J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

The Wayfarers online

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Produced by Al Haines

[Frontispiece: "'It is most strange, madam ... that you should not be
certain of the name of your husband.'" (Chapter XIII.)]




Author of "Mistress Dorothy Marvin," "Fierceheart, the Soldier," "Lady
Barbarity," etc










When I opened my eyes it was one o'clock in the day. The cards lay on
the table in a heap, and on the carpet in a greater one, the dead
bottles in their midst. The candles were burnt out; their holders were
foul with smoke and grease. As I sat up on the couch on which I had
thrown myself at nine o clock in the morning in the desperation of
fatigue, and stretched the sleep out of my limbs and rubbed it out of
my brain the afternoon strove through the drawn blinds palely. The
half-light gave such a sombre and appropriate touch to the profligate
scene that it would have moved a moralist to a disquisition of five
pages. But whatever my errors, that accusation was never urged against
me, even by my friends. You may continue in your reading, therefore,
in no immediate peril. The ashes were long since grey in the grate;
there was an intolerable reek of wine-dregs and stale tobacco in the
air; and the condition of the furniture, stained and broken and tumbled
in all directions contributed the final disorder to the room. Indeed
the only article in it, allowing no exception to myself, that had
emerged from the orgy of the night without an impediment to its dignity
was the picture of my grandfather, that pious, learned nobleman,
hanging above the mantelpiece. A chip off a corner of his frame might
be urged even against him; but what was that in comparison with the
philosophical severity with which he gazed upon the scene? In the
grave eyes, the grim mouth, the great nose of his family, he retained
the contemplative grandeur which had enabled him to give to the world
in ten ponderous tomes a Commentary on the _Analects of Confucius_.
The space they had occupied on my book-shelf, between the _Newgate
Calendar_ and the _History of Jonathan Wild the Great_, was now
unfilled, since these memorials of the great mind of my ancestor had
lain three weeks with the Jews.

By the time my wits had returned I was able to recall the fact that the
previous night, whose evidences I now regarded, was the last I should
enjoy. It was the extravagant ending to a raffish comedy. Finis was
already written in my history. As I sat yawning on my couch I was a
thing of the past; I had ceased to be; to-morrow at this hour I should
be forgotten by the world. I had had my chin off the bridle for ten
years, and had used that period to whirl my heels without regard to the
consequences. I had played high, drunk deep, paid my court to Venus,
gained the notoriety of the intrigue and the duel - in fact, I had taken
every degree in rakishness with the highest honours. I had spent or
lost every penny of my patrimony, and fourteen thousand pounds besides;
I could no longer hold my creditors at bay; various processes were out
against me; the Jews had my body, as surely as the devil had my soul.
But it was more particularly a stroke of ill-fortune that had hastened
on the evil day. The single hair whereon the sword over my head had
been suspended must have been severed sooner or later, even had it not
suddenly snapped at four of the clock of the previous afternoon. At
that hour I had killed a cornet of the Blues within a hundred yards of
the Cocoa Tree, in the presence of my greatest enemy. Lord knows it
was in fair fight, marred it is true by a little heat on the side of
both; but the only witness of the deed, and he an accidental one, was
Humphrey Waring, my rival and my enemy. He of all men was best able to
turn such a misadventure on my part to account. The moment poor
Burdock sank sobbing to death in Waring's arms, and he cried with his
grim laugh, "You will need to run pretty swift, my lord, to prove your
_alibi_," I knew that fate had reserved for the last the cruellest
trick of all she had it in her power to play.

Possessed by the knowledge that I must inevitably perish in a rope, or
less fortunately in a debtor's jail, for the instant the hand of the
law was laid on my coat, the state of my affairs would never permit it
to be removed. I went home and hastily summoned a few choice spirits
to my lodgings in Jermyn Street that evening; and I spent the last
night of my freedom in that society, expecting at every cast of the
cards and every clink of the bottle to hear the boots of the "traps"
from Bow Street upon the stairs. Yet all night long they never came,
and here it was one o'clock in the afternoon, and I still in the
enjoyment of my liberty. And now, as I sat in the sanity of daylight,
refreshed by an excellent sleep, I felt myself still to be my own man.
Therefore I called to François my valet to draw up the window-blinds,
and to have the goodness to bring me a bottle of wine.

This blackguard of an Irishman bore in baptism the name of Terence, but
I called him François, because one holds that to be as indubitably the
name of a valet as Dick of an ostler, and Thomas of a clergyman.
Besides, I have such an hereditary instinct for polite letters, that I
would as lief have called him after his own honoured patronymic as by
that of our excellent Flaccus himself. François waded through the
kings and queens and aces on the carpet, let the daylight in, and then
withdrew to fetch a clean glass and a bottle of Tokay.

"The last bottle, me lord," says he.

"We drain the last bottle on the last day," says I. "Can aught be more
fitting? _Finis coronal opus_!"

As this was the last time I should take the cup of pleasure to my lips,
I made the utmost of it; sipped it carefully, turned it over on my
tongue, held the glass up to the light, meditated on my past a little,
on my present case, and what lay before me. I suppose it was a
particular generous quality of the wine that kindled a new warmth in my
spirit. Why, I asked myself, should I sit here, tamely waiting on my
fate? Why should I be content to have my person contaminated with the
dirty hands that would hale it to an ignominious death, or a thing less
bearable? Why should I not cheat the Jews and my evil fortune in this
last hour? Nothing could be easier than to leave the law in the lurch.

This course was so consonant to the desperation of my temper and
affairs, that I had no sooner entered on the second glass of this last
bottle, than I was fully convinced of its propriety. It was surely
more fitting that a gentleman should select the hour and the manner of
his exit from the world, than submit like a common ruffian to the
dictation of the law in these important matters. To die by the hand of
oneself is not the highest sort of death, it is true; but I am one who
would advance, although the ancient and best writers are against me in
this matter, that there are occasions when a man may best serve his
dignity by renouncing that which has ceased to be a cherished object to
him. In this, at least, I have Cato the younger with me.

Indeed I had already taken this resolve rather than submit my pride to
those inconveniences that so depress the spirit, when a third glass of
wine put me in mind of a thing the most importunate of any. There was
a certain lady. Nothing can be more ludicrous than to consider of a
ruined gamester broken by Fortune on her wheel, pausing in his last
extremity for such a reason. But there it was. I could have wished to
see the tears of defiance once again on her cheeks. In spite of the
world, in spite of her family, of my evil history, of my cunning,
plausible enemy, she had given me her proud little heart. She was the
one person I might have turned to in this black hour, who would not
have requited me with a sneer or a cold glance. Her stern old father
had no sooner discovered how her affections stood committed towards me,
and had learned the colour of my reputation, than he had whisked her
away from town to his seat in the remote west country, and had vowed
upon his soul to have me ducked in a ditch if I so much as showed my
nose in those parts.

These thoughts of dear, insolent little Cynthia had induced reflections
that I could well have done without. It was plain that this last cast
of the cards had left the game in the hands of Mr. Humphrey Waring. He
had long had the ear of the old duke, Cynthia's father, and no man knew
better how to push the advantages my misfortunes had given him over me.
He would marry the greatest heiress in the west country, hate him as
she might, whilst Jack Tiverton, the worthless rogue on whom she doted,
or, if it please you better, the Right Honourable Anthony Gervas John
Plowden-Pleydell, fifth Earl of Tiverton, that ill-fated nobleman,
rotted in durance, or writhed in a rope at Tyburn, or spilt his brains
on the carpet of his lodgings. But for all that I had a mind to
attempt a little more mischief before I perished. Why not go to poor
little town-bred Cynthia, immured in the country like a bird in a cage,
and throw her obstinate old father and her cunning suitor into such a
fright as they would not be likely to forget? Indeed, why not?

However, when I came to reflect on this scheme more carefully, I found
that I had hardly zest enough for it. My ruin was too complete.
Besides, it might cost Cynthia dear. I should have been well pleased
to look on my pretty young miss once again and watch the tears course
down her cheeks in the stress of our farewell, for I would have you
know that I am a man of sentiment when in the humour. But it would be
a hollow business and little of a kindness to the child to have her
weep for such a broken profligate. I should purchase the discomfort of
my enemies at too high a price.

Yet I must come to a decision speedily. Every instant I expected to
hear the law upon the stairs. Should I spare it any further trouble
there and then, or make an attempt to break out of town and lead it a
dance across the country? The drawback in the first course was its
somewhat arbitrary nature. It was so final and so certain that chance
would have no opportunity. The drawback to the second was that I had
not a guinea in the world. That morning I had staked my last and lost
it. However, as I weighed the pros and cons with a whimsical
deliberation I was taken with a fortunate expedient. Chance had been
the ruling passion of my life. It had brought me to this pass. Why
should I not employ it to solve this problem? I summoned M. François.

"Take two pistols," I said, "into the next chamber, but load one only.
Cock them both, however, but use particular care that nothing shall
suggest which is charged and which is not. Then bring them here and
lay them side by side upon this table, still remembering not to betray
the fatal one."

M. François bowed, and solemnly carried away the weapons from the
sideboard. I awaited his return with an emotion akin to pleasure. I
had tasted most of the delights that chance could afford me; but even
I, who had staked houses, lands, servants, furniture, and every guinea
of my fortune, had not yet gambled with my life. Thus, when I came to
play the greatest stake that is in the power of any man to play, it was
but fitting that I should enjoy some little exhilaration in that act.

M. François returned in rather more than two minutes with the pistols,
and set them on the table on the top of the cards. They were both
cocked, and it was impossible to distinguish one from the other. M.
Francis coughed in his well-bred manner, and then sighed deeply.

"I beg your pardon, my lord," he said, at the verge of tears, "and I am
sure your lordship will overlook the liberty on an occasion - on an
occasion that is not likely to occur again. But may I say, my lord,
with what deep regret I take farewell of your lordship? I am sure
there could not have been a better, kinder master."

"François, I subscribe heartily to that," says I, "and I am sure there
could not have been a bigger blackguard of a servant. And may I say,
François, that I never took a deeper pleasure in anything than in
parting with you; and I may even add that if a minute hence I am called
elsewhere, I go with the less irresolution, because I am firm in the
opinion that wherever it may be, I cannot be worse served than I have
been at your hands."

"Your lordship is more than kind," says François humbly.

"No thanks, I beg," says I. "But, François, if chance, who hath served
me nearly as ill as you have and for a rather longer period, sees fit
to arrange that I shall perish by my own hand, I do not doubt that you
will desire some small memento, some small souvenir of so fortunate an

"Your lordship is more than kind," says François, more humbly than

"You overwhelm me, François," says I. "If there is any little
knick-knack your fancy turns to, you have only to mention it. The Jews
will but claim it otherwise, and I would almost as lief it fell into
your hands as into theirs."

"As your lordship so emboldens me," says M. François, "I should most
greatly cherish the picture of your grandfather, that wise good
nobleman, that hangs above the mantelpiece, for I am sure I could
devise no more fitting memorial of his grandson."

"François," says I, "would I did not know you for a rogue, for the
chastity of your taste does you so much honour it honours me. But
would you bereave me of the last badge of my respectability? Friends,
fortune, estate, the consideration of the world, all are gone, and you
would now deny me the solace of my heritage. Yet I commend your wisdom
even here, since if you rob others as you have robbed myself, you will
presently be able to purchase half the kingdom of Ireland, and set up
among the landed gentry. You will then, I doubt not, find an ancestor
or two come not amiss. And if of my grandfather's pattern so much the
better, for their virtue will purchase you more credit than any of your
own. But I would recommend myself that you took a few ancestors over
with the property. They would cost less in a lump. Besides, they tell
me they are cheaper in Ireland than anywhere else, except France, where
they are even more common than matrimony."

M. François was gathering himself to make a proper reply to this
harangue, when suddenly we both heard the long-expected footfalls on
the stairs.

"Secure that door," said I. "I will not be taken until chance hath
arbitrated on my destination."

Saying this, without the hesitation of an instant I picked up one of
the pistols lying side by side among the cards. François slipped to
the door and turned the key. Then he went to the mantelpiece, took
down the picture, and placed it under his arm.

"Farewell, my lord," he said, "I leave you with inexpressible regret."

He ran to the window, cast it open, and with the most astonishing skill
and agility, squeezed himself through the opening, my grandfather and
all; and the roof being well within his reach, he first laid the
picture on the tiles, then drew himself up after it, and showed the
cleanest pair of heels to the law as ever I saw. And I was so taken
with the ready wit and contrivance of the rogue, that although I had
the cocked pistol pressed to my temple, I could not pull the trigger
for the life of me. For I stood all a-shake with very laughter, so
that the cold muzzle of the weapon tapped now against my forehead, now
against my nose, now against my cheekbone, till I vow it was a miracle
the hammer did not descend. But in the middle of all this the door was
tried and shaken, followed by a fierce tap on the panel, and then came
the clear tones of a woman.

"Open - open the door. Jack, it is I!"

At the sound of that voice the pistol fell from my hands altogether.
Striking the carpet with a thud, it exploded under my feet and knocked
a great hole in the wainscot. For an instant the room was full of
smoke, gunpowder, and a mighty noise; but the moment I recovered my
courage I unfastened the door and confronted the cause of it - Cynthia
Carew! She too was the victim of a not unnatural bewilderment, and as
pale as linen.

"Ods sputterkins!" she cried. "What a taking you have put me in! I am
all of a twitter. Whose brains have you spilt? Not your own, I'll
warrant me, for you never had any. Give me a kiss now, and get me some
ratafia to compose me, and we'll let it pass."

"Cynthia," I gasped, but giving her the first of these requisites, "how
came you here, in heaven's name?

"Ratafia!" she cried, "ratafia, or I perish."

"There's never a drop in the place," says I. "No, nor cherry-brandy,
nor aromatic vinegar neither."

"Another kiss then," says Cynthia, pressing her white cheek against me,
and casting her arms about my neck.

I led her within and set her down on the couch. She bore all the
evidences of having made a long journey. So far from being dressed in
the modishness that was wont to charm St. James's Park, she was covered
by a long, dun-coloured cloak, wore a country hat, if I'm a judge of
'em, in which the feathers were crumpled; her shoes were muddy, and she
carried a strange look of fear and uneasiness that I had never seen
about her before. I procured a clean glass and filled it with wine
from the last bottle and made her drain it, for she looked so pale and

"Now," says I, "how came you here? and what brings you?"

"Oh, Jack," says she, "I am run away." She suddenly broke forth into a
flood of tears.

"The devil you are!" says I.

"Yes," says she, sobbing as though her heart would break, "and I'm not
sorry neither."

"You wouldn't confess it an you were," says I.

"No, I wouldn't," she sobbed.

I must admit that the sight of the sweet chit was the one thing in all
the world that had the power to please me at that hour, yet there was
not a thing that could have happened to leave me in so sore a case.
Here had my prettiness come and thrown herself on my protection - on the
protection of a man utterly ruined, whom the law was already dogging
for his liberty, if not his life. In sooth I must send her back again.
It was no sort of a reception, especially when one fell to consider the
heroical fashion of her coming to me. But what else was one to do? I
was at my last gasp, without so much as a guinea, or a roof for my
head, since to stay in that house was to court arrest, nor had I a
friend in the world to whom I would dare to recommend her.

"Cynthia," says I, "I dote upon the sight of you; I am filled with joy
to see you sitting there, but - but - - "

How could I tell the child!

"But - but?" She sobbed no more. Mopping her tears, she crumpled the
sopping handkerchief in her little fist, sat perfectly upright in her
seat, and stared so straight at me that I felt the blood hum in my ears.

"But - but!" says I again - devil take me if I could tell her.

"But - but?" says she on her part; and it was wonderful to see her blue
eyes come open and her proud lips spring together like the snap of a

"Well, Cynthia, dear, it is simply this," says I, going headlong into
it. "You find me a ruined gamester, without a friend or a guinea in
the world, who even at this moment is being hunted for his debts, and,
if I dared say it to you, something worse. Now there is but one way
out of it. You cannot stay here; there is not a friend to whom I may
confide you; child, you must go back to your father."

Instead of growing red, the colour that shone I am sure in my face, she
grew as pale as snow, and her eyes sparkled with a grim beauty that
discomposed me more than it charmed me. She rose from the couch,
lifted her chin out of her white throat, and kicked the kings and
queens and knaves on the carpet in all directions.

"Never," she cried. "I will not go back to my father. I said I would
not marry this Mr. Waring; whereon my lord said he would lock me in my
room until I was of another mind. And he did lock me in it; and I
broke out of it; and I will not go back, no, not if I must subsist on
crusts picked from the kennel, and the clothes rot off my body, and I
sleep o' nights in a dry ditch or the porch of a church."

"Faith!" says I, "that's well spoke, monstrous well spoke."

"I hate this Mr. Waring," says the little fury. "May I be crost in
love, if I do not."

"And if I do not too," says I, "may my heart smoke in purgatory. But
come tell me, is it for himself you hate him, or is it for love of me?"

"A plague take all catechisms," says she. "But I will tell you for
another kiss."

I think two persons in love could never have been in a worse plight
than Cynthia and I. There seemed no course open to us, other than to
flee together, we knew not whither. Before even this could be
considered, however, we had to find the means.

"What money have you left in your poke?" I asked her.

"Twelvepence exactly and a halfpenny over."

I whistled long and shrill. "Which is twelve-pence exactly and a
halfpenny more than there is in mine. At nine o'clock this morning I
staked my all, including three periwigs, nine pairs of silk breeches,
stockings, five cambric brocaded waistcoats, silver-buckled shoes,
sword, duelling pistols, house and furniture, the Odes of Horace, and
my man-cook - staked 'em on the queen of hearts and lost 'em. Think on
it, my pretty - lost 'em on the queen of hearts."

"I care not for that," says Cynthia. "I will not go back, and so you
must make the best of me."

"But, child, what can I do when I'm taken?"

"You must not be taken."

"In that case," says I, "the only chance we have is to get away from
here at once, furnished with the clothes we stand in, and the sum of
twelve-pence halfpenny."



Having come to this odd resolve, it behoved us to lose no time. But
whither we should go, neither of us knew. North, south, east, or west,
one latitude was as good as another. We should be equally served in
each. As for the means at our disposal, we had the sum of twelve-pence
halfpenny sterling. I am sure that much the same thoughts were
uppermost in the minds of us both, for the moment I looked at little
Cynthia sitting on the couch with a tight mouth and ratter quizzical
eyes, I broke forth into a shout of laughter, which she returned so
promptly that it became a question as to whom the honour of the first
peal belonged.

In the midst of this pleasantry I walked to the door of the room and
locked it again. I had no mind to be taken unawares by the enemy; and
provided I was not, François' example had shown that a way of escape
was always open.

"Now, my dear," says I, "we have no time to lose; let us be putting our
few affairs in order. Look round this despoiled chamber, and tell me
if you observe any article in it that could be turned into money at a
pawnshop, or is likely otherwise to serve us on our journey. I am
sorry to say that every object of _vertu_ that I ever possessed upon
which we might at a pinch have raised a seven-shilling piece has
already been called upon to perform that office. There is one
exception even to these, it is true, but that cannot help us now, and I
rejoice to think so. For five minutes before your arrival I gave away
to a connoisseur, a dilettante, a lover of the beautiful, Sir Godfrey
Kneller's picture of my famous grandfather. I think I could never have

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