Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER II.

The breach widened—I turn sportsman, poacher, and

desperado-Some excellent notions propounded of common law upon common rights—The common. keeper uncommonly savage-I warn him off-He prophecies that we shall both come to the gallowsSome men are prophets in their own country—The man right after all.

“Hollo! in the lighter there-I say, you lighter boy !" were the words I heard, as I was pacing the deck of the vessel in deep cogitation. Tom and his father were both in the cabin ; there could be no doubt but that they were addressed to me. I looked up and perceived the grinning, stupid, sneering face of the young clerk, Gubbins.

“Why don't

don't you answer when you're called to, heh ?” continued the

numscull. “You're wanted up here ; come up

directly.”

“Who wants me ?” replied I, reddening with

anger.

“ What's that to you? Do you mean to obey my order or not?”

No, I do not,” replied I; “I'm not under the orders of such a fool, thank God; and if you come within my reach, I'll try if I can't break your head, thick as it is, as well as your master's."

The lout disappeared, and I continued to

pace up and down.

As I afterwards discovered, the message was from Mrs. Drummond, who requested to speak to me.

Sarah had communicated the real facts of my case, and Mrs. Drummond had been convinced that what I had said was correct. She had talked with her husband : she pointed out to him that my conduct under Mr. Tomkins had been so exemplary, that there must have been some reason for so sudden a change. Sarah had gone down into the counting-house, and obtained the invoice which the senior clerk

had torn up. The correctness of it established the fact of one part of my assertions, and that nothing but malice could have warranted its having been destroyed. Mr. Drummond felt more than he chose to acknowledge : he was now aware that he had been too precipitate ; even my having refused the money assumed a different appearance ; he was puzzled and mortified. Few people like to acknowledge that they have been in error. Mr. Drummond therefore left his wife to examine further into the matter, and gave her permission to send. for me. The message given, and the results of it, have been stated. The answer returned was,

that I would not come, and that I had threat

ened to break the clerk's head as well as that of

Mr. Drummond; for although the scoundrel knew very well that in making use of the word “master," I referred to the senior clerk, he thought it proper to substitute that of Mr. Drummond. The effect of this reply may easily be imagined. Sarah was astonished, Mrs. Drummond shocked, and Mr. Drummond was almost pleased to find that he could not have been in the wrong. Thus was the breach made even wider than before, and all communication broken off. Much depends in this world upon messages being correctly given.

In half an hour we had hauled out of the tier

and dropped down to the American schooner, to take out a cargo of flour, which old Tom had directions to land at the Battersea wharf; so that I was, for the time, removed from the site of my misfortune. I cannot say that I felt happy, but I certainly felt glad that I was away. I was reckless to a degree that was insupportable. I had a heavy load on my mind which I could not shake off-a prey upon my spirits—a disgust at almost every thing. How well do I recollect with what different feelings I looked upon the few books which Mr. Drummond and the Domine had given me to amuse my leisure hours. I turned from them with contempt, and thought I would never open them again. I felt as if all ties on shore were now cut off, and that I was again wedded to the Thames; my ideas, my wishes, extended no farther, and I surveyed the river and its busy scene, as I did before I had been taken away from it, as if all my energies, all my prospects, were, in future, to be bounded by its shores. In the course of four-and-twenty hours, a revulsion had taken place, which again put me on the confines of barbarism.

My bargemates were equally dull as I was; they were too partial to me, and had too much

« PreviousContinue »