the town a hungry man; the
dinner I had forgotten
recurred seductively to my recollection;
and it was with a quick step
and sharp appetite I ascended
the narrow street leading to
my lodgings. It was dark when
I opened the front door and walked
into the house. I wondered how
my fire would be; the night was
cold, and I shuddered at the
prospect of a grate full of sparkless
cinders. To my joyful surprise,
I found, on entering my sitting-room,
a good fire and a clean hearth.
I had hardly noticed this phenomenon,
when I became aware of another
subject for wonderment; the chair
I usually occupied near the hearth
was already filled; a person
sat there with his. arms folded
on his chest, and his legs stretched
out on the rug. Short-sighted
as I am, doubtful as was the
gleam of the firelight, a moment's
examination enabled me to recognize
in this person my acquaintance,
Mr. Hunsden. I could not of course
be much pleased to see him, considering
the manner in which I had parted
from him the night before, and
as I walked to the hearth, stirred
fire, and said coolly, "Good evening," my demeanour evinced as little cordiality
as I felt; yet I wondered in my own mind what had brought him there; and I wondered,
also, what motives had induced him to interfere so actively between me and Edward;
it was to him, it appeared, that I owed my welcome dismissal; still I could not
bring myself to ask him questions, to show any eagerness of curiosity; if he
chose to explain, he might, but the explanation should be a perfectly voluntary
one on his part; I
thought he was entering upon it.
"You owe me a debt of gratitude," were
his first words.
"Do I?" said I; "I
hope it is not a large one,
for I am
much too poor to charge myself
with heavy liabilities of any
yourself bankrupt at once,
for this liability is
a ton weight at least. When I
came in I found your fire out,
and I had it lit again, and made
that sulky drab of a servant
stay and blow at it with the
bellows till it had burnt up
properly; now, say 'Thank you!'"
"Not till I
have had something to eat;
I can thank nobody while
I am so famished."
I rang the bell and ordered
tea and some cold meat.
"Cold meat!" exclaimed Hunsden,
as the servant closed the door, "what
a glutton you are; man! Meat
with tea! you'll die of eating
"No, Mr. Hunsden, I shall not." I
felt a necessity for contradicting
him; I was irritated with hunger,
and irritated at seeing him there,
and irritated at the continued
roughness of his manner.
"It is over-eating that makes
you so ill-tempered," said he.
"How do you know?" I demanded. "It
is like you to give a pragmatical
opinion without being acquainted
with any of the circumstances
of the case; I have had no dinner."
What I said was petulant and
snappish enough, and Hunsden
only replied by looking in my
face and laughing.
"Poor thing!" he whined, after
a pause. "It has had no dinner,
has it? What! I suppose its master
would not let it come home. Did
Crimsworth order you to fast
by way of punishment, William!"
"No, Mr. Hunsden. Fortunately
at this sulky juncture, tea,
was brought in, and I fell to
upon some bread and butter and
cold beef directly. Having cleared
a plateful, I became so far humanized
as to intimate to Mr. Hunsden "that
he need not sit there staring,
but might come to the table and
do as I did, if he liked."
"But I don't like in the least," said
he, and therewith he summoned
the servant by a fresh pull of
the bell-rope, and intimated
a desire to have a glass of toast-and-water. "And
some more coal," he added; "Mr.
Crimsworth shall keep a good
fire while I stay."
His orders being executed,
he wheeled his chair round to
the table, so as to be opposite
"Well," he proceeded. "You
are out of work, I suppose."
"Yes," said I; and not disposed
to show the satisfaction I felt
on this point, I, yielding to
the whim of the moment, took
up the subject as though I considered
myself aggrieved rather than
benefited by what had been done. "Yes--thanks
to you, I am. Crimsworth turned
me off at a minute's notice,
owing to some interference of
yours at a public meeting, I
he mentioned that? He observed
me signalling the
lads, did he? What had he to
say about his friend Hunsden
you a treacherous villain."
"Oh, he hardly
knows me yet! I'm one of those
shy people who
don't come out all at once, and
he is only just beginning to
make my acquaintance, but he'll
find I've some good qualities
--excellent ones! The Hunsdens
were always unrivalled at tracking
a rascal; a downright, dishonourable
villain is their natural prey--they
could not keep off him wherever
they met him; you used the word
pragmatical just now--that word
is the property of our family;
it has been applied to us from
generation to generation; we
have fine noses for abuses; we
scent a scoundrel a mile off;
we are reformers born, radical
reformers; and it was impossible
for me to live in the same town
with Crimsworth, to come into
weekly contact with him, to witness
some of his conduct to you (for
whom personally I care nothing;
I only consider the brutal injustice
with which he violated your natural
claim to equality)--I say it
was impossible for me to be thus
situated and not feel the angel
or the demon of my race at work
within me. I followed my instinct,
opposed a tyrant, and broke a
Now this speech interested
me much, both because it brought
out Hunsden's character, and
because it explained his motives;
it interested me so much that
I forgot to reply to it, and
sat silent, pondering over a
throng of ideas it had suggested.
"Are you grateful to me?" he
In fact I was
grateful, or almost so, and
I believe I half
liked him at the moment, notwithstanding
his proviso that what he had
done was not out of regard for
me. But human nature is perverse.
Impossible to answer his blunt
question in the affirmative,
so I disclaimed all tendency
to gratitude, and advised him
if he expected any reward for
his championship, to look for
it in a better world, as he was
not likely to meet with it here.
In reply he termed me "a dry-hearted
aristocratic scamp," whereupon
I again charged him with having
taken the bread out of my mouth.
"Your bread was dirty, man!" cried
Hunsden--"dirty and unwholesome!
It came through the hands of
a tyrant, for I tell you Crimsworth
is a tyrant,--a tyrant to his
workpeople, a tyrant to his clerks,
and will some day be a tyrant
to his wife."
bread is bread, and a salary
is a salary. I've
lost mine, and through your means."
"There's sense in what you
say, after all," rejoined Hunsden. "I
must say I am rather agreeably
surprised to hear you make so
practical an observation as that
last. I had imagined now, from
my previous observation of your
character, that the sentimental
delight you would have taken
in your newly regained liberty
would, for a while at least,
have effaced all ideas of forethought
and prudence. I think better
of you for looking steadily to
to the needful! How can I do
otherwise? I must
live, and to live I must have
what you call 'the needful,'
which I can only get by working.
I repeat it, you have taken my
work from me."
"What do you mean to do?" pursued
Hunsden coolly. "You have influential
relations; I suppose they'll
soon provide you with another
relations? Who? I should like
to know their names."
"Stuff! I have
Hunsden looked at me incredulously.
"I have," said I, "and
"You must mean
they have cut you, William."
"As you please.
They offered me their patronage
of my entering the Church; I
declined both the terms and the
recompence; I withdrew from my
cold uncles, and preferred throwing
myself into my elder brother's
arms, from whose affectionate
embrace I am now torn by the
cruel intermeddling of a stranger--of
yourself, in short."
I could not repress a half-smile
as I said this; a similar demi-manifestation
of feeling appeared at the same
moment on Hunsden's lips.
"Oh, I see!" said
he, looking into my eyes, and
it was evident
he did see right down into my
heart. Having sat a minute or
two with his chin resting on
his hand, diligently occupied
in the continued perusal of my
countenance, he went on:-
have you then nothing to expect
from the Seacombes?"
and repulsion. Why do you ask
me twice? How
can hands stained with the ink
of a counting-house, soiled with
the grease of a wool-warehouse,
ever again be permitted to come
into contact with aristocratic
be a difficulty, no doubt;
still you are such
a complete Seacombe in appearance,
feature, language, almost manner,
I wonder they should disown you."
disowned me; so talk no more
"Do you regret
Why not, lad?"
are not people with whom I
could ever have had
"I say you
are one of them."
proves that you know nothing
at all about it;
I am my mother's son, but not
my uncles' nephew."
of your uncles is a lord, though
rather an obscure
and not a very wealthy one, and
the other a right honourable:
you should consider worldly interest."
Mr. Hunsden. You know or may
know that even had
I desired to be submissive to
my uncles, I could not have stooped
with a good enough grace ever
to have won their favour. I should
have sacrificed my own comfort
and not have gained their patronage
you calculated your wisest
plan was to follow
your own devices at once?"
must follow my own devices--I
must, till the
day of my death; because I can
neither comprehend, adopt, nor
work out those of other people."
Hunsden yawned. "Well," said
he, "in all this, I see but one
thing clearly-that is, that the
whole affair is no business of
mine. "He stretched himself and
again yawned. "I wonder what
time it is," he went on: "I have
an appointment for seven o'clock."
past six by my watch."
"Well, then I'll go." He got
up. "You'll not meddle with trade
again?" said he, leaning his
elbow on the mantelpiece.
"No; I think
be a fool if you did. Probably,
after all, you'll
think better of your uncles'
proposal and go into the Church."
regeneration must take place
in my whole inner
and outer man before I do that.
A good clergyman is one of the
best of men."
"Indeed! Do you think so?" interrupted
"I do, and
no mistake. But I have not
the peculiar points
which go to make a good clergyman;
and rather than adopt a profession
for which I have no vocation,
I would endure extremities of
hardship from poverty."
"You're a mighty
difficult customer to suit.
You won't be
a tradesman or a parson; you
can't be a lawyer, or a doctor,
or a gentleman, because you've
no money. I'd recommend you to
"You must travel
in search of money, man. You
French- -with a vile English
accent, no doubt--still, you
can speak it. Go on to the Continent,
and see what will turn up for
"God knows I should like to
go!" exclaimed I with involuntary
"Go: what the
deuce hinders you? You may
get to Brussels,
for instance, for five or six
pounds, if you know how to manage
would teach me if I didn't."
and let your wits make a way
for you when you get
there. I know Brussels almost
as well as I know X----, and
I am sure it would suit such
a one as you better than London."
Mr. Hunsden! I must go where
to be had; and how could I get
recommendation, or introduction,
or employment at Brussels?"
the organ of caution. You hate
a step before you know every
inch of the way. You haven't
a sheet of paper and a pen-and-ink?"
"I hope so," and
I produced writing materials
for I guessed what he was going
to do. He sat down, wrote a few
lines, folded, sealed, and addressed
a letter, and held it out to
there's a pioneer to hew down
rough difficulties of your path.
I know well enough, lad, you
are not one of those who will
run their neck into a noose without
seeing how they are to get it
out again, and you're right there.
A reckless man is my aversion,
and nothing should ever persuade
me to meddle with the concerns
of such a one. Those who are
reckless for themselves are generally
ten times more so for their friends."
"This is a letter of introduction,
I suppose?" said I, taking the
that in your pocket you will
run no risk of finding
yourself in a state of absolute
destitution, which, I know, you
will regard as a degradation--so
should I, for that matter. The
person to whom you will present
it generally has two or three
respectable places depending
upon his recommendation."
"That will just suit me," said
"Well, and where's your gratitude?" demanded
Mr. Hunsden; "don't you know
how to say 'Thank you?'"
"I've fifteen pounds and a
watch, which my godmother, whom
I never saw, gave me eighteen
years ago," was my rather irrelevant
answer; and I further avowed
myself a happy man, and professed
that I did not envy any being
"But your gratitude?"
"I shall be
off presently, Mr. Hunsden--to-morrow,
be well: I'll not stay a day
longer in X---- than I'm obliged."
it will be decent to make due
for the assistance you have received;
be quick! It is just going to
strike seven: I'm waiting to
out of the way, will you, Mr.
Hunsden: I want
a key there is on the corner
of the mantelpiece. I'll pack
my portmanteau before I go to
The house clock struck seven.
"The lad is a heathen," said
Hunsden, and taking his hat from
a sideboard, he left the room,
laughing to himself. I had half
an inclination to follow him:
I really intended to leave X----
the next morning, and should
certainly not have another opportunity
of bidding him good-bye. The
front door banged to.
"Let him go," said I, "we
shall meet again some day."