THE HOSTELRY. LIFE UNCERTAIN. — OPEN COUNTENANCE. — THE
GRAND POINT. — THANK TOU, MASTER. A HARD MOTHER. — POOR
dear! CONSIDERABLE ODDS. THE BETTER COUNTRY. — ENGLISH
FASHION. — LANDLORD-LOOKING PERSON.
And in the old city I remained two days, passing
my time as I best could — inspecting the curiosities
of the place, eating and drinking when I felt so
disposed, which I fi:equently did, the digestive
organs having assumed a tone to which for many
months they had been strangers — enjoying at night
balmy sleep in a large bed in a dusky room, at the
end of a conidor, in a certain hostelry in which I
had taken up my quarters — receiving from the
people of the hostelry such civility and con-
descension as peoj)le who travel on foot with bundle
and stick, but who nevertheless are perceived to be
not altogether destitute of coin, are in the habit of
receiving. On the third day, on a fine sunny after-
noon, I departed from the city of the spire.
Ch. XXXIV.] LIFE UNCERTAIN. 291
As I was passing through one of the suburbs, I
saw, all on a sudden, a respectable-looking female
fall down in a fit ; several persons hastened to her
assistance. " She is dead," said one. '' No, she is
not," said another. '' I am afraid she is," said a
third. " Life is very uncertain," said a fourth. " It
is Mrs " said a fifth ; " let us carry her to
her own house." Not being able to render any
assistance, I left the poor female in the hands of
her townsfolk, and proceeded on my way. I had
chosen a road in the direction of the north-west, it
led over downs where corn was growing, but where
neither tree nor hedge were to be seen; two or
tlu'ee hours' walking brought me to a beautiful
valley, abounding with trees of various kinds, with
a delightful village at its farthest extremity ; passing
tlirough it I ascended a lofty acclivity, on the top
of which I sat down on a bank, and, taking off my
hat, permitted a breeze, wliich swept coolly and
refreshingly over the downs, to dry my hair, drip-
ping from the effects of exercise and the heat of the
And as I sat there, gazing now at the blue
heavens, now at the downs before me, a man came
292 OPEN COUNTENANCE. [Ch. XXXIV.
along the road in the direction in which I had
hitherto heen proceeding: just opposite to me he
stopped, and, looking at me, cried — " Am I right
for London, master ?"
He was dressed Hke a sailor, and appeared to be
between twenty-five and thii'ty years of age — he
had an open manly countenance, and there was a
bold and fearless expression in his eye.
" Yes," said I, " in reply to his question ; " this
is one of tlie ways to London. Do you come from
" From " said the man, naming a well-
" Is this the direct road to London from that
place?" I demanded.
" No," said the man ; '' but I had to visit two or
three other places on certain commissions I was
entrusted with ; amongst others to , where
I had to take a small sum of money. I am rather
tu'ed, master; and, if you please, I will sit down
" You have as much right to sit down here as I
have," said I, " the road is free for eveiy one ; as
for sitting down beside me, you have the look of an
Ch. XXXIV.] THE GRAND POINT. 293
honest man, and I have no objection to your
" Why, as for being honest, master," said the
man, laughing and sitting down by me, " I hav'n't
much to say — many is the wild thing I have done
when I was younger; however, what is done, is
done. To learn, one must hve, master; and I
have lived long enough to learn the grand point of
"What is that?" said I.
" That honesty is the best policy, master."
" You appear to be a sailor," said I, looking at
" I was not bred a sailor," said the man,
" though, when my foot is on the salt water, I can
play the part — and play it well too. I am now
from a long voyage."
" From America?" said I.
" Farther than that," said the man.
" Have you any objection to tell me?" said I.
" From New South Wales," said the man, looking
me full in the face.
" Dear me," said I.
" Why do you say ' Dear me?' " said the man.
294 THANK YOU, MASTER. [Ch. XXXIV.
" It is a very long way off," said I.
" Was that your reason for saying so?" said the
'' Not exactly," said I.
" No," said the man, with sometliing of a bitter
smile; "it was something else that made you say
so ; you were thinking of the convicts."
"Well," said I, "what then — you are no con-
" How do you know?"
" You do not look like one."
" Thank you, master," said the man cheerfully ;
" and, to a certain extent, you are right — bygones
are bygones — I am no longer what I was, nor ever
will be again; the truth, however, is the truth — a
convict I have been — a convict at Sydney Cove."
" And you have served out the period for which
you were sentenced, and are now returned?"
" As to serving out my sentence," rephed the
man, " I can't say that I did ; I was sentenced for
fourteen years, and I was in Sydney Cove little
more than half that time. The truth is that I did
the Government a service. There was a conspiracy
amongst some of the convicts to miu'der and de-
Ch. XXXIV.] A HARD MOTHER. 295
stroy — I overheard and informed the Government ;
mind one thing, however, I was not concerned in
it ; those who got it up were no comrades of mine,
but a bloody gang of villains. Well, the Govern-
ment, in consideration of the service I had done
them, remitted the remainder of my sentence ; and
some kind gentlemen interested themselves about
me, gave me good books and good advice, and,
being satisfied with my conduct, procured me
employ in an exploring expedition, by which I
earned money. In fact, the being sent to Sydney
was the best thing that ever happened to me in all
*'And you have now returned to your native
country. Longing to see home brought you from
New South Wales."
" There you are mistaken," said the man.
" Wish to see England again would never have
brought me so far; for, to tell you the truth,
master, England was a hard mother to me, as she
has proved to many. No, a wish to see another
kind of mother — a poor old woman whose son I
am — has brought me back/'
296 POOR dear! [Ch. XXXIV.
" You have a mother, then?" said I. " Does she
reside in London?"
^' She used to hve in London/' said the man ;
" but I am afraid she is long since dead."
" How did she support herself?" said I.
"Support herself! with difficulty enough; she
used to keep a small stall on London Bridge,
where she sold fruit ; I am afraid she is dead, and
that she died perhaps in misery. She was a poor
sinful creature ; but I loved her, and she loved me.
I came all the way back merely for the chance of
" Did you ever write to her," said I, " or cause
others to write to her?"
" I wi'ote to her myself," said the man, " about
two years ago ; but I never received an answer. I
learned to write very tolerably over there, by the
assistance of the good people I spoke of. As for
reading, I could do that very well before I went —
my poor mother taught me to read, out of a book
that she was very fond of; a strange book it was, I
remember. Poor dear! — what I would give only to
know that she is alive."
Ch. XXXIV.] CONSIDERABLE ODDS. 297
" Life is very uncertain," said I.
'' That is true/' said the man, with a sigh.
" We are here one moment, and gone the next,"
I continued. " As I passed through the streets of
a neighbouring town, I saw a respectable woman
drop down, and people said she was dead. Who
knows but that she too had a son coming to see her
from a distance, at that very time."
" Who knows, indeed," said the man. " Ah, I
am afraid my mother is dead. Well, God's will be
*^ However," said I, '' I should not wonder at
your finding your mother ahve."
"You wouldn't?" said the man, looking at me
" I should not wonder at all," said I ; " indeed
sometliing within me seems to tell me you will ; I
should not much mind betting five shillings to five
pence that you will see your mother within a week.
Now, friend, five shilhngs to five pence "
" Is very considerable odds," said the man, rub-
bing liis hands ; , " sure you must have good reason
to hope, when you are wilHng to give such odds."
298 THE BETTER COUNTRY. [Ch. XXXIV.
" After all," said I, " it not unjB:equently happens
that those who lay the long odds lose. Let us
hope, however. What do you mean to do in the
event of finding your mother ahve?"
" I scarcely know," said the man ; '^ I have fre-
quently thought that if I found my mother ahve I
would attempt to persuade her to accompany me to
the country wliich I have left — it is a better country
for a man — that is a free man — to hve in than this;
however, let me first find my mother — if I could
only find my mother "
" Farewell," said I, rising. '" Go your way, and
God go with you — I will go mine." "' I have hut
one thing to ask you," said the man. /' What is
that?" I inquired. ** That you would drink with
me before we part — you have done me so much
good." "How should we drink?" said I; '*we
are on the top of a hill where there is nothing to
drink." *' But there is a village below," said the
man ; " do let us drink before we part." " I have
been tlu'ough that village already," said I, '' and I
do not hke turning back." "Ah,", said the man,
sorrowfully, " you will not drink with me because I
Ch. XXXIV.] ENGLISH FASHION. 299
told you I was " " You are quite mis-
taken," said I, " I would as soon drink with a con-
vict as with a judge. I am hy no means certain
that, under the same circumstances, the judge would
be one whit better than the convict. Come along!
I will go back to obKge you. I have an odd six-
pence in my pocket, which I will change, that I
may drink with you." So we went down the hill
together to the village through which I had already
passed, where, finding a public-house, we drank
together in true English fashion, after which we
parted, the sailor- looking man going his way and I
After walking about a dozen miles, I came to
a town, where I rested for the night. The next
morning I set out again in the direction of the
north-west. I continued journeying for four days,
my daily journeys varying from twenty to twenty-
five miles. During this time nothing occurred to
me worthy of any especial notice. The weather
was brilhant, and I rapidly improved both in
strength and spirits. On the fifth day, about two
o'clock, I arrived at a small town. Feeling hungry.
300 LANDLORD-LOOKING PERSON. [Ch. XXXIV.
I entered a decent-looking inn — witMn a kind of
bar I saw a huge, fat, landlord-looking person, with
a very pretty, smartly- dressed maiden. Addressing
myself to the fat man, " House ! " said I, " house !
Can I have dinner, house?"
PRlMITn''E HABITS. ROSY-FACED DAMSEL. A PLEASANT MOMENT.
— SUIT OF BLACK. THE FURTIVE GLANCE. THE MIGHTY ROUND.
DEGENERATE TIMES. THE NEWSPAPER. — THE EVIL CHANCE. — I
'^ Young gentleman/' said the huge fat landlord,
" you are come at the right time ; dinner will be
taken up in a few minutes, and such a dinner," he
continued, rubbing his hands, '" as you will not see
every day in these times."
" I am hot and dusty," said I, " and should wish
to cool my hands and face."
"Jenny!" said the huge landlord, with the ut-
most gravity, " show the gentleman into number
seven, that he may wash liis hands and face."
" By no means," said I, "I am a person of pri-
mitive habits, and there is nothing like the pump
in weather hke this."
'' Jenny," said the landlord, with the same gravity
as before, " go with the young gentleman to the
302 ROSY-FACED DAMSEL. [Ch. XXXV.
pump in the back kitchen, and take a clean towel
along with you."
Thereupon the rosy-faced clean-looking damsel
went to a drawer, and producing a large, thick, but
snowy white towel, she nodded to me to follow her;
whereupon I followed Jenny through a long pas-
sage into the back kitchen.
And at the end of the back kitchen there stood
a pump ; and going to it I placed my hands be-
neath the spout, and said, "'Pump, Jenny;" and
Jenny incontinently, without laying down the towel,
pumped with one hand, and I washed and cooled
my heated hands.
And, when my hands were washed and cooled, I
took off my neckcloth, and, unbuttoning my shirt
collar, I placed my head beneath the spout of the
pump, and I said unto Jenny, " Now, Jenny, lay
down the towel, and pump for your Ufe."
Thereupon Jenny, placing the towel on a linen-
horse, took the handle of the pump with both hands
and pumped over my head as handmaid had never
pumped before; so that the water poured in tor-
rents from my head, my face, and my hair down
upon the brick floor.
Ch. XXXV.] A PLEASANT MOMENT. 303
And, after the lapse of somewhat more than a
minute, I called out mth a half- strangled voice,
" Hold, Jenny ! " and Jenny desisted. I stood for
a few moments to recover my breath, then taking
the towel which Jenny proffered, I dried composedly
my hands and head, my face and hair; then, return-
ing the towel to Jenny, I gave a deep sigh and
said, " Surely this is one of the pleasant moments
Then, having set my dress to rights, and combed
my hair with a pocket comb, I followed Jenny,
who conducted me back tln'ough the long passage,
and showed me into a neat sanded parlour on the
I sat down by a window which looked out upon
the dusty street ; presently in came the handmaid,
and commenced lapng the table-cloth. "' Shall I
spread the table for one, sir," said she, " or do you
expect anybody to dine with you?"
*' I can't say that I expect anybody," said I,
laughing inwardly to myself; '' however, if you
please you can lay for two, so that if any acquaint-
ance of mine should chance to step in, he may find
a knife and fork ready for him."
304 SUIT OF BLACK. [Ch. XXXV.
So I sat by the window, sometimes looking out
upon the dusty street, and now glancing at certain
old-fashioned prints which adorned the wall over
against me. I fell into a kind of doze, from which
I was almost instantly awakened by the opening of
the door. Dinner, thought I ; and I sat upright in
my chair. No, a man of the middle age, and rather
above the middle height, dressed in a plain suit of
black, made his appearance, and sat down in a chair
at some distance from me, but near to the table, and
appeared to be lost in thought.
'' The weather is very warm, sir," said I.
" Very," said the stranger laconically, looking at
me for the first time.
'' Would you like to see the newspaper?" said I,
taking up one which lay upon the window seat.
" I never read newspapers," said the stranger,
** nor, indeed, " ^Vliatever it might be that
he had intended to say he left unfinished. Sud-
denly he walked to the mantel-piece at the farther
end of the room, before which he placed himself
with his back towards me. There he remained
motionless for some time; at length, raising his
hand, he touched the comer of the mantel-piece
Ch. XXXV.] THE FURTIVE GLANCE. 305
with liis finger, advanced towards the chair which
he had left, and again seated himself.
" Have you come far?" said he, suddenly looking
towards me, and speaking in a frank and open
manner, wliich denoted a wish to enter into con-
versation. " You do not seem to he of this place."
" I come from some distance," said I ; " indeed,
I am walking for exercise, which I find as necessary
to the mind as the body. I heheve that hy exer-
cise people would escape much mental misery."
Scarcely had I uttered these words when the
stranger laid his hand, with seeming carelessness,
upon the table, near one of the glasses; after a
moment or two he touched the glass with liis finger
as if inadvertently, then, glancing furtively at me,
he withdrew his hand and looked towards the
"Are you from these parts?" said I at last, with
" From this vicinity," repHed the stranger.
" You think, then, that it is as easy to walk off the
bad humours of the mind as of the body?"
" I, at least, am walking in that hope," said I.
" I wish you may be successful," said the
306 THE MIGHTY ROUND. [Ch. XXXV.
stranger; and here he touched one of the forks
which lay on the tahle near him.
Here the door, which was shghtly ajar, was sud-
denly pushed open with some fracas, and in came
the stout landlord, supporting with some difficulty
an immense dish, in wliich was a mighty round
mass of smoking meat garnished all round with
vegetables ; so high was the mass that it probably
obstructed his view, for it was not until he had
placed it upon the table that he appeared to ob-
serve the stranger; he almost started, and quite out
of breath exclaimed, " God bless me, your honour ;
is your honour the acquaintance that the young-
gentleman w^as expecting ?"
" Is the young gentleman expecting an acquaint-
ance?" said the stranger.
There is nothing Hke putting a good face upon
these matters, thought I to myself; and, getting up,
I bowed to the unknown. "' Sir," said I, " when I
told Jenny that she might lay the table-cloth for
two, so that in the event of any acquaintance drop-
ping in he might find a knife and fork ready for him,
I was merely jocular, being an entire stranger in
these parts, and expecting no one. Fortune, how-
Ch. XXXV.] DEGENERATE TIMES. 307
ever, it would seem has been unexpectedly kind to
me ; I flatter myself, sir, that since you have been in
this room I have had the honour of making your
acquaintance ; and in the *strength of that hope I
humbly entreat you to honour me with your com-
pany to dinner, provided you have not already
The stranger laughed outright.
" Sir," I continued, " the round of beef is a noble
one, and seems exceedingly well boiled, and the
landlord was just right when he said I should
have such a dinner as is not seen eveiy day. A
round of beef, at any rate such a round of beef as
this, is seldom seen smoking upon the table in
these degenerate times. Allow me, sir," said I,
observing that the stranger was about to speak,
" allow me another remark. I tliink I saw you
just now touch the fork, I venture to hail it as an
omen that you will presently seize it, and apply it
to its proper purpose, and its companion the knife
The stranger changed colour, and gazed upon me
" Do, sir," here put in the landlord ; " do, sir.
308 THE NEWSPAPER. [Ch. XXXV.
accept the young gentleman's inYJtation. Your
honour has of late been looking poorly, and the
young gentleman is a funny young gentleman, and
a clever young gentleman ; and I think it will do
your honour good to have a dinner's chat with the
" It is not my dinner hour," said the stranger ;
"J dine considerably later; taking anything now
would only discompose me; I shall, however, be
most happy to sit down with the young gentleman ;
reach me that paper, and, when the young gentle-
man has satisfied his appetite, we may perhaps
have a little chat together."
The landlord handed the stranger the newspaper,
and, bowing, retired with his maid Jenny. I helped
myself to a portion of the smoking round, and
commenced eating with no Httle appetite. The
stranger appeared to be soon engrossed with the
newspaper. We continued thus a considerable
time — the one reading and the other dining.
Chancing suddenly to cast my eyes upon the
stranger, I saw his brow contract ; he gave a slight
stamp with his foot, and flung the newspaper to
the ground, then stooping down he picked it up.
Ch. XXXV.] THE EVIL CHANCE. 309
first moving his fore finger along the floor, seem-
ingly slightly scratching it with his nail.
" Do you hope, sir," said I, " by that ceremony
with the finger to preserve yourself from the evil
The stranger started ; then, after looking at me
for some time in silence, he said, ''Is it possible
that you ?"
*' Ay, ay," said I, helping myself to some more
of the round, " I have touched myself in my
younger days, both for the evil chance and the
good. Can't say, though, that I ever trusted much
in the ceremony."
The stranger made no reply, but appeared to be
in deep thought ; nothing farther passed between us
until I had concluded the dinner, when I said to
him, " I shall now be most happy, sir, to have the
pleasure of your conversation over a pint of wine."
The stranger rose ; '' No, my young fiiend," said
he, smihng, " that would scarce be fair. It is my
turn now — pray do me the favour to go home with
me, and accept what hospitality my poor roof can
ofier; to tell you the truth, I wish to have some
particular discourse with you which would hardly
310 I CONGRATULATE YOU. [Ch. XXXV.
be possible in tbis place. As for wine, I can give
you some mucb better tban you can get bere : tbe
landlord is an excellent fellow, but be is an inn-
keeper after all. I am going out for a moment,
and will send bim in, so tbat you may settle your
account ; I trust you will not refuse me, I only live
about two miles from bere.
I looked in tbe face of tbe stranger — it was a
fine intelbgent face, witb a cast of melancboly in it.
" Sir," said I, '' I would go witb you tbougb you
lived four miles instead of two."
" Wbo is tbat gentleman ?" said I to tbe landlord,
after I bad settled bis bill ; " I am going borne with
" I wisb I were going too," said tbe fat landlord,
laying bis band upon liis stomacb. '" Young gen-
tleman, I sball be a loser by bis honour's taking
you away; but, after all, tbe truth is tbe truth —
there are few gentlemen in these parts hke his
honour, either for learning or welcoming bis friends.
Young gentleman, I congratulate you." ^
KEW ACQUAINTAKCK. — OLD FRENCH STYLE. — THE PORTRAIT. TACI-
TURNITY. THE EVERGREEN TREE. — THE DARK HOUR. THE FLASH.
— ANCESTORS. A FORTUNATE MAN. — A POSTHUMOUS CHILD. AN-
TAGONIST IDEAS. — THE HAWKS. FLAWS. — THE PONY. — IRRESISTIBLE
IMPULSE. FAVOURABLE CRISIS. THE TOPMOST BRANCH. TWENTY
FEET. — HEARTILY ASHAMED.
I FOUND the Stranger awaiting me at the door of
the inn. '' Like yourself, I am fond of walking,"
said he, " and when any little business calls me to
this place I generally come on foot."
We were soon out of the town, and in a very
beautiful country. After proceeding some distance
on the high road, we turned off, and were presently
in one of those mazes of lanes for which England
is famous ; the stranger at first seemed inchned to
be taciturn; a few obseiTations, however, which I
made appeared to rouse Mm, and he soon exhibited
not only considerable powers of conversation, but
stores of information which surprised me. So
pleased did I become with my new acquaintance,
that I soon ceased to pay the slightest attention
312 OLD FRENCH STYLE. [Ch. XXXVI.
either to place or distance. At length the stranger
was silent, and I perceived that we had arrived at a
handsome iron gate and a lodge; the stranger
having rung a bell, the gate was opened by an old
man, and we proceeded along a gravel path, which
in about five minutes brought us to a large brick
house, built something in the old French style,
having a spacious lawn before it, and immediately
in front a pond in which were golden fish, and in
the middle a stone swan discharging quantities of
water from its bill. We ascended a spacious flight
of steps to the door, which was at once flung open,
and two ser^^ants with powdered haii', and in hvery
of blue plush, came out and stood one on either
side as we passed the threshold. We entered a
large hall, and the stranger, taking me by the hand,
welcomed me to his poor home, as he called it, and
then gave orders to another servant, but out of
Hvery, to show me to an apartment, and give me
whatever assistance I might require in my toilet.
Notwithstanding the plea as to primitive habits
which I had lately made to my other host in the
town, I offered no objection to this aiTangement,
but followed the bowing domestic to a spacious and
Ch. XXXVL] THE PORTRAIT. 313
airy chamber, where he rendered me all those little
nameless offices which the somewhat neglected state
of my dress required. When everything had been
completed to my perfect satisfaction, he told me
that if I pleased he would conduct me to the hbrary,
where dinner would be speedily served.
In the hbrary I found a table laid for two ; my
host was not there, having as I supposed not been