|Chapter Title||JAMES STEWART|
|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||The Hermit Convict|
THE HERMIT CONVICT.
By the Rev. William Draper.
"Founded upon facts," is a hackneyed phrase which may mean anything. The follow- ing tale may rather be termed " a cluster of facts" gathered together from a number of sources, with several specific objects. One of these is a strong sympathy with the opinion which is rapidly gaining strength, that the abori- gines are human beings who are capable of civilisation, improvement, and the higher sensi- bilities of a well ordered life. There is no at- tempt to paint them in higher colors than con- sistency with truth would allow; but here and there will be found glimpses of real facts, which prove that a well directed effort in their favor, may not be in vain. Another object the author had, was to show how true it is, that treachery and wickedness rebound on the perpetrator. This part of the story may be termed sensational and exaggerated, but though strange, it is en- tirely consistent with facts. That which may be called a model colonial family is just barely sketched in the description of Rooksnest; while, on the other hand, the folly of unsuitable people breaking up their homes, with a view to making a fortune in Australia, is just as lightly handled in the brief course of events which in- troduces the Gumby family.
Incidentally, the evils of intemperance are de- picted; but the chief point of interest which runs like a vein throughout the tale, is the effects of one false step, which, link by link, frequently —perhaps universally would be a better term— drags down the innocent to endure penalties which are beyond the possibility of belief. It is impossible to forget the unfortunate case of Barber, who was so unjustly transported for will forgery, but the author has the most undoubted proofs from actual life, that many have just as miserably suffered, being innocent. Nothing, he thinks, but the most positive evidence should convict, in cases where death or penal servitude is the penalty. No doubt the present annals of jurisprudence show a marked improvement in the administration of justice, but the criminal law presents anomalies of inequality in the penalties inflicted, which demand the attention of those who are interested in holding with im- partiality the scales of justice.
One more prefatory remark is necessary : The
author is conscious of some defects in the work. In one or two instances he could not get decisive information, and therefore was obliged to draw upon the resources of imaginative fancy. In other cases conversations are condensed into a brief narrative of facts, and in the estimation of some this may be an important defect, but upon a moderate calculation, if such condenced con- versations were given in extenso, the work would have been greatly extended. With all its faults, and the author would fain hope and believe with some excellencies also, he ventures to launch forth these labors of his leisure moments, trusting that the perusal of the tale may be as pleasant to the reader as the work of writing it has been
to the author.
"NOT GUILTY! my lord, not guilty, I assure you!"
The speaker was a young man, respectably dressed, with a countenance somewhat pale, but giving evidence of a determined will, and a gene- ral demeanor which indicated intelligence and good breeding. Standing in the dock, arraigned before the judge of assize at Winchester, in a crowded court, with the serious charge of for- gery against him, James Stewart in a firm tone of voice pleaded thus, and, the plea being re- corded, the trial commenced. The Crown Court in that ancient assize hall is very commodious, and the galleries are sufficiently capacious to hold several hundred spectators, but upon this occasion every nook and corner was occupied.
The circumstances of the case were very pecu- liar. The young man was well known; his em- ployer was a citizen in the town of Southamp- ton, and it was rumored that the prosecution was without his sanction, and in opposition to his judgment. The prisoner had been appren- ticed to this gentleman, whose name was Hart- lop, and had served his time with honor and credit to the complete satisfaction of his em- ployer, who made him an advantageous offer of continued employment which Stewart accepted, and death having soon after removed the manag- ing clerk, the prisoner was promoted to the vacant post. To the young man it was no small gratification to be, at so early a period of his history, thus taken into the confidence of
one who was well able to administer to the suc- cess of his future life. His father had been a shipping agent in Southampton, at that time noted as one of the prettiest places of seaside resort in all the South of England. Its quaint and interesting Bargate, the old walls and towers with several other gates, and many remnants of ancient fortification; the broad and beautiful High-street, terminating at one end in very spacious quays, and at the other with an avenue of lofty elms, forming as beautiful an entrance to the town as it is possible to conceive; its many walks of surpassing excellence and roman- tic interest; the near vicinity of the New Forest, with its pretty villages; all these, and many other attractions, made the ancient sea-port of Southampton a very desirable place of residence. Then the Isle of Wight, that beautiful garden of England, and the splendid ruin of Netley Abbey, proved sufficiently attractive to induce many to visit the place, as indeed is the case to this day. Southampton has now lost, only by report, all, or nearly all, of this old-fashioned excellence, but it has gained something instead of it, which has made the name a world-re- nowned word in postal and commercial phrase- ology. Well, they who traded in the place in the childhood of our good Queen, have for the most part passed away. Peace be to their me- mory! One of these was the very respectable citizen with whom James Stewart claimed a sort of relationship, which one of those old laws, given some three thousand years ago, most im- pressively commands us all to honor, but which in these very matter of fact days is frequently debased from the high and mighty excellence of "father" to the very foreign and repelling epithet of "governor." Stewart, however, was not the son to conceive such a thought of him whom he ever regarded as a dear good father. In a playful mood, he would sometimes ring out merrily the familiar "dad," but the word meant volumes of affection, and the fond father knew it. Mr. Stewart had for many years carried on a very lucrative business; he had been, in a word, a successful speculator in shipping ven- tures. It was a common household word in the family, that the period was fast approaching when the son, released from his apprenticeship, was to become the acting-partner in the business of James Stewart and Co., and the father and mother had mentally arranged most of the pre- liminaries which were to be associated with the retirement of the former from active business. But man proposes, and there is One who fre- quently, for the wisest purposes, turns the nest upside down. " This is my rest," many a good man says, and he nestles down in it, and finds
such an elysium of happiness, that, looking around with the complacency of satisfaction, he breathes out the words, "I shall die here." "No," says the unerring voice of wisdom, and forthwith the storm begins to beat, the rain of
sorrow descends, the winds of life's bitter blast- ing influence howl around the traveller. He may have the Rock of Ages to shelter him, a good substantial hiding-place in all seasons, but under this secure dwelling-place he sees all his earthly treasures swept away, the tempter whis- pering all the while, "curse God, and die." Such was the experience of the prisoner's father. The son had only a few weeks to serve under his apprenticeship bond, when an irreparable series
of losses involved his father in irretrievable com- mercial ruin. A bank, in which he was a large shareholder, failed; all his deposits were hope- lessly lost; and in addition to this disaster, he had, in conjunction with the other shareholders, to pay large sums for which their shares made them liable, The history of Job is certainly perpetuated in such cases: one disaster follows another, and yet there is one more, and the suf- ferer nervously glances at the shadows of more yet to come. In Mr. Stewart's case, he was mercifully preserved from the knowledge of all the woe which thus fell upon his house, for the messenger came to whisper the words, "the Father wanted him at home;" and one bright spring morning, at the very moment when judgment against his goods was being signed, he gently departed to appear at another judgment seat, where the good faithful old Christian gave in his bank book of talents, all of which had borne good interest, and found that, though he had lost everything, he had gained a crown and a kingdom. The last blow, intermingled as it was with the death of her husband, proved to be also the summons to the wife and mother. Scarcely had the grave closed upon the father, ere it was opened again to receive her, and Stewart, thus doubly bereaved, with every hope crushed in the bud, was brought face to face with the stubborn fact that there was nothing before him but hard toil, accompanied, it might be, with privation and suffering.
In these circumstances he found in Mr. Hart-
lop a sympathising and faithful friend and bene- factor. He received the orphan lad as an in- mate of his own house, encouraged him with the hope of preferment, and took care so to occupy his thoughts with that which was plea- sant, cheerful, and hopeful, that he soon became as much at home with his kind employer as it was possible for his sorrowing heart to allow. Stewart had not, however, to learn where to seek
comfort in the hour of trial. He had reason to be thankful that God had given him honorable, pious, and faithful parents. The influence of their example paved the way to serious thought, and this led him to a wise decision to become a meek, humble, earnest, and devoted follower of the Saviour. By the touching of the Highest, he attained to a scholarship which nothing else can bestow. He had sat at the feet of a greater than Gamaliel, and had taken the highest honors resulting therefrom. Many to this day have reason to be thankful for the good counsel which this young disciple breathed into their ear. He pleaded on their behalf earnestly, even with the faltering tongue and the moistened eye; but the footfall of his devoted life was heard by those with whom he was brought into contact, and even though in this case no voice was heard, the example became vocal in many a conscience, saying to besetting sins, What doest thou here?
In the same office there was another clerk who, though he was the senior in point of years, yet occupied a position inferior to that of Stewart. His name was Henry Julet, which was pro- nounced in accordance with the usage of French phraseology, although in the man there was very little, if anything, which indicated a foreign ex- traction. His features were coarse, repulsive, and at times bloated and wrinkled to such a degree as to create a suspicion that he indulged in the most sensual and debasing vices. But yet no one could accuse him of anything which was glaringly vicious. He frequented taverns, and was known to be addicted to card-playing. Two or three times he had crossed the line into the hemisphere of intemperance, but these were race days, or something similar, and as he said, "he made no pretentions to religion, and did not see why he should not enjoy himself in his way, as others did in their peculiar manner." Mr. Hartlop did not much relish such irregularities, but the man was useful, and for the most part, steady and attentive to his business. There was also a wife in the scale, and an addition to the interest in the shape of an infant, who, at the time when our story opens, was about five years of age. Julet never liked Stewart, in fact there were periods when he plainly showed that he just tolerated his superiority in office, but when- ever he could be so, he was reticent to a degree, and many disagreeable mistakes had occurred because of this unhappy feeling. There is no doubt that the cause of disagreement was the old story, which was fought upon the old ground. "Shall I, indeed, bow down to thee?" " Envy, eldest born of hell," plotted the elements of di- vision, and there was no lack of aid in carrying them into practice. Still, in the ordinary course of events, there was no tangible cause of com- plaint, and business matters proceeded in their course much the same as they do in other houses.
In the posting up of the great ledger of Time it is recorded that in Mr. Hartlop's banking book, in the month of January, l8--, there was found a cheque which was drawn in favor of one Thomas Starling, for the sum of forty-two pounds, which cheque was pronounced by the merchant to be a forgery. It bore the name of Alex. Hartlop, so cleverly written that even that gentleman could scarcely detect any differ- ence between his own signature and that in this cheque, save in one very minute point. But apart from this very trifling difference, Mr. Hartlop persistently denied that he had ever drawn such a cheque. "He knew no such per- son as Thomas Starling, how could he then have drawn a cheque for one of whom he had never heard; he had not signed that cheque, on his oath he would swear it." The bank authorities were compelled to own that in the minute par- ticular to which reference has been made, the signature was not genuine. The amount had been paid to a middle-aged man, a stranger, who gave his name, "Starling."
Here was a mystery, and who could solve it? The cheque-book was kept in the cash-box, and this again was always locked up in the iron safe. To this safe none had access, save Mr. Hartlop and the prisoner. In the absence of any proof that the merchant had signed the cheque in a fit of abstraction, which every one who knew Mr. Hartlop agreed was most un- likely, suspicion could rest only upon James Stewart. Why ? No one could exactly say. Yet he was arrested, and after the preliminary examination was remanded, to be committed for trial at his next hearing, upon evidence which appeared too conclusive to be resisted. Ten days after the committal, the assizes commenced, the bank proprietors being the prosecutors; and on the second day of the assize, he stood in the felon's dock to answer this serious charge.
The facts of the case were reduced upon the trial to a very small compass. A close exami- nation of the cheque-book proved that a leaf had been abstracted with scrupulous care, but the criminal had forgotten that the numbers ran through the book consecutively, and one of these was missing. The forged cheque bore this iden- tical number. The terrible alternative was in- evitable. If the keys of the safe had never been accessible to any besides the prisoner or his em- ployer, one or the other must have abstracted the cheque. That Mr. Hartlop should do such a thing was incomprehensible, and it was only just possible that the prisoner might have been guilty of such an act. The filling in of the cheque was in writing very similar to Stewart's, the signature appeared all but perfect. In fact, the bank proprietors and their clerks candidly confessed that they would have paid any amount
Such was the general purport of the case, which the counsel for the prosecution, in a con- densed form, laid before the jury; but he ap- pended a farther statement, that there were ad- ditional facts upon which he would not comment, but considered it best to leave this, which he thought most damning evidence, to the sole judgment of those who would have to decide the
There were many witnesses to be examined, to be cross-examined, brow-beaten, insulted, and if within the possibility of man's skill, to be legally forced to tell a lie. Cross-examination is no doubt a safety valve in the great engine of English law; but, in the hands of some, it is a shame and disgrace. If it is equity, justice, and law to worry a respectable, honest witness to the very borders of madness, then it must be right; but if the word of a man of good re- pute is worth any thing, it is by no means ne- cessary to strive to make that man appear ridi- culous in the estimation of the court. This is the aim and end of all cross-examination, when it ex- ceeds the bounds of civility. Upon this par- ticular trial, the several witnesses passed through the most severe ordeal. They grew very red, and then turned pale; they determined not to be angry, and sixty seconds after were as pettish as possible: they volunteered opinions, and then appeared to be as barren of any real evi- dence as the spectators in the court: they looked very wise, but went out of the witness box conscious that the counsel had made them the laughing stock of all, and at last the court adjourned for lunch. In twenty minutes the judge was on the bench again, and the most im- portant witness of the day was called, "Henry
As he entered the box he cast one glance at the prisoner: no trace of emotion, no mark of pity, no, not the slightest feeling of shame was there in that face. Then, looking at the judge, at the jury, and finally casting a triumphant gaze around the court, he appeared to brace him- self up for that which was to be a lengthened and searching examination. This would fill many pages, and from its peculiarity it is here given in a condensed form.
"He was preparing to leave the warehouse on the evening of January 15, he was quite sure as to the day, because it was his birthday. All the lights were extinguished, except one in the counting-house, which was a square room, with glass windows on the two sides which faced the warehouse. He could easily see the prisoner through this glass partition, especially as the counting-house was lighted, and he stood in the dark warehouse. He saw him unlock the cash- box, out of which he took the cheque-book; he knew it was a cheque-book by its peculiar shape. Out of this book he distinctly saw him tear a leaf, he heard the sharp click which accompa- nied the act; everybody knew what kind of sound he referred to. That somehow he thought it to be a strange proceeding, he could not tell why he thought so, but he did for all that. So he crept softly up to the partition, and there he distinctly saw that the prisoner held a long strip of paper in his hand, while with a penknife he was trying to cut away some ragged pieces which had been left in the cheque-book. Curious to see more he still lingered, and then he was struck with the appearance of the young man. He was looking at the blank cheque apparently in deep thought; he (the witness) imagined at the time that he was hesitating whether he should keep the cheque or not. He could then see that it was one of those which were issued by the bank of which Mr. Hartlop was a custo- mer. But the common effect of endeavoring to hold in his breath, had resulted in a sudden fit of coughing. Of course the prisoner was alarmed, and, instantly crushing tho cheque in his hand, he rushed out of the counting-house saying, 'what do you want?' He replied that he was waiting for him; he was wont to do this very often when Mr. Hartlop was away from home, and, as he had gone to London that day, he thought the prisoner would like to spend the evening at his house. He noticed at the time that he stared at him very keenly, as if he would read his thoughts; but suddenly he turned back into the counting- house, put on his hat, extinguished the lamp, and, locking up the safe in the dark, and after- wards the counting-house door, they left the premises together. Prisoner, however, did not go home with him, but, talking very rapidly all the way, he accompanied him as far as East- street, and then hurriedly wishing him good night he ran off in the direction of Albion Place." The witness tendered this evidence with the most complete self-possession. " Why had he not spoken about this at the time the forged cheque was discovered?"
" Well," he replied, "he really pitied the young man, and was not willing to be the means of convicting him of this crime, more especially as he heard that the bank would be the prose- cutor if there was to be any prosecution at all."
"What was the reason then for his altered determination?" The judge asked this question of the counsel, but the witness replied at once: "Mr. Hartlop put a direct question to him."
"What was the question ?"
"'Did he, or did he not, know anything about the forgery? He would not accuse any- one; but he had put this question to the prisoner, and in the same manner he now asked him.' To this question he replied, 'that he had no wish to make any statement at all.' This, however, only made Mr. Hartlop more deter- mined to know the truth, and so he informed
him of that which he had given in evidence to
No cross-examination could shake this testi- mony; it was given calmly, with evident thought. Moreover, it was probable and reasonable. The cheque was produced; it had evidently been crumpled up as the witnoss had stated.
Mr. Hartlop, recalled, confirmed Julet's state- ment that he had pressed him to tell all he knew about the case, and after some considerable hesitation and confusion, he had stated to him
(Mr. Hartlop) the same facts which he had given in evidence to the court.
"Had the prisoner been extravagant?" asked
"No!" replied Mr, Hartlop. "James Stewart was a careful, saving young man; certainly no one could charge him with anything bordering upon extravagance. He could not account for the forgery, the last person he should have ac- cused was the prisoner. Even now, notwith- standing all the evidence that he had heard, he was persuaded that there was a terrible mistake somewhere. He never would believe the pri- soner to be guilty."
Poor Stewart! He seemed as if he could have broken through all rule and custom while Julet was under examination. It was only by a violent effort that he restrained his indignation. But as the case for the prosecution closed, he seemed to have lost every glimpse of hope. Witnesses were called on his behalf, but they could only tell that which was already known, and candidly admitted by the prosecution, that up to this period the prisoners character was unstained. The usual strong appeal was made to the feelings of the jury by the prisoner's counsel, but those who read the faces of other men, said that it was breath wasted for no pur- pose at all. Stewart was condemned already, and he felt it. With his head resting on his hand, and his elbow on the dock-spiked rail, he sobbed out the words at intervals, "By the God of heaven, not guilty," lifting up his hands as if appealing to the Judge of all.
The judge was much moved. He was a most kind-hearted man, always pitiful and compas- sionate towards the erring, especially if there was a hope of reformation. But what could he do in such a case as this? For some moments he was silent. He looked earnestly at the pri- soner, then round the court; and finally at the young man again, as if in a spirit of inquiry, "Is there nothing which can rebut this evi- dence?" But his solemn duty must be per- formed, however hard it might be. The law was not his; he was only the judge; and hard enough it is at times to pass sentence upon a poor creature, even with this feeling. As the judge said afterwards, "If it had rested with him, he could have wished to see that young man set free." Slowly, calmly, but surely, he summed up the terrible evidence. What could it be but against the prisoner, treat it as super- ficially as he could? He was too honest a judge to be partial however, even in such a case as this; but the concluding words of the summing up were spoken with an energy which evidenced the feeling of the man, though the man was clad in the robes of the judge. "If— if there is even the least shadow of a doubt upon your minds as to the improbability of the pri- soner's guilt, do not convict him." The words in italics were emphasised with the slowest and
most distinct articulation.
There was no doubt; those twelve matter-of- fact jurymen had found the prisoner guilty an hour previously. Only as a matter of form did they turn round to speak to each other. In five minutes James Stewart was a convict: in five minutes more, he was sentenced to fourteen years' transportation beyond the seas, the crime of forgery being at this period very little short of a capital offence. Handcuffed, dumbstruck, all but temporarily insane with the horror of his position, he was conducted back to the gaol, to await final instructions as to his future destiny. Let the cloud come down, and shroud the scene with the mist of obscurity. The poor heart-stricken youth felt its presence; feared as he entered into it; but the nobler principles of Christianity triumphed amidst the gloom. The heart knoweth its own bitterness; but into the prison cell, pity, faith, and hope accom- panied the sorrowing prisoner; and a few hours later, Mr. Hartlop, who went to visit him as soon as his harrowed feelings would allow, found his young protege firmly and confidently believing that all would be well with him.
Within one year after this terrible day, when the merchant and the orphan parted with a bitterness of sorrow which cannot be de- scribed, James Stewart, with two hundred and thirty others, heard the anchor chains rushing out of the convict ship, and knew that the terrible voyage was over, and that upon a new scene they were to work out their awful sen- tence. Mercifully had the young man been preserved throughout the long and tedious voyage of more than five months duration. Disease of a most contagious character had cut off fifty-four of the horrid, blaspheming cargo of outcasts who had been banished to this far- off land. But Stewart had escaped, and had proved to be a blessing to many who had thus miserably perished. Apparently indifferent about his own safety, he had striven to aid the authorities in their arduous duties, and some of the officers, only too glad of any assistance, made him a hospital nurse. So well did he con- duct himself in this position, that the surgeon obtained the consent of the commander that his fetters should be taken off, and on the arrival of the ship in Moreton Bay, his case was recom- mended to the favorable consideration of the commandant, with a view to some alleviation of the more severe part of the sentence which had been passed upon him.
In the same vessel there was another convict, whose case this chapter will describe. David Argyle was the son of a "well-to-do" farmer in Suffolk, who had inherited all his father's pro- perty, but lacked the necessary experience and perseverance which had contributed so much to make the elder Argyle a successful, and, conse- quently, a wealthy man. Like many young men who suddenly come into the possession of a con- siderable sum of ready money, he regarded his position as one in which he could enjoy life to his heart's content, and so he determined to have a spell of jollity to make up for the restraint which the plain habits of a very good father and mother had put upon him.
These are his own words; but weeks, and even months elapsed, after he had followed his father to the grave, and yet he was simply "Davie," as he was called, a plain country lad, the pride of his widowed mother, and an object of ridicule to some of the neighbors' sons, fast young men, who took care to express their opinions about him whenever an opportunity occurred.
Nearly two years thus passed away after the death of old Argyle, when the mother sickened, and, after a very brief illness, she was numbered with the dead. No one could be more affection- ate and loving to her than the lad who was al- most constantly by her bedside. The most ex- perienced medical aid was procured, but the dis- ease was incurable, and she knew it from the first day when it struck her down. David was most devotedly attached to his mother, and the thought of losing her was terrible to him, but as
the end drew near, and the doctors plainly told him there was no hope, like young Jacob of old, he appeared to be superstitiously anxious to ob- tain the parental dying blessing, and who can say that there was any superstition in it after all. Had any one stood in the chamber of good old Mrs. Argyle, they must have been impressed with the solemn scene as they witnessd her feeble hand resting upon her son's head, and heard her, in faltering accents, pronounce the words, "God bless thee, my dear, good boy. Yes, the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, laddie. The angel which hath redeemed me and thy father, my bairn, from all, yes, all evil, bless thee—even thee. And now, Davie, one counsel more, be ye sure ye meet father and mother in heaven. Love the Saviour, laddie; He has ever proved a good friend to your father and me." The last words were spoken at in- tervals, and with great difficulty. One last effort followed. Opening her eyes, the fond mother said, "look—at—me." The young man raised
his head, and with a look of unspeakable tender- ness she said, "Jesus—precious—" and the
tongue ceased its office.
The incidents associated with a mourning family are interesting, even instructive, but the experience of every one is too full of the reality of the thing, to make the bare repetition of such scenes a necessity. David Argyle saw his mother's corpse committed to the grave, and then he began seriously to consider what was neces- sary to be done to fill up the gap which death
had made in the family circle. There was not a question but that home, or "the house," as he now termed it, was dull, "dreadfully dull." He was a very superficial reader, and the society of an old woman, who had been the house ser- vant for many years, was not calculated to in- terest him very much. It was winter also, the evenings were long and tedious. He had no companions, nor was he clever in inventing sources of amusement or instruction. The great temptation was very strong now: "Run up to London, see real life there, have a taste of that which others enjoy so much, and after this nice change you will settle down to work all the better " His heart was quite ready to acquisce in this proposal, which the tempter placed before him in this very plausible language; but sundry recollections of recent words which had sounded in his ears under circumstances which he then thought he could never forget, raised up a shield
before the tempter, and for the time he was foiled. "No," said the young man," I will re-
main at home."
But how true it is, that man actually unbolts the doors which keep temptation away from his view, merely to gain a momentary look at the pleasant prospect, and then he finds that he can never fasten them so securely as they were before. The tempter has only to use a little extra force and the barriers yield, and free ingress is given to the human house. David's desires ere long went far enough to take off all the fastenings by which the tempter had been baffled, and he was not in the least surprised or sorry to see that which was the personification of temptation, walk into his house and heart, in the person of
a young man who, as it afterwards transpired, had laid a wager that he would bring out the young farmer to join a few jovial companions at a social free and easy club, which had been established at the neighboring town of Leyton. David had been watching his visitor as he slowly rode across the common which adjoined his farm, but believing that he was on his way to town, he turned again to the well spread table in the keeping-room, to discuss the usual lunch which always preceded a ride to market. Sitting with his back to the window, he did not per-
ceive that anyone had entered the farmyard, until he was accosted with a cheerful "Good morning, Argyle, excuse me, I came in without ceremony, you know."—"Quite right, neighbor Rouse," replied Argyle, "I am glad to see you. Why don't you give us a look in now and then, I am wretchedly dull."
"Oh! so I thought," said Richard Rouse, "and as I rode over, seeing your horse ready saddled, I supposed that you were off to mar-
ket; and says I, 'here's the chance to break the ice.' No sooner said than done, that is my motto; so off I jumped, and here I am, old fel-
"And right welcome you are, Rouse," re-
plied the young farmer; "come, take a snap,
and we will ride in together."
"Many thanks, Argyle," said his visitor," but I have only just breakfasted; we were late last night. What do you think of our little carousal. Let me see, there was Tom Jones and his two sisters, splendid girls, by the bye , and the three young Thurlows and no sisters, but to make up for their absence, we had the four Miss Gilling-
hams and then mother."
"Who weighed down all the three Thurlows, I suppose?"
"Exactly so," replied Rouse, "but they were not all. Old Squire Herbert dropped in on his way home, and a jolly old customer he is, Argyle. By the way, he was asking after you."
"After me!" said Argyle. "I never spoke to him in my life."
"Just so, my dear fellow, and the jolly old squire said he did not know why there should be such an estrangement between you; and now that you are indeed your own master, and the fortunate possessor of Argyle Farm, and ten thousand pounds in ready cash—"
"Who told you that?" said Argyle, interrupt- ing his visitor rather sharply, at the same time looking him very keenly in the face.
Rouse saw that he was on delicate ground, and that the young farmer was as suspicious about any intermeddling with his private affairs as he was generally reported to be. But he was too good a tactician to be defeated upon such
"That your father was wealthy, David," he replied, "everybody knew. That he had nearly that sum out upon the mortgage of the Wood- bridge property—you know which I mean—was a public report, and more than a report, a cer- tain fact. So people judge, my poor fellow, and Squire Herbert spoke about it, saying he was as glad of your good luck as if you were his own
"Ah! well," replied Argyle, "you were talk- ing about your company, what was it, a ball, or a family birthday, or——"
"A little social evening party, Argyle. You have been so shut up at home that you have heard little or nothing about our movements. Nor shall it be our fault, my dear follow, if you do not become better acquainted with us."
"Well, we can talk about this as we go along," said Argyle, "but tell me, Rouse, what sort of a club is that which you wrote to me about some months ago. I really think——"
"That you will join us; now do, there's a good fellow," said Rouse, "the very thing I was going to ask you. We have good dinners, famous wine, capital company."
"Ah! there's the rub!" said Argyle, "the company at these places, my good father used to say, was likely to lead a fellow into bad habits."
"Not necessarily so," replied his companion. "I won't take offence, Argyle, at your remark, for you do not, I am sure, mean to charge me
with such a fault."
"Oh, no, no, excuse me, I was speaking in general terms," said Argyle.
"And I, my dear fellow," replied Rouse, "am such a generality, that I mix in all kinds of society, but I do not know that I am a profligate for all that. Life is made up of variety, Argyle, and I am sure you must feel the need of it. Even the ladies say—jokingly of course—they wonder how you can live such a secluded life as you have lately."
"Indeed, indeed," said Argyle, with an iron- ical laugh; "I feel highly flattered; I did not think a creature besides old Betty had any in-
terest in me. But I never was cut out for a
"You don't know; 'pon my honor, it is a
fact," replied Rouse, "you need not laugh now, I can tell you that a pair of pretty eyes looking at you as if they intended to take no quarter is
rather a formidable piece of business to face. Many an iron heart has been made red-hot by
such a fire, before its possessor even know what was the matter. Ah, never fear, Argyle," con- tinued the speaker, "you are destined to fall down and worship the same idol some day."
"Let it come, Rouse, let it come, if it is to come, at present, I say, nothing shall tempt me to invest in such a lottery. But come, let us be jogging, or all chance of doing business
will be over. Are you a seller or buyer, to-day,
"Neither," replied Rouse, "I am merely going to town to attend our sub committee. You will join us? Now, say yes, and if you regret it, why, call me anything you like."
Consent was given, and to Leyton the two young farmers rode at a smart pace—Argyle to sell some corn, Rouse to idle away an hour or
two until market was over. The principal inn in the place was the White Lion, an old- fashioned house with a good posting, commercial, coach, and market connection. As a family hotel of a particularly homely but comfortable character, the White Lion was not to be despised.
A large and noble archway led into the hotel yard, so frequently seen in old fashioned posting-
houses, and so much alike are these entrances to old hotels, that many of them appear as if they were designed by the same hand. Around this yard the hotel was built, enclosing it on three sides, the fourth part of the square being the fence of a very large garden, near to which were the stables, communication being provided by another archway, which led from the hotel to the stable-yard. The bar, that immortal theme of all novelists, the constant source of righteous annoyance to neglected wives of tippling hus-
bands, the exchange of scandalmongers, the paradise of news propagators, the sanctum sanc- torum of tough old politicians, the commercial gentleman's retreat from £ s. d., and the parish clerk's levee room, how shall this great studio of human character be described? It is not every one who remembers such scenes as these cosy places presented, when a stage coach was chang- ing horses preparatory to a start on the next stage. The coachman's "wee drop," or the passengers' steaming hot coffee, with a dash of brandy, or it may be the simple glass of ale, drawn by the magnificent hand of the great mistress of the house, or by the roguish, ever cheerful, and sometimes exceedingly satirical, mistress of the bar; the net bristling with golden lemons, the wonderfully painted bottles of mysterious import, with their necklace labels, heaps of pipes saying, "come and smoke me," boxes which came from nowhere, if the far- famed Havannah disowned their parentage, plates of tempting sandwiches, a crystal vase, the home of the most tender and charming celery under the sun, rows of decanters and cut wines, tumblers of all ages and capacities, from the poplar shape, renowned for ale, the solid foot-grog cistern, the gigantic sodawater fellow, and the landlord, the passengers, and the coach-
man all talking together, why these were at every stage, like new chapters in a book. Often have we looked in and refreshed our inner man, then set out again; and thus from stage to stage onward we traveled till the journey being ended, we looked back upon our resting places, and were always of the opinion that even though they are mere places of commercial necessity, yet
nothing can supply the place of a well conducted
Nor must this eulogy be taken as a defence of the intemperate use of these things. An inn was, in the earliest ages, an institution and a necessity. Wine has been made ever since, and probably before the flood. The intemperate use of it none can defend, but the right to enjoy it as one of God's gifts, none with any reason can withhold. Intemperance in anything is hateful; gluttony, tobacco chewing, and sensuality, are evils equally as terrible as drunkenness, and yet there is a greater evil if possible than all these, the belief that reformation merely is sufficient to save the soul. There are many abstainers who are infidels as rank as the world has ever seen. The temperance movement every good man must approve, but to be temperate in drink, an abstainer from wine, and yet a filthy debau- chee in practice, or even a scorner of Divine re- velation, is to be as strange an anomaly as the human mind can conceive. Having written so much of praise and condemnation, let me add that I would not keep an inn for all the gold in the world. Shades of the departed, ruined by strong drink, goaded by the devil to make use of liquor to work out your ruin, how must you haunt those vaults of delusive pleasure. In the world of ruin the publican's register of lost souls will be on awful library. But let us be just even where we blame. What shall be stored up there against usury, with its robbery, its rending of widows' hearts, its wholesale destruction of orphans' homes? Or how shall robbery, trickery, deceit, ingratitude, false witnessing, adultery, and self-worship, stand in the Day of Account? Place these in a row with intemperance, and it would be difficult to say which is the most hideous. Reform! yes, reform the world if you can, gentlemen, but heap not upon one word, all the vices of which human nature is so fatally
But this is a digression; the subject, however, will become one of the greatest questions of the day, let this be the apology.
Let us take a peep at the remaining portion of this well ordered country hotel. It is customary to enter into the most minute detail in descrip- tions of houses, offices, furniture, and men and women in general, but as this is the very thing which will be omitted, too particular and exact proportion, situation, and general appearance of each room, passage waiter, servant, picture, dog, cat, horse, and anything else you please, will have to be for the most part imagined, if indeed anyone should feel an impulsive curiosity about them. The most splendid oratory cannot make a house anything but a dwelling, a room any-
thing but an apartment; a cat is in like manner still a cat, tabby, tortoise, black or white, it does not signify. So the White Lion may be very soon as intimate an acquaintance as it is neces- sary to make it, if it is described as an old- fashioned, comfortable house, with lots of rooms; old furniture, very stately and massive; old, compact, well ordered stables; old steady going horses, and genuine old post-boys, carrying over leaf the whole summary as you carry forward an account, by saying, "and old all sorts." There you have it in a small compass, and if you had spent a day or two in its simple, hospitable rooms, you would remember the old place as
pleasantly as I do.
Old post boys! How funny it must have been
to be called a boy at sixty years of age. Jolly
old fellows, some of those country town post- boys were. They were just as remarkable an in- stitution as the inevitable old salts, which one meets at watering places, sea port towns, &c. Full of yarns as long as you please; a sixpenny yarn, or a shilling adventure, or a two and six- penny hair breadth escape, ending with "your honor," or even spiced now and then with a "my lord," or something like it. But Othello's occupation is gone. John the powdered post- boy, Jack tho spruce leather-gaitered ostler, and Bob the slim dapper groom, with the pea- green coat, large brass buttons, tight cords, and top boots; these are things of the past, com- pared with the ever rushing present.
Yes, "you would remember the old inn as well us I do" it is written, and truth claims a voice in approval. If you have seen such an old inn you will know all about its general parti- culars, but if your knowledge of such subjects does not include such an experience, it is ex- tremely improbable that even a photograph would unveil any satisfactory information about it. It is certain that no modern hotel could boast of such comfortable and comforting eccen- tricities as were to be found here. If you rang the bell and ordered a ghost story, it is extremely likely that you would have had it served up with the highest sensational horror, which a literary kitchen could invent. As we never did order such a dish, we can only speak problema- tically. But in reference to honeymoons, why, bless your heart, the good landlady would ring the changes for an hour, in describing the high honors which had been heaped upon her from Hymen's altar. The visitor's book decidedly blushed with visions of extraordinary blessed- ness, which this old White Lion had witnessed. Scarcely had the recollection of one happy pair dissolved into history, than another cosy couple claimed the happy privilege of a brief sojourn in this marital paradise. To be sure the facili- ties for boating, fishing, riding and walking, were very great, but as honeymoons are not very frequently spent in such common-place pursuits, there certainly must have been other attractions and private reasons why Mrs. Lin- coln should be able to say, and she said it with a nod and a wink as a conclusive accompaniment to the words, "Ah! they are not fools who come to my house, I can tell ye." Try to draw out her meaning beyond this, and you would have been disappointed. But they who professed to know a thing or two, would have it that every- body connected with this house had been well
educated to mind then own business. If the
most lovely duchess in the world had taken up
her quarters at the White Lion, not a whisper would have gone forth from anyone in the estab- lishment about her, or anything she chose to do.
In a word, no one was stared at.
Probably this somewhat rambling description
of a fine old inn would be out of place, and al- together uninteresting, if it had not been the
scene of an event which made it for the time the centre of interest in the county. With this
event, David Argyle will ever be associated. That afternoon's introduction to the farmers' club was full of fatality to him. It is true he
met with jollity, good company, excellent wine,
and the opportunity of being introduced to the most pleasant society. All these were very new to him, and he at once opened his heart to enjoy them. Of course he had no intention of falling into excess, "not he, indeed." So he stoutly re- solved. But he had yet to learn that it is neces- sary for the most stout-hearted to take heed lest he fall. To his great surprise, he found that a relative, the only son of his mother's sister, was the paid secretary of the club, and on inquiry he also found that he was a clerk in a merchant's office in the town. There had been no corres- pondence between the two families for many years, and Argyle, presuming that as his cousin had only seen him as a boy, he would not recog- nise him now, abstained from speaking to him. But the wine set the talking faculties in motion, and the two relations were soon known as such. At first David Argyle treated the other with haughtiness and scorn, which the secretary re- paid with quiet sarcasm. But the mercury rose with the heat of the room, and so did the young farmer's voice. "Money was nothing to him. Wine, waiter, more wine, champagne, bring in champagne for all, all, waiter, do you hear, for all; never mind what old penwiper says." He had passed the rubicon now; henceforth, "For he's a jolly good follow," and "We won't go home till morning," was shouted, bawled, ham- mered down with the customery "bravo," and assented to by Argyle, as long as he had the in- ability to unite in such senseless orgies. David was hopelessly intoxicated long before any of the others; only the cautious secretary escaped the universal contagion. At a late hour, Rouse and Argyle were assisted down the stairs which led to the inn yard, the latter having slept for an hour, and Rouse declared that he was "per- fectly right. " Argyle made several attempts to mount his horse, and at last succeeded in getting into the saddle with his face towards the tail of the animal, nor could any persuasion convince him that he was wrong. But as the horse moved on, he discovered that "the riding was very curious," and dismounting to ascertain if it was "all right," he was induced to remount this time with his face towards home. Home, alas!
he never saw it again. Poor young fellow, little did he know whither he was riding. In about
an hour after they left, a man, under the influ- ence of great excitement, rushed into the bar of the White Lion, with the startling intelligence that a murder had been committed just outside the boundary of the town.
On being questioned by Lawyer Scarem, who was solacing himself after the fatigue of the day with his customary pipe and glass of grog, amidst many remarks of an irrevalent character, he informed the company present, that, "as he was walking home from Woodlands, to which place he had taken a parcel which had arrived by the last coach, he fell over a man who was lying across the pathway. In his fall he did not at first observe that another man was lying about two yards farther on towards the main road, but in getting up he stretched out his arm, which thus touched this man, who, he could plainly see by the strong moonlight, was covered with blood,
and to the best of his belief was dead."
Here was an event for the inmates of the White Lion bar. They were a motley group, consisting of a recruiting sergeant, the vestry clerk, the head constable, Mr. Ropeyarn the grocer, Mr. Sugar the tailor, and Lawyer Scarem, in addition to the host and hostess of the hotel. The soldier and the constable, Mrs. Lincoln observed, were a host in themselves, and as to Lawyer Scarem, it was fortunate that he was on the spot, to which opinion Messrs. Rope- yarn and Sugar immediately assented. There was little difficulty in getting up an amateur bodyguard, and with the sergeant and the con- stable at the front, they soon arrived at the fatal spot. Here a shocking sight presented itself. The young man, Rouse, lay on the ground, with a terrible blow on the back of his head which had beaten in the skull, while Argyle, grasping his heavy whip in his hand, lay near him, either
stunned or fast asleep. Rouse was quite dead. The metal knob of Argyle's whip was covered with blood, and his clothes were sprinkled with the same horrid hue. On a further search, Rouse's horse was found feeding by the road- side, Argyle's was never found.
It was with considerable difficulty that the constable could arouse Argyle, but after a while
he sat up, and rubbing his eyes, the blood which was upon his hands, was transferred to his face, and then for the first time he began to realise the horrors of his position. To behold him as he gazed on the dead body of his young friend, frantically asking the crowd "what was the mat- ter? and who had done it?" was something fearful. To be in his awful position was posi-
tively maddening. The wine was still in his head. It had struck deeply into his brain, and thus with a stupefied, but startled expression, he gazed on those who surrounded him with a va-
cant, perplexed countenance, for no one had an- swered his questions. Of course he was taken into custody, and with the lifeless body of his late companion, the procession returned to the town, meeting on the way numbers of the in- habitants, so that by the time the White Lion was reached a large crowd was collected. Stunned and distracted with the horror of the suspicion which was so strong against him, Argyle was unable to utter a word. In the morning he was taken before the magistrates, but the proceedings were of a very formal character, and he was re- manded until an inquest had been held.
[To be Continued.]