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chance! Come now, be reasonable for once, and admit that the chance is excellent!'
"Vain and miserable delusion! said the other. Do thou hear me, Joseph, and mark me well, for I speak the words of forethought and deliberate counsel which the wise have held upon this matter. The meshes of the law are drawn round thee so close, that, save by a miracle, thou canst not escape; and if that miracle were wrought in thy behalf, still would thy end be worse than if thou wert delivered over to the hand of the executioner. Even if the judge were to send thee from the bar, the people would take vengeance into their own hands, and tear thee limb from limb.'
"And is there no way, Reuben -no other way of escape? It is a terrible thing to die in the prime of manhood, and to go one knows not where !'
"There is no escape, Joseph, save from open shame. The penalty of death thou canst not evade; but do as thou hast sworn to thy mother, and thou art straightway free from the dungeon, the judgment, and the scaffold. My say is over. Here is what Miriam sends thee. Use it or not as thou wilt-I have fulfilled my mission.'
"Nay, Reuben, nay! Stay but a little longer, Reuben-it is so horrible to be left alone! I have seen them, Reuben-seen them last night! One-two-three-all of them long ago in their graves! They bent over me in the dark, and though I could not see the wall opposite me for the utter blackness, yet I beheld their faces, pale and livid, and their glazed eyeballs!
O horror!—the blood froze within my veins ! See how my hand trembles; that hand which used to be so steady! Why should men be buried, if their spectres can walk abroad? Ah-I see it now! Those devils of doctors have had them up, and let in the light of day to the dark secrets of the grave! Don't leave me, Reuben-I cannot bear to be alone!'
"Have you seen this,' replied Reuben, and know not what it signifies? I am an unlettered man, but I have heard our rabbis say, that to none do the dead appear save to those for whom the winding-sheet is prepared. On the night before King Saul fell on Mount Gilboa, he beheld the form of Samuel the prophet rising from the earth, and knew that awful messenger had quitted his rest to warn him that his hour was at hand. Since, then, thou hast looked on the faces which none can behold and live, hesitate no longer, but strengthen thyself; be resolute, and play the man! See-I will turn my head away! Speak not until thou hast swallowed the potion.'
"An awful silence ensued, broken only by the convulsive breathing of Speedwell.
"At length the empty phial dropped upon the floor.
"Is it done?' said Reuben. "It is done!' gasped Speedwell; and he fell backwards on his pallet.
"A quarter of an hour after this, Reuben quitted the prison. When the warder made his evening rounds, Speedwell was found speechless and expiring in his cell."
So ended Mr Hartley's narrative.
CHAPTER LXII.-AND LAST.
I am sure the reader will agree with me in thinking that any detailed account of the further progress of the election in which my friends Carlton and Lumley were chiefly interested, would be absolutely superfluous. Suffice it to say
that they fought the battle, as they deemed it, of the constitution very gallantly, and that their efforts were crowned with entire success. Sir Godfrey Norton was beaten by an immense majority; and the gentleman of doubtful principles found
his chance so desperate that he did not even venture to the poll. So the ceremony of chairing was performed with the usual uproar and jubilation, the days of feasting went by, and by degrees we all returned to a state of comparative tranquillity. I suspect that Amy, despite her newly-formed political enthusiasm, was very glad when the termination of the contest left George at liberty to renew his attentions; for during the campaign, which lasted for nearly six weeks, the unfortunate man had been whisked about, like one of Ariosto's Paladins, who are compelled to do duty in any part of the world to which the poet may be pleased to despatch them, and are mounted indiscriminately on hippogriffs or the shoulders of volatile demons. Under such circumstances love-making was out of the question, so that a large amount of tender arrears had accumulated. My case was not so bad, yet still I was a considerable defaulter.
Now it occurred to us both that the best way of obtaining a discharge in full was to expedite our marriages; and as there was now no obstacle, we succeeded in effecting an arrangement whereby the double ceremonies were to take place on the same day, and at Wilbury Church. To this proposition Mr Beaton did not object-on the contrary, he seemed rather relieved by the thought that his presence could be dispensed with on the occasion.
Atweel, Mr Norman, ye are better without him, the stiff auld stirk that he is!" remarked Davie Osett; "but it's an unnatural thing for a man that's no a cripple to be absent from his daughter's wedding. But what's this I hear about buying a property? Is it true that you have become a laird ?"
66 Even So, Davie. Mr Shear away has purchased for me Glenvoil, a very beautiful estate in the West Highlands-just the kind of possession upon which I had set my heart."
"Long my you enjoy it, Mr Nor
man; but I had far rather have seen you settled somewhere on the Border."
"There is no accounting for taste, Davie; and you know that by birth I am half a Highlander. But wait till you see Glenvoil, and I am sure you will admire it. A splendid. sporting country, both for fishing and shooting; though, to be sure, there are not many pheasants to tempt poachers into the plantations."
"Nor railroads either, Mr Norman-Aha, I think I hae ye there!"
"Well, to say the truth, I shall not be sorry to spend part of my days undisturbed by the screech of that eternal locomotive; and I trust it may be some time before your professional services are required to lay out a line through my property."
"Dinna be too sure of that, Mr Norman. If the Glenmutchkin Railway should be made, you will maybe have a branch of it at your door.'
"I dare not, in this speculative age, commit myself by a direct prophecy to the contrary. But, Davie, there is one thing that I am very anxious about. My dear old nurse, your aunt Eppie-do you think she could be persuaded to leave the Birkenshaws, and take up her habitation with us?"
"Will she no?" replied Davie; "just try her, and I am sair mistaken if, auld as she is, she wadna hirple after you from Dan even unto Beersheba. I warn ye, though, that she has become a wee thought cantankerous, and kittle to driveat least my father and her whiles get thegether by the lugs about the doctrine o' predestination; and, my word, auntie Eppie has the best o't! She dings the gudeman deaf wi' screeds out of Boston's Fourfold State, for she has that at her fingers' ends; and flytes at him as if he were in the deistical line, instead of being a ruling elder of the Kirk !"
"If she will agree to come to us, I think there is little fear of our engaging in any such knotty disputes. And you, Davie; do you mean to continue in England?"
"Troth, no! I have got the offer of a situation as resident engineer in the north; and I'll e'en finish my business here, and gae back to the land of my nativity. England's a grand country, and I like the English weel. They are no half sae dour as the Scots, and a hantle richer-but hame's aye hame; and I like to hear the braid sound of my mother tongue. Besides, between you and me, our folk are rather behind-hand, and need redding up; and they will no be the waur of having twa or three chields among them that have picked up experience elsewhere."
Spoken like a true patriot, Davie! Too many of our countrymen, after they go south, affect to despise old Scotland, and try to sink their nationality."
"De'il pyke out their e'en for a parcel of misbegotten loons!" replied Osett. "There's no an honest Englishman but wad despise them for their dirty meanness. Weel-it's a queer world! Here are you and I jogging back to where we came frae, as cannily as if we had never left it."
"A little more patriarchally, however," I said. "I suppose, Davie, when you are fairly settled in your new situation, you will not be quite oblivious of Selkirk?"
"You may rely upon that, Mr Norman Jean Leslie is not the sort of lass that a man can find ilka day at the market."
Mr Poins, to whom I had intrusted the necessary business arrangements, undertook to make everything square with Mr Beaton, and succeeded entirely to my satisfaction. Indeed an event that took place about this time effected a great change in the feelings and even the prospects of the fallen merchant. Dobigging was brought to trial for the forgery, and sentenced to transportation, the evidence showing quite clearly that he alone was the deviser of the fraud. The monstrous calumny raised against Mr Beaton was shown to be without any foundation; and the first men
in the City, with that frank generosity which really belongs to their class, though they seldom receive full credit for it, came forward with most liberal offers of assistance. Of these Mr Beaton declined to avail himself, though he regarded them as a high tribute to his honesty of purpose and the integrity of his character. In some walks of life, repeated failure acts rather as a stimulus than otherwise to increased exertion; but in trade and commerce the case is different. Credit is like personal virtue. Once forfeited, the stigma remains—not entirely to be obliterated by any subsequent course of good conduct. Doubtless Mr Beaton felt that, however successful his career might prove if he were to tarry in London, he would still be pointed at as the merchant who had failed on 'Change; and his nature was too sensitive to brook the humiliation of dwelling in the scene of his dishonour. Therefore I was not surprised when I learned through Mr Poins that he had accepted the situation of manager of a bank in one of our most distant but rising colonies-an offer which had been made to him on account of his well-known business ability and vast commercial experience. At the same time I received a message requesting me to wait upon him.
When I arrived at the house, I found his favourite valet busily engaged in the arrangement of packages, which seemed to be ominous of speedy departure. The faithful fellow met my look of interrogation with a miserable attempt at a smile.
"Yes, sir," he said; "it is quite true. Master is going away, far over the seas, and God knows if he will ever come back. He only told me of it yesterday; and here am I preparing all his things for that long voyage-more than half round the world, they say-and little time for doing it, because he sails on Tuesday next."
"What! so soon!" cried I, in amazement.
"Not a day later, sir. It seems
very strange, and quite like a dream to me, but so it is. And the worst of it is that he will not let me go with him. I know he will never be able to get on without me; for al though he is a very clever man, he has not the least idea of looking after his clothes; and what he is to do on board ship without some one to help him, I really cannot think. I never thought to have parted from him, sir, for he has been the best and kindest of masters to me; but I have a wife and two children, and there is no one to look after them but myself."
I entered the room. It was already dismantled, and little remained beyond a few books and papers scattered on the floor. Mr Beaton was tying up some letters, and destroying others.
"So, Sinclair!" he said, in a more friendly tone than he had ever yet used towards me, "you come to bid me good-by. I hate leavetaking in general; but it would have been scarcely decorous for me to have walked away without shaking hands with my son-in-law that is to be. Poins has told me all about the settlements and so forth, and I am quite satisfied. You have acted very handsomely, considering the extent of your means; and I wish it were in my power to help you. Perhaps the day may come yet-but it is useless talking of contingencies. So you have bought an estate in Scotland? Well -I am pleased that Mary is to be settled there-far better than if she had remained in London."
"I am sorry, sir, to learn that you intent to depart so soon
No, no-don't say that you are at all sorry, Sinclair! That's sheer hypocrisy, though I suppose you merely use the ordinary words of style. I doubt not you are very glad to be rid of me; and the feel
ing is quite natural, for a bankrupt father-in-law is by no means a creditable connection. Pray now, don't pursue the subject further. I am going, as you may have heard, to transfer myself to the new worldto Australia where the people won't care much what men may say about me in Lombard Street. I require a fresh place to start in, and I like the prospect. You abandon all idea of engaging in business, I suppose? That, now, is a thing I cannot understand; for I have been a working - man all my life, and sooner than bury myself in the country I would become a clerk in a counting-house. But I doubt not you will make an admirable country gentleman-kill your own mutton, shoot your own grouse, attend roadmeetings, if there happen to be any roads in the neighbourhood, and be as happy as the day is long. I am sure I wish you to be so."
What could I reply to such a tirade as this? Mr Beaton, when sprightly, as he intended to be just now, was more perplexing than in his most caustic humour. So I contented myself with bowing an acknowledgment.
Let me see-have I anything more to say to you?" continued Mr Beaton. "O yes! I find that I am entitled to dispose of my library as I please; so I have ordered the books to be packed up, and forwarded to your address in Scotland. There are, I believe, some good editions of the classics, but I really know little about such matters. Also some old family-plate with the Beaton crest-the new things have been sent to the hammer-which I wish to leave with Mary. That's all I can do for you in the mean time.
Now farewell. I am to see Mary this afternoon-better for us both to get the parting over as soon as possible. I am sure you will be kind to her, Sinclair; and she deserves it. I cannot be at your wedding, but the party will be none the less merry on account of my absence. Farewell! and at parting let me give you one serious piece
of advice: Never, as you wish to thrive, let my sister Walton cross the threshold of your door."
That was my last interview with Mr Beaton; and I could not help thinking, as I went home, that it really was in some sort a blessing that he was about to take his departure. It was clear that he and I could never pull together; and such being the case, it was just as well that the ocean should be placed between us. His parting with Mary partook much more of the pathetic. I asked no questions regarding it; but from what she told me I could gather that he had expressed deep sorrow for his neglect of her mother, and that he was much moved as he kissed and gave her his blessing.
"So old Hurlothrumbo is fairly out of the way?" said Carlton, about a week afterwards. "Perhaps it is a shame to say so, but that circumstance operates upon me as a sensible relief. The old cynic philosopher, at the wedding-feast of Lycius, would scarce have been a grimmer guest. But who is to give away the bride? It would be against all rule for Colonel Stanhope to dispose of both the ladies."
"That is already provided for, thanks to the kindness of Lord Windermere, who insists upon performing the office. Lady Windermere has added to the obligation by presenting Mary with a most elegant parure."
And so it has turned out. In the course of his peregrinations through the county, Lumley became acquainted with Lady Julia Goring, second daughter of the Marquess of Leominster, a splendid brunette, whose accomplishments are not inferior to her personal charms. She is an admirable musician, sings divinely, can ride up to the hounds, doats upon Dante, and is withal as witty and pungent as Beatrice of course I refer to Shakespeare's creation, not to the melancholy mistress of the Florentine. Well, sir; the result is that she has fairly captivated our Signor Benedict, who is now most furiously in love; and under the circumstances I thought it but common charity to let him be present at the rehearsal of a ceremony, in which he soon will have to bear a more conspicuous part."
"Bravo!" cried I. "Every true friend of Lumley's must rejoice to hear that the spell is broken. But I shall not avail myself of Frank Stanhope's good offices. Another person has a better claim to stand by me on such an occasion."
'Whom do you mean?" asked Carlton.
"Even my foster-brother, David Osett."
"What! that great rough Scotch surveyor? Upon my word, Sinclair, you must reconsider this! Why, he would be altogether out of place in such an assemblage."
"That is as it should be. You "I have considered the matter, may have Frank Stanhope for your Carlton, and I shall adhere to my groomsman if you please. I have purpose. When I was a helpless already selected Lumley." orphan, his near relative nourished "Not on account of his matri- and sustained me. The years of monial propensities?'
"O, you had best not attempt to be satirical on that subject!" replied Carlton. "All the while that Lumley was regarding us with that pitiful romance about his disappointments and blighted affections, I was saying to myself that a gentleman of such strong susceptibility was as certain ere long to be married as a thrush is to be caught in a net among the strawberries.
my early boyhood were spent beneath the shelter of his father's roof. That rough man, as you term him, was my first companion; and since then he has stood by me in every turn of fortune with a devotion that I never can repay. Shall I forget all this; and, because his speech sounds uncouth to English ears, and his manner lacks the degree of refinement that finds favour in the drawing-room, shall