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SECOND EXAMINATION - COUNT ALTERONI.
FORTY-TWO days after the appearance of Mr. Tomlinson's name
in the Gazette, among the category of Bankrupts, the second examination of this
gentleman took place at the Bankruptcy Court in Basinghall Street.
In an arm-chair, behind a desk raised upon a species of dais,
sate the commissioner, embellished with a wig and gown. Close under the desk was
placed the registrar, also with wig and gown; and two or three barristers, who
were retained in the case, were similarly adorned. In a sort of pew on the right
of the commissioner sate the official assignee, with a pile of books and papers
before him. About two hundred persons thronged the room - most of whom, by their
sullen and sinister looks, might be easily recognised as the creditors of the
bankrupt. At a distance from the box in which witnesses were placed during
examination, stood Count Alteroni, with folded arms and severe countenance.
A few moments before eleven o'clock a bustle was beard near
the door; and a whisper of "Here's the trade assignee," ran through
Mr. Greenwood entered the court with a patronising smile upon
his countenance, and an easy kind of gait, as if he were by no means
dissatisfied with himself. He was dressed in the most elegant manner; and his
left hand played negligently, as usual, with the costly gold chain that
festooned over his waistcoat.
As he passed through the crowd of his friend's creditors,
many of whom were known to him, he addressed a few words in an off-hand and
patronising manner to those whom he recognised at the moment.
"Fine day, Mr. Styles. How are Mrs. Styles and those
dear children?" (Mr. Styles was an old batchelor.)- "Ah! Mr. Milksop,
how are you? quite delighted to see you! Why, upon my word, you are getting
quite stout." (Poor Mr. Milksop was as thin as a lath.) "But every
thing prospers [-251-] with you, I suppose! - Well,
Mr. Chivers, how do you do? Any thing new on the Stock-Exchange? I
believe you don't suffer much by this business of Tomlinson's, do
"Only three thousand - that's all!" returned Mr.
Chivers, with a smile which would have turned new milk sour.
"Oh! a mere song!" exclaimed Greenwood, tossing up
his head. "Well, Vokes, are you here? - you don't mean to say that
you're wasting your time in this manner, eh ? -Ah I Tullett, my good
friend - delighted to see you. Why, how well you do look, to be sure!" (Mr.
Tullett was in a rapid decline; and he "grinned horribly a ghastly
smile" at this salutation.)
In this manner did Mr. Greenwood work his way through the
crowd, until he reached the desk of the official assignee, by the side of whom
he took a seat.
"Where's the bankrupt?" exclaimed the clerk of the
court in a loud and imperious tone of voice, while Mr. Greenwood bestowed one of
his patronising smiles upon the Commissioner.
"Here," replied Tomlinson; and he stood forward
close by the witness-box.
He was pale and altered; and the marks of care and anxiety
were visible upon his countenance. The glance he cast around him, as be took his
stand in the presence of the Commissioner, was hurried send fearful :- he almost
dreaded that the face of Michael Martin would meet his eyes as he thus hastily
scanned the crowd by whom he was surrounded. But his alarm was without
foundation: the old cashier was not there.
The examination of the bankrupt then commenced.
In answer to the questions put to him, he stated that he had
delivered in to the assignee as full and complete a statement of his affairs as
the loss of his books (which had been abstracted by the cashier at the time of
the robbery) would permit.
Mr. Greenwood observed that the accounts were highly
satisfactory, and would doubtless please every creditor present. It was,
however, unfortunate that the estate would not pay a single farthing in the
"Very unfortunate indeed," growled a creditor.
"I would much rather have heard that there was a dividend, than that the
accounts are so very satisfactory," murmured another.
"Mr. Tomlinson's creditors cannot complain of him, your
Honour," said Mr. Greenwood to the Commissioner "on the contrary, they
have every reason to be perfectly satisfied with him., He has given up every
"Why, there was nothing left to give up!" ejaculated Mr.
"Nothing left to give up!" cried Mr. Greenwood, casting a
stern glance upon the unfortunate creditor; "permit me, sir, as the
trade-assignee duly chosen at the last meeting - permit me, sir, to inform you that
there were the desks, counters, stools, and various fixtures of the bank - all of
which Mr. Tomlinson surrendered in the most honourable and straightforward
manner, and which have realized a hundred and eighty-one pounds, seventeen
sixpence, for the benefit of the estate."
"Well - and what has become of that sum?" demanded
"Consumed by the expenses of the fiat," answered Mr.
Greenwood coolly. "But, as I was observing, your Honour, when I was
interrupted - interrupted in a most indecent manner - the position of Mr.
Tomlinson is a most honourable one "
"Perhaps it is even enviable," said the consumptive
"And I for one," added Mr. Greenwood, "shall
certainly sign his certificate."
"Have no tidings been heard of the cashier who
absconded?" inquired the Commissioner.
"None, sir," answered the official assignee and Mr.
"What has become of' the bankrupt's furniture at his
private residence?" demanded a creditor.
"His landlord issued a distress for a year's rent the
moment the bank stopped," answered Greenwood. "The amount due to this most
hard-hearted and unfeeling landlord is a hundred and twenty pounds, arid the
furniture would not fetch more at an auction. I therefore, with the full
concurrence of the official assignee, allowed that very harsh man to keep the
A barrister, who had been retained for one of the creditors,
then proceeded to examine Mr Tomlinson.
"You allege that about ninety-four thousand pounds were
abstracted from the bank by the fugitive cashier?"
"I do - or as nearly as I can guess."
"And yet, by this balance-sheet, I perceive that your
liabilities are two hundred thousand pounds. Were you not insolvent when the
robbery was perpetrated?"
"It would appear so, certainly."
"Then how do you account for that immense deficiency?"
"I can account for it in no other manner than by
presuming that my cashier had carried on a systematic mode of plunder for some
years past; but as I placed implicit reliance on him, I was never led to an
investigation of my actual position."
"Do you mean to say that your cashier embezzled many
thousand pounds every year?"
"I am afraid that such was the fact."
The barrister asked no farther questions.
Another opposing counsel interrogated the bankrupt relative
to his affairs; but Tomlinson's replies were given in a manner which afforded no
scope for suspicion.
Ah! none divined how much it cost that unhappy man thus to
heap shame and infamy upon the head of a faithful old clerk, who had never
wronged him of a shilling!
The case terminated by the declaration of tie Commissioner
that the bankrupt had passed his second examination.
Tomlinson was glad to escape from the frightful ordeal to
which his feelings had been subjected for two mortal hours; and, while he
hurried home to conceal his emotions from every eye, and meditate upon his
condition in private, Mr. Greenwood busied himself in obtaining signatures for
his certificate. This a as an easy matter to a man of the financier's powers of
persuasion; and that very afternoon the names of four-fifths of the bankrupt's
creditors were attached to the parchment which was to relieve him of all past
When Greenwood took the certificate to Tomlinson in the
evening, he said, "My dear fellow, you will soon be a new man. In one-and-twenty
days this document will have passed the Lord Chancellor and the Court of Review,
and be duly registered in Basinghall Street. I will then lend you a thousand
pounds, at only twenty per cent., to start you as a stock-broker. You see how
well I have managed your business. You have passed through the Court - and you
have kept your furniture."
[-252-] "Which I would have given up to my creditors, had you
permitted me," said Tomlinson sorrowfully.
"Nonsense, my dear fellow! Never give away what you can
keep by a little manoeuvring. Your landlord can now withdraw his friendly
seizure, and all will be well."
"Nothing will render me happy until I find out that poor
old man who has so nobly, so generously sacrificed himself for me," observed
Tomlinson in a tone of deep dejection. "What can have become of him?"
"Oh! do not bother yourself about him," cried Greenwood
impatiently. "He will turn up one of these days; and then you can
remunerate him handsomely."
"Ah! that would indeed be a moment of supreme happiness
for me!" ejaculated Tomlinson.
"Yes," continued Greenwood, musing: "a five-pound
note will recompense the old fellow well for his conduct."
"A five-pound note!" repeated Tomlinson. "Can you be
in earnest, Greenwood?"
"Well, if you think it is too much, give him a couple of
sovereigns," said Greenwood, coolly. "But I must take leave of you now:
compelled to devote a couple of hours this evening to the interests of that free
and enlightened body whom I have the honour to represent in parliament. So,
adieu, Tomlinson; and when your certificate is registered, come to me."
Mr. Greenwood then took his departure from the bankrupt's
"The heartless villain!2 cried Tomlinson, when the door had
closed behind the financier; then, after a long pause, he added, "and yet
his ingenuity has saved me from eternal degradation and shame!"
In the mean the Count Alteroni returned to his dwelling at
Richmond. He reached home at about five o'clock in the evening, and found his
wife and daughter anxiously awaiting his arrival. The moment he entered the
drawing-room, the ladies cast a timid and yet inquiring glance towards him; and
their hearts sank within them when their eyes caught sight of his severe and
sombre expression of countenance.
"My dear wife-my beloved daughter," he said, advancing
towards them, and taking the hand of each in his own, "my worst fears are
confirmed. The bank will not pay one sixpence of dividend: Greenwood has contrived to get his fellow-conspirator clear
of the tribunal; and the creditors have not a hope left. It was with the
greatest difficulty that I could so far master my feelings as to avoid an
interference in those most iniquitous proceedings. But my position - my rank
forbade toe from attempting aught to expose those villains. And now, my dear
wife - now, my charming Isabella - prepare yourselves to hear the worst. We are
"Ruined!" exclaimed both the countess and her daughter at
the same moment.
"Oh! no," added Isabella: "we have many friends, my
"To whom I will not apply," said the Count, proudly.
"No - we must wrestle with our evil fortunes, and trust to the advent of
better times. At present every thing seems to conspire to crush us; and should
that contemplated marriage take place in Castelcicala "
"My dearest husband," interrupted the Countess, "do
not aggravate present griefs by the apprehension at that which as yet only
menaces us. It is scarcely possible that the Grand Duke will perpetrate such a
"And that title of Marchioness of Ziani - and that
pension, - do they not speak volumes?" cried the count bitterly. "Oh! there
are moments when I feel inclined to listen to the representations of those
faithful friends in my own country with whom I correspond, and who are ever
counselling me to "
"Ah! my dearest father," exclaimed Isabella, bursting
into tears; "would you endanger that life which is so precious to my mother
and myself? would you plunge your native hand in the horrors of a civil war? Oh!
let us hear all our present ills with firmness and resolution; and if there be a
guardian Providence - as I devoutly believe - He will not allow us to be persecuted
"Noble girl!" cried the count; "you teach use my
duty;" - and he embraced his lovely daughter with the utmost warmth and
"Yes," said the countess, fondly pressing her husband's
hand, "we are crushed only for a time. Our course is now clear:- we must
give up our present establishment; and - as we have, thank God! no debts "
"Ah! it is that which cuts me to the very soul !"
interrupted the count. "You are not yet acquainted with the extent of our
misfortunes. A brave fellow countryman of mine, who supported me in all the
plane which I endeavoured to carry out for the welfare of the Castelcicalans,
and who was driven into exile on my account, was imprisoned in London a few
months ago for a considerable sum of money. I could not leave him to perish in a
gaol. I became answerable for him - and the creditor is now pressing me for the
payment of the debt."
"And what is the amount of this liability?"
the countess, hastily.
"Eighteen hundred pounds," was the reply.
"Do not suffer that to annoy you, my dearest father,"
exclaimed Isabella. "My jewellery and superfluous wardrobe will produce "
"Alas! my dearest child," interrupted the count,
"all that we possess would not realize any thing like that sum. But, happen
what will, our first step must be to give up this furnished mansion, and retire
to a more humble dwelling. That will not cost us many pangs. We shall still be
together; and our love for each other constitutes our greatest happiness."
"Yes, my dearest husband," said the countess; "even
a prison should not separate us."
"Where my belayed father is - where my parents are -
am I happy," murmured Isabella, the pearly tears trickling down her cheeks.
Oh! in that hour of his sorrow, how sweet - how sweet upon the
ears of that noble Italian sounded the words, "husband" and "father,"
which, coupled with tender syllables of consolation, came from the lips of the
two affectionate beings who clung to him so fondly. The lovely countenance of
his daughter - so beautiful, that it seemed rather to belong to the ethereal
inhabitants of heaven than to a mortal denizen of earth - was upturned to him; and
her large black eyes, shining through her tears, beamed with an ineffable
expression of tenderness and filial love.
Charming, charming Isabella - how ravishing, how enchanting
wast thou at that moment when thou didst offer sweet consolation to thy father!
The. roses dyed thy cheeks beneath the delicate tinge of
transparent bistre which proclaimed thee a daughter of the sunny south - thy
moist red lips [-253-] apart, disclosed thy teeth white
as the orient pearl; - thy young bosom heaved beneath the gauze which veiled it
- purity sat upon thy lofty brow, like a diadem which innocence confers upon its
elect! Very beautiful wait thou, Isabella - charming exotic flower from the sweet
"Yes, my beloved wife - my darling daughter," said
Count; "we are ruined by my mad confidence in that villain Greenwood. You
know that there is one means by which I could obtain wealth and release us from
this cruel embarrassment. But never would either of you wish to see ins sell my
claims and resign my patriotism for gold! No - dearest partakers of my sad
destinies, that may not be! I shall ever reject the offers of my persecutors
with scorn; and until fortune may choose to smile upon us, we must learn to
support her frowns with resignation."
"That same Almighty power which afflict, and chastises,
can also restore gladness, and multiply blessings," said Isabella. solemnly.
A servant now entered the room to announce that dinner was
served in another apartment.
Assuming a cheerful air, the count led his wife and daughter
to the dining-room, and partook of the repast with a forced appetite, in order
to avoid giving pain to those who watched all his movements and hung upon all
his words with such tender solicitude.
After dinner, the count, still pondering upon the scene in
which a tender wife and affectionate daughter had administered to him such
sweet consolation, and experiencing a delicious balm in the domestic felicity
which he enjoyed, said to Isabella, "Read me from your Album, my dear girl,
those lines which a poet is supposed to address to his wife, and which, always
possess new charms for me."
hastened to obey her father's wishes, and read, in a soft and silver tone, the
THE POET TO HIS WIFE.
WHEN far away, my memory keeps in view,
Unweariedly, the image of my wife;
tribute of my gratitude is due
her who seems the angel of my life-
The guiding star that lead, me safely
eddies of this world's unceasing strife;-
Hope's beacon, cheering ever from
How beautiful art thou, my guiding star!
children have thy countenance, that beams
With love for him who tells thy
Their eyes have caught the heavenly ray which gleams
athwart the clouds that shade my brow,
sunshine on a night of hideous dreams!-
The first to wean me from despair art
all the endearing sentiments of life
summed up in the words Children and Wife
mind, when in a desert stale, renews
Its strength, if by Hope's purest manna
drooping flowers revive beneath the dews
Which April mornings bountifully shed.
taught (let none the faith abuse)
That echoes were the voices of the dead
Repeating, in a far-off realm of bliss.
words of those they loved and left in this.
well beloved, should'st thou pass hence away,
Into another and a happier sphere,
Ere death has also closed my little day,
And morn may wake no more on my career,-
"I love thee," are the words that I shall say
From hour to hour, during my
thou in other realms may'st still be found
Prepared to echo back the welcome
Scarcely had Isabella finished these lines, when a servant
entered the room, and announced a Mr. Johnson, " who had some pressing
business to communicate, and who was very sure that he shouldn't be considered an
Mr. Johnson - a queer-looking, shabby-genteel, off-hand kind of
man - made his appearance close behind the servant, over whose shoulder he leered
"I b'lieve You're Count Alteroni, air you?" was Mr. Johnson's
"I am. What is your business with me?"
"I'm come from Rolfe, the attorney, in Clement's Inn,"
was the reply : "he "
"Oh! I suppose he has sent you to say that he will
accord me the delay I require?" interrupted the count.
"Not quite that there neither," said the man; then,
sinking his voice to a mysterious whisper, and glancing towards the ladies with
an air of embarrassment, he added, "The fact is, I've got a execution agin your
person - a ca-sa, you know, for eighteen hundred and costs."
"A writ - a warrant!" ejaculated the count aloud. "You do
not mean to say that you are come to take me to prison?"
"Not exactly that either," replied Mr. Johnson. "You
needn't go to quod, you know. You can come to our lock-up in the New-cut, Lambeth, where you'll be as snug as if you was in your own house, barring liberty."
"I understand you," said the Count ; then, turning to his
wife and daughter, he added, "My dears, the evil moment is arrived. This
person is a bailiff come to arrest me; and I must go with him. I implore you not
to take this misfortune to heart:- it was sure to happen; and it might just as
well occur to-day as a week or a month hence."
"And whither will they take you?" asked the
bursting into tears. "Cannot we be allowed to accompany you?"
"You can come, ma'am, and see his lordship to-morrow,"
said the bailiff; "and you can stay with him from ten in the morning till nine
in the evening - or may-be till half-arter ten as a wery partick'lar faviour -
which you'll only have to pay half a sufferin extray. But there's my man."
A sneaking kind of knock - something more than a single one,
not so much as a double one, and by no means as bold as a postman's - had been
heard the moment before the bailiff uttered these last words ; and while he went in person to inform his acolyte
that the caption was made, and that he might wait in the hall, the count endeavoured to soothe and
console the two afflicted ladies, who now clung to him in the most impassioned
and distracted manner.
"To-morrow, my dear father-to-morrow, the moment the
clock strikes ten, we will be with you," said Isabella. "Oh! how miserably
will pass the hours until that period!"
"Will you not now permit me, my dearest husband, to see
the Envoy of Castelcicala, and "
"No," answered the Count firmly. "Did we not agree
ere now to support with resignation all that fortune might have in store for us"
"Ah! pardon me - I forgot," said the countess, "I am
overwhelmed with grief. Oh! what a blow - and for you!"
"Show yourselves worthy of your high rank and proud
name," cried the nobleman; "and all will yet be well."
this moment the bailiff returned to the room.
"I am now ready to accompany you," said the count.
"So much the better," cried Mr. Johnson. "Me and my
man Tim Bunkins come down in a omnibus; I don't know which way you'd like to
go, [-254-] but I've
heerd say you keeps a wery tidy cabrioily."
"It would be a monstrous mockery for any one to proceed to a prison in
his own luxurious vehicle," said the count sternly. "As you came, so may you
return, I will accompany you in an omnibus."
The count embraced his wife and daughter tenderly and with much difficulty
tore himself away, in order to leave a comfortable home for a miserable
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