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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 431 Volume 17, New Series, April 3, 1852
Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Richard J. Shiffer and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team.









CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


NO. 431. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, APRIL 3, 1852. PRICE 11/2 _d._




IMPERFECT RESPECTABILITIES.


Everybody must have had some trouble in his time with imperfect
respectabilities. Nice, well-dressed, well-housed, civil, agreeable
people are they. No fault to find with them but that there is some
little flaw in their history, for which the very good (rigid) don't
visit them. The degree to which one is incommoded with imperfect
respectabilities, depends of course a good deal upon the extent of his
good-nature, or his dislike of coming to strong measures in social
life. Some have an inherent complaisance which makes them all but
unfit for any such operation as cutting, or even for the less violent
one of cooling off. Some take mild views of human infirmity, and
shrink from visiting it too roughly. They would rather that the
sinners did not cross them; but, since the contrary is the fact, what
can they do but be civil?

One great source of perplexity in the case, is the excessive urbanity
of the imperfect respectabilities themselves. They come up to you on
the street with such sunny faces, and have so many kind inquiries to
make, and so many pleasant things to say, that, for the life of you,
you cannot stiffen up as you ought to do. Some haunting recollection
of a bad affair of cards, or some awkward circumstances attending an
insolvency, will come across your mind, and make you wish the fellow
in the next street; but, unluckily, there he is, cheerful, even funny,
talking of all sorts of respectable things, such as the state of the
money-market, and what Sir George said to him the other day about the
reviving prospects of Protection; and what avails your secret
writhing? He holds you by the glittering eye. You listen, you make
jocular observations in reply; the cards and the insolvency vanish
from your thoughts; you at length shake hands, and part in a transport
of good-humoured old acquaintanceship, and not till you have got a
hundred yards away, do you cool down sufficiently to remember that you
have made a fool of yourself by patronising an imperfect
respectability.

It is, after all, _not_ a harsh and censorious world. Let the
imperfect respectabilities bear witness. If rigid justice held rule
below, or men were really persecutors of each other, there would be no
life for that class. In point of fact, they not only live, but
sometimes do tolerably well in the world. They only could do so by
virtue of a certain mutual tolerance which pervades society. It is a
nice matter, however, to say what degree of imperfect respectability
will be endured. Some things, we all know, cannot be forgiven upon
earth; and in such cases there is no resource but in obscurity. But
there is also a large class of offences, the consequences of which may
be overcome. Perhaps the facts do not come fully out into general
notice. Perhaps there may be some little thing to say in exculpation.
If the offender can, after a short space, continue to make his usual
personal appearances, he is safe, because the great bulk of his old
friends would rather continue to recognise him, than come to a
positive rupture--an event always felt as inconvenient. Of course,
they will be too well-bred to allude before him to any unpleasant fact
in his history. He will never recall it to their minds. By being thus
thrown out of all common reference, it will become obscured to a
wonderful degree, insomuch that many will at length think of it only
as a kind of domestic myth, to which no importance is to be attached.
Thus Time is continually bringing in his bills of indemnity in favour
of these unconfessing culprits. Were the world as harsh as is said, we
should rather be having _post-facto_ acts to punish them, supposing
that existing statutes were insufficient.

One of the most curious points in the physiology of an imperfect
respectability, is the fact of his almost always having something
remarkably agreeable and attractive about him. Going down a peg in
reputation seems somehow to have a specific effect upon the temper.
From a bear it will convert a man into a perfect lamb. He becomes
obliging to the last degree, has a kind word for everybody, and is
never so happy as when he is allowed to render you some disagreeable
piece of service. Scott, who knew everything, knew this, and hence it
was that he made Glossin so very polite to the ostler at
Kippletringan. When a stranger comes to settle in a country place, the
imperfect respectability is sure to be amongst the first to call and
offer his services. He likes a new family, and thinks it a duty to be
ready to do the honours of the place. He is also, to a remarkable
degree, a family man. None is seen so often going about with wife and
daughters. In fact, he is exemplary in this respect. Few pews,
moreover, so regularly filled as his. When a subscription is got up,
it is a positive pleasure to him to subscribe; ten times more to be
allowed to come upon the committee, and join other two in going about
with a paper. The effect of all this is, that the imperfect
respectable is often a highly popular character. Everybody likes him,
and wishes him at the devil.

When the case is so strong that disappearance is imperatively
necessary, then of course disappear he must. Every now and then, some
one of our old friends is thus dropping through the trap-doors of the
social stage, to be seen and heard of no more. In travelling, one is
apt to come upon some old-remembered face, which he had been
accustomed to in such different circumstances that he has a difficulty
in recognising it. It may be in some village obscurity of our own
country, some German watering-place, or some American wilderness.
There it is, however, the once familiar face; and you cannot pass it
unheeded. You soon discover that you have lighted upon an imperfect
respectability in exile. He is delighted to see you, seems in the
highest spirits, and insists on your coming home to see Mrs ----, and
dine or spend the night. He has never been better off anywhere. All
goes well with him. It was worth his while to come here, if only for
the education of his family. As he rattles on, speaking of everything
but the one thing you chiefly think of, you cannot help being touched
in spirit. You feel that there may be things you can respect more, but
many you respect that you cannot love so much.

While the imperfect respectability bears up so well before his old
acquaintance, who can tell what may be the reflections that visit his
breast in moments of retirement? Let us not be too ready to set him
down as indifferent to the consequences of the sin which once so
unfortunately beset him. Let us not too easily assume that he has not
felt the loss of place and reputation, because he laughs and chats
somewhat more than he used to do. I follow my poor old friend to his
home, and there see him in his solitary hours brooding over the great
forfeit he has made, and bitterly taxing himself with errors which he
would be right loath to confess to the world. He knows what men think
and say of him behind his back, notwithstanding that not a symptom of
the consciousness escapes him. And let us hope that, in many cases,
the contrite confession which is withheld from men is yielded where it
is more fitly due.




TALES OF THE COAST-GUARD.

THE LAST REVEL.


When I was quite a lad, a servant lived with us of the name of Anne
Stacey. She had been in the service of William Cobbett, the political
writer, who resided for some years at Botley, a village a few miles
distant from Itchen. Anne might be about two or three and twenty years
of age when she came to us; and a very notable, industrious servant
she was, and remarked, moreover, as possessing a strong religious
bias. Her features, everybody agreed, were comely and intelligent. But
that advantage in the matrimonial market was more than neutralised by
her unfortunate figure, which, owing, as we understood, to a fall in
her childhood, was hopelessly deformed, though still strongly set and
muscular. Albeit, a sum of money--about fifty pounds--scraped together
by thrifty self-denial during a dozen years of servitude, amply
compensated in the eyes of several idle and needy young fellows for
the unlovely outline of her person; and Anne, with an infatuation too
common with persons of her class and condition, and in spite of
repeated warning, and the secret misgivings, one would suppose, of her
own mind, married the best-looking, but most worthless and dissipated
of them all. This man, Henry Ransome by name, was, I have been
informed, constantly intoxicated during the first three months of
wedlock, and then the ill-assorted couple disappeared from the
neighbourhood of Itchen, and took up their abode in one of the hamlets
of the New Forest. Many years afterwards, when I joined the Preventive
Service, I frequently heard mention of his name as that of a man
singularly skilful in defrauding the revenue, as well as in avoiding
the penalties which surround that dangerous vocation. One day, he was
pointed out to me when standing by the Cross-House near the Ferry, in
company with a comparatively youthful desperado, whose real name was
John Wyatt, though generally known amongst the smuggling fraternity
and other personal intimates, by the _sobriquet_ of Black Jack--on
account, I suppose, of his dark, heavy-browed, scowling figure-head,
one of the most repulsive, I think, I have ever seen. Anne's husband,
Henry Ransome, seemed, so far as very brief observation enabled me to
judge, quite a different person from his much younger, as well as much
bigger and brawnier associate. I did not doubt that, before excessive
indulgence had wasted his now pallid features, and sapped the vigour
of his thin and shaking frame, he had been a smart, good-looking chap
enough; and there was, it struck me, spite of his reputation as 'a
knowing one,' considerably more of the dupe than the knave, of the
fool than the villain, in the dreary, downcast, skulking expression
that flitted over his features as his eye caught mine intently
regarding him. I noticed also that he had a dry, hard cough, and I set
down in my own mind as certain that he would, ere many months passed
away, be consigned, like scores of his fellows, to a brandy-hastened
grave. He indicated my presence--proximity, rather--to Wyatt, by a
nudge on the elbow, whereupon that respectable personage swung sharply
round, and returned my scrutinising gaze by one of insolent defiance
and bravado, which he contrived to render still more emphatic by
thrusting his tongue into his cheek. This done, he gathered up a coil
of rope from one of the seats of the Cross-House, and said: 'Come,
Harry, let's be off. That gentleman seems to want to take our
pictures--on account that our mugs are such handsome ones, no doubt;
and if it was a mildish afternoon, I shouldn't mind having mine done;
but as the weather's rather nippy like, we'd better be toddling, I
think.' They then swaggered off, and crossed the Ferry.

Two or three weeks afterwards, I again met with them, under the
following circumstances:--I landed from the _Rose_ at Lymington, for
the purpose of going by coach to Lyndhurst, a considerable village in
the New Forest, from which an ex-chancellor derives his title. I had
appointed to meet a confidential agent there at the Fox and Hounds
Inn, a third-rate tavern, situate at the foot of the hill upon which
the place is built; and as the evening promised to be clear and fine,
though cold, I anticipated a bracing, cross-country walk afterwards in
the direction of Hythe, in the neighbourhood whereof dwelt a
person--neither a seaman nor a smuggler--whose favour I was just then
very diligently cultivating. It was the month of November; and on
being set down at the door of the inn somewhere about six o'clock in
the evening, I quietly entered and took a seat in the smoking-room
unrecognised, as I thought, by any one--for I was not in uniform. My
man had not arrived; and after waiting a few minutes, I stepped out to
inquire at the bar if such a person had been there. To my great
surprise, a young woman--girl would be a better word, for she could
not be more than seventeen, or at the utmost eighteen years old--whom
I had noticed on the outside of the coach, was just asking if one Dr
Lee was expected. This was precisely the individual who was to meet
me, and I looked with some curiosity at the inquirer. She was a
coarsely, but neatly attired person, of a pretty figure, interesting,
but dejected cast of features, and with large, dark, sorrowing eyes.
Thoughtfulness and care were not less marked in the humble, subdued
tone in which she spoke. 'Could I sit down anywhere till he comes?'
she timidly asked, after hearing the bar-woman's reply. The servant
civilly invited her to take a seat by the bar-fire, and I returned,
without saying anything, to the smoking-room, rang the bell, and
ordered a glass of brandy and water, and some biscuits. I had been
seated a very short time only, when the quick, consequential step, and
sharp, cracked voice of Dr Lee sounded along the passage; and after a
momentary pause at the bar, his round, smirking, good-humoured,
knavish face looked in at the parlour-door, where, seeing me alone, he
winked with uncommon expression, and said aloud: 'A prime fire in the
smoking-room, I see; I shall treat myself to a whiff there presently.'
This said, the shining face vanished, in order, I doubted not, that
its owner might confer with the young girl who had been inquiring for
him. This Lee, I must observe, had no legal right to the prefix of
doctor tacked to his name. He was merely a peripatetic quack-salver
and vender of infallible medicines, who, having wielded the pestle in
an apothecary's shop for some years during his youth, had acquired a
little skill in the use of drugs, and could open a vein or draw a
tooth with considerable dexterity. He had a large, but not, I think,
very remunerative practice amongst the poaching, deer-stealing,
smuggling community of those parts, to whom it was of vital importance
that the hurts received in their desperate pursuits should be tended
by some one not inclined to babble of the number, circumstances, or
whereabouts of his patients. This essential condition Lee, hypocrite
and knave as he was, strictly fulfilled; and no inducement could, I
think, have prevailed upon him to betray the hiding-place of a wounded
or suffering client. In other respects, he permitted himself a more
profitable freedom of action, thereto compelled, he was wont
apologetically to remark, by the wretchedly poor remuneration obtained
by his medical practice. If, however, specie was scarce amongst his
clients, spirits, as his rubicund, carbuncled face flamingly
testified, were very plentiful. There was a receipt in full painted
there for a prodigious amount of drugs and chemicals, so that, on the
whole, he could have had no great reason to complain.

He soon reappeared, and took a chair by the fire, which, after civilly
saluting me, he stirred almost fiercely, eyeing as he did so the
blazing coals with a half-abstracted and sullen, cowed, disquieted
look altogether unusual with him. At least wherever I had before seen
him, he had been as loquacious and boastful as a Gascon.

'What is the matter, doctor?' I said. 'You appear strangely down upon
your luck all at once.'

'Hush--hush! Speak lower, sir, pray. The fact is, I have just heard
that a fellow is lurking about here--You have not, I hope, asked for
me of any one?'

'I have not; but what if I had?'

'Why, you see, sir, that suspicion--calumny, Shakspeare says, could
not be escaped, even if one were pure as snow--and more especially,
therefore, when one is not quite so--so----Ahem!--you understand?'

'Very well, indeed. You would say, that when one is _not_ actually
immaculate--calumny, suspicion takes an earlier and firmer hold.'

'Just so; exactly--and, in fact--ha!'----

The door was suddenly thrown open, and the doctor fairly leaped to his
feet with ill-disguised alarm. It was only the bar-maid, to ask if he
had rung. He had not done so, and as it was perfectly understood that
I paid for all on these occasions, that fact alone was abundantly
conclusive as to the disordered state of his intellect. He now ordered
brandy and water, a pipe, and a screw of tobacco. These ministrants to
a mind disturbed somewhat calmed the doctor's excitement, and his
cunning gray eyes soon brightly twinkled again through a haze of
curling smoke.

'Did you notice,' he resumed, 'a female sitting in the bar? She knows
you.'

'A young, intelligent-looking girl. Yes. Who is she?'

'Young!' replied Lee, evasively, I thought. 'Well, it's true she _is_
young in years, but not in experience--in suffering, poor girl, as I
can bear witness.'

'There are, indeed, but faint indications of the mirth and lightness
of youth or childhood in those timid, apprehensive eyes of hers.'

'She never had a childhood. Girls of her condition seldom have. Her
father's booked for the next world, and by an early stage too, unless
he mends his manners, and that I hardly see how he's to do. The girl's
been to Lymington to see after a place. Can't have it. Her father's
character is against her. Unfortunate; for she's a good girl.'

'I am sorry for her. But come, to business. How about the matter you
wot of?'

'Here are all the particulars,' answered Lee, with an easy transition
from a sentimental to a common-sense, business-like tone, and at the
same time unscrewing the lid of a tortoise-shell tobacco-box, and
taking a folded paper from it. 'I keep these matters generally here;
for if I were to drop such an article--just now, especially--I might
as well be hung out to dry at once.'

I glanced over the paper. 'Place, date, hour correct, and thoroughly
to be depended upon you say, eh?'

'Correct as Cocker, I'll answer for it. It would be a spicy run for
them, if there were no man-traps in the way.'

I placed the paper in my waistcoat-pocket, and then handed the doctor
his preliminary fee. The touch of gold had not its usual electrical
effect upon him. His nervous fit was coming on again. 'I wish,' he
puffed out--'I wish I was safe out of this part of the country, or
else that a certain person I know was transported; then indeed'--

'And who may that certain person be, doctor?' demanded a grim-looking
rascal, as he softly opened the door. 'Not me, I hope?'

I instantly recognised the fellow, and so did the doctor, who had
again bounded from his chair, and was shaking all over as if with
ague, whilst his very carbuncles became pallid with affright.
'You--u--u,' he stammered--'You--u--u, Wyatt: God forbid!'

Wyatt was, I saw, muddled with liquor. This was lucky for poor Lee.
'Well, never mind if it _was_ me, old brick,' rejoined the fellow; 'or
at least you have been a brick, though I'm misdoubting you'll die a
pantile after all. But here's luck; all's one for that.' He held a
pewter-pot in one hand, and a pipe in the other, and as he drank, his
somewhat confused but baleful look continued levelled savagely along
the pewter at the terrified doctor. There was, I saw, mischief in the
man.

'I'd drink yours,' continued the reckless scamp, as he paused for
breath, drew the back of his pipe-hand across his mouth, and stared as
steadily as he could in my face--'I'd drink your health, if I only
knew your name.'

'You'll hear it plainly enough, my fine fellow, when you're in the
dock one of these days, just before the judge sends you to the hulks,
or, which is perhaps the likelier, to the gallows. And this scamp,
too,' I added, with a gesture towards Lee, whom I hardly dared venture
to look at, 'who has been pitching me such a pretty rigmarole, is, I
see, a fellow-rogue to yourself. This house appears to be little
better than a thieves' rendezvous, upon my word.'

'Wyatt regarded me with a deadly scowl as he answered: 'Ay, ay, you're
a brave cock, Master Warneford, upon your own dunghill. It may be my
turn some day. Here, doctor, a word with you outside.' They both left
the room, and I rang the bell, discharged the score, and was just
going when Lee returned. He was still pale and shaky, though
considerably recovered from the panic-terror excited by the sudden
entrance of Wyatt.

'Thank Heaven, he's gone!' said the doctor; 'and less sour and
suspicious than I feared him to be. But tell me, sir, do you intend
walking from here to Hythe?'

'I so purpose. Why do you ask?'

'Because the young girl you saw in the bar went off ten minutes ago by
the same road. She was too late for a farmer's cart which she expected
to return by. Wyatt, too, is off in the same direction.'

'She will have company then.'

'Evil company, I fear. Her father and he have lately quarrelled; and
her, I know, he bears a grudge against, for refusing, as the talk
goes, to have anything to say to him.'

'Very well; don't alarm yourself. I shall soon overtake them, and you
may depend the big drunken bully shall neither insult nor molest her.
Good-night.'

It was a lonely walk for a girl to take on a winter evening, although
the weather was brilliantly light and clear, and it was not yet much
past seven o'clock. Except, perchance, a deer-keeper, or a
deer-stealer, it was not likely she would meet a human being for two
or three miles together, and farm and other houses near the track were
very sparsely scattered here and there. I walked swiftly on, and soon
came within sight of Wyatt; but so eagerly was his attention directed
ahead, that he did not observe me till we were close abreast of each
other.

'You here!' he exclaimed, fairly gnashing his teeth with rage. 'I only
wish'--

'That you had one or two friends within hail, eh? Well, it's better
for your own health that you have not, depend upon it. I have four
barrels with me, and each of them, as you well know, carries a life,
one of which should be yours, as sure as that black head is on your
shoulders.'

He answered only by a snarl and a malediction, and we proceeded on
pretty nearly together. He appeared to be much soberer than before:
perhaps the keen air had cooled him somewhat, or he might have been
shamming it a little at the inn to hoodwink the doctor. Five or six
minutes brought us to a sharp turn of the road, where we caught sight
of the young woman, who was not more than thirty or forty yards ahead.
Presently, the sound of footsteps appeared to strike her ear, for she
looked quickly round, and an expression of alarm escaped her. I was in
the shadow of the road, so that, in the first instance, she saw only
Wyatt. Another moment, and her terrified glance rested upon me.

'Lieutenant Warneford!' she exclaimed.

'Ay, my good girl, that is my name. You appear frightened--not at me,
I hope?'

'O no, not at you,' she hastily answered, the colour vividly returning
to her pale cheeks.

'This good-looking person is, I daresay, a sweetheart of yours; so
I'll just keep astern out of ear-shot. My road lies past your
dwelling.'

The girl appeared to understand me, and, reassured, walked on, Wyatt
lopping sullenly along beside her. I did not choose to have a fellow
of his stamp, and in his present mood, walking behind _me_.

Nothing was said that I heard for about a mile and a half, when Wyatt,
with a snarling 'good-night' to the girl, turned off by a path on the
left, and was quickly out of sight.

'I am not very far from home now, sir,' said the young woman
hesitatingly. She thought, perhaps, that I might leave her, now Wyatt
had disappeared.

'Pray go on, then,' I said; 'I will see you safe there, though
somewhat pressed for time.'

We walked side by side, and after awhile she said in a low tone, and
with still downcast eyes: 'My mother lived servant in your family
once, sir.'

'The deuce! Your name is Ransome, then, I suspect.'

'Yes, sir--Mary Ransome.' A sad sigh accompanied these words. I pitied
the poor girl from my heart, but having nothing very consolatory to
suggest, I held my peace.

'There is mother!' she cried in an almost joyful tone. She pointed to
a woman standing in the open doorway of a mean dwelling at no great
distance, in apparently anxious expectation. Mary Ransome hastened
forwards, and whispered a few sentences to her mother, who fondly
embraced her.

'I am very grateful to you, sir, for seeing Mary safely home. You do
not, I daresay, remember me?'

'You are greatly changed, I perceive, and not by years alone.'

'Ah, sir!' Tears started to the eyes of both mother and daughter.
'Would you,' added the woman, 'step in a moment. Perhaps a few words
from you might have effect.' She looked, whilst thus speaking, at her
weak, consumptive-looking husband, who was seated by the fireplace
with a large green baize-covered Bible open before him on a round
table. There is no sermon so impressive as that which gleams from an
apparently yawning and inevitable grave; and none, too, more quickly
forgotten, if by any resource of art, and reinvigoration of nature,
the tombward progress be arrested, and life pulsate joyously again. I
was about to make some remark upon the suicidal folly of persisting in
a course which almost necessarily led to misery and ruin, when the but
partially-closed doorway was darkened by the burly figure of Wyatt.

'A very nice company, by jingo!' growled the ruffian; 'you only want
the doctor to be quite complete. But hark ye, Ransome,' he continued,
addressing the sick man, who cowered beneath his scowling gaze like a
beaten hound--'mind and keep a still tongue in that calf's head of
yourn, or else prepare yourself to--to take--to take--what follows.
You know me as well as I do you. Good-night.'

With this caution, the fellow disappeared; and after a few words,
which the unfortunate family were too frightened to listen to, or
scarcely to hear, I also went my way.

The information received from Dr Lee relative to the contemplated run
near Hurst Castle proved strictly accurate. The surprise of the
smugglers was in consequence complete, and the goods, the value of
which was considerable, were easily secured. There occurred
also several of the ordinary casualties that attend such
encounters--casualties which always excited in my mind a strong
feeling of regret, that the revenue of the country could not be
assured by other and less hazardous expedients. No life was, however,
lost, and we made no prisoners. To my great surprise I caught, at the
beginning of the affray, a glimpse of the bottle-green coat, drab
knee-cords, with gaiter continuations, of the doctor. They, however,
very quickly vanished; and till about a week afterwards, I concluded
that their owner had escaped in a whole skin. I was mistaken.

I had passed the evening at the house whither my steps were directed
when I escorted Mary Ransome home, and it was growing late, when the
servant-maid announced that a young woman, seemingly in great trouble,
after inquiring if Lieutenant Warneford was there, had requested to
see him immediately, and was waiting below for that purpose. It was, I
found, Mary Ransome, in a state of great flurry and excitement. She
brought a hastily-scribbled note from Dr Lee, to the effect that
Wyatt, from motives of suspicion, had insisted that both he and
Ransome should be present at the attempt near Hurst Castle; that the
doctor, in his hurry to get out of harm's way, had attempted a leap
which, owing to his haste, awkwardness, and the frosty atmosphere and
ground, had resulted in a compound fracture of his right leg; that he
had been borne off in a state of insensibility; on recovering from
which he found himself in Wyatt's power, who, by rifling his pockets,
had found some memoranda that left no doubt of Lee's treason towards
the smuggling fraternity. The bearer of the note would, he said,
further explain, as he could not risk delaying sending it for another
moment--only he begged to say his life depended upon me.

'Life!' I exclaimed, addressing the pale, quaking girl; 'nonsense!
Such gentry as Wyatt are not certainly particular to a shade or two,
but they rarely go that length.'

'They will make away with father as well as Dr Lee,' she shudderingly
replied: 'I am sure of it. Wyatt is mad with rage.' She trembled so
violently, as hardly to be able to stand, and I made her sit down.

'You cannot mean that the scoundrel contemplates murder?'

'Yes--yes! believe me, sir, he does. You know the _Fair Rosamond_, now
lying off Marchwood?' she continued, growing every instant paler and
paler.

'The trader to St Michael's for oranges and other fruits?'

'That is but a blind, sir. She belongs to the same company as the
boats you captured at Hurst Castle. She will complete landing her
cargo early to-morrow morning, and drop down the river with the
ebb-tide just about dawn.'

'The deuce they will! The cunning rascals. But go on. What would you
further say?'

'Wyatt insists that both the doctor and my father shall sail in her.
They will be carried on board, and--and when at sea--you know--you
understand'--

'Be drowned, you fear. That is possible, certainly; but I cannot think
they would have more to fear than a good keel-hauling. Still, the
matter must be looked to, more especially as Lee's predicament is
owing to the information he has given the king's officers. Where are
they confined?'

She described the place, which I remembered very well, having searched
it not more than a fortnight previously. I then assured her that I
would get her father as well as Lee out of the smugglers' hands by
force, if necessary; upon hearing which the poor girl's agitation came
to a climax, and she went off into strong hysterics. There was no time
to be lost, so committing her to the care of the servant, I took leave
of my friends, and made the best of my way to Hythe, hard off which a
boat, I knew, awaited me; revolving, as I sped along, the best mode of
procedure. I hailed the boat, and instructed one of the men--Dick
Redhead, he was generally called, from his fiery poll--a sharp, clever
fellow was Dick--to proceed immediately to the house I had left, and
accompany the young woman to the spot indicated, and remain in ambush,
with both eyes wide open, about the place till I arrived. The _Rose_
was fortunately off Southampton Quay; we soon reached her, shifted to
a larger boat, and I and a stout crew were on our way, in very little
time, to have a word with that deceitful _Fair Rosamond_, which we
could still see lying quietly at anchor a couple of miles up the
river. We were quickly alongside, but, to our great surprise, found no
one on board. There was, however, a considerable quantity of
contraband spirits in the hold; and this not only confirmed the girl's
story, but constituted the _Fair Rosamond_ a lawful prize. I left four
men in her, with strict orders to lie close and not shew themselves,
and with the rest hastened on shore, and pushed on to the doctor's
rescue. The night was dark and stormy, which was so far the better for
our purpose; but when we reached the place, no Dick Redhead could be
seen! This was queer, and prowling stealthily round the building, we
found that it was securely barred, sheltered, and fastened up,
although by the light through the chinks, and a confused hum, it
seemed, of merry voices, there was a considerable number of guests
within. Still, Master Dick did not shew, and I was thoroughly at a
loss how to act. It would not certainly have been difficult to force
an entrance, but I doubted that I should be justified in doing so;
besides, if they were such desperadoes as Mary Ransome intimated, such
a measure must be attended with loss of life--a risk not to be
incurred except when all less hazardous expedients had failed, and
then only for a sufficient and well-defined purpose. I was thus
cogitating, when there suddenly burst forth, overpowering the howling
of the wind and the pattering of the rain, a rattling and familiar
chorus, sung by at least a dozen rough voices; and I had not a doubt
that the crew of the _Fair Rosamond_ were assisting at a farewell
revel previous to sailing, as that Hope, which tells so many
flattering tales, assured them they would, at dawn.

Such merriment did not certainly sound like the ferocious exultations
of intending assassins; still, I was very anxious to make ten or a
dozen amongst them; and continuing to cast about for the means of
doing so, our attention was at length fixed upon a strange object, not
unlike a thirty-six pounder red-hot round shot, not in the least
cooled by the rain, projecting inquiringly from a small aperture,
which answered for a window, halfway up the sloping roof. It proved to
be Master Dick's fiery head, but he made us out before we did him. 'Is
that Bill Simpson?' queried Dick, very anxiously. The seaman
addressed, as soon as he could shove in a word edgewise with the
chorus and the numerous wind-instruments of the Forest, answered that
'it _was_ Bill Simpson; and who the blazes was that up there?' To
which the answer was, that 'it was Dick, and that he should be
obliged, if Bill had a rope with him, he would shy up one end of it.'
Of course we had a rope: an end was shied up, made fast, and down
tumbled Master Dick Redhead without his hat, which, in his hurry, it
appeared, he had left behind in the banqueting-room. His explanation
was brief and explicit. He had accompanied the young woman to the
present building, as I ordered; and being a good deal wrought upon by
her grief and lamentations, had suggested that it might be possible to
get Dr Lee and her father to a place of safety without delay,
proverbially dangerous. This seemed feasible; inasmuch as the fellow
left in charge by Wyatt was found to be dead-drunk, chiefly owing, I
comprehended, to some powerful ingredients infused in his liquor by Dr
Lee. All was going on swimmingly, when, just as Dick had got the
doctor on his back, an alarm was given that the crew of the _Fair
Rosamond_ were close at hand, and Dick had but just time to climb with
great difficulty into the crazy loft overhead, when a dozen brawny
fellows entered the place, and forthwith proceeded to make merry.

A brief council was now held, and it was unanimously deemed advisable
that we should all climb up to Dick's hiding-place by means of the
rope, and thence contrive to drop down upon the convivial gentlemen
below, in as convenient a manner as possible, and when least expected.
We soon scaled the loft, but after-proceedings were not so easy. The
loft was a make-shift, temporary one, consisting of loose planks
resting upon the cross rafters of the roof, and at a considerable
height from the floor upon which the smugglers were carousing. It
would, no doubt, have been easy enough to have slid down by a rope;
but this would place the first three or four men, if no more, at the
mercy of the contrabandists, who, I could see through the wide chinks,
were all armed, and not so drunk but that they thoroughly knew what
they were about. It behoved us to be cool, and consider well the best
course to pursue. Whilst doing so, I had leisure to contemplate the
scene below. Wyatt was not there; but around a table, lighted by two
dip-candles stuck in the necks of black bottles, and provided with
abundance of liquor, tobacco, tin pannikins, and clay-pipes, sat
twelve or thirteen ill-favoured fellows, any one of whom a prudent man
would, I am very sure, have rather trusted with a shilling than a
sovereign. The unfortunate doctor, pale and sepulchral as the death
he evidently dreaded to be near at hand, was sitting propped up in a
rude arm-chair; and Ransome, worse, I thought, than when I had seen
him a few weeks previously, was reclining on a chest, in front of
which stood his wife and daughter in a condition of feverish
excitement. There at first appeared, from the temper of the
roisterers, to be no cause for any very grave apprehension; but the
aspect of affairs soon changed, and I eagerly availed myself of a
suggestion of Dick Redhead's, and gave directions that preparation for
its execution should be instantly and silently commenced. The thought
had struck Dick when perched up there alone, and naturally looking
about for all available means of defence, should he be discovered. Let
me restate my position and responsibilities. It was my duty to rescue
Lee, the agent of the Customs, from the dangerous predicament in which
he was placed; and the question was, how to effect this without loss
of life. It would, no doubt, have been easy enough to have turned up
one or two of the loose planks, and have shot half the smugglers
before they could have made their escape. This, however, was out of
the question, and hence the adoption of Dick's proposal. It was this:
in the loft where we lay, for stand upright we could not, there was,
amongst several empty ones, one full cask, containing illicit spirits
of some kind, and measuring, perhaps, between forty and fifty gallons.
It was wood-hooped, and could be easily unheaded by the men's knives,
and at a given signal, be soused right upon the heads of the party
beneath, creating a consternation, confusion, and dismay, during which
we might all descend, and end the business, I hoped, without
bloodshed.

This was our plan, and we had need to be quick about it, for, as I
have said, the state of affairs below had suddenly changed, and much
for the worse. A whistle was heard without; the front entrance was
hastily unbarred, and in strode Wyatt, Black Jack, and well did he on
this occasion vindicate the justice of his popular designation.
Everybody was in a moment silent, and most of those who could stood
up. 'What's this infernal row going on for?' he fiercely growled. 'Do
you want to get the sharks upon us again?' There was no answer, and
one of the men handed him a pannikin of liquor, which he drank
greedily. 'Lee,' he savagely exclaimed, as he put down the vessel,
'you set out with us in half an hour at latest.'

'Mercy, mercy!' gasped the nerveless, feeble wretch: 'mercy!'

'Oh, ay, we'll give you plenty of that, and some to spare. You, too,
Ransome, prepare yourself, as well as your dainty daughter here'--He
stopped suddenly, not, it seemed, checked by the frenzied outcries of
the females, but by a renewed and piercing whistle on the outside. In
the meantime, our fellows were getting on famously with the hoops of
the huge spirit-cask. 'Why, that is Richards' whistle,' he exclaimed.
'What the furies can this mean? Unbar the door!'

This was instantly done, and a man, a sailor by his dress, rushed in.
'The _Fair Rosamond_ is captured, and the preventive men are in
possession of her.'

My 'Quick! quick!' to the men, though uttered too loud, from the
suddenness of the surprise, was happily lost in the rageful outburst
of Wyatt. 'Hellfire!' he roared out. 'But you lie; it cannot be.'

'It is true,' rejoined the man. 'I and Clarke went on shore about an
hour ago in the punt, just to get a nip of brandy this cold night, as
you won't let us break bulk on board. When we returned, Tom went up
the side first, was nabbed, and I had hardly time, upon hearing him
sing out, to shove off and escape myself.'

We were now ready, and two of the planks just over Wyatt's head were
carefully turned over. He seemed for a moment paralysed--for a moment
only. Suddenly he sprang towards Mary Ransome, grasped her hair with
one hand, and in the other held a cocked pistol: 'You,' he
shouted--'you, accursed minx, have done this. You went out two hours
ago'--

I lifted my hand. 'Hurra! Take that, you cowardly lubber!' roared Dick
Redhead; and down went the avalanche of liquid, knocking not only the
pistol out of Wyatt's hand, but himself clean off his legs, and nearly
drowning Mary Ransome, her mother, and half-a-dozen others. A rope had
been made fast to one of the rafters, down which we all quietly slid
before the astonished smugglers could comprehend what had happened.
Resistance was then out of the question, and they did not attempt it.
I took Wyatt and one or two others into custody, for having contraband
spirits in their possession; and the others were permitted to make
themselves scarce as quickly as might be--a licence they promptly
availed themselves of.

I have but a few words to add.



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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 431 Volume 17, New Series, April 3, 1852