« ForrigeFortsæt »
“Did I see him? yes! curse him, curse him." “ William, do not talk thus.”
"Talk thus! how would you have me talk? was I not their slave-their drudge; and what is my return? turned out like an old dog to starve; well, well, let it pass."
“Father, dear father, be advised, you are excited now," observed the son, a fine youth of some twelve years of age.
"True, my boy, excited I am, but have I not cause, was I not spurned from his door-laughed at-hooted at by his menials, whom he cowardly urged on?"
"Father, would I had been there!" and the fire of indignation glowed in the countenance of the boy as he spoke.. “But, William, you expected such a reception ?"
‘I did, wife, but not such a one-not such a one.” "But, father, you will go there no more, will you?"
"Yes, once more-once more-" these words were uttered in a slow determined tone of voice; "then let the proud nabob look to himself. Fool, fool that I have been, to let years pass away as the idle wind, without one effort. But they say he is dead-perhaps not, perhaps not-tomorrow I'll begin; he must, if living, be found."
"Of whom are you speaking, William?" inquired his wife.
"Of one deeply, foully wronged-of one defrauded of his rightful estates."
"You speak of young Marlowe ?"
"They say he left the country and died in foreign parts." "True, I could not have found him, unless in the cold grave, miles away from his ancestral halls. Alas! the poor fellow's bones are mouldering to dust, while a base trespasser-but no more of this. I will tell you, wife, how I fared at the hall. While I was knocking at the door I heard
loud peals of laughter echoing from room to room, and the busy tread of many feet, told that he had a large company. The servant, as he opened the door, looked at me and sneered at my threadbare habiliments: 'What do you want?' he asked, surly enough. I should like to see Mr. Marlowe for a moment-tell him it is on urgent business.' Whether it was the melancholy tone of my voice, or a spark of good feeling happened to light up the fellow's heart at that particular moment, I know not, but he ushered me into the front room, used as an office. Well, I awaited his cominghe came-' Ho, ho, it is you, ah ha! what brings you here, pauper, eh?' 'Poverty,' Mr. Marlowe, extreme poverty, a starving family induces me once more to call upon you, I have lived in your family,' said I, for thirty years, and it seems to me, Mr. Marlowe, that since the death of your brother, fate itself has transpired against me and mine.' 'Well, and what claim have you on me!' 'No claim beyond that of poverty and your humanity!' I have nothing to do with poverty, and you know I despise its votaries.' As he uttered this, a loud laugh from an adjoining room told us that the sentence was overheard and applauded by his satellites. He then followed up the success of this ungenerous expression by mocking me and our poverty, gritted his tiger teeth together, and wondered why his foolish dead brother had not left me something.' I observed, that 'he did leave me as much as he did him, but to circumstances alone was he indebted for all that he now possessed.' will, you know, was supposed to have been lost at the fire which occurred on the evening of the day of the burial. The nephew died, as is supposed, and the brother, being the next kin, in the absence of the will inherits the estate. 'Circumstances, what do you mean, slave-beggar out of my house! Holloa there,' and shouting furiously he soon
collected a band of ruffians around him, whom he ordered 'to toss me in a blanket.'”
"Father, did they dare"
"Dare-yes, they dared-but the sight of this knife kept them at bay until I was safe in the street. The veil is now rent asunder, hope is dead, and but for this one act the existence of that which will damn him, would have still remained a secret."
"Of what do you speak, William ?"
"Nothing-nothing-" he leaned his head upon his hands and remained in that posture some time, then rising and gazing around as one just awakened from a dream, asked if there was nothing in the house to eat.
"Alas, William !"
"Gracious heavens, are we to starve-starve in the metropolis of the world? we must eat; I-I have not tasted food to-day!"
"We were expecting you, father, but here is a shilling I got for carrying a trunk for a gentleman up to the hotel, he gave it me and requested me to call in the morning, as he would have another job, that will be another shilling." "A shilling, that will do--go, my son, and with it procure bread, the poor man's food!"
The wind whistled around the old tenement, the doors, partly unhinged, creaked and rattled; the cheerless fire burned lower and lower, and haggard poverty sat scowling on every brow. The scene, indeed, was wretched enough.
"The needy man who has known better days,
One whom distress has spited at the world,
Is he whom tempting fiends would pitch upon
To do such deeds as make the prosperous men
Lift up their heads, and wonder who could do them."-HOME.
"The Hope, in dreams, of a happier hour,
Springs out of the silv'ry almond flower
That blooms on a leafless bough.-MOORE
The morning after the events narrated above, was even worse than the preceding one, the streets were almost impassable, the snow was now yielding gradually to a cold rain, which rendered the walking disagreeable and even dangerous. Many there were who wrapped their cloaks around them and hurried along regardless of the storm, knowing that a comfortable fire, a good breakfast, and a smiling face awaited their coming. Others, again, who having no such inducements to hurry them on, lingered by the way, as if haste would bring them too soon to misery and wretchedness. Many of the latter class had passed the night in hovels and out-houses, with scarce sufficient clothing to keep life in their attenuated bodies. The early light of day aroused them from broken slumbers, and they emerged into the streets in the vain hope of picking up enough pence to procure them a loaf of bread.
The poor are not choice in their tastes, neither are they in their tasks. Some few half frozen men and boys had assembled around the London Hotel, awaiting the passengers from the morning coach. Alas! they looked in vain, and their expectations, like all our hopes predicated on worldly things, were disappointed--the coach took no passengers that morning from the hotel.
Among the greedy, or rather the hungry expectants, was the boy already introduced to our readers; his eyes were fixed upon the doorway leading to the great hall, and he
watched every countenance with an anxiety equalled only by the many that surrounded him. Presently a young man appeared, who cast his eyes over the motley group as if looking for some one. This point he seemed to have gained, for he instantly beckoned with his finger, when like an arrow from the bow, the boy shot from the quivering crowd, and in a moment stood at his side.
"Well, my little fellow, I see you are punctual."
"Now take this trunk, it is not heavy, and carry it to No. 6 Butler street. Do you know where Butler street is?" "Yes sir."
"There await my coming."
The boy shouldered the trunk and marched off triumphantly.
As the young man was in the act of re-entering the door, an ill-featured, ill-favored man, one of the job seekers, sided up to him and clapping his finger to his nose, very significantly asked:
"Does the gem'en know the boy?"
The answer was-"No."
A low chuckle followed, as much as to say-"What a flat." "Why, you don't suppose the boy will steal it?" he asked. "I only axed sir for information."
"Then, sir, for your information let me tell you that although I never saw that boy before yesterday, I would trust him with uncounted gold, if I had it."
"Well, the gem'en knows best, I only acted as a friend to the gem'en, I hope no offence."
"No offence, my good man, here is sixpence for you; although your motive was jealousy, no doubt poverty urged you on." The man's eyes glistened, he grasped the money,