It was the father.
If M---- F---- had had any eyes he must have found us out, for my face bore the marks of agitation, the nature of which it was easy to divine. We exchanged a few brief compliments; I shook his hand and disappeared. I was in such a state of excitement when I got home that I made up my mind to leave England and to follow Sara to Switzerland. In the night I formed my plans, and resolved to offer the family my house during the time they stayed in England, and if necessary to force them to accept my offer.
In the morning I hastened to call on M---- F----, and found him on his doorstep.
"I am going to try and get a couple of rooms," said he.
"They are already found," I replied. "My house is at your service, and you must give me the preference. Let us come upstairs."
"Everybody is in bed."
"Never mind," said I, and we proceeded to go upstairs.
Madame M---- F---- apologized for being in bed. Her husband told her that I wanted to let them some rooms, but I laughed and said I desired they would accept my hospitality as that of a friend. After some polite denials my offer was accepted, and it was agreed that the whole family should take up their quarters with me in the evening.
I went home, and was giving the necessary orders when I was told that two young ladies wished to see me. I went down in person, and I was agreeably surprised to see Sara and her sister. I asked them to come in, and Sara told me that the landlady would not let their belongings out of the house before her father paid a debt of forty guineas, although a city merchant had assured her it should be settled in a week. The long and snort of it was that Sara's father had sent me a bill and begged me to discount it.
I took the bill and gave her a bank note for fifty pounds in exchange, telling her that she could give me the change another time. She thanked me with great simplicity and went her way, leaving me delighted with the confidence she had placed in me.
The fact of M. M---- F----'s wanting forty guineas did not make me divine that he was in some straits, for I looked at everything through rose-coloured glasses, and was only too happy to be of service to him.
I made a slight dinner in order to have a better appetite for supper, and spent the afternoon in writing letters. In the evening M. M---- F----'s man came with three great trunks and innumerable card-board boxes, telling me that the family would soon follow; but I awaited them in vain till nine o'clock. I began to get alarmed and went to the house, where I found them all in a state of consternation. Two ill-looking fellows who were in the room enlightened me; and assuming a jovial and unconcerned air, I said,--
"I'll wager, now, that this is the work of some fierce creditor."
"You are right," answered the father, "but I am sure of discharging the debt in five or six days, and that's why I put off my departure."
"Then you were arrested after you had sent on your trunks."
"And what have you done?"
"I have sent for bail."
"Why did you not send to me?"
"Thank you, I am grateful for your kindness, but you are a foreigner, and sureties have to be householders."
"But you ought to have told me what had happened, for I have got you an excellent supper, and I am dying of hunger."
It was possible that this debt might exceed my means, so I did not dare to offer to pay it. I took Sara aside, and on hearing that all his trouble was on account of a debt of a hundred and fifty pounds, I asked the bailiff whether we could go away if the debt was paid.
"Certainly," said he, shewing me the bill of exchange.
I took out three bank notes of fifty pounds each, and gave them to the man, and taking the bill I said to the poor Swiss,--
"You shall pay me the money before you leave England."
The whole family wept with joy, and after embracing them all I summoned them to come and sup with me and forget the troubles of life.
We drove off to my house and had a merry supper, though the worthy mother could not quite forget her sadness.