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Without making any further enquiry therefore into the condition of the man, he immediately went up-stairs.
As soon as the bailiff returned down-stairs, which was immediately after he had lodged the doctor in the room, Booth had the curiosity to ask him who this man was. "Why, I don't know much of him," said the bailiff; "I had him once in custody before now: I remember it was when your honour was here last; and now I remember, too, he said that he knew your honour very well. Indeed, I had some opinion of him at that time, for he spent his money very much like a gentleman; but I have discovered since that he is a poor fellow, and worth nothing. He is a mere shy cock; I have had the stuff about me this week, and could never get at him till this morning; nay, I don't believe we should ever have found out his lodgings had it not been for the attorney that was here just now, who gave us information. And so we took him this morning by a comical way enough; for we dressed up one of my men in women's cloathes, who told the people of the house that he was his sister, just come to town--for we were told by the attorney that he had such a sister, upon which he was let up-stairs--and so kept the door ajar till I and another rushed in. Let me tell you, captain, there are as good stratagems made use of in our business as any in the army."
"But pray, sir," said Booth, "did not you tell me this morning that the poor fellow was desperately wounded; nay, I think you told the doctor that he was a dying man?" "I had like to have forgot that," cries the bailiff. "Nothing would serve the gentleman but that he must make resistance, and he gave my man a blow with a stick; but I soon quieted him by giving him a wipe or two with a hanger. Not that, I believe, I have done his business neither; but the fellow is faint- hearted, and the surgeon, I fancy, frightens him more than he need. But, however, let the worst come to the worst, the law is all on my side, and it is only _se fendendo_. The attorney that was here just now told me so, and bid me fear nothing; for that he would stand my friend, and undertake the cause; and he is a devilish good one at a defence at the Old Bailey, I promise you. I have known him bring off several that everybody thought would have been hanged."
"But suppose you should be acquitted," said Booth, "would not the blood of this poor wretch lie a little heavy at your heart?"
"Why should it, captain?" said the bailiff. "Is not all done in a lawful way? Why will people resist the law when they know the consequence? To be sure, if a man was to kill another in an unlawful manner as it were, and what the law calls murder, that is quite and clear another thing. I should not care to be convicted of murder any more than another man. Why now, captain, you have been abroad in the wars they tell me, and to be sure must have killed men in your time. Pray, was you ever afraid afterwards of seeing their ghosts?"
"That is a different affair," cries Booth; "but I would not kill a man in cold blood for all the world."
"There is no difference at all, as I can see," cries the bailiff. "One is as much in the way of business as the other. When gentlemen behave themselves like unto gentlemen I know how to treat them as such as well as any officer the king hath; and when they do not, why they must take what follows, and the law doth not call it murder."
Booth very plainly saw that the bailiff had squared his conscience exactly according to law, and that he could not easily subvert his way of thinking. He therefore gave up the cause, and desired the bailiff to expedite the bonds, which he promised to do; saying, he hoped he had used him with proper civility this time, if he had not the last, and that he should be remembered for it.
But before we close this chapter we shall endeavour to satisfy an enquiry, which may arise in our most favourite readers (for so are the most curious), how it came to pass that such a person as was Doctor Harrison should employ such a fellow as this Murphy?
The case then was thus: this Murphy had been clerk to an attorney in the very same town in which the doctor lived, and, when he was out of his time, had set up with a character fair enough, and had married a maid-servant of Mrs. Harris, by which means he had all the business to which that lady and her friends, in which number was the doctor, could recommend him.
Murphy went on with his business, and thrived very well, till he happened to make an unfortunate slip, in which he was detected by a brother of the same calling. But, though we call this by the gentle name of a slip, in respect to its being so extremely common, it was a matter in which the law, if it had ever come to its ears, would have passed a very severe censure, being, indeed, no less than perjury and subornation of perjury.
This brother attorney, being a very good-natured man, and unwilling to bespatter his own profession, and considering, perhaps, that the consequence did in no wise affect the public, who had no manner of interest in the alternative whether A., in whom the right was, or B., to whom Mr. Murphy, by the means aforesaid, had transferred it, succeeded in an action; we mention this particular, because, as this brother attorney was a very violent party man, and a professed stickler for the public, to suffer any injury to have been done to that, would have been highly inconsistent with his principles.
This gentleman, therefore, came to Mr. Murphy, and, after shewing him that he had it in his power to convict him of the aforesaid crime, very generously told him that he had not the least delight in bringing any man to destruction, nor the least animosity against him. All that he insisted upon was, that he would not live in the same town or county with one who had been guilty of such an action. He then told Mr. Murphy that he would keep the secret on two conditions; the one was, that he immediately quitted that country; the other was, that he should convince him he deserved this kindness by his gratitude, and that Murphy should transfer to the other all the business which he then had in those parts, and to which he could possibly recommend him.
It is the observation of a very wise man, that it is a very common exercise of wisdom in this world, of two evils to chuse the least. The reader, therefore, cannot doubt but that Mr. Murphy complied with the alternative proposed by his kind brother, and accepted the terms on which secrecy was to be obtained.
This happened while the doctor was abroad, and with all this, except the departure of Murphy, not only the doctor, but the whole town (save his aforesaid brother alone), were to this day unacquainted.
The doctor, at his return, hearing that Mr. Murphy was gone, applied to the other attorney in his affairs, who still employed this Murphy as his agent in town, partly, perhaps, out of good will to him, and partly from the recommendation of Miss Harris; for, as he had married a servant of the family, and a particular favourite of hers, there can be no wonder that she, who was entirely ignorant of the affair above related, as well as of his conduct in town, should continue her favour to him. It will appear, therefore, I apprehend, no longer strange that the doctor, who had seen this man but three times since his removal to town, and then conversed with him only on business, should remain as ignorant of his life and character, as a man generally is of the character of the hackney-coachman who drives him. Nor doth it reflect more on the honour or understanding of the doctor, under these circumstances, to employ Murphy, than it would if he had been driven about the town by a thief or a murderer.
_What passed between the doctor and the sick man._
We left the doctor in the last chapter with the wounded man, to whom the doctor, in a very gentle voice, spoke as follows:--
"I am sorry, friend, to see you in this situation, and am very ready to give you any comfort or assistance within my power."
"I thank you kindly, doctor," said the man. "Indeed I should not have presumed to have sent to you had I not known your character; for, though I believe I am not at all known to you, I have lived many years in that town where you yourself had a house; my name is Robinson. I used to write for the attorneys in those parts, and I have been employed on your business in my time."
"I do not recollect you nor your name," said the doctor; "but consider, friend, your moments are precious, and your business, as I am informed, is to offer up your prayers to that great Being before whom you are shortly to appear. But first let me exhort you earnestly to a most serious repentance of all your sins."
"O doctor!" said the man; "pray; what is your opinion of a death-bed repentance?"
"If repentance is sincere," cries the doctor, "I hope, through the mercies and merits of our most powerful and benign Intercessor, it will never come too late."
"But do not you think, sir," cries the man, "that, in order to obtain forgiveness of any great sin we have committed, by an injury done to our neighbours, it is necessary, as far as in us lies, to make all the amends we can to the party injured, and to undo, if possible, the injury we have done?"
"Most undoubtedly," cries the doctor; "our pretence to repentance would otherwise be gross hypocrisy, and an impudent attempt to deceive and impose upon our Creator himself."
"Indeed, I am of the same opinion," cries the penitent; "and I think further, that this is thrown in my way, and hinted to me by that great Being; for an accident happened to me yesterday, by which, as things have fallen out since, I think I plainly discern the hand of Providence. I went yesterday, sir, you must know, to a pawnbroker's, to pawn the last moveable, which, except the poor cloathes you see on my back, I am worth in the world. While I was there a young lady came in to pawn her picture. She had disguised herself so much, and pulled her hood so over her face, that I did not know her while she stayed, which was scarce three minutes. As soon as she was gone the pawnbroker, taking the picture in his hand, cried out, _Upon my word, this is the handsomest face I ever saw in my life!_ I desired him to let me look on the picture, which he readily did--and I no sooner cast my eyes upon it, than the strong resemblance struck me, and I knew it to be Mrs. Booth."
"Mrs. Booth! what Mrs. Booth?" cries the doctor.
"Captain Booth's lady, the captain who is now below," said the other.
"How?" cries the doctor with great impetuosity.
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