"How disagreeable you are,
Mr Maxton!" said the better-half of that gentleman, as they sat at
breakfast one day about eleven o’clock—no uncommon occurrence with them.
"How disagreeable you are, always reminding me of those sums I lost at
play. You forget the days when I win."
"But you should never lose,
madam!" was Mr Maxton’s sensible observation.
"Come, come," said the lady,
coaxingly, "you will run no risk in advancing me a hundred to-day. I’ll
play with Lady Ramfoozle she is the most foolish creature possible. Give
me hundred, I say, and I’ll engage to win a thousand."
"Well, well," said the
complying husband, "but choose your adversaries Have nothing to do with
your pruddent and attentive people, who observe every card, let your party
consist of the giddy and the foolish—they are the best players for you."
"Oh, leave me alone!"
"But, madam, it is high
time to reprimand you seriously for your other extravagances."
"My dear sir," answered Mrs
Maxton, "how often must I repeat to you, that the only thing that could
possibly induce me to marry you, was to get rid of the ennui that troubled
"Madam, I don’t wish to
deprive you of any of the privileges due to a married woman. Run here, run
there, invite to your house whom you please, but only have some mercy upon
Mr Maxton, who has thus
unceremoniously been thrust on the reader’s attention, was the proprietor
of an extensive mercantile establishment in Glasgow, to which he paid as
little attention as it is the fashion for men of fashion to do— that is,
he seldom looked near his warehouse, but entrusted the entire management
of his affairs to his chief clerk, who, as is usual on like occasions, was
daily enriching himself at his master’s expense. The business was
consequently going to wreck and ruin; and Mr Maxton was just let into a
sufficient knowledge of his affairs, at this time, for him to comprehend
that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Yet still he went on in his
fashionable career. He kept his town house, and his country house, his
horses, and his dogs, gave balls, routes, and parties innumerable; and, in
short, did everything in his power to dissipate, as quickly as he could,
the small part of his property which yet remained. All this grand style of
living he had imbibed, from seeing it carried on by his wife’s father—a
man who had given his daughters an education far beyond what they were
entitled to, and brought them up in a manner which adapted them only as
wives for men of fortune; and the result of which was, as might be
anticipated, he died a bankrupt. It was a piece of good luck, therefore,
when he got hold of Mr Maxton, the son of the steadiest merchant on
‘Change, as a husband for his daughter, Florence. The old merchant himself
was just dead, and his son had come in for the greater share of his
fortune. The residue was left to a daughter, who had married a man named
Bernard, for a number of years one of the most faithful clerks in the old
gentleman’s counting-house, and whom she knew to be a good and amiable
man. But, as it often happens, the best servants are the worst masters;
and this truth she found when her husband, embarking in business on his
own account with her money, met with such losses, that he shortly died of
a broken heart, leaving her with two children, and with nothing almost to
keep them in life. As this marriage had been gone into with the entire
disapprobation of her brother, Mrs Bernard knew that it was almost useless
to apply to him for relief. She once attempted it, and met with a refusal.
Indeed, Mrs Maxton was so rude to her, that she resolved rather to starve
than again apply for assistance where she expected and could find it not.
The only other relation of
Mr Maxton in life, was a cousin, who twenty years before, had gone to seek
his fortune in America. Mr Maxton, however, was not quite sure whether he
was still living, as he had not heard from him for a number of years; nay,
when he began to give the matter due consideration, he was certain that
his cousin must be dead, as, being poor when he left England, he had never
solicited any favour from Mr Maxton. How greatly was he surprised
therefore on the very day on which he and his wife sat at breakfast, as
before mentioned, when a servant entered the room, immediately after the
tea things had been removed, and announced that a man wished to speak with
him, who had brought tidings of Mr Henderson, the very cousin of whose
death he had so recently assured himself to his own content.
This announcement was
quickly followed by the entrance of the man himself. He was meanly
attired, and dejected in his look, so that Mr Maxton almost regretted that
he had desired such a fellow—bearing the very appearance of one in want of
money—to be shown in.
"Well, sir," Mr Maxton at
length gained speech enough to say, "what is your business with me?"
"My name is Henderson,"
answered the man. "I am a near relation of yours."
"I remember, sir," was the
rejoinder of Mr Maxton, "having a relation of that name, but I thought him
dead long since.’
"He lives, sir; and you see
"Sir," replied Mr Maxton,
"it is so long since I have seen or indeed heard anything about you, that
you can hardly expect I should remember you."
"Yet we were most intimate
friends when young," said Henderson, in a tone of voice partaking more of
sorrow than of anger.
"Ay, college friends; but
"I had amassed in America,
with much labour, a small independence, and, having lost a wife and only
child, I resolved to return to my native land. The vessel in which I
embarked was wrecked, and I alone, of all the crew and passengers, was
saved. I have since undergone many hardships; and I came hither merely to
implore your benevolence and interest to get me placed in some office."
"I’ll give this fellow a
crown to get rid of him," said Mr Maxton, apart to his wife.
"You’ll do no such thing,"
she answered. "This is the common cant of all beggars. Dismiss him
immediately, and order him never to return. A pretty kind of relation
"Sir, I can do nothing for
you," said Mr Maxton, turning to his cousin; "and so I beg you will excuse
me, for I have business to attend to."
"Yet ere I go," said the
poor man, "be kind enough to favour me with your sister’s address."
"Indeed, it is such a long
time since I have seen her, that I forget. My servant, I dare say, can
inform you. But you need hardly go there, as she has nothing for herself."
"Forgive my importunities;
I am driven indeed to extreme distress; if you then could do
anything for me do it; I suffer severely."
To this appeal, however,
neither Mr nor Mrs Maxton would vouchsafe a satisfactory reply; and the
poor man was compelled to leave the house. This he did with the most
Having ascertained the
address of Mrs Bernard, he hastened to call upon her, where a quite
different reception, from what he had experienced at her brother’s hands,
met him. Although scarcely earning, by her needlework, sufficient to keep
herself and children in existence, Henderson had no sooner mentioned who
he was, than she offered to share her pittance with him for such length of
time as he was out of employment.
Things remained in this
state for several weeks—Henderson was dependent upon the bounty of Mrs
Bernard. Deeply impressed as he was with gratitude for her kindness, can
it be wondered at that, knowing the goodness of her heart, this sense
should have ripened into love. He avowed his passion, and was accepted;
and it was agreed that they should be married the moment Henderson got
into some sort of employment. A day had only elapsed after this
arrangement, and Henderson made known to Mrs Bernard that he had at length
obtained a situation; nay, more, that he had taken a house, and the
clergyman was there waiting to perform the ceremony.
With some little
heart-fluttering and agitation, Mrs Bernard donned her best walking gear,
and sallied forth with her intended husband.
How great was her
astonishment, when, after passing through various streets, Henderson
stopped before an elegant mansion in one of the most fashionable squares
at the west end of the town! He rang; the door was opened by a livery
servant, who led the way in silence to the drawing-room, where a few
friends were assembled to witness the marriage ceremony.
"Pardon this deception,"
said Mr Henderson, seeing Mrs Bernard’s surprise. "This house is mine—I am
proud to welcome you home. My poverty was assumed only to try my
relations, for I know the hope of fortune too often renders the face of
man hypocritical, and makes it assume the appearance of benevolence."
Mrs Bernard was quite overpowered by
this unexpected stroke of fortune, and she would fain have retired to her
humble dwelling again; but Mr Henderson called on her for the fulfilment
of her promise, and that very day they were united.
Mr and Mrs Maxton, who had
been informed of the design practised against them by their cousin
Henderson, went instantly to see him at his residence. They attempted to
pass off the whole matter as an excellent joke, and to pretend that they
knew him to be what he was from the first. This was too thinly veiled not
to be seen through, and he dismissed them from his house in nearly as
summary a manner as they had dismissed him from theirs.
Cousin Henderson, and she
whom he had chosen as "the partner of his house and heart," lived, like
the lovers in fairy tales, to a good old age, happy in seeing around them
their children’s children. They died within a week of each other. The same
grave sufficed to hold their ashes.
Their worthy relation, Mr Maxton,
awakening, ere long, to a sense of his approaching ruin, collected all the
ready money he could lay his hands on, and, leaving his town house, his
country house, his warehouse, and his servants, to the mercy of his
creditors, embarked with his wife for New Orleans, where, it is hoped,
they found out that most invaluable of all secrets—The
art of living within one’s income.