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You'll make yourself ill, and then the poor baby will suffer. These women always look to the worst side of everything," continued he, leading Lisle towards the window.
“ The least thing upsets them, and there's no getting them to listen to reason. “But what's the matter?" reiterated Lisle. “What's that man doing here?”
" It's the most unlucky thing," replied Williams, " that ever happened. A twelvemonth ago I gave Martina and Co. a bill for five hundred pounds, making sure that before it became due I should have touched old Patty's legacy, and have been able to take it up. But the time's expired, and my bill is returned dishonoured; and though they are literally now keeping body and soul together by administering a teaspoonful of gruel with brandy in it every quarter of an hour, yet alive she is; and, what's more, perfectly sensible, and as capable of altering her will as ever she was in her life, if she choose to do it. Now, though certainly to be carried to jail, and have an execution in one's house, would be very unpleasant, and would occasion great loss and sacrifice of my property, not to mention the discredit of the thing, yet I would submit to all the inconvenience a thousand times, rather than make another application to you, who have already done so much for me. I'm sure if you had been my brother you could not have been kinder, as Mary and I often say; and there very
few men in the world who have heart enough to do as much for their own relations, much less for those who have no claim on them. But the less our claim, the greater has been your kindness, and the more grateful we are bound to be; and it is for that very reason that I am so distressed about this business. You see, if I am arrested, and old Patty hears of it-and there will be plenty glad enough to tell her—she'll alter her will as sure as my name is Williams; and then how I am ever to discharge my debt to you, I honestly co ess I don't know."
Nothing could be more certain than the imminence of this danger. Mr Lisle was perfectly aware that the only chance of saving his money was by means of Miss Patty's legacy, and he was much disposed to think with Williams, that, if she once became aware of the real state of her nephew's affairs, she would take very good care that her money should not be lavished in the vain attempt to extricate him from difficulties of his own incurring. Now it was that Lisle began to feel the magnitude of his first error; that had led the way to a second ; and now here was a third dilemma, much more potent and pressing than the second. He certainly could pay the seven hundred pounds, as he had told his wife, should the bill become due before the old lady's death, because, as he had no arrears of debt, and his credit was good, he trusted that his own creditors would not be importunatė; but the loss of the whole twelve hundred pounds would be a ruinous blow, and would involve him in embarrassments that he could not see his way
out of at all. What was to be done? He asked Williams
if he had no other friend he could look to to assist him in this exigency; but Williams assured him, very truly, that he had not, and added that it would, moreover, be very imprudent to risk the exposure of his difficulties by making hopeless applications: there was no telling, he hinted, what might be the consequence. Mi Lisle asked a little time to consider, and to consult his wife; but Williams suggested that consulting his wife could lead to nothing but what was painful, without being of the slightest use. “Mrs Lisle couldn't advise you to sacrifice your twelve hundred pounds," said he," though she might be very unwilling to advise you to put your name to this other little bill; so that you'd have to decide for yourself at last, and the communication would answer no purpose
but to make her uneasy. Besides, one don't knowwomen are apt to judge by the result-perhaps she might blame you for what you've done already; and it is not always very prudent,” he added, laughing, “ to put a weapon of that sort into our wives' hands—they're apt to use it rather unmercifully."
This last argument was a coup de maître. Mr Lisle dreaded his wife's knowing the state of affairs, and the predicament in which, contrary to her advice, his too-easy good-nature had placed him, beyond everything; and that apprehension, with the almost certain loss of his money if he left Williains to his fate, determined him to risk another five hundred. Risk, indeed, he hardly thought there was any—so he once more signed his name, making himself answerable for the debt in six months from the day of date.
“ I'm sure, my dear fellow, I don't know how to thank you," said Williams, with tears in his eyes, as he wrung his hand. “That poor infant at its mother's breast, as well as every child I have, shall be taught to lisp your name in its prayers before its father's and mother's. I hope by and by, when we are better off, we shall be able to make you some return for all your kind
Do take home this box of Portugal plums with you," he added, forcing the case into Mr Lisle's hand as they passed through the shop; “ they'll be good for little Sophia's coughthey're nice softening things; and perhaps you and your wife will drop in about seven o'clock and take a cup of tea with us. I want Mrs Lisle to taste some fine souchong I have just got down from London-very superior quality indeed-eight shillings a-pound. If she likes it, I shall beg her acceptance of a few pounds."
Mi Lisle walked slowly home, with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the ground, and with an uncomfortable something at his heart that kept importunately whispering that all this hospitality and liberality which he had so much admired in Williams was somehow or other practised at his own expense; and a mortifying suspicion would intrude itself that his wife's maxims were not altogether so absurd as he had been in the habit of pronouncing them. Still, he argued it was utterly in
possible that a woman of seventy-five, who was kept alive by teaspoonfuls of gruel every quarter of an hour, could survive in that state four months longer ; and he thought it would be foolish to make himself uneasy, and still more so to annoy his wife and risk a quarrel, which was likely to be the result if he communicated the affair to her: for the more he was disposed to blame himself, the less he was inclined to bear with her reproaches and lamentations--so he determined to say nothing about the matter; and as it could not make matters worse than they were, he saw no reason why they should not drink tea with Williams, and accept the tea too, if he choose to give it them.
Certainly,” as he said to himself, “nobody could have a better right to it :" so they went at the hour appointed; and, after concluding a very pleasant evening with a luxurious little supper, they returned home laden with a basketful of French plums, and almonds, and raisins, and sugar-candy for the children, and found on their parlour-table six pounds of the eightshillings souchong, which Williams had directed his shopman to put up and send during the course of the evening; and the only observable difference arising out of the transaction of the morning was, that when Mrs Lisle remarked, with a sigh, that she wished Williams would not force so many things on them, Mr Lisle, instead of launching out in praise of his friend's generosity, merely said, “ Psha! what does it signify?" and snatching up his candle, retired to bed.
We must now take a leap of several months; and we regret to be under the necessity of admitting that—to the confusion of the doctor, and the astonishment of all the world, who had declared, and indeed still declared, the thing impossible--Miss Patty was yet in the land of the living. True, she was bedridden, and the apprehension of her altering her will no longer existed; for her intellects were entirely gone, and she was nearly speechless ; but still she breathed, and the legacy was for the time being as unattainable as if she had been eating beef-steaks and walking five miles before breakfast. It was a cold morning, about three weeks after Christmas, and Mr and Mrs Lisle were sitting at breakfast with their children, when
the servant announced that "Mr Grainger wished to speak with master.”
“ He's come for the rent, I suppose," said Mrs Lisle. you the money ready?"
“Let him come in, Sarah,” said Mr Lisle, addressing the maid. No," he continued'in answer to his wife's question ; “ I can't pay it till Williams has paid me; but a few days more must settle that business."
“I wish to Heaven it were settled !” exclaimed Mrs Lisle ; Wit keeps one in continual hot-water. It is so mortifying to be obliged to send people away without their money. There was the man here yesterday that made the wardrobe; it is only nine pounds, but he said he was
young beginner, and had his bills
coming in, and he hoped I would not send him away without payment, as he had given us a year's credit. I declare I could have cried when the man went out of the room-he looked so disappointed, and I felt so ashamed.” "Well, well
, Sophia, it's no use grumbling now," said the husband impatiently;
"the annoyance will be over in a few days we're sure. Dr Ramsay was called in to see Miss Wise on Thursday, and he said nothing could be done for her. All we can do is to take care never to get into such another scrape, and be glad we've got so well out of this. How are you, Grainger, this cold morning ? Take a seat by the fire, and let my wife give you a cup of tea. Capital stuff, I assure you—a present of Williams ;” and Mr Lisle laughed. Mr Grainger laughed too.
“Well, sir,” said he, “I never got anything from Williams myself, but he was liberal enough with his presents, I believe, as long as be'd anything to give."
" He's a kind-hearted, hospitable fellow Williams as ever lived,” said Mr Lisle, rather offended at the slight way in which Mr Grainger (a man whom he considered in an inferior way of trade to himself) spoke of his friend.
“Oh ay, sir—I daresay he is,” answered Grainger: “ I're nothing to say against him myself. I've no reason-1 shall lose nothing by him."
“ Nor will anybody else,” replied Lisle rather tartly.
“Well, sir, I'm glad to hear it, I'm sure, sir," answered Grainger. Things may be better than we've heard, but I'm told the debts are heavy. Mr Bostock says the creditors may make up their minds to a shilling in the pound or thereabouts.".
“ What can Mr Bostock mean by making such an assertion ?" exclaimed Mr Lisle, turning pale betwixt anger and affright, whilst his wife set down the teapot she had lifted, for her nezves failed her, and she could not hold it.
“ I don't think Mr Bostock would say anything of that sort he wasn't pretty sure of,” observed Mr Grainger; i but perhaps sir, you may have better information. Howsomever, I think them's best off as have had nothing to do with him; he always went too fast for my money. But I must be moving," continued he, as he rose to place his cup and saucer on the table; " there's a great lot of timber to be sold by auction at S- to-day, at one o'clock, that's expected to go cheap, and I've no time to
Mr Lisle was perfectly aware that Grainger had come for his rent; and the object of the visit was so well understood between them, that it was felt quite unnecessary to name it. In fact the payment had already been put off once; and this was the second period appointed by Mr Lisle, who had reckoned contidently on getting his money from Williams before it arrived. It was therefore very painful to be obliged to ask a further delay; but as Miss Patty's senses were gone, and she could not alter ber
will now, he had intended to tell his landlord the real state of the case, and soothe him with the promise of being able to answer his demand in a few days; but the estimate Grainger appeared to have formed with respect to Williams' responsibility made this rather a hopeless expedient. “You have called for your rent, I suppose, Mr Grainger?” at length said Mr Lisle, clearing his throat, seeing that the landlord made no move towards resuming his seat, but stood sturdily with his hat in his hand betwixt the table and the door.
6. In course I have, sir,” replied Grainger, as if he thought the question wholly_superfluous." It's a week past the time you appointed, and I want to go to S with the money in my hand.”
" I'm really very sorry, Grainger,” began Mr Lisle, whilst poor Sophia's cheeks turned crimson, and her eyes filled with tears ; - but really
“You're not a-going to put me off again, are you ?” exclaimed Grainger in an angry tone. “Only for a few days,” said Mr Lisle.
" I'm sure of money in a few days." “So you said before,” roughly answered Grainger.
“Besides, sir, I want my money to go to market with, and I must have it."
“But I can't give it you, Mr Grainger," replied Mr Lisle. "Be reasonable; a very few days now must see me out of my difficulties, and the moment I get the money-in short, to be plain with you, don't mention it, and I promise yours shall be the very first debt I pay; but the very moment the breath is out of old Patty Wise's body
“Stop, sir !” said Mr Grainger, setting his arms akimbo; “do you mean to tell me as that's all you've got to look to to pay me my year and half's rent?"
" I've got a bond from Williams for seventeen hundred pounds, with five per cent. interest on it,” replied Lisle;." to be paid on the very day he touches the old woman's legacy."
“ Light the fire with it!" answered the landlord roughly; "it's all the use it'll ever be. Seventeen hundred pounds !--seventeen hundred rotten eggs! Why, don't you know that afore Miss Patty lost her intellects, when she found from Dr Ramsay that she was really going, she sent for Williams and told him that, as she knew very well that he'd bring her niece to the workhouse if she gave him
any power over the money, she had taken care to tie it up so that he could never touch a shilling of it?”
“She did !” cried Mr Lisle, starting from his seat. “To be sure she did !” answered Grainger; " and what's more, Williams took the hint and vanished, without ever coming back here to say good-by to anybody. He's across the water by this time, and there's an execution in the house. I saw the officers there just now as I came past.”
We have not space, neither can it be necessary, to paint the