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Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

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happened. The answer made his own heart flutter with deep
emotion. The man said that, while standing alone, a strange and
momentary noise had struck upon his ear, coming as if from the
apartment within. A suspicion of the truth crossing his mind on the
instant, the surgeon opened the door hurriedly, exclaiming : ' Why
did you not open it? why did you not send for me?'

On entering the chamber, the suspicion of the anxious surgeon
was verified. The body, which had been left with the face upwards,,
was found turned upon one side, and blood had issued from the
mouth ! The exertions which at the time had seemed utterly
unavailing, had in reality produced an effect upon the body r
evidenced, unhappily, when all had retired from the attempt. The
spark of life had actually reanimated for an instant the cold frame,
while there was none by to nurse and cherish its glimmering ray
into vigorous and enduring flame. The renewed endeavours made
no impression. The moment of hope had passed by, unseen
and unprofited. What a solemn lesson is this, never, while the
shadow of a possibility remains, to cease the endeavour to relight
the lamp that has been quenched, for a time, only it may be, in the
deep waters !


IN the course of that memorable expedition in 1529, when James V.
proceeded with an army along the Borders in order to quell the
numerous freebooters who kept the country in fear, an incident
occurred which forms the subject of traditionary story in Tweeddale.
The king, after visiting Polmood and Oliver Castle, on the upper
part of the Tweed, crossed the mountain tract on the south, into
the vale of the Megget, and there suddenly environed the castle of

This solitary tower was at the time inhabited by Piers Cockburn,
one of the most noted marauders in this wild district of country.
According to tradition, Piers was sitting at dinner when he was
surprised by the king, and without ceremony led out and hanged
over the gate of his own castle. While the execution was going
forward, his unhappy wife is said to have taken refuge in the recesses
of the Dow-glen a dell formed by a mountain torrent called the
Henderland Burn, which passes near the site of the tower. A place,
termed the Lady's Seat, is still shewn, where she is said to have


striven to drown, amid the roar of a foaming cataract, the tumultuous
noise which announced the close of her husband's existence.

In a deserted burial-place, which once surrounded the chapel of
the castle, the monument of Cockburn is still shewn. It is a large
stone, broken into three parts ; but some armorial bearings may be
yet traced ; and the following inscription is still legible, though
greatly defaced by time : ' Here lyis Perys of Cokburne and hys wyfe
Mariory.' Latterly, the tomb has been preserved from obliteration
by the good taste of the late proprietor, Mr Murray of Henderland.

On the melancholy incident above related, the following simple
and affecting ballad, the Lament of the Border Widow, was after-
wards written :

' My love he built me a bonny bower,
And clad it a' wi' lilye flour ;
A brawer bower ye ne'er did see,
Than my true love he built for me.

There came a man, by middle day,
He spied his sport, and went away ;
And brought the king that very night,
Who brake my bower, and slew my knight

He slew my knight, to me sae dear ;
He slew my knight, and poined his gear ;
My servants all for life did flee,
And left me in extremitie.

I sewed his sheet, making my mane ;
I watched the corpse, myself alane ;
I watched his body, night and day;
No living creature came that way.

I took his body on my back,

And whiles I gaed, and whiles I satte ;

I digged a grave, and laid him in,

And happed him with the sod sae green.

But thinkna ye my heart was sair,

When I laid the moul' on his yellow hair?

thinkna ye my heart was wae,
When I turned about, away to gae ?

Nae living man I '11 love again,
Since that my lovely knight is slain ;
Wi' ae lock of his yellow hair

1 '11 chain my heart for evermair.'



DO not tell you whether the village of Repton, where
the two brothers John and Charles Adams originally
resided, is near or far from London : it is a pretty
village to this day ; and when John Adams, some five-

and- thirty years ago, stood on the top of Repton Hill,

and looked down upon the houses the little church, whose simple
gate was flanked by two noble yew-trees, beneath whose branches he
had often sat the murmuring river, in which he had often fished
the cherry orchards, where the ripe fruit hung like balls of coral ;
when he looked down upon all these dear domestic sights for so
every native of Repton considered them John Adams might have
been supposed to question if he had acted wisely in selling to his
brother Charles the share of the well-cultivated farm, which had
been equally divided at their father's death. It extended to the left
of the spot on which he was standing, almost within a ring fence ;
the meadows fresh shorn of their produce, and fragrant with the

* This interesting little story appeared originally in Chamber?* Edinburgh Journal, for
which it was written by the amiable and gifted authoress. It has been issued in the present
convenient form, for the purpose of universal distribution by all who are anxious to promote
that most desirable practice the insuring of lives for the benefit of surviving families.



perfume of new hay ; the crops full of promise ; and the lazy cattle
laving themselves in the standing pond of the abundant farm-yard.
In a paddock, set apart for his especial use, was the old blind horse
his father had bestrode during the last fifteen years of his life : it
leant its sightless head upon the gate, half upturned, he fancied,
towards where he stood. It is wonderful what small things will
sometimes stir up the hearts of strong men, ay, and, what is still
more difficult, even of ambitious men. Yet he did not feel at that
moment a regret for the fair acres he had parted with ; he was full
of the importance which the possession of a considerable sum of
money gives a young man, who has been fagging almost unsuccess-
fully in an arduous profession, and one which requires a certain
appearance of success to command success for John Adams even
then placed M.D. after his plain name ; yet still, despite the absence
of sorrow, and the consciousness of increased power, he continued to
look at poor old Ball until his eyes swam in tears.

With the presence of his father, which the sight of the old horse
had conjured up, came the remembrance of his peculiarities, his
habits, his expressions ; and he wondered, as they passed in review
before him, how he could ever have thought the dear old man testy
or tedious. Even his frequent quotations from ' Poor Richard '
appeared to him, for the first time, the results of common prudence ;
and his rude but wise rhyme, when, in the joy of his heart, he told
his father he had absolutely received five guineas as one fee from an
ancient dame who had three middle-aged daughters (he had not,
however, acquainted his father with that fact), came more forcibly to
his memory than it had ever done to his ear

' For want and age save while you may ;
No morning sun shines all the day.'

He repeated the last line over and over again, as his father had
done ; but as his ' morning sun ' was at that moment shining, it is
not matter of astonishment that the remembrance was evanescent,
and that it did not make the impression upon him his father had
desired long before.

A young, unmarried, handsome physician, with about three
thousand pounds in his pocket, and ' good expectations,' might be
excused for building ' des chateaux en Espagne.' A very wise old lady
once said to me : ' Those who have none on earth, may be forgiven
for building them in the air ; but those who have them on earth
should be content therewith.' Not so, however, was John Adams ;
he built and built, and then by degrees descended to the realities of
his position. What power would not that three thousand pounds
<nve him ! He wondered if Dr Lee would turn his back upon him
now, when they met in consultation ; and Mr Chubb, the county
apothecary, would he laugh, and ask him if he could read his own
prescriptions ? Then he recurred to a dream for it was so vague at


that time as to be little more whether it would not be better to
abandon altogether country practice, and establish himself in the
metropolis London. A thousand pounds, advantageously spent,
with a few introductions, would do a great deal in London, and that
was not a third of what he had. And this great idea banished all
remembrance of the past, all sense of the present the young aspirant

thought only of the future.

* * * * *

Five years have passed. Dr John Adams was 'settled' in a
small 'showy' house in the vicinity of Mayfair ; he had, the world
said, made an excellent match. He married a very pretty girl,
' highly connected,' and was considered to be possessed of personal
property, because, for so young a physician, Dr Adams lived in ' a
superior style.' His brother Charles was still residing in the old
farmhouse, to which, beyond the mere keeping it in repair, he had
done but little, except, indeed, adding a wife to his establishment a
very gentle, loving, yet industrious girl, whose dower was too small
to have been her only attraction. Thus both brothers might be
said to be fairly launched in life.

It might be imagined that Charles Adams having determined to
reside in his native village, and remain, what his father and grand-
father had been, a simple gentleman-farmer, and that rather on a
small than a large scale was altogether without that feeling of
ambition which stimulates exertion and elevates the mind. Charles
Adams had quite enough of this which may be said, like fire, to be
' a good servant, but a bad master ' but he made it subservient to
the dictates of prudence and a forethought, the gift, perhaps, that
above all others we should most earnestly covet for those whose
prosperity we would secure. To save his brother's portion of the
freehold from going into the hands of strangers, he incurred a debt ;
and wisely while he gave to his land all that was necessary to make
it yield its increase he abridged all other expenses, and was ably
seconded in this by his wife, who resolved, until principal and
interest were discharged, to live quietly and carefully. Charles
contended that every appearance made beyond a man's means was
an attempted fraud upon the public ; while John shook his head,
and answered that it might do very well for Charles to say so, as no
one expected the sack that brought the grain to market to be of fine
Holland, but that no man in a profession could get on in London
without making 'an appearance.' At this Charles shrugged his
shoulders, and thanked God he lived at Repton.

The brothers, as years moved rapidly on engaged as they were
by their mutual industry and success in their several fields of action
met but seldom. It was impossible to say which of the two
continued the most prosperous. Dr Adams made several lucky
hits ; and having so obtained a position, was fortunate in having an
abundance of patients in an intermediate sort of state that is,



neither very well nor very ill. Of a really bland and courteous
nature, he was kind and attentive to all, and it was certain that such
of his patients as were only in moderate circumstances, got well long
before those who were rich. His friends attributed this to his
humanity as much as to his skill ; his enemies said he did not like
'poor patients.' Perhaps there was a mingling of truth in both
statements. The money he had received for his portion of the land
was spent, certainly, before his receipts equalled his expenditure ;
and, strangely enough, by the time the farmer had paid off his debt,
the doctor was involved, not to a large amount, but enough to
render his ' appearance ' to a certain degree fictitious. This embar-
rassment, to do him justice, was not of long continuance ; he
became the fashion ; and before prosperity had turned his head by
an influx of wealth, so as to render him careless, he got rid of his
debt, and then his wife agreed with him ' that they might live as
they pleased.'

It so happened that Charles Adams was present when this obser-
vation was made, and it spoke well for both the brothers that their
different positions in society had not in the smallest degree cooled
their boyhood's affection ; not even the money transactions of former
times, which so frequently create disunion, had changed them ; they
met less frequently, but they always met with pleasure, and separated
with regret.

' Well ! ' exclaimed the doctor triumphantly, as he glanced around
his splendid rooms, and threw himself into a chaise tongue then a
new luxury ' well, it is certainly a charming feeling to be entirely
out of debt.'

' And yet,' said his wife, ' it would not be wise to confess it in our

'Why?' inquired Charles.

' Because it would prove that we had been in it,' answered the lady.

'At all events,' said John, 'now I shall not have to reproach
myself with every extra expense, and think I ought to pay my debts
first ; now I may live exactly as I please.'

' I do not think so,' said Charles.

' Not think so !' repeated Mrs Adams in a tone of astonishment.

'Not think so!' exclaimed John. 'Do I not make the money

' Granted, my dear fellow ; to be sure you do,' said Charles.

'Then why should I not spend it as pleases me best? Is there
any reason why I should not ?'

As if to give the strongest dramatic effect to Charles's opinion, the
nurse at that moment opened the drawing-room door, and four little
laughing children rushed into the room.

' There are four reasons against your spending your income
exactly as you please ; unless, indeed, part of your plan be to
provide for them,' answered Charles very seriously.


* I am sure,' observed Mrs Adams with the half-offended air of a
weak woman when she hears the truth, 'John need not be told
his duty to his children ; he has always been a most affectionate

' A father may be fond and foolish,' said Charles, who was pecu-
liarly English in his mode of giving an opinion. ' For my part, I
could not kiss my little Mary and Anne when I go to bed at night,
if I did not feel I had already formed an accumulating fund for
their future support a support they will need all the more when-
their parents are taken from them, as they must be in the course
of time.'

' They must marry,' said Mrs Adams.

' That is a chance,' replied Charles ; 'women hang on hands now-
a-days. At all events, by God's blessing, I am resolved that, if they
are beauties, they shall never be forced by poverty to accept unworthy
matches ; if they are plain, they shall have enough to live upon
without husbands.'

'That is easy enough for you, Charles,' said the doctor, 'who have
had your broad acres to support you, and no necessity for expen-
diture or show of any kind ; who might go from Monday morning
till Saturday night in homespun, and never give anything beyond
home-brewed and gooseberry wine, with a chance bottle of port, to
your visitors ; while I Heaven help me was obliged to dash in a
well-appointed equipage, entertain, and appear to be doing a great
deal in my profession, when a guinea would pine in solitude for a
week together in my pocket.'

' I do not want to talk with you of the past, John,' said Charles ;
' our ideas are more likely to agree now than they were ten or
twelve years ago ; I will speak of the future and present. You are
now out of debt, in the very prime of life, and in the receipt of a
splendid income ; but do not, let me entreat you, spend it as it
comes ; lay by something for those children ; provide for them
either by insurance, or some of the many means that are open to-
ns all. Do not, my dear brother, be betrayed by health, or the
temptation for display, to live up to an income the nature of which
is so essentially precarious.'

' Really,' murmured Mrs Adams, ' you put one into very low

Charles remained silent, waiting his brother's reply.

' My dear Charles,' he said at last, ' there is a great deal of truth
in what you say certainly a great deal ; but I cannot change my
style of living, strange as it may seem. If I did, I should lose
my practice. And then I must educate my children; that is an
imperative duty, is it not ?'

' Certainly it is ; it is a part of the provision I have spoken of,
but not the whole a portion only. If you have the means to do
both, it is your duty to do both ; and you have the means. Nay,



my dear sister, do not seem angry or annoyed with me ; it is for the
sake of your children I speak ; it is to prevent their ever knowing
practically what we do know theoretically that the world is a hard
world ; hard and unfeeling to those who need its aid. It is to
prevent the possibility of their feeling a reverse.'

Mrs Adams burst into tears, and walked out of the room. Charles
was convinced that she would not uphold his opinion.

' Certainly,' said John, ' I intend to provide for my children ; but
there is no hurry, and'

' There should be no hesitation in the case,' interrupted Charles ;
' every man intends to provide for his children. God forbid that I
should imagine any man to be sufficiently wicked to say, " I have
been the means of bringing this child into existence I have
brought it up in the indulgence of all the luxuries with which I
indulged myself; and now I intend to withdraw them all from it,
and leave it to fight its own way through the world." No man
could look on the face of the innocent child nestling in your bosom
and say that ; but if you do not appropriate a portion of the
means you possess to save that child from the " hereafter," you act
as if you had resolved so to cast it on the wild waters of a turbulent

' But, Charles, I intend to do all that you counsel ; no wonder
poor Lucy could not bear these words, when I, your own and only
brother, find them stern and reproachful ; no wonder that such
should be the case ; of course I intend to provide for my children.'

' Then DO IT,' said Charles.

' Why, so I will ; but cannot in a moment. I have already said
there is no hurry. You must give a little time.'

' The time may come, my dear John, when TIME will give you no
time. You have been spending over and above your debt more
than, as the father of four children, you have any right to spend.
The duty parents owe their children in this respect has preyed
more strongly on my mind than usual, as I have been called on
lately to witness its effects to see its misery. One family at
Repton, a family of eight children, has been left entirely without
provision, by a man who enjoyed a situation of five hundred a year
in quarterly payments.'

' That man is, however, guiltless. What could he save out of
five hundred a year? How could he live on less?' replied the

' Live upon four, and insure his life for the benefit of those
children. Nay,' continued Charles in the vehemence of his feelings,
' the man who does not provide means of existence for his helpless
children, until they are able to provide for themselves, cannot be
called a reasonable person ; and the legislature ought to oblige such
to contribute to a fund to prevent the spread of the worst sort of
pauperism that which comes upon well-born children from the



carelessness or selfishness of their parents. God in his wisdom,
and certainly in his mercy, removed the poor broken-hearted widow
of the person I alluded to a month after his death ; and the infant,
whose nourishment from its birth had been mingled with bitterness,
followed in a few days. I saw myself seven children crowd round
the coffin that was provided by charity ; I saw three taken to the
workhouse, and the elder four distributed amongst kind-hearted
hard-working people, who are trying to inure the young soft hands,
accustomed to silken idleness, to the toils of homely industry. I ask
you, John Adams, how the husband of that woman, the father of
those children, can meet his God, when it is required of him to give
an account of his stewardship ?'

' It is very true very shocking indeed,' observed Dr Adams. ' I
certainly will do something to secure my wife and children from the
possibility of anything like that, although, whatever were to happen
to me, I am sure Lucy's family would prevent ;

Charles broke in upon the sentence his brother found it difficult to
complete ' And can you expect distant or even near relatives to
perform what you, whose duty it is, neglect ? Or would you leave
those dear ones to the bitterness of dependence, when, by the
sacrifice or curtailment of those luxurious habits which, if not
closely watched, increase in number, and at last become necessaries,
you could leave them in comfort and independence ? We all hope
for the leisure of a death-bedawful enough, come as it may awful,
even when beyond its gloom we see the risen Sun of Righteousness
in all his glory awful, though our faith be strong in IJim who is our
strength ; but if the consciousness of having neglected those duties
which we were sent on earth to perform be with us then, dark,
indeed, will be the valley of the Shadow of Death. I do not want,
however, to read a homily, my dear brother, but to impress a truth ;
and I do hope that you will prevent the possibility of these dear
children feeling what they must feel, enduring what they must
endure, if you passed into another world without performing your
duty towards them, and through them to society, in this.'

Mrs Adams met her brother-in-law that day (people five-and-
twenty years ago did dine by day) at dinner with an air of offence.
She was, of course, ladylike and quiet, but it was evident she was
displeased. Everything at table was perfect, according to its kind.
There was no guest present who was not superior in wealth and
position to the doctor himself, and each was quite aware of the fact.
Those who climb boldly, sometimes take a false step, but at all
times make dangerous ones. When Charles looked round upon the
splendid plate and stylish servants when the children were ushered
in after dinner, and every tongue was loud in praises of their beauty
an involuntary shudder passed through his heart, and he almost
accused himself of selfishness, when he was comforted by the
remembrance of the provision made for his own little ones, who



were as pretty, as well educated, and as happy in their cheerful
country home.

The next morning he was on his return to Repton, happy in
the assurance his brother had given him before they parted, that
he would really lay by a large sum for the regular insurance of his

' My dear John,' said the doctor's wife, ' when does the new
carriage come home ? I thought we were to have had it this week.
The old chariot looked so dull to-day, just as you were going out,
when Dr Fitzlane's new chocolate-colour passed ; certainly that
chocolate-coloured carriage, picked out with blue, and those blue
liveries, are very, very pretty.'

' Well, Lucy, I think them too gay the liveries I mean for an
M.D. ; quieter colours do best : and as to the new carriage, I had
not absolutely ordered it. I don't see why I cannot go on with the
jobs ; and I almost think I shall do so, and appropriate the money I
intended for my own carriage to another purpose.'

' What purpose ? '

' Why, to effect an insurance on my life. There was a great deal
of truth in what Charles said the other day, although he said it
coarsely, which is not usual with him ; but he felt the subject, and I
feel it also ; so I think of, as I said, going quietly on with the
jobs at all events till next year and devoting this money to the

It is difficult to believe how any woman, situated as Mrs Adams
was, could have objected to a plan so evidently for her advantage
and the advantage of her family ; but she was one of those who
never like to think of the possibility of a reverse of fortune who
thrust care off as long as they can and who feel more pleasure in
being lavish as to the present than in saving for the future.

' I am sure,' she answered in the half-petted, half-peevish tone
that evinces a weak mind ' I am sure if anything was to happen to

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 16 of 58)