"Ah, how do you do, my
dear, Miss M’Falzen?" cried Mr Samuel, as he rose to meet his devout
"Sir," responded the devout
distributor of tracts, stiffly and coldly, "you are in far better spirits
than becomes one who is the means of bringing ruin on so many families. I
expected to have found you contrite of heart, and of a comely sadness of
spirits and seriousness of look."
"And yet I am only feasting
on cold water," replied Samuel, letting the muscles of his face fall, as
he looked at the jug. "But you know, Miss Angelina, that I am innocoent of
the consequences of the fire, and, when one has a clear conscience, he may
be as happy in adversity over a cup of water, as he may be in prosperity
over a bottle of claret."
"A pretty sentiment, Mr
Thriven—la! a beautiful sentiment," replied Miss Angelina; "and, satisfied
as I am of your purity, let me tell you that our intercourse shall not,
with my will, be interrupted by your misfortune. I would rather, indeed,
feel a delight in soothing you under your affliction, and administering
the balm of friendship to the heart that is contrite, under the stroke
which cannot be averted."
"And does my Angelina,"
cried Samuel, "regard me with the same kindness and tenderness in my
present reduced circumstances, as when I was engaged in a flourishing
trade, which might have emboldened me to hope for a still more intimate,
ay, and sacred connexion?"
"Mr Thriven," replied the
other, gravely, "I have called in behalf of Mrs Mercer."
Samuel’s face underwent
some considerable change.
"I have called in behalf of
Mrs Mercer, who has reported to me some sentiments stated by you to her,
of so beautiful. and amiable a character, and so becoming a Christian,
that I admire you for them. You promised to do your utmost, after you are
discharged, to make amends to her and her poor family for the loss she
will sustain by your bankruptcy. Ah, sir, that alone proves to me that you
are an honest, innocent, and merely unfortunate insolvent; and to show you
that I am not behind you in magnanimity, I have paid her the fifty pound
wherein you were indebted to her, and got an assignation to her debt. You
may pay me when you please; and, meanwhile, I will accept of the
composition you intend to offer to your creditors."
"Fifty pound off her tocher,"
muttered Samuel between his teeth, and then took a drink of the cold
water, in the full memory of the claret.
"It scarcely beseems a
man," said he, "to be aught but a silent listener when his praise is
spoken by one he loves and respects. But, is it possible, Miss M’Falzen,
that my misfortune has not changed those feelings—those—excuse me, Miss
Angelina—those intentions with which, I had reason to believe, you
And, with great gallantry,
he seized the fair spinster round the waist, as he had been in the habit
of doing before he was a bankrupt, to show, at least, that he was now no
bankrupt in affection.
"To be plain with you,
sir," replied she, wriggling herself out of his hands, "my intention once
was to wait until I saw whether you would come unscathed and pure out of
the fiery ordeal; but, on second thoughts, I conceived that this would be
unfair to one whom I had always looked upon as an honest man, though,
probably, not so seriously minded a Christian as I could have wished;
therefore," she added, smiling—yet no smiling matter to Samuel—"I have,
you see, trusted you fifty pounds—a pretty good earnest—he! he!—
that my heart is just where it was."
Mr Samuel Ramsay Thriven
kissed Miss Angelina M’Falzen.
"But oh, sir," she added,
by way of protest, "I hope and trust that not one single spot shall be
detected in your fair fame and reputation, and that you will come forth
out of trial as unsullied in the eyes of good men, as you were pure in the
estimation of one who thus proves for you her attachment."
"Never doubt it," replied
Mr Samuel. "Innocence gives me courage and confidence."
He placed, theatrically,
his hand on his heart.
"And what think you," added
Miss Angelina, "of John Bunyan’s book, which I lent you, and which I now
see lying here? Is it not a devout performance—an extraordinary allegory?
How much good I do by these kind of books! Ha, by the by, Mrs Bairnsfather,
good creature, wishes to read it. So I shall just put it in my pocket. To
be plain with you, she is much cast down, poor creature, by the loss her
husband has sustained through your involuntary failure; and I have said
that she will find much comfort in the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’"
"A stanch book, madam,"
replied Samuel, seriously—"an extraordinary allegory, worth a piece of the
vellum of the old covenant. I have derived great satisfaction and much
good from it. I have no doubt it will support her, as it has done me,
under our mutual affliction."
"Oh, how I do love to hear
you talk that way," replied Miss Angelina. "It is so becoming your
situation. When do you think you will get a discharge? I will answer for
Mr Bairnsfather agreeing to the composition; and you know I am now a
creditor myself in fifty pounds. Of course you have my vote; but you will
tell me all about it afterwards. Good day, Mr Thriven."
"Good day, Miss M’Falzen."
The which lady was no
sooner out than was the bottle of claret. In a few minutes more Mr Thriven
was laughing over his replenished glass, as totally oblivious of the
secret carried away by his lover, on the blank leaf of the good old
tinker’s book, as he was on that night when he made free with the two
bottles of port as good as Ofleys.
"The matter looks well
enough," said he. "I can make no manner of doubt that my composition will
be accepted; and then, with the two thousand five hundred, at least, that
I will make of my bankrupthy, and the round thousand possessed by Miss
Angelina M’Falzen, I can perform the part of a walking gentleman on the
great stage of the world."
"Is Mr Thriven within?" he
now heard asked at the door.
"Ho, it is Sharp!" muttered
he, as he shoved the bottle and the glass into a recess, and laid again
hold of the water-jug.
"Water, Thriven!" cried the
attorney, as he bounded forward and seized the bankrupt by the hand.
"Water; and Miss Grizel M’Whirter of Cockenzie dead, of a dead certainty,
this forenoon; and you her nephew, and a will in her drawers, written by
Jem Birtwhistle, in your favour, and her fortune ten thousand; and the
never a mortal thought the old harridan had more than a five hundred.
"The devil a drop!" cried
Mr Samuel Thriven. "The devil a drop of water; for, have I not in this
press a half bottle of claret, which I laid past there that day of the
fire, and never had the courage to touch it since. But me her heir!
Ho, Mr Joseph Sharp, you are, of a verity, fooling a poor bankrupt, who
has not a penny in the world after setting aside his composition of five
shillings in the pound. Me her heir! Why, I was told by herself
that I was cut off with a shilling; and you must say it seriously ere I
believe a word on ‘t.
"I say it as seriously,"
replied the writer; "as ever you answered a home-thrust to-day in the
sheriff’s office, as to the amount of stock you lost by the burning of
your premises—as sure as a decree of the fifteen. I say your loss had made
her repent; so come away with the claret.’
Mr Thriven emptied the
whole of the half bottle, at one throw, into a tumbler.
"Drink, thou pink of an
attorney!" said he, and then fell back into his chair, his mouth wide
open, his eyes fixed on the roof, and his two hands closed in each other,
as if each had been two notes for five thousand each.
"Are you mad, Mr Thriven?"
cried Sharp, after he had bolted the whole tumbler of claret.
"Yes!" answered Mr Samuel
"Have you any more of this
Bourdeaux water in the house?"
"Yes!" answered Mr Thriven.
"Open that lockfast," (pointing to a press,) "and drink till you are only
able to shout ‘M’Whirter’‘—‘Cockenzie’—‘Thriven’—‘ten thousand’—‘hurra!’—and
let never a word more come out of you, till you fall dead drunk on the
The first part of the
request, at least, was very quickly obeyed, and two bottles were placed on
the table, one of which the attorney bored in an instant, and had a good
portion of it rebottled in his stomach by the time that Mr Thriven got his
eyes taken off the roof of the chamber.
"Hand me half a tumbler!"
cried he, "that I may gather my senses, and see the full extent of my
"Misfortune!" echoed Sharp.
"Ay!" rejoined Samuel, as
he turned the bottom of the tumbler to the roof. "Why did Grizel M’Whirter
die, sir, until I got my discharge?"
"Ah, sir!" replied Sharp,
on whom the wine was already begun to operate—"You have thus a noble
opportunity of being the architect of a reputation that might be the envy
of the world. You can now pay your creditors in full—twenty shillings in
the pound, and retain five thousand to yourself, with the character of
being that noblest work of Nature—an honest man."
"When a thing is utterly
beyond one’s reach," rejoined Samuel, looking, with a wry face, right into
the soul of the attorney, "how beautiful it appears."
Sharp accepted coolly the
cut, because he had claret to heal it, otherwise he would have assuredly
knocked down Mr Samuel Thriven.
"I beg your pardon, Mr
Sharp!" continued his friend; "but I felt a little pained, sir, at the
high flown expression of the great good that awaits me, as if I were not
already conscious of being, and known to be that noblest work of Nature.
The cut came from you, Mr Sharp, and I only returned it. All I regret,
sir, is, that my aunt did not live till I got my discharge, because then,
not being bound to pay my creditors one farthing, I might have paid them
in full, without obligation at all, and thereby have proved myself what I
am—a generous man. No more of the claret. You must away with me to
Cockenzie, to see that the repositories are sealed, and the will safe."
"By my faith, I forgot
that!" replied Sharp; "a pretty good sign that, if you are a generous man,
I am not a selfish one. We had better," he added, "let the claret alone
till we return from Cockenzie. What think you?"
Now Samuel had already told
Sharp that he was to have no more of the wine; and the question of the
attorney, which was a clear forestaller, would have angered any man who
was not an heir (five minutes old) of ten thousand. But Samuel knew better
than to quarrel with the attorney at that juncture; so he answered him in
the affirmative; and, in five minutes afterwards, the heir and the lawyer
were in a coach, driving off to Cockenzie. The bankrupt was, in a few
minutes more, in a dream—the principal vision of which was himself in the
act of paying his creditors in full with their own money, and earning a
splendid reputation for honesty. The sooner he performed the glorious act,
the greater credit he would secure by it; his name would be in the
Courant and the Mercury, headed by the large letters—
"Praiseworthy instance of honesty, coming out, in full strength, from the
ordeal of fire."
"What has Miss Angelina
M’Falzen been doing at the house of Mrs Bairnsfather?" cried Sharp, as he
turned from the window of the carriage (now in the Canongate) to the face
of Samuel, whose eyes were fixed by the charm of his glorious
"Lending her the ‘Pilgrim’s
Progress!’" answered Samuel, as he started from his dream.
Now Sharp could not for the
life of him understand this ready answer of his friend, for he had put the
query to awaken him from his dream, and without the slightest hope of
receiving a reply to a question, which savoured so much of the character
of questions in general; so he left him to his dream, and, in a short
time, they were at Cockenzie.