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necessary I would swear eternal friendship to you. But I know you will not demand this. I know that you will believe me when I say
that I love you and will love you as long as life shall last. My only fear is that you will cease to love me: that you will consider my disposition of too gossamer a nature to be admitted into the solemn presence of philosophers. Yet I will not wrong you; I know you will bear with me, and love me as you were wont to do."
Charles Murphy's letter concluded with begging me to write him a letter soon to assure him of my unaltered affection, and that it should continue unabated through life. In my reply I assured him of all this, and a correspondence was opened, and a friendship formed, for life.
Many a pleasant hour have I spent in the company
old friend and shoolfellow Charles Murphy. It is true we have not met daily as when at school, but in the days of my youth, by mutual agreement, we sojourned a week or two together in the year : I at his residence or he at mine. There may have been a great dissimilarity in our dispositions through life; but this has never caused a rupture in our friendship. My friend Charles has often wondered at this. “ I cannot think,” he has frequently said, “how we agree so well together. I don't think we were originally intended thus to pair. I suppose it arises, however, from the fact that I endeavour to curb my mettle in order that you may keep pace with me.”
I could never agree that it was owing to Charles Murphy's “curbing his mettle,” as he was
pleased to term it, that we agreed so well together, for many a time has his buoyant spirits led him in my estimation out of the bounds of discretion, and sometimes, if I had not loved him very much, his hilarity would have led to a rupture in our friendship. Many curious scenes have taken place in which Charles has acted no subordinate part, and in some of which, in showing off his wit, he has displayed no slight degree of folly.
I remember one scene in particular in which Charles played a very conspicuous figure. It was our wont, when he visited me in the country, occasionally to “play Old Izaak Walton,” as he used to phrase it; or, in other words, to go a fishing. On one occasion, as we were sitting on the margin of our favourite stream, watching the motions of our floats, we were on a sudden accosted by a wandering gipsy. We had not noticed her approach, and, hearing ourselves addressed from behind, we both instantly jumped upon our feet to see from whom the voice came. It was an old woman, dressed in a large red cloak, with a handkerchief, yellow as gold, tied round her head : her whole appearance, in fact, denoting both her race and her calling. She was a gipsy fortune-teller, and she wanted to “ tell the young gentlemen their fortunes.”
Whether the sibyl saw any thing in my face denoting that I was not very favourable to her calling or no, I cannot say, but certain it is she attacked me first, and endeavoured by all the arts in her power to disarm my antipathies, and to gain her point. Grasping my hand in her
own, (by which, however, I did not feel particularly flattered,) she remarked, “ There are fine lines here, Sir — you will be a great man! Cross
shall hear all about it."
“ You know nothing of the matter," I replied gravely, my face lengthening as I spoke.
“Oh! but indeed I do,” replied the old woman; “you were born under a lucky star, Sir, and, by your leave, I will tell your good fortune.”
“I had rather be excused hearing lies," I exclaimed, as I endeavoured to draw my
hand out of hers, but she kept firm hold, and continued,
" And besides being born to become a great man, I can tell you that you are born to be a happy man." Then lowering her voice, she added, “And I can tell you the colour of the eyes, and the colour of the hair, of one who will contribute to your happiness.”
“I wish to hear nothing of the kind. You trade in lies and deception," I replied, still seeking to get my hand freed from the old woman's grasp, but still seeking to free myself in vain.
“Great pity it is, young gentleman,” she continued, “ that we should be blind to our own interests. Here you have an opportunity of knowing to what greatness you will arrive, and what happiness you will possess, for the small sum of sixpence, only a little piece of silver, and yet you refuse. Depend upon it, Sir, you will regret it. Many a man would have given a world of money to have been made acquainted with what was to happen in life, but you refuse of anger,
when you have the opportunity thrown in your way. I tell you again, Sir, that you are born to be a great man ! ” “ And I tell you again,” I replied, in a tone
“ that you know nothing of the matter.” As I said this I gave my hand a sudden jerk, and this time freed it from the vice-like grip with which it had been held, and, pleased with my deliverance, I involuntarily retreated a few paces in order to be free from like importunities.
Nothing abashed, the old woman now turned to Charles, whom she found more pliant than the philosopher. All the while she was importuning me, he had stood by shaking his sides with laughter, and when I retreated he was so convulsed with his merriment that he could not
grasp of the old woman's hand, however, quickly stopped his laughter, and I soon saw that some of Charles Murphy's silver would change hands.
“ And you, Sir," said the old woman, who had not lost one jot of her confidence or impudence by my rebuff'; "and you too, Sir, are born to no mean fortune: — just cross my hand with sixpence, and you shall know all about it.”
“Shall I, philosopher ? " asked Charles. “ Surely there cannot be any harm in hearing one's fortune told, if it's only for the fun of the thing."
“ Harm or no harm,” I rejoined ; “my advice is, keep your money in your pocket. Your own good sense must tell you that no human being can look into futurity.”
“Oh, I know all that very well,” Charles replied; “but surely there can be no harm in hearing what the old woman has to say. It will do to laugh about.”
“I see, Charles," I gravely answered, “ that you will be again led into error by your volatile spirits. For my own part, I think there is great harm in paying money to hear lies. If I did such a thing, I should set the lie down to my own account.'
All this while the old woman never ceased to pour forth her importunities in the ears of Charles to let her tell his fortune; and, overcome by them, rather than convinced by my reasoning, Charles at length drew forth a piece of silver with the hand that was free, and, placing it in that of the old fortune-teller, exclaimed, as he looked archly towards me; Now, old sibyl, let us hear your prophecy !
The sum and substance of Charles Murphy's fortune was, that he was to become a naval officer, and was to be so successful in his vocation, that he would one day be known as Admiral Murphy. “But I say, my sibyl,” said Charles, as the old woman ceased, “I fear you have told me a great falsehood. Do you know that I am already engaged in the law? You should have placed me on the woolsack, and then I might have believed you ; as it is, I fear, as the philosopher hard by says, that you deal in lies."
“ Those who live longest will see most," said the old woman, as she turned upon her heels ; and, saying this, she made the best of her way in quest of another victim.