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- The Little Savage - 6/51 -

"That I will as soon as I am well enough; but now I am too ill--you must wait a day or two, till the fever has left me."

Satisfied with Jackson's promise, I tended him carefully, and washed and dressed his wound for the two following days. He said that he felt himself much better, and his language to me was so kind and conciliatory, that I hardly knew what to make of it; but this is certain, that it had a good effect upon me, and gradually the hatred and ill-will that I bore to him wore off, and I found myself handling him tenderly, and anxious not to give him more pain than was necessary, yet without being aware that I was prompted by better feelings. It was on the third morning that he said,--

"I can talk to you now; what do you want to know?"

"I want to know the whole story of how we came to this island, who my father and mother were, and why you said that you hated me and my name?"

"That," said Jackson, after a silence of a few minutes, "will take some time. I could soon tell it you if it were not for the last question,--why I hated your name? But the history of your father is so mixed up with mine, that I cannot well tell one without the other. I may as well begin with my own history, and that will be telling you both."

"Then tell it me," replied I, "and do not tell me what is not true."

"No; I will tell you exactly what it was," replied Jackson; "you may as well know it as not.--Your father and I were both born in England, which you know is your country by birth, and you also know that the language we talk is English."

"I did not know it. Tell me something about England before you say any more."

I will not trouble the reader with Jackson's description of England, or the many questions which I put to him. It was night-fall before he had finished answering, and before I was satisfied with the information imparted. I believe that he was very glad to hold his tongue, for he complained of being tired, and I dressed his wound and wetted the bandage with cold water for him before he went to sleep.

I can hardly describe to the reader the effect which this uninterrupted flow of language had upon me; I was excited in a very strange way, and for many nights after could not sleep for hours. I may say here, I did not understand a great proportion of the meaning of the words used by Jackson; but I gathered it from the context, as I could not always be interrupting him.

It is astonishing how fast ideas breed ideas, and how a word, the meaning of which I did not understand when it was first used, became by repetition clear and intelligible; not that I always put the right construction on it, but if I did not find it answer when used at another time to my former interpretation of it, I would then ask and obtain an explanation. This did not however occur very often. As for this first night, I was positively almost drunk with words, and remained nearly the whole of it arranging and fixing the new ideas that I had acquired. My feelings towards Jackson also were changed-- that is, I no longer felt hatred or ill-will against him. These were swallowed up in the pleasure which he had afforded me, and I looked upon him as a treasure beyond all price,--not but that many old feelings towards him returned at intervals, for they were not so easily disposed of, but still I would not for the world have lost him until I had obtained from him all possible knowledge; and if his wound did not look well when I removed the bandage, I was much more distressed than he was. Indeed, there was every prospect of our ultimately being friends, from our mutual dependence on each other. It was useless on his part, in his present destitute condition, to nourish feelings of animosity against one on whose good offices he was now so wholly dependant, or on my part, against one who was creating for me, I may say, new worlds for imagination and thought to dwell on. On the following morning, Jackson narrated in substance (as near as I can recollect) as follows:--

"I was not intended for a sailor. I was taught at a good school, and when I was ten years old, I was put into a house of business as a clerk, where I remained at the desk all day long, copying into ledgers and day-books, in fact, writing what was required of me. This house was connected with the South American trade."

"Where is South America?" said I.

"You had better let me tell my story," replied Jackson, "and after I have done, you can ask any questions you like, but if you stop me, it will take a week to finish it; yesterday we lost the whole day."

"That's very true," replied I, "then I will do so."

"There were two other clerks in the counting-house--the head clerk, whose name was Manvers, and your father, who was in the counting-house but a few months before me. Our master, whose name was Evelyn, was very particular with both your father and myself, scanning our work daily, and finding fault when we deserved it. This occasioned a rivalry between us, which made us both very active, and I received praise quite as often as he did. On Sunday, Mr Evelyn used to ask your father and me to spend the day. We went to church in the forenoon and dined with him. He had a daughter a little younger than we were. She was your mother. Both of us, as we grew up, were very attentive to her, and anxious to be in her good graces. I cannot say which was preferred at first, but I rather think that if anything I was the favourite, during the first two years of our being acquainted with her. I was more lively and a better companion than your father, who was inclined to be grave and thoughtful. We had been about four years in the counting-house, when my mother died--my father had been dead some time before I went into it--and at her death I found my share of her property to amount to about L2500. But I was not yet twenty-one years of age. I could not receive it for another year. Mr Evelyn, who had till then every reason to be satisfied with my conduct, used to joke with me, and say that as soon as I was of age, he would allow me, if I chose it, to put the money in the business, and thus obtain a small share in it--and such was my intention, and I looked forward to bright prospects and the hope of one day being married to your mother, and I have no doubt but such would have been the case, had I still conducted myself properly. But, before I was of age, I made some very bad acquaintances, and soon ran into expenses which I could not afford--and the worst was, that I contracted a habit of sitting up late at night, and drinking to excess, which I never have since got over, which proved my ruin then, and has proved my ruin through life. This little fortune of mine not only gave me consequence, but was the cause of my thinking very highly of myself. I now was more particular in my attentions to Miss Evelyn, and was graciously received by her father; neither had I any reason to complain of my treatment from the young lady. As for your father, he was quite thrown into the back-ground. He had no property nor hope of any, except what he might hereafter secure by his diligence and good conduct; and the attention I received from Mr Evelyn, and also the head clerk, who had an idea that I was to be a partner and consequently would become his superior, made him very melancholy and unhappy--for I believe that then he was quite as much in love with Miss Evelyn as I was myself; and I must tell you, that my love for her was unbounded, and she well deserved it. But all these happy prospects were overthrown by my own folly. As soon as it was known that I had property left to me, I was surrounded by many others who requested to be introduced to me, and my evenings were passed in what I considered very good company, but which proved the very reverse. By degrees I took to gambling, and after a time, lost more money than I could afford to pay. This caused me to have recourse to a Jew, who advanced me loans at a large interest to be repaid at my coming of age. Trying to win back my money, I at last found myself indebted to the Jew for the sum of nearly L1000. The more that I became involved, the more reckless I became. Mr Evelyn perceived that I kept late hours, and looked haggard, as I well might; indeed, my position had now become very awkward. Mr Evelyn knew well the sum that had been left me, and how was I to account to him for the deficiency, if he proposed that I should put it into the business? I should be ruined in his opinion, and he never, I was convinced, would entrust the happiness of his daughter to a young man who had been guilty of such irregularities. At the same time, my love for her nearly amounted to adoration. Never was there a more miserable being than I was for the last six months previous to my coming of age, and to drown my misery I plunged into every excess, and seldom, if ever, went to bed but in a state of intoxication. Scheme after scheme did I propose to enable me to conceal my fault, but I could hit upon nothing. The time approached; I was within a few days of coming of age, when Mr Evelyn sent for me and then spoke to me seriously, saying, that out of regard to the memory of my father, with whom he had been very intimate, he was willing to allow me to embark my little capital in the business, and that he hoped that by my good conduct and application I might soon become a useful partner. I stammered some reply which surprised him; and he asked me to be more explicit. I stated that I considered my capital too small to be of much use in such a business as his, and that I preferred trying some quick method of doubling it; that as soon as I had so done I would accept his offer with gratitude. 'As you please,' replied he coolly; 'but take care, that in risking all, you do not lose all. Of course, you are your own master,' and so saying, he left me, apparently much displeased and mortified. But circumstances occurred, which exposed the whole affair. When in company with my evening companions, I stated my intentions of trying my fortune in the East Indies, not seriously, but talking at random. This came to the ears of the Jew of whom I had borrowed the money; he thought that I intended to leave the kingdom without taking up my bonds, and immediately repaired to Mr Evelyn's counting-house, to communicate with the head clerk, and ascertain if the report was correct, stating also the sums I was indebted to him. The head clerk informed Mr Evelyn, and on the day upon which I became twenty-one years of age, he sent for me into his private room, and, after some remonstrances, to which I replied very haughtily, it ended in my being dismissed. The fact was, that Mr Evelyn had, since his last interview with me, made inquiries, and finding out I had been living a very riotous life, he had determined upon my leaving his service. As soon as my first burst of indignation was over, I felt what I had lost; my attachment to Miss Evelyn was stronger than ever, and I bitterly deplored my folly, but after a time, as usual, I had recourse to the bottle, and to drowning my cares in intemperance. I tried very hard to obtain an interview with Miss Evelyn previous to my quitting the house, but this Mr Evelyn would not permit, and a few days after, sent his daughter away, to reside, for a time with a relation in the country. I embarked my capital in the wine trade, and, could I have restrained myself from drinking, should have been successful, and in a short time might have doubled my property, as I stated to Mr Evelyn; but now, I had become an irreclaimable drunkard, and when that is the case, all hope is over. My affairs soon became deranged, and, at the request of my partner, they were wound up, and I found myself with my capital of L1500 reduced to L1000. With this, I resolved to try my fortune in shipping; I procured a share in a brig, and sailed in her myself. After a time, I was sufficiently expert to take the command of her, and might have succeeded, had not my habit of drinking been so

The Little Savage - 6/51

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