ページの画像
PDF
ePub

like a certain Devereux; and Mrs. Catherine maîtresse en titre to Mr. Alexander Pope, Doctor Sacheverel, Sir John Reade the oculist, Dean Swift, or Marshal Tallard ; as the very commonest romancer would under such circumstances. But alas and alas! truth must be spoken, whatever else is in the wind; and the excellent "Newgate Calendar," which contains the biographies and thanatographies of Hayes and his wife, does not say a word of their connections with any of the leading literary or military heroes of the time of her Majesty Queen Anne. The “Calendar." says, in so many words, that Hayes was obliged to send to his father in Warwickshire for money to get him out of the scrape, and thač the old gentleman came down to his aid. By this truth must we stick; and not for the sake of the most brilliant episode, -no, not for a bribe of twenty extra guineas per sheet, would we depart from it.

Mr. Brock's account of his adventure in London has given the reader some short notice of his friend, Mr. Macshane. Neither the wits nor the principles of that worthy Ensign were particularly firm : for drink, poverty, and a crack on the skull at the battle of Steenkirk had served to injure the former ; and the Ensign was not in his best days possessed of any share of the latter. He had really, at one period, held such a rank in the army, but pawned his half-pay for drink and play; and for many years past had lived, one of the hundred thousand miracles of our city, upon nothing that anybody knew of, or of which he himself could give any account. Who has not a catalogue of these men in his list? who can tell whence comes the occasional clean shirt, who supplies the continual means of drunkenness, who wards off the dailyimpending starvation? Their life is a wonder from day to day: their breakfast a wonder; their dinner a miracle ; their bed an interposition of Providence. If you and I, my dear sir, want a shilling to-morrow, who will give it us? Will our butchers give us mutton-chops? will our laundresses clothe us in clean linen?-not a bone or a rag. Standing as we do (may it be ever so) somewhat removed from want,* is there one of us who does not shudder at the thought of descending into

* The author, it must be remembered, has his lodgings and food provided for him by the government of his country.

times a year.

the lists to combat with it, and expect anything but to be utterly crushed in the encounter ?

Not a bit of it, my dear sir. It takes much more than you think for to starve a man. Starvation is very little when you are used to it. Some people I know even, who live on it quite comfortably, and make their daily bread by it. It had been our friend Macshane's sole profession for many years; and he did not fail to draw from it such a livelihood as was sufficient, and perhaps too good, for him. He managed to dine upon it a certain or rather uncertain number of days in the week, to sleep somewhere, and to get drunk at least three hundred

He was known to one or two noblemen who occasionally helped him with a few pieces, and whom he helped in turn-never mind how. He had other acquaintances whom he pestered undauntedly; and from whom he occasionally extracted a dinner, or a crown, or mayhap, by mistake, a gold-headed cane, which found its way to the pawnbroker's. When flush of cash, he would appear at the coffee-house ; when low in funds, the deuce knows into what mystic caves and dens he slunk for food and lodging. He was perfectly ready with his sword, and when sober, or better still, a very little tipsy, was a complete master of it; in the art of boasting and lying he had hardly any equals ; in shoes he stood six feet five inches; and here is his complete signalement. It was a fact that he had been in Spain as a volunteer, where he had shown some gallantry, had had a brain-fever, and was sent home to starve as before.

Mr. Macshane had, however, like Mr. Conrad, the Corsair, one virtue in the midst of a thousand crimes,—he was faithful to his employer for the time being : and a story is told of him, which may or may not be to his credit, viz., that being hired on one occasion by a certain lord to inflict a punishment upon a roturier who had crossed his lordship in his amours, he, Macshane, did actually refuse from the person to be belaboured, and who entreated his forbearance, a larger sum of money than the nobleman gave him for the beating; which he performed punctually, as bound in honour and friendship. This tale would the Ensign himself relate, with much self-satisfaction; and when, after the sudden flight from London, he and Brock took to their roving occupation, he

It was

cheerfully submitted to the latter as his commanding officer, called him always Major, and, bating blunders and drunkenness, was perfectly true to his leader. He had a notionand, indeed, I don't know that it was a wrong one—that his profession was now, as before, strictly military, and according to the rules of honour. Robbing he called plundering the enemy; and hanging was, in his idea, a dastardly and cruel advantage that the latter took, and that called for the sternest reprisals.

The other gentlemen concerned were strangers to Mr. Brock, who felt little inclined to trust either of them upon such a message, or with such a large sum to bring back. They had, strange to say, a similar mistrust on their side ; but Mr. Brock lugged out five guineas, which he placed in the landlady's hand as security for his comrade's return; and Ensign Macshane, being mounted on poor Hayes's own horse, set off to visit the parents of that unhappy young man. a gallant sight to behold our thieves' ambassador, in a faded sky-blue suit with orange facings, in a pair of huge jack-boots unconscious of blacking, with a mighty basket-hilted sword by his side, and a little shabby beaver cocked over a large towperiwig, ride out from the inn of the “Three Rooks mission to Hayes's paternal village.

It was eighteen miles distant from Worcester ; but Mr. Macshane performed the distance in safety, and in sobriety moreover (for such had been his instructions), and had no difficulty in discovering the house of old Hayes : towards which, indeed, John's horse trotted incontinently. Mrs. Hayes, who was knitting at the house-door, was not a little surprised at the appearance of the well-known gray gelding, and of the stranger mounted upon it.

Flinging himself off the steed with much agility, Mr. Macshane, as soon as his feet reached the ground, brought them rapidly together, in order to make a profound and elegant bow to Mrs. Hayes; and slapping his greasy beaver against his heart, and poking his periwig almost into the nose of the old lady, demanded whether he had the “shooprame honour of adthressing Misthriss Hees?"

Having been answered in the affirmative, he then proceeded to ask whether there was a blackguard boy in the house who

on his

would take "the horse to the steeble”; whether “he could have a dthrink of small-beer or buthermilk, being, faith, uncommon dthry”; and whether, finally, “he could be feevored with a few minutes' private conversation with her and Mr. Hees, on a matther of consitherable impartance ?" All these preliminaries were to be complied with before Mr. Macshane would enter at all into the subject of his visit. The horse and man were cared for; Mr. Hayes was called in; and not a little anxious did Mrs. Hayes grow, in the meanwhile, with regard to the fate of her darling son. " Where is he? How is he? Is he dead ? " said the old lady. “Oh yes, I'm sure he's dead !

Indeed, madam, and you're misteeken intirely : the young man is perfectly well in health."

" Oh, praised be heaven!”

“But mighty cast down in sperrits. To misfortunes, madam, look you, the best of us are subject; and a trifling one has fell upon your son.

And herewith Mr. Macshane produced a letter in the handwriting of young Hayes, of which we have had the good luck to procure a copy.

It ran thus ; “HONORED FATHER AND MOTHER,—The bearer of this is a kind gentleman, who has left me in a great deal of trouble. Yesterday, at this towne, I fell in with some gentlemen of the queene's servas; after drinking with whom, I accepted her Majesty's mony to enliste. Repenting thereof, I did endeavour to escape; and, in so doing, had the misfortune to strike my superior officer, whereby I made myself liable to Death, according to the rules of warr. If, however, I pay twenty ginnys, all will be wel. You must give the same to the barer, els I shall be shott without fail on Tewsday morning. And so no more from your loving son,

"John HAYES. " From my prison at Bristol,

this unhappy Monday." When Mrs. Hayes read this pathetic missive, its success with her was complete, and she was for going immediately to the cupboard, and producing the money necessary for her darling son's release. But the carpenter Hayes was much

66 And

more suspicious. "I don't know you, sir,” said he to the ambassador.

“Do you doubt my honour, sir?" said the Ensign, very fiercely..!

“Why, sir," replied Mr. Hayes, "I know little about it one way or other, but shall take it for granted, if you

will explain a little more of this business.”

“I sildom condiscind to explean," said Mr. Macshane, "for it's not the custom in my rank ; but I'll explean anything in reason.”

“Pray, will you tell me in what regiment my son is enlisted ??? “In coorse.

In Colonel Wood's fut, my dear; and a gallant corps it is as any in the army.''

you

left him?" “On me soul, only three hours ago, having rid like a horse-jockey ever since; as in the sacred cause of humanity, curse me, every man should,”

As Hayes's house was seventy miles from Bristol, the old gentleman thought this was marvellous quick riding, and so cut the conversation short. “You have said quite enough, sir,” said he, "to show me there is some roguery in the matter, and that the whole story is false from beginning to end."

At this abrupt charge the Ensign looked somewhat puzzled, and then spoke with much gravity. “Roguery," said he, |

“ Misthur Hees, is a sthrong term'; and which, in consideration of my friendship for your family, I shall pass over. You

doubt your son's honour, as there wrote by him in black and I white?!?

“You have forced him to write," said Mr. Hayes.

" The sly old divvle's right,” muttered: Mr. Macshane, aside. “Well, sir, to make a clean breast of it, he has been forced to write it. The story about the enlistment is a pretty fib, if you will, from beginning to end. And what then, my dear? Do

you
think

any

better off for that?“Oh, where is he?." screamed Mrs. Hayes, plumping down on her knees, “We will give him the money, won't we, John ? "

“I know you will, madam, when I tell you where he is.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

your son's

[ocr errors]
« 前へ次へ »