Chapter 55

Bread and water - Pair play - Fashion - Colonel B- - Joseph Sell - The kindly glow - Easiest manner imaginable.

‘I MUST do something,’ said I, as I sat that night in my lonely apartment, with some bread and a pitcher of water before me.

Thereupon taking some of the bread, and eating it, I considered what I was to do. ‘I have no idea what I am to do,’ said I, as I stretched my hand towards the pitcher, ‘unless (and here I took a considerable draught) I write a tale or a novel - That bookseller,’ I continued, speaking to myself, ‘is certainly much in need of a tale or a novel, otherwise he would not advertise for one. Suppose I write one, I appear to have no other chance of extricating myself from my present difficulties; surely it was Fate that conducted me to his window.

‘I will do it,’ said I, as I struck my hand against the table; ‘I will do it.’ Suddenly a heavy cloud of despondency came over me. Could I do it? Had I the imagination requisite to write a tale or a novel? ‘Yes, yes,’ said I, as I struck my hand again against the table, ‘I can manage it; give me fair play, and I can accomplish anything.’

But should I have fair play? I must have something to maintain myself with whilst I wrote my tale, and I had but eighteenpence in the world. Would that maintain me whilst I wrote my tale? Yes, I thought it would, provided I ate bread, which did not cost much, and drank water, which cost nothing; it was poor diet, it was true, but better men than myself had written on bread and water; had not the big man told me so? or something to that effect, months before?

It was true there was my lodging to pay for; but up to the present time I owed nothing, and perhaps, by the time that the people of the house asked me for money, I should have written a tale or a novel, which would bring me in money; I had paper, pens, and ink, and, let me not forget them, I had candles in my closet, all paid for, to light me during my night work. Enough, I would go doggedly to work upon my tale or novel.

But what was the tale or novel to be about? Was it to be a tale of fashionable life, about Sir Harry Somebody, and the Countess something? But I knew nothing about fashionable people, and cared less; therefore how should I attempt to describe fashionable life? What should the tale consist of? The life and adventures of some one. Good - but of whom? Did not Mr. Petulengro mention one Jemmy Abershaw? Yes. Did he not tell me that the life and adventures of Jemmy Abershaw would bring in much money to the writer? Yes, but I knew nothing of that worthy. I heard, it is true, from Mr. Petulengro, that when alive he committed robberies on the hill, on the side of which Mr. Petulengro had pitched his tents, and that his ghost still haunted the hill at midnight; but those were scant materials out of which to write the man’s life. It is probable indeed, that Mr. Petulengro would be able to supply me with further materials if I should apply to him, but I was in a hurry, and could not afford the time which it would be necessary to spend in passing to and from Mr. Petulengro, and consulting him. Moreover, my pride revolted at the idea of being beholden to Mr. Petulengro for the materials of the history. No, I would not write the history of Abershaw. Whose then - Harry Simms? Alas, the life of Harry Simms had been already much better written by himself than I could hope to do it; and, after all, Harry Simms, like Jemmy Abershaw, was merely a robber. Both, though bold and extraordinary men, were merely highwaymen. I questioned whether I could compose a tale likely to excite any particular interest out of the exploits of a mere robber. I want a character for my hero, thought I, something higher than a mere robber; some one like - like Colonel B-. By the way, why should I not write the life and adventures of Colonel B-, of Londonderry in Ireland?

A truly singular man was this same Colonel B-, of Londonderry in Ireland; a personage of most strange and incredible feats and daring, who had been a partizan soldier, a bravo - who, assisted by certain discontented troopers, nearly succeeded in stealing the crown and regalia from the Tower of London; who attempted to hang the Duke of Ormond at Tyburn; and whose strange, eventful career did not terminate even with his life, his dead body, on the circulation of an unfounded report that he did not come to his

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