The Dutch Shipmaster And The Russian Cottager
( Originally Published 1851 )
The following interesting anecdote occurs in a German work, lately published, entitled A Picture of St. Petersburgh.
In a little town, five miles from St. Petersburgh, lived a poor German woman. A small cottage was her only possession, and the visits of a few shipmasters, on their way to Petersburgh, her only livelihood. Several Dutch shipmasters having supped at her house one evening, she found, when they were gone, a sealed bag of money under the table. Some one of the company, had no doubt forgotten it, but they had sailed over to Cronstadt, and the wind being fair, there was no chance of their putting back. The good woman put the bag into her cupboard, to keep it till it should be called for. Full seven years, however, elapsed and no one claimed it; and though often tempted by opportunity, and oftener by want, to make use of the contents, the poor woman's good principles prevailed, and it remained untouched.
One evening, some shipmasters again stopped at her house for refreshment. Three of them were English, the fourth a Dutchman. Conversing on various matters, one of them asked the Dutchman, if he had ever been in that town before. " Indeed, I have," replied he, " I know the place but too well; my being here, cost me once seven hundred rubles." " How so ?" " Why, in one of these wretched hovels, I once left behind me a bag of rubles." " Was the bag sealed ? " asked the old woman, who was sitting in a corner of the room, and whose attention was roused by the subject. " Yes, yes, it was sealed, and with this very seal, here at my watch chain.' Tile woman knew the seal instantly. " Well, then," said she, " by that you may recover what you have lost." " Re ever it, mother ! No, no, 1 am rather too old to expect that: the world is not quite so honest besides it is full seven years since I lost the money ;—say no more about it, it always makes me melancholy
Meanwhile, the good woman slipped out, and presently returned with the bag. " See here," said she, " honesty is not so rare, perhaps, as you imagine ; " and she threw the bag on the table.
The guests were astonished, and the owner of the bag, as may be supposed, highly delighted. He seized the bag, tore open the seal, took out one ruble, (worth 4s. 6d., English money,) and laid it on the table for the hostess, thanking her civilly for the trouble she had taken. The three Englishmen were amazed and indignant at so small a reward being offered, and remonstrated warmly with him. The old woman protested she required no recompense for merely doing her duty, and beg 'd the Dutchman to take back even his ruble. But the Englishmen insisted on seeing justice done ; " The woman," said they, " has acted nobly, and aught to be rewarded." At length, the Dutchman agreed to part with one hundred rubles; they were counted out, and given to the old woman, who thus, at length, was handsomely rewarded for her honesty.
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Dr. Campbell, of St. Andrews, wrote a treatise on the authenticity of the Gospel History, and sent the manuscript to his friend and countryman. a Mr. Innes, a clergyman in England. The latter published it with his own name, and, befor the imposition was discovered, obtained considerable; promotion as a reward of merit.
Dr. Hugh Blair, and Mr. Ballantine, a friend of his, wrote a poem entitled " Redemption," copies of which in MS. were handed about. They were at length surprised to see a pompous edition of it in folio, dedicated to the Queen, by a Dr. Dangler, as his own.