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Frederick Marryat.

Poor Jack; and The settlers in Canada online

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ill very ill in the hospital ; he would not have confessed
all this if he had not felt how ill he was."

" Deary, deary me ! " replied old Nanny, wringing her
hands ; " I must go see him."

" Nay, mother, I fear you cannot. The fact is that he
is dying, and he has sent me to ask your forgiveness for
his conduct to you."

" Deary, deary me ! " continued old Nanny, seemingly half
out of her wits ; " in the hospital, so near to his poor mother
and dying. Dear Jemmy ! "

Then the old woman covered up her face with her apron
and was silent. I waited a minute or two, and then I again
spoke to her.

" Will you not answer my question, mother ? Your
son has but an hour perhaps to live, and he dies peni-
tent not only for his conduct to you, but for his lawless
and wicked life ; but he feels his treatment of you to be
worse than all his other crimes, and he has sent me to
beg that you will forgive him before he dies. Answer me,
mother."

"Jack/' said Nanny, removing the apron from her face,

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"I feel as if it was I who ought to ask his pardon, and
not he who should ask mine. Who made him bad ? his
foolish mother. Who made him unable to control his
passions ? his foolish mother. Who was the cause of his
plunging into vice of his intemperance, of his gaming,
of his wild and desperate career which might have ended,
as I supposed it had done, on the gallows but a foolish,
weak, selfish mother, who did not do her duty to him in
his childhood ? It is I who was his great enemy I who
assisted the devil to lead him to destruction I who, had
he been hanged, had been, and have felt for years that I
was, his executioner. Can I forgive him ? Can he forgive
me ? "

" Mother, his time is short I will come to you again,
and tell you much more. But if you knew how earnest
he is to have your forgiveness before he dies, you would at
once send me away to him."

" Then go, my child go, and may you often be sent on
such kind missions ! Go, and tell my poor James that
his mother forgives him begs to be forgiven still dotes
upon him and God knows with how much pleasure
would die for him ! Go quick, child the sands of the
glass run fast quick, child the dying cannot wait quick
quick ! "

Nanny had risen from her stool and taken me by the
arm ; when we were clear of the threshold she loosed me,
and sank down to the earth, whether overcome by her feel-
ings, or in a state of insensibility, I did not wait to ascertain
I fled to execute my mission before it was too late.

In a few minutes I was at the hospital breathless, it was
true. I went in, and found Spicer still alive, for his eyes
turned to me. I went up to him ; the nurse, who was
standing by him, told me he was speechless, and would soon
be gone. I told her I would remain with him, and she went
to the other patients. I gave him his mother's message,
and he was satisfied ; he squeezed my hand, and a smile,
which appeared to illumine like a rainbow his usual dark
and moody countenance, intimated hope and joy ; in a few
seconds he was no more, but the smile continued on his
features after death.

I then returned to old Nanny, who, I found, had been put

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Into bed by some neighbours, and at her bedside was Mrs.
St. Felix, who had been passing by and had observed her
situation. She was now recovered and quiet. As soon
as* they had left her I entered into a more full detail
of how I became acquainted with the circumstances which
led to the discovery. I did not conceal from her that
it was her own son who had attempted the robbery; and
I wound up by stating that he had died, I really believed,
not only penitent, but happy from having received her
forgiveness.

"Jack Jack you have been as good as an angel to me,
indeed you have. It was you also who prevented my poor
James from killing his mother it is you that have been the
means of his making his peace with Heaven. Bless you,
Jack, bless you ! "



CHAPTER XLVI

In which Mrs. St. Felix refuses a splendid offer which I am
duly empowered to make to her.

L LEFT old Nanny as soon as she was more composed,
for I was so anxious to have some conversation with old
Anderson. I did not call on my father, as it was not a case
on which he was likely to offer any opinion, and I thought
it better that the secret which I possessed should be known
but to one other person. I refer to the knowledge which
I had obtained relative to the husband of Mrs. St. Felix,
who, it appeared, was not hanged, as supposed by her. The
information received from Spicer accounted for Mrs. St.
Felix's conduct when any reference was made to her
husband, and I was now aware how much pain she must
have suffered when his name was mentioned. I found
Anderson alone in his office, and I immediately made him
acquainted with what I had learnt, and asked him his
opinion as to the propriety of communicating it to Mrs. St.
Felix. Anderson rested his head upon his hand for some
time in silence ; at last he looked up at me.

"Why, Tom, that she suffers much from the supposed
ignominious fate of her husband is certain, but it is only

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occasionally ; her spirits are good, and she is cheerful, except
when reminded of it by any casual observation. That it
would prove a great consolation to her to know that her
husband did not forfeit his life on the scaffold is true ; but
what then ? he is said to have entered the King's service
under another name, and, of course, there is every proba-
bility of his being alive and well at this moment. Now she
is comparatively tranquil and composed ; but consider what
anxiety, what suspense, what doubts, must ever fill her mind,
must oppress her waking hours, must haunt her in her
dreams, after she is made acquainted with his possible
existence. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick ; and her
existence would be one of continued tumult, of constant
anticipation, and I may say of misery. He may be dead, and
then will her new-born hopes be crushed when she has
ascertained the fact; he may never appear again, and she
may linger out a life of continual fretting. I think, Tom,
that were she my daughter, and I in possession of similar
facts, I would not tell her at least, not at present. We
may be able to make inquiries without her knowledge. We
know his name ; an advertisement might come to his eyes
or ears ; and, moreover, you have the telescope, which may
be of use if it is constantly seen in your hands. Let us at
present do all we can without her knowledge, and leave the
result in the hands of Providence, who, if it thinks fit, will
work by its own means. Are you of my opinion, Tom ? "

"When I came to ask your advice, Anderson, it was with
the intention of being guided by it, even if it had not coin-
cided with my own opinion, which, now that I have heard
your reasons, it certainly does. By-the-bye, I have not yet
called upon Mrs. St. Felix, and I will go now. You will see
old Nanny again ? "

" I will, my boy, this evening. Good-bye ! I'm very busy
now, for the officers will inspect to-morrow morning."

I quitted the hospital, and had arrived in Church Street,
when, passing the doctor's house on my way to Mrs. St.
Felix, Mr. Thomas Cobb, who had become a great dandy,
and, in his own opinion at least, a great doctor, called to
me, "Saunders, my dear fellow, just come in, I wish to
speak with you particularly." I complied with his wishes.
Mr. Cobb was remarkable in his dress. Having sprung up

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POOR JACK

to the height of at least six feet in his stockings, he had
become remarkably thin and spare, and the first idea that
struck you when you saw him was that he was all panta-
loons ; for he wore blue cotton net tight pantaloons, and
his Hessian boots were so low, and his waistcoat so short,
that there was at least four feet, out of the sum total of
six, composed of blue cotton net, which fitted very close to
a very spare figure. He wore no cravat, but a turn-down
collar with a black ribbon, his hair very long, with a very
puny pair of moustachios on his upper lip, and something
like a tuft on his chin. Altogether, he was a strange-
looking being, especially when he had substituted for his
long coat a short nankeen jacket, which was the case at
the time I am speaking of.

" Well, Mr. Cobb, what may be your pleasure with me ?
You must not detain me long, as I was about to call on
Mrs. St. Felix."

" So I presumed, my dear sir," replied he ; " and for that
very reason I requested you to walk in. Take a chair.
Friendship, Tom, is a great blessing ; it is one of the charms
of life. We have known each other long, and it is to tax
your friendship that I have requested you to come in."

" Well, be as quick as you can, that's all," replied I.

" Festina lente, as Dr. Tadpole often says, adding that it
is Latin for hat and boots. I am surprised at his ignorance
of the classics ; any schoolboy ought to know that caput is
the Latin for hat, and Bootes for boots. But lately I have
abandoned the classics, and have given up my soul to
poetry."

Indeed ! "

" Yes ; ' Friendship and Love ' is my toast, whenever I am
called upon at the club. What does Campbell say ? "

" I'm sure I don't know."

" I'll tell you, Tom

' Without the smile from heav'nly beauty won,
Oh, what were man 1 A world without a sun.' "

" Well, I daresay it's all true," replied I ; " for if a woman
does not smile upon a man he's not very likely to marry
her, and therefore has no chance of having a son."

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POOR JACK

" Tom, you have no soul for poetry."

" Perhaps not ; I have been too busy to read any."

"But you should; youth is the age of poetry."

" Well, I thought it was the time to work ; moreover,
I don't understand how youth can be age. But pray tell
me, what is it you want of me, for I want to see Mrs. St.
Felix before dinner-time."

" Well, then, Tom, I am in love deeply, desperately,
irrevocably, and everlastingly in love."

" I wish you well out of it," replied I, with some bitter-
ness. " And pray with whom may you be so dreadfully in
love Anny Whistle ? " /

" Anny Whistle ! to the winds have I whistled her long
ago. No, that was a juvenile fancy. Hear me. I am in
love with the charming widow."

"What, Mrs. St. Felix?"

"Yes. Felix means happy in Latin, and my happiness

depends upon her. I must either succeed, or Tom, do

you see that bottle ? "

" Yes."

" Well, it's laudanum ; that's all."

" But, Tom, you forget ; you certainly would not supplant
your patron, your master, I may say your benefactor the
doctor ? "

" Why not ? he has tried, and failed. He has been trying
to make an impression upon her these ten years, but it's
no go. Ain't I a doctor, as good as he ? Ay, better, for
I'm a young doctor, and he is an old one ! All the ladies
are for me now. I'm a very rising young man."

" Well, don't rise much higher, or your head will reach up to
the shop ceiling. Have you anything more to say to me ? "

"Why, I have hardly begun. You see, Tom, the widow
looks upon me with a favourable eye, and more than once
I have thought of popping the question over the counter ;
but I never could muster up courage, my love is so intense.
As the poet says

' Silence in love betrays more woe
Than words, howe'er so witty ;
The beggar that is dumb, you know,
Deserves our double pity.'
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POOR JACK

Now, Tom, I wish to tax your friendship. I wish you to
speak for me."

" What, speak to Mrs. St. Felix ? "

" Yes, be my ambassador. I have attempted to write
some verses ; but somehow or another I never could find
rhymes. The poetic feeling is in me, nevertheless. Tell
me, Tom, will you do what I ask ? "

" But what makes you think that the widow is favourably
inclined ? "

" What ? why, her behaviour, to be sure. I never pass
her but she laughs or smiles. And then the doctor is
evidently jealous ; accuses me of making wrong mixtures ;
of paying too much attention to dress ; of reading too
much; always finding fault. However, the time may come

1 repeat my request ; Tom, will you oblige me ? You

ought to have a fellow-feeling."

This last remark annoyed me. I felt convinced that
Mrs. St. Felix was really laughing at him, so I replied, "I
shall not refuse you, but recollect that he who has been
so unsuccessful himself, is not likely to succeed for others.
You shall have your answer very soon."

"Thanks, Tom, thanks. My toast, as I said before, when
called upon, is ' Friendship and Love.' "

I quitted the shop, and went into that of Mrs. St. Felix,
who, I thought, looked handsomer than ever.

" Come at last, Tom ! " said the widow, extending her
hand. " I thought you would have called yesterday. Your
sister was here."

" I have been less pleasantly engaged. You know that
Spicer is dead."

"One of the pensioners I never saw him that I know
of, but I heard old Ben mention his death this morning,
and that you were with him : was he a friend of yours ? "

"No, indeed, I thought you knew something of him, or
I should not have mentioned his name." I then changed
the conversation, telling her what had passed at Deal, and
listening to her remarks upon old Nanny, my mother, and
our mutual acquaintances.

" And the doctor -how is he ? "

" As busy as ever : I'm sorry, however, that he complains
very much of Tom Cobb, and says that he must dismiss him.

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POOR JACK

He has made some very serious mistakes in mixing the
medicines, and nearly killed five or six people."

" Had he killed them outright, their deaths must have been
laid at your door," replied I, very seriously.

" Good heavens ! what do you mean, Tom ? "

" I mean this, that your bright eyes have fascinated him ;
and that, to use his own expression, he is deeply, desperately,
irrevocably, and everlastingly in love with you."

Here Mrs. St. Felix burst out in a laugh, so violent that
I thought that it would end in hysterics. As soon as she
had recovered herself, continued

" It is all true, and independent of the five or six people
half killed, you will have to answer for a whole death
besides, for Tom has intimated to me that if he fails in
his suit he will have recourse to the big bottle of laudanum.
You must further know that he has taxed my friendship
to make known to you his deplorable condition, being un-
equal to the task himself."

" He must be mad," observed Mrs. St. Felix quietly.

" He flatters himself that you have given him encourage-
ment. I asked him in ^vhat way ; he says you always laugh
at him."

"True as the Bible I can't help laughing at such a droll
figure as he makes of himself. Mercy on me ! what are
men made of? Well, Tom, I'm sure I ought to be flattered,
for (let it be a secret between us, Tom) this is the second
offer I have received within these twenty-four hours."

"The doctor, I presume; Tom says that he is jealous."

" I mention no names. This is all very foolish."

"But you have not yet rejected both: Tom awaits his
answer."

"Tell him anything that you please. By-the-bye, you
may just as well add that instead of taking the laudanum,
he had better resort to his old remedy of liquorice and
water. It will look just as killing in the phial, and not be
quite so fatal in its results."

" I shall certainly execute your commission in as delicate
a way as I possibly can."

" Do, Tom, and pray let me hear no more of this non-
sense, for, ridiculous as it may appear, it is to me very
painful. Leave me now I am nervous and low-spirited.

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POOR JACK

Good-bye. Come this evening with your sister, I shall be
better then."

Mrs. St. Felix went into the back parlour, and I left the
shop. I had turned the wrong way, almost forgetting to give
Tom his answer, when I recollected myself, and returned to
the doctor's house.

" Well ? " said Tom eagerly.

"Why," replied I, hardly having made my mind up what
to say, yet not wishing to hurt his feelings, "the fact is,
Tom, that the widow has a very good opinion of you."

" I knew that," interrupted Tom.

" And if she were ever to marry again why, you would
have quite as good a chance as the doctor."

" I was sure of that," said he.

" But at present, the widow for reasons which she can-
not explain to anybody cannot think of entering into any
new engagement."

" I see no regular engagement."

" Exactly so ; but as soon as she feels herself at liberty "

" Yes," said Tom, breathless.

" Why, then she'll send, I presume, and let you know."

" I see, then, I may hope."

"Why, not exactly but there will be no occasion to take
laudanum."

" Not a drop, my dear fellow, depend upon it."

"There is no saying what may come to pass, you see,
Tom : two, or three, or four years may "

" Four years that's a very long time."

" Nothing to a man sincerely in love."

" No, nothing that's very true."

" So all you have to do is to follow up your profession
quietly and steadily, and wait and see what time may bring
forth."

" So I will I'll wait twenty years, if that's all."

I wished Tom good-bye, thinking that it was probable
that he would wait a great deal longer ; but at all events,
he was pacified and contented for the time, and there would
be no great harm done, even if he did continue to make
the widow the object of his passion for a year or two
longer. It would keep him out of mischief, and away from
Anny Whistle.

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POOR JACK

On my return home I met with a severe shock, in con-
sequence of information which my mother did not scruple
to communicate to me. Perhaps it was all for the best, as
it broke the last link of an unhappy attachment. She in-
formed me very abruptly that the shutters of Mr. Wilson's
house were closed in consequence of his having received

intelligence of the death of Lady . Poor Janet had

expired in her first confinement, and the mother and child
were to be consigned to the same tomb. This intelligence
drove me to my chamber, and I may be considered weak,
but I shed many tears for her untimely end. I did not go
with my sister to Mrs. St. Felix, but remained alone till
the next day, when Virginia came, and persuaded me to
walk with her to the hospital, as she had a message for
my father.

After we had seen my father we walked down to the
hospital terrace, by the riverside. We had not been there
but a few minutes when we heard Bill Harness strike up
with his fiddle :

" Oh, cruel was my parents as tore my love from me,
And cruel was the press-gang as took him off to sea ;
And cruel was the little boat as row'd him from the strand,
But crueller the big ship as sail'd him from the land.

Sing tura-la, tura-la, tura-lara ley.

Oh, cruel was the water as bore my love from Mary,
And cruel was the fair wind as wouldn't blow contrary ;
And cruel was the captain, his boatswain, and his men,
As didn't care a farding if we never meet again.

Sing tura-la, tura-la, tura-lara ley.

Oh, cruel was th' engagement in which my true love fought,
And cruel was the cannon-ball as knock'd his right eye out ;
He used to ogle me with peepers full of fun,
But now he looks askew at me, because he's only one.

Sing tura-la, &c. &c."

" Eh ! wid your tura-la. You call dat singing ? " cried
Opposition Bill, stumping up, with his fiddle in his hand.
" Stop a little. How you do, Mr. Tom ? how you do, pretty
lady ? Now I sing you a song, and show dat fellow how to
make music. Stop a little, Miss Virginny."

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POOR JACK

"Well," said Bill Harness,, "I'll just let you sing, that
Miss Saunders may judge between us."

Virginia felt half inclined to go away ; but as the pen-
sioners always treated her with as much respect as any of
the ladies of the officers of the hospital, I pressed her arm
that she might stay. Opposition Bill then struck up as
follows, saying, " Now I give you a new * Getting upstairs.' "

" On board of a man-of-war dey hauled me one day,
And pitch me up de side just like one truss of hay.

Such a getting upstairs I nebber did see,
Such a getting upstairs.

Dey show me de masthead, and tell me I must go,
I tumble on de rattling, and break my lilly toe.

Such a getting upstairs I nebber did see, &c.

Dey pipe de hands up anchor, and Massa Boatswain's cane
Come rattle on our backs, for all de world like rain.

Such a getting upstairs, &c.

And den dey man de rigging, de topsails for to reef,
And up we scull together, just like a flock of sheep.

Such a getting upstairs, &c.

Dey send de boats away, a Frenchman for to board,
We climb de side with one hand, de oder hold de sword.
Such a getting upstairs, &c.

Now here I sent to Greenwich because I lost a leg,
And ab to climb up to de ward upon my wooden peg.

Such a getting upstairs, &c."

" Dere, now ; I ask you, Mister Tom, and de young lady,
which sing best, dat fellow, or your humble servant Bill
dat's me ?"

"You sing very well, Bill," said Virginia, laughing, "but
I'm not able to decide such a difficult point."

" Nor more can I ; it is impossible to say which I like
best," continued I. "We must go home now, so good-bye."

" Thanky you, Mister Tom ; thanky you, Missy. I see
you wish to spare him feelings ; but I know what you tink
in your heart."

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POOR JACK

Virginia and I now left the hospital. There was one
subject which was often discussed between my sister and
me, which was, my situation with regard to Bramble and
Bessy. I had no secrets from her, and she earnestly ad-
vised me to try if I could not make up my mind to a
union with a person of whom I could not possibly speak but
with the highest encomiums.

" Depend upon it, my dear Tom," said she, " she will
make you a good wife ; and with her as a companion, you
will soon forget the unhappy attachment which has made
you so miserable. I am not qualified from experience to
advise you on this point, but I have a conviction in my
own mind that Bessy is really just the sort of partner for
life who will make you happy. And then, you owe much
to Bramble, and you are aware how happy it would make
him ; and as her partiality for you is already proved, I do
wish that you would think seriously upon what I now say.
I long to see and make her acquaintance, but I really long
much more to embrace her as a sister."

I could not help acknowledging that Bessy was as perfect
as I could expect any one to be, where none are perfect.
I admitted the truth and good sense of my sister's reasoning,
and the death of Janet contributed not a little to assist
her arguments ; but she was not the only one who appeared
to take an interest in this point : my father would hint at
it jocosely, and Mrs. St. Felix did once compliment me on
my good fortune in having the chance of success with a
person whom every one admired and praised. The party,
however, who had most weight with me was old Anderson,
who spoke to me unreservedly and seriously.

" Tom," said he, " you must be aware that Bramble and
I are great friends, and have been so for many years. He
has no secrets from me, and I have no hesitation in telling
you that his regards and affections are so equally bestowed
between you and his adopted child, that it is difficult for
himself to say to which he is the most attached ; further,
as he has told me, his fervent and his dearest wish the
one thing which will make him happy, and the only one
without which he will not be happy, although he may be
resigned is that an union should take place between you
and Bessy. I am not one of those who would persuade

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POOR JACK

you to marry her out of gratitude to Bramble. Gratitude
may be carried too far ; but she is, by all accounts, amiable
and beautiful, devoted to excess, and capable of any exertion
and any sacrifice for those she loves ; and, Tom, she loves
you. With her I consider that you have every prospect
of being happy in the most important step in life. You
may say that you do not love her, although you respect,
and admire, and esteem her : granted ; but on such feel-
ings towards a woman is the firmest love based, and must
eventually grow. Depend upon it, Tom, that that hasty and
violent attachment which is usually termed love, and which
so blinds both parties that they cannot before marriage
perceive each other's faults, those matches which are called
love matches, seldom or ever turn out happily. I do not
mean to say but that they sometimes do ; but, like a lottery,
there are many blanks for one prize. Believe me, Tom,
there is no one who has your interest and welfare at
heart more than I have. I have known you since you
were a child, and have watched you with as much solicitude
as any parent. Do you think, then, that I would persuade
you to what I thought would not contribute to your happi-



Online LibraryFrederick MarryatPoor Jack; and The settlers in Canada → online text (page 28 of 58)