to give food and shelter to little Tom for a period of no less than seven years; and though it must be acknowledged that the young gentleman did not in the slightest degree merit the kindnesses shown to him, Goody Billings, who was of a very soft and pitiful disposition, continued to bestow them upon him : because, she said, he was lonely and unprotected, and deserved them more than other children who had fathers and mothers to look after them. If, then, any difference was made between Tom's treatment and that of her own brood, it was considerably in favour of the former ; to whom the largest proportions of treacle were allotted for his bread, and the handsomest supplies of hasty pudding. Besides, to do Mrs. Billings justice, there was a party against him: and that consisted not only of her husband and her five children, but of every single person in the neighbourhood who had an opportunity of seeing and becoming acquainted with Master Tom.

A celebrated philosopher-I think Miss Edgeworth—has broached the consolatory doctrine, that in intellect and disposition all human beings are entirely equal, and that circumstance and education are the causes of the distinctions and divisions which afterwards unhappily take place among them. Not to argue this question, which places Jack Howard and Jack Thurtell on an exact level, — which would have us to believe that Lord Melbourne is by natural gifts and excellences a man as honest, brave, and far-sighted as the Duke of Wellington,—which would make out that Lord Lyndhurst is, in point of principle, eloquence, and political honesty, no better than Mr. O'Connell, —not, I say, arguing this doctrine, let us simply state that Master Thomas Billings (for, having no other, he took the name of the worthy people who adopted him) was in his long-coats fearfully passionate, screaming and roaring perpetually, and showing all the ill that he could show. At the age of two, when his strength enabled him to toddle abroad, his favourite resort was the coal-hole or the dungheap : his roarings had not diminished in the least, and he had added to his former virtues two new ones,-a love of fighting and stealing ; both which amiable qualities he had many opportunities of exercising every day. He fought his little adoptive brothers and sisters ; he kicked and cuffed his father

[ocr errors]

and mother ; he fought the cat, stamped upon the kittens, was worsted in a severe battle with the hen in the back-yard ; but, in revenge, nearly beat a little sucking-pig to death, whom he caught alone, and rambling near his favourite haunt, the dunghill. As for stealing, he stole the eggs, which he perforated and emptied; the butter, which he ate with or without bread, as he could find it; the sugar, which he cunningly secreted in the leaves of a Baker's Chronicle, that nobody in the establishment could read; and thus from the pages of history he used to suck in all he knew-thieving and lying namely; in which, for his years, he made wonderful progress. If any followers of Miss Edgeworth and the philosophers are inclined to disbelieve this statement, or to set it down as overcharged and distorted, let them be assured that just this very picture was, of all pictures in the world, taken from nature. I, Ikey Solomons, once had a dear little brother who could steal before he could walk (and this not from encouragement,----for, if you know the world, you must know that in families of our profession the point of honour is sacred at home,----but from pure nature)--who could steal, I say, before he could walk, and lie before he could speak; and who, at four and a half years of age, having attacked my sister Rebecca on some question of lollipops, and smitten her on the elbow with a fire-shovel, apologized to us by saying simply, her, I wish it had been her head !” Dear, dear Aminadab! I think of you, and laugh these philosophers to scorn, Nature made

you for that career which you fulfilled: you were from your birth to your dying a scoundrel ; you couldn't have been anything else, however your lot was cast; and blessed it was that you were born among the prigs,-for had you been of any other profession, alas ! alas ! what ills might you have done? As I have heard the author of Richelieu, Siamese Twins, etc., say, “Poeta nascitur, non, fit," — which means that though he had tried ever so much to be a poet, it was all moonshine-in the like manner, I say, Roagus nascitur, non fit.” We have it from nature, and so a fig for Miss Edgeworth.

In this manner, then, while his father, blessed with a wealthy wife, was leading, in a fine house, the life of a galley-slave; while his mother, married to Mr. Hayes, and made an honest


woman of, as the saying is, was passing her time respectably in Warwickshire: Mr. Thomas Billings was inhabiting the same county, not cared for by either of them; but ordained by Fate to join them one day, and have a mighty influence upon the fortunes of both. For, as it has often happened to the traveller in the York or the Exeter coach to fall snugly asleep in his corner, and on awaking suddenly to find himself sixty or seventy miles from the place where Somnus first visited him: as we say, although you sit still, Time, poor wretch, keeps perpetually running on, and so must run day and night, with never a pause or a halt of five minutes to get a drink, until his dying day; let the reader imagine that since he left Mrs. Hayes, and all the other worthy personages of this history, in the last chapter, 'seven years have sped away ; during which, all our heroes and heroines have been accomplishing their destinies.'

Seven years of country carpentering, or other trading, on the part of a husband, of ceaseless scolding, violence, and discontent on the part of a wife, are not pleasant to describe: SO. we shall omit altogether any account of the early married life of Mr. and Mrs. John Hayes. The “Newgate Calendar” (to which excellent compilation we and the other popular novelists of the day can never be sufficiently grateful) states that Hayes left his house three or four times during this period, and, urged by the restless humours of his wife, tried several professions ; returning, however, as he grew weary of each, to his wife and his paternal home. After a certain time his parents died, and by their demise he succeeded to a small property, and the carpentering business, which he for some time followed.

What, then, in the meanwhile, had become of Captain Wood, or Brock, and Ensign Macshane ?-the only persons now to be accounted for in our catalogue. For about six months after their capture and release of Mr. Hayes, those noble gentlemen had followed, with much prudence and success, that trade which the celebrated and polite Duval; the ingenious Sheppard, the dauntless Turpin, and indeed many other heroes of our most popular novels, had pursued, or were pursuing in their time. And so considerable were said to be Captain Wood's gains, that reports were abroad of his having


somewhere a buried treasure; to which he might have added more, had not Fate suddenly cut 'short his career as a prig. He and the Ensign were-shame to say “transported for stealing three pewter-pots off a railing at Exeter; and not being known in the town, which they had only reached that morning, they were detained by no further charges, but simply condemned on this one. For this misdemeanor, her Majesty's Government vindictively sent them for seven years beyond the sea ; and, as the fashion then was, sold the use of their bodies to Virginian planters during that space of time. It is thus, alas ! that the strong are always used to deal with the weak, and many an honest fellow has been led to rue his unfortunate difference with the law.

Thus, then, we have settled all scores. The Count is in Holland with his wife; Mrs. Cat in Warwickshire along with her excellent husband; Master Thomas Billings with his adoptive parents in the same county; and the two military gentlemen watching the progress and cultivation of the tobacco and cotton plant in the New World. All these things having passed between the acts, dingaring-a-dingaring-a-dingledingleding, the drop draws up, and the next act begins. By the way, the play ends with a drop: but that is neither here nor there.


[Here, as in a theatre, the orchestra is supposed to play something

melodious. The people get up, shake themselves, yawn, and settle down in their seats again. “Porter, ale, ginger-beer, cider,” comes round, squeezing through the legs of the gentle. men in the pit. Nobody takes anything as usual ; and lo! the curtain rises again. “Sh, 'shsh, 'shshshhh! Hats off !” says everybody. ]

[blocks in formation]

Mrs. Hayes had now been for six years the adored wife of Mr. Hayes, and no offspring had arisen to bless their loves and perpetuate their name. She had obtained a complete mastery over her lord and master; and having had, as far as was in that gentleman's power, every single wish gratified that she could demand, in the way of dress, treats to Coventry and Birmingham, drink, and what not--for, though a hard man, John Hayes had learned to spend his money pretty

freely on himself and her-having had all her wishes gratified, it was natural that she should begin to find out some more; and the next whim she hit upon was to be restored to her child. It may be as well to state that she had never informed her husband of the existence of that phenomenon, although he was aware of his wife's former connection with the Count, -Mrs. Hayes, in their matrimonial quarrels, invariably taunting him with accounts of her former splendour and happiness, and with his own meanness of taste in condescending to take up with his Excellency's leavings.

She determined, then (but as yet had not confided her determination to her husband), she would have her boy; although in her seven years' residence within twenty miles of him she had never once thought of seeing him : and the kind reader knows that when his excellent lady determines on a thing—a shawl, or an opera-box, or a new carriage, or twentyfour singing-lessons from Tamburini, or a night at the “Eagle Tavern,” City Road, or a ride in a 'bus to Richmond and tea and brandy-and-water at “Rose Cottage Hotel "—the reader, high or low, knows that when Mrs. Reader desires a thing, have it she will; you may just as well talk of avoiding her as of avoiding gout, bills, or gray hairs—and that you know is impossible. I, for my part, have had all three-ay, and a wife too,

I say that when a woman is resolved on a thing, happen it will : if husbands refuse, Fate will interfere (flectere si nequeo, etc. ; but quotations are odious). And some hidden power was working in the case of Mrs. Hayes, and, for its own awful purposes, lending her its aid.

Who has not felt how he works—the dreadful, conquering Spirit of Ill? Who cannot see, in the circle of his own society, the fated and foredoomed to woe and evil? Some call the doctrine of destiny a dark creed; but, for me, I would fain try and think it a consolatory one. It is better, with all one's sins upon one's head, to deem oneself in the hands of Fate than to think—with our fierce passions and weak repentances; with our resolves so loud, so vain, so ludicrously, despicably weak and frail ; with our dim, wavering, wretched conceits about virtue, and our irresistible propensity to wrong,--that we are the workers of our future sorrow or happiness. If we depend on our strength, what is


« 前へ次へ »