J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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the most perfect good-breeding, that could not possibly have been more
contrary to his appearance. Although Cynthia was white and speechless
with anger, and she had made what might easily have been construed into
a very unprovoked attack on a benefactor, Mr. Fielding behaved,
whatever his faults, as only a true gentleman could have done.
Cynthia's act had brought him to his senses; he saw that he had pushed
the matter too far; but after all he did not apprehend, as I more
shrewdly did, that the head and front of his offending lay, not so much
in his own conduct, as in that he had been the inspirer of mine.

"I crave a thousand pardons of you, madam," says he, "if I have been so
unlucky as to carry a jest farther than a jest should go. Perchance it
was not conceived in quite the best taste at the outset; but at least I
make you all amends. I am sure I am your duteous humble servant,
madam, if you will but permit me to be so."

Only a person with the instincts of a true gentleman could have shown
such a punctilious regard for the feelings of another, and such a
disregard for his own. For in a sense he had been deeply provoked, and
had suffered more indignity on his own part than any that he had
inflicted on Mrs. Cynthia. But no, my little madam refused to be
mollified by his humble demeanour. She looked steadily past him, as
though he had ceased to be there at all. Upon that my own brief spirit
of anger cooled down immediately; for certainly I thought, considering
his unhappy plight, poor Fielding was playing a very gallant part.

"I think there is enough said, sir," says I, striving to speak as
articulately as possible. "I am sure you do very well; and I am
equally sure that the apologies should not be all on your side."

Whereon we grasped the hand of one another, and were sworn friends
again. Yet although Cynthia would not deign to notice my behaviour one
way or the other, on the other hand, greatly to Mr. Fielding's
distress, she would not condone the conduct of that honest fellow. Her
imperviousness hurt him the more, I think, because he did not apprehend
the true reason for it. She could have forgiven his having smoked her
so badly, but what she could not forgive was that he had made her
husband drunk. I dare say it was that she was acting on the invariable
principle that a woman will never own her lord and master in the wrong
to a third person. And as she must vent her anger on some one, and she
could not very well vent it on me, the true culprit, Mr. Fielding was
made to suffer vicariously.

"Come, Jack," says she haughtily, disdaining Mr. Fielding's repeated
solicitude; "let us wipe the foulness of this disgraceful place off our
feet. If daylight came and caught us in it, I could never respect
myself again."

The stress of these events had done a great deal for my sobriety. I
was still acutely conscious of my condition, but I had recovered enough
of my wits to be able to battle with it successfully. That being the
case, I clearly saw that my little one was like to do a great injustice
to Mr. Fielding.

"Cynthia," says I, "I conceive you do not know what we owe to the
generosity of this gentleman. Had it not been for his friendly offices
I should have been still in the hands of the constables."

"I had rather you had," says she cruelly, "than that you should have
passed into his."

Not only was I hurt by such arbitrary behaviour; I was angered by it
too. It seemed monstrous that so small a fault in a liberal character
should be allowed to outweigh the essential goodness of it.

"Cynthia," says I, "I trust you will not refer to our benefactor in
these terms. He is far too good a friend of ours to merit your

Mrs. Cynthia lifted her chin again, and disdained to reply.

"Come," says I, "I would have you take back the expressions you have
used towards him. For I am sure no man merited them less."

"Never," says she.

"The lady is overwrought a little," says Mr. Fielding, coming gallantly
if somewhat unwisely to my aid. "Is she not weary and distrest? Sir
Thomas, were he not otherwise engaged, would be delighted to place a
chamber at madam's disposal for the remainder of this evening. May I
have the honour to do so in his name, for I am sure she is in a great
need of repose?"

"I thank you, sir," says Cynthia coldly, "but I am surprised that you
should presume to propose a service that you must know, after what hath
passed, must be highly distasteful to me."

"You do the gentleman a great wrong," says I, with some heat. "And I
am sure, madam, when you look at this matter more reasonably, you will
be the first to acknowledge it. I thank you, sir, from the bottom of
my heart for this kind offer, also for those other services you have
rendered to us; and I beg to accept it of you, sir, in the name of my
wife, in the spirit in which it is given."

I thought that some such speech was no more than Mr. Fielding's due,
but the effect of it was greatly marred by Cynthia's unreasonable
conduct. Drawing herself up into all the majesty of her five feet
nothing, she bowed to us both in an imperious manner.

"I wish you a good evening, Mr. - - , I did not catch your name," says
she. "You also, my lord, as you choose to remain."

Before we could reply, or any attempt could be made to detain her, she
turned on her heel and swept forth of the room, straight out of the
house into the black midnight. There was no other course open to me
but to follow her. But ere I did so, I clasped Mr. Fielding warmly by
the hand, again thanked him for his generous behaviour, and made some
sort of an apology for that of Cynthia. He, good fellow, although
evidently perturbed that he should have so distrest her, was yet very
warm on his part too, and as I was going out, slipped the only guinea
he had in the world into my hand. I protested strongly and refused to
take it.

"My dear fellow," says he, "you are ill-advised to refuse it. I know
what even that sum must mean to one in your condition, when the hand of
every man is against you. To be sure by accepting it you will be a
guinea better off than your benefactor. But at least I have a few
friends left, however little I may merit them; and although it be ever
my fate to have my character judged by those foibles that I am least
willing to have it judged by."

Indeed he so insisted on my accepting this highly desirable guinea,
that there was no other course than to take it, however reluctantly;
for to have refused it might have seemed churlish. And Heaven knows
that it is the last thing I would have risked after what had happened.

"Sir," says I, "I can wish no better than that we should meet again,
and in happier circumstances. You have been a true friend, and I hope
I may live to requite you. And I hope, sir, you will think no more of
the humours of my poor little wife; you who have shown such a knowledge
of the ways of her adorable sex will be the first to condone them in
her. You will not forget, sir, that she hath lately been called on to
endure a great deal."

"More than enough of that matter, my dear fellow," says he heartily.

I am sure he must have been hurt, but he was by far too true-bred a
gentleman to betray as much. I fear we were both still a little drunk,
but I do not think the fervour of our leave-takings owed anything to
the heat of our brains. To this day I have always thought of this fine
spirit, this great master of the science of human nature, with the same
degree of affection. As for him, I do not suppose he ever gave me a
second thought, or if he did, I could be nothing more than a whimsical
circumstance, a piece of romantical history. But at the time of our
parting, his pitiful, generous heart enabled him to feel a very real
concern for my welfare, and also for that of my wayward little one who
had treated him so harshly.

No sooner had I left Mr. Fielding waving his frank good-bye from the
steps of the house, than I set off running in hot pursuit of Cynthia.
The gate of the porter's lodge at the end of the long dark avenue of
overhanging trees was just closing upon her, when I overtook her. She
was in too proud and defiant a mood to pay any attention to the fact
that I had done so, and that I was walking greatly out of breath by her

I followed her implicitly into the weary darkness. I did not dare to
break the dogged silence she maintained, and therefore maintained one
too. For I had not walked a mile in the cool night air before I was as
sober as any man could be. And perfect sobriety brought a new shame
and a fuller measure of repentance. Lord knows, I had been drunk often
enough before; more completely and uproariously so; I had committed far
greater excesses in that state than any I had been guilty of that
evening; and yet now for almost the first time I conceived a disgust
for such a folly. Lord knows, I am so little of a pietist that the
sense of humiliation which came upon me as I walked by the side of the
silent Cynthia was so foreign to my character, that I almost laughed at
myself for suffering it. Yet at the same time I was bitterly angry
with myself. No man's weaknesses could have led him to play a more
unworthy part.

As we walked mile upon mile on the dark, tree-shadowed highway that led
to anywhere, everywhere, and nowhere, there never was so moral a person
as I outside the moral pages of Mr. Richardson. Self-abasement creaked
out of my boots, self-reproach fluttered out of my brains,
self-abnegation beat out of my heart. I forget the name of the Moral
Muse; indeed, now I come to think of it, there is most probably none
such among them, for I fear they are baggages all. But in the name of
the righteous lady, whoever she be, was there ever such a hang-dog
rogue as I? - such a whipt cur with his tail between his legs?

Hours came and hours went, the steeples of neighbouring village
churches chimed two o'clock, three and four, but still we wandered on,
while never a word passed from one to the other. At times I feared my
poor little one was crying softly to herself, but I had not the courage
to attempt to find out if that were so. Instead, my fingers would
tighten on Mr. Fielding's guinea, whereon such a poignancy would be
added to my sufferings that I was tempted at times to cast his money
incontinently to the road, as a heroic but not very intelligible
concession to them, in the hope that I might purchase at that price a
moment's surcease to my pains.



The measure of Cynthia's resentment might be inferred from that of her
endurance. The weary silent miles she trudged along must have called
forth a great impetus from within, for without that stimulus the poor
little creature must have drooped and flagged upon the dark road long
ere she did. It was not until the birds began to chirp in the trees,
and the grey face of the dawn began to speckle the darkness that she
abated her defiant paces. But once she had begun to do so, the
weakness grew rapidly upon her.

Presently she stumbled and nearly fell. Then it was I took the courage
to venture on the first of my penitent advances. I lightly touched her
shoulder to support her. Finding that she had not the strength, I
hardly dare say the inclination, to resist, I took her at last by the
arm, very tenderly at first, but then a little more firmly, and then
more firmly still. Thus, without a word passing on the side of either,
the sense of our comradeship was re-established. If I could not feel
that I was forgiven, I might take the comfort to myself that I was

It soon grew apparent, now that the meridian of poor Cynthia's wrath
was overpast, that the child would have to pay the price of it. She
became a very weight in my arms, and with the first beams of daylight
was ready to faint with fatigue. In the reaction of her mood she
yielded herself to my will as readily and completely as ever.
Therefore, to spare her as much as I could, I seized the first occasion
to give her a place of rest.

In the little light there were no houses to be seen, and even had there
been, it was too early to hope to gain sanctuary in them. There was a
wood, however, close at hand, whither I partly led and partly carried
her. Within its warm and dry recesses, I selected a couch of green
earth for her underneath a great tree, whose rough bark made something
of a pillow for her head. First, I took off my great-coat and spread
it on the ground as comfortably as I could, placed her upon it, and
then divesting myself of my thick, rough jacket wrapped her snugly in
it. The poor child was no sooner fixed in a position of some little
comfort than she fell fast asleep.

While she was very mercifully occupied thus, I spent several hours in
pacing up and down the glades of the wood to keep myself warm, for,
after all, in the air of the dawn, the sleeves of one's shirt are no
very adequate protection. To diversify this occupation I hunted an
occasional squirrel, but with no prospect of catching one; and lay in
wait, stone in hand, for many a white-tailed rabbit, but did so in
vain. Indeed, the only good fortune that fell to me in these nefarious
pursuits was the discovery of a bird's-nest with several fine eggs in
it. But somehow I had not the heart to disturb those exquisite things;
it may have been, especially as a small piece of sentiment may not come
amiss even to the sworn enemies of it on an occasion of this kind, that
the distrest birds and the distrest Cynthia had something in common.

Any lingering fumes of wine being long since out of my head, thanks to
the operations of the wholesome open air, I grew conscious of a very
distinct craving for food about eight of the clock. It was then that
the thought of the generous Mr. Fielding's guinea proved such a source
of solid comfort. One must be a vagrant by the wayside, dependent on
chance for one's crusts of bread, to experience what the contemplation
of twenty-one shillings sterling means, when that contemplation is
sharpened and assisted by a biting hunger. In the days of my material
greatness, not my houses, lands, revenues, not all my precious
possessions had the power to bestow upon me that inexpressible sense of
delightful anticipation which Mr. Fielding's guinea was able to do. A
whole guinea to a desperately hungry mortal who for two days had begged
his bread! What would it not purchase? How much sheer honest feeding
did it represent! It would permit of delicate feeding, too, for
Cynthia. A fine lusty mutton-pasty for the earl; and a bowl of
cream-covered milk, flanked with the whitest bread and the purest
butter, for his countess.

Cynthia still slept so soundly that I could not find it in my heart to
rouse her. Quite a long time I debated within myself whether to leave
her thus whilst I betook myself to the nearest house in quest of food.
At last, as she showed no signs of waking yet, I determined to do so.
Fixing the spot with particular care in my mind where she lay, I went
off briskly on my errand. Happily a farm-house of goodly size was but
a little distant; and here, by the aid of the magic guinea, was I
accommodated, though, to be sure, without any special degree of favour.
And at least my appearance could not be said to merit it. I was
without my coat, my clothes were coarse, and the worse for travel, I
still bore a black eye, and the small wound at the side of my head was
still rendered visible by the blood that had dried about it. But as I
had promised myself I got a draught of most excellent ale, a
mutton-pasty too, which I bore along with me to eat at my leisure;
whilst I procured for Cynthia a jug of warm milk, and fresh butter
spread on some dainty slices of bread.

As soon as I returned to the place where Cynthia lay, she awoke,
wonderfully refreshed and with no trace of the distresses of the
previous night about her. She gave expression to her delight when I
proudly produced her breakfast; whereon I redonned my coat. And no
sooner did she observe the use to which it had been put, than she
upbraided me for discarding it. Seating myself beside her, we made a
perfectly admirable meal, but perhaps it was not after all our keen
hunger that made the best sauce to it, but rather the fact that we were
both in our natural minds again, and that our differences were
forgotten. All the same, I devoutly hoped that my dear Cynthia would
not pause to inquire from what source the royal breakfast sprang. I
had no wish, you may be sure, to associate it with Mr. Fielding,
however black the ingratitude. Happily the question was not asked.

When we had made our meal in this happy fashion, we repaired to the
farm-house from which it had been obtained, to crave permission to
perform our ablutions. By paying for the same, we were able to make
them in some comfort. Like the arrant spendthrifts that we were, money
was no object to us so long as our fortune lasted. This accomplished,
we set off again wonderfully refreshed in mind and body. It was a
sweetly fair spring morning, that made us step forth blithely. It
takes a very old and hardened cynic to resist nature at her vernal
period. And I think our reconciliation added to our happiness,
although not once did we allude to the unlucky events of the night
before. But we exhibited such a fine consideration for one another
now, and were so scrupulous of every little detail of our demeanour one
towards the other, as plainly showed that the articles of peace were
being heartily subscribed to by us both. All the way it was, "Let me
carry thy coat, my pretty one," or "Darling, walk this side of me in
the shade lest the sun should overpower you," or "I do hope this bright
sunshine will not affect your poor, broken pate."

Sedulously avoiding all places of any size, lest our enemies should be
lurking in them, we selected a modest roadside inn, in which to rest at
mid-day, having left, I think, the town of Guildford some two miles to
our right. Here we ate and drank again with a degree of comfort that,
considering our low estate, was quite luxurious. So discreetly had we
ordered the reckoning too, that there would be means enough left to us
to furnish us with supper and a bed at some similar unpretentious inn
when evening came. You may believe me, or believe me not, but merely
to think of sleeping once again on a bed of feathers, after having
passed the best part of the two previous nights and days afoot, was
almost a distracting pleasure. I suppose a beggar's happiness consists
solely in his belly and his bones; and even if it is not of the highest
kind, what can be so intimate and full of zest?

The evening came without any adventure worthy to be recorded. We still
kept well off the beaten tracks and were therefore so happy as not to
encounter runners from Bow Street, indignant parents, nor scheming
rivals. The inn we selected was an ungenteel one enough in a remote
village; and that night we supped and lay in it in conscious state, and
royally spent the last of Mr. Fielding's guinea on a breakfast the
following morning. It was wanton in us, I dare say, to spend such a
sum in a fashion so prodigal, but as yet our extremity had taught us no
measure of prudence. Besides, when we had not the wherewithal, were we
not imbued with the excitements of those hunters who pursue for their
needs? It is an incomparable kind of sport to seek for food and
lodging with devil a farthing to purchase it.

With every penny of our late fortune squandered, we were again reduced
to this employ. It was then I bethought me of the gypsy's flute. I
bore it still in the pocket of my cloak; and had improvised several
melodies already upon it to cheer our lonely way. Thus, when we came
to a village about noon, wanting refreshment and even a penny to
furnish it, I boldly took forth the instrument and blew it for all I
was worth as we walked slowly along the principal street. Probably my
notes were lustier and in better tune than is ordinary with others of
this profession; or again, even an itinerant musician may have been a
strange bird in this out-of-the-way place; for be it known that when
Cynthia holding my hat in her hand sweetly importuned every staring
yokel and every opened window with her daintiest smile and her
gracefullest curtesy, we had acquired the sum of fourpence, mostly in
halfpence, by the time we had come to the village alehouse. Thither we
repaired to invest this reward of our toil in as good a repast of bread
and cheese and ale as could be obtained for the money. We seasoned it
by a fine argument as to whom the credit of it belonged. I vowed it
was my fine playing that was alone responsible for it; whilst Cynthia
was equally firm in her conviction that it was entirely due to the
elegance of her solicitations.

We were mightily pleased with a prospect that offered a new source of
revenue. But ere long we were doomed to discover that it was not fair
as we had supposed, and that it had its drawbacks. This melancholy
incident happened the very next time we put it in practice. The scene
of it was a somewhat larger village than the first, and we attracted
such an amount of attention that I believe Cynthia collected as much as
sevenpence in a very little while. And so encouraged were we by the
amount of favour with which we were received that we were emboldened to
give a kind of set performance in front of the village ale-house. It
had even been decided that Cynthia should sing a love ballad, for she
had a very sweet voice and was prettily accomplished in the use of it.

Everything prospered with us admirably well for some time. An audience
gathered about us; and although a little inclined to be abashed at
first, we overcame those feelings very soon and gave our singing and
music with great spirit. But just before we had come to the conclusion
of the last piece, the throng was invaded by several stalwart fellows,
amongst whom were the beadle of the parish and the squire of the place,
both highly indignant to be sure. The latter was red and fat and full
of choler.

"Take 'em both, Thomas," says he, wonderfully angry and stern, "and
they shall be clapt into the stocks, sink me so they shall. The idea
of two vagrant wretches daring to affront me thus under my very nose.
There shall be no playing of profane tricks and loud music in this
parish, curse me if there shall be."

Meanwhile the beadle, in the exercise of his authority, had twice set
his dirty hands on my coat, and twice had I gently but firmly removed

"I will venture to say we are doing no harm to any one, sir," says I to
the squire, controlling my resentment as well as I could, and striving
to ape a humility I did not feel. "And surely, sir, you will not be
too hard on poor people."

This fellow, however, was plainly of that tribe that loves to exult
over the weak. It was his pleasure to display a greater and more
despotic authority the less occasion there was for its exercise. The
meeker he found us the more unbending was his indignation.

"How dare you venture to address me, you wandering vagabond?" says he.
"Your damnable impertinence does but aggravate your offence. I will
see whether you will defy me, I will so. You shall go to the stocks at
once, and you may bless your fortune it is not the house of correction."

It needed but a glance to assure us that to resist would be vain. Not
only the beadle, but several other persons under the immediate eye of
this despot, were but too ready to curry favour with him by doing his
bidding. In fact, one and all of those present seemed to conceive a
mighty admiration of his rage. They felt such a display of anger and
unfettered will to be sublime. Therefore, we were pushed and hustled
with many unnecessary indignities, all the throng following to the
village green, and were set side by side in the stocks forthwith. When
we had been duly affixed in this place of humiliation, the squire made
us quite a lengthy harangue, not so much I suspect for our edification
as for the glory of himself. His anger against us inoffensive
creatures who answered him not a word, mounted higher and higher till
it grew truly magnificent. He stamped and raved and swore; he had a
mind to do this, and a mind to do that, and 'fore God he would if it
were not for the abominable leniency of his character. The beadle kept
nodding his head, and fretted himself into a kind of ecstasy of
admiration of the squire's remarks; whilst the villagers could be heard
to say to one another: "Lord, an't squire noble angry-like to be sure."

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe Wayfarers → online text (page 12 of 18)