleman called by that name by the coachman.
The mother and the tutor were nearly alike confounded by this discovery. Mrs. Holloway got into her carriage, and, in their way home, Mr. Supine represented, that he should be ruined for ever with the alderman, if this transaction came to his knowledge; that, in fact, it was a mere boyish frolic; but that the alderman might not consider it in that light, and would, perhaps, make Mr. Augustus feel his serious displeasure. The foolish mother, out of mistaken good-nature, at length promised to be silent upon the subject. But, before he slept, Alderman Holloway heard the whole story. The footman, who had attended the carriage, was at the door when Mrs. Holloway was speaking to the mulatto woman, and had listened to every word that was said. This footman was in the habit of telling his master, when he attended him at night, all the news which he had been able to collect in the day. Mr. Supine was no favourite of his; because, whenever the tutor came to the house, he gave a great deal of trouble, being too indolent to do any thing for himself, and yet not sufficiently rich, or sufficiently generous, to pay the usual premiums for the active civility of servants. This footman was not sorry to have an opportunity of repeating any story that might injure Mr. Supine with his master. Alderman Holloway heard it under the promise of concealing the name of the person who had given him the information, and resolved to discover the truth of the affair the next day, when he was to visit his son at Westminster.
But we must now return to Mrs. Howard’s. We mentioned that Mrs. B. spent the evening with her. Dr. B., soon after Mrs. Holloway went away, called to take his lady home: he had been engaged to spend the evening at a card assembly; but, as he was a man who liked agreeable conversation better than cards, he had made his escape from a rout, to spend half an hour with Mrs. Howard and Mr. Russell. The doctor was a man of various literature; able to appreciate others, he was not insensible to the pleasure of seeing himself appreciated. Half an hour passes quickly in agreeable conversation: the doctor got into an argument, concerning the propriety of the distinction made by some late metaphysical writers, between imagination and fancy. Thence he was led to some critical remarks upon Warton’s beautiful Ode to Fancy; then to the never-ending debate upon original genius; including also the doctrine of hereditary temper and dispositions, which the doctor warmly supported, and which Mrs. Howard coolly questioned.
In the midst of their conversation, they were suddenly interrupted by a groan. They all looked round to see whence it came. It came from little Oliver: he was sitting at a little table at the farther end of the room, reading so intently in a large book that he saw nothing else: a long unsnuffed candle, with a perilous fiery summit to its black wick, stood before him, and his left arm embraced a thick china jar, against which he leaned his head. There was, by common consent, a general silence in the room, whilst every one looked at Oliver, as at a picture. Mrs. Howard moved gently round behind his chair, to see what he was reading: the doctor followed her. It was the account of the execution of two rebel Koromantyn negroes, related in Edwards’s History of the West Indies20. To try whether it would interrupt Oliver’s deep attention, Mrs. Howard leaned over him, and snuffed his dim candle; but the light was lost upon him — he did not feel the obligation. Dr. B. then put his hand upon the jar, which he pulled from Oliver’s embrace. “Be quiet! I must finish this!” cried Oliver, still holding fast the jar, and keeping his eyes upon the book. The doctor gave a second pull at the jar, and the little boy made an impatient push with his elbow; then casting his eye upon the large hand which pulled the jar, he looked up, surprised, in the doctor’s face.
The nice china jar, which Oliver had held so sturdily, was very precious to him. His uncle had just sent him two jars of fine West India sweetmeats. One of these he had shared with his companions: the other he had kept, to give to Mrs. Howard, who had once said, in his hearing, that she was fond of West India sweetmeats. She accepted Oliver’s little present. Children sometimes feel as much pleasure in giving away sweetmeats as in eating them; and Mrs. Howard too well understood the art of education, even in trifles, to deny to grateful and generous feelings their natural and necessary exercise. A child can show gratitude and generosity only in trifles.
“Are these all the sweetmeats that you have left, Oliver?” said Mrs. Howard.
“Yes — all.”
“Was not Rousseau wrong, Dr. B.,” said Mrs. Howard, “when he asserted, that no child ever gives away his last mouthful of any thing good?”
“Of any thing good!” said the doctor, laughing; “when I have tasted these sweetmeats, I shall he a better judge.”
“You shall taste them this minute, then,” said Mrs. Howard; and she rang for a plate, whilst the doctor, to little Oliver’s great amusement, exhibited various pretended signs of impatience, as Mrs. Howard deliberately untied the cover of the jar. One cover after another she slowly took off; at length the last transparent cover was lifted up: the doctor peeped in; but lo! instead of sweetmeats there appeared nothing but paper. One crumpled roll of paper after another Mrs. Howard pulled out; still no sweetmeats. The jar was entirely stuffed with paper, to the very bottom. Oliver was silent with amazement.
“The sides of the jar are quite clean,” said Howard.
“But the inside of the paper that covered it is stained with sweetmeats,” said Dr. B.
“There must have been sweetmeats in it lately,” said Mrs. Howard,” because the jar smells so strongly of them.”
Amongst the pieces of crumpled paper which had been pulled out of the jar, Dr. B. espied one, on which there appeared some writing: he looked it over.
“Humph! What have we here? What’s this? What can this he about a lottery? — tickets, price half a guinea — prizes-gold watch! — silver ditto — chased tooth-pick case — buckles — knee-buckles. What is all this? — April 10th, 1797 — the drawing to begin — prizes to be delivered at Westminster school, by Aaron Carat, jeweller? Hey, young gentlemen,” cried Dr. B., looking at Oliver and Charles, “do you know any thing of this lottery?”
“I have no concern in it, sir, I assure you,” said Howard.
“Nor I, thank goodness — I mean, thank you, Charles,” exclaimed Oliver; “for you hindered me from putting into the lottery: how very lucky I was to take your advice!”
“How very wise, you should say, Oliver,” said Dr. B. “I must inquire into this business; I must find out who ordered these things from Mr. Aaron Carat. There shall be no lotteries, no gaming at Westminster school, whilst I have power to prevent it. To-morrow morning I’ll inquire into this affair; and to-morrow morning we shall also know, my little fellow, what became of your sweetmeats.”
“Oh, never mind that,” cried the good-natured Oliver; “don’t say any thing, pray, sir, about my sweetmeats: I don’t mind about them; I know already — I guess now, who took them; therefore you need not ask; I dare say it was only meant for a joke.”
Dr. B. made no reply; but folded up the paper which he had been reading, put it into his pocket, and soon after took his leave.
Lord Rawson was one of those young men who measure their own merit and felicity by the number of miles which their horses can go in a day; he undertook to drive his friend up from Marryborough to Westminster, a distance of forty miles, in five hours. The arrival of his lordship’s gig was a signal, for which several people were in waiting at Westminster school. The stage-coachman was impatiently waiting to demand his money from Holloway. Mr. Carat, the jeweller, was arrived, and eager to settle with Mr. Holloway about the lottery: he had brought the prizes in a small case, to be delivered, upon receiving from Holloway the money for all the tickets of which he had disposed. Dr. B. was waiting for the arrival of Mr. Holloway, as he had determined to collect all his pupils together, and to examine into the lottery business. Little Oliver was also watching for Holloway, to prevent mischief, and to assure him of forgiveness about the sweetmeats.
Lord Rawson’s dog-cart arrived. Holloway saw the stage-coachman as he alighted, and, abruptly turning from him, shook hands with little Oliver, saying, “You look as if you had been waiting for me.”
“Yes,” said Oliver: “but I can’t say what I want to say before every body.”
“I’ll wait upon you presently,” said Holloway, escaping from the coachman. As he crossed the hall, he descried Mr. Carat, and a crowd of boys surrounding him, crying, “Mr. Carat’s come — he has brought the prizes! — he has brought the prizes! he’ll show them all as soon as you’ve settled with him.” Holloway called to the Jew; but little Oliver insisted upon being heard first.
“You must hear me: I have something to say to you about the prizes — about the lottery.”
The words arrested Holloway’s attention: he followed Oliver; heard with surprise and consternation the history of the paper which had been found in the jar, by Dr. B. “I’ve done for myself, now, faith!” he exclaimed; “I suppose the doctor knows all about the hand I have in the lottery.”
“No,” replied Oliver, “he does not.”
“Why, you must have known it; and did not he question you and Howard?”
“Yes; but when we told him that we had nothing to do with it, he did not press us farther.”
“You are really a noble little fellow,” exclaimed Holloway, “to bear me no malice for the many ill turns I have done you: this last has fallen upon myself, as ill-luck would have it: but before we go any farther — your sweetmeats are safe in the press, in my room; I didn’t mean to steal them; only to plague you, child:— but you have your revenge now.”
“I don’t want any revenge, indeed,” said Oliver, “for I’m never happy when I’ve quarrelled with any body: and even when people quarrel with me, I don’t feel quite sure that I’m in the right, which makes me uncomfortable; and, besides, I don’t want to find out that they are quite in the wrong; and that makes me uncomfortable the other way. After all, quarrelling and bearing malice are very disagreeable things, somehow or other. Don’t you, when you have made it up with people, and shaken hands, Holloway — don’t you feel quite light, and ready to jump again? So shake hands, if you are not above shaking hands with such a little boy as I am; and I shall never think again about the sweetmeats, or old fag times.”
Holloway could not help feeling touched. “Here’s my hand,” cried he, “I’m sorry I’ve tormented you so often; I’ll never plague you any more. But now — I don’t know what upon earth to do. Where’s Charles Howard? If he can’t help me, I’m undone. I have got into more scrapes than I can get out of, I know. I wish I could see Howard.”
“I’ll run and bring him to you; he’s the best person at knowing what should be done — at least for me, I know — that ever I saw.”
Holloway abruptly began, as soon as Howard came up to him: “Howard,” said he, “you know this plaguy lottery business — but you don’t know half yet: here’s Carat come to be paid for his tickets; and here’s that dunning stage-coachman sticks close to me for his five guineas; and not one farthing have I upon earth.”
“Not a farthing! but you don’t mean that you have not the money for Mr. Carat?”
“But I do though.”
“Why, you cannot have spent it since yesterday morning?”
“No; but I have lost half and lent half; and the half that I have lent is gone for ever, I am afraid, as much as that which I lost.”
“Whom did you lend the money to? How did you lose it?”
“I lost part to Sir John O’Shannon, last night, at billiards — more fool I to play, only because I wanted to cut a figure amongst those fine people at Marryborough. I wonder my father lets me go there; I know I sha’n’t go back there this Easter, unless Lord Rawson makes me an apology, I can tell him. I’ve as good a right to be upon my high horse as he has; for though his father’s an earl, my father’s a great deal richer, I know; and has lent him a great deal of money, too, and that’s the only reason he’s civil to us; but I can tell him —”
Here Howard brought the angry Holloway from his high horse, by asking what all this had to do with Mr. Carat, who was waiting to be paid?
“Why, don’t I explain to you,” said Holloway, “that I lent him— Lord Rawson, I mean — all the money I had left yesterday, and I couldn’t get it out of him again, though I told him my distress about the stage-coachman? Did you ever know any thing so selfish? Did you ever know any thing so shabby, so shameful? And then to make me his butt, as he did last night at supper, because there were two or three dashing young men by; I think more of that than all the rest. Do you know, he asked me to eat custard with my apple-pie, just to point me out for an alderman’s son; and when I only differed from him about Captain Shouldham’s puppy’s ears, Lord Rawson said, to be sure, I must know about dog’s ears, just to put me in mind that I was a school-boy; but I’ll never go to Marryborough any more, unless he begs my pardon. I’ve no notion of being a humble friend; but it does not signify being in a passion about it now,” continued Holloway. “What I want you, Howard, to do for me is, just to think; for I can’t think at present, I’m in such a hurry, with all these things coming across me at once. What can I do to find money for the stage-coachman and for Mr. Carat? Why both together come to fifteen guineas. And what can I do about Dr. B.? And, do you know, my father is coming here this very morning. How shall I manage? He’d never forgive me: at least he’d not give me any money for I don’t know how long, if these things were to come out. What would you advise me to do?”
Howard, with his usual honest policy, advised Holloway at once to tell all the circumstances to his father. Holloway was at first much alarmed at this proposal, and insisted upon it that this method would not do at all with the alderman, though it might do very well with such a woman as Mrs. Howard. At length, however, overcome, partly by the arguments, and partly by the persuasion of his new adviser, Holloway determined upon his confession.
Alderman Holloway arrived, and was beginning to talk to Dr. B. of his son’s proficiency in his studies, when the young gentleman made his appearance, with a countenance extremely embarrassed and agitated. The sight of Dr. B. deprived Holloway of courage to speak. The doctor fixed his penetrating eye upon the pale culprit, who immediately stopped short in the middle of the room, stammering out, “I came to speak, sir — I had something to say to my father, sir — I came, if you please, to speak to my father, sir.” To Holloway’s utter astonishment, Dr. B.‘s countenance and manner suddenly changed at these words; all his severity vanished; and, with a look and voice the most encouraging, he led the abashed youth towards his father.
“You came to speak to your father, sir? Speak to him then without fear, without reserve: you will certainly find in a father your most indulgent friend. I’ll leave you together.”
This opening of the case by Dr. B. was of equal advantage both to the father and to the son. Alderman Holloway, though without literature, was not without understanding: his affection for his son made him quickly comprehend the good sense of the doctor’s hint. The alderman was not surprised by the story of the overturn of the stage-coach, because he had heard it before from his footman. But the lottery transaction with the Jew — and, above all, with the loss and loan of so much money to his friend, Lord Rawson — struck him with some astonishment; yet he commanded his temper, which was naturally violent; and, after a constrained silence, he begged his son to summon Mr. Supine. “At least,” cried the alderman, “I’ve a right to be in a passion with that careless, indolent, dilettanti puppy, whom I’ve been paying all this while for taking such care of you. I wish I had hold of his German flute at this instant. You are very right, Augustus, to come like a man, and tell me all these things; and now I must tell you, that some of them I had heard of before. I wish I had that Jew, that Mr. Carat of yours, here! and that stage-coachman, who had the impertinence to take you out with him at night. But it’s all Mr. Supine’s fault — and mine, for not choosing a better tutor for you. As to Lord Rawson, I can’t blame you either much for that, for I encouraged the connexion, I must own. I’m glad you have quarrelled with him, however; and pray look out for a better friend as fast as possible. You were very right to tell me all these things; on that consideration, and that only, I’ll lend my hand to getting you out of these scrapes.”
“For that,” cried Holloway, “I may thank Howard, then; for he advised and urged me to tell you all this at once.”
“Call him; let me thank him,” said the alderman; “he’s an excellent young man then — call him.”
Dr. B. now entered the room with little Oliver.
When Holloway returned with Howard, he beheld the stage-coachman standing silent on one side of his father; Mr. Carat, the Jew, on the other side, jabbering an unintelligible vindication of himself; whilst Dr. B. was contemplating the box of lottery prizes, which lay open upon the table. Mr. Supine, leaning against the chimney-piece, appeared in the attitude of an Antinous in despair.
“Come, my little friend,” said Dr. B. to Oliver, “you did not put into the lottery, I understand. Choose from amongst these things whatever you please. It is better to trust to prudence than fortune, you see. Mr. Howard, I know that I am rewarding you, at this instant, in the manner you best like, and best deserve.”
There was a large old-fashioned chased gold toothpick-case, on which Oliver immediately fixed his eye. After examining it very carefully, he drew the doctor aside, and, after some consultation, Oliver left the room hastily; whilst the alderman, with all the eloquence of which he was master, expressed his gratitude to Howard for the advice which he had given his son. “Cultivate this young gentleman’s friendship,” added he, turning to Holloway: “he has not a title; but even I, Augustus, am now ready to acknowledge he is worth twenty Lord Rawsons. Had he a title, he would grace it; and that’s as much as I can say for any man.”
The Jew, all this time, stood in the greatest trepidation; he trembled lest the alderman should have him taken up and committed to gaol for his illegal, unlicensed lottery. He poured forth as many protestations as his knowledge of the English language could afford of the purity of his intentions; and, to demonstrate his disinterestedness, began to display the trinkets in his prize-box, with a panegyric upon each. Dr. B. interrupted him, by paying for the toothpick-case, which he had bought for Oliver.
“Now, Mr. Carat,” said the doctor, “you will please to return, in the first place, the money you have received for your illegal lottery tickets.”
The word illegal, pronounced in a tremendous tone, operated instantaneously upon the Jew; his hand, which had closed upon Holloway’s guineas, opened; he laid the money down upon the table, but mechanically seized his box of trinkets, which he seemed to fear would be the next seized, as forfeits. No persons are so apprehensive of injustice and fraud as those who are themselves dishonest. Mr. Carat, bowing repeatedly to Alderman Holloway, shuffled toward the door, asking if he might now depart; when the door opened with such a force, as almost to push the retreating Jew upon his face.
Little Oliver, out of breath, burst into the room, whispered a few words to Dr. B. and Alderman Holloway, who answered, “He may come in;” and a tall, stout man, an officer from Bow-street, immediately entered. “There’s your man, sir,” said the alderman, pointing to the Jew; “there is Mr. Carat.” The man instantly seized Mr. Carat, producing a warrant from Justice — for apprehending the Jew upon suspicion of his having in his possession certain valuable jewels, the property of Mrs. Frances Howard.
Oliver was eager to explain. “Do you know, Howard,” said he, “how all this came about? Do you know your aunt’s gone to Bow-street, and has taken the mulatto woman with her, and Mr. Russell is gone with her? and she thinks — and I think — she’ll certainly have her jewels, her grandmother’s jewels, that were left in Jamaica.”
“How? but how?” exclaimed Howard.
“Why,” said Oliver, “by the toothpick-case. The reason I chose that toothpick-case out of the Jew’s box was, because it came into my head, the minute I saw it, that the mulatto woman’s curious thimble — you remember her thimble, Howard — would just fit one end of it. I ran home and tried it, and the thimble screwed on as nicely as possible; and the chasing, as Mr. Russell said, and the colour of the gold, matched exactly. Oh! Mrs. Howard was so surprised when we showed it to her — so astonished to see this toothpick-case in England; for it had been left, she said, with all her grandmother’s diamonds and things, in Jamaica.”
“Yes,” interrupted Howard; “I remember my aunt told us, when you asked her about Cuba’s thimble, that she gave it to Cuba when she was a child, and that it belonged to some old trinket. — Go on.”
“Well, where was I? — Oh, then, as soon as she saw the toothpick-case, she asked how it had been found; and I told her all about the lottery and Mr. Carat; then she and Mr. Russell consulted, and away they went, with Cuba, in a coach; and all the rest you know; and I wish I could hear the end of it!”
“And so you shall, my good little fellow; we’ll all go together to hear the Jew’s examination: you shall go with me in my coach to Bow-street,” said Alderman Holloway.
In the midst of their bustle, the poor stage-coachman, who had waited with uncommon patience in the hope that Alderman Holloway would at last recollect him, pressed forward, and petitioned to be paid his five guineas for the lost parcel. —“I have lost my place already,” said he, “and the little goods I have will be seized this day, for the value of that unlucky parcel, master.”
The alderman put his hand slowly into his purse; but just when he had pulled out five guineas, a servant came into the room, to inform Dr. B. that a sailor was waiting in the hall, who desired to speak, directly, about something of consequence, to the stage-coachman.
Dr. B., who imagined that the sailor might have something to do with the business in question, ordered that he might be shown into the room.
“I wants one Gregory Giles, a stage-coachman, if such a one be here amongst ye, gentlefolks, and nobody else,” cried the sailor, producing a parcel, wrapped up in brown paper.
“It’s my very parcel!” exclaimed the stage-coachman. “I am Gregory Giles! God bless your honest heart! — Where did ye find it? — Give it me!”
The sailor said he had found it in a dry ditch on the Bath road, a little beyond the first turnpike, going out of town; that he had inquired at the turnpike-house; had heard that the stage had been overturned a few days before, and that a parcel had been lost, about which the coachman had been in great trouble; that he had gone directly to the inn where the coach put up; had traced the coachman from place to place; and was heartily glad he had found him at last.
“Thank’ee, with all my heart,” said the coachman, “for all the trouble you’ve been at; and here’s the crown reward that I offered for it, and my thanks into the bargain.”
“No, no,” said the honest sailor, pushing back the money; “I won’t take any thing from a poor fellow like myself: put your silver into your pocket: I hear you lost your place already by that parcel. There was a great talk at the turnpike-house about your losing your place, for giving some young gentleman a lift. — Put up your money.”
All present were eager in rewarding the honest sailor.
A hackney-coach was now come to the door for Mr. Carat, and every body hurried off as fast as possible.
“Where are they all steering to?” said the sailor. The stage-coachman told him all that he had heard of the matter. “I’ll be in their wake, then,” cried the sailor; “I shall like to see the Jew upon his court-martial; I was choused once by a Jew myself.” He got to Bow-street as soon as they did.
The first thing Howard learned was, that the jewels, which had been all found at Mr. Carat’s, precisely answered the description which his aunt had given of them. The Jew was in the utmost consternation: finding that the jewels were positively sworn to, he declared, upon his examination, that he had bought them from a captain of a ship; that he had paid the full value for them; and that, at the time he purchased them, he had no suspicion of their having been fraudulently obtained. This defence appearing evidently evasive, the magistrates who examined Mr. Carat informed him, that, unless he could produce the person from whom he had bought the jewels, he must be committed to Newgate for receiving stolen goods. Terrified at this sentence, the Jew, though he had at first asserted that he knew nothing of the captain from whom he had received the diamonds, now acknowledged that he actually lodged at his house.
“Hah!” exclaimed Holloway: “I remember, the day that I and Lord Rawson called at your house, you were settling accounts, your foreman told us, with a captain of a ship, who was to leave England in a few days: it’s well he’s not off.”
An officer was immediately sent to Mr. Carat’s in quest of this captain; but there were great apprehensions that he might have escaped at the first alarm of the search for the jewels. Fortunately, however, he had not been able to get off, as two constables had been stationed at Mr. Carat’s house. The officer from Bow-street found him in his own bed-chamber, rummaging a portmanteau for some papers, which he wanted to burn. His papers were seized, and carried along with him before the magistrate.
Alderman Holloway knew the captain the moment he was brought into the room, though his dress and whole appearance were very different from what they had been when he had waited upon the alderman some months before this time, with a dismal, plausible story of his own poverty and misfortunes. He had then told him that his mate and he had had a quarrel, upon the voyage from Jamaica; that the mate knew what a valuable cargo he had on board; that just when they got in sight of land, the crew rose upon him; the mate seized him, and by force put him into a boat, and set him ashore.
The discovery of the jewels at Mr. Carat’s at once overturned the captain’s whole story: cunning people often insert something in their narration to make it better, which ultimately tends to convict them of falsehood. The captain having now no other resource, and having the horrors of imprisonment, and the certainty of condemnation upon a public trial, full before him, threw himself, as the only chance that remained for him, upon Mrs. Howard’s mercy; confessed that all that he had told her before was false; that his mate and he had acted in concert; that the rising of the crew against him had been contrived between them; that he had received the jewels, when he was set ashore, for his immediate share of the booty; and that the mate had run the ship off to Charlestown, to sell her cargo. According to agreement, the captain added, he was to have had a share in the cargo; but the mate had cheated him of that; he had never heard from him, or of him, he would take his oath, from the day he was set ashore, and knew nothing of him or the cargo.
“Avast, friend, by your leave,” cried the honest sailor who had found the stage-coachman’s parcel —“avast, friend, by your leave,” said he, elbowing his way between Alderman Holloway and his next neighbour, and getting clear into the middle of the circle —“I know more of this matter, my lord, or please your worship, which is much the same thing, than any body here; and I’m glad on’t, mistress,” continued the tar, pulling a quid of tobacco out of his mouth, and addressing himself to Mrs. Howard: then turning to the captain, “Wasn’t she the Lively Peggy, pray? — it’s no use tacking. Wasn’t your mate one John Matthews, pray? Captain, your face tells truth, in spite of your teeth.”
The captain instantly grew pale, and trembled: on which the sailor turned abruptly from him, and went on with his story. “Mistress,” said he, “though I’m a loser by it, no matter. The Lively Peggy and her cargo are safe and sound in Plymouth, at this very time being, and we have her mate in limbo, curse him. We made a prize of him, coming from America, for he was under French colours, and a fine prize we thought we’d made. But her cargo belongs to a British subject; and there’s an end to our prize money: no matter for that. There was an ugly look with Matthews from the first; and I found, the day we took her, something odd in the look of her stern. The rascals had done their best to paint over her name; but I, though no great scholar, made a shift to spell the Lively Peggy through it all. We have the mate in limbo at Plymouth: but it’s all come out, without any more to do; and, mistress, I’ll get you her bill of lading in a trice, and I give ye joy with all my heart.”
Alderman Holloway, a man used to business, would not indulge himself in a single compliment upon this occasion, till he had cautiously searched the captain’s papers. The bill of lading which had been sent with the Lively Peggy from Jamaica, was found amongst them; it was an exact list, corresponding precisely with that which Mrs. Howard’s agent had sent her by post, of the consignment shipped after the sale of her plantation. The alderman, satisfied, after counting the puncheons of rum and hogsheads of sugar, turned to Mrs. Howard, and shook hands with her, with a face of mercantile congratulation, declaring that “she was now as good a woman as ever she had been, and need never desire to be better.”
“My dear Oliver,” cried Howard, “this is all owing to you: you discovered —”
“No, no, no!” interrupted Oliver, precipitately: “all that I did was accident; all that you did was not accident. You first made me love you, by teaching me that I was not a blockhead, and by freeing me from —”
“A tyrant, you were going to say,” cried Holloway, colouring deeply; “and, if you had, you’d have said the truth. I thought; Howard, afterwards, that you were a brave fellow for taking his part, I confess. But, Oliver, I thought you had forgiven me for all these things.”
“Forgiven! Oh yes, to be sure,” cried little Oliver; “I wasn’t thinking of myself, or you either; I was only thinking of Howard’s good nature; and then,” continued he, “Howard was just as good to the mulatto woman as he was to me — wasn’t he, Cuba?”
“That he was!” replied the poor woman; and, looking at Mrs. Howard, added, “Massa’s heart as good as hers.”
“And his head’s as good as his heart, which makes it all better still,” continued Oliver, with enthusiasm. “Mr. Russell, you know how hard he worked at that translation, to earn money to support poor Cuba, and to paper the room, and to pay the bricklayer for the smoky chimney: these things were not done by accident, were they? though it was by accident that I happened to observe Cuba’s curious thimble.”
“There are some people,” interrupted Mr. Russell, “who, by accident, never observe any thing. We will not allow you, Oliver, to call your quick habit of observation accident; your excellent capacity will —”
“My excellent capacity,” repeated Oliver, with unfeigned surprise: “why, you know, I get by rote slower than any body in the world.”
“You may,” said Dr. B., “notwithstanding, have an excellent capacity: much may be learned without books; much more with books, Oliver; but, for your comfort, you need not learn them by rote.”
“I’m glad of it, heartily,” cried Oliver; “but this put something out of my head that I was in a great hurry to say — O, one other thing about accident. It was not accident, but it was Howard’s sense, in persuading me not to put into the lottery, that was the very cause of Dr. B.‘s giving me the choice of all the things in the Jew’s box — was it not?”
“Well, Oliver, we are ready to allow all you want us to perceive, in one word, that your friend Howard has not been educated by accident,” said Dr. B., looking at Mrs. Howard.
The Jew and the captain of the Lively Peggy were now left in the hands of the law. The sailor was properly rewarded. Mr. Russell was engaged to superintend the education of Holloway. He succeeded, and was presented by the alderman with a living in Surrey. Mr. Supine never visited Italy, and did not meet with any consolation but in his German flute. Howard continued eager to improve himself; nor did he imagine that, the moment he left school, and parted from his tutor, his education was finished, and that his books were, “like past misfortunes,” good for nothing but to be forgotten. His love for literature he found one of the first pleasures of his life; nor did he, after he came into the possession of a large fortune, find that his habits of constant occupation lessened his enjoyments, for he was never known to yawn at a window upon a rainy morning!
Little Oliver’s understanding rapidly improved; his affection for his friend Howard increased as he grew up, for he always remembered that Howard was the first person who discovered that he was not a dunce. Mrs. Howard had the calm satisfaction of seeing an education well finished, which she had well begun; and she enjoyed, in her nephew’s friendship, esteem, and unconstrained gratitude, all the rewards which her good sense, firmness, and benevolence had so well deserved.
14 RUSSELL. — This name is chosen for that of a good tutor, because it was the name of Mr. Edgeworth’s tutor, at Oxford: Mr. Russell was also tutor to the late Mr. Day. Both by Mr. Day and Mr. Edgeworth he was respected, esteemed, and beloved, in no common degree.
15 St. Pierre, Études de la Nature.
16 This observation was literally made by a boy of ten years of age.
17 See the account of Mrs. C. Ponten, in Gibbon’s Life.
18 Vide Dr. Johnson’s assertions to the contrary, in Mrs. Piozzi’s Anecdotes.
19 Botanic Garden, vol. ii.
20 Vol. ii. p. 57, second edition.
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