Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

find,” said he, unthinking boy, that the same crime”. But here he was interrupted by one of the jailer's servants, who came to inform us that a person of distinction, who had driven into town with a chariot and several attendants, sent his respects to the gentleman that was with us, and begged to know when he should think proper to be waited upon. “ Bid the fellow wait," cried our guest, till I shall have leisure to receive him :" and then turning to my son, “ I again find, sir,” proceeded he,“ that you are guilty of the same offence for which you once had my reproof, and for which the law is now preparing its justest punishments. You imagine, perhaps, that a contempt for your own life gives you a right to take that of another : but where, sir, is the difference between a duellist, who hazards a life of no value, and the murderer who acts with greater security ? Is it any diminution of the gamester's fraud, when he alleges that he has staked a counter?"

“ Alas, sir,” cried I, “ whoever you are, pity the poor misguided creature ; for what he has done was in obedience to a deluded mother, who, in the bitterness of her resentment, required him, upon her blessing, to avenge her quarrel. Here, sir, is the letter, which will serve to convince you of her imprudence, aud diminish his guilt.”

He took the letter, and hastily read it over. “ This,” says he, “ though not a perfect excuse, is such a palliation of his fault as induces me to forgive him. And now, sir,” continued he, kindly taking my son by the hand, “ I see you are surprised at finding me here ; but I have often visited prisons upon occasions less interesting. I am now come to see justice done a worthy man, for whom I have the most sincere esteem. I have long been a disguised spectator of thy father's benevolence. I have, at his little dwelling, enjoyed respect uncontaminated by flattery; and have received that happiness that courts could not give, from the amusing simplicity around his fire-side. My nephew has been apprised of iny intentions of coming here, and, I find, is arrived. It would be wronging him and you to condemn him without examination : if there be injury, there shall be redress;

and this I may say, without boasting, that none have ever taxed the injustice of Sir William Thornhill.”

We now found the personage whom we had so long entertained as an harmless amusing companion, was no other than the celebrated Sir William Thornhill, to whose

66

virtues and singularities scarcely any were strangers. The poor Mr Burchell was in reality a man of large fortune and great interest, to whom senates listened with applause, and whom party heard with conviction ; who was the friend of his country, but loyal to his king. My poor wife, recollecting her former familiarity, seemed to shrink with apprehension ; but Sophia, who a few moments before thought him her own, now perceiving the immense distance to which he was removed by fortune, was unable to conceal her tears.

“ Ah! sir,” cried my wife, with a piteous aspect, “how is it possible that I can ever have your forgiveness? The slights you received from me the last time I had the honour of seeing you at our house, and the jokes which I audaciously threw out — these, sir, I fear, can never be forgiven.”

My dear good lady,” returned he with a smile, “ if you had your joke, I had my answer : I'll leave it to all the company if mine were not as good as yours. To

say

the truth, I know nobody whom I am disposed to be angry with at present, but the fellow who so frighted my girl here. I had not even time to examine the rascal's person so as to describe him in an advertisement. Can you tell me, Sophia, my dear, whether you should know him again ?”

Indeed, sir” replied she, “ I can't be positive ; yet now I recollect, he had a large mark over one of his eyebrows.”

“ I ask pardon, madam,” interrupted Jenkinson, who was by, “ but be so good as to inform me if the fellow wore his own red hair ?". “ Yes, I think so," cried Sophia.

“ And did your honour,” continued he, turning to Sir William, “observe the length of his legs ?”—“I can't be sure of their length,” cried the Baronet, “ but I am convinced of their swiftness ; for he outran me, which is what I thought few men in the kingdom could have done.”

2" Please your honour,” cried Jenkinson, “ I know the man: it is certainly the same ; the best runner in England ; he has beaten Pinwire of Newcastle : Timothy Baxter is his name ; I know him perfectly, and the very place of his retreat this moment. If your honour will bid Mr Jailer let two of his men go with me, I'll engage to produce him to you in an hour at farthest.” Upon this the jailer was called, who instantly appearing, Sir William demanded if he knew him. “ Yes, please your honour,” replied the jailer, “ I know Sir William Thornhill well, and every body that knows any thing of him will desire to know more of him.".

“ Well,

[ocr errors]

6 do you

then," said the Baronet,“ my request is, that you will permit this man and two of your servants to go upon a message by my authority; and as I am in the commission of the peace, I undertake to secure you.”

“ Your promise is sufficient,” replied the other," and you may, at a moment's warning, send them over England whenever your honour thinks fit.”

In pursuance of the jailer's compliance, Jenkinson was despatched in search of Timothy Baxter, while we were amused with the assiduity of our youngest boy, Bill, who had just come in and climbed up Sir William's neck, in order to kiss him. His mother was immediately going to chastise his familiarity, but the worthy man prevented her ; and taking the child, all ragged as he was, upon his knee,

What, Bill, you chubby rogue,” cried he, remember your old friend Burchell ? and Dick, too, my honest veteran, are you here ? you shall find I have not forgot you.” So saying, he gave each a large piece of gingerbread, which the poor fellows eat very heartily, as they had got that morning but a very scanty breakfast.

We now sat down to dinner, which was almost cold; but previously, my arm still continuing painful, Sir William wrote a prescription, for he had made the study of physic his amusement, and was more than moderately skilled in the profession : this being sent to an apothecary who lived in the place, my arm was dressed, and I found almost instantaneous relief. We were waited upon at dinner by the jailer himself, who was willing to do our guest all the honour in his power.

But before we had well dined, another message was brought from his nephew, desiring permission to appear in order to vindicate his innocence and honour ; with which request the Baronet complied, and desired Mr Thornhill to be introduced.

CHAPTER XXXI.

FORMER BENEVOLENCE NOW REPAID WITH UNEXPECTED INTEREST.

MR THORNHILL made his appearance with a smile, which he seldom wanted, and was going to embrace his uncle, which th other repulsed

an air of disdain.

“ No

[ocr errors]

fawning, sir, at present,” cried the Baronet, with a look of severity ; “ the only way to my heart is by the road of honour ; but here I only see complicated instances of falsehood, cowardice, and oppression. How is it, sir, that this poor man, for whom I know you professed a friendship, is used thus hardly? His daughter vilely seduced as a recompense for his hospitality, and he himself thrown into prison, perhaps but for resenting the insult? His son, too, whom

you

feared to face as a man " Is it possible, sir," interrupted his nephew, " that my uncle should object that as a crime, which his repeated instructions alone have persuaded me to avoid ?”

“ Your rebuke,” cried Sir William, " is just ; you have acted, in this instance, prudently and well, though not quite as your father would have done : my brother, indeed, was the soul of honour ; but thou Yes, you have acted, in this instance, perfectly right, and it has my warmest approbation."

“ And I hope,” said his nephew, “ that the rest of my conduct will not be found to deserve censure. I appeared, sir, with this gentleman's daughter at some places of public amusement : thus, what was levity, scandal called by a harsher name, and it was reported that I had debauched her. I waited on her father in person, willing to clear the thing to his satisfaction, and he received me only with insult and abuse. As for the rest, with regard to his being here, my attorney and steward can best inform you, as I commit the management of business entirely to them. If he has contracted debts, and is unwilling, or even unable to pay them, it is their business to proceed in this manner ; and I see no hardship or injustice in pursuing the most legal means of redress.”

“ If this,” cried Sir William,“ be as you have stated it, there is nothing unpardonable in your offence; and though your conduct might have been more generous in not suffering this gentleman to be oppressed by subordinate tyranny, yet it has been at least equitable.”

“ He cannot contradict a single particular,” replied the Squire ; “ I defy him to do so ; and several of my servants are ready to attest what I say. Thus, sir,” continued he, finding that I was silent, for in fact I could not contradict

“thus, sir, my own innocence is vindicated : but though at your entreaty, I am ready to forgive this gentleman every

him ;

other offence, yet his attempts to lessen me in your esteem, excite a resentment that I cannot govern ; and this, too, at a time when his son was actually preparing to take away my life, - this, I say, was such guilt, that I am determined to let the law take its course. I have here the challenge that was sent me, and two witnesses to prove it: one of my servants has been wounded dangerously; and even though my uncle himself should dissuade me, which I know he will not, yet I will see public justice done, and he shall suffer for it.”

“ Thou monster !” cried my wife, “ hast thou not had vengeance enough already, but must my poor boy feel thy cruelty ? I hope that good Sir William will protect us ; for my son is as innocent as a child : I am sure he is, and never did harm to man.” “ Madam,” replied the good man,

your wishes for his safety are not greater than mine ; but I am sorry to find his guilt too plain ; and if my nephew persists

_” But the appearance of Jenkinson and the jailer's two servants now called off our attention, who entered, hauling in a tall man, very genteely dressed, and answering the description already given of the ruffian who had carried off my daughter: “ Here,” cried Jenkinson, pulling him in, “ here we have him ; and if ever there was a candidate for Tyburn, this is

The moment Mr Thornhill perceived the prisoner, and Jenkinson who had him in custody, he seemed to shrink back with terror. His face became pale with conscious guilt, and he would have withdrawn; but Jenkinson, who perceived his design, stopped him. “What, Squire,” cried he, “are you ashamed of your two old acquaintances, Jenkinson and Baxter ? but this is the way that all great men forget their friends, though I am resolved we will not forget you. — Our prisoner, please your honour,” continued he, turning to Sir William, “ has already confessed all. This is the gentleman reported to be so dangerously wounded. He declares that it was Mr Thornhill who first

put
him
upon

this affair ; that he gave him the clothes he now wears, to appear like a gentleman ; and furnished him with the post-chaise. The plan was laid between them, that he should carry off the young lady to a place of safety, and that there he should threaten and terrify her ; but Mr Thornhill was to come in, in the meantime, as if by accident, to her rescue ; and that

>> one.

« AnteriorContinuar »