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capture him. Luckily for poor Heinrich, there were two sides to this question, as well as to the river; and just as his little remaining strength showed him that there were some half dozen more strokes between himself and eternity, he perceived to his joy, a little bark putting out towards him from the suburbs of Kehl. Before long, he was safely seated between a Prussian corporal, and two fishermen, recruited by a draught of brandy, and perfectly regardless of the random shots
which plashed into the water round them from the Fort du Peuple. He sunk on his knees, as they touched the opposite shore, in deep thankfulness to that Eternal Being, among whose acknowledged subjects be now found himself. Then he thought of his “Genius,” which had not deserted him ; and last of all, after a sigh devoted to his family and poor Marguerite, he could not help glancing curiously at his little finger, on which still glittered the topaz ring.
" It must be a talisman,' he said to himself, "a talisman, with which, whatever be my condition, I swear from this day forth never to part !”
THE STRUGGLES OF JACOB BANCROFT.
By J. HOLLINGSHEAD. Near the latter part of the last century, there stood by Bow Church, in Cheapside, an old-fashioned banking-house, which has long been swept away by changes and improvements. It was not in the main thoroughfare, but up a passage, and, to get to it, you had to pass by a little plot of ground, laid out, tastefully enough, as a garden. The place was secluded and quiet, protected from the noise of the street traffic; and it would not have been unlike the court-yard of a monastery, but for the passing to and fro of anxious merchants, and the click and rattle of the silver crowns and golden guineas, which never ceased during the whole of the busy day. The house itself was solid, sombre, and depressing in appearance, built of dark red brick, and heavily shadowed by the walls which frowned upon
it from the three sides of the quadrangle. Ascending two worn steps, and pushing open a couple of stifly-moving doors, with windows protected by brass wicker-work and short green curtains, you found yourself in the chief public room of the bank. The floor was black and uneven ; there was a long, dark counter with several desks, at which stood cashiers with piles of metal money and small copper shovels: and the body of the place was filled with other desks, containing large red-bound books, with heavy metal clasps, in which diligent clerks were making entries with long flowing quills. There were maps and almanacks upon the walls ; over the large, deep fire-place were hanging, crosswise, two guns, and two swords, ready for service, in the event of attempted burglary; and at the further end of the bank, nearly opposite the entrance door, was a small, dingy, curtained room —the private retreat of the partners of the house. How many partners there really were in the bank, none of the clerks ever knew, the private accounts being kept in a small, black ledger with three shining clasps—each clasp locked with a separate key. Two managing members of the firm always attended from vine to five-middle-aged, sleek, comfortable men, who were harsh and exacting to their clerks, stern and unbending to small and needy clients of the bank, but fawning and obsequious to the rich men who kept their accounts there. Men who were not large and powerful merchants walked timidly up the bank in the face of the clerks, towards that little room at the end, with its pictures, its low fire-place, its Turkey carpet, and the two acting partners sitting at their respective writing tables; and when the bright clasps of the black private ledger were unlocked, and they saw the two partners looking sharply over the epitomised history of their transactions with the bank, they trembled, lest their request for increased accommodation should be refused, and their business sent unrelentingly to ruin.
It is strange that the trade in money should be so different from other trades. Men walk boldly into granaries to buy corn—boldly into markets to buy silk and wool, but when their trading necessities send them to their banker's to buy money, they go with bated breath and doffed hat, as if they were asking a favour or a charity, and were not prepared to give one value for another. The banker, on the other hand, becomes used to these signs of fear and reverence which men always pay to gold, and the power that it represents, and at last he comes to believe that he is a dispenser of a potent something that men caunot do withoutma benevolent patron of trade-a man who holds the keys of commerce in his hands. He forgets (as those two partners did, with their mixture of sternness and servility) that he is merely the depository of other men's spare capital—a bubble inflated with borrowed wealth.
There was small love in that old banking-house between client and principal-employer and employed. Men came there reluctantly to get what they could not—or thonght they could not-get elsewhere ; and there was not a clerk in the place who was not hired at the very lowest price that his necessities compelled him to sell himself for. Many were old, care-worn clerks with large families—men who were trusty, careful, and exact-preferring slowness in performing their monotonous duties to the risk of making one mistake, and probably losing their humble situations. I am afraid there was little of the dignity, though much of the honesty, of labour, throughout that disinal establishment.
Punctually at the appointed hour, as it struck by the bells of Bow Charch, they took their places in their threadbare coats and dingy neckcloths—poor in the midst of wealth which was destined never to reach them-needy amidst the bundles of crisp bank-notes, the tills full of glittering gold, and the heaps of shining silver.
Perhaps, the poorest of all the staff was Jacob Bancroft, a clerk, who, in position, was ranked with the juniors, although certainly full thirty years of age. He was the only child of an old merchant, who had died a bankrupt, indebted to the bank—so the partners said—to the extent of nine hundred pounds ; leaving Jacob penniless, with an infirm mother and a crippled female orphan cousin dependant upon him for support. Jacob, in his extremity, bad applied to the bank for employment, and had been engaged at a very low salary, upon the condition that a portion should be deducted annually until the debt that his father bad left unpaid should be discharged. From sheer necessity, with starvation staring him and his family in the face, he consented to the hard terms, and took his place amongst the other clerks in the old banking-house.
Jacob Bancroft took a small cottage for his mother, his cousin, and bimself, at Islington, walking to business every morning across the fields. He was a short, spare man, with large, restless eyes, and pale, dreamy face. He had some share of learning and refine:nent, but little physical energy; he had a strong imagination, with little strength of will ; and, while he was cursed with poverty, he was not blessed with that listless contentment which makes poverty endurable. His mother, always an ailing woman, was worn down by the loss of her husband, and their sudden reverse of fortune becoming a confirmed, fretful invalid. The cousin who lived with them, called Ethel Bancroft—although her real name was Armytage was an orphan child of the sister of the late Mr. Bancroft. She had been left on the death of her mother (then a widow), with about two thousand pounds in the charge of her uncle, and her little fortune had been totally lost in the general wreck of his affairs. Although scarcely more than twoand-twenty years of age, she was a comparatively helpless cripple, having lost the use of the whole of her right side from a paralytic affection. She
was more womanly than her age, or her delicate and interesting appearance would have led you to expect; with a firm, well-formed character, worthy of a stronger body. She exerted herself in the household affairs, and in attending upon her sick aunt, as well as she was able; and her cheerful, resigned spirit and hopeful conversation had, to some extent, a beneficial effect upon Jacob when he returned to their humble home at night, after his long day of thankless labour.
Jacob's was not a disposition to accommodate itself, without a hard struggle, if at all, to their altered state of circumstances. He had few friends, and little knowledge of the world ; and, while he could not shut out from his mind the memory of the home that had only so recently been taken from them, he saw in his gloomy, confined view, little prospect of relief from their present poverty. His mother's health was rapidly failing, adding to the expense and embarrassment of their little household ; and his cousin, while she was the one gleam of sunshine about the place, was, at the same time, with her little fortune lost, a standing reproach to him as an example of the results of his father's folly and rash speculation.
Day by day he went his weary journey across the fields to the hateful city. Black as the old banking-house was, it always looked blacker to him than to any other man in it. 'I he eternal click and rattle of the golden guineas, as they were shovelled recklessly and mechanically from counter to till by the cashiers, sounded mockingly in his ears, driving him almost mad. The very rustle of the bank-notes jarred upon his nerves, and, musically as it sounded to those who were receiving them in payment, to him it was harsh and disagreeable, as the filing of a saw.
All day heaps of money were pouring in and pouring out, in two great streams, before his eyes; and when he should have been attending to his duties his mind was occupied with visions of what he could and would do with only a tithe of the wealth which belonged to others, but which they were always, it seemed, spitefully parading before him, to taunt him in his misery. The figures that he was employed to enter in books—bloodless abstractions as they were-assumed, to his distempered fancy, the form and substance of the things they were only there to represent ; and when he put his finger upon them he seemed to grasp them in his hand, and his glazed eye saw a day-dream picture of his cousin with her portion returned—his mother with the comforts that her condition so much needed, and himself once more a free, unfettered man, and not a miserable slave perhaps, the most miserable—in a house of bondaged men.
The smallness of his salary, and the many calls upon it, compelled an adherence to the most rigid economy. When his usual hour for dinner arrived, he frequently passed it with a crust of bread, walking out to Bunhill Fields and back, as far as his time would allow him. This was a short relief from the hateful confinement of the banking-house, and, when he returned, he watched the weary hours revolving on the clock, until the welcome time came to lock up the strong room, and leave the dark gold house for his humble home across the quiet fields.
Many a time did he linger in those fields at night, watching the dark trees and the twinkling stars, and soothing the dangerous inquietude of his troubled breast with the calm influence of nature.
So the days and the nights, for a few months, wore slowly on, until one evening towards winter, as he and Ethel were sitting before their first fire, Mrs. Bancroft having retired to bed, some old feeling came across Jacob, urging him to speak to his cousin upon a subject that had remained closed for many years.
“ Ethel,” he said, “it is now four years, to-night, since I asked you to become my wife.”
“It is, Jacob,” she replied, with a slight shudder.
“My feelings are unchanged, although my prospects are now very different. You refused me then ; will you do so again!”
She wept, but was silent.
“Am I,” he continued, with something of sternness in his tone, “to suppose, as I did then, that your love is bestowed upon another ?"
Her weeping became sobbing, and still she spoke not. Jacob had supposed the truth, although he was never to learn it. The poor, crippled girl has listened, years back, with a beating heart, in the days of her prosperity, to a few soft, kind words spoken by one who thought little of what he was saying, although it was to take deep root, and be cherished in a gentle memory for ever.
“Come, dear Ethel,” said Jacob, more kindly, and drawing near her, “ tell me if I may hope for your consent?”
“We are too poor,” she murmured, checking her sobs.
They burnt into Jacob's soul like coals of fire.
A long and painful silence followed, broken first by Ethel. “Let me leave you, Jacob,” she said ; “ weak and helpless asI am,
I must be a hopeless burden to you. Let me leave you, and throw myself upon the charity of strangers, who are not so poor as we are."
Again the abhorred word fell gratingly upon Jacob's ear. “ Never !” said he, with fierce earnestness.
“My father gambled your little patrimony away, leaving you—leaving us all the beggars that we are, and I will not desert you, Ethel, in your need. Never !" Mrs. Bancroft's voice was heard, faintly calling for Ethel.
Say,” he exclaimed, with low vehemence," that yon will be my wife, and we will go far away into the country, where I can work and struggle for you from morn to night? For God's sake, Ethel, say · Yes,' and let me turn my back on the accursed city, whose hard selfishness, and crime, and suffering, make my heart sick !"
“No," she said, with firmness, drying her tears," it must not be. Look at me, Jacob—am I fit to be a poor man's wife? We are too poor; it must not be."
She was about to leave the room, but a thought seemed to strike her, and she returned to Jacob, and kissed him on the cheek. She then wished him good night, and closed the door gently behind her.
All night Jacob sat where she left him, and at daybreak he wandered into the fields.
In the morning he went down to the banking-house with those two short words of Ethel's hissing in his ears, and weighing on his heart. The place was now more hateful, the two partners more repulsive, and the rattle of the money more maddening than ever. Every man who took away a bag of gold was the object of his envy; every man who brought