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• Why, Tom, in your present humour, you think so; but all do not keep to the same way of thinking as I did, till it was too late to think about marrying; but still I do not think that I should have been happy as a single man, if it had not been for my falling in with Bessy. I should have been very lonely I expect, for I began to feel so.
When you come to your own door, Tom, home looks cheerless if there is no bright eye to welcome you, and the older a man gets, the more he feels that he was not intended to live single. My yearning after something to love, and to love me, which is in our nature, was satisfied, first by having Bessy, and then by having you - and I'm thankful.”
“ You might have married, and have been very unhappy."
“I might, and I might have been very happy, had I chosen a wife as a man should do."
“And how is that, pray, Bramble ?”
“Why, Tom, I've often thought upon it. In the first place, look out for good temper: if you find that, you may be happy, even if your wife is a silly woman ; assure yourself first of her temper, and then you must judge her by the way in which she does those duties which have fallen to her lot; for if a girl is a dutiful and affectionate daughter, there is little fear but that she will prove a loving and obedient wife. But I think we have had our spell here, Tom, and it's rather cold: rouse up one of those chaps, and tell him to come to the helm. I'll coil myself up and have a snoose till the morning, and do you do the same.”
IN WHICH I RECEIVE A VERY
FROM A PARTY OR
The day after this conversation we fell in with several vessels windbound at the entrance of the Channel. I took charge of one, and the wind shifting to the S. W., and blowing strong, I carried her up to the Pool. As soon as I could leave her, I took a boat to go down to Greenwich, as I was most anxious to have a long conversation with Virginia. It was a dark squally night, with rain at intervals between the gusts of wind, and I was wet through long before I landed at the stairs, which was not until past eleven o'clock. I paid the waterman, and hastened up to my mother's house; being aware that they would either be all in bed, or about to retire. It so happened that I did not go the usual way, but passed by the house of Old Nanny; and as I walked by with a quick step, and was thinking of her and her misfortunes, I fell over something which, in the dark, I did not perceive, and which proved to be some iron railings, which the workmen who were fixing them up had carelessly left on the ground, previous to their returning to their work on the ensuing morning. Fortunately the spikes at the ends of them were from me, and I received no injury, except a severe blow on the shin; and, as I stopped a moment to rub it, I thought that I heard a cry from the direction of Old Nanny's house ; but the wind was very high, and I was not certain. I stopped and listened, and it was repeated. I gained the door; it was so dark that I groped for the latch. The door was open, and when I went in I heard a gurgling kind of noise and a rustling in her chamber. “ Who's there? — What's this ? ” eried I ; for I had a foreboding that something was wrong. I tumbled over some old iron, knocked down the range of keys, and made a terrible din, when, of a sudden, just as I had recovered my legs, I was thrown down again by somebody who rushed by me and darted out of the door. As the person rushed by me, I attempted to seize his arm, but I received a severe blow on the mouth, which cut my lip through, and at first I thought I had lost all my front teeth.
I rose up; I heard a heavy groaning ; so, instead of pursuing the robber, I felt my way into Nanny's chamber. “ Nanny," said 1, “mother, what's the matter ? ” but there was no reply, except another groan. I knew where she kept her tinder-box and matches; I found them, and struck a light; and by the light of the match I perceived the candle and candlestick lying on the floor.
I picked it up, lighted it, and then turned to the bed; the flock mattress was above all, and the groans proceeded from beneath. I threw it off, and found Old Nanny still breathing, but in a state of great exhaustion, and quite insensible. By throwing water on her face, after some little while I brought her to her senses. The Aaring of the candle reminded me that the shop door was open ;
I went and made it fast, and then spoke to her. It was a long while before I could obtain any rational answer.
She continued to groan and cry at intervals, “Don't leave me, Jack, don't leave me.”
At last she fell into a sort of slumber from exhaustion, and in this state she remained for more than an hour. One thing was evident to me, which was, that the party, whoever it might be, had attempted to smother the poor old woman, and that in a few seconds more he would have perpetrated the deed.
At last Old Nanny roused up, and turning to me, said, “ It's Jack, is it not? I thought so. Oh, my poor head ! — What has happened?"
“ That's what I want to know from you, mother,” replied I ; “ but first I will tell you what I know of the business;" which I did to give her time to collect her thoughts.
« Yes," said she, “ so it was. I was just in bed, and my candle was not out, when I heard a noise at the door, as if they were turning a key in it; and then a man entered; but he had something over his face, I thought, or he had blacked it. • What do you want? ' cried I; 'I come for a light, old woman,' said he. I cried, “Thieves ! murder l' as loud as I could, and he ran up to me just as I was getting out of bed, and tried to smother me. I don't recollect any thing more till I heard your voice. Thank you, Jack, and God bless you ; if you hadn't come to the assistance of a poor old wretch like me, I should have been dead by this time."
I felt that what she said was true, and I then asked her many questions, so as to lead to the discovery of the party. he dressed ?" inquired I.
“ I can't exactly say ; but do you know, Jack, I fancied that he had a pensioner's coat on; indeed, I'm almost sure of it. I
- How was may be
think I tore off one of his buttons, – I recollect its giving way ; I wrong,
my head wanders.” But I thought that, most likely, Nanny was right; so I looked down on the floor with the candle, and there I picked up a pensioner's button. “ You're right, Nanny; here is the button."
“ Well, now, Jack, I can't talk any more ; you wo'n't leave me to-night, I'm sure.”
“ No, no, mother, that I will not; - try to go to sleep."
Hardly had Nanny laid her head down again, when it came across my mind like a flash of lightning that it must have been Spicer who had attempted the deed ; and my reason for so thinking was, that the blow I had received on the mouth was not like that from the hand of a man, but from the wooden socket fixed to the stump of his right arm, The more I reflected upon it, the more I was convinced. He was a clever armourer, and had picked the lock; and I now recalled to mind what had never struck me before, that he had often asked me questions about Old Nanny, and whether I thought the report that she had money was correct.
It was daylight before Old Nanny woke up, and then she appeared to be quite recovered. I told her my suspicions, and my intentions to ascertain the truth of them as far as I possibly could.
“ Well, and what then?” said Old Nanny.
“Why, then, if we bring it home to him, he will be hanged, as he deserves."
“ Now, Jack, hear me," said Old Nanny; “ you wo'n't do any. thing I don't wish, I'm sure ; and now I'll tell you, — that I never would give evidence against him or any other man to have him hanged. So, if you find out that it is him, do not say a word about it. Promise me, Jack."
“ Why, mother, I can't exactly say that I will; but I will talk to Peter Anderson about it."
“ It's no use talking to him ; and, if you do, it must be under promise of secrecy, or I will not consent it. Jack, Jack, recollect that my poor boy was hanged from my fault. Do you think I will hang another? Oh, no. Perhaps this very man had a foolish
wicked mother, like me, and has, like my boy, been led into guilt. Jack, you must do as I wish
you shall, Jack.” “ Well, mother, I have no animosity against the man himself; and, if you forgive him, I do not see why I should do any thing."
“ I don't forgive him, Jack; but I think of my own poor boy."
“ Well, mother, since you wish it, it shall be so; and if I do prove that the man I suspect is the party, I will say nothing, and make Anderson promise the same, as I think he will. But how is it that people come to rob a poor old woman like you ? How is it, mother, that there is a report going about that you have
“ Is there such a report, Jack ?”
“ Yes, mother, every one says so; why, I do not know; and as long as it is supposed, you will always be subject to attacks like this; unless, indeed, if you have money, you were to put it away safely, and let everybody know that you have done so. truly, mother, have you any money ?"
“Jack, what a boy you are to ask questions. Well, perhaps I have a little, a very little ; but no one will ever find out where I have hidden it."
“ But they will try, mother, as this man has done; and you will always be in peril of your life. Why not place it into the hands of some safe person ?”
“ Safe person! Who's safe now-a-days ?” “ Why, for instance, there's Mr. Wilson.”
“ Wilson ! what do you know about him, Jack, except that he has a smooth face and a bald head ? You're young, Jack, and don't know the world. The money's safe where it is, and no one will ever find it.”
“ If so, who is to find it after _” I stopped, for I did not like to say, after she was dead.
“ I know what you would have said, Jack; who's to find it after my death?
That's very true. I never thought of that, and I must will it away. I never thought of that, Jack; it's very true; and I'm glad that you have mentioned it. But who dare I tell?