Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
As shakes the bough of trembling leaf, When sudden whirlwinds rise; As stands aghast the warrior chief, When his base army flies. . . . . . .
It had been settled by all who took the matter into consideration, that the fidgety, fiery, old Nabob would soon quarrel with his landlady, Mrs. Dods, and become impatient of his residence at St. Ronan's. A man so kind to himself, and so inquisitive about the affairs of others, could have, it was supposed, a limited sphere for gratification either of his tastes or of his curiosity, in the Aultoun of St. Ronan's: and many a time the precise day and hour of his departure were fixed by the idlers at the Spa. But still old Touchwood appeared amongst them when the weather permitted, with his nut-brown visage, his throat carefully wrapped up in an immense Indian kerchief, and his gold-headed cane, which he never failed to carry over his shoulder; his short, but stout limbs, and his active step, showing plainly that he bore it rather as a badge of dignity than a means of support. There he stood, answering shortly and gruffly to all questions proposed to him, and making his remarks aloud upon the company, with great indifference as to the offence which plight be taken; and as soon as the ancient priestess had handed him his glass of the salutiferous water, turned on his heel with a brief good-morning, and either marched back to hide himself in the Manse, with his crony Mr. Cargill, or to engage in some hobby-horsical pursuit connected with his neighbours in the Aultoun.
The truth was, that the honest gentleman having, so far as Mrs. Dods would permit, put matters to rights within her residence, wisely abstained from pushing his innovations any farther, aware that it is not every stone which is capable of receiving the last degree of polish. He next set himself about putting Mr. Cargill's house into order; and without leave asked or given by that reverend gentleman, he actually accomplished as wonderful a reformation in the Manse, as could have been effected by a benevolent Brownie. The floors were sometimes swept--the carpets were sometimes shaken--the plates and dishes were cleaner--there was tea and sugar in the tea-chest, and a joint of meat at proper times was to be found in the larder. The elder maid-servant wore a good stuff gown--the younger snooded up her hair, and now went about the house a damsel so trig and neat, that some said she was too handsome for the service of a bachelor divine; and others, that they saw no business so old a fool as the Nabob had to be meddling with a lassie's busking. But for such evil bruits Mr. Touchwood cared not, even if he happened to hear of them, which was very doubtful. Add to all these changes, that the garden was weeded, and the glebe was regularly laboured.
The talisman by which all this desirable alteration was wrought, consisted partly in small presents, partly in constant attention. The liberality of the singular old gentleman gave him a perfect right to scold when he saw things wrong; the domestics, who had fallen into total sloth and indifference, began to exert themselves under Mr. Touchwood's new system of rewards and surveillance; and the minister, half unconscious of the cause, reaped the advantage of the exertions of his busy friend. Sometimes he lifted his head, when he heard workmen thumping and bouncing in the neighbourhood of his study, and demanded the meaning of the clatter which annoyed him; but on receiving for answer that it was by order of Mr. Touchwood, he resumed his labours, under the persuasion that all was well.
But even the Augean task of putting the Manse in order, did not satisfy the gigantic activity of Mr. Touchwood. He aspired to universal dominion in the Aultoun of St. Ronan's; and, like most men of an ardent temper, he contrived, in a great measure, to possess himself of the authority which he longed after. Then was there war waged by him with all the petty, but perpetual nuisances, which infest a Scottish town of the old stamp--then was the hereditary dunghill, which had reeked before the window of the cottage for fourscore years, transported behind the house--then was the broken wheelbarrow, or unserviceable cart, removed out of the footpath--the old hat, or blue petticoat, taken from the window into which it had been stuffed, to "expel the winter's flaw," was consigned to the gutter, and its place supplied by good perspicuous glass. The means by which such reformation was effected, were the same as resorted to in the Manse--money and admonition. The latter given alone would have met little attention--perhaps would have provoked opposition--but, softened and sweetened by a little present to assist the reform recommended, it sunk into the hearts of the hearers, and in general overcame their objections. Besides, an opinion of the Nabob's wealth was high among the villagers; and an idea prevailed amongst them, that, notwithstanding his keeping no servants or equipage, he was able to purchase, if he pleased, half the land in the country. It was not grand carriages and fine liveries that made heavy purses, they rather helped to lighten them; and they said, who pretended to know what they were talking about, that old Turnpenny, and Mr. Bindloose to boot, would tell down more money on Mr. Touchwood's mere word, than upon the joint bond of half the fine folk at the Well. Such an opinion smoothed every thing before the path of one, who showed himself neither averse to give nor to lend; and it by no means diminished the reputation of his wealth, that in transactions of business he was not carelessly negligent of his interest, but plainly showed he understood the value of what he was parting with. Few, therefore, cared to withstand the humours of a whimsical old gentleman, who had both the will and the means of obliging those disposed to comply with his fancies; and thus the singular stranger contrived, in the course of a brief space of days or weeks, to place the villagers more absolutely at his devotion, than they had been to the pleasure of any individual since their ancient lords had left the Aultoun. The power of the baron-bailie himself, though the office was vested in the person of old Meiklewham, was a subordinate jurisdiction, compared to the voluntary allegiance which the inhabitants paid to Mr. Touchwood.
There were, however, recusants, who declined the authority thus set up amongst them, and, with the characteristic obstinacy of their countrymen, refused to hearken to the words of the stranger, whether they were for good or for evil. These men's dunghills were not removed, nor the stumbling-blocks taken from the footpath, where it passed the front of their houses. And it befell, that while Mr. Touchwood was most eager in abating the nuisances of the village, he had very nearly experienced a frequent fate of great reformers--that of losing his life by means of one of those enormities which as yet had subsisted in spite of all his efforts.
The Nabob finding his time after dinner hang somewhat heavy on his hand, and the moon being tolerably bright, had, one harvest evening, sought his usual remedy for dispelling ennui by a walk to the Manse, where he was sure, that, if he could not succeed in engaging the minister himself in some disputation, he would at least find something in the establishment to animadvert upon and to restore to order.
Accordingly, he had taken the opportunity to lecture the younger of the minister's lasses upon the duty of wearing shoes and stockings; and, as his advice came fortified by a present of six pair of white cotton hose, and two pair of stout leathern shoes, it was received, not with respect only, but with gratitude, and the chuck under the chin that rounded up the oration, while she opened the outer door for his honour, was acknowledged with a blush and a giggle. Nay, so far did Grizzy carry her sense of Mr. Touchwood's kindness, that, observing the moon was behind a cloud, she very carefully offered to escort him to the Cleikum Inn with a lantern, in case he should come to some harm by the gate. This the traveller's independent spirit scorned to listen to; and, having briefly assured her that he had walked the streets of Paris and of Madrid whole nights without such an accommodation, he stoutly strode off on his return to his lodgings.
An accident, however, befell him, which, unless the police of Madrid and Paris be belied, might have happened in either of those two splendid capitals, as well as in the miserable Aultoun of St. Ronan's. Before the door of Saunders Jaup, a feuar of some importance, "who held his land free, and caredna a bodle for any one," yawned that odoriferous gulf, ycleped, in Scottish phrase, the jawhole; in other words, an uncovered common sewer. The local situation of this receptacle of filth was well known to Mr. Touchwood; for Saunders Jaup was at the very head of those who held out for the practices of their fathers, and still maintained those ancient and unsavoury customs which our traveller had in so many instances succeeded in abating. Guided, therefore, by his nose, the Nabob made a considerable circuit to avoid the displeasure and danger of passing this filthy puddle at the nearest, and by that means fell upon Scylla as he sought to avoid Charybdis. In plain language, he approached so near the bank of a little rivulet, which in that place passed betwixt the footpath and the horse-road, that he lost his footing, and fell into the channel of the streamlet from a height of three or four feet. It was thought that the noise of his fall, or at least his call for assistance, must have been heard in the house of Saunders Jaup; but that honest person was, according to his own account, at that time engaged in the exercise of the evening; an excuse which passed current, although Saunders was privately heard to allege, that the town would have been the quieter, "if the auld, meddling busybody had bidden still in the burn for gude and a'."
But Fortune had provided better for poor Touchwood, whose foibles, as they arose out of the most excellent motives, would have ill deserved so severe a fate. A passenger, who heard him shout for help, ventured cautiously to the side of the bank, down which he had fallen; and, after ascertaining the nature of the ground as carefully as the darkness permitted, was at length, and not without some effort, enabled to assist him out of the channel of the rivulet.
"Are you hurt materially?" said this good Samaritan to the object of his care.
"No--no--d--n it--no," said Touchwood, extremely angry at his disaster, and the cause of it. "Do you think I, who have been at the summit of Mount Athos, where the precipice sinks a thousand feet on the sea, care a farthing about such a fall as this is?"
But, as he spoke, he reeled, and his kind assistant caught him by the arm to prevent his falling.
"I fear you are more hurt than you suppose, sir," said the stranger: "permit me to go home along with you."
"With all my heart," said Touchwood; "for though it is impossible I can need help in such a foolish matter, yet I am equally obliged to you, friend; and if the Cleikum Inn be not out of your road, I will take your arm so far, and thank you to the boot."
"It is much at your service, sir," said the stranger; "indeed, I was thinking to lodge there for the night."
"I am glad to hear it," resumed Touchwood; "you shall be my guest, and I will make them look after you in proper fashion--You seem to be a very civil sort of fellow, and I do not find your arm inconvenient--it is the rheumatism makes me walk so ill--the pest of all that have been in hot climates when they settle among these d--d fogs."
"Lean as hard and walk as slow as you will, sir," said the benevolent assistant--"this is a rough street."
"Yes, sir--and why is it rough?" answered Touchwood. "Why, because the old pig-headed fool, Saunders Jaup, will not allow it to be made smooth. There he sits, sir, and obstructs all rational improvement; and, if a man would not fall into his infernal putrid gutter, and so become an abomination to himself and odious to others, for his whole life to come, he runs the risk of breaking his neck, as I have done to-night."
"I am afraid, sir," said his companion, "you have fallen on the most dangerous side.--You remember Swift's proverb, 'The more dirt, the less hurt.'"
"But why should there be either dirt or hurt in a well-regulated place?" answered Touchwood--"Why should not men be able to go about their affairs at night, in such a hamlet as this, without either endangering necks or noses?--Our Scottish magistrates are worth nothing, sir--nothing at all. Oh for a Turkish Cadi, now, to trounce the scoundrel--or the Mayor of Calcutta to bring him into his court--or were it but an English Justice of the Peace that is newly included in the commission, they would abate the villain's nuisance with a vengeance on him!--But here we are--this is the Cleikum Inn.--Hallo--hilloa--house!--Eppie Anderson!--Beenie Chambermaid!--boy Boots!--Mrs. Dods!--are you all of you asleep and dead?--Here have I been half murdered, and you let me stand bawling at the door!"
Eppie Anderson came with a light, and so did Beenie Chambermaid with another; but no sooner did they look upon the pair who stood in the porch under the huge sign that swung to and fro with heavy creaking, than Beenie screamed, flung away her candle, although a four in the pound, and in a newly japanned candlestick, and fled one way, while Eppie Anderson, echoing the yell, brandished her light round her head like a Bacchante flourishing her torch, and ran off in another direction.
"Ay--I must be a bloody spectacle," said Mr. Touchwood, letting himself fall heavily upon his assistant's shoulder, and wiping his face, which trickled with wet--"I did not think I had been so seriously hurt; but I find my weakness now--I must have lost much blood."
"I hope you are still mistaken," said the stranger; "but here lies the way to the kitchen--we shall find light there, since no one chooses to bring it to us."
He assisted the old gentleman into the kitchen, where a lamp, as well as a bright fire, was burning, by the light of which he could easily discern that the supposed blood was only water of the rivulet, and, indeed, none of the cleanest, although much more so than the sufferer would have found it a little lower, where the stream is joined by the superfluities of Saunders Jaup's palladium. Relieved by his new friend's repeated assurances that such was the case, the Senior began to bustle up a little, and his companion, desirous to render him every assistance, went to the door of the kitchen to call for a basin and water. Just as he was about to open the door, the voice of Mrs. Dods was heard as she descended the stairs, in a tone of indignation by no means unusual to her, yet mingled at the same time with a few notes that sounded like unto the quaverings of consternation.
"Idle limmers--silly sluts--I'll warrant nane o' ye will ever see ony thing waur than yoursell, ye silly tawpies--Ghaist, indeed!--I'll warrant it's some idle dub-skelper frae the Waal, coming after some o' yoursells on nae honest errand--Ghaist, indeed!--Haud up the candle, John Ostler--I'se warrant it a twa-handed ghaist, and the door left on the sneck. There's somebody in the kitchen--gang forward wi' the lantern, John Ostler."
At this critical moment the stranger opened the door of the kitchen, and beheld the Dame advancing at the head of her household troops. The ostler and humpbacked postilion, one bearing a stable-lantern and a hay-fork, the other a rushlight and a broom, constituted the advanced guard; Mrs. Dods herself formed the centre, talking loud and brandishing a pair of tongs; while the two maids, like troops not to be much trusted after their recent defeat, followed, cowering in the rear. But notwithstanding this admirable disposition, no sooner had the stranger shown his face, and pronounced the words "Mrs. Dods!" than a panic seized the whole array. The advanced guard recoiled in consternation, the ostler upsetting Mrs. Dods in the confusion of his retreat; while she, grappling with him in her terror, secured him by the ears and hair, and they joined their cries together in hideous chorus. The two maidens resumed their former flight, and took refuge in the darksome den, entitled their bedroom, while the humpbacked postilion fled like the wind into the stable, and, with professional instinct, began, in the extremity of his terror, to saddle a horse.
Meanwhile, the guest whose appearance had caused this combustion, plucked the roaring ostler from above Mrs. Dods, and pushing him away with a hearty slap on the shoulder, proceeded to raise and encourage the fallen landlady, enquiring, at the same time, "What, in the devil's name, was the cause of all this senseless confusion?"
"And what is the reason, in Heaven's name," answered the matron, keeping her eyes firmly shut, and still shrewish in her expostulation, though in the very extremity of terror, "what is the reason that you should come and frighten a decent house, where you met naething, when ye was in the body, but the height of civility?"
"And why should I frighten you, Mrs. Dods? or, in one word, what is the meaning of all this nonsensical terror?"
"Are not you," said Mrs. Dods, opening her eyes a little as she spoke, "the ghaist of Francis Tirl?"
"I am Francis Tyrrel, unquestionably, my old friend."
"I kend it! I kend it!" answered the honest woman, relapsing into her agony; "and I think ye might be ashamed of yourself, that are a ghaist, and have nae better to do than to frighten a puir auld alewife."
"On my word, I am no ghost, but a living man," answered Tyrrel.
"Were ye no murdered than?" demanded Mrs. Dods, still in an uncertain voice, and only partially opening her eyes--"Are ye very sure ye werena murdered?"
"Why, not that ever I heard of, certainly, dame," replied Tyrrel.
"But I shall be murdered presently," said old Touchwood from the kitchen, where he had hitherto remained a mute auditor of this extraordinary scene--"I shall be murdered, unless you fetch me some water without delay."
"Coming, sir, coming," answered Dame Dods, her professional reply being as familiar to her as that of poor Francis's "Anon, anon, sir." "As I live by honest reckonings," said she, fully collecting herself, and giving a glance of more composed temper at Tyrrel, "I believe it is yoursell, Maister Frank, in blood and body after a'--And see if I dinna gie a proper sorting to yon twa silly jauds that gard me mak a bogle of you, and a fule of mysell--Ghaists! my certie, I sall ghaist them--If they had their heads as muckle on their wark as on their daffing, they wad play nae sic pliskies--it's the wanton steed that scaurs at the windle-strae--Ghaists! wha e'er heard of ghaists in an honest house? Naebody need fear bogles that has a conscience void of offence.--But I am blithe that MacTurk hasna murdered ye when a' is done, Maister Francie."
"Come this way, Mother Dods, if you would not have me do a mischief!" exclaimed Touchwood, grasping a plate which stood on the dresser, as if he were about to heave it at the landlady, by way of recalling her attention.
"For the love of Heaven, dinna break it!" exclaimed the alarmed landlady, knowing that Touchwood's effervescence of impatience sometimes expended itself at the expense of her crockery, though it was afterwards liberally atoned for. "Lord, sir, are ye out of your wits!--it breaks a set, ye ken--Godsake, put doun the cheeny plate, and try your hand on the delf-ware!--it will just make as good a jingle--But, Lord haud a grip o' us! now I look at ye, what can hae come ower ye, and what sort of a plight are ye in!--Wait till I fetch water and a towel."
In fact, the miserable guise of her new lodger now overcame the dame's curiosity to enquire after the fate of her earlier acquaintance, and she gave her instant and exclusive attention to Mr. Touchwood, with many exclamations, while aiding him to perform the task of ablution and abstersion. Her two fugitive handmaidens had by this time returned to the kitchen, and endeavoured to suppress a smuggled laugh at the recollection of their mistress's panic, by acting very officiously in Mr. Touchwood's service. By dint of washing and drying, the token of the sable stains was at length removed, and the veteran became, with some difficulty, satisfied that he had been more dirtied and frightened than hurt.
Tyrrel, in the meantime, stood looking on with wonder, imagining that he beheld in the features which emerged from a mask of mud, the countenance of an old friend. After the operation was ended, he could not help addressing himself to Mr. Touchwood, to demand whether he had not the pleasure to see a friend, to whom he had been obliged when at Smyrna, for some kindness respecting his money matters?
"Not worth speaking of--not worth speaking of," said Touchwood, hastily. "Glad to see you, though--glad to see you.--Yes, here I am; you will find me the same good-natured old fool that I was at Smyrna--never look how I am to get in money again--always laying it out. Never mind--it was written in my forehead, as the Turk says.--I will go up now and change my dress--you will sup with me when I come back--Mrs. Dods will toss us up something--a brandered fowl will be best, Mrs. Dods, with some mushrooms, and get us a jug of mulled wine--plottie, as you call it--to put the recollection of the old Presbyterian's common sewer out of my head."
So saying, up stairs marched the traveller to his own apartment, while Tyrrel, seizing upon a candle, was about to do the same.
"Mr. Touchwood is in the blue room, Mrs. Dods; I suppose I may take possession of the yellow one?"
"Suppose naething about the matter, Maister Francis Tirl, till ye tell me downright where ye have been a' this time, and whether ye hae been murdered or no?"
"I think you may be pretty well satisfied of that, Mrs. Dods?"
"Trot! and so I am in a sense; and yet it gars me grue to look upon ye, sae mony days and weeks it has been since I thought ye were rotten in the moulds. And now to see ye standing before me hale and feir, and crying for a bedroom like ither folk!"
"One would almost suppose, my good friend," said Tyrrel, "that you were sorry at my having come alive again."
"It's no for that," replied Mrs. Dods, who was peculiarly ingenious in the mode of framing and stating what she conceived to be her grievances; "but is it no a queer thing for a decent man like yoursell, Maister Tirl, to be leaving your lodgings without a word spoken, and me put to a' these charges in seeking for your dead body, and very near taking my business out of honest Maister Bindloose's hands, because he kend the cantrips of the like of you better than I did?--And than they hae putten up an advertisement down at the Waal yonder, wi' a' their names at it, setting ye forth, Maister Francie, as are of the greatest blackguards unhanged; and wha, div ye think, is to keep ye in a creditable house, if that's the character ye get?"
"You may leave that to me, Mrs. Dods--I assure you that matter shall be put to rights to your satisfaction; and I think, so long as we have known each other, you may take my word that I am not undeserving the shelter of your roof for a single night, (I shall ask it no longer,) until my character is sufficiently cleared. It was for that purpose chiefly I came back again."
"Came back again!" said Mrs. Dods.--"I profess ye made me start, Maister Tirl, and you looking sae pale, too.--But I think," she added, straining after a joke, "if ye were a ghaist, seeing we are such auld acquaintance, ye wadna wish to spoil my custom, but would just walk decently up and down the auld castle wa's, or maybe down at the kirk yonder--there have been awfu' things done in that kirk and kirkyard--I whiles dinna like to look that way, Maister Francie."
"I am much of your mind, mistress," said Tyrrel, with a sigh; "and, indeed, I do in one resemble the apparitions you talk of; for, like them, and to as little purpose, I stalk about scenes where my happiness departed.--But I speak riddles to you, Mrs. Dods--the plain truth is, that I met with an accident on the day I last left your house, the effects of which detained me at some distance from St. Ronan's till this very day."
"Hegh, sirs, and ye were sparing of your trouble, that wadna write a bit line, or send a bit message!--Ye might hae thought folk wad hae been vexed eneugh about ye, forby undertaking journeys, and hiring folk to seek for your dead body."
"I shall willingly pay all reasonable charges which my disappearance may have occasioned," answered her guest; "and I assure you, once for all, that my remaining for some time quiet at Marchthorn, arose partly from illness, and partly from business of a very pressing and particular nature."
"At Marchthorn!" exclaimed Dame Dods, "heard ever man the like o' that!--And where did ye put up in Marchthorn, an ane may mak' bauld to speer?"
"At the Black Bull," replied Tyrrel.
"Ay, that's auld Tam Lowrie's--a very decent man, Thamas--and a douce creditable house--nane of your flisk-ma-hoys--I am glad ye made choice of sic gude quarters, neighbour; for I am beginning to think ye are but a queer ane--ye look as if butter wadna melt in your mouth, but I sall warrant cheese no choke ye.--But I'll thank ye to gang your ways into the parlour, for I am no like to get muckle mair out o' ye, it's like; and ye are standing here just in the gate, when we hae the supper to dish."
Tyrrel, glad to be released from the examination to which his landlady's curiosity had without ceremony subjected him, walked into the parlour, where he was presently joined by Mr. Touchwood, newly attired, and in high spirits.
"Here comes our supper!" he exclaimed.--"Sit ye down, and let us see what Mrs. Dods has done for us.--I profess, mistress, your plottie is excellent, ever since I taught you to mix the spices in the right proportion."
"I am glad the plottie pleases ye, sir--but I think I kend gay weel how to make it before I saw your honour--Maister Tirl can tell that, for mony a browst of it I hae brewed lang syne for him and the callant Valentine Bulmer."
This ill-timed observation extorted a groan from Tyrrel; but the traveller, running on with his own recollections, did not appear to notice his emotion.
"You are a conceited old woman," said Mr. Touchwood; "how the devil should any one know how to mix spices so well as he who has been where they grow?--I have seen the sun ripening nutmegs and cloves, and here, it can hardly fill a peasecod, by Jupiter. Ah, Tyrrel, the merry nights we have had at Smyrna!--Gad, I think the gammon and the good wine taste all the better in a land where folks hold them to be sinful indulgences--Gad, I believe many a good Moslem is of the same opinion--that same prohibition of their prophet's gives a flavour to the ham, and a relish to the Cyprus.--Do you remember old Cogia Hassein, with his green turban?--I once played him a trick, and put a pint of brandy into his sherbet. Egad, the old fellow took care never to discover the cheat until he had got to the bottom of the flagon, and then he strokes his long white beard, and says, 'Ullah Kerim,'--that is, 'Heaven is merciful,' Mrs. Dods, Mr. Tyrrel knows the meaning of it.--Ullah Kerim, says he, after he had drunk about a gallon of brandy-punch!--Ullah Kerim, says the hypocritical old rogue, as if he had done the finest thing in the world!"
"And what for no? What for shouldna the honest man say a blessing after his drap punch?" demanded Mrs. Dods; "it was better, I ween, than blasting, and blawing, and swearing, as if folks shouldna be thankful for the creature comforts."
"Well said, old Dame Dods," replied the traveller; "that is a right hostess's maxim, and worthy of Mrs. Quickly herself. Here is to thee, and I pray ye to pledge me before ye leave the room."
"Troth, I'll pledge naebody the night, Maister Touchwood; for, what wi' the upcast and terror that I got a wee while syne, and what wi' the bit taste that I behoved to take of the plottie while I was making it, my head is sair eneugh distressed the night already.--Maister Tirl, the yellow room is ready for ye when ye like; and, gentlemen, as the morn is the Sabbath, I canna be keeping the servant queans out of their beds to wait on ye ony langer, for they will mak it an excuse for lying till aught o'clock on the Lord's day. So, when your plottie is done, I'll be muckle obliged to ye to light the bedroom candles, and put out the double moulds, and e'en show yoursells to your beds; for douce folks, sic as the like of you, should set an example by ordinary.--And so, gude-night to ye baith."
"By my faith," said Touchwood, as she withdrew, "our dame turns as obstinate as a Pacha with three tails!--We have her gracious permission to finish our mug, however; so here is to your health once more, Mr. Tyrrel, wishing you a hearty welcome to your own country."
"I thank you, Mr. Touchwood," answered Tyrrel; "and I return you the same good wishes, with, as I sincerely hope, a much greater chance of their being realized.--You relieved me, sir, at a time when the villainy of an agent, prompted, as I have reason to think, by an active and powerful enemy, occasioned my being, for a time, pressed for funds.--I made remittances to the Ragion you dealt with, to acquit myself at least of the pecuniary part of my obligation; but the bills were returned, because, it was stated, you had left Smyrna."
"Very true--very true--left Smyrna, and here I am in Scotland--as for the bills, we will speak of them another time--something due for picking me out of the gutter."
"I shall make no deduction on that account," said Tyrrel, smiling, though in no jocose mood; "and I beg you not to mistake me. The circumstances of embarrassment, under which you found me at Smyrna, were merely temporary--I am most able and willing to pay my debt; and, let me add, I am most desirous to do so."
"Another time--another time," said Mr. Touchwood--"time enough before us, Mr. Tyrrel--besides, at Smyrna, you talked of a lawsuit--law is a lick-penny, Mr. Tyrrel--no counsellor like the pound in purse."
"For my lawsuit," said Tyrrel, "I am fully provided."
"But have you good advice?--Have you good advice?" said Touchwood; "answer me that."
"I have advised with my lawyers," answered Tyrrel, internally vexed to find that his friend was much disposed to make his generosity upon the former occasion a pretext for prying farther into his affairs now than he thought polite or convenient.
"With your counsel learned in the law--eh, my dear boy? But the advice you should take is of some travelled friend, well acquainted with mankind and the world--some one that has lived double your years, and is maybe looking out for some bare young fellow that he may do a little good to--one that might be willing to help you farther than I can pretend to guess--for, as to your lawyer, you get just your guinea's worth from him--not even so much as the baker's bargain, thirteen to the dozen."
"I think I should not trouble myself to go far in search of a friend such as you describe," said Tyrrel, who could not affect to misunderstand the senior's drift, "when I was near Mr. Peregrine Touchwood; but the truth is, my affairs are at present so much complicated with those of others, whose secrets I have no right to communicate, that I cannot have the advantage of consulting you, or any other friend. It is possible I may be soon obliged to lay aside this reserve, and vindicate myself before the whole public. I will not fail, when that time shall arrive, to take an early opportunity of confidential communication with you."
"That is right--confidential is the word--No person ever made a confidant of me who repented it--Think what the Pacha might have made of it, had he taken my advice, and cut through the Isthmus of Suez.--Turk and Christian, men of all tongues and countries, used to consult old Touchwood, from the building of a mosque down to the settling of an agio.--But come--Good-night--good-night."
So saying, he took up his bedroom light, and extinguished one of those which stood on the table, nodded to Tyrrel to discharge his share of the duty imposed by Mrs. Dods with the same punctuality, and they withdrew to their several apartments, entertaining very different sentiments of each other.
"A troublesome, inquisitive old gentleman," said Tyrrel to himself; "I remember him narrowly escaping the bastinado at Smyrna, for thrusting his advice on the Turkish cadi--and then I lie under a considerable obligation to him, giving him a sort of right to annoy me--Well, I must parry his impertinence as I can."
"A shy cock this Frank Tyrrel," thought the traveller; "a very complete dodger!--But no matter--I shall wind him, were he to double like a fox--I am resolved to make his matters my own, and if I cannot carry him through, I know not who can."
Having formed this philanthropic resolution, Mr. Touchwood threw himself into bed, which luckily declined exactly at the right angle, and, full of self-complacency, consigned himself to slumber.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.