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and before he was twelve years old, he had read, "The Whole Duty of Woman," "Salmon's Chirurgery,' "A Brief Treatise of Testaments and Last Wills," "Hobbes 's Decameron Physiologicum," and an "Alphabetical Book of Physical Secrets," which were the property, and happened to be the entire library, of the old lady in whose house his mother lodged.
It would feebly express Mrs. Coventry's feelings, as she watched the opening character of her son, simply to say, they were a parent's. When all the love of which the heart is capable, is concentrated upon one object-when all those sympathies and affections which embrace husband, kindred, children, friends, are called home, as it were, and made to twine themselves about a single being, it is hardly possible to conceive the degree of their intensity. This was her case. Had the boy been as much beneath the ordinary standard of personal and mental excellence, as he was certainly above it, it is not likely there would have been one jot of abatement in this intensity, for love sees more perfections than the judgment can catalogue. But, challenging admiration, as he did, from strangers; the theme of praise with all; the favorite of every one, what could a proud and happy mother do, but, as she gathered in this tribute, adding it to the store which was already great, let her heart o'erflow with its joyful treasure? And she did so, even to the excess that brings agony; for she grew a worshiper of that, which, as a vapor, appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." She could hardly be said to live, or have her being, in any sense distinct from the life of her darling boy; and the thought of what a shadow it was in which her soul found its sum of earthly contentment, would often make her most sad in her very happiest moments. Her constant prayer to Heaven was, that she might live to see him take root where he
was to flourish, when she herself should decay and go down to the grave.
The humble fortune of which Major Coventry was possessed at his death, consisted of bank stock, and his widow empowered a Mr. Lionel Cranfield to receive the dividends for her as they fell due. Mr. Cranfield was a money-getter; one of those men in whose eyes every thing has a money value, or none at all. Money was his god; nor was it ever the less acceptable, because a little dirty, from the channels through which it flowed. What he would not do to get it, no one had ever discovered; what he would, all who knew him could tell. The sordid taint ran through every action of his life. But what then? He paid his debts, so he was duly accounted an upright man in his own circle. He had a son, who inherited in absolute perfection all his money-value notions of men and things, having been taught from his cradle to comprehend only one description of rewards and punishments in this life, the reward of sixpence if he did well, the punishment of losing it if he did ill. This son, when of a proper age, he established in the same line of business as himself; and, as he had hitherto acted for Mrs. Coventry without receiving the usual commission, he thought he might as well transfer the agency to him, calculating that Mrs. Coventry could hardly expect a young, beginner to forego his profits. He was right; Mrs. Coventry cheerfully consented to pay Mr. William Cranfield, what she had never wished to withhold from Mr. Lionel Cranfield, and the latter thus got rid of a gratuitous trust, while he "put money into the purse" of his son. Little contrivances of this sort he delighted in, where, without broadly trading in dupery, he could practically overreach.
Unfortunately for Mrs, Coventry, Mr. William Cranfield, besides having all the virtues of his father, had a few vices to boot, of his own spe
cial rearing. At the head of these was the love of gambling. Need the result be told? He lost largely. He grasped at whatever was within his reach to cover his losses. An act of forgery gave him possession of every shilling belonging to Mrs. Coventry; he absconded in time to escape the gallows and she was ruined!
The utter destitution to which she was thus suddenly reduced, crushed the feeble remnant of that spirit which had so long buffeted with adversity. In his first terror, Mr. Cranfield (who had a sort of animal affection for his offspring) professed his eagerness to indemnify her loss, as it had been sustained in consequence of her compliance with his own wishes. But when he found that his son was beyond danger, that no halter in England was long enough to reach him, and that paying the money would benefit neither him nor himself, he offered her the loan of fifty pounds, with an assurance that he would never "trouble her," though "for mere form's sake he would take a bill of sale of her furniture." Necessity must accept, not stipulate, conditions. Mrs. Coventry, scarcely knowing what she did, and anxious only to meet present exigences, thankfully closed with what, in the humility of her indigence, she deemed the almost generous proposal of Mr. Cranfield. It was sufficient for her remaining wants in this world! Three weeks after the dreadful shock, she breathed her last.
Mr. Cranfield kept his word. He did not "trouble" the wretched sufferer. Nay, the day after her death, he employed a broker to value the furniture; and upon his estimate, gave orders, at his own cost, for a decent funeral. When this was over, he completed the sale; paid himself, (with a month's interest), paid the undertaker, (with a discount of five per cent), gave the poor orphan a guinea for pocketmoney; and calculated, that the balance would nearly liquidate the
last half year's school-bill for his youngest daughter.
Charles Coventry was only fourteen when his mother died. He felt his loss, and lamented it, with more sorrow than is incident to that age; for home and mother were equivalent terms in his mind, and in losing one, he had lost both. All his thoughts, all his affections, all his wants, his pleasures, his hopes, had hitherto moved within that little circle, and revolved round the being that was its centre. There was a dreary void, a blank, a valued thing. gone forever, which his young heart felt; which every moment recalled; which in sleep lay heavy upon his spirit in dim dreams; which oppressed him when he awoke ; but which no reason he was yet master of could make level to his comprehension. A deep sense of his forlorn state, of his having no human creature whom he could call sister, brother, or kinsman, possessed him; and it rose to a feeling of despair almost, when he entered the rooms which were once his mother's, saw them stripped of their furniture, and looked upon the bare walls, which seemed to bid him depart, for there was his home no more!
But whither should he go? Young as he was, the meal which pity set before him was bitter on his lips. The bed whereon he lay was not the place of rest his own had been. The neighbors were kind, most kind; tears would often come into his eyes at what they did for him; but there was a feeling swelling at his heart which warned him he could not be, and be that which his departed mother's prophetic fears had pictured, a "thing for charity's cold smiles." Even at this early age, a haughty, impetuous spirit of independence was kindling, and silently becoming the monitor of his actions. "Is there no work that a boy can do, to get his bread?" was the question he put one day, half angrily, half proudly, to two or three benevolent persons, whom he
heard consulting about the best means of disposing of him.
Mr. Cranfield was applied to on his behalf. "I will provide for him, for the present," said he; "send him to me."
Charles was delighted, and went with alacrity. Mr. Cranfield was upon the point of engaging with a copying clerk at a guinea and a half per week, when he was spoken to about young Coventry. It immediately occurred to that thrifty philanthropist, he could confer two benefits at once-one upon Charles, and another upon himself. Instead of giving him a guinea and a half per week, he only gave hin board and lodging, his cast-off clothes, and five shillings a month to spend or hoard, as he might choose; save that two out of the five were to be deducted for washing, which would be "done at home," at much less expense to Charles, and at no expense to his master.
In the drudgery, the servile drudgery, of Mr. Cranfield, (for such he made it,) the noble-minded youth remained three years. There was nothing his generous master could put him to, however menial or fatiguing, at which he repined; and there was nothing too fatiguing, or too slavish, with which to task him. Indeed, the more labor he gave, the better he was satisfied, for then he knew he earned his food, clothes, and lodging-a reflection precious to his proud nature. "I have a RIGHT to them," he would often mentally exclaim; and that sense of right would have given to a mouldy crust and a drop of water, a flavor which not the delicacies of a palace could have had for him without it. In the midst of all his toil, too, he still found time, while others slept, to lay in a store of various knowledge; devoting his three shillings a-month, not to buying books, which would have poorly fed his eager appetite for them, but to subscribing for their perusal at a large circulating library in the neighborhood.
It was to be supposed, that a mind like his, as its energies ripened, would find the vassalage of Mr. Cranfield's service insufferably irksome; and the more so, because of an increasing contempt for his sordid character. He longed for a wider and a better sphere of action; but in all his aspirations, he traced as its boundary the sturdy principle, that he would have his worth, and no more. "A million should not content me," he would sometimes cry, when meditating on the future, "if something within told me my price was greater; but, by the same rule, less than the least that ever satisfied a human being shall suffice me, if so it ought to be."
About this time, the second son of Mr. Cranfield left school; and as his father considered that he must find him in board and lodging, clothes and washing, it would be an economical arrangement to put him in the place of Charles. The advantages were so obvious, that hesitation was out of the question.
"I shall not want you, Mr. Coventry, after next Friday," was all the notification he thought it necessary to give one Monday morning.
"Very well, sir," was Charles's reply, as he continued the writing he was upon, while the curl of his lip spoke more scorn than his tongue could have uttered.
"We'll say nothing about the washing for this month," observed Mr. Cranfield, when Friday night came, and he put half-a-crown into his hand.
"It wants a fortnight of the month, sir," replied Charles calmly, as he laid the half crown upon the table. "Take your shilling, and give me my eighteenpence. To that I have a right."
Mr. Cranfield was struck with admiration. He took back the half crown, and gave him eighteenpence. "You are an honorable young man," said he, shaking him warmly by the hand. "Your heart is in the right place; you'll be a shining character yet. I trust I know how
to appreciate such delicacy of feeling. You have my best wishes for your welfare, go where you may. God bless you, and good night."
With these words the door of Mr. Cranfield was closed upon him; and with the eighteenpence in his pocket, a small bundle under his arm, and his "heart in the right place," as the worthy Mr. Cranfield observed, did Charles Coventry turn from it to (( go where he might."
It was summer time; the weather sultry in the extreme; the moon shining brightly; and without knowing whither he bent his steps, without indeed thinking where he was going, for his mind was a chaos of tumultuous thoughts, he found himself in the midst of the fields. He followed the path that lay before him. It brought him into a narrow lane, with lofty trees on each side, which interlaced their branches at the top, forming a verdant canopy too thick for the moon to penetrate. He paused a moment to consider whether he should go to the right or left. He had no motive for choice, but turned mechanically to the right. He soon perceived he was ascending a somewhat steep hill, and when he gained the summit, seated himself on the trunk of a tree to take breath.
And now was the first moment he began to think. All, till now, had been a rapid succession of dreams; one unbroken series of visionary abstractions, which had passed through his mind. He burst into a loud laugh; clapped his hands, and chuckled like an over-joyed child.
"Let me ask counsel of you, my friends," he continued with a laugh. "Will you buy me a bed to-night ? Aye, say ye, if I will go without a dinner to-morrow. But when tomorrow comes, there will still be a to-morrow, and another, and another, to the end of time; while thy ending will be with the to-morrow's sundown and then ".
He paused suddenly; he examined closely the money he held-he chinked one piece against the other
and then burst into a louder and longer fit of laughter.
"Does the devil hoodwink his own?" he cried. "Yea, doth he; for only by such a trick could this have happened. I said right when I called it a golden beginning. It is a guinea I look upon; twenty-one shillings and sixpence; and so, twenty times a more precious philosophy than I took it to be. Now, had a man who knew the honest value of a guinea been self-cheated thus, I would retread every step I have taken to do him right; but it would be a sin to steal from so poor a wretch, in virtue, as is he who was my master, the blessings he will purchase from every want of mine which his involuntary bounty shall relieve. So to your hiding place again-and now, God speed me ! "
It was very true, that Mr. Cranfield had given a guinea instead of a shilling. It is no less true, that when he discovered his mistake, he set the matter right, by withdrawing his subscription for one year from a lying-in charity to which he belonged, for the benefit of having his wife's poor relations delivered at their own houses.
"Why this is brave!" he exclaimed: "this is a golden beginning of The rhapsody of Charles was no life's journey-free as the air that sooner finished, than he sprung from blows upon me, and like it, unseen his seat, and pursued his walk. The of man; unheeded by him, whence I morbid excitement of his feelings had come, or whither I go. By Jupiter! subsided; his over-heated brain but this is the way to learn philoso- no longer teemed with confused phy. Oh there is no master of thoughts and images; the violence them all can teach it half so feeling- of the paroxysm was past, into ly as this," taking the eighteenpence which he had been thrown by the from his pocket, and looking at it staggering novelty of his situation. as it lay in the palm of his hand. a night wanderer, without a home,
without a friend without the means to procure the first; almost without the wish to possess the second. From the moment when Mr. Cranfield's Spartan annunciation rung in his astonished ears—"I shall not want you after next Friday "-he had determined in his own mind, that that "next Friday" should be to him the hegira of his life-his point of departure in the world's voyage :—and though he knew he was to set sail without chart or compass, a sort of reckless fascination, suited to his romantic spirit, seemed to dwell upon his resolve. "I can live where there are men to serve," was his frequent exclamation during the interval and with this feeling at its climax, he turned his back upon the door of Mr. Cranfield.
But there is a difference, which only experience discovers, between romantic intentions, and romantic performances. When we revel in the former, we are like the simple country wench, who reckoned up all the things she would buy with the produce of her pail of milk; and when we begin the latter, we very often give the untoward kick which scatters our anticipated delights in the dust. Our hero was already approximating towards such a catastrophe. Tired, drowsy, with an inconvenient appetite, (all of them mere common propensities of vulgar mortality,) the poetical qualities of his situation were fast losing their hold upon his imagination. There was no picturesque bank of violets upon which he could repose; no woodbine bower, the haunt of Dryads or of fairies, with a crystal stream purling through it, which invited him to seek silvan slumbers in its cool recess; no cottage chimney,sending up its wreaths of pale-blue smoke, (the fragrant vapor of turf or greenwood bough,) between two aged trees,
"Where Corydon and Thyrsis met,
In short, he was wandering some
where on the confines of Middlesex and Berkshire, than which the desarts of Arabia are hardly less productive of the romantic in adventure, and he would fain have had his supper and gone to bed, than which there are no two conditions of existence less conducive to the romantic in feeling.
Again he seated himself by the road-side to rest, and sleep came over him. It was broad-day ere he awoke. He found he had not been, as he had imagined himself in his soliloquy on the top of the hill, "unseen of man," or "unheeded " by him. His hat and bundle were gone.
"They would have taken my money too, I warrant, if it had not been for the fear of disturbing me."
There was this fear, and therefore due precaution had been employed to do it without disturbing him. There was neither guinea nor sixpence in his pocket! The then possessor of both, as well as of his hat and bundle, was a Scotch pedlar; no thief by profession; one who would not go out of his way to pick a pocket; but one who had no virtue in his soul strong enough to resist picking up whatever came in his way.
Charles was confounded! The color fled from his cheek, his lip quivered, and tears of vexation, rather than of grief, stood in his eyes. He who was light-hearted, and not without hope, with a fancied eighteenpence only, as his sum of worldly wealth, felt, for the moment, as if he had lost an inheritance, because now he had not a farthing; so little capable are we of putting their true value upon either the frowns or the smiles of fortune. Despondency, however, was as foreign to his character, as it generally is to his time of life. As a matter of choice, he would rather have had his hat, his wardrobe, and his money; as a matter of necessity, he submitted to the privation with a very good grace, after he had done what older and wiser heads are apt to do in like