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Illusive showed a city, with its spires,
“If ever”-said our guide, with kindling eye,
"Oh, Wisdom Infinite!
How vain, alas ! how worthless seems the dross
By this, the sky was studded o'er with stars,
MY FIRST LOAN.
BY LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HORT.
“And pray, sir, who do you imagine is to pay your debts ? " quoth my masculine parent, with as small a proportion of the gentle and urbane about his manner, as those who dwelt in his presence were accustomed to witness. “And pray, sir, who do you imagine is to pay your debts ?”
Now it so happened, strange as the coincidence may appear, that this very selfsame, identical question, aye, and couched in similar terms, had been engrossing my innermost thoughts for a very considerable time prior to my respected sire having expressed any wish to be enlightened on that particular point.
Every schoolboy will vouch for the truth of a marvellous distinction existing between putting a query, and having to solve the enigma. Such was my case at the present time; and had it been feasible, I should have much preferred interrogating the questioner, to being compelled to furnish a reply, when, in fact, I was ignorant what response to offer.
In my case the matter was the more difficult, since, for the life of me, I could not furnish the most distant clue to the unravelment of the mystery. Not that my ignorance was to be attributed to want of study, or paucity of cogitation on the subject; since I had been daily put in mind of the difficulty of my task by the appearance of sundry red ink ruled papers, whereon words and figures were strangely mingled together.
Had I been catechised touching the feasibility of starting a railroad from Brighton to Paris, or of carrying on the Thames tunnel to the Wye, I do not hesitate to affirm I should have been able to advance an instantaneous and satisfactory adjustment of the apparent difficulty, on the spot. But the case in point was a very different one indeed, and as the indication of the governor's visage plainly evinced a determination not to be satisfied, be my reply what it might, I wisely held my peace, hoping that the old gentleman, finding it useless to interrogate me further, might eventually feel disposed to make answer himself. Nor was I far from right; for having twice again essayed to extract the desired knowledge from his dutiful son, my worthy and much respected papa shrewdly added, “I suppose you fancy I'm to pay your rascally debts, don't youeh?"
Another coincidence, thought I. Well, it certainly was singular, and very singular, truly; for I should let the reader know, that whenever the most distant gleam of extrication from my difficulties presented itself to my agitated mind, somehow or other, it was invariably identified with a vision of the governor's cheque-book, and an anticipation of the governor's lecture. But then again, “those rascally debts," as my affectionate relative termed them. Was not that strange ? such a reciprocity of sentiment between father and son! “Pascally debts !” Why, my generous hearted parent could not by human possibility have better expressed my own exact sentiments as regarded the estimation in which I held the said debts, had he been able to probe into the most secret recesses of my heart.
“ Rascally debts." Well, so they were, to all intents and purposes, as far as my will went; but unfortunately, to be effectually consigned to the shades below, it was absolutely necessary they should be defunct, and the bills in question showed most unequivocal signs of existence.
But whether dead or alive, thought I, it matters little now; for since my father has openly avowed his detestation of the whole genus collectively, and without one single exception being taken in their favour, not a vestige of doubt remained on my mind but that he would speedily desire his lawyer to dispose of the whole race, so voluminously piled on my table.
“You think I'll pay your debts, I suppose ?” again asked my accommodating companion, and as the inquiry then put appeared in the light of what lawyers term a “ leading question," I answered as I concluded was expected, with the small monosyllable, “ Yes.”
“Then you'll find yourself most wofully mistaken,” rejoined my father, betraying great solicitude for my extrication from difficulties; and having violently pulled the bell for no apparent purpose than to prove the strength of the rope appended to it, he stalked out of the room by one door, at the instant a servant obeyed the summons by walking in at another.
“Several persons have been inquiring for you, sir,” said my domestic, on reaching my own apartments.
“Not the least doubt of that,” thought I; therefore, entering my chamber with the somewhat antiquated resolve of reaching a decided conclusion as to the best plan of proceeding, for the hundredth time I turned over in my mind every probable and improbable measure, likely to bring about a liquidation of what commercial men term “ liabilities.”
I should previously have mentioned that, although the sums owing did not amount in value to the total of the national debt, yet was the aggregate sufficiently alarming to a boy of eighteen; since, by some mismanagement at Oxford, or carelessness of my affairs, or probably from both and other reasons combined, I had ample evidence to prove that two thousand pounds would not cover all the demands looked for at my hands; and although I well knew that eventually a large entailed property would be mine, yet was I equally convinced that, at the time I write of, I was not in possession of a five pound note beyond what my father chose to advance, and by this time, I trust, it has been made sufficiently clear that that worthy gentleman possessed very little inclination to favour me with an addenda to my already received and expended allowance.
What was to be done? The people must be paid, or I should actually be mobbed in the streets; and to get rid of their detested importunities, I would willingly have assigned my new cab and saddle horses to the hammer. But what would they produce? Nothing, or at least tantamount to nothing, when compared to what I owed-a mere drop in the ocean-a bagatelle.
How I came to squander such a sum, it would not be easy to explain; but that such was the case—at least, that the tradespeople said so~I was at no loss to believe.
Further application to my father was wholly out of the question ; not that the payment of treble the sum could in the
November, 1819.-VOL. LVI. NO. CCXXIII.
question ; not tication to my no loss to beli
slightest degree have interfered with his comforts, or hare called forth that forerunner of misery called retrenchment. Nothing of the sort ; but from the mistaken idea of letting the offence carry its own punishment, he entailed annoyances on us both, as by perusal may hereafter be perceived.
The predicament in which I was placed was anything but an enviable position, and where to look for help I knew not. Uncles, aunts, cousins of all sizes and degrees, I possessed in abundance, but what would they say, if the heir to the rich man of the family were to ask for the loan of a couple of thousand pounds? Would they lend it ?-not they. Some possibly had it not, while those who possessed the power, would indisputably marvel that one so young should have proved so extravagant; others would affirm that they made it a rule never to countenance or connive at a child's opposition to the pa ernal commands; and many, by way of saving themselves the trouble of making excuses, would have laughed in my face, and persisted in calling it “a hoax."
One person there was, however, who would have parted with the last trinket from her jewel box, rather than I should suffer a moment's pain, and that person--neeil I write it-was my mother. Had the sum required been twenty thousand instead of two, that dear and beloved parent would have disbursed it without a moment's hesitation ; but, alas, she possessed no control over the pecuniary department, independent of her husband, and for what purpose, therefore, should I render her miserable by a detail of grievances which I was confident she had not the power to remedy? Assuredly not. Since the calamity could not be averted by lamenting over my bad fortune, it was just as well not to annoy others with my woes.
I had heard of money lenders, and had read advertisements in the papers inserted through the kindness of that disinterested and most praiseworthy race; but where they dwelt, what might their appearance, dress, manners, and language, was to me asa sealed volume. But according to the turn my affairs were taking, circumstances bid fair for speedily furnishing an opportunity of making their acquaintance, and recollecting that the greatest friend I possessed-my relations excepted-was then stationed with his regiment at Hounslow, the bright idea of requesting his sage assistance was quickly followed up by putting the notion in practice. No sooner had the brilliant notion of seeking advice from Henry Harrington taken possession of my mind, than I resolved to push the experiment to the test forthwith, and putting my determination in practice, I was soon cantering down Rotten Row, en route to the abode of my intended adviser.