Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

trial, she behaved herself, I warrant you, with such a deep attention to her business, took opportunities to have little billets handed to her counsel, then would be in such a pretty confusion, occasioned, you must know, by acting before so much comrany, that not only I, but the whole court, was prejudiced in her favour ; and all that the next heir to her husband had to urge was thought so groundless and frivolous, that when it came to her counsel to reply, there was not half so much said as every one besides in the court thought he could have urged to her advantage.?"

In the 115th and 116th numbers of the Spectator, Sir Roger figures as the lover of country sports-obsolete indeed, to a certain extent, and not such as a fast man of our own day would relish:

“After what has been said, I need not inform my readers that Sir Roger, with whose character I hope they are at present pretty well acquainted, has in his youth gone through the whole course of those rural diversions which the country abounds in ; and which seem to be extremely well suited to that laborious industry a man may observe here in a far greater degree than in towns and cities. I have before hinted at some of my friend's exploits : he has in his youthful days taken forty coveys of partridges in a season; and tired mavy a salmon with a line consisting but of a single hair. The constant thanks and good wishes of the neighbourhood always attended him on account of his remarkable enmity towards foxes ; having destroyed more of those vermin in one year than it was thought the whole country could have produced. Indeed the knight does not scruple to own among his most intimate friends, that, in order to establish his reputation this way, he has secretly scut for great numbers of them out of other counties, which he used to turn loose about the country by night, that he might the better signalize himself in their destruction the next day. His hunting-horses were the finest and best managed in all these parts. His tenants are still full of the praises of a gray stone-horse that unhappily staked himself several years since, and was buried with great solemnity in the orchard.

"Sir Roger being at present too old for fox-hunting, to keep himself in action, has disposed of his beagles, and got a pack of stop-hounds. What these want in speed, he endeavours to make amends for by the deepness of their mouths and the variety of their notes, which are suited in such a manner to each other, that the whole cry makes up a complete concert. He is so nice in this particular, that a gentleman having made him a present of a very fine hound the other day, the knight returned it by the servant with a great many expressions of civility ; but desired him to tell his master, that the dog he had sent was indeed a most excellent bass, but at present he only wanted a countertenor. Could I believe my friend had ever read Shakspere, I should certainly conclude he had taken the hint from Theseus in the ‘Midsummer Night's Dream :'

My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flewd, so sanded; and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew.
Crook-kneed and dew-lapp'd like Thessalian bulls,
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouths like bells,
Each under each. A cry more tuneable

Was never holla'd to, nor checr'd with horn.'
Sir Roger is so keen at this sport, that he has been out almost every day since
I came down ; and upon the chaplain offering to lend me his easy pad, I was pre-
vailed on yesterday morning to make one of the company. I was extremely pleased,
as we rid along, to observe the general benevolence of all the neighbourhood to-
wards my friend. The farmers' sovs thought themselves happy if they could open

1

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a gate for the good old knight as he passed by ; which he generally requited with a nod or a smile, and a kind inquiry after their fathers or uncles.

"After we had rid about a mile from home, we came upon a large heath, and the sportsmen began to beat. They had done so for some time, when, as I was at a Little distance from the rest of the company, I saw a hare pop out from a small furzebrake almost under my horse's feet. I marked the way she took, which I endeavoured to make the company sensible of by extending my arm ; but to po purpose, till Sir Roger, who knows that none of my extraordinary motions are insignificant, rode up to me and asked me, if puss was gone that way? Upon my answering yes, he immediately called in the dogs, and put them upon the scent. As they were going on, I heard one of the country fellows muttering to his companion, 'that 'twas a wonder they had not lost all their sport, for want of the silent gentleman's crying, stole away.'

“ This, with my aversion to leaping hedges, made me withdraw to a rising ground, from whence I could have the pleasure of the whole chase, without the fatigue of keeping in with the hounds. The hare immediately threw them above a mile behind her; but I was pleased to find, that instead of running straight forwards, or, in hunter's language, 'flying the country' as I was afraid she might have done, she wheeled about, and described a sort of circle round the hill where I had taken my station, in such a manner as gave me a very distinct view of the sport. I could see her first pass by, and the dogs some time afterwards unravelling the whole track she had made, and following her through all her doubles. I was at the time delighted in observing that deference which the rest of the pack paid to each particular hound, according to the character he had acquired among them. If they were at fault, and an old hound of reputation opened but once, he was immediately followed by the whole cry ; while a raw dog, or one who was a noted liar, might have yelped his heart out without being taken notice of.

“The hare now, after having squatted two or three times, and been put up again as often, came still nearer to the place where she was at first started. The dogs pursued her, and these were followed by the jolly knight, who rode upon a white gelding, encompassed by his tenants and servants, and cheering his hounds with all the gaiety of five and twenty. One of the sportsmen rode up to me, and told me, that he was sure the chase was almost at an end, because the old dogs, which had hitherto lain behind, now headed the pack. The fellow was in the right. Our hare took a large field just under us, followed by the full cry in view. I must confess the brightness of the weather, the cheerfulness of every thing around me, the chiding of the hounds, which was returned upon us in a double echo from two neighbouring hills, with the hallooing of the sportsmen, and the sounding of the horn, lifted my spirits into a most lively pleasure, which I freely indulged because I was sure it was innocent. If I was under any concern, it was on account of the poor hare, that was dow quite spent, and almost within the reach of her enemies; when the huntsman getting forward, threw down his pole before the dogs. They were now within eight yards of that game which they had been pursuing for almost as many hours; yet on the signal before mentioned they all made a sudden stand, and though they continued opening as much as before, durst not once attempt to pass beyond the pole. At the same time Sir Roger rode forward, and alighting, took up the hare in his arms, which he soon after delivered up to one of his servants, with an order, if she could be kept alive, to let her go in his great orchard, where it seems he has several of these prisoners of war, who live together in a very comfortable captivity. I was highly pleased to see the discipline of the pack, and the good nature of the knight, who could not find in his heart to murder a creature that had given him so much diversion.

a

“ The walls of his great hall are covered with the horns of several kinds of deer that he has killed in the chase, which he thinks the most valuable furniture of his house, as they afford him frequent topics of discourse, and show that he has not been idle. At the lower end of the hall is a large otter's skin stuffed with hay, which his mother ordered to be hung up in that manner, and the knight looks upon with great satisfaction, because it seems he was but nine years old when his dog killed him. A little room adjoining to the hall is a kind of arsenal filled with guns of several sizes and inventions, with which the knight has made great havoc in the woods, and destroyed many thousands of pheasants, partridges, and woodcocks. His stabledoors are patched with noses that belonged to foxes of the knight's own hunting down. Sir Roger showed me one of them, that for distinction's sake has a brass nail struck through it, which cost him about fifteen hours' riding, carried him through half a dozen counties, killed him a brace of geldings, and lost above half his dogs. This the knight looks upon as one of the greatest exploits of his life.”

At the time when Addison described the race of fortune-telling gipsies for the edification of the London public, there were few travellers for amusement, and fewer who left the din and smoke of the town to wander through commons and green lanes, the gipsies' haunts. It is remarkable how little change is to be observed in the manners of the vagrant tribe. Addison's description might have been written yesterday.

"As I was yesterday riding out in the fields with my friend Sir Roger, we saw at a little distance from us a troop of gipsies. Upon the first discovery of them, my friend was in some doubt whether he should not exert the Justice of the Peace upon such a band of lawless vagrants; but not having his clerk with him, who is a necessary counsellor on these occasions, and fearing that his poultry might fare the worse for it, he let the thought drop: but at the same time gave me a particular account of the mischiefs they do in the country, in stealing people's goods and spoiling their servants. If a stray piece of linen hangs upon an hedge, says Sir Roger, they are sure to have it ; if the hog loses his way in the field, it is ten to one but ho becomes their prey ; our geese cannot live in peace for them ; if a man prosecutes them with severity, his hen-roost is sure to pay for it: they generally straggle into these parts about this time of the year ; and set the heads of our servant-maids so agog for husbands, that we do not expect to have any business done as it should be whilst they are in the country. I have an honest dairy-maid who crosses their hands with a piece of silver every summer, and never fails being promised the handsomest young fellow in the parish for her pains. Your friend the butler has been fool enough to be seduced by them, and, though he is sure to lose a knife, a fork, or a spoon, every time his fortune is told him, generally shuts himself up in the pantry with an old gipsy for above half an hour once in a twelvemonth. Sweethearts are the things they live upon, which they bestow very plentifully upon all those that apply themselves to them. You see now and then some handsome young jades among them : the sluts have very often white teeth and black eyes.

“Sir Roger observing that I listened with great attention to his account of a people who were so entirely new to me, told me, that if I would, they should tell us our fortunes. As I was very well pleased with the knight's proposal, we rid up and communicated our hands to them. A Cassandra of the crew, after having examined my lines very diligently, told me, that I loved a pretty maid in a corner, with some other particulars which I do not think proper to relate. My friend Sir Roger alighted from his horse, and exposing his palm to two or three that stood by him, they crumpled it into all shapes, and diligently scanned every wrinkle that could be made in it; when one of them, who was older and more sun-burnt than the rest, told him, that he had a widow in his line of life : upon which the Knight cried, Go, gu, you are an idle baggage ; and at the same time smiled upon me.

The gipsy,

;

finding he was not displeased in his heart, told him, after a farther inquiry into his hand, that his true love was constant, and that she should dream of him to-night: my old friend cried Pish, and bid her go on. The gipsy told him that he was a bachelor, but would not be so long; and that he was dearer to somebody than he thought: the knight still repeated, she was an idle baggage, and bid her go on. Ah, master, says the gipsy, that roguish leer of yours makes a pretty woman's heart ache: you have not that simper about the mouth for nothing. The uncouth gibberish with which all this was uttered, like the darkness of an oracle, made us the more attentive to it. To be short, the knight left the money with her that he had crossed her hand with, and got up again on his horse.

“ As we were riding away, Sir Roger told me that he knew several sensible people who believed these gipsies now and then foretold very strange things ; and for half an hour together appeared more jocund than ordinary. In the height of his good humour, meeting a common beggar upon the road, who was no conjurer, as he went to relieve him he found his pocket was picked : that being a kind of palmistry at which this race of vermin are very dexterous.”

The Spectator, No. 122, is wholly by Addison. We give it entire, as it contains many touches of his delicate humour, as well as a quaint view of bygone manners :

“A man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart ; his next, to escape the censures of the world. If the last interferes with the former, it ought to be entirely neglected ; but otherwise there cannot be a greater satisfaction to an honest mind than to see those approbations which it gives itself seconded by the applauses of the public. A man is more sure of his conduct when the verdict which he passes upon his own behaviour is thus warranted and confirmed by the opinion of all that know him.

“My worthy friend Sir Roger is one of those who is not only at peace within himself, but beloved and esteemed by all about him. He receives a suitable tribute for his universal benevolence to mankind, in the returns of affection and good-will which are paid him by every one that lives within his neighbourhood. I lately met • with two or three odd instances of that general respect which is shown to the good old knight. He would needs carry Will Wimble and myself with him to the county assizes. As we were upon the road, Will Wimble joined a couple of plain men who rid before us, and conversed with them for some time, during which my friend Sir Roger acquainted me with their characters.

* « The first of them,' says he, 'that has a spaniel by his side, is a yeoman of about a hundred pounds a year, an honest man. He is just within the Game Act, and qualified to kill a hare or a pheasant. He knocks down a dinner with his gun twice or thrice a week ; and by that means lives much cheaper than those who have not so good an estate as himself. He would be a good neighbour if he did not destroy so many partridges. In short, he is a very sensible man ; shoots flying ; and has been several times foreman of the petty jury.

“ • The other that rides along with him is Tom Touchy, a fellow famous for taking “the law” of every body. There is not one in the town where he lives that he has not sued at a quarter-sessions. The rogue had once the impudence to go to law with the Widow. His head is full of costs, damages and ejectments. He plagued a couple of honest gentlemen so long for a trespass in breaking one of his hedges, till he was forced to sell the ground it inclosed to defray the charges of the prosecution ; his father left him fourscore pounds a year ; but he has cast and been cast so often, that he is now not worth thirty. I suppose he is going upon the old business of the willow-tree.

“ As Sir Roger was giving me this account of Tom Touchy, Will Wimble and his

two companions stopped short till we came up to them. After having paid their respects to Sir Roger, Will told him that Mr. Touchy and he must appeal to him upon a dispute that arose between them. Will, it seems, had been giving his fellow traveller an account of his angling one day in such a hole ; when Tom Touchy, instead of hearing out his story, told him that Mr. Such a-one, if he pleased, might take the law of him for fishing in that part of the river. My friend Sir Roger heard them both upon a round trot; and, after having paused some time, told them, with the air of a man who would not give his judgment rashly, that much might be said on both sides.' They were neither of them dissatisfied with the knight's determination, because neither of them found himself in the wrong by it. Upon which we made the best of our way to the assizes.

“The court was sat before Sir Roger came ; but, notwithstanding all the justices had taken their places upon the bench, they made room for the old knight at the head of them ; who, for his reputation in the country, took occasion to whisper in the judge's ear that he was glad his lordship had met with so much good weather in his circuit. I was listening to the proceedings of the court with much attention, and infinitely pleased with that great appearance of solemnity which so properly accompanies such a public administration of our laws; when, after about an hour's sitting, I observed, to my great surprise, in the midst of a trial, that my friend Sir Roger was getting up to speak. I was in some pain for him, until I found he had acquitted himself of two or three sentences with a look of much business and great intrepidity.

“Upon his first rising the court was hushed, and a general whisper ran among the country-people that Sir Roger' was up.' The speech he made was so little to the purpose, that I shall not trouble my readers with an account of it ; and I believe was not so much designed by the knight himself to inform the court, as to give him a figure in my eye, and keep up his credit in the country.

“I was highly delighted, when the court rose, to see the gentlemen of the county gathering about my old friend, and striving who should compliment him most; at the same time that the ordinary people gazed upon him at a distance, not a little admiring his courage that he was not afraid to speak to the judge.

“In our return home we met with a very odd accident ; which I cannot forbear relating, because it shows how desirous all who know Sir Roger are of giving him marks of their esteem. When we were arrived upon the verge of his estate, we stopped at a little inn to rest ourselves and our horses. The man of the house had, it seems, been formerly a servant in the knight's family, and to do honour to his old master, had, some time since, unknown to Sir Roger, put him up in a sign-post before the door ; so that the knight's head hung out upon the road about a week before he himself knew anything of the matter. As soon as Sir Roger was acquainted with it, finding that his servant's indiscretion proceeded wholly from affection and good-will, he only told him that he had made him too high a compliment; and, when the fellow seemed to think that could hardly be, added, with a more decisive look, that it was too great an honour for any man under a duke; but told him, at the same time, that it might be altered with a very few touches, and that he himself would be at the charge of it. Accordingly they got a painter by the knight's directions to add a pair of whiskers to the face, and by a little aggravation to the features to change it into the Saracen's Head. I should not have known this story, had not the innkeeper, upon Sir Roger's alighting, told him in my hearing that his honour's hcad was brought last night with the alterations that he had ordered to be made in it. Upon this, my friend, with his usual cheerfulness, related the particulars above mentioned, and ordered the head to be brought into the room. I could not forbear discovering greater expressions of mirth than ordinary upon the appearance of this

a

« EelmineJätka »