J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

The Wayfarers online

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indignant colour in her face, turned about and set her nose straight
back to the parson's door. And taking a material view of the matter,
honesty was just as good a policy in this case as any other, for when
we had come to the parson and Cynthia had got her mission off her lips
and the ring off her finger, all in due time, the kind man was so
pleased by our worthy behaviour, that says he to Mrs. Blodgett: "There,
there, what did I say? I knew you judged them too harshly," and
straightway invited us to an excellent repast of potherbs and boiled
mutton, that even then was smoking on the table.

It was about two o'clock in the afternoon when we set out again on our
travels. We took the highway, and followed it mile upon mile, through
pretty hamlets, past inviting inns, lush green meadows, and here and
there a shady little copse. Up hill and down dale we went, and always
in something of a joyful spirit, for no two people could be more happy
in their freedom, or more careless of what might befall. The moment
was enough for us. We were sound in limb and spirit, stout of heart,
too, I ween, and my little wife had the sum of twelvepence half penny
in her pocket. An avenging law was doubtless pursuing me, and a stern
parent was most probably pursuing her, but we were so taken up with one
another that we could think only of our present happiness. Avaunt dull
care, it was our wedding journey.

Who could help being happy in the soft airs of the spring afternoon?
They were so generous, and the sun was so mild and pleasant, that we
discarded our cloaks, and I bore them both over my arm. But we were
not allowed to remain in this paradise very long without being rudely
reminded of its insecurity. After awhile, growing hot with our
exertions and a little weary also, we began to desire a cool shady
place in which to rest. A hill more than usually steep lay before us,
and having toiled to the top, at considerably less of a pace than the
one at which we had started, found there the spot we were in need of.
Seating ourselves under a tree covered with snowy blossom we proceeded
to take our earned repose. And we had been in this occupation perhaps
five minutes or so, when our attention was directed to the sound of
wheels at the foot of the hill we had just overcome. A pair-horse
chaise was coming up at a round pace. It was occupied by two persons,
and was so striking in colour and design that it was in the distance
likely to be recognized sooner than the people in it. This proved to
be the case. No sooner had it come into view than Cynthia clutched at
my arm in a quick, frightened manner.

"Look, look!" says she. "Oh, what shall we do? 'Tis papa's curricle
coming up the hill, and on my life, it is papa within it."

I needed no second exhortation. There was an instant of time in which
we both looked wildly about us, backwards and forwards, only to
discover that it was impossible to get away from our present place
without being caught in the act of doing so. A hedge was at our back,
another was on the opposite side of the way, and in front stretched the
long level surface of the road. Yet there was just one chance of our
passing unnoticed, though heaven knows a precarious and remote one!
There was a slight declivity running under the hedge at our backs. It
was a kind of dry ditch, but the bed of it was so shallow that it could
hardly be dignified by the name of ditch at all. I commanded Cynthia
to lie perfectly flat in this, face downwards, and to squeeze herself
as far into the earth as she could get, whilst I did the same, though
in regard to the last particular I fear my precept was higher than my
resolution. Meantime the chaise came grinding and grunting up the
hill, at the same smart pace, while we lay in our ridiculously
inadequate hiding-place, perfectly convinced in our own minds that we
must be discovered. What an agony of suspense we lay in, stretched
full length, Cynthia's head pressed firmly against my heel, and our
noses nestling in the dry earth! We durst hardly breathe as the
carriage came nearer and nearer.

How it was its occupants failed to see us I cannot understand, for we
could have been scarcely shielded at all from their observation. But
sure enough the curricle went past us, and as it did so we could even
detect the familiar voices issuing out of it, above the noise of the
horses and the vehicle. One belonged to my lord the Duke, Mrs.
Cynthia's papa, a terribly irascible loud-toned voice to be sure;
whilst the other, smooth, polished and elegant, was that of Mr.
Humphrey Waring.

When at last they had fairly passed us by at a deuce of a rattle, we
were able to sit up from our tight positions and show our noses again.
We gazed at one another solemnly, and then broke into a peal of
laughter apiece.

"Phew!" says I, "it was as bad a two minutes as ever I've had. I
thought papa sounded very angry too."

"Poor papa!" says Cynthia, with a very odd mingling of sorrow and mirth
in her face. "I wouldn't have given much for you, sir, had he spied
us; and for that matter I would have given even less for myself."

"I suppose he is in full pursuit of us?" says I.

"There cannot be a doubt of it," says his daughter. "And if I know
anything of his Grace, he'll hardly sleep in his bed again until he
hath tracked us down. He's a terrible implacable man when he's
aroused. He'll be hunting us night and day, and he'll spend his last
penny sooner than he'll be baulked by us, now that he hath seen fit to
start on this business."

"Humph!" says I, "a nice energetic old gentleman to have for a
father-in-law, to be sure. And that smooth villain Waring too. Did
you not catch his voice also?"

"Yes," says Cynthia, flaming, "the wicked, wretched, contriving
villain. What can he hope to get by it all?"

"A wife," says I.

"He's like to go empty-handed there at least," says Cynthia. "What a
mercy it was we were married this morning!"

"I doubt whether we were," says I. "I do not know that the ceremony
will hold in the sight of the law."

"Then," says Cynthia, "we will be married over again in our real names
and with a proper licence at the first church we can."

"Nor will that avail you," says I, "when he hath got me hanged."

Mrs. Cynthia grew thoughtful, but says she after a moment's reflection:

"When he does that I will put an ounce of lead into his heart, then I
can be hanged beside you."

At this perforce I had to capitulate before her ingenuity.

We resumed our way somewhat chastened in spirit. We looked keenly
ahead of us along the road as we went, for any sign of the vehicle that
had lately overtaken us. Any inn or alehouse that happened to lie at
the roadside we passed with particular caution, lest our papa and his
companion should have broken their journey there. As time went by, and
we had begun to forget the excellent repast of boiled mutton and
potherbs with which we had been regaled by parson Scriven, we cast our
eyes on these wayside places of entertainment with another end in view.
We were growing honestly tired and hungry. Coming to one that wore an
air of unobtrusive respectability and general cleanliness, we
determined to part with half of our fortune in exchange for some bread
and cheese and ale.

Having first been at the precaution to convince ourselves that his
Grace's curricle lingered nowhere about the house, we went in and
called for our modest refreshment. And we were engaged in doing
justice to it with a good deal of zest, when to our great fear we heard
the sound of wheels on the road, and by the time we could turn round
and look out of the inn-window a chaise had come to a stand in front of
the door. It needed but a glance to tell us that we might have been
spared our alarm, since it was not the one belonging to Mrs. Cynthia's
papa. This was a much less imposing carriage, of a prim colour and
cast that was designed not to attract any attention. It contained two
persons. The first who alighted from it was a middling drab-coated
kind of a fellow, smug of countenance, and not to be looked at twice.
He was doubtless the unliveried servant of a well-to-do tradesman; an
estimate that was borne out by the deferential, not to say obsequious
air with which he stood at the side of the vehicle, and assisted the
second occupant to get out. This was a vastly more imposing person.
He was a great fat, heavy-featured man, with an almost overpowering
consequentialness about him. He moved with a slow but dignified strut,
spoke in a very loud voice, and yet there was a tone of affable
condescension about him too that was very baffling. He might be the
mayor or an alderman of some provincial town, some local big-wig, or
even a pursy magnate of commerce.

By the time he had moved in his heavy dignity into the room in which
Cynthia and I were seated at our bread and cheese, the landlord had
taken note of his visitor, and had come forward to greet him with all
the respectful familiarity of one who was happy to meet again an old
and cherished and highly-valued client.

"No other than Mr. John Jeremy, by all that's wonderful," says the
landlord, bowing and smiling. "_The_ Mr. John Jeremy, as I'm a
licensed victualler."

No sooner had the landlord uttered the name than I looked hastily at
Cynthia, and she looked hastily at me. Where had we heard that name so
recently, and in what connexion? Suddenly the same flash of
recollection illuminated the minds of us both. It was the name of the
celebrated Bow Street runner, as given in the _London Gazette_. I
think we both went hot and then cold. But when the first emotion of
surprise was overpast, a dogged resolution succeeded to it and with it
a determination to put, if need be, as bold a face upon the matter as
we could. After all there was nothing about us by which we could be
identified. Appearances were certainly in our favour; and the black
eye I had that morning received from the farmer was not the least
likely thing of all to stand me in good stead.

"Sit tight," I whispered to her, "and we'll keep asipping out of the
same pot as unconcerned as possible."

Mr. Jeremy having seated himself with majestic negligence at a table
immediately opposite us, turned to his companion and says:

"Wattle you 'ave, Willum?"

"Make it porter," says Willum, in a voice of extreme melancholy.

"Wattle you 'ave, Mr. Johnson?" says Mr. Jeremy, addressing the host, a
reel-faced worthy of simple ways, who seemed pleased with himself and
all the world.

"Make it porter, Mr. Jeremy, as you're so haffable," says he; "and what
might be your own?"

"If you 'ave any of that there sloe-gin, mine's sloe-gin," says Mr.

These preliminaries being arranged to the satisfaction of all
concerned, and the host having retired to fetch the refreshment, Mr.
Jeremy remarked to his companion with a wonderful air of reflection:
"Honest, unassooming feller."

"Very," says the other, more gloomily than ever.

Mr. Jeremy then observed us for the first time. We returned his gaze
with one of the most simple unconcern.

"Nice day," says he.

"Very," says I heartily.

Here the host returned with the refreshment, and having pledged each
other, they drank solemnly and copiously.

"Well, Mr. Jeremy," says the host, "what are you after this time? It's
a murder, I know, for you to be taking it on. You never do nothing
under a murder, you don't, as I've heard you say."

"You don't mean to say as you 'aven't 'eard?" says Mr. Jeremy. "The
whole case was printed in this morning's _Gazette_. It's no small
thing, this isn't, I can tell you. The quality's in it, to start with."

"Ha!" says the landlord, with breathless interest. "Is it a hanging

"Of course," says Mr. Jeremy. "And a hearl, and a thorough bad lot
too. A thorough wicked feller with a record as black as your hat. I
always say when one of that sort goes wrong he's much worse than

"If it's you that says it, Mr. Jeremy, there can be no manner of doubt
about it," says the landlord.

He appeared to hang on every word that the man from Bow Street uttered.
That worthy gentleman who was by no means unaware of the impression he
created, was at pains in a dozen little ways to heighten it. Now and
then he would halt in a mysterious manner, wink and nod, and then
continue in a truly oracular way. It was plain that he felt himself to
be a man of a great reputation, and it would certainly be no fault of
his if he failed to sustain it. Nor was he content to work on the mind
of the landlord, but continually looked across at us to see what effect
he was having on our susceptibilities. Observing this, I began at once
to betray an interest in all he thought fit to say and do; an interest
more exaggerated than the landlord's even, and certainly less sincere.

"Are you the great Mr. John Jeremy from Bow Street, sir?" says I at the
first opportunity. I asked it in a voice of as much timidity as I
could summon, as one astonished at his boldness.

Instead of replying, the gentleman from Bow Street closed his eyes in
exquisite self-satisfaction, threw his head back against the wall and
folded his arms across his chest.

"How can you ask?" says the landlord, replying for him. "Who else can
he be? I should ha' thought your eyes would ha' told you that with one
look at him."

"I am very proud to meet you, sir," says I, and added, turning to
Cynthia: "Who would have thought it, Betsy, that you and I of all
people would ever have met the great Mr. Jeremy from Bow Street in

"Don't mention it," says Mr. Jeremy, opening his eyes with vast

"Oh, Mr. Jeremy," says my little Cynthia, playing up to her part in the
comedy with admirable instinct, "would you - could you let me have a
peep at the - at the handcuffs?"

Mr. Jeremy needed no second invitation to exhibit the badges of his
office. He took them from his pocket and laid them on the table with
an air. And nothing would content Cynthia but she must rise from her
seat, go over to the gentleman from Bow Street, and have the manacles
clapped upon her wrists to see how they felt. Her curiosity was very
prettily and justly simulated. It was done to the life, and no one
could have been more pleased by it than Mr. Jeremy.

Not content with thrilling Cynthia with the handcuffs, the gentleman
from Bow Street was anxious to impress everybody else. He presently
produced the warrant for the wicked earl's arrest; also a handbill
offering one hundred pounds reward for any information that should lead
to the apprehension of the person whose full description was contained

"But that's only a matter of form, you know," says Mr. Jeremy. "I've
already got all the information that I want in this 'ere," Mr. Jeremy
solemnly tapped his forehead. "It's only a work of time. We knows
everything about him: his age, his height, his complexion, his general
appearance, how he was drest, and his religious views. All there is to
know of him we knows. I wouldn't give a snap of the fingers for that
man, no that I wouldn't, not if you paid me to do it."

"Wonderful!" says the landlord, his eyes dilated with admiration.
"Wonderful smart! What a mind you must have, sir."

"_I_ didn't say so," says Mr. Jeremy, "Though I wouldn't contradict you
there. A feller's got to have a mind for our perfession. A numscull
can't make head or tail of it, can't a numscull. It's observation that
does it, d'ye see? You've got to put two and two together, and to know
how many beans make five. Now in the case of this 'ere hearl, I've
made such a liberal use o' my faculties that the noose is as good as
round his neck. Pore feller, I'm sorry for him."

Mr. Jeremy's sorrow was reproduced in the face of each one of his
hearers. In that of his man and the innkeeper it was sincere enough,
and at least in mine and Cynthia's it was very well simulated. One and
all professed the greatest admiration for the gentleman's genius. To
be sure, in what way it had been manifested was not very clear; but as
his speech, his behaviour, and the airs he gave himself furnished
incontestable proofs of its possession, how could we help doing homage
to it? He sat like a potentate, and received the court we paid to him
as by no means more than his due. But he was generous as well as
great, for having ordered his own glass to be replenished, he asked us
all to name our tipple, wherein we had the privilege of drinking his

As soon as we felt that we could slip off without attracting any
particular attention to our going, we took the road again. Yet in the
precautions we were at to get away as little observed as might be, we
were more ill-served than by an ostentatious departure. For our one
object being to retire quickly and privily, we discovered when we had
gone a few yards on the road that we had not paid our reckoning. Thus
when the landlord awoke to this fact, we should be much more freely
discussed and commented on than by paying our score and effecting our
retirement at our leisure. Cynthia, who had a wonderful itch of
honesty, was mightily put out, and was all for going back and for
requiting the landlord at any cost. But I demurred to this strongly.
The sooner we put a few country miles between ourselves and Mr. Jeremy
the better, said I. Yet Cynthia argued more subtly, and more justly,
as I was fain to allow. Mr. Jeremy and the innkeeper had taken no
suspicion of us to the time of our leaving the inn, said she, and if we
were at the trouble to go back again, frankly admit our lapse of
memory, and even go out of our way to behave honestly, we should be far
more likely to continue in their good graces, than if we left them in
the lurch as I proposed. In that event we should infallibly get
ourselves and our concerns talked about.

Admitting the justness of this reasoning, I consented after a brief
argument to our going back. Mrs. Cynthia was pleased indeed, partly
because this course was such a tribute to her wisdom, and again because
she would not have to carry on her nice conscience an act that fretted
it. When we re-entered the inn it seemed that the landlord had already
discovered his loss, and was in the very act of calling us harsh names.
Indeed he was so occupied with this and was expressing himself so
fervently, whilst Mr. Jeremy laughed at him in a humorous key, that he
was not conscious of the fact that we stood behind him, until I said:

"I quite agree with you, host, in all you have said, if such was our
intention. But as it happens, nothing could be farther from it. The
moment we discovered our omission, we returned to rectify it."

The landlord was in a great taking when he heard my voice at his back.
Having listened to his apologies that were no less fervent than his
previous abuse, and having taken them in very good part, I demanded to
know the amount of the score, and smiled at Mr. Jeremy while I did so,
in an intimate way, for I judged a display of some little familiarity
towards him was the most calculated to propitiate that gentleman.

Eightpence was the score, a sum fortunately well within our truly
modest means. But judge of our desperate chagrin an instant later when
Cynthia, the custodian of our poor fortune, having felt in all her
pockets, declared that the purse which contained it was not to be
found. Search as she might, there was never a trace of it. We stared
at one another blankly, and then at the landlord, and then at Mr.
Jeremy. It was this last good gentleman who saved the situation for
us, since he burst out a-laughing. Thereon I broke into a roar; and
presently Cynthia, Willum, and the landlord were roaring too. And
could anything have been more ludicrous than two persons leaving an inn
without paying the reckoning, and wending all the way back again for
the purpose of rectifying the error with devil a penny between them
with which to do so!

Under cover of the commotion that this discovery provoked, I racked my
wits to find an excuse for our behaviour.

"You may laugh, gentlemen," says I, with a sudden gravity, "but it is
no laughing matter for us, let me tell you. My wife's pocket hath been
picked, and how we are to get back home with not so much as a penny
between us, strike me dead if I can say!"

"Why, 'tis a case for Mr. Jeremy's genius," says Cynthia, smiling at
that flattered person in a most bewitching manner. "He must devise us
a means out of his infinite wit."

"Peace, woman," says I, angrily. "Is it not enough then that you
should lose all our travelling money and bring us into disgrace with
our honest host, whom we are unable to requite for his hospitality, but
you must lose the control of that unlucky tongue too, and let it grow
so familiar with the name and attainments of one of the foremost
persons of his age that it brings us into disrepute with him also?"

I spoke with my tongue in my cheek to be sure, and Cynthia more than
once had to bite her lips to restrain her merriment. But Mr. Jeremy
nodded his head delightedly all the time, and purred with satisfaction.

"No offence, no offence," says that gentleman. "Don't mind me, my
pretty one. But since you ask my opinion as to 'ow you shall get back
home again, I think after carefully considering all the circumstances,
the only means I can discover is 'Shanks's mare.'"

"Ha ha! he he!" we all laughed at this desperate piece of wit.

The upshot was that we were allowed to depart indebted to the innkeeper
in the sum of eightpence. The loss of our money was a blow. Why it
should have been I cannot tell, for after all it was very little the
right side of destitution. Cynthia was quite unable to say in what
manner she had lost it, and when I came to put a few shrewd questions
to her on the subject, she was so vague in her ideas and so uncertain
in her answers, that it became a moot point at last whether her fortune
of twelvepence halfpenny had not existed from the first in her
imagination only.



It was about sundown now. We had not so much as a penny to purchase a
loaf of bread. Night was coming on; there were no friends to whom we
might recommend ourselves; and at least two parties of persons were
engaged in hunting us down in that vicinity. To set against these
inconveniences we had only our liberty and our comradeship; and
although our bellies were like to go empty, and our heads unpillowed
that night, and for full many a weary one to come, we did not rail
against our lot. We were as free as the air and could defy the polite
conventions. Lest we should fall in again with Mr. Waring and our
papa, or less dangerously with Mr. Jeremy, we decided to forsake the
high road and its publicity, and take to the fields. All ways were
alike to us; north, south, east, and west, it did not matter.

We had not gone far across the country when the twilight overtook us.
We did not view it with the least apprehension, however. The night
promised to be so mild, and we were so warmly found against it with our
cloaks and thick clothes, that another evening couch in a barn or a
cowhouse would not greatly daunt us. Indeed we had already made up our
minds to this, unless Providence should throw a more luxurious one in
our path. In the event this proved to be the case, for after awhile
our wanderings brought us to a kind of common, across which smoke was
seen to be rising. It came from a fire of sticks as we presently
found, and on coming to it, we discovered ourselves in the midst of a
gypsy encampment.

Four or five persons of a dirty, ragged and uncouth sort, were busying
themselves about the fire in various ways. One was tending it with
fuel, another was adjusting a great cooking-pot that sat in the midst
of the embers, a third was cleaning a clasp-knife with a piece of rag
and a tuft of grass, a fourth had two parts of a flute in his hand and
was striving to fix them together; an old woman sat staring into the
blaze with her hands on her knees, smoking a pipe; and a young woman,
by no means destitute of a swarthy beauty, sat beside her with a child
at her breast.

The reception we met with at the hands of these simple strange people
was at first reserved and suspicious to a degree. One of the men
addressed us in a barbarous tongue, the like of which I have neither
heard before nor since. I could not make a word out of it. Showing
plainly that we were at a loss in this language, the man translated it
into good if a trifle rustic English:

"What do you want?" says he roughly.

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Online LibraryJ. C. (John Collis) SnaithThe Wayfarers → online text (page 8 of 18)