Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

.

engaging me at a price so much above what he was accustomed to give, was, that I might form all these raw journeymen and apprentices, who scarcely cost him any thing, and who, being indentured, would, as soon as they should be sufficiently instructed, enable him to do without me. I nevertheless adhered to my agreement. I put the office in order, which was in the utmost confusion, and brought his people, by degrees, to pay attention to their work, and to execute it in a more masterly style.

It was singular to see an Oxford scholar in the condition of a purchased servant. He was not more than eighteen years of age; and the following are the particulars he gave me of himself. Born at Gloucester, he had been educated at a grammar-school, and had distinguished him-* self among the scholars by his superior style of acting, when they represented dramatic perform. ances. He was a member of a literary club in the town; and some pieces of his composition. in prose as well as in verse, had been inserted in the Gloucester papers. From hence he was sent to Oxford, where he remained about a year; but he was not contented, and wished above all things to see London, and become an actor. At length, having received fifteen guineas to pay his quarter's board, he decamped with the money from Oxford, hid his gown in a hedge, and travelled to London. There, having no friend to direct him, he fell into bad company, soon squandered his fifteen guineas, could find no way of being introduced to the actors, became contemptible, pawned his clothes, and was in want of bread. As he was walking along the streets, almost famished with hunger, and not knowing what to do, a recruiting bill was put into his hand, which offered an immediate treat and

bounty-money to whoever was disposed to serve in America. He instantly repaired to the house of rendezvous, enlisted himself, was put on board a ship, and conveyed to America, without ever writing a line to inform his parents what was become of him. His mental vivacity, and good natural disposition, made him an excellent companion; but he was indolent, thoughtless, and to the last degree imprudent.

John, the Irishman, soon ran away. I began to live very agreeably with the rest. They respected me, and the more so as they found Keimer incapable of instructing them, and as they learned something from me every day. We never worked on a Saturday, it being Keimer's sabbath; so that I had two days a week for reading.

I increased my acquaintance with persons of knowledge and information in the town. Kei mer himself treated me with great civility and apparent esteem; and I had nothing to give me uneasiness but my debt to Vernon, which I was unable to pay, my savings as yet being very little. He had the goodness, however, not to ask me for the money.

Our press was frequently in want of the necessary quantity of letter; and there was no such trade as that of letter-founder in America. I had seen the practice of this art at the House of James, in London; but had at the time paid it very little attention. I however contrived to fabricate a mould. I made use of such letters as we had for punches, founded new letters of lead in matrices of clay, and thus supplied, in a tolerable manner, the wants that were most pressing.

I also, upon occasion, engraved various ornaments, made ink, gave an eye to the shop; in short, I was in every respect the factotum. But useful as I made myself, I perceived that my ser

Ι

[ocr errors]

vices became every day of less importance, in proportion as the other men improved: and when Keimer paid me my second quarter's wages, he gave me to understand they were too heavy, and that he thought I ought to make an abatement. He became by degrees less civil, and assumed more the tone of the master. He frequently found fault, was difficult to please, and seemed always on the point of coming to an open quarrel with

me.

I continued, however, to bear it patiently, conceiving that his illhumor was partly occa sioned by the derangement and embarrassment of his affairs. At last a slight incident broke our connexion. Hearing a noise in the neighbor hood, I put my head out at the window to see what was the matter. Keimer being in the street, observed me, and, in a loud and angry tone, told me to mind my work; adding some reproachful words, which piqued me the more, as they were uttered in the street, and the neighbors, whom the same noise had attracted to the windows, were witnesses of the manner in which I was treated. He immediately came up to the printing-room, and continued to exclaim against me. The quarrel became warm on both sides, and he gave me notice to quit him at the expiration of three months, as had been agreed upon between us; regretting that he was obliged to give me so long a term. I told him that his regret was superfluous, as I was ready to quit him instantly, and I took my hat and came out of the house, begging Meredith to take care of some things which I left, and bring them to my lodgings.

Meredith came to me in the evening. We talked for some time upon the quarrel that had taken place. He had conceived a great veneration for

me, and was sorry I should quit the house while he remained in it. He dissuaded me from returning to my native country, as I began to think of doing. He reminded me that Keimer owed me more than he possessed: that his creditors began to be alarmed; that he kept his shop in a wretched state, often selling things at prime cost for the sake of ready money, and continually giving credit without keeping any accounts; that of consequence he must very soon fail, which would occasion a vacancy from which I might derive advantage. I objected my want of money. Upon which he informed me that his father had a very high opinion of me, and, from a conversation that had passed between them, he was sure that he would advance whatever might be necessary to establish us, if I was willing to enter into partnership with him. "My time with Keimer, added he, "will be at an end next spring. In the mean time we may send to London for our press and types. I know that I am no workman; but if you agree to the proposal, your skill in the business will be balanced by the capital I shall furnish, and we will share the profits equally." His proposal was seasonable, and I fell in with it. His father, who was then in the town, approved of it. He knew that I had some ascendency over his son, as I had been able to prevail on him to abstain a long time from drinking brandy: and he hoped that, when more closely connected with him, I should cure him entirely of this unfortunate habit.

I gave the father a list of what it would be ne cessary to import from London. He took it to a merchant, and the order was given. We agreed to keep the secret till the arrival of the materi als, and I was in the mean time to procure work, if possible, in another printing-house; but there

was no place vacant, and I remained idle. After some days, Keimer having the expectation of being employed to print some New Jersey money bills, that would require types and engravings which I only could furnish, and fearful that Bradford, by engaging me, might deprive him of this undertaking, sent me a very civil message, telling me that old friends ought not to be disunited on account of a few words, which were the effect only of a momentary passion, and inviting me to return to him. Meredith persuaded me to comply with the invitation, particularly as it would afford him more opportunities of improving himself in the business by means of my instructions. I did so; and we lived upon better terms than before our separation.

He obtained the New Jersey business; and, in order to execute it, I constructed a copper-plate printing-press, the first that had been seen in the country. I engraved various ornaments and vig. nettes for the bills; and we repaired to Burling ton together, where I executed the whole to general satisfaction; and he received a sum of money for this work, which enabled him to keep his head above water for a considerable time longer.

At Burlington I formed an acquaintance with the principal personages of the province, many of whom were commissioned by the Assembly to superintend the press, and to see that no more bills were printed than the law had prescribed. Accordingly they were constantly with us, each in his turn; and he that came commonly brought with him a friend or two to bear him company. My mind was more cultivated by reading than Keimer's; and it was for this reason, probably, that they set more value on my conversation. They took me to their houses, introduced me to

« ZurückWeiter »