“Heavens! do you know my name?” cried the woman.
“Mrs Watson, I do not require to read your son’s letter—I know its contents.” He then turned over his book, and studied for a few seconds. “Your son is alive.”
“Thank God!” cried she, clasping her hands, and dropping her reticule.
“But you must not expect his return too soon—he is well employed.”
“Oh! I care not—he is alive—he is alive! God bless you—God bless you!”
Melchior made a sign to me, pointing to the five guineas and the reticule; and I contrived to slip them into her reticule, while she sobbed in her handkerchief.
“Enough, madam; you must go, for others require my aid.”
The poor woman rose, and offered the ring.
“Nay, nay, I want not thy money; I take from the rich, that I may distribute to the poor—but not from the widow in affliction. Open thy bag.” The widow took up her bag, and opened it. Melchior dropped in the ring, taking his wand from the table, waved it, and touched the bag. “As thou art honest, so may thy present wants be relieved. Seek, and thou shalt find.”
The widow left the room with tears of gratitude; and I must say, that I was affected with the same. When she had gone, I observed to Melchior, that up to the present he had toiled for nothing.
“Very true, Japhet; but depend upon it, if I assisted that poor woman from no other feelings than interested motives, I did well; but I tell thee candidly, I did it from compassion. We are odd mixtures of good and evil. I wage war with fools and knaves, but not with all the world. I gave that money freely—she required it; and it may be put as a set-off against my usual system of fraud, or it may not—at all events, I pleased myself.”
“But you told her that her son was alive.”
“Very true, and he may be dead; but is it not well to comfort her—even for a short time, to relieve that suspense which is worse than the actual knowledge of his death? Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”
It would almost have appeared that this good action of Melchior met with its reward, for the astonishment of the widow at finding the gold in her reticule—her narrative of what passed, and her assertion (which she firmly believed to be true), that she had never left her reticule out of her hand, and that Melchior had only touched it with his wand, raised his reputation to that degree, that nothing else was talked about throughout the town, and, to crown all, the next day’s post brought her a letter and remittances from her son; and the grateful woman returned, and laid ten guineas on the black cloth, showering a thousand blessings upon Melchior, and almost worshipped him as a supernatural being. This was a most fortunate occurrence, and as Melchior prophesied, the harvest did now commence. In four days we had received upwards of L200, and we then thought it time that we should depart. The letters arrived, which were expected, and when we set off in a chaise and four, the crowd to see us was so great, that it was with difficulty we could pass through it.