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she was agreeable in her person and manners, and proved a very good wife. Seven or eight years after they had been married, he rose one morning very early, and told his wife he was obliged to go to the Tower, to transact some particular business: the same day, at noon, his wife received a note from him, in which he informed her, that he was under a necessity of going to Holland, and should probably be absent three weeks or a month. He was absent from her seventeen years, during which time she neither heard from him nor of him. The evening before he returned, whilst she was at supper, and with her some of her friends and relations, particularly one Dr Rose, a physician, who had married her sister, a billet, without any name subscribed, was delivered to her, in which the writer requested the favour of her to give him a meeting the next evening in the Birdcage Walk, in St James's Park. When she had read her billet, she tossed it to Dr Rose, and laughing, 'You see, brother,' said she, as old as I am, I have got a gallant.' Rose, who perused the note with more attention, declared it to be Mr Howe's handwriting : this surprised all the company, and so much affected Mrs Howe, that she fainted away. However, she soon recovered, when it was agreed that Dr Rose and his wife, with the other gentlemen and ladies who were then at supper, should attend Mrs Howe the next evening to the Birdcage Walk. They had not been there more than five or six minutes, when Mr Howe came to them, and after saluting his friends, and embracing his wife, walked home with her; and they lived together in great harmony from that time till the day of his death.
But the most curious part of my tale remains to be related. When Howe left his wife, they lived in a house in Jermyn Street, near St James's Church: he went no farther than to a little street in Westminster, where he took a room, for which he paid five or six shillings a week; and changing his name, and disguising himself by wearing a black wig (for he was a fair man), he remained in this habitation during the whole time of his absence. He had had two children by his wife when he departed from her, who were both living at that time; but they both died young in a few years after. However, during their lives, the second or third year after their father disappeared, Mrs Howe was obliged to apply for an act of parliament, to procure a proper settlement of her husband's estate, and a provision for herself out of it during his absence, as it was uncertain whether he was alive or dead. This act he suffered to be solicited and passed, and enjoyed the pleasure of reading the progress of it in the votes, in a little coffee-house, near his lodging, which he frequented. Upon his quitting his house and family in the manner I have mentioned, Mrs Howe at first imagined, as she could not conceive any other cause for such an abrupt elopement, that he had contracted a large debt unknown to her, and by that means involved himself in difficulties which he could not easily surmount; and for some days she lived in continual apprehensions of demands from creditors, of seizures, executions, &c. But nothing of this kind happened : on the contrary, he did not only leave his estate quite free and unencumbered, but he paid the bills of every tradesman with whom he had any dealings; and upon examining his papers, in due time after he was gone, proper receipts and discharges were found from all persons, whether tradesmen or others, with whom he had any manner of transactions or money concerns.
Mrs Howe, after the death of her children, thought proper to lessen her family of servants, and the expenses of her housekeeping, and therefore removed from her house in Jermyn Street to a little house in Brewer Street, near Golden Square. Just over against her lived one Salt, a corn-chandler. About ten years after Howe's abdication, he contrived to make an acquaintance with Salt, and was at length in such a degree of intimacy with him, that he usually dined with Salt once or twice a week. From the room in which they ate, it was not difficult to look into Mrs Howe's dining-room, where she generally sat and received her company; and Salt, who believed Howe to be a bachelor, frequently recommended his own wife to him as a suitable match. During the last seven
years of this gentleman's absence, he went every Sunday to St James's Church, and used to sit in Mr Salt's seat, where he had a view of his wife, but could not easily be seen by her.
After he returned home, he never would confess, even to his most intimate friends, what was the real cause of such a singular conduct: apparently, there was none ; but whatever it was, he was certainly ashamed to own it. Dr Rose has often said to me, that he believed his brother Howe would never have returned to his wife, if the money which he took with him, which was supposed to have been L.1000 or L.2000, had not been all spent: and he must have been a good economist, and frugal in his manner of living, otherwise his money would scarce have held out; for I imagine he had his whole fortune by him, I mean what he carried away with him in money or bankbills, and daily took out of his bag, like the Spaniard in Gil Blas, what was sufficient for his expenses.
Phrenologists, we fancy, would say that Dr Howe was labouring under the influence of diseased secretiveness a form of mental malady far from uncommon, but seldom manifested on the scale that has been described.
A STORY OF A COUNTRY TOWN.
The small country town of H-, in which I reside, is a bustling, thriving, little place in the western part of the kingdom. Amongst other evidences of its prosperity, it exhibits an unusual number of respectable shops. Being a small community, we, like all small communities, take sometimes a very great interest in very little matters, especially when of a local nature. It is also said, and cannot well be denied, that we are a little given to scandal. We know what everybody in our little town is about, and everybody canvasses every other body's affairs
with the greatest freedom. Yet the old - established inhabitants have a sort of clannish regard for each other, and we do not usually treat any with severity, except strangers who may be endeavouring to obtain a settlement amongst us.
Some years ago, one of our principal shopkeepers died in a state of insolvency, and his shop was shut up, to the great disfigurement of the town, as it occupied a very conspicuous place near its centre. Every one felt concerned at the dulness which its closed windows gave to the street; but the predominant feeling was curiosity as to who should be its next tenant. On this point, a variety of rumours was set afloat. One day, it was confidently asserted that the shop was taken by a great tea-merchant from the capital; the next, an extensive haberdasher from an adjacent city was said to be the
At length, a tenant did appear-a native of England—a mild, gentle-looking man, of somewhat slender form, and about forty years of age. Strange to say, nobody knew or could learn anything about him; neither whence he came nor what were his means. It was only seen that he opened shop as a tea-merchant and grocer, under the name of Johnson.
The public remained in this ignorance for a few weeks; but at length a rumour got abroad that Johnson was a person of doubtful character. By and by, specific charges were heard of. It was said that he had once committed an extensive forgery, and only escaped the penalty of the law through the forbearance of the parties whom he had injured. Another charge was, that he had deserted his wife and three children, who were now starving in a remote and obscure village in England. He was also said to be a fraudulent bankrupt, having robbed his creditors to a large amount: he was, lastly, a person destitute of religious principle.
I cannot say that we were much grieved at learning all this of the new-comer, for we had a decided prejudice against him, and would have much preferred seeing his shop occupied by one of the native inhabitants of our
burgh. Some went so far as to entertain a decided wish to drive Johnson from amongst us, and with this view, did not scruple to give currency to the scandals which had been raised against him. The consequence of their efforts was, that Johnson obtained no business. Three weeks elapsed from his opening shop, without his being known to have obtained a single customer, except for the most trifling articles.
Curious to know how he felt under the treatment he was receiving, I and another shopkeeper availed ourselves of the opportunity presented by our undertaking to collect subscriptions for the widow-herself dying-and small family of a respectable townsman, a tanner to business, who had died suddenly, and in poor circumstances, in consequence of certain heavy losses he had recently sustained. Provided with this apology-for we had no hope whatever of obtaining a contribution from Johnson-we entered his shop; my friend winking significantly to me as we did so. To our surprise, we were received with the utmost kindness of manner. We had expected blustering hauteur and insolence, from which my companion hoped to derive some amusement. But the very opposite conduct was exhibited, and I must say it threw us out. In order to draw him forth, we asked how he had found business since he came to H
; to which he replied, that he had as yet done nothing, but it was not surprising, as he was wholly a stranger, and no doubt it was natural for every one to prefer old acquaintances. He hoped, however, that by and by, when the people should know him a little better, they would favour him with a share of their custom. “And,' he added with a significant expression, but with the same gentle smile, and the same mild tone, 'when the good folk here know me a little longer, and consequently a little better, they will, I hope, see cause to change the opinion they have formed of me, and will be sorry, I daresay, for having believed-still more sorry for having taken any share in propagating—the absurd stories about me that have been raised by falsehood and malice.'