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Indeed, it 's very true, sir;" said Mrs. Kitty, “ their insolence is intolerable. Look at me, for instance:-a poor lone woman!—my dear Peter dead! I loved him :-so I did; and when he died, I was so hysterical, you cannot think. And now I cannot lean on the arm of a decent footman, or take a walk with a tall grenadier behind me, just to protect me from audacious vagabonds, but they must have their nauseous suspicions ;-odious creatures !”
" This must be stopped," replied Lord Cæsar. “ We ought to con tribute to support my poor brother-in-law against these rascals. I will write to Squire Guelf on this subject by this night's post. His name is always at the head of our county subscriptions.”
If the people of St. Dennis had been angry before, they were well. nigh mad when they heard of this conversation. The whole parish ran to the manor-house. Sir Lewis's Swiss porter shut the door against them ; but they broke in and knocked him on the head for his impudence: They then seized the squire, hooted at him, pelted him, ducked him, and carried him to the watch-house. They turned the rector into the street, burnt his wig and band, and sold the churchplate by auction. They put up a painted Jezebel in the pulpit to preach. They scratched out the texts which were written round the church, and scribbled profane scraps of songs and plays in their place. They set the organ playing to pothouse tunes. Instead of being decently asked in church, they were married over a broomstick. But, of all their whims, the use of the new patent steel-traps was the most remarkable.
This trap was constructed on a completely new principle. It con sisted of a cleaver hung in a frame like a window; when any poor wrétch got in, down it came with a tremendous din, and took off his head in a twinkling. They got the squire into one of these machines. In order to prevent any of his partisans from getting footing in the parish, they placed traps at every corner. It was impossible to walk through the highway at broad noon without tumbling into one or other of them. No man could go about his business in security. Yet so great was the hatred which the inhabitants entertained for the old family, that a few decent honest people, who begged them to down the steel-traps and to put up humane man-traps in their room, were very roughly handled for their good-nature.
In the meantime the neighbouring gentry undertook a suit against
the parish on the behalf of Sir Lewis's heir, and applied to Squire Guelf for his assistance.
Every body knows that Squire Guelf is more closely tied up than any gentleman in the shire. He could, therefore, lend them no help; but he referred them to the Vestry of the Parish of St. George in the Water. These good people had long borne a grudge against their neighbours on the other side of the stream, and some mutual trespasses had lately occurred which increased their hostility.
There was an honest Irishman, a great favourite among them, who used to entertain them with raree-shows, and to exhibit a magic tern to the children on winter evenings. He had gone quite mad upon this subject. Sometimes he would call out in the middle of the street-"Take care of that corner, neighbours : for the love of Heaven, keep clear of that post, there is a patent steel-trap concealed thereabouts.” Sometimes he would be disturbed by frightful dreams ;-then he would get up at dead of night, open his window and cry" fire," till: the parish was roused, and the engines sent for. The pulpit of the parish of St. George seemed likely to fall; I believe that the only reason was that the parson had grown too fat and heavy; but nothing would persuade this honest man but that it was a scheme of the people of St. Dennis's, and that they had sawed through the pillars in order to break the rector's neck. Once he went about with a knife in his pocket, and told all the persons whom he met that it had been sharpened by the knife-grinder of the next parish to cut their throats. These extravagances had a great effect on the people, and the more so because they were espoused by Squire Guelf's steward, who was the most influential person in the parish. He was a very fair-spoken man, very attentive to the main chance, and the idol of the old women, because he never played at skittles or danced with the girls; and, indeed, never took any recreation but that of drinking on Saturday nights with his friend Harry the Scotch pedlar. His supporters called him Sweet William; his enemies the Bottomless Pit.
The people of St. Dennis's, however, had their advocates. . There was Frank, the richest farmer in the parish, whose great-grandfather had been knocked on the head many years before, in a squabble between the parish and a former landlord. There was Dick, the merryandrew, rather light-fingered and riotous, but a clever droll fellow. Above all, there was Charley, the publican, a jolly, fat, honest lad, a
great favourite with the women, who, if he had not been too fond of ale and chuck-farthing, would have been the best fellow in the neighbourhood.
“ My boys," said Charley, “ this is exceedingly well for Madame North ;—not that I would speak uncivilly of her; she put up my picture in her best room, bless her for it! I
well for her, and for Lord Cæsar, and Squire Don, and Colonel Von ;-but what affair is it of yours or mine? It is not to be wondered at that gentlemen should wish to keep poor people out of their own. But it is strange, indeed, that they should expect the poor themselves to combine against their own interests. If the folks at St. Dennis's should attack us, we have the law and our cudgels to protect us. But why, in the name of wonder, are we to attack them? When old Sir Charles, who was lord of the Manor formerly, and the parson, who was presented by him to the living, tried to bully the vestry, did not we knock their heads together, and go to meeting to hear Jeremiah Ringletub preach? And did the Squire Don, or the great Sir Lewis, that lived at that time, or the Germains, say a word against us for it? Mind your own business, my lads : law is not to be had for nothing ; and we, you may be sure, shall have to pay the whole bill.”
Nevertheless the people of St. George were resolved on war. They cried out most lustily. Squire Guelf for ever! Sweet William for ever! No steel-traps !" Squire Guelf took all the rascally footmen who had worn old Sir Lewis's livery into his service. They were fed in his kitchen on the very best of every thing, though they had no settlement. Many people, and the paupers in particular, grumbled at these proceedings. The steward, however, devised a way to keep them quiet.
There had lived in this parish for many years an old gentleman, named Sir Habeas Corpus. He was said by some to be of Saxon, by some of Norman extraction. Some maintain that he was not born till after the time of Sir Charles, to whom we have before alluded. Others are of opinion that he was a legitimate son of old Lady Magna Charta, although he was long concealed and kept out of his birthright. Certain it is that he was a very benevolent person. Whenever any poor fellow was taken up on grounds which he thought insufficient, he used to attend on his behalf and bail him; and thus he had become so popular that to take direct measures against him was out of the question.
The steward, accordingly, brought a dozen physicians to examine Sir Habeas. After consultation they reported that he was in a very bad way, and ought not, on any account, to be allowed to stir out for several months. Fortified with this authority, the parish officers put him to bed, closed his windows, and barred his doors. They paid him every attention, and from time to time issued bulletins of his health. The steward never spoke of him without declaring that he was the best gentleman in the world; but excellent care was taken that he should never stir out of doors.
When this obstacle was removed, the squire and the steward kept the parish in excellent order; flogged this man, sent that man to the stocks, and pushed forward the law-suit with a noble disregard of expense. They were, however, wanting either in skill or in fortune. And every thing went against them after their antagonists had begun to employ Solicitor Nap.
Who does not know the name of Solicitor Nap? At what ale-house is not his behaviour discussed ? In what print-shop is not his picture seen? Yet how little truth has been said about him! Some people hold that he used to give laudanum by pints to his sick clerks for his amusement. Others, whose number has very much increased since he was killed by the gaol distemper, conceive that he was the very
model of honour and good-nature. I shall try to tell the truth about him.
He was assuredly an excellent solicitor. In his way he never was surpassed. As soon as the parish began to employ him, their cause took a turn. In a very little time they were successful, and Nap became rich. He now set up for a gentleman, took possession of the old manor house, got into the commission of the peace, and affected to be on a par with the best of the county. He governed the vestries as absolutely as the old family had done. Yet, to give him his due, he managed things with far more discretion than either Sir Lewis or the rioters who had pulled the lords of the Manor down. He kept his servants in tolerable order. He removed the steel-traps from the highways and the corners of the streets. He still left a few, indeed, in the more exposed parts of his premises, and set up a board announcing that traps and spring-guns were set in his grounds. He brought the poor parson back to the parish; and though he did not enable him to keep a fine house and a coach as formerly, he settled him in a snug little cottage, and allowed him a pleasant pad-nag. He whitewashed the church again, and put the stocks, which had been much wanted of late, into good repair.
With the neighbouring gentry, however, he was no favourite. He was crafty and litigious. He cared nothing for right if he could raise a point of law against them. He pounded their cattle, broke their hedges, and seduced their tenants from them. He almost ruined Lord Cæsa with actions, in every one of which he was successful. Von Blunderbussen went to law with him for an alleged trespass, but was cast, and almost ruined by the costs of suit. He next took a fancy to the seat of Squire Don, who was, to say the truth, little better than an idiot. He asked the poor dupe to dinner, and then threatened to have him tossed in a blanket unless he would make over his estates to him. The poor Squire signed and sealed a deed, by which the property was assigned to Joe, a brother of Nap, in trust for, and to the use of, Nap himself. The tenants, however, stood out. They maintained that the estate was entailed, and refused to pay rents to the new landlord; and in this refusal they were stoutly supported by the people in St. George's.
About the same time Nap took it into his head to match with quality, and nothing would serve him but one of the Miss Germains. Lord Cæsar swore like a trooper, but there was no help for it. twice put executions in his principal residence, and had refused to discharge the latter of the two till he had extorted a bond from his lordship, which compelled him to comply.
ALLAN CUNNINGHAM. [ALLAN CUNNINGHAM was born at Blackwood, near Dumfries, in 1784. His parents were in humble circumstances, though not of humble descent. He was apprenticed to a stone-mason at the early age of eleven, so that he was essentially one of the self-taught. His decided vocation was to literature; and when he came to London in 1810 he supported himself by writing in the Magazines and reporting for Newspapers. But his honest trade gave him honourable employment, and enabled him to cultivate his more congenial tastes. He was engaged in 1814 by Chantrey, the sculptor, in his workshop; and gra