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Wilson's Border Tales
Mr Samuel Ramsay Thriven

Chapter 7


"Thus have I got quit of the spinster," said Mr Thriven, "and thus have I too got quit of my creditors. But how comes this? She also talks of Bunyan; everybody talks of Bunyan. But this paper? No, spite—spite——let them present me with an inscription on a blank leaf. It will do as well as a piece of plate. I will get the words of praise inserted in another newspaper, and then begin to act the gentleman in earnest on my ten thousand. I shall instantly engage a buggy with a bright bay; and a man-servant, with a stripe of silver lace round his hat, shall sit on my sinister side. Let them stare and point at me. They can only say, There rides an honest man who failed, and paid his creditors twenty shillings a pound. Ho! here comes Sharp."

"What is the meaning of this?" said he, holding out the paper. "Some wretched joke of an editor who would take from me the honour intended for me by my creditors. I see by your face that you smell an action of damages."

"Joke!" echoed Sharp. "That copy of Bunyan which Miss M’Falzen was lending to Mrs Bairnsfather that day when we went to Cockenzie, is now in the hands of the Procurator-Fiscal."

"Oh, the devout maiden lends it to everybody," replied Samuel. "She will be to get the fiscal to reclaim sinners by it, rather than to punish them by the arm of the law."

"Is it possible, Mr Thriven, that you can thus make light of an affair that involves banishment?" said Sharp. "Did you really write on a blank leaf of that book the details of the profit you were to make of the burning?"

Samuel jumped at least three feet from the floor; and when he came down again, he muttered strange things, and did strange things, which no pen could describe, because they were unique, had no appropriate symbols in language, had never been muttered or done before since the beginning of the world, and, probably, will never be again. It might, however, have been gathered from his ravings, that he had some recollection of having scribbled something about his failure, but that he thought it was in the blank leaf of a pocket-book, the which book he grasped and examined, but all was a dead blank. He then threw himself on a chair, and twisted himself into all possible shapes, cursing Miss Angelina M’Falzen, himself, his creditors, every one who had the smallest share in this tremendous revolution from wealth, hopes of a high match, buggy, servant with silver lace, even to disgrace, confiscation, and banishment.

"You are renowned for the quickness, loopiness, subtleness, of thy profession. Can you not assist me, Sharp? A man’s scrawls are not evidence of themselves."

"But, with the testimony of Clossmuns, who has returned from Liverpool, they will be conclusive," replied the attorney, whose game now lay in Mr Samuel’s misfortunes. "Such evidence never went before a jury since the time of the regiam mqjestatem."

"What then is to be done?" inquired Samuel.

"Fly! fly! and leave me a power of attorney to collect your moneys. There is two thousand of Grizel M’Whirter’s fortune still to uplift—your stock in trade is to be disposed of—I will manage it beautifully for you, and, in spite of an outlawry, get the proceeds sent to you wheresoever you go."

"Dreadful relief!" ejaculated the other, "to fly one’s country, and leave one’s affairs in the hands of an attorney."

"Better than banishment," replied Sharp, grinding his teeth as if sharp set for the quarry that lay before him. "What do you resolve on? shall I write out the power of attorney, or will you wait till the officers are on you?" muttering to himself in conclusion—"a few six and eightpences—i’ faith I have him now!"

"Then there is no alternative?" rejoined Samuel.

"None!" replied Sharp. "I have it on good authority that the warrant against you was in the act of being written out, when I hurried here, as you find, to save you. Shall I prepare the commission?"

"Yes—yes! as quick as an ellwand that leaps three inches short of the yard."

And, while he continued in this extremity of his despair, Sharp set about writing at the factory—short and general— giving all powers of uplifting money, and reserving none. It was signed. In a few minutes more Mr Thriven was in a post-chaise, driving on to a sea-port in England. The news of the flight of the honest merchant, with all the circumstances, soon reached the ear of the devout spinster, even as she was weeping over the result of the interview she had had with her cruel lover. She wiped her eyes and repressed her sobs, and congratulated herself on the consequences of her devout labours. Mr Thriven was not heard of again: neither was his cash.


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