cried Sharp, in an attorney’s heroics.
"You will see, when you count them, I am not less honest or generous than
The friends thereupon
separated, to enjoy in their beds the two pleasures incident to their
At the end of the
period—less, by one day, than the customary time of corpses being allowed
to remain on the face of the earth—Mrs Grizel M’Whirter was buried; and as
her will contained a specific assignation to the greater part of her
money, the same was, in a day or two afterwards, got hold of by Mr
Thriven, and out went the round of circulars to the creditors, announcing
that, on the following Thursday, Mr Thriven would be seated in his house,
ready to pay all his creditors their debts, and requesting them to attend
and bring with them their receipts. Among these Miss Angelina M’Falzen—the
very woman he had promised, before he succeeded to Miss Grizel M’Whirter’s
fortune, to make a wife of; a pretty plain proof that now, when he had
become rich, he intended to shake off the devout spinster who had
attempted to reform him by lending him a copy of the allegory of the
tinker of Elstow. The eventful day at length arrived, when Mr Thriven was
to enjoy the great triumph he had panted for—viz., to pay his creditors in
full every farthing, with their own money; and, at the hour appointed, a
considerable number arrived at his house, among whom not a few knew, as
well as they did the contents of their own Bibles, the nefarious device of
the haberdasher. When the creditors were seated—
"It ill becomes a man,"
said Mr Thriven, affecting a comely modesty—"It ill becomes one who
resolves merely to do an act of ordinary justice, to take credit to
himself for the possession of uncommon honesty. Therefore, I say, away
with all egotistical assumption of principles, which ought to belong to a
man, merely (as we say in trade) as part and parcel of humanity; for, were
it a miracle to be honest, why should we not tolerate dishonesty, which
yet is, by the voice of all good men, condemned and put down. The debts
due to you I incurred, why then should I not pay them? It makes not a
nail of difference that I lost three-fourths of the amount
thereof by fire; because, what had you to do with the fire? You
were not the incendiaries. No; the fault lay with me; I should have
insured my stock, in gratitude for the credit with which you honoured me.
It is for these reasons that I now disdain to take any credit to myself
for coming thus cleverly forward to do you an act of justice, which the
will of Heaven has put in my power, by the demise of that lamented woman,
Mrs Grizel M’Whirter, and which you could by law have forced me to do,
though, probably, not so soon as I now propose to do it of my own free
will and accord."
Mr Thriven paused for a
burst of applause; and Mr Bairnsfather, with a smile on his face, stood
"It is all very well," said
he, glancing to his friends "for Mr Thriven to pretend that no merit
attaches to one who acts in the noble and generous way he has resolved to
follow on this occasion. Every honest act deserves applause, were it for
nothing else in the world than to keep up the credit of honesty. No doubt
we might have compelled Mr Thriven to pay us out of the money to which he
has succeeded, and to this extent we may admit his plea of no merit, but
the readiness, if not precipitancy, he has exhibited on the measure, is
not only in itself worthy of high commendation, but, by a reflex effect,
it satisfies us all of that of which we probably were not very sceptical,
that his failure was an honest one, and that he is not now making a
display of paying us out of any other money than his own."
"Shall we not accord to
these sentiments of our brother creditor?" said Mr Wrench, rising with
great seriousness. "How seldom is it, in the ordinary affairs of life,
that we find the true Mr Greatheart of the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress;’ but when
we do find him, shall we not say to him, Let him have his reward?—and what
shall that reward be? Empty praise? No! Mr Thriven needs not that, because
he has the voice of conscience sounding within him—far more musical, I
deem, to the ear of honesty than the hollow notes of external applause. A
piece of plate? very good for praise-devouring politicians to place on the
table when the clique is carousing and settling the affairs of the State,
but altogether unsuitable for the gratification of meek, self-denied,
retiring honesty. A book of morals? what say ye to that, friends? I throw
it out merely as a hint."
"And I second the
suggestion," said Mr Homer, "with the amendment, that there shall be an
inscription on a blank leaf, setting forth, in detail, the merits of
the individual, and where could we find a better than the allegory of the
progress of the pilgrim, written by the tinker of Elstow?"
A round of applause, fully
suitable to the appetite of Mr Samuel, followed Mr Homer’s amendment. The
process of payment commenced, and was completed to the satisfaction of all
parties; and when the creditors went away, Mr Thriven sat down to consider
the position in which he stood. He had got applause, but he did not well
understand it. Above all, he could not comprehend the allusion to the book
written by John Bunyan. "Well," he said, as he took up the Mercury,
"it is beyond my comprehension; and, after all, the good people may only
mean to present me with some suitable gift in consideration of the act of
justice I have this day done them. Let me see if there be any news;" and
he fell back in his chair in that delightful langueur d’esprit to
which a newspaper of all things is the most acceptable. "Why," he
continued, as he still searched for some racy bit, "did not Sharp
undertake to get a notice inserted, by way of an editor’s advertisement,
of three lines, to immortalise me, and pave my way to the hand of Miss
Clarinda Pott?" And he wrung the muscles of his face as if they had been
like a dishclout filled with the humour of his bile. At length his eye
stood in his head, his mouth opened, and he became what artists would call
"a living picture." The part of the paper which produced this strange
effect, consisted of merely a few lines to this import:—"New Light.—The
matter which the fire in -----Street failed to illumine, has, we
understand, been illustrated by no less an individual than John Bunyan,
tinker at Elstow. Everything may be reduced to an allegory; the world
itself is an allegory; and this scrap of ours is nothing but an allegory."
Samuel laid down the paper.
"What can this mean?’ said he. "If this be not an allegory, I know not
"Ah, sir, you are a man
this day to be envied," said Miss M’Falzen, who now entered. "You have
proved yourself to be an honest man. I was sure of it; and you know,
Samuel, when all deserted you, I stuck fast by you, and even gave
the—the—excuse me, sir—the consent you asked of me, while you had no
prospect before you in this bad world other than beggary."
"What consent, ma’am?"
replied Mr Thriven, with a face that displayed no more curiosity than it
"Bless me, Mr Thriven, do
you forget?—Is it possible that you can have forgotten so interesting
"I believe, by the by,
ma’am, you have called for your debts," said Mr Thriven.
"Debt!" ejaculated the
devout spinster. "Why should there be any debt between two people situated
as we are. Why should not all claims be extinguished by the mixture of
what Mr Sharp calls the goods in communion.. If I take this money
from you to-day, won’t I be giving it back after the ceremony? True, my
small fortune is now nothing to yours; yet I will remember with pleasure,
and you will never surely forget, that all I had was at your service when
you had lost all you had in the world so, you see, my dear Samuel, if you
have this day proved yourself to have a noble spirit, I am not behind
"What is the exact amount
of your claim, Miss M’Falzen?" said Mr Thriven, with a determination to
"And would you really pay
it, cruel, cruel man,’ said she, somewhat alarmed.
"Certainly, ma’am," replied
"Are you serious?" said she
again, looking him full and searchingly in the face.
"Yes," answered he, more
drily than ever.
"Can it be possible that
your sentiments towards me have undergone a change, Mr Thriven?" rejoined
she. "Ah! I forgot. You are now a man of ten thousand pounds, and I have
only one. The film is falling off my eyes. O deluded Angelina!"
"Then you will see the
better to count the money I am to pay you," said he, attempting to laugh.
"Fifty pounds, ma’am. Here it is; I will thank you for Mr Mercer’s bill."