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“Is he stirring yet,” he inquired.
“No-but he will see you directly," was the reply. “He did nothing but ask after you. If they tell the truth about him, he has led a wicked life.”
“Ha! I have heard something of that! What has he done? Who is he?”
“Don't you know, sir ? He's Old MISERY, the miser.”
“I never have, I assure you. But I will not be inquisitive abou him. He wishes to see me, you say?”.
The youth presently found himself in the sleeping apartment occupied by the object of his interest—not yet awake. Placing å chair by the bedside, he seated himself, and contemplated the pinched features of the slumbering man.
The sleeper was turned sixty-five, or a year or two nearer seventy perhaps. His thin, straggling grey hair should have won respect, the youth thought; and would have won it, he doubted not, if the life of him for whom it pleaded had not been of a complexion to make age, in an individual case, dishonourable. The lines that were deepened in the forehead—the brow, corrugated even in slumber—the weazen cheeks—the thin, bloodless lips—the angularity of the countenance, at a general view, were far from pleasing, and showed to more disadvantage on the sleeper's pillow, than when distorted by terrible grief on the preceding night. The old man started—not thoroughly awake—but catching at the skirts of the dream that was leaving him. Raising himself in the bed, and staring about him, as if dimly comprehending the presence of some great calamity, but uncertain of its nature, his eyes encountered the youth. Then memory concentred all her strength upon the late event, and he fell back sobbing, with his face buried in the pillow.
But this first burst of feeling once controlled, he was enabled to talk calmly of what had taken place, and to view it as a deserved retribution for a life, and a long life too, of huge misdeed. “ Confidence,” he said to his young companion, “that I have not deserved from any living being—not even from her who should have risen from her bridal bed this morning, I place in you." He continued to speak, and the youth listened in sorrow-in amazement—in affright! The history so narrated was, alas ! a too com
NO. XV.–VOL. III.
mon one-a miser's—an usurer's aggravated perhaps, in some of its details, but only the history of a grinding usurer at the worst ; of a man who had bent his knee at the shrine of the golden idol, and eaten the bread of orphans to that end. Nothing more.
But, if there was little that was strange in the history, there was much that was strange in the feeling that dictated its disclosures. Ay, there was that which was very strange. There was—be it not lightly spoken of, nor treated with incredulity-repentance ; and there was deep overwhelming remorse also. Many times as the speaker proceeded, he bowed his head, and wept in very agony. Who can despair of the greatest criminal, when a miser, and a devourer of widows' houses, has repented ?
“Let us be stirring,” he said. “I swear I will not break my fast, till I have undone what mischief I can reach to undo."
“ But your health, sir,” pleaded the youth, "requires that you should not go abroad on this raw morning, without having taken some nourishment-a cup of tea-a roll. Let me order them."
He attempted to hold out, but yielded presently to the youth's persuasion; saying, as he did so, that he was well-tutored, and needed to be schooled in all things now. A cab being provided for them at the door, the old man having partaken of a very slight breakfast, and given the driver his directions, they set forward, avoiding the street in which the scenes of the last night had occurred, and so they came at last to Millbank, where they alighted.
There are many obscure localities frowned upon by the convict prison in this neighbourhood ; but the least enviable as a place of residence is - street. The old man and his young companion having bade the driver await them, went in search of it. It was found with little difficulty. But let us precede them by a few minutes.
In the lower room of one of the dwellings in the street, a woman, scarcely turned thirty-she should have been young at that age, but she was not-held a sickly infant in her arms, and drew nearer the window, that she might the better note what change had taken place in its features since she placed it asleep in the bed at an earlier hour of the morning.
“ It will die, George," she said, speaking softly and mournfully to her husband, who was trying to warm himself at the scanty fire in the grate. “It has altered greatly. I can't weep for it, George. God is very good to take it to himself. It will know no want-no suffering with Him."
But she did weep-bitterly—as only a mother who holds her dying infant in her arms can weep. The man approached her, and bent over the baby also. But he neither spoke nor wept.
“Did you say that she was really burnt to death, George?” said his wife presently; "and her father dead—so awfully sudden? Well, well. God sends his judgments.”
“Not judgments, Mary,” replied the man mildly; "we have censured hard, presumptuous people--religious folks, as they style themselves, for using that expression. Dead they both are! I heard of the fire last night, and went to see the ruins before you were up this morning. As for the poor girl, he had married her yesterday to a man of his own choosing—not of hers ; and from all I gathered about the match, I believe she would rather have gone to her grave than to the altar with him yesterday.”
"And he is dead too ?”
“Yes,—the roof fell in upon him, as he was trying to save the wife he had purchased. Well—I wish it hadn't happened, and that the old man had lived to repent ; but God knows best, and will deal more mercifully with him than he dealt with ourselves and others. Hist!—there's a knocking.”
The man went to the door and opened it. He reeled back with surprise, stunned with surprise, but advanced in an instant, and raised his arms to drive away his visitors.
“ Spencer, hear me,” pleaded the old man," don't be violentdon't you have a right to be, I know—but hear me
The man within the room—the father of the dying baby-uttered a frightful oath, and seized the door to shut it in the speaker's face.
“You had best hear him,” said our friend, the youth ; “ you had indeed ;” and, looking narrowly at the man's threatening countenance, he recognised with emotion the individual he had accosted on the scene of the conflagration in the morning.
The wife, still holding the sick infant, approached her husband, and entreated him to give way. Her words prevailed, and he fell back, sullenly enough though, from the threshold. The old man and the youth entered.
“I am a changed man, Spencer-I am indeed,” said the usurer. "I never should have changed though, but for last night. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies, they say, and mine has been desperate enough-God knows.'
He paused a while, struggling with his feelings, and continued : "I am come to ask your forgiveness for all that has passed between us, and to make reparation for the ruin I have wrought. Don't be, harsh with me. Don't repulse me, as I have repulsed you, many's the wicked time. I have money, as you know ; you shall yet be a rich man, Spencer, though only in your just position, were you to hold up your head with the wealthiest and proudest.”
“Money ?” sneered the man he addressed ; “yes, that is your panacea for all evils—I know it. But will money bring back the child that lies rotting in his grave, and who died of no disease, but that of want and cold? You know that I came to you and begged for a trifle of money to get him what was necessary to save his life, and you refused me, and drove me from your door. Will money,” continued the man, savagely, taking the infant from its mother's arms, “spare me this child either? No ; not if you emptied the Bank of England at my feet. Your reparation comes too late."
The usurer wrung his hands.
“ Don't be hard with me, Spencer,” he cried ; " for the love of God show that mercy to me, which I denied to you. We may save that child yet. If money can command science enough to save him, he shall live to comfort ye both for many a long year. For the child that's gone—and for my child that's gone —
He sank back into the youth's arms, murmuring through his tears—"Forgive me, Spencer, forgive me.”
“As I hope to be forgiven, I do,” replied the man.
In less than ten minutes after this scene, the usurer and his young companion were again seated in the cab; and the driver was urging his horses towards the Fleet Prison.
“ The man I am going to release has been confined seventeen years,” said the usurer. “Don't look at me so. I am human now, whatever I might have been. He borrowed money of me. I thought his security good, but it turned out otherwise. The man was honest, I believe, and would have paid me if he could ; but there was never a chance of that. I put him in the Fleet, seventeen years ago this winter.”
“And he has never been at large in all that time?” cried the youth, amazed and horror-stricken,
“Never! He had no friends to do anything for him. He lived on the poor side of the prison, as it is called, and must have been more than half starved, during the whole time he has been there ; but, please God, he shall be a rich man yet.”
“Here we are," shouted the driver. “ Shall I ring the bell, They got out, and when the gate was opened, the usurer desired to be shown into the waiting-room, and that Henry Abbot might be brought to speak to him.
“Henry Abbot !” exclaimed the man addressed; “ you 're too late to speak to him. He died yesterday."
With much difficulty they got the old man into the cab, and while the youth supported his senseless burden, the driver whipped his horses the whole way back to the inn they had first quitted.
The usurer died about a year afterwards, but he lived long enough to accomplish a great deal of the good he intended, and increased the funds of the principal charitable institutions in the metropolis at his death. The youth— but we will be silent about him. Our tale is told,
THE DEVIL'S WALK IN 1846.
The Devil uneasy sat in his state,
Cries he, “I must have later :
And with rumble and groan,
D'er Sicily, to Malta ;
The rock of fam'd Gibraltar,