It was somewhat late when the Captain arrived at an inn this evening. There was there, before him, a young clergyman, who had been preaching that day to a neighbouring congregation; but had not as usual gone home with an elder; but had come thus far on his way towards another place, where he was to preach the next day.
The Captain entering into conversation with the clergyman, sat up pretty late. The subject was what might be expected; viz. the affairs of religion and the church. The clergyman was a good young man; but with a leaning to fanaticism, and being righteous over much. The Captain on the other hand, somewhat sceptical in his notions of religion: Hence, a considerable opposition of sentiment between the two. But at length, drowsiness seizing both, candles were called for, and they went to bed.
It was about an hour or two after, when an uproar was heard in a small chamber to the left of the stair-case which led to the floor on which they slept. It was Teague, who had got to bed to the girl of the house. For as they would neither let him go to Congress, nor be a philosopher, he must be doing something. The girl not being apprized, or not chusing his embraces, made a great outcry and lamentation. The clergyman, who slept in an adjoining chamber and hearing this, out of the zeal of his benevolence and humanity, leaped out of bed in his shirt, and ran in to see what was the cause of the disturbance. The Captain also jumping up, followed soon after, and was scarcely in the chamber, before the landlord coming up with a candle, found them all together.
The maid gave this account of the matter, --That between sleeping and waking she felt a mans hand lifting up the bed clothes; upon which she called out murder. But whether it was any body there present, or some one else, she could not tell.
Teague, whose natural parts were not bad, and presence of mind considerable, instantly adopted the expedient to throw the matter on the clergyman. By shaint Patrick, said he, I was aslape in my own bed, as sound as de shates dat were about me, when I heard de sound of dis creatures voice crying out like a shape in a pasture; and when after I had heard, aslape as I was, and come here, I found dis praste, who was so holy, and praching all night, upon de top of de bed, wid his arms round dis young cratures neck; and if I had not given him a twitch by de nose, and bid him lie over, dear honey, he would have ravished her virginity, and murdered her, save her soul, and de paple of de house not de wiser for it.
The clergyman stared with his mouth open; for the palpable nature of the falshood, had shocked him beyond the power of speech.
But the landlady, who in the mean time had come up, and had heard what Teague had said, was enraged, and could supply speech for them both. Hey! said she, this comes of your preaching and praying, Mr. Minister. I have lodged many a gentleman, but never had such doings here before. It is a pretty story that a minister of the gospel should be the first to bring a scandal upon the house.
The Captain interrupted her, and told her there was no harm done. The maid was not actually ravished; and if there was no noise made about it, all matters might be set right.
The clergyman had by this time recovered himself so much as to have the use of his tongue; and began by protesting his innocence, and that it was no more he that made the attack upon the maid, than the angel Gabriel.
The Captain, interrupting him, and wishing to save his feelings, began by excusing or extenuating the offence. It is no great affair, said he, after all that is said or done. The love of women is a natural sin, and the holiest men in all ages have been propense to this indulgence. There was Abraham that got to bed to his maid Hagar, and had a child by her, whom he named Ishmael. Joshua, who took Jericho by the sound of rams horns, saved a woman by the name of Rahab, under a pretence that she had been civil to the spies he had sent out. I need say nothing about David, who wrote the psalms, and set them to music; and yet in his old days proved a great offender in this respect. Human nature is human nature still; and it is not all the preaching and praying on earth can extinguish it.
The clergyman averred his innocence, and that it was that red-headed gentleman himself, meaning Teague, who was in the room first, and had been guilty of the outrage. Teague was beginning to make the sign of the cross, and to put himself into an attitude forswearing, when the Captain thinking it of no consequence who was the person, put an end to the matter, by ordering Teague to bed, and himself bidding the company good night.
The clergyman finding no better could be made of it, took the advice of the landlord, and retired also. The landlady seemed disposed to hush the matter up, and the maid went to sleep as usual.
It is not the nature of the female tongue to be silent. The landlady, the next day,could not avoid informing her gossips, and even some of her guests, of what had happened the preceding evening in her house. The report, so unfavorable to the clergyman, had therefore got out; and coming to the ears of the consistory, was the occasion of calling him before them, to answer to the accusation. The clergyman much alarmed, though conscious of innocence, bethought himself of applying to the Captain, to extort from his servant-man a confession of the truth, and relieve his character. Accordingly having set out on a bay horse that he had, he found the Captain, and addressed him in the following manner:
Captain, said he, the affair of that night at the tavern, is like to be of serious consequence to me. For though I am innocent as the child unborn, yet the presumption is against me, and I am likely to fall under church censure. It may be sport to you, but is a matter of moment to me. Now, as sure as truth is in heaven, I am innocent; and it must have been the devil, or that red-headed Irishman of yours, that made the disturbance.
The Captain gave him the comfort of assuring him that he might make himself easy; for be the matter as it might, he would take care that Teague should assume it, and bear the blame. The clergyman thanked him, declaring at the same time, that he would not forget him in his prayers, Sunday or Saturday, while he had an hour to live. The Captain, not so much from any mercenary motive of benefit, by his spiritual solicitations, as from a real love of humanity and justice, had determined to do him essential service in this affair. Accordingly, when the clergyman had retired, calling Teague before him, he began in this manner: Teague, said he, from what I know of your disposition, I have no more doubt than I have of my existence, that it was yourself who made that uproar with the girl at the tavern where we lodged; though I could not but give you credit for your presence of mind in throwing it upon the clergyman. But whether the matter lies with you or him, is of no consequence. You can take it upon you, and lay up treasure in heaven. It will be doing a good work; and these people you may be assured, have a considerable influence in the other world. This clergyman can speak a good word for you when you come there, and let you into half the benefit of all the prayers he has said on earth. It will be no harm to you, for your character in this respect is as bad as it can well be.
Teague said he did not care much; but thought the priest ought to pay a little smart money; for it was a thankless matter to do these things for nothing. Said the Captain, these people are not the most plenty of money, but I will advance half a crown towards the accommodation. Teague was satisfied, and ready to acknowledge whatever was demanded of him.
Accordingly having come before the presbytery on the day appointed for the trial, Teague made confession of the truth, viz. That being in the kitchen with the girl, and observing her to be a good looking hussy--
But suppose we give the speech in his own dialect:-- Master prastes, I persave you are all prastes of the gospel, and can prach as easily as I can take a chaw of tobacco. Now de trut of de story is dis: I was slaping in my bed, and I tought vid myself it was a shame amongst Christian paple that a young crature should slape by herself, and have no one to take care of her: So I tought vid myself to go and slape vid her. But as she was aslape, she made exclamation, and dis praste dat is here before you, came in to save her shoul from de devil; and as de Captain my master, might take offence, and de devil, I am shartain dat it was no better person, put it into my head to lay it on the praste. Dis is de trut master prastes, as I hope for shalvation in de kingdom of purgatory, shentlemen.
On this confession, the clergyman was absolved to the great joy of the presbytery, who considered it as a particular providence that the truth was brought to light.