Hardie winced: this was the sort of appeal to touch him. But soon he recovered his _sang froid._ "Thank you," said he, "I'm much obliged to you; now I'm in the right and you are in the wrong." And he put himself under protection of the police; and fee'd them so royally that they were zealous on his behalf and rough and dictatorial even with those who thronged the place only to moan and lament and hold up their ruined children. "You _must_ move on, you Misery," said the police. And they were right: Misery gains nothing by stopping the way; nothing by bemoaning itself.
But if the banker, naturally egotistical, and now entirely wrapped in his own plans, and fears, and well-earned torments, was deaf to the anguish of his clients, there were others in his house who felt it keenly and deeply. Alfred and Jane were heart-broken: they sat hand in hand in a little room, drawn closer by misfortune, and heard the groans at their door; and the tears of pity ran down their own cheeks hot with shame; and Alfred wrote on the fly-leaf of his "Ethics" a vow to pay every shilling his father owed these poor people--before he died. It was like him, and like his happy age, at which the just and the generous can command, in imagination, the means to do kindred deeds.
Soon he found, to his horror, that he had seen but a small percentage of the distress his father had caused; the greater griefs, as usual, stayed at home. Behind the gadding woes lay a terrible number of silent, decent ruined homes and broken hearts, and mixed sorrows so unmerited, so complicated, so piteous, and so cruel, that he was ready to tear his hair, to know them and not be able to relieve them instantly.
Of that mere sample I give a mere sample: divine the bulk then; and revolve a page of human history often turned by the people, but too little studied by statisticians and legislators.
Mr. Esgar, a respectable merchant, had heavy engagements, to meet which his money lay at the old bank. Living at a distance, he did not hear the news till near dinner-time, and he had promised to take his daughters to a ball that night. He did so; left them there; went home, packed up their clothes and valuables, and next day levanted with them to America, taking all the money he could scrape together in London, and so he passed his ruin on to others. Esgar was one of those who wear their honesty long but loose: it was his first disloyal act in business. "Dishonesty made me dishonest," was his excuse. _Valeat quantum._
John Shaw, a steady footman, had saved and saved, from twenty-one years old to thirty-eight, for "Footman's Paradise," a public-house. He was now engaged to a comely barmaid, who sympathised with him therein, and he had just concluded a bargain for the "Rose and Crown" in the suburbs. Unluckily--for him--the money had not been paid over. The blow fell: he lost his all; not his money only, but his wasted life. He could not be twenty-one again; so he hanged himself within forty-eight hours, and was buried by the parish, grumbling a little, pitying none.
James and Peter Gilpin, William Scott, and Joel Paton, were poor fishermen and Anglo-Saxon heroes--that is, heroes with an eye to the main chance; they risked their lives at sea to save a ship and get salvage; failing there, they risked their lives all the same, like fine fellows as they were, to save the crew. They succeeded, but ruined their old boat. A subscription was raised, and prospered so, that a boat-builder built them a new one on tick, price L. 85; and the publicans said, "Drink, boys, drink; the subscription will cover all; it is up to L. 120 already." The subscription money was swallowed with the rest, and the Anglo-Saxon heroes hauled to prison.
Doctor Phillips, aged seventy-four, warned by growing infirmities, had sold a tidy practice, with house, furniture, and good-will, for a fair price, and put it in the bank, awaiting some investment. The money was gone now, and the poor old doctor, with a wife and daughter and a crutch, was at once a pauper and an exile: for he had sold under the usual condition, not to practise within so many miles of his successor. He went to that successor, and begged permission to be his assistant at a small, small salary. "I want a younger man," was the reply. Then he went round to his old patients, and begged a few half-guineas to get him a horse and chaise and keep him over the first month in his new place. They pitied him, but most of them were sufferers too by Hardie, and all they gave him did but buy a donkey and cart; and with that he and his went slowly and sadly to a village ten miles distant from the place where all his life had been spent in comfort and good credit. The poor old gentleman often looked back from his cart at the church spires of Barkington.