J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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in the street you say?"

"See, my lord, there is one going past the window now."

As he spoke I took the precaution of drawing farther back into the
shadow of the stairs, for it was even as he said. The next instant Mr.
Moses pushed the door to in my face, and as he did so, wheeled round to
confront (as I guessed) two or three of the traps who were coming into
the shop.

"A sheeny, by the Lord!" I heard one say, in a voice so coarse that it
set my teeth on edge.

"What is your pleasure, good gentlemans?" says Mr. Moses in a tone of
incredible politeness. "If I, a poor old clo'es-dealer as I am, can be
of service to you, I cannot tell you how happy you will make me."

"Well, ole Father Abraham," says the foremost man, "we're on the 'eels
of a hearl, d'ye see. We've been a-chasing of him on the 'ouse-tops,
we have so, and he's just a-been a-squeedgin' of himself through your
dormer window, and he's left us in the lurch, d'ye see. He's in your
bed-room, you can wager, and we're a-going up to rout him out."

"Is he so?" says Mr. Moses. "God-a-mercy! is it possible? Benjamin,
get your blunderbush, and go and bring him down."

I was so charmed with the comedy that was being played, that at some
little risk I had opened just a small crevice in the door, in order
that I might peer through upon the actors. Benjamin, a youth about as
tall as the counter, but wonderfully keen and sharp of feature, put
himself in possession of an antiquated fire-arm, probably the most
obsolete weapon ever handed down from early times.

"Be damned to Benjamin," says the man from Bow Street, "and be damned
to his blunderbush; we're a-going up to look ourselves."

"And wherefore, gentlemans," says Moses in a tone like silk, it was so
soft, "should Benjamin and his blunderbush be damned? Benjamin is a
good boy, and his blunderbush is a good weapon. If this earl is in my
chamber, depend upon it one or the other shall bring him down."

"No; we'll go up ourselves, ole Shylock," says the other, "for this
hearl is so full of hell, that as likely as not he'd beat Benjamin to
death with his own blunderbush, crikey-likey! he would so."

"Nay, that he would not," says Mr. Moses, "for Benjamin would blow the
heart out of him, if he but advanced one step upon him."

Mr. Moses was evidently a master of fence, and determined as my enemies
might show themselves, they could make nothing of his subtle, cringing
ways. They might have excellent reasons for overhauling the house, and
going upstairs, as indeed they had, yet they had not the wit to enforce
them. For every additional argument he had a new excuse to advance,
which at least if it contributed nothing whatever to the case in point,
yet served to obscure the issue and to distract and confound those
concerned in it. It was truly remarkable how he managed to lure and
cheat them with the most specious words that could mean nothing
whatever; and yet at the same time, and therein lay his art, they
listened to him and never once seemed to doubt his sincerity. And it
seemed too that this cunning Hebrew had something of a trump card to
play, and this he had reserved for the last.

"An earl did ye say, sirs?" says he, with a vast air of reflection.
"It could not have been by any chance the Earl of Tiverton?"

"Yes, by thunder," they cried together, "the man himself."

"Well now, I call that whimsical," says he, "seeing as how I see his
lordship running at the top of his legs past this window not five
minutes before you came here."

"You did that," says one of my enemies, "then why in thunder couldn't
you say so before, instead o' keepin' us argle-hargling here, you piece
o' pork, you hedge-pig!"

With a stream of oaths and vituperation they tumbled out into the
street, whilst Mr. Moses, with his hands outspread and a cringing,
shrugging, smiling yet deprecating aspect, looked the picture of a
highly ingenuous bewilderment. No sooner had they passed away in the
hot pursuit of some phantom of myself, than Mr. Moses opened the door
he had pushed so lately upon me, and informed me that the immediate
danger was overpast. He waved away the thanks I offered him, with a
great deal of politeness, assuring me that he was more than repaid by
the happiness he took for having been of some slight service to so fine
a specimen of the nobility as myself.

"But if there is any leetle thing in the way of pizness," says he, "I
am the man, your lordship."

"Yes, Mr. Moses, I have been thinking of it," says I, and indeed I had.
"Now you see I am very tolerably attired." I unbuttoned my riding-coat
and threw it open to display as elegant a costume as ever I had from
Tracy. "Unhappily I have not a guinea in the world" - let me do Mr.
Moses the justice of recording that in the face of this announcement he
retained his countenance wonderfully well. - "But I will barter
breeches, coat, waistcoat, ruffles, stockings, buckled shoes, for a
plain drab shoddy suit, some common hose, and a pair of hob-nailed
boots. By this exchange I think we shall both be gratified; you on
your side by receiving things of about twelve times the value of what
you give away; and I on mine by obtaining a tolerable disguise to my
condition when I start on my itinerary, for I hardly think I should
recognize myself in such a uniform, whilst as for my mamma, dear
sainted buckram lady! if at the end of all the journeying that is
before me I come before the gates of Heaven in it, she will hold a
bottle of vinegar before her fine-cut nose, and say _c'est un faux
pas!_ and get me denied the _entrée_. She will ecod! for I would have
you to know, my dear Mr. Moses, I am of a devilish stiff-backed family.
Look at my grandfather. What a majestical old gentleman it is, even as
in his declining years he takes his ease in his pop-shop, with
christening mugs and dirty candlesticks about him on the one hand, and
saving your presence, Mr. Moses, a Jew dealer on the other. But there,
my good fellow, we will not talk about it."

Mr. Moses, seeing his advantage in this proposal - indeed he was so
excellent a fellow that had he not done so, I do not doubt he would
still have tried to accommodate me - fully entered into this idea, and
did his best to fish this chaste wardrobe out of the varied contents of
his shop. Indeed such hidden stores did it contain, that after the
contents of divers boxes, and cupboards, and back parlours, and
mysterious receptacles had been examined, the necessary articles were
forthcoming, and I was shown into one of the chambers leading from the
shop, in order to effect this change in my attire.

It would have made you laugh to see the figure I cut - my snuff-coloured
coat and pantaloons, fitting in most places where they touched, gave me
such a rustical appearance that an ostler or a tapster became a
gentleman by the comparison. The hose was rather better, however, but
the boots were not only the thickest and clumsiest as ever I saw, but
were much too big into the bargain. A hat was also found for me that
matched very well indeed with this startling change in my condition;
and a thick, coarse brown cover-all in lieu of the smart riding-coat I
had set out with. Mr. Moses certainly had as good a bargain as he
could have wished, but certainly not a better one than his merits
deserved; whilst I had come by the most effectual disguise to my
station, and one well calculated to mislead Sheriff's officers and Bow
Street runners, for in all my extended experience of the tribe they
have ever been clumsy fellows, blind of eye and thick of understanding,
incapable of seeing beyond the noses on their faces. With mutual
respect and pleasure, therefore, and many pious hopes for the welfare
of my grandfather, whom I was moved to say could not have been left in
more worthy hands, I took my leave of Mr. Moses. And seeing he was a
Jew, I must say that he was the best conditioned Jew as ever I met.

I took my way very cautiously on leaving the shop of my friend the
Hebrew. At first I kept well in the shadow of the houses and peered
carefully about. My enemies, however, appeared to be still away on the
false scent. The twilight of the autumn afternoon was gathering in as
I pursued my way towards little Cynthia. She was to have met me at the
gates of Hyde Park nearly an hour ago. As I turned into Piccadilly
without meeting with a sign of my enemies, for no reason whatever I was
suddenly stabbed with the pain of a most bitter speculation. Suppose
my little Cynthia was not there to meet me after all! Suppose I had
tarried so long that, fearing I was taken, she had gone from the
rendezvous! Suppose something unforeseen and mysterious had befallen
her, as such accidents occasionally do! In a flash I realized how
dear, how inexpressibly dear she was to me. If aught bereft me of her
now, she, the one friend I had, the one creature who believed in me,
worthless ruined fellow as I was, the one person who would dare to
stand at my side and face the sneers and the scorn of the world, life
would indeed have no savour left in it. I should neither have the
heart nor the desire to continue in that which would become a burden
and a mockery. And in sooth so did this terrible thought take hold of
me, that a kind of fatality came upon me. I began to have a sense of
foreboding, as they say one may have in a dream; I felt the blood grow
slow and thin in my limbs; I was taken with a cold shivering; and my
spirit flagged so low that I would have wagered a kingdom at that
moment that some dire circumstance had happened to my love, and even
more particularly to me.

In the very height of this fever of insane fears, I came to the end of
Piccadilly, and there in the increasing gloom of the evening were the
gates of Hyde Park. And there too, like a sentinel on guard, so proud
and strict she was of outline, was my little Cynthia. She stood there
all unconscious of the fact that the simple sight of her was enough in
itself to reconcile a ruined man to his empty life.



All the way I had come I had heightened my disguise by mouching along
with my hat low down over my eyes, the collar of my coat turned up to
my ears, and my hands stuck deep in my pockets. And so effectual was
this mode, that though Cynthia was awaiting me in fear and impatience,
I had walked right up to her and taken her by the arm ere she knew I
was so near.

"Oh, Jack," she sobbed, "I - I am so glad. S - something s - seemed to
tell me that you would never return. I was certain you were ta'en, and
that I should never see you again, except between the iron bars of a

I kissed her.

"Foolish child," says I, with dignified forgetfulness, "to entertain
such silly fears. Alas, you women, that you should give way to
weaknesses of this sort! What would you say of us men now, if we were
so easily afflicted?"

It was fine the way in which I wielded my advantage, and clearly showed
to the shrinking little creature how ill the poor weak female character
compared with the hardy, resolute male. But as this instance goes to
show, I do not really think that the masculine character is so much
sterner than the feminine; for is not its pre-eminence largely a matter
of assumption? A man scorns and conceals the weaknesses a woman
flaunts and cherishes.

The twilight was deepening rapidly and giving way to an evening of
heavy clouds and rainy wind, when arm-in-arm we started to walk we knew
not where. We started to walk into the night and the country places,
away from our enemies, and from those who would sever or deter us. We
had not the faintest idea as to the place we were bound for. One spot
was as good as another. Involuntarily we turned into the park,
although we knew not why we should. But I suppose we felt that every
step we took into this mysterious nowhere of our destination, we were
leaving the law behind, and that together, friendless and resourceless,
but ever hand-in-hand, we were beginning our lives anew.

We moved away at a brisk round pace, possessed with the thought of
putting a long distance between us and our foes. And in the pleasure
of having come together again we walked lightly and easily for long
enough, not heeding the way, nor the wind, nor the threat of the
rainclouds and the dark evening. We rejoiced in the exquisite sense of
our comradeship, and in the thought that every step we took together
was a contribution to our freedom. We came out of the park again, and
went on and on, past the houses of Kensington, and then past straggling
and remoter places, the names of which I did not know.

In a surprisingly little while, as it seemed to us, sunk in the
obsession of our companionship, we were groping in the unlit darkness
of the country lanes, with the lights of the town we had left fading
away behind us. But we must have been walking considerably more than
two hours, and at a smart pace, to judge by the distance we had made.
It was then that I pressed Cynthia's hand and says:

"Are you not tired, little one?"

"Nay," says she, "my feet are slipping by so light, I do not know that
I am walking. I could journey on all night in this way."

I was vastly gratified by this brave speech. But for myself, although
I too had no weariness, and to be sure I could not have confessed to it
if I had, I was yet being bitten very severely by the pangs of hunger.
All day I had taken nothing beyond a glass or two of wine. Therefore I
now felt a pressing need.

"At least," says I, "I hope you are hungry?"

"Well, since you mention it," says she, "I think I am."

"That is well," says I, "for I am most abominably so. I believe I
never was so hungry in my life before; and I am sure I never had
scantier means of appeasing it. Only conceive of twelvepence halfpenny
to the two of us for our board and lodging."

It now became our business to find an inn of the meaner sort, in which
we might invest this munificent sum. But as we had long since left the
bricks and mortar of the town behind, a house for our entertainment was
not so easily come by.

We walked on and on, but still no welcome inn appeared; and presently
the lamps of the great city itself had vanished, till we were left in
the utter darkness of the country lanes. There was no evidence of a
human habitation anywhere about, and we knew not where we were.

By this time both of us were tired as well as most bitterly hungry.
Poor little Cynthia hung so heavily on my arm, that I knew fatigue had
mastered her. Yet so brave she was, that despite all the pains and
difficulties she endured, she would not admit that she was weary.
Indeed, when I asked her to confess it, says she: "Nay, not I," as
stoutly as she would have done three hours before. Yet when we came to
a bank of earth beside the way, and I bade her rest upon it for a
little while she could raise no very great objection.

I suppose two persons could never have taken their repose with more
singular feelings than did we upon that bank of earth. Whither we were
going that night, and what was to become of us we did not know. There
was the sum of twelvepence halfpenny between us and destitution, but
even this could not avail us in such a solitary darkness, in the
absence of a house and human aid. Happily the night was wonderfully
mild, and we in our coats and stout boots were warmly clad. Otherwise
we might have perished where we sat. The pains of fatigue, allied to
the pangs of hunger, had bereft us of both the energy and the
inclination to proceed. We must have tarried on that bank considerably
beyond an hour, mutually consoling one another. For my part little
Cynthia's courage almost reconciled me to these present circumstances,
but you may be sure I was bitterly distressed for her. I had admitted
her into my care, foolishly no doubt, and because there was scarcely an
alternative; and this was the sort of provision I had to offer. Come
what may, something must be done. The child could never be left to
suffer thus. I must find food and a sanctuary of some sort for her.

However, even as I pondered on our case, hunger and weariness did their

For some time I had known by Cynthia's failing answers and the
heaviness with which she leant against me, that she was becoming more
and more completely overborne. And I'll swear so monstrous brave she
was that never a word of complaint passed her lips, nor yet a tear
escaped her. And then her little head nestled up to my coat-sleeve,
and the next moment she sighed and was dead asleep upon it. In spite
of her resolution, the excitements, the distresses and the pains of
that long day had overpowered her. Yet I dare not have her pass the
night in this exposure on a moist bank of earth, with the night-wind
playing on her face, and the clouds that had banked themselves over the
moon for ever increasing and threatening to descend upon us in a
drenching rain. Therefore, dire as my own case was, I roused myself to
a desperate attempt to discover a meal and a lodging for the night.

I had not the heart to try to arouse the poor child, as you may
suppose; wherefore, disturbing her as little as I could, I gathered her
in my arms, for after all her fine spirit she was but a feather of a
thing, and carried her before me along the lane. It was an effort of
despair, for the never-ending darkness revealed no glimpse of what I
sought. Every now and then the wind brought a spatter of the expected
rain; but this, when it came upon my lips, carried a kind of
refreshment in it. I doggedly set my teeth and marched along with my
warm burden, and I think the weight of responsibility that was in my
arms, added to the one upon my heart, fostered a grim determination in
me to succeed in my search at any cost. The lanes seemed interminable,
and every one the same. All my limbs were one strange, numb ache; I
had become so faint with hunger that I moved in a kind of delirium; and
in the end every step I took became so mechanical a thing as to be an
effort of the will without the co-operation of the senses.

Heaven knows what the hour was when one of these lanes I had been
eternally taking all night long ended in a partly-unhinged gate. My
first instinct was to snatch an instant's rest upon it; but this I
dared not do. I could never have set my paralysed limbs in motion
again had I done so. Indeed it was but the presence of poor little
Cynthia in my arms that prevented my sinking to the earth as I stood.
But looking beyond the gate I could indistinctly define various dull
masses that I believed to be the outline of haystacks or farm
buildings. Brushing through the rickety gate with an accession of new
strength that the idea had lent me, I had not proceeded many yards in
the stubble-field beyond ere I knew that at last I had come to a
farmstead. There was not a glimmer of light to be seen anywhere, nor
could I make out in the total darkness which was the house itself.
Approaching nearer it grew plain that these were farm buildings.
Considering, however, my exhausted condition, the lateness of the hour,
and the probability that the house was some distance off, I decided to
make the best of what lay before me. No sooner had I taken this
resolve, than the moon, as if in recognition of it, showed itself
suddenly for the first time that night from out of its wrack of rain
clouds. By its aid and the smell issuing from within I was made aware
that I stood before the entrance to a cow-hovel.

There was no door to it, therefore I was able to carry Cynthia straight
in. The cows in their various stalls paid us hardly any attention as I
groped my way past them. The place was of a somewhat considerable
extent, and coming to the end of it, I discovered a space in the far
corner where the clean straw was stored. Dispersing a bundle of it
with my feet, I deposited my poor little one very gently into the warm
bed thereby made. Careful as I had been not to disturb her, the change
in her position had its effect. She gave the same sigh with which she
had gone to sleep, and says:

"Jack, Jack, where are you? I do believe I've been to sleep."

"Then go to sleep again, my prettiness," says I.

"But what is this?" says she. "This is surely not the bank of moist
earth in the lane I went to sleep on. Where are we then? What place
is this so warm and snug?" A rustle. "Straw!" A sniff. "A cow-shed!
Oh dear, I am - - ! Oh, could we - - ! and, oh, Jack, dear, how did we
get here?"

The sound of Cynthia's voice and the knowledge that there was a roof
for her head and a couch for her body at last, however mean they might
be, did much to lift me out of my own sorry predicament. Faint and
numb as I still was, my brain seemed to have its capacity restored.
And at least I could gauge by my own sufferings those which Cynthia
strove so valiantly to conceal.

"Are you not hungry, little one?" says I.

"Are you?" says she.

"Most damnably so," says I.

"Then I am too."

Now I would have you mark that hunger is a great wit. Cynthia sniffed
a second time. "Cows," says she. "Oh, what good fortune!"

"But my dearest prettiness," says I, "hungry as we are I do not exactly
see how these cows can help us. Although to be sure I will undertake
to knock one down and skin it, and make the fire and such like menial
offices, if you will cut it up and cook it."

"Goose that you are," says Cynthia. "You almost deserve to perish of
your emptiness. What about the milk?"

"Odslife!" cries I, "to think that I should not have thought of that.
Ye gods and little fishes, I must go find a pot, or a pail, or a pan to
hold it in!"

The happy prospect of such sustenance endowed us both with new vigour.
Without more ado I began groping about in this moonlit hovel to
discover these utensils. But it was no such easy matter. Look where I
might, inside the place and outside of it, amongst the straw and
fodder, or among the cows themselves, there was devil a pail that I
could see. Yet so insistent was our case that we could not be put off
by any small detail of this sort. We were both of us thoroughly awake
by now and fully bent on assuaging our distresses. And Cynthia in
particular showed her good resources.

"Jack," says she, "give me your hat. It is bigger than mine."

"To be sure," says I. "I had not thought of that. But I will go and
do the milking. I do not choose that you undertake these menial
offices, my pretty, like a common dairymaid."

"I am afraid you can have no choice in the matter," says Cynthia, now
thoroughly awakened and full of importance at the prospect. "You speak
as though it were indeed the simplest thing in the world to milk a cow.
'Pon my word, sir, I would vastly like to see you at that exercise. It
requires a mighty long apprenticeship, I would have you to know; and
luckily I have had it during the time I have lived in Devonshire. Were
it to be left to you, I am thinking we should come by precious little
else than your good intentions."

I bent my head in silence under this merited reproof. Our resolve was
a brave one, for in the darkness and strangeness of the place it was
not easy to carry it out. However, Cynthia, armed with my hat, if you
please, was not the person to stick at trifles. She groped her way
among the cows in a most valiant manner, and presently, having the good
fortune to find one with a calf by its side, her task was made lighter
than it might have been otherwise. I encumbered her with my
assistance. The assistance in question consisted in holding the hat,
while she performed the more delicate operation. And I could not help
remarking that for a town miss, who in Saint James's Park or Bloomsbury
had quite enough of airs, affectation and incapacity to pass as a
person of the finest _ton_, she showed a degree of aptitude quite
foreign to her quality.

"It is rarely done," says I, as the hat grew weightier and weightier.
"And I protest that you astonish me. It is as unmodish a performance
as ever I saw. I wish some of your friends could see you now."

"Oh, Lord," says Cynthia, in great terror from beneath the udder, "I
would not have them see me for the world. I vow if they did I should
die of it."

"I believe you would," says I; "and I believe they would also."

Cynthia had the first drink from the hat, which, being of a good, stiff
felt quality, and being pretty commodious too, for its business as you
know was to enclose a great brain, it made an admirable receptacle.
But to drink from it without spilling the milk was not by any means a
simple performance. Great address was required, but the expert Mrs.

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe Wayfarers → online text (page 3 of 18)