Adam was now sixteen. It
was his misfortune, as it has been the ruin of many to be without an
aim. His mother declared that she was at a loss what to make
him; "But," added she "he is a guid scholar, that is ae thing, and CAN Do
is easy carried about." Mr. Douglas himself became anxious about Adam’s
prospects: he evinced a dislike to be apprenticed to any mechanical
profession, and he was too old to remain longer a burden upon his mother.
At the suggestion of Mr. Douglas, therefore, when about seventeen, he
opened a school in a neighbouring village. Some said, that he was too
young; others, that he was too simple, that he allowed the children to
have all their own way; and a few even hinted that he went too much back
and forward to the manse in the adjoining parish, to pay attention to his
school. However these things might be, certain it is the school did not
succeed; and, after struggling with it for two years, he resolved to try
his fortune in London.
He was to sail from Leith,
and his trunk had been sent to Hawick to be forwarded by the carrier. Adam
was to leave his mother’s house early on the following morning; and on the
evening preceding his departure, he paid his farewell visit to the manse.
Mr. Douglas received him with his wonted kindness; he gave him one or two
letters of recommendation, and much wholesome advice, although the good
man was nearly as ignorant of what is called the world as the youth who
was about to enter it. Adam sat long, and said little; for his heart was
full and his spirit heavy. He had never said to Mary Douglas, in plain
words, that he loved her—he had never dared to do so; and he now sat with
his eyes anxiously bent upon her, trembling to bid her farewell. She too
was silent. At length he rose to depart; he held out his hand to Mr.
Douglas; the latter shook it affectionately, adding—"Farewell, Adam!—may
Heaven protect you against the numerous temptations of the great city!" He
turned towards Mary—he hesitated, his hands dropped by his side--"Could I
speak wi’ you a moment?" said he, and his tongue faltered as he spoke.
With a tear glistening in her eyes, she looked towards her father who
nodded his consent, and she arose and accompanied Adam to the door. They
walked towards the flower-garden—he had taken her hand in his—he
pressed it, but he spoke not, and she offered not to withdraw it. He
seemed struggling to speak; and, at length, in a tone of earnest
fondness—and he shook as he spoke, he said, "Will you not forget me,
A half-smothered sob was
her reply, and a tear fell on his hand.
"Say you will not," he
added, yet more earnestly.
"O Adam!" returned she,
"how can you say forget?— Never! Never!"
"Enough! enough!" he
continued, and they wept together.
It was scarce daybreak when
Adam rose to take his departure, and to bid his mother and his brethren
farewell. "Oh!" exclaimed she, as she placed his breakfast before him, "is
this the last meal that my bairn’s to eat in my house?" He ate but little;
and she continued—weeping as she spoke— "Eat hinny, eat; ye have a lang
road before ye;—and, O Adam, aboon everything earthly, mind that ye write
to me every week; never think o’ the postage—for, though it should tak my
last farthing, I maun hear frae ye."
He took his staff in his
hand, and prepared to depart. He embraced his younger brothers, and tears
were their only and mutual adieu. His parent sobbed aloud. "Fareweel,
mother!" said he, in a voice half-choked with anguish—"Fareweel!"
"God bless my bairn!" she
exclaimed, wringing his hand, and she leaned her head upon his shoulder
and wept as though her heart would burst. In agony, he tore himself from
her embrace, and hurried from the house; and during the first miles of his
journey, at every rising ground, he turned anxiously round to obtain
another lingering look of the place of his nativity; and in the fulness
and bitterness of his feelings, he pronounced the names of his mother, and
his brethren, and of Mary Douglas in the same breath.
We need not describe his
passage to London, nor tell how he stood gazing wonderstruck, like a
graven image of amazement, as the vessel winded up the Thames, through the
long forest of masts, from which waved the flags of every nation.
It was about mid-day, early
in the month of April, when the smack drew up off Hermitage Stairs, and
Adam was aroused from his reverie of astonishment, by a waterman, who had
come upon dock, and who, pulling him by the button-hole, said—"Boat,
master? boat?" Adam did not exactly understand the question, but, seeing
the other passengers getting their luggage into the boats, he followed
their example. On landing, he was surrounded by a group of porters,
several of whom took hold of his trunk, all inquiring, at the same moment,
where he wished it taken to. This was a question he could not answer. It
was one he had never thought of before. He looked confused, and replied,
"Watna!" said one of
the Cockney burden-bearers——"Watna!"—there ain’t such a street in
Adam was in the midst of
London, and he knew not a living soul among its million of inhabitants. He
knew not where to go; but, recollecting that one of the gentlemen to whom
Mr. Douglas had recommended him was a Mr Davison, a merchant in Cornhill,
"Does ony o’ ye ken a Mr.
Davison, a merchant in Cornhill?"
"Vy, I can’t say as how I
know him," replied a porter; "but if you wish your luggage taken there," I
will find him for you in a twinkling."
"An’ what wad ye be asking
to carry the bit box there?" said Adam, in a manner betokening an equal
proportion of simplicity and caution.
"Hasking?" replied the
other—"vy, I’m blessed if you get any one to carry it for less than four
"I canna afford four
shillings," said Adam," "and I’ll be obleeged to ye if ye’ll gie me a lift
on to my shouther wi’t an’ I’ll carry it mysel."
They uttered some low jests
against his country, and left him to get his trunk upon his shoulders as
he best might. Adam said truly that he could not afford four shillings
for, after paying his passage, he had not thirty shillings left in the
It is time, however, that
we should describe Adam more particularly to our readers. He was dressed
in a coarse grey coat, with trousers of the same colour, a striped
waistcoat, a half-worn broad-brimmed hat, and thick shoes studded with
nails, which clattered as he went. Thus arrayed, and with his trunk upon
his shoulders, Adam went tramping and clattering along East Smithfield,
over Tower-hill, and along the Minories, inquiring at every turning—"If
any one could direct him to Mr. Davison’s, the merchant in Cornhill?"
There was many a laugh, and many a joke at poor Adam’s expense, as he went
trudging along, and more than once the trunk fell to the ground, as he
came in contact with the crowds who were hurrying past him.—He had been
directed out of his way; but at length he arrived at the place he sought.
He placed his burden on the ground—he rang the bell—and again and again he
rung, but no one answered. His letter was addressed to Mr. Davison’s
counting-house—it was past business hours, and the office was locked up
for the day. Adam was now tired, disappointed, and perplexed. He wist not
what to do. He informed several "decent-looking people," as he said, "that
he was a stranger, and he would be obleeged to them if they could
recommend him to a lodging." He was shown several, but the rent per week
terrified Adam. He was sinking under his burden, when, near the corner of
Newgate Street, he inquired of an old Irish orange-woman, if "she could
inform him where he would be likely to obtain a lodging at the rate of
eighteen-pence or two shillings a-week?"
"Sure, and it’s I who can,
jewel," replied she; "and an illigant room it is, with a bed his Holiness
might rest his blessed bones on, and never a one slapes in it at all but
my own boy Barney; and, barring when Barney’s in dhrink—and that’s not
above twice a-week—you’ll make mighty pleasant sort of company together."
Adam was glad to have the
prospect of a resting-place of any sort before him at last, and with a
lighter heart and a freer step he followed the old orange-woman. She
conducted him to Green Dragon Court, and desiring him to follow her up a
long, dark, dirty stair, ushered him into small, miserable-looking garret,
dimly lighted by a broken sky-light, while the entire furniture consisted
of four wooden posts without curtains, which she termed a bed, mutilated
chair, and a low wooden stool. "Now, darlint,’ said she observing Adam
fatigued, "here is a room fit for a prince, and sure you won’t be thinking
half-a-crown too much for it?"
"Weel," said Adam, for he
was ready to lie down any where, "we’ll no quarrel about a sixpence."
The orange-woman left him,
having vainly recommended him, "to christen his new tenement with a drop
of the cratur." Adam threw himself upon the bed, and, in a few minutes,
his spirit wandered in its dreams amidst the "bonny woods and braes" of
Teviotdale. Early on the following day he proceeded to the counting-house
of Mr. Davison, who received him with a hurried sort of civility—glanced
over the letter of introduction—expressed a hope that Mr. Douglas was
well—said he would be happy to serve him—but he was engaged at present,
and, if Mr. Brown would call again, if he should hear of anything, he
would let him know. Adam thanked him, and, with his best bow, (which was a
very awkward one,) withdrew. The clerks in the outer office tittered as
poor Adam, with his heavy hob-nailed shoes, tramped through the midst of
them. He delivered the other letter of introduction, and the gentleman to
whom it was addressed received him much in the same manner as Mr. Davison
had done, and his clerics also smiled at Adam’s grey coat, and gave a very
peculiar look at his clattering shoes, and then at each other. Day after
day he repeated his visits to the counting-houses of these
gentlemen—sometimes they were too much engaged to see him, at others they
simply informed him that they were sorry they had heard of nothing to suit
him and continued writing, without noticing him again; while Adam, with a
heavy heart, would stand behind their desk, brushing the crown of his
brown broad-brimmed hat with his sleeve. At length, the clerks in the
outer office merely informed him their master had heard of nothing for
him. Adam saw it was in vain—three weeks had passed, and the thirty
shillings which he had brought to London were reduced to ten.
He was wandering
disconsolately down Chancery Lane, with his hands thrust in his pockets,
when his attention was attracted to a shop, the windows and door of which
were covered with written placards, and on these placards were the words,
"Wanted a Book-keeper"—"Wanted by a Literary Gentleman an
Amanuensis"—in short, there seemed no sort of situation for
which there was not a person wanted, and each concluded with "inquire
within." Adam’s heart and his eyes overflowed with joy. There
were at east half-a-dozen places which would suit him exactly—he was only
at a loss now which to choose upon—and he thought also that Mr. Douglas’
friends had used him most unkindly in saying they could hear of no
situation for him. when here scores were advertised in the streets. At
length he fixed upon one. He entered the shop. A sharp, Jewish-looking
little man was writing at a desk—he received the visitor with a gracious
"If ye please, sir," said
Adam, "will ye be so good as inform me where the gentleman lives that
wants the book-keeper?"
"With pleasure," said the
master of the register office "but you must give me five shillings, and I
will enter your name."
"Five shilling!" repeated
Adam, and a new light began to dawn upon him. "Five shillings, sir, is a
deal o’ money an’, to tell ye the truth, I can very ill afford it; but, as
am much in want of a situation, maybe ye would tak’ half-a-crown."
"Can’t book you for that,"
said the other; "but give me your half-crown, and you may have the
He directed him to a
merchant in Thames Street. Adam quickly found the house; and, entering
with his broad brimmed hat in his hand, and scraping the hob-nails along
the floor—"Sir, said he, "I’m the person Mr. Daniells o’ Chancery
Lane has sent to you as a book-keeper."
"Mr. Daniells—Mr. Daniells?"
said the merchant; "don’t know any such person—have not wanted a
book-keeper these six months."
"Sir," said Adam, "are ye
no Mr. Robertson o’ 54 Thames Street?"
"I am," replied the
merchant; "but," added he, "I see how it is. Pray, young man, what did you
give this Mr. Daniells to recommend you to the situation?"
returned Adam. "Well," said the other, "you have more money than wit. Good
morning, sir, and take care of another Mr. Daniells."
Poor Adam was dumfoundered;
and, in the bitterness of his spirit, he said London was a den o’ thieves.
I might tell you how his last shilling was expended—how he lived upon
bread and water—how he fell into arrears with the orange-woman for the
rent of his garret—how she persecuted him—how he was puzzled to understand
the meaning of the generous words, "Money Lent;" how the
orange-woman, in order to obtain her rent, taught him the mystery of the
three golden balls—and how the shirts which his mother had made him
from a web of her own spinning, and his books, all that he had, save the
clothes upon his back, were pledged—and how, when all was gone, the old
landlady turned him to the door, houseless, friendless, penniless, with no
companion but despair. We might have dwelt upon these things, but must
proceed with his history.
Adam after enduring
privations which would make humanity shudder, obtained the situation of
assistant-porter in a merchant’s office. The employment was humble, but he
received it joyfully. He was steady, and industrious, and it was not long
until he was appointed warehouseman; and his employer, finding that, in
addition to his good qualities he had received a superior education, made
him one of his confidential clerks. He had held the situation about two
years. The rust, as his brother clerks said, was now pretty well rubbed
off Scotch Adam. His hodden-gray was laid aside for the dashing green, his
hob-nailed shoes for fashionable pumps, and his broad-brimmed hat for a
narrow-crowned beaver; his speech, too, had caught a sprinkling of the
southern accent; but, in other respects, he was the same inoffensive,
steady, and serious being as when he left his mother’s cottage.
His companions were wont to
"roast" Adam as they termed it, on what they called his Methodism. They
had often urged him to accompany them to the theatre; but, for two years,
he had stubbornly withstood their temptations. The stage was to Adam what
the tree of knowledge was to his first namesake and progenitor. He had
been counselled against it, he had read against it, he had heard
sermons against; but had never been within the walls of a theatre. The
Siddons, and her brother John Kemble, then in the zenith of their
fame, were filling not only London but Europe with their names. One
evening they were to perform together—Adam had often heard of them—he
admired Shakspeare—his curiosity was excited—he yielded to the
solicitations of his companions, and accompanied them to Covent Garden.
The curtain was drawn up. The performance began. Adam’s soul was riveted,
his senses distracted. The Siddons swept before him like a vision of
immortality—Kemble seemed to draw a soul from the tomb of the Caesars,
and, as the curtain fell, and the loud music pealed, Adam felt as if a new
existence and a new world had opened before him, and his head reeled with
wonder and delight.
When the performance was
concluded, his companions proposed to have a single bottle in an adjoining
tavern; Adam offered some opposition, but was prevailed upon to accompany
them. Several of the players entered—they were convivial spirits,
abounding with wit, anecdote, and song. The scene was new, but not
unpleasant to Adam. He took no note of time. He was unused to drink, and
little affected him. The first bottle was finished. "WE’LL HAVE ANOTHER,"
said one of his companions. It was the first time Adam had heard the fatal
words, and he offered no opposition. He drank again—he began to expatiate
on divers subjects—he discovered he was an orator. "Well done, Mr. Brown,"
cried one of his companions, "there’s hope of you yet—we’ll have
another, my boy—three’s band!" A third bottle was brought; Adam
was called upon for a song. He could sing and sing well too; and, taking
his glass in his hand, he began—
"Stop, stop, we’ll hae anither gill,
Ne’er mind a lang-tongued beidame’s yatter;
They’re fools wha’d leave a glass o’ yill,
For ony wife’s infernal clatter.
"There’s Bet, when I gang hame the
Will set the hail stair-head a ringin’—
Let a’ the neebors hear her flyte,
Ca’ me a brute, and stap my singin’.
She’ll yelp about the bairns’ rags—
Ca’ me a drucken gude-for-naething’!
She’ll curse my throat an’ drouthy bags,
An’ at me thraw their duddy claethin’!
cried Adam, and continued—
"The fient a supper I’ll get there—the kist the
A dish o’ tongues is a’ she’ll gie me!
She’ll shake her nieve and rug her hair,
An’ wonder hoo she e’er gaed wi’ me!
She vows to leave me, an’ I say,
‘Gang, gang! for dearsake !—that’s a blessin’!
She rins to get her claes away,
The younkers a set up a skirl,
They shriek an’ cry—‘Oh dinna, mither!’
I slip to bed, an’ fash the quarrel
Neither ae way nor anither.
But creeps beside me unco dour,
I clap her back; an’ say—’My dawtie!
Quo’ she—’Weel, weel, my passion’s owre,
But dinna gang a-drinkin’, Watty."
"Bravo, Scotchy!" shouted
one. "Your health and song, Mr. Brown," cried another. Adam’s head began
to swin—the lights danced before his eyes—he fell from his chair. One of
his friends called a hackney coach; and, half insensible of where he was,
he was conveyed to his lodging. It was, afternoon on the following day
before he appeared at the counting-house, and his eyes were red, and he
had the languid look of one who has spent a night in revelry. That
night he was again prevailed upon to accompany his brother clerks to the
club room, "just," as they expressed it, "to have one bottle to put all
right." That night he again heard the words—"We’ll have another,"
and again he yielded to their seduction.
But we will not
follow him through the steps and through the snares by which he departed
from virtue and became entangled in vice. He became an almost nightly
frequenter of the tavern, the theatre or both, and his habits opened up
temptations to grosser viciousness. Still he kept up a correspondence with
Mary Douglas, the gentle object of his young affections, and, for a time,
her endeared remembrance haunted him like a protecting angel, whispering
in his ear and saving him from depravity. But his religious principles
were already forgotten; and, when that cord was snapped asunder, the fibre
of affection that twined around his heart did not long hold him in the
path of virtue. As the influence of company grew upon him, her remembrance
lost its power, and Adam Brown plunged headlong into all the pleasures and
temptations of the metropolis.
Still he was attentive to
business—he still retained the confidence of his employer—his salary was
liberal—he still sent thirty pounds a-year to his mother; and Mary Douglas
yet held a place in his heart, though he was changed—fatally changed. He
had been about four years in his situation when he obtained leave for a
few weeks to visit his native village. It was on a summer afternoon, when
a chaise from Jedburgh drove up to the door of the only public house in
the village. A fashionably dressed young man alighted, and, in an affected
voice, desired the landlord to send a porter with his luggage to
Mrs. Brown’s. "A porter, sir?" said the innkeeper—"there’s naethin’
o’ the kind in the toun; but I’ll get twa callants to tak it alang."
He hastened to his
mother’s—"Ah! how d’ye do?" said he, slightly shaking the hands of his
younger brothers—but a tear gathered in his eye as his mother kissed his
cheek. She, good soul, when the first surprise was over, said "she hardly
kenned her bairn in sic a fine gentleman." He proceeded to the manse, and
Mary marvelled at the change in his appearance and his manner; yet she
loved him not the less: but her father beheld the affectation and levity
of his young friend, and grieved over them.
He had not been a month in
the village when Mary gave him her hand, and they set out for London
together. For a few weeks after their arrival, he spent his evenings at
their own fireside, and they were blest in the society of each other. But
it was not long until company again spread its seductive snares around
him. Again he listened to the words—"We’ll have another"—again he
yielded to their temptations, and again the force of habit made him
its slave. Night followed night, and he was irritable and unhappy, unless
in the midst of his boon companions. Poor Mary felt the bitterness and
anguish of a deserted wife; but she upbraided him not—she spoke not of her
sorrows. Health forsook her cheeks, and gladness had fled from her spirit;
yet as she nightly sat hour after hour waiting his return, as he entered,
she welcomed him with a smile, which not unfrequently was met with an
imprecation or a frown. They had been married about two years. Mary was a
mother, and oft at midnight she would sit weeping over the cradle of her
child, mourning in secret for its thoughtless father.
It was her birth-day, her
father had come to London to visit them; she had not told him of her
sorrows, and she had invited a few friends to dine with them. They had
assembled; but Adam was still absent. He had been unkind to her; but this
was an unkindness she did not expect from him. They were yet awaiting,
when a police-officer entered. His errand was soon told. Adam Brown had
become a gambler, as well as a drunkard—he had been guilty of fraud and
embezzlement—his guilt had been discovered, and the police were in quest
of him. Mr. Douglas wrung his hands and groaned. Mary bore the dreadful
blow with more than human fortitude. She uttered no scream—she shed no
tears; for a moment she sat motionless—speechless. It was the dumbness of
agony. With her child at her breast, and, in the midst of her guests, she
flung herself at her father’s feet. "Father!" she exclaimed, "for my
sake!—for my helpless child’s sake—save! oh, save my poor husband!"
"For your sake, what I can
do I will do, dearest," groaned the old man.
A coach was ordered to the
door, and the miserable wife and her father hastened to the office of her
When Adam Brown received
intelligence that his guilt was discovered, from a companion, he was
carousing with others in a low gambling house. Horror seized him, and he
hurried from the room; but returned in a few minutes. "We’ll
have another!" he exclaimed, in a tone of frenzy—and another was
brought. He half filled a glass—he raised it to his lips—he dashed into it
a deadly poison, and ere they could stay his hand, the fatal draught was
swallowed. He had purchased a quantity of arsenic when he rushed from the
His fellow-gamblers were
thronging around him, when his injured wife and her grey-headed father
entered the room. "Away tormentors !" he exclaimed, as his glazed eyes
fell upon them, and he dashed his hand before his face.
"My husband! my dear
husband!" cried Mary, flinging her arms around his neck; "look on me—speak
to me! All is well!"
He gazed on her face—he
grasped her hand—"Mary--my injured Mary!" he exclaimed, convulsively, "can
you forgive me—you—-you? O God! I was once innocent! Forgive
me, dearest! for our child’s sake, curse not its guilty father!"
"Husband!—Adam!" she cried,
wringing his hand "come with me, love, come--leave this horrid place—you
have nothing to fear—your debt is paid."
"Paid!" he exclaimed,
wildly—"Ha! Ha!—Paid! They were his last words—convulsions came upon
him—the film of death passed over his eyes, and his troubled spirit fled.
She clung round his
neck—she yet cried, "speak to me!"—she refused to believe that he was
dead, and her reason seemed to have fled with his spirit.
She was taken from his body
and conveyed home. The agony of grief subsided into a stupor approaching
imbecility. She was unconscious of all around; and within three weeks from
the death of her husband, the broken spirit of Mary Douglas found rest,
and her father returned in sorrow with her helpless orphan to Teviotdale.