‘And my children—’
’There are institutions provided by the laws, Mr. Johnson, for the reception of paupers. But we are wasting time. Do you accept my proposition or not?’
‘I cannot do it; give me time.’
’Too much has been already wasted. Take back your money. You doubtless can obtain more in the same manner you did this. It looks very suspicious, I must say.’
‘And this is called a Christian land!’ said the poor fellow, holding his wasted hands up to heaven. ’O God, that these things should be! The earth is covered with food for sustaining life, and hundreds, aye, thousands, like myself, are perishing at home. Oh, where is Christian charity?’
‘Charity begins at home,’ said the seaman, ’and seldom casts anchor in any other port. If you’ll take my advice, you will stow your cargo and make sail, and hark ye—’ He whispered a word in the man’s ear; the other clasped his hands together, and with a tear in his eye, left the apartment.
‘Woe! woe! doomed!’ cried the mysterious voice.
Lambert shook like a leaf—the seaman seemed to enjoy his terror.
‘How much does Mr. Johnson owe?’ said he,
‘L5 rent, and L14 costs and taxes.’
‘Write a receipt.’
The mariner paid the sum, and asked how he came so low.
‘The usual story, captain.’
‘Williams is my name.’
’The usual story, Captain Williams—sick wife, large family, broke a leg, wife died, behind-hand in his rent, steady man, but not punctual in paying his bills.’
’Why how the thunder could he? Couldn’t his lordship wait till the poor fellow was a little recovered?’
‘Business, captain, must be conducted in a business-like manner.’
‘You thought otherwise once.’
‘When was that, pray?’
’When the father of that man, whom your relentless cruelty pursues with such vindictive malice, took you, a friendless boy, fed and clothed you, educated you along with his own son—the very man whose misery you insult—when his father saved you from the “charitable institution” you would send his children to, and finally paid the fee for articling you to the attorney at Canterbury, where you learned your present devotion to business.’
The agent stared in speechless astonishment—the low musical laugh again rang through the room.
‘Listen!’ said the mariner. ’The creatures of the air, the beings of another world denounce you; the victims of your lust for gold, though buried fathoms deep in the grave, still find a voice to chill the marrow in your bones: the dead shall rise from their graves and confront you—the hidden perfidy of years shall be disclosed, base tool of a baser master—all your machinations against the wronged and the humble shall fail, and recoil upon yourselves. Repent ere it will be too late; you will never more be warned by me.’
So saying, the stout seaman left the astonished agent and wended his way towards the cottage of the poor man Johnson, whither we shall precede him. It is needless to remind the reader that the way was perfectly familiar to him.