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rung—yes, the bells of the steeple which fairly overlooked the Hall of Sampson Hooks were rung the whole remainder of the day in obstreperous revelry over his fall. Everybody said that he would never hold up his head again,_that he must fly his country. But how false is the judgment which only hears one side : Sampson Hooks did hold up his head again, though it was with the sorrowful meekness of an innocent and a cruelly treated man. Had he ever refused to pay the money on the production of the necessary note o Had he not always expressed his readiness to pay it 2 Had he not begged again and again, if they had anything more than a vague charge, that they should bring it out, and were it for ten thousand pounds he would instantly and gladly discharge it ! Yet for this petty hundred pounds, which had entirely escaped his memory in the multiplicity of his affairs, he had been wantonly dragged forward; the necessary evidence wilfully withheld ; his peace and feelings trifled with ; his character dreadfully exposed to malignant slander, when five minutes of an open and generous treatment was all that was necessary. Of course Simon Ragley was paid—nay, the widow herself was aid, for she immediately put her note into the same able lawyer's |. and though it had no name to it, yet there was enough of Sampson Hooks' hand upon it—and it was paid. The villagers and the common ignorant people were little moved by Sampson Hooks' pathetic appeals; they cursed him for a tyrant and a hypocrite, but the wealthy and the better informed despised their modes of thinking. Their daily intercourse with the Hookses was unabated; their carriages rolled as gaily as ever in and out of the great iron gates; the Hall was as gaily lit up for entertainments to which they crowded, when music and delicious viands made the house and gardens a paradise, if they did not make them a heaven. And a heaven they did not make them. A blight and a blackness as of seventy years had fallen on both Mr. and Mrs. Hooks. That was a very superstitious time, and probably both Mr. and Mrs. Hooks had been brought up in the country. By the country firesides of those days what stories circulated ' When but little occurred from day to day to form topics for conversation, how far back did country people then go with the histories of their ancestors and neighbours for matter of discourse and a mass of superstitions had gathered about these relations, like moss and ivy around old trees. You heard gravely-related stories of ghosts and warnings, as of actual and undeniable facts. There were those who could tell you how they had met this and that man, suddenly, in solitary places, that had been dead these twenty years. How, as they passed over fields a raven had gone before, and perched on every stile till they came up to it, when it flitted on to the next. How they had seen a coffin borne on before them in the moonlight, and followed, wondering for whom it could be, having heard of no death, till, as it should have passed the brook behind the village, coffin and bearers had dissolved as it were away, and immediately there struck up a passing bell from the village steeple. Mr. and Mrs. Sampson Hooks had, most likely I say, grown up among such superstitious people and talk, for now it was a fact that they became very timid, and ready to start at any shadow. They were never to be seen out late at night ; they were very strict in their attendance at church ; and yet there were strange rumours one evening abroad about them. It was said that old Joe Ling, spite of his old hat and old coat and old splashed gaiters, had grown rich. It was believed that he had amazingly robbed his master. Nay, it was a fact that he was once dismissed from his office of bailiff, and he went to the public-' house of his own village and declared it himself, and began to hint strange things—and offered to bet any one that he would be in his office again in less than a month. And sure enough it was so. His mouth grew again as close as that of a fish, but he built a new house, bought land, and did not care to deny that he had feathered his nest most warmly. It was said that Hooks would gladly have seen him poisoned, and yet he seemed to depend upon him, and defer to him as much or more than ever. But what a change would any one have now seen in Hooks who had seen him only two years before | His great, tall, broad frame was shrunk, and he stooped in the shoulders; his face was sallow, his hair was grey and thin, and his once plum and ponderous cheeks flabby and cadaverous. Old Blac Jack still went stately, but he went slowly, to accommodate his master. Hooks had been one market-day at Derby on business, which had detained him far later than it was his wont to be out. The roads were so dreadful then that no carriage could travel that road at that time of the year, which was November. He was NO. XXI.-WOL. IV. Q
accordingly alone and on Black Jack. It was a wild stormy night, and he had to ride for the greater part of the way along deeply muddy lanes, overhung by thick trees, with high branches and lofty wild hedgerows on each side. Occasionally the way came out of these lanes upon high and open commons. Hooks would have given a great deal to have avoided returning that night, but weighty affairs, he said, compelled him to hurry home. He pushed on Jack, therefore, faster than he was generally wont to do; and, in truth, as fast as the roads would permit. The moon now and then broke out from the flying clouds as he hurried over Breadsall Moor, and then again lost itself. As he descended into the valley towards Gilt Brook, the gloom in the hollow before him had something fearful in it ; but when he had just ridden through the brook, and began to ascend the dusky and winding lane before him, he thought he saw an animal—a dog or fox it seemed to be— run aeross the road, dragging a chain with it. It lost itself in the bushes, and for some time he heard and saw no more of it. But when he was plunging along in the deepest shadow and the deepest mud, it again caught his ear, though he could not discernit. His horse snorted, started, and broke out into astrong perspiration. This alarmed Sampson Hooks, for superstitious people place a great reliance on the instinct for the supernatural in horses. He went on peering around him in the gloom to eateh a sight of the strange apparition; but apparition it seemed determined not to be. Whether he went faster or slower the creature accompanied him, for he could still hear the dragging of the chain, now on one side of the road, now on the other. When he came out on a higho heath, he made himself sure that here he must get a glimpse of the animal that had taken this strange fancy to accompany him. But he was mistaken. The moon was just at this point most deeply overeast, and Jack trotted on along the high dry road at a great rate; but, somehow or other, the dragging chain travelled on as fast as he did. When he was about again to plunge into the next lane, there came a fierce wind up the heath, that seemed ready to crash down bush and tree; and, as he was driven before this resistless and roaring hurricane into the black jaws of the lane, he saw, or thought he saw, the strange animal rush in before him. The wind was now accompanied by rain; thunder, also, came in a sudden and terrific crash; and as Black Jack actually groaned
as he toiled and smoked and snorted along the pitch-dark road, the rushing chain seemed to be under his very feet. When Hooks reached home he was rather dead than alive. The clatter of Jack's hoofs on the stones of the court announced his arrival, for his master had no strength left to do it. He was found lying on his horse's neck, clinging with his arms fast round it. He was lifted off by his servants and conveyed to bed, from which he never again arose. There are strange tales of the terrors of a guilty conscience still circulated in the village, of Sampson Hooks' death-bed; but not a soul pitied him; on the contrary, there was a sort of sullen rejoicing, and there were even those who vowed that the corpse should not reach its grave in peace. My brother, Richard Howitt, in his “Antediluvian Sketches, and other Poems,” seems to have had this man in his mind, for he traced his story well, in the poem entitled—
THE VILLAGE TYRANT's FUNERAL.
The psalm has ceased, but a crowd is there,
And they look to the old church, lone and grey,
And loud is the throng, and they curse the dead
The moon is up, and the crowd is gone;
The moon is on high, and the funeral comes;
They have let down the coffin, and heap'd in the mould ;
But though the idea of this poem must have had its origin in this too true story, yet the circumstances attending his funeral were not exactly as here described. No moon shone thus peacefully on the tyrant's open grave, nor lighted him calmly to his rest. Man raged, and Nature raged with him. The villagers, to whom he had not left one single #. of their paternal soil, vowed that he should not have one foot of church-yard earth to rest in. They watched and watched, as described in the poem; but Nature was more successful than they. Nature, which takes to her bosom all her children, spite of their errors or their crimes, raged, but only in mercy. Such a night as that on which the village tyrant actually went to his grave, the villagers declare never came down before or since. Wind in fierce tornadoes, rain in drowning deluges, thunder and lightning terrible and incessant, came sweeping, dashing, roaring and flaming together. The villagers, waiting in deadly wrath for the coming funeral, which had feared the face of day, were fairly driven by the fury of the elements from their purpose. In the midst of the tempest the appointed bearers staggered and reeled along to the grave, and every moment expected to be dashed with their burden to the earth. As they hurried along the avenue from the Hall, a stupendous tree fell with a crash. of thunder across their path, and had nearly been the death of them all. As they approached the church, the storm was so furious, that they were compelled to lower the coffin from their shoulders, and bear it low, scarcely above the surface of the earth. At one moment the whole church and church-yard were lit with the fire of heaven; the lightning seemed to play round every pinnacle with a lurid radiance, and to fill the church with its blaze, and then there was a darkness as of Egyptian denseness. And amid the blind buffeting and drenching of the tempest, the cowering attendants, without bell or service, light, or the hearing of one another's voices, lowered down the coffin into its muddy, watery pit, and fled.
So went Sampson Hooks to his grave; and thus, only by the gracious fury of merciful Nature, were his remains protected from the relentless fury of embittered men.