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THE GRAFTON FAMILY.
caused but little sensation. Of the many who CHAPTER II. TIE WIDOW AND FATIERLESS, scanned the daily obituary of the “Times," or the “DIED, at his residence, -street, Islington, of" Chronicle," with a curious eye, there were but pulmonary consumption, on the 24th inst., Charles few who knew or cared for Charles Grafton. Here Grafton, esq., aged 37.” The announcement and there might be a citizen to exclaim, “ Bless me!
No. 86, 1853.
who would have thought it ? and so young too! procession-the weeping Bertie-to the thoughtA good business-man, though; the life and soul of less groups around. One other, besides the boy the firm : what will they do now?". Or, else- and himself, followed Charles Grafton to the grave. where, it was perhaps said, “Ah! nothing more This was Mr. C., one of the partners in the than was to be expected. I was sure he was going firm; and on their return to the disconsolate and when I saw him last. Very imprudent to tamper desolated home, Mr. Nelson arranged for an early with his constitution as he did.”
interview with this gentleman. And so Charles Grafton died. He was to have We must go back a little way and explain. tried the soft airs of Devonshire. Lodgings bad When, in the previous summer, after his accidental been taken for him at Sidmouth, but he died at meeting with Mr. Grafton, Mr. Nelson returned to home, and the darkened rooms cast their deep sha- his quiet parsonage, he took with him the painful dows on the grief-stricken widow and orphans. conviction that his old school friend, in spite of his
“What a dismal place to die in, this hard- determination to get better, had not many months hearted, busy, cruel London !" said a child, pass- to live; and a still more painful conviction, that all ing by a house in one of its crowded thoroughfares, was not right and safe as regarded the life after which exhibited, by closely-drawn blinds and half- death. His conscience smote him, moreover, that closed shutters, the usual tokens of death within- he had not, with sufficient emphasis, warned his "what a dismal place to die in, this London ! 'I unhappy friend of the fatal consequences of necouldn't die here, I think : I should want to get glect and delay. Under the influence of these confar away, to die in quiet among the beautiful fields, victions, he took up his pen and commenced a corand wither away like a fading flower. Yes, I respondence, which terminated, a few months later, would like to go into the sweet country to die, when with a short note from the dying man, written my time comes; and be buried in some pleasant with a feeble hand and a troubled heart; the imchurchyard, where birds sing and daisies grow; mediate effect of which was to hurry Mr. Nelson not in dark, dreary, smoky, crowded London. from his quiet home in the country to Charles
Poor boy! he died neither in town nor country, Grafton's bedside. And there, from day to day, he and in no churchyard was he buried. He died at was to be found, until the last offices of friendship sea, and his lifeless body was committed "to the had been performed, and then he comforted the deep.” In reality, what matters it where we die, or widow and the fatherless in their affliction. where we shall be buried ! Nevertheless, the child spoke the language of humanity when he said, “ These partners of my poor friend," were Mr. “What a dismal place to die in, this London!” Nelson's reflections, as one afternoon, a few days
It was the 1st of May, bright and cheerful. after the funeral, he walked down the City-road, The streets were thronged with passengers ; shop. to keep his appointment with Mr. C.,—"I wonwindows were gay and attractive as shopmen could der what sort of men they are. Tliese business make them with the several commodities of trade; gentlemen, I don't know much of them : they are huge tickets announced, here, that an alarming sometimes generous ; but I suppose there are all sacrifice was being made on a fabrlous number of sorts, as in all the rest of the world. Poor Grafton shawls, which were to be sold at less than half the had but little hope, it seemed, from this quarter, prime cost; there, that a bankrupt stock was to be for his family'; and if they will not help, what is cleared out at any price a customer would offer ; to be done ? Mr. C. appeared humane and contea-dealers vied with each other in strong self- siderate, though. He spoke kindly to the poor praise, and the baker at the corner announced, on widow and the children ; but, then, words are pasteboard, another reduction in the price of the cheap." And with these conflicting feelings, Mr. quartern loaf. They were too busy, or too anxious, Nelson at length reached his destination-a dingy in "merry Islington," that day, to think of death warehouse in a narrow lane. Amidst piles of dusty
The streets were noisy: There were coaches goods he cork-screwed his way to a dark mustygoing out and coaches coming in; cabs rattling smelling counting-house. The senior partner was by; omnibus cads raising their voices with invita- reading the Times," and, without putting the tions to passing pedestrians, with but small success ; paper aside, he glanced keenly at the visitor, and and in the crowded thoroughfare were chimney despatched a messenger for Mr. C. sweeps in their May-day suits of green and glitter, "I understand Mr. C. made an appointment dancing like savages, and levying contributions on with you, sir ?" -Mr. Nelson bowed acquiescence all hands. Busy, calculating men passed along the “but I don't see what good. we can do," conpavement intent on their various cogitations ; chil- tinued the senior partner ; " Mr. Grafton's affairs dren played in the streets; strains of music from --but here is Mr. C.; he knows more about the organ of a wandering Italian might have been them than I do." And as he spoke, the gentleman heard in some more quiet street hard by; and a entered. There was a shade more of courtesy poor shrivelled monkey, dressed in fantastic guise, in his manner than in that of the senior partner, and striding the back of a melancholy dog, drew but not much to build any hopes upon; and our young gazers to parlour-windows, and halfpence friend felt the chilling effects of the atmosphere to the organist.
which surrounded him. And above all this din sonnded the solemn boom. And, in fact, looking at the death of the junior ing of the tolling bell ; while through the throng partner in the light in which they appeared to view passed a funeral procession. Ah! what a dismal it, it was very provoking. What could be the reaplace to die in, and be buried in--this hard-hearted son of it? What did he die for? A young
fellow London ! "Mirth and mourning! what a con- like Charles Grafton; so useful to the firm, too ; trast!" thought Mr. Nelson, for he was there, as and with such strong inducements to live. Ten his eye glanced from the chief mourner in that thousand people in London might have died, and been buried, with much less annoyance to them. It was undeniable: Mr. Nelson, at least, could It was a serious loss : they might look far and not dispute this. wide, and not find another to fill his place. It was "He ought to have done so," said the senior a deep injury, to be as deeply resented. It was so partner, bluntly; " we urged him to do so, over imprudent to catch cold, so wrong to neglect it and over again. The case is this, sir : there has when it was caught. In short, it was a bad job not been a year since Mr. Grafton entered our firm altogether ; but, since it had come to that, the in which his share of the profits-net, you underonly way was to wipe their hands of it; and per- stand-has not bordered closely on six hundred haps as it was to come to that, it was as well that pounds; some years it has exceeded it. Well, it was over; for, poor fellow, he hadn't been of there was nothing in that to grudge: he worked much use of late.
hard for it, and earned it; and if his income had Now these were not exactly the words spoken been twice as large, it would have been so much by either of the partners in the preliminary con- the better for us, you know. But six hundred a versation of that interview; but being interpreted year he had; and I put it to yon, sir, whether Mr. by the anxious and observant visitor, the words Grafton could not have managed better than he they did speak had some such meaning; and it seems to have done ?" was some relief to his mind when they turned to To Mr. Nelson, whose income was scarcely more another topic.
than a fourth of this sum, the proposition seemed “This is certainly a sad state of things, though reasonable; nevertheless, he urged that probably only what we expected," said Mr. C., after care- the necessary expenses of a family, and the style of fully looking over sundry papers which Mr. Nelson living expected of a flourishing London tradesman, had hastily prepared. “So far as I can judge by would swallow up even six hundred pounds a year. these statements, the poor woman will have next And, as he said this, he glanced at the partners. to nothing left when all is wound up."
He read but little to encourage him. The senior "I fear you are right, sir : it is too true," re- was carelessly rubbing the glasses of his spectaplied the widow's advocate.
cles; over the countenance of Mr. C. flitted a smile “I suppose you are aware,” interposed the senior of acquiescence, for he was all attention : but it partner, " that, by our articles of partnership, Mr. was the same cold, dreary, fishy smile, if we could Grafton's death ends at once all connection of his fancy a fish smiling—a shark, for instance--which family with our firm ?”
had once before played on his features. Yes; Mr. Nelson knew this, he said.
“Very true," said the senior partner, in reply to "And also, that when he entered the firm, many Mr. Nelson's suggestions ; "six hundred a year is years ago now, he added nothing to our stock, and not a first-rate income, to be sure: it is easy enough that he has added nothing since ?"
to live up to it, or twice six hundred; but to a Mr Nelson assented to this also. His primary young man who had nothing to begin the world object, he said, in seeking this interview, was to with, and whose previous salary had been but two obtain the advice of those who knew more of the hundred pounds, it was a lift, at any rate. Well, world and of business than himself, so as to enable sir, we advised-and this is where I blame himInim to act for the best for a bereaved family, we advised him to insure his life, when we found which, in some measure, had been committed to he was determined to marry. He might have
spared fifty or sixty pounds a year, or, with good "It is an unfortunate affair, sir," said Mr. C.; management, even a hundred, as easily as so many " the more so, to us at least, as our opinion may shillings; and if he had done so, his widow needn't seem hard and unfeeling. The fact is, our Mr. now be coming to us in forma pauperis ; she Grafton, with admirable qualifications for business, would have from three to six thousand pounds was, in some respects, a little imprudent.” down: a pretty little sum this, you see, sir. But " Very!" said the senior partner.
he would not, or did not, take our advice; and “Nay, my dear sir, we will not be too severe," I really don't see what is to be done what we are rejoined Mr. C., with a bland smile and in that called upon to do, at least.” smile, and the tone that accompanied it, Mr. Nel- "Grafton was too fond of doing things in style, son read, or thought he read, the character of the as he called it," said Mr. C.; "he wanted to be a man. “Cold, calculating, plausible, heartless !" he gentleman, and got into company more than he mentally exclaimed.
ought to have done; and then, Mrs. Grafton-I "I do not mean," continued Mr. C., " that Mr. don't know much of her, to be sure, but I fancy Grafton was imprudent in business-matters : he she had high notions, and was extravagant. And was a stirring, sharp-sighted man of business; what with parties, and servants, and dear boardbut he did not guide his private affairs with discre- ing-schools for the boy and girls, a good table and tion."
a good cellar, and knicknackeries in books and “Very far from it,” rejoined the senior part- music, my only wonder is that he managed to keep ner: "he began by marrying a girl without a within bounds at all. Look at his house, how 'tis penny."
furnished! you, my dear sir, must have seen it and “I believe my friend Grafton never repented this noticed it. And now what is to be the end of it? step," replied Mr. Nelson, mildly.
Why, all there is in the house won't fetch a quarter * Well, my dear sir, we will not dispute about of what it cost, and won't more than pay the prithat. At all events, we had no right to interfere vate debts; and the good lady comes to us for in the matter," said Mr. C. “But this was the help. Now I wouldn't speak harshly on any greater reason why he should have made some pro- account”-and indeed this was true in one sense, vision against contingencies; this mournful one, for Mr. C.'s words were like those of David's for instance."
friend,“ softer than butter”_"but you must see,
sir, the impropriety of our interfering with these | next morning, to manage matters for the widow, little private affairs. Indeed, I may say we are if she would allow him. losers already ; for though our Mr. Grafton was With this promise Mr. Nelson was compelled to but little use to us of late, he drew pretty freely on depart, very little satisfied either with his own the firm, and our partnership accounts, which we skill in diplomacy, or with the benevolent disposiare ready to produce, will show that the balance is tions of the prosperous partners of his poor friend. against him. Not that we wish to enforce any He had reached the end of the narrow lane, and claim we may have; but you see, my dear sir, we was slowly turning into the broader street, when cannot, in justice to ourselves, make any further he felt himself arrested by a hand laid upon his advances."
arm. He looked round, and the senior partner “I am to understand then, gentlemen,” respond was panting at his elbow. ed Mr. Nelson, “ that you decline giving the poor "I thought I should catch you,” he said, "if I widow the benefit of your advice ?"
slipped out quick; but I had pretty near missed "Nay, nay, we don't say that,” said the senior you. I couldn't get a word with you alone, and partner; "advice is cheap enough to give, whether Mr. C. is a close man, very close ; you understand it is followed or not. We have talked over the me?" matter, and there seems to be but one course for Mr. Nelson did not exactly understand either Mrs. Grafton to take.”
the mysterious words, or the confidential tone, or “And that, sir ?" inquired Mr. Nelson.
the look of whimsical perplexity which accompa"Well , it seems hard, but it can't be helped : we nied them; but he did not say so.
The thing are not to be answerable for Graftou's private debts, most men do in such a case is to bow; and our so everything he has left behind him must go to the friend accordingly bowed. bammer. Of course, Mrs. Grafton must get rid “I am sorry for the poor woman, really," the of her servants, and leave the house she is in as citizen continued; " but what can I do? what is soon as she can; and the sooner the better, for her to be done ? Of course I can't support her; I have expenses are eating up all she will have to fall a family of my own, Mr. Nelson." But if this will back upon. She had better take cheap lodgings be of any use at the present time”—and he slipped somewhere till everything is wound up, and then a cheque upon his banker for twenty pounds into she will know what she has to look to. As to the Mr. Nelson's hand—“Mrs. Grafton is welcome to girls, they must be taken from school. If they it. And if there is anything I can do anything want any more teaching, their mother ought to in reason, I mean-to help her, I am quite willing give it; but the sooner they are put to some use to do it." ful employment the better. As regards the boy, Mr. Nelson expressed his thanks. I suppose we must do something for him. We "Grafton was a good fellow, after all," continued are willing to send him to school for a year or so, the senior partner; “ only he shonldn't have been and then take him into the warehouse, if he is so extravagant; and the poor woman must do good for anything. If he isn't, there will be an what she can for herself. Help yourself, and your end of that. Then, as to Mrs. Grafton, she, I sup- friends will love you, you know, sir; and that's pose, can do something for a living; indeed she what I say. But still, if there is anything wanted must bring herself down to it.”
-to apprentice her girls by-and-by, or anything “But, sir," interposed Mr. Nelson, “ all these of that sort-why, she may come to me--to me, arrangements will take time and management; you understand.” and Mrs. Grafton can scarcely be expected
“I will not fail to inform Mrs. Grafton of your “There it is again,” said the senior partner, offer, sir," said Mr. Nelson. testily; " but I suppose, sir, you could attend to “And one word more: not a hint of this to Mr. these matters for her ?".
C. You understand me? he is a close man-very Mr. Nelson explained that his connection with close. It was I that insisted on keeping the boy the bereaved family was of such recent date, while at school, and so on. Not a word to him about his knowledge of business was so limited, that this little matter." And having disburdened himhe could neither in prudence nor propriety under self of this load, the senior partner turned down a take the task thus thrust upon him.
by-street, and Mr. Nelson saw him no more. “Who are Grafton's executors ?” demanded the senior partner, abruptly.
"I am sorry to say he died without having made a will,” replied Mr. Nelson.
TO LONDON AND BACK. " There again—was ever such folly! Then the I am not much of a traveller, and the record of widow must administer, of course, though there my experience in that way would not occupy much should be not a farthing's worth in reality to ad- space, or contribute very largely towards the amuseminister to; and there goes the money again. ment of the present generation of readers, who now, Well, there's no use in casting blame on one that's with no more trouble than it takes to loll in an easy dead and gone; and I suppose we must lend a chair, may girdle the world at their own firesides, hand."
and travel by the aid of books whithersoever they “But, my dear sir, we must be cautious," softly will, without the pains or the expense of locomointerposed Mr. C.
tion. The only two journeys I ever took in my "Yes, yes, of course," replied the senior partner; life, with the exception of a few brief pleasure-trips and then, turning to Mr. Nelson, he promised that to places in the vicinity of the metropolis, were the
a man of business, used to that sort of thing, and journey to London from Exeter, which I made who wouldn't make a very heavy charge, consider- forty years ago, and the journey back again, which ing,” should wait upon him, at Mrs. Grafton's, the took place not a fortnight since. There was such a remarkable difference between the coming up to We passed through Taunton shortly before sunLondon in my youthful days and the going down set, and soon after, when darkness came upon us to Devonshire as it is managed at the present rather suddenly, owing to the setting in of rain, moment, that I am induced to chronicle the two the pleasures of the transit disappeared, and its events for the sake of the contrast they afford, woes commenced. The children, who had been duly and the evidence they furnish of what has been bread-and-buttered and then night-capped, dropped done and is doing in the work of progress in this off to sleep ; but they were all speedily jerked into direction.
wakefulness, by a jolt that nearly sent my head I was a lad of fifteen when, in the autumn of through the panels, occasioned by the coach sud1811, I left my father and mother, who resided in denly falling into a rut a foot deep, upon the edge a comfortable little cottage on the banks of the of which it had been rolling for some time. This Exe, within a mile of Exeter cathedral, to accom- occurred ten times in the course of an hour. It pany my master, to whom I had been apprenticed, was too dark for the driver to see the track; and, in and his numerous family, to London. My master consequence, he was continually getting out of it had engaged the whole of the interior of a double- and falling in again with a regularity which was bodied stage-coach for the accommodation of himself anything but agreeable. The result of this was a and family, amounting to twelve persons in all, terrible state of confusion in that department in including myself and a domestic maid-servant. which I was located. The pile of packages was The children, the maid-servant, and myself, were started in every direction, and tokens of serious stowed in the inner compartment, along with a damage were audible in the clinking of broken mountain of small boxes and provision baskets glass and the gurgling sound of escaping liquids. piled in the centre. I had taken a solemn farewell Amid the squalling of the frightened children, the of my parents and my elder sister before leaving grinding of the wheels, the thumping together of the cottage; but on looking tearfully from the win- the lumbering boxes, and the noise in my own head, dow of the coach, while the preparatory loading was resulting from its involuntary contact with the going on upon the roof, I found that they had fol- sides of the coach, I heard the voice of my mislowed to the inn, unable to forego the luxury of a tress, crying out in alarm, “ There is the brandy last look. They plainly regarded my departure bottle broken-feel for it, Thomas, and try if you from home as a desperate adventure, and me as a can save some; I put it in the covered basket victim to adverse circumstances over which neither with the neck sticking out." Being thus appealed they nor I had any control. It was between two to, I began groping about in the dark for the and three in the afternoon when the ponderous and brandy bottle. I could find no bottle; but I felt a substantial vehicle-a sort of mansion on wheels, of child's naked leg at the bottom of the coach, and which I was an unwilling tenant-began to move not without much difficulty I pulled out young away from the market-place. It stopped at the Sammy, who for aught I know might have been hail of half-a-dozen voices before it had gone twenty smothered in the wreck but for the information of yards—and then two laggards climbed upon the the broken bottle. I handed the little sufferer to roof, and a shower of small brown-paper parcels his mother, who then bethought herself that there were thrown in at the window, with directions that was a tinder-box in the maid's trunk. The girl had we would cram them into the coach-pockets. Then to be relieved of a couple of infants before she could the horn blew again, the six stout horses who had stoop to unlock her treasures, from which she soon us in tow pawed and grappled upon the paving produced the tinder-box and a small lantern furstones, and we again got under way, soon increas- nished with an end of candle. It was my task to ing our velocity to the pace of five or six miles an procure a light, and it was no easy business. hour. Our caravan cut a very respectable figure Sally's flint was worn as round as a pump-handle ; as we rattled out of town with a noise and din that but it was sharp enough, for all that, to knock the brought everybody to their doors, and drew after skin off three of my knuckles before it would conus a crowd of vagabond boys and young fellows descend to yield a single spark. The lantern was "hooraying" with the full force of their lungs. lighted at last-affairs were put a little in orderThe excitement of the scene, combined with the the basket containing the brandy and the buns was novel and rather agreeable sensations which I first recovered; but the bottle had resigned its contents experienced on riding in a coach, soon banished the to the buns, which were saturated with the fiery grief I had felt at parting with my friends, and I fluid. Sammy, who clamoured for food as soon as began to enjoy the real pleasures of the journey. he saw them, ate himself into a state of mental When we had got a few miles from the town, the confusion with half a one, and fell asleep. My pleasant rapidity of our passage became consider master bought candles at the next stage, so that ably modified. Macadam as yet had done nothing we were enabled to burn a light all night. Taught for the coach-roads; and our way lay through a by experience, we contrived to get things packed in hilly country which we were continually ascending a more travelable condition, and bound the boxes and descending upon a track of kneaded moist earth, and baskets down by a mutual obligation to lie which our broad wheels brought up in masses, and still. On we jolted and jumbled, mile after mile, tossed into the air by shovelfuls. We changed and hour after hour. Towards morning I fell asleep horses every seven or eight miles, and were but too in my corner, and dreamed that I was transformed glad upon every occasion, after the first, to get out into a foot-ball, and was being kicked about in every and stretch our legs with a walk, and count our direction by a swarm of delirious savages. I was incipient bruises, of which it was but too evident awoke about six o'clock by the roaring and crashwe should each and all have a considerable stock ing made by our broad wheels. I looked out of to boast of ere we arrived at our distant destina- window. We were ascending a moderate hilltion.
ploughing our way through masses of round gra.