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and he opened his eyes and stared wildly around for a moment, and then relapsed into a lethargy again. But the physician pronounced him out of danger, and he was put to bed, where Mr. Tremlett watched by him until morning.
Ah! my poor boy!' said he,' you shall never stir so far from me again, until you are better able to take care of yourself.' He was anxious to learn all about the accident which had so nearly proved fatal to the boy, but the physician having advised him not to ask him any questions that would be likely to excite him, he refrained from doing so. But as soon as it was light, he despatched his coachman to find out the boatman who had rescued him, as he wished to reward him, as well as to learn from him all the particulars of the accident. In about an hour the man returned, bringing the boatman with him, whose name was Bill Van Tyne.
'Brave fellow!' said Mr. Tremlett, in the warmth of his gratitude, 'you shall be rewarded for your exertions.'
Well, I always like to save a gentleman's son from drowning when I kin,' said Mr. Van Tyne, because then I know I shall get well paid for it; and I don't mind it if I do get hurted a little. I have had a good many dollars given me for saving people's lives sence I first followed the water for a living.'
And how did this accident happen?' inquired Mr. Tremlett.' 'Why you see,' said Mr. Van Tyne, it was all the same as if you was sitting here, and I was sitting there, and this here table was a bar' of 'ysters: then up gets one of the boys on top, and begins to say how he will fling the pocket-book overboard, because he said if he did n't 't would be found out arter he got to hum.'
The pocket-book!' said Mr. Tremlett.
'Yes, a yellow sheep-skin pocket-book, tied up with a piece of red tape,' said Mr. Van Tyne. Then little Jack, the littlest boy, which almost got drownded, got up and swore he should n't do no such thing.'
'Did he swear?' asked Mr. Tremlett.
'Well, I can't rightly say whether he did or not,' said the boatman, but he said to t'other, I believe he called him Tom, that he should n't throw it overboard, because he was going to carry it back ag'in. Then all three on 'em had a clinch, and I jumped in between 'em, and fust I perceived, I 'm blest if I don't wish I may never see another 'yster, if the boat didn't capsize; and before I know'd what I was doing, I was ten foot under water. So says I to myself, Fanny, you are done for this heat, any how you can fix it !''
'What, was there a woman on board?' asked Mr. Tremlett.
'No, not exactly a woman,' replied Mr. Van Tyne, 'only Fanny Kemble, that's the boat's name.'
'Ah,' said Mr. Tremlett; 'then what became of little Jack, as you call him?'
'Well, when I come up and blowed,' he said, 'I looked round, and there was two of the youngsters clinging to the boat, but the littlest one I could n't see; so I looked down in the water, and there I seen him. He looked green enough, I tell you, and all crinkling like; so says I, it won't do to let a gentleman's son go off in that way, no how; so I fetched a good long breath, and down I div, and just caught
him by the hair of his head. And so another boat picked us up; and that was the way of it.'
And this pocket-book,' said Mr. Tremlett; ' what did the boys say about it?'
Well, perhaps I shouldn't like to tell,' said the boatman. 'Why not, Sir?' asked Mr. Tremlett.
'Well I don't know; perhaps I might, if I had any thing giv to me to make it a consideration,' replied Mr. Van Tyne.
'We will see about that at another time,' said Mr. Tremlett; 'call here again at three o'clock, and I will then pay you.' So Mr. Van Tyne left the house, and Mr. Tremlett returned to our hero's bed-side, with sad misgivings in his mind. As the youngster was quite recovered, he asked him about the pocket-book, how it came into his possession, and what it contained. At first he was going to deny any knowledge of it; but Mr. Tremlett told him if he detected him in a falsehood, he would send him back to the asylum from whence he had taken him, and that he would never see him again. And thereupon the boy made a full confession, of how Tom Tuck called his uncle out of the office, while he slipped in at the other door, and finding Mr. Bates asleep, softly opened the door of the private office, and took the pocket-book out of Mr. Tuck's desk, and then slipped out again by the same way he had entered, without waking Mr. Bates.'
Although our hero made a full confession of the manner in which he had stolen the pocket-book, yet he did not attempt to criminate the Tucks, by relating the specious arguments by which they had overcome his aversion to the act, but on the contrary he rather strove to shield them from any blame. But Mr. Tremlett could not fail to perceive that Tom Tuck was the principal instigator in the business; and therefore he resolved that the two brothers should bear their full share of the blame; for although he would have gladly hushed the matter up, yet it was of too serious a nature to be passed lightly over. The pocket-book was still missing, and our hero could not tell what had become of it. Tom Tuck had it in his possession when the boat upset, but whether it had been lost, or whether he still had it, could not be known. Mr. Tremlett was too much agitated by the discovery he had made, to attend to any business. He sent a note, therefore, to his partner, stating that he had some important information to impart to him, which brought Mr. Tuck immediately to his house.
Mr. Tuck was overwhelmed with astonishment and indignation, when he heard how his pocket-book had been stolen; he sent for his two nephews and their mother, who soon made their appearance; the lady looking very grand, and the two boys very demure and innocent. Their sister also came with them, and she contrived to seat herself in a chair by the side of our hero, which Mrs. Tuck no sooner perceived, than she made her remove her seat to the opposite side of the room. On hearing the accusation against her two boys, the lady burst into tears, while the youngsters themselves swore it was a lie from beginning to end; and that they had never seen the pocket-book, nor heard a syllable about it before. Their mother called our hero a thieving, lying brat, and said she always knew some harm would come to her children, by their associating with such a creature. Just then
Bill Van Tyne, the boatman, made his appearance, and not only confirmed all that young Tremlett had disclosed, but also related the conversation which passed between the boys, while they were proving so clearly that they had a perfect right to the property of their uncle. This the two brothers also denied; and their mother bestowed some very choice expressions not only upon the boatman, but upon Mr. Tremlett and his son, whom she called by a name that it is not necessary to repeat.
Well,' exclaimed Mr. Van Tyne, ' if that don't beat all my wife's relations! I never seen taller lying than that at a ward meeting! Face it out, young fellers; you'll make first rate lawyers, when you grow up!'
Mr. Tuck was beginning to think that there was in reality a conspiracy to injure his two nephews, when the door opened, and in ran little Julia Tuck, who had stolen out of the room unperceived, at the commencement of the dispute, and put the lost pocket-book into the hands of her uncle.
They shan't lie about Jack!' said the little girl, exultingly. Mrs. Swazey and Bridget had been listening at the key hole, in a state of great excitement, during the whole examination; but they now broke through all restraints, and rushed into the room. The latter caught our hero round the neck, and almost stifled him with kisses, while the house-keeper threw herself into a chair, and burst into tears.
As it would be quite impossible accurately to describe the scene which ensued, I shall not make the attempt, but leave it to the imagination of the reader to form such a tableau out of the materials which I have furnished him, as will best agree with his feelings.
WILL INTRODUCE A NEW PERSONAGE TO THE READER'S NOTICE.
THIS life is called a checquered state of existence, and with the majority of human beings it doubtless is so. But there are instances in which it would appear that one long black shadow has rested upon a man's destiny, from the time he first opened his eyes upon the world, until he has closed them in death. Unhappy wretches there have been, across whose path no bright gleams of sunshine have ever darted; in whose ear no gentle tones of love and affection have ever been breathed; doomed mortals, whose misfortunes were hoarded for them by their ancestors; whose chains were forged by those whose duty it was to smoothe their pillows, and strew flowers in their way. There are those to whom a seeming affliction brings a counteracting benefit, while there are others whose apparent turns of good fortune are always accompanied by a more than an overbalancing evil.
Of this class of unfortunate beings, was Jeremiah Jernegan. He was a clerk in the counting-room of Tremlett and Tuck; and in addition to the ordinary duties of the office, he was made, through his own gentle and obliging nature, to perform the duties of a butt for the whole establishment. His keen sensibilities and lively appre
hensions, added to a very weak frame, and forgiving disposition, rendered him a very suitable person for fools and cowards to exercise their talents upon; and scarce a day was allowed to pass, without his being made to feel the misery of his uncomfortable situation. Even Mr. Bates used to domineer over him, by way of revenge for the indignities that his wife put upon him.
The retrospective pleasures, which to some are a source of happiness, under afflicting circumstances, were wholly denied to him. His infancy and childhood had been the most wretched part of his existence. A brutal father, and a weak-minded mother, whom he more than suspected of crimes that chilled his heart to think of, embittered his earliest recollections. His parents were both dead, but he was denied the satisfaction of thinking of them as divinized existences, with whom he could hope to mingle hereafter; for neither their lives, nor the manner of their death, afforded cause for such a belief. He had a brother, but he was brutal in his temper, and dissipated in his habits; and instead of proving a consolation to him, he was a continual source of mortification and grief. Jeremiah was possessed of none of those nameless little graces, so worthless in themselves, and yet so powerful in winning the esteem of others; but, on the contrary, there was an expression in his emaciated face, and a hesitation in his manner, which rendered him almost personally disagreeable, even to those who really esteemed him for his good qualities. He had but few relations, and they were all in the humblest walks of life, and were withal extremely poor; so that whatever his earnings or savings might have been, his generous feelings would not allow him to keep what he knew those who were closely related to him stood in need of. He was accordingly not only very poor, but there was every prospect of his always remaining so. But even the happiness which springs from contented poverty, was denied to him. He was very proud and very ambitious; but his pride was not of that kind which feeds upon riches, neither was his ambition of that nature which aims at mercantile greatness; and although he was forced to make the humiliating confession to himself, that he did not possess the qualifications requisite to give him a claim to the world's notice, yet that did not abate in the least his desire for distinction, or ake him more contented with his humble position in society. He had not received even the poorest education that the poorest school could afford in his younger days; but having, by some chance, acquired a knowledge of the alphabet, he had learned just enough of books by employing his leisure hours, and stealing from his body the moments it might justly claim for refreshment and sleep, to devote them to reading, for the benefit of his mind, to make him more sensible of his ignorance than he would have been, if even his slight glimmer of knowledge had been denied him: like some poor wretch, the light of whose dungeon is but just sufficient to reveal to him the narrow bounds of his prison walls. Jeremiah never had a friend to whom he could impart his secret griefs, or upon whom he could rely for reciprocal consolation and assistance; while he saw every body around him paired off with a mate or a companion, he wondered why it was that he had never met with a congenial spirit. He was too honorable to flatter,
and too proud to solicit. As he never frequented places of public amusement, nor wore fine clothes, he was of course not a suitable companion for the other clerks in the counting-room of Tremlett and Tuck. But he had begun to possess his soul in patience; his thoughts had been directed to the meek sufferer of Nazareth; and looking up to the cross on which he expired, the poor clerk discovered a bright star, whose light gave a holy calm to his soul; but its rays were sometimes obscured by clouds of darkness and distrust.
Jeremiah had become greatly attached to our hero; for the youngster had been in the habit of making frequent visits to the counting-room, where he was an universal favorite. Mr. Bates treated him with the most profound respect, and never disputed him or denied him any thing, because he was his employer's pet; and he gained the goodwill of the other clerks, by his good nature, and the smart replies he made to their teasing questions; but Jeremiah loved him because he was an orphan, like himself; and instead of feeling envious of the boy's handsome person, and flattering prospects, he exulted in the thought that there was happiness in store for at least one outcast, and that the world was full of gentleness, and beauty, and love, even though they were all denied to him. And when it was made known that our hero was the thief who had stolen Mr. Tuck's pocket-book, while all the clerks agreed in saying that they always thought he had a thievish look, Jeremiah wiped a tear from his eye, and said, 'Poor boy! I cannot condemn him, for I might have done the same thing myself, if I had been tempted like him.'
Yes, I dare say you would, Mr. Jernegan,' said the cash-keeper, ' and I shall keep a sharp look-out for you in future.'
Why, the fact is,' said Mr. Bates, they do say, that is, I have heard so often, that birds of a feather will fly together; and I should n't be surprised if Jeremiah did feather his nest one of these days.'
'It is very hard,' said Jeremiah, if one cannot express sympathy for an unfortunate boy, without being subjected to such cruel suspicions.'
The fact is, Jerry,' said another of the clerks,' you are just fit for a black-guard missionary.'
Ah!' replied Jeremiah, 'I wish I were.'
'Well, I will give you a certificate, if you wish,' said the clerk; 'my father is one of the directors of the Board of Missions, and I heard him say at breakfast this morning, that they wanted a nice young man to act as chaplain in the Grand Turk's harem.'
This was such an exquisite joke, that every body laughed, of course, except Jeremiah, who continued writing at his desk. Many more jokes would have been uttered at his expense, but the entrance of Mr. Tremlett caused an immediate silence, and every body caught up a pen, and began to write very fiercely.
Mr. Tremlett looked very serious; and after giving some directions to the cash-keeper, he told Jeremiah he wished to see him in private. The poor clerk trembled with apprehension, being fearful that he had been guilty of some indiscretion that would cause him to be discharged; and as he followed his employer into his private office, his knees almost sank under him.