« ForrigeFortsæt »
if he had no other friend he could look to to assist him in this exigency; but Williams assured him, very truly, that he had not, and added that it would, moreover, be very imprudent to risk the exposure of his difficulties by making hopeless applications: there was no telling, he hinted, what might be the consequence. Mr Lisle asked a little time to consider, and to consult his wife; but Williams suggested that consulting his wife could lead to nothing but what was painful, without being of the slightest use. "Mrs Lisle couldn't advise you to sacrifice your twelve hundred pounds," said he, "though she might be very unwilling to advise you to put your name to this other little bill; so that you'd have to decide for yourself at last, and the communication would answer no purpose but to make her uneasy. Besides, one don't know— women are apt to judge by the result-perhaps she might blame you for what you've done already; and it is not always very prudent," he added, laughing, " to put a weapon of that sort into our wives' hands-they're apt to use it rather unmercifully."
This last argument was a coup de maître. Mr Lisle dreaded his wife's knowing the state of affairs, and the predicament in which, contrary to her advice, his too-easy good-nature had placed him, beyond everything; and that apprehension, with the almost certain loss of his money if he left Williams to his fate, determined him to risk another five hundred. Risk, indeed, he hardly thought there was any-so he once more signed his name, making himself answerable for the debt in six months from the day of date.
66 I'm sure, my dear fellow, I don't know how to thank you," said Williams, with tears in his eyes, as he wrung his hand. "That poor infant at its mother's breast, as well as every child I have, shall be taught to lisp your name in its prayers before its father's and mother's. I hope by and by, when we are better off, we shall be able to make you some return for all your kindness. Do take home this box of Portugal plums with you," he added, forcing the case into Mr Lisle's hand as they passed through the shop; "they'll be good for little Sophia's coughthey're nice softening things; and perhaps you and your wife will drop in about seven o'clock and take a cup of tea with us, I want Mrs Lisle to taste some fine souchong I have just got down from London-very superior quality indeed-eight shillings a-pound. If she likes it, I shall beg her acceptance of a few pounds."
Mr Lisle walked slowly home, with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the ground, and with an uncomfortable something at his heart that kept importunately whispering that all this hospitality and liberality which he had so much admired in Williams was somehow or other practised at his own expense; and a mortifying suspicion would intrude itself that his wife's maxims were not altogether so absurd as he had been in the habit of pronouncing them. Still, he argued it was utterly im
possible that a woman of seventy-five, who was kept alive by teaspoonfuls of gruel every quarter of an hour, could survive in that state four months longer; and he thought it would be foolish to make himself uneasy, and still more so to annoy his wife and risk a quarrel, which was likely to be the result if he communicated the affair to her: for the more he was disposed to blame himself, the less he was inclined to bear with her reproaches and lamentations-so he determined to say nothing about the matter; and as it could not make matters worse than they were, he saw no reason why they should not drink tea with Williams, and accept the tea too, if he choose to give it them. Certainly," as he said to himself, "nobody could have a better right to it:" so they went at the hour appointed; and, after concluding a very pleasant evening with a luxurious little supper, they returned home laden with a basketful of French plums, and almonds, and raisins, and sugar-candy for the children, and found on their parlour-table six pounds of the eightshillings souchong, which Williams had directed his shopman to put up and send during the course of the evening; and the only observable difference arising out of the transaction of the morning was, that when Mrs Lisle remarked, with a sigh, that she wished Williams would not force so many things on them, Mr Lisle, instead of launching out in praise of his friend's generosity, merely said, " Psha! what does it signify?" and snatching up his candle, retired to bed.
We must now take a leap of several months; and we regret to be under the necessity of admitting that to the confusion of the doctor, and the astonishment of all the world, who had declared, and indeed still declared, the thing impossible-Miss Patty was yet in the land of the living. True, she was bedridden, and the apprehension of her altering her will no longer existed; for her intellects were entirely gone, and she was nearly speechless; but still she breathed, and the legacy was for the time being as unattainable as if she had been eating beef-steaks and walking five miles before breakfast. It was a cold morning, about three weeks after Christmas, and Mr and Mrs Lisle were sitting at breakfast with their children, when the servant announced that "Mr Grainger wished to speak with master."
"He's come for the rent, I suppose," said Mrs Lisle. "Have you the money ready?"
"Let him come in, Sarah,” said Mr Lisle, addressing the maid. “ No," he continued in answer to his wife's question; "I can't pay it till Williams has paid me; but a few days more must settle that business."
"I wish to Heaven it were settled!" exclaimed Mrs Lisle; "it keeps one in continual hot-water. It is so mortifying to be obliged to send people away without their money. There was the man here yesterday that made the wardrobe; it is only nine pounds, but he said he was a young beginner, and had his hills
coming in, and he hoped I would not send him away without payment, as he had given us a year's credit. I declare I could have cried when the man went out of the room-he looked so disappointed, and I felt so ashamed."
"Well, well, Sophia, it's no use grumbling now," said the husband impatiently; the annoyance will be over in a few days we're sure. Dr Ramsay was called in to see Miss Wise on Thursday, and he said nothing could be done for her. All we can do is to take care never to get into such another scrape, and be glad we've got so well out of this. How are you, Grainger, this cold morning? Take a seat by the fire, and let my wife give you a cup of tea. Capital stuff, I assure you-a present of Williams;" and Mr Lisle laughed. Mr Grainger laughed too.
"Well, sir," said he, "I never got anything from Williams myself, but he was liberal enough with his presents, I believe, as long as he'd anything to give."
"He's a kind-hearted, hospitable fellow Williams as ever lived," said Mr Lisle, rather offended at the slight way in which Mr Grainger (a man whom he considered in an inferior way of trade to himself) spoke of his friend.
"Oh ay, sir-I daresay he is," answered Grainger: 'I've nothing to say against him myself. I've no reason-I shall lose nothing by him."
"Nor will anybody else," replied Lisle rather tartly.
Well, sir, I'm glad to hear it, I'm sure, sir," answered Grainger. "Things may be better than we've heard, but I'm told the debts are heavy. Mr Bostock says the creditors may make up their minds to a shilling in the pound or thereabouts."
"What can Mr Bostock mean by making such an assertion?” exclaimed Mr Lisle, turning pale betwixt anger and affright, whilst his wife set down the teapot she had lifted, for her nerves failed her, and she could not hold it.
"I don't think Mr Bostock would say anything of that sort he wasn't pretty sure of," observed Mr Grainger; but perhaps, sir, you may have better information. Howsomever, I think them's best off as have had nothing to do with him; he always went too fast for my money. But I must be moving," continued he, as he rose to place his cup and saucer on the table; "there's a great lot of timber to be sold by auction at S to-day, at one o'clock, that's expected to go cheap, and I've no time to lose."
Mr Lisle was perfectly aware that Grainger had come for his rent; and the object of the visit was so well understood between them, that it was felt quite unnecessary to name it. In fact the payment had already been put off once; and this was the second period appointed by Mr Lisle, who had reckoned confidently on getting his money from Williams before it arrived. It was therefore very painful to be obliged to ask a further delay; but as Miss Patty's senses were gone, and she could not alter her
will now, he had intended to tell his landlord the real state of the case, and soothe him with the promise of being able to answer his demand in a few days; but the estimate Grainger appeared to have formed with respect to Williams' responsibility made this rather a hopeless expedient. "You have called for your rent, I suppose, Mr Grainger?" at length said Mr Lisle, clearing his throat, seeing that the landlord made no move towards resuming his seat, but stood sturdily with his hat in his hand betwixt the table and the door.
"In course I have, sir,” replied Grainger, as if he thought the question wholly superfluous. "It's a week past the time you appointed, and I want to go to Swith the money in my hand." "I'm really very sorry, Grainger," began Mr Lisle, whilst poor Sophia's cheeks turned crimson, and her eyes filled with tears; "but really
"You're not a-going to put me off again, are you?" exclaimed Grainger in an angry tone.
"Only for a few days," said Mr Lisle.
in a few days."
"I'm sure of money
"So you said before," roughly answered Grainger. "Besides, sir, I want my money to go to market with, and I must have it." "But I can't give it you, Mr Grainger," replied Mr Lisle. reasonable; a very few days now must see me out of my difficulties, and the moment I get the money-in short, to be plain with you, don't mention it, and I promise yours shall be the very first debt I pay; but the very moment the breath is out of old Patty Wise's body
"Stop, sir!" said Mr Grainger, setting his arms akimbo; 66 do you mean to tell me as that's all you've got to look to to pay me my year and half's rent?"
"I've got a bond from Williams for seventeen hundred pounds, with five per cent. interest on it," replied Lisle; "to be paid on the very day he touches the old woman's legacy."
"Light the fire with it!" answered the landlord roughly; "it's all the use it'll ever be. Seventeen hundred pounds!-seventeen hundred rotten eggs! Why, don't you know that afore Miss Patty lost her intellects, when she found from Dr Ramsay that she was really going, she sent for Williams and told him that, as she knew very well that he'd bring her niece to the workhouse if she gave him any power over the money, she had taken care to tie it up so that he could never touch a shilling of it?"
"She did!" cried Mr Lisle, starting from his seat.
"To be sure she did!" answered Grainger; "and what's more, Williams took the hint and vanished, without ever coming back here to say good-by to anybody. He's across the water by this time, and there's an execution in the house. I saw the officers there just now as I came past."
We have not space, neither can it be necessary, to paint the
BE JUST BEFORE YOU ARE GENEROUS.
despair of the unhappy Lisle. Not only all the money he had was gone, but more than he had, for he had been obliged to borrow five hundred pounds to answer the last bill he had given to Williams. His creditors were pressing, for his situation was soon whispered abroad; and those who would have waited patiently whilst he was prosperous, soon took the alarm when they heard of his distress. He was made a bankrupt. His poor wife was obliged to leave her comfortable house at a time, too, that she most needed its conveniences: his eldest little girl, whom he had just placed at a respectable boarding-school, was brought home to assist her mother in taking care of the younger children. His life's labour was lost-worse than lost, for he had to begin the world again with a stigma, if not upon his honesty, certainly upon his prudence and good sense. And all this misery arose from his not perceiving that every individual in the world is bound to provide for the responsibilities he has himself incurred, before he assists others to answer theirs; from his weakly yielding to the importunities of one who had no claim on him, and whose previous want of foresight, duly considered, held out little promise for the future, without reflecting on the paramount claims not only of his own creditors, but of the wife he had undertaken to maintain, and of the children of whose being he was the author, and for whose welfare and education, as far as in him lay, he was answerable to the Almighty; and from his not perceiving that it is dishonesty, and not liberality, to give that which we cannot afford, and which, if every one had their own, would not be ours to give; and that people's success in business does not depend upon their being good-natured or kindhearted, but upon their conducting their affairs with steady prudence and a conscientious regard to all their engagementsdangerous and dazzling fallacies, which have ruined many a well-intentioned man, who might have gone happily and prosperously through the world on the simple but comprehensive maxim-"BE JUST BEFORE YOU ARE GENEROUS."