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Forester was the son of an English gentleman, who had paid some attention to his education, but who had some singularities of opinion, which probably influenced him in his conduct toward his children.
Young Forester was frank, brave, and generous, but he had been taught to dislike politeness so much, that the common forms of society appeared to him either odious or ridiculous; his sincerity was seldom restrained by any attention to the feelings of others. His love of independence was carried to such an extreme, that he was inclined to prefer the life of Robinson Crusoe in his desert island, to that of any individual in cultivated society. His attention had been early fixed upon the follies and vices of the higher classes of people; and his contempt for selfish indolence was so strongly associated with the name of gentleman, that he was disposed to choose his friends and companions from amongst his inferiors: the inequality between the rich and the poor shocked him; his temper was enthusiastic as well as benevolent; and he ardently wished to be a man, and to be at liberty to act for himself, that he might reform society, or at least his own neighbourhood. When he was about nineteen years old, his father died, and young Forester was sent to Edinburgh, to Dr. Campbell, the gentleman whom his father had appointed his guardian. In the choice of his mode of travelling his disposition appeared. The stage-coach and a carrier set out nearly at the same time from Penrith. Forester, proud of bringing his principles immediately into action, put himself under the protection of the carrier, and congratulated himself upon his freedom from prejudice. He arrived at Edinburgh in all the glory of independence, and he desired the carrier to set him down at Dr. Campbell’s door.
“The doctor is not at home,” said the footman, who opened the door.
“He is at home,” exclaimed Forester with indignation; “I see him at the window.”
“My master is just going to dinner, and can’t see any body now,” said the footman; “but if you will call again at six o’clock, maybe he may see you, my good lad.”
“My name is Forester — let me in,” said Forester, pushing-forwards.
“Forester! — Mr. Forester!” said the footman; “the young gentleman that was expected in the coach to-day?” Without deigning to give the footman any explanation, Forester took his own portmanteau from the carrier; and Dr. Campbell came down-stairs just when the footman was officiously struggling with the young gentleman for his burden. Dr. Campbell received his pupil very kindly; but Forester would not be prevailed upon to rub his shoes sufficiently upon the mat at the bottom of the stairs, or to change his disordered dress before he made his appearance in the drawing-room. He entered with dirty shoes, a threadbare coat, and hair that looked as if it never had been combed; and he was much surprised by the effect which his singular appearance produced upon the risible muscles of some of the company.
“I have done nothing to be ashamed of,” said he to himself; but, notwithstanding all his efforts to be and to appear at ease, he was constrained and abashed. A young laird, Mr. Archibald Mackenzie, seemed to enjoy his confusion with malignant, half-suppressed merriment, in which Dr. Campbell’s son was too good-natured, and too well-bred, to participate. Henry Campbell was three or four years older than Forester, and though he looked like a gentleman, Forester could not help being pleased with the manner in which he drew him into conversation. The secret magic of politeness relieved him insensibly from the torment of false shame.
“It is a pity this lad was bred up a gentleman,” said Forester to himself, “for he seems to have some sense and goodness.”
Dinner was announced, and Forester was provoked at being interrupted in an argument concerning carts and coaches, which he had begun with Henry Campbell. Not that Forester was averse to eating, for he was at this instant ravenously hungry: but eating in company he always found equally repugnant to his habits and his principles. A table covered with a clean table-cloth; dishes in nice order; plates, knives, and forks, laid at regular distances, appeared to our young Diogenes absurd superfluities, and he was ready to exclaim, “How many things I do not want!” Sitting down to dinner, eating, drinking, and behaving like other people, appeared to him difficult and disagreeable ceremonies. He did not perceive that custom had rendered all these things perfectly easy to every one else in company; and as soon as he had devoured his food his own way, he moralized in silence upon the good sense of Sancho Panza, who preferred eating an egg behind the door to feasting in public; and he recollected his favourite traveller Le Vaillant’s1 enthusiastic account of his charming Hottentot dinners, and of the disgust that he afterwards felt, on the comparison of European etiquette and African simplicity.
“Thank God, the ceremony of dinner is over,” said Forester to Henry Campbell, as soon as they rose from table.
All these things, which seemed mere matter of course in society, appeared to Forester strange ceremonies. In the evening there were cards for those who liked cards, and there was conversation for those who liked conversation. Forester liked neither; he preferred playing with a cat; and he sat all night apart from the company in a corner of a sofa. He took it for granted that the conversation could not be worth his attention, because he heard Lady Catherine Mackenzie’s voice amongst others; he had conceived a dislike, or rather a contempt for this lady, because she showed much of the pride of birth and rank in her manners. Henry Campbell did not think it necessary to punish himself for her ladyship’s faults, by withdrawing from entertaining conversation; he knew that his father had the art of managing the frivolous subjects started in general company, so as to make them lead to amusement and instruction; and this Forester would probably have discovered this evening, had he not followed his own thoughts, instead of listening to the observations of others. Lady Catherine, it is true, began with a silly history of her hereditary antipathy for pickled cucumbers; and she was rather tiresome in tracing the genealogy of this antipathy through several generations of her ancestry; but Dr. Campbell said “that he had heard, from an ingenious gentleman of her ladyship’s family, that her ladyship’s grandfather, and several of his friends, nearly lost their lives by pickled cucumbers;” and thence the doctor took occasion to relate several curious circumstances concerning the effects of different poisons.
Dr. Campbell, who plainly saw both the defects and the excellent qualities of his young ward, hoped that, by playful raillery, and by well-timed reasoning, he might mix a sufficient portion of good sense with Forester’s enthusiasm, might induce him gradually to sympathize in the pleasures of cultivated society, and might convince him that virtue is not confined to any particular class of men; that education, in the enlarged sense of the word, creates the difference between individuals more than riches or poverty. He foresaw that Forester would form a friendship with his son, and that this attachment would cure him of his prejudices against gentlemen, and would prevent him from indulging his taste for vulgar company. Henry Campbell had more useful energy, though less apparent enthusiasm, than his new companion: he was always employed; he was really independent, because he had learned how to support himself either by the labours of his head or of his hands; but his independence did not render him unsociable; he was always ready to sympathize with the pleasures of his friends, and therefore he was beloved: following his father’s example, he did all the good in his power to those who were in distress; but he did not imagine that he could reform every abuse in society, or that he could instantly new-model the universe. Forester became, in a few days, fond of conversing, or rather of holding long arguments, with Henry; but his dislike to the young laird, Archibald Mackenzie, hourly increased. Archibald and his mother, Lady Catherine Mackenzie, were relations to Mrs. Campbell, and they were now upon a visit at her house. Lady Catherine, a shrewd woman, fond of precedence, and fully sensible of the importance that wealth can bestow, had sedulously inculcated into the mind of her son all the maxims of worldly wisdom which she had collected in her intercourse with society; she had inspired him with family pride, but at the same time had taught him to pay obsequious court to his superiors in rank or fortune: the art of rising in the world, she knew, did not entirely depend upon virtue or ability; she was consequently more solicitous about her son’s manners than his morals, and was more anxious that he should form high connexions, than that he should apply to the severe studies of a profession. Archibald was nearly what might be expected from his education, alternately supple to his superiors, and insolent to his inferiors: to insinuate himself into the favour of young men of rank and fortune, he affected to admire extravagance; but his secret maxims of parsimony operated even in the midst of dissipation. Meanness and pride usually go together. It is not to be supposed that young Forester had such quick penetration, that he could discover the whole of the artful Archibald’s character in the course of a few days’ acquaintance; but he disliked him for good reasons, because he was a laird, because he had laughed at his first entrée, and because he was learning to dance.
1 Le Vaillant’s Travels in Africa, vol. i. p. 114.
About a week after our hero’s arrival at Dr. Campbell’s, the doctor was exhibiting some chemical experiments, with which Henry hoped that his young friend would be entertained; but Forester had scarcely been five minutes in the laboratory, before Mackenzie, who was lounging about the room, sneeringly took notice of a large hole in his shoe. “It is easily mended,” said the independent youth; and he immediately left the laboratory, and went to a cobbler’s, who lived in a narrow lane, at the back of Dr. Campbell’s house. Forester had, from his bed-chamber window, seen this cobbler at work early every morning; he admired his industry, and longed to be acquainted with him. The good-humoured familiarity of Forester’s manner pleased the cobbler, who was likewise diverted by the eagerness of the young gentleman to mend his own shoe. After spending some hours at the cobbler’s stall, the shoe was actually mended, and Forester thought that his morning’s work was worthy of admiration. In a court (or, as such places are called in Edinburgh, a close) near the cobbler’s, he saw some boys playing at ball: he joined them; and, whilst they were playing, a dancing-master with his hair powdered, and who seemed afraid of spattering his clean stockings, passed through the court, and interrupted the ball players for a few seconds. The boys, as soon as the man was out of hearing, declared that he passed through their court regularly twice a day, and that he always kicked their marbles out of the ring. Without staying to weigh this evidence scrupulously, Forester received it with avidity, and believed all that had been asserted was true, because the accused was a dancing-master; from his education he had conceived an antipathy to dancing-masters, especially to such as wore silk stockings, and had their heads well powdered. Easily fired at the idea of any injustice, and eager to redress the grievances of the poor, Forester immediately concerted with these boys a scheme to deliver them from what he called the insolence of the dancing-master, and promised that he would compel him to go round by another street.
In his zeal for the liberty of his new companions, our hero did not consider that he was infringing upon the liberties of a man who had never done him any injury, and over whom he had no right to exercise any control.
Upon his return to Dr. Campbell’s, Forester heard the sound of a violin; and he found that his enemy, M. Pasgrave, the dancing-master, was attending Archibald Mackenzie: he learnt, that he was engaged to give another lesson the next evening; and the plans of the confederates in the ball-alley were arranged accordingly. In Dr. Campbell’s room Forester remembered to have seen a skeleton in a glass case; he seized upon it, carried it down to his companions, and placed it in a niche in the wall, on the landing-place of a flight of stone stairs down which the dancing-master was obliged to go. A butcher’s son (one of Forester’s new companions) he instructed to stand at a certain hour behind the skeleton, with two rushlights, which he was to hold up to the eye-holes in the skull.
The dancing-master’s steps were heard approaching at the expected hour; and the boys stood in ambush to enjoy the diversion of the sight. It was a dark night; the fiery eyes of the skeleton glared suddenly upon the dancing-master, who was so terrified at the spectacle, and in such haste to escape, that his foot slipped, and he fell down the stone steps: his ankle was sprained by the fall, and he was brought to Dr. Campbell’s. Forester was shocked at this tragical end of his intended comedy. The poor man was laid upon a bed, and he writhed with pain. Forester, with vehement expressions of concern, explained to Dr. Campbell the cause of this accident, and he was much touched by the dancing-master’s good nature, who, between every twinge of pain, assured him that he should soon be well, and endeavoured to avert Dr. Campbell’s displeasure. Forester sat beside the bed, reproaching himself bitterly; and he was yet more sensible of his folly, when he heard, that the boys, whose part he had hastily taken, had frequently amused themselves with playing mischievous tricks upon this inoffensive man, who declared, that he had never purposely kicked their marbles out of the ring, but had always implored them to make way for him with all the civility in his power.
Forester resolved, that before he ever again attempted to do justice, he would, at least, hear both sides of the question.
Forester would willingly have sat up all night with M. Pasgrave, to foment his ankle from time to time, and, if possible, to assuage the pain: but the man would not suffer him to sit up, and about twelve o’clock he retired to rest. He had scarcely fallen asleep, when his door opened, and Archibald Mackenzie roused him, by demanding, in a peremptory tone, how he could sleep when the whole family were frightened out of their wits by his pranks?
“Is the dancing-master worse? What’s the matter?” exclaimed Forester in great terror.
Archihald replied, that he was not talking or thinking about the dancing-master, and desired Forester to make haste and dress himself, and that he would then soon hear what was the matter.
Forester dressed himself as fast as he could, and followed Archibald through a long passage, which led to a back staircase. “Do you hear the noise?” said Archibald.
“Not I,” said Forester.
“Well, you’ll hear it plain enough presently,” said Archibald: “follow me down-stairs.”
He followed, and was surprised, when he got into the hall, to find all the family assembled. Lady Catherine had been awakened by a noise, which she at first imagined to be the screaming of an infant. Her bedchamber was on the ground floor, and adjoining to Dr. Campbell’s laboratory, from which the noise seemed to proceed. She awakened her son Archibald and Mrs. Campbell; and, when she recovered her senses a little, she listened to Dr. Campbell, who assured her, that what her ladyship thought was the screaming of an infant was the noise of a cat: the screams of this cat were terrible; and, when the light approached the door of the laboratory, the animal flew at the door with so much fury, that nobody could venture to open it. Every body looked at Forester, as if they suspected that he had confined the cat, or that he was in some way or other the cause of the disturbance. The cat, which, from his having constantly fed and played with it, had grown extremely fond of him, used to follow him often from room to room; and he now recollected, that it followed him the preceding evening into the laboratory, when he went to replace the skeleton. He had not observed whether it came out of the room again, nor could he now conceive the cause of its yelling in this horrible manner. The animal seemed to be mad with pain. Dr. Campbell asked his son whether all the presses were locked. Henry said he was sure they were all locked. It was his business to lock them every evening; and he was so exact, that nobody doubted his accuracy.
Archibald Mackenzie, who all this time knew, or at least suspected the truth, held himself in cunning silence. The preceding evening he, for want of something to do, had strolled into the laboratory, and, with the pure curiosity of idleness, peeped into the presses, and took the stoppers out of several of the bottles. Dr. Campbell happened to come in, and carelessly asked him if he had been looking in the presses; to which question Archibald, though with scarcely any motive for telling a falsehood, immediately replied in the negative. As the doctor turned his head, Archibald put aside a bottle, which he had just before taken out of the press; and, fearing that the noise of replacing the glass stopper would betray him, he slipped it into his waistcoat pocket. How much useless cunning! All this transaction was now fully present to Archibald’s memory: and he was well convinced that Henry had not seen the bottle when he afterwards went to lock the presses; that the cat had thrown it down; and that this was the cause of all the yelling that disturbed the house. Archibald, however, kept his lips fast closed; he had told one falsehood; he dreaded to have it discovered; and he hoped the blame of the whole affair would rest upon Forester. At length the animal flew with diminished fury at the door; its screams became feebler and feebler, till, at last, they totally ceased. There was silence: Dr. Campbell opened the door: the cat was seen stretched upon the ground, apparently lifeless. As Forester looked nearer at the poor animal, he saw a twitching motion in one of its hind legs; Dr. Campbell said, that it was the convulsion of death. Forester was just going to lift up his cat, when his friend Henry stopped his hand, telling him, that he would burn himself, if he touched it. The hair and flesh of the cat on one side were burnt away, quite to the bone. Henry pointed to the broken bottle, which, he said, had contained vitriolic acid.
Henry in vain attempted to discover by whom the bottle of vitriolic acid had been taken out of its place. Suspicion naturally fell upon Forester, who, by his own account, was the last person in the room before the presses had been locked for the night. Forester, in warm terms, asserted, that he knew nothing of the matter. Dr. Campbell coolly observed, that Forester ought not to be surprised at being suspected upon this occasion; because every body had the greatest reason to suspect the person, whom they had detected in one practical joke, of planning another.
“Joke!” said Forester, looking down upon his lifeless favourite; “do you think me capable of such cruelty? Do you doubt my truth?” exclaimed Forester, haughtily. “You are unjust. Turn me out of your house this instant. I do not desire your protection, if I have forfeited your esteem.”
“Go to bed for to-night in my house,” said Dr. Campbell; “moderate your enthusiasm, and reflect coolly upon what has passed.”
Dr. Campbell, as Forester indignantly withdrew, said, with a benevolent smile, as he looked after him, “He wants nothing but a little common sense. Henry, you must give him a little of yours.”
In the morning, Forester first went to inquire how the dancing-master had slept, and then knocked impatiently at Dr. Campbell’s door.
“My father is not awake,” said Henry; but Forester marched directly up to the side of the bed, and, drawing back the curtain with no gentle hand, cried, with a loud voice, “Dr. Campbell, I am come to beg your pardon. I was angry when I said you were unjust.”
“And I was asleep when you begged my pardon,” said Dr. Campbell, rubbing his eyes.
“The dancing-master’s ankle is a great deal better; and I have buried the poor cat,” pursued Forester: “and I hope now, doctor, you’ll at least tell me, that you do not really suspect me of any hand in her death.”
“Pray let me go to sleep,” said Dr. Campbell, “and time your explanations a little better.”
The dancing-master gradually recovered from his sprain; and Forester spent all his pocket-money in buying a new violin for him, as his had been broken in his fall; his watch had likewise been broken against the stone steps. Though Forester looked upon a watch as a useless bauble, yet he determined to get this mended; and his friend Henry went with him for this purpose to a watchmaker’s.
Whilst Henry Campbell and Forester were consulting with the watchmaker upon the internal state of the bruised watch, Archibald Mackenzie, who followed them for a lounge, was looking over some new watches, and ardently wished for the finest that he saw. As he was playing with this fine watch, the watchmaker begged that he would take care not to break it.
Archibald, in the insolent tone in which he was used to speak to a tradesman, replied, that if he did break it, he hoped he was able to pay for it. The watchmaker civilly answered, “he had no doubt of that, but that the watch was not his property; it was Sir Philip Gosling’s, who would call for it, he expected, in a quarter of an hour.”
At the name of Sir Philip Gosling, Archibald quickly changed his tone: he had a great ambition to be of Sir Philip’s acquaintance, for Sir Philip was a young man who was to have a large fortune when he should come of age, and who, in the meantime, spent as much of it as possible, with great spirit and little judgment. He had been sent to Edinburgh for his education; and he spent his time in training horses, laying bets, parading in the public walks, and ridiculing, or, in his own phrase, quizzing every sensible young man, who applied to literature or science. Sir Philip, whenever he frequented any of the professor’s classes, took care to make it evident to every body present, that he did not come there to learn, and that he looked down with contempt upon all who were obliged to study; he was the first always to make any disturbance in the classes, or, in his elegant language, to make a row.
This was the youth of whose acquaintance Archibald Mackenzie was ambitious. He stayed in the shop, in hopes that Sir Philip would arrive: he was not disappointed; Sir Philip came, and, with address which lady Catherine would perhaps have admired, Archibald entered into conversation with the young baronet, if conversation that might be called, which consisted of a species of fashionable dialect, devoid of sense, and destitute of any pretence to wit. To Forester this dialect was absolutely unintelligible: after he had listened to it with sober contempt for a few minutes, he pulled Henry away, saying, “Come, don’t let us waste our time here; let us go to the brewery that you promised to show me.”
Henry did not immediately yield to the rough pull of his indignant friend, for at this instant the door of a little back parlour behind the watchmaker’s shop opened slowly, and a girl of about seven years old appeared, carrying, with difficulty, a flower-pot, in which there was a fine large geranium in full flower. Henry, who saw that the child was scarcely able to carry it, took it out of her hands, and asked her, “Where she would like to have it put?”
“Here, for to-day!” said the little girl, sorrowfully; “but to-morrow it goes away for ever.”
The little girl was sorry to part with this geranium, because “she had watched it all the winter,” and said, “that she was very fond of it; but that she was willing to part with it, though it was just come into flower, because the apothecary had told her, that it was the cause of her grandmother’s having been taken ill. Her grandmother lodged,” she said, “in that little room, and the room was very close, and she was taken ill in the night — so ill, that she could hardly speak or stir; and when the apothecary came, he said,” continued the little girl, “it was no wonder any body was ill, who slept in such a little close room, with such a great geranium in it, to poison the air. So my geranium must go!” concluded she with a sigh: “but, as it is for grandmother, I shall never think of it again.”
Henry Campbell and Forester were both struck with the modest simplicity of this child’s countenance and manner, and they were pleased with the unaffected generosity with which she gave up her favourite geranium. Forester noted this down in his mind as a fresh instance in favour of his exclusive good opinion of the poor. This little girl looked poor, though she was decently dressed; she was so thin, that her little cheek-bones could plainly be seen; her face had not the round, rosy beauty of cheerful health: she was pale and sallow, and she looked in patient misery. Moved with compassion, Forester regretted that he had no money to give where it might have been so well bestowed. He was always extravagant in his generosity; he would often give five guineas where five shillings would have been enough, and by these means he reduced himself to the necessity sometimes of refusing assistance to deserving objects. On his journey from his father’s house to Edinburgh, he lavished, in undistinguishing charity, a considerable sum of money; and all that he had remaining of this money he spent in purchasing the new violin for M. Pasgrave. Dr. Campbell absolutely refused to advance his ward any money till his next quarterly allowance should become due. Henry, who always perceived quickly what passed in the minds of others, guessed at Forester’s thoughts by his countenance, and forebore to produce his own money, though he had it just ready in his hand: he knew that he could call again at the watchmaker’s, and give what he pleased, without ostentation.
Upon questioning the little girl further, concerning her grandmother’s illness, Henry discovered, that the old woman had sat up late at night knitting, and that, feeling herself extremely cold, she got a pan of charcoal into her room; that, soon afterwards, she felt uncommonly drowsy; and when her little grand-daughter spoke to her, and asked her why she did not come to bed, she made no answer: a few minutes after this, she dropped from her chair. The child was extremely frightened, and though she felt it very difficult to rouse herself, she said, she got up as fast as she could, opened the door, and called to the watchmaker’s wife, who luckily had been at work late, and was now raking the kitchen fire. With her assistance the old woman was brought into the air, and presently returned to her senses: the pan of charcoal had been taken away before the apothecary came in the morning; as he was in a great hurry when he called, he made but few inquiries, and consequently condemned the geranium without sufficient evidence. As he left the house, he carelessly said, “My wife would like that geranium, I think.” And the poor old woman, who had but a very small fee to offer, was eager to give any thing that seemed to please the doctor.
Forester, when he heard this story, burst into a contemptuous exclamation against the meanness of this and of all other apothecaries. Henry informed the little girl, that the charcoal had been the cause of her grandmother’s illness, and advised them never, upon any account, to keep a pan of charcoal again in her bedchamber; he told her, that many people had been killed by this practice. “Then,” cried the little girl, joyfully, “if it was the charcoal, and not the geranium, that made grandmother ill, I may keep my beautiful geranium:” and she ran immediately to gather some of the flowers, which she offered to Henry and to Forester. Forester, who was still absorbed in the contemplation of the apothecary’s meanness, took the flowers, without perceiving that he took them, and pulled them to pieces as he went on thinking. Henry, when the little girl held the geraniums up to him, observed, that the back of her hand was bruised and black; he asked her how she had hurt herself, and she replied innocently, “that she had not hurt herself, but that her schoolmistress was a very strict woman.” Forester, roused from his reverie, desired to hear what the little girl meant by a strict woman, and she explained herself more fully: she said, that, as a favour, her grandmother had obtained leave from some great lady to send her to a charity school: that she went there every day to learn to read and work, but that the mistress of the charity school used her scholars very severely, and often kept them for hours, after they had done their own tasks, to spin for her; and that she beat them if they did not spin as much as she expected. The little girl’s grandmother then said, that she knew all this, but that she did not dare to complain, because the schoolmistress was under the patronage of some of “the grandest ladies in Edinburgh,” and that, as she could not afford to pay for her little lass’s schooling, she was forced to have her taught as well as she could for nothing.
Forester, fired with indignation at this history of injustice, resolved, at all events, to stand forth immediately in the child’s defence; but, without staying to consider how the wrong could be redressed, he thought only of the quickest, or, as he said, the most manly means of doing the business: he declared, that if the little girl would show him the way to the school, he would go that instant and speak to the woman in the midst of all her scholars. Henry in vain represented that this would not he a prudent mode of proceeding.
Forester disdained prudence, and, trusting securely to the power of his own eloquence, he set out with the child, who seemed rather afraid to come to open war with her tyrant. Henry was obliged to return home to his father, who had usually business for him to do about this time. The little girl had stayed at home on account of her grandmother’s illness, but all the other scholars were hard at work, spinning in a close room, when Forester arrived.
He marched directly into the schoolroom. The wheels stopped at once on his appearance, and the schoolmistress, a raw-boned, intrepid-looking woman eyed him with amazement: he broke silence in the following words:—
“Vile woman, your injustice is come to light! How can you dare to tyrannize over these poor children? Is it because they are poor? Take my advice, children, resist this tyrant, put by your wheels, and spin for her no more.”
The children did not move, and the schoolmistress poured out a torrent of abuse in broad Scotch, which, to the English ear of Forester, was unintelligible. At length she made him comprehend her principal questions — Who he was? and by whose authority he interfered between her and her scholars? “By nobody’s authority,” was Forester’s answer; “I want no authority to speak in the cause of injured innocence.” No sooner had the woman heard these words, than she called to her husband, who was writing in an adjoining room: without further ceremony, they both seized upon our hero, and turned him out of the house.
The woman revenged herself without mercy upon the little girl whom Forester had attempted to defend, and dismissed her, with advice never more to complain of being obliged to spin for her mistress.
Mortified by the ill success of his enterprise, Forester returned home, attributing the failure of his eloquence chiefly to his ignorance of the Scotch dialect.
At his return, Forester heard, that all Dr. Campbell’s family were going that evening to visit a gentleman who had an excellent cabinet of minerals. He had some desire to see the fossils; but when he came to the gentleman’s house, he soon found himself disturbed at the praises bestowed by some ladies in company upon a little canary bird, which belonged to the mistress of the house. He began to kick his feet together, to hang first one arm and then the other over the back of his chair, with the obvious expression of impatience and contempt in his countenance. Henry Campbell, in the meantime, said, without any embarrassment, just what he thought about the bird. Archibald Mackenzie, with artificial admiration, said a vast deal more than he thought, in hopes of effectually recommending himself to the lady of the house. The lady told him the history of three birds, which had successively inhabited the cage before the present occupier. “They all died,” continued she, “in a most extraordinary manner, one after another, in a short space of time, in convulsions.”
“Don’t listen,” whispered Forester, pulling Henry away from the crowd who surrounded the bird-cage; “how can you listen, like that polite hypocrite, to this foolish woman’s history of her extraordinary favourites? Come down-stairs with me, I want to tell you my adventure with the schoolmistress; we can take a turn in the hall, and come back before the cabinet of minerals is opened, and before these women have finished the ceremony of tea. Come.”
“I’ll come presently,” said Henry; “I really want to hear this.”
Henry Campbell was not listening to the history of the lady’s favourite birds like a polite hypocrite, but like a good-natured sensible person; the circumstances recalled to his memory the conversation that we formerly mentioned, which began about pickled cucumbers, and ended with Dr. Campbell’s giving an account of the effects of some poisons. In consequence of this conversation, Henry’s attention had been turned to the subject, and he had read several essays, which had informed him of many curious facts. He recollected, in particular, to have met with the account2 of a bird that had been poisoned, and whose case bore a strong resemblance to the present. He begged leave to examine the cage, in order to discover whether there were any lead about it, with which the birds could have poisoned themselves. No lead was to be found: he next examined whether there were any white or green paint about it; he inquired whence the water came which the birds had drunk; and he examined the trough which held their seeds. The lady, whilst he was pursuing these inquiries, said she was sure that the birds could not have died either for want of air or exercise, for that she often left the cage open on purpose, that they might fly about the room. Henry immediately looked round the room, and at length he observed in an inkstand, which stood upon a writing table, a number of wafers, which were many of them chipped round the edges; upon sweeping out the bird-cage, he found a few very small bits of wafer mixed with the seeds and dust; he was now persuaded that the birds had eaten the wafers, and that they had been poisoned by the red lead which they contained; he was confirmed in this opinion, by being told, that the wafers had lately been missed very frequently, and it had been imagined that they had been used by the servants. Henry begged the lady would try an experiment, which might probably save the life of her new favourite; the lady, though she had never before tried an experiment, was easily prevailed upon. She promised Henry that she would lock up the wafers; and he prophesied that her bird would not, like his predecessors, come to an untimely end. Archibald Mackenzie was vexed to observe, that knowledge had in this instance succeeded better, even with a lady, than flattery. As for Forester, he would certainly have admired his friend Henry’s ingenuity, if he had been attending to what had passed; but he had taken a book, and had seated himself in an arm-chair, which had been placed on purpose for an old gentleman in company, and was deep in the history of a man who had been cast away, some hundred years ago, upon a desert island.
He condescended, however, to put down his book when the fossils were produced: and, as if he had just awakened from a dream, rubbed his eyes, stretched himself, and joined the rest of the company. The malicious Archibald, who observed that Forester had seated himself, through absence of mind, in a place which prevented some of the ladies from seeing the fossils, instantly made a parade of his own politeness, to contrast himself advantageously with the rude negligence of his companion; but Archibald’s politeness was always particularly directed to the persons in company whom he thought of the most importance. “You can’t see there,” said Forester, suddenly rousing himself, and observing that Dr. Campbell’s daughter, Miss Flora Campbell, was standing behind him; “had you not better sit down in this chair? I don’t want it, because I can see over your head; sit down.” Archibald smiled at Forester’s simplicity, in paying his awkward compliment to the young lady, who had, according to his mode of estimating, the least pretensions to notice of any one present. Flora Campbell was neither rich nor beautiful, but she had a happy mixture in her manners of Scottish sprightliness and English reserve. She had an eager desire to improve herself, whilst a nice sense of propriety taught her never to intrude upon general notice, or to recede from conversation with airs of counterfeit humility. Forester admired her abilities, because he imagined that he was the only person who had ever discovered them; as to her manners, he never observed these, but even whilst he ridiculed politeness he was anxious to find out what she thought polite. After he had told her all that he knew concerning the fossils, as they were produced from the cabinet — and he was far from ignorant — he at length perceived that she knew full as much of natural history as he did, and he was surprised that a young lady should know so much, and should not be conceited. Flora, however, soon sunk many degrees in his opinion; for, after the cabinet of mineralogy was shut, some of the company talked of a ball, which was to be given in a few days, and Flora, with innocent gaiety, said to Forester, “Have you learnt to dance a Scotch reel since you came to Scotland?” “I!” cried Forester with contempt; “do you think it the height of human perfection to dance a Scotch reel? — then that fine young laird, Mr. Archibald Mackenzie, will suit you much better than I shall.” And Forester returned to his arm-chair and his desert island.
2 Falconer, on the Poison of Lead and Copper.
It was unfortunate that Forester retired from company in such abrupt displeasure at Flora Campbell’s question, for had he borne the idea of a Scotch reel more like a philosopher, he would have heard of something interesting relative to the intended ball, if any thing relative to a ball could be interesting to him. It was a charity-ball, for the benefit of the mistress of the very charity-school3 to which the little girl with the bruised hand belonged. “Do you know,” said Henry to Forester, when they returned home, “that I have great hopes we shall be able to get justice done to the poor children? I hope the tyrannical schoolmistress may yet be punished. The lady, with whom we drank tea yesterday is one of the patronesses of the charity-school.”
“Lady patronesses!” cried Forester; “we need not expect justice from a lady patroness, depend upon it, especially at a ball; her head will be full of feathers, or some such things. I prophesy you will not succeed better than I have.”
The desponding prophecies of Forester did not deter Henry from pursuing a scheme which he had formed. The lady, who was the mistress of the canary bird, came in a few days to visit his mother, and she told him that his experiment had succeeded, that she had regularly locked up the wafers, and that her favourite bird was in perfect health. “And what fee, doctor,” said she, smiling, “shall I give you for saving his life?”
“I will tell you in a few minutes,” replied Henry; and in a few minutes the little girl and her geranium were sent for, and appeared. Henry told the lady all the circumstances of her story with so much feeling, and at the same time with so much propriety, that she became interested in the cause: she declared that she would do every thing in her power to prevail upon the other ladies to examine into, the conduct of the schoolmistress, and to have her dismissed immediately, if it should appear that she had behaved improperly.
Forester, who was present at this declaration, was much astonished, that a lady, whom he had seen caressing a canary-bird, could speak with so much decision and good sense. Henry obtained his fee: he asked and received permission to place the geranium in the middle of the supper-table at the ball; and he begged that the lady would take an opportunity, at supper, to mention the circumstances which he had related to her; but this she declined, and politely said, that she was sure Henry would tell the story much better than she could.
“Come out and walk with me,” said Forester to Henry, as soon as the lady was gone. Henry frequently left his occupations with great good-nature, to accompany our hero in his rambles, and he usually followed the subjects of conversation which Forester started. He saw, by the gravity of his countenance, that he had something of importance revolving in his mind. After he had proceeded in silence for some time along the walk, under the high rock called Arthur’s Seat, he suddenly stopped, and, turning to Henry, exclaimed, “I esteem you; do not make me despise you!”
“I hope I never shall,” said Henry, a little surprised by his friend’s manner; “what is the matter?”
“Leave balls, and lady patronesses, and petty artifices, and supple address, to such people as Archibald Mackenzie,” pursued Forester, with enthusiasm:
“Who noble ends by noble means pursues —”
“Will scorn canary birds, and cobble shoes,”
Replied Henry, laughing; “I see no meanness in my conduct: I do not know what it is you disapprove.”
“I do not approve,” said Forester, “of your having recourse to mean address to obtain justice.”
Henry requested to know what his severe friend meant by address; but this was not easily explained. Forester, in his definition of mean address, included all that attention to the feelings of others, all those honest arts of pleasing, which make society agreeable. Henry endeavoured to convince him, that it was possible for a person to wish to please, nay, even to succeed in that wish, without being insincere. Their argument and their walk continued, till Henry, who, though very active, was not quite so robust as his friend, was completely tired, especially as he perceived that Forester’s opinions remained unshaken.
“How effeminate you gentlemen are!” cried Forester: “see what it is to be brought up in the lap of luxury. Why, I am not at all tired; I could walk a dozen miles further, without being in the least fatigued!”
Henry thought it a very good thing to be able to walk a number of miles without being fatigued, but he did not consider it as the highest perfection of human nature. In his friend’s present mood, nothing less could content him, and Forester went on to demonstrate to the weary Henry, that all fortitude, all courage, and all the manly virtues, were inseparably connected with pedestrian indefatigability. Henry, with good-natured presence of mind, which perhaps his friend would have called mean address, diverted our hero’s rising indignation by proposing that they should both go and look at the large brewery which was in their way home, and with which Forester would, he thought, be entertained.
The brewery fortunately turned the course of Forester’s thoughts, and, instead of quarrelling with his friend for being tired, he condescended to postpone all further debate. Forester had, from his childhood, a habit of twirling a key, whenever he was thinking intently: the key had been produced, and had been twirling upon its accustomed thumb during the argument upon address; and it was still in Forester’s hand when they went into the brewery. As he looked and listened, the key was essential to his power of attending; at length, as he stopped to view a large brewing vat, the key unluckily slipped from his thumb, and fell to the bottom of the vat: it was so deep, that the tinkling sound of the key, as it touched the bottom, was scarcely heard. A young man who belonged to the brewery immediately descended by a ladder into the vat, to get the key, but scarcely had he reached the bottom, when he fell down senseless. Henry Campbell was speaking to one of the clerks of the brewery when this accident happened: a man came running to them with the news, “The vat has not been cleaned; it’s full of bad air.” “Draw him up, let down a hook and cords for him instantly, or he’s a dead man,” cried Henry, and he instantly ran to the place. What was his terror, when he beheld Forester descending the ladder! He called to him to stop; he assured him that the man could be saved without his hazarding his life: but Forester persisted; he had one end of a cord in his hand, which he said he could fasten in an instant round the man’s body. There was a skylight nearly over the vat, so that the light fell directly upon the bottom.
Henry saw his friend reach the last step of the ladder. As Forester stooped to put the rope round the shoulders of the man, who lay insensible at the bottom of the vat, a sudden air of idiocy came over his animated countenance; his limbs seemed no longer to obey his will; his arms dropped, and he fell insensible.
The spectators, who were looking down from above, were so much terrified, that they could not decide to do any thing; some cried, “It’s all over with him! Why would he go down?” Others ran to procure a hook — others called to him to take up the rope again, if he possibly could: but Forester could not hear or understand them, Henry Campbell was the only person who, in this scene of danger and confusion, had sufficient presence of mind to be of service.
Near the large vat, into which Forester had descended, there was a cistern of cold water. Henry seized a bucket, which was floating in the cistern, filled it with water, and emptied the water into the vat, dashing it against the sides, to disperse the water, and to displace the mephitic air4, He called to the people, who surrounded him, for assistance; the water expelled the air; and, when it was safe to descend, Henry instantly went down the ladder himself, and fastened the cord round Forester, who was quite helpless.
“Draw him up!” said Henry, They drew him up. Henry fastened another cord round the body of the other man, who lay at the bottom of the vessel, and he was taken up in the same manner. Forester soon returned to his senses, when he was carried into the air; it was with more difficulty that the other man, whose animation had been longer suspended, was recovered; at length, however, by proper application, his lungs played freely, he stretched himself, looked round upon the people who were about him with an air of astonishment, and was some time before he could recollect what had happened to him. Forester, as soon as he had recovered the use of his understanding, was in extreme anxiety to know whether the poor man, who went down for his key, had been saved. His gratitude to Henry, when he heard all that had passed, was expressed in the most enthusiastic manner.
“I acted like a madman, and you like a man of sense,” said Forester. “You always know how to do good: I do mischief, whenever I attempt to do good. But now, don’t expect, Henry, that I should give up any of my opinions to you, because you have saved my life. I shall always argue with you just as I did before. Remember, I despise address, I don’t yield a single point to you. Gratitude shall never make me a sycophant.”
Eager to prove that he was not a sycophant, Forester, when he returned home with his friend Henry, took every possible occasion to contradict him, with even more than his customary rigidity; nay, he went further still, to vindicate his sincerity.
Flora Campbell had never entirely recovered our hero’s esteem, since she had unwittingly expressed her love for Scotch reels; but she was happily unconscious of the crime she had committed, and was wholly intent upon pleasing her father and mother, her brother Henry, and herself. She had a constant flow of good spirits, and the charming domestic talent of making every trifle a source of amusement to herself and others: she was sprightly, without being frivolous; and the uniform sweetness of her temper showed, that she was not in the least in want of flattery, or dissipation, to support her gaiety. But Forester, as the friend of her brother, thought it incumbent upon him to discover faults in her which no one else could discover, and to assist in her education, though she was only one year younger than himself. She had amused herself, the morning that Forester and her brother were at the brewery, with painting a pasteboard covering for the flower-pot which held the poor little girl’s geranium. Flora had heard from her brother of his intention to place it in the middle of the supper-table, at the ball; and she flattered herself, that he would like to see it ornamented by her hands at his return. She produced it after dinner. Henry thanked her, and her father and mother were pleased to see her eagerness to oblige her brother. The cynical Forester alone refused his sympathy. He looked at the flower-pot with marked disdain. Archibald, who delighted to contrast himself with the unpolished Forester, and who remarked that Flora and her brother were both somewhat surprised at his unsociable silence, slyly said, “There’s something in this flower-pot Miss Campbell, which does not suit Mr. Forester’s correct taste; I wish he would allow us to profit by his criticisms.”
Forester vouchsafed not a reply.
“Don’t you like it, Forester?” said Henry.
“No, he does not like it,” said Flora, smiling; “don’t force him to say that he does.”
“Force me to say I like what I don’t like!” repeated Forester; “no, I defy any body to do that.”
“But why,” said Dr. Campbell, laughing, “why such a waste of energy and magnanimity about a trifle? If you were upon your trial for life or death, Mr. Forester, you could not look more resolutely guarded — more as if you had ‘worked up each corporal agent’ to the terrible feat!”
“Sir,” said Forester, who bore the laugh that was raised against him with the air of a martyr, “I can bear even your ridicule in the cause of truth.” The laugh continued at the solemnity with which he pronounced these words. “I think,” pursued Forester, “that those who do not respect truth in trifles, will never respect it in matters of consequence.”
Archibald Mackenzie laughed more loudly, and with affectation, at this speech: Henry and Dr. Campbell’s laughter instantly ceased.
“Do not mistake us,” said Dr. Campbell; “we did not laugh at your principles, we only laughed at your manner.”
“And are not principles of rather more consequence than manners?”
“Of infinitely more consequence,” said Dr. Campbell: “but why, to excellent principles, may we not add agreeable manners? Why should not truth be amiable, as well as respectable? You, who have such enlarged views for the good of the whole human race, are, I make no doubt, desirous that your fellow-creatures should love truth, as well as you love it yourself.”
“Certainly, I wish they did,” said Forester.
“And have your observations upon the feelings of others, and upon your own, led you to conclude, that we are most apt to like those things which always give us pain? And do you, upon this principle, wish to make truth as painful as possible, in order to increase our love for it?”
“I don’t wish to make truth painful,” said Forester; “but, at the same time, it is not my fault if people can’t bear pain. I think people who can’t bear pain, both of body and mind, cannot be good for any thing; for, in the first place, they will always,” said Forester, glancing his eye at Flora and her flower-pot — “they will always prefer flattery to truth, as all weak people do.”
At this sarcastic reflection, which seemed to be aimed at the sex, Lady Catherine, Mrs. Campbell, and all the ladies present, except Flora, began to speak at once in their own vindication.
As soon as there was any prospect of peace, Dr. Campbell resumed his argument in the calmest voice imaginable.
“But, Mr. Forester, without troubling ourselves for the present with the affairs of the ladies, or of weak people, may I ask what degree of unnecessary pain you think it the duty of a strong person, a moral Samson, to bear?”
“Unnecessary pain! I do not think it is any body’s duty to bear unnecessary pain.”
“Nor to make others bear it?”
“Nor to make others bear it.”
“Then we need argue no further. I congratulate you, Mr. Forester, upon your becoming so soon a proselyte to politeness.”
“To politeness!” said Forester, starting back.
“Yes, my good sir; real politeness only teaches us to save others from unnecessary pain; and this you have just allowed to be your wish. — And now for the grand affair of Flora’s flower-pot. You are not bound by politeness to tell any falsehoods; weak as she is, and a woman, I hope she can bear to hear the painful truth upon such an important occasion.”
“Why,” said Forester, who at last suffered his features to relax into a smile, “the truth then is, that I don’t know whether the flower-pot be pretty or ugly, but I was determined not to say it was pretty.”
“But why,” said Henry, “did you look so heroically severe about the matter?”
“The reason I looked grave,” said Forester, “was, because I was afraid your sister Flora would be spoiled by all the foolish compliments that were paid to her and her flower-pot.”
“You are very considerate; and Flora, I am sure, is much obliged to you,” said Dr. Campbell, smiling, “for being so clear-sighted to the dangers of female vanity. You would not then, with a safe conscience, trust the completion of her education to her mother, or to myself?”
“I am sure, sir,” said Forester, who now, for the first time, seemed sensible that he had not spoken with perfect propriety, “I would not interfere impertinently for the world. You are the best judges; only I thought parents were apt to be partial. Henry has saved my life, and I am interested for every thing that belongs to him. So I hope, if I said any thing rude, you will attribute it to a good motive. I wish the flower-pot had never made its appearance, for it has made me appear very impertinent.”
Flora laughed with so much good humour at this odd method of expressing his contrition, that even Forester acknowledged the influence of engaging manners and sweetness of temper. He lifted up the flower-pot, so as completely to screen his face, and, whilst he appeared to be examining it, he said, in a low voice, to Henry, “She is above the foibles of her sex.”
“Oh, Mr. Forester, take care!” cried Flora.
“Of what?” said Forester, starting.
“It is too late now,” said Flora.
And it was too late. Forester, in his awkward manner of lifting the flower-pot and its painted case, had put his thumbs into the mould, with which the flower-pot had been newly filled. It was quite soft and wet. Flora, when she called to him, saw the two black thumbs just ready to stamp themselves upon her work, and her warning only accelerated its fate; for, the instant she spoke, the thumbs closed upon the painted covering, and Forester was the last to perceive the mischief that he had done.
There was no possibility of effacing the stains, nor was there time to repair the damage, for the ball was to commence in a few hours, and Flora was obliged to send her disfigured work, without having had the satisfaction of hearing the ejaculation which Forester pronounced in her praise behind the flower-pot.
Henry seized the moment when Forester was softened by the mixed effect of Dr. Campbell’s raillery and Flora’s good humour, to persuade him, that it would be perfectly consistent with sound philosophy to dress himself for a ball, nay, even to dance a country-dance. The word reel, to which Forester had taken a dislike, Henry prudently forbore to mention; and Flora, observing, and artfully imitating her brother’s prudence, substituted the word hays instead of reels in her conversation. When all the party were ready to go to the ball, and the carriages at the door, Forester was in Dr. Campbell’s study, reading the natural history of the elephant.
“Come,” said Henry, who had been searching for him all over the house, “we are waiting for you; I’m glad to see you dressed — come!”
“I wish you would leave me behind,” said Forester, who seemed to have relapsed into his former unsociable humour, from having been left half an hour in his beloved solitude; nor would Henry probably have prevailed, if he had not pointed to the print of the elephant5. “That mighty animal, you see, is so docile, that he lets himself be guided by a young boy,” said Henry; “and so must you.”
As he spoke he pulled Forester gently, who thought he could not show less docility than his favourite animal. When they entered the ball-room, Archibald Mackenzie asked Flora to dance, whilst Forester was considering where he should put his hat. “Are you going to dance without me? I thought I had asked you to dance with me. I intended it all the time we were coming in the coach.”
Flora thanked him for his kind intentions; whilst Archibald, with a look of triumph, hurried his partner away, and the dance began. Forester saw this transaction in the most serious light, and it afforded him subject for meditation till at least half a dozen country-dances had been finished. In vain the Berwick Jockey, the Highland Laddie, and the Flowers of Edinburgh, were played; “they suited not the gloomy habit” of his soul. He fixed himself behind a pillar, proof against music, mirth, and sympathy: he looked upon the dancers with a cynical eye. At length he found an amusement that gratified his present splenetic humour; he applied both his hands to his ears, effectually to stop out the sound of the music, that he might enjoy the ridiculous spectacle of a number of people capering about, without any apparent motive. Forester’s attitude caught the attention of some of the company; indeed, it was strikingly awkward. His elbows stuck out from his ears, and his head was sunk beneath his shoulders. Archibald Mackenzie was delighted beyond measure at his figure, and pointed him out to his acquaintance with all possible expedition. The laugh and the whisper circulated with rapidity. Henry, who was dancing, did not perceive what was going on till his partner said to him, “Pray, who is that strange mortal?”
“My friend,” cried Henry: “will you excuse me for one instant?” And he ran up to Forester, and roused him from his singular attitude. “He is,” continued Henry, as he returned to his partner, “an excellent young man, and he has superior abilities; we must not quarrel with him for trifles.”
With what different eyes different people behold the same objects! Whilst Forester had been stopping his ears, Dr. Campbell, who had more of the nature of the laughing than of the weeping philosopher, had found much benevolent pleasure in contemplating the festive scene. Not that any folly or ridicule escaped his keen penetration; but he saw every thing with an indulgent eye, and, if he laughed, laughed in such a manner, that even those who were the objects of his pleasantry could scarcely have forborne to sympathize in his mirth. Folly, he thought, could be as effectually corrected by the tickling of a feather, as by the lash of the satirist. When Lady Margaret M’Gregor, and Lady Mary Macintosh, for instance, had almost forced their unhappy partners into a quarrel to support their respective claims to precedency, Dr. Campbell, who was appealed to as the relation of both the furious fair ones, decided the difference expeditiously, and much to the amusement of the company, by observing, that, as the pretensions of each of the ladies were incontrovertible, and precisely balanced, there was but one possible method of adjusting their precedency — by their age. He was convinced, he said, that the youngest lady would with pleasure yield precedency to the elder. The contest was now, which should stand the lowest, instead of which should stand the highest, in the dance: and when the proofs of seniority could not be settled, the fair ones drew lots for their places, and submitted that to chance which could not be determined by prudence.
Forester stood beside Dr. Campbell whilst all this passed, and wasted a considerable portion of virtuous indignation upon the occasion. “And look at that absurd creature!” exclaimed Forester, pointing out to Dr. Campbell a girl who was footing and pounding for fame at a prodigious rate. Dr. Campbell turned from the pounding lady to observe his own daughter Flora, and a smile of delight came over his countenance: for “parents are apt to be partial”— especially those who have such daughters as Flora. Her light figure and graceful agility attracted the attention even of many impartial spectators; but she was not intent upon admiration: she seemed to be dancing in the gaiety of her heart; and that was a species of gaiety in which every one sympathized, because it was natural, and of which every one approved, because it was innocent. There was a certain delicacy mixed with her sportive humour, which seemed to govern, without restraining, the tide of her spirits. Her father’s eye was following her as she danced to a lively Scotch tune, when Forester pulled Dr. Campbell’s cane, on which he was leaning, and exclaimed, “Doctor, I’ve just thought of an excellent plan for a tragedy!”
“A tragedy!” repeated Dr. Campbell, with unfeigned surprise; “are you sure you don’t mean a comedy?”
Forester persisted that he meant a tragedy, and was proceeding to open the plot. “Don’t force me to your tragedy now,” said Dr. Campbell, “or it will infallibly be condemned. I cannot say that I have my buskin on! and I advise you to take yours off. Look, is that the tragic muse?”
Forester was astonished to find, that so great a man as Dr. Campbell had so little the power of abstraction; and he retired to muse upon the opening of his tragedy in a recess under the music gallery. But here he was not suffered long to remain undisturbed; for, near this spot, Sir Philip Gosling presently stationed himself; Archibald Mackenzie, who left off dancing as soon as Sir Philip entered the room, came to the half-intoxicated baronet; and they, with some other young men, worthy of their acquaintance, began so loud a contest concerning the number of bottles of claret which a man might, could, or should drink at a sitting, that even Forester’s powers of abstraction failed, and his tragic muse took her flight.
“Supper! Supper! thank God!” exclaimed Sir Philip, as supper was now announced. “I’d never set my foot in a ballroom,” added he, with several suitable oaths, “if it were not for the supper.”
“Is that a rational being?” cried Forester to Dr. Campbell, after Sir Philip had passed them.
“Speak a little lower,” said Dr. Campbell, “or he will infallibly prove his title to rationality by shooting you, or by making you shoot him, through the head.”
“But, sir,” said Forester, holding Dr. Campbell fast, whilst all the rest of the company were going down to supper, “how can you bear such a number of foolish, disagreeable people with patience?”
“What would you have me do?” said Dr. Campbell. “Would you have me get up and preach in the middle of a ball-room? Is it not as well, since we are here, to amuse ourselves with whatever can afford us any amusement, and to keep in good humour with all the world, especially with ourselves? — and had we not better follow the crowd to supper?”
Forester went down-stairs; but, as he crossed an antechamber, which led to the supper-room, he exclaimed, “If I were a legislator, I would prohibit balls.”
“And if you were a legislator,” said Dr. Campbell, pointing to a tea-kettle, which was on the fire in the antechamber, and from the spout of which a grey cloud of vapour issued —“if you were a legislator, would not you have stoppers wedged tight into the spouts of all tea-kettles in your dominions?”
“No, sir,” said Forester; “they would burst.”
“And do you think that folly would not burst, and do more mischief than a tea-kettle in the explosion, if you confined it so tight?”
Forester would willingly have stayed in the antechamber, to begin a critical dissection of this allusion; but Dr. Campbell carried him forwards into the supper-room. Flora had kept a seat for her father; and Henry met them at the door.
“I was just coming to see for you, sir,” said he to his father. “Flora began to think you were lost.”
“No,” said Dr. Campbell, “I was only detained by a would-be Cato, who wanted me to quarrel with the whole world, instead of eating my supper. What would you advise me to eat, Flora?” said he, seating himself beside her.
“Some of this trifle, papa;” and as she lightly removed the flowers with which it was ornamented, her father said, “Yes, give me some trifle, Flora. Some characters are like that trifle — flowers and light froth at the top, and solid, good sweetmeat, beneath.”
Forester immediately stretched out his plate for some trifle. “But I don’t see any use in the flowers, sir,” said he.
“Nor any beauty,” said Dr. Campbell.
Forester picked the troublesome flowers out of his trifle, and ate a quantity of it sufficient for a Stoic. Towards the end of the supper, he took some notice of Henry, who had made several ineffectual efforts to amuse him by such slight strokes of wit as seemed to suit the time and place. Time and place were never taken into Forester’s consideration: he was secretly displeased with his friend Henry for having danced all the evening instead of sitting still; and he looked at Henry’s partner with a scrutinizing eye. “So,” said he, at last, “I observe I have not been thought worthy of your conversation to-night: this is what gentlemen, polite gentlemen, who dance reels, call friendship!”
“If I had thought that you would have taken it ill I should dance reels,” said Henry, laughing, “I would have made the sacrifice of a reel at the altar of friendship; but we don’t come to a ball to make sacrifices to friendship, but to divert ourselves.”
“If we can,” said Forester, sarcastically: here he was prevented from reproaching his friend any longer, for a party of gentlemen began to sing catches, at the desire of the rest of the company.
Forester was now intent upon criticising the nonsensical words that were sung; and he was composing an essay upon the power of the ancient bards, and the effect of national music, when Flora’s voice interrupted him: “Brother,” said she, “I have won my wager.” The wager was, that Forester would not during supper observe the geranium that was placed in the middle of the table.
As soon as the company were satisfied, both with their supper and their songs, Henry, whose mind was always present, seized the moment when there was silence to turn the attention of the company towards the object upon which his own thoughts were intent. The lady-patroness, the mistress of the canary-bird, had performed her promise: she had spoken to several of her acquaintance concerning the tyrannical schoolmistress; and now, fixing the attention of the company upon the geranium, she appealed to Henry Campbell, and begged him to explain its history. A number of eager eyes turned upon him instantly; and Forester felt, that if he had been called upon in such a manner he could not have uttered a syllable. He now felt the great advantage of being able to speak, without hesitation or embarrassment, before numbers. When Henry related the poor little girl’s story, his language and manner were so unaffected and agreeable, that he interested every one who heard him in his cause. A subscription was immediately raised; every body was eager to contribute something to the child, who had been so ready, for her old grandmother’s sake, to part with her favourite geranium. The lady who superintended the charity-school agreed to breakfast the next morning at Dr. Campbell’s, and to go from his house to the school precisely at the hour when the schoolmistress usually set her unfortunate scholars to their extra task of spinning.
Forester was astonished at all this; he did not consider that negligence and inhumanity are widely different. The lady-patronesses had, perhaps, been rather negligent in contenting themselves with seeing the charity-children show well in procession to Church, and they had not sufficiently inquired into the conduct of the schoolmistress; but, as soon as the facts were properly stated, the ladies were eager to exert themselves, and candidly acknowledged that they had been to blame in trusting so much to the reports of the superficial visitors, who had always declared that the school was going on perfectly well.
“More people who are in the wrong,” said Dr. Campbell to Forester, “would be corrected, if some people who are in the right had a little candour and patience joined to their other virtues.”
As the company rose from the supper-table, several young ladies gathered round the geranium to admire Flora’s pretty flower-pot. The black stains, however, struck every eye. Forester was standing by rather embarrassed. Flora, with her usual good-nature, refrained from all explanation, though the exclamations of “How was that done?”—“Who could have done that?” were frequently repeated.
“It was an accident,” said Flora; and, to change the conversation, she praised the beauty of the geranium; she gathered one of the fragrant leaves, but, as she was going to put it amongst the flowers in her bosom, she observed she had dropped her moss-rose. It was a rarity at this time of year: it was a rose which Henry Camphell had raised in a conservatory of his own construction.
“Oh, my brother’s beautiful rose!” exclaimed Flora.
Forester, who had been much pleased by her good-nature about the stains on the flower-pot, now, contrary to his habits, sympathized with her concern for the loss of her brother’s moss-rose. He even exerted himself so far as to search under the benches and under the supper-table. He was fortunate enough to find it; and eager to restore the prize, he with more than his usual gallantry, but not with less than his customary awkwardness, crept from under the table, and, stretching half his body over a bench, pushed his arm between two young ladies into the midst of the group which surrounded Flora. As his arm extended his wrist appeared, and at the sight of that wrist all the young ladies shrank back, with unequivocal tokens of disgust. They whispered — they tittered; and many expressive looks were lost upon our hero, who still resolutely held out the hand upon which every eye was fixed. “Here’s your rose! Is not this the rose?” said he, still advancing the dreaded hand to Flora, whose hesitation and blushes surprised him. Mackenzie burst into a loud laugh; and in a whisper, which all the ladies could hear, told Forester, that “Miss Campbell was afraid to take the rose out of his hands, lest she should catch from him what he had caught from the carter who had brought him to Edinburgh, or from some of his companions at the cobbler’s.”
Forester flung the rose he knew not where, sprung over the bench, rushed between Flora and another lady, made towards the door in a straight line, pushing every thing before him, till a passage was made for him by the astonished crowd, who stood out of his way as if he had been a mad dog.
“Forester!” cried Henry and Dr. Campbell, who were standing upon the steps before the door, speaking about the carriages, “what’s the matter? where are you going? The carriage is coming to the door.”
“I had rather walk — don’t speak to me,” said Forester; “I’ve been insulted: I am in a passion, but I can command myself. I did not knock him down. Pray let me pass!”
Our hero broke from Dr. Campbell and Henry with the strength of an enraged animal from his keepers; and he must have found his way home by instinct, for he ran on without considering how he went. He snatched the light from the servant who opened the door at Dr. Campbell’s — hurried to his own apartment — locked, double-locked, and bolted the door — flung himself into a chair, and, taking breath, exclaimed, “Thank God! I’ve done no mischief. Thank God! I didn’t knock him down. Thank God! he is out of my sight, and I am cool now — quite cool: let me recollect it all.”
Upon the coolest recollection, Forester could not reconcile his pride to his present circumstances. “Archibald spoke the truth — why am I angry? why was I angry, I mean!” He reasoned much with himself upon the nature of true and false shame: he represented to himself that the disorder which disfigured his hands was thought shameful only because it was vulgar; that what was vulgar was not therefore immoral; that the young tittering ladies who shrunk back from him were not supreme judges of right and wrong; that he ought to despise their opinions, and he despised them with all his might for two or three hours, as he walked up and down his room with unremitting energy. At length our peripatetic philosopher threw himself upon his bed, determined that his repose should not be disturbed by such trifles: he had by this time worked himself up to such a pitch of magnanimity, that he thought he could with composure meet the disapproving eyes of millions of his fellow-creatures; but he was alone when he formed this erroneous estimate of the strength of the human mind. Wearied with passion and reason, he fell asleep, dreamed that he was continually presenting flowers, which nobody would accept; awakened at the imaginary repetition of Archibald’s laugh, composed himself again to sleep, and dreamed that he was in a glover’s shop, trying on gloves, and that, amongst a hundred pair which he pulled on, he could not find one that would fit him. Just as he tore the last pair in his hurry, he awakened, shook off his foolish dream, saw the sun rising between two chimneys many feet below his windows, recollected that in a short time he should be summoned to breakfast, that all the lady-patronesses were to be at this breakfast, that he could not breakfast in gloves, that Archibald would perhaps again laugh, and Flora perhaps again shrink back. He reproached himself for his weakness in foreseeing and dreading this scene: his aversion to lady-patronesses and to balls was never at a more formidable height; he sighed for liberty and independence, which he persuaded himself were not to be had in his present situation. In one of his long walks he remembered to have seen, at some miles’ distance from the town of Edinburgh, a gardener and his boy, who were singing at their work. These men appeared to Forester to be yet happier than the cobbler, who formerly was the object of his admiration; and he was persuaded that he should be much happier at the gardener’s cottage than he could ever be at Dr. Campbell’s house.
“I am not fit,” said he to himself, “to live amongst idle gentlemen and ladies; I should be happy if I were a useful member of society; a gardener is a useful member of society, and I will be a gardener, and live with gardeners.”
Forester threw off the clothes which he had worn the preceding night at the fatal ball, dressed himself in his old coat, tied up a small bundle of linen, and took the road to the gardener’s.
5 Cabinet of Quadrupeds.
When Henry found that Forester was not in his room in the morning, he concluded that he had rambled out towards Salisbury Craigs, whither he talked the preceding day of going to botanize.
“I am surprised,” said Dr. Campbell, “that the young gentleman is out so early, for I have a notion that he has not had much sleep since we parted, unless he walks in his sleep, for he has been walking over my poor head half the night.”
Breakfast went on — no Forester appeared. Lady Catherine began to fear that he had broken his neck upon Salisbury Craigs, and related all the falls she had ever had, or had ever been near having, in carriages, on horseback, or otherwise. She then entered into the geography of Salisbury Craigs, and began to dispute upon the probability of his having fallen to the east or to the west.
“My dear Lady Catherine,” said Dr. Campbell, “we are not sure that he has been upon Salisbury Craigs; whether he has fallen to the east or to the west, we cannot, therefore, conveniently settle.”
But Lady Catherine, whose prudential imagination travelled fast, went on to inquire of Dr. Campbell, to whom the great Forester estate would go in case of any accident having happened or happening to the young gentleman before he should come of age.
Dr. Campbell was preparing to give her ladyship satisfaction upon this point, when a servant put a letter into his hands. Henry looked in great anxiety. Dr. Campbell glanced his eye over the letter, put it into his pocket, and desired the servant to show the person who brought the letter into his study.
“It’s only a little boy,” said Archibald; “I saw him as I passed through the hall.”
“Cannot a little boy go into my study?” said Dr. Campbell, coolly.
Archibald’s curiosity was strongly excited, and he slipped out of the room a few minutes afterward, resolved to speak to the boy, and to discover the purpose of his embassy. But Dr. Campbell was behind him before he was aware of his approach, and just as Archibald began to cross-examine the boy in these words, “So you came from a young man who is about my size?” Dr. Campbell put both his hands upon his shoulders, saying, “He came from a young man who does not in the least resemble you, believe me, Mr. Archibald Mackenzie.”
Archibald started, turned round, and was so abashed by the civilly contemptuous look with which Dr. Campbell pronounced these words, that he retired from the study without even attempting any of his usual equivocating apologies for his intrusion. Dr. Campbell now read Forester’s letter. It was as follows:—
“Though I have quitted your house thus abruptly, I am not insensible of your kindness. For the step I have taken, I can offer no apology merely to my guardian; but you have treated me, Dr, Campbell, as your friend, and I shall lay my whole soul open to you.
“Notwithstanding your kindness — notwithstanding the friendship of your son Henry, whose excellent qualities I know how to value — I most ingenuously own to you that I have been far from happy in your house. I feel that I cannot be at ease in the vortex of dissipation; and the more I see of the higher ranks of society, the more I regret that I was born a gentleman. Neither my birth nor my fortune shall, however, restrain me from pursuing that line of life which, I am persuaded, leads to virtue and tranquillity. Let those who have no virtuous indignation obey the voice of fashion, and at her commands let her slaves eat the bread of idleness till it palls upon the sense! I reproach myself with having yielded, as I have done of late, my opinions to the persuasions of friendship; my mind has become enervated, and I must fly from the fatal contagion. Thank Heaven, I have yet the power to fly: I have yet sufficient force to break my chains. I am not yet reduced to the mental degeneracy of the base monarch, who hugged his fetters because they were of gold.
“I am conscious of powers that fit me for something better than to waste my existence in a ball-room; and I will not sacrifice my liberty to the absurd ceremonies of daily dissipation. I, that have been the laughing-stock of the mean and frivolous, have yet sufficient manly pride, unextinguished in my breast, to assert my claim to your esteem: to assert, that I never have committed, or shall designedly commit, any action unworthy of the friend of your son.
“I do not write to Henry, lest I should any way involve him in my misfortunes: he is formed to shine in the polite world, and his connexion with me might tarnish the lustre of his character in the eyes of the ‘nice-judging fair.’ I hope, however, that he will not utterly discard me from his heart, though I cannot dance a reel. I beg that he will break open the lock of the trunk that is in my room, and take out of it my Goldsmith’s Animated Nature, which he seemed to like.
“In my table-drawer there are my Martyn’s Letters on Botany, in which you will find a number of plants that I have dried for Flora —Miss Flora Campbell, I should say. After what passed last night, I can scarcely hope they will be accepted. I would rather have them burned than refused; therefore please to burn them, and say nothing more upon the subject. Dear sir, do not judge harshly of me; I have had a severe conflict with myself before I could resolve to leave you. But I would rather that you should judge of me with severity than that you should extend to me the same species of indulgence with which you last night viewed the half-intoxicated baronet.
“I can bear any thing but contempt.
“P.S. I trust that you will not question the bearer; he knows where I am; I therefore put you on your guard. I mean to earn my own bread as a gardener; I have always preferred the agricultural to the commercial system.”
To this letter, in which the mixture of sense and extravagance did not much surprise Dr. Campbell, he returned the following answer:—
“My dear cobbler, gardener, orator, or by whatever other name you choose to be addressed, I am too old to be surprised at any thing, otherwise I might have been rather surprised at some things in your eloquent letter. You tell me that you have the power to fly, and that you do not hug your chains, though they are of gold! Are you an alderman, or Daedalus? or are these only figures of speech? You inform me, that you cannot live in the vortex of dissipation, or eat the bread of idleness, and that you are determined to be a gardener. These things seem to have no necessary connexion with each other. Why you should reproach yourself so bitterly for having spent one evening of your life in a ball-room, which I suppose is what you allude to when you speak of a vortex of dissipation, I am at a loss to discover. And why you cannot, with so much honest pride yet unextinguished in your breast, find any occupation more worthy of your talents, and as useful to society, as that of a gardener, I own, puzzles me a little. Consider these things coolly; return to dinner, and we will compare at our leisure the advantages of the mercantile and the agricultural system. I forbear to question your messenger, as you desire; and I shall not show your letter to Henry till after we have dined. I hope by that time you will insist upon my burning it; which, at your request, I shall do with pleasure, although it contains several good sentences. As I am not yet sure you have departed this life, I shall not enter upon my office of executor; I shall not break open the lock of your trunk (of which I hope you will some time, when your mind is less exalted, find the key), nor shall I stir in the difficult case of Flora’s legacy. When next you write your will, let me, for the sake of your executor, advise you to be more precise in your directions; for what can be done if you order him to give and burn the same thing in the same sentence? As you have, amongst your other misfortunes, the misfortune to be born heir to five or six thousand a year, you should learn a little how to manage your own affairs, lest you should, amongst your poor or rich companions, meet with some who are not quite so honest as yourself.
“If, instead of returning to dine with us, you should persist in your gardening scheme, I shall have less esteem for your good sense, but I shall forbear to reproach you. I shall leave you to learn by your own experience, if it be not in my power to give you the advantages of mine gratis. But, at the same time, I shall discover where you are, and shall inform myself exactly of all your proceedings. This, as your guardian, is my duty. I should further warn you, that I shall not, whilst you choose to live in a rank below your own, supply you with your customary yearly allowance. Two hundred guineas a year would be an extravagant allowance in your present circumstances. I do not mention money with any idea of influencing your generous mind by mercenary motives; but it is necessary that you should not deceive yourself by inadequate experiments: you cannot be rich and poor at the same time. I gave you the day before yesterday five ten-pound notes for your last quarterly allowance; I suppose you have taken these with you, therefore you cannot be in any immediate distress for money. I am sorry, I own, that you are so well provided, because a man who has fifty guineas in his pocket-book cannot distinctly feel what it is to be compelled to earn his own bread.
“Do not, my dear ward, think me harsh; my friendship for you gives me courage to inflict present pain, with a view to your future advantage. You must not expect to see any thing of your friend Henry until you return to us. I shall, as his father and your guardian, request that he will trust implicitly to my prudence upon this occasion; that he will make no inquiries concerning you; and that he will abstain from all connexion with you whilst you absent yourself from your friends. You cannot live amongst the vulgar (by the vulgar I mean the ill-educated, the ignorant, those who have neither noble sentiments nor agreeable manners), and at the same time enjoy the pleasures of cultivated society. I shall wait, not without anxiety, till your choice be decided.
“Believe me to be
“Your sincere friend and guardian,
As soon as Dr. Campbell had despatched this letter, he returned to the company. The ladies, after breakfast, proceeded to the charity-school; but Henry was so anxious to learn what was become of his friend Forester, that he could scarcely enjoy the effects of his own benevolent exertions. It was with difficulty, such as he had never before experienced, that Dr. Campbell obtained from him the promise to suspend all intercourse with Forester. Henry’s first impulse, when he read the letter, which his father now found it prudent to show him, was to search for his friend instantly. “I am sure,” said he, “I shall be able to find him out; and if I can but see him, and speak to him, I know I could prevail upon him to return to us.”
“Yes,” said Dr. Campbell, “perhaps you might persuade him to return; but that is not the object: unless his understanding be convinced, what should we gain?”
“It should be convinced. I could convince him,” cried Henry.
“I have, my dear son,” said Dr. Campbell, smiling, “the highest opinion of your logic and eloquence; but are your reasoning powers stronger to-day than they were yesterday? Have you any new arguments to produce? I thought you had exhausted your whole store without effect.”
“Believe me,” continued his father, lowering his voice, “I am not insensible to your friend’s good, and, I will say, great qualities; I do not leave him to suffer evils, without feeling as much perhaps as you can do; but I am convinced, that the solidity of his character, and the happiness of his whole life, will depend upon the impression that is now made upon his mind by realities. He will see society as it is. He has abilities and generosity of mind which will make him a first-rate character, if his friends do not spoil him out of false kindness.”
Henry, at these words, held out his hand to his father, and gave him the promise which he desired.
“But,” added he, “I still have hopes from your letter — I should not be surprised to see Forester at dinner to-day,”
“I should,” said Dr. Campbell.
Dr. Campbell, alas! was right. Henry looked eagerly towards the door every time it opened, when they were at dinner: but he was continually disappointed. Flora, whose gaiety usually enlivened the evenings, and agreeably relieved her father and brother after their morning studies, was now silent.
Whilst Lady Catherine’s volubility overpowered even the philosophy of Dr. Campbell, she wondered — she never ceased wondering — that Mr. Forester did not appear, and that the doctor and Mrs. Campbell, and Henry and Flora, were not more alarmed. She proposed sending twenty different messengers after him. She was now convinced, that he had not fallen from Salisbury Craigs, because Dr. Campbell assured her ladyship, that he had a letter from him in his pocket, and that he was safe; but she thought that there was imminent danger of his enlisting in a frolic, or, perhaps, marrying some cobbler’s daughter in a pet. She turned to Archibald Mackenzie, and exclaimed, “He was at a cobbler’s; it could not be merely to mend his shoes. What sort of a lassy is the cobbler’s daughter? or has the cobbler a daughter?”
“She is hump-backed, luckily,” said Dr. Campbell, coolly.
“That does not signify,” said Lady Catherine; “I’m convinced she is at the bottom of the whole mystery; for I once heard Mr. Forester say — and I’m sure you must recollect it, Flora, my dear, for he looked at you at the time — I once heard him say, that personal beauty was no merit, and that ugly people ought to be liked — or some such thing — out of humanity. Now, out of humanity, with his odd notions, it’s ten to one, Dr. Campbell, he marries this cobbler’s hump-backed daughter. I’m sure, if I were his guardian, I could not rest an instant with such a thought in my head.”
“Nor I,” said Dr. Campbell, quietly; and in spite of her ladyship’s astonishment, remonstrances, and conjectures, he maintained his resolute composure.
The gardener who had struck Forester’s fancy, was a square, thick, obstinate-eyed, hard-working, ignorant, elderly man, whose soul was intent upon his petty daily gains, and whose honesty was of that “coarse-spun, vulgar sort6,” which alone can be expected from men of uncultivated minds. Mr. M’Evoy, for that was the gardener’s name, was both good-natured and selfish; his views and ideas all centered in his own family; and his affection was accumulated and reserved for two individuals, his son and his daughter. The son was not so industrious as the father; he was ambitious of seeing something of the world, and he consorted with all the young ‘prentices in Edinburgh, who would condescend to forget that he was a country boy, and to remember that he expected, when his father should die, to be rich. Mr. M’Evoy’s daughter was an ugly, cross-looking girl, who spent all the money that she could either earn or save upon ribands and fine gowns, with which she fancied she could supply all the defects of her person.
This powerful motive for her economy operated incessantly upon her mind, and she squeezed all that could possibly be squeezed for her private use from the frugal household. The boy, whose place Forester thought himself so fortunate to supply, had left the gardener, because he could not bear to work and be scolded without eating or drinking.
The gardener willingly complied with our hero’s first request; he gave him a spade, and he set him to work. Forester dug with all the energy of an enthusiast, and dined like a philosopher upon long kail; but long kail did not charm him so much the second day as it had done the first; and the third day it was yet less to his taste; besides, he began to notice the difference between oaten and wheaten bread. He, however, recollected that Cyrus lived, when he was a lad, upon water-cresses — the black broth of the Spartans he likewise remembered, and he would not complain. He thought, that he should soon accustom himself to his scanty, homely fare. A number of the disagreeable circumstances of poverty he had not estimated when he entered upon his new way of life; and though at Dr. Campbell’s table he had often said to himself, “I could do very well without all these things,” yet, till he had actually tried the experiment, he had not clear ideas upon the subject. He missed a number of little pleasures and conveniences, which he had scarcely noticed, whilst they had every day presented themselves as matters of course. The occupation of digging was laborious, but it afforded no exercise to his mind, and he felt most severely the want of Henry’s agreeable conversation; he had no one to whom he could now talk of the water-cresses of Cyrus, or the black broth of the Spartans; he had no one with whom he could dispute concerning the Stoic or the Epicurean doctrines, the mercantile or the agricultural system. Many objections to the agricultural system, which had escaped him, occurred now to his mind; and his compassion for the worms, whom he was obliged to cut in pieces continually with his spade, acted every hour more forcibly upon his benevolent heart. He once attempted to explain his feelings for the worms to the gardener, who stared at him with all the insolence of ignorance, and bade him mind his work, with a tone of authority which ill suited Forester’s feelings and love of independence.
“Is ignorance thus to command knowledge? Is reason thus to be silenced by boorish stupidity?” said Forester to himself, as he recollected the patience and candour with which Dr. Campbell and Henry used to converse with him. He began to think, that in cultivated society he had enjoyed more liberty of mind, more freedom of opinion, than he could taste in the company of an illiterate gardener. The gardener’s son, though his name was Colin, had no Arcadian simplicity, nothing which could please the classic taste of Forester, or which could recall to his mind the Eclogues of Virgil, or the golden age; the Gentle Shepherd, or the Ayrshire Ploughman. Colin’s favourite holiday’s diversion was playing at goff; this game, which is played with a bat loaded with lead, and with a ball, which is harder than a cricket-ball, requires much strength and dexterity. Forester used, sometimes, to accompany the gardener’s son to the Links,7 where numbers of people, of different descriptions are frequently seen practising this diversion. Our hero was ambitious of excelling at the game of goff; and, as he was not particularly adroit, he exposed himself, in his first attempts, to the derision of the spectators, and he likewise received several severe blows. Colin laughed at him without mercy; and Forester could not help comparing the rude expressions of his new companion’s untutored vanity with the unassuming manners and unaffected modesty of Henry Campbell. Forester soon took an aversion to the game of goff, and recollected Scotch reels with less contempt.
One evening, after having finished his task of digging (for digging was now become a task), he was going to take a walk to Duddingstone lake, when Colin, who was at the same instant setting out for the Links, roughly insisted upon Forester’s accompanying him. Our hero, who was never much disposed to yield to the taste of others, positively refused the gardener’s son, with some imprudent expressions of contempt. From this moment Colin became his enemy, and, by a thousand malicious devices, contrived to show his vulgar hatred.
Forester now, to his great surprise, discovered that hatred could exist in a cottage. Female vanity, he likewise presently perceived, was not confined to the precincts of a ball-room; he found that Miss M’Evoy spent every leisure moment in the contemplation of her own coarse image in a fractured looking-glass. He once ventured to express his dislike of a many-coloured plaid in which Miss M’Evoy had arrayed herself for a dance; and the fury of her looks, and the loud-toned vulgarity of her conceit, were strongly contrasted with the recollection of Flora Campbell’s gentle manners and sweetness of temper. The painted flower-pot was present to his imagination, and he turned from the lady who stood before him with an air of disgust, which he had neither the wish nor the power to conceal. The consequences of offending this high-spirited damsel our hero had not sufficiently considered: the brother and sister, who seldom agreed in any thing else, now agreed, though from different motives, in an eager desire to torment Forester. Whenever he entered the cottage, either to rest himself, or to partake of those “savoury messes, which the neat-handed Phillis dresses,” he was received with sullen silence, or with taunting reproach. The old gardener, stupid as he was, Forester thought an agreeable companion, compared with his insolent son and his vixen daughter. The happiest hours of the day, to our hero, were those which he spent at his work; his affections, repressed and disappointed, became a source of misery to him.
“Is there nothing in this world to which I can attach myself?” said Forester, as he one day leaned upon his spade in a melancholy mood. “Must I spend my life in the midst of absurd altercations? Is it for this that I have a heart and an understanding? No one here comprehends one word I say — I am an object of contempt and hatred, whilst my soul is formed for the most benevolent feelings, and capable of the most extensive views. And of what service am I to my fellow-creatures? Even this stupid gardener, even a common labourer, is as useful to society as I am. Compared with Henry Campbell, what am I? Oh, Henry! — Flora! — could you see me at this instant, you would pity me.”
But the fear of being an object of pity wakened Forester’s pride; and though he felt that he was unhappy, he could not bear to acknowledge that he had mistaken the road to happiness. His imaginary picture of rural felicity was not, to be sure, realized; but he resolved to bear his disappointment with fortitude, to fulfil his engagements with his master, the gardener, and then to seek some other more eligible situation. In the meantime, his benevolence tried to expand itself upon the only individual in this family who treated him tolerably well: he grew fond of the old gardener, because there was nothing else near him to which he could attach himself, not even a dog or a cat. The old man, whose temper was not quite so enthusiastical as Forester’s, looked upon him as an industrious simple young man, above the usual class of servants, and rather wished to keep him in his service, because he gave him less than the current wages. Forester, after his late reflections upon digging, began to think, that, by applying his understanding to the business of gardening, he might perhaps make some discoveries, which should excite his master’s everlasting gratitude, and immortalize his own name. He pledged a shirt and a pair of stockings at a poor bookseller’s stall, for some volumes upon gardening; and these, in spite of the ridicule of Colin and Miss M’Evoy, he studied usually at his meals. He at length met with an account of some experiments upon fruit-trees, which he thought would infallibly make the gardener’s fortune.
“Did you not tell me,” said Forester to the gardener, “that cherries were sometimes sold very high in Edinburgh?”
“Five a penny,” said the gardener; and he wished, from the bottom of his heart, that he had a thousand cherry-trees, but he possessed only one.
He was considerably alarmed, when Forester proposed to him, as the certain means of making his fortune, to strip the bark off this cherry-tree, assuring him, that a similar experiment had been tried and had succeeded; that his cherry-tree would bear twice as many cherries, if he would only strip the bark from it. “Let me try one branch for an experiment — I will try one branch!”
But the gardener peremptorily forbade all experiments, and, shutting Forester’s book, bade him leave such nonsense, and mind his business.
Provoked by this instance of tyrannical ignorance, Forester forgot his character of a servant boy, and at length called his master an obstinate fool.
No sooner were these words uttered, than the gardener emptied the remains of his watering-pot coolly in Forester’s face, and, first paying him his wages, dismissed him from his service.
Miss M’Evoy, who was at work, seated at the door, made room most joyfully for Forester to pass, and observed, that she had long since prophesied he would not do for them.
Forester was now convinced, that it was impossible to reform a positive old gardener, to make him try new experiments upon cherry-trees, or to interest him for the progress of science. He deplored the perversity of human nature, and he began, when he reflected upon the characters of Miss M’Evoy and her brother, to believe, that they were beings distinct from the rest of their species; he was, at all events, glad to have parted with such odious companions. On his road to Edinburgh he had time for various reflections.
“Thirty shillings, then, with hard bodily labour, I have earned for one month’s service!” said Forester to himself. “Well, I will keep to my resolution. I will live upon the money I earn, and upon that alone; I will not have recourse to my bank notes till the last extremity.” He took out his pocket-book, however, and looked at them, to see that they were safe. “How wretched,” thought he, “must be that being, who is obliged to purchase, in his utmost need, the assistance of his fellow-creatures with such vile trash as this! I have been unfortunate in my first experiment; but all men are not like this selfish gardener and his brutal son, incapable of disinterested friendship.”
Here Forester was interrupted in his meditations by a young man, who accosted him with —“Sir, if I don’t mistake, I believe I have a key of yours.”
Forester looked up at the young man’s face, and recollected him to be the person who had nearly lost his life in descending for his key into the brewing-vat.
“I knew you again, sir,” continued the brewer’s clerk, “by your twirling those scissors upon your finger, just as you were doing that day at the brewery.”
Forester was not conscious, till this moment, that he had a pair of scissors in his hand: whilst the gardener was paying him his wages, to relieve his mauvaise honte, our hero took up Miss M’Evoy’s scissors, which lay upon the table, and twirled them upon his fingers, as he used to do with a key. He was rather ashamed to perceive, that he had not yet cured himself of such a silly habit. “I thought the lesson I got at the brewery,” said he, “would have cured me for ever of this foolish trick; but the diminutive chains of habit8, as somebody says, are scarcely ever heavy enough to be felt, till they are too strong to be broken.”
“Sir!” said the astonished clerk.
“Oh, I beg your pardon,” said our hero, who now perceived by his countenance that his observation on the peculiar nature of the chains of habit was utterly unintelligible to him; “pray, sir, can you tell me what o’clock it is?”
“Half after four — I am — sir,” said the clerk, producing his watch, with the air of a man who thought a watch a matter of some importance. “Hum! He can’t be a gentleman; he has no watch!” argued he with himself; and he looked at Forester’s rough apparel with astonishment. Forester had turned back, that he might return Miss M’Evoy her scissors. The brewer’s clerk was going in the same direction to collect some money for his master. As they walked on, the young man talked to our hero with good-nature, but with a species of familiarity, which was strikingly different from the respectful manner in which he formerly addressed Forester, when he had seen him in a better coat, and in the company of a young gentleman.
“You have left Dr. Campbell’s, then?” said he, looking with curiosity. Forester replied, that he had left Dr. Campbell’s, because he preferred earning his own bread to living an idle life among gentlemen and ladies.
The clerk, at this speech, looked earnestly in Forester’s face, and began to suspect that he was deranged in his mind.
As the gravity of our hero’s looks, and the sobriety of his demeanour, did not give any strong indications of insanity, the clerk, after a few minutes’ consideration, inclined to believe, that Forester concealed the truth from him; that probably he was some dependant of Dr. Campbell’s family; that he had displeased his friends, and had been discarded in disgrace. He was confirmed in these suppositions by Forester’s telling him, that he had just left the service of a gardener; that he did not know where to find a lodging for the night; and that he was in want of some employment, by which he might support himself independently.
The clerk, who remembered with gratitude the intrepidity with which Forester had hazarded his life to save him the morning that he was at the brewery, and who had also some compassion for a young gentleman reduced to poverty, told him that if he could write a good hand, knew any thing of accounts, and could get a character for punctuality (meaning to include honesty in this word) from any creditable people, he did not doubt that his master, who had large concerns, might find employment for him as an under-clerk. Forester’s pride was not agreeably soothed by the manner of this proposal, but he was glad to hear of a situation, to use the clerk’s genteel expression; and he moreover thought, that he should now have an opportunity of comparing the commercial and agricultural systems.
The clerk hinted, that he supposed Forester would choose to “make himself smart,” before he called to offer himself at the brewery, and advised him to call about six, as by that time in the evening his master was generally at leisure.
A dinner at a public-house (for our hero did not know where else to dine), and the further expense of a new pair of shoes, and some other articles of dress, almost exhausted his month’s wages: he was very unwilling to make any of these purchases, but the clerk assured him, that they were indispensable; and, indeed, at last, his appearance was scarcely upon a par with that of his friendly adviser.
Before we follow Forester to the brewery, we must request the attention of our readers to the history of a bet of Mr. Archibald Mackenzie’s.
We have already noticed the rise and progress of this young gentleman’s acquaintance with Sir Philip Gosling. Archibald,
“Whose ev’ry frolic had some end in view, Ne’er played the fool, but played the rascal too,”— Anonymous
cultivated assiduously the friendship of this weak, dissipated, vain young baronet, in hopes that he might, in process of time, make some advantage of his folly. Sir Philip had an unfortunately high opinion of his own judgment; an opinion which he sometimes found it difficult to inculcate upon the minds of others, till he hit upon the compendious method of laying high wagers in support of all his assertions. Few people chose to venture a hundred guineas upon the turn of a straw. Sir Philip, in all such contests, came off victorious; and he plumed himself much upon the success of his purse. Archibald affected the greatest deference for Sir Philip’s judgment; and, as he observed that the baronet piqued himself upon his skill as a jockey, he flattered him indefatigably upon this subject. He accompanied Sir Philip continually in his long visits to the livery-stables; and he made himself familiarly acquainted with the keeper of the livery-stables, and even with the hostlers. So low can interested pride descend! All this pains Archibald took, and more, for a very small object. He had set his fancy upon Sawney, one of his friend’s horses; and he had no doubt, but that he should either induce Sir Philip to make him a present of this horse, or that he should jockey him out of it, by some well-timed bet.
In counting upon the baronet’s generosity, Archibald was mistaken. Sir Philip had that species of good-nature which can lend, but not that which can give. He offered to lend the horse to Archibald most willingly; but the idea of giving it was far distant from his imagination. Archibald, who at length despaired of his friend’s generosity, had recourse to his other scheme of the wager. After having judiciously lost a few guineas to Sir Philip in wagers, to confirm him in his extravagant opinion of his own judgment, Archibald, one evening, when the fumes of wine and vanity, operating together, had somewhat exalted the man of judgment’s imagination, urged him, by artful, hesitating contradiction, to assert the most incredible things of one of his horses, to whom he had given the name of Favourite. Archibald knew, from the best authority— from the master of the livery-stables, who was an experienced jockey — that Favourite was by no means a match for Sawney; he therefore waited quietly till Sir Philip Gosling laid a very considerable wager upon the head of his “Favourite.” Archibald immediately declared, he could not, in conscience — that he could not, for the honour of Scotland, give up his friend Sawney.
“Sawney!” cried Sir Philip; “I’ll bet fifty guineas, that Favourite beats him hollow at a walk, trot, or gallop, whichever you please.”
Archibald artfully affected to be startled at this defiance, and, seemingly desirous to draw back, pleaded his inability to measure purses with such a rich man as Sir Philip.
“Nay, my boy,” replied Sir Philip, “that excuse shan’t stand you in stead. You have a pretty little pony there, that Lady Catherine has just given you; if you won’t lay me fifty guineas, will you risk your pony against my judgment?”
Archibald had now brought his friend exactly to the point at which he had been long aiming. Sir Philip staked his handsome horse Sawney against Archibald’s sorry pony, upon this wager, that Favourite should, at the first trials, beat Sawney at a walk, a trot, and a gallop.
Warmed with wine, and confident in his own judgment, the weak baronet insisted upon having the bet immediately decided. The gentlemen ordered out their horses, and the wager was to be determined upon the sands of Leith.
Sir Philip Gosling, to his utter astonishment, found himself for once mistaken in his judgment. The treacherous Archibald coolly suffered him to exhale his passion in unavailing oaths, and at length rejoiced to hear him consoling himself with the boast, that this was the first wager upon horse-flesh that he had ever lost in his life. The master of the livery-stables stared with well-affected incredulity, when Sir Philip, upon his return from the sands of Leith, informed him, that Favourite had been beat hollow by Sawney; and Archibald, by his additional testimony, could scarcely convince him of the fact, till he put two guineas into his hand, when he recommended his new horse Sawney to his particular care. Sir Philip, who was not gifted with quick observation, did not take notice of this last convincing argument. Whilst this passed, he was talking eagerly to the hostler, who confirmed him in his opinion, which he still repeated as loud as ever, “that Favourite ought to have won.” This point Archibald prudently avoided to contest; and he thus succeeded in duping and flattering his friend at once.
“Sawney for ever!” cried Archibald, as soon as Sir Philip had left the stables. “Sawney for ever!” repeated the hostler, and reminded Mackenzie, that he had promised him half a guinea. Archibald had no money in his pocket; but he assured the hostler, that he would remember him the next day. The next day, however, Archibald, who was expert in parsimonious expedients, considered that he had better delay giving the hostler his half-guinea, till it had been earned by his care of Sawney.
It is the usual error of cunning people to take it for granted, that others are fools. This hostler happened to be a match for our young laird in cunning, and, as soon as he perceived that it was Archibald’s intention to cheat him of the interest of his half-guinea, he determined to revenge himself in his care of Sawney. We shall hereafter see the success of his devices.
Scarcely had Archibald Mackenzie been two days in possession of the long-wished-for object of his mean soul, when he became dissatisfied with his own saddle and bridle, which certainly did not, as Sir Philip observed, suit his new horse. The struggles in Archibald’s mind, betwixt his taste for expense and his habits of saving, were often rather painful to him. He had received from Lady Catherine a ten-guinea note, when he first came to Dr. Campbell’s; and he had withstood many temptations to change it. One morning (the day that he had accompanied Henry and Forester to the watchmaker’s) he was so strongly charmed by the sight of a watch-chain and seals, that he actually took his bank-note out of his scrutoire at his return home, put it into his pocket, when he dressed for dinner, and resolved to call that evening at the watchmaker’s to indulge his fancy, by purchasing the watch-chain, and to gratify his family pride, by getting his coat of arms splendidly engraven upon the seal. He called at the watchmaker’s, in company with Sir Philip Gosling, but he could not agree with him respecting the price of the chain and seals; and Archibald consoled himself with the reflection, that his bank-note would still remain. He held the note in his hand, whilst he higgled about the price of the watch-chain.
“Oh, d — n the expense!” cried Sir Philip.
“Oh, I mind ten guineas as little as any man,” said Archibald, thrusting the bank-note, in imitation of the baronet, with affected carelessness, into his waistcoat-pocket. He was engaged that night to go to the play with Sir Philip, and he was much hurried in dressing. His servant observed that his waistcoat was stained, and looked out another for him.
Now this man sometimes took the liberty of wearing his master’s clothes; and, when Archibald went to the play, the servant dressed himself in the stained waistcoat, to appear at a ball, which was given that night in the neighbourhood, by some “gentleman’s gentleman.” The waistcoat was rather too tight for the servant: he tore it, and instead of sending it to the washerwoman’s, to have the stain washed out, as his master had desired, he was now obliged to send it to the tailor’s to have it mended.
Archibald’s sudden wish for a new saddle and bridle for Sawney could not be gratified without changing the bank-note; and, forgetting that he had left it in the pocket of his waistcoat the night that he went to the play, he searched for it in the scrutoire, in which he was accustomed to keep his treasures. He was greatly disturbed, when the note was not to be found in the scrutoire; he searched over and over again; not a pigeon-hole, not a drawer, remained to be examined. He tried to recollect when he had last seen it, and at length remembered, that he put it into his waistcoat-pocket, when he went to the watchmaker’s; that he had taken it out to look at, whilst he was in the shop; but whether he had brought it home safely or not he could not precisely ascertain. His doubts upon this subject, however, he cautiously concealed, resolved, if possible, to make somebody or other answerable for his loss. He summoned his servant, told him that he had left a ten-guinea bank-note in his waistcoat-pocket the night that he went to the play, and that, as the waistcoat was given into his charge, he must be answerable for the note. The servant boldly protested, that he neither could nor would be at the loss of a note which he had never seen.
Archibald now softened his tone; for he saw, that he had no chance of bullying the servant. “I desired you to send it to the washerwoman’s,” said he.
“And so I did, sir,” said the man.
This was true, but not the whole truth. He had previously sent the waistcoat to the tailor’s to have the rent repaired, which it received the night he wore it at the ball. These circumstances the servant thought proper to suppress; and he was very ready to agree with his master in accusing the poor washerwoman of having stolen the note. The washerwoman was extremely industrious, and perfectly honest; she had a large family, that depended upon her labour, and upon her character, for support. She was astonished and shocked at the charge that was brought against her, and declared, that if she were able, she would rather pay the whole money at once, than suffer any suspicion to go abroad against her. Archibald rejoiced to find her in this disposition; and he assured her, that the only method to avoid disgrace, a lawsuit, and ruin, was instantly to pay, or to promise to pay, the money. It was out of her power to pay it; and she would not promise what she knew she could not perform.
Archibald redoubled his threats; the servant stood by his master. The poor woman burst into tears; but she steadily declared that she was innocent; and no promise could be extorted from her, even in the midst of her terror. Though she had horrible, perhaps not absolutely visionary, ideas of the dangers of a lawsuit, yet she had some confidence in the certainty that justice was on her side. Archibald said, that she might talk about justice as much as she pleased, but that she must prepare to submit to the law. The woman trembled at the sound of these words; but, though ignorant, she was no fool, and she had a friend in Dr. Campbell’s family, to whom she resolved to apply in her distress. Henry Campbell had visited her little boy when he was ill, and had made him some small present; and, though she did not mean to encroach upon Henry’s good-nature, she thought, that he had so much learning, that he certainly could, without its costing her any thing, put her in the right way to avoid the law, with which she had been threatened by Archibald Mackenzie and his servant.
Henry heard the story with indignation, such as Forester would have felt in similar circumstances; but prudence tempered his enthusiastic feelings; and prudence renders us able to assist others, whilst enthusiasm frequently defeats its own purposes, and injures those whom it wildly attempts to serve. Henry, knowing the character of Archibald, governed himself accordingly; he made no appeal to his feelings; for he saw that the person must be deficient in humanity, who could have threatened a defenceless woman with such severity; he did not speak of justice to the tyrannical laird, but spoke of law. He told Archibald, that being thoroughly convinced of the woman’s innocence, he had drawn up a statement of her case, which she, in compliance with his advice, was ready to lay before an advocate, naming the first counsel in Edinburgh.
The young laird repeated, with a mixture of apprehension and suspicion, “Drawn up a case! No; you can’t know how to draw up cases; you are not a lawyer — you only say this to bully me.”
Henry replied, that he was no lawyer; that he could, notwithstanding, state plain facts in such a manner, he hoped, as to make a case intelligible to any sensible lawyer; that he meant to show what he had written to his father.
“You’ll show it to me, first, won’t you?” said Archibald, who wished to gain time for consideration.
Henry put the paper, which he had drawn up, into his hands, and waited with a determined countenance beside him, whilst he perused the case. Archibald saw that Henry had abilities and steadiness to go through with the business; the facts were so plainly and forcibly stated, that his hopes even from law began to falter. He therefore talked about humanity — said, he pitied the poor woman; could not bear to think of distressing her; but that, at the same time, he had urgent occasion for money; that, if he could even recover five guineas of it, it would be something. He added, that he had debts, which he could not, in honour, delay to discharge.
Now Henry had five guineas, which he had reserved for the purchase of some additions to his cabinet of mineralogy, and he offered to lend this money to Archibald, to pay the debts that he could not, in honour, delay to discharge, upon express condition, that he should say nothing more to the poor woman concerning the bank-note.
To this condition Archibald most willingly acceded; and as Henry, with generous alacrity, counted the five guineas into his hand, this mean, incorrigible being said to himself, “What fools these bookish young men are, after all! Though he can draw up cases so finely, I’ve taken him in at last; and I wish it were ten guineas instead of five!”
Fatigued with the recital of the various petty artifices of this avaricious and dissipated young laird, we shall now relieve ourselves, by turning from the history of meanness to that of enthusiasm. The faults of Forester we hope and wish to see corrected; but who can be interested for the selfish Archibald Mackenzie?
We left Forester when he was just going to offer himself as clerk to a brewer. The brewer was a prudent man; and he sent one of his porters with a letter to Dr. Campbell, to inform him that a young lad, whom he had formerly seen in company with Mr. Henry Campbell, and who, he understood, was the doctor’s ward, had applied to him, and that he should be very happy to take him into his service, if his friends approved of it, and could properly recommend him. In consequence of Dr. Campbell’s answer to the brewer’s letter, Forester, who knew nothing of the application to his friends, obtained the vacant clerkship. He did not, however, long continue in his new situation. At first he felt happy, when he found himself relieved from, the vulgar petulance of Miss M’Evoy and her brother Colin: in comparison with their rude ill-humours, the clerks who were his companions appeared patterns of civility. By hard experience, Forester was taught to know, that obliging manners in our companions add something to the happiness of our lives. “My mind to me a kingdom is,” was once his common answer to all that his friend Henry could urge in favour of the pleasures of society; but he began now to suspect, that separated from social intercourse, his mind, however enlarged, would afford him but a dreary kingdom.
He flattered himself, that he could make a friend of the clerk who had found his key: this young man’s name was Richardson; he was good-natured, but ignorant; and neither his education nor his abilities distinguished him from any other clerk in similar circumstances. Forester invited him to walk to Arthur’s Seat, after the monotonous business of the day was over, but the clerk preferred walking on holidays in Prince’s-street; and, after several ineffectual attempts to engage him in moral and metaphysical arguments, our hero discovered the depth of his companion’s ignorance with astonishment. Once, when he found that two of the clerks, to whom he had been talking of Cicero and Pliny, did not know any thing of these celebrated personages, he said, with a sigh,
“But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of their soul.”
The word penury, in this stanza, the clerks at least understood, and it excited their “noble rage;” they hinted, that it ill became a person, who did not dress nearly as well as themselves, to give himself such airs, and to taunt his betters with poverty; they said that they supposed, because he was an Englishman, as they perceived by his accent, he thought he might insult Scotchmen as he pleased. It was vain for him to attempt any explanation; their pride and their prejudices combined against him: and, though their dislike to him was not so outrageous as that of the gardener, gentle Colin, yet it was quite sufficient to make him uneasy in his situation. Richardson was as steady as could reasonably be expected; but he showed so little desire to have “the ample page, rich with the spoils of time,” unrolled to him, that he excited our young scholar’s contempt. No friendships can be more unequal than those between ignorance and knowledge. We pass over the journal of our hero’s hours, which were spent in casting up and verifying accounts; this occupation, at length he decided, must be extremely injurious to the human understanding: “All the higher faculties of my soul,” said he to himself, “are absolutely useless at this work, and I am reduced to a mere machine.” But there were many other circumstances in the mercantile system, which Forester had not foreseen, and which shocked him extremely. The continual attention to petty gain, the little artifices which a tradesman thinks himself justifiable in practising upon his customers, could not be endured by his ingenuous mind. One morning the brewery was in an uncommon bustle; the clerks were all in motion. Richardson told Forester that they expected a visit in a few hours from the gauger and the supervisor, and that they were preparing for their reception. When the nature of these preparations was explained to Forester; when he was made to understand that the business and duty of a brewer’s clerk was to assist his master in evading certain clauses in certain acts of parliament; when he found, that to trick a gauger was thought an excellent joke, he stood in silent moral astonishment. He knew about as much of the revenue laws as the clerks did of Cicero and Pliny; but his sturdy principles of integrity could not bend to any of the arguments, founded on expediency, which were brought by his companions in their own and their master’s justification. He declared that he must speak to his master upon the subject immediately. His master was as busy as he could possibly be; and, when Forester insisted upon seeing him, he desired that he would speak as quickly as he could, for that he expected the supervisor every instant. Our hero declared, that he could not, consistently with his principles, assist in evading the laws of his country. The brewer stared, and then laughed; assured him that he had as great a respect for the laws as other people; that he did nothing but what every person in his situation was obliged to do in their own defence. Forester resolutely persisted in his determination against all clandestine practices. The brewer cut the matter short, by saying, he had not time to argue; but that he did not choose to keep a clerk who was not in his interests; that he supposed the next thing would be, to betray him to his supervisor.
“I am no traitor!” exclaimed Forester; “I will not stay another instant with a master who suspects me.”
The brewer suffered him to depart without reluctance; but what exasperated Forester the most was the composure of his friend Richardson during this scene, who did not even offer to shake hands with him, when he saw him going out of the house: for Richardson had a good place, and did not choose to quarrel with his master, for a person whom he now verily believed to be, as he had originally suspected, insane.
“This is the world! — this is friendship!” said Forester to himself.
His generous and enthusiastic imagination supplied him with eloquent invectives against human nature, even while he ardently desired to serve his fellow-creatures. He wandered through the streets of Edinburgh, indulging himself alternately in misanthropic reflections and benevolent projects. One instant, he resolved to study the laws, that he might reform the revenue laws; the next moment, he recollected his own passion for a desert island, and he regretted that he could not be shipwrecked in Edinburgh.
The sound of a squeaking fiddle roused Forester from his reverie; he looked up, and saw a thin, pale man fiddling to a set of dancing dogs, that he was exhibiting upon the flags, for the amusement of a crowd of men, women, and children. It was a deplorable spectacle; the dogs appeared so wretched, in the midst of the merriment of the spectators, that Forester’s compassion was moved, and he exclaimed —
“Enough, enough! — They are quite tired; here are some halfpence!”
The showman took the halfpence; but several fresh spectators were yet to see the sight; and though the exhausted animals were but little inclined to perform their antic feats, their master twitched the rope, that was fastened round their necks, so violently, that they were compelled to renew their melancholy dance.
Forester darted forward, stopped the fiddler’s hand, and began an expostulation, not one word of which was understood by the person to whom it was addressed. A stout lad, who was very impatient at this interruption of his diversion, began to abuse Forester, and presently from words he proceeded to blows.
Forester, though a better orator, was by no means so able a boxer as his opponent. The battle was obstinately fought on both sides; but, at length, our young Quixote received what has no name in heroic language, but in the vulgar tongue is called a black eye; and, covered with blood and bruises, he was carried by some humane passenger into a neighbouring house. It was a printer and bookseller’s shop. The bookseller treated him with humanity; and, after advising him not to be so hastily engaged to be the champion of dancing dogs, inquired who he was, and whether he had any friends in Edinburgh, to whom he could send.
This printer, from having been accustomed to converse with a variety of people, was a good judge of the language of gentlemen; and, though there was nothing else in Forester’s manners which could have betrayed him, he spoke in such good language, that the bookseller was certain that he had received a liberal education.
Our hero declined telling his history; but the printer was so well pleased with his conversation, that he readily agreed to give him employment; and, as soon as he recovered from his bruises, Forester was eager to learn the art of printing.
“The art of printing,” said he, “has emancipated mankind, and printers ought to be considered as the most respectable benefactors of the human race.”
Always warm in his admiration of every new phantom that struck his imagination, he was now persuaded that printers’ devils were angels, and that he should be supremely blessed in a printer’s office.
“What employment so noble!” said he, as he first took the composing-stick in his hand; “what employment so noble, as that of disseminating knowledge over the universe!”
It was some time before our hero acquired dexterity in his new trade: his companions formed, with amazing celerity, whole sentences, while he was searching for letters, which perpetually dropped from his awkward hands: but he was ashamed of his former versatility, and he resolved to be steady to his present way of life. His situation, at this printer’s, was far better suited to him than that which he had quitted, with so much disgust, at the brewer’s. He rose early, and, by great industry, overcame all the difficulties which at first so much alarmed him. He soon became the most useful journeyman in the office. His diligence and good behaviour recommended him to his master’s employers. Whenever any work was brought, Forester was sent for. This occasioned him to be much in the shop, where he heard the conversation of many ingenious men who frequented it; and he spent his evenings in reading. His understanding had been of late uncultivated; but the fresh seeds that were now profusely scattered upon the vigorous soil took root, and flourished.
Forester was just at that time of life when opinions are valued for being new: he heard varieties of the most contradictory assertions in morals, in science, in politics. It is a great advantage to a young man to hear opposite arguments, to hear all that can be said upon every subject.
Forester no longer obstinately adhered to the set of notions which he had acquired from his education; he heard many, whom he could not think his inferiors in abilities, debating questions which he formerly imagined scarcely admitted of philosophic doubt. His mind became more humble; but his confidence in his own powers, after having compared himself with numbers, if less arrogant, was more secure and rational: he no longer considered a man as a fool the moment he differed with him in opinion; but he was still a little inclined to estimate the abilities of authors by the party to which they belonged. This failing was increased, rather than diminished, by the company which he now kept.
Amongst the young students who frequented Mr. ——‘s, the bookseller, was Mr. Thomas —— who, from his habit of blurting out strange opinions in conversation, acquired the name of Tom Random. His head was confused between politics and poetry; his arguments were paradoxical, his diction florid, and his gesture something between the spouting action of a player, and the threatening action of a pugilist.
Forester was caught by the oratory of this genius from the first day he heard him speak.
Tom Random asserted, that “this great globe, and all that it inhabits,” must inevitably be doomed to destruction, unless certain ideas of his own, in the government of the world, were immediately adopted by universal acclamation.
It was not approbation, it was not esteem, which Forester felt for his new friend it was for the first week blind, enthusiastic admiration — every thing that he had seen or heard before appeared to him trite and obsolete; every person who spoke temperate common sense he heard with indifference or contempt; and all who were not zealots in literature, or in politics, he considered as persons whose understandings were so narrow, or whose hearts were so depraved, as to render them “unfit to hear themselves convinced.”
Those who read and converse have a double chance of correcting their errors.
Forester most fortunately, about this time, happened to meet with a book which in some degree counteracted the inflammatory effects of Random’s conversation, and which had a happy tendency to sober his enthusiasm, without lessening his propensity to useful exertions: this book was the Life of Dr. Franklin.
The idea that this great man began by being a printer interested our hero in his history; and whilst he followed him, step by step, through his instructive narrative, Forester sympathized in his feelings, and observed how necessary the smaller virtues of order, economy, industry, and patience were to Franklin’s great character and splendid success. He began to hope that it would be possible to do good to his fellow-creatures, without overturning all existing institutions.
About this time another fortunate coincidence happened in Forester’s education. One evening his friend, Tom Random, who was printing a pamphlet, came, with a party of his companions, into Mr. —— the bookseller’s shop, enraged at the decision of a prize in a literary society to which they belonged.
All the young partisans who surrounded Mr. Random loudly declared that he had been treated with the most flagrant injustice; and the author himself was too angry to affect any modesty upon the occasion.
“Would you believe it?” said he to Forester —“my essay has not been thought worthy of the prize! The medal has been given to the most wretched, tame, commonplace performance you ever saw. Every thing in this world is done by corruption, by party, by secret influence!”
At every pause the irritated author wiped his forehead, and Forester sympathized in his feelings.
In the midst of the author’s exclamations, a messenger came with the manuscript of the prize essay, and with the orders of the society to have a certain number of copies printed off with all possible expedition.
Random snatched up the manuscript, and, with all the fury of criticism, began to read aloud some of the passages which he disliked.
Though it was marred in the reading, Forester could not agree with his angry friend in condemning the performance. It appeared to him excellent writing and excellent sense.
“Print it — print it then, as fast as you can — that is your business — that’s what you are paid for. Every one for himself,” cried Random, insolently throwing the manuscript at Forester; and, as he flung out of the shop with his companions, he added, with a contemptuous laugh, “A printer’s devil setting up for a critic! He may be a capital judge of pica and brevier, perhaps — but let not the compositor go beyond his stick.”
“Is this the man,” said Forester, “whom I have heard so eloquent in the praise of candour and liberality? Is this the man who talks of universal toleration and freedom of opinion, and who yet cannot bear that any one should differ from him in criticising a sentence? Is this the man who would have equality amongst all his fellow-creatures, and who calls a compositor a printer’s devil? Is this the man who cants about the pre-eminence of mind and the perfections of intellect, and yet now takes advantage of his rank, of his supporters, of the cry of his partisans, to bear down the voice of reason? —‘Let not the compositor go beyond his composing-stick!’— And why not? Why should not he be a judge of writing?” At this reflection, Forester eagerly took up the manuscript, which had been flung at his feet. All his indignant feelings instantly changed into delightful exultation — he saw the hand — he read the name of Henry Campbell. The title of the manuscript was, “An Essay on the best Method of reforming Abuses.” This was the subject proposed by the society; and Henry had written upon the question with so much moderation, and yet with such unequivocal decision had shown himself the friend of rational liberty, that all the members of the society who were not borne away by their prejudices were unanimous in their preference of this performance.
Random’s declamation only inflamed the minds of his own partisans. Good judges of writing exclaimed, as they read it, “This is all very fine; but what would this man be at? His violence hurts the cause he wishes to support.”
Forester read Henry Campbell’s essay with all the avidity of friendship; he read it again and again — his generous soul was incapable of envy; and whilst he admired, he was convinced by the force of reason.
His master desired that he would set about the essay early in the morning; but his eagerness for his friend Henry’s fame was such, that he sat up above half the night hard at work at it. He was indefatigable the next day at the business; and as all hands were employed on the essay, it was finished that evening.
Forester rubbed his hands with delight, when he had set the name of Henry Campbell in the title-page — but an instant afterwards he sighed bitterly.
“I am only a printer,” said he to himself. “These just arguments, these noble ideas, will instruct and charm hundreds of my fellow-creatures: no one will ever ask, ‘Who set the types?’”
His reflections were interrupted by the entrance of Tom Random and two of his partisans: he was extremely displeased to find that the printers had not been going on with his pamphlet; his personal disappointments seemed to increase the acrimony of his zeal for the public good: he declaimed upon politics — upon the necessity for the immediate publication of his sentiments, for the salvation of the state. His action was suited to his words: violent and blind to consequences, with one sudden kick, designed to express his contempt for the opposite party, this political Alnaschar unfortunately overturned the form which contained the types for the newspaper of the next day, which was just going to the press — a newspaper in which he had written splendid paragraphs.
Forester, happily for his philosophy, recollected the account which Franklin, in his history of his own life, gives of the patience with which he once bore a similar accident. The printers, with secret imprecations against oratory, or at least against those orators who think that action is every thing, set to work again to repair the mischief.
Forester, much fatigued, at length congratulated himself upon having finished his hard day’s work, when a man from the shop came to inquire whether three hundred cards, which had been ordered the week before to be printed off, were finished. The man to whom the order was given had forgotten it, and he was going home: he decidedly answered, “No; the cards can’t be done till to-morrow: we have left work for this night, thank God.”
“The gentleman says he must have them,” expostulated the messenger.
“He must not, he cannot have them. I would not print a card for his majesty at this time of night,” replied the sullen workman, throwing his hat upon his head, in token of departure.
“What are these cards?” said Forester.
“Only a dancing-master’s cards for his ball,” said the printer’s journeyman. “I’ll not work beyond my time for any dancing-master that wears a head.”
The messenger then said, that he was desired to ask for the manuscript card.
This card was hunted for all over the room; and, at last, Forester found it under a heap of refuse papers: his eye was caught with the name of his old friend, Monsieur Pasgrave, the dancing-master, whom he had formerly frightened by the skeleton with the fiery eyes.
“I will print the cards for him myself; I am not at all tired,” cried Forester, who was determined to make some little amends for the injury which he had formerly done to the poor dancing-master. He resolved to print the cards for nothing, and he stayed up very late to finish them. His companions all left him, for they were in a great hurry to see, what in Edinburgh is a rare sight, the town illuminated.
These illuminations were upon account of some great naval victory.
Forester, steady to Monsieur Pasgrave’s cards, did what no other workman would have done; he finished for him, on this night of public joy, his three hundred cards. Every now and then, as he was quietly at work, he heard the loud huzzas in the street: his waning candle sunk in the socket, as he had just packed up his work.
By the direction at the bottom of the cards, he learned where M. Pasgrave lodged, and, as he was going out to look at the illuminations, he resolved to leave them himself at the dancing-master’s house.
The illuminations were really beautiful. He went up to the Castle, whence he saw a great part of the Old Town, and all Prince’s-street, lighted up in the most splendid manner. He crossed the Earth-mound into Prince’s-street. Walking down Prince’s-street, he saw a crowd of people gathered before the large illuminated window of a confectioner’s shop. As he approached nearer, he distinctly heard the voice of Tom Random, who was haranguing the mob. The device and motto which the confectioner displayed in his window displeased this gentleman, who, beside his public-spirited abhorrence of all men of a party opposite to his own, had likewise private cause of dislike to this confectioner, who had refused him his daughter in marriage.
It was part of Random’s new system of political justice to revenge his own quarrels.
The mob, who are continually, without knowing it, made the instruments of private malice, when they think they are acting in a public cause, readily joined in Tom Random’s cry of “Down with the motto! Down with the motto!”
Forester, who, by his lesson from the dancing dogs, had learned a little prudence, and who had just printed Henry Campbell’s Essay on the best Means of reforming Abuses, did not mix with the rabble, but joined in the entreaties of some peaceable passengers, who prayed that the poor man’s windows might be spared. The windows were, notwithstanding, demolished with a terrible crash, and the crowd, then alarmed at the mischief they had done, began to disperse. The constables, who had been sent for, appeared. Tom Random was taken into custody. Forester was pursuing his way to the dancing-master’s, when one of the officers of justice exclaimed, “Stop! — stop him! — he’s one of ’em: he’s a great friend of Mr. Random: I’ve seen him often parading arm in arm in High-street with him.”
This, alas! was too true: the constables seized Forester, and put him, with Tom Random, and the ringleader of the riot, into a place of confinement for the night.
Poor Forester, who was punished for the faults of his former friend and present enemy, had, during this long night, leisure for much wholesome reflection upon the danger of forming imprudent intimacies. He resolved never to walk again in High-street arm in arm with such a man as Tom Random.
The constables were rather hasty in the conclusion they drew from this presumptive evidence.
Our hero, who felt the disgrace of his situation, was not a little astonished at Tom Random’s consoling himself with drinking instead of philosophy. The sight of this enthusiast, when he had completely intoxicated himself, was a disgusting but useful spectacle to our indignant hero. Forester was shocked at the union of gross vice and rigid pretensions to virtue: he could scarcely believe that the reeling, stammering idiot whom he now beheld was the same being from whose lips he had heard declamations upon the omnipotence of intellect— from whose pen he had seen projects for the government of empires.
The dancing-master, who, in the midst of the illuminations, had regretted that his cards could not be printed, went early in the morning to inquire about them at the printer’s.
The printer had learnt that one of his boys was taken up amongst the rioters: he was sorry to find that Forester had gotten himself into such a scrape: but he was a very cautious snug man, and he did not choose to interfere: he left him quietly to be dealt with according to law.
The dancing-master, however, was interested in finding him out, because he was informed that Forester had sat up almost all night to print his cards, and that he had them now in his pocket.
M. Pasgrave at length gained admittance to him in his confinement: the officers of justice were taking him and Random before Mr. W——a magistrate, with whom informations had been lodged by the confectioner, who had suffered in his windows.
Pasgrave, when he beheld Forester, was surprised to such a degree, that he could scarcely finish his bow, or express his astonishment, either in French or English. “Eh, monsieur! mon Dieu! bon Dieu! I beg ten million pardons — I am come to search for a printer who has my cards in his pocket.”
“Here are your cards,” said Forester: “let me speak a few words to you.” He took M. Pasgrave aside. “I perceive,” said he, “that you have discovered who I am. Though in the service of a printer, I have still as much the feelings and principles of a gentleman as I had when you saw me in Dr. Campbell’s house. I have particular reasons for being anxious to remain undiscovered by Dr. Campbell, or any of his family: you may depend upon it that my reasons are not dishonourable. I request that you will not, upon any account, betray me to that family. I am going before a magistrate, and am accused of being concerned in a riot, which I did every thing in my power to prevent.”
“Ah! monsieur,” interrupted the dancing-master, “but you see de grand inconvenience of concealing your rank and name. You, who are comme il faut, are confounded with the mob: permit me at least to follow you to Mr. W—— the magistrate: I have de honneur to teach les demoiselles his daughters to dance; dey are to be at my ball — dey take one half dozen tickets. I must call dere wid my cards; and I shall, if you will give me leave, accompany you now, and mention dat I know you to be un homme comme il faut, above being guilty of an unbecoming action. I flatter myself I have some interest wid de ladies of de family, and dat dey will do me de favour to speak to monsieur leur cher père sur votre compte.”
Forester thanked the good-natured dancing-master, but he proudly said, that he should trust to his own innocence for his defence.
M. Pasgrave, who had seen something more of the world than our hero, and who was interested for him, because he had once made him a present of an excellent violin, and because he had sat up half the night to print the ball cards, resolved not to leave him entirely to his innocence for a defence: he followed Forester to Mr. W——‘s. The magistrate was a slow, pompous man, by no means a good physiognomist, much less a good judge of character. He was proud of his authority, and glad to display the small portion of legal knowledge which he possessed. As soon as he was informed that some young men were brought before him, who had been engaged the preceding night in a riot, he put on all his magisterial terrors, and assured the confectioner, who had a private audience of him, that he should have justice, and that the person or persons concerned in breaking his window or windows should be punished with the utmost severity that the law would allow. Contrary to the humane spirit of the British law, which supposes every man to be innocent till it is proved that he is guilty, this harsh magistrate presumed that every man who was brought before him was guilty till he was proved to be innocent. Forester’s appearance was not in his favour: he had been up all night; his hair was dishevelled; his linen was neither fine nor white; his shoes were thick-soled and dirty; his coat was that in which he had been at work at the printer’s the preceding day; it was in several places daubed with printers’ ink; and his unwashed hands bespoke his trade. Of all these circumstances the slow circumspect eye of the magistrate took cognizance one by one. Forester observed the effect which this survey produced upon his judge; and he felt that appearances were against him, and that appearances are sometimes of consequence. After having estimated his poverty by these external symptoms, the magistrate looked, for the first time, in his face, and pronounced that he had one of the worst countenances he ever beheld. This judgment once pronounced, he proceeded to justify, by wresting to the prisoner’s disadvantage every circumstance that appeared. Forester’s having been frequently seen in Tom Random’s company was certainly against him: the confectioner perpetually repeated that they were constant companions; that they were intimate friends; that they were continually walking together every Sunday; and that they often had come arm in arm into his shop, talking politics; that he believed Forester to be of the same way of thinking with Mr. Random; and that he saw him close behind him, at the moment the stones were thrown that broke the windows. It appeared that Mr. Random was at that time active in encouraging the mob. To oppose the angry confectioner’s conjectural evidence, the lad who threw the stone, and who was now produced, declared that Forester held back his arm, and said, “My good lad, don’t break this man’s windows: go home quietly; here’s a shilling for you.” The person who gave this honest testimony, in whom there was a strange mixture of the love of mischief and the spirit of generosity, was the very lad who fought with Forester, and beat him, about the dancing dogs. He whispered to Forester, “Do you remember me? I hope you don’t bear malice.” The magistrate, who heard this whisper, immediately construed it to the prisoner’s disadvantage. “Then, sir,” said he, addressing himself to our hero, “this gentleman, I understand, claims acquaintance with you; his acquaintance really does you honour, and speaks, strongly in favour of your character. If I mistake not, this is the lad whom I sent to the Tolbooth, some little time ago, for a misdemeanour; and he is not, I apprehend, a stranger to the stocks.”
Forester commanded his temper as well as he was able, and observed, that whatever might be the character of the young man who had spoken in his favour, his evidence would, perhaps, be thought to deserve some credit, when the circumstances of his acquaintance with the witness were known. He then related the adventure of the dancing dogs, and remarked, that the testimony of an enemy came with double force in his favour. The language and manner in which Forester spoke surprised all who were present; but the history of the dancing dogs appeared so ludicrous and so improbable, that the magistrate decidedly pronounced it to be “a fabrication, a story invented to conceal the palpable collusion of the witnesses.” Yet, though he one moment declared that he did not believe the story, he the next inferred from it, that Forester was disposed to riot and sedition, since he was ready to fight with a vagabond in the streets for the sake of a parcel of dancing dogs.
M. Pasgrave, in the meantime, had, with great good-nature, been representing Forester in the best light he possibly could to the young ladies, the magistrate’s daughters. One of them sent to beg to speak to their father. M. Pasgrave judiciously dwelt upon his assurances of Forester’s being a gentleman: he told Mr. W—— that he had met him in one of the best families in Edinburgh; that he knew he had some private reasons for concealing that he was a gentleman: “perhaps the young gentleman was reduced to temporary distress,” he said; but whatever might be these reasons, M. Pasgrave vouched for his having very respectable friends and connexions. The magistrate wished to know the family in which M. Pasgrave had met Forester; but he was, according to his promise, impenetrable on this subject. His representations had, however, the desired effect upon Mr. W——: when he returned to the examination of our hero, his opinion of his countenance somewhat varied; he despatched his other business; bailed Tom Random on high sureties; and, when Forester was the only person that remained, he turned to him with great solemnity; bade him sit down; informed him that he knew him to be a gentleman; that he was greatly concerned that a person like him, who had respectable friends and connexions, should involve himself in such a disagreeable affair; that it was a matter of grief and surprise to him, to see a young gentleman in such apparel; that he earnestly recommended to him to accommodate matters with his friends; and, above all things, to avoid the company of seditious persons. Much good advice, but in a dictatorial tone, and in cold, pompous language, he bestowed upon the prisoner, and at length dismissed him. “How different,” said Forester to himself, “is this man’s method of giving advice from Dr. Campbell’s!”
This lesson strongly impressed, however, upon our hero’s mind the belief, that external appearance, dress, manners, and the company we keep, are the usual circumstances by which the world judge of character and conduct. When he was dismissed from Mr. W——‘s august presence, the first thing he did was to inquire for Pasgrave: he was giving the magistrate’s daughters a lesson, and could not be interrupted; but Forester left a note for him, requesting to see him at ten o’clock the next day, at Mr. —— the bookseller’s. New mortifications awaited our hero: on his return to his master’s, he was very coldly received; Mr. —— let him know, in unqualified terms, that he did not like to employ any one in his work who got into quarrels at night in the public streets. Forester’s former favour with his master, his industry and talents, were not considered without envy by the rest of the journeymen printers; and they took advantage of his absence to misrepresent him to the bookseller: however, when Forester came to relate his own story, his master was convinced that he was not to blame; that he had worked extremely hard the preceding day; and that, far from having been concerned in a riot, he had done every thing in his power to prevent mischief. He desired to see the essay, which was printed with so much expedition: it was in the hands of the corrector of the press. The sheets were sent for, and the bookseller was in admiration at the extraordinary correctness with which it was printed; the corrector of the press scarcely had occasion to alter a word, a letter, or a stop. There was a quotation in the manuscript from Juvenal. Henry Campbell had, by mistake, omitted to name the satire and line, and the author from which it was taken, though he had left a blank in which they were to be inserted. The corrector of the press, though a literary gentleman, was at a stand. Forester immediately knew where to look for the passage in the original author: he found it, and inserted the book and line in their proper place. His master did not suffer this to pass unobserved; he hinted to him, that it was a pity a young man of his abilities and knowledge should waste his time in the mere technical drudgery of printing. “I should be glad now,” continued the bookseller, “to employ you as a corrector of the press, and to advance you, according to your merits, in the world; but,” glancing his eye at Forester’s dress, “you must give me leave to say, that some attention to outward appearance is necessary in our business. Gentlemen call here, as you well know, continually, and I like to have the people about me make a creditable appearance. You have earned money since you have been with me — surely you can afford yourself a decent suit of clothes and a cleaner shirt. I beg your pardon for speaking so freely; but I really have a regard for you, and wish to see you get forward in life.”
Forester had not, since he left Dr. Campbell’s, been often spoken to in a tone of friendship. The bookseller’s well-meant frank remonstrance made its just impression; and he resolved to make the necessary additions to his wardrobe; nay, he even went to a hair-dresser, to have his hair cut and brought into decent order. His companions, the printers, had not been sparing in their remarks upon the meanness of his former apparel, and Forester pleased himself with anticipating the respect they would feel for him, when he should appear in better clothes. “Can such trifles,” said he to himself, “make such a change in the opinion of my fellow-creatures? And why should I fight with the world for trifles? My real merit is neither increased nor diminished by the dress I may happen to wear; but I see, that unless I waste all my life in combating the prejudices of superficial observers, I should avoid all those pecuiliarities in my external appearance which prevent whatever good qualities I have from obtaining their just respect.” He was surprised at the blindness of his companions, who could not discover his merit through the roughness of his manners and the disadvantages of his dress; but he determined to shine out upon them in the superior dress and character of a corrector of the press. He went to a tailor’s, and bespoke a suit of clothes. He bought new linen; and our readers will perhaps hear with surprise, that he actually began to consider very seriously whether he should not take a few lessons in dancing. He had learned to dance formerly, and was not naturally either inactive or awkward: but his contempt for the art prevented him, for some years, from practising it; and he had nearly forgotten his wonted agility. Henry Campbell once, when Forester was declaiming against dancing, told him, that if he had learned to dance, and excelled in the art, his contempt for the trifling accomplishment would have more effect upon the minds of others, because it could not be mistaken for envy. This remark made a deep impression upon our hero, especially as he observed that his friend Henry was not in the least vain of his personal graces, and had cultivated his understanding, though he could dance a Scotch reel. Scotch reels were associated in Forester’s imagination with Flora Campbell; and in balancing the arguments for and against learning to dance, the recollection of Archibald Mackenzie’s triumphant look, when he led her away as his partner at the famous ball, had more influence perhaps upon Forester’s mind than his pride and philosophy apprehended. He began to have some confused design of returning, at some distant period, to his friends; and he had hopes that he should appear in a more amiable light to Flora, after he had perfected himself in an accomplishment which he fancied she admired prodigiously. His esteem for that lady was rather diminished by this belief; but still a sufficient quantity remained to excite in him a strong ambition to please. The agony he felt the night he left the ball-room was such, that he could not even now recollect the circumstances without confusion and anguish of mind. His hands were now such as could appear without gloves; and he resolved to commence the education of his feet.
M. Pasgrave called upon him, in consequence of the message which he left at the magistrate’s: his original design in sending for the dancing-master was to offer him some acknowledgment for his obliging conduct. “M. Pasgrave,” said he, “you have behaved towards me like a man of honour; you have kept my secret; I am convinced that you will continue to keep it inviolate.” As he spoke, he produced a ten-guinea bank-note, for at length he had prevailed upon himself to have recourse to his pocket-book, which, till this day, had remained unopened. Pasgrave stared at the sight of the note, and withdrew his hand at first, when it was offered; but he yielded at length, when Forester assured him that he was not in any distress, and that he could perfectly well afford to indulge his feelings of gratitude. “Nay,” continued Forester, who, if he had not always practised the maxims of politeness, notwithstanding possessed that generosity of mind and good sense on which real politeness must depend —“you shall not be under any obligation to me, M. Pasgrave: I am just going to ask a favour from you. You must teach me to dance.” “Wid de utmost pleasure,” exclaimed the delighted dancing-master; and the hours of his attendance were soon settled. Whatever Forester attempted, he pursued with energy. M. Pasgrave, after giving him a few lessons, prophesied that he would do him infinite credit; and Forester felt a secret pride in the idea that he should surprise his friends, some time or other, with his new accomplishment.
He continued in the bookseller’s service, correcting the press for him, much to his satisfaction; and the change in his personal appearance pleased his master, as it showed attention to his advice. Our hero, from time to time, exercised his talents in writing; and, as he inserted his compositions under a fictitious signature, in his master’s newspaper, he had an opportunity of hearing the most unprejudiced opinions of a variety of critics, who often came to read the papers at their house. He stated, in short essays, some of those arguments concerning the advantages and disadvantages of politeness, luxury, the love of society, misanthropy, &c., which had formerly passed between him and Henry Campbell; and he listened to the remarks that were made upon each side of the question. How it happened, we know not; but after he had taken lessons for about six weeks from M. Pasgrave, he became extremely solicitous to have a solution of all his Stoical doubts, and to furnish himself with the best possible arguments in favour of civilized society. He could not bear the idea that he yielded his opinions to any thing less than strict demonstration: he drew up a list of queries, which concluded with the following question:—“What should be the distinguishing characteristics of the higher classes of people in society?” This query was answered in one of the public papers, a few days after it appeared in Mr. ——‘s paper, and the answer was signed H.C., a Friend to Society. Even without these initials, Forester would easily have discovered it to be Henry Campbell’s writing; and several strokes seemed to be so particularly addressed to him, that he could not avoid thinking Henry had discovered the querist. The impression which arguments make upon the mind varies with time and change of situation. Those arguments in favour of subordination in society, in favour of agreeable manners, and attention to the feelings of others in the small as well as in the great concerns of life, which our hero had heard with indifference from Dr. Campbell and Henry in conversation, struck him, when he saw them in a printed essay, with all the force of conviction; and he wondered how it had happened that he never before perceived them to be conclusive.
He put the newspaper, which contained this essay, in his pocket; and, after he had finished his day’s work, and had taken his evening lesson from M. Pasgrave, he went out with an intention of going to a favourite spot upon Arthur’s Seat, to read the essay again at his leisure.
But he was stopped at the turn from the North Bridge, into High-street, by a scavenger’s cart. The scavenger, with his broom which had just swept the High-street, was clearing away a heap of mud. Two gentlemen on horseback, who were riding like postilions, came up during this operation — Sir Philip Gosling and Archibald Mackenzie. Forester had his back towards them, and he never looked round, because he was too intent upon his own thoughts. Archibald was mounted upon Sawney, the horse which he had so fairly won from his friend Sir Philip. The half-guinea which had been promised to the hostler had not yet been paid; and the hostler, determined to revenge himself upon Archibald, invented an ingenious method of gratifying his resentment. He taught Sawney to rear and plunge whenever his legs were touched by the broom with which the stables were swept. When Sawney was perfectly well trained to this trick, the cunning hostler communicated his design, and related his cause of complaint against Archibald, to a scavenger, who was well known at the livery stables. The scavenger entered into his friend the hostler’s feeling, and promised to use his broom in his cause, whenever a convenient and public opportunity should offer. The hour of retribution was now arrived: the scavenger saw his young gentleman in full glory, mounted upon Sawney; he kept his eye upon him, whilst, in company with the baronet, he came over the North Bridge: there was a stop, from the meeting of carts and carriages. The instant Archibald came within reach of the broom, the scavenger slightly touched Sawney’s legs; Sawney plunged and reared, and reared and plunged. The scavenger stood grinning at the sight. Forester attempted to seize the horse’s bridle; but Sawney, who seemed determined upon the point, succeeded. When Forester snatched at his bridle, he reared, then plunged; and Archibald Mackenzie was fairly lodged in the scavenger’s cart. Whilst the well-dressed laird floundered in the mud, Forester gave the horse to the servant, who had now ridden up; and, satisfied that Mackenzie had received no material injury, inquired no further. He turned to assist a poor washerwoman, who was lifting a large basket of clean linen into her house, to get it out of the way of the cart. As soon as he had helped her to lift the basket into her passage, he was retiring, when he heard a voice at the back-door, which was at the other end of the passage. It was the voice of a child; and he listened, for he thought he had heard it before. “The door is locked,” said the washerwoman. “I know who it is that is knocking; it is only a little girl who is coming for a cap which I have there in the basket.” The door was unlocked, and Forester saw the little girl to whom the fine geranium belonged. What a number of ideas she recalled to his mind! She looked at him, and hesitated, courtesied, then turned away, as if she was afraid she was mistaken, and asked the washerwoman if she had plaited her grandmother’s cap. The woman searched in her basket, and produced the cap nicely plaited. The little girl, in the meantime, considered Forester with anxious attention. “I believe,” said she, timidly, “you are, or you are very like, the gentleman who was so good as to —” “Yes,” interrupted Forester, “I know what you mean. I am the man who went with you to try to obtain justice from your tyrannical schoolmistress: I did not do you any good. Have you seen — have you heard any thing of —?” Such a variety of recollections pressed upon Forester’s heart, that he could not pronounce the name of Henry Campbell; and he changed his question. “Is your old grandmother recovered?”
“She is quite well, thank you, sir; and she is grown young again, since you saw her: perhaps you don’t know how good Mr. Henry and the young lady have been to us. We don’t live now in that little, close, dark room at the watchmaker’s. We are as happy, sir, as the day is long.” “But what of Henry? what of —?” “Oh, sir! but if you are not very busy, or in a great hurry — it is but a little way off — if you could come and look at our new house — I don’t mean our house, for it is not ours; but we take care of it, and we have two little rooms to ourselves; and Mr. Henry and Miss Flora very often come to see us. I wish you could come to see how nice our rooms are! The house is not far off, only at the back of the Meadows.” “Go, show me the way — I’ll follow you,” said Forester, after he had satisfied himself that there was no danger of his meeting any of Dr. Campbell’s family.
Our hero accompanied the little girl with eager, benevolent curiosity. “There,” said she, when they came to the Meadows, “do you see that white house, with the paling before it?” “But that cannot be your house!” “No, no, sir: Dr. Campbell and several gentlemen have the large room, and they come there twice a-week to teach something to a great many children. Grandmother can explain all that better to you, sir, than I can; but all I know is, that it is our business to keep the room aired and swept, and to take care of the glass things which you’ll see; and you shall see how clean it is: it was I swept it this morning.”
They had now reached the gate which was in the paling before the house. The old woman came to the door, clean, neat, and cheerful; she recollected to have seen Forester in company with Henry Campbell at the watchmaker’s; and this was sufficient to make him a welcome guest. “God bless the family, and all that belongs to them, for ever and ever!” said the woman. “This way, sir.” “Oh, don’t look into our little rooms yet: look at the great room first, if you please, sir,” said the child.
There was a large table in the middle of this long room, and several glass retorts, and other chemical vessels, were ranged upon shelves; wooden benches were placed on each side of the table. The grandmother, to whom the little girl had referred for a clear explanation, could not, however, tell Forester very exactly the use of the retorts; but she informed him that many of the manufacturers in Edinburgh sent their sons hither twice a-week; and Dr. Campbell, and Mr. Henry Campbell, and some other gentlemen, came by turns to instruct them. Forester recollected now that he once heard Henry talking to his father about a scheme for teaching the children of the manufacturers of Edinburgh some knowledge of chemistry, such as they might afterwards apply advantageously to the arts and every-day business of life.
“I have formed projects, but what good have I ever actually done to my fellow-creatures?” said Forester to himself. With melancholy steps he walked to examine every thing in the room. “Dr. Campbell sits in this arm-chair, does not he? And where does Henry sit?” The old woman placed the chairs for him as they usually were placed. Upon one of the shelves there was a slate, which, as it had been written upon, the little girl had put by very carefully; there were some calculations upon the weight of different gases, and the figures Forester knew to be Henry’s: he looked at every thing that was Henry’s with pleasure. “Because I used to be so rough in my manner to him,” said Forester to himself, “I dare say that he thinks I have no feeling, and I suppose he has forgotten me by this time: I deserve, indeed, to be forgotten by every body! How could I leave such friends!” On the other side of the slate poor Forester saw his own name written several times over, in his friend’s hand-writing, and he read two lines of his own poetry, which he remembered to have repeated to Henry the day that they walked to Arthur’s Seat. Forester felt much pleasure from this little proof of his friend’s affection. “Now won’t you look at our nice rooms?” said the child, who had waited with some patience till he had done pondering upon the slate.
The little rooms were well arranged, and their neatness was not now as much lost upon our hero as it would have been some time before. The old woman and her grand-daughter, with all the pride of gratitude, exhibited to him several little presents of furniture which they had received from Dr. Campbell’s family. “Mr. Henry gave me this! Miss Flora gave me that!” was frequently repeated. The little girl opened the door of her own room. On a clean white deal bracket, which “Mr. Henry lad put up with his own hands,” stood the well-known geranium in its painted flower-pot. Forester saw nothing else in the room, and it was in vain that both the old woman and her grand-daughter talked to him at once; he heard not a word that was said to him. The flowers were all gone, and the brown calyces of the geranium flowers reminded him of the length of time which had elapsed since he had first seen them. “I am sorry there are no flowers to offer you,” said the little girl, observing Forester’s melancholy look; “but I thought you did not like geraniums; for I remember when I gave you a fine flower in the watchmaker’s shop you pulled it to pieces, and threw it on the ground.” “I should not do so now,” said Forester. The black marks on the painted flower-pot had been entirely effaced: be turned away, endeavoured to conceal his emotion, and took leave of the place as soon as the grateful inhabitants would suffer him to depart. The reflection that he had wasted his time, that he had never done any good to any human being, that he had lost opportunities of making both himself and others happy, pressed upon his mind; but his Stoical pride still resisted the thought of returning to Dr. Campbell’s. “It will be imagined that I yield my opinions from meanness of spirit,” said he to himself. “Dr. Campbell certainly has no further regard or esteem for me; neither he nor Henry have troubled themselves about my fate: they are doing good to more deserving objects; they are intent upon literary pursuits, and have not time to bestow a thought upon me. And Flora, I suppose, is as gay as she is good. I alone am unhappy — a wanderer — an outcast — a useless being.”
Forester, whilst he was looking at the geranium, or soon afterwards, missed his handkerchief; the old woman and her grand-daughter searched for it all over the house, but in vain: he then thought he must have left it at the washerwoman’s, where he met the little girl; he called to inquire for it, upon his return to Edinburgh. When he returned to this woman’s house for his handkerchief, he found her sitting upon a low stool, in her laundry, weeping bitterly; her children stood round her. Forester inquired into the cause of her distress, and she told him that a few minutes after he left her, the young gentleman who had been thrown from his horse into the scavenger’s cart was brought into her house, whilst his servant went home for another suit of clothes for him. “I did not at first guess that I had ever seen the young gentleman before,” continued she; “but when the mud was cleared from his face I knew him to be Mr. Archibald Mackenzie. I am sure I wish I had never seen his face then or at any time. He was in a very bad humour after his tumble, and he began again to threaten me about a ten-guinea bank-note, which he and his servant declare they sent in his waistcoat pocket to be washed: I’m sure I never saw it. Mr. Henry Campbell quieted him about it for awhile; but just now he began again with me, and he says he has spoken to a lawyer, and that he will make me pay the whole note; and he swore at me as if I had been the worst creature in the world; and, God knows, I work hard for my children, and never wronged any one in my days!”
Forester, who forgot all his own melancholy reflections as soon as he could assist any one who was in distress, bade the poor woman dry her tears, and assured her that she had nothing to fear; for he would instantly go to Dr. Campbell, and get him to speak to Mackenzie. “If it is necessary,” said he, “I’ll pay the money myself.” She clasped her hands joyfully as he spoke, and all her children joined in an exclamation of delight. “I’ll go to Dr. Campbell’s this instant,” said our hero, whose pride now yielded to the desire of doing justice to this injured woman; he totally forgot himself, and thought only of her: “I’ll go to Dr. Campbell’s, and I will speak to Mr. Mackenzie immediately.”
Whilst Forester was walking through the streets, with that energy which the hope of serving his fellow-creatures always excited in his generous mind, he even forgot a scheme which he had, in spite of his Stoical pride and his dread of being thought to give up his opinions from meanness, resolved in his imagination. He had formed the design of returning to his friends an altered being in his external appearance: he had ordered a fashionable suit of clothes, which were now ready. He had laid aside the dress and manners of a gentleman from the opinion that they were degrading to the character of a man: as soon as this prejudice had been conquered, he began to think he might resume them. Many were the pleasing anticipations in which he indulged himself: the looks of each of his friends, the generous approving eye of Henry, the benevolent countenance of Dr. Campbell, the arch smile of Flora, were all painted by his fancy; and lie invented every circumstance that was likely to happen — every word that would probably be said by each individual. We are sure that our readers will give our enthusiastic hero credit for his forgetting these pleasing reveries — for his forgetting himself, nay, even Flora Campbell — when humanity and justice called upon him for exertion.
When he found himself in George’s-square, within sight of Dr. Campbell’s house, his heart beat violently, and he suddenly stopped to recollect himself. He had scarcely stood a few instants, when a hard, stout-looking man came up to him, and asked him if his name were Forester: he started, and answered, “Yes, sir, what is your business with me?” The stranger replied by producing a paper, and desiring him to read it. The paper, which was half printed, half written, began with these words:—“You are hereby required to appear before me —”
“What is all this?” exclaimed our hero. “It is a summons,” replied the stranger: “I am a constable, and you will please to come with me before Mr. W——. This is not the first time you have been before him, I am told.” To this last insolent taunt Forester made no reply, but in a firm tone said that he was conscious of no crime, but that he was ready to follow the constable, and to appear before Mr. W—— or any other magistrate, who wished to inquire into his conduct. Though he summoned all his fortitude, and spoke with composure, he was much astonished by this proceeding; he could not help reflecting, that an individual in society who has friends, an established character, and a home, is in a more desirable situation than an unconnected being, who has no one to answer for his conduct — no one to rejoice in his success, or to sympathize in his misfortunes. “Ah, Dr. Campbell! happy father! in the midst of your own family, you have forgotten your imprudent ward!” said Forester to himself, while his mind revolted from seeking his friend’s assistance in this discreditable situation. “You do not know how near he is to you! you do not know that he was just returning to you! you do not see that he is, at this moment, perhaps, on the brink of disgrace!”
Forester was mistaken in his idea that Dr. Campbell had forgotten him; but we shall not yet explain further upon this subject; we only throw out this hint, that our readers may not totally change their good opinion of the doctor. We must now beg their attention to the continuation of the history of Archibald Mackenzie’s bank-note.
Lady Catherine Mackenzie one day observed that the colours were changed in one spot on the right-hand pocket of her son’s waistcoat. “My dear Archibald,” said she, “what has happened to your smart waistcoat? What is that terrible spot?” “Really, ma’am, I don’t know,” said Archibald, with his usual soft voice and deceitful smile. Henry Campbell observed that it seemed as if the colours had been discharged by some acid. “Did you wear that waistcoat, Mr. Mackenzie,” said he, “the night the large bottle of vitriolic acid was broken — the night that poor Forester’s cat was killed: don’t you remember?” “Oh, I did not at first recollect; I cannot possibly remember, indeed — it is so long ago — what waistcoat I wore on that particular night.” The extreme embarrassment in Archibald’s manner surprised Henry. “I really don’t perceive your drift,” continued Mackenzie: “what made you ask the question so earnestly?” He was relieved when Henry answered, that he only wished to know whether it was probable that it was stained with vitriolic acid; “because,” said he, “I think that is the pocket in which you said you left your ten-guinea note; then, perhaps, the note may have been stained.” “Perhaps so,” replied Mackenzie dryly. “And if it were, you could identify the note: you have forgotten the number; but if the note has been stained with vitriolic acid, we should certainly be able to know it again: the acid would have changed the colour of the ink.” Mackenzie eagerly seized this idea; and immediately, in pursuance of Henry’s advice, went to several of the principal bankers in Edinburgh, and requested that if a note, stained in such a manner, should be presented to them, they would stop payment of it till Mackenzie should examine it. Some time elapsed, and nothing was heard of the note. Mackenzie gave up all hopes of recovering it; and in proportion as these hopes diminished, his old desire of making the poor washerwoman answerable for his loss increased. We have just heard this woman’s account of his behaviour to her, when he came into her house to be refitted, after his tumble from Sawney into the scavenger’s cart. All his promises to Henry he thought proper to disregard: promises appeared to him mere matters of convenience; and the idea of “taking in” such a young man as Henry Campbell was to him an excellent joke. He resolved to keep the five guineas quietly which Henry lent him; and, at the same time, to frighten this innocent industrious woman into paying him the value of his bank-note.
Upon Mackenzie’s return to Dr. Campbell’s, after his fall from Sawney, the first thing he heard was that his note was found; that it had been stopped at the bank of Scotland; and that one of the clerks of the bank, who brought it for his examination, had been some time waiting for his return from riding. When the note was produced, Henry saw that two or three of the words which had been written in ink, the name of the person to whom it was payable, and the date of the month and year, were so pale as to be scarcely visible; and that there was a round hole through one corner of the paper. This round hole puzzled Henry, but he had no doubt that the ink had been thus nearly obliterated by vitriolic acid. He poured a few drops, diluted with water, upon some printing, and the ink was quickly turned to nearly the same pale colour as that in Mackenzie’s note. The note was easily traced, as it had not passed through many hands — our readers will be sorry to hear it — to M. Pasgrave, the dancing-master. Mackenzie and the clerk went directly to his house, found him at home, and without much preface, informed him of their business. The dancing-master trembled from head to foot, and, though innocent, exhibited all the signs of guilt; he had not the slightest knowledge of business, and the manner and language of the banker’s clerk who accompanied Mackenzie terrified him beyond measure, because he did not comprehend one word in ten that he said about checks, entries, and day-books; and he was nearly a quarter of an hour before he could recover sufficient presence of mind to consider from whom he received the note. At length, after going over, in an unintelligible manner, all the puzzled accounts of monies received and paid which he kept in his head, he declared that he clearly recollected to have received the ten-guinea note at Mr. Macpherson’s, the tailor; that he went a few weeks ago to settle his year’s account with him; and that in change for a twenty-pound note, he received that which the banker’s clerk now produced. To Mackenzie it was perfectly indifferent who was found guilty, so that he could recover his money. “Settle it as you will amongst you,” said he, “the money must be refunded, or I must have you all before a magistrate directly.” Pasgrave, in great perturbation, set out for Mr. Macpherson’s, showed him the note, and reminded him of the day when he paid his account. “If you received the note from us, sir,” said the master-tailor, very calmly, “it must be entered in our books, for we keep regular accounts.” The tailor’s foreman, who knew much more of the affair than his master, appealed, with assumed security, to the entry in the books. By this entry it appeared that M. Pasgrave settled his account the 17th of October; that he paid the balance by a twenty-pound note, and that he received in change a ten-guinea note on Sir William Forbes’s bank. “You see, sir,” said the tailor, “this cannot possibly be Mr. Mackenzie’s; for his note is on the bank of Scotland. Our entry is as full as possible; and I am ready to produce my books, and to abide by them, in any court of justice in the world.” M. Pasgrave was totally at a loss; he could only repeat, that he remembered to have received Mackenzie’s note from one of the tailor’s men, who brought it to him from an inner room. The foreman boldly asserted, that he brought the change exactly as his master gave it to him, and that he knew nothing more of the matter. But, in fact, he knew a great deal more: he had found the note in the pocket of Mackenzie’s waistcoat, which his servant had left to be mended, after he had torn it furtively, as has been already related. When his master called him into the inner room, to give him the change for Pasgrave, he observed that there was a ten-guinea note wrapped up with some halfpence; and he thought that it would be a prudent thing to substitute Mackenzie’s note, which he had by him, in the place of this. He accordingly gave Pasgrave Mackenzie’s note, and thrust the note which he had received from his master into a corner of his trunk, where he usually kept little windfalls, that came to him by the negligence of customers — toothpick-cases, loose silver, odd gloves, &c., all which he knew how to dispose of. But this bank-note was a higher prize than usual, and he was afraid to pass it till all inquiry had blown over. He knew his master’s regularity; and he thought that if the note was stopped afterwards at any of the banks, it could never be traced further than to M. Pasgrave. He was rejoiced to see that this poor man was in such trepidation of mind that he could not, in the least, use his understanding; and he saw, with much satisfaction, that his master, who was a positive man, and proud of the accuracy of his books, was growing red in the face in their defence. Mackenzie, in the meantime, who had switched his boots with great impatience during their debate, interfered at last with, “Come, gentlemen, we can’t stand here all day to hear you give one another the lie. One of you, it’s plain, must shell out your corianders; but, as you can’t settle which, we must put you to your oath, I see.” “Mr. W——‘s is not far off, and I am ready to go before him with my books this instant,” said the fiery master-tailor. “My books were never called in question since I was in trade till this instant; and nobody but a French dancing-master, who understands no more of debtor and creditor than my goose, would stand out against such an entry as this.” To Mr. W——‘s the tailor, his foreman, the dancing-master, the banker’s clerk, and Mackenzie, repaired. Pasgrave turned paler than ever dancer turned before; and gave himself, his character, and his wife and children, all up for lost, when he heard that he was to be put upon his oath. He drew back when Mr. W—— held the book to him, and demanded whether he would swear to the person from whom he received the note. He said he could not swear; but to the best of his belief — en conscience — en honneur — foi d’honnête homme — he was convinced he received it from Mr. Macpherson’s foreman. The foreman, who, from one step in villany, found himself hurried on to another and another, now scrupled not to declare that he was ready to take his oath that he delivered the note and change, just as his master gave it to him, to M. Pasgrave. The magistrate turned to the paler, conscientious, incapacitated dancing-master, and in a severe tone said —“Appearances are strangely against you, M. Pasgrave. Here’s a young gentleman has lost a bank-note — it is stopped at the bank of Scotland — it is traced home to you — you say you got it from Mr. Macpherson or his foreman — his books are produced — the entry in them is clearly against you; for it states that the note given to you in change was one of Sir William Forbes’s bank; and this which I hold now in my hand is of the Bank of Scotland. Please now to tell how this note of the Bank of Scotland, which has been proved to be the property of Mr. Mackenzie, came into your possession? From whom did you receive it? or how did you come by it? I am not surprised that you decline taking an oath upon this occasion.” “Ah, monsieur, ayez pitié de moi!” cried the innocent, but terrified man, throwing himself upon one knee, in an attitude, which, on the stage, would have produced a sublime effect —“Ah, monsieur, ayez pitié de moi! I have no more dan de child no sense in affairs.” Mackenzie interrupted him with a brutal laugh. The more humane banker’s clerk was moved by the simplicity of this avowed ignorance of business. He went up to the distracted dancer, and said, “It is not to be expected that every body should understand business as we do, sir: if you are innocent, only give yourself time to recollect; and though it’s unfortunate that you never keep any regular accounts, maybe we shall be able to make out this affair of the entry. If Mr. W—— will give me leave to take this pen and ink, and if you will try to recollect all the persons from whom you have received money lately —” “Ah, mon Dieu! dat is impossible.” Then he began to name the quarterly and half-yearly payments that he had received from his various pupils. “Did any of them lately give you a ten-guinea note?” “Ah, oui, je me rappelle — un jeune monsieur — un certain monsieur, qui ne veut pas que — qui est là incognito — who I would not betray for the world; for he has behave wid de most parfaite générosité to me.” “But did he give you a ten-guinea bank-note? that is all we want to know,” said the magistrate. “Mais — oui — yes.” “About what time?” said the clerk. It was about the beginning of October: and this was so near the time when he settled accounts with Mr. Macpherson, the tailor, that he even himself began to believe it possible that he had mistaken one note for the other. “When the young gentleman gave you the note,” said the banker’s clerk, “surely you must have looked at it — you must have observed these remarkable stains?” Pasgrave replied, that he did look at it, he supposed; that he saw it was a ten-guinea note; it might be stained, it might not be stained; he could not pretend to be certain about it. He repeated his assurances that he was ignorant of business, and of every thing in this world but dancing. “Pour la danse, je m’y connois — pour les affaires, je n’en sais rien, moi.” He, with his usual simplicity, added, that if Mr. W—— would give him leave, he would go to the young gentleman, his friend, and learn from him exactly the number of the note which he had given him; that he was sure he could recollect his own note immediately. Mackenzie, who thought that this was merely pretence, in order to escape, told him that he could not be suffered to go out upon his parole. “But,” said Mr. W—— “tell us the name of this young gentleman who has so much generosity, and who lives incognito. I don’t like gentlemen who live incognito. I think I had a young man here before me, about two months ago, charged with breaking a confectioner’s windows in a riot, the night of the great illuminations — Hey? don’t I remember some such thing? And you, M. Pasgrave, if I mistake not, interested yourself mightily about this young man, and told me and my daughters, sir, that he was a young gentleman incognito. I begin to see through this affair. Perhaps I this is the same young gentleman from whom you received the I note. And pray what value did you give for it?” Pasgrave, whose fear of betraying Forester now increased his confusion, stammered, and first said the note was a present, but afterwards added, “I have been giving de young person lessons in dancing for des six week.”
“Well, then, we must summon this young person,” said Mr. W——. “Tell us his name, if you please,” said Mackenzie; “I have some suspicion that I know your gentleman incognito.” “You need not trouble him,” said the magistrate; “I know the name already, and I know where the bird is to be found: his name, if he has not changed it since he was last in this room, is Forester.” “Forester!” exclaimed Mackenzie; “I thought so! I always thought how he would turn out. I wonder what his friends, the Campbells, will have to say for him now!”
Mr. W——‘s pen stopped. “His friends, the Campbells — humph! So the Campbells are his friends, are they?” repeated he. “They were his friends,” answered Mackenzie; “but Mr. Forester thought proper, nobody knows why, to run away from them, some months ago; the only reason I could ever learn was that he did not like to live amongst gentlemen: and he has been living ever since incognito, amongst blackguards, and we see the fruits of it.” Mackenzie eagerly handed the summons, as soon as it was signed, to a constable; and Mr. W—— directed the constable to Mr. ——‘s, the bookseller, adding, “Book-sellers and printers are dangerous persons.” The constable, who had seen Forester the night that he was confined with Tom Random, knew his face and person; and we have told our readers that he met Forester in George’s-square, going to Dr. Campbell’s, to vindicate the innocence of the poor washerwoman.
The tailor’s foreman was not a little alarmed when the summons was sent for our hero; he dreaded that the voice of truth should be heard, and he skulked behind the rest of the company. What astonishment did Forester feel when he entered the room, and saw the group that surrounded the justice’s table! — Archibald Mackenzie, with an insulting sneer on his lips — Pasgrave, with eyes fixed upon him in despair — Mr. Macpherson, the tailor, pointing to an entry in his book — his foreman shrinking from notice — the banker’s clerk, with benevolent scepticism in his countenance — and the justice, with a portentous scowl upon his brow.
“Come forward, Mr. Forester,” said the magistrate, as our hero made a sudden pause of astonishment; “come forward, sir!” Forester advanced with calm intrepidity. “You are better dressed than when I had the honour of seeing you here some time ago, sir. Are you a printer still, or a gentleman? Your dress certainly bespeaks a change in your condition.” “I am sure I should hardly know Mr. Forester again, he has grown such a beau — comparatively speaking, I mean,” said Mackenzie. “But certainly, M. Pasgrave, you must have made some mistake; I don’t know how to believe my senses! Is this the young gentleman to whom you alluded? do you know him —?” “Give me leave, Mr. Mackenzie,” interrupted the justice: “I shall examine this young incognito myself. I think I know how to come at the truth. Will you do me the favour, sir, to inform me whether you recollect any thing of a ten-guinea bank-note which you gave or paid, some time in last October, to this gentleman?” pointing to M. Pasgrave. “I do,” replied Forester, in a distinct, unembarrassed voice, “perfectly well remember giving M. Pasgrave a ten-guinea bank-note.” “Ah, monsieur, je ne suis pas un ingrat. Ne pensez pas que —” “Oh, M. Pasgrave,” interrupted Mackenzie, “this is no time for compliments and fine speeches: for God’s sake, let us get to the bottom of this affair without further ceremony!” “Sir,” said the banker’s clerk, “all we want to know is the number of your note, and the firm of the house. Was your note one of Sir William Forbes’s, or of the Bank of Scotland?” Forester was silent. “I do not recollect,” said he, after some pause. “You don’t recollect, sir,” said the justice, “is something like an evasive answer. You must have a vast number of bank-notes then, we must presume, if you cannot recollect to what bank your ten-guinea note belonged.” Forester did not understand this logic; but he simply repeated his assertion. “Pray, sir,” said the tailor, who could no longer restrain his impatience —“Pray, sir,” said the magistrate, in a solemn manner, “be silent. I shall find out the truth. So, Mr. Forester, you cannot possibly recollect the house of your note? You will tell us next, I dare say, that you cannot possibly recollect how you came by it.” “Sir,” said Forester, “if it is necessary, I can readily tell you how I came by it.” “It is very necessary, sir, for your own credit.” “I received it from Dr. Campbell.” “Dr. Campbell!” repeated the magistrate, changing his tone. “And I have some idea that the doctor gave me a list of the numbers of that and four other notes, with which I fortunately have not parted.” “Some idea means nothing in a court of justice, sir; if you have any such paper, you can do us the favour to produce it.” Now this list was locked up in the trunk, of which the key was dropped into the brewing-vat. Richardson, the clerk, had returned the key to him; but, such is the force of habit, he had not cured himself of the foolish trick of twirling it upon his thumb; and about two months ago he dropped it in one of his walks to Arthur’s Seat. He long searched for it amongst the rocky fragments, but at last gave it up — he little imagined of how much consequence it might be to him. Dr. Campbell had once refused to break open the lock, and he felt very unwilling to apply to him in his present circumstances. However, he wrote a few lines to Henry Campbell; but, as soon as he had written them, his pride again revolted from the thoughts of supplicating the assistance of his friend in such a disgraceful situation. “If you don’t choose to write,” said the officious malevolence of Archibald, “I can, however, speak; I’ll desire Dr. Campbell to open your trunk, and search for the paper.” He left the room before Forester could make any further opposition.
“I have answered, I hope, both distinctly and respectfully, all the questions that you have asked me,” said Forester, turning to Mr. W——. “I hope you will no longer keep me in the dark. Of what am I suspected?” “I will tell you, sir,” replied the deliberate, unfeeling magistrate; “you are suspected of having, I will not say stolen, but you are more than suspected of having come unfairly by a certain ten-guinea bank-note, which the young gentleman who has just left the room lost a few months ago.” Forester, as this speech was slowly pronounced, sat down, folded his arms, and appeared totally insensible — quite unconscious that he was in the presence of a magistrate, or that any human being was observing him. “Ah, mon cher monsieur, pardonnez!” cried Pasgrave, bursting into tears. “N’en parlons plus,” added he, turning to the magistrate. “Je payerai tout ce qu’il faut. I will pay de ten guineas. I will satisfy every body. I cannot never forgive myself if I bring him into any disgrace.” “Disgrace!” exclaimed Forester, starting up, and repeating the word in a tone which made every person in the room, not excepting the phlegmatic magistrate, start and look up to him, with a sudden feeling of inferiority. His ardent eye spoke the language of his soul. No words could express his emotion. The master-tailor dropped his day-book. “Constable — call a constable!” cried the justice. “Sir, you forget in whose presence you are — you think, I suppose, that your friends, the Campbells, will bear you out. Sir, I would have you to know that all the Campbells in Scotland can’t bail you for a felony. Sir, philosophers should know these things. If you cannot clear yourself to my entire satisfaction, Mr. Forester, I shall commit you — in one word — to gaol: yes — look as you please, sir — to gaol. And if the doctor and his son, and all his family, come up to bail you, I shall, meo periculo, refuse their bail. The law, sir, is no respecter of persons. So none of your rhodomontades, young gentleman, in my presence; but step into this closet, if you please; and, I advise you, bring your mind into a becoming temperament, whilst I go to dinner. Gentlemen,” continued he to Macpherson and Pasgrave, “you’ll be so good to wait here in this apartment. Constable, look to your prisoner,” pointing to the door of the closet. “John, let me know when Dr. Campbell arrives; and tell them to send up dinner directly,” said the justice to his butler.
Whilst he dines, we must leave the tailor complaining that he was wasting precious time; the foreman in the panic of guilt; and the good-natured dancing-master half distracted betwixt his fears and his ignorance. He looked from time to time through the key-hole of the closet in which Forester was confined, and exclaimed, “Grand Dieu! comme il a l’air noble à cet instant! Ah! lui coupable! he go to gaol! it is impossible!”
“We shall see how that will be presently,” said the foreman, who had hitherto preserved absolute silence. “I abide by my books,” said the master-tailor; “and I wish Dr. Campbell would make haste. I have lost a day!”
In spite of the tailor’s imperial exclamation, he was obliged to wait some time longer. When Mackenzie arrived at Dr. Campbell’s, Henry was not at home: he was gone to the house at the back of the meadows, to prepare some chemical experiments for the next day’s lecture. Mackenzie, however, found Dr. Campbell at home in his study; and, in a soft hypocritical voice, lamented that he was obliged to communicate some disagreeable circumstances relating to young Mr. Forester. “You do not, I presume, know where that unfortunate, misguided youth is at present — at this moment, I mean.” “I do not know where he is at this moment,” said Dr. Campbell, calmly; “but I know where he has been for some time — at Mr. ——‘s, the bookseller. I have had my eye upon him ever since he left this house. I have traced him from place to place. Though I have said little about him, Mr. Mackenzie, I have a great regard for my unfortunate ward.” “I am sorry for it, sir,” said Mackenzie: “I fear I must wound your feelings the more deeply.” “What is the matter? pray speak at once,” cried Dr. Campbell, who now forgot all his usual calmness. “Where is Forester?” “He is at this moment before Mr. W—— the magistrate, sir, charged with — but, I own, I cannot believe him guilty —” “Charged with what? For God’s sake, speak plainly, Mr. Mackenzie!” “Then, in one word, sir, my lost bank-note is traced home to Mr. Forester. M. Pasgrave says he received it from him.” “Surely, sir,” said Dr. Campbell, with indignation, “you would not insinuate that Forester has stolen your bank-note?” “I insinuate nothing, doctor,” said Archibald; “but, I fear, the thing is too plainly proved. My bank-note has certain stains, by which it has been identified. All that I know is, that Mr. W—— says he can take no bail; and that he must commit Mr. Forester to gaol, unless he can clear himself. He says, that a few days before he left your house, you paid him his quarterly allowance of fifty guineas, in five ten-guinea bank-notes.” “He says true — I did so,” said Dr. Campbell eagerly. “And he says that you gave them to him wrapped in a piece of paper, on which the numbers of the notes were written.” “I remember it distinctly: I desired him to take care of that paper.” “He is not famous for taking care, you know, sir, of any thing. He says, he believes he threw it into his trunk; but he has lost the key of the trunk, I understand.” “No matter; we can break it open this instant, and search for the paper,” cried Dr. Campbell, who was now extremely alarmed for his ward. Mackenzie stood by without offering any assistance, whilst Dr. Campbell broke open the trunk, and searched it with the greatest anxiety. It was in terrible disorder. The coat and waistcoat which Forester wore at the ball were crammed in at the top; and underneath appeared unfolded linen, books, boots, maps, shoes, cravats, fossils, and heaps of little rumpled bits of paper, in which the fossils had once been contained. Dr. Campbell opened every one of these. The paper he wanted was not amongst them. He took every thing out of the box, shook and searched all the pockets of the coat, in which Forester used, before his reformation, to keep hoards of strange papers. No list of bank-notes appeared. At length, Dr. Campbell espied the white corner of a paper-mark in a volume of Goldsmith’s Animated Nature, He pulled out this mark, and to his great joy, he found it to be the very paper he wanted. “So it’s found, is it?” said Mackenzie, disappointed; whilst Dr. Campbell seized his hat, left every thing upon the floor, and was very near locking the door of the room upon Mackenzie. “Don’t lock me in here, doctor — I am going back with you to Mr. W——‘s” said Arcibald. “Won’t you stay? dinner’s going up — Mr. W—— was going this dinner when I came away.” Without listening to him, Dr. Campbell just let him out, locked the door, and hurried away to his poor ward.
“I have let things go to far,” said he to himself. “As long as Forester’s credit was not in danger, as long as he was unknown, it was very well; but now his character is at stake; he may pay too dear for his experience.”
“Dr. Campbell,” said the pompous magistrate, who hated philosophers, rising from table as Dr. Campbell entered, “do not speak to me of bailing this ward of yours — it is impossible, sir; I know my duty.” “I am not come to offer bail for my ward,” said Dr. Campbell, “but to prove his innocence.” “We must hope the best,” said Mr. W——; and, having forced the doctor to pledge him in a bumper of port, “Now I am ready to proceed again to the examination of all parties concerned.”
Dr. Campbell was now shown into the room where Mr. Macpherson, his foreman and Pasgrave, were waiting. “Ah, monsieur, Dieu merci, vous voila!” exclaimed Pasgrave. “You may go,” said Mr. W—— to the constable: “but wait below stairs.” He unlocked the closet-door. Forester, at the sight of Dr. Campbell, covered his face with his hands; but, an instant afterwards, advanced with intrepidity. “You cannot, I am sure, believe me to be guilty of any meanness, Dr. Campbell,” said he. “Imprudent I have been, and I suffer for my folly.” “Guilty!” cried Dr. Campbell; “no: I could almost as soon suspect my own son of such an action. But my belief is nothing to the purpose. We must prove your innocence.” “Ah, oui, monsieur — and mine too; for I am innocent, I can assure you,” cried M. Pasgrave.
“The whole business, sir,” said the banker’s clerk, who had, by this time, returned to hear the termination of the affair —“the whole thing can be settled in two minutes, by a gentleman like you, who understands business. Mr. Forester cannot recollect the number or the firm of a ten-guinea bank-note which he gave to M. Pasgrave. M. Pasgrave cannot recollect either; and he is in doubt whether he received this stained note, which Mr. Mackenzie lost, from Mr. Forester or from Mr. Macpherson, the tailor.” “There can be no doubt about me,” said Macpherson. “Dr. Campbell, will you be so good to look at the entry? I acknowledge, I gave M. Pasgrave a ten-guinea note; but here’s the number of it, 177, of Forbes’s bank. Mr. Mackenzie’s note, you see, is of the bank of Scotland; and the stains upon it are so remarkable, that, if I had ever seen it before, I should certainly remember it. I’ll take my oath I never saw it before.” “Sir,” said Forester eagerly to Dr. Campbell, “you gave me five ten-guinea notes: here are four of them in this pocket-book; the fifth I gave to M. Pasgrave. Can you tell me the number of that note?” “I can,” said Dr. Campbell, producing the paper which he found in Goldsmith’s Animated Nature. “I had the precaution to write down the numbers of all your notes myself: here they are.” Forester opened his pocket-book: his four remaining notes were compared, and perfectly agreed with the numbers in the list. The fifth, the number of the note which he gave to Pasgrave, was 1260, of the New Bank. “One of your ten-guinea notes,” said Dr. Campbell to Pasgrave, “you paid into the bank of Scotland; and this gentleman,” pointing to the banker’s clerk, “stopped it this morning. Now you have had another ten-guinea note; what became of that?” Pasgrave, who understood Dr. Campbell’s plain method of questioning him, answered immediately, “I did give the other to my hair-dresser, not long ago, who lives in —— street.” Dr. Campbell instantly went himself to the hair-dresser, found that he had the note still in his possession, brought him to Mr. W——‘s, and, when the note was examined, it was found to be 1260 of the New Bank, which exactly corresponded with the entry in the list of notes which Dr. Campbell had produced.
“Then all is right,” said Dr. Campbell. “Ah, oui! — Ah, non!” exclaimed Pasgrave. “What will become of me?” “Compose yourself, my good sir,” said Dr. Campbell. “You had but two ten-guinea notes, you are sure of that?” “But two — but two: I will swear but two.” “You are now certain which of these two notes you had from my ward. The other, you say, you received from ——” “From dis gentleman, I will swear,” cried Pasgrave, pulling the tailor’s foreman forwards. “I can swear now I am in no embarras: I am sure I did get de oder note from dis gentleman.” The master-tailor was astonished to see all the pallid marks of guilt in his foreman’s countenance. “Did you change the note that I gave you in the inner room?” said Mr. Macpherson. The foreman, as soon as he could command his voice, denied the charge; and persisted in it that he gave the note and change, which his master wrapped up, exactly as it was, to the dancing-master. Dr. Campbell proposed that the tailor’s shop, and the foreman’s room, should be searched. Mr. W—— sent proper people to Mr. Macpherson’s; and whilst they are searching his house, we may inquire what has become of Henry Campbell.
Henry Campbell, the last time we heard of him, was at the house at the back of the meadows. When he went into the large room to his chemical experiments, the little girl, who was proud of having arranged it neatly, ran on before him, and showed him the places where all his things were put. “The writing and the figures are not rubbed off your slate — there it is, sir,” said she, pointing to a high shelf. “But whose handkerchief is this?” said Henry, taking up a handkerchief which was under the slate. “Gracious! that must be the good gentleman’s handkerchief; he missed it just as he was going out of the house. He thought he had left it at the washerwoman’s, where I met him; and he’s gone back to look for it there. I’ll run with it to the washerwoman’s — maybe she knows where to find him.” “But you have not told me who he is. Whom do you mean by the good gentleman?” “The good gentleman, sir, that I saw with you at the watchmaker’s, the day that you helped me to carry the great geranium out of my grandmother’s room.” “Do you mean that Forester has been here?” exclaimed Henry. “I never heard his name, sir; but I mean that the gentleman has been here, whom I call the good gentleman, because it was he who went with me to my cross schoolmistress, to try to persuade her to use me well. She beat me, to be sure, after he was gone, for what he had said; but I’m not the less obliged to him, because he did every thing as he thought for the best. And so I’ll run with his handkerchief to the woman’s, who will give it safe to him.”
Henry recollected his promise to his father. It required all his power over himself to forbear questioning the child, and endeavouring to find out something more of his friend. He determined to mention the circumstance to his father, and to Flora, as soon as he returned home. He was always impatient to tell any thing to his sister that interested himself or his friends; for Flora’s gaiety was not of that unfeeling sort which seeks merely for amusement, and which, unmixed with sympathy for others, may divert in a companion, but disgusts in a friend.
Whilst Henry was reflecting upon the manner in which he might most expeditiously arrange his chemical experiments and return home, the little girl came running back, with a face of great distress. As soon as she had breath to speak, she told Henry that when she went to the washerwoman’s with the handkerchief, she was told a sad piece of news; that Mr. Forester had been taken up, and carried before Mr. W—— the magistrate. “We don’t know what he has done: I’m sure I don’t think he can have done any thing wrong.” Henry no sooner heard these words than he left all his retorts, rushed out of the house, hurried home to his father, and learned from Flora, with great surprise, that his father had already been sent for, and was gone to Mr. W——‘s. She did not know the circumstances that Mackenzie related to Dr. Campbell, but she told him that her father seemed much alarmed; that she met him crossing the hall, and that he could not stop to speak to her. Henry proceeded directly to Mr. W——‘s, and he arrived there just as the people returned from the search of the tailor’s house. His opinion of Forester’s innocence was so strong, that when he entered the room, he instantly walked up to him, and embraced him, with a species of frank confidence in his manner which, to Forester, was more expressive than any thing that he could have said. The whole affair was quickly explained to him; and the people who had been sent to Mr. Macpherson’s now came up-stairs to Mr. W—— and produced a ten-guinea bank-note, which was found in the foreman’s box. Upon examination, this note was discovered to be the very note which Mr. Macpherson sent with the change to Pasgrave. It was No. 177, of Sir William Forbes’s bank, as mentioned in the circumstantial entry in the day-book. The joy of the poor dancing-master at this complete proof of his innocence was rapturous and voluble. Secure of the sympathy of Forester, Henry, and Dr. Campbell, he looked at them by turns, whilst he congratulated himself upon this “éclaircissement,” and assured the banker’s clerk that he would in future keep accounts. We are impatient to get rid of the guilty foreman: he stood a horrible image of despair. He was committed to gaol; and was carried away by the constables, without being pitied by any person present. Every body, however, was shocked. Mackenzie broke silence first, by exclaiming, “Well, now, I presume, Mr. W—— I may take possession of my bank-note again.” He took up all the notes which lay upon the table to search amongst them for his own. “Mine, you know, is stained,” said Archibald. “But it is very singular,” said Henry Campbell, who was looking over his shoulder, “that here are two stained notes. That which was found in the foreman’s box is stained in one corner, exactly as yours was stained, Mr. Mackenzie.” Macpherson, the tailor, now stooped to examine it. “Is this No. 177, the note that I sent in change, by my foreman, to M. Pasgrave? I’ll take my oath it was not stained in that manner when I took it out of my desk. It was a new and quite clean note: it must have been stained since.” “And it must have been stained with vitriolic acid,” continued Henry. “Ay, there’s cunning for you,” cried Archibald. “The foreman, I suppose, stained it, that it might not be known again.” “Have you any vitriolic acid in your house?” pursued Henry, addressing himself to the master-tailor. “Not I, indeed, sir; we have nothing to do with such things. They’d be very dangerous to us.” “Pray,” said Henry, “will you give me leave, Mr. W—— to ask the person who searched the foreman’s box a few questions?” “Certainly sir,” said Mr. W——; “though, I protest, I cannot see what you are driving at.” Henry inquired what was found in the box with the bank-note. The man who searched it enumerated a variety of things. “None of these,” said Henry, “could have stained the note: are you sure that there was nothing else?” “Nothing in the world; nothing but an old glass stopper, I believe.” “I wish I could see that stopper,” said Henry. “This note was rolled round it,” said the man: “but I threw it into the box again. I’ll go and fetch it, sir, if you have any curiosity to see it.” “Curiosity to see an old stopper? No!” cried Archibald Mackenzie, with a forced laugh; “what good would that do us? We have been kept here long enough. I move that we go home to our dinners.” But Dr. Campbell, who saw that Henry had some particular reason for wishing to see this glass stopper, seconded his son. The man went for it; and when he brought it into the room, Henry Campbell looked at it very carefully, and then decidedly said, fixing his eyes upon Archibald Mackenzie, who in vain struggled to keep his countenance from changing. “This glass stopper, Mr. Mackenzie, is the stopper of my father’s vitriolic acid bottle, that was broken the night the cat was killed. This stopper has stained both the bank-notes. And it must have been in the pocket of your waistcoat.” “My pocket!” interrupted Archibald: “how should it come into my pocket? It never was in my pocket, sir.” Henry pointed to the stain on his waistcoat. He wore the very waistcoat in question. “Sir,” said Archibald, “I don’t know what you mean by pointing at my waistcoat. It is stained, it is true, and very likely by vitriolic acid; but, as I have been so often in the doctor’s laboratory, when your chemical experiments have been going on, is it not very natural to suppose that a drop of one of the acids might have fallen on my clothes? I have seen your waistcoats stained, I am sure. Really, Mr. Campbell, you are unfriendly, uncharitable; your partiality for Mr. Forester should not blind you, surely. I know you want to exculpate him from having any hand in the death of that cat: but that should not, my dear sir, make you forget what is due to justice. You should not, permit me to say, endeavour to criminate an innocent person.” “This is all very fine,” said Henry; “and you may prove your innocence to me at once, Mr. Mackenzie, if you think proper, by showing that the waistcoat was really, as you assert, stained by a drop of vitriolic acid falling upon the outside of it. Will you show us the inside of the pocket?” Mackenzie, who was now in too much confusion to know distinctly what Henry meant to prove, turned the pocket inside out, and repeated, “That stopper was never in my pocket, I’ll swear.” “Don’t swear to that, for God’s sake,” said Henry. “Consider what you are saying. You see that there is a hole burnt in this pocket. Now if a drop of acid had fallen, as you said, upon the outside of the waistcoat, it must have been more burnt on the outside than on the inside.” “I don’t know — I can’t pretend to be positive,” said Archibald; “but what signifies all this rout about the stopper?” “It signifies a great deal to me,” said Dr. Campbell, turning away from Mackenzie with contempt, and addressing himself to his ward, who met his approving eye with proud delight —“it signifies a great deal to me. Forgive me, Mr. Forester, for having doubted your word for a moment.” Forester held his guardian’s hand, without being able for some instants to reply. “You are coming home with us, Forester?” said Henry. “No,” said Dr. Campbell, smiling; “you must not ask him to come home with us to-night. We have a little dance at our house to-night. Lady Catherine Mackenzie wished to take leave of her Edinburgh friends. She goes from us to-morrow. We must not expect to see Forester at a ball; but to-morrow morning —” “I see,” said Forester, smiling, “you have no faith in my reformation. Well, I have affairs to settle with my master, the printer. I must go home, and take leave of him. He has been a good master to me; and I must go and finish my task of correcting. Adieu.” He abruptly left Dr. Campbell and Henry, and went to the bookseller’s, to inform him of all that had passed, and to thank him for his kindness. “You will be at a loss to-morrow for a corrector of the press,” said he. “I am determined you shall not suffer for my vagaries. Send home the proof-sheets of the work in hand to me, at Dr. Campbell’s, and I will return them to you punctually corrected. Employ me till you have provided yourself with another, I will not say a better hand. I do not imagine,” continued Forester, “that I can pay you for your kindness to me by presents; indeed, I know you are in such circumstances that you disdain money. But I hope you will accept of a small mark of my regard — a complete font of new types.”
Whilst Forester’s generous heart expanded with joy at the thoughts of returning once more to his friends, we are sorry to leave him, to finish the history of Archibald Mackenzie. He sneaked home after Dr. Campbell and Henry, whose silent contempt he well understood. Dr. Campbell related all that had passed to Lady Catherine. Her ladyship showed herself more apprehensive that her son’s meanness should be made known to the world, than indignation or sorrow for his conduct. Archibald, whilst he was dressing for the ball, began to revolve in his mind certain words which his mother had said to him about his having received the lie direct from Henry Campbell — his not having the spirit of a gentleman. “She certainly meant,” said he to himself, “that I ought to fight him. It’s the only way I can come off, as he spoke so plainly before Mr. W—— and all those people: the banker’s clerk too was by; and, as my mother says, it will be talked of. I’ll get Sir Philip Gosling to go with my message. I think I’ve heard Dr. Campbell say, he disapproved of duels. Perhaps Henry won’t fight. Has Sir Philip Gosling sent to say, whether he would be with us at the ball to-night?” said Archibald to the servant who was dressing his hair. “No, sir,” replied the servant: “Sir Philip’s man has not been here: but Major O’Shannon has been here twice since you were away, to see you. He said he had some message to deliver from Sir Philip to you.” “To me! message to me!” repeated Archibald, turning pale. Archibald knew Major O’Shannon, who had of late insinuated himself into Sir Philip Gosling’s favour, had a particular dislike to him, and had successfully bullied him upon one or two occasions. Archibald had that civil cowardice, which made him excessively afraid of the opinion of the world; and Major O’Shannon, a gamester, who was jealous of his influence over the rich dupe, Sir Philip, determined to entangle him in a quarrel. The major knocked at the door a third time before Archibald was dressed; and when he was told that he was dressing, and could not see any one, he sent up the following note:—
“The last time I met you at the livery-stables, in company with my friend, Sir Philip Gosling, I had the honour of telling you my mind, in terms sufficiently explicit, concerning a transaction, which cannot have escaped your memory. My friend, Sir Philip, declares you never hinted that the pony was spavined. I don’t pretend to be so good a jockey as you, but you’ll excuse my again saying, I can’t consider your conduct as that of a gentleman. Sir Philip is of my mind; and if you resent my interference, I am ready to give you the satisfaction of a gentleman. If not, you will do well to leave Edinburgh along with your mother to-morrow morning; for Edinburgh is no place for cowards, as long as one has the honour of living in it, who calls himself (by courtesy)
“Your humble servant,
“P.S. Sir Philip is at your service, after your settling with me.”
Archibald, oppressed with the sense of his own meanness, and somewhat alarmed at the idea of fighting three duels, to retrieve his credit, thought it best to submit, without struggle, in the first instance, to that public disgrace which he had merited. He wrote a shabby apology to Major O’Shannon and Sir Philip, concluding with saying, that rather than lose a friend he so much valued as Sir Philip Gosling, he was willing to forget all that had passed, and even to take back the pony, and to return Sawney, if the matter could, by this means, be adjusted to his satisfaction. He then went to his mother, and talked to her, in a high style, of his desperate intentions with respect to Henry Campbell. “Either he or I must fall, before we quit the ground,” said the artful Archibald — well knowing that Lady Catherine’s maternal tenderness would be awakened by these ideas. Other ideas were also awakened in the prudent mother’s mind. Dr. Campbell was nearly related to a general officer, from whom she looked for promotion for her son. She repented, upon reflection, of what she had hastily said concerning the lie direct, and the spirit of a gentleman; and she softened down her pride, and talked of her dislike to breaking up old family friendships. Thence she digressed into hints of the advantages that might accrue from cultivating Dr. Campbell’s good opinion; admitted that Henry was strangely prejudiced in favour of his rough friend Forester; but observed that Mr. Forester, after all, though singular, was a young man of merit, and at the head of a very considerable estate. “Archibald,” said she, “we must make allowances, and conciliate matters — unless you make this young gentleman your friend, you can never hope to be on an eligible footing with his guardian. His guardian, you see, is glad to get him back again, and, I dare say, has his reasons. I never saw him, and I know him well, in such spirits in my life as he was when he came back to us to announce the probability of his ward’s return to-morrow morning. The doctor, I dare say, has good reasons for what he does; and I understand his ward is reconciled to the idea of living in the world, and enjoying his fine fortune like other people. So I hope you and he, and of course you and the doctor, and Henry Campbell, will be very good friends. I shall leave you at Edinburgh for a few months, till we get our commission; and I shall beg the doctor to introduce you to his friend and relation, General D——. If he can do nothing for you, you may look towards the Church. I trust to your prudence, not to think of Flora Campbell, though I leave you in the house with her; for you can’t afford, Archibald, to marry a girl with so small a fortune; and, you may be sure, her friends have other views for her. Pray let me hear no more of duels and quarrels. And let us go down into the ball-room; for Miss Campbell has been dressed and down-stairs this half hour; and I would not have you inattentive — that might displease as much as the other extreme. In short, I may safely leave you to your own discretion.” Lady Catherine, after this prudent exhortation, entered the ball-room, where all the company soon after assembled. Seated in gay ranges, the well-dressed belles were eager for the dancing to commence. Lady Catherine stood by Dr. Campbell; and as soon as the ball began, when the music played, and she saw every one absorbed in themselves, or in their partners, she addressed herself to the doctor on the subject which was next her heart, or rather next her imagination. “The general is to be with you shortly, I understand,” said she. Dr. Campbell coldly answered in the affirmative. “To be candid with you, doctor, if you’ll sit down, I want to have a little chat with you about my Archibald. He is not every thing I could wish, and I see you are displeased with him about this foolish business that has just happened. For my own part, I think him to blame; but we must pardon, we must make allowances for the errors of youth; and I need not, to a man of your humanity, observe what a cruel thing it is to prejudice the world against a young man, by telling little anecdotes to his disadvantage. Relations must surely uphold one another; and I am convinced you will speak of Archibald with candour and friendship.” “With candour and with truth,” replied Dr. Campbell. “I cannot pretend to feel friendship merely on the score of relationship.”
The proud blood mounted into Lady Catherine’s face, and she replied, “Some consideration of one’s own relations, I think, is not unbecoming. Archibald, I should have thought, had as strong a claim upon Dr. Campbell’s friendship as the son of an utter stranger to the family. Old Mr. Forester had a monstrous fortune, ’tis true; but his wife, who was no grand affair, I believe — a merchant’s daughter, I’m told — brought him the greatest part of it; and yet, without any natural connexion between the families, or any thing very desirable, setting fortune out of the question, you accept the guardianship of this young man, and prefer him, I plainly see, to my Archibald. I candidly ask you the question, and answer me candidly.”
“As you have explicitly asked the question, I will answer your ladyship candidly. I do prefer my ward to your son. I have avoided drawing comparisons between your son and Forester; and I now wish to avoid speaking of Mr. Archibald Mackenzie, because I have little hope of being of service to him.”
“Nay,” said Lady Catherine, softening her tone, “you know you have it in your power to be of the greatest service to him.”
“I have done all I could,” said Dr. Campbell, with a sigh; “but habits of —”
“Oh, but I’m not talking of habits,” interrupted Lady Catherine. “I’ll make him alter his habits. We shall soon turn him into what you like: he’s very quick; and you must not expect every young man to be just cut out upon the pattern of our dear Henry. I don’t want to trouble you to alter his habits, or to teach him chemistry, or any of those things. But you can, you know, without all that, do him an essential service.”
“How?” said Dr. Campbell.
“Why how? I don’t know you this evening, you are so dry. Ken you not what I mean? Speak three words for him to your friend, the general.”
“Your ladyship must excuse me,” said Dr. Campbell.
Lady Catherine was stunned by this distinct refusal. She urged Dr. Campbell to explain the cause of his dislike to her son.
“There is a poor washerwoman now below stairs,” replied Dr. Campbell, “who can explain to you more than I wish to explain; and a story about a horse of Sir Philip Gosling was told to me the other day, by one of the baronet’s friends, which I should be glad Mr. Archibald Mackenzie could contradict effectually.”
“Archibald, come here,” said Lady Catherine: “before the next dance begins, I must speak to you. What is this about a horse of Sir Philip Gosling?”
“Ma’am!” said Archibald, with great astonishment. At this instant one of Dr. Campbell’s servants came into the room, and gave two notes to Archibald, which, he said, two gentlemen had just left, and desired him to deliver to Mr. Mackenzie whilst he was in the ball-room, if possible.
“What is it? — What are they, child?” cried Lady Catherine. “I will see them.” Her ladyship snatched the notes, read, and when she saw that her son, in the grossest terms, was called a coward, for refusing the challenges of two such fashionable men as Sir Philip Gosling and Major O’Shannon, all her hopes of him were at an end. “Our family is disgraced for ever!” she exclaimed; and then, perceiving that she had uttered this unguarded sentence loud enough for several of the company to hear, she endeavoured to laugh, and fell into violent hysterics. She was carried out of the ball-room. A whisper now ran round the room of —“What’s the matter with Lady Catherine Mackenzie?” It was at an unfortunate moment that she was carried out, for all the dancers had just seated themselves, after a brisk country dance; and the eyes of all the young and old were upon her ladyship as she made her exit. A young man, a friend of Major O’Shannon, who was present, whispered the secret to his partner; she, of course, to her next neighbour. Archibald saw that the contents of the notes were made public; and he quitted the apartment, “to inquire how his mother did.”
The buzz of scandal was general for some moments; but a new object soon engrossed the attention of the company. “Pray,” said a young lady, who was looping up Flora Campbell’s gown, “who is this gentleman, who is just coming into the room?” Flora looked up, and saw a well-dressed stranger entering the room, who had much the appearance of a gentleman. He certainly resembled a person she had seen before; but she could scarcely believe that her eyes did not deceive her. Therefore she hesitatingly replied to the young lady’s question, “I don’t know — I am not sure.” But she, an instant afterwards, saw her brother Henry and her father advance so eagerly to meet the stranger, that her doubts vanished; and, as he now directed his steps towards the spot where she was standing, she corrected her first answer to her companion’s question, and said, “Yes, I fancy — it certainly is — Mr. Forester.” Forester, with an open countenance, slightly tinged with the blush of ingenuous shame, approached her, as if he was afraid she had not forgotten some things which he wished to be forgotten; and yet as if he was conscious that he was not wholly unworthy of her esteem. “Amongst other prejudices of which I have cured myself,” said he to Dr. Campbell, “since we parted, I have cured myself of my foolish antipathy to Scotch reels.”
“That I can scarcely believe,” said Dr. Campbell, with an incredulous smile.
“I will convince you of it,” said Forester, “if you will promise to forget all my other follies.”
“All!” said Dr. Campbell. “Convince me first; and then it will be time enough to make such a desperate promise.”
Flora was rather surprised when our once cynical hero begged the favour of her hand, and led her to dance a reel. M. Pasgrave would have been in ecstasy if he had seen his pupil’s performance.
“And now, my dear Forester,” said Dr. Campbell, as his ward returned to claim his promise of a general amnesty, “if you do not turn out a coxcomb, if you do not ‘mistake reverse of wrong for right,’ you will infallibly be a very great man. Give me a pupil who can cure himself of any one foible, and I have hope of him. What hope must I not have of him who has cured himself of so many!”
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