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He one day asked him if he always intended to go on in this course? “No," said he, “I am resolved by-and-bye to reform, grow sober, and go to church. Why, I am but five and twenty, man; I am stout and healthy, and likely to live long; I can repent, and grow melancholy and good at any time.”
“Oh, Jack !” said Stock,“ don't cheat thyself with that false hope. What thou dost intend to do, do quickly. Didst thou never read about the heart growing hardened by long indulgence in sin ? Some folks, who pretend to mean well, show that they mean nothing at all, by never beginning to put their good resolutions into practice; which made a wise man once say, that hell is paved with good intentions. We cannot repent when we please. It is the goodness of God which leadeth us to repentance.'”
“I am sure,” replied Jack, “I am no one's enemy but my own.”
" It is as foolish,” said Stock, “to say a bad man is no one's enemy but his own, as that a good man is no one's friend but his own. There is no such neutral character. A bad man corrupts or offends all within reach of his example, just as a good man benefits or instructs all within the sphere of his influence. And there is no time when we can say that this transmitted good and evil will end. A wicked man may be punished for sins he never committed himself, if he has been the cause of sin in others, as surely as a saint will be rewarded for more good deeds than he himself has done, even for the virtues and good actions of all those who are made better by his instruction, his example, or his writings.”
Michaelmas-day was at hand. The landlord declared he would be put off no longer, but would seize for rent, if it was not paid him on that day, as well as for a considerable sum due to him for leather. Brown at last began to be frightened. He applied to Stock, to be bound for him. This, Stock flatly refused. Brown now began to dread the horrors of a jail, and really seemed so very contrite, and made so many vows and promises of amendment, that at length Stock was prevailed on, together with two or three of Brown's other friends, to advance each a small sum of money to quiet the landlord; Brown promising to make over to them every part of his stock, and to be guided in future by their advice, declaring that he would turn over a new leaf, and follow Mr. Stock's example, as well as his direction, in every thing.
Stock's good-nature was at last wrought upon, and he
raised the money. The truth is, he did not know the worst, nor how deeply Brown was involved. Brown joyfully set out on the very quarter-day to a town at some distance, to carry his landlord this money, raised by the imprudent kindness of his friend. At his departure, Stock put him in mind of the old story of Smiler and the Merry Andrew, and he promised of his own head that he would not even call at a public-house till he had paid the money.
He was as good as his word. He very triumphantly passed by several. He stopped a little under the window of one, where the sounds of merriment and loud laughter caught his ear. At another he heard the enticing notes of a fiddle, and the light heels of the merry dancers. Here his heart had well nigh failed him; but the dread of a jail on one hand, and, what he feared almost as much, Mr. Stock's anger, on the other, spurred him on; and he valued himself not a little at having got the better of this temptation. He felt quite happy when he found he had reached the door of his landlord without having yielded to one idle inclination.
He knocked at the door. The maid who opened it said her master was not at home. “I am sorry for it,” said he, strutting about; and with a boasting air he took out his money. “I want to pay him my rent: he needed not to have been afraid of me." The servant, who knew her master was very much afraid of him, desired him to walk in, for her master would be at home in half an hour. “I will call again," said he; “but, no, let him call on me, and the sooner the better : I shall be at the Blue Posts." While he had been talking, he took care to open his black-leather case, and to display the bank bills to the servant; and then, in a swaggering way, he put up his money, and marched off to the Blue Posts.
He was by this time quite proud of his own resolution, and having tendered the money, and being clear in his own mind that it was the landlord's own fault, and not his, that it was. not paid, he went to refresh himself at the Blue Posts. In a barn belonging to this public-house a set of strollers were just going to perform some of that sing-song ribaldry by which our villages are corrupted, the laws broken, and that money drawn from the poor for pleasure, which is wanted by their families for bread. The name of the last new song which made part of the entertainment, made him think himself in high luck, that he should have just that half hour to spare. He went into the barn, but was too much delighted with the actor who sung his favorite song, to
remain a quiet hearer. He leaped out of the pit, and got behind the two ragged blankets which served for a curtain. He sung so much better than the actors themselves, that they praised and admired him to a degree which awakened all his vanity. He was so intoxicated with their flattery, that he could do no less than invite them all to supper-an invitation which they were too hungry not to accept.
He did not, however, quite forget his appointment with his landlord; but the half hour was long since past by. “ And so," says he, “ as I know he is a mean curmudgeon, who goes to bed I suppose by day-light to save candle, it will be too late to speak with him to-night: besides, let him call upon me; it is his business, and not mine. I left word where I was to be found : the money is ready, and if I don't pay him to-night, I can do it before breakfast.”
By the time these firm resolutions were made, supper was ready. There never was a more jolly evening. Ale and punch were as plenty as water. The actors saw what a vain fellow was feasting them; and as they wanted victuals, and he wanted flattery, the business was soon settled. They ate, and Brown sung. They pretended to be in raptures. Singing promoted drinking, and every fresh glass produced a song or a story still more merry than the former. Before morning, the players, who were engaged to act in another barn a dozen miles off, stole away quietly. Brown having dropped asleep, they left him to finish his nap by himself. As to him, his dreams were gay and pleasant; and, the house being quite still, he slept comfortably till morning.
As soon as he had breakfasted, the business of the night before popped into his head. He set off once more to his landlord's in high spirits, gayly singing by the way scraps of all the tunes he had picked up the night before from his new friends. The landlord opened the door himself, and reproached him with no small surliness for not having kept his word with him the evening before, adding, that he supposed he was come now with some more of his shallow excuses, Brown put on all that haughtiness which is common to people who, being generally apt to be in the wrong, happen to catch themselves doing a right action; he looked big, as some sort of people do when they have money to pay. “You need not have been so anxious about your money,” said he; “I was not going to break or run away.” The landlord well knew that this was the common language of those who are ready to do both. Brown haughtily added, “You shall
see I am a man of my word; give me a receipt.” The landlord had it ready, and gave it him.
Brown put his hand in his pocket for his black-leather case in which the bills were; he felt, he searched, he examined, first one pocket, then the other; then both waistcoat pockets, but no leather case could he find. He looked terrified. It was indeed the face of real terror, but the landlord conceived it to be that of guilt, and abused him heartily for putting his old tricks upon him : he swore he would not be imposed upon any longer; the money or a jail—there lay his choice.
Brown protested for once with great truth, that he had no intention to deceive; declared that he had actually brought the money, and knew not what was become of it; but the thing was far too unlikely to gain credit. Brown now called to mind that he had fallen asleep on the settle in the room where they had supped. This raised his spirits ; for he had no doubt but the case had fallen out of his pocket; he said he would step to the public-house and search for it, and would be back directly. Not one word of all this did the landlord believe, so inconvenient is it to have a bad character. He swore Brown should not stir out of his house without a constable, and made him wait while he sent for one. Brown, guarded by the constable, went back to the Blue Posts, the landlord charying the officer not to lose sight of the culprit. The caution was needless ; Brown had not the least design of running away, 50 firmly persuaded was he that he should find his leather case.
But who can paint his dismay, when no tale or tidings of the leather case could be had! The master, the mistress, the boy, and the maid of the public-house, all protested they were innocent. His suspicions soon fell on the strollers with whom he had passed the night; and he now found out, for the first time, that a merry evening did not always produce a happy morning. He obtained a warrant, and proper officers were sent in pursuit of the strollers. No one, however, believed he had really lost any thing; and as he had not a shilling left to defray the expensive treat he had given, the master of the inn agreed with the other landlord in thinking this story was a trick to defraud them both; and Brown remained in close custody. At length the officers returned, who said they had been obliged to let the strollers go, as they could not fix the charge on any one, and they had all offered to swear before a justice that they had seen nothing of the leather case. It was at length agreed, that as he had passed
the evening in a crowded barn, he had probably been robbed there, if at all; and among so many, who could pretend to guess at the thief?
Brown raved like a madman; he cried, tore his hair, and said he was ruined forever. The abusive language of his old landlord, and his new creditor at the Blue Posts, did not lighten his sorrow. His landlord would be put off no longer. Brown declared he could neither find bail nor raise another shilling; and as soon as the forms of law were made out, he was sent to the county jail.
Here it might have been expected that hard living and much leisure would have brought him to reflect a little on his past follies. But his heart was not truly touched. The chief thing which grieved him at first was, his having abused the kindness of Stock, for to him he should appear guilty of a real fraud, where he had indeed been only vain, idle, and imprudent. And it is worth while here to remark, that vanity, idleness, and imprudence, often bring a man to utter ruin both of soul and body, though silly people do not put them in the catalogue of heavy sins, and those who indulge in them are often reckoned honest, merry fellows, with the best hearts in the world.
In the Fourth Part my readers will know what befell Jack in his present doleful habitation, and what became of him afterwards.
Jack Brown in Prison.
BROWN was no sooner lodged in his doleful habitation, and a little recovered from his first surprise, than he sat down and wrote to his friend Stock the whole history of the transaction. Mr. Stock, who had long known the exceeding lightness and dissipation of his mind, did not so utterly disbelieve the story as all the other creditors did. To speak the truth, Stock was the only one among them who had good sense enough to know, that a man may be completely ruined, both in what relates to his property and his soul, without committing Old Bailey crimes. He well knew that idleness, vanity, and the love of pleasure, as it is falsely called, will bring a man to a morsel of bread, as surely as those things which are reckoned