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But a secret is not to be kept with impunity from the curious. As long as they hoped to wheedle him out of it they showed him but the fairer countenance—for there is something piquant in mystery. But when, by the smothered, scattered, broken cry, it became evident that the pack were at default, and that his incog. could not be scented out, they conceived suspicion and ill-will, in proportion to their former reliance and partiality. Invitations no longer showered upon himsmiling aspects no longer greeted him-studied neglects were heaped
Still the rupture might have been accommodated by friendly intercession, for no open insult had ever branded him; but prying meanness at length gave the coup-de-grâce to the martyr, whom torture only hardened agaiust confession ; and Trapp, 'Trapp his denouncer, humanely became his executioner.
This gentleman still affected to be concerned in discovering who he was that had presumed to engage his sister's affection, without-rendering himself liable to an action. Forced thus to make it an affair of honour, by the impossibility of making it one of petty-fogging, he pulled his courage to the full cock, and resolved upon a meeting with Sam. Indeed, two things rendered it almost imperative that he should ; the first was, that his own bustling activity, in impeaching another, had committed him with the world as a man who wanted courage to redress an injury—the second was, that his sister's equivocating looks and half replies rendered it just supposable that the match might still be concocted, by a little resolute behaviour at the proper juncture. His heart, blowing hot and cold with the same breath, whispered him, that a man will do a great deal to escape being shot at. To compound, therefore, between his heart, his sister's riddance, and the world's opinion, he resolved to seek out Sam at his lodging, and to ask him who he was, in the fittest place for such a home question, previously to adjourning to Chalk-farm, and putting it to him there.
One wet Monday, when the streams of pouring rain had swept the very plodding Jew from off the flags, and the sound of old clothes no longer reminded us of Joseph's many-coloured coat, for the sake of which his brother-brokers sold him; when the very ballad-singer lacked courage to expose his dripping person in the running channel, that he might excite the pity of the dry and sheltered-on such a day, when the slaves of cupidity and want had housed themselves wherever they could–Trapp forsook his comfortable dwelling to enclose himself in a damp hackney-coach, ordering the soaked pilot of the ark to ferry him to Mr. Debonair's habitation. To his inquiry, the suborned chambermaid distinctly replied, “Not at home.” “ Not at home such a day as this ! Impossible! my good girl. I must see him on particular business. Which is his apartment ?" demanded Trapp, brow-heating the witness, who was quite unaccustomed to be cross-examined in her fibs, and who would not, for her salvation, have reiterated the falsehood, which she unscrupulously told on her direct examination ; for the fact was, she had only sold her conscience to lie in those three precise words,“ Not at home," and these she had repeated so often, that she really could do it with a good face, but not one syllable more. Besides, there was a degree of honesty in the lie that supported her so far. Debonair had stipulated with her mistress, that he should be invariably denied, and the mistress had hired the maid on that understanding ; so that it was but fulfilling a contract to lie in the first instance. But the articles of agreement, unfortunately, stated nothing about persisting in the negation, which shows how negligently some contracts are drawn up. Sam had consulted no authority, legal or clerical, in the framing of the agreement, because he knew, without them, that it would be unjust and intolerant to enforce it against the conscience of any poor dependant; but exclusive of his bargain with the housekeeper, he had tendered a special indemnity to the maid, to buy absolution to her soul, if she would so far risk it on his account as constantly to deny him. The devil alone stood by and signed the stipulation, unseen by the parties. So that Sam sat, all day long, quite secure in mind from every intruder; and might, according to the compact, have so sat till the day of judgment, (that being the return-day for such writs, but that the said attesting officer, in the company of Trapp, sought to summon Sam, long before his time, to account for another not less deadly sin.
There is no plea to excuse the immorality he committed in evading impertinence, but the example of all the bishops of the old or new proprietorship, who all occasionally do the like. This was the whole amount of the duty which Sam abstracted from the customs levied by society; but is there a legislator that does not cheat the treasury of truth as much? If truth is a tax that cannot always conveniently be paid, in what case may it be more justifiably denied than when it is levied at your door by some importunate collector, for the object of annoying you, and feeding a set of officious meddlers with your conceris? Trapp was at once a collector of truths and a distributor of falsehoods, consequently a meddler high in office'; and on this occasion being thwarted in the execution of his duty, he determined to distrain for the tax and costs; and having commenced by levying from the maid the full truth of Sam's locale, he mounted up to the two-pair landing, and placed his sacrilegious hand upon the handle of the front door.
Was there no genius, good or bad, to arrest his progress; or to whisper to him, as he passed the usual limits of exotic residence, that he might be intruding upon the haunts of poverty and embarrassment? Something of the kind did flash across his mind; but it was unattended with the reflection, that his was not the soul to comfort the distressed, or to soothe the shame of detected penury. Something more flashed also upon his mind's eye as he gained the first floor-forsooth, that his intrusion fairly entitled him to be kicked down stairs, and he paused a moment, as if scanning the altitude of the flight. It was a formidable precipice; but spite and curiosity now lent wings to his design, and forward he dashed, collecting courage as he rose, and as the height of his probable fall increased, till, most singular to say, on the second lobby he felt himself twice the man that he had been on the first-measuring, no doubt, the resentment of the insulted tenant by the apparent humbleness of his means. And were it even so, Trapp; were it true that indigence is ever patient of wrong, what, in the name of Heaven, authorised you to reduce your friend to that indigence, by taking from him the name and credit, which he had hitherto borne, of a man in easy circumstances ? Was it for the hope of insulting him with impunity, that you dared to
destroy one of the most beautiful illusions of life—that of a poor and happy man-that of a gay and cheerful companion, spreading happiness abroad, while misery and want were depressing him in secret ? But, out! your hand was upon the handle; let us usher you in, possessed as you are by the demon, who supplies the boldness that your nature wants !
“ What! hey! hu! how the deuce? who the devil-?" exclaimed Sam, for he had caught a view of the club-foot, and naturally exorcised the owner in such terms, for bringing Trapp to intrude upon his privacy.
“ Beg pardon, my dear friend—no offence-I hope I dont-cameon vital business-heard you were at home, walked up without ceremony," mumbled Trapp and his prompter between them.
"Certainly, sir; if you have any thing to justify this breach of etiquette, speak it," sternly answered Debonair, who stood in his dressing gown, holding a camel-hair brush in one hand and a tobaccopipe in the other; having bounced up from one of the awkwardest attitudes in which human dignity can be surprised, with the full assurance that this pimping scoundrel had witnessed his entire performance-as he had in reality. For Sam, concluding that no one but the maid could have the hardihood to bolt in upon him, and the maid being in his secret and in his pay, as we have intimated, had been unwilling to destroy, on her account, one of the finest samples of a grin that human invention had ever conjured up. Truly it was a most comic scene, that might have terminated amicably enough in a downwright fit of laughter, had the devil permitted his demented pupil to give way to such conciliatory mirth. Figure to yourself Debonair, sitting before a toilet-glass, his hair brushed up in porcupine fashion, his neck bare, and his left elbow, the hand of which held an inverted pipe over a pewter-quart, poised over the table—making a most ludicrous grimace, and chuckling fitfully at his own image, and the fancied sophistication of the beer—while, stroke by stroke, he transferred the pattern of his most original prize-grin to the cover of a papiermaché snuff-box, fixed at his right hand ; and went on working and grinning intermittently, till the reflection of Trapp's ugly visage in the glass, as he turned to it to refresh his imagination, made him jump up like one who sees the devil or an apparition, and conjure it in the way we have stated.
While the usual hems and haws are going forward on one side, and a few impatient demonstrations on the other, we will endeavour to describe the internal feelings of both, without which the ensuing scene would be unintelligible. We will begin with those of Debonair, because they are the less complex, although the more comprehensive. In the first place, he felt that his secret was divulged, and that it would be absolute deceit to fabricate any tales to disguise it. On his littered table lay all the implements of a handictaft; paints and varnishes, pots and saucers, and boxes innumerable; some yet featureless, others glaring with the likenesses of Paul Pry, 'Tim Bobbin, Doctor Syntax, and other worthies, but far the greater number with original models of the broad grin, delineated from his own inimitable essays in the mirror: scattered among these were all the variety of fancy articles that require the 'ornamenting of the brush, forming together a little repository that might have graced an angle of the Bazaar, and entitling Sam to rank among the operative toymen of a certain line. He was, in honest truth, a journeyman, an unprivileged one, too, who took in work that demanded greater genius and less payment than that of regular artificers. We have since interrogated some of his employers, and learned in part his dealings, and found that nothing but the most undeviating industry could have enabled him to earn a competence at this trade, if it be indeed true that he had neither half-pay nor annuity in addition.
He stood now, without any of the pride of commercial importance, in the midst of his wares, while many cogitations succeeded cach other in his mind. The ocular attestation of Trapp, while it confirmed the futility of concealment, was not the first suspicion that he had conceived of his detection. As his friends withdrew their countenance, and closed their doors upon him, he could only account for this sudden dereliction by imagining that an accident, or the gossip of a dealer, had exposed the shifts to which he was reduced, and that some busy fellow had published it to the world, which world, as they generally do, bad made his poverty a sufficient reason for excluding him from their fellowship. How he resented this treatment may be inferred from his mode of receiving their invitations; for, as he never accounted it an obligation to be asked out to dine or enliven a party, so he never felt aggrieved when omitted, nor was he ever disposed to quarrel with any one for neglect. He could not, however, but feel a share of contempt for those who had founded their alienation upon such wretched grounds. Instead of being lowered by his poverty, he felt himself infinitely a greater man than any of those who had made it the measure of his worth. He was now ready to profess it openly, since his manly concealment had miscarried. As for the individual before him, Sam's honest heart attributed to him no share in this visitation but his own lawful quota, in so suddenly falling off from the pressing host to the sliying acquaintance. Some excuse for him, in addition to the general conspiracy, might be assigned in the affair of the bit finger; but as Sam, to avoid misconception, had twice called upon Trapp, and been twice denied, without Trapp's ever seeking the promised explanation, it was natural to think that his most absurd whimsies had blown by, and that he preferred relinquishing the acquaintance to the shame of exposing them. This mode of meanly absconding from a partnership without settling his accounts, only made Sam doubly despise the deserter; so that, when Trapp pushed into his apartment so rudely, Sam saw before him the most contemptible of his late fickle friends actually taking a greater liberty with him than the most privileged intimate could assume; and his soul was wroth, not that Trapp should seek an explanation, but that he should do it in so ungentlemanly a way! not that he should discover his (Sam's) poverty, but that he should do it by an insult. Wherefore, on Sam's stern countenance might be read, “ Woe be to you, Trapp, if what you have to say is not weighty enough to palliate your impudence !"
Trapp's reflections were more fugitive, and much more difficult to embody in description. However, if it be borne in mind that he had set out upon this expedition, as an envoy, to manage the concerns of three different powers—the world, that insisted peremptorily upon bis
challenging Debonair ; his sister, who insisted, right or wrong, on Debonair's proposing for her; and his own heart, which plotted much, but insisted upon no sine quâ non but his bodily safety,—we may be able to account for the sudden revolution in his plans, without having recourse to the theological hypothesis, that the Tempter, who accompanied him, led him into successive scrapes with the hope of producing a duel, that he might pounce upon the honourable survivor; but finding his principal shrink back for want of boldness, suggested to him new devices, with a view of getting his neck broke through the window. I say, though the nodus is “ tali dignus vindice," and though bis interposition seems absolutely requisite to produce the instantaneous reversal in Trapp's decisions, as well as to extricate him from a most perplexing hobble, only to involve him in a worse ; still I do not think that the profane have any right to call in the intervention of supernatural powers, as long as they can assign even inadequate secondary causes for human actions. According to probability, then, Trapp bad seen at a glance the whole truth of Sam's circumstances, and concluded that it would be as rash as superfluous to ask him who he was. as plain as life that he was a beggarly artist ; and if Trapp wavered one moment in thinking him a dilettante toyman, he was reconfirmed the next by Sam's disorder and irritation in his first impression. This full eviction of his recent surmises, along with the stout carriage of the detected pauper, seconded the prudent counsel of his heart as to himself. As for his sister, it was scarce worth while risking a duel to constrain a beggar to make offers to her, when he felt assured that she would prove the sturdiest recusant on learning the truth. And as to the world, his measures were taken in a trice-how to reinstate himself in its good opinion, and to sink Sam from ever rising up in judgment against him ; and those were (for we--I hate to be singular, like a quaker, in my pronouns—are a minimum of the world, and can vouch for his having resorted to the iniquitous measure) to represent Sam as a needy adventurer, whom he had compelled to apologise in his very garret for his presumptuous pretensions to Miss Trapp. Thus the interests of all his clients being attended to, it only remained for him by no misconduct of his own to spoil the happy issue which he anticipated to his diplomacy. It was obvious that all mention of Chalk Farm must be suppressed, nay, every thing that could in the remotest manner lead to it, even the name of Alicia Trapp. But how in the world account for the vital business which had led him to violate the sanctuary of seclusion, without referring to the only cause that could possibly excuse him, was in truth a fresh perplexity, that once more made him measure, in imagination, the altitude of the stair-case and window, and shudder at the idea of being upon the second floor.
How we came to learn the mode in which he extricated himself from this awful predicament, and to grasp the mental process by which he arrived at an apology, was not through the preaching of the prompter, whom, for the satisfaction of the pious, we have all along devoutly supposed to have instigated these evil doings, but partly through our own sagacity, partly through a short statement which Sam did us the honour of transmitting to our hands some time after his retreat from his invaded quarters, God knows whither.