Chapter 31

Former benevolence now repaid with unexpected interest

MR. THORNHILL made his appearance with a smile, which he seldom wanted, and was going to embrace his uncle, which the other repulsed with an air of disdain. “No fawning, sir, at present,” cried the Baronet, with a look of severity, “the only way to my heart is by the road of honour; but here I only see complicated instances of falsehood, cowardice, and oppression. How is it, sir, that this poor man, for whom I know you professed a friendship, is used thus hardly? His daughter vilely seduced as a recompense for his hospitality, and he himself thrown into prison, perhaps but for resenting the insult? His son too, whom you feared to face as a man—”

“Is it possible, sir,” interrupted his nephew,“that my uncle could object that as a crime, which his repeated instructions alone have persuaded me to avoid?”

“Your rebuke,” cried Sir William, “is just; you have acted in this instance prudently and well, though not quite as your father would have done: my brother indeed was the soul of honour; but thou—yes you have acted in this instance perfectly right, and it has my warmest approbation.”

“And I hope,” said his nephew, “that the rest of my conduct will not be found to deserve censure. I appeared, sir, with this gentleman’s daughter at some places of public amusement; thus what was levity scandal called by a harsher name, and it was reported that I had debauched her. I waited on her father in person, willing to clear the thing to his satisfaction, and he received me only with insult and abuse. As for the rest, with regard to his being here, my attorney and steward can best inform you, as I cannot the management of business entirely to them. If he has contracted debts and is unwilling or even unable to pay them, it is their business to proceed in this manner, and I see no hardship or injustice in pursuing the most legal means of redress.”

“If this,” cried Sir William, “be as you have stated it, there is nothing unpardonable in your offence; and though your conduct might have been more generous in not suffering this gentleman to be oppressed by subordinate tyranny, yet it has been at least equitable.”

“He cannot contradict a single particular,” replied the ’Squire, “I defy him to do so, and several of my servants are ready to attest what I say. Thus, sir,” continued he, finding that I was silent, for in fact I could not contradict him, “thus, sir, my own innocence is vindicated; but though at your intreaty I am ready to forgive this gentleman every other offence, yet his attempts to lesson me in your esteem, excite a resentment that I cannot govern. And this too at a time when his son was actually preparing to take away my life; this, I say, was such guilt, that I am determined to let the law take its course. I have here the challenge that was sent me, and two witnesses to prove it; one of my servants has been wounded dangerously, and even though my uncle himself should dissuade me, which I know he will not, yet I will see public justice done and he shall suffer for it.”

“Thou monster,” cried my wife, “hast thou not had vengeance enough already, but must my poor boy feel thy cruelty? I hope that good Sri William will protect us, for my son is as innocent as a child; I am sure he is, and never did harm to man.”

“Madam,” replied the good man, “your wishes for his safety are not greater than mine; but I am sorry to find his guilt too plain; and if my nephew persists”— But the appearance of Jenkinson and the gaoler’s two servants now called off our attention, who entered, hauling in a tall man very genteelly drest, and answering the description already given of the ruffian who had carried off my daughter—“Here,” cried Jenkinson, pulling him in, “here we have him; and if ever there was a candidate for Tyburn this is one.”

The moment Mr. Thornhill perceived the prisoner, and Jenkinson, who had him in custody, he seemed to shrink back with terror. His face became pale with conscious guilt, and he would have withdrawn; but Jenkinson, who perceived his design, stopt him.—“What ’Squire,” cried he, “are you ashamed of your two old acquaintances, Jenkinson and Baxter? but his is the way that all great men forget their friends, though I am resolved we will not forget you. Our prisoner, please your honour,” continued he, turning to

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