The Virginians, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER XLVI

Chains and Slavery

Remorse for past misdeeds and follies Harry sincerely felt, when he found himself a prisoner in that dismal lock-up house, and wrath and annoyance at the idea of being subjected to the indignity of arrest; but the present unpleasantry he felt sure could only be momentary. He had twenty friends who would release him from his confinement: to which of them should he apply, was the question. Mr. Draper, the man of business, who had been so obsequious to him: his kind uncle the Baronet, who had offered to make his house Harry’s home, who loved him as a son: his cousin Castlewood, who had won such large sums from him: his noble friends at the Chocolate-House, his good Aunt Bernstein — any one of these Harry felt sure would give him a help in his trouble, though some of the relatives, perhaps, might administer to him a little scolding for his imprudence. The main point was, that the matter should be transacted quietly, for Mr. Warrington was anxious that as few as possible of the public should know how a gentleman of his prodigious importance had been subject to such a vulgar process as an arrest. As if the public does not end by knowing everything it cares to know. As if the dinner I shall have today, and the hole in the stocking which I wear at this present writing, can be kept a secret from some enemy or other who has a mind to pry it out — though my boots are on, and my door was locked when I dressed myself! I mention that hole in the stocking for sake of example merely. The world can pry out everything about us which it has a mind to know. But then there is this consolation, which men will never accept in their own cases, that the world doesn’t care. Consider the amount of scandal it has been forced to hear in its time, and how weary and blase it must be of that kind of intelligence. You are taken to prison, and fancy yourself indelibly disgraced? You are bankrupt under odd circumstances? You drive a queer bargain with your friends and are found out, and imagine the world will punish you? Psha! Your shame is only vanity. Go and talk to the world as if nothing had happened, and nothing has happened. Tumble down; brush the mud off your clothes; appear with a smiling countenance, and nobody cares. Do you suppose Society is going to take out its pocket-handkerchief and be inconsolable when you die? Why should it care very much, then, whether your worship graces yourself or disgraces yourself? Whatever happens it talks, meets, jokes, yawns, has its dinner, pretty much as before. Therefore don’t be so conceited about yourself as to fancy your private affairs of so much importance, mi fili. Whereas Mr. Harry Warrington chafed and fumed as though all the world was tingling with the touch of that hand which had been laid on his sublime shoulder.

“A pretty sensation my arrest must have created at the club!” thought Harry. “I suppose that Mr. Selwyn will be cutting all sorts of jokes about my misfortune, plague take him! Everybody round the table will have heard of it. March will tremble about the bet I have with him; and, faith, ’twill be difficult to pay him when I lose. They will all be setting up a whoop of congratulation at the Savage, as they call me, being taken prisoner. How shall I ever be able to appear in the world again? Whom shall I ask to come to my help? No,” thought he, with his mingled acuteness and simplicity, “I will not send in the first instance to any of my relations or my noble friends at White’s. I will have Sampson’s counsel. He has often been in a similar predicament, and will know how to advise me.” Accordingly, as soon as the light of dawn appeared, after an almost intolerable delay — for it seemed to Harry as if the sun had forgotten to visit Cursitor Street in his rounds that morning — and as soon as the inmates of the house of bondage were stirring, Mr. Warrington despatched a messenger to his friend in Long Acre, acquainting the chaplain with the calamity just befallen him, and beseeching his reverence to give him the benefit of his advice and consolation.

Mr. Warrington did not know, to be sure, that to send such a message to the parson was as if he said, “I am fallen amongst the lions. Come down, my dear friend, into the pit with me.” Harry very likely thought Sampson’s difficulties were over; or, more likely still, was so much engrossed with his own affairs and perplexities, as to bestow little thought upon his neighbour’s. Having sent off his missive, the captive’s mind was somewhat more at ease, and he condescended to call for breakfast, which was brought to him presently. The attendant who served him with his morning repast asked him whether he would order dinner, or take his meal at Mrs. Bailiff’s table with some other gentlemen? No. Mr. Warrington would not order dinner. He should quit the place before dinner-time, he informed the chamberlain who waited on him in that grim tavern. The man went away, thinking no doubt that this was not the first young gentleman who had announced that he was going away ere two hours were over. “Well, if your honour does stay, there is good beef and carrot at two o’clock,” says the sceptic, and closes the door on Mr. Harry and his solitary meditations.

Harry’s messenger to Mr. Sampson brought back a message from that gentleman to say that he would be with his patron as soon as might be: but ten o’clock came, eleven o’clock, noon, and no Sampson. No Sampson arrived, but about twelve Gumbo with a portmanteau of his master’s clothes, who flung himself, roaring with grief, at Harry’s feet: and with a thousand vows of fidelity, expressed himself ready to die, to sell himself into slavery over again, to do anything to rescue his beloved Master Harry from this calamitous position. Harry was touched with the lad’s expressions of affection, and told him to get up from the ground where he was grovelling on his knees, embracing his master’s. “All you have to do, sir, is to give me my clothes to dress, and to hold your tongue about this business. Mind you, not a word, sir, about it to anybody!” says Mr. Warrington, severely.

“Oh no, sir, never to nobody!” says Gumbo, looking most solemnly, and proceeded to dress his master carefully, who had need of a change and a toilette after his yesterday’s sudden capture, and night’s dismal rest. Accordingly Gumbo flung a dash of powder in Harry’s hair, and arrayed his master carefully and elegantly, so that he made Mr. Warrington look as fine and splendid as if he had been stepping into his chair to go to St. James’s.

Indeed all that love and servility could do Mr. Gumbo faithfully did for his master, for whom he had an extreme regard and attachment. But there were certain things beyond Gumbo’s power. He could not undo things which were done already; and he could not help lying and excusing himself when pressed upon points disagreeable to himself. The language of slaves is lies (I mean black slaves and white). The creature slinks away and hides with subterfuges, as a hunted animal runs to his covert at the sight of man, the tyrant and pursuer. Strange relics of feudality, and consequence of our ever-so-old social life! Our domestics (are they not men, too, and brethren?) are all hypocrites before us. They never speak naturally to us, or the whole truth. We should be indignant: we should say, confound their impudence: we should turn them out of doors if they did. But quo me rapis, O my unbridled hobby?

Well, the truth is, that as for swearing not to say a word about his master’s arrest — such an oath as that was impossible to keep for, with a heart full of grief, indeed, but with a tongue that never could cease wagging, bragging, joking, and lying, Mr. Gumbo had announced the woeful circumstance to a prodigious number of his acquaintances already, chiefly gentlemen of the shoulder-knot and worsted lace. We have seen how he carried the news to Colonel Lambert’s and Lord Wrotham’s servants: he had proclaimed it at the footman’s club to which he belonged, and which was frequented by the gentlemen of some of the first nobility. He had subsequently condescended to partake of a mug of ale in Sir Miles Warrington’s butler’s room, and there had repeated and embellished the story. Then he had gone off to Madame Bernstein’s people, with some of whom he was on terms of affectionate intercourse, and had informed that domestic circle of his grief and, his master being captured, and there being no earthly call for his personal services that evening, Gumbo had stepped up to Lord Castlewood’s, and informed the gentry there of the incident which had just come to pass. So when, laying his hand on his heart, and with gushing floods of tears, Gumbo says, in reply to his master’s injunction, “Oh no, master! nebber to nobody!” we are in a condition to judge of the degree of credibility which ought to be given to the lad’s statement.

The black had long completed his master’s toilet: the dreary breakfast was over: slow as the hours went to the prisoner, still they were passing one after another, but no Sampson came in accordance with the promise sent in the morning. At length, some time after noon, there arrived, not Sampson, but a billet from him, sealed with a moist wafer, and with the ink almost yet wet. The unlucky divine’s letter ran as follows:

“Oh, sir, dear sir, I have done all that a man can at the command and in the behalf of his patron! You did not know, sir, to what you were subjecting me, did you? Else, if I was to go to prison, why did I not share yours, and why am I in a lock-up house three doors off?

“Yes. Such is the fact. As I was hastening to you, knowing full well the danger to which I was subject:— but what danger will I not affront at the call of such a benefactor as Mr. Warrington hath been to me? — I was seized by two villains who had a writ against me, and who have lodged me at Naboth’s, hard by, and so close to your honour, that we could almost hear each other across the garden walls of the respective houses where we are confined.

“I had much and of importance to say, which I do not care to write down on paper regarding your affairs. May they mend! May my cursed fortunes, too, better themselves, is the prayer of —

“Your honour’s afflicted Chaplain-inOrdinary, J. S.”

And now, as Mr. Sampson refuses to speak, it will be our duty to acquaint the reader with those matters whereof the poor chaplain did not care to discourse on paper.

Gumbo’s loquacity had not reached so far as Long Acre, and Mr. Sampson was ignorant of the extent of his patron’s calamity until he received Harry’s letter and messenger from Chancery Lane. The divine was still ardent with gratitude for the service Mr. Warrington had just conferred on him, and eager to find some means to succour his distressed patron. He knew what a large sum Lord Castlewood had won from his cousin, had dined in company with his lordship on the day before, and now ran to Lord Castlewood’s house, with a hope of arousing him to some pity for Mr. Warrington. Sampson made a very eloquent and touching speech to Lord Castlewood about his kinsman’s misfortune, and spoke with a real kindness and sympathy, which, however, failed to touch the nobleman to whom he addressed himself.

My lord peevishly and curtly put a stop to the chaplain’s passionate pleading. “Did I not tell you, two days since, when you came for money, that I was as poor as a beggar, Sampson,” said his lordship, “and has anybody left me a fortune since? The little sum I won from my cousin was swallowed up by others. I not only can’t help Mr. Warrington, but, as I pledge you my word, not being in the least aware of his calamity, I had positively written to him this morning to ask him to help me.” And a letter to this effect did actually reach Mr. Warrington from his lodgings, whither it had been despatched by the penny post.

“I must get him money, my lord. I know he had scarcely anything left in his pocket after relieving me. Were I to pawn my cassock and bands, he must have money,” cried the chaplain.

“Amen. Go and pawn your bands, your cassock, anything you please. Your enthusiasm does you credit,” said my lord; and resumed the reading of his paper, whilst, in the deepest despondency, poor Sampson left him.

My Lady Maria meanwhile had heard that the chaplain was with her brother, and conjectured what might be the subject on which they had been talking. She seized upon the parson as he issued from out his fruitless interview with my lord. She drew him into the dining-room: the strongest marks of grief and sympathy were in her countenance. “Tell me, what is this has happened to Mr. Warrington?” she asked.

“Your ladyship, then, knows?” asked the chaplain.

“Have I not been in mortal anxiety ever since his servant brought the dreadful news last night?” asked my lady. “We had it as we came from the opera — from my Lady Yarmouth’s box — my lord, my Lady Castlewood, and I.”

“His lordship, then, did know?” continued Sampson.

“Benson told the news when we came from the playhouse to our tea,” repeats Lady Maria.

The chaplain lost all patience and temper at such duplicity. “This is too bad,” he said, with an oath; and he told Lady Maria of the conversation which he had just had with Lord Castlewood, and of the latter’s refusal to succour his cousin, after winning great sums of money from him, and with much eloquence and feeling, of Mr. Warrington’s most generous behaviour to himself.

Then my Lady Maria broke out with a series of remarks regarding her own family, which were by no means complimentary to her own kith and kin. Although not accustomed to tell truth commonly, yet, when certain families fall out, it is wonderful what a number of truths they will tell about one another. With tears, imprecations, I do not like to think how much stronger language, Lady Maria burst into a furious and impassioned tirade, in which she touched upon the history of almost all her noble family. She complimented the men and the ladies alike; she shrieked out interrogatories to Heaven, inquiring why it had made such (never mind what names she called her brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, parents); and, emboldened with wrath, she dashed at her brother’s library door, so shrill in her outcries, so furious in her demeanour, that the alarmed chaplain, fearing the scene which might ensue, made for the street.

My lord, looking up from the book or other occupation which engaged him, regarded the furious woman with some surprise, and selected a good strong oath to fling at her, as it were, and check her onset.

But, when roused, we have seen how courageous Maria could be. Afraid as she was ordinarily of her brother, she was not in a mood to be frightened now by any language of abuse or sarcasm at his command.

“So, my lord!” she called out, “you sit down with him in private to cards, and pigeon him! You get the poor boy’s last shilling, and you won’t give him a guinea out of his own winnings now he is penniless!”

“So that infernal chaplain has been telling tales!” says my lord.

“Dismiss him: do! Pay him his wages, and let him go — he will be glad enough!” cries Maria.

“I keep him to marry one of my sisters, in case he is wanted,” says Castlewood, glaring at her.

“What can the women be in a family where there are such men?” says the lady.

“Effectivement!” says my lord, with a shrug of his shoulder.

“What can we be, when our fathers and brothers are what they are? We are bad enough, but what are you? I say, you neither have courage — no, nor honour, nor common feeling. As your equals won’t play with you, my Lord Castlewood, you must take this poor lad out of Virginia, your own kinsman, and pigeon him! Oh, it’s a shame — a shame!”

“We are all playing our own game, I suppose. Haven’t you played and won one, Maria? Is it you that are squeamish of a sudden about the poor lad from Virginia? Has Mr. Harry cried off, or has your ladyship got a better offer?” cried my Lord. “If you won’t have him, one of the Warrington girls will, I promise you; and the old Methodist woman in Hill Street will give him the choice of either. Are you a fool, Maria Esmond? A greater fool, I mean, than in common?”

“I should be a fool if I thought that either of my brothers could act like an honest man, Eugene!” said Maria. “I am a fool to expect that you will be other than you are; that if you find any relative in distress you will help him; that if you can meet with a victim you won’t fleece him.”

“Fleece him! Psha! What folly are you talking! Have you not seen, from the course which the lad has been running for months past, how he would end? If I had not won his money, some other would? I never grudged thee thy little plans regarding him. Why shouldst thou fly in a passion, because I have just put out my hand to take what he was offering to all the world? I reason with you, I don’t know why, Maria. You should be old enough to understand reason, at any rate. You think this money belonged of right to Lady Maria Warrington and her children? I tell you that in three months more every shilling would have found its way to White’s macco-table, and that it is much better spent in paying my debts. So much for your ladyship’s anger, and tears, and menaces, and naughty language. See! I am a good brother, and repay them with reason and kind words.”

“My good brother might have given a little more than kind words to the lad from whom he has just taken hundreds,” interposed the sister of this affectionate brother.

“Great heavens, Maria! Don’t you see that even out of this affair, unpleasant as it seems, a clever woman may make her advantage,” cries my lord. Maria said she failed to comprehend.

“As thus. I name no names; I meddle in no person’s business, having quite enough to do to manage my own cursed affairs. But suppose I happen to know of a case in another family which may be applicable to ours. It is this. A green young lad of tolerable expectations, comes up from the country to his friends in town — never mind from what country: never mind to what town. An elderly female relative, who has been dragging her spinsterhood about these — how many years shall we say? — extort a promise of marriage from my young gentleman, never mind on what conditions.”

“My lord, do you want to insult your sister as well as to injure your cousin?” asks Maria.

“My good child, did I say a single word about fleecing or cheating, or pigeoning, or did I fly into a passion when you insulted me? I know the allowance that must be made for your temper, and the natural folly of your sex. I say I treated you with soft words — I go on with my story. The elderly relative extracts a promise of marriage from the young lad, which my gentleman is quite unwilling to keep. No, he won’t keep it. He is utterly tired of his elderly relative: he will plead his mother’s refusal: he will do anything to get out of his promise.”

“Yes; if he was one of us Esmonds, my Lord Castlewood. But this is a man of honour we are speaking of,” cried Maria, who, I suppose, admired truth in others, however little she saw it in her own family.

“I do not contradict either of my dear sister’s remarks. One of us would fling the promise to the winds, especially as it does not exist in writing.”

“My lord!” gasps out Maria.

“Bah! I know all. That little coup of Tunbridge was played by the Aunt Bernstein with excellent skill. The old woman is the best man of our family. While you were arrested, your boxes were searched for the Mohock’s letters to you. When you were let loose, the letters had disappeared, and you said nothing, like a wise woman, as you are sometimes. You still hanker after your Cherokee. Soit. A woman of your mature experience knows the value of a husband. What is this little loss of two or three hundred pounds?”

“Not more than three hundred, my lord?” interposes Maria.

“Eh! never mind a hundred or two, more or less. What is this loss at cards? A mere bagatelle! You are playing for a principality. You want your kingdom in Virginia; and if you listen to my opinion, the little misfortune which has happened to your swain is a piece of great good-fortune to you.”

“I don’t understand you, my lord.”

“C’est possible; but sit down, and I will explain what I mean in a manner suited to your capacity.” And so Maria Esmond, who had advanced to her brother like a raging lion, now sate down at his feet like a gentle lamb.

Madame de Bernstein was not a little moved at the news of her nephew’s arrest, which Mr. Gumbo brought to Clarges Street on the night of the calamity. She would have cross-examined the black, and had further particulars respecting Harry’s mishap; but Mr. Gumbo, anxious to carry his intelligence to other quarters, had vanished when her ladyship sent for him. Her temper was not improved by the news, or by the sleepless night which she spent. I do not envy the dame de compagnie who played cards with her, or the servant who had to lie in her chamber. An arrest was an everyday occurrence, as she knew very well as a woman of the world. Into what difficulties had her scapegrace of a nephew fallen? How much money should she be called upon to pay to release him? And had he run through all his own? Provided he had not committed himself very deeply, she was quite disposed to aid him. She liked even his extravagances and follies. He was the only being in the world on whom, for long, long years, that weary woman had been able to bestow a little natural affection. So, on their different beds, she and Harry were lying wakeful together; and quite early in the morning the messengers which each sent forth on the same business may have crossed each other.

Madame Bernstein’s messenger was despatched to the chambers of her man of business, Mr. Draper, with an order that Mr. D. should ascertain for what sums Mr. Warrington had been arrested, and forthwith repair to the Baroness. Draper’s emissaries speedily found out that Mr. Warrington was locked up close beside them, and the amount of detainers against him so far. Were there other creditors, as no doubt there were, they would certainly close upon him when they were made acquainted with his imprisonment.

To Mr. Sparks, the jeweller, for those unlucky presents, so much; to the landlord in Bond Street, for board, fire, lodging, so much: these were at present the only claims against Mr. Warrington, Mr. Draper found. He was ready, at a signal from her ladyship, to settle them at a moment. The jeweller’s account ought especially to be paid, for Mr. Harry had acted most imprudently in taking goods from Mr. Sparks on credit, and pledging them with a pawnbroker. He must have been under some immediate pressure for money; intended to redeem the goods immediately, meant nothing but what was honourable of course; but the affair would have an ugly look, if made public, and had better be settled out of hand. “There cannot be the least difficulty regarding a thousand pounds more or less, for a gentleman of Mr. Warrington’s rank and expectations,” said Madame de Bernstein. Not the least: her ladyship knew very well that there were funds belonging to Mr. Warrington, on which money could be at once raised with her ladyship’s guarantee.

Should he go that instant and settle the matter with Messrs. Amos? Mr. Harry might be back to dine with her at two, and to confound the people at the clubs, “who are no doubt rejoicing over his misfortunes,” said the compassionate Mr. Draper.

But the Baroness had other views. “I think, my good Mr. Draper,” she said, “that my young gentleman has sown wild oats enough; and when he comes out of prison I should like him to come out clear, and without any liabilities at all. You are not aware of all his.”

“No gentleman ever does tell all his debts, madam,” says Mr. Draper; “no one I ever had to deal with.”

“There is one which the silly boy has contracted, and from which he ought to be released, Mr. Draper. You remember a little circumstance which occurred at Tunbridge Wells in the autumn? About which I sent up my man Case to you?”

“When your ladyship pleases to recall it, I remember it — not otherwise,” says Mr. Draper, with a bow. “A lawyer should be like a Popish confessor — what is told him is a secret for ever, and for everybody.” So we must not whisper Madame Bernstein’s secret to Mr. Draper; but the reader may perhaps guess it from the lawyer’s conduct subsequently.

The lawyer felt pretty certain that ere long he would receive a summons from the poor young prisoner in Cursitor Street, and waited for that invitation before he visited Mr. Warrington. Six-and-thirty hours passed ere the invitation came, during which period Harry passed the dreariest two days which he ever remembered to have spent.

There was no want of company in the lock-up house, the bailiff’s rooms were nearly always full; but Harry preferred the dingy solitude of his own room to the society round his landlady’s table, and it was only on the second day of his arrest, and when his purse was emptied by the heavy charges of the place, that he made up his mind to apply to Mr. Draper. He despatched a letter then to the lawyer at the Temple, informing him of his plight, and desiring him, in an emphatic postscript, not to say one word about the matter to his aunt, Madame de Bernstein.

He had made up his mind not to apply to the old lady except at the very last extremity. She had treated him with so much kindness that he revolted from the notion of trespassing on her bounty, and for a while tried to please himself with the idea that he might get out of durance without her even knowing that any misfortune at all had befallen him. There seemed to him something humiliating in petitioning a woman for money. No! He would apply first to his male friends, all of whom might help him if they would. It had been his intention to send Sampson to one or other of them as a negotiator, had not the poor fellow been captured on his way to succour his friend.

Sampson gone, Harry was obliged to have recourse to his own negro servant, who was kept on the trot all day between Temple Bar and the Court end of the town with letters from his unlucky master. Firstly, then, Harry sent off a most private and confidential letter to his kinsman, the Right Honourable the Earl of Castlewood, saying how he had been cast into prison, and begging Castlewood to lend him the amount of the debt. “Please to keep my application, and the cause of it, a profound secret from the dear ladies,” wrote poor Harry.

“Was ever anything so unfortunate?” wrote back Lord Castlewood, in reply. “I suppose you have not got my note of yesterday? It must be lying at your lodgings, where — I hope in heaven! — you will soon be, too. My dear Mr. Warrington, thinking you were as rich as Croesus — otherwise I never should have sate down to cards with you — I wrote to you yesterday, begging you to lend me some money to appease some hungry duns whom I don’t know how else to pacify. My poor fellow! every shilling of your money went to them, and but for my peer’s privilege I might be hob-and-nob with you now in your dungeon. May you soon escape from it, is the prayer of your sincere CASTLEWOOD.”

This was the result of application number one: and we may imagine that Mr. Harry read the reply to his petition with rather a blank face. Never mind! There was kind, jolly Uncle Warrington. Only last night his aunt had kissed him and loved him like a son. His uncle had called down blessings on his head, and professed quite a paternal regard for him. With a feeling of shyness and modesty in presence of those virtuous parents and family. Harry had never said a word about his wild doings, or his horse-racings, or his gamblings, or his extravagances. It must all out now. He must confess himself a Prodigal and a Sinner, and ask for their forgiveness and aid. So Prodigal sate down and composed a penitent letter to Uncle Warrington, and exposed his sad case, and besought him to come to the rescue. Was not that a bitter nut to crack for our haughty young Virginian? Hours of mortification and profound thought as to the pathos of the composition did Harry pass over that letter; sheet after sheet of Mr. Amos’s sixpence-a-sheet letter-paper did he tear up before the missive was complete, with which poor blubbering Gumbo (much vilified by the bailiff’s followers and parasites, whom he was robbing, as they conceived, of their perquisites) went his way.

At evening the faithful negro brought back a thick letter in his aunt’s handwriting. Harry opened the letter with a trembling hand. He thought it was full of bank-notes. Ah me! it contained a sermon (Daniel in the Lions’ Den) by Mr. Whitfield, and a letter from Lady Warrington saying that, in Sir Miles’s absence from London, she was in the habit of opening his letters, and hence, perforce, was become acquainted with a fact which she deplored from her inmost soul to learn, namely, that her nephew Warrington had been extravagant and was in debt. Of course, in the absence of Sir Miles, she could not hope to have at command such a sum as that for which Mr. Warrington wrote, but she sent him her heartfelt prayers, her deepest commiseration, and a discourse by dear Mr. Whitfield, which would comfort him in his present (alas! she feared not undeserved) calamity. She added profuse references to particular Scriptural chapters which would do him good. If she might speak of things worldly, she said, at such a moment, she would hint to Mr. Warrington that his epistolary orthography was anything but correct. She would not fail for her part to comply with his express desire that his dear cousins should know nothing of this most painful circumstance, and with every wish for his welfare here and elsewhere, she subscribed herself his loving aunt, MARGARET WARRINGTON.

Poor Harry hid his face between his hands, and sate for a while with elbows on the greasy table blankly staring into the candle before him. The bailiff’s servant, who was touched by his handsome face, suggested a mug of beer for his honour, but Harry could not drink, nor eat the meat that was placed before him. Gumbo, however, could, whose grief did not deprive him of appetite, and who, blubbering the while, finished all the beer, and all the bread and the meat. Meanwhile, Harry had finished another letter, with which Gumbo was commissioned to start again, and away the faithful creature ran upon his errand.

Gumbo ran as far as White’s Club, to which house he was ordered in the first instance to carry the letter, and where he found the person to whom it was addressed. Even the prisoner, for whom time passed so slowly, was surprised at the celerity with which his negro had performed his errand.

At least the letter which Harry expected had not taken long to write. “My lord wrote it at the hall-porter’s desk, while I stood there then with Mr Mr. Morris,” said Gumbo, and the letter was to this effect:—

“DEAR SIR— I am sorry I cannot comply with your wish, I’m short of money at present, having paid large sums to you as well as to other gentlemen. — Yours obediently, MARCH AND R.

“Henry Warrington, Esq.”

“Did Lord March say anything?” asked Mr. Warrington looking very pale.

“He say it was the coolest thing he ever knew. So did Mr. Morris. He showed him your letter, Master Harry. Yes, Mr. Morris say, ‘Dam his imperence!’” added Gumbo.

Harry burst into such a yell of laughter that his landlord thought he had good news, and ran in in alarm lest he was about to lose his tenant. But by this time poor Harry’s laughter was over, and he was flung down in his chair gazing dismally in the fire.

“I— I should like to smoke a pipe of Virginia” he groaned.

Gumbo burst into tears: he flung himself at Harry’s knees. He kissed his knees and his hands. “Oh, master, my dear master, what will they say at home?” he sobbed out.

The jailor was touched at the sight of the black’s grief and fidelity, and at Harry’s pale face as he sank back in his chair quite overcome and beaten by his calamity.

“Your honour ain’t eat anything these two days,” the man said, in a voice of rough pity. “Pluck up a little, sir. You aren’t the first gentleman who has been in and out of grief before this. Let me go down and get you a glass of punch and a little supper.”

“My good friend,” said Harry, a sickly smile playing over his white face, “you pay ready money for everything in this house, don’t you? I must tell you that I haven’t a shilling left to buy a dish of meat. All the money I have I want for letter-paper.”

“Oh, master, my master!” roared out Gumbo. “Look here, my dear Master Harry! Here’s plenty of money — here’s twenty-three five-guineas. Here’s gold moidore from Virginia — here — no, not that — that’s keepsakes the girls gave me. Take everything — everything. I go sell myself tomorrow morning; but here’s plenty for to-night, master!”

“God bless you, Gumbo!” Harry said, laying his hand on the lad’s woolly head. “You are free if I am not, and Heaven forbid I should not take the offered help of such a friend as you. Bring me some supper: but the pipe too, mind — the pipe too!” And Harry ate his supper with a relish: and even the turnkeys and bailiff’s followers, when Gumbo went out of the house that night, shook hands with him, and ever after treated him well.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07