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Wilson's Border Tales
Lottery Hall

Chapter 3

But the great, the eventful, the nomination day arrived. Mr. Donaldson—Andrew Donaldson, the labourer, that was—stood forward to make his speech—the speech that his son Paul, student in the University of Edinburgh, had written. He got through the first sentence, in the tone and after the manner of the village clergyman, whom he had attended for forty years; but there he stuck fast; and of all his son Paul had written—short, sententious, patriotic as it was—he remembered not a single word. But, though gravelled from forgetfulness of his son’s matter, and though he stammered, hesitated, and tried to recollect himself for a few moments, yet he had too high an idea of his own consequence to stand completely still. No man who has a consequential idea of his own abilities will ever positively stick in a speech. I remember an old schoolmaster of mine used to say, that a public speaker should regard his audience as so many cabbage-stocks. But he had never been a public speaker, or he would have said no such thing. Such an advice may do very well for a precentor to a congregation; but, as regards an orator addressing a multitude, it is a different matter. No, sir; the man who speaks in public must neither forget his audience nor overlook them; he must regard them as his equals, but none of them as his superior, in intellect; he should regard every man of them as capable of understanding and appreciating what he may say; and, in order to make himself understood, he should endeavour to bring his language and his imagery down to every capacity, rather than permit them to go on stilts or to take wings. Some silly people imagine that what they call fine language, flowery sentences, and splendid metaphors, are oratory. Stuff!—stuff! Where do you find them in the orations of the immortal orators of Greece or Rome? They used the proper language—they used effective language—

"Thoughts that breathed and words that burned;"

but they knew that the key of eloquence must be applied not to the head but to the heart. But, sir, I digress from the speech of Mr. Donaldson. (Pardon me--I am in the habit of illustrating to my boy, and dissertation is my fault, or rather I should say my habit.) Well, sir, as I have said, he stuck fast in the speech which his son had written; but, as I have also said, he had too high an opinion of himself to stand long without saying something. When left to himself, in what he did say, I am afraid he "betrayed his birth and breeding;" for there was loud laughter in the hall, and cries of hear him! hear him! But the poll commenced; the other candidate brought voters from five hundred miles distant—from east, west, north, and south; from Scotland, Ireland, and the Continent. He polled a vote at every three proclamations, when Mr. Donaldson had no more to bring forward; and on the fourteenth day he defeated him by a majority of ONE! The right worshipful thatcher declared that the election had fallen on the opposing candidate. The people also said that he had spent most money, and that it was right the election should fall on the best man. He in truth had spent more in the contest than Andrew Donaldson had won by his lottery ticket. The feelings of Mr. Donaldson on the loss of his election were the agonies of extreme despair. In the height of his misery, he mentioned to his introducer, Captain Edwards, or rather I should call him his traducer, that he was a ruined man—that he had lost his all! The Captain laughed and left the room. He seemed to have left the town also; for his victim did not meet with him again.

In a state bordering on frenzy, he returned to London. He reached the hotel—he rushed into the room where his wife, his son, and his daughter sat. With a confused and hurried step he paced to and fro across the floor, wringing his hands, and ever and anon exclaiming bitterly—

"Lost Andrew Donaldson!—Ruined Andrew Donaldson!"

His son Peter, who took the matter calmly, and who believed that the extent of the loss was the loss of the election, carefully surveyed his father’s attitudes and the expression of his countenance, and thought the scene before him would make an admirable subject for a picture—the piece to be entitled "The Unsuccessful Candidate." "It will help to make good his loss," thought Peter, "provided he will sit."

"O dearsake, Andrew! Andrew! what is’t?" cried Mrs. Donaldson.

"Lost! lost! ruined Andrew Donaldson!" replied her husband.

"Oh, where is the Captain?—where is Edwards?—why is not he here?" asked Rebecca.

"The foul fiend!" exclaimed her father.

"O Andrew, man! speak, Andrew, jewel!—what is’t?" added his wife; "if it be only the loss o’ siller, Heaven be praised; for I’ve neither had peace nor comfort since ye got it."

"Only the loss!" cried he, turning upon her like a fury—"only the loss!" Agony and passion stopped his utterance.

Mr. Donaldson was, in truth, a ruined man. Of the fifteen thousand which he had obtained, not three hundred, exclusive of Lottery Hall and the twenty acres around it, were left. His career had been a brief and a fashionable one. On the following day, his son Jacob returned from abroad. Within twelve months, he had cost his father a thousand pounds; and, in exchange for the money spent, he brought home with him all the vices he had met with on his route. But I blame not Jacob—his betters, the learned and the noble, do the same. Poor fellow! he was sent upon the world with a rough garment round his shoulders, which gathered up all the dust that blew, and retained a portion of all the filth with which it came in contact; but polished substances would not adhere it.

Captain Edwards returned no more to the hotel. He had given the last lesson to his scholar in the science of fashion—he had extorted from him the last fee he could spare. He had gauged the neck of his purse, and he forsook him—in his debt he forsook him! Poor Rebecca! day after day she inquired after the Captain! the Captain! Lost—degraded—wretched Rebecca! But I will say no more of her; she became as dead while she yet lived—the confiding victim of a villain.

The barouche, the horses, the trinkets that deformed Mrs. Donaldson, with a piano that had been bought for Rebecca, were sold, and Andrew Donaldson with his family left London and proceeded to Lottery Hall. But there, though he endeavoured to carry his head high, though he still walked with his silver cane, and though it was known (and he took care to make it known) that he had polled within one of being a member of parliament—still the Squire did not acknowledge him—his old acquaintances did not lift their hats to him—but all seemed certain that he was coming down "by the run" (I think that was the slang or provincial phrase they used) to his old level. They perceived that he kept no horses now—save one to work the twenty acres around the Lodge; for he had ploughed up and sown with barley, and let out as potatoe ground, what he at first had laid out as a park. This spoke volumes. They also saw that he had parted with his coach, that he kept but one servant, and that servant told tales in the village. He was laughed at by his neighbours, and those who had been his fellow-labourers; and with a Sardonic chuckle, they were wont to speak of his house as "the Member o’ Parliament’s." I have said that I would say no more of poor Rebecca; but the tongues of the women in the village dwelt also on her. But she died, and in the same hour died also a new-born child of the villain Edwards.

Peter had left his father’s house and commenced the profession of an artist, in a town about twenty miles from this. Mr. Donaldson was now humbled. It was his intention, with the sorry remnant of his fortune, to take a farm for Jacob; but, oh! Jacob had bathed in a sea of vice, and the bitter waters of adversity could not wash out the pollution it had left behind it. Into his native village he carried the habits he had acquired or witnessed beneath the cerulean skies of Italy, or amidst the dark-eyed daughters of France. Shame followed his footsteps. Yea, although the Squire despised Mr. Donaldson, his son, a youth of nineteen, became the boon companion of Jacob. They held midnight orgies together. Jacob initiated the Squireling into the mysteries of Paris and Rome, of Naples and Munich, whence he was about to proceed. But I will not dwell upon their short career. Extravagance attended it, shame and tears followed it.

Andrew Donaldson no longer possessed the means of upholding his son in folly and wickedness. He urged him to settle in the world—to take a farm while he had the power left of placing him in it; but Jacob’s sins pursued him. He fled from his father’s house, and enlisted in a marching regiment about to embark for the East Indies, No more was heard of him for many years, until a letter arrived from one of his comrades announcing that he had fallen at Corunna.

To defray the expenses which his son Jacob had brought upon him, Mr. Donaldson had not only to part with the small remnant that was left him of his fifteen thousand, but to take a heavy mortgage upon Lottery Hall. Again he was compelled to put his hand to the spade and to the plough; and his wife, deprived of her daughters, again became her own servant. Sorrow, shame, and disappointment gnawed in his heart. His garments of pride, now wore threadbare, were cut off for ever. The persecution, the mockery of his neighbours increased. They asked each other "if they had seen the Member o’ Parliament wi’ the spade in his hand again?" They quoted the text, "A haughty spirit goes before a fall;" and they remembered passages of the preacher’s lecture against pride and vanity on the day when Andrew appeared in his purple coat. He became a solitary man; and, on the face of this globe which we inhabit, there existed not a more miserable being than Andrew Donaldson.

Peter was generally admitted to be a young man of great talents, and bade fair to rise to eminence in his profession as an artist. There was to be an exhibition of the works of living artists in Edinburgh; and Peter went through to it, taking with him more than a dozen pictures, on all subjects and of all sizes. He had landscapes, sea pieces, historical paintings, portraits, fish, game, and compositions, the grouping of which would have done credit to a master. In size, they were from five feet square to five inches. His brother Paul, who was still at the college, and who now supported himself by private teaching, was surprised when one morning Peter arrived at his lodgings, with three caddies at his back, bearing his load of pictures. Paul welcomed him with open arms; for he was proud of his brother; he had admired his early talents, and had heard of the progress he had made in his art. With a proud heart and a delighted eye, Peter unpacked his paintings and placed them around the room for the inspection of his brother; and great was his brother’s admiration.

"What may be their value, Peter?" inquired Paul.

"Between ourselves, Paul," replied Peters "I would not part with the lot under a thousand guineas!"

"A thousand guineas!" ejaculated the student in surprise; "do you say so?"

"Yes I say it," answered the painter, with importance. "Look ye, Paul—observe this bridal party at the altar— see the blush on the bride’s cheek, the joy in the bridegroom’s eye—is it not natural? And look at the grouping!—observe the warmth of the colouring, the breadth of effect, the depth of shade, the freedom of touch! Now, tell me candidly as a brother, is it not a gem?"

"It is certainly beautiful," answered Paul.

"I tell you what," continued the artist—"though I say it who should not say it, I have seen worse things sold for a thousand guineas."

"You don’t say so!" responded the astonished student, and he wished that he had been an artist instead of a scholar.

"I do," added Peter; "and now, Paul, what do you think I intend to do with the money which this will bring?"

"How should I know, brother?" returned the other.

"Why then," said he, "I am resolved to pay off the mortgage on our father’s property, that the old man may spend the remainder of his days in comfort."

Paul wept, and taking his brother’s hand, said, "And if you do, the property shall be yours, Peter."

"Never, brother!" replied the other—"rather than rob you of your birthright, I would cut my hand off."

The pictures were again packed up; and the brothers went out in quest of the Secretary to the exhibition, in order to have them submitted to the Committee for admission. The Secretary received them with politeness; he said he was afraid that they could not find room for so many pieces as Mr. Donaldson mentioned, for they wished to give every one a fair chance; but he desired him to forward the pictures, and he would see what could be done for them. The paintings were sent, and Peter heard no more of them for a week, when a printed catalogue and perpetual ticket were sent to him with the Secretary’s compliments. Peter’s eyes ran over the catalogue—at length they fell upon "No. 210 A Bridal Party—P.Donaldson," and again, "No. 230 Dead Game—P. Donaldson.;" but his name did not again occur in the whole catalogue. This was a disappointment; but it was some consolation that his favourite piece had been chosen.

Next day the exhibition opened, and Peter and Paul visited it together. The "Bridal Party" was a small picture with a modest frame, and they anxiously sought round the room in which it was said to be placed; but they saw it not. At length, "Here it is," said Paul—and then indeed it was, thrust into a dark corner of the room., the frame touching the floor, literally crushed and over shadowed beneath a glaring, battle-piece, six feet in length and with a frame seven inches in depth. It was impossible to examine it without going upon your knees, Peter’s indignation knew no bounds. He would have torn the picture from its hiding-place, but Paul prevented him. They next looked for No. 230; and, to increase the indignation of the artist, it, with twenty others, was huddle into the passage, where, as Milton saith, there was

"No light, but rather darkness visible.

Or, as Spencer hath it—

"A little gloomy light much like a shade."

For fourteen days did Peter visit the exhibition, and return to the lodgings of his brother, sorrowful and disappointed. The magical word SOLD was not yet attached to the painting which was to redeem his father’s property.

One evening, Paul being engaged with his pupils, the artist had gone into a tavern, to drown the bitterness of his disappointment for a few minutes with a bottle of ale. The keenness of his feelings had rendered him oblivious; and in his abstraction and misery he had spoken aloud of his favourite painting, the Bridal Party. Two young gentlemen sat in the next box; they either were not in the room when he entered, or he did not observe them. They overheard the monologue to which the artist had unconsciously given utterances, and it struck them as a prime jest to lark with his misery. The words "Splendid piece yon Bridal Party;"—"Beautiful!"—"Production of a master!"—"Wonderful that it sold in such a bad light and shameful situation!" fell upon Peter’s ears. He started up—he hurried round to the box where they sat— "Gentlemen," he exclaimed, eagerly, "do you speak of the painting No. 210 in the exhibition?"

"Of the same, sir," was the reply.

"I am the artist!—I painted it," cried Peter.

"You, sir!—you!" cried both the gentlemen at once, "give us your hand, sir—we are proud of having the honour of seeing you."

"Yes, sir," returned one of them; "we left the exhibition to-day just before it closed, and had the pleasure of. seeing the porter attach the ticket to it."

"Glorious!—joy! joy!" cried Peter, running in ecstacy to the bell and ringing it violently; and as the waiter entered—"A bottle of claret!—claret, boy!—claret!" And he sat down to treat the gentlemen who had announced to him the glad tidings. They drank long and deep, till Peter’s head came in contact with the table, and sleep sealed up his eyelids. When aroused by the landlord who presented his bill, his companions were gone; and, stupid as Peter was, he recollected for the first time that his pocket did not contain funds to discharge the reckoning, and he left his watch with the tavern-keeper, promising to redeem it the next day when he received the price of his picture. I need not tell you what a miserable day that next day was to him, when, with his head aching with the fumes of the wine, he found that he had been duped—that his picture was not sold. The exhibition closed for the season—he had spent his last shilling, and Paul was as poor as Peter; but the former borrowed a guinea to pay his brother’s fare on the outside of the coach to -----.

Andrew Donaldson continued to struggle hard; but struggle as he would, he could not pay the interest of the mortgage. Disappointment, sorrow, humbled vanity, and the laugh of the world, were too much for him; and, shortly after Peter’s visit to Edinburgh, he died; repenting that he had ever pursued the phantom Fashion, or sought after the rottenness of wealth.

"And what," inquired I, "became of Mrs. Donaldson and her sons Paul and Peter?"

"Peter, sir," continued the narrator, "rose to eminence in his profession; and, redeeming the mortgage on Lottery Hall, he gave it as a present to his brother Paul, who opened it as an establishment for young gentlemen. His mother resides with him—and, sir, Paul hath spoken unto you; he hath given you the history of Lottery Hall."

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